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

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.

 


 

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

The Benriach Smoke Season Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes



The Speyside region is known for many things, but peated whiskies are the exception to the rule. Those that have this quality tend to be mildly so.

 

For the last fifty years, The BenRiach has been offering a line of peated Scotches. I’ve reviewed a few of them and found them to be quite tasty. Even the Peated Cask Strength was not overly peated. During the summer, Benriach would send peated malt through the still. For the remainder, it would distill unpeated malt. It calls the period when peated malt is used Smoke Season.

 

“Smoke Season is a special time of year in the distillery’s calendar, and this new addition gives both the whisky novice and connoisseur the opportunity to discover the uniquely rich, sweet, and smoky character of Benriach single malt, crafted in Speyside, a whisky-making region rarely associated with peated 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

 

Smoke Season is an intensely-peated single-malt Scotch that carries no age statement. It aged in a small portion of first-fill Bourbon barrels, with the majority in both charred and toasted virgin American oak casks. Bottled at 52.8% ABV (105.6°), this is the first year it has been available in the US market. You can expect to pay about $71.99 for a 750ml package.

 

I’d like to thank The BenRiach for providing me a sample of Smoke Season in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. The way we make that part happen is to #DrinkCurious.

 

Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Smoke Season presented as a bronze amber. It made an ultra-thin rim on the glass that gave no time whatsoever for the watery legs to crash back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

 

Nose: There is no mistake that this is a peated whisky!  Burnt oak, caramel, vanilla, toffee, and citrus provided a well-balanced aroma that would drive any Islay fan bonkers. When I drew the air into my mouth, vanilla and toasted oak caressed my tongue.

 

Palate:  The mouthfeel was slick and oily, coating every nook and cranny of my mouth. The front featured a Crème Brulee that was subjected a bit too long to the flame and cinnamon. At mid-palate, I tasted pear, caramel apple, and orange peel. The back suggested charred oak, black pepper, and dark chocolate.

 

Finish:  The smoky finish offered no astringent quality. It consisted of charred oak and barbeque smoke. Poking through those heavy notes was a vanilla blast. The whole thing lasted several minutes.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I’m a big fan of Islay Scotches, and while this one was out of the Speyside region, I’d put this one up against many of them. If you blindfolded one such enthusiast, it would not shock me if they guessed this was something out of Port Charlotte. Sure, it doesn’t have an age statement, but who cares? I loved this. You will, too. Buy one, because this 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, October 13, 2021

Speyburn 10 and 15 Year Single Malt Scotch Reviews & Tasting Notes





My Scotch journey started in Speyside malts. That's a common toe-dipping region for many reasons, most of which revolve around the fruity, easy-sipping qualities of many offerings. And, while I absolutely adore the Speyside region, most of my attention gravitates to Islay and the Highlands. I've found I've often ignored what first attracted me to Scotch.


The Speyburn Distillery is a storied one from that region (I bet you could figure that out from the name). 


"1897 saw Queen Victoria celebrating the 60th year of her reign and John Hopkins, never one to let a good celebration go to waste, set himself a big challenge. He said he would build a distillery and craft a whisky in time to toast the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. No one believed it was possible, but that didn't matter to John Hopkins - his instincts told him otherwise." - The Speyburn Distillery


Speyburn is unique in the sense that it sources its water from Granty Burn, and by unique, I mean it is the only distillery to do so. It utilizes both stainless steel and Douglas fir fermentation tanks and ages its newmake in both former Bourbon barrels and Sherry casks. It is currently owned by International Beverage Holdings, Ltd., which also has Old Pulteney, anCnoc, and Balblair brands in its portfolio.


Today I'm pouring two Scotches:  Speyburn 10 and Speyburn 15Before I get started on my reviews, I'd like to thank International Beverage for providing me these samples in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Now, it is time to #DrinkCurious and explore what these are all about.




