Showing posts with label port. Show all posts
Showing posts with label port. Show all posts

Monday, January 9, 2023

Amrut Portonova Single Malt Indian Whisky Review & Tasting Notes

One of the fascinating realms of the Wonderful World of Whisky is Indian Single Malts. If you’ve never had one before and you’re a fan of Scotch whisky, you’re missing out. Indian Single Malts share characteristics of Speyside and Highland malts. What differentiates whiskies from these two nations is the use of six-row barley in India versus two-row nearly everywhere else and the significant climate differences. Things in Scotland tend to age slowly, whereas, in India, you can count on a multiple of three to four years for every one in Scotland. In India, the angels steal about 12% of the barrels yearly!


There are a handful of major distilleries in India, and the oldest one that produces single malt is Amrut. The name, translated from Sanskrit, means nectar of the gods. While Amrut started distilling in 1948, it didn't launch a single malt until 2004. It is also the first Indian distillery to win awards for its Indian Single Malts. Amrut’s distillery is located in Bengaluru, India.


Today I’m exploring Amrut Portonova. It is the same whisky as the Amrut Cask Strength Single Malt, distilled from 100% Indian six-row barley and aged in former Bourbon casks. Portonova carries no age statement, but it spent three additional years in tawny port pipes once it matured. It is non-chill filtered and naturally colored. It is packaged at 62.1% ABV (124.2°), and a 750ml bottle retails in the neighborhood of $135.00.


Portonova has been absent from the market for the last three years due to port pipe issues (I read into that supply challenges due to the pandemic). The 2022 version is the first reintroduction.


Amrut’s US importer is Glass Revolution Imports, and I’d like to thank them for providing me with a sample of Portonova in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Now it is time to #DrinkCurious and taste what this whisky is all about.


Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Portonova was the color of dark chestnut. A husky rim released watery tears that fell back into the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose: An enticing aroma of plum, caramel, toasted coconut, cherry, English toffee, and sandalwood wafted from the glass to my nostrils. When I pulled the air through my lips, plum and milk chocolate were easy to find.


Palate: I discovered a medium-weighted, silky texture as I took that first sip. Cherry, plum, and milk chocolate were on the front, while caramel, banana, and cinnamon powder graced the middle. The back tasted of black pepper, “meaty” oak, and clove.


Finish: Portonova possessed one of those very long-lasting finishes. It consisted of cherry, plum, cinnamon, chocolate, clove, and oak.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I found Portonova a real treat. There was no questioning that it was finished in tawny port pipes. But, if you didn’t know this was an Indian whisky, you might swear it came from the likes of The GlenDronach or BenRiach. For $135.00, this is something you won’t be unhappy buying, and it earns every bit of 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.



Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Old Line Spirits American Single Malt Reviews: Cask Strength, Madeira Finish, and Port Finish

I have a ton of respect for our armed services and those who have served. So, when I learned about former US Navy Prowler pilots Arch Walkins’ and Mark McLaughlin’s stories, it garnered my attention. They both served in different squadrons at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Washington and found themselves neighbors in Baltimore post-retirement. The duo enjoyed whiskey and decided they wanted to own and operate their own distillery.


As luck would have it, two Vietnam veterans owned Golden Distillery in Puget Sound and were ready to sell. Arch and Mark learned how to distill American Single Malt whiskey and everything involved in the process at Golden. But, they didn’t want to call Washington home; they loved Baltimore. What they didn’t have, however, was a distillery.


While they were trying to work out all the behind-the-scenes red tape, financing, design, and construction of their distillery, they were introduced to the owners at Middle West Spirits in Columbus, Ohio. After discussing distilling and whiskey styles, the four decided to partner together, allowing Arch and Mark to distill Old Line Spirits at Middle West. Thus, the dream was born.


In 2016, Arch and Mark took possession of a former commercial laundry facility in Baltimore. They converted it to a distillery, and in 2017, the duo had opened for business. They have been going hard ever since.


Today I’m exploring three Old Line Spirits Single Malt whiskeys:  A Cask Strength, a Port-Finished, and a Madeira-Finished.  I drank these in the order of Madeira, Port, and Cask Strength under the assumption of a sweet to bold journey. The Cask Strength is also the base whiskey for the others.


