...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Rum Dummy drinks Caroni 15 year old 1997 AD Rattray, cask 107

Caroni distillery opened, and then it closed. In between it made rum.

Am I supposed to write more than that?

The distillery ran from 1923 (or 1918) to 2003 (or 2002) sourcing sugar right from the Caroni sugar plains on which the distillery was built. I'm uncertain about the dates because different "expert" websites list different years. What I do know is that Trinidad was its home, and that it had column and pot stills.

I like Caroni's rum because it smells and tastes like fuel. Perhaps I should just drink diesel and get it over with, but I have a feeling that wouldn't work well in Planter's Punch.

Or would it?

This sample was sent to Diving for Pearls by Florin (who drinks rum?), then it was sent to me, Rum Dummy. Thanks to all!

Caroni 15 year old 1997 AD Rattray, cask 107, 46%abv
My review:

Nose - Candy. El Dorado and candy canes and cherry bubblegum and Hampden (but not much Hampden). Also lots of vanilla extract and chewy caramel candy.

Palate - Not as sugary as the nose. Ginger and mint and lots of spice. Mothballs and salt. Okay, I tried to not drink it all in 5 minutes and found some funk and sour.

Finish - Warm, spicy, sweet. Bourbon?

Caroni's name is on this but it could be many other rums. Or a blend of rum and bourbon. It's easy and mellow. Probably works in many cocktails. Why am I disappointed? Why am I off to the gas station to get a fifth of 87 octane?

NOT WHISKY RATING: C+ or B- (i can't decide)

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Macallan 15 year old 1995 AD Rattray, cask 11251

The whisky bug infected my system at the dusk of the Golden Age of Whisky For Whisky Enthusiasts. In those days one could find the occasional single bourbon cask of Macallan AND pay for it without having to skip two months of rent. And I'll skip over the rest of this back-in-the-good-ol'-days schtick to get to my point...

Whether we all like it or not, Macallan is one of the iconic whisky distilleries, thus not having bourbon cask Macallan available feels like a loss to the whisky community as whole. We're unable to experience Macallan's malt uncloaked by volumes of sherry......you know, figure out what Macallan's actual distillery character is.

MAO sent me this sample of bourbon cask Macallan bottled by Dewar Rattray back in 2011. While I doubt it will pull back the curtain and reveal the truth of Macallan's spirit, I'm still happy to try it!

Distillery: Macallan
Region: Speyside (Central)
Bottler: Dewar Rattray
Age: 15 years (October 1995 - April 2011)
Maturation: bourbon cask, probably a hoggie
Cask #: 11251
Outturn: 334
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chill-filtration? No
Caramel coloring? No
(Sample from swap with My Annoying Opinions)

Its color is a good deal lighter than that of Monday's 12yo Fine Oak. The nose has a fruity side: lemon zest, peach skin and fresh bananas. Then it has its, well, non-fruity side: a significant grassy note, along with hints of vanilla and musty cask. The palate is a little weird on the first sip, showing cardboard and fabric. Matters improve upon subsequent sips. Sweet lemons, fresh ginger, tart berries, vanilla, roasted nuts and toasted oak. It finishes tangy and with plenty of spicy oak. Then there's vanilla, almonds, sugar and heat.

Looking at MAO's post, I wonder if this sample lost a little zip after a few years in the sample bottle. I side a little more with Florin's (egads!) estimation in the that post's comments section.

Though the palate does have its fruit, I'm left wanting more of it, perhaps to brighten up the otherwise simple remainder, or to cleanse the memory of the first sip. Maybe something closer to the nose's fruity volume? The cask starts to take over around 25-30 minutes in, which doesn't help matters. It's not a flawed whisky, nor is it a particularly characterful one. As with the 12yo Fine Oak, it could be from nearly any distillery.

Availability - Sold out — like Macallan itself (ha!)
Pricing - ???
Rating - 80

Monday, November 26, 2018

Macallan 12 year old Fine Oak

Readers of my earliest whisky reviews (if any of you good souls still come here) may remember my fondness for Macallan's Fine Oak series. In fact, I believe I am the only person on the planet who liked their Fine Oaks better than their Sherry Oaks. Macallan retired the Fine Oak series from their major markets right around the time they launched their stupefying color-coded NAS range. But then, around two years ago, a Double Cask and Triple Cask series was launched...

