Duncan and Taylor Smokin’

 

Smokin is a blended Scotch whisky produced by independent bottlers Duncan & Taylor. Duncan & Taylor are known for bottling very old Scotch whisky at extremely reasonable prices and some of the most noteworthy among them are the Glenrothes 1969 Vintage 40 Year Old (Octave) and the Black Bull 40 Year Old. Smokin is a no age statement whisky, and this seems to detract somewhat from what has made Duncan & Taylor so appealing in the past – aged whisky at great prices. Nonetheless, with the spike in global demand for whisky, dwindling supplies of older whisky and more knowledge about how to mature whisky faster the move to no age statements seems inevitable for many producers. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It is just that it removes the only objective measure consumers have about the nature of a whisky – how long it has been in a cask.
 
Smokin is, according to Duncan& Taylor, “whisky as it used to be” because it pays homage to the heavy smoky blends that were popular in the past. They joke that Sir Winston Churchill would have approved, which provides some hints about the inspiration for this blend given Sir Winston’s apparent love of cigars. The whisky itself comprises of peaty malts from unnamed Scottish distilleries, but there is an indication that the character of this whisky is influenced heavily by peated malts from the Scottish mainland rather than the traditional heartland of peat, the islands – Islay, Skye, Jura, Orkney etc. Duncan & Taylor write:

Smokin’ – The Gentleman’s Dram contains smoky whiskies from distilleries throughout Scotland, no-longer bound by regional definitions. The Master Blender has perfectly balanced the robust peat smoke flavours now being produced by mainland Scottish Distillers and complimented them with the smooth notes of toffee and vanilla produced by pairing grain whisky and fresh bourbon casks.

Overall, Smokin’ is an enjoyable smoky blend with the typical sweetness of peaty blends but with an interesting twist of pepper and sweet n’ spicy condiments such as barbecue sauce, buffalo sauce and Worcestershire sauce – saucy indeed! At around £29 it is reasonably spiced for a whisky of a nice peaty persuasion but it seems unlikely that my hands will ever reach for it over Black Grouse (£20), Johnnie Walker Black Label (£27) or Johnnie Walker Double Black (£33), some other peaty blends on the market.
 
Nose: The aroma of peat is rich and strong, interlaced with caramel and vanilla with hints of pepper. A tad shy, the character of the whisky remains beneath the fog of peat at first and takes its time to open up. There are typical aspects of peat smoke then noticeable, such as caramelised sugars and the whiff of cooked hot peppers marinated in barbecue sauce, buffalo sauce and Worcestershire sauce with smoky bacon – sauce sauce sauce!

Taste: The sweetness from the grain is much more noticeable on the palate. Hints of pepper and dashes of salt occasionally filter through chocolate caramel, vanilla syrup and the sweet element of barbecue sauce/ketchup as the peat, now sweeter, remains a constant.  
Finish: Sweetness lingers with dying embers of peat that crackle with a resurgence of those peppers on the nose, and sugars from a recently consumed sachet of ketchup and barbecue sauce.  This is a very saucy blend!

Black Bull Kyloe

The Black Bull Kyloe is a blended Scotch whisky produced by independent bottlers Duncan & Taylor. Duncan & Taylor are known for bottling very old Scotch whisky at extremely reasonable prices and some of the most noteworthy among them are the Glenrothes 1969 Vintage 40 Year Old (Octave) and the Black Bull 40 Year Old. The Black Bull Kyloe is a no age statement whisky, and this seems to detract somewhat from what has made Duncan & Taylor so appealing in the past – aged whisky at great prices. Nonetheless, with the spike in global demand for whisky, dwindling supplies of older whisky and more knowledge about how to mature whisky faster the move to no age statements seems inevitable for many producers. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It is just that it removes the only objective measure consumers have about the nature of a whisky – how long it has been in a cask.
 
The Black Bull Kyloe is named after a breed of cattle from the Scottish Highlands that appear to have no issues with the weather, braving the cold and volatile weather. Either that or they just don’t like to make a fuss.  The whisky itself is a blend with, apparently, a high malt content and after being non-chill filtered it is bottled at 50% ABV. It is, overall, a well-priced dram that is hardy just like the Kyloe but quite a textbook blend with something a tad too young about it that does not seem to offer much over the other commercial blends on the market.
 
