Side by Side Single Malt Tasting – Episode #1: Laphroaig Triple Wood + Scapa 16 + Bowmore 12

scapaSometimes it’s fun to take a wee nip from several bottles of single malt one after the other to accentuate the differences between them. I’ve done it many times and it often reveals something new in a single malt I’ve tasted many times before but on its own. Today I’ve chosen randomly from my cupboard: Bowmore 12, Scapa 16 (both at 40% alcohol) and Laphroaig Triple Wood (at 48%). I thoroughly enjoyed the burt wood peatiness of the Laphroaig. I have it decanted down to a 100ml bottle now and it doesn’t pack the same peaty punch it did earlier in the bottle, but it’s still a respectable dram. The Scapa 16 has been a disappointment. I tried it at a whisky show a few years ago and couldn’t get over its smooth honey and heathery flavour, a highly unusual and delightful dram. Since I got my own bottle, though, it doesn’t seem like anything exceptional, not at all other-worldly like it did at the whisky show. I picked up the Bowmore 12 a while back because I tried it at a friend’s place one night and found it pleasantly sweet and smooth. But it too seems unremarkable now that I have my own bottle of it. I’m not sure what’s happening there, but regardless, that’s a quick summation of my take on these single malts at this moment in time. So here goes. I’ll end with the Laphroaig because I know the peat will overpower everything else.
Continue reading Side by Side Single Malt Tasting – Episode #1: Laphroaig Triple Wood + Scapa 16 + Bowmore 12

Canadian Cask of Dreams: Single Malt Review

Another bottle of single malt scotch I’ve had opened in my cupboard for about a year is the Canadian Edition of Glenfiddich’s “Cask of Dreams” from 2012. $100 in Canada for the proper 750ml bottle, 48.8% alcohol, no age statement but supposedly no less than 14 years old. Limited to 20 casks, I bought a second bottle as an investment. So in ten years it’ll be worth $150 instead $100.

The whiskey spent its final three months in new American Oak casks and it’s not difficult to taste the young wood on the nose and palate. Chew on a leaf from an oak tree and sip some strong Darjeeling tea and this what you’d get. I’m probably not selling it well with that description, but it’s not bad. It’s a fairly well-aged quality scotch. It’s just a little sharp at first. I enjoyed the new wood smell of it and a few sips of it neat, but it needs some water. I went with maybe two teaspoons.

It’s a spicy single malt, no smoke, not much earthiness, a dry unsweetened baker’s chocolate feel on the tongue, curiously pleasant because of that unusual fresh oak influence that seems to give it a long almost clove-like finish. I liked it more on the nose than the tongue. The first few drams weren’t much different than the last few drams I got from the bottle. It didn’t open up much with water or time. Maybe a little more sweeter, but not much complexity. Was it worth my $100? Nope. But I would offer it up to friends because, although it’s not great, it’s interesting. I’ll give it that.

P.S.: As with most quality single malts, I could change my mind about this one (I still have a few drams left in a small decanting bottle), but my one-year-long overall impression boils down to yes, it’s an usual scotch, pleasant enough, though not quite in the realm of spectacular for my tastes.

Arran 14 Review

I tried the Aaran 14 because Ralfy liked it. But I didn’t like it as much as he did. His review doesn’t start until around the 5:00 mark.

$63 for a 700ml bottle. It’s 46% alcohol, non-chill filtered, no added colour. All good stuff. Let’s get down to it…

Nose: Lemon-lime perfume with light malt and buttercup. No peat. Taste: Sharp flavours like lilac, lime zest, salt & vinegar chips, green apple. Finish: Still sharp though not harsh, distant oak, ripe banana (didn’t see that coming).

For my palate, this one needs at least a teaspoon of water to open up. And then it needs to sit for another ten minutes or more (it gets cloudy). It might take a while to find the right balance for the Arran 14, that is, how much water to add, how long to wait while it opens up.

