The Gordon & Macphail’s Bunnahabhain 8- Not even Einstein got is right every time, but he kept on working. The good folks at G&M have a groovy business model that also relied on experiments and they focus exclusively on the wood…..get your mind out of the gutter junior. I refer of course to the casks that age our favorite spirit. They contract to buy ” new make” whisky and supply the barrel that will compliment the liquid gold using some science and maybe a bit of voodoo. The methodology and experimentation rivals Einstein and while the results are not quite as spectacular, they are still special. The amber glow of this Islay announces the mellow caramel and vanilla notes with a hint of smoke. The mouth feel is super full and round with a lingering finish, rather elegant for young malt. Your famous uncle Albert would agree with the philosophy used by these people, “The Wood makes the Whisky”. Snobbishly rated an oaky 8.
Mortlach- No gentle reader, this does not translate into
“ Dead Lake” but that is a decent guess. Our noble subject
is distilled in the whisky capital of the Speyside region,
Dufftown. The sunset color and multilayered flavors are
stunning, with toffee and fruit in the forefront. I found
exotic spices mid drink and and a lingering finish which is
spot on. I’m a touch disappointed by the lack of an age
statement from this rogue distiller but the wicked good taste
and cool decanter more than make up for it. This malty
dram packs a velvet punch that I really enjoyed and
you should seek it out . It’s not readily available however
so you need to immediately form and fund a search
committee. At 86 proof, this beauty has unsinkable
character and is rated a muscular 8 on the snob scale.
Speyburn Bradan Orach- Here is a breezy Highland malt that might surprise you. With no age statement in sight, I usually navigate to another area of the whisky aisle, but this one has a sunny disposition that offers waves of vanilla and some distant spices that were terrific. There is some initial bite with a light nose but the alcohol dissipates quickly and the flavors include some lemony citrus. The relatively low proof migh tbe responsible for the smooth sailing flavors but make sure to avoid ice or water as then it would be pathetically weak. There is not a huge amount of character here, but it is a great value and I applaud the distillery for making a quality whisky at this price point. I’d hold back on the second glass until you’re back at the dock but then splash away. Rated a pedestrian 6.5.
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 .