Jan 142020
 

How ’bout some Rosebank? I’ve been delinquent here when it comes to arguably the most iconic of Lowland single malts. In fact, I think there are only two reviews posted thus far. Fear not. I have a few more to come.

Diageo’s Rare Malts series is held in very high esteem. Rightfully so. The distilleries represented are revered and coveted, and the expressions themselves are, generally speaking, near-forms in terms of representing their respective brands. Not only that…they’re also offered up about as naked and natural as can be, and at blindingly high abvs. This Rosebank was tasted as the last malt in a ridiculous closed distillery tasting and was big enough to cut through all that came before. Not bad for a triple distilled Lowlander, aye?

62.3% abv.

Sincere thanks to my mate Brett Tanaka for the opportunity to taste this. The range of bottles he’s been opening for what we’ll call ‘The Brett Sessions’ are simply beyond comprehension. And I am beyond humbled to be able to partake. I’ll be reviewing dozens of them in the coming weeks/months.

Tasting Notes

Nose: White chocolate. Lemon. More lemon. And some more lemon. Orange. Furniture polish. Slightly floral. This could maybe be a light style of malt if it weren’t for the blistering abv. Herbal. Some cinnamon and dry dunnage-y notes. Fresh cut apples, drizzled in lemon juice. A little boozy.

Palate: Huge! Bigger than that even. Lemon again, as we’d expect. Prickly. Wood spice. Ginger and apple. Oily vanilla bean. A touch of potpourri. Good firm oak; very clean. Chocolate, both white and milk.

Finish: What a clean, long and beautiful finish. Ends on citrus peel and tongue depressers. Maybe a wee bit of apple.

Thoughts: One of my all time favorite Rosebanks. A beauty in all its facets. This is the reason for Rosebank’s reputation.

91.5/100

 Posted by at 10:24 am
Jan 132020
 

Can’t believe I’ve never reviewed this one. ‘Specially seeing as how yer boy is an unapologetic Bunna fan.

At an earlier sinDicate Single Malt Society tasting we elected to get a wee bit cheeky and pulled together a ‘barely legal’-themed night; all 18s. One of the 18s we chose for the line-up was an earlier bottle of Bunna 18. As you probably know, it’s a rather decadent dram. Turns out it was also my wife’s favorite of the night. So…many moons later, it just seemed apropos to open a bottle of something a little bigger, a little bolder and a heck of lot more expensive than that 18, on a night when it was just her and I.

Fun to revisit this one. Not much more to say, really. It’s sort of a perennial classic. Old, wizened and as luxuriantly aware of its own girth and swagger as it needs to be. Love it. And as an aside…the distillery turns 140 years old next year. If Distell’s recent investment (a pretty heaping sum) is any indication, there looks to be another 140 ahead. Hope so. Even if Maltmonster doesn’t so much.

46.3% abv.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Nutty Oloroso. Sticky dried fruits and equally sticky toffee pudding (like my mate Dave makes!). Syrupy and heavy. Thick, thick, thick smoky honey. Slight menthol. Cherry liquor. Malty. Chocolate. Ovaltine, maybe. A banana and Nutella sandwich. Dunnage. Just the faintest whiff of far off peat. Maybe a memory of gunpowder (yass, yass…the faintest wee bit of sulphur).

Palate: Dried fruits. Loads of sherry. Candied nuts. Chocolate. Figs and sultanas. Cinnamon Toast Crunch. A wee bit of smoke. Damp wood. A little bit weedy too. Butter tarts with slightly overdone pastry. Marmalade. Candied orange peel in dark chocolate. That Islay salinity is here on the palate, moreso than on the nose.

Finish: Long and almost droopy, it’s so heavy. Very much on green berries and jimmy fruits, before the wood takes over and leaves a hint of toasty cask.

Thoughts: A lovely old school style of malt that I admit being a little sentimental for. Not a flawless outing, nor a preferred style necessarily, but this one is more than just the sum of its parts.

88/100

 Posted by at 8:47 am
Jan 122020
 

For all our access to rare drams, unique bottlings and bespoke casks, there’s one glaring shortfall in Alberta’s access to whisky: Brora. I literally can’t think of more than ten or twelve expressions that have hit our shelves. We’ve landed a few of the Diageo Annual Releases, a DL O&R Platinum 30 y.o., and maybe a G&M or two. I know we should be grateful for what we do get, but when it’s your favorite distillery that can be a hard pill to swallow. Enough whining. Moving on.

This is quintessential Brora. I know other vintages are more coveted, but that doesn’t necessarily lesson the impact of stunners like this 1978. It has all the hallmarks of what makes the distillery monolithically iconic, but it’s also all very much more subdued than I expected. Is that the vintage? Or the age? Who knows? And who cares, actually? The reality is…this is a beauty and I want more.

And did I mention that this is birth year Brora for me? 😉

48.6% abv. Sadly, only 2,964 Bottles.

