Exploring the world of Single Malt Scotches

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Mortlach

Mortlach- No gentle reader, this does not translate into

“ Dead Lake” but that is a decent guess. Our noble subject

is distilled in the whisky capital of the Speyside region,

Dufftown. The sunset color and multilayered flavors are

stunning, with toffee and fruit in the forefront. I found

exotic spices mid drink and and a lingering finish which is

spot on. I’m a touch disappointed by the lack of an age

statement from this rogue distiller but the wicked good taste

and cool decanter more than make up for it. This malty

dram packs a velvet punch that I really enjoyed and

you should seek it out . It’s not readily available however

so you need to immediately form and fund a search

committee. At 86 proof, this beauty has unsinkable

character and is rated a muscular 8 on the snob scale.

 


Speyburn Bradan Orach

 

Speyburn Bradan Orach- Here is a breezy Highland malt that might surprise you. With no age statement in sight, I usually navigate to another area of the whisky aisle, but this one has a sunny disposition that offers waves of vanilla and some distant spices that were terrific. There is some initial bite with a light nose but the alcohol dissipates quickly and the flavors include some lemony citrus. The relatively low proof migh tbe responsible for the smooth sailing flavors but make sure to avoid ice or water as then it would be pathetically weak. There is not a huge amount of character here, but it is a great value and I applaud the distillery for making a quality whisky at this price point. I’d hold back on the second glass until you’re back at the dock but then splash away. Rated a pedestrian 6.5.


Laphroaig Select

 

Let’s be brutally candid, most malt whisky is very drinkable. We’re looking for the subtle nuance, hence the snobbery. What we have here is a slight perversion of the brand that I normally love, and the reason, IMHO, is to get younger whisky to market. The nose has a welcome telltale peatyness and packs a punch. The dominant flavors are a woody caramel with a citrus kick, no doubt from the American Oak barrels, which were used in a mash up with some sherry casks. The ultra light color is all natural but a bit deceiving as this is not a light scotch at all. The mouth feel is a tad thin but the finish is surprisingly lengthy and predictably edgy, probably due to its fairly young age. My guess is that the conversation at the distillery went something like this, “ so how can get this product to market without waiting 10 or more years?” . The answer is a gonzo barrel dance with some hocus pocus thrown in for good measure.  For me this seems like a disappointing money grab from our normally stellar Islay friends and that makes for a weak rating of 7 on the snob scale, still drinkable, just not remarkable.


Bruichladdich Private Cask

Bruichladdich Private Cask- If you have the patience and the coin, this is your new best friend. Imagine owning a few cases of bespoke whisky that would impress even a jaded connoisseur. After your purchase of the barrel, you patiently wait years until the head distiller deems your whisky ready to enjoy. This Islay powerhouse is crafted from 100% Scottish barley and is sherry cask matured which imparts a lemony sweetness with a strong spicy finish. The rich amber color and toasty vanilla notes are joined with a seaside twist, wonderful indeed. Many of Bruichladdich whiskies are unpeated, but this bad boy has a tasty whiff that came from a primordial bog, complex and very welcome. As for strength, bottled at 57%, this is weapons grade. I suggest a few drops of water to knock down the alcohol a bit. You may never get that private Gulfstream that the 1% all seem to covet, but damn few lucky folks have a cellar that holds a truly singular malt with your name on the label. Oh, and the price…. as the saying goes, “ if you have to ask …” Uniquely rated a rarefied 9 on the snob scale.


Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban

Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban-  You can stop compulsively searching for the perfect scotch to share , I found it for you.  Each time I’m asked for a recommendation for newbies I’m flummoxed.  I dutifully ask, what do they like, yada yada…. Here is a rich and roundly mellow malt that ticks off all the boxes.  The taste is lightly fruity and thick with a wonderful lengthy finish.  I found some soft spices and caramel in the middle and near perfection as a dram to share.  The secret here is finishing the aging in port wine casks which infused the whisky with sweetness and color .  I caution you to avoid any hocus pocus (added water or ice) , as you’d spoil the poetry.  Buy a pair of bottles , it won’t break the bank and you’ll be the hit of the evening, snobbishly rated a solid 7 , now share the wealth.


