This bottling celebrates master distiller Parker Beam's 50 years of service by including whiskey from each of the past five decades. This is a fabulous whiskey: seamless and incredibly complex, with an impeccable marriage of youth and maturity. It’s also very even-keeled throughout -- quite different than last year’s equally impressive PHC, a 27 year old, whose personality was more like an exhilarating old wooden rollercoaster ride (and also brandished more oak). Look for candied citrus, nectarine, blueberry, and sultana anchored by a nougat center, laced with honeyed vanilla and orange creamsicle. There’s a dusting of cocoa powder, brittle mint, and cinnamon, too. Tobacco leaves, polished leather, and teasing bourbon barrel char round out the palate, emerging more prominently towards a warming finish. A classic!
The Dalmore is one of a handful of whiskies that seem to be able to age in the cask for many decades and still improve. This one is incredibly viscous on the nose and palate (and very heavy on the tongue), with chewy toffee and old pot still rum. The classic Dalmore marmalade note shines throughout, along with vanilla cream, an array of dried spices (especially cinnamon and evergreen), juicy oak, forest bedding, rancio, old armagnac, polished leather, tobacco, maple syrup, dark chocolate, almond macaroon, and subtle espresso. Long, mouth-coating finish. The flavors evolve like waves lapping on the palate -- especially the interplay with the oak. I can’t drink this whisky slowly enough. A rare experience for the lucky few who can afford it. (Price is per 100ml.)
The flavors evolve on the nose and palate, with peat kiln smoke, fresh asphalt, damp earth warehouses, morning-after campfire ash, and old boat dock contrasting nicely with toffee apple, crème caramel, delicate raspberry preserve, and dried citrus. Long, smoky, spicy, briny, seaweed, dirty martini-tinged finish. This whisky comes from a combination of both sherry and bourbon casks, and the marriage works. I also like that it retains some of its youthful brashness, while showing the depth that maturity affords a whisky. A delicious, well-balanced, old-fashioned Laphroaig.(Reviewing this whisky gave me an excuse to open a “fresh” bottle of its predecessor, the 30 year old, and here are my thoughts. The 30 year old is softer, mellower, drier, and more debonair. The 25 year old is bolder, more youthful, more dynamic, richer, and sweeter — bottling at cask strength really helps here. Both whiskies are very nice, but quite different in personality.)
Lombard 'Jewels of Scotland' (distilled at Brora), 1982 vintage, 50%
Single Malt Scotch | $200.00
Bottled in 2004, but just recently put in circulation here in the U.S. (Very strange.) It’s worth the wait. It’s fresh (even at 22 years old), appetizing, spicy, and briny. There’s a sweet foundation of vanilla wafer and caramel, with a slightly oily texture. White pepper, seaweed, mustard seed, lime, gherkin, and teasing gin botanicals add complexity. Spicy, salty finish. A vibrant, dynamic expression of the shuttered original Clynelish distillery. Quite stunning, actually. Find yourself a bottle before they’re gone!
Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection, 14 year old, Fine Grain Oak, 45%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $47.00
Aged in slow-growth wood. I love the balance in this whiskey, with all the flavors presented harmoniously. Rather lively for a bourbon approaching 15 years. Notes of bright fruit (peach, kiwi, golden raisin), soft vanilla, crème caramel, lemon meringue, and coconut macaroon, then drying out nicely to a rather sophisticated, cinnamon-tinged, polished oak finish.
Well, what have we here? A blend of 50% malt and 50% grain (a very high malt content for a blend), and bottled at 50%, too! The whisky was blended first (very unusual), before being aged in sherry casks for its entire life. Antique amber/chestnut color. Full sherry impact, but never cloying -- the higher alcohol level and grain whisky cut through the sherry and add balance and drinkability. This is a fruity-confection delight, with raisin chutney, fig cake, orange almond scone, and chocolate-covered cherry. Add to the mix richly textured toffee, old oak, polished leather, and a cinnamon-spiced tobacco finish. A rare treat! A great old blend that malt drinkers will embrace.
