Aug 132014
 

Dram Initiative #012 – Bowmore with Iain MacCallum

June 6th, 2014

 

I have no plans to ever run with the Bulls in Pamploma.  Or to swim the choppy South African waters near Dyer Island without a shark cage.  Or to voluntarily check myself in for a vasectomy.  Or even to try driving the manic and frightening lanes of ancient Roman streets.  But arguably even further down the list of ‘things to not do in this lifetime’ is to engage in a drinking contest with Iain MacCallum.  If stories hold true (and we heard more than a couple on this unforgettable eve), the man’s liver is a shoe-in for the Scotch Whisky Hall Of Fame. 

While this may not bode well for longevity (hmmm…Shane MacGowan and Keith Richards may have contrary opinions to that line of thinking), it certainly leads to several lifetimes worth of truly hilarious anecdotes packed into one tall and lanky Scottish frame.  And in turn…to a bloody brilliant night of laughter and spirited conversation. 

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For those of you who may not be ‘in-the know’, Iain is the Brand Ambassador (aka Master of Malts), and former blender for Suntory’s Bowmore.  He now makes his mark on the whisky world by traveling the map, engaging with, and educating, the masses and spreading a brilliant concoction of science and fun.  It’s this rather deadly combination that makes an evening with the man such a memorable one.  At once highly educational and infinitely entertaining, Iain is the quintessential spokesman for not only Bowmore, but whisky in general.

Our evening with Iain came about through the efforts of Kathy Johnson, of  Lifford Wine & Spirits here in Calgary.  I’d spoken with Kathy on a couple occasions at various festivals and events  regarding the idea of holding a Bowmore night for the whisky club.  We made tentative plans to pull something together at some point in the none-too-distant future and left it at that.  Fast forward a couple months and sure enough an email arrived in my inbox from Kathy, offering up Iain’s time for a night with the club.

We immediately set to pulling together a line-up of malts for a top notch event.

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Bowmore is a distillery that is easy to get passionate about.  It is old and iconic and absolutely personifies the classic Scottish malt.  It’s name is one instantly recognized by connoisseurs and laymen all ’round the world.  It’s reputuation has been built drop by drop and to this day the distillery stands in high stead in literally all circles.

One of my favorite whisky quotes of all time is one lifted directly from the wall in the visitor’s lounge at the distillery itself: ‘If you can’t find a Bowmore to fall in love with, you may have to consider very seriously the possibility that you’re wasting your money drinking whisky at all.”  I hate it when people presume to tell others what they should, or will, like, but in this case the sentiment is fairly astute.  The distillery boasts such a chameleonic profile that there is bound to be an expression that fits your tastes.

This evening’s tasting flight was specifically tailored to reach a broad spectrum of flavours and nuances.  Iain took this idea a step further even and maximized every opportunity to teach little techniques for coaxing flavours from the glass and understanding the way the senses work.  It was sort of like being made hypersensitive to the nose and palate for the course of a couple hours.  There were more than a few wide eyes and ‘lightbulb’ moments in the crowd.  Goes to show you never stop learning with this stuff.

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And as for the Dram Initiative itself…

Well…the club has grown to a point where single bottle events are more the exception than the rule.  We are often now sourcing two bottles of each expression in order to accommodate the ever-growing attendance.  How we handle this going forward is still being negotiated.  The level of interest is simply beyond where we thought we’d be after only a dozen or so gatherings.  We have a core of faithful members who come out rain or shine and a seemingly endless line of curious folks who want to sit in on events.

Evenings like this particular one with Iain have led to substantial word of mouth circulating about the DI.  And like a proud papa, I can happily say I don’t recall anyone who hasn’t been blown away by the calibre of events we’ve been fortunate enough to pull together.  Our members…our speakers…our partners…all absolute class acts.  Makes for one of the most enjoyable rides I’ve been on in quite some time.

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The Bowmore event line-up, for those that are curious, ran the standard range up the 25 year mark, with a few extras thrown in.  There are, of course, other Bowmore expressions out there, but I’m pretty certain this was a big enough tasting as it was.

