This is a 20 year Glenkinchie that was released as part of the 2010 Diageo Special Releases. It was matured in refill American oak and bottled at 55.1% ABV.
Nose: Candy apples, cookie dough, pear crisp, subtle licorice, vanilla, some grassy notes, and buttercream frosting.
Palate: Beeswax, apples, pears, butterscotch, anise, turning a bit farmy after awhile with some toasted marshmallows appearing.
Finish: Oaky and green with unripe bananas and marshmallows.
Rating: 88/100 – I’m not usually a big fan of Lowlands, but this one was pleasant and quite fruity.
Value for the money: I believe I paid around $150-200 for this a few years back, and I think that’s a pretty decent price for what you get.
This is a 20 year Auchroisk that was bottled in 2010 as part of the Diageo Special Releases for that year. It’s bottled at 58.1% ABV.
Nose: Subtle berries and cream with mild oak, sligthly sour malt, dry herbs, and a bit of vanilla. Overall, a very subtle/muted nose – with a bit of water some apple peels and clay notes emerged.
Palate: Very viscous mouthfeel with strong oak notes. Subtle berries here again with mascarpone – again quite muted overall. With water, some fresh apple notes emerge again.
Finish: Mild oak and vanilla with a bit of mango and anise.
Rating: 83/100 – A delicate dram with subdued notes – I wish it was a bit bolder overall.
Value for the money: These range in retail in the US – the lowest I’ve seen is around $130 and Binny’s has it for $180 right now. I’ve thought about buying this in the past from my local at the $130 price, but I think I’ll pass after trying the sample.
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 14 year Caol Ila that was part of the 2012 Daigeo special releases. It as matured in an ex-sherry cask and bottled at 59.3% ABV.
Nose: Salt water, hazelnuts, mild oak, baking spices, and very faint cocoa.
Palate: Fairly hot, but oddly hollow with a splash of dry oak, mushrooms, and a slightly sugar malt.
Finish: Fades very quickly leaving only a hint of oak behind.
Rating: 73/100 – I must say I was pretty disappointed with this one. For one, I would’ve never guessed this had ever touched a sherry cask as I detected no influence whatsoever. I only learned it was sherry matured after reading up on it after my review. Maybe there’s a reason Caol Ila uses peated malt normally if this is what their non-peated stock is like. Reminds me of a really watered down/bland Talisker type profile.
Value for the money: This retailed for around $115 I believe, and I would definitely pass at that price. I wouldn’t put this above $50.
This is a 27 year Talisker released as part of the Diageo Special Releases in 2013. It was matured in ex-bourbon casks and bottled at 56.1% ABV.
Nose: Bold, briny malt with loads of clementines and tangerines. A healthy dose of smoke taking on a slightly acrid/burnt rubber note along with some crushed, chalky candies (Smarties come to mind – and not the weird Canadian Smarties).
Palate: Very salty up front with vinegar-heavy bbq sauce (Carolina style), mossy, damp oak along with bold pepper and allspice, wildflower honey, and Smarties notes again.
Finish: Burning leaves and spiced oak linger with heavy farm notes and sunflower seeds.
Rating: 95/100 – Very complex, expertly balanced, and an all around enjoyable dram.
Value for the money: These retailed for around $600 I believe, and for it’s quality I think that’s not too outrageous of a price in the premium malt world.
This was part of the 2013 Diageo Special Release. It’s a 35 year Brora bottled at 49.9% ABV. Brora is a legendary distillery that was closed in 1983 unfortunately.
Nose: Intense smoke with subtle peat and barley. A lot of sweet notes tucked away in the smoke – strawberries and cream primarily.
Palate: Spiced malt, rich oak, black pepper – nice blend of sweet/smoke. Peat is gentle at the tip of the tongue. Classic farm notes with copious hay.
Finish: Very long finish – sweet and salty malt with smoke and peat fading gently.
Rating: 96/100 – One of my favorite malts I’ve ever had, and my favorite Brora expression I’ve tried.
Value for the money: Brora is crazy expensive and only becoming more expensive over time. This retailed for around $1,000, and if you’re looking for a legendary malt and have the disposable income, I’d highly recommend it.
This is the Brora 25 bottled as part of the Diageo Special Releases in 2008. It’s bottled at 56.3% ABV.
Nose: Sweet malt with smoky green apples and a bit of brine.
Palate: On the sweeter side up front with smoky malt and seawater coming in behind – peat is fairly minimal.
Finish: Smoke and malt dominate with oak and tart fruit blend in the background.
Rating: 93/100 – I love the Brora profile and this one does not disappoint.
Value for the money: Broras are already priced at an extreme premium, and this one is no different. It will likely run you $1,000+, but if you’re looking to drop some serious money on a Brora, I’d buy a 2013 Brora 35 instead.
This is the 2014 Diageo Annual Release Brora which was aged 35 years and bottled at 48.6% ABV.
Nose: Freshly dug earth with strawberries and dried hay. Subtle brine, peat is barely there but present if you go digging. Dry old oak with a slightly nutty profile.
Palate: Big farm notes in traditional Brora fashion – musty hay, old oak soaked in salt water, round and earthy.
Finish: Quite dry with oak turning slightly bitter – finish quite light overall with very subtle peat, brine, and hay
Rating: 93/100 – Very good overall, but not quite as good as the 2013 Brora 35 which is one of my favorite drams of all time.
Value for the money: These retailed for $1,000-$1,300 which is about a 30% increase over the Brora 35 from 2013. If you’re looking to spend that kind of money on a malt, I’d take the 2013 Brora 35 over this one and save a little bit.
Benrinnes 23 is a sherried expression bottled at 58.8% ABV in 2009 as part of the annual Diageo special release.
Nose: Huge sherry bomb – tinge of smoke, musty old leather-bound books, old oak wrapped in a very thick, syrupy sherry
Palate: Intense, sweet sherry up front with strawberries, old leather, and stewed fruits developing over time
Finish: Lingering spice with tobacco smoke and oak – sherry remains intense throughout the finish
Rating: 95/100 – One of the best sherry bombs I’ve had. I love the smoke in the nose/palate to add a little complexity/diversity with the sherry.
Value for the money: I believe these are going for $250-$300 which is pretty fair compared to other big sherry drams e.g. The General, TUN 1401, etc.