And once again…sincere thanks to my mate Brett Tanaka for the opportunity to taste this. The range of bottles he’s been opening for what we’ll call ‘The Brett Sessions’ are simply beyond comprehension. And I am beyond humbled to be able to partake. I’ll be reviewing dozens of them in the coming weeks/months.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Peat and that celestial Brora waxiness. Somewhere between spent candles and honeycomb here. Green tea. Gorgeous peach tones. Salty dough and a bit of minerality. Slightly oceanic, actually. Some orange. Some melon. Some very soft, creamy pineapple. And still more fruit. Chamois leather. Soft smoke. Peach pie and peach tea. Old candy. Stunning really.

Palate: More of that peach. Smoke and wax carry all the way through, as we’d expect with good Brora. Rather coastal. Seashells. A bit of chocolate. Perfect pastry. Honey again. Putty and clay. Just vaguely floral. Some orange fruit notes. Rich, rounded and oily.

Finish: Exceptional long slow ebb (that’s the beauty of such a heavily oily dram!). Earthy and slightly smoky. Thankfully that peach note lingers too.

Thoughts: Absolutely beautiful, but we knew this one would be, even before we cracked it open. Reputation casts a long shadow.

93/100


 Posted by at 8:16 pm
Jan 032020
 

Alright. Let’s us start off 2020 with a bang, yeah? How ’bout a sassy lil indie Port Ellen weighing in just a couple years short of a full three decades?

This one was tasted in a spectacular range of eight different expressions of Port Ellen, including six of the Platinum series from Douglas Laing. The whole range was provided by our mate, Maltmonster, under the guise of ensuring that the whiskies were tasted before those horrible wax seals failed and the malts were compromised. Uh…sure. Let’s go with that. The event itself was a tag team affair between MM and another mate or two. And on behalf of those select attendees privileged enough to attend…all I can say is that we were humbled and grateful to be invited.

While the event was some time ago now, I do still have a few sma’ samples put aside for future reviews. In other words…we’re not done talking Port Ellen. Not by a long shot.

I know some of you love these Port Ellen porn reviews, while others simply roll their eyes. Hopefully there’s more value in archiving notes for these old gems than not, though.

This particular expression – a big, bold 28 year old matured in sherry – is a real cracker. Though I prefer PE in ex-bourbon, these outliers are a real treat from time to time.

54.6% abv. 227 Bottles.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Big sherry notes masking most of the PE-ness. Tar and smoke, of course (else this wouldn’t really be a Port Ellen, would it?). Chocolate. oiled leather. Menthol drops. Cold coffee. Caramelized bark of a perfectly cooked ham. Savoury, smoky and rather brisket-y as well. Some notes of aloe. Licorice All Sorts. Fruit leather. Under-steeped Lapsang Souchong tea. Polished Wood.

Palate: More immediate licorice now. A nice smokiness, neither huge nor one-dimensional. Dried fruit and jammy notes. Raspberry and balsamic. Charred ham again. Black current (real and of the mentholated cough drop variety). Smoked tea again. Some underlying shy notes. And green apple.

Finish: Quite drying (there’s the tannicity from the sherry, I suppose). Fruit skins. Strawberry and raspberry, but…in a reduced form. Long and lovely.

Thoughts: In a way, this is almost not identifiable as a Port Ellen. Strange mash-up of coastal Islay charm and big wet fruitiness. A little bit of a sherried Bowmore-esque quality as well.

89/100

 Posted by at 9:56 am
Jan 032020
 

Happy New Year, friends. Hope your 2019 was rich in stories and blossoms into some of your greatest memories. And here’s to 2020 being the best yet.

As for me and mine? Well…it’s been a rough go ’round here. The last couple of years have seen some twists and turns in our lives, and very few have been positive. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to let it all get us down. Life is too short to wallow, aye?

This is just a quick note to let you know that I am wading through a few health concerns as we speak. And yes, unfortunately they are concerns that may well limit my ability to do this. Notice I said ‘limit’, and not ‘prohibit’. Just bear with me. I am trying to find a couple of contributors to maybe help share the burden. Easier said than done. I’ve yet to meet my ‘Angus’.

Anyway…I am okay. Until we reach the end of a run of tests here (a wee ways off yet), then it will be status quo. Albeit, a more leisurely-paced status quo.

In the meantime…how ’bout a Port Ellen review?

 Posted by at 9:23 am
Dec 052019
 

Warning: Extreme bias ahead. And I have no intentions of hiding it.

The sinDicate is the name of the club we started up here in Calgary after pulling the plug on the Dram Initiative. We’re about a year and a half deep into this new adventure, and have been pursuing opportunities to purchase a bespoke cask for the club since the earliest days. After a couple of less than stellar rounds of cask samples sent our way by brands I’ll not mention here, Kilchoman stepped up and sent us a package of brilliant malts to consider. I mean, every one of the samples they sent was good enough to consider buying. Ultimately, though, one shone a little brighter than the others. Cask #148. An exceptionally clean and vibrant ex-bourbon barrel filled in 2012.