Speyburn 10 Years


Aged for a decade in American oak, ex-Bourbon, and ex-sherry casks, Speyburn 10 is the flagship single malt whiskey for this distillery. I'm not sure what the difference is between "American oak" and "ex-Bourbon" but Speyburn does differentiate between the two. Of course, American oak could be nearly anything, including virgin oak. All the cooperage is air-dried. Bottled at 43% ABV (86°) a 750ml package is affordable at $34.99.


Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Speyburn 10 appeared as the color of straw. It formed a medium-thick rim with heavy, watery legs that fell back into the pool.


Nose:  The first aroma to hit my olfactory sense was lemon. Not just the peel, but the fruit inside. Not to be ignored was pine and malt. If you've ever visited a malting floor, it has a certain, unique smell. As I brought the rim to my mouth and inhaled, lemon oil danced across my palate.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was different. It was oily... no, it was thin... no, it had a medium body... no, it was syrupy. The palate was a bit easier to nail down. It started with honey and graham crackers. The middle offered English toffee and cinnamon. The back completed the transition from sweet to spicy with nutmeg and toasted oak, then to acidic with lemon zest.


Finish:  Smoked oak, very mild peat, clove, lemon, nutmeg, and toffee remained for a medium-long finish.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  To find a 10-year single malt for $34.99 isn't overly difficult. A good one is more challenging. I had fun trying to figure out the mouthfeel. I felt the palate was interesting, especially the back where it took that zig-zag. It is unusual to find peat with a Speyside. That's not to scare folks away from it, as I stated above, it was mild. This has a lot of character, it will keep you guessing, and for me, that translates to a Bottle rating.


☸☸☸☸☸



Speyburn 15 Years


Aged for 15 years in both Bourbon and Spanish casks (Speyburn doesn't come out and say the Spanish casks are former sherry butts, but when you taste it, that becomes obvious). This is a single malt, which means they're not blending malted barleys from other distilleries. All the cooperage is air-dried, the whisky is non-chill filtered and naturally colored. Speyburn 15 is packaged at 46% ABV (92°), and you can expect to pay around $70.00 for a 750ml bottle. Worldwide, there are only 3500 cases made each year. 


Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Speyburn 15 presented as the color of deep, dark chestnut. The ring that formed was medium in thickness, and the legs were fat but sticky, slowly crawling their way back to the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose:  This was a raisin bomb out of the gate. That's the first clue that the Spanish casks formally held sherry. Dark chocolate, apricot, and citrus joined the raisin. When I took the vapor into my mouth, vanilla and oak rolled across my tongue.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was creamy and full-bodied. It started with dark chocolate, raisin bread, and orange citrus. The middle featured vanilla, apricot, and fig. Then, the back offered leather, dry oak, vanilla, and malt.


Finish:  French oak and what I could swear was port pipes were at the forefront of the finish. Flavors of raisin, leather, orange citrus, tobacco, and black pepper rounded things out. Lengthwise, it was shorter than I'd have preferred, ranging somewhere in the short-middle range.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I really enjoyed this. I've seen some reviews that casually tossed this whisky aside and I couldn't disagree more. There were several things going on with the palate that made this one interesting. I also loved that finish, especially as it pertained to the cooperage. Bring price into the equation, and for a 15-year Single Malt Scotch, I believe it is priced fairly. Pick one up, because this 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.



Friday, August 20, 2021

The GlenAllachie 10 Year Batch 3 Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

 


This year, I'm discovering distilleries that I've known about, but not yet had a chance to peruse. For me, this is always exciting, and somehow much more so than new releases from distilleries I'm already a fan of. I think part of it is because I may find something that drags me in an entirely new direction in my whisky journey. 


The GlenAllachie (pronounced Glen-Alla-Key) is a fairly new Speyside distillery that's seen quite a bit of ownership changes in its 54 years. Founded in 1967, its been open, closed, mothballed, reopened, used for strictly blends for Chivas Bros., then sold off in 2017 to its current owners, The GlenAllachie Distillers Company, run by Billy Walker, Trisha Savage, and Graham Stevenson. Walker is its current Master Blender.


