Old St Andrews “Nightcap” 15 year old

OSA Nightcap

Rating: ★★★★

Reaction: 🙂

ABV: 40%

Origin: Scotland

Price: £37

Old St Andrews, purveyors of blended Scotch whisky in fancy golf ball inspired bottles, produce the Old St Andrews “Nightcap” 15 year old. Old St Andrews “Nightcap” is a blended malt Scotch whisky that contains malt whiskies that have been aged in European oak casks for at least 15 years. A number of Old St Andrews bottles have sat collecting dust in many liquor cabinets I have seen, never to be opened. The bottle design, which admittedly looks pretty spectacular when the light catches it the right way, means that Old St Andrews has always had a reputation – at least in Australia – as a “display bottle”. Many people buy Old St Andrews for the bottle, not the whisky. That is a real shame, because having just tasted it I can say that the Old St Andrews “Nightcap” 15 year old is one of the better blends I have tasted.

The nose is rich, aromatic and vibrant – a fusion of vanilla, honey, flaky baklava, crushed nuts, preserved cherries, icing sugar, brown vinegar preserved plums with raw sugar and fruit pie fills the glass with undertones of anise alongside piercing spices and the warming burn of fresh chili and drying yellow plum. As the whisky rests, more pronounced coffee notes emerge with raw sugar and chocolate milk splashed over honeycomb, fennel fronds and increasingly denser chocolate. What a fascinating bouquet on this dram! On the palate the whisky is sweet and sugary with reduced brown pear in syrup, browned toffee, cracked cinnamon and heavy layers of rich Navy style rum with sticky molasses, counterbalanced by drying and astringent fruits such as damson plums. The finish offers brown sugar and aged rum notes, as the crystalline sugars emerge with maraschino cherries, coffee drops and the aftertaste of chocolate cake.

Overall, Old St Andrews “Nightcap” 15 year old is a whisky that belongs in your belly, not on display. Its smoothness is accompanied by a flavourful malty punch that offers a very distinctive rummy style, crystalline and almost sticky, that is balanced by undertones of drying fruit notes and enhanced by the European oak.  At its price, it is great value for a blend of whiskies that have aged for at least 15 years.

Old St Andrews have hit this one right on the green. A job well done. Fore!

Compass Box Spice Tree

 

Compass Box Spice Tree is a blend of Highland malt whiskies that have been creatively spiced up with a second maturation in oak casks fitted with new French oak heads with three different levels of toasting. The different levels of toasting allows the spice rich French oak to release different flavour compounds and absorb unwanted flavours through what is in effect carbon filtration, and this contributes to the energetic and intricate display of full-flavoured picante magic that is the Spice Tree. At £39 or $85 it is a good value malt blend that showcases high quality Highland malts with a creative spicy twist.   

Toasting Temperature of oak and flavours, source: World Cooperage

The predecessor to this delicious whisky, also called Spice Tree, was discontinued by Compass Box because the company was threatened with legal action by the Scotch Whisky Association (“SWA”). Instead of using new French oak barrel heads, the original Spice Tree had used oak stave inserts which were placed within used oak barrels and the SWA claimed that this practice was illegal. Compass Box chose to re-invent Spice Tree as a result, and this is why Compass Box now relies on the new French oak barrel heads, and not inner staves, to give the Spice Tree its unique spicy twist.  

 
Nose: Rich waves of vanilla emerge with candied citrus peel, dried fruit, spicy gingerbread, chocolate, rolled oats and mild scorched nuts, as herbaceous undertones merge beautifully with oily barley and mild bourbon notes. 
 
Taste: Rounded, rich and dark with lots of spice, zest, tang and oak, the whisky has an entry of rich dark chocolate, clove and almond biscuits, orange peel cake, scorched crushed nuts, toasted vanilla, gingerbread, burnt bitter toffee and dried herbs. At mid-palate the heat intensifies with the bite of sweet picked ginger that radiates in the palate, gently warming it with sparks of cinnamon, clove and overtones of a dark chocolate black forest layered with dark cherries and a softer vanilla.  
Finish: Deliciously oak driven but hardly oak dominated, the finish offers intensifying clove, cinnamon, dark chocolate and burnt vanillas with the lingering sugars of reduced caremalised cherries. 

Compass Box The Peat Monster

No whisky company can ever feel truly complete without the addition of a peaty whisky to its happy little family, and the peaty member of the Compass Box family is Peat Monster. The whisky is a blend of malts from Speyside and two Scottish islands that are known for peaty perfection, Islay and Mull. 