Now one can find the Sherry Oak, Fine Oak, 1824, color-coded, The Editions, Double Cask, Triple Cask, Rare Cask, Quest and fancy decanter ranges co-existing on retailers' shelves all in the same country at the same. That is some crystal clear branding right there.

Back to the ol' Fine Oaks. Fine Oak 12 year old has some history in my household. Eight years ago, Kristen had a pour of Fine Oak 12 while on a business trip in San Francisco (without me!). I couldn't find a bottle in the US because it wasn't released in the US. I also couldn't find a bottle in London the following year because I was told it wasn't released in the UK. Fine Oak 12 was, at that point in time, only for sale in Asia (so I was informed by a UK retailer). So I never had a chance to try it.

It was in the UK, Scot-land in particular, that I found this mini in 2016. A random tourist shop had a shelf full of these minis, minis that had been hanging around for 3 years. And now I get to try Macallan 12 year old Fine Oak for the first time.
Distillery: Macallan
Range: Fine Oak
Region: Speyside (Central)
Age: minimum 12 years
Maturation: American oak bourbon casks, American oak sherry casks, Spanish oak sherry casks
Bottling Code: L0509S L3
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
Chill-filtration? Yes
Caramel coloring? Yep

Re: color. Mit some serious farbstoff. Encroaching on DiageoGold™. There's a burst of anise on the nose upon early sniffs. Then lemons, prunes, barrel char and citronella candles. Apples and vanilla. More oak, grape jam and chocolate notes appear after 20 minutes. The palate is mostly vanilla and sweet sherry. Lots of grape stuff and roasted nuts. Lime lollipops and ground cloves. More nuts and bitter chocolate show up after a while. The sweet finish is loaded with citrus and grape candy. PB&J with a little more salt.

This is almost surgical in its inoffensiveness. Had it been bottled at 46%abv, or even 43%, then Macallan would have had a popular classic on its hands. As it is there are two issues. First, all the dilution and filtration has rendered the palate's texture thin as a blend. Secondly, those practices have been so aggressive, and the cask batch likely so large, that the whisky has been left devoid of specific style. It could be from any distillery anywhere. Lack of character is its character. It drinks very well, though.

Availability - some European retailers
Pricing - $45-$75 
Rating - 83

Friday, November 23, 2018

Bowmore 10 year old 2003 Whisky-Fässle

I used up all my rant juice in the previous post, so there shouldn't be even the thinnest of curmudgeon crust on this post.

But there are plenty of short paragraphs left over.

Whisky-Fässle (umlaut!) is another one of those fun independent bottlers that Continental Europe seems loaded with. I'm jealous of you people! W-F opened for business in Germany in 2006. I don't have any bottles of their stuff, but a certain Balcones Brimstone Blogger does, and he sent me a sample of this Bowmore. Its ABV is on the low side for its age, which is curious, but also a good thing because whiskies in the 46-52%abv range are currently hitting my palate just right. Also there's a duck on the label.

Distillery: Bowmore
Independent Bottler: Whisky-Fässle
Series: Ducks? Ducks.
Age: 10 years old (2003-2013)
Maturation: bourbon hogshead
Alcohol by Volume: 50.2%
Chillfiltered? No
Colored? No
(thanks, MAO!)

It's a bit of a comfy softy on the nose. Mint, cinnamon, cardamom, pears and peat. After 20+ minutes in the glass, the whisky gains some peach and rose notes. Some simple cuddly peat in the palate. A little bit of pepper and sugar. No oak. Like the nose, it picks up steam with time, gaining citrus zest and zippy fresh ginger. The warm, long finish holds tart citrus and apples with hints of cayenne pepper and peat.

DILUTED TO ~43%abv, or 1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky
Peach candy, lemon juice, roses and confectioner's sugar on the nose. The sweet and mild palate goes easy on the pepper and peat. Some flower blossoms, citrus and ginger linger about. The finish is sweet and peppery with a dose of tangy citrus.

Many indie Bowmores read MUCH peatier than their officially bottled cousins, but this week's two Bowmores go easy on the phenolics. This one in particular is on the simple side (MAO did mention this bottle had lost some oomph), but it's dangerously drinkable. A solid autumn malt. The W-F whisky ducks are now two for two.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - €80-€90
Rating - 85

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Bowmore 13 year old 2002 Signatory UCF (casks 2166 + 2170)

I give thanks for independently bottled Bowmore, but apparently not as many thanks as other people are. During a recent European auction some 15 year old indie bourbon cask Bowmores closed at over $200.

