Knappogue Castle 14 y/o: Twin Wood

Maker: Castle Brands, New York, New York, USA (Pernod-Ricard)

Distiller: Cooley, County Louth

Style: Triple distilled Irish single malt, aged in sherry and bourbon casks.

Age: 14 y/o

ABV: 46%

Michigan State Minimum: $60

Appearance: Light copper.

Nose: Wood varnish, sawdust.

Palate: Full-bodied and mildly sweet, then big oak.

Finish: Apricot custard under a mountain of sawdust.

Parting words: I love Irish Whiskey and I especially love Knappogue Castle. I’ve gushed over their whiskeys before so when I saw this 14 y/o version on the shelf I was nearly giddy with excitement.

So imagine my surprise when I tasted my first sip of this sawdust bomb. It’s been a long time since I’ve been this disappointed in a whiskey, especially an Irish one. There’s a solid custard base here, but it’s nearly completely overwhelmed by the heavy-handed (to say the least) use of oak. It’s reminiscent of the sharp, shop class floor aromas in young micro-distilled bourbons that have been aged in small barrels as a shortcut. There’s no excuse for an Irish whiskey of this age to be this oaky, and there’s no excuse for it to be so poorly integrated either. I could continue to rant about this but in the spirit of mercy I will end my review here. Krappogue Castle 14 Twin Oak is not recommended.

Aberfeldy 12 y/o

Maker: Aberfeldy, Aberfeldy, Perth & Kinross, Scotland, UK (Dewars/Bacardi)

Region: Highlands, Central.

Age: 12 y/o

ABV: 40%

Michigan state minimum: $40

Appearance: Medium copper.

Nose: Sweet malt, old oak, apricot.

Palate: Full-bodied, lightly sweet. Butterscotch, peach, apricot, lemon meringue pie.

Finish: Medium hot. Creme brulee, oak, burn.

Parting words: Aberfeldy is Dewar’s flagship distillery, and as one might expect, Aberfeldy is one of the backbone malts of Dewar’s blend. It’s full-bodied and fruity, but it relies on malt for sweetness rather than strong sherry, as befits a Highland (as opposed to Speyside) malts.

Aberfeldy 12 is easy drinking and affordable but not boring. It has a spicy edge that makes it more fun to sip than many other big corporate malts which sacrifice flavor for accessibility. You know which ones I’m talking about. Aberfeldy 12 is recommended.

Kilkerran 12 y/o

Distillery: Glengyle, Campbeltown, Argyle & Bute, Scotland, UK (J & A Mitchell)wp-1577138212646.jpg

Style: Single Malt Scotch

Region: Campbeltown

Age: 12 y/o

ABV: 46%

Price: $70 (Binny’s)

Appearance: Medium gold.

Nose: Sweet malt, swimming pool, old oak.

Palate: Full bodied and semi-dry. Butterscotch, oak, burn. Hint of sherry and smoke.

Finish: Malty and chewy.

Parting words: This review was from a 200 ml bottle I purchased at Cadenhead’s in Edinburgh back in July of 2019. I was talked into it by the salesperson, without much resistance on my part. It’s hard to find around here and I do like Springbank so it was an easy choice. I’m glad I made it.

Kilkerran 12 isn’t complex, but it is a well-balanced, enjoyable single malt and it is worth the money. If you can find it, Kilkerran 12 y/o is recommended!

 

 

The Glenlivet 14, Cognac Cask Selection

Maker: The Glenlivet Distillery, Moray, Scotland, UK (Pernod Ricard).20191122_101623.jpg

Region: Speyside

Style: Cognac cask finished single malt.

Age: 14 y/o

ABV: 40%

Michigan state minimum: $55 (purchased at Costco)

Appearance: Light copper.

Nose: oak, malt, sweet paprika, dried fig, dried oregano, alcohol.

Palate: Medium-bodied and lightly sweet. Oak, grape soda, apricot, vanilla.

Finish: Classic Speyside. Oak, toffee, burn.

Parting words: I don’t find myself reaching for The Glenlivet malts much (I generally find them dull) but when I saw one of this age finished in a Cognac barrel my interest was piqued. As long-time readers know, I have been exploring the world of brandy lately and I don’t like sherry so this seemed right up my alley.

It is. The Cognac finish is used judiciously adding depth without overwhelming the malt. The price isn’t terrible either. At $55 it comes in under many other comparable single malts from big producers. The Glenlivet 14 y/o Cognac Cask Selection is recommended.

 

The Quiet Man, 8 y/o

Maker: Niche Brands, Derry, Northern Ireland, UK (Luxco)20191101_223603.jpg

Distillery: Undisclosed.

Style: Single Malt Irish

Cooperage: First-fill bourbon cask finished

Age: 8 y/o

ABV: 40%

Michigan state minimum: $38

Appearance: Medium gold.

Nose: Butterscotch, seaspray, apricot, leather, ginger.

Palate: Full-bodied. Toffee, Sauternes, oak, caramel, alcohol.

Finish: Apricots, burn.

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.

 

 

Highland Park 12 y/o: Ness of Brodgar’s Legacy

Maker: Highland Park, Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland, UK20191004_223353.jpg

Region: Islands

Style: Peated single malt

Age: 12 y/o

ABV: 46%

Purchased for £55 (around $68)

Appearance: Medium, slightly murky copper.

Nose: Apple cider, peat, leather, smoke, sherry.

Palate: Sweet malt, butterscotch, peat, heather, smoke, seaspray.

Finish: Peat, a bit of sherry, smoke, peat, oak.

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.

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The Ring of Brodgar

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

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Our Highland Park tour guide with a chunk of peat.

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!

 

 

 

Old Pulteney, 12 y/o (Cadenhead’s, 2006)

Distillery: Old Pulteney, Wick, Caithness, Scotland, UK. (Inver House)20190809_191605.jpg

Bottler: Cadenhead’s, Campbeltown, Argyll & Bute, Scotland, UK (J & A Mitchell & co)

Region: Highlands: Northern

Cooperage: Ex-bourbon casks

Age: 12 y/o (barrelled 2006)

ABV: 56.3%

Appearance: Very pale straw (no added color)

Nose: Malt, seaspray, oak, bourbon rickhouse, vanilla, apricot.

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).

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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.