Tag Archives: Papaya

Crazy good Balblair from 1993, matured in a first fill sherry puncheon, bottled by Gordon MacPhail


Region – Speyside – ABV – 53.4% ABV – Cask 1962 – First Fill Sherry Puncheon – This was around $150

Gordon MacPhail 1993 Balblair first fill sherry puncheon cask 1962It wasn’t long ago that I had a chance to sit down with my good friend Jonathan Bray to review this Balblair.

Actually, yes, it was quite some time ago…. back in May/June based on my tasting notes and the published date of Jonathan’s review. Ugh.

♬ Ti-i-i-ime is not on my side, no it isn’t! ♬ Where does the time go?!

My apologies to you, dear reader, and my apologies to Jonathan, for not getting this review up sooner.

Gordon MacPhail 1993 Balblair first fill sherry puncheon cask 1962On the nose — A host of notes you’d come to expect from a heavily sherried whisky: pickled walnuts, cherry pits, German brown bread, cola syrup, and dark bitter chocolate.

What you’d not expect (or maybe you would) is a quite present phenolic component giving off notes of a fireworks finale, burning cardboard, and what I can only assume is the scent of the Heaven’s Gate cult compound living quarters. They kept quite clean, as I understand.  You know, before the end…

Gordon MacPhail 1993 Balblair first fill sherry puncheon cask 1962A-a-a-a-a-nyway, I’m also detecting sulphured figs and dried papaya, too.

In the mouth — Chewy, unctuous, moreish, dare I say massive.

Tasting notes aside, my initial reaction is “damn, this is good tasting juice!”

Gordon MacPhail 1993 Balblair first fill sherry puncheon cask 1962Deep and dark fruits (insert Landry list here) which is countered by Balblair’s natural tropical fruit notes but they’re dried (more papaya, candied medjool dates, black currant, and interestingly some raw coconut flesh).

This is near flawless on the palate.

Finish — Perfectly timed tannins, sweet Thai chili sauce, decent length

In sum — While the nose presented some slightly off/sulphuric notes, the palate delivered in a way that few heavily sherried whiskies do. Stunning delivery of flavors and a finish that makes you want to sip more. Without getting into too much detail, the addition of water turns this into a vorpal +4 whisky of drinking. You basically roll a natural 20 on a d20 when adding water and the fruits just multiply.

Oy, Oi, Oy, this is a cracking good dram and if you can still find a bottle, you could consider yourself *very* lucky.  Not convinced?  Be sure to check out Jonathan’s review of this gem.

Kavalan Solist “Vinho” Taiwanese whisky

Taiwan – 58.8%ABV – 200ml (special thanks to Ian Chang for the generous sample!)

The Kavalan range of whiskies, by the King Car Whisky Distillery out of Taiwan, are being churned out in short order but are not being done so in a way that would compromise quality.  I’ve been pretty impressed with most of their whiskies that I’ve tried so far.

I asked Ian Chang of King Car what the make up of the “Vinho” Solist was and I was surprised and impressed by the depth of Ian’s response:

“Indeed, the Vinho is part of our Solist series, which is a cask strength, single cask single malt whisky of course. The most special thing about it is that Vinho is fully matured in used American oak wine barrels that have been toasted and recharred in a way that brings out fruity vanilla notes from the whisky and wood overlaid on a delicate background of complex fruitiness.

The oak casks are made from American oak that has been seasoned in the open air for at least 24 months. The oak is slow grown that results in a greater release of flavours into the whisky. This reduces the astringent effect of tannins and releases more vanilla spiciness and hints of herbs such as dill and lemon grass. The result is softness and added complexity.

The casks have (deliberately) been used to mature both red and white wines which eventually will contribute the background complex fruitiness to Kavalan / Solist Vinhos.

After their use for wine maturation the casks are carefully shaved inside then gently toasted over an oak chip fire for a strictly controlled period of time and temperature. This converts wine residues into a complex mixture of fruit flavours including lime, berry fruits and peaches. Then the casks are charred for a short period of time to release lashings of flavours such as vanilla, ice cream and caramelised sugars.

The result is a more complex whisky than is possible than with whisky casks alone!”

The process sounds very interesting.  Let’s see what it does to the taste…

On the nose Incredibly bourbony; that is to say, strong and sweet notes of vanilla and spice – this does not “taste” like bourbon.

The color, which is like a deep brown mixed with blood red, suggests heavily charred casks and some of the wine influence Ian mentioned.

Musty and heavy with cinnamon and burnt sugar.

Notes of papaya and paper bags.

Blackberries and fresh starfruit.

…an interesting interplay of scents.

Watered down tomato based alphabet soup.

On the mouthDrying and a bit meaty.

For 58.8% ABV, it’s not as hot as I had expected.

Notes of a nice Malbec wine, soft and slightly tannic.

Dark berries and red-wine-soaked raisins.

Left-over fried grizzle and super-sour green apples.

Slightly nutty and again, drying; like the way walnuts can dry your mouth.

FinishLong finish that’s increasingly peppered and a bit caramely….

In sum This is perhaps my favorite Kavalan yet. Very complex and nicely balanced. Sometimes wine finishes can be too complex and lacking balance… not the case with this one.

Perfect for after dinner kibitzing with friends.

Linkwood 15yr – Old Masters Collection

Speyside region – 59.2% ABV – $|£|€ – ???

I am increasingly becoming more and more fond of single malt whiskies produced by Linkwood – nearly all of which are independently bottled, by the way.  For the most part, the fluid is used in various blends such as Johnnie Walker, Bells & Haig.  This is a shame for those who prefer a single malt, but, good news for those who also enjoy a good blended whisky (I represent both of these types of people) as Linkwood whiskies tend to be nice, rich and complex – the perfect addition to a blend to enhance its deliciousness.

The name “Old Masters” is somewhat new to me.  When you think of independent bottlers some companies come right to mind: SMWS, Signatory, Duncan Taylor, Douglas Laing (who does the Old Malt Cask, Provenance & Premium Barrel lines), etc…

So, let’s see what the Old Masters get us with this Linkwood:

On the nose Strong spirity nose with an initial attack of blue nail polish remover/acetone.

Big malty notes.  Belgian beer.

Tropical fruits like pineapple and dried papaya.

Shoelaces (think “fat” laces from the old school hip hop days a la Grand Master Flash & Run DMC).

This is some strong stuff so, I decided to add a wee bit of water.

With water, the nose softens tremendously…

Now some big oak and sweet sugared grapefruit halves are revealed.


On the mouth Big malt.  Big, big malt.

Hot mouthfeel.

Spicy notes and those tropical notes carry through.

Something highly sour about this schtuff too.  Can’t place it.

Adding water now…

The mouth feel gets chewy and that sour note evolves into lemon pith and dry white wine sangria.

Finish Long and stinging in feel thought short-ish in flavor.

Like a mouth full of whitehead hornets (poor Winnie the Pooh!).

With water the finish is still very long but with a few less bees a’buzzin’

In sum A lot going on here.  Very complex but not sure it all worked out in the end.  If you were to go for this whisky, and I’m not sure I’m suggesting such a thing, I would reach for it in the late spring/early summer time.  Very bright & fruity.  I didn’t hate this whisky I just think it could have used a few more years in the cask or perhaps it should have been transferred to a new cask for a Re-JEW-Vination™ of the spirit.

Truth be told, I reviewed this whisky more than a month ago or so and it wasn’t until yesterday when Chris at The Whisky Wall reviewed the same whisky.  You should hop over to The Whisky Wall to check out Chris’ review.