The malts we tried:

  • Bowmore Legend
  • Bowmore Small Batch
  • Bowmore 12 y.o.
  • Bowmore 10 y.o. Tempest (Batch 3)
  • Bowmore 15 y.o. Darkest
  • Bowmore 15 y.o. Laimrig (Batch 3)
  • Bowmore 1992 16 y.o. Wine Cask Matured (Limousin Bordeaux)
  • Bowmore 18 y.o.
  • Bowmore 25 y.o. Small Batch Release
  • A.D. Rattray Bowmore 15 y.o. Cask #2057

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All in all…another knock-out tasting. 

Sincere thanks to Kathy and Michael at Lifford for all of their help and support for this one.  It was great to have you out. 

And to Iain, for a night that has been repeatedly hailed as a members’ favorite.  We appreciate your coming out on an evening when I know you were feeling far less than tiptop (a tooth issue, not a hangover, you cynics!).  Your knowledge, humour and sordid tales of mayhem and debauchery are a standard we all aspire to.  Errr…sort of. 

Cheers to all!

 

- Words:  Curt

- Photos:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:19 am
Aug 122014
 

Dram Initiative #011 – Alberta Distillers Limited with Norm Little

May 2014

 

Norm Little and I have very different ideas of retirement.  When I get through with the great grind, I can promise you the last thing I plan to do is hang around the old stomping grounds with all of the people I’ve toiled with through the years.  My feet will hit the road for parts unknown (and for those known and loved) and work will be the last thing on my mind. 

But maybe that speaks volumes about our respective jobs.  Or our attitudes.  Or simply the people we meet in the fields we engage in.  It’s not work when you truly love what you’re doing, right?  Either way, Norm still loves what he does.  And it shows.

Norm is, even in his pseudo-retirement, an unwavering ambassador for Alberta Distillers.  He travels the circuits here, and has become what they call the ‘rodeo ambassador’ for the brand, throwing back great drinks with the ‘rough and tumble’ sort that make a living (or at least a loving) out of the more traditional Western way.  And speaking with the man, that is exactly where he wants to be.

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You had to know that it was only a matter a time before we delved into Canadian whisky.  The Dram Initiative is a whisky club after all, not just a Scotch club.  While still a relatively niche market in the global sense, Canadian whisky is now on the upswing again, and we could easily have had our choice as to which brand(s) we wanted to present to the collective. 

The reality is though, our choice was a no-brainer.  Alberta Distillers Limited (ADL) is a distillery right in our own backyard in Calgary.  They have been responsible for some of the most well-received and highly awarded rye whiskies Canada has ever produced.  They are also the only Canadian distillery that can legitimately say that they are producing 100% rye spirit. 

The past couple years have seen the distillery finally seeming to take cognizance of the fact that they have something the world wants, and it ain’t just a mixing whisky.  This is damn good stuff.  Of late we’ve been privy to an exceptional 25 year old (grossly underpriced), a stunning 30 year old (also shamefully affordable) and the latest innovation, Dark Horse.

Hopefully the distillery continues this trajectory of experimentation and premiumization.  It’s not that I want to pay more for my drams; it’s that I recognize a quality to price ratio that is simply not in sync with the rest of the world.  Don’t believe me?  Get your hands on some of this and then tell me otherwise.

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As with all DI events, we cobbled together our unique resources to create an occasion.  Making memories is what this is all about.  The committee, with the help of Kate and Beam, pulled together an exhaustive line-up of the distillery’s whiskies, then complimented it with a couple of related gems to fill out the big picture.  But whisky is only half of it, you know.

Norm dug deep into his saddle bag of trail stories and mischief to share some stories with those in attendance.  We heard tales relating to the early days of Calgary and Alberta, the start up of the distillery, the evolution of the spirit and development of the brand, and some neat little nuggets relating to the people involved along the way.  We also heard some tales of Norm’s hijinks and shenanigans.  These little musings are what keep us coming back to the drink. 

