Robust Rosewater Purr: The Creative Whisky Co.’s Exclusive Malts Glen Garioch 1994 20 Year Old Single Cask, Cask Strength, Single Malt Scotch Whisky

GlenGarioch1994EM-kI have never had a full dram of the standard releases of Glen Garioch, the Founder’s Reserve, the 12 year old, etc., but I have been fortunate enough to indulge in several drams from the cask strength vintages. I remember in particular the 1991 and the 1994 and a single cask distilled in 1998 that was selected by and bottled at cask strength for Julio’s Liquors in Westborough, MA. That one was heavenly good! But they were all very good to wondrous, so the potential of this 1994 single cask had me salivating before I even opened the sample bottle…

The Whisky

Glen Garioch is one of the old ones, founded in the Eastern Highlands in 1798 near Inverurie. Its old style was that of the “smoky Highlander” (like its close neighbor, Ardmore) but the distillery now focuses on unpeated whisky – which is something you would never guess with this Exclusive Malts single cask from 1994: It hints at peat and smoke in several more or less subtle ways from many different directions. A return to the smoky Highlander style, perhaps.

As always, this Exclusive Malts bottling is unchillfiltered, unspoiled by deceptive coloration and bottled at a cask strength of 56.6% ABV after spending 20 years in a refill hogshead that (I suspect) was previously used to mature a more insistently peated whisky.

Nose

A rosewater lake dotted with islands of dark toast dripping with wildflower honey; toasted marshmallow clouds float by.

Now I walk into a shop where almonds dusted with confectionary sugar are served in waffle cones.

Open the window and a light breeze of smoky peat wafts in over the clean fur of a large sleeping cat.

I start to purr.

In a kitchen now, where apples were baking an hour ago; there is a chocolate covered cherry hidden somewhere in one of the cabinets. A young mother walks in and you can smell her infant’s hair.

Back in that confectionary shop, but, this time, warm vanilla ice cream is being sprinkled with powdered chocolate and served on charred oak staves from a dismantled cask that had previously held a peated whisky. (24/25)

Palate

Before you tasted it, you thought you would never like French toast with no butter and no syrup, but now you know you do.

Caramel being stirred over a peat fire and then poured over the maltiest of malted barleys.

Oat bread toast is fine by itself, but it is much improved with the addition of almond butter. (21/25)

Finish

A very protracted, long finish distinguished by a slow, radiating, blooming burn on the tongue that unfolds crushed almonds and oaky apples slowly, like a time-elapse flower, but suggesting nothing like a flower…

And it ends with – try to imagine this – the taste of the syrup inside a chocolate cherry, slightly peated but unsweetened. (22/25)

Overall Impressions

A very lush, satisfying whisky that combines many things I like to find in my glass and contains nothing that I don’t like. The nose is the clear winner here, but the palate, while less far-ranging and eclectic, and thus less wow-inspiring, is not a disappointment by any means. I have already made arrangements to buy a bottle of this and to have it shipped to my doorstep. (23/25)

Total points for this whisky: 90 

PS: Don’t look too closely at that illustration I used: It’s the 18 year old version of the 20 year old I’ve reviewed here that was previously released to the British market. I couldn’t find an illustration of the one I was reviewing and the label on the sample bottle was damaged.

A Feast on Spice Island: The Creative Whisky Co.’s Exclusive Malts Auchroisk 2003 11 Year Old Single Cask Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky

EM Auchroisk 2003A couple of years ago, I was fortunate to somehow get my hands (and nose and palate and throat) on a sample of an older (17 year old? 30 year old? – alas, I don’t recall!) Auchroisk that was selected and bottled for the Exclusive Malts (or Exclusive Casks?) range but, if I am not mistaken, was never shipped to U.S. shores. It was big and woody and fruity and spicy – a mouthwatering marvel of a dram. This 11 year old from Exlusive Malts’ batch 7 does not quite measure up to the loftiness of that older gem, but all the same I did really savor and enjoy this new offering from my favorite independent bottler.

