Transistor is one of the three whiskies that have been released in cooperation with BrewDog. Whiskies specially selected to pair well with one of BrewDog’s most available beers.
There’s Tulip Torpedo, a rye whisky from Zuidam that is to be paired with Dead Pony Club. The third is Skeleton Key. This is a blended Scotch from Duncan Taylor.
All three are pretty readily available at quite affordable prices, however, we’re reviewing just the Transistor today.
Punk IPA is the beer that more or less kickstarted my fanaticism for good beer. I’ve had it quite a few times over the last decade. As in, probably over a hundred bottles or so. This seemed like it was something I needed to try.
First, I tried the whisky on its own:
Sniff: Lots of vanilla and baked apple, hints of cinnamon and raisins. Quite sweet, with a lot of wheat flour.
Sip: Some white pepper. Very consistent with the nose. Vanilla, sugary puff pastry, baked apple. Gentle, very gentle.
Swallow: The finish still has some lingering pepper. The sweetness and vanilla is a bit toned down.
It’s a rather simple whisky. Absolutely not bad, but not something that most afficionados will sit down for to disect for tasting notes. Still, very well made and for € 40/45 you can do much worse.
After writing these notes I started drinking the beer as well and doing it ‘hauf an a hauf‘.
Initially I was rather skeptical, since the whisky has quite some sweet notes with lots of vanilla. And the Punk IPA is a pretty bitter beer, with some fruity notes, but nothing that indicates a combination with a gentle, but cask driven blended whisky!
A sip of the beer, which is hoppy, with hints of herbs and quite some fruit (apple, lychee), followed by the whisky, transforms from hoppy to fruity very fast, but almost seemless.
There’s a bit of a papery hint in the middle of the drinks, but nothing disturbing.
Apart from being an interesting experiment, it’s an awful lot of fun to drink. I think this is something very well done and it makes me very curious to the other two combinations!
I generally don’t care much for grain whisky. In most cases, especially in the last eight years or so, I consider it to be bottled too young. Before then, there were lots of really tasty 40+ year old being bottled, but in the end the character of the distillery is lost to cask influence.
Of course, a discussion can be had whether there is any distillery character at all since, contrary to single malts, grain distilleries are all about efficiency and not about quaintness. They are more akin to refineries than they are to white-walled farm buildings with a copper pot inside.
Then this one came along in Fiddler’s Advent Calendar, and JPH and I tasted it a few weeks ago. It kind-of stopped us in our tracks. I needed a bottle of this. That last part took some doing but in the end the Whiskybase marketplace came to the resque and I now sit here looking at my very own Girvan.
Let’s do tasting notes!
Sniff: Baking spices, gentle but unmistakable oaky. Menthol, bergamot, lemongrass. That powdery sugar on boiled sweets (the tins, you know), dried pineapple and papaya. It does go towards the more typical barley sugar with some time.
Sip: The palate is surprisingly gentle, with some grain-sugar sweetness. The floury dust in the boiled sweet tins. A bit more oak with a whiff of chili heat. Mango and chili chutney.
Swallow: A bit more wine-gum like on the finish, but a bit more chili and oak too. Nicely warming, and quite long. Medium in length.
Not too sweet and quite complex. Absolutely gorgeous with the dried yellow fruits, boiled sweets and grain sugar. It’s like a Scottish take on bourbon, where they went over the top on quality and aging.
I absolutely love it, which is no surprise after the introduction and even though it is ‘only’ 27 years old (not ridiculously old for a grain whisky) I’m glad they didn’t push this any further.
Yet another whisky from the Fiddler’s Advent Calendar. And a bottling from the yet-to-be-visited Thompson Brothers. As in, I still need to visit the Dornoch Castle Hotel and its whisky bar.
Of course, with this being a blended malt, there’s no information as to what went into the bottles to make the blend. They do tend to work out well, the last couple of years.
Let’s just dive in, before I start rambling.
Sniff: Barley and tropical fruit. Not too much fruit, but definitely sherry, with its spices. Stewed apples, tea and blackberries.
Sip: Very sherried and rather gentle at first. It gets more intense after a few seconds. Very fruity with stewed red fruit and apples. Blackberry juice and a hint of black tea. Some oak and baking spices.
Swallow: A medium length finish with a bit more dryness, more oak. The fruit lingers quite a while. Nice and warming, without being hot.
It’s a very gentle dram, even though it has quite some alcohol to its name. Very drinkable with lots of fruit to make this whisky enjoyable and a bit of a friend to everyone. I can’t imagine this being polarizing.
