Nov 282013
 

Ardbeg 1975 (Connoisseur’s Choice)002

43% abv

Score:  91.5/100

 

Independent bottlings are notorious for their inconsistency.  This is observation, not criticism.  Inconsistency has led to some of the most unique and, in some cases, incredible whiskies I’ve ever tasted.  You are required, by nature, to take a bit of a flyer on ’em, but much like bucking the odds at the track, the payoff can be astronomical.

Now…let’s get down to brass tacks here…

Ardbeg is my favorite distillery.  I don’t even pretend to hide the bias.  Some bottlings are obviously better than others, but if I were to average and weight my scores by distillery, I can’t imagine anyone coming even close to this Islay mecca’s dominance.  Consistently high marks by a nearly unanimous field of writers, critics, reviewers etc indicate I’m far from alone in recognizing the high quality of spirit flowing off the stills at Ardbeg.

Now one of Ardbeg’s great strengths, I think, has always lain in its incredible vatting abilities.  It’s no small secret that early Uigeadails (and maybe later?), bottles of the 17, Lord Of The Isles etc were helped along immeasurably by the inclusion of some older casks in their respective vattings.  I have no idea to what degree that is still going on, but man…there are some nuances and shades in many of the Ardbeg releases that should only be found in mature whiskies, and not certainly not in the youthful peat beasts they keep unleashing of late.

Having said all of that…what happens when Ardbeg isn’t able to do large vattings?  Such as in a case like this one where G&M were responsible for bottling.  Being as there is no cask information on the packaging, I can only assume that this was a marriage of a few Ardbeg casks which this independent bottling giant had in its vast whisky warehouses.  Not certain, but either way…I’ll take it.

Right now we’re looking at a 1975 Gordon & MacPhail release from under the Connoisseurs Choice brand.  Unfortunately the decision was made to drop the abv down to a more palatable strength (ahem…read: watering it down = more bottles released = more profit), but that can be overlooked if the drink is still good.  I’m sure I don’t really need to say it, but with a whisky this old it’s well nigh blasphemy to hobble it.  Let it run.  Let it be big, bold and impetuous.

Getting beyond that initial disappointment though, the whisky itself is an absolute revelation.  Beautifully complex and bearing the fruits of a long period of coming of age.  Each year invested in maturation was time well spent.  This is great whisky, with a particularly fantastic in-sync dialogue between nose and palate.

Here’s to more old Ardbeg crossing our palates soon.

Nose:  Soft and crumbly iced sugar cookies.  Very mild peat and smoke.  Mild lime…mild melon.  Softly spicy.  Is that kiwi fruit?  Not sure, but my mind keeps coming back to it.  Cinnamon.  Faint old dunnage warehouse.  Some salty and peppery notes begin to emerge after a few minutes.  As do some greens.  There’s a savoury note too which I can’t quite put my finger on.

Palate:  So beautifully matured.  The peat is just an ethereal memory here, but the smoke is still there to a wee degree.  A little bit of anise meets mouth-watering sweet fruits white fruits.  Cinnamon cookies.  While I love fiery young peat, this is where my heart lies now.  Older Islay malts are like distilled angel tears.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 7:33 am
Nov 272013
 

Glenkinchie Distiller’s Edition110 (1990)

43% abv

Score:  84/100

 

One of only a small handful of Lowland distilleries still in operation, Glenkinchie is famous for being quite typical of the ‘Lowland profile’: light and floral.  I’m very much in collusion that that is exactly what the distillery hits in terms of its general profile.

So, having said that…why don’t we see what happens when they dunk a big ol’ light and grassy bouquet of floral notes into a rock tumbler of a sweet Amontillado sherry cask for an extra year or two.  (I believe this Distiller’s Edition is actually nothing more than their standard 12 year old, re-racked for two years in sherry butts.  However, being as this is an older edition I’m tasting in this review…it would have been their now-obsolete 10 year old re-racked, not the 12.)

This Distiller’s Edition release is part of Diageo’s double-matured variants on their Classic Malts line-up.  Sort of like the darker, evil twin sibling thing.  In some cases…it works incredibly well.  In others…well…it’s always interesting, at the very least.  Let’s give credit where credit is due though, the big boys are working to give us a bit of variety, and that is definitely not a bad thing.

