Tuesday, December 8, 2009


While on the topic of San Francisco, I'd like to share some photos I somewhat recently took at Rickhouse, a whisk(e)y bar.

A leathery menu of fine whiskies/whiskeys.

Creative use of dismantled whiskey barrels to enhance one's drinking experience.

An original brick wall scorched by San Francisco's historic fires.

Various cocktail-creating accoutrements.

No short supply of fine spirits.

A "whisky" our bartender was quite enthusiastic to have us taste... The Balvenie's Single Malt Scotch Whisky matured in a Jamaican rum cask. While not terribly complex and more like a whisky-influenced rum than a rum-influenced whisky, it certainly was interesting.

My dram for the afternoon... a 17yr old Murray McDavid bottling of Mortlach

A: Deep gold to light amber. Slightly oily.

N: Lots of sherry and no detectable peat. Oranges and tropical fruits. With water, the toffee surfaces as well as a touch of peat.

T: Loads of malt. Plenty of sherry. Finishes with juicy fruit.

WhiskyFest San Francisco 2009

I apologize for the delay. My backlog of photos, tasting notes, etc. is steadily increasing and as it is, this post is almost 2 months overdue!

When we arrived, we were given a plethora of reading material along with our commemorative Glencairn nosing glass.

This represents perhaps less than 1/4 the attendees and booths. Most major Scotch distilleries that export whisky to the U.S. were represented.

Not at all surprising that Ardbeg had one of the most interesting booths. They were also serving the highly anticipated Corryvreckan due out in early 2010. Unfortunately, all the peat-heads pulverized the booth's allotment of Corry before we reached it (although now, I am far less bitter about it as I am typing this entry while having a dram of his heavenly whisky).

And also too late for a seat at Laphroaig's presentation and guided tasting...

The Glenlivet's presentation had several open seats. While initially disappointed, the presentation was actually quite informative and entertaining. They were also quite generous with their more rare and costly whiskies.

A Welshman in a kilt guiding us through the tasting.

Random thoughts on WhiskyFest:

1. Three hours was most definitely not enough time to try all the whiskies one would be curious about and have a sensible enough palate left to distinguish one from the other. If I were to attend next year's event, I'd have a clear plan and adhere to a self-made schedule.

2. Arrive early to the presentations which will obviously be popular.

3. I prefer a format where there are fewer whiskies to taste and more time to evaluate each one... and hopefully with a smaller entry fee!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Laphroaig 30yr

To commemorate a special event, I recently purchased a bottle of the rare Laphroaig 30yr from a private party for a very reasonable price. After engaging one another in a bit of whisky talk, the seller decided to pour a bit of the Laphroaig from another bottle for me to taste so I wouldn't have to break the seal on the one I just purchased. That "bit" wound up being a solid 3-4 drams! Cody, you're a true gentleman!

Laphroaig 30yr (original distillery bottling 43% ABV)

To date, this was the oldest whisky I've tasted so I took a few pointers on how to enjoy this dram to its fullest. After pouring the dram, I had a tiny bit of Glenfiddich 15yr to get me ready (something cheap and sherried).

A: Deeply amber. Fairly oily.

They say older whiskies tend to require more time to open up and reach their full potential... the better whiskies will evolve multiple times. So I waited with the Glencairn glass covered.

N (after 10min): A tiny bit of sherry. Mellow iodine and peat of Islay.

N (after 20min): Sherry sweetness is more pronounced. Islay elements turning briney and overall, mellowing out.

N (after 30min): Even more sherry. Brine calmed down considerably.

T (finally): Sherry sweetness, but something is noticably different and foreign. Malty. All the usual sea elements plus a little clam/oyster brine. Finishes with sweet fruits I don't recognize.

N (with water): More malt. More sweet fruit.

T (with water): Still sweeter. Fruits getting stronger... moreso on the arrival. Smoother. Still quite peated, but not as intense. Drying finish. Sea elements almost gone (tiny bit in finish).

As more time elapsed (into the 45min territory), the peat nearly disappeared entirely. The foreign fruits became even more pronounced and started to resembled papayas or possibly guava. The oakyness finally started giving off hints of tobacco.

This wasn't the most complex whisky I've ever tasted, but it certainly had the most unfamiliar flavors. The development/evolution was absolutely spectacular.

Hot Toddy, anyone?

I'm about a full season too early with this, but my friend Erik (who is feeling under the weather today) and I were discussing the medicinal properties of Hot Buttered Rum. Basically, the only difference between Hot Buttered Rum and a Hot Toddy is the underlying spirit (Rum vs. Scotch whisky). Using ingredients I already had readily available, I decided to experiment with a bottle of Isle of Jura 10yr I really didn't want to finish.

(l to r): hot water, nutmeg, honey, cinnamon, unsalted butter, Isle of Jura 10yr (original distillery bottling post-recent redesign 43% ABV)

What an interesting elixir! I feel better already (although I was not suffering from any ailment prior to consumption)!

However, next time I will modify the recipe slightly. A touch less water, a touch less butter, brown sugar instead of honey (or in addition to), and something other than Jura. Although in Hot Toddy format the Jura is quite a bit more palatable, I can still tell it's Jura. Most recipes I've seen call for a cheap Scotch blend, but I feel something along the lines of a Springbank will really make this wintery beverage something to savor.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Brain Dump

My backlog of whisky tasting notes and pictures is growing rather rapidly, I'm afraid. Bear with me as I struggle to recall a couple drams where I didn't have my notepad...

Ledaig 8yr (Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseur’s Choice 40% ABV)

This was a bizarre dram. It was one of the lightest and most delicate whiskies I've had in recent memory and had none of the peatiness Ledaig is known for. The bottle (once again) only had a single pour left in it, and it looked like it had been sitting on its shelf for years judging by how much dust was on it. Peat doesn't exactly just go away when a whisky oxidizes.

It wasn't particularly fragrant but had a reasonable array of fruits on the palate. Finish died off rather quickly. Perhaps a good summer whisky?

Benromach (Signatory)

Vintage unknown. ABV unknown. Un-chillfiltered with no added color.

This was my first experience with a Benromach, but its reputation preceded it. The Benromach distillery is owned by the independent bottlers, Gordon & MacPhail, who know a thing or two about whisky.

A: A light gold. Mildly oily.

N: Typical Speyside malt. Fresh fruit, a bit of sherry, and an almost indiscernible amount of peat.

T: Maltier and peatier than expected. With water, the sherry rolls back as the peat intensifies. Always a pleasure to experience peat outside of an Islay context.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Brora 21yr

Okay, so there was a definite theme to the NYC leg of this trip. Seek out rare and exclusive Scotch whiskies from silent-stills (distilleries that ceased operations). A little self-indulgent, I know...

At Hudson Bar and Books in West Village, I found a bottle of Brora 21yr that was not on the menu... with a single dram remaining.

3 Reasons to Visit Hudson Bar and Books

1. Ambiance. Lovely collection of bottles and books. Employees in Prohibition Era attire. Enthusiastic and whimsical bartender/mixologist.

2. Whisky. Good selection. Discounted prices on Whisk(e)y Tuesdays.

3. Cigars. The place to go if you like a cigar with your whisky. Not a compelling reason to visit if you're just interested in the whisky.

Brora 21yr Signatory Un-Chillfiltered Collection (46% ABV). Distilled in 1981. Bottled in 2003 (which concerned me because I didn't want a heavily oxidized "last pour"... there will be a future blog entry on this subject).

A: Light gold like the 24yr. Less oily as expected.

N: Difficult to gauge properly. Bar was heavy with the aroma of cigars and tobacco. Less alcohol burn than the 24yr. Lots of sherry and malt, like the 24yr. With water, nose became sweeter and more sherried.

