Springbank 15 Rumwood | 51% ABV | Bottled 2019

Springbank is one of my favorite distilleries. The combination of authenticity yet not being afraid to innovate is not easy to achieve, yet Springbank always manages to do just that. When this rumwood was initially announced I must admit I wasn’t all that enthusiastic about it. I’m not opposed to using new casktypes and finishes (even though this is full-term maturation), but I just can’t recall a rum-influenced whisky that I really enjoyed. Lets take a look.

Colour: Gold

Nose: Quite a busy nose, but if you take your time with it, it’s layered very nicely. The first thing to jump out is unripe banana’s over a soft peat fire. Then there’s cotton candy, white grapes, green apple, peach, lemon zest and a slight molasses note. It doesn’t omit that typical Springbank funk though. All in all, it comes across very fresh.

Palate: A nice and smooth arrival. The peat is there but quickly makes way for banana, pineapple and coconut. There’s some salty crackers, lemon and lime and sweet and sour sauce. A prime example of near perfect balance between sweet, bitter, salty and sour.

Finish: Quite a drying, medium long finish with hints of woodspice, coffee, unripe banana again and some lychee.

88/100

This one is bustling with complexity. It’s not the easiest dram, but very rewarding if you take your time with it. I wouldn’t be surprised if I bumped this 1 or 2 points as I go through the bottle.

Big Peat 33 | 47.2% ABV | Bottled 2019

I seem to keep coming across Douglas Laing’s blends. I don’t mind though, they usually are a masterclass in blending. Big Peat is their Islay version of a regional malt, usually being made up of Caol Ila, Bowmore, Ardbeg and Port Ellen. There’s nothing wrong with the regular release, but I was blown away with the 26 year old expression I tasted last year at the Ghent International Whisky Festival. When I saw they were releasing a 33 year old variant, I had to get my hands, nose and palate on it. This one was finished in ex-cognac and sherry casks, it’s interesting, but at the same time I’m wondering if it was really necessary to finish a whisky this age…

Colour: Gold

Nose: It’s called Big Peat so I suppose it’s no surprise to find peat here. It’s not a sharp, focused peat but rather round and mature. The age is already showing here. There’s some menthol, but otherwise we’re dealing with quite a sweet nose with elements of raisins, red grapes and prunes. I was rather sceptical about finishing a 33 year old whisky, but it seems to have worked.

Palate: Very well rounded and integrated, yet it still comes across as heavy and robust, in the best possible way. Quite salty, sweet tar and some of the fruits from the nose. Just like the nose, I find the cognac casks have imparted more influence than the sherry casks. That’s a good thing though, because of the somewhat unusual casks, we also get an interesting concoction of flavour.

Finish: A nice and long finish with lingering smoke. A touch of lavender, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out there’s a decent amount of Bowmore in here. At the very tail end, there’s a little coffee bean to reduce the sweet notes on your palate, preparing it for the next sip.

Beautiful combination of mature peat, sweet fruits and the interplay between them. Thank you Carl for the sample.

90/100

Kingsbarns Dream to Dram | 46% ABV | Bottled 2018

Kingsbarns is one of the newer distilleries cropping up. The Dream to Dram is their first generally available release. It’s 3 year old whisky of which 90% was matured in 1st fill ex-bourbon casks and 10% in STR casks.

Colour: Pale Straw

Nose: It’s young and doesn’t attempt to hide it. The spirity notes come through clearly, but nicely complemented by hints of banana, peach and red apple. Also some shortbread cookies to go along with the fruitiness.

Palate: Sweet and floral. Heaps of vanilla, honeyglaze, almonds, toffee and some white pepper at the back.

Finish: A medium length and somewhat drying finish. The vanilla and honey continues accompanied by a touch of walnut. At the tail end there’s a sudden burst of lemon.

83/100

I’m quite impressed by this, it had more maturity than a lot of other 3 year old whiskies. Kingsbarns is going to be one to keep your eye on!

Douglas Laing Scallywag Chocolate Edition #2 | 48% ABV | Bottled 2019

The Scallywag has been the Speyside representative in Douglas Laing’s “Remarkable Regional Malts” series. While I haven’t yet had a chance to taste the core version, I did get myself a bottle of the Chocolate Edition. It’s made up of both ex-sherry and ex-bourbon casks, with a higher percentage of the former.

It was bottled for World Chocolate Day 2019 and is limited to 500 bottles. It’s vintage 2009, so about 10 years old.

Colour: Amber

Nose: Quite a bit going on in the nose here. Orange zest and cherry liqueur. Sultana’s. I’m also getting a fruit jam sweetness, makes me think there could be some PX in here. Dark chocolate (of course) and some light bourbony notes like honey keep it from being a bit dull and dusty.

