Category Archives: Scottish Whisky

Greatest Wife In The World

My lovely wife Elizabeth is the greatest wife in the world.  Why?  Well, today is my birthday.  I turned 30 today.  To mark this special occasion she gave me a very special present.  I just received a bottle of 30 Year old Highland Park Single Malt Scotch.  Yep, that’s right.  Eat your heart out.

How does it taste?  Matt’s coming back to Atlanta next week and we’ll sit down for a dram when he’s here (Matt’s also 30 for another three months or so) and work out our thoughts with a formal review to follow.  John Hansell gave it a 94/100 so you should expect to hear good things. 

Let’s from any of you out there about the great whiskeys you’ve  received.

– Richard

Gateway Series #9: Johnnie Walker Black

Johnnie Walker Black Label Old Scotch Whisky (12yo)
40% ABV, 80 Proof
About $35-40
Available pretty much everywhere

What The Distillery Says:
An acclaimed masterpiece of blending craftsmanship, the rich and smooth Johnnie Walker Black Label is an award-winning blend.

With a depth and complexity drawn from over 40 select whiskies, including the fresh fruitiness of Glendullan, the opulent Mortlach, the earthy Talisker and the creamy, vanillan Cameron Brig, Black Label…it is at once powerful, intriguing and unassailably elegant.  Small wonder it was Sir Winston Churchill’s whisky of choice.

What Richard Says:
Nose: Fresh cut wood, vanilla (extract not bean) and citrus notes that seemed to be a muted orange fragrance.  With water the peat that was so absent without water goes to the forefront.  The water actually disperses the unique notes and makes it smell like generic scotch.
Palate: Salty and smoky with hints of pepper peeking around the edges.  It leaves the mouth feeling brined.  Water opens up the palate a little and adds floral sweetness.
Finish: Smooth on the throat and a mixture of salt and smoke in the mouth.
Comments: I wish some of the more delicate notes on the nose came through on the palate.  It seems odd to me that adding water destroys the nose and opens the palate.  Usually for whiskeys bottled at 40 to 43% ABV the opposite occurs.  That said, Johnnie Walker Black isn’t bad and it’s always consistent.  I could drink this straight but I’d still probably prefer not to.
Rating: Average

What Matt Says:
Nose: Earthy, roasted nuts, citrus, and vegetal.
Palate: Peat, spice, grain, citrus, are the strongest flavors.  With water, some sweetness that I can’t place comes out.  It’s not really honey or sugar (or even burnt sugar).
Finish: Long finish.  Sweetness, smoke, vegetal, brine.
Comments: Not one of the best blends on the market, but a good starter.  Black Label is rounder and better developed than Red Label and more complex than Dewar’s White Label.  I don’t mind this neat, but I think it really shines in a simple cocktail or just with some soda.
Rating:  Average

Overall Rating:  Average.  A good gateway blend.

Summer Whiskey?

As June draws to an end we find ourselves in the midst of summer.  At least in Atlanta anyway.   I don’t think there’s been a high below 90 in the last two to three weeks.  With the change in climate has your whiskey drink of choice changed?  Now if you’re like me you have more than one bottle or favorite in the local bar so it’s not like you have to be exclusive to just one.  What I’m really asking is, does your desired beverage profile change in the warmer months?  Do you gravitate away from peaty Islay malts in favor of  whiskey sours? 

Personally, I tend to be a mood drinker.  I drink whatever strikes my fancy at the particular moment.  That said, I’ve noticed lately that I do tend to gravitate toward or away from certain whiskeys depending on the time of year.  Peaty scotches just seem to go with cold weather for me.  Maybe I secretly picture myself blasted by cold scottish winds on the coast of Islay.  Who knows?  Fiery bourbons also seem to fit well.  I guess I’m keeping out the cold from the inside out.

When it’s warmer I’m still not much of a cocktail drinker but my tastes do change.  Sweeter bourbons, Irish whiskeys,  and lighter Scotch tend to be the drams I reach for more often than not.  But again, all this is more of a general trend.  There are plenty of whiskeys of all types that I’d be more than happy to drink anytime of the year.  What about you?

– Richard

Gateway Series #8: Johnnie Walker Red Label

Johnnie Walker Red Label Old Scotch Whisky (Blended)
40% ABV, 80 Proof
$20-25, Available Everywhere

What The Distillery (Blender) Says:

Johnnie Walker Red Label is a rich, full-bodied blend of up to 35 of the finest aged single malt and grain whiskies.  Bursting with character and flavor, it’s the favorite of millions of people all over the world.

Its vibrancy makes it perfect for mixing – something few other spirits can do without losing their true character.

Red Label was first unveiled in 1906 by Alexander Walker as a powerful combination of spicy, smoky malts and lingering, lighter grains.  He called it “Special Old Highland Whisky.”  In 1909, Alexander renamed it “Johnnie Walker Red Label” in deference to his consumers who were already using “Red Label” as shorthand when ordering the brand.

What Richard Says:
Nose:  Apples and caramel.  Kind of like the candied apples you get at the county fair but not quite.  With water the nose opens up a slightly woodier character.
Palate:  Wow, this stuff is really boring.  It’s nearly flavorless.  There are hints of tobacco and wood but they are the faintest hints and then they’re gone.  JW Red doesn’t really taste bad, it just doesn’t have much of a taste at all.
Finish:  Relatively smooth (I would hope so with a palate that dull).  There is a little burn on the sides of the tongue and it leaves the mouth tasting medicinal.
Comments:  Scotch for the young’uns who just want to get drunk.  A mixer to add alcohol content to something else.  Not really worth your time.
Rating: Probably Pass

What Matt Says:
Nose: Smoke, leather, nail polish remover, caramel and vanilla.  Turns sour with water (smells like hangover vomit).
Palate: Less burn than Dewar’s White Label, but there is not much here.  Smokey (charred oak as opposed to the tobacco in Dewar’s) and a little sour.  With water, the texture firms up and some burnt toffee notes open up.
Finish: Nothing on the center of the tongue, but the burn lingers around the edges along with the sourness.  Water brings out the toffee notes in the finish as well.
Comments: I enjoy much of Johnnie Walker’s line, but something about the Red Label turns my stomach.  Dewar’s White Label is nothing special, but there is nothing stomach churning about it either.  If it’s a choice between this and Dewar’s, go with the Dewar’s every time.  If this is the only whisky in the house, drink beer or volunteer to be the designated driver.  
Rating:  Probably Pass

Overall Rating:  Probably Pass

Lordy, lordy, look who’s 40

I am a firm believer in giving and receiving whisk(e)y as a gift for a momentous occasion. On birthdays, it’s nice to have a dram that shares your age (although, at 30 already, I know that is not going to be happening a lot anymore). In my circle of friends, Johnnie Walker Blue seems to be the dram of choice for weddings and law school graduations (thanks to Diageo’s relentless advertising no doubt). Gifts don’t have to be overly expensive, but rare and/or unique are a plus. For something rare, unique, and undoubtedly expensive, Ian Macleod Distillers and Glengoyne have come out with two new drams for your special occassion. Here’s the sitch:

Independent bottlers and distillers, Ian Macleod Distillers, is to launch an extremely rare, limited edition Springbank 40 Years Old from its award-winning Chieftain’s Single Malt Whisky collection.  

And, for the first time in its 175 year history, the award-winning Glengoyne Distillery is to release its oldest, most valuable, and very best, Highland Single Malt: the Glengoyne 40 Years Old.  (from a press release provided by Whisky  Magazine)