Tag Archives: Cask Strength

Mackmyra tasting at Olrepubliken, Gothenburg.

Pubs are currently closed in Ireland for the COVID pandemic – yet they remained open in Sweden.

On a previous visit to Gothenburg I had the pleasure of enjoying one of them.

There’s a different feel to the bars in Sweden. Licencing laws require food to be served & consequently tables & chairs are common place – rather than nooks & crannies.

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Whisky central! c/othewhiskeynut

At Ölrepubliken I sat myself down by the bar counter to admire the whisky selection & chat with the friendly staff.

Ardbeg was in abundance – Ölrepukliken are ambassadors for the brand – but it was Swedish Whisky that interested me.

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Swedish & Scotch in Gothenburg c/othewhiskeynut

By way of a starter – a glass from the small cask in the corner was offered.

Mackmyra staff regularly top up this barrel with cask strength products in a solera style system.

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Mackmyra Reserve Cask c/othewhiskeynut

How cool is that!

A unique taste experience every time you visit!

Luckily for me the current contents consisted of a smoky – or rök in Swedish – element augmented by bourbon & sherry casks too.

It certainly warmed me up!

Rich notes of vanilla & dark fruits. No chill filtering or added caramel here. A dry savouriness – almost chewy.

Gorgeous!

A whisky menu was proffered &  a private bottling for the bar featuring more rök malt finished in oloroso was next.

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Mackmyra Reserve c/othewhiskeynut

The contrast between the dry smokiness & the sweet luxurious fruits really worked well.

Wonderful!

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Which one? c/othewhiskeynut

To finish off a clutch of silver labelled, black banded Mackmyras caught my eye.

Part of the Moment Range I’d never encountered before.

I chose Jakt – named after the Swedish wine casks it’s finished in.

Who knew Sweden even did wine?

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Jakt Whisky c/othewhiskeynut

At 48.1% Jakt didn’t quite have the punch of the cask strength beauties I’d just engaged with.

Nonetheless rich fruity notes blossomed in a softly complex display of sumptuousness.

Picking a favourite? – it would have to be the Ölrepubliken Cask.

The full strength rök offering in a unique combination of finishes just blew me away.

If your looking for a taste of Swedish Whiskey – Ölrepubliken is the place to go!

Skål!

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Speyside Selection, Glenlivet v’s GlenAllachie.

Lockdown means opening & sampling my accumulated miniature collection.

A Speyside trio surfaced.

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A trio of Glens. c/othewhiskeynut

How would the old established Glenlivet fare against the newly rebranded & refurbished GlenAllachie?

Now Speyside is single malt central.

The largest concentration of distilleries, the biggest sales & market leading brands – but I’m not a fan.

If smooth honeyed sweet, subtle & soft sherry influenced malt is your thing – heaven.

My tendency is for bold & exciting whiskey – but the GlenAllachie design caught my eye and I’d not encountered it before.

So with that caveat in mind – what did I find?

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Glenlivet 12 c/othewhiskeynut

The archetypical Glenlivet 12 delivered it’s subtle sweet Speyside Malt signature statement.

Nothing here for me.

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GlenAllachie 12 c/othewhiskeynut

GlenAllachie 12 was an immediate improvement. Cleaner, fresher & more pronounced flavours. Perhaps the 46% ABV, non chill-filtered & natural colour presentation helps. A nice little bite at the end & longer lasting bourbony notes too.

This raised my hopes for the GlenAllachie 10 Cask Strength.

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GlenAllachie 10 CS c/othewhiskeynut

Oh dear!

The nose was inviting – but not overpowering.

The palate was just – well – empty!

I struggled to get anything here before the 54.8% ABV kicked in giving an alcoholic rush to the proceedings.

Even though I was disappointed with the Cask Strength – sampling this trio solidified 3 truisms of mine.

1 – Speyside doesn’t suit my palate.

2 – Anything without e150 & chill filtering is automatically more agreeable.

3 – If Cask Strength is your only character – something else is missing.

Stay safe & enjoy whatever your having.

Sláinte

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Redbreast 27 Launch Night at Sonny Molloy’s, Galway.

In what felt like the ‘last hurrah’ before impending restrictions increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic – Sonny Molloy’s Bar in Galway held an impressive evening celebrating the launch of the highly esteemed Redbreast Whiskey range’s latest addition – the 27 Year Old.

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Redbreast 27 c/othewhiskeynut

The numbers attending were slightly reduced from previous events – and a certain awkwardness regards hand shaking & social distancing were always in the background – yet the company, the whiskey and the gorgeous food won out!

