The Game of Thrones Single Malt Scotch Whisky Collection

Fans of Game of Thrones, take heed. As the White Walkers bring the grim promise of a never-ending winter and the icy breath of its ice dragon, viewers may find some warmth in a fiery dram of seven limited-edition single malts which have each been aligned with a great House of Westeros and the Night’s Watch. Without further ado, I introduce you to the Game of Thrones Single Malt Whisky Collection.

Continue reading “The Game of Thrones Single Malt Scotch Whisky Collection”

A wee taste of Loch Lomond Group’s Glen Scotia and Inchmurrin Scotch whisky

It was a nice warm evening on Tuesday 6 February. That evening, I was making my way to a Loch Lomond Group industry tasting at one of Melbourne’s iconic whisky bars, Whisky & Alement. After carefully weaving my way around the bar’s surprisingly small after-work crowd, I was greeted by a smiling bartender who informed me that the tasting was being held in the bar’s upstairs room. Continue reading “A wee taste of Loch Lomond Group’s Glen Scotia and Inchmurrin Scotch whisky”

Highland Park Cask 1140 – HWF038

Type: Single malt whisky

Origin: Orkney, Scotland 

ABV: 66.4%

Malt Mileage rating: stars 4

Reaction: 😀

Aged: 12 years  Continue reading “Highland Park Cask 1140 – HWF038”

Highland Park 30 year old (revisited, 3/1/2016)

HP30

Recommended use: Serve neat, for God’s sake!

Malt Mileage Rating: stars 5

Recommendation: Buy it!

Type: Single malt

Origin: Orkney island, Scotland

ABV: 48.1%

User rating for Highland Park 30 year old:

Highland Park 30 year old is the epitome of fine Scotch whisky in my opinion, find a labyrinth of notes including  an oak driven entry, dark chocolate, refined and aged peat smoke, leather, herbal tones (eucalyptus), earthy truffle oil, spice (cinnamon, nutmeg), fortified wine (sherry), dark toffee, dark fruit (plum, raisins), blueberries, orange peel, dark honey, and, lingering spicy oak with faint caffè mocha on the finish. This is one powerful, complex whisky. 

You could bribe your way into heaven – or, perhaps more fittingly,  Valhalla – with this stuff. Admittedly over 30 long years of maturation much of this liquid would have, through evaporation, made its way to the angels. Luckily, that having been said, they’ve probably acquired a taste for it. Sin away. 

Highland Park 30 year old is available for about $1,000 per bottle. 

Talisker 25 Year Old (Bottled 2008)

 


Spirit Name:
Spirit Type:
 
Talisker 25 Year Old (Bottled 2008)
Single malt
Score:
95/100
ABV:
54.2%
Region:
Islay, Scotland
Body:
Medium-full
Intensity:
Medium-high
Texture:
Supple and smooth
Balance:
Superb
Best served:
Neat
 
Tasting notes:

Price:
This Talisker 25 year old was bottled in 2008 at a delicious 54.2% ABV, an alcohol volume which amplifies the magical coastal notes and soft peat undertones (for example, the bottling currently available in stores is bottled at 45.8%). This is a mature whisky that leaves no doubt that Talisker – and by default Diageo – have done a superb job with this bottling. This is very high quality whisky, without doubt. 

Nose: Gusts of sea breeze whirl in the glass, carrying the aroma of oysters, nori (dried seaweed) and the mild cough of peat. Sweetness counteracts the maritime notes with candied citrus notes (glazed oranges), lemon drops and fresh pear. 

Taste: Elegant and mature at first, sweet fruit is followed by the spray of salt water off the rocks as the peat smoke begins to roll over the earthy coastal undertones. Fiery peppery notes emerge, piecing cracked black pepper, with zesty lime notes. 

Finish: The maritime theme and hints of spice linger with acidic fruit, especially the spritz of lime. 