Indie Bowmores are very good. I've bought a few. I've reviewed nearly 30 different casks. Of all distilleries, Bowmore demonstrates the largest difference in quality between its independently and officially bottled products.

But who the hell is paying $200-$250 for a 15 year old Bowmore? And why? Is this the free market in action? Or are there several dozen individuals goosing the whole thing? And why would anyone  bother opening up a bottle of whisky at this point?

Though my reaction, once again, illustrates how far removed I am from the modern whisky consumer, this Bowmore situation is a new strange strain of bananas.

How about an indie Bowmore?

Distillery: Bowmore
Independent Bottler: Signatory
Age: 13 years (2 Oct 2002 - 14 Jan 2016)
Maturation: refill sherry hogsheads
Cask numbers2166 + 2170
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
Colored? No
(from a purchased sample)

Stone fruits and cocoa start off the nose, followed by salt water and a mild minty smoke. There's also guava, lime and a hint of the farm. The palate is bolder. It's salty and fruity (especially lemons and limes) with a good bit of peat. The cask only shows up with a toasted oak note. The whisky gets sweeter and farmier with time. It has a solid long finish with coal smoke, salt, pepper and citrus. It grows sweeter here, too.

DILUTED TO ~40%abv, or < 1tsp of water per 30mL whisky
Mild peat, flower blossoms, peaches and a whiff of diesel in the nose. The palate feels bigger than 40%abv. Tingly citrus and ginger powder. Toasted oak spice, salt, quiet peat and a little bit of sweetness. The finish still has a good length to it. It's sweet, tingly, floral and peppery.

The refill casks here were gentle, but not dead, imparting soft spice notes but no fortified wine, letting Bowmore be Bowmore. A good thing. The peat, fruit, flowers, salt and sugar never jump out of line. It's equally good diluted or neat. While it spins no epics, its grammar is flawless. So you should probably drink your bottle. Maybe?

Availability - 
Sold out?

Pricing - around €80 at some point
Rating - 87

Monday, November 19, 2018

Lagavulin 12 year old Cask Strength (2018 release)

It's time for some actual Islay whisky royalty: the Lagavulin 12 year old CS. As I mentioned when I reviewed the 2017 release, less than four months ago, this the only member of the annual Diageo Press Release in Whisky Form (also known as The Special Releases) that I look forward to. It's also the only whisky from that group that doesn't change. It's always the same age and same cask type. The ABV moves within a 4 point range, but other than that there's little technical difference. What's even more important is that the quality remains high, year after year. Time to see (taste) if that continues in this year's edition.

Distillery: Lagavulin
Owner: Diageo
Region: Islay
Maturation: refill American oak casks
Age: minimum 12 years
Release date: 2017
Outturn: ??,???
Alcohol by Volume: 57.8%
Chill-filtration? Probably not
Caramel coloring? Probably not
(from a purchased sample)

The nose:
  • Part 1: Lemons, tar, ocean and sugar peat.
  • Part 2: Toffee chips, floral white peaches and green veg notes.
  • Part 3: Organic, earthy peat.
Underneath swirls of dark smoke drift bright tart lemons on the palate. Salt, dried thyme, mint leaf and cocoa sit in the midground. It's massively mineral. Everything is in balance in the long finish: dense smoke, mint leaf, limes and mild sweetness.

DILUTED TO ~48%abv, or 1¼ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
In the nose, earthy peat and dried herbs are on top, while grapefruit, guava and limes lie beneath. Sometimes the palate feels even heavier, peatier, more herbal than the neat version. There's also a rich fruity sweetness and tart citrus. It finishes with smoke residue, citrus, salty and savoury notes.

"Those fuckers."

That's what I say every time I try another batch of Lagavulin 12yo CS. This is the best, most consistent cask strength whisky Diageo has. It's irritatingly remarkable.

This release feels a little younger than usual when neat, but dilution solves any (minor) issue. Excellent stuff. Again. May they never change whatever it is they're doing, and also not raise the price any further.

