Dram Mor Ben Nevis 8 year review

Dram Mor is an independent bottler located in Dumbarton, Scotland. The Macdonalds started their brand in 2019, and now ship bottles to over 24 countries around the world. The focus of this review is their 8 year old Ben Nevis expression. 

The Ben Nevis distillery is located on Loch Linnhe in the Highlands region at the base of Ben Nevis, which is the highest point on the British Isles. It was founded in 1825 by Long John McDonald, and was purchased by Nikka in 1989. The distillery focuses on 10 year expressions of its own spirit, and supplies whisky to many independent bottlers across the industry. 

This Dram Mor Ben Nevis release matured for 8 years in oak barrels, and then finished for an unspecified period in a very unique first fill white port pipe. This produced 169 bottles, and presents at a cask strength of 53% abv. This whisky is a pale yellow/gold, with a low viscosity that moves easily in the glass. 

Nose: Raisins, but not the dark sweet flavour normally found in a sherry finish. It comes across more like white wine to me.  There are undertones of milk chocolate, and some pepper in the background. 

Palate: The first flavour that presents is a salty sweet caramel. Very clear and bold, unmistakable. The white port influence comes through next. Some milk chocolate notes also, but they are quite subtle. Light smacking of the lips to allow in some air brings the chocolate to the forefront. 

Finish: The finish is more milk chocolate, creamy and sweet. There are some light oak notes too. The flavour that lingers on the palate at the end is pepper with a hint of ginger spice. 

With water added…

Softens the white wine on nose. On the palate, I get less obvious caramel and more nutty oak. The milk chocolate remains at the finish, but the pepper is muted. 

Conclusion

I am a big fan of Ben Nevis in general, and was really looking forward to trying this expression. It’s rare to see a whisky finished in a white port pipe. Unfortunately, I am not a wine drinker, and I found that the white port influences did not match my personal palate well. The milk chocolate notes that were present throughout the experience were delicious though, and the oak and pepper on the finish complimented those chocolate notes perfectly. While this bottle will not land on my own shelf, anyone who enjoys a wine or port cask finishes will undoubtedly love this release. It’s great to see independent bottlers like Dram Mor finding new and exciting ways to deliver whisky to the community!

Instagram: @woodley_dr

Eau Claire Single Malt Batch 5 review

Located in the heart of Turner Valley, Alberta, Eau Claire Distillery is part of the distilling revolution that is spreading quickly through Alberta. Open since 2014 and originally focusing on white spirits, their single malt whisky has generated a cult following among Canadian whisky fans. Their farm to glass philosophy allows them to showcase the very best ingredients that Alberta has to offer.

Now in its fifth release, this batch is a blend new Hungarian oak, ex-Sherry and ex-Bourbon barrels. There is no age statement, but has to be at least three years old and is bottled at 43% with no chill filtration or added color.

Nose: The orchard fruits stand out straight away. Fresh cut red apples mostly, but also a slice of pear. There is also a dominant, grain-forward note that reminds me of a young Irish single malt. I get a touch of barley sugar candies along with that. There is a light honey note that has settled into the background as this sits in the glass. There’s some orange in here, but it’s more like a mandarin rather than a navel orange. Ginger and cinnamon are the only spices I get. I’d say the vast majority of this whisky matured in ex-Bourbon, but there is enough of that Hungarian oak to tingle the nose a little. I can’t say I am getting any ex-Sherry influence at all.

Palate: The one thing I notice right away is how creamy this feels right off the bat. One of the creamiest mouthfeels I have had in a long while. It’s creamy honey poured over apples and pears on the entry. That stays on the palate for the whole experience. The development is all about the grain and oak. Malted cereal and barley sugar dominate initially, but then the Hungarian oak kicks in. It’s not overpowering and there’s a nice balance between the wood, the sweetness and the grain. Clove joins the ginger and cinnamon.

Finish: The Hungarian oak is nicely balanced by the lingering sweetness in a nice medium finish. Earthy nutmeg joins the other baking spices here, giving me an early Christmas vibe. As the finish progresses, I’m getting a cocoa powder note that actually builds rather than recedes. The creaminess hangs on to the end.

