The Exclusive Malts 22 year old (distilled at Laphroaig) 1990 vintage (Cask #10866), 47.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $250
Clean and complex, showing a matured, somewhat restrained personality for Laphroaig: less medicinal, but more rounded. Tar, pencil shavings, anise, honeyed citrus, Spanish olive brine, and a hint of seaweed and white pepper on a bed of creamy vanilla, caramel, and light nougat. Lingering, satisfying finish. Frustrated by a dearth of 20-plus year old distillery-bottled Laphroaigs? Look no further. Delicious!
Lagavulin Feis Ile (2013 Release, Distilled 1995), 51%
Single Malt Scotch | $152
Though quiet to start, the impression is of a fog of smoke, balled up within a dunnage
warehouse, ready to erupt to add itself to the cool spearmint and oxidized
nuttiness. The palate is where it shows its class: mature, slowly unfolding and
layered, with Latakia tobacco, menthol, nori, white pepper, pear, and a massive,
tarry Bohea Souchong tea element on the finish. Everything from Lagavulin is
touched with gold at the moment. Try to find a bottle. (distillery only) £99
Four Roses Limited Edition Single Barrel (2013 Release), 60%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $90
Thirteen years old, but it shows its age nicely. It’s peppered with complex dried spice notes (mint, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla),
yet it also has interwoven sweet notes (maple syrup, caramel, honey) to keep the whiskey from being too dry. Hints of dark chocolate and berried fruit add complexity. Dry, spicy, tobacco, and leather-tinged finish. Great complexity!
The follow-up to last year’s Ardbeg Day, here’s the cult distillery in its funkiest
guise with a nose that’s reminiscent (I’d imagine) of a frontier trading post:
all pitch, furs, and gun oil. Some mint hangs around in the background
alongside eucalyptus. This is an earthy, in-your-face Ardbeg with a hint of
box-fresh sneakers indicating some youthfulness. The mouth is thick and chewy:
wild mint, oily depths, and the slightly manic energy typical of Ardbeg’s young
years. Editor's Choice.
Although aged in refill, then active hoggies, and finally sherry, there’s more smoke
than oak here, a smoke like the aroma of a fire clinging to a tweed jacket. A
note akin to wilting spinach gives way to more conventional strawberries and
cream, but always mixed with seashore breezes. This is Caol Ila in deep and
bold mood with green fig, banana, and a sweet center. Water gives greater
integration. You might (just) be able to get this. Do it. (distillery only) £99
Tucked away in the small Alberta town of High River, Highwood distillers has made large volumes of Canadian whisky and dozens of other distilled beverages since 1974. Undaunted by recent flooding and with more than three decades of aging whisky on hand, the owners recently decided to emphasize premium whiskies. Ninety, the latest of these, is simply gorgeous. Crispy clean oak, dark fruit, butterscotch,
corncobs, and nutmeg precede candy cane, sour fruits, cinnamon, ginger, and citrus pith. (Canada only) C$48
Created by Dennis Malcolm to celebrate his half century at Glen Grant, this uses casks
from each of his five decades. Pale it may be, but this is no dainty little
thing. There’s lots of buttery oak before classic Glen Grant lift and energy
emerge: green apple, fruit blossom, William pear, and yellow fruits; lemon
butter icing and nettles with water. The palate is vibrant and energetic, but
holds to the middle of the tongue. A suitably celebratory dram.
An elegant bourbon, and very drinkable too! Its flavors are clean and tight, with bright fruit (nectarine, tangerine,
pineapple), soft coconut, honeyed vanilla, cotton candy, and subtle gin botanicals. Polished leather and a hint of dark chocolate on the finish. Great anytime. (Exclusive to Capital City Package.)
Mackmyra continues to play a far more sophisticated game than it is given credit for, releasing pleasant and easy drinking mainstream malts, and then packing a punch with one-off oddball single casks. So this is an utter delight and among the very best Mackmyras released. Vanilla, banana, sweet jellybeans, and some toffee all playing Mr. Hyde. Dr. Jekyll pops up with earthy salt notes. Medical gauze and pepper for a savory finale.
