About Carissa Hickling

Originally from Canada, then India for 20 years, now working in Germany... and quite a 'Whisky Lady' too!

Flora and Fauna – Teaninich 10 year 43%

This was my 2nd brush with Teaninich distillery. Just a few months earlier in London I’d sampled a Teaninich 11 year mini from That Boutique-y Whisky Company. I wasn’t massively impressed, but also could appreciate it was but one brief brush.

What did we think of the official bottling?

Teaninich 10 year 43%

  • Nose – Started off fruity – think fresh apricot… which gradually gave way to a sweet sponge cake with vanilla, a bit of lemony citrus, loads of honey… which then shifted further into an orange cinnamon followed by an aroma that was a bit ‘leafy’ or even herbal
  • Palate – Say waaay? It was a complete contrast and the best we could come up with was an oddly ‘petrol’ like burn. Even when it revealed a light spice – mostly cinnamon with some nutmeg – that curious petrol quality remained.
  • Finish – Initially a bit ‘shy’ or limited on the finish, here is where that autumnal leafy moss-like element was most pronounced

While we knew it was already quite ‘diluted’ by some standards, bravely thought to experiment further and try with a few drops of water – just to see what affect it had.

The fruitiness returned with a bit of nutty batter and sweet on the nose, however the palate? Less petrol but became completely nondescript.

Overall we found this whisky curiously imbalanced. Something that perhaps combined would bring an important element to the equation, but on its own? Meh..

We set it aside and carried on tasting the other two. And then returned to see how it fared?

Ignoring the slightly watered down version, the original glass rewarded us with a lovely toffee vanilla, even pineapple, infinitely sweeter and much more enjoyable on the palate than our 1st sampling… even more remarkable – it held up well. And no petrol. Curious.

While the bottle notes indicated something a bit different, I was able to track down these insights from the folks at Diageo…. here’s what they had to say

A well rounded Highland single malt whisky with light salty flavours making a fine apéritif. A crisp, dry and appetising malt that starts fresh and orange-sweet with a long and dry finish.

  • Appearance – Mid gold, almost buttery.
  • Body – Light to medium body, crisp and mouth-cleansing.
  • Nose – The first impression is fresh and citric (oranges and lemons), with a background scent of violets, which rises then falls. It is replaced by concentrated orange juice and old oranges. There are some very light cereal notes (cornflakes?) in the background. The overall impression is clean and appetising. Softens and dulcifies when water is added. Becomes more scented – clover flowers – but still upon a base of orange juice. There is also a whiff of beeswax.
  • Palate – Light and sweetish, but overall dry with pleasant acidity and even a pinch of salt.
  • Finish – Long and dry. The beeswax returns in the aftertaste.

What else did we try that evening from the Flora and Fauna range?

With more to come…

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A foray into the Flora and Fauna range

Our 1st 2021 Whisky Ladies European Chapter comes thanks to a Diageo connection with careful selection from their Flora and Fauna range.

For those not familiar, the range was introduced in the 1990s to make accessible lesser-known distilleries which typically do not have official single malt bottles as their liquid is instead providing the backbone of blends. Most are available at 43% – a hint above the minimum and mass production strength of 40% but not into the slightly stronger so-called connoisseur’s preferred strength of 46%. Most also are reasonably affordable… depending on where you purchase.

What goodies did our lovely virtual host buy for us?

We chose to split our sampling into two evenings:

  • One late January 2021 combing Paris and Mumbai with the Teaninich, Mannochmore and Strathmill
  • A second bringing together France and Germany featuring the Linkwood, Inchgower and Auchroisk

Please be a wee bit patient as we share our impressions with you in the coming weeks or so!

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That Boutique-y Whisky Company Advent Calendar (2018)

Once upon a time, a lass thought to creatively sustain whisky explorations by acquiring a collection of miniatures. And what better than cask strength, single cask bottlings from That Boutique-y Whisky Company?

A little off-season, a 2018 Advent Calendar was bought early 2019 and brought from the UK to India, patiently waiting for the right opportunities to explore, a few minis at a time, preferably with a tasting companion.

