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Souvenirs from Taiwan

Souvenirs from Taiwan

Taipei skyline
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I recently visited the beautiful country of Taiwan, and of course had to visit Kavalan Distillery while there. I highly recommend the trip to Yilan, as it is only a short drive from Taipei, and the landscape and distillery premises itself are more than charming.

 

Kavalan Distillery
foto credit justadram.org

 

Kavalan distillery still room
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Kavalan distillery warehouse
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After a nice stroll around the large premises, I entered the distillery shop and was lucky enough to get my hands on one of the recent Special Edition bottlings, celebrating 40 years of King Car, the company which owns Kavalan. It is rather expensive and the bottle only holds 200ml, so I really hope it lives up to my expectations. Let’s crack it open and find out…

Kavalan Selected Wine Cask Matured
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Kavalan Selected Wine Cask Matured

This one was matured in french Claret Bordeaux red wine casks, which were hand selected by master distiller Ian Chang. In my opinion, Kavalan is always about fresh casks and intense flavours, so I expect a lot of wine notes in here. Hopefully, its not too dry.

Kavalan Selected Wine Cask
foto credit justadram.org

Nose:
Zesty red fruits, most prominently red currant. Red apple, elderberry, lychee, a slice of peach, jasmin tea, Orangina, water melon, salted butter toffee, cookie dough and a fresh hint of mint. Very nice and fizzy nose. A tropical fruitcake with a little salty edge.

Taste:
Fruit buiscuits, orange marmelade, juicy watermelon, lots of coffee, minty and herbal. Fernet Menta, chocolate, aged Madeira wine. A lot more oaky than I expected from the nose. Reminds me of the Vinho Barrique bottling. Tangy finish on red berries and bitter apple peel.

Comments:
As expected, this bottling is all about the great quality cask selection. Just don’t expect a classic “scotch” profile here. Avery modern and rather free interpretation of Single Malt Whisky. This is liquid sunshine in a glas. /89


Another bottle I bought at the distillery is the Solist Fino Sherry Cask. I tried one of these before, so when I saw it on discount at the distillery shop, I couldn’t resist.

Kavalan Solist Fino

Kavalan Solist Fino
foto credit justadram.org

Nose:

Intensly meaty, salty and spicey. Cured meats, rich honey, toffee, black pepper BBQ sauce, wet tobacco. Linseed oil, oakchar and leather. A hint of allspice and cumin in the background. Very complex and alive. Water accentuates the spices even more.

Taste:

Mirrors the nose quite well. Starts on cured meat, cantonese sweet and sour sauce, physalis, orange peel, wild honey, roasted and salted almonds, trailmix. very rich and oily mouthfeel. Damn, this is a good one. Long finish on bitter walnuts and oakchar.

Comments:

A very nice Kava again. I don’t have a lot of past references when it comes to Fino cask maturation so it’s a bit hard to pin down, due to the everchanging nose. It’s all moving and evolving parts, but they fit together nicely. An exciting dram that one can spend plenty of time with. /91

 


I also visited the newly opened Kavalan Whisky Bar in Taipei city. I can only recommend it. It is a bit pricey but the whole experience is worth it. I had a great time and the friendly and knowledgable staff made it even better. You might want to book a table in advance to make sure you get a seat. I had a dram of the Kavalan Solist PX Sherry and really enjoyed it. Normally, I am not super into PX matured malt, but this was another amazing Kavalan Solist. I took no detailed notes, just kicked back and enjoyed the moment. The dram was very meaty, mentholated, and surprisingly more about the wood than the sweetness of the PX. Very delicious… My girlfriend tried one of their non-alcoholic hibiscus-juice based cocktails, which was also very creative and tasty.

Kavalan Whisky Bar Taipei
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Kavalan Solist PX
foto credit justadram.org

 


As a whisky lover, Taiwan is a great country to visit. There are so many whisky and spirits shops in Taipei, and lots of special editions are to be discovered. Add to that, the amazing, friendly people, the beautiful nature and the delicious food and you are up for a great travel experience. I hope to come back soon.

