logo

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.

Read More
  • Simon Seaton

    Simon Seaton

    Monday, 07 November 2011 22:46

    Bushmills Black Bush

    I like Ian Buxton's phrase "Ronseal whisky" and I think that it applies perfectly here.  Don't panic, it just means this is a whiskey that "does what it says on the tin".  A well put together blend of smooth Irish triple distilled whiskies with sherry influence.  The nose gives you a preview of the sherry and some apple and sweetness.  The taste has the dark fruits like raisins and it feels silky in the mouth.  Slightly drying and stringent in the finish.  Well balanced and put together. Sweet, smooth and sherry - just like it says on the tin.

    Monday, 07 November 2011 22:42

    Forty Creek Barrel Select

    Wow!  $20 a bottle for this.   This stuff is amazing value and simply a terrific whisky.  The fact you can't get this in the UK is an international crime Interpol should investigate.  Comes in at 40% ABV with a soft, light nose that hints at the oak to come.  The taste is smooth but does have some pepper heat that fades away to reveal amazing caramel, toffee and bitter dark chocolate.  Slightly drying, stringent finish with the final lingering finish of bitter and toasted oak that stays with you like a great melody, until you can't tell if you are still tasting it or just still thinking about it.

    Complex and brilliant value.  Stop reading this, get up, go out and buy some now.   Unless you live in the UK in which case write to your MP demanding Canada be forced to export this.

    Monday, 07 November 2011 15:05

    Glenfiddich, Speyside, Scotland

    I have visited this distillery in Dufftown (the self titled Malt Capital of the World) on number of occasions and as you would expect for Glenfiddich it is slick and well done.  Supposedly it was the first distillery to open a visitor's center as well as being one of the first distilleries to actively market their single malt whisky, which is now the world's largest selling single malt brand.   The facilities are as good as any distillery I have been too with a large visitor's center, shop and a nice restaurant.  The tastings perhaps are not as generous and free flowing as some of the less commercial tours, however that is not really a complaint but more of an observation.   I also like the fact they are big enough to stay open all year, including Sundays compared to many distilleries, even major ones, that have quite limited seasons and hours for their visitors centers.

    I love their entire range and the 21 year old which is finished in a rum cask, is one of my favorites of all time.  I also got a bottle of the limited release Snow Phoenix as Christmas present in 2010 which was devoured rather too quickly (thanks Dad) and before I started taking detailed tasting notes.   Tammy enjoys the Glenfiddich liqueur over ice as well.

    So what's not too like?  Well for some apparently there is plenty.  Glenfiddich often manages to raise the ire of the scotch whisky anorak community, and at the very least it's popularity and ubiquity seems to turn off those who thrive on recommending obscure distilleries whose total annual liquid output appears to amount to slightly less than most people use to make their morning coffee.    

    That's their loss and leaves more for the rest of us, not that there is much danger of the world running out of Glenfiddich, which in itself makes the world a better place.

    Monday, 07 November 2011 15:01

    Woodford Reserve

    Lemon and toffee apple in the nose.  Also a slight chemical note, like fresh new paint.    The taste has caramel and toffee, some all spice and oaky notes and the overall experience is very smooth and sweet.  The sweetness is very reminiscent of Halloween candy corn.  Tammy called it a "girl's whiskey" as it is very approachable and doesn't have the rougher oak or spicy pepper notes that many whiskies have.

    My first comment regarding my whisky reviews, tasting notes, and whisky tasting notes in general, is that whisky, almost always, tastes like whisky. No-one ever writes that in their notes.

    "Sweet whisky nose with strong whisky flavor and hint of whisky in the finish"

    Whisky has it's own flavor, that why people add it to cakes, sauces and other foods. If chefs wanted the subtle soft fruit and cream flavors they would add soft fruits and cream to their recipe.

    I think that some people may be confused and perhaps put off when they see whisky described as "apples on the nose with a taste of butterscotch and heather fading to old leather". I know I certainly was at first. I could understand concepts like smooth, silky, harsh but the flavor was just whisky flavor right?  

    I like the taste of nearly all types of whisky (Scotch, Irish, bourbon and most recently rye). I always have. Some people don't and this probably isn't the website for them.  In fact the descriptors used in notes and reviews are simply the tasters attempt to break down subtle notes and tastes that may appear in the whisky to them (and often not to others who taste the same whisky) and the things that differentiate them from other brands and styles. They all taste like whisky, just like pretty much all cola drinks tastes the same, but the tasting notes are trying to differentiate what is different between Pepsi and Coke (to my palate Pepsi is sweeter).

