Jameson’s newest premium release. The combination of aging some of the pot still whiskey in port casks, including some older whiskeys (over 20 years old), and bottling at 46% ABV (and not chill-filtered) has helped make this a rich, deep, and complex spirit. This is a silky smooth, lush, multi-faceted whiskey with notes of honeydew melon, nectarine, banana bread, creamy vanilla, chocolate fudge, toffee, warming cinnamon, and nutmeg. The port influence marries nicely with robust oak notes, and the grain whiskey component helps to keep it very drinkable. A more intense affair when compared to the “great anytime” 18 year old expression. A classic after-dinner Irish whiskey.
Antique copper color, with some streaks of gold. A complex array of dried fruit on the nose, peppered with dried spice, orange marmalade, dark chocolate, and wood shavings. On the palate, the immediate impact is once again marmalade, followed briefly by bramble before drier notes of dark chocolate, wood shavings, anise, and subtle smoke emerge. Dry and spicy on the finish, but never austere. A delicious, contemplative 40 year old Highland Park that has aged gracefully.
This is a permanent addition to the range. Out of curiosity, I tasted it next to the other great Highland Parks (the 30 year old and several very good single cask bottlings over 30 years old). This whisky is in the same league as the others. Its only down side is that it’s a lot more expensive than the others.
Straw/honey color. Light to medium weight, with a slightly oily texture. Shy on the nose, but makes up for it on the finish. Fresh brine, toasted coconut, bright citrus fruit, and subtle mint on a bed of vanilla cream and honeyed malt. The peat smoke is restrained on the nose, but is more assertive on the palate, and it really kicks in on the finish, which is briny, smoky, appetizing, and long. The best Longrow since the 1974 vintage. If it would only just open up a little more on the nose it would challenge the best from ‘73 and ‘74. (Only 120 bottles for the U.S.)
The Tyrconnell 10 year old Madeira Cask Finish, 46%
Irish | $80
Complex on the nose, and the flavors just dance on the palate. This whiskey is bright, cleanly malty, and quite fruity with a tropical accent -- peach, mango, cantaloupe, sultana, and caramelized pineapple. Balanced by notes of honey, vanilla cream, and soft coconut. The best Cooley whiskey I have ever tasted!
The Tyrconnell, 10 year old, Port Cask Finish, 46%
Irish | $80.00
Deeper, thicker, and more lush than the Madeira Cask Finish reviewed above. Notes of strawberry preserve, caramel apple, nougat, sponge cake, and a hint of chocolate cream pie. All these sweet, richly textured flavors without being cloying. Nicely done.
Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection, Cabernet Franc aged after 6 years, 14 year old, 45%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $47.00
Aged in a Cabernet Franc barrel for 8 years after spending 6 years in new charred oak barrels. Bright amber, with maple syrup, vanilla, candy corn, white chocolate, cinnamon, and ripe berried fruit. Nice tannic grip, especially on the finish. Great balance between the sweetness, fruit, and tannins. This is what finishing is all about: giving more than it takes away (or masks). Nicely done!
A blend of three different types of whiskey -- malt whiskey, grain whiskey, and a third component which is said to be a malt whiskey produced from crystal malt. Brewers and homebrewers know crystal malt well, a slightly caramelized version of malted barley. Its rich texture suggests a decent malt content for a blend. Layers of sweetness (honeyed vanilla, rummy molasses, toasted marshmallow) are balanced by toasted nuts, dried fruit, and dark chocolate. Very dynamic and with plenty of grit. Smartly bottled at 46%.
Duncan Taylor (distilled at Bunnahabhain) cask #7020 39 year old, 40.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $420
There have been several lovely older expressions of Bunnahabhain over the past decade, and this is one of them. The vanilla cream and toffee nuttiness is balanced perfectly by polished oak, bright fruit (apricot, sultana, cherry pits), and subtle anise. There’s a calming quality to this whisky that is very more-ish. All the maturity of an older whisky without the tired, dominating oak.
A “wheated” bourbon, meaning that it doesn’t have the spicy rye notes found in a more traditional “ryed” bourbon. A pleasantly sweet, easy-going, well-balanced experience. Creamy vanilla, caramel, candied corn, and ripe berried fruit , along with more subtle notes of glazed orange, cocoa powder, and wood shavings. If I were going to ease a new bourbon drinker into the category, I might pick this one. (Bottled for Binny’s Beverage Depot).
