Last in our North Star trio was a whisky from its 2nd series simply named “Islay”. We sampled it blind and were floored by the reveal with an introduction to a new independent bottler who certainly seems to be bringing quality and value to his selections.
Islay 8 year (June 2008 / May 2017) 58.3% 1 of 230 bottles
Nose – A sour peat… dare I say it… almost headache inducing? Certainly highly medicinal. Which then slipped into ham, pineapple, mellow with a very different character than how it began, lemon tart, musk melon, some spice… shifted again this time into smoked sweet grass, green coffee beans, cut hay, quite vegetal, dry forrest
Palate – Starts exceedingly smooth then SPICE. Had a phenolic Islay style sweet peat not the palate with smoked pepper ham, with more fruits like grilled pineapple and apricot
Finish – Sweet, slightly briney and ends with something we couldn’t quite name… after going on and on and on…..
Water – Wow! What a difference! It really brought out the best qualities – the nose took on a peak smoke with dark chocolate and cherries, the palate augmented the sweet peat with a berry dimension and the finish then revealed beneath the salty sweet ash a light citrus sweet
As the last of our trio, we joked that perhaps the theme of the evening was spice, sweet and slow things down as each whisky took its time to fully reveal its character.
Our talk turned to speculate the origins of this dram. For all it was sufficiently distinctively Islay to fall in that camp. But which one? We veered towards Caol Ila which, though not actually stated by the bottler, may very well be the case.
The extra fruitiness that emerged behind the peat made sense once I learned the whisky was finished in a pair of ex-sherry octave casks.
Ardmore Peat 8 year (June 2008 / Oct 2016) 58.7% 1 of 198 bottles
Nose – PEAT, oily, sulfer, soapy, capsules… like walking into a doctor’s or chemist shop, iodine, steam engine, musty… then started to shift character revealing waves and waves of cinnamon, plums, mosambi juice, dark juicy fruits, black cherry, cinnamon apple juice, sour cherries…. kept evolving shifting from fruits to a slightly oily soot, like sacred ash, then a bit lactic, old flowers like malas after a day or so… then dark chocolate… and yet another element revealing such a delicious BBQ honey bacon, lots of smoked meats, light tar… followed by coffee, creamy yoghurt… an absolutely unbelievable nose
Palate – Sweet roaring spice, lots of sweet peat, stewed chewy fruits, then sweet meats and BBQ. Has good body, lots of character, oodles of spice yet still beautifully balanced between all the elements.
Finish – Chocolate cinnamon with a slight orange zest with a “hold” that really stays… dry
Water – Brilliant with! Becomes so sweet, lovely honey bacon with a mandarin perfume twist on the nose, silky smooth with a lovely rolling cinnamon sweet on the palate and fantastic finish.
We began to speculate, while it clearly had peat, we thought it wasn’t an obvious Islay dram, yet still likely Scottish. It has a gentle peat quality, pronounced, firmly there but with a subtle hand.
Thinking about the cask, we wondered about french oak? Something that gives a good kick like the way the virgin oak does for Spice Tree.
Again we guessed cask strength and absolutely loved the way water gave it even more “something.”
One remarked that it was a bit “naughty” in the nicest possible way…
Could any of us pick out that it was Ardmore! Not a chance… and that too from a new independent bottler? Impossible.
This was an evening of discovery… starting with tasting completely blind a mystery malt… which turned out to be a 20 year Glenrothes from North Star’s Cask Series 001…
Glenrothes 20 year (Oct 1996/Oct 2016) 54.6% 1 of 198 bottles, Refill sherry
Colour – Yellow gold
Nose – Light varnish, heavy honey, citrus lemon, then marmalade, apricot, like breakfast cereal, sense of being very “full”, dry fruits, creme rum and raisin, sense of high alcohol, creamy toffee, chocolate chips, shifting into a curl of tobacco, black ‘bara’ elichi. After time it shifted into molasses and powdered icing sugar with sweet spices
Palate – An explosion of flavour. Salty caramel, completely matches the nose with force… sharp then diffuses into fruity deliciousness. The 2nd sip was much spicier with a creamy quality. And the 3rd revealed tobacco, tannic and dry… then shifted into a sweet perfume palate. Simply “yum!”
Finish – Bitter with a ‘khatta‘ sourness like tart apples, initially seemed short, then we realized it is quite the opposite – a lovely long finish with hazelnut pepper and red fruits
Water – Kicked up the spice – particularly on the finish, changed and holds. Normally we find water can initially notch up the spice, then mellows. In this case, it remains – lots of peppers, really holds its own with water, reveals a lovely mocha coffee
We joked that it “Tastes delicious on the nose!” like walking into a cookie store! It really teases, from sweetness to bitter with a beautiful balance. Another thought it would make a great “cigar” malt….
