Category Archives: Scotch Whisky

Review: The Arran Malt Devil’s Punch Bowl Chapter II – “Angels & Devils”

DevilsPunchBowl II Bottle Box 525x729 Review: The Arran Malt Devil’s Punch Bowl Chapter II   Angels & Devils

Last year’s limited edition Devil’s Punch Bowl from Arran was one of my favorite whiskys of the year, and it all but vanished from the market in months. Now Arran is back with a sequel — Chapter II, “Angels & Devils.”

This is crafted from a collection of whiskys put into cask in 1997, 1998, 2002, and 2004. A combination of peated whiskys and sherried whiskys are used to create the finished product.

As with the original, what a product it is. The nose offers an initial rush of malt, then fruit — banana and citrus — followed by a mild slug of peat. On the body, it’s warming but soothing, offering notes of peated grain, sherry, and toasty cereal. Compared to my notes (I’ve none of Chapter I remaining), the whisky isn’t as spicy and peppery as the original bottling, coming across as a rather more straightforward, moderately-well-aged malt whisky. That’s not such a bad thing. Chapter II has a wonderful balance to it that drinks just as easily, even if the story it tells isn’t quite as nefarious.

106.2 proof. Another 6,600 bottles produced.


Tasting Report: WhiskyFest San Francisco 2013

WhiskyFest 2013 is now in the books, and my what an embarrassment of riches this show was. While I heard grousing about the show not having as many hits as usual (most of the independent Scotch bottlers like Samaroli were absent), I managed to find a ton of them. Driven this year perhaps by a ruthless attempt to avoid lesser products (one industry bigwig, with all seriousness, suggested I give Johnnie Walker Red Label a try), it didn’t take much doing to suss out some really great whiskeys being poured. Who can complain when Julian Van Winkle is pouring his best stuff, after all?

It was quite the global event this year, with numerous whiskeys from Japan, Canada, and Ireland on tap that you don’t normally see at shows. And more and more craft distillers, like Masterson’s and Smooth Ambler, are taking to shows to give people a taste of something new.

Anyway, as usual it was a great evening with old friends and new ones – both of the whiskey and the human variety. Thoughts follow.

American Whiskey / Bourbon
Smooth Ambler Old Scout Ten / A- / some menthol, caramel with a dusty finish
Masterson’s 12 Year Wheat / A- / big wood, cherries, a fun whisky
Masterson’s 10 Year Barley / C- / funky mint and rubber notes, unripe banana, not at all to my liking tonight
Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit / A- / lovely sweetness without being saccharine, tried just to say hi to Jimmy and Eddie Russell, both pouring
Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Select / A- / a new limited edition from JD, the same spirit but aged in barrels that have been “grooved” with extra cuts to expose more wood surface; as expected, this is like JD, but woodier; not bad at all
Pappy Van Winkle 15 Years Old / A / still maturing, with a little burn
Pappy Van Winkle 20 Years Old / A+ / Pappy at its best, raisins, wood, big body… just perfect
Pappy Van Winkle 23 Years Old / A / you can finally see the age on this spirit at 23, where the balance is just starting to turn toward too much wood

Scotch Whisky
Glen Grant The Major’s Reserve / B / chewy barley and rubber bands
The Balvenie Single Barrel 12 Years Old / A- / cake, nuts, smoke, malt
Bruichladdich Cuvee 382 La Berenice / A+ / best spirit at the show, aged in American oak for 21 years, then finished in Chateau Yquem barrels; liquid gold, sweet and savory in perfect balance
Bruichladdich Black Art 3 22 Years Old / B+ / always a funky expression, bristly and huge this year, with a smoky, old-world character
Bruichladdich Octomore 5.1 / A- / is Octomore losing its ability to shock me? This struck me as plenty peaty but not overdone, with evergreen and charcoal notes
Buchanan’s Red Seal / A- / Buchanan’s first WhiskyFest; a peaty blend with some citrus and sweetness, good balance
Cutty Sark Prohibition Edition / B+ / a new release from Cutty; very mild, surprisingly malty, with fresh grain and wood notes
Glenfarclas Family Cask 1973 / A / hearty sherry character, drinking beautifully
Glenfarclas Family Cask 1983 / B / dusty with lots of wood; couldn’t be more different than the ‘73
Compass Box Great King Street Artist’s Blend / B / overcooked, unthrilling
Compass Box Delilah’s 20th Anniversary Limited Edition / B+ / bottled as a tribute to a famed Chicago area bar, matured partly in new oak barrels (rare for Scotch); bourbon-like character, peppery with lots of wood, caramel notes

