A special bottling of Wild Turkey to celebrate Master Distiller Jimmy Russell’s 50 years of being in the bourbon business. Jimmy will be proud to be associated with this bottling. In many ways, this bourbon is a lot like Jimmy: mature, yet with plenty of spunk and character, and a pure joy to be with. This is a big, chewy, full-bodied bourbon with lovely sweet notes (maple syrup, molasses, caramel and candied fruit) balanced by dry spice notes (cigars aged in cedar, evergreen, polished leather). For bourbon drinkers who love intensity in their bourbon.
The fifth in a series of Glenlivet Cellar Collection whiskies. This is a very complex whisky, with exotic notes of oak, sultana, vanilla cream, almonds, and evergreen. These notes are quite floral on the nose and well balanced, with no hint of excessive aging. The palate is polished, deep, and continuously evolving, with a long spicy finish. The oak notes reveal that this whisky has some years on it, but they in no way dominate or detract from the other flavors. An outstanding effort! This rivals the 1959 vintages as the best of the Cellar Collection releases. You’ll need deep pockets, though.
I feel this is by far the best whisky in the standard Auchentoshan portfolio, and it is one of the best Auchentoshans ever released. It’s delicious, nicely balanced, and with lovely depth for a Lowland whisky. Baked muffins, creamy vanilla, honey, and caramel blend nicely with delicate fruit notes (lemon, red current, strawberries). An impeccably balanced whisky. Similar to the 10 year old reviewed below, but with greater depth and a drier finish.
Laphroaig Original Cask Strength 10 year old, 57.3%
Single Malt Scotch | $60
Pungent and medicinal in personality, with gobs of peat, tar, iodine, brine, and seaweed. These are all good things.in case you were wondering. A gentle vanilla sweetness tries to tame this savage beast, but it is no match. One of the most challenging-yet rewarding-whiskies in the entire world. What Cantillion Lambic is to beer, Laphroaig Original Cask Strength is to whisky.
Like the Clynelish 14 year old also reviewed in this issue, it is nice to see Diageo finally introduce official distillery bottlings of Caol Ila here in the U.S. (after being available in the UK for many years now). My suitcases were getting quite heaving on my return trips from Scotland. This is a splendid Coal Ila. It is wonderfully vibrant. Understandably, the immediate impact on the palate is the peat smoke, but there's so much else going on here, too: smoked olives, seaweed, salt and pepper, all placed on a gently sweet bed of toffee and vanilla fudge. Lingering smoke, olives, and seaweed on the finish.
Mackillop's Choice (distilled at Caperdonich), 35 year old, 1968 Vintage, 43%
Single Malt Scotch | $165.00
Caperdonich is always a challenge to find. This one is aged in a sherry cask. One would fear that slumbering away for 35 years in a sherry cask would completely dominate this whisky’s profile. Not this whisky. As you would expect, it is nicely matured, but it is surprisingly clean and well rounded, too! Exotic notes of dried fruits, sultana, subtle (but viscous) honey, sandalwood, and a potpourri of spice (especially cinnamon, anise, ginger). Clean, subtly spicy finish. Slowly sip and savor its delicate pleasures.
It’s good to see an official distillery bottling of Clynelish in the U.S. This one is very true to the Clynelish style: fresh, appetizing, and very drinkable. Notes of brine, fruit (lemon-lime), and vanilla-accented malt, are the foundation of this whisky. Delicate seaweed, peat, exotic pepper and a hint of citrus rind bitterness entertain the palate throughout, all the way to its appetizingly briny, seaweed-tinged finish. Perhaps the definitive aperitif whisky.
Cask & Thistle 29 year old 1974 Vintage (distilled at Aberfeldy)
Single Malt Scotch | $110
A prime component in Dewar’s blended scotch. The finer bottles of Aberfeldy are quite flavorful, yet still maintain a degree of elegance and finesse. This bottling is an excellent example of this. Its dominant flavor note is fruit (orange, honeydew melon), with some creamy vanilla notes, caramel, and light toffee. Subtle spice notes and a hint of peat tease the palate. The extra aging adds depth to the whisky, yet this whisky remains quite clean and fresh on the palate. Subtly spicy, gently dry finish. Nicely done! (Exclusive to Binny’s Beverage Depot, Chicago, IL.)
