Scotch Advent 2016

It’s Scotch Advent time again! Oh my am I excited and this year Dana is joining me in some or all of the tastings (turns out she’s discovered a taste for scotch, especially the peaty ones). Back to the box (mine is #606 for those who are curious), this year’s edition comes with a NEAT glass which really lets you nose around. Over the next 25 days, I’m headed on a whisky tour courtesy of Secret Spirits‘ 3rd edition of their scotch advent calendar. Jonathan Bray’s whisky tasting notes are over at Single Malting and, as you read mine, be sure to check out his discovery and insights. Onto the whisky!

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#01 – Speyside 18yo

Distillery: Bottled by Secret SpiritsIMG_0195
Cask Type: Refill Bourbon
Cask #: 3299
Region: Speyside/Rothes
Age: 18 years
ABV: 58.1%
Nose: Light, honey
Palate: Light on the palate – without the anticipated burn that comes with a high ABV – it coats your tongue gently with honey and vanilla. With water it becomes buttery and I get a floral note.
Finish: Without the water, the warm finish stays with you as the sweetness fades. Watered, this fades with some toasted spice at the end.
Overall: An excellent, smooth opener to the advent! This one would make for a long and wonderfully relaxing evening. And nicely done to Secret Spirits on their first foray into bottling.

#02 – Barrista’s Dram

Distillery: CraigellachieIMG_0317
Cask Type: Sherry Butt
Cask #: 900083
Region: Speyside
Age: 13 years
ABV: 46%
Nose: Something almost sour right off the start. Weird. A little further in and I get those sherry aromas.
Palate: Slight bitterness of coffee floats across my tongue mixed with the sweetness of sherry.
Finish: This dram takes its leave with a spicy zing. Orange zest makes an appearance and it all fades with earthy tones.
Overall: Despite the odd start, the flavours started to really develop after breathing in the glass for a few minutes. Overall, an unusual combination of earthiness, bitterness, and sweetness that I can’t decide if I entirely like or not.

#03 – Shetland Reel

Distillery: VariousIMG_0320
Cask Type: Various
Cask #: Various
Region: Various
Age: NAS
ABV: 47%
Nose: Damp wood around a campfire is where my mind immediately goes. Orange (and maybe dark fruit?) when I really get my nose in there and breathe deeply.
Palate: Light but coats my mouth. A bit oily with charred wood joined by a subtle orange note.
Finish: A long and gentle finish that, if you wait, brings spice and (there it is) dark fruit.
Overall: On initial nose I wasn’t sure what to expect. The more I tasted this, though, the more I enjoyed it. If you let it sit in your mouth for a few minutes and then really pay attention during the finish, you’ll find all sorts of flavours and interesting notes.

#04 – Jericho Christmas Edition

Distillery: Bottled by The Lost Distillery CompanyIMG_0349
Cask Type: Sherry Finish
Cask #: Various
Region: Various
Age: NAS
ABV: 46%
Nose: Initially strong honey and sherry sweetness. A little more time and it reminds me of oatmeal with dried fruit and brown sugar.
Palate: Creamy on your tongue with honey and sherry. Dried fruit with warm spices.
Finish: It becomes surprisingly hot as it finishes and the flavours fade.
Overall: Really really nice and I could easily have a dram Christmas morning (or any wintry morning for that matter). If they needed an alternate name, I’d suggest “Delicious Breakfast.”

#05 – 2007 Ledaig

Distillery: Sourced from Tobermory, Bottled by A.D. RattrayIMG_0351
Cask Type: Bourbon
Cask #: 80004
Region: Island
Age: 9 years
ABV: 57.9%
Nose: Salty smell that characterizes whisky from the Islands. Soft smoke without water. Adding a few drops opens it right up to let you enjoy the salty smoke and a very subtle note of wood.
Palate: Coats your mouth in a light, salty oil with smoky notes throughout. The heat from the high alcohol is lessened with water and gives way to a sweetness amidst the layers of – you guessed it – salt and smoke.
Finish: Long, warm finish that really shows off the smokiness and lingers with a salty, earthy taste.
Overall: Fantastic. It’s big and bold with a softer side and I sipped on this one for quite a while. I have a real fondness for peaty whisky, especially from the Islands and Islay. This reminds me of last year’s Caol Ila by A.D. Rattray, another I very much enjoyed.

#06 – Ainneamh Highland 18yo

Distillery: Bottled by AinneamhIMG_0355
Cask Type: Refill Hogshead
Cask #: 7639
Region: Speyside/Perthshire
Age: 18 years
ABV: 57%
Nose: Pears and sweetness.
Palate: A nice medium weight on your tongue with the expected heat at 57% ABV. Sweet with a soft woody note. With a few drops of water, everything softens and melons and/or tropical fruits appear (can’t decide which after a number of tastes).
Finish: The heat fades and leaves a warmth that holds onto those fruit and wood notes. Long into the finish (thirty to sixty seconds after it’s left my mouth), I taste something that reminds me of dandelions. Watered, the heat isn’t as pronounced and the finish takes on a tangy quality. Still encounter that dandelion at the end.
Overall: A bit too much fruit for my liking but a nice whisky nonetheless. The water drops definitely opened it up so I could explore it more fully.

