A marriage of three casks, one of them an ex-sherry butt. The sherry is certainly evident, and this is more sherried than many of the Cellar Collection whiskies to date. Opulent and seductive, with prominent fruit (glazed spiced oranges, ripe peach, and hints of pineapple and coconut), caramel-coated nuts, and vanilla custard. A peppering of ginger and cinnamon throughout. Coating, soothing finish. Polished and seamless, with no trace of excessive oak. One of the richest -- and finest -- Cellar Collections to date. Anyone willing and able to cough up the bucks for this whisky will be richly rewarded. (Only 240 bottles available in the U.S., beginning June 2010.)
Rich, silky, and oily in texture. Extremely well-integrated flavors loaded with ripe berries, caramelized banana, nougat, date nut bread, glazed tangerine, and maple syrup, peppered with warming cinnamon, vanilla icing, and nutmeg. Firm, dry resinous finish to balance the sweetness. I love the pot still character and the lushness that some of the port-wood aging has imparted. If anything, even richer and more lush than the previous 2007 vintage I reviewed. Another classic Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve.
Aged in sherry butts, which is a departure from some of the older Glengoyne vintage samples I have which show more bourbon barrel characteristics. It is a very fruity, spicy, textural dram, with spiced apple, red raspberry, strawberry, plum, golden raisin, fried plantain, and creme brulee. Good grip on the finish, with grape stems and warming spice (cinnamon, cracked peppercorn, and clove). I love the balance on this whisky. It has aged very gracefully. (Limited to 250 bottles worldwide.)
The formula for this whisky has changed slightly since its inception -- and I think for the better. They've added some Laphroaig into the mix of Caol Ila and Ardmore. This whisky demonstrates the layered complexity that can be achieved by marrying whisky from different distilleries and different regions. I particularly enjoy the rich maltiness and oily texture that provide firm bedding and flavor contrast to the classic Islay notes: tar, boat docks, brine, smoked olive, seaweed, and kiln ash. More subtle cracked peppercorn, mustard seed, and citrus fruit add complexity. Long, warming finish. Amazing how a small change in composition can significantly benefit the overall flavor profile of a whisky.
Deeper, richer, more viscous, and more intriguing than the 12 year old (and not as sappy as the 18 year old). Complex and intriguing, with raisin, orange marmalade, grape skin, sugar plum, cinnamon bun, raspberry preserve, mixed nuts, and coal ash. Nice tannic grip on the finish. The best of the bunch, and very impressive!
The last new Chivas release was the 25 year old several years back. To be honest, I didn’t like it as much as Chivas 18 year old. Those extra years contributed an additional dry oak influence which I felt was a bit too dominant—especially on the finish. So you can imagine my concerns before tasting this 38 year old whisky. But this new Royal Salute has something to balance the dry oak that the 25 year old didn’t—lush, rich, sweet sherry notes. It’s quite fruity, with toffee apple, date nut cake, fig, molasses, and golden raisin up front, evolving to dried fruit, pencil shavings, tobacco, and polished leather, with subtle cinnamon and cocoa on the finish. My favorite of the entire Chivas line is the 18 year old (which I rated a 95) for its impeccable balance, but this is still a very impressive whisky!
The Balvenie Single Barrel 15 year old (Cask #7266), 47.8%
Single Malt Scotch | $62
One of the finest Balvenie 15 year olds I’ve tasted. The flavors are clean, well defined, confident, and beautifully balanced. Full malty foundation (with some ripe barley thrown in). Soft, creamy vanilla, honeycomb, bright fruit (orange, nectarine, lemon peel, hints of pineapple), with emerging dried vanilla, coconut, oak resin, and subtle anise. Polished oak finish. It doesn’t have the depth that the classic older Balvenies have shown in the past, but what it does have, it has in spades. Beautiful! (A Julio’s Liquors exclusive.)
A tribute to the Mackenzie Clan. Aged in bourbon barrels for 11 years, and then aged an additional 6 years in port pipes, creating a rich, voluptuous, robust Dalmore expression. Notes of toffee, molasses, caramelized nuts, pancake batter, fig cake, and chocolate-covered citrus. Subtle glazed ginger and orange marmalade add complexity. Polished oak, tobacco-tinged finish. Very dynamic and never sappy or cloying. Save this one for after dinner.
After being around for about a decade, it’s nice to see this whiskey finally being sold in the U.S. Soft, sweet, and silky smooth, with creamy vanilla, caramel, toasted marshmallow, and honey-kissed tropical fruit (mango, pineapple, coconut). I get most of the barley on the front of the palate, with the grain whiskey components more on the finish. Something seems slightly missing for me to elevate this whiskey to classic status (some more pot still character, perhaps?), but it’s still a wonderful blended Irish whiskey, and so drinkable. Gather a bunch of friends and throw away the cork!
