Let’s be brutally candid, most malt whisky is very drinkable. We’re looking for the subtle nuance, hence the snobbery. What we have here is a slight perversion of the brand that I normally love, and the reason, IMHO, is to get younger whisky to market. The nose has a welcome telltale peatyness and packs a punch. The dominant flavors are a woody caramel with a citrus kick, no doubt from the American Oak barrels, which were used in a mash up with some sherry casks. The ultra light color is all natural but a bit deceiving as this is not a light scotch at all. The mouth feel is a tad thin but the finish is surprisingly lengthy and predictably edgy, probably due to its fairly young age. My guess is that the conversation at the distillery went something like this, “ so how can get this product to market without waiting 10 or more years?” . The answer is a gonzo barrel dance with some hocus pocus thrown in for good measure. For me this seems like a disappointing money grab from our normally stellar Islay friends and that makes for a weak rating of 7 on the snob scale, still drinkable, just not remarkable.
Bruichladdich Private Cask- If you have the patience and the coin, this is your new best friend. Imagine owning a few cases of bespoke whisky that would impress even a jaded connoisseur. After your purchase of the barrel, you patiently wait years until the head distiller deems your whisky ready to enjoy. This Islay powerhouse is crafted from 100% Scottish barley and is sherry cask matured which imparts a lemony sweetness with a strong spicy finish. The rich amber color and toasty vanilla notes are joined with a seaside twist, wonderful indeed. Many of Bruichladdich whiskies are unpeated, but this bad boy has a tasty whiff that came from a primordial bog, complex and very welcome. As for strength, bottled at 57%, this is weapons grade. I suggest a few drops of water to knock down the alcohol a bit. You may never get that private Gulfstream that the 1% all seem to covet, but damn few lucky folks have a cellar that holds a truly singular malt with your name on the label. Oh, and the price…. as the saying goes, “ if you have to ask …” Uniquely rated a rarefied 9 on the snob scale.
Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban- You can stop compulsively searching for the perfect scotch to share , I found it for you. Each time I’m asked for a recommendation for newbies I’m flummoxed. I dutifully ask, what do they like, yada yada…. Here is a rich and roundly mellow malt that ticks off all the boxes. The taste is lightly fruity and thick with a wonderful lengthy finish. I found some soft spices and caramel in the middle and near perfection as a dram to share. The secret here is finishing the aging in port wine casks which infused the whisky with sweetness and color . I caution you to avoid any hocus pocus (added water or ice) , as you’d spoil the poetry. Buy a pair of bottles , it won’t break the bank and you’ll be the hit of the evening, snobbishly rated a solid 7 , now share the wealth.
Highland Park Dark Origins- This Orkney Island distilling family could easily be the “ Sgt. Pepper’s” of all Scottish Whiskies . The rich auburn color and the bold toasty aroma gets you before you enjoy a taste. I found a modest amount of peat and intense fruit and vanilla in this warm dram. The double hit from first fill sherry barrels imparts the sweetness and the brassy hue . In a world awash with the same old everything, this bad boy demands attention , the black bottle alone is arresting. Finally, the multi layered finish lingered for an eterinity… “ So may I introduce to you, the act you’ve know for all these years” , HP’s Scotch Noir. Snobbishly rated a solid 9 .
We live in the golden age of Scotch Whisky expressions and choices . Now finding our new favorite is tougher than locating the secret entrance to the Batcave. This non-age statement malt is akin to a fruit salad in your glass, I found citrus and apple both in the nose and the taste, refreshing and kinda fun. This is an easy breezy dram that would be perfect for rookies and even Bourbon drinkers, slightly sweet and easy to enjoy and at 80 proof it is even gentle on the potency. The light amber color and a whisper of honey round out the experience. I found the finish was longer than a wedding that you really did not want to attend….Grab a bottle of this 7.5 rated smoothie and invite the neighbors, it’s also a bargain.
The Singleton Glendullan 15- It was the spotted trout that stopped me cold. Once I focused on the actual liquid it became an instant hit with my tasting crew with its light nose and sweet flavors. We found some citrus and honey that seemed perfect for a Speysider and man is it mellow. This truly vintage distillery mills the barley and uses a gradual process to allow the oak barrels to work their magic, and in today’s hot market, they still age for 15 years….remarkable. So I suggest you reel in a bottle or two before this small batch runs too far downstream. Its not a bargain, but seems worth every penny, no water added is my rule. Now get yourself outside and catch that fish. This keeper is a fighting 8 on my stream.
Laphroaig Quarter Cask- Way back before Elon Musk mesmerized the world with all things scientific, Mr. Wizard ruled via the television. So how would Mr. Wizard explain how this Islay wonder pours golden caramel with this wonderfully peaty nose? Given that the distillery lives on what is basically a rock outcropping, trees don’t exist and Mr. Wizard would concur that burning peat chunks is a logical solution for roasting the grain. Due to the centuries old floor malting methods, the smoke infuses the barley in a subtle and delicious way. I found the malt to be thick and briny and better balanced than a Wallenda. This is one bottle that you either love it or hate, middle ground does not exist. Some of the unique flavors are the result of the namesake smaller casks which bring in oaky nuances rather quickly. The finish is longer than a ballerina’s legs, and almost as interesting. Embrace the intensity and you’ll enjoy the warming and lingering flavor of this excellent dram. Not even Mr. Wizard’s Science can explain the art of Scottish distilling and hopefully Elon leaves the single malt world alone. Mr. Wizard and I rate this a smoldering 8 on the snob slide rule.