Highland Park Dark Origins

Highland Park Dark Origins-  This Orkney Island distilling family could easily be the “ Sgt. Pepper’s” of all Scottish Whiskies .  The rich auburn color and the bold toasty aroma gets you before you enjoy a taste.  I found a modest amount of peat and intense fruit and vanilla in this warm dram.  The double hit from first fill sherry barrels imparts the sweetness and the brassy hue .  In a world awash with the same old everything, this bad boy demands attention , the black bottle alone is arresting.  Finally, the multi layered finish lingered for an eterinity… “ So may I introduce to you, the act you’ve know for all these years” , HP’s Scotch Noir.  Snobbishly rated a solid 9 .


Glenlivet Founders Reserve

We live in the golden age of Scotch Whisky expressions and choices . Now finding our new favorite is tougher than locating the secret entrance to the Batcave. This non-age statement malt is akin to a fruit salad in your glass, I found citrus and apple both in the nose and the taste, refreshing and kinda fun. This is an easy breezy dram that would be perfect for rookies and even Bourbon drinkers, slightly sweet and easy to enjoy and at 80 proof it is even gentle on the potency. The light amber color and a whisper of honey round out the experience. I found the finish was longer than a wedding that you really did not want to attend….Grab a bottle of this 7.5 rated smoothie and invite the neighbors, it’s also a bargain.


Singleton Glendullan 15

The Singleton Glendullan 15- It was the spotted trout that stopped me cold. Once I focused on the actual liquid it became an instant hit with my tasting crew with its light nose and sweet flavors. We found some citrus and honey that seemed perfect for a Speysider and man is it mellow. This truly vintage distillery mills the barley and uses a gradual process to allow the oak barrels to work their magic, and in today’s hot market, they still age for 15 years….remarkable. So I suggest you reel in a bottle or two before this small batch runs too far downstream. Its not a bargain, but seems worth every penny, no water added is my rule. Now get yourself outside and catch that fish. This keeper is a fighting 8 on my stream.


Laphroaig Quarter Cask

Laphroaig Quarter Cask- Way back before Elon Musk mesmerized the world with all things scientific, Mr. Wizard ruled via the television. So how would Mr. Wizard explain how this Islay wonder pours golden caramel with this wonderfully peaty nose? Given that the distillery lives on what is basically a rock outcropping, trees don’t exist and Mr. Wizard would concur that burning peat chunks is a logical solution for roasting the grain.   Due to the centuries old floor malting methods, the smoke infuses the barley in a subtle and delicious way. I found the malt to be thick and briny and better balanced than a Wallenda. This is one bottle that you either love it or hate, middle ground does not exist. Some of the unique flavors are the result of the namesake smaller casks which bring in oaky nuances rather quickly. The finish is longer than a ballerina’s legs, and almost as interesting. Embrace the intensity and you’ll enjoy the warming and lingering flavor of this excellent dram. Not even Mr. Wizard’s Science can explain the art of Scottish distilling and hopefully Elon leaves the single malt world alone. Mr. Wizard and I rate this a smoldering 8 on the snob slide rule.


Edradour 12 Caledonia

Edradour 12 Caledonia- The time has arrived for celebration and renewal and I have just
the right beverage to make that happen. I suggest avoiding the tragically deluded hipster
bartender at the local pub and instead purchase this groovy whisky and share a dram with a
friend. Edradour is a tiny traditional distillery that makes old school your new passion . Located
in the north country , AKA Caledonia , this whitewashed group of vintage buildings makes
sunset colored creamy single malt magic. There is a zesty intensity with floral notes and
dried fruit in the middle of the dram and the finish has some mysterious spice with
a lengthy warming glow. Now pour a glass by the fireplace and avoid the empty headed
wing nuts and bar flies this season. You made it through the year with flying colors and next
year is going to be stellar ! Regardless of how and when you celebrate, make this
beauty part of the evening and buy a second bottle for gifting. I rate this small batch wonder a
sparkling 8 on the snob scale and wish all the best to you and your loved ones, cheers, salute,
L’chaim, mabuhay, and skoal.edradour-caladonialr


Pig’s Nose

Pig’s Nose- Occasionally even The Snob has to step outside of the norm, and what a step….straight
into the barnyard. The blend versus single malt conundrum is always a nettlesome topic with
predictable arguments for each side. This porky whisky won me over based solely on its shelf
presence, what a cool graphic ! Most blends lack the kind of character I look for in a drink and most
also consist of a high percentage of grain alcohol, yuk. Our subject is a 5 year old with 40% malt
whiskies from Speyside, Highland, and Islay to improve the product. The nose is predictably light
but pleasant and the initial flavor gives you a heavy does of caramel and some subtle pepper .
The mouthfeel is malty and round and the finish is as long as an olympic sprinters legs, impressive for a pig. There is surprising harmony in this bottle which is a credit to master blender Richard Paterson who may have reached porcine perfection , in a farm to table sort of way. So try to avoid being pig headed about fancy labels and age statements, your wallet won’t be hog tied at the checkout either. No gold medals here, but probably the best tasting 6.5 rated whisky on my shelf.

