Just what the category was missing -- a stellar, young, barrel-proof rye whiskey. Hugely spicy, with piercing mint, fiery cinnamon, vanilla, coconut, and fennel. Underlying notes of caramel, honey, and Seville orange provide some civility. It has more zing and richness than other young rye whiskeys, and it lacks the tired woodiness of the majority of the older rye expressions on the market. A clean, powerful, vibrant whisky that is a must for any rye enthusiast.
Woodford Reserve Master's Collection Four Grain, Batch #2, 46.2%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $85.00
Batch #1, while a very good bourbon, didn’t quite seem to reach its potential. The flavors were there, but were not integrated and as cohesive as I would have hoped for in a four-grain, pot-distilled bourbon. Batch #2 has realized this whiskey’s full potential. The flavors I expect are all there, and they are more tightly integrated and polished. It really does taste different than any other bourbon on the market. I particularly enjoy its silky, creamy, nutty sweetness, which is balanced nicely with dry spice notes that peak on the finish. It’s very soothing and enjoyable. A whisky for bourbon and scotch drinkers alike.
Creamy, silky texture on the palate. Richer than the flagship Crown Royal, but still quite clean on the palate. Along with creamy vanilla, delicate fruit and floral notes, you’ll also find caramel and butterscotch, a peppering of spice (particularly cinnamon), and light nougat. Silky smooth finish. A benchmark whisky in the traditional Canadian style.
Surprisingly clean and youthful for a 30 year old, both on the nose and palate. Complex, too, with a sea breeze freshness, vanilla malt, polished oak spice, smoked seaweed, lightly tarred boat docks, toasted nuts, and lingering telicherry pepper. Mature, yet still quite powerful. Rivals the original Talisker 25 year old and the Talisker 18 year old as one of the finest Talisker whiskies ever released.
Thick, dark, sweet notes of rummy molasses, chewy toffee, fig cake, and some teasing notes of chocolate fudge. Between these layers of sweetness emerge notes of dark berried fruit and glazed citrus. A very seductive, compelling whiskey. Liquid dessert.
Some of the best intensely smoky, peaty Islay whiskies are balanced with a foundation of malty sweetness. This whisky is an excellent example. A sinewy malt with the classic bold notes of kiln smoke, peat, tarry rope, and coal ash. Sweeter notes of honeyed malt, ripe vanilla, chocolate fudge, and toasted marshmallow temper and sooth the palate, along with background berry confit. The smoke lingers long on the palate. Ardbeg devotees will not be disappointed.
A bright and lively bourbon. Nicely balanced, too, with notes of caramel custard, red licorice, orange marmalade, golden raisin, and coconut cream, underpinned by crisp rye and tantalizing cinnamon. A gently sweetish whiskey -- not cloying in any way. In fact, it’s very drinkable. And it’s a whiskey that demonstrates great harmony between youth and maturity.
Glenmorangie Margaux Cask Finish 18 year old 1987 Vintage, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $450
Waves of fruit (apple pie, orange marmalade, sultana, ripe pineapple), accented with notes of dark chocolate, roasted nuts, and spice (cinnamon, vanilla, ginger, evergreen), particularly on the finish. (In the past, I’ve thought that a couple of these limited edition Glemorangie wood finishes were a little overdone with the finishing, but not this one).
Glenfiddich 21 year old Gran Reserva Caribbean Rum Finish, 40%
Single Malt Scotch | $120
Soothing and seamless on the nose and palate with chewy toffee, molasses, nougat, almond butter, vanilla fudge, cinnamon spice, and nutmeg, along with gentle tobacco notes emerging later on the palate. A pleasing dry finish offsets the sweeter notes. A delicious whisky from beginning to end.
Sweeter notes of pecan pie, dates, sweet corn, candied fruit, and English toffee combine with dried spices -- cinnamon heat, vanilla, and mint -- which crescendoes on its long, dry finish. A nicely matured bourbon with decent weight to it. Some of the expressions in the earlier part of the decade were a little heavy on the oak, but the last couple of years have shown greater balance.
Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, 13 year old, 1993 Vintage, 48%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $35.00
The same vintage as last year’s Birthday Bourbon but aged one year longer. Last year’s version was quite intense with a lot of wood influence. What does one more year in wood do to the whisky? Surprisingly, the oak spice seems less dominant, and the flavors are more balanced. Still, this is still a serious bourbon drinker’s bourbon. Piquant, dried spice notes of vanilla, cocoa, mint, and cinnamon are tamed by layers of maple syrup, caramel, and toffee. Every once in a while some fruits try to get recognized. A powerful, after dinner bourbon.
Signatory (distilled at Glenlivet) 25 year old 1980 vintage (Cask #13735), 53.9%
Single Malt Scotch | $160
Very fragrant. Spicy too, with notes of honeyed vanilla, peaches in cream, butterscotch, cinnamon, licorice (red and black), light nuttiness, and toasted oak on the finish. Nice mouthfeel, well-balanced, and quite rich for such an elegant whisky.
Light and easy drinking. Very clean on the palate, with notes of creamy vanilla, subtle fruit, and delicate floral notes. Light, clean finish. When I think of Canadian whisky, this is the whisky that comes to mind.
An elder Lagavulin. Thirty years of oak aging has mellowed this whisky. Fragrant and floral, with suggestions of perfumed soap. Spicy too, with cinnamon and anise. Classic leafy, smoky notes, along with some tarry rope, emerge on the palate and maintain a steady keel as they work their way through an ocean of vanilla malt. Lingering finish of burning embers. Certainly an enjoyable Lagavulin, but I still like the standard 16 year old better. It’s hard to improve on a classic.
Pleasingly sweet and fruity, with notes of caramel apples, berries in honey, vanilla, and ripe pear. Fresh brine and subtle mint emerge occasionally and linger on the finish. Nicely balanced, more complex with a wider range of flavors than the Old Pulteney 21 year old.
Signatory (distilled at Rosebank), 14 year old, 1991 vintage, cask #4755, 43%
Single Malt Scotch | $60.00
Delicately floral (lavender, rose) and perfumed, with notes of chamomile, hay, soft vanilla and gentle malt. Creamy and soothing, with a gently dry finish. Lots of depth for a lighter weight whisky. A lovely aperitif. I feel Rosebank is freshest and best when it is young. With the distillery closing in 1993, now’s the time to act, and this is one of the better bottlings I’ve tasted.
Signatory 16 year old 1988 vintage (Cask #42508, distilled at Bowmore), 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $60
Medium-bodied and nicely textured. Good balance of flavors -- and well-integrated, too -- with lovely sweet notes (cereal grain, cookie dough, caramel, and vanilla cream), young heathery peat, tar, fishnets, and brine that is complementary, but not aggressive, with a suggestion of lavender and tangerine. Balanced finish. (332 bottles produced.)
Scott's Selection (distilled at Glen Elgin), 1980 Vintage, 44.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $140.00
A mouth-coating -- almost chewy -- Glen Elgin, chock full of toffee, nut paste, heather-honey, and a hint of milk chocolate. The richness is brightened with ginger and mandarin orange, making for a pleasurable, soothing experience.
A blend of three different single malts. Its name derives from the fact that the whisky is aged in American oak bodies with French Oak heads (a cross of both oaks). There’s no age statement, but the whiskies are all older than ten years. This is a gentle, subtly complex, somewhat lithe, easy drinking whisky (and with less oak spice than its predecessor, The Spice Tree). People think whisky is an after-dinner drink, but I think this would make a great aperitif because of its delicate dry spice notes and light body. I’m picking up evenly-proportioned notes of vanilla and coconut, with more subtle notes of clove, anise, and delicate fruit, all wrapped up in a gentle, malty body. A very versatile whisky.