T: Pepper, spice, honey, and juicy fruits. Less peated than the 24yr. With water, the spice and peat intensified slightly, as did the sherry.

Overall, the Brora wasn't as flat as I was initially expecting. It really was the more mild-mannered brother to the 24yr Cask Strength.

Brora 24yr

My first taste of Brora, a silent still, was at the illustrious Brandy Library in TriBeCa.

There are 3 good reasons for spending your hard earned cash at Brandy Library:

1. Something for everyone. Easily the most staggering SMS list I've seen in any bar or lounge.
2. Incredible ambiance. Perhaps a little pretentious, but definitely aimed at making the whisky enthusiast feel at home. Take a look (panoramic shot I feebly spliced together).

3. The most amazing cheese/bread/puff-pastry concoction ever baked. I really wish I wasn't drinking whisky at the time because the mouth-watering fragrance of this bread was wafting throughout the "library".

Brora 24yr Signatory Cask Strength Collection (60.1% ABV... holy smokes)

A: Light gold. Very oily.

N: Alcohol singed my nose hairs. Along with the malt, there was a definite savory element to it. Almost like meat. Definite sherried oak influence (aged in Sherry refill cask). With water, light caramel notes surfaced as well as more malt and a hint of something herbal.

T: Neat, it is INTENSE. Sherried oak, juicy fruits, pepper, spice, and peat. With water (and a little air), there's more malty mash and the sherry actually intensifies. To me, this whisky embodied the best elements of Talisker and Highland Park (even though both distilleries are Islanders and Brora was a Highlander).

Amazingly complex and it's no wonder enthusiasts, connoisseurs and collectors so rabidly seek out Broras. Sorry, but I finished the last drops Brandy Library had of the Signatory bottling.

Port Ellen 24yr

This was an unexpected dram.

We hiked to the world-renown Park Ave Liquors near the Grand Central train station to see if their SMS selection was as vast as advertised. A simple inquiry turned into their entire Port Ellen collection being lined up in front of me.

We're looking at about $2000 worth of whisky here. After engaging one of their spirit buyers with some friendly whisky talk, he brandished an open bottle of an unusual Port Ellen.

From what I gathered, a Park Ave spirit buyer hand selected a cask of Port Ellen from Douglas Laing's cache (a well respected Independent Bottler of Scotch whisky). It was presented to the public at a recent Whisky Live event in NYC as a Park Ave/Douglas Laing bottling. This is when the spirit buyer offered me a dram... who could resist?

This is from memory since I did not have my notes on me. The dram was poured into a small plastic cup.

A: Impossible to tell from the cup. From the bottle, it appears to be richly amber. This is from the heavy sherry influence.

N: A heavy dose of sherry (more than the Signatory bottlings I've sampled) and peat. Strong alcohol vapors. Amazingly fresh for any whisky aged 24yrs.

T: Sweet, rich, and peaty. All the usual Islay cues of the sea without the hints of age. Maybe not terribly complex, but do keep in mind I was drinking it out of a plastic cup, did not add water, and didn't have the luxury of time to allow it to reach its full potential. Bizarrely enough, it reminded me of the recently reviewed Lagavulin 12yr (a whisky half its age) than any Port Ellen I've had before.

Park Avenue Liquor, you employ gentlemen and real class acts. You'll hear from me when I finally decide on a Port Ellen.

Talisker 25yr

Howdy, my few followers. I just returned from an East Coast excursion involving plenty of Single Malt Scotch. I have many photos and notes I need to regurgitate to the Internet so I'll start with a dram of Talisker 25yr (OB Diageo) I had at St. Andrew's Pub near Times Square in Manhattan.

First of all, praise be given to St. Andrew's. Your malt selection is excellent, your optional pour sizes are to be commended, your choice of glassware is more focused toward the whisky enthusiast than any other establishment I visited in your fair city, and your tartan decorations certainly get one in the mood for drinking Scotch whisky.

