Showing posts with label Scotland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scotland. Show all posts

Friday, June 17, 2022

The BenRiach Cask Edition Single Cask Scotch Reviews & Tasting Notes


Dr. Rachel Barrie is a brilliant Master Blender. She holds that title at three different Brown-Forman distilleries: The GlenDronach, Glenglassaugh, and BenRiach. She is the first female Master Blender to earn an honorary doctorate; she is an inductee of Whisky Magazine’s “Hall of Fame.” In September 2020, she was named a Keeper of the Quaich.


This month, BenRiach released three of its first-ever single cask, single malt Scotch offerings exclusive to the US market. It is called The BenRiach Cask Edition.


“Our ‘sleeping beauties’, as we often call these casks, continue to be sourced from all over the world, enabling us to creatively explore the full flavor possibilities of Speyside Single Malt. Each cask will tell its own story of a journey of flavor where the spirit is married with oak, over years and through the seasons, to really create a unique moment in time never to be repeated again.” – Dr. Rachel Barrie


Today I have an opportunity, thanks to BenRiach, to #DrinkCurious and write a no-strings-attached, honest review of all three. They’re all naturally colored, non-chill filtered, and each has a very different cooperage.


Something new and different is the packaging. We’re used to 750ml bottles in the United States. With updated regulations, 700ml is now allowable for our market.


Let’s get to the first pour!


Cask #3812 – 12 Years


Cask #3812 was distilled in 2009 and spent a dozen years in a former Pedro Ximénez sherry puncheon. The yield was 642 bottles at its 58.2% cask strength (116.4°). You can expect to pay about $100 on one of 642 - 700ml bottles, which is limited in availability to CA, KY, OR, WA, GA, MA, and NY.


Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Cask #3812 appeared coppery and created a thin rim. Medium-weighted legs raced back to the pool.


Nose: A fragrance of apricot and raisin jumped from the glass while it was still resting on the table. Upon closer inspection, I found chocolate, caramel, and orange peel. The orange peel turned candied as I took that air into my mouth.


Palate: A silky, full-bodied texture greeted my tongue, captivating my interest. The front of my palate encountered milk chocolate, butterscotch, and honey, while the middle featured lemon and orange zest combined with raisin. On the back, I tasted leather, oak, and nuts.


Finish: The long-lasting finish kept leather, tobacco, dark chocolate, and oak in my mouth and throat.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Cask #3812 is a sip-and-smile whisky. That’s about the best description I can offer. Yeah, it is a 12-year with a $100 asking price. But, it is cask strength, yet doesn’t drink at that proof. It is a single barrel, (obviously) limited-edition Scotch. And, dammit, it is delicious. I’d pay $100 all day long for this; I just wish it was anywhere near my market. It is a Bottle rating for sure!




Cask #10297 – 23 Years


Cask #10297 delves into that much more rare territory, distilled back in 1997 and spent 23 years in a vintage Marsala wine cask. The yield was only 264 bottles spread around AZ, CO, DC, DE, FL, IL, MD, MN, NV, PA, SC, and WI. A 55.4% ABV (110.8°) – 700ml package will set you back about $330.00.


Appearance: A neat pour in my Glencairn glass showed this Scotch’s orange-amber appearance. A thinner rim released medium-thick, fast legs.


Nose: Floral notes were joined by fruits such as peach, cherry, and citrus. They were blended together with thick, dense vanilla. Inhaling through my mouth caused orange and vanilla to dance across my tongue.  


Palate: The mouthfeel was thick and creamy. Vanilla, strawberry, and cherry started things off, with orange zest and honey at mid-palate. The back consisted of dark chocolate, oak, and clove.


Finish:  Medium in duration, the finish featured flavors of cherry, strawberry, oak, and clove.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Cask #10297 was elegant and unique. The only thing I could complain about the tasting experience was that short finish. I kept sipping more as I wanted to retain those flavors in my mouth; they never stuck. The question becomes, would I pay $330.00 for this whisky? I’m not convinced. But, you should absolutely try this at a Bar if you can find it.




Cask #15058 – 24 Years


Finally, there’s Cask #15058. This single malt Scotch was distilled in 1997 and slept 24 years in an Oloroso puncheon. It weighs in at 55.4% (110.8°), and the yield was a surprising 641 – 700ml bottles. Availability is extremely limited to GA, MA, NY, and unnamed metropolitan areas around the country. If you see one, expect to shell out $388.00 for it.


Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this whisky appeared as liquid caramel. Try as I might, I could not get a rim to form. It just kept collapsing into long, wavy tears.


Nose:  I started craving dessert when my olfactory sense ran into vanilla, caramel, cinnamon apple, Nutella, and oak. Cinnamon and vanilla tangoed in my mouth as I pulled the vapor inside.


Palate:  A slick, oily mouthfeel ponied up orange marmalade, apricot, and cinnamon apple on the front, with chocolate, hazelnut, and black currant at the middle. The back featured leather, tobacco, and caramel.


Finish:  The leather became very dry on the finish. Tobacco leaf, raisin, and oak were about to complete it when a non-peaty, smoky kiss closed things out.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Have you ever dreamt of sipping on a fine Scotch in your private study? Well, Cask #15058 fits that bill perfectly. It is a sultry, sophisticated pour that commands your full attention. Sure, it is a $380.00 investment, but you’ll bite the bullet and prove how smart you were to grab a Bottle.  


Final Thoughts:  It was so fun to try all three of these single cask Scotches. The 12-year is my favorite, partially because I’m a sucker for an excellent PX-cask whisky, and it is a heck of a value to boot. Next was the 24-year. It is, simply put, an experience. The third was the 23-year. It was a lovely pour; I couldn’t justify its outlay.


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, June 15, 2022

Canmore 12 Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

Back in 1058, there was a Scottish king named Malcolm. He was referred to as “Great Chief,” or Canmore, by his people. He was bold and ambitious, constantly proving his strength and leadership while he sought to expand his territory. His reign was the first in a line of rulers that lasted about 200 years. The House of Canmore was well-respected, but the dynasty ended at the death of Alexander III and only because he had no heir.


Last week, I wrote about Charles Edge London and Scots Gold 12-Year Scotch. You can read more about Charles Edge in that review. Charles Edge London has another brand named in Malcolm’s honor: Canmore. There are two versions: Canmore and Canmore 12. Both are single malts; one is age-stated, and the other not. Today I’m exploring the latter.


Canmore 12 is sourced from an undisclosed Highland distillery and aged a dozen years in former Bourbon barrels. Packaged at 40% ABV (80°), you can expect to acquire a 750ml bottle for around $49.99. That’s about in line with many other 12-year single malts.


How’s Canmore 12 taste? The only way to answer that is to #DrinkCurious, but before I do, I must thank Charles Edge London for providing a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.  Let’s do this!


Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, this whisky was bronze. It formed a medium rim that glued itself to the wall, and only after some patience did it release slow, very slow, sticky droplets.


Nose:  Canmore was one of those whiskies that you can smell from across the room. I know this because Mrs. Whiskeyfellow said, “Wow, that’s fragrant,” yet I was sitting about six feet from her. Raisin, dried apricot, overripe apple, oak, and a mushroom cloud of orange peel rose from the glass. When I took the air into my mouth, it was still all orange peel.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was medium-bodied and offered an oily texture. The front of my palate found a mass of orange peel, raisin, and green grape, while the middle featured an earthy quality, joined by nutmeg and vanilla. Then, I tasted chocolate, cinnamon, and oak on the back.


Finish:  The duration was medium-to-long, with orange, cinnamon, nutmeg, oak, and rich fudge.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Canmore 12 is a decidedly different Scotch. I’ve had single malts that smell and taste of sherry without the use of any sherry casks. The orange notes dominated nearly everything except the finish. For whatever reason, the fudge at the very end cleansed the experience from that heavy orange citrus. While I enjoy orange, I had difficulty discerning the rest of what this whisky offered. I’d prefer it was less so, and because of that, I’m giving this Scotch a Bar 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.



Monday, June 6, 2022

Scots Gold 12 Years Blended Scotch Whisky Review & Tasting Notes

Some of my favorite people are those who claim they can only drink single malt Scotches. Some may call it snobbishness; others may see it as a refusal to explore the world around them. I love meeting these single malt-only fans because I relish a challenge.


I’ve conducted many blind tastings over the years using whiskies from all over the globe. When it comes to Scotch, I can be devious. I’ll pour a handful of single malts and toss in a couple of blends. I’ve yet to find a single-malt drinker who doesn’t walk away with a newfound appreciation of blends.  


You see, blending is an art form. To explain the difference in the crudest of terms, making a single malt is limited. You take malts from one distillery, age them, and can tinker with various barrels and play around with alternative proofs, but your creativity is limited to what’s on hand at that lone distillery.


Blended Scotches get a bad rap from blenders who take substandard whiskies and attempt to salvage them. However, a talented blender has a result in mind; the question becomes, How do I get there?  The availability of options is restricted only by the number of distilleries in Scotland. A blender can select only malts, only grains, or a combination of both.


One such blender is Charles Edge. He’s been in the business for decades. His company, Charles Edge London, specializes in blended whiskies. It has a handful of brands, one of which is Scots Gold.


“Scots Gold is a story born out of exploration. Founder Charles Edge spent over 30 years of travelling the world to find the best spirits for his clients but there was one place that stood out to him and that was Scotland.

Inspired by how its history, people and landscape all helped to create one of the greatest drinks of all time, Scotch. In 2015, Charles founded Charles Edge London, a spirits company with the focus to create Whisky & Spirit brands renowned for their outstanding quality. Scots Gold is its debut spirit.” – Scots Gold


Scots Gold sources grain whiskeys from the Lowland region, while the malted whiskies are mainly from the Highland and Speyside regions. Within this brand are two tiers. The entry-level option is Scots Gold Red Label, followed by Black Label. Neither carries an age statement. The next level is Scots Gold 8 Years, and the crème de la crème is Scots Gold 12 Years, which is the Scotch I’m reviewing today.


Charles selected 15 malts from around the two regions. Lowland grains were the other part of it. With the sheer number of distilleries in both Speyside and Highland, anyone can guess where the malts originated. We know those whiskies aged in former Bourbon casks for at least a dozen years. It weighs in at 40% ABV (80°), and a 750ml package should cost around $30.00, making it an affordable option.


Affordability is nice, but if what’s inside the bottle isn’t palatable, who cares what it costs? The only way to determine if this is a worthwhile budget Scotch is to #DrinkCurious. Before I get there, I must thank Charles Edge London for providing a sample in exchange for my no-strings-attached, honest review.


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this whisky presented as a brilliant gold. The liquid sunshine formed a medium rim that released a wavy curtain that crashed under its weight back to the pool.


Nose: The bouquet started with an orchard of apples, peaches, and apricots that hid a smidge of mushroom and a kiss of smoke. When I took that vapor into my mouth, it was as if I had taken a sip of apple cider.


Palate:  The creamy, medium-bodied texture introduced my palate to flavors of coconut, grapefruit, and caramel. As it moved to the middle, roasted almonds were mixed into coffee ice cream, and then, on the back, I tasted pink peppercorn, milk chocolate, and toasted oak.


Finish:  Medium in duration, the finish featured pink peppercorn, dry oak, and citrus notes.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This is genuinely a nice blended Scotch. It isn’t going to blow you away, but it doesn’t have to. It is such an easy sipper, and it does come with one caveat: it drinks over its stated proof. There’s no heat, but it is sneaky, and if you’re not careful, it’ll clobber you (it did me). I can’t say that about many 80° whiskies. I enjoyed the fruitiness and the mild spiciness, and Charles Edge conducted an orchestra from 15 malts, resulting in a Bottle rating and my #RespectTheBottomShelf designation. 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, May 18, 2022

The Glenmorangie Very Rare 18-Year Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

Whisky names and terms can be confusing. In an attempt to make them attractive and differentiate one from another, marketers can leave you scratching your head trying to figure out what the name or term means.


Take Small Batch as an example. It is a term meant to convey that only a select set of barrels were used in the blend. In reality, small batch has no definition whatsoever. It can be a batch of one barrel or a batch of thousands. Full Proof is another. Some may walk away with the notion that it is the undiluted contents in the bottle. Nope, it doesn’t have to be, and, in some instances, it is diluted to the original barrel entry proof before bottling. Then there are terms like Special Reserve or Limited Edition. They sound incredibly… well… special and limited, but they are just words with no legalese behind them.


Yet another market-speak word is Rare. To most people, rare means it is in limited supply or difficult to find. Some brands have the word in it, splashed in big, beautiful script. While the brand in question can be challenging to find at times, its name precludes the current market conditions.


What about Extremely Rare?


