...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Single Malt Report: Vegas 2012 edition (Part 1 of 4)

I'm curled up in bed with a 101.4 degree fever.  Sorry, more cowbell is not the prescription needed.  Instead, I need some consistent sleep and at least a week to dry out.

In the meantime, I'm going to do a bunch of mini-reports on the whiskies sampled at The Whisky Attic.  I posted about this experience last week, but would like to expand a little about the individual spirits.

But first...

I put away about a third of a bottle of Redbreast 12 over three nights.  It's still a damned delicious whiskey, one of the greats.  Everyone in the crew put it away without a single Whiskey Face.  In fact, everyone had it neat and went back for seconds and thirds (and maybe more).  There may even wind up being a bottle or two purchased as a result of the experience.

My brother scored a free drink ticket at the Sports Book and awesomely handed it over to me.  The voucher said that it would only cover well drinks, but the GREAT bartender used Glenfiddich 12 when I politely inquired about it.  If I knew he'd be so swell, I wouldn't have asked for a highball.  But in fact, the club soda really brought out all of the sweets with the 'Fiddich.  So I recommend that to those willing to bruise their booze with soda water.

Wolfgang Puck's Postrio at The Venetian has an exemplary whisky selection.  It's all about quality not quantity in their case.  They had Bunnahabhain, Scapa(!), Tobermory, Caol Ila, and a couple independents in addition to the very good usual suspects.  I went with the Bunny 12 and happily discovered that I finally found the subtle peat note.  It was a lean and peaceful peat, contributing to a great whisky.  I've included an update at the bottom of my original post about Bunny 12.

Now, back to The Whisky Attic drink list:

Dalmore Gran Reserva
Tyrconnell 10yr Irish Single Malt, Madeira Finish
Big Bottom Bourbon
Balvenie 14yr Carribean Cask
Rowan's Creek Bourbon
Willett Straight Rye
Ledaig 15yr
Amrut Cask Strength Indian Single Malt
Laphroaig 10yr Cask Strength
Ardbeg Corryvrecken
Ballylarkin Irish Whiskey Liqueur
Tomintoul 27yr

I'm going to split this up into groups of three in order to make this easier to digest.  These will be a little smaller than the usual reports.


Distillery: The Dalmore
Brand: Gran Reserva (previously known as The Cigar Malt)
Age: 10 to 15 years
Maturation: Oloroso sherry butts and Bourbon barrels
Finish: Sherry butts
Region: Northern Highlands
Alcohol by Volume: 40%

Gorgeous bottle.  Stellar website too.  The Dalmore products are known for their luxurious design.  Their Master Blender (technically the Master for all of the White & Mackay products) is the boisterous Richard Patterson, who has dubbed himself "The Nose" for both physical and job-related reasons.  He has a great online presence and is everywhere at all times, probably the most sociable of all Master Blenders.

The Dalmore whiskies are also very much known for being very darkly colored and very very sherried.  They're also all 40% ABV which is as tamed as a whisky can legally be.  I lust after their King Alexander III whisky, which is a combination of Port, Sherry, Bourbon, Marsala, Madeira, and French red wine finishes.

Their famous flavor characteristic is orange (marmalade, juice, peel, etc.) but I didn't pick up any of that when I'd tried Dalmore 12 some time ago.  That was a little frustrating.

So now here's the Gran Reserva: matured in 40% bourbon barrels and 60% Oloroso sherry butts, then married together for six months in sherry butts.  With the help of Adam Carmer's method could I find the Dalmore character....?

Gran Reserva
Nose: Yay!!!  Success.  Fresh oranges.  Pulp and peel.  A little bit of caramel.
Palate:  The fresh oranges dominate again.  Some milky chocolate hides behind.  Silky texture.
Finish:  Brief.  Mostly vanilla.

It's very graceful.  And by that I mean pleasant rather than boring and subdued.  It's also not as exciting as most of the other whiskies I'd tasted at The Attic, and the finish is quite short.  I can't imagine that raising the alcohol to 43 or 46 percent would be that bad of a thing.

Pricing - Acceptable at $70-$75
Rating - 79


Brand: Tyrconnell
Age: minimum 10 years
Finish: Madeira casks
Region: Ireland (Louth)
Alcohol by Volume: 46%

Yep, not a blend, not a single pot still, but a genuine Irish single malt.  Other than Bushmills, Cooley is producing the only Irish single malts at the moment.  They were also the last of the independent Irish distilleries, until they were purchased by Beam a few months ago.

Tyrconnell was very popular here in The States until Prohibition crushed their brand.  Thankfully it was resurrected by Cooley, who have released four different bottlings.

Whisk(e)y trivia:  The label has an illustration of a racehorse named "The Tyrconnell" once owned by the distillery.  In 1876, they entered it in The National Produce Stakes Irish Classic and, at 100 to 1 odds, it won.

Now to its eponymous whiskey...

The Tyrconnell 10 year, Madeira Finish
Nose: floral but not perfumy, instead its an entire field of blooming flowers; fruit juices (cranberry and grape)
Palate: Fresh ripe fruit and lots of it, stone fruits and berries, all with a solid malt center that keeps it from being overly sweet
Finish: Medium, the fruits remain, and the flowers return

As I've only hinted with all the Redbreast mentions on this blog, I am an enormous Irish whiskey fan.  It has a lightness that doesn't abandon verve and explosive flavor.  And this single malt did not disappoint.  It's probably the juiciest whisk(e)y that I've ever tried, yet it wasn't candied or sweet.  Even the great Serge Valentin called it yummy.  Agreed.

Pricing - Acceptable at $70-$80 (though if Beam could lower it $20......pretty please?)
Rating - 92 (adjusted down to 81 in a later review)


The international tour continues.  From the Northern Highlands, to County Louth, to Bourbon County, Kentucky.  This one had Adam, along with the Frog's bartender and I humming the tune to Spinal Tap's "Big Bottom".

Bottler: Big Bottom Whiskey (multiple distilleries)
Age: minimum 3 years
Maturation: New white oak
Region: Bourbon County, Kentucky (spirit); Oregon (company)
Alcohol by Volume: 45.5%

Big Bottom's bottles indeed have big bottoms.  And the flavor is big and bottomless.  They take new make (or white dog) from different distilleries, then they do the wood finishing themselves to create the final product.  This one is 36% rye while a combination of unmalted barley and corn likely makes up the rest.

As mentioned in previous posts, I'm still a little new to the bourbon palate, but it's gradually working its way in.  American whiskey is something that I would love to love.  And big bottoms are worth singing about.

Big Bottom American Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Nose: some nice spiciness (maybe from the rye?), okay "spiciness" is kind of a generic term, how about "zing!" and "whoosh!", followed by more corn sweets than vanilla
Palate: the "zing" is peppery, hot cinnamon and nutmeg, and lots and lots and lots of corn sweets, Frosted Flakes perhaps
Finish: Massive finish, outlasted many of the single malts

Not a bad one.  I love the pricing (see below).  Would be great in an old-fashioned, the spice mixing with the bitters.  I would definitely order this neatly in a bar to give it a second run.  Very different than Blanton's, so my bourbon world is quietly expanding...

Pricing - Good at $28 (same price at five different locations)
Rating - 74

Part 2 to follow soon...