Glenkinchie has never been my favorite distillery, and is actually sort of the malt arch enemy of one particular mate who went to toe to toe against a bottle of the now-obsolete 10 year old one eve…and lost.  I don’t particularly mind the dram, but I also don’t expect to buying it again anytime soon either. 

The double-matured nomenclature is something I halfheartedly scoff at, by the way.  This is simply a more elgant way of saying ‘finished’.  Semantics, I suppose.  Vatted malt argument, anyone?

Nose:  Quite wine-heavy and perfume-y.  Cinnamon bread dough.  Still light, even beneath the swishing waves of sherry.  Tangy notes of fruit toffee and taffy.  Mix of assorted wine gums.  Some spent mulling spices.   

Palate:  A little tart.  A little too much weight in the ‘finishing’ influence.  Apple.  Quite juicy, but dries up like Sahara sucking up a spilled flask.  Some of those perfume-y notes carry right on through to the palate.  Some over-the-top sharp wood notes.

It’s ok, but not much more.  Not my favorite whisky becomes not my favorite finished whisky.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 11:18 am
Nov 262013
 

Brora 21 y.o. Rare Maltsbarry's place pics 156

56.9% abv

Score:  92/100

 

Let’s do another Brora.  This time from the Rare Malts line released by Diageo (then UDV, I believe…or maybe just having become what is now known as Diageo?) back in the late 90s. 

The Rare Malts line-up ran for a decade or so, from 1995 through 2005, before ultimately the decision was made on high to discontinue the branding and concentrate exclusively on the parallel annual releases, which were being bottled to similar standards and strengths.  The Rare Malts releases are now secondary market fixtures, highly sought after by collectors and connoisseurs.  If the opportunity does arise for a taste, do try.  It’s like drinking a piece of history.

Whisky in its late teens or early 20s tends to fall right into a bit of a sweet spot for me.  There’s just something so vibrantly alive in Scotch within this age bracket, yet at the same time they tend to be sophisticated, complex and able to wear the years with grace.  This Brora is no different.  In fact, it’s a shining example of just that.

Any contemporary releases of Brora (while few and far between) are now hitting the shelves in their early 30s, sue simply to the fact that this Highland distillery was mothballed (and subsequently partially cannibalized) in 1983, a solid three decades ago.  Having gone through a couple of the more mature variants recently, it seemed about time to look back a little and see what this distillery can boast of in its younger incarnations.  As it turns out…quite a lot.

This particular release is cask #2758 from 1977, and it’s a different kind of Brora.  Lighter and sweeter than I’d expect.  There’s a home-iness about this one that rings true and rockets it up my list of favorite drams.  Very clean.  Very defined.  Great personality.  It makes me think back to farmhouse kitchens (and yes…when I was wee I did spend a LOT of time in ’em), with a profile hinting at back-to-the-earth farmy characteristics well met with the pleasant memories of home baking.  While those are my immediate olfactorily driven connotations, it ignores the fact that this is a hefty dram at nearly 57% abv.  That should tell you that, while I refer to it as ‘pleasant’ and ‘gentle’, it is certainly not one for the faint of heart. 

Great whisky from a distillery we miss very much.*

Nose:  Orange and nutmeg.  Some lovely cherry notes and warm leather.  Fresh hay.  A little peat, yes, but surprisingly tame here.  Soft, gentle and beautiful.  The comfort of warm caramel pudding.  Wonderfully sweet and balanced.

Palate:  Smoke now.  Grainy and farmyard-like.  Citrus tang and some fruit skin flavours and feel.  Anise.  A whiff of eucalyptus.  Bold delivery belies the softness of the nose.  Gorgeous.  Simply gorgeous.  I would think this was older than 21, to be honest.

*Do note…last I read the stills and such were still in place.  One can only dream of a Lazrus act, no? 

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 3:23 pm
Nov 262013
 

Brora 30 y.o. (DL Old & Rare Platinum Selection)barry's place pics 155

57.5% abv

Score:  93/100

 

Oh boy.

