...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday Malty Ramblings

Well, after reviewing the fancy shmantzy whisky this week, I've decided to do a Taste Off of a pair of whiskys-for-the-rest-of-us.  By that I mean they cost 1/9th of the birthday whiskys, but are still single malts.  What could they be......?

Frankly it hasn't been neat whisky drinking weather here.  The temperature has been 90+ almost every day for the last two weeks.  That weather looks to continue for a little while longer, as will the weird humidity that has settled in.  Time to bust out the highballs.  <--- Wow, that just looks wrong.

On Wednesday, Diageo announced their 2012 Special Releases.  (Oh wait, I thought they "do not make single malts for the aficionado to enjoy.")  For all my rants against Diageo, I actually do look forward to this announcement each year.

Here's the info summarized from their press release (via whiskyintelligence.com) --

Auchroisk 30yr 1982 - American & European Oak - 2,976 bottles - £230 (approx $370)
Brora 35yr 1976&1977 - American Oak - 1,566 bottles - £400 (approx $640)
Caol Ila 14yr 1997 - first fill sherry European Oak casks - "limited numbers" - £66 (approx $105)
Dalwhinnie 25 yr - "rejuvenated" American Oak hogsheads - 5,358 - £185 (approx $300)
Lagavulin 12yr - refill American Oak casks - "limited numbers" - £71 (approx $115)
Lagavulin 21yr 1991 - first fill sherry European Oak - 2,772 bottles - £350 (approx $560)
Port Ellen 32yr 1979 - refill American & European oak - 2,964 bottles - £600 (approx $960)
Talisker 35yr 1977 - refill American & European oak - 3,090 bottles - £525 (approx $840)

The positive:
These are all cask strength.  The Lagavulin 21 and Talisker 35 are really exciting.  It's only the second time they've released a Lag at that age, while this will be oldest official Talisker they've released.  The Auchroisk (never tried one) and Dalwhinnie (love the 15yr!) sound fun as well.

The negative:
The prices.  Not counting the annual Lagavulin 12 (whose price didn't change from last year's) and Caol Ila releases, with just a brief browsing one can find dozens (if not hundreds) of independent cask-strength single-cask releases of the same age priced lower than even the Auchroisk and Dalwhinnie.  The Brora price went up 14% from the 2011 Special Release reate.  The Port Ellen price almost doubled last year's.

I had a longer gripe about this, but decided against it.  The Special Releases were clearly not priced with the majority of whisky lovers in mind.  They are priced for connoisseurs with considerable disposable income.  I just hope that the people who buy 'em, enjoy 'em, and not take the whisky to the secondary market.

I can't end on the negative, though!

pic found here
Now that is some garrrrrrrrrrrrrrnish.

I'm sorry.  Bad.  No more pirates.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Birthday Malt Report: Glen Grant 34yr 1975 Old Malt Cask (Douglas Laing)

My birthday bottle shared my birth year, but was technically younger than me.  [Ed.: Unless one considers the maturation time in the barrel to be the gestation period-- Blue Text, stop being a party pooper. Blue Text, out.]  So what was I to do?

I had to find a 34 year old.  Just a dram though, since I'm not made out of Dalmore/Macallan/Diageo-Special-Release money.  Thankfully, MoM (Master of Malt) had the solution.  There are barrels and barrels of decent old Glen Grant being held and released by the indie bottlers.  Usually they're comparatively affordable too.  MoM just happened to be selling a dram.

This one was purchased blindly, as none of my usual whisky reviewers had weighed in on it.  My Glen Grant experience had been limited, so why not start at the top?!

So I poured it alongside the Balblair 1978.  And waited.  And waited.

Waiting for, like, ever.
Once the half hour was up, I focused on the Balblair.  After half a dram of that one, I was struggling to pull out individual characteristics out of that smoothie.  So I decided to switch over to the Glen Grant.  That way I could compare and contrast.

They were very different.  Glen Grant was less smooth, a little odder.  But in a good way.  I like the difficult ones (unless they reek of dead flesh and/or go by the name of Cutty Sark).  This one was rougher around the edges, the spirit was still barking out through the long life cooped up in the hogshead.

From Master of Malt

Distillery: Glen Grant
Ownership: Campari
Bottler: Douglas Laing
Age: 34 years (April 1975 - November 2009)
Maturation: refill hogshead
Region: Speyside
Alcohol by Volume: 50%
Chill filtered? No.
Caramel Coloring? No.
Limited Release: 278 bottles

The color is a little lighter than the Balblair; think Chardonnay with a little amber.  The first thing that hits in the nose is light peat floating in a swimming pool.  It's starts very spirity for an old malt, still holding onto some ethyl prickle.  Cocoa powder follows.  Then a chunk of toffee, vanilla extract, pear juice, and maple syrup.  It gets more oaky with time and the maple syrup gradually picks up force.  The palate begins with the same exact peat and pool combo. It's enjoyable to find a nose & palate that match up so closely.  The tannins can be a little drying.  Caramel sauce and vanilla follow, along with some ripe stone fruits soaked in brandy.  It finishes dry and strong.  Peat & cigarettes.  Kristen caught some dulce de leche and flan in there.  It's sweet, but fruity sweet.

Man, I love these old Highland/Speyside malts from back in the day when they did their own peated floor maltings.  It's peat, not PEAT.  The phenolics are seasoning, not the main dish.

While I don't promote smoking on this site, I can imagine that -- if you have the means -- this would match well with a smoke (tobacco, specifically) and a rich creamy dessert.

If you don't smoke, then this is good whenever, seriously.  If you own an old whisky, drink it, share it, celebrate it.  Our conscious lives are brief; delights are where we find them and where they find us.

Availability - UK & Europe only
Pricing - you'll have to do some snooping, but it should be in the $200 range
Rating - 93

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Birthday Malt Report: Balblair 1978 (2008 Release)

Distillery: Balblair
Ownership: Inver House Distillers Limited
Age: minimum 30 years (1978-2008)
Maturation: American oak ex-bourbon barrels
Region: The Highlands (North)
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chill filtered? No.
Caramel Coloring? No.

On New Years' Day, I placed an order with Royal Mile Whiskies for my birthday whisky.  It was significantly more expensive than any other liquor I've purchased, so I decided that it would only be enjoyed on August Twenty-fourths.

Of course, that's before I really understood the challenges of whiskies falling apart when they sit in a bottle for years and years and years.  But as I learned more about whisky, and as the bottle was torching a hole in the back of the Whisky Closet, I figured out a way to avoid the bottle aging issue.  I would drink the entire bottle in one sitting.

Just kidding.

Or am I?

Much research went into this purchase, as with all of my purchases in general.  Somehow both Jim Murray and Serge Valentin agreed on the high quality of the Balblair 1978 vintage.  How often do those guys agree?  I haven't quantified it, but I'll guess the answer is......not often?

It wasn't until this month that I realized they were talking about the 2010 bottling and not the 2008 bottling that I had bought.

But I have no regrets.  This whisky is one big glass of honey, just like its owner.

