This is a NAS barrel proof single barrel expression distilled by Brown-Forman. The proof in these single barrels range across different batches.
Nose: Classic Brown-Forman – overwhelming banana notes and very sweet all around. Strawberry-rhubarb pie, peppermint candies, and chocolate cake.
Palate: Strawberry hard candies (with the strawberry printed wrappers – whatever those are called), buttercream frosted cake, mint leaves, and dry oak.
Finish: Turns very hot and dry suddenly with loads of oak as the heat intensifies.
Rating: 82/100 – If you like super sweet bourbons, Brown-Forman tends to hit those notes for me. The nose and palate were quite nice, but the finish was a big letdown. It’s like all the heat was bottled up until it explodes right at the end.
Value for the money: These retail for $65 which I think is a pretty fair price all in all.
This is a 30 year expression from Caol Ila that was distilled in 1983 and released as part of Diageo’s 2014 special releases. It’s bottled at 55.1% ABV.
Nose: Perfect blend of dry, old oak and peat that has mellowed nicely with age. Vanilla bean paste, seaweed, cocoa powder, and a fair amount of brine round out this well balanced nose.
Palate: Strong peat up front with a quick kick of red pepper flakes and oak – prominent seaweed notes with acrid smoke and new leather.
Finish: Dry peat and peppery oak linger on for a very long time.
Rating: 90/100 – A very good old Caol Ila with everything balanced well.
Value for the money: These can be bought on TWE currently for $471 which I would pass on. I’ve been debating getting a bottle of this, but I don’t find it that much better than other 25-30 IB Caol Ilas that can be found for close to half the price of this OB. I’d be happy to pay up to $250 for a bottle if it were available near me.
This is a PX cask matured Kilchoman expression that was bottled at 59.2% ABV.
Nose: Thick blanket of peat and fresh earth, buttery cookie dough, seems more port influenced than PX here as I can only get some subtle stewed dark fruits (no raisin type notes).
Palate: Thick peat and iodine with charcoal and subtle sherry notes – again wouldn’t have guessed PX as the sherry involvement is so minimal.
Finish: Smoky malt and peat with burnt black tea – no real sherry influence remaining.
Rating: 81/100 – The PX label here seems more marketing than actual impact on the whisky. I believe this was only 5 years, so it’s going to be hard to overpower the peat, but still, their Port cask expression had way more influence than this and PX is typically a very strong influencer on a malt.
Value for the money: Guessing this retailed around $100-$120, and I’d pass at that price. Would maybe pay $50-$60 tops for a bottle.
This is a 16 year double distilled rye from Alberta Distilleries that was bottled at 53.5% ABV.
Nose: Smells quite a bit younger than 16 years – I would’ve guessed 8-10. Minimal oak involvement with the bold, peppery rye dominating. Slightly flowery at times with heavy orange rind.
Palate: Orange marmalade and very spicy rye up front with the oak only appearing as a bitter/varnishy note.
Finish: Bitter orange peel remains with chlorinated pool water.
Rating: 77/100 – I had somewhat high hopes for this one, but it just doesn’t come together for me.
Value for the money: This retailed for $150 I believe, and I’d pass at that price. I can’t see a price where I’d want to personally buy this as you have great competition even around $35 with Baby Saz.
This is a 15 year expression from Diageo’s Orphan Barrel series. This particular expression was distilled at Heaven Hill, and it’s bottled at 45% ABV.
Nose: Very sweet at first with big waves of french vanilla, before some polyurethane arises alongside cinnamon sticks, musty cardboard, pepper, and a hint of rye bread.
Palate: Oak heavy with burnt vanilla – oak reminds me heavily of chewing on a pencil for some reason. Peppery and muddled all around.
Finish: Dries out and turns tart and woody as all the sweet notes fade quickly.
Rating: 80/100 – My least favorite of the Orphan Barrel series to date. Typically I find them fairly good, but this one is missing cohesion.
Value for the money: These retail around $65, and I’d pass based on quality.
This is a 12 year expression from Auchentoshan’s core lineup. It’s matured in ex-bourbon casks and bottled at 40% ABV.
Nose: Rancid bananas, milk chocolate, black cherry, elmer’s glue, turns rather sour after a bit with rubber notes.
