Reviews Whiskey Reviews

Whisky Review: Bowmore Darkest 15 Year Old Single Malt Scotch

The flavor profile of Bowmore whiskies is often described as “sweet and peat,” and that is very much in evidence here with the 15-year-old Darkest scotch. It has a lush aroma of sweet mesquite smoke, just like a good West Texas barbecue, that carries over to the palate.

Bowmore Darkest is aged for 12 years in ex-bourbon barrels and a final 3 years in Oloroso sherry casks. That gives the whisky a very enjoyable rich and sweet character without going too far on the wine notes.

There are flavors of chocolate, raisins, toffee, and a molasses taste like a good dark rum. There is also a little phenol giving it a nice tingle on the tongue. It is somewhat thin in the mouth, but has a long, satisfying finish — not too hot, despite the 86 proof (43% abv).

One of the things that impressed me the most about this spirit is how the fruit flavors from the sherry cask are so well balanced with the smoky peat. Milder than some of the other Islay whiskys, the Bowmore uses its smoke as a grace note, not a solo.

A wonderful whisky and a fine introduction to the Islay style.

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.

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.

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

Spirits Reviews

Year in Review: Best Spirits and Liqueurs of 2011

Simon Difford and CLASS Magazine round up the 50 best spirits and liqueurs of 2011. They combed through their reviews of the past year and culled out only those spirits that receive a "5+" review (out of a possible score of 5). In Difford's words, "not only do we consider them faultless, but they also have that something which makes them extra special."

Only one of the spirits on the list is in my collection: Ron Zacapa XO Solera Grand Special Reserve, an aged rum from Guatemala. I haven't cracked the bottle yet, so I can't give you my opinion, but it gets very high marks across the board.

Several other spirits that CLASS singles out are ones that I've had my eye on.  High West Double Rye Whiskey. Pierre Ferrand "Selection des Anges" 30 Year Old Cognac. Dolin Dry Vermouth. Plantation Extra Old Barbados Rum. Gonzalez Byass Sherry.

Some others that I'd like to try: Hakshu 12 Year Old Single Malt Whisky. Adnams First Rate Gin. Sipsmith Summer Cup 2011. De Kuyper Apricot Brandy XO. Giffard Muroise du Val de Loire

Finally, for those who have an extra $700 to drop on a bottle of booze, there's Grand Marnier Quintessence. One can always dream…