On the one hand it saddens me that after today Hogshead week will be over… on the other hand, I get to try two more amazing whiskies! The first one is an 11-year-old Ruadh Mor from the Glenturret distillery. Which has been aged in a first fill PX Sherry Solera Hogshead. That’s one hell of an impressive barrel for an indie bottler to release on their inaugural line-up! It’s bottled at an impressive 57.1 % ABV as well, which means it’s a 100 proof in the old UK system.
The second dram I will be tasting is a 13-year-old Coal Ila, aged in a first fill Olorosso Octave. Olorosso and peat is a match made in heaven in my book, which means this one will most likely be right up my alley. Looks like Hogshead week is going out with a bang! I can’t wait to try these drams, so let’s dive straight in.
Tasting Notes: Hogshead – Ruadh Mor 11
ABV: 57.1 % (114.2 proof / 100 UK proof)
Age: 11 years old
Bottled by: Hogshead Indie
Category: Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Natural Colour: Yes
A beautiful and delicate nose is waiting for you inside the glass. It’s by far not the most intense nose from the line-up, so you really must dive in to get all the flavours out. When you do, you’ll find some mouth-watering flavours though. A luscious lemon custard with the crusty caramel layer borrowed from a crème brûlée; a fresh mowed lawn in springtime speckled with dandelions; and a handful of Sultana’s in your hand while you’re sipping on a cold glass of Verdejo. All these flavours can be found here, and then some. Water brings forth notes of fresh water and wildflowers, making it seem even more like I just stepped into spring.
The body of this dram is amazing. It’s thick, buttery velvet that glides across your tongue. Beautiful flavours of fresh honey straight from the comb, and that same gorgeous lemon custard I found on the nose… It all comes out to play. But where the palate differs from the nose is that not all flavours here have come to play nice. There are some bold flavours as well, such as fiery driftwood and peppered roast beef, that give some considerable heft to this dram. It’s like the savoury notes have been honey glazed, and that’s something I always find hard to resist. For me this is a perfect flavour combination. Water takes away some complexity, the honey and driftwood are both still there but most of the little nuances have faded.
The finish is very long, and though some of the bolder flavours linger it’s stays pleasant the entire time. Both savoury and sweet notes stay present in a way that it feels like they’re hardly fading at all. I’m picking up on chunks of candied honey, lemon sorbet, and honey-glazed ham. If you like a hefty dram after dinner, this finish will leave you entertained for a very long time! Just a few drops of water already change the finish of this dram considerably, making it much more honey focussed.
This is an absolute stunner of a whisky! I love a whisky that knows how to combine sweet and savoury notes, but often it can become a bit disjointed. But in the case of this Hogshead, it’s become a beautiful symphony. I think they made the right call bottling this at a higher strength than the rest of their line-up, as I found that all those little nuances that make this whisky so exciting start to fade quite quickly once you add some water. Don’t get me wrong though, I would still consider it an awesome whisky. But before I added water, I considered it a piece of art. One of the best whiskies I’ve tasted this year!
Tasting Notes: Hogshead – Caol Ila 13
ABV: 48 % (96 proof)
Age: 13 years old
Distillery: Caol Ila
Bottled by: Hogshead Indie
Category: Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Natural Colour: Yes
I remain a sucker for a good Islay whisky, and sticking my nose in this dram instantly feels like coming home. A peaty, iodine, bonfire is the first thing that welcomes me. Smouldering coals with bacon drippings are on the menu and for dessert there’s boiled apple with vanilla custard, covered in caramel sprinkles. If you like sweet and peat like me, the nose of this dram will be a dream come true. With some water the nose moves more in the direction of a good old-fashioned campfire, vaguely more reminiscent of a Talisker than of the notes I usually get from a Caol Ila.
On the palate there’s much less sweetness than the nose would have led me to believe. And even the levels of peat I’m picking up are relatively low for a Caol Ila. I’m very surprised by how nuanced this dram is. A mixture of hay and dried autumn leaves balances out the peat beautifully. And where I was expecting some dark fruits like I usually get from an Olorosso finish, I’m finding a liquorice sweetness instead. In fact, it very much tastes like liquorice root tea. I am picking up on some dried cranberries when I look for them, but it’s only a very thin layer. Water ramps up the more bitter tannin notes, but it also reveals a beautiful layer of thick caramel. It gives the dram a lot more heft for sure.
The finish has a medium length, some of the liquorice remains and I start picking up on some apples. Once again, I am quite surprised with what I’m finding, as it’s far from what I expected. That does make this a very interesting dram though and the flavours it does bring are delicious! Some vanilla remains in the finish as well and a slight hint of tannins is noticeable. There’s some brine here too, but it’s very subtle. The length of the finish is considerably lengthened by adding some water and the flavours become much more pronounced as well. Soft caramel fudge cookies, that’s what comes to mind and I’m loving it.
Writing a verdict on this has been the most difficult one I’ve had to do for the Hogshead line-up thus far. Because on the one hand I really do love the flavours in this dram. But on the other hand, they’re not what I’ve come to expect from Olorosso finished Islay’s and I do know how much I love those. I wonder if there’s anyone out there who had a similar experience with this dram… if so, I’d love to hear it! Regardless of my favouritism for Olorosso finished Islay’s, this is still an absolutely delicious dram and I consider it one of the better ones in the line-up. With this one I truly wish I had a full-sized bottle on my shelve, so I could keep experiencing it again and again. Because it is a delicious, yet odd one. And I want to figure it out. I also liked this one a lot more with water, as I felt it truly brought the dram alive. I’d definitely advise adding a couple of drops yourself, just to give it a try.
Getting to enjoy these Hogshead whiskies was an absolute pleasure and I’m very grateful to Toon for providing me with the samples. I can wholeheartedly recommend picking yourself up a bottle, and if you ever visit a whisky festival in the Netherlands be sure to look for the Hogshead Imports stand, as both Toon’s own label and the labels he represents are more than worth your time!
Be sure to check out my article on Hogshead Imports as well!