Monday, January 24, 2011

Whisky review: Springbank 10

(For more information on the Springbank distillery, please see my entry for the Springbank 15.)

The Springbank 10 is aged mostly in ex-bourbon casks, with a little maturation in ex-sherry casks. This is in contrast to the Springbank 15, which is aged purely in ex-sherry casks.

Springbank 10, 46% ABV
Single malt Scotch whisky (Campbeltown)

Nose: Peat, brine. Some sugary fruit.

Palate: A good dose of dark peat pervades the mouth. Bitter dark chocolate tied up with lemons, green apples, and vanilla.

Finish: More peat and salt. Light wood, milk chocolate. Dry.

Rating (of 100): 87. I feel like the peat dominates and there are a lot of other aspects that struggle to shine through. This is strange - the Longrow CV, which I just reviewed, is supposed to be the heavily-peated version of Springbank, but I got more peat out of the Springbank 10. That's not to say I'm complaining tonight; it's currently 5 degrees Fahrenheit outside and a little peat kick is definitely helping me stay warm and sane.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Whisky review: Longrow CV

Longrow is the heavily-peated single malt made by the Springbank distillery in Campbeltown on the Mull of Kintyre. This particular whisky, Longrow CV, is a blend of 6-, 10-, and 14-year-old whiskies aged in a variety of casks (bourbon, sherry, port, and rum). That's why it's called "CV," as in "curriculum vitae" - it's supposed to show off the best this brand of whisky has to offer.

(Also, I've decided to stop giving a description of the appearances of whiskies I review. After coming to the conclusion that most people don't really care what a particular whisky looks like and that a lot of whiskies look almost the same, and also that the color has nothing to do with whether I like a whisky or not, I figured I'd just cut it out and save us all some drudgery.)

Longrow CV, 46% ABV
Single malt Scotch whisky (Campbeltown)

Nose: Peat backed by a lighter grassy note. Medicinal - has a sweet smell like bandage adhesive and iodine. Also getting some faint saltiness.

Palate: Starts out fairly light and grassy and then develops a full peat character that later turns into something dark and chocolatey.

Finish: More dark chocolate, plus some smoke and very dark fruits like overripe strawberries or raisins.

Rating (of 100): 92. Lots of good things going on, and this is a very interesting whisky. The nose tells you the whole story up front: there will be grass. There will be peat. And there might even be more. And then the palate and the finish play out the scenes in dramatic slow motion. There are so many sides to this whisky that it almost seems to have a bit of an identity crisis, but it pulls itself together in the end. It's the Britney Spears of single malt.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Whisky review: The Macallan 15 Year Fine Oak

The Macallan is known for being a producer of heavily-sherried whiskies. However, in 2004, The Macallan introduced the Fine Oak series of single malts, which are aged in a combination of ex-bourbon casks as well as ex-sherry casks made of American oak and European oak, for what they call "triple cask maturation."

In reality, it was likely a move to get away from purely sherry cask matured whiskies, as sherry casks cost about ten times what bourbon casks cost. By maturing some of their product in bourbon casks, they could cut costs and still sell a premium whisky.

The Macallan 15 Year Fine Oak, 43% ABV
Single malt Scotch whisky (Speyside)

Orange-tan-gold-yellow, pretty much just like the last several whiskies I've reviewed. I wonder if my eyes are going.

Nose: Wow, quite a good one. I've had it several times before but never noticed the complexity and intricacy of this nose. Toasted wood with some citrus and floral aromas, with sherry and some chocolate thrown in. Very full.

Palate: Malt, vanilla, lots of fruits. Some peppery notes develop.

Finish: Lingering light wood. About a minute after swallowing, it tastes like I just licked a lumberyard.

Rating (of 100): 85. The nose is great and the palate has grown on me, but the aftertaste is not really to my liking. I try to lick lumberyards sparingly.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Whisky review: Cardhu 12

Cardhu is one of the Diageo Classic Malts and is a key part of the Johnnie Walker blends.

Cardhu 12, 40% ABV
Single malt Scotch whisky (Speyside)

Appearance: Orange tan.

Nose: Strong scent of wood at first. Then plums, syrup, caramel, honey. Some fruitcake-like spicy aromas.

Palate: Bitter at first, then honey and wood. Astringent.

Finish: More bitter than Maxine from those Hallmark cards.

Rating (of 100): 73. Does an about-face from nose to finish. Can't say I enjoyed this whisky past some parts of the nose. This is a whisky I had read about as being a great Speyside malt but, for me at least, I'd leave it on the shelf until I can get someone else to drink it.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Whisky review: Balvenie 17 Peated Cask

The Balvenie Distillery is located in Dufftown in the heart of Speyside, Scotland, right next door to Glenfiddich - both distilleries are owned by William Grant & Sons and both go into the company's Grant's blend. Balvenie's distinguishing characteristic is that it has its own on-site cooperage (where casks are made and conditioned), coppersmith (for maintaining the stills), and floor maltings (for malting barley). Of course, having all these things doesn't mean your whisky is any better than anyone else's, but it's good for marketing.

It's also good for a distillery tour, if you ever get the chance to go. I highly recommend it. If you're also a fan of Balvenie, you can join their "Warehouse 24" group and get your own tasting book plus some other perks.

The whisky in the Balvenie 17 Peated Cask has been partly matured in new American oak casks and partly matured in casks that previously held an experimental Balvenie peated whisky. I'm interested in knowing if they'll ever release the actual peated whisky that was held in those casks. My guess is that they will, knowing how many mouths are calling for more peated whisky nowadays.

Balvenie 17 Peated Cask, 43% ABV
Single malt Scotch whisky (Speyside)

Appearance: Light orange-yellow.

Nose: That typical Balvenie honeyed nose with a hint of earthiness.

Palate: Earth and bitter dark chocolate enveloping honey, vanilla, light fruit, and spices.

Finish: More peat and some wood with a nearly-cloying sweetness. A funky taste lingers.

Overall (of 100): 82. I don't feel like the two contrasting flavors - peat and honey - really go together too well. I've tried very hard to love this whisky because I really like Balvenie in general and this particular whisky is very unique and not cheap...but it just ain't happenin'.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

This is what whisky is all about

While home with my family in Wisconsin, I was able to enjoy a few drams (and by a few, I mean a few dozen). One of the best experiences I had was introducing my brother Scott, who is two years my younger, to Bowmore and Highland Park single malts. Though we did do the formal tasting of the whiskies, we also were able to just kick back, relax, and enjoy some drams in Scott's backyard hot tub while enjoying the tropical winter Wisconsin weather.

Having a dram with my brother, Scott, in his hot tub in Wisconsin. The white specks are snowflakes.

At the end of the day, you can nose and taste all you want, but it's the experience around the whisky that really makes it memorable.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New alcoholic beverages website launch!

Check out this website!

Through some fortunate contacts, I was asked to start writing about whisk(e)y for a new website, Smart Tastes, which just launched on January 1st. Take a look! It's aimed at people who are new to the world of fine alcoholic beverages, so the articles are written for the novice. Questions and discussion are don't hold back.

And tell your friends about it, if they're interested in this sort of thing!