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 greater time to study what's in the tank.


Today I'm reviewing GlenAllachie 10 Year, Batch 3.  Because I can do basic math, I'm able to tell you that The GDC didn't distill this whisky, this is one of those leftover barrels from the Pernod-Ricard/Chivas ownership. This is a single malt that's been aged for at least a decade in Oloroso sherry, PX sherry, and virgin oak casks. Weighing in at an impressive 58.2% ABV (116.4°), there were 3500 cases released in 2019. You can expect to pay around $81.99 for the bottle.


Before I get to the review, I'd like to thank Impex Beverage for providing me a sample of this Scotch in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Now, allow me to #DrinkCurious and tell you all about it.


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, GlenAllachie 10 presented as the color of deep, dark mahogany. It formed a paper-thin rim and thick, heavy tears that fell back into the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose:  Aromas of gingerbread, milk chocolate, raisin, fig, and date made me smile. When I drew the vapor into my mouth, brown sugar and molasses crawled over my tongue.


Palate:  Full-bodied with a syrupy texture, the front of my palate tasted caramel, fig, and cinnamon. The middle offered raisin, buttercream, and cocoa powder. Then, on the back, freshly-cracked peppercorn, dry oak, and tobacco leaf.


Finish: The finish was medium-long in length and bone dry. Were I to guess, that would indicate there were more Oloroso sherry casks and virgin oak used than PX sherry casks. Brown sugar, cocoa powder, and cinnamon spice blended together and when they fell off, raisin was left behind.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I'm stuck somewhere between a Bottle and Bar rating. The aroma was absolutely enticing. The palate was good, but not what I would describe as great. I would have preferred more of the PX sherry influence to come through versus the Oloroso, but that's not the end of the world. The price isn't obnoxious, there are just so many 10-year Scotches out there for a lot less. When I'm stuck between ratings, I always opt for the lower, and that means this one takes a 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, July 21, 2021

The Glenlivet Caribbean Cask Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

 


If you've heard anything about Scotch, you've likely heard of The Glenlivet. I say that with some authority as it is the #1 best-selling single malt Scotch in the United States and the #2 best-selling in the world overall. 


The Glenlivet has a storied history. Established in 1824, this Speyside distillery was started by George Smith. According to The Glenlivet, in 1822, King George IV wound up in Scotland and asked Smith if he could part with a pour or so of his illegal, but still respected Glenlivet whisky. Smith was no dummy and gave the king what he requested. Two years later, Smith applied for the first legal distilling license in Glenlivet Parish. About a decade later, Smith was distilling almost 200 gallons weekly, which naturally caught the attention of his competition. 


In 1871, Smith passed away, and his son, John Gordon Smith, stepped up to continue operations. The competition decided they were going to also call themselves Glenlivet, and Smith, a former lawyer, successfully obtained the exclusive rights in 1884 to have his whisky called The Glenlivet. The distillery has been running continuously sans a hiatus during World War II. 


Recently, Mrs. Whiskeyfellow picked up a bottle of The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve, a single malt Scotch that touts it is selectively finished in barrels that held Caribbean rum. What selectively finished means is that only a portion of the whisky was finished, the rest aged normally. She paid about $29.00 for it, making it an easy, low-risk purchase. It carries no age statement, no indication if it is chill-filtered or not, and without any suggestion that caramel coloring was used or avoided. It is bottled at 40% ABV (80°).

"To create whisky with a tropical feel, our makers finished a portion of our smooth whisky in barrels that previously held Caribbean rum. The result is a well balanced and exceptionally smooth whisky. Single malt, meet summer." - The Glenlivet

 

I'm unsure if this was a purposefully limited production or if sales didn't meet expectations, but Caribbean Reserve was introduced in 2020 and appears nowhere on The Glenlivet website. The bottle my wife procured was produced May 2020, which tells me at the very least the store wasn't selling these like hotcakes.


Of course, I try everything that I can when it comes to whiskey. That's all part of the #DrinkCurious lifestyle. Disappointing sales or someone's negative opinion doesn't shy me away. We all have different expectations and desires to make us happy.


