In times of crazy whisky prices we need affordable and good daily drams. If this is what you are looking for, the following series called Hepburn’s Choice is hard to beat – and brandnew (but from a famous name with loads of good stock: Langside Distillers a.k.a. Laing). I had the chance to try 12 bottlings by now and was amazed by the overall quality. These are single casks bottled at 46% and they retail around 50-60 Euro.
Now let’s talk about the bottlings in brief fashion. The first batch has gone rather quick, so let’s just give an overview.
Batch Dec. 2013 / January 2014:
Auchentoshan 11 y.o. (2001): Very typical yet better than the original, somewhat bigger and oilier, nuts, grass, lemon zest, herbs, vanilla, spring onions and more soft spice elements, long finish. 87 points.
Blair Athol 10 y.o. (2002): Great allrounder qualities, fruity tail, the favourite for many tasters among this batch. 88 points.
Braeval 12 y.o. Sherry Butt (2001): 87 points.
Tamdhu 12 y.o. (2001): Very typical of Speyside, straight and honest dram. 85 points.
Benrinnes 10 y.o. Sherry Butt (2003): 86 points.
Ledaig 8 y.o. (2005): We all love the 2005 Ledaig with its huge peaty tang and the leather – shoe shine – apple aromas. This one makes no difference. Another favourite among the tasters: 88 points.
The new batch was just released in February 2014 and I expected the quality to drop a bit, but again these are bangs for your buck, really good quality and fair value. Check it out:
Batch February 2014:
Auchentoshan 12 y.o. (2001 – 2014): A fruitbasket of a Lowlander, then green apples, lemon zest, grass and vanilla. It drinks softly yet chewy, fruity and big with a good balance. 87 points.
Craigellachie 9 y.o. Refill Sherry Cask (2004 – 2014): Hay, dried flowers, maltiness, ginger bread, pumpkin pie spice, licorice, pineapple and white pepper at nosing; drinks sweeter as expected, great spiciness with a soft body and impeccable balance. 87 points.
Balmenach 12 y.o. (2001 – 2014): A mix of regional and tropical fruit, rather fruity overall, amazingly mature for its age, plus canned milk. Nice finish. 88 points.
Benrinnes 11 y.o. Refill Sherry Cask (2002 – 2014): Honey, dried flowers, malt, hay, ginger, lemon zest; tastes okayish but has not settled in balance yet, it could add complexitiy, too. 82 points.
Speyburn 9 y.o. Refill Sherry (Fino?) (2004 – 2014): My favourite bottling of the bunch – it really smells and tastes like the water inside the mushroom glass, then apple compote, grapes, fino sherry, canned milk, brine, tropical fruits (pineapple, guava) and spices (chili, pepper), deep and unusual yet mild. Amazing. 89 points.
Glenrothes 9 y.o. 1st-fill Sherry Cask (2004 – 2014): nice sherry nose, not too raisiny, grapes, blood oranges, cola mix, black pepper, Asian spice; mild taste; a wondeful sherry cask bottling. 88+ points.
So get your hands on some of these drams for daily pleasure or for learning whisky and single casks. Recommended stuff!