Tag Archives: whiskey

The New Normal – Whisky Pricing

Yes, I am piling on to complain about rising prices. I have a very small budget but a very large thirst – which makes for a very bad combination.

Over the past several years China has been extremely efficient in implementing an aggressive tactic in dealing with its territorial disputes with other countries. A bit of background: China has asserted its sovereignty (rightly or wrongly) over several islands to the dismay of neighboring countries that also claim ownership, such as Vietnam, Japan and the Philippines. In asserting its sovereignty, China slowly begins to take incremental action to create a new normal. Taken individually, the actions, although provocative, do not appear overly aggressive or worthy of initiating armed conflict. But slowly and surely the actions erode the status quo and create a new normal. For example, China intermittently starts to navigate its boats into the waters of disputed territories. Then slowly these instances become more frequent. After awhile it becomes normal for Chinese boats to be entering into disputed waters. The same tactic is found with aircraft – an occasional fly through the air space of a disputed island turns into a regular airplane route over said disputed island.

So what does all of this international relations gibberish have to do with whisky? Well to me it feels like the whisky companies over the past few years have managed to create a new normal with the pricing of whiskies – or at least the regular price increases. This is not the case for all whisky companies (there are still some bargains to be found), but to me it sure feels like a whole lot of them. Prices have slowly and steadily crept up on us whisky drinkers. My $60-75 is not as significant as it used to be. Now it takes closer to $100+ for the same amount of whisky purchasing power. Although we don’t like the price increases, we are getting used to it. Besides, it’s normal now.

*Apparently Diagio was a little less tactful with their most recent pricing increase on Talisker 18 as the K&L Spirits Journal reports. They decided to forgo taking incremental steps and blitzkrieg’d directly to almost double the price.*

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Ode to the Flask

Few accoutrements of the serious drinker out-class the flask.  Certainly, the flask can come in many forms for many modes, from the utilitarian plastic to the richly jewel-encrusted.  And while you read (should you continue to read) feel free to focus upon your flask of choice.  As for me, I will be thinking of the natty workhorse of the pantheon, a stainless steel number with simple lines, a slight curve, and a perfect fit for the inner pocket.  Feel free to adorn it with a few simple lines or engraving.  And while the cap that latches to the top may save you from misplacing your cap and the sides may boast some leather (see photo), I often prefer to take my chances, and my swigs, from the clean surface of a featureless spout free of such ingenious contrivances.  Let’s face it, while not all of us are regularly in a position to reach inside one’s jacket and produce a Walther PPK, there is something very James Bond about drawing a flask from one’s inner pocket.  Or even your back pocket in a bygone, a pre-cell phone era.

You can fill a flask with almost anything; it is a general purpose receptacle, after all.  Unsurprisingly, I prefer to fill mine with whiskey.  And as I’m only going to have a few ounces of the elixir, I tend to load it up with something hotter than your typical 80 proof.  And call me a wastrel, but I do not skimp on quality just because the liquor is going to be bouncing about in a metal flask for an indeterminate amount of time and likely unceremoniously quaffed straight from the screw-lacing of the neck.  Single malt, cask strength and more than likely from Scotland or Japan.  Of course, a solid American rye or bourbon is no compromise either.  I have occasionally stepped outside the mode… and I do have few flask-friendly cocktail recipes (as long as you have access to ice).  But whisky travels better.

Traveling.  That brings us to the raison d’être of the flask: mobile liquor.  Should you find yourself inexplicably on a boat that has run dry, you and your closer compatriots are covered.  Should you show up to the party and they’ve naught but beer and wine, you will have a head-start.  And should the pub crawl take an unexpected or lengthy stroll between watering holes, you have an emergency supply to carry you through.

Is it an “open container” in an automobile?  I do not know and I do not want to find out.  Have a decade of feel-good, onerous airport security measures made you safer? Not really, but it sure has put a crimp in getting a full flask of quality spirit on a plane.  Though I have rather enjoyed being instructed by airport security to empty my flask in the nearby bathroom… where I proceed to empty into my gullet.  A shame no longer being able to sip from a quality flask during a trip through the skies, but a great way to start a 9:00 AM flight.

