Malts of Scotland Tasting

Malts of Scotland
presents
A whisky tasting by Whisky&More©


My third whisky tasting at the Belgian whisky shop called Whisky&More©. After earlier cooperations with G&M and Liquid Treasures, the shop now entered into an agreement with the German independent bottler Malts of Scotland. To celebrate the new partnership and promote their new products they organised a tasting.
The shop is still in full expansion, however they seem to be orienting themselves more and more towards the sale of luxury tobacco paraphernalia and cigars. The selection of whiskies on offer has barely expended since my last visit, but if they stay true to the MOS slogan: "Every bottle a benchmark", this might actually be for the best.  

MaltsOfScotlandThe evening was hosted by a Belgian importer of the brand. As this was only his fourth tasting, our host was a bit nervous. But with a solid selection of drams he had nothing to fear. The evening's line-up was made up solely of MOS products and they were playing it safe: no obscure distilleries, zero risky choices.
It was one of the more rushed tastings that I've experienced thusfar: one dram every 10 minutes. 

LU

1. Aberlour
2. MOS 18
3. Bowmore
4. Images of Tain (Tain Tolboth)
5. Glengoyne
6. Images of Islay (American Monument)
6. Highland Park

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14yo (2000/2015)
18yo
14yo (2001/2015)
NAS
18yo (1997/2015)
NAS
21yo (1994/2015)
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46.0% ABV
45.0% ABV
46.0% ABV
53.2% ABV
51.2% ABV
53.2% ABV
54.7% ABV

2015-10-10 19.58.00Let's dive right in, this review follows the classic "Pandemonium of Single Malts" format, with the small exception that both the overall verdict and individual scores can be found at the end of the page. Note to self: take proper pictures of the bottles yourself!

 

Aberlour (2000/2015)

Ease us in

Warming up with a 14yo dram? A bit unconventional maybe, but what was most surprising about this encounter: the Aberlour was an entirely bourbon cask aged. To me that's a premier.
We all know the drill, first dram of the evening: its sole purpose is to cleanse our palate in the most enjoyable way. Expectations are usually pretty low and our host did little to elevate them.

ABMOSDescription: matured in a bourbon hogshead #15050 for 15 years and bottled at 46% for the MOS 46 range (duh!).

Nose: a standard nose for a bourbon matured Speysider: soft honey, heather, hints of pine and a whiff of grapefruit to top it off
(With water added: becomes fruitier and the pine resin becomes more prominent).

Mouth: full bodied, opens with a sharp alcoholic sting, mild vanilla and notes of melon on the palate, with a touch of bitter oak.
(With water added: bitterness increases).

Finish: short and peppery, fades on a zesty herbal note.

 

MOS 18 (NAS)

Serious Competition

Sooner or later most established independent bottlers seek to create something of their own, that they can offer in larger batches to their adoring public. Some build their own distilleries, others create a signature blend, hell some even do both. Thus enter the MOS 18 and 12, blended malts by Malts of Scotland.

The recipe is public knowledge, five whiskies were used for this release, one for every (cough, cough, Campbeltown,…) whisky region. Auchentoshan for the Lowlands, Glengoyne for the Highlands, Glenrothes as the Speysider, Highland Park being the Islander and Laphroaig representing Islay.
Even the hierarchy was revealed to us: Auchentoshan & Glenrothes form the malt base, Glengoyne & Highland Park are the packers, while a dash of Laphroaig serves as the top dresser.

 MOS18Description: a blended malt, contents listed above, bottled at 45% ABV.  

Nose: unobtrusive, but full of fruit. I get some gooseberry, red apples, hazelnut and toffee, all drenched in honey.

Mouth: a rich deep body, frugal palate of apples, coffee, toffee and oak.
(With water added: blossoms, intense increase in flavour).

Finish: long and lingering, spiced lemon juice.
(With water added: make that lemon juice with a  sniff of chili pepper).

 

Bowmore (2001/2015)

Wrong Island

Third drink of the evening, an austere lightly peated Bowmore, designed to resonate the old days of Islay. As our host told us, this was the true Islay-style before greedy commercial enterprises flooded the market with highly peated whiskies competing for the title of most PPM. A whisky bottler will tell you whichever story he can to sell his own product. Caol Ila used a lot more peat in its kilns before the refit in the 70’s and Lagavulin lowered its PPM level in 2009.

BMMOSDescription: matured in a bourbon hogshead #15049, for 14 years, bottled at 46% ABV for the MOS 46 range .

Nose: a mineral-maritime take on the Bowmore story. A bouquet of burned cereal, iodine, seaweed, bread and yeast.

Mouth: light bodied, and austere in style, with salty almonds and thyme on the palate and subdued peated notes in the background.

Finish: medium, but a true spice box, basillicum with a few drops of citrus.

 

Images of Tain (Tain Tolboth)

Funky Town

A single malt, or a teaspooned blended malt? 90% chance a single malt said our host, so I’m qualifying this as a bastard release from the  famous Tain distillery: Glenmorangie. This is the Tain Tolboth edition, the only sherry entry for the evening and also the most debated of the evening

ITMOSDescription: matured in a sherry cask for an undisclosed period (NAS) and bottled at 53.2% ABV.

Nose: refreshing, sweet and extremely fruity, what awaits us is a fist full of dried plums, dates with a syrupy coating, raisins and blueberries. Of course given the nature of the cask, the sherried notes aren’t far off, an odd note of patex glue, with just a nugget of salt and peat in the background.

Mouth: full bodied, on the palate warm coffee with three or four spoons (read table, not teaspoons) of sugar, red fruits, sherries, sweet mokka with dark peppery twist.
(With water added: little to no change, no improvement or deterioration).

Finish: long, fading on the flavour of demerara sugar.

