Tag Archives: NAS

Paul John Edited

Paul John in an Indian single malt whisky maker, based in the southwestern Indian state of Goa. While the Bangalore-based Amrut tends to get all the single malt attention, Paul John has actually been producing whisky since 1992. I’ve noticed Paul John whiskies starting to show up in many countries in the last couple of years (including Canada – Western Canada, at any rate).

Their first unpeated single malt whisky (“Brilliance”) was distilled from Indian 6-row barley. But from what I can find online, this “Edited” second release supposedly uses ~15% peated spirit, made from imported Scottish barley (with malted barley phenol levels of about 20-25 ppm). I don’t know if that is still the case for current releases, or if they have moved to in-house peating yet. In any case, you should a expect a lightly peated expression here.

Like the earlier Brilliance, Edited is matured exclusively in ex-bourbon casks. There is no age statement, but I expect it is fairly young (in keeping with other tropical climate whiskies). Bottled at 46% ABV, it typically retails for around ~$60 USD most places. I actually sampled this at the SWISS Air lounge in Zurich.

Here is how it compares to other Indian whiskies in my Meta-Critic Whisky Database:

Amrut Bourbon Single Cask: 8.74 ± 0.32 on 13 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Fusion: 8.89 ± 0.25 on 25 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Indian Single Malt: 8.26 ± 0.82 on 17 reviews ($$$)
Amrut Peated Single Malt: 8.69 ± 0.32 on 12 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Peated Single Malt Cask Strength: 9.14 ± 0.18 on 11 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Portpipe Peated Single Cask (all casks): 8.77 ± 0.40 on 11 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Two Continents: 8.81 ± 0.44 on 13 reviews ($$$$)
Paul John Single Cask: 8.90 ± 0.33 on 5 reviews ($$$$)
Paul John Classic Select Cask: 8.62 ± 0.37 on 7 reviews ($$$$)
Paul John Brilliance: 8.47 ± 0.37 on 8 reviews ($$$)
Paul John Peated Select Cask: 8.78 ± 0.26 on 9 reviews ($$$$)
Paul John Bold: 8.75 ± 0.21 on 6 reviews ($$$)
Paul John Edited: 8.46 ± 0.48 on 8 reviews ($$$)

Let’s see what I find in the glass:

Nose: Sweet and lightly peated. Getting a lot of ex-bourbon notes – honey, caramel and tons of vanilla. Apple and pear. Green peas (which is distinctive). Not very complex, but pleasant enough. The peat is relatively light – strikes me as something like a lightly peated Speyside scotch. Touch of old sweat socks. Slight ethanol singe on deep inhale.

Palate: Very sweet again, honey and vanilla in particular, plus corn syrup. The sweetness dominates over everything else, honestly. Hint of fruit compote. Slight tongue tingle, on the back and sides of the tongue. A bit of glue, somewhat dry at end. Watery for 46% ABV, would have guessed lower honestly. Disappointing, but not offensive.

Finish‎: Medium. Has a dry finish, evaporates quickly in the mouth. Faint lingering smoke, more like old paper somehow. Aside from the smoke, the flavours just disappears.

Water brings in nothing new on nose, and lightens the mouth feel further.  It also becomes a touch acidic on finish, which wasn’t there before. Simply put, don’t do it – it is better neat.

At the end of the day, this is a relatively unoffensive spirit – it just isn’t very interesting. Personally, I think the Meta-Critic average score is a bit high – I would have rated it a little lower. Among reviewers, Jim Murray is a huge fan of this one. Moderately positive are Joshua of Whiskey Wash, Dominic of Whisky Advocate and Serge of Whisky Fun. Very negative are TOModera of Reddit and Ruben of Whisky Notes.

Twelve Barrels

A number of recent additions to the LCBO catalog of Canadian whisky have piqued my interest – including this first release under the new “Twelve Barrels” brand.

The name is derived from some local lore in the town Napanee, Ontario (from whence the creator of this whisky, Cole Miller, originates). Apparently, a minor local celebrity named John took to jumping over whisky barrels on skates – eventually working his way up the eponymous Twelve Barrels.

This entry-level whisky is blended from whisky sourced from a few different distilleries. It is bottled at the industry standard of 40% ABV, and is sold at the LCBO for $35 CAD.

There are few reviews so far, but here is how it compares to other entry-level Canadian whiskies in my Meta-Critic Whisky Database:

Alberta Premium: 8.16 ± 0.67 on 12 reviews ($)
Canadian Club (Premium): 7.30 ± 0.71 on 18 reviews ($)
Canadian Club 100% Rye: 8.30 ± 0.41 on 16 reviews ($)
Crown Royal: 7.60 ± 0.47 on 19 reviews ($)
Crown Royal Black: 8.20 ± 0.50 on 16 reviews ($$)
Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye: 8.55 ± 0.35 on 18 reviews ($$)
Forty Creek Barrel Select: 8.44 ± 0.43 on 17 reviews ($)
Forty Creek Copper Pot Reserve: 8.70 ± 0.36 on 14 reviews ($)
Gibson’s Bold 8yo: 8.25 ± 0.46 on 5 reviews ($)
Gibson’s Finest Sterling: 8.02 ± 0.35 on 9 reviews ($)
Hiram Walker Special Old Rye: 8.20 ± 0.38 on 9 reviews ($)
J.P. Wiser’s Deluxe: 7.90 ± 0.68 on 10 reviews ($)
J.P. Wiser’s Double Still Rye: 8.34 ± 0.36 on 8 reviews ($)
J.P. Wiser’s Small Batch: 8.53 ± 0.26 on 11 reviews ($)
J.P. Wiser’s Special Blend: 7.42 ± 0.75 on 6 reviews ($)
Twelve Barrels: 8.09 ± 0.45 on 4 reviews ($$)

My sample of Twelve Barrels was provided directly by Cole for this review. All opinions in the review remain my own, of course.

Let’s see what I find in the glass:

Nose: Sweet, ultra-light corn syrup. Caramel and vanilla. Orange peel. Red berries. Dusty rye spices, cinnamon and nutmeg. Dry kindling, seasoned wood. Very rye forward, almost an American straight rye character (or a light-style, high-rye bourbon). Much more rye than a typical Canadian whisky. Acetone and a touch of glue, but not objectionable – it does seem young though. But better than I was expecting so far.