A very welcome arrival from new owners Ian MacLeod, this has been aged in sherry
wood. As a result, you can’t help comparing it to Macallan and while there’s
none of the oily depths, there are fragrant top notes of honey and apple before
some resin and warm leather develop, but no sulfur. Some of the richness is
lost with water, so I’d leave it as is. This is a stunner for a 10 year old and
is marked accordingly. Value Pick £34
Even with a refill sherry cask, bright fruit is the main theme to this whisky: strawberry-rhubarb pie, red raspberry preserve, red currant. But there’s honeyed malt for balance, along with suggestions of
coconut macaroon, marzipan, brine, and glazed ginger to keep things interesting. Distinctive. (U.S. exclusive)
Pronounced “Pot Doo,” this is without doubt a rugged coastal and/or island whisky, but on a mild and temperate day. Salt, spice, and peat are all to the fore, but it’s a gentle giant of a whisky, with some citrus drizzle and a light honeycomb heart. The main wood influence seems to soften the delivery so that the punch it packs won’t floor you. Beautifully put together, though.
Aged 7 years, 1 month, and 7 days. Big and chewy, with nutty toffee, molasses, nougat, tobacco, pencil shavings, subtle
fruit, and dried spice (cinnamon, vanilla). Leather, barrel char, and a hint of licorice root on the finish. Big, bold, and very enjoyable.
Quite dark in color, turning cloudy with water. Don’t let that deter you. A thick, chewy bourbon, with layers of nutty toffee,
nougat, cocoa, and toasted marshmallow, peppered with cinnamon and vanilla. Oak and leather on the finish dry out the whiskey nicely. Not the most refined bourbon, but the flavors it delivers make up for it.
Solid, chunky bottle with idiosyncratic whiskey inside. Straightforward rye crisps out of the glass in no-nonsense style; dry grain, sweet grass, and light but insistent anise almost wholly drown out the
barrel character. The mouth is as dry and spicy-medicinal as the nose hints at, laying down character like a winning hand: rye SNAP! heat SNAP! light tarragon SNAP! oak SNAP! and a warm wrap-up finish SNAP! Full house, flavors over sensations. Clean and interesting. Nicely played.
As it progresses toward the ultimate goal of an 18 year old expression in 2015, Arran has released a 16 year old, matured in 30
percent sherry hogsheads and 70 percent bourbon casks. The edition is limited to 9,000 bottles. The nose features malt, milk chocolate, and honey, with a citric edge. The palate mirrors the nose with more malt, honey, and milk chocolate, plus ginger, nutmeg, and spicy oak. Spiced fruits in the lengthy finish.
Pronounced “Te Veg,” this has its roots in the Isle of Skye, and as there’s only one distillery there it’s highly likely that the odd
drop of Talisker has found its way into the mix. Whether it has or not, this is stirring stuff, non-chill filtered so that the flavors burst forth. As you might expect, it’s rugged with brine and chili, giving it a distinctive spice edge. But the delivery is a caramel fudge delight, with luxury chocolate praline in there too.
Jim Beam Distiller’s Masterpiece Sherry Cask Finished, 50%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $200
“Extra-aged” bourbon finished in Pedro Ximénezsherry casks. The third Distiller’s Masterpiece release, the previous two being over a decade ago. The PX sherry is certainly evident, with its lush, dark fruit (raisin, prune, ripe plum), marmalade, and
layered dark sugars (toffee, molasses, maple syrup). A peppering of spices (cinnamon, allspice, vanilla) and dry, resinous oak round out the palate. Certainly a mood whiskey. Perhaps with a cigar after dinner? (distillery only)
Nicely balanced, with interwoven soft vanilla, cinnamon, and citrus, all on a bed of light toffee and caramel. More subtle notes of marzipan, tropical fruit, and soft oak add complexity. Traditional in style, with a friendly demeanour. A good bourbon to have on hand, as it is very versatile. I would have preferred this bottled at 45-50%, but this will do just fine as it is. A new regular bottling.
Paul John is taking its entry into the world of single malt very seriously, and very slowly but surely. After two single cask offerings to find its range, Brilliance and Edited are its first general releases. Brilliance is unpeated and is a delight: rich, full, young but not immature, and with lime and citrus Starburst chews, sweet candy, and some icing sugar, it trips across the palate. Conclusive proof that Amrut isn’t the only Indian game in town.
It’s well possible that this will be the last of the Special range, and if so, then it is both a bit of a whisper of an ending, and a highly pleasant one. This is as easygoing and gentle as Mackmyra ever gets. Very much a sweet and savory delight, this is a soft dessert whisky with banana and cream in evidence. That’s before someone pours the salt pot over it. Even then the caramel and fruit battle back. Highly enjoyable.
