Sunday, July 22, 2012

Hiatus update

I'm happy to announce that Eileen and I had our first baby, Neil, on May 9th. It has been quite a change in our lives, but luckily we've had support from both our families, who have helped take care of him so we can have some free time and get some rest.

With Neil's arrival in the world comes a new slate of responsibilities for us as parents. As such, I have been significantly decreasing my whisky (and other alcohol) consumption. I'm also moving into a new position at work that may require me to be on call for extended periods of time, so I will likely need to remain sharp around the clock.

This is not the end of my whisky drinking, as far as I can help it, but it is a change in my lifestyle that will likely manifest itself as a lowered frequency of posts on this blog for the foreseeable future. You're still welcome to contact me with questions or for recommendations: whiskeytastings [at]


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Whisky review: Glenmorangie The Original 10 Year

Glenmorangie is a highland distillery and boasts the tallest stills in Scotland, which gives the spirit a lighter body. Glenmorangie makes a big deal of the quality of their wood, and they even go so far as to own a section of forest in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri so they can be sure of their wood source.

This particular whisky has been aged in first- and second-fill ex-bourbon casks.

Also see my review of the Glenmorangie Nectar D'Or for further enlightenment.

Glenmorangie The Original 10 Year, 43% ABV
Single malt Scotch whisky (Highland)
Price range, 750 mL: $29 at Total Wine in Arizona, up to $40 elsewhere

Nose: Nice, deep toastiness and fruit.

Palate: Light fruit mingled with a backbone of wood and toasted malt. Creamy. A bit of milk chocolate develops.

Finish: A bouquet of fruit all the way down: peaches, plums, oranges, red apples, raisins. Outstanding.

Rating (of 100): 92. This is probably the best value single malt available (at $29). It's an easy drinker that is accessible for a novice and still satisfyingly complex for a whisky veteran.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Whisky review: Compass Box Great King Street

This is not my first post about Compass Box, and you can find other posts here and here. Whisky writers generally seem to have a massive crush on Compass Box founder John Glaser's creations, but I have honestly not yet fallen for his work.

I was hoping to reverse that trend with my latest purchase from Compass Box, the Great King Street blended Scotch whisky. It's supposed to be a new take on blends that will help elevate blends to the rock star status that's currently being enjoyed by single malts. While I definitely disagree with the premise that blends are inherently inferior to single malts, I was happy to hear so many good things being said about this whisky and eagerly bought it when I saw it on the shelf.

Let's see how it goes...

Compass Box Great King Street, 43% ABV
Blended Scotch whisky
Price range, 750 mL: $43-48

Nose: Floral and fruity, with wood spice.

Palate: Floral with citrus and vanilla. Kind of hangs like it's going to deliver something massive and then never does. Has a nice bit of light spice, though.

Finish: Crisp and rather light.

Rating (of 100): 83. Not a mind-blowing blend by any means. I would happily take a Glenlivet 12 over this whisky any day ("HERESY!" yell the snooty fanatics), and at Arizona prices, I would also save about $18 per bottle.

Sorry, John, you have yet to successfully woo my palate.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Whisky review: Hankey Bannister Original

Hankey Bannister is a blended Scotch whisky that prides itself on containing all five single malts from the Inver House portfolio: AnCnoc, Balblair, Balmenach, Old Pulteney, and Speyburn. The Hankey Bannister 40 has won a number of awards, and considering my affinity for the single malts in Inver House's portfolio, I was hoping to like the Hankey Bannister Original. And at only $17 a bottle, it's a relatively cheap experiment.

Let's see how it goes...

Hankey Bannister Original, 43% ABV
Blended Scotch whisky
Price range, 750 mL: $17-22

Nose: Very sweet. A bit like a sugar cookie. Earthier notes developing after a while.

Palate: Sweet but a bit rough. Just caramel through and through.

Finish: Caramel and some light wood. Leaves a woody taste after a minute or so.

Rating (of 100): 64. This is basically a bottle of alcoholic caramel flavoring. Not something I would purchase again, despite the low price tag. Kudos for bottling it at 43%, though - that's not too typical for an entry-level blend. Maybe they needed to add some alcohol to try to mask the caramel...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Whisky review: Ardbeg Supernova (2009 release)

Ardbeg was resurrected from the dead in the late 1990s and has since had a very cult-like following by some whisky enthusiasts. Ardbeg has been one of the major players in the "peatiness envy" that has gripped the industry in recent times, with their Supernova competing with the Port Charlotte releases from Bruichladdich to see who could have the biggest peat punch in a bottle.

This is the first release of the Supernova - a bottle my parents graciously picked up for me at the New Hampshire Liquor Store when I was still living in Boston.

Now that's what I call good parenting.

Ardbeg Supernova (2009 release), 58.9% ABV
 Single malt Scotch whisky (Islay)

Nose: Immediately alcoholic and phenolic. Damp grass and a dark peat richness. Some fruity sweetness develops after a while.

Palate: Gritty peat and smoke, with some claws into your tongue from the high alcohol content. After rolling it around for a while, the peat turns to a very aggressive coal flavor with a layer of red fruit behind it.

Finish: Peat, clean and clear, rolling off with some vanilla. The coal note lingers. Quite the exit.

Rating (of 100): 88. Pretty much a bottle of liquid peat. I've also tried the 2010 release, and remember preferring it a little bit to the 2009 because it had more sweetness in addition to the peat. Still, the 2009 is a great bottle for the peat lover, if you can find it.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Whisky review: Johnnie Walker Double Black

Most everyone has at least heard of the Johnnie Walker brand of blended Scotch whisky. It's the number-one selling whisky in the world, with distribution in about 200 countries and six bottles selling every second. Johnnie Walker's owner, Diageo, is the largest spirits company in the world and owns 28 malt whisky distilleries and 2 grain whisky distilleries - about one third of all the distilleries in Scotland. So this brand is a goliath.

The part most people don't know is the "order" of the regularly-available Johnnie Walker whiskies - that is, the pricing hierarchy. So here it is, with typical prices for a 750 mL bottle:

  • Johnnie Walker Red Label - $17-20
  • Johnnie Walker Black Label - $25-30
  • Johnnie Walker Green Label - $45-55
  • Johnnie Walker Swing - $50-60
  • Johnnie Walker Gold Label - $70-80
  • Johnnie Walker Blue Label - $160-200
  • Johnnie Walker Blue Label King George V Edition - $500-550
  • The John Walker - $3000 (yes, you read that right!)

The bottling being reviewed here, the Johnnie Walker Double Black, is a limited-edition bottling. It's meant to be a cousin of the Johnnie Walker Black Label but with a smokier zing, coming from a higher concentration of peated whisky in the blend as well as the use of deep-charred barrels for the maturation. Double Black was initially only available at airports' duty-free shops, but has recently been released to normal retail outlets. As I'm a fan of the Johnnie Walker line, I had to pick up a bottle of Double Black when I heard it had arrived.

Johnnie Walker Double Black, 40% ABV
Blended Scotch whisky

Nose: Tar with a honey- or malt-like sweetness. Even somewhat floral.

Palate: Reminds me a bit of a Bowmore or Highland Park at first - lightly peaty with a good dose of sweetness. Then the peatiness gets darker and more reminiscent of Lagavulin (a Diageo distillery), and the peat eventually envelops the taste buds.

Finish: Soft smokiness.

Rating (of 100): 89. Decent development in the mouth and I like the mixture of sweetness and peatiness. The finish is a bit weak - maybe it would improve at a higher alcohol content?

It's definitely a solid dram and a nice way to enjoy some peat without being bowled over.