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The evening’s line-up went a little something like this:

  • New Make Spirit (White Dog) Unaged Rye
  • Alberta Premium
  • Alberta Premium 25 y.o.
  • Alberta Premium 30 y.o.
  • Alberta Premium Dark Horse
  • Tangle Ridge
  • Alberta Springs 10 y.o.
  • Pendleton Let ‘Er Buck (*)
  • Pendleton 1910 12 y.o. (*)
  • Whistlepig 10 y.o. Straight Rye Whiskey (*)

You’ll notice the latter three have an asterisk beside them.  These whiskies, while they may be sold under the banner of another brand, are all produced right here in Calgary at the distillery.  In the past, ADL has sold and tankered away much bulk spirit prior to bottling.  This distillate is subsequently matured and bottled by various other companies, but the DNA remains prevalent.  You just need to know to look for it.  This external demand for ADL’s whisky is as clear an affirmation of the quality of spirit produced here as anyone should need.

I’ve heard rumblings that internal demand for the Alberta Premium brands is increasing, though, and this practice of ‘off-saling’ may be dead or dying.  What can we say, world?  We make good stuff here in Calgary and would rather see it held to our standards, than those of anyone else.

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After our friend Norm had shared some stories from his years of accumulated lore, another mate of ours, J Wheelock, came up (with a little bit of arm-twisting) to share a few laughs and some of the story behind the Pendleton brand.  This is one of the afore-mentioned outside bottlers of ADL spirit (though not so transparently).  J is arguably one of the best presenters I’ve ever seen.  Better still…he’s one of the good people.  I count myself lucky to have him in my circle of ‘more-family-than-friends’. 

J had the room laughing and talking it up amongst themselves before turning the room over to yours truly to discuss the rather…errrr…questionable tactics of Whistlepig.  Fortunately, this company’s disingenuity seems to be behind it and they are moving in the right direction of late (and winning back a few fans, it would seem).  Bottles of Whistlepig had to be sourced from Binny’s down in Chicago.  Well worth it to try something like this, jacked up to 50% abv.  A relative rarity in the Canadian whisky style.

I should repeat though…all of the whiskies we tried this eve were produced right here in Calgary at Alberta Distillers. 

I know we managed to make a few converts this eve.  To those that came out and were surprised at the quality on offer…here’s hoping you enjoy your journeys in Canadian whisky.  It will be a fun ride for the next few years.  We’re just putting this stuff back on the map where it belongs.

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Many thanks to Norm Little for all of his time and effort.  I know rooms this big are not normally Norm’s thing, but he did a bang-up job, and we were tickled pink to have him out.  And to Beam Global for all of their kind support and assistance…our sincerest thank you.  Finally…many thanks to one of my favorite couples:  J and Kate.  Both shared much time, physical effort, unparalleled insight and simply bucketloads of their ‘J and Kateness’ with us for this wonderful evening.  To all of you…slainte!

And if any of you should happen to meet Norm in your travels…tell him Curt said to ask about his ‘booze’.

 

- Words:  Curt

- Photos:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:18 am
Aug 122014
 

Talisker 30 y.o. (2009)barry's place pics 065

53.1% abv

Score:  92/100

 

One more old Talisker for the books before we move on into something else.  This is the 2009 special release of 30 year old from the only distillery on the Isle of Skye.  Not a lot of lead-in required here (especially after the amount of older Talisker we’ve covered in the last while).  It’s a great malt from a great distillery at a great age.  As you can imagine, this one is a killer.

Peat, pepper and soft fruits work together here in one of those inexplicably awesome combinations like chocolate and chili…Plant and Krauss…sex and…well…pretty much anything goes with that one, but you get what I’m saying.  A little bit of heat paired with a little bit of sweet is magic. 

And for any out there that want to contest that older isn’t usually* better…well…try this against the 10 year old and let me know how that works out for ya.

Nose:  Peaches.  Buckets of peaches.  Smoke, but very soft.  Chocolate of three kinds: white, dark and milk.  Pepper, of course…this is Talisker, after all.  Salt.  This is very soft and restrained on the peat notes.  Great fruits here.  Kinda like canned fruit cocktail, cherries n’ all.

