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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Laphroaig Triple Wood

Laphroaig Triple Wood 01Distillery: Laphroaig
Region: Islay
Age: No age statement
abv: 48%

Laphroaig Triple Wood’s name is a bit of a giveaway. As you might expect, this whisky has aged in three different types of cask, making it essentially an Oloroso sherry finished Quarter Cask. What the name does not tell you though, is that this is a fantastic drop of whisky, a Laphroaig with a twist. Compared to some of the distillery’s more youthful offerings, Triple Wood is a mellower, more sophisticated dram. The nose is expressive, the body velvety and rich, while the finish still provides plenty of peat smoke.

Although Triple Wood was formerly a travel retail exclusive, its popularity has earned it a place among Laphroaig’s core range. It is a distinction well earned, as this is one of the distillery’s very finest whiskies.

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Ledaig 10 year old

Ledaig 10 year old 01Distillery: ­­Tobermory
Region: Islands
Age: 10 years old
abv: 46.3%

Ledaig is produced by Tobermory, the only distillery on the Isle of Mull. Tobermory distillery has had quite a turbulent past, and managed to survive despite multiple closures throughout the years. Since its latest reboot in 1993, the distillery has produced two styles of whisky: the fruity, unpeated Tobermory, and the smoky, maritime Ledaig. Ledaig means ‘safe haven’ in Gaelic, and indeed this peaceful bay is where Tobermory distillery is situated. It is somewhat ironic that the name Ledaig was given to the peated range, since these whiskies are anything but tranquil. Tobermory markets Ledaig with the tagline “wonderfully peated”, and this is no word of a lie. With its crisp smoke and medicinal character, Ledaig gives many Islay distilleries a run for their money. Despite this, Ledaig has received relatively little attention, and it seems that demand has remained relatively modest. Perhaps this is all for the best, since Ledaig sells at a very attractive price point. So at the risk of undermining what I just said, be sure to pick up a bottle when you have the chance, this whisky is well worth a try!

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Arran Madeira Cask Finish

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

Despite its young age, the Isle of Arran distillery uses very traditional production techniques. Even so, they have not shied away from experimenting with different types of casks. And this is all to the good: drams such as the Port Cask Finish and the Amarone Cask Finish are delightful whiskies, and the Madeira Cask Finish forms no exception. As the name indicates, this Arran has received an additional maturation in casks that previously held Madeira wine. And while this whisky bears the influences of not one, but two different islands, it ironically does not have an obvious Island character. Like most Arrans, the Madeira Cask is an unpeated, fresh and floral whisky, but now overlaid with extra fruity, nutty flavours from the Madeira cask. The result is a delicious dram, which thanks to its bottling strength of 50% does not lack for vigour.

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