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#tasting notes

Tasting Notes: McDowell’s Diplomat Whisky


McDowell’s Diplomat Whisky, “Produce of India,” “blended with selected Scotch whisky & Indian malt whiskies”

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Vicker Brothers South Carolina Backwoods Recipe: Tasting Notes

Much like the Violent Femmes, I like American music.  And of course, I like American Whiskey.   When I was sent the sample for Vicker Brothers, I was intrigued.  It’s not whiskey, though part of its mash bill (if you want to call it that) is corn.  Though I am not a huge fan of “flavoring” whiskies or spirits, the whole premise behind the spirit intrigued me.  Vicker Brothers make a spirit out of “cane and corn.”  They then patented the process by which they age that spirit.  This aging involves some combination of temperature, filtration, barrel and chip aging for 2 years, and adding the aforementioned “honey mixture.” 

The company seems scrappy - like they’re putting out product against all odds.  And I like American music.  I like American whiskey.  And I like American scrappiness

Vicker Brothers South Carolina Backwoods Recipe

ABV: 45%

Legs: Large, slow, somewhat sloppy

Color: Translucent gold

Nose: icing, stone fruit, some antiseptic notes

Palate: Initially very light - there is a gentle honeyed sweetness that sits on the tongue before being taken over by the finish.  There is also some acetone flavor in there.

Finish: Long and spicy.  you do get the honeyed sweetness still, but in general there’s more spice.  It reminds me of rye.

Overall: This is a really interesting spirit.  I want to call it sweet, but it has too much spice on the end to do that.  It is extremely reminiscent of whiskey, but one that is both simple (the flavors are simple), and one that is complex (the timing of the different opposing sweet and spicy flavors is crazy).   I would recommend it - worth a try for sure.   It lives up to the “smooth” claim, and does bely its 2 years of aging.


Laphroaig 20 (SMWS 29.104): Tasting Notes and Review

Laphroaig 20 (SMWS 29.104), or Not for wee boys

Distilled October 1990, Price of $140

ABV: 58.2%

Cask: Refill sherry butt

Color: A gold that wouldn’t have made me guess it was refill sherry

Nose: Lemon and light dark fruits with grain.  A nice sherry with only a slight hint at a Laphroaig iodine

Taste: like the nose promises, this is sweet.  There’s definitely smoke that surrounds it, but it’s a nice sweet grain with a bit of sharpness to finish

Overall: This is a Laphroaig that hits more at the beginning than at the end.  I always love sherried Laphroaigs, but this honestly tastes more lik e a refill barrel with only a hint of a sherry.  You taste the grain and the Laphroaig here, uncomplicated from the sherry, but a lot more going on than the standard bottlings.  Nice job, SMWSA 

Official Tasting Note:

A big nose with lots going on. Carbolic soap, sticking plasters, treacle, hot smoked salmon, burnt heather and liquorice root added to the anticipation.  Then a youthful woody spiciness together with jerk chicken sauce (rosemary, thyme, cloves, honey). The palate was massive with concentrated flavours and bitter woodiness.  Water brought out prunes, raisins, lemon juice and old campfires.  A musky aroma accompanied some lighter floral notes.  A brief hint of struck matches to taste gave way to tannins, burnt heather, liquorice sticks and lots of sweetness.  It benefitted from some water to calm it down.  Of the three Kildalton distilleries, this is the one closest to Port Ellen.

Thanks to SMWSA for the samples




Cardhu 27 (SMWS 106.18): Tasting Notes and Review

Cardhu 27 (SMWS 106.18), or Bottled essence of summer

Distilled November 1984, Price of $175

ABV: 52.6%

Cask: Refill hogshead

Color: Light greenish gold

Nose: Wood and a little soap.  Clean forests, I guess.  A hint of sweetness, but nto much.

Taste: Waxy toffee, green and vegetal.  The soapy forest is still there, but it’s pleasant with only a reminder of soap – not soap itself.  Sweetness and bitterness paired extremely well.  With a little fizziness on top.

Overall: This is a sipper.  A contemplative whisky that begs for conversation.  I’m not sure about the price point, but it’s a damn fine dram.  

