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%
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.
Sweet and pretty impactful. Honey, heather, baking spices. Some dark chocolate, dried cherries. A whiff of smoke.
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.
Arran 21, 46%
Gentle oak, with a bit of apple wood. Some oranges, and a bit of lemon curd. A small hint of baking spices, clove, mostly.
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.
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.
Glen Scotia 10, Peated, 46%
A very strange smokiness, very unlike most others. Like there’s peat but also smoked paprika powder. Tarry boats, but also straw and lemon.
Dry and straw-like. Hints of smoke, earthiness, and that smoked-spice note. Dried lemon and orange, a whiff of iodine, tar, salinity.
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%
Punchy, rich and sweet. Dried peaches, nougat, oak, apricot. Thick honey.
Quite punchy, honey, straw, oak, apple, wild peach. Becomes quite hot with chili pepper.
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.
Deanston 11, 2008-2019, 1st Fill Sherry Butt, 66.7% – Signatory Vintage
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.
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.
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?