Parting words: This is the older sibling of the NAS Quiet Man I reviewed back in January of 2019. I didn’t really care for it at first. I thought it was overoaked and hard to drink. It’s opened up a lot since then and gotten fruitier and more complex. I like it a lot now and $38 isn’t too bad for a good Irish malt these days. The Quiet Man, 8 y/o Single Malt is recommended.
Parting words: Highland Park has been my favorite single malt distillery every since I started seriously exploring Scotch back in my 30s. I love its elegance and balance and relative affordability compared to malts I love (Springbank).
So when Liz and I were planning a trip to Scotland, I had thought it might be fun to add a side trip to Orkney. Not just for the distillery, of course, but for the food, the old buildings and the archaeological sites. They were out of scallops when I was there, but everything else was magical. If you don’t mind the weather (50° in the winter, 55° in the summer and wind wind wind), it’s a highly recommended.
When I said old buildings, I meant old buildings. Buildings that were already old when the pyramids were built. Some of them are not quite that old, but the main island (called Mainland) seems like it’s full of Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Medieval, Early Modern and later structures. The sexiest are the standing stone circles, the largest of which is the Ring of Brodgar. It’s a wide circle composed of stones that were brought from different locations around the island.
To the southeast of of the ring is the Ness of Brodgar. It’s an archaeological site that is
about six acres in size (so far). The dig has been going on since 2003 and there are still many buildings that haven’t been excavated yet. That made it the perfect candidate for Highland Park’s annual charity bottle. For every one of the five thousand bottles produced, Highland Park’s parent company donates to the Ness of Bodgar Trust, which funds the dig. Bottles are only available at the distillery.
As for the whisky itself, it’s a more peated version of the classic twelve year old Highland Park expression. It’s well-made like everything Highland Park produces. If you find yourself in Orkney this year, pick up a bottle! Highland Park Ness of Brodgar’s Legacy is highly recommended!
Palate: Creamy then hot. With water: toffee, big oak, peach.
Finish: Heat, then vanilla custard. Lighter and oakier with a little kelp.
Parting words: I bought this 200 ml bottle at the Edinburgh branch of Cadenhead’s while on vacation in Scotland back in the first week of July. This is me in front of the store (photo by Liz Wright).
Cadenhead’s is a magical place. The Edinburgh store is small, but one wall is half covered with a chalkboard on which is listed just about every single malt distillery that has produced anything in the past thirty years. They’re arranged alphabetically and color-coded by region with defunct distilleries marked. The ABV and prices of full 700 ml bottles are list too. There is also a cabinet with a large selection of 200 ml bottles (almost all of them).
There were no ghost whiskies for sale that afternoon, but after I overcame my awe I was able to pick out three 200 ml bottles with the help of a couple staff members. If you’re traveling by plane, I would highly recommend the 200 mls to stretch your dollar and not stretch your luggage. We even bought a 200 ml of Cadenhead’s Highland blended malt to enjoy in our hotel room. We finished it before we went back home.
This Old Pulteney was one of them. I asked the staff for something complex but well-balanced and that is this malt to a T. The nose and finish are wonderful, as is the palate, even if it’s a little less complex. I don’t remember how much we paid for it, but I love this malt. Cadenhead’s Old Puteney 12 y/o, bottled 2006 is highly recommended.
Maker: Glen Scotia, Campbeltown, Argyll and Bute, Scotland, UK
Note: Not chill-filtered.
Michigan state minimum: $70
Appearance: Dark caramel. Colored?
Nose: Fruit of the forest pie with vanilla ice cream, roasted almonds.
Palate: Medium-bodied, medium-sweet. Caramelized sugar, high rye bourbon, brown butter.
Finish: Bourbon, vanilla, oak, alcohol.
Parting words: For years, Glen Scotia has been the other Campbeltown distillery, the best known one being Springbank. There’s now a third one, Glengyle, but even that one is owned by the same folks who own Springbank. Springbank had the distinctive bottle, the big fanbase, the cool sounding name and the stable of old Campbeltown names like Hazelburn and Longrow to use for various expressions. Glen Scotia had a generic-sounding name, boring bottles, boring expressions and poor distribution. The name is still there, but the bottle looks good now and there seems to have been an effort on the part of parent company Loch Lomond to improve distribution and upgrade the line with entries like Victoriana and this.
