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.
Bottler: Gordon & MacPhail, Elgin, Moray, Scotland.
Distiller: Caol Ila, Port Askaig, Argyll, Scotland, UK
Age: 8 y/o (distilled July 2006, bottled August 2014)
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.
Palate: Full-bodied and medium sweet. Ripe red peaches, oak, butterscotch, ground coriander seed.
Finish: Sweet malt, oak, then a light burn.
Parting words: Craigellachie named for a bluff overlooking the River Spey and there is a Craigellachie bridge (built in the early 19th century) and a Hotel Craigellachie that is often recommended as a good place to stay while exploring the Speyside area. The distillery itself has a remarkably boring history which I will not recount. It’s currently owned by Bacardi’s Dewars & Sons division and forms the heart of Dewar’s blends. It has been only rarely seen in independent or distillery bottlings over the years, but that may be changing with its two entries in Dewar’s The Last Great Malts series.
Craigellachie’s neighbors are more famous than it, like Macallan, Glenfiddich, Glenlivet and Aberlour. Unlike most of those, this is not a light and flowery malt. It’s got heft to it, like Balvenie and Mortlach. It’s often described as sulphury and waxy but I have trouble detecting either one here, though I have trouble detecting them anywhere, frankly. The heft and alleged sulphur come from the large stills (allowing for reflux), use of cast iron worm tubs to cool the spirit, and the relative dearth of copper in the worms, so I’m told.
Unlike Balvenie and Mortlach, there is no beef here. This is all thick custard, fruit and oak. Ex-bourbon casks take the lead here, but there may be a few sherry butts in the mix as well. If so, they are used judiciously. This is an exquisitely balanced, but flavorful and well-craft whisky. It pairs great with homemade shortbread too.
Considering all the garbage that is out there at twice the price, Craigellachie 13 is a steal. Considering how good this is has made me loose even more respect for Bacardi/Dewar’s. How can your blend taste so bad when your malt is so good? I don’t know, but I do know that Craigellachie 13 is great. Highly recommended.
Palate: Full bodied and hot. A little water calms it down. Dates, brown butter, butterscotch candy, roasted pecans, brine, smoke.
Finish: Warm and smoky. More earthiness, wet firewood.
Parting words: I fell in love with Springbank 10 at first sip so I then quickly moved on to the 15 y/o expression. I didn’t realy care for it. It had a tired, murky quality to it that I didn’t care for. So I sadly refrained from buying any Springbank until I bought this in an effort to reacquaint myself with the distillery. What better way is there to get to know Springbank than by drinking its CV?
None, that’s what. This is a fantastic whisky. It has the sweet, nutty characteristics of the 10, but with the added depth of earthiness and smokiness that whiskies from the neighboring island of Islay exihibit. I’m usually a skeptic when it comes to the influence of the ocean on Scotch, but there are aromas and flavors that come across as maritime in this whisky.
The complexity is very much by design. The CV is a marriage of malts of a variety of ages and styles all from the Springbank Distillery in Cambeltown, the smallest recognized single malt Scotch region. My bottle is from the second edition (the first got mixed reviews) and I love it, as you can probably tell. Unfortunately it seems to be out of stock at the usual major retailers, but I paid around $70 for mine and it was worth every penny. I’m sure there are quite a few of these still in the wild. Pick one up if you can. Springbank CV (second edition) is highly recommended.
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.