Category Archives: Scotch Whisky Impressions

Glenfiddich Age of Discovery

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I always felt that Glenfiddich is an excellent whisky at an excellent price and is readily available. What more could you ask for? In addition to their solid standard lineup the distillery releases a unique expression here in the US about once a year. We have seen the Snow Phoenix, Cask of Dreams and Malt Master’s Edition over the past couple of years. This year Glenfiddich is releasing their Age of Discovery expression for the first time here. Previously it was only for travel retail, for which it was very appropriately named. Earlier versions included a Madiera cask and a wine casks and both were aged for 19 years. This US release is also aged for 19 years but this time exclusively in ex-bourbon casks. It does come in fairly low at 40% ABV.

Color: Light copper and orange

Nose: Apples, citrus, definitely a vibrant bourbon barrel influence, barley, apple turns more into an apple pie filling sweetness, cinnamon, leather, very harmonious – everything seems to be in its proper place

Mouth: Full of apples and spices, again with vibrant bourbon notes of citrus and vanilla, surprisingly full bodied at such a low ABV, very well put together, a touch dry, a bit of the alcohol comes out more at the back end along with a small touch of bitterness. I tried a touch of water but it completely fell apart on me. I wouldn’t add water to this one.

Finish: Short but not weak. A wisp of the baking spices is the last flavor to leave my mouth.

Overall a very mild mannered and well put together whisky. Don’t mistake this comment to imply a lack of flavor though as it definitely does have it. It is a whisky that you can sit with and drink all night.

*Thank you M Collective for the sample*

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Single Cask Nation Kilchoman

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This is the second bottling from the new independent bottlers over at the Single Cask Nation that I am reviewing. The first was a very unique and fun Arran that I enjoyed a lot. Kilchoman’s have been a bit of hit and miss for me. The are numerous single cask bottlings out there – some excellent, others not so much. I’m hopeful that this one falls into the excellent catagory.

Color: Translucent yellow

Nose: Buttery, simple syrup coated peat, medicinal, coal, rutty, dusty, some farmy rumblings in there as well

Palate: Ashy, sweet, coal, then the farmy and vegetative flavors start coming through

Comments: This guy was a bit of an oddball and follows the trend of uniqueness that the Arran expression started for me. It is definitely still a youngin’ but the farmy/vegetative notes brought something else to the regular peat and coal party of flavors.

* Many thanks to the Single Cask Nation for providing me with this sample *

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The Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America Outturn

Many thanks to the SMWSA for these fun samples. This round was a very diverse and very pleasing lot. Nate had a lot of fun sampling and taking notes on these.

G9.1
11y/o
Refill Barrel
57.8% ABV
$100

Light yellow. The nose brings brings a bright heat. Sweet grain and sugar. Clean and hot, curious, darker grain notes in the nose with pepper and roasted sugar. Good complexity for a grain whisky. Actually lingers with some powdered sugar and warm, malty starch notes. A little bit of a journey as opposed to the quick, sugary gestalt of many grain liquors.

3.184
15y/o
Refill Hogshead
60.0% ABV
$115

Pale, white light tinged straw. Hard, earthy, peat-edged front with some sweet oil in abundance. And some fresh corn and dust round out the nose. Load of middle-palate peat… And sugar is not lacking. Full, only slightly adulterated grains. Lingering peat, spice and some heat. A natural palate of clear flavors. Not filled with exciting peculiarities, instead executing some solid fundamentals well.

48.26
23y/o
Refill Butt
50.5% ABV
$155

Nice 18 carat with tiny touch of red. A little burnt red malt, wet tangerine and bread waft up. Dynamic nose. Lush, watery mouth, smoke rises with condensed fruit. Touch o’ the Speyside in the toasted grains, and a bit of gum.

125.51
9y/o
First-fill Barrel
57.4% ABV
$90

A rather pale yellow. Fruit and water, tropical and tight nose. Pleasing subtle fruit, playful mouthfeel. Sugars kick in but not overly much. Fun, light, flavorful, almost lacking in the earthy, land-bound elements of whisky… An ethereal dram with a touch of medicine. I think this is what the angels are taking as their share from most whiskeys.