#07 – 2008 Allt a Bhainne

Distillery: Allt a Bhainne, Bottled by SamaroliIMG_0361
Cask Type: Hogshead
Cask #: 900153
Region: Speyside
Age: 7 years
ABV: 43%
Nose: Very light with a faint sweetness.
Palate: Light on your tongue with floral notes and sweetness, this one almost seems more like a Pinot Grigio than a whisky.
Finish: The finish is where the notes really emerge for me, including one that reminds me of spearmint gum. It’s over too quickly and I’m trying to hold onto it for longer in an attempt to find more.
Overall: This reminds me of a Tullibardine. It’s light and easy to drink, you could definitely put half a bottle away before you realize the trouble you’re about to be in. It leaves me wanting though, I want there to be more to discover.

#08 – Glenrothes 8yo

Distillery: Glenrothes, bottled by The Malt Whisky CompanyIMG_0364
Cask Type: Refill Hogshead/Oloroso
Cask #: 37602
Region: Speyside
Age: 8 years
ABV: 64.2%
Nose: Apples being cooked on a stove with vanilla, cinnamon, brown sugar, and raisins. With water, butterscotch.
Palate: Too high in alcohol to taste much. Some sweetness from the Oloroso cask. Sits a medium weight on the tongue. With some water, the apple, raisin, and butterscotch flavours are unleashed and paired with an orange zest.
Finish: Burning. With water, the flavours fade over a medium length of time (not too quick but not super long) and I’m warmed from my mouth to my stomach. The zest stays through that warmth and a nutty flavour emerges in the end.
Overall: This one packs a wallop off the start. I needed to add water to unlock the flavours and fully appreciate the complexity and deliciousness. It’s a very layered whisky and I quite like it!

#09 – Loch Lomond 10yo Croftengea

Distillery: Loch Lomond, bottled by Single Cask NationIMG_0370
Cask Type: Refill Bourbon Hogshead
Cask #: 486
Region: Highland
Age: 10 years
ABV: 55.6%
Nose: Smoke, rubber, and iodine. Sweetness from the bourbon cask.
Palate: Lighter than I expected on my tongue, this whisky boasts a nice peat with a rubbery note from the nose and an unexpected bitterness. Salt and peppery notes are layered in and, with a little water, I detect a presence of the sweetness from the bourbon.
Finish: A long, peppery finish as the salt and smoke fade with a little heat courtesy of the higher alcohol. Water reduces the heat and this one stays around to make sure you get nice and warm.
Overall: Delicious. A drop of water is really all it needs to open it up and showcase the flavours. Would pair nicely with a fire and high wingback chair.

#10 – 2007 Glenallachie 8yo

Distillery: Glenallachie, bottled by A.D. RattrayIMG_0377
Cask Type: Sherry
Cask #: 900831
Region: Speyside
Age: 8 years
ABV: 64.9%
Nose: Peaches and cream crumble with a toasted nuttiness.
Palate: Burning but zesty. Water brings a creaminess with sweet fruit, sherry, and (I couldn’t figure it out until I read Jonathan’s tasting notes) balsamic notes.
Finish: Tingly burn as the zest fades away leaving a dry taste on my tongue. Water lessens the tingle and the dry sherry really sticks around.
Overall: Definitely some interesting notes but, for some reason, this one doesn’t speak to me as much as the others. That’s okay though, scotch is a wonderfully individual preference.

#11 – Kiln Embers

Distillery: Various, bottled by Wemyss MaltsIMG_0380
Cask Type: Various
Cask #: Various
Region: Islay Focused
Age: NAS
ABV: 46%
Nose: Wood, citrus, and smoke.
Palate: Slight tingle on my tongue, soft salty wood and citrus notes hidden behind the big peaty flavour.
Finish: Spicy burnt orange in the finish and, as it fades, I’m treated to something that reminds me of a cedar cabin with a wood-burning fireplace.
Overall: Wonderful balance of salt, sweet, and smoke. Love the Islays and this blend shows off those characteristic flavours beautifully. Whisky Lassie called this her second favourite dram of this year’s calendar so far and I agree!

#12 – Gerston

Distillery: Bottled by the Lost Distillery CompanyIMG_0383
Cask Type: Bourbon
Cask #: Various
Region: Various
Age: NAS
ABV: 46%
Nose: Salted smoke with a note of dark fruit sweetness.
Palate: Light and creamy on my tongue with a little tingle. Salt, smoke, and I taste ripe cherries. A few more sips and I’m tasting caramel.
Finish: Medium fade of the flavours with a little heat in the end.
Overall: Light and easy drinking. I’d reach for this one in the morning to shake the cobwebs off or as part of a good conversation in the middle of the afternoon.