Wemyss Malts Ginger Spice (distilled at Glenrothes) 1988, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $164
Glenrothes always has a spicy element, but this example ups the ante considerably and, true to the label, it’s fresh-cut ginger root alongside galangal and coriander, a hint of green grass, and even a little bite of jelly babies, alongside black currant leaf. Rothes’ normally languid air is here frothily exuberant, with just sufficient vanilla thickness to offer a brake. Uplifting and good. £107
Having released four previous “work in progress” expressions of Kilkerran, 2013 sees the launch of two editions, one matured in sherry casks and the other in bourbon barrels. The sherry-aged variant yields overripe green grapes and figs on the nose, followed by honey and plain chocolate, while the palate is quite full, softly fruity, with soft toffee and a hint of brine. The finish dries significantly, with cocoa powder, licorice, and lots of spice. £38
Wemyss Malts Heathery Smoke (distilled at Caol Ila) 30 year old, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $230
Sweet oak and cod liver oil are what greet you, with fleshy, lychee-like fruits
behind. The smoke here is very polite, giving way to fruit jelly cubes and
peaches, to develop alongside crisp apple. The palate is clean with nutty oak, with
the smoke continuing in the background, offering an extra layer of complexity.
Fresh, belying its age, while it has typical tongue-coating oiliness it remains
understated. Caol Ila basking in the summer sun. (U.S. only)
Douglas Laing Director’s Cut (distilled at Tomatin) 45 year old, 51.6%
Single Malt Scotch | $353
This veteran example of Tomatin was distilled in November 1967 and matured for 45 years in refill butt #9315. The outturn was
175 bottles. Uncompromising dark sherry and treacle notes on the fruity nose, along with gunpowder tea. Big, old sherry notes on the full palate, with raisins, sultanas, and a sprinkling of black pepper. Fruity, notably spicy, and not too drying for its age in a relatively supple finish. £230
Hankey Bannister includes some stunning aged whiskies in its range, but given the trend toward unaged scotch releases, I was a bit suspicious of this. It lacks depth but nevertheless is a butterfly in a breeze of a whisky; gossamer light, both tantalizing and elusive. It’s liquid honey, with sweet lime and pear, some cocoa, and to give it a modicum of depth, it’s underpinned
by a light saltiness.
This one’s calling to me; I can smell the rich nose from a foot away. Freshly-sieved cornmeal, sharp oak aromas, and spice cake in the nose. Good body, a bit warm (expected from the proof), and a mouthful of
cracked corn, piecrust, sun-warmed meadow-mint, and vanilla. Finish is firm and leaner than the mouth, drawn out nicely. Belle Meade is currently sourced from MGP; Green Brier hopes to have their distillery up this year.
Skilled whisky makers know many different ways to achieve a particular flavor profile. So when someone mentions rye, don’t ask the percentage, ask how it was made. Why? Because sometimes Alberta Springs is made entirely from rye grain, and sometimes it isn’t. And not even trained tasters can tell. Crisp yet silky with skillfully integrated rye spices riding waves of white pepper. Fruity, sweet vanilla, citrus zest, flaxseed, and dusty rye delivered in fresh-cut lumber. (Canada only) C$24
Until it arrived in U.S. stores earlier this year, Gibson’s 12 year old was highly prized by American cross-border whisky shoppers. They made it a duty free staple and no wonder. This is classic, old-style Canadian whisky. Seamlessly integrated spicy white pepper, refreshing bitterness, and succulent butterscotch, all burnished with clean oak, cinnamon, cloves, and simmering ginger. It has the creamy body of crème brûlée brightened by a sprinkling of blackstrap molasses. C$22
You don’t want to argue with this, sport, or it’ll deck you. Look at the strength, for a starter. But this is Australian whisky going off into a whole new direction, and not taking prisoners on the way. It’s
Lark whisky mixed with another Tasmanian one so you get the big clove and nutmeg, apple core, and fermenting fruit notes, but with honey and peat in the mix. Love it, loathe it, but you can’t ignore it. A$190
Sweet, warm, grassy, like a sunny day on the prairie. The alcohol heat quickly yields to a grass/mint sweetness—this is high-rye stuff—that picks up some oily rye notes as it slides into a finish that is both bitter and sweet without being bittersweet; the components remain discrete, not blending. Quite nice, and reasonably priced. Sourced whiskey (with the 95% rye mashbill that’s an LDI/MGP signature).
