Tasting Notes


© F. Paul Pacult
The following reviews appeared in the March 2017 issue of
F. Paul Pacult’s Spirit Journal

ratings

Japanese and Scotch Whisky Reviews

WHISKY — JAPAN

Nikka Miyagikyo Single Malt Whisky
45% abv, $80.

Marigold/deep straw color; superb purity. Immediate smells after the pour are grainy, malty, and like brown rice, with background touches of baking spices (allspice, mace), tofu, and soy sauce; secondary inhalations encounter “greener”, more vegetal aromas that eclipse the baking spices. Entry is subtle, keenly spicy (the baking spices make a big return), desert dry, and moderately malty; midpalate features a delightfully and satisfying crisp flavor profile that borders on being astringent and edgy as the maltiness merges nicely with the resiny oak, providing a tightly focused taste experience that’s clean and intensely grainy. Finishes a little too short, deeply malty, and even now a touch peppery. Had the aftertaste not dropped off too abruptly, I’d have given this single malt a fifth rating star. It has a lot going for it.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

Nikka Yoichi Single Malt Whisky
45% abv, $80.
Gamboge/flax/chardonnay color; unblemished clarity. In the first nosing passes I pick up all sorts of malty scents, from nougat to candied almond to malted milk balls to milk chocolate to maple; secondary whiffs after more aeration discover salted butter, lightly smoked, toasty aromas that are basically dry, but also nicely rounded and supple. Entry is savory, bittersweet, grainy, toasted bread-like, nutty; midpalate features a medium full texture that caresses the palate while the dry-leaning flavor profile highlights the malty grain and wood resins, especially the tannic acid which dries out the flavor so that by the finish it’s squeaky clean and tight. A really tasty, well-made malt.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

Ohishi Sherry Cask Whisky Cask #1212
41.9% abv, $75.
Bay/sepia color; completely sediment free. Initial whiffs pick up heavily toasted grain, campfire aromas of toasted marshmallow, seared pork, bacon fat, tomato paste, asphalt; with more air contact the bouquet expands to include old leather, library, cigar ashes, and Lapsang Suchong tea. Entry offers faint touch of wine/sherry that fades quickly as the richness of the buttery oak takes charge; in midpalate, the flavor profile changes over to a mild smokiness that’s strikingly black tea with honey-like as the sherry influence returns leading into a pruny/raisiny aftertaste that’s robust, clean, bittersweet, and oaky.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars3Recommended

Ohishi Brandy Cask
41.6% abv, $75.
Gamboge/14-carat gold color; superb clarity. Smells gently of honeysuckle flowers, coconut, lavender, damp earth, and mown hay in the opening sniffs after the pour; with more time in the glass, the aroma shifts its focus more to the dry grain/grain kernel and away from the florist shop as the bouquet offers fragrances of dried hops and potato scone. Entry shows a winey, grapy, nearly ambrosial taste profile that flies in the face of the grainy/flowery aroma, yet somehow works; midpalate features tight flavors of dried fruit, especially figs, raisins, orange that last deep into the pleasing aftertaste. What I enjoyed about this whisky is its gradual evolution to its crescendo moment at midpalate and finish.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars4Highly Recommended

 

WHISKY — SCOTLAND

anCnoc Cutter
Highland Single Malt Whisky
46% abv, $79.
Produced at Knockdhu Distillery at 20.5 ppm (phenols). The sauvignon blanc-like, straw yellow color catches the light and is quite pretty; unblemished and sediment free. The lively peat-reek is apparent right from the initial whiffs after the pour and there’s also background scents of lemon zest, new leather, pine cone, and wood shavings; following more air contact, the smoky peat grows in intensity in a comforting campfire smoke manner that’s kind of tobacco-like, salty, sweet, and “green”. Entry mirrors the bouquet, especially in the sweet smokiness that’s now reminiscent of pipe tobacco and hickory smoked pork sausages, all of which I find appealing; midpalate highlights the smoky sweetness that now like brown sugar and saltwater taffy. Finishes medium long, less smoky than the aroma or midpalate, and far more settled and calm in demeanor. There are many fine attributes here but the core beneath the peatiness seems a little hollow, though not enough for dismissal. I rode the three star/four star fence on this until the aftertaste when it was clear that a firm three stars was the fairest rating.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars3Recommended 

Benromach 10 Year Old
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
43% abv, $60.
Lovely, bright amber/khaki color; flawless purity. First sniffs pick up a wide array of dry fragrance, from lead pencil to leather chair to dried black tea leaf to oilskin to turnips; secondary passes pick up more scents, especially malted milk balls, barley kernel, unsalted snack cracker, unbuttered toast. Entry flavors include scone, dry breakfast cereal, wheat cracker; midpalate offers the most sensory impact as the taste profile expands into a fruitier and spicier space than the aroma or the entry, offering dried banana, cinnamon bun, vanilla bean, and ginger snap cookie. Aftertaste adds a nice resiny oak note that’s keenly spicy.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars3Recommended 

Benromach 15 Year Old
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
46% abv, $100.
Very pretty burnt sienna color; some sediment seen floating in the core. This early, at-arms-length nose is biscuity, toasted, arid, and resinous, yet distant; more aeration stimulates little more in the way of animation, except for earthy notes of moss and dry leaves; it’s an elusive, veiled bouquet. Entry tastes are compact, bittersweet, roasted, almost akin to BBQ sauce, with flavors of tomato paste, bonfire smoke, pork rind, bacon, honey; midpalate expands on all the entry impressions, throwing in mace, sage, espresso. Finishes long, oily, medium bodied, bittersweet, and beany. Had the bouquet offered more substance, this single malt could easily have been rated Four Stars.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars3Recommended 

Benromach Organic 2010
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
43% abv, $70.
Topaz color; completely sediment free appearance. There’s a pleasing fruitiness/ambrosial quality in the first inhalations after the pour that remind me of nectarine, Bosc pear and/or quince; the orchard fruit aspect remains evident in the second passes following more aeration, plus I encounter additional scents of parchment, green tomato, and heather. Entry features the semidry, surprisingly evolved flavors of dried fruits (nectarine and pear, in particular), green tobacco, crème caramel; midpalate flavors are sturdy, sweeter than the those at entry, honeyed, biscuity, sugar cookie-like, and maple-like. Finishes medium long, gently sweet, sappy. Shockingly evolved for such a young malt whisky.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars4Highly Recommended

