Nikka All Malt

Nikka All Malt Review

Producer: Nikka
Country: Japan
Age: No age statement
abv: 40%

Nikka All Malt was released in 1990 and was a completely novel concept at the time. The spirit is indeed made using only malted barley, but some of it was put through a column still (also known as a Coffey still). The reason this had never been tried before is that in Scotland, anything distilled in a Coffey still would automatically be classified as a grain whisky. So why waste precious barley on a liquid that you couldn’t call malt anyway? Japan of course isn’t bound by Scottish rules, so Nikka decided to give it a try. All Malt was an instant hit in the home market and the fact it’s still available is a testament to its enduring popularity (and affordability). It’s safe to say All Malt has successfully pushed the envelope, even influencing subsequent Nikka bottlings. 25 years later, Nikka Coffey Malt has become popular the word over, using only malt distilled in a column still.

But back to All Malt. Of all the excellent whiskies in Nikka’s range, this is one of the most accessible – both in terms of taste and price. It’s unlikely to blow your mind (try Nikka from the Barrel for that), but All Malt is a nice teaser of what Nikka has to offer.

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Paul John Bold

Paul John BoldReview

Distillery: John Distilleries
Country: India
Age: No age statement
abv: 46%

Most Scotch drinkers probably wouldn’t know it, but India-based John Distilleries produces one of the world’s best selling whiskies. Established in 1996 by Paul P. John, the company is home to Original Choice whisky, which still accounts for around 90% of its sales. The good news is that this commercial success allowed John to enter the premium end of the market with the launch of Paul John malt whisky in 2008. And they didn’t take half measures. Using traditional production methods and installing a pair of copper pot stills, the distillery quickly earned international acclaim. Whereas most Indian distillers import their raw materials, Paul John has chosen to use locally grown 6-row barley. Although yields are lower, the higher fibre content results in an oilier wash and a more robust whisky. For Paul John Bold, peat was imported from Islay and used to smoke the barley to a level of 25 ppm (similar to a Talisker). Owing to the hotter climate in Goa, the maturation comes with an angel’s share of around 8-10%. The upside is that the spirit matures more quickly, imparting a vibrant array of flavours on a whisky that retains its youthful temperament. Sounds perfect for an expression that carries the moniker Bold.

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Ledaig Rioja Cask Finish

Ledaig Sinclair Series Rioja Cask Finish

Distillery: ­­Tobermory
Region: Islands
Age: No age statement
abv: 46.3%

On top of rebranding its core range, Isle of Mull based Tobermory distillery has recently launched its Sinclair Series. Named after founder John Sinclair, this range of limited edition whiskies gives the distillery opportunity to experiment with different cask types. The first expression was – as the name suggests – finished in European oak casks that previously held Rioja, a Spanish red wine. Supposedly inspired by a Spanish galleon that sank just off Tobermory centuries ago, this whisky is meant to be equally laden with treasure. And it sure looks dazzling. This whisky is all about colour, with the bottle referencing Tobermory’s colourful past and colourful spirit. I can’t say I’m a fan of the packaging, but this whisky’s reddish hue sure is a joy to behold (it’s all natural too). I’ve loved everything that came out of Tobermory distillery recently, so let’s see how the Rioja Cask compares to the excellent price-quality ratio of the Ledaig 10 or the sheer brilliance of the Ledaig 18.

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Glenfarclas 21 year old

Glenfarclas 21 year old 01

Distillery: Glenfarclas
Region: Speyside
Age: 21 years old
abv: 43%

Glenfarclas 21 year old could teach Roger Moore a thing or two about smoothness – Master of Malt

At a time when most new whisky releases don’t carry an age statement and whole ranges of aged expressions disappear altogether, Glenfarclas provides a notable exception. You won’t find Gaelic words or names of local landmarks on this Speyside distillery’s bottlings. Just plain 12, 15 and 18 year old. Somehow this resistance to the winds of change is strangely refreshing. What’s more, where prices for age statement whiskies have risen sharply over the past decade, Glenfarclas still provides tremendous value for money. This particular expression is one of the cheapest 21 year old whiskies you’ll find on the market. But even more than the cost, there’s one other thing that stands out at Glenfarclas: all of their bottlings are big, muscular whiskies that boast a heavily sherried character. The perfect after dinner dram!

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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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