Exploring the world of Single Malt Scotches

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Port Askaig 110 Proof

Port Askaig 110 Proof- God knows we all need a diversion and I have a solution.  Here’s a new experience you can enjoy without a mask or the dreaded smell of Purell. Acquire a stash of this Islay powerhouse and prepare for a flavor bomb of the highest order.  Special thanks go out to the P.I.C. Larry , ( Provisioner In Chief) for his efforts on our behalf…..This moody bad boy comes to us from an un-named distiller on the Island but my research points to Caol Ila.  With no age statement, it’s a guess on my part but 8 years seems about right, still edgy but very flavorful and malty.  The deep amber color suits my mood perfectly and the nose meets us at the corner of Smoky and Grain.  The robust taste has some faint vanilla and fruit and a large whack of alcohol, and at 55% that is expected.  The aging is all in ex- bourbon barrels and those have imparted a delicate sweetness with a moderately long finish.  I tried a glass with a few drops of water but the effect was just less character, leave it as bottled.  So get to work on this 7.5 rated newcomer post haste. Now go wash your hands.


Christmas Gift Suggestion

Seasons Greetings to you and your family, here is an idea……Greetings all, Here is my totally self serving idea, I will sign, endorse, and ship to you for $35.  For more images and a full description please visit my posting from May of this year. Also available on barnesandnoble.com , and Amazon .com  .  All the best to you and yours !

Cheers, Ken


Cardhu 12

Cardhu12-  Breaking news: you can now order a dram of single malt at selected Starbucks locations.  This charmingly fat container shows a warm amber colored whisky that is bottled at 80 proof and it features melon and honey notes aplenty.  I found subtle but pleasant smoke and a good measure of peppery spice mid taste.  Somehow the distiller even managed to impart a taste of vanilla cake in the mix. Cardhu is a Speyside with some lingering sweetness that would make it a fine after dinner drink and the pinched bottle would look swanky on your bar. The finish was satisfyingly long.  I rate this zoftig beauty a solid 7 and it sure beats a latte….oh, and I lied about Starbucks.


Grangestone

Grangestone – describing flavor subtleties in kinda like nailing Jello to the wall, not an easy deal.  This Highland dram is copper  hued  and truly mellow on the nose, without a single hint of the dreaded Jello.  I found complex floral and fruit notes with a whisper of peat. The distilling team in Ayrshire finished their whisky in Sherry casks and that  worked its usual magic.  The finish was brief  but enjoyable and this is a very drinkable single malt and a bargain to boot. Keep the ice and water away as that would spoil your drink.  I rate this vanilla soaked dram a solid seven. Now let me get back to my messy work with the hammer.


Magnus by Highland Park

Magnus by Highland Park- Here is a new expression by an old trusted friend, not me you ninny, Highland Park.  This variation on a theme is a nice enough drink, pleasant round nose and a mild whiff of punchy vanilla with a dose alcohol forward to wake up your senses. I found a faint but enjoyable smokiness in this Orkney distilled malt. There is no revolutionary anything about this dram, no zany barrel aging, no nod to the patron saint of malted spirits, nothing was distilled via flamethrower, so why did I bother?  It’s a super cool looking black bottle for heaven’s sake… good looks have to count for something! That said however, the flavor profile is standard fare with notes of honey and grasses layered in with some spicy fruit.  The finish is longer than usual and rather more pleasant than the criminally oversold higher priced blends ( yup, those Walkers ).  We are led to believe that Viking ancestors began this process and hence the catchy name.  So the next time you are entertaining with a conga line of whisky bottles, add this dude into the mix and I guarantee this one is empty first. Superficial beauty does draw the attention of the masses so turn ‘em loose.  It only rates a 6.5 on the “snobometer“ so no great loss to your collection of the good stuff.  Bottom’s up!


The Art of Scotch

Greetings, I am happy to announce that after a ridiculous amount of time and effort I have published my book on Single Malt Scotch Whisky.  The book itself covers how the spirit is crafted and aged and how the various flavors and characteristics come about.  I have focused on the 4 largest regions and reviewed dozens of single malts.  The graphic design team made the pages truly come alive , in my opinion, and I have attached a few examples.  It is 110 pages in length and 8.5 inches square with outstanding print quality.   I have copies on hand and am offering it first to my followers , including signed as gifts if you desire.  Books are $30. each and I can send and pack them for  $5. additional to most North American destinations.  BarnesandNoble.com , and Amazon.com will have it for sale later this month but they will set their own price.  Please pass this on if you know someone who might appreciate it. Send me you email in a comment and we can make the payment and shipping happen.