Benromach Peat Smoke 2006
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
46% abv, $70.
Flax/straw yellow color; unblemished clarity. Yes, indeed, there is undeniable evidence of salty, briny, medicine chest, iodine-like peat but it’s not of the barn burning variety that crosses one’s eyes — it’s more akin to sea breeze, oyster shell, seaweed; secondary sniffs encounter smoky aromas of a light touch, including dried tobacco, cigar tobacco, filled ash tray, heather, and cereal. Entry is pleasingly sweet, mildly salty, briny, with deft flavors of dill, fennel; midpalate is toasty, honeyed, malty, complex, yet lithe in texture. Aftertaste features the delicate smokiness admired in the entry. It’s the gracefulness of the peat presence that makes this malt so alluring and characterful.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars4Highly Recommended 


Benromach_ImperialBenromach Imperial Proof
10 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
57% abv, $90.
Sorrel/amber color; impeccable purity. Whoa, this opening aroma is top-loaded with round, supple, dynamic grainy/floral fragrances, including Graham cracker, porridge, honey wheat toast, dried hops, carnation, dried violet petals; secondary inhalations pick up traces of the 57% abv, but in measured degrees and that buttresses the surface aromas that now integrate into one aromatic thrust. Entry is saucy, zesty, tangy, slightly prickly, campfire warm, densely grainy, honeyed, toasty, spectacularly luscious; midpalate keeps the hits coming as the flavor profile now goes deep in buttery/creamy texture that blankets the palate in layers of caramelized sugar taste. Finishes fathomless, endless, smoky sweet. For my money, Benromach’s flagship whisky.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars-5Highest Recommendation 

Benromach 35 Year Old
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
43% abv, $680.
Sepia/ginger color; perfect purity. I’m admittedly and publicly skeptical of just about any whisky from anywhere that’s more than 25 years old and this opening aroma is one of the reasons why — the first impressions (which are crucial!) are of attic, dust, old fabric, old library books, you get the picture; secondary whiffs after more air contact show some improvement, in that, there’s greater evidence of malted barley, breakfast cereal, but even these scents are worn out. Entry offers a little more animation as the taste profile showcases mildly potent flavors of dry breakfast cereal, toasted almond, caramel, crème brûlée; to my surprise, midpalate finds the flavors building in intensity, highlighting the caramel element, especially. After a burst of energy in the midpalate, the aftertaste returns to the tired flavors of grain and spice, but in the end offering little more than fond memories of more youthful years.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars-2Not Recommended
 

Chivas-Regal-Ultis-Chivas Regal Ultis Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
40% abv, $200.
Malts come from the Speyside distilleries of Braeval, Longmorn, Tormore, Strathisla and Allt A’Bhainne. Simply put, one of the most attractive whiskies I’ve reviewed recently; the pristine ginger/cinnamon color sparkles under the examination lamp. First nosings detect earthy scents of autumn leaves, seasoned oak, sawdust, soft maple, and a delicate trace of clove; later sniffs encounter black pepper, dried violets, moss/lichen, fungi/mushroom, and slightly smoky malted barley. Entry showcases the sturdy side of Speyside malts as the taste profile goes resiny, woody, and oily, as well as biscuity, cookie dough-like, and gently honeyed; midpalate mirrors the entry impressions, throwing in black tea, citrus, baked pineapple for good measure. Aftertaste is toasty, long, leaner than the midpalate, acidic and therefore fresh, suddenly fruity and ripe, but dry and gently spiced. Long time subscribers know my love for Chivas Regal 18 but I believe that this more austere expression is the 18’s equal in terms of character and quality.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars-5Highest Recommendation  

Connoisseurs Choice Ledaig 16 Year Old
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
46% abv, $77.
Produced at the Tobermory Distillery on the Isle of Mull. The color is 9-carat gold bright and a brut champagne look-a-like; flawless purity. There’s a lushness in the opening sniffs that’s pleasing in its buttery character but beneath that lie fragrances of dried flowers, fall garden, tilled earth, and salt lick; later inhalations pick up feathery scents of malted milk balls, cotton fiber, and oatmeal. Entry is gently sweet, grainy/malty, spicy, zesty, acidic, fresh, and delicately salty; midpalate offers much the same as the entry in a sweet cereal way that’s pleasing but neither profound nor dense. Aftertaste is longer than I thought it would be showing more substance than anticipated and is intensely grainy/breakfast cereal-like. I liked this maritime malt as I have nearly all Tobermory whiskies over the years.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars3Recommended

Cooper’s Choice Bunnahabhain 16 Year Old
Single Malt Scotch Whisky Sherry Cask
46% abv, $120.
100% sherry oak cask. Attractive sepia/topaz color; completely sediment free. Wow, the upshot on the opening nosing pass is a robust maltiness that’s hearty, floral, slightly salty, briny, with a hint of oloroso sherry lurking in the background; more aeration brings about a seductive fruitiness that’s raisiny, dried, and pruny — this is not your typical ethereal Bunnahabhain, mates. Entry is brazenly raisiny, bittersweet, honeyed, and supple in texture; midpalate builds upon the entry impressions, adding notes of candied peach, almond paste, cinnamon, clove, and hazel nut. Aftertaste is prickly, sherried, with a dash of mincemeat as a farewell wave. Bunnahabhain loyalists, used to its more delicate malts, might not respond to the richness of this edition. I, for one, like it immensely and believe it to be a fascinating new direction for this excellent Islay malt distillery.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

Cooper’s Choice Croftengea 10 Year Old
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
46% abv, $80.
A Loch Lomond Distillery malt matured in ex-bourbon barrel. Very pale ecru/bisque/tarnished silver color; absolute clarity. I find the first aromas to be racy, clean, acidic, citrusy, vegetal, tobacco ash-like, and grainy all at the same time and in equal measure; secondary sniffs encounter many of the same first-round impressions of youthful vigor, fueled by cereal-like malt and cigar tobacco fragrances — while the label claims “Heavily Peated” I do not find the bouquet overly smoky. Entry is keenly fresh, carbolic, seaweed-like, and zesty and it’s here, at last, where the peat smoke comes athough not in tsunami-like waves but rather in nuances of tobacco ash, sea salt, salted fish, and iodine; what I notice most at midpalate is the rich creaminess of the silky texture that blankets the palate in layers of flavor. Aftertaste is vigorous, piney, moderately salty, and controlled in its smokiness. Hey, this is a solid, young, and pleasant malt of dimension and depth that is worth buying.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars4Highly Recommended