Nose: The first whiff of this blend yields no surprises – it is a textbook example of a blend that, according to my nose, indicates the core of this whisky is young. That barley s slightly oily, but it still carries the aroma of new make that I would expect the oak cask to slowly clean up over time. In this regard, it is similar to a number of entry level whiskies on the market – Ballentine’s Finest comes to mind. The bouquet is however enjoyable, with a metallic hue that underpins raisin, powdered chocolate, grain and hints of vanilla with wet varnished pine wood.
 
Taste: Definitely a blend on the cheaper end of the spectrum, it is super sweet on the entry with the grain leading the assault together with syrup, cooked apple, orange essence and hints of cinnamon and nutmeg with the slight twang of wood. The style of the apple notes indicates, again, something young is in this blend. Each consecutive tasting yields the same reaction: “too sweet!”, cringe.   
 
Finish: The bitterness lingers with the syrupy sugars, but they do not seems to be in sync  or meld and instead clash with each other without balancing out. There is more vanilla on the finish, similar to rum and raisin with shavings of bitter cocoa rich chocolate. 

Cutty Sark Tam O Shanter 25 Year Old ★

Spirit Name:
 
Cutty Sark Tam O Shanter 25 Year Old

 

Score:
97/100

ABV:
46.5% 
Region:
Scotland  
Body:
Medium-full  
Intensity:
Medium 
Texture:
Medium-oily  
Balance:
Heavenly  
Best served:
Neat  
Theme(s):
Luscious, elegant, sherry, black roasted coffee, dark chocolate, leather, toffee, cherries, burnt orange, mixed nuts, hints of peat, grassy, hay, wood, spices, ginger, gradually drying mid-palate with a sweetening finish. Weel done, cutty-sark!” 
Tasting notes:
In 1790 the Scotsman Robert Burns penned the poem “Tam O Shanter”. In the poem “Tam O Shanter” a farmer named Tam was riding his horse Meg home from the pub one night, drunk and his belly full of booze, when he spotted witches and warlocks dancing to the tune of the devil playing the bagpipes. He yells “Weel done, cutty-sark!” at the sight of a pretty young witch in a short dress, understandably putting his life in jeopardy to draw her attention. I mean, who wouldn’t try some smooth talk on a witch who keeps company with warlocks and, apparently, the devil? Needless to say she was not interested in poor Tam who was met with anger and chased away across the river Doon. Lesson learned, Tam. 

About 222 years later, Cutty Sark released the “Tam O Shanter” 25 Year Old blended Scotch whisky to celebrate Burns Night 2012. Cutty Sark needs no introduction. Having enjoyed its heyday in the 1960’s and 1970’s and famously being ordered by Joe Pesci’s character in Goodfellas, the brand is immortalized in popular culture. The problem is that at some stage in the 1980’s people began to prefer Johnnie Walker and Chivas Regal which led to a gradual decline in Cutty Sark’s market share. Today, Cutty Sark is a shadow of its former self but it appears a re-birth is on the cards thanks to some epic blending work and the use of some rich spicy malts which form part of the signature Cutty Sark style. The Cutty Sark Tam O Shanter certainly showcases brilliant blending and some very old sherry matured malts that taste over 30 years old – a rare pleasure that respects tradition and yet thinks outside the box. This is by no means a simple blend. It clearly attempts to entertain, just as Robert Burns did so many years ago. 

Nose: Sherry, beautiful sherry, intermingles with dark chocolate, black roasted coffee beans, leather, preserved dark cherries and mild wood vanilla as grassy undercurrents carry hints of peat and a dry nuttiness typical of the magnificent dark Spanish wooded sherries – Oloroso in particular, being medium-dry. The malt whisky underpins the bouquet, with oily barley and that peaty hay note interacting beautifully with the wood and some mild anise seed. The sherry influence in this whisky is outstanding, a simply stunning example of a sherry matured whisky – a practice that is slowly being eroded by the explosion of bourbon matured whisky as sherry casks become increasingly rare (and expensive!) due to a decrease in sherry consumption. 