Palate:  Starts off creamy, but dries out fairly quickly.  Never hits the depths of tannic dry-mouth, but definitely leaves the sides of the mouth a little puckered.  Much salt and pepper.  The fruits are still here.  Melon and some borderline tropical notes.  The peach is less prevalent, but still there and very pleasant.

Thoughts:  A beautiful old salty dog of a Talisker.  Not quite as great as the 2010 edition, but hey…we’re talking single point differences.  In short…exceptional.

*before the cannibals sharpen their teeth, note I said ‘usually’, not ‘always’.

 

- Reviewed by:  Curt

- Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 7:46 am
Aug 042014
 

Talisker 57° North 068

57.0% abv

Score:  89.5/100

 

Talisker 57° North.  Named for the northerly line of latitude at which the distillery is situated on the Isle of Skye.  Pretty fitting name and concept.  I can get behind this one.

57° North is a high-test no age statement single malt from Talisker.  Notice I’m not using the words ‘cask strength’ even though this one boasts a sky-high (pun intended) abv of 57%.  Based on a lot of reviews I’ve been reading lately, it would seem many folks out there are confusing high alcohol content single malts with ‘cask strength’ single malts.  ‘Cask strength’ is a natural occurrence, wherein the whisky is pulled from the barrel and not reduced in strength before hitting the bottle.  You often end up with decimal places behind the alcohol percentages on these bottlings.  It’s most likely this attribute, more than any other, that leads to the belief that a whisky is at natural barrel strength.  In some cases, the distilleries are opting for a higher abv simply as the best vehicle for delivering flavour to the taste buds…and we love ‘em for it!  Cases in point: Ardbeg Uigeadail at 54.2%, Ardbeg Corryvreckan at 57.1% and Amrut Intermediate Sherry at 57.1%.  All manufactured strengths, and arguably a good part of the reason these whiskies are so universally adored.

Talisker 57° North has been carefully engineered to an even keel 57% abv.  I kinda think some of the other big producers could take a lesson from what Diageo has done here.  Higher abv equals greater flavour concentration.  If your whisky is good, wouldn’t you want the drinker to experience all of it’s subtleties and nuances?  And at the end of the day, if I’m in the mood for something a little lighter, I’ll add my own water, thank you very much.  But hey…this is Talisker we’re speaking of.  Who the hell wants less flavour?

Moving on…

Let’s talk about one other whisky geek subject here before we get into tasting notes.  Terroir.  The idea that ambient location adds to the character of the spirit (i.e. the soil, the barley strain, salty seaspray or oceanic breezes, etc).  A contestable subject, to be sure, and one that we’ll dedicate a much greater wordcount to at some point in the coming days, but it has a relevance here I want to quickly touch on.  I’m only going to use one particular talking point here to illustrate my case:  It’s very interesting to note how many of the coastal distilleries (Pulteney, Talisker, Scapa, Highland Park, the Islays, etc) boast a profoundly seaside-ish and briny character.  Even those that end up partially (or fully!) matured on the mainland.  Hmmmm.  Curious, I’d say.  Anyway…something for you to mull over.

Let’s get back to the malt at hand.  This is big and bold Talisker, redolent of all of the qualities that make Talisker special.  I love seeing it given a supercharged outlet for its exuberance.  This is a whisky that likes to be loud…and should be heard that way!

Nose:  Creamy.  Chocolate.  Pepper, peat and ash.  Smoke and a bit of over-heated rubber (have you ever blown a radiator hose?).  Chilis.  Lemon.  Wet hay and other farmyard aromas.  Brine.  Shoe polish on good leather.  Ginger.  There are also some sweeter fruit notes that develop over time.  Kissing cousins to Port Charlotte and Longrow.

Palate:  Big, beautiful arrival.  Pepper up front.  Immediately sweet, in a ju-jube kinda way.  Almost fruitcake-like too.  Peat comes next, on waves of salt water, smoke and lemon juice.  A bit more rubber now.  Surprisingly not a really long development or linger, but great throughout.

