old orkney westie sponge ncnean auchentoshan tomatin whisky sponge decadent drinks

Nc’Nean / Auchentoshan / Tomatin / Old Orkney (Decadent Drinks)

Independent bottler Decadent Drinks released a flurry of whiskies in the weeks leading up to the festive season. Today we take a closer look at a Nc’Nean 2018 5 Years, the first-ever release in the new Westie Sponge series. We’ll follow that with an Auchentoshan 1991 32 Years and Tomatin 1994 29 Years for Whisky Sponge. The final review is of the second bottling in the Old Orkney series.

No preamble today. We’ll just dive in immediately and I’ll share details for each bottling below.

ncnean 2018 5 years westie sponge edition 1 decadent drinks

Nc’Nean 2018 5 Years (55%, Westie Sponge, 2023)

Westie Sponge is a new Whisky Sponge spin-off that celebrates the single malts of the West Highlands and Islands. Whisky Sponge founder Angus MacRaild is from the west coast of Scotland. As such it’s a place he holds very dear.

Two Nc’nean casks were selected for Westie Sponge One. These were distilled in 2018 from two different yeast recipes: Anchor and Fermentis, and Anchor, Fermentis and DistilaMax RM. These matured separately in two first-fill hogsheads before being combined and put back into the same two casks. Half of this mix is bottled as Westie Sponge One at a slightly reduced strength.

Nose: Strawberries, a touch of porridge and cherry-flavoured candy canes accompany notes of walnuts, a pinch of white pepper, lemon peel and orange zest. Surprisingly fruity with a good balance between sweet and fresh notes.
Taste: Nice viscosity. The fruits make an encore, along with whispers of mead, slivers of oak spices (cloves mainly, but also nutmeg) and some green walnuts. Finally a whisper of crème caramel and fennel.
Finish: Medium length with lingering spices, cured lemons and honey.

The nose convinces most, while the palate relies a bit more on punchy wood and spices. This Nc’nean, the first Westie Sponge release, is a good young whisky with a slightly more mature profile than you’d expect based on its age. Available here.

auchentoshan 1991 32 years whisky sponge edition 84 decadent drinks

Auchentoshan 1991 32 Years (53.6%, Whisky Sponge, Edition No. 84)

This second-fill barrel is probably the best Auchentoshan the Sponge has ever tried, “largely by virtue of being not too much like Auchentoshan.” That’s hilarious and promising, to say the least.

Nose: It needed time and (mostly) some hand-warming, but then the notes of beeswax, polishes and mature fruits slowly appeared. Plenty of honeyed pears, ripe apples and melon, alongside touches of crushed mint leaves, Demerara sugar and just a touch of cardboard.
Taste: There’s a similar tropical fruitiness to older Inchmurrin and Littlemill, which I attribute to the higher strength of the Auchentoshan new make (it is triple distilled after all). But there’s an added waxiness and oily mouthfeel that really elevate this Auchentoshan. Throw in some herbal notes, leafy touches and whispers of cedar as well. Wonderful.
Finish: Medium to long. The lively fruits remain, as well as honey and a gentle grassiness.

I needed a little time to fully comprehend this Auchentoshan, but it opened up beautifully. The fatty, rich mouthfeel stands out, but the fruitiness too. Not just fruit juice per se, but certainly very elegant and gracious. Available here.

tomatin 1994 29 years whisky sponge edition 82

Tomatin 1994 29 Years (49.5%, Whisky Sponge, Edition No. 82)

Matured in a “knackered old refill sherry hogshead”, this whisky will “infuriate people who like to drink splinters.” Not my words, but the Sponge’s.

Nose: Very gentle, but not shy. Opening up on whiffs of Greek yoghurt, pineapple and chalk, but also touches of green grapes, stewed pears and maracuja. Not the most complex, but mature and super inviting.
Taste: Rather a silky mouthfeel. Sweet fruits such as ripe apples glazed with caramel, stewed pears, peaches and cotton candy grapes, but also light touches of sultanas and honey. There’s just a pinch of pepper, as well as shortbread.
Finish: Medium length with a soft herbaciousness, waxy oak and sweet orchard fruits.

Is Tomatin still using the tagline The Softer Side of the Highlands? It certainly applies to this Tomatin 1994 29 Years from Whisky Sponge. A very gentle, rather fruity and elegantly sweet single malt. Available here.

old orkney 2004 19 years decadent drinks

Old Orkney 2004 19 Years (53%, Decadent Drinks, 2023)

The second release in the Old Orkney series, a brand acquired by Decadent Drinks a little while ago. Originally used by Stromness, a distillery that closed in 1928, but now used to showcase undisclosed Highland Park. This single malt matured in a refill hogshead and was bottled at a slightly reduced strength.

Nose: Immediately a touch of charcoal and fireworks. Slightly dirty actually, which surprises me. Moving on to farmier notes, some heather honey, a sliver of sea breeze, and waxy lemons. Finally a whiff of honey, cantaloupe and thyme.
Taste: Super oily and thick, but again these dirtier notes – faintly sulphuric. Also a honeyed sweetness, a nice salinity, gentle orange-y touches and smoked meats. Then soft herbal notes, anchovies and mosses.
Finish: Long. Lingering notes of white pepper, charcoal and aniseed. And a good pinch of salt too.


This Old Orkney's dirtier side took me by surprise. Didn't expect that from the Highland Park spirit and the refill hogshead. I much preferred the Decadent Drinks' first Old Orkney. Available here.


Samples provided by Decadent Drinks

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