$500 (Aus)

Talisker 18 Year Old

Spirit Name:
Spirit Type:
Talisker 18 Year Old 
Single malt

Score:
90/1003, medal, silver icon
ABV:
45.8%
Region:
Isle of Skye, Scotland
Body:
Full
Intensity:
Strong
Texture:
Medium-oily
Balance:
Near perfect, with drying spiciness towards the end
Best served:
 
Neat
Theme(s):
Sweet mellowed peat, maritime/coastal notes, spices including paprika, vanilla, toffee, fatty (nut oils), chocolate, cherries, brininess, drying (middle-end), drying white wine, glazed ham, wood, barbecue – deliciously integrated flavours with the peat complimenting rather than dominating the other character.
Thoughts:
I tasted the Talisker 18 Year Old at Whisky Live Melbourne in 2013, and while it was enjoyable I did not really give it a second thought at the event. A couple of months later I had a yearning to review some more peaty whiskies, and I was given the opportunity to review a bottle of Talisker 18 Year Old in my private tasting room. The outcome of my blind tastings is the perfect example why whisky festivals, events, bars etc are not the best place to assess whiskies for “enjoy-ability” – the older Talisker 18 Year Old offers peat that has been softened in the aging process, which in turn means in my view that its subtle shades of character can easily be missed as the taste buds adjust after an onslaught of more aggressive whiskies. 
 
My favourite Talisker of all time is the 25 year old (bottled in 2008), but this 18 year old comes a very close second. It is spirited for an 18 year old single malt, but it also offers a softened peat within its more sophisticated oak, spice and maritime layers. The spices are layered and very complex, which reflects the eighteen years of aging on the Isle of Skye – the result is a peat that compliments coastal notes, saltiness, spice and sweetness. The softened peat (as a whisky ages its peat character tends to soften) allows a coastal/maritime brininess to shine with crackles of spice and this moderates and mellows the vanilla notes and cask driven sugars, which means that this whisky is not too sweet and it progressively becomes dryer with intensifying shades of spiciness.

Blind tasting notes:

Nose: After being allowed to settle, the subtle notes that make up the character of this whisky’s bouquet begin to emerge – mild sweet peat radiates gently with glazed cherries, dark chocolate, sea salt, salted caramel, spearmint fisherman’s friends, parsley butter, scorched and peeled almonds, cotton or linen and a coastal charm interlaced with a sharpness and fattiness that resembles the whiff of a cold fresh oyster topped with crushed avocado with a dash of lime and cracked pepper. What seemed at first blush to be a dull and uninteresting whisky, with some patience, has unfurled into a hugely entertaining dram – Mariah Carey got it right when she said “love takes time”.  This whisky is extremely well balanced because the character wafts up as one seamless whole and it takes a lot of unpacking to pick apart the beautiful bouquet. The soothing vanillas pick up towards the end with whipped cream, chocolate and peat that melds together with the other character rather than dominating the show – the peat compliments rather than overtakes the other character therefore allowing that character to shine with the peat. After some time the aroma of lemongrass and fresh ginger develops with cherry cola and those coastal aromas. 
 
Taste: The wave of character comes flooding in with more bravado and energy than the nose suggests. It thumps the palate with peat that quickly recedes into a chorus of flavours – the peat falls into line and is accompanied by coastal notes and a saltiness that is moderated by soft vanillas, sweet toffee apple, honeyed almonds and macadamia nuts and a lingering after-taste of mussels cooked with dry white wine and cream sauce. There is a brininess and dryness here that develops after an initial surge of sweetness, showcasing lots of oak driven character, complex sugars and an herbaceous twist with some citrus rind. Sparks of spice then shine within that dry fog, intensifying into sweet paprika. 
 
Finish: The coastal notes linger with sea salt and a refreshing bite of caramel with a dominating spicy barbecue flavour morphing into sweet glazed ham. This is soft, gentle and subtle but with proper care it is sensational whisky!   

