...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Good Blend: Exclusive Blended Malt 20 year old 1994 (50%abv edition)

Long time reader (all one of you!) knows I'm a straight-shooter (I can't believe I just wrote that) when it comes to the Creative Whisky Company (CWC). The last time I reviewed one of David Stirk's products, I caught a bit of heat. Will today's post get me into a different flavor of trouble?

During the June 2016 Malt Nuts event, I tried 18 different "Old and Older" blends. My top three favorites were all blends by CWC. And the best was one was a particular 20 year old blended malt. A year later — and you know a whisky's good when you're still thinking about it a year later — I chose this same blended malt to sneak in amongst a bunch of single malts during a whisky event I was hosting here in Columbus. Though I'd found the whisky for $80-something, all other US retailers were selling it for $100+. Anyway, it was my pleasure to share it with some great folks.

Once again, I was too flaky to remember to take a bottle pic. But I do have a photo of what's now left of my two ounce bottle of leftovers:

Company: Creative Whisky Company
Brand: Exclusive Malts
Type: Blended (or Vatted) Malt
Distilleries: from the Highlands and Speyside
Age: 20 years (1994-2014)
Maturation: first fill ex-sherry butt(s)
Alcohol by Volume: 50%
Chillfiltered? No
Color added? No

The rich nose is more complex than I'd remembered it to be. There's dark chocolate, lots of stone fruits (especially apricots), honeydew, toffee and Ovaltine. Some French oak-like spices around the sides. It has a edgier side to it as well, with horse barn and salty beach air. With time in the glass, the toffee notes swells, while milk chocolate and oranges roll in. The sherry in the palate is lightly sweet here and there, though dry more often. Some raisin and prune. Orange peel, molasses, nutmeg and cloves. Giving it some air heightens the citrus and brings out fresh plums. The long, warm finish has toasted oak, citrus, black raisins, fudge and a slight mintiness.

Lovely stuff. But since I like to try to ruin everything, I'm adding some water...

WITH WATER (~40%abv)
I dare say the nose gets prettier. Apple skins, Ceylon cinnamon, honey, plums and roses. Just a passing hint of gunpowder. Lemons fresh off the tree. The palate has more nuts, fewer raisins. Good mix of sweet and spice. Honey, dried cherries and a little bit of malt. The milder finish reflects the palate, with additional hints of soot and tart fruit.

Monday's bad blend and today's good blend were both better than my previous impressions. In fact, this blended malt is wonderful. I declare this my favorite CWC whisky yet.

The fresh fruit in the nose and the baking spices in the palate are terrific. The very subtle peating shows up at all the right times. (Ardmore or Benromach or olde Glen Garioch?) It dilutes nicely as well. The good cask action is preferable to most of the Glendronach single casks I've tried.

Reviews of this whisky are scarce. In fact it's not even listed in Whiskybase. There's a 51.4% European version, but that appears to be a different creature. Nonetheless, I enjoyed this whisky tremendously. Damn good work, Mr. Stirk.

Availability - It's around, kinda
Pricing - good luck finding it for less than $100
Rating - 90

Monday, September 18, 2017

Bad Blend: 100 Pipers, bottled 1989

My first review of this particular fluid:

I wisely (or not) saved a two-ounce sample of this blended scotch shitsky for further study.

Brand: 100 Pipers
Ownership at the time: Joseph E. Seagram & Sons
Current ownership: Pernod Ricard
Type: Scotch Blended Whisky
Age: minimum 3 years
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
Bottled: 1989

Its color is almost as light as water. The nose is approachable. Apples, cinnamon, caramel, plastic, brussels sprouts, nail polish remover. And then *wffff* gone in 10 minutes. Pretty much a bottom shelf dusty scotch nose. That palate, though. Really really bitter. And not herbal bitter or woody bitter. Chemical bitter. I've never tasted rust, but this probably tastes like rust. White vinegar, coconut, aspartame, urine (not that I....). Chemicals. Cleaning chemicals. Ammonia! The finish somehow worsens. Bitter, bitter, bitter. Acidic. Strange acrid burn. Ammonia.

Pro: It doesn't smell like it tastes.

Con: Between the ages of eight to seventeen, I cleaned my bathroom with ammonia. I know that smell. The hairsbreadth of difference between what ammonia smells like and what this whisky tastes like is terrifying.

Pro: Give it a half dozen shakes of Angostura bitters and it's salvageable in a highball.

Con: The burning sensation it leaves behind is not normal.

Moral of the story: If you see a dusty bottle of 100 Pipers on the shelf, leave it, my dear. Go live your life in peace.

Availability - It's around, but don't look too hard
Pricing - found my 375mL bottle for $8.99
Rating - 52 (received a few bonus points for the highball)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Returning next week...