Official Tasting Note:

Our noses found poignant floral perfumes, shrubberies and pine tree freshness.  We also detected ripe fruits (apple, mango), candles, cinnamon, clove and honey on buttered toast.  The palate was chewy and delicious; fragrant wood, flowers and tropical fruits (lychee, apricot, passion fruit) mingled with sweet toffee flavours to draw sighs of contentment from the panel.  The reduced nose, with tutti-frutti ice-cream, lime, sawn wood and aromatherapy oils made us think of warm summer nights.  The palate now carried rose and lemon-flavoured Turkish Delight with stem ginger spicy warmth in the tail-flick.  The distillery houses the spiritual home of Johnnie Walker.

Thanks for the samples, SMWSA!



Rosebank 21 (SMWS 25.63): Tasting Notes and Review

Rosebank 21 (SMWS 25.63), or Poire et poivre

Distilled November 1990, Price of $145

ABV: 59.8%

Cask: Refill hogshead

Color: Moonshine with a wisp of yellow

Nose: Crayons, yeast, cinnamon and a bit of citrus

Taste: Cinnamon buns with a slow warming floral note.  Basically sweet and a slight spice that last for a bit.

Overall: This is a nice whisky.  It’s not overly complex, but it’s a really beautiful example of what a lowland is capable of.  It’s reminiscent of the long gone Rosebank 21 from last year, though perhaps with a bit more heat.  

Official Tasting Note:

The nose suggested fermenting beer – still life on the lid of a washback – green apples, a pear, a peach, some lemon puffs, a stone bowl containing sweet pipe tobacco and a bunch of fresh spring flowers.  Pears again on the palate (riper now), also some fizzy fruit (sherbert lemons), more flowers (this time from high summer) and definite peppery spice (‘poire et poivre;).  The second nosing had mild liquorice (sherbet dib-dabs) tobacco leaf and pear and nettle sorbet.  The reduced palate gave light, pleasant flavours of bergamot and floral perfumes; a mild tingly finish.  From Falkirk’s sadly now defunct distillery.

Thanks to the SMWSA for the sample.



Penderyn 5 (SMWS 128.3): Tasting Notes and Review

Penderyn 5 (SMWS 128.3), or Chestnut puree and new hiking boots

Distilled October 2006, Price of $85

ABV: 61.3%

Cask: First-fill barrel

Color: Moonshine with a whisp of gold

Nose: Sugared plums, with not much heat for that ABV.  A little sour varnish note, but a lot of frosted vanillin

Taste: Rum tum tigger.  A lot of flavors, and a lot of them are rum.  An initial burst of heat followed by sour sweetness, leathery and warming.  A ton of oak resin for how young it is. Numbs the tastebuds a bit.  Water brings out some oily viscosity to the dram and brings out that sweetness from the nose.  Still stonefruit.  But it also simplifies the dram.     

Overall: This is tasty.  I haven’t had great experiences with Penderyn, and this actually shows promise once it quiets down a bit.  It’s still not what I would reach for most likely, but I appreciate the opportunity to try a young dram.

Official Tasting Note:

The nose was sweet and fruity – macerated raspberries, Kirsch, cherry jam, Dr. Peppers, chocolate-coated cranberries and Haribo mix, but with fudge, toffee, hints of swimming pools and ‘brake pedals in an ambulance’.  The palate held something deeply rewarding but hard to describe – sweet woodiness: hot but also smooth – sumptuous flavours of vanilla slice, banana ice lollies (right to the stick) and milk chews.  The reduced nose had evident vanilla, Berwick Cockles, prunes, plums, peaches, chestnut puree and new hiking boots.  The palate now delivered exotic fruits (passion fruit, star-fruit) like some long-matured single malts.  From the only distillery in Wales. 

 Thanks to the SMWSA for the sample



Glenturret 10 (SMWS 16.32): Tasting Notes and Review

Glenturret 10 (SMWS 16.32), or Leather Armchairs and Old Wardrobes

Distilled March 2001, Price of $95

ABV: 57.2%

Cask: Refill port pipe

Color: light rusty yellow

Nose: waxy red vines, though more wax than sweet, vegetal heat and varnish.

