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"With my lineage, I'm shocked that I don't pour whisky on my cheerios."
I now look at the Macallan ‘M’ which I tasted at the “Scotch” bar in the
Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh where Tracey and I were staying in May of this year. First of all, if you get the chance to stay at the Balmoral, do it, the service is beyond exceptional, and it has the “Scotch” bar with over 400 Whiskies. It is also a short walk from the Royal mile, anyway enough of the hotel advice. I had just given a whisky presentation about 2 weeks prior to this trip, and during the presentation I referenced the 5 most expensive whiskies ever sold, with the Macallan ‘M’ being the most expensive, (albeit for a bottle 9 times the size of a normal Bottle) which sold for $631,850. Having said that, I never expected to come across a bottle on my travels, much less taste some of the contents!
So I’m talking whisky with the bar manager, specifically aromas, and he says “have you smelled the Macallan ‘M’?” WHAT!! You have a bottle here, yes he had a bottle. As he was opening up the cabinet to get the bottle out, my lovely wife said: “You should ask how much it is for a taste?”
I said, no, it would be too much, she insisted I ask, so I did.
The cost (converted) was $228.00 for a dram, well as I need to try
whiskies to write about them, I felt obliged (wink, wink) to try it. My wife felt obliged to video me tasting it, and I’m glad she did, it is the only whisky that has ever given me goosebumps and made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
WOW!!! Just WOW!!!
You can buy Macallan ‘M’ for around $5000.00 a bottle.
Nose - Ripe fruits, nutmeg & cinnamon
Palate - Plum, toffee, a hint of smoke
Finish - Long and full with raisins & sultanas
I now look at Glenfiddich 14-year-old Bourbon Barrel Reserve, which I
have tasted quite a lot recently, as I got a bottle as a gift for my friend
David at his whisky night (which he let us all taste. We all liked it, so I
bought one for the office (strictly for after work, you understand).
Well word spreads and our visitors to the office (after work), liked it so
much, that it didn’t last long, so David bought one for the office. Then I got Ken one for his retirement party, and why not, I got one for my bar.
Yes, you probably guessed by now that the latest Glenfiddich, is like it’s previous siblings well worth buying.
Thus far on my rather long and winding whisky journey, I have yet to come across a Glenfiddich that was not worth buying, and in most cases was not worth the price. To be fair there are some that are beyond my price range, to buy a whole bottle, but not to buy a dram, so no excuses, try them all.
This Glenfiddich is exclusive to the United States and is a celebration of the shared history of American and Scotch whisk(e)y, and the American oak ex-bourbon barrels that are the backbone of the single malt Scotch whisky industry.
The whisky is matured for 14 years in ex-bourbon American Oak casks and is then finished in deeply charred new American Oak barrels.
You can buy Glenfiddich 14-year-old for around $50.00 a bottle.
Nose - Vanilla, citrus, caramel
Palate - Toffee, pear, baked apple
Finish - Long, sweet, oak & fruit
I now look at Royal Lochnagar 12-year-old, which I tasted for the first time on board the Royal Yacht Britannia, which is moored in Leith, Edinburgh.
Lochnagar distillery was once visited by Queen Victoria while she was
staying at nearby Balmoral. She liked the whisky (and rumor has it that she had a nip of it in her tea with breakfast each morning) so much that she granted a “Royal warrant” to the distillery so that henceforth it became known as Royal Lochnigar.
All well and good, but what did I think about it? There’s nothing there to dislike about this whisky, it’s mellow and easy to drink, but, that said there isn’t any WOW!! Factor either.
So, it’s drinkable and at its price point, it’s not a bad deal, and yes, I could see myself drinking it, but not something I’d be adding to my tea at breakfast each morning.
It’s what you should expect and get, for the price, no disappointment, and nothing to write home about.
I will say that I’m intrigued enough to want to try some of their older
Whiskies, if I do I’ll let you know.
You can buy Royal Lochnagar 12-year-old for around $45.00 a bottle.