This is a special dram.  Like…really special.  Just sitting down with a few drops of this is immediately one of those truly unforgettable whisky moments.  Being able to do it more than once is like marrying the prom queen. 

The concept of Brora fellation is not new.  For years the hype has been building from one of an undercurrent flowing through the blogs and forums to a crescendo of deafening despair for lost opportunities and being born years too late.  It’s ok, friends.  I’m wailing along with you.  It’s whiskies like this that lend credence to the argument that these lost distilleries were something really special.  

This 30 year old Douglas Laing (bottled years before the Laing brother break-up) was packaged under the Old & Rare Platinum Selection Single Cask Series.  You always have to wonder whether or not a single cask is the best representation of the distillery, but in this case it doesn’t even matter.  This is a beautiful whisky irrespective of brand, providence, marketability or price point. 

Born in the mid seventies (a couple years prior to the birth of your ‘umble narrator), this spirit left the comfort of cask and made for the big time via bottle in 2007.  That a few last bottles lingered on shelves until just weeks ago speaks not to the quality of the whisky in any way, but simply to the sad fact that the powers that be have more intellect than we’re wont to give them credit for, and have priced the dram accordingly.  (About $800CA give or take, if memory serves).  The thing is…money comes and goes.  Whisky like this however?  Well…it just goes.

I should note…a mate of mine with exceptional taste in whisky didn’t find this one quite up to the standards that I did, but it brings me back to one of the greatest sentiments I’ve ever heard expressed regarding differing opinions.  For the life of me, I can’t recall who said it, but I’d love to give credit where credit is due (was it on Connosr somewhere perhaps?).  It went something like this:  “Thank God we all have different tastes, otherwise everyone would be in love with my wife.”

Not 100% certain, but this is quite possibly my favorite Brora yet.  Exceptional.

Nose:  Peat and farmy notes collide up front.  A lot of moist lovely tobacco.  Dark cherry.  Rubber and billowy smoke.  Man…what a glorious collision of peat and fruit…simply magic.  Some mixed fruits atop warm cream of wheat.  Wet rock.  Caramel.  There’s more here, but now I just need to sit back and enjoy with eyes closed.

Palate:  Some impossibly beautifully sweet notes.  Peat and smoke.  A little but wine-ish.  Overwhelmingly intense mouthfeel.  Salt and pepper meet lemon.  Gooey orange and possibly raspberry.  Touch of Amaretto, brings together some sweet fruits and drying nutty flavours.  Wow.  Just wow.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 12:36 pm
Nov 262013
 

Whisky & Moose – The Untold Story

It’s a simple fact that moose have the best sense of smell in the world. Moose are Mother Nature’s gift to the whisky note writers of the world. Unfortunately these aquatic whisky loving herbivores, with their special olfactory abilities, have been coveted by the whisky industry and have become easy targets for shady brand agents or inbred distillery ambassadors who coerce them into drinking whisky samples, turn them into addicts and then sell them as tasting panel slaves to the Distilleries, SMWS and so called professional writers.

We, here at All Things Whisky, care deeply about the majestic moose and have started a nature reserve called the Wee Moose Sanctuary & Hunting Lodge, which is located in the shadow of the Alberta Rockies. It is the world’s largest natural-habitat refuge developed specifically to meet the needs of the abandoned, outmoded and unloved moose. It is a not for profit loss organization, licensed by Alberta Liquor & Wildlife, with support from such organizations as the:

LVMH – Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy, bargain labor wallet division

BHWB – Bow Hunters without Borders

WPC – Wildlife Porn Canada

DHARMA – Department of Heuristics and Research on Material Applications

The moose Sanctuary was designed utilizing more than five square meters of high strength chicken wire, it provides a protected, simulated natural-habitat pub environment. As part of the sanctuary rehab program, the patients are required to perform therapeutic wallet stitching for 16 hours each day, followed by a period of measured controlled alcohol ingestion so that they may provide proper humane tasting notes for organizations or persons in need of professional tasting aid. After last week’s tragic hunting accident there are only ten moose residing in the sanctuary. Together, they form one of the most anonymous influential whisky tasting panels in the world called the Keepers of the Meese.

