I originally brought in the Arran Cask Finish Sauternes for a comparison to the Glenmorangie Nectar D’or, in review 49. But this whisky deserves its own post. The Island of Arran has some history with illicit whisky-making, and one legal distillery ran in the 1800s. The Arran distillery was made new in 1994-1995, founded by a private company, Isle of Arran Distillers Ltd. As far as I can tell, Arran is still an independent distiller (with a new sister distillery also on the island, Lagg).
I paid $77, for this dram in 2019, though it’s up to $86 now with the tariffs. The Arran is true craft offering, bottled at 50% ABV, non-chill filtered and uses no artificial colors. It is a really gorgeous dram as you can see from the photos (click for a hi-res view), a very clear medium amber. The front label declares ‘Each cask is specially selected by our master distiller’ and signed by James MacTaggart. You can see James here, in their brief profile. 45 years in the industry marks James as an old hand indeed.
Dalwhinnie 15 is a whisky that has flown under my radar for too long. Before the pandemic, the Dalwhinnie was mentioned by a whisky buddy as her favorite. I smacked myself in the forehead, of course! How had I missed it?
Located on the Trium, a tributary of the Spey, Dalwhinnie is considered both a Speysider but also a Highland distillery. The distillery is located on the far side of Cairngorms National Park from Dufftown (heart of the Speyside region) and they brag about it being the highest and coldest whisky distillery in Scotland, so I’m approaching it as a Highlander and will compare to the Clynelish 14, a lower-priced dram, but also a Highlander. Both are from Diageo and I’m interested to see how they are differentiated.
Highland Park first came to my attention early on when I was reading many other blogs about Scotch. The HP 12-year was mentioned as a solid, well-made scotch at a reasonable price by a couple reviewers, but it was Jason Debly’s blog post here that sold me. In my own review of the 12-year, I covered some details of Highland Park’s creation: barrel selection and treatment, and where they get their barley:
“We are malting 20% of the total malt we use onsite. We then peat this malt before drying. Our makeup of malt is 20% peated (malted and peated on site) and 80% unpeated (bought from commercial maltsters).“
So I encourage you to give that review a look if you’re interested in some of the Highland Park production details. The snippet above gives you a hint to their whisky’s flavor profile: HP is mildly peated, with only 20% of the malt having been treated with peat smoke. It won’t clear out a room when you open it, sending peat neophytes grabbing for their masks (as an Octomore would). But it does have enough smokiness to help you imagine being near a cheery bonfire at the beach. Just not downwind.
I first had this whisky at the distillery, as it was one of the tasters at the end of the tour. I was impressed then, have owned it, but forgot to review it. It’s an unusual finishing (rum cask) of the Balvenie, whose Doublewood I have reviewed favorably. In this case, however, we have an extra couple years aging on ex-bourbon barrels, then an unspecified time finishing in rum casks. I’m excited about the extra years’ maturation, as the 14 to 15-year rage is a sweet spot for Scotch; Oban 14 and the Glenlivet 15 both being examples of tasty spirits in that age range. (I have two more 15s coming, up, a Dalwhinnie and a Glenfiddich so watch this space).
I do not have an equivalent whisky to which I can compare this, so I’ll use the trusty Doublewood, a 12-year offering from Balvenie to see if this is a good power-up from the distillery. It’s a bit pricier, $74 locally, $10 more than the Doublewood. There is a lot of writing on the carton, but it’s not telling us a whole lot more that is new. The rum casking is intended to enhance the Balvenie’s vanilla notes with spicy aromatic qualities. David Stewart, the malt master, is noted for his 50 years’ experience. Wow!
Here’s a whisky that’s been languishing in a box for months, what was I thinking? Talisker is an excellent warm-you-up whisky for winter and here we have sunshine, daffodils and buds in Portland. However, there is rain coming, so it’s a good time to taste a Talisker. This bottle is only $10 more ($80) than the standard 10-year Talisker, and thus gives the Talisker lover a new twist on their favorite without having to break the bank.
The Distiller’s Edition is a range from Diageo they do yearly. In each case, there’s a core whisky which is aged as per the brand’s standard then aged further in some other cask. The Talisker DE is aged for 10 years in ex-bourbon and then finished in Amoroso (medium-dry sherry) casks. I have the 2018 edition, as you can see from the photo above (click on the photo for a closer look; the date of distillation and bottling is in the lower label). However, they have followed the same pattern since the mid 2000’s and the 2020 release is of the same formula.