ImpEx continues to rise in prominence as an importer and indie bottler of rare, obscure, unusual, and important whiskeys — not to mention rum and (soon) mezcal. (Stay tuned for details.)
We’ll get to more independent bottlings from ImpEx soon, but today we’re looking at four distillery releases which ImpEx considers its “core expressions” for 2023: three Scotch and one English whisky. Small samples were provided; thoughts follow.
Ardnamurchan AD Small Batch (2023) – Previously reviewed in 2022. Single malt Scotch from the Highlands. A fun combination of sweet and smoky, this youthful malt has both peated and unpeated barley in it (50/50), with aging in both bourbon and sherry casks (65/35). Smoky bonfire and seaweed on the nose is balanced by sharper citrus zest and a crackerlike quality. Toasty sesame and mixed grains open up on the palate, but the lingering chimney smoke remains prominent. Sweeter fruit akin to baked apples, layered with spice, bring the finish home. Nice grip throughout. 93.6 proof. A- / $80 [BUY IT NOW FROM TOTAL WINE] [BUY IT NOW FROM RESERVEBAR]
Filey Bay Single Malt Whisky Flagship (2023) – Previously reviewed in 2022. This English single malt, made entirely with English barley and matured in first-fill bourbon casks, feels quite a bit softer now than it did last year. One of the most gentle, easygoing whiskies I’ve ever sampled, its nose layered with waves of grain and a touch of vanilla. Fruity on the palate, again showing a baked apple note, some lemon, and a touch of vanilla caramel. There’s almost a pastry cream quality to the finish — all very soft and light, a perfect afternoon dram. 92 proof. A- / $62 [BUY IT NOW FROM THE WHISKY EXCHANGE]
Lochlea Our Barley Single Malt – Lowlands single malt, made with a combination of bourbon, sherry, and STR casks. There’s more power here than in the other whiskies in the lineup, with a coal-fired nose, plus ample earthiness and some notes of graphite. A bit leathery on the palate, with overripe fruit becoming dominant with time in glass. This is a somewhat brooding whisky, with notes of sun-toasted grasses, malt syrup, and a hint of prune juice on the back end. Enjoyable, but glad I had this later in my tasting session of these whiskies. 92 proof. B+ / $60 [BUY IT NOW FROM RESERVEBAR]
Wolfburn Northland – From the most northerly distillery on the Scottish mainland. Single malt, matured in ex-Islay American Oak quarter casks. Smoky but sweet on the nose, something like Texas barbecue, even showing a salty-peppery overtone. There’s an even stronger peat component on the palate, which is something of a surprise, evoking notes of anise, burnt hazelnut, and charred brassicas. A touch of sweetness brightens this all up on the finish, but it’s a long time coming in the attempt to temper the heavy, lingering notes of soy, kelp, and black sesame. 92 proof. B+ / $60 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]