Thoughts:  This is like a concentrated variant on what Talisker 10 used to be a few years back.  NAS, but firing on all cylinders in its (assumed) relative youth.  Very well put together dram.

 

- Reviewed by:  Curt

- Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 1:16 pm
Aug 032014
 

Talisker Storm144

45.8% abv

Score:  87/100

 

The skies opened up tonight here in Calgary.  An ominous wall of bruised black and grey cloud built up in the Northwest and slowly rolled in across the sky like a surging army.  The thunder rumbled and lightning flashed from time to time.  And of course we were out on a family walk when this all developed.

As we walked the last half kilometer or so back home it dawned on me how perfectly aligned the universe is sometimes.  Earlier today I’d pulled out a couple Taliskers for a little tasting session.  The 10 year old, just as a point of reference and to maybe update a rather sh*tty earlier review; the 57° North; and, of course, Storm, of which you’re reading now.  Serendipitous natural occurrences.  Love ‘em.

First things first.  I like this whisky.  Quite a lot actually.  It’s not the best of Talisker, but it’s a solid addition to the range, and another worthy variation on a theme.  That’s the good news.

The bad news is a little less palatable for me.  At the end of the day, it’s simply a matter of principle.  Some may not take exception to this particular issue, but it’s sort of a topical subject for me at the moment, and this malt is a perfect tool to use in making a case.  Storm is yet another NAS whisky.  I doubt there are any of you out there not ‘in the know’ at this point, but if so…don’t sweat it.  NAS means ‘no age statement’.  In short it means that the distillery is best served by NOT telling us how old the whisky in the jar is.  In some cases the dram still comes together cohesively and age is a non-issue (but should still be declared, in my humble opinion).  In other cases, there are absolutely easily detectable nuances of overly young whisky in the mix.  Storm is a prime example of this less than flawless blending.  The whole is better than its individual parts (the individual casks), I assume, but the parts, unfortunately, are all visible.  And some seem young indeed.

Let’s not get too down though, or start flogging a dead horse.  At the end of the day…it’s still a good malt.  I like it.  And will happily continue to give my money to Diageo.  If the price is right, don’t feel bad about dropping a few bucks (Pounds.  Euro.  Whatever).

Nose:  A little more on the dry peats and wet rock notes than the standard Talisker.  Young barley sugar.  Supposedly a mix of old and young, but the youth rules.  Somewhat of a creamy, custard note.  Vanilla ice cream-ish.  With cracked pepper atop, that is.  Peat and seaspray.  Sour green candies.  Occasional waft of smoke.

Palate:  Peat and pepper.  Lemon juice on oyster shells.  Fairly active wood, faint licorice.  Cinnamon.  Slight fishiness (or smoked seafood of some sort).  Chewy fruit sweets.

Thoughts:  Smells young.  Still works, but could have been much more with a little more oomph and age.  Oh well.  Any Talisker is a good Talisker.

 

- Reviewed by:  Curt

- Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 11:51 pm
Aug 032014
 

Talisker 25 y.o. (2005)053

57.2% abv

Score:  91/100

 

Another very special old and rare Talisker 25 year old.  This was one of the earlier editions before the evil empire brought the abv down to their more standard (though still rather respectable) 45.8%.

While this particular 25 is a knockout dram (and anything over a 90 score should absolutely be considered as such, I’d argue), it’s pretty much running neck and neck with the 2008 25 year old in terms of scoring.  Maybe a slight notch higher.  Either way…these quarter century malts from Skye were absolute killers prior to the aforementioned emasculation (read: alcoholic reduction).  Now…at the new bottling strength…they’re just really, really good, instead of being really, really great.

Those familiar with Talisker in its younger incarnations can likely approximate what’s in this malt, as it’s pretty much blueprint Talisker, but one that’s been allowed to sleep in late.  And take my word for it; those extra years have been very kind.  All of the more subtle (and deeply buried) fruity notes begin to swim forward at this age.  Peat and pepper are loud and clear, of course, but are now a bit more egalitarian when it comes to sharing the spotlight, instead of just elbowing aside the bit players.  Works a treat, lemme tell ya.

