Scarabus- It is freekin’ rare for me to find an Islay whisky that is new. I relentlessly seek them out and talk to the trade peeps whenever possible. Well, look what the proverbial cat, ( or in my case the dog), dragged in….The nose is properly peated and sweet as a peach pie. The flavors are a salty mixture of honey and vanilla with a wee dash of iodine. The elaborate label design may cause temporary blindness so I suggest that while tasting, you wear your best shades. In addition, try to avoid using this graphic as a neck tattoo, it’s kinda busy , I speak from first hand experience……There are some mystery fruit notes in the middle and at the finish, any ideas? Speaking of the finish, it’s very delightfully long. So the distillers say, “ only those who seek will find”, a cliche for sure, but take their advice and cough up the dough! It may be your best purchase this year, rated a fancy 8, yummy be sure, but not quite great!
Tomintoul 10- Ahhh, spring has finally arrived and I am absolutely certain that yellow flowers were added to the finishing barrels on this malt. The nose is light and a bit fruity with creamy vanilla notes. Mid taste I found some grassy flavors and slightly spicy honey. As expected, no peat smoke at all was found. The golden liquid was appealing in my glass but the finish was disappointingly brief. This whisky is light on character, even for a Speyside, and at 80 proof my wimpy alarm went off immediately. The distillery, oddly situated on the Glenlivet estate, calls this the “ gentle dram”. I’d call it too mellow for this fellow…..My preference for more punch caused the rating to drop to a rather weak 6 on the snob scale. So while this is better than a blend, I’d look elsewhere on the shelf………… And unfortunately the flowers definitely did not make it into the barrels.
Connoisseurs Choice Banff 1976- When my friend Joel offered me a dram of this rare whisky, we made it an event worthy of the occasion. Sharing is maybe the best part of this minor obsession because it creates memorable experiences….. And the genuine tartan plaid was the perfect background. The nose is stronger with alcohol than the 86 proof would suggest and I found a cake-like sweetness with a bit of citrus. This dark golden Highland /Speyside is near impossible to buy but I found 2 suppliers in the UK who have a small stash, pricey but worth every penny. There are strong notes of sherry and vanilla mid taste and some subtle lemon zest. The mouth feel was creamy and mild with a gentle hint of peaty smoke. We were lucky to have some home made shortbread that enhanced the drink immensely. The spirit is so long in the bottle that one wonders if there has been a change in its profile over the years. I need a way-back machine to find out. We loved the long and fruity finish and toasted our mutual good fortune. Whenever you see that Gordon and MacPhail were on board, quality is assured. Rated a lofty 9 on the vintage scale.
Creag Isle 12- The bottle looked promising on the shelf and I enjoy Islay whiskies, what could possibly go wrong……This name was unfamiliar and I always seek new tastes so….. Upon opening, the nose was powerful and a bit peaty, a fine first impression. My initial taste was a tad sharp with enough honey sweetness to make a beekeeper swoon. The burnt amber color and substantial legs in the glass added to the anticipation. At 42% the alcohol makes a statement along with the mild grassy and fruit flavors , and while the taste is good , it is far from remarkable. As a serious fan of Island Scotches , I am a touch underwhelmed by Mr. or Ms. Creag’s distilling. Our subject is a wee notch up from a blend and I rate it a generous 6.
Glenfiddich Bourbon Barrel Reserve 14- With a nod to American spirits and as a way to get us far far away from American politics, I present this modest diversion. The magic herein is due to the lengthy stay in deeply charred bourbon oak and man did it ever work. The rich amber color and ultra silky mouthfeel are most welcome on a fall evening. I found a unique mash up of corn and vanilla sweetness and a delightfully long finish. The 86 proof is bold enough to make a statement and yet still is mellow enough for everyone to enjoy it neat as intended. The nose is crazy sweet almost like a dessert, yum……While the leaves in our area are changing and flying, grab a bottle of this and enjoy it outside, somehow the spirit and the fall action enhance each other perfectly. Now if we could just have a choice other than cranky old guys for the most important job in the land! I rate this blue labeled beauty a solid 8 on the snob scale. Slainte
Port Askaig 110 Proof- God knows we all need a diversion and I have a solution. Here’s a new experience you can enjoy without a mask or the dreaded smell of Purell. Acquire a stash of this Islay powerhouse and prepare for a flavor bomb of the highest order. Special thanks go out to the P.I.C. Larry , ( Provisioner In Chief) for his efforts on our behalf…..This moody bad boy comes to us from an un-named distiller on the Island but my research points to Caol Ila. With no age statement, it’s a guess on my part but 8 years seems about right, still edgy but very flavorful and malty. The deep amber color suits my mood perfectly and the nose meets us at the corner of Smoky and Grain. The robust taste has some faint vanilla and fruit and a large whack of alcohol, and at 55% that is expected. The aging is all in ex- bourbon barrels and those have imparted a delicate sweetness with a moderately long finish. I tried a glass with a few drops of water but the effect was just less character, leave it as bottled. So get to work on this 7.5 rated newcomer post haste. Now go wash your hands.