A: Difficult to tell with the bar's lighting. From what I could tell, it looked lighter than the younger Diageo Taliskers. It is possible caramel coloring was not added. Beautiful oily Talisker legs. Bottled at cask strength.

N: Unfortunately, a hint of dish soap, but this is a common theme at most bars. Surprisingly not very boozy for being ~55% ABV. Lots of oak influence. A modest amount of sherry. Also surprising, hardly any peat on the nose. With water, the sherry transforms into a sweet mixture of toffee and apples. Still intensely aromatic.

T: Neat, plenty of alcohol burn. Instantly pummeled with Talisker's familiar combination of salt, pepper, spice, and peat. More sherried than the younger Taliskers. Rich, oily, and an enjoyably long lasting finish.

And of course, what dram isn't more enjoyable with good company?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

SF Trip

I paid a visit to The Whisky Shop in Union Square last weekend (in the back of WM Glen & Son, a Scottish gift shop). While the "Shop" was small, the whisky selection was impressive with numerous unusual 750ml bottlings. I also made a new friend, Mark Cassidy, the whisky buyer for the shop. As expected, he was a wealth of information, spoke with a heavy accent, and was a gentleman... all while wearing a kilt.

While stopped at Frjtz on Valencia in the Mission for refreshments, a companion pointed out an interesting piece of tiled artwork adorning the wall above the ketchup and mayonnaise.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Lagavulin 12yr

I've been anxious to get my hands on this lovely bottle for a while... the elusive UK-only Lagavulin 12yr Cask Strength (56.4% ABV compared to the 16yr 43% ABV). This is actually my first 70cl (compared to the American 750ml) bottle for the UK market. Apparently Diageo's been making a killing selling the ever-popular Lagavulin 16yr and never bothered importing its younger sibling.

Note: I started dating my opened bottles a few months ago to give me an idea of when to finish a bottle before it goes "flat". Also, I didn't already drink that much by myself. You all know I'm generous with my whisky.

A: A light golden yellow. Obviously no additional coloring which is unusual for a Diageo bottling. Adding water did create a little haze which suggests minimal chillfiltering.

N: Sweeter than the 16yr. Perhaps a tad more sherry, but noticeably more rich fruit. Smokey with that touch of sea air Lagavulin is known for, but significantly less ashy than the 16yr. The overall nose is fresher... cleaner. The alcohol sizzles.

T: Neat, arrival is sweet with a sharp fruitiness. Then peat and ash (yet far less than the 16yr). Nutty, spicy, and complex. Finish is long and satisfying with a slight oily mouthfeel.

If tasted blindly, I would have never guessed this was a Lagavulin. It is far too fresh and the Islay characteristics are present, but not overwhelming. If readily available as a 750ml, I may never purchase another bottle of the 16yr again (even if it was priced higher). Amazing whisky.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Nearly killed

via monster woman driving a monster car running the stalest of red lights. No whisky tonight... extra dry martini instead.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


I was recently enjoying a dram of Glen Grant 16yr (I believe it was either a DT or G&M bottling)... beautifully sherried with a touch of peat. Anyhow, I added a few drops of water and the wonderful un-chillfiltered haze began to form. It really started to open up and give off toffee notes so I hit it with another couple drops (literally, like 2 drops of water). Bam. The delicious aromas and taste flattened out immediately. Lesson here? Not all whiskies can take the same amount of water, even at full cask strength (59.5% ABV in this instance). :(

Monday, July 20, 2009

Ardbeg Supernova

The whisky that has collectors throwing elbows and older enthusiasts scoffing at the hype surrounding it. It’s Supernova, the supposed peatiest whisky available and yours truly procured a bottle just over the suspected retail price which is nothing short of a miracle (2009 General Release as opposed to the earlier white label Committee release… even as an Ardbeg Committee member, this didn’t automatically mean you could buy a bottle, but more on that some other time).