Taste: Salty, but very drying and a little cloying, hard to pick up much more than heat without water. Water brings out a burnt quality, almost ashtray like and sour. Very leathery and polished. I now know what an old person’s mouth tastes like.

Overall: I’m struggling with this one. All I’m getting is scorched earth, and not in a satisfying Islay way. I can’t pick up the sweetness from the port pipe. And after reading through the official tasting notes, I watered it down to try and find them, and I got a little of the icing found on those iced oatmeal cookies, but nothing like below.

Official Tasting Note:

The nose was certainly savoury (salty bacon, roast parsnips, beef in red wine reduction) but also sweet (buttery croissants, marmalade, toffee) with hints of cake embers, engine rooms, tobacco, struck match, floral notes, and ‘old wardrobes’. The palate was rich and substantial, oozing unctuous sweetness, but with balancing spiciness – maple syrup, treacle and a Jamaican Christmas cake. The reduced nose offered zesty citric peel, candied fruits, salty toffee, leather armchairs and coffee. The reduced palate was an amazing dessert, combining lemon meringue pie, sticky toffee pudding and icing sugar-dusted biscotti dipped in espresso. The distillery houses the Famous Grouse Experience.

Thanks to SMWSA for the sample



The Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America Extravaganza - San Francisco

I love the SMWSA.  I remember fondly the first time I had some whisky from SMWSA - it was a young Laphroaig called a "tongue-curling wrestler’s armpit of a dram," and it was delicious.  I had purchased memberships for Mike F. and Mike C. and several friends from school - it was a big present for me but one I was proud to give.  The whiskies we got from it were truly great, and I have a Port Ellen stashed away for a very special night.  And not only were the whiskies great, but I love the detailed tasting notes, the totally not secret numbering scheme, and the exclusivity.

But I am no longer a member.  Though the whiskies are great, my budget would not allow me to continue to be a member.  Value is something that gets discussed quite a bit in our whisky world, and there is no answer but a personal answer unique to every whisky lover.  The SMWSA was kind enough to send us a few samples (many thanks), and I hope that we can contribute to informing people’s decisions so they can get the very best value for the money that they spend.  My picks of the ones below, my value-buys are the Auchentoshan 12 (SMWS 5.35) and the Glen Scotia 9 (SMWS 93.47).

Incidentally, the SMWSA puts on an “Extravaganza” and as Mike F. has posted about here and here, it is a doozy.  Absolutely wonderful in every sense of the word.  My only critique would be that for San Francisco it’s on a Wednesday, and people who travel for work like me can not attend.  The SMWSA Extravaganza visits San Francisco on Wednesday, November 14th.  Tickets and other city dates can be seen on their website.  

Auchentoshan 12 (SMWS 5.35), or Laundry in the Bakery

Distilled June 1999, Price of $105

ABV: 54.7%

Color: Fresh gold straw

Nose: Dr. Pepper, sweet dessert wine, flowers

Taste: Sweet flowers are still there, but this is sharper and less sweet.  You can taste the strength.  There’s a saltiness to this as well, but it matches well with the sweetness.  Water brings out some berries - cerealish (think literally fake berries in actual cereal), and the taste the nose promises is there.  The bite disappears but the finish is short.

Overall: The nose is exceptional, and the taste is an easy sipper.  This is a whisky for those who don’t want to think about it too much - who want to come home from work and share something sweet with friends.  

Official Tasting Note:

Initial nose is fresh and light, elderflower cordial, green apples and lemon puffs.  Deeper and dweeter notes develop quickly, giving homely and warm feeling, like baking bread of jam doughnuts.  Quite hot and lively to taste, strawberries with black pepper, turning fruity and fizzy like strawberry creamola foam, also creamy similar to a raspberry milk shake or Macchiato coffee.  That creaminess carries on when adding water and aromas of apple toffee, rice pudding, butter icing, strawberry jam and dough bread emerge.  The taste is that of dark hot chocolate, brown sugar, cinnamon and blackberry jam.  And to finish, from this distillery known for distilling three times, cold peppermint tea and fresh slightly soapy laundry.