Palate: Thankfully simmers down quite a bit compared to the nose with a rubbery malt, young oak, banana chips, and chocolate turning a bit malty.
Finish: Chocolate lingers with some buttercream frosting.
Rating: 78/100 – The nose was rather off putting, but it mostly settled on palate and finish. Still not very enjoyable, but not offensive either.
Value for the money: These retail around $50, and I’d pass at that price just based on quality.
This is a 40 year malt that was bottled by Aldi of all places. It is from a non-disclosed speyside distillery (thought to be possibly Glenfarclas), and was originally sold for £50 when it came out a few years back! It’s bottled at 40% ABV.
Nose: Sweet sherry notes with barbecue sauce atop burnt hamburger bits, pineapples and banana pudding – a strange nose, but an intriguing one.
Palate: Weird smoke notes up front with heavy oak involvement (although not nearly as heavy as you’d expect from a 40 year expression). It’s missing a lot of those chewy tannins and bitterness thankfully. Pineapple juice, vanilla, and toasted marshmallows.
Finish: Guava and mango emerge with the oak remaining surprisingly tame.
Rating: 90/100 – Very enjoyable and a pleasant surprise it wasn’t an oak bomb. I can’t make a great guess as to the source as it was a bit all over the place, but Glenfarclas is probably a good of guess as any.
Value for the money: At the original retail, it would be a crazy steal. I bought into a sample split at about a $400 bottle valuation, and I wouldn’t buy a bottle at that full price. If this were available in stores, I’d probably pay up to $200 for a bottle.
This is a 16 year expression from Scapa that was recently discontinued. It’s bottled at 40% ABV.
Nose: Pear juice, fresh toasted oak, peaches, briny malt, cumin, and a fresh cotton note.
Palate: Doughy malt full of brine again with fresh oak and earth – the fruits have gone MIA.
Finish: Bitter cocoa emerges with new oak notes lingering.
Rating: 83/100 – Simple, but enjoyable – a definitive no-frills dram.
Value for the money: This used to retail around $70, but since it’s been discontinued, it’s harder to find. At retail, it would make an ok buy, but would like to see it closer to $55 or so. I can’t imagine these go for much at auction, so you can probably find a decent deal there.
This is a 28 year sherried Highland Park bottled by Cadenhead at 55.5% ABV.
Nose: Whoa – super meaty, intense sherry fills the nose with a sulphury oak sweeping in behind. Musty cardboard, apple butter, and plum jam develops, but the sherry and oak really dominate here.
Palate: Intensely sweet up front with a very viscous mouthfeel that really coats the palate. Powerful oak develops quickly full of tannins and pepper. Sherry is very intense with some more sulphur notes lingering in background.
Finish: The finish is a bit of a letdown as the oak becomes overbearing feeling as if I had just sucked on some wood chips. Sulphur from the cask also stands out here stronger as the sherry notes begin to fade.
Rating: 84/100 – I wanted to love this one, but the oak was a bit too overbearing and the sulphur notes were a distraction. The sherry is so intense though which really helps mask some of those things on the nose/palate.
Value for the money: I was going to buy one of these from K&L at their current price of $309, but was lucky to find a sample split first. I will pass now, but overall that is a pretty fair price for a 28 year Highland Park in my book. If you’re less sensitive to sulphur notes, then this would make a great buy I think.
This is a NAS expression from Bruichladdich which was distilled using Bere barley grown on Orkney and bottled at 50% ABV.
Nose: Clean, dominant barley grain notes come through – I imagine this is what fresh milled Bere barley would smell like. Freshly sawn oak with melted butter and a bit of a putty note.
Palate: Very grain forward here as well taking on a lot of new make notes with some varnish, vegetal, and funky oak. I’d venture to guess this is quite young based on the palate.
Finish: The new make notes really leave a weird/unpleasant taste here for me with vinegar, artificial sweetener aftertaste, and some more varnish.
Rating: 70/100 – Reminds me to a degree of the Glenmorangie Tusail in that the grain being so dominant leads to some weird off-putting notes coming through.
Value for the money: It looks like these retail around $65 on EU sites, and I would not pay that for a bottle (especially considering adding in shipping from EU).