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Whiskey & food pairing. c/othewhiskeynut

There were 3 whiskeys on offer. All introduced by the Irish Distillers Brand Ambassador – Ger Garland.

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Tasty trio c/oSonnyMolloy’s

The first one was a bit of a mystery.

Very sweet on the nose – almost liqueur territory here – quite light on the palate – someone suggested cream soda – before the cask strength made it’s presence felt – leaving the pleasant softer flavours dancing away on the finish.

I was very pleased to hear it was an oat whiskey!

Oats were formerly a common ingredient in Irish Whiskey and it’s marvelous to see it’s return into offerings such as Kilbeggan SPS, Drumshanbo Inaugural – as well as experimentation at Killowen Distillery – and quite clearly at Midleton too!

Just how the results of this experimentation will end up in an actual final product are yet to be decided – but clearly exciting times indeed!

The second offering – also at cask strength – was a much more contemporary affair.

Midleton Dair Ghaelach, Knockrath Wood, Tree 3, 56.6%.

The use of virgin Irish Oak casks – as well as ex-bourbon casks – had accentuated the dry tannic spiciness over and above the initial rich warming vanilla notes to the front capped off by a prickly tingling from the high ABV.

I really enjoyed this one.

The grand finalé?

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It’s in the glass! c/othewhiskeynut

Redbreast 27 Year Old, 54.6%.

Unlike other Redbreasts – the 27 has seen maturation in ruby port casks.

This has given it a darker, even richer fruitiness. I’m thinking plums, figs & raisins here. The high ABV kicked in at this point & I’d need the addition of water to calm things down a touch.

To be honest – I wasn’t bowled over.

I didn’t find it an easy whiskey to appreciate – and I’m not just talking about it’s €495 price tag. I found it a bit of a challenge.

Redbreast 27 – not for me.

Sláinte

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I’d like to thank all at Sonny Molloy’s for the warm hospitality on the evening.

My views – as always – are my own.

My Blind Tasting Irish Whiskey Awards 2019

Hot off the heels of the actual Irish Whiskey Awards 2019 are the results of my own blind tasting findings.

It certainly won’t attract as much fanfare – but it might be of interest to any readers out there interested seeing where my palate goes.

Blind tasting to me is the ultimate leveller.

It’s just you, your palate and the whiskey.

There is no information – not even the categories – and I love it!

There are simply identical bottles filled with whiskey for the judges to sample, rate and enjoy – which is exactly what I did.

This year I only managed the one tasting session – and the results were broadly similar to my previous findings.

Category B

34 entrants – average score 74.

Such a large group of entrants could only be Irish Blends Under €60 – which it was.

My scores were very tight. Ranging from 70 – there were a few – right up to 81 – of which there was only one.

Dunville’s Three Crowns Peated, 43,5%.

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Dunville’s 3 Crowns Peated c/oCelticWhiskeyShop

No contest really. The only peater in the pack. I love peat.

2nd & 3rd followed closely.

Pearse 7 Year Old Distillers Choice & Pearse 5 Year Old Original Blend.

Category D

4 entrants – average score 73.5

Correctly guessed as New Irish Whiskey.

Scores ranged from 70 to 77 and again reflected a ‘work in progress’ theme to the offerings.

My clear winner?

Dingle Single Malt Batch 4, 46.5%.

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Batch 4 at Dingle c/othewhiskeynut

Category E

4 entrants – average score 78

The power of these suggested Irish Cask Strength – and so it proved to be.

Scores ranged from 73 to 81. The winner turned out to be the biggest surprise of the session.

Wild Geese Untamed, Cask Strength, 65%.

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Wild Geese Untamed c/oTTBOnline

Didn’t see that one coming! A welcome return for Wild Geese Whiskey.

I wish all the entrants – especially all the winners – both my own personal preferences as well as the actual winners – much future success.

Sláinte

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Irish Whiskey Awards – Blind Tasting

It’s that time of year again when preparations for the Irish Whiskey Awards – to be held in Dingle Distillery on October 17th 2019 – begin with an invitation to members of the Celtic Whiskey Club & Irish Whiskey Society along with other industry representatives to attend a series of blind tasting sessions to select the winners for the evening.

Having taken part for a number of years these sessions give a wonderful insight into the current Irish Whiskey scene – provide a chance to meet up with fellow whiskey fans – and test your palate to find the whiskey that suits!