Copper Dog
Speyside Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
40% abv, $33.
Made exclusively from undisclosed Speyside malts. Pretty topaz/amber color; superb clarity. Holy jeepers, Batman, this opening bouquet epitomizes Speyside’s floral side as alluring fragrances of heather, dried moss, and field grains mingle with scents reminiscent of unsweetened breakfast cereal, floor malting, Graham cracker, and shredded wheat; after the chockfull initial inhalations, the bouquet settles into a softly sweet mode that’s firm in structure and almost fruity (white raisins come to mind). Entry features a sweeter, biscuit-like opening flavor that spotlights the Graham cracker impression found in the aroma, making it the temporary centerpiece; midpalate turns richer than the entry as the underlying texture goes buttery/creamy and meringue-like and slightly spiced with hints of clove and nutmeg. Finishes medium long, honey sweet, lightly toasted. PHENOMINAL VALUE! You’d have to be slightly crazy not to buy a couple of bottles immediately.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

Glen Grant 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
43% abv, $47.
Reviews of this elusive distillery have been rare in the Spirit Journal, amounting to a handful of merchant bottlings from many years ago. I’ve visited this lovely distillery twice, liking it both times. I like the bright amber/old gold/sauternes-like color; spotless purity. Smells right out of the aromatic gate of malted milk balls candy, toasted cereal, citrus, and oak resin; secondary sniffs encounter porridge, dried hops, stewed prunes. Entry is completely dry and tannic, leathery, ginger-like, and toasted; midpalate highlights all the entry findings and adds meringue. Closes out with a gentleness that’s dry, nutty, elegant, and oaky. I’m delighted to see this wonderfully delicate Speyside malt back in circulation.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars3Recommended 

Glen Grant 18 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
43% abv, $120.
The pale flax/bisque color belies the age statement; excellent, flawless purity. Oh man, this opening aroma is like strolling into a florist’s shop as the verdant, blossoming, “green”, spring garden bouquet could only hail from inland Speyside; but as the second sniffing passes encounter, there’s likewise a bundle of other aromas to enjoy, especially cooking oil, spring forest, green vegetable (cucumber, asparagus), cereal grains/malt, and gentle spice. Entry flexes a bit of muscle as the delicacy found in the aroma becomes meatier and more complex on the palate as flavors of oak resin, mace, and clove are underpinned by a solid texture; midpalate reflects the entry findings as the flavor turns rounder, more supple, and grainier. Finishes with a charming rush of maltiness that closes the experience with style.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

Glen Scotia Double Cask
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
46% abv, $79.99.
A Campbeltown malt from the Mull of Kintyre that’s been matured in both American oak and Pedro Ximenez (PX) sherry casks. The richness of the topaz/amber color points to the influence of the sherry cask; immaculate clarity. The nose immediately betrays the PX influence as the aroma goes pruny, raisiny, and nutty in abundance; more air contact brings out holiday fruitcake and mince pie fragrances that hold nothing back. Entry is predictably hearty, sweet, honeyed, and full of turbinado brown sugar power; midpalate echoes the entry to a tee, offering immense and dense flavors of dark chocolate, fudge brownie, and cocoa bean. Finishes big, hearty, unabashedly sweet, and creamy. My only problem is with the high volume of the barrel impact, which eclipses the grain completely, making the experience nice but of one-note variety.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars3Recommended 

Glenmorangie Bacalta Private Edition
Baked Malmsey Madeira Casks
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
46% abv, $100.
Very eye-appealing warm amber color; flawless purity. The first sniffs pick up front-loaded aromas of unsalted butter, charred oak, dry-roasted peanuts, oven-baked ham with pineapple, and burnt toast; after more aeration, the aroma transforms into a settled, focused bouquet that features melded scents of caramelized onion, roasted peppers, raisins, and roasted almonds. Entry highlights the baked Madeira cask, as the flavor profile turns winey, grapy, pruny, and decidedly jammy/preserves-like; midpalate changes direction a bit as the taste turns drier, nicely bittersweet, intensely roasted, and even a tad like smoked bacon. The symphony of flavors continues long into the supple, viscous finish. This malt never loses the inherent delicacy that is Glenmorangie’s trademark, but the forcefulness of the sultry wood nearly eclipses its exquisiteness. That said, I find this a charming expression from one of my favorite malt distilleries.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

Gordon & MacPhail’s The MacPhail’s Collection
Glenrothes 8 Years Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
43% abv, $59.
Gamboge/straw yellow color; spotless clarity. First off, I pick up mustard seed, poppy seed, hemp, salt lick, filament, and beeswax that all dance atop a foundational fragrance of dry breakfast cereal; further on down the aromatic road following more aeration, there are distinctive scents of electrical cord, snuffed candle, burnt matches, and lead pencil. Entry plays up the malty cereal component to the degree that all other competing flavors fall off and get out of the way of the dry-as-a-desert malted barley; midpalate echoes the entry impressions, bringing in a resinous oaky quality that dries out the palate even more. Aftertaste is chewy, intensely oaky, sap-like, resiny. There is no getting away from the immaturity of this malt and, if it were mine, I’d give it another 4 years at the minimum to develop.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars-2Not Recommended 

HighlandPark_Fire_1Highland Park FIRE Edition 15 Year Old
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
45.2% abv, $300.
Deep topaz/bronze color; unspoiled purity. FIRE is the appropriate name for this malt as the opening nosing passes discover immediate and impactful aromas of peat moss, cigarette ashes, bacon fat, vegetable cooking oil, brown butter, smoked salmon, and smoky black tea; another round of inhalations after more air contact bring in scents of roasted almond, roasted pork tenderloin, sandy beach, toasted crumpet, and fireplace soot. Entry is subtle in its textural richness, oily, and clean as the taste profile bursts forth with expressive flavors of birch, maple syrup, hot-cross buns, black pepper, honey wheat bread toast; midpalate is alive with vivid flavors of sea salt, salted fish, cigar tobacco, and chives. Finishes extra long, silky, delicately sweet but really more bittersweet, beany, espresso-like, and totally yummy.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars-5Highest Recommendation  

