Showing posts with label Speyside. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Speyside. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

The Singleton Game of Thrones House Tully Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes


If you’re into Scotch and you’re into Game of Thrones, then you’re probably aware of the Diageo and HBO collaboration to produce a line of whiskies to celebrate the show. And, if you’re not, well, there are eight single malts plus two blends from Johnnie Walker. They were released two years ago, but you can still find them every so often on store shelves.  There are, of course, folks who collect them to have the whole set.


One of the single malts came from Glendullan under its exclusive brand, The Singleton.  Glendullan is located in the Speyside region and was founded in 1897 by William Williams & Son. In 1972, a second distillery was built immediately adjacent, operations were moved shortly after that, and the original shuttered. The distillery has changed hands many times before finding itself under the Diageo umbrella. And, while you’ve likely not heard of Glendullan, it is the second-largest Scotch distillery in the colossal corporation! Similar to many big distilleries, Glendullan is a workhorse whose majority distillate is used for blends.


As stated earlier, The Singleton is the only brand, and all of the single malt releases are destined for North American markets. The whiskies are aged exclusively in former Bourbon barrels. Any single malts are aged on-premises, and any barrels used for blends are shipped elsewhere for aging. It is an interesting way to do things, but it works for Diageo.


The Singleton’s edition of the GOT collection is called House Tully. It carries no age statement; it is chill-filtered, contains e150a caramel coloring, and then bottled at 40% ABV (80°). It is pretty affordable at between $30.00 and $35.00. I picked mine up for just under $30.00 at a liquor store in Minnesota.


Did I do well with my purchase? The only way to find out is to crack the bottle and #DrinkCurious.


Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, House Tully was a deep bronze, which is irrelevant due to the e150a caramel coloring. It formed a medium-to-heavy rim that lent to fat, watery legs.


Nose:  The aroma of malt was aggressive. Once I was able to get past that, I smelled banana, honey, apple, and nutmeg. As I drew the vapor into my mouth, it seemed grassy.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was relatively thin and never gained weight, remaining watery throughout the tasting experience. Grass, green apple, and apricot started things off, then moved to banana pudding and citrus (an unusual combination), with honey, caramel, and char on the back.  


Finish:  The duration was short and medium and consisted of charred oak, banana, and clove. There was no astringent quality.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  House Tully turns out to be an unremarkable whisky. Granted, it is only a $30.00 to $35.00 bottle, but I’ve also had some wonderful Scotches at that price. It isn’t bad; it is just forgettable. Is it proofed down too much? Probably. Did it need more time in oak? Again, probably.


I catch a lot of flak whenever I say this about a whisky, but this would be a good beginner’s single malt. There’s nothing in it that would be a turn-off. And, due to the price, the fear of buying something overpowering or rough makes it an easy choice.


Saying all of that, it is still somewhat boring, and I’m not a novice. I would not repurchase this one, but I don’t believe it deserves a Bust.  As such, my rating is a Bar. Try this one first, especially if you’re new to Scotch. It is a good starting point.  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, August 1, 2022

Tomintoul With a Peaty Tang Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes


Some people are not fans of peated whiskies. I’ve been there myself. It took me years to wander into the land of smoke after I was introduced far too early to Lagavulin 16 as an entry point. But, once I was ready, I did things slowly – the right way – and fell in love with smoky peat.


I’m at the point where I see a peated whisky I’ve never tried, and it cuts to the front of the line of everything else I’ve queued. One such whisky is Tomintoul With a Peaty Tang single malt Scotch.


Tomintoul calls itself The Gentle Dram. It is a Speyside distillery founded in 1964 and is located on The Ballantruan Spring which runs through the Glenlivet Estate. The name comes from the highest village of the Scottish Highlands. Like most Speyside distilleries, Tomintoul is known for unpeated whisky. However, twice a year, it uses peated malt. It is owned by Angus Dundee.


“Pure ingredients and the natural environment add to smooth and mellow character of our award-winning Tomintoul Speyside Glenlivet Single Malt Scotch Whisky, “the gentle dram”.

Tomintoul “With A Peaty Tang” has been made with peated malt barley to give it a deep smoky flavour. This makes “Peaty Tang” very unusual, most distilleries in the Speyside region do not use peat.” – Tomintoul Distillery


With a Peaty Tang is a marriage of peated whisky that’s been aged between four and five years with unpeated whisky aged eight. Ex-Bourbon casks were used for both. This is a fairly new whisky for this young distillery – it was introduced in 2017.