Wufengqi waterfall
foto credit justadram.org
Laphroaig 1999 19y. SMWS 29.260 / oloroso sherry cask / 56.9 % Vol. / 507 bottles / Bottled for Feis Ile 2019

Laphroaig 1999 19y. SMWS 29.260 / oloroso sherry cask / 56.9 % Vol. / 507 bottles / Bottled for Feis Ile 2019

A brand new dark sherry Laphroaig from the SMWS vaults, bottled for Feis Ile 2019. Quite an interesting bottling if you ask me, with two different sherry casks (american & european oak) being used for maturation.

 Laphroaig SMWS 29.260
foto credit: whiskybase.com

Nose:

Ground coffeebeans, espresso, lots of antique oak, lovely old leather notes, furniture polish, mahogany, humidor, old books, funky whiffs of cannabis smoke, a touch of flintstone, salty seaspray, tar, herbal peat, wet earth, moss, mushrooms, plum sauce, venison, game, beef stock and cooling menthol. Distant notes of bonfire and seashore. Very nice and seductive. Love this nose. Let’s see what the palate brings.

 

Mouth:

Very thick and resinous arrival on dark seasalt chocolate, coffee liquor and espresso. Blackberries, dark cherries, raisins soaked in PX. Cigar smoke. Spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and black pepper. Gets very meaty, with Hoisin sauce and grilled beef. Tangy and salty seaweed notes and hints of herbal peat in the long finish give away the islay heritage of this oakmonster.

 

Comments:

A lovely dark sherry bomber with faint hints of the sea. If you sometimes enjoy get beaten over the head with a sherried baseball bat, you’re good to go. I am one of those masochists, it seems. /92

Port Charlotte 2008 10y. The Maltman / bourbon cask / 53.1 % Vol./ 310 bottles

Port Charlotte 2008 10y. The Maltman / bourbon cask / 53.1 % Vol./ 310 bottles

Another fairly recent release by the Maltman. I liked their previous Port Charlottes a lot, so I had to give this one a try aswell.

Port Charlotte 10y. Maltman
foto credit: whiskybase.com

Nose:

Tarry ropes, maritime and phenolic peatsmoke, atlantic seabreeze and juicy vanilla notes from the american oak. This is a mighty fresh bourbon cask! (Long time no see) Leatherboots, burnt driftwood, fishnets, brine, oysters, mustard, a hint of menthol, cowstable, freshly cut grass. More floral with time.

Mouth:

Arrival on salty peatsmoke and loads of sweet vanilla. Fish oil, kippers, menthol cigarettes, drops of limoncello, riesling, camphor, thyme, liquorice. Long, peaty finish on tar, cough syrup and oak.

Comments:

Great cask selection again by meadowside blending. It’s been a while since I came across a first fill (?) bourbon cask in this quality. The price is steep but justified. Reminds me of the great Ardbeg 1998 Renaissance. /90

Hazelburn 14y. oloroso cask matured

Hazelburn 14y. oloroso cask matured

This fairly new Hazelburn triple destilled malt from the Springbank destillery is matured in fresh oloroso sherry casks. According to the backlabel, it is unpeated.

Hazelburn 14y. oloroso sherry cask matured / 49.3 % Vol.

Hazelburn 14y oloroso cask
fotos credit: whiskybase.com

Nose:

Dirty, phenolic and yes, slightly peaty. The typical springbank character is there. Salted caramel, orangepeel, peanuts, old leatherboots, wet earth, tobacco. With time, more green and vegetal. Hints of sulphur. Cabbage and radish. Reminds of the Springbank 12y. Cask Strength with less peat influence.

Taste:

Sweeter than on the nose, with salted caramel, citrus, hints of peatsmoke, maple syrup, beeswax, drops of aged tequila. A little tannic and sulphury maybe, but still very enjoyable.

Comments:

This is quite a character. As most of the offerings from this iconic Campbelltown destillery, it has its unique DNA and charme. A little hard to pin down, which makes it even more interesting for fans of the destillery. /87

More black beauties

More black beauties

The Maltman Secret Speyside 16y. sherry cask 1632 bottled for Austria / 54.8 % Vol.

Secret Speyside 16
foto credit: whiskybase.com

Another one in the already infamous (most likely Mac***n) Secret Speyside bottling series. The previous 14y. and 16y. expressions were both absolute stunners, if you enjoy sipping well matured dark sherry bombs. This new one however never really hit the online shops because the 311 bottles were largely sold to regular customers of austrian whisky shops and the remainder went to the german Cutty Sark Scotch Whisky Community. Let’s see if this one can live up to my expectations.