Glen Elgin 12 (SMWS 85.23), or Burnt Granary Toast with Bramble Jelly

Distilled September 1999, Price of $105

ABV: 59.4%

Color: Deep yellow chicken stock

Nose: Fresh sneaker rubber, hints of fresh italian herbs, and there’s the dried fruit from the refill sherry butt

Taste: Burnt fruit with some sea salt added.  It’s a bit of a sickly sweet oaty taste.  There’s some distinct sourness, but it’s oily and warming.  Water brings out some grassiness and barnyard smell, and really hits home on the burnt sourness.  It’s a little like sour milk (in a good way) with a warming sweet aftertaste that sticks in your mouth.

Overall: A good drinker, though one for which you need to be in the mood.  This is the whisky that Mad Men used to drink with a couple of rocks.  It’s got a little of the sherry flavor that comes through mainly in the aftertaste.  There’s some sourness, some bitterness, and some taste that lasts. 

Official Tasting Note:

The first notes are typical of ex-sherry wood maturation: lightly sulphury, with struck matches, or as one put it ‘home-made egg mayo with granary bread.’  The sulphur notes soon blow off, leaving yeasty, sour pumpernickel bread and baked pecan pie.  At natural strength the taste is very sweet, burnt and aggressive.  Water re-introduces the sulphur notes, which linger behind burnt toast spread with butter and bramble jelly or plum jam, and later treacle toffee.  In the mouth, the texture is thick and smooth, the taste very sweet and slightly bitter, with raw brambles and redcurrants. 

Glen Scotia 9 (SMWS 93.47), or Seaweed, Sushi and Arbroath Smokies

Distilled April 2002, Price of $90

ABV: 59.7%

Color: light gray yellow

Nose: jordan almonds, fresh apple air heads right out of the package 

Taste: whoah.  there’s smoke, there’s tar, there’s that apple.  i just swallowed an ash tray and someone popped in a wintergreen lifesaver.  water takes down the smoke and brings out some fruit and sweetness.  

Overall: this is one of those interesting whiskies - where the nose belies the taste, but both are delicious in their own right.  the taste is a sweet smoky whisky - a rare malt where they achieved a great balance without the use of a sherry butt.  I like.

Official Tasting Note:

The nose seemed unusual - salted almonds and rice crackers; seaweed, sushi and Early Grey tea; smoked sausage, tar, hospitals, garage workshops and farmyards.  The unreduced palate was enormous - tar, smoke and ash - big time; also salty liquorice, menthol, Arbroath smokies and the seaweed found in Japanese rice crackers.  Adding water brought the nuttiness and sweetness forward on the nose; we also identified flying saucers, soap and dried strawberries.  The reduced palate was still interesting but more tamed - vanilla sweetness, tongue-tingling ginger and cured sausage with subtle caraway and mace flavourings.  The distillery is owned by the Lock Lomond Distillery Company.

Ardbeg 8 (SMWS 33.113), or Sweet, Peaceful Dreams

Distilled July 2003, Price of $85

ABV: 60.4%

Color: pale yellow

Nose: some sweet gingerbread, campfire, a little banana and some soap

Taste: charred oak, pepper, and a lot more saltiness than I would expect from the nose.  the finish is long and peppery.  it’s young, but think of an in your face Talisker.  Water brings out bitterness and even more pepper.  There’s slight red fruit on it, but it’s peppered.  

Overall: This is a spicy whisky.  It’s hot black pepper, in your face, no holds barred.  I hate when people call a whisky ‘young,’ but this tastes like it may have been brought out of the barrel early.  It reminds me of PC7 without the sherry influence.  I don’t find anything sweet or peaceful about it.

Official Tasting Note:

You’re in a fabulous pavilion - soaking in a bubble-bath - sweetly peaceful.  Nearby, a platter of exotic fruits (pineapple, papaya, lychees) and a dram of this.  Across the room there’s a fire of fragrant pine cones.  Outside, the eighteenth green of the world-class golf course that you have just completed way under par.  The door opens and another serving girl appears with poppy seed biscuits, Italian fennel-flavoured salami and a beaming smile.  You are tired but still feeling strong and proud of your achievements.  Everything is in balance and harmony - the dream, the feeling, and the evocative scents and flavours from this ‘small headland’ dram.

