Tag Archives: Single Malt

Kavalan ex-Bourbon Oak

As I’ve previously reported, Kavalan offers two of their most popular Solist expressions – Bourbon Cask and Sherry Cask – in a vatted format, known as the Kavalan ex-Bourbon Oak and Sherry Oak, respectively.  In Asia, these batch versions of the Solists are available at both cask-strength (typically ~54-59%, just like the single casks Solists) and at a reduced 46% ABV. Here in the Western hemisphere, I’ve only seen the 46% ABV versions.

Supposedly, these two “Oak” series are vatted from the exact same type of casks used for the named Solist series. But it stands to reason that they probably cherry-pick the best casks for the single cask offerings, and vat the rest. Still, it is a good chance to sample what the distillery character is like (in a more consistent fashion), without having shell out for the more expensive (and rare) Solist single cask versions.

These Oak-series whiskies are typically available as both full 700 mL bottles and 50 mL miniature glass bottles. As with my Sherry Oak review, my sample here is of the 46% ABV, 50 mL ex-Bourbon Oak version. Bottling code is 2015.05.08 16:15. The bottle came in a cardboard box, and so was protected from light.

Here is how the various Kavalan bottlings compare in my Whisky Database.

Kavalan Concertmaster: 8.29 ± 0.54 on 20 reviews ($$$$)
Kavalan ex-Bourbon Oak: 8.93 ± 0.25 on 5 reviews ($$$$)
Kavalan King Car Conductor: 8.43 ± 0.36 on 9 reviews ($$$$)
Kavalan Sherry Oak: 8.63 ± 0.33 on 6 reviews ($$$$$)
Kavalan Podium: 8.77 ± 0.34 on 8 reviews ($$$$)
Kavalan Single Malt: 8.40 ± 0.50 on 18 reviews ($$$$)
Kavalan Solist Bourbon: 8.85 ± 0.22 on 19 reviews ($$$$$)
Kavalan Solist Fino Sherry Cask: 8.98 ± 0.33 on 15 reviews ($$$$$+)
Kavalan Solist Port Cask: 8.78 ± 0.38 on 7 reviews ($$$$$)
Kavalan Solist PX Cask: 9.01 ± 0.72 on 5 reviews ($$$$$+)
Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask: 9.08 ± 0.35 on 16 reviews ($$$$$)
Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique: 8.94 ± 0.36 on 12 reviews ($$$$$)

There aren’t a lot of reviews to go by, but the 46% ABV vatted version of the ex-Bourbon Oak seems to be doing quite well.

Let’s see what I find in the glass:

Colour: Light apple juice – frankly, one of the palest Kavalans I’ve seen yet.

Nose: Fruity, with lush tropical fruits like papaya, mango, pineapple, and banana (including green banana). Touch of citrus. Light honey and vanilla. Not creamy per se, more of a buttery note. Grassy, with some hay (fresh cut for both, not dry). Sweet. No off notes, which is impressive. Water dampens all of the above, and may bring up a touch of solvent (oddly), so I would skip water for nosing.

Palate: Not quite as sweet as the nose, but there’s no mistaking that time in bourbon casks. Tons of vanilla and caramel. Rich oak without the typical spice or bitterness, doesn’t seem to have been aged too long. Noticeable coconut, and a bit nutty in general. But again, not very spicy, with maybe just a touch of nutmeg. Buttery texture. Fair amount of tongue tingle, but not offensive. Sweeter with water, which also helps with tingle (but doesn’t fully extinguish it).

Finish: Caramel continues, with some of the light spices coming up now (nutmeg).  A touch astringent, but not really bitter. Some of tropical and green fruit also show a resurgence. Very nice and even. With water, some bitterness does enter in.

I recommend you go sparingly with water on the 46% ABV version – it certainly needs no more than few drops at most.

All in all, a very pleasant ex-bourbon expression, very good for the presumed young age. Much better than the standard Kavalan single malt expression. As an aside, my wife – who is not a big scotch drinker – really liked this one.

Among reviewers, Dominic of Whisky Advocate is very positive, followed by washeewashee of Reddit (for the cask-strength version), Jim Murray, and Patrick of Quebec Whisky. Worth picking up if you come across a sample bottle in your travels.