By far the softest and gentlest of the range, and oh so drinkable. Hard to believe that this whisky is 40 years old, actually, as it shows no sign of excessive oak. Instead, there are soothing layers of caramel and toffee as the whisky’s foundation. Add orange marmalade and other juicy citrus fruits, cinnamon spice, graham cracker, and lightly toasted almond. A gentle, subtly sophisticated Dalmore, and an interesting comparison to the much different, more visceral 50 year old. If I were a rich man, I could drink this whisky every day — it’s so easy-going.
D&M (Distilled at Scapa), 19 year old, 1989 Vintage, 52.7%
Single Malt Scotch | $150.00
This single cask bottling of Scapa is a beauty! Brilliant gold color. Clean and fresh on the nose and palate, with complex bright fruit (peach, tangerine, golden delicious apple, honeydew melon, pineapple), spice (cinnamon, vanilla, subtle cocoa), appetizing brine, and beach pebbles, all on a bed of creamy, squeaky-clean honeyed malt. Dynamic, appetizing, briny, dried spice finish. A delicious, superbly balanced whisky that makes a great aperitif, but I could drink this any time. (Bottled exclusively for D&M Aficionado’s Club.)
Available for several years, but now finally making its debut in the U.S. The higher-end Dewar’s expressions (Dewar’s 12 year old and Dewar’s Signature) are very good blends. This one is situated smartly between the two. The malt proportion is rich and creamy; the grain whisky is crisp and well-integrated. Antique gold color, with notes of butterscotch, vanilla wafer, strawberry rhubarb pie, and citrus drizzled with honey. Lovely floral notes in the aroma, along with a pleasing, dried spice finish. I could drink this stuff all day long!
A new line of Islay single malts from Specialty Drinks, an extension of The Whisky Exchange. (The bottle doesn’t tell you which distillery this whisky came from, but if you look at a map of Islay you can probably figure it out.) I like this expression better than the more expensive 25 year old. There’s impeccable balance and more vibrancy in this 17 year old, with seaweed, smoked Spanish olive, coal soot, pencil shavings, citrus, and anise, along with subtle kipper and picked ginger. All this is layered on a bed of oily, honeyed malt. Salty, peppery, sooty, tarry finish. Nicely done! £50
The oldest Ardmore I have tasted. Smartly bottled at cask strength and not chill-filtered. (The entry level Ardmore “Traditional” is at the opposite end of the age spectrum, tasting quite youthful.) My initial concern with this 30 year old was: would the wood dominate the lovely floral, smoky notes I enjoy so much with Ardmore? The wood is certainly present, but the smoke still comes through. There’s a gently layered sweetness that complements the smoke (toffee, deep caramel, subtle honey), licorice root, bourbon barrel char, coffee grounds, and high cocoa chocolate, with subtle dried citrus and a suggestion of floral soap. Dry finish, with more bourbon barrel char and licorice root. Considering that Ardmore has historically been a blending malt, most of the stocks right now are much younger. This is a rare treat. It’s a wee bit thin in body and a little on the dry side from 30 years on wood for me to rate it in the mid 90s, but it’s still a very enjoyable whisky.
This is not a single-cask bottling like other recent wine-finished releases, but the casks they selected are very good ones. Lovely antique amber color. The Madeira dovetails beautifully with the malt and oak, and it has matured nicely for a whisky less than ten years old. Lush notes of orange marmalade, raspberry tart, and panforte, all wrapped up in rich toffee and a dusting of nutmeg, cinnamon, and cocoa. A dry, resinous, spicy, tactile finish adds balance, complexity, and additional dimension. Smartly bottled at a higher strength. Some of these wine-finished Arran whiskies are impressive. This is one of them.