Clynelish 21 (SMWS 26.84), or Moorland after rain

Distilled August 1990, Price of $145

ABV: 49.1%

Color: pale black gold

Nose: parsley, spearmint, slightly rotting apple, orange citrus 

Taste: starts with wax, and melts into a minty leather.  Real smooth.  Real oily.  The mint is still there and the finish is warming.  A little water (doesn’t need much) brings out everything more.  The wax flavor heavies, the citrus appears, and the minty leather becomes stronger in the finish.

Overall: tasty, interesting, and a good clean finish.  the balance between the contrasting flavors is impressive, and it’s a great contemplative whisky. 

Official Tasting Note:

We immediately notes a lightly mentholated effect, then a complex of fruity and woody scents: artificial peach, fruit syrup, varnish, natural liquorice, stripped wood, sawdust, beeswax.  The taste, unreduced, is sweet, herbal and fruity (‘lime pith’), with light waxiness and white-pepper spiciness.  It takes a while to open up with water, then becomes very fragrant (patchouli and vanilla, meadowsweet and elderflower) and fruity (fruit salad chews, fresh pineapple, rhubarb), with a whiff of snuffed candle.  The taste is sweet and waxy; the floral note is now jasmine, and the fruity element Juicy Fruit chewing gum and orange pith.  The distillery stands adjacent to another of the same name, overlooking the North Sea.


Tomintoul 16 Notes:

Nose: lots and lots of vanilla, with a little malt.  Maybe citrus.
Palate: Thin with some nutmeg and vanilla (obviously)
Overall: Pretty one note and not complex.  If I wanted to drink Glenlivet 12 with a drop of vanilla extract, I would have done so.

Tomintoul 16 Notes:

Nose: lots and lots of vanilla, with a little malt.  Maybe citrus.
Palate: Thin with some nutmeg and vanilla (obviously)
Overall: Pretty one note and not complex.  If I wanted to drink Glenlivet 12 with a drop of vanilla extract, I would have done so.


Tomintoul 16 Notes:

Nose: lots and lots of vanilla, with a little malt.  Maybe citrus.

Palate: Thin with some nutmeg and vanilla (obviously)

Overall: Pretty one note and not complex.  If I wanted to drink Glenlivet 12 with a drop of vanilla extract, I would have done so.



Green Spot Irish Whiskey Hits San Francisco

Even SF can have the Luck of the Irish

Is that really a bottle of Green Spot?  What?  How did I get a bottle of Green Spot?  I live in San Francisco.  That’s nigh on impossible.

Let’s just say that good people know that I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking, writing and drinking whiskey. And those good people might have traveled to Dublin recently and thought, screw the postcard, let’s get this bottle of whiskey, drink half, and then give it away.  Warms the heart, don’t it?

I’ll do a proper review later, but am pretty excited about the score of this limited pot-still Irish Whiskey.  If anyone wants a taste themselves, best comment below (i.e., one that makes me laugh the most) will get sent a sample.  Really.  I’ll contact you based on the email that you put in when you write your comment.

Knight This.

ABV: 40%
Nose : slight paint thinner. overripe peaches. a touch of vanilla. honey.
Palate : very well balanced. some might say smooth. immediate sugary bananas. that vanilla is still there. caramel. a bit of green fruit. no astringency whatsoever.
Finish : a puckering sweet burn. with fruit cake and wood. some spearmint is in there, too.
Overall : This is a really tasty whiskey. It’s not the best I’ve ever had, nor the most complex. But it is sweet, gentle, tasty, and has more behind it than burn. It’s a whiskey that is approachable by people who aren’t into whiskey.



40 Whiskies Under $40: Old Weller Antique Original 107

A Lake of Gold

I picked up a bottle of Old Weller Antique 107 after reading about the recent comparisons to the William Larue Weller bottle from this year’s Buffalo Trace Antique Collection.  I was not disappointed by the bottle or the value it offered.

