The Exclusive Malts 13 year old 2002 (cask #20021), 54.2%
Irish | $135
This 13 year old malt from central Ireland is an uncommon foray into the Irish whiskey space for the Exclusive Malts Collection. Pure malt is the focus of the nose which supports that malt with tart green apple. On the palate this whiskey is a stunning mix of lush, sweet honey, salt, malt, green apple, and ginger spice. The balance and integration are nothing short of perfect. A long malty finish caps off one of the best Irish whiskeys I’ve had. (U.S. only)
Evan Williams Single Barrel 2005 Vintage (Barrel #292), 43.3%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $29
Complex fruit (clementine, pineapple, golden raisin) balanced nicely with honey, vanilla custard, and dusty corn, along with a sprinkling of cinnamon and nutmeg. An extremely versatile whiskey with its medium weight, easy to embrace personality, and subtle charms. Perennially one of the best values in whiskey. Editor's Choice and Value Pick.
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society Pigs in Plaster 14 year old (#4.1980), 59.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $140
This single cask, distilled at Highland Park, is an excellent example of why distilleries sell off certain casks. On the nose it’s Highland Park's signature sherry and peat, but on the palate it's a beast. Monster peat smoke surfs on a lush layer of berry and malt. This builds to a peak with smoke, salt, and oak spice, bolstered by the high proof. A smoky, dry finish rounds off a monster whisky, different from Highland Park's style, but very interesting. (Julio’s Liquors only)
How time flies! This eloquent blended grain marks CBWC’s 15th anniversary and the combination of these aged grains is idiosyncratic of whisky auteur John Glaser’s distinctive taste. Rich honey, apricot stone, crisp spices, vanilla custard, gentle oak char, and tropical fruits promise a real reward. Succulently juicy, with melon, apple, and caramel, subtly paced, with chocolate and dark fruit infiltrating. Slowly the sweetness depletes to black pepper and spiced roast meats. Defer swallowing for as long as possible. (5,689 bottles)
Nicely round flavor profile, with complex notes of creamy vanilla, subtle tropical fruit, mocha, fennel seed, and light tobacco. Lingering cinnamon spice and cocoa on the finish. An extremely drinkable whiskey that entertains throughout. Price is per 375 ml.
7 year old whiskey (an unspecified “corn, rye, and malted barley” mashbill “distilled in Indiana”) aged in used barrels. Maple syrup, well-browned popovers, and Canada mint lozenges in a boozy-hot nose. Richly sweet on the palate: pastry dough, hints of anise, buttery and slightly-burnt cornbread, syrupy dark fruits: complex, rich, delicious. Water brings out more of the dough and tames the heat. Delicious, unique, intriguing. Sourced whiskey.
Bernheim Original Single Barrel 7 year old Straight Wheat, 45%
Wheat Whiskey | $35
This select bottling of Bernheim Original comes from Warehouse Y on the 4th floor, and is non-chill filtered. Without the filtering, the nose is notably more expressive and becomes a real showcase for wheat grain, oak spice, caramel, and citrus. On the palate, this whiskey maintains a firm balance between soft and strong, with supple wheat grain entwined with caramel, oak, and cinnamon spice. A long, flavorful finish caps off a well-curated selection of an excellent whiskey. (Julio’s Liquors only)
When Thomas Chen introduced Canadian Rockies in Taiwan, he chose Highwood Distillers in High River, Alberta, to supply a delicate yet fragrant, fruit-laden whisky that would please the Taiwanese palate. Now launching in Canada, Chen upped the bottling strength to 46% to boost the flavor. The complex, exotic fruit salad and faint lilac-like flowers that characterized the original remain, along with blistering white pepper, sweet oak caramels, and crisp, clean barrel notes on a luxurious, creamy palate. (Canada only) C$69
Sweet, with subtle, crisp, nutty oak, then comes fudge, ripe banana, and peach. The overall effect is like eating vanilla ice cream with toffee fudge and hazelnut sprinkles. The structure is thick and physical, the palate sweet and quite fat, with light hints of raspberry, fruit salad. A jag of acidity freshens the delivery on the finish. With water there’s more toffee, and it becomes slightly more yielding, with less oak. For me the gold standard of grain.
Finally, an unimpeachable counterpoint to the rally cry against no age statement whisky. Oban Little Bay is everything that Oban 14 is, and more. A rich, fruity, malty nose showcases dried apricot, dark chocolate, and salt. On the palate, Little Bay explodes with flavor, combining malt with orange, chocolate, and blackberry. Clove and oak spice join the party in the mid-palate, which shows superb balance and integration. A long, slightly dry, citrusy spice finish caps off a stunning whisky.
The Sovereign (distilled at Cambus) 50 year old 1964, 49.2%
Single Grain Scotch | $657
You really don’t see many of these. Pear drops, stewed apple, strawberry jam, fragrant rhubarb stems, and vanilla pods. Neat, there’s a tacky sweetness of hard candy, with bitter skins of damson and green plum, sloes, and custard creams. Counteract this with water to bring out acetone, cake mix, and sweet bourbon notes of vanilla and creamed coconut. Then it is triumphant. Dry oak and dark vanilla complete one of the longest finishes I’ve savored this year. (111 bottles) £420
This whiskey includes bourbon distilled at Buffalo Trace and Bernheim; its final aging was at Stitzel-Weller. Sweet and rich, with a mouth-coating velvety texture. Deeper and more polished than its younger NAS sibling (see below). Caramel, cocoa powder, lush orchard fruit, kiwi, Seville orange, fig, and honeyed vanilla, balanced by drying oak. Distinctive in character. Best after a hearty meal.
A single barrel bottling from Warehouse N, rick number 1, bottled at the proof that Wild Turkey was designed to be. A deeply-woody spiced nose featuring cinnamon and caramel advertises a power punch whiskey, but on the palate there's no punch. Instead, it’s lush, round, and affable, with deep caramel and cinnamon co-mingling with peanut. The lush, sweet start is well-balanced by cinnamon spice, which ramps up and drives a long spicy finish. This is delicious whiskey. (Julio’s Liquors only)
A very pricy (for Wild Turkey) 17 year old whiskey honoring master distiller Jimmy Russell. Nose is hot for the proof, with oak, dried barrel drool, warm dried corn, tobacco barn, and teaberry. Entry is not hot; rather, a thread of sweet syrup spreads out into thoroughly integrated corn and oak. Finish slides into drier oak. A fascinating journey through bourbon flavors, this is both lighter and more complex than expected. I still prefer younger Wild Turkey, but…
A blend of 95% rye-grain flavoring whisky with a variety of base whiskies. Its big whisky cocktails will tempt mixers into sipping. Very fruity and floral, with prunes, peaches, red apple skins, and bouquets of spring flowers all boosted by vibrant peppery spices on a slightly oaky base. Crown Royal’s signature balsam resin note and hints of vanilla round it out. The long, spicy finish ends with hints of citrus pith. A complex, tightly woven blend. (U.S. only)
Hart Brothers (distilled at Glen Grant) 22 year old, 51.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $103
A welcome return for Hart Brothers. This Glen Grant is light, clean, and penetrating, with lots of gooseberry, melon, basil, and cut grass. This turns into an intriguing note of concentrated fruits; think yellow wine gums and fresh William pear. The palate has classic Glen Grant purity, with a hint of tropical fruits. Water adds another graceful layer on top, making the effect more like a rose garden…one which you keep returning to. Excellent. £66
A fantastically earthy whisky bristling with real, grubby peat: more blazing, bothy peat fire than coastal campfire. Fleeting elements of fudge and smoldering, mellow cigar stubs. A smooth, creamy blend with lemon curd, vanilla sponge, mint, smoked prosciutto, and a dollop of malt. There’s wonderfully smoky, singeing heat at the back of the palate, though it feels like the Islay peat has been pegged back for the 2015 batch. A succulent and smoky finish to warm the soul.
