Tag Archives: scotch

A Couple of Young AD Rattrays

From one of our favorite independent bottlers these two distilleries aren’t seen too often on this side of the pond.  The current line up of AD Rattrays are relatively young (with a few exceptions).

Macduff 10 $66

Distilled November 15, 2000
Bottled April 5, 2011 @ 59.8%ABV
Sherry Cask (No. 5786)

Color:  Light copper

Nose:  Sherry up front, figs, earthy, over ripe red grapes with hints of vanilla

Palate:  Intense red fruit with a fiery alcohol back drop – needs water! Much better…sweet grain notes, cereal, nice even handed sherry influence, cough syrup, walks right up to the line of being too sweet for my taste, lingering spice, something slightly synthetic/rubbery sticks out, cherries, varnish?

Finish:  Hangs around awhile with some nice spice.

Comments:  Deep flavors for a 10 year old, a well balanced sherried Speysider, it manages to escape the sulfery tones that I get a lot with sherry casks I am happy to say.  A little youthful, wish I could taste it after it sat for a couple of more years.

Glen Ord 12 $66

Distilled March 17, 1998
Bottled October 30, 2010 @60.1% ABV
Bourbon Cask (No. 24)

Color:  Pale yellow

Nose:  Rich, buttery, chalky, hard candy, caramel, butterscotch, fresh

Palate:  Sweet, the ABV makes it tough to get through though, thick oily mouth feel, vanilla, surprising spice.  With water: a lot more enjoyable, milder, sweet, honey, powdered sugar, floral and slightly dry.

Finish:  Short with some oak bite

Comments:  A nice straight forward Highland malt, sweet but kicked up a little, its nice to be able to adjust with water since it is at cask strength, enjoyable but not necessarily memorable.

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May’s 3rd Thursday Whisky Tasting

Line Up

May’s tasting came and went and, simply put, it looked like a good time was had by all.  While the turnout was respectable, it was by no means the largest crowd.  While the weather was fine on the deck, there was still a cooling in the air.  If there was one thing to be said about this 3rd Thursday, one unifying aspect that defined this particular evening, it was this: People were in the mood drink.

There did not seem to be any one reason to hang it on (not that you need one), but it seemed to be an unpublished plan that everyone was adhering to.  Those who walked in tired walked out with a spring in their step.   Probably in part due to the Springbank 12 Amontillado that kicked the evening off at 110.6 proof.  Its praise ranged from a solid good to a Frosted Flake’s ‘Great!’  No one seemed interested in my Edger Allan Poe lore and cryptic references to his short story ‘A Cask of Amontillado’.  But then people were there to drink and be merry, not to contemplate getting vengefully bricked up in a wall while still alive.  Fair enough.

Scapa’s 16 year from the Orkney Isles followed quickly.  Really quickly.  Considerably tempered compared to the Springbank, it gave attendees the opportunity for an alcohol-infused breather before moving on to the Lagavulin 12 which brought the evening back up to cask strength.  A complimentary bottle of the Lagavulin 16 was in residence purely for comparative references.  And people drank.  People engaged in pleasant conversation.  Apparently some people even stumbled upon a stash of cigars on the deck.  And people drank.  Somewhere along the line a rather large stack of Vietnamese sandwiches managed to disappear.

In the end, an arbitrary time meaning variously everything from ‘time to turn in’ to ‘time to move on’, it was unclear which whisky was the most adored.  The Springbank went over well and only an empty bottle remained.  The Lagavulin went over well as well and only an empty bottle remained.  The Scapa’s own showing wasn’t bad, with about ½ of an inch remaining.  Was it the right whiskies?  Was it the right crowd?  Were we all simply in the mood to get our collective drink on?  Personally, I’m going with ‘all of the above’.  N. Nicoll (Tasting notes to follow.)


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1976 Old Malt Cask 28 Y/O Dallas Dhu Review

Unfortunately for my wallet, I have a strong affinity for distilleries that are no longer open.  Rosebank, Brora, Port Ellen and of course Dallas Dhu.  I have a lot to thank Dallas Dhu for.  The first Dallas Dhu that I was introduced to was the magnificent Signatory Cask Strength Collection expression.  This was when I was first starting to explore single malt whisky.  At the time I was all about Talisker and its signature pepper and smoke as well as the Islay’s.  In my uneducated and stubborn opinion (according to my wife this hasn’t changed much) everything else was uninteresting and boring.

This was until Roger, who I like to think of as my whisky teacher during my formative years, pulled the above referenced Dallas Dhu out of this cabinet.  I know around the whisky blogosphere it is common to find long descriptive tasting notes, but I can sum up that dram up with one word: WOW! And maybe with a little: What the hell was that?  I had no idea that whiskies not from Islay or the Islands could have so much flavor.  I was forced to re-evaluate my position.  So to Dallas Dhu – and Roger – thank you for setting me free from the bondage’s of peat, smoke, pepper and other coastal flavors so that I can enjoy and appreciate what the rest of the world of whisky has to offer.

