Talisker 8 marks the return of a giant

Tom van Engelen wrote another one of his sort-of-bi-weekly posts on a bottle he found in his collection. Or at least, something that sparked his interest and urge to ramble on a bit!

This time, he tried the new Talisker 8. The only Special Release that’s affordable and actually somewhat more special than the annual Lagavulin and Caol Ila…


Talisker 8 is one of the surprises in the Special Releases of 2018. Since the release of the Lagavulin 8 for the 200th anniversary of that distillery, I don’t think that age is too young for a (peated) whisky. So when the chance presented itself to get a sample of the bottle, I did not want to let it pass. I warmed up for this tasting with a Talisker Storm from a few years ago. Actually a quite fine dram, even though it brought Talisker in full NAS mode with the Dark Storm and the Skye in their inventory too. Tasted on its own, this expression is fine. Around the 80 points mark. A notch above it. Fine stuff.

Now, on to the next one. Talisker 8 years old.

Sweetened smoke, malty. Vanilla cotton candy.

Oh my, bloody brilliant. The traditional Talisker pepper like I haven’t tasted since forever. This reminds me of my first time with Talisker. The rocks package of the 10 years old. But on steroids, obviously fuelled by the high abv. I don’t feel any need, however, to dilute this dram. Perfection on the tongue. There is obviously cask influence, first and second fill types. The balance is amazing.

Smooth but powerful. I absolutely love it. It definitely feels much more mature; if I had tasted this blind I would have gone for twice the age on the label. Which goes to show that age is not the most important when a whisky is constructed with such care as this one. Classic Talisker, this reminds me of why I loved stuff from this distillery years ago. I will turn a blind eye to the modern character of this expression.

Score: 90 points!

It’s amazing to be surprised by a whisky like this. It had been a while. And I did put in a few drops of water. I won’t score it, people will think I’ve gone berserk.

After the glass emptied I poured myself Talisker 25 years old bottled in 2004. The vintages around 1980 are magic as far as Talisker goes. Tasting the new 8 years old, I feel the distillery returns to the strong form it only truly shows in the 10 years old these days. Welcome back, old friend.

About Tom van Engelen

I’m a writer in a variety of fields and have a soft spot for whisky, mainly malt, mainly from Scotland. In other times I enjoyed a stint as editor-in-chief of one of the first whisky magazines in the world. When not sipping a good glass I like to write some more, read, watch 007 movies or listen Bowie music. I’m engaged to Dasha, I have a sweet daughter and I live somewhere between the big rivers in the middle of The Netherlands.

Posted in - Guest Post, Talisker | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inchmoan 25yo, 1992-2017, 48.6%

Inchmoan is not really a brand that many people know of. It’s one of the lesser known names used for spirit by the Loch Lomond distillery, with Loch Lomond and Inchmurrin being the more public ones.

Inchmoan is Loch Lomond’s peated whisky but there isn’t much out there. Whiskybase only knows of 13 bottlings, which is close to the most obscure brands out there, for contemporary Scottish brands.

This whisky was used by Rob of De Whiskykoning in one of his tastings. That was September 2017, and I still have the tasting notes for the entire tasting lying around somewhere. With every intention to blog about it at some point. Together with over a hundred scribbled notes, I think.

Straight forward oak, light smoke and marram grass. Ginger, sawdust, bark.

Gentle, with lots of dry and dusty oak. Dusty spices with powdered ginger, but also dried grasses, sawdust, and a whiff of smoke.

Slightly coastal, smoky and smooth. Dried grass, maybe some lemongrass. Ginger. Slightly asian, in regards to the style of spices.

This is a cracking whisky. Obviously I think that since I bought the bottle back then and only shared a few samples. I’m very glad I did, as I sit here drinking one the last drams that are going to come from it. The flavors I’d normally associate with the west coast of Scotland are all here. It’s rather coastal, with all kinds of dry grasses and windswept dunes. Surprisingly since Loch Lomond is quite a ways inland.

Anyway, a great whisky and I’m glad I’m not the only one to think so. Both Serge and Angus rated it 90 points as well.


