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Two Nickolls & Perks Exclusives

As an aside, I really think the world is going a bit ABV mad. Take nothing away from the releases which I’ve got lined up to taste right now – skip to the bottom, you can both know they’re good and that the chaps at Nickolls & Perks have made a fine selection.

But no really, honestly, the world is ABV mad. The two whiskies today are over 60% ABV. Take a look at most whisky shelves today and you’ll probably find an impressive number released at cask strength – mostly through independent bottlers. Now without getting into the World Health Organisation malarkey, worrying that we’re drinking far too much, that we ought to drink less whisky, but better whisky, I think there’s a couple of points to be raised.

The first is, we’re seeing an incredible number of cask strength offerings. This was fine in the day when whisky was generally a bit older, a bit mellower, where the angels had already had a good few Christmas parties, and cask strength was clocking in closer to 50% ABV. And indeed, there never used to be all that many cask strength whiskies as there are on the market today; it used to be single malts brought down to 46% ABV.

Today’s cask strength whiskies are younger, a touch more vibrant, and clocking in more commonly around 60% ABV. And there’s a heck of a lot of it about.  So I reckon that this means we whisky drinkers are guzzling back more alcohol than we probably think we are.

Of course yes, I could add water. Of course, I could. But I don’t tend to; maybe a couple of drops at best. And I’m almost certain that many of you won’t be adding much water either. No, you’ll be pouring yourself what you think is a standard measure (I use a 25ml copper measuring device to keep me on the straight and narrow), and thinking meh, 40% or 60%, it’s all about the same. And you’ll be there at the whisky shows, reaching for those cask strength beauties – and we reach for them because a lot of whiskies have been put out there in tired casks, with poorly made spirit, so we take comfort in a high ABV in exchange for the flavour that’s evaporated from the industry over decades. (I generalise, to make a point, because I’m like that.)

Meanwhile, our livers are being eroded, our friends are looking a bit worse for wear, our doctors are looking at us with a raised eyebrow, and we begin to consider that the World Health Organisation might have a point. So perhaps all I can say, as I wade into a review of another two eye-wateringly strong whiskies, is: take it easy. Drink less, drink better. You know this all, of course; I’m just saying.

WhistlePig10YearOld-NickollsandPerksExclusive-B_1

WhistlePig 10 Year Old Single Barrel (Barrel 2434) – Nickolls & Perks Exclusive 61.2%

Colour: tawny.

On the nose: all kinds of shades of sweetness: from molasses at first, then drifting down to lighter treacles, syrups, brown sugar; vanilla, naturally. But it fades at a pleasant pace to reveal fennel and mint. Perhaps some sage in the distance. Stem ginger. Cherries. Chocolate. HP Sauce.

In the mouth: huge, naturally, so needs some water to bring this back to earth. And it pretty much echoes the nose with the layers of initial sweetness. Spicy, but it’s not too woody: here it’s more of chilli heat, mild, with coriander. Mediumweight texture, with a pleasant chewiness to it. Touches of toasted sourdough, but with lashings of damson jam. Tiramisu and chocolate sauce. It’s £105 for this, which feels perhaps a shade too much for the flavour, but there’s a lot to enjoy.

Score: 6/10

The GlenDronach 11 Year Old 2007 (Cask 7675) – Nickolls & Perks Exclusive 60.1%

Colour: russet.

On the nose: sherry bomb ahoy? Blackberries, raspberry jam. Raisins, sultanas, drifting towards stickier dried figs. Now and then something more perfumed, in the distance. Sandalwood with ginger and nutmeg. Maple syrup.

In the mouth: pretty approachable for the ABV, but an intense burst of all of the above: though it is a wonderful expression of dried fruits, raisins especially, with a hint of Turkish Delight, cinnamon, very warming, just on the fringes of being woody. Raspberry jam. Golden syrup drizzled over a sponge cake. Very bold interaction with the cask.

Now it may be simple stuff, and I have not described anything particularly outrageous (hence the limitations of tasting notes in that they don’t really express the emotional value); but the amalgamation, the expression of the flavours, whatever; it’s just a dreamy cask. Something every sherry bomb addict should use to get them through to their next hit – especially at £75.

Score: 8/10

Conclusions

The beauty of comparing drams like this is that, though one is from a different part of the world to the other, made from different ingredients and to a different style, there’s a lot in common. But good drams, good bottles from Nickolls & Perks. I’d very much recommend that GlenDronach though…

 

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  1. Avatar
    NOTNICE_75 says:

    I always think of cask strength bottlings as I would Ribena or – more appropriately – Robinson’s Barley Orange, or something like that, i.e. a bottle of concentrate that you can stretch out as far you like. Because of this, and while acknowledging that they are generally a little pricier in the first place, I tend to feel like I’m getting a better deal out of a cask strength bottle.

