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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The Nikka 12 year old

Nikka 12 year old

Producer: Nikka
Country: Japan
Age: 12 years old
abv: 43%

Let’s face it, Japanese whisky with an age statement is a rare sight these days. And while Nikka has bottled many excellent NAS bottlings over the past decade, it’s great to see this 12 year old stalwart still forms part of the range. With Nikka axing the entire Yoichi, Miyagikyo and Taketsuru line-ups and replacing them with NAS expressions, The Nikka 12 year old now remains the company’s sole bottling with an age statement. I expect the fact that this is a blend rather than a single malt may have helped Nikka to keep it on the shelves, but it’s also a testament to the quality of this whisky. Nikka has a fine reputation when it comes to blending, and this 12 year old fits right in. This bottling comes in some very stylish packaging (although the velvet is a bit too much for my taste), with the design meant to mimic the neckline of a kimono.

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Mackmyra Grönt Te

Mackmyra Grönt Te

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

Mackmyra rightly call themselves Explorers in Whisky. For well over a decade now, they’ve been presenting us with weird and wonderful creations that other whisky makers wouldn’t even dare to dream up. At which other distillery will you find casks that previously held lingonberry wine, birch sap or glühwein? Mackmyra’s latest creation Grönt Te (Swedish for green tea) goes one step further though. For while the products mentioned above generally age in oak, tea does not. Instead, master blender Angela d’Orazio decided to season casks with a blend of Oloroso sherry and Japanese tea leaves. This mixture was then poured out, before finishing the whisky in these casks.

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Kavalan Concertmaster

Kavalan Concertmaster Port Cask

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

Of all the excellent whiskies in Kavalan’s range, the Concertmaster Port Cask Finish has become my go-to expression. Part of this has to do with the price tag: the Concertmaster is much cheaper than Kavalan’s luxurious Solist line-up, yet only a little bit more expensive than the entry-level Kavalan Single Malt or Distillery Select. But ultimately it’s quality that counts. This Taiwanese treat is packed with flavour, exhibiting a richness that belies the fact that it has matured for less than a year. It won’t come as a surprise to you that Taiwan has a completely different climate than the Scottish Highlands. The heat and humidity mean that Kavalan’s casks have an Angel’s Share of up to 15% per year, greatly accelerating the spirit’s interaction with the oak. As a result, the port pipes have left an indelible mark on the whisky, while doing little to restrain the youthful character of the spirit. The result is an intensely rich yet lively whisky, perhaps lacking in subtlety somewhat but bristling with character.

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Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt

Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt

Producer: Nikka
Country: Japan
Age: No age statement
abv: 43%

Masataka Taketsuru was a legend in the whisky world, so naturally any bottle bearing his name comes with some high expectations. Nikka Taketsuru 17 and 21 year old were at the forefront of launching Japanese whisky to international acclaim. Given these high hopes, Taketsuru Pure Malt was perhaps not quite what I’d wished for. Then again, that’s not very fair. Like someone with famous parents struggling to make their own way in the world, Pure Malt should not constantly be compared to its illustrious forebears. So let’s set history aside for a moment and judge this whisky on its own merits. What does Taketsuru Pure Malt have to offer?

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Laphroaig Tasting 2.0

Lahproaig Tasting 01Ahh Laphroaig! Nothing like a kick of iodine to hit you in the face and make your eyes water. Laphroaig is the ultimate love it or hate it dram, so the mere fact I had this tasting will tell you which camp I’m in. While I was previously able to line up a nice selection of Laphroaigs, tonight’s tasting upped the ante with a few more premium bottlings. Over the past years, Laphroaig has released quite a lot of new expressions, all without an age statement. Another noticeable trend has been the use of quarter casks in almost all of their whisky. While this is a testament to the success of Laphroaig Quarter Cask, it’s also an indication that Laphroaig doesn’t shy away from speeding up the maturation process by using casks with a higher surface-to-liquid ratio. Lastly, Laphroaig seems to be marrying more and more different cask types together, culminating in the (rather disappointing) Four Oak. So… what are these recent Laphroaigs like, and how do they stack up against some of the old guns? Let’s find out: below is a short description of each of the whiskies, including a link to the full review.

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Ichiro’s Malt & Grain

Ichiro's Malt and GrainProducer: Ichiro’s Malt (Venture Whisky)
Country: Japan
Age: No age statement
abv: 46%

The latest bottling from the excellent Ichiro’s Malt stable, Malt & Grain is – as the name would suggest – a blended whisky. But it’s got a few tricks up its sleeve. Because it’s not just any blended whisky. It’s a World Blended Whisky. What this means is that whisky from other origins was shipped to Japan, where it was married with whisky from Ichiro’s Chichibu distillery. And let’s be honest, usually that’s bad news. There are countless examples of Japanese whisky on the market that don’t contain a single drop of spirit distilled in Japan.

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Laphroaig Select

Laphroaig Select 01Distillery: Laphroaig
Region: Islay
Age: No age statement
abv: 40%

It’s no longer news that distilleries are replacing their aged standard expressions for no age statement bottlings. Talisker Skye and Bowmore Legend are just two examples. Laphroaig Select is another. Sure, the 10 year old is still around, but we should now view Select as the entry-level whisky for Laphroaig’s range. And as an entry-level, Select is meant to typify the distillery character and provide a teaser of what Laphroaig can do – at much cheaper production costs. But here’s the rub, many continue to view the 10 year old as the distillery’s standard bearer and reference point against which other Laphroaigs are judged. And truth is, that’s not a standard we can expect Laphroaig Select to live up to. To keep the price point attractive, Select consists of rather immature spirit, which was put through a wide variety of different casks. The result is a light, toned down version of Laphroaig. Given the love-it-or-hate-it character of Laphroaig, this does perhaps make for a better entry point, but not necessarily a better whisky.

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Glenglassaugh Peated Port Wood Finish

Glenglassaugh Peated Port Wood FinishDistillery: Glenglassaugh
Region: Highland
Age: No age statement
abv: 46%

Throughout its turbulent history, Glenglassaugh distillery has closed and re-opened more times than I care to mention here. Since its last reboot in 2008 though, the distillery has gone from strength to strength. Whereas in past decades Glenglassaugh’s whisky featured mostly in blends such as Famous Grouse and Cutty Sark, these days its proudly bottled as single malt. Initially this was done through a small core range, but in recent years the distillery has also experimented with limited expressions through their Wood Finishes Series. This particular bottling was not only finished in port pipes, but also made from the distillery’s peated malt – the very same that’s used for Glenglassaugh Torfa. The result is something quite special, a delicious concoction of Highland peat and sumptuous forest fruits.

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Ichiro’s Malt Wine Wood Reserve

Ichiro's Wine Wood ReserveProducer: Ichiro’s Malt (Venture Whisky)
Country: Japan
Age: No age statement
abv: 45%

When Akuto Ichiro set up Chichibu distillery in 2008, most people thought he was crazy. Japanese whisky sales were at their lowest level in decades, causing distillers such as Nikka and Suntory to cut production massively. In hindsight though, Ichiro’s timing could not have been better. Although few saw it coming, the popularity of Japanese whisky skyrocketed around half a decade later. While his competitors were struggling to meet demand, Ichiro’s warehouses were full – and he was ready to capitalise on this new whisky boom. What of course helped immensely was the quality of his product.

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