A little over two weeks ago, I received our third batch of whisky samples from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America which included the following:
- Cask No. 2.81 aka “Black tea in a greenhouse”.
- Cask No. 23.72 aka “A big, eye-watering slap”.
- Cask No. 125.48 aka “Old-fashioned tea chests and maple candy”.
- Cask No. G1.8 aka “A bag of assorted boiled sweets”.
As we have done with the first two batches, Limpd and I split the four samples 50/50. Limpd chose Cask No. 2.81 and Cask No. 125.48, and I chose Cask No. 23.72 and Cask No. G1.8. Rather than post our reviews on an individual basis, we have decided to join forces and review all four whiskies in one post.
Let’s get down to business…
Limpd’s Tasting Notes – Cask No. 2.81
Rich and heady aromas of butterscotch, molasses and rum soaked raisins together with crème brulee, orange oil, geraniums and a greenhouse on a warm day. Toffee sweetness was balanced by balsamic and a trace of struck matches. The taste was hot, there was liquorice, black tea tannins, toffee and black pepper. Water improved it offering smooth buttery toffee, tobacco and balsamic. The palate was still tannic (like chewing sticks) with brown sauce bitterness but also sweet with vanilla, butterscotch and caramel. This Speyside distillery is close to the famous pack horse bridge.
Limpd found the “Black tea in a greenhouse” to have the following characteristics…
- Appearance: Deep golden color with almost ruby tinges.
- Aroma: Astringent followed by ham glaze (honey, brown sugar, molasses), with hints of toffee and balsamic vinaigrette.
- Taste: Alcohol, tobacco smoke, syrupy sweetness. A peppery spice mid palate, followed by a slow, warming burn at the back of the throat.
- Region: Speyside
- Age: 15 Years
- Cask: First-fill Sherry butt
- ABV: 59.9%
At an ABV of 59.9%, you have to add a little water to neutralize the alcohol and allow the hidden flavors to rise to the forefront in the aroma and taste. With water and a little time (I would recommend walking away and giving this one a little time to breathe), the nose is full of butterscotch and toffee, with an inviting sweetness that belies the potent ABV. The taste with a few drops of water is one of hard candy and cinnamon with a soft warming heat and licorice taste that lingers in the finish. This was a very nice whisky, and I was quite surprised to find that it comes from Glenlivet (thank you whiskyportal.com!). I have had my share of Glenlivet, and at cask strength, it seems to take on a whole new character.
G-LO’s Tasting Notes – Cask No. 23.72
The nose forced shotgun shells and fireworks on us – but also gave barley sugars, custard and chocolate-coated foamy bananas; peppermint tea, liquorice, smoked ham and old bonfires. The palate’s big, eye-watering; sherry slap took our breath away – sweet red liquorice, cinder toffee, crème brûlée, treacle, cooked apples, ash and peat. The reduced nose suggested barbecued lamb chops dripping on embers, singed mint leaf and burnt lemon skin. Water definitely improved the palate – now sweeter (toasted coconut, vanilla, golden syrup, raisins, cherries) – also woody spices, crispy sage, and grilled lobster. The distillery is on the road from Port Charlotte to Bridgend.
I found “A big eye-watering slap” to have the following characteristics…
- Appearance: Clover honey color.
- Aroma: Yowza! The alcohol on this one is intense. Definitely need to cut it with some water. Adding 4 teaspoons of water definitely toned things down, and I can now nose this comfortably. After letting this open up a bit, I get the following aromas: ground coriander; Irish breakfast tea; lavender; roast beef au jus; cinnamon; nutmeg.
- Taste: Slightly oily mouthfeel. This whisky starts off suprisingly slow given it’s high ABV. All of the flavors are concentrated at the tip of the tongue at the outset. After a few seconds, a poblano chile like heat starts to build, i.e. mellow smokiness and spice. Medium finish with a subtle, pipe tobacco and black licorice aftertaste.
- Region: Islay
- Age: 9 Years
- Cask: Refill Sherry butt
- ABV: 66.4%
Here is the downside to only having a small sample of whisky on hand for a review: when you knock over your glass and spill your whisky, there isn’t any more available to refill your glass! Yes, this actually happened, and yes, I almost cried over spilled whisky. Wouldn’t you?