The first Kilkerran “work in progress” bottling from Glengyle distillery appeared in 2009, and the ultimate aim is to bottle a 12 year old expression. For now, we have separate sherry butt-matured and bourbon barrel-matured expressions for 2013. The bourbon-aged variant offers vanilla, cinnamon, milk chocolate, ripe apples, and ultimately, slightly smoky mango notes on the nose. Spicy on the palate, with blood orange and a hint of peat smoke. The medium-length finish is drying, with a wisp of smoke. £38
Tempest to the world, Dorus Mor in the U.S., this has an intensely salty start that’s
like being slapped by a wave on Bowmore’s harbor wall. That marine note
continues: samphire, clams with a squeeze of lemon. Water brings out wet clay.
The palate is equally briny, but with a sprig of lavender, then soft fruits
wreathed in peat smoke. It’s tense and coiled, with real energy when neat, but
it’s best like that, so deal with the heat.
Wemyss Malts Chocolate Honeycomb (distilled at Bunnahabhain) 2001, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $81
Rich and malty and, though it’ll look like I’m just reading the label, there is
chocolate here: chocolate brownie mix to be precise, with a raspberry sitting
on top. Bold and rich, with a nutty underpinning. Water makes it very fresh and
a little more hay-like. The palate is sweet and liquorous, with nougat,
macadamia, and a chewy mid-palate where that chocolate dribbles and melts.
Neat, it is slightly bitter; less so with water. Very sound. £53
As it progresses toward the ultimate goal of an 18 year old expression in 2015, Arran has released a 16 year old, matured in 30
percent sherry hogsheads and 70 percent bourbon casks. The edition is limited to 9,000 bottles. The nose features malt, milk chocolate, and honey, with a citric edge. The palate mirrors the nose with more malt, honey, and milk chocolate, plus ginger, nutmeg, and spicy oak. Spiced fruits in the lengthy finish. £45
Adelphi Fascadale 12 year old Batch 5 (distilled at Highland Park), 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $69
The fifth batch of Adelphi’s Fascadale single malt comprises a marriage of two Spanish oak casks and three American oak casks of Highland Park. The outturn is 1,483 bottles. Icing sugar, vanilla, milk chocolate, apricots, plus mildly smoky malt on the nose. Full-bodied and fruity on the palate, with toffee, black pepper, and a hint of peat in the background. The medium-length finish is slowly drying. £45
Apart from the 40 year old expression launched in 2012, this is the oldest Old Pulteney on the market, and annual batches are
released with slightly varying strengths. Refill bourbon casks have been used in their maturation. Sweet and zesty on the deceptively youthful nose, with banoffee pie, eating apples, and quite sweet oak on the palate. Cereal notes and pleasing oak in the lengthy finish. £250
Hunter Laing Old Malt Cask 20 year old (distilled at Bladnoch), 50%
Single Malt Scotch | $115
One of the first releases from the recently formed Hunter Laing & Co, established in Glasgow by Stewart Laing, is this 20 year
old expression of Bladnoch. It was distilled in November 1992 and matured in a refill sherry cask. Lemon cake, honey, and ginger nuts on the pleasing nose; fruity and spicy on the palate, with a savory flourish, and a honey and malt backdrop. Spicy caramel and mocha coffee in the finish. £75
What a difference a cask can make. This first-fill bourbon barrel has more robust flavors but noticeably less color than its antecedent, Cask 1. Linseed oil, raw canvas, and freshly dug blue clay form a rich, earthy base for flourishes of clean spirit, dry straw, and Chinese plum sauce. Hot pepper and pulling dry wood yield to
cherry blossoms, maraschino, and sautéed mushrooms. A splash of water unveils milk chocolate, rye crisps, and creamy custard. C$100
Edited is the medium peated version of Paul John, and will be followed later in the year with a big peated one. This will do for now, though. The whisky is once more intense and fruity but this time it plays off against a more herbal green apple note, smoke from the hearth, and a touch of spice. There’s also cinnamon—which is fast becoming a house style. Encouraging stuff.