With water added…

The new Hungarian oak is much stronger now, as is the youthful grain note. This isn’t an issue for me seeing as I love young whisky when it’s presented like this. That barley sugar note is strong with this one now. The orchard fruits are still there, but are in the background now. The palate is still creamy, but the youthfulness of this whisky is really starting to show now. It’s too grain-forward and the oak is a little dominant for me. I’m missing a richness that I enjoyed without water being added. The sweetness barely hangs on during the back end of the development. With water, the finish is the best part of the experience. That cocoa note, which love, remains on the finish.

Conclusion

This was my first whisky from Eau Claire and I like what I see from here. The youthful maltiness and the choice of barrels really works. Too much ex-Sherry and Hungarian oak would have swamped the delicate character of this whisky. Also, I never would have guessed that this was only 43%. What surprised me the most was how creamy this dram is. I would definitely recommend this without any water added as the balance was thrown off a bit. Overall, this was everything that I love about a young whisky and can’t wait to try their next release.

Instagram: @paul.bovis

Dram Mor Inchfad 14 Year review

Inchfad is the name of a certain style of release that comes from the Loch Lomond Distillery. It’s actually hardly ever used anymore and was only used by Loch Lomond for a brief time in the mid 2000s. It was always a heavily peated release that befit the Inchfad name and this one shows that side well.

This was brought to us by the independent bottler, Dram Mor, a company who have had their first outturn in Canada recently. Mostly young to teenaged whiskies, they are showing off some unique and interesting cask profiles along with some unique distillate character from a number of distilleries. I have been fortunate enough to have tasted through a number of previous and current releases from Dram Mor and one thing I can say is they always have interesting drams to taste.

This Dram Mor 14 year was finished in a first-fill PX cask and was bottled at 54.7%. A total of 274 bottles were produced with 42 of those making their way to Canada.

In the Glass: A darker maple colour, and a nice glass coating texture. A quick swirl reveals some slow legs that seem to hug the glass nice and tight. I am already getting a waft off the glass and I need to dig right in.

Nose: An initial note of peat smoke fills my nostrils. A smoke that seems almost like it’s coming from damp wood but not oceanic wood. Oh WOW, there is a funk on this nose as soon as the peat wafts and settles. An almost barnyard funk. Like wet hay after a rainstorm has passed and the sun is shining down and trying to dry out the bails. A slight touch of vegetal/barn funk as well. This is so intriguing and I wasn’t expecting it at all, but I love it. Bring me that funk!!! Digging down and now the sweetness shows up. Definitely PX sweetness showing through now. Syrupy caramelized apples, maybe a bit of raisins in a reduced brown sugar sauce, ready to pour over some sticky toffee pudding. Some toasted maltiness comes through near the very end of the nose. Man this nose has a bit of everything, the smoke, the sweetness and oh Billy that FUNK. I cant wait to start sipping on this.

Palate: Right from the start, it prickles the tongue in the way a peppered rim of a glass from a caesar would. Then surprisingly, the sweetness comes in full force. Orange peels and caramel come in, bringing along some tartness from a cherry-like note. The ABV does not show itself except for that initial hit. The smoke starts to come through and dances around the tongue with the sweetness, transforming into a touch of old leather. A bit of ginger and cinnamon shows up just as that peat smoke starts to awaken a bit more. The funk from the nose is tamped down a but, but shows up in a malty note, almost like an oatmeal with brown sugar dusted on top, but eaten next to the barn where the animals sheltered all night. The funk man….the funk. Upon a swallow, the cinnamon and malt notes stick around for a bit, I’d say medium to almost shorter, however that peat smoke and pepper cling on for even longer.

Conclusion

This one is interesting to say the least. I don’t think this one will be for everyone and definitely not for the faint of heart. That funk is everything special to me, in my heart, that I love finding in new whiskies. The nose and palate align but differ just enough to make this a thinker. A dram you wanna sit back with and sip over an hour or so with nothing on but some Righteous Brothers on the turntable and the lights turned way down. The dichotomy of that setting with this dram will awaken all the senses and truly let this wonderful whisky shine through.

