Whisky Reviews

At its best, whisky reviews are flawed. The order you taste them in, what you had for dinner, what is in the room, who you are with, where you got the bottle, how long the bottle has been open, and what glass you are using are some of the things that can change how a whisky tastes on any given day. Having said that, the better ones tend to get better scores and when I rate whiskies, a score of 80 is baseline. In other words, anything above that has something interesting to offer and anything below has flaws that take away from its overall experience. Best, Doug.

High West Bourye

November 16, 2016
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

High West Bourye

Bottle Information

  • Batch 16A12
  • 46%
  • $85

Nose

This nose is unique for a bourbon. There is a bit of complexity that I am not used to. I wish there were adjectives but I cannot come up with any.

Palate

Great mouth feel. I love how this coats with notes of sweet corn, vanilla, and other which again, I cannot give adjectives to.

Finish

Very pleasant and of medium length.

What I think

Not the wow experience I was hoping for but very good none the less.

Rating: 86

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High West American Prairie

November 16, 2016
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

High West American Prairie

Bottle Information

  • Batch 15L16
  • 46%
  • $40

Nose

A good nosing bourbon. There is a slight complexity here that I cannot place which makes it slightly above average for me.

Palate

Very pleasant and very smooth.

Finish

A little on the dry side but nothing to take away from this experience. I find it pleasant and worth the experience.

What I think

Glad to have tried it.

Rating: 84

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Maker's Mark

November 16, 2016
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Maker's Mark

Bottle Information

  • 45%
  • $30

Nose

Sweet bourbon with a hint of malted barley. Now, I know that unlike most bourbon, Maker’s Mark does not have any rye in it. Had I not known that, I would say this also noses with a bit of rye.

Palate

Good but a bit flat. The flavor lacks complexity and doesn’t stick around very long. I am wondering if it is from the lack of rye. There is also a slight cardboard note that I find a little off putting.

Finish

A little more pleasant but average in regards to length, flavor, and overall goodness.

What I think

A very safe bourbon and good as an introductory sipper. I say this because an inexperienced drinker would enjoy that is does not drink hot and is at a good price point. Also, education wise, this is interesting to compare to other bourbons that have a little rye in the recipe.

Rating: 80

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Dalmore 18

October 14, 2016
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Dalmore 18yr

Bottle Information

  • 43%
  • $200

Nose

Heavily sherried with very sweet notes of prunes and fruit cake. It could be me but this also noses old. I really can’t tell you what it is about the nose that indicates age but there you have it.

Palate

It’s good but not too complex. The same fruit cake and prunes prevail.

Finish

Pleasant and of medium length. Late it the finish it gets a bit dry.

What I think

Although good, a bit lackluster for the price. Hmm. I do not have very much experience with Dalmore but so far it seems like a brand that pays more attention to marketing than what is in the bottle.

Rating: 85

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Redbreast 12 Cask Strength

October 14, 2016
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Redbreast 12yr Cask Strength

Bottle Information

  • Single Potstill Irish Whiskey
  • Triple Distilled
  • 59.9%
  • Batch B1/13
  • L310731095 09:15

Nose

This almost noses identical to the 12 year at 40% (see below). Hold on while I pour and do a side by side… nosing the two side by side is so interesting! Although they are very similar the cask strength version is more scotch like, like an older Speyside maybe. As with the previous, I really enjoy the vanilla and cherry.

Palate

Big flavor and really smooth. This is an improvement of the regular version at 40% for sure.

Finish

Again, an improvement over the other 12yr at 40% as I do not get the dry note that hindered the other bottle. The finish also lasts a little longer which is also nice. Well done Redbreast!

With Water

So interesting. Even with a decent amount of water this still noses differently than the 12yr at 40% and the finish doesn't get dry either. I wonder if cask selection is also playing a role here.

What I think

Sometimes we do not get a chance to know what a whisky tastes like at a higher strength and this is a really good example how a cask strength presentation can really improve a whisky. Highly recommended!

Rating: 88

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Redbreast 12

October 14, 2016
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Redbreast 12yr

Bottle Information

  • Single Potstill Irish Whiskey
  • Triple Distilled
  • 40%
  • L411931072 13:15
  • $80

Nose

The nose is nice! I really enjoy the vanilla and cherry that dominates this one. There might be a hint of sherry in there too and I also detect a fourth note that I am unable to identify. There are not many whiskies with a profile like this and I think its uniqueness is a real strength.

Palate

The same notes are in the palette but oddly it is not as impressive. It starts with a huge bang of flavor but fades really fast, especially if sips are taken close to one another. I recommend waiting minutes between sips because when I do this the experience is much better.

Finish

It’s light and pleasant but I have to say this is a bit of a letdown. Dry finish whiskies are a pet peeve of mine and this one walks over that edge a bit.

What I think

This a great nosing whisky with some great qualities. However, its finish subtracts from the overall experience. Glad to have tried it!

Rating: 83

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Port Charlotte 2007 CC:01

September 11, 2016
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Port Charlotte CC:01

Bottle Information

  • Heavily Peated
  • French Oak Cognac Casks
  • 57.8%
  • Refill Bourbon Hogshead
  • $60

Nose

Very good. The peat influence is evident and I love how it noses sweeter than most peated whiskies. I am detecting a new note that I haven’t nosed before, I wonder if that is the Cognac… regardless, there is a nice element of bacon in there too. After a bit more nosing, that mystery note is becoming more like the air from a bike tire. This is usually a flaw for me but in this case, sense it is so slight, I am willing to overlook it.

Palate

Big sweet flavor that fades surprisingly fast into smoky bacon and bike tire air. How odd. I’ll have to consider that as I gave this a rating. Not sure what to think. It does get better as I sip it more. The flavor is hanging around longer and the bike tire air can’t take over.

Finish

More of the smoky bacon and bike tire air. It is also a bit dry at the end. As I finish the glass, the finish become longer and is more enjoyable.

What I think

What an odd whisky. I enjoy this experience yet and am a bit puzzled as to what to think. At first, the nose was good, the palate was excellent – but only for the first few seconds, but then had flaws, and the finish had some of the same flaws but as with the nose, it didn’t bother me. Then, the palate stayed around longer and the finish smoothed out. This may be one of those whiskies that rates sporadically depending on the day and mood. Not a good one for novice sippers. I should also mention this is from the Bruichladdich distillery and is a travel retail exclusive bottle.

Rating: 83

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Highland Park 19 Yr

September 11, 2016
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Glentauchers 63.31

Bottle Information

  • Scotch Malt Whisky Society
  • 4.216 Hypnotic Exotic
  • Distillled 1995
  • 216 Bottles
  • 53.5%
  • Refill Bourbon Hogshead

Nose

Hmm. It’s good but not special in any way. A typical scotch whisky. I thought maybe I would detect some peat or maybe a grassy note but nothing of that sort. Independents are a great way to see what a distillery profile is like without the influence of sherry or heavy char in the barrel. I could be mistaken but I think most Highland Park found in stores has a sherry cask influence.

Palate

I would never guess this is Highland Park. Well maybe. If I try hard I get a note of burnt popcorn and for whatever reason, independent Highland Parks have that note for me. The fist sip is slightly hot but that goes away with the second. This is good… I wish I had more to say.

Finish

A little hot comes back at the end of the finish but other than that, quite pleasant and of medium length. Again, nothing to talk about. It is just good.

What I think

A good nondescript sipping whisky. Maybe one to start the night with.

Rating: 84

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Glentauchers 25 Yr

September 11, 2016
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Glentauchers 63.31

Bottle Information

  • Scotch Malt Whisky Society
  • 63.31 Green Grow the Rushes Oh!
  • Distillled 1989
  • 168 Bottles
  • 51.6%
  • Ex Bourbon Refill

Nose

Very pleasant. Scotch malty goodness that consists of green apple, peach, and vanilla. There is a slight hint of alcohol but with this being cask strength from refill cask I suppose that makes sense. In general, refill casks are not able to take the alcohol edge out of the whisky as fast or as well as a fresh cask. The same principal applies to water filters. At first they do a really good job but as they age the effectiveness wanes.

Palate

This has great mouth feel and is full of flavor. All the notes from the nose carry over and I am really enjoying it.

