This is my favorite of the three. For about $20 more, you get a richer, much more complex whisky than the 10 year old, and it is more balanced than the 21 year old. This 15 is drier than the 10, with lovely floral and spice notes (cinnamon, coriander, dried orange peel, lavender, rose), balanced by honey-laced complex fruit, and a dry, dark chocolate/orange marmalade finish.
Evan Williams Single Barrel 1995 Vintage (Barrel #1), 43.3%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $25
This year’s 1995 Vintage is another delicious treat. It is one of the most richly textured bottlings of the past ten vintages and its flavors meld seamlessly, combining layers of creamy sweetness (chewy toffee, butterscotch, and a touch of corn), spice (mint, vanilla, cinnamon), polished oak, vibrant fruit, and a dusting of cocoa and nutmeg.
A very richly textured Glenrothes. A heavy, honeyed maltiness provides the foundation of this whisky, with interwoven candied fruit notes (orange, tangerine, sultana), red and black licorice, toffee, and toasted almonds. Dry, spicy, oak notes balance its sweetness and provide depth. What impresses me most about this whisky is how it evolves on the palate and continues evolving through its lengthy finish.
Duncan Taylor (distilled at Bunnahabhain) 36 year old 1967 vintage, 40.2%
Single Malt Scotch | $160
Older expressions of this unpeated Islay dram are often quite delicious, but they aren't easy to come by. The best ones, like this one, take the sweetish toffee/nutty foundation of younger expressions and add layers of depth and complexity. This whisky just continues to evolve on the palate. The entrance is creamy in texture with layers of sweetness (caramel, vanilla fudge, toffee), becoming nutty and marzipan-like with subtle background fruit. The finish is long and pleasingly dry, with a hint of salt. Very entertaining and satisfying.
Very dry, fragrant and spicy. Medium bodied, but firm. Initial, flirtatious notes of honey, creamy caramel and oatcakes quickly become dry and arid, with a foundation of leather and oak shavings. The whisky is peppered throughout with notes of anise, coffee, dried herbs and undertones of Madeira. Very forward and bullishly dry for its age, and more intense than the standard Cragganmore bottling. It’s rare for a whisky this young to be so complex.
Gordon & MacPhail 'Connoisseurs Choice' (distilled at Bladnoch), 13 year old, 1991 Vintage, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $70.00
Subtle elegance, creamy, and extremely drinkable. Mouthwatering fruity notes (lemon, lime, tangerine, passion fruit) marry well with notes of fresh-cut grass, vanilla, and honey. Very clean too and nicely balanced! When I drink a Lowland whisky this good, I am saddened by all of the Lowland distilleries that have gone silent over the past 25 years, knowing what we have lost.
Even drier and expressing more of the complex floral and spice notes found in the 15 year old. However, by the time the whisky reaches mid-palate, the dried fruits, dried spices, and general wood notes become prominent, preventing the whisky from revealing other sides of its usually multi-faceted personality. It’s still a very fine whisky, but not as good as the 15, regardless of price.
After a false start several years back, it’s a pleasure to finally see Four Roses Single Barrel available here in the U.S. This whiskey is nicely balanced, with a teasing subtleness to it. I particularly enjoy its delicately honeyed, floral, crisply spicy aroma, with underlying notes of vanilla cream and candied fruit. These flavors follow through on the palate, initially with honey-laced fruit, caramel, and soft vanilla notes, leading to a dry spiciness (mint, cinnamon) and refined oak. It finishes crisp and pleasingly dry. None of the flavors are dominant, and bottling it at 50% is a bonus.
While younger Glengoyne whiskies are enjoyable but often fairly straight-forward in flavor, the older expressions develop nicely in depth. Regardless of age, there’s always a creamy maltiness as the foundation of the whisky. For this expression, notes of honey, cookie dough, dry spice notes (vanilla, cinnamon) and soft fruit (citrus, apple) round out the palate. This whisky is clean, polished, and very drinkable. A new addition to the Glengoyne line, and very welcome.
