Category Archives: Taste of the…

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

Hendrick’s Gin

For this week’s “Taste of” we’re doing something a little different.  In an effort to expand both our horizons and yours, Matt and I are going to review a non-whiskey product.  “Gasp!” you say?  Don’t worry.  We’re still whiskey apostles at heart but it’s good to try new things.  We’ll try to do this about once a month or so.  First up will be a gin.  You can’t get much more different from whiskey than that.  Except for the fact that this particular gin is made by William Grant & Sons.  You may know William Grant & Sons as the makers of Glenfiddich and Balvenie.  Enjoy.

Hendrick’s Gin
44% ABV/88 Proof
Available worldwide for $25 to $35 per bottle

What the distillery says:
This handcrafted gin is distilled for a proprietary recipe which includes traditional botanicals such as juniper, coriander, and citrus peel.  The “unexpected” infusion of cucumber and rose petals results in a most iconoclastic gin.  It is not for everyone.

What Richard says:
Nose: Floral and herbal as you’d expect from gin but almost more so.  It lays out like a well crafted gentleman’s cologne.  When opened up with a little water I find jasmine and lavender with a hint of fresh autumn leaves.
Palate: The palate is very surprising.  It tastes of orange zest in lavender water, more specifically Cara Cara oranges. (If you’ve never had the pleasure I highly recommend them.)  More citrus notes that the average gin.  It’s very pleasant.  It kind of reminds me of Compass Box’s Orangerie aperitif.  Tonic water lends it a sharper more defined flavor well beyond the “alcoholic Sprite” of a lot of gin and tonics.
Finish: Crisp and clean.  It leaves the orange zest in your mouth as the botanicals pass through.
Comments: I’m not really a gin fan but this is a spirit I can truly respect.  And not just because it’s made by William Grant & Sons.  It doesn’t stand out because they turned gin on its head, more likely they pushed gin to its true potential.  Whether a casual gin drinker or a serious connoisseur, I would definitely recommend this.
Rating:  Must Try.

What Matt says:
Nose: Above all this gin smells like it elements.  There are clear notes of juniper, but it’s the coriander and citrus zest that stand out on the nose.  The rose petals and cucumber hang back a little and wait to assert themselves on the palate.
Palate: This is not your average gin.  Richard hit the nail on the head with the Cara Cara orange reference.  The cucumber comes through with a very clean flavor and the rose petals come out just enough to be known.  The coriander and juniper take a back seat to these stronger flavors, but really make the flavor profile dance.  Adding tonic really kicks the cucumber into overdrive (the makers of Hendrick’s suggest garnishing their gin and tonic with a slice of cucumber instead of the traditional lime).  There is a high citrus element, but it is more of a Cara Cara or blood orange citrus than lime like other gins.
Finish: Rose water and orange zest
Comments: I’m an old fashioned kind of guy.  I believe that a gentleman should be drink his martinis with gin and his whisk(e)y neat.  If you are like me and Teddy Roosevelt (or was it FDR?), you’re idea of a martini is a generous pour of gin next to an open bottle of vermouth.  To do this, you must have good gin (you’re drinking it straight after all).  Hendrick’s fits the bill on this one.  I love a good gin and tonic as well and this makes a great one.  This is my very favorite gin.
Rating:  Must Buy.

Overall Rating:
From the moment you see it on the shelf, you know that Hendrick’s is different.  It’s strangley shaped dark colored bottle and artfully rendered label look more at home on the shelf of Victorian apothecary than a liquor store.  As you investigate, you find that even the distillery claims that this gin “is not for everyone.”  Today, you are in an adventurous mood so you decide to pick up a bottle.  You are greeted with flavors you have never tasted in a gin.  You are not quite sure what to think.  Then, as the gin swirls around your mouth and your nose is filled with rich botanicals, you become enthralled.  There is a reason that the Wall Street Journal voted this the “Best Gin in the World” in 2003.  More and more, I’m seeing Hendrick’s offered in bars (they don’t usually have a slice of cucumber though), right next to the Tanqueray Ten and Bombay Sapphire.  The word is spreading.
Must Try.