 
Taste: A smooth entry brings cocoa, coffee, dates and cherries, and then at mid-palate the flavours explode on the palate and progressively dry – sherry, chocolate, toffee, vanilla, burnt orange with hints of hay, nuts and dashes of Arabic coffee with cardamon and nutmeg all develop, and, as if under some spell, the character of the whisky suddenly reverses as the sweetness and spices begin to dominate into the finish. 

Finish: The finish is a delight. The sherry is both sweet and dry, with a bitter nip of wood and almond skin as cocoa lingers with the preserved dark cherries, anise seed and sweet picked ginger. A big fruitcake finish sits on the palate with these flavours – dazzling. 
 
Price:
~ ₤200 (UK)
 

Cutty Sark 12 Year Old ★

Spirit Name:
Cutty Sark 12 Year Old
Score:
Buy score:

95/100
★     
ABV:
40%
Region:
Scotland
Body:
Medium-full
Intensity:
Medium
Texture:
Medium
Balance:
Near perfect 
Best served:
Neat
Theme(s):
This blended whisky has it all – spice, salt, moss, grass, hay, preserved fruit, candy, glazed fruit, mild toffee and malt, vanilla, oily barley, grain, lemon and hints of wood. A masterpiece of blending, the flavours in the Cutty Sark 12 year old meld together until the finish, when a maritime themed saltiness emerges – spectacularly appropriate to honour the ship after which this blend is named, the Cutty Sark.   
Tasting notes:
Nose: The aroma of glazed cherries and red confectionery emerges with moss and drying grass as steaming hot coals release course ashes and some seaweed. There is a mild malt theme about this whisky with a luscious, oily, barley and soft grain. Herbal notes soon develop with anise seed and spicy peppermint , soothed by dry vanilla fudge and the smell of a goey Mars bar. 
Taste: There is a burst of spicy malt on the palate with oily barley, cherry marmalade with orange rind and hints of lemon and toffee infused vanilla. The flavours are very well integrated, and underlying them is a buttery herbaceous theme, with that distinct mossy/grassy tone but with more earthiness than on the nose and hints of freshly dried Italian oregano.  
Finish: Spectacular, a wave a saltiness emerges on the palate with a mossy, almost seaweed, note balancing against the sweetness that continues to sooth the lingering wave of pepper. 
  
Likes:
This is very smooth, complex and interesting whisky.
Price:
₤34.95

Chivas Regal 12 Year Old

Spirit Name:
Spirit Type:

Chivas Regal 12 Year Old
Blended whisky
Score:
87/100
2, medal, silver icon

ABV:
40%
Region:
Scotland
Body:
Medium
Intensity:
Mild
Texture:
Thin-medium
Balance:
Excellent
Best served:

Neat, mixed
Theme(s):
Soft, subtle, sweet, candy shop, fruity, uncomplicated
Thoughts:
Chivas Regal 12 Year Old really surprised me in the blind tastings. When compared to other mass produced whiskies in its price range it probably leads the pack in the Australian market coming a close second to the peaty Johnnie Walker Black Label (I have not seen the delicious Cutty Sark 12 Year Old or Storm for sale on our shores, but that said the Chivas Regal 12 Year Old is a different whisky) – it has no noticeable immaturity about it and, unlike many “entry level” whiskies, it is not tainted with that noticeable young/cheap whisky stench. It smells and tastes like good whisky. It is smooth, soft and enjoyable. It by not very complex on the palate, lacks depth and its finish dies off very quickly, but it offers enjoyable flavours and a softness that should keep most people happy. 

Blind tasting notes:
Nose: Vanilla, fresh, mild grassy notes, popcorn, salted caramel, grain, chocolate fudge, yellow peaches, mild anise seed etc. 

Taste: Sweet, vanilla, musk sticks, sweet, slight nail varnish, candy shop. 

Finish: Quick to die, but what remains lingers. 

Not really much to say about this whisky, except that it is enjoyable and there are no significant off notes. It is not very complex, lacks some depth and the finish is disappointing. 