Inchmoan 25yo, 1992-2017, Refill Bourbon Barrels, 48.6%. Around € 225-240 or so

Posted in Inchmoan, Loch Lomond | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Knappogue Castle NAS, Early fifties, 92 proof

This is a bit of a weird one, and it was a rather expensive one. A few years ago Stefan van der Boog, known from Passie voor Whisky bought a bottle of very old Knappogue Castle from a collection. Based on comparisons with other labels (there wasn’t much information on it) it was dated as being distileld in the early fifties and bottled after a couple of decades. The label closest to this one was a 1951 vintage, bottled in 1987.

So, expectations were high, especially with Irish whiskey gaining massive popularity right around that time (when this share was done, that is). I paid a couple of tenners for a sample of this and never really got around to properly tasting it. I did have a sip of it, but wasn’t overjoyed back then. The typical ‘old Irish winegums wrapper’ scent was rather prevalent.

Last week, I did sit down for a proper tasting of this rather obscure whiskey, and it wasn’t as bad as I had feared.

Very old fashioned, but very typicslly Irish. A sweetness than smells a bit artificial, with lots of sugar. Barley sugar, a gentle oakiness, with some green malt.

Dry with lots of barley. A bit of a winegum sweetness, with hints of the plastic bag they come from. The old-fashioned-ness comes in later. A certain woody texture of spices and sawdust.

The chemical sweetness is getting a bit too much here. It’s sweet, plastic like and there are only hints of oak and spices. Quite alot of barley still.

20181007_142513.jpgSo, yes, the winegums sweetness and the cloying scent if you smell the bag winegums come from is here. It’s not as pronounced on the nose and palate as it sometimes is, but on the finish it rears its ugly head. A shame, because that puts the rating down a couple of notches.

Also, after having tasted this, and some 1930s and 1940s Jameson as well as some other random older Irish stuff, I can say that it’s not entirely my cup of tea.

That weird sweetness I think comes from the use of unmalted barley, since that’s the biggest (if not only) difference between Irish pot still whiskey and Scottish single malt.

I just happen to not like it very much.

Still, there are quite some flavors to like, albeit not enough to give this a huge score, and not enough to warrant the price tag belonging to this sample.


Knappogue Castle NAS, Early fifties, 92 proof

Posted in - Irish Whiskey, Knappogue Castle | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Glen Moray 1994-2016, 21yo, 55.5% – SMWS (35.159 – Waves of Intensity)

One of these samples that I found in my stash when selecting which drams to bring on the summer holiday. I only looked it up now and saw that it was drawn from a ‘toasted hogshead’, which is an interesting thing. There are probably quite some whiskies out there from toasted casks, but apart from some 14 year old Glenfiddich from years ago, I can’t think of any.

This 21 year old from the SMWS is not something that would normally spark my interest, but I think I got the sample based on a recommendation by Ben Cops. He is kind of a regular customer of SMWS whiskies.

So, this review has been idling in my ‘to post’ list for quite a while now, and I decided to review it today since in eight days I’ll finally be touring Glen Moray. I’ve visited the shop once before, because we had about 45 minutes to kill before we had to head on to BenRiach in 2013. Now we’re going to be in the area again, and I wanted to do a tour on which I can bring the kids. I think they need to see why daddy loves whisky so much, and a first hand experience like that could help a lot!


Image from Whisky Auctioneer

Sweet and very fruity with hints of mango, pear and peach. Some custard like hints in the background. A gentle oakiness too.

A lot stronger than the nose suggests, with quite some alcohol heat. Still sweet and lots of tropical fruit. Peach, nectarine, mango. The heat turns into dry oak.

Dry on the finish, with a firm afterburner. Very warming and a hint of the light spirit shines through. Rather long.

Gorgeous! I didn’t really know what to expect when I opened it, but I was very pleasantly surprised. I think, in general, the SMWS and Glen Moray are a very good partnership with some splendid results in the past. This one fits that list nicely and it’s one of those whiskies I wouldn’t mind having a bottle of!

The toasted oak is an interesting twist and makes it a lot fruitier than I’d normally expect. What’s interesting is that, at least to me, it starts to taste more like a sherry cask than it normally would. This goes some way to underscore the importance of oak, although I do think the fruity spirit of Glen Moray is a large factor as well.


Glen Moray 1994-2016, 21 years old, 1st fill Toasted Hogshead, 55.5%, SMWS 35.159 “Waves of Intensity”. Of course this is only available through the secondary market and should cost around 100 euros.