Likes:
Complex, soft peat integrates nicely with other character
Warnings:
This beauty can be easily misunderstood, and its subtle shades of character overlooked
Price:
$150 (Aus), £74 (UK)

Highland Park 40 Year Old

Spirit Name:
Spirit Type:
 
Highland Park 40 Year Old
Single malt

Score:
stars 4.5

ABV:
48.3%
Region:
Orkney Islands, Scotland
Themes: Musty, old library, leather, dark fruit and berries, cranberries, dark chocolate, mixed peel, mild sarsaparilla and licorice, creamy, polished wood, nutmeg, toffee, broken cigar
Summary:
A mark of only the very best whiskies is their ability to conjure vivid memroies as clear as day, and this whisky beams with the Christmas themed aromas that filled historic pubs and dining halls in Oxford – the old wood, the leather, the aroma of berries, black cherries, dark chocolate, wood spices and sweet honeyed desserts. Highland Park 40 Year Old is a walk down memory lane for those who have enjoyed a British Christmas, or an introduction to a British Christmas for those who have not!  

Tasting notes:
Highland Park is nestled in the Orkney Islands which sit dotted off the most northern shores of the Scottish mainland. For 40 years whisky sat maturing on these islands, and that whisky was then bottled as the Highland Park 40 Year Old – a single malt whisky that beams character that can only be achieved by maturing Highland Park distillate in superb quality re-full casks that, over four long decades, unlock their secrets. 

Highland Park uses re-fill casks because these casks will be less aggressive on the spirit because they have already had some of their character drawn out by other whisky, and over 40 years that is very important because it means that the whisky is less likely to be overdone with oak. That decision has obviously resulted in a whisky with near perfect balance, and just the right amount of oak influence that lets the spirit shine with energy. 

Superb whiskies bring back memories, but only the very best such as the Highland Park 40 Year Old conjure vivid memories that are as clear as day – the flavour compounds in the spirit and the oak work together to reproduce the same smells and tastes that we encounter in our lives, and so they are a cue for the memories to come flooding back. Those memories included sitting in libraries turning the pages of a one hundred year old leather bound book in a centuries old library, and, probably most vividly, all the Christmas themed aromas that filled historic pubs and dining halls in Oxford – the wood, the leather, the aroma of berries, black cherries, dark chocolate, wood spices and honeyed desserts. 

Enjoying HP 40

Nose: Musty, dark fruit and berries (blackberries especially) brightly beam through the smell of an old library with its wooden chairs, tables and dusty leather bound books. The aroma of thick dark chocolate then develops, almost the same as Italian hot chocolate, with damp and sappy sugars. As the whisky rests the fruity sweetness develops into more vibrant red fruit such as dried cranberries with mild shimmers of sarsaparilla and licorice, and with this sweetness comes light cream, leather, old paper or parchment, polished wood, apricot jam, marmalade with orange liqueur, mixed peel and pencil shavings. 

Taste: Luscious and wonderfully smooth on the entry, the striking feature of this whisky is its lingering finish that electrifies the taste buds and makes them buzz with energy in a way that makes you hope the experience does not end. The initial entry is velvety and almost indescribable – there is a fusion of flavours that are melded together into one lovely whole. On consecutive tastings, the secrets of the oak and Orkney begin to unravel – the wood and oak forms the foundation with powdery cocoa developing with nutmeg and burnt toffee that is softened by a mild creaminess as the taste of a torn cigar and salted butter flicker with fresh dark plum and mixed berries. 

Finish: Creamy dark chocolate continues to sit on the palate with green walnuts and dense layers of the freshest honeycomb layered over milky biscuits. The taste of the broken cigar also develops into the mildest dense cigar tobacco which accompanies a smoky honey. 