Peat Monster combines the classic peaty, medicinal, fiery and tarry notes common to whiskies from Islay and Mull with rich medium-peated Speyside malts, and marries them together in refill American oak casks. The American oak imparts vanillas and some sugars but they taste subdued, dominated by the peat rich distillate as it holds back the sugars with its heavy, almost earthy, character. This is definitely a monster of a whisky, but a friendly one at that! At £38 or $79 it is a good value malt blend that marries the flavours from Islay, Mull and Speyside and puts them into one bottle. It is however challenging and seems to be designed for the serious peat lover in mind precisely because it showcases the layers of complexity that can be achieved by blending peaty malts from different distilleries.  

 
Nose: Peat, coastal notes, tarry rope, nylon, cayenne pepper, sweet paprika and toasty vanilla fill the glass with salted caramel, mild ground coffee, cocoa and shimmers of cherry flavoured cough drops that carry medicinal notes of betadine and menthol. There are also a few surprises, as the bouquet offers occasional gusts of filo pastry, honey and nuts, raisin, white chocolate and strawberry-vanilla macaroon. No single distillery comes to mind when nosing this whisky, because it does comprise of whiskies from Mull, Islay and Speyside. Part of this whisky does however glisten with sherry matured Ardmore, as gusts of sweetness shine through the fog of peat – intriguing.     

Taste: Fiery on the entry, the peat takes the lead with dashes of salinity and a big smoky meaty core – think thick rashers of oily bacon served sizzling hot, but not crisp, with some HP sauce slathered on the side with very mild hints of hot English mustard and the (good?) old days of the morning cigarette. Red peppers emerge within that meaty and peaty haze, and as it settles grassy floral notes emerge with dried petals and green foliage (not particularly perfumed but aromatic, flowering strawberry fields on a hot sunny day come to mind). 
Finish: The grassy floral notes gradually dry, as the peat lingers with charcoal embers and an underlying metallic note akin to biting a coin (as you do…).  

Famous Grouse 30 Year Old

Spirit Name:
Spirit Type:
Famous Grouse 30 Year Old
Blended malt
Score:
96/100

ABV:
43%
Region:
Scotland 
Body:
Medium-full 
Intensity:
Medium
Texture:
Supple
Balance:
Near perfect
Best served:
Website:

Theme(s):
Rich, oak, soft tobacco, dried fruit (dark), brown sugar, rummy, Christmas cake, soft wood spice, mildly nutty

Thoughts:
The Famous Grouse 30 year old is a malt blend, which means that it is 100% malt whisky. Being part of the Edrington Group, whisky from the Famous Grouse is said to include malts from Highland Park and The Macallan. 
This is a ridiculously complex whisky that sets the palate abuzz with rich rummy and sugary notes of dried dark fruit, which is balanced by a heavy oakiness threaded through the sugars. 
Tasting notes:
Nose: This is immediately majestic – rich, rounded, bold, flavoursome and bloody terrific! Brown sugar blends with soft toffee and the splash of sherry as the spritz of citrus peel cuts through the rich sugars with an almost nutty woodiness – luckily for me my grandfather has an almond tree in his garden, and I can detect the fresh whiff of its wood and husks. 

Taste; Beyond silky and supple, flavours ignite in every crevice of the palate – a heavy oak influence balances against soft tobacco notes, sweet dried fruit (dates, dried fig) and hints of a brown sugar over rum soaked Christmas cake. 

Finish: The dried fruit accompanies soft wood notes as mild wood spices become more dominant and accompany a mild resurgence of the nuttiness on the nose. 

Likes:
Excellent value for a 30 year old blended malt. 


Price:
$300 (Aus)