A harmonious marriage of fruit and spice. More balanced than last year’s sweet Rum Cask release. In fact, this is one of the most deftly-balanced whiskies I’ve tasted this year. Bramble, ripe nectarine, caramel apple, honeyed vanilla, and golden raisin, spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg. Soft (for Balvenie), lingering, warm, dried spice finish.
The first of Glenmorangie’s new “Private Collection” line of whiskies for Travel Retail. This one is finished in Pedro Ximenez (PX) sherry. With PX being so rich and intense, and Glenmorangie spirit so subtly complex and delicate, does the sherry dominate here? No, it doesn’t. Still, this is viscous and very textural for a Glenmorangie. I’m picking up rhum agricole drenched with honeyed apricot, toffee almond, chocolate-covered raisin, glazed citrus, and cherry pits, all leading to a leathery, tobacco-tinged finish. A visceral whisky with plenty of grip. Great for after dinner.
Four Roses Limited Edition Single Barrel (2009 Release), 58%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $80
Deeper and darker than some Four Roses, but with plenty of bright, lush sweetness. Notes of toffee, honey-drenched nuts, and ripe summer fruit. Nicely spiced, with cinnamon, nutmeg, and a dusting of mocha. I just love the honey influence. A well-balanced whiskey, with all the flavors taking turns to shine. Great integration of flavors, too! One of my favorite Four Roses single barrel bourbons, which will grow on you with every sip.
Well matured, but still with a spicy rye mean streak. There’s a lush sweetness that tames both the resinous oak and the bold rye spice…it’s a harmonious balance between the three, actually. Warming cinnamon and cool mint meld with sweet corn, rhum agricole, honey-kissed citrus, pecan pie, and cocoa powder, leading to a long, dry, spicy, leather-tinged finish. Bottled to celebrate the 15th Anniversary of Delilah’s bar in Chicago. A worthy effort!
High West 21 year old Rocky Mountain Rye (Batch #2), 46%
Rye Whiskey | $130
Made from a mash containing 53% rye, and aged in used barrels. The relatively low rye content, along with being aged in used wood, means this is one soft, smooth rye whiskey. Gentle mint, green tea, cinnamon, nutmeg, roasted nuts, glazed fruit, and candied corn all lie on a bed of vanilla and caramel. I tasted a “work in progress” sample last year which showed more oak. This expression is much better. Not as complex or dynamic as the flagship “Rendezvous Rye” from High West, but I could drink this stuff all day long.
Nice to see stocks distilled after the 1980s ‘silent period’ turning 18 years old. The sherry influence here is complementary, but not overpowering. Notes of toffee almond, vanilla fudge, chocolate-coated citrus, bramble, and candied ginger. Polished leather, dried spice, and a hint of brine on the finish dries it out nicely and keeps it interesting. Not quite as dynamic and complex as some of those legendary pre-1980s Springers, but it’s smooth, well-rounded, and more-ish.
Well-rounded, solid malt backbone, and very drinkable. These are the main characteristics of this impressive blend. Honeysuckle, vanilla-coated malt and fruit (pineapple upside down cake, lemon tart, plum, bramble) are the primary flavors. Ripe barley, marzipan, beeswax, and clove round out the palate. Gentle, soothing finish. Suntory can make a 12 year old blend this good with just two malt distilleries? Scotland, are you taking notice?
High West 16 year old Rocky Mountain Rye (Batch #1), 46%
Rye Whiskey | $80
Made from a mash containing a whopping 80% rye. The antithesis of the 21 year old reviewed above. This is one bold rye whiskey which gets more powerful as it develops on the palate. It’s crisp, clean, and very spicy (cool mint, hot cinnamon), with molasses, caramel, honey, golden raisin, kiwi, coconut shavings, and a dusting of cocoa. A lighter-weight whiskey when compared to High West’s flagship Rendezvous Rye, but this whiskey throws a mean punch!