Likes:
Smooth, soft, enjoyable 
Dislikes:
Not complex, weak finish 
Price:
$44 (Aus)

Highland Harvest Organic Scotch Whisky

Spirit Name:
Spirit Type:
Highland Harvest Organic Scotch Whisky
Blended whisky
Score:
83/100
ABV:

40%

Region:
Scotland
Body:
Average
Intensity:
Soft
Texture:
Average
Balance:
Good, but skewed to sweet 
Best served:

Neat
Theme(s):
Honeyed oats, raisins, golden syrup, granny smith apples, hints of maple
Tasting notes:
“Organic” whisky? Fair enough. The Highland Harvest website notes that its whisky is adorned with the USDA Organic Seal of approval. For a glimpse into what this might mean, please have a look at the below video. 

 


Without further ado, let’s explore the character of this alleged organic whisky shall we? 

Nose: Sliced granny smith apples, green grapes and raisins with sparks of crushed cinnamon and sweet bakery spices. 


Taste: Honeyed oats, raisins and golden syrup with hints of maple – this whisky is smooth on the palate and very drinkable. There does not seem to be much complexity about this whisky, just sweet sipping pleasure without fireworks.  

Finish: Sweet oak driven sugars form and then slowly dissolve into mild toffee. 

This is a very decent whisky – approachable, drinkable and enjoyable. 

Likes:
Organic, smooth and drinkable
Dislikes:
Simple and skewed to sweet side
Price:
N/A

Johnnie Walker Blue Label (2013)

Spirit Name:
Spirit Type:
Johnnie Walker Blue Label
Blended whisky
Score:
88/100

ABV:
40% 
Region:
Scotland 
Body:
Medium 
Intensity:
Medium  
Texture:
Medium-oily 
Balance:
Superb 
Best served:
Neat 
Tasting notes:
Johnnie Walker Blue Label represents the pinnacle of the Johnnie Walker range, as it sits at the very top of the hierarchy above Platinum Label, Gold Label Reserve, Double Black, Black Label and Red Label. The Gold Label and Green Label have now been discontinued. 
Blue Label is being re-reviewed because of the phenomenon of “batch variation”. This means that a whisky, year after year, may change in character because its character depends on the oak casks in which it matured and no oak cask is the same. This means that a whisky comprised of whisky from different oak casks may have different character, even if the whisky is blended to achieve a particular flavour profile. The last Blue Label I reviewed was from the late 1990’s or early 2000’s. This Blue Label sat on the shelves in 2013. You can find my review of the old Blue Label here. 
Johnnie Walker have done a superb job at retaining the flavour profile of the Blue Label, keeping it consistently malty with some classic House of Walker smokiness. The 2013 bottling is super smooth, and offers what the older bottling lacked: a lingering and mouth-watering finish. The old Blue Label fizzed with its finish, whereas the 2013 Blue Label ignites the palate and its character remains like a warming glow that progressively intensifies – lovely lovely lovely! The 2013 bottling. however, has a slightly less interesting nose with the peat cloaking some of that lovely maltiness I have come to adore in Blue Label. 

Nose: Malty, with some smoothing vanilla counteracting the sparks of peat and flecks of barley that ignite in the backdrop of candied fruit and mixed herbs. The peat is more pronounced in this bottling, and as noted it takes over some of the maltiness. Slightly uninteresting. 

Taste: The whisky strikes the palate with bravado, waking up the taste buds in a ride shock – that was not expected from the subtle aroma on the nose. The peat, very mild and gentle, intermingles with ripe plums and dates and the characteristic maltiness looms but never really takes hold.

Finish: Ohhh baby. This is nice whisky! The buzz of the barley and grain radiates with the fruit and shades of peat.  

Likes:
Complex, very smooth and long lingering finish when compared to older bottlings 
Dislikes:
Dull nose and unbalanced with slightly pronounced peat on the bouquet, when compared with older bottlings
Price:
$170 (Aus)

Johnnie Walker Gold Label Centenary Blend

Spirit Name:


Spirit Type:

Johnnie Walker Gold Label 18 Year Old “Centenary Blend”
Джо́нни Уо́кер Голд Лэйбл 18-летний

Blended whisky
виски

Score:
94/100
3, medal, silver icon

ABV:

Region:
Scotland 
Body:
Medium-full
Intensity:
Graceful-energetic 
Texture:
Medium-creamy 
Balance:
Heavenly
Best served:

Neat
Theme(s):
Peat, flowers, vegetation, frost, dried fruit, fresh fruit, vanilla, clay woodfire, crusty pastry, olive bread, buttery, marshmallow, chocolate, sprinkles, salt, honey soaked pastry, nuts, creamy vanilla

