Category Archives: Whisky Reviews & Tasting Notes

Highland Park Cask Strength Release No. 2 Review

I remember falling hard for Highland Park years ago. One of my best mates was the brand ambassador at the time I was courting HP (or maybe it was courting me?), and I vividly recall attending events he hosted and feeling like there was something kinda special about this distillery. Between his ability to evocatively express what I was picking up in the glass and his profound gift for marrying fact, history, and humor, I was probably the proverbial fish in a barrel. In fact, I know I was.

That doesn’t change the fact that Highland Park was, on the whole, releasing some pretty damn good malts. And quite regularly, at that. I think we can be confident they still have great casks in those storied warehouses, but I’m just not certain where they’re ending up these days. The core HP range is weaker than I can ever remember it being, the branding is a constant source of mockery for many folks (come on, guys, the Viking thing is played out), and the higher age statement releases have been stratospherically positioned, ergo pricing out many of the old vanguard. I hate to say it, but when it comes to Highland Park, there’s not a lot to be excited about these days. So this should be better, aye?

Well, not exactly. I can’t lie though, I’m surprised it took ’em this long to release a young cask strength expression.

Now…rumour* has it that this is 12-13 years old. Ummm…if you say so. It sure doesn’t drink like a dozen years. Is there 12 year old in it? Maybe. But this is no rounded and balanced dram. Blind, I’d guess more like 7 or 8. Probably to some folks’ liking, but I’ll pass on anything but a free dram.

Release No. 2. Sherry seasoned European & American oak casks. 63.9% abv

*Rumour = Whiskybase commentary

Tasting Notes

Nose: Mediocre, youthful, Highland Park. A fair few off notes, that do sort of softemn with a bit of time. Overripe fruits. Toasted marshmallow. Sour and maybe a tick puke-y. Heavy, boozy caramel. Palate: Burny, boozy, and the peat profile is slightly…burnt. A bit of decay. Slightly cloying and wine-y. A lot of spice and figgy notes. Not tooooo hot, all things considered. Drinks big, but not blindingly so. But definitely not ‘of age’, in my opinion. I think this is an experiment in hiding youth through active (seasoned?) casks and high abv. Finish: Not a great finish. A lot of time in the glass helps this one a lot, though. 76/100

Laphroaig 10 Cask Strength Batch 013 Review

For the first time, Laphroaig 10 Cask Strength has made its way to Canada. We’ve been kicking and screaming for this stuff for years, but our pleas have fallen on deaf ears. Until now. But before you get excited and start thinking the levee has broken and we’ll soon be aflood in a lake of Leapfrog, think again. The volume of liquid we’re getting here seems to be akin to what you’d trap in a solar still in a Saharan survival situation. But I’m not going to moan on. Instead, I’ll be grateful for having tasted it and to be able to share a few notes that may help someone make an informed dram decision at some point.

I’ve tried a bunch of these batches over the years, though usually carried back from the distillery. If I’m being honest, I never leave Islay without a bottle or two in my bag, and to this day, I’ve not found a batch I didn’t like nor a bottle of it I didn’t mourn when it died. Batch 013 is no exception. Truly an elegant powerhouse. Like watching Shrek execute a pirouette. But in addition to all of the expected hallmarks of this expression, there seems to be a heavier farmyard-y note than usual. And that, friends, is right up my alley. So, yeah…it’s pretty much everything it’s cracked up to be.

Shame on you, Beam Suntory, for not having this here sooner and in greater quantity.

Batch 013. Bottled January 2021. Ex-Bourbon Barrels. 57.9% abv.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Farmyard. Iodine. Goopy tar. Cracked black peppercorns. All sorts o’ meds. Orange peel. A touch of mango as it opens. Lime. And lime candies. Smells a bit sherried, despite the declaration of being all ex-bourbon. Wet, almost rotty, hay. Cigar tobacco. Epoisse (fromage). Coke meets Root Beer meets Dr. Pepper. A bit of ‘stank’ here…in all the right ways. Palate: Rather dry arrival, then wham!…explodes in smoked and spicy juicy fruits. Candied fennel. Surprisingly firm malt behind it. Marmalade and a thread of black cherry. Salted fish. Horehound candy. Burnt pineapple. Finish: Long and stretchy as taffee. Apples soaked in wine (yes, there’s almost a slight wine-iness to the back end). Some sort of dental paste/putty. Finishes a bit dry. Great development. 89/100

