Clynelish 20yo from Signatory

clynelish20Clynelish 20yo 1995 cask 8686 (53.2%, Signatory, c. 2016)

Nose: Big. Waxy, melon, glace cherries, red fruits. With water it really gets going with chocolate, coffee, polished furniture.
Mouth:Sweet, Cognac-like with gentle spices, anise and cinnamon. Really pleasant without water despite the strength. When you add water you get a sweeter icing sugar arrival, marzipan, raisin and clove, and indeed rancio.
Finish: Walnut and maple syrup
Comments: A contradiction. This is a bold up-front whisky but with the hallmarks of a well matured spirit but also the the forceful character of a craft bourbon the likes Few or Balcones. This can take plenty of water. 87 points. SHARE

With one foot in the past and one in the future, both traditional and ultra-modern, this Clynelish is like a granite bodega. You get the intelligence and nuance of an aged spirit with all of the punch and exuberance of a contemporary whisky. Clynelish 20yo goes well with Biffy Clyro.

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Two Sherried Ledaigs

Peated Tobermory has started to gain quite a following. There have been some outstanding young sherried Ledaigs doing the rounds so lets try a couple.

ledaig9tweLedaig 9yo Retro Label (56.5%, The Whisky Exchange, c.2015)
Colour: Chestnut
Nose: Vegetal peat. Wet, muddy gravel. With time some gentle licorice and salty seaweed coming through, followed by the sweet menthol notes that I’ve come to love in Laphroaig. Also something savory and bready – Yorkshire puddings?
Mouth: Huge. Sweet arrival quickly gives way to a wave of peat. Then cured ham, cloves, cranberry jam, and salty chicken stock. This one drowns easily, but this perfectly enjoyable neat so no hardship.
Finish: Rather long. Mince pies, cream and cigarette smoke.
Conclusion: Commentators are starting to compare Ledaig to Ardbeg and I have to say this made me think of Uigeadail. This is reminding me of a full Christmas dinner, despite the fact it’s August! 89 points. SAVOR

ledaig10mdwLedaig 10 Year Old 2004 (cask 900178) Artist #5 (60.7%, La Maison du Whisky, c.2016)
This one has come from a single first fill sherry butt.
Colour: Mahogany
Nose: This is quite a contrast to the TWE bottling. As the colour suggests the sherry notes are much more prominant here. It’s quite nipping on the nose. Blackcurrants, figs, dates A dominant cask. I don’t think the spirit stand up to it.
Mouth: Rich, sweet sherry, cherries drowned in alcohol. The peat plays second to the sherry. Still a bit hot after 10 years but sadly drowns easily.
Finish: Quite short.
Conclusion: It lacks the complexity of the TWE bottling. The sherry has won here. 84 points. SAMPLE

A three course meal of a whisky, it rewards your patience and attention. Ledaig 9yo Retro Label goes well with BadBadNotGood.

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Kilkerran 12 Year Old

It’s here! Glengyle’s first standard expression. The hotly anticipated Kilkerran 12 year old.

kilkerran12Kilkerran 12yo (46%, OB, c.2016)
The later Work in Progress bottlings were split between bourbon and sherry for a time but we’re told this is a mixture of 70% first fill ex-bourbon casks and 30% sherry casks.
Colour: Pale gold
Nose: Heather fried in lemon and salted butter. Substantial floral notes and fresh vanilla pods. Sherry notes are there too with light raisins and toffee. With time fresh apple starts to come through.This is noticeably more complex nose than the Work in Progress bottlings that i just reviewed. With water grapefruit rind and wax appear.
Mouth: A beautiful, clean sweet lemon arrival. Then an ashy peat appears turns up. With water I find sherbert lemons and honeysuckle.
Finish: Long, ashy, but refreshing. It’s like the end of a summer barbecue.
Conclusion: This is a complete whisky. A perfect daily dram. It does everything and is remarkably refined for a 12 year old. An instant classic. 90 points. SHARE

A modern classic that is enriched by a brooding undercurrent, subtle and complex despite its youth, Kilkerran 12yo goes well with Nils Frahm.

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Kilkerran Incoming!