William Grant Rare Cask Reserves Blended Reserve 26 year old, 42%
Blended Malt Scotch Whisky | $399
William Grant & Sons will be releasing a series of Ghosted Reserves in the years ahead, drawing on their remaining stock from closed distilleries. Here, Brian Kinsman has used whisky from Ladyburn and Inverleven to create a nose of zesty key lime pie, peach, butter mintoes, and sweet oak. It is truly moreish, with creamy, malty flavors of sweet mandarin, marzipan, and strawberry with a chalky mouthfeel of candy sticks that lingers through the finish. Exceptionally good whisky. (6,000 bottles)
The Sovereign (distilled at Dumbarton) 50 year old 1964, 43.8%
Single Grain Scotch | $453
Incredible! This dark golden dram was distilled in the same year that the Beatles first played in America. An aromatic nose of fruit spangles, gentle acetone, clove, eucalyptus, vanilla pods, and tamarind. Soft, gentle apple flavors with a silky texture; sweet orange, vanilla, ginger, spice, and raspberry. The oak is mouth-puckering unless you add water (and you can). A finish of Starburst chews, although a soft presence, slowly drying from the oak. Simply gorgeous, experiential whisky. (93 bottles) £290
A malted rye whiskey, aged in new, bourbon, and Germain-Robin cognac barrels. Cereal grains are the star of this nose, which supports the rye grain with oak and cinnamon spice. The palate follows the grain-focused nose and is a carefully crafted love note to rye grain, featuring multi-grain cereal, cinnamon, ginger, sawdust, and a touch of oak. The finish is all dark chocolate, rye grain, and cinnamon spice; a delicious, close to expertly-crafted whiskey.
Rock Town 5th Anniversary Arkansas Straight Bourbon, 50%
Craft Whiskey | $50
Aged for 4 years and bottled in bond, this bourbon has a mash of Arkansas grown grains, including 73% corn, 9% wheat, and 18% barley. Dark amber in color, a robust nose spotlights cinnamon, oak, and black pepper. The palate is an enjoyable journey from sweet caramel corn to spicy cinnamon and oak. Cinnamon is the star in the mid-palate, where it’s well supported by the underlying alcohol. A long and slightly dry finish caps off a craft whiskey done right.
Douglas Laing Old Particular (distilled at Miltonduff) 22 year old, 51.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $127
Immediate rancio notes, with some hazelnut and cheese rind. Added oxidative notes of nuts moves things into Brandy de Jerez territory. Sumptuous stuff, with Miltonduff’s floral character adding a delicate top note, something which is enhanced with water. The tannins are light, allowing a silky feel to predominate, with just enough of a bitter edge to add interest. Very good indeed.£81
Weighty and deep. Instantly seductive: vanilla pod, rich fruits, the smell of fur coats. A femme fatale of a malt. A base of crisp malt mixes with oak to give balance and structure. Water brings out apple leaf, even a little grassiness. The palate is broad and balanced, with real sweetness and a tongue-coating quality which softens to dried fruit, earthy density, with a whiff of smoke. Redolent with the aroma of a dunnage warehouse. A class act.
A number of ‘Marrying Strength’ variants of 10 year old Springbank have been released, retailing exclusively through the Cadenhead Whisky Shop in Campbeltown. The 2014 expression is bottled at 49.9%. Brine, new leather, and pipe tobacco on the nose, with developing caramel. Maritime characteristics are accentuated with time. Voluptuous on the palate, balanced, with sweet leather, peaty spices, and apricots. Long and slowly drying in the finish, with black pepper and rock salt. Quintessential Springbank, and the best 10 year old sampled to date. £42
Released in February 2015, this cask strength expression of 17 year old Springbank has been entirely matured in sherry casks. 9,120 bottles are available globally. The nose offers sea spray, blood orange, ginger, and discreet sherry. Finally, some peat. The sherry really makes its presence felt on the palate, which is full and slightly oily, with rich fruitcake flavors, soft toffee, coffee, and ripe cherries. The finish is lengthy, slightly peaty, with more sherry, treacle toffee, and trademark Springbank ozone.
Compass Box The Peat Monster Cask Strength Magnum, 57.3%
Blended Scotch Whisky | $188
Dry peats tossed on a driftwood fire with coastal aromas of sun-scorched seaweed beside high tide rock pools comprise this refined dram. A momentary glimpse of lighter lemon, lime, and pineapple is quickly snuffed out by the full strength assault. It’s like pulling the pin on a grenade. There’s a dense barrage of peat moss, worn leather, and cocoa at the death. Ride through it to glory. Possibly the highest ABV that Compass Box has ever given us. £120
The Exclusive Malts (distilled at Invergordon) 30 year old 1984 (cask #8005), 52.3%
Single Grain Scotch | $220
A rare old single grain whisky from Scotland’s most northern grain distillery. The nose brings together varnished oak, clove, dried orange peel, and molasses. On the palate, an unexpectedly lush mouthfeel supports a flavorful combination of citrus, molasses, and varnished oak. This single grain has depth and character that’s completely uncommon to the category, tasting a lot more like an aged rum. A long, acidic, slightly sour, dry, and spicy finish rounds out a unique and intriguing whisky. (U.S. only)
Triple-distilled bourbon from Virginia. Actively aromatic, blowing right out of the glass: tart berries, hot corn, oak, and stick cinnamon. Hot, but surprisingly soft and light for 50% (triple distillation?), with sweet corn and more of the berries, wrapped in oak and a touch of char. Everything persists to the finish, including the heat, leading to a twist of oak at the end. Manages to be big but light at the same time.
Heaven Hill’s 80-proof standard Pikesville is a summer favorite, so I was eager to try this. A woody depth to it at 6 years old: 110 proof-hot, stewed plum and horehound candy, and sizzling rye spice behind it. It's a jawbreaker: full and hot in the mouth, with sweet grassy spice, bitter rye grain as it progresses, and crackling sugar near the end, just before it all smooths into a savory layered finish. Exciting ride, great ending.
Sweet, spicy nose, with sharp mint jellies and brittle sugar laid over the oak presence. Shifts in the mouth to no-nonsense rye: bitter, savory, dried grass, with the sweetness as a spark glinting through it all, while a mineral character plays as backbone. The finish is prickly and warming, with fleeting richness. A very lean rye overall, a bit challenging, a bit old school.
Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, Glenora distillery has certainly hit its stride. This clean, grassy 21 year old tastes like nothing so much as a top Speyside scotch. Fresh hay notes and a slightly effervescent spiciness give the feel, but not the taste, of hot black licorice. Barrel notes begin to show in the middle, resolving into a long, peppery, pithy finish. Barrel selected by Mike Brisebois for Casker’s whisky club. Good stuff, Glenora! (Distillery only)
The first impression is of dried apricot compote, pomegranate, sweet persimmon, a little touch of anise, then herbs and strawberry. Quite creamy, with fine structure and, with water, cappuccino and quince jelly. There's a hint of char on the palate to start, then the sweetness returns, making the mid-palate distinctly peachy, with added poached orchard fruits. Broad and quite elegant, with a smooth delivery. Water lightens things, allowing more floral elements to develop. Versatile.
Wemyss Malts The Rockpool 1995 vintage (distilled at Bowmore), 57.2%
Single Malt Scotch | $180
A very solid and sound Bowmore with saline notes, some dried hot pepper, and masses of menthol, which give a buzzy, nose-cleaning effect. The smoke gently glides along throughout. The palate is quite thick and shows sweetness and a slow release of soft fruit, with a tingle of salt. The smoke slowly increases until it concentrates on the back palate, giving an effect like burning pine logs on the beach. Becomes nicely funky in time. Recommended.
Cask # 328 was filled at Glenturret on December 16, 1986 by stillmen Hugh Malloy and Chic Brock. After 28 years of maturation, it has yielded 240 bottles. It is exclusively available online at thefamousgrouse.com. Boiled fruit sweets, heather, hazelnuts, old oak, and musty bung-cloths on the nose, plus slight mint. The palate is rich and fruity, with honey, rum, vanilla fudge, and ginger root. Spicy milk chocolate and coconut in the lengthy finish, with non-intrusive oak. Classic Glenturret. £200
This veteran Ledaig release from Tobermory distillery is the oldest to date, having been made in 1972. 500 bottles are available globally. Musty old leather, malt, and plum pudding on the slightly earthy, phenolic nose. In time the leather becomes suppler, with ripe figs and, finally, soot. Voluptuous in the mouth, with sweet sherry, plain chocolate, and soft spices, plus black pepper, an emerging note of coal. The finish is very long, with citrus fruit, chili, smoke, and subtle oakiness.
Need you ask? An unmistakable classic and an exemplar of a blended Scotch whisky, famous around the world. Toffee, swirling caramel, whole almond, and mashed banana amid twisting white smoke. The palate has such poise, balance, and dexterity that it sets the standard for many less accomplished blends to aspire to. Conspicuously iconic, and the closest thing you will find to a complete whisky at this price.
The Sovereign (distilled at Cambus) 40 year old 1975, 57.7%
Single Grain Scotch | $297
This potent grain whisky from a refill hoggie bears ripe pears, green apples, vanilla sugar, polished horse chestnuts, and a waft of acetone. Neat, there is sweet fudge, runny caramels, and heat, but natural dilution dissipates the sweetness to boiled candy with faint cocoa. At this strength, it really takes water generously, illuminating fruitiness and softening the heat. Dry, sweet vanilla pricked with orange seals the finish. There’s a sweet spot where this is deliciously drinkable. (114 bottles) £190
The Sovereign (distilled at Port Dundas) 26 year old 1988, 52.1%
Single Grain Scotch | $141
You can feel the power, taut and straining, underneath the sweet nose of powdered sugar, sliced banana in custard, packing straw from tea chests, apple fritters, and sweet oak. There’s instant gratification, as this colossal whisky is fit to burst with honey, tropical fruits, apple, melon, and strawberry candy. Water adds shafts of sweetness to the nose and more jamminess to the palate. Made in Glasgow in the fall of 1988 and delivered at perfect drinking strength: they’ve bottled sunshine. (154 bottles) £90
Barton 1792 distillery’s first-ever wheated bourbon, where the wheat replaces rye as the ‘spice’ ingredient (similar to Weller and Maker’s Mark). A sweet and fruity whiskey, with vanilla wafer, cotton candy, caramel custard, blackberry, and ripe peach. Soft oak spice and polished leather on the finish keep the sweetness in check. Very gentle in personality; a great starter bourbon.
Plenty of color, and the nose says it ain’t lying. Sharp warehouse oak aroma puts an edge on an authoritative nose of honey, Indian pudding, spicy hard candy, and old-fashioned root beer, the not-too-sugary kind. Fiery and bold on the tongue as oak roars from start to finish, but the sweetness builds sip-by-sip: cornbread, buckwheat honey, King syrup, and a teasy bit of citrus peel. Long finish as the oak dies down. At this price, let’s keep it our secret. Sourced whiskey.
Deeper, darker, more intense than the Barrel Head Aged expression. Toffee, pit fruit, Earl Grey tea, cinnamon, pencil shavings, and tobacco lead to a tannic, gripping finish. The French oak influence is tangible. Price is per 375 ml.
The trend to higher-proof Canadian whisky continues. This massive gem from Highwood shows us how that benefits the whisky drinker. Toffee and spicy rye on the nose become toffee and sizzling hot pepper on the palate. While toffee lurks in the shadows, a lingering oaky base begins to assert itself. Sweetness and pepper subside as the wood emerges with a complexity not even hinted at on the nose. Enjoy it neat; love it with ginger ale. (Canada only)
A 23 year old single malt from 1991 finished in French oak Ànima Negra casks from Mallorca, producing a dark, ruby colored whiskey. Rich and earthy: raisins, treacle, strawberry Jell-O, sawdust on dunnage floors, gingerbread, and traces of peppermint. Early creaminess is swept aside by intensely fruity waves of blackberry, blueberry, strawberry, grapefruit, and Seville orange that draw the mouth. Sweet Jaffa cake centers emerge later. Soft, never boisterous, and finishes with dry heat and fig paste (334 bottles). €325
This new member of the core range is wholly from stock produced by the distillery’s new(ish) owner. It has a gentle, sweet, honeycomb nose, with some banana, a little malt, and lemon freshness. The palate shows light honey/honeysuckle at the start and is well balanced, with maltiness and a signature spicy finish adding a dry counterpoint to the sweetness from the cask and a distillate with good weight. Good price as well. Lovely.
There’s no doubt that this is from Glenlivet; there’s still that pure combination of fruit and flowers, now given a little nudge toward a more concentrated expression: the flowers are dried and heathery, the fruits tinned pineapple, windfall apples. An added cedar/nutmeg note adds to the complexity. Liquorous and tongue-clinging with custard tart notes before the autumn fruits come through. A sense of the curtains being drawn and a settling in for the winter. Recommended.
Douglas Laing Old Particular (distilled at Laphroaig) 14 year old, 48.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $142
Big smoke. Smoked fish, in fact, with some linked oily elegance, along with touches of hot tar and a cooked agave quality, adding a slightly sour/sweet element; then come poached pear and pepper. The palate is rootier, but always with this deep, clinging texture. As it moves it sweetens briefly, then comes creosote. Water gives the sweetness more space before the big phenols come powering back. It’s a barbecue in your mouth. Classic Laphroaig, in fact. £91
The most expensive of Glen Scotia’s new trio has been finished in deeply-charred barrels and bottled non-chill filtered at cask strength. Soft and sweet on the nose, with peaches, fudge, and a hint of oak. Full-bodied and slightly oily on the palate, with wood spices, vanilla, and blackberries. Smoky ginger and lively char in the lengthy finish.
