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.
Old Pultney 12- The coastal town of Wick in the Highland region is for the hearty of spirit only. The townsmen made their living at sea and fisherman need a strong and welcoming glass when they return from a long days work. I found great waves of creamy vanilla with some citrus notes in the flavor mix…. and just a hint of some mysterious spice ( perhaps nutmeg ) as well. The nose offers up a strong perfumed fragrance with only a hint of smoke . There was a satisfying traditional mouthfeel that makes me want to kick back and look out over the harbor while enjoying this dram. I imagine that after staring at the fishing nets for days on end this was considered a truly special reward. Just be sure to keep an eye on your mooring line so you don’t take an unexpected swim at the end of the evening….Fishing for a living paralells life in general, where hard work
and knowledge occasionally still need a little bit of luck for success. Snobbishly rated a 7 and recommended to enjoy with your next seafood dinner.
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.
Talisker Storm- ” you say you want a rev-o-lution ” To invoke the Beatles here seems very appropriate. This revolutionary Malt roared out of the blue with an intense flavor and a cutting edge concept . We are all used to seeing the number of years our Scotch has been barrel aging but Talisker tossed that idea out during the maelstrom….the resulting 90 proof powerhouse is positive evidence that this can be a wildly successful formula. Even the contemporary label design and packaging invoke the raging sea around the Isle of Skye where this rugged individualist is created. I found a large doses of warming sweetness initially and then the flavor opens up with fury and power as the peppery finish lingers on and on. I taste the usual caramel and spices here but there is an edgy distinctive explosion that can only be attributed to the seaside location. I believe this malt is being marketed to new and younger scotch fans and it seems as though the target has been hit dead center. So here’s a note from John and Paul to all you traditionalists, ” don’t you know it’s gonna be…all right…all right ” I rate this raging newcomer a 7.5 and urge you to seek shelter, and take a second glass with you.