And then? Well… priorities shifted including a move from India to Germany, so my lovely calendar had to be even more patient… for a full year until I was finally permitted to return home.

So there I was, in 2021… finally back in India… contemplating which choices from such plenty should accompany a quiet evening or two during my long pending trip home…

And then once again, deliberately delayed cracking open these beauties – opting instead to polish off/chuck partial minis from past tasting sessions to free up sufficient small bottles for virtual tastings.

Before putting my advent calendar back into storage, I decided to check what actually came! Knowing full well so many years later it may be challenging to track down official tasting notes let alone a full bottle if I discover a real stunner.

So consider this a teaser – for you and for me – as these lovely little samples have been carefully repacked to patiently wait many more months…

Campbeltown

Highland whiskies:

Islay whiskies:

Speyside whiskies:

British / Irish whiskies (non-Scottish)

World whiskies:

Undisclosed Scottish Blends:

And with that, this lovely box goes back to await another trip and another time…

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The Whisky Warehouse no. 8 – Benrinnes 19 year 52.9%

Unfortunately by the time I got around to suggesting to my fellow European based Whisky Ladies that we might want to try a box from The Whisky Warehouse No. 8 – this dram was long gone – both as a sample and the full bottle. Pity.

However my virtual tasting companions were quite happy with their alternative – a Tomatin 9 year (2011).

Benrinnes 19 year (1997 / 2016) 52.9%

  • Nose – Subtle, fruity with sweet grass, a bit shy yet lovely, some tobacco leaf, walnut and raspberries
  • Palate – Gorgeous! Something very unusual – a curious sweetness that strangely reminded me of skunk – sounds horrible but it wasn’t. There was a rusty rustic spice,  more fruit and berries, beeswax, ginger, cinnamon
  • Finish – More of the sweet spices with a sprinkle of salt on top – lovely

This was again a whisky that needs a bit of time to open up… become sweeter the longer it aired… taking on an increasing honey fruity sweetness mixed with light cereals, sweet grass or fresh tobacco leaf.

Unfortunately just as this dram was no longer available to purchase, the notes and any further details have disappeared from The Whisky Warehouse No 8 website!

However my tasting companions and I overall enjoyed our quartet from The Whisky Warehouse No 8… there wasn’t much debate about our preferences with:

  1. The Linkwood 11 year (2007 / 2019) 58.2% was a clear favourite!
  2. It was followed by our respective separate samples – my companions enjoyed their Tomatin and I think this Benrinnes
  3. Next up was the Auchentoshan 18 year (1998 / 2017) 48.3%
  4. Closing with the Dailuaine 11 year (2007 / 2020) 61.5%

For me it was such a delight to be sampling from India, sitting at my very unique desk… an old piano lovingly refurbished by my husband, repurposed to become a comfortable creative corner in our country home. In the background I could hear the cicadas and soft music selected for the evening… my belly happily full of home made dosas with delicious peanut coconut chutney… our pair of country cats curled up companionably together on the bed behind me… perfection!

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The Whisky Warehouse no. 8 – Dailuaine 12 year 61.5%

From Speyside-Bogie & Deveron, we next tried a single cask from Dailuaine, selected and bottled by The Whisky Warehouse No. 8. You may note that my wee sample looks a bit ‘frosty’. This is because I was sipping in our country home outside of Mumbai, India with the temperature outside a “mere” 32′ celsius… so I had put my samples in the fridge to chill a bit before I sat down with my tasting companions who virtually joined from Paris, France.

Dailuine 12 year (11/2007 – 01/2020) 61.5 vol.%
Garrison Bourbon Cask No W8 22015, 72 Bottles

  • Nose – Brine, sour, a combo of motorcycle repair shop and swarthy fisherman, a touch of medicinal iodine, shifted more into lots of cereals, a bit vegetal, copper… and after the 1st sip increasingly sweet – perhaps a bit of herbal digestif like Kuemmerling? Some citrus, leafy, yet still retains that saline element too, joined by vanilla pod
  • Palate – Sweet tobacco leaf, spice, ovaltine, milk chocolate with cinnamon, a bit fruity, yet also had a mineral quality too
  • Finish – Strong and long… or is that simply the alcohol?

