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.
Clynelish 14- Don’t let the wacky cat scare you away from this coastal overachiever. Our subject is a Highland classic that pours a beautiful orange color and your initial sense will be delicate floral notes with a subtle sweetness. Enjoyed neat , you’ll find spicy overtones and a lingering warm finish. You might detect additional nuances by adding a few drops of water ……My personal preference is having distinctive peat and this single malt delivers a mild smokiness that is soft enough for almost any whisky fan. In my experience , most felines are perpetually blasé , but this one has the correct level of attitude and character. I rate it a puurrfectly warm and fuzzy 7.5.
Caol Ila 12- This Olympic caliber single malt harkens from Islay on the Scottish west coast and has a classic peaty character. The nose is crisp and smoky with a bit of organic grassyness in the mix. Swirl this in you mouth for a good long time and more complexity will present itself. I suspect that fans of NHL defensemen will appreciate this Scotch as opposed to those who wear yoga pants on a regular basis as it sports powerful flavors. I highly recommend this refined tough guy for the fan of outsized flavor , it’s a bit like a slapshot to your taste buds, in the best possible way. Get your bottle in house right away in case you end up in the penalty box. Its rated as highly as a hat trick….. just hold the ice. Final score is a winning 8.5.
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.
Glenkinchie 12- I propose that you buy this bottle as a service to your non Scotch loving friends. We’ve all heard that Scotch Whisky is an acquired taste…nonsense, limburger cheese is an acquired taste, Scotch is delicious. This may be the perfect “rookie“ single malt with its delightful pale color and its mellow taste. I found it light on the tongue with a citrus sweetness and a long dry finish , remember to have the newbies hold the malt in their mouth and enjoy the taste fully before downing it . The distillers call this the “Edinburgh Malt” as it is produced near the capital of Scotland but fortunately none of the city pollution made it into the bottle. My friend Jerry provided our opportunity to add this approachable malt to the lineup and I suggest promoting your triple A players to the big leagues . I rate this slugger a solid 8 and suggest adding it to your roster.
Chieftain’s Limited Edition- A mogul friend of mine recently gave me a bottle of this unique single malt. The story goes like this…Ian Macleod purchased cask stocks from the Ben Nevis distillery and allowed the whisky to mature in Hogshead barrels for a curious 13 years. Autumn amber in color and spicy smooth on the nose, this is a bold flavored malt fit for a Scottish Chieftain or an American Mogul ! The vanilla notes linger on the palate long after the spiciness has receded. I suggest this 8+ rated Highland single malt be included in the leather clad cabin of your custom Learjet on your next business adventure, Slainte Kemosabe.
Auchentoshan 12 Triple Distilled It’s high time to up the ante on your sophistication in the arena of single malts. If you have ever seen a real distillery in the flesh, it appears at first glance to be a Rube Goldberg contraption crafted by a slightly tipsy metalworker. In fact however, the machinery is fairly simple and can yield some incredible results when manned by skilled hands. This triple distilled spirit is ‘over the moon’ smooth as a result of this multiple distilling treatment. I enjoyed its reddish hue and crisp meadow like flavor….fruit overtones and a tasty sweetness contribute to a lingering finish. It will look a bit pretentious on your shelf and appear more so if you pronounce it correctly. This singular malt will elevate your experience like few others, I rate it an 8.5 .
Glen Grant- I find it fascinating that Ulysses S. was at West Point when his relative Glen founded this fine distillery in the Speyside region ( a bit of pseudo history ) . Even whisky rookies know the attributes from this slightly dysfunctional family , many of the famous regular single malts hail from the area surrounding the river Spey and for good reason. This amber dram has grassy notes as though a meadow was introduced to the process along with the grain. I found an initial harshness in the nose and sweet aromatic caramel in the first taste. Linger a bit however and the alcohol seems to mellow out . Given the summer season is upon us, ” GG ” might lend itself to a cube or two , or even a splash of soda. I suggest sunset might be the ideal time of day for consumption, the golden color in your glass will enhance the visual experience. Rated a 6.5 , drinkable but unremarkable and endorsed by the General posthumously . Cheers to summer !
Jura Superstition – If you travel to the remote Isle of Jura off the west coast of Scotland, you will hear tales of strange customs and legends. The bottle containing this fine malt is decorated with the ancient Ankh symbol which is rumored to bring good fortune, especially if you wear your lucky socks . I can assure you at least of good tastings if you pour a dram of this spicy and lightly peated whisky…so maybe the Ankh is a good omen. The rocky soil and heathery peat each contribute to the subtle flavors of honey and a crisp woody note . Neat is the only way to appreciate this special single malt and you might want to avoid any black cats or full moon evenings for your first taste. I found that the finish was long and sweet with a slight smokiness . Highly recommended with an 8.5 rating , just not on Friday the 13th
Oban 14- There is something fishy about this Western Highland malt, primarily because it harkens from the town of Oban which was a fishing village for hundreds of years before the distillery was constructed in the late 1700’s. Talk about a rich history ….you can detect a slightly salty air in your glass if you give it a chance to linger . Richly colored like an amber jewel , this smooth and slightly malty scotch has a dry delicious texture on the palate . I detected subtle creaminess in my second glass which made me think this would be a fine after dinner dram, perfect for following your grilled beef or venison. There is a subtle but delightful bit of peat balanced by some fruit mid taste. I image this as the ideal reward for landing a “keeper” on a dry fly. Easily an 8+. Oh, and to avoid sounding like a rookie….remember when ordering that the A is silent.