2018’s entrants were both varied, enjoyable & to my palate at least – great quality.

Breaking with previous protocol – no categories were given – so you could only guess if you were having a single grain or single pot still simply by what your palate told you – and I often guessed wrong!

The following are the results of my 2018 blind tasting.

Irish Blends Under €60

This is usually one of the most hotly contested categories with the largest entrants – and biggest sales!

My scores (out of 100) were rather tight – ranging from the low 70’s to mid 80’s. Out of 25 blends – average scores were 77. I only gave 4 marks of 80 and above.

Top of the pile was Dunville’s Three Crowns Peated.

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Dunville’s Three Crowns Peated c/oCelticWhiskeyShop

A decent peated blend is always a favourite of mine!

Following closely behind was Clonakilty Port Cask Finish,

with Dubliner Whiskey Master Distiller’s Reserve & Pearse Distiller’s Choice coming in joint 3rd.

Single Malts Under 12 Years

Also with 25 entrants – this was a bumper field reflecting the growth in Irish Whiskey.

With a slightly higher average score of 79 there were 9 bottles with scores of 80 & above.

The winner? Connemara Single Malt .

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Connemara Single Malt c/oCelticWhiskeyShop

Peat wins out again!

3 joined in 2nd place; Dunville’s PX12 Year Old, Jack Ryan Toomevara 10 Year Old & Tyrconnell 10 Year Old Port Cask.

Single Grains

I really enjoyed this category of only 7 entrants. I found them all to be clean & refreshing whiskey with a good depth of flavour & complexity which resulted in a high average score of 83.

In a closely fought contest featuring a head to head to discern the winner – Teeling Single Grain just pipped the post ahead of Hyde #5 Burgundy Finish.

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Teeling Single Grain c/oCelticWhiskeyShop

Cask Strength

A small yet powerful field of only 4. All scored above 80 with an average of 82.

Congratulations to The Whistler 7 Year Old Cask Strength.

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The Whistler & Year Old Cask Strength c/oCelticWhiskeyShop

Joint 2nd winners were; Hyde 8 Year Old Single Grain Cask Strength & Redbreast 12 Year Old Cask Strength.

New Distilleries

Again a small field of only 4 with a varied selection of entrants. The low average of 77 reflects a certain ‘works in progress’ as to the quality – and age? – of product coming exclusively from the newest whiskey distilleries in Ireland.

There was a clear winner however.

Dingle Single Malt Batch 3

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Dingle Single Malt Batch 3 c/oCelticWhiskeyShop

Kilbeggan Small Batch Rye & Pearse Lyons Distillery Reserve Cask Strength came in joint 2nd.

I find it reassuring to note some of the same names keep cropping up in my winning choices; Teeling, Hyde & Dingle for example. And it should come as no surprise I enjoy a dash of peat – along with a good bourbon cask matured whiskey. Although if a finish is required port & sherry seem to do well!

I raise a toast to congratulate all my winners – and the actual winners on the evening here.

Looking forward to see what 2019 brings!

Sláinte

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Many thanks to all at the Celtic Whiskey Shop for organising the tasting sessions as well as the awards ceremony itself & the bottle images above.

An A.D. Rattray Appreciation

A.D. Rattray are an independent bottler of fine standing in Scotland.

They happen to have a lovely Whisky Shop on the main access route – A77 – to & from the Irish ferry terminals at Stranraer & Cairnryan that I often use to cross the water.

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The AD Rattray Whisky Shop c/othewhiskeynut

Oddly enough on my last trip – January 2018 – it was the first time in well over a decade using this route I encountered armed police, a passport check, a personal check as well as a vehicle check – all for an internal crossing?

Brexit changes indeed.

The Whisky Shop itself is a treasure trove of whisky, some gins & local beers too. Predominately Scotch it has to be said – although there is a sprinkling of world whisky. There are also tasting classes, rare single casks to be had, a small museum and more to attract you in and delay your journey.

But as I was driving – I made do with an elegantly packaged & well presented 5 pack A.D. Rattray miniature selection.

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Miniature selection c/othewhiskeynut

Nearly a year later I eventually managed to sample them if only to mark Rabbie Burns Night – who happened to live nearby.

The standard Bank Note 5 Year Old Blend at 43% struck me as just being that – standard. Pleasant enough with it – but no stand out qualities to pull me in. I do like the label however.

Next up was the Stronachie Highland Single Malt 10 Year Old – also at 43%. With this A.D. Rattray branded malt you actually get the distillery of origin – Benrinnes in this case – unlike the blended offering.