Finish

Pleasant, but a bit on the short side which speaks to the refill cask.

What I think

This is a great example of a spirit forward whisky. In other words, compared to other whiskies, the cask has not overpowered the flavor that the spirit has.

Rating: 87

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Bruichladdich Laddie 10 Yr

August 26, 2016
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Bunnahabhain 8yr

Bottle Information

  • 46%
  • $50

Nose

Hints of rubber which leads me to believe it is at least partially aged in a refill sherry cask. I get why distilleries do this but as a nosing whisky, it leads to an experience that is lacking.

Palate

Much better than the nose. Great notes of cherry. A hint of rubber tries to spoil the experience but it is very tolerable.

Finish

Of medium length and slightly hot. The hot could be due to inactive casks, maybe a refill sherry that the nose hinted to. Overall pleasant.

What I think

A decent whisky. In general, I find Bruichladdich to be an odd distillery. They seem to be all over the place in terms of official bottlings and their quality is very variable. Just when you think you have them figured out they discontinue a bottle and add another in its place. It’s intriguing to say the least but as an observer, it’s hard to predict whether a purchase is worth it. So back to this bottle, it is hard to find and some say will be unavailable for quite some time. The Laddie 16 was pretty good but again, that one is hard to find too.

Rating: 81

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Bunnahabhain 8 Yr

August 26, 2016
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Bunnahabhain 8yr

Bottle Information

  • Gordon and MacPhail
  • 02/09/14 AD/ACHB
  • 43% Cask Strength
  • $40

Nose

I get hints of rubber which for me could be that it was aged in a refill sherry cask or that it is lightly peated. Maybe both. It is also pretty evident that it was made with malted barley but I wouldn’t put it in the Speyside style.

Palate

This is grassy. Hmm. Every time I go back for another sip it really disappoints me. It is as if a handful of green grass was soaked in the bottle for a while. If I search hard, there is a hint of chocolate but it cannot in any way make up for its grassy note.

Finish

More grassiness. It is also a bit dry at the end, another flaw.

With Water

Bah. Even with water this glass is not worth finishing.

What I think

I’ve had a heavily peated 8 year Bunnahabhain from Gordon and MacPhail and it was most excellent. This one however needs something to cover up that grass note. More peat perhaps? Typically, Bunnahabhain official bottlings are heavily sherried. Another good way to cover up flaws. The bottle is truly disappointing.

Rating: 74

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Springbank 22 Yr

August 26, 2016
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

27.110 Horse harnesses and mescal 'worms'

Bottle Information

  • Scotch Malt Whisky Society
  • 27.110 Horse harnesses and mescal 'worms'
  • Distilled December 11, 1992
  • Bottled September 2015
  • 1st Fill Sherry Butt
  • Non chill filtered
  • 52.6% Cask Strength
  • 241 Bottles
  • $315

Nose

The sherry influence is evident. I also get a bit of oak too but nothing too punchy. Otherwise caramel and toffee. It’s nice and predicts a wonderful sipping experience.

Palate

My goodness. This is good. I know bloggers say that “smooth” is overused but this is the definition of smooth. It is a contender for the smoothest whisky I have ever had. The absence of burn is phenomenal. The palette is also very unique. It’s complex yet I am having a hard time identifying individual notes. A lot of my favorite whiskies have this kind of profile. There is sherry, caramel, toffee, and a myriad of other notes that blend together into true wonderfulness.

Finish

Less impressive but still grand. Because the palette is so good, I find myself becoming impatient with the finish and looking at the glass longingly for another sip.

With Water

It felt wrong to add water but let’s see if the nose and finish improve any. The nose did improve a notch and the palette is as smooth as ever. So wonderful. So absolutely wonderful. The finish is a bit longer too but with perfection like this why add water?

What I think

This is one of the best palettes I have ever had. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. If the nose and finish had been as good as the palate it would be worth every penny.

Rating: 92

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Glenburgie 23 Yr

August 26, 2016
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Glenburgie 23 Year

Bottle Information

  • Distilled 1992
  • Bottled September 2015
  • Bourbon Hogsheads
  • Non chill filtered
  • 54.7% Cask Strength
  • 456 Bottles
  • $110

Nose

Pretty typical for a Speyside scotch. Malted barley with hints of fruit. I found some peach but I was looking for it because all the Glenburgies that I have tasted have had big notes of peach on the palette.

Palate

I am really looking forward to this! Big Speyside flavor that coats the mouth rather well. Not a complex one but very tasty none the less. Whiskies do not have to be complex to be good. This one may be a one trick whisky but it does its trick really well!

Finish

Definite peach that lasts for quite a while. A long while. The finish seems to go on forever. This is one of those slow sipper whiskies. It’s very smooth and very enjoyable.

With Water

It takes water really well. The peach is now more prominent and oddly, the flavor seems to sit on the top of the tongue rather than coating the entire mouth. It’s a different experience but still really good.

What I think

The nose didn’t start out too spectacular but the finish and palette were really impressive. I would really enjoy this one in my collection (the sample I used for this review was a gift from a friend).

Rating: 88

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High West Campfire

August 7, 2016
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

High West Campfire

Bottle Information

  • Batch 14F03
  • Bottle 3023
  • Blend of straight rye, straight bourbon, and blended malt whiskies.
  • Non chill filtered
  • 46%
  • $60

Nose

The rye seems to win out as the dominate note so this definitely noses bourbon. Other than that comment there really isn’t much more to say. Looking forward to the palate!

Palate

This is good and am I glad that the three whiskies mix together rather well. They mix so well that I am unable to identify the malted barley from the corn from the rye. If they were going for that well done!

Finish

Also pretty good. I like how it’s complex and without a winner note.

What I think

What a fun concept. This would be a great whisky to taste blind. A little web research lists batch mash bills for the individual components (bourbon, rye, and malted barley) but not the ratios they are then blended in.

Rating: 86

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Jameson Caskmates "Stout"

August 7, 2016
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Jameson Stout Edition

Bottle Information

  • Aged in craft beer barrels
  • Triple Distilled
  • 40%
  • $30

Nose

Hints of vanilla and maybe beer? Am I being influenced that I know it is a stout barrel? Most likely. I also get indications that this is a young whisky or has a large cut. It’s the cheap vodka note I get from a lot no age statement Irish whiskies that pulls me in that direction. So far I do not have high hopes for this.

Palate

This is actually pretty good. It coats the mouth well with a blend of sweet whisky with just the right amount of other. I have to assume it is stout but I don’t think I could have guessed that without being led there. Complex and intriguing for sure.

Finish

Oddly bitter with memories of sweet. So peculiar. It also ends a bit dry after about twenty seconds. Overall, the sweetness is redeeming but the dry bitterness is what I remember.

What I think

This whiskey has so much potential but sadly it isn’t able to pull it off. For me, the great palate could not make up for those faults of the nose and finish. It is pretty telling when I do not have an interest to finish what is in the glass.

Rating: 78

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Jim Beam Bonded

June 26, 2016
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Jim Beam Bonded

Bottle Information

  • Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky
  • Bottled in Bond
  • 50%
  • $25

Nose

Sweet with typical bourbon traits (corn, aniseed).

Palate

Big bourbon flavors. It's sweet with hints of creamed corn, corn bread, and maybe a little bit of cherry.

Finish

A bit too dry for me. It's a shame because before the dry kicks in, I find it quite pleasant.

What I think

Had the finish been less dry I would have really liked this as a slow sipping bourbon.

Rating: 83

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Buck 8yr

June 26, 2016
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Buck Bourbon

Bottle Information

  • Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky
  • Small Batch
  • Sour Mash
  • 45%
  • $30

Nose

Pleasant but surprisingly light. However, it gets deeper as I nose it more. For a bourbon this is more complex than I am used to. If I had the vocabulary to give this adjectives I would but for now I will just say it is a joy to nose.

Palate

Someone once told me to have a three sip rule and I have found it to be good advice. The three sip rule states that you should not give a final opinion for a whisky until you have sipped it at least three times. You will find that some whiskies go down hill while others get better. I mention the three sip rule here because each sip tasted exactly the same which I have found to be pretty uncommon. It is in the family of bourbons but there is chocolate, herbs, and many other things that make this whiskey really impressive. It's just a guess but I would say Buck 8yr has a high malted barley or rye content and that it contains distillate from a pot still.

