Enjoying Scotch Whisky and a few other things

DEFIANT AMERICAN WHISKY – This was bound to happen, my discovery

I haven’t written in a while, mainly because I’m busy, but also because I just haven’t been that inspired. My walks thru the stores over the winter really haven’t shown me anything new. I have spent the winter drawing down on many quality Bowmore, Ardbeg, and Balvenie offerings. One or two new things slipped in but didn’t really motivate me to put finger to keyboard. But on this day, the curse has been broken…. defiantly.

I have dreamed for a long time about having a whisky produced in America in the Single Malt, Malted Barley style. This is what the Scottish do, 24/7, 365 days a year, and they do it damn well. Some better than others. But now, so has an American, in North Carolina.

Introducing DEFIANT whisky. Distilled in Bostic, North Carolina just East of Asheville, NC. If you know Asheville, NC, then you could be aware of the uniqueness of products and micro-brews that are there. You have to check out the website, the background to the birth of this spirit is unique and I’m excited about what the future holds for America producing Single Malt whisky that is worthy to stand up to the best Scotland can produce!Defiant Whisky

So, about the whisky. In a sentence, it may be the best American distilled product I have ever tasted. It has a beautiful color, the nose is very unique. The most prominent thing my nose picks up is a smoke. The smoke I get from my smoker and I typically use Hickory wood when I cook. There is something else hitting my nose and I just can’t place it. What I do not get is all the typical smells that come out of a typical, Highland Scotch whisky, but it does not remind me of Bourbon at all. I think this is where this whisky goes “Asheville” on you. It’s a little weird on the nose and what that makes me believe is that it is not produced the Scottish way. Maybe it’s the custom-made stills these salvage divers put together? Yes, their day job is deep-sea salvage, how cool is that! The way they prepare their barley? Malting matters.

On the tongue, this whisky shows. It’s neutral and balanced on the tongue, and delivers an organic, slightly spiced fruit (not fruity) with just a kiss of fresh toasted oak wood. It has body, it’s not thin, and as I have been sipping on it for a few hours now, it hasn’t even occurred to me to put water in it. It’s 41%ABV (82 proof) and is very well-balanced. Double distilled? Triple distilled? I don’t know. The website says that they do not follow tradition and my nose and palate are really picking up on it. It’s fairly smooth. The finish is very clean.Slight vanilla? There is a bit of oil left on the palate afterwards, I tend to enjoy that.

Well, all that to say I really like it. I think these guys have a lot of intuition and an obvious love for whisky. I’d say they are onto something. I bought mine in Virginia so you may have to check their web-site to find where you can purchase it.


Cold weather, Whisky, Christmas. Natural companions?

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?

I love this promotion! The 18 year product is a “must try before you die” whisky.

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.20131215-092427.jpg

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.

Merry Christmas everyone!


WhiskyFest NYC 2013, Noteable Scots and “first fill” love

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.

It’s hard to get a clear picture at a whisky event.

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.20131203-233421.jpg

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.


P.S. if you did not know, Jim McEwan has made a Gin. It is one of the best I have ever tasted, no joke!

Booze News: Jewish Whisky Company’s 2013 Whisky Jewbilee Details + A Discount Code!

Great news! I’m always excited to hear about whisky events! Here is a good one coming to NYC this fall 2013.

It's just the booze dancing...

Single Cask Nation Horizontal

“It’s just the booze dancing…” is pleased to share details with you about a very special whisky event that will take place over two nights at two separate locations in the Fall of 2013. Why is this event so special? Because it is being hosted by the Jewish Whisky Company which was founded by whisky bloggers like us (Joshua Hatton of JewMalt Whisky Reviews, Jason Johnstone-Yellin of Guid Scotch Drink, and Seth Klaskin)!

In addition to the press release below, they have also supplied us with a discount code which will take 10% off of the general admission ticket (the discont code is “booze13” ).

As of this writing, there are at least two of us that plan to attend this event. We hope to see you there!