Glen Grant 15 y.o. Batch Strength Review

I was recently approached by some of our local representation for Glen Grant. They wanted to send me a bottle of the new Batch Strength 15 year old. The implication is that I’d help share the word. I think you know me by now, I’ve never really warmed to the idea of collecting freebies. That’s not why I do this. But I had an idea. An idea that would allow the good folks who reached out to me (and do note, they were lovely) to get some honest feedback, and also allow a bunch of my mates to try a dram of a malt I know none (or few) had ever tried. And I think…I may continue this idea if more offers come in.

I accepted, with thanks, and shortly thereafter a package arrived with my name on it. First off: Love the branding. The colors pop. I know it’s not very traditional or austere, but it’s got a bit of…gumption.

So…I took the bottle into work a couple weeks back and poured a round of drams for my coworkers. Blind. I repeat, blind. All I asked was that they’d share a few thoughts as they drammed. No one had any info to work with, other than seeing the color in their glass. The rest was all sensory evaluation and rough scoring. We circled up and I began jotting down everyone’s ballpark scores and rough hollered-out tasting notes. I did the exact same thing a couple nights later with the Unkindness Collective guys, as the first dram in an evening of inebriated philosophizing (or something). I’ve bundled up all those collected notes and compiled an aggregate score based on these awesome and uber-cooperative ten individual folks’ input.

Before we get there, however, I just want to take a sec to offer up a thought for the folks at Glen Grant: Tweak this little promo package thingy you send out if you want to continue offering samples to those of us who speak about the whisky industry. The whole package seems a little…out of touch. I don’t understand the two ice cube trays that were included. Nor the logic behind sending out a bottle with Jim Murray’s endorsement stickered to the front label, in light of a rather inflammatory situation that has recently been brought to the public’s eye. Actually, not so recently, and that’s part of the problem. By nature, a bottling like this (especially with a name like “Batch Strength”) is obviously geared toward a slightly more discerning whisky drinker. Yet these two missteps make it suspect that you actually understand your target demographic. Speaking as a very passionate whisky lad: It’s hard to be passionate about a brand that obviously doesn’t hold the same that same passion. Or isn’t projecting it well, anyway. There. That’s my gripe. And that was a lot of passion.

But at the end of the day, we’re here to talk whisky, and Glen Grant in particular. I’m glad I got a try at this one. And if I’m being honest, I didn’t even know it had hit our market. My bad. It’s a decent whisky overall, but nothing that cuts an identifiable profile. I’ll probably have another dram or two, then pass the heel off to a mate. If any of my local friends care to have a go before that happens…drop me a message and I’ll pass off a sample. Whisky is meant to be shared, as the team at Glen Grant generously showed us. Thanks Team GG, on behalf of all who shared from this bottle, and will share from this bottle.

Anyway…here are the gang’s collected notes, shouted out answers, and a few of my own notes. This should give a fairly rounded profile that probably paints a more accurate picture than I could alone.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Ginger. Poached pear. Big ex-bourbon influence. Red berries and cream. Reminds of Auchentoshan Valinch, without the massive orange note. Lightly-toasted almond. Malty. Creamy. Fruity. Peppercorn. Honeyed white fruits. Banana? Fresh. Green apple. Reminds of Glenrothes. Palate: Creamy. Clean. Distillate-driven, as opposed to cask-driven. Doesn’t drink hot. Sweet. Young. Reminds of the Glenlivet Nadurra 16. Warm. Toasted wood. Cereal and grain. Finish: Short. Some others said long. Lime peel. Apple cider. Aggregate Score: 82/100

Glenfarclas 185th Anniversary Review

I knew this release was coming, but it wasn’t really one I was really anticipating. Let’s face it…this was not going to be in the same sort of league as the rather legendary 175th Anniversary release which was said to have included casks from as far back as the 1950s.