pigsnose-finallr


Tamdhu 10

Tamdhu 10- There is every reason to believe the world is coming to an end. I suggest that this
Presidential election between a certified nut ball and a congenital lier is a harbinger of said termination. How else could we think given that these two losers are the best our country ( the greatest on the planet) can muster up. To remedy this sorry state , I suggest an epic pour of this Speyside beauty. As observant Scotchophiles , we all should notice that the label offers up “Enlightenment” in addition to a heady does of fresh malt with some light floral  overtones. God knows we all seek and need both…….The nose is light and refreshing with a hint of vanilla and fruit and the palate is clean and slightly citrusy. The pale color is a great indicater of what follows in the dram. So let’s do our part and help out humanity by enjoying this jewel like bottle of whisky and also write in your candidate of choice to solve the problem of our world ending prematurely, I humbly suggest that I, your faithful snob, should lead the free world for the next 4 years. I promise to lead with integrity, thoughtfulness, great reason, and toughness when needed. Drink up , vote early and vote often. Oh, and our Tamdhu is rated a presidential great 8.

tamdhu10lr


The Glenrothes Vintage Reserve

The Glenrothes Vintage- Here’s your plan…..jump on the world wide interweb from your wristwatch,
send your self driving car to the ultra snotty local liquor retailer, launch the trunk mounted drone to
the checkout counter where your tab has been settled by autopay, snag your chubby ( no body
shaming please) subject , and command the whole mess to meet you on your deck . Now let’s return
to normalcy and pour a hefty dram of this pale copper Speyside whisky that may just make life
bearable . The nose has sweet fruit notes and a mellow hint of vanilla. This is a round bodied and
creamy scotch that never shouts from your glass. The flavor has whispers of wine notes with a soft
punch of candied fruit. The portly little tub holds a graceful finish with a hint of spice , very round
indeed. Now take a deep sip and enjoy the simplicity of a quiet , quality beverage and let the frantic
buzz of modern life fly right on by. I rate this portly dram a full bodied 7.5 , posted from my
interconnected watch of course.

glenrothes-vintagelr


Glenfiddich 12

Glenfiddich12LRPost

Glenfiddich 12- Go figure, a dozen years in Oloroso Sherry Barrels , a super cool looking bottle and
label, an honest to goodness great flavor, and it won’t break the bank! This malty Speyside is vintage
amber in color and the nose is grassy sweet. I found great waves of citrus and vanilla in the body
and a rounded and mellow flavor at the back of my mouth. There is even a whisper of peat in this
gem that seems to defy its cost. If I were the marketing wizard at Intergallactic Distilling , I’d order
up a price jump post-haste. It is my opinion that because we see this on many bar shelves that we
tend to think it is an ordinary dram, but savor the flavor …this stuff rocks. From the barley to the
barrel , and the distillers craftsmanship , all parties nailed it ….without nailing your wallet.
Snobbishly rated a solid 8.

 


Glen Garioch 12

Glen Garioch 12- A minor confession…. with so many Highlands on the shelf these days, many of
them amount to a snoozefest in your glass. There, I said it, not my fave….But this one avoids many
of the cliché characteristics . Let’s start with the spiffy label typography, it has calligraphy no less!
The nose is potent with alcohol and sweet honey and the first sip is chockablock with creamy
caramel and some mystery fruit that defies you to identify it. This malt is alarmingly smooth and has
a split personality from aging in bourbon and sherry casks, giving it a back flavor of wood and
sweetness. One downside for me is that the finish is faster than a Frenchman waves the white flag, I
prefer a longer lasting taste. Oh by the way, the pronunciation is “Geerie” so don’t embarrass
yourself in the bar if you are lucky enough to find it on the shelf. I guess the Highlands do make a
whisky even a snob could love, rated a 7.5 and worth searching for.

glengarioch 12LR

 


