Ok, it’s the time of year that apparently every whisky blogger publishes a list of his or her “top drams”. Well, blah to that eh? No one really cares I’m sure… But not to be outdone, here’s just the quickest of quick lists of drams I’ve enjoyed this year… nice and short so hopefully you might pass your eye and take something away to try sometime!
Bunnahabhain 23yo (Abbey Whisky / Rare Casks)
Glen Garioch Vintage 1995
Somerset Cider Brandy 10yo
Bowmore Laimrig 15yo
Pretty much anything by Balblair
(Plenty of others, but I won’t bore you any further)
And that’s it. Simples. Happy New Year yous lot! 🙂
Buffalo Trace – Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey – 45% ABV
Info: The 45% abv version that’s in review here is sadly not so easy to find any more, it was replaced with the lower 40% version that’s now generally available in the UK. You can take the following as a basis for that 40%, but expect it to be a slight shadow of this version.
Further Info: The 45% version was first introduced in 1999 and is a marriage of no more than 45 barrels of 9 year old whiskey and is bottled by hand.
Hazelburn 10 Year Old – 46%
Released in 2014, I tried this at the distillery a few days before it was due to hit the shelves and really enjoyed it. Part of the Hazelburn core range, this is a 10 year old bottling of Hazelburn single malt Scotch whisky from the Springbank distillery in the Campbeltown region. It is triple distilled, unpeated, matured in bourbon casks and bottled at 46% ABV. Not chill filtered and no colouring.
Nose: Quality and craft pours out of this as soon as you get your nose to it, packed with great oak, the sort of old oaky smell you get in dunnage warehouses. A slight mineral tone and sweet barley. It noses as something slightly older maybe. A tiny bit of salt and some gentle sweet summer fruits. After a bit of time to breath a bit of waxiness also comes through.
Auchentoshan Virgin Oak Batch 2 – 46% abv
Info: ‘The Auchentoshan Virgin Oak 2 is the second release from this Lowlands distillery that has matured in charred new oak casks. Since 2000 Auchentoshan has matured a limited amount of whisky in such casks of which it releases some every year since 2013. A small batch release that shows that not only maturation in ex-bourbon or ex-sherry casks works with whisky. Time, risk and patience have resulted in a Sienna coloured malt with notes of spicy oranges, maple syrup and a layered complexity.’
Chapter 7™ is an independent bottler from Switzerland that you may have seen around on the various social medias, good looking bottles in good looking boxes!… But is the whisky also good?! I’ve been lucky enough to have been sent a few samples from Chapter 7™ to find the answer, so without any further ado, let’s take a look at the four samples I’ve been sent…
Connemara Peated Irish Whisky – 40% ABV
Info: “Inspired by Ireland’s ancient distilling traditions, Connemara’s smooth sweet malt taste and complex peat flavours makes it a truly unique Irish whiskey. Connemara is the most decorated Irish whiskey with a huge collection of Gold Medals and has been honoured as the ‘Worlds Best Irish Single Malt’. ”
Colour: Orangey carmalelly gold.
Nose: Caramel sweet barley with light peat. Slight wine tones. Beefy, flinty, metallic, minerally.
Palate: Light filtered oils cover your mouth with caramel toffee barley and gentle peat.
Somerset Cider Brandy’s Kingston Black Apple Aperitif – 18% abv
Info: “The outstanding vintage qualities of the rare Kingston Black apple have for generations made it a legend in the orchards of the West Country. We believe that the subtle flavours of this unique blend of apples, spirit and tradition makes a superb aperitif. Kingston Black can also be served ice cold as a dessert wine.”
Colour: Fairly dark crimson red, very wintery looking.
Nose: Autumnal apples, slightly musty and sweet.
Palate: Fairly light and not too thick, sweet, appley with a base that gives it some gravitas.
Port Charlotte (Bruichladdich) – Islay Barley 2008 – 50% abv
Info: This is the first Port Charlotte release to have been created using barley that was exclusively grown on Islay and nowhere else. Harvested in September 2008 from the farms at Coull, Kynagarry, Island, Rockside, Starchmill and Sunderland, peated to 40 PPM, then distilled in December of the same year, this is a whisky of flawless provenance. The intention is to try and recreate the spirit that was made at the distillery over 100 years ago.
Cotswolds Dry Gin – Inaugural Release – 46% abv
On to my second gin review of recent releases from new English distilleries. Here’s some info, followed by my notes…
“Our Cotswolds Dry Gin has a delectable blend of nine carefully-considered botanicals.
The expression of the traditional London dry style comes from the maceration into our pure wheat spirit of juniper, coriander and angelica root, which have been left for 12 hours to allow their flavour characteristics to fully infuse.
The Lakes Gin – 43.7% abv
It’s not always about whisky, and so for something a little different here’s the first of two gin reviews… Here’s a bit of info about The Lakes’ new gin, followed by my thoughts below…
“Close to Bassenthwaite Lake, in an area of unimaginable beauty encircled by Cumbrian fells, we have the perfect home for The Lakes Distillery. We have ideal water from the famous River Derwent, with its source high up in the fells, a team steeped in distilling experience, and perfect conditions for creating outstanding spirits.
Juniper can be found across the fells in The Lakes District, and we use this local juniper as the very heart of our gin. Using classic gin botanicals augmented with others native to The Lakes – including bilberry, heather and meadowsweet – this is an artisan gin which is complex, intriguing and delicious.”