Posts from the ‘Scotch Reviews’ Category

Auchentoshan American Oak Single Malt Scotch Review

Happy ThanksgivingWell, here in the United States, we have the very strange holiday of Thanksgiving upon us, which means all sorts of delightful interactions with delightful relatives and in-laws.  Wouldn’t it be great to have a nice, easy-sipping single malt Scotch for such an occasion?  Don’t worry, I have a pretty good idea.

A little while back, Auchentoshan replaced their “Classic” label with a new expression, “American Oak.”  Like the old “Classic,” there is no age statement on the bottle of Auchentoshan American Oak.  However, the we are told that the whisky has been aged entirely in first-fill ex-bourbon casks, and like all Auchentoshan whisky, this one is triple-distilled.  It is bottled at 80 proof (40% abv).

The nose is rich and silky with vanilla, potpourri, orange peel, peaches, and lilac.  The palate is creamy with some oak, coconut, and sautéed peaches.  The finish is warming and medium-length with oak and toasted coconut.

Overall, this is a very pleasant drinking experience from start to finish.  It is hardly the most complex whisky on the planet – it does not take a lot of work or patience to see the virtues of this malt.  Thus, it is a fantastic dram to have around for the holiday season, especially Thanksgiving.  As you are preparing a big meal or preparing to eat a big meal, pour yourself a glass of Auchentoshan American Oak, and let the sweet, oaky, fruity, and floral flavors prepare your palate for a feast.  My grade: B-.  Price: $35-40/750ml.  At the price point, this is an enjoyable single malt that provides great value all around.

Port Charlotte Scottish Barley Scotch Review

I do sincerely apologize for my lack of posts of late; there have been a great deal of changes in my life of late.  But, to honor those changes, I thought I would do a review of a whisky from a distillery that is constantly changing – Bruichladdich.  I have tried a great many whiskies from this distillery, all of which are different and unique.  Bruichladdich has always been a distillery known for its shifting expressions, and its use of peat in varying degrees.

Today, I am reviewing Port Charlotte Scottish Barley, a whisky with no-age-statement, bottled at 100 proof (50% abv) without any chill-filtration.  The Port Charlotte lineup is a series of whiskies comprised of peated Bruichladdich stocks.  Port Charlotte is peated from the inland peat of Islay, a contrast to the low seaside peat of Laphroaig, Ardbeg, and Lagavulin.  This leads to a slightly different flavor profile, with the Port Charlotte being a drier peat and the coastal peat being a wetter peat.  The Port Charlotte expressions tend towards a dry, woodier smoke, as opposed to the damp, medicinal smoke of the southern Islay distilleries, such as Laphroaig and Lagavulin.

The nose on this Port Charlotte expression is an earthy, dry peat, with notes of malt, burning leaves, brine, sea salt, and perfume.  The palate is soft and elegant, belying the youth of the whisky.  There are notes of honey, heather, hay, vanilla, peat, and burning wood.  The finish is short for a peated Islay whisky, whispering burning wood, honey, and barbecue smoke on the back of the tongue.

Overall, this is a delicious, young peated malt.  I love the character of the peat, and the balance of the whisky as a whole.  It is complex, balanced, and full-flavored.  This is a great introduction to Bruichladdich peat and the Port Charlotte range.  My grade: B+/A-.  Price: $60-70/750ml.  This is a little pricey for its age, but this is surely a wonderful peated single malt.

Comparison Review: Monkey Shoulder vs. Sheep Dip Blended Malt Scotches

Well, it has been a good long while since we’ve had a comparison review here at Bargain Bourbon, so today’s review is aimed at remedied that minor oversight.  Today, I am reviewing two blended malt Scotch whiskies – Monkey Shoulder and Sheep Dip.  Since I have not yet discussed blended malts on the blog, perhaps a brief word.  Simply, blended malts are Scotches that are derived from single malt whiskies from two or more different distilleries.  Blended malts differ from blended Scotches in that blended malts only contain single malt whiskies in their components, and blended Scotches may contain both single malts and other grain whiskies.