The Whisky

The Auchroisk Distillery is very young as Scotch whisky goes, built in Speyside in the County of Banff in 1972 to produce whisky for Justerini & Brooks’ J&B blend. The distillery first bottled a single malt in 1978 under The Singleton name. After a few more name changes, it became known in 2008 as The Singleton of Auchroisk but is now – though very rarely – bottled simply as Auchroisk. As usual, the Malt Madness site does a great job of introducing this rarely-bottled-as-a-single-malt whisky to those coming to it for the first time:

http://www.maltmadness.com/whisky/auchroisk.html.

This particular example of Auchroisk is, like all Exclusive Malts bottlings, unchillfiltered and untarnished by artificial coloring. The cask strength ABV is 56.4%.

Nose

Ginger bread and marshmallows in a carved oak bowl beside a cup of freshly brewed black coffee. Orange and lime peels in the long green grass beside a pile of pine boards left to dry in the open air. A newly oiled old leather mitt. Lemon drops. Candied ginger. A lime ricky spilled on a zink countertop – and there is an empty jar of cinnamon over in the corner somewhere. Beside a carved crystal glass of Oloroso sherry. Oddly: A new, just-opened box of metal screws. Indeed, this is more mineral than fruity organic, but there may be some atomized persimmon in the air above this dram to round out the somewhat sharper green and orange hints of citrus. (22/25)

Palate

Big, bold, malty and spicy with a nice oily mouth feel. Brings a candied ginger burn to the tongue, softened slowly by the sherry influence. Some very dark fruit here – fresh dates above all else – stewing in glutinous marmelade, but the sweetness is unusual – the old steel and iron machine that is used to package sugar, lets say, but not the sugar itself. There’s some citrus zing as well. And the taste of chewing oak staves – or rather the staves of an oldish sherry butt – something I’ve never done, of course, but that’s what this whisky brings to mind. (23/25)

Finish

Long and more spicy than sweet, as if you’d just chewed a mouthful of candied ginger. Any potential unfolding of complexities is overwhelmed by the gingery spice, which will be a problem for some palates and not for others. (21/25)

Overall Impressions

Though I truly enjoyed this sample, I would be excited to taste this promising elixir again after several more years in cask to discover if a prolonged maturation would curb the spice a bit. Personally, this whisky is just beyond the level of spiciness I would prefer – and still, I know very well I have friends with great palates who would disagree with me on that score. Truth be told, the bold spiciness here does not hold back the coffee, citrus, persimmon, oaky, winey and metallic qualities that also distinguish this single malt. Overall, a whisky I surely would not mind having around – I would no doubt visit it often. (22/25)

Total points for this whisky: 88

Like a Master Boatwright’s Apprentice: The Classic Cask’s 1991 Bunnahabhain 22 Year Old Single Cask Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Bunny22Bunnahabhain is one of those distilleries I can usually pick out of a line-up – especially independent bottlings of it. Its juice, in those instances, typically displays a very tight, subtle structure and has a core character that is quite distinct, with hard candy, lettuce, butter, cherries, wax and nuts at play, though the emphasis on each of these elements will differ.

Bunnahabhain ages well and age most certainly makes a difference with this elixir – which is not to say that the 8 and 12 year olds out there aren’t worthy of close attention and patient savoring – they are. But the older bottlings of Bunnahabhain I’ve had have nearly all approached greatness in one way or another.

So, if every good independent’s bottling of Bunnahabhain has strong similarities to every other (which is my experience), things like structure, level of refinement, signs of good casks and good cask management – and unusual characteristics – come forward to distinguish the best from the better and the better from the good (Bunnahabhain is always at least good). Therefore, less emphasis might be given to the flavor and aroma profiles, though there will be distinguishing individualities here as well that must be noted.