Nose:

Full on dried tobacco, a bag of raisins and roasted nuts, black cherries, menthol cigarettes, air dried italian ham rubbed in spices like oregano, thyme and fennel. Lemon verbena. Leather, meaty rancio. Mature, rich and enticing nose. It’s one. This smells almost like a recent official Mac18 but in cask strength, so obviously way more intense and full bodied. A Mac dialed to eleven.

Taste:

Orangeskin, sweet cherries, dry tobacco, Latte macchiato, brown sugar, nutty oloroso, leather, grilled steak, roasted nuts, slightly astringent. This is perfectly balanced between dark, fruity aromas and more meaty and salty umami touches. Very complex. You can take a few sips and still discover something new.

Comments:

And the next stunner by the Maltman. This one is not as sherry-supercharged as its 14y. and 16y. precursors, therefore more complex and accessible. After 16 years in oak, you still get some of this lovely floral and slightly rough destillery character that matches perfectly with a good sherrycask. You just can’t beat time and a good cask in my opinion. Open your bottle and enjoy this juice. Life is too short anyway 🙂 Danke Bowi! /90

 


Glengoyne 20y. for whisky.de first fill european oak sherry cask / 47.8 % Vol.

Glengoyne 20y. whisky.de
foto credit: whiskybase.com

This bottling sold out in around 20 minutes from what I have heard. Only 234 bottles were available, and only for regular customers of germanys biggest whisky online shop. The secondary market prices are bordering 400€ already. Ridiculous hype or justified?

Nose:

Black cherries, cherry coke, cola cubes, the finest artisanal bramble liquer, blackberrys, figs, dates, drops of anisseed and menthol. Wild honey, fatty beeswax, rancio. old leather bound books in a dusty library. Herbal tea. With time, dirty petroleum notes rise up. A little high estery jamaican rum maybe? This nose leaves me speechless, to be honest. No alcoholic burn whatsoever. This is so alive and clean, yet mature and well rounded.

Taste:

Salty, tangy arrival with truckloads of bramble liquer. Pine essence, black cherries, fizzy cola cubes. Balsamico. Overbrewed black coffee, salted chocolate, very very nice indeed. Oily and coating mouthfeel. The bottling strength was perfectly chosen in my opinion. Leave the water for later. This one is perfect as it is. The finish is pleasantly bitter with european oak, rancio, hints of wet earth and rotten wood.

Comments:

Wow, what a dram. A stellar cask. This is certainly one of the few bottles that deserves its reputation. The nose alone is worth looking out for a bottle or a sample. Congrats to the lucky few who snatched up a bottle. One of the finest sherry matured whiskys of the last few years. This is something else. Thx Konsti for the sample. /95

 


 

Balblair 2000 14y. Cask 1343 / 1st Fill Sherry Cask bottled for The Whisky Exchange / 53.0 % Vol.

Balblair 2000 14y.
foto credit: whiskybase.com

This 2014  single cask Balblair bottled for TWE already has quite the cult following in the whiskysphere. I was lucky to snatch up a bottle of this for a very nice price recently It is as dark as motor oil. Is this still whisky or just sherry with a higher ABV? Let’s find out.

Nose:

Much more meaty than the Glengoyne. Chicken broth, bone marrow. Cooked figs, plum sauce, raisins, maple syrup, PX sherry, wet tobacco. Oak and roasted coffeebeans. With time, slightly bourbony.

Taste:

Sweet cream sherry, Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, chocolate chips, plumjam, salty chicken broth, soysauce. Chewing on a european oak stave. Astringent coffeebeans and amaretto. Mouthcoating, thick and rich.

Comments:

This is also a winner. Goes to show that not all dark sherry bottlings taste the same. This is a very different animal compared to the Glengoyne which was cleaner and more on the fruity side, An oak and sherry monster of the highest order. On or two more years in cask, and you would have had pure oak juice. /91

 


Glen Grant 30y. SMWS cask 9.159 „Pedro packs a punch“ / 50.5 % Vol.

