Islay Duo – Bruichladdich vs Kilchoman

When the weather is wet, cold and miserable, there is nothing like a bit of peat in your whisky to pick you up! While we still have a few more days of summery weather, our last selection of the evening from a Drinks by the Drams Single Cask Whisky Advent Calendar turned to a pair of peaty Islay single casks, bottled by the folks over at Master of Malts:

  • Bruichladdich 16 year (2002) Single Cask 62.6%
  • Kilchoman 6 year (2012) Cask 405/2012 56.9%

We began with the Bruichladdich….

Bruichladdich 16 year (2002) Single Cask 62.6%

  • Nose – Initially greeted us with some maritime sea spray, then the peat subtly surfaced more and more, a lovely herbal sweetness, toffee… then after the initial sip, we were rewarded with sweet maple bacon, sweet grass
  • Palate – Yum! Such delicious peat – Montreal smoked meats, roast pork, tobacco, frankly just very tasty!
  • Finish – Really long lovely smoke 
  • Water? I felt no need to add however one of my tasting companions did and shared how it made the whisky much sweeter

For me, this was a singularly fine specimen from Bruichladdich! We speculated it must come from the “Port Charlotte” line – clear stamp of peat but not amped up like an “Octomore”!

What more do we know? Here is what the folks over at Master of Malt have to say:

A wonderful bottle of Bruichladdich, bottled by yours truly – that’s right, it was bottled by Master of Malt! This 16 year old single malt was distilled on Islay back in July 2002 and filled into a refill sherry hogshead, where it slumbered until January 2019, when we bottled it up at cask strength, with no chill-filtration or additional colouring.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

  • Nose: Apple and dried pear, golden syrup over steamed pudding, thick vanilla and toasted almond, then freshly polished wood and light wood smoke.
  • Palate: Toasted barley, brown sugar, vanilla and lemon peels lead. Plenty of earthy spice and oak shavings emerge underneath.
  • Finish: Lasting citrus sweetness and vanilla-y barley.

As on September 2022 it is still available for a whopping Eur 210!


What next? We moved on to the Kilchoman…

Kilchoman 6 year (2012) Cask 405/2012 56.9%

  • Nose – Iodine and bandaid adhesive, smoke meats and spice, pastrami and toast
  • Palate– Sweet and peat, some spice, young with the wood element clearly showing through
  • Finish – Warm and lasting

While we couldn’t say for sure, it was clear this had something more than an ex-bourbon cask at work. Was it sherry or something else? Who knew but it added a nice sweetness.

As for the Kilchoman? The folks over at Master of Malt also had something to share:

A single cask bottling of tasty Islay single malt from the Kilchoman distillery, bottled for Drinks by the Dram! This one was matured for 6 years, from July 2012 to August 2018, which included a finishing period in a red wine cask, before being bottled at cask strength.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

  • Nose: Scones, jam and clotted cream – a classic combo. Lasting earthy peat and some tobacco notes later on.
  • Palate: Digestive biscuits, salted butter, raspberry and soft sandalwood hints.
  • Finish: Clove, cinnamon, barley, smoke and oily walnut.

It is now sold out, however, when it was available it was priced at approximately Eur 92.

And there we have it, three pairs of samples explored and enjoyed!

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Going Grainy – Girvan 30 year and Cameronbridge 36 year

Grains are rarely found solo as their main purpose is to round out the more dynamic malts in a blend. However, there has been increasing attention on some grains – including Cameronbridge with its new “Haig” brand.

So we decided to turn our attention to grains and select a pair from our Drinks by the Drams Single Cask Whisky Advent Calendar:

  • Girvan 30 year (1988) cask 13076 58.1% (Xtra Old Particular)
  • Cameronbridge 36 year (1982) cask 8289 His Excellency (Bartels Whisky) 51.9%

Both are from the Lowlands region in Scotland and we began our exploration with the Girvan…

Girvan 30 year (1988) cask 13076 58.1% (Xtra Old Particular) 230 bottles

  • Nose – Yikes! Is that glue? The kind of old-style molding glue from childhood, a bio-chemistry lab… a bit of citrus polish, some tannins? Then a curious thing began to happen… after our 1st sip, it opened up, unfurling like a flower from which a joyful honeyed perfume emerged, joined by milk chocolate, vanilla, chocolate, over-ripe fruits – particularly bananas, then more floral and herbal
  • Palate – Wow! Pure honey delight! Then deepens into chocolate, full, rounded with a lovely balance, fruity with resins, ‘sacher torte’, heavy oils, phenomenally creamy, showing its maturity
  • Finish – Lovely finish with more chocolate, sweetly lingers

