Posts from the ‘Scotch Reviews’ Category

Auchentoshan Valinch Scotch Review

ValinchToday, I am wandering a bit of the beaten path for this whisky review to the Lowlands of Scotland and the Auchentoshan Distillery. This review is of Auchentoshan Valinch, a limited release cask-strength single malt aged predominantly in first-fill ex-bourbon casks. There is no age statement on the Valinch, but I suspect it is between 8-12 years old. In case you are wondering where the name “Valinch” comes from, it is the name of pipette used at the distillery to draw whisky from the casks for sampling prior to the barrel being dumped. Auchentoshan is a unique distillery in that it is the only distillery in Scotland to triple-distill all of their spirit, helping it to achieve its classic Lowland profile. This particular bottle I am reviewing is from Auchentoshan’s 2012 release of Valinch, and it weighs in at 114.4 proof (57.2% proof).

On the nose, this is soft, elegant stuff. There are notes of sautéed pears, oranges, and some lilacs. It is a pleasant nose, but not such a complex one. Water intensifies the nose, but the general character remains straightforward as before. The palate is quite nice, full-bodied, and creamy. There are notes of crème brulee, tangerines, big vanilla, honeysuckle, oak, and some light florals. The finish is medium-long, with some drying oak, fresh wood, pears, and oranges.

Overall, this is a good, young bottle of whisky. It is rather drinkable despite its proof, but still brings a nice complexity to the table. If you enjoy Irish whiskeys such as Bushmill’s single malt or Redbreast’s lineup, I suspect you will enjoy Auchentoshan Valinch very much. Here in Boston, this is a beautiful dram to have around the house as spring seeks to muscle in on the long winter. My grade: B/B+. Price: $50-60/750ml. This whisky won’t break the bank, and it caters to many different palates.

The Glenlivet Nàdurra 16 Year Scotch Review

Today’s review is of another well-priced cask strength whisky, The Glenlivet Nàdurra 16 year old.  This is the only cask strength whisky in The Glenlivet standard range, released in small batches on an annual basis.  The specific batch reviewed here is Batch 0113V, bottled in January 2013, and weighing in at 113.8 proof (56.9% abv).  Every batch of The Glenlivet Nàdurra (meaning “natural” in Gaelic) is aged exclusively in first-fill American oak casks, giving the whisky a lot of cask influence.

Over time, a barrel begins to lose its effectiveness as an aging vessel for whisky.  As a general rule, the more spirit a barrel holds, the less effective it is at aging spirit.  Therefore, for the most pronounced flavor profile with respect to the cask, first-fill casks are the most effective.  Many whisky companies reserve first-fill casks for their premium expressions, such as The Glenlivet does with the Nàdurra 16 year.  However, the opposite can also be true.  If a distillery would like to bottle an expression that showcases the raw spirit more than the cask, refill casks provide much of the same aging quality without influencing the flavor profile as much.  Talisker Storm is a good example of an expression that uses refill casks to allow the smokiness of the spirit to come through more.

In the glass, this whisky is a beautiful straw gold color.  On the nose, this is classic Glenlivet.  Golden delicious apples, vanilla, honeysuckle, and malted barley are all evident in the nose, although it is a slightly subdued nose (even with water added).  The palate is where this whisky really starts to shine, bringing a creamy mouthfeel and notes of green apples, honeysuckle, crème brulee, and vanilla.  As a whole, the palate is over-arched by the classic floral notes of Glenlivet whiskies.  The finish is medium to long, with drying floral, oaky, and perfumed notes, with twinges of vanilla and honey sweetness that have become more pronounced as I have gone through the bottle.  With water, the nose opens up a bit, and the palate sweetens a bit, but I really like this best at its full strength.

Overall, this is a very good expression of The Glenlivet, perhaps the truest expression of the distillery’s profile.  If you like The Glenlivet 12 year and you are looking to treat yourself, spend a few extra bucks and grab this whisky, you will not be disappointed.  This is a wonderfully warming whisky, with the straightforward simplicity of The Glenlivet’s range, coupled with the creaminess and body of a cask strength whisky.  My grade: B+.  Price: $60-70/750ml.  This is one of the best deals for a cask strength whisky, and one of the best introductions to cask strength presentations on the market today.  If you have been wondering what the cask strength craze is about, this is a great place to start letting it ride!

Aberlour A’Bunadh Scotch Review

Aberlour is one of my favorite distilleries in the Speyside region of Scotland because of their reasonably priced single malts and the sherried character of their finished spirit, and I thought it high time to review one of their fine whiskies.  The A’Bunadh (meaning “of the origin” in Gaelic) is an expression that Aberlour launched in 2000 to much critical acclaim.  A’Bunadh is produced in small batches, so it does vary from batch to batch, but there are all matured in ex-Oloroso sherry casks and bottled at cask strength without chill-filtration or coloring.  A’Bunadh never carries an age statement, which allows Aberlour to blend whiskies from all ages to get the deep myriad of sherried flavors found in A’Bunadh.  I have had several batches of this whisky (and they are all very good), but this specific review is of Batch 45, weighing in at a hefty 120.4 proof (60.2% abv).

The A’Bunadh is a dark, ruby hue (almost the color of Bargain Bourbon’s background) coming exclusively from the years in the European oak.  On the nose, the A’Bunadh is dark and spicy, with notes of dates, figs, wet oak, apples, and a bit of smoke.  The palate is really where this whisky takes off, though.  The palate is full-bodied with a lot of dense, deep, dark sweetness.  I taste dark chocolate, marzipan, pecans, mocha, sherry, plantains, and some citrus peels.  The finish is long, dry, and warming, with flavors of old wood, espresso, and Fig Newtons.  With water, this whisky gets a little sweeter, but balances the sweetness with spices like cinnamon and ginger.  It is just as delicious at cask strength as it is with a few drops of water.

Overall, I am a huge fan of Aberlour A’Bundadh, especially this batch.  It takes water beautifully, but is perfectly delicious at cask strength.  If you are seeking out a reasonably priced cask strength single malt, Aberlour A’Bunadh is a great place to start.  It is a complex whisky, well-balanced between sweet and spicy, but it is also a straightforward dram with the Oloroso sherry influence coming through in full force.  Connoisseurs and beginners alike will find something to love with a bottle of A’Bunadh.  My grade: A.  Price: $70-80/750ml.  In the price range, for the quality of this whisky, Aberlour A’Bunadh continues to be one of the best deals around.

Glenfiddich 12 Year Scotch Review

Glenfiddich 12Perhaps there is no other single malt I am asked about more than Glenfiddich 12 yr.  It is the best selling single malt whisky in the world, and the brand proudly proclaims that Glenfiddich is also the world’s most awarded single malt.  In 2011, Glenfiddich sold over 12 million bottles (1 million cases), the first single malt Scotch brand ever to do so.  Needless to say, many people drink a lot of Glenfiddich; it is the staple single malt of almost every bar I have ever been in.  As such, I know many Scotch drinkers that tend to look down at Glenfiddich as a brand, but popularity does not always equal low quality.  Glenfiddich’s signature malt is their 12 year-old, a quintessential Speyside single malt.  It is aged in both ex-bourbon casks and ex-Sherry casks, although the whisky gives a lot more character of the former.  The 12 year is bottled at 80 proof (40% abv), and comes in an iconic, green, triangular bottle.

The soft brown in the glass makes me suspect that coloring has been added for a consistent color to the finished product.  On the nose, Glenfiddich 12 year-old is rather dry, with a lot of floral character and bitter green apples, but there is enough sweetness from the malt to hold it together.  The palate is also quite dry, with Granny Smith apples, d’anjou pears, a bit of vanilla, and a malty backbone.  The finish is short and sweet, with a lot of the same flavors of the palate making a final appearance before scampering away.