So this brings me to the expression on hand:  Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask Dallas Dhu.

Old Malt Cask Dallas Dhu

Old Malt Cask Dallas Dhu

Distilled in 1976 and bottled in 2005 at 50% ABV

Color – Medium straw

Nose – Apples, lemon, definite alcohol singe, cinnamon, cherry pie

Palate –  Surprisingly sweet, oak, spices, full bodied, malty, very different than the nose – loses a lot of the fruit, hides the alcohol well, hint of smoke on the tale

Finish – long, tongue numbing on those spice and smoke notes.

This did not disappoint, very satisfying.  The sweetness balanced well with the hints of smoke and spices.  Too bad it costs so much!

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So Was It Worth It?

So how do you place a value on something.  Or how do you decide if something was “worth it”?  Living in San Francisco my views on value are probably a little skewed.  I mean damn, a 2 bedroom 2 bath condo can be $600K on the low end.  In any event, earlier today I was sipping some Port Ellen that we purchased for one of our tasting events.  We had never tried a Port Ellen before.  They are just so damn expensive.  But I guess that’s what you get into when the distillery is no longer around.  There is only a finite amount of the spirit left in this world and it will never return.  Well, we were able to scrape up enough attendees to purchase the most “affordable” bottle of Port Ellen: $275.

So it got me to thinking:  at that price point were the contents really worth it?  After visiting this PE twice, I don’t think so.  Don’t get me wrong it was a tasty treat and an experience that I will remember, but there are so many other great bottles of whisky out there that are a lot cheaper.  Maybe it is all about perspective?  Maybe the feeling for some dropping that amount of cash is the same as for me when I pick up a $75 bottle?  But I personally don’t know many people that can spend that kind of cash.  This isn’t even really taking into consideration those bottles that are in another stratosphere, think crystal decanters and age statements that pre-date the Vietnam war.

So are there any bottles that you feel were expensive and also felt were worth the price?  I dropped $230 on a Glenfarclas 1974, it was hands down worth it for me.

Anyways, back to sipping my $20 Nikka Pure Malt White while sitting in my $1700/month (not including ANY utilities) 2 bedroom, 1 bath townhouse that is considered a steal…


Filed under Imbibed Musings

Glenrothes 1995 Signatory Un-Chillfiltered Collection

I have only had some of the more recent OB releases of Glenrothes and to be frank nothing really stood out for me.  There wasn’t anything necessarily bad about them, they just didn’t leave much of an impression.  Too middle of the road and “safe” for my likings.  So which ones have I tried?  I simply can’t remember.  And no, it is not what you are thinking – I was enjoying in moderation each time.  The surgeon general would be proud of my efforts.  The reason I can’t remember, is a lot of the line is identified by year only and the labels and bottles all look the same.  It is like a mini-version of my Bruichladdich confusion.  In any event, I decided to give this Signatory bottling a try and see if it would be any different.

Color – Pale straw

Nose –  Sweet, cola, rootbeer, watermelon jolly rancher.

Palate –  Cream, spices, nice sweet tones (strawberries?), grassy, malt, hotter than I expected.

Finish –  Full mouth feel, heat.

This Glenrothes was memorable I am happy to say.  The nose was playful and interesting.  The creaminess on the palate was a delight.  I wanted to post a picture but I have to dig through the empty bottle stash to find it first.  It was a hit so the contents were not long for this world.  I will edit and post a picture as soon as I can find it.


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Glen Grant 10 OB Review Take 1

I think of Glen Grant as whisky’s classic old guard.  The Fenway Park or Augusta National of whisky you might say.  I am not sure why I think this, but for some reason I do.  Currently the behemoth Italian company Gruppo Campari owns the Glen Grant distillery.  In the past I have had some of the Gordon & MacPhail realeases, but never an OB release so I wanted to give it a try.

I was a little wary of purchasing this bottle for our tasting event as it was amongst some heavy hitters.  I was afraid that it was going to get lost in

Glen Grant 10

the mix or plain just blown out of the water.  There were 2 cask strength bottles (Auchentoshan and A’Bunadh) as well as a Port Ellen in the mix that same night.  The thinking was to use the Glen Grant as a sort of palate cleaner after the two cask strength bottles and before the Port Ellen.  My fears were somewhat put to rest by the friendly staff at the Whisky Shop on Sutter Street in San Francisco.  Dara felt that the Glen Grant would be able to stand on its own two feet amongst the other bottles.  So I went for it…and I was definitely not disappointed.