Moose 008

Tasting Panel Spotlight ………………..Spotlight falls on to the moose known as Little Ikea ……………. Darling and star of the 2009 Swedish Ikea catalog, purchased by an affluent Calgary family and discarded by the nanny in 2010, used as a dog chew toy in 2011, tranquilized & captured by Parks Canada in the bathroom of the Glencoe Club lounge. Parks Canada then released Little Ikea back into the wild for the opening of the bow hunting season. Little Ikea was then rescued by the Sanctuary using a modern humane leg hold trap, cushioned in baby seal skin. After deliberating, Little Ikea Lundgren was taken into the care of the Sanctuary for underverse processing, where he remains to this day.

002

The anonymous Keepers of the Meese are currently working on behalf of a well-known rock band whose members just happen to be master whisky blenders. This merry blend of master musicians was sought out by a major whisky brand for their laboratory research in the ground breaking field of flavored vodka and the exposé they did on the life cycle of beer coasters. This collaboration between the band and distillery was not done in a vain attempt to make the brand look cool to attract younger drinkers, but was actually done to raise money to support one the bands favorite charities “ACPTW”, Abused Cocaine Producers of the Third World. Ironically, the band, in doing so much selfless supporting/snorting of cocaine, has completely lost their sense of smell.

These moose also have a depraved sense of humor, as was witnessed at the expense of an unnamed, unkempt Caligula like, fedora wearing writer when they wrote borderline preposterous scores for Ballantine’s 17 and Glenmorangie Ealanta for his yearly publication. They have also been writing overtime to satisfy the needs of the SMWS outturn; after all, do you really think they could find enough funny, non-serious Scots to write witty, attention-grabbing tasting notes? … Irish maybe!

The Moose Sanctuary has also been retained to consult on a new distillery project in Western Canada by lending the Sanctuaries name and reputation to gain shareholder confidence. The consulting duties for the moose would entail an optional appearance at the opening ceremonies, in the event the project were to open. Photo shop use of the consulting team over other successful distilleries.  Team building session at the Las Vegas Pyramid Luxor Hotel & Casino.

We end this irrelevant awareness article with a plea for the safe return of our lost moose named Road Trip, last seen sitting on a water cooler at KWM. Road Trip also answers to RT but is deaf. He is currently off his medication so be very careful when approaching him. We believe he is presently being held by the Canadian branch of the SMWS to provide tasting notes. Take heed the persons holding him are to be considered radical intellectuals with a limited capacity to tolerate alcohol, so be careful not to engage them sober. We are offering up a reward for the return of RT.

IMG_0014 

– Your humble drudge & shepherd,

Maltmonster

 Posted by at 9:11 am
Nov 252013
 

Brora 30 y.o. 2009barry's place pics 153

53.2% abv

Score:  91.5/100

 

As Brora becomes more and more scarce on the scene, the odds of most drammers having an opportunity to taste it are becoming more and more stacked against us.  It’s a sad fact in a world ruled by free market and supply and demand.

The good news, however, is that we’re in an age of more potential ‘Broras’ than ever.  Not in the literal sense, of course, but figuratively speaking.  Back in its day, Brora was just a peated spirit from yet another Highland distillery, and not necessarily recognized as the legendary elixir it is now often given to be.  As we speak, there are well over a hundred operational distilleries in Scotland and apparently a whole bunch more in the early stages of planning, permitting and construction.  Where I’m going with this?  There are many opportunities to discover the ‘next Brora’.

Any folks out there who may be wanting to approach the flavour profile (as near as I can figure it) but are unlikely so score their own bottles of Brora…I’d suggest maybe saving your money for older Longrow releases.  The oldest OB Longrow released to date has been an 18 year old, but fingers crossed that at some point we see 25 and 30 year variants.  I think they’ll reach a similar profile.  These and maybe Port Charlotte when it finally approaches its early 20s.

