Whisky Review #28: The Single Cask drams

As promised, this review is a continuation of the insight into the whiskies offered by The Single Cask at CHIJMES. I will be reviewing seven different whiskies (four of which are part of the Horizontal Laphroaig flight, two of which are from Clynelish and one from Mortlach).

The common factor which ties these drams together? They’re all independent bottlings from a number of bottlers.

As I have mentioned previously, The Single Cask offers a multitude of independent bottlings from the likes of Coopers Choice, Old Malt Cask, Signatory Vintage and Dun Bheagan as well as their own in house bottlings bearing the same name as the bar.

The whiskies which make up the Horizontal Laphroaig flight were sampled in late October during my first visit to the bar and featured the following drams:

  • Laphroaig 7 Years Old (Bottled by Cooper’s Choice)
  • Laphroaig 15 Years Old (Old Malt Cask, Bottled by Hunter Laing)
  • Laphroaig 15 Years Old (Refill sherry butt, Bottled by Signatory Vintage)
  • Laphroaig 20 Years Old (Bottled by Dun Bheagan)

The Horizontal Laphroaig flight costs SG$70.40 ($64 + 10% service charge) and showcases the aforementioned whiskies which are all somewhat different from one another.

As for the other drams, they were sampled on the Official Grand Opening Night of The Single Cask and they are as follows:

  • Clynelish 15 Years Old (Old Malt Cask, bottled by Hunter Laing)
  • Clynelish 16 Years Old (Bottled by Carn Mor for their Strictly Limited range)
  • Mortlach 1995 17 Years Old (Refill sherry butt, Bottled by Coopers Choice)

The Mortlach cost SG$33 ($30 + 10% service charge) while the Clynelish 16 Years Old cost SG$28.60 ($26 + 10% service charge). The Clynelish 15 was a freebie from Fab.

So, let’s get stuck in!

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The Horizontal Laphroaig flight

Laphroaig 7 Years Old (46% abv, Bottled by Coopers Choice)

Colour: Straw

Nose: Lemon, sea salt and sweet peat upon initial entry with hints of iodine, mint and weirdly enough, ground coffee (not that it is a bad thing). As times goes on, some grassy elements emerge along with some of the TCP that one would normally associate with a Laphroaig.

There’s an element of smokiness to this dram, but it is rather restrained. What really surprises me is how well balanced everything seems on the nose for a whisky so young. Quite sophisticated for a 7 year old! (21/25)

Palate: Sweet peat coupled with a certain nuttiness to this dram. Barley sugar, lemon and some black pepper emerge after a while with brine and iodine also making an appearance.

With time, it becomes rather spicy which might hint at the relative youth of this dram. TCP, rubber and vanilla essence also appear on the palate with just a whisp of smoke. (19/25)

Finish: Medium to long finish, with the briny smokiness intermingling well with the sweet citrus notes and the peppery spiciness. (20/25)

Balance: I have to say, this one really surprised me! Prior to my first sip, I never expected such balance for a dram this young and I actually enjoyed it. The mouthfeel is slightly drying but it definitely works well here.

I believe that the nose is probably a touch more enticing than the palate but it does finish quite strongly. The balance of flavours in this dram though is pretty impressive. (22/25)

Rating: 82/100

Laphroaig 15 Years Old (50% abv, Old Malt Cask, Bottled by Hunter Laing)

Colour: Honey

Nose: Initial entry presents some muddled notes of honey, stewed peaches and a dollop of beat. It seems rather closed off initially but does open up with time.

The initial aromas become more pronounced after a while and there’s a hint of brine along with some barley sweetness to the nose. Quite pleasant and the peat doesn’t overpower the other elements (18/25)

Palate: Spicy on the palate, which hints at the 50% abv playing a role. After the initial spiciness subsides, some vanilla and sweet peat make an appearance followed by more of the stewed peaches from the nose.

The sweetness of this dram increases gradually, but still retains a spicy-smoky edge to it which makes it rather interesting. The peat smoke and honey integrate well with the slight saltiness of this dram. (19/25)

Finish: Long finish with the honeyed sweetness and the peat smoke carrying through to the end, followed by just a touch of the stewed peaches. There’s an ashy note to this which adds another dimension to the peat smoke. (20/25)

Balance: Relatively well balanced dram, but it does seem to be lacking something which would otherwise set this dram apart from the rest. The mouthfeel is equal parts oily and drying on this one. Nonetheless, quite satisfying and definitely worth revisiting. (19/25)

Rating: 76/100

Laphroaig 15 Years Old (46% abv, Refill sherry butt, Bottled by Signatory Vintage)

Colour: Deep gold

Nose: Woah! There’s a soft fruity sweetness to this one, with the sherried elements definitely present. Sweet, earthy peat, sherried fruitiness and a touch of sea salt on initial entry, followed by some worn leather and some oaky tannins.

With time, the sherried fruitiness does become more pronounced and there’s a certain wine-like character to this dram. Very enticing aroma and probably the best sherried Laphroaig I have nosed to date! (23/25)

Palate: The sherried fruity notes carry through to the palate, intermingling beautifully with the sweet peat and some briny notes to give this dram a very more-ish feel.