I acquired the three samples from a friend curious about my opinion and asked if I’d put together reviews of each. So, let’s #DrinkCurious and get things started.


Cask Strength American Single Malt

(image from Old Line Spirits)

This whiskey starts with 100% malted barley distilled through a copper pot still.  It rested for two years in new, charred American oak using smaller barrels. Packaged at 124.4°, a 750ml bottle has a suggested retail price of $55.00.


Appearance: The Cask Strength whiskey presented as a reddish amber. It made a thinner rim on the wall of my Glencairn glass and released a wavy curtain of tears to fall back into the pool.


Nose:  An exciting combination of maple and strawberry was joined by cherry and leather. When I pulled the air past my lips, the strawberry continued.


Palate:  I discovered a creamy yet light-bodied texture. Nutmeg and cinnamon were on the front and led to caramel and maple on the middle. The back tasted of dry oak and rye spice.


Finish:  Ginger snaps, brown sugar, dry oak, and cinnamon Red Hots created a spice-building, long finish. It left a sizzling spot on the tip of my tongue.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The Cask Strength is uncomplicated with some serious spice notes. That moisture-sucking oak is a telltale sign of smaller cooperage, which isn’t bad; it is something that happens when non-standard American oak is used. Is it worth $55.00? Perhaps. I recommend trying this at a Bar first, then deciding from there.


Madiera Cask Finished American Single Malt

(image from Old Line Spirits)


Next is the Madeira finish, part of the distillery’s Double Oak Series. This one rested at least four years in oak, then an additional six months in former Madeira casks. It is a limited-edition whiskey offered in the Fall of 2021. A 100°, 750ml bottle was priced at $64.99 but is not available for purchase through the distillery’s website.


Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this Single Malt was the color of mahogany. A thin rim unloaded heavy, thick tears.


Nose: Aromas of cinnamon, nutmeg, apple, raisin, and oak competed for attention. When I drew the air into my mouth, tobacco leaf rolled across my tongue.


Palate: An oily, medium-weighted mouthfeel offered fruity plum, cherry, and lemon on the front. Raisin took charge of the middle as it moved across my tongue, while leather and tobacco leaf controlled the back.


Finish:  Leather, tobacco leaf, plum, and raisin remained for a medium-length finish.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  When I taste whiskey, there is at least one quality that I expect to find, and with this Madeira finish, it is notably absent. I cleansed my palate and tried it again to make sure, but try as I might, there were no wood notes! What did that accomplish? It hid any evidence of smaller cooperage. I enjoyed this, and I would be comfortable spending the $64.99 for a Bottle of it (assuming I could find one).


Port Cask Finished American Single Malt

(image from Old Line Spirits)

Last up (and also part of the Double Oak series) is the Port finish. Old Line used tawny port barrels, but there isn’t an indication of age. In the same vein as the Madeira finish, the Port finish spent four years in oak before being transferred for its six-month finishing. It, too, was a Fall 2021 limited-edition release, bottled at 100° and formerly priced at $64.99.


Appearance: This Single Malt looked of burnt umber in my Glencairn glass. A thin rim reluctantly gave up fat, slow legs.


Nose: Fruit meshed to spice, beginning with strawberry and plum, then leather, oak, and sawdust. Strawberry dominated as I inhaled the vapor through my lips.


Palate:  A buttery mouthfeel had flavors of strawberry, plum, and apricot on the front, introducing and yanking away the fruit as the middle became coffee, tobacco, and cocoa. The back was black pepper and oak.


Finish:  The plum came back for an encore and, like the palate, was quickly subdued by black pepper and oak. Then the coffee returned and painted those two out of the picture in a very, very long finish.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The Port finish was the most fun to sip of the three with the tug-of-war between sweet and spice. Unlike the Madeira, sawdust remained behind, which can also indicate smaller cooperage. I was a bit shocked the Port didn’t mask that. But, even with its fun factor, I’m not sold at $64.99, and my final recommendation is a Bar.  


Final Thoughts:  Of the three, my favorite was the Madeira finish, then the Cask Strength, and lastly, the Port finish. If you polled me before I started, I would have predicted a reverse of that order, as I enjoy Port-finished whiskeys. I do like what Old Line Spirits is doing; I believe using 53-gallon barrels could also do a lot of good for this distillery. 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, February 11, 2022

Middle West Spirits Double Cask Collection Review & Tasting Notes

Last April, I had the opportunity to review three whiskeys from Middle West Spirits out of Columbus, Ohio. They consisted of a Pumpernickel Rye, a Wheated Bourbon, and a Straight Wheat whiskey. I was a fan of the Bourbon and Wheat whiskeys but didn’t overly enjoy the Rye.


When Middle West Spirits approached me to review its new Double Cask Collection, it piqued my interest. The goal for the distillery was to take these expressions and marry them with something else to highlight the terroir of both casks used in each expression.


“We were founded in 2008, and opened our distillery for commercial production in 2010. Building on four generations of distilling traditions, we added our own deep experience in marketing and manufacturing, and focused on elevating the distinctive flavors of the Ohio River Valley. Our artisan spirits honor our roots; and reflect our originality as makers, our integrity as producers, and our passion for the craft of producing spirits from grain to glass.” – Middle West Spirits


The Bourbon was finished in solera sherry casks, the Wheat was finished in Oloroso sherry casks, and the Rye was finished in Port pipes. All of these should give a new dimension to each of the originals.  Middle West Spirits is distributed in 32 states and offers direct-to-consumer sales from its website.


Before I get started, I’d like to thank Middle West Spirits for providing samples in exchange for my no-strings-attached, honest reviews. Now, let’s #DrinkCurious and learn more.


Up first is the Sherry Cask Finished Bourbon. It started with a mash of sweet yellow corn, Ohio soft winter wheat, and two-row barley, then spent six years in Ohio-sourced heavy-toasted American white oak cooperage before being transferred to sun-blackened Spanish solera sherry butts for finishing. It is packaged at 97.25°, and you can expect to pay about $99.00 for a 750ml bottle.


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this Bourbon presented as the color of burnt umber. It left a medium rim which generated sticky, slow tears.


Nose:  The sherry influence was evident. Aromas of raisin, chocolate, date, and pipe tobacco tickled my nostrils. Date rolled across my tongue when I took the air into my mouth.


Palate:  A silky, full-bodied mouthfeel led to raisin, plum, and dried apricot on the front. The middle was a blend of chocolate-covered cherries, dates, and nutmeg. Then, I tasted honey, oak, clove, and black pepper on the back.


Finish:  Initially short, additional sips transformed that to very long and warming. Chocolate, cherry, plum, honey, tobacco, and clove stuck to my tongue and throat.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  My first taste made me say, “Wow,” and that didn’t change after my second or third (or fourth). This was a very impressive Bourbon with a ton of flavor. To me, it is a great way to start the adventure of the Double Cask Collection and earned every bit of my Bottle recommendation.



Second up is Ported Pumpernickel Rye. If you’re like me, when you see “Pumpernickel Rye,” you wonder if anyone else has done that. There are a couple; it just isn’t widely used. Made from a mash of dark pumpernickel rye, sweet yellow corn, Ohio soft winter wheat, and two-row barley, the distillate aged six years in new, charred American white oak barrels. The finishing barrels were French Tawny Port casks. It is packaged at 99.5°, and you can expect to pay about $99.00 for a 750ml bottle.  On a side note, my whiskey sample leaked in transit, and the label was damaged.

Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, this whiskey featured a red mahogany color. It formed a thin rim and sticky droplets.


Nose:  The first thing I smelled was leather, followed by old oak, plum, and dried cherry. Overall, the nose was very understated. When I pulled the vapor in my mouth, I tasted plum.


Palate:  An oily, dry mouthfeel led to nutmeg, cherry, and vanilla on front. I listed nutmeg first because that was the most potent flavor. As it approached the middle, a combination of chocolate and pumpernickel bread gave way to leather, dry oak, and cinnamon on the back.