Instagram: @seankincaid

Sazerac Straight Rye review

Sazerac rye, or Baby Saz for those that are lucky enough to get their hands on its higher age statement BTAC bigger brother, is one of those quintessential ryes that everyone says you have to put on your bar shelf. However, is that the case these days? With the rye revolution in the USA firmly underway, where does this one fit now? With so many micro/craft distilleries coming out with so many interesting new or revived takes on rye, where does this one belong?

Personally, I’ve always treated this as a mid-shelf daily sipper with all of the notes that you would expect of a low-rye rye and none that you don’t. But, is that the actually true? Let’s find out!

This being Buffalo Trace, the mashbill is officially unknown, but it is rumoured (and tastes like) their low-rye mash bill. This used to have a six year age statement, but that is now gone. It is rumoured to still be in the 4-6 year age range though. It is bottled at 45% abv.

Nose: This is about a classic a nose as you can get on a low-rye, high-corn rye (if that makes any sense). I find that Sazerac has always been very barrel forward for me and today is no different. Lots of cinnamon, of course, but also a pinch of allspice. Aside from the barrel notes, there’s a good dose of the flesh and zest of a navel orange. There’s plenty of caramel in here as well. As I nose this for longer I get just a hint of cherry. Not 100% sure about that though. I am confident that there is a bit of a roasted peanut thing going on in here. This is a whiskey that has 3-4 very dominant notes right up front and you have to spend some time with it if you want to get more.


Palate: This is like an orange creme brûlée on the entry for me. Some caramelized sugar, vanilla cream and a little bit of orange zest stirred in. As much as I got a good dose of the barrel on the nose, there is a surprisingly creamy mouthfeel right from the get-go. That sweetness carries over into the development and, with cinnamon, clove and a pinch of nutmeg, it’s giving me a nice spice cake vibe that I love. The oak starts to creep into the experience during the end of the development, but there is enough of everything else that it stays in the background. When I smack my lips a little to let in some air, I definitely get that peanut note I got on the nose.


Finish: This is a decent medium finish that manages to stay fairly well-balanced throughout. The oak becomes a little more dominant, but there are enough baking spices and sweetness from elsewhere in the experience to help to tamp this down a shade. The creaminess does start to fade here and it becomes a little more drying.

With water added…

As soon as I add water to this, I get a bit of a herbal note right off the bat. A bit of slightly stale dill and flat leaf parsley. It fades away significantly if given a few minutes to settle. Other than that, I find that there is less citrus and more oak and baking spices. The caramel seems creamier this time. Like those soft Kraft caramels from my childhood (are these still a thing?). OK. Right on the beginning of the entry, this is Kraft soft caramel city. The other notes take over quickly, but there is no mistaking it. After that, I’m getting a little bit of that creme brûlée that I got without water, but the increased and earlier presence of oak is drying the experience out a little. That spice cake note has gone, but I’m getting a stronger peanut taste, almost bordering on sweetened peanut butter. The finish is a bit more drying and I’m getting more nutmeg and even some cracked black pepper.

Conclusion

I have always treated this as a daily sipping whisky and have never really concentrated on the experience up until now. I was really expecting to just give this an average review and say that there’s better out there. I firmly believe that the latter is true, but there is nothing wrong with this dram. Because of its balance, I can see why it is so popular with bartenders as a base in cocktails. I will never be able to get my hands on “adult” Saz, but this “baby” is alright by me.

Instagram: @paul.bovis

Cadenhead’s 7 Star Blended Scotch Whisky review

Type: Blended Scotch Whisky
ABV: 46%

The first thing I noticed about this was the retro-style bottle and label. That was interesting and turned out to be a premonition of sorts. The second thing I noticed was the Cadenhead’s name, which to me, and I know a fair number of fellow enthusiasts, is a sure sign of quality. The third thing I noticed was that the blend was married in Oloroso sherry casks. The last thing I noticed was the shop worker grabbing a mop for the drool pool quickly building at my feet (Ed. note…ewwwww). There has been a rumour whispered to me that Benrinnes makes up a portion of this blend as well. Hopefully they will release and confirm the parts that make up this blend.

In the glass it shows as a dark brown, almost the colour of cola with ice that has melted away. Medium legs initially both in width and length and coats the glass fairly nicely.