My first few drams of it were unremarkable. Then one day I added a fair bit of water (maybe even two teaspoons) and took only the tiniest sips for about twenty minutes. It took a while but developed into a mild, smooth, floral single malt, not peaty, not smoky, not much wood, though warm. No big blasts of anything spectacular. No surprises in the finish, yet pleasing.

I seemed to enjoy it most with a fair splash of water, sipped as slow as possible. Although the Arran 14 is a quality malt, it’s not something I’d go out of my way for. I’ll update this post if I change my mind (it happens).

UPDATE (a few hours later): Ralfy’s most recent review happens to be for the Arran 17 and much of what he describes seems true to my experience with the Arran 14, namely that it opens up significantly with water and time. It requires patience.

If I didn’t know better, I’d say Ralfy is describing the Arran 14, the nose, the taste, the finish — almost exactly what I experienced with the 14. Although I’m not as enamoured with it as he is, I seem to appreciate it for exactly the same reasons.

Strathisla 12 Review (Old and New Version)

THE OLD STRATHISLA (Before 2013) (Written on March 31, 2014.)

strathisla_12_yearI suppose I should get around to laying down my thoughts and feelings about the rest of the single malt scotches I’ve had opened in my cupboard for the past year. I put the breaks on reviewing scotches too early because a good bottle of single malt when it’s full will often morph into a whole other beast when it’s half full and will develop even further when it’s almost all gone. A good scotch requires patience and time to open up and reveal its secrets, or in some cases lose its charm. In either case, a more accurate appraisal requires the full experience of the bottle, not just the first few drams.

Exhibit A: Strathisla 12 (in the old dark bottle) is one of the most enjoyable single malt scotches I’ve ever tasted. It’s not smoky or peaty. To my palate (and nose), it’s sweet, smooth and boggy, though I’ve heard no one else describe it as boggy. It was such a pleasure, I drank it with a touch of water just about every day after work until half the bottle was gone. That’s when it began to lose its warm smooth punch. Although it was never overly complex, what character it did have was rich, full and deep. It’s unremarkable and sharp now that it’s down to the final third of the bottle. But that first half of the bottle was one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve had drinking a single malt.

Strathisla is pleasant and easy to drink and at $48 a bottle, I’d easily choose it over the current bottlings of Lavagulin 16 and similar more prestigious single malts that sell for double the cost. It’s a shame the current bottlings of Strathisla are smaller (700ml instead of 750ml) and with less alcohol (40% instead of 43%). Get the old bottlings if you can. It may be considered a budget single malt, but it puts up a respectable fight against bottles that sell for twice as much. It’s a hidden gem. I wish I’d discovered it years ago.

I expect I’d agree with Ralfy on this one.

THE FINE PRINT. Nose: Old moist rotten wood and lilies (if any of this means anything). Palate: oily in the mouth, then creamy with honey and mature oak, black earth, smooth. Finish: a hint of spice, more warming oak and Speyside sherry smoothness, a simple but distinctly rich and satisfying long finish if you have the patience to wait for it. A splash of water rounds off any rough edges, though neither is it harsh taken neat.

THE NEW STRATHISLA (After 2013) (Written on November 23, 2014.)

Well, I picked up a bottle of the new version of Strathisla 12, exactly the same bottling reviewed by Ralfy in his video, and I’ll say this: The old Strathisla was a $100 scotch that sold for less than $50 (which I regret not buying by the case) and the new Strathisla is a $40 scotch that sells more than $50. I’d prefer a bottle of Aberfeldy 12 for $43 instead. It’s the only single malt in the same price range I’ve tasted that comes close to the old Strathisla 12. What a shame. I could change my mind when I get further down the bottle, but after the first few drams, the new Strathisla seems diluted, as simple as that, weak, thin, no body, no earth, not at all in the same class as the old Strathisla which was deep and satisfying right from the start and stayed that way for most of the bottle.