Glen Grant 30y. SMWS 9.159
foto credit: whiskybase.com

This fairly recent release from the vaults in Leith comes from a 30 years old first fill PX butt. I was happy to receive a bottle of this one as a birthday present from my buddy Marcel. I already tried it before and was intrigued by its complexity and unusual flavour profile.

Nose:

Vegetal, green and sappy at first nosing. The Glen Grant destillery character is still there. It’s even a bit peaty. Cinnamon, birch wood, green apples, overripe lime, orange skin, menthol, petroleum lamp oil, black olives, black tea, slightly perfumed. Very complex and different from he rest of the bunch. Interesting.. I am wondering what kind of PX was in this butt, as this is not too sweet on the nose, actually.

Taste:

Aha, there’s the sweetness. Wow, what a treat… Blood oranges, old english wine gums, white grapes, PX, cinnamon, ginger, spicy oakwood, a hint of peatsmoke, astringent balsamico, wet earth, liqourice and rancio. Like the rest of the team tonight, it’s very oily and thick. No alcoholic burn detectable. You can almost taste the 30 years in oak.

Comments:

This is a very interesting and different bottling. Certainly not your average PX dark sherry bomb. If you are looking for something more challenging, then this will be a perfect choice. Thanks a lot, Marcel! /92

William Cadenhead 20 years old Blend Batch II

William Cadenhead 20 years old Blend Batch II

This Cadenhead Blend is from a living cask that is bottled in batches. Batch II contains Glenrothes, Benrinnes and Invergordon. All components are at least 20 years old. The liquid in the bottle is one of the darkest I have ever seen. The solera sherry cask must have been very active to say the least.

 

foto credit: whiskybase.com

Nose

Overripe raspberries, dark grapes, black cherries, strawberry bubblegum, creamy vanilla, garden herbs like rosmarin and thyme. A fistful of european oak. Polished mahoganytable. Leatherboots. An armagnac–like earthyness. A hint of musty woodsmoke from the Benrinnes appears in the back. Lovely. I would not have guessed a blend here. No grainy notes so far… Damp, old wine cellar, old books, wet earth. Dunnage warehouse. A sherry bodega in spain. Finally, some nice, buttery cereal notes from the aged grain show up. Toasted bread with salted butter and orange marmalade.

Taste

Creamy and velvety arrival with lots of aged oloroso, sweet herbal liquors, Fernet Menta…? Nice development on bitter orangepeel, mint candy, brown sugar, maple syrup, rosmarin, fennel, thyme. English breakfast tea. Buttery shortbread and marzipan. A pinch of salt. In the finish the european oak kicks in with a spicy espresso kick.

Comments

Already one of my favourites of 2019. This one just oozes aged dark sherry flavours. Tastes and smells much older. The small grain amount makes for a very nice sipping dram. A hint of smoke adds complexity. Also the strength is perfectly chosen. Makes you want to pour the next dram 😉 Congrats to the blender, a great recipe. Looking forward to batch III. /92

Glendronach 1971 / 42YO / PX Sherry Cask 1246 / 44.6% Vol.

Glendronach 1971 / 42YO / PX Sherry Cask 1246 / 44.6% Vol.

A few days ago, I had the pleasure to taste a very rare Glendronach 42yo. Single PX Sherry Cask with my good buddy Konstantin from „It’s dram o‘clock“ (you can check out his new YouTube channel here). As expected, this session turned out to be a very singular and special experience.

Foto credit: justadram.org

Nose:

Beautiful! Really, the first word that comes to mind is just „beautiful“. This one needs time…. Huge notes of brown sugar, dried raisins, maple syrup, antique balsamic vinegar, menthol, blackberries and the finest cassis liqueur. Teakwood, furniture polish and damp wine cellar. Delicate fruit acid, meaty rancio and whiffs of cigar tobacco. The richness of this nose is almost overwhelming.

Taste:

Creamy and velvety arrival. Old cassis liqueur, the most expensive chocolate, walnuts and freshly brewed espresso. Very leathery! A wonderful, creamy and fruity balsamic acidity appears. Stunning complexity and very „alive“ for it’s age! In the finish is where the oak speaks loudest: herbal and pronounced leathery notes, rich espresso and drops of sweet and salty hoisin sauce remain.