Having said that, I adore Glenfarclas. I think y’all know that by now. It’s just that this 185th Anniversary release was bound to be younger, bound to be rooted squarely in the more contemporary school of malts. In other words, I’m dancing around one of those ‘back in my day’ type of stories.

But even if that is the case, let’s just say that it’s good to be back in Ballindalloch. Even if only in a virtual and vicarious sense.

I’ve probably been a wee bit snobby and concentrated a tick more heavily on the Family Casks and older expressions from Glenfarclas in recent years than I should have, often to the unintentional neglect of the core range. Said range is ticking along just fine, I might add; it’s just that, well, those low ABVs, George. I know bumping ’em all to 46% is not in the cards (and would absolutely shitcan that cracker of a tale about your grandfather’s initiative to hold the 15year old to a higher proof), but reaching for the sub-46s can be an exercise in willful delusion sometimes. Love the flavors, hate the anemic texture. Anyway, rest easy. This suiting tribute to 185 years of Glenfarclas is a worthy addition to the larder.

Congrats to our friends at Glenfarclas. I’d normally say, ‘can’t wait to see what the future brings’, but so long as you’re chugging away being you, it sorta feels like all is right in the malt-o-sphere.

46% abv. 6,000 bottles. Not a heavyweight, by any means, but robust and oily, and perfectly comfortable on the palate.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Wow. Kinda…dare I say…old school-ish, in terms of sherry profile. Old barrel. Creme caramel and raspberry reduction. Lightly peppered white dough. MacIntosh apple. Raisin butter tarts. Musty purple grape. Caramel Macchiato. A bit mince-y.
Linseed. Antique wood.

Palate: Absolutely, infinitely, unquestionably Glenfarclas. Almost certainly the legacy of those direct-fired wash stills, which always give a lightly sharp burnt note on the palate (especially the finish). Old toothy Armagnac. Orange peel. Fennel. Slightly root-y. A hint of mulled cider. Dry cinnamon buns. Some rather bitter, dark fruit notes. Edging into those tangy, tropicals I love.

Finish: Quite herbal, actually, once the fruit notes back down. Dandelion. Burnt grain. Pleasant, if tannic. And longish.

Thoughts: Clean, flawless sherry casks and almost the Platonic form of Glenfarclas. Others seem to be finding a few more vibrant fruits than I am, but I’m okay with the more integrated melange I’m getting.

88/100

Cadenhead 7 Stars Blended Scotch Whisky Review

If it says Cadenhead, Campbeltown, Springbank, or in any way references the goings-on around the Kintyre peninsula, you know it’s bound to be stirring the masses a bit. The zombie-like singular focus on all things Springbank has hit fever pitch in the whisky community and, if I didn’t love the stuff so much myself, I’d have been at the jumping-off point about two years ago. But, of course, that’s like quitting after you’ve been fired, if you get my drift.

Truth-telling: when I was last in the Cadenhead warehouses for a cask tasting, I can’t lie, it was a pretty underwhelming experience with some pretty mediocre whiskies.* So, the question is, was there enough solid stock in those dusty ol’ halls to put together a rock star blend? Only one way to find out. Let’s see what Hedley and co. are offering up this time ’round…

You can expect a dirty old-school-styled blend in some ways, but with a slightly modern dressing. It seems to be pretty heavy on malt and has a rather lumbering sherry influence. Makes sense as, after blending, this was finished in Oloroso. And I think we can acknowledge that the Springbank family has a pretty identifiable style of sherry casking. If Gordon & MacPhail has the coursers in sherry casks, then the J&A Mitchell & Company certainly have the Clydesdales.

*But trust me, the whiskies we had in the Springbank warehouses (or on the Springbank tour, anyway) more than made up for it.

46% abv

Tasting Notes

Nose: Funky, waxy, deep and dirty, Cold coffee grounds in an old filter. Definitely a bit of that dunnage-y, earthy Campbeltown character. Slightly smoky (oh, so faint). Figs and candied nuts (sounds almost Dickensian, doesn’t it?). Almonds. Biscuits. Baked, spiced apple. Mulling spices and boiling raisins. Wet lumber. Noses like a malt, to be honest.

