Exploring the world of Single Malt Scotches

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Mortlach 16 Distillers Dram

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

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-

 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

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….


Banff 1976 Connoisseurs Choice-

 

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

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 19

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.


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


Laphroaig 10

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

 

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

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.  


Glenfiddich 14

Glenfiddich Bourbon Barrel Reserve 14-  With a nod to American spirits and as a way to get us far far away from American politics, I present this modest diversion.  The magic herein is due to the lengthy stay in deeply charred bourbon oak and man did it ever work.  The rich amber color and ultra silky mouthfeel are most welcome on a fall evening. I found a unique mash up of corn and vanilla sweetness and a delightfully long finish.  The 86 proof is bold enough to make a statement and yet still is mellow enough for everyone to enjoy it neat as intended.  The nose is crazy sweet almost like a dessert, yum……While the leaves in our area are changing and flying, grab a bottle of this and enjoy it outside, somehow the spirit and the fall action enhance each other perfectly. Now if we could just have a choice other than cranky old guys for the most important job in the land!  I rate this blue labeled beauty a solid 8 on the snob scale.  Slainte

 


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.