There is no shortage of Independent bottlers of whisky and to me, that’s a good thing. The more the merrier.
The independent bottler offers to the whisky consumer (both newbies and veterans) a bit more of an adventure into the wide world of whisk(e)y. Please understand, I’m not down on distillers’ own bottlings (E.G. Highland Park 18yo, Arran 14yo, Ardbeg Corryvreckan, etc…). What I am trying to point out is that Independent bottlers allow the consumer more variety and flavors and other ways to love the distilleries they’re already familiar with. Their bottlings also allow for newbies to whisky a different way to “get into” whisky.
LONG LIVE INDEPENDENT BOTTLERS!
Master of Malt is not only a whisky/spirits shop but they also independently bottle single casks of whisky from time to time (and seemingly more and more often).
Here is a link for a comprehensive guide to Independent Bottlers (as found on Serge’s whiskyfun.com).
Today I am reviewing four single cask bottlings from Master of Malt:
- A 20yo Single Cask of Cragganmore,
- A 13yo Single Cask of Highland Park,
- A 14yo Single Cask of Dalmore,
- and, finally, a 27yo Single Cask Dailuaine whisky
Cragganmore 1991 20yo
Speyside Region – Refill Hogshead (sample did not specify bourbon or sherry but from the color and flavors, I’m supposing it’s an ex-bourbon hogshead) – 54.2%ABV – £49.95
On the nose — Light, perfumed and a bit salty smelling. Very floral (if you have a significant other who digs whisky, get some of this for her or him. You can’t drink a bouquet of flowers but you can drink this!). Some latex glove notes which seem to be oddly mixed up with pine nuts. Ashes from burnt notebook paper with a side of white pepper. A bit of a biting nose – smells of 54.2% ABV…
Coming back to this and the peppery quality really stands out.
On the mouth — Slightly vicious mouth feel, good attack. Fruit salad, half dried-out orange wedges and, if I’m not mistaken, an owl barn. Water cress, sugared lemon slices and a touch of butterscotch.
Cedar wood shavings which is now leading up to the finish…
Finish — Drying, long and filled with those sugared lemon slices I got on the palate.
In sum — This is a solid, solid, Craggy. One that’s geared more toward the late spring or early summer; a mid-day dram to pick you up a bit.
Highland Park 1997 13yo
Islands Region – refill ex-bourbon hogshead – 57%ABV – £44.95
On the nose – Vitamin E gel caps (those gelatin, vitamin E fluid filled pills) and medicated Band-Aids™. Some notes of unripened stone fruits (apricot, peach, etc..). Orangey baby aspirins with a side of cherry tarts; or vice versa…
A smokey undertone, with medicinal overtones, hospital beds & sharps disposal cans.
On the mouth – Sweet & smokey attack right upfront with a creaminess that hits the spot. Back to the citrus but more toward tart lemons or perhaps kumquat (teehee). Polypropylene pellets quickly becoming plastic containers via plastic injection molding machines.
Magnifying glass + sun + brush and branches = a flavor I’m tasting here.
Finish – Drying, smoky and medicinal. A touch of oak and vanilla and after about 30 seconds, marzipan
In sum – As a Highland Park, I’m not a fan. This is nothing like any HP you’ll ever taste. Take away the name and it’s a pretty good whisky! It’s not mind-blowing but it’s fun and interesting. I’d suggest using this as one to fool your friends with. They’ll never guess this was a Highland Park.
Dalmore 1996 14yo
Highlands Region – Refill Hogshead (sample did not specify bourbon or sherry but from the color and flavors, I’m supposing it’s an ex-bourbon hogshead) – 57%ABV – £44.95
On the nose – An oaky influence and all things Bourbon: pencil shavings, toasted almonds and model glue. Fresh and bright as well as a touch of toastiness and even a touch of brine. This is a Dalmore?? Dried apricots and vanilla cream. Walnuts, almonds and get this, egg whites.
An enjoyable nose; a vibrant nose.
On the mouth – What, what, what? Where did the 14 years of aging go? On the outset, this whisky tastes A) YOUNG & spirity and B) and a bit like a grain whisky or a young blend. After getting used to how different the flavor is as compared to the smells, I’m presented with hints of maple syrup, orange rind and orange juice and very puckering fresh white wine grapes (stolen off the vine during a vineyard tour).
Hi-octane ice wine.
Finish – Peppery finish, long and offering up some apricot
In sum – The nose, wonderful. To taste, however… from the get-go I was very disappointed. I warmed up to it a bit once I began to understand it but in the end, it’s not one that I would reach for. For the price, it might be fun to explore however there are some better single cask whiskies offered up by Master of Malt (and other indy bottlers) that you can spend your money on.
Dailuaine 1983 27yo
Speyside Region – Refill Sherry Hogshead – 53.6%ABV – £64.95
On the nose – This is an interesting mix of scents and jammed into a tight little package. We’re talking soy sauce (with a side of ginger slices) meets wood char meets dandelion jam. On top of this, there’s a nice ooey honey center and something a bit like spiced gum drops yet not like spiced gum drops… spicy nutmeg cakes maybe. I can’t pinpoint it but the scent is near intoxicating. Reminds me of cold nights with lots of family and LOTS of holiday heavy cakes.
Rum raisins (and the sugared raisins you find in a bowl of Raisin Bran™).
On the mouth – Loads of raisiny spice notes. Cinnamon swirl bread, Cinnamon Toast Crunch™. Flavors aside, let’s look at the mouthfeel – Slightly viscous with a tinge of effervescence. Hints of orange spice.
Do you see a theme here? SPICE! (desert planet, Arakis. Mother!! The sleeper has awoken!)
Finish – A sweet finish with some warm butteriness to it.
In sum – In all honesty, I bought a bottle of this stuff halfway into reviewing it. No shit.
This is a kick-ass bottle of single cask Dailuaine and oh-so-perfect for colder/cool weather. It’s warming, comforting, soothing, delicious.
Special thanks goes out to the fine chaps and chappesses from Master of Malt for the samples!