Palate: The chocolate takes the main stage here, with both milk and dark chocolate coating the palate. Also some aniseeds and coffee beans.

Finish: Quite a long finish with the chocolate sticking to the taste buds, a hint of sweetness is there as well.

It does what it says on the bottle, and I’m happy for it. Excellent blend for it’s price!

87/100

Glenglassaugh Revival | 46% ABV | Bottled 2012

I’m desperately trying to clear out my sampledrawer and pulled out this Glenglassaugh Revival. I’ve never really paid any attention to this distillery so I was pleased to try an unknown spirit.

The Glenglassaugh distillery was mothballed in 1986 only to be reopened in 2008 with new investors. They currently produce both peated and unpeated whisky.

The Revival was their first whisky they released from the re-opened distillery. It’s 3 years old and has spent the last 6 months getting finished in first fill ex-Oloroso casks.

Colour: Amber

Nose: Yeasty, grassy and somewhat metallic. It’s young, but the casks were quite active. I’m getting tangerine and cherry pits. Some vanilla is in there too. I’m surprised at the complex yet quite coherent nose for its age.

Palate: Some pepper and woodspice, then lots of ginger. There’s a truffle note too.

Finish: Ah, the sweetness from the Oloroso wood comes back here. Dark red fruits and some leather. The metallic note is here as well though. It’s a medium long finish.

I’m honestly surprised by this. I should pay more attention to Glenglassaugh in the future…

84/100

Hazelburn 14 | 49.3% ABV | Bottled 2019

Springbank has long been one of my favorite distilleries, making interesting yet engaging stuff. Hazelburn is sort of Springbank’s little brother, being unpeated and triple distilled. Following the previous year’s release of the Hazelburn 13, is the 2019 Hazelburn 14 year old from fresh ex-Oloroso sherry casks.

Colour: Copper

Nose: A very rich nose with clear Oloroso influence. Raisins and dried plums, some tobacco leaves and leather. Notes of furniture polish too. I’m getting a hint of sulphur but not overly so. Digging a bit deeper there’s cough syrup and ham. Hazelburn is supposed to be unpeated but I do get a whiff of smoke in there too.

Palate: Quite a fat and oily arrival. Dark chocolate, raisins, plums and brown sugar. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Springbank funk in here as well.

Finish: The brown sugar extends into the finish. It has quite an intense sweetness and lingers for a long time. I can’t seem to get rid of that smokey note, not that I mind.

A beautifully complex whisky, although not the most accessible to beginners.

88/100

Rock Island

Douglas Laing’s blends, namely the Remarkable Regional Malts, seem to be working out for them quite well. These blends are composed of whisky from one specific region, Islay’s Big Peat being the most well known.

After introducing the Rock Oyster in 2015, Douglas Laing has now renamed their Island region blend to Rock Island. Currently the line consists of a NAS and 10 year old version, with a limited 21 year old being released as well. These blends all contain whisky from this isles of Arran, Jura, Orkney and Islay.

Rock Island | 46.8% ABV | Bottled 2019

Colour: White wine.

Nose: A very coastal feel. A salty seabreeze, fresh fish being brought into the harbour. There’s some earthy peatsmoke too but it’s quite gentle. Some hints of lemon. Also there’s a creamy and flowery note which I often find in Arran whisky.

Palate: Quite an oily mouthfeel. It’s salty but not overly so. A slight pepper and some hints of seafood coming through.

Finish: Short to medium long finish. Oily but drying towards the end because of the salty notes. The lemons return from the nose and the smoke gently lingers.

Great start. The nose and palate are quite consistent and it does give that maritime feeling it’s designed to deliver.

83/100

Rock Island 10 | 46% ABV | Bottled 2019

Colour: White wine.

Nose: It’s just like the NAS version but everything is more pronounced and driven. The peat comes through a bit more here. There’s still that maritime feel with the salt, but there’s a sweeter side as well. Pineapple, vanilla and some soft honey. The creamy note is still present too.

Palate: Again, Douglas Laing managed to have a great continuation between the nose and palate. Something other whisky sometimes struggle with. Quite a gentle arrival with some peppercorn. Then the earthy smoke comes in along with notes of pineapple and vanilla.

Finish: Medium long finish with the smoke lingering and a touch of ham.

Nice blend. A good balance between approachable and engaging.

86/100

Rock Island 21| 46.8% ABV | Bottled 2019

Colour: Gold.

