Category Archives: Scottish Whisky

Auchentoshan Hepburn’s Choice 1997

1997 Auchentoshan 19 yr “Hepburn’s Choice” (K&L Wines Exclusive)
53.3% ABV
$80
Website

What the Retailer Says: Auchentoshan often gets overlooked in the new age of big sherry and big peat. The Lowland stalwart’s triple-distilled, light, and fruity flavors often have more in common with Irish whiskey than they do Scotch single malt, but that’s exactly why we love it! The longer Auchentoshan sits in wood, the more exotic those fruit flavors become, which is exactly what happened inside this hogshead from Hepburn’s Choice. There’s a kiss of sweetness right off the bat that’s lifted and bolstered up by the 53.3% ABV. The vanilla kicks in shortly after and there are cheerful notes of shortbread and oak spice on the finish. At 19 years old, this whisky is still full of malty character and by no means shows its age. Think of this whisky as a cask strength version of the Midleton Rare, but at almost half the price. With water, the fruit really opens up and flavors of caramel and king sugar begin to unfold. It’s a whisky that does justice and honor to the classic Lowland style.

What Gary Says
Nose: Clean, cereal malt, with a subtle citrus (kiwi & lemongrass) with fresh tobacco & tea leaves; just a hint of smoke.
Palate: Sharpens quickly with a pepper spice, and then sweetens to barley sugar, figs, tangerine, and a hint of nutmeg.
Finish: Moderate to long, and drying.
Comments: Classic Auchentoshan profile – at least from what I’ve read. I honestly haven’t had much from them before, but I found my tasting notes lined up pretty close with how they describe the retail Auchentoshan 18yr (which I often find the distillery notes tend to be overzealous – but hey, they’re trying to move product). While this is similar to their notes, and I imagine a fair representation of their offering – it isn’t right in my wheelhouse. When I first opened it, I was disappointed – but I’ve liked it more each time I’ve gone back to it. I’d love to try this after only the 2nd distillation, as thrice distilled it is just too clean for my liking.
Rating: Stands Out

What Richard Says
Nose: Green tea, lemon zest, and malt-o-meal. Water makes it a bit more grassy and vegetal.
Palate: This is lovely and much easier to drink than any other cask strength lowlander that I’ve had. Creamy and honey sweet with a kick of cracked black pepper at the end. A bit a water taps down the pepper and bring forward more a of an orange blossom note.
Finish: More pepper (even with water) and wood. Medium and dry.
Comments: Very nice. I really enjoy this whisky. I actually like it with very little water. The fullness dies quickly with too much additional dilution. A nice one for Auchentoshan and single malt fans alike. As referenced in the K&L’s notes, I agree that this might be something that would appeal to drinkers of Irish whiskey too.
Rating: Stands Out

RMW 40 Year Old Blended Malt

Royal Mile Whiskies 40 Year Old Blended Malt Whisky
Bottle 62 of 337

47.1% ABV
$275
Website
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What the Blender/Bottler Says:
Quite frankly, we are delighted with our latest exclusive Royal Mile Whiskies bottling. Three excellent sherry cask matured single malts from the distilleries of Glenrothes, Macallan and Tamdhu have been gently married together to become probably the best value 40 year old malt whisky available in the world today. We’re confident that in this age where any whisky with forty years of maturation can cost big bucks, this simple but elegant bottle (nice label, no expensive box) of unctuous malt will bring big smiles to the faces of many whisky fans.

What Richard Says:
Nose: Deep rich baked dark fruits, oiled leather arm chairs, and a recently emptied humidor.
Palate: A good bit lighter and more delicate on the palate than you would expect with old sherry monsters like these blended in. Stone fruits, jarred cherries, dark chocolate, sherry, and oak. It’s very tannic forward like an old wine.
Finish: Wood and pepper dominate the finish.
Comments: No doubt that this is a very nice whiskey. The nose on this is stellar even if the palate is a bit underwhelming. By all means, if it is in your price range and you like old sherried malt then grab one if you can find it. However, it’s not a game changing old scotch by any means. The value proposition on this for 40 year old scotch is great. Also it’s nice getting to taste a bit of history. That, and being able to have one of only 337 bottles too I’m sure.
Rating: Stands Out

Spice Tree Extravaganza

Spice Tree Extravaganza Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
46% ABV
$140
Website
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What the Blender Says:
As the name suggests, the liquid draws its inspiration from our Signature Range classic, The Spice Tree, but reinterprets it through the use of older components and a significant portion of sherry-cask aged malt whisky. The Spice Tree’s trademark spice character is retained but set within a richer, more elegant frame with a new depth of flavour and complexity.

Decadent and playful on the nose, you will find notes of sherry wine, dark berries and the fragrant sweetness of traditional sweet shops.

On the palate there is juicy red fruit, a dark brown sugar richness, the trademark Spice Tree ginger and clove spice character and an endlessly long, spicy, substantial finish.