Nose - Honey & herbs
Palate - Honey, heather & raisins
Finish - Sweet malt & vanilla spice
I now look at Craigellachie 23-year-old, a relatively new release, as it
only came out last year (2014). Not quite a typical Speyside whisky,
yes, it has the fruit as you would expect, but it also has a good measure of spice as well. I had to give it some water, then some more, to calm the heat/spice down, then I enjoyed it. It does come at 46% which is 3% higher than the average for whiskies sold in the American market, so it’s possible, that I’m just not used to the extra alcohol, but I doubt it’s that. What I really don’t understand is its price point, I know it was awarded the prestigious “Best Whisky in Show” at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2015.
But I can’t help but, compare it’s taste and price to a couple of my favorite 21-year-olds. The Balvenie 21-year-old Portwood and the Glenfiddich 21-year-old Gran Reserva and to my taste (and wallet) the
Craigellachie fails to live up to the cost.
Both the Balvenie and Glenfiddich are less than half the price and are both stellar whiskies.
I’m off to WhiskyFest in a few days and hope to try some other
Craigellachie whiskies, and also ask them why it’s so expensive.
You can buy Craigellachie 23-year-old for around $410.00 a bottle.
Nose - Malt, vanilla, orange, and oak
Palate - Caramel, orange, and spice
Finish - Sweet and spicy
I now look at Auchentoshan (Aw-ken-tosh-an, a bit of a tongue twister) “American Oak” which my friend Justin introduced me to recently, this is a new (2014 first released), Non-Age Statement (NAS) whisky. Released to replace the Auchentoshan Classic.
Usually, I don’t tend to like changes/updates to existing core whisky
ranges but I have to hand it to the distiller, this is a nice improvement on the “classic.”
The “American oak” gets its name by being matured exclusively in first-fill American Bourbon casks. I have to say I like it, I have always been
partial to Auchentoshan whiskies and this one hits the spot. A nice easy Drinking Scotch, that is also nice and easy on the wallet.
Like it’s predecessor, this whisky is triple-distilled, which is a distinct quirk that Auchentoshan has, as the other Scottish distilleries do a
Auchentoshan is one of the few remaining Lowlander distilleries left in Scotland, however, there are moves afoot to build more.
You can buy Auchentoshan American Oak for around $40.00 a bottle.
Nose - Citrus & toffee
Palate - Peaches, citrus, coconut & toffee
Finish - Orange and toffee
I now look at Glenmorangie “Signet.” Using whiskies aged from 35 to 40 Years old, this whisky earned the Best Single Malt Scotch Trophy at the International Wine and Spirits Competition in 2013, as well as a number of other awards both before and after.
What do I think of it; mmmmmmm chocolate!! I was quite taken aback when I first tasted this whisky at WhiskyFest last year in San Francisco.
(That is a reason you should consider going to a whiskyFest at some point in your scotch drinking life, the lovely surprises awaiting you, that you would otherwise never get).
It really tasted like I was eating or drinking chocolate, I had it again
recently in “The Angel’s share” hotel bar in Edinburgh, Scotland, and also in Milos (Greek restaurant) in the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas and yes, it’s still all about the chocolate.
The whisky gets its unique chocolate flavor by the marriage of two
types of malted barley: Cadboll malted barley (which adds some
creaminess to the whisky), and malted chocolate barley (often used
to create craft beers, such as brown ales, porters, stouts).
You can buy Glenmorangie “Signet” for around $160.00 a bottle.
Nose - Cocoa, oranges, malt
Palate - Dark chocolate, coffee, molasses
Finish - Long with cocoa, cream, orange, and coffee
I now look at Glenglassaugh “Evolution”, a whisky that is matured in ex-Tennessee first-fill whiskey casks (from the George Dickel Distillery).
“Evolution” is bottled at 50%, which is quite strong by normal standards (around 43%), the color is natural (no caramel or other coloring agents), and it is also non chill-filtered, which I prefer. True or not, I believe non-chill filtration removes some of the whiskies flavor.
My thoughts on this whisky? I liked it, it is an easy dram to Drink, and I am now intrigued and wish to try other Glenglassaugh whiskies.
The Glenglassaugh distillery is located on the coast between Buckie and Fraserburgh.
This whisky has taken a silver medal at the last three International spirit competitions (2013, 2014 & 2015).
You can buy “Evolution” for around $75.00 a bottle.
Nose - Vanilla fudge, apples, pears and coconut
Palate - Vanilla fudge, pear, apple, coconut, and banana
Finish - Sweet with coconut and anise (licorice)
I now look at Glen Grant “five decades”, which I first heard of a couple of years ago at WhiskyFest in San Francisco.
I didn’t try it that night, as I didn’t see it, it was through talking to my friend Ken Misch and asking him what was the best whisky he had tasted all night?
His reply was Glen Grant “five decades”.
Damn! Lack of planning on my part caused me to miss out, fortunately, a couple of months later another friend Mark Jones walked into my office with a bottle of it.
This whisky was made by marrying together casks of whisky maturing over the past five decades, as a homage to their master distiller Dennis Malcom.
Dennis Malcolm, who was born on the distillery's grounds in 1946. At the age of 15, Malcolm began working at the distillery as a cooper and was promoted to Master Distiller in 2006.
The “five decades” is light and creamy with complex fruity flavors, this
Whisky is very “Moreish”, don’t know if that’s a word or not, but that’s what this whisky is, if you try it, you’ll want another drink of it.
You can buy the Glen Grant five decades for around $150.00 a bottle.
Nose - Apricots, honey & toffee
Palate - Apricots, peaches, melon, vanilla pudding
Finish - As above; tastes like pudding/dessert
I now look at the “Naked” Grouse a blended scotch whisky and
member of the “Famous Grouse” family. A relatively (pun intended)
new addition to the family, this is a good blended whisky, at a nice
price. So the only reason not to try it is your geographical location,
I have not found it for sale here in America yet. I had to go on the
internet and have it shipped over here, was it worth the effort, yes,
I think so.
Although I’ll not go online and order more, I would buy it if I found
The “Naked” Grouse being a blended scotch is made of a number
of different whiskies, and at its core are whiskies from the Highland
Park and the Macallan distilleries. Both makers of great whiskies,
which in itself may be enough to tempt you to try this blend.
The whisky is matured in first-fill sherry casks, which give it, it’s
nice golden color. Note the packaging, most unusual, a play on the
“naked” name, simple and effective, which shows off the color, a
nice marketing touch.
You can buy the “Naked” Grouse for around $40.00 a bottle.
Nose - Black cherries and cocoa
Palate - Dried fruits & apple pie spices
Finish - Dark chocolate & spice
I now look at Fettercairn “Fior”, which I tried with dinner recently at the Witchery Restaurant in Edinburgh, Scotland. Fior is Gaelic for "true" (or pure) and is a reimagining of their prior 12-year-old release, bottled at 42%.
The “Fior” is ageless, or at least, comes as a No Age Statement (NAS) whisky. Have they used younger whiskies in this single malt?
To my suspicious mind, probably. This is becoming a more and more common practice these days, and if you speak to anyone connected to the distillery (any distillery that is producing NAS), you will here, how it frees the master distiller/blender from the constraint of putting an age on the bottle and allows him to produce a great product.
Funny how the proliferation of NAS whiskies follows hot on the heels of projections that said; we were looking at a shortage of whisky stocks? As I said, just my suspicious mind. Having just turned into a conspiracy theorist, let me add, it is not always to the detriment of the quality of the whisky in your bottle. As this whisky demonstrates, you can make a NAS whisky that tastes good and is relatively inexpensive (pay attention Macallan, with your colored nonsense).
You can buy Fettercairn “Fior” for around $60.00 a bottle.
Nose - Citrus fruits & coffee
Palate - Coffee, dark chocolate, a hint of smoke & spice
Finish - Sherry & pineapple
I now look at the Ardbeg Supernova, which I tried recently in Edinburgh, Scotland. The third release under the Supernova name, this whisky (Supernova 2014) celebrates the return to earth of The Ardbeg/Nasa Space experiment in September of last year. Where vials of Ardbeg new make spirit were kept on the International Space Station for a couple of years, to see how wood/spirit interaction changes in a zero/microgravity environment.
The first edition of Supernova appeared in 2009, the second in 2010 and though not readily available can still be found. The original Supernova was part of a peat war when the Islay distilleries were competing to produce the peatiest whisky. While Ardbeg might not have won the war (that accolade goes to Bruichladdich’s Octomore whiskies) they certainly came out of it with some credit:
Jim Murray crowned Supernova 2009 the Scotch Whisky of the Year and Second Finest Whisky in the World in 2010.
You can buy Ardbeg “Supernova” for around $195.00 a bottle.
Nose - Peat, smoke & dark chocolate
Palate - Peat, smoke, dark chocolate, coffee & spice
Finish - Sweet smoke, peat & dark chocolate
In this issue, as it’s almost American Independence day (July 4th).
I look at Knob Creek Bourbon, a small batch bourbon produced
by Jim Beam. Whereas the law demand that a Bourbon has to be
aged for a minimum of two years, this bourbon is aged for nine
I have to state upfront, (as most of you already know) that my
preference is for Single malt scotch, I have difficulty with the
sweetness I get from Bourbons, and unfortunately, that’s the case
with the Knob Creek, the sweetness tends to almost overpower all
the flavors. I am open to any Bourbon drinkers, suggesting a
Bourbon I should try, that isn’t overly sweet?
You can buy this Bourbon for around $30.00 a bottle.
Nose - Nutty, caramel sweetness
Palate - Sweet, rich, toffee and a little spice
Finish - Long with vanilla and nuts
This review is for my friends at the Grindstone Cigar Club in Redding California; Here we have the new Dalmore “Cigar Malt.”
The Original was discontinued about 6 years ago, much to the
consternation of cigar and whisky aficionados around the world.
The old bottle’s price point was relatively inexpensive coming in
between the 12-year-old and the 15-year-old Dalmore. The new
bottling of the “Cigar malt”, is more expensive, which reflects the
older whiskies used, unfortunately, that does raise the price.
However, if you trust Richard Patterson (who wouldn’t) and the
choices he makes in putting a blend together, you will not be
disappointed with this creation, either on its own or with a full
You can buy this whisky for around $100.00 a bottle.
Nose - Coffee, caramel shortbread
Palate - Caramel, marmalade & sherried fruits
Finish - Medium with orange & cinnamon spice
In this issue; I look at “Toiteach” (toc-chach) a No Age Statement
(NAS) single malt whisky from Bunnahabhain, on the island of
Islay (Isla). This bottle holds a wee surprise in store for those of
you who are Bunnahabhain fans, this is a smoky whisky!!
This is your chance to try a smoky/peaty single malt from
Bunnahabhain a distillery known for their gentle, fruity Islay
It’s a nice drinkable whisky, that I would drink again. I think
though, that it would have benefitted with a few more years of
My recommendation: Try a dram in a bar, before you buy it.
You can buy …………this whisky for around $100.00 a bottle.
Nose - Light peat & smoke with fruit
Palate - Spicy black pepper, sweet smoke & fruit
Finish - Long with sweet smoke & fruit
In this issue; I look at Springbank 15-year-old, from the Campbeltown
Region (once proclaimed the ‘whisky capital of the world’) of Scotland,
which I first tasted a few years ago while co-hosting a Whisky food
pairing dinner at the Riviera Casino in Las Vegas.
The distillery was founded in 1828 by Archibald Mitchell and is now
run by Hedley Wright, Mitchell’s great, great-grandson, the fifth
generation of the Mitchell family to own and manage Springbank.
This is an outstanding whisky, I like this a great deal, highly
You can buy Springbank 15-year-old for around $100.00 a bottle.
Nose - Dark chocolate, Christmas cake, almonds, toffee
Palate - Raisins, dark chocolate, marzipan & vanilla
Finish - Long with vanilla, Oak, sherry & cocoa
In this issue; I look at Bruichladdich “Octomore” 6.1 from the island of Islay (Isla). Don’t be put off when you read 5-years-old on the label, that is just the youngest whisky in the bottle, there are older ones in there and they definitely leave their mark. This is a great whisky, and Bruichladdich’s cold smoke drying process allows them to produce a whisky with 167ppm of smoke. To put it into perspective Lagavulin has 35-40ppm and Laphroaig has 40-45ppm. I have probably put most whisky drinkers into panic mode with those facts, but hold on. The cold smoke process does not produce a whisky 4 times smokier than anything else you’ve tasted, it produces an elegant, Smooth and delightful whisky, with smoke, yes!! It does not beat you up with it though, I would put this in a similar bracket to Lagavulin 16,
but a little lighter (and younger) in overall flavor. I like this, recommended.
You can buy Bruichladdich “Octomore” 6.1 for around $140.00 a bottle.
Nose - Peat smoke with cracked black peppercorn & heather
Palate - Peat smoke, malt, stewed apple
Finish - Long, long finish with smoke & peat
In this issue; I look at Compass Box “Hedonism” blended grain whisky,
made from a combination of eight to 15 casks of grain whisky from distilleries such as Cameron Bridge, one of the oldest continuously operating distilleries in Scotland.
Most of the whisky in Hedonism has been aged in first-fill American oak casks. This aging yields a whisky that is full and round with rich flavors of vanilla and toffee.
Let’s cut to the chase, do I like it? Yes, I do. In fact, I’ve liked all of the
Compass Box whiskies I’ve tried (and I’ve tried most of them). Yes, I railed at Compass Box “Peat Monster” last year, more because, in my mind at least, it should have been called “Peat Puppy” instead. I just thought it’s flavor didn’t live up to its name.
I think that “Hedonism” is a more appropriate name, this is a bit self
indulgent, as scotch, should be.
You can buy Hedonism Whiskey for around $85.00 a bottle.
Nose - Lots of ripe fruit, vanilla cake
Palate - Creamy toffee, cherry & sweet spice
Finish - Spicy milk chocolate
In this issue; I look at the “Famous Grouse” blended scotch whisky, which was first produced by Matthew Gloag & Son in 1896, and is currently produced and owned by The Edrington Group. The single malt whiskies used in The Famous Grouse blend include the Edrington owned Highland Park and The Macallan (two top-notch single malts).
It has been the best selling whisky in Scotland since 1980, some people put that down to its inexpensive price of around 15 pounds. It has to be more than that, as it rivals Teachers, Grants, Bells, etc are all good blended whiskies, but can’t rival its sales. It is, in fact, a nice flavorsome whisky. Give it a try!
You can buy Famous Grouse Whisky for around $25.00 a bottle.
Nose - Citrus, oak & Sherry
Palate - Fruit & malt
Finish - Medium, Famous Grouse a little dry
In this issue; as it’s St. Patrick’s day, I look at Teeling small batch
Blended Irish Whiskey. This small batch bottling consists of hand-selected casks that are given further maturation in ex-rum barrels
imparting extra depth of flavor and a smoother character. Bottled at
46% with no chill filtration.
The Teeling Family have been in the whiskey-making business for
Hundreds of years. In 1782, Walter Teeling opened the family's first
distillery in Dublin and over two hundred years later John Teeling
opened the Cooley Distillery in County Louth. After selling his beloved
distillery to spirits giant Beam Inc., Mr. Teeling wasted no time before
jumping back on the whiskey train. This time at the helm is Jack
Teeling, John's son. The result is this lovely, innovative new whiskey.
You can buy Teeling blended Irish Whiskey for around $50.00 a
Nose - Vanilla & apple pie
Palate - Vanilla, spice, toffee & a hint of lemon
Finish - Floral with a hint of toffee
In this issue, I look at the Benriach Septendecim Peated 17-year-old, first of all just to clarify the name. Septendecim is Latin for seventeen. This whisky harks back to Benraich’s nineteenth-century roots, a time when the majority of Speyside distilleries were producing peated whiskies, unlike today, when it is quite rare.
Septendecim is non chill-filtered, and bottled at natural color (no caramel added), with a strength of 46% ABV.
This is not your Islay peated whisky, that beats you around the head with peat and smoke and leaves you smiling with enjoyment (if like me you are a fan of big peat).
This is a peated whisky for sure but is a lighter, Highland-style whisky
with a healthy kick of peat on the back end.
If you like peat, but don’t like to be beaten up by it, you’ll like this.
You can buy Benriach Septendecim for around $75.00 a bottle.
Nose - Vanilla, cedar, caramel apple
Palate - Vanilla, peat/smoke, black pepper cinnamon & rhubarb
Finish - Long with peat & spice
In this issue, I look at the new Oban “Little Bay” a new No Age Statement (NAS) whisky from Diageo. Aged in smaller casks to increase the ratio of wood to whisky, this method does seem to mature the whisky quicker, taking away the harsher aspects of a young whisky.
However, it does not impart the depth of flavor that the normal (and longer) maturation process imparts. I tasted the Oban “Little Bay” alongside its famous sister, Oban 14-year-old, at the Nevada Society of Scottish Clans “Burns Night” in Reno, Nevada a few days ago.
I was speaking to the whisky ambassador for Oban and he told me it was released to coincide with Burns night, so it is a brand new release.
I have to say that (in my opinion) the 14 is far superior and around $15.00 cheaper.
So to me, this is a no brainer, don’t buy the “Little Bay” stick with the 14. I may be biased, as the 14 has long been a favorite of mine, but I don’t think it’s bias, I think it’s common sense.
You can buy Oban “Little Bay” for around $80.00 a bottle.
Nose - Lemon, cinnamon
Palate - Malt, lemon/orange & sea salt
Finish - Green apple, very slight hint of mint, dry
In this issue, I look at the Kininvie 23-year-old (batch 2) single malt scotch whisky. The first batch was released exclusively in Taiwan. I had the good fortune to present the Kininvie recently at the “Whisky Extravaganza” held at the Los Angeles Athletic Club. What a stunning whisky this is, light and delicate. If I were to put this into a musical
context, my top two whiskies of 2014 were the Balvenies, Tun 1509 batch 1, and the Tun 1401 batch 3; they have such intense flavors they would be “Rock ‘n’ Roll. Kininvie is The “Flower duet” from the opera Lakmé; very refined and delicate. Unfortunately, it is not cheap and is also hard to come by, with only 1200 half bottles released to the
My final word: If you find it and can afford it, buy it.
You will not be disappointed, this is one of the nicest whiskies I
have ever tasted.
You can buy Kininvie 23-year-old for around $350.00 (a half
Nose - Ripe peaches & Kiwi fruit
Palate - Sweet peaches & cream with light oak
Finish - Long with sweet peach
Time to look at some of my current favorite whiskies, my top 10 from 2014.
(10) Old Pulteney 12-year-old
From the most northerly distillery on the Scottish Mainland, in the town of Wick. I just like this more and more, it has earned a permanent place in my whisky cabinet.
Featured in issue 14, May 2011.
Approximate Cost per bottle - $45.00
Nose - Quite intense with a hint of salt (sea air)
Palate - Medium-bodied, faintly salty with an orange note.
Finish - Long & predominantly orange-flavored, a hint of malt.
A Happy and Prosperous New Year to one and all. In this issue I look at the Pusser’s 15-year-old blended Rum, a strange choice you might think for someone who writes about whisky? Let me explain; my friend Mike (like me, an old British Royal Navy sailor) suggested I write about Rum. His reasoning, we had both served (separately) on the
Frigate, HMS Yarmouth (Pennant no. F101), and as this is my 101st issue it seemed apropos. As can probably be guessed at, being a career Navy man, I have sampled many of the world's rums, some fine, some less so.
I did have some trouble with the flavor map (page 3), whether to use
it or not? I decided to use it and to think of the whisky that I could most closely relate the rum to? For me, it would have to be the
Balvenie Tun 1401 batch 3 with its intense flavors. Am I saying this rum tastes like the Balvenie?
No, I’m not, I’m mainly talking about the depth of flavor, the Balvenie is the most intensely flavored whisky I have tasted and this Rum has a flavor that just goes on forever. The Pusser’s does have some raisin flavor and the Balvenie has tons of stewed fruit flavors including raisins, but “Never the twain shall meet” just me stretching to give you a whisky to compare it to.
Thank you to Mike for the suggestion and thank you to my son Paul, for the bottle of rum.
You can buy Pusser’s 15-year-old Rum for around $65.00 a bottle.
Nose - Molasses and caramel
Palate - Demerara brown sugar, toffee, raisins
Finish - Long with nutmeg and a little oak