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.
Talisker 18 is part of the core expressions from the Talisker distillery, although it is not as widely available as it’s younger brother Talisker 10. I’ve always enjoyed Talisker along with other Island malts due to their interesting blend of Highland/Islay notes due to the lower levels of peat.
Nose: Subtle peat draped with heavy smoke and brine with underlying strawberries, melon, and ginger. I found it difficult to separate smoke/peat notes for a long time, but once that distinction is learned it become very readily apparent in certain distilleries e.g. Talisker, Highland Park, etc.
Palate: Loads of sweet, ripe fruits up front with brine and smoke retreating. Very little peat presence overall.
Finish: Honey, barley and oak which remained hidden until now as the smoke continues to fade rapidly.
Rating: 91/100 – One of my favorite Talisker expressions and a very easy drinker.
Value for the money: These have been creeping up over the past year (along with pretty much every other whisky), and now are hovering between $130-$150 retail. I believe I got this closer to $100 which I think is a much fairer price – $130 is beginning to push it.
Blanton’s Straight from the Barrel is a barrel-proof Blanton’s expression that is sold overseas and distilled by Buffalo Trace for Age International. I’ve often lamented this expression isn’t available in the US as it would be near the top of my list of go to bourbon that isn’t extremely allocated/limited. This particular bottle clocks in at 65.15% ABV.
Nose: Freshly sawn oak, cherries, dark chocolate, heavy/musty earthy note, and a hint of vanilla.
Palate: Great thick mouthfeel. Oak is rather potent up front wit hthe bitter chocolate notes persisting. Powerful earth notes (think root vegetable) with a hint of tart cherries. The high ABV is readily apparent and makes it a bit difficult to pick out individual notes.
Finish: Heat fades very rapidly leaving you with most of the notes from the palate but they become a bit clearer here. A bit of strawberry and citrus appear as the alcohol fades.
Rating: 89/100 – great bourbon overall. Love the nose for a high proof bourbon as sometimes the finer notes are lost in the overpowering alcohol fumes. Palate is quite hot though, but I’ve had other Straight from the Barrel bottles where the heat is much more manageable. Overall, if you like big, barrel-strength bourbons, I think the Straight from the Barrel is one of the best bang for your bucks for bourbon that is available at retail (overseas).
Value for the money: You can find these from European sites that ship to the US, but with shipping added in they often approach $150-175 which is a bit high. If these were available in the US for $70-80, I think it would be about impossible to keep them in stock.
Airigh Nam Beist was an expression released by Ardbeg in the mid 2000s. There were three total expressions – all of which were distilled in 1990. They were bottled 1 year apart from one another in 2006, 2007, and 2008. This review is for the 2007 17 year release bottled at 46% ABV.
Nose: Peat & iodine with a noticeably sweet element. Oak is fairly minimal with some spices emerging. Buttered popcorn and gingerbread stand out after it rests for awhile.
Palate: Big peat with an oaky twist – quite tannic overall adding some bitterness to the peat. Smoke and brine are quite strong in typical Ardbeg fashion.
Finish: The peat and smoke linger for some time, but fairly gentle overall.
Rating: 88/100 – Very good overall – nice peat balance, but this would benefit from some added proof as it tastes a bit tame overall.
Value for the money: These run around $350 or so which is steep, but compared to some other older Ardbegs is a bargain. I’d pass at the going rates as some of their core expressions are fairly comparable in quality and much less expensive e.g. Uigedail, Corryvreckan, etc.
Each year, Glenmorangie releases a new expression as part of their Private Edition Range which typically involves an experiemental cask finish. The Ealanta was the fourth release of this series, and it was released in 2013. It quickly exploded in popularity when Jim Murray named it the annual World Whisky of the Year in the 2014 edition of the Whisky Bible. What sets the Ealanta apart is that it’s matured entirely in virgin oak casks whereas scotch is typically aged in ex-bourbon or sherry casks. It’s an interesting experiment in how the tannins and fresh char from the oak cask interact with the malted barley.
Nose: The virgin oak stands out immediately – similar to fresh oak chips. Delicate barley surfaces from beneath the grain along with cracked black pepper, orange marmalade, and a hint of smoke from the fresh barrel char. Malted barley doesn’t disguise the smoke/caramelization well compared to a bourbon due to the lack of additional inherent sweetness from the corn in bourbon mashbills.
Palate: Again, the oak influence is quite noticeable up front. Golden raisins, pepper, buttery grain, and honeydew melon create an interesting blend of sweet and spice.
Finish: Odd, but interesting mix of heavy oak, apricots, grape jelly. Much sweeter here than on the palate as some of that char fades away.
Rating: 88/100 – one of my favorite of the private editions, and a great chance to taste something unique in the virgin oak profile.
Value for the money: These retailed around $99 which was a pretty fair price in my mind. This is the typical Private Edition price each year. These are no longer available in stores and likely pushing $200-250 on the secondary which is too steep in my opinion. I’d be happy to pay up to $150 for a bottle of this.
2013 was the first year I was able to find one of each of the BTAC (Buffalo Trace Antique Collection) – a very limited yearly release consisting of five expressions (William Larue Weller, Sazerac 18 Rye, Thomas H. Handy Rye, Eagle Rare 17, and George T. Stagg). I enjoyed opening each one up and fully exploring them. George T. Stagg is typically a bruiser of a barrel-strength bourbon.
Nose: Immediate blend of rich vanilla with heavy barrel char. Old leather with caramel and black cherries emerging after awhile.
Palate: Very grain heavy up front. Slight burnt toast with caramel and vanilla notes. The proof isn’t as overwhelming as you’d expect for being 64.1% ABV, but it still masks a bit of the depth in this expression in my opinion. Rather thin mouthfeel with a bit of grain to it.
Finish: Old oak dominates here – rather dry overall with a bit of caramel that lingers. Perhaps a bit overoaked here for my taste.
Rating: 86/100 – Solid bourbon which was a bit of a letdown for this particular year compared to other releases e.g. 2012, 2010, 2014, etc.
Value for the money: At retail ($89-$99), any of the BTAC bottles are a no-brainer for an excellent pour; however, most people are unable to procure these at retail due to their high demand and limited supply. On the secondary, these will fetch close to $400, and as with most bourbon, it is not worth that premium in my opinion.