Category Archives: Scottish Whisky

Glen Garioch 15 Year

43% ABV/86 Proof
Available in the United States and Europe – $45 to $55

What the distillery says:

Honey in color. Medium-bodied with hints of lavender and oak with a syrup sweetness. Long, mellow and very sumptuous finish.

What Matt says:

Nose: Heather, dulce de leche, trace hints of smoke
Palate: Clean palate with honey, vanilla, peat, cardamom, and what I could only assume is sherry.
Finish: Medium-long finish. The peat asserts itself here with a little alcohol and vanilla.
Comments: A very respectable Highland Malt. Fairly typical, which is to say good. Richard sent me this, so I don’t know much about it. I’m assuming that it spent some time in a sherry cask based on the flavor and color. Among the broad spectrum of all whiskies, I would say this is slightly above average, but does not quite stand out.
Rating: Average

What Richard says:

Nose: Tobacco, cedar, orange blossoms and a slight hint of vanilla.
Palate: Spicy and smoky but with a light bit of sweetness.  All of this is layed on a foundation or earthiness.
Finish: The finish gives me a bit of briney peat and alcohol burn.
Comments: I really find this dram uninspiring.  It was the last “blind buy” that I made, meaning bought without tasting or hearing anything about it.  It’s not particulary bad.  It just doesn’t make me want a 2nd dram.
Rating: Average

Overall Rating: Average

UPDATE 1/26/10: As this is now a discontinued version of Glen Garioch replaced with a 12 Year Old we’ve moved this to The Collector’s Cabinet

Glenkinchie 12 Year Old

43% ABV/86 Proof
Available in the United States and Europe – $45 to $50

What the distillery says:

Subtly sophisticated Lowland is a superb pre-dinner drink; try it taken straight from teh freezer.  Pale gold in appearance.  It has a light sweet nose with barley-malt, green grass and wispos of autumn smoke.  The body is firm and light.  The palate is slightly sweet yet fresh, late summer fruits and harvest fields, young wood and malted barley.  A suprising dry finish with a smoky spiciness.

What Matt says:

Nose: Light, sweet (cereal and honey), fresh cut grass, with a trace of smoke.
Palate: Very floral, citrus, honey, over-ripe fruit
Finish: A little spice, some alcohol and sweetness.
Comments: More complex and interesting than your average lowland malt, this is an everyday kind of malt. While none of the flavors are terribly bold, this is a good dram. A great intro into single malt Scotch.
Rating: Stands Out (among Lowlands)

What Richard says:

Nose: Grassy with light hints of fruity sweetness.
Palate: Mellowed and muted flavor.  Slight hint of iodine on the rear of the palate.  As the flavor begins to clear it leave a malted barley after taste that’s very beer like.  Almost like an IPA.
Finish: Smooth, mellow, little about the finish stands out.
Comments: Glenkinchie is a lowland malt.  As such you expect the category to be mellowed with a less drastic flavor profile than malts from other areas of Scotland.  Glenkinchie holds true to this.  Nothing really stands out.  When you’re done with the dram it’s almost like it was never there.  Nothing offensive in this whisky but nothing to write home about either.  That being said, the 12 Year Old is Diageo’s replacement to the 10 Year Old in the Classic Malts range and I do note improvement from the additional years.
Rating: Average

Overall Rating: Average

Ardbeg 10 Year Old

46% ABV/92 Proof Non Chill-Filtered
Available in the United States and Europe – $65 to $70

What the distillery says:
Ardbeg Ten Years Old is a very special bottling for the Ardbeg distillery as it is the first non-chill filtered whisky in the Ardbeg range. Chill filtering isn`t a bad thing, in fact it created real consistency of product when the whisky industry was a little more `hap-hazard` than it is today. Ardbeg Ten Years Old is whisky with none of the goodness taken out and as good as straight from the cask (a little misleading – straight from the cask would be closer to 120 proof – Matt).