The color is of a late harvest sauvignon blanc or moscatel.  The nose starts with big candied American oak notes, later moving into the spirit's character.  Vanilla beans and vanilla pudding.  Coconut cream.  Fresh apricot?  Fruit cocktail juice.  There's something in the delicious blurry zone between dusty black pepper and wood smoke.  Citrus (but not lemon nor sweet orange).  White pepper.  After an hour in the glass, vanilla and spices take over.  The palate is very very very smooth; pain-in-the-ass smooth for a reviewer trying to suss out separate notes.  It did indeed require a second pour.  It's a glass of molasses and honey.  Then tart orange, pepper, lots of vanilla sugar, and a tiny note of mild cheese.  It finishes sweet and sturdy.  There's citrus, molasses, ground black pepper, and a moment of lychee.

Kristen, aside from documenting the event, gave it a few tastes.  I think she had a similar challenge as I do in divining individual elements within silky smooth whisky: she said, "It tastes like whisky."  Yes, yes it does.  The perfect palate note for a birthday beverage.  It tastes like whisky.

Availability - UK only
Pricing - the 2010 edition is a little more pricey at $200-$220 (w/shipping, w/o VAT)
Rating - 93

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Los Angeles Love, perfected

A city symphony in a three-minute digestible bite (of course) with triumphant electronic music (of course)!

The music is necessary so turn up the volume or put on headphones.  Press play.  Make sure HD is selected.  And click the full screen button next to the "HD".

You won't see a single human face, instead behold the results of the labor of millions who came here to find something better.  Did they actually find something better?  I don't know, but they built Los Angeles.

NightFall from Colin Rich on Vimeo.

My god, it's full of stars.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Birthday Recap!

A tangentially-related prelude:

This morning, our paraplegic military veteran neighbor, who is perpetually mad at his neighbors and probably the rest of the world, was sitting inside his car within our closed garage, playing the hell out of a harmonica.  The man has The Blues.


I sampled a number of new whiskies at an OC Scotch Club event in Fullerton.  I hope to report on some of these in the near future, especially since I'm probably going to do a 180-degree reversal on a previously reviewed single malt.  Which one could it be????

More importantly than all the booze stuff, it was great to spend some time with good people on a lovely evening.

I'll be talking this club up from time to time, if you're in the OC and like the amber spirits, you should stop by an event.  It's very laid back and President Bob is a very swell dude.


I went to see Cosmopolis at its opening 2:30pm showing at a theatre one mile from my front door.  I smuggled in a couple ounces of Powers Gold Label, because.

I'd just read DeLillo's novel a few months ago, so the whole thing was still fresh in my mind.  Surprisingly, Cosmopolis fits easily into Cronenberg's oeuvre -- detached characters struggling within an alternate reality, compressed space, and portals portals portals everywhere.  I'm not saying that the film was great (it was all telling, no showing; and DeLillo's dense dialogue can be burdensome to a film's actors and audience) but the subject matter is timely and I'm game for any Cronenberg flick.  Plus the final scene actually achieved some level of emotion amongst the verbal histrionics.


Back home, at 5pm, I brought out the birthday whisky.  A bottle of a 1978.  As well as a 34-year-old dram.  It was a grand two-hour slow whisky experience.

After the year I'd had, there was nothing quite like pouring myself a second helping of 30+ year old whisky straight from the bottle.  I will be reporting on the whiskys this week (Weds and Thurs, I think).

Kristen roasted a big chicken and baked a flourless chocolate cake.  Yes.  My wife.

I received many great gifts from my families.  And, yes, there was a whiskey gift that damn near blew my mind.  I didn't officially open it on Friday night because had I started it, I wouldn't remember a bloody thing the following day.  It will be opened soon, though...

I put on a DVD of Orson's F for Fake.  Kristen fell asleep.


To Hollywood!

We met my buddy Geoff near our old drinking grounds.  We went to Stout, where I had a good burger with an Old Rasputin from the tap.  Then we went to The Blue Boar Pub where I had glass of Highland Park 12, which keeps getting better every time I try it.

The main event was at Piano Bar.  I've thrice previously mentioned Piano Bar on this blog.  I'll say it again.  IT'S AWESOME.  Go there on Saturday or Sunday night to experience Brother Sal & The Devil May Care.  I often make the fifty-minute drive to do it and I feel the loss during the months when I don't.

So we went, meeting up with my buddy Sean.

Sean and I are twins
And Brother Sal seriously hooked us up.  He is a saint.

I had some great reliable glasses of whiskey (Blanton's, Redbreast 12, and Buffalo Trace), but it's the blues-rock-honky-tonk-saloon-soul dynamite issuing forth from the stage that always alters the air and space around me.

Aww yeah.
We left when the music stopped, around last call.  I can't remember the last time I stayed out until last call.

We're still catching up on sleep and I'll be drying out for a couple of days, but it was grand.  I have many great people, great experiences, and great things in my life.  And I am thankful for all of them.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Single Malt Report Taste Off! - GlenDronach 18 year "Allardice"

Tuesday, I started with a little explanation behind my intent for this Taste Off, as well as a few bits about the distillery's history.
Wednesday, I reported on the GlenDronach 12 year.
Thursday, I reported on the GlenDronach 15 year.
Today, I'm reporting on the GlenDronach 18 year.

Distillery: GlenDronach
Ownership: BenRiach Distillery Company Ltd
Age: minimum 18 years
Maturation: Oloroso sherry casks
Region: Speyside
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chill filtered? No.
Caramel Coloring? No.
Bottle Code: 09/05026 21.05.09

So here it is, the oldest of the three whiskys from this Taste Off.  It is named "Allardice" after James Allardice (though I've seen his last name spelled differently) who led the group of investors that founded Glendronach distillery 125 years ago.

The amber stuff within is made up of oloroso-sherry-cask-matured whiskys that are at least eighteen years old.  It was all casked by previous owner Allied Domecq using lightly peated malt from their own  on-site floor maltings.  The peat (in this whisky as well as the 15yr) isn't immediately apparent.  All those years in rich sherry casks calms the phenolic effect to a hushed smoke.

Let us have a sip.

First tasting - 1 ounce, 60 minutes in the glass before nosing, neat

The color is almost identical to the 15yr, but maybe a touch lighter.  That could be due to batch-to-batch cask-to-cask differences.  It still has that great blushing maple syrup tone.  The nose has a strong sherry front.  Digging behind it one may find apple juice, maple syrup (yeah, pour this over your french toast), smoky cocoa, salted caramels, Frosties, and fried plantains.  The palate smacks of BIG SHERRY.  It's a little musty, maybe a tiny bit of smoke too.  There are stone fruits in caramel sauce, chocolate cherry cordials, and sherry-soaked angel food cake.  The sherry goes on forever in the finish.  Then more of the cherry cordials and stone fruits in caramel.  One may find some raisins as well as a heaping helping of cherry liqueur.