Without further ado, it is time to dissect this whisky and discover what Caribbean Reserve is all about. 


Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Caribbean Reserve suggested a brassy amber appearance. It formed a very heavy rim that left sticky droplets that crawled back to the pool. 


Nose:  I expected rum notes to dominate. They didn't. Instead, it was very malt-forward, with undertones of honey, orange citrus, and apple cider. When I took the vapor into my mouth, vanilla and brown sugar slid across my tongue.


Palate: Caribbean Reserve had a full-bodied, creamy mouthfeel. While it filled my mouth, strangely it wasn't coating. The first thing I tasted was coconut, lemon, banana, and honey. Mid-palate, flavors of brown sugar, vanilla, raisin, and pineapple were fairly easy to discern. On the back, I discovered clove, cinnamon, and chocolate.


Finish: Most of the finish was medium in length. A hint of wood was accompanied by apple cider, brown sugar, clove, and banana. What lasted much longer was toffee.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  What will Caribbean Reserve not do? If you're looking for something to compete with, say, The Balvenie 14 Caribbean Cask, this will fall short. It is also obviously younger. But, Caribbean Reserve is also more than half the price. What this will provide is an affordable, tasty, whisky that performs as advertised - an easy-sipping Scotch to be enjoyed on a hot, summer's day. I'll give it a Bottle rating, I believe it is worth that. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

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


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



Friday, May 21, 2021

Compass Box Asyla Blended Scotch Review & Tasting Notes



Scotch is a wonderful category of whiskey. You have distinctive regions that, while there are exceptions, give you a few qualities to expect depending on where they're distilled. The Lowlands offers whiskeys generally light and floral. With Islay, you can usually rely on peat. Speyside, the largest per capita region is very diverse, but you can count on sweet and rich whiskeys. Campbeltown suggests briny, smokey choices. The Highlands is probably the most challenging to pin down, as the region is incredibly vast, consisting of islands, grasslands, and mountains. You can find peated, fruity, floral, and everything across the spectrum.


There are Scotch drinkers who will only drink single malts and simply do not consider blends. My whiskey philosophy has always been to #DrinkCurious and I believe anyone who limits what they drink does themselves no favors. Single malts are easy, and not all single malts are great or even good - just like any other whiskey category. And, while there are some poor blends, there are some purely amazing representations, with everything in between. A blend is when a distiller wants to arrive at a finish point and has to map the way there. I describe it as an art form.


Today I'm reviewing Compass Box's Asyla, which is (as you can guess) a blended Scotch. By a blended Scotch (different than blended malt or blended grain), it means it is distilled of both malted barley and grains.  One of the things I always give props to Compass Box for is its transparency. Compass Box has no issues telling you where they source from and what the makeup of each whiskey is. 


Asyla is blended from four different distilleries:  Cameronbridge (Lowland), Glen Elgin (Speyside), Teaninich (Highland), and Linkwood (Speyside). Cameronbridge is 50% of the blend and the only grain content. It was aged in first-fill ex-Bourbon barrels.  Glen Elgin, on the other hand, is the smallest component, with only 5%, and used refilled hogsheads. Teaninich was 23% using first-fill ex-Bourbon barrels, and Linkwood the remaining 22%, also using first-fill ex-Bourbon barrels. It is non-chill filtered, naturally-colored, and bottled at 40% ABV.  Retail for a 750ml is approximately $49.99.


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Asyla presents as very light, almost like straw or hay. It left a very thin rim on the wall that generated fast, thick legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine. 


Nose: Very fruity aromas consisting of peach, honey, and apple permeated my nostrils. When I inhaled through my lips, it was a combination of big, strong apple and vanilla. 


Palate:  The mouthfeel was airy and delicate. As it flowed across my palate, the front was a marriage of apple and citrus flavors.  Then, at mid-palate, it became grassy and earthy. But, try as I might, I could not find anything on the back. It was so muted there was just nothing to discern.