Palate: There’s that American rye again, starting out with powerful initial wallop.  Cinnamon spice, black pepper. Simple sugar syrup backbone. Orange peel again. Old cedar chest. Some creamy cereal notes (Weetabix?). There is something here that reminds me of Century Reserve 21, but not as refined. Watery, as expected for the ABV.  A cut above most entry-level Canadian whiskies so far, easy enough to sip. But a persistent bitterness rises quickly right after swallowing.

Finish:‎ Fades fast, like most of the competition in this class. Slight artificial sweetness with a dry bitterness settle in – and that glue note returns. These all point to its youth. Disappointing in this regard, honestly.

Well, that was interesting: starts off like an American rye, morphs into a Canadian corn/wheat whisky in the mouth, and ends like a typical Canadian corn whisky.‎ Similar to a lot of entry-level Canadian whiskies, the finish is rather disappointing (what little there is). But it strike a pretty good balance on the nose and palate, with more character than I expected.

Interestingly, I found I was holding this whisky in my mouth longer than usual on each sip. But not because I was waiting for something new to emerge – it was to prevent the rise of that slight bitterness after swallowing.

Among reviewers, the most positive is Jason of In Search of Elegance, followed by Davin of Canadian Whisky. The most negative is Andre of Quebec Whisky, who gives it a low score. I would personally be somewhere in the middle of all of these. Looking forward to trying what Cole comes up with next.

Amrut Spectrum 004

Given the success of their initial hybrid cask experiment, Amrut has released a second  batch of Spectrum.

As I explained in my review of Batch 1, Spectrum is a single hybrid cask build from different sources of wood. The custom barrel for the first batch was built from new charred American Oak, new lightly toasted French Oak, new lightly toasted Spanish Oak, ex-Oloroso Sherry staves, and ex-Pedro Ximenez (PX) Sherry staves. This time around, the Spanish Oak staves were left out. As these are considered to have among the least impact on flavour, the expectation is that the new batch should still have a very similar flavor profile to the original. This 4-source cask presumably explains the “004” added to the name for this second batch.

This is a no age statement (NAS) release, but my original bottle of Spectrum batch 1 described the base spirit has having spent 3 years in traditional ex-Bourbon oak barrels before being transferred into the custom hybrid barrel for another 3.5 years. I don’t have the details for the Spectrum 004 – but will update this review if I find out.  Apparently, only 1800 bottles of this second batch were produced (1000 were available the first time around). Again bottled at 50% ABV.

As a big fan of the original Amrut Spectrum, I was glad to be able to swap a sample with Redditor Strasse007 for the new Spectrum 004.

Here is how the two Spectrums compare to other Amruts in my Meta-Critic Whisky Database:

Amrut Double Cask: 9.04 ± 0.19 on 5 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Fusion: 8.89 ± 0.25 on 25 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Greedy Angels (8yo and 10yo): 9.20 ± 0.22 on 8 reviews ($$$$$+)
Amrut Herald: 8.91 ± 0.15 on 6 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Indian Single Malt: 8.27 ± 0.82 on 17 reviews ($$$)
Amrut Intermediate Sherry: 8.95 ± 0.37 on 19 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Kadhambam: 8.91 ± 0.25 on 13 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Naarangi: 8.55 ± 0.63 on 10 reviews ($$$$$)
Amrut Peated Single Malt: 8.69 ± 0.32 on 12 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Peated Single Malt Cask Strength: 9.14 ± 0.17 on 11 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Portonova: 8.98 ± 0.30 on 17 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Portpipe Peated Single Cask (all casks): 8.76 ± 0.39 on 11 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut PX Sherry Single Cask (all casks): 8.79 ± 0.45 on 13 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Spectrum (all batches): 9.13 ± 0.17 on 10 reviews ($$$$$)
Amrut Spectrum (Batch 1): 9.16 ± 0.20 on 10 reviews ($$$$$)
Amrut Spectrum 004 (Batch 2): 9.10 ± 0.29 on 3 reviews ($$$$$)
Amrut Rye: 8.87 ± 0.28 on 7 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Two Continents: 8.80 ± 0.44 on 13 reviews ($$$$)

There are few reviews of Spectrum 004 so far, but it is still getting a very high score.

Let’s see what I found in the glass.

Colour: Slightly lighter than Batch 1 – a bit more pinkish in hue.

Nose:Similar nose to Batch 1, but a bit lighter overall (and less complex). Figs and raisins remain prominent, plus plums and earth cherries (gooseberries). Orange peel and a touch of lemon. Chocolate notes are even stronger now, and a touch sweeter (milk chocolate). Cinnamon and nutmeg. Coffee. Still earthy, with leather and tobacco – but a bit less sour than the first batch. A touch vinegary. A very nice nose, but I still prefer the first batch on the whole.

Palate:Sweet sultanas and raisins. Sour cherry and green apple (which are novel), and more lemony than the first batch – so, a bit tart overall. Chocolate and a bit of caramel – but less sweet than the first batch. Even heavier cinnamon sensation now. Anise and black pepper like before, plus some chilli pepper now – definitely a bit spicier. Leather, and that same rancio note as the first batch, which I enjoy. Rich mouthfeel. Slight woody bitterness comes in at the end.

Finish:Long. Potpourri, with dried fruits and spices. A bit bitter, with an astringent dryness that comes up at the end – which I didn’t recall on the first batch.

Water brings up the sweetness in the mouth, without affecting the mouthfeel. It also seems to help a bit with the bitterness on the finish – so I strongly recommend you try it with a few drops.

It is true that the overall flavour profile is very similar to the first batch Amrut Spectrum.  But it seems to me that the quality of the staves was a bit higher on that first batch, given the slight bitterness which creeps in here with the 004. I also liked the extra sweetness of the first batch. Not objectionable at all, but I definitely prefer the first batch for the all-around experience and complexity.

Personally, I would rate the first batch of Spectrum even higher than the Meta-Critic average, and the Spectrum 004 as slightly lower. But both are excellent whiskies.

Among reviewers, the most positive is Jonny of Whisky Advocate, who actually prefers 004 slightly over the first batch. Like me, Redditors Devoz and Ethanized both give 004 a lower score than the first batch. Saba007 is also very positive on this whisky.