Second tasting - remaining 0.5 ounce from the bottle two hours later, a few drops of water

Similar to its younger brethren the curious sulphuric(?) notes in the nose unveil themselves with water.  To be more specific, there are spent matches, salt, corn chips, yeast, and bread elements.  But unlike the 12yr, this one doesn't allow those elements to win out, as grape juice and cherry Kool Aid lead the way.  The sherry doesn't even flinch in the palate.  It's sherry sherry sherry.  Then there's some cocoa, raisins, and a nuttiness.  The finish?  MOAR SHERRY!  Just lengthy singular sherry, very reminiscent of Macallan 18.

Thoughts, conclusions, questions
I gave this one a lot of time in the glass to try to crack through the sherry.  Sherry itself is a fortified wine, boosted by grape spirit that ups its strength.  This whisky, though, is like a fortified sherry.  In that way, it reminds me a lot of Macallan 18.  Had I the means, a comparison of the two would be a very educational Taste Off, but I leave that to bigger sherried-whisky fans.

Ultimately, these GlenDronachs shine best without added water.  It feels as if Billy Walker and company have already toned down the strength of the cask whiskys to reach the desired nose and palate, so diluting it further shatters the well-tuned structure.  Not all whiskys are like that, many can take water.  Some need water.  But, to me, these three GlenDs smell and taste best when served neat.  They're thick rich malts that probably serve best as a dessert......breakfast dessert that is.

To conclude:
GlenDronach 12yr Original - The easiest drinking of the three, and likely much older than 12 years.
GlenDronach 15yr Revival - The star of the bunch.  A reasonable alternative to any of Macallan's Sherry Oaks.
GlenDronach 18yr Allardice - Fortified sherry!  Would make any Macallan 18 drinker happy, at a lower price.
And remember, try 'em first neatly!

Availability - Many liquor specialists
Pricing - $120-$130 in the US, but with some creative purchasing this can be picked up from Europe/UK for $85-$95
Rating - 83

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Single Malt Report Taste Off! - GlenDronach 15 year "Revival"

Time for a "Revival"

Tuesday, I started with a little explanation behind my intent for this Taste Off, as well as a few bits about the distillery's history.
Wednesday, I reported on the GlenDronach 12 year.
Today, I'll report on the GlenDronach 15 year.
Tomorrow, I'll report on the GlenDronach 18 year.

Distillery: GlenDronach
Ownership: BenRiach Distillery Company Ltd
Age: minimum 15 years
Maturation: Oloroso sherry casks
Region: Speyside
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chill filtered? No.
Caramel Coloring? No.
Bottle Code: 10/04110 25.06.10

Usually I enter my whisky tastings having avoided others' reviews and tasting notes on the malt at hand so that I can appreciate without preconceptions.  In this case though, I was unable to avoid the raves for the GlenDronach 15 "Revival".  I didn't read the reviews, but I did know the high scores.  Serge, David Wankel, Oliver Klimek, and the rest of the Malt Maniacs adored it.  John Hansell was very impressed with it.  The LA Whisky Society were big fans.  Even Mr. Jackson's book gave it a great grade.  Thus the whisky made its way to my Dram Quest list.

The GlenDronach 15 year "Revival" arrived in the whisky market in 2009 as part of the new ownership's brand revamp.  It's 46% ABV, not chill filtered, and not dyed.  The entirety of the whisky was matured in Oloroso sherry casks.

I was very thankful to find The Whisky Exchange selling it in mini format because I was beginning to ponder buying a whole bottle blindly.

First tasting - 1 ounce, 40 minutes in the glass before nosing, neat

Its color looks like maple syrup with a little blush.  The nose has the same cream-in-sweet-tea note that the 12yr had.  There's a brawnier sherry element in this one.  A large presence of thick syrupy sugary treats.  Chocolate cherry cordials, caramel sauce, and maple syrup.  And a hint of rubber.  The palate is thick and desserty.  There's some alcohol heat and maybe even a whisper of smoke.  Big strong sherry again.  Apple cider with dried fruit shows up in both the beginning of the palate as well as in the finish.  Then there's brown sugar and warmed sherry with a touch of salt.  A big strong closer.

Second tasting - remaining 0.5 ounce from the bottle two hours later, a few drops of water

The nose holds together better with water than the 12yr.  There's still some sulphuric flatulence but much quieter.  Maybe some corn chips too.  But mostly grape and cherry juice with sherry and caramel sauce.  The palate has the grape and cherry juice notes too, along with sherry and aromatic overripe fruit sugars.  It still stays rich and desserty.  Its finish remains relatively strong, mostly holding a salted sherry.

Thoughts, conclusions, questions
While heavily-sherried whiskys tend not to deliver my favorite palate profiles, I liked this one the best of the three GlenDs.  Of these three, I also think this one would hold its own with any of Macallan's Sherry Oak releases.  (I've gone on record saying that I like Mac 12 more than Mac 18, so you'll need to take that into consideration.)  Also to note, other reviewers find notes of plums, oranges, coffee, and tobacco.

Altogether a job well done by the GlenDronach folks!  If you love sherry-matured whiskies, then this whisky may be of interest to you.  I'd recommend sampling it through Whisky Exchange or Master of Malt though before diving into a 750mL bottle.

Availability - Most liquor specialists
Pricing - $75-$85 in the US, but with some creative purchasing this can be picked up from Europe/UK for $60-$65
Rating - 87

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Single Malt Report Taste Off! - GlenDronach 12 year old "Original"

Here are the big three from this Taste Off! 

Yesterday, I started with a little explanation behind my intent for this Taste Off, as well as a few bits about the distillery's history.
Today, I'll report on the GlenDronach 12 year.
Tomorrow, I'll report on the GlenDronach 15 year.
Friday, I'll report on the GlenDronach 18 year.

(I just realized that I hadn't reported on a regular official bottling of single malt scotch in five weeks.  That streak is history.  I'd say 90% of the reports for the rest of the year will be single malts.  Anyway, back to the Taste Off!)

Distillery: GlenDronach
Ownership: BenRiach Distillery Company Ltd
Age: minimum 12 years
Maturation: Pedro Ximenez sherry and Oloroso sherry casks
Region: Speyside
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
Chill filtered? No.
Caramel Coloring? No.
Bottle Code: 2011/06/29 11:47 LD60475

In response to yesterday's post, commenter Eric pointed out something interesting that I hadn't considered.  Some quick math to illustrate:

This whisky was bottled in 2011.
It is, at minimum, 12 years old.
2011 minus 12 years takes us to 1999.
The GlenDronach distillery was closed from 1996 to 2002.

That means the whisky in the bottle is likely almost 15 years old, as the latest production before the closure was in 1996.  A whisky company can quote any age statement on their bottle as long it holds no whisky younger than that age quote.  So in this case, the whisky within IS at least 12 years old.

So why wouldn't they just call it a 14-year or something older so that they could boost the price?