What a contrast from the Auchentoshan and Linkwood! Imagine going from a perfumery to a fishing trawl! And on the palate? Let’s just say it was far more mellow than we expected at 61.5%!

We thought this one could open up with water, so gave it a go! Yes after initially cranking up the spice, it settled down, revealed some toffee and caramel cream, more of the vanilla pod… but in truth we were a bit ambivalent about water in this one. If anything, it had more character at cask strength!

We continued on to our 4th dram in the set and returned to the Dailuaine after some time. It initially had a peculiar sour cleaning aroma however after a sip, the aromas again shifted… that said we certainly found the palate its best feature.

I reflected back on other Dailuaine’s I’ve sampled and simply must admit while this style of whisky has its place, it isn’t a favourite of mine – at least their ex bourbon casks. That said, I did enjoy the Dailuaine 11 year sherry cask Dailuaine bottled by Gordon & MacPhail, so perhaps a bit sherry cask would – for me at least – suit this spirit better.

Here is what the bottlers have to say:

There are only a few single malt bottlings from the Speyside distillery in Dailuaine, which is beautifully situated in the countryside. The distillery only brings out a handful of original bottlings.

In addition, a number of independent bottlers, who appreciate the special quality of Dailuaine whiskeys, fill one or the other barrel. Only about two percent of the whiskey produced by Dailuaine is marketed as single malt, the rest is mainly used for the blended whiskey Johnnie Walker. We had this single malt rarity Dailuaine stored in a Garrison Bourbon barrel. The specialty of these barrels is their size of just 60 l, which accelerates the maturation process due to the small size.

The vanilla aromas of this bourbon barrel storage are intensified. The disadvantage of these barrels is their availability. There are only 72 bottles of the already rare Dailuaine single malt scotch whiskey.

What more do we know? This single malt is from a single cask No W8  22015, priced at € 80 for a 700 ml bottle.

Overall what did we think? It was worth trying but wasn’t the ‘hit’ of the evening which was clearly the Linkwood with a bit of competition for the ‘runner up’.

What else did we try from The Whisky Warehouse No 8?

As for other brushes with this distillery?

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The Whisky Warehouse no. 8 – Linkwood 11 year 58.2%

From Speyside-Lossie, we’ve sampled quite a few Linkwoods over the years – from 8 to 28 years – some fabulous, some average, but generally enjoyable. We even have one from Diageo’s Flora and Fauna collection planned in the coming month or so!

Linkwood 11 year (06/2007 – 01/2019)  58.2% Bourbon Hogshead Cask No W8 804350, 283 Bottles

We first sampled it ‘neat’…

  • Nose – Bananas, raw pastry dough, a bit of cherry liqueur, toffee, bakewell tart, raspberries,  javitri (the dried flower around nutmeg), raw almond oil shifting into coconut over time, yuzu lemon, as it continued to open, it further evolved – revealing malt, figs, caramel and vanilla
  • Palate – Remarkable! It was – dare I say it – floral? It also had a delightful peppery quality, a zesty spring that complimented its exceptional floral quality. Quite unusual – in a rather appealing way
  • Finish – Nuanced

The 1st sip was a surprise. We didn’t find it overly floral on the nose but it was like sipping a garden bouquet, not the gulab (rose water) of an India sweet but something more like stepping into a flower shop or perfumery. While sometimes we find something this pronounced on the nose, rarely on the palate. How unusual!

While we didn’t feel compelled to add water, I thought to try anyways…

  • Nose – The aromas shifted back to banana – but this time banoffee pie – that fabulous mix of bananas, dulce de leche, graham cracker crust, fresh whipped cream… and in this case an extra boost of vanilla
  • Palate – Could it be possible that the floral element has become perfume? Yet equally it was stronger, spicier, bringing out more ‘oomph’ and character while still being silky smooth and temptingly sippable…
As I wrote up my tasting notes, I realized several aromas and flavours we found were items that may not be so common – combining experiences from UK to India to Japan.
Much like the whisky, our reactions were a joyful enjoyment of its diversity and pleasure in how it evolved. Distinctive and delightful. There was zero doubt this was a class act and definitely something special.
We also found that we liked it both with and without water. While cask strength of 58.2% may seem intense – it really wasn’t with this Linkwood.