The final cornerstone of Douglas Laing’s Remarkable Regional Malts range, this blended malt celebrates the best from the Islands. The peat smoke finds harmony with the nose of pine, lemon curd, dewy lawns, and vanilla fudge. This is gloriously full-flavored; the peatiness certainly delivers, but there is a pleasant nip of saltiness too. The black pepper finish leads to a long lasting salty smack on the lips. Make this your hipflask essential for bracing excursions along the shoreline. £38
A nose like Big Red gum—juicy-sweet cinnamon—and some sweet dough, with sharp alcohol heat. Hot as expected on the tongue, but exciting: more cinnamon and sweetness—like snickerdoodles—with wet corn, a touch of bitter oil, and hot spearmint. Adding water eases the heat, and brings out the oak. Good stuff, if a bit simple. Sourced whiskey.
Following bourbon cask maturation, this spent a further 4 years in red wine casks from Domaine Des Anges. It has a gentle, coastal brininess of smoked eel with apple relish, seashells, lemongrass, with beet root and black fruits. This is a real chewer; toffee bars, raisin, juiced apples, and raspberry. The smokiness builds powerfully and unrelentingly. After a final catch of smoke, the finish has lush mint toffees. A mighty, peaty Irish whiskey from you know where. (351 bottles) €150
Douglas Laing Old Particular (distilled at Glen Moray) 14 year old, 48.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $83
Soft and direct. The initial impression is of birthday cake icing with marzipan beneath, then comes preserved lemon, greengage, and discreet maltiness. It becomes more scented (linden/privet blossom) in time. The palate is a little strong initially, then a hint of coconut. Improves further with water, showing a fascinating, subtle evolution: herbal with iris flowers. A classy dram from an overlooked distillery. Check it out. £53
Wemyss Malts Stem Ginger Preserve (distilled at Mortlach) 1995, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $133
This is Mortlach in musing mode. An aroma that initially brings to mind a woolen mill, then opens into sweet spice, light syrup, with the sense of the distillery’s weight always present. A rippling kind of muscularity with some rapeseed oil. With water the palate starts lighter and more fruity than you’d expect, then comes rooty weight with, yes, a distinctly gingery slant. Water shows more beeswax/honeycomb. Substantial and spicy. £85
Langside Distillers (distilled at Auchentoshan) 16 year old, 48%
Single Malt Scotch | $97
Distilled in October 1997 and aged in a single refill hogshead, 360 bottles were released in 2014 as part of Langside’s Distiller’s Art range. The nose is mildly herbal, with green wood, heather, and developing soft toffee notes. Soft and gently spiced on the palate, with hazelnuts, and peaches in cream. The finish is relatively long, with milk chocolate, and tingling sweet spices. £62
This bourbon-cask matured 12 year old was distilled using organic barley. 9,000 bottles released globally. Pears and pineapple in brine on the early nose. Peanut brittle, licorice, and subtle peat. Sweet and intensely fruity on the viscous palate, with developing nuttiness, vanilla, spice, and peat smoke. The finish is medium in length, with sweet fruit, more licorice, and sea salt.
This 15 year old has been fully matured in bourbon casks. Relatively reticent on the nose, with light vanilla. Becoming more aromatic and spicy, with tinned apricots in syrup. Medium-bodied, relatively dry, with ginger, oak, and cloves, before a touch of milk chocolate appears. The chocolate darkens. Aniseed and perpetual spice.
Consummately blended from more than 30 different whiskies, this has chewy Highland toffee, freshly-baked banana muffins, shelled walnuts, and faint chocolate orange notes. A smooth, full mouthful of blossoming orange, thick malt, heather honey, dabs of espresso, and milk chocolate. The malty Horlicks flavors prevail to the end with some attractive, shimmering spices. Note the higher strength here, though the 45% malt content is consistent across the range.
More nose than on the Reserve (see below); no surprise. Sweet spicy candy, alcohol heat, and oak. The spicy candy—clove, cinnamon, allspice—blooms in the mouth, firing up oak and corn, with a meaty fullness and a warming finish. Quite a bit more complex and interesting than the Reserve. Sourced whiskey.
Made from malted Bavarian hard wheat and aged over 2 years in new and used American oak barrels, the nose is chocolate-covered pretzels and a dash of pepper spice with a slight edge. The entry is much softer than expected at this proof, driven by toasted wheat and dark chocolate, with vanilla and black pepper. A strong pepper kick at the end of the mid-palate drives a long, spicy finish. A surprisingly well-balanced and actualized young craft whiskey.
Since Canadian Club refined its batching process, this 12 year old whisky has begun to show pleasing differences among batches. And though a batch is exactly that, a batch, bottling codes reveal that different bottle sizes of a single batch can be filled weeks apart. Caramel, dark fruits, and luscious sweetness jump out of the glass to fill the room. Behind that, the classic Canadian Club pruniness, butterscotch, and hot pepper ride on a wagonload of dried oak timber.
The most northerly of Northern Ireland’s distilleries, Bushmills ages this spirit in bourbon and oloroso casks before finishing in port wine casks. The sweet notes of fat, ripe blueberries, plum flesh, and dusty, dry warehouses sketch out the nose. It lands on the tongue dry but piquant, then the fruit swarms all over it; blueberry, black currant, and apple, with hazelnut, chocolate pralines, black pepper, and spice. This was once the pick of the range, but the port influence seems feistier than older bottlings and I miss how smooth this used to taste.
This is the whiskey that introduces the American journalist to Belfast drinking culture in Colin Bateman’s Divorcing Jack. The sherry cask maturation is the key; mouthwatering autumn fruits plucked from the trees, cinnamon-apple cobbler, and cocoa-dusted raisins. A smooth, glistening dram from the North Antrim coast; weighty and fruity, the sweetness turning to raisin chocolate bars. There is a lot to bite on. It slips away reluctantly, leaving a long, dark sweetness behind it. One glass is never enough.
Meaning double cask, this was designed as an easy-drinking, summer style of Alsatian whisky created from a balanced proportion of two casks finished separately in local Riesling and Gewürztraminer barrels. The nose is light and crisp, with peach, pear, lime zest, grapefruit, gooseberry, and rose-flavored Turkish delight. A sweet, velutinous palate, sufficiently weighted with grapefruit and lime. A little malted barley pokes through the gooseberry. Quite distinctive, which counts in today’s market. €45
Be more Swedish: escape the city and head to a rural, red-painted summer house with a tasty bottle of this little beauty tucked under your arm. A clean, fresh nose of marshmallows, Scottish tablet, warm spices, and reed matting. A thick, substantial palate with an array of lighter flavors; sweet barley sugar, honey, melon, vanilla frosting, gentle citrus, and spicy cinnamon. Great balance of power and delicacy here. The cinnamon rolls into a finish that really goes the distance. €65
Pär Caldenby makes this 45 ppm peated island whisky off Sweden’s west coast, maturing it in 110L capacity virgin European oak and Bordeaux casks. Lemon bonbon, vanilla pod, crisped bacon rind, and burnt toast crumbs are backed with a blackberry note. The longer I nose, the more the peat edges over the sweetness. Syrupy with an intense alcohol flare: apple, lemon, and vanilla sponge, but dilutes to ground ginger, citrus, and herbal notes. The smoke is unobtrusive. Young, promising, and gutsy. SEK 1276
Duncan Taylor (distilled at Glentauchers) 8 year old, 54.8%
Single Malt Scotch | $84
Lightly grassy and hay-like, with some wheat chaff. The nose is quite hot, but that cereal note (reminiscent of draff) is pleasing, sitting alongside clean apple and orange barley water. The palate is sweeter and more floral (pear blossom) compared to the nose, though retaining some nuttiness. Has good verve. When diluted, the finish shows real chocolate and some dry spice. A very interesting young ‘un. £54
I used to find this a little lacking in structure. Either I’ve changed my palate (or was always wrong), or the solera’s slow changes have added depth and complexity. The nose is all cooked plums, with some blueberry, stewing rhubarb. All is delicately scented, with some currant leaf, then sultana and sweet dried fruits. The palate is equally fruity—more hedgerow fruits now—but there’s grip and a little fresh acidity to balance. Hugely appealing and approachable.