The berries and tea on the nose appealed to me, and luckily it carried through on the palate. It does practically everything that you want a properly aged whisky to do.
Of course this is Highland Park. All of the ‘undisclosed’ Orkney whiskies are Highland Park.
This one was released sometime during the end of last year and I scored a bottle for bottle-sharing. I ended up with some 10cl for myself, because I like Highland Park in most situations.
Actually, I like Highland Park a lot. Somehow it just sits well with me, even though the indies are always undisclosed Orkney, and the official bottlings are generally too expensive. I do like the whisky, and I do like that there’s virtually no weird casks. Just straight forward sherry and bourbon casks.
Berry Bros and Rudd then. An old fashioned bottler that is a bit hit and miss for me. I like the approach, but I don’t always like their selection. They also focus on straight forward whiskies, most of the time. Sometimes, however, the selection is a bit bland. Not always, though.
Let’s see where this one sits.
Sniff: Quite spirity, but heavy. Grain, moss, slate, some heathery peat. Also a whiff of leather, something funky, dunnage warehouses.
Sip: Sharp, with a lot of grain, and quite some white oak for a ten year old. Heathery smoke, moss, some apple and minerals.
Swallow: The finish is a bit more gentle, more sweet with a hint of vanilla. The weight of the smoke stays too, but the minerality is a bit less than it was on the palate.
As you might have deduced from the introduction, there’s a hint skepticism here. This whisky is a bit bland, like I described some of Berry’s whiskies. It’s absolutely not bad, but for a 14 year old Highland Park there’s just not much happening.
It follows the distillery character to a T, with some heaviness, some heathery smoke, some minerals. Maybe it’s the high ABV that makes it a bit closed, but somehow it just doesn’t deliver.
Of course, this an independent Irish whiskey without it stating from which distillery it comes.
There’s a bit too much other information on the label though. It’s called Lichtburg for some arbitrary reason. It’s also labeled both as ‘Marika Single Cask’, and ‘Historic Series No. 1’, and it’s from bottler Rolf Kaspar. So, in a way it has four names, without a distillery…
Anyway, a 15 year old Irish whiskey is quite promising. I generally like these whiskies, especially if they have a little bit less sweetness than the 25 year old (or older) Irish whiskies of the last couple of years.
Sniff: It’s quite spirity for a 15 year old whisky, with some sharp green and woody edge. Green malt, surprisingly. I think I’m getting a whiff of blue grapes and a bit of nectarine.
Sip: The palate starts rather smooth, but soon the peppery heat kicks in. It’s quite sharp, but it does have a little bit of syrupy sweetness. It gets a bit dryer with a few seconds of time. There’s a light fruitiness too, grapes, apple, nectarine.
Swallow: The finish is a little bit sweeter than the palate. It’s still a bit spirity, but not as green as before. More hints of malt, some malty sweetness, still quite fruity.
Strangely, it shows a note of green malt on the nose, which is not something used in single malt whisky. The combination of spirit throughout, and the fruitiness is quite nice.
The combination of the sweetness and the dry palate is interesting. The way the malt comes across is too. A very Irish whiskey in style, without the cloying sweetness. I like it!
Recently, Whisky Import Nederland, the company behind the First Cask brand, released a series of six whiskies. There were some interesting bottles in that batch, but the one that stood out was this ‘An Islay Distillery’.
Why, you ask? This:
After seeing the image on the label there shouldn’t be any doubt about which distillery this is, unless they just put the wrong distillery on the label. I find that unlikely.
So, there is a 12 year old single cask Lagavulin available for less that € 80! I don’t expect it to be on par with the annual 12 year old, but it’s also about € 50 to € 60 less. Consider me intrigued!
Sniff: Quite earthy on the nose, with a hint of dried lemon and washed up wood. There’s a hint of vanilla, with some leather and dried apple. It’s pretty herbaceous too, with a mix of dried herbs.
Sip: The palate is as rich as the nose, but adds a few coastal notes that I didn’t pick up before. There’s black pepper and oak, but also vanilla and some syrupy sweetness. Dried thyme and basil.
Swallow: The finish is rather gentle for a cask strength whisky, and pushes the coastal notes further, with slightly medicinal smoke. Some black pepper, some dried herbs, syrupy sweetness.
This is actually pretty nice. What I like is that it displays a different aspect of Lagavulin that normally is used for the annual 12 year old. The herbaceous notes are nice and combined with the sweetness it reminds of some kind of savory pastry that I can’t put my finger on.