That Boutique-y Whisky Company is an independent bottler noted for quirky and very contemporary label design. The whiskies carry no age statements. Springbank Batch 2 has an outturn of 450 numbered bottles. Initially, overripe pineapples and dry hay on the oily nose, cut by a sprinkling of salt. Brittle toffee, and finally, hand-rolling tobacco. The palate is very fruity; more pineapple, plus peach, developing peat, plenty of spice, and more tobacco. The finish is relatively long and slightly herbal. £58
Exclusive to the Travel Retail arena, Jura Turas-Mara takes its name from the Gaelic for “long journey.” It has been matured in an array of casks sourced from America, Spain, France, and Portugal. Initially, green apples on the nose, then sweet fruit notes—jelly babies—plus coconut and fudge. A little linseed in the background. Vanilla, peaches, mango, and lively spices on the palate. The finish dries, with aniseed balls, becoming slightly powdery. €50
Douglas Laing Provenance (distilled at Glen Garioch) 17 year old, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $92
Distilled in September 1995 and matured for 17 years in a refill hogshead, this bottling of the Aberdeenshire malt Glen Garioch
offers a nose of fresh peaches and vanilla, followed by a sprinkling of chili powder, and even a suggestion of boiled ham. Voluptuous in the mouth, with summer fruits, toffee apples, and a significant amount of ginger. The finish
dries quite rapidly, with fruity spices. £60
Wemyss Malts Candied Fruit (distilled at Auchentoshan) 1998, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $95
One of the batches of spring 2013 single cask releases from the prolific Wemyss Malts, Candied Fruit is a 15 year old Auchentoshan, and 294 bottles are available. An aroma of sweet shops, vanilla, and white pepper on the nose, becoming maltier, with dates, sultanas, figs. Apples and pears on the light-ish palate, with coconut and ginger. The finish is fruity—spicy
satsumas—and finally, drying. £62
This is a sharp dresser, with a firm, solid mouthfeel and an altogether finer and more focused taste than Shieldaig Classic (see
below). It’s not coastal or earthy particularly, either. Instead the flavors are softer and built around mocha, smooth creamy toffee, and some soft fruit, including a touch of overripe banana and melon notes. The savoriness this time comes from a touch of pepper rather than salt.
This is like listening to a quiet and understated musician and slowly starting to realize that there are all sorts of clever
nuances just beneath the surface. This evolves from a floral and welcoming nose, through a saline note and on to pepper and a Highland earthiness, but wrapped up in a rich, honeyed body. A nice balance between the ruggedness and sweet softness. All rather pleasant.
Jim Beam Signature Craft Rare Spanish Brandy Finish, 43%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $40
Quite the antithesis of the Signature Craft 12 year old, released at the same time. This one is finished in Spanish brandy barrels, so I expect it to be a polarizing whiskey. The brandy influence shows, with sweet fruit (sultana, honeyed tangerine, pineapple, ripe apricot) and spice (vanilla, cinnamon, ginger) interwoven with caramel. No age statement. Youthful, but not immature. A limited edition release.
Big Bottom Bourbon (finished in Zinfandel casks), 45.5%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $35
Sourced whiskey, selected then finished by Big Bottom in Zin casks at their Oregon warehouse. Ruby glint to the whiskey, and a big, sweet, hot nose with a wine-side fruity slant to it. Wine’s more apparent
on the palate; there’s a bit of oak bite and red wine tang heating up the bourbon, which is broad, without obvious corn. The corn appears in the finish, which is firm and gripping. The Zinfandel finish is well-played here.
More pale than other crafts I usually see; the whiskey is 12 to 21 months old and spends time serially in wine casks, medium toast American oak barrels, and finally “very experienced” French oak. Smell is
quite young, but clean, with notes of orange and rye grain, and a whiff of nutty toffee. Quite a lively mouth, with much more toffee, less orange, a hint of odd spice (cardamom?), and a twist of milk chocolate at the finish. Interesting stuff.