There was such a surprise with this one – the initial aroma was not at all inspiring but then on the palate? Just fabulous! And when we went back to the nose, it just became more and more interesting and inviting. Even hours later the empty glass was a delight. This was an exceptional grain and we were lucky to have an opportunity to try it. Whilst now sold out, it was once available at Master of malt for Eur 166.

What do the folks at Master of Malt have to say?

Distilled in July 1988 at Girvan, this single grain Scotch whisky was aged in a single refill hogshead which yielded 230 bottles. After 30 years this special liquid was bottled at 58.1% ABV in March 2019, for Douglas Laing’s Xtra Old Particular series. Very extra and very old indeed.

Tasting Note by The Producer

  • Nose: The nose brings a vanilla fudge character with milky cereal and rhubarb.
  • Palate: The creamy palate bursts with toffee apples, pineapple chunks in syrup and cinnamon.
  • Finish: The finish is long and warming with polished oak, BBQ’d bananas and runny honey.

We then moved on to our next grain… this time 36 years!

Cameronbridge 36 year (Feb 1982/Nov 2018) cask 8289 His Excellency (Bartels Whisky) 51.9% 192 bottles

  • Nose – Clean and fresh, light and very sweet, a hint of fruit, friendly or sympathetic but then… nothing much more
  • Palate – Very sweet, a bit of roasted barley or biscuits, pleasant but unidimensional, some sweet grapes, apples, or even a grappa-like quality
  • Finish – A bitter edge, a touch of caraway

While it had a promising start, it quickly fell short. After the Girvan, we were expecting, well, more. It is a quite pleasant grain, but misses having something distinguishing or remarkable. We concluded that it simply isn’t a ‘solo act’, singing a single simple melody that is nice and uncomplicated but would probably be more interesting when in harmony with others.

What more do we know? Well, the folks at Master of Malt have this to say when it was for sale for EUR 75 – now sold out:

As part of the His Excellency series, Bartels Whisky have bottled a rather delightful 36 Year Old single grain from Cameronbridge, the largest grain distillery in Europe. It was taken from a single cask, filled in February 1982 and then bottled November 2018. A limited outturn of only 192 bottles.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

  • Nose: Cereal notes, creamy milk chocolate and fruit cake with cinnamon and ginger spices.
  • Palate: Stewed apples, another helping of spices and digestive biscuits.
  • Finish: Think scones with clotted cream and zingy jam.

Curious about other experiences with these grains? Here are a few previous brushes:

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Getting started – Royal Brackla vs Tamdhu

It felt a bit like putting on ‘training wheels’… getting back into the spirit of tasting spirits with a small selection from a Drinks by the Drams Single Cask Whisky Advent Calendar.

We chose our first ‘double header’ with two single casks from independent bottlers:

  • Royal Brackla 11 year (2006) cask 310864 60.9% (The Single Cask)
  • Tamdhu 11 year (2007) cask 6833 61.9% (Lady of the Glen – Hannah Whisky Merchants)

Royal Brackla 11 year (2006) cask 310864 60.9% (The Single Cask) 285 bottles

  • Nose – Apple core, pear, loads of orchard fruits, Johannisbeer (red currents) or sour cherries… then it started to evolve from fresh fruits to dry fruits with raisins
  • Palate – Initially quite a shock to the system – hot and quite a punch of alcohol! Then we started to adjust… with the spice comes some of the fruit promises on the nose, however still masked by the cask strength
  • Finish – Nice! A bit bitter, some tobacco leaf with a lovely teasing spice

This was my 1st pick of the evening. In retrospect, we perhaps should have ‘eased’ into tasting with a ‘palate calibrating’ lighter 43 – 46% whisky. However, instead, we plunged into the ‘deep end’ going straight to full cask strength at 60.9%!

This is why we quickly switched to adding a few drops of water – transformative!

