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

Friday, March 31, 2023

Buchanan's DeLuxe 12-Year Blended Scotch Whisky Review & Tasting Notes


There are a lot of whiskies on the market that are just there. They receive little fanfare, even less advertising, yet, for whatever reason, you know the name. You just never grab a bottle.


Buchanan’s DeLuxe 12-year is a blended Scotch whisky. That in and upon itself puts a bad taste in the mouth of some. Like anything else, there are good and bad blends, and, unfortunately, sometimes you have to kiss a lot of toads to find the prince.


In the case of Buchanan’s, it came about in 1884 when James Buchanan (not the US president), a London merchant and entrepreneur, created his blend for the British whisky drinker. Today, 40 different whiskies are used, of which most are single malts, and of those single malts, the most significant portion comes from the Highland distillery Dalwhinnie.  Diageo owns the brand itself, and it has plenty of distilleries from which to source.  Both column and pot stills were used, as were former Bourbon and sherry casks in the aging process. It is bottled at 40% ABV (80°).

"Buchanan’s is named after the late James Buchanan, a driven whisky entrepreneur who crafted a Scotch that redefined greatness. Instead of creating a Scotch to be revered, he created a uniquely smooth blend that could be shared and enjoyed by all. In fact, the original Buchanan’s bottle design was inspired by the selfless act of sharing water canteens between British soldiers during times of conflict." – Buchanan’s

I picked up a 200ml bottle at a random liquor store for $9.99. You can also procure a 375 for $21.99 or a 750ml for $29.99. The price is certainly attractive, but how’s the whisky? You know how this goes; we have to #DrinkCurious to find out!


Appearance: Poured neat into my Glencairn glass, this Scotch whisky presented as dull gold. A medium-weighted rim formed, which released quick legs.


Nose: I was shocked at how complicated the aroma was. It started with fruity pear, apricot, and citrus notes, then vanilla, and ended with oak and marine peat. When I inhaled the vapor through my lips, vanilla traipsed across my tongue.


Palate:  The texture was a tad airy, and subsequent sips provided a medium body. Peat was the first thing I tasted, with vanilla and nutmeg on the front. The middle featured orange peel, toffee, and cocoa powder, while cinnamon, ginger root, and oak sewed things up on the back.


Finish:  Short-to-medium in duration, the finish consisted of peat, pear, apple, ginger, clove, and vanilla cream.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Buchanan’s DeLuxe 12-Year surprised the heck out of me. I have nothing against blends and love the challenge of finding a hidden gem, and I’d throw this Scotch into that category. It may have been the peated notes that pushed me over the fence, but regardless, it takes 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 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 8, 2023

BenRiach The Sixteen Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes


Founded in 1898 by John Duff, the initial run for BenRiach was very short-lived - only two years. Then, it was shuttered due to the Pattison Crash. If you've not heard of it, the short story is it took out many distilleries. The longer story is it was caused by independent bottlers gaming the system, so much so that when the most prominent firm, Pattison, Edler & Company, went under, it took out nearly a dozen others, leading to the bankruptcies of the distilleries. It was not a good time to be in the whiskey business. 


It was then reopened in 1965 by The Glenlivet. During that 65-year hiatus, the building was never torn down because the distillery next door, Longmorn, used BenRiach's malting floor and some other equipment while it was mothballed. Then, Seagrams purchased The Glenlivet in 1978, which Pernod-Ricard acquired in 2001. 


The distillery was shuttered again from 2002 to 2004 before being purchased by Brown-Forman, its current owner. Its Master Blender, Dr. Rachel Barrie, runs things "unconventionally Speyside."


The Sixteen Single Malt was originally part of the brand’s core line-up but was discontinued in 2016. That left a sizeable hole between the 12-year and 21-year expressions. While a decision was made to revive the name, The BenRiach opted to change the makeup of the whisky.


“The return of Benriach The Sixteen is a very special moment for the distillery as it is one of our most treasured expressions. Our signature Speyside style blossoms at 10 years old, finding depth and richer layers of orchard fruit character as it turns 16. Our core flavor components of fruit, malt, and oak become more concentrated, enriched with age at 16 years old, bringing layers of stone fruit, smooth creamy malt, wild honey, and nutty oak spice.” – Dr. Rachel Barrie


This single malt Scotch rested at least sixteen years in three cooperage types: former Bourbon, sherry, and virgin oak. It is packaged at 43% ABV (86°), and you pay about $115.00 for a 750ml. Distribution in the United States began in February 2023.


Before I get to my tasting notes, I must thank BenRiach for providing me with a sample in exchange for my no-strings-attached, honest review. Let’s dive deep and #DrinkCurious.


Appearance: I drank this Scotch neat from my Glencairn glass. It presented as a brilliant bronze liquid. As it created a thick rim, it released equally ponderous tears that fell back into the pool.


Nose: A malty, fruity bouquet smelled of apples, pears, dried apricots, raisins, and peaches. Inhaling that vapor through my lips made the apples stand out.


Palate: As I honed in on the buttery texture, I was distracted by the spiciness attributed to the virgin oak casks. It was a combination of spiced cinnamon nuts, clove, and oak on the front of my palate. Midway through, it got fruity with apples, apricots, and plums. The back featured honey, vanilla, and raisin.


Finish: The spice was long and lingering but not overwhelming. The apricot and honey notes kept trying to keep themselves on the stage.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: The spicy-to-fruity transition was an attention-getter. The low-proof turned out well while delivering a light sizzle to my hard palate. Flavors were easy to identify, and transitions seemed natural. Dr. Barrie accomplished her goal of being unconventionally Speyside; it didn’t seem like any other Speyside I’ve tried. I enjoyed this Scotch so much that I plowed through my sample, which I rarely do. There’s no rating but a Bottle to consider. 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 22, 2023

Murray McDavid Madeira Cask Finished Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes


I'll make things simple if you’ve heard the term independent bottler but don’t know what that means. Unlike sourcing whiskeys and rebranding them, an independent bottler will disclose and prominently display who the distiller is on the label. The goal can be to acquire an off-profile barrel or to do something special with the barrel that the distillery would not normally do, such as an unusual finish. Or, the distillery may usually send its stocks off to be blended with others, whereas the independent bottler will sell that single barrel for whiskey enthusiasts to try.

Murray McDavid is one such independent bottler that specializes in Scotch. Founded in 1994 by London-based wine merchants Mark Reynier and Simon Coughlin, along with Gordon Wright of Springbank Distillery, the trio went ahead and reopened the shuttered Islay’s Bruichladdich Distillery with Jim McEwan. The distillery was sold to Remy Cointreau in 2012, and then Murray McDavid was sold to Aceo, Ltd.

Murray McDavid has a philosophy of Inspired Scotch Whisky, which it defines as, “Questioning the standard conventions of maturing whisky in commonplace casks, our team developed visionary maturation techniques, seeking exceptionally well-sourced oak casks from the very best vineyards, bodegas across Europe and whiskey-makers of America.

The group has several lines of expressions, one of which is Cask Craft. It highlights single malts from around Scotland while utilizing various kinds of wood. Today I’m sampling Madeira Cask Finished, which was distilled by Speyside’s Linkwood Distillery. As the name suggests, this single malt matured in Madeira wine barriques.

Madeira is a fortified wine, much like sherry, from grapes grown on the Portuguese Madeira Islands off the African coast. Madeira has been in production since the 15th century. In modern times, it is made by oxidizing the wine via a combination of age and heat. When aged in barrels (the process is called cantiero), the process takes anywhere from 20 to 100 years. But the wine is so stable that it will survive essentially forever, even after being uncorked!

Madeira Cask Finished carries no age statement, is naturally colored, and is packaged at 44.5% ABV (89°) in 700ml bottles. Murray McDavid is imported exclusively by Keeper’s Quest, Inc. While the US pricing is not yet disclosed, it should be affordable, as its native price is £34.00.

I’m almost ready to #DrinkCurious. Before I do, I must take a moment to thank Keeper’s Quest for providing me a sample of Madeira Finish in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.