Created by distiller John Hall to celebrate his fifteen years of making whisky. It really is a whisky that defies categorizing. More body than most Canadian whiskies; softer and less aggressive than bourbon. When compared to Forty Creek Barrel Select (John’s standard whisky), it’s richer, more velvety, and sweeter on the nose and palate. Notes of toffee, silky caramel, mixed nuts, exotic spice, and a hint of marmalade. A soothing, almost rummy, very drinkable whisky.
Duncan Taylor (distilled at Mosstowie), cask #5814, 30 year old, 48.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $275.00
Part of the “Rarest of the Rare” collection. Mosstowie was a limited production using Lomond stills for a brief time at the Miltonduff distillery. Very pale in color for a 30 year old whisky, and creamy on the palate. A very clean whisky. Bright fruit (apricot, lemon, sultana) and vanilla are the main flavors, with more subtle grass and hay notes. Soothing finish.
Duncan Taylor (distilled at Glenlivet), cask #2831, 39 year old, 44.7%
Single Malt Scotch | $305.00
This whisky fits the profile of other extra-matured Glenlivet whiskies I’ve tasted. Notes of coconut and other assorted tropical fruit, old rum, caramel custard, shortbread cookies, vanilla malt, and a hint of cotton candy. This is all balanced by polished oak. A soothing, rather sweet whisky (which is quite surprising for its age).
Tomintoul 12 year old Oloroso Sherry Cask Finish, 40%
Single Malt Scotch | $70
The subtle sherry adds an additional level of complexity when compared to the standard 10 year old, taking Tomintoul to a new level. Rich and creamy, with well-balanced notes of toffee, vanilla fudge, toasted nuts, and elegant fruit. A surprisingly delicious whisky for 12 years old.
This is six year old, 40 ppm phenol (very smoky) whisky distilled at Bruichladdich, bottled at cask strength and enhanced in Madeira casks. A young whisky, but mature enough to say that it’s not too young. The immediate impact is damp peat smoke and smoldering charcoal. If you are patient and observant enough (and with an addition of water), you’ll coax notes of vanilla, berried fruit, pear, green apple, and underlying spice (fresh mint, anise), all leading to a briny, smoldering smoke finish. A cult whisky for those who like to push the envelope. When compared to its predecessor, PC5, PC6 is slightly darker in color, creamier, fruitier, and a shade softer. Given this, I still prefer the PC5 over the PC6 for its clarity and innocence.
Four Roses 12 year old 120th Anniversary (Barrel 7-1l), 55.4%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $90
Very creamy and gently sweet with a slightly oily texture. Notes of vanilla, toasted coconut, caramel, tropical fruit, honey-glazed almond, cocoa, and dusty corn. Well-balanced and soothing. A very easy-drinking whiskey. (Reviewer’s note: these are single barrel bottlings, and they will vary from one barrel to the next.)
Murray McDavid 'Mission' (distilled at Glenglassaugh), 1986 vintage, 20 year old, 55.3%
Single Malt Scotch | $175.00
The ruby/antique amber color suggests a first-fill sherry cask; the nose and palate confirm it. This whisky is a mouthful: fruitcake, roasted chestnuts, burnt raisin, candied orange, molasses, leather, tobacco, dark chocolate, wax, and a hint of clove. An incredible amount of sherry, but it’s not cloying. The flavors are clean, complex, and well-balanced.
Gordon & MacPhail (distilled at Mortlach), cask #8173, 1994 vintage, 13 year old, 58.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $95.00
Richly layered. A veritable fruit basket, in addition to nutty toffee, caramel, cocoa powder, and toasted coconut notes, all balanced nicely by oak on the finish. Nice maturity for a relatively young whisky. (Bottled for Maxwell Street Trading Co.)
The newest vintage from Knappogue Castle and, like the past two vintages, this one is from Bushmills. More maturity and oak influence when compared to the 1994. Floral, with creamy vanilla, toasted oak, honeyed malt, citrus fruit, and marshmallow. Soft, creamy finish with delicate oak spice. A clean, very drinkable whiskey, and my favorite of the post-Cooley Knappogues.
Tropical in nature, with pineapple, coconut, and kiwi. Additional notes of vanilla, caramel, new-mown hay, and light marzipan. Creamy on the palate throughout. A lovely whiskey, but the two finished versions above have it beat.