At first, I was a bit disappointed in this whisky, and found the flavors to be quite subdued. But after two or three sips, the flavors started to intensify, and I really started enjoying it. While Cask No. 23.72 is not my favorite of the whiskies that we’ve sampled so far, this whisky, which whiskyportal.com says is a Bruichladdich, was definitely growing on me as I approached the bottom of my glass. Too bad I spilled that last sip.
Limpd’s Tasting Notes – Cask No. 125.48
The nose, initially offering orange liqueur, balsa wood and old-fashioned tea chests, took some time to open; a drop of water helped us to discover the depth and complexity – caramel, Mars bar, fruit tea with honey, a mixed bag of dried fruits and nuts and Dorset Cereals muesli with maple syrup. The palate, at natural strength, had good heat in it, plus flavours of leather, wood, tea leaves and coconut, with cinder toffee, burnt sugar and honeycomb crunch. The reduced palate developed malt and candy sweetness, with pleasant warm spices in the finish. ‘Perfected’ by the sixteen men of Tain.
Limpd found the “Old-fashioned tea chests and maple candy” to have the following characteristics…
- Appearance: A beautiful, deep golden color.
- Aroma: For a cask strength whisky, there is very little alcohol in the nose. A little floral with bit of cane sugar and honey, and all of the familiar hints of toffee and butterscotch.
- Taste: Sweet, syrupy iced tea, with hints of Lyle’s Golden syrup, and dried fruit (raisins, currants, figs).
- Region: Highlands
- Age: 12 Years
- Cask: Dechar/rechar hogshead
- ABV: 52.1%
Even though the ABV was 52.1%, this whisky was so well-balanced that you might not need to add water. Of course, for the purpose of a tasting, I did add water. With water, the cane sugar and honey aromas move to the forefront. The taste with water remains very sweet and syrupy, but the finish includes more spice, almost like a Christmas fruit cake without the need for carbon dating. The “hint” from the Society (‘Perfected’ by the sixteen men of Tain) is one of the easier clues from the Society, and I need no help from whiskyportal.com to determine that this was in fact an offering from Glenmorangie. I have had a whole lot of Glenmorangie (from the old wood cask line-up to the new line-up of Astar, Artein, Finealta and Signet), and I really enjoy the sweetness and subtle spice. This sample was no different and left me wishing the sample was just a little bigger (okay, a whole lot bigger). To sum up, Me Likey Whisky!
G-LO’s Tasting Notes – Cask No. G1.8
Lots of fruit on the early nose (pear flan, rhubarb, lemon curd, apricot) growing richer in the glass – soon we found marzipan, fudge, toffee, Bakewell tart, butterscotch, vanilla and straw. The palate was just as fruity but also sweet and nippy (some found it fiery) – like a bag of assorted boiled sweets. In reduction, the nose split between citric components and banana toffee – also some dustiness, like rubbing butter into flour. The palate opened and became cleaner and fresher, but evaporation from the tongue left rich joys of tobacco, liquorice and dark chocolate Bounty bars. From Edinburgh’s only grain distillery.
I found “A bag of assorted boiled sweets” to have the following characteristics…
- Appearance: Golden yellow color.
- Aroma: It says 62.9% ABV on the label, but it certainly doesn’t give off those strong alcohol vapors that I sometimes get at this strength. Since I wasn’t get very much out of the nose at full strength, I opted to add a couple teaspoons of water. After letting it rest for a couple minutes, a very light and fruity nose is revealed. I’m getting green apple, cocoa butter, vanilla, and some light herbal notes, i.e. menthol and eucalyptus.
- Taste: The mouthfeel is quite thin and watery. While there is a good bit of cinnamon/white pepper heat at the onset, it also has a sweet and herbal quality to help offset some of the spiciness. These spicy/sweet/herbal flavors are there from beginning to end. Soothing, medium finish with a licorice and eucalyptus aftertaste.
- Region: Grain
- Age: 21 Years
- Cask: Refill hogshead
- ABV: 62.9%
This is only the second time that I have tried a Scottish 100% grain whisky (click here to read about our 1st grain whisky experience), but let me tell you, this second time around, I can clearly taste the difference between this, and a 100% Single Malt Whisky. While this whisky (per whiskyportal.com, this is from the North British Distillery) doesn’t have the layers of flavor that I have come to expect from a 100% Single Malt, it does have a soothing quality that I really liked. I can totally see myself enjoying this on the rocks with a splash of Club Soda on a warm summer night.
Thanks again to Gabby Shayne (click here to meet The Whisky Sisters) of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America for sending us this sample.