Signatory (distilled at Port Ellen), 1982 vintage, 26 year old (Cask # 1202), 54.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $275.00
Port Ellen, for sure! Very old-fashioned in nature: intertwined notes of tarry rope, coal soot, rooty peat, toffee, dark chocolate, and walnuts, spiked with coffee bean, anise, cracked peppercorn, and a hint of ginger. Dry, smoky, long, slightly austere finish. This Port Ellen is a bit moody (maybe even has an attitude problem), but I’m not complaining.
This (rather young) Islay distillery’s second release. Like the first, it’s aged for about three years and then finished in sherry casks—this time for a shorter two and a half months. Its flavor is similar to the first release.
Once again, I am quite impressed. It’s very mature for its age, with good viscosity, showing smoldering peat, coal tar, black licorice stick, burnt dark berried fruit, thick-cut marmalade, shoo-fly pie (think molasses), toffee apple, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and a suggestion of wet sheep. Long, peat smoke finish.£47
This is a blend of straight bourbon and two straight rye whiskeys: thus the name. Very interesting indeed. But how does it taste? It’s clean, crisp, and quite vibrant (especially on the nose). The rye note is evident throughout. It starts out more like a high rye-content bourbon, with the molasses, caramel, coconut cream, sweet corn, and honey-kissed fruit marrying nicely with the dried spice (vanilla, cinnamon, brisk mint). But then on the latter half of the palate, the rye really kicks in. The whiskey gets bold, the rye becomes intense (almost piercing), with a dried spice finish. Some whiskeys are even keeled throughout. This one is more of an adventure. Not complex enough for “classic status,” but a very distinctive, enjoyable whiskey.
Deep gold color. Very bold aroma of toffee, dark chocolate, diesel fuel-soaked soil, smoldering campfire, coal tar, clove, leather, fig, and dark berried fruit. More of the same on the palate, with seaweed, smoked haddock, and cough drops emerging towards the finish. This whisky is very dynamic and exciting to drink. My only criticism: it comes across a little green on the finish, which keeps me from scoring it in the 90s. Still, it’s pretty impressive considering how young some of the whiskies in it are. If you like your Islay whiskies young and brooding, this one’s for you.
Like “Superstition,” this is a peated expression of Jura. Compared to Superstition, Prophecy seems richer, heavier, sweeter, deeper, leafier, with more tarry notes. I’m also picking up more spice (cinnamon, anise, dark chocolate) and some fruit (lime, mandarin orange, green apple), with a subtle yet intriguing suggestion of burnt popcorn. Prophecy is also bottled at 46% and not chill-filtered—which I think brings out more subtle nuances and texture in the whisky. The only tradeoff is that I’m picking up less of the Jura spirit and less sea characteristics. But this is a small tradeoff, considering how much more you’re getting with Prophecy. Promoted as a limited annual release.
A new, beefed-up version of the 18 year old, with a higher alcohol level and (seemingly) more sherry influence. I must say that I really enjoyed the previous expression, rating it an 87 for its roundness and elegance. I like this one too, and its bold demeanor. Whether you like it or its predecessor comes down to preference and mood. Notes of toffee apple, pancakes drizzled with maple syrup, date nut cake, ripe fruit, and roasted nuts, all dusted with cinnamon, vanilla, and cocoa.
The first single cask release of GlenDronach for the U.S. by the new owners, and a nice one at that. Silky in texture, polished, and clean on the palate, with light toffee, treacle, cherry bonbon, orange-soaked date nut cake, and chocolate-covered raisin. Never cloying, like some heavily-sherried whiskies can be. Silky, soothing finish. Surprisingly soft and youthful for its age. (A Park Avenue Liquor exclusive.)
The last time I reviewed this whiskey was back in 2004, and this new bottling is an improvement. It’s beefier, thicker, and richer, with a good dose of rye spice. Very nice! Good balance of flavors on the nose and palate, with caramel custard, bright fruit (clementine, golden raisin, orange marmalade), a peppering of spice (fresh mint, warming cinnamon, dried vanilla), green tea, a hint of toasted marshmallow, and a pleasing dried oak, tobacco-tinged finish. Lots of character!
Complex, dynamic, and well-balanced. Honeyed vanilla, bright fruit (lemon, tangerine, nectarine), sultana, green grapes, and banana bread, peppered with ginger and subtle, gripping grape skin. Great mouth-feel (from the oak), which adds another dimension. That’s what 46% and no chill-filtering will do for a whisky. One of the better Arran whiskies I’ve tasted. (Released in 2009. Sadly not available in the U.S.) £38
A release chosen by Douglas Maclean (and named after his song “Caledonia”). Full sherry impact, but contained—not excessive or sappy. Rich, with nutty toffee, pot still rum, a variety of raisins (regular and golden), date, honeyed fruit, polished leather, and a hint of tobacco. Good resinous grip on the finish to balance the sweetness. The flavors are nicely integrated.
Signatory (distilled at Glen Ord), 1998 Vintage, 11 year old, Cask #3465, 60.3%
Single Malt Scotch | $110.00
Bright gold color. Big and firm on the palate. Quite fruity too (tangerine, pear, sultana, pineapple), on a dry malty foundation. Lighter notes of grass, hay, linseed oil, and dried vanilla add complexity. Dried fruit and malt finish. A really nice dram with gobs of character.