We speculated it must have a high alcohol content – likely cask strength, definitely Scottish, well constructed though we thought perhaps it may not be very old – perhaps 8 – 12 years? We really appreciated its fabulously long finish.
We also observed it had a terrific synch between its aromas and palate – both delicious and mirroring their notes.
The reveal was such a surprise. None of us would have guessed it could be 20 years. Some remarked their mixed experience with Glenrothes, finding it sometimes over-priced for what it delivers.
Laphroaig 19 year (Oct 1996-Feb 2016) Cask No 10720 53.9% (Old Particular) Bottle 1 of 22, Refill Hogshead
Nose – Medicinal, smoky, maritime sea salt, a bit of black pepper peaking behind, then mellowed into an incredible cinnamon sweetness, chased by an almost pine freshness… after some time more like creme brûlée, chocolate caramel. cappuccino with a dusting of mocha… in short yum!
Palate – Wow! All chewy leather and toffee, nicely smoky and spicy, all swirling about, chocolaty even
Finish – Leather, tobacco, more of that cinnamon sweetness, long and lingering
It gave the impression of a beautiful complex nuanced dram… As I literally only had two small sips, no chance to try with water but it was a delight to have any at all to try!
It also was my first snifter of the evening, with no hint of harshness for the 1st nip of alcohol, let alone a cask strength one. An exceedingly good sign of it being a dangerously drinkable dram!
I’ve not had the pleasure of “Old Particular” bottles but if this was any indication… I wouldn’t mind keeping an eye out…
Adelphi Glen Garioch 1993 (note image from different year)
Glen Garioch 17 year (1996-2016) Cask No 3730 55.7% (Adelphi) 152 bottles
Nose – Top note of varnish, orange cream cookies or that fanta fizz, citrus zest, sweet honey, clove, a teasing nose that later revealed a musty quality – in a good way
Palate – Spicy, old style wood, sweet spice orange like clove studded oranges at Christmas, an almost brandy-like quality, red and green stewed apples, a dash of cocoa, continued to evolve taking on a meaty quality like a quality wagyu steak
Finish – Lovely chewy dates
There was a nicely mature quality to this dram, exceedingly smooth and no sense of it being full strength at 55.7%. A lovely sherry quality, more in keeping with what we normally expect – and that’s a mighty fine thing indeed!
After two teasing whisky flights of 20 ml each at The Single Cask in Singapore, it was time to have a full and proper dram.
To narrow the choices, I by-passed “smoky” or “sweet” to settle on “salty”… as a contrast to the mostly lighter drams we’d just sampled…
And the choice? A whisky from Ben Nevis distillery bottled by The Single Cask. This distillery joins the lot which were opened then closed and re-opened again – in Ben Nevis case – re-opened in 1991 under the new owners – Nikka.
Ben Nevis 19 year (09.07.1996/16.06.2016) Cask No 871 45.1% Bottle 6 of 68
Nose – Salty – not sea breeze but more leather with salty caramel, as it opened up took on a sour curd quality
Palate – More chewy, soft spice, character
Finish – Bit of smoke and spice, with a nice milk chocolate at the end
A few drops of water brought out the spice and a much longer finish with sweet cinnamon.
Apparently this whisky came from a leaky cask, hence why there were only 68 bottles.
What also makes this out of the ordinary for Ben Nevis is that it was matured in bourbon not sherry casks.
And the best part? It was paired in a truly spectacular fashion with a salty caramel chocolate – locally hand crafted and absolutely the perfect accompaniment!
My earlier whisky flight experiences can be found here:
I first flirted with Glentauchers as part of a set of 17 year old Ballantine‘s blends ‘featuring’ variations that focused on exploring the component distilleries. While an interesting experiment, nothing substitutes for experiencing a whisky in its single malt avatar.
Given nearly all Glentauchers goes into blends – primarily Ballantine’s and Teachers – this isn’t so easy to accomplish.
So I was particularly pleased to have a chance to try a Carn Mor bottle at The Single Cask.
Nose – Cereals with lightly toasted seeds, apple sauce, quite sweet with a hint of very faint jasmine
Palate – This is where more character reveals itself, almost reminded me of a lemon barley squash, gentle malt, sweet and fruity, with a hint of toasted nuts and something else elusive I couldn’t quite catch!
Finish – Retrained and gentile, quite lovely
Overall it is exceedingly easy to drink, smooth, approachable, entirely civilized though not terribly distinctive… In short quite ‘likeable’ and one for folks enjoy a lightly fruity whisky. Though restrained, the finish was truly quite enjoyable… nuanced yet very much present.
