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

Dizygotic: The Exclusive Malts’ 2003 Speyside 10 Year Old Single Cask, Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Speyside-10-Year-2003-from-The-Exclusive-MaltsPlease read through to the end: This moody tonic receives two different scores based on two different samples…

Calling this whisky “Speyside” rather than naming the distillery it came from has led to a bit of speculation online (and, as you’ll see, to further speculation below). There are a few Speyside distilleries that won’t allow the use of their names by independent bottlers: Glenfarclas and Glenfiddich, for example. I have seen Glenfarclas suggested as the source of this Exclusive Malts “Speyside” but that hardly seems possible given the typical Glenfarclas profile with it’s warm full body and refined bready fruitcake character. I’m going to hazard a different guess: Balvenie. I’m not the first to make this guess. At an Exclusive Malts tasting held at Norfolk Wine & Spirits nearly a year ago, the proprietor, Bikram Singh, responded to his first sip with that name: Balvenie. And I concur. If you can deconstruct the 15 year old Balvenie Single Barrel in your mind (having a dram of this expression in your glass, of course), imagining what the nose and palate might be like without any sherry cask influence, with considerably less bloated sweetness and with the ABV turned up from about 48% to more than 56%, it isn’t hard to understand this Exclusive Malts offering as the whisky that would result. I’ve spent many an evening with favorite bottles of Glenfarclas (17, 21, 25) and I don’t find the whisky under review here reminiscent of that distillery whatsoever. Then again, imagining Glenfarclas with no influence of sherry cask maturation is for all intents and purposes impossible, so I suppose that feasibility must remain open. Nonetheless, I’m sticking with my first guess: Balvenie.

Or am I? There is another intriguing, but highly unlikely, possibility: The Speyside Distillery, a very small affair on the upper section of the River Spey that produces less than 160,000 gallons of whisky annually. I have never had a drop of juice from that whisky maker, but the descriptions I’ve found sound similar to this Exclusive Malts single cask. Michael Jackson describes Drumguish, which was an NAS bottling from the Speyside Distillery, as “intense” with “jasmine” and a “slightly oily” body, “[a] creamy core” but with “dry (grassy) edges” – all of which, except for the grassy note, could be adjusted to fit with my take on the whisky here under review. And Charles McLean describes the palate on a distillery bottling of Speyside 12 Year Old as “richer and more full-bodied than you would expect from its restrained nose” – a description I could use, word for word, to portray this “Speyside” from Exclusive Malts.

The Whisky

Distilled April 14th 2003. Bottled September 2013 at an ABV of 56.3%. One of 296 bottles from a single cask. I have seen no official word on the type or size of cask used, but I have read that this whisky spent its entire ten years in an ex-bourbon hogshead and I suspect that’s true. Like all of this bottler’s offerings, this whisky is untainted by the misleading E150a caramel coloring and is un-chill-filtered.

Nose

I was having some trouble deciphering this one, so I looked at a couple of reviews online to find out what others had unraveled. One reviewer calls this whisky an example of “a classic sherry bomb”. I don’t get that, not at all. If this juice spent more than 10 minutes of it’s 10 year maturation in anything other than a (second fill?) ex-bourbon hogshead, I would be damned surprised. I find no sherry influence in this whisky whatsoever. What I do find most prominent on the nose is a clean, bright, hardy malt encased in a weave of rather sharp (French?) oak spices. Far below all that, I get some wildflower honey (i.e., not conspicuously sweet, as in some drier meads, which this is beginning in some ways to resemble on the nose) and, even farther out, like ghosts in a distant darkness, salt marsh reeds? a dusty shale-like flintiness? spilled, dried cherry juice on a just-opened package of high cloth-content copy paper? There is something distant but elusively floral as well – jasmine tea? withered carnations? The high ABV can be stabbing in the nostrils if you get too close, but I didn’t find that water did much to ameliorate this characteristic until it became too much water and washed the good away. What one can discern here is pleasant and varied, but, overall, this is a shielded, clenched and parsimonious nose that refuses to give much up. (20/25)

Palate

Well, now… This is where she divulges a few of her secrets – but only a few. The wonderfully silky, oily delivery displays that tight malted barley, a little less bright now, awash in an amalgam of light raisons, peach and cherry pits, less-than-identifiable savory elements and a touch of burnt caramel, all of it steeping in a light, thin sugar syrup. The spice is a constant after the first few seconds, but it rises along a gentle arc that never gets overpowering.