Finish

No surprises. As an 8yr old, I expected it to be slightly dry (oak influenced) at the end and it was. It was also very consistent with the nose and palate. There is a wonderful note of something I cannot quite put my finger on (malted barley or orange peel rye?). It is like a chocolate or a sweet wafer of some type. Although it is really good there is a slight bitter note but I am willing to forgive it.

What I think

This is one of the best bourbons I have ever had! It is truly a joy to sip. Going in I did not have high hopes because it looked like a product that put marketing over quality (great label eh?).

Rating: 89

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Kilchoman Port Cask

June 17, 2016
Submitted by: Kevin Hansen

Kilchoman Port Cask

Bottle Information

  • Distilled: 2011
  • Bottled: 2014
  • Unchill Filtered / Natural Color
  • 55%
  • $110

Nose

The nose is smooth and light. It has that butter-scotchy aroma of youth. Not as much peat on the nose as I expected.

Palate

More of that young peat. The port coats with lingering sweetness, but there's an underlying ashiness.

Finish

The sweet/ashy coats the mouth and hangs on for a while. A long finish for such a young whisky.

What I think

There's not a lot of complexity, but I find it enjoyable. Fortunately, the ash stays subdued. Maybe it's the coating aspect, but it doesn't have the bite of a 55% whisky.

Rating: B

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Longmorn 25 Year

June 9, 2016
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Longmorn 29yr SMWS

Bottle Information

  • SMWS 7.114
  • Ode to Grown up George
  • 56.9%
  • 11th December 1989
  • One of only 253 bottles
  • Second Fill Ex-port Barrique

Nose

Vanilla and caramel… very Speyside. It’s good. Other than that not too much to say. Hopefully the palette will offer more.

Palate

This is different. The flavor comes on strong and is full of green apple, caramel, and hints of cherry. What a great combination for a scotch!

Finish

Not as long as I would have expected, is a bit dry, and has elements of chocolate, green apple, toffee, and caramel. Wait, scratch that, subsequent sips stay around a bit longer and the finish is now of medium length and has a better mouth feel (no longer dry).

With Water

It’s a great swimmer! I accidentally put way too much in and it still holds up pretty well! I suspect this would be a great whisky for blending.

What I think

I really enjoyed coming back for more sips and if this was my bottle, I think it would get emptied faster than an average bottle on my shelf. Up until this sample, my experience with bottlings from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society were on the disappointing side, especially when considering the price.

Rating: 88

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Benromach Peat Smoke 9 Year

May 25, 2016
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Benromach Peat Smoke

Bottle Information

  • Distilled: 2005
  • Bottled: 2014
  • Unchill Filtered / Natural Color
  • 46%
  • $65

Nose

The peat influence is lighter than I would have thought for a malt that supposedly uses peat smoke at 67ppm. This is nice though and I get malted barley, chocolate, and smoke.

Palate

This is different and unique. It is slightly hot but that barley, chocolate, and smoke are all there. What makes it unique, I think, is how this combination swarms my mouth. Not too many malts have this array of notes and mouth feel.

Finish

Slightly hot and consistent with the nose and palate.

With Water

It becomes a little more sweet.

What I think

I like the transparency Benromach has. We know a lot about how this malt was made and the integrity is much appreciated. Although I liked this malt there is something about it that doesn't keep my interest there. Odd.

Rating: 85

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Benriach Septendecim 17 Year

May 25, 2016
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Benriach Septendecim 17 year

Bottle Information

  • Bottle Code: LG31126 2013/10/22
  • Unchill Filtered / Natural color
  • 46%
  • $90

Nose

Peat but not reminiscent of scotches from Islay. It is different, more herbal and grassy. I find this intriguing and wish there were adjectives I could use but nothing comes to mind. It is pleasant but at the same time off in a way. Truly perplexing.

Palate

Wow. The palate comes to life! Big notes of chocolate, light smoke, and hints of ash.

Finish

Very smooth, long, and complex. I love how the chocolate and ash dance together. Exceptional!

With Water

The nose is a bit stronger but I find the finish and palate are a bit weaker. I would not add water again.

What I think

I love a whisky that promotes slow sips because the finish it so good. With the nose being so lack luster it was a big surprise that the palate and finish came through so strong.

Rating: 87

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Ardmore Traditional

May 25, 2016
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Ardmore Traditional

Bottle Information

  • Quarter Cask Finished
  • Unchill Filtered
  • 46%
  • $40

Nose

Hmm. Trying to figure this out is a bit of a challenge. It's pleasant with definite notes of malted barley. I don't think I can detect any peat and if I didn't know there was some in here I don't think I would have guessed at its presence.

Palate

Still pleasant but not too exciting. The best part is that it has hints of chocolate... but at minuscule amounts so nothing to celebrate.

Finish

Medium in length and slightly hot which could be from a young age or the quarter cask this is said to have been in.

With Water

It takes water surprisingly well. I now detect cherry which is a welcome complexity that wasn't there before. It also lost that bite in the finish. This is a welcome improvement!

What I think

I would like to compare this side by side with a version that doesn't have any peat. Would that chocolate note I picked up still be present in the unpeated version? Probably since chocolate can indicate the presence of peat. Regardless, this is a decent scotch when you consider the price. I don't know if it is my experience level or batch variety but when I tasted different bottles years ago I felt the quality was much better.

Rating: 82

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Benriach 15 Year Pedro Ximenez

May 25, 2016
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Benriach 15 Pedro Ximenez

Bottle Information

  • Bottle Code: LG30963 2013/09/19
  • Natural Color / Unchill Filtered
  • 46%
  • $90

Nose

The sherry influence is huge. So far, this is shaping up to be a true sherry bomb. The malted barley is also there but you have to look hard for it. Not too complex but how could it be with all that sherry. I almost feel like my teeth are started to hurt from the sweet and I haven't even taken a sip yet!

Palate

A sherry bomb lovers delight.

Finish

Mostly more sherry with chocolate cherry filling at the end.

With Water

No noticeable difference.

What I think

A little complexity would have been nice however there isn't any denying that this tastes pretty good. I think I would have liked it even more had the sherry been influenced but dropped down a notch or two.

Rating: 84

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Imperial 20 Year

May 14, 2016
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Imperial 20 Year (Signatory)

Bottle Information

  • Signatory Bottling
  • Distilled: September 18, 1995
  • Bottled: September 24, 2015
  • Hogshead Casks 50222 + 50223
  • Natural Color / Unchill Filtered
  • 46% (700ml)
  • $70

Nose

At first it is light with hints of vanilla frosting and subtle grassy notes. After a few minutes I also get cherries; the kind that are used to adorn the tops of Christmas cookies. I am glad I gave this one a little time to open up. Those cherries are nice!

Palate

Slightly spicy which is odd for a 20 year at 46%. Maybe one or both of those hogsheads (which are not charred) had something to do with this. The palate is decent but it does not wow me like other Imperials I have tried (1995 was a very good year for Imperial). The good news is that I do not get any grassy notes. The bad news is that it tastes a bit watered down and is not exciting in any way.

Finish

Medium to long with subtle cherry and vanilla icing. Very late that grassy note comes in but not in a bad way. Just interesting.

With Water

No noticeable change.

What I think

I am starting to get the impression that Signatory puts two casks together to hide flaws or improve complexity. It's not a "buyer beware" but single cask bottles I have tried have been so much better. For this bottle the nose and finish are the best part of this experience and I don't think I have ever said that before. Without them, this would have been very lack luster.

Rating: 84

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SMWS Clynelish 29 Year

May 9, 2016
Submitted by: Kevin Hansen / Doug Spencer

Clynlish 29yr

Bottle Information

  • SMWS 26.102
  • Pomanders in a lady's parlour
  • 56%
  • 1984
  • One of only 416 bottles

Nose

Kevin: Very complex. Heavy honey on the nose, with perfume.
Doug: It's light with vanilla, honey, and a hint of flowers as if they were in the next room. The nose got better after it sat in the glass for a few minutes.

Palate

Kevin: On the palate, there are undertones of old varnish with stronger vanilla. Hints of wet drywall and green pepper. It's got a good syrupy sweetness and mouth feel.
Doug: Floral is the first thing that comes to mind. There is malt here too but that floral note dominates. It hits pretty big and is overall pretty pleasant. I agree with Kevin that the mouth feel is a strength.

Finish

Kevin: Unfortunately, the Clynelish perfume and metallic edge are very noticeable, but they come late, so this one is not as good if you sip it slow.
Doug: Floral again and is not as long as I would have expected. Instead, the finish is on the short side and ends a bit dry.

With Water

Doug: After a few drops in the glass the nose may be a bit more pronounced but it is hard to tell without a true side by side. The palate and finish are more subdued and I think the experience did not improve. Water = not recommended.

What I think

Kevin: Twenty-nine years in the cask have done this whisky good, but it has certain obstacles that just can't be overcome.
Doug: Pretty consistent between the nose, palate, and finish. Too bad the finish was so short. I am wondering if the sherry butt had too much wood influence on this malt; the whisky was too light to overcome the wood and the cask didn't have enough sherry left to hide it. I agree with Kevin in that this whisky is best when sipped on the faster side since the finish is lackluster.

Rating: B (Kevin) 85 (Doug)

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Compass Box Hedonism

February 14, 2016
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Compass Box Gift Set

Bottle Information

  • From a Compass Box Mini Variety Pack
  • 43%
  • 50ml Sample

Nose

This is different. I get coconut with elements of cleaning alcohol. Slightly off putting and it reminds me of young corn whiskey from a newer American distillery.

Palate

Sweet, light, and slightly hot.

Finish

Medium to short and becomes slightly oaky at the end.

What I think

Another disappointing one. I’ve had Hedonism before and absolutely loved it. I know there are different versions out there. Whatever the case, this version didn’t do it for me. Best for mixers I suppose.

Rating: 77

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Compass Box Oak Cross

February 14, 2016
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Compass Box Gift Set

Bottle Information

  • From a Compass Box Mini Variety Pack
  • 43%
  • 50ml Sample

Nose

Floral and fruity with hints of perfumed soap and vanilla. Overall a positive experience and is similar to Compass Box Asyla.

Palate

The first sip is not to my liking and I hope it gets better. Well it didn’t and I am mostly tasting bitter soap. There is a slight bite to this too.

Finish

Oaky bitter soap.

What I think

Um yeah. Didn’t like this one at all. It has too much of an oak influence for me.

Rating: 74

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Compass Box Asyla

February 14, 2016
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Compass Box Gift Set

Bottle Information

  • From a Compass Box Mini Variety Pack
  • 40%
  • 50ml Sample

Nose

Sweet and slightly floral with notes of ripe fruit (raspberry or strawberry but not), vanilla, and white cake icing. It’s refreshing to nose a malt with such a unique blend of scents… I am really enjoying this.

Palate

Very consistent with the pallet and has a lot of flavor for being diluted to 40% ABV. I love how it delivers a wonderful array of flavors that are so interesting yet so gentle. On the negative side, the sips become a little more oak driven as I get lower into the glass which sadly leads me to enjoy it less (still a positive experience though).

Finish

This finish seems to go on forever and carries on what the nose and palate had.

What I think

I would love to taste this at cask strength and should probably pick up a bottle for introducing to new whisky drinkers. This elegant scotch blend really delivers and should be pretty accessible.

Rating: 88

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Glen Keith 19 Year

January 27, 2016
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Glen Keith 19 Year

Bottle Information

  • Exclusive Malts 10th Anniversary Special Edition
  • 50.1%
  • Natural Color / Non Chill Filtered
  • Distilled: March 26, 1996
  • Bottled: July 2015
  • Cask 8115
  • One of 248 bottles
  • Refill Hogshead
  • $160

Nose

Wow. Big notes that consist of malted barley, dried cherries, caramel, and toffee. The complexity is good but it’s the strength of this nose that impresses me. Very rarely does a non-peated nose have as much power as this one does. If this is any indication as to what lays ahead I am in for a real treat.

Palate

At first, it hits pretty hard but then fades faster than I want it to. The notes found in the nose continue on (malted barley, dried cherries, caramel, and toffee) but more subdued.

Finish

Surprisingly the finish is weak compared to the nose and palate and although pleasant, it is shorter than I would have expected.

With Water

The cherry note is more pronounced and a new chocolate note has made itself known. The finish seems more pronounced. Hmm, I think I like this one better with a little water added to it.

What I think

What in interesting bottle. Although the finish was a little disappointing its overall complexity kept me going back to the glass. For the right price I would like to have this bottle in my collection. This would have been one of the best malts I've ever had if the palate and finish delivered like the nose did. Glad to have tried it!

Update

I had a chance to taste this again during a club meeting. It seems the bottle has opened up a bit and the finish is now stronger. It seems a little oxidation really helps with this one.

Rating: 90

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Imperial 19 Year

January 27, 2016
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Imperial 19 Year

Bottle Information

  • Signatory Un-Chill Filtered Collection
  • 46%
  • Natural Color / Non Chill Filtered
  • Distilled: 08-21-1995
  • Bottled: 03-17-2015
  • Cask 50185
  • Hogshead
  • $95

Nose

I had the fortune of tasting another Imperial cask distilled in 1995 and this one noses very similar. It’s sweet and malty with hints of cherries and caramel.

Palate

Very tasty. Big flavors of cherry and scotch maltiness. This one is not too complex but when you have strong notes like this all is forgiven.

Finish

Again, very tasty. It’s of medium length and is consistent with the palate. I particularly love how the sweetness comes to the forefront as the maltiness fades away.

With Water

Still great and I cannot detect any difference.

What I think

This is the third I Signatory Imperial I have had and all three were distilled in 1995 and have been pretty great. Highly recommended!

Rating: 88

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Littlemill 12 Year

January 27, 2016
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Littlemill 12 Year

Bottle Information

  • 43%
  • $65

Nose

Malted barley but off in some way. The good part has toffee and caramel and the bad has something I cannot describe. It’s almost like a combination of something herbal, rubbery, and floral… but not. Yoda would say "Very challenging, this one is." There is a chance the palate may bring some inspiration as to what I am nosing here. For now I rate the nose as slightly off putting.

Palate

This is different and I am happy to report that the negative note I had in the nose doesn’t carry over to ruin things. This has big flavor but not in a way that impresses because the flavor isn’t great, just different. I suggest waiting at least 5 minutes between sips because its uniqueness seems to surprise me every time. Still can’t put adjectives to what makes it different though.

Finish

It gets points for being surprisingly long for a twelve year old at 43%. Expect to get a slow fade from the big punch of the palate to nothing at the finish’s end.

With Water

This holds up really well. Still has the big flavor and I cannot detect any change. It makes me wonder what this would have tasted like at cask strength.

What I think

Not sure if it is the Glen Cairn glass, more experience, or sipping in the quiet of my home but I am enjoying this a lot more than when I first had it a few years ago. The price is a bit high for what it offers but when we factor in that the distillery has been demolished it seems pretty fair.

Rating: 82

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Ardbeg 10 Year

January 10, 2016
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Ardbeg 10 Year

Bottle Information

  • 46%
  • Natural Color / Non Chill Filtered
  • $45

Nose

Big notes of Islay peat! The bacon and smoke are all there with a subtle hint of ash. This is what a peated whisky is all about. Love it!

Palate

The first sip has a bite to it. Subsequent sips are smoother but a slight bite still remains. Notes include a large slap of peat, bacon, and baking chocolate.

Finish

Very consistent with the palette except that the finish turns slightly medicinal towards the end and I detect band aids. It’s of medium length.

With Water

Oddly it has more of a bite. My recommendation is to not add water.

What I think

Another great whisky for the money. I wonder if Ardbeg Ten is at least partially matured in New ‘Virgin’ French Oak casks. If it is that would explain the spiciness I am detecting. The light nature of this product seems to point to that direction as well. I would also like to point out that Ardbeg 10 doesn't rate as high for me when I sip other peated single malts first. Oh, and if are into making your own single malt blends, Ardbeg doesn't mix well with other whiskies.