The Whisky 

This is a single cask bottling of Bunnahabhain from Spirit Imports’ The Classic Cask line distilled in 1991, bottled in 2014 and reduced to an ABV of 46 percent. In appearance, it has a light golden honey color that, considering its 22 years in cask, suggests a second or third fill ex-bourbon barrel was used. Twirled in the glass, it displays multiple thin but slow viscometric rivulets. It was not chill filtered and is untainted by the duplicitous E150a caramel coloring.

Nose

Iceberg lettuce as ribbon candy; a large tab of sweet cream butter floating in a small cup of cherry juice; a refined earthiness (truffle?) over which a breeze of ozone floats like fog; pear juice and acetone spilled on a just-unpackaged flannel shirt; slices of Honey Crisp apple marinated in ‘lite’ caramel and Mott’s apple sauce on a slice of lightly toasted whole wheat sourdough bread. Mmm-mmm good… 24/25

Palate

Subtle, pleasant and warming. The oak comes through like the taste of the air in a small room where oak boards have been recently sawn – like walking into a room where oak floors have been sanded and tasting that! The sweetness is bitter and the bitterness is sweet, like biting into a sappy apple and chewing some seeds with the flesh. There’s a maltyness but it is tight and light. I suspect this juice came from a tight, secure, long-undisturbed cask – there are really very few signs of its rather advanced age. This drinks like a Speyside but has all the gustatory elements of the Bunnahabhain core. Which is an unusual thing but a good thing. 22/25

The Finish

Buttery candy with a whisper of white pepper and hot sauce that is thin and muted at first but follows through for a spicy, warming, moderately long finish. The kind of whisky that, once swallowed, causes one to pause for a long moment before speaking. 20/25

Structure and Balance

This has the tight architecture of The Exclusive Malts’ 26 year old single cask Bunnahabhain, but it is not cask strength and isn’t quite as good at balancing disparate elements. It also, like that 26 year old, lacks the mouthwatering maritime character that comes through in every distillery bottling I’ve had. The arc from nose through the palate is a good one, with consistent elements embellished by some unique differences, but interest falls off in the finish, which is notably simpler. Having said all that, let me emphasize that this is a very good whisky; I enjoyed drinking it very much. But I’ve been privileged to drink some very, very good Bunnahabhains and this falls a measure short of those. 20/25

Total points for this whisky: 86

“Tho’ much is taken, much abides” * or, Good Whisky Uncorks and Blows the Marketers Down: The Exclusive Malts’ 1987 Bunnahabhain 26 Year Old Single Cask, Cask Strength, Single Malt Scotch Whisky

FullSizeRender copy 2I’m currently reading a history of Cognac (no surprise to friends who receive my wee hour emails on the subject) and find it interesting that, as advertising began to flourish among the sellers of cognacs in the nineteen-thirties – entre les guerres, as they phrased it then; between the wars – the equation of age and quality began to be emphasized. If it’s older and was properly matured, it’s better – that was the gist of their primitive marketing message. Now, however, the entire Scotch industry, with its deluge of no-age-statement expressions bearing more and more ridiculously romanticized names, appears hell-bent to deny the equation of quality with age. Say what they will, this 26 year old Bunnahabhain contradicts those Scotch marketers and their transparent mendacities at every sip. The idea that age equals quality is as valid now as it ever was.

The Whisky

Bunnahabhain is the northernmost distillery on Islay and it’s whisky tends to be the least peated of Islay spirits (with exceptions like Caol Ila’s unpeated 14 year old or the unpeated Bruichladdichs). But I don’t need to tell my readers these basics.

This particular bottling of Bunnahabhain juice was distilled in 1987, matured exclusively in a what I adjudge to be a second or third fill ex-bourbon hogshead, and bottled at an ABV of 47.8% in March of 2014. This is a single cask, cast strength whisky, unchillfiltered and unadulterated with the mendacious E150a coloring. This single cask produced only 297 bottles (but seek and you shall find: it’s still out there).

