Triple Head to Head: G & M Orkney Tripak

P= Pride of Orkney, 12 y/o blended maltwp-1486168550560.jpg

S= Scapa, 1993 (bottled 2008) single malt

H= Highland Park, 8 y/o single malt

Bottler: Gordon & McPhail, Elgin, Moray, Scotland, UK.

Distiller

P= Highland Park, Scapa.

S= Scapa, Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland, UK (Pernod-Ricard)

H= Highland Park, Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland, UK (Edrington)

Age

P: 12 y/o

S: 15 y/o

H: 8 y/o

Region: Highland/Island

ABV: 40%

Price: I forget.

Appearance

P: Medium caramel.

S: Lighter. Straw.

H: Virtually the same as P.

Nose

P: Alcohol, oak, malt, a little peat.

S: Mild.Oak, seabreeze.

H: Toasted almonds, oak, peach.

Palate

P: Medium bodied and creamy. Caramel, bourbon.

S: Mild. Not much happening but a little burn.

H: Mild. Butterscotch, peat, lemon meringue.

Finish

P: Mild and slightly sweet. Caramel, buttercream.

S: A little fruity. Fades quickly.

H: Slightly chewy but mild. Peat ash, Atlantic ocean.

20170203_193337.jpgParting words: These whiskies come from the two most northerly distilleries in Scotland, Highland Park and the other one in Orkney, Scapa. Highland Park is almost universally beloved for its perfectly balanced and flavorful 12 & 18 y/o bottlings. Scapa is not nearly as well known or highly regarded as HP, but the 16 y/o producer bottling does have its fans. Scapa is unpeated, unusual for a an Island malt, but they did release a peated expression last year.

Pride of Orkney (of G & M’s now defunct “Pride of” series) is a blended malt containing whisky from both of these distilleries. It’s the best of the three. While it’s not earth shattering, it is well balanced with good flavor considering its proof and the fact that it’s a blended malt containing some pretty mild whisky. I suspect it contains caramel coloring. The Highland Park 8 y/o is fine for what it is, a young malt from a good distillery. Higher ABV would do it a lot of favors, but it’s pleasant enough as it is.

Scapa 1993 is one of the dullest single malts I’ve ever had. It doesn’t do anything to distinguish itself, tasting like a generic second-tier single malt. It’s like eating a sleeve of water crackers. It will do if there’s nothing else in the house but you’re left feeling like you just wasted time and calories for nothing.

These three expressions are close to impossible to find on their own now, but I bought this set of minis at a large liquor store just a couple years ago so there are probably more of these sets floating around out there. There is/was also an Islay tripak set. Probably more interesting than this. If you’re curious about the whiskies of Orkney, you might find the Orkney tripak fun but I can only mildly recommend this set.

 

Benromach 10 y/o

Maker: Benromach, Forres, Moray, Scotland, UK (Gordon & McPhail)20160310_190411-1.jpg

Region: Speyside (Northwest)

ABV: 43%

Michigan State Minimum: $63

Appearance: Medium copper with medium legs.

Nose: Big malt, new leather, alcohol. As it sits, the leather settles into an old oak aroma.

Palate: Full bodied and medium sweet. Toffee, brown butter, dried red chili.

Finish: Warm and a little chewy.

Parting words: Given the expense of decent single malts, I’m always on the lookout for miniature bottles of SMS for blogging purposes. I picked the one the I used for this review at Vine & Table in Carmel, Indiana (I think).

I like Benromach labels and liked most of G & P’s private bottlings I’ve had, so I was looking forward to opening this bottle. When I first opened it, I wasn’t impressed. It seemed unbalanced and sulphury, especially in the nose. As it sat (or as my palate adjusted itself) I came to enjoy it quite a bit. It’s simple, but the toffee flavor is really hitting the spot for me. Benromach 10 is a simple, affordable dram suitable for after-dinner sipping with friends. Recommended.

Gordon & Macphail Vine & Table Selection- Coal Ila 8 y/o, cask strength.

Bottler: Gordon & MacPhail, Elgin, Moray, Scotland.2015-12-23-15.16.36.jpg.jpeg

Distiller: Caol Ila, Port Askaig, Argyll, Scotland, UK

Region: Islay

Age: 8 y/o (distilled July 2006, bottled August 2014)

ABV: 58.8%

Price: $65 Exclusive to Vine & Table, Carmel (CAR-muhl), Indiana, USA

Notes: Single cask, natural color, not chill filtered. Aged in a refill sherry hogshead, cask #306213. One of 260 bottles. At cask strength, this whisky was all peat and smoke to me, so I diluted it to around 50% ABV for this review.

Appearance: Medium copper with thin, irregular legs.

Nose: Peat, smoke, black tea, drop of sherry.

Palate: Full bodied and hot. Some tropical fruit and vanilla in the beginning then the burn grows as does smoke, but without a lot of peat.

Finish: Ashy. Fireplace, old ashtray at grandma’s house back in the 1980s when people smoked inside. A belch after drinking this is the closest we humans will come to knowing what it’s like to be a dragon.

Parting words: Diageo’s Caol Ila is best known as a supplier of smoky malt for a myriad of independent bottlers and makers of blended malts. There’s also a 12 y/o distillery bottling that I reviewed here and friend of the blog My Annoying Opinions reviewed here. There was at one time a Distiller’s Edition, but I’m not sure how available that was in the US. In recent years there have also been a number of young, cask strength, independent bottlings like this one making the rounds. Most single malt Scotch doesn’t get bottled at anything less than ten years of age, but smoky malts often do because the smoke is more prominent at a younger age.

If fire is what you crave, this is the malt for you. A belch after drinking this is the closest we humans will come to knowing what it’s like to be a dragon. There’s not much else going on, though. There’s a hint of sweet malt and sherry, but it is hard to find behind the inferno. This Caol Ila is one dimensional, but it is only $65 and at cask strength which makes it more attractive than it might be at a standard proof. A volcano like this is especially good if you enjoy making your own blends at home. I mixed a little bit in with some Craigellachie 13 and some 16 y/o grain whisky and it added a nice extra bit of smoke to both of those.

If you enjoy smoky whisky like I do or if you’re looking for some smoke in your personal blending lab, Vine & Table’s 8 y/o, cask strength Caol Ila from V & T is a good choice. Recommended.

Gordon & MacPhail Mortlach 15 y/o

Maker: Mortlach, Dufftown, Moray, Scotland, UK (Diageo)

Bottled by Gordon & MacPhail, Elgin, Moray, Scotland, UK

Region: Speyside- Dufftown

ABV: 43%

Price: $75 (Binny’s)

Appearance: Dark gold

Nose: Sweet malt, wildflowers, oak, caramel.

Palate: Thick mouthfeel. Brown butter, wildflower honey, beef bullion, alcohol.

Finish: alcohol, butterscotch, vanilla cream, toasted oak.

Parting words: Mortlach was one of the malts that made me reconsider my dislike of Speysiders. This bottling is an excellent example of why I fell in love with this distillery. Meatiness is a house characteristic of Mortlach and it’s in evidence in this bottling. It’s not heavy-handed, though. There’s plenty of sweetness and oak to round it off nicely. It’s complex without being busy. The price is high (for me) but not completely out of whack for a high-quality single malt and cheaper than the new distillery bottlings are going for. If you like the heavier Speyside style and see one of these pick it up. G & M’s 15 y/o Mortlach is recommended.