Whisk(e)y

Newsletters 2021

The free whisky newsletters listed below each have the first page shown.

 

To read the full newsletter, click on the issue number in bold Blue type and it will open in a pdf.

What's the difference between a battery and a whisky?

A battery has a negative side.

I now look at Dalwhinnie Distiller’s Edition Whisky, from the Highland region (actually located in the Speyside region). However, the Speyside region is within the Highland region and
the distillery chooses to call itself a highland whisky.
I have always been partial to a drop of Dalwhinnie, ever since my first taste and this one is no exception.  Would I buy it? To be honest, no, I wouldn’t. I bought a bottle when I visited the distillery in 2018 and it’s good, but it is a 15-year-old and you can buy the standard 15-year-old for around $75.00. I just don’t think it’s $40.00 a bottle better than the Standard 15, which is superb.
The distillery was established in 1897 in Dalwhinnie, Scotland.

 

You can buy Dalwhinnie Distiller’s Edition for around $115.00 a bottle.
 

Tasting Notes
Nose - Dark chocolate & toffee apple
Palate - Fruit tart, honey & a hint of smoke
Finish - Blackberry jam & walnuts

I now look at Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey as the name suggests, from their distillery (established in 1795) in Clermont, Kentucky. Aged for four years (you only need to age
Bourbon for two years by law).  Is this a high end “sippin” Bourbon, no, it isn’t. Is it a great deal
for the price, well that depends on whether you like it or not.  But if you want an inexpensive Bourbon for use in cocktails it’s one helluva deal.
You can get Jim Beam in just about every bar anywhere in the World, so there is no need for you to blow your cash without tasting it first.  Would I buy it? At that price, of course I would.

 

You can buy Jim Beam for around $12.00 a bottle.


Tasting Notes
Nose - Hay & vanilla.
Palate - Sweet vanilla custard & a little spice.
Finish - Sweet vanilla & oak.

 

I now look at Craigellachie 13-year-old, from their distillery in the Speyside region of Scotland. I was initially excited when the distillery decided to start releasing single malts, that lasted until I got to taste them. I wasn’t impressed, I thought them to be a bit hot, and not that Flavorful.
Would I buy it? Nope, it’s a little expensive and I can’t say that I’m overly impressed with it. I have tasted all three of the Craigellachie single malts since their release in 2014 and they all seem overpriced to me and none of them stand out enough for me to want to but any of them. But if you get the chance to try one, maybe you’d buy one, your choice.

 

You can buy Craigellachie 13-year-old for around $58.00 a bottle.


Tasting Notes
Nose - Apple & treacle tart.
Palate - Almonds, pineapple & summer berries.
Finish - Apple pie & a hint of sulphur.

I now look at Benriach Solstice 17-year-old, from their distillery in the Speyside region of Scotland. If it has Solstice in the name then it is part of their peated series and this is the second one they have done. The Previous one was a Solstice 15-year-old.
A smoky, peaty whisky from Speyside? Yes, and very well done.
This whisky has been finished in a Port Pipe, the Port and the smoke go together really well.
Would I buy it? Yes, it might be a little expensive, but if you are looking to treat yourself for Christmas or to treat someone else this is the bottle to go for. Always assuming you like peat and
smoke?


You can buy Benriach Solstice 17-year-old for around $100.00 a bottle.


Tasting Notes
Nose - Cranberry, Raspberry, chocolate & peat smoke
Palate - Chocolate, plums, smoke & toffee apples
Finish - Chocolate malt & smoke

I now look at Basil Hayden Kentucky straight Bourbon, made at the Jim Beam Distillery (owned by Beam Suntory).  Made with a mash bill of 77% Corn, 13% Rye and 10% Barley and coming in at 40% proof, which is the only fault I can find.
I think it would have benefited from being bottled at 43% or even a little higher. I can’t tell you how old it is as this one doesn’t come with an age statement. This is a lightly flavored whiskey and is easy to drink and would be a good introduction if you are thinking of getting into Bourbon. Would I buy it? Yes, I have and the price is right, and as I said if you are looking to venture into Bourbon, this would be a good place to start.

 

You can buy Basil Hayden Kentucky straight Bourbon for around $35.00 a bottle.
 

Tasting Notes
Nose - Peach & ripe berries
Palate - Sweet peaches & vanilla
Finish - Oak & light sweet summer berries

I now look at Aberlour 16-year-old, a double cask (American Oak and Oloroso Sherry casks) matured Speyside whisky.  When I think of Speyside whiskies I think “fruit” and this is no
exception, this is a very fruit forward whisky as you would expect from Aberlour. In 2002 a new visitor center was opened to the public for tastings and tours. These are The “Aberlour
Experience" a standard tour with a tasting at the end. The “Founders' Tour" is a premium tour in which you learn everything about the distillery including tastings of 'new make' spirit and
whiskies at different stages of maturation. The “Casks from the past” tour where you get to taste special distillery bottling's.
Would I buy it? Yes, I would the price is about average for a whisky of this age and if you like sherry driven flavors in your whisky then I can highly recommend that you give it a try as well.


You can buy Aberlour 16-year-old for around $75.00 a bottle.


Tasting Notes
Nose - Floral & raisins.
Palate - Floral, plums & oaky spice.
Finish - Fruit & a hint of spice.

I now look at Buffalo Trace, from the distillery of the same name. The distillery had been on this site since 1773 under various names and ownership, but in 1999 after a major distillery renovation was
renamed “Buffalo Trace” and this whisky became it’s flagship brand.
I know that you know me as a lover of Scotch whiskies, well mainly Scotch whiskies, but what you may not know is that during the hot summer months in California I usually swap over to Bourbons.
It’s just personal taste, but I don’t like ice in Scotch, but I do like ice in Bourbon and over the years I’ve developed a liking for it.
There is a commonly held belief that Scots are careful with money, well if that’s the case, you can’t ignore a nice whisky like this at this price.
Would I buy it? Yes, I would and can highly recommend that you give it a try as well.


You can buy Buffalo Trace for around $25.00 a bottle.


Tasting Notes
Nose - Molasses, vanilla & a hint of mint.
Palate - Anise, dark fruits & Toffee.
Finish - Fruit, toffee & a hint of spice.

I now look at Auchentoshan 3 wood, which gets it’s name (as you can probably guess) by being matured in three different types of casks, namely American Bourbon, then Spanish Oloroso Sherry – and, finally, Pedro Ximenez Sherry casks .
Auchentoshan is a lowland distillery and triple distills its whiskies, which is unusual for a Scottish single malt distillery as most distilleries only use two distillations.
I haven’t come across an Auchentoshan that I haven’t liked so far on my whisky journey and this one is no exception. This is a lovely whisky, with lots of flavor, which are reminiscent of the flavors of a Black Forest Gateaux.
Would I buy it? Yes I would and can highly recommend that you give it a try as well.

 

You can buy Auchentoshan 3 wood for around $70.00 a bottle.


Tasting Notes
Nose - Cooked fruits & toffee.
Palate - Dark Chocolate, cherries & raisins.
Finish - Dark treacle toffee & fruit.

I now look at Glen Garioch (Glen Geery) 12-year-old, this whisky is matured in both Ex-Bourbon and Sherry casks and bottles at a slightly higher than standard 48%.
I have in the past had a bottle or two of this on my bar, as I was fortunate to have presented it at whisky events and was given them.
As to taste, this whisky’s flavors remind me of the Glenfiddich 15-year-old Solara Reserve, which is high praise indeed, as I think that is one of the best whiskies for the money available on the market.
Would I buy it, probably not, as you can buy the Glenfiddich 15-year-old Solara Reserve for around the same price and although they taste similar the Glenfiddich 15-year-old Solara Reserve is by far the better of the two (in my opinion).


You can buy Glen Garioch 12-year-old for around $65.00 a bottle.


Tasting Notes
Nose - heather & Pear.
Palate - Banana, Crème brûlée & pear.
Finish - Honey, pear & spice.

I now look at Bulleit Rye, which I first tasted a number of years ago while hosting a whisky and chocolate pairing table at Whisky Live in Los Angeles. The outstanding pairing for me and most of the people who came to my table was the Bulleit Rye paired with a See’s dark chocolate and lemon cream filling candy. I can still vividly remember the surprise when I tasted the two of them together, Both were good on their own, but combined they just ZINGED!
I have been slow to appreciate Rye Whisky, but I have to say it is winning me over, so go ahead and give it a try, at this price what do you have to lose?
Would I buy it, that is a definite yes from me. This is a nice Whisky at a great price and if you can get them, try it with that See’s candy.


You can buy Bulleit Rye for around $22.00 a bottle.


Tasting Notes
Nose - Cherries & Vanilla.
Palate - Cherries, peaches & spice.
Finish - Sweet cinnamon & spice.

I now look at the Cragganmore 12-year-old, one of Diageo’s “Classic Malts of Scotland,” representing the Speyside region.  This is a nice whisky and I have drank it on numerous occasions, only in bars or at whisky events, I have never actually bought a bottle for my own bar. Why not? All will be explained further down the page, I think I might be getting old and cranky!
Would I buy it, well I really do like it, but I’m not sure that it’s worth $70.00, especially when I can pick up a 12-year-old Glenfiddich for around $30.00 a bottle.
I mean how the hell do they work out prices for their whisky, not just Diageo all of them? I get that a whisky might be more expensive if it is a limited release, but a general release bottle like this one, come on!  I suggest that you do as I have done and try it in a bar, who knows, after trying it, you may think it’s worth $70.00 a bottle.


You can buy the Cragganmore 12-year-old for around $70.00 a bottle.


Tasting Notes
Nose - Floral, fruit & heather.
Palate - Berries, honey & peach.
Finish - Fruit & spice.

I now look at Bowmore “Dorus Mor” (meaning rough, wild water) a single malt whisky from Islay.
This is a small batch whisky and is aged in first-fill Bourbon casks and is a 10-year-old bottled at cask strength (54.9%) so drink cautiously.
You may think that you have tasted this before as I did, this is a replacement fo r their whisky which was called “Tempest.”
So, same whisky different name depending where you are in the world, at least that’s what I thought, but to be fair I didn’t to a side-by-side taste test, so can’t be certain.
My overall impression was pretty much as I expected it to be, I like Bowmore Whiskies, and I liked this one. If you are after smoke, this is where to find it.
Would I buy it, well it’s good, but I’m no sure that it’s $110.00 for a 10-year-old whisky good, so probably not. But if you are a big Bowmore fan then you just might just want to?


You can buy Bowmore “Dorus Mor” for around $110.00 a bottle.


Tasting Notes
Nose - Smoke, toffee & vanilla.
Palate - Smoke & smoke, Oh yes, there is some citrus & tropical fruit.
Finish - Tart cranberry and you guessed it SMOKE.

I now look at Maker’s Mark straight Bourbon Whisky from Loretto, Kentucky.   Yes, I sometimes drink Bourbon whisky as well, for me that is usually in the summer. I don’t like to put ice in my Scotch whisky as I think it closes down the flavor. But I have to say that on a hot summer day in California I am quite partial to a glass of Bourbon with a large ice ball chilling it down.
I don’t know if that’s down to being a snob about scotch or just that, to my taste at least, Bourbon lends itself to ice, whatever, I enjoy it over ice.
Another thing that helps me enjoy it, is the price. To get a smooth, easy drinking whisky for so little money is amazing! Would I buy it, yes I would, in fact I have had bottles of it on my bar constantly for years now.


You can buy Maker’s Mark for around $20.00 a bottle.


Tasting Notes
Nose - Butterscotch, fruit & vanilla.
Palate - Butterscotch, cherry, vanilla.
Finish - Butterscotch, hint of spice & vanilla.

I now look at the Glen Scotia 18-year-old single malt Scotch Whisky from the distillery in Campbeltown.
Initially matured in ex Bourbon casks and then finished for one more year in Oloroso sherry casks. As you would expect from a whisky finished in Oloroso sherry casks this one is very fruit forward.
To my taste buds it immediately reminded me of a Macallan 12-year-old, or a Glenfarclas with lots of stewed fruits, with a little bit of heat on the back end.
I personally preferred it with a little water to reduce the heat. If you like your whiskies with a lot of heavy fruit influence, this one will work for you.
With much thanks to my son Paul, who sent this to me for my Birthday.
Would I buy it, yes I would, when in the mood for a fruit packed whisky this one fits the bill very nicely. So far this is the best whisky I have tried from Glen Scotia.


You can buy Glen Scotia 18-year-old for around $100.00 a bottle.


Tasting Notes
Nose - Sherried fruits.
Palate - Dates, prunes & sultanas.
Finish - Lots of stewed fruit, warm & spicy.

I now look at the Glenfarclas 10-year-old single malt Scotch Whisky from one of the few family owned (Grant family) distilleries still producing whisky in Scotland.  Glenfarclas are well known for their sherry finished whiskies, so if you like fruit forward whisky, this is one that you would like (a lot).
I have tried a number of Glenfarclas whiskies over the years and have never been disappointed, you expect a lot of fruit flavors when you pour a dram and they always deliver.
Another good thing about Glenfarclas whiskies is they are relatively easy to find, maybe not in bars, but you will find them in most of the major drink retailer stores, including Costco, which is probably
the cheapest.  Would I buy it, yes I would, in fact I have a bottle on my bar right now, it is a nice fruity Whisky and the price is right.


You can buy Glenfarclas 10-year-old for around $45.00 a bottle.


Tasting Notes
Nose - Honey, sherry & vanilla.
Palate - Dried Fruit, cinnamon & vanilla.
Finish - Fruit, spice & vanilla.

I now look at the Balblair 1997 single malt Scotch Whisky with an approximate age of 10 years.
Balblair has changed its core range from the - 2000, 1997 (shown here), 1989 and 1979 to a 12, 15, 17 and 25-year-old, with different packaging from the bottle shown to the right, though the old vintages can still be found quite easily.
I have tried most of the Balblair whiskies over the years and have always enjoyed them. So I expect that nothing will have changed other than the age statements on the bottles and the packaging.
Would I buy it, no I would not, it is a nice, gentle fruity Whisky, but the price is, for what it is, rather prohibitive.


You can buy Balblair 1997 for around $100.00 a bottle.


Tasting Notes
Nose - Berries & vanilla.
Palate - Fruity with Berries, cookies & vanilla.
Finish - Berry fruitiness, with cookies & vanilla.

I now look at the Glengoyne 10-year-old single malt Scotch Whisky.  I first tasted this whisky while hiking the West Highland way in Scotland, when we stopped for lunch at the Beech Tree in about half a mile from the distillery. It seemed the right thing to do…….When in Rome etc. I can’t say that I was that impressed. I have subsequently tried it at the distillery and at whiskyFest San Francisco along with it’s older brothers. I have to say my initial opinion hasn’t changed, it just
doesn’t float my boat.
As well as the flavor, not doing it for me is the price, you can get a number of whiskies, such as the Glenmorangie 10-year-old, or the Glenfiddich 12-year-old for less money and both offer a lot more
flavor.  This is not meant to disrespect Glengoyne as their 18 and 21-year-olds
are superb. But, this is not one I would buy. 

 

You can buy Glengoyne 10-year-old for around $50.00 a bottle.
 

Tasting Notes
Nose - Light fruit & vanilla.
Palate - Cereal, vanilla & a hint of citrus.
Finish - Butterscotch, cereal & vanilla.

I now look at Compass Box “Flaming Heart” a blended malt Scotch Whisky (made from a blend of single malt whiskies only).  Some of the whiskies used in making this very nice whisky are Caol Ila,
Clynelish and Deanston, I’m not certain of the others.  If you like your smoky whiskies with lots of fruit then this is the one for you, I have to say that I was mightily impressed when I tasted it.
Although not that cheap, in my opinion it is well worth the price and I would certainly recommend it to you.
A few years ago I met the unassuming John Glazer the founder and owner of Compass Box whiskies and we chatted for about 20 minutes.  If you get the chance to talk with him at one of the major whisky events such as WhiskyFest or whisky live, take the time, John knows a lot about whisky, you’ll be glad you did.


You can buy Compass Box “Flaming Heart” for around $140.00 a bottle.


Tasting Notes
Nose - Honey, peat & vanilla.
Palate - Christmas cake (rich fruit & spices) & smoke.
Finish - Butter, cloves & oranges.

I now look at the Macallan 1972 25th Anniversary Malt. Bottled in 1998.  If I had done a blind taste test on this one, I believe that I would have said either an old Macallan, Glenfarclas or possibly a Balvenie.
All the standard old Macallan aromas and tastes, very heavily influenced by Oloroso sherry casks.
I do love Macallan whiskies and in particular the older ones, in fact one of my all time favorite whiskies is the Macallan ‘M’ that I tasted in Edinburgh A few years ago. However, this one didn’t sit right with me, I don’t know if it was just a bad taste-bud day or what I had for dinner just prior to
tasting it, but I wasn’t impressed. Would I buy it? No, even if I could afford it, the slightly bitter finish would put me off. There are better Macallan’s out there for less money. I would still like to thank my buddy Mark for giving me a taste of it and hopefully he will give me a second taste, who
knows I might change my mind.


You can buy Macallan 25th Anniversary Malt for between $4000.00 and $5000.00 a bottle depending where you buy it.


Tasting Notes
Nose - Sherry, dried fruits & spices
Palate - Dates, raisins & stewed fruits
Finish - Dates, raisins, stewed fruits but with a slightly bitter note at the end.

I now look at the Dalwhinnie ’Winter’s Gold’ only distilled between October and March and recommended to be drunk straight from the freezer.
On first reading the above it struck me as a marketing ploy and after tasting it I’m disinclined to change my mind. I love the Dalwhinnie 15 and the Distiller’s edition, but this one does not
quite hit the mark of those two, at least in my opinion.  If you do drink it straight from the freezer it does change the flavor profile slightly and not in a bad way, which makes for a nice sipping whisky on a hot day.  Would I buy it? At around the same price as the Dalwhinnie 15-year-old, then my answer is no, the 15 is a much nicer dram.  If you can pick it up for $15 to $20 cheaper then give it a go.


You can buy Dalwhinnie ’Winter’s Gold for around $60.00 a bottle.

 
Tasting Notes
Nose - Oak, pear & toffee
Palate - Honey, apple & spice
Finish - Honey, nutmeg, spice & a hint of smoke

I now look at the Ardbeg 'Corryvreckan' which is named for the nearby 'Corryvreckan' whirlpool one of the largest whirlpools in the world.  I first tried this in the “Albanach” bar on the Royal mile in Edinburgh and became an instant fan of it.  I have, over the years swung between loving Smoky whiskies and then preferring fruity whiskies. I am sliding back towards smoky whiskies again, in part due to this fine dram.  If you are a fan of smokey Islay whiskies, but haven’t tried this one
yet, here is my take on it, that will hopefully give you some reference points:
I find that this is smoother than a Laphroaig, but not as smooth as Lagavulin. It has more of a medicinal bite than a Lagavulin, but less than a Laphroaig.  Would I buy it? Absolutely.

 

You can buy Ardbeg 'Corryvreckan' for around $90.00 a bottle.


Tasting Notes
Nose - Smoke, bandaids & herbal
Palate - Creamy smoked meat, oranges & bandaids
Finish - Spicy smoked meat & bandaids

I now look at the Glenkinchie 12-year-old. I suppose I have a soft spot for this whisky as it is made just outside Edinburgh (where I was born) and is known as the “Edinburgh Malt.” Although it may lose that nickname in the near future with 3 new distilleries opening in Edinburgh (Port of Leith under construction, Holyrood –2019, Bonnington—2019).
As to the taste, it is a typical of Lowland style whisky with light fruits, honey and a hint of fresh cut grass on the finish. A very more-ish dram.
If you wish to visit the distillery there is a regular shuttle bus service departing Edinburgh City Center three times a day (twice on a Sunday). So, would I buy it? Probably not, it is a nice whisky, but you can pick up a Glenmorangie Original or a Glenfiddich 12 for about half the price and to me they are just as good.


You can buy Glenkinchie 12-year-old for around $72.00 a bottle.


Tasting Notes
Nose - Hazelnuts, honey & toffee.
Palate - Cooked fruit & honey.
Finish - Slightly grassy, Honey & toffee.

I now look at the Aerstone 10-year-old “Sea Cask”, which was given to me by my son at Christmas.
I have been after a taste of this one and its brother the “Land cask” ever since they were released a few years ago by William Grant and Sons (Glenfiddich) from their Ailsa Bay distillery down on the South West coast.  It wasn’t readily available over here in the USA, but is starting to appear in
some stores now, so receiving this was a timely reminder to look again.
The name “Sea Cask” comes from the whisky maturing in warehouses by the sea, which is meant to give a touch of salt on the finish. I say meant to, because I can’t detect it, but maybe after 23 years in the Navy my nose and taste-buds have been overloaded with salt?
Had I been given a blind taste of this I believe I would have said that it was a young Glenfiddich, and that is a comparison that stands in its favor.
So, would I buy it? Yes I would, it’s not only cheap, but nice, if a little young.


You can buy Aerstone 10-year-old for around $35.00 a bottle.


Tasting Notes
Nose - Toffee, shortbread & cinnamon.
Palate - Green apples & pairs.
Finish - Sweet Citrus & cinnamon.

This issue I look back at 2020 and pick the ten best (in my opinion) whiskies that I tasted in the last year.  To see the full top 10, click the title above.


(10) Royal Brackla 10-year-old
Approximate Cost per bottle - $55.00.

 

Tasting Notes
Nose - Chocolate & apple

Palate - Chocolate cream cake, with a hint of ginger
Finish - Chocolate & apple


*********************************************************


(9) Cardhu 18-year-old
Approximate Cost per bottle - $90.00.

 

Tasting Notes
Nose - Lots of fruit, plum, pear & with a hint of pineapple
Palate - Stewed fruits, Plums, Cherries & Chocolate
Finish - Fruit with a touch of Cocoa