Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I don't blog much anymore

Although I do have a few new posts in the works. So why don't I maintain this a bit better? Well, I guess I can let the cat out of the bag. I'm to be the new whisk(e)y writer for About.com, a position that is scheduled to go live next month. I've been working on content for that site and really trying to stay away from anything whisk(e)y related on this one. That said, my birthday is coming up next month, and if anyone is looking for a whiskey to get me; Diageo just released some "special releases" from their Classic Malts collection. I hope I get to taste these soon. The only other comment I'll offer is that I'm extremely disappointed that a number of these are not available in the United States. (sigh).

Here is the list-


Not available in the US.

58.8% ABV

Natural Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky from Speyside.

A classic European Oak profile and a wonderful digestif; big and sweet then mouth-drying. There is something deliciously festive about this whisky. It’s redolent of a log fire in the library, buttered crumpets and candles on the Christmas tree.

Appearance: Rich, deep mahogany with good beading.

Nose: Classic, muscular Benrinnes with an added and immensely seductive sweetness rippling through it. Crème brulée with a highly caramelised surface. Intense black fruits (prunes), Christmas cake and dates, laced with rich sherry. Behind, a beefy note with some allspice, like a touch of gravy left in the meat pan. Water (just a splash) initially brings the toffee apple sweetness even more into focus above such meatiness. As it becomes waxier, the fruity notes withdraw, yet some moist Christmas cake remains - much later, the meatiness reasserts itself. Superb balance and complexity.

Body: Heavy. Full. Immediate grip.

Palate: Big, powerful and immediately assertive. Sweet, then mouth-drying, yet not astringent because that concentrated sweetness remains. Waxy, viscous texture; slight traces of brimstone. Raisin and lots of date. Softens as it moves slowly across the tongue. Water lightens the grip and introduces a lightly smoked character. The voluptuous texture is countered by tannic dryness. Sweet to start and beefy, in all senses.

Finish: Exceptionally long, dry and warming, leaving a mellow, lingering aftertaste of treacle and sandalwood.


53.2% ABV

Natural Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky from Coastal Highlands.

Another fine Brora: deep, sweet and rich; yet with great delivery of smoke, as from camp fires in the late summer. Indisputably Brora, yet in an attractive, softer guise.

Appearance: Full gold. Good beading.

Nose: Big and resolutely oily. Evoking a surfer’s camp fire in the dunes – wet saltiness and dry, grassy wood-smoke. The herbal element here is soon joined by lychee, black pepper and meaty notes. Clean but rich, robust and deep as well. With water there’s a touch of American Oak butterscotch softness, which in true Brora fashion then gives way to waxier notes. Gentle and soft, yet with a brooding edge.

Body: Medium to heavy. Oily, smooth.

Palate: Tongue-coating and surprisingly citric. Firm oak. Shows its refined maturity in waves of flavour that surge across the tongue. It needs water, but just the merest drop, which allows the texture to show itself. Full fleshy fruits. Rich and smooth with hints of smoke.

Finish: Long, pleasingly nutty and smoky.


65.8% ABV

Natural Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky from Islay.

Vibrant, summery and a sure-fire summer hit. Reveals the basic structure of the malt, without the flavours being covered with smoke. Plenty of seaside character, interesting to compare both with the recent 8 year old unpeated bottlings and with the peated 12 year old.

Appearance: Pale gold. Little beading.

Nose: Great intensity and youthful brio. Very pure, clean and punchy, with plenty of alcohol. Green melon, grass clippings and as the alcohol lifts just a little, traces of fermenting pear juice. Over time there’s the sweetness of sherbet, lime and fresh mint, plus just the tiniest charred hint of smoke or toast in the background. Rather than bringing out an older Caol Ila’s “fire in the hospital” character, water transforms it into an artist’s studio: a fresh painted canvas set to dry, with beautiful vanilla notes. Summery sweetness too; sugary candy floss and soft fruits.

Body: Light to medium.

