Deep, mature in nature, and very complex. Notes of polished leather, maple syrup, and dark pit fruit, with suggestions of tobacco smoke, wood shavings, and unsweetened chocolate. References to fine old bourbon and ultra-matured pot-still rum provide intrigue. Proof that Japan produces some outstanding, distinctive whiskies. Nicely done!
Gordon & MacPhail (distilled at Mortlach), 11 year old,k 1993 vintage, 60.7%
Single Malt Scotch | $80.00
Full-flavored, confident, and very dynamic. Bright fruit, teasing toffee, complex spices, cereal grain, and underlying light leather notes are all tightly integrated. Think an 11 year old whisky can’t be mature or complex? Think again! A Speyside powerhouse! (Available in the Chicago area.)
Notes of "rummy" molasses, Sugar Daddies, red currant, citrus peel, sandalwood, polished leather, and vanilla cream. Subtle, teasing black licorice and brittle mint emerge from time to time. Well-balanced, with all the flavors sharing the limelight. A beautiful example of mature bourbon.
Mackillop's Choice (distilled at Tomintoul) 37 year old 1966 vintage, 43%
Single Malt Scotch | $150
Fresh and lively for its age, with appetizing saltiness, citrus fruit (lemon, line and orange marmalade), and subtly complex dried spices. A fat, malty foundation complements these seasonings beautifully mid-palate, with the salt and dried spices emerging again on the finish. Very sophisticated.
The whisky begins sweet and creamy, with notes of vanilla, honey, and ripe malt (reminiscent of a malting floor). Then the Laphroaig signature peat smoke, seaweed, tar, and medicinal notes emerge. Bottling at 48% and without chill-filtering keeps the whisky from being dulled down. A whisky that is very dynamic. Nicely done.
Nougat and dates to the fore, then becoming increasingly nutty with suggestions of Demerara rum and cinnamon and underlying polished leather. Lovely dried spice notes and an appetizing salty tang teases the palate on the finish.
Matured in amoroso casks. The amoroso softens Talisker’s fiery personality and adds a gentle sweetness not normally found in Talisker. There’s a lot going on here-notes of toffee and dark chocolate, layered with bitter orange, seaweed, kippers, smoked nuts, damp peat, and kalamata olives, finishing with a peppery glow. Not an every day dram-one has to be in the mood for a whisky like this. (With sausages during brunch, perhaps?)
Mackillop's Choice (distilled at Glenlivet) 27 year old 1977 vintage, 43%
Single Malt Scotch | $125
A very clean whisky, with fragrant dried flowers, aromas of germinating barley, textured honey, vanilla waver, coconut cream and teasing fresh pineapple. Drying, delicately minty finish. For those who love the richly elegant, non-sherried style of older Glenlivet whiskies.
Mackillop's Choice (distilled at Caol Ila), 15 year old, 1990 vintage, 43%
Single Malt Scotch | $75.00
Fresh and quite aromatic. Nice interplay between soothing malty sweetness and honest “naked” Caol Ila notes (in the sense that all the classic Caol Ila flavors are exposed-leafy smoke, tarry rope, salt & pepper spice, seaweed, and olive). An evolving whisky, with a phenolic, briny crescendo that lingers. Nicely done.
Gordon & MacPhail (distilled at Caol Ila), 14 year old, 1991 vintage, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $75.00
Finished in cognac wood. The cognac wood influence might dominate other whiskies, but the Coal Ila is big enough for challenge. If anything, it seems to contribute a silky elegance to what would otherwise be a brooding, bare-knuckled whisky;. It works nicely. Notes of germinating barley, vanilla cream, grape preserve, and peat bonfire, with a salty, smoky finish. (Available in the Chicago area.)
Lovely bouquet of dried citrus fruit, honeyed apricot and plum, complemented by exotic wood spice, malty vanilla, and a hint of mint and anise. Similar follow-through on the palate, with the sweeter notes up front, full fruit impact mid-palate, leading to a dry, peppery, exotic wood spice finish. The whisky evolves on the palate and is very impressive, with its only blemish being a bit too dry and oaky on the finish.