Palate: A lot of dried fruits. Some overripe cherry and that rather new-ish style of dumpy, heavy (and oh, so cocoa-powder-dry), nutty sherry (anyone else miss the tropical old jammy sherry of old?) So this is a blend, is it? Really? First sips don’t really suggest that. Notes of gingerbread and boozy tiramisu, doused in over-oxidized Oloroso. Some more raisins. Ok…a bit of grainy silkiness peeking through now. Neat, but heavy.

Finish: Long and deep. Expected nothing less. Apple peelings. Slight touch of maraschino. A bit grippy.

Thoughts: I’m rather keen on this one. And the packaging too. Smartly, wickedly retro.

84.5/100

Ardbeg Scorch Committee (2021) Notes

I (and many like me, I think) had high expectations for Scorch as some sort of a second coming of Alligator. These were perhaps unfairly lofty preconceived notions, but let’s not pretend that isn’t the exact image that the marketing department wanted us to be smacking our chops to. I mean, ‘heavily charred casks’ was pretty much all that most of us needed to hear, aye? Let’s face it, it’s not like Ardbeg needs to generate any more interest than they already garner. But, hey…it’s tough to brake the hype train once it’s left the shed.

Whiskybase reports that this was matured in refill Alligator casks. I hadn’t read that upon release (shame on me), but seeing as Scorch comes a decade after Alligator, I suppose it all makes sense. Having said that…these barrels, assuming they once held Alligator, were obviously still active as hell. Make no mistake, Scorch is a big, big whisky. Hard to imagine that the Arbeggy folk won’t be pleased with this one.

But is it Alligator 2? That’s the real question, innit? Put simply: nah, not really. But I’m more than happy with Scorch 1.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Black current. Chocolate. Loads of fruit. Almond. Ammonia. Insect repellent (or bug spray, if we ain’t fancyin’ it up). Ginger beer. Veterinary horse salve. Charred scallops and smoked oysters. Melted Wellies. Dragon’s breath. Grilled lime. True Ardbeg.

Palate: Chocolate ganache. Ginger. Loads of a dry coal-like smokiness. Licorice or maybe horehound candy. Black licorice ice cream, even. Pine. Like licking a salted tarry rope. Lime and lime pith. Dry and ashy.

Finish: Spices carry through. Some clay. More black licorice. Lapsang souchong. Long and evolving.

Thoughts: Cool whisky. This is one that will be highly coveted in the years to come. Wish I had more than a single bottle.

Score: 90/100

Laphroaig 16 y.o. (2019) Review

A nifty little Laphroaig that never quite made it to our shores. Well…that’s not entirely true, of course, or I’d not be sharing notes here. But…where there’s a will (and crafty friends), there’s a way. In this case, via a mate who somehow maneuvered his way into possessing a couple of bottles. Fortunately, he’s also a generous soul.

This one strikes a chord with me for one important reason, and it isn’t a sentimental one. It has to do with the craft of bottling a good spirit at a good state of development. In other words, picking the fruit when it’s ripe. This 16 year is the epitome of beautiful cask/spirit interaction. The oak is lean and firm; the spirit is at a perfect age, rich and fruity. You can tell that the big estery notes are being checked by the creaminess and soft spices of the barrel. Brilliant balance.

All I can say is, bless the man or woman who discovered just what a barrel could do to Scottish spirit. And bless the exciseman who made the illicit distillers run from hill to hill with their spirit hastily bunged up in wee casks. Assuming all those romantic Scottish tales we’ve heard are true, of course.

48% abv. 11,500 bottles. 1st Fill Ex-Bourbon Barrels.

Thanks to my mate, Ben, for the drams of this guy, and the photo below.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Instantly, blindly, recognizable as Laphroaig. Very clean and elegant. Orange and lime. Honeydew and tangerine. Sea spray. Almond and just-scraped vanilla bean. Minerally, coastal notes. A little bit boggy and earthy. Some grassy notes. Tongue depressors and chest rub. Phenols have mellowed beautiful.

Palate: Big and oily. Blood orange with anise or maybe just fennel. Starfruit, candied orange peel, gooseberry. Getting non-too-subtle hints of the bourbon influence here, and it is entirely complimentary. Salt licorice. More of that oomphy Laphroaig smoke than the nose hints at. A bit of a sour fruit tang, which I like a lot.