Finish:  Medium in length and relatively dry, it had pucker power. Old leather, rye spice, cinnamon powder, cherry, and plum created an old-world finish.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  As I stated in my introduction, I wasn’t a fan of the Pumpernickel Rye. I can safely say that a few more years in wood combined with the tawny port changed my mind. Like the original, there were no bold flavors, but in this case, it worked well, and I enjoyed it.  Would I pay $99.00 for it? I’m not entirely convinced. Were it $30.00 less, I’d jump all over this. For now, I’m granting a Bar rating.




The final entry is the Oloroso Wheat Whiskey. Made from a mash of Ohio-grown red soft winter wheat, the distillate aged five years in new, charred American white oak barrels. The finishing barrels were Oloroso sherry butts. It is packaged at 100°, and you can expect to pay about $99.00 for a 750ml bottle.

Appearance:  Drank neat from my Glencairn glass, this wheat whiskey was a dark, brassy amber. It created a medium rim that made thick, syrupy legs.


Nose: The first thing that I smelled was pecan and roasted almond. It started before I got the glass anywhere near my face. Stone fruits aromas such as cherry and plum were also present. Finally, dark chocolate made a brief appearance. When I drew the air through my lips, vanilla crossed my mouth with slight, bitter oak.


Palate: The mouthfeel was creamy. The first sip was unpleasant, but as I always say, never judge anything on that first one. That was proven true as the second was more (pardon the pun) palatable. I found roasted coffee, dark chocolate, and vanilla on the front. The middle featured cocoa powder and nutmeg, while the back had dry oak, clove, and roasted almond flavors.


Finish:  I discovered a long finish that warmed my mouth and throat. Dry oak, roasted coffee, dark chocolate, nutmeg, and cocoa powder stuck around.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I understand what Middle West Spirits wanted to accomplish here, and I commend it. It may have been the most unusual wheat whiskey that I’ve come across. It was flavorful and quite pleasant. Saying that this one isn’t worth $99.00 to me, and that equals a Bar rating.


Final Thoughts: My favorite was the Sherry Cask Bourbon Finish of the three, and it wasn’t even close. The real contest was between the Ported Pumpernickel Rye and the Oloroso Wheat Whiskey. The Ported Pumpernickel Rye wound up being my second favorite. There wasn’t much wiggle room between the Rye and Wheat whiskeys. 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 7, 2022

Wollersheim Curiosity Collection No. 7 Port-Finished Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

I’ve been following Wollersheim Winery & Distillery since before it was making whiskey. Located in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin, it began growing grapes in the 1840s. Peter Kehl built the winery, and his son, Jacob, started distilling brandy around 1876.  


It distilled brandy as far back as 1876 and operated as a winery and distillery until Prohibition shut the entire operation. In 1972, Bob Wollersheim reopened the winery, while his son-in-law Philippe Coquard wanted to resume distilling brandy. There was a problem: Wisconsin’s arcane laws prohibited wineries from distilling spirits, so Wollersheim and Coquard concentrated on winemaking. In 2009, Wisconsin entered the modern world when it passed legislation rescinding that limitation.  


“Philippe has had a lifelong love of Cognac, a particular type of grape brandy from France. His goal was to make the Coquard Brandy a Cognac-style brandy, best for sipping.” – Wollersheim Distillery


In 2015, Philippe and his son-in-law, Tom Lenerz, erected a separate building to house the distilling operation. Tom wanted to create not only brandy but also whiskey, gin, and absinthe. It didn’t take him long to tinker around with the still and distilled his unique mashbills using locally-grown grains. In 2018, Distiller Tom (as I like to call him) released his first whiskey: Round Top Rye.


Several whiskeys have dropped since, including two Bottled-in-Bond Bourbons, a private barrel of Bourbon I helped pick in 2020, and a line of experimental whiskeys aptly named The Curiosity Collection. And, here we are in 2022 with the seventh edition of the collection.


Curiosity Collection No. 7 is a Bourbon made from a sweet mash of 75% blue corn, 10% rye, and 15% malted barley. It aged five years in new, charred oak and then spent an additional year in used red Port barrels. It carries a six-year, 13-day age statement and is the oldest whiskey the distillery has bottled. The Port barrels came from Wollersheim’s own winery and had complete control of which barrels it believed best. It is packaged at 90°.


I procured my 750ml bottle from the distillery for $54.00. Was this a good purchase? The only way to know for sure is to #DrinkCurious.