It might be Italian single malt, but it isn’t whisky. It’s getting there, though, and this is very sippable in its own right. This is from the far North of Italy, where the influence is heavily Austrian. It’s very well made indeed, is bursting with vibrant fruit, and is good enough now to be enjoyed as an aperitif. It will appeal to Italian palates, which are fond of very young spirits. €35
Last time we reviewed Telsington it came with a warning. Everything from triple distillation, unusual ways of drying the barley, and through to Pinot Noir wine casks for maturation is designed to take you from your comfort zone. Not for everyone, we wrote. But this is a big step on. There’s an almost bourbon or rye quality to this. There’s burnt toffee and stewed red berries. Deliberately nothing like scotch, but we’re starting to see
what Marcus Telser is aiming for. €71
Cardhu—for me, at least—means intensity, and this delivers precisely that, with masses of
citrus (bergamot and grapefruit) and just a hint of dark chocolate behind. With
water, there’s red apple and Victoria plum, while the mouth is precise, with
any richness cut with fresh acidity. Zesty and fresh on the finish. Try it in a
Bobby Burns. Released without any fanfare, here’s evidence that Cardhu’s
rebuilding its reputation nicely. £66
Tomatin Legacy has been matured in a combination of bourbon and virgin oak casks, and after an initial release in Europe, worldwide availability will follow. Honey and malt on the nose, melons; fragrant and mildly herbal. White pepper and ultimately a whiff of treacle. Fresh and lively on the sweet, fruity palate, with tinned pineapple, cake mix, and more pepper. Quite dry in the medium length finish, with a suggestion of chili. £26
A very different whisky to its unaged namesake, and most unlike any of the other blends tasted for this issue. That’s no bad thing.
This is less sweet than most blends, with tobacco leaf and ashtray to the fore, and a dusty, grainy note with a touch of oak, grape skin, and sweet heather. That said, not a lot of evidence of the 12 years in cask.
A straightforward bourbon with no flaws. Nicely balanced flavors of fruit (mandarin, apricot, pineapple), gentle sweetness (honey, vanilla, caramel), and soft spice (cinnamon, mint). Gentle finish. Nice enough to drink straight in a pinch, but it comes across as more of a mixing bourbon to me.
Sourced whiskey, moved to used bourbon barrels, then finished in barrels that held their Pine Barrens whiskey (also reviewed this issue). Pine sap, sweet juicy berries, and oak aromas; had to re-nose to be sure on that pine. Mouth is relatively smooth, much more so than the Rough Rider bourbon. Picking up some of that Pine Barren fudge, and a touch of rye grassiness. Finish is warm and spicy. A nice young rye.
Just four years ago, two Barrys—Stein and Bernstein—opened the doors of Still Waters distillery on
the northern edge of Toronto. Distinct notes of poached pears, marzipan, flaky halva, and cinnamon apple pie embellish sweet ripe cherries, nutmeg, and a vague earthiness. Oatmeal, dry grain, and hot pepper combine on a sweet, polished palate. C$100
Ellington has the creamy, sweet, and ultra-smooth mouthfeel down pat. Canada likes its mixing whisky to bite a little, but America prefers a silky smooth glide right down the gullet. Ellington Reserve certainly delivers with its rich, almost oily aura that springs to life with spicy-hot white pepper and newly-split clean firewood. Caramel and brown sugar underscore distinct notes of perfumed, candy-coated licorice amidst fragrant orange blossoms and flat lemon-lime soda. C$17
Distilled from a 10%, 70 IBU barleywine from Blue Point Brewing on Long Island. I’m smelling light pine hop notes, dried spruce plank, and heavy fudge; a muddled, heavy nose. Much better in the mouth: the fudge is restrained, the spruce and hops bring a lightness and verve to things. Not the “single malt” you might be expecting, but very much American craft distilling; like nothing else, intriguing, bold, a bit young, and with a lot of promise. Price is per 375 ml.
A typical Rothes nose, with vanilla, granola, apple, Brazil nut, lemon, and
low-level sweet spices mixing with lightly oxidized fruits. That said, it needs
water, especially for the palate, where the malty crispness of the undiluted
taste is replaced by something more considered, darkly fruity and gently spicy;
coriander is uppermost. All in all, this is Rothes in very approachable rather
than dynamic guise. One for a lazy afternoon.
This is one of the more intriguing of the Double Barrel series, because while the others either complement each other or don’t,
this has a depth to it that you need to look for. At first it’s all Laphroaig, and the peat and sea burst out of the glass. But just as you’re asking yourself what the point is, the fruity notes of the Mortlach cushion the whole landing and let you down gently. Impressive. £48
Cedar Ridge Single Malt Whiskey (Barrel No. 2), 40%
Single Malt American Whiskey | $49
Barrel 2 was aged in 15-gallon bourbon refills, then finished in a Cedar Ridge rum barrel; interesting to see an American distiller walk away from “straight whiskey” with used (small!) cooperage. Aromas of sawdust, toffee, melon and just-ripe apricot, dry cocoa, and warm cereal fight a bit with alcohol heat. Rum and fruit float over malt and vanilla in the mouth, and the wood rounds and dries. Oak and faint allspice in the finish. Needs some more taming; great start.