I think it's a brand and range decision.  They likely want to establish a standard familiar bottling age, like 12 years, even though the new 12 year old juice isn't ready for a few more years.  If their youngest and cheapest bottling was a 15 year old in the $75-85 dollar range it would appear to consumers as if GlenDronach was establishing itself as an ultra-luxury-only brand.  By putting a "12 year" whisky on the shelf now (at what goes for normal 12-year prices nowadays) they get themselves planted into the standard 12-year-old whisky market.  And, as Eric pointed out, it will allow for a smooth transition when the real 12-year-old whisky is ready to bottle.

This current "12-year" Original is different from its two older brothers.  While Revival and Allardice were matured in Oloroso sherry casks, Original has some whisky that was matured in casks that held the thicker, sweeter Pedro Ximenez sherry, as well as some from Oloroso casks.

Let's see the result of all these elements:

First tasting - 1 ounce, 20 minutes in the glass before nosing, neat

The color is a lovely copper, like the coating on new pennies.  The nose is of rich grape juice, then a little cocoa.  Then there's honey-soaked warm tropical fruit, cream in sweet tea, and something that might be leather.  The palate is one solid strong piece and took a few moments to deconstruct.  There's sherry but the maltiness is still plentiful.  There's some brown sugar, cognac, and sweet almond cookies.  Somewhere in there a mystery fruit (plum?) keeps showing up.  The sherry shows up stronger in the finish.  And it gets sweeter too.  A little bit of mint lingers on.

Second tasting - remaining 0.5 ounce from the bottle two hours later, a few drops of water

Sulfur sneaks out in the nose.  It's bready, yeasty, salty, and meaty.  The palate doesn't fray as noticeably.  Instead it gets maltier and grainier.  The sherry notes fade.  It finishes just as strongly as when neat.  The sherry shows up more here: sweet, and a little sour.

Thoughts, conclusions, questions
Much more enjoyable and complex when served neatly.  Sulfur characteristics don't scare me off, but here they seem to pound down most of the other elements in the nose.  When neat, the Original makes for the easiest drinking experience of the 3 whiskys, though that may have something to do with the lower ABV.

Is it better than Macallan 12?  Not necessarily.  But it is a good option for folks who want to try a different brand's sherried whisky.  And it will make for a legitimate option when Mac 12 is replaced in the new lineup.

I'm curious to find out what happens to this whisky once the new actual 12-year-old whisky from the new ownership starts entering the mix.

Availability - Most liquor specialists
Pricing - At $48-$58, this appears to be the going rate for non-dyed filtration-free single malts in its age-range 
Rating - 82

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

GlenDronach, a little history before the Taste Off

After twice referencing in April that I was going to do this in May, I am now conducting my GlenDronach Taste Off in August.  I ordered the minis through The Whisky Exchange back in May and they have since been keeping company with other future blog post subjects.  Not anymore, though, as I'm setting them free.

The sherriest bunch of minis
I've been telling folks that I've been looking for a Macallan Killer this year, and I should probably qualify that remark.  I enjoy Macallan considerably.  They do an excellent job with their products and when their whisky is affordable I often recommend it.  But with their well-oiled worldwide distribution machine and luxury marketing team, they are giants.  They have the third largest share of the single malt market (behind the Two Big Glens) and the fourth largest distillery capacity.  And with all of that weight they have taken major shelf space away from smaller whiskys.  Consuming bar and store shelf space equals broadening brand awareness.

Just because they're bigger and have a larger presence in the whisky world, doesn't necessarily mean they're better.  They do have the financial means to get the lion's share of good oloroso casks from Spain.  They do have good stills and great staffers.  This all results in a very good consistent product.  In order to be consistent there's great cask management, but there's also chillfiltering and caramel color (and low ABVs).

And also, I like supporting small(er) businesses.  Aside from my favorite baseball team, I always like to root for the little guy.  Heck, my family is full of little guys.  <--- That's a stature joke.

Anyway, all of these aspects combined have me on the search for other great sherried whiskies.  That search has been a little passive of late with my peated spirit obsession.  But I really would like to find a go-to sherry-cask-matured whisky that isn't Macallan.  Especially since no one knows what's going to become of their upcoming non-age statement bottlings.

So I'd like to give GlenDronach a try.  As I write this, I haven't started the Taste Off; in fact I've never even tried their whisky.  But in every whisky corner, they've been getting raves.  So let's take a look at their goodies this week.  (And perhaps this Autumn, we'll snoop around other sherried whisky brands.)

In 1826, the Glendronach Distillery Company was founded in Aberdeenshire by a group of investors headed by James Allardice.  A decade later, most of the distillery was destroyed in a fire.  With the help of executives from Teaninich Distillery and Glenfiddich, the distillery was rebuilt and production restarted.  Walter Scott of Teaninich owned the distillery until 1887, after which ownership bounced around a few times:

1887 - 1920 - A consortium from Leitth
1920 - 1960 - Charles Grant of the Glenfiddich Grants
1960 - 1976 - William Teacher & Sons (known for their blends)
1976 - 2005 - Allied Breweries (later Allied Domecq)
2005 - 2008 - Chivas Brothers (Pernod Ricard)
2008 - current - BenRiach Distillery Company

The distillery underwent a number of changes over those 120+ years.  Under Teacher's ownership they doubled their stills from two to four, thus doubling their potential output.  They did their own floor malting up until the distillery was mothballed in 1996.  Upon reopening in 2002, they began buying their malt (now unpeated).  They were one of the last three distilleries to heat their stills via coal firing, but when Pernod temporarily closed the distillery in 2005 the heating system was switch to steam.  Pernod soon reopened the distillery and produced whisky for a short while before selling it all to Billy Walker of BenRiach Distillery.

Walker and company capitalized the 'D' in the name and relaunched the entire range in 2009.  With a healthier wood-management budget, the distillery's new bottlings were now unchillfiltered, caramel additive free, and with higher ABVs.  GlenDronach has had massive success with their single cask releases (some of the most critically acclaimed whisky in the world), and also tinker around with special wood finishes every year or so.

GlenDronach's capacity is 1.4 million liters, though they're up to 1.1 million right now (1/8th the size of Macallan's production).  Half of that booze goes to Pernod Ricard's blends.

But I'm interested in the stuff that's going into their single malts.  So stay tuned for the 12 year "Original", 15 year "Revival", and 18 year "Allardice" this week!

Please the bottom half of my Whisky Notes page for sources.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A concrete hike

The other morning I was out of sorts from the moment I woke up.  A number of negative circumstances had gotten the better of me.  I realized quickly that the usual trip to the fitness club would not help me straighten out my mind.

So I decided to go for a walk.  A long walk.

Using the fun walkjogrun site, I mapped out an extended voyage.  I wanted straight lines that I could follow without a map or a GPS.  I decided on walking to the tip of Seal Beach Pier and back.  Approximately 10.18 miles.

The wild card that hovered above the walk was the weather.  It was 90-95 degrees that day.

In 90+ degree weather, ice maintains its molecular structure better than I.  I sweat more than anyone else I know.  I don't tan, I crisp.  I dehydrate easily.  I have epic bouts of heat stroke (which occasionally include hallucinations).

