Tag Archives: tasting notes

Glenfiddich’s Cask of of Dreams

Well it is finally here…the culmination of last year’s Cask of Dreams campaign has been bottled and is available for purchase.  If you are not familiar with the Cask of Dreams, it was a nationwide campaign where 11 individual casks were brought to different cities where individuals memorialized their dreams and aspirations by writing them onto the casks.  We attended the San Francisco event last year so it was great to see this project come full circle and sample some of the whisky from the Cask of Dreams.  I had the fortune of sitting down with Glendfiddich’s West Coast Ambassador Mitch Bechard to talk about and taste this expression.  If you ever get the opportunity to attend a Glenfiddich event make sure that you do – Mitch’s knowledge and more importantly his passion for whisky make for a great experience.

The Cask of Dreams is a limited release of 3500 bottles and is only available in the United States.  The whisky that composes this expression consists of American oak casks ranging from 14 to 16 years old.  These casks were vatted and then transferred to the 11 virgin American oak Cask(s) of Dreams that made the trip from the US.  Because these casks never held whisky before it was important to carefully monitor them – Brian Kinsman sampled them every few weeks – so that they do not over cook the whisky inside.  After 3 months, it was decided that the perfect balance had been achieved.

Before getting intoxicated (pun only partially intended) by the fumes of the marketing and advertising machine, we have to keep grounded and remember it is about the juice inside the bottle.  A grandiose story doesn’t make up for shit whisky.  So putting by best efforts to forget the story behind it, I gave the whisky a taste…

Glenfiddich Cask of Dreams NAS $99
14 – 16 year American Oak
Finished 3 months in virgin American Oak
Bottled at 48.8% ABV

The color was surprisingly dark and of an almost chestnut hue.  I wasn’t expecting that from the age of the component whiskies and from all American oak.  The nose was reminiscent of dried red fruit and spices.  The vanilla was hanging around in the background as well.  The palate initially hit with a firm spiciness then with a layer of vanilla and sweetness but underneath was the familiar yet subtle apple and malty notes that I tend to get from Glenfiddich 12.  There was also a chewy full mouth feel to it.  At the suggestion of Mitch, I added some water.  This took some of the spicy new oak edge off of it and made for a more composed whisky.  I got a little dustiness after letting it breath for awhile.

It is not a heart stopping powerful whisky but it does make for a well composed “round” whisky with an added touch of excitement.  The spice from the new oak along with the higher ABV make for a very user friendly whisky in that you can control the flavor settings with water.  All in all this is a tasty whisky that I did enjoy.

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Part IV of the Rosebank Tasting: SMWS 25.51 18 Year Rosebank

Continuing into the realm of the cask strength bottlings of Rosebank we found ourselves pouring the Single Malt Whisky Society’s (SMWS) 25.51. The actual name that SMWS decided to give this bottle of Rosebank is a treasure trove of material for anyone looking to engage in some sophomoric humor: “Cherry Lips and Bitter Nuts.” I will just leave it at that.

My experiences with SMWS bottlings have been great – from ash and coal Islay’s to other heathery soft Lowlands. So I was really looking forward to trying this one.

18 Years Old
52.7% ABV
Refill Bourbon Casks

Color – Champagne/light yellow

Nose – BAM! Bourbon! Tobacco and um…more bourbon, apple cider, dark fruits, grain, a little bit of a “highland-y” nose

Palate – Dry oak, cherries, cola, huge bourbon influence with the tobacco and dark spices, there might be trace amounts of heather in there but I think it was just my mind telling me that there should be.

Finish – Cola on the way out, chewy almost syrupy, and that bourbon is still hanging around

I think there was originally some Rosebank in there – it just got completely obliterated by the bourbon. Not a good one if you are looking to actually taste some of the traditional Rosebank flavors.

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Old Malt Cask Jura 15 Review

Another Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask expression.  This time from Jura.  I haven’t really decided what I think about Jura yet.  The OB’s have been

OMC Jura

overwhelmingly “ho-hum” for me.  So maybe this sherry finished independent will spice it up a little bit?

Stats – Distilled in 1990 and bottled in 2005 at 50% ABV.  This one spent most of its aging life in an oak cask before being transferred to a sherry cask for 6 months.

Color – Dark amber/orange, black tea.

Nose –  Sweet sherry, some spices, mint, hint of smoke.