Double Cask shows a good balance of sherry cask, bourbon cask and peat influence. lacks a little in integration but it’s never boring, which is a much greater sin. This is a $70 single malt, although I would hesitate to buy at >$85 or so. Glen Scotia Double Cask is recommended.
Bottler: Gordon & McPhail, Elgin, Moray, Scotland, UK.
P= Highland Park, Scapa.
S= Scapa, Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland, UK (Pernod-Ricard)
H= Highland Park, Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland, UK (Edrington)
P: 12 y/o
S: 15 y/o
H: 8 y/o
Price: I forget.
P: Medium caramel.
S: Lighter. Straw.
H: Virtually the same as P.
P: Alcohol, oak, malt, a little peat.
S: Mild.Oak, seabreeze.
H: Toasted almonds, oak, peach.
P: Medium bodied and creamy. Caramel, bourbon.
S: Mild. Not much happening but a little burn.
H: Mild. Butterscotch, peat, lemon meringue.
P: Mild and slightly sweet. Caramel, buttercream.
S: A little fruity. Fades quickly.
H: Slightly chewy but mild. Peat ash, Atlantic ocean.
Parting 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.
Palate: Medium bodied. Green apple on entry, buttercream, persimmon pudding.
Finish: Big and creamy. Oakm then pineapple upsidedown cake.
Parting words: Long time readers will remember that Knappogue Castle was one of the first Irish whiskeys I really fell in love with. The love affair continues with this beauty.
A & L did a great job selecting this barrel. It’s creamy, fruity and complex, with power rare for Irish Whiskeys. In 2013 I wrote the following about the standard Knappogue 12: “My only quibble is the low proof. I would love to be able to taste this at cask strength, or at least 46% ABV.” I’m glad they took my words to heart.
These Knappogue selections are rare, but if you find one, I highly recommend that you buy it!
Parting words: Is there better way to end 2016 than with a review of a whisky that was released in 2015? Yes, many better ways. I decided to review this anyway, since I picked it up late this year.
Perpetuum was released in 2015 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Ardbeg distillery. Many distilleries in Scotland were “founded” around 200 years ago. This is no coincidence. Beginning in 1816 and culminating in the excise act of 1823, the UK government passed a series of laws creating a level playing field for distillers in Scotland vs those in Ireland and England. Many illegal distillers went straight, refounding their operations and many new distilleries started up.
Perpetuum is a very good whisky. It’s classic Ardbeg: smoky, spicy, but still complex.Problem is, I’m not sure it’s good enough to justify the $20 markup over Uigeadail which is very similar. The well-reviewed and higher ABV Corryvreckan is $10 cheaper, too. So while Perpetuum is very good, it’s not a very good value. Ardbeg Perpetuum is mildly recommended.
Palate: Medium bodied. Brown sugar, hardwood smoke, alcohol. Opens up with water. Cinnamon, mace, agave nectar, sherry, bit of peat.
Finish: A little sweetness then a sappy burn like that time when my dad tried to use turpentine instead of lighter fluid to get the grill going. More complex with water. Sherry, fruitcake and burn.
Parting words: Always on top things in the whisky world, I reviewed Amrut’s Single Malt back in 2014 and have been sitting on this 50 ml bottle ever since then, having intended to review it a week or two after. Amrut is no longer the hot buzzed about Asian whisky is was back then (Taiwan’s Kavalan
has taken over that role), but it’s now found its place in the world whisky firmament.
I can’t see Fusion replacing Laphroaig as my go-to peaty whisky, but it’s pretty good. The slightly annoying lumber note that appeared in the Single Malt is still there, but it is thankfully shoved into the background by the spice, sweetness and peat. The high proof improves it too, adding a welcome bite to a category riddled with products in the 40% range. The price is higher than I would like, but it’s not too far off Single Malt Scotch prices these days and the high proof ameliorates that too.
My home state of Michigan, like sixteen other states, is what is called a “control state”. This means that the state government is directly involved with the sale of liquor in some way. Many of those states operate state-owned liquor stores as a result. Others, like Michigan, merely act as the wholesaler for the state. As a wholesaler, the state of Michigan maintains a list of all the spirits available for purchase from itself. The price book is issued by the state a few times each year. Supplemental lists (now called new items lists) are issued periodically listing items to be added to or deleted from the price book. These lists contain a variety of information but the most important to consumers is the minimum price at which the spirit must be sold at retail.