Sounded like the perfect opportunity to test some of my boundaries.  So I applied sunscreen and strapped on a backpack with water, dry snacks, my cell phone, and a notebook.  And I walked.

It was nice to cross many miles of Long Beach that I'd never seen before.  Lots of parks, unique houses, and waterfront.  It was remarkably quiet everywhere, except inside my head.  But I didn't want to think, I wanted my head to be clear.  I hadn't eaten much that day, so I thought that maybe between the heat, the exertion, and the lack of sugar/calories I would be able to access an empty zone of consciousness.  But instead, the hamster in the creaky wheel inside my head was given a dose of amphetamines.  And on he charged.

Physically, the first 5 miles were pretty easy.  Seal Beach's Main Street was really nice.   By my count there were three Irish pubs, two pizza places, a Greek food stop, an Italian deli, a barbecue joint, a wine bar, a diner, two bakeries, 320 Main, and two antique shops.  All in three blocks.  It was a nice mid-point.  The pier was relatively clear.

I stopped for a snack, some water, and a look around.  The waves were roaring in nicely.  Lots of tanned skin and bikinis.  Some creepy black seagulls.  And lots of fishing poles.

And that's when I felt the blister on my left food and the throbbing ache in my right knee.  Jesus, I'm getting old.  Concrete is unforgiving on the muscles, tendons, joints, and bones.

Early on the walk back, I tried to take a shortcut, but wound up being rerouted backwards.  That added another third of a mile to my trip.  I figured that was some sort of metaphor.

Focusing on the road in front of me and really getting inside of the pain developing in my right knee, emptied me out.  The last two miles were silent, everywhere.  The exhaustion felt right.  It wasn't like struggling at the gym, because there one's just running in place.  There's no "F**k it, I'm done," here.  I needed to get home.

I may have alarmed some ladies walking their dogs.  Here, I was bearded (and not neatly so), stanky, in scuffed up clothes, and a little wobbly on my sticks.  Had I seen me, I probably would have gone out of my way to avoid me.

When I got home to the air conditioning, I stripped off my shoes and socks, and listened to my wife tell me about her day.  Okay, I didn't listen (sorry).  I watched her talk and thought about how much I loved her.  Her crazy-ass unemployed husband just went for a day-long journey by foot to some random place and came back limping and weird.  And she didn't even skip a beat.  It was just another day living with MK.

All those things that troubled me weren't gone, but they were sorted through, alphabetized, and filed in the right place.  There was less fission, but more Friday.

I didn't get sunburned.  (I assume) I hydrated appropriately.  My knee needed 48 hours before it was willing to do its job without complaint.  Though the pain made my body feel older, my brain felt younger.

I'm not sure why I'm posting this.  I have no pictures to prove this happened.  I have no sarcastic rejoinders.  It was just something I did.  And something I'll do again.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Some more ramblings on a Friday

Goodness.  After this week's Reports, I think it's high time for me to bring some single malt action back to the site.  So, next week I'll be reporting on a much anticipated single malt Taste-Off.  By "much anticipated" I'm referring to my own whisky longings.

Last night I popped into a local bar (The Reno Room) to size up Buffalo Trace and Bushmills Original.  I'd ordered BT once a few months ago while in Palm Springs, but received something that was definitely not BT.  So this time I was able to watch the bartender pour the bourbon from the bottle into my glass.  I tried it.  I liked it.  Sadly, Bushmills Original (which REALLY paled in comparison to the Buffalo Trace) remains the one Irish Whiskey that I do not enjoy.  I believe there's good malt hiding in there, but the bland grains push it down.  I try it every year or two just to double check and each time my feelings are confirmed.  At least its palate is consistent.

The Whisky Advocate posted its top 10 whiskies of the Fall.  Upon reading the list, I felt the usual mixed feelings bubble up.  All the whiskies look delicious but none are affordable for the average consumer.  It reminded me what an expensive pleasure whisky has become.

A Malt Maniac, harmonic resonance, and The Corry.  Blend them, vat them, pour them and you'll get the new Coopered Tot post.  It's grand!

I also enjoyed Scotch and Ice Cream's post about his celebrating his son's first birthday with a fine bottle of whisky.  Feelings both personal and universal run through the review.

Finally, here's my tweet from this morning:

As in most dreams, the action was never completed as we kept getting sidetracked by distractions.  Actually, that sounds a lot like the waking life.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

NOT Single Malt Report: Canadian Club 6 year Blended Whisky (plastic-bottled in 2004, Ancient!)

After searching long and far, spelunking through the oldest caves, digging through the most ancient of ruins, sparing no expense, I've finally unearthed this great artifact from the history of distillation:

I postulated that this whisky, bottled in the year two-thousand-and-four (in the common era) by a company that no longer exists, must hold the secrets of the past or at least some leaching from its magical "unbreakable" bottle.

And it came at a burdensome financial investment.

Brand: Canadian Club
Distillery: Hiram Walker & Sons Distillery
Ownership: was Allied Domecq (now Beam Global)
Type: Canadian Blended Whisky
Region: Windsor, Ontario, Canada
Age: minimum 6 years
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
Bottled: (est.) March 1, 2004
Bottle code: 54 SL 24 LE 061 DW 15:08

How ancient is this bottle?  When it was being filled...

Justin Bieber was 10.  ADORBZ!
There was no Shake Weight.
The Red Sox still hadn't won a World Series in 85 years.
Aaron, Ruth, and Mays were still the top three career Home Run hitters.
No one had been properly Rickrolled.  Yet.
Glen Beck had yet to go on television.
Michael Phelps had zero Olympic Medals.
The cat hadn't yet asked if he could haz cheezburger.
The CIA had just admitted that there was no WMD threat from Iraq before the American invasion.
Janet Jackson had just accidentally purposely showed a pastie- (not pastry-) covered breast on live TV.
Lost in Translation had just NOT won Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
Johns Kerry and Edwards were still battling it out for the Democratic Party's presidential nominee.
Not many people outside of Illinois had heard of one Barack Obama.
Facebook was limited to Harvard University students.
The Passion of the Christ had just opened nationwide.
Friends and Frasier hadn't ended.
Kristen Perry was living in Spain and hadn't yet moved in with me.
I was young.

So this bottle is OLD.  Like before Rihanna and memory and stuff.

It was released by Allied Domecq Ltd before Pernod Ricard took over the company in 2005 and sold C.C. to Fortune Brands (which then spun off Beam Inc as its own corporation).

Canadian Club's origins can be traced back to 1858, when Hiram Walker of Detroit opened a distillery in Windsor, Canada.  He'd started making whisky in the US a few years earlier, but the Temperance movement was gaining steam in Michigan so he moved his business across the water.  He called the resulting product Club Whisky.  American whiskey companies got the law involved to force Walker to put "Canada" on the label on the theory that it would slow Club Whisky's popularity.  That backfired.  Seeing the boost in sales that resulted from the "Canada" on the label, Walker changed the name of the whisky to Canadian Club.  In the early 1960s Don Draper made it a permanent addition to his office's liquor cart and the rest is history.  Sorta.