Here is what the bottlers have to say:

This Linkwood has everything you would expect from a smooth whiskey. It is clean, the aromas are very well balanced and the aging notes are well integrated. You can call it an ‘all-day whiskey’ with a clear conscience, because it goes with almost any occasion. It’s actually a shame that there are only 283 bottles!

  • Smell : Red, ripe apples and cherries, milk chocolate with a little amaretto, mace and lavender, pleasantly malty with a distinct malt sweetness.
  • Taste : Not quite as fruity anymore, but still a lot of chocolate, which is now a little darker and mixed with roasted almonds. Warm spicy notes such as mace and long pepper can be recognized. The tire notes are very clean, but remain elegantly in the background. With dilution, the whiskey becomes softer and develops a light orange-zest aroma.
  • Finish : Warm and spicy, the dark chocolate notes remain oily on the palate.

Not sure we agree… Though you could, this certainly is not an “all day” drinking dram! As we considered the tasting notes realized it comes across as something ‘ordinary’ rather than extra-ordinary. While the description certainly sounds ‘nice’, we found a whisky that went a good deal beyond mere ‘nice’, instead more of a special treat – something both delicate and complex – even into the ‘exquisite’ territory.

What can we say but well done – both for Linkwood and the cask selection!

What more do we know? This single malt is from a single cask – Bourbon Hogshead – which produced 283 bottles, priced at € 80 for a 700 ml bottle.

The Whisky Warehouse no. 8 – Auchentoshan 18 year 48.3%

We began our journey through The Whisky Warehouse No 8 sample pack more or less in the order suggested – Auchentoshan, Linkwood, Duilaine and then we diverged – me to the Benrinnes and my tasting companions to their Tomatin.

What all four had in common is that they are single casks, bottled at cask strength and all ex-bourbon rather than sherry casks. They also were all without peat.

Our lone entrant from the Lowlands, Auchentoshan, can sometimes be overlooked…

Auchtentoshan 18 year 48.3% (1 Dec 1998 – 2 Feb 2017) Bourbon Barrel Cask No W8 23553, 168 Bottles

We initially sampled it neat:

  • Nose – Initially some hay and cereals, oats, maybe even a bit of hops, a bit oily, malty, woody… no pronounced floral elements but had some dried fruits in the background
  • Palate – Quite direct with no subtlety, more of the cereals, malt, wood, a bit imbalanced to be honest…
  • Finish – There… but limited to a light spice

While the nose had promise, we weren’t all that impressed. There wasn’t anything ‘off’ but it was just wasn’t exceptional.

So we decided to add a bit of water and see if there was any impact… we didn’t have high expectations given it was already 48.3%…. and wow! In short – you MUST add water!

  • Nose – Now here we found more fruits! Herbal, cardamom… then shifting into a lemony citrus… over time a delightful orange marmalade
  • Palate – Delicious! Opens everything up – making it spicier, fruitier, sweeter, tastier and just balanced out everything that was earlier not quite in synch. From ‘meh’ to sponge cake!
  • Finish – Lovely… now the inviting aromas, equally following through on the palate can be found lingering on the finish too

We set it aside to sample our other drams and returned after an hour.

  • Nose – Could it have taken on a bit of smokey paprika? There was a nice tobacco leaf aroma mixed with cured sweet meats
  • Palate – A balanced spice and fruit

Overall we concluded this was a nice ‘aperitif’ style whisky – a nice ‘starter’. Reflecting back, it is entirely possible we would have caught more without water had we given it more time to open up. Either way, still think adding a few drops of water is the way to go with this one.

Here is what the Whisky Warehouse No 8 bottlers have to say:

It is not a really typical Auchentoshan single malt, it is not fruity and not slim enough. But if you accept that this Lowlander tastes more like a Highlander, the flavors fit together again and you will be rewarded with a muscular, strong, but also very clean whiskey, which a few drops of water to dilute it do very well.