Finish:  All of this led to the finish which, despite the lack of anything on the back, was longer than I anticipated. It was all pepper and oak, most likely from the Bourbon barrels.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Compass Box whiskeys are a mixed bag. Some are priced well into triple digits, others are very affordable. Some are excellent, others not so much. I have high regard for it, though, and a willingness to stick its neck out there and experiment. So, where does Asyla fall on this range?  Somewhere in the middle. It is a decent bargain Scotch and very uncomplicated, but due to the muting on the palate, this may not be for everyone. I was happy to taste it but wouldn't buy it myself. As such, Asyla earns a Bar rating. Cheers!



My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System:

  • Bottle = Buy it
  • Bar = Try it first
  • Bust = Leave it 

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

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

BenRiach The Twelve and The Smoky Twelve Reviews & Tasting Notes

 



Earlier this month, I reviewed BenRiach's The Original Ten and The Smoky Ten single malt scotches. They both received Bottle ratings from me, and of the two, I preferred The Original Ten. 


Today I'm exploring The Twelve and The Smoky Twelve. Similar to the ten-year expressions, these are not simply sisters with one unpeated and the other peated. They're both non-chill filtered and both naturally colored. They're both bottled at 46% ABV (92°).


The BenRiach does things differently than most Speyside distilleries. It tends to follow a more classic Highland region attributes of peated, light-bodied, and maltier. Guided by Master Blender Rachel Barrie, The BenRiach touts itself as "unconventionally Speyside."


Just as with the 10-year whiskies, I'll do a side-by-side comparison with the 12-years. Before I do, I'd like to thank The BenRiach for providing me these samples in exchange for no-strings-attached, honest reviews.  Let's #DrinkCurious and learn more.


The Twelve





The Twelve is triple-cask matured, using former Bourbon, sherry, and Port casks. It is distilled from 100% unpeated malted barley.  A 750ml bottle will set you back $49.99.


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, The Twelve presented as the color of brass. It formed a medium rim that led to thick, wavy legs that fell back into the pool. It left sticky droplets on the rim.


Nose:  Aromas of honey, candied orange, and (good) fruitcake provided a rather simple nosing experience. When I drew the vapor into my mouth, malt rolled over my tongue.


Palate:  I found the mouthfeel to be creamy with a medium body. On the front, I tasted black cherry, vanilla, and honey. As the liquid moved to the middle, cocoa, malt, and coffee were easy to discern. Then, the back consisted of oak, spiced fruitcake, and ginger.


Finish:  Ginger continued into the medium-length finish. The black cherry and oak returned, and the three were joined with mocha.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I found The Twelve to be tasty, but when I compare it to The Original Ten, it lacked much of the same big fruity notes. Granted, the casks were different, both used the same Bourbon and sherry casks, but The Twelve used Port for the third cask whereas The Original Ten used virgin oak. There's only a $5.00 difference between the two. I enjoyed this enough to convey a Bottle rating, but between the two, I'd choose The Original Ten.


✤✤✤✤


The Smoky Twelve





The Smoky Twelve is also triple-cask matured, recycling Bourbon, sherry, and marsala casks. Incidentally, this was Whisky Advocate's #3-best whisky of 2020.  You can expect to pay around $64.99 for a 750ml.


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, The Smoky Twelve featured a dull gold color. It formed a medium rim which generated husky, slow legs that crawled back to the pool. It also left sticky, thick droplets on the wall.


Nose:  Fennel and an herbal astringent quality nearly overwhelmed the smoky peat. I was able to pick out apricot and plum beneath those dominating aromas. When I brought the bouquet in my mouth, cherry gave me some respite.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was creamy with a medium-weight body. The front offered vanilla cream and molasses. I discovered orange and dark chocolate at the middle, and then, on the back, things got spicy with black pepper and smoked oak.


