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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Matured in a port pipe. The third in a trilogy (the other two being bourbon and sherry cask-aged). I like this one better than the sherry cask 1990 vintage, but not quite as much as the bourbon cask bottling which was in our Top Ten whiskies two years ago. Lovely amber ruby color. The port flavors are obvious, but not sappy or dominating. They’re clean, and contribute a layered sweetness and ripe red berry fruit notes to the traditional, moderately peated Bowmore smoke and peat. Lingering smoke and chocolate on the finish.
It always amazes me how well this triple-distilled Lowland whisky ages. The best ones are in their twenties and thirties. This one, at 40, is still holding up quite well, all things considered. Lively, fragrant aroma for such an old whisky. Notes of vanilla, coconut cream pie, butterscotch, hay, wood shavings, sultana, dried citrus, and a potpourri of spice. Some “old oak” notes emerging from time to time throughout, with a gently spicy finish. An expensive whisky, but those who pony up the money will enjoy it.
Finished in a tawny port cask. Peat smoke and seaweed interwoven with layers of ripe, red fruit (currant, raspberry, cherry), crisp citrus, graham cracker, vanilla, and honey. Nice interplay between sweetness, fruit, and smoke. (Brighter and more dimensional than the other two reviewed here.)
Murray McDavid 16 year old 1990 vintage (distilled at Macallan), 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $125
Finished (or ACE’d -- additional cask enhanced -- as they say) in a Madeira cask. Soft in texture, and deceivingly seductive in nature. Pleasingly sweet (honey, caramel, aromas of sticky toffee pudding) with lush summer fruit and gentle spice notes emerging towards the finish. A soft, pleasing Macallan with everything in balance. Nicely done.
Springbank Rum Wood Finish 16 year old 1991 vintage, 54.2%
Single Malt Scotch | $160
Pale in color, with a gold/green tinge. Exotic fruit (papaya, coconut, kiwi) with gentle sweet notes (vanilla, honey, pancake syrup, marshmallow), spiced with fresh, appetizing brine and anise. The brine lingers on the finish, as do some molasses toffee notes. Dynamic and well-rounded.
Aged in a re-charred sherry cask. Moderately rich and sweet on the nose and palate, but clean and not heavy. Light toffee, nougat, Brazil nuts, vanilla fudge, and honey-laced citrus fruit and golden raisin. Subtle brine accents throughout, with a soothing finish. (Bottled for Park Avenue Liquors.)
Finished in a pedro ximinez cask. This is the sweetest and most tactile of the three whiskies. Peat smoke married with lush notes of sultana, ripe peaches, pineapple, white chocolate, shortbread, and thick honey. Delicate floral notes (heather, lavender) add finesse. I expected a darker personality with the sherry finish. I was pleasantly surprised.
A very textural whisky. Incredibly creamy, with mouth-coating vanilla, honeyed barley, hay, linseed oil, clementine, and subtle peach. The whisky continues to cling to the palate long after the finish. It’s what you would expect Auchentoshan to taste like, but bolder. A nice whisky, but lacking the polish of the standard 21 year old expression.
Finished in a dark rum cask. Notes of peat, smoked mackerel, and suggestions of charcoal married with molasses, vanilla wafer, golden raisin, cantaloupe, and a dollop of honey. It’s missing the more defined fruit notes that the other two have. I’d like to see this at 15 years to give it more depth.
Darker, more lush, and with less of the crisp, lively spice notes when compared to last year’s vintage. (Keep in mind that single cask bottlings vary from cask to cask.) The predominant component of the new vintage is its layers of sweetness (toffee, molasses, vanilla fudge, and candy corn), with underlying nougat and glazed fruit. An enjoyable, soothing bourbon, but I would like to see more spice and fruit to go with the sweet notes. This whiskey will work nicely after dinner (perhaps with a cigar?)
Murray McDavid (distilled at Littlemill), 1991 vintage, 16 year old, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $90.00
rather soft whisky, with gently sweet notes of vanilla, marshmallow, and macaroon, with underlying tropical fruit, cut grass, and subtle spearmint. A feminine whisky to have with dessert -- or as dessert.
A blend of four different Islay malt whiskies. A pungent, merciless Islay whisky with intense peat reek, tarry rope, and raw seaweed. Fiery cinnamon, clove, evergreen, and unsweetened black licorice stick just adds fuel to the fire. An underbelly of vanilla malt and suggestions of coconut cream try to douse the fire, but it's a losing battle. Long, seemingly endless burning ember finish.