Tag Archives: malt

Bunnahabhain 17, Malt Trust. A Whale of a Whisky…

Bunnahabhain 17 year Malt Trust [53.3%].  Truth be told, I have inexplicable reservations about reviewing the whiskies I am absolutely floored by.  That being stated, I caved in and decided that it was time to set the record straight.  And by straight I mean to write of a whisky I absolutely delight in to the exclusion of most.  So here comes some un-abashed praise for one of my top three whiskies that I intend to describe in laudatory, effusively complimentary, and absolutely (and justly) biased terms.  The first Bunnahabhain I had was at a joint off of Columbus Street around a decade ago.   It was a non-distiller’s release and it stood out, delighted me with its intense flavors that I didn’t have much of an appreciation for in the details but that I savored in the overall effect.  I had a Royal Lochnagar Reserve that night as well that was tasty, but that is another tale.  Since then I’ve enjoyed the distillery releases of Bunnahabhain though I’ve never been ‘blown away’ by any.  But then there was a night I stumbled into Whisky Thieves with the usual suspects and was, in my already malleable instability, intrigued by the etched whale rounding a bottle of impossibly dark whisky in the already dark interior of a reliable establishment.  And I had heard tales of this particular whisky, perhaps this particular bottle.  Good, cryptic and appreciative tales.  The color of the pour sold me, a warm darkness in a dark and boisterous place.  The nose and flavor that followed put a drive in me to obsess in a vague but no-less-earnest fashion about the pour I had enjoyed.  It was well over a year before great fortune, the assistance of the Whisky Shop and the concerted efforts of two friends who had joined me on an all-day birthday-crawl put in my hands a bottle of the Bunnahabhain 17, Malt Trust edition.  And we drank quite a bit then, appreciated it enormously I am sure, but I definitely was not in a state to review let alone recall the fine and wonderful details at that time.  What the hell, I’m sure it was good.

Which brings us to now: dried out to get some music done, I broke my fast with the aforementioned and took notes.  A phenomenally dark brown with red tones.  Rich and foreboding.

Dense nose, aged wood, preserves, a certain sweetness, almost a cola syrup.  I thought it didn’t have any legs until I realized that they were simply slow in descending.  Used a wonky glass, too (my bad).  The flavor was dark and layered with hints of roasted seaweed and grain.  Burn and heat reared their heads quickly, seizing the front of the palate in the wake of a briefly water-textured mouth-feel.  Dense roasted flavors, some once-burnt hay giving way to tightly bound smoke and dark sugar notes hiding traces of peat and more aged grain somewhere.  A lingering chewiness leading to numb cheeks and gums set in.  There were no floral qualities, no joyous combination’s of a lighter wine notes and heather-full-of-wind fun.   This whisky is a dark and resilient thing hearkening to an era of profound and simple flavors both robust and compelling.  N. Nicoll.


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End of the Week Mini Caol Ila Tasting

Caol Ila has always been one of my favorite distilleries. It has the peat and smoke that you associate with an Islay malt but there is more to the whisky than that. I usually associate a buttery flavor to Caol Ila. It also tends to be clean and refined not “too out there” in the flavor profile.

So I was in the Caol Ila mood today. This might have to do with the young 8 year old Caol Ila that I just got from Japan thatwas  bottled exclusively for a department store there. See my earlier post for the unique bottle. Additionally I just received a sample of Scott’s Selection 1984 Caol Ila from my good friend Dara.  Untasted Caol Ila’s and Friday…no better time to drink!

I was joined by fellow whiskwall contributor Nate for the festivities. Nate should be posting his notes shortly as well.  We decided to start with the Scott’s Selection due to it’s age – more flavors to pick up versus the young 8 y/o.

Scott’s Selection Caol Ila Distilled in 1984 bottled at 53%

Color – Light yellow

Nose – Big wafts of sweet peat, a little smoke, burnt embers, ashy, an organic sweetness – honey and butter scotch, oranges are in there too.

Palate – Surprising amounts of smoke and embers (more than the nose would reveal), wet rocks, the distinct Caol Ila flavor that I identify as butter or butter scotch, oak, tree bark, slightly bitter.

Finish – long and peaty, the embers slowly eventually fade.

Great powerful Caol Ila – a big hitter and I love it at cask strength!

Moving on to the 8 y/o.  I do tend to like younger malts so I was really looking forward to this.

2000 Caol Ila bottled exclusively for Tokyu Department Store

Distilled in 2000 and bottled in 2008 at 59%

Color – Dull yellow

Nose – Shy and coy, you can make out the peat but its hidden, honey, a touch of mint, malt, very clean.

Palate – Soft at the initial point of attach then explodes with peat, malt, oak, again that tell tale buttery flavor, slightly creamy, cardboard, can tell that it is still very young, not all that complex.

Finish – fairly short, fades fast on peat.

I enjoyed both, but it was a pretty unfair fight I think.  The 8 year old was simply over matched.  The Scott’s Selection had more complexity and punch to it.  It might be one of my favorite Caol Ila’s I have tried.  It didn’t surpass the Whisky Shop’s 24 year old private bottling though.  For notes/reviews on some of  Caol Ila’s standard OB releases check out Whisky Israel.