Old Weller Antique Original 107 Brand Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Price Paid: $22

ABV: 53.5% (hence the 107)

Color: Golden Mahogany

Legs: Slow to form, impossibly slow to fall.  Medium sized.

Nose: A little one note, but you can work your way through it to find sweet butterscotch candy, caramel popcorn, banana runts.  I don’t get much vanilla, which for a bourbon, strikes me as odd.  It really is a sweetened fruit nose.  With water the vanilla comes out a bit more.

Old Weller Antique in the Late Afternoon

Palate: Lots of sweets.  The nose doesn’t lie.  There’s the vanilla caramel.  Honey.  Almost a sweet floral taste.  Really smooth with only a tinge of alcohol burn.  With water, it becomes a really sweet forward with a bitter behind it.

Finish:  A long, good and warming burn.  Stays sweet, not drying or cloying.  It ends up with actually a nice little bit of spice which I didn’t expect.

Overall:  This is a wonderful bourbon.  You can drink and drink and it won’t offer any disappointment or hit your bank account hard for that matter.  The juice is also pretty wonderful just because you can water it down (or not) to whatever your pleasure - at 53.5% alcohol, it’s a little strong (though manageable) but gives you enough room to alter it for those who aren’t used to anything above 40%.   The one issue I have is that because it’s a red plastic screw cap, it makes me feel like I have to apologize when I offer it to guests - when I have all these nice corked bottles sitting next to it, it makes it seem cheaper than it really is.  Regardless, for taste and value, I wholeheartedly recommend it for a sipper and as part of your cabinet.

Other Opinions:

  • Bourbon Enthusiast reviews are a bit all over the place.  But, lots of honey, fruit, caramel.  Some people find it thin, but I’m getting the sense that Old Weller Antique might shift a little from year to year.
  • Jason at SourMashManifesto tastes it at his pool table.  He and I agree on the nose and palate, though I seem to get more out of the finish than he does.  He still recommends it.
  • SouthCoastToday calls it a stronger Maker’s Mark, and gets more vanilla than I do
  • The venerable Sam Simmons (aka Dr. Whisky) starts off his review with “Fuck Scotch.”  I think he likes it, though definitely doesn’t find everything he wants.  Sam finds vegetables instead of fruit, but finds the same warming oak driven finish.
  • WhiskeyPro finds the floral notes I did.  Gives it a B+.
  • BourbonDork (nice name!) talks more about the variation between years and the dropping of the aged 7 years from the label.  He highly recommends.
  • LiquorLocusts discuss the merits of the new bottle vs. the old (finds it lacking like I did) in a strange, old-timey discussion, but overall recommends.

Tasting Notes: Amrut ‘Intermediate Sherry’ Indian Single Malt Whisky

There's a Chance I've Been Drinking This A LotAmrut Intermediate Sherry Packaging

Amrut has done very well recently.  Their standard collections are winning awards (and I assume) selling well, even grabbing last year’s Third Best Whisky in the World honor from the Whisky Bible.  The Amrut ‘Intermediate Sherry’ is their standard Cask Strength Whisky (it’s unclear if it’s their peated variety or not - I get a decent amount of peat in my tasting below), aged in Bourbon Barrels for I believe 3 years, then shipped to Spain for aging in Oloroso butts for a few months, shipped back to India to age in bourbon barrels again, and then bottled in a limited production run at cask strength.   The packaging is wonderful on this one, and it was my pick for our 2010 Chrimbus Holiday Gift Guide for gifts over $100.

Amrut ‘Intermediate Sherry’ Indian Single Malt Whiskey (NAS)

ABV: 57.1%

Legs: well formed and mixed.  Small and skinny, with a quick drop initially and slower drops behind.

Let's See Those Gams!Amrut Intermediate Sherry Legs

Color: a liquidy, crystallized darker brown.

Nose: really briney.  Salt and seaweed.  A forest right after rain, earthy with a hint of smoke, but more  sweetness.  A little rubber, but it’s well behind the other scents.  There’s a lot of malt here and it’s almost sanguine.  Floral and sanguine.