They call it cowboy whisky: Smallish bottlers, mostly in the western U.S., buy custom-blended bulk whisky from Canada to release under their own label. This one has enough cachet to find its way back north and into the Canadian market. Sweet and smooth with rich buttery caramels, searing pepper, sizzling ginger, and slatey, dusty rye. Rich dark fruits on the palate turn to zesty citrus notes, then cleansing pith as one sip slowly dissolves into the next. C$25
Singleton of Dufftown Reserve Collection Unité, 40%
Single Malt Scotch | $58
Very Singleton of Dufftown: while that means easy drinking and approachable, it also
can suggest a single malt without a spark of wayward genius. This is,
typically, very ordered: nuts and honey with malt and pecan pie underneath. As
it opens there’s dried lemon, oak, dried fig, and (dilute) pencil shavings. The
palate is—typically—sweet and thick, though here with a refreshing sharpness,
like a mix of wine gums and cider. I’d add a rock or two of ice. (Travel Retail exclusive) £38/1 liter
In blended whisky terms, this isn’t for the faint-hearted, and joins a number of recent releases prepared to show off its
darker, grittier side. It’s a big flavored blend, with its heart in the islands, and with oily coastal notes reminiscent of a delicatessen: brine, salty cheese, some crab apple relish, and smoked fish. It’s a rugged bruiser, but it makes its mark with some style.
Standard blends fall into two categories: those that will behave nicely when mixed to offer almost non-whisky experience, and those that are feistier and want to make sure you know they’re there. This is the former, and with whiskies like this one, it’s possible to blink and miss it. That doesn’t make it bad; just indistinctive and unexceptional. There is little sign of the wood here, but the delicate, sweet apricot notes just do enough.
No age statement, “charcoal filtered.” Hard candy/sweet-spicy nose with some wood edginess, stewed corn, and mineral notes; not particularly well-integrated. The thin body flashes vanilla and light caramel across the tongue as some hot oak fires things up. On the lean side, and like most such bourbons, the finish lingers, and flares at each swallow: oak, cinnamon, and that same mineral note. Not bad, but it needs more. Sourced whiskey.
Simple nose of sweet cornbread and oaky caramel; nothing fancy, but nothing wrong. The nose is no liar; same tastes in the
mouth, just a bit hotter on the oak. Good finish with a nice oaky linger. The letdown is the thin body, which adds to the heat and steals from the experience. Seems more like a good shot bourbon or an “…and ginger ale” bourbon, not a sipping bourbon. Sourced whiskey.
Singleton of Dufftown Reserve Collection Trinité, 40%
Single Malt Scotch | $78
Full-bodied and sweet on the nose, mixing burlap, bran, fruit cake, hazelnut purée, malt
extract; with water it becomes fresher and almond-like with a touch of
greengage plum. The palate has a soft feel, with the thickness displayed in the
nose alongside plums and crystallized ginger. It’s just a little flabby. I’d
like a bit more freshness or grip. The finish is nutty and rich. (Travel Retail exclusive) £51/1 liter
This is the oldest expression of Inchmurrin to be released by Loch Lomond, who make it in their highly versatile distillery at
Alexandria. Brittle toffee and cod liver oil on the nose, with vanilla and a whiff of Jaffa oranges. Smooth and full on the palate, more substantial and sophisticated than the younger Inchmurrin variants. The fruits are now more citric. Lengthy and unctuous in the finish, with more citrus fruit, gentle spice, and a touch of oak. £90
From the perfumed nose to the sweet and short finish, this blend doesn’t really put a foot wrong, but it’s shy and unadventurous.
Clearly well made, well balanced, and quite acceptable, it has a perfumed black currant sherbet nose, some slight but enjoyable blueberry, grape, and prune notes and a soft sweet conclusion. On its own, all fine: but it gets lost when in company.
Oak, and some candy-like sweetness, and alcohol heat…and not much else. A shy nose for a bourbon. Very hot in the mouth,
somewhat two-dimensional corn and oak, just put together without anything else around them. A pretty simple whiskey, with a slightly cloying finish. Nothing really flawed, just nothing really standing out, either. Sourced whiskey.