Finish:  Medium-long in length, peat and char had a definitive presence which was rounded out by sweet tobacco leaf and black pepper.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I was not a fan of the nose. I'm not big on herbal notes or astringent qualities. Thankfully, none of that carried into the palate or finish, and I loved those. Sans the nose, this was a very enjoyable pour. I can certainly understand why this one is popular. Despite the nose, it would be a mistake for me not to confer a Bottle rating for it. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Monday, March 15, 2021

BenRiach The Original Ten and The Smoky Ten Reviews & Tasting Notes

 



Speyside whiskies aren't exactly known for smoky qualities. These are the Scotch workhorses, the region where many newbies begin their Scotch journey. They tend to be easy drinkers, and for the most part, lack nuances that some drinkers can find off-putting. The Speyside region is known for rich, fruity flavors, little-to-no peat, and is where a majority of Scotland's distilleries are located. 


The BenRiach does things differently than most Speyside distilleries. It tends to follow a more classic Highland region attributes of peated, light-bodied, and maltier. Guided by Master Blender Rachel Barrie, The BenRiach touts itself as "unconventionally Speyside."


I've decided to do a side-by-side comparison of two ten-year single malts from this distillery.  The former is The Original Ten, which is the core whisky for The BenRiach, and the latter is The Smoky Ten. This is an interesting exercise because while similar in some aspects (both single malts, both aged in three types of cooperage, both aged a decade, both are naturally-colored), they also can't be any more different from one another. In a preview of an upcoming review, I'll also do the same with its twelve-year cousins.


Before I #DrinkCurious with these whiskies, I'd like to thank The BenRiach for providing me samples of The Original Ten and The Smoky Ten in exchange for no-strings-attached, honest reviews.


The Original Ten




This is the flagship whisky representing this distillery. It has matured in Bourbon, sherry, and toasted virgin oak casks. Bottled at 43% ABV (86°), you can expect to spend about $45.00, offering a low barrier of entry.


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, The Original Ten suggested the color of golden straw. It formed a medium ring, with medium-weight legs that fell back into the liquid sunshine.


Nose:  If you were blindfolded, you'd swear you were walking through an orchard. Aromas of cherry, orange, and plum were everywhere. Honey and brine followed. When I took a whiff with my open lips, it was pure honey. 


Palate:  The mouthfeel was oily with a medium body. On the front, I tasted apricot, pear, and orange peel. The middle was simple with malt and honey, and the back featured oak, vanilla, and almond paste.


Finish:  Out of nowhere, there was a puff of smoke, it was very slight but unmistakable. Oak, honey, clove, and pink peppercorn offered a medium-to-long finish. I was a bit taken back that my hard palate sizzled at only 86°.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The Original Ten goes down easy while being a memorable pour. I'm assuming that while aging it picked up peat from the air, that or a small portion of the malted barley used peat in the drying process. The fact that my hard palate reacted was puzzling. In my opinion, someone new to Scotch would love this - it lacks any astringent (Band-Aid) quality. At the same time, an experienced fan of Speysides would find this a nice change of pace. Looking at the price, this seems like a no-brainer Bottle rating. 


✤✤✤✤
 

The Smoky Ten




If you assume this is simply a "smoky" version of the flagship Scotch, you'd be wrong. The three types of casks used to age The Smoky Ten are Bourbon, Jamaican rum, and toasted virgin oak. It also utilizes peated barley from the Highland region.  Packaged at 46% ABV (92°), a bottle will set you back about $49.00. Considering the proof and age, that's a decent price for Scotch.


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, The Smoky Ten gave a yellow gold appearance, like what you'd see on a nice watch. It made a thin rim, but slow, sticky, thick legs dropped back to the pool.


Nose:  The peat is obvious. It isn't the same as you'd find as something from the Islay region, but it is true to its name:  smoky. Once you get past it, honey, apricot, and orange marmalade gave it a sweet nose.  When I took the fumes into my mouth, smoky vanilla rolled across my tongue.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was medium in weight, but lacked the oiliness of The Original Ten. Similar to the nose, peat was the first sensation experienced. The front also had flavors of vanilla wafer and honey. As it worked its way past, it became malty with roasted pear and orange citrus. The back brought the peat back, along with oak, clove, and tobacco leaf.


