Talisker Select Reserve – Game of Thrones – House Greyjoy (45.8%, OB, 2019)

Sooner or later, one of these Game of Thrones bottlings was bound to show up on theses pages now, wouldn’t it? Hard to miss them, especially since Diageo is throwing some serious money towards marketing them. But don’t you feel they missed the boat, since the series already came to a close some time ago? The question remained, which one of those bottlings would make it first. For a long time it looked like Lagavulin would be the first, but before I could open that one, I got my hands on the 10yo Lagavulin for travel retail and opened that in stead. Since the 8yo and in hindsight this 10yo weren’t very impressive, I really wasn’t in a hurry to open the 9yo Game of Thrones bottling fearing more of the same, so this is how Talisker beat Lagavulin to pole position.

Color: Orange gold, so pretty sure this was caramel colored.

Nose: Dry, dusty and malty but with a very nice funky note to it. Dirty toffee, in part, reminiscent of the smell of caramel colouring, cloying, fatty and creamy. Yes caramel colouring does have a smell, and it does have an effect on Whisky. Don’t let them tell you otherwise. Nevertheless, this Whisky is still very likeable. You have to work at it a bit to focus on the aroma’s underneath. Nutty with hints of second hand cigarette smoke and hints of toasted cask and virgin oak. Old cabinet and very aromatic. It has an “older” smell to it, as well as a heavily engineered and doctored feel to it. Spicy, almost Indian Whisky spicy. Lots of cinnamon and cookie dough. Some smoke and some fresh oak. Also it seems some virgin oak found its way into this. On top of that, a lemony fresh acidity which really helps the whole forward. Yet also this feel of uncomplexity, helped along by this cloak of added caramel. An instant gratification Malt. Toffee notes, but in this somewhat suspicious way. However, I really like the Indian spices and lemon combination. Much friendlier than the milky unfinished notes of those new Lagavulins I mentioned above. I really like this nose (to a degree). If you are into Amrut and Paul John, you may like the smell of this (or not).

Taste: Nice entry. Somewhat sweet. Big, sweet, spicy and nutty attack, but also in a way thin. The fatty and creamy start is washed away by the alcohol, leaving room for more peaty and slightly smoky notes, but also some spicy wood and yes, a tiny pepper attack. Hints of ripe red fruits on top of the toffee and cinnamon. Sometimes it is almost like a Christmas pudding. Next, some virgin American oak. A vanilla note intertwined with cinnamon. A little bit of “older” wood as well as a slightly burnt note, maybe some smoke even. Cookie dough, even more than the nose had. Don’t we all like cookie dough? Sure, this has plenty of added caramel roundness to it, which kills some bits of it. It’s beating down the complexity this must have had. Slightly hot going down, with pepper in the finish and especially in the aftertaste. Highly drinkable though. A bottle of this won’t last you long. Easy and without any off-notes. Easy and even more drinkable than “Neist Point”, and that already was a highly drinkable Malt that didn’t last me long.

Wait a minute. Greyjoy? Wasn’t that from the Iron Isles. Sure, Talisker is also known as the Lava of the Cuillins, but this expression of Talisker has nothing to do with lava, and it tastes more like it was made on the shores of Goa. So hardly rugged Cuillins. Do you remember the weather and atmosphere on the Iron Isles? Boy, this house really doesn’t match the Whisky. Maybe Diageo should have paired this with 50 Shades of Grey in stead of Game of Thrones, or maybe House Tyrell, the house of sweet Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer). That would have been a far more convincing match imho.

I sure can understand when people don’t like this. Because it may lack a bit in the complexity department, and has definitely been tampered with added caramel big time. Still, I had plenty of fun with this one. Sure, no high flying Malt, but since this is often sold for “not a lot”, it sure surpasses many other entry-level Malts. A bit of a guilty pleasure maybe?

Points: 84

Thanks to Auke for the sample!