Mackmyra The Swedish Whisky (Brukswhisky)

I enjoyed my first experience of Mackmyra, The First Edition, with its distinctive earthy and coniferous tones. This expression been replaced by a new variant, known as Svensk Ek. However, this new release is considerably more expensive where I live (and is getting lower scores to date in my MetaCritic Database).

Mackmyra has also released a new entry-level core expression, known simply as The Swedish Whisky (or Brukswhisky). Like Box Dalvve reviewed recently, this new core line is a light Swedish whisky with some peated malt added to the mix. Matured primarily in first fill bourbon barrels, it also includes whisky aged in sherry and Swedish oak casks. And best of all, it is only $50 CAD at the LCBO (which is cheaper than any name-branded Scottish single malt). It is bottled at 41.4%.

Let’s see how it compares to other Swedish whiskies, of similar style, in my MetaCritic Database.

Box Dalvve: 8.49 ± 0.27 on 6 reviews ($$$$)
Box PX: 8.92 ± 0.16 on 5 reviews ($$$$$)
Box The 2nd Step Collection 02: 8.90 ± 0.03 on 5 reviews ($$$$$)
Box The Festival 2014: 8.93 ± 0.13 on 3 reviews ($$$$$)
Mackmyra Blomstertid: 8.19 ± 0.26 on 3 reviews ($$$$)
Mackmyra Iskristall: 8.87 ± 0.21 on 3 reviews ($$$$$)
Mackmyra Svensk Ek: 8.33 ± 0.24 on 3 reviews ($$$$)
Mackmyra Svensk Rök: 8.71 ± 0.14 on 4 reviews ($$$$)
Mackmyra The First Edition (Den Första Utgåvan): 8.65 ± 0.36 on 17 reviews ($$$)
Mackmyra The Swedish Whisky (Brukswhisky): 8.45 ± 0.56 on 10 reviews ($$)
Smögen Sherry Project 1:1: 8.71 ± 0.11 on 3 reviews ($$$$)
Smögen Sherry Project 1:2: 8.85 ± 0.19 on 3 reviews ($$$$)
Smögen Sherry Project 1:3: 8.77 ± 0.25 on 3 reviews ($$$$)
Smögen Sherry Project 1:4: 8.84 ± 0.28 on 5 reviews ($$$$)
Smögen Single Cask 4yo 7/2011: 8.94 ± 0.23 on 4 reviews ($$$$$)

While it doesn’t score as highly as The First Edition, this near-overall-average score for my database is very impressive for an entry-level malt.

Here is what I find in the glass.

Nose: Fresh and clean aroma, with vanilla and citrus notes dominating (lemon peel in particular). Green apple and pear, plus cherries (which is distinctive). Pine and juniper. Fresh hay. Not getting any overt signs of smoke here, but it is a bit salty. Just a hint of acetone (less than I expected for the price and presumed youth). Light and youthful, but well-constructed for the style.

Palate: A touch creamier now, with even more vanilla and some of caramel. Loads of citrus (lemon and grapefruit), and even more pine. Red berries. Cinnamon and a bit of all-spice. Earthy, in a way I’ve come to associate with Mackmyra (i.e., a touch of anise and mixed conifers, eucalyptus). Some tongue tingle (surprising for the low ABV). Watery overall, which detracts (definitely lighter than First Edition). On the way out, I’m getting a faint of hint of smoke – although it is coming through more as an underlying mustiness.

Finish: The spiciness lingers the longest (cinnamon in particular), with some cracked black pepper now. Otherwise, light vanilla frosting and some caramel. Bitterness rises at the end, unfortunately.

A very respectable entry-level dram – young without tasting youngish. It shares a lot of similar characteristics to the standard bottling of Box Dalvve, although with less smoke here. Still, the fruitiness and woodiness pick up more, which is nice.

This is probably a reasonable replacement for the Mackmyra First Edition, especially at lower cost. Brukswhisky does have a more watery mouthfeel and less robust finish than its predecessor, however.

The guys at Quebec Whisky are all really big fans of this one (especially Martin). Serge of Whisky Fun gives it an about average score. Less positive are TOModera and Unclimbability of Reddit, and Dominic of Whisky Advocate. The most negative I’ve seen is Thomas of Whisky Saga. Personally, I’d give it a slightly below average score, consistent with the Meta-Critic average. Great value for the price around here.

Jameson Irish Whiskey

One of the most recognizable names in Irish whisky, Jameson is a core brand of the Midleton distillery of County Cork. An empire was built on the shoulders of this slender green bottle – Jameson is the top-selling Irish whisky across the world.

This base expression of Jameson is a blend of traditional pot still whisky and inexpensive column-distilled grain whisky. As with most Irish whisky, it is triple-distilled and aged for a minimum of 4 years. It is bottled at the industry-standard minimum strength of 40% ABV. You can typically find it at or near the “floor” price for budget whisky in most jurisdictions.

Standard Jameson is known for its relatively “smooth” flavour – a term widely used by casual whisky drinkers to denote a relative lack of sharp, off-putting notes – and widely derided by enthusiasts who look for greater complexity and character. But personally, I find there is something to be said for a lack of off-notes in an entry-level expression. I was gifted a bottle a while back, so I figured it was time I tried it neat again, for a proper review.

Here is how it compares to other inexpensive Irish whiskies in my Meta-Critic database:

2 Gingers Irish Whiskey: 8.06 ± 0.35 on 3 reviews ($$)
Bushmills Black Bush: 8.36 ± 0.38 on 22 reviews ($$)
Bushmills Original Blended: 7.67 ± 0.45 on 17 reviews ($$)
Glendalough Double Barrel: 8.23 ± 0.38 on 6 reviews ($$)
Jameson: 7.84 ± 0.50 on 21 reviews ($$)
Jameson Caskmates Stout Edition: 8.19 ± 0.51 on 9 reviews ($$)
Jameson Select Reserve (Black Barrel): 8.37 ± 0.38 on 18 reviews ($$)
Kilbeggan 8yo Single Grain (Greenore): 8.15 ± 0.38 on 12 reviews ($$)
Kilbeggan Irish Reserve Malt: 7.97 ± 0.53 on 6 reviews ($$)
Powers Gold Label: 7.99 ± 0.51 on 11 reviews ($$)
Teeling Small Batch (Rum Cask Finish): 8.35 ± 0.42 on 21 reviews ($$)
The Irishman Founder’s Reserve: 8.29 ± 0.36 on 7 reviews ($$)
The Irishman Original Clan Irish: 8.15 ± 0.23 on 4 reviews ($$)
The Quiet Man Traditional: 7.56 ± 1.04 on 7 reviews ($$)
Tullamore Dew Blended: 7.83 ± 0.38 on 18 reviews ($$)
Tyrconnell Single Malt: 8.17 ± 0.38 on 14 reviews ($$)
West Cork Original: 8.01 ± 0.49 on 3 reviews ($$)
Writers Tears Pot Still: 8.49 ± 0.32 on 19 reviews ($$)

