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"Whisky has killed more men than bullets,
but most men would rather be full of whisky than bullets"
In this issue, I look at the Glengoyne 21-year-old, which has flavors
appropriate to Christmas. My son Paul happened to send this whisky to me for Christmas last year (thank you son) either he got lucky, or he has more whisky knowledge than he admits to. This whisky is like all your Favorite Christmas desserts distilled down into an amber nectar and poured into a glass for you to relax by the fire and savor.
Back in 2007 my wife Tracey, myself, and our friend David McDonald hiked the West Highland Way from Milngavie just outside Glasgow to Fort William (almost 100 miles) in the highlands and the trail passes close to Glengoyne distillery.
We did not stop there, as it involved climbing over a barbed-wire fence (in a kilt) and negotiating a field of cows, but a short while later stopped for lunch at a nearby pub and with lunch, we tried a Glengoyne 10-year-old, I have to say that none of us were
very impressed with it. The 21-year-old is an entirely different story, I like this whisky a lot and it will not only be drunk at Christmas.
You can buy Glengoyne 21 for around $130.00 a bottle.
Nose - Apple, ginger, cherry, chocolate
Palate - Cherry, nutmeg, oak, ginger & caramel
Finish - Warm & spicy
In this issue I look at Glenfiddich 18-year-old, a scotch I’ve enjoyed before, and most recently sampled at “Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse” in Walnut Creek, California. Where I was hosting a food pairings dinner (more on page 4). This is a very nice whisky that has been matured in bourbon and (Oloroso) sherry casks.
The 18-year-old pairs well with grilled meats, and I have had it with steak a few times. Next time, I'd like to try it with grilled or roasted pork, I think the apple flavors of the whisky will go well with the pork. Much as I like this whisky (and I really do), I have to say that, out of Glenfiddich's standard range I still prefer the 15-year-old, it's not that the 18 isn't good, it is (very good in fact).
For me, the 15-year-old is outstanding, comes in at a lower price point, and to my taste buds, is the best whisky for the price available on the market today.
You can buy Glenfiddich 18 for around $80.00 a bottle.
Nose - Spiced apple & oak
Palate - Baked apple, cinnamon & nutmeg
Finish - Long & smooth with a hint of spice
In this issue, I look at the Balvenie 14-Year-Old “Caribbean Cask.” This
whisky follows on from the acclaimed 2008 limited edition Balvenie
17-Year-Old Rum Cask and is so new it hasn’t even appeared on their
website as of writing this at the end of October.
I tasted the “Caribbean Cask” for the first time at WhiskyFest in
San Francisco a few weeks ago, when I was working the Balvenie booth.
The first taste is good and the second even better. This is one tasty
whisky and grows on you drink by drink. I can see it having a
permanent place in my drinks cabinet. For me, this is the best Balvenie available for under $70.00.
For those of you that have tried the 17-Year-Old and wonder what the
difference is (apart from age). The 17-Year-Old release was matured
exclusively in rum casks, whereas the 14 year is just finished in rum
You can buy Balvenie 14 for around $70.00 a bottle.
Nose - Honey, vanilla, malt & raisins
Palate - Malt, raisins, toffee & spice
Finish - Malty & spicy
In this issue, I look at the Macallan “Director’s Edition” as recommended by my good friend David McDonald. This whisky has been matured in ex-sherry casks in the traditional Macallan way and reminds me so much of the Balvenie 21-year-old. It comes in a lot cheaper, so I am a happy camper, as the Balvenie 21 came in at number 3 on my best whiskies list for last year. However this is a limited release and, unlike the Balvenie 21, will not be around for long.
The rich fruity flavors of this whisky also remind me of Christmas
Pudding, both the smell and the taste.
For those of you that are Macallan fans, the information on page four and five of this newsletter may come as a shock. Macallan is introducing a no age statement range to replace it’s core whiskies, the 10, 12, and 15-year-olds.
You can buy Macallan “Director’s Edition” for around $85.00 a bottle.
Nose - Caramel, vanilla & raisins (a hint of banana?)
Palate - Sweet, caramel, dried fruit mix & cinnamon
Finish - Caramel & dried fruit with a little spice
Macallan “Director’s Edition with food;
Molten Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Coulis
In this issue, I look at Laphroaig 10 Year Old from the island of Islay (Isla) in the Western Isles of Scotland. Laphroaig, pronounced "La-froyg", is a Gaelic word meaning "the beautiful hollow by the broad bay." I have tasted this whisky on a number of occasions, but the memory that sticks with me is the time my wife and I were in the “Great Basin Brewing company” in Reno Nevada. I asked for a Laphroaig 10-Year-Old and the barmaid went to the far end of the bar (about 25 feet away) and poured a shot, our noses were Immediately engulfed by smoke and peat.
My wife said it reminded her of My firefighting clothes from my time with CDF, fighting forest fires.
This whisky has some heavy medicinal notes, which might explain why it was acceptable for doctors to prescribe it during Prohibition.
You can buy Laphroaig 10 for around $25.00 a bottle.
Nose - Smoke, peat, iodine
Palate - Seaweed, iodine, vanilla, spices
Finish - Big & savory (almost tarry)
In this issue I look at Bruichladdich (pronounced Brook-Laddie)
“The Organic”. I was fortunate in being given a bottle to try, by
Joanna Miller of Young’s Market company, which I duly shared
with my whisky friends, to favorable reviews.
For those of you that remember issue 41 in which I reviewed the
Balblair, this whisky is along similar tasting lines.
“The Organic,” however takes it even further along the delicate
route, this is without a doubt the lightest whisky I have ever
tasted. I don’t mean that in a bad way (and I like smoky
whiskies), this may be light, but it is flavorful and I thoroughly
I can happily recommend it and intend to buy some for myself.
If you are looking for a nice aperitif, then this is it.
For a bit of history on the Bruichladdich distillery, see issue 39
of my newsletters.
For more information on Islay go to
You can buy Ardbeg Galileo for around $80.00 a bottle.
Nose - Pears, apples, vanilla
Palate - Honey, pear, vanilla, lemon & malt
Finish - Vanilla, malt & honey
In this issue I look at Ardbeg 1999 “Galileo”, a limited edition 12-year-old Cask Strength whisky (49% ABV), which has been finished in Marsala wine casks. WOW!!!
I can’t remember when the first sip of a whisky has so impressed me. How much am I impressed? My personal favorite for over twenty years has been the Lagavulin 16-year-old; if Ardbeg were to make this a permanent part of their portfolio, then the “Galileo” would take over as my favorite scotch.
Yes, it’s that good, and I can’t recommend it highly enough for those of you that like some smoke in your scotch.
In my opinion, Ardbeg’s master distiller, Bill Lumsden, has set a new benchmark for the other Islay distilleries to reach for, with this elegant Smoky masterpiece.
You can buy Ardbeg Galileo for around $450.00 a bottle.
Nose - Fruity, toffee, smoky
Palate - Chocolate, toffee, smoke, peat, rich fruit
Finish - Long, warm, smoke, peat & chocolate malt
In this issue, I look at Jura 16-year-old “Durach’s Own” which my
friend Justin introduced me to. First, and most startling to me,
was the aroma; I was instantly transported to when I was a boy,
changing the tire on my bicycle.
The smell reminded me of the rubber inner tube! After that, I wasn’t expecting much in the way of taste. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised; I tasted green apples in abundance, followed by hints of chocolate orange and honey.
I have now tasted Jura “Prophecy” 10-year-old, “Superstition” and
This. Of the four I have to say the “Superstition” is my favorite,
with this “Durach’s own” falling into last place.
In my opinion, there is no dishonor in taking last place, when up
against such a fine selection of whiskies. I would be happy to
drink any of those mentioned above.
You can buy Jura 16 for around $60.00 a bottle.
Nose - Rubber tires (That’s just my nose)
Palate - Green apples, chocolate orange & honey
Finish - Warm & slightly spicy
In this issue, I look at the Balvenie 17-year-old “Peated Cask.” Okay, some of you may be shocked that Balvenie has made a “peated” whisky, however, this is not their first such dram. There was a previous bottling called “The Islay Cask”, which proved very popular.
This Balvenie is finished in casks that had previously held an
unreleased experimental heavily-peated Balvenie distilled in 2001.
So this Whisky is not peated itself but gets its peat/smoke from the previous occupant of the casks.
I got to try the 17-year-old recently in Sacramento when Lorne Cousin (the Balvenie West Coast, USA ambassador) enlightened us with his knowledge, humor, and piping.
This is an excellent whisky, thank you, Lorne, for some great piping and an insight into the Balvenie range.
I’ll be happy to add this to my growing single malt collection, which by the way, is for drinking with friends. I don’t adhere to collecting as an investment. I don’t have the discipline or desire to have great Whiskies in the house and not drink them.
You can buy Balvenie 17 for around $110.00 a bottle.
Nose - Apricots, raisins, honey & light peat smoke
Palate - Creamy toffee & smoky pepper
Finish - Long, with fruit & spice
In this issue, I look at a Glenfiddich Vintage Reserve; the 1974 Glenfiddich single malt Scotch whisky. The whisky is Glenfiddich’s first-ever vatted Vintage Reserve and celebrates the pioneering spirit and adventurous career paths of Glenfiddich’s highly skilled Brand Ambassadors, who joined Brian Kinsman (the Glenfiddich Malt Master) as part of the selection panel.
The 1974 is a limited edition of only 1000 bottles worldwide, so your
chances of owning a bottle are slim. However, please keep an eye open at whisky events, as this is a delicious single malt and well worth the hunt to find even one dram.
My abiding memory of this whisky will be, talking to Mitch Bechard (the Glenfiddich West Coast, USA) ambassador just after finishing my dram of the 74. Mitch said he liked the subtle minty aftertaste and just as he said that, the mint kicked in for me.
The 1974 is, in a word, sublime. Thank you, Mitch, for inviting me to the tasting.
You probably can't buy a bottle of the Glenfiddich 1974, but you may find some in a good bar.
Nose - Pear, citrus, strawberries
Palate - Smooth, sweet, orange & pear
Finish - Long, oak, some spice & mint
In this issue, I look at Bunnahabhain “Darach Ur” (which means
'New Oak' in Scots Gaelic - this no-age-statement malt has been
Matured exclusively in virgin American oak casks. My good
friend Mike brought a bottle over for me when he and his wife
Pat came over from Spain for a vacation.
Bunnahabhain (Boon-a-HA-bin) distillery is on Islay (Isla), but
don’t expect a lot of smoke and peat from this whisky (there is
some), but this whisky is light and fruity.
I am a fan of the peaty whiskies from Islay, the Lagavulin 16 has
been a favorite for decades, so how does this compare? It
doesn’t, it stands on its own and is a fine whisky. I would be
Happy to have a dram of this anytime.
You can buy Bunnahabhain “Darach Ur” for around $70.00 a bottle.
Nose - Seashore, sweet
Palate - Oak & vanilla spice with dried fruit
Finish - Toffee & salt
First of all, I’d like to thank Jeff at Liquor Bank for giving me this
whisky to try, Jeff is my go-to guy when I want to get my hands
on any new or unusual whiskies.
My first thought on tasting this highland whisky was that it
reminded me of Penderyn (Welsh whisky), both are light and
sweet. Like Penderyn, the Balblair’s sweetness is less prominent
on the second taste.
Would I recommend it? Yes I would if you like a light fruity
Whisky then you’ll like this one.
Balblair is bottled in four vintages - 2000, 1997, 1989 and 1979 -
with the bottle design inspired by the Nearby Pictish stone
(Clach Biorach), which is thought to be 4000 years old.
You can buy Balblair 1989 for around $60.00 a bottle.
Nose - Lemon, banana, apple
Palate - Sweet, Ripe fruit, vanilla, sherry, spice
Finish - Long smooth and complex
THE THUNDER GOD IS UNLEASHED!!!
Lucky me, my wife Tracey bought me a bottle of Highland Park’s “Thor” from their Valhalla collection for my birthday.
This whisky is aged 16 years and is housed in a unique wooden frame that echoes the dragon’s head prow from a Viking longship. With only 1,500 bottles being released in the United States, you will have to move fast to get one.
Be warned, this is an expensive whisky, and the nice Oak Stand probably hasn’t helped keep the price down.
I like Highland Park whiskies, and I have to say that this may well be my favorite from them. At 52.1 ABV it is a little stronger than normal (low to mid 40’s) and I find that I prefer it with a little water, which also helps release the flavors.
I was pleasantly surprised at how fruity it was for a Highland Park, and I liked the hint of smoke. I am looking forward to trying the rest of the Valhalla Collection Loki, Freya and Odin, when they are released (or should that be “UNLEASHED).
You can buy Highland Park "Thor" for around $900.00 a bottle.
Nose - Sweet, peach, ginger & vanilla
Palate - Honey, smoke, vanilla, apple
Finish - Fruity, spicy with a hint of smoke
This issue I look at Bruichladdich (pronounced “Brook Laddy”)
21-year-old, which I tasted in April at this year's Las Vegas Celtic
Games. I stopped at the Clan Cochrane tent as I had been based at
HMS Cochrane in Scotland during my time in the Royal Navy and
spoke with Keith and Mike, for what turned out to be an hour well
spent. They showed me what highland hospitality is all about, with
engaging conversation and a very fine Bruichladdich 21.
I returned later that afternoon and spent another hour with them cracking jokes and sampling their Johnny Walker Gold (more about that in a future issue). What did I think of this whisky……....OH YES,
this one's for me, what a fine dram. I will definitely be buying this in
the future, thank you, Mike, Keith, and Clan Cochrane.
You can buy Bruichladdich 21 for around - $500.00 a bottle.
Nose - Hint of the sea, faint smoke, berries
Palate - Sweet honey, sea salt, some spice
Finish - Sherry, salty/apples, faint smoke
“You may be only one person in the world, but
you may also be the world to one person.”
This issue I look at Glen Garioch (pronounced Glen Geery) founders
Reserve, which I tasted at this year's Las Vegas Celtic games in April.
Each year Ray Pearson (the whiskymeister
http://whiskymeister.wordpress.com) puts on six whisky tastings at
the games, with all money going to the Las Vegas Celtic society.
This year Ray brought along the Glen Garioch for the first time, as
one of the four whiskies on offer.
This highland single malt whisky is non chill-filtered, comes with no
Age statement and is relatively inexpensive and in my opinion well worth a try. I’d be happy to have it on my bar.
You can buy Glen Garioch founders Reserve for around - $60.00 a bottle.
Nose - Vanilla, butterscotch, apple & grapefruit
Palate - Creamy, sweet, becoming fruity with apple & citrus
Finish - Quite long with butterscotch, dried fruit & a little spice
"Ninety percent of my money, I'll spend on good times, women and Whisky. The other ten percent I'll probably waste."
This issue I look at Chivas Regal 18-year-old; yes, a blend!!!
I always have both blended and single malt whiskies in my
drinks cabinet. No, I don’t pull out the single malts for my friends
and give the blends to people I don’t like or whom I believe don’t
know a good scotch from a bad one (although I know people who
I drink both blends and single malts, I always have, as do most
people from Scotland. It’s not a case of one being better than the
other, they are just different whiskies.
If you believe that you can only drink single malt because it’s
better, do you only drink (for instance) Balvenie, because it’s
better? Or do you only drink 30-year-old whisky because it’s
better than 12-year-old?
What I’m saying is don’t be fooled by marketing. Older isn’t always better, more expensive isn’t always better either. Keep an open mind and be willing to try different Whiskies. There are thousands out there to be tried and enjoyed.
Drink what tastes good to you, and that may differ from day-to-day.
You can buy Chivas Regal 18 for around - $60.00 a bottle.
Nose - Dried fruit, toffee/dark chocolate
Palate - Dark chocolate & light smoke
Finish - Long & warm
This issue I look at Aberlour “Camp Esther” private reserve 1983, which I had to good fortune to taste at the Queen Mary Highland Games in Long Beach.
My wife and I paid a visit to the Clan Logan tent and were made very welcome by Jim Logan. We spent some time talking and more importantly for this newsletter, Jim let me try some of the “Camp
Esther,” a very rare release of around 350 bottles.
This was an impressive whisky made all the better by the company in which it was savored. I don’t know what the chances are of getting to taste it again as it’s so rare. My hope is that next year when I go to Scotland to hike the Speyside Way that I’ll come across a bottle.
For those of you thinking, why is he telling us about a whisky that we probably can’t get, my apologies?
I hope you find solace in the following comment: I haven’t come across a bad Aberlour yet, in fact, I would recommend Aberlour whiskies to everyone, they may not be as rare as the “Camp Esther” but I’m sure that, like me, you will enjoy them.
You probably can't buy a bottle of the Aberlour "Camp Esther", but you may find some in a good bar.
Nose - Toffee, Stewed fruit, vanilla
Palate - Creamy toffee, vanilla, honey
Finish - Long with honey & a hint of spice
This issue I look at Aberlour 12-year-old, which I tried at home after buying a bottle I liked the look of, and I got lucky. This double matured version is a mix of traditional oak and sherry casks and is rich, fruity, and, to my taste-buds, has a delicious Christmas cake flavor to it.
Aberlour is also one of the best value Speyside malts available on the
the market today and I would recommend it to anyone that likes a good
You can buy Aberlour 12 for around - $55.00 a bottle.
Nose - Sweet, toffee, sherry
Palate - Rich, smooth, malty, fruity, some nuts
Finish - Toffee & fruit
If you like scotch with your food, you could try the Aberlour 12 year old with either Salmon (Pan-seared, poached, cured, smoked), or with Foie Gras, or with a dessert such as a Lush Chocolate Cake with Cherries. The choice is yours.
This issue, in honor of St. Patrick, I look at Michael Collins 10-year-old Irish single malt whiskey, which I tried in the “Uptown Billiards” bar in Flagstaff Arizona. Unusually for an Irish whiskey, Michael Collins is double distilled rather than triple distilled (the way most other Irish whiskeys are made), and the addition of being lightly smoked/peated – gives you something you don’t normally get from an Irish whiskey.
The mouthfeel of this whiskey is wonderful and the peat and smoke notes give it a nice depth, making it a delight for sipping.
Cooley (the makers of Michael Collins) has won over 300 medals since opening. Other awards they have received include "European Distiller of the Year" in 2008 and 2009 and "Distillery of the Year" in 2008 from the International Wine and Spirits competition and "Distillery of the Year" in 2010 from Malt Advocate (now Whisky Advocate) magazine.
You can buy Michael Collins 10 for around - $25.00 a bottle.
Nose - Fruity, apples
Palate - Marmalade (Orange), some smoke, creamy chocolate
Finish - Fruit, vanilla, cookies
This issue I look at the new Glenfiddich “Cask of Dreams.” This whisky has No Age Statement (NAS), but is composed of Glenfiddich 14 – 16-year-old whiskies. The whiskies are married for 3 months in virgin American oak barrels and are bottled at 48.8% ABV.
This is a limited release of 3, 500 bottles and I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a bottle. If you were one of the many that couldn’t get a bottle, but want to be one of the few people on the planet that actually get to taste it, myself and Ray Pearson (http://whiskymeister.wordpress.com) will be hosting a whisky food pairings dinner in Las Vegas in April, which will feature “Cask of Dreams.” Details on page two.
You can buy Glenfiddich “Cask of Dreams.” for around - $100.00 a bottle.
Nose - Red fruit, vanilla & spices
Palate - Spice, vanilla, apple & sweetness
Finish - Long & pleasantly sweet
This issue I look at Ardbeg 10-year-old, which I tried in the “STK” restaurant in the Cosmopolitan hotel on the Las Vegas strip. The Ardbeg 10-year-old is as you would expect from an Islay malt, smoky and peaty, but also has a spicy sweetness that I like.
On the Ardbeg website (www.ardbeg.com/ardbeg/the-ardbeg-range ) they have an interactive flavor wheel to help you match your personal tastes to their whiskies, which I enjoyed trying.
The fact that I intend to add this to my whisky collection should tell you all you need to know, as to what I think of it.
You can buy Ardbeg 10 for around - $45.00 a bottle.
Nose - Smoke, peat, toffee, cinnamon, pear drops & vanilla.
Palate - Smoke, peat, salty, light spice, coffee & (maybe) liquorice
Finish - Long smoky & sweet
This issue I look at Talisker 30-year-old, I was very fortunate indeed to be given a bottle by my friend David and his lovely wife Mattie after their trip to Scotland (thank you both so much).
Being from an island off the west coast, as you’d expect there is some smoke in this whisky, but it’s a mild smoke and again as you’d expect there’s a little saltiness to it, what I didn’t expect is the spice. If you like spicy food and you like single malt scotch you will love this whisky.
This whisky would match well with seafood, such as scallops, clams, oysters, or smoked salmon and I believe it would pair really well with a dish like tandoori prawns.
I just had a meal a couple of nights ago of pan-seared scallops on a bed of risotto with this whiskies baby brother the Talisker 10-year-old and it paired really well.
You can buy Talisker 30 for around - $375.00 a bottle.
Nose - Sea air, smoke, vanilla & citrus
Palate - Spicy, salty, creamy chocolate
Finish - Long, smooth, smoky, salty & peppery
This issue I look back at 2011 and pick the ten best (in my opinion) whiskies that I tasted and wrote about last year. Starting at #10 and working down to #1;
(10) Penderyn, yes a Welsh Single Malt whisky in my top 10.
You can buy Penderyn for around - $65.00 a bottle.
Nose - Peachy sweetness
Palate - Custard and toffee
Finish - Tropical fruits, raisins, and vanilla
This issue I look at Glenlivet 18-year-old, which I tasted in the Peppermill lounge in Las Vegas. If you saw the movie “Casino,” this is the bar in which Robert De Niro and Sharon Stone are sat at a table with a fire pit behind them.
Anyway to the whisky: It’s been a while since I last tasted the eighteen, and I have to say that it was better than I remembered (old age will do that to you).
Close your eyes and this classic malt will transport you to the Scottish highlands, it doesn’t get sidetracked by excursions to Spain (Sherry) or the Caribbean (Rum), but flies you non-stop to Scotland with those quintessential scotch flavors.
Short of walking through the heather in a kilt, this is where to find a Scottish experience.
You can buy Glenlivet 18 for around $200.00 a bottle.
Nose - Citrus & nuts
Palate - Fruit, spice, nuts & caramel
Finish - Dry, sweet & long