With the weight of human history and American-Canadian relations on my shoulders, I opened the black screw-top.  The plastic angels had already walked off with some of the beverage over the last 8+ years, as the liquid level was below the bottle's neck.  Down to its collarbone.

My hands shook with excitement as I poured myself an ounce-and-a-half of history.  I took fifteen minutes to embrace this singular opportunity.  Then I began my nosing and tasting.

At first in the glass, the whisky's color forms a strata of urine at the bottom and apple juice at the top.  After fifteen minutes it evens out to amber.  The nose is a fist full of vanilla followed by oak and mild grains.  There's more alcohol burn than one usually gets from a 40% ABV booze.  After time, there are hints of apricots and (much less subtly) white vinegar.  It's with the palate that things start to go askew.  It starts with bitter sugar cookies and imitation vanilla extract, goes to sour ladyfingers and then more bitterness, ultimately drying out the tongue.  It finishes with an oaky vanilla, bland sugar, but mostly a wallop of sourness and bitterness that lingers inconveniently like dog sh*t on a shoe.

WITH WATER (approx. 33.3% ABV)
Oof.  It may bring out brighter sugars in the nose, but the mouth gets so much bitterer.

The Malt Maniacs sometimes talk about the OBE (Old Bottle Effect) on whisky.  But I think they're just referring to glass bottles.  May I introduce OPBE (Old Polyethylene Bottle Effect)?

This whisky tasted almost nothing like any Canadian Club I've had.  I actually don't mind CC6 usually; I used to use it a bit for highballs.  The awful (and slightly worrying) sour and bitter notes are unique to this bottle.  Aside from those vaguely noxious notes, this CC6 was blander and flatter than the usual bottling.

A rousing success!  Anyone want to trade for a 2oz sample of this?!

Availability - This ancient bottling? My shady corner liquor store.
Pricing - Current (750mL) bottling goes for $12-$15
Rating - 59

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

NOT Single Malt Report: Taste Off! Maker's Mark vs. Four Roses Single Barrel

Quote of the day: "Tell me this doesn't smell like farty maple syrup!"

* * * * *

I just sighed deeply as I began this Report.  I'm still such a bourbon novice and this writeup may not do anything to strengthen anyone's opinion of my American whiskey knowledge.

But let's do it!

Here are the players:

DistilleryFour Roses
Type: Kentucky Straight Bourbon (Single Barrel)
Region: Lawrenceberg, Kentucky
Age: over 7 years, probably 8 to 12 years
Mashbill: 60% corn, 35% rye, and 5% malted barley (source)
Maturation: charred white oak barrels
Alcohol by Volume: 50%


DistilleryMaker's Mark
OwnershipBeam Global
Type: Kentucky Straight Wheated Bourbon
Region: Loretto, Kentucky
Age: minimum 2 years, likely 6 to 8 years
Mashbill: 70% corn, 16% soft red winter wheat, and 14% malted barley (source)
Maturation: charred white oak barrels
Alcohol by Volume: 45%

The Maker's Mark is from a 375mL bottle.  The Four Roses Single Barrel is from a 50mL mini I found at Hi Time Wine Cellars.  The bottles themselves are great.  Maker's has its distinctive shape and the dipped wax phallus at the top.  And the Four Roses had the heaviest sturdiest glass mini bottle I've ever bought (and I've bought a few).

The biggest difference (to me) between these two are the mashbills.  Maker's Mark uses wheat instead of rye in their mix and is heavily corn-ed.  Four Roses Single Barrel also has a bit of corn (51% is the minimum allowed for bourbons) but has a large balance of rye in there as well.  A second difference is that the Four Roses is, per the label, from one barrel while the Maker's is from a combination of a large number of barrels.

I really had no idea what to expect.  I'd never tried any Four Roses product previously, though I've been reading many raves about them.  I had bought the Maker's to perfect my citrusy boubon old fashioned recipe, but hadn't spent much time with it neat.  So, I thought trying them side by side would be a good way to sort out the nuances.

Just before I did the taste off, I read The Coopered Tot's six-part blind Canadian rye tasting.  It inspired me to do my mini taster blind as well.

As if trying to figure out two bourbons wasn't enough for me, I was about to set myself up for the embarrassment of not being about to tell these two very different bourbons apart.  Awesome!

But I did it anyway.  Kristen did the one ounce pours and labeled the glasses A and B.

After allowing the whiskies a 15-minute adjustment period, I dug in.  Here are my results:

Bourbon A
Color - Reddish copper
Nose - Black cherry syrup, milk chocolate, cocoa powder, the inside of the oak barrel, Cool Whip
Palate - Old school Robotussin, treacle, maple syrup, a little hot, a little aspartame
Finish - Long and warm, whipped cream, but more of that sticky aspartame thing

Comments - It's a little busy but enjoyable, though I could do without the aspartame notes.  After the first couple of sips I said aloud, "Oh no, I think I like Maker's Mark."  That means I kinda liked this bourbon and I guessed it was Maker's.

Bourbon B
Color - Clove honey
Nose - French oak-type pencil shavings, sweet oranges, cherry lolipops, gassy, maple syrup, frosting
Palate - Pencils, root vegetables, very sweet at first then mellows out, vanilla, sugar cookies, but ultimately very tame
Finish - A good length, more ethyl, floral and vanilla, marshmallows

Comments - Mild and tame, the sweetness would work better than A for mixing.  I thought that the mellowness meant that it was Four Roses.  So that was my guess.

Well, first thing's first.  My guesses were wrong.

A = Four Roses Single Barrel
B = Maker's Mark

I hadn't looked up the Four Roses mashbill beforehand.  Had I done so, I would have seen the good dose of rye.  My brain should have recognized the black cherry, cough syrup, and cocoa notes as the rye elements I like.  I knew Maker's had no rye.  I based my guesses on the mellowness of 'B' and the aspartame notes in 'A'.  So my guesses were silly.

Secondly, blindly tasted, I liked the Four Roses better.  (Do I get to keep any of my street cred?)  It was a little hectic, not necessarily messy but active.  The diet coke artificial sweetener note was odd though. It kept showing up with every sip.  Without that, it would have challenged Blanton's for my favorite bourbon.

Maker's is still quite the sweetie.  I don't mind having it around as a mixer.  Though I don't foresee myself jonesing for a glass neat nor on the rocks, it's still better than most cheap scotch blends.

Kristen seemed to prefer the Four Roses a little more too.  But neither swayed her opinion of bourbon in general.

After the taste off was done, I blended the last 0.5oz of Four Roses with 0.5oz of Maker's Mark (creating a fake mashbill of 65% corn, 17.5% rye, 9.5% malted barley, 8% red winter wheat).

It was wrong.  It was so bad that I rushed the glass over to Kristen, exclaiming, "Tell me this doesn't smell like farty maple syrup!"  For some reason she refused to smell it.

