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!