Distillers-Art-Benrinnes-7YHunter Laing & Company Distiller’s Art
Benrinnes 2009 7 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
56.1% abv, $52.
Ecru/oyster shell color; sediment free clarity. There are distinctly feinty smells in the initial whiffs that point to new cowhide, leather upholstery, mead, sesame seed, and tobacco ashes; secondary inhalations after more time in the glass pick up textile fiber, cotton fiber, steel wool, nickel, shale fragrances. Entry is much sweeter — stunningly so — than the bouquet implies, as densely grainy, sweet, sap-like flavors abound and dominate the palate; midpalate stage is more settled than the rambunctious entry and that’s largely because the spirit aspect calms down as it integrates with the flavors. Aftertaste is long, deeply grainy/cereal-like, with hints of maple and oak resins. My belief is that this rollercoaster ride whisky has been released too early. If it were mine, I’d allow it to sit in cask for 3-4 more years, minimum.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars-2Not Recommended 

Distillers-Art-Benrinnes-18Hunter Laing & Company Distiller’s Art
Benrinnes 1997 18 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
49.4% abv, $86.
Chardonnay-like straw yellow color; ideal purity. This supple opening aroma from Benrinnes is subtle, delicately sweet, grainy/malty, fruity (kiwi) and delightfully mature, steady and stable; later sniffs pick up nicely defined and integrated fragrances of green vegetation, springtime woods, candle wax, oak resins, sour apple candy and cooking oil — a finer bouquet than that of the erratic Benrinnes 7 YO. Entry is composed, elegant, gently sweet and grainy (sweet corn), with early-on flavors of toasted malt, cinnamon, nutmeg, Jamaican jerk; midpalate echoes the entry and adds toasted marshmallow, toasted crumpet, cereal grain, honey wheat bread. Finishes medium long, drier than the entry and midpalate, acidic, fresh, lightly toasted.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars3Recommended

Hunter Laing & Company Distiller’s Art
Blair Athol 1995 20 Year Old Sherry Single Malt Scotch Whisky
57.2% abv, $93.
Sherry cask influence immediately seen in the bright amber/old gold color; I see oils floating in the sediment-free core; pretty appearance. Opening inhalations detect traces of egg white, yeast, sour dough bread, carnation, citric acid, lemon zest; secondary sniffs following more air contact encounter drier scents of dry stone, arid desert, sand, metal, India ink. Entry is stony/flinty, dry, tired, rustic, brambles-like, musty; midpalate mirrors the entry (unfortunately), adding only an unpleasant waxiness that’s stale, deeply flawed and overly wooded. Aftertaste highlights all the low points of this sorry-ass malt. Rarely have I had, since 1989, a Blair Athol that I’ve liked…including this bottom-feeding dud. Buy this and I’ll cut you from my will.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstarNot Recommended
 

Distillers-Art-BunnahabhainHunter Laing & Company Distiller’s Art
Bunnahabhain 1995 20 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
56.1% abv, $221.
Topaz/old sauternes color; pristine clarity. There’s just the barest hint of salinity here as the primary fragrance is, without doubt, the dry-as-a-bone malted barley, snack cracker aroma; deeper inhalations after more air contact unearth brittle scents of malted milk ball, peanuts, and Graham cracker. Entry is razor-edged with cask strength spirit (56.1%), slightly yeasty, doughy, biscuity, and acidic; midpalate maintains the sharpness of the spirit, which begins to integrate with the grain and wood aspects, creating a midpalate that’s frisky and slightly feral for the usually sublime and low-key Bunnahabhain. Finishes long, spirity, dry, acidic, and cleansing.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars3Recommended 

Hunter Laing & Company Distiller’s Art
Caol Ila 1984 32 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
50.9% abv, $259.
Amber/9-carat gold color; ideal clarity. The sea breeze, sea shell, and anchovy-like frontline aromas are keenly salty, brisk, and iodine-like; later sniffs after more time in the glass discover creosote, olive brine, and smoked fish aromas that come to define the bouquet. Entry is emblematic Caol Ila, in that, there’s an early rush of peat-reek, then the malted grain takes charge in a drying out process that is the entry highlight; midpalate shows more cookie batter, almond-like, black tea/Lapsang Suchong flavors that eclipse the sea salt and peatiness by the time that the finish begins its highly astringent journey into the throat. I found this Caol Ila immensely satisfying due to its build-up to the aftertaste, which is A1 in quality.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

Hunter Laing & Company Distiller’s Art
Craigellachie 1995 20 Year Old Sherry Single Malt Scotch Whisky
50.4% abv, $94.
The deep chestnut/bay color is dazzling, as is the purity. First nosings detect not-so-subtle aromas of bacon fat, pork rind, brown butter, caramelized onion, and prickly spirit; next wave of inhalations find a more composed aroma as the spirit quiets down, allowing the oak influence to emerge, in particular, vanilla bean, clove, allspice, and hard cheese. Entry is very cheese-like, sappy, spicy (vanilla extract, nutmeg), and honeyed as the sherry cask imprint gains in strength and influence; midpalate is (Mexican) molé sauce-like, cocoa bean-like, chocolatey, lightly toasted, praline-like, with a hint of marzipan. Concludes medium long, satiny in texture but neither creamy nor viscous, nutty, toasty, bread-like, and winey from the sherry cask. Like most malts from this distillery, I have reservations about it, especially in the core, which I find a touch hollow. The sherry cask pulls it through, however, with enough superficial verve to make it worth the experience for a Speyside malt.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars3Recommended 

Hunter Laing & Company Distiller’s Art
Girvan 1990 25 Year Old Single Grain Scotch Whisky
57.1% abv, $129.
Color is jonquil/14-carat gold; sediment free clarity. First nosing passes detect animated and deep smells of sweet corn, porridge, bran flakes, and Honey Nut Cheerios cereal — a genuine grain-a-thon, at least at this point; further inhalations after more air contact discover smoked and feinty scents of plastic rope, smoked cheese (Gouda), burnt matches, rubber tires. Entry is stone dry at first, moderately toasty/roasted almost like roast pork, and grainy; at midpalate, the taste profile turns bittersweet, baked ham studded with cloves-like, meaty, and caramelized onion-like. Finish is heavily smoked like a tomato paste-based BBQ sauce, burnt/charred, but now flat-out bitter. One positive is that the lofty abv never dominates.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars3Recommended 

