Posted 30 November 2021 by Matt / In Group Tastings

Short form writing comes with its own rhythm. Whilst nearly all the content on The Dramble tends toward elongated discussions (read – rambling) and deeper dissections (read – nit-picking), my view of succinct prose is that it still needs to stand on its own feet – and to tell a compelling story. I’ve never been a fan of regurgitated Wikipedia distillery entries – no whisky website is as well indexed or discoverable as the free (and not necessarily accurate, nor up to date) encyclopaedia. And as such, whilst longer form writing requires considerably more research and input per piece posted, keeping it pithy whilst not repeatedly telling you all about 19th Century double-barrelled named gentlemen who built booze-factories comes with its own anxieties. Particularly now as we head towards our traditional December daily posting schedule.

Exploring whisky through the widest possible lens has become the foundation and the motivation of The Dramble. The ingredients, the economics, the marketing, the psychology, the people and the host of emotional responses that the golden nectar can express. And of course, the liquid – but usually as the dessert which follows the main course. Whisky presents us with an incredibly rich tapestry of topics from which to draw….and as such I endeavour to avoid framing it in the linear fashion of history (past) vs. tasting note (present).

However, when it comes to short form writing – I completely understand why that modus is the most adopted of formats – particularly for those who write about whisky on daily basis (I doff my hat to you guys). It’s genuinely challenging to concoct a new angle for every single piece of website content. And even more so when posting about Glen doodah 10 year old one day and Glen doodah 12 year old the next. Most Dramble posts involve 2-3 days of ‘thought’, research and writing – condensing that down into bite-size daily chunks – without the luxury of ‘bathroom break thinking’ draws from a very different set of skills. One which leaves me feeling quite nervous around this time of year with the prospect of 24 Advent drams just ahead of me and a diurnal deadline in-built.

As so, as has also become something of a Dramble tradition (helping my whisky mind transform from shovel to scalpel) – here’s a practice run of seven shorter reviews drawn from a diverse selection of things (provided by or via Highfern) which have been lying on my desk rather too long.

The Dramble reviews Angel’s Nectar Cairngorms 2nd Edition

Bottle Name: Angel’s Nectar Cairngorms 2nd Edition

ABV: 46%
Distillery: Undisclosed Speyside
Bottler: Highfern
Region: Speyside Age: 11
Glass Weight: 527g

A single cask release from Highfern’s Angel’s Nectar produced in support of the Cairngorms Trust – unsurprisingly sourced from an undisclosed distillery based in the National Park of the same name. Only 146 bottles at 46% ABV have been produced (remarkably low for an 11 year old – where’d the rest go?). They’ve still available from Master of Malt for £76.95.

Nose: Appealingly vibrant with apricot, peach, guava and honey spread over toast. Jelly sweets and a sugary zing from Haribo join pressed flowers, touches of toffee and gingerbread men. Reduction presents barley notes alongside golden syrup and brandy snaps.

Taste: Interestingly opposed to the nose! Now into dried fruit – dehydrated banana and mango together with Graham crackers, crunchy toffee and an aside of slate-like minerality. In the background, a pang of lime sharpness, anise and white pepper. The addition of water reveals a more cask-led character with split vanilla pods, planed oak and more assertive spicing.

Finish: Medium, with white pepper, Juicy Fruit chewing gum and a squeeze of lime.

Distinctive, fruit forward spirit with a surprisingly deviating palate offering darker tones and additional welcome nuances. Given the small number of bottles, I’m surprised this is still available – it’s really rather quaffable.

Review sample provided by Highfern

Score: 86/100

The Dramble reviews Angel’s Nectar Islay Rioja Cask

Bottle Name: Angel’s Nectar Islay Rioja Cask

ABV: 46%
Distillery: Undisclosed Islay
Bottler: Highfern
Region: Islay Age: 7
Glass Weight: 527g

It’s wine cask time, with this fear inducing edition hailing from Angel’s Nectar and expanding their Islay Cask range to include Rioja matured expression. 7 years of age and bottled at 46% ABV – you’ll find these at The Whisky Exchange for £49.95.

Nose: Blackberry sponge, redcurrant foot and raspberry mille-feuille think with golden puff pastry and vanilla cream. Alongside a medicinal peat influence – swirling throughout, but never fully taking the limelight – and composed of antiseptic cream, surface cleaner and burnt hot chocolate. Dilution expresses an earthy side with wet soils and fallen leaves – and some barnyard funk with damp hay lofts and animal sties.

