Tag Archives: whisky

Single Cask Nation Kilchoman


This is the second bottling from the new independent bottlers over at the Single Cask Nation that I am reviewing. The first was a very unique and fun Arran that I enjoyed a lot. Kilchoman’s have been a bit of hit and miss for me. The are numerous single cask bottlings out there – some excellent, others not so much. I’m hopeful that this one falls into the excellent catagory.

Color: Translucent yellow

Nose: Buttery, simple syrup coated peat, medicinal, coal, rutty, dusty, some farmy rumblings in there as well

Palate: Ashy, sweet, coal, then the farmy and vegetative flavors start coming through

Comments: This guy was a bit of an oddball and follows the trend of uniqueness that the Arran expression started for me. It is definitely still a youngin’ but the farmy/vegetative notes brought something else to the regular peat and coal party of flavors.

* Many thanks to the Single Cask Nation for providing me with this sample *

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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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AD Rattray Auchroisk 20


Auchroisk…I have to admit I take way too much enjoyment out of being able to clear my throat at the same time that I say the name of this distillery. This Diageo owned Speyside distillery that started producing whisky in 1974 is primarily put into blends. Because it is mainly used in blends, you don’t see many bottles of Auchroisk out there. Diago did recently release a distillery bottling of a 20 year Auchroisk. This bottling that we are trying today is also a 20 year old but is from one of our favorite Independent Bottlers – AD Rattray.

AD Rattray Auchroisk 20 ~$80.00
Distilled: February 2, 1991
Bottled: May 17, 2011
Bourbon Barrel, Cask #2557
52.8% ABV

Color: Light gold with a tinge of copper.
Nose: Decidedly sharper than Chichibu the First – what I was tasting along side, tons of tropical fruits, star fruit, very bright, vanilla, fruit cocktail. Some malt and dustiness comes forward after the waves of fruits pass by.
Mouth: A kiss of smoke that took me by surprise, vanilla, slightly dry, thin mouth feel, not as hot as expected, clean firm malt, refreshing, bright tropical fruits, sweet, lights up the back of the tongue with a nice spice combined with the tropical fruits.
Finish: Short and clean.

With some water
Nose: Even brighter, more malty more fruity, full bouquet of fruits.
Mouth: Toned down and mellow, lost some of its brightness, but definitely revs up the vanilla and spices, loses some of the fruits in favor of the spices – interesting shift in flavor. Get more cereal notes as well.
Comments: A very refreshing whisky that works great on a relaxing sunny day. This is a damn fine whisky I have to say and especially at the price. The Diageo 20 year is ~$180. AD Rattray keeps the hits coming.


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Our Latest Article for Drink Me Magazine

A fun little write up on the flavors and taste of whisky: at page 32

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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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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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Technicalities: How Much Whisky Can I Bring Back With Me?

Prompted by a recent comment to one of our postings I decided to quickly lay out some of the particulars for bringing in whisky from abroad.  How much whisky can I bring back to the US?  In my travels I have heard my fair share of urban legends disguised as educated answers to this very important question.

Most people are afraid to bring whisky back because they simply do not know what the law is.  I don’t blame them as I wouldn’t want to risk the ire of a federal agent after a lengthy international flight.  I have read through the rules and although I have not been able to verify my impressions with absolute certainty I believe this is how it plays out:

First, there is no restriction on the amount of whisky you can bring back to the US for personal use.  I stress personal use because the Customs and Border Protection agency (Part of the Department of Homeland Security) wants to prevent backdoor methods of importing alcohol for sale here in the US.

There are two factors for you to address when bringing whisky back to the US:

  • Independent of how much whisky you have, there is an $800/person value of goods exemption (duty free).  The $800/person is for returning from all countries except for U.S. insular possessions (e.g. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico) where it is $1,600/person.  A flat rate duty of 3% will be charged on the next $1,000 over your personal exemption.
  • Although you can technically bring back as much whisky as you want, only the first liter of whisky is duty free.  Anything more than one liter will be charged a flat rate duty of 3%.

Given the above factors, even if you have a total value of goods less than the exemption of $800 but have more than one liter of whisky you will still be charged the flat 3% duty.  Here is a link to the Customs Border and Protection agency’s site that helps to explain the rules.  Also, be aware that there might be an IRS service fee as well.  I haven’t completely figured it out, but it appears from this site that it might only be $2.14/bottle.

No one likes to pay a duty, but 3% isn’t all that bad if you are able to bring back some great whisky that is not available here in the US.  Just make sure that you keep all of your receipts and have access to them so you can verify the actual value of the whisky you are bringing in. – Chris


Filed under Imbibed Musings

Whiskey Tasting for March

Yes, I added an “e” to whiskey as we are moving away from Scotch and Japanese whisky and moving into Irish whiskey this month.   It is St. Patrick’s day after all and I have to celebrate my Irish heritage…

This month’s tasting falls on the 17th.  Since the tastings are every third Thursday of the month we have been planning this for awhile.  However, we decided to change things up a little.  While we will still be enjoying spirits from Ireland, there will be no charge.  We only ask that you consider making a donation towards the Japanese relief efforts.  100% of all proceeds will be donated.  We are still in the process of narrowing down which organization the donations will be made to, however we are leaning towards the Red Cross.  If you are interested in attending please email: chris [at] whiskywall dot com for details.  We need to make sure we have enough whiskey for everyone.

*Special thanks to David Driscoll at K&L Wines for the support with the whiskey.  Also, many thanks to Spire Restaurant and Bar for hosting the location*

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Whisky Bar Diplomacy

There is that moment in a whisky drinker’s life when the sum total of their whisky knowledge exceeds what would be considered common-place. To some it is an ephemeral thing, a sudden and stark internal recognition that they know an unusual amount about whisky. For others it is a gradual process through which one comes to terms with the fact that they know more about whisky then they do about any other thing fit for human consumption. Perhaps the most common awakening is the day one walks into a bar and feels that the bartender is speaking to them with child-like condescension. Of course, the bartender is probably doing no such thing.

What is actually occurring is the time-dilation triggered by your heightened whisky sense: You ask the bartender a casual question about the whisky selection more or less in plain sight or some such innocuous question that is more rhetorical and ice-breaking than anything else. The bartender proceeds to edify you with a few drawn-out pearls of wisdom that you picked up in whisky 101 ten years prior. Not wanting to appear insulting you tolerate their spiel, tedious and plebian as it is, and smile, perhaps nod your head at the appropriate moments. In the time that the bartender has taken to explain that Macallan is a popular whisky you have already analyzed the line-up, gauged (accurately) the limitations of the bartender’s knowledge, and steeled yourself against the more droll comments likely en route.

It can’t be helped; you know more than most humans have a right to know about whisky. Which brings us to your problem: how to revel in your knowledge while not coming off as an imperious ass that has sacrificed far too many brain cells to whisky and has far too much time on their hands.

With great whisky knowledge comes great responsibility, and quite a bit of thirst, as well. As you have cultivated this enhanced knowledge of all things whisky and you usually decide which bar’s doorstep you are going to darken, it falls on you to comport yourself appropriately. If you drop into a run-of-the-mill bar with a run-of-the-mill selection, expect run-of-the-mill banter… and control the urge to impart obscure information to those who would just as soon take theirs on the rocks. If you don’t mind dealing with a little pretentiousness you can certainly find establishments that will cater to your over-educated ilk. But think of it as an opportunity to swap war stories and battle scars with industry insiders. Boasting of some obscure dram you have locked away back home will not endear you half as well to a seasoned bartender as taking an earnest interest in their whisky background. And you are a hell of a lot likelier to score some free tipples if you come off as a seasoned-but-open-minded comrade in the quest for whisky enlightenment.

If you can take the chips off of your shoulder, establishments such as Whiskey Thieves – here is our quick review – or Broken Record happily cater to seasoned veterans who like to talk shop and savor some more rarefied spirits in a low-key setting. Leave your soapbox at the door and you will fare and drink well. And what of non-bar settings? What of the private gathering? This is where your skills as a statesman from the realm of whisky are put to the test. Whisky drinkers tend to be an enthusiastic lot, and the more one drinks the greater that enthusiasm becomes. Ground yourself with equal parts diplomacy, humility, and humor.

Share your knowledge; don’t lob it unsolicited from ivory towers. Balance your tales of the perfect dram with your tales of the utilitarian or moments of rash consumption. Steel yourself against one-upping… especially when conversing with those you already know suffer from too little knowledge and too much whisky-inflated bravado. Bend like a reed in the wind, you have nothing to prove… and hiding a needling response in a drink gives you, well, an opportunity to drink – which is the whole point. If you are talking, you are not drinking. And if you are not drinking, you are not keeping up with your education. – By Nate


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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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