This expression is part of the core range of Laphroaig and is quite young compared to the others. After aging in an ex-bourbon cask, it’s transferred to a quarter cask (a much smaller cask) which results in much more contact with the wood leading to faster aging in terms of wood profile. This is bottled at 48% ABV.
Nose: Strong peat right off the bat as to be expected but with a fair amount of sweet undertones. Briny, slightly medicinal – but less so compared to other core Laphroaigs. Stewed tomatoes with red pepper flakes lend a savory element.
Palate: Smoked meats, savory but sweet – peat is not as strong as I expected due to an abundance of fresh oak (presumably from the quarter cask).
Finish: Sugary, smoky, peaty, and full of oak.
Rating: 88/100 – one of my favorite of the core Laphroaig lineup. Definitely interesting to see what they can achieve with a relatively young malt thanks to the small cask size.
Value for the money: This retails for around $60 which I think is a fair price for what you get.
Amrut is a distillery based in India that has produced some interesting malts. One of the unique things about their malts it their young age compared to what you typically see in a malt. Due to the immense heat/humidity in India, the whisky tends to age much faster than a comparable scotch/bourbon. Thus, a roughly 4 year old malt like this one can end up tasting comparable to a 12+ year malt. This particular expression was aged in fresh and ex-bourbon barrels, moved to a port pipe for a few months, and then back into an ex-bourbon cask before being bottled at 62.1% ABV.
Nose: Nutty malt with very grape centric port influence. Seems more port matured rather than finished.
Palate: Tons of heat with banana, plums, bold port, and heavy spices
Finish: Bitter and hollow with young oak and the port turning much drier. The youth really shows here.
Rating: 86/100 – intense but the strong port and young malt make an interesting combo.
Value for the money: These retail around $125 which is a bit bold in my opinion for it’s young age. I’d be happy to pay around $50 or so for this which puts it in range with something like the Glenrmorangie Quinta Ruban.
This is quite a legendary bourbon in the whiskey community. It was distilled by the now defunct Michter’s distillery in Pennsylvania in 1974. A local friend was kind enough to provide a sample of this at a tasting I hosted awhile back.
Nose: Vanilla, charred oak, lots of floral notes swimming around in honey and caramel, mint, brown sugar/fresh baked cookies. A dynamic nose that evolves with each visit.
Palate: Loses some of the complexity I found on the nose with the oak pulling out in front. Remains fairly sweet overall with a bit of butterscotch and yeast.
Finish: Delicate balance of sweet/spice notes with cinnamon and cloves contrasting the heavy brown sugar. Floral notes remain on tip of tongue for awhile.
Rating: 93/100 – A very good bourbon which mostly lives up to the hype. Has a fantastic nose with lots of quintessential bourbon notes in droves.
Value for the money: With these type of extremely rare/legendary bourbons, the value for the money is really in the eye of the beholder. The bottle prices have creeped up over $1,000, and I can’t imagine paying anyhwere near that for a bottle. If it were still available at retail, I’d be happy to pay up to $100 at the store. I’d highly recommend trying this at a bar or something as opposed to seeking out a bottle. It’s a holy grail bourbon for a lot of bourbon fans, and one worth trying if only for its legendary status. It will only continue to grow in price over time sadly.
Glendronach 21 Parliament is part of the core range of expressions from Glendronach and the oldest of the core range. It’s matured in a combination of PX and Oloroso sherry casks and bottled at 48% ABV.
Nose: Huge sherry notes up front – no mistaking this for just a sherry finished malt. The oloroso stands out more to me than the PX – not as raisin heavy as PX tends to be. Oak is masked well beneath the sherry, but it’s presence adds a nice balance overall.
Palate: PX influence starts to shine here with sultana notes dominating. Strong black pepper and cloves added in with a dry oak.
Finish: Fairly long finish with vanilla and bitter fruits as sherry continues to linger. PX raisin taste intensifies towards the end of the finish.
Rating: 92/100 – Delicious dram. I’m a big sherried malt fan as I love sweeter whiskies, so no surprise I’m a fan of this one. If you aren’t especially keen on strong sherry notes, this one won’t be for you.
Value for the money: This retails for around $130-$150 stateside, and I think that’s a fair price for a good sherry bomb. Would love to add a bottle of this to my collection.
This is an SMWS pick I picked up through K&L a year or so ago. It was the first Benrinnes I had (and the first SMWS bottle I purchased). It’s a 17 year bottled at 59.1% ABV.
Nose: Sweet berries with a bit of acetone. Damp new oak, grass clippings, fresh mushrooms, heavy earthy notes overall.
Palate: Heat is striking – tastes even hotter than 59.1% (which is pretty high for this old of a malt). Waxy pears, dry oak, coriander, black pepper sprinkled on peanuts.
Finish: Charred, astringent oak with strong malt notes and honey linger.
Rating: 82/100 – Comparing this to one of my favorite Benrinnes expressions (Benrinnes 23) it’s amazing the difference in profile when you take away that sherry cask maturation and replace it with an ex-bourbon cask.