Sullivans Cove French Oak Single Cask

Welcome to my first Tasmanian single malt review.  Tasmania is an isolated island state off Australia’s south coast, and has been seeing a boom in whisky production lately. Sullivans Cove is arguably their most well-known distillery. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that they have won numerous international whisky awards in recent years.

Indeed, this particular French Oak single cask single malt, which is finished in port wine casks, won “Best Australian Whisky” at the 2013 World Whiskies Awards and then “World’s Best Single Malt Whisky” at the 2014 World Whiskies Awards. This latter one is a little odd in my view for a single cask whisky – it doesn’t really help you know what to except from all the other casks out there. And you could never track down the same winning cask – we can only hope that there is not a lot of variability from cask to cask (and I expect there is).

In any case, these expressions are bottled at a reduced ABV (47.5% for the sample I tried), and the age varies from between 11 to 12 years old. I don’t have the specific bottle code for the one I tried earlier this year, but I know it was barreled on 8/8/2000 and bottled on 1/25/2012 (so, 11 years old, in other words).

Here is how Sullivans Cove compares to other port-finished malt whiskies in my Meta-Critic database:

Amrut Portonova: 9.00 ± 0.30 on 18 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Portpipe Peated Single Cask (all casks): 8.77 ± 0.40 on 11 reviews ($$$$)
Arran Malt Port Cask Finish: 8.59 ± 0.37 on 12 reviews ($$$)
Balvenie 21yo Port Wood: 8.80 ± 0.36 on 17 reviews ($$$$$)
BenRiach 15yo Tawny Port Finish: 8.44 ± 0.28 on 13 reviews ($$$$)
BenRiach 17yo Solstice Peated Port (both editions): 8.98 ± 0.28 on 14 reviews ($$$$)
GlenDronach 15yo Tawny Port Finish: 8.35 ± 0.42 on 5 reviews ($$$$)
GlenDronach 18yo Tawny Port Finish: 8.74 ± 0.39 on 6 reviews ($$$$$)
Kavalan Concertmaster Port Cask: 8.29 ± 0.54 on 20 reviews ($$$$)
Kavalan Solist Port Cask: 8.78 ± 0.38 on 7 reviews ($$$$$)
Sullivans Cove American Oak: 8.63 ± 0.34 on 6 reviews ($$$$$)
Sullivans Cove Bourbon Cask Strength: 8.54 ± 0.73 on 6 reviews ($$$$)
Sullivans Cove Double Cask: 8.29 ± 0.49 on 14 reviews ($$$$)
Sullivans Cove French Oak: 8.67 ± 0.27 on 8 reviews ($$$$$+)
Sullivans Cove Port Cask Strength: 8.55 ± 0.62 on 8 reviews ($$$$$)
Tomatin 14yo Portwood: 8.60 ± 0.35 on 10 reviews ($$$$)

Despite the early awards, most Sullivan Cove expressions get fairly typical average scores in my Meta-Critic Database.

Let’s see what I find in the glass:

Nose: Caramel, vanilla, and milk chocolate are the most prominent notes. Baked goods – but more like a Blondie bar than a brownie (although there is a bit of dark chocolate too). Citrus, and some apple. There’s a general fruity sweetness, but nothing else very specific (i.e., seems more like fruit-flavoured candy, think Haribo gummy bears or fruit roll-ups). A little nutty. No real off notes.

Palate: Wow, tons of butterscotch and toffee notes now – very buttery, in fact. White chocolate is also prominent (that’s a first for me), along with hazelnut. The dark chocolate has become subdued, more like just a touch of bitterness now. Creamy mouthfeel. Really, this tastes is like a some sort of specialty chocolate bar that has been liquefied! Same candied fruit as the nose. Some mild baking spices (nutmeg), a touch of pepper. A bit grassy.

Finish: Fairly short, unfortunately. Or perhaps not, given the overwhelming sweetness of the nose and palate. The bitterness of the dark chocolate comes back at the end, along with that slight candy fruitiness.

Sullivans.Cove.French.OakVery unique experience. Closest thing in my mind is probably Glenmorangie Signet – but amped-up, with white chocolate and butterscotch.  Definitely not an everyday dram, but this could easily serve as a decadent dessert replacement at the end of a meal.

Not really getting much of the port finish here (beyond that sweet candied fruitiness). It does reminds me a bit of the old Pike’s Creek 10 Year Old Port Finish here in Canada (before they switched to finishing in rum casks). But this is really overwhelming in its sweetness.