Availability - Most specialty spirits retailers worldwide
Pricing - $110-$160 (US) 
Rating - 90

Friday, November 16, 2018

Octomore Edition 09.1


King Kong ain't got nothin' on me ... Right? 
--Lord Octomore
Editions 07.1 and 08.1 smelled great, but trended towards mono-dimensional violence in the palate. This was a surprise because I've enjoyed previous editions, and a disappointment because I've been considering treating myself to a bottle. I say this partially because 03.1, 05.1 and the first 10yo were very very good, and partially because Lord Octomore is looking over my shoulder... I am now being told that I will buy a bottle no matter what... Okay that's very reasonable, considering how cheap this is for 5 year old whisky. No, Your Eight-Flippered Glory, that was not sarcasm.

I should start the review now.

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Brand: Octomore
Ownership: Remy Cointreau
Region: Peatsburg
Maturation: American oak casks
Age: minimum 5 years (bottled 2018)
Alcohol by Volume: 59.1%
PPM: 156

Forest fire 😪, peanuts, soil and chalk dust in the nose. Lots of ethyl. Mint and cocoa in the middle of a peat bog. The palate is *whew* big and hawt. Very green. Dried grasses, tomatillo sauce. Er, peat. Bitter chocolate and burnt things. Heat and smoke in the finish. A little bit earthy and sweet.

DILUTED TO ~50%abv, or >1tsp of water per 30mL whisky
Not much going on in the nose. Peat, cinnamon, mint and horseradish. In the palate, there's a pinch of sugar and a bag of peppercorns. Dried herbs and dirt. Some tar, lots of tang. Smoke, earth and bitterness in the finish.


ALAS! Lord Octomore has been sacked, deposed, (allegedly) haggissed by those nice people who wave from their steering wheels when you cross paths on A846. Peatsburg is Islay again.

It's a good thing too, since 09.1 was not great.

Edition 09.1 has completed the descent in quality of each of these Octomores this week, and leads me to think the whole wine cask thing they're doing with other batches is a good idea. This edition has dropped below even *gasp!* Supernova levels. It's just hot, smoky and kinda limp. The nose is bereft of layers and fruit. The palate can't push beyond heat and peat. It has cured me of any interest in trying future editions.

Availability - Europe and USA
Pricing - Europe: $110-$160 (ex-VAT), USA $170-$180
Rating - 78

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Octomore Edition 08.1

Again. This sentence is required by law.

Look upon me and you will see greatness. And also virility. Don't forget to write the virility part.
--Lord Octomore
Edition 07.1 fell short of His Mercifulness's grandiloquent standards, though my saying so has likely put me at risk for a Royal Ass Whupping. All of the Octomore 08 editions were part of His Highnessness's Masterclass in mastery. 08.1 has an 8 year old age statement rather than the usual 5. Lord Octomore is generous.

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Brand: Octomore
Ownership: Remy Cointreau
Region: Peatsburg
Maturation: First fill American oak casks
Age: minimum 8 years (2008-2017)
Outturn: 42,000 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 59.3%
PPM: 167

The nose is more aggressive than 07.1's even though this whisky is older and has a lower peat level. Once the heat subsides there's some good stuff underneath. Smoked almonds, hot asphalt, corn syrup, caramel sauce and molasses. After a while, notes of lime, vanilla and ocean appear. Hmm, the palate is gentler than 07.1's. There's some sweetness and tart citrus. Consistent, persistent wood smoke. It's salty, savory and nutty. Red Hots candies. The salt and smoke get heavier with time. It finishes salty and savory as well. Moderate smoke and pepper levels. A little bit of brown sugar.

DILUTED TO ~50%abv, or >1tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The burn lifts out of the nose, revealing smoked fish, dried oregano, lemon and hay. There are also some distant notes of plums and guava. The palate has mild brown sugar sweetness and an aggressive chili oil burst. Underneath that are oranges, cinnamon and tame peat smoke. The finish, curiously longer than when neat, is all smoke, pepper, sugar and cinnamon.

I tried 07.1 and 08.1 side by side, resulting in more of a beating than a peating. My tastebuds were scorched until the next morning.

08.1 has the same issue as 07.1, the nose provides a full, detailed experience. The palate doesn't. With water, the nose gets even better. The palate doesn't. The palate doesn't do anything most other young peated Islay malts don't also do. And the finish, though lengthy, is a half step above bland.

The gap between the nose and palate is problematic and I'm hoping Lord Octomore will let me try one more edition this week. Though will that get me in even deeper trouble with His Many Limbed Graciousness?

