Last year I was introduced to the concept of a whisky advent calendar by my friend, Gene, and the folks at Master of Malt. Today, I decided to build my own custom version using samples that I’ve collected over the past year. I’ve come up a bit short, so I’ll supplement a few from my open bottles that haven’t been formally tasted yet. The collection includes, Scotch from most regions, bourbon, rye, rum, brandy, grappa and mezcal. I know that this ventures a bit beyond whiskey, but that just makes the journey more interesting. I’m using a somewhat arbitrary order while saving a few of the premium offerings for last. I’m looking forward to it and I hope you enjoy it, too.
I’m delinquent in summarizing my favorites from The Whiskey Advent Calendar. Here are my top 5:
- Master of Malt 50 Year Old Speyside (3rd Edition)
- Glenfarclas 1981 Family Cask Release V
- Glenfarclas 105
- Glenkinchie 20 Year Old (2010 Release)
- MacAllan 10 Year Fine Oak
The only affordable offering is the MacAllan, but I may spring for the Glenfarclas 105 at some point as well.
I was 3 days late, but that completes The Whisky Advent Calendar. This has been an enormous amount of fun and a lot more work than I expected. I’m extremely grateful to my friend, Gene, who made this possible through his generous and thoughtful gift. I’ve learned a lot about Scotch whisky in a very short time and tasted some great examples from each of the regions of Scotland: Highland (and Islands), Speyside, Campbeltown, Lowland and Islay. There are definite differences between the whiskys from each region and I now have a good idea of the flavor profiles to expect from distilleries located in each of them. I’ll be reviewing my tastings and will follow-up with a list of my favorites from the set of twenty-four, although I’m sure that the two bourbons won’t make that list (not that I don’t like bourbon, but these two were not noteworthy).
For those interested in the details, all of the tasting was done from the same glass at the same temperature using the same water at the same location in the same chair. All blog entries were authored on an iPhone 5 using the WordPress application, which was used to take all photos. Further editing (due to WordPress mobile limitations) were accomplished via web browser.
That is not a misprint! You read it right, “50 Year Old Speyside” whisky for just under $600! It’s the grande finale of The Advent Calendar from Master of Malt. Just a 30ml sample will set you back $33! I just hope that its the best of the bunch, which is a pretty tall order. Here I go!
The color is amber and the nose is lightly smokey, peaty and grassy. There’s definitely a new aroma here that I’m having trouble putting a label on. In the meantime, I sense toffee, honey and the most distinct grapefruit I’ve ever sniffed in a whisky. The other aroma is a feint menthol mixing with the smoke and peat. The last smell that I detect is old cigar box. It smells great!
The taste leads off with grapefruit and orange paired with vanilla and toffee. This transitions to wood, mild smoke and peat with a brief bold bitterness that fades into the aftertaste very nicely. During that bitter interlude, a note of ginger arrives and fades to mild white pepper. The aftertaste is mildly woody with a white pepper taste, but very little heat. It’s so soft and lingers a good while. During the transition to the finish, I detect that menthol like flavor for just an instant and its subtle, yet distinct. Wow! This is impressive stuff! I wish I could spend some more time with it, but it’ll be gone in very soon, only to live on in these tasting notes… at least for me. The truth is that I really didn’t want to like this whisky because it’s too far out of reach, but I’m glad I was able to sample something like this for future reference.
In their bottling notes, Master of Malt announces:
Here it is – the third edition of our astounding, palate seducing, sensation that is our fifty year old Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky! This bottling from our Secret Bottlings Series is packaged in a redesigned bottle and label. This is quite literally whisky heaven in a bottle – the flavour is intense with perfect structure and the finish is astonishingly long.
I’m now 4 days behind schedule and feeling the pressure. My goal is to complete on time (i.e. the 24th)… that’s 9 drams in 5 days!
St. Isidore has a sweet seaside aroma with just a puff of smoke. The salty sea air is sweetened by butterscotch and vanilla while smoky grass moves in the soft breeze (I can’t believe I just wrote that!). In any case, it smells great! I sense an Island influence for sure. The taste is quite nice and matches the aroma. It’s salty with a mild peated smoke component. The smoke lingers while the sweetness gently fades and leaves a salty woody flavor. There’s a bit of grass early on that builds a bit and slowly fades with the sweetness. Back to the sweet flavors, they come back after a bit of a peppery interlude and taste like honey, vanilla and toffee. After several sips, I note a slight bit of clove and the peppery finish takes on a definite ginger flavor. The bitterness of the finish is a bit strong with a leathery quality; otherwise, this is quite nice and easily the best blend I’ve had yet.
This whisky has a unique story behind it:
The story of St Isidore and the bloggers blend all started one day when we were thinking about how to create our next whisky, when it suddenly hit us: ask the bloggers! These guys and gals are amongst the most knowledgeable, expert and, let’s face it, geekiest whisky lovers in the world! We called upon this incredible resource, and here’s how we did it…
Read more here.
My nose is greeted with a mild amount of peat and smoke, roasted corn, raw rustic honey,grass and honey. There’s definitely a lot going on here. My mouth is assaulted with bitter oak, grass, peppery ginger, toffee and lemon, but it doesn’t last long. All of this ends rather abruptly, leaving a mildly bitter taste of oak as the pepper builds and fades quickly. After the water brings the peppery alcohol burn under control, many of the interesting flavors fade along with it. The fruits and spices fade to the background and the flavor becomes less interesting. There’s still a bit of tartness, but the bitterness takes over and lingers more than before. I had high hopes for this one while nosing, but those hopes also faded as the whisky did.
Here are the Master of Malt bottling notes:
This is a single cask, twenty year old Longmorn. Longmorn has remained a popular whisky ever since the now legendary fifteen year old bottling. Pleasingly this bottling shows another side to this revered Speyside whisky. Naturally this single cask Longmorn is bottled at cask-strength, without colouring and we haven’t even chill-filtered it, not even a jot.
This is yesterday’s dram… one more and I’m caught up! This is also my first Island malt… here I go!
Wow! Lots of smoke rising from this baby. I also smell seawater soaked peat with vanilla and caramel trying to break through. After letting it breath a bit, lemon drops appear as the smoke dissipates lightly. There’s still a bold peaty fragrance. The taste is notably salty, peppery and sweet with the peppery finish lasting 40-40 seconds leaving behind smoke, peat and oak. The last thing to go is the smoky peat, but its not overpowering anywhere along the way. Back to the initial taste… there’s plum, ginger, tart apple and, of course, the salty, peaty smoke and pepper. The body of this whisky is full and flavorful… nothing seems particularly out of balance, but there’s a bit of something missing that I can’t quite put my finger on. Still, my first Island experience is a good one.
Master of Malt can’t identify the source of this whisky, saying:
Rather smoky with a classic Island flavour – think coastal notes and thick malt. Our Island single malt is from an unnamed distillery, and we can’t specify the age. The result of this is we can buy and sell these bottles at ridiculously low prices considering how good the whisky is. Try it, try and guess where it’s from and post your comment below if you think you know! (We can’t tell you though, it’s a secret!)
The occasion prompting the creation of this blog is the arrival of The Whisky Advent Calendar from Master of Malt, courtesy of a very generous friend. Since this is the 1st of December, it’s time to get started with the necessary sampling of the drams contained therein (somebody has to do it! ;-)). I’ll be posting my tasting experiences daily replete with images, if all goes well.