And that, for me at least, is all she wrote. She doesn’t do all that much but, what she does do, she does well – and she truly does nothing wrong. I should add, however, that a few of my friends and some reviewers refer to the palate on this whisky as cloyingly sweet and “ridiculously sweet,” as one friend described it. That was not my experience at all. Was my sample too old or too oxidized? I have no way of knowing; all I can do is review the sample I was sent. If I should have a chance to taste a fresh bottle of this potion anytime soon, I’ll write an update to this report [see the Addendum below]. (21/25)

Finish

A mouthwatering, long, slow-burning finish that spills raisons and dates across the tongue in a wash of not-really-very-sweet caramel and honey, all of this on a foundation of sturdy barley malt, savory spice and drying oak tannins that reach down into the chest with a bloom of searing, drying, slow-slow fading, high frequency alcohol. (21/25)

Balance/Structure

As an arc, this works – more or less. Thanks to the malt itself, there is a nice, tight, clean component that runs through the entire experience this whisky offers. The nose, though shielded and stingy, leads naturally enough to the palate – which has that wonderful silky delivery. The finish starts with great promise but ends with a slow-searing burn that won’t be to everyone’s liking. (20/25)

Total points for this sample of this whisky: 82

Many thanks to Sam Filmus at ImpEx Beverages and to Marina Hachaturova at Dime Group International for the sample.

Speyside-10-Year-2003-from-The-Exclusive-Malts
ADDENDUM:

Thanks to Bikram Singh (once again!), who had an open bottle of this whisky at his store, I did manage to get my hands on a fresh sample. There is a big difference between this and the sample I was sent. On the Nose, one gets an even more vibrant maltiness, a nice light honey, river rocks drying in the sun and some cinnamon and white pepper spice, though the alcohol is still stabbing the nostrils a bit (+2 points). On the Palate, the silky oleaginous delivery is still there and one now gets – especially with some water – baked apples, cinnamon and nutmeg, pear candy, light raisons and thin honey (+2 points). The Finish is much the same, but – with water, especially – sweeter, less burning, longer and more flavorful (+1 point). As for the Balance and Structure, I’d say the Structure remains much the same, dominated by a nice firm malt, but the Balance is improved because every step of the experience has been improved. Is this as sweet as my friends and others said? Well, it’s sweeter, but not ridiculously so, and the additional sweetness balances in pleasant equipoise with the spice, malt and tannins. (+2 points).

Total points for this sample of this whisky: 89

That’s a big difference!

Speyside Beauty: The Classic Cask’s 1993 Glen Keith 20 Year Old Single Cast Single Malt Scotch Whisky

IMG_20140613_225039_776~2~2Yesterday, when I sat down with this delightful whisky to write my notes for this review, I didn’t own, nor had I ever seen, a bottle of it for sale. My tasting session was conducted with two 30ml sample bottles. Nevertheless, I do own a bottle of this extraordinary Speyside elixir today. Bikram Singh, proprietor of my favorite whisky store – Norfolk Wine & Spirits – took delivery of one case just hours before I arrived there for a Kavalan tasting this evening. Amazing synchronicity! I sometimes hear that my reviews are good but useless because the whiskies I spotlight are unobtainable. That simply isn’t true. I have found and bought every whisky I’ve ever really wanted and could afford to buy. Sometimes it takes a little extra effort, a circuitous Google search, a couple of phone calls, a long drive, extended, passionate, vigorous bartering… Still, let me assure you, dear reader: The whisky is out there. If you really want it and can afford it, you will find it.

The Whisky

The Glen Keith Distillery is younger than me. It was built by Seagram’s across the Isla River from the Strathisla Distillery, which they also owned, and not far from the Aultmore, Strathmill and Glentauchers distilleries, on the site of an old corn mill in Keith, country Banffshire. It was intended to turn out malt for Chivas Regal, Passport and other blends. First opened in 1958 – the same year as Tormore, to which it has similarities – it was the first distillery to use computers and direct gas-firing of the stills. Mothballed by Seagram’s in 1999 – six years after the whisky here under review was distilled – it was purchased by Pernod Ricard in 2001 and reopened with an annual capacity of 6,000,000 liters of pure alcohol on June 14, 2013. There has only ever been one official distillery bottling, of a 10 year old in 1994.

This Classic Cask single cask bottling was distilled in 1993 and bottled – one of 270 bottles from cask #136 – at an ABV of 46 percent, 20 years later in 2013. Like all of this independent’s offerings, this whisky is untainted by E150a and un-chill-filtered.

Nose

If a lemon went to bed one night and woke up next morning as a melon (anagramized, you might say), this is exactly how it would smell. But there’s far more going on here than only that. I get weathered cedar hope chest out in a pear orchard, pear-flavored hard candy and just the faintest trace of Speyside solvent. I also get celery salt on almonds, pencil shavings, lemon oil polish, overripe honeydew and dusty dried dark fruit skins. There is also, as my friend Marco pointed out and I later confirmed, a mild breeze of Earl Grey Tea rising from the glass. And though this may not be proper whisky blog etiquette (is there such a thing as whisky blog etiquette?), I must say this particular Classic Cask potion presents itself to the nose in a manner very reminiscent of some of my favorite Speyside bottlings from The Creative Whisky Co.’s The Exclusive Malts range – of their 29 year old cask strength Tormore in particular. The similarities are these: There is a direct citric freshness and a startling prominence of very clean, tight, still vigorous barley malt despite decades of maturation; also fresh oak and melon scents and a patient (reluctant?) unfolding of olfactory riches. These whiskies seem to be testing you, scrutinizing your every gesture to discover if you will give them the time and focus they require. If you do, this startling Glen Keith will reward you handsomely. In my experience, this is a perfect Speyside nose; slowly, little by little, dispensing its many treasures. (25/25)

Palate

The malt on the palate is prominent but more mellow and rounded than on the nose. This is where two decades of patient maturation in a decent cask (a refill ex-bourbon hogshead, I suspect) pay off. The pleasantly oily body carries expressive soft spice along the sides and center of the tongue, never becoming forceful or sharp or overpowering. Honeydew melon peeks through the spice and malt sweetness, as does a mild, refined chocolate note that I didn’t expect. The other sweet here seems to be a mild vanilla frosting with just the faintest whisper of caramel. Dark dried fruits – dates, perhaps – seem to be calling from the distance, but they can’t quite distinguish themselves from the more conspicuous malt and spice. (24/25)

Finish

Splendid, rounded, mellow malt, mild chocolate, some oaky tannins and a patient blooming of spices at the back of the tongue that slowly cascades down into the throat to warm and stimulate the upper chest. Long, but not overly long, and not very complex, but a fine finish that does nothing wrong. (22/25)

Balance/Structure

There is both a tight, clean structure to this whisky and a very even and inviting balance overall. The arc of the experience it offers is smooth and pleasing, soaring highest at the beginning with the nose and descending slightly to the palate and finish, never exposing a significant lack or blemish or falling below outstanding. It is quite thrilling, truth be told, and one of the best Speyside whiskies I’ve ever had. (24/25)

glenkeith use
Total points for this whisky: 95

Many thanks to Lauren Shayne Mayer at Spirit Imports for the samples.

Afterword: A Note on Presentation

I don’t usually complain about such things and I would never add or subtract points because of the aesthetic appearance of the packaging of a bottle of whisky, but the current presentation of The Classic Cask line, in my opinion, could be better. The shape of the bottle says wine, not whisky, and the layout of the label (informative, printed in legible fonts and appealing colors, I’ll give them that) looks like it was done entirely on a computer using an old version of Adobe Illustrator – with no consultation, evidently, with a trained designer or visual artist. And they shamelessly send their whisky out as such without a tube or box to keep it hidden in. I really don’t like it when my whiskies are without a tube or box to hide and protect them! Now, I’ll be the first to admit that this is a line of very good whiskies – the one under review here is of stunningly good quality – but, when the nose, palate, finish and balance are as good as they are in this instance, a reviewer like myself feels the need to find something to complain about. I chose the whisky’s presentation.

The Serenity of Wow: The Classic Cask 1975 Dallas Dhu 28 Year Old Single Cask Single Malt Scotch Whisky.

IMG_20140501_143658_049~2This is good whisky, with a very long ooooooo between the g and the d. This whisky does so much right, it’s difficult to gauge – you want to put your damn pen down so you can freely and patiently drink and savor. This is a wondrous gift to the whisky drinker, granted by all of the people involved in its pilgrimage from the now long-gone Speyside distillery, where it was put into cask in 1975, to the XV Beacon Hotel in Boston, for whom The Classic Cask bottled this delectable potion for hotel guests, exclusively, nearly three decades later, to the esteemed little liquor store where I found this gem, ten years after it was bottled, in a small glass case I had neglected to look into on previous visits. I promise you this: I will find more of this elixir and, when I do, I’ll buy it and share it with friends. Anything this odd and enticing needs to be experienced by those who can and will appreciate it.

To stay on task and to keep myself from savoring aimlessly, I enlisted a friend of long experience and acute sensibilities in the whisky realm to join me in this endeavor of assessment. He wants his whisky reviewer moniker to be “Indy” – exactly why, I don’t recall. Regardless, he’s a good man to sit down with me to share and savor this rare, sumptuous find. I should say that Indy knew nothing of this bottle before he arrived; he had no idea he was to be deployed to Dallas Dhu duty immediately upon his arrival. In the end, however, as it turned out, Indy didn’t mind.

The Whisky

Exactly what this is is a bit of a mystery. Distilled at the Dallas Dhu distillery in the Speyside region of the Scottish Highlands in 1975, a cask (or more?) evidently ended up being bottled for the XV Beacon Hotel in Boston – a very classy, luxurious, boutique establishment built in 1903 and converted to hotel use in 1999. The 28 year old juice was reduced to 43% ABV and bottled in 2004. Oddly, it was put into both standard 750ml bottles – for the hotel bar, perhaps – and 375ml hip-flask style glass pint bottles with aluminum screw caps –for sale to patrons to take to their luxury suites, no doubt.

The Dallas Dhu distillery was closed in 1983 and three years later converted into a museum by Historic Scotland. Much farther back in time, in the XIIIth century, a man associated with the Church of Saint Michael, located in the region where the distillery was later built (in 1899), changed his name from William de Ripley to William de Dallas – why, nobody seems to know. Nonetheless, one descendent of this early Scotsman leant his name to the distillery, while another, a George Mifflin Dallas, became the 11th Vice President of the United States under James K. Polk. The city of Dallas, Texas was named for that one in 1845. All of which is interesting for about the length of time it takes to write it out, and has nothing to do with the quality of this whisky.

Appearance

A pale gold, like a field of young barley at noon on a sunny day. Makes one suspect this was put into a refill bourbon cask for its slow, 28 year development. It grips the glass when swirled in one, with patient rivulets forming and running at a rather slow, sensual speed. Nothing wrong here, nothing at all, but there’s really barely a whisper of a hint of the splendors to come. Should that be admired? Hard to decide, hence the fraction… (7.5/10)