Appearance: I explored this single malt Scotch via a neat pour in my Glencairn glass. A deep, golden liquid formed a medium-thin rim that released a wavy curtain back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose: A big, fruity aroma composed of green grape, apricot, apple, and honeycomb flowed from the glass to my face. A taste of thick, raw honey rolled across my tongue when I drew the air through my lips.

Palate: A creamy mouthfeel carried flavors of golden raisin, dried apricot, and lemon zest to the front of my palate. Next came cranberry, honey, and hazelnut. The back featured cocoa powder, dried oak, and ginger.

Finish: Long and lingering, I experienced ginger, oak, honey, and hazelnut on the finish.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Murray McDavid Madeira Cask Finished was an adventure in fruits, nuts, and wood. It was well-balanced, correctly proofed, and had a rich texture. Unless you have an aversion to sweeter single malts, this is a lovely experience. Assuming it is priced similarly to the pound sterling, this whisky is a winner. I’m thrilled to have it in my whisky library and bestow my Bottle rating on 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, 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.



Wednesday, October 12, 2022

The BenRiach 2022 Malting Season and Smoke Season Single Malt Scotch Reviews and Tasting Notes


Last year, I reviewed Malting Season and Smoke Season from the storied BenRiach Distillery. Led by Dr. Rachel Barrie, the distillery introduced these two whiskies in 2021. Well, here we are in 2022, and it is time for this year’s releases.


Both pay homage to a time when The BenRiach was mothballed. While no distillation occurred, its malting floor remained active, providing peated malt to other distilleries. Today, there are only seven floor-malting distilleries left in Scotland, one of those few is still The BenRiach.


“Passed from distiller to distiller throughout the generations, the floor malting process keeps a traditional part of the whisky-making process alive with Benriach. Meanwhile Smoke Season is a special time of year in the distillery’s calendar, and these annual releases give both the whisky novice and connoisseur the opportunity to discover the uniquely rich, sweet and smoky character of our Speyside single malt. At Benriach, we never stop exploring how fruit, oak, barley and smoke aromatics intertwine and mature in our broad range of eclectic casks.” – Dr. Rachel Barrie, Master Blender


Today I’ll review these whiskies together, whereas last year, they were done separately. And, before I do that, I must thank The BenRiach for providing me samples in exchange for no-strings-attached, honest reviews. Let’s start the #DrinkCurious process with Malting Season first.


Malting Season



For one month each year, the crew at The BenRiach spread barley on its malting floor, oversee it while turning it by hand, and pick the “perfect” time to move it to the kiln to dry and stop the germination process.


Malting Season is distilled from 100% malted Concerto barley and aged in virgin American oak and ex-Bourbon casks. It carries no age statement, and a 48.9% ABV (96.8°) 700ml bottle has a suggested retail price of $159.99.


Appearance: A neat pour in my Glencairn glass displayed a bright golden liquid. It left a fragile rim that shed thick, slow tears.


Nose: Sweet and fruity, Malting Season offered an aroma of pineapple, citrus, apple, and malt. Peaches and cream rolled across my tongue when I drew that air into my mouth.


Palate: Malting Season’s texture was silky and coated the inside of my mouth easily. The front of my palate discovered raw honey, vanilla, and apple. I tasted orange citrus, peel, and nutmeg as it moved to my mid-palate. The back gave a sensation of toasted oak, clove, and leather.


Finish:  I wondered where the peaches and cream went, and the answer was in the finish. Leather, nutmeg, and orange peel joined the show. The experience lasted for a couple of minutes.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  There’s a lot of value with Malting Season when you consider how bold the flavors are and compound that with that silky mouthfeel. There’s nothing not to like about Malting Season, although, just like last year, I would love to see this one priced about $20 or so less. Regardless, experiences are worth paying for, and I’m thrilled to crown it with my Bottle rating.




Smoke Season



Smoke Season celebrates summertime when The BenRiach runs peated malt through its stills, as the rest of the year, all of the distillate is unpeated. While peated Scotch isn’t unheard of in the Speyside region, it is uncommon.