I buried that bad blend underneath an Old Fashioned and was much happier with that result.

The bourbon journey continues.

Maker's Mark
Availability - Everywhere
Pricing - $19 to $24
Rating - 77

Four Roses Single Barrel
Availability - Some US liquor specialists
Pricing - $40 to $45
Rating - 82

Monday, August 13, 2012

Some ramblings on a Monday afternoon

It's a quiet blog day for me.  I'm working on employment stuff as well as tomorrow's Taste Off report.

In the meantime, I recommend...

The Coopered Tot posted the results of his gigantic 6-part blind Canadian Rye tasting, along with some thorough analysis.  It's so good that it inspired me to amend part of yesterday's Taste Off.  More on my much smaller non-rye Taste Off tomorrow.

The Scotch & Ice Cream blog posted an intensive write up on three Canadian Ryes last week.  Jefferson's 10 year Rye is looking better every day.

If you're a sherry fan, Chemistry of the Cocktail did a write-up on three deeee-licious looking sherry & rye cocktail recipes.

Looks like everything is turning up rye!

On the Scotch front, if you have 15 minutes and a drink at hand, Malt Maniac Ralfy just posted a video about Kilchoman (one of my favorite distilleries) and young crafted whiskies in general.

And look at that black-shirted drinker on the left of the photo below:
Thanks to Shawn Bishop Photography and their the wide-angle lens, I look considerably more buff than I deserve to.  Anyway, that's a pic from the LA Scotch Club's Peetin' Meetin'.  And I'm reaching for the indie Ardmore, my fave of the evening.

That's all, see you tomorrow for some bourbon.

Friday, August 10, 2012

NOT Single Malt Report: Wild Turkey Rye 101

For the 101st whisk(e)y?

Wild Turkey Rye 101, of course.

Distillery: Wild Turkey (their website has no info on rye)
Ownership: Campari Group (via Austin, Nichols, & Co.)
Type: Straight Rye
Region: Lawrenceburg, Kentucky
Age: minimum 2 years
Mashbill: 65% rye, 23% corn, 12% barley
Maturation: "charred white oak barrels"
Alcohol by Volume: 50.5%

In 1869, the Ripy family started a distillery on Wild Turkey Hill in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.  The distillery blossomed despite grain shortages, the Prohibition shutdown, and the federal enforcement of bourbon standards.  The brand, Wild Turkey itself, had been the product of large batch bourbon purchases from other distilleries.  But in 1972, the Ripy family's distillery was acquired to become The Wild Turkey Distillery.  In 1980 the company was sold to Pernod Ricard.  Then in 2009 Campari purchased the brand.

Now, let me clarify something.  Wild Turkey 101 Rye has NOT entirely vanished.  Reports of its death have been somewhat exaggerated.  It's still out there to be found (at least three local stores have started carrying it again), but it is considerably less prevalent.  As folks have mentioned (here, here, here, and here) there's a rye shortage in the US right now.  If the Lawrenceburg distillery is getting less grain, then they'll stretch it out (water it down) and bottle more of the 81 proof version.  And sell it at the same exact price.  So it goes.

Soonafter getting a few recommendations on for WT101, I read all of the rye shortage news and got caught up in the panic.  Suddenly, no one was selling this rye around here.  When I found a bottle in Palm Springs a few months ago, I thought I'd discovered a great secret whiskey source.  Well, it was a good catch and the price was right, but it was no miracle.

So it's tough to find, but it's still around, especially if you live in or near a major American urban area.

With that out of the way, I have to say, I've never met a rye I didn't like.  Something about straight rye's nose and palate, with its spice cabinet and floral cherry cough syrup highlights, always appeals to me.

There are few $20 bottles of Scotch whisky that can compete with the complexity and spice of a $20 bottle of American rye.  Do we have import tariffs to thank for this?  Or the raw power of the rye distillate?  Probably both.

The color is of a red-orange molasses.  Always looks nice in a glass.  The nose starts with candied oranges, buttery oak, and barrel char.  Then there's a dry vegetal note that joins up with a whiff of hay.  A dusty cocoa and mild ground black pepper linger in the background.  Cherries in syrup and cherry cough syrup lead the way in the palate.  Pungent fruit sugars and anise liqueur follow.  It's always sweet and spicy, getting sweeter the longer it sits in the glass.  It finishes with the cherry cough syrup, anise liqueur, and juicy sweetness.  Though it's surprisingly brief for its ABV.

It works well in a Sazerac (use real absinthe please!).  It's not bad in a Manhattan.  The dusty cocoa and barrel char elements should work well with some barbecue -- I'll try that this summer.

It stacks up pretty close to the Bulleit and Baby Saz straight ryes.  I won't declare a winner here since I've tried them in completely different circumstances.  I'll just have to drink some more rye, for empirical purposes, of course.

Availability - You'll need to do some Turkey hunting
Pricing - Excellent at $18-$21 (there are folks selling it for $30, shame on them)
Rating - 84

Thursday, August 9, 2012

About getting "Jewed"

While sitting at a mostly empty pub yesterday, I overheard two forty-going-on-twenty-year-old guys discussing selling their used cars.  The louder of the two kept saying over and over again that he didn't want to go under seven grand.  He listed the price as seventy-five hundred, but "seven grand, man, that's the lowest I would go."

He then proceeded to tell his listener how the eventual buyer had "Jewed him down to sixty-five hundred".

I hadn't heard the word 'Jew' used as a verb in over 20 years.  I didn't realize it was still being utilized in that manner.  But let's set aside the bigot implications for a moment and analyze the usage here.

A man (or maybe just a male of the species) is trying to sell his car via Craigslist or the newspaper.  Though he likely paid 15-25 thousand dollars for it originally, he wants a new car or needs to pay the rent or requires cash for his meth habit and is thus willing to sell the vehicle unofficially for a return he hopes is better than trade-in value.  He advertises his price of $7500 with the hope he'll find a buyer too frightened to bargain; but, just in case, he sets the bidding floor at seven grand.

Perhaps buyers are scarce in this economy or too much time passes and his ex-wife has hired a lawyer because she needs money for child support.  At that moment a buyer comes along; a buyer who's done his homework and knows the car isn't worth 7K let alone 7.5K.  So they negotiate, which is a common worldwide practice when buying and selling private goods.  The buyer starts at six grand, the seller at 7.5.

Eventually the buyer makes it clear he will leave before he pays seven thousand dollars, since he can get the same model for less from alternate sellers.  This seller, hungry to sell, shows his desperation too quickly and winds up taking sixty-five hundred in cash.

He's hurt.  His dominance over the circumstance has been challenged and overcome.  Upon relating this tale to another male of the species, he doesn't want to reveal his forfeited masculinity, situational embarrassment, and negotiation failure.  Thus he uses, quite freely, what he thinks is an insult.  But instead, to anyone within earshot, he advances his inadequacy.  Not only has he lost financially and testosteronally, but he's revealed a void in his humanity.