Now 10 year old malts these days are often considered entry level – and I’m afraid my tasting experience only concurred with this hypothesis.

Smooth, easy drinking, well balanced butterscotch, honey & vanilla – just not enough character or oomph for my tastes.

Meanwhile the Stronachie 18 – also Benrinnes sourced but with a slightly higher 46% ABV – gained some lovely dry woody tannins from the extra years in maturation. I was pulled in with it’s suitably more complex , characterful & to my palate anyway – a much more appealing dram.

The next bottle – at least from the label – promised something special.

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Cambus 26yo Single Grain c/othewhiskeynut

A single grain whisky from a closed distillery – Cambus – matured for no less than 26 years  & presented at 59.9% with no chill filtering nor added colouring. – kind of suggests the other bottlings perhaps had added e150 or chill filtering as it wasn’t stated on their labels?

Part of the A.D. Rattray Cask Collection – which changes regularly – I was very happy to try this single grain.

It’s a category of whisky many people dismiss – which is fine – all the more for me to enjoy!

It’s fresh, it’s lively, it’s full of flavour, it’s got character, it’s got strength, it’s got lucious drying tannins & velvety vanilla which just explode in the mouth.

A wonderful whisky.

The final miniature was Cask Islay – an non aged statement (NAS) non disclosed distillery single malt presented at 46%.

Now normally an Islay influenced dram floats my boat – but not this sweet peat. I think I prefer dry ashiness myself.

Perhaps the cask strength offering of earlier had influenced my findings. But I had cleansed my palate after each sample, left a gap in-between & then re-sampled later. All to no avail.

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An outstanding single grain! c/othewhiskeynut

The Single Grain Cambus 26 Year Old is clearly my top of the pile – a stunning drop.

Stronachie 18 Single Malt is a close runner.

The others didn’t make the cut.

Sláinte

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Pearse 5 Year Old Cask Strength 59.3% & Single Malt 46%

My recent travels through Dublin Airport happily coincided with the much heralded release of the Pearse 5 Year Old Cask Strength bottling.

It’s much heralded as it’s the first release from any of the new young bucks of Irish Whiskey Distilleries to hold such an age statement & to have been distilled by their own pot stills – even if in this case the pot stills were originally fired up in County Carlow before being moved into the marvelous surroundings of the magnificent Pearse Lyons Distillery in St James Church, Dublin.

That’s right – a church.

All praise be to whiskey.

The 12th Century church & graveyard was closed for worshipers in 1963 and subsequently fell into decay. It has been wonderfully & painstakingly restored by the Peasre Lyons Distillery team and you can read all about it here.

But back to the whiskey.

Despite being early in the morning – I accepted the sample proffered by the ambassador.

Oh!

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Pearse Cask Strength c/othewhiskeynut

A big hit of cask strength whiskey to blow the old cobwebs away!

Plenty of spirit in this one – but not much going on in the flavour department for me.

Definitely one to be watered down a touch.

Thankfully on my return there was a little package waiting for me.

Many thanks to all at Pearse Lyons for the pretty sample bottle of Pearse 5 Year Old Single Malt at 46%.

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Pearse 5 Year Old Single Malt c/othewhiskeynut

Suitably pale in colour – there is no added caramel nor chill filtering in this ex-bourbon cask matured whiskey.

The nose is light, citrusy & fresh. I’d go so far to say a hint of lemon in here.

Soft malty freshness continued in the taste department with a slight spiciness & long mellow finish bringing up the finish.

This isn’t a whiskey that slaps you around the cheeks on first tasting.  It’s a gentle, quieter introduction that smooths & caresses as it goes down.

You could say the subtlety and freshness is it’s strength.

Pity it’s a bit lost on me – I’m more a fan of big, bad & bold flavours.

If subtlety is your thing – there are only 1000 bottles of the Cask Strength & 4000 of the Single Malt out there. The Cask Strength is an Airport Exclusive – but happily the Single Malt is already available in the SuperValu chain of stores around the country.

Get them while you can.

Sláinte,

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Walsh Whiskey Distillery, Royal Oak, Carlow.

Driving into the grounds of Walsh Whiskey Distillery you half expect the butler from Downton Abbey to meet you at the end of the long drive surrounded as it is by lush green pastures populated by lively horses, docile cattle and mature trees.

Instead a barrel of Walsh Whiskey awaits you!