There are a handful of Scotch distilleries in the whisky universe that I fully expect what’s in the bottle to be very good. Why? Because they have a long, proven track record with me. That shouldn’t imply that something mediocre doesn’t come out here and there because nearly every distillery does. I still #DrinkCurious, and nobody gets a pass, but it sets in a particular bias. The Glenmorangie is one such distillery.  I’ve been a fan of the Highland distillery almost as long as I’ve been drinking Scotch. There are very, very few duds.


One of Glenmorangie’s regular releases is an 18-year-old whisky called Extremely Rare. Good or bad, the name implies this one is almost a unicorn. Except, it isn’t. It is simply the name of its 18-year Scotch.  Extremely Rare is a single malt Scotch, run through Glenmorangie’s taled very tall giraffe stills, then aged in former Bourbon barrels for 15 years. Then, about 30% of that 15-year whisky is transferred to former Oloroso Sherry butts for another three years, while the remainder of the 15 continues to age. At the end of 18 or so years, both parts are blended into a final product, then packaged at 43% ABV (86°).


Extremely Rare may make you think you’ll have to fork over a fortune, but it can be had for $110.00 at some larger liquor outlets.  

Is Extremely Rare any good? Let’s find out.


Appearance: In my Glencairn glass, this Scotch was the color of golden straw. A medium-heavy rim formed a wavy curtain of tears that raced down the wall.


Nose: Sweet nectarines blasted me in the face. Honey, apples, golden raisins, and vanilla followed. Not to be left out, almond, toasted oak, and citrus followed. When the vapor entered my mouth, apricot rolled across my tongue.


Palate:  A medium-bodied, oily texture coated every crevice of my mouth. The front of my palate discovered golden raisin, apricot, and honey, while the middle offered flavors of almond, vanilla, and orange peel. I tasted mildly-charred oak, walnut, toffee, and a touch of lemon on the back.


Finish:  Charred oak, lemon peel, toffee, and apricot remained for a medium-to-long finish.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Glenmorangie 18 Extremely Rare is a hell of a nice pour. No one flavor dominated; instead, they melded together as if designed that way. I'd want the finish to be drawn out longer if I had to come up with something – anything – to nitpick at.  For $110.00 or so, it is reasonably priced and well worth the investment. Buy yourself a Bottle; you won’t regret it, rare or not. 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 2, 2022

The Balvenie 17-Year Doublewood Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes


About a decade ago, The Balvenie wanted to honor the 50th anniversary of its Malt Master, David Stewart.  If you’ve not heard of him, he is an amazing man. He started in the business in 1962 at only 17 years old, and it took a dozen years of intense training for him to achieve the status of Malt Master.


“Only after I started to interpret the smell of whisky correctly, I reached the decisive turning point. From there, I began to understand how whisky is made, how it matures, how it develops, and what different qualities all Scottish malts have.” – David Stewart


Okay, shrug, spending 50 years at a distillery and becoming a Malt Master shows dedication, but did Stewart really accomplish something special?  Yes, he did.


Taking whisky matured in one cask, then transferring it to another for further aging, is nothing new. We refer to it as finishing. The process has been successfully used since 1980 when Stewart invented it.  Without that achievement, the Wonderful World of Whiskey would look (and taste) far differently today!


And that brings us back to this Speyside distillery’s celebration of Stewart’s colossal impact on the industry and for its owner, William Grant & Sons. To do that, The Balvenie chose to have its treasured 12-Year Doublewood single malt Scotch mature a little longer in those former Bourbon barrels… 17 years total, to be exact. It was transferred to rest up to a year in ex-Sherry butts, then dumped and packaged at 43% ABV (86°). It is non-chill filtered and naturally colored.


We’ll talk about the result in my tasting notes. Before I do, I should mention that in 2021, The Balvenie chose to discontinue the 17-Year Doublewood. That’s driven the price up from the suggested $129.99 to, on average, $179.99 (per


I managed to find a 50ml taster at some random liquor store; I don’t even remember which state. I have to admit I’m excited to #DrinkCurious, so let’s get to it.


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this Scotch took the color of orange amber. The American whiskey drinker may expect this to be darker. Keep in mind the cooperage is used; most of the coloring qualities have already been sucked out of the wood. A full-weighted rim seemed uninterested in releasing its legs. Instead, they formed sticky droplets.


Nose: Deep aromas of raisin, dried apricot, and black cherry slammed my olfactory sense. Vanilla, brown sugar, and honey followed. But wait, there’s more! Underneath all of that, yet unmuted, was fresh banana bread. Waves of vanilla and honey rolled across my tongue as I pulled the air into my mouth.


Palate: I found the silky texture almost relaxing. Honey, brown sugar, raisin, and apricot began the journey, leading to oak, plum, and cherry at mid-palate. Dark chocolate, graham cracker, vanilla, and just a touch of maple syrup rounded things out.


Finish:  Shorter than I wanted it to be, the finish was tannin-heavy and included dark chocolate, brown sugar, and graham cracker.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I would find it difficult to believe any distillery would choose to honor a 50-year veteran with anything less than something stupendous. The Balvenie didn’t disappoint. Honestly, the only thing I could nitpick over was the shorter finish. Would I pay $129.99 for it? Yes. Would I pay $179.99 for it? Also, yes. The 17-Year Doublewood earned every iota of my Bottle rating. Seek it out. Buy 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.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Johnnie Walker Red Label Blended Scotch Review & Tasting Notes


Usually, I go into a grandiose introduction, and I give a history of the brand and background on the type of whisky. I’ll include some information, but today I’m exploring the best-selling Scotch whisky in the world: Johnnie Walker Red Label.


I want to skip the typical introduction because Red Label is the standard-bearer for bad Scotch if you listen to folks in social media groups. But, at the same time, it is the best-selling Scotch in the world. While everyone’s palate is different, this is one of those things that you can’t have both ways. Either it is a terrible whisky, or it is drinkable. I would expect some back-peddling from the naysayers who will then suggest, Well, it is a mixer.


I’ll take that comment at face value because even Johnnie Walker’s website says, Made for Mixing. However, if you’ve followed me for some time, you’ll remember that I don’t do the mixer game. Whisky has to stand on its own – good, bad, or ugly to rate on the Bottle, Bar, or Bust scale. And, for the record, there are perfectly drinkable made-for-mixing whiskies that require no accompaniments.


Let’s talk about Red Label. It is the entry-level Scotch under the Johnnie Walker brand and has been in production since 1909. It is a blend of 35 malt and grain whiskies sourced from various distilleries around Scotland. It carries no age statement, and you can expect to pay about $22.99 for a 750ml package. You can find this at pretty much every liquor, grocery, and convenience store – at least in the United States.


I’ve never had Red Label before. I snagged a 50ml for about $2.99 at some random liquor store for the express purpose of a review. So, let’s #DrinkCurious and learn the truth about it.


Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Red Label was presented as golden, forming a medium-thin rim. Fat, slow tears fell back into the pool.


Nose: I smelled lemon zest, lime, and floral notes. The aroma was straightforward. When I drew the air into my mouth, there was no flavor I could identify, but it was decidedly dry. I’ll say that’s something I’ve never experienced with a whisky.


Palate:  I didn’t expect the creamy texture; I figured it would be thin. There’s a lesson for you – expect nothing and keep an open mind. Red Label had one of the most unusual palates I’ve experienced. The front was spicy and bold with freshly-cracked black pepper and cinnamon. Mid-palate offered flavors of pear, vanilla, and barley. The back featured raisin, citrus, and mild oak.


Finish:  You might expect the finish to remain fruity. Instead, the spice from the front of the palate carried into the finish. Moreover, it was slightly smoky. There was some citrus, but that was overwhelmed amongst the other flavors. The whole thing was long and lingering.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Johnnie Walker Red Label is drinkable neat. Frankly, there’s nothing wrong with it. It is a simple whisky that could work well in a cocktail with its spicy front and finish, and I’m not talking “and Coke.” Would I buy a 750ml for my whiskey library? No. For me, it lacks the depth and character I crave. Would I refuse a pour from a friend? Also, no. Red Label earns a Bar rating; it is something that would work well for the Scotch curious but would likely bore the connoisseur. 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.


Monday, February 21, 2022

Sheildaig 12-Year Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

Shieldaig is not an actual distillery. That’s not unusual in the Wonderful World of Whisky – most of us know that brands source barrels and then slap their label on the bottle. We call the folks that do that an Independent Bottler. Some independent bottlers have earned incredible reputations, they charge a tidy sum for what they market, and they’re worth every penny. Others are far less skilled, and even if they sell at rock-bottom prices, you still feel ripped off after you’ve tried it.


Shieldaig is part of the Spirits Direct program of Total Wine & More. Some Spirits Direct offerings are house labels – stuff exclusive to the store. Others, such as Angel’s Envy, fit in some other way.


Today we’re going to explore Shieldaig Single Malt Scotch Whisky. The label states it is a dozen years old, it comes from the Speyside region, and is bottled in Scotland by William Maxwell & Co., Ltd. It is bottled at 40% ABV (80°), and you can buy a 750ml from Total Wine for about $23.00.


Now, Shieldaig doesn’t disclose who the distiller of this bottle is, but we can do some extrapolation. William Maxwell & Co., Ltd. is a legitimate independent bottler, sourcing barrels from various well-respected and coveted distilleries and owning about 42 some-odd labels. That company is a subsidiary of Peter J. Russell. Who is Peter J. Russell? The founder of Ian MacLeod & Co., which happens to be the 10th largest Scotch whisky company globally.


Ian MacLeod & Co. owns two distilleries:  Glengoyne, from the Highland region, and Tamdhu, from Speyside.  A single malt whisky means that everything comes from a single distillery. In theory, Ian MacLeod could purchase many barrels from an undisclosed distillery to keep the Shieldaig brand going. It is more likely and more logical that Tamdhu is the source.


I picked up a 50ml taster from Total Wine for $2.99 in Minnesota. Did I do okay, or should I have snagged a full 750ml? The answer to that question lies in the tasting. Let’s #DrinkCurious and find out.


Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Sheildaig gold in color. It formed a thicker rim which yielded slow, sticky legs.


Nose:  It was easy to pick out apple, pear, vanilla, and honey notes. With a bit more effort, English toffee was also present. As I drew the air into my mouth, raisin and apple danced across my tongue.


Palate: The mouthfeel was watery and medium-bodied. Honey and vanilla were on the front, while flavors of butterscotch and oak took up the middle.  On the back, astringent overwhelmed anything else that might have been there. No matter how many sips I attempted, nothing changed.


Finish:  The finish continued with that medicinal quality and featured toasted oak, vanilla, and malt. It also left tannin on my tongue that wouldn’t go away.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The nose convinced me this came from the Tamdhu Distillery. So did the front and middle of the palate. The back and finish, however, made me second-guess the whole thing. I’ve had Tamdhu single malts, and none had the medicinal Band-Aid quality to them. I realize some folks enjoy that note; I can tolerate it and usually dismiss it, but not when it is so dominant. I went into this review hoping I discovered another opportunity to #RespectTheBottomShelf, but this wasn’t it. I simply cannot give anything but a Bust rating for 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.



Friday, January 28, 2022

Smokey Joe Islay Blended Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

Blended whiskies can be a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, too many “purists” poo-poo on blends, insisting that the only way to go, at least with Scotch, is single malts. Let’s get something out of the way – single malt purists cheat themselves out of delicious experiences. Never let anyone tell you otherwise!


That’s not to say that all blends are fantastic because that’s not true. Like mediocre single malts, there are mediocre (and worse) blends that are good for stripping furniture. Blending is an art form. Those who are skilled make masterpieces. The master blender has a result in mind, and the challenge is how to get there. They may blend malts, grains, or a combination of the two.


Today I’m tasting Smokey Joe Islay Blended Malt Whisky. This means there are no grain whiskies involved. The producer, Angus Dundee, owns the Tomintoul and Glencadam distilleries. As neither are Islay operations, we know that Smokey Joe is sourced, but from whom?  Well, that’s not disclosed, and we’d be subject to guesswork if we wanted to go out on a limb. The rumor mill (a/k/a the internet) suggests either Laphroaig or Bowmore (or a blend of the two).


Smokey Joe carries no age statement, is non-chill filtered, and bottled at 46% ABV (92°). I can’t swear by it, but I believe this is a Total Wine & More exclusive under its Spirits Direct program. A 750ml package will set you back roughly $37.00.


The price is excellent but is it worth the investment? The only way to know for sure is to #DrinkCurious.  Enough jibber-jabber, let’s get on with the show.


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Smokey Joe was a golden amber. It formed a thick rim that generated heavy, wavy legs that collapsed into the pool.


Nose:  It is obvious this is an Islay whisky because the aroma of sweet peat filled the room. I allowed this one to rest about ten minutes before approaching it, and then I found citrus, vanilla, honeydew melon, and seaweed. When I drew the air into my mouth, I experienced that medicinal astringent quality that many Scotches are known for.


Palate:  The initial sip provided a thin mouthfeel. But, the more I tried it, the creamier it became. It never morphed into anything weighty. The front of my palate tasted pear, honeydew, and a massive scoop of cantaloupe. As it approached the middle, that changed to smoky vanilla, pear, and lemon citrus. The back was medicinal, with smoke, seaweed, and clove.


Finish:  Medium in length with that same astringent quality, the finish included smoky peat, clove, and another heaping helping of that cantaloupe.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Smokey Joe is undoubtedly an affordable dram, but the big question is, Is it worth it?  If the Band-Aid thing makes you happy, Smokey Joe will be a winner. If that’s not your jam, you don’t even want to try this one. It has more medicinal influence than I’ve come across in several years. I can handle the astringent stuff just fine, as a complimentary note. Smokey Joe goes well beyond that. My recommendation is for you to try this one first, maybe the way I did with a 50ml taster before committing to an entire bottle, and because of that, I’m giving this one a Bar 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.



Monday, January 24, 2022

Glenmorangie A Tale of Cake Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

The Glenmorangie Distillery is located in Scotland’s Highland region. Unofficially founded in 1703, it began as a brewery on the Tarlogie Spring. In 1843, two former gin stills were installed, and it changed from a brewery to a distillery named, aptly, Glenmorangie. The distillery shuttered between 1931 and 1936, then resurrected until 1941, when it closed again until 1944. In 1977, it added two more stills, then doubled in 1990 and again in 2002, bringing the total to an even dozen. Glenmorangie claims ownership of having the tallest stills in Scotland.


Glenmorangie’s Director of Whisky Creation is Dr. Bill Lumsden. He probably doesn’t remember it, but Mrs. Whiskeyfellow, some friends, and I had dinner with him way back in September 2014. Never mind how dorky I look.

Dr. Bill has been developing new expressions while hanging out in The Lighthouse, which is the experimental venue for the distillery.


The 2021 release was A Tale of Winter, and as I stated in my review, I was impressed. The 2020 release was A Tale of Cake. I spent over a year tracking this one down. It seemed no matter where I went, I was told they had sold out long ago. And then, at some random store in Colorado, I found it.


“Some time ago, Dr. Bill found himself musing over how some of his most joyous memories came from cake – from the pineapple upside-down cake his daughter made for his birthday to baking with his granny in her kitchen. He devised this whisky to conjure the magic of a cake moment, finishing his favourite Glenmorangie Single Malt in the finest Tokaji dessert wine casks.” – Glenmorangie


Tokaji is pretty unique, and it was the main driver for my searching out A Tale of Cake. My 2020 Whiskey of the Year was The Dublin Liberties Murder Lane. It, too, was finished in Tokaji casks. That drove me to buy a bottle of Tokaji wine, which I found amazing.


A Tale of Cake is a single malt whisky – pretty much the standard Glenmorangie 10 aged in first-fill Bourbon barrels and then transferred to the Tokaji casks. It carries no age statement, is non-chill filtered, is bottled at 46% ABV (92°), and the retail price is $99.99. Finding a bottle, of course, would be difficult, although as recently as late November, I saw a few on the shelf in Chicagoland.


Was this worth my almost year-long quest? The only way to know for sure is to #DrinkCurious. Let’s get to it!


Appearance: Sipped neat from my Glencairn glass, this Scotch appeared as crystal clear copper. It formed a thicker rim which developed glazed, heavy legs.


Nose:  A deliciously-sweet aroma was made of honey, apricot, lemon zest, pineapple, and pear. It could have been a subliminal suggestion, but I thought I also picked up vanilla frosting. The pineapple and apricot were more prevalent when I drew the vapor past my lips.


Palate:  The texture was creamy and full-bodied. At the front of my palate, I tasted honeycomb, orange zest, dried apricot, and pineapple. The middle featured milk chocolate and, again, that vanilla frosting. I discovered almond paste, cinnamon sugar, clove, and dry oak on the back.


Finish:  A very long, warming finish began with pecan, almond, and milk chocolate, then moved to clove, cinnamon, and climaxed with dry oak.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I guess I’m a sucker for things finished in Hungarian Tokaji casks because I loved every moment of this whisky. I’d describe it as heavenly. I’m a tad upset that I didn’t snag one of those extras I found on the store shelf in Chicago. I found A Tale of Cake to be an easy Bottle rating for me, and I believe it would do the same for you. 

Epilogue:  For what it is worth, both Cake and Winter were delicious. Of the two, I preferred Cake. 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.