Palate –  Big sherry influence, brine, oak in the background, middle tongue heat.

Finish – Tongue coating, medium viscosity.

With H20:

Nose – Brings out the alcohol, even stronger sherry, malty.

Palate – Sweeter, more sherry, wet cardboard.

This is definitely for those that like sherried whisky.  In fact, it might simply be for those that just plain like sherry.  The sherry totally took over and the distillery flavors were wiped out.  This one just didn’t do it for me – lacked balance.


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Ardbeg Supernova Battle (Supernova 2009 versus Supernova 2010)


Well the much anticipated Ardbeg Supernova 2010 edition finally made it into my hands.  There has definitely been a lot of talk about this release.  Ardbeg has done well with their marketing lately.  Between the original Supernova, Correvrecken, Rollercoaster and now this 2010 release of Supernova they have managed to create quite a stir.

Well, I really enjoyed the 2009 Supernova.  You can see my review of that release here. So I was hoping that the 2010 release would live up to its predecessor.  There were some changes to the 2010 release including a slight bump in the ABV – from 58.9% to 60.1%.   I am not going to go into all of the details of the two releases as there is plenty of information available on other sites.

To make things a little more interesting I decided to do a semi-blind tasting on these two.  I wanted to compare them without bringing in the baggage of my preconceived ideas of which one should taste like what.  So I found myself staring at two identical classes without knowing which one was which – all I knew was they were both Supernova.

Glass One:

Color – Pale straw

Nose – As expected BIG peat, hints of chocolate, ashes, lemon/lime.

Palate – Again, as expected – peat up front, oak, some ashy-ness, strong alcohol backbone really brings a big punch.

Finish – Did I mention peat?  some sweetness at the end and a nice mid-tongue numbness

Glass Two:

Color – Pale straw

Nose – Peat, the alcohol seems brighter, sweet, hints of orange, some ash

Palate – A lot of heat, intense, peat and ash, a slight bitter note, oranges again, oak/wood, tongue numbing

Finish – Peat and that slight bitterness, you get the sweetness at the end too, a nasal alcohol burn.

So, which one was which???




Glass one = SN2010

Glass two = SN2009

The main characteristics of Supernova were present in both – big intense peat and alcohol.  There were some slight differences between the two.  I don’t think I would be able to pick up any difference if I wasn’t trying them back to back.  So the following comments are more of splitting hairs than anything else:

The difference to me was that the 2009 seemed more raw and had more rough edges.  There was a sense of a greater intensity in the 2009 – but trust me the 2010 is plenty intense.

The 2010 seemed to tame the alcohol better, even though it got the slight bump in ABV over the 2009.  There was a better incorporation of the flavors.

So what’s the bottom line for me?  I personally preferred the 2009.  It is loud and proud of what it is and doesn’t give a d@mn if you don’t like it.  Isn’t that kind of the premise of the Supernova?

*Sorry for the crappy cell phone pictures – this was an in prompt to tasting*


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Old Malt Cask Laphroaig La Maison Du Whisky Bottling

A quick treat from a fellow whisky-a-holic: Tony.  He picked this bottle up in Paris from the great La Maison Du Whisky shop while on business.  This bottle was selected and bottled for the shop.  La Maison Du Whisky also has a special place in my heart because they carry a lot of Japanese whisky – I can be pretty myopic when it comes to Japanese whisky.  In any event, this was from the independent bottler Old Malt Cask.

Stats:  Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask (Ref No. 5723), Distilled in November 1989 and Bottled in January 2010.  20 Years Old. 194 Bottles.


55.4%ABV. Sherry Hogshead.

Color – dark amber/orange

Nose – peat, orange, some apples in there too, sherry sweetness, caramel notes, oak? smoke, iodine

Palate – peat, big alcohol, chocolate notes, hints of orange, sort of thin,oak, the sherry isnt as present as I thought it would be, interesting spices

Finish – peat, bitterness, singes the taste buds, spices are there as well.

With Water

Nose – tones the peat down but its still there, more fruits, malty,

Palate – really opens it up, fruits come bursting out now, malty, peat is ratcheted down, the oak is still there too.

Finish – sweetness, peat


Comments:  The nose is wonderful but unfortunately the palate doesn’t quite live up to it.  It is definitely not bad, in fact the palate is quite delightful – just the nose really built it up.  I still really like it, shows a lot more of Laphroaig other than the peat.


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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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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.


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