  • Smell: Cactus blossom and fresh Italian herbs like oregano and thyme, a bit floral like hay and slightly buttery, subtle green wood note, a bit spicy like cardamom and lemon balm.
  • Taste: Initially quite spicy, mainly cardamom and pepper, roasted aromas like dark cocoa powder, again culinary herbs. With a little dilution, biscuits and ripe fruit aromas can also be seen.
  • Finish: At first a pepper note dominates, which lingers on the palate for a long time and warms up spicy later, it is mainly the roasted aromas that only fade very slowly.

So… cactus blossom? I must admit I’m unfamiliar with that aroma. Same with my tasting companions – one of whom looked it up. Apparently it is a ‘thing’ – so much so that she also found cactus flower scented candles. Who knew?

We would completely agree about the dilution. And overall we could understand their tasting notes except the buttery one – we didn’t catch that – and of course our lack of familiarity with cactus blossom!

What more do we know? It is from a single cask – Bourbon Barrel – which produced 168 bottles, priced at €100 for a 700 ml.

If we hadn’t known the age, I’m not sure we would have guessed 18 years. As for value for money? I’m glad we had a chance to try it in a sample pack. While enjoyable, it didn’t have that extra appeal of the Glencadam – which initially got me ‘hooked’ on these bottlers and was truly superb. However it was an entirely respectable offering from the distillery.

What else did we try from The Whisky Warehouse No 8 in our tasting set?

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Whisky Lady – Jan 2021

As I sit in our wee cabana in the country, just outside of Mumbai, there was no doubt I would have loved to remain just there – enjoying the sound of the birds, cicadas, the perfume of our garden wafting on the summery breeze, our cats curled up contentedly…

For me, the month (and year) began on a plane… starting without any fanfare… the pilot almost forgetting to remark on the change from 2020 to 2021… no bubbly…. no exuberant toast… we simply quietly, exhausted slipped into the new year to be greeted by 6 hours of various procedures, waiting and a specially designated ‘quarantine’ bus to our respective hotels scattered around the city.

Our European chapter had closed 2020 with a new discovery – Maison Benjamin Keuntz exploring their delightful ‘core’ range…

We were so impressed and curious that we requested a follow-up evening – a chance to revisit our samples together with the team from Benjamin Keuntz. In my case, I brought both my samples and a 500 ml bottle of our favourite – Aveux Gourmands – with me to Mumbai. This lovely bottle was my ‘quarantine’ companion – stuck in a hotel room for a week, I sat on my window ledge, overlooking the Arabian sea and sipped away watching the sun set… impatiently waiting to finally go home after a year away!

Re-united with my dwindling collection in Mumbai, I began with enjoying the last few drops of Wemyss’ Linkwood 20 year (1995/2015) Summer Breeze Cask #20877 46% – one of my favourite bottles opened in 2019.

Further remembering drams gone by with a short post on whisky collections – The long haul, long gone… Contemplating what to do with the few bottles that remained in my once robust Indian collection, I decided what better way to go than share?

So I packaged up two sessions worth of whiskies – in such a way they could be shared both virtually and physically in India followed by one that could also be joined by our lovely ladies in Europe too…

We managed to hold one evening with the fabulous Whisky Ladies of Mumbai, featuring an Arran Lochranza Distillery Vertical  which closed with a bottle acquired on my one and only 2020 trip – to Scotland and Isle of Arran no less!

As a bit of a bonus, the remaining Aveux Gourmands was also shared.

Then what? Carrying on in our country sojourn, I virtually re-united with our European chapter to explore offerings from a German independent bottler – Whisky Warehouse No. 8 with:

Another homage to my adopted home Germany, I shared tasting notes from another discovery – this time from Spreewood Distillers outside of Berlin:

And with that… I say farewell both to January 2021 and to my country home for likely another 6 months or so… hopefully able to return for monsoon.

Curious to know more? Check out recent Whisky Lady’s 2020 semi-monthly summaries:

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Whisky Collections – Mumbai Edition

For one whole year I could not go home. I won’t go into the long, convoluted, COVID complicated reasons… suffice to say I’m, finally back in India and could not be happier!