Nose: On the initial nose the sherry influence comes through. It shows up like musty/dusty style Oloroso. I get the scent of those 5 cent Cola bottle candies. The fruits start showing up a little deeper. Figs and raisins. The nose comes close to an almost Campbelltown funk. Not heavy at all, but a slight touch of smoke. Could be barrel usage but the nose is earthy, dunnage floor like. Maybe a bit of baking spice at the tail end of a big whiff. For a blend of grain and malt and at a decent price point this nose is very interesting and punches above its weight big time.

Palate: The initial entry is brighter than the nose foretold. Some grain showing through for sure. After a short bright burst it tames down a bit to get more of what’s expected after that nose. When the full palate is coated, the nutty side of sherry influence show up. A waxiness and heaviness is noticed and it almost turns into a really dank sherry whisky, but then the lighter side of fruits make their case. A touch of red delicious apples with peels on. Some cherry and sultanas with a bit of syrup coating on them. Even some chocolate and cinnamon on the roof of my mouth.

Finish: The finish on this one is intriguing. The spice and brightness perk up but once they start to fade, that nutty, fruity Oloroso is right there and clings for a while. It meets with the bit of spice kick and almost turns to a chocolate covered cherry. It sticks around much longer than I would expect and I am very happy with this surprise. It’s a sherry influence blend that avoids being over sherried and allows all aspects of the whisky to shine through at different times.

Conclusion

This is a blend that I will keep fully stocked in my cabinet as long as it’s available. It’s a delicious, interesting and fulfilling blend that punches above its weight and already changed by sipping it over the course of an hour. I can’t wait to see how it opens up with some time in the bottle. It’s reminiscent of some older style blends I have been lucky enough to try. Cadenheads revived the 7 star to showcase that a blend can be created using their vast array of top quality casks they have maturing in their warehouses and this one hammers the nail on that point. 

Instagram: @seankincaid

Two Brewers Release 27 and 28 review

Two Brewers Release 27

Type: Innovative
ABV: 46%
Released: August 2021

It’s no secret that I have an immense love for all things Two Brewers. From the people behind the brand, to the always increasing profiles of their whisky, to the absolutely unique and interesting things that they continue to try with each release, it easily takes my top spot of all Canadian whisky brands.

Release 27 is exactly what I am talking about. If you know the story behind how Two Brewers started, and clearly by their name itself, it was started by the people who were already established in the beer business with Yukon Brewing. They took that background and absolutely shoved it into the formation of this whisky.

Release 27 has Vienna, Munich, Honey and roasted malts. These are all primarily malts used almost exclusively in the beer brewing industry.  Some of this whisky started out in virgin oak barrels to start, and then spent the rest of its time in ex-Bourbon barrels. They were married in ex-peated barrels for 19 months.  It has 6, 7, 9, 10 and 11 yr old mashes in it with roughly 1/3 being 10 years or older. Yup I’d say that’s pretty experimental and unique cask usage and now I will let you know what all of this ends up like in a finished bottle of whisky.

In the glass, this has the appearance of a lighter Red style beer (hehehehe) with medium to long legs that slowly fall down the glass.

Nose: This hits with malt up front. I guess that’s not a surprise knowing what’s making up the whisky. There is some nice honey sweetness. Almost like a raw honey type note. Behind that follows some vanilla and caramel. Funnily enough, as I start to pick up the wood/cask influence I also get a whiff of fresh dark roasted coffee. I swear I pick up that fresh virgin oak cask influence right at the end on a deep inhale. The nose on this whisky has me curious and very interested in diving in. 

Palate: First sip and immediately I get all that malt up front as well. Malt with a honey glaze over it. Like Honey Nut Cheerios with extra honey. There’s a slight tingle and even though it’s only 46% abv, it almost drinks heavier, which I am totally okay with. This whisky reveals layers upon layers as it moves back on the tongue. I swear I can taste a faint actual beer note on my tongue right now. Bourbon type notes pop up mid palate, some dark fruits mixed with a slight blood orange/mandarin taste and then that spice from virgin oak comes through. Cinnamon and clove and a slight hint of spiced up toasted coconut just as it starts to fade into the finish.

Finish: The finish on this beautiful whisky carries the spice notes through and the sweetness returns with that mandarin orange and cinnamon. This is the only time that I even slightly think I catch a whiff of any smoke at all, but it’s long after the swallow and it’s found on the residual flavours left in the mouth.