Nose

Indy’s first impression was melon. Mine was watermelon. I also sensed his melon, one of the cantaloupe variety, but only under that scent of watermelon one gets from watermelon-flavored candies, especially gums with gooey centers. Indy didn’t get this. He did get something flowery, which I did not. In any case, simultaneously, Indy and I both picked up a rather unexpected aroma: I said Gin & Tonic, Indy said Evergreen, then we both said Juniper! I also got lemon-lime where Indy got orange, but at least we agreed there was something citrusy at work. We also agreed there was a somewhat botanical undertone to the nose here, a very pleasant one, and a light honey sweetness comingling with a stunning, firm and fragrant maltiness that caused the mouth to water in anticipation of what promised to be a glorious ride on the tongue. (19/20)

Palate

This spirit has so much flavor, I don’t regret that it was reduced to a 43% ABV. Would it be better at 50% or at cask strength? Perhaps, but this whisky is so flavorful at its current strength, these thoughts never occurred to Indy or me while we were busy with our task of assessment.

Our individual analyses of the palate were very similar, with one exception: Indy said he could taste the Body of Christ… Well, what he actually said was he was getting the unleavened qualities of a communion wafer in the taste. I had already noted the taste of waffle, which is in some ways similar, though more reminiscent of a motel lobby in Atlanta than of an altar call at a Catholic church in, say, Billerica, MA. Be that as it may, we were both very impressed with the quality of the malt here, with a sweet, slightly peppery oakiness, with the citrus now less pronounced than in the nose but, like yesterday’s rain in a landscape, never quite out of sight. The honey sweetness, too, was ever present, but without being cloying in the least; a wildflower honey, perhaps, or, better, a heather or comb honey. All of this combining to make fulsomely manifest the promise of the nose. (19/20)

Finish

There is a real sparkle to the finish, as the honey sweetness fades to a delightful, diluted nectar. And the spice, though still mild, cranks up a bit to help the wondrous malt dissolve on the tongue into a very rounded, gin-like-drying (“slow” tannins, so to speak, and quinine?), moderately long and warming finish with just the slightest hint of licorice at the end. Mouthwatering in a sensual, almost erotic way. (19/20)

Balance/Structure

The nose of this whisky is wonderful and it swims like a school of humming mermaids into a no-less wonderful palate and finish. This is very good stuff! The citrus fruit bite is perfectly balanced by the just-right honey sweetness; the firm, round old malt balanced expertly by the slender but scintillating juniper qualities and by a light peppery spark. Every roundness is met by a counterbalancing titillation and every quality indicating long maturation is met by a counterbalancing freshness. The result is a sophisticated single cask excursion that is, in my experience, about as good as it gets. (20/20)

The Quality of the Buzz

Here I must speak for myself. Indy had to drive home, so over-buzzing with excessive drammage of this alluring malt, though difficult to resist, had, by Indy, to be resisted. He drove off. I sat back down and poured another dram.

While some whiskies induce excessive vigor or sloppiness beyond a certain sum, others become more unflappably calming, more sensual, making one more prone to tranquility and broad imaginings, massaging a capacity to ride long trains of thought with attentive ease. While not stupefying in the least, this delightful Dallas Dhu falls into the latter category. It makes you comfortable, thoughtful, open and unguarded. And the buzz itself, the “high” one gets, is stunningly fine and finely pitched, like the motion of a hummingbird’s wings. When one pours a dram of whisky not simply to savor it but in pursuit of peace and rest, to unwind and uncoil into a frame of mind that eschews all the nagging pinpricks of the day, the buzz one gets from this Dallas Due is exactly what one is looking for. Yes, I’d say this is perfect. (10/10)

Total points for this whisky: 94.5

Check it out: http://www.spiritimportsinc.com/index2.php#!/THE_CLASSIC_CASK

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

Beware: This website can empty your pockets!
http://www.impexbev.com/exclusive-malts

Thanks to ImpEx Beverages and to Katia for the sample.

The Heart’s Cockles’ Heat: The Exlusive Malts’ 2000 Craigellachie 12 Year Old Single Cask, Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky

IMG_20140427_103934_395~2This distillery (with emphasis on the “ell” syllable) is completely new to me. I have learned that Craigellachie Distillery was built to take advantage of new railroads in 1891 on what is known as The Rock of Craigellachie in the Village of Craigellachie, not far from Thomas Telford’s elegant cast iron Craigellachie Bridge. The village is also home to the imposing Craigellachie Hotel, that itself houses the rather famous Quaich Bar, which stocks more than 700 malt whiskies. (I believe Craigellachie just rose to the top of my list of villages to visit along the River Spey!)