Despite knowing the ages, it carries no age statement. It is bottled at 40% ABV (80°), and you can expect to pay about $41.99 for a 750ml package. I found a 50ml taster for a couple of bucks.


How’s this one fare? The only way to find out, of course, is to #DrinkCurious. Let’s do this!


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this Scotch looked the color of light gold. A thicker rim created slow, sticky droplets. I couldn’t really call them legs.


Nose:  I could smell the peat the second I cracked the bottle. I let this one sit for almost 20 minutes as campfire smoke filled the room. Once I determined it rested enough, I brought the glass to my face, which usually results in an ability to get through the peat (because at that point I’m used to it). Nope. Campfire smoke was still dominating. Eventually, my olfactory sense cut through it and found citrus, apple, honey, and caramel. I then inhaled through my lips and smoky vanilla rolled across my tongue.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was thin and airy and, despite the alcohol content, warming. The front featured heavy peat, brine, and malted barley. The middle became earthy and fruity with mushroom, pear, and vanilla. The back got super spicy with clove, black pepper and a big blast of burnt oak.


Finish:  Medium and dry, barrel char, clove, dry oak, and vanilla stayed for the encore. And then, without warning, a wave of astringent.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Tomintoul With a Peaty Tang was similar to a low-end Islay, except with less complexity. I can usually find something nice in those Islay whiskies, I struggled with this Speyside. I initially didn’t find the Band-Aid flavor until after my fourth sip, then couldn’t get it out of my mouth. Some astringent is fine. Bold astringent is not (but it does have its fans). There was nothing gentle about this dram. I am willing to try other things from Tomintoul. I would never drink its With a Peaty Tang again. This takes a Bust. 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, July 27, 2022

The GlenAllachie 12-Year Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

The GlenAllachie (pronounced Glen-Alla-Key) is a relatively new Speyside distillery that's seen quite a bit of ownership changes in its short 55 years. Founded in 1967, its been open, closed, mothballed, reopened, used for strictly blends for Chivas Bros., then sold in 2017 to its current owners, The GlenAllachie Distillers Company.


The GDC completely revamped things with a plan to release whiskies bottled at no less than 46% ABV and are both naturally colored and non-chill filtered. It also allows 160 hours of fermentation time, claiming it gives them additional time to study what's in the tank. The campus is home to 16 warehouses holding 50,000 barrels of whisky!


Today I’m pouring GlenAllachie 12-Year, a single malt Scotch aged in Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso sherry casks, along with first- and second-fill Bourbon barrels and virgin American oak casks. Packaged at 46% ABV (92°), the average retail price for a 750ml bottle is $65.00. 


“[W]e would like to introduce the most important release in the history of The GlenAllachie Distillers Company; GlenAllachie 12-year-old, the heart of our range, a landmark bottling. Our best casks selected and bottled under the careful eye of our Master Distiller Billy Walker.” – The GlenAllachie


Before I get to my tasting notes, I’d like to thank Impex Beverage for providing a sample of this whisky in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Let’s #DrinkCurious.


Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, GlenAllachie 12-Year appeared as dark mahogany. It created a thicker rim which formed fat, sticky legs.


Nose: From across the room, I could smell the sherry notes.  Raisin, green grape, fig, cherry, and dried apricot were accompanied by dark chocolate and oak. When I pulled the air past my lips, it was a big blast of banana pudding.


Palate:  The texture of molasses crawled across my tongue and didn’t go away. Dark chocolate, fig, and green grape were on the front, with raisin, clove, and leather on the middle. I found ginger, oak, and French vanilla on the back.


Finish:  The medium-to-long finish consisted of Mole Coloradito, ginger, clove, tobacco leaf, and oak.  


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: This is certainly reasonably priced for a 46% ABV 12-year Scotch. The nose was beautiful, the palate flavorful, and the finish; well, if I go to a Mexican restaurant and there’s a mole sauce option, I’m all over it. The GlenAllachie 12 is just lovely all around and deserves my coveted 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, 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 1, 2022

Tamdhu Batch Strength 004 Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

Back in 1896, a group of assemblers gathered to discuss opening the most technologically-advanced distillery in the world to make the “finest” whisky. They hired Charles C. Doig, the most respected distillery architect and engineer around, and by 1897, the first newmake rolled off the still of the new Tamdhu Distillery and aged in sherry casks from Jerez, Spain.


Tamdhu quickly caught the attention of others, and Highland Distillers acquired it. Mothballing occurred three times:  1911-1912, 1928-1947, and finally, 2010-2013. However, it never changed hands until 2010, when the Edrington Group (the owners of Highland) sold the dormant distillery to Ian Macleod Distillers.


This Speyside distillery in Knocknado was upgraded a few times, with perhaps the most significant in 1949 when it introduced Saladin boxes used to auto-turn the barley during the malting process. Tamdhu remains one of the few distilleries to have a malting floor on-premises.


Most of what Tamdhu produces winds up in blends such as J&B, Famous Grouse, and Cutty Sark. But, it does have single malts. Batch Strength is an annual special release, and I’ve acquired Batch 004 from 2019. Aged in American and European oak Oloroso sherry casks, it carries no age statement. It is non-chill filtered, naturally colored, and weighs in at a hefty 57.8% ABV (115.6°). The suggested retail is about $90.00.


A friend presented me with a sample of this Scotch and requested a review. That can only happen if I do the #DrinkCurious thing. Let’s do it!


Appearance: If you poured dark, raw honey into a Glencairn glass, that’s about as close a description of the color as I can offer. A microthin rim released weighty tears that crashed back into the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose: A bouquet of raisin, apricot, vanilla, almond, and honey tickled my nostrils. It was dreamy, and the only thing that stopped me was my desire to taste it. When I made an effort to draw the air into my mouth, the sherry notes were thick.


Palate:  A very oily, full-bodied texture greeted my tongue. The front of my palate found raisin, plum, and cherry, while the middle discovered orange peel, brown sugar, and chocolate. The back had flavors of black pepper, almond, and dry oak.


Finish:  The extended, spicy ending consisted of dry oak and black pepper that carried past the berry, brown sugar, raisin, and chocolate. As I was pondering these, it struck me that it was reminiscent of Dr. Pepper.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: This is one of those, “Are you kidding me?” Scotches. I would drink this all day long. Tamdhu Batch Strength 004 is delicious, and it isn’t priced obnoxiously, especially for a cask-strength Single Malt. Is there something to complain about? Yeah, I’ve yet to see one on a store shelf. But, if you do, buy a Bottle, confident that you’re going to get your money’s worth and more. 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.

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.



Monday, November 15, 2021

Johnnie Walker High Rye Blended Scotch Review & Tasting Notes


There are a few whiskies that, as soon as they are introduced, generate plenty of stern opinions before anyone has had a chance to taste one. When the press release came out a week or so ago announcing Johnnie Walker High Rye, it took a few minutes for people to start laughing, saying it was disgusting, strange, just a mixer, etc. I even read in a group I belong someone dismissed this as more Johnnie Walker garbage.


Let’s talk about a few things. First, Johnnie Walker, like anyone else, makes good stuff and not-so-good stuff. Most of its releases carry no age statement, and all are blends. Second, there are three types of Scotch drinkers: those who refuse to drink non-age-stated whisky, those who only drink single malts, and those who #DrinkCurious.  As you’re well aware, I’m in that last category.


Let’s break that down a bit. Blending whisky is an art form. Just like any other kind of art, you have skilled artists and those who are less so. The goal of a master blender is to start with the result and then figure out how to get there. The goal of a lesser-blender is to take mediocre whisky and figure out how to salvage it.


Then, there’s the other half of the equation – the age statement. Age is simply a number that represents the youngest whisky in any marriage of barrels – in theory. As an example, you can have a 12-year Scotch that contains no 12-year Scotch in it, because everything in that batch was older. Or, it could have a small amount of 12-year and a huge amount of something older. And, it doesn’t matter if we’re talking single malt or blends. Moreover, a 12-year whisky can taste much better than a 15-year and vice-versa.


In my opinion, those who refuse to drink blends or anything without an age statement are cheating themselves out of amazing experiences. But, hey, that just means there is more for those of us who do!