Taste of… The Collector’s Cabinet

Matt and I have discussed, at length the merits of offering reviews on whiskeys that are no longer available.  The argument against it is that if we review a dram that is out of this world then it would offer nothing to our readers but frustration at not being able to procure such a fine spirit.  This was our stance from the outset of Whisk(e)y Apostle.

As time went by we started thinking about this idea in a different light.  We realized that there is something to offer our readers by reviewing the occasional rare whiskey.  From a collector’s standpoint there are other resources available offering assistance in how collectable or valuable certain whiskeys are but rarely anything on taste. (As a general rule, we here at Whisk(e)y Apostle do not advocate the collecting of whiskey.  It is made to drink after all!)

So if you find a rare bottle of whiskey, how are you to know if it’s worth purchasing for the purpose of consumption?  That’s where we hope to offer what little assistance we can.  Matt and I aren’t exactly rolling in dough so this will not be a regular part of our reviews but we’ll do it whenever we get the opportunity.

To kick us off we thought we talk a wonderful whisky from Compass Box called The Spice Tree.  There is an unfortunate story behind why this great whisky is no longer in production.  I’m not going to reproduce the sad tale here but if you are interested further information can be found here (in the “Past Whiskies” section).

The Spice Tree

Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
Formerly produced by Compass Box Whisky Company
Blended Malt Scotch Whisky46% ABV/92 Proof
Discontinued

What the distillery says:

A natural, deep, gold-brown color and a rich nose with spices such as clove and nutmeg, and sweet stewed fruits. Palate is soft, sweet, deep and rich with a malt whisky fruitiness embellished by rich spice. Very long.

What Richard says:

Nose: Scotch rolled in a warm bourbon blanket?  If I didn’t know what this was it would really keep me guessing.  Water opens up the nose to honey and floral sweetness.  Quite lovely.
Palate: The wood is the first and last thing you taste but not in the way you might think.  It’s not the tired over wooded flavor of an over aged whiskey.  It’s more like carrying your dram on a walk through the forest.  It’s a fresher wood taste.  There is a minor honeyed sweetness that almost hides from you.  The spice there but much more understated than the name suggests.  There are a lot of nutty flavors and at the very end of the palate I swear I get a hint of spearmint.
Finish: Much smoother than I expected but that really is par for John Glasser’s work.  Spice, nut, and wood remain after the palate is emptied.  It’s almost like peppered walnut bark.
Comments: As unfortunate as it is, this is a discontinued product. If you happen across a bottle at a reasonable price I would highly recommend picking it up.  I can’t give it a “Must Buy” because of the scarcity but it really deserves top honors.
Rating: Must Try

What Matt says:
Nose: Fox glove honey, caramel, wildflowers, and cardamom.
Palate: Like drinking a nice cup of mulled cider by a fresh cut Christmas tree.  Wood, evergreen, mulling spices, cooked fruit (apples and apricots).  The ultimate ‘comfort’ whisky.  Complex without being uppity.
Finish: Oak, white pepper, and pecan husks linger with a touch of caramel sweetness.  This whisky is incredibly smooth with very little burn on the tongue or in the throat.
Comments: My official rating for this will be a “Must Try” for the reasons that Richard states above.  However, if you see a bottle of this, buy it.  If you see two, let me know.  I will buy the other one.  I love this whisky and lament it’s passing.  When the last drop falls from my bottle, I will shed a tear.
Rating: Must Try

Overall Rating:   Must Try

Closing Comments: A lot of discontinued whiskeys are phased out due unpleasant factors (Glenmorangie Burgundy Wood Finish) or diminished stocks (Ardbeg 17 Year) but the Spice Tree is the unfortunate victim of politics.  There is little lacking in this quality dram.  If you are fortunate enough to come across a bottle or dram, by all means drink up.

Slainte!