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"Always carry a large flagon of whisky in case of snakebite and furthermore always carry a small snake."
I now look at the Nikka Coffee Grain whisky, This is not a single malt,but a single grain whisky made with corn. Which I first tasted on this day (17th December) in 2014 at Duke’s Waikiki. I remember the day because it’s my wife’s birthday and it was my first taste of Japanese whisky.I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised, I liked this whisky a lot and it has become a gateway whisky for me as I have since tasted many Japanese whiskies and I can’t say that I’ve had a bad one.
The name may lead you to think that it has a coffee flavor, but it is made at the Miyagikyo distillery using two Coffee stills that Nikka imported from Scotland in 1963 hence the name. Would I buy it, yes I would. I like the flavor and the price is reasonable.
You can buy Nikka Coffee Grain whisky for around $50.00 a bottle.
Nose - Cereal, herbs & vanilla.
Palate - Grapefruit, melon & vanilla.
Finish - Cereal, honey & vanilla.
I now look at the Glenfiddich 30-year-old, as I always like to review a special Whisky for my Christmas issue. I first tasted this one a few years ago when my friend Mark brought a bottle to our office just before Christmas for us to try. I have had to pay for it myself since then, not a bottle I might add just a dram. As those of you that have been getting my newsletters for years will no, I have a soft spot for anything Glenfiddich, so yes I like this one. It is a superb whisky and well worth a taste if you come across it in a bar. I have to say though that I actually prefer the 26-year-old “Excellence” and it is hundreds of dollars cheaper. Would I buy it, yes, if I can could afford to? As you can see it’s not a cheap Bottle, but compared to some 30-year-old's it’s not that expensive.
Unfortunately I can remember when it was $400.00 a bottle.
You can buy Glenfiddich 30-year-old for around $800.00 a bottle.
Nose - Cocoa, coffee & sherry
Palate - Citrus, dates & nuts
Finish - Honey, pear & toffee
I now look at Laird’s Applejack as this will be my Thanksgiving issue. I first came across this Brandy (yes, it’s made from apples so it’s a Brandy), in a local restaurant and thought I’d give it a try. I liked it, so had another. Laird & Company can claim to be the oldest family owned distillery in America, with it’s founder Alexander Laird emigrating from Fife, in Scotland in 1698. He was believed to be a whisky maker back in Scotland, but as there was no Barley to be had locally and an over abundance of apples, he set his hand to making apple Brandy.
Having tried this and enjoyed it (this is a blend of 35% apple brandy and 65% neutral spirits) , I’m looking forward to trying their “Straight 86,” which is made more like a single malt (although still a Brandy).
Would I buy it, yes I just did? How could I not, I like it and look at the Price?
You can buy Laird’s Applejack for around $20.00 a bottle.
Nose - Apples, hibiscus & cherry
Palate - Baked apples, cinnamon & caramel
Finish - Apples & peaches
I now look at the Kilbeggan Traditional Irish Whiskey. From the oldest whiskey distillery in Ireland established in 1757 (Northern Ireland has an older one in the Bushmills distillery established in 1608 making it the oldest in the world). This is a 4-year-old whiskey double distilled (triple being more the norm in Ireland) then aged in ex-Bourbon barrels. It is generally believed that the extra distillation (the third) removes around 24% of the whiskey’s flavor, but makes for a smoother lighter whiskey. That is why, in my opinion that people who are new to whisk(e)y tend to prefer to drink Irish over Scotch, and makes triple distilled whiskies more amenable to mixers, of course I could be delusional? Would I buy it? Maybe around St. Patrick’s day.
You can buy Kilbeggan whiskey for around $30.00 a bottle.
Nose - Caramel, cereal & vanilla
Palate - Almonds, toffee, peach & vanilla
Finish - Dry & oaky
I now look at the Cardhu 18-year-old single malt scotch whisky. The Cardhu distillery was licensed in 1823, but had been distilling illegally for decades prior to that time. Located in Speyside and owned by Johnny Walker Cardhu whisky is a key part of Johnny Walker’s blended whiskies.
That’s why you probably haven’t seen a great deal of different Cardhu whiskies on the shelves of your liquor Stores. As you would expect from an 18-year-old Speyside it is very fruit forward on the nose and palate. Being an 18-year-old it also has a nice oily mouthfeel to it.
Would I buy it? Absolutely. This is a great whisky!
You can buy Cardhu 18-year-old whisky for around $90.00 a bottle.
Nose - Lots of fruit, plum, pear & with a hint of pineapple
Palate - Stewed fruits, Plums, Cherries & Chocolate
Finish - Fruit with a touch of Cocoa
I now look at K5 Bhutan whisky. The whisky is made to a Bhutanese recipe by the distillers at the Gelephu Distillery, under the auspices of the Bhutanese Army Welfare Project with all proceeds going to help veterans of the Bhutanese military. Sixty-Five per cent of the whisky comes from eight to twelve year-year-old malt whiskys, distilled in Scotland that have been aged in bourbon and sherry casks. Thirty-Five per cent is Bhutanese organic grain spirit, distilled with Himalayan glacial water. The whisky is blended and bottled in Bhutan and is named “K5” after the 5th King of Bhutan, His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck.
I tried this whisky in the Virgin Atlantic lounge at Heathrow airport (pre-Covid), why? Well, I’d never seen it before and was intrigued.
Would I buy it? Sure, why not. I quite liked it, and the money is going to a good cause. And it would certainly be a conversation starter to have one on your bar.
You can buy K5 Bhutan whisky for around $55.00 a bottle.
Nose - Fruit with a hint of peat
Palate - Sherried fruits and a hint of cinnamon
Finish - Light sweet fruit with a touch of smoke
I now look at the Arran "Lochranza" reserve Single Malt whisky. This is a No-age-statement whisky (not always a good thing), which immediately makes me suspicious that they are using younger whiskies. OK, so I think this is a younger whisky, probably around the 6-year-mark, does it show its age? Yes and no, it has a little spice/heat to it, but overall is quite smooth.
It is also non-chill filtered, which I personally think is a good thing, as I believe that chill filtration removes some of the whisky’s flavor. I’ve used this comparison on a number of occasions, it reminds me of a lowland whisky with its light citrus and green apple notes, which is no bad thing, there are a lot of nice lowland malts out there. Would I buy it? Maybe, that would depend on my mood and what was available on the shelf beside it. It’s not bad, but not overly memorable
You can buy Arran "Lochranza" for around $45.00 a bottle.
Nose - Apple, lemon, hint of cocoa
Palate - Citrus & spicy toffee
Finish - Creamy smooth citrus.
I now look at the Mackinlay's Shackleton “The Discovery” blended whisky.
This whisky comes with great packaging and an even better storyline and it is a creation of Richard Patterson of Whyte & Mackay’s one of the world’s foremost whisky makers.
How does it taste? To be honest, I wasn’t that impressed initially, which in part may have been down to its strength of 47.3% and in part to my very high expectations. But it certainly grew on me and by the time I had drunk the last dram from the bottle I was really sorry to see it go. I now have another bottle and many thanks to my friend Mark for giving it to me.
Anyway, to the taste; it is light and fruity (almost a fresh fruit cocktail) with a hint of peat and quite delicious. When I think back to my first taste and not being impressed, I now wonder what the hell was I thinking. Would I buy it, yes I already have and would do so again. Highly recommended.
You can buy Mackinlay's Shackleton “The Discovery” for around $150.00 a bottle.
Nose - Apple, floral, gooseberry, pear, pineapple, and a hint of smoke
Palate - Fruits, nuts, toffee, and a hint of peat
Finish - Cookies (biscuits) crème brûlée & orange.
I now look at the Highland park “Valknut” single malt whisky. Named for the symbol that each Viking warrior who fought well in Battle was marked with, prior to being transported to
Valhalla. OK, cool-looking bottle and nice storyline, but how does it taste?
To me, it tastes pretty darned good, although I’m not surprised, Highland Park does make great whisky. You get some peat on the nose, palate and finish as you would expect From Highland Park, the Gingerbread was a bit of surprise and I’m a sucker for Gingerbread, so it pushes all the
right buttons for me. Would I buy it, yes, I just did and would buy it again? I got mine
at Costco which seems to be $10 to $20 cheaper than elsewhere.
You can buy Highland park “Valknut” for around $70.00 a bottle.
Nose - Honey, Peat & Vanilla
Palate - Gingerbread with a hint of Licorice & Peat
Finish - Gingerbread, Orange & Peat.
I now look at the Singleton of Dufftown “Tailfire” Speyside single malt whisky. Never tried this whisky, have you even heard of it, probably not? That’s because most of what they produce goes into blends, for the Bell’s whisky company and if that is not enough to confuse you Diagio also own many other distilleries, such as Glen Ord and Glendullan and both these distilleries release a singleton whisky. The Singleton of Glen Ord is for the European market, the Singleton of Dufftown is for the Asian market and the Singleton of Glendullan is for the American market. Though with the internet, you can order any or all of them. I assumed wrongly that “Singleton” whiskies were some form of independent bottler releases and pretty much ignored them. Which was pretty dumb on my part, also ignoring independent bottlings is a mistake as they produce some superb whiskies. So, would I buy it? Yes, I would it’s a nice whisky and the price is Great.
You can buy Singleton of Dufftown “Tailfire” for around $40.00 a bottle.
Nose - Red berries & Vanilla
Palate - Berries, nuts & a little spice
Finish - Spicy berries
I now look at the Glencadam 21-year-old Highland single malt, which I stumbled across (no I had not been drinking thus far) on my last trip to Scotland. I say stumbled across, because up to that point I had never heard of Glencadam whisky. The distillery had closed in 2002 and reopened in 2003, so this whisky must be from stock laid down to mature prior to the short closure.
Hopefully, the new stock, is of a similar caliber, because this is stellar stuff, think of an older Glenmorangie. With a nice oily mouthfeel and delicate, exotic flavors this one is a star.
I shall certainly be on the lookout for other Glencadam whiskies on my travels and I suggest you do so also. So, would I buy it? I surely would, I have seen it priced online from $100.00 to over $200.00, if you can get it anywhere near the $100.00 mark, consider it a steal!
You can buy Glencadam 21-year-old for $100.00 to $200.00 a bottle.
Nose - Cereal, tropical fruits & vanilla
Palate - Hot buttered toast spread with pineapple jam
Finish - Nice & smooth with tropical fruits
I now look at the Speyburn 10-year-old, Speyside single malt whisky.
Before I go any farther, I will try some of Speyburn’s older whiskies, next time I find them in a bar and can get a dram of them rather than buy a Bottle, untried as I did with this 10-year-old.
I know everyone’s taste is different, so it may well just be me, but I found This to be harsh and hot, to the extent that whatever flavors were going on I could hardly discern them.
I’m not often disappointed by a whisky, but I was with this one, I don’t even know if a few extra years in the cask would fix it. If you’ve tried it and like it, good luck to you and just ignore my comments. This whisky won a gold medal winner at the 2006 San Francisco World Spirits Competition…….So what do I know?
So, would I buy it? No, I wouldn’t, sorry, I just don’t like this one. That’s not to say that I won’t like their other whiskies, I just haven't tried them yet.
You can buy Speyburn 10-year-old for around $30.00 a bottle.
Nose - Hints of malt & fruit
Palate - Sweetish malt & spicy harsh
Finish - Hot & spicy harsh
I now look at the Tamnavulin “Double cask” single malt Speyside whisky, which I tasted in the “Ardshiel” hotel (highly recommended) in Campbeltown.
“Double cask” refers to the fact that the whisky starts its maturation life in American oak casks and is finished in sherry casks.
I had never even heard of “Tamnavulin,” and did a double-take, when I looked at the bottle, as I thought it said “Lagavulin.”
This is the first release of a single malt from “Tamnavulin” since the 1990s, partly due to changes in ownership and being closed for a few years, reopening in 2007.
There are as you would expect independent bottlings out there, to be had.
It might have been unknown to me, but now it is unforgettable, what a lovely whisky, great flavors, and aromas.
So, would I buy it? Yes, I would. Nice whisky, nice price.
You can buy Tamnavulin “Double cask” for around $40.00 a bottle.
Nose - Stewed apples & creamy chocolate
Palate - Christmas pudding, caramels & chocolate.
Finish - Sweet stewed fruits.
I now look at the Strathmill 12-year-old “Flora & Fauna.” This is one of the few releases from the Strathmill distillery, with the bulk of their product going into Justerini & Brooks (J&B) blended whisky. The usual suspects (independent bottlers), such as “Gordon & MacPhail,” “That boutique-y whisky company,” & “Douglas Lang” etc, all do bottlings of Strathmill so it can be bought.
I know I harp on about, if I did a blind tasting of a whisky, how I would have thought it was a Lowland whisky, because of its light green, floral notes.
Well, this has to be the best example of a Speyside whisky, smelling and tasting of all the attributes that you would associate with a Lowland whisky.
So, would I buy it? No, I wouldn’t. It is a bit lightweight in the taste department and it is a bit heavyweight in the price department for a 12-year-old.
You can buy Strathmill 12-year-old for around $65.00 a bottle.
Nose - Green grass, nuts & fruit
Palate - Custard tart
Finish - Vanilla, herbs, and a hint of spice
I now look at the Glenburgie 14-year-old from Gordon & Macphail, an independent bottling company, as Glenburgie generally doesn’t bottle their own single malt whiskies. They have done so, but not recently. Most of Glenburgie’s whisky goes into Ballantine’s blended whisky, which is one of the best selling whiskies on the planet.
So, many people around the world have tasted Glenburgie without even knowing it.
What did I think, on the nose, I was immediately intrigued, I like Christmas desserts with all that cooked fruit and that is what I was smelling. On the palate, I got confirmation of what I was smelling, with the bonus addition of custard (another favorite) and a nice mouthfeel. A good finish to it as well, works for me.
So, would I buy it? Yes I would, it is a bit expensive for a 14-year-old, but I liked it.
You can buy Glenburgie 14-year-old for around $95.00 a bottle.
Nose - Green apples, stewed fruit & white chocolate
Palate - Fruitcake, baking spices & custard
Finish - Baking spices & citrus
I now look at the Teaninich 10-year-old highland single malt whisky, bottled by the Mossburn company. Teaninich is a huge distillery with an output of over 10 million liters a year, however finding an official distillery bottling, is up there with finding a live unicorn. This is because most of their product goes to Haig “Dimple,” Johnny Walker and Vat 69 blends.
So you have to do what I did, and taste their whisky, but from an independent bottler.
This whisky is cask strength, coming in at 59.1% and was a bit too hot for my palate, some water, helped calm it down. After the heat had been controlled, by the addition of water, the whisky wasn’t too shabby, in fact, I quite liked it.
So, would I buy it? Nope! It’s nice, but not $80.00 for a 10-year-old, nice.
You can buy Teaninich 10-year-old for around $80.00 a bottle.
Nose - Apples & floral
Palate - Spicy apples & pears
Finish - Sweet spicy apples
I now look at the Glen Elgin 12-year-old single malt, Speyside whisky. I tried this in the town of Elgin on a recent trip to Scotland, it seemed appropriate (a kind of when in Rome, do what the Romans do). So what did I think? It was an OK whisky, it wasn’t bad and it wasn’t really that memorable, I could drink a dram again, but I probably wouldn’t stretch to buying a bottle.
For the price, I could get a Glenfiddich 15-year-old, which is one of my favorites, and there is no comparison. I did, however, like it enough to be curious about other Glen Elgin
bottlings and there are a number of them out there. I will be sure to let you know how that goes.
You can see a house martin (bird) on the bottle they do this because several pairs of these birds raise their young under the eaves of the distillery, a nice touch. So, would I buy it? No, I wouldn’t.
You can buy Glen Elgin 12-year-old for around $55.00 a bottle.
Nose - Coffee & cream
Palate - Honey on buttered toast
Finish - Medium with buttered toast.
I now look at the Spey “Tenne” single malt whisky from the Speyside distillery. As the name of the whisky suggests, this is a Speyside region whisky from a distillery of the same name.
This whisky spends the bulk of its life in Bourbon casks and then spends the last six months in Tawny Port casks, which is where it gets its red color and also much of its fruit flavor from.
As single malt scotch whiskies go this is relatively young at around 8-years-old.
The Speyside distillery was built in 1956 as a grain distillery, and in 1962 construction was started on a Malt whisky distillery, which took until 1987 to complete. This is yet another whisky that is not commonly seen on your liquor store shelves, in part because the distillery only produces 600,000 liters per year.
So, would I buy it? Yes, I would, it’s a nice light, delicate whisky and is very reasonably priced.
You can buy Spey “Tenne” for around $30.00 a bottle.
Nose - Apples, bananas & pears
Palate - Sweet apple, banana & pear
Finish - Sweet chocolate, apple banana & pear
I now look at the Royal Brackla 12-year-old, which I tasted on the Royal Yacht Britannia in Leith, Scotland. Most of the distilleries production goes to Dewar’s blended whiskies, so if you have not come across this one, that could be the reason.
However it is available and you just need to keep a lookout for it, and in my opinion, you won’t be disappointed with it, I think it is a nice whisky. Where did the name come from, well initially it was just called Brackla, until King William IV (who liked it a lot), issued a Royal warrant in 1833 to the distillery, and from that point on it was known as Royal Brackla.
I also think it has a classy label, so it will give your bar a nice touch of class.
I f you want another “Royal” whisky on your bar, try “Royal Lochnagar” Queen Victoria’s favorite.
So, would I buy it? Yes I would, it is a little expensive for a 12-year-old, but, I think it is worth it.
You can buy Royal Brackla 12-year-old for around $55.00 a bottle.
Nose - Chocolate & apple
Palate - Chocolate cream cake, with a hint of ginger
Finish - Chocolate & apple
I now look at the Singleton of Glen Ord 18-year-old. This was released by Diagio in 2019, the parent company and owner of Glen Ord distillery.
Diagio believes that tasting preferences differ around the world and they have developed the “Singleton” whiskies to be released to different regions, in this case for the Asian market. But thanks to the internet, you can buy it anywhere. This whisky spends all 18 years in charred American oak hogsheads, which results in lots of fruit and spice on the palate.
What is also evident on the first tasting is the heat, the whisky is bottled at 55% ABV (40 to 43% is normal for the US Market). After a drop of water and the burn goes away, but the flavor remains.
So, would I buy it? Probably not, the price is a bit high for an
18-year-old, and there are a lot of other 18-year-olds out there.
You can buy the Singleton of Glen Ord 18-year-old for around $130.00 a bottle.
Nose - Orange & chocolate
Palate - Orange & spicy chocolate
Finish - Smooth with orange & a hint of spice
I now look at the North British Distillery 10-year-old from Wemyss Malts, which I tried Last night at home, courtesy of my buddy Mark Jones and his Whisky advent calendar gift (you dodged a bullet with this one Mark).
This is a single grain scotch whisky and they have called it “Watermelon Wedge,” while I did indeed get a hint of watermelon when I first tasted it, I think a more appropriate name would have been “Napalm.” I can’t remember ever having tasted a hotter whisky, while it comes in at 46% It tastes more like 46,000%.
It burned so badly that I added water to it, tasted it, then added more Water, tasted it again, and added more water, with the result that while it was now drinkable, it didn’t taste of watermelon or anything else. Definitely not for the faint of heart.
So, would I buy it? No, I wouldn’t.
You can buy North British Distillery 10-year-old for around $65.00 a bottle.
Nose - Brown sugar, cedar & nutmeg
Palate - Hint of Watermellon & dragon fire
Finish - Death of taste buds & volcanoes
I now look at the Glenfarclas 1963 family cask, I tried this at Whiskyfest in San Francisco, it was very fruity, and a little hot. The funny thing was when I added water to it, it was still hot, but the flavor diminished, I’ve never had that happen before or since when adding water.
As the name suggests this was bottled in 1963, after a long
maturation in a sherry cask, how long? I’ve no idea, I can’t find that out, but judging from the taste and mouthfeel of the whisky, it was a long time. The best bet to taste this whisky, is the next time you are in the Speyside region of Scotland go to the “Mash Tun” restaurant in Aberlour.
More on that on page 2.
So, would I buy it? No, it is a nice whisky, but way out of my price range.
You can buy Glenfarclas 1963 family cask for around $7,150.00 a bottle.
Nose - Rich, fruity & chocolate
Palate - Madeira & rum fruits
Finish - Fruit & espresso
I now look at the Arran 21-year-old, which I tasted thanks to my friend Mark who had a Whisky Advent Calendar but needed help with drinking a whisky every day. So a big thank you, to you Mark, glad I could assist.
This is the first release (2018) of a 21-year-old from Arran as part of its core range of whiskies and a fine first attempt it is. A good amount of fruit on the nose and palate, not as in your face with fruit as say a Balvenie or a Macallan, but a nice amount all the same.
The age gives it a nice oily mouthfeel that coats the inside of your mouth, and there is not a lot of heat to it. For those of you not familiar with the Isle of Arran, it sits between the Scottish mainland and the Kintyre peninsula. The Isle of Arran distillery also produces a whisky called Ledaig (it’s smoky whiskies), that you may have come across.
So, would I buy it? Yes, I would, it’s not cheap, but it is nice.
You can buy Arran 21-year-old for around $160.00 a bottle.
Nose - Apricot, Pineapple & Prune
Palate - Chocolate orange, plum & a hint of cedar
Finish - Candied fruit, herbs & oak
To see the full top 10, click the title above.
This issue I look back at 2019 and pick the ten best (in my opinion) whiskies that I tasted in the last year.
(10) Jameson “Black Barrel,” yes, an Irish whisky in my top 10, this is a Steal at this price.
Approximate Cost per bottle - $45.00
Nose - Coconut & tropical fruits
Palate - Coconut, cinnamon, dates & peach
Finish - Long finish with cinnamon & fruit
(9) Oban 14-year-old, (pronounced Obin), from the town of Oban on the west coast.
Approximate Cost per bottle - $65.00
Nose - Sweet, fruity, with sea salt, small amounts of peat and smoke
Palate - Rich fruit, honey, malt, spice and light smoke
Finish - Sweet oak with a pinch of salt