Tasting with WhiskyEDU’s A-to-Z of Scottish Distilleries Series

Tasting with WhiskyEDU’s A-to-Z of Scottish Distilleries Series

WhiskyEDU is a Whiskies of the World spinoff — a nonprofit, actually — that is focused on, you guessed it, whisky education. Its latest trick is an ambitious tasting series whose goal is singular: To sample product from 162 Scottish distilleries — nearly every single distillery in the country in existence after World War II. That doesn’t just include active ones, but silent stills as well. Someone nudge me when Brora comes up.

The tastings are done virtually over Zoom, held every two weeks, where six samples are poured and shared with a dozen or so whisky enthusiasts and professional leadership. The full range of whisky styles is covered, and the bottles are fairly luxe, as you’ll see in my tasting notes from a recent session to which I was lucky enough to garner an invitation. The series just wrapped its 16th installment, so while it’s over halfway through the list, there’s still plenty of room left if you want to try to hop on. Tastings kits include six 1-ounce pours and cost $140 — a pretty great deal when you see the prices of the bottles included.

Tasting notes from my recent round with WhiskyEDU follow. Prices reflect actual prices paid for the sample bottle, including shipping (often from overseas).

William Cadenhead Caledonian Single Grain 33 Years Old – Very sweet, nougat, lots of cereal on the nose, making for a very classic single grain offering, with a sour apple note on the nose. Clean on the palate, not nearly as sweet as the nose would indicate, with a healthy layer of fruit that lingers well into the finish. A decadent breakfast cereal, with a gentle, enduring finish. Quiet and nuanced, making for a top single grain offering from an iconic silent still. 87.8 proof. A- / $284

Douglas Laing’s XOP Garnheath Single Grain 44 Years Old – Another single grain from a distillery I’d never heard of, distilled in 1974. Radically different and a lot more austere, much woodier and toastier than the Caledonian, both on the nose and the palate. It’s a little less nuanced, but much more flavorful, with a strong chocolate and heavy toast element. Finishes with interesting notes of black fruit. One to keep going back to. 95.6 proof. A- / $481

Samaroli Tormore 21 Years Old – A Speyside single malt that mainly goes into Ballantine’s, though not at 21 years of age. Unknown cask types are used. Quite unusual, bursting with fruit on the nose — stone fruit, tropical fruit, some mint notes — which all double down on the palate, where those tropical notes go into overdrive. Toffee notes linger, plus some barrel char. Those looking for a delicate Speyside won’t find it here. 100 proof. A- / $546

Loch Lomond 20 Years Old “The Open Course” Royal St. George – Matured in multiple types of American oak casks, then (bizarrely) partially finished in virgin oak. A golf-themed release. Quiet nose, featuring light fruit and light cereal, with some camphor astringency. The palate is heavy with oak, with lots of char, that virgin oak really doing some damage to what could otherwise have been a delicate spirit. Any of the fruity notes from the nose are washed away here, sadly. The finish is DOA. Not awful, but forgettable. 92 proof. B- / $240

Balblair 1991 27 Years Old 3rd Release – Aged in bourbon and sherry casks, an old release from when Balblair was doing vintage dating. Almost a classic sherry bomb (though it’s not all aged in sherry casks). Big citrus peel, berries, and glazed nuts on the nose. The palate remains sharp, lemon peel and orange giving way, ever so slightly, to notes of toasted nuts, a slight licorice note, and maybe a grind of white pepper. My favorite whisky in this lineup. 92 proof. A / $261

Isle of Raasay 3 Years Old – Isle of Raasay is a new distillery and the only distillery on this tiny island (and probably one of the only businesses, as the population of the island is 161 people). This is the first official distillery release from Raasay — now legally “Scotch” after 3 years in barrel — a mix of peated and unpeated whisky, aged in a mix of rye whiskey, Chinkapin oak, and Bordeaux red wine casks (whaaaat?). This stuff is crazy. Peat is strong on the nose, along with black pepper — nothing striking at first. The palate, however, is bizarre. Peppery and herbal, it hits with a distinct tequila note, its heavily herbal notes lingering well into the finish. I initially hated this, but came around to appreciate the thing, fitfully, after some time with it. 92.8 proof. B- / $115

whiskyedu.org/whisky-tasting-events/

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