Glen Elgin 12 year old

Glen Elgin 12 year old reviewDistillery: Glen Elgin
Region: Speyside
Age: 12 years old
abv: 43%

Constructed at the turn of the 20th century, Glen Elgin distillery was initially off to an ignominious start. Although plans for the distillery were drawn up when confidence was still high, by the time construction finished, the whisky bubble had burst and the industry was in a death spiral. Glen Elgin distillery opened in May 1900, and filed bankruptcy just six months later, selling at a fraction of the price it had cost to construct the distillery. It would remain closed for much of the next three decades, until Glen Elgin passed into the ownership of DCL, the forerunner of Diageo. The distillery continued to limp on in relative obscurity, until in 1964, the number of stills was tripled to six, and Glen Elgin began distilling the raw materials for the White Horse blend. Until this day, Glen Elgin’s fate has remained largely the same, with most of the distillery’s production disappearing into Diageo’s blends. However, Diageo does bottle a widely available 12 year old malt whisky, as well as several other releases that are a lot harder to come by (including an excellent 16 year old). The 12 year old happens to be the first malt whisky I ever drank, so I’ve always had a soft spot for Glen Elgin and I make sure to always have a bottle on my shelf. Lucky then that Glen Elgin 12 happens to be so affordable, this dram represents great value for money!

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Talisker 57° North

Talisker 57 North Review 01Distillery: Talisker
Region: Islands
Age: No age statement
abv: 57%

Having launched in 2008, Talisker 57° North is the longest serving member of the many NAS bottlings that now make up Talisker’s range. Of course this says something about the popularity of the 57° North, since unsuccessful whiskies don’t get to stick around for long. This expression is named for the geographical coordinates of the Talisker distillery, which finds itself at a latitude of 57 degrees North. To stay true to the theme, 57° North has been bottled at a strength of… you’ve guessed it: 57% abv. This marks a departure from the standard Talisker bottling strength of 45.8%, providing the 57° North with plenty of oomph on top of an already feisty distillery profile. This one’s going to be fun!

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Arran Sauternes Cask Finish

Arran Sauternes Cask 01Distillery: Isle of Arran
Region: Islands
Age: No age statement
abv: 50%

Arran distillery seems to be on a quest to finish their whisky in every cask type imaginable, and have produced some quality drams along the way. There’s something about Arran whisky that makes it suit cask finishes particularly well, which is why I’m excited to try the Arran Sauternes Cask. As the name implies, this dram has received an additional maturation in oak that previously held Sauternes, a sweet, white dessert wine from the Bordeaux region. While I’ve not been overly impressed with the likes of Tullibardine 225 or Glenmorangie Nectar d’Or, I have a feeling that a Sauternes finish may complement Arran’s fresh, fruity character rather well. Let’s find out!

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Strathisla 12 year old

Strathisla 12 year oldDistillery: Strathisla
Region: Speyside
Age: 12 years old
abv: 40%

As the oldest and arguably most picturesque distillery in the north of Scotland, Strathisla can be considered the showpiece in Chivas’s whisky emporium. This is not surprising, since Strathisla is the sole single malt in the company’s portfolio and forms the heart of many a Chivas Regal blend.

Strathisla began its life as a farmhouse distillery under the name Milltown. It was destroyed in a fire in 1876, after which the distillery was rebuilt in its current form. The business changed hands several times, until it was acquired by Chivas Brothers in 1950. Since then, both Strathisla distillery and Chivas have gone from strength to strength, with Chivas becoming the world’s best selling premium blend. As a single malt, Strathisla is often overlooked in favour of its larger Speyside neighbours, and this is wholly unjustified. Sure, Strathisla doesn’t have as extensive a range as some of their competitors, with Strathisla 12 year old being the only malt in the Chivas line-up. But it so happens that this 12 year old is a quality drop of whisky, meaning Strathisla is a distillery that should be noted for more than just the beauty of its stillhouse or for being the home of Chivas Regal. If you like Speyside drams, do give this whisky a try.

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Arran Port Cask Finish

Arran Port Cask Finish 01Distillery: Isle of Arran
Region: Islands
Age: No age statement
abv: 50%

It seems natural to compare the Arran Port Cask with the Madeira Cask, given the similarities between these two types of fortified wine. I tend to contrast it with the different effects that an Oloroso or Pedro Ximénez sherry finish can have on a whisky, but since I’m by no means a wine expert, I will quickly move to safer (whisky) ground. Because despite their similar maturation, it’s striking how different the Arran Port Cask and Madeira Cask actually are. Sure, they share the same Arran characteristics, but underneath this there’s a completely distinct flavour profile for each.