Posted in Glen Moray | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lagavulin, Islay Jazz Festival 2017, 57.6%

About a year ago Benny, from our whisky club, went to Islay and I asked him to pick up some bottles for me. This was one of them, but I never got around to properly reviewing it yet.

Yesterday I was sitting down with a late night dram and there wasn’t much left in the bottle (some 5cl or so) after I poured it. My thoughts, logically (because who needs sleep) I figured the best thing to do was to finish the bottle and finally write those tasting notes.

Lagavulin doesn’t do many special releases, and most of their whiskies follow a very strict set of rules. Lagavulin 16 is consistent, as is the annual 12 year old at cask strength. Then there’s the Distiller’s Edition (also always good). Apart from those there have been some very expensive and rare private casks over the last two or three years. Then there’s the Islay Jazz Festival release. This one. Always a NAS release at cask strength, if I’m not mistaken.

Of course that doesn’t make it any less good than age stated Lagavulins. True in this case, in a lot of other distillery’s cases not so much.

A heavy smoke hangs over a gently grassy whisky. It might even be a bit diesel like. Marram grass and some dry, green oak. Thyme twigs with some other herbs. Apple seeds and cores. So, slightly bitter and with a hint of minerals, iron, slate.

A tingle of the high ABV which builds to quite a sharp sip of whisky. Peaty, smoky, salty with notes of brine, marram and oak. Some straw, sea weed, oak, and peat. I’m not getting the bitter note now.

The finish is quite tannic with a rather leathery effect on your tongue. I did have a bit of a large sip, so that increases the burn. The finish is long with what I can only imagine a brushfire in a peat field would smell like. Oak, brine, sea weed, marram grass, straw, peat and smoke, and a hint of leather.

Exactly what you’d expect from a cask strength Lagavulin. Which is a very good thing! This does tick all the boxes if you know what to expect. The more available Lagavulins (16yo and Distiller’s Edition) do have sherry casks in the mix, which makes this one significantly less sweet than those.

When this came out it set you back 100 pounds. Not exactly cheap, but that’s what this kind of whisky goes for nowadays. Available through the Whiskybase Marketplace for more than that.


Lagavulin, Islay Jazz Festival 2017, 57.6%

Posted in Lagavulin | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Invergordon 44, 1974-2018, 51.6% – The Whisky Show Exclusive (Future Future)

After the Past Future, and the Present Future, we get to the last part of the triptych. The future, as the guys at The Whisky Show’s organisation expect the future to be in the future. I’m once again very close to lose even myself in my reasoning.

Anyway, in this case I personally think they’re a bit off. More of these OLD grain whiskies, like this one, were bottled about six or seven years ago and they were affordable. At the moment they come around in batches, but I think these very old ones are very finite. I would expect the average age to go down, as has been happening for some time. Of course, there was a fairly recent batch of oldies like this, but prices were a tad higher than before, and this most likely will continue.

This one might even be a point in case, since it’s almost € 300, whereas whiskies like this were over a hundred euros cheaper a year ago.

Lots of charcoal and oak. Lots of grain on the nose, in a sweeter way than most barley driven whiskies. Rather sugary with a hint of sugary caramel and cream.

Drier than expected on the palate. Grainy and slightly coarse. Quite some dry oak, like old shavings and a bit of sawdust. Brown sugar, caramel and some orchard fruits like unripe pears.

Typical grain on the finish, but that’s quickly replaced by slightly funky caramel cream. Lots of oak and grain.

I’ve said this before in several posts on old grain whiskies, but these are not entirely in my wheel house. I like them, but I generally don’t love them. Although, in this one, I can recognize the quality. It’s closer to most barley driven whiskies than some others of similar age.


Invergordon 44, 1974-2018, 51.6%, The Whisky Show Exclusive (Future Future). Some have shown up here for € 292

Sample supplied by The Whisky Exchange.

Posted in - Grain Whisky, - News and Announcements, Invergordon | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Does the re-opening of distilleries bereave us of nostalgia?

Once more Tom van Engelen has written a post reminiscing about booze with a dram in hand. This time his train of thought got sparked by an old bottling of Port Ellen!