Also, yes, this does taste like Lagavulin, albeit an atypical one. Of course, I’m utter shit at recognizing distilleries, but still.
Anyway, it’s a solid dram. It’s not as good as the regular annual 12 year old, but it certainly punches above the weight of similarly priced Islay whiskies. Recommended!
Yes, Glen Morey. At least, that’s according to the label. Malts of Scotland is famous for two things in my book: great whisky and typos on labels. “Images of Bartstown”, anyone?
Anyway, this 1977 Glen Moray was bottled almost a decade ago. Back then it got some laughs because of the typo on the label, but because of that it also got a lot of attention. I guess all publicity is good publicity, right?
Older Glen Moray can be great, I’ve had some awesome ones from the SMWS about a decade ago, so it seems they were sellings a lot of casks in one go. Since then it’s a bit more quiet.
The distillery is (to me at least) known for their gentle whiskies that don’t pack too much of a punch, but tone the intensity down in favor of comfort.
Sniff: Maturity, but also slightly yeasty, hint of malty beer. A whiff of buttermilk, sweet barley, a whiff of floral honey. Slightly autumnal, with old leaves and ferns.
Sip: Quite dry, with lots of malt. Barley, grist, a hint of porridge. Some honey, but also dry autumn leaves, a hint of tobacco. Quite some oak staves too.
Swallow: Some peppery heat at first, but the dryness with oak, barley and custard too.
I guess this one fits the distillery quite well. It’s not a very intense dram and chooses the middle of the road in regards to flavors. Having said that, it does what it does very well.
The palate brings a bit of buttermilk and honey, which is nice. It’s also a bit autumnal which is something I thoroughly like too. So, good stuff. Just not amazing.
A bottle of Millburn was my first ‘expensive’ whisky, years ago. It unfortunately set a precedent and things have been going in every which way since.
I remember trying that bottle based on a sample Rob Stevens, of De Whiskykoning gave me. It was a 33 year old Blackadder Raw Cask bottling and it just blew me away. It took me a while to decide whether or not purchasing it should happen, but in the end it did. My first ever € 180 bottle of whisky.
Since then, the amount of Millburn whiskies tasted is shockingly low. Of course, there’s not much out there since it’s mostly a blenders product, and the place has been closed for almost 40 years. So, you can imagine me being quite thrilled when I found out there was a sample of this sitting in the Fiddler’s Advent Calendar.
Sniff: Toast, and some dirt. Slightly earthy with a hint of straw. Smooth with some honey, and a whiff of vanilla.
Sip: Quite some oak and white pepper. Honey sweetness with a hint of fresh lemon juice and lemon curd. Some vanilla, toast and barley.
Swallow: The finish is much more malt and oak driven. The honey and lemon curd are still there, with some vanilla. Unripe banana.
Of course, I’ve checked this one out on Whiskybase and I think the average score there (87.40) is on the low side. I find this a thoroughly good whisky, and had a blast tasting it. Also, the combination of flavors make it a very typical whisky of the area and the era, which is also commendable.
For every season there is a tasting at De Whiskykoning. Of course, in 2020 those couldn’t happen. However, Rob (the owner) decided to sell packs of samples with a description, and make youtube movies for the tasting.
Of course, I got enthusiastic and bought a pack, and then didn’t get around to actually drinking them. Until this weekend, that was. I decided that, with most of the kids playing at friends, it was time for a nice afternoon with some drams.
The autumn tasting is themed around the Highlands and Campbeltown, and the Highlands includes the islands of Scotland. The line-up consisted of a modern ‘Travel Retail’ version of Highland Park 18, the 21 year old Arran, Glen Scotia 10 peated, a cask strength Glen Ord from Diageo’s special releases and a Deanston 11 by Signatory. There was also the 2019 release of Springbank’s Local Barley whiskies, but I’ve already reviewed that, so I won’t be doing that again.
Highland Park 18 ‘Viking Pride’, 46%
Sniff: Light and complex with some heathery peat-smoke. Coastal notes, ever so slightly briny. Becomes sweeter with some time. Rich and honeyed with some baking spices. Toffee.
Sip: Sweet and pretty impactful. Honey, heather, baking spices. Some dark chocolate, dried cherries. A whiff of smoke.
Swallow: The finish is quite similar to the palate, warming and quite dry. Some thick, jammy sweetness too.
