Posts tagged ‘Single Malt’

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.

Knappogue Castle 12 Year Irish Whiskey Review

ESQ010114_030Well, its March, and everybody’s favorite Irish holiday is right around the corner.  In honor of good ol’ St. Patrick, I’ll be doing a bit with some Irish whiskey in the next two weeks.  Today’s review is of Knappogue Castle 12 year-old single malt Irish whiskey; it is also a review with my good friend, William, from A Dram Good Time.  Single malt Irish whiskeys are not as common as Irish blended whiskeys like Jameson, Kilbeggan, and Powers, but you can find them if you know where to look.  Like single malt Scotches, single malt Irish whiskeys are distilled entirely from malted barley at one distillery and aged a minimum of 2 years in oak barrels.  The biggest difference from Scotch is that single malt Irish whiskey (like all Irish whiskey) is triple distilled, whereas most Scotch whiskies are double distilled.

The Knappogue Castle brand name is currently owned by Castle Brands, Inc., but Knappogue Castle has had a complicated past.  The actual whiskey in the bottles has been distilled at almost every distillery in Scotland, making it a hard whiskey to keep track of.  To the best of my knowledge, the Knappogue Castle single malts are currently being distilled at Cooley Distillery on the East coast of Ireland.  The 12 year-old is the standard expression in the Knappogue Castle lineup, but there are also some delicious older expressions of Knappogue available in the states.  The 12 year-old is aged exclusively in ex-bourbon casks and bottled at 80 proof (40% abv).

This whiskey looks beautiful in the glass, with its beautiful pale gold, white wine color (there is no caramel coloring added to Knappogue Castle).  On the nose, it is light and sweet, with pears, lemons, daisies, lilacs, and some barley.  The palate is medium-bodied and pleasant, with malted barley, pears, oak shavings, and fresh white grapes.  The finish is medium in length with some dry oak, marshmallows, barley, floral notes, and citrus peels.

Overall, Knappogue Castle 12 year is an easy-drinking quality Irish single malt.  It is crisp and clean all the way through, with flavors reminiscent of white wine, making it a great whisky for those looking to try an Irish whiskey beyond Jameson without going for too much complexity.  My grade: B-.  Price: $30-35/750ml.

Here are William’s tasting notes, but you can check out his full review over at A Dram Good Time:

Color:  Light Gold / Straw – somewhat reminds me of peach white tea.

Nose:  Light, pleasant and full of fresh fruits right out of the gate – apples, pear, pineapple – twigs, honey, touch of vanilla and wood spice, minerals, dry grass, and now more on red apple peels.

Palate:  At 40 percent and triple distilled, this whiskey is pleasant and smooth from start to finish. Much like its aromas, the palate is also full of fresh fruits – again, apple and pear but also a little peach and hints of tangy citrus now – hay-like grassy notes, barley, honey, light oak and a touch of peppery spice.

Finish:  Moderate in length with a bit of that peppery oak, honey and apple peel.

This is a very fresh, soft and creamy Irish single malt. It’s not all that deep and the sweet and gentle qualities definitely make it an entry-level whiskey, but it’s nicely balanced and one I’d gladly toast with this St. Paddy’s day.

Rating:  B

Dram Good Time B


Balcones Texas Single Malt Whisky Review

Balcones Texas Single MaltI am capping off my little mini-series on American craft whiskeys with one of my very favorite whiskies, Balcones Texas Single Malt Whisky.  This whisky is made from malted barley that is mashed, fermented, distilled, and aged at the Balcones Distillery in Waco, TX.  Like most Balcones whiskies, there is no age statement on the bottle, but that is not a case of Balcones trying to hide bad spirit.  This is truly a case of Balcones bottling their products when they are ready.  Like most Balcones products, their single malt is bottled in small batches (this is batch #SM12-9) and without the use of coloring or chill-filtration.  Like the Balcones Brimstone, Texas Single Malt is bottled at 106 proof (53% abv).

In the glass, Balcones Texas Single Malt Whisky is a rich, deep mahogany color.  The nose is a classic single malt, but wholly unique at the same time.  It reminds me of rich, freshly baked banana bread, with the balance of toasted sweet breads, bananas, walnuts, tangerines, chocolate pound cake, and a light whiff of cinnamon spice.  The nose on the whisky is unbelievably delicious.  The palate is medium to full-bodied, fruity and buttery, with notes of pears, strawberries, cinnamon sugar, and toasted bread.  The finish is warming and relatively long, with some spiced oak, cinnamon, and vanilla custard.

Overall, this whisky is absolutely brilliant.  It is unlike anything else on the American whiskey scene today, truly in a class of its own.  It is sweet, fruity, malty, spicy, and lightly wooded.  Everything you would want from a single malt whisky is present, and yet this whisky sneaks into the realm beyond words.  It also opens up beautifully in the bottle and with a few drops of water.  It is slowly becoming more readily available, but still not the easiest whisky to find.  Snag a bottle if you see one.  My grade: A-/A.  Price: $50-60/750ml.  This is a little pricey for its youth, but the juice in the bottle is worth every penny.  Balcones is definitely doing some great stuff with whisky, and letting it ride!

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.

Scapa 16 yr. Scotch Review

Scapa 16 yrAround this time of year every year, I get a lot of questions from friends and colleagues about Scotch ideas for the holidays.  For some very wrong reasons, Scotch has much more holiday allure than other whiskeys.  But, I figured that since I have not done much with Scotch reviews in a while, I will be spending the month of November reviewing some affordable Scotch whiskeys.  To kick off Scotchvember at Bargain Bourbon, I am doing a review of Scapa 16 yr., a single malt Scotch whisky from the Isle of Orkney off the north coast of Scotland.

Orkney is most known in the whisky world for Highland Park, and for good reason; Highland Park is a beautiful single malt.  That said, Scapa is a wonderful distillery with a much different profile from that of its Orcadian neighbors at Highland Park.  The standard offering from Scapa is their 16 year-old, an old offering for a standard entry bottling.  One of the most unique aspects of Scapa distilling process is that they usually slow down their fermentation process (sometimes taking up to a week to ferment), which elicits a fruity backbone to the finished spirit.  The waxy characteristics of Scapa are also aided by a “Lomond” wash still, which produces a heavy, oily low wine before being transferred to more traditional copper pot still.  The Lomond still allows for a lot of reflux, holding heavier vapors in the still for longer periods of time before condensation.  The end result is dense, waxy mouth feel in the finished product.  Scapa 16 yr. is aged in refill bourbon casks for a minimum of 14 years before being transferred over to first-fill bourbon casks for at least two years before being bottled at 86 proof (43% abv).

On the nose, Scapa is sweet, with a lot of honey and vanilla notes.  There are also some notes of barley and heavy whipping cream mixed in.  The palate is very distinct, with its buttery mouth feel.  There are a lot of sweet notes here as well, with caramel, honey, vanilla, and fresh oak.  The finish is medium, and exposes some oak spiciness along with the sweetness of the caramel and vanilla.  The whisky really coats the throat well, and goes down buttery smooth.  I hate when people say that a whisky is smooth, but this one is very much that on the finish.

Overall, I really enjoyed this malt.  Scapa’s sweet flavors and distinct mouth feel tend to get mixed reviews, but it all worked well for me.  I think this is a great dram to have on the shelf for the holidays because of its flexibility across different palates.  I think Lagavulin 16 yr. might be a better whisky, but Lagavulin certainly is not for everyone.  I think most of the folks at your holiday parties will enjoy Scapa, but you know your guests better than I do.  My grade: B+.  Price: $70-80/750ml.  The price point is very affordable, considering its age, making it a great whisky to let it ride with if you’ve been looking for a Scotch to delve into this holiday season.

The Tyrconnell Irish Whiskey Review

The Tyrconnell NASToday, I am kicking off a three-part mini-series on Irish whiskey.  I will be showcasing the three primary styles of Irish whiskey, single malt, blended, and single pot still.  Today’s review is of The Tyrconnell single malt Irish whiskey, with reviews of Redbreast 12 yr. and Concannon to follow.  A single malt Irish whiskey is the same as a single malt Scotch, just made in Ireland.  The Tyrconnell is made entirely from malted barley at a single distillery (Cooley Distillery in County Louth, Ireland).  The Tyrconnell brand is available in several different age statements, including a 10 yr., a 15 yr., and a variety of single cask bottlings and finished bottlings.  The whiskey I am reviewing today is from The Tyrconnell’s standard no-age-statement (NAS) single malt.  It is bottled at 80 proof (40% abv).  Special thanks to MK for the sample.

The color is a light gold, but I suspect that coloring is added to this one.  The nose presents a nice balance of fruity and floral notes.  I definitely smell young Bartlett pears and some floral notes reminiscent of an American IPA.  The nose is pleasant, but not especially complex.  The palate is very light and drinkable with those pear notes re-surging along with some stale bread.  The finish is also pretty malty and rather short.

On the whole, The Tyrconnell is a straight-forward single malt Irish whiskey.  It is very smooth and drinkable, but it lacks depth and complexity.  It tastes nice, but if you don’t pay close attention, you might miss this whiskey.   The finish is usually my biggest complaint with Irish whiskeys, and this one holds up that trend.  The finish is too short, and I hardly know I drank anything.  That said, if you are looking to introduce someone you know to a whiskey that doesn’t burn, The Tyrconnell single malt is worth trying.  Personally, I would love to give their finished whiskeys and their 15 year a try.  The makings of a very good whiskey are evident in The Tyrconnell’s NAS bottling.  My grade: C-.  Price: $30-35/750ml.  This is a good indication of what to expect from single malt Irish whiskey, smooth and drinkable, but not deep or complex.  This is very reasonably priced, but there are whiskeys I prefer at this price point.

Laphroaig Quarter Cask Scotch Review

Well, Sandy is blowing pretty hard outside, which means it is the perfect time to drink some big whisky.  In my idea of a perfect autumn liquor cabinet (, I said that when the money hit me, I would usually try to keep a bottle of Laphroaig Quarter Cask around.  I am reviewing today because it is a great whisky for a rainy day and a great whisky period.  However, it is also a very good deal compared with other single malt Scotches.  It isn’t a great price point compared with most American whiskeys, but it is still a great buy around $60 a bottle.

Laphroaig Quarter Cask takes its name from the maturing process shown on the front of the bottle.  The whisky is aged in a traditional (500 liter) American oak barrel for most of its maturing process, but it is finished in small (125 liter) casks.  The smaller cask creates more interaction with the wood, helping the whisky to “mature” quicker.  So, the Quarter Cask is only about 8-10 years old, but it drinks like a 12-14 year-old whisky.

Originally, quarter casks were created for two reasons.  First, they were smaller, which made them a lot easier to transport, especially on horseback.  Second, a quarter casked whisky allows a distillery to age whiskies faster, helping a distillery produce better products more quickly.

In the case of Laphroaig, the quarter cask is used as a finishing technique, and it comes off brilliantly.  I have reviewed Laphroaig base offering, the 10 year ( .  It is a good whisky, but it is really a one-tricked pony.  It is smoke and peat, peat and smoke throughout.  Laphroaig Quarter Cask takes that formula, and rounds it out beautifully.  It is bottled at 96 proof and non-chill filtered.

On the nose, it is clear you are drinking Laphroaig whisky.  Peat and smoke explode out of the glass, but upon further nasal exploration, there are notes of nutmeg, black pepper, vanilla, almond butter, and the heartwarming smell of the sea.  The palate is full-bodied and brilliant.  It opens with a heavy sweetness of honey, vanilla, sherry, and fresh berries.  The back of the palate reveals the peat and smoke you would expect, but it is complimented with dense, sweet oak and roasted nuts.  The finish is long and delicious, with a wonderful balance of peat, smoke, sea spray, sherry, and oak.

Overall, Laphroaig Quarter Cask is a fantastic whisky.  It is full-bodied, everything you would want from an Islay, but it is also complex and rich.  In my opinion, it is the best whisky in Laphroaig’s range, even better than the 18 yr. expression and the Cairdeas bottling.  The only Laphroaig whisky that comes close to the beauty of the Quarter Cask is the 10 yr. Cask Strength.  At the price point, Laphroaig Quarter Cask is my favorite Islay whisky, perfect for waiting out a hurricane.  My grade: A-.  Price: $60-70/750ml.  This is a great special occasion whisky, but it is not cheap.