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.
Adelphi Distillery 19- It is time to revel in new beginnings as we do our very best to forever banish 2020 from our memories……My modest proposal is to find yourself a brand new whisky, a fine glass, and a positive outlook. Our chosen malt is fairly rare and holds great complexity with mellow caramel and fruit notes. At a mighty one hundred and twelve proof this lovely amber beast packs a wallop, but my advice is enjoy it neat and powerful. The nose is potent with delicious spice and the finish is lengthy enough to really enhance your taste. Cask 5676 was bottled from the Inchgower Speyside family and mine must have a slow leak, it was empty all too soon. So here’s to the new! Great experiences need proper planning and your mission is find the spirit and the time. Let’s celebrate a fresh start with fanfare and spectacular flavor. Rated a highly optimistic 8.
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Laphroaig 10- This muscular whisky demands respect and we are here to make that happen. Roasting barley over smoldering Islay peat makes the rich and complex flavors happen and therein lies the magic. A quiet fury erupts in your glass immediately and I suggest you savor it neat. Our chosen island single malt is bottled at 86 proof and it is shockingly smooth with notes of toasty caramel and fruit tarts. The nose is potent and delightful on a frosty evening. Lesser malts that try to duplicate the wizardry end up smelling more like a dumpster fire…..Swirl your glass before each taste and you’ll enhance the experience. I loved the ultra malty finish and suggest that you make sharing a dram part of your weekend. This family offers us many options and you can spend more, but for me this one checks all the boxes. Powerful tastes for educated palates, rated a strong 8 on the snob scale.
Craigellachie 13- This Speyside hipster is a classic teenager, slightly off kilter and a touch funky. I found a “meaty” taste of salty sweetness initially and at 46% it packs a solid punch. The golden amber spirit uses classic worm tubs to cool the malt and that technique introduces some nice sulfur notes which are unique and there is no peaty smoke in the profile. The whisky is smoother than post Zamboni ice and thick as honey, quite enjoyable. The nose is lighter than the actual spirit and there is some mystery fruit mid taste. Fortunately for us finish is longer than this dreary election season and it has just a hint of teen angst…13 years in charred bourbon barrels have worked their usual magic and that makes my rating a snobbish 7, interesting and enjoyable, but not remarkable.
Creag Isle 12- The bottle looked promising on the shelf and I enjoy Islay whiskies, what could possibly go wrong……This name was unfamiliar and I always seek new tastes so….. Upon opening, the nose was powerful and a bit peaty, a fine first impression. My initial taste was a tad sharp with enough honey sweetness to make a beekeeper swoon. The burnt amber color and substantial legs in the glass added to the anticipation. At 42% the alcohol makes a statement along with the mild grassy and fruit flavors , and while the taste is good , it is far from remarkable. As a serious fan of Island Scotches , I am a touch underwhelmed by Mr. or Ms. Creag’s distilling. Our subject is a wee notch up from a blend and I rate it a generous 6.