I absolutely love this. I’ve always been a fan of Highland Park’s whiskies, and they tend to get a lot better with some age. This one has, at least. It’s big and complex, with lots of things to discover. I like that the coastal notes are quite prevalent, with the typical style of peatiness from Highland Park. The sherry casks adds a nice layer of richness to it.
Sniff: Gentle oak, with a bit of apple wood. Some oranges, and a bit of lemon curd. A small hint of baking spices, clove, mostly.
Sip: Dry with straw and hay. Quite some barley and dried apple. A bit of peppery heat, before the sweetness and baking spices of the sherrry comes through.
Swallow: The finish shows a bit more vanilla, with soft oak, and barley.
This is one of these whiskies that is technically very well executed, but I don’t find it all that interesting. A few years ago when the first 18 came out I was quite thrilled with Arran, but it seems to get a bit more dull with more age.
Sure, there are some nice flavors, but they’re not unique. It starts to become a rather safe and predictable whisky.
Sniff: A very strange smokiness, very unlike most others. Like there’s peat but also smoked paprika powder. Tarry boats, but also straw and lemon.
Sip: Dry and straw-like. Hints of smoke, earthiness, and that smoked-spice note. Dried lemon and orange, a whiff of iodine, tar, salinity.
Swallow: A gentle finish with dry, dried lemon, salty smoke. Slightly ashy.
This shouldn’t be an exceptional whisky. Stangely, I do thoroughly like it. I love they way this is made, with just enough peat to be diverging from the main range, but it’s not trying to imitate Islay. What made this whisky for me is that note of smoked paprika. It is something I don’t think I’ve ever encountered in a dram before and I absolutely love it in this one.
After checking scores on Whiskybase, I think this is underrated.
The Singleton of Glen Ord 18yo, Diageo Special Releases 2019, 55%
Sip: Quite punchy, honey, straw, oak, apple, wild peach. Becomes quite hot with chili pepper.
Swallow: It mellows quickly with pound cake, honey, butter, vanilla.
As is typical for Glen Ord, it sits comfortable in its honeyed corner of the whisky flavor wheel. It does that well. But also typical of Glen Ord, it’s not overly interesting. This one sure packs a punch, but it’s mostly straight forward honeyed highlander with some fruit and straw like notes. Not unlike the Arran.
On a side note. This one was drawn from freshly charred American oak hogsheads, which amps up the pepper and oak on this whisky a little bit. That helps.
Sniff: Ridiculously strong, with sherry spiciness. Dried red fruits, pine resin, candied orange. Quite complex. Water: Olive oil, toffee, a bit of yeasty savory-ness
The abv scares me a bit.
Sip: Numbingly strong with a little chili heat. Very dry, and hot. Too hot. I don’t often add water, but when I do… More fruity and more baking spices.
Swallow: The finish is warming with s lot of sherry and cask influence.
I always have some problems with Deanston. Apart from there sometimes being a ridiculously shit cask as some kind of special release, that is.
I’ve had quite some Deanston over the years, but generally I find that the distillery is a blank canvas for the cask to write on. With both bourbon casks and sherry casks, it ends up being 99% about the cask, and not the distillery profile. It’s the same with this one.
Also, it’s far too strong. I’m not sure what Signatory was up to, but all their 2008 vintage bottlings of Deanston sit between 66.6% and 67.8%. Are they trying to find an alternative for kerosine?
Yet another obscure whisky from the Fiddler’s Advent Calendar. It has been a few years since I tried any Glen Mhor, which is not strange considering the place has been closed for 38 years.
This gentle 43% whisky was bottled ten years ago and based on the Whiskybase rating it’s not a great one. Let’s find out for ourselves!
Sniff: Chamois leather, dried lemon, old bread. A hint of brittle paper, tired wood with some hessian. A whiff of acidity too.
Sip: The palate is very gentle (low ABV), with some honey sweetness, simple syrup. It still has those hints of moldy attics, shammy leather, old bread. The acidity is still there but toned down.
Swallow: Dry with hints of shammy leather and hint of vanilla cream. Acidic with dried lemon, paper and old bread.
More interesting than it is awesome, but I sure love this kind of stuff. I would not really have guessed this was a sherry cask based on the tasting notes. But there sure is some age on this one. My money is on this being rather tired casks that didn’t do much for the whisky.
When this was bottled, it was almost 30 years since the distillery shut its doors. By then this stuff had become rare and wanted. I guess this was bottled more to please collectors than it was for the whisky itself. Then again, it’s not that bad either. It is just not something worth spending hundreds on.
Especially now that this bottle goes for some € 400