Rating: 86

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Glenallachie 1991 10 Year

December 24, 2015
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Glenallachie 1991

Bottle Information

  • Signatory Vintage
  • 43%
  • Distilled March 5th, 1991
  • Bottled May 28, 2001
  • Cask 01/490
  • Natural Color / Unchill Filtered
  • Bottle 408 of 470
  • $38 (still had the price sticker from 2001)

Nose

Odd for a Speyside. Amongst its maltiness there are hints of tall grass (that is cut and damp) and air from a rubber tire. Those last two notes are usually not good indicators for a good sipping experience.

Palate

I remember this whisky getting worse with every sip. Let’s see what happens this time. At first I find it average at best and those negative notes from the nose do not carry over as strong as I thought they would. Unfortunately, with additional sips they become more pronounced and I find myself not wanting to finish the glass. I actually feel myself starting to get one of those faces that kids get when they are fed a vegetable they do not like.

Finish

Bitter and not what I want it to be. It feels like I have breathed in too much air at a tire factory.

With Water

Didn’t get that far. The rest of my glass was poured into my solera bottle (a mix of over 100 single malt scotches).

What I think

I found this bottle at a local off-the-beaten-path liquor store. How this bottle got there and why it has supposedly on the shelves for 15 years is beyond my comprehension. Although it is a big disappointment I enjoyed the experience. Not all bottlings from an independent bottler are going to be good and this is my first of what will probably be at least a few more. Most of Glenallachie spirit is used for blends such as Chivas Regal and Ballantine’s.

Rating: 70

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Macallan 10 Year Fine Oak

December 24, 2015
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Macallan 10 Fine Oak

Bottle Information

  • 40%
  • Triple Cask Matured
  • $50

Nose

Pretty typical for a Speyside scotch. Its sherry cask influence is apparent and I also get a bit of sweet caramel.

Palate

At first there is a slight bite (probably from the French Oak cask); otherwise it is rather pleasant. This palate is very safe and very approachable. I get Speyside sweet that is paired and balanced with sherry. It’s light but at the same time, very flavorful.

Finish

Medium length and very similar to the palate. The sweet Speyside element pairs really well with the sherry cask note. It also gets better with every sip. So much so that I poured another ounce. The finish is the best part which is good because it promotes taking your time and letting enough moments pass between each sip to really enjoy with this offers.

With Water

It holds up pretty well but I can’t say the nose or palate are any different. Maybe the finish is a bit more subdued but that would be nitpicking. It is hard to tell if it lost any of the initial bit that I experienced because it was only there with the first two or three sips.

What I think

Macallan 10 Fine Oak is one of the few scotches my wife enjoys sipping. At one time I thought this was because how light it was but now I think it is because of its subtle complexity. When I first experienced it I felt it was lacking something but now that I have spent several occasions with the bottle I am a true fan. Whether it is with what is in the glass or trying the bottle over the course of many months, it just goes to show how important taking your time with a scotch is.

Rating: 85

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Bowmore Small Batch Reserve

December 12, 2015
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Bowmore Small Batch

Bottle Information

  • 40%
  • Bourbon Cask Matured
  • $40

What the Bottle Says

Breathe in vanilla fudge, sea air and peat smoke, balanced beautifully by honeycomb and cinnamon spice. Sip mouth-watering citrus, gentle saltiness and vanilla with flakes of coconut. Savour the wispy smoke, bourbon vanilla and lime finish.

Nose

Totally unique and totally crazy. I get strong wafts of floral perfume that consists of flowers, smoke, honey, and potpourri. Too be honest it is off putting but at the same time frustratingly intriguing. This is really hard to rate. Should the good negate the bad? After much thought I have decided the negatives are stronger than the positives.

Palate

Light and floral with a smoky kiss. Additional sips become stronger and begin to remind me more of the nose.

Finish

At first its pleasant but additional sips become more and more off putting. This is probably similar to drinking potpourri water. Very late in the finish I am reminded of cigarette ash.

With Water

More palatable but not much better. Let’s move on to something else.

What I think

Bowmore is a funny malt. They have some excellent bottlings and yet, oddballs like this are put into the mix. Make sure to do your homework before buying a bottle. I purchased this bottle knowing all its faults. Why you ask? For blending! Through experimentation I have found that a few drops of this whisky can add needed complexity to other malts that need a little lift.

Rating: 75

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Clynelish 14 Year

December 11, 2015
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Clynelish 14yr

Bottle Information

  • 46%
  • $50

Nose

Malt sweetness with caramel and toffee and a hint of highland Peat and/or sherry. Unlike Islay peat, which has smoke and bacon characteristics, highland peat is more herbal and grassy. Coincidently, my palate sometimes confuses highland peat with sherry. Maybe this has both but probably not. According to www.scotchwhisky.com the new make is "non peaty".

Palate

Smooth with a dominate cola note. Soft hints of cherry and toffee are also there.

Finish

It carries over the cola and is of medium length. At its very end I get toffee and cherry. I find that if I wait five minutes between sips it gets more complex. Just goes to show how spending time with a scotch whisky can pay off. Hurray for slowing things down!

With Water

It has less of a punch but at the same time offers a little bit more in other areas. Kind of like how relaxing on the beach is different than running straight into the ocean. Both are good activities and each has their time and place.

What I think

The more I get to know this official Clynelish bottle the more I think it tastes similar to Balvenie and Glendronach. It’s the cola note that takes me there. I’ve had a few independent bottlings of Clynelish and all three were almost undrinkable. This leads me to believe that Clynelish needs the right wine cask to shine. Of the three others I did not like one was in a rum cask and the other two didn’t specify.

Rating: 85

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Linkwood 15 Year

December 02, 2015
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Linkwood 15

Bottle Information

  • Gordon and MacPhail
  • 43%
  • $60

Nose

I am enjoying this nose. It expresses a Speyside sherry cask maltiness without being over the top. Caramel, vanilla, and wine cask are at the forefront.

Palate

Decent but nothing special. An oak bitterness seems to be getting in the way of what would have made this otherwise shine.

Finish

The flavor is a little better and is of medium length, but unfortunately it is on the dry side. Apart from oak, I get hints cherry and vanilla. Towards the end of the finish cola takes over.

With Water

Weird, the nose has become slightly grassy. The palate however lost the oak bitterness and the finish is more subdued and is no longer on the dry side. Overall this is not a movement in score either way. Just a flipped experience.

What I think

This is one of my mixing whiskies and I have found that adding a little Islay peat to makes up for the oak bitterness it has. In case you are wondering, Linkwood is owned by Diageo which means it most likely can be found in one of their blends such as Johnnie Walker or White Horse. There have been a few official releases but Gordon and MacPhail seems to bottle it with the most regularity.

Rating: 82

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Longmorn 16 Year

November 29, 2015
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Longmorn 16

Bottle Information

  • 48%
  • Non Chill Filtered
  • $90

Nose

Sweet Speyside maltiness with caramel, cherry, and toffee. There are also hints of chocolate and vanilla bean in there. I wish all Speyside whisky nosed with complexity and punch like this.

Palate

Big flavor! It also coats the tongue and gets better with every sip. Those Speyside nosing notes I mentioned are all here (caramel, cherry, and toffee).

Finish

Consistent with the palate, of medium length, and with a hint of oak bitterness. Since it doesn’t detract from the finish I really don’t mind. This is interesting because the bottle has been open for a year and is almost done. I don’t remember detecting any oak bitterness in the past and I wonder if it has oxidized a bit too long.

With Water

The nose is even sweeter and has more pronounced cherry. The palate is bigger as well. Oddly, the finish is a more bitter.

What I think

I remember this being better than what I experienced today. This could be due to how long the bottle has been open. To explain, I find that bottles that are about half way full are at their best. Conversely, bottles that have just been opened seem to be a little tight and bottles that are very low don’t seem to be quite right. I may have to do another tasting with another bottle to see just how different the experience will be, if any. All in all, this is still a good sipping experience and if the price was lower, I would recommend this to any whisky connoisseur.

Rating: 86

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Russell's Reserve

November 27, 2015
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Russell's Reserve 10yr

Bottle Information

  • 45%
  • Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  • $35

Nose

This noses like a bourbon but has other notes I have not detected before. In other words, it is a little less subtle and also offers more complexity. The funny thing is, I don’t have to words to describe what that complexity is. What I can say is that it noses like a bourbon and maybe has hints of cherry or something herbal.

Palate

Light and slightly bitter.

Finish

Light and a little hot with bitter cherry at the end. At the very very end I get chocolate.

With Water

The nose is a little more herbal and the palate and finish are no better.

What I think

It is refreshing that this bottle states where the bourbon was distilled at (Distilled and Bottled by the Wild Turkey Distilling Company). However it is also disappointing that I enjoyed the basic offering of Wild Turkey 101 more. This bottle is supposed to be a step up right? I also find it interesting that Wild Turkey 101 does not list the distillery but instead states "Bottled by the Austin, Nichols Distilling Company, Lawrenceburg Kentucky, U.S.A.". This makes me wonder if Wild Turkey 101 has whiskey from a different distillery included in it (some or all). Before this side-by-side I assumed that both bottles contained all their whiskey from the Wild Turkey Distillery. As a consumer this is a bit frustrating because so much of the bourbon industry is not transparent. Even if they are exclusively distilled at the same place why not put it on the bottle?

Rating: 82

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Wild Turkey 101

November 27, 2015
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Wild Turkey 101

Bottle Information

  • 50.5%
  • Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  • $25

Nose

A very typical bourbon nose with hints of black licorice. Good but nothing special.

Palate

A big wave of big bourbon flavor that turns to a slight burn.

Finish

Hints of honey and maybe candy cane. Although good it is a bit short and I am wishing it lasted longer.

With Water

A bit more hot but still pleasant.

What I think

A good sipping bourbon for the price but nothing special. I don’t think it could be distinguished from most other bourbons I’ve had but to be fair, most bourbons taste very similar to me.

Rating: 83

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Highland Park Dark Origins

November 18, 2015
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Dark Origins

Bottle Information

  • 46.8%
  • Double 1st fill Sherry Casks
  • Non-Chill filtered
  • $80

Nose

Highland peat with sherry cask and malted barley. It is probably the peat talking but this actually noses like a really old sherry bomb. Since Highland Park hasn’t told us how old this is we have to assume it’s not though. Either way, I don’t find this too interesting.

Palate

The palate fairs better with a blend of Orkney peat, and sherry. I like how the flavors coat the mouth. What I don’t like is how it is slightly hot, not a big deal though.

Finish

A medium length finish with notes of buttery burnt popcorn, and old wine. Highland Park has offered burnt popcorn notes to me before; sometimes in a bad way but this one I don’t mind.

With Water

This is better. The palate gets tamed in a way that takes away some of the heat which lets the sweet come forward. The finish improves as well and it has more butter. I also detect cola for the first time.

What I think

The water saved this whisky experience. I also recommend tasting this after experiencing other whiskies first because it will help ready your palate for the challenge. To explain further, I enjoy sipping this after enjoying something else first. When I do this, Dark Origins seems smoother and more sweet. The cost is a bit high for what this offers and I would not buy again.

Rating: 85

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Arran Devil's Punchbowl III
The Fiendish Finale

November 18, 2015
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Devil's Punchbowl III

Bottle Information

  • 53.4% (Cask Strength)
  • 2014
  • Batch 1
  • Bottle 12 of 1204
  • Bourbon, French Oak Barrique, & Sherry Casks
  • 6660 Bottles
  • Un-Chill Filtered / Natural Color
  • $120

Nose

Caramel, toffee, and vanilla with hints of soft chocolate candies and sherry cask.

Palate

The whisky coats the tongue really well and delivers a complex punch of pear, sweet candy, and wine.

Finish

Very pleasant and very long. Maybe slightly bitter at the very end but I think we can forgive that.

With Water

This takes water very well; a true swimmer! My sample wasn't big enough to really experiment with it though.

What I think

What a pleasant whisky. It’s nice to see a non-age-statement whisky doing it right. Even though the marketing on this is quite loud the whisky matches the intensity with great flavor and complexity. I also think the transparency is quite refreshing too. We get cask numbers with details as to what type of casks were used. Further, if Arran has integrity and numbers their casks sequentially, we can easily conclude rough estimates as to how old some of the casks were when this was bottled. Again, this is a fun whisky and I am glad to have tried it. Well done Arran!

Rating: 89

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Bruichladdich Black Art 03.1

November 11, 2015
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Black Arts 3.1

Bottle Information

  • 48.7% (Cask Strength)
  • Distilled 1989
  • Bottled March 9th, 2012
  • Bottle 12 of 1204
  • Bourbon / American Oak + Premium Wine Casks
  • 22 Year
  • 1200 bottles
  • $280

Nose

This definitely has a wine cask in its recipe. I nose its influence and with it, I also detect malted barley with hints of honey. Oddly, none of the notes are pronounced in any way; it’s more subtle.

Palate

It comes a little hot which gets in the way of the flavors I am trying to detect. I wonder if water will help take that away.

Finish

Slightly bitter with old wine and flat cola. Surprisingly, it’s not too complex and there isn’t a lot of sweet here; I would describe it as simple even.

With Water

The whole experience is better. The nose improves with a bigger hit of sweetness and it reminds me of the cola I get with Balvenie scotches. The hot palette is gone and that cola in the finish can be detected at the start. Water in this whisky is highly recommended.

What I think

The packaging is the best part of this whisky. Sadly, marketing cannot and should not make a whisky good.

Rating: 82

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Cody Road 2015 Batch 1

November 11, 2015
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Cody Road 2015 Batch 1

Bottle Information

  • 45%
  • 2015
  • Batch 1
  • Bottle 12 of 1204
  • Made from 70% corn (from Dan & Ryan Clark and Dan Schurr of LeClaire) with 20% wheat and 10% barley (from Tracy Doonan of Reynolds, Illinois).
  • $30

Nose

My American whisky experience is nowhere near that of Scotland but this noses American to me. The corn influence comes through and I experience hints of aniseed and sweet cornbread. Not bad...

Palate

A bit hot and comes through spicy which is probably due to heavy oak influence from a small cask or light char; could be both. That’s too bad because it gets in the way and makes it difficult to find the other sweet notes I detected in the nose.

Finish

Uninspiring and unpleasant. It is dry and bitter with hints of aniseed. The more I sip the more difficult it is to finish the glass.

With Water

The nose improves a little but that doesn’t make up for the palate and finish which is still bitter and unpleasant.

What I think

I really wanted to like this. It’s a small distillery (located in Le Claire, Iowa) and they seem to be doing everything right in regards to local ingredient sourcing and transparency. Maybe this just isn’t for me. Either way, it’s good to experience other types of whisky and I am grateful for the effort.

Rating: 77

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Imperial 18 year

November 07, 2015
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Imperial 18 Year

Bottle Information

  • Signatory Un-Chill Filtered Collection (Cask Strength)
  • 54.7%
  • Non Chill-Filtered
  • Natural Color
  • Distilled on August 21, 1995
  • Bottled on August 1st, 2014
  • Hogshead Cask # 50148
  • Bottle 226 of 272
  • $90

Nose

This is good. This is very good. If only all malts had a nose like this. I get big Speyside malt notes including cherry, caramel, and vanilla cake icing.

Palate

So, so good. The notes from the nose carry on very well and I am still getting cherry, caramel, and vanilla cake icing. I love how they all dance with each other; first this, then that...

Finish

Fairly long with the vanilla icing note taking control at the end. This is smooth too.

With Water

Still awesome but the finish suffers a bit.

What I think

This whisky is absolutely outstanding and is one to cherish. I’ve also heard that most casks from 1995 are of very high caliber. Good luck finding them though; Imperial was demolished shortly after this time period and there is only so much of it to go around. I also suspect prices will rise dramatically. My guess is that bottles will soon be over $200 each.

Rating: 90

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Ardbeg Uigeadail

November 04, 2015
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Ardbeg Uigeadail

Bottle Information

  • 54.2%
  • Non Chill-Filtered
  • $70

Nose

Light smoke with hints of bacon, chocolate, and sherry. Even though it's good this is my least favorite part of Ardbeg Uigeadail.

