Spirit of Freedom 30yo

Spirit of Freedom 30yo (Blend, 46%, 2014)

img_20171008_1930071171841395.jpgA once and never to be repeated blend from J&A Mitchell to celebrate the 700th anniversary of the battle of Bannockburn. I’m a big springbank fan and was delighted when jazzpianofingers handed me a sample. Of course it’s not all springbank in the bottle but rather 75% malts from 5 distilleries and 25% grain.

N: Overripe apples, pears and apricot. A little cider vinegar at first which lifts. Crayons, candies orange and lemon and a hint of peat. This really smells like a mix of old whisky and some which perhaps did have an active maturation. That’s not necessarily a bad thing! Complex, dry honey and light leather notes.

M: The springbank is in full effect here. Robust, busy with complex herbs. There is very little grain detectable. I would have it down as a blended malt.

C: The malt is very forward, the grain is barely noticeable. Hard to believe this was £75 per bottle three years ago. How times change! 90 points.

The Single Cask – Bowmore 14yo

What a week! Here’s the forth and final instalment of my series on The Single Cask who not only run a bar in Singapore but have just opened another bar in Stamford, UK. All of their releases are available on their website www.thesinglecask.co.uk 
bowmore-14-year-old-2001-cask-31931-the-single-cask-whiskyBowmore 14yo (50%, The Single Cask, cask #31931, 2016)
Colour: Deep Gold.
Nose: Quite gentle at first and not a lot of peat.With water some fresh fruits, mango and cloudy cider comes through.
Mouth: Here we go. Much more peat on the mouth. Fizzing sweets and, yep, parma violets. Very malty and lemony.
Finish: More lemons, some ash, grape skins and a little coffee.
Comments: Not terribly complex but very enjoyable and very drinkable. This is super-modern and super-good.  86 points. SHARE
A contemporary crowd pleaser that pushes all the right buttons, this Bowmore 14yo from The Single Cask goes well with Hudson Mohawke.

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The Single Cask – Ben Nevis 19yo

The third installment of my series on The Single Cask is a 19yo Ben Nevis which turned out to unusual and fascinating. I haven’t had another whisky like it.
The Single Cask have a bar in Singapore and another that’s just opened in Stamford, UK. You can buy all of their bottlings on their website www.thesinglecask.co.uk

ben-nevis-19-year-old-1996-cask-871-the-single-cask-whiskyBen Nevis 19yo (45.1%, The Single Cask, cask #871, 2016)
Colour: White wine.
Nose: Wow, this is different. Elderflower, tinned peaches, walnuts, fresh cut apple, greengages and a bit of parsley and cardamom.
Mouth: Fresh, clean and green. Sour turning sweet, mouth coating. with fennel and almond. There’s a jenever quality to this which I find intriguing.
Finish: Rather long, complex herbs, chalky and drying.
Comments: . This is pure barley spirit. No funny cask business going on here. It’s an austere, dry and complex whisky which rewards your attention. It’s my kind of style. Very educational. 88 points.SAVOR
A challenging, rewarding and intellectual experience, this Ben Nevis 19yo from The Single Cask goes well with Blanck Mass.

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The Single Cask – English Whisky Co 7yo

Following hot on the heels of a Glen Grant 20yo is the second in my series on new independent bottlers The Single Cask who not only run a bar in Singapore but have just opened another bar in Stamford, UK. All of their releases are available on their website www.thesinglecask.co.uk

wp-1486666807317.jpgEnglish Whisky Co 7yo (60%, The Single Cask, cask #B/443, 2016)
Colour: Amber.
Nose: This is 60% but no nip on the nose, in fact it’s very approachable. This is peated for sure. Sweet, fruity and a bit of funk which lifts over time.
Mouth: Sweet peat, grapefruit, mandarin and a bit of kiwi. Mouth numbing.
Finish: Lingering vegetal peat, bitter almond and licorice.
Comments: I wondered whether this would have worked at a lower strenght but having experimented, it really can swim. It’s not very complex but it is really enjoyable to drink.  84 points. SHARE

Proving that whisky doesn’t have to be perfect or complicated to be worth your time, this English Whisky Co 7yo goes well with Japandroids.

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The Single Cask – Glen Grant 20yo 

This is the first in a series of reviews of whiskies from new independent bottlers The Single Cask. Their recent releases have been flying of the shelves so I’m very pleased to have got hold of some!

The Single Cask run a bar in Singapore and have just opened another in Stamford, UK. All of their releases are available on their website www.thesinglecask.co.uk


Glen Grant 20yo (50%, The Single Cask, cask #67183, 2016)
Colour: White wine.
Nose: Some hay initially lifting to reveal sweet honey and salted caramel. With time, dusty citrus fruits come through.
Mouth: Fresh, well-balanced oak and spirit.Citrus sweet and sour across the palette becoming waxier in the development.
Finish: Fairly long. Drying. Light tannins.
Comments: A highly quaffable, well aged Glen Grant.  87 points. SHARE

Wearing it’s refined age with dignity, this Glen Grant 20yo has a subtle moreish quality. It goes well with Cocteau Twins.

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Starward – New World Whisky

One of the big surprises of The Whisky Show in London last week was Starward, a new Australian whisky from New World Whisky Distillery in Melbourne. Their flagship single malt is made from Australian barley and matured exclusively in apera (Australian sherry) casks. They got a lot of people talking at the show and this was one of my stand-out whiskies of the whole weekend.

starwardColour: Deep copper.
Nose: Toffee apples, Victoria sponge, raisins in caramel sauce, dried mango.
Mouth: Thick in the mouth. Chewy. Chocolate raisins, malted bread, a bit of mint and again that dried mango.
Finish: Fairly short, mint chocolate.
Comments: This whisky exceeded all my expectations. Starward are clearly out there doing their own thing and it totally works. I also love the artwork.  88 points. SHARE

Following their own path, satisfying, singular and uniquely Australian, Starward Whisky goes well with Dirty Three.

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Bw5 – Elements of Islay

My local whisky society Malt n Copper Brighton hosted Elements of Islay Brand Ambassador Mariella for a really enjoyable tasting. The stand out for me was Bw5 – Bowmore to you and I – and at 20+ years old it did not disappoint.

bw5Bw5 (50.2%, Elements of Islay, 2016)
Colour: white wine. Ok, this is refill bourbon. This bodes well as long matured refill Bowmore brings the tropical fruits to the fore.
Nose: What a nose! Oysters, parma violets, honeysuckle, turkish delight and just a bit of retrained smoke.
Mouth: Citrus arrival with smoke – burned orange? Then becoming sweeter with some wax, more oysters, honey and barley sugar.
Finish: Medium and very clean. Black pepper.
Comments: Simply a pleasure to drink. You just want to take your time over whisky like this. Thank you Mariella for a great evening! 91 points. SAVOR.

With long maturation allowing coastal smoke to give way to subtle tropical fruits, transcending the quiet/loud genre of modern Islay whisky, Bw5 goes well with Mogwai.

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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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