If you get a chance to sample these older editions, don’t hesitate.  A beautiful bit of whisky history in a glass.

Nose:  Very creamy.  Surprisingly so, actually.  Whiffs of smoke and subdued peat.  Some neat ‘toasted’ notes as well.  Maybe peach.  Soft cream pie.  Pear and pepper.  Lemon and salt.  Mature notes of old books and such.

Palate:  The arrival and early delivery are creamy as hell too.  Crème brûlée-ish almost.  Pepper and peat.  Fruit syrup.  Salt and licorice.  Some seriously amped peppered pear and apple notes.  Very big and alive.

Thoughts:  Great dialogue between the nose and palate on this one.  A master class in balance.  Exceptional ‘young’ and vibrant older Talisker.

 

- Reviewed by:  Curt

- Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 5:57 pm
Jul 292014
 

Gordon & MacPhail Glentauchers 1994117

43% abv

Score:  91/100

 

Incredible that a distillery which produces nearly three and a half million litres of spirit a year (and has a capacity even higher than that!) can still languish in relative obscurity.

If the name Glentauchers is unfamiliar to you, don’t sweat it.  It’s unfamiliar to most of us whisky nerds and keeners too.  These bottlings are few and far between.  As rare as hens teeth, in the words of my dear old grampa.  The vast majority of Glentauchers’s output has ended up in blend oblivion, buried in the mass vattings of Teachers and Ballantine’s, according to all I’ve read.  There are, of course, bound to be single malt ‘casualties’ along the way that are used to produce blends, and I don’t begrudge that.  Every now and again, though, I find a bottle like this one that almost makes me wince, wondering how many stellar casks have been relegated to obscurity in the search for consumer-driven widespread palatability.  Sigh.

Enough barely concealed malt snobbery for now.

This Glentauchers is one of the rare Gordon & MacPhail semi-official releases.  Roughly translated as an independent bottling, in reality.  Typical mixed blessings here.  On the one hand, we thank G&M for the depth of their warehouses and the treats they occasionally bottle for us.  On the other, we ‘tsk tsk’ at the neutered bottling strength.  This is another release that would have been well served by being decanted closer to barrel strength.

And for those curious…Glentauchers is a Speyside distillery. 

Nose:  Lemon (and a little orange).  Soft creamy custard.  Cantaloupe and vanilla ice cream.  Clean oak.  Slightly biscuity.  Florals and perfume.  A hint of tropicalia, but more like tropical Mike & Ike’s or something, instead of real fruit.  Fresh wax.  Honey.  A very tangy and ‘alive’ nose.

Palate:  Tangy fruits up front now, seeming a little more real on the palate than the nose.  Creamy arrival.  Very dessert-like.  Lush and broad on flavour.  A little cinnamon and vanilla sprinked over grilled pineapple.  Lightly toasted oak.  Orange zest.

Thoughts:  Really, really great nose.  Uber clean and vibrant.  This seems like what the Auchentoshan Valinch could be if was allowed to grow up.

 

- Reviewed by:  Curt

- Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 10:59 am
Jul 292014
 

Johnnie Walker King George V038

43% abv

Score:  92.5/100

 

Take ye olde Johnnie Walker Blue Label.  Amp up the ratio of great to mediocre component whiskies.  Increase the average age of a few of those various casks.  Dial up the smoke a notch or two (apparently through the inclusion of some rare old Port Ellen).  Dust it all with a hefty sprinkling of complexity, the likes of which the Blue Label could only dream.  Give it a sleek and luxury-style packaging that even the LVMH folks would swoon for.  Triple (or quadruple) the price point.  Voila!  Johnnie Walker King George V.

Seriously, though.  This is damn sexy whisky.  Obviously marketed more towards the affluent upper crust than we punters, it’s definitely one that will take a swipe at your bank account if you plan to shelve a bottle.  But let’s not dwell on that for now.  Anyone who is looking to buy a $700 bottle of blended whisky probably isn’t too worried about that $700 in the first place.  Not to mention that taking price out of the equation is imperative to scoring and reviewing any whisky.  While it’s certainly fair game to weigh in on value for money, I kinda think the scores should only reflect the sustenance of spirit.