Hunter Laing & Company Distiller’s Art
Laphroaig 2001 15 Year Old Sherry Single Malt Scotch Whisky
57.2% abv, $192.
Old gold/amber color; perfect purity. Wow, the lactic acidity in the opening inhalations is astoundingly milk-like and creamy, rich and bountiful, grainy and batter-like; more aeration brings out a spiciness that’s peppery, semisweet, green tobacco-like, and zesty, making the latter stage nosings comforting and pleasing. Entry mirrors the second stage of nosing as the acute acidity cleanses the palate first, then provides plenty of tangy flavors, including smoked salmon, kippers, tar, and charred meat; midpalate comes across a being marginally sweeter than the entry and that’s due directly to the oaky vanilla (vanillin) that headlines this stage. Aftertaste is medium long, mildly smoky, pipe tobacco-like, pork rind-like, bacony. A vivacious Laphroaig that is at its apex right now.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

Distillers-Art-Macallan-23YHunter Laing & Company Distiller’s Art
Macallan 1993 23 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
54.5% abv, $991.
Topaz/sepia color is sediment free and pristine. There’s a burnt toast with marmalade aspect of the initial whiff that I like, but then traces of dried orange peel, kiwi, and custard round out the frontline inhalations in typical Macallan style; secondary sniffs showcase the 54.5% abv in a smoldering campfire manner and the later inhalations unearth honey, brown butter, brown sugar, and caramel. Entry is sumptuous, delicately sweet, sturdy, oily, creamy in texture, sherried, and tasty; midpalate reflects the entry findings and throws in madeira cake, black raisins, candied apple, maple syrup, and black pepper. Finishes as lavish and robust as it started at entry, flashing luscious flavors of linseed oil, cocoa, espresso, hot chocolate, candied almond. I know it’s pricey but, man, what a lovely Mac.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars-5Highest Recommendation  

Distillers-Art-North-BritisHunter Laing & Company Distiller’s Art
North British 1996 19 Year Old Single Grain Scotch Whisky
53.4% abv, $105.
Greenish/straw yellow/flax-like color; unblemished purity. This single grain opening aroma is tropical fruit-like (guava, papaya), gently sweet, a touch toasted, and honeyed; with more aeration the tropical fruit turns to orchard fruit, especially peach and pear, along with a bit of sulphur, fireworks, and cordite. Entry is steely/flinty, stone-like, earthy, espresso-like, maple-like, and sappy, as the fruit components disappear in favor of cereal and wood influences. Aftertaste is beany, semidry, grainy, brown rice-like, pleasantly silky in texture. A solid entry into the growing single grain Scotch subcategory.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

Editor’s note on Johnnie Walker Green Label: This beloved JW expression was inexplicably discontinued globally in 2012, leaving many whisky veterans asking, “WhatTheF?” After absorbing considerable heat from worldwide customers and the media, Diageo decided to resuscitate Green in 2016, maintaining that the recipe of malt whiskies from various distilleries of Scotland (Talisker, Caol Ila, Craggenmore, and Linkwood) was the same as in the original expression. Jeeeeeezzz.

Johnnie-Walker-Green-LabelJohnnie Walker Green Label Aged 15 Years
Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
43% abv, $65.
The amber color is bright under the examination lamp and there is no sediment seen; flawless purity and very oily — which I like very much. I have always admired the moderately smoky, salty aroma (that’s the Talisker and Caol Ila) of JW Green yet this version seems a little sweeter and maltier than the previous incarnation, which makes me wonder if there’s more Speyside (Linkwood and Cragganmore) malt included in the recipe than in the earlier expression; later inhalations reinforce the findings of first whiffs as the second wave showcases a honeyed sweetness that dominates the bouquet. Entry is sublimely oily in the mouth, giving structure and a sturdy core to the flavor profile right off the crack of the bat; midpalate features a multitude of taste offerings, from pine to light peatiness to cookie batter to marzipan to dried apricot to cigar box. Concludes full-bodied, creamy in the throat, decided sweet with a savory, full-throated accent of Speyside. Aside from the discontinued JW Gold 18 (Five Stars), my favorite Johnnie Walker.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars-5Highest Recommendation 

Johnnie Walker Select Casks Aged 10 Years
Blended Scotch Whisky Rye Cask Finish
46% abv, $45.
Deep amber/topaz color; excellent clarity. There’s a dry-as-stone grain/cereal scent in the first whiffs that I find alluring, if one dimensional; later inhalations after more air contact attempt to round out the aroma by adding delicate touches of banana, bran and muesli but, overall, I find the mildly pleasant bouquet not as compelling as, say, Johnnie Walker Black. Entry offers nicely structured flavors of sweetened breakfast cereal, malted milk, allspice and meringue; midpalate accurately reflects the entry impressions, throwing in an oaky/resiny aspect, which helps to deepen the texture. Aftertaste is polite, pleasant.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars3Recommended 

Kilchoman Machir Bay
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
46% abv, $60.
Flax/straw yellow color; can see oils swirling in the core, which is sediment free. Upfront, I detect strong and defined notes of dried bay leaf, seaweed, cabbage, starch, and dry stone — it’s a bone dry, herbal, vegetal aroma pointing to a maritime location on Islay; secondary whiffs pick up sandy beach, arid calcareous soil/limestone, hemp/rope, textile fiber, shellfish. Entry is piquant, intensely nutty, slightly prickly, with tastes of dill, brine, pickles, almond paste, sea salt, and it’s so acidic that it cleanses the palate; midpalate highlights the salinity, dill and almond in a wonderful display of melded flavors that lead into the finish, which is medium long, vegetal, ultra-clean, tight, and efficiently delicious. This whisky has no rough edges or wasted traits or twists and turns. A nimble, compact Islay malt that’s economically forward and seaside-splendid.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

Kilchoman Sanaig
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
46% abv, $75.
Bright dusty amber color; impeccably pure. Wow, this opening aroma offers deep layers of caramelized onion, sautéed mushrooms, fungi, forest floor, oloroso sherry, toast bread, and lead pencil; after a few more minutes of air contact, the bouquet reveals hints of salted caramel, saltwater taffy, textile fiber, and walnut — this is a seriously multilayered maritime bouquet. Entry is, like the bouquet, rich, winey, sherried, toasted, lightly salted, and composed; midpalate reflects the entry findings, throwing in traces of salted fish, campfire smoke that you can taste, charred meat, pork rind, bacon fat. Aftertaste is lush in texture, deeply oily, and is tightly wound, honeyed, and gently sweet and salty.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars-5Highest Recommendation 

