Often my gaze is cast upon the shelf toward the Ardbeg section with a usually unfulfilled expectation of something new from Islay. I’ve grown accustomed to disappointment and just wryly smile and keep searching for something, anything I haven’t seen before. Today was that day! It was in fact a new offering from Ardbeg! What a treasure in these dreadful COVID times!
I don’t often see scotch whisky lower than aged 10-12 years from Islay, the Lavagulin 8 comes to mind, but that is it. I have acquired some less aged Islay sourced whisky but it was usually a great deal of effort for me to find, typically an unexpected discovery, and costly. Yet here it is, the Wee Beastie!
First, if you are an Ardbeg fan, I’m pretty sure you are going to love this. If you are a fan of Islay “peated” whisky then this will not disappoint. If you do not know what peated whisky means, put the bottle down. You will be starting your Islay whisky tour in the deep end of the pool, you may want to start with a nice Bowmore first and then work your way around to Ardbeg 10.
I love this and couldn’t be happier to have found this. I love to taste scotch whisky through its life cycles (years). Each stage of development bringing a little more nuance. This is a perfectly good non-filtered dram and I’m drinking it neat, no water, and its pleasurable at 47.4% ABV! If you like to add a good bit of water to it, its quite good and reminds me a little of the lemon zest you may get from a Bowmore 12. It’s nice and oily, typically phenolic, and lingers like a good friend. I cannot wait to visit the store again, I’ll be picking up a few of these friends to keep!
On a glorious December day I found myself bargain shopping at the local liquor store. Special discounts were available that I took advantage of, at the check out I peered past the counter and spotted something unique. It was a bottle of Highland Park, single cask whisky. Oh, and is that on sale? Yes, drastically. Joy.
So this is a special bottle just for Virginia. I've been waiting for some time to open it. I chose now. It is splendid! Scotch whisky at about 30 years takes a turn towards being candy like. This one's is no exception. It's exceptional and elegant. I'd say go buy it, but if you don't have it, well….. Cheers
Happy 200th Lagavulin! Though I’m a bit tardy. Of course you have to release something special, so Lagavulin has decided to go its beginnings. For you fans of peat smoke whisky, this is certainly what you have wanted and your longing for just something different to come to shelves in America. If you are curious if this should be the first scotch whisky you taste from Islay, be warned, this is not a tame spirit.
The hallmark of this brand is its intense smoke, so intense it is as if you are standing over the peat as it sets fire and infuses the barley. I love smelling this whisky as much as I like to taste it. The fact that it is a limited edition and eight years of aging has occurred before being arrested in glass is enough to make me pick it off the shelf and actually write a bit about it.
It’s a touch lighter than the typical Lagavulin 16 year that most are used to. But that is all. Its wonderful mouthfeel and richness of lemon and smoke are sublime. “Exceptionally fine” is what Alfred Barnard said in 1886, I do believe he would same the same today.
It’s been awhile since I’ve been impressed by a new scotch whisky. Especially one that is influenced by pop culture or non traditional bottle design or packaging. That has just changed. I’m not sure what Diageo set out to prove with this whisky but I really believe they have made something completely unique and its timing is perfect!
I’m a lover of single malts! I have only had a handful of really good single grains and the best was a sixty year old at a very exclusive event in Vegas. This Single Grain created by Haig and promoted by the very well known David Beckham is first class. The bottle and packaging is bespoke, but it’s the whisky itself I find remarkable. In nosing you get the sense that you are nosing a cologne. The bottle even looks like a cologne bottle. It’s light in color and you are very aware that this will not be a single malt. My first taste confirmed what my nose had seen. This is a soft, floral whisky. It’s so unique I dare compare it to anything cause I really think you should try it.
At 40% ABV, you can sip it neat. If you add some water it really evens out and is quite pleasant. I would even recommend this to new whisky drinkers who are trying to drink whisky without throwing Coke in it.
Alas, it isn’t the cheapest whisky! So this price point in the USA of about $70 is high but there isn’t anything like it so I think it has a chance to be successful. A great Christmas gift!
So I have a long liking of The Balvenie Scotch Whisky and I don’t ever think that will change, but this latest offering opens a new door to me as an enthusiast of Balvenie. If you are wondering if you should buy this as you stand in the whisky aisle I hate to be long-winded but this opinion is going to be a bit drawn out.
Balvenie, to the whisky enthusiast, is an easily recognized dram. It’s vanilla and honeyed prevalence is without equal in Scotland’s whisky industry. It is without question one of the first scotch whiskies you should try from Scotland. This one, however, is not that one.
I first tasted this at the Balvenie celebration of American Craft arts in Washington DC. I knew that this was on the shelf in Virginia and soon picked it up to give it a firm break in and evaluation. My overall response is that this is a great whisky but a departure from what I think Balvenie is all about. To me, this is a “special” offering to show that Balvenie can do a Sherry cask as well, or perhaps better, than Macallan can. It’s slightly more powerful than a regular offering at 47.8%, as most Balvenie products come in at about 43%. So, it’s not exactly strong as most single cask offerings but the fact that it has set in the Sherry Cask this long delivers very rich flavor. I’ve tried this without and with water added and I tend to favor it with very little to no water because too much water seems to make it lifeless.
