Another month and another random miscellany of reviews and tasting notes.
This month we are taking a closer look at a single cask Highland Park from The Whisky Exchange, an Indian Single Malt, a classic Brora, a Cognac finished Bourbon, a new Dalmore and as the 2020 festival was last month I’m in the mood to try something from last years Lagavulin Jazz Festival.
Highland Park, IB (TWE), 2003, 16yo, 58.9% (press sample)
This release is a 16 year old single cask bottled for The Whisky Exchange and has been fully matured in first fill sherry.
The nose is incredibly rich. Dark fruits, new leather, brown sugars and treacle toffees laden with spices. There are also some more subtle notes of scorched heather and of damp hardwoods.
Dark chocolate, coffee and toasted oats make for a punchy palate. At nearly 59% abv it can take a little water which releases some sweeter notes of brown sugar, tobacco, cherries gingerbread and raisins.
The finish lingers pleasantly with drying tannins and soft spices. The light fruity sweetness from the palate replaced by the more savoury elements.
Quite pricy at £199 for a 16 year old, however it is an excellent whisky and if you want a quite unique single cask HP then you will need to dig deep for it.
Available from The Whisky Exchange.
Rampur Double Cask, OB, NAS, 45%abv (press sample)
There are a fair few Indian Single Malts on the market these days and they are gaining a solid reputation. Here is the latest release from Rampur, a brand I’ve yet to try. This expression has been matured in both ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks.
There is a touch of dampness on the nose and initially it feels quite like a Bourbon. There is a strong vanilla presence alongside some cherries, tobacco, fudge and a faint sprinkling of spice.
The palate is spiced with a nice buttery feeling. There is a fruity element provided by grapefruit and a pear compote. The palate is a little thinner than the nose would suggest, not entirely to its detriment. Notes of tobacco and distant chocolate appear as we approach the finish.
The finish is a touch gingery and woody with the grapefruit from the palate lingering for a while amidst a few spices.
There is a lot to like here with a nice mix of flavours. Quite simple but rather enjoyable. It’s easy going with a few flashes of youth here and there which are only fleetingly distracting.
Rebel Yell Cognac Barrel Finish, OB, NAS, 45%abv (press sample)
The nose is full of those sweet Bourbon favours you would expect. Big sweet vanilla and a touch of dill. Underneath there is a note of hardwoods, caramelised fruits and some overdone apricot pastries.
The palate is woody and full of spices and herbs. There is a fruity undertone with redcurrants and rhubarb providing a sweet tartness. There is some cider toffee and the mouthfeel is nicely buttery.
The finish is full of drying tannins, oaky and spiced.
If you like your Bourbon super spiced and with a tannic twist then this is definitely for you. At this price point it’s really not much of a gamble to buy one to try.
Available soon with an RRP around £34.
Brora (2002 Special Releases) OB, 1972, 52.4%abv (from sample archive)
This 1972 expression from Brora was released as part of the Special Releases Collection way back in 2002.
Soft, restrained yet prominent peat mixed with dry grass, gorse and metal polish. There is a solid coastal backbone with sea breeze and perhaps a little seaweed. There is a citrus note that comes and goes, alongside touches of candle smoke and the distant aromas of shoe polish.
The palate is slightly flinty with more peat and a tangy mix of under ripened pineapple and grapefruit. There is an undertone of smoked meats and an old oaky cheeseboard.
Drying on the finish the peat lingers softly, turning ever so slightly ashy. There is a touch of pepper before a slightly malty upturn.
It is incredibly difficult to sum up my thoughts on such legendary drams – such is the mystique of the silent stills of Sutherland. These early 1970’s Brora are, in my opinion some of the best whiskies I will ever have the privilege to try.
Dalmore 12 (Sherry Cask Select) OB, 43%abv, (press sample)
A new release from Dalmore. This expression has spent 10 years in ex-bourbon casks before being transferred into bespoke sherry casks from the Tevasa, Vasyma and Paez cooperages and seasoned with a blend of aged Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez sherry (which makes it a Matusalem I think?) specified by master Blender Richard Paterson for a final period of maturation.
The nose is sweet, nutty and a touch leathery. There are hints of cigar humidor, over ripe oranges and red grape must.
The palate is zesty and orangey with counterbalance of coffee, macadamia nuts and charred marmalade on some well buttered malted bread.
The finish is full of drying spice, cedar wood, oak and touches of dark chocolate.
Very slick and with a great depth of flavours. Perhaps vaguely more woody than most Dalmore, however this really is quite good. The bump up to 43% has really upped the way the flavour is presented and instilled a distinct liveliness.
£69 is a little on the expensive side but all that cask mastery doesn’t come cheap…
Available only from The Whisky Shop with an RRP of £69.
Lagavulin Jazz Festival (2019), OB, 50.1% abv, (from sample archive)
Diageo bottled this 21 year old Lagavulin to celebrate the 21st anniversary of the Islay Jazz Festival last year.
There is a damp and earthy peat here, but tempered by the years in cask. Fully coastal with strong yet restrained phenols, a strong citrus tang and some touches of wet flint.
The palate is very ashy and mouth puckering. Full of green olives, crisp bacon, sea spray and a red fruit jus.
The finish continues for quite some time and is ashy and peppery, with a return to the distant peat.
Pretty difficult to track down, the only one I could find was on the Whisky Shop website for £799.
It is a very nice expression indeed but that pricetag seems more than a little excessive.
PICK OF THE BUNCH
Ok, so that Brora is probably one of my favourite drams of all time, but that aside I’m going to pick the Whisky Exchange Highland Park single cask as my top pick for November – with an honourable mention to the new Dalmore.
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You can find more of my tasting notes in the Amateur Drammers Archives.
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