Palate: belying the nose, there’s little/no salt.  You taste the fire first.  A strong cleaning fire. Not peat, but hot spice.  But the overwhelming strength fades quickly.  The initial blindside is followed by an initial thought of peat, which is then followed by sweet honeyed cherries, almost a jammy citrus marmalade and then a building pepper, a delicious sweet black pepper corn, that’s hot and almost smoky.  On further tastings there’s a backdrop of licorice that comes out.

Finish: peppery fire, earthy , and wet copper bordering on a steel rust. suck a penny, lick a scratch, your choice.  A spicy sweetness.  The finish closes with heat and a lasting peppery kick.  You’re sucking on a pepper corn that numbs your tongue while the rest of your mouth is salivating.  Wow.

Overall: I was worried when I shelled out for this whisky.  I tried it first at whiskyfest, and though I remembered loving it, I had been tasting a great deal already.  Would I be let down?  My first nose left me a little worried - I didn’t remember the brine.  But I got over the surprise quickly.  The whisky made me pay attention - there’s a good amount going on.  Though the whisky shows its youth slightly, and the cask strength brings it in as anything but mellow, it doesn’t end the party.  This whisky is wonderful, invigorating and thoughtful. I can’t wait to enjoy the rest of it.

Other Opinions:

-StrongLikeCask (Dan)


40 Whiskies Under $40: Isle of Skye 8 Year Old Scotch Whisky

Isle of Skye with a roaring fire

The name “Isle of Skye” would make any whisky lover think immediately of Talisker.  But this isn’t some cute-named independent bottling of Talisker, it’s a blended whisky containing elements of Speyside, Isle of Skye and grain whisky that make up a nicely balanced dram.  It comes from Ian MacLeod distillers, a family owned whisky company that owns the GlenGoyne Distillery.  Thanks to the folks at JVSImports, we got to try a little bit for our 40 under $40 series.

Isle of Skye 8 Years Old Scotch Whisky

Cost: ~$30

ABV: 43%

Color: orange gold

Nose: heather. brine. a tinge of smoke in the backseat and stone fruits. fruitcake and honey

Palate: a light mouth feel with a nice maltiness and faint citrus. a light honey and fruity sweetness with a swirl of smoke.  so far, not what i’m expecting from a peaty scotch.  you can find the pepper, but you also have to look for it.

Finish: the tinge of smoke builds a little, but in general still balances with the sweetness that has turned to cherries and honey with cracked pepper.

Overall: Isle of Skye is a good whisky.  It’s not really complex, but it does what blends should do - provides a nice balanced whisky to drink.  Despite the name Isle of Skye, it doesn’t have this huge peppery kick.  The smoke and the pepper hang back, letting the malt and the sweetness of speysides do most of the heavy lifting.  This is a good, light whisky.  Worthy of sharing with friends who might not be into whisky yet.  It won’t turn them off of smoke but it won’t necessarily encourage them, either.  Definitely worthy of a purchase, and a good value to have around for yourself or for folks who usually get scared off from whisky.

A Golden Compliment to a Cold Night

Other Opinions:

  • John Hansell finds the balance and the citrus and the honey in his review.
  • Peter at the Casks winds up liking it, but it takes him a while.  In his review, he doesn’t find the sweet and smoke as balanced as I did.
  • On Isle of Skye’s site, they have a quote from Jim Murray recommending the whisky to Islay-philes, which judging from what I and others got, doesn’t make much sense.  So it goes.

Tasting Notes: Swhisky Challenge, Swhisky Skipper, and Appenzeller Santis Malt Swiss Highlander

HometownSwitzerland on an Early Morning Run (Pre-Whisky)

Though I tasted the Whisky on August 1st, Swiss National Day, it took me a little while to get these notes up.  You can read more about my time in Switzerland in my post about my Grandma’s 100th birthday here, and overall though it was a wonderful trip, apparently Switzerland still needs some time to get its whisky right.  I think the Säntis Malt (the Oak Beer Cask aged single malt) is the best out of the three, but overall they’re all not great - especially for the price point (~$80 for 700 ml of the Swhisky, and ~$65 for 500ml of the Säntis Malt).  What slightly annoyed me as well is that two out of the three whiskeys came with a rubber stopper/cork.  The only whisky that came with a real cork was the Swhisky Skipper.  The Santis Malt rubber cork was more of an imitation cork than anything, but the Swhisky Challenge cork came apart when I popped the bottle.  You can see it in a picture below, and it may not be a huge deal, but it did not make me excited for what I was about to drink.