This whisky is intensely peated, batch distilled, and aged in a combination of first-fill Bourbon casks and heavily-charred and lightly toasted virgin American oak barrels. It weighs in at 52.8% ABV (105.6°), carries no age statement, and the suggested retail price is $79.99 for a 750ml bottle. Yes, that’s slightly larger than Malting Season.


Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Smoke Season was a few shades darker than Malting Season. A microthin rim left wide legs and sticky droplets behind.


Nose: An enticing aroma of barbecue smoke wafted from the glass. There was also a marine quality to it, which took me aback. Pineapple, pear, and vanilla were present. The pineapple remained as I pulled the vapor into my mouth. 


Palate: The mouthfeel was creamy, and there was an explosion of peat that would put many Islay malts to shame. Burnt ends, caramel, and vanilla on the front of my palate made me hungry. The middle featured cinnamon, apple, and charred oak. On the back, I tasted more charred oak, grilled pineapple, and orange peel.


Finish:  A medium-long finish consisted of orange peel, vanilla, pineapple, and charred oak, which carried all the way through.  


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I’m a big fan of Islay Scotches, and Smoke Season can compete effortlessly with several (and win). There’s no way on the planet I would guess this was a Speyside. After jotting down my tasting notes, I read my review to see how close this year’s matched up. While the proof was the same each year, I believe this year’s release trumps the inaugural. The $20.00 I wanted from Malting Season I would happily add to Smoke Season. This one steals my 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.


Friday, September 30, 2022

Deanston 12 Highland Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes


I started my whisky journey with Scotch. My attention has waxed and waned, but I’ve never given up on it. I’ve fallen in love with whiskies from each of the five regions. I’ve come to appreciate blends, single grains, and single malts.


My attention today is directed to the Highland region. In particular, Deanston.  Currently owned by Distell International, this distillery was founded in 1965 in Doune on the River Teith in a former cotton mill. That mill was vital to the local economy as it was the major employer, and as such, the community welcomed the distillery with open arms.


Its master blender is Juliann Fernandez, and the master distiller is Brennan McCarron. It uses an open mash tun and has a long, 100-hour fermentation cycle. Deanston uses only locally sourced ingredients in its whisky. It ages everything in a vaulted-ceiling warehouse.


But wait, there’s more! Deanston is the only self-sustaining distillery in Scotland.


“The mighty River Teith is so much more than a water source. It is so powerful, it can fuel a distillery. The old cotton mill built a lade and installed one of the biggest waterwheels in Europe to harness its power. Then came electrical turbines in the 40s. Fast forward to today and we’re still using turbines to generate electricity from the river. In fact, we generate enough energy to power the distillery, our offices, The Coffee Bothy, the Visitor Centre, and we still have approximately 75% remaining to sell back to the National Grid.” – Deanston


Deanston 12 Highland Single Malt is one of its core expressions. It is aged in former Bourbon barrels, is non-chill filtered, and naturally colored. A 750ml bottle is packaged at 46.3% ABV (92.6°), and you can expect to pay about $50.00 for it.


I snagged a 50ml taster at some random liquor store; let’s see if a full 750ml is worth picking up, shall we?  Time to #DrinkCurious.


Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Deanston 12 was the color of bright gold. It made an ultra-thin rim that formed sticky droplets that never really went anywhere.


Nose:  Do you like the smell of fruit? I found notes of citrus, pear, and pineapple. Beneath those, aromas of vanilla and smoky oak were evident. When I took the air into my mouth, a wave of pineapple rolled across my tongue.


Palate:  A buttery mouthfeel with a medium body led to the tastes of honey, crisp apple, chocolate, and vanilla on the front. As it moved to the middle, the first instance of oak came through, which was joined by cocoa and malt. As it transitioned to the back, the malt continued, the oak became dry, and there were also black pepper and cinnamon spice.


Finish:  Short-to-medium in length, black pepper, cocoa powder, and dry, smoky oak left my hard palate tingly.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I realize this is only a $50.00 single malt, and since it has a relatively high proof and is a dozen years old, so price-wise, it seems like a bargain. The nose was beautiful, and the palate disjointed in places.  I had high hopes for Deanston 12; the best I can suggest is trying this one at a Bar or a friend’s house before committing to a purchase. 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.