Conclusion

Wow. What a whisky. Layers, balance, beautiful cask usage, experimental malt usage. The proof is in the bottle. Literally for me as this one is being drank faster than most bottles I open. I am saying right now, this is my sleeper hit of the year in whisky. I love this bottle!!

Two Brewers Release 28

Type: Special Finishes
ABV: 46%
Released: September 2021

This one is a mix of 7 year old and 10+ year old mashes. All of the Whisky is a standard malted barley mash. It spent 5 months in virgin oak barrels, then it was moved to ex-Bourbon barrels. Finally, it spent 2 years in Hungarian oak sherry barrels. After spending 2 yrs in sherry barrels, it was blended with a standard 12 year old mash. Clearly this is NOT your standard sherry casked whisky.

In the glass this has a dark copper to light rust colour. Thin but long lasting legs coat the glass and clearly hint at an oily masterpiece awaiting me.

Nose: On the nose I am immediately hit with familiar sherry notes, but not at all a sherry bomb. This is dusty sherry spice-coated fruits with a nice malt backbone. Even the fruits aren’t the typical plums, raisins and prunes. Brighter fruits, more lush ripe juicy fruits. I even find a faint note of Nag Champa incense at the tail end of the nose. That sherry sweetness fills out the very end of the nose right before I take another whiff. I have no idea what to expect on the palate now but I am excited to find out.

Palate: Just a small sip to wet the palate and the beautiful sherry spice comes across strongest. Very mouth coating and viscous. A bigger sip and let it rest a bit and the fruity side of sherry comes through stronger. But again, I’m not finding the typical darker, drier fruits. Juicy almost sub-tropical notes of creamy ripe mango, like a mango milkshake. I also get that Hungarian oak spice with some added cinnamon. There is also a slight saltiness, which I can’t explain but it’s there, sitting right after the spice. There is a beautiful play between that salt and the sweetness and it’s gorgeous. As this starts to fade on the swallow, that spice and salt meld as they fade and turn into a salted dark cocoa/chocolate note. I find this as I chew on the finish and let it build up again.

Finish: The finish is long and bold and that dusty old style sherry finally shows right at the end and that cocoa/sherry is what carries on through the whole finish.

Conclusion

This one on first sip was surprising as it wasn’t at all what I expected from the sherry casking. I am so happy it isn’t a simple sherry cask whisky. This one you need to sit with and contemplate. This isn’t a background whisky at all. It needs your attention and demands it. Two Brewers shows, once again, why they deserve to be at the top of the Canadian whisky landscape. No one else is doing the things they are doing and we are the lucky recipients of release after release of absolutely stunning whisky. Look for a future review of release 29 which the cold northerly air has whispered to me could be even more special than normal.

Instagram: @seankincaid

SINGLE CASK NATION WESTPORT 2005 (16 YEAR) REVIEW

What is a Westport anyway? Or a Williamson? Or Orkney? What’s going on here? Last we checked, these aren’t distilleries in Scotland. Or are they? Welcome to the world of distillery aliases. Westport is Glenmorangie. Williamson is Laphroaig. Orkney is almost always Highland Park. A few brands, especially those with a sizeable official bottling line are very protective about when independent bottlers can use their name. In these cases, they still sell on their casks to brokers and bottlers, but under an assumed name, if you will. There’s a bit more to it than that, I think, but as they say at my job, it’s good enough for government work!

This is our last SCN review for a little while, but I have to say that this initial release has been pretty epic. I doff my cap to Single Cask Nation for ignoring the roaring sherry trend and going with mostly second fill casks including many ex-Bourbon bottlings. Those ones, in particular, have been very illuminating for me. This Westport was distilled in May 2005 and dumped into a 2nd fill Oloroso Sherry Butt. It was bottled in May 2021 at 50.6% abv with a total out turn of 577 bottles.

Nose: This has a very citrusy nose with the zest and flesh of an orange. Some pineapple is in there too. I’m having a bit of a hard time digging past the citrus initially. Once my nose acclimatizes, I get a few Oloroso notes, but they are quite muted with this being a second fill cask. There’s a little bit of dark chocolate and some sultana raisins. I’m getting the faintest whiff of Christmas cake. It’s mostly cinnamon and ginger for the spicing. Again, the refill cask is, not surprisingly, giving me very little oak. As I nose this over time, I get a little bit of light honey and some Gala apples.


