A crisp, robust, very dynamic bourbon. Amber-orange marmalade color. Spicy, with notes of cinnamon, spearmint, and Earl Grey tea. The spice is balanced nicely by thick toffee, rhum agricole, caramel apple, and bright citrus, with a polished leather finish. There have been some great Birthday Bourbons, but I think this is the best one to date. A whiskey deserving classic status.
The Macallan 29 year old 1976 Vintage (Cask #11354), 45.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $1,500
Classic sherry cask-aged Macallan. Antique amber with hints of ruby. Thickly textured, complex, and quite deep, with notes of toffee, ripe pit fruit, raisin, apple pie, dried spice (cinnamon, clove, ginger, and mint), and a wisp of smoke. An exceptional, multi-faceted Macallan!
Parker's Heritage Collection, First Edition, 1996 vintage, 61.3%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $80.00
There are two noteworthy items regarding this whiskey. It’s the first barrel-proof whiskey released by Heaven Hill for the U.S. market. It’s also the first of what will be an ongoing series of releases under the “Parker’s Heritage Collection” label. This one is rich, with thick toffee, molasses, vanilla fudge, and Heath bar. It’s also well balanced, with underlying exotic spice, summer fruit, dusty corn, and tobacco to balance the sweeter notes. Long, soothing, finish. A nicely matured bourbon of character and pedigree. (Originally reviewed in Volume 16, No. 4)
An essay in balance on both the aroma and palate. Silky layers of delicate sweetness (honeyed vanilla, caramel, light toffee) permeate through clean, delicate fruit (citrus, peach, currant), and subtle, complex dried spice. Clean finish, with a hint of dark chocolate. A very versatile, very drinkable blend which suits most moods and occasions. Indeed, a benchmark blended scotch.
Cask #3145 is the lighter in color, and the sweet notes that balance the smoke and seaweed are not as deeply caramelized as Cask #3542. I’m tasting hints of shortbread and caramel, which show through the peat smoke, tobacco, toasted nuts, firm spice notes (cinnamon, clove, and mint), and lingering brine. Very complex. Price listed includes the entire Double Barrel 1974 Vintage set.
Crown Royal has always been a very stylish, silky smooth whisky. This bottling adds a new dimension in flavor and texture with its cognac cask finishing. A velvety smooth whisky with notes of creamy vanilla, butterscotch, nougat, dried fruit, and gentle spice are well-defined and nicely balanced. Gently sweet, fruity finish. Crown Royal’s best effort to date.
A clean, well-rounded bourbon packed with flavor. Deep amber, with tinges of gold. Rich, silky aromas, with thickly textured, seamless flavors on the palate. Incredibly smooth, too, with interwoven notes of toffee, molasses, creamy vanilla, and candy corn. Underlying lush fruit, cinnamon, and fresh mint -- especially on the finish -- round everything out. Some of the previous “extra matured” Wild Turkey whiskeys have occasionally shown their age on the finish, being a little heavy on the oak. Not this one. Nicely done.
The sixth and last bottling from the Legacy series. Legacy 6 is a marriage of six casks from 1965, 1970, and 1972. Soft and mellow on the nose and palate, with unbelievably restrained oak for such a mature whisky. Delicious notes of coconut, soothing vanilla, caramel custard, and banana cream, peppered with spice notes of cinnamon, mint, and teaberry that emerge on a soft finish that fades out gently. A fitting end to the Legacy series. I’m sad to see them go.
Cask #3524 is darker, with notes of sticky toffee pudding and chewy caramel that firmly support the polished leather, cigar box, roasted chestnut, smoked seaweed, tar, dark chocolate, and, on the finish, espresso. A meditative whisky. Price listed includes entire Double Barrel 1974 Vintage set.
Balanced Islay whiskies combine peat smoke characteristics with a sweet foundation. They’re not one-dimensionally smoky. This whisky is an excellent example. This is a peat-laden whisky with refinement and grace. Creamy vanilla, caramel, and honey harmoniously marry with persistent -- yet controlled -- peat smoke. Crisp spice notes and dancing fruit throughout adds complexity. Well done.
Gordon & MacPhail (distilled at Tomintoul) cask 644 1967 vintage 40 year old, 49.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $260
A deep, mature Tomintoul that manages to retain the elegance and drinkability found in younger Tomintoul whiskies. Roasted nuts, lush fruit, suggestions of cherry brandy and orange marmalade layered with rich fudge, toffee, and maple syrup. Soothing finish. Tomintoul can be a simple whisky at a younger age, but this one has matured into a beautifully complex dram. (Bottled for Park Avenue Liquors.)
Aged in new French oak casks, with long-toasted heads. Deliciously creamy, sweet, toasty profile with coconut cream, toasted marshmallow, toffee pudding, and honeyed vanilla. Gentle spice notes (especially clove) and hints of fruit dance on the palate. Very soothing. (Bottled for Park Avenue Liquors.)
The seventh limited edition release of Port Ellen whiskies by Diageo. Not as vibrant and intense as younger bottlings (particularly on the nose), but nicely matured with a satisfying sweet foundation. Notes of toffee and roasted nuts permeate though the peat kiln smoke, coal tar, fish nets, and charred oak. Seaweed and brine, more reserved mid-palate, emerges noticeably on the finish. The Port Ellen bottlings are getting older (the distillery closed in 1983) and they are getting more expensive. This one still captures the essence of Port Ellen.
The Balvenie continues its limited edition releases of 17 year old whiskies. Previous editions included an Islay Cask finish and a New Oak finish. This is the newest one, aged in sherry oak casks. It’s a delicious whisky, with clean, ripe, sherried fruit marrying nicely with the dry oak spices. Notes of apple pie, honeyed summer fruit, caramel toasted almonds, and toffee, with dry resinous oak on the finish to round out the sweetness. A big, full-bodied Balvenie that satisfies.
Wild Scotsman (distilled at Mortlach), 1994 vintage, 13 year old, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $65.00
This whisky shows the true potential of Mortlach -- and at a youthful age, too! Quite fragrant and very complex on the nose and palate. Chewy toffee with almonds, vanilla fudge, ripe barley, and nougat, with underlying pit fruits, dried spice, and a hint of leather on the finish. Very fulfilling.
Incredibly smooth for a rye whiskey (almost too smooth), but still with plenty of character to make the journey very entertaining. Notes of evergreen, almonds, and bright fruit lie on a bed of caramel, honeyed vanilla, and banana bread. Lingering spicy finish.
Chivas's new entry into the premium blend category. A complex whisky (on the nose and palate) in the same vein as Chivas 18, only deeper, with more caramelized sweetness, darker fruit, and greater emphasis on dried spices and roasted nuts (and perhaps even tobacco). Everything moves along nicely -- and entertainingly -- until the whisky approaches the finish on the palate. Its age begins to show, as spicy oak dryness and suggestions of polished leather begin to dominate through to the finish. An enjoyable whisky, but I prefer the 18 year old to the 25 year old for its impeccable balance.