We’re on to edition three of the ImpEx Collection — which comprises six Scotch whiskies and, for the first time, four agave-based spirits, specifically mezcal. Today we run through the Scotch. Stay tuned for the mezcal in another dispatch.
Away we go!
The ImpEx Collection Benrinnes 2008 16 Years Old Cask #800218 – Aged in a hogshead. This is a textbook example of bourbon barrel-aged Speyside malt, pale as a ghost with a crisp nose of toasted cereal, roasted nuts, and mild notes of vanilla. Notes of baked apple ring the edges, but the focus is on the grain. The palate is sharp at cask strength but not at all overwhelming, again heavy on the fresh, lightly sweetened cereal notes along with mild flavors of apple and a touch of lemon curd. A floral quality builds on the finish, with white flowers and some red blossoms adding a touch of perfume to an otherwise clean, straightforward experience. 108.2 proof. A- / $160
The ImpEx Collection Blair Athol 2007 15 Years Old Cask #4255 – Oloroso sherry aging gives this Highlands spirit a rich, amber color — and plenty of punch to back it up. Toasted nuts — almonds, walnuts, some pistachio — dominate the nose, though time in glass helps notes of fresh cereal, heather, and some oily wood to build. Even more time allows a green herb note to slowly emerge — rosemary, and then some sage. The palate is initially rich and leathery, but also almond-heavy like the nose telegraphs, soon opening the door for a moderate note of baking spice, green apples, and a sliver of grapefruit peel. There’s a lot going on in this whisky — more than I’ve discussed here — to the point where I wish I’d had a bigger sample to delve into. Alas, I’ll have to leave things at that for now. 110.8 proof. A- / $135
The ImpEx Collection Caol Ila 2010 13 Years Old Cask #302281 – Aged in a hogshead. The classic peat of Caol Ila hits you when the glass is a foot away from your nose. Big with aromas of sea spray and bonfire smoke, it’s as iconic a maritime malt as you’ll find. The palate is built out of peat, stewed meat, oak tannin, and black fruits, all in a swirl — and given the bourbon barrel aging it’s perhaps unsurprising that things don’t ever go much deeper. A little water softens up what can be a somewhat tannic experience, but it pushes the peat into a more overtly smoky character, for better or worse. I found the finish to fall a little flat and ashy. 118 proof. B / $145
The ImpEx Collection Invergordon 1974 49 Years Old Cask #7844000035 – A near 50-year-old single grain whisky, aged in hogsheads. A moderate amber in color, this has the classic trappings of old Scottish grain spirit, malty and sweet on the nose, though its honeycomb and marshmallow aromatics are tempered with light notes of char. Sweet on the palate but short of overwhelming, the sugary elements eventually take on a floral, slightly grassy quality. Rose petals linger on a finish that otherwise evokes toasted, sugared nuts and praline. 95.2 proof. A- / $420
The ImpEx Collection Islay Cask 1991 31 Years Old Cask #700048 – Mystery Islay single malt, aged in a bourbon barrel. The bonfire smoke bomb immediately connotes Bowmore to me (though I could totally wrong), brooding and dense, with maritime notes taking up a secondary position. Hints of fruit evident on the nose are more present on the palate, offering notes of red apple, cantaloupe, and a squeeze of grapefruit that lingers on the back end. While rather sooty throughout, there’s a pleasant reprise of citrus on the finish. Old Islay tends to have much more subtle, subdued peat notes than I found here. Chalk it up to the barrel. 97.4 proof. B+ / $620
The ImpEx Collection Linkwood 2008 15 Years Old Cask #800832 – Speyside single malt, aged in a hogshead. A bracing whisky, this immediately shows off a brooding, earthy quality that you rarely find in Speyside. Notes of cereal are tempered by a toasted oak and coconut character, with a punch of gunpowder hitting the nostrils when you breathe deep. Well-integrated fruit notes of pear and apricot add a bit of complexity, though the whisky never becomes overwhelming in any one direction. A deft mix of sweet and savory, the finished product has the gravitas of an Islay Scotch without the punch of peat. 119.8 proof. A- / $130