Availability - Europe and USA
Pricing - Europe: $100-$160 (ex-VAT), USA $160-$200
Rating - 83

Monday, November 12, 2018

Octomore Edition 07.1


Though his competitors were more popular and successful, Dennis Octomore seized power through brute force, then dissolved all local governments and burned down the courts, naming himself Lord Octomore, el jefe de Peatsburg. He then had his competitors murdered, so now he is the most popular and successful and handsome in all the land.
Everyone who is not me is just terrible.

--Lord Octomore 
Thanks to the kindness of Lord Octomore, I am allowed to review Octomore 7.1. Peated at the ungodly brilliant measurement of 208 phenolic parts per million, it has the usual 5 year old Octomore age statement.

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Brand: Octomore
Ownership: Remy Cointreau
Region: Peatsburg
Maturation: American oak casks
Age: minimum 5 years (bottled 2015)
Alcohol by Volume: 59.5%
PPM: 208

It has a well-layered nose. On one level there are dried grasses, leaves and roots. Then there's sugar, cinnamon and apples. Then there's cured meat and a hint of horse manure. It's also tangy (if one can smell "tangy") like fermented veg. The palate comes in hotter and plainer than the nose. Dried leaves and hay. Loads of peppercorns. Salt, peat smoke and hints of lemon and anise. It finishes earthy and grassy, with plenty of smoke and pepper.

DILUTED TO ~50%abv, or >1tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose is full of sugar and limes, as well as eucalyptus and mint extract. There are also notes of jalapeño oil and burlap. The palate is all char, ash, burnt things. It's tangier and sweeter than when neat. Also some Tabasco sauce and smoked meat. The finish is hotter, somehow. Mint and char and Tabasco.

The combination of high ABV and stunt-level peating in a barely legal whisky is something I'd usually stay away from, but Octomore has always worked for me. Except...

Lord O is going to have my neck for this but the palate on 7.1 is both monolithic and moderate, if that makes any sense. It's huge but very simple. It's "Whew!" but "Okay". On the other hand, the nose is great, complex and pleasurable. Young but not raw. It also sets one up for a tremendous experience that the palate doesn't deliver. Yet I'm probably going to give this too high a rating because of the grand sniffer.

If His Lordship allows, another Octomore review will arrive on Wednesday.

Availability - Europe and USA
Pricing - Europe: $100-$150 (ex-VAT), USA $150-$200
Rating - 85

Friday, November 9, 2018

Glen Garioch 15 year old The Renaissance versus Glen Garioch 15 old label

This wasn't intended to be a Taste Off. I was going to taste the official 12yo and the 15yo Renaissance in the same sitting, which I did, but then I added the old 15 as an aperitif.

When single malt insanity began in my home (and worldwide), eleven years ago, the olde Glen Garioch 15 was one of my preferred drinks. It then disappeared within a couple of years as the brand was reworked. When I picked up a sample of the whisky four years ago, I was looking forward to reviewing the once reliable whisky, but then The Whisky Jug reviewed a sample from the same bottle and gave it a 57.

That gave me pause.

Years of pause.

When I added it to this weekend's tasting, it was as a lark. I wanted to rid myself of the sample. But the whisky wasn't terrible. So...

Glen Garioch 15 old label versus Glen Garioch 15 year old The Renaissance

Distillery: Glen Garioch
Ownership: Beam Suntory
Region: Eastern Highlands
Age: minimum 15 years old
Maturation: probably just bourbon casks
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
Bottled: 2007 or earlier
(from a purchased sample)


Distillery: Glen Garioch
Ownership: Beam Suntory
Region: Eastern Highlands
Age: minimum 15 years old
Maturation: bourbon and sherry casks
Alcohol by Volume: 51.9%
Bottled: 2014
Outturn: 12,000 bottles
(from a purchased sample)

Glen Garioch 15 old label (neat only)
Nose -  Apples, dark chocolate and burnt barley start matters off. Then there be lemons, grass, cucumber skins and fresh shredded red cabbage.
Palate - Warm and sweet. Vanilla, barley and confectioner's sugar. Hints of herbal bitterness. Little smoke, if any. It does pick up some sourness and cardboard with time. A brief whiff of perfume.
Finish - Mostly sweet and tart citrus. It gets sourer here as well, but not off-putting.

Glen Garioch 15 year old The Renaissance (neat)
Nose - Flowers, orange marmalade and pineapple. Peach macarons? Hints of butter and lawn.
Palate - It has two gears! First gear: Warm, not hot. Lots of toasted oak spice. Fresh stone fruits, as opposed to the dried ones. Second gear: Tart limes, ginger candy and a little bit of salt.
Finish - Slightly more toasted oak and tannins here, then tart fruit and chocolate malt.