#13 – 1991 Auchroisk 25yo

Distillery: Auchroisk, bottled by A.D. RattrayIMG_0385
Cask Type: Bourbon
Cask #: 7531
Region: Speyside
Age: 25 years
ABV: 53%
Nose: Vanilla and apples.
Palate: Hot and tangy. Some water and this sits nicely on my tongue. The water brings out more of the vanilla and apples and there’s a hint of bitterness.
Finish: Tingles. With water, those delicious apple and vanilla flavours fade quickly and the bitter note hangs on. I got under-ripe pear in the fade of one of my last tastes.
Overall: Delicious! A robust, flavourful whisky that warms me up on a chilly night. And then I find out there are no bottles of this to be had: I should have sipped slower!

#14 – Speyside 18yo

Distillery: AinneamhIMG_0392
Cask Type: Refill Hogshead
Cask #: 14432
Region: Speyside/Banffshire
Age: 18 years
ABV: 54.7%
Nose: Honey, spice, and oats.
Palate: Coats my tongue in creamy honey, and it’s a little tingly. Sweet and tart flavours remind me of toffee and Granny Smith apples.
Finish: A long fade that delivers a surprising freshness.
Overall: Very rich in feel and taste. It’s like a liquid version of an apple-spice, toffee-drizzled cheesecake. Another slice please!

#15 – MacDuff 16yo

Distillery: MacDuff, bottled by The Malt Whisky CompanyIMG_0395
Cask Type: Refill Hogshead
Cask #: 500720
Region: Highland
Age: 16 years
ABV: 54.9%
Nose: Tropical fruit, citrus, and vanilla. A kiss of water releases a buttered rum note.
Palate: Buttery on my tongue with a burst of citrus and marmalade (thanks Jonathan for identifying the flavour I couldn’t put a name to).
Finish: Slow, tingly, and warming finish with bitter orange emerging.
Overall: It’s like the taste is the spark and the finish is when the fire really gets going. I really like how the flavours develop and found myself at the end of the dram faster than I expected!

#16 – Samaroli Islay 8yo

Distillery: Unknown, bottled by SamaroliIMG_0397
Cask Type: Hogshead
Cask #: 1883
Region: Islay
Age: 8 years
ABV: 43%
Nose: Salty, smoky, and bananas.
Palate: Light, sharp ember and campfire taste. Salt, peat, and fresh pine boughs.
Finish: Really smooth as you’re left with a slight saltiness and tendrils of smoke curling around inside your mouth, nose, and throat.
Overall: Dana really likes this one. Back to Islay today and I’m in heaven; Samaroli did a great job here.

#17 – Applewood Bake

Distillery: Invergordon, bottled by Wemyss MaltsIMG_0400
Cask Type: Refill Butt
Cask #: 86239
Region: Various
Age: 26 years
ABV: 46%
Nose: Light apple, cinnamon, and wood notes.
Palate: Light, full of apple, and a very nice sweetness. Everything is underpinned by the characteristic taste of a single grain.
Finish: A gentle fade that becomes a bit tangy in the end.
Overall: A well-named, excellent whisky. Dana’s take on this was “holy crap that’s good. It tastes like apples.” Ha, yep. I discovered Invergordon last year in the Second Edition and have a bottle of the 25yo Sovereign in my whisky closet. I quite enjoy single grain and was first introduce to it with a bottle of Cameronbridge 1974 (a stellar bottle by the way).

#18 – 2005 Croftengea 11yo

Distillery: Croftengea, bottled by A.D. RattrayIMG_0409
Cask Type: Sherry
Cask #: 321
Region: Highland
Age: 11 years
ABV: 58.9%
Nose: Sour apple, spices, iodine.
Palate: Immediately salt hits my tongue with a tingle of heat. It coats in sour fruit and peat. With water these flavours open up.
Finish: Heat and sourness fade to leave a salty peat trail from the middle of my tongue to my throat. Water lengthens and softens the fade.
Overall: I can say I won’t be looking for a full bottle. The odd combination of sour, salt, and peat was a miss for me.

#19 – 1995 Samaroli Spey 20yo

Distillery: Tormore and Miltonduff, bottled by SamaroliIMG_0416
Cask Type: Bourbon refill, hogshead
Cask #: 2845 and 20267
Region: Speyside
Age: 20 years
ABV: 45%
Nose: Apple, cinnamon, vanilla, cherry, and, after a bit of time, nuts.
Palate: Well sat on my tongue, creamy, apples and cherries in a crumble.
Finish: Warm, long finish that leaves traces of spice.
Overall: Dana’s first impression: “Mmmmmm!” She picked up on the cherries in the nose that I had to go back and find. This is like dessert after Sunday dinner and I’d definitely ask for seconds and thirds.

