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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Most Recent Whisky

Most Recent Whisky Review

The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve

I always find myself so drawn to rum influenced whisky that there is a part of me that thinks maybe I should just drink rum? Anyway this no age statement variation on the theme is bottled at 40% ABV and pretty good value at under $40 in bottle (in Texas anyway). The nose is sweet and fruity with perhaps the tell-tale Glenlivet pineapple notes lurking in the background. The taste starts sweet as well with toffee and brown sugars and I found quite oily. I don’t get fresh fruits but more candy fruit flavors, like Starburst or boiled sweets. The finish balances out the sweetness with bitter citrus oil and peel, essential oils and woody tannins. A little water turns the oily mouthfeel into something more creamy and brings out some banana notes. Really good value.

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  • Simon Seaton

    Simon Seaton

    Sunday, 13 November 2011 02:55

    Aberfeldy 21 year old

    This was my original post: "I must admit to some mixed feelings on this one.  I bought a bottle of this at Heathrow and it didn't last long.  In fact I didnt even write any detailed notes.  I remember thinking it was a very good single malt and something I thought I would come back to many times.  Then I went to the Aberfeldy Distillery in March 2011 and tried some of the Dewar's blends that contain Aberfeldy and then felt like the $100+ I spent on the single malt might not have been the best investment.  All the flavors I like in Aberfeldy I found in the Dewar's blends and I would probably go back to the Dewar's blends before I bought the single malt again, unless there was a change in the price point.  I have tried it and I like it, but I may not buy it again."

    However I saw Aberfeldy on sale for under $60 in the USA in April 2012 (so there was a change in the price point) and so I am changing score and adding some more detailed tasting notes.  The nose is sweet and malty with some floral honey as well.  The taste was toffee apple and honey, incredibly smooth, almost glassy.  The finish had a bite of oak to nicely offset all the sweetness.

    Sunday, 13 November 2011 02:40

    Crown Royal Black

    Considering all the billboards I drive past everyday on US 59 and the fact that Crown Royal Black sponsors the Houston Texans I really had to review this whisky.  Nice nose with rye, caramel and chocolate.  A little prickle of alcohol as well (this comes at 45% ABV).  The taste is sweet and has oak and vanilla, with a nice mouth feel and a long peppery finish with a bitter oak note.  I prefer this to the standard Crown Royal.  Go Texans!
    Saturday, 12 November 2011 19:45

    Return of the Dinosaurs?

    I have been thinking a lot about the return of Glenglassaugh and must confess to some mixed feelings.  Didn't we learn the lesson of the Jurassic Park franchise (other than a third movie should never have been made) as Dr Ian Malcolm said "Dinosaurs had their shot, and nature selected them for extinction." 

    Seriously though is it just me or is the whisky world's interest with extinct distilleries and those that were extinct and have since been reborn a little misplaced?  I find myself asking this question more and more and as I taste some of these whiskies I find the questions don't go away.  Let's put aside the rarity question.  I fully understand that extinct whiskies are going to be collector's items and that itself creates an interest.  No I am talking about the simple fact, often ignored, that they were probably not always particularly good whiskies (not whether they are collectable).

    In my mind a combination of free market economics and natural selection would suggest that in order for new and better whiskies to come along, less popular whiskies must improve or fall to wayside.  As popular as whisky has become it is still a finite market and therefore only a finite number of whiskies can exist.  If we want better whiskies shouldn't we want less popular or unsuccessful whiskies to perish?    Instead we seem to mourn passing of whisky distilleries or celebrate the re-opening of old ones without asking the important question – why did it close to start with?  Is the reborn distillery really remaking the old spirit and product, if so why?  Or is it using the modern equipment, standards and techniques, and in effect it's a new distillery in an old building.

    The emergence of new distilleries and new whisky making countries suggests to me that in balance we as whisky lovers should welcome the passing of some tired old production that was never successful or large enough to survive and welcome the next whisky that will inevitably follow in footsteps, almost certainly a better product given the high standards of distilling and maturation today.  Simply put some of these whiskies weren't good enough or loved enough or viable for whatever reason at the time and for the good of the whole industry they had to die.  My guess is that they weren't the best whiskies and therefore the fittest survived.  If total whisky production or producing countries was falling I would understand, but clearly that isn't the case, so let's collectively move on.   

