This is the Ardbeg committee release from 2012 which consists of married ex-sherry casks that were previously used to mature Uigedail. It’s bottled at 56.7% ABV.
Nose: Strong peat with very strong fresh earth notes along with dried tobacco, campfire smoke, and brine.
Palate: Very strong peat again with cloves and pepper, straw, charcoal, and burnt leaves.
Finish: Anise mixed with peat and antique oak with chalky, subtle sherry notes.
Rating: 85/100 – A fairly standard Ardbeg for me. From memory, I don’t recall this standing out too much from the Corryvreckan or Uigedail. The sherry involvement is barely noticeable.
Value for the money: These are going for around €220 at auction recently, and it’s an easy pass for me at that price. Just buy an Uigedail instead for $80 or so.
This is a NAS expression from Kentucky Bourbon Distillers that’s bottled at 50.5% ABV.
Nose: Reminds me of a mustier, spicier Brown-Forman product. Bananas foster, freshly sawn oak, cinnamon raisin bread, honey, and black pepper.
Palate: Muddled and mostly dominated by musty, bitter oak. New/fresh grain notes imply a young age with notes of vanilla.
Finish: Fades fast with banana bread and oak notes lingering for a short period.
Rating: 78/100 – A pretty average bourbon that’s neither bad nor especially good.
Value for the money: These retail around $35+ which is generally not too bad, but I wouldn’t pay that for a bottle.
This is a 5 year Kilchoman that was selected by Binny’s. It was aged in an ex-bourbon cask and bottled at 64.4% ABV.
Nose: Loads of butyric acid with extremely pungent peat bog. Campfire smoke, dried seaweed, stoneground mustard, and brine.
Palate: Very fresh peat with virgin oak notes alongside butyric acid and clay.
Finish: Mostly briny and peaty with fresh oak and burnt meat pieces.
Rating: 76/100 – A bit too much funk for me – especially on the butyric acid side.
Value for the money: This retailed around $100 I believe, and I’d pass on this one at that price. I generally find Kilchomans to be very overpriced based on their age/quality.
This is a 23 year Glenugie from Duncan Taylor that was matured in a sherry cask and bottled at 61.9% ABV.
Nose: Big and fruity sherry, wisps of smoke, black cherries, charcoal, graham crackers, and milk chocolate.
Palate: Very sweet cherries again with vanilla, oak turning musty with meaty sherry and old leather.
Finish: Sherry takes on some sulphur notes with sour malt and new oak.
Rating: 84/100 – Doesn’t fully gel for me, but has moments of greatness.
Value for the money: This is going around €400 at auction lately, and it’s an easy pass for me at that price. If it were still available at retail, I’d like to see it priced around $120-$140.
This Midleton expression was their first ever whisky finished in virgin Irish Oak casks. It’s made up of 15-22 year single pot still whiskys that were matured in ex-bourbon casks and married/finished in the Irish oak casks. It’s bottled at 58.2% ABV.
Nose: Heavy cinnamon, fresh milled barley, molasses, caramel, and charred oak.
Palate: Quite oak heavy up front with butterscotch, dark brown sugar, and black pepper emerging. The virgin Irish oak certainly stands out for better or worse.
Finish: Mango and pineapple emerge while the charred oak notes linger on.
Rating: 82/100 – Lately I’ve been really enjoying Irish expressions, but this one wasn’t loaded with those tropical fruit notes I love. The virgin oak certainly comes through and has a big influence, but unfortunately not a super positive influence for me.
Value for the money: These retail around $200+ and for me that’s an easy pass. Buy a Redbreast 21 instead for around the same cost.
This is the newer iteration of Dalmore’s Cigar Malt which consists of 70% Oloroso matured malt and 30% ex-bourbon malt. It’s bottled at 44% ABV.
Nose: Heavy sherry notes full of grapes and christmas spices with slight smoke, banana, tres leches cake, and buttermilk.
Palate: Super sweet sherry up front before turning oak heavy with some smoke influence, toffee, and black tea. A muddled palate with some shining moments here and there.
Finish: Bitter oak – sherry mostly gone with some slight funk left over.