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Single Cask Nation Arran Pinot Noir

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While I do enjoy the consistency of distillery release bottlings, I find the uniqueness of independent single cask bottlings a bit more alluring these days. It is true that independents can be hit and miss but for me it is a gamble I am willing to take. The Single Cask Nation is a new independent bottler that set up much like the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, in that you are able to access their bottles through being a member of the “Nation”. This independent bottler was started by Joshua Hatton, Jason Johnston-Yellin and Seth Klaskin. The independent bottler category is pretty competitive these days for which casks they are able to procure. This is my first sample of the Nation’s bottlings so let’s see how they did…

Single Cask Nation Arran Pinot Cask #6
1st Fill Ex-Bourbon Cask for 8 years
Ex-Pinot Noir Cask for 4 years
54.8% ABV

Color: Light copper

Nose: Very fragrant, initially a touch of steel – something metallic, an interesting combination of charred oak and fragrant sweetness, ripe apples, bubblegum, a layer of dark red fruit – strawberry jam, maltiness and freshness are not lost though, hints of salty air.

Mouth: First thing that came to mind was: Fun! The interplay between the two casks was a bit of a high wire act but the result was very well balanced. Initially the red fruit sweetness then switches to the traditional notes of bourbon cask and maltiness. It is not over powering neat I am happy to say. A nice sweetness (not cloying), strawberry jam, vanilla. I really liked the layering of flavors. With water: it got a little medicinal – cough syrup and I picked up some tannins.

Finish: Medium, malty with a touch of red fruit.

Again, this was a fun one to try. This is a perfect example of what I like in single cask expressions. You chose wisely Nation!

*Disclosure: this sample was provided to us by the Single Cask Nation*

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SMWSA Outturn Sampling

We took a bit of a hiatus due to an attempt to train for my recent run so we are a bit behind. The run is over so now its back to the business of whisky. And what a better way to start than with some single cask SMWSA bottlings? 

5.35
Lowland
12 y/o
2nd fill hogshead
$105
 
Light dusty straw. Sweet grain and wine. Tropical. Peach. Light and bright spices with cake and medicine on the side. A taste reveals a light and gradual sweet-heat, grass and dough, and it is slightly numbing. What I thought was a little pale in the beginning sticks around with a distinctive grain character and a touch of cola. A certain, elusive flora lingers. And what a nose!

26.84
Highlands
21 y/o
Refill barrel
$145

Light yellow. Sweet, apples and peach and grain up front. A sip reveals a traditional start.  Simple, sweet, lightly malty, and slightly burnt. Pleasing.

85.23
Speyside
12 y/o
Refill sherry
$105

Light gold and leggy.  Caramel, a bit of salt, and a load of atomized sugar. Some butter in the nose as well. The taste is caramel, a strange burnt note, and playful spices. Lingering butter and sugar with a slightly thick mouth feel move into hints of medicine and malts.

93.47
Cambpeltown
9 y/o
Refill barrel
$90

Quite pale dry straw. Burning rubber (think tires), peat, solid malts, and some iodine, maybe. And salted butter. Intriguing. A goodly sip bring welcome, balanced sweet grains followed by peat and hard candy, which merge and develop… Then dust sprinkles in from somewhere. Almost like its from the highland part of Islay.

33.113
Islay
8 y/o
1st fill Bourbon
$85

Light liquid gold.  Jammy preserves and spices. Toaster-oven toasted malts and nose moves on to a hint of tobacco. Just-right oily. A warm, red, mid-viscous, satisfying journey ’round the palate. Slightly darker, malty sugars just shy of burnt take up residence.  Peaty, but muted… but not lacking in presence.  A pleasant, mid-tongue tingling. Enjoyable, almost robust… In a contradictorily relaxing fashion. Long lingering with hint of ash.

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Another Round of Whiskies from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America

This round of single cask expressions from the SMWSA was very diverse as well as surprising.

2.81 $120
Distilled in April 1998 – 15 y/o
First-fill Sherry butt
59.9% ABV

Color: Medium/dark copper

Nose: Christmas-time spices, a walk through Cost Plus store, what I would imagine candied rhubarb would smell like (Yes – I had an internal WTF? moment myself when this came to mind), herbal tea, figs, dark sugars and a little dusty

Palate: Sweet sherry immediately takes hold, stewed red fruits, definitely needs to be dialed down with some water, dark red (American) cherries – not the ones I see in Asia. I was happy to not sense any sulfur flavors from the Sherry butt

Finish: Medium – Chris

___

Dark bronze and burnt. The nose consists of sweet leather and peaches. Bread, brown sugar and wine. The liquid is coating and dark with some heat on the center of the tongue.  Taffy and cola and spicy malts show up in short order.  Quite tasty. – Nate

23.72 $90
Distilled in July 2002 – 9 y/o
Refill Sherry butt
66.4% ABV

Color: Dull yellow

Nose: Earthy, dirty, fresh/lively peat, struck matches and burnt tires

Palate: Not as rutty as the nose initially lead on, peat is always present, tires, light saltiness, was expecting something a little fuller based on the nose, with water: brings out more burnt tire and some spices