Finish: Long and full of tannins, oak and that neat marriage of ju-jubes and wine gums I get in a lot of Laphroaig. Still a fair bit of citrus too.

Thoughts: Frustratingly, right in my wheelhouse. Frustrating, of course, due to lack of (local) availability. But we can’t have ’em all, aye? Hopefully, the age statement gap that Laphroaig is currently managing (mismanaging?) can be closed. The leap from 10 to 25 in the range is a bit challenging for those of us who were rather keen on the mid-rangers. (And please let’s not discuss the NAS’ers)

88/100

Alberta Premium Cask Strength Rye Batch 2 (2020) Review

Wow. I’m impressed. Batch 2 arrives with all the character and bombast of Batch 1, but much less misogynistic endorsement and rabid demand. Color this kid happy.

The fever pitch that arose following Jim Murray’s award left legions of folks hunting for bottles that seemed to disappear almost overnight. If rumors are to be believed, a parcel of what remained was bundled up and sent to the eastern reaches of this far-flung land, while an additional boatload was shipped overseas to sate one of the Asian markets. It makes sense to spread the wealth a bit. And as a Canuck, it makes me happy to see good Canadian whisky finding some well-deserved appreciation abroad.

And I think we’ve gotta hand it to Alberta Distillers: their ability to maintain consistency is second to none. While I’m certain this batch will again be much too small to meet demand, I’m optimistic that ADL has finally seen the light and realized they have the golden goose here in their Calgary distillery. I’m confident we’ll see this expression becomes a permanent addition to the Alberta Premium range. Goes to show it’s never too late to make a push for the front of the pack.

By the way…this one was all Black Current Halls Cough Drops to me, and sure enough, the packaging references black currents. One of the few times I’ve enthusiastically agreed with a brand’s published notes.

66.0% abv. Number of bottles? No clue. But certainly too few.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Blueberry n’ brambleberry. Black Current Halls Cough Drops. Raisin cookies, and all the requisite spices you’d expect (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc). Clean, sinus-clearing notes of fresh-cut pine or spruce; kinda like a stroll through the lumberyard. Chocolate covered cherries. A bit of caramel. A squeeze of lemon. French vanilla ice cream.

Palate: More dark berries here again. Reminds me of the berries I always pick while walking the footpaths on Islay (yes, I know, we’re getting a bit esoteric here). Tight, tight spicy rye. Eucalyptus. Clove and cinnamon. Pine sap. Chocolate. More currents. Grass (a mate of mine says maybe a black tea).

Finish: Long and oaky. Herbal and grassy. Quite oily.

Thoughts: Finish may drag it down a tick, but still a stellar sip. This is what rye should be. Makes me question even further the misstep that was the 20 year old from last year.

89/100

Ardbeg Wee Beastie (2020) Review

I came into this one with low expectations, I’ll admit it right up front. That had less to do with Ardbeg’s ability to create a decent young malt, and more to do with the fact that I kinda think most sub ten year old whisky tends to be a tad underripe and undeveloped. I expected brashness, a bit of a new make-y character, and not a lot more.

Sometimes it’s nice to be wrong.

Long months before Wee Beastie landed on our shores, it had already sparked a frenzy among the slavering peat fiends ’round here. The shop was so inundated with requests that we had to set aside a separate binder to manage all of the pre-orders and special requests (yes, yes, we still do some things in the ol’ analog way at KWM). And no matter how many times we shouted that this one was now a permanent fixture in the core range, it didn’t seem to quell the hunger (or thirst?). Perhaps part of that early pursuit was a weary and schooled intellectual approach, suggesting that many consumers are now aware that a new brand always puts its best foot forward (and often declines thereafter), but I think the reality has more to do with FOMO: fear of missing out. Ardbeg has cultivated legions of fans around the globe, and even with perpetual production (and an exciting new expansion!), the distillery is likely always going to be producing shy of demand.

As for the Beastie, I know I’m late to the party. Sorry ’bout that. Crazy times. But here we are. And fortunately, we have a dram of hella good young Islay malt in hand. Impressive beyond its years, and so much better than I’d hoped.

