Atholl Highlander


As noted in my report on a quick visit to Tomatin, we’d spent a few hours that day at Blair Castle. (There is, of course, a distillery near Blair Castle as well (Blair Atholl) but we did not go there.) As I’ve also noted, we really enjoyed Blair Castle. We didn’t really know what to expect as it doesn’t look like your classic grey, stone fortress. But it turned out to be a great first stop on a rainy day, with a nice woodland drive to it from the A9 as a bonus. The castle has a large number of rooms open to visitors and it’s particularly good with small children as they have a detailed activity sheet that keeps them occupied and interested during the self-guided tour. Alas, due to the rain we were not able to visit their gardens, which are apparently rather lovely. Blair Castle, as you may know, has a private army, the Atholl Highlanders. We missed their annual parade and gathering by about 10 days but didn’t miss this whisky which is said to be  bottled “Exclusively for the Atholl Highlanders” but is also available to any and all civilians in the gift shop. It’s not expensive but I restricted myself to a mini, which, later that evening, became the first highland malt that I drank in the highlands. Unfortunately, it was not the best highland malt I had in the highlands… Continue reading

Coppersea Green Malt Rye

Coppersea Green Malt Rye
Coppersea
are a new’ish New York craft distillery. In the world of American spirits very few phrases evoke the kind of terror that “craft distillery” does. Despite what their websites say, many craft distilleries seem to stand for unpleasant, undrinkable spirits you pay vastly inflated prices for while the well-meaning, young people with beards who run them figure out how to make whisky or whatever with some production twist that is meant to intrigue as well.

Do Coppersea have a production twist? Yes, they do; more than one actually: they make their whiskey from grain that is still germinating (thus green malt) and they don’t kiln it; and they apparently use some barrels made of New York oak (locally sourced!). They have the inflated price down too. The retail price for this rye is $95 for 375 ml. That almost makes up the upcoming Booker’s Rye seem like a bargain at $300—after all, at Beam they actually have been making whisky a long time and Booker’s Rye is probably going to be very good and aged longer than the .6 years this one was aged for. (Yes, you read that correctly: there’s a decimal point before the 6.)  I guess they couldn’t wait another .4 years. Continue reading

Faultline Blended Scotch Whisky

Faultline Blended Scotch, K&L
K&L released this blend under their Faultline label earlier this year (or was it late last year)? I wasn’t very interested in it at first but when Michael K. suggested a bottle split I decided to give it a go. It’s cheap to begin with and a quarter of the bottle was really cheap. He then suggested we review it simultaneously and roped Jordan D. of Chemistry of the Cocktail in as well. And so here I am. If all goes according to plan Michael and Jordan’s reviews should go up at the same time, and I’ll link to them when I’m awake in the morning. (Here and here.)

I know nothing about this whisky or of what David D. said about it, but I’m sure it’s the very best blended whisky anyone has ever made. I think I remember Sku liking it a lot, so I guess it has a decent ceiling; at worst, the rest’ll get used up in my vattings. Continue reading

Glenfiddich Caoran Reserve

Glenfiddich Caoran Reserve

These days pretty much every distillery has boarded the peat train (from Tomatin to Knockdhu/An Cnoc to Bunnahabhain) but you can’t accuse Glenfiddich of being followers. This peated Glenfiddich (Caoran apparently means “peat ember”) was first released early in the 2000s (there’s a Whisky mag review by Michael Jackson and Dave Broom from 2002); and another indication of it not being a product of the moment is that it had an age statement, being 12 years old. The bottle my samples came from was released in 2005. I don’t see any listings for it on Whiskybase after 2008 and so assume it is no longer being produced. If this is an incorrect assumption please let me know below and I will add it to my long list of lazy errors. (I do see that some stores in the US still list it, but Glenfiddich’s own site does not.)

Tangentially: does anyone know which distilleries with official releases that were hitherto sans tangible peat have not jumped on the peated whisky train in recent years? Other than Glengoyne, that is. Off the top of my head, I’m pretty sure Macallan haven’t and probably not Glen Grant, Glenrothes or Glenlivet.

Continue reading

The Famous Grouse

The Famous GrouseI’ve reviewed the Black Grouse but not the member of the family that makes all the money: the original Famous Grouse. Until now.

The Famous Grouse is reportedly the most popular whisky in Scotland, at least in terms of sales. You must remember, of course, that Budweiser is similarly the most popular beer in the US, and McDonald’s the makers of the most popular hamburger. That said, I will admit there are occasions when I enjoy a cold Bud—mostly at sporting events where the other options are Corona or Miller—and I have also occasionally enjoyed the Famous Grouse, with ice and water. Hot on the heels of my very positive review of the very popular Johnnie Walker Black Label, therefore, in a continuing attempt to become the Blogger of the People, here is a review of the Famous Grouse. Will it reward close attention the way the Black Label did or will its flaws be all the more apparent? Continue reading

Koval, Lion’s Pride, Dark Rye

Koval, Lion’s Pride Dark Rye, Barrel 198
Koval
is a small distillery in Illinois who’ve released a number of whiskeys made from 100% mashbills of various kinds of grains (there’s also oat and millet) as well as a bourbon which has millet in place of the usual rye and barley complement, and a four grain whiskey from oat, wheat, rye and malted barley. They currently also have an aged 100% rye and a 100% white rye but this Dark Rye (I don’t know what “dark rye” is) doesn’t seem to be part of their current/continuing lineup. So, clearly they’re doing interesting stuff—but is it any good?

It’s not just the Dark Rye that’s gone, by the way. Their current releases don’t sport the “Lion’s Pride” moniker either. I believe the early releases were all dubbed Lion’s Pride for the owners’ son who is apparently named Lion.

Lion’s Pride Dark Rye (40%; Barrel 198; from a sample received in a swap) Continue reading

“Mystery Spirit”

Mystery Spirit
The run of reviews of peated whiskies will pause for one day as I post a blind review of this “Mystery Spirit”. This is a sample of unknown origin sent to both Michael Kravitz of Diving for Pearls and to me by the famous Romanian actor, Florin. As the name indicates, it may not even be whisky. Michael and I are publishing our notes on it simultaneously (I’ll post the link to his review once I have it). Once our notes are up Florin will tell us what it is/was. Hopefully, it’s not his urine. (Actually, I think Michael sent Florin his notes yesterday and found out what it is–as our reviews are being published simultaneously I won’t know what it is till after this goes up).

[And here is the link to Michael’s notes.]

Continue reading

Compass Box, Hedonism

Compass Box HedonismFollowing yesterday’s review of the Eleuthera, one of Compass Box’s vatted malts, here is the Hedonism, which may be the only all-grain blend they’ve released (at least in general release). I’ve not had too many Scotch grain whiskies, and those only much older single grains, which is a category that seems to be picking up steam among whisky geeks these days. The Hedonism also has old whisky in it and as per their site it’s all from 100% first-fill American oak barrels and/or rejuvenated American oak hogsheads. As they specify barrels and hogsheads this would imply that they’re ex-bourbon (sherry is also matured in American oak casks–European oak is used primarily during storage and shipping*–but in much larger butts or puncheons).

*This is something I learned recently from my friend Rich who visited a number of sherry bodegas in Spain earlier this year. Continue reading

Glenmorangie Artein

Glenmorangie Artein

The Artein was released a year or two ago. It’s a vatting of whisky from 15 year old and 21 year old Glenmorangie finished in Sassicaia casks (a so-called “Super Tuscan” Bordeaux-style red wine). There is twice as much 15 yo as 21 yo whisky in the vatting. I can’t say I’ve loved too many (any?) red wine finished whiskies but let’s see what I make of this one.

Glenmorangie Artein (46%; finished in Sassicaia casks; from a sample received in a swap)

Nose: Red fruit and berries but not particularly bright and sweet. There’s some polished wood with a little rye. With a minute or so of airing the wood gets quite perfumed/aromatic; in fact, it’s almost in men’s eau de cologne territory. Seriously (a nice cologne though–something Cary Grant would have worn). Continue reading