Value for the money: These are no longer available, but they were priced at $150 on K&L when they were sold. I don’t see this one being worth more than $80 compared to what you can get at that price. A premium is typically paid for SMWS bottlings, but many times it’s justified as they have some great picks.
Balvenie 15 Sherry Cask replaced the old Balvenie 15 single barrel expression a year or two ago. This 15 year old is full matured in a sherry cask and bottled at 47.8%.
Nose: Striking oak swirling with strong mint, very sweet sherry (almost a PX type sweetness), honey, tobacco smoke, and cantaloupe.
Palate: Pure sherry up front with a dry oak, a bit of smoke, and some ripe bananas.
Finish: Subtle overall with black pepper, banana, and sherry combining for a nice sweet/spicy combo.
Rating: 88/100 – A solid offering from Balvenie if you like rich sherry malts – not quite a sherry bomb, but the full sherry cask maturation stands out.
Value for the money: These retail for around $100-115 which is a bit steep. I’d be a repeat consumer in the $60-$70 range.
The TUN 1401 series were a legendary Balvenie line of bottlings that spanned 9 batches. The only batches that were sold in the US were batches 3, 6, and 9 with 9 being the last batch produced in the TUN 1401 series. After shuttering the series, Balvenie built a larger TUN and debuted TUN 1509 which is now on its second batch. The tun is essentially a giant vat where Balvenie can combine many different barrels. The label includes the cask numbers of the various casks that went into this particular vatting.
Nose: Clean and crisp sherry notes but not overly sweet. Dark chocolate with rich malt, blood oranges, and dried fruits. Slightly nutty overall and a bit of pumpkin spice if you dig enough.
Palate: Malt is surprisingly strong up front given the heavy sherry influence. Mouthfeel is thick and velvety. Pepper, brine, and honey round out the palate.
Finish: Finish is sweeping and long lasting with the grain really shining. Finish is almost more intense than the palate. Nutty notes remain with a bit of tobacco surfacing – one of the longest finishes of any malt I’ve had.
Rating: 94/100 – one of my very favorite drams and my favorite of the US releases of the TUN 1401 bottlings. Most people tend to prefer batch 3, but I’m in the minority that finds 9 to be the best of the three.
Value for the money: These have become very spendy due to their reputation and the series being discontinued. These will likely run you $500+ at the moment, and I can’t say they’re worth that, but if you have a chance to try this at a bar, I’d highly recommend spending the money there to be able to try it.
The Aberfeldy 21 is one of the core Aberfeldy expressions (of which there aren’t many). This remains the one and only Aberfeldy I’ve tried to date as it’s not one I see terribly often. This is 21 years old and bottled at 40% ABV.
Nose: Crisp, clean malt with strong heather notes. Honey infused almond biscuits with just a slight hint of smoke.
Palate: Big and oily mouthfeel – smoke and floral notes up front with oak developing nicely over time. Rich with waxy citrus rinds.
Finish: Strong cocoa with malt and oak lingering for awhiel.
Rating: 89/100: I could only imagine how this one would perform above a paltry 40%. I’m not too much of a proof purist, but once you’ve had enough malt, you really start to realize the harm that bottling something at 40% can do. You’re left with just your imagination as to how much better a bottle might be – big leaps can even be seen jumping to 43% or 46% in my opinion.
Value for the money: These range from $100-$150 which I think is a big on the high side. The sweet spot would be around $70-$80 for me.
The Longrow Red expressions are a series of Longrow finished in a type of wine cask. So far, they’ve released Port, Pinot Noir, Australian Shiraz, and Cabernet Sauvignon. This is aged for 11 years and bottled at 51.8% ABV
Nose: The port stand out alongside intense peat. Dried herbs/leaves, campfire smoke, and thick molasses
Palate: Sugary port tinged with peat. Rich prunes and figs emerge as the port settles
Finish: Peat lingers with soft, sweet oak and spiced blend of dark and rich fruits
Rating: 90/100 – one of the best port finished peated whiskies I’ve had. Often times I find the port to be dominated by the peat or vice versa, but the balance in this expression is great.
Value for the money: These retail around $90-$100 which is a fair value in my mind.
Parker’s Heritage Collection (PHC) is an annual release from Heaven Hill that features a unique expression every year. This expression was from 2013 and was the seventh in the series. It’s a 10 year, single barrel bottled at 48% ABV.
Nose: Wet oak and cherry up front with what I consider a classic Heaven Hill woody profile overall. Corn, vanilla, and pine sap develop after a bit.
Palate: Maraschino cherries right off the bat with the oak developing in mid palate immediately after. Quite grain forward overall with the low proof lending a bit of a watery taste overall.
Finish: Surprisingly becomes a bit hotter here with the oak becoming more intense. A bit of smoke as the sweet cherry notes fade.
Rating: 84/100 – nose is fairly great, but palate/finish come across as overoaked to me despite the young age of this year’s PHC.
Value for the money: This was $99 at retail, and I wouldn’t pay that again compared to the bourbon you can get for half that cost. I’d be happy to pay around $40 for this bourbon if I could set the price.