Exploring the world of Single Malt Scotches

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my Scotch blog, an occasional exploration into the intriguing and esoteric world of single malts . I present this series of words and pictures not as expert or critic by any stretch, but as an aficionado. The goals of these postings are to learn new and interesting scotches and to share my findings with like-minded people. My vocation is advertising photography but among my varied interests are locating and enjoying single malts with friends. I’m looking for the same attributes in a scotch that many of us seek in all aspects of life.... character, uniqueness, quality, and a memorable experience. I invite you to join me, follow along, experiment, enjoy, and by all means feel free to suggest subjects. All photography and words are copyright protected. ©Ken Buschner 2015

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Scarabus

Scarabus-  It is freekin’ rare for me to find an Islay whisky that is new. I relentlessly seek them out and talk to the trade peeps whenever possible.  Well, look what the proverbial cat, ( or in my case the dog), dragged in….The nose is properly peated and sweet as a peach pie. The flavors are a salty mixture of honey and vanilla with a wee dash of iodine.  The elaborate label design may cause temporary blindness so I suggest that while tasting, you wear your best shades. In addition, try to avoid using  this graphic as a neck tattoo, it’s kinda busy , I speak from first hand experience……There are some mystery fruit notes in the middle and at the finish, any ideas?  Speaking of the finish, it’s very delightfully long.  So the distillers say, “ only those who seek will find”, a cliche for sure, but take their advice and cough up the dough!  It may be your best purchase this year, rated a fancy 8, yummy be sure, but not quite great!

Highland Park Valknut

Highland Park Valknut-  These Barbarians hail from the northernmost region in Scotland and their ancestors are Vikings !  I guess we are in for a wild ride here, so forget the subtlety…..First noted is a lack of an age statement, so I prepare for a young ( edgy)  bite but it is smoother than expected.  The nose is peaty and toasty, with a solid wiff of alcohol.  At near 47% this is a punchy dram and a tad thin…..I found dried fruit and some sherry-like sweetness, a remnant from the selected aging barrels.  The Orkney benchmark is local barley with peat roasting and we have a good amount in the palate. We have a nice mix of caramel and vanilla with a spicy fruit added in for good measure. I loved the lingering finish and the maltiness that the distillers built in.  This whisky is complex and enjoyable but might be slightly overpriced , it’s not HP’s best effort.  The 3 triangle graphic is a link from warrior to the afterlife , designed by an Orkney native with lineage to the first Earl of the region, a remarkable history.  So the Viking spirt lives on in this malt, rough and tough, strong as hell, and worth the effort. I rate it a thundering 7 , now hide the women and children and run for cover.

Balnellan 12

With the early fall upon us, it’s time to break out some malty deliciousness…….These fine folks in Glasgow call their whisky a “Speyside Glenlivet”, now I am not exactly rookie in these matters but WTF! With a lovely golden hue and an ultra mellow nose, our subject delivers a wave of creamy caramel with a dash of spicy nutmeg. These crafty rascals made an easy to like dram by holding the spirit for a dozen years in American oak, bucking the current trend of no age statement! Time well spent. There is a distinct pear and raisin fruitiness along with real shortbread, darn tasty. There is nothing remarkable here , just a solid malt for your sunset tonight. Sometimes good is good enough and this is a case in point. Pour, enjoy, share, repeat. Now get busy, rated a generous 7.5 on the snob scale.

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Craigellachie 13

Craigellachie 13-  Some consumers are easily bamboozled by a great looking package.  Not us however, because we are very sophisticated…….This Speyside whisky looks and smells like a big buck single malt, but that can be a bit deceiving.  The ultra swanky label design is beautiful, retro, and informational, a total home run.  At 13 years old, I have expectations of mellow smoothness, don’t you?  However, this teenager is sharp with alcohol, as expected at 92 proof, but with a heady whiff of peat.  Our pale golden malt has a subtle taste of tropical fruit and a real dollop of pepper , quite nice.  I enjoyed the smoke and creamy vanilla, but both had serious edges, smooth it’s not.  Wacky name, cool look, groovy whisky.  Rated a solid 7, drinkable but doesn’t quite live up to the look.