#20 – Speyside 26yo

Distillery: Unknown, bottled by Secret SpiritsIMG_0425
Cask Type: Refill Bourbon
Cask #: 5575
Region: Speyside/Strathspey
Age: 26 years
ABV: 55.9%
Nose: Sweet vanilla and toffee.
Palate: Very hot and needs some water. Floral notes come out underscored by a rich and creamy toffee flavour. A few sips and I get a hint of spice, nutmeg maybe.
Finish: The heat sticks around for a while without water. A few drops and the flavours fade away to wisps of spice. It lingers a long while, having thoroughly coated my tongue.
Overall: Too hot for me at the beginning but some water let me really explore the layers. I like the robust and layered nature of this whisky. The taste follows nicely from the nose and I really enjoyed the subtlety of the spices that showed up in the finish. Well done Secret Spirits!

#21 – Marmalade Appeal, Glenrothes 27yo

Distillery: Glenrothes, bottled by Wemyss MaltsIMG_0443
Cask Type: Butt
Cask #: 5376
Region: Speyside
Age: 27 years
ABV: 46%
Nose: Peaches and oranges with vanilla bean ice cream.
Palate: Silky smooth on the tongue. Honey, vanilla, and a sharp, fresh orange zest.
Finish: The fresh zest note picks up in the finish and delivers some heat at the back of my tongue for a long slow fade.
Overall: I want to keep tasting this because, every time I do, I find another layer; alas there are only so many sips. This is the perfect dram to lead into a quiet evening.

#22 – 1988 Cambus 27yo

Distillery: Cambus, bottled by AdelphiIMG_0449
Cask Type: Refill bourbon
Cask #: 59353
Region: Lowland
Age: 27 years
ABV: 48%
Nose: Toffee and almond, a sweet and woody note after a kiss of water.
Palate: Butterscotch coats my tongue. An unexpected savoury tone with nuts and a little bit of tingling.
Finish: The single grain note shines through as it finishes, wood and nutty notes fade to an almost spicy heat, and my mouth is left coated.
Overall: A great whisky. This one has a lot to offer from nose to finish. I’m struck by the more savoury flavour in the taste and keep going back to taste more. And now my glass is empty. Bigger bottles next year?

23 – 1995 Samaroli Peaty 20yo

Distillery: Laphroaig (Islay), Highland Park (Island), Unknown (Speyside); bottled by Samaroli
Cask Type: Refill Butt
Cask #: 54
Region: Islay/Speyside/Islands
Age: 20 years
ABV: 45%
Nose: Sweet and earthy, a note that makes me think of raisins, and light peat.
Palate: An earthiness that comes with bitter citrus. It’s oily on your tongue and a bit briny. The peat really appeared when it hit the back of my tongue.
Finish: A heat develops as it fades to a drawn-out oily, earthy note sprinkled with salt. Jonathan mentioned beef jerky and I definitely agree with that comparison.
Overall: The longer it breathes, the more I discover. This one is odd: it seems like the earthy-salty note disrupts more than it adds. Definitely intriguing to ferret out the flavours though!

#24 – 1988 Bunnahabhain 28yo

Distillery: Bunnahabhain, bottled by Single Cask Nation
Cask Type: Refill Sherry Hogshead
Cask #: 7403
Region: Islay
Age: 28 years
ABV: 51.3%
Nose: Dark chocolate orange, vanilla caramel.
Palate: It’s fresh and light on my tongue. Orange marmalade with spices. Water turns down the heat, opens these flavours, and allows the caramel and sherry sweetness to emerge.
Finish: This starts to fade away with orange and then – boom! – an explosion of lemon and, finally, lingering spices.
Overall: Wow, this is a great whisky. I found myself at the end far too soon. It kept me sipping and trying to find more within its rich complexity.

#25 – 1980 Samaroli Blend 34yo

Distillery: Various, bottled by Samaroli
Cask Type: Sherry
Cask #: 18
Region: Various
Age: 34 years
ABV: 40%
Nose: A soft caramel and dark berries with a hint of leather.
Palate: An earthy taste with a hint of black licorice. A wee bit of smoke near the back of my tongue.
Finish: A zing of citrus as it slowly fades away.
Overall: An interesting whisky that throws a few change-ups as you make your way from the nose to the palate to the finish. I didn’t expect so much variation and it was a nice dram to sit and share.

1 comment on “Scotch Advent 2016Add yours →

  1. Brilliant post!
    Matt, poke around the specialty liquor stores and look for a free magazine called “Unfiltered” it is a product of the Scotch malt Whisky Society. I think you might like it
    Peaty scotch… my favourite is LAPHROAIG

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