I’ve also been re-united with my dwindling whisky collection, which was significantly dented by deliberate efforts before I left and further reduced by redistributing the balance open bottles to a fellow whisky explorer / frequent host to imbibe during the strict lockdown when booze shops were closed.

For me, much of the fun in picking up a bottle here and there is to craft a creative tasting evening where something new is discovered by trying different combinations or gaining insights in context or correlation that likely would not be possible in isolation. It is the interplay between whiskies, different palates and perspectives that is so engaging. How I on my own perceive a particular dram is obviously limited to my background and experience. What better way to temper such bias than with others?

And now? My collection is quite sparse and further diminished as I packaged up some bottles into smaller miniatures for virtual tasting sessions, dispatching the ‘dregs’ to upcoming hosts.

The balance were carefully cleaned, their paraffin seals checked and in a few cases replaced… put back into storage for my next trip home when hopefully life will be a bit more normalized and we can more freely gather together.

Til then, this wee post serves as a reminder for me of what once made it to Mumbai. I’m curious if others delight in the ‘hunter / farmer’ phenomenon needed to put together sessions? Where both a determination to discover is tempered by tremendous patience to share in the right combination?

Isle of Arran – Lochranza Vertical – 1st session already held!

Isle of Arran – Lochranza and Lagg expressions

  • Arran Lochranza Reserve 43%
  • Arran Port Cask Finish 50%
  • Lagg Peated Bourbon Barrel 1st Batch 60.4% (200 ml)

An interesting Australasian trio with contrasting styles and approaches:

  • Australia – Lark (Feb 2010) Single Cask No LD116 43%
  • Japan – Ichiro’s Double Distilleries 46%
  • Taiwan – Kavalan Solist Bourbon Cask B111202001A, Bottle 117/200 57.1%

Old World (European) / New World (USA)

  • USA – AD Laws Secale Rye 2 year (375 ml)
  • Germany – Slyrs Marsala Finish L1140 46% (500ml)
  • Netherlands – Millstone 100 Rye Whisky 50%

A trio from Scotland’s Campbeltown region:

  • Springbank 10 year 46%
  • Glen Scotia 16 year 46%
  • Glen Scotia 1832 Campbeltown 46%

Closing with a Scottish Mix ‘n Match – which could be combined in a few different ways – with some bottles I’ve intended to keep set aside for a few more years…

  • Highland
    • Balblair 18 year 46%
    • Edradour 12 year (28 Aug 2006/8 Nov 2018) 1st Fill Sherry Butt #900127 60.1% (Signatory Vintage Local Dealer Selection)
  • Islay – Elements of Islay Ma1 54.2% (500ml)
  • Speyside
    • Glenrothes 18 year Elders’ Reserve 43%
    • Glentauchers 8 year (2005 / 2013) 48.2% 2144 bottles (Sansibar)
    • KinInvie 17 year 42/6% (Batch 1, 2014)
    • Macallan Estate Reserve 45.7%

And that’s it! How massively it has been scaled back from years of collecting efforts… The earliest bottle was acquired 7 years ago (KinInvie)… The most recent was picked up just a few months back at the new Lagg distillery… interestingly both were 1st batches.

Naturally I could change my approach, playing around with combinations as more get added or subtracted. And from the above picture – half are already gone as I kicked off sessions before leaving India!

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Lochranza Vertical – Arran 23 year 52.6%

I’ll admit it, I simply fell in love with the Isle of Arran. Early September 2020, we spent a fabulous day driving all around the Island… prompted by my desire to visit the Lochranza distillery! It was so much fun discovering this microcosm of Scotland that we completed the circumference – even making it to Arran’s new Lagg distillery too.

I wanted something special from the distillery to commemorate our trip – a bottle that I could not buy anywhere else. There were so many to chose from, but this 23 year old single cask sherry, bottled at cask strength, caught my eye!

