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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Most Recent Whisky

Most Recent Whisky Review

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye

This was unexpectedly declared the “best whiskey in the world” in 2015 by Jim Murray and due to resulting “online hub-bub” (or as I call it OHB) I chose to stay away at that time and revisit this controversial whisky at a later date. I am glad I did because of the excellent price point it is really very good value. Made from a 90% rye mash bill the nose has lemon pledge, coffee, vanilla, toffee and even some floral notes. The taste is smooth and creamy, lots of the notes from nose with Wherther’s Original candy and milk chocolate. The finish has peppermint, some grassy herbal notes and a little oak.  The buttery creamy mouthfeel reminded me of The Macallan. Is it very good but I can’t say if it was the best in the world that year because I did not try them all.

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  • Simon Seaton

    Simon Seaton

    Monday, 07 November 2011 22:56

    Johnnie Walker Black Label

    Let be absolutely clear on one thing, I like blended scotch.  I also like Johnnie Walker blends, admittedly the more expensive Gold and Blue labels, but there is no question of negative bias against this dram.  I want to like this whisky, I really do, if no other reason than the Gold and Blue labels are expensive whiskies to like and a lower cost alternative would be welcome. 

    It has a rich color and a warming nose with malt, oak and a slight smokiness. Not a subtle whisky, the flavors are strong and dialed up...  pepper, oak, smoke and a distinct peatiness in the finish.   Softens a little with water and mouth feel improves for me, becoming softer and creamy, and a little hint of apple, but it seems to lack the delicate touch and nuances that I love about whisky.  Wham, bam, thank you ma'am whisky.  Would work well with ice or soda or other mixers where its power would stand up to something like cola or ginger beer (my personal favorite to mix with whisky and squeeze of fresh lime for a long cool summer drink) and perhaps that why it sells so well globally?  Black Label definitely has a place in the whisky pantheon, just not in my collection.

    Interesting side note: I recently learned that the scotch whisky used in the comparative tasting at the end of the Jameson tours in Middleton and Dublin is Black Label.  That is a very canny selection by Jameson, as that really contrasts with the sweet smooth and non-smoky Jameson blend.   See my notes on Jameson / Middleton Distillery.

    Monday, 07 November 2011 22:55

    Maker's Mark

    I was introduced to Makers Mark by a Mark, Mark Gillespie of Whisky Cast.  The recipe includes wheat which makes it sweeter and smoother than many bourbons and it has become my "go to" bourbon.  The nose has ginger, peppery spice and some oak.  The taste is sweet and spicy with the American oak imparting hints of vanilla and toffee.  With water or ice it gets even sweeter, and then banana, caramel and creaminess, leave you with a perfect impression of a banoffee pie. 
    Monday, 07 November 2011 22:54

    Long John

    Nose at first is honey sweet then malty and some vanilla.  Nose is quite pronounced but balanced.  Like the nose, sweet to taste at first then fades to reveal some harsher oak and perhaps peat and smoke, even ashes.  Taste balanced and feels silky in the mouth. Smokey finish lingers around far longer than expected – lives up to the name Long John.  With a drop of water the smoke and oak seems to increase too much and to me and loses a little balance.
    Monday, 07 November 2011 22:53

    Crown Royal

    The color is richer and darker than I expected.  The nose has some heat and bitter baker's chocolate notes.  The taste is rich with white pepper on the tongue and some oak but not the heavily toasted notes the color suggested.  Stringent, drying and a little bitter, without being unpleasant, in the finish.  Not overly complex.  Softens and sweetens nicely with water to reveal more dark chocolate and a more silky mouth feel, but the pepper still  comes through as does a hint of sweet vanilla crème.  The water helps a lot and the strong notes of pepper and oak would stand up well to ice or even cola.
    Monday, 07 November 2011 22:52

    Old Pulteney 12 year old

    The color is golden and the nose is sweet and reminds of bread pudding.  The taste is rich and oily with a honey sweetness and, though hard to identify, definitely some fruits as well.  A slightly salty quality but still sweet and smooth.  An under rated distillery and whisky.  Try it with seafood, the saltiness works really well with fish.
    Monday, 07 November 2011 22:52

    Cutty Sark

    A very pale yellow whisky, especially for a blend, with a hint of green (or is that the iconic green bottle subconsciously appearing in my whisky?)   The nose is strong, cereals dominates, with lemon furniture polish and wax in the background.   The digestive biscuit and cereal flavors are also in the taste with a vanilla, something like cake or bread, or a vanilla animal cracker cookie.  There is some heat and prickle on the tongue as well.   Definitely interesting and not your typical "bagpipes and tartan" blend.

    Update:   I recently retried Cutty Sark and was able to better identify the cake, with the biscuit crumb and some citrus lime in the nose it reminded me of a key lime pie.

    Monday, 07 November 2011 22:50

    Duncan Taylor NC2 Craigellachie 1999

    The whisky is a pale golden straw with banana, citrus fruits, honey and vanilla in the nose.  Even at 46% ABV the nose is quite soft and muted.   Taste is peppery, then honey and toffee which gives way to white wine and leathery notes.  A winey, dry finish with a hint of beeswax.  The whisky sweetens with a little water.  An aperitif whisky which is very approachable,  and for that reason I had 48 bottles of this great single malt packaged by Duncan Taylor for giving to clients in 2010.
    Monday, 07 November 2011 22:49

    Famous Grouse 21 year old

    Nose is soft but has notes of sherry and wine, perhaps port, orange peel and chocolate.  The taste is smooth and mellow with orange, tobacco, dark chocolate and mince pies.  Some mustiness and slight smoke, overall well balanced and fine, but it didn't get me over excited either.   Of all the Famous Grouse blended malts we tried at a tasting at Glenturret distillery, (see Distilleries) including the 10, 12, 15, 18, 21 and 30 year old, this was my favorite and had the best overall balance of wood and spirit.  However given the price point I think the Famous Grouse blended scotch is better value and the Famous Grouse 12 year old Gold Reserve might be a better dram. 
    Monday, 07 November 2011 22:48

    Signatory North British 1997

    A pale gold color with a nose that has cake, butter, raisins , lemon citrus and some sweetness.  The taste had some spice and pepper but with toffee and butterscotch and finishes with marzipan and almonds.  Like blended scotch, grain whisky often takes the back seat to single malt in the whisky world, but this is a great example of why every now and again grain whiskies should call "shotgun" and ride in the front seat.
    Monday, 07 November 2011 22:47

    English Whisky Company Chapter 9

    The color is very pale, almost straw.  The nose is peaty and earthy and at 46% ABV you pick up the alcohol.  For some reason it reminded me of a farmyard.   The taste is dominated by white pepper at first which is then followed by sweetness and smoke.  Lemony citrus notes with a sweet white wine drying finish.  Think "English Ardbeg".

    Whiskies Tried...

    Total to Date: 627

    Distilleries

    Visited to Date: 58

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    Random Whisky

    Brenne

    The nose of the this French 40% ABV single malt has “fresh from the oven” baked cake and dark chocolate, dates, apples, toasted marshmallow, vanilla cookie dough and root beer. Floral and sweet. The taste has toffee and candy apples and the sweetness from the nose carries over into a crisp clean mouth feel. With a little water the tannins come up to create an impression of sweet ice tea. The finish is dry but not oaky, juicy and a little spicy. Overall the finish is more notable for what it lacks than what it brings. Complex and interesting if a little on the sweet side for my palate.