I enjoy Glenlivet whisky for its subtle elegance, floral notes, along with a delicious "peaches & cream" flavor. For this particular whisky, finishing some of the whisky in new French oak barrels adds depth, dried spice (vanilla, clove) and pleasing dryness to the Glenlivet profile. This whisky is more polished and refined than the 12 year old expression it replaces.
The third straight year of Birthday Bourbon releases. Last year we were blessed with not one, but two practically flawless whiskeys (one quite richly flavored, the other light and delicate). This 1995 vintage is nearly as good and reminds me in some ways of the first Birthday Bourbon release two years ago. Sweet notes of caramel, maple, cocoa powder, and vanilla fudge (particularly on the front of the palate) are mingled with candied fruit and dry mint. The whiskey finishes fairly dry (more than its bouquet would suggest) with notes of polished leather, mint, dark chocolate, and dried tea.
Gordon & MacPhail (distilled at Tamnavulin), 43%, 1989 Vintage, 40%
Single Malt Scotch | $50.00
Not all Speyside whiskies are big, masculine, and sherried. Some are gentler, as is this expression of Tamnavulin. The whisky is creamy and smooth in texture, with notes of vanilla custard, honeyed malt, and even a hint of marshmallow and hay. Very soothing finish. This is one of the most polished Tamnavulin whiskies I’ve tasted recently (and going from 40% to 43% in strength provided some extra richness and body). Whisky with dessert, anyone?
A new, cask-strength Glengoyne without chill-filtering. Both features put this whisky in a higher class than the entry level 10 year old. That classic clean maltiness which Glengoyne is known for is certainly in this whisky. With the addition of some water, the whisky really opens up, becoming fragrant, fruity (cherry pits, apples), along with hints of anise and almonds. A nice effort from the new owners.
Hart Brothers (distilled at Inchgower), 26 year old, 1976 vintage, 49.9%
Single Malt Scotch | $140.00
A coastal Speysider, and this is evident in many of the Inchgower bottlings, including this one. This is quite a fruity dram, with notes of tangerine, lemon, and kiwi. Soft vanilla, coconut, and honey play in the mix, with a lingering salty/seaweed tang on the palate for intrigue. Very clean, light, and surprisingly reserved in oak notes, considering its age.
This 1984 Vintage is similar in profile to its older 1972 Vintage sibling (reviewed above), except that the 1972 Vintage expresses greater depth and has more oak to balance the sweetness (the sherry notes get a bit sappy in this 1984 expression). The 1972 Vintage also evolves more on the palate, and it is more intriguing. But don't let this keep you from trying this 1984 Vintage expression. It is still a very enjoyable whisky (and more economically priced).
Whisky Galore 16 year old 1987 Vintage (distilled at Bowmore), 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $74
Aged in a sherry cask, and the lush fruity notes add dimension and richness without masking the whisky’s other flavors. Its flavors are reminiscent of crumbled peat thrown over a campfire; damp earth, anise, and floral notes throughout, dovetailing with the lush sherried fruit. Smoky, briny finish. A well-rounded dram.
A peat-smoked malt whiskey from Ireland’s Cooley distillery, similar to many smoky Scotch whiskies. The difference to me is that I don’t get as much of the seaweed and coastal notes often found in the Scotch whiskies. Still, there is plenty going on in this whisky, including a lovely creamy vanilla and honeyed malt underbelly to tame the smoke. It reveals more of itself with the addition of water. If there were peat-smoked Lowland Scotch whiskies, they might taste like this.
The fifth vintage of Knappogue Castle and the second consecutive one comprised of whiskey from the Bushmills distillery. (The previous three were from the Cooley Distillery.) This one is very clean and quite soft on the palate, with a gentle sweetness throughout (fresh malt, vanilla, and honey). Floral and citrus notes offer a subtle pleasantness throughout. Soft, soothing creamy vanilla finish with hints of confectioners sugar and lightly toasted marshmallow. This is a pleasant, versatile Irish whiskey to have in your bar to serve neat, on the rocks, or in smart cocktails.