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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

    Monday, 07 November 2011 23:24

    Macallan, Speyside, Scotland

    The Macallan is the distillery in Craigellachie where many of the myths espoused by other distilleries come to die.   It is a place of contrast and contradiction and I loved it. 

    The distillery visitor's center is small and it is a place for whisky lovers to pay homage, not for the tourists.  No café or other family facilities, people come here to see the whisky being made and to buy from a very wide range of products available including many that cannot be found anywhere else in the UK.  The tour is very informative and goes into great depth into some of the areas of whisky production that others skirt over, particularly barley varietals (Macallan favours the less popular Golden Promise) and wood.  In fact they have an entire wood exhibit.  I don't mean the exhibit was made of wood, but a detailed exhibit on the types of wood used in their range and even goes in the detailed biochemistry of oak to explain the impact on the taste and aromas of their whisky. 

    But what strikes you walking around the site is the industrial nature of the site.  This is not your quaint, Victorian, artisan, highland distillery, this is first and foremost a whisky factory with huge modern warehouses looming over you on the hill behind the distillery like the dark satanic mills of the famous hymn Jerusalem.  They use different mash tuns, different styles of wash backs (some steel, some wooden) and they even have two different still houses on the site with some still direct heated while others are steam heated.  All the sorts of variations in process that many other distilleries claim to reject and say would greatly affect the nature of final spirit seem less important to Macallan who produce a single malt, The Macallan 18 year old, sometimes called the Rolls Royce of Whisky (admittedly usually by them), and many consider one of the best single malts in the world.

    Interestingly, despite being now reported as the second largest global brand of single malt whisky in sales, behind the Glenfiddich and ahead of Glenlivet, the success and globalization of brand Macallan does not seem to generate the angst and backlash Glenfiddich occasionally does within certain parts of the whisky community.  Discuss.

    Monday, 07 November 2011 23:15

    Yamazaki 12 year old

    I found the nose a little bit evasive and hard to define.  Perhaps some dark dried fruits like raisins and prunes and sweet.  The taste was much more accessible.  Sweet at first with honey and then drying oak and pepper notes in the finish, perhaps some sherry too.   Nice mouth feel, silky and smooth.  This isn't the most complex whisky I have ever tried.  Is it good?  Yes, but didn't quite float my boat
    Monday, 07 November 2011 23:14

    Ballechin #4 The Oloroso Sherry Casks

    Unusual highland whisky from the Edradour distillery, heavily peated at 50 ppm phenol. The color is rich due to the maturation in sherry casks.  The nose is peaty.  That's about all I could get from the nose.   The taste is peaty as well, very powerful and at 46% ABV its mouth coating and full bodied.  Did I mention the peat?  Interestingly it doesn't have quite the same the medicinal qualities found in the many of the heavily peated Islay or maritime whiskies.  With a little water is possible to get past the peat and a few sweet notes can be detected like marshmallow, brown sugar and the sherry from the cask is also there.  But to paraphrase the Fast Show "mostly I have been drinking peat". The good news is if you like peat, you will love this.
    Monday, 07 November 2011 23:12

    Buffalo Trace

    The nose has peppermint and fresh baked bread along with oranges, raisins and some dark fruit notes.  The taste is soft, even muted, with toffee, vanilla, butter and warm bread (possibly rye) and some peppermint (or is that pepper and mint?).  Hints of oak and old books in the finish.

    Everything that's great about bourbon whiskey but with the volume turned down slightly too much for me.

    Monday, 07 November 2011 23:11

    Compass Box Aslya

    A very pale color and a light nose with green apple, vanilla and toasted cereal, reminiscent of breakfast.  Also a little bourbon in the nose.  The taste is smooth as glass, and sweet with butter and vanilla.  The toasted notes from the nose and some oak builds in the finish and leaves just a hint of ashes or smoke.    One of the best (and definitely smoothest) blends I have ever tried.   A fantastic "first whisky of the day".

    As Eric Clapton might say "Asyla, you got me on my knees...." 