 

Glengoyne (1997/2015)

Disappointing

Nit-picking the highland branding of this distillery again, are we? I believe that the majority of the whisky public has accepted without reservations that Glengoyne firmly belongs to the family of Highlanders. Our fifth dram of the evening came as a bit of a surprise to me, an independent bottled Glengoyne, I can in full honesty admit that I never came across one of those before.

Being one of my favourite highland distilleries, this would be a sure hit…

GGMOSDescription: matured in a bourbon hogshead #15045 for 18 years and bottled at cask strength 51.2% ABV.

Nose: a sharp herbal entry: thyme? salvia? Not really not sure what I’m tastings. There is a potent small of scorched malt (did they air dry the malt too hot?), with a whiff of demerara sugar.
(With water added: grows more candied, fruitier even).

Mouth: strong bodied, with a sharp alcoholic mouthfeel. Heather on the dusty palate, ginger and faint traces of wood smoke.
(With water added: a sniff of chili spice is added, we get closer to a standard Glengoyne profile).

Finish: medium long, with white pepper in the tail.

 

 

Images of Islay (American Monument)

Bunker Buster

Our second teaspooned whisky, supposedly also a true single malt. Images of Islay, featuring the American monument on the Oa. A hint to Bowmore? No says our host, Laphroaig then? Cause Port Ellen at this price level would make little sense.
No, a Caol Ila, the Malts of Scotland guys apparently ran out of Islay symbols and had to use a landmark from the other side of the Isle. Makes sense to you guys? It doesn’t to me, but after sixteen ‘Images of Islay’ releases, they just ran out of inspiration.

IIMOSDescription: a Caol Ila, matured in a bourbon cask, but no age statement, bottled at cask strength 53.2% ABV.

Nose: a rounded nose of medicinal peat, coated in herbal essences of laurel, thyme and basillicum, with strips of bacon.
(With water added: a dash of water bring out the yeast).

Mouth: light bodied, palate is virtually non-existent at first: silent upon taking in the mouth, but explodes afterwards, in a concoction of sea salt, roasted lamb's meat with a burning alcoholic edge.

Finish: long, lingering with citrusy notes.

 

Highland Park (1994/2015)

Spotless

Our final entry of the evening, a 21 year old Orcadian, priced at €150. Malts of Scotland also gives the opportunity to private costumers to pick their cask from the collection and bottle them under their own name. In this case a group of friends from a nearby town Tongeren (the oldest city of Belgium, founded by the Romans), bottled their own Orcadian cask from the acclaimed Highland Park distillery and offer it up for sale through the shop.

HPMOSDescription: matured in a Bourbon hogshead #15007 for 21 years and bottled for the Belgian Whisky club, ‘Tongerse Whiskyvrienden’ at 54.7% ABV cask strength.

Nose: a soft flowery nose of heather, vanilla, durondeau pears and sweet sherried notes.

Mouth: rich oily body with a high alcoholic attack on the mouth, herbal tea, mirabelles, a lick of basillicum, a note of peat and savour of burlap.

Finish: long and lingering, cotton candy with a touch of copper.

 

The Verdict

Well, let's just  start at the beginning.

Aberlour: surprise, surprise, this was an 14yo whisky, but it feels so much younger, doesn’t it? A refill cask, 2nd refill or even 3rd refill cask? A nice way to ease you in for a tasting, that’s for sure, but not a whisky to stand on its own. Score of the evening: n°6.

MOS 18: this bottle was a smash hit with the cliental of the evening, well-priced and it goes down like a charm. This blend is some serious competition for today’s expensive premium single malts. Charted at n°5 for the evening.

Bowmore: this is a Ledaig-styled Bowmore. An interesting nose, but the palate can’t quite keep up with the rest. Maybe they should have left it as cask strength. I’ll list it as my n°4 of the evening.

Images of Tain: no polished, stiff upper lip sherry, but an interesting young vibrant dram. The nose came as a total surprise, blooming even swinging. Combined with a simple but solid body: good stuff, would quality/price-wise my n°1 of the evening but it stranded at n°2 this time.

Glengoyne: was the contrast with the fruity Glenmorangie too severe? I love Glengoyne, but honestly, this was nowhere as enjoyable as I expected. And was the cask strength really needed? The alcoholic bite is much stronger than the ABV level would suggest. Regrettably the lowest entry for this evening, n°7.

Images of Islay: like a bunker buster my n°3 of the evening penetrates and explodes deep within your mouth for maximum effect, a truly enjoyable whisky!

Highland Park: a prototype sherried HP doing it all right, earning herself a crown: tonight’s n°1. However, she does come at a price. For one bottle of spotless HP, you could have two audacious bottles of Images of Tain. I know how I would spend my money.

 ABMOS  MOS18  BMMOS  ITMOS
Score: 80 Score: 83 Score: 82 Score: 87
Nose:
19
Taste:
21
Finish:
20
Balance:
20
Nose:
20
Taste:
22
Finish:
21
Balance:
20
Nose:
23
Taste:
20
Finish:
20
Balance:
19
Nose:
23
Taste:
22
Finish:
21
Balance:
21
 GGMOS  IIMOS  HPMOS
Score: 78 Score: 85 Score: 88
Nose:
20
Taste:
18
Finish:
19
Balance:
21
Nose:
20
Taste:
22
Finish:
21
Balance:
22
Nose:
22
Taste:
23
Finish:
22
Balance:
21

< 75: undrinkable, avoid at all costs
75-79: acceptable, give it a try but don't spend to much money on it
80-84: average, enjoyable whiskies mostly easy sippable entry-level single malt 
85-89: above average drams, often well aged expressions, open your wallet
90-94: excellence, sorry kids no x-mas presents this year, daddy needs this bottle
95-99: divinity, call your bank manager for another mortgage on your house