Bottle Polishing 2020: Odds & Ends, Part 3

Cardhu Gold Reserve [2020] Ob. 40% WB78.19[29] MR4/10 [drambleGoT]70

My dad bought me this for Christmas. I opened it immediately and was pleasantly surprised by what I found.

Colour: a mix between Rylan Clark and Donald Trump – [suspiciously rich] orange-y gold.

Cardhu Gold Reserve [2020] Ob. 40%.jpg

  • N: Malty, honeyed, sweet-sour hay-like toffee, peppered breadiness, dunnage-light/fusty candy string and floured candy banana,…. Get the picture? A surprisingly engaging and easy-reading layered nose.
  • T: Neat, it’s a fairly narrow yet loveably tough n tumble single malt. With water [best], we’ve a waxy sour=sugary-sweet grassy/malty caramel-y >= raisin-y dram that indicates the subtlest of oloroso cask influences, and with just a touch of fresh peppery heat – not enough to scare anyone away or detract from – that mildly-sweet & gentle moreish chew.
  • F: Short with a vague metallic bitterness in the background. Adding water elongates the finish and promotes the waxy mouthfeel. I’d swear this is pisco by the death.
  • C: All-round, very pleasing malt that I would easily recommend to beginners and enthusiasts alike, but blind to the latter. Much like Chivas Regal 12 from the 1970s, I can see myself recommending this in twenty years’ time, as a BFYB ‘old n rare’ styled malt, no doubt easily found at a decent price on the secondary market.

Scores 83 points


Glen Scotia 2010 7yo SMWS 93.105 Tea Leaves & Seaweed [230 bts] 61.6% WB87[6]

Like the Cambus [WLP], this has been lingering at a low level for too long.

Glen Scotia 2010 7yo SMWS 93.105 Tea Leaves & Seaweed [230 bts] 61.6%

  • N: Now I remember why we bought this now [WLP86]. There really is all-sorts here. I’ll stick with my previous tutti-frutti note, but at the heel of the bottle, it’s the ethanolic-sweet < salty  > > phenolic suggestions that pull hardest on the lead, conjuring fond memories of Octomore 6.2 matured in those fabulous Limousin casks! At the waist of the bottle, this talked louder of sweet-festering meats [ham > turkey > chicken = pate,… but let’s not ignore those soft light fruits and a flavoursome oaky huskiness in keeping with Glen Scotia’s fabulous repackaged official 15yo batches they released around 2017 [WLP]. At other times, this simply speaks of ‘just another’ albeit highly competent cask strength SMWS whisky.
  • T: Damn this is good. So direct, so bourbon-driven, so bourbon-like, so contemporary, beyond contemporary, more world whisky than Scotch perhaps? Welcome to Glen Scotia! This is a whisky abound with an aromatic perfumed candy fruitiness from your corner sweet shop to the medicinal sweets & tinctures from the pharmacy to syrups & sugars from the kitchen cupboard. After a few goes neat, some water is a must for me. I’m getting Thomas H Handy and George T Stagg references, Michter’s, High West, a very savoury Elijah Craig… this is turning into a US distillery tour. You know the cask is firing on all cylinders when that happens. That’s one heck of an active ex-bourbon cask that makes this whisky ready to go after only seven years.
Clint Eastwood.jpg
  • F: Rather a hushed finish after that bomb blast. All shots fired and a man down. All that’s left is a smoking gun and the distant wo-ee-oo-ee-oooooooh from flute and ocarina. Fear not! All those fruit sweets, either candied and/or medicinal are well set to last the distance.
  • C: This is some very fine Scottish-styled bourbon if ever I’ve met one. Must be some epic tea leaves the SMWS tasting panel are sourcing. Your supplier’s number?

Scores 87 points

PS: Whilst I’m still not sold on whisky & food pairings, I try 93.105 after a spoon of cashew nut butter! After all, I was hungry and then thirsty! The mix creates a new & sensational chemical makeup beyond any expectation.


Vega 1985/2019 33yo NSS Limited Edition #5 [400 bts] 46.2% WB88.75[18]

There are plenty of old whiskies around like this. Whilst many bottlings in recent years have become premiumised and over-priced, supermarkets’ Aldi and Lidl found a working model that offered its customers old juice at low prices. One could argue that North Star Spirits sit somewhere in between these premiumised and budget models. We all like what NNS are doing and how they are doing it, but that doesn’t mean I’m an automatic fanboy of everything they release. Not all NSS bottlings are [or can be] stellar.

Vega 1985:2019 33yo NSS Limited Edition #5 [400 bts] 46.2%.jpg

  • N: Once I’d acclimatised to the sulphur and given it a few days to settle, a characterful elegant soup of flavour emerges with all manner of cakes and sweet treats. Namely, Window Chapel Cake, sweet pickled walnuts, walnut stone & fig jam, fatty fudge, root ginger….  This could hold it’s own against many esteemed and premiumised malts but at the same time it wouldn’t go amiss as a 30yo Aldi Christmas special, especially those from a while back. This often reminded me of the Trojan [WLP], any number of beautifully well-aged often sherry-matured undisclosed 1970s Speysider’s, Lidl’s 25yo Glenalba [WLP], and occasionally even Balblair’s 1969 vintage [WLP]. As elegant as it is on the nose, has it got the steam to hold up to the palate? At 46.2% it’s got every chance, but a soft profile on the nose often means it’ll be soft and/or sharp to taste.  That nose though, once the sulphur settles down, is a cracker – impressive and immersive with new pleasures every re-visit.
  • T: Initially, soft and instantly disappointing narrow acute peppery slightly fatigued arrival. Soon becomes oaky, peppery sharp and citrus=spearmint fresh before a rapid dip in intensity.

As the days turn to weeks my perspective changes. Like the nose, I find there’s a dichotomy between the subtle layered complexities that talk of rancio raisins & old dusty chesterfields, and the contemporary nature of active sherry-syruped finishing casks. Does it work? Yes, at times. When it fires, there’s all manner of olfactory joys. On the other hand, it’s occasionally all too easily relatable to the bolt-on mechanics of so many sherry-activated/invigorated old-timers and young/juvenile contemporary whiskies for that matter. However, even when it struggles to fully rise, what’s certain is there is a dignity to this blended malt that can be lacking with less well-considered presentations. Don’t add much water because it can easily drown, but adding a few drops leads to an amelioration of delectable dried fruits and oaky fruit syrups in a way that only whisky can provide.

  • F: Sulphury dusty/woody-dry tail with hints of nutty tobacco. What’s commendable is the restraint of the ‘finishing’ for this old-timer. That’s where the Alid/Lidl offering often falls down the most. With an oaky doughy pancake finish, some quality sherry [cask] notes linger with a nice humming light syrupy-sweet ashiness at the death – dependent on water management/sip size/air intake,… honestly, it’s such a sensitive malt.
  • C: There’s lovely stuff to glean but those old joys don’t always surface. Overall, very good aged whisky for the price but I won’t miss the bottle. OK, maybe a little for that nose.

Scores 87 points



That’s me all caught up with my bottle polishing for a while. My attention now will be to look at and work through, gems from the Old & Rare Show 2020 as well as more flashbacks from yesteryear.





Bunnahabhain 2013, loose ends


3 thoughts on “Bottle Polishing 2020: Odds & Ends, Part 3

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