Very bright and lively, with a nice balance of flavors. Zesty fruit (lemon, peach, ripe pineapple, golden raisin) on a bed of layered sweetness (creamy vanilla, light honey, lightly toasted marshmallow, and a hint of coconut). Gently dry, delicately spicy, dried citrus finish. Light enough and with enough zing to enjoy before dinner, but it should stand up well enough after dinner, too. This is a nice whisky, but it shows a lighter, more elegant side of Glenrothes. It doesn’t express the rich, opulent notes often shown in bottlings like the 1972 Vintage, for example.
I was concerned this whiskey would be woody and dry, but it isn’t. (By comparison, the 2009 “Mariage Collection” release, a combination of 10 and 19 year old whiskeys, comes across much more tannic and dry—especially on the finish.) The grain influence is less prominent (as might be expected), but it is replaced by some nicely dovetailed oak sugars and spices, and forward fruit. It’s gentle on the nose and palate, with creamy vanilla, caramel custard, apricot, nectarine, glazed citrus, cherry pie, and graham cracker, spiked with subtle mint, clove, and cinnamon. Smooth, soothing finish…therapeutic even. If you like your bourbons bold, stimulating, and challenging, then this one isn’t for you. But if you want bourbon to comfort you like a warm blanket in cold weather, then give this a try.
Nicely sherried. Rich, with maple syrup, honey-drenched citrus, sultana, and a good dried oak spice finish for balance. Well done for a 12 year old, and definite competition for Macallan of the same age.
Close to one year later than the previous Knappogue Castle release, a 15 year old expression, and distinctly different in flavor profile. (Think different distilleries.) This one, triple-distilled, suggests Bushmills origin. Very clean and polished. Gently sweet, too, with powdered vanilla, honeyed malt, complex tropical fruit (tangerine, kiwi, coconut, pineapple), and creamy marshmallow. Clean, gently sweet finish. Not the most complex Irish I’ve ever tasted, but the flavors that are there are tight and well-balanced.
When compared to its younger siblings, this whisky is deeper in flavor. The citrus becomes more dominant (glazed orange, tangerine marmalade), with added notes of caramelized nuts and maple syrup. A good dash of dried spices kicks in and the whisky becomes firm and dry on the finish. My favorite of the standard range is still the 21 year old expression, which has been around for quite some time.
There’s plenty going on here, but it’s not as vibrant as the other GlenDronachs. Lots of sherry influence, viscous, and a bit sappy, with Curaçao, honey-drenched fruit, raspberry tart, black cherry, and ripe malt leading to a grape stem finish. An enjoyable whisky, but my least favorite of the bunch.
It shows nice maturity, considering it contains whiskey as young as two years old. Smooth, too, with layered sweetness (honeyed caramel, English toffee, maple syrup), tangerine, roasted nuts, and peppered with spice (warming cinnamon, glazed ginger). Good grip of tobacco and polished leather on the finish balances the sweetness that comes earlier. An example of the right way to do artisan distilling.
Similar to the Classic in its tropical fruit and honeyed vanilla, but with more depth, emerging nuts, and dried spice. Thicker too—with a slightly oily texture. A noticeable improvement from the Classic. This 12 year old is worth the few extra bucks. It’s the most rounded and balanced of the three new whiskies.
A new expression in the portfolio. Quite fruity, with prominent honey-tinged citrus peel, nutty toffee, nougat, and vanilla fudge, leading to a gripping, firm, dry oak resin finish. Deeper and bolder than the 12 year old expression.
From the Balmenach distillery. (The previous bottling of this whisky was from a sherry cask. This one is from a bourbon cask.) Mouth-coating in texture. Ripe barley and malty up front, ultimately transitioning to a clinging dryness towards the finish. Notes of vanilla cream, toasted coconut, marshmallow, cut grass, honeydew melon, and lemon/lime. A pleasant, textural whisky. (Bottling at 46% and not chill-filtered enhances this.) My question: why sherry cask or bourbon cask? I think a marriage of both types of cask would add more dimension and complexity.
A new “upgrade” from the standard Old Crow, which is only three years old. Soft aroma of sweet corn, candy corn, vanilla, and light caramel, all following through on the palate. It finishes sweet (too sweet, actually), a bit grainy, and slightly hot. If this brand is meant to compete with Evan Williams, then this four year old should be the standard “Old Crow” and the Reserve expression should be more like five or six years old, because the standard Evan Williams bottling (with no age statement) is clearly superior to Old Crow Reserve. Old Crow Reserve is too sweet and lacks the oak notes needed for balance and complexity. Acceptable enough as a mixing bourbon or perhaps on the rocks, but I wouldn’t drink this neat or with water.
I love Rogue beers, as well as Rogue’s attitude and philosophy. But this whiskey just tastes too immature—harsh, sweet, and one-dimensional. Maybe with some additional aging it might come around, mellow out, and develop, but it has a long way to go.