Kavalan Classic Single Malt

Kavalan Classic Single Malt

Distillery: Kavalan
Country: Taiwan
Age: No age statement
abv: 40%

Kavalan Classic (formerly known simply as Kavalan Single Malt) has a rich history for a whisky that’s only been around for just over a decade. First released in 2008, this is the expression that launched Kavalan to international stardom. Kavalan Classic started making ripples around 2010, beating some very distinguished Scottish competitors in a blind tasting. Classic has won numerous awards since, as have other whiskies in Kavalan’s range. The distillery has not looked back since this successful launch, becoming a commercial powerhouse, as adept at marketing as they are at distilling.

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The Isle of Rùm's coastal hiking trail, with Skye’s Cuillins looming in the background.

Whisky Walks: Roaming around Rùm

I’ve long been wanting to explore some of Scotland’s lesser known Hebrides, and my attention was naturally drawn towards the Isle of Rùm. On the face of it, Rùm seems a hiker’s paradise: no roads, a population of just 20 people, an abundance of wildlife and over 100 square kilometres of nature to explore. The only slight drawback is that Rùm doesn’t boast its own distillery, but we made sure to carry plenty of whisky with us.

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Wolfburn Northland

Wolfburn Northland Review

Distillery: Wolfburn
Region: Highland
Age: No age statement
abv: 46%

Northland is the first ever bottling from Wolfburn distillery and celebrates the moment its spirit could proudly proclaim itself whisky at three years old. Established in 2013, Wolfburn is the northernmost distillery on the Scottish mainland. It’s located near Thurso (the gateway to Orkney) on the site of a former distillery of the same name. Although that distillery has long since disappeared, the burn that supplied the water is still there. The Wolf Burn now provides the input for an unusually long distillation. Wolfburn’s pot stills are on the small side, meaning the increased contact with the copper results in a very pure, smooth spirit. Northland was aged in quarter casks that previously held Islay whisky (my guess is Laphroaig?), so we’ll hopefully be able to detect some traces of smoke on this Wolfburn. The packaging feels quite premium and depicts a cool looking sea-wolf, a creature from Scots and Norse mythology. The sea-wolf roams both land and sea and brings good luck to all those fortunate enough to see it. I always count myself lucky to see a good bottle of whisky, so perhaps there’s something to it.

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Bunnahabhain Toiteach A Dhà

Bunnahabhain Toiteach A Dhà

Distillery: Bunnahabhain
Region: Islay
Age: No age statement
abv: 46.3%

With a touch of smoke from our peated malted barley introduced during its creation and combined with a higher sherry influence, this special bottling offers the connoisseur an opportunity to try something truly unique and beguiling in nature.

This is how Bunnahabhain introduces Toiteach A Dhà on their website. It’s a nice piece of text, but I do think Bunna is selling their whisky short by only crediting it with a ‘touch of smoke’. The peaty influence on Toiteach A Dhà is unmistakable, especially when compared to Bunnahabhain’s regular unpeated expressions. And of course that’s the point of this bottling, for Toiteach means smoky in Gaelic. Heard that before? You’re very right, because A Dhà (‘two’ in Gaelic) is the successor to the Toiteach bottling originally launched in 2008. I’ll admit I was very unimpressed with the first Toiteach, so I went into this review with low expectations. But everyone loves a comeback kid, so I decided to try it anyway. As mentioned by Bunnahabhain, A Dhà has a higher sherry influence, and this has worked wonders to smooth out the rough edges present in the original Toiteach. I’m guessing a longer maturation may also have something to do with it, but for lack of an age statement I can’t be sure. I do want to mention the packaging on this Bunna, it’s so very classy! That swirl of smoke in combination with the black glass is giving Toiteach A Dhà a dark and mysterious look that fits the character of the whisky quite well. But let’s dive straight in, can Bunnahabhain Toiteach redeem itself?

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Omar Bourbon Cask

Omar Bourbon Cask Single Malt

Distillery: Nantou
Country: Taiwan
Age: No age statement
abv: 46%

When you say Taiwanese whisky, you say Kavalan, right? It might be time to update that notion, because there’s a new kid in town. Well… perhaps not all that new, since state-owned Nantou distillery has roots dating back to the Japanese colonial period. It was during this time that Nantou’s parent company Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corporation (TTL) was provided a monopoly on alcohol production and retail, which it maintained until Taiwan’s entry to the World Trade Organization in 2002. The distillery itself was set up in 2008, not so much out of an innate desire to make whisky, but to help domestic farmers who were facing export restrictions for their barley. Now there’s a policy that would earn my vote! TTL dispatched one of their employees to Scotland to learn the tricks of the trade, while a pair of stills went in the opposite direction.

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Kamiki Blended Malt Whisky

Kamiki Blended Malt Whisky

Producer: Kamiki
Country: Japan
Age: No age statement
abv: 48%

Spirits are aged in oak. Whether it’s brandy, rum, bourbon or even wine, oak casks are the vessel of choice. And while that probably has more to do with the physical properties of oak than the flavours it imparts on the liquid, the fact is that the use of oak has become so ingrained that hardly anyone questions it anymore. Of course many regulations forbid the use of anything other than oak, leaving no room for alternatives. But in Japan, the rules around liquor production are not so strict. And this is where Kamiki comes in.

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Mackmyra Svensk Rök

Mackmyra Svensk Rök

Distillery: Mackmyra
Country: Sweden
Age: No age statement
abv: 46.1%

Part of Mackmyra’s core range, Svensk Rök translates as Swedish smoke. And that’s about all the introduction this whisky needs, for indeed it’s smoky and it’s Swedish. So Swedish in fact that all of the ingredients were locally sourced, and part of the spirit aged in Swedish oak. And if you thought this whisky couldn’t get any more Swedish, think again! True to local tradition, the barley for Svensk Rök was smoked over a fire of juniper twigs. This is a common way of preserving food in Sweden, and it’s certainly helped to produce a flavour profile not found anywhere else in the world. Some decidedly unSwedish ex-Oloroso sherry casks were also added to the mix, so we’re in for a treat!

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Ardbeg Wee Beastie 5 year old

Ardbeg Wee Beastie

Distillery: Ardbeg
Region: Islay
Age: 5 years old
abv: 47.4%

For close to a decade now, Ardbeg has celebrated its annual Ardbeg Day with the release of a new limited edition. And while some of these whiskies have been nothing short of breathtaking (think Galileo or Dark Cove), it’s always a shame when you’ve emptied your bottle and a replacement is nowhere to be found. So those rare occasions where Ardbeg decides to shake up the core range are always a cause for celebration. Coming hot on the heels of An Oa and Traigh Ban is Ardbeg Wee Beastie, the youngest member of the family yet. And while the former whiskies showcase a more restrained version of Ardbeg, this Beastie is not meant to be tamed.

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Mackmyra Brukswhisky

Mackmyra Brukswhisky

Distillery: Mackmyra
Country: Sweden
Age: No age statement
abv: 41.4%

Launched in 2010, Brukswhisky has formed part of Mackmyra’s core range ever since. The spirit is aged primarily in ex-bourbon casks, but sherry butts and Swedish oak are also used, making for quite an attractive mix. The presentation is equally striking, being distinctly different from the rest of Mackmyra’s lineup. Featuring assorted tools, distilling equipment and raw materials, the packaging marries Mackmyra’s premium style with a more industrious image. Indeed, Brukswhisky’s product page shows a scene taken straight from the Industrial Revolution, with Mackmyra’s hypermodern Gravity Distillery tucked into one corner. Let’s see if all this hard work paid off.

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