Appearance and Nose

The color in the glass is honey, or light amber, with no rufous blush of sherry or other wine aging or finishing evident. The relative intensity of the color suggests a second fill or (considering its 26 years in cask) perhaps a third fill ex-bourbon hogshead. The legs are thin but numerous and languid. Any whisky drinker would be seduced to follow this potion farther on…

On the nose, right up front, I get almond oil in a new rubber boot (peat?); ethereal wax, warm caramel, yesterday’s cotton candy, a creamsicle fortified with a wash of rum; white and pink Necco wafers in an old tobacco pouch; patchouli dripped on whole wheat toast; light truffle oil mixed with a smidgeon of shellac poured into a woven basket that recently held raspberries and lemons; also, as imagination whirls in this sedating mist, the smell of nylon stockings on a freshly bathed and well turned leg (smooth as silk it is, and not hirsute as that waft of patchouli might suggest); birch bark or – no, not that – balsa and cedar woods carved into a bowl that contains a mix of wet autumn leaves, garden soil, kandy korn, corn chips, salted caramels and a few maple sugar candies. And nutmeg.

This is the olfactory version of a gourmet meal (rubber boot and all!), rich without being overly pungent, enticing, tempting, drawing you forward. It’s all very subtle, but the mix of ethereal and earthly, of candied and organic and epicurean pleasures all in a keen yet beguiling balance of unlikely combinations, each element playing off the next, none overwhelming the others – yes, this is how a good whisky is supposed to greet the olfactory senses – and I like it! 23/25

Palate

Sensual, silky mouth feel. The honey, nutmeg, salted caramels and almonds find taste buds to connect to all over the top of the tongue, and then this nutty, sweet wash brings the toast and light truffle oil up and, slowly, a milder, lightly smoked paprika, which remains the dominant spice. The citrus and raspberries are still there, but are far more subtle now. While not quite as complex as the nose, this is serious pleasure. 22/25

The Finish

The paprika spice comes forward and it is the element of the finish that endures and lasts for several minutes, but it doesn’t completely overwhelm the honey-vanilla-truffle-oil sweet earthiness of this elixir. The creamsicle is still there, too, along with what seems to be a bit of unripe peach. As the spice grows in intensity, the experience slowly transforms from wet to dry and from sweet to savory. This is very good stuff. 22/25

Structure and Balance

The structure here, as with so many bottlings from Exclusive Malts, is a tight architecture of disparate but counterbalancing elements. Over the years of drinking whiskeys from this very consistent independent bottler, I’ve really grown to enjoy the challenge that each of their single cask tonics presents. Because the structure is so tight (is this the cut? the attention to and control over maturation? cask selection? all of these?), these whiskeys force the connoisseur – one who takes the time to savor and unfold his or her experience – to be patient, to give the whisky the time it requires to be properly and fully understood. This particular whisky is no different and it rewarded my patient parsing of its promise with one curiosity and delight after another.

Bunnahabhain’s own distillery bottlings are excellent, but their structure is more loose and their sweetness not quite as well balanced (as this Exclusive Malts bottling is balanced despite being an unblended product of a single cask) with other more drying and savory elements. However, I must say, the maritime characteristics are more prominent in the exquisite 18 year old distillery offering. And while I can’t say for sure if this Exclusive Malt single cask is the best Bunnahabhain I’ve ever drunk – one reason being that my memory of the distillery’s own 25 year old, which I only had once, is, though glowing and positive, vague – it very well might be. It is certainly one of the three or four best bottlings from this distillery I have ever had. 23/25

Total points for this whisky: 90

300_tennyson* This line in my title is taken from a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson, which you can read in its entirety here: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/174659

Intoxicating Harmony: The Creative Whisky Co.’s The Exclusive Blend 21 Year Old Blended Scotch Whisky

IMG_20140606_010903_854~2All of the top Scotch whisky brands, at both entry level and prestige pricing, are blends. And blends account for at least 90% of sales in the entire Scotch whisky industry. You’ve already been told this a thousand times by Scotch ambassadors and reps, typically during tastings at which blended Scotches are nowhere in sight – because blends aren’t “unique” like single malts, and blends are old fashion, a drink for “squares,” for stodgy old bankers, neo-conservative ideologues, aspiring corner office mangers or other well-dressed capitalists. And blends are “light” and “smooth” and “round” and thus, surely, less manly and freethinking than the craggy potencies of our dear monadic single malts.

The exceptions to this rule among independent bottlers would include Meadowside Blending, whose ambassadors whet your whistle with a splash of their appealing Royal Thistle blend before hunkering down to more serious fare with their excellent but pricey The Maltman line, and the subject of this review: The Exclusive Blend 21 Year Old from The Creative Whisky Co., best known in this country for its consistently exceptional The Exclusive Malts line of single cask, cask strength single malt Scotch whiskies. In this case, The Exclusive Blend is not trotted out as an appetizer to prepare the palate for the “real” (i.e., the single malt) entrées; rather, at both Exclusive Malts tastings I’ve attended, The Exclusive Blend was offered as an equal to the other bottles in the line – which is, I contend, as it should be.

The Whisky

This blended Scotch whisky consists of 80% malt whiskies and 20% grain, all of them distilled in 1991 and matured in oak ex-sherry casks for 21 years. It has been bottled with an ABV of 46%, is un-chill-filtered and untainted by the mendacious E150a caramel coloring. I have searched extensively to discover the constituent whiskies making up this blend, but I can find nothing on the subject. Still, why not hazard a guess? I suspect this is made up primarily, if not exclusively, of Speyside malts. My first guess would be Tormore, with perhaps some Braeval or Glen Moray, maybe a spoonful of Mortlach and just a dropper of Auchroisk for spice. Maybe some Longmorn or Glenlivet for dressing? If there is a non-Speyside whisky involved, I’ll conjecture that it may be Clynelish – a northern Highland whisky just across the Moray Firth from Speyside. I could be completely wrong about all of this, of course, and I probably am…

The Nose

First impression: I’m getting whiffs of the classic Speyside battle between solvent and pear drop aromas, but the pear drops are winning. There’s a sweet but dry maltiness that I like. Dried apple, dried pear, banana chips, all floating in a glass of cream soda. There is also a breeze of oaky, nutty rancio coming from this elixir’s long stay in an ex-sherry cask – which I suspect, based on the golden amber hue, was neither a first fill nor a nearly exhausted refill butte, but rather something that still had much, but not too much, to offer the whisky inside it. In any case, the longer you keep your nose over the glass, the more prominent the influence of the wine appears to be. Not that this is by any means a so-called sherry bomb – it isn’t. The sherry is one constituent aroma, not a bully pushing other fragrances back. There is also just a hint of sulfur here – I’m not Jim Murray, so that doesn’t even begin to blemish this whisky for me – and also a very, very slight, ghostly presence of smoke that makes me suspect there could be, just maybe, perhaps, more than a dribble of Craigellachie (yup, that’s another Speyside malt) blended into the mix here. (23/25)

The Palate

There’s a malty sugary center to this, as in many Speysides, but it is modified in one direction here by a cool candy apple caramel creaminess and in another direction by a mild but fulsome spice – a mix of nutmeg, black pepper, hot pepper and oaky tannins that slowly but surely grows in prominence. This is all very nicely balanced with dried apricots, Brazil nuts and tamarind, giving every part of the tongue a flavor partner to dance with. I wish this potion were a bit thicker and creamier, but perhaps that’s because some of the flavors here remind me of thicker, creamier malts – Glencadam, for example (an eastern Highland malt that shares some characteristics with Speyside). (22/25)

The Finish

There are two ways to look at this. If you swallow this blend soon after pouring it past your lips, the mild but fulsome spice broadens and intensifies after you’ve swallowed, so you get to taste the malty nutty caramel cream before the spice overwhelms it. If you allow the whisky to linger on the tongue for very long, however – as long, say, as a whisky blogger who is tasting for review and thus savoring the savory juice a bit longer than your average anorak might – the spice and heat soon become more prominent than the other flavors and an important element of the finish is cut short. But I don’t want to overemphasize this. The spice and heat here are more than tolerable – they are elemental and are long and lingering enough to allow some discrimination among the flavors of the spice itself. And, in the end, the overall effect is very warming, which to me is essential. (21/25)

