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- 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– 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- 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- 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.
Highland Park Odin- Hide the women and children, the Vikings are landing on our shore. If ever we’ve reviewed a more potent malt, it certainly escapes my memory. This deep amber barbarian checks all the right boxes, massive vanilla and spice, powerful and salty nose, and full-bodied mouth feel. The package’s dark wood cradle mimics a ship’s bow and the roughcast bottle really enhances the entire experience. The intensity of this single malt is epic with a whiff of peat no doubt from the driftwood beach fire. The finish is earthy and complex with a long lasting bite that perfectly suits this beast. Delicious!……Search for this treasure and buy at least 2 bottles as the release is once and done. The proof on this whisky is a potent 112 with a sweet sherry flavor that masks the power so use caution with your pour. The malt was aged for 16 years and the time in casks did nothing to dull the intensity, thank goodness. Rated a swashbuckling island worthy 9
Tomintoul 10- Ahhh, spring has finally arrived and I am absolutely certain that yellow flowers were added to the finishing barrels on this malt. The nose is light and a bit fruity with creamy vanilla notes. Mid taste I found some grassy flavors and slightly spicy honey. As expected, no peat smoke at all was found. The golden liquid was appealing in my glass but the finish was disappointingly brief. This whisky is light on character, even for a Speyside, and at 80 proof my wimpy alarm went off immediately. The distillery, oddly situated on the Glenlivet estate, calls this the “ gentle dram”. I’d call it too mellow for this fellow…..My preference for more punch caused the rating to drop to a rather weak 6 on the snob scale. So while this is better than a blend, I’d look elsewhere on the shelf………… And unfortunately the flowers definitely did not make it into the barrels.
Glen Fohdry 12- “Aiteal an Oir” indeed….Finding new malts is always a challenge and my quest has landed me in the Speyside region once again. This limited release has spent a dozen years exclusively in American oak barrels and at 94 proof it packs a significant punch. The head distiller also opted out of chill filtering, which allows all of the apple and pear notes to mingle with a deep rich vanilla nose. As an aside, this could also allow your whisky to cloud up a bit if you add a few drops of water. The zesty character is quite a treat as is, so I would avoid the dilution altogether. I found a crazy long finish with an extra dose of sweetness to boot. Sometimes decoding the gobbledygook on a whisky label is tough for those of us who don’t speak Scottish Gaelic. However, this one was the Malt Master’s pet name and it translates into “The Colour of Gold.” He speaks the truth about this 7 rated beauty, which is better than average but not a star. Slainte, now more than ever….
Connoisseurs Choice Banff 1976- When my friend Joel offered me a dram of this rare whisky, we made it an event worthy of the occasion. Sharing is maybe the best part of this minor obsession because it creates memorable experiences….. And the genuine tartan plaid was the perfect background. The nose is stronger with alcohol than the 86 proof would suggest and I found a cake-like sweetness with a bit of citrus. This dark golden Highland /Speyside is near impossible to buy but I found 2 suppliers in the UK who have a small stash, pricey but worth every penny. There are strong notes of sherry and vanilla mid taste and some subtle lemon zest. The mouth feel was creamy and mild with a gentle hint of peaty smoke. We were lucky to have some home made shortbread that enhanced the drink immensely. The spirit is so long in the bottle that one wonders if there has been a change in its profile over the years. I need a way-back machine to find out. We loved the long and fruity finish and toasted our mutual good fortune. Whenever you see that Gordon and MacPhail were on board, quality is assured. Rated a lofty 9 on the vintage scale.
The Haig Club- It’s time for some sunshine in our lives, spring is on the way and this blue beauty might be just what we need. What contrarian nut job bottles our chosen drink in a cobalt square? Those characters at Cameronbridge distillery, who coincidentally have been endorsed by David Beckham no less…..I found a quiet nose with a mash up of apple and citrus with subtle alcohol and at 80 proof, it is on the delicate side. This single grain technique makes a drinkable whisky in sunset gold but it lacks the complexity of a single malt. There is toffee and vanilla mid taste as expected but the finish is faster than the proverbial speeding bullet. I suggest tasting in the waning hours to enjoy the blue shadow…truly unique. Research tells me aging took place in 3 types of barrels but my guess is not for very long. There is not even a wee hint of smoke in the taste. Beckham says he likes his Haig with tonic and an orange wedge and mid summer that may the hot setup. This dram may not be snobbish enough for some of you, but I enjoyed it neat and with a tattooed celebrity on board, pour a generous glass and imagine yourself on the red carpet. One smart devotee even saved the bottle and resting it in a windowsill, he enjoys the occasional blue streak of light mid afternoon! Sunshine rated a cool 7 on the snob scale, no tattoo needed.