New Whiskies

Batch 182: Game of Thrones Single Malts

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Game of Thrones single malt whisky review: Talisker, Lagavulin, Oban, Royal Lochnagar, Cardhu, Clynelish, Dalwhinnie, Glendullan

At last. They’ve been launched in the US since November and while it’s taken as much cunning and resolve as a twisted Lannister scheme, we’ve finally got our hands on samples of the much-anticipated Game of Thrones single malts.

Eight whiskies, each from a different distillery in Diageo’s portfolio, have been chosen to represent the seven Great Houses of Westeros, and the stewards of the Wall, the Night’s Watch.

Six expressions in the collection feature completely new liquid bottled especially for the series, although the Royal Lochnagar 12 Year Old and Cardhu Gold Reserve are rebottlings of their namesakes that are widely available in Europe and other markets. Both editions, however, are new to the US.

The collection is set to launch globally at the end of February (precise release date tbc), in preparation for the airing of the eighth, and final, season of Game of Thrones in April. Excited yet?

Who will be the victor in the battle for the Iron Throne? When it comes to the whisky at least, Scotchwhisky.com editor Becky Paskin has her bets firmly fixed on a particular Islay bottling.

In the spirit of mounting anticipation for the final series, an accompanying soundtrack has been compiled courtesy of Ramin Djawadi, the composer for Game of Thrones’ score (see links in Right Place, Right Time).

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Cardhu Gold Reserve, Game of Thrones House Targaryen

    Cardhu Gold Reserve, Game of Thrones House Targaryen
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Classic Cardhu: soft toffee sweetness and crumbly red apples with a touch of poached pear. Soft baking spices and lightly toasted oak add some gravitas to an otherwise subtle nose, alongside a hint of crunchy malt.

    Palate

    Soft and very delicate. More red apples and hard caramel, like those shards you get on a fancy dessert. Delicate spices – cinnamon, cardamom – build along the sides of the tongue, creating a little dryness.

    Finish

    Dry, a touch of spice, and short.

    Conclusion

    An easy-drinker, but lacking in substance. Best put it in a Highball or (especially at this time of year) a Toddy. With winter coming, you’re going to need to warm up.

    Right place, right time

    Poor Daenerys. The Mother of Dragons asked for fire and her Gorgeous Beasts can barely manage a whimper.

    Clynelish Reserve, Game of Thrones House Tyrell

    Clynelish Reserve, Game of Thrones House Tyrell
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    51.2%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    There’s initially an overwhelming sense of furniture polish and beeswax, but leave it a few moments to settle in the glass and it relaxes into dried, leathery papaya and juicy guava and mango. After more time it becomes meatier still, accented by creamy vanilla and the gentle sour aroma of a freshly-baked chewy brown loaf, although the sting of astringent polish lurks in the corner.

    Palate

    Chewy and viscous, and not at all as spicy as the abv would suggest – the highest of the collection. Those tropical fruits roll onto the palate, accompanied by the salty, leathery pull of cured Spanish ham. Water loosens the fruits and things become juicier.

    Finish

    Dry, and mouth-wateringly zingy.

    Conclusion

    Hearty, robust and bold, much like the Tyrell women.

    Right place, right time

    Lady Olenna finally reveals her secret, a deviously revengeful parting Message for Cersei.

    Dalwhinnie Winter’s Frost, Game of Thrones House Stark

    Dalwhinnie Winter’s Frost, Game of Thrones House Stark
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    43%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    That classic, clean Dalwhinnie combination of sweet honey and delicate fruits. Dried hay and crunchy malt give substance from the off, before set heather honey and fresh citrus fruits – grapefruit, blood orange juice – add lift. There’s vanilla caramel sweetness and a generous bowl of (still crunchy) Crunchy Nut Cornflakes. A real ‘breakfast dram’.

    Palate

    Sweet, crunchy malt and some nuttiness. Lemon sherbets and green apple lift things up as a touch of black pepper spice sets the tongue buzzing. But there it reaches its limit; things remain pretty two-dimensional from here on, aside from the warming effect of sucking on barley sugars and cough candies.

    Finish

    Some Robinsons lemon barley water and hard caramel. Pretty short.

    Conclusion

    Light, inoffensive and a friend to all – much like the Starks before the Lannister fall-out.

    Right place, right time

    A final family breakfast at Winterfell. They won’t be coming Home for a while.