Gordon & MacPhail (distilled at Glentauchers) 11 year old, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $60
A rare bottling from a distillery that is more commonly released as a part of whisky blends. Light fruit and sweet malt define the nose, with apple, apricot, and honey. The entry is bursting with flavor, centered around malt, along with honey, salt, and apricot. The mid-palate adds a touch of oak, smoke, and spice, and is extremely well integrated and balanced. A medium-length finish ends abruptly and a little too dry, the only left turn in an otherwise superb whisky. (Julio’s Liquors only)
The Exclusive Malts 10 year old (distilled at Laphroaig) 2005 (Cask #468), 54.2%
Single Malt Scotch | $130
Extreme peat smoke explodes out of the glass. It’s diesely, burnt tire smoke more than campfire. Past the peat, there's salt, paste, and honey. On the palate it's another blast of smoke. This nearly chokingly strong smoke dissipates slightly to reveal oyster shells, malt, paste, and honey. Make no mistake, the smoke is the star and will remind you of that fact hours after you finish your last sip. An uber-peated whisky that hardcore peatheads will surely adore. (U.S. only)
This Travel Retail-exclusive from Glenmorangie is the inaugural expression in the distiller’s new Legends series. Glenmorangie Duthac is matured in a mix of charred virgin oak and Pedro Ximénez sherry casks. Peaches, tangerines, cloves, vanilla, and toffee bonbons on the nose. Silky on the palate, with warm spices, honey, intense tropical fruit, and fresh ginger. Relatively long and creamy in the finish, with nutmeg, marzipan, and milk chocolate. Price is per liter.
Exclusive to the Travel Retail arena, this expression of Auchentoshan was aged for 14 years in a mix of bourbon and oloroso sherry casks. It is not chill-filtered prior to bottling. The nose yields polished oak, malt, milk chocolate, marzipan, figs, apricots, and ginger. Rich and full on the palate, spicy, with vanilla, mango, and finally Seville oranges. Medium to long in the finish, with almonds, soft oak, and warming spices.
Higher in strength than the standard Glen Scotia 10 year old, this heavily peated expression is part of the distillery’s Legends of Scotia series, and celebrates Campbeltown's historic Picture House. Just 6,000 bottles. Fruity peat on the nose, with lots of apricot and peach notes. Finally, fresh cigarette ash. Voluptuous in the mouth, and fruity, then sweet spice and drier peat notes develop. The finish is medium to long, with spicy tar. €70
Bright grainy rye in the nose, bitter and green, with contrasting streak of sweet cola. Quite balanced in the mouth; the rye is more savory and saves the bitter spark for the finish, the sweetness less obvious, the body neither featherweight nor heavy. That’s really not bad at all. Sourced whiskey.
The first bourbon made in Pennsylvania in over 25 years, using locally-grown, organic Wapsie Valley dent corn, which comes in yellow and maroon; a 1 year old bottling. The aroma is distinctive: deep mint, clove, and red plum. Warming and sweet, then broadening on the palate, the corn becomes prominent. Finish is hot, but tasty. This is a young one, with promise.
The warehouses at Glenora are not heated, so aging virtually stops in winter. Thus, the whisky doesn’t reach its peak until its mid-teens. By then, it is malty, fresh, crisp, and grassy, with hints of vanilla and delicate, slightly bitter fruits, including apricots and citrus pith. Fragile floral notes join exotic hints of mango and a nuttiness reminiscent of almond skins and sweetened coconut. Air do dheag slàinte, Glenora, as they say in Cape Breton’s Gaelic Highlands. (Canada only)
The oldest release yet under the Glendalough name, this bourbon cask whiskey brings forth a nose of lush caramels, malt, milky hot chocolate, nutmeg, with herbal notes hovering at the periphery. The mouthfeel is exceptionally smooth and reassuringly malty. After an early spice kick, there is grapefruit, with mint eventually taking charge. Fizzy, effervescent candies pop on the palate and tongue. A medium-length finish, the mint diminishing to leave cinnamon and a little charred oak. A fine discovery.
Duncan Taylor (distilled at Aultmore) 6 year old, 53.2%
Single Malt Scotch | $85
Remarkably rich color, indicative of a first-fill cask. A clean if hot nose with carpenter’s workbench, Comice pear, and lots of oak. Aultmore’s acidity comes through on the palate, with its zingy intensity cutting through the wood and achieving a certain balance. The palate shows a mix of fruit and wood sugars. Young certainly, but bottled at the right time given the intensity of the wood element. Water makes it more sappy and summery. Not hugely complex, but fun.
Brimming with distillery character. Gentle malty notes come through initially, accompanied by apple core and classic ‘Farclas weight. The alcohol, though high, is not obtrusive. In time there’s some orange marmalade, and this bittersweet element helps to add another layer of complexity. Water brings out toffeed depth. Even neat it isn’t too hot, showing heft rather than bludgeoning power. In time there’s black cherry, chocolate, and a hint of smoke. Highly recommended.
This relatively youthful whisky was matured in bourbon barrels, before a period in Pedro Ximénez sherry casks. Sweet, red berry notes on the nose, with slightly smoky vanilla and caramel. Voluptuous in the mouth, with spicy, rich sherry notes, sultanas, and ginger. Spicy sea salt and lingering sherry in the finish. £37
Thick, viscous golden syrup, digestive biscuits, and Almond Joy bars underpin some soft, peaty aromas. It’s rather an appealing combination. Satin smooth on the tongue, with lemon, lime, orange, and dried pineapple, but enough malt to keep things interesting. The finish riffs on a ripe lemon theme accompanied by spicy stardust. For the few extra bucks, the more mature component whiskies make for a richer, fuller, and more satisfying experience than The Antiquary’s red-labeled bottle.
“Aged 24 months.” In these debased times, they should be applauded for the correct labeling of this 2 year old. Somewhat hot nose of grass, cinnamon, Pixy Stix powder candy, and oak. Simple, sweet on the palate with a crisping of rye bitterness and oak. Easy-drinking and not overly young. Color me surprised: it’s well-made for inexpensive young rye.
Goldlys 14 year old Manzanilla Finish (cask 2629), 43%
Belgian Whisky | $41
Other than detecting a note of burst balloons, I enjoyed a warm, rich, comforting nose of nutmeg-sprinkled apple pie, raspberry jam, stewed plums, allspice, and prunes on this whisky distilled at the famous jenever powerhouse of Filliers. A lightweight citrus nose, with vanilla tablet, stewed fruits, watermelon, and a fusty, grained texture. This settles down nicely with a few drops of water for a short finish of light toffee and hints of cocoa. €38
Very sweet, with thick hard toffee, stewing dates and figs, molasses, and rum raisin ice cream, before some dark chocolate, dried mint, and orange peel. The palate is a different beast. It ignites on the tongue with a burst of dried pepper flakes, beneath which are cocktail bitters: gentian calamus. It begs for water, when out comes black currant jam (very Aberlour) and a little malt. Now it’s calm and hugely drinkable, and therefore even more dangerous.