With time, some sulphury notes emerge along with the oaky wood tannins and some caramelised raisins. The sweetness does not overpower the dram and actually works very well with the peat in this case. (21/25)

Finish: There’s a smoky-sweet and somewhat nutty element to this dram and the sherry is the definite star of the show. More of the oaky tannins appear after a while to temper the sweetness, but not by much (21/25)

Balance: Quite well balanced and a rather more-ish dram. I really enjoyed this one and it pretty much lived up to my expectations of what a sherried Laphroaig would taste like. Mouthfeel was rather oily and worked well with the other aspects of this dram. (22/25)

Rating: 87/100

Laphroaig 20 Years Old (49% abv, Bottled by Ian Macleod for their Dun Bheagan range)

Colour: Deep gold

Nose: Initial entry presents smoky peat and briny notes coupled with just a hint of barley sweetness. Some linseed oil and iodine make an appearance after a while before some vanilla and cracked black pepper emerge. This dram is probably the closest of the lot to an OB Laphroaig. (20/25)

Palate: Smoky, briny and sweet elements all trade punches with one another, battling for control. The whisky clings to the palate just as well as it clings on to the glass.

It is rather viscous in nature, with the peat and barley sugar intermingling rather well with the briny notes. But the peat just about takes this one, although it is not overpowering but somewhat more reminiscent of the Laphroaig 18. (21/25)

Finish: Long and lingering finish, with all three elements from the palate present at the end. Salted butter, smoked fish and some chocolate covered espresso beans (very similar to the Laphroaig 18!) are all present.

The mouthfeel is wonderfully oily and works very well with the various aspects of the dram while the rather unusual abv of 49% also helps to bring out the various nuances of this dram. (22/25)

Balance: I really like this dram and I feel that it has a relatively good balance in terms of incorporating the smoky, sweet and salty elements within to a satisfactory level. (22/25)

Rating: 85/100

IMG_20151107_204745
Left: Clynelish 16 Years Old (Bottled by Carn Mor for their Strictly Limited range) & Right: Clynelish 15 Years Old (Bottled by Hunter Laing for their Old Malt Cask range)

Clynelish 15 Years Old (50% abv, Old Malt Cask, bottled by Hunter Laing)

Colour: Golden sunset

Nose: Restrained citrus elements, with the distinctive waxiness that is representative of Clynelish. There’s a slight salty, mineraly note to this one along with some chalk. Quite an interesting nose (19/25)

Palate: The citrus elements carry through to the palate, but once again it is somewhat restrained. With water, it opens up quite well and showcases hints of peaches, orange juice and lemon drops.

The waxiness from the nose carries through to the palate and works rather well in this case. With time, the mineral notes make an appearance alongside the salt, tempering the sweetness slightly. (19/25)

Finish: More of the same from the nose and the palate, with the citrus elements very much in charge but the chalky, mineraly notes hovering in the background alongside just a hint of salt. (18/25)

Balance: Relatively well-balanced dram with some very nice citrus elements, although the chalk and mineral notes does put one off slightly. That being said, the waxy mouthfeel does work very well with regard to tying all the nuances together. (19/25)

Rating: 75/100

Clynelish 16 Years Old (46% abv, Bottled by Carn Mor for their Strictly Limited range)

Colour: Bright gold

Nose: Fruity, estery and quite vibrant on the nose, with oranges, lemon citrus and apricots all featuring. There’s a slightly meaty element to this dram, which can be attributed to the worm tubs used during the distillation process.

Nutmeg, sea salt and oaky tannins all make an appearance with time, giving this dram a sweet and spicy aroma which works well with the meatiness of the spirit. (21/25)

Palate: The meatiness of the spirit is very evident on the spirit and intermingles beautifully with the citrus notes. Over time, the nutmeg and the tannins from the oak also carry through to the palate.

Towards the end, the sea salt and some winey notes also make an appearance, giving this dram a sophisticated edge to it. The typical Clynelish waxiness also lingers in the background and coats the palate well. (22/25)

Finish: Long and lingering finish with the citrus adding a touch of vibrancy to the dram. The waxiness becomes more pronounced towards the end, but doesn’t interfere with the citrus notes. Just a hint of sea salt and oak at the very end. (22/25)

Balance: Quite well balanced, with the citrus dominating the proceedings but not to the point where it stifles the other nuances. I really enjoyed this bottling and am quite tempted to get a bottle of it. (20/25)

Rating: 85/100

IMG_20151107_185514
Mortlach 1995 17 Years Old (Bottled by Coopers Choice from a refill sherry butt)

Mortlach 1995 17 Years Old (46% abv, Refill sherry butt, Bottled by Coopers Choice)

Colour: Light mahogany

Nose: Raisins, berry compote and some icing sugar on initial entry with the sherried sweetness then making an appearance. The meatiness of the spirit tempers the sweetness slightly, but doesn’t take away the overall fruitiness of this dram.

Some wood spices emerge some time, with nutmeg and cinnamon particularly evident. Very good stuff. (22/25)

Palate: More of the sherried sweetness and winey notes on the palate, coupled with some of the wood spices. As time goes by, the sweetness becomes more pronounced, but not cloying.

The meatiness of the Mortlach also helps with keeping the sweetness in check, while giving the dram a more savoury element. The spiciness gradually increases over time. (23/25)

Finish: Medium to long finish, with the sherried sweetness and the wood spices working very well with one another while being kept in check by the meaty elements. (21/25)

Balance: In a way, this is not an overly complex dram. But what it lacks in complexity, it makes up for in sheer enjoyment. The meatiness of this dram may put some people off, but I loved how it helped to temper the sweetness of the sherry and the fruits.

At 46%, it feels particularly well developed and I would definitely like to see a cask strength version of this. Mouthfeel was oily for the most part while slightly drying towards the very end. (20/25)

Rating: 86/100

Slainte!

Brendan

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