Hepburn’s Choice is a NDP who selects and bottles mostly single casks of whisky. My favorite shop here in Los Angeles (K&L) just got in a big ole shipment of them and I managed to get myself samples of each from a friend. After getting the samples I did a little looking around on the interwebs about Hepburn’s Choice and one thing stuck out to me. They seem to get, and bottle, young casks of whisky.
Most Non Distiller Producers (NDPs / bottlers) out there shoot for the older or overaged stuff, but Hepburn’s appears to have carved out a niche in delivering whisky that is younger than what’s typically bottled and in addition to the ones listed below I read reviews of their 6 year Talisker, 8 year Jura and 8 year Glentauchers. All of which sound like fun to me. I love tasting and comparing younger to older whiskies and seeing how they’ve changed and matured over time and with the younger guys coming in around $50-$60 it’s actually a fairly feasible thing to do.
2001 Bowmore 12 Year Old Hepburn’s Choice K&L Exclusive
Price: $80 ABV: 58.4% Cask Strength Non-Chill Filtered Natural Color
- Nose: Initially it was a bit closed off and I wasn’t getting much more than vanilla and peat. Added a bit of water and it opened up some with added notes of honey, cinnamon, orchard fruit and a wafer cookies.
- Palate: Palate was also closed off at first with only peat, vanilla and honey really showing. Some water brought out light fruity notes, salt water taffy, citrus and an interesting savory spice I can’t quite place with a bit of mentholly mint at the end.
- Finish: Short and peaty with vanilla, fruit and mint and rubber hose.
- Overall: B- (80-82) My least favorite of the group, but better than some of the recent Bowmore releases I’ve had. I’m also not a big Bowmore fan in general so take that for what it’s worth.
2007 Mortlach 7 Year Old Hepburn’s Choice K&L Exclusive
Price: $50 ABV: 58% Cask Strength Non-Chill Filtered Natural Color
- Nose: Marshmallows, tropical fruit banana pudding and a thick malty sweetness with a touch of citrus. A bit of water tones down the marshmallow and lets the fruitiness come out a bit more which brings a hint of pear.
- Palate: Super fruity with a tropical lean to it. Vanilla, marshmallow, caramel syrup, and a rich malty sweetness. Water tames the ‘mallows here too and brings out some spice and a hint of red licorice.
- Finish: Short but nice with notes of malty sweetness, vanilla and fruit.
- Overall: B (83-86) This is not your typical Mortlach and it’s really interesting to explore this younger lighter version of the typically darkly sweet and fruity dram.
2008 Caol Ila 5 Year Old Hepburn’s Choice K&L Exclusive
Price: $50 ABV: 61.1% Cask Strength Non-Chill Filtered Natural Color
- Nose: Lively and spirity it’s youth is apparent, but not in a cloying or distracting way. Peat, vanilla, fruit, smoked meat, leather and a fresh sea air quality round out a nice clean nose. Water brigs out some honey and a touch of spice. Let it sit for about 30 minutes and it gets a bit darker and meatier.
- Palate: Big peaty punch on the palate accompanied by some vanilla, fruit, honey, malty sweetness and a slightly nutty undertone. Water makes the peat even more expressive and brings out a bit of spice and like the nose some air makes come across a bit darker and meatier.
- Finish: Peat, smoked meat, red licorices, vanilla and a touch of spice wind things down on a medium fade.
- Overall: B (83-86) This one is just fun and I love everything about it; even the youthful aspects are fun and a nice way to experience Caol Ila. I picked up a bottle of this one already as well.
2004 Smoky & Peaty Tobermory (Ledaig) 8 Year Old Hepburn’s Choice K&L Exclusive
Price: $60 ABV: 60.7% Cask Strength Non-Chill Filtered Natural Color
- Nose: Fruit and honey sweet with a light smoky peat. Buttery graham cracker pie crust undertones with hints of vanilla salt water taffy and a light toasty note. Water brings out a malty note and the peat fades a bit and it begins to smell more like a shirt the day after a bon fire.
- Palate: Peat is more powerful on the palate and brings some malty sweetness, light fruit, red licorice, taffy and spice with it. A bit of water kicks up some red licorice, citrus and a silky sweetness.
- Finish: Long and peaty with hints of vanilla, fruit and some dark sweets.
- Overall: B (x-x) This was a nice fun and smoky dram. Didn’t thrill me, but still all in all a nice dram to sip on.
1995 Miltonduff 19 Year Old Hepburn’s Choice K&L Exclusive
Price: $100 ABV: 50.4% Cask Strength Non-Chill Filtered Natural Color
- Nose: Fresh clean orchard fruit, Nilla Wafers, banana, graham cracker and caramel kick it off. Add a splash of water and some vanilla, malt and a banana cream pie essence arrive.
- Palate: Orchard fruit mixed with vanilla, toasted banana, cinnamon, caramel, malt and honey. Water doesn’t seem to change the palate a whole lot.
- Finish: Long and fruity with hints of Nilla Wafers, wood, caramel and green bell peppers before it fades out.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) There is something comforting about this whisky that I’m really enjoying. Definitely one of the winners here and one i’m considering picking up.
1995 Craigellachie 18 Year Old Hepburn’s Choice K&L Exclusive
Price: $100 ABV: 54.3% Cask Strength Non-Chill Filtered Natural Color
- Nose: Funky dark fruit, dark honey, caramel fudge, red vermouth and a a dark sticky sweetness mixes with earthy undertones. A bit of water opens it up more and the red vermouth gets more sherry like and some notes of hazelnuts shows up along with some dark sweet notes like caramel and toffee.
- Palate: Dark, sweet and rich. Notes of Dark fruit, almond rocca, red vermouth, caramel, toffee and an earthy undertone play host to light hints of coffee and molasses. Water kicks up the earthiness a bit and brings out hazelnuts, mint and more of the sherry sweetness.
- Finish: Long, dark and fruity with notes of wood, earth, vanilla bean, cocoa, coffee and mint
- Overall: A- (90-92) This is my favorite of the K&L Hepburn releases. It’s complex, multifaceted and dynamic from start to finish and while there is a lot going on it retains a nice balance. Which is why I bought 2 bottles of it already and am considering a 3rd.
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