To protect the sanctity of my whisky reviews, I am pausing for a few days until my tools have been sharpened my system has rebooted life finds a way I have a proper post in hand.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Balblair 2005 First Release (2015)

I like Balblair. There's a general lack of baloney in Balblair's regular releases. All but two of the bottlings I've had were 100% ex-bourbon cask, and the spirit always takes the lead. And even though they provide vintages without age statements, it's easy to quickly figure out the bottling date and then use maffs to deduce the age.

DISCLOSURE TIME: Amy from Ten27 Communications sent me this bottle of Balblair several months ago. Thank you, Amy!

So now you know its source. Feel free to turn back if you're afeared or distrusting of my intent...



Still here?

Okay. Here's the review.

Distillery: Balblair
Ownership: Inver House (via Thai Beverages plc via International Beverage Holdings Ltd.)
Region: Northern Highlands
Maturation: "American oak ex-bourbon barrels"
Vintage: 2005
Bottled: 2015
Bottle code: L15/8968
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
Colored? No

Its color is light amber. Some mellow barrels, perhaps? The nose leads with barley, lemon and an big note of unaged brandy. This is followed by shortbread cookies, hay and Irish cream butter. The palate has a very creamy mouthfeel. Toasted barley, sweet white fruits (pears and apples) and candy canes. It finishes similarly with barley and the white fruits. Grass and simple syrup.

WITH WATER (~40%abv)
The nose leads with hay and hard toffee. It keeps the unaged brandy note, and picks up wort. Hints of lemon and apricot. That great mouthfeel remains. The palate is mostly sugars, cereals and kirschwasser. A soft peppery thing peeks out here and there. A floral new make note. The finish is short but still very clean. Floral tea, barley, mild sweetness, mild acidity and mild bitterness.

There are two great things about this whisky.

1.) Despite being about 10 years old it reads much younger, like the sort of extra-young-style whisky that only independent bottlers are releasing right now. Other official bottlers out there are releasing very young whisky but are applying all sorts of oak technology to hide the youth and age statement, and then charge more for the vanillin. What's also unique is there's no peat here to mask any potential flaws. That takes some confidence. And, you know, there was nothing to hide.

2.) This takes to water gracefully. The whisky keeps its excellent mouthfeel, while releasing some new notes. I had no idea what to expect when applying water to unpeated 46%abv baby whisky, and all was well.

I'm not going to tell you that this whisky will change your life or bring you to tears. What it does it does well, and that's that. What it does shouldn't be the exception for official bottlers, but it is.

Availability - 

Pricing - Japan: $30-$40, Europe: $45-$55, USA $60-$70 (of course)
Rating - 84

Friday, September 8, 2017

Auchentoshan 1983-2004 Scott's Selection

More often than not, I find officially bottled Auchentoshans to be sleepy, while independently bottled Auchentoshans burst fully awake and loony. Even when they spiral out all wrong, they're at least interesting. That's why I couldn't resist splitting this whisky bottle with my trio of whisky-bottle-splitting-people.

I reviewed the Glenlivet 1977 on Monday and the Bunnahabhain 1988 on Wednesday. The Glenlivet had a great sniffer, but the Bunny appealed to me more. Let's see where today's Lowlander lands.

: Auchentoshan
Distilled by: Eadie Cairns Ltd. or Morrison Bowmore
Current Ownership: Beam Suntory
Region: Lowlands (Glasgow-ish)
Bottler: Scott's Selection (R.I.P. 😿)

Age: 21 years or so (1983-2004)
Maturation: "in Oakwood casks" (great)
Alcohol by Volume: 52.4%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No

Remember what I said about loony?

The color? Five beer piss. Oh yeah. The nose is all the cereals: oats, barley, spelt, farro, emmer and effer. Lemongrass, chives and pickle brine. These awesome Japanese ginger cookies I can't stop eating. The palate is really herbal and grassy. So many lemons. Spearmint gum. Malty and briskly bitter. More grass and lemons in the finish. Minty, bitter and malty.


How about I lower it to the usual OB strength?

WITH WATER (~43%abv)
The nose is the olfactory equivalent of the pretend salads my daughter makes for me. Oregano, bay leaf, cocoa, white rice, toffee, barley, lime yogurt and sidewalk chalk. The palate is still grassy and herbal. Slightly floral, with a softer bitterness. Barley and a mild sweetness. Kind of ashy. It finishes super herbal. Ashy, bitter, and malty, with hints of mint and malt.

I can't even.

This stuff is a riot of sensations and not a single one belongs together.

Some people would HATE this whisky. I am not some of those people. In fact, I'm sorta sad to see this one go. Count my boat rocked.

Availability - It's around
Pricing - $100-$200
Rating - 86 (maybe)

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Bunnahabhain 1988-2004 Scott's Selection

On Monday, I reviewed a Glenlivet 1977, the oldest of three bargain bin Scott's Selection single malts split by your favorite local #whiskydicks. Today I'm reviewing the Bunnahabhain 1988 which is, like Master Gee, the baby of the bunch.