Here is what The Single Cask folks have to say about this Glentauchers (SG$198.80):
This is a sweet easy, fruity Speysider!
Nose has sugar, sweets, overripe apples and maybe whiffs of flowers.
Taste is sweet and green apples, lemon drops, sweet barley, tinned pineapples, maple syrup.
Finish is nice, with a little more caramel
Reading their description after sampling the whisky, I would overall quite agree!
This Speyside distillery has been a bit of a ‘2nd cousin’ to the more prominent Glenmorangie distillery when owned by Macdonald & Muir and even with Martiniquaise, it is primarily used for the French company’s blends such as Label 5 and Glen Turner. Glen Moray single malts from the distillery have tended to be quite affordable, earlier with age statements of 10 (finished in Chardonnay cask), 12 and 16 years, more recently replaced by their Elgin collections:
‘Elgin Classic‘ line of NAS first fill ex-bourbon, peated then sherry, port and chardonnay cask finish
So to find a 21 year is an anomaly… in this case from from Douglas of Dramlanrig collection of single cask bottlings from Hunter Laing, endorsed by the Duke of Buccleuch himself. Bearing the image of the Douglas family seat – Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfries and Galloway. While initially available only through The Whisky Shop, you can now find Douglas bottles in other places as well..
Nose – Cereals, light honey drizzle, all the usual light bright single malt notes
Palate – Spice then sweet with a nice interplay between the two, as it opens up becomes more and more creamy
Finish – More of a dry burn, nothing spectacular
The palate is the strongest dimension whereas the finish is the least interesting element. In truth, we were challenged to tease out many specifics… It was just a classic middle of the road malt that neither stood out as particularly unusual yet had nothing ‘wrong’ either.
In truth, the limited aromas was consistent for all but the Miltonduff… which I later suspect had more to do with sitting directly underneath an A/C vent sharing a small 20 ml pour than the whiskies themselves. Particularly with the Gloen Moray, I’ll openly admit to struggling to discern much beyond a cursory impression.
Douglas of Dramlanrig is inspired by the rolling hills and green forests in the estate of the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensferry, Douglas of Drumlanrig is a collection of single cask bottlings personally endorsed and approved by the Duke himself. (SG$294.00)
This whisky was sampled as part of a whisky flight at The Single Cask together with:
There are some whiskies that if you simply sniff, swish and move on, you may not catch what makes them enjoyable. This Deanston is one of those which initially had quite an unassuming character, yet if you didn’t give it a proper chance, would miss out on a rather companionable dram… it also just so happened to kick of our 2nd Whisky flight with a “lighter touch” at Singapore’s The Single Cask.
Deanston 15 years (1997/2013) Cask No 1958 45.8%
Here is what we found:
Nose – A nice honey sweetness, light touch of flowers, vanilla and a ‘green’ grass fresh quality
Palate – Initially the impression is of citrus sweetness, then with a bit of cheekiness, it starts to reveal much more character with a bit of light spice, raspberries and vanilla wood
Finish – Short, simple and slightly sweet
Overall it is simply a lovely easy drinking whisky. Not complicated, not a show-stopper but one you wouldn’t mind coming back to…
Even when revisited after sampling the other whiskies, there was something simply ‘comfortable’ and ‘comforting’ about this one… and I found myself coming back to it for a final sniff, sip and sigh of happiness.
And here is what the folks over at the Single Cask have to say:
Nose: This is a very natural whisky that is added to, but not burdened, by wood influence. We have just enough vanilla pod and bruleed banana that complements the spirit’s masses of estery green fruit. It is on the whole light and exuberant, showing the freshness of green apple peels but is also anchored by malt notes and linseed oil.
Palate: The wood has more to say here, with a growing hot spiciness and black pepper. But look past that and find tart berries, pollen and – surprise – lots of lilies.
Finish: Vanilla and more charred spiciness linger on.
I certainly didn’t catch any oil or lillies but overall wouldn’t disagree… except for the finish lingering… not in what we experienced but you can also see there wasn’t much left in the bottle! Particularly with lighter whiskies, I find oxidation can be a factor in shifting some elements.
Often when one thinks whisky, what jumps to mind are the sherry bombs, the power packed peat monsters, the salty brine maritime malt, or even a bourbon banana sweet… yet nestled amongst those bold, sometimes brash characters are a subtler lot…
One tends to associate a lighter, slightly sweeter touch with whiskies from the Highlands or Lowlands… though not necessarily so…
On my 2nd stop to The Single Cask, we picked the featured whisky flight with: