Posts tagged ‘single malt Scotch’

Highland Park 15 Year-Old Scotch Review

If you’re drinking in wintertime, why not drink whisky from the Scottish distillery closest to the Arctic Circle?  If you think Santa is not a frequent guest at the Highland Park visitor’s centre, then you know very little about the man in red.  All of this to say that today’s thoughts pertain to Highland Park 15 year-old.  Unfortunately, as I am writing this, Highland Park 15 is no longer being bottled by the distillery, as it has been replaced with the NAS Dark Origins release (I have yet to get my hands on a bottle of Dark Origins, but I will review it as soon as I do).  HP15 is aged primarily in American Oak ex-Sherry casks, and most of those casks are refill casks.  This has a profound impact on the whisky, as we shall see.  Highland Park 15 year-old is bottled at 86 proof (43% abv).

Trust me, the cookies and cocoa are all smoke and mirrors – Santa is a single malt man.

The entrance to this whisky is a great deal smokier than the 12 yr.  The nose has some lemon, lime, burning figs, wood smoke, burning diesel, and toasted coconut.  The palate is sweet and bitter, sugared limes, figs, dates, burning raisins, wood smoke, and earthy peat.  The finish starts in with bitterroot, peat, and a rolling smoke.  There is a slight twinge of heather in the finish, balancing the smoke.

The different casking in the 15 year compared to the 12 year allows the subtle smokiness of Highland Park to show itself a bit more, as well as bringing some mild citrus notes through this one.  It’s a different expression from the 12 year, not just the same whisky with 3 more years under its belt, and an expression I like every bit as much as the beloved HP12.  My grade: B+.  Price: $90-100/750ml.  Like I said, this whisky can still be found floating around liquor shops, especially here in the United States, but they will not be here forever, an unfortunate truth of life.

Advertisements

Aberlour Single Malt Scotch Comparison Review: The Standard Range

The holiday season is upon us, which usually means there is a bottle of Aberlour A’bunadh somewhere on my shelf.  However, I live in Pennsylvania now, and that particular single malt is a rather hard and expensive find nowadays (it has been replaced by another cask strength sherried dram).  So, in memory of the days long ago when this majestic single malt graced my cabinet, I’m reviewing some other Aberlour whiskies instead.  Today’s review will encompass the standard range (save the A’bunadh).

Santa Claus

Photo Courtesy: whiskydisks.com

Aberlour 12 year-old – This is the base malt at Aberlour, double-matured in both “traditional oak” and sherry casks.  I am not sure exactly what “traditional oak” means, but I suspect it means American oak hogsheads.  Aberlour 12 yr. is bottled at 80 proof (40% abv).

The nose has turpentine, burning wood, sherry, potpourri, vanilla, and orange peels.  The palate brings a soft wood smoke overnote, with good oak, wood shavings, leather, sherry, and vanilla.  The finish is short and sweet with a little Fino sherry and orange peel.

Overall, this is a fine single malt, with a pleasant, inviting sherry influence.  However, there are some notes in this whisky that I find unpleasant, almost as if there was some wood used that was left out in the sun too long.  This is not a bad single malt; its just not my favorite of the range.  My grade: C+.  Price: $50-60/750ml.  At the price point, there are other whiskies I would prefer to this one.

Aberlour 12 year-old (Non-Chill Filtered) – This whisky is also aged in two types of casks, but the difference here is the higher bottling proof and the lack of chill-filtration, preserving the oils and fats of the whisky.  It is bottled at 96 proof (48% abv).

The nose is lightly sherried with some nice spice, ginger and lemon zest.  The palate is quite delicious.  The sherry really comes through here, with some bitter dark chocolate, orange peel, ginger, and drying oak.  I find the palate drying in a good way; it makes me want more whisky.  The finish is also quite dry and medium-short.  There are some nice oak notes that linger, as well as some fine strawberries wrapped in dark chocolate (possibly chocolate covered raisins).

This is a definite step up from the standard Aberlour 12, with a lot more body and depth in it.  It’s a hard whisky to find, especially compared with the standard Aberlour 12 year-old, but it’s worth a try if you can grab a bottle.  My grade: B.  Price: $50-60/750ml.  Of the two whiskies, go with the non-chill filtered expression of Aberlour 12.

Aberlour 16 year-old – This whisky is double-matured in first-fill bourbon casks as well as ex-Sherry casks, all to the ripe age of sweet sixteen.  It is bottled at 80 proof (40% abv).

The nose does not yield big sherried notes like I was expecting, but it is still very pleasant, with some heather, malt, brown sugar, red berries, vanilla, and some raisins.  The palate is both malty and woody, but also presents florals, heather, and freshly cut hay.  It is a well-balanced palate, but a bit soft.  The finish is short, with some orange cream and heather honey.

Even after sixteen long years of aging, it’s hard for me to get into this whisky.  It is just a bit too soft, too placid for my tastes.  There are some good flavors present, but they are fleeting.  To me, it tastes younger than sixteen years old.  I would love to see this expression given the non-chill filtration treatment.  My grade: B-.  Price: $70-80/750ml.  Despite the reasonable price on this malt given its age, I don’t think this whisky is living up to its full potential.

Aberlour 18 year-old – This is the senior member of the Aberlour lineup, the oldest whisky in the standard range.  This whisky has steeped in both Bourbon and Oloroso casks for 18 long years, and come out on the other side with glowing qualities.  It is bottled at 86 proof (43% abv).

The nose is not nearly as sherried as you might expect, like the 16 year-old, but it does smell wonderful, presenting sweet orange cream, vanilla cream, peaches, apricots, potpourri, and plums.  This is a wonderful, full, creamy nose.  The palate is medium bodied, with toffee, vanilla cream, and dark honey.  The finish is medium-long, longer than I expected, with full oak, vanilla, orange cream, and fresh apricots.

On the whole, this is my favorite whisky in the standard range.  The texture in the mouth is creamy and mouth-coating, and the flavors of the aged Aberlour malt are present in full force.  This whisky is complex, deep, but accessible and delicious.  The double-maturation has brought the casks together in nearly perfect harmony in this expression.  My grade: B+/A-.  Price: $100-125/750ml.  This is the most expensive whisky in the standard range, but it is a brilliant 18 year-old Speyside whisky that will suit quite nicely for any special occasion.

The truth is that the Aberlour A’bunadh is still the top dog for me when it comes to Aberlour.  Unlike the whiskies I reviewed today, the A-Bunadh is aged exclusively in Oloroso casks and bottled at its cask strength.  I have tasted no better Aberlour to this point, including independently bottled single casks.  However, the 18 year-old is one hell of a whisky in its own right, striding through one’s cabinet in a smoking jacket of delicious flavor and character, but it does not come cheap.  For the money, if you can find the 12 year-old in its non-chill filtered version, it’s well worth the purchase.  Most importantly, have a happy and safe holiday season from Bargain Bourbon!  Let it ride!

 

 

 

 

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: The Glenlivet 12 year vs. The MaCallan 12 year Sherry Oak

I have had some requests recently for reviews of single-malt Scotches that weigh in a good value.  Of course, one of the reasons I drink mostly bourbon is because it is a domestic product, which makes it a better value buy than Scotch (which is made exclusively in Scotland).  However, if you are willing to spend a few more dollars, there are definitely some very good single-malt Scotches on the market today.  Scotch whisky is usually delineated by the region of Scotland that the whisky comes from.  Today, I am reviewing a pair of Speyside whiskies, The Glenlivet 12 year and The MaCallan 12 year Sherry Oak, both bottled at 80 proof.  While most whiskies in the Speyside region have similar flavor profiles, there are some significant differences from whisky to whisky and distillery to distillery.

The Glenlivet is one of the most famous distilleries in all of Scotland, and it is also one of the most popular single-malt Scotches.  I must give credit to The Glenlivet because it was one of the first whiskies that I ever had that I truly loved.  Over the years, it has slipped a bit on my list, but it is still one of my favorite Speyside Scotches.  The Glenlivet bottles many different expressions of whisky, but The Glenlivet 12 year is their most recognizable, available in almost every liquor store and bar in the United States.

On the nose, The Glenlivet 12 year is light, but rich.  Fresh fruits and fresh flowers dominate the air, with slight whispers of vanilla and citrus.  I once described smelling The Glenlivet to sitting next to a lilac bush while eating an orange.  On the palate, the sweet, citrus flavors of the fruits give way to a sweetness of honey and almond.  The citrus zest only wafts in the background.  The finish comes back to the nose, with citrus and floral notes.  It is light, yet moderately long.  My grade: B.  Price: $40-45/750ml.  This is a nice, light Speyside, perfect for a daily pour.  This is a great whisky to have around the house if you don’t mind the price tag.

The MaCallan is another very popular Speyside distillery, also providing many different expressions of their whisky.  Most of their standard offerings are aged in either Fine (a mix of Spanish and American) Oak, or Sherry Oak, which gives each expression a distinct flavor profile.  Although The MaCallan is not as well-known as The Glenlivet, it is still a very popular product.

On the nose, The MaCallan 12 year Sherry Oak is dark and rich.  There are notes of hazelnuts and almonds, mixed with dried fruits (plantains and raisins).  The palate is dense with dark chocolate and dark, dried fruits.  As the whisky moves towards the finish, the oak begins to emerge.  The finish is rich with oak, both sweet and smoky, followed by a hint of vanilla as the finish lingers for a long time.  My grade: B.  Price: $50-60/750ml.  This is a very nice pour, but there are usually whiskies I reach for over this one if I am looking to spend more than $50.

Overall, both these whiskies are very good; they are almost two different sides of the same coin.  If you were to see the two side by side, you would instantly notice a difference in color.  The Glenlivet is a soft gold, whereas The MaCallan is a rich, dark amber.  The Glenlivet presents the softer, more delicate side of Speyside whisky, and The MaCallan represents the darker, oakier side of Speyside Scotch.  They are both very good whiskies, and good introductions into the wonderful world of Scotch whisky.