Торф, цветы, растительность, мороз, сухофрукты, свежие фрукты, ваниль, глины Woodfire, хрустящие печенья, оливковый хлеб, маслянистый, зефир, шоколад, брызгает, соль, пропитанные медом печенье, орехи, сливочное ванильное

Summary:
A stroll in a dewy English garden on a frosty morning is interrupted by a sudden spray of peat and salt that develop into a smoky haze as shades of vanilla, fruit and honey soaked pasty balance the harmonious fusion of peat, flowers, fruit and oak – a magical union that leaves the tongue tingling with life and craving more of this Johnnie Walker sorcery! 

Tasting notes/Story:
A joyful stroll down the leafy green suburbs of Melbourne was interrupted by the sight of bottles in a window, and I could not resist a quick peek in Vintage Cellars in Williamstown (Victoria, Australia). I had purchased my girlfriend a massage voucher that morning, and I had an hour of uninterrupted and unhurried spirit perusing. The flash of a number “18” reflecting the sun caught my eye. The bottle was a Johnnie Walker Gold Label “Centenary Blend”, a now discontinued Johnnie Walker expression that has vanished from all the bars and retailers I have visited in the last year. After rubbing my eyes in disbelief and rushing to the counter with the goofiest smile I’ve had in years, I purchased the bottle for $74.90– the very last one. Bargain! I could not wipe the smug (OK, I’ll admit, goofy still) smile off my face all day.

This “Centenary Blend” was first crafted by Sir Alexander Walker in 1920, about 100 years after his grandfather, Johnnie Walker, started selling blended whisky as a 14 year old grocery store manager in Ayrshire, Scotland. It was released to the market in 1997 and has now been discontinued, having been replaced by the (in my opinion at least) inferior Platinum Label and Gold Label Reserve. Be careful, some bars still claim to sell “Gold Label” but in fact all they have is the Gold Label Reserve – be sure to ask to see the bottle before ordering anything “Gold Label”. Unlike the Gold Label Reserve which has no age statement, the “Centenary Blend” is comprised of malt and grain whiskies that are at least 18 years old.

The “old” Johnnie Walker core range
The new additions: Gold Label
Reserve and Platinum Label
You may already know that the Johnnie Walker core range consists of a number of whiskies, and from least expensive to most expensive these are: Red Label, Black Label, Double Black, Green Label (discontinued), Gold Label Reserve (new), Gold Label 18 Year Old (discontinued), Platinum Label 18 Year Old (new) and Blue Label. In my opinion, the Gold Label 18 Year Old, Green Label and Black Label are the very best in the range. The Gold Label Reserve and Platinum Label sit quietly collecting dust, and there is no desire to return to them… but the mere utterance of the words “green label”, “gold label” or “black label” causes the mouth to salivate! 

To add to the legendary status of the Johnnie Walker Gold Label (or “JW Gold”), fans of The Sopranos will remember that the show had a lot of product placements (perfectly placed at times, so that the product label was in clear view for the viewers). Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero, a member of the Soprano crew played by Vincent Pastore, offered Skip, an FBI agent played by Louis Lombardi, a bottle of “JW Gold” which was “rejected” but still taken back to headquarters and left with the FBI boss… 

In The Sopranos “Big Pussy” offers fictional FBI agent “Skip”
a bottle of “JW Gold”

JW Gold is legendary. It reflects a blend created by Alexander Walker in 1920, and celebrates the success of his grandfather Johnnie Walker who started it all 100 years earlier. Not only does it have a great story and marketing history, but it is also exceptional blended whisky. Unfortunately Johnnie Walker have not (in my view at least) been able to replicate the magic of the Gold Label and Green Label in its existing portfolio which now includes the Gold Label Reserve and Platinum Label. 

Now, here are my tasting notes for the Gold Label. 


Nose: A floral bouquet adds sweetness to the underlying peat, creating a flowery wonderland – like a dewy English garden on a frosty morning. The fruit is ridiculously complex, with a fleshy mandarin segment and citrus peel shavings lying over dried fruit and crusty olive bread slathered with butter. Fresh banana rises up with some marshmallow and chocolate layered with sprinkles, as the oak strikes ever so gently; flickering with the flecks of barley that both illuminate the fog of peat and fruit. This whisky offers an almost perfect union of peat, fruit, floral, vegetal and cereal notes – they all gel together harmoniously. As the whisky rests, the smell of a clay woodfire oven develops with the aroma of salt pastries. 


