Talisker 10 Year

Talisker Single Malt Scotch Whisky Aged 10 Years
45.8% ABV
What the Distillery Says:
APPEARANCE Brilliant gold
NOSE Powerful peat-smoke with just a hint of sea-water saltiness, fresh oysters, and a citrus sweetness.
BODY Full.
PALATE A rich dried-fruit sweetness with clouds of smoke and strong barley-malt flavours, warming and intense. Peppery at the back of the mouth.
FINISH Huge, long, warming and peppery in the finish with an appetising sweetness.

What Richard Says:
Nose: Rich, earthy, and smokey with a lovely sweetness in the background.
Palate: Smokey and slightly salty with a toffee like sweetness and malty backbone.
Finish: Pepper and brine linger as the other notes fade.
Comments: It sounds a bit pretentious but as the years progress I find it harder to find enjoyment in younger single malts. At 10 years old there are very few single malt scotches that I still enjoy. Talisker is one of those few. This is a delicious and robust malt that demands attention and offers layers of depth in return. As the price continues to climb in recent years it makes it harder to buy at 10 years but it is still very enjoyable.
Rating: Must Try

From Whiskey Boom to McConaissance

On the heels of the Matthew McConaughey’s New York Times interview, Richard asked me if I wanted to write a “Whiskey Manifesto” for the site after being long absent from the public discourse. Richard is right when he says the interview is crap and the video is damn good. I don’t know if the interviewer came in with a predetermined agenda or an inherent dislike for Mr. McConaughey or if everybody’s cooler older brother really came off that douchey. Also, like Richard, I bristle a little bit at the ad agency doublespeak about “selling.” Whether you’re selling a product, a story, or an experience, you’re still selling. Whether you hire a carnival barker or an ad (wo)man, you’re still trying to move product.

Most of my adult life, I worked at a place whose primary focus was selling “brand experiences” (not what I did there, but that was their primary focus). I spent a lot of time sitting in meetings where Creative Directors and Strategists would spout the same rhetoric about authenticity and not being “sold to” about Boomers and GenXers as they are now saying about Millennials. These are not generational affectations, this a fundamental human condition. No one enjoys condescension and a good portion of the buying public is smart enough to understand when you are talking down to them (and often when you’re talking down to other demographics as well). Rarely did the word-salad-faux-Ted-talk strategy sessions churn out anything but pandering and recycled ideas. There were a few inspired moments, but they were depressingly far apart. On the few occasions where I fell within the target demographic (whiskey drinkers for instance), the strategy often showed a fundamental misunderstanding of the already imbedded culture within the demo. These misunderstandings often went all the up the chain to the multi-national beverage conglomerate that hired us in the first place. Where the New York Times article feels like the Wild Turkey campaign is falling into the same traps I’ve seen a thousand times, the video suggests a deeper understanding, not just for the brand, but for the culture of whiskey drinkers. There seems to be a concerted effort not to alienate the market that already exists in an effort to chase one that may never coalesce. There is a reverence for the spirit and the heritage of Wild Turkey that feels genuine.

I’m not angry about the assertion that Millennials are the target audience for this campaign. Honestly, it’s their time. Aging boomers and rising GenXers gave us the whiskey boom, the micro-distillation rage, and the innumerable whiskey blogs. In a way, it’s up to that peer group to continue momentum from the initial ground swell. The ad agencies missed us while they were busy boosting birthday cake vodka, cherry flavored everything, and “whiskey for women”. I’m more upset that they missed the point the first time around than I am to be skipped over now.

I suppose, so far, this is more of a whiskey in advertising diatribe without much to do with whiskey itself. I agree with a lot of what Richard has to say, so I’ll try to be brief. He points out that “We founded Whisk(e)y Apostle on the belief that there is a whiskey for everyone,” and I still mostly believe that. I have only met a few people that have not been able to find a whiskey they enjoy and I think it largely comes down to a lack of willingness to try something. They have a predetermined opinion about what whiskey is (often built on a bad experience with some rotgut brand or other) and they are not interested or willing to give it another chance. It’s also quite possible that I’m wrong. I have a hard time with that though. I love whiskey in many styles and countries of origin. I love some that don’t even taste like what I would call whiskey and some I hate for the very same reason. Strangely, it’s often those weirdos that help me pick up the stragglers waiting to join the whiskey parade. Whiskey is such a diverse class of spirits, it’s hard to believe that someone could write it off in its entirety. I guess, when you are incredibly passionate about something, it’s hard to understand why someone else can’t find the same joy. Maybe McConaughey says it best when he says in the video, “If we’re for you, you’ll know.” I knew whiskey was for me on my first sip, but that’s not everyone’s experience. I’m also innately curious. When I find something I like, I want to learn as much as I can about it, I want try every variety, and I want to share it with others. Even if I don’t like something all that much, I sometimes test it out more that your average person would just to make sure I don’t like it. Not everyone has my sense of curiosity or experimentation. And that’s okay. I’m willing to do the research/testing and share my findings.

I only halfway agree with Richard about whiskey not being an acquired taste though. He’s right that people find whiskey when it’s their time. However, that first sip of whiskey that speaks to you often opens the doors to other drams (some you may have even tried before and didn’t like). Personal tastes change, but so does our ability to parse out flavors, smells, and mouth feel. That’s how you acquire a taste for whiskey, not from dogged repetition, but from finding the one you already love and branching out from there. Some folks will never branch out. They’ll be Jim Beam or Wild Turkey drinkers all their life and never try Four Roses or Old Forester or Buffalo Trace. That’s who the advertisers want; the lifelong, brand-loyal, everyday drinker. That’s not what I’m about, that’s not what Whisk(e)y Apostle is about. We are looking to share a dram with curious folk (in all senses of the term) and folks with a sense of adventure. If that sounds like you, pull up a chair and settle in. It’s going to be a long and beautiful night.