Douglas Laing Single Minded Speyside 24 year old, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $125
Huge marzipan/almond notes greet you on the first sniff. This then moves into an aroma like crepe bandage and even a hint of ointment, then lychee and some maltiness. The palate is surprisingly feisty, with a little orange. Water brings out mash tun aromas and a pleasing whiff of sheep pens. When diluted, the palate is very pretty, with the almond returning. Easy drinking. £80
Duncan Taylor (distilled at Glenallachie) 6 year old, 52.8%
Single Malt Scotch | $84
Another blast of new oak. Fat and creamy, with distinct charred elements along with stewing pineapple, banana fritters, white chocolate, suntan oil, and a melting bar of nut-filled milk chocolate. An instructive dram showing how maturity is very different from age. With water, some of the distillery finally pokes through. To be honest, it’s slightly too much for me; like overdosing on cotton candy or sugar-topped donuts. £54
Hart Brothers 11 year old (distilled at Bowmore), 55.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $78
There have been some legendary Hart Brothers bottlings of Bowmore (the 1966 bottled in ’74 is a classic) so this has a lot to live up to. The nose is creamy and discreet, but Bowmore is less about charging out wreathed in smoke and more a dram where peat is part of the totality. Here you get seashells and low-tide aromas, along with green banana. The palate is gently smoked with light barley, cool melon. An afternoon dram. £50
Brought back as a celebration of the distillery’s 200th anniversary and, in the vein of other 15 year old expressions, is somewhat restrained. Rather than big phenols there’s an aroma of lanolin, sautéed scallop, fleshy fruit, and real sweetness. The palate shoes some oozing oils and a whiff of creosote, but this is a tea party rather than a wild ceilidh. Maybe bottling at 46% would have given the drive that’s missing.
Bottled in 2015, this expression from Arran distillery was matured in first-fill bourbon barrels. Ripe apple and tinned peaches on the early nose, icing sugar, a hint of mint, and soft toffee. Lively spices and pear drops on the palate, with vanilla and cocoa. The finish is medium in length, with a twist of lemon and cocoa powder.
Highland Park Ambassador's Choice 10 year old, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $90
Originally exclusive to the Swedish market, this expression was selected by Highland Park’s Danish brand ambassador Martin Markvardsen. Matured in a combination of 70% bourbon barrels and 30% oloroso sherry casks. Waxy and malty on the early nose, with fresh earth, damp moss, vanilla, and honey. Gentle peat on the palate, more earthy notes; herbal, with lime and salt. The finish is quite short, showing apricots, slight peatiness, allspice.
Arran distillery has been making peated batches of spirit since 2004, and this NAS bottling is the fifth release of that spirit, peated to 20 ppm. The outturn is 12,000 bottles. Nutty peat, spicy malt, toffee, and lemon on the mildly savory nose. Vibrant on the palate, with lots of citrus fruit. A bonfire smokiness develops steadily, with spice, nuts, and plain chocolate through to the relatively long finish, which features a persistent citric note.
Playing on regional styles, this blends six single malts representative of the Speyside, Islay, Lowland, Campbeltown, Islands, and Highland whisky regions. Sun-dried peats greet the nose with aromas of stewed apples, flaky pastries, apricot conserve, vanilla, and cinnamon. Creamy vanilla and coconut flavors develop, with a slow-burn spiciness crackling in the center of the tongue. Seville orange and caramel cookie flavors escort a long finish of dry, tingling spices, though it could use a little more heft in the mouthfeel.
The Sovereign (distilled at Cambus) 26 year old 1988, 46.9%
Single Grain Scotch | $142
A light golden dram from a refill hoggie, redolent of fragrant honey, custard slices, orange water, perfumed soaps, and fresh spring blossom. Vanilla, dried peel, and shortbread petticoat tails on the palate, that develops with spun sugar flavors. The whole concoction is anchored by a little oak, but the cask has been gentle. The finish is mouth-drawing, but settles down like a well-sucked butterscotch. Mellow and serene. (305 bottles) £91
This whiskey is produced utilizing a solera system, similar to the way sherry is aged, and is said to contain some whiskey distilled at Stitzel-Weller. Thick and viscous in texture. Orchard fruit (orange, apricot, pear) on the front of the palate, segueing to honeyed vanilla, dried pit fruits, and dried spice (evergreen, cinnamon), leading to a warm finish. Intriguing, but lacking polish to garner a higher rating.
Shy nose: some cornbread and spicy candy. Whooshes into the mouth, though, with a lively sweet and spicy rush followed by herbal notes: woodruff, fresh marjoram, meadow grass. The finish becomes drier, finally showing a bit of oak, then drying to a powdery, medicinal astringency. Almost more like a tonic than a whiskey. Sourced whiskey.
It seemed a good idea to revisit OMG after High West had four years’ experience under their belt. The wet grain and green apple are still there, with the bitter fringe of rye crisping things nicely. Pure rye High West spirit, no oak, and you see where this may go. A smooth, almost creamy entry—smooth for the proof—and the rye takes over, though grainy sweetness refuses to quit. More polished now. Hope there’s plenty in wood.
It is unfortunate that Glenora does not mark lot numbers, as each succeeding batch improves over previous ones. Gone are the soapy notes that oozed out of the bottle, keeping early releases from showing their strength. While the nose is big, on the palate the whisky becomes light, with brisk spiciness, some malt, and subtle oak. Glen Breton is known for its red apple notes and gentle flowers. To these now add pepper, honey, caramel, and light oak.
Hard to find Harvey’s Bristol Cream sherry casks are the secret of this big fruity whisky, and also the reason it varies among batches. Rumors that Sherry Cask will be discontinued in the U.S. are true, so stock up now. Otherwise, be prepared for some cross-border shopping in Canada, where it will continue to be available. The sweet sherry influence is obvious in ripe dark currants, golden raisins, and dates. A Brio-like nuttiness gives way to hot pepper.
A 14 year old unpeated single malt whiskey given The Celtic Whiskey Shop’s trademark Ànima Negra red wine finish for 3 years. The nose has whiffs of fruit gums and honey-drizzled baked plums. A well-defined fruity attack on the palate of strawberry bubblegum and orange peel sucks in the cheeks, but collides with spices, maltiness, and gentle caramels. A spicy burst ushers in cola flavors for a lengthy finish, with a touch of mint showing up late for the party. €125
Named after the 10% of the recipe that benefits from Swedish oak maturation, this light-colored dram has honey-drenched crumpets, creamed butter, green tea taken in lemon groves, and hints of peppermint. Shredded lemon and lime peels are joined by a precise, concentrated wood spice note with ground ginger and black pepper. Dilution fattens the mouthfeel but flattens the citrus peel, leaving a smudge of light toffee and malt. Pleasant sipping for those long, Swedish summer days. €59
Duncan Taylor (distilled at Longmorn) 18 year old, 51.6%
Single Malt Scotch | $190
Oak-driven, with cream and butterscotch dominating the nose initially. Then there’s black cherry, and coriander seed frying in butter. The weighty distillate adds depth, but not specific flavors. The palate is all coconut cream, cream toffee, then Longmorn’s cooked plum density comes in. I’d have preferred the oak to be scaled back, allowing the distillate to show, but if you’re looking for a scotch made for bourbon lovers, then go no further.