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New Review Signatory Un-Chillfiltered Collection Highland Park #Whisky

Signatory Un-Chillfiltered Collection Highland Park Bottles

This is an independent bottling of Highland Park from the island of Orkney by Signatory – through their Un-Chillfiltered Collection.  My experience with the Un-Chillfiltered series has been hit and miss.  Many have just been plain unimpressive and forgettable.  A young Caol Ila comes to mind; I will have to look back through my notes to find which one that was.  This HP wasn’t spectacular, but it wasn’t anything bad.

This HP is 13 y/o.  Distilled in 1993 and bottled in 2007 at 46%.

Signatory Un-Chillfiltered Collection Highland Park Label

Color: light yellow, gold, champagne;

N: Hints of citrus, lemon?, smoke in the background, brine;

P: fresh, malty, refined, sweet, cinnamon spice notes, no noticeable smoke.

F: watery, the sweetness lingers.

With water: N: brings out the sweetness, loses the smoke and brine.

P: More vibrant and fresh, more malty.

Decent expression of HP. Doesn’t get too far away from the distillery flavors like some Independents do. Definitely clean and refined like an HP should be.

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Scott’s Selection 1984 Bladnoch Review 20 y/o #whisky

Independent bottling of this lowland malt.  Distilled in 1984, bottled in 2004 at 55.1%

Scott's Selection Bladnoch

C: light yellow/gold.

N: straw/hay, ginger ale, sweet lemon, sea sweat toffee.

P: Deliciously complex, cherry, citrus rind, toasted malt, soapy candy sugar, lemon, straw, the nose fairly represents the palate.

F: loooooong, tongue coating, complex.

Interesting lowland, it is subtle (typical lowland flavors) yet aggressive at the same time. The finish just keeps going. Great whisky!

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Signatory Cask Strength Collection Highland Park 1986 22y/0 Review #whisky #malt

Color:  Chardonnay

Signatory Cask Strength Collection Highland Park Whisky

Nose: Green Apples, little saltiness, malt

Palate: Strong maltiness, very clean and refined (epitome of Highland Park).  Hints of smoke and peat in the background.  Honey. Full flavored, mid tongue heat.  Not very viscous.

Finish: long, lingering and spices on the tongue.

To me, Highland Park with it’s clean lines, seems like the Rodeo Drive of scotch.  I can’t help but think that drinking it will somehow bump me up in the social class ladder or something =P


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Chichibu Single Malt Newborn Heavily Peated Review #Whisky


Distillery:  Chichibu

Distilled June-July 2009

Cask In: July 2009

Bottled: November 2009 (Yes that makes it about 4 months old!!!)

Chichibu Single Malt Newborn Heavily Peated Label

Alcohol: 61.4% (Screamin!)

Chichibu Single Malt Newborn Heavily Peated

I found this bottle while perusing through a Japanese liquor website.   Heavily peated and only 4 months old – I had to try it.  The price wasn’t bad either (~$55).  I fully expected it to taste like new make and not have a whole lot of flavor at all.  It is still very one dimensional, but I was truly surprised how much flavor it had.  “Had” is the operative word…as you can see from the picture there isn’t much left at all.  I do like it enough that I am ordering another bottle of it.  Along with a bottle of the Double Matured Newborn.

Color – Amber orange

Nose:  Peat with a capital P! You definitely get huge wafts of sweet peat when you first nose it and it hides the high alcohol content well.  After awhile it opens up with a little maltiness.

Palate: A stiff jab of peat with that 61.4% alcohol following right up after.  It does fade rather quickly though.  You can tell it is a youngin’ and that it needs more time – but only 4 months old?  Really?  A hint of nutmeg/spice.  It is not all that complex, straight forward peat as advertised.  More of a nasal and back of the tongue alcohol feeling.

Finish:  Short and fades fast.

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More publicity for Japanese whisky

I am a huge proponent of Japanese whisky – probably a little too much as some have commented.  However, a good malt is a good malt no matter where it comes from in my opinion.  Here is a link to an SF Chronicle article about Japanese whisky.  I am hoping more people will be exposed to it and the demand will increase.  Because at this time we see so little of the lineup that is available across the pond.


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Bar Review of Whisky Thieves in San Francisco

Unpretentious “dive bar” that has a great selection of whisky – both bourbon and scotch.  A typical tenderloin façade with a big bouncer checking ID’s and pool table included.  If you can get past the line of PBR’s at the bar, loud ruckus crowd and rockin’ juke box a tremendous selection of whisky will reveal itself behind the bar.  Whisky Thieves has many of the standard distillery releases, but what makes them stand out is their selection of independent bottlers and other non-standard distillery releases.  I was able to try some great Murray McDavid Mission Gold series and an exquisite Malt Trust 17y/o Bunnahaibahn.  There aren’t too many other places in San Francisco that you can try these great drams at.  But the prices are also very reasonable, the Bunnahabhain was $17.

It is somewhat difficult to identify the selection due to the dim lighting and the drink menu, if you can find it, is often out of date.  You might want to familiarize yourself with bottle shapes and color combinations.  However, the bartenders are usually extremely knowledgeable and more than willing to help you out.

If you want to enjoy a good dram at a good price and aren’t concerned with décor this is the place for you.  If you want an upscale sophisticated bar – go somewhere else.

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