Kilchoman Sauternes Cask Matured
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
50% abv, $120.
Limited release in September 2016 of 6,000 bottles. Beautiful ginger/fawn color; unblemished clarity. The initial nosing passes pick up delectable fragrances of milk chocolate, creamery butter, lightly spiced and mature white wine, and cigar tobacco; secondary inhalations encounter almond paste/nougat, candy bar, brown sugar, and dried fruits like dates, prunes, and raisins. Entry is stony/flinty dry at first, then the flavor profile expands to include black tea with honey, marmalade, candied fruits (pineapple, apricot); midpalate stays the course on the dried fruits and marmalade as the sauternes cask impact comes to fruition. Concludes medium long in the throat, delicately fruity/winey, with whispers of malted barley, bran, muesli, and honey wheat bread. A lovely Islay malt by any measure and the 50% abv never is an issue.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars4Highly Recommended

Kilchoman 100% Islay
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
50% abv, $100.
Very pale tarnished silver/manzanilla sherry yellow; perfectly clean. This Kilchoman aroma offers rubber pencil eraser, electric cables, soft barley malt, and snack cracker scents in the opening whiffs that are understated; later sniffs detect delicate fragrances of sandy beach, sea breeze, beeswax. Entry is more assertive than the laid-back aroma, highlighting defined tastes of pickle brine, lightly peated malted barley, smoked salmon, toasted marshmallow; midpalate mirrors the entry, adding gently sweet flavors of malted milk and Horlicks. Ends on a sweet note that’s lightly toasted and toffee-like.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars3Recommended 

Lagavulin-8-Year-OldLagavulin Limited Edition Aged 8 Years
Single Malt Scotch Whisky 200th Anniversary Edition
48% abv, $70.
The color is pale ecru/bisque/champagne and is pristinely clean. The heavenly peatiness comes alive in the aromatic and carbolic specter first as Band-Aid, iodine, and hospital corridor then it morphs into campfire smoke, kippers, dried seaweed, and earthy moss fragrances that could only hail from Islay; the aroma ramps up with more aeration as the profile turns more focused on dill, fennel, pickle brine, and sea salt smells. Entry mirrors the bouquet as the flavor profile goes a notch sweeter, more buttermilk biscuit batter-like, toasty, bacon-like, peppery, and salty; midpalate provides the taste buds with an animated peat-reek banquet that’s on the sweeter side of the dryness/sweetness scale, with traces of clover honey and dark caramel that extend deep into the lovely, gently smoky finish. The youthful vigor of this tangy Lagavulin is what makes it so pleasing.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

LochLomond_Inchmurrin-MadeiLoch Lomond Whiskies Inchmurrin
Single Malt Scotch Whisky Madeira Wood Finish
46% abv, $79.99.
Brilliant new copper/cinnamon color; excellent purity. I like this opening aroma that’s assertive, deeply malty, and a little bit winey, with touches of walnut, pineapple, kiwi, and lime; following more air contact, the bouquet remains vibrant, juicy, fruity, and malty, showing off delicate hints of poppy seed, black pepper, linseed oil. Entry is richly textured, bittersweet like pralines, jammy, honeyed, dense in its maltiness, and wonderfully winey; midpalate reflects all the entry impressions, solidifying them within the volume of the satiny texture. Finishes as lusciously as it began at entry, creamy, oily, pruny, fruitcake-like, nutty, and honeyed. A phenomenally delicious malt whisky.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars-5Highest Recommendation  

Loch Lomond Whiskies
Single Grain Scotch Whisky
46% abv, $32.99.
Bright corn yellow/marigold color; flawless purity. Opening smells are easy, friendly, cereal-like, and almost like wheat snack crackers plus there’s a citrusy quality that’s almost grapefruit-like; further time in the glass allows the aroma to develop a bit more, giving off fresh, uncomplicated fragrances of mown grass, wheat field, citrus grove, flint, dry stones, arid desert, sage, cucumber. Entry is youthful, simple, grainy sweet, and like sweetened breakfast cereal; midpalate echoes the entry, as the easy-as-Sunday morning character is pleasingly friendly, grainy, straightforward, and inviting. Finishes medium long, gently sweet.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars3Recommended 

Oban Little Bay
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
43% abv, $75.
The unblemished purity is showcased by the richness of the bronze color; a very pretty malt. First nosings detect a smattering of marine saltiness that is almost smoky but eventually is more like salted caramel; secondary passes after more aeration discover sea breeze, sweet grain, malted milk, root beer, and oaky sawdust. Entry is succulent, ripe, fruity, candy shop-like in its toffee leaning; midpalate highlights the sweet maltiness that’s accented by a controlled saline aspect that carries the flavor profile deep into the roasted meat-like finish that flashes a touch of tomato paste. My favorite Oban right now.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

Tamdhu 10 Year Old Sherry Cask
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
43% abv, $68.
The sherry cask influence is immediately seen in the topaz/sepia color; flawless purity. Right off the crack of the aromatic bat I get black tea, chalky aromas that are dry and earthy, subtly spiced and herbaceous; with more air contact, the aroma evolves into a bouquet that’s peppery, fruity (pomegranate, star fruit), and herbal (sassafras, coriander), with a background note of old saddle leather. Entry is lush in texture, slightly smoky, grainy/cereal-like, and intense with jammy fruit flavors, especially quince and gooseberry; midpalate ratchets up the spice element (coriander and black pepper), as the taste profile remains fruity but turns perceptibly drier, more bitter and more acidic as the finish sees all flavor components merge into a singular taste that’s bittersweet, resiny, maple-like. Really nice.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

Tamdhu Batch Strength (Batch 001)
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
58.8% abv, $90.
Bright amber/sorrel color; pristine clarity. This is a lovely opening aroma that’s all about inland single malt that is delightfully grainy, toffee-like, candied, cinnamon bun-like, toasty/roasted, BBQ sauce-like, pork roast with pineapple-like, and, most charming of all, accessible; after more aeration, traces of dried flowers (violet, jasmine) and dried fruits (pear, black plum) come into play and mingle with the cereal grain richness, making me wonder why this distillery isn’t better known in the US; this elegant bouquet is so well integrated the elevated abv isn’t a factor in the least. The entry ripples with nuanced undertones of spirit, which never overshadow the tastes of raisins, prunes, stewed apple, dried apricot, winter holiday fruitcake, candied walnut, and honey; midpalate echoes the entry, but here the lofty abv makes itself known a bit more by providing a soothing campfire warmth that extends through the luscious aftertaste. A malt whisky experience that builds with time in the glass to a stunning crescendo in the finish. An exceptional value, considering the quality.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars-5Highest Recommendation  