Palate: Quite light and sweet initially. Definitely a very strong Glenmo vibe off of this one for sure. Citrus, honey, crisp apples and a bit of toffee on the entry. The development gives me a bit of that Christmas cake note that I got on the nose as well as a good hit of baking spices. Those are earthier now with a nice hit of clove and nutmeg. There’s maybe a bit more oak than I usually like on the back end of the development, but this is a 16 year whisky, after all. There’s enough spice to tingle the tongue, but it’s not overpowering in any way. Overall, a nice balance here.


Finish: The finish is medium to long and only a little bit on the dry side. The oak is not too dominant and is balanced nicely by the remaining sweetness from the entry. The baking spices fade mid-way through the finish leaving oak and bit of dark chocolate at the end.

Conclusion

This is certainly a very good whisky in its own right, but out of all of the SCN releases I have reviewed recently, I find myself gravitating towards the ex-Bourbon matured expressions. My favorite of the six that we reviewed here was the Teaninich, which is the first one I tried. I hope that scotch lovers keep their options open to ex-Bourbon expressions such as these, rather than just going by the color of the liquid in the bottle. After trying these SCN releases, I’m definitely a convert!

Instagram: @paul.bovis

SINGLE CASK NATION BLAIR ATHOL 2011 (10 YEAR) REVIEW

Aside from comments on social media or in online tastings, this is the first time I’ve attempted formal tasting notes. As a relatively new whisky drinker, this is an intimidating task. It is especially nerve-wracking to be asked to post a review on the Park Whiskey Society website, which is a page I have gone to for over a year to read about some of the amazing options available to whisky lovers here in Alberta. 

When I first found this site online, I was amazed with each individual’s ability to detect such a wide range of scents and flavours in each dram. As a novice, I could only really pick up on sweet, spicy/peppery, smoky, or “holy crap that burns my eyes”. To read someone commenting on vanilla, or stewed fruits, or lemon zest made me feel like a very inadequate member of the group. 

It’s amazing what a few months and a few dozen (hundred?) drams can change. My best suggestion to new whisky drinkers: join a group like the Park Whiskey Society. There are many local whisky club options, and the people in these groups are generous, kind and always willing to share a sample or an opinion. Also, get involved in as many whisky tastings as you can. When you find a whisky you like, buy it. If it’s a limited release or special cask, buy two. You’ll regret it if you don’t. 

Single Cask Nation is one of the most successful independent bottling companies in the world, and they have very recently returned to the Canadian market. They have provided 6 distinct releases in the last 3 weeks, including this beautiful Blair Athol which spent 10 years maturing in a 2nd fill PX sherry butt. Blair Athol is a small Highland distillery that primarily supplies whisky for the popular Bell’s blend in Scotland. This whisky is bright copper in colour, and is bottled at a generous 55.3%. 

Nose: Sweet fruits, but more subtle than a traditional PX cask. A hint of musty malt that reminds me of the old bookshelves in my grandma’s basement. In a good way. Something else sweet too, like the inside of a candy bar. I spent a long time nosing this whisky. It’s complex. 

Palate: Rich and sweet, quickly turning to a ginger spiciness. This is followed by cereal malt, and hint of dark chocolate bitterness. The high abv might make it too hot for some. A couple drops of water mellowed the malt and spice and brought out something that reminded me of Christmas fruitcake. 

Finish: Medium-long, with lots of spice. Again, more ginger than pepper. The fruit at the end is cherry or cranberry, and leaves a very pleasant aftertaste. 

This is one of my favourites of the SCN initial releases. It is more complex than your average PX sherry bomb. The combination of the sweetness from 2nd fill sherry cask, the mustiness of the malt, and the ginger spice allows this dram to activate and please the entire palate. 

I am still learning about my own personal palate, and the unending flavours that appear across the whisky spectrum. You may agree with the notes above, or taste something completely different. But I know what I like. And I like this whisky. The SCN Blair Athol 10 is backup bottle worthy. 