Rating: 80/100 – I’m not usually impressed by Dalmore, and this one is about what I expected. It’s not bad, but rather simple overall and a bit muddled.
Value for the money: These retail for around $125+ and it’s an easy pass at that price. This bottle should be priced closer to $50-$60 IMO.
This is the 2013 Feis Ile release from Caol Ila. This was a triple matured expression which according to Billy Stitchel means: “Spirit distilled in 1998 has been triple-cask matured. For 12 years it rested in a combination of Refill Butts, Hogsheads and Barrels. The vatted whisky was then allowed to mature for several months in active hogshead casks to impart a spicy/oaky note to the existing delicate Caol Ila smoke. Finally it was treated to a final gentle maturation in European oak.” It’s bottled at 56 .5% ABV.
Nose: Banana and mango with fruit punch, butyric acid, cloves, and sherry seasoned oak. Interesting nose that’s a bit all over the place, but definitely the fruitiest Caol Ila I’ve encountered.
Palate: Fruit is a tad more muted here but still guava and banana are evident with peppery oak, chocolatey malt, subtle peat and mint.
Finish: Sweet sherry as some of the peat fades leaving only mild smoke.
Rating: 89/100 – A very good Caol Ila with a unique nose.
Value for the money: These are going for about €160 or so at auction which isn’t too bad, but I’d probably only pay up to $120 or so for a bottle if it were available at retail.
This is the Feis Ile expression released by Caol Ila in 2009. It was matured in a sherry cask and is around 13 years old. It’s bottled at 58% ABV.
Nose: Brine and dry smoke lead off with burnt rubber, leather arm chari, toffee, and subtle sherry tucked beneath folds of peat.
Palate: Very smoke heavy with only a bit of the sherry coming through for me. Dried fish, red grapes, and bitter cocoa.
Finish: Mossy oak and dry smoke with burnt steak.
Rating: 91/100 – Very enjoyable, but I wish the sherry stood out just a bit more.
Value for the money: These have been going around €190 or so at auction which is a bit high in my book. If this were available in stores, I’d pay up to about $150.
This is a single barrel Jack Daniels rye expression from Brown-Forman that was introduced this year. It’s bottled at 47% ABV and NAS (thought to be around 4 years old).
Nose: Weird, but interesting. The rye notes are there coming off as freshly milled rye grain, but that super sweet banana Brown-Forman signature is still there (and quite strong). Not used to nosing a very, very sweet rye – in this case the sugary/candy bananas overshadow the rye to a degree.
Palate: Banana candies, eucalyptus, gingerbread, rye getting stronger after the first sip adding some nice spice with a perfectly balanced oak alongside it.
Finish: Rye really shines here with some banana cream pie in the background.
Rating: 85/100 – I don’t want to describe this as a novelty rye, but it really sort of is with how sweet and fruity it is. Every once in awhile I’ll find a rye that has some mild fruits, but this is on another level which makes this pretty unique in the world of single barrel ryes. If you don’t like sweeter notes in your ryes though, I’d probably stay away from this one.
Value for the money: These retail around $50, and I think that’s a pretty fair price for what you get – you could argue it really belongs closer to $35-$40, but I think $50 is still ok. I wouldn’t go much higher than that though.
This is a 25 year Brora bottled by Douglas Laing as part of their McGibbon’s Provenance series. It was bottled at 43% ABV.
Nose: Classic Brora notes right away – the quintessential farm malt. Freshly tilled soil, hay, soft peat, old barnwood with some ground cinnamon sticks. This has a sweeter profile than I typically find in Broras.
Palate: Nose transitions nicely with all the farm notes leading off with root vegetables, damp hay, slightly smoked oak, and again a lot more sweetness here than I usually find with Brora.
Finish: Fresh soil and mild oak linger with peat, decaying leaves, and black pepper.
Rating: 93/100 – Goes to show how good Brora is that it can shine even at 43%. I enjoyed this one a lot as it has all the perfect Brora notes for me all in perfect balance.
Value for the money: I bought into a bottle split at around a $700 valuation, and I wouldn’t buy a full bottle at that price. I’d save up some more and buy one of the OBs if you’re after Brora in that price range.