A friend invited a crowd of us over for dinner in his new flat last night with the promise of opening up the whisky cabinet; it wasn’t a difficult decision to accept.

Below are some brief notes of some of the whiskies which were tried – all of them were pretty special. Thanks Kev!

Highland Park 1967 / 42 Year Old / John Scott’s

John Scott & Miller is a whisky shop located in Kirkwall, a short distance down the hill from Highland Park. In the Sixties, the present owner’s father had laid down two quarter casks of Highland Park. In 2003 they bottled these and released them under the John Scott’s label; an extremely limited edition outturn.

The resulting whisky is incredible – smooth as you’d expect with a dry, slightly smoky beginning which moves into a rich, creamy sweetness. The Sherry cask influence is there, but a lot of honey too and a very, very long finish.

Highland Park 1961 “”The Dragon”” / 36 Year Old / S & JD Robertson

S & JD Robertson are another Kirkwall-based business, but this whisky is from a private cask which was laid down at Highland Park in 1961 and subsequently bottled in 1997. Due to Robertson’s not having an alcohol sales licence, it was sold via the slightly unusual route of the Hebridean Liqueur company.

This is also from a Sherry cask so has similar characteristics to the John Scott. It has even more creaminess however (if that’s possible), with butterscotch sweetness, coconut, honey and end with a lovely long smooth spicy finish.

The Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch 8

We’d tasted the Tun Batch 8 at Balvenie a few weeks ago so this wasn’t new, however this didn’t make it any less special. I love this whisky; a good whack of Sherry spice and fruit combined with the lighter honey heathery notes which Balvenie is known for.

Maxwell 33 Year Old

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This whisky caused a stir when it was released via Lidl last year for the bargain price of £39.99. Unsurprisingly it sold out almost immediately; we drove to almost every shop in the Central belt in search of one. The origins of the whisky aren’t disclosed, but the Maxwell’s brand is owned by Ian Macleod Distillers (owners of Glengoyne and Tamdhu) and it’s from a Highland distillery, so that probably narrows things down a little if you fancy guessing.

The nose on this whisky is fantastic – lots of vanilla, toffee and ripe sweet fruit. The taste has a slight smoke and oiliness with more soft fruit and spice. A shorter finish than you might expect, but it’s still very pleasant.

Arran Devil’s Punchbowl Chapter II

This is the second of the Punchbowl trilogy and although it has now sold out, we were on Arran at the Whisky Festival when it was released, hence managed to pick up a few bottles (rumours that our group emptied the shelf in the shop are completely unsubstantiated!). It’s a blend of 27 casks (17 European and 10 American oak) and is a lovely fresh vibrant whisky. Lots of fresh apple and honey flavours mix with the dried fruit from the Sherry influence. There is a little smoke and short finish. In my opinion this needs a little water to balance out the sharpness, but it’s a great whisky all the same.

Ardbog

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Ardbog was Ardbeg’s special release for this years Feis Ile whisky festival. I’m not normally a huge fan of Ardbeg as I find the smoke ends up overpowering everything else, but this is a cracker. The whisky is aged in a combination of Bourbon and Manzanilla Sherry casks which gives it different flavour to typical Ardbegs. There’s a lot of syrupy rich fruit on the nose, and a little herbal scent. The taste is BIG, very dry but with a lot of fruit and various sharp flavours coming in and out, smoke is there as expected, but the other flavours stand up to it really well. The finish is smokey and spicy. Lovely.

Yamazaki 18 Year Old

Described as ‘legendary’, this whisky earned a Gold at the 2007 International Spirits Challenge and Double Gold at the 2005 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

The first thing you notice is the colour – there’s sherried whisky and then there is Yamazaki. Dark and viscous, it looks fantastic when poured. The nose is fruit and oak, but there’s a deeper perfumed aroma which I find unique to Yamazaki. The thickness of the whisky coats your mouth and you taste sherry fruit with chocolate and a little smoke. An incredibly long finish. This is a great whisky.

Hakushu 18 Year Old

Another 18 year old from the Suntory stable, this is another great Japanese Whisky. It’s lighter in flavour than the Yamazaki, with a slight smoke and fresh fruit on the nose and cakey sweetness in the taste. The finish is long, fruity and honey with a little more smoke.

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