For the past few years, Famous Grouse vintage vatted malt has been produced but not sold here in the U.S. They were in the 10-12 year old age range. This version being introduced to the U.S. is a non-vintage expression, and I don’t think it really matters. What matters is its taste. Major components of The Famous Grouse blended whiskies have included The Macallan and Highland Park, and there’s no doubt these malts are providing some of the richness and flavor complexity in this new expression. The whisky is quite hefty, with notes of juicy fruit, toffee, almonds, heather, and a wisp of vanilla and smoke. It is also very well balanced and quite a bargain for $30.
Duncan Taylor (distilled at Longmorn), 29 year old, 1973 vintage, 47.6%
Single Malt Scotch | $160.00
Longmorn’s signature is a thick mouth-coating, honeyed maltiness, which is almost chewy in texture. While delicious in its teens, its personality lends itself to aging, because its maltiness provides a good counterpoint to the resinous dry oak notes which are usually imparted to older whiskies. This whisky is no exception. Notes of honey, vanilla malt, and subtle fruit dovetail nicely with the dry, resinous, polished leather-like contributions from 29 years in oak. Nice long finish.
The successor to Barton Brand’s Ridgewood Reserve 1792 bourbon. An improved successor, too. This bourbon is much more rounded than the Ridgewood, and has shed the aggressively dry, woody finish. The Ridgemont sports a nice silky texture. On the palate, gently sweet notes of vanilla, caramel, and candied fruit balance nicely with dry, spicy notes of mint, cinnamon, and green tea, with just a hint of tobacco on the finish.
Hart Brothers (distilled at Glen Grant), 29 year old, 1972 vintage, 53.6%
Single Malt Scotch | $160.00
Like many older Glen Grant offerings, this one is from a sherry cask. The sherry, and the long oak aging, transforms what is normally a light and easy drinking whisky to a more serious affair. Ripe, heavy fruit dominate the palate-the sherry is very evident here, but it is not cloying. It’s quite nutty too, along with polished oak and toffee. The oak balances the sherry notes very nicely, and the whisky is clean and uncomplicated throughout, all the way through to its finish.
The newest whisky in the regular stable of wood-finished whiskies for Glenmorangie. Very fruity-sometimes reminiscent of overripe fruit; other times cooked fruit. In the mix, there’s maple syrup, plum, almonds, and sweet barley notes. The whisky is peppered with spicy notes of toasted oak, cinnamon and vanilla. A whisky that is lush on the nose, chewy on the palate, with a finish of dried spices for balance. This whisky takes some getting used to, and it’s not an every day whisky. You’ll have to be in the right mood for it.
This Caol Ila was released the same time as the 12 year old, reviewed above. Older isn't always better, especially with Islay whiskies. I felt that way when comparing Ardbeg 17 to Ardbeg 10 year old, and I feel the same with these two Caol Ila whiskies. This 18 year old has the same flavor profile as the 12 year old. It's a well-rounded dram too, but it has lost the vibrancy and dynamic intensity of the 12 year old. If you want to experience Caol Ila in its entire youthful splendor-and save a few bucks while you're at it-then buy the 12 year old.
Light, clean, and delicate on the palate, with creamy vanilla, marshmallow, soft fruit (lemon, lime), and a touch of honey throughout. Nicely balanced and uncomplicated. A whisky to appeal to both the malt and blend drinker.
This whisky comes from two bourbon casks, producing only 112 bottles. I believe it’s the most expensive Lowland whisky on the market. Unfortunately, its flavor doesn’t stand up to its price. While I applaud Morrison Bowmore's efforts to give us the opportunity to try such a mature expression of Auchentoshan, I feel that the whisky is past its prime. I wouldn't describe it as overly woody, like I have other whiskies that are 41 years old. Rather, I would describe it as overly funky. The whisky's aroma and flavor are very peculiar, with plenty of vegetal notes (cucumbers especially) combined with stewed fruit, golden raisins, rose petals, and spice (anise, clove). If it were $100 a bottle, I would suggest that you gather a few friends to chip in and buy a bottle, just for the experience. But at $2,000, I think we should leave this one for the collectors.