The Exceptional by Sutcliffe & Son
Blended Grain Scotch Whisky
43% abv, $90.
Straw yellow color; impeccably clean and pure. First nosing passes detect grain husk/chaff, dried hops, unsweetened breakfast cereal, and spice cake; secondary inhalations after more air contact, confront surprisingly underdeveloped fragrances of baking spice (allspice, especially), cornmeal, and unsalted snack cracker. Entry is pleasantly grainy, dry, acidic, cleansing, but overall lacking in memorable flavor character and depth; midpalate point turns up the volume on the flavor profile by expanding its boundaries with keenly dynamic tastes of Graham cracker, toasted almond, and linseed oil. Finishes nicely in a slightly astringent manner that maintains the whisky’s freshness factor. Recommended on the basis of the solid midpalate and aftertaste.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars3Recommended

The Exclusive Malts 2007 Islay 8 Years Old
Single Malt Scotch Whisky Cask #1603
57.1% abv, $150.
Light, pale flax/chardonnay color; excellent clarity. Oh, I like the tangy, keenly peppery, medicine chest-like, sea breeze-in-your-face opening scents that could only originate from one place in the world — Islay; further on down the sniffing line, following more air contact, the aroma detonates in heady waves of bonfire, Lapsang Suchong, creosote, cigarette ashes, and bog myrtle. Entry echoes the latter stage bouquet in terms of the depth of tanginess and brininess, as the zesty flavor profile bursts with saltine cracker, seaweed, shellfish, smoked fish, and green tobacco tastes; midpalate goes in a decidedly sweeter direction than the entry and this unexpected development adds to the overall complexity of this fathomless malt. Aftertaste shines brightly with sweetened black tea, toasted honey wheat bread flavors that are smoky and full of seaside character. What makes this Islay malt so sizzling is the youthfulness that pushes forward the beguiling fragrances and flavors. Do what you have to do to find it.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars-5Highest Recommendation 

The Exclusive Malts Blend 1980 35 Years Old
Blended Scotch Whisky
46% abv, $190.
Very pretty, deep copper, burnt orange color; ideal purity. I pick up mature, men’s club, library-like aromas that speak to me of old leather bound books, oatmeal with honey, pipe tobacco, sweetened breakfast cereal, black raisins, and toasted bread; secondary inhalations add notes of treacle, praline, hazel nut, and marzipan. Entry is round, supple in texture, sherried, pruny sweet, and roasted; midpalate features most of the sweet, maple-like flavors that are viscously creamy in texture, lightly smoked, and deeply caramelized. Finishes long, thick, woody, candied, sherried, and stately. For those whisky lovers who like fat, unctuous whisky, this is a dandy and a clear recommendation. I, however,   prefer my blends to show a bit more dexterity.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars3Recommended 

The Macallan Edition No. 2
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
45.2% abv, $100.
Stunningly pretty burnt sienna/bronze color; flawlessly pure. Oh man, there’s oloroso sherry and honey written all over the very first aromatics, along with crème caramel, English toffee, and baked ham studded with cloves; secondary whiffs after more air contact discover delicate scents of dried tropical fruits (pineapple, banana), chestnut puree, cigar box, and pipe tobacco. Entry is surprisingly forward with astringent and trimmed flavors of oaky resins, cinnamon, and green tobacco; midpalate echoes the entry impressions as the flavor profile remains leaner than the aroma had implied it would be yet succulent all the same. Aftertaste sums up the experience nicely by promoting the deftness of the dried tropical fruits laced with dense spicy oak and black pepper. Not the robust Macallan of the Sherry series or even to some extent the Fine Oak series, but a nimble, intensely spiced Mac whose elegance wins the day and the Four Stars.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

Tullibardine 500 Sherry Finish
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
43% abv, $65.
Color is fawn/nut brown; excellent purity. First nosing passes pick up dry, but faint scents of malted barley, beeswax, parchment, manila envelope, sesame seed; later inhalations following more time in the glass detect a strengthening of the aromatics that are now showcasing unsweetened breakfast cereal, bread dough, yeast, and unsalted snack crackers. Entry is desert dry, bitter, kernel-like, woody/oaky, tart, yet generously textured; midpalate stage features dry flavors, headlined by malted barley, just-baked multi-grain bread, boiled pork, gravy. Aftertaste is multilayered, long, complex, grainy, biscuity, and divinely rich and buttery. At first, I didn’t think that I’d like it as much as I ended up liking it. It grows in the glass but the key to this malt is the dazzling, enveloping texture.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

2016 Diageo Special Releases Collection

 Auchroisk 25 Years Old/Distilled 1990
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
51.2% abv, $450.
Attractive straw yellow color; sediment free appearance. First inhalations don’t pick up a great deal of aroma, except for candle wax and linseed oil; secondary whiffs after more air contact detect reluctant scents of egg shell, dried flowers, sesame seed, white flour dinner buns, and newly tanned leather. Entry is measured, light-weight, gently sweet and biscuit-like, lightly honeyed, and floral; midpalate echoes the entry impressions, throwing in quicksilver tastes of heather honey, sugar cookie, oaky vanillin. Finishes pleasantly sweet, slightly tangy, and showing a bit of lemon drop at the very end.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars3Recommended

Brora 38 Years Old/Distilled 1977
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
48.6% abv, $2,200.
Bright amber/old straw color; unblemished clarity. There’s a distinctive sea breeze, gentle maritime, saltine cracker-like opening fragrance that’s delicate yet persistent in its reach; more air contact allows this bouquet to expand its boundaries to include citric acid/lemon, apple tart, sawdust. Entry features a desert dry frontline flavor that’s supported by a concentrated explosion of campfire spirit that brings with it a light smokiness that’s loaded with wood ash astringency; midpalate offers graceful, mature and settled flavors of malted milk/Horlicks, pickle brine, smoked fish, and pipe tobacco. Finishes medium long, mildly briny, and suddenly spicy with feathery notes of vanilla. Have always like the maritime malts from the closed (1983) Sutherland coast distillery.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars4Highly Recommended 


Cambus-40Cambus 40 Years Old/Distilled 1975
Single Grain Scotch Whisky
52.7% abv, $1,150.
Brilliant sepia/topaz color; impeccable clarity. Opening inhalations are all about Graham cracker, canola oil, dried herbs (thyme, bay leaf, especially), and dried apple; after more aeration time, the aroma evolves nicely into a round, grainy/fruity bouquet that’s understated, with nuances of green tobacco, fungi/mushrooms, and fennel. Entry is accentuated by a burst of fruit salad, loaded with apricot, pomegranate, and nectarine flavors that are ripe but not sweet since the acidity level remains high, keeping the taste fresh (remarkable for its age); midpalate reflects many of the entry impressions, adding a jammy component that’s strikingly marmalade-like. Finishes long, fruity, contained, still squeaky clean with acidity. One of the two or three best single grain Scotch whiskies I’ve ever tasted. Stunningly fresh and animated for its age.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars-5Highest Recommendation 