Irish Whiskey
Jameson’s Rarest Vintage Reserve / A / always a standout, this beautiful bottling (~26 years old) features lovely spicy notes beneath a sweet core
Midleton Barry Crockett Edition / A- / a vatting of 7 to 22 year old spirits; more rustic than the Jameson, chewy grain notes, still fun

Canadian Whisky
Wiser’s 18 Years Old / A- / mellow, well developed, sultry finish
Lot No. 40 / B- / a 100% rye bottling, a powerhouse of rubber, pungent basil and cherry notes

Japanese Whiskey
Hakushu Heavily Peated / B+ / not at all “heavy” in my mind, good balance with citrus notes
Nikka Taketsuru 17 Years Old / B+ / ample cereal notes
Nikka Taketsuru 12 Years Old / A / great balance of grain and honey, a standout

Gran Duque De Alba XO 18 Years Old / A- / Spanish brandy; big coffee and licorice notes; intriguing and powerful
Gran Duque De Alba Oro 25 Years Old / B+ / a little overblown, same character as the XO, but just too much, too hoary

Review: The Balvenie Tun 1401, Batch 9 Single Malt

balvenie tun 1401 batch 9 525x700 Review: The Balvenie Tun 1401, Batch 9 Single Malt

The 9th outturn of The Balvenie’s Tun 1401 bottling (and the 3rd I’ve experienced) is one of its best. Like Batch 3 and Batch 6 before it, Batch 9 is another U.S. exclusive, but will still be available in minuscule quantities, with just 14 casks married to create this batch. The spirit is drawn from 11 traditional casks and three sherry butts which span “a number of decades,” though detailed age information is not available.

The nose offers exotic spices and incense atop a core of figs and raisins. The sherry is strong with this one, too, exhibiting an almost candylike whiff of orange jellies. The body backs all this up, in spades. In addition to all of the above — with sherry the most notable component — you get notes of leather, glazed walnuts, and a hint of tobacco. The dried fruit components complement these more austere notes just perfectly… call it sugar and spice and everything nice.

98.6 proof.

A / $250 /

Review: Laphroaig QA Cask and Cairdeas Port Wood Edition 2013

laphroaig travel tube bottle 04131 525x350 Review: Laphroaig QA Cask and Cairdeas Port Wood Edition 2013

It’s not every day we get to experience a new Laphroaig expression, and it’s pretty much never when we get to try two of them. At a recent Laphroaig Live event, these two expressions were introduced by Laphroaig Distillery Manager and Friend of Drinkhacker John Campbell.

The night started with Quarter Cask, Laphroaig’s fastest growing expression, now accounting for 25 percent of the company’s sales just nine years after introduction, then moved on to the new stuff. Maker’s Mark, which supplies the used barrels to Laphroaig which it uses for its primary aging, was also on hand to let us taste Maker’s 46 by way of comparison.

Here are some thoughts on the new stuff.

Laphroaig QA Cask – A travel retail exclusive launched in April 2013. Like Quarter Cask, this is double matured, but rather than finishing this whiskey in small casks it is finished in unused, new charred oak barrels, a la Bourbon. (QA stands for quercus alba, the scientific name for white oak.) Compared to Laphroaig 10 or Quarter Cask this is a much different whisky, immediately striking the palate with more of a wood smoke character than a peaty one. It’s chewy and bold — yet bottled at just 80 proof — a surprisingly nutty whisky with notes of coal, chocolate, and light spice notes — nutmeg, perhaps — with a little toffee and burnt sugar on the finish. The saltiness of Laphroaig adds balance and curiosity, but it’s far from overdone. At first it’s quite jarring in comparison to Quarter Cask, but its charms grow on you, and fast. Definitely one to keep experiencing and contrasting against other Islay whiskys. A- / $84 (1 liter)