    If you do come across a rare bottling of single malt from a closed distillery enjoy by all means, but don't try and tell me it is a loss to the industry.  My guess is it probably isn't, although I am sure from time to time some good production has been lost it has been more than outweighed by the good new whiskies added almost every day.  I am sure almost any distillery can produce, from time to time, a one off single cask bottling of exceptional quality but it doesn't mean that everything produced there was of the same standard.  Occasionally even a blind squirrel will find a nut.

    So let's not mourn the passing of distilleries or worry about the rebirth of others, perhaps we should even encourage and welcome it, raising the standards of the global product for everyone, like a gardener pruning old tired flowers so healthy new growth can come through. 

    Saturday, 12 November 2011 02:12

    Thomas H Handy Sazerac Rye

    This is powerful stuff, if didn't want to drink it you could always run your car on it.  Bottled at 64%  the nose has fruit, cinnamon and some cereal notes, perhaps corn or rye.  Without water the alcohol dominates at first but with some water some other flavors come through, especially rye, chocolate milk and caramel, spices and cayenne pepper come through on the finish. But lurking behind all those spices there is also a fruity note, like a mandarin orange or even mango.  A long finish, really long.  I liked it with water.  Powerful and not cheap, it as much a biofuel as a drink without water, definately not for the beginner.  This one is a "creeper" and the more I drank the more I liked it.
    Friday, 11 November 2011 21:38

    Glenglassaugh 26 year old

    I tasted this rather rare whisky in 2011 at a tasting led by Ian Buxton and as I am still alive at time of typing this review I can safely say, as per his excellent book, I tried it before I died.  Simply put I was not blown away by this one, hence 2 stars, and with 100 other whiskies to find and drink I am not planning to spend some pretty serious money, probably over $200, on another bottle based on that experience.  If I see it in a bar some time I will try it again and take some more detailed notes and post those.  I have some reservations about the hype surrounding extinct or "re-born" distilleries... seems to me they were shut down for a reason (while others succeeded and even thrived) so why are they suddenly so great?  Bringing this whisky back from extinction is potentially dangerous, didn't we learn anything from the Jurassic Park franchise (besides that making a third movie was a terrible idea)?   I admit I am being deliberately contentious, and this whisky is unlikely to eat anyone, but this is a theme I will explore further in my blog. 
    Friday, 11 November 2011 21:10

    Ardbeg, Islay, Scotland

    This was the distllery I was most looking forward to visiting when we went to Islay in 2010.  Why?  Well Arbeg was the reason I even started drinking Islay's peated whiskies, though I had tried the unpeated Bunnahabhain before, and it was because of an expression called Blasda.   I tasted a sample of Blasda in Oddbins in Cults and thought it was delicious, very sweet and flavorful and with a lighter, more subtle peat taste.  So I bought a bottle and found it was the perfect entry into the world of Islay whisky.  The fact they made a whisky that was so approachable encouraged me to explore Ardbeg more and to look for the subtle, sweet flavors I loved in Blasda in their other expressions and to succesfully "look past the peat".  Before I knew it, I loved peated whisky.  The distillery is really well done with a great cafe, an expansive gift shop and a detailed tour with a knowledgable and passionate tour guide (all for about $3).  However the best part was the tasting as they pulled out the really good stuff.  They offered the standard 10 year old, Blasda (Tammy chose that), Uigeadail and even the amazing 60% abv Supernova.  I ended up buying the Supernova because it was so good.  Other distilleries take note, pouring your premium offerings can help sales, after all I am much more likely to spend $100 on a bottle of whisky if I have actually tried it.... just a suggestion.
    Friday, 11 November 2011 03:39