Glenfiddich India Pale Ale

Glenfiddich India Pale Ale- I love IPA beer, so why does this idea seem too wacky to work?  These people certainly think outside the box…The spirit spends some quality finishing time in oak barrels that were filled for a time with IPA beer to add in that singular taste profile. I found citrus and floral notes in the nose, which was unusually light.  The flavor was quite sweet with zesty vanilla and fruit, unique to be sure.  At 86 proof, the alcohol makes a statement but what really stands out is the tang of fresh hops. With no age statement on the lable, we expect a young drink with a bit of edge. I found the finish quite brief and a bit sharp, pleasant but unremarkable.  This unconventional whisky may offend the patron saint of Scottish spirits but the team gets high marks for innovation.  I rate this rogue a solid 7 on the snob scale. Oh, one more thing, Hoppy Easter.

 


Queen Highland

The Queen Highland- Freddy Mercury may be long gone but his legacy lives on with his favorite whisky. This sketchy malt is named for his band and deserves your full attention.  I found some subtle notes of mildew with undertones of used gear oil in the first taste.  The nose was a delicate harmony of spring swamp and eau de dairy barn.  Upon further review and a second taste, the entire experience was a tad worse overall with a trace of rust on the tongue. The crack distilling team tout’s filtering their water through damp lumps of pocket lint and aging in second fill pickle barrels, quite a Bohemian technique.  The finish will rock you with its lingering Rhapsody of vaguely unpleasant medicinal tones.  I suggest you wear your best scotch goggles to help you get to the bottom of the jelly jar, my recommended tasting vessel.   And be sure to save the lid in case you fail to finish the pour.  This whisky is about as appealing as free tickets to a Justin Bieber concert.  As Freddy would say, “another one bites the dust”.  A hearty April Fool’s review, with tongue in cheek from me to you.


Kilchoman Machir Bay

Kilchoman Machir Bay- Are you looking for a value whiskey? Me neither, so let’s have a look at this one in the cool bottle.  Our malt is an Islay which brings to mind certain characteristics and the taste confirms our suspicions. The nose is sweet with floral and citrus notes and a fair dose of smoke.  I found massive honey and butterscotch in the palate which I attribute to the sherry barrel component.  It is a punchy malt boasting 92 proof and long legs indeed. I wish the distillers had added in an age statement as we all like to know what we’re buying.  The finish is a glorius combo of salty and smoky , right up my alley…….Machir Bay is a beautiful beach and that might be the best place to enjoy a glass if you have the time.  Now back to the value aspect, this boy is an overachiever, especially since it rates a solid 7.5…….and it’s a looker.


Loch Lomond 12

Loch Lomond 12- Choosing a new single malt is a bit like playing “Operation”. You want to be able to grab that beauty without getting zapped. That is not a problem with this Highland rock star , grab and go with the confidence of a surgeon. The fine folks with their distillery perched on the shore of this scenic lake (loch), use a unique mash up of recharred, refilled and bourbon barrels to craft their malty magic. The complex sweetness on the nose is payed off with ultra mellow fruit and spices in the flavor. I found the finish to be lingering with a hint of welcome peat, a true zesty whisky. This dram is wicked good , well priced , beautifully bottled , and you won’t get zapped ! Rated a buzzing 8 on the snob scale and highly recommended.


Ardbeg Perpetuum

Ardbeg Perpetuum- Welcome to the party ! This lusty dram is the celebration of 2 centuries of distilling excellence and know how. The folks at the helm of this Islay ship have launched a malt with all the subtlety of a live hand grenade. The vintage gold color and smoky nose let us know that no one has strayed far from the usual profile, thankfully. There is a briny sweetness and edgy vanilla which is driven home by the lofty 47.4 proof . This stuff packs a punch rivaling Mike Tyson. With Ardbeg , we are truly able to taste the grain , the peat , and the terroir of the the region and that makes it one of my favorite single malts . I really enjoyed the full bodied mouthfeel and the sultry nose , but was disappointed by the lack of an age statement. It is a young and spunky whisky that if over enjoyed, might make you think getting a neck tattoo is a valid idea. Not their best effort , but still and enjoyable 7.5 on the snob scale.


Gordon & Mcphail’s Bunnahabhain 8

The Gordon & Macphail’s Bunnahabhain 8- Not even Einstein got is right every time, but he kept on working. The good folks at G&M have a groovy business model that also relied on experiments and they focus exclusively on the wood…..get your mind out of the gutter junior. I refer of course to the casks that age our favorite spirit. They contract to buy ” new make” whisky and supply the barrel that will compliment the liquid gold using some science and maybe a bit of voodoo. The methodology and experimentation rivals Einstein and while the results are not quite as spectacular, they are still special. The amber glow of this Islay announces the mellow caramel and vanilla notes with a hint of smoke. The mouth feel is super full and round with a lingering finish, rather elegant for young malt. Your famous uncle Albert would agree with the philosophy used by these people, “The Wood makes the Whisky”. Snobbishly rated an oaky 8.


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