Laphroaig Cairdeas Port Wood Edition 2013 – It’s easy to see why Laphroaig bottled this, which is finished in Port pipes, in a clear bottle instead of its typical green: The rosy orange color is unique and really quite lovely. Wow, one sip and this is an instant, utter knockout. It starts with sweet strawberries and cream, jam on toast, light rose petals — then that characteristic Laphroaig DNA kicks in on the back end, with its salt and brine balancing things out perfectly. The brain barely knows what to do with this. Is it Islay? Is it a strange Highland whisky? Is it a Port cocktail? The mind boggles, but the tongue is happy. Incredibly hard to put down, and so pretty to look at, too. Stock up. 102.6 proof. A+ / $75

Review: Johnnie Walker Platinum Label

Johnnie Walker Platinum Label 224x300 Review: Johnnie Walker Platinum LabelAt the House of Walker, it’s out with the Gold and in with the new.

Johnnie Walker, which has been on a tear as it updates its brand lineup (starting with the discontinuation of Green Label and the launch of Double Black), is at it again. This time, it’s a straight up replacement: Gold Label, an 18 year old blend, has been killed off. In its place, Platinum Label, a different 18 year old blend… that costs another $35. Well, platinum is more expensive than gold, isn’t it?

Like other JW bottlings, Platinum Label is a blend of malt and grain whiskies, this one drawn from 20 to 25 different distilleries, all of it 18 years old and up. It is a permanent addition to the lineup, replacing Gold Label forevermore. (Well, for now, anyway.)

Luckily, I still have some Gold Label on hand and, since it’s the closest analogue to Platinum Label, I had a chance to review them side by side. The approach here is shockingly similar: Gold Label was a milder, more restrained version of Black Label, and Platinum Label takes the same tact. There are some differences under the covers, though.

The nose on Platinum Label is straightforward: Clearly a Johnnie Walker product made in the house style, with a well-thought-out mix of raisins, citrus/sherry notes, and just a touch of drying smokiness on the back end. And yet it’s restrained and mild, not the forward, in-your-face experience you get with Black Label. The body opens up with a lot more character. Those raisins and citrus notes are juicier and more evident, and the woody and peaty elements in the blend come forward more clearly too, particularly on the finish. The conclusion is lightly smoky, with touches of orange oil on the tongue.

The overall effect is not dissimilar to Gold Label. The recipes are (modestly) different, but the approach is the same: Keep it easy, dial things back, make this a more delicate version of the classic Black. That is a fair way to craft a whisky, but I can’t help but wonder why I’d pay three times the price of a bottle of Black Label (and $25 more than Gold Label) for that experience.

That said, this would be a great gift if you can’t afford a bottle of Blue Label for your JW-loving pal (which isn’t really any better than Platinum Label, anyway), and I do love the revamped bottle design. Still, I’d probably drink Black Label over this any time.

B+ / $110 /

And now, for even more fun, you can check out myself, Geoff Kleinman of Drink Spirits, and Greg Mays of Simple Cocktails, dishing about Platinum for close to an hour on this badass Google Hangout video, shot this very morning. There’s lots of great information here about tasting whisky, Johnnie Walker, and our tasting notes on this specific bottling (as well as its prospects for the future). Dig in below, and try to ignore the weird thing going on with my hair.

Review: Dewar’s Highlander Honey

dewars highlander honey 71x300 Review: Dewars Highlander HoneyThe honey-infused-whiskey trend continues unabated with Dewar’s latest, Highlander Honey. It’s notable because — Drambuie aside — it’s the first honey-flavored whisky from Scotland. The ruckus its release caused is why “whisky” isn’t in very large letterson the label — although the bottle will look extremely familiar to Dewar’s fans.