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this Bourbon was the color of rust. It formed a thinner rim that created a wavy curtain of tears.


Nose: I discovered aromas of vanilla wafers, plum, cherry, cocoa, and nutmeg. As I inhaled through my lips, plum dominated.


Palate: An oily, slick texture rolled across my tongue. Flavors of cherry, plum, raisin, and chocolate were on the front. Caramel, nutmeg, and cinnamon on the middle led to oak, black pepper, and more plum on the back.


Finish:  Long, spicy, and somewhat dry, the finish offered notes of black pepper, oak, and a touch of cinnamon spice. I couldn’t find any fruit notes, but there was a touch of caramel hidden amongst the spice. A bit of pucker power made me involuntarily smack my tongue and lips.  


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Distiller Tom is really coming into his own. The first whiskeys the distillery released were notably young. But, as they’ve matured, so have his skills. For those who felt the past Wollersheim releases were dumped too early, Curiosity Collection No. 7 will be the one that changes your mind. It sips so easily, and for $54.00, I’m giving this one a Bottle rating and am happy to have it in my whiskey library. 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, November 17, 2021

Glen Moray The Classic Single Malt Collection Review & Tasting Notes

Glen Moray is one of those brands often found on the bottom shelf of a liquor store. That in itself can be off-putting to some and instead gravitate to prettier labels and more impressive price tags. Glen Moray screams out to me as something that needs to be tested to see if it can be crowned with my coveted #RespectTheBottomShelf label.


This Speyside distillery has a storied history. It began as the Elgin West Brewery, until 1897 when its first spirits still was installed. On September 13, 1897, the distillery filled its first barrel with a 100% locally-grown barley distillate.  World War I became reality, and the distillery was mothballed until 1923. It was purchased by Macdonald & Muir, the company that eventually became Glenmorangie.


In the 1950s, it purchased the Gallowcrook Farm, which was the farm that grew the barley that went into that first batch of Glen Moray. It also invested heavily in expanding the distillery and warehouses to increase production. Then, in 1999, it became one of the earliest Scottish distilleries to finish whiskies in wine barrels – specifically Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc casks.


In 2008, Glenmorangie sold Glen Moray to La Martiniquaise, which remains its current owner. In 2014, it launched the Classic Collection and shortly thereafter was the first in Scotland to finish whisky in Cabernet Sauvignon casks.


I’ve had an opportunity to try four of the whiskies from the Classic Collection:  The Classic Single Malt, Classic Sherry Cask Finish, Classic Cabernet Sauvignon Cask Finish, and Classic Port Cask Finish.


Before I #DrinkCurious, I’d like to thank Glen Moray for providing me samples of each in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.


Classic Single Malt


First up is The Classic Single Malt. This one is 40% ABV (80°) and carries no age statement, and was aged completely in former Bourbon barrels. There is no indication if there is any e150a coloring added or if it is chill-filtered. You can expect to pay about $27.99 for a 750ml bottle.


Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, this Scotch was the color of pale gold. I can’t see this one having any caramel coloring to it, or if it does, it doesn’t show. It formed a thinner rim that offered medium-weighted, long legs that fell back to the pool.


Nose:  The aromas were sweet and fruity, which is almost expected for a Speyside whisky. Melon, grapefruit, green apple, vanilla, and malt competed for attention. As I drew the air into my mouth, that melon defined itself as honeydew.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was buttery with a medium body. The front was fruity with apple, grapefruit, and lime zest. The middle featured English toffee and honeysuckle, while the back had flavors of almond, vanilla, and toasted oak.


Finish:  Short and unassuming, the finish was made of caramel, vanilla cream, toffee, grapefruit, and lime. There was no astringent quality, everything was crisp and flavorful.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The Classic was nice and simple. There wasn’t a ton of depth to it, and in this case, that’s fine. This is such an easy-to-drink whisky that could be something to savor on a hot, summer’s day. I would highly recommend this for someone who has heard all of the distasteful things that a Scotch can be because this has none of that. When I take the price into account, this becomes very attractive, and as such, takes my Bottle rating.