Comments: 

A stellar cask! Really, this dark sherry oldtimer is a classic masterpiece. At this age, you might be afraid that the oak would just dominate and kill any complexity, but this one just goes to show that these old sherry casks are some of the best things the scottish whisky industry has to offer. It could need a few more %ABV for one or two extra points, but this is just fantastic as it is. Both Konsti and me agreed that this one is fully worth it’s hefty price tag. If you can get a sample, try it! /92

Caol Ila 2007 / 10YO / The Maltman Sherry Cask 312 / Germany Exclusive / 54.7% Vol.

Caol Ila 2007 / 10YO / The Maltman Sherry Cask 312 / Germany Exclusive / 54.7% Vol.

Another, fairly recent, release by the infamous Maltman aka Meadowside Blending. I simply adore most of their output so far. This one is exclusively bottled for the german distributor Alba Import. So, let’s taste this dark beauty from Islay.

Foto Credit: justadram.org

 

Nose:

Smoked bacon. Old leather jacket. Freshly squeezed lemon sprinkled with salt. Sea breeze. A bonfire on the beach. Driftwood. Wet stones. Menthol. Fishermen’s Friends. Very mineral and earthy. Some forest honey and orange rind in the background.

Taste:

Very oily and leathery arrival. Afterwards, sweet and salty flavors spread on the tongue. Roasted and salted peanuts. Macadamia. Bacon. Iodine tincture and cough drops. In the finish, a beautiful, leathery bitterness from the oak, with espresso notes and tart orange peel. The nose is now getting fresher and more mineral.

Comments:

Maltman has delivered again. Caol Ila from sherry casks are rather rare. Really nice, maritime malt with not too dominant sherry influence. If you like Caol Ila, you will be very happy here. / 87

Kavalan Sherry Oak / 2018 / NAS / 46% Vol.

Kavalan Sherry Oak / 2018 / NAS / 46% Vol.

When I first came in contact with the taiwanese Kavalan bottlings, I wasn’t too impressed, to be honest. Back then, I tried the Classic, Podium and Concertmaster from their corerange and they where all quite allright but also a little simple and thin im my rememberance. A few years later, I stumpled upon the Solists (Single Casks)  and Selection Range, and things changed drastically.

Today, I want to taste the „Sherry Oak”, which is the entry level sherry bottling of Kavalan. It’s bottled at a little lower ABV (46%) than the cask strength Solists, but the color is nonetheless promising.

Foto Credit: justadram.org

 

Nose:

Cassis, blackberries, raisins and orange peel. Wet tobacco, balsamico, chicken broth, slightly tangy and salty. Hints of menthol and cough drops. With time, earthy notes appear. Rotting leaves in autumn, mushrooms, damp forest floor. A great nose! .. No single off–note is to be found.

Taste:

bittersweet with orangepeel, blackberries, raisins and tobacco. Gets then more salty, meaty and umami. The 46%ABV make for a creamy and velvety mouthfeel. Even though this is NAS it doesn’t feel young at all. Only the finish is a bit short and makes you want to pour the next dram. 😉

Comments:

Holy Sherry Bomb Batman – this is great stuff! I was a little hesitant at first because of the lower ABV and price compared to the Solists and Selection bottlings but this is right up my alley. On par with some of the glorious Glenfarclas Family Casks but for a fraction of the cost. Only the finish gives away the youth maybe. But for that price, I can easily live with that. A modern dark sherry malt that ticks all the boxes. I hope they can continue with this kind of quality. /89

Feasting on Ardbeg. Part 2

Feasting on Ardbeg. Part 2

I recently tasted a couple more Ardbegs. Some recent, some older bottlings but always fun. Here are my notes!

Ardbeg 2000 / 18YO / MoS / Cask 18010 /51.5 % Vol.

Foto Credit: Whiskybase.com

Nose:

Beautiful, rich sherried color, this one! Beef stock, overripe oranges, christmas punch, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, old dusty leatherjacket, some menthol and camphor. “old english candyshop”. Refined and silky peatsmoke. Don’t expect a maritime young peatmonster like TEN or Uigeadail here. This one smells really old and mature.

