May 15, 2014

Creative Whisky Company 2014 Exclusive Malts - A Cask Strength Tasting

Creative Whisky Company is an interesting outfit.  It's headed up by David Stirk, who spend two decades covering malts for Whisky Magazine and writing his own whisky guidebooks.  In 2005 David decided to open his own bottling company and began selecting casks for aging and retail.

The Exclusive Malts are hand selected by David, aged in a single cask, and bottled at cask strength, with no artificial color.  So far, so good.  We're listening.  It also helps that several bottles in the lineup are over twenty years old!  Ok on to the whiskies, let's see what Dave's serving up this year...

Exclusive Malts Bladnoch 1992 21 Year (96.2 proof)

Nose: Perfumy nose of rich florals: lilies and lilacs - and ripe stone fruits: over-sweet apricots & nectarines.  It all combines for a fancy spray-bottle of Chanel #5.

Palate:  A lot of white wine characteristics in this malt - green grapes and honey, some little notes of rock salt / sea salt, wedding cake, and peanuts.

Finish:  Very balanced.  Absolutely no alcohol burn.  Not a ton of balls on this one, but that seems to be the idea.  This would be a perfect introductory scotch for a white wine drinker.  It's incredibly smooth without being too sweet and still retaining a nice flavor profile.  It would go fantastically with a light seafood dinner, or some light fruity desserts.  Very nice dram.

Exclusive Malts Glencadam 1991 22 Year (100.2 proof)

Nose:  This one's a really nice heavy white oak on the nose.  Then we get a little silly putty / aloe flavor, a hint of leather polish, and it winds up on a hefty dose of high test apple cider.

Palate:  The tongue moves in a direction more towards spice with some cloves, nutmeg, and pink peppercorns.  The palate honestly does not have the tenacity of the nose, but on the other hand it's a very very drinkable scotch at a hundred proof.

Finish:  The finish is very creamy with maybe some little hints of strawberries or other seedy fruits.  Again there's absolutely no burn here, which is very nice at over a hundred proof.  This is definitely a dangerous dram, much smoother than any blend, but deceivingly higher test.  Another light, floral, dessert-y dram that would go perfectly with chocolate moose or strawberries and cream.

Exclusive Malts Linkwood 1999 14 Year (111.6 proof)

Nose: We're back in the highly perfumy, apple cider, eau de cologne neighborhood here with some grassy / farmy elements as well.

Palate:  Mmm, but in this case (opposite from the Glencadam) the tongue comes out with a lot more punch than the nose.  There's a hint of smoke, some rich roasted nuts, some sea air, a little more chewiness/body, and some definite spice with a little prick of habanero or cayenne.

Finish:  A nice long finish here with a little welcome spirit warmth.  Smoke comes to the front (not peaty but a smoldering oceanside fire).  There's some melting sugar about to turn into caramel, and maybe some burned butter, like those mexican charred corn on the cobs you get at street fairs.  Very very nice finish long in the sweet balanced delicately with smoke and wood.

This is our favorite so far.  A nice rich malt with a little smoke, nice body, not shying away from the taste of the spirit, but still wickedly smooth up at over 110 proof!  Pick this one up if you see it for sure!

Exclusive Malts "North Highland" 1996 17 Year (112.2 proof)

Nose:  The first dose of sherry so far, with the color to back it up.  However this nose is sharp and has a little of that magic marker / white out quality to it.  Not our favorite so far in terms of the smell.

Adding water:  This one begs for water, and takes it well.  The nose opens up and turns into a very nutty, nougat, goodness - chocolate covered cherries!

Palate:  It's rich, it's got some red grapes, and some whipped cream, and some little pangs of spice.

Finish:  Medium finish with more red fruits, sweet grapes, and sherried oak.  It's just not our favorite.  We love sherry against peat, but without the peat it just seems to magnify the tang of the alcohol instead of balancing it out.  Probably should have tasted this one before the Linkwood, because once we got a taste of smoke it was tough.  There's nothing technically wrong with this.  It's a nice big cask strength highland malt, and if that's your cup of tea, you're not going to find a lot of seventeen year old cask strength malts these days, so go for it.

Exclusive Malts Bowmore 2001 12 Year (116.8 proof)

Nose:  Ok, our first Islay and coming in at a whopping 116.8 proof!  We're excited.  The nose comes in peaty, but not blow-your-mind peaty.  It's a Bowmore after all and is still reserved next to it's neighbors from the south: Ardbeg, Lagavulin, Laphroaig.  It's got the peat, and some sherry in the nose.  There's a little rubberiness, we're sort of ambivalent on the nose here.  Let's take a sip.

Palate:  Ok now we're sold.  It's a solid peat and sherry balance, with some nice sea brine, healthy salt, a very nice smoke, and good spirit flavor.  Awesome smoothness and balance at this monster proof.  It merits only a drop of water and with this infusion turns into a gem, very drinkable without losing flavor.  Peat floating on top of grapes, wood, and leather.

Finish:  A proper long finish typical of an Islay, and a cask strength one at that.  This one is like Lagavulin 12-year, but with a lot more finesse, less smoke, and more drinkability.  Both are killer, and we will always love the Lag, but many may find this bottle preferable.  A beast that can be enjoyed by all, not just die-hard smoke hunters.


This is a really nice line and will generally be a happy pickup as well as a pretty good collectors' item given the small production run.  The Bladnoch and Glencadam are very refined ladies that will be well-loved by folks who tend towards Tullibardine, Scapa, and Balblair.  For us, the Linkwood and the Bowmore were the winners.  Lovely smoke, cask strength goodness, great balance, wonderful cask selection, and a good pure non-colored malt.  Good job by David and Creative Whiskey.  A fun tasting.  Keep putting out these nice selections of cask strength whisky!



  1. I have a bottle of the 14 year old North Highland which tastes like it was matured in an ex-bourbon cask. The sherry cask 17 year old sounds pretty good if you're looking for an inoffensive Highland malt. I am pretty sure the whisky is from Glenmorangie since they are one of the few distilleries that doesn't allow their name on independents. The 14 year old North Highland certainly tastes like a woodier version of Glenmorangie Original.

    1. It could be Glenmorangie. It's hard to taste a cask strength Glenmo to compare it to... Let us know if you pick one up and try it!

    2. I've since gotten a bottle of the North Highland 17 year old and I have to say I quite like it. It must be the wood and light sherry notes playing well together. While it won't blow you away, it's very easy drinking for the age.