Jameson “Select Reserve” (40%, OB, Small Batch)

In the Irish Whiskey Week I reviewed the surprisingly wonderful Jameson 18yo. I also stated that up ’til then I never came across a nice Jameson, that scored over 80 points. Thus the 18yo was a surprise and comes highly recommended.

Jameson Select ReserveLet’s give Jameson another shot, although this “Select Reserve” is another NAS Jameson and not very expensive to boot. I feel my old prejudice itching again. I shall not scratch, since I have found that there are quite a few very nice Irish Whiskies around, but I have to say upfront, that I don’t have very high hopes for this one. I hope I’m wrong.

Color: Gold

Nose: Sweet, light and powdery. Small hints of vanilla, cream and toffee. Sort of a Irish Latte Macchiato if you ask me. Probably excellent for an Irish Latte! Slightly fruity and cleanly alcoholic. No sign of wood but there is some forest floor shrubbery present. Smells very young. Not a lot happening in fact, but also nothing wrong (with the nose, nothing wrong with the nose).

Taste: Very light indeed. Grainy, alcoholic and maybe a bit too sweet. Vanilla, toffee and caramel, with hints of honey and luckily the sweetness quickly leaves the stage. Some bitterness and strangely enough, some cardboard, sawdust and grenadine. Here it is grenadine, but Jameson always have a nice fruity edge. Again very simple and it has a pretty short finish. Passes by quickly, but doesn’t leave a bad impression.

When the normal Jameson is considered a Whiskey for Irish Coffee, I most definitely would put this in something too. Irish latte anyone? Yes, this may be a mediocre Whiskey, but this is still a lot better than a lot of other distillates, so it’s not for nothing, we have a 100 point scale. As an (Irish) Whisk(e)y you can do a lot better.

Points: 70

Glenrothes “Select Reserve” (43%, OB, Old Label, Circa 2011)

Yes another cannon ball bottle with Glenrothes Whisky in it. This time no vintage, but yes, we do have another new Whisky without an age statement. Probably young stuff, also since the Whisky isn’t very expensive. Nope not expensive at all. The bottle still has a cork in it albeit a plastic one. Nothing wrong with NAS Whiskies, just have a look at any Kilkerran for example, and the plastic cork is far better suitable for its job than a natural cork, with all is problems, like breaking whilst opening the bottle. I just hope the solvents in the soft plastic of the cork don’t mess with the taste of your Whisky. I just hear the industry whispering in the wind that Whisky wasn’t meant to be kept at home for a long time. Ha!

This Whisky costs about the same as The Glenlivet French Oak I reviewed last. That Whisky does have an age statement: 15 years old! Lets keep that one in kind whilst reviewing this Glenrothes.

Glenrothes Select Reserve (43%, OB, Old Label, Circa 2011)Color: Light gold

Nose: Malty and lots of vanilla and cream. Marshmallows. Dusty, slightly grassy (dry) and in the distance a wee bit of white pepper. It’s also fruity but I can’t get my finger on it, what kind of fruit is actually here. You know it’s fruity, but it seems to borrow fruity elements of loads of different kinds of fruit. Hints of dry paint and Macchiato Coffee.

Taste: Light, fruity and thin. Sweet. This one is quickly gone, yet the finish is warming and the fruit part of it is pleasant. Sweetish and creamy. Little bit of banana and lemon pudding. Definitely malty. I would have never guessed this is 43% ABV.

For a middle-of-the-road dram, I liked the nose of the Glenlivet 15yo French oak better. On the palate this Glenrothes is less interesting and a bit soft. The finish is too short too. Comparing this with the Glenlivet 15yo French Oak Reserve, even though that one is less fruity, it was more exciting due to the backbone the oak gave it. This Glenrothes is softer and fruitier but even though it is all that, it isn’t more pleasant. It is slightly less balanced and a wee bit weaker (also in the finish), so I score this a point below the Glenlivet French Oak Reserve.

Points: 81