Instagram: Dave Woodley (@woodley_dr)

Single Cask Nation Glen Elgin 2010 (10 year) review

This being my third Single Cask Nation review, I’m starting to see where their philosophy lies. Looking at their releases in the Canadian market at least, roughly 3/4 are from second-fill barrels. This has allowed me to discover the true nature and character of each distillery with the cask only providing a light touch. First-fill ex-sherry is very much en vouge at the moment, but SCN is bucking the trend in this regard. Will it catch on?

This Single Cask Nation Glen Elgin 10 year old was distilled in March 2010 and was matured in a second-fill ex-Bourbon hosghead. It was bottled in October 2020 at 61.3% abv with a total out turn of 293 bottles.

Nose: A very fruity nose that goes in all kinds of directions. Most prominent is pineapple, but orange is not far behind. I’m getting quite a bit of zest, but also the flesh or an orange as well. Lying underneath are some crisp red apples. I’m mostly getting ginger for spicing, but not a whole lot else. Not surprising as, like the Teaninich and Tomatin before it, this is a second fill Bourbon hogshead (or barrel in Tomatin’s case). I got a little bit of a white grape note when I first poured this, but that has almost completely dissipated now. There is a small amount of vanilla. As I nose this over time I discovered a faint toasted sugar note. Nothing to report in terms of oak. Once again, this is very distillate forward. I see a trend forming here with the SCN releases. They’re wanting the distillate to shine through.

Palate: Almost right away, I’m getting pears poached in syrup. Almost stronger than I got on the Teaninich. The first sip was shockingly easy to drink. On the first couple of sips, that pear note was almost too dominant in its sweetness. On subsequent sips, more notes come forward to balance this out. My tongue is starting to tingle so I have to slow down. Initially, the nose is light and sweet with honey and a little citrus zing. Then the orchard fruits start to come forward during the development. Mostly pear, but now joined by apple. Then I get more citrus mid-development with a good amount of ginger and clove as well as a sprinkling of black pepper. I’m surprised how much oak I’m getting on the back end of the finish, but it’s well balanced and not overpowering in any way.

Finish: A lovely long finish with a little bit of everything. First a bit of oak and fading spice from the development. Then the apple and pear comes back along with a little bit of dark chocolate. Lastly, I get a faint hint of citrus that makes me want to go back for more.

With water added…

I’m not getting as much apple on the nose and the pineapple and orange have been turned up a little. I’m getting some cinnamon along with the ginger now. About six drops of water to my remaining ounce of this has allowed me to get much deeper into the glass. It’s calmed down the alcoholic bite quite a bit. On the palate, the orange is balancing out the apple and pear a lot more on the front end of the development. The added cinnamon that builds through the experience is giving this a bit of an apple pie filling vibe. The skin is still on the apples, giving it a slightly bitter note. The finish hasn’t changed an awful lot, but the spice stays around for longer.

Conclusion

Before I tried these three SCN ex-Bourbon barrel releases, I was very much in the sherry bomb and peat monster camp. I’m still very solidly in those two camps, but these samples have opened my eyes to just how magical ex-Bourbon cask matured whisky can be. The tropical and orchard fruits just shine through, particularly in these SCN releases and has me wanting more.

Instagram: @paul.bovis

Hinch Peated Single Malt review

Nestled in the rolling hills of Co. Down just south of Belfast on Killaney Estate lies a whiskey distillery that has big ambitions and the people and passion to back it up. Founded by Dr. Terry Cross who also owns the Bordeaux winery Chateau de la Ligne, Hinch distillery is a world class facility that spares no expense in the pursuit of making their mark on the world stage.

Since they have only been laying down their own new make spirit in oak since late last year, they are sourcing their whiskies for now. A fact they have been completely transparent about. Called their Time Collection, their five core releases include age stated expressions, a small batch entry-level bottle and a traditional Irish pot still with a small amount of oats in the mash. Our focus today will be on their peated single malt. For the longest time, Connemara stood alone as the only peated bottle you could find on the Emerald Isle. Now, you probably need more than two hands to count them all. And you’re going to need a lot more hands in the future, that’s for sure.

The Hinch Peated Single Malt has ben matured for at least for years in first-fill bourbon casks from Kentucky. It was bottled at 43% abv. Both Sean Kinkaid (@seankincaid) and I will be letting you know what we think of this one.

