...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Single Malt Report: Two quickies about a pair of sweeties

Most bars seem to come with a "Whisky Kit": Glenlivet 12, Macallan 12, Chivas, and Red & Black Label.  But sometimes on nights when I'm out and about, I'm blessed by the Whisky Spirits to find a bottling I've never tried before.  I grab that glass, head to a quiet spot, and do my best Whisky-Nerd-nose-in-the-glass routine.  I type notes into my turrible Blackberry and then try to figure them out the next day.

Eating establishments and places that serve whisky in wide mouth tumblers ain't the money spots for proper nosing/tasting notes.  But, you know, it's whisky.  No, even better, it's new whisky.

Here are two new whisky experiences that I had amidst good nights out.

#1 - Oban Distillers Edition 1993

I had this on the Westside (LA) on June 16th last year.  I'm a serious fan of Oban 14yr, so I promise to do a report on it during this calendar year.  At that point, I'll provide the full rundown on the Oban distillery.

It was nice to see this bottling.  And I really had no idea what to expect.

Distillery: Oban (yay!)
Bottling: Distillers Edition (1993/2008)
Age: minimum 15 years
Maturation: Montilla Fino fortified sherry cask
Region: Highlands (Western)
Alcohol by Volume: 43%

Oban takes their lovely malty malt and finishes it in a very rich sherry cask, creating a thick desserty whisky.  Diageo releases one of these Oban limited special editions almost every year, right now their DE is a 1996.

This is one of the darkest whiskies I've seen.  That photo above doesn't do it justice.  The color is a dark mahogany, almost cherrywood.  The nose is nutty, toffee-ish, big on the sherry.  Has a hefty texture.  The palate -- miles and miles away from the 14 year -- caramel hard candies, more sherry, lots of amaretto, and dried fruit.  A great long finish with the amaretto (with maybe a pinch of salt?) holding out the whole way through.

My notes show that I only had it neat, so I can recommend having it that way.  It's a heavier malt than the 14yr, so this would work better as a digestif rather than an aperitif.

Pricing - Acceptable at $90-$100 (oddly it's cheaper to buy it from the UK and have it shipped)
Rating - 84

#2 - North of Scotland Single Grain Whisky 1964 (bottled by Scott's Selection)

(Please note: You can find a second, updated report on this whisky here.)

SURPRISE!!! A single grain whisky.  And yes, you read that right, a 1964.

So why haven't I been shouting from the rooftops about the miraculous god I found in a class of 43-year-old whisky?  Well, there's kind of a reason why a 43yr grain whisky sells for less than 1/10th of a 43yr malt whisky.  And also a reason why I got it for EIGHT DOLLARS a glass.

The industrial continuous column still distillation process doesn't create whiskies with complex consistencies.  Nor is it intended to.  I'm not saying that grain whisky is usually filler for blends, but it's supposed to be a mellower milder fluid ready to be used in mass quantities at 3 years of age.  A micro fraction of grain whiskies turn out to be decent on their own so they're racked up in a cask to age.  (For some more whisky edjuhcation please see my recent Whisky 101 post.)

This whisky from the North of Scotland distillery was one of those deemed consumable.

Distillery: North of Scotland
Bottler: Scott's Selection
Age: 43 years (1964/2007)
Maturation: Bourbon cask
Region: Highlands (Southern)
Alcohol by Volume: 44.7%

The North of Scotland distillery was built in 1957, closed in 1980, dismantled in 1993.  It was originally built to distill malt whisky via the Coffey column stills.  Apparently that wasn't very successful because they switched to grain whisky two years later.  After its closing the distillery building became a storage house for the Cambus (also grain whisky, also now out of order) distillery.

How about this old dram?  It's like a soft sweet light-bodied bourbon.  The color is dark, though not as dark as the pic above shows.  The nose was the best part, like rich vanilla ice cream.  The palate was vanilla bean, chocolate, almonds, and (maybe?) coconut milk.  The words read more exciting than the whisky tastes, mostly because the finish was oddly brief.

Honestly, the Redbreast 12 I had that night blew this grain whisky out of the water.  BUT, this old brown stuff ain't bad.  I might even go back to the Long Beach pub that had served it to see if they have any left, then do a slower tasting.  Again, $8 for a whisky that was distilled during LBJ's first administration...

Pricing - Good at $150-$160 (a 1964 Springbank costs $2000, a 1964 Highland Park costs $5000)
Rating - 77