Highland Park 31 year old 1974 vintage (Cask #8998), 45.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $440
Pleasant aroma (subtle, but with nice depth), with notes of honeyed lime, kiwi, chopped nuts, chocolate fudge, and gentle, seasoned tobacco. Everything is working nicely on the palate too, with a similar flavor profile (the nuts now being roasted) and some smoldering smoke, until about mid-palate, when its age becomes evident with some wet wood notes blending in the mix through to the finish. (Exclusive to Virginia ABC.)
Signatory 14 year old 1990 vintage (distilled at Macallan, Cask #16294), 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $70
Aged in a refill butt, and very pale in color. Very fragrant -- fruity and spicy -- with notes of vanilla, lemongrass, ginger, sultana, citrus zest, key lime, and green grapes. There’s a floral component, too (rose petals?). A very delicate Macallan, and quite suitable as an aperitif. (749 bottles produced.)
This 21 year old expression is lighter in color and not as sweet or fruity as the younger 17 year old also reviewed here. Very mouthcoating in texture, with notes of dry vanilla, fat barley, coconut, citrus fruit, and pineapple. Long, intensely appetizing, dry salty finish. As an aperitif, or perhaps with seafood.
Gordon & MacPhail (distilled at Glenlossie), 27 year old, 1978 vintage, cask #1815
Single Malt Scotch | $90.00
Firm on the palate and quite mature. Good balance with malty-toffee notes accented by dried oak spices. Additional notes of roasted nuts, tobacco, Earl Grey tea, sandalwood, and a hint of peat and bacon fat. (260 bottles produced.)
Signatory (distilled at Auchentoshan) 12 year old 1992 vintage (Cask #7358), 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $55
Lemon-lime gum drops and fresh-cut grass notes, with an underlying creamy, marshmallow-tinged maltiness. Plenty of vanilla, along with a hint of ginger spice zing. Clean, nicely rounded, and fully mature for its age.
The newest offering from Crown Royal. Drier and more spice, with less of the creaminess of its siblings. I enjoy the subtle, dry complexity on the nose and the promise on the first part of the palate. But the whisky quickly turns quite dry on the latter part, with the oak playing the dominant role. XR contains older whiskies (including some from the old Waterloo distillery), so this is a rare whisky indeed, but it is difficult to improve on the profound effort of Crown Royal Special Reserve.
Identified on the label only as a single malt Speyside whisky, but does not disclose the distillery. A rounded, gently sweet whisky -- nothing too assertive here to offend anyone, and unpretentious -- with notes of vanilla, toasted coconut, caramel apple, honeydew melon, and ripe berries. Creamy finish.
Aged in bourbon oak and then finished in Guigal Hermitage Rouge Syrah wine casks. Bright notes of red raspberry, rhubarb, currant, plum, and (not surprisingly) grape, with background notes of vanilla and caramel. I find the syrah notes entertaining on the nose, but too dominant on the palate for balance. The fruit becomes waxy and hides a lot of Bruichladdich subtle complexities. (Bottled exclusively for The Party Source.)
Signatory (distilled at Caol Ila), 15 year old, 1991 vintage, cask #06/324/1&2, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $55.00
Very pale. A little thin in body, sharp and penetrating. Very Caol Ila-like, with notes of damp peat, Greek olives, seaweed, mustard seed, incense, gin herbs, freshly ground pepper, and vanilla malt. Smoldering peat finish. I would like to see more body to this whisky. (634 bottles produced.)
Jura’s newest offering, and the oldest in the portfolio. It is drastically different than its younger siblings-this one is quite sherried, as its deep amber color with reddish hues suggests. I really enjoy how this whisky tastes on the palate-it’s rich and silky with notes of fruitcake, toffee, maple, orange chocolate truffle, cinnamon, and nutmeg. You’ll find the same notes on the nose, but there are also elements-cloying fruit, perfume, and a peculiar fleshy component-which detract from an otherwise lovely whisky.
A very peculiar whisky. It’s interesting in some respects, with the thick, sweet Hungarian dessert wine fighting with damp peat smoke for attention. But it tastes a little disjointed, and a bit too youthful. With a few more years aging (before finishing in the Tokaji wine), the flavors should integrate and mature better. But as it is, this whisky is still “work in progress.”