Sean Kincaid’s review

In the glass the light color is the first thing I notice. Whether it’s youth or the type of casks used, we shall determine.

Nose: The next thing I notice is the smoke notes wafting over the table to my nose. There’s definite peat smoke, more along the earthy, mineral type smoke and seemingly quite strong. As I bring the glass to my nostrils, I am picking up a sweet peat along with a floral sweetness. Almost to the point of being botanical. That could be from the youthfulness or maybe just the distillate has some floral notes in it. The smoke is like if someone extinguished a bonfire on a wet beach but using pine tree branches and some flowers to put the fire out.  I also get a good dose of citrus fruit off the nose. Tangy and bitter, like orange peels or grapefruit. It almost reminds me of the younger bourbon-matured Kilkerran/Glengyle style peat influence without much of the Campbelltown funk. This nose is so interesting I keep going back for more.

Palate: First thing I notice is the citrus fruit notes. With the peat not far behind. A more standard peat note than on the nose. Very citrus forward and easily reminiscent of Islays output. For what I assume is a rather young peated single malt this has a great mouthfeel. Silky and not overbearing. More wet beach smoking fire notes. That grows more earthy and minerally with time. Still a touch of that floral impact kicking around that could almost lean towards a herbal type note. A touch of salt. Not brine but, salt. Like salted honey.

Finish: The peat smoke and citrus/floral notes fade with a medium finish. On the finish is the only slight tingle I get at all. The lasting note is almost a salted sweetness with a slight twang from the peat. Again super interesting to me. This is only my second time having this and the first time having it on its own. I am glad I have more left in this bottle to come back to.

Paul Bovis’ review

Nose: This is a peat lovers dream for sure. It’s not Laphroaig levels of medicinal, but it is leaning that way. It’s salty and briny. A good dose of iodine in there as well. This is a very sea breeze across a tidal flat for me. There’s a bit of a salty sea shell mineral note and an underlying sweetness of vanilla and toffee. As I dig deeper, there’s a bit of wet dirt and earthy spices such as clove and a bit of nutmeg. Might be just the faintest whiff of that Hinch shortbread cookie note, but I may be overthinking it. Wonder if I will get more of that on the palate?

Palate: A lovely evolution. The entry is oily and mouth coating. Surprisingly so for its 43% abv. The peat doesn’t hit you straight away. It builds slowly through the development. Initially, there is a lovely hit of everything I love about Hinch’s sourced whiskey. Lots of vanilla and toffee as well a big dose of shortbread and digestive biscuits. I’m also getting that malted cereal note as well. As the development progresses, the peat starts to creep in. More of that “surf n’ turf” that I got on the nose. The saltiness shines through as well as a bit more of that wet dirt and a slice of lemon peel. What I love so much about the mid part of the development is this perfect marriage of peat and that Hinch shortbread note that I have come to love. Earthy baking spices and oak round this out. There is enough shortbread at the end to balance it out.

Finish: Mostly a continuation from the development. There’s a nice, spicy kick initially. The baking spices are joined by some cracked black pepper. The oak tastes a little bit wet, but there is enough of the spice and shortbread to temper that a bit. The sweetness fades about half way through the decent medium finish, but I don’t find the wet dirt, baking spice, oak combination to be off-putting. They’re mostly in balance with each other.

With water added…

I would say the peat is even stronger now, but the shortbread note is much more pronounced as well. Peated shortbread. Is that a thing!? It’s more salt and brine than iodine. Water hasn’t helped on the palate. It’s not quite as rich on the entry or as mouth coating. Also, there is a bit too much of that wet oak mid-palate, which throws things out of balance. The finish follows from that and it’s too oaky for me.

Paul’s conclusion

I’m hard pressed to say if this is my favorite Hinch expression or the Pot Still. They both have so much flavor, texture and character. I’m of the mind to have this without water, but I always add some at the end, just to see how things turn out. Without water, there is an almost perfect balance everywhere. I am a big Laphroaig fan, but I would reach for this Hinch Peated Single Malt any day over the 10 year. It’s that good.

Instagram: Sean Kincaid (@seankinkaid) and Paul Bovis (@paul.bovis)