    Red Breast 12 year old

    My first pot still whiskey and my favorite, and the good news is it is quite easy to find and great value.  The nose is simply delicious, floral and full of red apple fruit and vanilla.  Reminded me a little of juicy fruit gum.  The taste is smooth and sweet, with some spice, vanilla and caramel. This whiskey is mouth filing and rich.  It has a long but gentle finish a hint of ginger.  The taste really delivers on the nose and every time I taste this I get something different.  In case you couldn't tell, I love this whiskey.
    The last distillery in my 2011 grand slam of the British distilleries (my self titled plan to visit a distllery in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2011), I managed to get to Bushmills just a couple of weeks before we returned to the USA in July 2011.  I was a bit underwhelmed by this one.  I realize I am a bit of whiskey fanatic and Bushmills obviously cater to the tourist, but even so I felt like they could try a little harder considering they charged over $10 and the still house was closed and off limits "due to maintenance".  Lots of attention, as you might expect, on their dubious claims surrounding the 1608 distilling licences granted by James I and a stroll around the facilities before some samples in their rather nice bar and shop.  I went for the Black Bush and I have to say I liked it.  The highight for me was actually the night before, sitting in the excellent restaurant of the Old Bushmills Inn, drinking a glass of Bushmills 16 year old single malt after a walk that afternoon around The Giant's Causeway. A great way to celebrate my 2011 grand slam.
    Thursday, 10 November 2011 02:23

    Bailie Nicol Jarvie (BNJ)

    I first picked a bottle of this up in Oddbins in Cults, attracted by the rather unusual label and value price.  It is a smooth and floral whisky and pleasant if a little oaky, and certainly nothing wrong with it (can you tell I wasn't taking detailed notes in 2009?).  However the simple fact is, for all the times I went back in that shop (and it was a lot until the Great Odbbins Closure of 2011)  I never felt compelled to buy another bottle again.  There was always something more interesting and appealing to buy even at that lower price point.  I like blends, I really do, and so I promise to revisit and do some more detailed tasting notes, but I feel the overall impression I was left with says more than any detailed notes can.  

    Update:  Here are some more detailed notes that I took after buying a 5 cl miniature on www.whiskyexchange.com in April 2012.  The nose has malt, fruity pear drops and a floral note, maybe even marzipan.  The taste is very smooth, more malt, caramel and then builds into an oaky, bitter finish with some of the flowers and esters from the nose.   With water the mouthfeel gets a little richer and it gets a little more peppery in the finish.  Definately a little better than I remembered.

    Wednesday, 09 November 2011 22:58

    Snow Grouse

    You get the distinct impression that after the Black Grouse the Famous Grouse marketing department came up with the name first and then looked for product to fit.  I followed the instructions on the bottle and chilled in the freezer and drank it ice cold (and quickly) so tasting notes are bit irrelevent, it was never meant to be sipped or savoured.  It's fun drink, presuambly targeting a completely different drinking demographic than their traditional products and I admire Famous Grouse for doing something different.  When served from the freezer it has no nose and tastes very cold and the mouth feel is thick and syrupy.  It leaves a not unpleasant, slight vanilla after taste.  If you like this sort of thing (and occasionally I do) then buy some and let's get the party started.

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    Random Whisky

    Alfred Barnard Blend #1

    This is the blended whisky I made using the Master of Malt Home Blending Kit and discussed in my blog... http://www.somanywhiskies.com/blog/item/169-my-alfred-barnard-blend-project-part-1.  The nose was quite salty and tangy, like sea spray (the Islay's clearly evident) and also quite peaty, but in an earthy rather than smokey way.  There was even a hint of maple syrup smoked bacon.  The taste was very smooth and sherry starts to come through, followed by spices like pepper and cinnamon.  There were also some sweet fruit notes, like a jam, but the kind of generic sweet red jam you might get in bed and breakfast.  There was some smoke in the finish and with a little water some oak notes also came through.  This was quite rich for a blend, but then this has only 25 % grain whisky, most blends today are probably closer to 50/50 grain to malt whisky, and I found the Islay influence dominant in the nose (even though it was less than 20% of the total ) but overall whisky was very drinkable and smooth.  Going to Master of Malt website if I was to make a bottle according to this recipe it would cost $83 for a 700 ml bottle and have an ABV of 40.75%.  Because I found the nose and taste a little disjointed I can only give this version 2 stars.