The stocks of the “new era” Longrow keep getting older (and better). A pleasingly sweet foundation of burnt caramel, vanilla fudge, and toffeed nuts is challenged by earthy peat, tar, damp barnyard, and brine. Earthy, smoky finish. A nice whisky with great potential, but still needs a few more years.
Gordon & MacPhail (distilled at Ledaig), cask #2, 1994 vintage, 12 year old, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $65.00
Quite nutty (especially the latter half of the palate), with chewy toffee, vanilla fudge, subtle fruit, and leafy smoke. I like the texture of this whisky. Quite satisfying. An improvement over the distillery-bottled 10 year old, which I suggested (Vol. 16, No. 2) needed to reach its teens to begin to fully develop. This whisky validates my theory. (Bottled for Maxwell Street Trading Co.)
Light on the nose, with creamy vanilla, honey, soft oak, and delicate tropical fruit. Similar follow-through on the palate. I like how creamy and clean it is -- especially for 21 years old. It’s a light whisky, the kind that 21 years in the wood could have put a hurtin’ on, but it didn’t. An enjoyable Canadian whisky. (Exclusive to the Canadian market.)
A combination of 6, 10, and 14 year old Longrow. I was concerned that there would be too much young whisky in here (like there was with the Springbank C.V. several years ago), but this isn’t the case. Youthful? Yes. Immature? No. A Longrow with an attitude. Creamy, sweeter vanilla notes up front, with kiln smoke, sea-soaked stone, tar, anise, chocolate fudge, and apricot. I would like to see more of the older whisky in here, because it leans towards the young side, but it is still a vibrant, enjoyable whisky.
This cask-strength whisky turns cloudy with the addition of water. Nice balance of both moderate sherry and smoke, with underlying fruit gum drops, shortbread, charcoal, black licorice, and subtle herbs. An assertive whiskey. The flavors aren’t as crisp as I would like, but pretty good for seven years old. (Bottled exclusively for Binny’s Beverage Depot)
Edradour, cask #06/538/4, 1996 vintage, 11 year old, 57.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $90.00
A “straight from the cask” bottling, finished in a Grand Arôme rum barrel. I can really pick up the rum. If you’ve ever had rum from La Reunion island (easiest to find in France), you immediately pick it out here. Peculiar straw gold/lime green color. Intriguing on the palate, too: botanicals, fennel, liqueur-ish, honeyed malt, red licorice, and tropical fruit. Sort of like a cross between a scotch and something Benedictine monks would make. A nice change of pace. (Bottled for Maxwell Street Trading Co.)
Greenore Single Grain, 8 year old, 1997 vintage, 40%
Irish | $50.00
Light, crisp, and gently sweet. Notes of vanilla, cut hay, honey, and lemon, with a grainy, dry bourbon-oak finish. A warm weather whisky, or as an aperitif. Perhaps a way to introduce a vodka drinker to whiskey?
Grape candy, raisin, blueberries, vanilla malt, and lavender, with hints of lemon and spearmint. More aggressive campfire embers and damp earth burn underneath, along with some salt. A whisky that grows on you, and not bad for 7 years old.
A distillery bottling of Ardmore finally comes to the U.S. This one is non-chill filtered and finished in a “Quarter Cask,” similar to Laphroaig Quarter Cask (same owners). Ardmore remains one of the few Speyside whiskies made with peat-smoked malt. Chewy, almost oily-textured, with sweet notes of toffee and caramel up front, followed by emerging damp, earthy peat and bourbon-like notes. The oaky, resinous bourbon lingers through the finish. The bourbon oak intensity dominates to a degree, disrupting the harmony of the remaining flavors. A whisky of great potential, but still waiting to achieve some of it.
Springbank 1997 vintage 10 year old (Cask #97/613), 58.2%
Single Malt Scotch | $75
Aged in a re-charred sherry butt. Sweet, but not cloying, with plenty of fruit throughout. Toffee, vanilla fudge, roasted chestnuts, and nougat, enhanced by glazed peaches, burnt pineapple, dark cherry pits, and subtle anise. Gripping charred oak tannins emerge mid-palate and continue on the finish detracting from an otherwise very pleasant experience. (Bottled exclusively for Binny’s Beverage Depot)
Gordon & MacPhail (distilled at Caol Ila), cask #12903, 1998 vintage, 8 year old, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $65.00
Not immature, but very intense and unabashed. Sweet barley notes and vanilla are beaten up by coal tar, damp kiln smoke, and fiery spice on the finish. For those who like their Islay whiskies young. Very young. I would have waited a couple more years before bottling this one. Pure testosterone. (Bottled for Maxwell Street Trading Co.)