Classic Sherry Cask Finish


The Classic Sherry Cask Finish is The Classic that has been finished for a handful of months in Oloroso sherry casks from Jerez, Spain. It still weighs in at 40% ABV (80°) and states nothing about e150a, chill filtration, or age. This is understandably priced higher at about $36.99.


Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, this sherry expression was brassier in color. It formed a very thick rim that led to watery, fast legs.


Nose:  Raisin, apricot, citrus, and melon gave this Scotch a fruity nose, which is expected with a sherry finish. Nutmeg and oak were also present. When I inhaled the vapor through my lips, the raisin became more identifiable as a golden varietal.


Palate:  I found the mouthfeel to be thinner than the Elgin Classic, but still retained the buttery quality. The front of the palate featured dark chocolate, apricot, raisin, and green apple. It was different to have the chocolate dominate the fruit with a sherry finish. The middle offered honeysuckle and grass. On the back, I tasted oak, nutmeg, and molasses. 


Finish: The finish was a mile longer than the original. I discovered vanilla, apricot, nutmeg, oak, and, rounding things out, dark chocolate.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I’m a fan of sherry bombs, and while I liked this pour, I wish it spent more time in the sherry casks (that or bottled at 43%). I found the potential was slightly diminished. Like The Classic, this went down easily, there was nothing to offend an inexperienced Scotch drinker. It should be noted that $35.00 would take it out of the bottom-shelf category of Scotches. I liked this Scotch and I’m giving this one a Bottle rating.


Classic Cabernet Sauvignon Cask Finish


The Classic Cabernet Sauvignon Cask Finish is, again, the same as The Classic, but this time finished for an undisclosed number of months in former Cabernet Sauvignon casks. As discussed in the introduction, Glen Moray was the first Scotch distillery to utilize these casks for finishing. It, too, is bottled at 40% ABV (80°) and carries no age statement. A 750ml package will cost about $27.99.


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this whisky presented as brassy-gold, a few shades darker than the Sherry Cask Finish. A medium-to-heavy rim was followed by slow, sticky legs.


Nose:  An aroma of raw honey softened to blueberry, plum, and green apple. When I breathed the vapor into my mouth, that honey was easy to identify.


Palate:  I found the mouthfeel to be thin and oily. The palate started as vanilla and honey, which was followed by blueberry pie filling. The middle held only honey, while the back offered flavors of charred oak, very dark chocolate, and clove.


Finish: The clove continued through the entire finish. Dark chocolate, blueberry, and oak appeared midway. As far as duration is concerned, it was short-to-medium, and I found it a bit dry.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I’ve had some cabernet sauvignon finished whiskies before, they’ve all been American, and I enjoyed them. With a Scotch, I’m questioning that. Mind you, I’m a huge fan of chocolate, blueberry, and clove. But, for whatever reason, this whisky did not wow me. I don’t think it is bad, it just seems disjointed. I’m conferring my Bar rating on it.


Classic Port Cask Finish


Port-finished Scotches seem to be all the rage now. Port is a fortified wine that must come from the Douro Valley region of Portugal. That’s not to say that there aren’t port-like wines from outside of Portugal, rather, they just can’t legally be called “Port.” The Classic is finished a few months in casks from Porto Cruz, which is one of the most sought-after Port wines. It carries no age statement, and like the others, is bottled at 40% ABV. You can expect to pay about $27.99 for a 750ml bottle.


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this whisky was the color of a new copper penny. A thin rim resulted in medium-weighted legs that dropped slowly to the pool.


Nose:  The Port influence was obvious, with an aroma of fig, date, plum, raisin, and oak. When I inhaled it through my lips, fig and raisin kept coming.


Palate:  An oily, thin mouthfeel led to a fruity, dry palate. It began with date, raisin, and lemon zest. Next up were caramel, chocolate, and leather. The back featured tobacco, oak, vanilla, and powdered cinnamon.


Finish:  Leather and dark chocolate continued into the finish, which was joined with date, plum, and raisin. Leather continued past everything else until a brief kiss of cranberry came from nowhere and vanished. The entire finish had a medium duration that I wished lasted longer.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This is a $28.00 Scotch? For real? The only thing I could complain about is the length of the finish. I loved the Port Finish. This one takes a Bottle rating all day long! 



