Private Tasting

GlenDronach Cask Strength, Batch 3Another whiskey tasting hosted by a fellow aficionado, which included (brace yourself):

Old Grand Dad 114° 1980 ($18) – Notes of cherry, vanilla, lemon, pear, tobacco, char, anise… somewhat tannic… very good!

Brenne Single Malt ($60) – dark red grape, bubble gum, strawberry, ice cream, black pepper, overripe banana… very interesting and a decent dram.

Linkwood 18 Year Old Sherry Butt 1988 (Cadenhead’s Cask Ends) – 58.7% ABV with notes of gunpowder, sulphur, ginger, cherry, white pepper, apple, grass… spicy and tangy with too much sulphur

Balvenie 15 Year Old Single Barrel Sherry Cask #4449 ($90) – bright fruits, ginger, lemon, woody finish, clove, bitter honey… sounds better than it is…. not impressed

Balvenie 15 Year Old Single Barrel Sherry Cask #4443 ($90) – milder nose than #4449… same notes, but sweeter with additional clove… better balance than #4449 and the winner of the two, but neither of these is as good as the now discontinued 15 Year Old Single Barrel (Bourbon Cask), which is excellent

Amrut Single Cask August 2012, Batch 10 ($74) – 61.8% ABV with notes of cardamom, clove, lemon, ginger, truffle, pear, honey, black pepper… distinct earthiness about this one… very good

Amrut Intermediate Sherry ($119) – 57.1% ABV and has a mild earthy sweet nose with a woody finish… notes of cinnamon and cherry… very good

Balvenie 42 Year Old 1971 Cask #5034 Sample #130613031 – We were quite fortunate to have 1 of only 3 bottles in the world present for this tasting tonight.  This is one of the components of Tun 1401, Batch #9… 52.4% ABV and mildly earthy with notes of truffles, straw, fresh cut grass, apple, pear, mild honey and white pepper with a mildly woody finish… it just got better and better as I let my pour linger for the rest of the evening… outstanding!

Bruichladdich 22 Year Old October 9, 1991 (Exclusive Casks) – 50.6% ABV with a briny, spicy sweetness of honey, ginger, white pepper, black pepper, vanilla and  cereal… very good stuff!

Probably Speyside’s Finest Distillery 22 Year Old June 1991 Single Cask Refill Hogshead ($120) – This was a Binny’s selection that is probably from Glenfarclas at 50% ABV… notes of honey, white pepper, ginger, apple and pear with a great mouth feel… excellent!

Yamazaki 18 Year Old ($200) – nice balance with great mouthfeel… notes of dark fruit, honey, pear, mild spice, mild wood… excellent!

Glendronach Cask Strength 2013, Batch #3 – 54.9% ABV with earthy notes as well as caramel, vanilla, tobacco, truffle, ginger and pear… outstanding!

Aberlour A’Bunadh Batch #45 ($70) – 60.2% ABV with notes of ginger, bright fruits and pepper… another very good batch.

MacAllan Cask Strength ($80) – 60.1% ABV from a sherry cask… notes of ginger, pepper, honey and cocoa… pretty good.

Brora 30 Year Old 2007 6th Edition – fantastic as when I had it before… farmy, earthy, fruity, spicy… outstanding!

Strathclyde 29 Year Old Single Grain 1980 (Duncan Taylor Cask #1497) ($180) – 56.7% ABV best Scotch grain whiskey I’ve tasted… fruity, mild spice… very nice.

JJ Neukomm Single Barrel Missouri Malt Whiskey – cherry wood, tannic, green apple, herbal, anise… not bad, but nothing great.

Ardbeg Corryvreckan L9 2009 – less peated than any Ardbeg I’ve had… fruity, sweet, slightly medicinal… typical Ardbeg and very good.

There were 4 others after this that I missed:  Ardbeg Auriverdes, Glen Mhor 26 Year Old 1978 (Scott’s Selection), KaVaLan Single Malt 2013, KaVaLan Single Malt Port Cask Finish 2012.  I was just too tired to continue at this point.  I did get a quick taste of Auriverdes in order to decide whether I wanted a bottle on hold for me… it was pretty good, but I passed at $82.

These private tastings have been the most rewarding and interesting, if not the most grueling.  For tonight, the highlight for me was the Glendronach Cask Strength, with the Balvenie 42 Year Old Cask Sample as a close second.  Of course, I was delighted to have another go at Brora 30, which is one of the best whiskies that I’ve tasted.  Honorable mentions go to Probably Speyside’s Finest Distillery 22 Year Old, Yamazaki 18 Year Old and Strathclyde 29 Year Old Single Grain.

Balvenie 12 Year Old Doublewood

Speyside Single Malt, 12 Years, 40% ABV, $40

The second whisky is Balvenie’s 12 Year Old Doublewood (there’s also a 17 Year Old now). I’ve had a taste of this before, but I can really spend some time with it this time. Over the aging span this whisky is first put in ex-bourbon casks, then transferred to first-fill Oloroso sherry casks for the remainder of the time (they don’t indicate how long in each).

The color is golden and it’s got a sweet grassy smell with notes of pear, apple, bitter orange, straw, burnt sugar, ginger, green pepper and a hint of smoke. I’m enjoying inhaling this one.

The first sip confirms the fruits and ginger while adding a good bit of peppery spice at the end. There’s also a woody finish with a hint of white pepper. As I continue to sip, flavors of vanilla, honey, orange, plum, pear, apple and ginger develop. The finish becomes a bit sweeter with notes of burnt sugar, but is still mostly bitter wood and mildly hot. The sherry influence becomes more evident after a while but continues to be balanced by a dry tannins and spices. It improves mildly with each sip and keeps me interested and hunting for other flavors. Just a drop or two of water opens up the flavors, but I wouldn’t add more than that. It’s just fine straight and loses just a bit of spicy bite with the water.

This is a very good whisky that I would enjoy again for sure. I think its a good value too at $40. Oh, and thanks to Gene for the sample.

An Unexpected Balvenie Tasting

Balvenie LineupWhile at Trinity Hall Irish Pub last night for the Highland Park tasting event, I met Jason Stein, the Balvenie Brand Ambassador.  When the event was concluded, the following pours were delivered to our table complements of Jason:

  • Balvenie 12 Year Old Double Wood – $44
  • Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask – $57
  • Balvenie 15 Year Old Single Barrel – $70
  • Balvenie 17 Year Old Double Wood – $110
  • Balvenie 21 Year Old Port Wood – $200

It was a good move on his part because they were all very good.  The only Highland Park offering that was clearly better was the 30 Year Old.  I’ll be exploring more of the Balvenie line as a result of this surprise tasting.