32.6% First Fill Sherry Butt aged malt from Glen Ord
17.2% First Fill Sherry Butt aged malt from Benrinnes
2.6% Refill American Standard Barrel aged malt from Allt-a-Bhainne
27.7% Light/Medium Toast Hybrid Cask aged blended Malt scotch composed of 60% Clynelish, 20% Dailuaine, and 20% Teaninich
4.3$ Refill Hybrid Cask aged blended Malt scotch composed of 60% Clynelish, 20% Dailuaine, and 20% Teaninich
15.6% Heavy Toast Hybrid Cask aged blended Malt scotch composed of 60% Clynelish, 20% Dailuaine, and 20% Teaninich

Limited Edition release of 12,240 bottles worldwide.
Bottled August 2016.

What Richard Says:
Nose: Grassy, slightly bitter, stewed fruits and a bit of a sherry backing.
Palate: Cherry tarts with chocolate sauce, crisp apples, candied ginger, berries, and brown sugar cookies.
Finish: The finish is where the name shines. Loads of black pepper and baking spices.
Comments: Extravaganza for sure. This is an incredibly delicious whisky that oozes rich fruits layer with spices. It’s much more sherry flavor forward than regular Spice Tree but both fans of Spice Tree and neophytes will enjoy it. Grab the bottle if you see it.
Rating: Must Buy

Bowmore Darkest

Bowmore Darkest Sherry Cask Finished Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky Aged 15 Years
43% ABV
$70
Website
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What the Distillery Says:
Matured in an inspired combination of both bourbon and sherry casks, it’s the final three years spent in Oloroso sherry casks that gives Bowmore 15 Year Old ‘Darkest’, one of the most beautifully balanced Bowmores, the rich, deep colour reflected in its name, and its warming finish.

On The Eye: treacle dark amber.
Breathe In: delicious dark chocolate, sun-dried fruits and a tell-tale wisp of Islay smoke.
Sip: wonderful cedar wood and rich treacle toffee.
Savour: the robust and complex finish with a hint of sherry tannin.

What Richard Says:
Nose: A rich meaty sherry nose with just a pinch of salt sea air behind it.
Palate: Sherry forward with deep notes of treacle, stewed stone fruits, raisins, and nuts.
Finish: Dry in a tannic wine sort of way. Cocoa powder, anise, and a hint of salt.
Comments: I’ve got a special place in my heart for this dram. Bowmore Darkest has been an everyday favorite of mine for a long time. Almost as long as I’ve been drinking scotch. I never turn down a glass when offered. I generally find that sherry and peat don’t mix for me. Ardbeg releases are rife with examples of why not in my opinion (check the review archive). Bowmore Darkest is my shining example of how to do it right. For me it is the quintessential sherry Islay single malt. Give it a try when you see.
Rating: Must Try

Strathclyde Old Particular 1988

Strathclyde 1988 28 Year Old “Old Particular” Single Grain Scotch Whisky
(K&L Wines Exclusive)

58.2% ABV
$80
Website
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What the Retailer Says:
If there’s one thing we can help take credit for here at K&L, it’s been helping to remove the undeserved stigma associated with grain whisky in the Scotch industry. Maligned and misunderstood for years, it wasn’t until we started launching a number of 25-50 year old releases at ridiculously reasonable prices that hearts and minds began to change. When Nikka brought their delicious Coffey Still editions to the market and people saw just how fruity and delicious these corn and unmalted barley whiskies could be, we think grain whisky finally got over the hump. Crazily enough, today our single casks of grain whisky are some of the most anticipated by our customers. The 28 year old Strathclyde absolutely soaks up the vanilla from the oak barrel and brings loads of soft caramel along with it. At 58.2% there’s some power behind all that supple richness, which allows you to add ice or a bit of water.

What Gary Says:
Nose: Medicinal alcohol, very subtle floral/herbal notes with a bit of pepper spice; water opens up a bit of sweetness, but it remains fairly subtle and muted.
Palate: Creamy mouthfeel, sweet corn, molasses, a hint of vanilla and a vegetal note before sharpening; water brings the sweetness around to toffee without ruining the mouthfeel.
Finish: Sharpens, drying while lingering.
Comments: The nose is very understated; and a challenge to get past the alcohol – but improves with some water (which I’d advise at this proof). The palate is nice, and has that hallmark mouthfeel you get with older scotch – but it doesn’t have a lot of complexity. I was underwhelmed with my first taste, but have liked it a little more each time – and when the water is dialed in just right – it is a delightfully simple pour with a really nice mouthfeel. I hadn’t had a lot of single grain scotch, and couldn’t recall having any from this distillery before. If you’re looking for a 28 yr old single malt, this may disappoint – different whisky class for sure. But you’re not likely to find 28 yr old single malt at this price point either! Don’t regret this blind purchase for the experience, but not something I’d stock up on.
Rating: Stands Out

What Richard Says:
Nose: Buttercream and nail polish remover.
Palate: A fantastically rich, viscous, almost chewy whiskey with tons of vanilla cream and toffee candies.
Finish: Exceptionally muted. Without water you get a bit of heat and residual alcohol but with a splash it’s almost nonexistent.
Comments: This is a very odd whisky to experience. The taste is great but the nose is a bit off putting. The finish basically doesn’t exist so it’s hard to say that it helps or hurts the overall experience. For $80 though, it’s worth experiencing if you get the chance.
Rating: Stands Out