Posts tagged ‘Single Malt’

The Black Grouse Blended Scotch Review

Today, I am reviewing The Black Grouse blended Scotch Whisky.  Up to this point on the website, the only Scotches that I have reviewed have been single malts.  The difference between a single malt Scotch and a Blended Scotch is that the former is comprised of whisky made from a single mash bill, whereas blended scotches are made up of multiple whiskies blended into one.  Typically, a bottler like The Famous Grouse (creators of the Black Grouse) gets its whisky from other distilleries, but occasionally one of the whiskies will be self-distilled.  Generally speaking, blended Scotches are cheaper than single malts, mostly because single malts receive better ratings at whisky tastings.  However, that is not to say that all single malts are better than all blended Scotches.  In an effort to showcase a fine blended Scotch, I present my review of The Black Grouse.

The Black Grouse is made by blending The Famous Grouse (another fine blended whisky) with peated single malts from Islay.  It creates a very nice balance between the smoke of an Islay whisky and the fruits and florals of a Speyside.

On the nose, The Black Grouse is spicy and smoky, with good notes of peat, but also balanced with dried fruits and light sherry.  The palate is light-bodied, but very enjoyable.  It is mostly peaty, but there are some subtle notes of dried apricots and orange peels that whisper in the background.  The finish is medium-long, and it moves from smoke and peat to sweet oak and some cereal sweetness.

Overall, this whisky is not as bold or as complex as a single malt Speyside (like The MaCallan) or a single malt Islay (like Bunnahabhain).  However, it blends the two Scotch regions together wonderfully, making it a great introduction to peated Scotch.   My grade: C+.  Price: $25-30/750ml.  This is a nice blended whisky, worthy of having in the cabinet.

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Bunnahabhain 12 Year Review

Well, today is my birthday, so I am going for pure pleasure.  Today, I am doing a review of one of the finest whiskies on the planet, Bunnahabhain 12 year-old single malt Islay Scotch.  If you would like to know how to pronounce Bunnahabhain, let Brian Cox help you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=JanRqMtGtOI

I have talked a little about Scotch regions in the past, yet I have not yet talked about Islay.  Islay is my favorite Scotch region; it is known for massive, powerful whiskies that take your taste buds for one hell of a ride.  “Peat Monsters” like Laphroaig, Ardbeg, and Lagavulin all come from Islay.  However, there is a lighter side of Islay as well, with distilleries like Bowmore, Bruichladdich, and Bunnahabhain.

Bunnahabhain is a non-chill filtered whisky, aged in Sherry casks, bottled at 92.6 proof.  It has a rich, amber color, a much darker color than most Islay Scotches.  On the nose, it is sweet and salty.  The sweetness comes primarily from the Sherry influence, giving way to almonds, dark fruits, berries, and sweet oak.  The saltiness comes primarily from the peat, offering a soft whiff of smoke every soft often in the nose.  The palate has the traditional fullness of an Islay Scotch, yet the flavor profile is much different.  The front of the palate picks up a full array of sweetness, with notes of hazelnuts, almonds, some light cinnamon sugar spiciness, blackberries, boysenberries, and dried apricots.  As the whisky moves towards its finish, it begins to show its Islay roots.  The back of the palate begins to get smokier, until the smoke finally releases its power in the finish.  The finish is long (another Islay trademark).  It starts off with a big puff of peat smoke, yet it becomes deliciously sweet over time, echoing the sweet and salty balance of the nose.  The finish seems to take you right to the sea, where a cool autumn breeze is blowing salt into your nostrils as you eat freshly picked raspberries.

As you might have guessed, I love this whisky.  My only wish is that the Sherry would not be quite so strong on the front of the palate.  Occasionally, you can find this whisky for under $50, which makes it a pretty good deal.  Honestly, I have seen other Scotches with this depth and complexity cost twice that much.  My grade: A-.  Price: $45-50/750ml.  This is a whisky for special occasions, and it comes through beautifully.  It tastes well beyond its price point.

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.

Comparison Review: Scotch Styles, McClelland’s Speyside vs. McClelland’s Lowland

I have been asked by several people to begin posting reviews of non-bourbon whiskeys that also fit the mission of bargainbourbon.com.  In that vein, I am doing a comparison review of two great value Scotches that I am fond of.  But first, a few brief words about Scotch Whisky.

Like bourbon to America, Scotch Whisky is made in Scotland.  Unlike bourbon, Scotch is made primarily from barley, although some other cereal grains are occasionally added.  In addition, Scotch varies significantly depending on the region of Scotland that the whisky comes from.  Obviously, each distillery is a little different, but most regions have a distinct flavor profile embodied by the distilleries in that region.

McClelland’s is a Scotch distributor that sources and bottles whisky from different regions of Scotland.  As such, McClelland’s whisky is usually pretty cheap (between $20-$30), and it gives a good introduction to a region’s flavor profile before diving headlong into a Scotch that costs $50 a bottle.  McClelland’s makes single malt Scotches, which means that all of the whisky in the bottle is made from the same mash.  Blended Scotches like Johnnie Walker, Chivas Regal, and Dewar’s are made from blending different Scotches from different distilleries in order to get the desired product.  Generally speaking, single malts are crisper with a more distinct flavor profile, hence their appeal to whisky drinkers.  Now, on to the whisky…

The Speyside region of Scotland is the most well-known Scotch region, home to about half the distilleries in Scotland.  It is a relatively small region located in the Northeast of Scotland, where the Spey River enters the North Sea.  Distilleries such as The Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, Glenfarclas, Glenrothes, The MaCallan, Aberlour, Glenfiddich, and The Balvenie are all found in the Speyside region.  As a general flavor profile, most Speyside whiskies strike a balance between fruity and floral notes and richer flavors of vanilla and oak.

On the nose, McClelland’s Speyside reminds me of Andes Mint candy.  It is fresh and minty, with some whispers of dark chocolate and fresh cut pine evergreens.  On the palate, the whisky is sweet and nutty, with the most prominent notes being almonds and hazelnuts.  The finish is moderately long, starting with light, piney flavors, and moving towards smoky pine and smoked peat at the end.  Like most of McClelland’s products, the Speyside is not very complex, but it gives a crisp, clear introduction to Speyside whisky.  My grade: B-.  Price: $20-25/750ml.  This is a great daily whisky.  It is a great anchor for any cabinet.

The Lowland region of Scotland is located in the south, and it is only home to a few active distilleries nowadays.  As a flavor profile, the Lowland Scotches are known for being very delicate and subtle.  They tend to be fresh and floral, with an almost silky or buttery texture.  Their popularity has died out a little bit in the past few decades as the whisky market has tended towards the massive flavor profiles of Islay Scotches and the Highland and Speyside regions.  However, Lowland Scotches are unique and fantastic whiskies.

On the nose, McClelland’s Lowland is mostly floral and citrusy.  There are notes of lemons and tangerines, coupled with dense floral notes of roses and lilacs.  This whisky is a pure joy to smell.  The palate is earthy and sweet, almost as if chewing on an orange or lemon peel.  The whisky is oily on the palate, feeling like melted butter in the mouth.  The finish is short and fairly weak.  It leaves a perfume-ish taste in the back of the mouth, but it is not very complex or powerful.  My grade: B-.  Price: $20-25/750ml.  This is great daily whisky, not as complex as the Speyside, but it anchors a cabinet just as well.

Overall, I prefer McClelland’s Speyside to McClelland’s Lowland.  However, if you are looking for a gateway whisky, a Lowland Scotch is a great place to start because of how easy the whisky is to drink neat.  These are both great introductions to Scotch, so give them a try and let it ride!