And this is what I find in the glass:

Nose: Strong grain sensation tickles the nose hairs, followed by honey sweetness. Pear and green apple. Faint citrus (grapefruit). Something you could describe as floral, but indistinct (dried flower arrangement?). Grass clippings. A bit of old book bindings (i.e., dried glue). Not as bad as it sounds, but definitely more on the dry side than the sweet side.

Palate: Immediate grain hit, followed by gentle malt and sweet light honey. Light fruits (pear and apple again), but also unripened ones (e.g. green banana). A little vanilla. Green grass and some hay. Unfortunately a slight artificial sweetener note builds with time. Watery mouthfeel, but a slight stinging sensation asserts itself after swallowing, oddly.

Finish: Light, short finish. Honey initially, then fades into the typical mix of slightly artificial syrup and mild bitterness.  Maybe some faint spice, but mild.

One comment to make right off the bat – although those are the flavours I could detect, the overall experience is a bit frustrating as all the notes are lighter than usual. It is almost as it were bottled at even lower proof or something – there really is not a lot of sensory experience going on here.

I don’t know anything specific about the mix, but I presume this is more grain whisky than pot still. Supposedly, there are some sherry barrels in here – but I can’t find them. Not that this is not a bad pour per se, it is just boring. I think it is fair to say that this is “easy drinking” (another code word for bland), and won’t overly task your taste buds. But it is best suited to mixed drinks or on the rocks, and for those who don’t like strong whisky flavours. Personally, I would still prefer this over the entry-level Bushmills recently reviewed, which I find too sweet.

As for reviewers, there is one anomalous score – Jim Murray loves this base expression, giving it one of his top scores. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this – Mr Murray has a tendency to give top marks to a number of entry-level blends (see a discussion here). Otherwise, the most generally positive review I’ve seen is from Nathan the Scotch Noob, followed by Micheal of Diving of Pearls, Josh the Whiskey Jug , Jonny of Whisky Advocate and Ralfy (although all still give a well below average score).  Some of the lowest scores in my database come from Thomas of Whisky Saga, S.D. and Richard of Whiskey Reviewer, Jan of Best Shot Whisky, and Serge of Whisky Fun. I must say I am personally at this lower end of the spectrum as well.

Mackmyra Iskristall

Following along with the second of the Mackmyra “Season” expressions that I have on hand is Mackmyra Iskristall. Meaning “ice crystal”, this was actually one of the first releases in the Seasons line. It was released in late 2014, and is of course long gone for most now.

This whisky has been matured in a mix of American oak, ex-bourbon casks and Swedish oak (so, more in keeping with standard Mackmyra releases than Blomstertid). However, it has also been finished for a period of time in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks. Historically, Mackmyra doesn’t finish for extended periods, but this one is supposedly longer than most (but still only months).

While a no-age-statement release, the average age of the contents in the bottle is reported to be about 7 years old (which is also older than most Mackmyras). Bottled at respectable 46.1%. My sample comes from Redditor Strasse007.

Here is how it compares to some other Mackmyra whiskies in my database:

Mackmyra Blomstertid: 8.19 ± 0.26 on 3 reviews ($$$$)
Mackmyra Iskristall: 8.87 ± 0.21 on 3 reviews ($$$$$)
Mackmyra Midnattssol: 8.14 ± 0.73 on 5 reviews ($$$$)
Mackmyra Midvinter: 8.54 ± 0.52 on 3 reviews ($$$)
Mackmyra Moment Glöd: 8.84 ± 0.42 on 4 reviews ($$$$$)
Mackmyra Reserve Single Cask: 9.01 ± 0.49 on 7 reviews ($$$$$)
Mackmyra Special 03: 8.69 ± 0.28 on 7 reviews ($$$$$)
Mackmyra Special 04: 8.76 ± 0.35 on 8 reviews ($$$$)
Mackmyra Special 05: 8.50 ± 0.38 on 7 reviews ($$$$)
Mackmyra Special 07: 8.50 ± 0.51 on 7 reviews ($$$$)
Mackmyra Special 08: 8.35 ± 0.32 on 3 reviews ($$$$)
Mackmyra Special 09: 8.62 ± 0.24 on 4 reviews ($$$$)
Mackmyra Special 10: 8.44 ± 0.48 on 3 reviews ($$$$)
Mackmyra Svensk Ek: 8.33 ± 0.23 on 3 reviews ($$$$)
Mackmyra Svensk Rök: 8.71 ± 0.14 on 4 reviews ($$$$)
Mackmyra The First Edition (Den Första Utgåvan): 8.65 ± 0.36 on 17 reviews ($$$)
Mackmyra The Swedish Whisky (Brukswhisky): 8.45 ± 0.60 on 9 reviews ($$$)

Although there are few reviews so far, Iskristall gets a very good average score – especially compared to most Special or Season editions.

Here is what I find in the glass:

Colour: Light gold, with a slight reddish-brown tint.

Nose: I might have guessed a wine barrel finishing initially – there are fruity head notes, along with an underlying sourness. Dried red berries (cherries, strawberries) along with typical fresh apple and pear. Vanilla. Cinnamon. Classic Mackmyra menthol and juniper/evergreen notes, definitely woody. Pine sap. Dried glue. It is interesting, I kind of like it.

Palate: Wow, this packs a surprising punch. I get a real hit of one of those “intense ice” chewing gums – tons of mint and eucalyptus. I have never had this much of a cooling sensation before, it is well named! Lots of cinnamon and additional baking spices, plus pepper.  Once that initial rush settles down, I can detect significant honey added to the vanilla. Fruits are still there, but definitely take a back seat. Quite sweet in the end, with that real stinging mint/eucalyptus combination lingering.