Nose: We get a much more pronounced peat here. Quite earthy again with also notes of moss, hay and grass. There’s some ginger too. The seafood comes out more, mussels and clams. There’s also a hint of dust, showing the age of the components. With time there’s some more creamy vanilla notes.

Palate: Earthy peatsmoke engulfs the palate. It’s quite an engaging experience because of it. There’s lemons and dark honey too. Also a nice flowery note (think Arran, not 80’s Bowmore).

Finish: The smoke remains and turns salty. Langoustines. A long finish with a drying mouthfeel.

Excellent stuff. I love how the quality of the whisky noticeably improves as we go towards the older/more expensive stuff. That’s not always the case these days.

88/100

Compass Box Flaming Heart

The Flaming Heart originated from the idea of combining unpeated whisky from French Oak casks with the peat smoke of an Islay malt. Over the years there have been a couple of editions of the Flaming Heart. I was able to put the 5th edition released in 2015 and the 6th edition released in 2018 side by side.

Flaming Heart 5th Edition | 48.9% ABV | Bottled 2015

Colour: Light gold.

Nose: A nice amount of smoke but not too in your face. It’s accompanied by a waxy note, mustard seeds and a lemon custard.

Palate: Quite salty smoke that builds op exceptionally well in the mouth. A touch of a medicinal note, mint and lemons. A very clean cut, clear, straight to the point, no nonsense experience, which I enjoy if it’s executed as well as here.

Finish: A long finish of honeyed smoke

The balance of the smoke with the sweet honey and sour lemons is remarkable. Great stuff here.

90/100

Flaming Heart 6th Edition | 48.9% ABV | Bottled 2018

Colour: Light gold, ever so slightly lighter than the 5th edition.

Nose: A beehive that’s on fire. The smoke from the Caol Ila intertwines beautifully with the Clynelish. Seaweed and salt, but there’s also a slight sherry sweetness which isn’t in the 5th edition.

Palate: A strong smoke here, moreso than on the nose. Lemons, vanilla and caramel. Some butterscotch notes and those little Werther’s Original candies.

Finish: A long finish with smoke turning salty, drying the mouth.

It’s got a bit more going on, mainly due to the influence of the sherry casks. Because of that’s it’s just a smidgen less focussed than the 5th edition. Still a great blend.

89/100

Compass Box Stranger & Stranger | 46% ABV | Bottled 2019

Stranger & Stranger, quite a nice name for a Compass Box blend I think. The name comes from one of the design companies Compass Box uses. This bottling is to celebrate their 10 year partnership with Stranger & Stranger who designed the logo’s for quite a bit of their bottles, including No Name, Phenomenology and their core range of products.

That’s not the only “strange” thing about this though. This blend is technically a spirit drink, not a whisky, as they used some 1 year old Girvan grain spirit in this. The story goes that this was “sacrificial spirit” used to season experimental casks, but who’s to say. Either way, at 1% of this blend’s contents, it won’t get in the way of things.

Other than the Girvan, there’s Glenlossie, Glen Elgin and some Linkwood in this blend.

Colour: Gold.

Nose: This needs a lot of time to open up. At first it’s mainly dust and chalk. With time there’s more fruity notes. Pear, mango and Reine Claude plums. Definite hints of grass and cereal too.

Palate: It starts off quite fruity with notes of green apple, lemon and mango. However, those quickly get overtaken by grass, hay and cereal note. A heavy does of barley too.

Finish: A medium long finish. Some pepper and vanilla. The tropical fruits, mainly mango, come back to end on a sweeter note.

Decent blend here, and quite barley-centric on the mid-palate. As has come up a few times, you need to wonder if it’s worth the asking price.

85/100

Compass Box No Name | 48.9% ABV | Bottled 2017

Compass Box No Name, that’s quite a smart marketing trick there! They want to let the whisky speak for it’s own, fine. This is said to be the peatiest Compass Box so far, consisting of a healthy amount of Ardbeg, Caol Ila and, of course, some Clynelish.

Colour: White wine

Nose: A very strong peatsmoke comes out of the glass. I’m envisioning standing on a dune in windy weather, waves crashing on the shore. Salt, sea air, wonderful. In the back, there’s some banana notes, smoked ham and a hint of medicinality (is that even a word? You know what I mean).

Palate: Ultra clean, concise, focussed peat. Wood still smoldering, smoked salmon. At the end the salt begins to amp up it’s volume.

Finish: The salty notes are prominent here, quite an oily mouthfeel. The smoke still lingers too for quite a long finish.

I’ve put this next to my Flaming Heart and yes, this is quite a bit peatier. I love how focussed it comes across, very nice blending there!

90/100