Mackillop's Choice (distilled at Mortlach), 22 year old, 1982 vintage, 43%
Single Malt Scotch | $100.00
Toffee and nougat, with a lacing of cotton candy. It then turns richly nutty-almost chewy-with notes of dried apricot, sultana, and a touch of red currant. Firm, dry, oak resin finish. A well-structured whisky, indicative of the Mortlach pedigree.
Mackillop's Choice (distilled at Glen Ord), 21 year old, 1983 vintage, 43%
Single Malt Scotch | $100.00
Lush and fruity-the sherry cask aging is obvious-and it is balanced beautifully by the dry, spicy oak notes. Through all this, there’s inviting notes of ginger, raisin, and a whiff of peat. One of the best Glen Ord whiskies I’ve tasted.
Matured in port casks. The standard Cragganmore 12 year old is one of Scotland’s best kept secrets-I enjoy its incredibly complex, dry, spicy character. The port contributes ripe fruit flavors (cherries in syrup, golden raisins, mandarin, glazed berries) which complements the dry spicy notes nicely and makes for a more balanced product. Still, for this, the whisky sacrifices some of its individuality and brilliancy with all that port. A fair trade-off, though.
An example that older, more expensive isn’t always better, this 18 year old gem is as good as many blends twice its price. The foundation of Johnnie Walker Gold is delicate, clean, and honeyed, along with a fresh sea character (from Clynelish?) that provides a youthful zing. Notes of vanilla, shortbread, tropical fruit, freshly cut hay, marshmallow, and even a hit of peat, round out the palate. Its finish is subtly complex and nicely balanced. The blend has improved nicely over the past several years.
Matured in oloroso casks. The oloroso takes what is typically a pleasingly honeyed, but not particularly complex, malt and adds a layer of fruit to it. Crisp, clean notes of lemon, pineapple, and ginger, are softened by honeyed malt, vanilla, and hay. Soft, lingering finish.
Matured in amontillado casks. Pleasantly fresh, briny, and yeasty, which works nicely with the atypical toffee and nutty notes. Glenkinchie’s dry, grassy character emerges occasionally, as does some delicate background spice and a hint of lime. Pretty hefty stuff for Lowland malt.
The first non-vintage Glenrothes in recent memory, allowing the distillery more flexibility in cask selection when making a bottling. True to Glenrothes, this expression is mouth-coatingly malty, with well-integrated bright fruit notes, creamy vanilla, praline and honey. Nutty, delicately spicy finish.
Signatory 'Un-chillfiltered' (distilled at Clynelish), 13 year old, 1991 vintage, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $45.00
Very pale in color, suggesting it was aged in a used bourbon cask. One nosing confirms it. A fairly light, fresh, and appetizing whisky, with notes of brine, mustard seed, and delicate honeyed vanilla. Slightly oily in texture. Seaweed, with suggestions of ginger and bourbon on the finish. An aperitif whisky, or with sushi perhaps? (Bottled exclusively for Binny’s Beverage Depot.)
Interestingly crisper than and not as rich as the 17 year old, with warming oak spice to accompany the light toffee, cocoa powder, “corn in a burlap sack,” sultana, and dusty mint. Peppery, spicy oak finish that lingers. The fieriest of the three.
Mackillop's Choice (distilled at Caol Ila), 26 year old, 1979 vintage, 43%
Single Malt Scotch | $135.00
Mature and gentle, when compared to the 1990 expression above. If the flavors of the 1990 Caol Ila reviewed above are nakedly exposed, then this Caol Ila is wearing a winter coat. The same flavor notes are there, but they’re less noticeable. Pleasingly salty, gently drying finish.
Rich and viscous in texture. Sappy waxed fruit, maple syrup, and nougat. Becoming quite nutty with emerging notes of damp peat, dates, plum and blueberry. The sherry is fairly dominant and masks some of the whisky's subtleties. After dinner with a cigar, perhaps? (Bottled exclusively for Beltramo's.)
Quite palate-coating for a Lowlander, with sweet notes of vanilla malt, grist, honey and marshmallow. More subtle notes of cut grass, linseed oil, rubber erasers, and chalky antacid tablets. A peculiar-tasting whisky.