Ardbeg Corryvreckan

ardbeg corry newLR

Ardbeg Corryvreckan- Islay single malts are a nettlesome topic. Many of my subjects ( Highlands
for instance ) are easy on the palate and nose and can be enjoyed by basically anyone not repulsed
by whisky. Not so of this class of heavy hitters, in fact, I cannot think of a more polarizing spirit.
I have heard a few wags describe the ultra peaty whiskies as the marriage of campfire ashes and
good spirits bottled by a pyromaniac, a slight overstatement. If you want to forever avoid a
snoozefest in your glass, embrace the smoke and power. This is a heavy dram which completely fills
your senses, the nose is intense and lingering, and the taste includes some peppered fruit with
organic overtones. There is a creamy character that magically appears on the second taste and the
key is to swirl it in your mouth for much longer than a conventional scotch . There is no age
statement to help us prepare our taste buds and the golden color is deceivingly pale, no visual
clues to go by at all for this cask strength beast. If you give it some time, you’ll find deep
layers of flavor and a finish longer than War and Peace. It is high time to ditch the predictable
and embrace the bold, rated a smoldering 8 on the smoky snob scale.

 


Glenmorangie Tusail

Glenmorangie Tusail-  The wizards at big “G” Intergallatic Distilling have even more expressions than politicians have lies.  Our subject malt is a very limited edition bottling using double row Maris Otter barley which allows for a lower yield ( read : higher priced ), and the traditional floor malting makes for a premium craft product. The resulting golden scotch is a richly aromatic malt with toffee and fruit notes layered with some distant spicyness.  The incredibly tall and narrow stills at Glenmorangie result in a lighter spirit and this is as close to artisnal as the big boys get.  The lack of an age statement , for me at least, is not relevant with Tusail , it’s the taste that matters, and it is top shelf.  I can’t say the same about our politicians however, and the hackneyed line about ” when their lips are moving” has never been truer . Turn off the relentless blah, blah, blah,  take refuge from the nonsense and enjoy this 8.5 rated truth teller.

glenmorangietusailLR


Bruichladdich Scottish Barley

Bruichladdich Scottish Barley-  As you and your crew enter the new and hip local gastropub, your first order of business is to select and order a great drink.  The whole ” farm to table” trend is good for foodies and our subject malt fits in like the final puzzle piece. The distillers celebrate their locally grown barley and terroir in this golden dram and the floral notes and honey are delightful as you swirl your glass. You will be surprised to discover that this Islay is unpeated and has a full and round mouthfeel. The sea and oak barrels have worked their magic on the Laddie with some brine and layers of texture to enhance the experience.  Choose this dram and you might even gain a new measure of cool at the bar, snobbishly rated a solid 8.  Slainte…. and the happiest of New Years to you .scottish barley bruichladdichLR


McKenzie Rye Whiskey

Fingerlakes Distilling Rye Whiskey-  I know , I know….but every once in a while take a chance on a new beverage.  Rye is the grain that makes this drink a winner and you will likely be surprised by the flavor.  But first you’ll have to tear yourself away from that synchronized swimming DVD and focus on the tasting at hand. The nose is powerful and frankly foreign , I’m a barley guy for heaven’s sake….I found the first taste whacked me with alcohol and a less than subtle bite but after swirling it around , the warmth and nutty flavors kicked in.  The second taste gave me a mouth watering mildly acidic flavor and intense spiciness, quite nice actually.  The color was a pale amber and I surprisingly even began to enjoy the kick that accompanied each sip. At a certain point you actually taste the grain that makes this a delightfully chewy Whiskey. The finish was faster than a speeding bullet , not what I’m used to but hey, it’s rye ! I love the fact that this beauty is crafted right in my part of the world , New York’s most beautiful lakes region.  Finally, just how do those swimmers hold their breath while their legs are wildly flailing around above water? Please report back to the team. Rated a non traditional 8 and recommended unconditionally, no splashes allowed.McKenzieRyeLR-1