A simple blend of Dewar’s White Label, honey, and unspecified natural flavors, it’s a solid addition to the honey-flavored whiskey market, particularly if you’re more into Scotch than Bourbon.

Let’s delve into the spirit itself. For starters, the nose doesn’t much let on that there’s honey in here at all. Fresh grain, some citrus, and unspecified sweetness all hit the nostrils. There’s even some smokiness… altogether nothing you wouldn’t get from a solid blend.

On the tongue, the honey’s more evident. Modestly sweet but clearly spiked with the stuff, it complements the natural sweetness of the Scotch without overpowering things with sugar. Of course, White Label is hardly the pinnacle of blended Scotch, so don’t go thinking you’re wandering into the top shelf. But the very light smokiness in the Dewar’s melds rather nicely with the honey sweetness. All in all, it’s extremely drinkable, laced with the light nuance of orange oil and a touch of heather.

Die-hard Scotch drinkers probably won’t think twice about Highlander Honey, but it’s actually a surprisingly versatile spirit that will work both in cocktails and even as the occasional after-dinner tipple. If sweet stuff’s in your wheelhouse, give it a try.

80 proof.

B+ / $25 /

Review: Isle of Jura “Camas an Staca” 30 Years Old and “Juar” 1977 36 Years Old

jura 30 years old 263x300 Review: Isle of Jura Camas an Staca 30 Years Old and Juar 1977 36 Years OldTwo new and very rare single malts from Isle of Jura, based on an island just a stone’s throw north of Islay. These are ultra-limited-edition whiskys just now hitting the market. Snap them up while you can!

Isle of Jura “Camas an Staca” 30 Years Old – 30 year old spirit that has spent 3 of those years finishing in Oloroso sherry casks. Pretty butterscotch notes on the nose alongside gentle coal fires and old wood. On the body, there’s a really surprising amount of grain remaining in the spirit, plenty of fresh, roasted barley character. Hints of Madeira and old wine are evident as you continue to experience the whiskey, with a curious mix of licorice, orange peel, and sea spray on the back end. Named for Jura’s oldest standing stone. 200 bottles released in the U.S. 88 proof. A- / $550

jura 1977 300x295 Review: Isle of Jura Camas an Staca 30 Years Old and Juar 1977 36 Years OldIsle of Jura “Juar” 1977 36 Years Old – Moving on up we get to this extra-rare expression of Jura (alternately listed as 35 Years Old on some listings). Finished in Port pipes for 12 months. A stark contrast to the almost youthful 30 Year Old whisky, the 1977 is a glorious revelation on the nose, full of fruit and mystery. A punch of fruit aromas hit the senses up front: apples, Bing cherries, blood oranges, and crushed raspberries — plus a bit of incense. On the palate, quite a bit of that Jura grain character comes across, but it’s well tempered and balanced with more of that fruit — including some tropical fruit notes. Over time, a chocolaty richness develops, leaving behind a long and lasting finish that comes across a bit like salted caramel. Really, really gorgeous whisky… and hard to put down. Named after the Yew tree. 52 bottles released in the U.S. 92 proof. A+ / $950

Review: SIA Scotch Whisky

sia scotch whisky 176x300 Review: SIA Scotch WhiskyIt had to happen eventually: Here’s a review of the first Kickstarter-funded booze I’ve received to date. (Yes, I’ve seen and invested in other Kickstarter spirits projects — and we’ve covered some of them — before, but this one is actually fully funded and has something that you can taste.)

SIA Scotch Whisky is a blended Scotch that was conceived in San Francisco by the young Carin Castillo… but is made the old-fashioned way in Scotland. While single malts are much trendier right now, going with a blend gives Castillo an advantage: She can use existing stocks of single malts and grain whiskey to hit the market right away, and at a lower price than a single malt. (No information about age or provenance is provided.) Sure enough, the project was backed in December and is already ready for sale.

So, how’s it taste? Not at all bad. It’s a straightforward blend, on the young side but tempered enough to be far from brash. Fresh cereal notes on the nose fade into a sweeter, nuttier body. There’s still plenty of grain influence here, but it comes across as fresh-cut rather than canned and mushy. Just a hint of smoke at the back of the throat. Some citrus comes along in the finish, almost like candied oranges. Easy to drink, but lacks incredible complexity.

