I get it. Some distilleries don’t want competition from independent bottlers. And some distilleries, like many Cartman’s, will take their ball and go home if you put their name on it. See Highland Park, Macallan, Ardbeg, Balvenie, Glenmorangie, etc.
And then other distilleries end up with barrels without labels on them. So they sell them to an independent bottler, and it’s tasty, so we end up with good whiskies. But won’t someone think of me, the rambling whisky reviewer?
I joke of course. Call it whatever you want. Trick the masses into not knowing what they are drinking, avoiding things. But wait: There’s whisky reviews, there’s stats, and we at least know it’s a single malt Scotch.
I have recently ended up with three whiskies that we don’t know where they come from. There’s theories, but they aren’t as rigorous as previous “secret” whiskies I’ve reviewed. So I’m reviewing them as if they are just what they say.
Let’s see how they taste, shall we?
Secret Speyside 23 1995 Whisky-Doris The Nose Art has one person saying “might be Macallan” but I’ll say it again: Not every sherry mystery Speyside is a Macallan. Period. Full stop.
So what do we have? We have a sherried 23-year-old that no one has tried guessing (save a few) that was bottled by Whisky-Doris. And when I was offered a split on the bottle, I jumped at the chance. Then I texted back because jumping was not helping.
So let’s see how this tastes, shall we?
Price: € 150
Cask Type: Sherry Butt
Cask number 99823
Number of bottles 180
Colour: 10YR 5/8
Nose: Candied grapefruit, red licorice, brown sugar, walnut, papaya
Sweet and tart on the nose. Jumps between the two. One second you’re having sweets, the next you’re getting acidity/tartness.
Really draws you in and keeps you guessing. Easy to nose, though if you’re looking for a lot of complexity, it just brushes against that level.
Taste: Orange, raspberry, moss, gingerbread, grassy/anise, floral, raisin
Grows beyond the tart/sweet balance, though doesn’t give it up. Much like the 80s song you’re thinking of (Karma Chameleon), this adds some complexity with time. Richer, floral, grassy, and spice join the sweet aspects from before.
Again we’re just brushing against that “next” level of complexity. On the other hand we’re also coming close to that “kitchen sink of simple” flavours level of complexity.
Finish: Orange, raspberry, cumin, heather honey, charred meat (a lot of it), walnut, mulch
When I was a young man, and had the muscles able to do a physical job, I ate lots of meat during work. One time to say goodbye a coworker put double the meat available (5 different animals) onto a pizza to thank me. This finish is that pizza, except without the meat sweats.
Sweet, tart, some more earth, and actually more vegetal notes after that.
Conclusion: Orange/Raspberry forward with insane balance. The only part I’d say isn’t super balanced is the finish, but that’s just extra meat and given my belt size I… still enjoy meat a lot.
So what is this? It’s tart, balanced, spicy, and grows as you drink more. Is it up there with super complex mid-20s sherry? No. Is it a sherry bomb? No. It’s subtle, complex, and nice to sip on. No name required.
Thanks to ScotchGuy_TO for this sample.
Secret Speyside 24 1995 The Whisky Agency is either a Glenrothes, or a Macallan, or maybe a Benrinnes. None of those guesses matter. They literally all come from the same person. I trust him, maybe it’s one of those, I’m bad at guessing.
What I do know is this is a 24-year-old Single malt that’s been matured in a sherry butt. Given my inability to enjoy Glenrothes, and my strange love of Benrinnes in ex-sherry, I know what I’m hoping for.
Let’s see how this tastes, shall we?
Price: $270 CAD
Cask type: Sherry butt
Number of bottles 48
Colour: 10YR 5/8
Nose: Grapefruit, red licorice, brine, cardamom, caramel
We’re off to a good start. No tobacco notes of a Rothes. Lots of spice, has some interesting blends of salt and spice along with the sweet.
This isn’t exactly “inviting”, unless you’re really into being hit (consensually I hope). It’s brash, there’s a lot of harsh acidity, but I don’t hate that. I’m assuming it’ll calm down eventually.
Update: It did not.