    They are just descriptions, highly personal, and the fun for me is in trying to identify the subtle flavors and to put those often delicate and fleeting sensations into my own words.

    Some people might assume that if I don't like oranges, if the whisky has orange notes I won't like that whisky. Not necessarily true. I don't particularly like eating peat or old leather and yet some great whiskies have flavor notes that remind me of those things. So don't be put off by the descriptors.

    Another thing to bear in mind is that occasionally the whisky is so well blended or balanced that individual notes are so subtle they are hard (or for the olfactory challenged like me) impossible to detect. I think that is perhaps the pinnacle of whisky making and so the reviews and ratings may simply reflect that. Sit back, pour a large measure and simply enjoy it, like anything well made there comes a time to stop over analyzing it and simply enjoy it. And yes that means that blends can be good whiskies. In fact they can be great. There I said it and I can sense the malt purists logging off now.

    Never forget that these are simply my opinion and don't mean that you shouldn't try every whisky I review for yourself even if I choose to give it a low rating. My wife can confirm I am often wrong. In fact I find the most interesting discussions and debate around whiskies that received mixed reviews. Nearly everyone will agree that The Macallan 18 year old is great whisky, but people can argue and have completely different positions about a blend like Cutty Sark or an unusual expression of single malt like Glenturret or Ardbeg Blasda (isn't that right Jim?). That's often when it is the most fun.

    If you interested in more detail on how to taste whisky try the link to the website below for one of my favorite whisky podcasts, The Scotchcast and there is also a short section on how to taste whisky in Ian Buxton's book, 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die.

    http://www.thescotchcast.com/howtotaste/

    Rating System

    I will use a simple 4 star system because of my own limitations and lack of ability of differentiate on the more common 100 point scale. I simply can't detect enough difference to rate one whisky 85 and another 86. Even if I could (which I can't) my rating does not mean you would rate the same way (in fact you almost certainly wouldn't) so I feel a simpler qualitative scale rather than quantitative scale is a more useful tool. I won't use ½ or ¼ stars either, that seems to me to defeat the simplistic, qualitative approach of a 4 (or 5) star system.

    My "acid test" when it comes to a rating will be what I am calling the Party Test. That is hypothetical situation that someone hands me a glass at a party and says:

    "I hear you love whisky, try this....."

    Assuming that this person isn't someone you have to impress and you can't hand the glass back to (like your boss or prospective father in law) the system goes like this...

    1 star

    Not for me. Something about the whisky hits an off note in my palate or simply doesn't balance for me. At a party I might politely refuse the drink and ask for something else. If there is a bottle in my house it's just because I have been unable to even finish one I was given as gift or bought by mistake. These are rare. Ginger beer and whisky over ice with lime anyone?

    2 star

    Doesn't quite work for me. It is fine, nothing wrong with it but you would probably never find a bottle in my house. Perhaps some balance issues. Also some more expensive whiskies that simply don't deliver on value may also end up 2 stars as I would never buy them. If offered this whisky at a party I would drink it, but would ask if they had any other whisky perhaps rather than drink a second. Most whisky for me falls into 2 or 3 star category.

    3 star

    Now we are talking. Something about this whisky I really like. This would be a whisky I like enough to buy a bottle every now and again. Good value, good tasting whiskies would also fall into this category. At a party I would happily accept the glass, drink it and then ask the host for more.

    4 star

    I would accept the glass, complement the host and ask to see the bottle. I might then take the bottle, leave the party and go straight home and drink it. I never enjoy parties anyway. These are special whiskies (to me), favorites I will always go back to and high likelihood you will find a bottle or two in my house.

    Page 79 of 79

    Whiskies Tried...

    Total to Date: 627

    Distilleries

    Visited to Date: 58

    Follow Me on Twitter!

    Random Whisky

    Ardbeg Uigeadail

    The color is quite dark for an Ardbeg.  The nose has peat smoke and some citrus.  Not as overpowering as you would expect for an ABV of 54%.  The taste has the peat and sets your mouth tingling like a licking a 9 volt battery.  Some dark fruits as well and bitter orange and even tobacco in the finish.   Beautifully balanced, this is a massive whisky, a winter whisky, an after dinner whisky, OK so it isn't something you will reach for every time you fancy a dram, but at the right time and place it will scratch an itch in a way few other whiskies could.  Perhaps the perfect dram to follow Christmas lunch (prior to the obligatory nap).