Finish:  Long and drying, The Smoky Ten had a bit of pucker power. I almost instinctively smacked my tongue against the roof of my mouth as peat, dry oak, and brine eventually yielded to black pepper.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  If you've been reading my reviews for a while, you know I'm attracted to the unusual, and peated whisky out of the Speyside region is that. Peat is something I enjoy, and I realize that's not for everyone. But I'll go on out on a limb and suggest if you don't like peat (or you've never tried it), this may be a good opportunity to dip your toe in the water. The price gives a lot of bang for the buck, and it's a tasty dram. My Bottle rating is well-deserved.  Cheers!



My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Thursday, March 4, 2021

The BenRiach The Twenty One Single Malt 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 biggest firm, Pattison, Edler & Company went under, they took out nearly a dozen others in the process. That cascaded and led 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 was acquired by Pernod-Ricard in 2001. 



And, then, the distillery was shuttered again from 2002 to 2004. It was purchased by Brown-Forman, which owns BenRiach to this day. The Master Blender, Rachel Barrie, runs things "unconventionally Speyside."


What does "unconventionally Speyside" mean? First and foremost, it isn't overly common for Speyside whiskies to be peated. BenRiach offers both peated and unpeated expressions. It also has an extensive collection of various cooperages which, in turn, impart different flavors and characteristics to the matured whiskies.


When presented with an opportunity to review The Twenty One, my heart skipped a beat. Getting into older Scotches is a pricy concept, and there's an admittedly romantic notion of drinking something that is decades old. The Twenty One is a single malt that was aged in former Bourbon, sherry, and red wine casks along with virgin oak. Those barrels were subsequently blended to create a non-chill filtered, naturally-colored Scotch. While we don't know exactly how old the various components were, we do know the youngest was 21 years.


“These older expressions are a beautiful reflection of the landscape around the distillery with intriguing, luxurious layers of flavor imparted by the eclectic casks sourced from around the world. The refreshed Benriach range is for those open to new possibilities, building on a wealth of experience and tradition. I invite the drinker to join me on this creative journey, as we explore the lush rewards of single malt whisky.” - Rachel Barrie


Bottled at 46% ABV (92°), you can expect to pay about $199.00 for a 750ml package. Before I get to the tasting notes, I'd like to thank The BenRiach for providing a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Time to #DrinkCurious


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, The Twenty One shows up as honey-gold in color. It fabricated a husky rim that formed broad, fast legs that fell back into the pool of liquid sunshine. 


Nose:  This Scotch was plenty fragrant. Oh, it wasn't a blast of smoke, rather, it was orchard fruits mingled with it, and that was just allowing it to breathe. The fruits smelled of apple, apricot, and plum. I also smelled oak and chocolate. When I inhaled the vapor in my mouth, smoky vanilla rolled across my palate.


Palate:  A silky, creamy mouthfeel started the show. The more I sipped, the creamier it became. On the front of my palate, I tasted sweet, smoky peat and peach. The peat was not the star of the production, rather, it was a supporting character. At mid-palate, I tasted chocolate, apple, and pear. Flavors of toasted oak, toffee, and an encore of the light peat constructed the back.


Finish:  It started short-to-medium. Like the mouthfeel, the more I imbibed, the longer the finish became. Eventually, it seemed to last forever. Smoke, plum, honey, pear, and toasted oak danced about.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Just because something carries a decades-old age statement doesn't mean it is great or even good. I've had some mediocre, older whiskies. The Twenty One is absolutely the opposite. If I had to select one word to describe this experience, it would be luxurious. From the amazingly refined nose to the silky mouthfeel, to the fruity palate and what is a near-perfect peatiness, there is simply nothing to complain about. This is a mesmerizing affair and I'm happy to fork over the premium to partake in it. There's not a doubt in my mind that a Bottle rating is owed. Find a bottle, seriously. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

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