A vatting of ex-bourbon and ex-Oloroso casks, served up at 5 years young and 47.4% abv.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Yes, it’s peaty and quite feisty, as we’d expect in such a rambunctious youngster. Almond. Creamy lemon meringue. Warm welly boots and chlorine. Fresh pepper. Cold coffee. Something kinda like drinking mezcal in a barn. Pee in a pool. A very coastal tarriness. Bundt cake. Oat cakes. Oyster liquor and other fine briny things.

Palate: Very clean smoked peated grist. As mouthcoatingly smoky as you’d expect. Licorice. Key lime pie. Lemon cakes. Ladyfingers. Mint leaves. A bit of very-expected Granny Smith apple. And cough drops of some sort.

Finish: Long finish, primarily on chlorine, smoke and salt licorice.

Thoughts: It’s young, yeah, but it’s not spirity. An impressive – and ballsy – outing from our beautiful Ardbeggian family. Very much the distilled essence of Islay.

85.5/100

Bowmore 1964

In 2013, a good bunch of folks, led by our revered pied piper, Andrew Ferguson of Kensington Wine Market infamy, stole away to the foothills of the Canadian Rocky Mountains for a weekend of absolutely next level whisky tastings. The apex event of the weekend was a tasting of some of the most legendary 1964 Bowmores known to man- (and woman-) kind.

In a completely unexpected (though gratefully accepted) bit of generosity, a wee set of samples was brought back for yours truly. Obviously, whiskies like this require pristine conditions in order to really be able to properly assess ’em, so…seven years after these priceless vials landed in my lap, on an afternoon when the palate was clean, my personal desire was sky high, and the interruptions were kept to a bare minimum, I finally sat down with these precious drops of Islay’s greatest distillate and took a bit of a journey. My couch sipping session may have lacked the elegance and atmosphere of the initial event, but the malts are transportive, to say the least.

Listen. I wanted this post to be a poem of such epic proportion Yeats himself would have wept, but there’s simply no way I can throw commonplace nouns and verbs at these malts and have them ring true to just how special they are. Man’s limitations are pretty glaring most times. Fortunately, the whisky gods are verbose and have said all that needs to be said via the glass. I know that doesn’t really help here, but if you’ve ever had the chance to taste these drams, you’ll understand what I mean. And I happen to know that a rather substantial portion of you have actually tasted at least one of these drams. For those that haven’t, bear with me as I do my best to articulate just what these Bowmores are all about.

Before we dive into tasting notes, however, let me just say: tropical, tropical, tropical. Get used to hearing it. I’ll be throwing that word around a lot over the next few paragraphs. When we speak of those legendary vintages – the ones that make whisky folk weak-kneed and starry-eyed – 1964 Bowmore has to be right up at the top of the pyramid. There is something utterly magical about them. And I have to say, they are also some of the very best drams I’ve ever had the pleasure to taste.

Y’already know how I feel about the Black Bowmore (42 y.o.), aye? I think at the time I reviewed it, I scored it at 97 points, the highest mark I’ve ever assigned. I opted not to simply repost those notes and scores, but instead to revisit and reassess even that old favorite. So, without saying any more…let’s just dive in, shall we?

Black Bowmore 1964 42 y.o.

Five oloroso sherry casks. 827 bottles. 40.5% abv. Released 2007.

Nose: Beautiful clean chariness. Five Alive fruit juice infused with the cleanest and most elegant of smoke. Now we’re into a stunning mix of fresh and dried tropical fruits. A bit of peach with all those other to-be-expected notes of guava, mango, passionfruit, pineapple and more. A beautifully dark and rich cherry tang. Black currents. Pink grapefruit. A hint of cold coffee. Vintage sherry. Faint echoes of peat. Old oiled machinery. Ancient polished wood. This just reeks of majesty and age.

Palate: Slightly medicinal. More smoke than either the White or Gold Bowmore, and more earthy peat to boot. Hugely tropical. Sticky, oily dried mango, apricot, pineapple, peach. More orange. More pineapple. Brine and a much more profound Islay-ness than the nose suggests. Seared seafood. Charred grapefruit. Baked ham. Griotines. Cherry cough syrup. Figgy pudding.