For those not in the know, Brora was a Highland distillery that closed its doors in 1983, amid the rash of distillery closures tied to whisky world’s version of the Great Depression.  I’m not sure what the young Brora malt was like at that point, but what little was left to slumber in the warehouses gradually took on a flavour and mystique of epic proportions.  It was also generally bottled at a healthy two or three decades of age.  Rightly or wrongly this is the standard to which Brora is held to today.  You can see the unfairness of holding what we contemporarily think of as a standard Brora (if there is such a thing) in the same league as most other distilleries on the menu, which are usually served up at a whopping old age of…12.  Or if you’re splurging…18.  Hmmm…if all whiskies were allowed to hit 30 years, I’d bet the farm we’d see a lot more ‘Broras’.  Just my speculation.

Anyway…these annual Diageo special releases are probably the most accurate representation of true Brora, as they are a vatting of multiple casks, whereas most of the others you’ll find (if at all) are liable to be single cask variants by the independent bottlers, and highly subject to variations.  Make no mistake due to the rambling nature of my lead-in, though…this is Brora.  And it’s fucking awesome stuff.

Nose:  Much lighter than the only other 30 year old OB I’ve tried (2005 edition)*.  White pepper.  Lightly aromatic farmy, peaty and smoky notes.  Musk.  A perfume-iness meets some floral influence.  Vanilla is fairly up front.  Orange and lemon.  Fresh ground spice (dry, dusty and somewhat exotic…shorthand for ‘I can’t quite put my finger on it).  Paraffin.  Soft, chewy cookies with mild baking spice.

Palate:  Quite some peat and dry pepper are mashed up with some syrupy sweetness.  Anise and flint notes follow in step.  Peat and heat follow a moment or two after that.  Smoky, as to be expected.  A neat little bit of tartness.  Utterly delicious.

*Oops…that was a lie.  I was one of the guilty few at Andrew Ferguson’s place who helped speed up the evaporation rate on a bottle of the 2010 edition.  It wasn’t my fault though!  Blame the Maltmonster.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:09 pm
Nov 252013
 

Cragganmore 10 y.o. Special Edition Natural Cask Strength440

60.1% abv

Score:  86/100

 

This is a nifty, nifty dram.  Not one you’re liable to find kicking around anymore, to be honest, but there IS still value in reviewing something like this.  It shows you what the distillery has in its arsenal, if only allowed to unleash the big guns with a bit more frequency. 

This cask strength edition is not necessarily a very different whisky from the standard Cragganmore, but it is certainly an amplified version of a familiar tune.  Think of it like high definition IMAX versus an old rabbit-eared black and white TV.  All of those little nuances that so often get drowned out in the white noise of standard bottling strength, chill-filtration and dollops of artificial coloring become the subtleties of an intricate weaving.  It would be a great attestation to distilleries’ confidence in their whisky if all were to release cask strength examples of their distillate. 

Cragganmore is one of the lesser known distilleries in the Diageo portfolio, contributing just over 1.5 million litres of spirit annually, in a fairly innocuous Speyside style.  Standard expressions are few and far between, so speaking to the general profile on the distillery is not something I’m willing to tackle here.  I will, however, try to post a review of the more redily available Cragganmore 12 year old at some in the coming days so there is at least a frame of reference for those out there who may be curious.  Expect a sweet, fruity and slightly floral dram.  In short…nothing really unique.

While I should admit to having a bit of a personal affinity for Cragganmore (simply due to the power of memories seen through rose-colored glasses), I have neither found one I loved nor hated yet.  This special edition is likely as close as I’ve come to embracing the dram.

Nose:  Caramel, toffee and pepper.  Apple and melon.  Cake mix.  Dusty ol’ sherry butts.  Is that smoke?  Unexpected.  Yep…smoky toffee.  Maybe sticky toffee pudding.  Butter tarts.  Crème brûlée and custard.  A little red berry.  Rather tough nose to dissect.

Palate:  Creamy and sweet.  Dried fruits, tart jam and some smoky notes.  A fair bit of sherry influence.  Quite dry.  Figgy.  Dark vanilla threads.  Some spice.  There’s an almost varnish-like note here.  No worries, though…goes well with the oak.  😉  Kinda like over-steeped tea at the back end.  Brings a little bitterness.