This whisky was a hit for Serge of Whisky Fun and TOModera of Reddit. It also garnered fairly positive reviews from Jim Murray and Ruben of Whisky Notes (although only an average score from Ruben). Dominic of Whisky Advocate is moderately positive (but giving it a below average score). The only actually negative review I’ve seen is Craig of Malt Maniacs. While I appreciate that it is a quality product, it is not something I could see myself going for very often. I think the overall Meta-Critic average is reasonable.

Bushmills Sherry Cask Reserve Single Malt

Not having had a lot of luck with the main Bushmills’ expression (although Black Bush is certainly decent and drinkable), I was intrigued when I came across a higher-end sherry cask travel retail exclusive single malt at an international airport duty free. It wasn’t cheap though, working out to over $100 USD in currency conversion for a bottle.

This was of course the first of the new “Steamship” series from Bushmills, a collection  of three permanent special cask-matured expressions, beginning with the Sherry Cask Reserve. The name of the collection is inspired by the historical SS Bushmills, built in 1890. Apparently, this steamship traveled the world, and transported refilled spirit casks from all over, and back to Ireland during her active service.

Bushmills Sherry Cask Reserve is pure single malt whisky, not a blend like the cheaper Bushmills.  While it is a no-age-statement (NAS) whisky, it is matured exclusively in Oloroso sherry butts.  That certainly sounds at least minimally promising – although it is disappointingly bottled at the minimum strength of 40% ABV.

Fortunately, it was on promotion in the store, so I was able to sample a generous pour while waiting for my flight. This also gave me a chance to compare it directly to Black Bush side-by-side (which I have had before, and was also available for tasting).

I will reserve my usual discussion of the Meta-Critic scores for Bushmills to the end, as I was not tracking this whisky in my database at the time of sampling (and so, had no pre-existing bias going in).

Here is what I found in the glass (well, plastic cup):

Nose: Definite sherry presence, more so than Black Bush. Classic raisins and figs, along with brown sugar. But still not quite as sherry-rich as I was expecting, suggesting to me that  they are probably using second (or later) refill casks. Classic Bushmills apple cider. Vanilla and cinnamon. Malty, with some lighter grassy notes (no grain, of course). No burn either, consistent with the low ABV. No real off notes. Certainly off to a decent enough start.

Palate: More on the apple and pear notes now, with somewhat lighter sherry fruits (i.e., more golden raisins as opposed to figs or prunes). A bit of spice (baking spices), which is nice, and that rich brown sugar note persists.  Complex for a Bushmills, but it still seems a bit simple overall – and with the typical watery mouthfeel of this brand. This really should have been bottled at a minimum 46% ABV to give it some character.  Still, it is pleasant enough to sip on, and has more depth than Black Bush.

Finish: Short. Longer than other Bushmills (notice the repeating refrain?), but still not very long by the standards of other all-sherry cask-aged whiskies. A simple persistent sweetness lasts the longest.

All in the all, this is probably the first truly decent Bushmills that I’ve had.  It would make a good introduction for someone interested in experiencing sherry finishing, without jumping right into a sherry-bomb. But I really think the casks used here have seen too many previous refills – they just seem a bit tired. And I can’t fathom why they bottled this at such a low 40% ABV.

Overall, the flavours kind of remind me of the entry-level Dalmores. That analogy is pretty apt in another sense as well – like most Dalmores, I find this expression is over-priced for what it is.

The only reviews for Sherry Cask Reserve I’ve seen among my Meta-Critic reviewers are Jonny of Whisky Advocate (who gives it medium-low score), and Jim Murray (who gives it a veryy low score).  Personally, I’d rate it higher, closer to the overall average for an Irish whisky in the database (~8.4-8.5).  To put that in perspective, here’s how the Meta-Critic scores play out across Irish whiskies, and the Dalmores already mentioned:

Bushmills 10yo Single Malt: 8.18 ± 0.29 on 19 reviews ($$$)
Bushmills 16yo Single Malt: 8.49 ± 0.48 on 17 reviews ($$$$)
Bushmills Black Bush: 8.37 ± 0.39 on 22 reviews ($$)
Bushmills Original Blended: 7.67 ± 0.46 on 17 reviews ($$)
Bushmills Sherry Cask Reserve: 8.16 ± 0.43 on 3 reviews ($$$$)
Dalmore 12yo: 8.42 ± 0.27 on 19 reviews ($$$)
Dalmore Valour: 8.06 ± 0.36 on 9 reviews ($$$$)
Green Spot: 8.48 ± 0.36 on 18 reviews ($$$$)
Green Spot Chateau Leoville Barton: 8.80 ± 0.38 on 9 reviews ($$$$)
Knappogue Castle 14yo Twin Wood: 8.30 ± 0.31 on 4 reviews ($$$$)
Redbreast 12yo: 8.73 ± 0.41 on 23 reviews ($$$)
Redbreast Lustau Edition: 8.72 ± 0.30 on 13 reviews ($$$$)
Redbreast Mano a Lámh: 8.65 ± 0.37 on 4 reviews ($$$)
Teeling Single Grain (Wine Cask Finish): 8.51 ± 0.31 on 10 reviews ($$$)
Writers Tears Red Head Single Malt: 8.4 ± 0.41 on 3 reviews ($$$)

There are too few scores right now to give this a meaningful interpretation. At the end of the day, I would expect this to do at least as well as Black Bush (i.e., I found it noticeably better, side-by-side). And again, I think the scores for the entry-level Dalmores are probably a pretty good indicator as to what to expect for this expression in the end.

I wouldn’t recommend purchasing a bottle at the current travel retail price, but if someone gifted it to me, I’d happy to sip on it periodically.  Best suited for when you want a little flavour, but nothing too complex or challenging. Black Bush is much better value for money, though.

Highland Park 25 Year Old

The Highland Park 25 Year Old has long been one of the highest-end official expressions available from this Orkney island distiller.

As I noted in my earlier review of the Highland Park 18 Year Old, this distillery has an unusual profile of rich sherry-cask notes and distinctive island peat. The additional aging here should further enhance the wood-derived characteristics, and attenuate the peat presence.

I recently had the chance to sample a 2005 edition bottling. This one was bottled at 50.7% ABV cask strength. The current bottling (48.1% ABV) sells for a rather steep for $900 CAD at the LCBO.

Here is how the 25 yo expression compares to other Highland Parks in my Meta-Critic database:

Highland Park 10yo: 8.52 ± 0.26 on 15 reviews ($$$)
Highland Park 12yo (all reviews): 8.66 ± 0.22 on 25 reviews ($$$)
Highland Park 15yo: 8.70 ± 0.22 on 13 reviews ($$$$)
Highland Park 15yo Fire: 8.74 ± 0.37 on 9 reviews ($$$$$+)
Highland Park 17yo Ice: 8.72 ± 0.28 on 9 reviews ($$$$$+)
Highland Park 18yo: 9.07 ± 0.22 on 25 reviews ($$$$$)
Highland Park 21yo: 8.90 ± 0.40 on 16 reviews ($$$$$+)
Highland Park 25yo: 9.14 ± 0.23 on 14 reviews ($$$$$+)
Highland Park 30yo: 9.14 ± 0.41 on 12 reviews ($$$$$+)
Highland Park 40yo: 9.17 ± 0.43 on 10 reviews ($$$$$+)
Highland Park Dark Origins: 8.50 ± 0.47 on 20 reviews ($$$$)
Highland Park Valkyrie: 8.74 ± 0.22 on 6 reviews ($$$$)

As you can see, it gets one of the highest scores for this family. Here is what I find in the glass:

Nose: Sweet, and very fruity – including berries, banana, cantaloupe and grapes. Seems almost port-like in its characteristics. I’ve never gotten this much fruit from a Highland Park before. Honey. Strong wood spice, plus some eucalyptus – kind of reminds me of Old Spice after-shave. Anise. Something vaguely Springbank-like with its sweet peat notes. Only lightly smokey, but very complex, with lots going on here. No real off notes.

Palate: ‎ Initial smoke, but it fades quickly. Caramel, and sort of a burnt toffee sensation joining the honey. Berries and mixed fruit salad. Oranges. Wood spice as expected, slightly bitter. Coffee and a touch of chocolate join the anise. Good mouth feel – though not as strong as I expected for 50.7% ABV (i.e., not as thick, but still coats well). You can really taste the extended wood aging. In the end, this really isn’t very smokey.