Taste: Luscious and indulgent, the whisky is mouth-filling and resonates gentle shades of vanilla that counteract the sprays of peat and salt – that peat and salt progressively develop in intensity after swallowing, but the sweet notes act as a counterbalance.  Those sweet notes beam through the peat brightly, much like honey soaked baklava (pastry) with crushed nuts and the gentlest shimmer of glazed cherries. There is a smoky haze, mild and rekindling memories of the clay woodfire oven in Anzano di Puglia (Italy) many years ago – we found some wood in the pizza that day! That memory comes to my mind every time I taste this whisky – I’ve not thought about it in many years. Amazing. This whisky comprises of about 15 whiskies, but the Talisker and Clynelish shines through as the other whiskies add a little bit of their own charm to create one of the most spectacular blends I have tasted. This is sensational whisky, and it is obviously very high in malt whisky. 


This whisky is very different to the Gold Label Reserve and Platinum Label, having more peat and salt in its character with a smokiness and sweetness that gels everything together in one harmonious stoke of genius. When compared to the Gold Label Reserve and Platinum Label, the Gold Label is more interesting, balanced, peaty, vibrant and harmonious without clashing character.  


Finish: Fruity, with a creamy layer of vanilla lingering on the palate with mild plumes of smoke and salt. The tongue tingles with energy, superb.


Likes:
Complexity and indulgent character that merges beautifully the worlds of peat and unpeated whisky to create a vibrant buzz that energizes the palate 


Price:
Discontinued

Ballentine’s 21 Year Old

Spirit Name:
Spirit Type:

Ballentine’s 21 Year Old
Blended whisky

Score:


93/100 
3, medal, silver icon

ABV:
43%
Region:
Scotland 
Body:
Medium-full
Intensity:
Medium 
Texture:
Creamy and oily
Balance:
Heavenly 
Best served:
Components:

Neat
A blend of many single malts, including malts from Miltonduff and Glenburgie

Theme(s):
Delicate, calm, creamy, oily, floral (citrus blossoms), fruit (cherries, cranberries, mandarine, orange peel), orange liqueur and stone fruit marmalade, honey, nuts (especially Brazil nuts and walnuts), white chocolate, milk chocolate, cocoa, cask driven sweetness, vanilla (custard, pastry rich vanilla slice), mixed dried fruit, yogurt drops

Summary:
The waters are calm and peaceful, but there is so much happening beneath the surface – the creamy and rich whisky coats the palate with subtle nuances of cask driven sweetness, chocolate, nuts and dried fruit while sparks of life burst gently within soft oiliness – this artwork is far too complex to summarise.  

Tasting notes:
Jim Murray, one of the world’s foremost authorities on whisky, has announced that the Ballentine’s 17 Year Old is one of the finest whiskies in the world several years running, and in his Whisky Bible 2013 he awards it the title of the third finest whisky in the world. Ballentine’s 17 Year Old is excellent, but in my opinion the Ballentine’s 21 Year Old is a step up, and it delights my senses with its dense aromas and complex flavours that leave a tantalizingly long finish.

Ballentine’s 21 Year old is the second oldest offering in the Ballentine’s range, which consists of Ballentine’s Finest, Ballentine’s 12 Year Old, Ballentine’s 17 Year Old, Ballentine’s 21 Year Old and Ballentine’s 30 Year Old. 

Ballentine’s range

The Ballentine’s 21 Year Old is a step above the rest in the blended whisky market in almost every category. Unlike the Royal Salute, it did not seem lethargic but instead had energy, vibrancy and depth. Unlike the Black Bull 40 Year Old, it did not offer any moments that unbalanced the experience and instead it was ridiculously smooth while maintaining spark and power. Unlike the Johnnie Walker Blue Label, its finish did not fizzle and instead it remained buzzing on the tongue. Unlike the Ballentine’s 17 Year Old and many similarly priced single malts, it did not allow sparks of spirit to taint and sometimes outshine the other flavours and instead it offered pure harmony and a thick oily complexity that stayed on the palate for a long time – delicious! This whisky contains whiskies that are at least 21 years old, and it shows on the nose, palate and finish!   