I’m still waiting for my bottle of the inaugural Kilkerran 12yo to arrive so in the mean time here’s a bit of homework courtesy of their Work in Progress series.

kilkerranwip4Kilkerran Work in Progress 4 (OB, 46%, c. 2012)
Colour: Hay Nose: It doesn’t smell young. I’m getting bourbon casks but I know this is a mix of sherry and bourbon matured whisky.Sweet malt with fresh fruit and spices. Followed by pear, hay, and wax, developing a lemon oil note with water  Mouth: Oh, you can tell Springbank are behind this. The arrival has sweet fruits, tinned peaches, pineapple sherbert and wood spice, then the heavy Springbank signature kicks in. It’s hotter than the nose suggests. Finish: Creamy cocoa Comments: An auspicious start to this tasting. Thoroughly enjoyable.  A bit hot on the mouth but this is young whisky after all. Swims well. 88 points.

kilkerran2006Kilkerran Single Cask 2006/2015 (OB, 57.3%, c. 2015)Colour: Burnished Gold Nose: Alcoholic. This is cask strength but the nose suggests the cask hasn’t had much impact on this burly spirit. With a bit of time citrus fruits come through, digestive biscuits and pineapple. I’m not getting the calvados on the nose Mouth: Powerful. This needs water and patience. After the a swim this starts to yields a sweet agave arrival turning bitter, herbal. Lots of parsley. With more time and more water you start to get leather notes Finish: Red chillies Comments: Don’t forget your water glass for this one. I don’t think the cask did what it was meant to do so an interesting choice for a single cask release. Still young and certainly not tamed yet. 82 points.

kilkerranwip7Kilkerran Work in Progress 7 Sherry Wood (OB, 46%, c. 2015)
Colour: Gold Nose: Very distinct sherry notes. Sweet toffee, stewed apples, chocolate and a few blueberries Mouth: Noticeably more mature straight away. The wood has done the job. Dark chocolate and something savory – Marmite? Whatever it is it works! Finish: More chocolate Comments: It feels like this whisky has hit maturity. This isn’t as complex as the WiP 4 and I think that’s because of the absence of bourbon casks. There was a cask strength bourbon matured WiP 7 which some reviewers have raved about, but good luck getting your hands on that now! 86 points.

Kilkerran is shaping up to be an outstanding single malt. True to the ethos of their Springbank parents, Glengyle distillery have managed to produce a modern single malt that is firmly old-school in character. I can’t wait to get hold of the 12 year old!

How does a whisky prove its age?

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Some whiskies are losing their age statements while others are bringing age statements back due to pressure from customers and commentators alike. Whatever the current fashion there is no denying that old whiskies with an age statement are demand consistently high prices. So here’s a question – when you buy a bottle, how do you know the whisky inside is actually the age it claims to be? How does a whisky provide proof of age?

To answer this question I asked artisan blenders and champions of transparency Compass Box Whisky. This is the very same Compass Box who last year broke EU law by disclosing the age of every component part of their This Is Not A Luxury Whisky and Flaming Heart releases. In response they launched a transparency campaign asking that producers be permitted, but not obliged, to tell customers the age of every whisky in the bottle.

I asked Elif Yontucu, Operations Manager at Compass Box, how they verify the age of the whisky that goes in to their blends. This is what she said:

“There are strict controls in place regarding the age or age of youngest spirit (AYS). Spirit (whisky) cannot move without the knowledge of ‘’date of filling to wood’’ and customs and our bottler would check this at the point of receipt of casks”.

“When we purchase casks from our suppliers, there is a transfer of ownership which is recorded on paper. This includes age of cask (fill date) and litres of alcohol in that particular cask. This information is then sent to our bottler and they record this in their system. They won’t be able to receive any casks without the ‘’fill date’’ information. So when casks from different ages are blended, they record the age of the youngest cask used in that blend”.

“Once bottled both customs in the UK and customs at any borders spirit crosses can ask for evidence of AYS which can be provided by the manufacturer of the whisky. I am told by our bottler that many auditors from official bodies and from their customers would also check this on a regular basis as well as trading standards and the Scotch Whisky Association”.

So there you have it. It turns out there are a lot of check and balances in place to ensure that producers, bottlers and distributors can verify the age of their whisky. Thanks to Compass Box for being so informative!

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