A: A light golden yellow. Due to the higher alcohol content (58.9% vs. 54.2%) and lighter color, I suspect the Supernova is a younger whisky than the Uigeadail.

N: Quite peated, but not the peatiest nose out there (surprising). Getting some cask (perhaps bourbon) and all the usual Ardbeg notes (earthiness and salty sea air).

T: Immediately peat, smoke, earth, sooty fire and rubber. Shockingly, I was expecting something far more brutal (as if my description wasn’t brutal). The level of intensity seems to be on par with Uigeadail, but a little less sweetness and a little more peaty fire… a more savory finish.

To be honest, I picked this up more as a novelty piece not expecting to really enjoy it. I was expecting something more raw peat bog-y, fiery, and quite frankly, destructive (think Port Charlotte). On the contrary, it’s actually fairly well balanced and dare I say it, I think I enjoy it more than the Uigeadail (my little whisky club agrees… half the bottle was missing after the first tasting :cries:). With the scarcity and current private sale prices, I’ll be a little more careful with the remainder of the bottle.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Scotch Budget

Let today be marked as the day I established a budget for myself (out of necessity) which makes sense while remains rather lenient.

Well, I tried.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I just authored my first Scotch related joke®

Q: What do you name someone who is Scotch-Korean?
A: Highland Park

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Glenlivet Nàdurra 16yr

I never cared much for Glenlivet. I foolishly passed judgment on the entire distillery based off of their cheapest, most mass-produced whisky (standard 12yr bottling). I first heard about Nadurra from an Absolut Mango spokesperson, bizarrely enough. After seeing the name tossed around a bit and doing a little digging, I figured it’d be worth picking up (certainly cheap enough).

First of all, interesting presentation. No, not just the lovely box and wrapping paper. The Nadurra is bottled at cask strength at a whopping 57.7% ABV. It is also non-chill filtered and from what I can see, most likely does not have any caramel coloring added (appropriately enough, Nàdurra apparently means Natural in Scotch Gaelic).

I was waiting for the right… mood to open this bottle. After the Glenfiddich tasting, I figured I’d give it a go since my palate was expecting something light and fruity. Nadurra was no such thing.

Appearance: Light and golden. Noticeably more oily than the Glenlivet 12yr.

Nose: Neat, was expecting 115.4 proof toxic fumes. But no, it had a bold freshness to it. Floral. Woody. Nutty. As it opened up (no water yet), it was changing quite a bit. Moving to a more toffee sweetness. More oaky than sherry.

Taste: Neat, it is oily and POWERFUL! Initially overwhelmed by the alcohol then the senses are thrown off by the mix of woody, spicy notes. Ever so slightly medicinal and get this… the whole time, it’s peaty! After water, it gets creamy and honey-ed with a certain spicy sweetness (like ginger). Finishes with a touch of citrus.

Amazingly well-balanced and complex whisky. Excellent presentation and totally affordable. Would definitely give pricier Highland Parks a run for their money!

Monday, July 13, 2009

I just discovered a Macallan 12yr I had on my shelf was bottled around 1999-2001. I just assumed it was a recent bottling and could be repurchased easily. I haven't had any of it since last Christmas, but I never realized how fine of a whisky it was until tonight. Quite sherried and opens up quite nicely!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Glenfiddich 12 vs. 15 vs. 18

Glenfiddich. Every bar has it as well as every liquor store. Why am I reviewing something so "pedestrian"? The lovely triangle shaped, colored bottles? The stag? While far from my favorite SMS, it was my first. This is probably the first time I poured myself 3 simultaneous drams... and the results were interesting. Let's draw some quick comparisons between these three recent bottlings:

12yr: $27.99 (retail); 40% ABV
15yr: $39.99 (retail); 40% ABV
18yr: $52.99 (retail); 43% ABV

Glenfiddich is not shy with their use of caramel coloring (just look at the ultra-caramely 15yr). What's interesting is that when poured, each is slightly darker than the previous. Same amount of caramel in each bottle or is Glenfiddich afraid of their customers pouring themselves multiple drams like I just did?