Palate: A grassy picnic by the sea. Vibrant, hot and clean with a spring-like abandon: all flowers, grass and green fruits (fresh apple). High acidity increases the mouth-watering impression and there are notes of lime and even petrol here too. Water makes it succulent; intense in character but also fresh and mouth-cleansing. Sweeter than expected, as some banana emerges. The balance is restored by good acidity and saltiness. There’s no smoke.

Finish: Warming and gentle with great length.


57.9% ABV

Natural Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky from Islay.

An elegant classic; massive smoke and purity of flavour supported by complex aromas and delicious sweetness. Less rich and plummy than the 16 year old, yet every bit as refined, with all the hallmarks and a fine, complex nose.

Appearance: Pale gold. Good beading.

Nose: Huge, fine and complex. Intense, abundant smoke surges out of the glass, yet it is fragrant smoke that doesn’t obliterate the softer mossy scents. After a while, carbolic soap, lightly smoked haddock and an intensely sweet and fruity tinned fruit salad. The onslaught continues with wasabi on fresh herring, or a fresh gale on the pier. Lightly sooty, developing smoked cream cheese. Water surprisingly softens the gale to a breeze, easing back on the medicine and allowing mineral and woody notes to emerge, with some bath salts.

Body: Light but hugely smoky.

Palate: Starts dry and vibrant, with masses of intense smoke. Again smoked cheese, softer now, under that fresh, young character. Sooty, yet so sweet! Uncompromising, yet ebullient and hugely fragrant. In time there’s a hint of violets, before pipe smoke appears. Water allows the sweet centre to show. The taste now is even more youthful - surprisingly sweet, with nice acidity, it leaps all over your tongue. All this softens with further sips and an elegant balance shows through. A classic!

Finish: Medium to long. Firm and dry, a final blast of smoke.


Not available in the US.

54.9% ABV

Natural Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky from Speyside.

Rounded, delicious and elegant - a fine aperitif malt, which strikes an appealing balance between silky, oily smoothness and flightier, more aromatic characteristics.

Appearance: Rich amber, polished bronze. Very slight beading.

Nose: Slow to rise. At first, a forest floor in autumn: damp air, earthy and wet. Above this, sweeter notes, soon developing into a compote of fresh autumn fruits; ripe berries, with some red apple. Later, very distant smoke and hints of antiseptic. Later still, a surprising and sparky orange zest. Overall, quite light and well structured. Water makes things softer and more elegant, bringing forth gentle orange fruit gums over hints of creamy caramel.

Body: Light, yet also lightly oily and tongue-coating.

Palate: Very hot, powerful and urgent at full strength. Immediate orange oil, then a developing complexity. Toasted cereal notes, tarte au chocolat scented with orange and a little ginger, the bite of a fruit compote. At once light and drying, yet deliciously oily with a particularly well-balanced acidity. Very late and subtle cocoa with hints of cigar box cedar. Water cools things down; it’s all lighter, cooling and minty now, with some boiled fruit sweets.

Finish: Long and persistent. Although hot and drying, remains smooth, silky, warming and delicate, with a sweetly fragrant rosewater aftertaste.


Not available in the US.

57.5% ABV

Natural Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky from Speyside.

The clean freshness makes this an unusual aperitif malt. Relatively straightforward, this is an interesting example of a make from a closed distillery that is rarely seen, especially at this age.

Appearance: Pale Gold. Light beading.

Nose: Green, olive-oily then immediately fruity (oranges, white peaches), but soon develops a milk chocolate note. As it begins to open, there’s a fleeting, mineral aroma, which adds a racy air, before it settles down as orange cream filling in milk chocolate or perhaps angelica cake decoration. Water improves things significantly, raising the mineral note again – grassy, and fresh cut grass at that - then introduces a fruity note, suggesting pineapple or green apple.

Body: Light to medium.

Palate: Appetising. There’s plenty of crisp, clean grassiness on show here. Sweet, but also slightly sharp (crisp green apples, surprising in such a long-matured malt). Again water helps, making it all clean, fresh and acidic, with a surprising trace of salt. At its heart, the mineral taste dominates. Very slightly oily.