Glengoyne 10

Glengoyne 10- It is time to unhitch from the world wide interweb and get back to enjoying reality at a normal pace. Our subject whisky is a Highland malt of notable unhurried quality.  The makers actually air dry the barley and employ a slow process distilling technique which flies in the face of every annoying smartphone wielding speed demon.  The nose is of toffee and fruit with a slight earthiness , which could be the result of the dirt floor in the barrel warehouse. I found the usual highland vanilla and a slightly raspy spice at the back of my mouth on the first taste , and just a hint of bacon.  Taking my time led to a more mellow mouthfeel and the amber glassfull eventually disappeared rather quietly.  Even the finish on my test drive was leisurely, but in a good way. So before some nit picker starts poking around in Google to research this slow paced wonder, I suggest you simply buy a bottle , invite a friend or two via snail mail….( remember stamps and letters..) and taste this beauty.  It’s clean and crisp and unhurried.  Kinda like Scotland I suspect.  Now try not to check your email or the market for at least a few hours……rated an analog 8 on the Snob slide rule….and I lied about the bacon. glengoyne


Aberlour A’Bunadh

Aberlour A’Bunadh – Mercifully, dinner with your in-laws is finally over and the kids are watching Shrek for the third time this week. Now it’s your time and the whisky you need has just dropped in. This deep amber powerhouse is amazingly smooth and malty, especially considering it is cask strength.  The distillers aged their prized liquid in Spanish oloroso sherry butts , and that wood has worked its magic.   I found spice and pepper along with some mysterious fruit on the palate . The nose is sweet and oh so potent but delightful. I suggest resisting the common temptation to add water to mellow it out, harness the power! The finish is super luxe lengthy and most enjoyable….Halfway through the glass your nutball brother-in-law will seem almost tolerable. This after dinner specialist easily earns a 9 on the Snob-O-Meter. Aberlour Abunadh2LR


Black Bull Scotch Whisky

Rough and tumble whisky lovers pay attention. Here is a dram that will have you re-think your regular pour, especially after a tough day at the ranch. In my mind , drinking harsh whisky is aberrant behavior, totally unacceptable. And yet I did and I enjoyed it , maybe I have gone over the edge. So either I need an immediate intervention or a taste bud transplant. This bastard would never be invited to sit at the cool kids table so why am I reviewing it? The nose is strong with alcohol and has a touch of vanilla and spice. The sunset color and intense mouthfeel fit the ranch image to a tee. There are some traces of dried fruit and smoke in the glass and the finish was faster than a lightning strike. Tough guy stuff is OK now and then, so grab a bottle and hold on….. Put away the fine glassware and pour this stuff into a broken jelly jar, just don’t get cut. If there are Scottish cowboys, I think we just found their favorite Malt Whisky. Snobishly rated a 6.5 and damn proud of it.blackbullfinalLR


The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

malt whisky2LR postThe Scotch Malt Whisky Society-  Open the velvet curtains……..We’ve found the rarest of the rare.  Welcome to the distiller’s dark art pinnacle of perfection.  Batch 66.49 has been road tested by your faithful scribe and photographer and what a hellish job is was. For my adventure into the upper echelon of malted beverages I thought, what is the most snobbish vessel with which to taste the liquid gold ? Why champagne flutes of course, and the glass actually enhanced the experience.  In addition to the hoity toity label and bottling , the stuff is cask strength , i.e. rocket fuel.  So Tom and I proceed to taste it neat, and amazingly, not one bit of harshness or bite.  The nose was thick with initial alcohol but that gave way to floral notes and just a bit toffy .  The complexity in the mouth feel and the delishishly woody flavors were noticed by all lucky enough to be present .  The color was a brassy orange and the palate had a nutty, slightly citrus flavor.  This being one of only 236 bottles worldwide, the likelyhood of you sharing my experience is distant at best. If you ever are offered a dram, jump at the chance, it is truly world class.  This one goes unrated due to its being unobtainium . But make no mistake, it’s the top of the heap.


Ledaig 10

Ledaig 10-  Let’s assume that you would like to combine your love of surfing and single malts. I have just the solution and place.  Get your favorite board on the plane and head to the Isle of Mull off the western coast of Scotland where this distillery lies .   Sequentially, it’s probably better to surf first and then head to the bar for a wee nip of this wonderfully peated malt.  The seaside brininess and not so subtle smoke are the first things you will note in your glass .  The bracing cold waves you just left will give way to a swell of warmth and vanilla creaminess after your first dram disappears.  The palate is sweet and peppery at the same time and the peat smoke from the dried barley is ever-present.  The finish is quite brief like a fast breaking wave……. Both of your endeavors involve flowing liquid energy and the latter will add new meaning to hanging 10.  After your next set of waves, collect some drift wood and make a roaring beach fire , having this dude join your party makes it easy to go with the flow and rates a 7.5 .Ledaig 10LR