Balance/Structure

This tastes more like single malt than any other blend I’ve ever tasted, including vatted malts. Every element is so well integrated with every other – perhaps because they all come from the same region of Scotland? a region called Speyside? if that is even a little true? – that you spend your time with it savoring the whole rather than tripping over the parts. And though the finish gave me a little trouble due to the way I drink whisky – very slowly, savoring every sip – I think the seamless integration of the several elements that went into making this blend is evidence of real mastery of the blender’s art. If, like me, your diurnal dram is nearly always – as in 99.5% of the time – a single malt Scotch whisky, this 21 year old Exclusive Blend may blow your mind; short of that, it will definitely change your mind about a huge portion of the Scotch whisky universe you thought might never appeal to you. This is truly a blend for the single malt connoisseur. (24/25)

Total points for this whisky: 90

IMG_20140605_235651_163~2~2
If you’re already a fan of this blend or of other whiskies in The Exclusive Malts line, feast your eyes on this photo to the left, a little glimpse into the very near future… Many thanks to Sam Filmus at ImpEx Beverages.


Harmonious blending…

Whisky Para Torcedores: The Exclusive Malts 2005 Laphroaig 8 Year Old Single Cask, Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky

EM_Laphroaig_8The best Islay whisky I’ve ever drunk – thanks to Bikram at Norfolk Wine & Spirits – was the 25 year old cask strength Laphroaig distillery bottling released in 2011. Truly magnificent. The Ardbeg Day, a cask strength Caol Ila and a couple of Lagavulins came close, but all fell short of the experience of that stunningly complex, perfectly balanced Laphroaig 25.

While the drink before me doesn’t approach that experience, that doesn’t mean it isn’t excellent. It is, and at less than one-fifth the price of that magnificent 25.

I am reviewing a sample of a Laphroaig from The Creative Whisky Co.’s line of single cask, cask strength bottlings called The Exclusive Malts. I have tried and purchased and enjoyed many of these releases and I have never, not once, been disappointed. Admittedly, I’ve never had their Dailuaine 21 that reviewers exhibit such a lack of enthusiasm for, but everything I have had has been at least very good and typically, like tonight’s sample, excellent. The Creative Whisky Co. is certainly one of the best independents out there.

The Whisky

It’s funny what one can achieve with a phrase. I could say this potion is the color of flat Narragansett beer – or, rather, the color of Listerine Original – and you probably wouldn’t be very impressed. If I changed my perspective, however, and wrote that this whisky is the color of young gold, a poetic but meaningless phrase, you would probably be somewhat more impressed. Be that as it may, all three phrases describe the same color and that is the color of this whisky.

As with all of the single malt Scotch whiskies in The Exclusive Malts’ line, this is non-chill-filtered, untainted by E150, drawn from a single cask and bottled at cask strength – in this case, an ABV of 55.9%. It was distilled in March 2005 and bottled September 2013 at 8 years old from Cask # 484, one of 229 bottles.

At such a high ABV, it is no surprise that this liquor coats the glass like glue, nor that the rivuleting legs, once they begin, descend at a dreamy, languorous pace. Very promising. Let’s see…