Caol Ila 15 Years Old/Distilled 2000
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
61.5% abv, $140.
Fino sherry color of straw/jonquil; perfect purity. The soft smokiness is barely perceptible, but it’s positively present in the form of cigar box and cedar/pine forest aromas that highlight the barrel resins and the salty air of Islay; the aroma doesn’t grow all that much with additional aeration time and that’s disappointing. Entry is sturdily oily and viscous, giving off flavors of saltwater taffy, salted caramel, and buttermilk biscuit; midpalate remains as rich as the entry findings and goes a bit further with the delicately smoked malt, creating a toasted marshmallow-like flavor that extends deep into the aftertaste. A handsome Islay malt that’s succulent and lip-smacking.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars4Highly Recommended

CragganmoreCragganmore Single Malt Scotch Whisky
55.7% abv, $600.
Vividly gold, old sauternes-like color; unblemished clarity. Normally one of the more refined and floral Speyside aromas, this dried fruit-like opening fragrance is elegant and accented with sweetened breakfast cereal, dried banana, and slivered almond; secondary inhalations following more aeration bring into focus a multilayered bouquet, featuring wood chips, sawdust, cherry wood, marzipan, nougat and coconut candy bar — a study in aromatic understatement and majesty. Entry is tightly wound, unexpectedly prickly, fruity to the point of being mildly ambrosial, and campfire warm and all of these factors provide a robust flavor ride that’s outstanding and vibrant; midpalate ups the ante by highlighting the spirity (55.7%) embers-like warmth that comes off charred, woody and therefore sweet and caramelized. Finishes long, toasty/roasted, malted milk sweet, and luscious.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars-5Highest Recommendation

Glenkinchie 24 Years Old/Distilled 1991
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
57.2% abv, $450.
Pretty gamboge/old yellow color; excellent purity. First sniffs encounter weighty, substantial, and dry aromas of muesli, bran flakes, saddle leather, camphor; secondary nosing passes following more aeration find deeper scents of green vegetable (asparagus, especially), baked apple, apple peel, and poppy seed. Entry is lush (a surprise from this normally bantam-weight malt), significantly sweeter than the bouquet implies, laced with tangy baking spices, such as mace and allspice; and even a touch like custard/egg white; midpalate accentuates some the entry impressions, in particular, the custard aspect which now comes off like vanilla crème brûlée. Aftertaste is medium long, moderately sweet and ripe, with toasted flavors of brown sugar and honey.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars4Highly Recommended

Lagavulin 12 Years Old 200th Anniversary
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
55.7% abv, $135.
Pale electrum/manzanilla sherry yellow color; superb clarity. This unique aroma carries Lagavulin’s aromatic thumbprint of contained smokiness, kippers, and smoldering campfire that is more astringent and sulfuric than flat-out dry, fishy, peaty or grainy; further aeration brings out nuances of green tobacco, wood ash, cigarette ash, campfire embers, seared meat, sandalwood, cherry wood pipe tobacco and rubber tire. Entry is silky to the touch, densely smoky and peat-reek-filled, sweet, oily, incredibly smooth; midpalate highlights the sweet pipe tobacco smoke to its limits and the buttery texture, which I find utterly delicious in its sumptuousness. Finishes long, fathomlessly deep, delicately smoky, and timeless. For me, Lagavulin means sophistication, class, elegance, terroir, and controlled power. This edition has it all.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars-5Highest Recommendation 

Linkwood 37 Years Old/Distilled 1978
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
50.3% abv, $900.
Maize/old gold color; impeccable purity. There’s an acute spiciness/tanginess in the first whiffs after the pour that remind me of (spicy) cinnamon and clove and (tangy) mature spirit – but there’re also traces of yeast, mash, and vegetable cooking oil; secondary passes unearth low-key scents of cereal, buttermilk biscuit, sand/glass, and greenhouse – definitely a bouquet whose calling card is subtlety. Entry is maple-like, sappy, resiny, honeyed, and vanilla cookie-like; midpalate features all of the entry impressions but now they seem punchier and more vivid in scope, offering a wide landscape of bakery shop flavors that are baked and “browned”. Aftertaste features the vanilla sugar cookie taste and pleasantly sweet character. I liked this malt but didn’t find it highly compelling
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars3Recommended 

Mannochmore 25 Years Old/Distilled 1990
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
53.4% abv, $400.
Resplendent bay/sorrel color; sediment free purity. I immediately respond to the winter holiday fruitcake aromas of candied nuts, dried pineapple, white raisins and dried apricot that abound in the initial aromatic encounter; further aeration brings out baking spices, especially nutmeg and clove, along with brown sugar, orange peel. Entry is unabashedly maple-like, honeyed, and bakery shop-driven as the taste profile focuses tightly on cinnamon bun, Danish pastry, and almond butter flavors that are oily, beany, and succulent; midpalate remains true to the entry impressions, amplifying the nuttiness and the pastry and espresso aspects. Aftertaste is medium long, intensely dried fruit-like, coconut-like and sweetly grainy. Might be too sweet, oak-influenced for some malt drinkers who prefer dry, barley-driven malts but I found it pleasant.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

Port Ellen 37 Years Old/Distilled 1978
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
55.2% abv, $4,000.
Bright amber/saffron color; flawlessly clean. I get unusual and downplayed first time fragrances of steel wool, limestone, chalky soil, dry sand, barnyard, barley kernel, toasted whole wheat bread, sycamore; later whiffs pick up a whole other menu of fragrances, including fresh ground black peppercorn, plastic ripe, hemp, menthol cigarette smoke, sage, bay leaf, angelica. Entry is decidedly sweeter than the bouquet let on, featuring delicious and dry notes of charcoal, seared meat, bacon fat, smoked sausage; midpalate highlights the meatiness as well as the wood-fire smoke that accounts for the soft imprint of sweetness at this stage. Aftertaste is eternally long, ashy, moderately smoked and meaty, and lusciously memorable.
Spirit Journal Rating:
redstars-5Highest Recommendation 

© F. Paul Pacult
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