Principally matured in bourbon casks, this expression has undergone a finishing period in sherry casks. Sweet wood polish on the nose, with brief pineapple juice notes and rosehip syrup. Smooth and fruity on the palate, with vanilla, spicy milk chocolate, sultanas, and some earthiness. The finish is medium in length, with sherry and a tang of bitter orange. £47
A blend of three bourbons, between 6 and 12 years old; two rye and one wheat. Nothing is revealed on the source, which is a fair part of the “blood oath,” apparently. A restrained nose of corncakes, biscuits, a bit of cinnamon and maple: breakfasty. Flavors of corn, spicy oak, and some grassy mint fight to be heard over roaring heat that flames on into the finish. Frankly too simple for the asking price. Sourced whiskey.
A U.S.-only Canadian blend, bottled in Oregon. Rich toffee and caramel aroma with cashews and some dry cocoa. An easy entry, with sweet, light, but coating caramel, a keening note of young blending whisky, some cedar shavings, and a sweet finish that manages not to cling. Simple and sweet, practically pining for a bubbly mixer, but not bad for dessert, either. Quite typical of the category.
Meet the undisputed driver of the Irish whiskey resurgence. The nose is light, with baked apple strudel, toasty staves, and hints of the bourbon and sherry cask influence. There are discernible pot still elements contributing a fruity character and plenty of weight. This dominant triple distilled whiskey is smooth, sure, although that characteristic improves noticeably up the range. Expect Braeburn apples, raspberry, strawberry, currants, and mixed peel, with a short finish of cinnamon spice and a dull fruit note.
Rowntree’s fruit gums, chalky Edinburgh rock, root ginger, and oat biscuits on the nose. It’s a double distillation of the mash for Gouden Carolus Tripel beer, aged in first-fill bourbon barrels, then finished for 6 months in custom-coopered Het Anker barrels. Those fruit gums are inescapable on the palate, but there is malt, warm toffee, apple, peach, and a tingle of orange. Gingersnaps, vanilla pod, and building tanginess spill over in the finish, which ebbs into a peppery haze. €37
Again, this uses malt peated to 45 ppm, which is evident by the nose of salty beach bonfires, though there is an intense, honeyed sweetness to enjoy: golden syrup bars, toasted English muffins, stroopwafel, and a cool line of spearmint. Although the alcohol roars loudly, there is honey and banana, some Tabasco heat, and flashes of orange. Water adds creaminess to the nose, but the structure doesn’t respond so well. Tough it out at full strength. (295 bottles) SEK 953
Douglas Laing Single Minded Speyside 15 year old, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $88
A broad and humid aroma, like walking through hot bracken in the summer. Quite substantial, with lemon, pecan, and, in time, chestnut. It’s this last aroma that carries through most strongly onto the tongue. There’s light grip, and even at 46% some level of heat. Water reveals oak and pencil shavings/cedar, while the grip has now loosened. Out comes a more crisp attack and hints of delicate top notes. The finish is pretty dry. £56
It’s young Macallan. There’s a hint of sulfur (from distillate rather than cask), then wet leather, Brazil nut, muesli, dried pineapple, and raisin; even a little rubber, suggestive of youth. That can’t hide the fact that this is a big, deep, oily dram. Water makes it considerably more coherent, showing a substantial, thick palate with some licorice. Ripe, but you can’t help feeling that 12 is a little young for this slow-maturing distillate.
This expression comprises peated Glenturret malt (55ppm) and some older unpeated Glenturret malt. The distillery has been making peated malt for six years. There is a higher proportion of peated malt in this revised edition than in the previous version. Farmyard aromas on the nose, with an overlay of digestive biscuits and subtle smokiness. Light-bodied, with watery toffee and emerging peat smoke. Medium-length in the finish, spicy, with cigarette smoke. £47
Matured in a combination of first-fill Spanish oak sherry butts, refill American oak hogsheads, and first-fill bourbon barrels. The nose is initially savory, with salted caramels, oak, vanilla, and toffee. Medium-bodied, with brittle toffee and spicy fruit on the creamy palate, where more savory notes emerge. A hint of bourbon in the softly spiced, herbal finish, which darkens to black coffee. £47
William Grant Rare Cask Reserves The Annasach Reserve 25 year old, 46%
Blended Malt Scotch Whisky | $340
William Grant & Sons Rare Cask Reserves are micro-blends created jointly by Brian Kinsman and various liquor store proprietors, drawing on a choice of over 40 different single malts (importantly, not Glenfiddich or Balvenie). Quite herbal, with tarragon, cilantro, boiled candies, and unripe plums. A slow starter; vegetal notes yield to fudge, milk chocolate, orange, and maltiness, with pepper, oak, and spices in the latter phases. Stocked in only five U.S. retailers.
Smells kind of…Canadian. Light caramel, sweet candy, and a bit of oak. Light and sweet on entry; not cloying, with some hints of vanilla and fresh-sawn cedar. Body seems to thicken as it hits the tongue, and the finish spreads and hangs: sweet, with that very light cedary note. Simple, sweet, but not overly complex. Sourced whiskey.
The “(SB)2RW” stands for “small batch small barrel rye whiskey.” Smells like it: small barrel, fresh-cut oak smell, clove cigarettes, and a fair amount of heat. A bit thin on the tongue, with a medicinal bite of rye grass, warming heat, and some sweetness, and the medicinal part expands into the finish.
The broad grin on the face of Mike Janssen speaks volumes about his enthusiasm for the beers and spirits he produces at the Wilderen brewery-distillery. This first cask from 2011 has a young, grassy, and herbal nose, with orange peel, artichoke, and delicate black tea. Lithe yet warming flavors of citrus, pleasant barley notes, pepper, spice, and ginger, but with creeping vegetal notes. It still needs taming but it’s early days. Ginger, pepper, and celery on the finish. (300 bottles) €60
Douglas Laing 15 year old Old Particular (distilled at Bowmore), 48.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $153
Bowmore in unusually oily guise here, with linseed oil, hot seashells, background water mint, completely integrated smoke, and a cooling note that brings to mind a lido (without any chlorine, I hasten to add). The palate has a limey lift which flows into a quite thick, creamy/oaty mid-palate, with the smoke bedding itself on the tongue. Smoky and mineralic on the finish. Water makes it even more gentle. A light expression for the early morning. £98
Douglas Laing Provenance (distilled at Talisker) 6 year old 2008, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $85
A single cask (#10699) bottling of Talisker, distilled in the winter of 2008 and matured in a refill hogshead before bottling in May 2015. Initially, a slight hint of new make, soon displaced by digestive biscuits, brine, and black pepper. Sweet oak, earthy peat, and orchard fruits on the palate. The finish is medium in length, with black coffee, licorice, and long-lasting spices.
This venerable blend has a nose of mandarin syrup cake, vanilla cream, and cut hay, with chopped cilantro and other herbal top notes. Sweet and fruity, though verging on tasting of artificial sweeteners at times, there are malt notes and a developing butteriness, with sweet mandarin notes and sponge cake. It all hangs on a light structure but it’s less smooth on the finish, with a scratch of wood smoke.