Overall, Glenfiddich 12 is exactly what one might expect from a best-selling Speysider.  It is straightforward, reasonably priced, and elegantly packaged.  Popularity is not always a bad thing, but in this case, Glenfiddich 12 year-old does not have the complexity and depth of other standard malts in its price range.  There are other whiskies in the Glenfiddich portfolio are worth seeking out, but I do not believe the Glenfiddich 12 year is one of them.  My grade: C+.  Price: $35-40/750ml.  The price point makes it a great gift, and a good buy for a single malt, but Old Pulteney 12, The Glenlivet 12, and Highland Park 12 are all finer malts for the money in my opinion.

Ardbeg Uigeadail Scotch Review

Ardbeg UigeadailToday, I will be concluding Scotchvember on Thanksgiving with a review of a wonderfully warming Islay single malt, Ardbeg Uigeadail.  Ever since Jim Murray awarded this the greatest whisky in the world in 2009, much has been made about this highly-awarded single malt.  Before I get too far into my opinion on Uigeadail, what exactly is “Uigeadail?”  The name of the whisky comes from the loch where Ardbeg gets its peaty water supply.  There is no age statement on the whisky itself, but I have heard that most of the spirit is between seven and twelve years old.  The whisky in the bottle is a vatting of whisky aged in Oloroso Sherry casks, first-fill bourbon casks, and refill bourbon casks.  According to Ardbeg’s Distillery Manager, Mickey Heads, most batches of Uigeadail are comprised of approximately 20% sherried spirit, with the rest of the whisky being divided between first and second fill bourbon casks.  Uigeadail is non-chill filtered and bottled at 108.4 proof (54.2% abv).

On the nose, Ardbeg Uigeadail presents that famous Ardbeg peat, but that is not all.  There are also notes of mesquite BBQ sauce, asphalt, and mocha. There is a dark sweetness that works beautifully with the peat on the nose.  The palate, however, is where this whisky truly comes alive.  The palate is full-bodied with a brilliant balance between sweet and peat.  The luscious, rolling peat is present throughout the palate, but it is rounded out beautifully by honey, vanilla, raisins, and dried mangos.  The finish is long and complex, starting out peaty, and then evolving into sweet, dark cigar tobacco (Maduro) and black coffee.  Water brings out sweeter flavors in the nose, such as roses and honeysuckle, while bringing forth dark chocolate and sherry on the palate.

This whisky continues to evolve as I go through the bottle and as I add water to the glass.  Different flavors come alive with each drop of water, but I love this whisky most at its full bottle strength.  The complexity and balance is superb throughout the sip at a level few whiskies can seek to achieve.  I truly believe this is one of the finest whiskies I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying.  If you love peat, Ardbeg Uigeadail is the pinnacle of peat and cask influence in a young, affordable Islay whisky.  My grade: A/A+.  Price: $70-80/750ml.  The price makes this a reasonable dram, and the whisky in the bottle screams to be unleashed on the most special of occasions.

Old Pulteney 12 Year Scotch Review

With the sea in the background, Old Pulteney has one of the most visually appealing bottles coming out of Scotland.

With the sea in the background, Old Pulteney has one of the most visually appealing bottles coming out of Scotland.

Today, Scotchvember rolls on with a review of Old Pulteney 12 yr., as well as marking another tandem review with my friend William from A Dram Good Time.  Pulteney is the northernmost distillery on the Scottish mainland, located on the northeast Scottish coast in the fishing town of Wick.  The distillery is somewhat famous for the fact that the stills both have very large balls towards the top (a design imitated by the Old Pulteney bottle), encouraging a lot of reflux.  The finished product is a very oily spirit, similar to that of Scapa.  Old Pulteney 12 yr. is the entry level malt from the distillery, aged entirely in ex-bourbon casks, and bottled at 86 proof (43%abv).