Once I knew a man who thought it would be something to import single cask whisky from a renowned independent bottler and sell it to enthusiasts in The Netherlands. He was sadly 10 years ahead of the pack and it did not launch. When I discover his remaining boxes I could not believe my eyes and senses: Littlemill 8 years old, Rosebank 8 years old, lesser known names and also… a Port Ellen 16 years old from 1980 (my birth year). I had tasted and enjoyed many Port Ellen by then, as they were still affordable per glass. But this one triggered me. Not that I became a raving Port Ellen fan, but there was a sense of nostalgia drinking stuff from a closed distillery. And Port Ellen, among those whiskies, was the most legendary.

Flash forward to 2009 when I first set foot on Islay. Anyone who had gone before me or followed after must have been love-struck with the first sight of the whitewashed walls with those impressive letters on them: P-O-R-T-E-L-L-E-N. Passing by the buildings, walking around them, in later years even a visit to the maltings, you couldn’t help but feel in awe of whisky history at your feet.

And then this most legendary of legends simply opens up again. Great news? I am not so sure. This has nothing to do with the quality, which I suspect will be more than fine with Georgie Crawford overseeing the operation. But how about the heart of the matter? How it feels inside? Port Ellen will no longer be lost. We have asked for it for many years and now that the dream comes true… I find myself not wanting it anymore!

I was triggered to revisit the Port Ellen 1980 again after reading a less enthusiastic review by a fellow who’s opinion I value highly (red. Interestingly, Tom doesn’t point to my own review…). But first, something else, because one does not simply start drinking PE at 62% abv. I decide to take this warm-up dram.

Lagavulin Feis Ile 2018, 53,9%


Image from Whiskybase

The second year the traditional red seal is missing from the Feis Ile bottle. I wonder why that is…

Very deep and layered but a camp fire at the beach with a lot of peat in it is most dominant. Underneath traditional liquorice.

Extremely alcoholic spicy even though I have tasted higher abv Lagavulin. Nice dark tones of wood, chocolate and peated coffee.

More subtle than expected. Doesn’t bite at all and is smooth and warming.

87/100 points for a fairly unbalanced Lagavulin.

Water does nothing for it. The rather complex description of the 3 cask types used to create the output of 6000 bottles did not result in a “sum greater than it’s parts”. But still, standard Lagavulin high quality of course.

Then, on to the reason of writing this blog. I wished to pair it against another Port Ellen but I discovered my sample drawer does not contain them anymore. Of this one only 3 cl now remain. And a full closed bottle, ahem! (Yes, that is my picture on Whiskybase.)

Port Ellen 1980, bottled by Cadenhead’s in 1997 at 62%

It were the years of light peat. Rob Stevens of De Whiskykoning once let me sip an unpeated Laphroaig (also Cadenhead) from 1981, and the Kildalton Ardbegs are legendary.


Image from Whiskybase, by Tom van Engelen

Well, there is certainly a peaty element to this one, but also impressions of what you should expect in a Springbank. Chalk, pebbles on the beach. Just a different beach, on the shores of Islay. To me, this is a classic scent, not the frontal stuff you find in some young expressions from Islay these days. This is different. Fresh and mature at the same time. Early Autumn. Dry leaves on muddy ground.

Sweetened liquorice and that chewable wood I bought in the candy store long ago. Very balanced. After a moment the high abv starts to sting and I swallow quickly.

Rather fast, goes down easy, this is where this PE falls short. But with water there is some recovery and I enjoy the warming burn that is reminiscent of tastes and joys from another era. I appreciate that the spirit has centre stage here, the wood is very submissive.

88/100 points with bonus points for a wonderful balance, which is not often a given in a single cask bottling.

I love this one, and sipped it many times over the past 15 years. You might say I understand the meaning behind this one a little deeper than other whisky. Now, the question is, what will we get in the new Port Ellen? I fear for diminishing reputation for this one more than with Rosebank and Brora, those other resurrected giants. Time will tell.

About Tom van Engelen

I’m a writer in a variety of fields and have a soft spot for whisky, mainly malt, mainly from Scotland. In other times I enjoyed a stint as editor-in-chief of one of the first whisky magazines in the world. When not sipping a good glass I like to write some more, read, watch 007 movies or listen Bowie music. I’m engaged to Dasha, I have a sweet daughter and I live somewhere between the big rivers in the middle of The Netherlands.

Posted in - Guest Post, Lagavulin, Port Ellen | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment