Showing posts with label Highlands. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Highlands. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban 14 Years Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky Review & Tasting Notes


If you're unfamiliar with Glenmorangie (a/k/a Glenmo), it is a Highland Scotch whisky distillery founded in 1843 and located in Tain, Ross-shire. Mothballed twice, first from 1931 to 1936 and then again from 1941 to 1944, Glenmo has the tallest stills in Scotland, nicknamed giraffes. Hard water, high in mineral content sourced from the local Tarlogie Springs, is used in distillation. The giraffe concept is so crucial to Glenmo that it pioneered a partnership with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation to save these animals from becoming further endangered.

In 2021, I published my review of The Quinta Ruban 12 Years Old. Its timing was nice because that excellent discontinued expression was still readily available. It was replaced by The Quinta Ruban 14 Years Old, and that single malt is what I’m reviewing today.

Dr. Bill, our Director of Whisky Creation, was born with a taste for adventure. And with this single malt, he sought to create a whisky as unpredictable as his travels.

Quinta Ruban is a whisky journey into the wild – a dark and delectable forest where the wind whistles with gusts of peppermint and dark swirls of chocolate can happen at any moment.” – Glenmorangie

Quinta Ruban starts its life as the flagship Glenmorangie Original 10 Years Old, which slept a decade in former Jack Daniel’s Bourbon (or Tennessee Whisky if you want to get technical) barrels. The magic happens because, from there, it spent an additional four years in former Ruby Port pipes. Port pipes are tapered wood casks. The ones Glenmorangie sourced came from the Quintas of Portugal. Quintas is Portuguese for wine estates. Ruban is the Gaelic term for ruby. Hence the name Quinta Ruban.

The Quinta Ruban 14 Years is non-chill filtered, naturally colored, and packaged at 46% ABV (92°). You can expect a 750ml bottle to cost around $55.00, and it enjoys wide availability. Glenmorangie also sells a four-pack taster set which is how I acquired my bottle.

Now, let’s #DrinkCurious and explore this Scotch in detail.

Appearance: I poured this whisky neat in my Glencairn glass. It was a clear, bright orange liquid that generated a medium rim. Slow, sticky droplets crawled back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose: Smells of dark stone fruits, including cherries and plums, were evident before I picked up the glass. A bit of orange zest, apricot, dark chocolate, and malt were also released. When I inhaled through my lips, orange citrus rolled across my tongue.

Palate: The first sip greeted my mouth with a soft, silky texture. Leather, plum, and black cherry flavors were on the front. The middle featured dark chocolate, almond, and maple syrup, while the back tasted of tobacco leaf, oak, and orange citrus.

Finish: Cocoa powder, orange zest, oak, leather, and almond stuck around for a medium-to-long finish.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I still have a bottle of Quinta Ruban 12 Years Old and felt it would be pertinent to try it side-by-side. That had a brighter, sweeter nose and palate, but the 14 Years Old was more profound and complex. They seemed related, but the two years definitely added character. While both are delicious, I would pick the 14 Years Old as superior. At $55.00 or so, I believe it is one hell of a bargain, and it has no problem walking away with a Bottle rating. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.


Wednesday, March 15, 2023

The GlenDronach Cask Strength Batch 11 Single Malt Scotch Whisky Review & Tasting Notes

One of my favorite Highland Scotch distilleries is The GlenDronach. The distillery exploits fine sherry casks to age its newmake and create something normally above-par. Located in Aberdeenshire, it was founded in 1826 by James Allardice; its name comes from the Gaelic Glen (meaning valley) and Dronach (meaning brambles or blackberries) from the Dronach Burn, which is the river that provides the distillery its water. Together, The GlenDronach means the valley of the blackberries.


Things were great for nine years until the distillery was destroyed by fire in 1837. Not interested in giving up, Allardice quickly rebuilt it. Allardice went bankrupt in 1842 and had to divest himself of his assets, including The GlenDronach. In 1852, Walter Scott, the former distillery manager of Teaninich, became the owner until 1877. Over the next 40-some-odd years, it changed hands several times and was eventually acquired by Captain Charles Grant in 1920. His family maintained ownership until 1960 when William Teachers & Sons purchased the distillery. At that point, The GlenDronach went through a refitting that included adding two stills.


In 1976, Teachers was purchased by Allied Distillers, and the deal included The GlenDronach. The distillery was shuttered in 1996. Six years later, Allied revived it, and in 2005, Pernod Ricard purchased Allied, but it wasn’t interested in keeping The GlenDronach. In 2008, BenRiach Distillery Co., Ltd., led by Billy Walker, purchased it and honed in on aging whisky in ex-sherry casks instead of former Bourbon barrels. Things went well and caught the attention of Brown-Forman, who bought it, along with BenRiach and Glenglassaugh. Dr. Rachel Barrie was brought in as the Master Blender of all three distilleries, while Billy Walker went to The GlenAllachie.


One of the most recent decisions made by The GlenDronach was to introduce chill filtration to its whiskies. This change was controversial among fans of the brand. I simply care about how the whisky tastes, and, as I stated earlier, this is one of my favorite Highland distilleries.


Today I’m exploring The GlenDronach Cask Strength Batch 11 single malt Scotch. While it carries no age statement, it is bottled at 59.8% ABV (119.6°). It is naturally colored, and as it is cask strength, it was not chill-filtered. It is priced at $100.00 and widely available across the United States.


This eleventh batch of The GlenDronach Cask Strength embodies The GlenDronach‘s celebrated style of Spanish Oak maturation in fine Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso sherry casks from Andalucía. Add a drop or two of water to this latest expression to reveal a cornucopia of flavor - from richly spiced bramble wine and treacle toffee, to lingering Seville orange peel and nutmeg layered with caramel and maraschino cherry.” – Dr. Rachel Barrie, Master Blender


Before I get to the #DrinkCurious part, I’m grateful to The GlenDronach for sending me a sample of this whisky in exchange for my no-strings-attached, honest review. Let’s get to it.


Appearance: I sipped this whisky neat in my Glencairn glass. The reddish-brown liquid produced a thick rim that stuck like glue. Tiny droplets formed that seemed less than excited to go anywhere.


Nose: I brought the glass to my face and smiled as aromas of honeycomb, plum, cherry, orange peel, vanilla, and almond wafted out the neck. I opened my mouth and inhaled the vapor, producing a dried cranberry taste.


Palate: The texture was syrupy. A combination of orange and dried cranberry met the front of my palate. More fruit, this time dried cherry, blackberry, and raisin, created the middle. The back offered dark chocolate, English toffee, and dry leather.


Finish: Long and warming, the finish included dry leather, dark chocolate, dried cherry, raisin, and wood tannin.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Earlier, Dr. Barrie suggested adding a drop or two of water. I’m pretty Type-A about adding water, and I used an eyedropper to add two (and only two) drops of distilled water.


The smell of caramel exploded from the glass, followed by almond and milk chocolate. In other words, it smelled like a Milky Way candy bar. The texture thinned from syrupy to creamy. My palate found maraschino cherries, strawberries, macadamia nuts, nutmeg, and cocoa powder. The tannins were magnified. It was tasty, but I did prefer this whisky neat.


Cask Strength Batch 11 drank slightly higher than its stated proof. My head spun a bit, albeit I was so enamored by the flavors that I wasn’t shy about sipping. You’ll not even remember it lacks an age statement. You’ll just be happy you purchased a Bottle. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.



Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Wolfburn Northland, Aurora, Morven, and 2022 Winter Edition Single Malt Scotch Reviews & Tasting Notes

One of the things that real estate professionals will tell you is there are only three things that matter: location, location, and location. Suppose you go as far north as possible on the Scottish mainland. In that case, you’ll wind up at Thurso in the Highlands region, and you’ll be staring at a distillery called Wolfburn.


Wolfburn states it is both the first and last distillery on the mainland. If that sounds confusing, don’t worry; it was also to me.


Founded in 1821 by William Smith, the Wolfburn distillery remained in the family until 1837, when it was shuttered. It was reopened by David Smith in 1852, but it only lasted a year before the distillery was again abandoned. Some stories suggest someone produced whisky there in the 1860s, but it closed for good and subsequently fell into disrepair. In the 1870s, the distillery was in ruins, and nobody thought much of it.


In May 2011 one of our team went to locate the site of the old Wolfburn Distillery in Thurso, Caithness. After 150 years of neglect what we found was a barely discernible pile of stones, but one thing remained from the yesteryears of Wolfburn distillery; the water. The cold clear waters that fed the mash tun and stills all those years ago were still flowing just as they always had, and if the Wolf Burn was still there then we reckoned the whisky could be too.” - Wolfburn


Today I’m exploring four of Wolfburn’s Single Malt Whiskies: Northland, Aurora, Morven, and the 2022 Winter Edition. But, before I #DrinkCurious, I must thank ImpEx Beverages, the exclusive US-based distributor for Wolfburn, for providing me samples in exchange for my no-strings-attached, honest reviews. Finally, there is an expected price increase coming shortly, but the prices listed are for what’s on the shelf now. ImpEx Beverages did suggest it will add about $5.00 or so. With that being said, let’s get to the reviews.


Wolfburn Northland


Up first is Northland, the distillery’s flagship whisky. Matured in American oak quarter casks, the Scotch is non-chill filtered and naturally colored. It weighs in at 46% ABV (92°) and has a retail price of about $74.99.


Appearance: Northland Single Malt presented as blonde straw in my Glencairn glass. A medium-thick rim produced husky legs but left behind sticky droplets.


Nose: A fruity nose offered smells of citrus, apple, pineapple, caramel, and light smoke. Only the pineapple came through when I drew the air into my mouth.


Palate: The front of my palate encountered a lightly-peated whisky with honey and white grape. As it hit the middle, I found vanilla, caramel, and pineapple, while the back tasted of clove, oak, and black pepper. The mouthfeel was thin and oily.


Finish: The spice and smoke notes were the most prominent and lasted several minutes. There was also no doubt about its stated proof.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: If I lived in the northernmost point of the mainland, I’d want something that would help keep me warm and taste great. That’s precisely what you get with Northland. It is flavorful, and it grabs and keeps your attention. You will love this whisky if you like a Highland Scotch with a smoky character. It snags my Bottle rating.




Wolfburn Aurora


Second in line is Aurora, the sherried version of its whisky. Wolfburn used Oloroso sherry and American oak for the aging process. It is non-chill filtered and naturally colored. It is packaged at 46% ABV (92°) and costs about $74.99.


Appearance: This whisky presented as yellow gold as it left a thicker rim on the wall of my Glencairn glass. Slow, wide tears rolled back to the pool.


Nose: The sherry influence impacted the aromas. Nuts, pear, raisin, and prune melded with mocha. Coffee rolled across my tongue as I sucked the air into my mouth.


Palate: A light, airy texture tasted of honeysuckle, rose petals, and vanilla on the front of my palate. Midway through, I tasted chocolate, almond, and golden raisin. The back featured nutmeg, cinnamon, and oak. 


Finish: Almond, nutmeg, and vanilla stuck created a medium-length finish.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Unlike Northland, Aurora had no evidence of peat whatsoever. It was aptly named; everything from start to finish was light and airy. Flavors meshed well together, and it left me with a smile. It also drank way under the stated proof. This is a Scotch you can sip while hanging out on your backyard deck during the summer months. Aurora is a winner, and I’m pleased to give it my seal of approval and a Bottle rating.




Wolfburn Morven



From there, we check out Morven. This is a peated expression. It slept in American oak and quarter casks before being bottled at 46% ABV (92°), it is non-chill filtered and naturally colored, and you can expect to spend about $74.99. For the record, I love peated whiskies and am curious how this differs from Northland.


Appearance: In my Glencairn glass, this Scotch looked like pale straw. A thin rim produced a wavy curtain that crashed early.


Nose: Oh yeah. Peat was quickly found. It was more of the marine variety than the usual smokiness one might expect. I sniffed this one probably more than I should, but I was enchanted by this perfume. Sweet apple and pear notes were hidden beneath the ocean air, and the whole thing was rounded by vanilla bean. When I inhaled through my mouth, it tasted of salted caramel.


Palate: The sensation across my tongue was oily and full-bodied, with flavors of lemon curd, meringue, and powdered sugar on the front. I discovered a certain earthiness, along with honey and grass on the middle, which yielded to brine, smoke, and oak on the back.


Finish: I was caught up in fantasy, and suddenly, the rug was yanked out from under my feet! The finish was so concise that I had difficulty picking anything out. After many sips, I was able to dig out brine and smoke.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: The nose on Morven was absolutely outstanding. I thought it nice that the palate’s peatiness waited for the back before its appearance. The meringue isn’t a note I often encounter. My only complaint is that I got lost in the whole experience, but it ended quickly; I felt robbed. However, that’s not enough to warrant a markdown for this whisky. It is worthy of my Bottle rating.




Wolfburn 2022 Winter Edition


Last but not least, there’s the annual limited release of its Winter Edition. It, too, is 46% ABV (92°) after spending six years in first-fill Oloroso sherry hogsheads and Bourbon barrels. There was no added coloring, and it is non-chill filtered. You should be able to acquire it for about $99.99.


Appearance: This whisky appeared as pale gold. The thin rim produced widely-spaced tears that raced down the wall of my Glencairn glass.


Nose: I found Winter Edition to have a very malty aroma. It caused me great effort to try and get past it to determine if there was anything else to smell. I found that raw honey, dried apricot, and peach were underneath, and those being so submissive was understandable. Golden raisins danced across my tongue as I forced the air into my mouth.


Palate: The mouthfeel was oily with a medium body. Sweet fruits exploded in my mouth, with raisin, prune, and fig tackling the front of my palate. Vanilla, almond, and walnut rolled across my mid-palate. On the back, I tasted raw ginger, French oak, and dark chocolate.


Finish: Medium in duration, notes of ginger spice, walnut, and fig remained on my tongue and in my throat.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I found Winter Edition complex; it kept asking me to delve deeper to smell and taste everything. It was almost as if I was on a treasure hunt. The ginger was a spicy treat and highlighted the whole tasting experience. It is worth adding this to my whisky library, and its Bottle rating deserves it.


Final Thoughts: Of the four Wolfburn single malts, they were all impressive, but some were more than others. In order from first to fourth, my ranking is Morven, Northland, 2022 Winter Edition, and then Aurora. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.



Friday, October 14, 2022

The GlenDronach Grandeur Batch 11 Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

One of my favorite ways to age whisky is in Pedro Ximénez casks. Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing wrong with using virgin oak, former Bourbon barrels, wine, or other kinds of sherry. There is, however, something magical about how that PX sherry imparts fruity goodness on the liquid sunshine held within.


Unfortunately, the mere presence of a PX cask doesn’t translate to great whisky. You need to start with good distillate, hand-selected cooperage, and a master blender who knows what they are doing. Who is a reliable candidate to fit that bill?  The GlenDronach.


If you’ve never experienced a whiskey from The GlenDronach, you’ll want to remedy that situation. Located in the Highlands region, it was founded in 1826 and is one of the oldest licensed distilleries in all of Scotland. Its ownership changed hands several times until Allied Distillers mothballed it in 1996. Six years later, it reversed its decision and returned to full production. In 2005, Chivas Brothers took the helm for three years until, in 2008, The BenRiach Distillery Company, Ltd. purchased it, only to sell itself to Brown-Forman in 2016. And that’s when Dr. Rachel Barrie, it's Master Blender, unleashed her magic.


Today I’m exploring Grandeur Batch 11, a single malt Scotch that sat in both PX and Oloroso sherry casks for a whopping 28 years.


“The GlenDronach Grandeur is an unparalleled range of the finest aromas and character from masterful Spanish oak sherry cask maturation. A Single Malt of elegant finesse, this expression offers a symphony of sherry aromatics interwoven with dark manuka honey, roasted almond, and walnut. It is intense and full-bodied, as is the signature of The GlenDronach, with a crescendo of black cherry and espresso adorning each mouthful.” – Dr. Rachel Barrie, Master Blender


I don’t have too many opportunities to experience whiskies approaching three decades, and, on top of that, one that weighs in at a healthy 48.9% ABV (97.8°). As you can well imagine, a bottle like that commands an eyebrow-raising price tag. In the case of Grandeur Batch 11, it is $800.00.


Before I get to the #DrinkCurious part, I thank The GlenDronach for providing me with a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.


Appearance: This elderly Scotch offered a rusty appearance and a heavy rim that stuck like glue. Thick tears were released, but for whatever reason, the ring remained.


Nose: As the whisky poured into my glass, a fruity aroma of plum, dark cherry, raisin, and black currant was already tickling my nostrils. A closer examination provided roasted almond, cocoa, and leather. Cherry and honey tangoed across my tongue when I inhaled the vapor through my mouth.


Palate:  I found the texture to be thin and oily, while the front of my palate encountered a punch of black cherry, black currant, and raisin. When I say punch, I mean it; there was an impact on my tongue. Midway through, I tasted leather, dark chocolate, and almond, while the back featured flavors of black pepper, espresso, and cigar.


Finish:  Long and warming, the finish was peppery, with plum, dark chocolate, cigar, and espresso. I felt it drank a bit above its stated proof.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I loved this Scotch. It was yet another example of Dr. Barrie’s immense talent. The nose, the palate, the finish; each told me this was a luxurious whisky. All things being equal, this would capture my Bottle rating. The elephant in the room is the price:  $800 is beyond my and many others' means. But that shouldn’t discount your chance at a dram of Grandeur Batch 11 if you can find it at a good whisky Bar. Cheers!



My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.



Friday, June 24, 2022

The GlenDronach Cask Cask Strength Batch 10 Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

One of Scotland’s oldest legal distilleries is in the Valley of the Forgue. In 1826, The GlenDronach was founded by James Allardice,  and about 45 years later, it was the largest duty-paying distillery in the Scottish Highlands. Fast-forward to 1996, and The GlenDroanch was mothballed until 2002.


The GlenDronach was one of the last distilleries to utilize coal-fired stills, and in 2005, it was converted to steam heating. Then, in 2016, Brown-Forman purchased the distillery, along with Glenglassaugh and BenRiach, forming the company’s Scotch whisky footprint.


The GlenDronach Cask Strength Batch 10 is a Highland Single Malt aged in both Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso sherry casks. It is non-chill filtered, naturally colored, and carries no age statement. You’ll find a 750ml package for about $99.99 and available across the United States.


“The GlenDronach Cask Strength Batch 10 is incredibly rich and full-bodied with the full depth of sherry cask maturation at its heart. Presented at natural cask strength, it offers a cornucopia of flavor, from richly spiced fruitcake to dark cherry and ginger jam. The limited release showcases the distillery’s crafting the most exceptional, richly sherried Single Malts, representative of The GlenDronach’s rare dedication to its craft, embodied in every expression.”Dr. Rachel Barrie, Master Blender


I’m ready to #DrinkCurious, but before I do, I thank The GlenDronach for a sample of this Scotch in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.


Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this Highland Scotch presented as burnt umber. A medium-weight rim created no legs; instead, it was tiny droplets glued to the wall.


Nose: Have you ever had an excellent rum-soaked fruitcake? Not the garbage passed around from family member to family member as if it was a white elephant gift, but the stuff you fight over and eat immediately. My memory was triggered as I smelled what was inside the glass. I also found apricot, citrus, nougat, and leather. When I drew the air past my lips, the rummy part of the fruitcake was more pronounced.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was silky and full-bodied. Raisin, cherry, and peach exploded in the front of my mouth, while roasted almond, orange peel, and mocha formed the middle. The back offered old leather, oak tannin, and ginger.


Finish:  My mind did a double-take at this point. Wasn’t this over 117°? You’d never know it because there was no burn in my mouth or throat whatsoever. Instead, there was a caress of raisin, cherry, honey, ginger, and oak. It was lengthy and left me with a smile.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Sure, there’s no age statement, but who cares? This is a cask-strength sherry bomb of a Scotch that is affordable, approachable, and amazing. Nothing would cause me to second guess buying a Bottle. It would be well worth it. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.



Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Highland Park 12 Year Viking Honour Single Malt Review & Tasting Notes

Photo courtesy of Highland Park

There are several storied, well-loved Scotch distilleries out there, and one of those is Highland Park, a Highland distillery in Orkney. Orkney is off on its own, way up north, and consists of 70 islands, 20 of which are inhabited. The primary industry in Orkney is agriculture, with only 4% of that dedicated to cultivating cereal grains. The average temperature in Orkney is about 46°F, with an average summer temperature of only 54°F, meaning there isn't a lot of room for whiskey to pull flavor from a barrel. 

The islands have been part of human history going back about 8500 years. There is a rich Viking history in Orkney due to its historical ownership by Norway. As such, it should come as no surprise the distillery, established in 1798, names its various expressions after Viking mythology and culture. Their 12-year expression is Viking Honour, a single malt, natural colored Scotch bottled at 43% ABV. Retail on Viking Honour is $59.99.

Is Viking Honour a worthy namesake of the brave Vikings? The way to find out is to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Viking Honour presents as a dull gold. Creating a thick rim on the wall, thick, fast legs dropped back to the pool of this icy liquid sunshine. 

Nose:  Floral aromas, mixed with sherry and light peat, greeted my olfactory senses. Underneath those were bright orange citrus.  When I inhaled through my lips, there was a grassy quality that ran across my tongue. 

Palate:  Passing my lips, the mouthfeel was watery and thin.  That light peat from the nosing crossed onto the front palate along with rich honey. Mid-palate, it transformed into a blend of coffee, clove, and orange peel. On the back, there was a combination of dry sherry, mace, and cinnamon. 

Finish: A concise finish left dry leather, dark chocolate, and oak behind, but it required several sips to pick them out. It became a chore to discern them because nothing stayed behind long enough to allow me to enjoy it.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I know there are a lot of Highland Park fans out there, and everyone's palate is different. I found Viking Honour to be unexciting, and a disappointing finish made it even more so. I would, at the very least, have preferred more peat both on the nose and palate.  But fans of Highland Park definitely need to try this one.  As such, Viking Honour will earn a Bar rating. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System:
  • Bottle = Buy it
  • Bar = Try it first
  • Bust = Leave it 

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs that you do so responsibly.