The Main Event – Scotch 22 Strathisla

These are tasting notes from an invitation event held in Christchurch.

The notes are provided by Ian Stopher and Mel Bromley.  I am very grateful to them both for allowing me to use their writings here on the site.  And I am considerably jealous!

I have identified each author’s contribution for (to quote Mel) “… anybody who is interested in playing along vicariously.”

Acronyms used in the descriptions:

FFSB: First fill sherry butt
FFSH: First fill sherry hogshead
RSB: Refill sherry butt

In the course of the writing, Mel came up with a couple of new phrases:

  • “single cash Glendronachs”. When you can only afford to buy one at a time?, and
  • “Highlandronach”. The offspring of Highland Park and Glendronach.

They may well join the lexicon of whisky terminology.

A starter for 10 –

Ian:  I turned up at Whisky Galore at 5pm to make some purchases. I told them I was interested in the Single Malts of Scotland Aird Mhor, so I gave it a whirl before buying a bottle (at $83 for a cask strength 8yo it was going to be hard to resist).

Aird Mhor: 8yo 59.4% (ex-Laphroaig Cask)

Nose: yes of course peat, but in amongst the bourbon notes there is something more coastal like salt grass or maybe fresh seaweed. I have no idea where Laphroaig is actually matured but there is that tang of the coast. More like a Caol Ila than an Ardmore.
Palate: clean, not as dry as some Ardmores, but still staying away from the sweet; some tart gooseberries
Finish: just short of medium; it leaves something of a synthetic hole, nothing too alarming but not the satisfying ebb I was hoping for. Perhaps the youth shows through here.
Overall: I have tried very hard not to let the cask autosuggest things that possibly are not there. I think the nose is superior, the palate is fine but the finish is a bit lacking if I was to compare it to other cask strength Ardmores. This is a decent cask strength Ardmore and I like the novelty of knowing the provenance of the cask. At the price paid this is a no-brainer.

Score: 8.2

On to The Main Event

The main event is a Scotch 22 tasting of six Strathisla whiskies, with a mite bit of age and all first fill sherry of some sort. All 43%. (Ian’s description).

Glass 1: 1963-2011 (48yo) Two FFSB (but American Oak it seems)

     Mel: Colour lightest of the line.
     Ian: spirity, dark hay, herbal
Mel: varnish, stonefruit, pineapple lumps, tinned plums, mahogany, apple crumble with cinnamon
     Ian: Watery, delicate, some floral elements
     Mel: Stonefruit, hints of dark bitter chocolate, raisins, creamy, hint of liquorice and nice cigars.
     Ian: medium
     Ian: it is interesting as a FFSB.  If is American Oak, that might explain the light colour.
     Ian: 8.3
     Mel: 8.5

Glass 2: 1957-2013 (55yo) FFSB

     Ian: resin, marker pen, a bit coastal
     Mel: marshmellow, tinned peaches, hint of chocolate, sherry prominent, creamy, musty, orange peel.
     Ian: dense, herbal
     Mel: Dark chocolate, musty, grapefruit, tannin notes, sweet but balanced, cocoa, strong woody notes
     Ian: wow, woody bitterness
     Ian: This is a bit of an oddball Strathisla. I am not a fan of the woodiness in the finish which brings down the overall score but until that point, it has a rather marked interest.
     Ian: 8.5
     Mel: 8.9

Glass 3: 1972 -2013 (40yo) RSB+FFSH

     Ian: yes sherry, what else?
     Mel: Creaming soda, sweet, caramel, caramello chocolates, sponge cake, hint of rum ‘n’ raisin ice-cream.
     Ian: fruity, like a condensed distillate, some dryness
     Mel: chocolate, malt biscuits, (slightly soapy?), stewed apricots, slight Cuban cigar notes again, bit tinny.
     Ian: medium (just)
     Ian: 8.4
     Mel: 8.3 Loved the nose a lot more than the palate – that hint of soap dragged the score down for me.

Glass 4: 1964-2013 (48yo) FFSB

     Ian: dark cherry and Oloroso
     Mel: Chocolate, Rum n Raisin truffles, plums, tobacco, marmalade, gorgeous, stunning, apricots, raisins, Christmas cake
     Ian: sappy, some dark fruits, definitely prunes
     Mel: Chocolate, raisins, coffee, liquorice, marmalade. I commented: “If Glendronach and Highland Park had a baby …”
     Ian: wood; but there is a fruitiness in amongst the tannins
     Ian: immensely dark and the best overall of the six; where this wins is in the delivery rather than the nose, reminding me of the fruitiness of my Lochside. Delicious!
     Ian: 8.7
     Mel: 9.5 [I was feeling very happy by this point! And enjoying the whole concept I had come up with of the Highlandronach …]

Glass 5: 1960-2014 (53yo) FFSB+ FFSH+RAH

     Ian: engine oil, cloves
     Mel: Sulphur, burnt toffee, orange rind, chocolate, Christmas cake, marzipan
     Ian: medicinal, cough syrup
     Mel: Dark chocolate, oranges, tinned mandarins, tobacco, rust (the good kind), creamy.  I also noted down “Stunning dark mahogany colour”
     Ian: medium->long
     Ian: too old and too over-the-top in the finish, way too much woodiness. Whatever they have done to ameliorate this by the combination of three casks is not enough for my personal preference.
     Ian: 8.4
     Mel: 9.3

Glass 6: 1954-2013 (59yo) FFSB

     Ian: wow, icing sugar, sugar cream, this is amazing
     Mel: Cocoa, chocolate, strawberry cream, plums (My favourite nose – despite the lack of descriptors, maybe I just stopped making as many notes!)
     Ian: tarry, flat coca cola
     Mel: Caramel (tastes higher than 43%), plum, cigars, hokey pokey chocolate, butterscotch
     Ian: medium->long; dry, with some resin
     Ian: the nose of something this old and fantastic, this is one to just smell. It gives no indication of being old at all. However, come the delivery itself it makes itself clear. This is wood and tar and although not as bitter as some old Strathislas it still has many of those aspects that I don’t appreciate in old sherry maturation. So a mixed bag overall but that nose, what made that?Score:
     Ian: 8.6 (but 9.6 for the nose only)
     Mel: 9.4

Overall Event summary

“It was great to get to taste this range of seriously aged whiskies all from the same distillery!

“Although they were all bottled at 43% (which can often seem low), they generally all appeared to be higher strength and did not suffer from the relatively low alcohol per volume.

“There were some common characteristics that came through – Speyside notes of chocolate and various stone fruits, and sometimes a bit of orange or marmalade, and in a number of them a very nice touch of Cuban cigar!

“Delicious though they were, would I pay the price to own them?  At more than NZ$19,000 for the set, or an average of around NZ$3,200 for a bottle – definitely not.  (Give me 7 or 8 single cask Glendronachs, thanks!).  Delicious – enjoyable –overpriced!”

 “There you have it and you don’t need to suffer the next day as I did.”

The Cat and the Cream



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