Final Thoughts:  Overall, I enjoyed these budget Scotch whiskies. What was interesting was the order I’d rank them in, with the Cabernet Sauvignon Finish, which Glen Moray pioneered, as my least favorite. The one I enjoyed the best was the Port Cask Finish, followed by The Classic, and the third, the Sherry Cask Finish.

Glen Moray deserves respect. It has sure earned mine and grabbed my #RespectTheBottomShelf honor. 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, March 12, 2021

The GlenDronach 18th Batch Cask Bottling Reviews & Tasting Notes


I've come to respect Dr. Rachel Barrie. She's the Master Blender of The GlenDronach, The BenRiach, and Glenglassaugh distilleries. I've been blessed with some amazing opportunities to taste selections from the first two - I've yet to try the latter. Regardless, Dr. Barrie has proven to me she knows what she is doing and doesn't fool around when it comes to whisky.

The GlenDronach is a distillery in Scottland's Highland region. Established in 1826, it is one of the oldest licensed distilleries. The distillery concentrates heavily on aging its whiskies in former sherry casks as well as craft casks.

The most recent release is their Cask Bottling Series, called The 18th Batch. The release is comprised of eighteen casks selected by Dr. Barrie for their unique character and representations of what the distillery has to offer. Four of those casks have been released in the United States:  2008 Cask #3017, aged 12 years, 2005 Cask #1928, aged 14 years, 1994 Cask #5287, aged 26 years, and 1993 Cask #7102, aged 27 years.

The GlenDronach Cask Bottling Batch 18 is a celebration of the distillery’s time-honored mastery and a showcase of the finest of what this richly-sherried Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky has to offer.

This long-standing, much-loved release is a focal point to each year, demonstrating the exquisite character of our whiskies, through these exceptional casks which I have carefully hand-selected. Each cask individually explores the sophistication, powerful intricacy, and rich layers of Spanish sherry cask maturation found in every expression of The GlenDronach." - Dr. Barrie

The four are all naturally-colored and non-chill filtered. I've had a chance to try each, and am combining them into a single, four-part review. Before I get started, I'd like to thank The GlenDronach for providing the samples in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Let's #DrinkCurious.

2008 Cask #3017

This single malt has been aged 12 years in a former Oloroso sherry cask, filled in the late summer to take advantage of the peak interaction of the newmake and sherry.  It is bottled at 59.8% ABV (119.6°). There was a yield of 628 bottles with a suggested retail price of $120.00.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, 1994 presented as a golden amber color. It offered a thinner rim, but thick, slow legs that fell back to the pool. 

Nose:  Aromas of raisin, nutmeg, caramel, and nuts were easy to pick out. Beneath those were plum and dark chocolate. When I drew the vapor into my mouth, sherry notes were evident.

Palate:  Full-bodied and oily, I tasted thick honey, orange marmalade, and raisin on the front. At mid-palate, I discovered a blend of nutmeg and chocolate. On the back, the chocolate continued and was joined with fig and oak.

Finish:  Long, sweet, and dry, the finish consisted of mint, raisin, candied orange slices, fig, oak, and dry sherry.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  For about $120, we're scratching the ceiling of 12-year Scotch. But, not when you take into account the proof. Sherry notes abound, Cask #3017 does nothing to mask it and, in fact, shines a spotlight on it. Folks that crave sherry-bombs are going to drool. Folks who are new to Highland Scotch might as well.  I left happy, and this snags my Bottle rating.

2005 Cask #1928

Aged 14 years in a former Pedro Ximénex cask before being dumped and bottled, Dr. Barrie suggests the PX sherry influences both the light and dark aspects of the whisky. Packaged at 58% ABV (116°), there are 612 bottles available for about $150.00 each.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this single-malt had the color of golden honey. It formed a medium-thick rim with sticky drops. Those eventually gave way to heavy, slow legs.

Nose:  As if there was a theme, honey was the first thing picked up by my nose. The smells of blackberry, cinnamon, raisin, dried cherry, ginger, and dark chocolate were unmistakable. When I inhaled through my lips, black cherry rolled across my tongue.

