Exploring the world of Single Malt Scotches

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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.