I’d also argue that these sorts of releases are aimed more at the luxury class in general, than at the average whisky enthusiast.  There is a prestige association here that supercedes the love of Scotch.  But that’s ok.  Malt snobs, sadly,  are not likely to be the ones reaching for this anyway, simply due to the ‘blend’ appellation and the name Johnnie Walker.  The reality is, though, they would be wrong.  There’s as much to love here as there is in the upper tiers of single malt splendour.  This whisky is the blenders’ art taken to heights rarely seen.  And in all likelihood…even more scarcely replicated.

Brilliant whisky.  Simple as that.

One final thought…

It’s not often (if ever) that most of us will encounter a blended whisky at anything but a normalized alcoholic strength, but man…to imagine what this King George could have scored at cask strength is staggering in its possibilities. 

Nose:  Smoke.  Creme caramel.  Dusty books.  Allspice.  Orange (fruit and zest).  Old wood shavings…maybe pencil shavings, at that.  Leather chairs and warm suede.  A hint of salt and some cereal notes.  Caramel.  Such an incredibly tight weave.

Palate:  Leather again here.  Smoke and mild earthy peatiness.  Slightly coastal.  Polished oak.  Spiced apple pie.  Smoky caramel.  Just a hint of fruitcake.  Apple skins.  A tad thin, but the flavours are fantastic. 

Thoughts:  This is such a well made dram that it would almost hit my desert island list.  Not because it’s one of the all time greats, but because it is so utterly appealing for almost every scenario I can conceive of.  Ok…it IS one of the all time greats.  More ‘Islay’ here than expected too.  ‘Classic’ single malt profile…but VERY high end.

 

- Reviewed by:  Curt

-Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 10:30 am
Jul 232014
 

Kilbeggan005

40% abv

Score:  74/100

 

Amazing how similar the words ‘blend’ and ‘bland’ are when you really get down to it. 

This Kilbeggan NAS release seems to be the flagship of this particular range out of County Louth’s Cooley distillery in the Eastern climes of Ireland.  Kilbeggan also produces 15 and 18 year variants from what I’ve read, but on Canadian soil they’re either non-existent or as rare as our camera-shy local celebs, the sasquatch and Ogopogo.  Having said that…if the profiles of those two drams are much in keeping with that of this NAS offering I doubt I’ll be scouring far and wide for ‘em.

I don’t want to get too down on this one, ’cause it’s not an offensive whiskey by any means.  If you’re a fan of Irish whisky in its entry-level incarnations (Jameson, Bushmills, etc), I’m sure you’ll find this almost as drinkable.  My own personal gripe with this one is simply that it’s just far too run-of-the-mill and unabashedly underripe.  Young whiskey is fine…so long as the spirit is of highest quality and it boasts a profile that is hitting high notes in its infancy (big cask strength sherry bombs and peat monsters immediately spring to mind).

I should also note that when a bottle such as this is labeled as ‘our finest blend’, it doesn’t exactly light my fire for much else in the range.  Just sayin’. 

Nose:  Sharp, crisp and clean grain.  Youngish, but rather decent blending, I’d say.  Very light fruits.  Citrus zest.  floral or perfumed.  Almost rye-like spices (just big clean grains, I think?).

Palate:  Oh, wait.  What happened here?  Very drying.  Sauvignon blanc.  Walnut and Brazil nuts.  Raw grains.  Not bad, but I wouldn’t say this is something I’d really ever reach for.  Grassy and tea-like at the back end.

Thoughts:  All that was promised on the nose falls flat on the palate.  Sooooo disappointing.  Light enough to suit those unaccustomed to the inticacies of Scotch single malt, I suppose, but those who have a more demanding palate will be shouldering this one aside for something with a little more complexity.

 

- Reviewed by:  Curt

- Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 7:51 am