Exploring the world of Single Malt Scotches

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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.

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Glenfiddich 12

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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.

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Ardbeg Corryvreckan

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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.

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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


Swig Hip Flasks

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Swig Hip Flasks- So as not to bore our loyal followers, we have branched out this month into a new category….Portability ! Our activity level has increased markedly over the last few weeks or so and this uber cool product could be your new best friend . It is impractical to pack your favorite single malt bottle while on an adventure so here is your solution. This beautifully crafted container will keep your liquid gold safe and impress your friends when you bring it out of your backpack. It holds enough to share and if you choose wisely, adds flair and style to your event. The company is based in the UK and offers many interesting options for the snob in all of us, engraving, leather, gift sets, harris tweed, go for the works !  This is truly a modern spin on artisan craftsmanship.
I can’t imagine a more appropriate gift for a whisky fan, a wise giver might even pre-fill the beauty. Check out the website and tell them the “Single Malt Snob” sent you. Oh, and mine is called the Harris Tweed Scot , which should not come as a surprise. Here is the website http://www.swigflasks.com , now get online before they run out, cheers TSMS


Auchentoshan 21

Auchentoshan 21 – Polish up your finest leather shoes, get the tweed jacket cleaned and pressed, you are about to join the aristocracy. This rare Lowland whiskey is the only one distilled in Glasgow and the technique of triple distilling makes it truly a malt for the connoisseur…or for posers like us. My glass highlighted the brassy colored liquid which made me anticipate power and strength in the nose but instead I found lightness and subtlety. The flavor profile was soft and spicy with a touch of citrus and maybe some floral notes that complete the taste. My regular Scotch choices include bold flavors and complexity but here is another animal entirely. It takes awhile for the delicate nuances to present themselves but what an experience…….The best way to describe the taste is ultra clean and fresh with elegant layers and sweet depth. Enjoy this one with a friend who appreciates jazz more than rock and take your time in the process. Upper crust rated a lofty 9 on the Snob scale. Auchentoshan 21postLR


Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14

Balvenie Caribbean 14 – Cue the steel drums and grab your most obnoxious floral shirt ’cause we’re off to the tropics. This family distillery has added a spicy new flavor to their distinguished lineup by aging the whisky in rum casks to make a perfect teenager. Imagine a sultry beach evening with soft breezes and a hefty pour in your glass sporting toffee and fruit flavors, that’s the perfect formula. The rich gold color speaks of sunsets and unrefined brown sugar notes round out the taste. Full and robust is the best way to describe the mouth feel with some tropical fruit revealing itself at the finish…… I think there is a cake-like flavor mid taste and you might forget about dessert if this were offered instead. The rum casks have left their mark on the flavors here even more than Jimmy Buffet’s music did to your last beach party. You see Mon…the rating is only 8 but the scotch is still great ! Enjoy your mini vacation.  Balvenie Car cask finalLR


Old Pultney

Old Pultney 12- The coastal town of Wick in the Highland region is for the hearty of spirit only. The townsmen made their living at sea and fisherman need a strong and welcoming glass when they return from a  long days work. I found great waves of creamy vanilla with some citrus notes in the flavor mix…. and just a hint of some mysterious spice ( perhaps nutmeg ) as well. The nose offers up a strong perfumed fragrance with only a hint of smoke . There was a satisfying traditional mouthfeel that makes me want to kick back and look out over the harbor while enjoying this dram. I imagine that after staring at the fishing nets for days on end this was considered a truly special reward. Just be sure to keep an eye on your mooring line so you don’t take an unexpected swim at the end of the evening….Fishing for a living paralells life in general, where hard work
and knowledge occasionally still need a little bit of luck for success. Snobbishly rated a 7 and recommended to enjoy with your next seafood dinner. Old Pulteney12 finalLR


Ardbeg 10

Ardbeg 10-  As our world begins the inevitable return to near ice age conditions…….seek warmth this evening. A gigantic smoky wallop is what you will get with this powerful dram from Islay. Embrace the outdoor cold and revel in the warmth of this massive dram. Pouring the rich golden liquid will immediatly fill the surrounding air with tremendous smoke and peat, nothing subtle here . Get your nose right into the glass to enjoy the full intensity of this monster.  I taste the earthy goodness that the distillers infused the whisky with and possibly some dried fruit as well.  All this fire and brimstone is however nicely softened by the caramel and honey notes that carry the complex flavors to a fine warm and rather lengthy finish. This is a full bodied and ultra rich malt , not for the delicate of palate .   Remember the last campfire you enjoyed with friends ?  This scotch will bring back that memory each time you pour a glass and warm you just as nicely, without the sooty mess on your plaid sweater!  Snobbishly rated a 7.5 for most, but add a point if you are a peat lover. Three cheers for the smoke. Ardbeg 10 finalLR


Bunnahabhain 12

Bunnahabhain 12- For an Islay malt, this one defies all the norms. This is a wonderfully traditional mellow fellow which claims that its non chillfiltering technique insures that we get all the powerful flavors and aromas without the harshness and drama . There is only a faint whiff of peat in the nose and I found something tasting like a pear salad in the middle of the glass, quite unique indeed. The fruit flavor is surrounded by vanilla and malt in equal measures. There is an unusual ” lightness” to this scotch which I would never expect based on the tar black bottle it arrives in. You will impress your malt loving friends if you learn to pronounce it properly and order accordingly , it’s like the secret handshake or the magic decoder ring, instant cred in the bar. So with the holidays rapidly approaching, now is the time to ready your bar for all the usual celebrations and this one needs to be at the top of your list. And that other mellow fellow that wears the red suit…. he or she would undoubtedly like a good suggestion for under the tree. I rate this smoothy a warm 8 and wish you all a most cheerful holiday season.Bunn alt 2crop