I personally think that this product is for people like myself, who enjoy seeing different sides of an established distiller and don’t mind spending 100 USD for a bottle of whisky. I have to compare this to my favorite TUN series from Balvenie and then the Doublewood 12 year “gateway” whisky. It falls in between and personally, I would have saved this for a “vatted” product with some traditional American cask whisky to target an empty section between regular Balvenie offerings and the exclusive TUN series. But I don’t have to answer to Grant & Sons so my opinion is just that.
In summation, it’s a quality product but not for the casual drinker, that is what Doublewood 12&17 is for. At this price point I think it’s a great offering for us whisky geeks and collectors. If I were you and didn’t mind the price I’d buy it.
A quick post but one that is needed. I happened upon this bottle in DC and felt compelled to buy it. An unchill filtered whisky is one that is bottled without being “refined” so that it doesn’t change color or cloud up when someone adds ice to it, which should never happen btw. So this is as pure as you can get your whisky. It’s really something that aficionados enjoy because you really get the feel for what actually comes out of the cask. For me, this Bowmore has better mouth feel and reminds me of Loch Indaal at Bowmore. I really wish this would come in the standard Bowmore line but alas, Signatory has done us all a favor bottling this one as God intended it. This bottling was done in September of 2013 after 13 years of aging. It was matured in a Hogsheads cask and is from cask #1430. It’s bottled at 46% ABV and is great with a splash of water. Classic Bowmore lemon zest and salt come through on the palate but the real pleaser is the excellent mouth feel and finish from the lack of filtering. If you can find it you’d be well if buying. I’m keeping my source secret for now! Cheers!
I recently found myself with a little time on my hands in the North Beach section of San Francisco. I was actually excited to hit some stores and search out some unique scotch whisky. My hopes were high to find something, after all, I’ve heard so many good things about the selection of whisky available in California. Well, I was hopeful, excited even, and then reality set in. Store, after store, shelf after shelf… I found the same whisky that I can find in the Washington, DC area. Dumbfounded, I decided to manage my expectation based on the area.
That particular area is quirky, unique, and has a special vibe to it. Old shops, not new shops. A Beat era museum, not gift shops. Laundry mats, boutique shops, hardware shops, and yes, if you know the area, “gentleman clubs.” So I’m not going to find a hard to find single malt here, no problem. I decided to look for something weird, something old. I found it.
In the 1980s Black & White was a go to blended scotch whisky of many men (and I’m sure a few women). In that era it was owned by Buchanan’s who was eventually absorbed by Spirit behemoth Diageo. I’ve read somewhere where this was a go to for Dean Martin and a few others. It actually received the Royal Warrant in Britain in the late 1800s. It had a long run but now it sits on the shelves across little shops over America, waiting for someone to take it home. I rescued one bottle.
The price was $27 USD. The clerk tried wiping the dust off of the box, but something that has been sitting that long in an old store is not going to be pretty. I’m pretty sure this is from the 1980s era due to it still has a tax stamp on it. I haven’t seen a tax stamp in forever! And the top is white, whereas the last photos of the product all showed black tops. Anyhow, it was an old vessel, holding a fairly young blended whisky. If you were wondering, whisky does NOT age in the bottle. Wine ages, whisky waits.
So I’d go on about the taste, but seriously, this is just a blended scotch whisky that is very drinkable. It’s not going to impress. It will do the job though. My only regret is that I couldn’t travel back to Washington with an open bottle of booze and I don’t check luggage if I don’t have to. I did the only right thing, I handed it over to the front desk manager at the Hotel. He was a little taken back. I hope he enjoys it.
The winter of 2014 has really moved into the North American continent and it has brought a special gift for the Mid-Atlantic region. For those of you unfamiliar with the East Coast of the United States, the Mid-Atlantic region’s center is Washington D.C. For a couple of years we have had mild winters which of course has festered the “global warming” ilk to wail our incoming doom (if you live in the DC area you get sick of hearing special interest groups regardless of their cause). Prior to the warm winters we had three feet of snow in a week. Go figure. This year we’ve had a couple of snows already and every day when I check the weather I see how consistently colder it is here than it is in Glasgow, which doesn’t seem right?
So winter weather, and it’s by-product snow, seem to be a natural setting for good whisky. The other day I picked up a bottle of Highland Park 12 year that is being sold with a small bottle of the Award winning 18 year Highland Park whisky. The fact that the 12 year was on sale was good enough reason to buy it and to see the 18 year teaser bottle as a bonus sealed the deal.
I had to quickly snap some pictures with the iPhone because I could not resist opening the bottle. There is something irresistible or just natural about the Highland Park bottle. It makes you want to open it. I was going out for the evening but wanted to take a sip just to reacquaint my palate with the spirit. Delicious. This really is just a remarkable product. It’s what whisky should taste like and there really, to me, isn’t another type of spirit offering that gives you that immediate confirmation.