Glen Garioch 15 year old The Renaissance (diluted to 48%abv)
Nose - The same pretty flowers and fruit, but at a lower pitch. Chocolate, dried oregano and barley.
Palate - Bitter chocolate with a dash of cayenne. Salt water and bigger tannins. Somehow younger, hotter and more aggressive.
Finish - Warm, but simple and tannic. A sprinkle of confectioner's sugar.


The old Glen Garioch 15yo is neither gross nor the solid reliable thing I used to enjoy. BUT. And there's always a but. I have no idea when this thing was bottled. AND. I have my own full bottle waiting in the cabinet, so I will return to this whisky. In the meantime, this bottling certainly showed signs of being a sturdy middle-of-the-road malt. Plenty of barley, low oak levels, some fruits. The key is to drink it within 15 minutes because the metaphorical roof starts to metaphorically slouch at that point.

The first chapter of modern Glen Garioch's The Renaissance shows well when neat. Good nose, good palate. Much brighter than the old 15. It also has significantly more cask influence than the current 12 year old. In fact, the staves come out swinging once water is added to the broth. (The hell is that sentence?) It's not winey, nor bourbony, mind you. It's just that the drinker feels the weight of the tannins pushing in. So keep it neat.

Still, I know which one I like best:

see that one's review here
Glen Garioch 15 old label
Rating - 79 (but don't tarry!)

Glen Garioch 15 year old The Renaissance
Rating - 85 (keep it neat)

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Glen Garioch 12 year old, six years later

As of 2012, there was a bar in Hollywood that used to have Yamazaki 18 at the same price as Glenmorangie 10. I drank a lot of Yamazaki 18 there. When they were out of that, I went with Glen Garioch 12, which they had for a great price. Though I was at home when I typed up my review of Glen Garioch 12, I did the actual tasting at the bar.

That was 2012. I haven't tried Glen Garioch 12 since. As was concluded in my review, I enjoyed the whisky. And I was going to buy a bottle. But as I watched its price jump from the high $40s to mid $60s within a year, I lost the motivation.

Garioch 12 is still in the low to mid $30s in Japan. In Europe it's often high $30s ex-VAT. So the price issue appears to be a US importer/distributor issue. Shocking, right?

Price quirks aside, I'm looking forward to trying it again.

Distillery: Glen Garioch
Ownership: Beam Suntory
Region: Eastern Highlands
Age: minimum 12 years old
Maturation: bourbon and sherry casks
Alcohol by Volume: 48%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No
(from a purchased sample)

The nose starts off with barley, green grapes and golden raisins. Then flowers and farm. Raspberry jam and yellow cherries. Almost no oak here. The warm palate leads with chocolate stout, malt and tart lemons. There's a combo of brown sugar, honey and cayenne pepper. A big barley note takes over after 20+ minutes. The very long, warm finish is all tart fruit, honey and barley

DILUTED TO ~43%abv, or ⅔ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose is similar but quieter. Malt and farm. No more raspberry jam. Plums rather than cherries. Hints of cinnamon and bananas. More tart fruit, fewer sweets in the palate. Apples and slight floral note. Plenty of maltiness remains. The finish is tinglier and toastier. Honey, barley and aromatic fruit notes.

If you live in a place where Glen Garioch 12 is priced in the $30s, then you're looking at one of the best bargains on Planet Single Malt. I'm not going to use the word terroir because who knows where the barley is coming from, BUT this all gently-aged spirit with excellent texture.

While this isn't the most complex of things, it is a pristine snapshot of nearly oak-free (and smoke-free) malt. After this point only more wood would enter the picture. Dilution is fine, but I think it works best at the generous 48%abv.

I thought I'd have more cynical things to say six years later, but the whisky is solid and I'm feeling almost wistful for official bottlings that aren't soaked in oak juice. There will be a bottle of this in my home in 2019.

Availability - Most specialty liquor retailers in Europe, Japan and USA
Pricing - Europe: $35-$55 (ex-VAT); Japan: $30-$40; USA $55-$75
Rating - 87

Monday, November 5, 2018

Glendronach Cask Strength Batch 7 versus Aberlour A'bunadh batch 60

Oh, sherry.

Oh, Sherrie. Un low. Hoes ah. Hoes ah. 


