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Reviews Whiskey Reviews

Whisky Review: Balblair 2001 Single Malt Scotch

The first thing you notice about the Balblair 2001 vintage scotch is how light in color it is, despite being aged in ex-bourbon casks for 11 years. That is because, unlike many Scotches, this is not doctored with caramel coloring before bottling. But the age is definitely there.

It has the sweet aroma of cereal malt with vanilla (presumably picked up from the bourbon barrels). The flavor is also slightly sweet with caramel and cereal grain, along with a dry oakiness. There is some spice (cinnamon, perhaps) and notes of bitter chocolate, especially on the rather long finish.

The Balblair 2001 Single Malt Scotch is good, but unspectacular. It didn’t have as much balance as I was hoping for. There are definitely interesting elements there, but I didn’t think they all came together.

As this whisky is a little hot at 92 proof (46% abv), adding some water isn’t out of the question. I found that I could discern more of the flavor after doing so.

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Reviews Whiskey Reviews

Whisky Review: Aberfeldy 12 Year Old Scotch Whisky

Dewar’s is one of the most popular brands of blended Scotch whisky in the world. And the whisky that forms the heart of those blends is made in the town of Aberfeldy in the Scottish Highlands.

The Aberfeldy distillery was opened in 1898 by the Dewar family and has been producing whisky pretty much ever since. (It closed briefly during the two world wars.)

Their most popular expression is the Aberfeldy 12-year-old single malt. It’s a very pleasant, easygoing whisky, but still full of flavor. It shows great balance, with honeyed sweetness matched with dry oak, and fruitiness contrasted with just a touch of smoke.

The Aberfeldy 12 is a mild-mannered whisky, not a Scotch that grabs you by the lapels. Still, it demands attention for its lip-smacking flavor.

This would make a wonderful introduction for those who are looking to explore the world of single malt whisky. But even those who are dyed-in-the-wool Scotch drinkers will find much here to enjoy.

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Reviews Whiskey Reviews

Whisky Review: Auchentoshan American Oak Single Malt Scotch

Auchentoshan Lowland Scotch Whisky has released a new single malt that is designed to appeal to bourbon drinkers. The new American Oak Single Malt Scotch is aged in first fill ex-bourbon casks, the first Auchentoshan to be matured in this way.

It’s still a single malt Scotch, triple-distilled from 100% malted barley, but by aging it in barrels that were first used to mature bourbon, the idea is that the American whiskey will lend something of its character to the Scotch.

The aroma of Auchentoshan American Oak is light and slightly grainy. There are toasted malt and wood notes, but overall nothing really jumps out.

Sipping neat, this whisky is dry and slightly woody. The cereal malt is more pronounced in the taste, along with some of the flavors you’d expect from bourbon, such a vanilla and light spice. I don’t know that I would have made the connection to American whiskey on my own, however. The flavor is definitely Scotch all the way.

Auchentoshan American Oak is a straight-forward single malt, without much nuance or complexity. It doesn’t have an age statement, so we can assume it’s fairly young. The attractive price — relatively cheap these days for whisky — makes it appealing as both a whisky to drink straight, or to use in cocktails and highballs.

If you’re not usually a Scotch drinker and you’d like to give one a try, this is an affordable, pleasing option.

Auchentoshan American Oak Single Malt Scotch label

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Reviews

Whisky Review: Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve

Johnnie Walker is the most popular whisky in the world, known and respected almost anywhere you go. It’s a blended Scotch whisky, meaning it is a mixture of malt whiskeys from different distilleries, along with some more neutral grain whiskey.

The company does not reveal all the names of the distilleries whose whisky they use. But they have said this blend is build around Clynelish. Other oft-mentioned suspects are Cardu and Talisker.

The Gold Label Reserve contains no age statement, so we don’t know how long it spent int he barrel. (This is in contrast to the Gold Label 18 year, the whisky it replaced in Johnnie Walker’s lineup.)

This special edition version comes in a bright, shiny gold bottle; a rather striking appearance, if a little gaudy. If you like the looks of it, you might want to buy one now, as it’s supposed to be a limited edition. If you don’t, you can buy the regular, less ostentatious, version instead.

Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve has a light aroma overall, with honey and fruit dominating, and just a touch of smoke underneath. There is also a faint grapey/wine aroma as well.

Similarly, it is light on the palate — a common characteristic of blended whiskeys — both in flavor and intensity. It starts out with toasted malt and honeyed oak, before changing over to light smoke. It has a short, very dry finish, with an astringency from either the smoke or the wood or both.

This is a refined and balanced whiskey, but it is not exactly bursting with flavor. It is certainly pleasant to drink, and would likely be welcomed by those who aren’t fans of heavier whiskeys or who are just being introduced to Scotch. However, drinkers who are looking for the more assertive flavor of a good single malt are probably better off looking elsewhere.

Johnnie Walker Gold Reserve

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Gin Gin Reviews Spirits Reviews

Gin Review: Caorunn Gin


Caorunn ginCaorunn Gin

Scottish Gin
Grade:four stars(Highly Recommended)
Price: $35 (750ml)

Everybody knows Scotland makes great whiskey. The distillers of Caledonia have been crafting exquisite spirits for generations, becoming the envy of the distilling world. But now my ancestral homeland is starting to earn a reputation for quality gin as well.

It makes sense. Making a good gin requires distilling knowhow, quality botanicals, and pure water — and Scotland certainly has all three of those.

The best known Scottish gin is Hendrick's. Infused with cucumber and rose petals, the unique flavor of Hendrick's Gin has made it one of the most popular of the new wave of gins that have hit the market in recent years.

Now a new Scottish import is starting to get attention. Caorunn (pronounced "ka-roon") Gin is made by Inver House Distillers at their Balmenach whisky distillery in the Speyside region of Scotland. It's infused with five Celtic botanicals — including rowan berry, which is called "caorunn" in Gaelic — and six traditional botanicals.

Caorunn has a definite aroma of juniper, just as you'd expect from a gin made in the London Dry style, which this is. But there's also an undercurrent of sweet fruit, along with a little brine. A very pleasant scent overall.

The taste is a bit of a surprise. There's not much juniper there at all. Instead the sweet fruit from the nose is redoubled on the palate. In addition to the rowan berry, the botanical mix includes heather and apple, and that's what I think is jumping out here. It also has a touch of brine and some citrus notes to balance out the sweetness.

Caorunn is a tasty and satisfying gin, with lots of crisp flavor. It meets the classification of a London Dry Gin, but it quite different from the standard Tanqueray and Beefeater. Because of its sweetness, I can see using it in cocktails that originally called for Old Tom Gin (like a Tom Collins) and also drinks that have an herbal character (like a Martini).

And yes, it makes a delicious Gin and Tonic (which the distiller recommends garnishing with a slice of apple).

The Scots do it again!