The phenols on this malt are still huge, as one would expect in a 7 year old whisky, but there is a creaminess here and near-tropical depth that have no business being so prevalent in a cask this young. The quality was there, the price was right, so we leapt. A couple months later 260 bottles landed on the shores (errr…rolling hills?) of Alberta. And we could not be happier.

Members have scooped up the vast majority of this one, but there are a few dozen bottles available via Kensington Wine Market. And one more biased opinion before we move on to tasting notes: KWM really is Canada’s best whisky store. If you don’t believe me, pop on in sometime.

56.7% abv. 260 bottles.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Some of the cleanest peat notes I’ve found in a malt this young. Surprisingly creamy and a wee bit reminiscent of our past KWM 10 year olds. Strong citrus notes (lemon and tightly wound key lime). Grilled pineapple. Orange and tangerine. A bit of kiwi and underripe pear. Crushed ginger. Lemon furniture polish. Clotted cream and some sort of dessert flambe. A faint note of pool water.

Palate: Great delivery. Vibrant fruit notes in lockstep with threads of clean smoke. An earthy undertone. More tangy pineapple. Almost candied. Salt licorice. Quick-steeped Lapsang Souchong tea. Vanilla cream.

Finish: Salt licorice notes linger. Granny Smith apple and pear skins. Aloe. Cask char.

Thoughts: Super proud to have our name associated with this one. Unquestionably one of my favorite Kilchoman expressions.

90/100

 Posted by at 10:28 am
Nov 202019
 

More reviews coming ASAP. Cold is gone; senses are clear; and, most importantly, I’m keen to chat. So…next review? A private bottling of Kilchoman we had done just for the sinDicate (our local whisky club). Yes, yes, I do obviously have a bias here. Consider yourself forewarned.

In the meantime…let’s play ‘lists’. I love to hear about other folks’ whisky passions.

First list: What are your top five grail malts? The ones you’d consider selling a kid(ney) for.

Second list: What are the top five malts (or blends) you currently have tucked away in your stash? The ones that are nearest and dearest to your shriveled ol’ malt-soaked heart.

I’ll give’r first, just to get us going and (hopefully) stir up some chat.

Grails Malts (or blends) (at the moment, anyway…but this list changes all the time):

  • Black Bowmore (1964, 42 yo)
  • Ardbeg Double Barrel (1974s)
  • Brora 40 y.o.
  • Clynelish 12 y.o. (1960s)
  • Port Ellen 12 y.o. 1980 (Queen’s Visit)

Top Five Tucked in the Bunker:

  • Brora 35 y.o. (2013)
  • Port Ellen 12th Release
  • Springbank 21 (2005)
  • G&M Aberfeldy 1993 (24 y.o.)
  • Brora 30 y.o. (2005)
 Posted by at 11:08 pm
Oct 282019
 

Haven’t forgotten about ya. Fighting a ridiculous cold. Unless you want tasting notes for Buckleys cough syrup and hot toddies, I’m probably not much good to you right now. Back soon. Promise.

 Posted by at 9:49 am
Oct 212019
 

Long days we’ve waited for this. Not just this for this whisky, in particular, but for Alberta Distillers to finally shake the sleep from their heads and recognize the potential for their ultra pristine, clean and spicy, homegrown rye. I truly believe some of the world’s greatest rye whisky (and I mean real rye whisky, not simply Canadian whisky colloquially referred to as rye) is produced right here in the heart of Alberta’s most bustling metropolis. Even the standard Alberta Premium at 40% and non-age stated is knockout stuff. To finally have a cask strength version of this stuff is like Christmas come early.

But the real question, of course, is whether or not the whisky is actually good. And I’m tickled pink to report that it is much more than good. And every opinion I’ve heard from those who’ve tried it seems to fall in line as well. ADL has killed it with this release. Here’s hoping this isn’t simply a one-and-done sort of offering. It would be great to have this as a permanent addition to the core range. Especially now that Dark Horse is apparently on the way out.

It’s big, bold and brazen stuff. And we love it for all those reasons.

65.1% abv. In other words…hot, hot, hot.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Demerara sugar and maraschino. Eucalyptus. Maple syrup lollies. Coffee liqueur. Pine sap. Toasted wood. Lemon furniture polish. Apple streusel. Butter tarts. Cinnamon. Not as much vanilla as I would have expected.

Palate: Overripe banana. Crème brulee. Some nice fruity, boozy notes. A bit of raspberry and cherry. A bit of both orange and lemon zest. A thread of blueberry coulis. Beeswax. Sweet raisins. More cinnamon. And apple at the back end.

Finish: Apple Cinnamon Cheerios. The aftertaste of mentholated cough syrup. Clean pine or spruce. British treacle toffee.

Thoughts: All I’d hoped for. And maybe a little bit more. The abv is near blinding, so don’t be shy with water (though I prefer it neat).

89.5/100

 Posted by at 3:01 pm