  • Nose – So delightfully aromatic! From fruits to toffee, a hint of wood then a green leaf, fresh and fabulous! Then back to fruity desserts with a generous dollop of rich cream
  • Palate – Delicious! So much fuller, bursting with fruits and cream, indulgent and just a wee bit voluptuous, sweeter, brighter

Definitely have this one with water – it opens it up beautifully! With a splash, the whisky revealed its classic character, well constructed with all elements in harmony. We concluded this is a lovely summer dram

What more do we know? It is an ex-bourbon American oak single cask bottle by The Single Cask. I’m not sure if you can still snag a bottle however once upon a time, it was available for  GBP 85 and here is what they have to say:

  • Nose: Fruit and barley springs from your glass, followed by musty oak green ferns dusted with white pepper.
  • Palate: A soothing balm of oak and spice that’s both rich and sweet with rock sugar, green tea and white wine.
  • Finish: A mellow and long finish where that rock sugar and white wine lingers alongside some dusky oak. 

We then shifted gears to something completely different with the Tamdhu.

Tamdhu 11 year (2007) cask 6833 61.9% (Lady of the Glen – Hannah Whisky Merchants) 60 bottles

  • Nose – Oh my! Very metallic, stainless steel, wet granite, then quite vegetal, cabbage, then began to open up more – with some sweetness seeming into the mix. Primary notes remained metallic and mineral joined also by light saline… as it continued to air, became chocolaty with salted pralines, some nuts
  • Palate– Quite thick, wood and leather, tobacco leaf, mild sweetness, solid character of chocolaty toffee
  • Finish – Very mild, a hint of bitter
  • Water – DON’T! We found it needs the full cask strength to better show off its character, particularly loses out on the palate with water – just became harsh with spice and little else

What a contrast to the Royal Brackla! While our first was a summer dram, the Tamdhu was pure autumn. We found it very smooth and not at all sharp – deceptive at such a high cask strength. There is also an almost marine quality –  unexpected for a landlocked distillery like Knockando.

Along with it being more of a fall dram, we also thought it better suited to ‘bad weather’ dram – something to enjoy coming in from miserable wet, cool conditions. While not something exceptional, it was a whisky we put in the category of: ‘interesting to try once, not one to run out and buy’.

What more do we know? The folks at Lady of the Glen kindly keep an archive of older bottles here and have this to say:

This single malt whisky was distilled on the 24th of September 2007 and bottled on the 10th of April 2019. 50 litres were taken from Bourbon Hogshead cask #6833 to be finished in an intense Pedro Ximenez sherry octave #6833A for 3 months. This is the second and final batch of this particular release. A unique whisky, as only 60 bottles were yielded from this octave.

Our Pedro Ximenez octaves are sourced from a family-owned bodgega near Porto in Portugal. Pedro Ximenez is a very intense sweet, dark sherry. Octaves are small 50 litre oak casks that provide great levels of oak to spirit contact.

On the palate, expect flavours of hazelnut, dark toffee and butterscotch.

What an interesting start to our tasting evening. We took a break for a terrific dinner at Estragon… and returned to check out two pairs of grains and Islay drams.

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Getting back into tasting! With miniatures…

One of my favourite ways to taste whiskies is at home, with a friend or two, focused on some interesting whiskies. Even better if they feature miniatures that we would likely never buy – either as they are too rare or too expensive! Back in 2019, pre-Brexit, I bought myself a treat of Drinks by the Drams Single Cask Whisky Advent Calendar, sampled a few but then set aside for when could share the experience with one or two fellow whisky aficionados.

Fast forward to a fine 2022 September evening in Nurnberg with friends. We had dinner plans however a wee whisky tasting was also on our evening agenda. Out came the miniatures and we each picked whiskies we were curious to try.

We decided to pair up our choices – two before dinner as an “appetizer”, then two additional pairs post dinner.

What did we start with?

And then our next set? Here we shifted gears completely and selected two grains:

Our final set was a further contrast – switching to peated Islay drams with:

It was a lovely evening and good fun to contrast and compare without distraction.

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Coveting Chorlton… Delayed pleasures

We’ve been on a bit of a “Chorlton” journey… I’ve become a complete fan of David’s cask choices, his gorgeous labels and so over the last few years I’ve done my best to snag a nice set or two with plans of having a few special tastings.