Nothing really special in terms of overt inherent quality, this malt is still quite nifty to try, simply in terms of exposure to something new.  An extra point as well just for presentation close to the unadulterated manner we prefer.  I got more enjoyment out of this than the score would suggest.  Just saying.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 8:47 am
Nov 232013
 

Glenfiddich 15 y.o. Distillery Edition177

51% abv

Score:  87.5/100

 

Yes! Yes! Yes!  Even the mighty Glenfiddich, from its soaring battlements and seemingly inpregnable walls, is hearing the battle cry.  The seiging masses below – calling for a less adulterated malt and a more hefty offering – have been bombarding the industry for years now and I would unequivocally argue…are winning.  Here, I believe, is the end result of the efforts of bloggers, vloggers and tweeters (oh my!).

It would seem our voices have carried well enough to get the message across.  This is impressive.  If you’re anything like me, you’re so used to the watered down run-o’-the-mill presentation of the Glenfiddich core range that this will come as a truly welcome gift.  While I do have a healthy level of respect for the distillery, I won’t suggest our relationship at this point is based on anything other than just that.  Respect.

But there’s more to my appreciation of this particular 15 year old Distillery Edition than just it’s presentation.  To me this represents potential.  Knowing as we do just how big Glenfiddich is, can you even conceive of the ‘whisky world’ implications if a distillery as forefront as this were to declare 46% their minimum abv offering?  Sigh.  If only…

Anyway, daydreaming aside, this is a damn good whisky.  It’s not great, but it is an absolutely worthwhile purchase and one to keep on the shelf.  The distillery’s profile is not likely one that will ever truly excite me, but it’s crispy clean fruits and blemish-free veneer make it an easy dram to approach on any occasion for any drinker.  So, while I concede I’m not the biggest Glenfiddich fan, this one does come highly recommended.

Nose:  Caramel apple.  Pepper.  Wow…would not expect this in a Glenfiddich.  Creamy and balanced.  Fudgy.  Vanilla.  Come cocoa.  Nice spices and dried flowers.  Salty dough.

Palate:  Apple slices in chocolate.  Vanilla cream.  Dash of pepper and clove.  Some nice lively fruit notes.  Spicy.  Great mouthfeel.  Pleasant and drinkable.  Oak and apple back notes.  Slight floral overtones.  Nice hold at the end.

Shows there can be more to Glenfiddich than just homogeneity and fat sales.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:41 pm
Nov 212013
 

121Cardhu 12 y.o.

40% abv

Score:  76.5/100

 

Arguably the most controversial single malt whisky ever to hit the shelves.  While I’d like to see I’m a bigger man than to fuel a dying fire…I’m not.  With that being said…grab your marshmallows  Let’s stoke the flames a little bit longer.  Late to the party, yeah, but the lessons behind this debacle should not be forgotten.

Drinks giant, Diageo, raised the ire of whisky purists the world over in 2003 when, in an unprecedented act of brazen big-boy-gets-his-way rule-bending, they elected to solve a shortage of supply issue for their Cardhu 12 year old single malt  by simply redefining what the boundaries of what malt whisky were.

By the end of 2003 demand for Cardhu had grown to point where the distillery simply couldn’t produce the volume to meet consumer guzzling.  Spain, in particular, apparently couldn’t get enough of this rather middle of the road single malt.  Rather than fall back on one of the more orthodox solutions – increasing production through expansion, raising prices of the existing expression thereby allowing the market to solve its own issues or simply saying ‘tough shit, that’s all there is’ – Diageo decided to try pulling a fast one.  I’m not certain whether this was a deliberate attempt to deceive in an ‘as if the unwashed masses are smart enough to catch on’ kind of way, or if it was a more sinister power play in a ‘we’re Diageo and we’ll do whatever the fuck we want’ sorta deal.  Either way, the results were to be expected.  The populace came out with pitchforks and torches. 

What Diageo had done was to continue releasing a 12 year old Cardhu, but now healthily bolstered by the addition of various other single malt whiskies from the Speyside region, and conceded no change (or very little change, anyway) to nomenclature, packaging or marketing.  They had simply tweaked a word on the bottle from ‘single’ malt to ‘pure’ malt.  Hmmmm.  Dubious?  Yes.  Unethical?  Most probably.  However…there was nothing really in the rules to allow the book to be thrown at Diageo.  This was more a matter of the industry’s vehemently protected integrity on the line.  Ultimately the big boys backed down and Cardhu returned to being a single malt. 