Palate

This is beautiful. A wonderful blend of peat with a complex mixture of alternating highlights that include bacon, chocolate, cherry, and taffy. I love how each highlight comes forward and is then replaced by the next. What an awesome sipping experience.

Finish

Quite smooth with a good continuation of the palate. Its complexity encourages the sipper to slow down and enjoy each part of what it offers. This is a great sipping dram and should be a staple in any enthusiast’s collection.

With Water

Still a great sipping experience. The nose opens up a bit more and the palate becomes a little more smooth (even though it was never harsh). This takes water rather well.

What I think

Ardbeg can get away with not having an age statement because of the price point and how good it is. This is my favorite everyday Ardbeg and I often share it with friends who have yet to experience what a great bottle of peated whisky can offer. It’s also readily available although I recommend shopping around because in the United States prices can vary greatly. Well done Ardbeg!

Rating: 89

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Laphroaig 10 year

November 04, 2015
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Laphroaig 10yr

Bottle Information

  • 43%
  • $50

Nose

A lot of smoky peat with strong notes of bacon, all paired nicely with hints of ash and chocolate. If you enjoy peat this is a great nose. Bourbon cask Islay at its best.

Palate

A big hit of peat smoke. While very good, not too complex. The first several sips seem to be the best. After that, it gets increasingly more difficult to chase that first sip.

Finish

The big flavors seem to ebb way rather fast, however what lingers behind stays for a while and is quite pleasant.

With Water

The nose has a new note... but I can’t place what it is. The palate and finish seem to be less intense. Hmm, this was better without the water. We drink Laphroaig for the punch right?

What I think

In my experience, it’s hard to get the nose wrong with a heavily peated whisky. In many cases, it’s the highlight of the experience. It’s when these whiskies have great palates and finishes do they truly rise to greatness. What I find interesting about Laphroaig is that it blends well with other whiskies. Add it to any mediocre Speyside and it can turn an average sipping experience into a great one. I suggest keeping the Laphroaig under 33% of what is in the glass.

Rating: 86

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Macallan 12 Year

October 30, 2015
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Macallan 12 Year

Bottle Information

  • 43%
  • Exclusively matured in selected sherry oak casks from Jerez, Spain.
  • $55

Nose

This nose is all sherry cask and its influence is very evident. I like it but at the same time, nothing special here. You know what you are getting when you enjoy these types of sherry cask whiskies.

Palate

Same with the palate, the sherry influence is very pronounced. I also get some cherry Speyside maltiness. Try waiting five minutes between sips. When I do this the palate seems to change every time. This is a plus in my experience.

Finish

It’s of medium length and very consistent with the palate and nose. Very late I get slight hints of red licorice candy which is unexpected.

With Water

The nose comes out even more and shows a more distinct malt whisky influence. That palate remains quite good but I can’t say I can notice differences. Sometimes heavily sherried whiskies taste bitter when I add water but not this one.

What I think

The thing with entry level malts that are heavily influenced with wine casks is that they are usually predictable. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy these malts, it’s just that they are very hard to distinguish the malt from the wine influence. The Macallan 12 stands out in that the flavor seems to change when you let the glass sit for a bit between sips. It's a fun malt and a staple in any whisky enthusiast's collection.

Rating: 87

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Cragganmore 12 Year

October 30, 2015
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Cragganmore 12 Year

Bottle Information

  • 40%
  • $50

Nose

Pleasant notes of cherry and vanilla with a hint of brown sugar. I’ve always enjoyed Cragganmore’s nose and have wondered what it be like at cask strength. Good luck finding that though.

Palate

The nose transfers well and in addition to the vanilla and cherry I also get a bit of apple. Although complex, it is not the most exciting malt to sip.

Finish

Very smooth and consistent with its flavors.

With Water

A few drops bring out the nose a little more and blends the palate in a way that loses its complexity. The finish also suffers a bit. No water needed with this one.

What I think

A great whisky to help people explore what single malt scotch is all about. Its flavor is very Speyside and it doesn’t hide itself with heavy cask influences or peat.

Rating: 85

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Inchgower 13 Year

October 30, 2015
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Inchgower 13 Year

Bottle Information

  • Gordon and MacPhail Connoisseur’s Choice
  • Refill Sherry Hogshead
  • 46%
  • Natural Color
  • Un Chill Filtered
  • $45

What the Bottle Says

Delicate sherry influences with fresh pineapple and peach aromas. Banana and orange on the palate with a cream milk chocolate finish.

Nose

It’s a pleasant nose with notes of cherry, vanilla, and hints of the wine cask influence.

Palate

I really enjoy the balance this whisky has. Although not complex, everything it offers is in harmony. Not many whiskies at this price range can claim that. The wine cask does not overpower like so many others which allows the malt flavors to be a part of the experience.

Finish

Relatively long with a continuation of that balance between the cask and distillate.

With Water

It takes water really well. The nose is sweeter but I can’t say the palate is any different. Either way, wow, what a great balance.

What I think

I am going to miss this bottle when it’s gone. Now that I read the label I do get that milk chocolate on the end. This is one of the better Connoisseurs Choice bottles I’ve had a chance to enjoy. The majority of Inchgower goes into Bells, Johnnie Walker, and White Horse blends. I’m curious to taste some Inchgower from a 1st fill bourbon barrel; it’s probably quite good.

Rating: 87

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Teeling Small Batch 09/2014

October 25, 2015
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Teeling Small Batch

Bottle Information

  • Bottled 09/2014
  • 6 Months in rum casks
  • 46%
  • Un Chill Filtered
  • $35

Nose

Light hints of vanilla icing. I wish it was a little more robust but overall no complaints.

Palate

This is good. Complex yet no individual note stands alone. As a whole, it’s light and sweet with a hint of rubbing alcohol. Perhaps I detect hints of that vanilla icing but I think I am reaching a bit.

Finish

More of those rubbing alcohol hints with malt flavors that are both light and sweet.

With Water

Interesting. That hint of rubbing alcohol is gone which makes the palate is a little more pleasant. Wait, now the rubbing alcohol is back again.

What I think

Hints of rubbing alcohol can come from the distillation process. To give a quick explanation, not everything that comes out of the still should be put into the cask and if a distiller chooses they can expand the good section to be larger than it should. One of the reasons cheap vodka is so affordable is because it has such a large (contaminated) cut. I've also found that drinking whisky from a continuous still can also create that note for me. Despite this flaw, I still enjoy sipping this bottle because the good out weighs the bad and it is different than most of the whiskies in my collection. Quite affordable too.

Rating: 83

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Glen Ord 17 Year

October 24, 2015
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Glen Ord 17 year

Bottle Information

  • Signatory Un-Chillfiltered Collection (Cask Strength)
  • Hand picked by K&L Wine Merchants
  • Distilled on April 4th, 1997
  • Bottled on August 1st, 2014
  • Hogshead Cask (Number 800089)
  • 58.3%
  • 272 bottles
  • Un Chill Filtered / Natural Color
  • $85

Nose

It’s a pleasant nose with hints of vanilla, peeled apples, and malted barley. Very Speyside (although this distillery is located in the Northern Highland region).

Palate

Wow. Big notes of peach and apple coat the tongue with malty goodness. It comes in slightly hot but not in an unpleasant way.

Finish

This finish is quite long and ends with a rather pleasant apple note. What a fun sipper. A bet it will take water well. My guess is that it will open the nose up some while taking the bite down a notch or two.

With Water

I was partially right. The nose is bigger but I can no longer pick out any individual notes. Although the palate is smoother, is suffers a bit in that I now detect a little oak bitterness and the finish that I love so much isn’t as interesting.

What I think

In case you are curious, this is one of the single malts that is used for the Singleton bottlings although depending on where you are in the world will depend on if Glen Ord is in the bottle or not. I used to think that Scotch Whiskies that could not be commonly found as a single malt must be flawed in some way; that they were used for blending or given different names to help them shine. Malts like this one prove that theory wrong. This bottle is one to savor over time; I really enjoy it. Great bottle for the money and experience!