Last week I was supposed to be enjoying these beauties… carefully collected as a special 60th birthday celebration which was postponed a few times as we struggled to organize a gathering across countries. Finally the night was planned in London, flights booked and the bottles ready and waiting to be opened! And then along came a rather unpleasant bout with COVID…. sigh… So whilst I missed the evening, considerable enjoyment was reported along these lines:

  • Glen Elgin 12 year 56.6%A lovely appetizer dram
  • Tormore 28 year 42.4% One of those rare remarkable whiskies
  • Bunnahabhain 18 year 53.4%Really stood out
  • Plus a bonus bottle purchased by our birthday boy – the Orkney 22 year 53.4% (aka Highland Park) which also made quite the impression!

Hopefully, in a few months, there will be an opportunity to get to London and quite possibly snag a wee sample to experience myself!

Thanks to shipments finally making it to Europe, I have these lovelies with me in Nuremberg;

  • From April 2022 releases: Mannochmore 13 year 59%Caol Ila 11 year 60.4%
  • From December 2021 releases: Staoisha 8 year 59.9% (aka Bunnahabhain)

Whereas I’m not sure when I will be united with these waiting for me in London or Paris:

  • From December 2021 releases: Ledaig 12 year 55.5%Speyside (Glenrothes) 13 year 64.6%
  • From the May 2022 releases: Faemussach 21 year 56%Teaninich 12 year 54.2%Benrinnes 14 year 55%

However, I won’t be sampling these anytime soon! Not being very patient, I’m left with memories of previous tastings…

However rather than long for what I can’t try, here is a quick summary of those from Chorlton’s La Nouvelle Vague series I have had the pleasure of trying:

And from Chorlton‘s earlier L’Ancien Régime series:

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Kilchoman Tequila Finish 53.4%

It has been a while since I sat down and properly tasted a Kilchoman… in truth, I don’t think even once since meeting Kilchoman’s charming founder Anthony Willis in the Spirited Stories tent at The Vault Biennale. I will fully admit to a certain fondness for Kilchoman – in part as this Islay distillery is part of the ‘new generation’ of distilleries who have proven with an eye to quality and artistry, you don’t need to wait more than a decade to produce a fine dram.

So what did we think of Anthony’s experiment with Tequila? Did it need salt and lime to knock back as a shot? Or favour an extra anejo? Or reveal little to no influence of the agave finish at all?

Kilchoman 8 year (11 Dec 2012 / 15 Nov 2021) Bourbon Cask No 824/2012, Tequila Finish 53.4% (50 PPM) TWE Exclusive, Bottle 147 of 267

  • Nose – Ripe mushy bananas, a fruity sour mash, leafy and a bit vegetal, saline with light hint of smoke, we even speculated if there was a touch of black salt? However the more time it spent in the glass, the more it opened up… shifting into candied red apples, marshmallows, then more tropical fruits
  • Palate – Unmistakable peat and sweet, powerful yet exceedingly well balanced, chewy with a good mouthfeel, some pepper and sweet spices, perhaps a bit of that agave element subtly peaking through
  • Finish – Sweet red cinnamon candies, followed by a nice agave finish
  • Water – Not necessary but holds well with a splash, becoming more herbal

So…. does the tequila work? Yes… as it has only a subtle influence rather than being very pronounced unbalancing the other elements. And that was the success here – everything in perfect harmony – sweet and salt, peat and sweet, spice and herb – all working together.

What more do we know? As usual, Kilchoman peats to 50 PPM and in this case used an ex-Bourbon cask for 8 years before finishing for approx 8 months in an ex-Tequila cask. It reminded me why Kilchoman has made its mark – there is no dramatic heavy peat here – instead, the peat provides a lovely interplay with the other cask elements.

I noted down the official tasting notes from the bottle:

  • Nose – Malted hay and tropical fruit sweetness
  • Palate – Herbacsious with layers of fresh fruits and burst of agave
  • Finish – Waves of agave freshness with soft sweet peat

In large part, I would agree with the notes… however, personally found the peat more pronounced on the palate with the agave much more subtle.