Taste: Opening with a highly green vinous quality of both ripe and underripe raspberries alongside notes of greenhouse and hedgerow berries. Eaton mess creaminess is most welcome together with a glug of sunflower oil. All is served atop a buttery biscuit (base) whilst medicinal peat lurks alongside brine. Reduction presents blackcurrant cordial together with bandages and tinctures – it’s more overly ‘wine’ and it’s more overly peated.

Finish: Medium to long in length and typifying sweet vs peat.

I really need to stop pre-emptively dreading wine cask whiskies – the industry has come along leaps and bound since the time when 50%+ of them were utter rubbish. This Angel’s Nectar Islay Rioja Cask edition has a lot going for it, offering an excellent balance of spirit and peat influences alongside red and ‘green’ wine qualities that are both supportive as well as thought-provoking. Works for me.

Review sample provided by Highfern

Score: 85/100

The Dramble reviews Langatun Old Crow

Bottle Name: Langatun Old Crow

ABV: 46%
Distillery: Langatun
Region: Europe Glass Weight: 648g

Continuing to complete our Langatun sticker collection with Old Crow – the distillery’s first peated edition (Old Bear uses birch wood smoke), matured in ex-red wine casks. Bottled at 46% you’ll find this available at The Whisky Exchange for £70.95 – which, it’s worth noting is a substantive increase over the price you’ll find this should you live in mainland Europe.

Nose: Cold hearths and gas fire briquettes together with leather satchels and cow hide. Damp tobacco leaves and acrid smoke join hot house vines and musty hedgerow berries whilst air-dried meats sit with an underlying vein of salinity. Dilution reveals ozone and duck pond murkiness together with lighter asides of pressed flowers and spent espresso beans.

Taste: Cardboardy with ancient parchment paper. Musty with a big influence of cigar wrappers and humidors. Milk chocolate and dark chocolate are both expressed together with an earthy maltiness at the core. Bonfire smoke and smouldering cigars sit alongside fig rolls and sweeter redcurrants. Water provides bitterness and tartness from orange and quince and transposes the smoke into a more synthetic composition – burnt electrical boards.

Finish: Medium with smoked malt and sweet berry asides.

Whilst not presenting any overt flaws, the configuration of Langatun’s Old Crow is not wholly harmonised between the wine casks and peat smoke influence. There’s some fighting for attention here, and some oddly artificial notes (particularly when diluted) which don’t sit naturally within the overall composition. A strange one that’s hard to recommend.

Review sample provided by Highfern

Score: 74/100

The Dramble reviews Langatun 2016 PX Sherry Finish

Bottle Name: Langatun 2016 PX Sherry Finish

ABV: 49.12%
Distillery: Langatun
Region: Europe Glass Weight: 648g

A single cask release from Langatun that has spent some time in a Pedro Ximenez sherry cask (#564). Bottled at higher (to 2 decimal places!) ABV of 49.12% than the distillery’s core expressions and with 490 bottles produced. There’s 1 available via Highfern for £82.98, or more than 1 (I presume) from The Whisky Exchange for £83.95.

Nose: Flambe orange and crepe suzette sit with raisins, plums and fig rolls. Cedar wood provides aromatic wood spicing whilst shaved chocolate is joined by crunchy toffee. Simple, but effective. The addition of water presents Terry’s Chocolate Orange (It’s not Terry’s, it’s mine), together with vanilla buttercream and hazelnut swirls.

Taste: The arrival presents a welcome viscosity leading into dark cherries, chocolate torte, cinnabons and dry peppery oak. The development reveals clove oil and a selection of plump raisins and sultanas. Water softens things up quickly with juicy red and black berries alongside bourbon biscuits.

Finish: Medium with ginger and clove led baking spice and lingering berry sweetness.

The well-judged PX finish on this Langatun brings with it an excellent balance of sweetness and spice throughout. And the ABV bump is also highly welcome, allowing the weight the of the underlying distillate to shine. Me likes it.