This post is a look at the new items for May 1, 2016. The LARA website with links to lists in the recent past is here. Caps retained out of laziness but with full names given where the state has abbreviated them. Proof (Michigan lists everything in terms of US proof which= 2 x %ABV), bottle size in ml and retail price are given for each one. I have added notes at the end of each if I think it necessary. Some items are not actually new, but fell off the list for some reason and have been added back or are new bottle sizes for items already on the list. Sometimes an item will be added and removed at the same time. I think this is a way to make corrections, but it’s still puzzling. For the sake of brevity, I have excluded apparent corrections from this post. Some new items are also gift pack versions of existing items. These are always the same price as the bottle alone.
Apologies for the lateness of the post. My wife had a baby.
American Blended Whiskey
DAVENPORT’S AMERICAN BLENDED 80, 750, $18.99 Blended whiskey from Davenport, Iowa’s Artisan Grain Distillery. Unclear if this product is sourced or partially sourced.
MAYOR PINGREE 90, 750, $89.99
MAYOR PINGREE-10 YR 110, 750, $89.99 New line of bourbon from Valentine in Ferndale, Michigan. It’s named for former Detroit mayor and Michigan governor Hazen Pingree (1840-1901), a progressive Republican who is widely considered to be one of Detroit’s greatest mayors.
When contacted on social media, Valentine’s Justin Aden wrote the following: “The two new listings are for two new age-stated straight bourbon sku’s we’ll be releasing this summer. One is for cask strength, [non chill-filtered] straight bourbon single barrels and the other is a limited edition age-stated ‘small-batch’ blend by yours truly.” When asked if the bourbon was sourced or their own distillate, Justin replied, “A bit of both, depending on the release. We’ve got several label variations of the Mayor Pingree line. We’ve been laying it down since 2007 but we also have some excellent sourced 10yr stock to share as well. We’ll keep you posted!”
WILD TURKEY 81 81, 200, $3.48 This is just about the maximum amount of WT 81 I would want to drink in the span of a lifetime.
RHETORIC-22 YR 90.4, 750, $99.99 How can we miss you if you won’t go away?
YIPPEE KI YAY 92, 750, $64.99 Yippee ki yay, mother lovers, this new blend of straight rye whiskeys from High West was available just in time for mom’s special day. The proportions of the blend are kept secret (didn’t think this was allowed but whatever) but the two ryes in question are from MGPI of Lawrenceburg, Indiana and Barton-1792 of Bardstown, Kentucky.
GLENMORANGIE ORIGINAL 86, 1750, $89.99 Newly available family size is great for VBS picnics.
CAMPAGNERE COGNAC XO 80, 750, $169.98 The XO joins last month’s arrivals the VS and VSOP. It’s the oldest and by far the most expensive of the three.
AZUNIA ANEJO 80.0 750 6 39.28 37.31 43.99
AZUNIA BLANCO 80.0 750 6 31.68 30.10 35.49
AZUNIA REPOSADO 80.0 750 6 35.70 33.92 39.99 Azunia Black was on this list last month.
The rest of the line arrives this month. As noted previously, the blanco and reposado are made from organically grown agave. Distilled at Agaveros Unidos de Amatitán, 50 miles or so northeast of Guadalajara. They are also partnering with basketball great Bill Walton for some reason.
I received a polite email a few days ago from Mychal Diaz of Southern Champion company, makers of Buzzballz premade cocktails, encouraging me to take a look at their new website and get some more accurate information into your hands, dear readers, regarding their products that were on the New Items list back in February.
Their company is a relatively new one, founded in 2010 by inventor Merrilee Kick of Carrolton, Texas. The company was founded around Kick’s concept for BuzzBallz was for an unbreakable, unspillable quality, full strength premade cocktail for camping, picnics, tailgating, etc. She invented the what the website claims is the first plastic beverage can for this purpose.
Recently they have expanded into spirits with XII Kings Vodka, Andrew Johns Gin (both domestically sourced, filtered, proprietarily processed then cut with Texas water), Pelican Bay Rums (a blend of rums from around the Caribbean) and Crooked Fox blended bourbon (sourced from Kentucky and Tennessee). They are NOT the same spirits used in BuzzBallz. There is also have a wine listed on the website, Closet Freak California Muscat. I asked about additives in their spirits as well but there was no response to that question. They will start rolling out nationwide this summer.
Maker: Benromach, Forres, Moray, Scotland, UK (Gordon & McPhail)
Region: Speyside (Northwest)
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.