86 proof.

B+ / $45 /

Review: Kilchoman Loch Gorm

kilchoman Loch Gorm 2013 750ml 161x300 Review: Kilchoman Loch GormKilchoman, by far Islay’s newest distillery, keeps cranking out releases — this is the 8th Kilchoman review we’ve published since 2010.

Loch Gorm, named after a peaty Loch near the distillery, is the beginning of a new range of whiskys from the distillery. As with the others, it will be reissued in older expressions as casks continue to mature.

The signature style of the whisky comes from full maturation in Oloroso sherry butts plus further finishing in Oloroso hogsheads. Initial maturation is over 5 years, though no age statement is offered.

The time in sherry gives the spirit quite a lot of color — and quite a lot of sherry on the body, too. The nose starts off with tons of smoke, backed with burnt orange peel. Sounds enticing, but the body gets a little messy. The orange is way overpumped, and the peat fire hasn’t mellowed one bit. The effect is something like drinking orange juice over a campfire. Not hideous, but pungent in ways you might not really be expecting (or desiring). Notes of cherries, heavily roasted grains, and light petrol character all pop up from time to time. Overall: The sherry seems a bit overdone here; ultimately I think Kilchoman is served better by sherry finishing rather than 100% maturation.

10,000 bottles made.

92 proof.


Review: Wemyss Malts Heathery Smoke 30 Years Old and The Hive 8 Years Old

Wemyss Malts Heathery Smoke 30 Years Old 168x300 Review: Wemyss Malts Heathery Smoke 30 Years Old and The Hive 8 Years OldTwo new whiskys from Wemyss — one a very rare independent bottling of a single malt, one a larger-scale extension of The Hive blended malt. Notes on both follow.

Wemyss Single Malt “Heathery Smoke” 30 Years Old – One of Wemyss’ more successful single malts (this one from Caol Ila), though I think “Honeyed Peat” would be a better name. This kind of age lets the smokiness mellow out, leaving behind nice honey notes, some floral character (the “heather” of the name), and a smooth, but still lively finish that offers a surprising amount of pure barley notes. It’s a smoky Scotch that doesn’t knock you down, a fire that’s burned down to embers, leaving behind just the essence of its coals. Worth trying. 92 proof. 272 bottles made. B+ / $245

Wemyss Malts The Hive 8 Years Old – The Hive is already available as a 12 year old blend. Now a younger, 8 year old is hitting the market. Perfectly reasonable, this ultra-light whisky starts moderately sweet and finishes short, an everyday dram for those who like their whisky simple and fresh tasting. This isn’t incredibly different form the 12 Year Old version of The Hive, though perhaps some of the flowery elements are dialed back in this rendition. It does not seem as particularly sweet, either. Not a bad deal if you can find it. 80 proof. B+ / $40

Review: Ardbeg Ardbog Whisky

ardbeg ardbog 226x300 Review: Ardbeg Ardbog WhiskyArdbeg lovers likely don’t need me to tell them about the Ardbeg Committee and Ardbeg Day (which happens around June 1), which sees a special release of Ardbeg arriving every year. This year’s is called Ardbog, a play on words which alludes to the origin of peat in Scotland’s many bogs.

Ardbog is a 10 year old old whisky — in keeping with the primary malt from the company — with a twist, as it is aged in a combination of Bourbon (60%) and Manzanilla Sherry barrels (40%). Sherry is common, of course, as a finishing wood in Scotland, but Ardbeg doesn’t do a lot with it. (Uigeadail is one of the few that does.) I’m not sure why, it really does wonders to the normally overpowering smokiness of Ardbeg.

Ardbog features a pretty and almost floral nose, balancing peat fire with orange peel, orange blossoms, and hints of raisins. The body is lush and rich, bringing together all of the above along with a salty, sea-driven backbone. The finish comes together with a fruitiness that is downright shocking for Ardbeg, which is normally focused on fire and brimstone. It’s a lengthy, luscious denoument, both easygoing yet complex and deep, inviting continued exploration. Perhaps my favorite Ardbeg expression to date.