    1. Avatar
      Mark says:

      That’s a valid point regarding value… How many do the same, though, or instead treat it like a lowered single malt?

  2. Avatar
    Welsh Toro says:

    Very timely review Mark. All serious whisky heads are knocking back a great deal more cask strength and high abv these days. A session with a few drams isn’t what it used to be and a little self restrain is required. I am acclimatised to it and guilty as charged. I think we all are and we need to be careful.
    Nichols and Perks – just down the road from me and doing a great job. Considering there are now, as we speak, hardly any exclusively aged Pedro Ximanez cask aged whiskies out there this is a good bet. I recently bought a 13 year Glendronach exclusive from the Whisky Barrel but 11 years is perfectly good (as a recently deceased Whisky Shop version can testify.) I think I’ll get the Nicholls and Perks.
    Shop sourced Whistle Pig Cask Strength is scarce in the States so this a rare opportunity. I jumped on it because there’s only about 130 bottles of this. I’ve yet to open mine but I think it will improve over time. Recently acquired a bottle of Lot 40 Cask Strength (2017) which is the best Rye I’ve ever tasted. Cheers. WT

    1. Avatar
      Mark says:

      Cheers, WT. Yes, and it’s really only when you think 60% is getting more common than you realise what that’s doing to our collective livers.

      You’re lucky to have N&P on your doorstep! An excellent selection.

  3. Avatar
    Ed says:

    “Meanwhile, our livers are being eroded, our friends are looking a bit worse for wear, our doctors are looking at us with a raised eyebrow, and we begin to consider that the World Health Organisation might have a point”. Ah the great whisky taboo but yes, bad health enforced breaks are not recommended I can tell you.

      1. Avatar
        Ed says:

        I take a month off every year and I would have said I don’t drink too much but I’m sure I surpass the drink aware guidelines which isn’t hard and there is the accumulative effect of drinking at a fair pace since college, I don’t get drunk anymore but I still enjoy drinking and going to tastings. I’m fairly sure I have alcohol induced gastritis at the moment, the doc did a load of tests liver fine etc., couldn’t find any obvious problem but the couple of drams (increasingly cask strength drams) every other evening was exacerbating it so I have to take a break for several months, I see people at the events I go to who have problems, some worse than others, there are one or two youtubers who look like they could do with a break. It is the great taboo that is hardly spoken of, I agree with your sentiments, quality over quantity.

        1. Avatar
          Mark says:

          Appreciate the honesty there, Ed. You’re right about this taboo – especially the case as this is a hobby, intellectually speaking; so people think going easy in pours is a bit like giving up their hobby.

  4. Avatar
    whiskyhuntsman says:

    Great points about the increased strength of whisky, and how easily it is to over-indulge. I’ve recently began measuring my pours because of this very reason. I do wonder, how much is too much? I think for me, if I enjoy 1.5oz over the course of an hour, and have another pour if I’m feeling like it, with a glass of water in between and after the last one, And i stop before 10pm, then I feel fine in the morning, and it’s a nice gradual buzz. If i pour an additional pour, that’s when I’ll feel it in the morning. I don’t day drink, sometimes I’ll have an Oz before Dinner, but usually it’s all done in quiet after the kids are in bed. So i have a 2-3 hour window to enjoy and let my mind wander. I read an article a while back, called the Slow Whisky Movment. https://jason-scotchreviews.blogspot.com/2012/03/slow-whisky-movement.html . I really enjoyed that read, however to me 1.5oz is a little light for an evening. I think 2-3oz is perfect and with a couple hours spent, can really analyze and see how the whisky changes in the glass. 1.5oz seems too minimal to do that. I also feel like I need to start pouring only 1 whisky in an evening, instead of 2 seperate ones. The reason being is my palate is tainted after the first, even if it is a softer, unpeated whisky. Idk just bantering away here, but It’s interesting to see others thoughts on how much is good for an evening. I think the mindset being it is also important. Drinking for enjoyment vs drinking because of pain, etc. Thanks for the read!

    1. Avatar
      Mark says:

      1.5oz is… about 42ml in the UK. So a double measure here is 50ml – and that’s a ‘large’ pour, essentially. Our health stats advise we have about 7 of those a week, when converted to units of alcohol, just to put that in context!

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