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Thursday, May 23, 2019

Diageo's Game of Thrones single malts, part 2

I've divided Diageo's eight Game of Thrones single malts into two groups, sexy distilleries and not-sexy distilleries.

Sexy distilleries 

Not-sexy distilleries
Royal Lochnagar

The not-sexy distilleries' whiskies got their reviews on Tuesday, and it was a pathetic showing, seemingly a bunch of whisky Diageo couldn't sell in another form, with the only exception being the 12yo Royal Lochnagar. I hope the sexy distilleries' GoT single malts are better.

Oban Bay Reserve (The Night's Watch), NAS, 43%abv

The nose has a (welcome) musty edge to it. There are apples, barley, grasses, sharp cheddar and a yeasty fermented note. Like Ben Nevis Lite Lite. The palate is......where is the palate? It's inoffensive at first. Then it takes on a milky/cheesy note. Then it turns sour. Bits of peppercorns, sugar, vanilla and apple float around. The finish is sour, peppery vanilla alcohol.

The quirky nose was fun, but it all descended steeply from there. One is left wishing they'd matched the whisky with the packaging's dark, brooding graphic design. Instead the whisky is weak and flawed, trending towards middle-shelf blend territory. Yes, it's worse than than Little Bay. The nose is the only that keeps it afloat.

Rating - 76

Talisker Select Reserve (House of Greyjoy), NAS, 45.8%abv
(Oh no, "Select" and "Reserve" in one name?)

Ah, the first nose with character. Wet sheep, heck, wet sheepdogs too. Salty sea air, cinnamon, sugar and mint extract. More peppery smoke and white fruits with time. The palate has bolder peat than OB Talisker usually flaunts. And less oak than the rest of the Talisker NASes. Lemons, ginger powder, green peppercorns and a hint o' mint follow. It gets sweeter with time. A good finish. Sooty, salty, with a squeeze of lemon. A little bit of sugar and ginger powder.

Now we're talking. I had to get to whisky #6 before I enjoyed an entire sample. If you were let down with the entire crop of recent Talisker NASes, as I was, this may provide a little hope. There's less, I don't know, fuckery going on here. It's just young Talisker with the volume turned up. But unlike some of the indie baby Taliskers, this won't ruin your palate and your night's sleep.

Rating - 85

Clynelish Reserve (House of Tyrell), NAS, 51.2%abv
(They've run out of names. How about Clynelish Batch Strength? It's doublespeak, but it's not "Reserve".)

Complex nose alert! Soot, hay and coriander right up front, then lime zest and roses. Then there's a waltz of milk chocolate, dulce de leche and molasses in the midground. A little more heat in the palate. There's a lot of veg, apple peels and cocoa powder up front. Some vanilla and sugar in the background. Everything seems just fine until the whisky shifts into another gear with lime zest, cumin and minerals, lifting the entire malt. Those limey limes stay into the finish. Then honey, chiles, salt, stones and a hint of brown sugar.

A good surprise, finally. Several unpleasant young Clynelish have previously passed my lips. And I had thought this Reserve was just the cheapo version of the odd superluxe Select Reserve, and maybe it is, but it's good. Very good. It's not going to unseat the 14yo, but as another take on one of Diageo's gems, it's a success.

Rating - 87

Lagavulin 9 year old (House of Lannister), 46%abv

The nose is similar to the Talisker's but heavier and peatier. The peat is almost cruciferous, with a side of pepper-laden barbecue pork. Dirty chimneys and rauchbier. It picks up good cinnamon notes after some time in the glass. Smoked almond butter and crisp young peat smoke in the palate. Hell, it's industrial pre-Paris-Agreement climate-murdering black smoke. Also ginger candy, bitter chocolate and black peppercorns. It finishes with soot, bitter chocolate, ginger powder, heat and ocean water.

It's the large emotionally-warped older sibling of Talisker Select Reserve. And it's one note. But what a note. You know if you like this style or not. For those of you who embrace this spiritual preference, know that this 9yo ain't no 12yo CS, nor 16yo. But it's a good competitor for the more prevalent 8yo.

Rating - 85

There's a lot of mediocre whisky in this collection, and we're all shocked (shocked!) to find this going on. I sincerely hope none of you bought this collection at anything other than MSRP. There isn't a single whisky in the GoT bunch that isn't topped by the regular age-stated range. Some of these whiskies are crap, to be frank. Three are worth a look, at their original price. But that's it, unless you're in the US and must have a Royal Lochnagar in your collection. Anyway, if you want 'em ranked, there they are:

1. Clynelish Reserve
2. (tie) Lagavulin 9 year old
2. (tie) Talisker Select Reserve
4. Royal Lochnagar 12 year old
5. (tie) Dalwhinnie Winter's Frost
5. (tie) Oban Bay Reserve
7. Cardhu Gold Reserve
8. The Singleton of Glendullan Select

Now, Distell International, get on that The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel set! I'll be first in line for the Susie Myerson Ledaig Select Reserve.