104.2 proof.

A / $120 /

Review: Virginia Distillery Virginia Highland Malt Whisky

virginia highland malt 168x300 Review: Virginia Distillery Virginia Highland Malt WhiskyEades Whisky broke ground in 2008 with the then-bold goal of growing, malting, and distilling its own barley to make single malt whisky in Virginia. Since then, the craft distilling movement has gone wild, and the idea of making whisky styled like single malt Scotch in the U.S. is no longer a wild one.

Eades has been working along toward its goal (Virginia Single Malt is sleeping in cask) and the new company, now known as Virginia Distillery Company, has been toying with some other goodies in the meantime. First there’s the Eades Double Malt line, each a blend of two single malts that are finished in wine casks. Now, there’s this, a single malt from the Scottish Highlands that is finished in Virginia Port-style wine casks. In other words: Virginia Highland Malt Whisky is essentially a spin on an independently-bottled Scotch, a real rarity, particularly here in the U.S. Continue reading

Review: That Boutique-y Whisky Company Arran, Tobermory, and Tormore

tobermory that boutique y whisky company whisky 136x300 Review: That Boutique y Whisky Company Arran, Tobermory, and TormoreToday we look at a few more independently-bottled malts from That Boutique-y Whisky Company, courtesy of Master of Malt. All three of these are recent arrivals from Batch 1. Again, all are limited edition single malts bottled without age statements in 500ml bottles (and wacky labels). Thoughts follow.

That Boutique-y Whisky Company Arran Batch 1 – Beautiful nose on this Island whisky, fresh with toasted cereals and touches of heather. A much heavier grain influence than the typical single malt, but that’s not a slight. This Arran offers a richness and depth that’s common to Arran, with a touch of saltwater and seaweed on the quite lasting finish. Fresh and with a good balance of sweet and savory, it’s a solid whisky at a fairly reasonable price. 98.2 proof. A- / $62 (500ml) (Batch 1 sold out)

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Review: Chivas Regal 18 Years Old Blended Scotch Whisky

Chivas 18 225x300 Review: Chivas Regal 18 Years Old Blended Scotch WhiskyYou don’t have to drop $100,000 on an enormous seven-foot sculpture to get a bottle of Chivas 18: You can buy it, sans artwork, straight up.

Chivas, a bit of a grande dame in the whisky world, is far from the shoddy, workday blend common with lesser blends. Particularly at older ages — including this 18-year-old blend that includes 20 single malts — Chivas can be as regal as its name indicates.

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Review: Highland Park Valhalla Collection – Loki

highland park loki 200x300 Review: Highland Park Valhalla Collection   LokiThe second release of Highland Park’s Norse God-inspired Valhalla Collection is upon us, this one inspired by the master of mischief, Loki.

While lighter in proof than the massive Thor, the 97.4 proof, 15 year old Loki is immediately hot and fiery. Even the nose brings a bit of a burn to the nostrils, offering thick, resinous wood and tar. The body offers that and more, plus some maritime sea spray character you get from Orkney malts. Lots of smoke here, too. Sweetness comes more from earthy honeycomb notes, and a touch of orange peel, too. And there’s just a touch of gingerbread on the finish. Lots going on.

The spirit is matured in both sherry casks and heavily peated casks, an homage to Loki’s chameleon-like nature and a nod to Highland malts, too. Unfortunately, all of the craziness going on here doesn’t entirely lend itself to a balanced spirit. Smoke and sweet can sometimes come together nicely, but here the burly forest fire character muscles out just about everything else, which is unfortunate. Ultimately, Loki has its moments, but as Scotch goes it’s got a few too many hands in a few too many fires.