Finish: Fruits come back more to the fore in the finish, with the same dried fruits as the nose (plus some raisin now). Toasted oak. Slow menthol fade out.

Now that is more like it – this is classic Mackmyra amped up to an incredible degree. If you are already a Mackmyra fan, you’ll probably love this. That said, I wouldn’t necessarily start with this as your first Mackmyra – it has an intense mint/eucalyptus experience that is quite unique and intense.

I would love to find a bottle of this if I could. While there are elements of Mackmyra First Edition here, it actually reminds me more of Masterson’s Straight Barley. Very much an enthusiasts’ expression.

It gets high scores from Strasse007 on Reddit and Thomas of Whisky Saga. I share that view, very distinctive.

Mackmyra Blomstertid

Mackmyra is an innovative Swedish single malt whisky producer. I quite enjoyed their original signature release, the First Edition, which I found brought in some unusual evergreen/coniferous notes.

They have continued to produce a diverse range of special editions over the years – most recently, through the “Season” series (which replaces the old “Special” series). In this and the following review, I am looking at two specific examples, starting with Mackmyra Blomstertid (“flower time”) here.

This no-age-statement whisky is bottled at a reasonable 46.1% ABV. It is distinctive for the range of casks that have gone into the mix. Specifically, Blomstertid has been matured in:

  • Ex-bourbon casks that previously held cherry wine (about a third of the casks used for Blomstertid)
  • American oak casks (new and first fill)
  • Oloroso sherry casks
  • Pedro Ximenez sherry casks

I don’t think I’ve seen a cherry wine cask before, and so am curious as to what this might bring to the final whisky. Mackmyra Blomstertid was launched on 2016-05-06, and now seems to be long gone. My sample came from Redditor Strausse007.

Here is how it compares to some other Mackmyra whiskies in my database:

Mackmyra Blomstertid: 8.19 ± 0.26 on 3 reviews ($$$$)
Mackmyra Iskristall: 8.87 ± 0.21 on 3 reviews ($$$$$)
Mackmyra Midnattssol: 8.14 ± 0.73 on 5 reviews ($$$$)
Mackmyra Midvinter: 8.54 ± 0.52 on 3 reviews ($$$)
Mackmyra Moment Glöd: 8.84 ± 0.42 on 4 reviews ($$$$$)
Mackmyra Reserve Single Cask: 9.01 ± 0.49 on 7 reviews ($$$$$)
Mackmyra Special 03: 8.69 ± 0.28 on 7 reviews ($$$$$)
Mackmyra Special 04: 8.76 ± 0.35 on 8 reviews ($$$$)
Mackmyra Special 05: 8.50 ± 0.38 on 7 reviews ($$$$)
Mackmyra Special 07: 8.50 ± 0.51 on 7 reviews ($$$$)
Mackmyra Special 08: 8.35 ± 0.32 on 3 reviews ($$$$)
Mackmyra Special 09: 8.62 ± 0.24 on 4 reviews ($$$$)
Mackmyra Special 10: 8.44 ± 0.48 on 3 reviews ($$$$)
Mackmyra Svensk Ek: 8.33 ± 0.23 on 3 reviews ($$$$)
Mackmyra Svensk Rök: 8.71 ± 0.14 on 4 reviews ($$$$)
Mackmyra The First Edition (Den Första Utgåvan): 8.65 ± 0.36 on 17 reviews ($$$)
Mackmyra The Swedish Whisky (Brukswhisky): 8.45 ± 0.60 on 9 reviews ($$$)

Although there are few reviews so far, Blomstertid gets a below average score for the class, lower than most Special or Season editions.

Here is what I find in the glass:

Colour: Dark amber, but a touch reddish-brownish (likely the cherry wine, I imagine)

Nose: Light and delicate (I might even say a bit closed off). Brown sugar and maple syrup. Mixed berries (red berries especially), but with an artificial candied fruit smell (strawberry licorice). Vanilla. Some black pepper to go with a light nutmeg spice. Some acetone. The nose grows on me with time, but it is a pretty subtle experience. Definitely doesn’t have the boldness of a fresh wine cask finish.

Palate: Oddly flat, with tons of cola and caramel/butterscotch – overwhelmingly so. Milk chocolate. Super-sweet, like a melted Caramilk bar. Way too candied for my tastes, very syrupy (and I can handle a lot of sweetness). Some oaky wood spices show up over time, bringing a bit of (much needed) character. Seems light for 46%.

Finish: Short. Really just the candied sweetness, with a slight bitterness (grapefruit) coming up at the end. Not one you will want to linger over.

Not sure what I expected here, but this wasn’t it – an overwhelming confectionery sugar and caramel explosion, with relatively little fruit. Seems very young, with vague and nondescript flavours. No real off notes, just not a lot of complexity. Definitely more of a dessert whisky.

This might make a good beginners whisky, with its sweet candied tones. But it almost tastes like one of those mixtures of maple syrup and whisky that you can find around here in Canada (which really aren’t my cup of tea).

Both Strasse007 on Reddit and Thomas of Whisky Saga gave this whisky below average scores (although with reasonably positive reviews). My own score matches their, thus explaining the low standard deviation above. There are much better Mackmyras out there to try.

Maker’s Mark Bourbon

Maker’s Mark is an iconic Kentucky “wheated” bourbon whisky, produced by Beam Suntory.

Maker’s Mark is unusual in that no rye is used in the mash. Instead, “soft red winter wheat” is used for flavouring, along with corn (the predominant grain) and malted barley. According to this fun Maker’s Mark infographic, the mashbill is 70% corn, 16% wheat and 14% barley. There is no age statement, but standard Maker’s is reportedly aged for around six years.

Wheated bourbons are relatively uncommon, as most makers focus on rye flavouring (with Weller/Van Winkle, Larceny, Old Fitzgerald and Rebel Yell being the notable wheated competition to Maker’s). Wheated bourbons are considered sweeter, fruitier and “softer” in style, with more syrupy/creamy notes and less spicy cinnamon/cloves rye flavours (although they can still contain considerable wood spice, of course).

Maker’s Mark is bottled at 45% ABV and sold in distinctive squarish bottles sealed with red wax. Apparently, it was the wife of Maker’s founder Bill Samuels Sr. – Margie Samuels – who gave the whiskey its name, drew its label, and thought up the wax dipping that gives the bottle its distinctive look.