Taste:

Creamy and sweet. Spicy woodnotes follow up, salty peatsmoke expands on the palate. Dark chocolate with seasalt, bitter orangepeel, and a touch of mint tingling on the sides of your tongue. Great combination of aromas. All seems to fit in perfectly. Sadly, the finish is a bit short for a malt of this age and character.

Comments:

What a nice MoS bottling this is. Finally a really mature, age-stated, sherried Ardbeg again. I think this one should be to many peoples liking. The price is steep, but you get an oldschool quality Ardbeg profile that you can not find in the official bottlings nowadays. For me the best MoS Ardbeg bottling to date. Only the relatively short finish prevents a higher score. I added 2-3 drops of water and let it breathe for around half an hour. The nose opens up and the sweetness on the palate is boosted. /90


Smokehead 18YO Extra Black / Ian MacLeod / Limited Edition / 46% Vol.

Foto Credit: Whiskybase.com

So this one is out since 2010, but sadly it’s mostly gone from retail shelves by now…

Nose:

Salted lime peel! Fruity beeswax candles. Dry vanillapods. Even a hint of tropical fruits like mango or papaya. The peat is delicate but gives a salty and tangy edge to the whole experience. Smoky limoncello. With time, old leatherjacket and dried tobaccoleaves accompany the fruits.

Taste:

A meaty, herbal and mentholated start. Oily and mature mouthfeel. The peat has cigarlike qualitys and you get the feeling of aged smoky mezcal with drops of lemonjuice. A simple, focused and rather delicious dram. Reminds me of the Caol Ila 25YO.

Comments:

At the time when this one was readily available, it was a real bargain. All bourbon matured, no gimmicky Ardbeg at a nice age. What more can you ask for? /88


Ardbeg SMWS 33.74 / 1998 / 10YO / “A dirty dram for Mary Poppins” / 56.6% VOL.

Foto credit: whiskybase.com

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is almost always Top Notch when it comes to Ardbeg. So let’s taste this older single cask. Hopes are high 😉

Nose:

There are sulphury sherry casks that are absolutely horrible and then there are these rare instances where the touch of sulphur, the sherry residue and the peated malt just sing in tune to absolute perfection. Which is the case here: Tart orangepeel, subdued and salty peatsmoke, a bonfire on the beach, fresh seabreeze, wet flintstones, copper coins, Zippo lighter, grilled BBQ ribs, buttery corncobs, strawberry bubblegum, cooling menthol, green vegetables.

Taste:

Pungent arrival on toffee sweets, lime, sherry and copper. Waves of black peatsmoke roll over the tongue. Very fizzy and alive. orangepeel, lime, liquorice, rosmarin, thyme, fleur de sel, a bit of sulphur, the ribs again. Chocolate mints and a nice astringent bitterness in the finish.

Comments:

I have yet to find a bad SMWS Ardbeg. This one has quite a bit of sulphur, so if you can’t handle that, stay clear. I think, with this cask it was rather an asset than a flaw. /89


Ardbeg Rollercoaster / 2009 / NAS / Committee Release / 57.3% Vol.

Foto credit: whiskybase.com

This one was bottled in 2009 to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the infamous Ardbeg committee. A blend of casks from ten different vintages, according to the backlabel, and bottled at cask strength. The secondary market prices for this one are of course insane these days.

Nose:

Seabreeze, ozone, salted lemons, fishy peatsmoke, some vanilla, honey, ashtray, lychees, fresh, young, vibrant and very “modern Ardbeg”. My guess would be that they used predominantly first- and second-fill bourbon casks for the mix.

Taste:

A fistful of Ardbeg! Pungent peatsmoke, vanilla, leather, tobacco, crushed seasalt, limejuice, liquorice, vanilla, mineral riesling, green grapes and seawater. Hits you like a hammer (or a rollercoaster ride) and then its gone.

Comments:

Not too sure… Its a good one, but I have to say I expected a bit more. Maybe because of the high price nowadays? For around 80€, I would grab one no doubt, but the current pricing is absurd. Its good, not great Cask Strength Ardbeg, nothing more, nothing less. Taste- and qualitywise its very near to the readily available Corryvreckan. So I recommend you go for that one instead. If you are just looking to add to your collection, I wish you good luck in finding one at an affordable price. /87