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theScotchlife

Enjoying Scotch Whisky and a few other things

The Balvenie Islay Cask Scotch Whisky

Islay Cask
Islay Cask

Heaven. End of review…… This is one of my all-time favorite Scotch whiskys. I had this a couple of years back, or so, at an event in Vegas. The Balvenie reps had rounded up all the 17 year releases and we did a tasting of them all. This was, and is, my favorite. I was fortunate enough to have a collector round this bottle up for me in an auction in the UK. Yes, I paid a few bucks for this one.

So I’ve been waiting for an occasion to open this and I finally thought, well, I’ve been to Islay so now I should open this. Basic reasoning really. So I did, and oh, it’s just as good as I remember it.

So if you are familiar with the 17 year aged line of Balvenie you may actually have never seen this one. You probably have seen the Peated Cask which replaced this original. This bottle inspired the peated cask but the peated cask is no Islay cask, no sir.

This lovely Balvenie classic spirit was finished up in a Laphroiag cask. Affectionately  known as “lafrog,” the very essence of Laphroiag is a strong punch of the sea and earth on your palate. What is great about the Balvenie honeyed spirit slipping into that barrel for a spin is the sweet peat finish takes on a gentlemanly charm and drops the t-shirt for the tails in this bottle.

I’d go on and on about how it tastes, but, chances are you have had this, have it but not have opened it, or will never have the opportunity. Pity.

Bowmore Tempest Batch 2 Scotch Whisky

Tempest Batch 2
Tempest Batch 2

So to kick off World Whisky Day 2013 I decided to pull out a new favorite I discovered while on Islay experiencing the trip of a lifetime. First things first, do not let the “Aged 10 Years” statement prejudice your mind! This is not just another 10 year offering. In fact, it’s quite unlike anything in the Bowmore line and reminds me of the forward leaning Bruichladdich whisky’s just across Loch Indaal. It’s bright, lemony and honey-peppered. It is a first fill whisky which means the cask is ready to give all flavor over to it. It’s a little warm and the finish is bright and flavorful. It’s like having a young Angelina Jolie. No disappointment there!

This whisky is a bit expensive (I paid $114 USD) but there is reason why. When you take the very best casks and this is the first new spirit from the Distiller (in this case Bowmore) it sees. The previous American Bourbon Spirit’s conditioning of that cask is ready to produce an excellent product. In this whisky, only first fill is used, that is what makes it exceptionally brilliant. Then on top of that these casks were aged in the famous No.1 vault that lies right next to the Loch Indaal waters that constantly thrash just meters away. These factors come together brilliantly and produce one of my favorite products that I discovered while in Islay.

I took this picture while the rain started to fall this Saturday morning and that along with the bottle’s label had been roughed up at some point seemed at home with the Tempest labeling.

So this is batch 2. I did not catch batch 1 and batch 3 I had while on Islay. I really like this batch 2. It is 56% ABV! So it is a sipping whisky. Bowmore describes this batch as:

Tempest Batch No. 2 – 56% ABV

On the eye warm gold.

Breathe in dry peat smoke perfectly balanced by delicious zesty lemon pepper.

Sip initial bursts of lemon pepper followed by the signature Bowmore peaty set salt tang. The citrus returns at the end adding balance and complexity to the mouth feel.

Savour fresh lemon pepper.

I had this whisky before I experienced at 5:30am hail storm on the beach one morning. I smiled during the storm and said, ah, yes, Tempest.

Cheers!

Bowmore Darkest 15 Single Malt Scotch Whisky

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Though Bowmore whisky will always be special to me, the Darkest 15 will always be the whisky that takes me back to Islay, Jura, and Scarba Islands. We enjoyed this whisky throughout the day, I’m talkin morning, noon, and night! This is the perfect late night whisky around the camp fire or modern fire pit. The trademark subtle peat of Bowmore dances with the Sherry Cask wood that it was finished in creating a unique finish. I’m actually writing this out on the porch on my iPhone and listening to the nighttime din of insects. It’s simply perfect. I hope you can find this whisky in your market! If you love a sherry finish and peat of Islay, this is your whisky. Head over to www.bowmore.com for the tasting notes because its too dark out here for me to read them off the bottle.

Cheers Ken, Colin, Lucas, Joe, and Ali!

Bowmore’s Ultimate Outdoor Adventure winner!

Is ME! Technically there are two winners and I somehow found favor by the Whisky gods! I’ve been keeping this under my hat for months now but next week I will literally be going on the trip of a lifetime.

It was a dreary December morning when I woke up to an email from Morrison Bowmore to congratulate me, it was a bit surreal. I’m a firm believer in the adage of “too good to be true” and it has taken me awhile to accept this amazing gift.

I will be putting out as much data as possible about this trip in this blog in a couple of weeks. There will likely be extensive photography, including a lot of nature shots.

As a bonus, I will be stopping in on Auchentoshan in Glasgow also and I look forward to the opportunity. I wish you all could come with me but I’m going to have to pack quite a lot of outdoor gear so there may not be enough room to put you in my luggage.

Anyhow, just wanted to put it out there because many people entered this contest and a special thanks to all the bloggers who promoted the event because that is how I found out.

Cheers!

http://www.bowmore.com/news/bowmore-ultimate-adventure/

Whisky Guild River Cruise in Washington D.C. 2013

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There are certain places you expect a tasting, of any kind, to be held at. Nice hotels, private clubs, resorts, etc… The Whisky Guild hosts tastings on boats. In Washington D.C. they use a fairly large vessel that comfortably holds hundreds of people. There are two tickets, a VIP which pre-boards an hour early and then a regular attendee. The tickets include a dinner and quite a lot of whisky. The boat really does it for me honestly, I just love boats and drinking on a boat seems as natural as breathing to me. I go with the VIP because I’m always hoping something rare or special shows up from one of the distributors and being an hour ahead of the regular crowd has its benefits.

Well, I think that all boarding early this year got me was more whisky. Problem? No, well, yes, it’s not like there is a lack of whisky on this boat!
I was a little disheartened, though I knew ahead of time, that there wouldn’t be any rare whisky there. There was some very nice people there though. The Highland Park table featured very good whisky and great camaraderie. The “rock star” table for me was the one with Ewan Morgan of Diageo. Ewan is an Ambassador for Diageo North America and was a great conversationalist despite being tired from travels and two big shows that had taken him back and forth from East coast to West Coast.20130417-204333.jpg
Unfortunately this event happens after two weeks of big shows in the States and many of the distributors do not send their “A” team. I’m referring to the Brand Ambassadors who are the foremost experts on their products. Also, many notable brands just didn’t show up.
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I should say that I was surprised at the amount of American whiskies on the boat. I always thought this to be a scotch whisky event but this year I swear 30-40% of the exhibitors were there with American whiskies. I think they were rather surprised themselves, I do believe the buzz was primarily at the Scotch whisky tables. I came away with two great impressions from whisky that I have not had prior to the event. First I met the Single Cask Nation. You can check them out, I really liked their offerings and have seen much press about them as well as a blog they run.
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The star whisky of the night was from Bruichladdich. It was the Black Arts offering, aged 22 years, it was the most delicate, sophisticated and “special” dram of my evening. I had already enjoyed a bit of whisky before I’d arrived at a table that had the offering on it, and it still made a very big impression on my palate. I will be seeking this one out! It is a 22-year-old Oak aged beauty!

20130417-204458.jpgWell, I enjoyed the cruise, I just wish it could be on the weekend, this middle of the week stuff kills me! See you next year?

 

Cheers!

 

McClelland’s Single Malt Lowland Scotch Whisky

Today was the nicest day in the Washington D.C. area since the alleged Spring season had begun. We have had, much like the UK, a very frigid beginning to spring this year and it was nice to finally have a warm spring-like day. I knew it felt like spring because I all of a sudden was craving a Lowland’s whisky. Slight problem though, I finished off my bottle of Auchentoshan Classic a week ago! Off to the whisky store!
So as I go up and down the Scotch whisky aisle (which is much too small and has Irish whiskey in it also) I was pained to see that overwhelming evidence that there just is not enough Lowland’s whisky produced or distributed these days. Thanks to McClelland’s, subsidiary of MorrisonBowmore Distillers of Glasgow, I was able to pick up a Lowland’s whisky for a very reasonable cost.

DSC_6556The analytic side of my brain started to race, I started to think maybe this is heavily influenced or even derived from Auchentoshan stock? Well, I’ll say this, it’s at the very least a cousin of Auch’s Classic! Most importantly, this is exactly the whisky I was looking for today and with warmer weather I really look for Lowland whisky because it just seems to be a great summer whisky. In short, this is a wonderfully tasting whisky and I will have a good stock of this throughout the season. If you are looking for a Scotch whisky to have in your bar or would like to enter the world of single malt scotch, this would be a good place to start.

The distiller’s tasting notes are as follows:

Nose – Fresh nutmeg & ginger, tangerine zest

Palate – Sweet perfume of roses & lavender

Body – Light, fresh and smooth

Finish – Mouth coating oiliness

I have to concur with their notes, especially the “body.” It is a very clean, crisp and enjoyable dram.

So, Cheers!, and please go out and buy some Lowland whisky! Maybe Diageo will build a distillery there!

Ballantine’s Finest Blended Scotch Whisky – the whisky that started my journey

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No, this is not a message about drunk driving, nor do I support drinking while driving. But if you haven’t watched the movie The Silencers starring Dean Martin, you are missing the greatest Ballantine’s advertisement that probably ever ran in 1966. Dean and Stella Stevens are en route and Dean activates his “car bar” which brings out a nice assortment of Ballantine’s whisky. I’m a big Dean Martin fan but the point of this post is the whisky itself.

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About ten years ago at a friendly gathering I was offered up the usual “what would you like to drink?” by gracious hosts. The gentleman was an avid scotch whisky drinker. At the time I was strictly a clear whisky guy. I’d drink vodka and gin and occasionally bourbon. My last encounter with scotch whisky was many years ago in college and I didn’t think I would ever enjoy scotch whisky.

The gentleman said to try it with ice, just three cubes, and the rest is history. From Ballantine’s I jumped around and ran the usual Johnny Walker/Dewars route common in The States. Then I started playing with single malts and away I went.

So Ballantine’s is a pillar of the scotch whisky world. It is no push over and has carried plenty of awards. I haven’t had anything but the entry “Finest” so I cannot speak to the 12 year and up. I have heard many scotch enthusiast describe the 30 year as amazing. In America, we typically have easy access to Ballantine’s Finest at a very reasonable price and it’s in my hands as I type! (but I’m not driving)

The notes from Ballantine:

NOSE

Soft, elegant, heather honey aromas with a hint of spice.

TASTE

Well balanced subtle flavours with tones of milk chocolate, red apple and vanilla.

BODY

Rounded.

CHARACTER

Soft, sweet and complex.

COLOUR

A light gold.

FINISH

The sophisticated after-taste gives a fresh, floral and rounded glow.

Just pass on the “car bar!”

Cheers!

Ardbeg “Airigh Nam Beist” Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky

I finally opened up the BEIST! I acquired this one some time ago and consider it among my favorite Ardbeg offerings. Offered up at 46% ABV and non-chill filtered, this is what the Single Malt snob yearns for. Well, that is if they can handle the peatiness that an Ardbeg product typically brings. Though that is what I love about this BEIST. It has a delicate and sweet punch when enjoyed neat and is a bit creamy. A nice oily palate is your reward for letting it linger and run across your mouth. I added a wee bit of water to it and it really starts to show some sophistication. This is just one hell of a product.

Ardbeg describes it as “wonderfully creamy, smoky malt, suffused in woodsmoke with notes of fennel and pine nuts, topped with tingling limes”. I love the tingling lime part.I do not think of medicinal or iodine notes which usually accompany a strong Islay product. This beauty is refined, and unfortunately increasingly rare. Most people’s stocks have run dry, only collectors and people like myself have one kicking around. You can probably find one on the internet for around $200 USD. A good friend of mine in NYC fell in love with this dram after we went on a Scotch-Crawl in the city a few years ago. I did have to email her a picture of me drinking it of course just recently.

The BEIST is even gentle on exit, the lingering on your palate is even and fades slightly. I have to admit, it is with mixed emotion that I endeavor into this bottle, I know it won’t last long!

 
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Islay Mist Blended Scotch Whisky

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There is a saying, “Every now and then a blind squirrel finds a nut.” So I was a lucky squirrel the other day when I ran across this peculiar bottling of scotch whisky. I don’t recall ever seeing this and wouldn’t have if I did not stop over into the State of Maryland one day on a return from DC whisky shopping.

Islay whisky is iconic and most known these days for producing amazing single malts from Bowmore, Ardbeg, Laphroaig, and Lagavulin. Just to name a few which are my favorites. This Blended and affordable scotch whisky is marketed as a “blend of fine aged whiskies: the most distinctive of these being Laphroaig Single Islay Malt.” It is bottled by Macduff international.

Laphroaig is a favorite of mine and you can’t go too wrong starting with their spirit as the base. The marketing goes onto say it “appeals to contemporary tastes.” Nice way of saying this won’t knock your tastes buds off the way regular Laphroaig may.

It’s fairly light amber in color and gives off a very nice malt aroma with considerable depth. You do not notice the prevailing phenols that a quarter cask or ten-year Laphroaig may give you on the nose. At 40%ABV I choose to taste this neat, hold it on the tongue for a few seconds then let it go. It has a nice slightly warming presence with an excellent malt taste. It isn’t really rounded or complex and you can feel there is a predominate single malt playing nice with some other whiskies. Unfortunately, I still have a bit of a head cold so I can’t nail down everything I’m tasting but it is a decent dram. Not overly impressive but when you want some Islay malt and want something a bit different, or just cheaper this is a good route.

There is a nice oily quality and it does coat the mouth quite well. The finish is mostly clean but the oils do hang around. It’s an 8 year blended Islay that deserves a look. I’m glad I found it!

Cheers!

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