While the Glenlivet was held by some very refill "Oakwood", the Bunny had a least one active cask in the mix. Aside from having some color to it, there was all sorts of curious stuff going in the palate during my first approach. First I thought it was a sherry cask, but then Scott's usually labels those malts with a "Sherry Wood" designation. Then I thought it was there was a spritely American oak cask involved. Now, I sorta kinda think there may be a refill sherry cask and a first fill ex-bourbon. I blah blah blah all this because Scott's Selection hasn't labelled these whiskies as "single casks".

Distillery: Bunnahabhain
Distilled by: Highland Distilleries Company Ltd.
Current Ownership: Distell Group Ltd. (via Burn Stewart Distillers)
Region: Islay, but not the Sexy South
Bottler: Scott's Selection (R.I.P. 😿)

Age: 16-ish years (1988-2004)
Maturation: "in Oakwood casks" (plural!)
Alcohol by Volume: 53.8%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No

Its color is light gold, which really is one of the darkest shades I've seen in my Scott's bottles. The nose holds milk chocolate, caramel and lemon cake. Occasional hints of lychee and shoe leather. With time and air, it turns into maple syrup and Skittles. Seriously. The palate starts off salty and sweet, with a ginger zing and something phenolic. Tart citrus, tart berries and almond cookies. It grows sweeter and the fruit gets......fruitier. A touch of vanilla beneath. It has a long tingly finish with tart citrus and off-season cherries. More sugar and citrus with time.

WITH WATER (~46%abv)
In the nose, an earthy note joins the milk chocolate and bright fruits. The palate gets sweeter. Some tart lemons and limes. There's that edgy phenolic thing again. Tartness, sweetness, bitterness and vanillaness in the finish.

At first the palate is a little closed, but then it blossoms with lots of air, turning into whisky candy. Its nose always works, with or without air, with or without water. Seems to swim well overall, though.

The "phenolic thing" stumps me more than the mystery cask(s). From my limited experience, Bunnahabhain of this period usually isn't this peatish. Could that be a cask artifact too? Or maybe just some whack funk in the juice.  👈 That sentence.

Monsieur MAO and I have some scarily similar notes on this same bottle of whisky. He picked up on that peaty thingamajig too. Florin (a prince) wasn't as excited about it, finding the oak a bit loud.

If you're in Illinois, Binny's may have a bottle or two left at the correct price of $79.99. Or they might not. It has that weird noncommittal status on the website. Otherwise it's selling for $150, $230, $250 and $400 elsewhere. What a country.

Availability - 
It's around

Pricing - see the final paragraph
Rating - 87 (with water, without water, whatever)

Monday, September 4, 2017

Glenlivet 1977-2004 Scott's Selection

Almost a year ago, Binny's Beverage Depot dropped the prices on all their remaining Scott's Selection whiskies. So four of us whisky gents split three of those bottles. Not too long after that, Binny's stopped shipping to Ohio. That's a bummer, but it has kept my whisky purchases limited, which is not a bummer.

It took a while before I tapped into my portions, but once I did they didn't last long. Luckily I saved 2oz of each for reviews......which are happening this week, starting with the oldest of the trio. A Glenlivet distilled in 1977.

Distillery: Glenlivet
Distilled by: The Glenlivet Distillers Ltd.
Current Ownership: Pernod Ricard
Bottler: Scott's Selection (R.I.P. 😿)

Age: 27-ish years (1977-2004)
Maturation: "in Oakwood casks" (rad!)
Region: Speyside (Banffshire)
Alcohol by Volume: 53.1%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No

Its color is light amber, which bodes well. The nose starts off big on peach and mango. Then lemon zest and cantaloupe. Some shortbread and confectioner's sugar. Its palate is completely different than the nose: sharp, tart and tight. Barley, lemons, limes, almonds and a hint of vanilla fudge. It finishes warm and simple. Vanilla simple syrup and barley. Tart, with a slight bitterness.

WITH WATER (~46%abv)
The nose gets creamier. More vanilla. Ginger candy. Most of the fruits are gone. Only lemons and overripe peaches remain. The palate becomes softer, but no more complex. Lemons, barley, mild bitterness and woody/papery note. The finish hasn't changed much. Just a little sweeter.

WITH WATER (~40%abv)
The nose feels younger. Wort, salt water taffy, orange peel and vanilla. The palate is tangy and tart. Slightly woody and a little peppery. And that's it. The mellow finish has a melon note and acidic citrus.

Normally, I don't add much (if any) water to a whisky north of 25 years. But this one's palate would not open up at full strength. A little bit of water didn't do much, and by the time it hit 40%abv it was nearly dead.

This unfortunate because the nose was gorgeous at cask strength. Water didn't kill it, but it didn't improve it either. Had the palate sung like the nose, this would have been a dynamite thing.

The finish was alsio oddly flat and short throughout. These issues have me guessing that there was some lethargic "Oakwood" involved. Great nose, though.

Availability - Scarce
Pricing - one Midwest shop is selling it for $200
Rating - 83