Glenlivet Founders Reserve

The Glenlivet Founders Reserve Single Malt Scotch Whisky
40% ABV
Glenlivet Founders
What the Distillery Says:
Inspired by our legendary founder George Smith, this whisky is an expression of both tradition and innovation.

Its creamy sweetness originates from the selective use of first-fill American oak casks, still so full of the Bourbon character their previous occupants left behind, and complemented by traditional oak casks. This sweetness contrasts wonderfully with the liveliness of zesty fruits, creating an expression that is worthy of its reserve status.

Colour: Pale gold
Nose: Citrus fruit, sweet orange
Palate: Zesty orange, pear, toffee apples
Finish: Long, creamy, smooth

There is a delicacy in the aroma that is infused with hints of citrus fruits, notably sweet orange. This sweet and fruity theme continues with notes of pears, zesty oranges and a hint of toffee apple, before a creamy, long and extremely smooth finish.

What Richard Says:
Nose: Grassy, citrus fresh, vanilla, and herbal throat lozenges.
Palate: Modestly sweet, grainy, and grassy but thin and uninspiring.
Finish: Malty fennel seed fading slow.
Comments: This latest No Age Statement line expansion by Glenlivet struggles to get traction in the line up. It’s very thin and doesn’t bring much to make you want to come back. It seems like a new Glenlivet to crush with soda if it wasn’t 50% more than the standard 12 year old. Skip the Founders Reserve and just get the 12 or 15 year olds.
Rating: Probably Pass

Edradour 10 Year

Edradour Highland Single Malt Scotch Whiskey Aged 10 Years
40% ABV
What the Distillery Says:
Despite being so small Edradour produces more whiskies than most other distilleries. Owner since 2002, Master of the Quaich Andrew Symington has expertly used the spirit from our small stills, matured in the highest quality oak wood, to create a stunning and diverse range of single malts.

The ten year old Edradour is handmade and one of the last Single Malt Whiskies from a traditional farm distillery still in production today. The methods of production remain virtually unchanged in the last 150 years and are only just capable of commercial quantities. Indeed Edradour Distillery makes as much whisky in a year as most distilleries produce in a week. A rare pleasure for a fortunate few.

Aged in a combination of Oloroso Sherry and Bourbon casks. Chillfiltered at 40% ABV.

Nose: Hints of dried fruits, Oloroso and almonds
Palate: Spicy Christmas cake, sweet golden syrup with a touch of honeyed almonds. A distinctive, old fashioned, rich mouth feel coming from the small copper farm stills
Finish: Oaky, soft spices, mellow and warming

What Richard Says:
Nose: Dried herbal potpourri, sherry, and a meaty nutty backing.
Palate: The rich sweetness of (good) fruit cake drizzled with a sherry reduction at first that then moves into a bitter almond and malt dryness.
Finish: Dry, nutty, spicy, and woody finish of medium length.
Comments: This is a rich sherry dominated expression that punches well above its weight. As I get older and drink more whiskies I find that what I’m looking for in a good single malt is hard to find in the 10 year age range. There are a few exceptions (Laphroaig Cask Strength 10 Year Old, Talisker 10 Year Old, and Springbank 10 Year Old) and I think is another to add to that list. It drinks well above its age and is a deeply satisfying dram.
Rating: Must Try

The Circus

The Circus Blended Scotch Whisky
49% ABV
The Circus
What the Blender Says:
I have a longstanding belief that there is a magic to certain combinations of Scotch whisky. Such blends – like the very best of circuses – have the capacity to take us outside of ourselves for just a moment, to elevate the senses beyond the everyday and – following the sentiment of Charlie Chaplin’s immortal clown – to raise our eyes upwards to consider horizons new.

Such is the case with this whisky, for which we were lucky enough to uncover that rarest of finds – old parcels of Blended Scotch and Blended Grain whisky that had been aged pre-blended in cask for many years. In such parcels, what you get are whisky blends so seamless, so complex that they function for us as single components.

We know little of the component distillery whiskies used in these blends for The Circus, only that they contain both single malt and single grain whiskies and that the ‘marrying casks’ are sherry butts. However, the provenance of the components isn’t important to us now, as what we have are old casks containing whiskies that are extraordinary.

Availability: Limited Edition release of 2,490 bottles worldwide. Bottled March 2016.
Flavour Descriptors: A lithe frame and opulent mouthfeel showcasing the supple softness of mature grain and the complexity of aged Blended Scotch Whisky. Brimming with dried fruit character, a luscious maltiness and
nuances of almond and hazelnut.
Recommendations: Like all the best circuses, this whisky is transient, ephemeral – in town for one night only. We recommend it for celebrations, moments of optimism, one-of-akind events – those fleeting moments all the more precious in the knowledge that they can never be repeated.
Bottling Details: Bottled at 49%, Not chill-filtered, Natural colour

What Richard Says:
Nose: Slightly musty with a nutty, malty, dark fruit nose.
Palate: Sweet stone fruit flavors backed by a nutty backbone. The sherry is definitely there but it doesn’t over power. Instead it wraps up all the components in a delicious embrace.
Finish: It finishes a little dry and woody and you would expect that for scotch of this age.
Comments: Damn delicious for sure. The Circus stands above just about any other blended scotch out there that you can get for $250. If you are fortunate enough to come across one of the less than 2,500 bottles available throughout the world then you should jump on it. It’s not on the level of The General from a couple years ago but it is still exceptionally impressive. Where John Glaser gets his hands on whiskies like this I have no idea. But thankfully he can and he shares those whiskies, and his art, with the world.
Rating: Must Buy