Production began in 1954, and ownership has changed hands many times over the years (it was even owned by Hiram Walker here in Canada at one point). It has been part of the Beam family since 2011.

Here is how Maker’s compares to competing wheaters, in my Meta-Critic database:

Maker’s Mark: 8.24 ± 0.43 on 22 reviews ($$)
Maker’s Mark 46: 8.75 ± 0.31 on 16 reviews ($$$)
Maker’s Mark Cask Strength: 8.72 ± 0.30 on 10 reviews ($$$$)
Old Fitzgerald BiB: 7.99 ± 0.35 on 4 reviews ($$$)
Old Fitzgerald Kentucky Straight Bourbon: 8.39 ± 0.50 on 6 reviews ($$)
Old Rip Van Winkle 10yo: 8.95 ± 0.19 on 9 reviews ($$$$$+)
Old Weller Antique 107: 8.67 ± 0.39 on 10 reviews ($$)
Larceny Bourbon: 8.36 ± 0.24 on 10 reviews ($$)
Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve Bourbon 15yo: 9.24 ± 0.24 on 10 reviews ($$$$$+)
Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve Bourbon 20yo: 9.26 ± 0.35 on 12 reviews ($$$$$+)
Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve Bourbon 23yo: 8.74 ± 0.54 on 4 reviews ($$$$$+)
Rebel Yell: 7.60 ± 0.57 on 11 reviews ($)
Van Winkle Special Reserve 12yo Lot B: 8.69 ± 0.18 on 7 reviews ($$$$$+)
W.L. Weller 12yo: 8.82 ± 0.15 on 13 reviews ($$$$$)
W.L. Weller Special Reserve: 8.41 ± 0.37 on 11 reviews ($)
William Larue Weller: 9.17 ± 0.25 on 11 reviews ($$$$$+)

My sample came from Redditor 89Justin. Here is what I find in the glass:

Colour: Medium amber.

Nose: Heavy sweetness, honestly a bit overwhelming if you aren’t used to it. Honey and caramel mainly, plus vanilla. Candied fruit cocktail. Red (strawberry) licorice. Orange peel. Moderately spicy, with classic oak spices. Vaguely nutty. Wheaters are often described as “creamy”, and that word certainly fits here. Acetone off-notes, mingled with artificial sweetener. Yes, this really is that sweet.

Palate: Heavy caramel/honey sweetness up-front – and that acetone note really comes across too, unfortunately. Fair amount of wood spice. Fruits are mainly cherry and apple – plus that citrus (more lemon than orange now). Getting some barley malt now too, which I didn’t notice on the nose. Still a bit nutty. Not as ethanol hot as I expected for 45% – decent mouthfeel, and quite sippable neat (but try it with some water, see below). Settles down to a drier finish after a few sips.

Finish: Medium. Vanilla, caramel and oaky wood spices persist the longest. Despite the sweetness, there is a lingering woody bitterness and dryness underneath it all that I don’t enjoy. Bitterness builds with time.

With water, a simple syrup sweetness increases on the nose (although the off-notes are unaffected). Water lightens the mouthfeel, and brings up more cinnamon. I actually think it is better with a bit of water – or dare I say it, an ice cube.

I first had this years ago in a bar and wasn’t impressed. I’m afraid the controlled environment at home hasn’t helped it much. Although it doesn’t strike me quite as artificially sweet this time around, that characteristic is still there. Personally a bottom-shelf wheater for me, I would score it a few steps lower than the Meta-Critic average. I would also recommend the Weller range over this, if you can find them.

The most positive review I’ve ever seen is Fred of Whisky Advocate. But Jim Murray, Thomas of Whisky Saga and Josh the Whiskey Jug are similarly fairly positive. Jan of Best Shot Whisky gives it about the Meta-Critic average. Oliver of Dramming, Nathan the Scotch Noob, Richard of Whiskey Reviewer, My Annoying Opinions and Michael of Diving for Pearls all give it lower scores (which are more consistent with my own rating).

Arran Malt Amarone Cask Finish

I have tried a number of Arran Malt whiskies over the years, and find them generally decent enough, if not overly interesting (at the younger ages, at least). Of the ones I have tried so far, the best experience has been the 12 year old cask-strength, where the extra ABV seems to have really brought up the core Arran flavours.

I tend to enjoy most cask finished whiskies, so I’ve been curious to try the higher-strength cask-finished Arrans. In this review, I look at one of the more unusual finishes, the Arran Malt Amarone Cask Finish.

Amarone is a type of dry Italian red wine made from partially-dried grapes from the Valpolicella region (mainly Corvina). This drying produces a very rich and concentrated wine, full of fruit flavours. Apparently, in Italian, the name Amarone literally means “the great bitter”, which does differentiate these wines from more common sweeter red wines.

It is far more common to use fortified sweet wines (like sherry) for finishing whisky, so I was curious as to what effect Amarone barrels would have on the relatively gentle Arran base malt. Bottled at 50% ABV, it was $93 CAD when last available at the LCBO.

Here is how the various Arran Malts compare in my Meta-Critic database, first among standard bottling, then among wine cask-finished bottlings:

Arran Malt 10yo: 8.51 ± 0.29 on 20 reviews ($$$)
Arran Malt 12yo Cask Strength: 8.65 ± 0.38 on 12 reviews ($$$$)
Arran Malt 14yo: 8.67 ± 0.26 on 21 reviews ($$$$)
Arran Malt 17yo: 8.85 ± 0.24 on 10 reviews ($$$$)
Arran Malt 18yo: 8.93 ± 0.13 on 14 reviews ($$$$$)
Arran Malt Bourbon Single Cask: 8.88 ± 0.20 on 9 reviews ($$$$)
Arran Malt Lochranza Reserve: 8.07 ± 0.56 on 4 reviews ($$$)
Arran Malt Machrie Moor Peated: 7.90 ± 0.56 on 12 reviews ($$$$)
Arran Malt Orkney Bere Barley: 8.82 ± 0.31 on 8 reviews ($$$$)
Arran Malt Robert Burns Single Malt: 8.14 ± 0.49 on 7 reviews ($$)
Arran Malt Sherry Single Cask: 8.55 ± 0.54 on 10 reviews ($$$$)
Arran Malt The Devil’s Punch Bowl: 8.89 ± 0.31 on 9 reviews ($$$$$)