Without further ado, below is more information about what promises to be a spectacular event. Many thanks…

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Fathers Day Scotch Whisky

This is a public service announcement for Americans. Many will go out and buy dear old dad a bottle of whisky this weekend to thank him for the years of pain and suffering you have put him through. The only problem is you have no idea what to buy him. You think he likes Scotch whisky?

Ok. Now if you know the brand he likes just buy that. Don’t get all fancy or try to one up your brother and get him something terribly different. Now if you are taking a stab completely in the dark you had better choose wisely. First off, dad may be too kind to grimace at the bottle of J&B if he only drinks Famous Grouse. However, I’d recommend a crowd pleaser like The Macallan or Glenfiddich (the 12 years aged or no age statement is fine, in other words the cheapest).

Want to spend less? Grants or Ballantine’s could work. I honestly would drink them.

So if your Dad is a big scotch whisky drinker, and blogs about whisky, wink, wink, nudge, Nudge! You might want to go in on a bottle of Bruichladdich Octomore. Any of them!

This has been a Scotchlife PSA. You can go back to your regular programming.

Glenmorangie’s Extremely Rare 18 year aged Single Malt Scotch Whisky

I was reading a fellow blogger’s notes on this product and it reminded me that I had yet to open the one I picked up this past November. I’m glad his comments spurred me to open it! While Glenmorangie is not a BIG scotch whisky it is a quality one.

Extremely Rare 18To me, the Glemorangie line falls into the “approachable” category for non-whisky types.

Light, fruity, almost a dainty touch of fragrant flowers flowing from the most beautiful waterfall in your dreams. That’s what “Glenmo” is to me. A far cry from the gritty, earthy, peat that is heaped upon fires in Islay on whisky such as Ardbeg, Laphroiag, Bowmore, etc….. So once in a while I let me “flowery” side run free for a dram or so and this 18-year-old Glenmo was perfect!

To me this is the perfect complement to a well made dessert or after dinner cheese plate. It just screams with flavors that a great Chef can work with. It’s a 43% ABV whisky that has an influence of Oloroso Sherry Cask that really does a great job. If a whisky can be described as pretty, this is it. Pretty as in Princess Kate pretty. Descriptive enough?

This is a whisky I will bring out sparingly, most likely to try with a special cheese I have found or due to me finding time to whip up a Crème brûlée! Glemorangie’s notes and accolades for this whisky can be found HERE.

Cheers Kate!

Kate Middleton’s profile picture. Doesn’t she look like “The Whisky Woman?”

Bowmore 100 Degrees Proof Scotch Whisky

20130610-201724.jpgSo recently on Islay I spent a few minutes in the Bowmore Gift Shop. What to buy? I can only fly back with so much whisky and I have the opportunity to go through “Duty Free!” You always wonder how much whisky can you get back into the States and since I was carrying precious whisky I didn’t want to push the limits. I ended up with this monster, Bowmore 100 Degrees Proof. Bowmore at 57.1% ABV is quite an experience.

The nosing of this product alone is a warning in itself. Though in the nose you can smell some amazing things if you linger long enough, you feel like you are about to experience a powerful and peated whisky. To me, this is a serious whisky. You don’t pick this up because you want a challenge, you pick this up because you appreciate what Bowmore does and you want to see what happens when you go full throttle on their product.

Well, it delivers! It delivers a sort of burnt sugar (that is still burning) as you drink it. It’s so hot that it flares up in your esophagus. Yes, I drank it neat. Then, I added water. Adding water to it brings out the peated barley quite forcibly. The water magically releases the malted and peated barley and just sets it free! You also get a nice rush of salty ocean air from Loch Indaal. The added water does not “water” down this whisky, it releases it. The taste is markedly different and really approaches what this spirit should taste like. Far be it from me to dissuade you to drink this at full strength, but, if you want the true spirit of Bowmore you will find it after adding some water. Oh, if you are wondering why the 100Proof moniker?! Well, that goes back to testing rum rations on ships, mixed with gun-powder. Yep, at full strength, this whisky tastes that powerful! It’s marketing….. so, if you are into Bowmore and want to see what a full cask strength taste is like, here you go!

The finish is warm, lingering, and full. If you are a Bowmore fan and love a full expression whisky, this is it. Bowmore’s notes are here.