Other opinions are somewhat non existent at this point, but I am sending samples to my cowriters at WhiskyParty as well as Dr. Whisky and John Hansell as they requested, so hopefully they’ll all weigh in.  And for good measure, Hop Schweiz!

Säntis Malt Swiss Highlander Appenzeller Single Malt

Appenzeller's FinestSantis Malt: Swiss Whisky Aged in Beer Casks from Appenzeller
Santis Malt's Beautiful LabelSantis Malt’s Beautiful Label

ABV: 40%

Maturation: Oak Beer Casks

Color: Light goldish brown, Burnt Sienna

Nose: paint thinner and varnish (though not unappealing) and plastics. roasted barley, overripe apples, blood oranges, still wet sweet bread, some wood and vanilla underneath

Palate: lots of alcohol burn, lots of wood, some delicious sweetness. a fair amount of pepper. you taste the malt, but it’s more sweet than cereal.

Finish: sweet wood - just not very sweet. it develops nicely, almost starts out drying but gets it going with a slightly sour slightly sweet finish of cinnamon sugar

Overall: delicious. at first, this is a little rough, but it does open up like wine and reveal a really nice dichotomy of sweet and sour, of drying and lasting. i believe this is the first time i have ever had a whisky aged in beer casks, and I wish I could say that I taste the beer - i don’t think i can. the closest I can get is that this dram is really sweet, but not in a toffee, vanilla way, but more in a malty way. which, I know is ridiculous, but whatever. that’s what i’m going with. it’s not a great whisky, but it’s a good whisky.  And a delicious one to have, especially because it’s all Swiss made.

Swhisky Challenge (Blue)

Swhisky ChallengeSwhisky Challenge
Swhisky Challenge Rubber StopperSwhisky Challenge Rubber Stopper

ABV: 40%

Maturation: Oak Casks and Finished in “Wine” Casks (Burgundy)

Color: brownish gold, shimmery

Nose: very little alcohol, some christmas spices, maybe even bananas, peppermint candies and an oaky wine barrel warehouse crossed with fresh rotting grape vine stems (the distinct smell you get if you tour a winery and go to the barrel room - it’s a slightly damp wooden fresh scent with vegetation behind it

Palate: pretty harsh.  surprising considering the lack of alcohol burn above.  it’s really hard to get anything out of it.  there’s some pepper and fruit, but nothing very discernible.

Finish: building dark fruit that turns to cloying.  it’s not syrupy, but pretty much all cloying, one note, and disappointing

Overall: though the nose held some promise, this whisky stinks.  the palate just kind of disappointed and the finish was cloying.  Really disappointed with my first entry into Swhisky.  Even more disappointed with the crappy artificial cap.  I know that the wine world has all sorts of disagreements about artificial corks and screw tops versus real corks, but this thing stinks.  It fell apart, has no scent, and just makes me really question what the heck they were thinking.  Especially at the price point that this bottle was - fricking $80.  I guess overall Challenge fails to live up to the Challenge.  By a lot.

Swhisky Skipper (Green Box)

Swhisky SkipperSwhisky Skipper
Swhisky Skipper - Matured in Burgundy Cask without color or filtrationSwhisky Skipper - Matured in Burgundy Cask without color or filtration

ABV: 40%

Maturation: Oak Casks and Finished in “Wine” Casks (Burgundy)

Nose: brine and honey, green leafy vegetables, brown sugar malt, burnt sugar, and reeds

Palate: brown sugar explosion! brown bread, and then nothing

Finish: seriously, there’s an explosion of flavor and then it disappears. there’s some sweetness and heat that tries to build up, but doesn’t ever really get there

Overall: well, it’s interesting. it’s good, but that’s probably just because it’s whisky. it’s not very complex, but very easy and fun to drink.  I’d reach for it, but not all the time, or really often for that matter.  Just more often than Swhisky Challenge.