Taste: Papaya, brown sugar, orange juice, cotton candy
Tropical, more strong, sharp notes, and some interesting flavours. It’s really, really sweet. And that’s coming from me, the person who once tried to eat the Candyland board. And I would have gotten away with it too if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids and their Poison Control call!
Sweet, less brash, but still pretty brash.
Finish: Ginger, brine, apple, ginger, cloves, honeydew
Spice, apple, salty. Really if it didn’t have a generic melon note there it’d be pretty close to all the elements of an apple pie. If the double ginger doesn’t give it away, this is still pretty brash.
Conclusion: Brash, interesting, but not something I hunt down. I have whisky friends that want whiskies like this, and that’s perfect for them. It’s not meant to be nice. And that’s okay.
Now before I quote Team America: World Police in a profanity laden description of personality types, what did I enjoy about this? I love ginger. I love spices. It’s sweet, and there’s brine at the end, and both those things go along well.
This whole thing is interesting. Do I know where it’s from now that I’ve reviewed it? Hell no, I make a fool out of myself enough and don’t need to add more fodder.
Buy this if you like rough sherried drams. Don’t if you ever enjoy smooth whiskies.
Thanks to devoz for this dram.
Speyside 17 2000 Berrys Bros & Rudd Berrys’ Own Selection is a polarizing whisky. Very polarizing. Once the ice melts and we’re all watching as the water comes for us this will be the last pole, that’s how polarizing.
Terrible jokes that portent your eventual demise and the falling apart of your children’s lives set aside, that’s why no one has declared what they think it is. There’s either people proclaiming this is the perfection of a Oloroso sherry bomb that certainly still had some wine in the cask or that it’s the equivalent of visiting the Medieval killing fields in smell and taste.
There is no in between. What do I think? Well I think this is a 17 year old Secret Speyside that has drawn me in. I have heard of bad whiskies, and am ready for another one. Let’s do this, shall we?
Price: $175 CAD
Cask number: 2355
Bottled for: Sierra Springs Liquor
Colour: 5YR 3/6
Nose: Cherry, sulfur, cooked plum jam, pineapple, ginger
Immediate sherry and a slap of being in the old stinky mines. Then more fruit?
It’s not subtle at all. It’s very hot, it’s very pungent, and I’m here for it. Granted I also liked Gorda’s that gave off more sulfur than Collingwood on a warm day (that’s an Ontario, Canada joke for you). So I like sulfur, what with driving through that town as a child and thus having more damage (just add it to the pile).
It’s sherry forward, is what I’m saying.
Taste: Pineapple candy, sulfur, brown sugar, mint
Sweet, tropical, rough. I keep looking for the human flesh flavour that someone mentioned and can’t find it. Perhaps not being a cannibal has finally hurt my whisky reviewing.
Water opens up the sulfur to a minty flavour. Again, it’s a sherry bomb.
Finish: Wood, tannin, sulfur, grass, anise, plantain
The finish has this funk like you threw an old banana in a wood shop and then headbutt the room enmasse.
There, you have the SMWS name now.
Joking aside, it becomes woodier and grassier at the end. The funk really saves it here, and makes you go back, over and over. Again, headbutts.
Conclusion: Hot, funky, sulfur, and fun. Probably can’t have more than 1 in a sitting, but what a sitting!
Should this be at any point of the tasting other than the end, you’ll have a bad time. It’s one of those whiskies you buy and have one every so often. If the whisky above this one was brash but fun then this is it’s older, angrier, potentially roided out brother. Does that mean there’s roids in the whisky? No, it’s a comparison, not literal.
How do I score this? It’s too sherried, that’s for certain, but on the other hand it’s into sherry bomb territory and those are fun. On the other hand it’s Oloroso and I’m not the biggest Oloroso fan. On the other other hand it’s so insane that it got people to shut the sweet fuck up about what distillery it’s from.
Just try this. My score is based on the complexity and the fact I don’t mind a whisky that slaps my face and makes me call it mommy (or is that my taste in women?) You’re either going to buy three bottles or hate yourself. And isn’t that what this hobby is all about at the end of the day?
Scotch reviews #1387-9, Speyside review #384-6, Whisky Network reviews #2063-5