Thursday, October 22, 2015

Whisky Reviews: Lots o' Stuff

I've been to quite a few tastings over the past month or so and would like to make note of my samplings. The good news is that I'm getting more and more encouraged that there are still good values in the world of whisk(e)y. The bad news is that I enjoyed them so much that my notes were often indiscernible by the end of the night...

So here are some short notes about whiskies I've tried, keeping in mind that these were not especially controlled samplings and may be subject to change in future reviews!

All ratings are out of 100 and are the first number after the name of the whisky.

Maltman Mortlach 15 Year: 88. Bourbon cask maturation. Nice wood spice and vanilla.

Maltman Glentauchers 17 Year: 89. This is a distillery owned by Pernod Ricard and this malt goes into Chivas Regal. Bourbon cask maturation. Very clean, reminds me of the G&M Dallas Dhu 1984 from the 2010 time frame.

Maltman Ben Nevis 17 Year: 92. 16 years in bourbon then in fino sherry for the remaining year. Whoa. Syrup, leather, tobacco. Nose is a plum/sherry syrup.

Maltman Linkwood 18 Year: 91 at first tasting, 89 at second tasting (2 weeks later). Diageo distillery, most goes into blends. 17 years in bourbon oak and 1 year in port. Nose is candied. Palate is oily and full: leather, good deep dark fruit, hint of peatiness. Little too aggressive on the port.

Maltman Highland Park 11 Year: 87. Nice, clean, sweet peat.

Big Peat Blended Malt Whiskey: 90. Blend of Ardbeg, Caol Ila, Bowmore, and Port Ellen. Iodine and peat.

Big Peat Christmas: 89. Peat plus some earthiness.

Edradour Barolo Cask Finish: 87. Baking spices.

Oban Distiller's Edition (Montillo Fino Cask Finish): 86. Peat and dark fruit.

Arran Sauternes Finish: 89. Bright fruit.

Benriach Dark Rum Finish: 85. Tastes like fino sherry.

Gordon & MacPhail Caol Ila Vintage 2001 13 Year: 84. Peat and a hint of sweetness on finish.

Bruichladdich Scottish Barley: 85. American, European, and wine casks, 6-8 years old. Young, fresh wood. Honey and young fruits.

Bruichladdich Islay Barley: 81. Barley from Islay (Rockside Farm) - grew in peaty soil, ~6 years old. Peaty but not smoky. Not a lot else.

Bruichladdich Black Art: 76. American oak and wine oak, 23 years old. Very winey, kind of tart. Doesn't mesh well - tastes like alcoholic grape juice. Disappointing.

Port Charlotte Scottish Barley: 86. 40 ppm phenols, American oalk maturation, peated version of the Bruichladdich Scottish Barley, 6-8 years old. Smoke but relatively light. Like a Laphroaig but not as tarry.

Port Charlotte Islay Barley: 87. Barley from six farms, 6-8 years old, 40 ppm phenols. Really clear/clean whisky, feels peatier than Scottish barley.

Octomore Scottish Barley: 86. 167 ppm phenols, 5 years old, edition 6.1. Band-Aid nose, pickling palate. Tight. Water brings out honey.

Octomore Islay Barley: 90. 258 ppm phenols, 5 years old, edition 6.3, Octomore Farm barley and Octomore Spring water (quarter mile from distillery), casked at 67% ABV. Band-Aid nose again, but palate is fuller and more mature than the Scottish Barley. Chocolate and smoke. Not as good with water.

The Botanist Gin (not whisky!): Meh. It's gin.

Glenlivet Nadurra First Fill Selection: 90. Needs water, and with water it shows velvety leather, tobacco, and ripe fruit.

Jameson Cask Mates: 84.

Jameson Black Barrel: 88.

Old Malt Cask Cragganmore 21 Year (Loch & K(e)y bottling): 84.

Glendronach Tawny Port Cask 15 Year: 86. Weird integration.

Glendalough Irish Single Malt 13 Year: 88. Cinnamon!

Benromach 15 Year: 91 at first tasting, then 87 at second tasting. 80/20 bourbon/sherry maturation for 12 years, then 100% sherry for 3 years.

Gordon & MacPhail Glen Grant 1989 25 Year: 89. First fill bourbon cask.

anCnoc Cutter: 90. 20.5 ppm phenols.

anCnoc 24 Year: 92.

anCnoc 1975: 92.

Bird Dog Bourbon: 89.

Bird Dog Chocolate Flavored Whiskey: 88. Dessert!

Tamdhu 10 Year: 91. Great sherry maturation for this new release of what used to be a great value bottle...

Cutty Sark Prohibition: 88.

Dewars 18 Year: 90. Super smooth.

Forty Creek Copper Pot: 90. Bright, spice.

Forty Creek Double Barrel Reserve: 90.

Forty Creek Confederation Oak: 89.

Alberta Rye Dark Batch: 90.

Kavalan Single Malt: 88. Balanced.

WhistlePig Old World 12 Year: 94. Wow.

Balvenie Doublewood 17 Year: 89.

Glenfiddich 14 Year: 86.

Glen Garioch 1998 15 Year (Loch and K(e)y bottling): 90.

Glen Garioch Virgin Oak: 89.

Westland Single Malt: 86. 2.5-3 years old. Clean but not anything outstanding.

Westland Cask #266: 84. 2.5-3 years old. New American oak maturation. Has a bit of a bourbon profile.

Westland Sherry Wood: 88. 2.5-3 years old, 80% oloroso cask maturation, 20% Pedro Ximenez maturation. 80% pale malt, 20% of four other types of malt. Nose is definitely sugary: syrup and molasses. Palate is sherry but not as deep as I'd like...probably because the whisky is so young.