Gordon & MacPhail (distilled at Rosebank), cask #1536, 1991 vintage, 13 year old, 59.3%
Single Malt Scotch | $100.00
Matured in a refill sherry cask. (A first-fill sherry cask would have completely dominated Rosebank’s delicate flavor profile.) With the addition of water (which is necessary), the whisky becomes quite cloudy. Rosebank’s traditional honeyed vanilla, grass/hay, and soft fruit are accentuated by lightly sherried, soft toffee flavors. An interesting whisky, but the flavors are not clean and well-defined enough to warrant a higher rating.
Made from 100% malted barley (wash from the adjacent Flying Dog brewery) and aged for a minimum of two years. Surprisingly good for such a young whisky. Layers of sweetness (honey, caramel, toffee), with some nutty/nougat notes, bourbon-like charred oak, and background spice. Some youthful “burn” emerges toward the latter half of the palate -- a little careful aging would smooth out the finish and add depth. Still, a very nice effort.
Cooley distillery’s oldest blend to date. Packaged in what looks like a very large perfume bottle. Elegant and creamy on the nose, with vanilla, coconut, grass, and suggestions of bourbon. Similar on the palate, but more reserved. Becoming dry on the finish with lingering charred oak. I think the slightly austere oaky finish detracts from what otherwise would be a very nice blend. The best part of this whiskey is the nose.
Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection, Cabernet Franc aged after 8 years, 16 year old, 45%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $47.00
Antique amber. Deeper, brooding, and less sweet than the 14 year old bottling. Distinct notes of leather, roasted nuts, and hints of tobacco on the nose and palate, along with some of the flavors of its younger sibling. It works on the nose, but the tannins (both from the wine and oak) impart a leather component that just dominates the palate. (I am seeing a pattern here with these younger vs. older whiskeys in the Experimental Collection series. The younger expressions have generally been pretty good, while most of the older ones have been aged too long.)
Signatory (distilled at Bunnahabhain) cask #5279 1997 vintage 9 year old, 59.9%
Single Malt Scotch | $45
The owners of Bunnahabhain are making a peated version of this normally unpeated Islay whisky to put in their peated blend, Black Bottle. But they have not yet put out, as a regular item, a peated expression of Bunnahabhain for purchase. However, some of the independent bottlers got their hands on some, and this might be the first one to be offered in the U.S. It’s what you would expect a 9 year old peated Bunnahabhain to taste like: toffee, vanilla fudge, and nuts (the Bunny signature), kiln peat smoke, and a bit too much youthfulness. It needs a few more years to mature to acceptable levels. (Bottled for Binny’s Beverage Depot)
Gordon & MacPhail (distilled at Port Ellen), 1982 vintage, 24 year old, 40%
Single Malt Scotch | $250.00
Port Ellen is going to just keep getting rarer and more expensive, and the quality is going to get more variable. This one shows the traditional Port Ellen characteristics (seaweed, tar, charcoal, damp earth, vanilla, salt, white pepper), but it just seems to flatten out mid-palate, leading to a fairly lifeless, slightly astringent finish. I feel like some of the guts were ripped out of this whisky. Bottling at a higher strength (and not chill-filtered) would have helped immensely.
Youthful, and somewhat brooding for a Tomintoul. I can tell there’s some young whisky in here, as there’s a suggestion of new make spirit interwoven with notes of heather, ripe barley, raw peat, and lingering smoke. I like the concept, but wish the young component (the peated part of this whisky?) was matured a bit longer.
Duncan Taylor (distilled at Cameronbridge), Cask #3583, 28 year old, 54.4%
Single Grain Scotch | $125
Its best attributes are vanilla, toasted coconut, and tropical fruit, but the rest of this grain whisky is a bit of a disappointment. It is thin, and at times harsh. A paint thinner component is evident (especially on the nose), along with more wood on the finish than this thin body can handle. Two Carsebridge grain Scotch whiskies from Duncan Taylor which I have tasted recently were much better: richer and creamier, and with more balance.