Today on MALT, let’s play a game of word association
Below, I’ll list some well-known words or phrases associated with whisky, and you think of the first words that pops into your head. Please allow me to give my answers and we’ll see how they match up with yours:
Islay – Peat
Speyside – Sherry bomb
Lowland – Grassy
Flippers – Bastards
Undisclosed Orkney – Highland Park
Macallan – Unopened
Smoky – Bowmore
Laphroaig – Medicinal
Terroir – Reynier
MALT Review – Grumpy
Clynelish – Waxy
Jim Murray – [RESPONSE REDACTED]
Bourbon – Vanilla
Glenfiddich – 40%
Bothy – Ralfy
Some of these answers are the collective effect of years of marketing, regurgitated in the form of blogs. Others are just purely subjective responses from my little corner of the world, in the inner-west suburbs of Melbourne. But wait, let’s try one more:
Value – Claxton’s
Hold on, what was that? Claxton’s for value? Thus, we arrive at the subject of this article.
Claxton’s single cask releases have been arriving on Australian shores for a few years, with prices comparable to other independent bottlings in the market. I hadn’t purchased anything from Claxton’s, however, possibly because the actual distilleries featured didn’t necessarily grab my attention enough to cause me to open my wallet.
Then, in February 2021, the Exploration Series arrived in Australia, and my interest was immediately piqued by what appeared to be a diverse range of bottlings at enticing prices. The Exploration Series differs from the Single Cask releases both in price point and that they are presented at a standard strength of 50% ABV.
Additionally, although the Exploration Series does contain single malt from individual distilleries such as Glen Moray and Benrinnes – they also contain some releases labelled only by region. These include a young Campbelltown tea-spooned malt – believed to be Glen Scotia – from the ongoing batches that seems to be doing the rounds of independent bottlers; and then the two reviewed here, the Exploration Series Highland 10 Year Old Single Malt and the Exploration Series Islay 8 Year Old Blended Malt.
Some quick research on the internet reveals that the Highland Malt is out of the Clynelish distillery, and the Islay Blended Malt is tea-spooned Laphroaig – hence their inclusion in the word association game.
Clearly, Claxton’s have been instructed to keep the names of these distilleries off the bottles, however the bottle label includes the compass co-ordinates of the distillery, therefore removing the names from the labelling is an exercise for appearances only.
The Highland Malt is selling for $125 and the Islay is selling for $110. Perhaps ominously, the Highland Malt has been matured in a tawny port butt. Not my preferred style, especially with the raw spirit of Clynelish lending itself to natural presentation. The Islay was matured in a refill sherry butt. Both releases are nominally single casks, though remember that the Islay was tea-spooned.
This is very good value when you know the actual distilleries behind those names. In fact, neither bottle has sold out at the retailer that I picked these two up from. This makes me wonder: if a well-known indie bottler – let’s say Adelphi – released 10 year old single cask Clynelish or 8 year old indie Laphroaig bottled at 50% ABV, and with those names on the labels, how long would they last? Knowing the market in Australia, I’d venture they’d sell out in an hour or two.
A good price doesn’t always mean quality though. Let’s see how the liquid measures up.
Claxton’s Exploration Series Islay 8 Year Old Blended Malt – Review
Colour: Apple juice.
On the nose: Classic briny, salty, peaty Laphroaig. You could imagine sticking your head in a fisherman’s bait bucket and inhaling deeply. There’s an underlying sweetness there which tempers the peat somewhat, likely the influence of the refill sherry butt. Overall though, this smells like what you want when you are in the mood for an Islay peat beast.
In the mouth: Oily, smothers the mouth and lingers. Some burn on the way down the throat. Petrol fumes. Raw prawns, seaweed, rusted bolts on a jetty pylon. Robust, impolite young Laphroaig.
Claxton’s Exploration Series Highland 10 Year Old Single Malt Whisky – Review
On the nose: over-ripe strawberries, manuka honey, cranberry juice, red grapes. The tawny port butt has worked its way on the Clynelish spirit, but not unpleasantly. Melting chocolate, hot fudge sauce and butterscotch liqueur.
In the mouth: Am I tasting whisky here or port? Perhaps longer in the cask might’ve led to a better balance between wood and spirit. Blackberry pie filling, amaretto, rum sauce over Christmas cake. Classic desert whisky – but I’m not complaining.
Score – 7/10
This is the fourth article Malt has published on the Claxton’s range and I chuckled when perusing the previous articles(2 from Mark Newton and another from Jason) that positive value for money was mentioned in each – confirming I must be on to something.
Almost inevitably, these releases will call to mind the long established Douglas Laing’s Remarkable Malt series, which also feature Scotch whisky regions.
Tom Roskams, Claxton’s company director, notes that “we still get a lot of established whisky enthusiasts and ‘whisky pros’ who enjoy drinking the Exploration Series as the quality remains extremely high.”
Try as I might, I couldn’t find these releases on The Whisky Exchange or Master of Malt. Based on my experience with these releases, I’d recommend you seek them out.
All prices in Australian Dollars.