What the hell is Steve Perry singing about? And why can't he enunciate?

Too much Sherrie sherry, perhaps?

Speaking of too much sherry:

Glendronach Cask Strength batch 7 VERSUS Aberlour A'bunadh batch 60

Glendronach Cask Strength, batch 7
Distillery: Glendronach
Ownership: Brown-Forman (ugh)
Region: Eastern Highlands (on the edge of Speyside)
Age: minimum
Maturation: a mix of Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez sherry casks
Alcohol by Volume: 57.9%
Batch: 7
Bottled: 2018


Aberlour A'bunadh, batch 60
Distillery: Aberlour
Ownership: Pernod Ricard
Region: Speyside (Banffshire)
Age: minimum 3 years
Maturation: Oloroso butts
Alcohol by Volume: 60.3%
Batch: 60
Bottled: 2017

It's about time for this blog to hold a Taste Off between these two sherry-sopped titanic tots. And don't tell anyone, but these two batches are sort of recent. Shhhhhh.

The prices for these two are usually similar. Neither has an age statement, of course. The A'bunadh always has a very high ABV and comes from Oloroso butts. Meanwhile the Glendronach CS batches come from a mix of Oloroso and PX casks. The previous six batches all were around 55%abv, while this one is almost 58%.

With Glendronach's new ownership and this batch's high ABV, I don't know what to expect. So far I've preferred the Glendronach CSes over the A'bunadhs I've tried. I always want to love A'bunadh, but you can't force love.

Where does my heart beat now?


GlenDronach Cask Strength, batch 7
Nose - Cherries and a lot of alcohol. Gradually notes of flowers, orange oil and Twizzlers sneak out. Then there's citrus, berry compote and cracked peppercorns, along with hints of soil and grape jam.
Palate - Much less heat here than on the nose. It's fruity and sweet: honey, limes, red plums and brown sugar. A little bit of raw nut bitterness. Silky texture throughout.
Finish - It's sweet and fruity: berries and limes. Some fresh ginger and a touch of bitterness balance it out.

Aberlour A'bunadh, batch 60
Nose - Lemon sorbet, rosemary and pine sap start things out, followed by molasses, dark chocolate and freshly split lumber. After 20+ minutes in the glass the whisky releases notes of flowers, berries and almond butter.
Palate - Tart, warm and slightly bitter. Specifically bitter oak. Pine sap, lemons, dried currants and dried apricots make up most of the body. Gets saltier and more gingery with time.
Finish - Long, bitter, hot, almost numbing. Lemons, salt and mildly sweet sherry.


GlenDronach Cask Strength, batch 7
Nose - It's lighter now (obvs!). Fruity candy, chocolate, plums and black raisins. A hint of leather.
Palate - Still a sweetie. Honey, oranges, vanilla pudding, brown sugar and salty hard toffee.
Finish - Cinnamon, brown sugar, vanilla and cloves.

Aberlour A'bunadh, batch 60
Nose - Though this is the sherriest moment of the tasting, there's still plenty of vanilla, pine, ginger and lemon to go around.
Palate - Milder and more pleasant than when neat. Still some bitter oak, though. Tangy citrus, baking spices, peaches and vanilla.
Finish - Oak, fresh stone fruit, black pepper, vanilla and a floral hint.

Glendronach wins hands down. So if that's what you're looking for, there it is.

The A'bunadh was different than any other batch I've tried. Exposed beams, if you will. Lots of aggressive American oak. The spirit's fruit, the sherry and the wood never come together. Much like politics, everyone sits in his corner refusing to move. The elements cooperate better with dilution.

Batch 7 may be the simplest of Glendronach's cask strength series, but it's plum delicious. It's also one of the rare whiskies with a better palate than nose. It's moreish, an adjective I used to type weekly but haven't used in years. It's friendlier when diluted, but I like it best neat.

I'm not motivated to try another batch of A'Bunadh any time soon. Perhaps I'll check back in a couple years. Glendronach, though? Looking forward to batch 8.

Glendronach Cask Strength, batch 7
Rating - 87

Aberlour A'bunadh, batch 60
Rating - 81 (with water only)

Friday, November 2, 2018

Killing Whisky History, Episode 18: Playing Dusty Detective

Is your dusty bottle confusing you? Spending too much time staring at bottles' bottoms? Measuring your misery in milliliters? Then I'm here to help.

Now with 10% better audio!