What Richard says:
Nose: Peat, burning driftwood, garden compost, hints of vanilla and a slight floral undertone. Heather maybe? With water the nose loses the more delicate floral and vanilla hints and turns much spicier.
Palate: Seaweed caresses the tongue and moves back leaving a heavy brine. The lightest trace of sweetness is quickly ran out of town by the salty sea.
Finish: Very smooth on the throat but the lingering brine is so strong it leaves your tongue feeling thoroughly salted. More trace hints of vanilla as the whisky clears the palate.
Comments:Definitely one of the heavier dives into Islay. This Ardbeg is a peaty briney firestorm and it’s only the 10 Year! Ardbeg is a dram of the elements.
Rating: Stands out

What Matt says:
Nose: Peat, leather, caramelized plums, brine and a hint of sweet bourbon (think Basil Hayden’s more than Maker’s Mark)
Palate:Lightly peated compared to some other Islays, this whiskey lets the malted barley shine through. As with other peated whiskies, there are definite notes of licorice and iodine.
Finish:Despite it’s astringent mouth feel, the taste of peat and iodine stick around long after you swallow this one. A long finish is one of the trademarks of Islay malts, but this was surprising.
Comments:This whisky provides a good introduction to peated single malts. It is not overly peated and offers some of the cereal notes and sweetness you get from lightly or unpeated whiskies. I expected a little bit more complexity from an unfiltered whisky though. The astringent quality and pale color are both odd for Islay whiskies. Whiskies from the Islay region tend toward a darker color and more oily mouth feel. This one is good for someone just getting into Islay malts, but I would recommend Laphroaig, Lagavulin, or Talisker (technically from Skye, not Islay, but similar taste profile) over this one.
Rating: Average

Overall Rating: Average

Extravaganza

Oh the joys of the well put together whiskey event. As many regular readers know, I live in Atlanta. Unfortunately, Atlanta is not known for its happening whiskey scene. This is why I was understandably very excited about last nights Single Malt Scotch Whisky Extravaganza. It wasn’t quite WhiskeyFest but until Mr. Hansell decides to host one down here (hint, hint) it’s the best we’ve got in Georgia. And it was pretty damn good too!This particular event was held in the Venetian Ballroom at the Intercontinental Hotel in Buckhead. It was a very nice location and easily accessible by highway, surface street, and rail transit. Registration started at 6:30 PM and when I rolled in around that time there was already a line. They processed us pretty quickly and even though the event wasn’t supposed to officially start until 7:00 PM they let us in a little early.

The event space and whiskey selection is about a third of what you’d find at WhiskeyFest NY but the crowd was about a fifth the size. As WhiskeyFest’s popularity has grown in recent times it’s begun to get a little too crowded. Last night’s event was a good change of pace. There were plenty of people there but we weren’t shoulder to shoulder.

The whiskies on offer numbered close to 100. They ranged from Dewar’s White Label to Highland Park 30 Year Old. I was particularly excited about getting to try The Glenlivet XXV and Glenmorangie Astar. The Glenlivet was phenomenal but the Astar wasn’t available in Georgia yet so we had to settle for the Signet release, of which I was also excited about.

A quick note on the whiskies: I didn’t try everything. For smaller, more directed tastings try everything. For larger events like this you have to be focused. First, you don’t want to end up a crawling drunk by the end of the night. Second, palate fatigue is a serious problem after the first 15 or 20 drams. Finally, just because it’s in your glass doesn’t mean you have to drink it all. They have split/pour buckets for a reason just like a wine tasting. I hit a couple of my personal favorites but for the most part I tried to focus on whiskies I hadn’t tried yet. I think I sampled between 25 and 30 last night.

The food was a wonderful buffet of pasta, side dishes, carving stations, and coffee with dessert. Top notch all the way.

Did I mention the cigars? Included with the whisky, free tasting glass, and the food we each got a cigar goodie bag. Included were selections from Romeo y Julieta, Saint Luis Rey, and Playboy Cigars.