Finish: Short to medium, then warming.


57.7% ABV

Natural Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky from Islay.

As good a Port Ellen as you may ever taste. All of Port Ellen’s single-minded character, with added texture, depth and verve.

Appearance: Full, burnished gold. Good beading for its age.

Nose: One of the best Port Ellen noses recorded. Little nose prickle yet still lively. Complex, rich and rounded, with soft pear fruit and a trace of tar, as in a driftwood bonfire. Sandy but also slightly sweet, with malty traces. Behind this, fresh shellfish: scallop and oyster with a touch of lemon. The fruity notes fade to samphire and smouldering, oiled wood. Water has a calming effect, raising a classic extra virgin olive oil note, while adding fresh maritime notes and a herbal hint (sage, perhaps). Further dilution reigns in the smoke and some boiled sweet notes emerge.

Body: Firm and dry.

Palate: More classic. Surprisingly sweet at first, with massive smokiness. Austere and flinty with a very light grip. Salty. The smoke dominates but the character remains pure and focused, offering everything you’d expect from a Port Ellen. A good drop of water softens things at last, producing a lovely texture and great viscosity. As the sweetness fades, the delivery of flavours shifts to the centre of the palate, with more of a light saltiness.

Finish: Very long and warming, with lingering peat smoke.


54.8% ABV

Natural Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky from Skye.

Talisker, trebled. Enigmatic and charming, yet still vigorous. An interesting combination of three of the four primary tastes - balanced sweetness and acidity, with salty depth.

Appearance: Pale amber. Good beading. Attractive viscosity.

Nose: Mellow, with little prickle. Juicy and sweet, with a trace of smoke and pencil boxes behind. Soon opens out to heathery, earthy peat. After that, fruit: fresh-baked apple cake, banana, quince. Finally, salt: seaweed and ocean. Ever-changing, becoming more delicate in time. Water raises orange peel and brings in more maritime notes to balance the sweet fruitiness – warm sand, dry seaweed.

Body: Medium. Silky smooth.

Palate: Fine Talisker character; not as powerfully peppery as younger expressions, drinking well at natural strength. Sweet, with some salt. Coats the lips, never mind the tongue. Begins with soft, sweet apple sponge in custard, then a drier, crisper character emerges on the middle of the tongue. Builds in power (and heat) as the inevitable pepperiness comes forward. Yet the sweetness also continues, returning to its unctuous beginnings. Adding water smoothes the texture and merges the flavours. Again it starts sweetly, with a balancing acidity overall and plenty of salt.

Finish: Medium to long. Lulls you into a sense of security, then pounces. Warming, with both pepper and, unexpectedly, peppermint.


Not available in the US.

53.1% ABV

Natural Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky from Skye.

A mild-mannered, more mature Talisker, still with plenty of personality and unmistakable character. Can Talisker be subtle? This one is. It’s an elegant, scented malt that is simple in structure, with all its basic elements easily accessible.

Appearance: Gold, with little beading.

Nose: The softly muted character of age. Mild and unusually fruity (citrus), fading quickly into lush seaweed with charred sticks - as with a spent fire, in which the charcoal and peat embers barely glow. It soon becomes soft and very slightly waxy or creamy, like fudge. Just a drop of water freshens things, bringing up drying wooden fish boxes and a return of the tangy fruit (tart plums). Then it all drifts away into charred old wood.

Body: Medium.

Palate: Drinks well at full strength and has a pleasant, teeth-coating texture. The smoke is immediate and dry with creamy oak. Almond milk and light, sweet stone fruits emerge, joined by a trace of salt, as with peat moss in the rain or seaweed. Adding a little water brings up a pleasant, smooth texture. It’s now quite sweet to start but less so overall, with some salt and a trace of cloves.

Finish: Long and gently warming, with salty seaweed in the lingering maritime aftertaste and just a white pepper tingle on the tongue in place of that chilli pepper ‘catch’.


Kimberly said...

Congrats on your new gig! Can't wait to read your posts on About.com!

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