Compass Box, The Last Vatted Malt

Spirit Name:
Rating:
The Last Vatted Malt (Compass Box)
★★★★★
Score:
96/100
ABV:
53.7%
Region:
Scotland
Body:
Medium-full
Intensity:
Medium-high
Texture:
Medium-oily
Balance:
Heavenly
Best served:
Neat
Tasting notes:
Due to the Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009, whisky may no longer be called a “vatted” malt and instead it must be called a “blended malt”. This whisky bids farewell to the “vatted malt”, and it is aptly named the “Last Vatted Malt”.
A “vatted” malt is a blend of malt whiskies from different distilleries. The Last Vatted Malt is a marriage of a 36 year old Speyside from the town of Aberlour and a 26 year old Islay from the town of Port Askaig; a marriage which resonates with harmonious unity that never clashes. The Speyside whisky was matured in ex-sherry butts and makes up 22% of the blend, while the Islay whisky was matured in American oak hogsheads and it makes up the rest of the blend. This whisky therefore fuses the realms of Islay and Speyside, and in my opinion it offers the very best from each region!
The smoke and peat interacts with rich fruit notes, which in my view resemble a dense raspberry cheesecake layered with ripe caramelized mixed berries and dried fruit. The sweet fruit and sherry carries the tingle of peat smoke and a crackle of polished wood, as the dried fruit becomes more dominant towards the end. There is a fragrant scent of died tobacco that flickers gently on the palate in the rich dense sherry inspired fruit and buzzing with an electric charm is the peat that gently electrifies the taste buds to life as notes of burnt toffee linger.  
This whisky is deliciously complex, smooth like velvet and yet has a ferocious and crisp snap!
Likes:
The interaction between the peat and the sherry was sublime. Just as the flavours were destined to clash, they just “worked” and melded together in a harmonious way. This is an example of an almost perfect marriage!
Dislikes:
Not much.
Price:
£176 (UK)

Monkey Shoulder

Spirit Name:
Rating:
Monkey Shoulder (Batch 27)
★★★★
Score:
76/100
ABV:
40%
Region:
Scotland
Body:
Medium
Intensity:
Medium
Texture:
Medium
Balance:
OK
Best served:
Neat, mixed

Theme(s):
This whisky is a blended (vatted) malt. Some warm toffee and licorice bullets begin to emerge but are shot down by something bitter, and, dare I say it, “furry” like biting the skin of an over ripe persimmon and licking a cheap envelope.
Tasting notes:
Nose: Fresh, mild and light, the nose on this whisky offers stone fruits with a beautiful shine of malt and barley alongside a warm cube of light toffee. There are some light shades of caramel milk chocolate and licorice bullets.  
Taste: Sensationally smooth, there are chocolate licorice notes that develop with the honeyed fruit and some mild oak. There is a bitter burn that destabilizes the experience, and ends what is otherwise a nice whisky. Pity.  
Finish: Beautifully long and smooth, the finish leaves a warmth that glows softly but the bitter, almost furry, notes that interrupted on the palate lingers.

Likes:
Very smooth
Dislikes:
Bitter, almost furry, note interrupts the balance.  
Price:
$44.99 (Aus)

Big Peat

★★★

Score: 89/100
ABV: 46%
Region: Islay, Scotland
Body: Medium 
 
Intensity:
Medium-high
Texture: Medium 
Balance:
 Superb
Best served: Neat
Theme(s): Heavy peat, beach, salty, dry
Likes: Like a cigar on the beach!

Dislikes: Dry grass bitterness on the palate
Price: $60


Taste overview 

The burly lad pictured on the front of this bottle is Big Peat, who appears to be getting a punch of salty sea air. That encapsulates the essence of this whisky. It is not for everybody, because it offers a distinctive beach theme with lots of peat and a few fumes of smoke. The smell of the sea thumps the nose with saltiness, an ashy campfire on a sandy beach and waves of peat and smoke. This character moves onto the palate, though it is a little more bitter with more dry peat and a shimmer of sugary sweetness which then turn into a cloud of dense cigar smoke for the finish; just like having a cigar on the beach!

This vatted malt has a thuggish peat punch. Its colour is very light, almost a pale straw or chardonnay.

The problem with this whisky, though, is precisely its peaty strength which can get overwhelming after a while. It strikes the nose with a gust of smoke, like burnt grass and twigs, and this really is nice for a short while but it may not be for everybody. There is a beautiful sweetness in this whisky that deserves exploring, but I discovered it after some unpacking.

Tasting Notes – Big Peat 

Part of the Douglas Laing family, Big Peat is a “vatted malt” with a selection of single malt whiskies from Ardbeg, Bowmore, Caol Ila and the now closed Port Ellen. It is very distinctive, and it has a spark of sweetness in the flood of peat and beachiness.

Nose

On the nose this Islay blend of malts conjures images of campfires on the beach. It releases a smokey fragrance that warms the nostrils with peat and an unmistakable sea breeze; almost like smoking a cigar on the beach. The peat is strong and dry, with some wafts of dry grass adding earthiness together with sand. There is a sweetness in the fog of peat, but it is hard to put my figer on.