    Monday, 07 November 2011 23:11

    Chivas Regal 18 year old

    Easy, enjoyable nose with fruit, maybe banana, vanilla and malt.  There's malt in the taste too, along with pepper and spices, toffee, vanilla and sweet fruit, like over ripe banana.  Oak comes into the finish along with a little sherry and some smoke.  Good, but not great.    A blend in every way (fruity, malty, oaky, smoky) and perhaps for that reason nothing stands out or marks this whisky as special to me.  This one doesn't seem any better than the cheaper 12 year old and nowhere near as good as the 25 year old, so falls a bit flat in the middle, hence two stars.  If I gave half stars this one would be a 2 1/2 star whisky.
    Monday, 07 November 2011 23:09

    Glenfiddich 15 year old Solera

    The nose is honey sweet with sherry, raisins and citrus.  The taste is quite woody and spicy, but still rich and smooth.  Sherry and oak to the fore but with some sweet dark fruits like dates and prunes and even nuts all in the background.  Drying oaky finish as well.  Not my favorite 'fiddich.

    Monday, 07 November 2011 23:09

    Canadian Club

    The nose is nutty cereals with a slight acrid chemical note almost like cleaning fluid or fresh paint, but not unpleasant.  The taste has vanilla and caramel at first and then fades to reveal some spice, pepper and oak.  Slightly bitter in the surprisingly long finish.  This is quite rich and smooth and a little water sweetens it, but bitter oak notes still in the finish.  I suspect the strong flavors would stand up well to ice and the bitter notes would work with a sweet mixer like cola or lemonade.
    Monday, 07 November 2011 23:08

    The Macallan Select Oak

    A refreshing, vibrant nose, fruity, even zesty with alcohol coming through even at 40% ABV.   Toffee taste that fades as some spice and heat build.  Mouth feel is creamy and soft, and hints of vanilla and barley sugars.    With a little water the oak and leathery notes are more detectable but not overpowering.  Not Macallan's finest work but still a nice dram.
    Monday, 07 November 2011 23:07

    Jameson

    The whiskey that started it all for me.  I visited the Jameson distillery in Middleton in 2006 and started drinking whiskey with an "e" from that point almost exclusively until I moved to Scotland in 2009 and discovered whisky (no "e") as well.  

    This blend has a light nose with malt and citrus, like a baked lemon square.  The taste is classic triple distillation.  Sweet and smooth with citrus, banana, toffee, vanilla and oak and slightly drying finish with hints of leather and spice.  When you add water it becomes more honey sweet and floral.  Available everywhere, and I mean everywhere (bars, supermarkets, restaurants, hotel mini bars, gas stations, air planes etc) and always great value, this is nearly always in my house.   Proof positive that great whisky doesn't have to be expensive or exclusive and sometimes large sales numbers reflect the simple fact that the whiskey is very, very good.

    Whiskies Tried...

    Total to Date: 679

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    Visited to Date: 66

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    Random Whisky

    Embrujo de Granada

    This Spanish single malt was a rather nice surprise in 101 World Whiskies to Try Before You Die, and certainly, if I am being honest, much better than I expected. Talking of being honest, time for a disclosure. This whisky is not available in the USA so I reached out to their Brand Ambassador (directed by the book’s author Ian Buxton) for help.  Many distilleries have been happy, when I had no option to purchase, to supply me with samples. Some charged me, some didn’t. I didn’t mind either way. One even exchanged the samples in return for a copy of the book (I had two – long story) which they did not even know they were in. The kind people at Embrujo de Granada sent me a bottle as a gift. A full bottle!  What nice people and so I have to admit to being rather taken with them before I had even tried it. The nose is a little grainy with lots of sherry influence. I also got a herbal, almost floral, note. The taste is rich, smooth, fruity and finishes dry. With time milk chocolate, rum and raisin ice cream and vanilla all show up. With water I got little notes of honey and black tea in the long dry finish.  If it sounds rather good, then I did my job. It is rather good and in hindsight Spain does have one unique advantage when it comes to whisky; access to sherry casks. And if, as most experts tell us, the wood is more important that the spirit when it comes to final flavor profile (some say 70/30 others 60/40) then there is no reason why Spain shouldn’t produce very good whisky.