Still in the same vein as its 17 year old sibling reviewed above, but it’s softer, mellower, with more wood impact (especially on the nose and back end of the palate) and tea leaves. Perhaps even some mild tobacco. Darker sugars in this one (molasses?) rather than honey, and more berried fruit along with the citrus, which struggles to reveal itself. Dry, resinous finish. An enjoyable dram, even if the wood outstays its welcome. But if you have to pick between the two expressions, go for the 17 year old and pocket the change with a smile on your face. Price: £75
Aged exclusively in first-fill casks (60% of it sherry cask), and its oak intensity shows. Sweet, but with a steady dose of dried spice, oak resin, and teasing tobacco to back it up. Silky texture and lush, with fallen orchard fruit, tangerine, chocolate-covered orange, and lemon meringue. A firm dried spice finish rounds it all out. Sort of like The Dalmore 12 year old pumped up on steroids.
Good balance between ripe barley, rum-like sweetness, and damp kiln smoke. Dried oak spice, bourbon char, brine, and anise add complexity, peaking on the finish. An interesting contrast to the other Amrut whiskies. This whisky could pass for a youthful Islay malt.
What a surprise! Really thick and malty for a blend (there’s a high malt content here for sure), and also nicely mature for 8 years old. Great balance too, with the island aggressiveness tamed by a rich, malty elegance. Delicious honey, toasted oak, firm peat, dark chocolate, and glazed citrus meld nicely with the malt, leading to a honeyed, lightly-peppered finish. Very enjoyable.
Beautiful complex fruit on the nose. Tannic grip on the palate -- especially on the finish. The tell-tale orange marmalade combines notes of orchard fruit, caramel apple, fried pineapple, banana nut bread, unsweetened chocolate, grape skin, and plain toast, peppered with cinnamon and ground espresso bean. Distinctive and evolving on the palate -- and humming along quite nicely -- until the oak turns a bit austere and aggressive on the finish. For this reason, it’s my least favorite of the range.
Aged in fast-growth wood. Quite the antithesis of the “Fine Grain Oak” release above; the comparison is interesting. Darker fruit (plum, blackberry), and darker sugars (maple syrup, toffee). Resinous and becoming quickly dry on the palate, with leather, tobacco leaves, grape-stem tannins, barrel char, and dried spice. A heavier, more textural bourbon than the Fine Grain Oak expression. I like this whiskey a lot until the dry, leathery oak notes begin to dominate the latter half of the palate. That, my friend, is the coarse grain oak in action.
A mouth-coating whisky, and oily in texture. Ripe vanilla malt, peaches & cream, polished oak, roasted nuts, and a hint of coconut cream pie. Soothing, creamy finish. A pleasant “anytime” dram. Bottled at 46% to better display its fine textures and subtle nuances.
Templeton Small Batch Rye, Batch #2, Barrel #173, 40%
Rye Whiskey | $35.00
The labeling is a little confusing. Small batch implies a marriage of multiple barrels, not just a bottling from a single barrel; the label seems to imply both. Plus, there’s no indication of the source of this whiskey, or its age. Regardless, this is one of the sweetest and mellowest rye whiskeys I’ve tasted. Spicy fresh mint, cinnamon, white pepper, and subtle clove are tamed by sweet notes of toasted marshmallow, cotton candy, creamy vanilla, candied fruit, and red licorice. Soft finish. Rather gentle for a rye whiskey.
This whisky is only 10 months old, made from 85% rye and 15% malted barley. It’s vibrantly spicy (cinnamon, mint, licorice root, nutmeg), fresh, and clean. Bright citrus and peach also entertain. Rich, underlying vanilla notes try to tame the beast, but they’re really no match. Warm, spicy finish. There’s a lot going on here. Yes, it’s youthful, but far more mature than I expected. This whisky is certainly drinkable now (for those who like their rye whiskey young and bold), but I would like to see it develop some more on oak. That’s the only thing missing here. It shows great potential.