Raise your glass for the flask. And if you are raising a flask, high marks for you.  Not only do you look cool and have people envying you, you are cool and look like you don’t give a damn about what people are thinking. –Nate

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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%

Label

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.

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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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New Review Signatory Un-Chillfiltered Collection Highland Park #Whisky

Signatory Un-Chillfiltered Collection Highland Park Bottles

This is an independent bottling of Highland Park from the island of Orkney by Signatory – through their Un-Chillfiltered Collection.  My experience with the Un-Chillfiltered series has been hit and miss.  Many have just been plain unimpressive and forgettable.  A young Caol Ila comes to mind; I will have to look back through my notes to find which one that was.  This HP wasn’t spectacular, but it wasn’t anything bad.

This HP is 13 y/o.  Distilled in 1993 and bottled in 2007 at 46%.

Signatory Un-Chillfiltered Collection Highland Park Label

Color: light yellow, gold, champagne;

N: Hints of citrus, lemon?, smoke in the background, brine;

P: fresh, malty, refined, sweet, cinnamon spice notes, no noticeable smoke.

F: watery, the sweetness lingers.

With water: N: brings out the sweetness, loses the smoke and brine.

P: More vibrant and fresh, more malty.

Decent expression of HP. Doesn’t get too far away from the distillery flavors like some Independents do. Definitely clean and refined like an HP should be.

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Ardbeg Supernova Tasting Review #whisky #malt

Ardbeg Supernova Bottle and Box

It was a long week so I decided to go with something a little more “extravagant” tonight.   This bottle originally came in a

Ardbeg Supernova UK Duty Label

couple months ago, but I didn’t take the time to sit down and write some notes.  A good friend picked it up in the UK while over there for business – you can see the UK Market label in the pictures. The Supernova is a no age statement whisky – so I am assuming there are some youngin’s in there.  It is bottled at 58.9% and is touted as having a peatiness level over 100 ppm.

Color – Gold, champagne

Nose – Peat, smoke, moss, barbecue, intense!

Palate – WOW! Big punch of peat, honeyed sweetness, creamy, mouth coating, the alcohol burn is intense but fits well with this dram, melon, you can definitely tell it has youthful origins, a dark spice,

Finish – long, you can feel/taste the peat drag its feet on the way out.

Ardbeg Supernova Front Label

Intense and Powerful are the adjectives that immediately come to mind here.  This is an in your face peat and alcohol bomb.  Should be enjoyed with others though I think – the impressions and flavors that it leaves you with must be shared.  Reminds me of why I love Islay whiskies so much.  I look forward to bringing out the Octomore bottle and having a little peat showdown soon.

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Scott’s Selection 1984 Bladnoch Review 20 y/o #whisky

Independent bottling of this lowland malt.  Distilled in 1984, bottled in 2004 at 55.1%

Scott's Selection Bladnoch

C: light yellow/gold.

N: straw/hay, ginger ale, sweet lemon, sea sweat toffee.

P: Deliciously complex, cherry, citrus rind, toasted malt, soapy candy sugar, lemon, straw, the nose fairly represents the palate.

F: loooooong, tongue coating, complex.

Interesting lowland, it is subtle (typical lowland flavors) yet aggressive at the same time. The finish just keeps going. Great whisky!

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Blanton’s original #bourbon #whiskey review

Color: Copper

Nose: Sweet, brown sugar, leather, orange zest

Palate: Middle tongue weight, sweet, surprisingly malty, alcohol is tame, orange.

Nice easy drinking bourbon. Nothing spectacular but nothing bad

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Finalized List for April 15th #whisky Tasting

Made some changes to the lineup for our April 15th whisky tasting in San Francisco:

1. Aberlour A’Bunadh

2. Dewar Rattray Auchentoshan

3. Glen Grant 10 OB

4. Provenance Port Ellen

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