Here are some of the evening’s highlights:

Best Whiskies (that I tried)
Glenlivet XXV – Simply unrivaled
Highland Park 30 Year – As good as you think it is, it is better
Chivas Regal 25 Year – Impossible to put down
Yamazaki 18 Year – If you haven’t had the pleasure, you should
Dewar’s Signature – A case study in balanced whisky

Best Food
Duck Confit Ravioli
It was freakin’ awesome

Best Representative
Laphroaig
Their rep was a true personality. We were like a group of old drinking buddies by the end of the night. He told stories, gave tips, made toasts, and fired up a huge peat block with a blow torch. Did I mention he gave us all Laphroaig peated barley to chew on?

Most Notable Personality
Ronnie Cox, Director of Glenrothes
There were mostly reps and distributors working most of the tables but Ronnie was there and he was a really cool guy to meet.

Best Freebie
Dewar’s Flask
The lovely ladies working the Dewar’s table gave away really nice 4 ounce hip flasks to everyone. If only they’d let me fill it up with Signature it would’ve been even better!

All in all, it was a great event. The $130 ticket price could have been $200 and still been a deal. Hopefully, I’ll see some of you there next year.

Cheers,
Richard

Wrestling With Peat

I am not usually into peated whiskeys. However, lately I gave Laphroaig 10 another chance and discovered that it wasn’t so bad after all. I can put down Compass Box’s The Peat Monster and not gag. I can even appreciate the Lagavulin 16 every once in a while. However, I have not been able to handle Ardbeg’s super peaty Uigeadail. My Scottish Gaelic is a bit rusty but I alway thought it must mean “sweat from a sheep’s taint.”*

Among whiskey enthusiasts (or at least whiskey writers), I am in the minority. Uigeadail has won several awards and tops everyones ‘Best of…’ list. It does not bother me to disagree with Jim Murray (author of The Whisky Bible). We have very different taste preferences. But when John Hansell of Malt Advocate gives something a high rating, I usually like it.

So, I decided to take my new found appreciation/tolerance for peat down to St. Andrew’s Bar and take another stab at the Uigeadail. When I attended that class with Ethan Kelley last week, he spoke briefly of pairings and recommended pairing peaty whiskies with seafood and Guinness. Plus, yesterday was the 250th birthday of Guinness. So, I ordered the fish and chips, the Uigaedail and a pint. I brought my friend Levia and her beau along for moral support. Levia tends toward the peaty whiskies and is long-time drinking buddy.

Before starting, I add some water (at 54.2% ABV, it can handle a fair amount of H2O). The nose on Uigeadail is smoky, peaty, and briny with hints of leather and honey. All put together, it smells like a well-worn shoe (perhaps a shoe that you wear while you barbeque on a beach by the North Sea). Normally, my opinion would already be tainted by the strong nose, but I decided to look past my prejudices and keep going. I take a reluctant sip after some fish and a long draw from my Guinness. This is where I would normally be spitting and sputtering and verbally abusing this whisky and anyone who likes it. However, my tastes have changed and the pairings are doing their job. This a bold whisky, firm and almost chewy. There is a sweetness I have never tasted before. I can taste the usual tar, smoke and licorice, but they are balanced and dance on the tongue (although with a heavy step, like a reel or polka rather than a waltz). The finish seems to go on forever. Indeed, I can still taste it the next day.

I can see why this whisky is beloved by so many.  That said, it’s not for everybody.  Uigeadail is kind of an old man’s whisky.  As we age, our tastes tend to change toward bolder, more pungent flavors.  If you are already a fan of dark wrapped cigars or are a regular smoker, this may be a good fit for you.  If you are someone who prefers more subtle flavors, head for Speyside malts or an nice Irish.  Come back to this one later in life.

For those of you who have tried the Uigeadail and totally dig it, you might look for the new Ardbeg Super Nova for an even peatier kick.  I have not tried it yet.  I was waiting until I knew that I could do it justice.  Maybe next time.

*The folks at Ardbeg tell me that it is named after the lake from which the water is drawn. Perhaps sweaty sheep bathe there.