Nose: When a flower on a fruit tree begins to bloom, it releases one of the freshest and most vibrant aromas I have encountered. The picture to the left captures a lemon tree that is beginning to flower, and the aroma of this whisky resembles the floral notes of a fruit tree – the sweet floral notes are interlaced with cherries, orange, lemon and green pear. The fruit, drizzled with rich vanilla custard, counteracts the oak influence that brings even richer cocoa. The vanilla is thick and rich, and also on the nose is white chocolate layered over walnuts which brings an oiliness. This is almost like smelling a bag of mixed dried fruit and nuts with white chocolate and yogurt drops, but with magical chocolate drops that morph and change from white to dark and then back again. 


Taste: On the palate this whisky offers a calm tide of flavour that progressively develops in intensity and complexity as the taste buds tingle with energy. This is amazing whisky, and beautifully crafted. It is creamy, fruity, floral, nutty, oily, sweet and spicy. The creaminess is reflected in the thick texture that coats the palate and releases luscious pastry rich vanilla slice that oozes with half cooked red cherries and one of my favorite preserves – cherry jam and orange marmalade with Cointreau. The floral notes shine on the palate too, with nuances of grass and petals that add sweetness to the otherwise herbaceous chorus of mint and basil. Heavier than the floral notes is the rich nuttiness, big and bold with hints of bitterness like the bite of a Brazil nut or a green walnut. Of course, those nuts are oily and so with that bite comes an oiliness that rekindles memories of Flaxseed oil – a nutty oil best served cold. Shining through the oil is a bright sugary cask driven sweetness carrying the vanillas and shades of dried fruit as the spices burst on the palate to add further spark and fireworks.  

Finish: The nutty oiliness lingers on the palate with polished mahogany and dried fruit. The balance is impeccable, and plumes of smoke lift up off the palate.  

Likes:
Rich complexity, creamy and ridiculously well balanced with a finesse matching only the finest of Cognacs and yet, an energy and depth that ignites the senses
Price:
£82 (UK), $170 (Aus), $167 (USA)

Ballentine’s 12 Year Old

Spirit Name:
Spirit Type:
Ballentine’s 12 Year Old
Blended whisky
Score:
86/100
3, medal, silver icon
ABV:
40%
Region:
Scotland
Body:
Medium
Intensity:
Medium
Texture:
Medium-light
Balance:
Good
Best served:
Neat
Theme(s):
Floral, wet dough, mild new spirit, sweetened vine tomatoes, sherry, banana confectionery, honey, hot chocolate, marshmallow, croissant, vanilla, prunes in syrup
Summary:
Soft but with some spark, the cask influence interacts with the oak and grain to create a show of dessert and fruit interlaced with some dough and the finish of prune in syrup
Tasting notes:
Nose: An initial bouquet of flowers is interrupted by the occasional gust carrying mild grassy notes. The smell of wet dough is there, indicating that the new spirit still shines and that all the wrinkles have not yet been ironed out by the oak. The strangest smell develops, vine tomatoes still attached to the stem. This may make my grandfather proud, but I can smell the fresh tomatoes in the garden as it develops into ketchup – all the other character interacts with the cask influence to produce this distinct aroma. Then a true childhood memory arises in the form of banana lollies that intermingle with shavings of dark chocolate as marshmallows slowly melt in the heat of a vanilla rich hot chocolate with honey. The nose on this whisky is something special!
Taste: Mild, mouth-filling and wholesome. The flints of grain spark within the oak inspired chocolate croissant as the youthfulness on the nose does not transfer to the palate. The texture quickly becomes watery, though, after a promising start. This whisky is so frustrating, because it is so wonderful in some ways but disappointing in others. Not the most complex taste, the sweet distillate brings mild licorice with lashings of cocoa and vanilla from the oak as a calming green fruit note shines.
Finish: Prunes in syrup sit with the mild burn of alcohol adding some fire.
Likes:
Sparks of complexity in some areas
Dislikes:
Inconsistent, with some new spirit tainting the overall experience
Price:
$44 (Aus), £32 (UK)