The Arran Port Cask was aged in American oak for about 8 years, before being transferred to ex-port casks. This extra maturation has enhanced Arran’s fruity flavours even further, but has also mellowed some of the freshness usually found in Arran whiskies, substituting it for an enigmatic finesse.  Many other cask finishes have come and gone from Arran’s core range, but the Port Cask remains. While this may have something to do with the availability of casks, it’s certainly also an indication that Arran Port Cask has been a big hit. I for one am thankful that this whisky is still on the shelves, as it’s a dram I love to come back to!

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Ardbeg An Oa

Ardbeg An Oa whisky review 01

Distillery: Ardbeg
Region: Islay
Age: No age statement
abv: 46.6%

With LVMH’s PR machine grinding at full gear, much has already been written about Ardbeg An Oa since its unveiling in August 2017. This new whisky is named after the Mull of Oa, a rocky peninsula in the southwest of Islay that shelters Ardbeg distillery from the Atlantic Ocean’s often stormy conditions. An Oa is meant to reflect these calmer waters by offering a mellower version of Ardbeg, in what amounts to a nice bit of meteorological marketing. The whisky comes in some stylish packaging, and is a vatting of several different casks, including new charred oak, PX sherry casks and first-fill bourbon barrels. I have been eagerly awaiting this release, but have also taken care to manage my expectations. The other members of the Ultimate Range are an extremely hard act to follow, so let’s hope Ardbeg An Oa doesn’t disappoint.

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Caol Ila Moch

Caol Ila Moch 01Distillery: Caol Ila
Region: Islay
Age: No age statement
abv: 43%

Gaelic for ‘dawn’, Moch is supposedly Caol Ila’s first ever whisky selected purely on the basis of taste, rather than age, bottling strength or cask type. Arguably this is just marketing fluff, since Caol Ila’s master distiller will have evaluated the taste of each of the distillery’s whiskies prior to bottling. Even so, there’s no denying that Caol Ila Moch is a very tasty dram. It provides a bit of a lighter version of Caol Ila, without compromising on flavour and complexity. The result is a dram that juggles a softer side with the bold profile we’ve come to expect from Caol Ila. Enjoy the balance of this elegant Islay whisky!

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Arran 10 year old

Arran 10 Year OldDistillery: Isle of Arran
Region: Islands
Age: 10 years old
abv: 46%

Although the Isle of Arran distillery has heartily experimented with all sorts of weird and wonderful cask finishes, the company does also maintain a range of whiskies with an age statement. Of these, Arran 10 year old is the most youthful expression. It showcases the fresh, fruity distillery character in its purest form, unburdened by the extra flavours that additional cask finishes provide. As an unpeated malt, this Arran doesn’t have an obvious Island character, but does provide a refined charm that belies its relatively tender age . The 10 year old is a nice introduction to the Arran range, and well worth a try if you like smooth whiskies and want to set your sights beyond Highland or Speyside distilleries.

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Glen Scotia Double Cask

Glen Scotia Double Cask 01

Distillery: Glen Scotia
Region: Campbeltown
Age: No age statement
abv: 46%

Glen Scotia Double Cask forms part of the distillery’s rebranded range of whiskies. Gone are the Highland cows of yore, replaced now by a set of stylish bottlings. Despite the modern new look, Glen Scotia continues to reference its turbulent past, claiming Double Cask is “a fine example of the original, historic Campbeltown whisky style”. This is reflected in the packaging too, which displays the Glen Scotia distillery at the height of Campbeltown’s glory. And while Campbeltown’s fabled past is indeed remarkable, Glen Scotia ought to be even more proud that they survived to the present day at all. Where so many other distilleries have fallen, Glen Scotia continues to stand proudly near the shores of the Campbeltown Loch. And though good fortune may have had something to do with it, one cannot deny that Glen Scotia produces a very fine drop of whisky. Fortunately, Double Cask is no different, exhibiting all the spicy, energetic characteristics that Glen Scotia is known for. On top of this, an extra maturation in Pedro Ximénez sherry casks provides this whisky with some extra depth and a more fruity, nutty profile. The result is a fine dram and an excellent example of why Campbeltown has firmly earned its place on the whisky map.

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Talisker Dark Storm

Talisker Dark StormDistillery: Talisker
Region: Islands
Age: No age statement
abv: 45.8%

These days it seems almost customary to release a new bottling for the travel retail market first, see if it catches on, and if so, make it more widely available. If this is what’s needed for distilleries to be able to experiment a bit more, that’s all for the best, because it gives us drams such as Talisker Dark Storm.

Part of the range of Talisker NAS whiskies, Dark Storm is the more raucous sibling to Talisker Storm. After all, if you have a Storm that’s relatively successful, why not make it a bit Darker and more mysterious? The darkness in this case is provided by the heavily charred oak that Dark Storm has been matured in. These casks add some extra spice and smokiness to the already pungent distillery character. Think of this as a Talisker on steroids, an extra fierce offering from the Isle of Skye. If you like other Taliskers, Dark Storm will not disappoint.

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