The two particular blends in question today are both blended malts – Monkey Shoulder and Sheep Dip.  Monkey Shoulder is a blended malt from William Grant & Sons, and the three distilleries that contribute to this whisky are all owned by Grant as well.  Single malt Scotch from The Balvenie, Glenfiddich, and Kininvie all find their way into Monkey Shoulder to make a fine Speyside blended malt.  Monkey Shoulder is bottled at 86 proof (43% abv) and this particular batch is Batch 27.  If you are wondering about the name, Monkey Shoulder is a slang term for the soreness in the shoulder that occurs when a malt man has been turning the germinating barley for a long period of time.

Sheep Dip is a blended malt made from 16 different single malts from all over Scotland, with the famed Richard Paterson as the head blender on the project.  Sheep Dip proudly proclaims that of the different Scotch regions have been included in the whisky.  Sheep Dip is bottled at 80 proof (40% abv).  As far as the name on this one, “Sheep Dip” was often how whisky makers would label their products to avoid their stock being confiscated by the authorities back in the days when such things were a more common occurrence.

Now, onto the tasting…

I assume he enjoys a fine dram from time to time...

I assume he enjoys a fine dram from time to time…

On the nose, Monkey Shoulder is floral and sweet, with honey, vanilla, and some rich orchard fruits.  This is a classic, bourbon-aged Speyside nose.  The palate is wonderfully creamy, with orchard fruits, berries, peaches, apples, and rich honey.  The finish is relatively short with oak, vanilla cream, and drying perfume notes.  My grade: B.  Price: $35-40/750ml.  Overall, this is a very good introduction to what an ex-bourbon cask might do to Speyside spirits, and it is priced perfectly.

For Sheep Dip, the arrival is a bit heavier.  The nose is a funky, sherried nose, reminiscent of Edradour.  It is sweet and nutty, with notes of pralines and candied pecans.  The palate is earthier, with those pralines there, along with dates, molasses, brown sugar, and wet moss.  The finish is sweet, dry, and very short.  My grade:  C+.  Price:  $35-40/750ml.  Overall, this is in a nice price point just like the Monkey Shoulder, but the flavors seem disjointed in Sheep Dip, like there are too many chefs in the kitchen.

Something tells me these sheep got into the Sheep Dip...

Something tells me these sheep got into the Sheep Dip…

On the whole, I do like Monkey Shoulder better, but the greater point I want to make with this post is that blended malt Scotches are great alternatives to buying single malts.  Blended malts are often high quality whiskies with great taste profiles.  If you want to introduce someone to Scotch, save the money on a single malt, but give yourself a cleaner palate and a softer alternative to the blended Scotch route.  As always, let me know what you think, and let it ride!

Tomatin 12 Year-Old Scotch Review

I started this blog with the intent of reviewing whiskeys that were affordable, and here in the United States, the best way to drink good whiskey on a budget is to buy American.  However, every once in a while, a good deal on a whisky comes a wandering across our borders.  Tomatin 12 year-old is one such whisky – affordable and quite enjoyable (and it pairs wonderfully with a bit of darts while you’re enjoying the World Championships this weekend).

Tomatin is a distillery located in the Eastern part of the Scottish Highlands, and while not an especially common single malt here in Boston, it is certainly not impossible to find.  The 12 year-old is the standard single malt from the distillery, and it is aged in a combination of first-fill ex-bourbon casks, refill American hogsheads, and refill Sherry butts before being married for an additional period in ex-sherry casks.  It is bottled at 86 proof (43% abv).

The nose on this is pleasant and fruity (apple pie), with some honeyed notes, some meaty sherry, sweet bread pudding, and a whiff of floral pleasantries as well.  The palate is soft and seductive, with malt, some fino sherry, warm nuts, and a slight waft of some warm earthy smoke.  The finish is dry and surprisingly long with pears, peat, malt, and some candied nuts.

Overall, this is a very pleasant single malt, especially if you are looking for a dry presentation of a Highland single malt.  If you are looking for a good inculcation of a Highland whisky without breaking the bank, seek out a bottle of Tomatin 12.  My grade: B.  Price:  $35-40/750ml.  At the price point, it is hard to beat this one for a single malt.

Chivas Regal 18 Year Blended Scotch Review

Makes you want a dram, doesn't it?

Makes you want a dram, doesn’t it?