B / $249 /

Review: The Macallan “The Flask Edition” 22 Years Old

macallan flask 200x300 Review: The Macallan The Flask Edition 22 Years OldTo obtain this unique Macallan expression you’ll have to buy the flask that it comes with. Designed by Oakley, it is made from food-grade steel, then wrapped in a carbon fiber composite “treated to an intensive passivation and electro-polishing procedure to ensure perfection.” At last it is clad in “black anodized 5-axis machined aerospace grade aluminum” before, finally, a $1,500 price tag is put on it.

I can’t tell you much more about the flask, but I can tell you about the companion whisky that comes with it. Aged entirely for 22 years in ex-sherry casks, this single malt is a departure from Macallan as you likely know it. The nose offers a heavily smoky (but not peaty) character, with deep wood and nutty notes behind it. The body tends more toward dried fruit and raisins, developing quite slowly in the glass. The orange/sherry components you’d expect are there but, miraculously, kept at bay by some honey sweetness and a surprisingly lasting but dry finish. This is a really interesting expression but steps away from what you might expect from Macallan. Hope you need a fancy flask in which to enjoy it.

400 flask/bottle combos available in the U.S. (150 flasks — no booze — available in the UK.)

86 proof.

A- / $1,500 /

macallan flask 2 525x350 Review: The Macallan The Flask Edition 22 Years Old

Review: Bowmore Dorus Mor Small Batch 10 Years Old

bowmore Dorus Mor 185x300 Review: Bowmore Dorus Mor Small Batch 10 Years OldKnown overseas as “Tempest,” this limited edition of Bowmore has an unfortunate trademark issue in the U.S. so, for its arrival on our shores it’s been rechristened as “Dorus Mor,” a tidal gate near the Isle of Mull.

Classic, if slightly young, Bowmore, this Islay whisky is an iconic expression of what Bowmore does best. Eye-searingly hot at first, the whisky calms down enough to reveal an almost sherried character on the nose to balance out the smoky, peaty overtones. On the palate it’s got way more going on. There’s seaside character a-plenty — seaweed and salt — but also a surprising milk chocolate character, almond butter, and dried mango on the finish. It goes on and on, with a surprisingly creamy quality to it that really rounds things out. Plenty of peat on the back end too, to remind you that you’re in Islay after all.

110.2 proof. 2400 bottles for U.S.


Review: Auchentoshan Valinch 2012 Whisky

auchentoshan valinch 2012 127x300 Review: Auchentoshan Valinch 2012 Whisky2011’s Valinch — a cask-strength version of Auchentoshan Classic — was a real knockout, so the Lowlands-based distillery is back with a follow up for 2012.

This edition (still no age statement) offers a substantially different sipping experience. On the nose, there’s a distinct and overwhelming green olive character, tempered by notes of pine needles and brown butter. I can’t say I’ve experienced anything quite like it on the nose of any other whisky.

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Review: Auchroisk 30 Years Old Limited Edition 2012

Auchroisk 30 Year Old 212x300 Review: Auchroisk 30 Years Old Limited Edition 2012This final installment in the 2012 Classic Malts Selection whiskys is a fat old 30 year old from Speyside’s Auchroisk, aged in a mix of American and European oak.

Malty and woody on the nose, it’s interesting but restrained at first blush. The body brings out lots of sherry notes that you don’t really catch in the aroma, plus touches of banana, cedar, and incense notes. There’s plenty of wood here too, coming on heavier as you work through a glass. The finish keeps the lumber character rolling, but keep with it for long enough and you’ll find hints of cocoa powder to enjoy, too.

Solid dram, but perhaps showing the effects of a few too many years in barrel.

109.4 proof.

B+ / $359 /

Review: Glen Garioch 1986 Vintage Single Malt

glen garioch 1986 150x300 Review: Glen Garioch 1986 Vintage Single MaltThis is the fifth vintage-dated expression from Glen Garioch, joining 1978, 1990, 1991, and 1994 on the market. Bottled in 2011, it’s a 25 year old single malt from this Highlands distillery, and it’s a whopper of a whisky.

At cask strength, it’s quite a heater. The nose is full of intriguing notes from the baker’s rack, including gingerbread, pie crust, and light citrus fruit — but it’s filtered through quite a lot of alcohol, at least until it burns off a bit with air exposure.

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