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.
Grangestone – describing flavor subtleties in kinda like nailing Jello to the wall, not an easy deal. This Highland dram is copper hued and truly mellow on the nose, without a single hint of the dreaded Jello. I found complex floral and fruit notes with a whisper of peat. The distilling team in Ayrshire finished their whisky in Sherry casks and that worked its usual magic. The finish was brief but enjoyable and this is a very drinkable single malt and a bargain to boot. Keep the ice and water away as that would spoil your drink. I rate this vanilla soaked dram a solid seven. Now let me get back to my messy work with the hammer.
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!
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.
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- 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.
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- 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.
The Singleton Glendullan 15- It was the spotted trout that stopped me cold. Once I focused on the actual liquid it became an instant hit with my tasting crew with its light nose and sweet flavors. We found some citrus and honey that seemed perfect for a Speysider and man is it mellow. This truly vintage distillery mills the barley and uses a gradual process to allow the oak barrels to work their magic, and in today’s hot market, they still age for 15 years….remarkable. So I suggest you reel in a bottle or two before this small batch runs too far downstream. Its not a bargain, but seems worth every penny, no water added is my rule. Now get yourself outside and catch that fish. This keeper is a fighting 8 on my stream.
Laphroaig Quarter Cask- Way back before Elon Musk mesmerized the world with all things scientific, Mr. Wizard ruled via the television. So how would Mr. Wizard explain how this Islay wonder pours golden caramel with this wonderfully peaty nose? Given that the distillery lives on what is basically a rock outcropping, trees don’t exist and Mr. Wizard would concur that burning peat chunks is a logical solution for roasting the grain. Due to the centuries old floor malting methods, the smoke infuses the barley in a subtle and delicious way. I found the malt to be thick and briny and better balanced than a Wallenda. This is one bottle that you either love it or hate, middle ground does not exist. Some of the unique flavors are the result of the namesake smaller casks which bring in oaky nuances rather quickly. The finish is longer than a ballerina’s legs, and almost as interesting. Embrace the intensity and you’ll enjoy the warming and lingering flavor of this excellent dram. Not even Mr. Wizard’s Science can explain the art of Scottish distilling and hopefully Elon leaves the single malt world alone. Mr. Wizard and I rate this a smoldering 8 on the snob slide rule.
Edradour 12 Caledonia- The time has arrived for celebration and renewal and I have just
the right beverage to make that happen. I suggest avoiding the tragically deluded hipster
bartender at the local pub and instead purchase this groovy whisky and share a dram with a
friend. Edradour is a tiny traditional distillery that makes old school your new passion . Located
in the north country , AKA Caledonia , this whitewashed group of vintage buildings makes
sunset colored creamy single malt magic. There is a zesty intensity with floral notes and
dried fruit in the middle of the dram and the finish has some mysterious spice with
a lengthy warming glow. Now pour a glass by the fireplace and avoid the empty headed
wing nuts and bar flies this season. You made it through the year with flying colors and next
year is going to be stellar ! Regardless of how and when you celebrate, make this
beauty part of the evening and buy a second bottle for gifting. I rate this small batch wonder a
sparkling 8 on the snob scale and wish all the best to you and your loved ones, cheers, salute,
L’chaim, mabuhay, and skoal.
Tamdhu 10- There is every reason to believe the world is coming to an end. I suggest that this
Presidential election between a certified nut ball and a congenital lier is a harbinger of said termination. How else could we think given that these two losers are the best our country ( the greatest on the planet) can muster up. To remedy this sorry state , I suggest an epic pour of this Speyside beauty. As observant Scotchophiles , we all should notice that the label offers up “Enlightenment” in addition to a heady does of fresh malt with some light floral overtones. God knows we all seek and need both…….The nose is light and refreshing with a hint of vanilla and fruit and the palate is clean and slightly citrusy. The pale color is a great indicater of what follows in the dram. So let’s do our part and help out humanity by enjoying this jewel like bottle of whisky and also write in your candidate of choice to solve the problem of our world ending prematurely, I humbly suggest that I, your faithful snob, should lead the free world for the next 4 years. I promise to lead with integrity, thoughtfulness, great reason, and toughness when needed. Drink up , vote early and vote often. Oh, and our Tamdhu is rated a presidential great 8.
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.
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.
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- 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.
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.