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!
The Peat Monster …. Our timing seems perfect to discuss Dr. Stu’s contribution to our season ending celebration. In this corner of the world, burning a huge pile of amber leaves is a fall ritual which should be enhanced by enjoying a glass of this “liquid autumn”. One whiff of this smoky scotch sets the stage for a vanilla sweetness with an oaky flavor infusion. The maple leaf color is perfectly suited to enjoying this blend with a few splashes of water . There is not as much complexity here as with a good single malt but it still deserves a spot on your shelf. Take a break from the rake and tame the Monster in front of your fireplace….I rate this beast a solid 7.
Auchentoshan Classic- So my friend Charlie has this tradition whilst fly fishing….when you land a trout, you take a celebratory drink from the always present silver flask. Our subject scotch might just be the perfect streamside companion. Now Charlie favors Canadian whisky, clearly a character flaw, but right-minded folks would do well to consider this alternative. It’s lightly peated and malty with a distinctive oilyness ….which is a great combination. It’s an 80 proof bottle which should keep you from taking an unexpected downstream excursion. As a possible side benefit on a day when they are not biting…at least you are self contained. Scottishly inexpensive , but still the real (reel…) deal, I rate this one a 7, oh, and always catch and release.
Glenlivet 12 Airline Mini- Here’s a first…. the snob manages a stellar review at 32,000 feet. Enjoying a fine scotch is part tasting and part overall experience. Who need a crystal glass when American Airlines offers up a charming embossed plastic cup. Additionally, the warmth of the genuine Formica folding table (complete with propaganda literature in the clever seat back pocket) enhances our enjoyment. This refined highland whisky has subtle floral notes with very light peating. Somehow during the process, even the roar of the 757’s massive jet engines seemed to mellow out after a few sips. I found vanilla and spicy fruit flavors in this extremely smooth malt, and its golden color brightened up the cabin of my aluminum transporter. I recommend this mile high treat to even my pilot friends…once you touch down. My apologies for the inferior photo on this post, the iphone was bouncing around and my lighting isn’t up to the usual snob standards…I rated this well traveled scotch a solid 8.
Highland Park 18- Remember that Billy Joel tune “Uptown Girl” ? This classic Orcadian Island Scotch is the embodiment of uppercrust snazzines. It arrives in a stylish flat bottle that makes it stand out from the crowd and hints of something special. The peaty nose suggests a powerful flavor and tasting immediately confirms it. This malt’s slightly nutty and complex flavors seem to “ open” nicely with a few drops of water, swirl and savor for sure. There are toffee overtones in each dram that finally give way to a long smokey finish. Here is a very special scotch that would make a fine gift for a valued friend. Somewhat aristocratic …break out your best glassware for this uptown dandy. Easily a 9+ rating and highly recommended. ( 86 proof )
Penderyn Welsh Single Malt – Wrong freekin’ island you say ? Not so fast you snobbish consumer. While you’re not likely to find this unique bottle at the corner store, it is worth a special delivery. The Prince of Wales might better have a case of this fine drink than whatever Camilla brings to the party…..The whisky itself is lightly peated and has an engagingly mellow nose that transitions into a minor flavor explosion. There is a fruity sense and the sherry casks also make their presence known in the finish. I found that swirling the whisky in my mouth allowed the complexity to come forward like a royal parade on a spring day. Don’t get you kilt in a knot over the origins of this very drinkable whisky, just go with the flow. Snobbishly rated an 8.
The BenRiach 12- A new discovery for the Snob makes its debut. Here is a Speyside beauty that commands the stage with an understated opening act, it’s light on the nose and extremely pale in the glass. You’d find a richer golden color on the cheeks of a Scandinavian librarian in the dead of winter. The distillery had been mothballed for some time and when it reopened in 2004, it began using on site floor malting, which gives it some bragging rights for using old school methods. This smooth performer has lovely notes of vanilla and spice with some lingering pear or apple overtones, a virtual symphony of subtle flavors. I suggest you sample “ Big Ben “ in a heavy glass to avoid consuming it with too much speed, it’s that glassy smooth. The finish is lightly peated and faster than an Olympic sprinter on steroids, I prefer a more lingering taste. I debated this rating until the second performance but settled on a score of 7, not an award winner but worthy of a ticket.
Edradour 10- A wee nip indeed! This diminutive single malt arrived via my daughter Cait , who bought it as a gift while spending a semester at the University of Edinborough. The small vessel is representative of her student budget, and that made it all the more special. This whisky presents a mellow, almost gentle nose, with a subtle hint of sweetness. There is nothing truly remarkable about this scotch but a golden dose of honey flavor and for me, a nostalgic taste that I will recommend to my followers. Also notable, is that this Highland distillery is the smallest in all of Scotland and that alone makes it desirable. Now…. where is it written in stone that size matters ? I rate it at 7+.
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 .
This fine Islay whisky is aged in French oak barrels from the Bordeaux region. The resulting wine nuances make this an exceptional drink if you can find it. The Island home of this distillery produces bold flavors influenced by the salt air and peaty environment and each dram brings you to that very destination. The rich honey color in your glass pays great flavor dividends and actually has wine notes in the background….go crazy and enjoy it in a stemmed glass you rebel! Maybe even offer a splash of this unique malt to your “wine only” acquaintances. ( 92 Proof ) I rate this beauty at 9 +.