Quite pale, looks more like scotch. Nose is hot, sweet, a bit minty. Hot in the mouth, thin, sweet, with flashy mint and corn. Finish is fiery, and a tad bitter with wood, especially bitey high in the mouth. Young, rough, and without the raunchy fullness that can justify youthful braggadocio. There are better bourbons for only a dollar or two more. Sourced whiskey.
Hot oak and bubble gum in the nose, with a slight solvent hit of fingernail polish. Light corn in the mouth, oaky bitterness, a flash of the polish, and pretty hot for 40%. A very thin mouthfeel, not that
appealing. The nicest thing about it, though, is the finish, which is surprisingly smooth, sweet, and almost rich. You’d want to dump some cola and ice in here. Sourced whiskey.
A single malt it may be, because it’s the product of one distillery, but a single grain it’s not. In fact, there are three malted grains in this, and that makes for a punchy, vibrant, fruity, and menthol-tinged new make spirit, but with a sweet cereal note and some distinctive spiciness from the rye. Different and interesting up to a point; very well made, but still new make spirit at the end of the day. €30
Inchmurrin has enjoyed a higher profile since early 2013, when the range was extended to include 15, 18, and 21 year old
expressions. The lineup also boasts striking new packaging and is bottled non-chill filtered. Orange fondant cream and peaches on the nose, with caramel in the background. Fuller-bodied than the 15 year old expression, with pineapple cheesecake and ginger on the palate. The finish is quite long, and spicier and more peppery than that of the 15 year old bottling (also reviewed this issue). £70
Fiery young stuff! The nose is spicy/slicey, with a sharp sweetness, fresh oak, and a hint of solvent. A lot of oak in the mouth, almost drying, and just a bit astringent on the tongue. The finish turns softer, sweeter, but stays oaky. The wood’s a bit overwhelming on this one. It’s sourced whiskey that’s then finished in Long Island wine barrels. Some finishes work better than others.
It’s not whisky in Canada, nor does it pretend to be. Canada’s three-year aging law keeps un-aged whisky off the market. So, with no moonshine or firewater tradition, Canada’s craft distillers must make their white spirits as palatable as the matured whiskies they could eventually become. The result is simple, gingery, and sweet, with latent peppermint, licorice, and beer. The palate dissolves in a longish finish where sizzling pepper grows refreshingly bitter before fading to… nothingness. (Ontario only) C$37
Inchmurrin is one of many single malts produced by Loch Lomond. It is made using lightly peated malt and matured in bourbon casks, and is named after one of the islands in Loch Lomond. Caramac chocolate and peanut butter on the sweet, fruity nose. The fruit motif continues on to the palate, where spicy malt, vanilla, and ripe peaches predominate. The finish is medium in length and nutty. £50
Small barrel whiskey, 100% corn. Rich, sweet, oaky nose with—at first—notes of peppermint and Rice Krispies treats; nose collapses and becomes sharp, woody, burnt. Fiery mouth, smoky notes, dry wood, and hot mint are overwhelming and somewhat astringent. Finish lingers much longer than would be pleasant; hot and tingly, with a redeeming core of corn. Tastes like it was pushed, hard, to be done.
Rum—“screech,” as it is called where it is made—is Newfoundland’s spirit of choice. With three shots of screech and a ceremony involving fish, visitors are transformed into honorary Newfies. This 3 year old Amherst whisky, custom blended for the Newfoundland Liquor Commission, is ancient by comparison. It’s a basic mixer that arrives peppery hot with strong overtones of half-tamed spirit. Dusty wood, lime peels, and burnt toffee foretell a leisurely slide into refreshing bitterness. Definitely not screech. (Newfoundland only) C$25
Odd aroma, more like a weedy, aromatic bark than honey; wonder what the bees were gathering from? Very sweet, on the rich and cloying side, but without the real honey character that makes Jack Daniel’s Honey the best of this bunch, and I can’t get over the aroma. The only saving grace is that even at 35%, the bourbon still manages to peek through; it’s not enough.
Minnesota is a favored destination for Canadian vacationers from the prairies, and a hotbed for Canadian whisky. The Ellington Whisky Company calls Princeton (Minneapolis) home. Here, it bottles whiskies imported from Canada. Where from, exactly? A trade secret. Caramel, prune juice, ripe yellow fruits, and hints of cooked, buttery corn mute a dry, spirity nose. Peppery and spicy, it blends caramel, bitter lemon soda, sweet ginger, and orange Fanta. Canadian whisky unlike any found in Canada. But do add cola. C$11