Glen Grant 10 OB, Speyside, bottled at 40%ABV

Color – Yellow, light straw

Nose – Banana runts (if you remember that candy), malt background, apples

Palate – Smooth, cereal, hints of apple pie, a little difficult to get through, makes you work for it, sweet.

Finish – fast and clean.

This is definitely an easy drinker, but still has enough character to make it interesting.  It is a great value at ~$45/bottle.  I am looking forward to trying the 16 year old OB next.

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One Prospective of the 18 Year A.D. Rattray Auchentoshan

A.D. Rattray Auchentoshan 18 Year, Distilled 1990, Bottled 2009 @ 56.5%


This whisky had a lot to live up to in my mind.  First, A.D. Rattray has been consistently one of my favorite independent bottlers.  The whiskies they release have a way of being very unique while at the same time not losing the distillery flavors that we like.  Some independent releases get too far away from the basic distillery flavor profile.  What also sticks out in my mind about A.D Rattray bottlings is the viscosity.  Both the Balblair and Bowmore bottlings were thick and chewey (if you can get that from a liquid?). A.D. Rattray is relatively new to the independent bottling arena even though the business itself was founded in 1868.  You can read more about the company here.

Second, I am a big fan of the lowlands.  It is a weird dichotomy as I love diving head first into the peat bog, even better if it is at cask strength! But I also really enjoy the soft subtle flavors of the lowlands.  Auchentoshan distillery releases haven’t wow’d me in the past however.  In any event, here we go!

Color – Light, pale yellow

Nose – Honey, medicinal, malt, a lot of straw, baked sweets like a sugar cookie

Looking up at what is left of the Dewar Rattray Auchentoshan

Palate – Full mid tongue weight, apples, a distinct sweetness, heather, floral tones, the heat comes through well

Finish – long and lingering on the heather and sweetness.

A great balance of subtle flavors with the punch of cask strength.  I really like this whisky.

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Bunnahabhain 17, Malt Trust. A Whale of a Whisky…

Bunnahabhain 17 year Malt Trust [53.3%].  Truth be told, I have inexplicable reservations about reviewing the whiskies I am absolutely floored by.  That being stated, I caved in and decided that it was time to set the record straight.  And by straight I mean to write of a whisky I absolutely delight in to the exclusion of most.  So here comes some un-abashed praise for one of my top three whiskies that I intend to describe in laudatory, effusively complimentary, and absolutely (and justly) biased terms.  The first Bunnahabhain I had was at a joint off of Columbus Street around a decade ago.   It was a non-distiller’s release and it stood out, delighted me with its intense flavors that I didn’t have much of an appreciation for in the details but that I savored in the overall effect.  I had a Royal Lochnagar Reserve that night as well that was tasty, but that is another tale.  Since then I’ve enjoyed the distillery releases of Bunnahabhain though I’ve never been ‘blown away’ by any.  But then there was a night I stumbled into Whisky Thieves with the usual suspects and was, in my already malleable instability, intrigued by the etched whale rounding a bottle of impossibly dark whisky in the already dark interior of a reliable establishment.  And I had heard tales of this particular whisky, perhaps this particular bottle.  Good, cryptic and appreciative tales.  The color of the pour sold me, a warm darkness in a dark and boisterous place.  The nose and flavor that followed put a drive in me to obsess in a vague but no-less-earnest fashion about the pour I had enjoyed.  It was well over a year before great fortune, the assistance of the Whisky Shop and the concerted efforts of two friends who had joined me on an all-day birthday-crawl put in my hands a bottle of the Bunnahabhain 17, Malt Trust edition.  And we drank quite a bit then, appreciated it enormously I am sure, but I definitely was not in a state to review let alone recall the fine and wonderful details at that time.  What the hell, I’m sure it was good.

Which brings us to now: dried out to get some music done, I broke my fast with the aforementioned and took notes.  A phenomenally dark brown with red tones.  Rich and foreboding.

Dense nose, aged wood, preserves, a certain sweetness, almost a cola syrup.  I thought it didn’t have any legs until I realized that they were simply slow in descending.  Used a wonky glass, too (my bad).  The flavor was dark and layered with hints of roasted seaweed and grain.  Burn and heat reared their heads quickly, seizing the front of the palate in the wake of a briefly water-textured mouth-feel.  Dense roasted flavors, some once-burnt hay giving way to tightly bound smoke and dark sugar notes hiding traces of peat and more aged grain somewhere.  A lingering chewiness leading to numb cheeks and gums set in.  There were no floral qualities, no joyous combination’s of a lighter wine notes and heather-full-of-wind fun.   This whisky is a dark and resilient thing hearkening to an era of profound and simple flavors both robust and compelling.  N. Nicoll.