I very happily picked this up at the distillery shop and knew the biggest challenge would be my impatience to try it! Determined to share it in an evening tasting with fellow whisky enthusiasts in Mumbai, I sent the bottle home to India with my partner where it would wait…until some indeterminate time to taste…

Thankfully it wasn’t so long! Just a few months later, late January 2021, we cracked it open in a combined virtual / real life Whisky Ladies of Mumbai session.

Arran 23 year (29 May 1996/11 March 2020) Sherry Hogshead Cask No 436, 52.6%  Bottle 245/283

We first sampled it ‘neat’ without a drop of water:

  • Nose – Nuanced and subtle it grew in intensity, from light rose to rich mocha, caramel, cinnamon, clearly complex, rich, the aromas swirling in the glass combining to create a beautiful perfume – one even quipped “American Leather” after a men’s cologne…
  • Palate – Wonderful! A spirited sherry… almost too much of a good thing! Fierce and forceful – there was rich toffee, coffee, chocolate, dates and rum raisins
  • Finish – An intense long finish

My fellow tasters knew this clearly had a higher alcohol percent – likely cask strength. So we were encouraged to add water… how did it change?

  • Nose – Enabled more of the dark fruits to emerge, caramel sweetness, fudge
  • Palate – Ahh… opens it up and does wonders! Now we can really settle in with all those fabulous flavours, fruitier still full and quite fabulous
  • Finish – Perfection! Remains long and lingering… dark fruits of dates, prunes, dried figs with cinnamon spice… rum raisin Christmas pudding

While intense, we found it had an absolutely phenomenal aroma and with water, the elements were lush, rich and indulgent but not overwhelming. Yes the heaviness remained but it was now balanced.

Even after setting it aside, contrasting and comparing, there was a compelling quality about this one – distinctive and definitely a sherry bomb! If anything, the aromas kept getting sweeter – it became like eating sugar or molasses!

In complete contrast, our ‘In Real Life’ Whisky Ladies thought it was like pineapple grilled on a campfire, perhaps even a single rum not whisky at all!

Could I see the rum? Absolutely! Having recently spent a lazy evening revisiting Jamaica’s Hampden 2010, I easily understood why there was speculation I had thrown a rum in – just to mix things up! As I poured a dash more without water, I completely appreciated the strong heavy rum-like quality – that peculiar powerful punch that comes from the unique conditions found in Luca Gargano‘s discoveries.

The colour alone was an indicator that this was something different with the 3rd sample…. while initially the 18 year (2nd) seemed quite similar in colour to the 14 year (1st), there was a subtle deepness to the gold… However nothing compared to the almost ruby red intensity of the 23 year (3rd).

Sitting back comparing all three side by side, there was no doubt the 2nd managed to strike a brilliant balance between age, intensity and flavour. Clearly complex, it was full bodied and flavourful without being overwhelming like the 23 year old. While those of us who sampled virtually eased into the cask strength with water, the 23 year old was a ‘miss’ for those who met in person. For all of us, the 14 year was easily the most accessible, the sherry influence more restrained. It was simply enjoyable without complication.

What do the folks at Arran have to say about this 23 year old?

A rare opportunity to purchase a bottling from one of our oldest Sherry Hogsheads. These precious and unusual bottling are in short supply and as such are a real treat for those who love a Sherry Cask matured Single Malt.

This particular Single Cask is a Sherry Hogshead from 1996. In the first years of production at Arran, Sherry Hogsheads were often used. We have an outstanding, but small collection of casks from this year still slumbering away in our warehouses. This cask was specially selected and liberated for our visitors to Lochranza and our online whisky shop by Master Blender James MacTaggart and is the perfect one for sipping and savouring.

Tasting notes:

  • Nose – Toffee, fudge and caramelised lemon
  • Palate – Delicious sweet spice and hazelnut
  • Finish – Sweetness, Spice, Vanilla, Smooth, Hazelnut, Dark chocolate, Creamy.

After a long time, it was such a pleasure to sample a single distillery vertical – we could see the progression – building in intensity and complexity. A fabulous evening!

You can find here the detailed tasting notes for the other Arran‘s sampled together with the 23 year:

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Additionally, there are the two ‘off-shoots’ with: