Campbeltown Tasting

SpringbankTrinity Hall hosted a tasting of Campbeltown whisky with offerings from Springbank (Springbank, Hazelburn and Longrow) and Glengyle (Kilkerran) distilleries.  Here’s the rundown:

Hazelburn 12 Year Old Single Malt ($90) – The Hazelburn brand is for the non-peated offerings from the Springbank distillery.  Aromas of cereal, vanilla and plum, with similar tastes of cereal, vanilla, red delicious apple and pear.  Also, notes of white grape, ginger, white pepper, black pepper and green pepper. The finish is mild leathery wood and mild pepper.  A solid whisky, but overpriced.

Kilkerran Work-in-Progress #6 Sherry Wood Single Malt ($60)– This is a 10 Year Old work-in-progress offering from Glengyle distillery, which will culminate in a 12 Year Old offering in 2016.  A fruity nose of cherry and plum with cereal and vanilla that precedes similar tastes of mild peat, plum, cherry, apple and cereal along with spices of ginger, white pepper, black pepper and a mild barnyard note. The finish is peppery and leathery with notes of vanilla, charred oak and bitter honey.  Another good whisky that shows promise for the eventual production offering, but I think I’ll wait for the final product.

Springbank 10 Year Old Single Malt ($50)  – Springbank offerings are mildly peated and this one is matured for 10 years in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks.  The nose brings cereal, mild peat, apple and pear, while the palate senses cereal, vanilla, ginger, apple, pear, nutmeg and honey before a spicy and leathery finish. Springbanks youngest age-stated whisky is well balanced and offers a rounded flavor with mild peat.  I highly recommend it as an introduction to the Campbeltown style of Scotch whisky.

Springbank Green 12 Year Old Single Malt ($95) – This is an atypical Springbank offering with lightly fruity nose (mostly pear and apple) amidst a bit of smoke, vanilla and honey. I taste white grape, peach, pear, mild peat, ginger, honey, pepper, cigar box and detect a spicy, fruity, leathery and long finish with lingering light fruity notes. Each drop of water seemed to reveal new flavors, indicating a complex whisky that needs more exploration.  I’m glad that I have a bottle of this at home and would recommend it over the Hazelburn 12 Year Old if you can handle a bit of peat.

Springbank 18 Year Old Single Malt ($140) – An inviting nose of cereal, vanilla, plum, apple and cherry precede a palate of cereal, vanilla, plum, cherry, pear, apple, ginger and cigar box followed by a finish of charred oak and leather with spice and dried fruit. Lots of flavor here and a long finish with great balance across the board.  This is just as good as I remember and an exciting whiskey that I highly recommend even at the moderately price premium.

Springbank 17 Year Old Single Cask Fresh Sherry Single Malt 1997 ($160) – A rare Springbank offering with a fantastic nose of raisin, plum, molasses, cereal and a mild farminess and an equally fantastic montage on the palate of plum, raisin, ginger, pepper and almond. Other notes of tropical fruits and nuts.  It’s a bold whisky with great balance and lots of flavor that develops will with the addition of water.  Easily the winner of the night and an outstanding whisky!  I hope I can find a bottle!

Longrow 18 Year Old Single Malt ($180) – Essentially, a peated Springbank 18 Year Old, the nose is peaty with nuts, cherries, raisins and plums. The taste is mildly farmy with honey, mild smoke, tobacco, raisin and plum developing into an oily, farmy, briny, fruity and very long finish.  It’s good, but not great and probably my greatest disappointment of the night as I was expecting much more.

Afterwards, everyone at our table took turns buying mystery whiskies for each to take a guess at.  Here’s what we tried:  Bruichladdich Port Charlotte Islay Barley, Compass Box The Peat Monster, Ardbeg Galileo, Bowmore 15 Year Old, Lagavulin 16 Year Old, Glenfarclas  17 Year Old, Isle of Jura 16 Year Old and Ardbeg Corryvrecken.  All of them were good and there were only 2 correct guesses, although it was fun making an attempt to hone in on the answer and we learned a lot in the process.  In fact, our group decided to do a formal blind single malt tasting at a later date.

Tom’s Scotch Party

Tom Caughran hosted a Scotch whisky tasting at Total Wine & More in Dallas tonight.  For me, it was their best tasting to date with a nice mix of independent bottlings and a French single malt.  Here’s what he served with some brief notes:

  • Arran 16 Year Old Oak Cask 1997 (Exclusive Casks) – $90

This one was a cask strength bottling (51.2%) with notes of bright fruit, honey, ginger and a woody, bitter finish.  A bit of water exposed some nuttiness.  I’d say it was decent, but I’d pass on this one.

  • Glen Garioch 23 Year Old 1989 (Exclusive Casks) – $130

Another cask strength bottling (54.1%), this one was also fruity with a bit of spice and the fruits carried over into the finish, being joined by a mild nutty flavor.  Water really opened the fruit flavors up and revealed a slight creaminess.  This is a solid whisky, but not worth the asking price.

  • Bruichladdich 20 Year Old 1992 Cask #3793 (Berry’s) – $130

The first peaked whisky of the evening with notes of dried fruit, clover, ginger and herbs.  The finish was herbal and leathery with a touch of cocoa.  The nose was mellow with touches of fruit and grass.  Unfortunately, this was another solid whisky that was overpriced… another pass.

  • Longmorn 20 Year Old 1992 Cask #71735 (Berry’s) – $100

This was only my third Longmorn (the first one was a younger expression, also from Berry Bros and Rudd and the second one was another 20 Year Old from Master of Malt… both disappointing) and it was the first eye opener of the evening.  This one smelled and tasted a bit like bourbon with notes of caramel and vanilla on the nose, then adding dark fruit, lemon and honey flavors.  The caramel carried through to the finish, which became slightly leathery and peppery, mostly of white pepper.  While this one was well done, I’m not a fan of white pepper and that was enough to put me off of this one and on to the next one.

  • Linkwood 15 Year Old 1997 Cask #7182 (Berry’s) – $70

Another nose that reminded me of bourbon, but with a light delicate characteristic.  The taste was also light and fruity with a bit of pecan.  The finish was long and light, eventually adding some spice while the nuttiness lingered.  There’s nothing bitter about this one and the operative word for me was, “delicate.”  I thought this one was fantastic!

  • Imperial 17 Year Old (Battlehill) – $100

The sherry influence was immediately noticeable on the nose.  Flavors of plum, hazelnut and anise were joined by dark berries and sage on the finish, which lasted quite nicely.  This is a big whisky with lots of flavors lining up to be noticed.  None of them overpower the others, which keeps me interested and searching for more.  This is one I’d like to spend some additional time with.  In fact, this one was so good that I was still reflecting on it when the next sample arrived and had a hard time shifting my attention away from it.

  • Strathmill 22 Year Old (Battlehill) – $120

While this was a good whisky, it had the unfortunate distinction of following the fantastic Imperial.  It was hard not to keep reflecting on what had just happened, but I finally managed to focus and give it a fair shot.  I’m glad I did as it was another solid offering.  This was the second, more mildly peated whisky of the evening with a mildly fruity nose and a nutty, slightly medicinal flavor profile.  Also present were notes of marshmallow and nuts as a light and spicy finish was unveiled.  This was my first Strathmill and it was very good.

  • Michel Couvreur Pale Single Malt – $100

I had learned about the two offerings from Michel Couvreur recently and was interested in learning more.  I was pleasantly surprised to see their more expensive offering on the slate tonight.  This was a very unique whisky that reminded me of Earl Grey tea, with it’s notes of lavender, heather, bergamot along with light fruit and ginger.  The lavender was present from nose to finish, providing a consistent context for the other aromas and flavors.  I don’t know if I would want to drink this often, but it might be a nice whisky to have once in a blue moon.  If you like Earl Grey, then you should definitely try this one; conversely, if you don’t like Earl Grey, then I would stay away from it.

The clear winner of the night was the Imperial, which I took home with me.  A complex, bold amalgamation of fruits, nuts and spices, it grabbed my attention immediately and held it throughout the (unfortunate) next pour, which it overshadowed by a mile.

Runner-up was the Linkwood with it’s delicate profile.  I was amazed at how complex it was while remaining delicate and very approachable.  This would be a great summertime whisky for a clear, calm night under the stars with the one I love… except she won’t touch the stuff. 😮

Honorable Mention goes to Michel Couvreur’s Pale Single Malt, which was true to it’s tasting notes of lavender and heather.  The unique flavor profile intrigued me; however, at $30 less I’ll probably have to pick up their Overaged Single Malt.  It’s a blend of sherry casks up to 27 years old and I hear that it’s the better of the two.

Highland Park Tasting


Last night, I attended the Highland Park tasting event at Trinity Hall Irish Pub in Dallas.  These Trinity Hall events organized by Marius Donnelly continue to be great in every aspect: well organized, well attended, excellent selections and a lot of fun with people who are serious about whisky.  Here’s the lineup from last night:

  • The Black Grouse – $28
  • Highland Park 12 Year Old – $40
  • Highland Park 15 Year Old – $56
  • Highland Park 18 Year Old – $110
  • Highland Park 25 Year Old – $300
  • Highland Park 30 Year Old – $430
  • Highland Park Loki – $220
    • 15 Year Old Limited Edition from their Valhalla Collection

The best pour of the night was the 30 Year Old, followed by Loki and the 25 Year Old.  Also, worth noting is that the 12 Year Old is quite good for the price and both the 15 and 18 Year Old are not good at all… even The Black Grouse was more enjoyable than these.  As a bonus, I came away with a Highland Park ball cap and an unusual glass.



Poit Dhubh 8 Year Old (Un-Chilfiltered)

Islands Single Malt, 8 Years, 43% ABV, $52

The nose is a rich blend of caramel, vanilla, orange and sweet pepper. There’s only a hint of smoke in the background and it took me a while to notice it along with a bit of salty air. The aroma is very nice and young, with little evidence of wood. The taste is slow coming with an initial saltiness followed by a lull before salty vanilla and orange mixture arrives. The finish is mildly sweet, noticeably salty then mildly leathery and peppery. The salty vanilla flavor persists for a while… long after the peppery finish transitions to a salty, buttery leather. Upon further tasting, I notice a buttery fir taste midway through and the leathery flavor becomes more of juniper. The sweetness is very pleasant and the salty, peppery, botanical quality complements it very well while the slight woody bitterness is nicely balanced. Also, I can’t forget to mention the bright citrus aspect. This is a nice whisky!

Here’s what Master of Malt has to say about this one:

A blended malt, Poit Dhubh is a mellow, lightly peated whisky that comprises mostly of Talisker, which reflects the fact its parent company, Pràban, is based on the Isle of Skye. The remainder of the blend is composed of various Speyside malts which imparts [?] and matured partly in sherry casks which lends it [the] typically rich flavours you would expect. Poit Dhubh [is] pronounced “potch ghoo” and means “black pot”, which is the gaelic term for an “illicit still”.

Highland Park 15 Year Old 1992 – Rare Select (Montgomerie’s)

Islands Single Malt, 15 Years, 46% ABV, $104

I’m a day behind again. Here’s yesterday’s dram.

The nose is a soft note of seawater and smoke with caramel, grass and vanilla. The taste is very salty throughout with a lead-in of bitter orange, vanilla and ginger, followed up by white pepper, vanilla and more ginger. The finish is mildly leathery smoke and oak, with plenty of pepper. This is the saltiest whisky I’ve had and it seems to enhance the spicy aspects. The sweetness is mild, but it could use a bit more to provide balance. The smoke is most noticeable after the salt and pepper fade. Highland Park has come highly recommended, but I’m not too impressed with this one.

Master of Malt offers the following description:

A beautiful single cask Highland Park distilled on the 5th March 1992 and aged in cask 1233 before bottling by Montgomerie’s in June of 2007.

Master of Malt Island Single Malt


Islands Single Malt, No Age Statement,
40%ABV, $50

This is yesterday’s dram… one more and I’m caught up!  This is also my first Island malt… here I go!

Wow! Lots of smoke rising from this baby. I also smell seawater soaked peat with vanilla and caramel trying to break through. After letting it breath a bit, lemon drops appear as the smoke dissipates lightly. There’s still a bold peaty fragrance. The taste is notably salty, peppery and sweet with the peppery finish lasting 40-40 seconds leaving behind smoke, peat and oak. The last thing to go is the smoky peat, but its not overpowering anywhere along the way. Back to the initial taste… there’s plum, ginger, tart apple and, of course, the salty, peaty smoke and pepper. The body of this whisky is full and flavorful… nothing seems particularly out of balance, but there’s a bit of something missing that I can’t quite put my finger on. Still, my first Island experience is a good one.

Master of Malt can’t identify the source of this whisky, saying:

Rather smoky with a classic Island flavour – think coastal notes and thick malt. Our Island single malt is from an unnamed distillery, and we can’t specify the age. The result of this is we can buy and sell these bottles at ridiculously low prices considering how good the whisky is. Try it, try and guess where it’s from and post your comment below if you think you know! (We can’t tell you though, it’s a secret!)