Talisker 25 Year Old (Bottled 2011)

 

Spirit Name:
Spirit Type:
Talisker 25 Year Old (Bottled 2011)
Single malt

 

Score:
93/100

ABV:
45.8%
Region:
Isle of Skye, Scotland 
Body:
Medium
Intensity:
Medium 
Texture:
Buttery 
Balance:
Heavenly 
Best served:
 
Neat 
Theme(s):
Buttery, soft peat, toffee, salt, iodine, mint (minties), tar ropes

Summary:
A buttery and silky smooth entry is met with the warm glow of peat moderated by sweet sugars and the spray of iodine and salt as the refreshing note of mint confectionery brightens the palate. 

Tasting notes:
Nose: Glowing embers of peat emerge from an oily foundation of sweetness, as the cask influence does not – surprising for a peated whisky of this age – dominate but instead compliments and acts as a counterbalance to the peat and the saltiness on the nose. There is the sweetness of raspberry toffee as the snap of spice is complimented by the smoke rising over wood (as the birth of a campfire usually does). There is the curious aroma of mint, sweet mint in fact, akin to minties or peppermint oil.  

Taste: Smooth, like butter melting on the tongue. This whisky almost made me fall off my chair (from its taste, not other legitimate qualities). That buttery smoothness is extraordinary because it glides on the tongue as those embers of peat glow without crackling or disturbing the smooth tide as it covers and fills the palate. The peat is balanced by the radiating sweetness of the toffee as it develops into shards of hard candy as the spray of salt pleasantly interrupts. That int theme shines on the palate, again like minties rather than pepermint oil, with its mouth refreshing qualities. Lovely!


Finish: That oiliness lingers on the palate, with the peat and briny Talsiker theme beaming on the palate like tar bashing against a pier. The age of this whisky is noticeable, because the oak notes shine through the peat to deliver spices. 


Likes:
Silky smooth with a buttery texture that lingers 
Tasted:
7-Sep-2013
Price:
$500 (Aus), £215 (UK)
*Not blind tasted

Highland Park 18 Year Old

Spirit Name:
Spirit Type:

Highland Park 18 Year Old
Single malt whisky

Score:
93/100
3, medal, silver icon

ABV:
43% 
Region:
Islands (Orkney), Scotland 
Body:
Medium-full 
Intensity:
Medium-high 
Texture:
Medium-oily 
Balance:
Heavenly  
Best served:
Neat 
Theme(s):
Floral, salted caramel, praline, orchard, bitter oak, tart berries, cocoa  
In a nutshell:
The fragrance of a floral bouquet lifts up from the glass as it weaves around orchard fruits and burnt praline layered with orange peel and marmalade with notes of licorice. On the palate dried fruits and salted caramel with licorice and tart berries moderate the strike of bitter and spicy oak and cocoa. The finish is spicy, with the bite of spice and peppercorn. 
Likes:
Complex and thoroughly enjoyable  
Dislikes:
Slight smell of alcohol  
Price:
$157 
I blind tasted this whisky, not knowing its contents. To be honest, on taking my first sip I was disappointed… but after letting this whisky rest for a minute or so the burst of flavours came like a hoard of Vikings!
Thinking about cold places, Highland Park is the most northern distillery in Scotland and it is located on the Isle of Orkney. I get cold just thinking about it; an excuse to have yet another dram of this irresistible Highland Park 18 Year Old.
Nose
As I swirl this whisky, its age is noticeable. It has a lovely deep amber colour and its oily texture clings to the glass. Its nose is soft and aromatic, releasing wood and the essence of dried orange peel and marmalade with some nutmeg and star anise. The slightest smell of alcohol lingers in the background with the lovely aroma of peaches and apricots in an almost floral bouquet that radiates the perfume of flowers and praline. With water it releases a light lemon scent… wait, here come the Vikings! An influx of different aromas floods in: wood, tobacco, black tea leaves, cigars, licorice, twigs, dried oregano, salt, sea breeze, toffee, meringue, Shiraz, port, raisins, prunes… INCREDIBLE!!!  The more this dram rests, the better it gets.
Taste 
An onslaught of bitterness soon follows the first sip, with lots of wood and the gentle radiating heat of spices that hover over a foundation of dried citrus fruits. Almost like a light house this whiksy delivers flashes of sweetness that disappear in a fierce storm of bitter and sour only to re-emerge with a flicker then a beaming strike! There is something very distinctive about the Highland Park 18 Year Old; a gooey licorice that is layered over tart berries and an earthy saltiness that develops into salted caramel after an initial thump of spicy oak.
Oh so smooooooth, with a fabulous kick when it goes down. Dark chocolate and cocoa now present themselves, some tea leaves again…

With a thick oily texture this whisky delivers an abundance of different flavours.

Finish 
This whisky has a powerful finish that blasts with flavour then dissipates to leave a glowing heat. No burn or harshness, just the gentle stroke of power. The spicy and bitter oak lingers on the base of the tongue, as the bite of anise seed delivers earthy lush green with some mild – though not sweet – licorice.  Just as the experience draws to a close, the piercing jab of a green peppercorn strikes.
Overall 
Delicious! This whisky somehow gracefully and gently delivers a powerful charge of flavours that almost left me confused how something so strong can be so gentle… I’ll have to keep sampling to sort this vexing question out.This whisky may be overpowering for newcomers to whisky, but I think it is sensational whisky!


Highland Park 25 Year Old

Spirit Name:
Spirit Type:
Highland Park 25 Year Old
Single malt
Score:
96/100
3, medal, silver icon

ABV:
48.10% 
Region:
Islands (Orkney), Scotland 
Body:
Full 
Intensity:
High (dense but piercing on swallowing) 
Texture:
Oily
Balance:
Heavenly 
Best served:
Neat 
Theme(s):
Age, musty, piercing spicy oak, bakery, tart fruits, buttery creaminess  
In a nutshell:
In keeping with Highland Park’s Viking theme, this whisky has the piercing smack of Thor’s hammer as it releases a thunderclap of spicy oak and a dense cloud of fruity tartness and zest combined with complex bakery sweetness that radiates off the tongue as it is washed away by a wave of buttery creaminess  
Likes:
Complexity, density and oily texture  
Dislikes:
Piercing oak when swallowing (slight) 
Price:
$275 

The Highland Park 30 Year Old is a heavenly nectar that I think the Angel’s left behind, but the Highland Park 25 Year Old comes very close and would not be out of place sitting at Odin’s dining table as it releases its almost lustful aroma and draws in those very pleasure seeking ancient gods. In keeping with Highland Park’s Viking theme, this whisky has the piercing smack of Thor’s hammer as it releases a thunderclap of spicy oak and a dense cloud of fruity tartness and zest combined with complex bakery sweetness that radiates off the tongue as it is washed away by a wave of buttery creaminess.

Nose 

The smell of a musty library fills the glass, as dusty leather bound law reports mingle with carpet and mahogany bookshelves. The paper is old and yellow from age, as long neglected books are opened. Within the mustiness is tart blackberry and shades of dark chocolate with a sharp dry oak that pounces but then, as though it realises its encroachment, retreats before it becomes overpowering.

Taste 

This is one of the few whiskies that causes me to close my eyes in delight and pleasure. Luscious and oily,  this high class whisky radiates with magical charisma but then releases the sting of oak and ground cocoa that whips the palate slightly and which throbs with the sweetness of candy coated almonds and orange zest biscuits layered with manuka honey as a dense cloud of dry wood is met with a thunder strike of spice (anise seed, cinnamon, ground nutmeg and cardamon).

Finish 

The lingering glow of spices radiates from the tongue, as dry oak blends with zesty orange and lush green. The dense cloud of oak then thins as a buttery creaminess coats the tongue, almost like a fresh scone layered in double cream and some butter. Delightful!