Westland Peated: 85. 2.5-3 years old, 55 ppm phenols before distillation, just uses pale malt bleneded with peated malt, ends around 20 ppm, peat from Higlands of Scotland. Tastes like an Ardmore with some hints of sweetness...but Ardmore is less than half the price.

Gordon & MacPhail Balblair 10 Year: 89. 2nd fill bourbon maturation.

Gordon & MacPhail Clynelish 11 Year: 89. Refill oloroso sherry maturation.

Benromach 10 Year: 88. 80/20 bourbon/sherry maturation for 9 years, then 100% sherry for 1 year.

Gordon & MacPhail Caol Ila 10 Year: 87.

Gordon & MacPhail Highland Park 15 Year: 90. 100% bourbon maturation. Unctuous.

Dad's Hat Rye (Gordon's Private Label): 86. Great nose, palate is nothing extraordinary.

WhistlePig Straight Rye (Gordon's Private Barrel): 88. Rye nose, flowery palate.

Knob Creek Bourbon (Gordon's Private Barrel): 90. Lots of spice and vanilla. Sweet but not cloying.

GlenDronach 2003 Pedro Ximenez Cask Strength, Single Cask (Gordon's Private Barrel): 93. Wow, sherry and deep darkness.

Hardy Cognac (not whisky!) Noces d'Or 50 Year: 91. Super smooth, deep fruit. Not too much life, though.

Plantation Rum (not whisky!) Stiggins' Fancy Pineapple: 87. Nice pineapple, not cloying.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Whisky Review: Wasmund's Rye Spirit

For an overview of Wasmund's, see this previous post.

This spirit is essentially new-make, being less than 30 days old when put into the bottle. It's made from two-thirds rye (malted? unmalted? a mix? we're not sure) and one-third hand-malted barley, where the malting was done with light smoke from 60% apple wood and 40% cherry wood.

Wasmund's Rye Spirit, 62% ABV
Essentially new-make spirit
Price range, 750 mL: $27-32

Nose: A bit of rye spice, plus young fruit and a whiff of malted barley.

Palate: Red apple with a toasty rye backbone.

Finish: Clean, bright fruit.

Rating (of 100): 83. Pretty straightforward (whaddya expect?) but nice overall. I think it's a bit of an improvement over the 100% malted barley spirit, though I won't be chasing either one down as long as I can get my hands on some really nice aged whisky for the same price.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Whisky Review: Monkey Shoulder

Monkey Shoulder is named after the condition the distillery workers get from turning barley during the malting process. I guess the thought is that naming a whisky after a painful, chronic ailment is a good thing. This whisky is a blended malt Scotch whisky, meaning it's a mixture of various single malt whiskies. In this particular case, it's malt whiskies from the three Speyside malt distilleries owned by William Grant & Sons: Balvenie, Glenfiddich, and Kininvie.

I picked up a bottle after a bartender - sorry, mixologist - acquaintance said it is the #1 whisky he would recommend to someone new to whisky. He said it was very smooth. Let's see...

Monkey Shoulder Batch 27, 43% ABV
Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
Price range, 750 mL: $25-35

Nose: Honey, vanilla, and bright fruits.

Palate: Honey, vanilla, and bright fruits with a malty backbone.

Finish: Wood turning into some char; a bit harsh. Not really in keeping with the nose and palate, and turning into a not-so-nice experience after a while.

Rating (of 100): 80. Can't say this is a great introduction dram for the uninitiated, or even for the very-much-initiated. Probably best as a mixer, which is what I understand it's mainly used for anyway.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Whisky Review: Glenfarclas 15

This is a whisky a friend picked up for me at travel retail, the only place it's available. Glenfarclas is renowned for making great sherried whiskies at outstanding prices. They don't market heavily and their packaging is very simple; for example, their 40 Year Old is in the same style of bottle and tin as their 10 Year Old, and sells for about $600. Most companies would put a 40 Year Old in a diamond-encrusted crystal decanter hand-made by a eunuch at the top of Mt. Everest and price it so high that even the Queen of England would have to check her bank account balance before buying a bottle.

But I digress. Time to taste some whisky.

Glenfarclas 15 Year, 46% ABV
Single malt Scotch whisky (Speyside)
Price range, 750 mL: $90-100

Nose: Red Gushers fruit candy. Are those things still around? That is all I could think at first. It's just a really bright candied fruitiness - like barely-ripe raspberries, with a whiff of char or smoke.

Palate: A mix of plums and raspberries.

Finish: Wood and spice linger nicely.

Rating (of 100): 87. Not blowing my mind but also not a shabby dram. At least no diamonds were harmed in the making of this whisky.

Whiskey Review: Queen Jennie

This is a whiskey made in Madison, Wisconsin from 100% Wisconsin sorghum and aged in small charred oak barrels from Minnesota. Yeah. The distillery is Old Sugar Distillery, which I visited before this whiskey was being sold. It's great to see it on the market.

Queen Jennie Sorghum Whiskey, 40% ABV
100% Wisconsin Sorghum
Price range, 750 mL: $25-30

Nose: Peaches in syrup with toasted oak.

Palate: Super smooth and fairly thick mouthfeel. Sweet but not cloying: again with the syrup and wood.

Finish: Lingering spice, very clean especially considering the thickness on the palate. The finish is a little bourbon-y in the sweetness, vanilla, and char flavors.

Rating (of 100): 90. It's fairly straightforward but it just feels well-composed. It really is quite distinct from all other whiskeys/whiskies I've ever had.