Finish: Long. Nice mix of fruit and wood spice. No real bitterness or other impairments.   Again, not much smoke though.

Adding water makes it a touch sweeter (bringing up the honey in particular). It also seems to accentuate the wood spice. Your call of course, but I think it benefits from a few drops.

I can see why this scores so well – it is really a pretty flawless presentation, with no off notes at any point. It’s also very complex – especially on the nose, which I like (I’m a big fan of sniffing my whisky). It is heavily oaked without being bitter, which is impressive. If I were to have any criticism it would be the lower levels of smoke than I’m used to from Highland Park. For the price, I’d personally prefer the Caol Ila 30 Year Old over this, mainly for its extinguished campfire notes. And where I am, I can get the fruity and woody Redbreast 21 Year Old for almost a quarter the price (although of course, it is completely unpeated).

There aren’t many reviewers who have compared multiple editions, but Serge of Whisky Fun gives this edition a very similar score to the earlier and later editions. Ruben of Whisky Notes gave this expression is a very good score, slightly higher than newer expressions. For the various versions, most reviewers are very positive – including Jim Murray, Oliver of Dramming, My Annoying Opinions, and Thomas of Whisky Saga. The guys at Quebec Whisky are the typically moderately positive.

Paul John Bold

As I mentioned in inaugural review of Paul John Edited, this Indian single malt whisky maker is starting to get wider international exposure. Next up is my review of Paul John Bold – a fully peated Indian whisky.

Apparently, peat is brought over to Goa from Islay for this expression, where it is used to dry their 6-row Indian barley. This differs from the original Edited edition, where imported peated Scottish barley was added to their standard unpeated Indian barley. As a result, I would expect a more heavily peated expression here – but one clearly showcasing the Paul John house-style.

Bottled at 46% ABV, I picked up a full bottle of this one during my travels in Western Canada late last year. I believe I paid ~$85 CAD for it.

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: Definitely a peated malt – phenolic, but more smoke and gasoline exhaust than your typical Islay peated whisky. Almost like toasted barley? Sweet, in an uncomplicated simple syrup sort of way. Some vanilla. Green apples and some citrus (lemon). Cumin seeds. A bit funky, similar to some of the younger Swedish whiskies I’ve reviewed recently.

Palate: Strong honey note now, definitely a sweet one. A bit of caramel. Some red delicious joins the green apple. Lemon drop candies. Scottish oat cakes and arrowroot baby biscuits. Grassy. Not really much peat here. Mouthfeel is a bit light for 46%, would have been better a little higher, I expect. Dare I say it – this is “smooth.” Easy drinking, you could polish this off pretty quickly if you weren’t careful.

Finish‎: Medium length (a bit quick for a peated whisky, though). Surprisingly, a lingering fruity sweetness lasts the longest (plus some vanilla cake frosting). Faint lingering smoke, but not as much you would might have expected from the initial nose.

Water brings up the fruit notes on the nose, but waters down the mouthfeel slightly (and brings up the sweetness even more). I recommend you drink it neat. If you do add water, probably no more than a few drops.

Not a particular complex whisky – but a pleasant enough sipper, and very easy to drink neat. You might even call it elegant. This is one for when you just want to relax with friends (who don’t mind the strong phenolic nose). Certainly better than the Edited I recently tried, but I again would score this slightly lower than the Meta-Critic average.

Among reviewers, Jim Murray is again a huge fan. Fairly positive are Jonny of Whisky Advocate, Serge of Whisky Fun, as well as Unclimbability and Devoz from Reddit. Worth trying out if you get the chance.

 

 

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.

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.

Box PX

I’ve reviewed a few Box whiskies now, and have been impressed with their offerings (to the point of picking up my own bottles, where possible). The latest one up for review is their PX expression, which has been finished in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks.

Box is a small “craft” producer in northern Sweden, operating one of the most northerly distilleries in the world. They experience extreme fluctuations in temperature, which helps to accelerate the aging of their whisky (along with their use of rebuilt quarter casks and smaller custom casks – see my inaugural review from this distillery for more info).

Box PX was launched in December 2016, exclusively for the international market. As usual, Box provides an incredible amount of detail on the whisky that went into the bottle. Here is the short version: unpeated whisky aged in first-fill bourbon casks followed by finishing in first-fill PX for for a total 5.34 years. 1507 bottles of 500 mL were produced, bottled at 56.7% ABV. It retails for ~85€ (I’ve seen it for ~$145 CAD in Canada). Box PX is neither chill-filtered, nor containing colouring.