Filed under Bunnahabhain, Whisky Impressions

End of the Week Mini Caol Ila Tasting

Caol Ila has always been one of my favorite distilleries. It has the peat and smoke that you associate with an Islay malt but there is more to the whisky than that. I usually associate a buttery flavor to Caol Ila. It also tends to be clean and refined not “too out there” in the flavor profile.

So I was in the Caol Ila mood today. This might have to do with the young 8 year old Caol Ila that I just got from Japan thatwas  bottled exclusively for a department store there. See my earlier post for the unique bottle. Additionally I just received a sample of Scott’s Selection 1984 Caol Ila from my good friend Dara.  Untasted Caol Ila’s and Friday…no better time to drink!

I was joined by fellow whiskwall contributor Nate for the festivities. Nate should be posting his notes shortly as well.  We decided to start with the Scott’s Selection due to it’s age – more flavors to pick up versus the young 8 y/o.

Scott’s Selection Caol Ila Distilled in 1984 bottled at 53%

Color – Light yellow

Nose – Big wafts of sweet peat, a little smoke, burnt embers, ashy, an organic sweetness – honey and butter scotch, oranges are in there too.

Palate – Surprising amounts of smoke and embers (more than the nose would reveal), wet rocks, the distinct Caol Ila flavor that I identify as butter or butter scotch, oak, tree bark, slightly bitter.

Finish – long and peaty, the embers slowly eventually fade.

Great powerful Caol Ila – a big hitter and I love it at cask strength!

Moving on to the 8 y/o.  I do tend to like younger malts so I was really looking forward to this.

2000 Caol Ila bottled exclusively for Tokyu Department Store

Distilled in 2000 and bottled in 2008 at 59%

Color – Dull yellow

Nose – Shy and coy, you can make out the peat but its hidden, honey, a touch of mint, malt, very clean.

Palate – Soft at the initial point of attach then explodes with peat, malt, oak, again that tell tale buttery flavor, slightly creamy, cardboard, can tell that it is still very young, not all that complex.

Finish – fairly short, fades fast on peat.

I enjoyed both, but it was a pretty unfair fight I think.  The 8 year old was simply over matched.  The Scott’s Selection had more complexity and punch to it.  It might be one of my favorite Caol Ila’s I have tried.  It didn’t surpass the Whisky Shop’s 24 year old private bottling though.  For notes/reviews on some of  Caol Ila’s standard OB releases check out Whisky Israel.

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From Walker to Not-Water

More Single Malt Reviews Soon… but first a few odds and ends that must be addressed…

“Johnnie Walker Gold Label, The Centenary Blend”.  As for the nose, a little heat, gentle grain, smoke, and a medicinal note.  Soothing start, slightly viscous, caramel, malt, mild spice and trace of smoke.  The flavors are well integrated yet retain character. 40%

“Not-Water” aka White Lightning.  Don’t ask where it came from, but yes the jar was the original “packaging”.  Not too sure what this is but when you shake it small bubbles form for a brief moment, which I am told is, in Kentucky, a sign of good quality.  When I cracked the jar and stuck my nose in it I was a bit shocked, a lot of medicinal and cleaning notes.  Childhood memories of stripping varnish off of coffee tables.  When nosed from a small shot-glass the nose is pleasantly buttery and light.  Surprisingly clean palate with a distinctive nutty-ness.  Mild, sweet aftertaste. ?%

NyQuil Cold & Flu”.  Got hit by a cold, that is why there haven’t been as many whisky notes.  So I got to drink this OTC dram.  Dark, translucent green, FD&C Green #3, mostly.  Nose: best avoided, definitely medicinal with a gummy sweetness.  Not really much of a sipper, this is best quickly put down the hatch.  Very viscous, more medicinal notes of a dark and cloying variety.  Best taken with a water back as the tail really sticks around with a lingering high-fructose anti-septic note. 10%ABV

“Corner Creek Reserve Bourbon Whisky”.  Color, honey with a hint of red.  Nose, heat, mild oak/vanilla, citrus/lime?  Smooth, watery mouth-feel, flavorful sweet, not overpowering, warm grain notes.  Leaves a pleasant caramel/nut taste on the roof of the mouth, lingering, chewy sugar.  Tasty. 44%

“Alaskan Baltic Porter”. Very dark brown/copper.  Nose, vanilla/oak even at a distance, light sour notes and sweet malt.  Lush but not syrupy.  Rich body with only light carbonation, the cherry flavors are muted and delightfully inseparable from the dark malt tones.  Touches of an almost dark chocolate sweetness.  A muted oak note joins in with lingering vanilla in the background.  Amazingly well-rounded imperial stout-like porter.  Complex yet easy to enjoy… great with breakfast.  9.7%

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