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.
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.
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- 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.
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.
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 .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
GlenDronach 12- It has been a tradition to offer up a dram about mid way through a practice session and this bluesy malt was one of the chart toppers. The deep amber color perfectly matched the vintage fade on my drums and the nose was ultra sweet with toffee notes and some vanilla overtones. The taste was a crescendo of flavors with a staccato pepper beat and a powerful finish. My suggestion is to enjoy this bold flavored malt with a Jeff Beck CD and some like minded folks as the music in your glass would be enhanced and the experience would linger on into the evening. See if you can identify the fruit overtones and send your comments back, I love the feedback. Try not to rush the tempo of your drink and just enjoy it mellow. I rate this amber beauty a solid 9.
AnCnoc 12- A recent visit to the Guggenheim renewed my interest in all things modern. Many single malts have vintage formulas and equally stogy graphics which brings us to the artistically contemporary AnCnoc 12 produced by the good folks at Knockdhu. Gaelic for “ The Hill “, it should be no surprise that this yellow hued beauty is a highland malt. The nose was ultra crisp with a good dose of pepper and and a minor stroke of smoke. The mouth feel was clean and creamy with the usual Speyside fruit hidden somewhere deep in the composition. The lovely finish was long and lingering and the malt itself was representative of the clean and graphic label. All the essentials for a memorable drink are here and while this may not be the “ Picasso” of single malts, it is surely worth adding to your gallery…Rated a painterly 7 on the snob scale.
Aberlour 12 – As we contemplate the spectacular Sochi Olympics, I have a strategy to help you truly enjoy the competition. Acquire a bottle of this Double Cask Matured highland malt and prepare a comfortable chair for you and a friend in front of the 80 inch flatscreen. It’s the gold medal color that first grabs your attention and the mellow nose with mild spiciness ices the job. The full flavor with toffee and caramel lingers well past the finish line. Not even Vladimir Putin’s rants could spoil the experience for true Speyside fans, yup ….the distillers call their product a “ Highland Speyside Malt” …go figure. Enjoy your own opening ceremony with this highly trained Whisky , rated a podium worthy 8 on the snob scale.
Balvenie Doublewood 17- The world seems mad for anything hand crafted these days….well here is a prime example for your holiday season. The extremely patient distillers grow their own barley, use traditional floor malting, employ artisan barrel coopers, and have honest to goodness coppersmiths tending to the stills, and what century is this again? All of these elements drive home their point like a well placed tranquilizer dart. The Whisky is aged first in traditional oak and then sleeps in Sherry oak casks until its 17th birthday. Rich amber in color with a woody citrus flavor, this jewel of a Scotch is a stellar achievement with a spicy and luxuriously lingering finish. Saint Nick would be well advised to pack the sleigh full and leave this Speyside under my tree…..highly recommended and rated an 8.5.
Lagavulin 16… “great balls of fire” said Jerry Lee Lewis, well here is the embodiment of that classic rock tune in a bottle. A generous dose of peat and serious smoky flavors will reward those who enjoy it neat. This whisky is intense and complex with a lingering finish , I found a sea side saltiness underneath the smoke and fire. The folks on Islay take their time nurturing this prize…. it matures and grows stronger for 16 years in oak prior to landing in your bottle. this 86 proof is much smoother than you might expect but is definitely not a beginners malt, my guess is that the Killer himself would be a fan of this power house Scotch, I rate it a smoldering 8.5..Slainte!
Bushmills 21 Irish whiskey- The Snob has invaded a new island! Irish ….darn right ! The drink of choice for my friend JS , this sweet and fragrant single malt is spicy and delightfully complex with fruit notes and a lingering finish. Aging in sherry and bourbon casks for 21 years has worked its magic by infusing the flavors with citrus and sweetly grapelike flavors. I might need a bit more exploration time to appreciate the subtleties in this bottle, which is visually intriguing due to the stylish embossed flanks and square shape. Broaden your horizons, welcome your Irish neighbor to the table! I rate it a solid 7.5 .
Springbank Private Label, Some days are better than others….and today was a rockin’ fine example . Here’s a very special bottle that was purchased as an entire barrel many moons ago and man o man was it worth the wait. This is a rich and mellow malt with lovely vanilla notes leading to an oaky spice in the background. My friend Adrienne who provided this example reports that robbing a bank might be the only way to acquire your own stash, as the last bottle sold at auction for a cool grand. Compare this rare scotch with the distinctive tones of a vintage Rickenbacker and you’ll get the picture. I wonder if Mr. Thomas Petty enjoys the occasional dram……..this liquid music rates a 9+ ,or a Grammy.
Glenmorangie –Original 10 year old. This charming Highland whisky warms the spirit with a rich floral flavor. Its oaky complexity and vanilla notes linger on the tongue and encourage the drinker to keep coming back for more. The nose is quite delicate and the sweet toasted oakiness will easily put a smile on your face. This singular malt should always have a spot on your shelf and won’t give your wallet an apoplectic fit . This 80 proof scotch rates a solid 8 and is recommended as the perfect “steady eddie “ scotch .