Talisker, Kilchoman, Stauning

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Talisker 8 Year (2020) Rum Finish 57.9%

Talisker is known for its lightly peated salty maritime character, situated on the Isle of Sky. Part of the Diageo stable of whiskies, their range has been quite stable over the years with a 10 year, 18 year, Storm… More recently, they have launched some variations with whiskies matured to 8 years – one of which I tried as an ‘Old Particular’ mini from Douglas Laing – quite a pleasant dram that hit the spot in colder climes…

So what did we think of this new cask strength experiment?

Talisker 8 year (2020) Rum Finish 57.9%

  • Nose – Hay, heather, leather, comes across as ‘dry’ yet also has a rum sweetness and raisins, heavy on the ripe bananas joined by other tropical fruit, some roasted pineapple, a hint of coconut and pepper spice chased by a light curl of smoke and sea spray
  • Palate – Jeera (cumin) tamarind ‘goli’… loads of bitter (almost edging into bitter gourd) that initially got in the way of discerning other elements… gradually easing into a roasted black pepper, followed by a sour rum, steeped neem leaves – slightly astringent, then salty
  • Finish – There but… didn’t have any predominant notes – perhaps a bit of black licorice at the end?
  • Revisit – After setting aside, when returned the rum dimension was much more evident – in a good way!

Whilst clearly not a typical Talisker, the light peat, pepper, and saline maritime elements were there. The rum certainly took it in a different direction however it wasn’t entirely harmonious. The nose was the most appealing part with the palate more curious than enjoyable and the finish almost forgettable.

I realized much later that I wasn’t in the least bit tempted to try with water – though this was at cask strength. Perhaps that would have brought out different elements and tempered the slightly strange palate.

So what more do we know? This is part of the Diageo Special Releases 2020 and was finished in pot-distilled Jamaican rum casks.

What else? There was also care taken with the packaging – certainly upping their ‘game’… Not just with this special edition – they have also refreshed their standard range too.

Talisker, Kilchoman, Stauning

This whisky joined an evening devoted to a curious trio of Rum, Tequila and Mezcal finishes… followed by:

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The Whisky Warehouse No. 8 – Braon Peat 57.5%

Last in our Whisky Warehouse No. 8 quartet was a contrast between Braon Peat and Inchfad! I’d hoped to try Braon Peat but alas after ordering was informed it was no longer available – sigh… so the Inchfad 14 year was sent instead. Whereas with the Miltonduff substitution – clearly the PX Sherry 14 year trumped the ex-Bourbon 11 year, it was the opposite here – Braon Peat had the Inchfad beat!

So…. what did my tasting companions think of their dram?

Braon Peat Batch 7 (15 April 2019) 57.5%

  • Nose – First whiff was smoked bacon, apples, sweet beef jerky then back to apples and pears
  • Palate – An explosion – very sweet, peat, “feel meal deal!”, meaty with a great mouthfeel
  • Finish – Smoke and spice and everything nice with a long finish

In short, they loved it! They particularly enjoyed how it was sweet peat, perfectly in balance.

What do the folks at Whisky Warehouse No 8 have to say about their Braon Peat?

The latest batch of Braon Peat lives up to its name ‘peat drop’ because ‘peat as peat can’ applies here! There aren’t many whiskies that showcase their peaty side with o much impact in the glass. This is mitigated with a little thinning, but then it’s not that much fun anymore. You’re really looking forward to the coming winter time with horiztonal sleet showers and cold feet. These will be the moments when you want the Braon Peat in your hip flask.

  • Odour: Warm smoke with some dry dust, oily-fleshy with sweet molasses notes, machine hall, slightly herbal like dried oregano.
  • Taste: The peat notes are in the foreground, the whiskey comes across as a bit meaty, while at the same time surprisingly herbal, as if the meat had been previously marinated in mallow leaves. Although one searches in vain for fruity notes, the whiskey has a slightly sweet taste. With dilution, some malty crispness is revealed and the peat notes are less meaty.
  • Finish: Oily, intensely peaty with some black pepper and long lasting.

As for the Inchfad? It was more or less what we found when tasting with an earlier set.

What more did we have in our WW8 Regions set?

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The Whisky Warehouse No. 8 – Miltonduff 11 year vs 14 years

A year ago I ordered two “Regions” sets from Whisky Warehouse No 8 with the intention to enjoy together at some point… then we decided to include another friend and I went to order a 3rd set… alas not all of the original whiskies were the same! We both had the Speyside region represented by Miltonduff however they couldn’t be more contrasting!