To the seller:  In your desperate attempt to demean a man who got the better of you in many ways, you deployed what you assumed was an epithet towards my people.  You lowered yourself and thus elevated the object of your resentment.  Congratulations, you failed again.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Things from space


Full screen, hi-definition, 360-degree panoramas of the Mars surface are now online.

They are beautiful.


Okay, the trailer -- with its Malick-style visuals, inspirational voice-over, and the best music from the Lord of the Rings soundtrack -- is real.  But sadly, the son of Jor-El is not.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Single Malt Report #100: Glencadam 20 year old 1989 Cask Strength (Signatory)

Occasionally I reference the pivotal moments in my whisky fandom.  One of my favorites occurred in May 2011.

Kristen and I were on holiday in London, loving life.  Because we're museum geeks, I made sure that we went to the British Museum on our next to last day.  But before we were to enter that grand display of human creation and achievement, I wanted to go to a whisky store.  Just around the corner from the museum, in Bloomsbury, there's a shop that I remembered very vividly window-gawking during my previous London visit three years earlier.  It's called Royal Mile Whiskies.  And I didn't even need a map to find the shop that morning last May.  I remembered that window that well.

Once inside, I was all OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG!  Quietly though, it's Britain and all.  Somewhere in the universe there's a picture that my wife (sitting in the corner, as I have when she's gone clothes shopping) took of me, my hands clasped behind my back as I studied the shelves.  Any level of calm I displayed was a success.

I spent most of my time eyeing the Signatory whiskies, as they were the only indie bottlers I knew of at that moment.  The gent who worked at the shop was very helpful and very patient as I made dumbass comments about how f***ing ugly the Connoisseur's Choice labels were.

I tend to say stupid sh*t when I'm happy.

I first chose the Bowmore 16yr Signatory UCF 1994 which turned out to be one of my favorite all time whiskies.  Then I went back and forth and back and forth over the Cask Strength bottlings.  Should I have chosen the Clynelish?  Probably.  Should I have forked over 10-15GBP more for the Highland Park?  Yes.  But I went with the Glencadam.

Why?  I have no idea.  I had never heard of Glencadam before.  Maybe I thought that was a good thing; you know, like something definitely unavailable in The States.  Maybe I was intrigued by the idea that it was matured in a refill sherry butt -- which, I had no idea, has been a prevalent practice throughout whisky history.

But I went with it.  It was my first cask strength bottle.  And the only single cask-er I've ever had ...... so far.  Royal Mile shipped the parcel very quickly and safely to our LA apartment.  I opened the Bowmore that June.  SOMEHOW, I waited until September 2nd to open the Glencadam.

Distillery: Glencadam
Owner: Angus Dundee Plc
Independent Bottler: Signatory
Age: 20 years (September 1989 - April 2010)
Maturation: refill sherry butt
Type: Single Malt
Region: Eastern Highlands
Alcohol by Volume: 55.7%
Cask: 6019
Bottle #: 283 of 508
Chill filtration? No
Artificial colorant? No

When finished it two weeks ago, it had been a joy for all of its eleven months open.  Sort of a special occasion booze.  I decided early on that I'd do three sets of notes on the whisky as time and oxygen had their way with it.  Beginning, middle, end.

After writing each set of notes, I never looked back on what I'd written, maintaining an uninfluenced study the best I could.  I started this one week before my first Single Malt Report, so its open life stretched the length of time that I reported on the 99 other whiskies.

One question remains in my mind.  Did the whisky change or did I?

Here are the three sets of notes with my comments at the time of the tasting.

#1 - Beginning
29 September 2011 (27 days old)
Color - Golden, goes cloudy with water, brings out the yellows
Nose - Floral, tiny bit of leather
Palate - Light peat, then some cream sherry, oak, hot apples or applesauce
Finish - Starts out quiet then fades up, tapioca, nilla wafers

Comments - Even with 4 teaspoons of water it's still sticky and thick on the glass

* * * * *

#2 - Middle
1 February 2012 (5 months old)
Color - Light apple juice
Nose - Surprisingly bourbony, spicy zing, apple juice, sultanas?, vanilla, gingerbread cookies for a brief moment
Palate - Cigars, smooth texture, sweet, alcohol hot, toffee and caramel sauce
Finish - Excellent length, cigar smoke, tiny bit of sweetness, vanilla

WITH WATER (approx 37% ABV)
Color - Gets very cloudy!
Nose - expectedly everything has mellowed, very dry wine, a little vanilla, oak, sugars
Palate - Creamier, some sweet sherry, much sweeter now almost like candy, sweet cream, nutty at the start, then some spices
Finish - Medium length, chocolate followed by vanilla ice cream

Comments - must have been a much-used refill sherry cask, very little color from the oak

* * * * *

#3 - End
27 July 2012 (almost 11 months old)
Color - Bold gold
Nose - fruity (prunes, dried apricots, apples, very ripe peaches), something vaguely gaseous but not off-putting though this grows with time
Palate - pecan pie (nuts, pastry, and brown sugar), almonds, almond extract, still packing some alcohol heat, sweet, tannin drying, barley sugar
Finish - Tannin drying, lovely heat, a little sherry, nutty and sweet

WITH WATER (approx 37% ABV)
Nose - perfumy, tropical fruit, very light, Juicy Fruit gum, a little oak
Palate - very mild, but fuller texture, mineraly, light sugar, some bitterness
Finish - mostly bitterness remaining, mingling with light sweetness

Comments - still VERY cloudy with water, sediment at the bottom of the glass

Firstly, peat???  Wut?  According to Charlie Maclean's Whiskypedia, Glencadam uses unpeated malt.  But my peat sensors were very sensitive last year, as I was still trying to warm up to phenolics.  I remember saying, "Great, I bought two peated whiskies."  Perhaps it had something to do with a newly opened cask strength bottle because that peat element was gone within a couple of months.  Something cigar-ish remained in its place for a while.  By the end, the smoke was gone entirely, possibly replaced by dry tannins.

Next, the bourbon notes?  Per Whiskypedia, Glencadam itself ages their whiskies in ex-bourbon barrels.  Could it have been re-casked from ex-bourbon to ex-sherry when sent to Signatory?

At the start, the nose and flavor were a bit muted.  Or I was still new to the process.  But about midway through the bottle it had gotten sugary sweet, especially with water.  By the end, the fruits jumped out and the sweetness had tamed.

To answer the question: Did the whisky change or did I?

The answer is, yes.  :)

I actually liked it best at the end.  It was only 20% full for the last four months so some sort of oxidation had happened, but it didn't kill the whisky.  It didn't take to water very well any more, but was very pleasant when neat.

And my nosing/tasting notes seem to have gained detail, clarity, and focus throughout time.  By the end I was able to pinpoint the fruits and the nuts, which something I'm getting better at with my notes in general.

What will replace this in the Whisky Closet?  I don't know, but it had better be good for a long time.

Availability - Unknown, all of the major UK shops appear to be sold out
Pricing - Was in the 45-50GBP range (w/o VAT, before shipping)
Rating - 88