Arran Malt Amarone Cask Finish: 8.77 ± 0.34 on 10 reviews ($$$)
Arran Malt Madeira Wine Cask: 8.67 ± 0.43 on 11 reviews ($$$$)
Arran Malt Napoleon Cognac Finish: 8.72 ± 0.69 on 5 reviews ($$$$)
Arran Malt Pomerol Bordeaux Cask Finish: 8.34 ± 0.66 on 8 reviews ($$$$)
Arran Malt Port Cask Finish: 8.61 ± 0.38 on 11 reviews ($$$)
Arran Malt Sassicaia Wine Cask Finish: 8.76 ± 0.17 on 5 reviews ($$$$$)
Arran Malt Sauternes Finish: 8.52 ± 0.32 on 12 reviews ($$$)
Arran Malt Sherry Cask Finish: 8.31 ± 0.55 on 11 reviews ($$$$$)
Arran Malt Tokaji Aszu Wine Finish: 8.79 ± 0.35 on 4 reviews ($$$$)

As you can see, the Arran Amarone Finish gets one of the highest scores for a wine casks-finished Arran, comparable to the moderately-aged Arran malts.

As an aside, Arran has really specialized in finishing their young whisky in a number of unusual casks types. Only a limited number of these are shown above, as I only track expressions that have received a reasonable number of reviews (and many are no longer available). But this strategy is one way to get your product on the market and garner attention, while you wait for batches to age. Of course, that’s assuming you have paired your product wisely.

My sample of the Arran Amarone Finish was obtained through a swap with the Redditor Throzen. Here is what I find in the glass:

Colour: An unusual pinkish hue, almost like a rose wine.  I’ve never seen anything quite like it (Arran doesn’t artificially colour this expression).

Nose: Unsweetened raspberry jam, with cranberries, green grapes, ground cherries (gooseberries) and sour cherries. A bit of citrus. Sweet vanilla. Creamy. A bit of paint thinner and acetone initially, but these fade with time in the glass. Water increases both the sweetness and sourness of the fruit, but adds no new notes.

Palate: Unsweetened fruit compote in a glass, with a strong emphasis on the tart notes (sour cherries and citrus). Strong oaky vanilla. Earthy, with some mild nutmeg. A touch of chocolate adds to the character here. Hot on the way out, even for 50% ABV (i.e., fair amount of ethanol burn). With water, the top berry/cherry notes get sweeter. Water doesn’t seem to do much for the burn, unless you add a fair amount (i.e., takes awhile to get the sting down).

Finish: Medium. The fruit notes turn more toward dry strawberry paste, and the grapes pick up again. A noticeable astringent dryness comes in at the end, with some bitterness. The raw ethanol fumes from the palate persist here, even with water – making for a distinctive experience (but not a particularly pleasant one). Water is generally helpful throughout, and enhances the lingering sweetness (but doesn’t affect the bitterness).

Arran.Malt.AmaroneFinishing the base Arran malt in dry, but flavorful, Amarone barrels makes for an interesting set of counterpoints (i.e., it’s sweet on the nose, but drying on the finish). I haven’t come across quite this flavour profile before, and it is always fun to experience something new.

That said, I’m thinking there’s a reason why most producers don’t use Amarone casks – the effect is a bit too tart and drying. The youthful aspects of the Arran malt are still coming through as well. In the end, I’m not sure how successful a pairing this really is – it might have helped to start with an older malt, with more inherent character. Or a sweeter one – see for example my recent review of the Green Spot Chateau Leoville Barton. In any case, water is certainly called for here – a little bit helps bring up the fruitiness, without affecting the ethanol burn.

There’s actually a fair amount of variability among reviewers on this one. Jim Murray is a big fan, as are the guys at Quebec Whisky. In contrast, Tone of Whisky Saga and Josh the Whiskey Jug are among the most negative I’ve seen. Reviews are generally fairly positive on Reddit (see for example TOModera), although unclimbability gives it an average score. I am personally somewhere near the lower end of the score range, giving it a slightly below average score for the single malt class. I like the novelty, but I can’t see myself reaching for it very often.

 

Compass Box Flaming Heart 2012 (4th Edition)

Compass Box makes a range of very popular scotch vatted malts and blends, with a careful attention to sourcing and blending.

Just a quick point of clarification – a vatted malt (now officially known as a blended malt) is a blend of pot-distilled malt whiskies from different distilleries. A single malt is blend of malt whiskies from a single distillery. And a blended scotch whisky is a blend of malt whisky and cheaper grain whisky distilled in a column still. See my Single Malts vs Blends page for more details. In practice, the only distinction between a blended malt and a single malt is the distillery source.

Compass Box has actually had five releases of Flaming Heart to date, commonly identified by year or by edition (release) number, beginning in 2006. In the case of two of these, they are also known as the Anniversary Editions, relative to the founding of Compass Box by John Glaser in 2000 (i.e., 10th Anniversary in 2010 and 15th in 2015). It can get a little confusing, as this differs from the numbering system of Peat Monster, which is similarly identified by Anniversary Editions every five years – but according to the initial release date in 2004.

When Flaming Heart was first launched, Compass Box provided the exact breakdown of what went into the malt blend on its website, which include aged malt from Caol Ila and Clynelish (among others), aged mainly in refill or “rejuvenated” ex-bourbon barrels with some French oak casks.

Eventually, a controversy erupted with the censure of Compass Box by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA). The SWA is the trade organization that represents (and regulates) the Scotch whisky industry. This full composition disclosure by Compass Box fell afoul of the SWA regulation that requires only the youngest age of a whisky be publicly stated. As such, Compass Box was forced to relent from officially disclosing the composition of its whiskies these last few years.

There is actually a good reason for this SWA rule, as it prevents unscrupulous blenders from emphasizing a small contribution of a long-aged component to an otherwise youthful blend. But in this case, it is restricting Compass Box’s ability to be transparent on the full range of whiskies underlying their blended products. A number of distillers have joined with Compass Box in lobbying to get this regulation amended, but to no avail as yet.