Palate:  Despite the only two-year difference between this and the 2008 cask, the mouthfeel was incredibly thick.  On the front, flavors of cherry, plum, and molasses hit hard. The middle was milder with raisin, honey, and mint. Then, on the back, blackberry danced with dark chocolate and vanilla cream.

Finish:  Long and dry, Cask #1928 featured oak, dark chocolate, mint, raisin, and cherry.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  PX sherry cask Scotch is generally easy to appreciate as it is big on sweet fruits.  Cask #1928 goes a step beyond that with its finish, adding a whole new dimension to what's expected. I was shocked at how easy this was to sip despite its high ABV.  Dry did not equal burn. Priced fairly for its age and proof, I find no barricade for a Bottle recommendation.

1994 Cask #5287

This cask was a former Ruby Port pipe sourced from the Douro Valley region of Portugal. 1994 was a small distillation year for The GlenDronach, making this cask even more limited. Only 638 bottles are available at 51.3% ABV (102.6°), with a suggested retail of $415.00.

Appearance:  Presenting as the color of golden chestnut, the rim was broad with slow, plump legs that crawled back to the whisky. 

Nose:  The Port wine influence was indisputable. Plum and cherry jam blended with coffee, truffle, and molasses. Beneath those was butterscotch.  When I pulled the fumes across my palate, the earthy notes of truffle continued.

Palate:  I found the mouthfeel to be thick, jammy, and luxurious. On the front, I tasted cherry, raisin, and plum. The middle offered dark chocolate, caramel, and roasted walnuts. Then, on the back, flavors of coffee, truffles, and dry oak rounded things out.

Finish:  If you like freight-train finishes, this doesn't disappoint. Several minutes afterward, it kept chugging along. There were earthy truffles, smoky oak, deep, dark chocolate, and nuts.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  One of the cool things is when a whisky doesn't give you a chance to forget about it. The finish never ends. There's no getting distracted and struggling to recall what you've poured. Cask #5287 is like a Vulcan mind-meld. You're stuck with it. Thankfully, it is delicious. The palate wasn't overly complicated which, again, allowed me to relish this whisky. It scores a Bottle rating. 

1993 Cask #7102

Aged for a whopping 27 years in an Oloroso sherry cask, this single malt is the obvious oldest of the bunch. At 51.4% ABV (102.8°), there is a premium for the additional year - it will set you back about $600.00. There are only 633 bottles produced.

Appearance:  After forming a very heavy rim on my Glencairn glass, husky legs raced back to the whiskey.  The color was deep and dark, almost like maple syrup.

Nose:  There was so much that went on here. Molasses, chocolate-covered cherries, cinnamon, ginger, strawberry jam, orange marmalade, raisin, and spiced rum... have you ever had a good fruitcake? That's what came to mind as I got lost in the aroma. I also encountered berry cobbler. When I breathed in through my mouth, orange marmalade and plum tangoed across the palate.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was full-bodied and weighty. Date, molasses, and honey mead hit the front. The middle ponied up dark chocolate, black cherry, and raisin. On the back, I tasted oak, dark chocolate, and honey.

Finish:  The finish simply would not quit. Dark chocolate, date, dry oak, black cherry, and spiced plum stuck around with smoke intermingling between each sensation. By smoke, I want to be clear this was not peat.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I'll be frank. There is absolutely nothing not to like about Cask #7102. Flavors were bold but didn't trample over one another. I fell in love with the mouthfeel, and, oh, that nose! This one's just a fantastic, beautiful whisky that I can't say enough good things about, earning it a Bottle recommendation.

Final Thoughts:  While all four were special, I believe the two stand-outs were the 2005 and 1993 casks. The two youngest casks I considered value against what I was tasting. But, once you start getting into the 26- and 27-year Scotches, the prices get steep, but remember, you're also paying for something that is rare. This helped me get past my usual value statement that I do with most others and it became less of a consideration.

None of these whiskies are peated, and none had that astringent (Band-Aid) quality that some folks find unappealing. Despite their higher proofs, they were all easy sippers and while I tried them with water to satisfy my curiosity, it wasn't necessary and my tasting notes are based on all-neat pours.

I'm not sure where you could go wrong with any of the four, but my order top to bottom would be 1993, 2005, 1994, then 2008.  Cheers!

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