Nose

This is young Laphroaig and, to some extent, that is exactly what it smells like. You have that hot macadam peat smokiness and salt, wet clove and seaweed, wood polish and iodine – scents you would very likely pick up if it were the distillery’s own cask strength 10 year old under your nose. At the same time, however, this is quite different. Though of a high ABV, it doesn’t stab the sinus passages. The malt itself is very fresh and forward and there is an allspice sparkle crackling under the clove. As in most Laphroaigs, there is very little sweetness apparent in the aroma, but here there is unripe banana, a restrained but fructose-like borderline sweetness. The oak of the ex-bourbon hogshead makes its olfactory appearance as a pile of oak sawdust. Think campfire on the beach with a woman wearing some kind of exotic musk perfume and rolling her own cigarette from a fresh pack of tobacco. Add a bit of water – not too much – and you get musky apples behind a beachfront tobacconist shop as the proprietor polishes her oak cabinets inside. This whisky’s youth is manifest in a bold, unflinching freshness that is not marred by even a breath of immature spiritiness. Full and exciting, especially undiluted. (22/25)

Palete

Wow! This is like rolling liquefied Cuban cigar smoke around in your mouth – so bold and yet so smoky and round! This is a wholly new expression of peat in my experience. There’s a nice oily body that seduces you to keep at it and, when you do, you get the sense that you might – and I mean this in the most positive sense possible – that you might be chewing salted leather. Tanned with tobacco and tar oil. Still, this is not without a sweeter element; it isn’t banana anymore – mango or some other exotic fruit perhaps. Add a dropper of water and the malt lifts its head above the tobacco and tar oil and offers you a warm, orange-zested cookie. Take it! (23/25)

Finish

All’s well that ends well, as the poet wrote, and to end well here I suggest you add a bit of water to this fearsome elixir. Like nearly all Laphroaigs – even the 40% ABV 10 year old – this can be a bit hot on the throat. Add a dollop of water to this expression, however – just enough to bring it down to, say, an ABV in the high 40s/low 50s – and the heat becomes sufficiently tamed to permit full appreciation of the integration of several elements that have appeared before: Peat, certainly, and malt and salt, but now everything is mellower, warmer, sweeter, even fruitier. The concluding spice mix is warm clove and nutmeg. The burn, with water, is much more subtle, and it’s long and warm and, as a final surprise, it leaves you with something butter-pastry-like on the tongue. I wasn’t expecting that at all. (22/25)

Balance/Structure

I enjoyed – savored, even – every aspect of this whisky. And if I weren’t paying such close attention I’d say it all hung together quite well. However, I did pay close attention and some structural problems, one in particular, became apparent between the nose, palate and finish. There was no smooth arc from one aspect to the other because – and this was its primary and only significant problem – some parts of the experience were better with water (especially the finish) and others better without it. A gobbet of water diminished the nose but improved the finish. As much as I liked this whisky, that’s an imbalance. Still, my advice to you, if you generally like Laphroaig releases, or like powerful but rich whisky experiences, is that you find this, buy it, share it with friends and savor it. Who knows – one of you may find the magic number of water drops per dram that can snap it all together like Arthur Ganson’s Little Yellow Chair. (21/25)

Total points for this whisky: 88

Check it out: http://www.impexbev.com/exclusive-malts

Little Yellow Chair: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fFG-Lk9c2CI

Thanks to ImpEx Beverages and to Katia – and to Bikram at Norfolk Wine & Spirits – for the samples.

Torc

A Dent in the Maybach Landaulet: The Exclusive Malts’ 2000 Dalmore 13 Year Old Single Cask, Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky

IMG_20140501_240009_786~2I’m not a big fan of The Dalmore with their excessive pricing of E150-laced, chill-filtered, low ABV, shamelessly over-hyped whiskies. I’ve met and spoken with Richard Paterson – quite a personality, both a hoot and a scholar, and unquestionably one of the most talented blenders alive – and I do like, but don’t like paying the price for, the Castle Leod, the Mackenzie and the Alexander III.

On the other hand, I’m pretty sure there isn’t a line of whiskies out there that is as consistently stunningly good as the line of single cask bottlings from The Exclusive Malts, which are un-colored, un-chill-filtered, cask strength and, considering what you get for your money, fairly priced. I’ve liked every Exclusive Malts dram I’ve drunk and a few of them are among my favorite whiskies of all time.