Well, its holiday season for a lot of folks (and the first day of winter for half of us), and that means that folks are giving all manners of whisk(e)y gifts.  Most common in the Scotch-giving arena among such gifts are popular single malts like The Glenlivet and The Macallan and upscale blends like Chivas Regal 18 yr.  What?  I haven’t reviewed Chivas 18 yr. yet?  No worries, my friends.

Chivas is one of the best-selling Scotch brands in the world, which means that Chivas is often shunned in the blogosphere.  We hipster bloggers like to review what is new, cool, and not yet popular.  Well, Chivas is not new, it is only cool in some circles, and it is most certainly popular already.  However, that does not mean Chivas is bottling a bad product or that it does not make a great gift.  Chivas 18 year-old is reasonably priced for its age, and it is beautifully packaged, making it a great present to unwrap under the tree.  But, what of the liquid in the bottle (80 proof, 40% abv)?

On the nose, Chivas is pleasant and welcoming, yielding a lot of malty and citrusy components.  I get notes of orange marmalade, pineapples, potpourri, and a hint of wood smoke.  The palate is soft and seductive, with warming oranges, dry oak, white chocolate, and a hint of wood smoke.  The finish is medium in its length, with drying oak, wood spiciness, and a drying citrus note most reminiscent of grapefruit.

Overall, this is a good gift because most people will think you paid more for it than you actually did.  As for the whisky in the bottle, it is not bad at all, but there are definitely better single malts on the market at the same price point.  Then again, the simplicity and the silky seduction of Chivas 18 make it the perfect introduction to older Scotches without breaking the bank or getting too much complexity and body.  If you’ve got a whisky lover on your list that has expressed trying some older whiskies, this would probably be a very welcome gift under the tree.  My grade: B.  Price: $70-80/750ml.  There are definitely better drams for that money, but not many of them have 18 years under their belt.

Black Friday Blends: Thoughts on some Grand Macnish Drams

Happy Friday everybody!  It is my hope that despite all that requires change, some folks reading this found something to be thankful for yesterday.  As you might have guessed, I am thankful for whisky, in almost all of its forms.  So, what I am saying today is, don’t shop at Wal-Mart; drink good whisky with good people!  Today, I am reviewing two different blended Scotches, Grand Macnish 12 year-old and Grand Macnish 15 year-old “Sherry Cask.”

Grand Macnish was founded in 1863, and has been making quality blends since that time. Ever since 1991, with their buyout by MacDuff International, this blend has gotten even more global.  Since the importer for Grand Macnish is based in the Greater Boston Area, I see a lot of this blend floating around, and I have had a few folks ask my thoughts on it, so here we go.

Grand Macnish 12 year-old is a standard blend in the range, bottled at 80 proof (40% abv).  On the nose, this smells of the Scottish Highlands, with light heather, honeysuckle, roses, grass, and lilacs.  The palate is light-bodied with a backbone of smoked heather or smoked grasses, almost peaty.  There are also honeyed sweet notes, and some fine ripe pears.  The finish is a bit peated, evolving to a very pleasant honey sweetness.  My grade: B-/C+.  Price: $20-25/750ml.

Grand Macnish 15 year-old “Sherry Cask” is also bottled at 80 proof (40% abv), and would seem to have some sherry cask influence, but what that means exactly is left a mystery.  My guess is that there is just a bit of extra sherry cask-matured whisky in the blend (as opposed to a sherried finish), but that is just a hunch.  On the nose, this one is lightly sherried, with a little booze, oak, dry grapes, and dry sherry.  The palate is medium-bodied, with some malt, oats, raisins, dry tannins, old wood, and some sizzling steak.  The finish is medium-long with a light puff of smoke, burning wood, and some fino sherry.  My grade: B-/C+.  Price: $30-35/750ml.

Overall, both of these blends are crowd-pleasers and wallet-pleasers.  Neither of them will blow you away with complexity or velvety elegance, but they are both very tolerable drams that won’t break the bank.  Between the two, I probably prefer the 12 year-old, but I wouldn’t turn down a dram of either (unless it was being contrasted with a Chivas 25 year-old or some other elderly blend).  Next time you are having some folks over, and you are looking to put a blend in the cabinet, give Grand Macnish a shot.  Even if you are horribly disappointed, and it turns out that your palate is nothing like mine, you’ll only be out a third of what a single malt would cost you!  Let it ride!

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.


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