Here’s a slightly longer version – for more details, see the PX product page on their website.

100% unpeated whisky. Yeast was the Fermentis Safwhisky M-1 strain, malt was Pilsner malt from Vikingmalt in Halmstad, Sweden. Ingoing barley was Tipple, Quench and Henley, with a batch size of 1.2 tons malt. Distilled between 22nd June 2011 and 5th July 2011.

First matured in 200-litre bourbon casks from Jack Daniels and Heaven Hill for 4.13 years. Finished for an addition 12 months in 55-litre casks of American oak that contained PX sherry, supplied by Miguel Martin, Spain.

Until October 2014, the casks were stored in a damp warehouse, losing some alcohol strength. From October 2014 until August 2016, the cask was stored in a drier environment in Box warehouse number 3. On the 9th of November 2016, the casks were emptied into a blending vat and the alcohol content adjusted to the pre-selected 56.7% ABV for bottling. PX was bottled on the 10th of November 2016 in a series of 1507 bottles.

Here is how it compares to other Swedish whiskies in my Meta-Critic 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 ($$$)
Smögen Sherry Project 1:1: 8.71 ± 0.11 on 3 reviews ($$$$)
Smögen Sherry Project 1:2: 8.85 ± 0.19 on 3 reviews ($$$$)
Smögen Sherry Project 1:3: 8.77 ± 0.25 on 3 reviews ($$$$)
Smögen Sherry Project 1:4: 8.84 ± 0.28 on 5 reviews ($$$$)
Smögen Single Cask 4yo 7/2011: 8.94 ± 0.23 on 4 reviews ($$$$$)

This is a top score for a Swedish whisky in my database.

Here’s what I find in the glass:

Nose: Apple juice, red berries, figs, sour cherry, and assorted dried fruits. A bit of orange peel. Vanilla. Touch of chocolate. Ginger. Faint hint of old sweatsock funk – which is something I usually associated with lightly peated whisky.

Palate: Creamy caramel, maple syrup and brown sugar – very sweet, but complex. Green banana adds to the fruit notes (mainly apple and raisin/figs – not getting the red berries any more). Definitely more chocolate now. A bit nutty. Fair amount of cinnamon and nutmeg, plus pepper. Has a buttery texture, which is nice – but is a bit hot for the ABV (something I haven’t found on other Box expressions).

Finish: Medium long. Lingering sweetness, balanced with the more oaky elements (i.e., seems a bit woody now). A touch of that sourness I found on the nose returns at the end.

Water dulls the nose, and increases the sweetness in the mouth. It does help a bit with the burn though, and doesn’t affect that buttery texture. So you might want to try a few drops, but go easy.

A very decent expression, it is a nice addition of PX sherry to the base Box character. I personally prefer the 2nd Step Collection 02, but this is very nice as well. There is some similarity to the Smögen Sherry Project 1:4 that I recently reviewed (although without the peat here). Both are very sweet, with some interesting underlying “funky” notes. Another recommended Box offering!

Among reviewers, the most positive I’ve seen are from TOModera and xile_ of Reddit, followed by Devoz. My own assessment is probably closest to Thomas of Whisky Saga, who gives it a slightly above average score. I’m definitely looking forward to more offerings from this producer.

Ledaig 10 Year Old

Welcome to a different kind of peated Scotch whisky experience. Ledaig (pronounced le-chaig or le-chick) is not a very well known single malt whisky – even among peated whisky fans. It is produced by Tobermory distillery on the isle of Mull, just north of Islay.

Established in 1798 under the original name Ledaig, Tobermory distillery reserves its original name for just its peated malt whisky line. Their unpeated whiskies are sold under the Tobermory name.

This 10 year old peated whisky is very reasonably priced in most jurisdictions ($70 CAD at the LCBO). It has garnered mixed reviews over the years, and fell below my radar until a bottle appeared at a recent tasting that I was at. I was impressed enough to pick up my own bottle, which I have sampled over many evenings while preparing this review.

The strength of this one is interesting, at 46.3% ABV.  That might sound familiar to you – Bunnahabhain on Islay also bottles all their malts at this level. Not surprisingly, both Tobermory and Bunnahabhain are currently owned by liquor conglomerate Distell, which acquired the whole set from Burn Stewart Distillers in 2013.