So, all Compass Box says now for this 4th edition Flaming Heart is that the sourcing is single malt whiskies from distilleries located in the Northern Highlands (primary the village of Brora), Islay (primarily from the south shore of Islay), Speyside and Islands. The wood is a combination of refill American oak (ex-Bourbon), new French oak (heavily toasted) and sherry casks (which is a new twist for Flaming Heart). It is bottled at 48.9% ABV, and is non-chill-filtered with only natural colour.

Compass Box offerings typically get high ratings for their price points, and Flaming Heart is no different. Here is how it compares in my Meta-Critic Database to other peated Compass Box offerings, and similar lightly-peated Islay malts.

Big Peat: 8.80 ± 0.22 on 14 reviews ($$$$)
Bowmore 10yo Tempest: 8.82 ± 0.17 on 18 reviews ($$$$)
Bowmore 12yo: 8.40 ± 0.28 on 18 reviews ($$$)
Bowmore 18yo: 8.56 ± 0.46 on 16 reviews ($$$$)
Bruichladdich Classic Laddie Scottish Barley: 8.39 ± 0.44 on 8 reviews ($$$)
Bruichladdich Islay Barley (all vintages): 8.58 ± 0.24 on 12 reviews ($$$$)
Bruichladdich Laddie Ten: 8.83 ± 0.30 on 16 reviews ($$$)
Bunnahabhain Ceòbanach: 8.81 ± 0.28 on 11 reviews ($$$$)
Bunnahabhain Toiteach: 8.59 ± 0.38 on 14 reviews ($$$$)
Caol Ila 12yo: 8.72 ± 0.18 on 19 reviews ($$$$)
Caol Ila 18yo: 8.66 ± 0.49 on 14 reviews ($$$$$)
Caol Ila 25yo: 8.88 ± 0.21 on 8 reviews ($$$$$)
Caol Ila 30yo: 9.30 ± 0.19 on 10 reviews ($$$$$+)
Caol Ila Distiller’s Edition (all editions): 8.67 ± 0.38 on 12 reviews ($$$$)
Clynelish 14yo: 8.81 ± 0.25 on 15 reviews ($$$$)
Compass Box Eleuthera: 8.57 ± 0.39 on 12 reviews ($$$$)
Compass Box Flaming Heart 2008 2nd Edition: 9.07 ± 0.27 on 4 reviews ($$$$$)
Compass Box Flaming Heart 2010 3rd Edition – 10th Anniversary: 8.92 ± 0.36 on 7 reviews ($$$$$)
Compass Box Flaming Heart 2012 4th Edition: 8.98 ± 0.24 on 12 reviews ($$$$$)
Compass Box Flaming Heart 2015 5th Edition – 15th Anniversary: 9.03 ± 0.32 on 15 reviews ($$$$$)
Compass Box Flaming Heart (all editions): 8.99 ± 0.27 on 19 reviews ($$$$$)
Compass Box Lady Luck: 8.71 ± 0.42 on 6 reviews ($$$$$)
Compass Box Peat Monster (all editions): 8.77 ± 0.27 on 19 reviews ($$$)
Compass Box The Lost Blend: 8.96 ± 0.24 on 12 reviews ($$$$$)
Compass Box This is Not a Luxury Whisky: 8.77 ± 0.46 on 11 reviews ($$$$$)
Port Charlotte An Turas Mor: 8.71 ± 0.28 10 reviews ($$$$)
Port Charlotte PC10 Tro Na Linntean: 8.96 ± 0.45 on 9 reviews ($$$$$)
Port Charlotte Scottish Barley Heavily Peated: 8.75 ± 0.26 on 15 reviews ($$$$)

Note that Flaming Heart just slips in at the low end of the $$$$$ price group, at ~$155 CAD (on average, world-wide).

My sample of the 4th edition comes from Redditor slackerdude.

Here is what I find in the glass:

Colour: Very light straw, slightly golden hue.

Nose: Classic peated whisky notes with sweet peat, wood smoke, soot/ash and a slightly briny presentation – but not overly medicinal. Dried red fruits, especially berries and red currants, and light apple juice. Definite sourness, like gooseberries (i.e. ground cherries). Tons of lemon oil. Vanilla with a bit of caramel. Old leather. Grassy, with a touch of hay. A bit of cinnamon and some sea salt. Finally, just a touch of old sweatsock funk and bandaid glue (as is common to many southern Islays). Great nose.

Palate: Not quite as bold as I was expecting from the nose – but the peat is certainly more evident here. It just seems like the smokey notes have become more subtle in comparison. Some meatiness now, like the fat droppings on an extinguished campfire. Apple and berries, and even more lemon (the zest has been added). Caramel. Some oaky spice (chili?). A bit of pepper joins the cinnamon and sea salt. Great mouthfeel, slightly oily. It has a bit of that liquefied smoked meat taste that I sometimes find on older Islay bottlings, but it stills feels younger and fresher for the most part.

Finish: Medium-long for a light smokey blend. Peat and smoke linger. A slight herbal bitterness comes through eventually, but it is mild. That lemony citrus feels very cleansing on the way out.

On first whiff, this really brought back memories of some older lightly-peated Islays I’ve had (like the Coal Ila 30yo official bottling). However, this is rapidly joined by a number of more youthful characteristics, ending up more like the peated Glen Garioch 1995 Vintage (the lemon notes in particular are distinctive). Still very evocative and pleasant, this seems a bit younger overall than the reported mixes for earlier Flaming Hearts. But this is still a good bargain for a such a quality presentation.

Water lightens the nose, and enhances the caramel sweetness in the mouth. I don’t think it needs any, but adjust as you prefer. My only minor complaint here is the finish – while nice, it could be a bit longer and more robust. After this, I’m curious to try some other editions.

The highest score I’ve seen for this 4th edition of Flaming Heart comes from Serge of Whisky Fun, with similarly very high scores from Jim Murray, Dominic of Whisky Advocate and the guys at Quebec Whisky (I am closest to this camp). Also fairly positive on this edition are Jan of Best Shot Whisky and Richard of Whiskey Reviewer. The lowest rating I’ve seen is an overall average score from Thomas of Whisky Saga.  To see additional reviews of the more recent 2015 5th Edition (15th Anniversary), check out Jason of In Search of Elegance, Ralfy, Nathan the Scotch Noob and Ruben of Whisky Notes. Honestly, there are no negative reviews of any edition of this whisky, it is a great buy.

1 2 3 4 8