Today we’re finishing up our reviews of the latest batch of bottles from the Jim McEwan Signature Collection.
Jim McEwan 5.3 Octomore Cask #4556
Distilled on 21st December 2011 this whisky spent its life maturing a 1st fill bourbon barrel, and was bottled at 11yo in July 2022. 202 bottles were released.
We're finding the nose a little restrained at first, there's mellow vanilla, sugar and smoke all melding together quite nicely. It's musty, dusty antique furniture, leather armchairs beside a smouldering log fire. With air we're starting to see some of the bourbon cask shine through, caramel shortcake, dry twigs and soil are starting to appear. There's a little pepperiness showing through from the alcohol, but it manages to hide alongside the other aromas.
We get a hint of vanilla, followed by an explosion of peat, and bonfire smoke, completely engulfing our mouths. It's like breathing smoke, as you inhale and exhale, the musty peat flavours swirl around. There's freshly cracked black pepper, burnt caramel, chili heat and instant coffee grounds coming through on subsequent sips. The mouthfeel is nice, it's like sugar syrup texture, and the finish keeps on going with a touch of citrus and burnt oak.
Nose (with water)
Barley sugars, freshly muddled mint leaves, vapour rub, saltwater, diluted lemon juice all appear, pushing some of the heavier peat aromas far into the background. The alcohol also takes a back seat, and the dram has become somewhat medicinal in nature now.
Palate (with water)
The reduced palate mirrors the watered down nose, bringing a lot of those fresher citrus, mint and medicinal flavours out of the whisky. There's still smoke and earth here, but they're very much thrown into the background and start to appear only towards the finish. It's not bad, it's just very different from the unreduced flavours.
An interesting Octomore that initially punches you in the face with peat, then completely transforms itself with the addition of water into something your non-peat drinking friends may like. It's a great quality whisky, it's complex, flavourful with a long finish. As we've alluded to, be careful with reducing this one if you love your smoky whiskies, as you may be left disappointed..
Jim McEwan Journeys End 3 Octomore Cask #4525
Distilled on 12th June 2010 this whisky spent its life maturing a 1st fill bourbon cask, and was bottled at 12yo in July 2022. 222 bottles were released.
Sweet barley sugars sit firmly up front, following into the expected earthy peat smoke. Vanilla cake, mushroom, fondant icing and some white pepper spice coming through from the alcohol. There's a touch too much alcohol coming through on the nose for us, although it does sit well with the other aromas as long as you keep your nose a reasonable distance from the glass. After some air, we're finding charred oak, mushy apple, milky coffee and wet soil. It's sweeter than expected, but very pleasant with the aromas working together in harmony.
The palate starts with creamy vanilla custard, following into some zingy fresh lime juice, then ending with earthy, powerful peat flavours. The dram has a fair bit of sugar up front, we're getting marzipan, key lime pie and salted, roasted nuts, but the palate quickly moves into the woodier, earthier flavours. The mouthfeel is nice, not overly textured but not thin either. The finish is long.. oh so long, mostly showing smoke, tobacco, burnt coffee, and leaving us with a warming sensation. After some air, a little cherry and blackcurrant appear in the later stages of the palate.
Nose (with water)
Oh, water exposes heaps of vanilla, we're really finding the bourbon casks aromas coming through now. There's some salted caramel, sea air and a little red apple too. The intensity of both the alcohol and peat aromas have mellowed a little, but still show up in the background.
Palate (with water)
Unlike the reduced nose, the reduced palate brings out a little more peat, earth and wood. It's become slightly more savoury, much more salt on the finish than before. There's also a powerful note of freshly brewed coffee coming through, with one sugar cube melted in. The mouthfeel and finish retain their characteristics, just with a little more earth and wood coming through.
This is an excellent Octomore. It takes your nose and palate on a journey (no pun intended), through sweet, salty, sour and bitter as the dram progresses, whilst staying in good balance. The alcohol is a little bit hot overall, but there's so much going on in the dram that we find it forgivable. It has to be a 9/10 for us..
- 10 - Perfection. A whisky that we’ll remember forever.
- 9 - Amazing. We’d pay through the nose for a bottle.
- 8 - Great. Pick this up at RRP.
- 7 - Good. Happy to have a dram or two but wouldn’t buy a bottle.
- 6 - Passable. Would accept a dram, but wouldn’t seek it out.
- 5 - Poor. Would drink if it was the only option.
- 4 - Bad. Maybe it can be saved by ginger beer?
- 3 - Awful. It can't be saved by ginger beer.
- 2 - Pour it out
- 1 - We’ve never tried a whisky rated this low and hopefully never will.
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