Finish: Some decent tannins, but it’s that deep, dark oily, and rather bittering finish that steal the show. Just wow.

Thoughts: Does it get better? Honestly?

96/100

White Bowmore 1964 43 y.o.

Six bourbon barrels. 732 bottles. 42.8% abv. Released 2008.

Nose: Tropical heaven. Sweet pineapple. Mango, orange, papaya, grapefruit, passion fruit. Man…the parade of fruits is endless. Dunnage. A touch of marzipan and sugar cookies. Tropical fruit pie. Honey. Marmalade. Fruit flan. White chocolate. Truly stunning cask notes; almost hard to believe wood can do this.

Palate: Oh, dear God. Grapefruit, mango, passionfruit, papaya. Grilled pineapple rings. What a stunning sweet/sour tang. Can’t stop the flood of saliva. Oily. Only faintly smoky, but there’s a definite coastal element to it. This is all fruits, spritzed with citrus juice (lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit). Such clean, but rather indistinguishable, spice tones.

Finish: Those tropical tangy notes linger forever. Maybe longer.

Thoughts: Utterly incomparable.

95/100

Gold Bowmore 1964 44 y.o.

Three bourbon barrels and one oloroso sherry cask. 701 bottles. 42.4% abv. Released 2009.

Nose: Toastier than the White. I can only assume that’s the toasty, nutty influence of the sherry butt. Crème caramel. Still unbelievably tropical, of course. Tame those pineapple and orange notes just a wee notch (though they’re still huge!), and add some kiwi. Vanilla. Warm honey. A hint of fruitcake (made with ancient cognac). And yeah…maybe a hint of old Armagnac. Faint peat.

Palate: Slow to develop, then wham! Cold espresso. Twiglets. Grapefruit. Guava and passion fruit. Mango. Mandarin. A beautiful subtle smokiness. Glazed ham and pineapple. Prosciutto. Raspberry.

Finish: Deeper than the White, but maybe a tick less endearing. Still bittering and tropically tart.

Thoughts: Nose is more muted than expected, but the palate more than makes up for the whispered beginnings.

93.5/100

Black Bowmore 1964 31y.o.

Sherry butts. 1812 bottles. 49% abv. Released 1995.

Nose: Toasted marshmallow. Saville orange. Molasses. More smoke here. Oily and syrupy. The tropical notes are here, but not as monolithic as they appear in the trilogy releases. Polish. Old wet oak. Cherry, raspberry and strawberry with passion fruit, peach, pineapple, guava, etc. Tobacco pouch or snuff bag. Oiled leather.

Palate: Whoa. Syrupy, syrupy, syrupy. More of those reduced dark fruits – like a smoked cherry and raspberry reduction. That sweet/sour balance is incredible. Pink grapefruit. Passion fruit. Mango. Cold espresso. Tobacco. Seared duck. Seaspray. A stronger flinty minerality.

Finish: More tannic than the others, by far. But that bittering finish is, once again, to die for.

Thoughts: Denser, darker, somehow more syrupy than the 42 y.o. Stronger tannins, and less tropical notes. Though I’m sure it goes without saying…utterly stunning.

94/100

Bowmore 1964 Fino 46 y.o.

One fino sherry butt. 72 bottles 42.9% abv. Released 2012.

Nose: Candied sweetness. All those tropical notes smash head on in to a confectioner’s shop. Bubble gum. Salt water. More tropical juices (yes, yes…you’re getting sick of the word ‘tropical’). Scones. Heavy cream. Mandarins. Kiwi. Sour cherries. Key lime and blood orange. A hint of fill.

Palate: Oh, wow. Kiwi and guava. Lemon pie. A squeeze of lime. Grapefruit pith. Green curry. Dill. What the hell?! The tropical notes keep expanding as it develops. Love that gorgeous medicinal note that toes up against the tangy fruits. Oily and salty. Mango. Tiramisu. Honey.

Finish: Long and slightly drying. Cherry cordials. Tropical fruit skins.

Thoughts: This one shattered any expectations I had. Simply mindboggling.

95/100