Oiliness looks about the same in each glass.

True to Glenfiddich tradition, each smells quite sweet. Fruity. Lots of apples.

12yr: Light. Airy. Fruit juice. Tea. After a few drops of water, fruit juice is more pronounced.
15yr: Most fragrant of the lot. Immediately lots of cask (sherry?). Toffee as well. With water, the sherry seems more rounded out. Toffee seems to calm down.
18yr: Slight cask (not quite sherried like the 15yr). Tea as well. With water, starts smelling like toffee.

12yr: Light. Fruity. Malty. Tiny bit of peat. With water, tea really comes forward.
15yr: Casky/wine-y. Honey. Richer than the 12yr and 18yr. Tea. With water, gets even winier. More tea. Can detect a hint of peat.
18yr: Richer than the 12yr. Wine-y (not quite sherry). Tea. Spice. Peat. Finish is kind of wonky/off (definitely coming from the cask). With water, it doesn't really seem to change at first. This one needs time to open up as it does get better. Finishes slightly salty and spicy.

It's interesting how dramatically different these three whiskies are. It's VERY obvious each whisky was handled differently (whether it be different types of casks or vattings or finishing methods)... much more than just soaking up an extra 3 years worth of cask. I'll most likely keep around a bottle of the 12yr or 15yr for my less adventurous guests, but hilariously enough, I don't think the 18yr is worth the money!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Talisker Distiller's Edition and 175 Anniversary

Here we have two less common bottlings of Talisker (one of my personal favorite distillers). Both are distinctly Talisker, yet have enough character on their own to deserve a comparison. Both fairly boozy bottled at 45.8% ABV like the 10yr and 18yr.

Talisker Distiller's Edition
Distilled in 1996. Bottled in 2008.

Appearance: Quite caramelly. Questionable usage of artificial coloring like Talisker's standard bottlings. Fairly oily. Moderately filtered.

Nose: Neat, fairly boozy, good dose of peat and salt. Not unlike the 10yr. With a bit of water, it instantly turns into toffee. Like candy. Malty. A hint of cask (most likely Sherry).

Taste: Neat, the arrival is quite Sherried. Plenty of alcohol burn. Large amounts of peat. Finishes quite salty. With a bit of water, it's more subdued. The sherry sweetness is more rounded out. Still tons of peat and salt. It's like the 10yr only slightly Sherried and less chili.

Talisker 175th Anniversary
A "blend" of hand selected casks to commemorate Talisker's 175th Birthday. Bottled in 2005.

Appearance: Barely lighter in color than the DE. Slightly less oily as well.

Nose: Neat, just as boozy. More gentle than the DE. Definitely smell more Sherry than the DE. With a bit of water, it's almost delicate. Sherry is pronounced. Hint of toffee.

Taste: Neat, the arrival is "winy"... not quite Sherry, but present from start to finish. Spicy and chili, but not as much as the 10yr. Not nearly as salty either. With a bit of water, it gets even "winier" with a good marriage of the peat and spice. Finishes slightly dry.

All in all, great offerings from Talisker but my heart stays with the 10yr and 18yr due to the heavier dose of peat/salt/spice and lack of Sherry sweetness.

NOTE: My understanding and ability to differentiate casks is quite piss poor. I can barely identify Sherry vs. Bourbon (vs. maybe Madeira) unless it's glaringly obvious.

Monday, June 29, 2009

You don't make a wee bit of sense!

Not really whisky related, but I nearly pissed myself laughing.

Link to YouTube

Thursday, June 25, 2009

On Peat and Smoke

At this point in my Scotch... voyage, I find that I know very little about peat and smoke. What I DO know is that I crave it (Laphroaig and Ardbeg: once great enemies of mine; now great friends)! I actually miss my sensitivity to the peat though.

