...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Three new Chieftain's single malts: Glenburgie, Linkwood, and Mortlach

A couple weeks ago I attended a Southern California Whiskey Club event featuring six new Chieftain's (independently bottled) single malts.  The Whiskey Jug and Bozzy were also in attendance, see the Jug's post here, and Bozzy's posts here and here.  As I am wont to do, I took my pours in sample bottles back home with me so that I could process these whiskies in my hermetically sealed whisky laboratory.

I split these whiskies up into two tastings and thus two posts.  There are many words to follow, so I'm just going to get right to it.

(Note: I paid for this event out of my own yoooge wallet.)

Pic lifted directly from the SCWC site and then graffitied by me.
I took at least a dozen bottle photos at the event but cannot find them
on my phone, thus the delay on this post as I tried to dig 'em up.
Is this a long enough photo caption?
Glenburgie 16 year old 1998-2015 Chieftain's
aged in a hogshead, bottled at 46%abv

Nose -- A bit of fruit (white and citrus) arrives right up front, meeting nicely with butterscotch.  Then some healthy notes of honey and toasted oak spice.  Small cask notes of fresh banana and maple syrup.  After some time in the glass, the barley leaps into the forefront.  With water, it gets younger.  More grain, more cinnamon, and apple skins.  A hint of caramel sauce.

Palate -- Both very malty and full of fresh apricots and peaches.  Smaller notes of butterscotch, Heath Bar, Juicy Fruit gum, and vanilla bean.  Some cayenne pepper hits the back of the throat.  Even with a lot of air, the fruits stay strong.  With water, it remains fragrantly fruity, but creamier.  Malty as heck.

Finish -- A little dry, but still softly stone fruity.  Delicate, malty.  Picks up a little vanilla with time.  With water, it becomes all lemon, vanilla, and apricot.

This sorta-silent-still (the distillery was demolished and rebuilt in 2003/2004) whisky was easily my favorite of the three, possibly because there's no alternate cask finishing or maybe because I just enjoy its fruit and grain.  It feels young for a 16yo, but in a good way because the oak limits itself to cameos that enhance the experience.  I suppose they could have released this at cask strength, but it feels like they hit its honey spot at 46%abv.  ($90-$100)
Rating -- 88

Linkwood 17 year old 1997-2015 Chieftain's
finished in an ex-Oloroso sherry cask, bottled at 46%abv

Nose -- Starts off with an eggy sulphur then eases into gunpowder.  Some dry cheese, then toffee and vanilla.  It needs some air......now there's grape drink and raisins.  It remains leathery and earthy.  With water, tennis balls and blue rubber racquetballs.  Smoky raisins and the earthy note.

Palate -- Big sticky sherry.  Very grapey, sometimes almost like grape soda.  The cask is much cleaner here than in the nose, comparable to Macallan at times.  There's some nice spice cake action as the whisky gets sweeter with time.  Baked apple too.  With water there's not much change. Clean sherry, sweet stuff, maybe some citrus forming.

Finish -- Long, sweet, spicy, and grapey.  A raspberry jam note too.  With water, it loses the berries, focusing on grapes and sugar. A hint of cheddar.

Linkwoods can be difficult to find in the US, so this was a rare chance to try a single malt version of one of Diageo's main blend malts.  But there's a dichotomy in this whisky: a dirty nose and clean mouth.  In both cases it's due to a very loud sherry cask finishing.  It improves considerably with air and water, but it never really does anything that other cheaper sherried whiskies don't.  ($90-$110)
Rating -- 81

Mortlach 18 year old 1997-2015 Chieftain's
finished in an ex-Pedro Ximenez cask, bottled at 46%abv

Nose -- Not sulphuric, unlike the Linkwood.  The PX is also rather reserved.  Tropical and stone fruits, dried and fresh.  Think dried pineapple and dried apricots.  Picks up a big raisin note with time.  With water, the sherry gets a little bigger and dirtier.  The fruits fade.  Roasted nuts, especially walnuts.

Palate -- The sherry is gentle, but it's there, almost floral.  Green grapes and apples, sea salt, limeade, and mixed nuts.  With water, it picks up a little tartness, a nice bitterness, and a peppery bite.  Dried berry/grape notes arrive and sharpen.

Finish -- The sherry and its dried fruit edge their way up front, but there's still the salt, green grapes, and some orange zest.  With water, there's not much change.  Maybe less citrus and more pepper.

This whisky's good bourbon cask side isn't entirely smothered by the PX, which is appreciated because bourbon cask Mortlach can be great.  I like it better than the Linkwood due to its fruit and complexity.  Water narrows it, pushing the sherry forward, so I recommend it neat.  ($90-$100)
Rating -- 84

The Glenburgie won the day, though none of these really flopped.  The Linkwood may appeal to palates other than mine and the Mortlach fits somewhere in between the other two.  My preferences and tasting notes hew much closer to The Jug's than Bozzy's.  Let's see what happens with the next three...