A blend of 94% rye-mash whiskey and Virgil Kane's High-Rye Bourbon (60% corn, 36% rye, and 4% barley). Floral rye grain spice bursts from the nose along with cedar plank and graphite. The entry is thick and sweet, with maple syrup, young oak, and rye spice. Things don't heat up until the end of the mid-palate where a dash of heat drives a long, spicy finish. An interesting mix of flavors that could benefit from a little more complexity.
My goodness, this woman is an innovator. Distillery owner Sophia Pantazi stored her maple syrup in whisky barrels. Then once the syrup was bottled, she refilled those barrels with whisky spirit, giving maple-aged whisky. Grain, chocolate, and winter-welcome glowing spices quickly overtake a malty, grainy, perfumey note characteristic of young whisky. Though creamy sweet, the whisky has more toffee notes than maple syrup. Hot beyond its ABV and wanting a couple more years’ maturation. (Distillery only) Price is per 375 ml.
The ‘Golden River’ was nicknamed after the color of the River Lys due to rotting flax. Here, a cool, breezy nose of lemongrass and almond paste meets aromas of black currant conserve and blueberry muffin as the sherry flavors try to cut in. There are initial dark, jammy fruits hidden in warm bakery goods, with damson, bramble, and malt, swept aside by flavors of mint, antiseptic, and Fisherman’s Friends. The finish is clean and icy cool with penetrating aniseed. €38
Wemyss Malts Rhubarb Royale (distilled at Benrinnes) 2001, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $102
Here is Benrinnes in very summery guise, with its signature meatiness barely discernible. Instead you get lots of thyme, rosemary, and dried citrus peel. The palate is clean and concentrated, with a tart drive akin to red currant. It is this jangly effect which shows the need for dilution. Water does improve things, and while the sour fruits are still there, the effect is more calm. It does lack length though. £65
Styled as the Original Moonshine, these aromas whisper of sweet summer fruits, golden barley, and potato farls. There is no lightning bolt of alcohol sipping at 40% ABV, but it is smooth and pleasantly tasty; flavors of melon, apple, and sugared biscuits, finishing with a barley tickle around the gums. A versatile addition to your cocktail armory from West Cork Distillers of Skibbereen, but I found it lost much of its appeal poured over ice.
Pale gold in color, this whiskey is noticeably cloudy, even in a warm room. Swift's nose is pleasant, with malt, honey, and butterscotch. The entry is exceptionally thin, with a hint of malt and honey, but there's not much to it. In the mid-palate, it’s all about the bourbon barrel, so much so that the overall character shifts toward corn whiskey. A short finish with chocolate notes wraps up a whiskey that just doesn’t have much to say.
This young peated malt, aged at least 24 months, has a nice, dry peat smoke nose, backed by honey and oak. On the palate it’s disjointed: the young peat malt argues with the heavy char barrel, a struggle that needs more time to be worked out. Honeyed malt tries to lend support but everything topples in the mid-palate, where things turn dry, spicy, and slightly acidic. A medium finish wraps up a whiskey that simply needs more time.
A simple, straightforward session whisky. True North is rich in the classic caramel notes and searing pepper so coveted by shooters and tailgaters. Ginger and white pepper last seemingly forever. Given its undeniable drinkability, packaging in a plastic bottle is probably a good idea. You can sip this if you wish, but with ginger ale and a dash of bitters it becomes a Canadian Saturday night in a glass. A classic Canadian bottom-shelfer. (Canada only)
Look out! This new Irish blend is named after the razor-nailed, sharp-toothed hoodlum who gained notoriety with the Dead Rabbits fighting gang. The nose comprises whole orange peel, boiled sugar, and dried peach pits. Sherbet, fruit polos, apple, baked almond slice, and digestive biscuit make for a sweet palate. For real street cred, Maggie needs more backbone: the thin mouthfeel needs more weight and structure. The finish is precipitously swift. Rather ordinary, though I wouldn’t tell Maggie to her face.
Screaming oak nose for a relatively young whiskey; about all that’s there is whiskey-soaked staves and some hot spice. Drillingly-hot entry; I’ve tasted bourbons at 60% that were less hot. Roaring oak fire with some underlying corn sweetness; this isn’t subtle or quiet on the tongue. Water brings out more—sweet corn, mint, rye oil—but the oak still dominates. Almost astringent in the finish. If you like big oak, here it is, but forget balance.
They blended Wild Weasel single malt with whisky from the Radermacher distillery (maker of Lambertus grain whisky) to create the world’s first blended Belgian whisky. It noses young, with straw, digestive biscuits, damp woodlands, oat breakfast cereals, and a hint of spice saving it from nosing like a crisp Sauvignon Blanc. The mouthfeel is languorous, with a musty texture, some grapefruit acidity, tangerine sweetness, and a mild, malty finish. So now we know. €40
Wood tannins are an interesting thing; used correctly, they can help create spice, depth, and complexity, as well as define a spirit's character. Unrestrained, tannins can wreak havoc. That’s what’s happened with this whiskey. Sharp, unfinished wood defines a nose that is raw in every sense. A thin entry struggles to present maple and caramel before a heavy blast of oak tannins decimates them. Those tannins define the rest of the taste experience, including a sour and bitter finish.
With a mash featuring no less than six different kinds of malt and aged in four different barrels (two sherry, a bourbon, and heavy-char new American oak), there are lot of moving parts with this whiskey. A jammy, inviting nose features blackberry jam, raisin, apricot, and ginger. On the palate it’s a cacophonic mess: chocolate and peated malt clash and do battle to grab focus. Add some heavy char and sherry to the mix and it's a bloodbath.
Since a change of ownership in 2014, the Loch Lomond range has been revamped, with the previous blue and black label single malt variants being dropped in favor of this repackaged NAS expression. Farmyard aromas on the early nose, then emerging malt and caramel. Discreet oak. Rounded on the palate, with immediate citrus fruits, toffee, allspice, and a suggestion of smoke. Spices persist through a slightly citric, cerealy, medium-length finish.
A blend of bourbon and rye whiskeys, 2 years old, no information on the proportions. Very hot, piercing nose: wet corn, tobacco juice, peppermint oil, and pain. Man, that’s hot. Bitter and hot on the tongue, with an inappropriate sweetness. Finish backs off on the heat, but is full of wet oak. Can’t help thinking this was simply a bad idea.
Made from 100% rye, but aged in wine casks. Distinctly pink tinge: rosé whiskey. Very young nose: rye grain, Starburst candies, and feinty vegetable notes along with the wine-oak. Thin, dry, reminiscent of a dry hay barn: dusty grain, warm wood planks, a bit medicinal. Aged 130 days, and tastes like it. Growing up in Pennsylvania, Highspire was a town we stayed out of. Good advice.
The nose on this whiskey is like smelling a wet empty barrel; it's all oak, char, and cinnamon spice. The entry is thin, watery, and understated with light caramel and cinnamon. In the mid-palate, the oak tannins completely take over. It's not just oak spice, but the puckeringly dry, sour, and bitter tannins. This all leads to a bitter, bone dry finish. Good whiskey is a conversation between spirit and wood, but here the wood is doing all the talking.