    Lagavulin 9 Years Old, Game of Thrones House Lannister

    Lagavulin 9 Years Old, Game of Thrones House Lannister
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    The first whiff is all peat smoke and sea salt, but it quickly reveals luscious juicy blackcurrants and fresh mint, raspberry leaf tea and mouthwatering stone fruits. The most alluring nose of the Game of Thrones Collection.

    Palate

    Grilled, almost blackened bananas, blackcurrant coulis and soft gingerbread biscuits. Heavy vanilla cream and crispy marshmallows with deliciously gooey centres, toasted over a beachside bonfire. It’s a tight palate, each element assuming its place in harmony with the next.

    Finish

    Dry but long, with a moreish flavour of salted, almost burnt, caramel.

    Conclusion

    For a nine-year-old it’s remarkably mature, a beautiful balance between distillery character and cask. It’s best enjoyed neat as it appears to fall apart with water. Apparently a whisky that ‘recalls the Lannisters’ riches’, but it’s far better to share the wealth (and give over the throne, eh Cersei?)

    Right place, right time

    Recovering the Spoils of War with a devilish glee.

    Oban Bay Reserve, Game of Thrones The Night’s Watch

    Oban Bay Reserve, Game of Thrones The Night’s Watch
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    43%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    That’s funky. The (not unpleasant) aroma of goat’s cheese and stale hay is striking, but calms into bitter cocoa powder and densely syrupy black morello cherries, accompanied by a waft of mentholic Vaporub and waxy petroleum jelly.

    Palate

    The waxiness continues onto the palate, where dark berry pie, with blackcurrants, liquorice and cocoa nibs, dominates. Toasted oak spice prickles the sides of the tongue, while dried citrus peel, cloves and cinnamon add some lift.

    Finish

    Dark fruits and a smidge of that funky goat’s cheese.

    Conclusion

    Oban has a dark side. Highly recommended.

    Right place, right time

    The Winds of Winter whip around the Wall as the Night’s Watch gather their strength for the impending battle.

    Royal Lochnagar 12 Years Old, Game of Thrones House Baratheon

    Royal Lochnagar 12 Years Old, Game of Thrones House Baratheon
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    Vibrant and engaging, all lemon zest and fragrant olive oil. Toasted oak and vanilla-rich cream toffees provide the sweetness, with floral/herbal notes of lemon verbena and cherry blossoms.

    Palate

    Light and lemony-fresh with some zesty spice, but weighted by toasted oak, caramel and earthy liquorice. That viscous olive oil really coats the palate. Although a light, creamy toffee dessert emerges towards the finish, things remain citrus-accented throughout.

    Finish

    Uplifting, refreshing and moreish, though just a hint of bitter furniture polish lingers.

    Conclusion

    A whisky fit for royalty, although perhaps a tad delicate for the brutish Baratheons, least of all the sadistic Joffrey.

    Right place, right time

    The House of Baratheon lies Before the Old Gods now.

    Singleton of Glendullan Select, Game of Thrones House Tully

    Singleton of Glendullan Select, Game of Thrones House Tully
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Top notes of green apples, with a richer, underlying sweetness of sticky blood orange spiked with cloves and currants. Crushed milk chocolate digestives and melting vanilla ice cream.

    Palate

    Softer than the nose would suggest, diving straight into a pot of vanilla custard and melting chocolate chips. The dessert moves into baked orchard fruits and Belvita biscuits, with soft spices adding some grip and warming heat along the sides.

    Finish

    Slightly dry. Toasted oak and roasted apples with a touch of char.

    Conclusion

    A solid representation of Glendullan’s house style, and good value for money.

    Right place, right time

    Accepting the fall of Riverrun, Edmure starts to See What Matters.

    Talisker Select Reserve, Game of Thrones House Greyjoy

    Talisker Select Reserve, Game of Thrones House Greyjoy
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    45.8%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islands
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Soft cooked orchard fruits with a hint of coastal salt and bonfire smoke. Give it a moment to open the glass for notes of dark chocolate, crystallised ginger and freshly diced red chilli.

    Palate

    Initially there’s an overriding sweetness of warm toffee sauce, before a waft of salty smoke delivers the unmistakable zing of Szechuan pepper. Despite the spice it retains a creamy consistency throughout, the dark chocolate becoming milkier and joined by dried fruits, brown sugar and Jamaican ginger cake.

    Finish

    Zingy still, but softer, slowly fading.

    Conclusion

    A classic, though youthful, coastal Talisker that’ll be a hit among spice fans.

    Right place, right time

    The Ironborn’s fleet take to the Narrow Sea to lay siege to King’s Landing.

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