Rating: 88

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Port Charlotte Scottish Barley

October 23, 2015
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Port Charlotte Scottish Barley

Bottle Information

  • Heavily Peated
  • Distilled at Bruichladdich
  • 50%
  • $60

Nose

Strong notes of bacon infused smoked meats with peat smoke; very typical Islay. This is quite good and I am thoroughly enjoying it.

Palate

The bottle declares "Heavily Peated" and it is! The peat is the hero here. Besides being smooth for 50% alcohol by volume there is not much else to say about it.

Finish

A tad disappointing because I wish the good parts of it stayed around longer than it does. At first there are big notes of peated cola which ebb away and leave a slight oaky bitterness. Just slight though.

With Water

The nose is sweeter with additional hints of cherry. Not a big change in the palate and finish.

What I think

I like that this is presented at 50% alcohol. As a non-age statement whisky in a price range above $50 it is a bit disappointing. Would not buy again.

Rating: 82

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Hazelburn 8 Year Cask Strength

October 21, 2015
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Hazelburn 8 Year

Bottle Information

  • Triple Distilled
  • 56.5%
  • $70

Nose

The nose has strong notes of vanilla but not just any vanilla; vanilla cake icing! I really like this. That cake icing note is the first I’ve experienced from a whisky.

Palate

The first sip shows the youth and high alcohol content; it bites a bit. This is not a smooth sipper. After that, it becomes a little smoother but the kick stays. I really wish the cake icing was here but I have not been able to find it. This whisky is sweet, but for me the taste is undefined.

Finish

Good thing the cake icing comes back in the finish. I like how it takes about fifteen seconds to come into existence and then fades until gone after a minute or two.

With Water

A few drops of water take the bite away and give a better sipping experience. Oddly, the finish suffers a bit because the vanilla icing boat isn’t the same experience.

What I think

No surprises here, for the age and distillation it does not disappoint. The Springbank Distillery, who is responsible for this whisky, did a great job with this unpeated single malt. It’s not a bottle that I go to often but when I do, it’s not a bad choice.

Rating: 85

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Benrinnes 11 year

October 18, 2015
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Glendronach 12 Year

Bottle Information

  • Ian Macloed Chieftain's Choice
  • 43%
  • Tokaji Finish
  • Cask 91021
  • 402 Bottles
  • Distilled October 1996
  • Bottled January 2008
  • Bottle Code: L 10 03 08 3 13:21 BB
  • Natural Color
  • Unchill Filtered
  • $45 (On sale)

Nose

Is there a nose worth talking about? Very disappointing. At least it doesn’t have anything unpleasant going on.

Palate

Much better, well better than the nose. It’s different with light cola notes and maybe an herbal influence; can’t place it though.

With Water

The nose showed up and overall this is a better sipping experience. Cola and wine dominate.

Finish

Consistent with the palate. Light cola presents itself again. It’s pleasant and seems to be the best part of this whisky.

What I think

An unchill filtered whisky at 43% is a bit rare, most are presented at 46% or higher. I am wondering if this particular cask had more to offer when water brought it down to a lower strength. A little research shows that whisky from Benrinnes was triple distilled until 2007. This would account for the light profile because the more whisky is distilled, the lighter it becomes.

Rating: 82

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Glendronach 12 year

October 17, 2015
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Glendronach 12 Year

Bottle Information

  • 43%
  • Combination of pedro ximinez and oloroso sherry casks
  • Bottle Code: 2014/02/18 12:52 LH10152
  • $50

What the Bottle Says

The nose consists of sweet creamy vanilla with hints of ginger and autumn fruit. Expect rich and creamy smoothness with sherry sweetness, raisins, a bit of spice, and soft fruits on the Palate.

Nose

Sherry monster indeed! Its influence is very prevalent and besides a hint of malted barley, it’s sherry all day.

Palate

The first sip is really smooth and as an experienced taster once told me, it takes many sips to adequately judge a whisky so let’s continue on. Big syrupy sherry flavors that remind me of cola without the carbonation. I may be picking up on hints of canned cherries but that could be a reach. Not much complexity but still tasty.

Finish

Very pleasant and consistent with the nose and palate. Again, syrupy cola that stays on the top of the tongue. I like how it doesn’t get bitter at the end like some whiskies do.

With Water

The nose is more prevalent and has a bigger punch. However, the palate gains a bit of spiciness and finish is more subdued. Definitely better without water.

What I think

Too bad there is not much complexity here. If there were, this whisky would intrigue me a bit more. Having said that, the price is great for what you get. Worth every penny.

Rating: 85

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Strathmill 10 year

October 14, 2015
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Strathmill 10 Year

Bottle Information

  • Gordon and MacPhail Connoisseur’s Choice
  • 46%
  • 1st Fill Bourbon
  • Natural Color
  • Non Chill Filtered
  • Bottle Code: 09/04/2015 150356
  • $60

What the Bottle Says

Nose is sweet with coconut, gorse flowers, and stewed Pears. Palate is peppery with honey, ripe banana, and a touch of ginger.

Nose

Unpeated malt with hints of honey. Not disappointing but noses like this are a dime a dozen.

Palate

The first sip is spicy. After that, sips have big flavor with hints of pear. I like how much punch this one has. When I say big flavor I mean big flavor.

Finish

It is not a short finish but barely qualifies for medium. It has hints of banana and pear which quickly ebb into slight oak bitterness.

With Water

The nose is a tad more prominent. The palate and finish however are more subdued and diluted. It was better without the water and I would not add again.

What I think

I like that this bottle is non chill filtered, natural color, and bottled at 46%. Although the nose was slightly above average and the finish was a little flawed, the palate was really enjoyable. I can see why most of Strathmill’s distillate is used for blending.

Rating: 85

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Glenmorangie Signet

October 11, 2015
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Signet Bottle

Bottle Information

  • A/C: 46%
  • Non-Chill Filtered
  • $200

What the Distillery Says

Rare and exclusive ingredients including single estate barley and high roast “chocolate” malted barley evoking rich, sweet flavors including hints of chocolate and coffee. Includes archived whisky up to 40 years old.

Nose

Big aromas of Speyside malt, tiramisu, and cherries with a touch of dark baking chocolate. I could nose this whisky all day and remain a happy man. Most whiskies do not have a nose as great as this one. Strike that, I cannot think of a non peated whisky with a nose as great as this.

Palate

Awesome. The aroma notes transfer well as I take my first sip; the cherries, tiramisu and baking chocolate are all there. Each additional sip coats my mouth with flavor. This whisky is very smooth and very tasty. I love how its flavor seams to reach every part of my mouth with goodness. I also like how its uniqueness sets it apart from any other scotch I have tried to date.

Finish

Medium to long with hints of tiramisu.

With Water

It takes water well but I don’t detect much change. Looks like its complexity does not need to be coaxed out.

What I Say

The high roast malted barley used has make this had a big impact. It’s smooth, tasty, and a very enjoyable dram. If this whisky had a lower price point I would buy it by the case. For now, I will be happy having a dram whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Rating: 89

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Bladnoch 18 year

October 10, 2015
Submitted by: Doug Spencer

Bladnoch 1993

Bottle Information

  • Gordon and MacPhail Connoisseur’s Choice
  • 43%
  • Refill Sherry Hogshead
  • Distilled March 1993
  • Bottled May 2011
  • $120

What the Bottle Says

Light with some sweetness and fruity influences.

Nose

Light malt notes with hints of cherry and marshmallow.

Palate

The first sip has a slight bite to it. Subsequent sips are smoother, but reveal a side of oakiness that fights with those cherry and marshmallow notes it had in the nose.

Finish

A bit plain. To be more descriptive, hints of old marshmallow with slight bitter oak. Not much here though.

With Water

A few drops makes the palate more prominent.

What I Say

It’s a decent dram for the experience. There is not much Bladnoch around and it’s good to taste a bit of history. The distillery was closed the same year this whisky was bottled (1993). It has been sold twice since then but so far owners have been unable to establish any consistency (production resumed from 2000 to 2013). Back to the bottle, I wonder if it was aged a bit too long. Maybe there wasn’t much flavor and it was kept in the cask with hopes of improving it with time. If that is the case it didn't work.

Rating: 82

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