Early on, when there was smokiness, I just assumed it was peat. Later, I discovered they are two distinctly different aromas/tastes (yet not mutually exclusive from one another). Worse yet, there are many discernible types of peat and smoke. All the while my peat sensitivity is being flushed down the toilet.

I believe it is still possible to tune one's peat and smoke senses, but not without education. If I ever learn, I'll be sure to share.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Ardmore 10yr

This is perhaps my most favorite budget whisky (can be had for around $40). Several of my non-Scotch drinking friends have commented on the wonderful aroma of it.

The bottle isn't particularly informative however. Sure, there's a cool embossed eagle in the glass. The label looks no-nonsense and straight forward, but where does it tell you how old it is (I had to find out from the retailer when I bought my first bottle)? There's also little information regarding what type of cask it was aged in other than it being finished in a "traditional cask". It does tell you that it is non-chill filtered and bottled at 46% ABV.

Appearance: The whisky appears fairly dark when you have a new bottle which would lead you to believe caramel coloring was added. However, once it is in your glass, it's a much paler yellow (or when the bottle is near empty). It is also fairly oily. When you add water, it does get quite cloudy, true to its word.

Nose: Probably the best part. Starts off with woody sweetness, a tiny bit of fruit, slightly herbal, and a fair amount of alcohol. Lightly peated. After adding water and allowing it to open up, the buttery caramel goodness starts wafting through the air and stays with the glass long after the whisky is gone.

Taste: A lot of the aromatic elements are also found in the taste. There's a modest amount of peat, maltiness, and spice. The caramel sweetness coats your mouth and lingers for quite a while.

Murray McDavid Highland Park

My next whisky... "focus of attention" is a bit off the beaten path... an independent bottling of Highland Park. It's the 2nd independent bottling of Highland Park I've tried (the other being a Signatory) and apparently there are quite a few others.

I like what most independent bottlers do with well known Scotch Whiskies. They do something a little unique (like bottle from a single hand selected cask or finish the aging in a special cask like this Murray McDavid), skip the chill-filtering and coloring, and possibly bottle it at cask strength (in this instance, the Highland Park was bottled at 46% ABV instead of the usual 43%). It's definitely something special for the Highland Park enthusiast.

Another benefit to these bottlings is the informative label. From it, we gather that it was distilled in 1989 at Highland Park Distillery on Orkney, aged for 18 years, bottled at the Bruichladdich Distillery on Islay in 2007, aged in Bourbon casks, finished in Port casks, and was limited to only 900 bottles which makes your chances of trying it... not very good. Doing a little research of my own, Murry McDavid waters down the whisky from its cask strength to its 46% ABV with Bruichladdich's Islay water source.

And after all that special treatment? It still tastes like Highland Park to me.

Appearance: Quite dark for being a natural colored whisky. Influence of the Port casks perhaps? Slightly more oily than Highland Park's 18yr bottling to my eye judging from the legs/tears.

Nose: Immediately sweet (not sherry, not toffee... perhaps more influence of the Port casks? I don't know... I don't drink Port). Malty. Moderately peated. Nicely balanced... just like Highland Park.

Taste: A delicious, yet sweet Highland Park. For me, it needed a splash of water. As the whisky opened up, the citrus and woody notes really came through.

Something Special

I was in the middle of writing about independent bottlers when I was invited to join my friends for a drink earlier tonight. Despite having the contents of a pulled pork sandwich dropped on my kicks TWICE tonight, this was an absolutely AMAZING evening for Scotch appreciation. I'll try to recount my mental notes, but many drams went back and forth throughout the night.

Isle of Jura 14yr

A special bottling of Isle of Jura quite unlike the 10yr or 16yr, this was bottled at 46% ABV and unchill-filtered. When my order arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to find it served in a Glencairn glass and natural colored!