Glenmorangie Allta

This is the 10th edition of Big “G” ’s special releases and the first one to offer 102 proof.  The long necked copper stills again prove very special whisky comes from tradition, my guess is even a rookie could make magic with one.  The nose is very fruity and lighter than expected.  The catch here is using home grown yeast in the fermenting  process and frankly that seems a tad gimmicky, but they never do consult me. I found spicy vanilla and cookie flavors mixed with subtle citrus.  Very tasty and creamy….There is zero peat but a very nice and complex thickness, weird but real. The usual barrels gave a lovely amber tint and keep the water away, you’d ruin the character. The finish was malty and sweet with some serious staying power.  Truth be told , no rookie could make this winner, the copper still is one of mankind’s greatest inventions, like the airplane, and the string bikini.  Rated a solid 8, best enjoyed with a spring view at sunset.  

Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve

Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve-  Many of us are in dire need of warm breezes and/or some quality beach time.  If the weather has you housebound, try this sunshine in a bottle.  The distillers in the Livet valley are famous for their good but unremarkable single malt and that is about to change. This malt has been aged in rum barrels and the infusion is quite remarkable.  I found the nose to be ultra sweet with notes of pears and ripe bananas.  The flavors are tropical with toffee and a wee bit of kale.  The finish is medium in length and actually tastes stronger than the 80 proof as noted.  Ice and/or water are not a good idea as this whisky is plenty mellow and silky as bottled.  The amber color is sunset perfection so get ready to transport yourself to your favorite summer location.  I rate this non-age statement trendsetter a surprising 7 on the snob scale, oh…and the kale was just to see if you were paying attention.   Cheers!

Ardbeg An Oa-

Ardbeg An Oa–   Pour me a bland & weak whisky, said no one ever……In order to drive that point home, just grab a bottle of powerful smoky goodness from Islay.  The nose is delightfully peaty with a serious dose of sweetness.  The flavors here include butterscotch, mild pepper, and some subtle dark chocolate.  This amber malt has been aged in charred oak, sherry, and bourbon barrels. The marriage seems to have created an explosive harmony second to none.  The distillers left off an age statement but do not shy away, this dram is worth your investment.  At 93 proof, it will get your attention right off the bat, strong, rounded, and proud of it.  I advise tasting it neat as bottled, but if you add a bit of water, it may cloud up, as it is non-chill filtered.  The wacky name comes from a seaside mount called Oa, which shelters the distillery from the Atlantic Ocean’s fury and allows the makers and nature to do their work.  So instead of bland and weak, I choose power and character, rated a muscular 8 on the snob scale.

Aerstone 10

Aerstone 10-  I have a lowland malt to share with you that has rested for a decade near the Scottish coast. The seaside terroir has given us a thick and glassy smooth drink with no edge or attitude…..The nose is light and sweet with the flavor of shortbread right from the oven.  My bottle was enjoyed by the tasting team and vanished post haste.  While not a winner in terms of character or complexity, it still made for a pleasant fall dram.  With only 80 proof in the tank, it was mellow and caramel rich but less than satisfying.  This may be the appropriate single malt for you if you have a tiki bar next to your hot tub.  Be sure to wear the neon tropical bathing suit, that might get more attention than the whisky. Rated a generous 6.5 on the Snob scale, adequate, but a tad dull.

Mortlach 16 Distillers Dram

Mortlach 16- They call it the “Beast of Dufftown”, but that seems like a misnomer…..The decanter should be your first clue that character and quality are in store. I found a complex mixture of caramel and vanilla with a good whack of welcome power.  Waves of nutmeg and sweet fruit surfaced mid taste along with some subtle pepper.  As the “ Distillers Dram” would suggest, this is a top shelf whisky with a pedigree to boot. Deep amber with a delicate nose from sherry aging is just about perfect in your glass.  When all is said and done however, “the beast” is docile and delish.  The rich mouth feel and lingering finish are right up my alley and the whiff of smoke is transcendent.  Highly recommended as your next special keeper and rated a solid 8 on the snob scale.