Taste 

The character on the nose moves onto the palate, which is wonderful. The only noticeable differences is that there is an increase in dry bitterness as the dry grass takes hold, and that sweetness is also more pronounced. It is sugary, almost like a red berry or grape that sparkles in the dark ashy cloud that bursts on the palate. This whisky has a big beach theme, with some distinctive sea character (that taste you get on a pier, at the beach, fishing etc)

Finish 

The slight fire heats my tongue briefly and quickly dissipates as it warms my tongue and throat; then there is an explosion of cigar smoke. I pretend to blow it out, thinking back to my smoking days.

Douglas Laing Double Barrel Bowmore and Highland Park

★★★★


♟$
This blend of Bowmore and Highland Park combines whisky from Isle of Islay (Bowmore) with that of the most northern distillery in Scotland (Highland Park) which is located on the Isle of Orkney. Not much else to say really, except that it is produced by independent bottler Douglas Laing and Jim Murray describes this whiksy is “liquid gold” in his Whisky Bible 2012.


Nose
This presents a distinct smell, and despite knowing that this blend contains Bowmore I am not overwhelmed with Islay peat. Bread and butter wafts in the air, accompanied with very gentle notes of spiciness; the kind of spiciness associated with sweetness like cinnamon. 
Taste

Soft and textured, the Islay peat comes out like horseradish tickling the nasal cavity with smoke and then retreating into the mouth keeping it alight with a warm glow. It does lack a strength of delivery that I enjoy is Islay whiskies, and, for that matter, Highland Park! I think blending the two has taken some good parts from each, but also muted some other great aspects of each of these whiskies. 
Finish
The moderate gentleness of this whisky continues to impress as the taste of sharp citrus mellows to provide a delightful honeyed end which lasts a while.  
Overall
This whisky is excellent, and different to Big Peat and the Old Hibredian in that it is softer with a gentler nose, but on the tongue it strikes the nasal cavity like an explosion of spice that then weakens suddenly to provide a lovely warm glow.While blending the two has created a lovely mellow whisky, it has also silenced the bellow of Islay and Highland Park a little. This whisky would be great fora a newcomer to peated whisky, because it is nice and soft and gentle. 

Sheep Dip Old Hebridean 1990








Spirit Name:
Rating:
Sheep Dip “Old Hebridean” 1990  
★★★★★☆
Score:
91/100 
ABV:
40% 
Region:
Scotland  
Body:
Medium-full  
Intensity:
Medium  
Texture:
Medium-oily  
Balance:
Heavenly  
Best served:
Neat  
Theme(s):
The Islay inspired peat and earthy beach theme shines within a heart of sherry that rises from an ashy core, combing to finish with the bite of brine and a cocktail olive.  

Tasting notes:
Sheep Dip “Old Hebridean” 1990 is a “vatted malt”. Sheep Dip have blended already aged whisky from Ardbeg, Dalmore and Fettercairn and aged that blend for a further 15 years. During this time, the whiskies “marry” and are reinvigorated with a new character. 

The age in this whisky is clearly evident as it coats the tongue with an oiliness that releases bursts of peat from a foundation of sweet sherry and lovely old wood. 

Nose: The Ardbeg peat rises up from an ashy core, carrying the earthy beach notes that scream out I-S-L-A-Y! The spray of sea salt and the mild medicinal sting of iodine is is interlaced with freshly cut lush lawn and the bright glow of sweet sherry and glazed cherries dipped in chocolate. This sweetness chimes softly within the chorus of luscious age and wood. 

Taste: There are some beautiful blends in the world that marry peat rich whisky from Islay and Sherry rich whisky from Speyside, but by far two that stand out in my opinion are the Compass Box Last Vatted Malt and the Sheep Dip Old Hebridiean. The “Old Hebridean” offers a distinct Ardbeg theme that is interlaced within the Dalmore inspired sweetness; they never clash but instead gel together with harmony as the brine, green olives and peat intermingles with the sweet fruitiness.  The bitterness of burnt caremalised sugar moderates this sweet fruitiness as a buttery creaminess lingers on the palate which radiates with sugary sweetness and mild lashings of peat and sea spray. 

Finish: This whisky delivers a strong finish that remains on the tip of the tongue, the bitterness morphs into a dull but strong delivery of honey and spice; a honey that recedes into a fog of bitter oak and and the bite of a cocktail olive. 
Likes:
Very complex whisky with some peat that does not dominate, but rather compliments the chorus of character beautifully. Do the sums, and what you have is some very old whisky!  
Dislikes:
Bottled at 40% ABV means that the fireworks do not shine as brightly as I would like! 
Price:
 $99 (Aus)