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Welcome barrel c/othewhiskeynut

Followed shortly by an impressive looking purpose built whiskey distillery fronted by an idyllic duck pond – populated by real ducks! – bordered by green banks that would make an ideal spot for a bit of outdoor whiskey tasting.

Bernard and Rosemary Walsh have spent many years building up the Irishman brand to get to this. A complete grain to glass whiskey distillery built on the grounds of Holloden House estate in the County Carlow countryside a few miles out of Carlow town itself.

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Opening plaque c/othewhiskeynut

The distillery was opened in 2016 and has been in full-time production from that date making all 3 styles of Irish whiskey; single malt, single pot still and grain.

Our tour guide – Paddy – entertainingly took us through the very spacious & clean working distillery showing us the process by which the barley – from the nearby fields – ends up as the uisce beatha we all love in the glass before us.

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Inside the distillery c/othewhiskeynut

Walsh produce that whiskey using the traditional triple distilled method using malted & unmalted barley for the single pot still & malted barley for the single malt. They also have an impressively tall pair of stainless steel coffey stills through which they distill the corn based grain whiskey.

There are plans to build maturation warehouses on-site too – but at present this takes place off-site for now.

Unusually for such a large operation in a new build there is no computerisation of the process. Bernard insisted on the old methods whereby the distillers – there are 12 of them in total – have to nose or sample the new make every 20 minutes during production to ascertain when to switch from the heads, to the heart & finally to the tails for every batch. Certainly putting reliance on there sense of taste & smell.

Talking about taste – after the tour there is the obligatory tasting session in the fabulously appointed Still House Lounge overlooking the scenic duck pond as well as the historic Holloden House itself.

There are 3 tasting options;

The first offers the choice of either the Irishman Founder’s Reserve or Writers Tears Copper Pot blends. Interestingly both these blends contain a mix of single malts & single pot stills only , giving them a richer & slightly more oilier & softly spicy feel than other blended expressions.

The middle choice has you tasting the lovely Irishman Single Malt, the Irishman 12 Year Old & the Writers Tears Red Head Single Malts.

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Irishman 12 c/othewhiskeynut

Finally the premier choice offers cask strength heaven in the Irishman Cask Strength, Irishman 17 Year Old & Writers Tears Cask Strength expressions.

Fortunately for our group there were the newly released Founder’s Reserve Florio Marsala Cask Finish at 46% & the stunning Irishman 12 Year Old Florio Marsala Cask Strength at 56% expressions to sample. The cask strength certainly hit the right notes & is only a distillery release at present. Pity it was sold out on the day we visited as there would have been some eager buyers!

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Irishman 12 Marsala Cask c/othewhiskeynut

Currently all the whiskey in the Walsh Whiskey portfolio is sourced elsewhere from an undisclosed distillery with Bernard Walsh himself overseeing the blending, maturing & final bottling of the product. Most of the releases also contain added colouring – although the sherry finished offerings would be naturally darker & slightly sweeter from the marsala casks used.

The Walsh Whiskey Distillery is certainly an impressive building set in a stunning location with lovely scenery. The dedication & passion for whiskey making is evident – and I eagerly look forward to the proceeding years as the new make Walsh spirit quietly transforms itself within it’s maturing casks into Walsh Whiskey made with their own stills.

That’s something worth waiting for!

Sláinte.

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Aberlour, A’Bunadh, Highland Single Malt, 61.2%

Cask strength whiskies have a certain appeal – that full blown mouthfeel & explosion of taste – but should come with a bit of a warning that perhaps plays the old Electric Six classic ‘Danger! High Voltage’ as you pop the cork!

At 61.2% this Oloroso matured monster of a single malt certainly packs a punch.

It’s one of those whiskies that hit the back of my throat & numbed my tongue with the high alcoholic strength before subduing to deliver some of it’s rich dry sherry notes.

With water I found it a rather muted sherry bomb of a dram which lacked the shine of the collective high praise this bottle attracts.

When I can enjoy other cask strength offerings neat which deliver their rich flavours without the burn –

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Cool Corsair Triple Smoke c/othewhiskeynut

like Corsair Triple Smoke at 62.7%

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The joy of peat! c/othewhiskeynut

and Octomore 10yo 2nd Edition at 57.3%

being two that spring to mind – then I’m afraid when I find one that needs water – I’ll mark it down.

Neat I found the A’Bunadh rather raw.

With water I found it a bit bland.

When it comes to whiskey reviews – Don’t Believe The Hype!

Find out what you like for yourself & stick to it.

I think I got sucked in by all the hype on this one & left feeling disappointed.

Sláinte.

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