Royal Lochnagar- Unless you are living under a rock, you must be thrilled about the Coronation this week. Charles, (The King), has asked me, (The Snob), to select the perfect single malt for the occasion. I agreed. Our chosen whisky’s distillery is located on the ground of Balmoral Estates, near the Castle. The original, and much prized Royal Warrant was granted in1848 by Queen Victoria, gotta love the history right? Our spirit offers a gentle nose with notes of malty cake and rich spices. The deep amber color and lovely floral aroma almost invokes a tartan plaid. Our subject is easily worth it’s weight in crown jewels. My educated guess is that even the King’s Consort will down a dram or two just to steady her nerves…..This Highland beauty belongs on your bar as well so break out the crystal, and let’s get fancy. If you own fur, get it on. Rated a posh 7 on the Windsor scale and 3 cheers for Charles.
I seldom review blended Scotches, hey, I’m the snob……In this case however, 4 worthy Island single malts make up the mix and that gets my attention. Imagine the offshore contributions of Arran, Islay, Jura, and Orkney all in one very cool looking bottle! Let’s all be clear on one element, no grain whisky has cheaply polluted our subject, all quality malts. Now oysters in general are very polemic, love ‘em or find them terrifying. My view is the first so we now understand my attraction to the killer label design. The malt has a medium body with a delicate pale gold hue that is really unique. I found some sweet smoke in the nose and a mash-up of peaches and pepper mid taste. This is not a fancy whisky but it presents well and Douglas Laing is a master blender by any measure. At 92 proof, it packs a punch but still demands being tasted neat. I loved the briny maritime bite that accompanies this oyster…..a real splash of the sea. The finish was a bit thin and brief but that is a minor quibble. I’d keep shuckin’ until you find the pearl, and buy this whisky. Rated a wavy seven on the rocky shoreline.
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.
Spey River- Like many people, I am a dog lover, and yes this is a whisky review. Now we all know mixed breeds can be the most loyal and smartest beasts….but not always. Our subject malt is a mixed breed, 2 perfectly fine things converged here, Speyside single malt and sherry barrel aging. The nose is faint with slightly sweet cake notes and the color is a rich irish setter red. The caramel is thick and tasty but little else is present in terms of complexity. There is a splash of generic fruit in the taste and maybe some lingering spice. The finish is fleeting and at 80 proof it is a a bit wimpy. I tried the dram with a few drops of water and it just faded away. The lack of real character in the label is a harbinger of terminal blandness …….When breeders , or distillers, mix the gene pool for profit not quality the hybrid is kinda like a labradoodle , neither the labradors strength and loyalty, nor the poodles intelligence shine through. This single malt disappoints on most scales, you can drink it , but unlike your pooch, it won’t put a smile on your face. It barks a weak 6 on the snob-o-meter.
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.
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.
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.