My friends sampled the Miltonduff 11 years (8 Feb 1995 – 30 Oct 2015) Bourbon Hogshead 59.5% 363 Bottles…

Whereas the new set included the Miltonduff 14 year (Jun 2007 – July 2021) WW8 76 1st Fill Px Sherry Octave 50.4% (76 bottles).

Gotta admit, I think I hit the jackpot on this one – the PX Sherry was fabulous whereas my friends were not quite so enthusiastic about their ex-Bourbon Hogshead. What did I find?

  • Colour – Dark amber
  • Nose – Stewed apples with cinnamon and brown sugar, ginger and toffee, roofsa (rose), sweetly sour.. incredibly inviting
  • Palate – Wow! What an intense burst of flavours! All you would expect from a great sherry matured whisky – full-bodied, dark fruits and berries, chocolate, salty toffee… ginger marmalade… all swirling around in an indulgent smooth dram
  • Finish – And what a finish! Fabulous… simply fabulous…

I thoroughly enjoyed this one. It had that satisfying “proper” classic whisky quality. This is the kind of dram you’d love to curl up with on a quiet evening after coming in from the cold.

What did my friends find with theirs?

Miltonduff 11 years (8 Feb 1995 – 30 Oct 2015) Bourbon Hogshead 59.5% 363 Bottles

  • Nose – Vegetal, wood varnish, seaside, yeast, raw sourdough, a hint of smoke
  • Palate – A bit spicy, malty, doughy,
  • Finish – Also a bit spicy

My friends found the aromas a bit underwhelming however enjoyed the palate more. As I read the Tasting Notes from WW8, they didn’t disagree.

Miltonduff 11 years (8 Feb 1995 – 30 Oct 2015) Bourbon Hogshead 59.5%

With this whiskey you probably look at the label and rub your eyes in amazement. Because from a Bourbon barrel maturation one normally expects a much leaner, less voluminous whiskey than this Miltonduff, which is not stingy with its charms. In a blind tasting, it would probably have passed as a wine-barrel-aged whiskey due to its fruity notes and the pastry / biscuit relationship.
  • Odor: Ripe fruity, almost creamy and a bit nutty, freshly baked sponge cake that still looks a bit doughy, grainy, and vanilla-like, there is even a trace of smoke in the background.
  • Taste: Again fruity and doughy biscuit, grainy. But now there are also spicy notes such as orange pepper, a little cardamom and a hint of sweet licorice, wood aromas from ripening are still cautious. With dilution, more nutty aromas appear again.
  • Aftertaste: It is mainly the spicy notes that come to the fore in the aftertaste and now there is also a maltiness that was previously hidden.

What else did we have in our WW8 Regions set:

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The Whisky Warehouse No. 8 – Port Dundas 10 year 47.9%

Port Dundas distillery closed in 2011, demolished by its owners Diageo two hundred years after its operations began. The folks at Whisky Warehouse No 8 selected this discontinued grain as the Lowland whisky for its regions set. And what a chance to taste something that will not be repeated!

So… what did we think?

Port Dundas 10 year (26 Oct 2009 – 31 Oct 2019) Refill Sherry Hogshead 47.9% (288 bottles)

  • Colour – Dark amber
  • Nose – Moss, seaweed, wet leaves, petrol… then began to shift into Port, prunes, cherry syrup, herbal with a medicinal edge…. then after the 1st sip delightful vanilla cream, rum raisins
  • Palate – Oh my! What a contrast! It reminded us of a dark single rum such as Criterion or Hampden…. super smooth, heavy and rich, molasses and wood elements… all of this in the 1st sip! As we went in for the 2nd sip, we
  • Finish – Consistent with the palate… rummy and long
  • Water – We didn’t add but instead took a nice swig of cold water between sips… brought out more of the dark fruits and berries, tempering the rum quality slightly

Wow! This was quite an interesting one! It was hard to believe it was a ‘mere’ grain, however, we’ve learned to not underestimate the liquid magic that makes a blend.

We found it had such a distinctive character with a huge difference between nose and palate. And whilst we knew it was a refill sherry cask, the intense rum flavours from just 10 years in a refill sherry hogshead was remarkable.

What more did we have in ourWW8 Regions set?

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