On the nose, Old Pulteney is especially fruity in flavor and oily in texture.  The fruit notes remind me most of pears and red apples, but the nose also yields barley, sea salt, and light floral notes.  The palate is the highlight of this whisky for me, though.  It is medium-bodied, with notes of pear, peach, sea salt, strawberry, and warming oak.  The finish is medium in length, but still warming and pleasant, with very good balance between saltiness and orchard fruits lingering on the palate.

Overall, I am definitely a fan of Old Pulteney 12 yr.  It is an accessible malt that still packs plenty of complexity for all whisky drinkers to enjoy.  I would love to see what this whisky would achieve at a higher abv, but as it is, this is still very good whisky.  The 12 year-old expression of Old Pulteney is also a very spry malt, still very much alive.  I am curious to try some older Old Pulteney malts to see how the spirit handles the extra wood.  My grade: B+.  Price: $35-40/750ml.  For the price, this single malt is very hard to beat.  If you are in a seafaring mood, but don’t care for peated whiskies, give Old Pulteney a try and let it ride!

Here are William’s tasting notes and a link to his review here.

Color:  Gold

Nose:  Bright, fruity and lightly floral – Apple, pear, vanilla, paraffin, honey, some light coastal qualities – brine, seas air – honeysuckle now and caramel.
Palate:  Slightly oily mouthfeel and again full of fresh fruits and light floral qualities – Apple, honey, sweet grain, brine, ginger, caramel and just a touch of citrus.
Finish:  Moderate with ginger and sea-sprayed fruits.

Overall this Pulteney is aligned quite nicely with its aromas and makes for a great ‘anytime sipper.’ Its coastal influences also make it an excellent introductory whisky for those wishing to branch off into something a little different but still want to stay in the light and fruity side of single malts. It also shows just how broad of a range there is in regards to Highland whiskies.

Glenfarclas 10 Year Scotch Review

Glenfarclas 10Scotchvember is almost at an end, but fear not, I’ll be finishing up with some delightful drams.  First up in the closing stretch is Glenfarclas 10 year-old.  Glenfarclas is a family-owned distillery in the Speyside valley of Scotland, notable for their sherried style, and their dedication to single malts.  Glenfarclas is one of the few Scottish distilleries still owned by the family that owned it 100 years ago.  In fact, the Grants of Glenfarclas purchased the distillery in 1865, and still own it today.  Very little in production has changed over the years at Glenfarclas, which is also unique among Scottish distilleries.  Personally, I have not dabbled into much of the Glenfarclas range, but their whiskies are always reasonably priced for single malts, and I suspect that there will be more Glenfarclas reviews on Bargain Bourbon in the future.  The Glenfarclas 10 year-old is aged in ex-sherry casks and bottled at 80 proof (40%abv).

The nose on this whisky is sweet and perfumey, reminding me a lot of apples or a hard cider.  There is a distinct (but pleasant) bitterness to the nose, all backed up by sweet orchard fruits and honey.  The palate continues the sweetness, with a creamy entry of honey and apple cider.  The finish is medium-long and quite dry with those same tart apple notes present throughout the whisky.  With water, Glenfarclas 10 year-old begins to show its sherried qualities more.  Water brings out a nuttier palate, along with some raisin and marzipan notes on the finish.

Overall, this is a wonderful whisky that unfolds very nicely with water and time.  I suspect (only judging by the whisky, itself) that the Glenfarclas 10 year-old is aged primarily in refilled sherry casks, as the sherried flavors are subdued in this whisky.  Tasted blind, I highly doubt I would have guessed there was much more than 25% sherried whisky in this bottle.  All that said, Glenfarclas 10 year-old is a spry, young whisky that packs good complexity into a drinkable, delicious dram.  My grade: B.  Price: $45-50/750ml.  In some less expensive locations than Boston, this whisky is available at a very good price, making it a very good bargain buy especially for the holidays.

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