Ardbeg 10yr Single Malt Scotch Whisky

This whisky has been written about so many times I feel like I’m saying,me too, but I think it only proper to review it. I have had TEN out many times but have never really purchased a bottle many times. Typically I shoot for the special releases of Ardbeg which I invariably end up paying way too much for due to their availability.

But today they had a sale on the TEN and my inner Islay was saying do it. So I did. I had the Ardbog (not a misspelling) special release yesterday and it was simply marvelous. I really expected a bit more peat in it though, but it’s really polished. The TEN is a lighter side of Ardbeg. Still delivers lots of peat and pepper on your palate but really is a good daily drinker for those of us who prefer some peat in our whisky.

Fire anyone?
Fire anyone?

So when I decided to take a photo of this precious one, I thought I’d find a nice patch of green grass to complement the green bottle.I happened to walk by my fire pit, or Chimnea. I had placed some small wood in it already and thought, yes, it is only fitting for a peaty “fired” malted barley whisky to be placed in there. So there you go.

So tasting this expression is unmistakable Islay peat. It is really a level tasting experience. The spirit is consistent from taste to swallow and your first couple of sips will be formative. After a few your buds become numb and you notice more of the flavors. Overall a fine whisky…. just don’t make it your first Scotch whisky. At 46% ABV you may want to add water, I find it pleasing neat however.

If it makes you want to eat bacon, you are normal.

Their web-site is quite nice!

Bowmore Distillery Tour and the No.1 Vault


For me, visiting a distillery is like a child going to Disneyland, I just cannot wait to get there. At the end of my Ultimate Adventure courtesy of Bowmore, my colleague Lucas and I were treated to a grand tour led by none other than Eddie MacAffer, the Distillery (and legendary) manager. If you have done a distillery tour, or several, you know the progression, malted barley, drying floor, washbacks, and then stills. It’s a great lesson if you are passionate about whisky as I am. This tour was more like a back stage pass though. Not only did I turn the malt on the malting floor, I got to go into the fire pit underneath the drying floor, drink from the #2 Washback and then drink the new spirit from the whole process (if I didn’t know, I thought I’d been drinking a light gin). Eddie went through great pains at each station to explain the significance of each part of the process. He is a dear man and passionate about making his whisky and that is enough for me.


So during the process I found that I’m not meant for the malting floor (too aggressive) but I did seem eager enough to prompt Eddie to let me drink from the #2 Washback. I have to say, one may be hesitant to drink something that doesn’t look all that attractive, but, when else would I be given the opportunity!? It wasn’t bad really, basically an unfinished beer but not something you’d want to taste all the time.


The distillery itself is polished and clean, well-organized, and run by people who move with a purpose. I like that. I also like Eddie’s candor about the whole process. He doesn’t hide anything, doesn’t dodge any question, and wants to make sure you understand everything.

What came at the end of the manufacturing process really had me excited. We approached the famed No. 1 Vaults and all I could think is how long I have waited to see behind this door. The No.1 Vault is the oldest holding area for aging casks on Islay, and for that matter almost all of Scotland. There is a rich history in this vault, it was originally part of the distillery and I’m afraid I’ve forgotten the details and history of the vault, I do apologize.


Walking into this area is walking into the area where the most valuable and cherished whisky lies maturing. It is from this vault the most valuable and desired Bowmore products age. It is here where Eddie educated us on their operations, and then, he opened a cask. Not just any cask, but a 13 yr aged cask. It was a bourbon cask from America. I will keep some of the secrets to whence it came from in America. Eddie extracted the whisky and poured it into a tulip glass. We passed it around, nosed and drank. It was simply marvelous. But then it got better.



Sitting next to the bourbon cask was a sherry butt that had been resting for 18 years. We drank, we swooned. Just a simply amazing product.

I wondered around the No.1 vault and marveled at the numerous resting casks that were producing some of the most desired whisky in the world. I secretly wondered, if I just hide, would they notice?


So like most things in life, the tour had to come to an end. The experience was amazing though! I do hope to visit No.1 again, and maybe this time, I will hide.


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