Let’s see how it compares to other peated whiskies, and the unpeated Tobermory line:

Ardbeg 10yo: 8.91 ± 0.32 on 25 reviews ($$$)
Benromach 10yo: 8.69 ± 0.26 on 22 reviews ($$$)
Bowmore 10yo Tempest: 8.80 ± 0.20 on 20 reviews ($$$$)
Bowmore 12yo: 8.40 ± 0.27 on 20 reviews ($$$)
Bunnahabhain Ceòbanach: 8.82 ± 0.26 on 12 reviews ($$$$)
Caol Ila 12yo: 8.73 ± 0.18 on 21 reviews ($$$$)
Jura 10yo Origin: 8.03 ± 0.36 on 17 reviews ($$$)
Jura Superstition: 8.27 ± 0.44 on 22 reviews ($$$)
Laphroaig 10yo: 8.85 ± 0.25 on 23 reviews ($$$)
Laphroaig Quarter Cask: 8.31 ± 0.30 on 24 reviews ($$$$)
Ledaig 10yo: 8.34 ± 0.38 on 22 reviews ($$$)
Ledaig 18yo: 8.65 ± 0.70 on 9 reviews ($$$$$)
Longrow Peated: 8.79 ± 0.19 on 14 reviews ($$$)
Springbank 10yo: 8.70 ± 0.24 on 21 reviews ($$$$)
Springbank CV: 8.27 ± 0.36 on 8 reviews ($$$)
Talisker 10yo: 8.92 ± 0.17 on 24 reviews ($$$$)
Talisker Storm: 8.59 ± 0.26 on 18 reviews ($$$$)
Tobermory 10yo: 8.26 ± 0.43 on 22 reviews ($$$)
Tobermory 15yo: 8.57 ± 0.32 on 15 reviews ($$$$$)

Ledaig is getting a below-average score from my Meta-Critic panel, in-line with the similarly priced Jura Superstition and Laphroaig Quarter Cask.

Let’s see what I find in the glass.

Nose‎: Smoke and peat, reminds me of slightly charred rubber (like a bike tire that has blown out). Just a touch medicinal, with a definite earthy, vegetal characteristic to the peat. Also has some dried tobacco and hay, which is an interesting mix. Otherwise, lightly sweet with vanilla and caramel. Dried fruits, apple and pear mainly. A bit nutty. It is a pleasant sniffer in the moderately peated family. Water brings up the sweetness and dampens the smoke slightly.

Palate: Smokey of course, but less overtly peaty in the mouth. Sweet caramel and vanilla come through the strongest, along with fudge. Malt and hay again. Green grapes join the dried apples. Typical wood spices pick up next, with cinnamon and some pepper. Some tongue tingle, but otherwise a good oily mouthfeel. It’s nice. Water again bring up the sweetness, and lightens the mouthfeel slightly.

Finish: Medium-long. Interestingly, the tingle from the palate lingers a good while. Mild spice and long-lasting sweetness – although not cloying or artificial. A sea saltiness also emerges over time, which I wasn’t getting before – always nice to find something extra on the finish. Water seems to add a touch of bitterness to the finish.

I’m really impressed with this one, especially for the price. It is one of the cheapest age-stated peated bottlings where I live, and one you could easily overlook in your search for the big names. But that would be a mistake – there is more here than I expected. Personally, I would recommend you drink this one neat – water mainly heightens the sweetness, which is prominent enough in my view.

While it is not likely to fully satisfy an Arbeg or Laphroaig enthusiast, the Ledaig 10 year old is a good alternative for peat fans craving something a bit different. I’ve seen one reviewer refer to the peat characteristic here as “muddled”, and there is some truth to that – it is pretty unique in my experience. But I like it, and I’m not typically a big peat head. I’m surprised it doesn’t score higher in my Meta-Critic Database.

For reviews of this whisky, Savannah of the Whiskey Wash is very positive, as is Patrick of Quebec Whisky. Moderately positive are Ralfy, Serge of Whisky Fun, John of Whisky Advocate and Martin of Quebec Whisky. Some of the lowest scores come from Thomas of Whisky Saga, Oliver of Dramming, Andre and RV at Quebec Whisky and Nathan the Scotch Noob.

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