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.