Appearance: A light cloudy yellow. Obviously non-chill-filtered without any additional caramel coloring.

Nose: A delicious sweet vanilla wafer aroma with hints of citrus, salt, spice, and peat. After opening up, the citrus notes really come alive.

Taste: Surprisingly full bodied. Stronger emphasis on the salt, malt, spiciness, and peaty notes (although not as bold as a Talisker). A tiny splash of water helped the sweetness round out the whisky.

Signatory Port Ellen 26yr

Perhaps the most special whisky I've had to date. This is an incredibly rare independent bottling of a vintage Port Ellen (distillery ceased operations back in 1983 so getting ahold of ANY Port Ellen whisky is a rare treat). Port Ellen was an Islay distillery and it certainly shows.

Appearance: A light cloudy yellow once again. A non-chill-filtered, natural colored Signatory bottling at cask strength which probably accounts for the fairly oily consistency in the glass.

Nose: Immediately tobacco. Then very distinctive Islay notes of peat, camp fire, and sea air. Also hints of sour fruit and apples. The fruit and tobacco lingered well after the whisky was gone.

Taste: An undeniably full bodied, full flavored Islay whisky. Many of the same elements as the nose, but a heavy dose of tobacco, malt, peat, and sea water. Very little of the flavor is masked by alcohol, even at full cask strength. A couple drops of water brought the apples and fruit way forward.

My hat is off to the individual who covered the Port Ellen.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

WhiskyFest San Francisco

A couple colleagues and I are registered. Buy your tickets before Monday and waive the handling fee using the coupon code SFDAD

Link to Malt Advocate

FYI, it's the evening of Friday, October 16.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Ardbeg Uigeadail

Thank goodness the bottlers often include pronunciation guides with the harder to pronounce Gaelic-named Scotch Whiskies. I couldn't even imagine how badly I would have butchered this (Oog-a-dal).

Anyway, I'm starting off my blog in the deep end of the pool. I recall tasting the Ardbeg 10yr when my taste preferences favored lighter and more delicate whiskies. It was my first experience with an Islay whisky and I remember thinking it was possibly the most horrible liquid I ever put in my mouth. The peat was absolutely overwhelming... not to mention the seawater flavor and consistency. Surprisingly, after beginning to crave the Islay peatiness, my perception of Ardbeg's flavor profile hasn't changed much. It's still intensely peaty, but not nearly as devastating as my first run in with it.

Ardbeg Uigeadail. Bottled at cask strength at a whopping 54.2% ABV and seemingly corrected the shortcomings of the Ardbeg 10yr.

Appearance: Pours quite dark if this is indeed a natural colored whisky. I immediately noticed how much more oily it was in my Glencairn glass compared to other Ardbegs.

Nose: Ardbeg. This, the 10yr, and the Nam Beist all have that unmistakable Ardbeg scent of peat, a campfire with an old tire roasting on top, seawater, and what I'm guessing is Iodine. Unlike the other Ardbegs, this one sizzles your sinuses with its alcohol vapors. After a healthy splash of water, something different comes alive. It's sweeter, creamier... more toffee.

Taste: Intense. Peat explosion. Coats your mouth and will also numb it without water. Sweet notes like toffee and fruitcake. Mouth-feel is more rich and creamy than the 10yr. Flavor is less medicinal. Finish is a drying campfire.

The only Ardbeg I've tried that I'd buy again. If you're having a session with friends, finish with this one otherwise all other Scotches will taste like water.

First Post

I am not a Scotsman nor am I an ancient Japanese warrior (nor any combination or derivation of the two). I am simply an enthusiast of Scotch Whisky. Saying I am a connoisseur would suggest I have something valuable to say on the topic which simply isn't true.

Friends and colleagues alike have mentioned from time to time that I speak on the topic passionately and should start a blog. I think I just speak too much. Anyhow, here is the aforementioned blog!