Review: New Hepburn’s Choice Releases

As written here, this new single cask series with 46% abv. really made an impact – affordable drams with lots of (distillery-) character and quality. Let’s see if Langside Distillers (a former part of Douglas Laing – they share the stocks with the other Laing enterprises) – can keep up the good work:

Glentauchers 8 y.o. Hepburn’s Choice 2005 – 2014, sherry butt, 310 btl., 46%Glentauchers Hepburn's Choice

Comment: A creamy and fat dram with a wonderful sherry influence (Pedro Ximenez?) and counterbalancing spice combo. I am getting maraschino cherries and cherry juice, ginger bread, tangerine, fudge (Werther’s Echte) and vanilla. My favourite in this batch.

Score: 89


Fettercairn 8 y.o. Hepburn’s Choice 2005 – 2014, refill hogshead, 377 btl., 46%

Comment: A malty and nutty whisky that still has some green elements of shrub wood. The leading aromas are toffee, apples and pears, pineapple, dried flowers and CO2 carbonation smells (yes, unusual).

Score: 83


Glenallachie 9 y.o. Hepburn’s Choice 2005 – 2014, sherry butt, 299 btl., 46%

Comment: Something went wrong in filtering this one, it is a bit cloudy, but this doesn’t impact the flavour. Raisins, dates and sherry cask aromas dominate the nose (better than the palate), a Christmas cake with peppery and fresh elements as well, good balance, but not very complex.

Score: 84


BraevalBraeval Hepburn's Choice 12 y.o. Hepburn’s Choice 2001 – 2014, sherry butt, 660 btl., 46%

Comment: Hello smoke, peat and moss, I didn’t expect you in this concentration. A complex and powerful yet elegant dram with goarse, sweet fruits (maraschino) and apricots plus the ‚Island-esque‘ touch on the side. A great learning experience, hard to guess in a blind tasting.

Score: 87


Glen Grant 10 y.o. Hepburn’s Choice 2004 – 2014, refill hogshead, 390 btl., 46%

Comment: A very typical example of this reliable distillery. Nicely fruity, mature and fat with quite some bourbon cask influence, like a cream toffee. There are traces of tropical fruits and dextrose in the aroma while the palate seems to be spicier and greener than the nose suggested.

Score: 85


Dailuaine 8 y.o. Hepburn’s Choice 2005 – 2014, sherry butt, 393 btl., 46%

Comment: A good nose, although a bit on the raisiny side of the sherry world. This is a round and sweet dram with good integration of cristalline flavours and some more spice on the palate than I expected, already mature.

Score: 86


BlairBlair Athol Hepburn's Choice Athol 11 y.o. Hepburn’s Choice 2002 – 2014, refill hogshead, 421 btl., 46%

Comment: Its predecessor was a winner and this one doesn’t fail either with this discrete Highland understatement. Soft, round and complex (like me) displaying notes of moss, tea, pear, vineyard peaches paired with good acidity. A real steal.

Score: 88


Glencadam 10 y.o. Hepburn’s Choice 2004 – 2014, refill hogshead, 46%

Comment: Mashy and malty start, the leading aromas are pear (!), caramel, vanilla, nougat, coffee, oak, ginger bread, pistachio and flowers. With time, Asian spice and fruity elements surface.

Score: 85


Tamdhu 12 y.o. Hepburn’s Choice 2001 – 2014, refill hogshead, 153 btl., 46%

Comment: Tarte tatin (Calvados)! Funny at first, a round and sweet dram with good length. After the ‚tarty‘ start it settles to reveal dough, caramel, moss, green grapes, canned pears, malt, ginger, almonds, white oak and white pepper.

Score: 84


JuraHepburn's Choice Jura 8 y.o. Hepburn’s Choice 2006 – 2014, refill butt, 598 btl., 46%

Comment: Quite complex for its age – leather, spices (chili, too), mashy malt, coffee, maritime ozone, joghurt, pistachio, polished oak, peaches and more.

Score: 86


Ledaig 6 y.o.  Hepburn’s Choice 2008 – 2014, refill hogshead, 46%

Comment: As a fan of Ledaig, I was curious to try a younger vintage before the often released 2005. This one is still close to a new make (wild ride, baby), but with huge potential. Despite its young vegetal peatiness, the emerging complexity already shines through: shoe shine, iodine, suede, green apples and smoke are leading elements. These 2008 Ledaigs seem to be as peaty as 2005, maybe even more phenol ppm in action. Promising stuff.

Score: 86


After these releases came out, there also were a young Talisker, Caol Ila and a Laphroaig, all of which I haven’t tried yet. Overall, these drams without colouring (not chill-filtered) are a reasonable choice among the many ’no age statement‘ or finished bottlings we see at weird prices these days, I think. Honest stuff, nothing fancy, some better, some worse, but real whisky to understand the product without mascerade – which we like.

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