Finish: Medium – toasted oak and peat hang around – Chris

___

Bright, straw yellow. Slightly harsh and slightly sweet. A burnt malt and fumes? Touch of coals and earth? Moving on to the body shows more primordial aspects of peat and burned meat.  And A lingering increase in heat.  A bit confusing, but simplified by water. – Nate

125.48 $110
Distilled in November 1998 – 12 y/o
Re-char Hogshead
52.1% ABV

Color:  Medium yellow

Nose:  Lots of light/bright fruits up front, vanilla, bourbon influence

Palate:  some salt, strong malty presence, spicy oak bite, grassy, well balanced

Finish: Short – Chris

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Liquid gold. Sweets, tropical fruit, and honey varnish in this nose. The taste is wet and sweet, followed by malts and celery. A light, mellow finish with a slight touch of pepper and light butterscotch. – Nate

G1.8 $145
Distilled in December 1990 – 21 y/o
Refill Hogshead
62.9% ABV

Color:  Light yellow with a hint of orange

Nose:  Sharp – be careful with how close you get when you nose it, grainy sweetness, chai tea, hints of licorice

Palate:  Initial bite up front but then backs off into something mellower than the nose sets you up to believe, sweet, pretty neutral

Finish:  Short with some oak char coming through in the after taste.  – Chris

___

Light yellow.  Medicine and malts. Heat, lemon, more heat and sugar round out the nose. A hot nose. The body brings on a Bourbon piña colada. Hot and malty.  Cheeks are tingling in short order. Malty malts and something with incipient heat linger. Water brings out distinctive fruit nose I can’t remember the word for.  Sour cherry Belgium. Toasted sugars and, yes, the heat is checked… Some spice in the tail, though. – Nate

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SMWSA Outturn

Another round of single cask expressions from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America that they were kind enough to give us samples of. You can read about the first 4 expressions we reviewed here. This set was exceptionally fun and challenging. Here are Nate’s impressions of this lot.

4.153 $100

Decidedly straw-light yellow. Banana! How do they get so much banana, and not much else aside from a sweet little malt, in that nose? Sticky and coating with sugar. Aaaand sugar. And then, curiously, a touch of green banana… A light but present graininess lingers on with the sweets. A refreshing perspective. With water come more malts, less banana, and more malts.

39.83 $180

Light and pleasing gold. Intense and malty nose with strong wood and pepper and a fresh aspect at odds with its apparent age. Sugar and a bit of heat… hard candy and cake. Quite a nose. In the mouth it has definite complexity, a touch of smoke and sugar… and loads of watermelon all of a sudden. Light but lingering edginess. Sugars retreat from the front of the palate and the flavor resides in the checks and back tongue with a slightly astringent maltyness. Interesting dram with a fun and tricky start if not a slightly odd but enjoyable destination.

53.157 $95

Pale. Really pale. A nose that is Smokey and sweets, grain-laden and good. The taste is peaty in the traditional sense with a nice rise to potent, then respectable malts and caramelized sugars I associate with something older. Lingering heat. Resurgent, actually. And a bit of pleasant dust in those emberred malts.

76.84 $145

Darker gold and lighter amber. A nose of medicine and barley, sweet strawberries and jam. Darker wood notes and warm flavors from whatever else was in that barrel have a strong showing followed by black pepper and maturity. And then a little heat… Good fun to roll around the palate and spice up the tongue. A little toffee with the malts on the back end.

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A Couple of New Glenfiddich Expressions

The core Glenfiddich range – a very solid and tasty range at that – of what appeals to the general whisky drinking population remains the same. Thankfully no drastic measures are being taken like eliminating age statements or any nonsense like that. Instead, Glenfiddich released a pair of new whiskies that should peak the interests of those that are more than just the casual whisky drinkers.

The first new release is the Malt Master’s Edition. As the name suggests, this release is a nod to Glenfiddich’s Malt Master, Brian Kinsman. What makes this release unique for Glenfiddich is that it is double matured. The Malt Master’s Edition is composed of whisky that was aged 6-8 years is ex-Bourbon casks and then aged an additional 4-6 years in Sherry casks.

On the nose I got a lot more of the sherry influence. But on the palate more of the bourbon casks came through in the spices, vanilla and cherry flavors. This whisky nicely walks the line of smooth but lively. Coming in at 43%ABV this formerly distillery only release will be available in the US this month at a reasonable $80.

The second release is definitely a lot more rarefied: the 1974 Vintage Reserve.  There is a vintage released annually but this is the first time that the whisky is a vatting of casks.  This is a vatting of both Sherry and Bourbon casks all from 1974 (guaranteed 36 years old).  There were only 1,000 bottles made available worldwide and only 35 allocated for the US market.  The brand ambassadors helped to select this vintage by converging on the distillery and sampling whiskies from 1973, 1974 and 1975.  The hands down winner of the sampling was the whisky from 1974. 

The 1974 Vintage Reserve comes in at 46.8% ABV and has a very lively nose – and not just for its age.  I got a lot of pears that I usually associate with Glenfiddich as well as some tropical fruits.  With the addition of water I picked up a little more oak influence as well as a nice earthiness, almost rutty.  A very beautiful whisky, unfortunately it is extremely limited and out of the price range for most of us.

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Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America August Outturn!

Want to try a unique whisky? Perhaps single cask and at cask strength? Maybe from a distillery that you rarely, if ever, see in a bottle other than in a blend? If any of these seems appealing, you should check out the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America. The Society bottlings do not give you the distillery name on the labels, instead you will find the distinctive numbering system. A quick google search will reveal the distillery codes so that you know where the whisky is coming from. Although the SMWSA was nice enough to provide us with samples to review, we have been purchasing bottles from them for several years and always enjoy attending the SMWSA Extravaganza every year.

In an attempt to follow some semblance of order we will take a look at each of the four bottlings in numerical order:

Cask No. 3.182

A curious cherry-chocolate-peat here, with a little salted wood in tow. The 18 carat liquid tastes of yummy dust and vegetation, thick water and creosote, and certainly a little sugar. The peat overall is light and mid-level, breathy malts are present. While the dram does not take flight, it proffers a good start and an interesting body.

Cask No. 7.69

A light yellow in hue with a nose of malty beer, light medicinal grains, and a dash of orange bitters. The sip is slightly warm, spiced, and light green with scattered grains. The sticky, slightly vegetative finish is pleasant though the character of this drink is slightly elusive.

Cask No. 24.122

The thin, straw yellow liquor has a bright nose, spring vegetation, caramel and grass, perhaps some varnish and chocolate. And there is a bit of malty heat in the nose. Spicy grain and malt on the tongue, and a little dark chocolate, too. Lingering notes of simple and clean grains and spirit. There are some bright moments in this and a bit of staying power, though a touch thin overall.

Cask No. 30.68

Slight auburn and orange. Clear wood notes and brown sugars rise out of the glass. Further sniffing finds fresh water, punch, and a tandem touch of tobacco and wine. Fun nose. The palate is thick, a little spicy, and warm. Dark citrus and burning wood. The tobacco takes on a sweet, peppered, doughy aspect. A darkly warm citrus lingers. Enjoyable. Water develops the sugars but adds some unnecessary medicinal woody notes.

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AD Rattray Auchroisk 20

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Auchroisk…I have to admit I take way too much enjoyment out of being able to clear my throat at the same time that I say the name of this distillery. This Diageo owned Speyside distillery that started producing whisky in 1974 is primarily put into blends. Because it is mainly used in blends, you don’t see many bottles of Auchroisk out there. Diago did recently release a distillery bottling of a 20 year Auchroisk. This bottling that we are trying today is also a 20 year old but is from one of our favorite Independent Bottlers – AD Rattray.

AD Rattray Auchroisk 20 ~$80.00
Distilled: February 2, 1991
Bottled: May 17, 2011
Bourbon Barrel, Cask #2557
52.8% ABV

Color: Light gold with a tinge of copper.
Nose: Decidedly sharper than Chichibu the First – what I was tasting along side, tons of tropical fruits, star fruit, very bright, vanilla, fruit cocktail. Some malt and dustiness comes forward after the waves of fruits pass by.
Mouth: A kiss of smoke that took me by surprise, vanilla, slightly dry, thin mouth feel, not as hot as expected, clean firm malt, refreshing, bright tropical fruits, sweet, lights up the back of the tongue with a nice spice combined with the tropical fruits.
Finish: Short and clean.

With some water
Nose: Even brighter, more malty more fruity, full bouquet of fruits.
Mouth: Toned down and mellow, lost some of its brightness, but definitely revs up the vanilla and spices, loses some of the fruits in favor of the spices – interesting shift in flavor. Get more cereal notes as well.
Comments: A very refreshing whisky that works great on a relaxing sunny day. This is a damn fine whisky I have to say and especially at the price. The Diageo 20 year is ~$180. AD Rattray keeps the hits coming.

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