The folks at Highland Park Distillery can, as marketing logically goes, brag that they are the northern most distillery in Scotland. They do seem to be in a micro-climate that seems to bring little variation in temperature. No, it never gets hot there, like in Washington D.C., nor does it see -8c temps like just two nights ago here in DC. But a very naturally steady cool temperature that seems to aid in producing an excellent whisky. In Islay, you have wild temperature/weather swings (I’ve witnessed this first-hand) and I think it is fitting the type of smoky-peaty whisky that is largely produced on that Island. If you know Kentucky, you really have to reflect on the fact that the climate there is so remarkably different than in Scotland. Bourbon as well as other American whiskies are subject to wild temperature extremes in storage from 90f+ down to -32f degrees (0c to 32c for you folks outside the US). Scotland’s geographic placement puts it into a constantly cool environment which in my personal opinion and affinity for the Scottish spirit is superb.
What also is superb is this 12 years aged single malt Scotch whisky. I had to check to see if I had written about the 12 year before and what I found is that I haven’t, but wrote about the 15 year product (which is a cousin to the 12, but not an older brother) almost to the date, one year ago. Another naturally occurring phenomenon? Whatever the case, this Highland Park 12 product is remarkably smooth, gentle on the nose and despite its rough Viking ladened marketing programs (which is for some of their other HP products but still misleading) quite the gentleman on the palate. This is a “no-brainer” whisky, it simply must occupy your cupboard from time to time, especially at Christmastime! Naturally.
Well, it has been some time since I posted. Life mostly gets in the way and due to the American Football (NFL) season I tend to get very distracted. So I have attended only one event, electing to not go to a couple of more due to time and the fact that many of these events really do not bring anything new or exciting to someone who has had more than a few tastings of every major scotch whisky. Most scotch whisky distillers are enjoying record sales, new markets in India, China, and of course the Americas keep on drinking. Blended whisky is still king and that’s fine, I just tend to stick to single malts and love to see new expressions that many of them keep churning out. I do think that a few distillers are trying harder to keep coming up with something unique but unfortunately their products mostly hit very limited markets and aren’t very affordable for an everyday drinker.
So WhiskyFest NYC was the first WhiskyFest event I have attended. I went to the general event as time and money prohibited from attending all the “extra” classes. I think it’s rather amusing that you must pay a lot of money to sample and hear people go on about their products when they need you, the consumer, to be excited enough to buy them and spread the word. But anyhow, there is a market for everything and their show seems to work for them, however, they tried to do a multi-day event this year and I don’t think it met their expectations. They did put out a comment saying something to the effect that they were disappointed that they did not have enough new and unique whisky available at the event. I agree.
The highlight of my three-hour “taste-a-thon” was meeting Jim McEwan. He is a legend and rightly so. What I didn’t know was how personable and caring he is. He was extremely friendly and entertaining. He shared with me his time as Master Blender at Bowmore and his amazing resurrection of Bruichladdich. He is what I so love about Islay, in a word, pure. The work he did at Bowmore is evident in their excellent aged whisky on the market today. The work that he has done at Bruichladdich is nothing short of brilliant in my opinion. If you are looking for a brand to dig into, and enjoy the peaty single malt whisky from Islay, dig in. The range is varied and offers something for everyone. You can go from the Laddie Ten up to the Octomore range. I am in love with the Octomore line, I think it is one of the most well done expressions that can only be a result of years of experience.
The Nose, Richard Patterson was also in the house! I have met Richard a couple of times and spent some time enjoying his gregariousness and had a few drams while he entertained a few patrons. He is pure fun! It was also great catching up with David Blackmore, Global Brand Ambassador for Ardbeg & Glenmorangie. He does an excellent job and is a very kind soul. I ribbed him about not having anything “special” but I was more than willing to have a pour of Uigedail, possibly my favorite of the Ardbeg line.
The only spirit of the night that I was looking forward to tasting was the Bowmore Devil’s Cask. I had been told about this whisky while I was at Bowmore this past spring and actually tasted one cask that I was told would be very telling about the Devil’s Cask. It is a product of first filled sherry casks and the age statement is a 10 years aged whisky. DO NOT make the mistake at looking at the age statement, but look closely at the “first” filled sherry cask. Much like the most excellent Tempest (Dorus Mor in the U.S. due to trademark issues) this is a very small batch high quality product that is nothing short of extraordinary. If you get the chance, or have the means, acquire it.
Well I didn’t mean for this to go on so long but I’ve been silent for a few months. During this time, I’ve really focused on just enjoying the various Bowmore and Ardbeg products that are a staple in my house. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by the new Balvenie 12 year single barrel “First Fill” product that came out this year. I intend on writing about it soon and intend on comparing it with the single barrel 15. One thing about this year pertaining to the marketing of “first fill” products. There IS something different about these products, it is a noticeable difference and I do hope this is a trend.