So, this should be interesting…

The Whisky

Fun Fact 1: “Alexander Matheson, who founded Dalmore in 1839, was a partner in the famous Far East trading company, Jardine Matheson, established by the ‘shogun’ Willam Matheson, who made a vast fortune out of trading opium from China” (Charles MacLean, Whyskypedia, page 125). We can assume, therefore, that Dalmore was founded by folks with a deep and abiding concern for the pleasures of their fellow men.

Fun Fact 2: ‘Dalmore’ is not, like the names of most Scottish distilleries, derived from a Gaelic place name, word or phrase; rather, the word is Norse, meaning ‘big meadowland’.

The whisky under review here is, as suggested above, non-chill-filtered, untainted by E150, drawn from a single cask and bottled at cask strength. The ABV is 53.5 percent. Its color is hay or straw like and its slightly oily consistency makes for rather quick but alluring rivulets running down the sides of the glass.

Nose

The nose on this spreads like a big soft blanket over all the nasal concha at once. It’s like eating – with your nose – a banana-butterscotch sundae (whipped heavy cream, but no maraschino cherry) in a restaurant where the kitchen had a fire quenched the night before. Immediately, as distinct as the colors on a color chart, you get doused camp fire, butterscotch, banana and cream. A truly luscious nose. Go in a bit deeper and you get some caramel, orange blossom, dense, clean malt and salted nuts – salted almonds. So far, this nose is presenting like a royal flush. However – why does there always have to be a However? – there is something not quite right. I believe I know what it is, but, at first, I doubt myself: I smell my fingers, wash my hands and think back over the last week’s meals to be sure this aroma isn’t coming from something on or in or around me. Nope, it ain’t me or my surroundings – and it isn’t powerful or overwhelming in any way, not a deal-breaker in the least, but I swear I smell – shallots. Mild shallots. It’s not ruinous to the nose of this fine whisky, but it is just, just prominent enough to be palpably out of place. As you’ll see, this gets confirmed further into this savoring session, so the score will suffer a bit. However, add a wee bit of water and it is much diminished, with oak and a warm sugar cookie aroma coming to the fore. (20/25)

Palate

Powerful, pungent, slightly oily, the doused camp fire is de-emphasized here in favor of the butterscotch and savory almonds. The old smoke is there still, but on the palate it is more complimentary. There is a strong, delightful suggestion of vanilla cream wafer cookies. What I at first think is an odd, utter absence of fruit turns out to be dates, a handful of dates with maybe one dried cherry, all surely present but underlying the sweeter and more pungent aspects. There’s a bit of almond paste at cask strength, but add a bit of water and you also get the distinct taste of the Bit-O-Honey candy bar. Farther down in the taste profile, less prominent even than in the nose, taking the form of a very slight bitterness, those shallots again. It doesn’t ruin anything – it just doesn’t fit. (21/25)

Finish

Here, finally, even the remotest innuendo of shallots – diced, thriced or otherwise – has been banished. In fact, this is a long, warm, drying, softly spicy finish – a wonderful finish that leaves you with an almond candy wave goodbye! The spice is of the warming kind, sort of an allspice or rich mix of clove with a little cinnamon and maybe just a slight trace of ginger. Water makes it all a bit milder, but equally pleasurable to swallow. Yum. (23/25)

Balance/Structure

If that slight trace of ‘shallotry’ in the nose and palate were a bothersome frequency I could eliminate with some exacting multi-band equalizer, this whisky would score in the low- to mid-90s. Adding a very distinct smoke to the inherent richness and complex sweetness of character of the Dalmore juice is brilliant – and probably a telling look back at the profile of Dalmores from many decades past. And the move of the almond element from salted nut to almond paste to almond candy going from nose to palate to finish, respectively – well, that’s a beautiful thing. I wish I had another sample of this one, a bottle of my own or a generous friend with an open bottle so I could spend more time with it, just to be sure. If and when that happens – and I’m sure it will – I’ll write a little addendum to this review. (22/25)

Total points for this whisky: 86

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Thanks to ImpEx Beverages and to Katia for the sample.