Talisker Storm

Talisker Storm-  ” you say you want a rev-o-lution ” To invoke the Beatles here seems very appropriate. This revolutionary Malt roared out of the blue with an intense flavor and a cutting edge concept .  We are all used to seeing the number of years our Scotch has been barrel aging but Talisker tossed that idea out during the maelstrom….the resulting 90 proof powerhouse is positive evidence that this can be a wildly successful formula.  Even the contemporary label design and packaging invoke the raging sea around the Isle of Skye where this rugged individualist is created.   I found a large doses of warming sweetness initially and then the flavor opens up with fury and power as the peppery finish lingers on and on.  I taste the usual caramel and spices here but there is an edgy distinctive explosion that can only be attributed to the seaside location.  I believe this malt is being marketed to new and younger scotch fans and it seems as though the target has been hit dead center.  So here’s a note from John and Paul to all you traditionalists, ” don’t you know it’s gonna be…all right…all right ” I rate this raging newcomer a 7.5 and urge you to seek shelter, and take a second glass with you.Talisker tiltLR


Bowmore 12

Bowmore 12-  As we enter into the cooler fall months it makes perfect sense to add a bit of warmth to our lives.   I suggest a glass of this slightly magical amber malt might be the perfect solution.  This Islay distillery uses a unique peating process which is manifested in the wonderful smoky nose as you swirl the whisky . Make sure that you taste this with the appropriate glass to help focus the aroma as your enjoy the citrus and honey flavors. I found some saltiness in the front and a lingering finish that is well worth sharing with your best friends……For an Islay Scotch , this one is only moderately peated and in our tasting group it disappeared faster than Houdini.  I rate this smoldering beauty a rock solid 8 on the Snob Scale.Bowmore smokeLR


Glen Moray

Glen Moray-  Blasphemy ! What single malt nutcase would ever add ice to such a drink ?  Well in our corner of the world it’s mighty hot right now and I prefer a chilled glass after the days work is done….This flaxen beauty seems to benefit from the cold stuff and I recommend it for several reasons.  The scotch is a Speyside classic with a malty mouth feel and a bit of fruit flavor, perhaps pears in the background.  It is undated (read young and edgy) and therefore is smoother and more fragrant with the added cube or two.  This is a light whisky , at 80 proof, and the taste backs that up by being clean and bright in your glass and ultra light as you enjoy it. The price of entry here is quite modest for a single and it has a history dating back to 1897,  which is no small feat.  The subject was kindly provided by my friends who are ace rally teammates (R & A) and the curvaceous container came complete with beautifully etched glassware. I suggest you run to your local shop and grab a bottle or two before the word gets out !  A fine summer drink if ever there was one….cooly rated a 7 on the snob’s summer scale.Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 10.24.42 AM


Bruichladdich Rocks

Bruichladdich Rocks- These people break all the rules and somehow the result is just grand.  An un-peated Islay  malt is unheard of and it’s the water that filters through the rocks that makes the magic happen according to head distiller Jim McEwan, and I surmise that he know’s a wee bit about this issue. This non-smoky single malt is a feisty dude with a boat load of character. Islay is home to several of my favorite single malts and this newbie just made the list even longer. Rocks indeed…..the name is a misnomer if ever there was one because this is a smooth drink dripping with character, nothing crude here. The liquid is a beautiful amber color and the nose is rich and slightly sweet with a good dose of alcohol initially.  The usual caramel flavors give way to some interesting heather or floral notes and the finish is lingering.  Keep the ice away from this one even in the summer sun, it demands to be enjoyed neat ….. Oh, and that crazy color on the label?  My pal Nicole swears that the ocean at the Bruichladdich distillery really looks like that, maybe we need a field trip to verify .  I rate this crazy rebel a solid 8.bruichladdich rocks-post


Tullibardine Sovereign

Tullibardine – I occasionally wonder about the curious link between track centric people and single malts.  As you review your corner data back home in the den, a wee dram of this Highland whisky should be part of your process.  Tullibardine means ” lookout hill” in gaelic and from my vantage point here I’m looking at a paddock full of highly tuned track machines.  Many of my friends who are engaged in this pursuit are serious fans of esoteric scotches.  Our subject malt pours bright gold and has a sweet citrus nose with a smooth and clean finish.  Lighter that most, there is a distinctive wine like presence that may result from the aging in bourbon barrels.  I found some spiciness in the mouthfeel and think most fans of a waving checkered flag will enjoy this winner. It may not be the smoothest ………. but neither is that motor of yours with the full race cam. Best enjoyed after your next event and rated a solid 7 on the snob tachometer…..Tullibardine LR


The Dalmore

The Dalmore –  Think back to when you were cut from the JV team….devastating right?  Now you’ve achieved some level of success and and can splurge a bit and this is your revenge.  Back in the day, legend has it that the owner of the Dalmore distillery saved his King from a charging stag and therefore was granted permission to use this “Royal” symbol for his whisky.  The Stags head on the bottle is only the beginning of a unique scotch experience. This beautiful orange liquid has a sweet nose and a thick but delicious maltiness.  There is some initial spiciness followed by a mellow flavor of vanilla .  The scotch is started aging in American bourbon casks but finished for three final years in  oloroso sherry barrels , hence the sweetness.  The finish was long and satisfying and how can you possibly beat that 12 pointer on the bottle !  So enjoy the fruits of your hard won labors and remember that the kid who starred on the JV team is still asking people ,“paper or plastic”…..  I rate this muscular stud a hearty 8

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