A couple years later, in the settling wake of all of this uproar, the fine (ahem) folks at the SWA finally stepped in and redefined the way Scotch whisky was to be branded.  The appellation ‘Pure Malt’ was no more.  There’s a little more to it, and a bit more long term fall out, but in the interest of brevity we’ll move on.

Let’s talk about this more contemporary Cardhu 12.  I suppose the big question is…was it worth all the headlines?  And the answer, quick to lips, is a resounding ‘no’.  This is a bland, milquetoast single malt if ever there was one.  Simple, boring and…(yawn)…I really can’t be bothered to elucidate more on it quite frankly.  Speyside…predictable…over-processed…uber-branded.  C’est fin. 

Here are some tasting notes…

Nose:  Dried flowers and dust.  Straw.  Dry meadow notes.  A lot of apple.  Very tight, tart red berry.  Mild caramel.  Boring vanilla cream notes.  Biscuits or white bread with honey.

Palate:  Weak and watery.  A hint of apple carried over from the nose.  Kinda like caramel apple with very, VERY mild spices (cinnamon, nutmeg and clove…all muted).  Milk-soggied Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal.  The pinnacle of generic…maybe even edging out Glenfiddich for that honour.

*(I’d love to try this as a straight-from-the-barrel cask strength dram.  Would be interesting to see what it COULD be if not so neutered.)

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:39 am
Nov 212013
 

BenRiach 15 y.o. Tawny Port FinishBenRiach_15YO_Tawny_Port_Finish

46% abv

Score:  85/100

 

So…having just shared a few thoughts on what could almost be considered a ‘sister bottling’ to this release (a GlenDronach similarly finished in tawny port and also dished up at a respectable 15 years old), let’s take a peek at how BenRiach holds up when afforded the same treatment.

I refer to these releases as ‘sisters’ in that BenRiach and GlenDronach are both owned by The BenRiach company.  Having the distilleries elect to release such similarly engineered whiskies is actually quite a stroke of genius.  Particularly for those out there with a knowledge of, or affinity for, these two Speyside artisans.  It allows a rare opportunity to speculate on the merits of the finishing process (and choice of finishing casks) by direct contrast between a couple of familiar and high quality single malts.  Coincidentally or otherwise, these are actually two of my favorite distilleries, particularly in their more aged expressions.  (I find the ’70s were particularly good to both distilleries, with a bunch of great early to mid ’80s ‘Riachs also being rather exceptional).

Now that I’ve highlighted the relationship between distilleries, I should note that the whiskies produced therein are very much unique fingerprints.  BenRiach is a distillery with much less of a bent towards the heavily-sherried than GlenDronach, and possibly a more adventurous approach to single malt alchemy.  The backbone of the malt seems quite sweet and clean in all of the expressions I’ve tried, irrespective of how heavily ‘made up’ some of the individual releases may be (Curiositas, Authenticus, Solstice, etc).  Perhaps that’s what makes the spirit seem so malleable and succesful in so many of its guises. 

This dram was tasted side by side with the afore-mentioned GlenDronach Tawny and absolutely took the higher marks.  The profile is a little broader and more balanced.  Seems a touch sweet for my liking, but all of the individual notes are quite exceptional.  Neat whisky.

Nose:  Pepper and jam.  Chewy white nougat candy (Roman Nougat bars with fruit gums and all).  Chocolate fudge.  Toasted coconut with tangy pineapple.  Dusting of cinnamon.  Damp tobacco.  Notes much like a strawberry perfume.  A bit of grape.  Very sweet.  Great profile, but maybe the sweetness needs to be dialed back from 10 to 6.

Palate:  Grape skins.  Dark dried fruit tannins.  Oak notes.  A bit of chocolate orange and old ginger.  Much less on the palate than the nose.  Coffee and dark chocolate.  Even some milk chocolate.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  BenRiach

 Posted by at 6:58 am