The Whisky

David Wishart writes that Craigellachie’s mash tun “is one of the most technically advanced in the industry, with continuous sparging, by which hot water is added continuously rather than in the traditional three batches. The arms move up and down while rotating and use a combination of rakes and blades to ensure maximum extraction of sugars.” That all makes it sound very modern, so it is good to know that “Craigellachie is one of the few distilleries to have retained traditional copper worm condensers” (see Whisky Classified, 2012 Edition, page 112). Wishart and others say this gives the Craigellachie juice a rich, sulphury character, but in this single cask expression – The Exclusive Malts’ Craigellachie 12 year old, untinted by any coloring, un-chillfiltered and bottled at a cask strength of 111.9 proof – there is richness galore and only the slightest, faintest wisp of sulphur. But I’m getting ahead of myself… The distillery did its own floor maltings until 1994 or 1997 (depends on who you read), so the whisky here at hand, bottled in the year 2000, was distilled after floor maltings had ceased.

Nose

At first, you don’t get a very broad redolence from this copper-amber, oily elixir, but give it time and its layers, slowly, begin to unfold. I get vanilla sugar icing, honeycomb, sweet lemon-orange glaze, new oak, sawn oak and those orange circus peanut confectionary treats that show up in bags around Halloween. There is also something very fresh and green, new moss with a small pinch of clove sprinkled on it, cantaloupe, sugar cookies, spearmint and just the slightest, not-unpleasant-in-the-least hint of sulphur. And, surprisingly, a brief, almost ghostly suggestion of smoke. Malt, the citrus, the sugar cookies and the vanilla icing become more prominent with water. This one is not very easy to disentangle and it’s a bit reticent, but take your time and make the effort and you will be pleasantly rewarded. (21/25)

Palate

Right away, I’m smitten. This has a beautifully full, oily mouthfeel. I taste wildflower honey, spelt, some spent-candle waxiness, a fresh mix of lemon and orange juice, sweet malt and a definite oakiness. There is also warm vanilla cake, Ak-Mak Armenian crackers, warm, pleasant spice, dried cherries and maybe some cherry juice. Adding a few drops of water dials down the sweetness – which wasn’t cloying to begin with – and emphasizes the oak, spelt and malty qualities. Truly a rich, satisfying dram. (24/25)

Finish

In any whisky, the one thing that usually gives me the most pleasure (if it is there), and thus the one thing I most hope to find, is a radiating, rich, soft-searing burn in the finish that goes all the way down to envelop the heart in its profligate, pleasant warmth – and here it is! The finish on this whisky hugs you like a loving, well-padded mama hugs her troubled child. It is long enough and warming with lots of oak and just a touch of peat smoke and some warming clove and a wonderful lack of harsh pepper or stinging cinnamon. Add a bit of water and just a bit of exotic (not black or white) pepper sneaks in. A deeply friendly dram. (24/25)

Balance/Structure

I have seen this whisky referred to as “muddled,” but I strongly disagree. While it may lack the clean, precise structure one often finds in these Exclusive Malts single cask bottlings, it is certainly not muddled. Slightly out of focus, perhaps? Or a bit fuzzy, like a thick cashmere sweater worn against the winds of a cold, cruel world? Yes, the nose is a bit niggardly, at least at first, so I suppose this potion is some distance from perfect, but it’s the kind of imperfection you might savor or smile about in a friend or lover. This whisky builds as you take your time with it, growing in quality from the nose to the richer palate and finish. I’ve already located a couple of bottles online and I’ll be ordering them in the morning. (22/25)

exmalts_craigellachieTotal points for this whisky: 91

This website makes me drool! http://www.impexbev.com/exclusive-malts

A big thanks to ImpEx Beverages and to Katia for the sample.