Review sample provided by Highfern

Score: 85/100

The Dramble reviews Seven Seals The Age of Taurus

Bottle Name: Seven Seals The Age of Taurus

ABV: 49.7%
Distillery: Undisclosed Swiss
Region: Europe Glass Weight: 500g

Swiss bottler Seven Seals have produced, what one imagines (strongly) will be a 12-part series featuring the signs of the Zodiac – each with 365 bottles available (I see what you did there). We’ve got three of them on the table today – so we’ll commence with Taurus (April 20 – May 20). Bottled at 49.7% ABV this edition has been finished in tawny port casks. You’ll find it at The Whisky Exchange for £69.95

Nose: Leather straps, dried reeds and blackberries sit alongside white board marker, chocolate sauce and a heady spice mix of pink salt, dusty cinnamon and cardamon pods. Herbal qualities rise up from the glass with rosemary and thyme (sorry no parsley and sage) alongside waterlogged soils. Dilution brings forward a palpable anise aroma, whilst almond paste joins fennel and chopped chives.

Taste: Fire hearth and smouldering earth sit with bright juicy plump hedgerow berries, salinity and liquorice. Vanilla-filled cream buns join ancho chilli spiced cashews whilst chocolate and toffee sauces mingle together. Water offers wood lacquer and shaved chocolate together with dry roasted nuts.

Finish: Long with fading red berry sweetness punctuated by salinity.

The nose of Seven Seals Age of Taurus is appealing – but the palate is a step up beyond this. Rich with fruit and spice and with a refreshing salinity along for the ride. The smoke influence is well-integrated throughout – acting as a supporting note as opposed to a lead. Just a shame dilution is a bit of an odd duck here – huge anise and cask influence detracting away from the far better 49.7% composition.

Review sample provided by Highfern

Score: 84/100

The Dramble reviews Seven Seals The Age of Leo

Bottle Name: Seven Seals The Age of Leo

ABV: 49.7%
Distillery: Undisclosed Swiss
Region: Europe Glass Weight: 500g

It’s time for my Zodiac sign with Seven Seals’ The Age of Leo – NAS and with an undefined period of time spent in a Pedro Ximenez cask. Bottled at 49.7% and with 365 bottles available - this one is available from Master of Malt for £67.95.

Nose: Dark berries and reduced plums sit with fig rolls and well-stepped Christmas pudding packed full of currants and cherries. Straight-forward but certainly effective. Reduction presents a far more brooding nose with burnt ginger cake, molasses and treacle.

Taste: Similar to the nose, but far more expansive. Chocolate-covered cherries join fresh cranberries, redcurrants and a swig of pineapple juice. Plump raisins and a thick slice of chocolate cake sit alongside lacquered oak, chopped walnuts and almond and a drizzle of macadamia honey. Water sweetens things up with brown sugars and raspberry chews alongside a far bolder oakiness.

Finish: Medium to long in length with tropically-tinged fruit cake together with persistent candied nuts.

Zodiac signs with aligned flavours is a tough ask – particularly as where in the world you are affects the season you’ll be presented with in any particular month. Here in the UK, August is very much summertime – and yet Seven Seals’ The Age of Leo presents far more as a winter whisky. Friends Down Under – Leo is most certainly for you. Irrespective of the tenuous link – the liquid here is of high quality with controlled and prominent sweet, sticky sherry throughout. Just a shame the nose is a little simplistic. But the palate is excellent.

Review sample provided by Highfern

Score: 85/100

The Dramble reviews Seven Seals The Age of Scorpio

Bottle Name: Seven Seals The Age of Scorpio

ABV: 49.7%
Distillery: Undisclosed Swiss
Region: Europe Glass Weight: 500g

A rather mysterious Zodiac bottling from Seven Seals with no cask information available that I’ve been able to find. So, we’re left with ‘whisky’ at 49.7% ABV, 365 bottles (as is the case of all in this series) and a price of £67.95 from Master of Malt.

Nose: Roasted nuts (cashews and hazelnuts) together with a big creamy quality from Chantilly, meringue and cardamon-spiced custard. Dried fruits and berries join a fresh fruit salad bathed in vanilla extract. Water offers powdered ginger, rich tea biscuits and golden, toasted cereals.

Taste: Overtly sweet and highly spiced with cinnamon, ginger, pepper and nutmeg. Candied orchard and stone fruits join juicy tinned fruits with an over-generous spoon of caster sugar sprinkled over the top. Almonds and hazelnuts are toasted and then served with whipped cream. Reduction unleashed the oak monster with dry, tannic wood, chocolate and vanilla extract.

Finish: Medium with pear drops and berry asides together with cinnamon and pepper spicing.

The Age of Scorpio is just too sweet and too spicy for my palate. All of the notes work together, but the volumes of the sugar and cask influence are just dialled up way too far for my tastes.

Review sample provided by Highfern

Score: 78/100



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