Getting back to Johnnie Walker High Rye, it begins with whiskies sourced from Cardhu (Speyside), Cameronbridge (Lowland, and the oldest grain distillery in Scotland), Teaninich (Highland), Caol Ila (Islay), Clynelish (Highland), and Glenkinchie (Lowland) distilleries. Sixty percent of the mashbill is rye, which I am assuming is from Cameronbridge, as is likely the wheat component. The remaining ingredient is malted barley. As you can discern from my rant above, it carries no age statement. It is bottled at 45% ABV (90°) and I paid $25.00 for a 750ml bottle, making this an excellent opportunity to #RespectTheBottomShelf.


“A mastery of blending to create a bold, new offering. It tempts palates with a revolutionary taste profile that can only be born from the powerful blend of key Johnnie Walker Black Label tasting notes and rye whisky flavors.” - Diageo


Did I do well with my purchase? Let’s find out!


Appearance:  There is orange and then there is amber. Served neat in my Glencairn glass, this appeared orange in color. It formed a medium-thick rim that produced long, heavy, wavy legs that fell back to the pool.


Nose:  I could have been in a Jewish bakery that just took fresh rye bread out of the oven. Then, there was warm butter. Next, aromas of thick caramel, nutmeg, cantaloupe, and toasted oak made me excited to take the first sip. When I pulled air into my mouth, it was straight apple pie filling.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was creamy and full-bodied. That apple pie thing continued with green apple, vanilla cream, and brown sugar on the front. As it hit the middle, the brown sugar morphed to caramel, which then morphed again to English toffee. I also tasted saltwater taffy. The back featured nutmeg, oak, clove, and a puff of smoke.


Finish:  Things began short, but the more I sipped, the longer it lasted. Cinnamon spice, allspice, and clove were married to tobacco and a kiss of sweet peat.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Johnnie Walker High Rye may be one of the best bottom-shelf Scotches I’ve tried. The whole rye/barley/wheat thing worked beautifully. Nothing overpowered, it was surprisingly complex, and I’d gladly pay twice the price without blinking. Yes, this one snags 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.


Monday, November 8, 2021

The BenRiach Malting Season Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

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


The BenRiach is a Speyside distillery and is known for doing things in its own way. Dr. Rachel Barrie is one of the most respected master blenders in the business.  And, in 2021, she’s taken a single malt Scotch in an entirely new direction with Malting Season.


“Passed from distiller to distiller throughout the generations, the floor malting process keeps a traditional part of the whisky-making process alive with BenRiach being one of only seven distilleries in Scotland to continue the practice of floor malting.

Distilling spirit from barley malted here on site is a true labour of love and something we are passionate about keeping alive here at BenRiach as an ode to our creative whisky-making heritage.”Stewart Buchanan, The BenRiach global brand ambassador


It begins with the aforementioned once-a-year malting. A concerto strain of barley, the most common, was used, and in this case, 100% of it came from the malting floor. The distillation took place on November 2, 2012. That single malt new make then aged in two types of casks:  virgin American oak and former Bourbon barrels and rested for nine years. The yield was 6672 bottles, and you can expect to pay about $149.99 for a 750ml package.


Before I get to the review, I’d like to thank The BenRiach for providing me a sample of Malting Season in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. I’ll #DrinkCurious and get to it.


Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Malting Season presented as the color of bright gold. It left a medium-thick rim that led to husky, slow legs that fell back to the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose:  Honey was obvious. Peach, vanilla, Fuji apple, malt, and raw almond aromas lay beneath. As I pulled the air through my lips, the Fuji apple gained strength.


Palate:  The mouthfeel offered a medium-weight body and was silky. Fuji apple, Bartlett pear, and honey started things off. As the whisky moved to the middle, toasted almond and vanilla took over. Then, on the back was a blend of oak, white peppercorn, and milk chocolate.


Finish:  The oak became dry, the white pepper remained, and then became sweet with honey and apple, then featured a redux of the dry oak. This was one of those big finishes that lasted several minutes.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Malting Season is a stunningly good Scotch. The balanced palate and finish offered a substantial presence with bold flavors. There’s no astringent. There’s no peat. The proof is just right without being unnecessarily diluted. Would I spend $149.99 on this? I believe so, but I’d also like to see it come down about $20.00 or so in price. Regardless, this earned every bit of my Bottle rating. Grab one. This is the first edition of what’s sure to become an amazing annual release. 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.