Spicy Highlights

Little girls are supposed to be made of ‘sugar and spice and all things nice’ while little boys are from ‘snips and snails and puppy dog tails’ – or so the Mother Goose rhyme of our childhood would have it.

Well there was plenty of spice and delicious toffee, vanilla, clove and demerara sugar on display in a couple of the whiskies the panel tasted for Issue 8 – but there was nothing girlie about the whiskies!

The most spicy of the lot was The Spice Tree from Compass Box while GlenMorangie’s Quinta Ruban added its own special finish. But the whisky which loosened the tongues in conversation was that of Cutty Sark. We were fortunate to taste it ahead of its commercial release. Look out for it in the shelves of your favourite Tops at Spar soon.

It used to be well known on these shores before quietly disappearing. Hughes is not alone in welcoming its return with open arms (and mouth…) as it is going to be competitively priced and will give some popular brands the proverbial run for their money.

Cutty Sark now forms part of the Edrington Group which also owns the Famous Grouse and was acquired in a very sensible swop with Berry Bros. & Rudd, the famous London wine and spirit merchants. Cutty Sark was actually created for Berry Bros. in 1923 – with the name inspired by the most famous of the Scottish built tea clippers. The vessel itself, for many years now a tourist attraction at Greenwich, was severely damaged by fire in 2007. Edrington handed over Glenrothes distillery in exchange for Cutty Sark and both parties were happy.

Cutty Sark is easily recognised in its green bottle with famous bright yellow label.

Benromach Heritage Cask Finish

Amber with slight coppery tints. Nose has strong grainy note with gentle hints of malt in the background. Some floral notes with hints of honey and vanilla. Strong burst of malt on dilution which tends to dissipate rapidly. Some intense wood develops in the mouth. Hints of toffee and decided sweetness at the finish.

Novices: Publisher Shayne Dowling was pleasantly surprised by this one. “It has an impact,” he said. Editor Fiona McDonald found a strange glue/Gripfix note on the nose while George Novitskas commented on its nuttiness.

Glen Grant 16 year old

Pale but bright gold. The initially shy and gentle nose comes to life on dilution, offering gorgeous fruit where green apple and banana feature. A full malty wave takes over and rolls all the way to treacly finish. Soft and smooth through the mouth where peach and barley play their parts. So smooth it feels almost oily as it slides across a palate that keeps delivering fruit and malt. Good balance and fruit filled finish.

Novices: “My favourite,” said Digital editor Marsh, “so smooth but elegantly balanced. It’s like a muscular ballet dancer.” Fiona loved the biscuit and almond tuille flavours with the rich rounded texture.


Compass Box Spice Tree

Amber with gold reflections. Bold vanilla whiffs. On dilution a wave of spices show themselves with ginger, clove and nutmeg prominent. Some grainy notes appear then a flood of barley sugar as it flows across the palate. Fruity notes of pineapple and sultana then make themselves felt. It appears to be relatively sweet but that might be the fruit concentration. The wood is very quiet but does a fundamentally good support job without being all that evident. Good balance and well constructed. Distinctly different!

Novices: Shayne’s favourite because it’s just SO spicy and in your face. “It’s like Zanzibar in a glass!” Comments ranged from freshly-sawn firewood, resinous pine, mint and sticky toffee and fudge. Michael said if he was ever in a car accident, this would be the dram to settle his nerves afterward with its slight sweetness helping to take the edge off.


Highland Park 12 year old

Very attractive reddish gold colour – almost auburn. Rich, honey, barley and heather on an inviting nose. Massive wave of aromatics on dilution. Rich entry with silky flow across super smooth texture. Lots of all round character with generous delivery of rich malt in the middle of the flow.

This releases a load of honey, spice and oodles of citrus flavours. The slightest hint of peat smoke is always hovering in the background. With all the mature characters there is a fine, crisp, dry finish. Delightful dram that would please a wide range of palates. Certainly did mine!

Novices: “Very powerful,” said Michael. “Not the sort of whisky you’d start the evening with but certainly one that you would have later on, possibly with some snacks or food.” While George commented on its heathery notes Fiona found crème brulee and smoky gentleness – the same smokiness that Shayne enjoyed too. Marsh likened this one to a racehorse twitching in anticipation of being given free rein. “And I want to put money on that horse!”


Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban

Dark, red, coppery colour. Very attractive nose filled with chocolate, orange, mint and sweet malt. All of which are intensified upon dilution. Incredible complexity in the mouth where hint of grape adds to everything the nose advertised. Barley, fruit and spice play a part with roasted nuts and hints of nutmeg. Honey and heather show, along with touches of fruit cake. Velvet smooth across the palate with soft, caressing texture. Understated port character in long, lingering finish where chocolate and mint feature strongly.

Novices: RGBC’s Candice Baker said she’s not a fan of finished expressions but was prepared to make an exception in this case! “The nose goes very deep and is backed by the dried fruit and sweetness on the palate. Some honeyed toast too.” George chipped in that he got toffee and rum-n-raisin flavours. “It’s like walking with Johnny Depp through Oompa Loompa land!” was Marsh’s left-field comment.

Cutty Sark

Pale gold colour. Attractive malty nose with hints of sultana, apricot and touch of anise. On dilution the malt takes over, particularly on the palate. This great burst of malt brings with it some vanilla to join the fruit and add to the surprising complexity. Smooth and creamy with a sweet sensation. Good grip in fresh, firm finish.Very easy but rewarding drinking.

Novices: “The bottle’s got character,” said Michael. “It belongs in a Tintin movie, next to Captain Haddock!” Nonetheless he loved the fresh sultana flavor of the whisky. Marsh found the longer it stayed in the glass, the more it developed. Grapefruit, licorice and star anise was his pronouncement.


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