White Label – Follow Up

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A while back we had some interest in bottling practices behind certain scotches. Please see: White Labeling Single Malts for the original article.

I contacted the Vintage Malt Whisky Company Limited and they were extremely gracious in their response to some of my quesitons:

“Many thanks for making contact with us and for your interest in our Ileach Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky. I am delighted to hear that you are writing an article on Ileach for your website.

The distillery of origin of Ileach is a closely guarded secret and known only to a select few people within our company. We are in a very fortunate position to have a consistent source of supply of top quality malt whisky from one of the very best distilleries on Islay. I can tell you that Ileach is bottled at a minimum of 5 years old and the spirit is matured in a mixture of ex sherry butts and ex bourbon wood.

We currently bottle Ileach at 40% vol and Cask Strength (58% Vol) and occasionally we will produce limited volumes of a 12 Yrs Old.

The Ileach has won a gold award at the International Wine & Spirit Competition and in 2008 the Cask Strength version was named World Whisky of the Year runner up in Jim Murrays Whisky Bible.”

November – Glenfiddich Ancient Reserve 18 Year Old Scotch

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Glenfiddich Ancient Reserve 18 Year

I’ve tried, for the first time this month, Glenfiddich Ancient Reserve 18 Year Old Scotch. This is a more expensive whisky, but I found the taste so intriguing, that I had to make it this months scotch of the month.

Glenfiddich 18 Year is matured in casks which have previously held Oloroso sherry and American bourbon at the Glenfiddich Distillery in the heart of the Highlands.

The taste is faintly sweet, scented with apple and wood. It is robust and full-bodied, yet remarkably soft, rounded and long lasting. This is a very smooth scotch. Comparatively I find that the older scotches have a less bold taste then those aged for fewer years.

As always, please enjoy this months scotch responsibly.

Books on Scotch and Scotch Tasting

For throse of you interested in learning more about scotch and scotch tasting, or are simply looking for a great gift idea we have compiled a list of books that should appeal to anyone interested in scotch history or the art of scotch tasting. Click here to browse the listing.

October- Oban 14 Year

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Oban 14 Year

Oban 14 Year

I first sampled this month’s scotch selection at a Robbie Burns celebration years ago. While used in a number of blends Oban, tastes even better as a single. With rich smoky flavors with hints of oak in the finish. Oban is a great after dinner scotch, and is a perfect match with your favorite cigar.

The Oban Distillery has a history that goes back to 1794. Overlooking the sea from the centre of Oban, they get their water source from Two Lochs in Ardconnel.

Michael Jackson descibes the nose of Oban 14 year to have a whiff of the sea, but also a touch of fresh peat, and some maltiness. The delecate yet deceptively bold taste of this scotch will be sure to please any scotch lover.

As always, please enjoy this months scotch responsibly.

For throse of you interested in learning more about scotch and scotch tasting, or are simply looking for a great gift idea we have compiled a list of books that should appeal to anyone interested in scotch history or the art of scotch tasting. Click here to browse the listing.

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September 2010 – Glenfiddich Solera Reserve 15 Year Old Scotch

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Glenfiddich Solera Reserve

Glenfiddich Solera Reserve

A friend of mine sent me a bottle of Glenfiddich Solera Reserve 15 Year Old Scotch this month. I was pleasantly surprised by this scotches unique taste and even more unique distillation process.

Glenfiddich Glenfiddich Solera Reserve from three types of casks, traditional American bourbon, Spanish sherry and new oak, is married in a large Solera vat, made of Oregon pine. The vat is always kept at least half full, ensuring a consistent quality of whisky. Finally it is left to settle in a small Solera tun before bottling. This is all done at the Glenfiddich Distillery in the heart of the Highlands.

The nose and palate both have a subtle chocolate overtone which is described by Michael Jackson as having a chocolate, toast and a hint of peat nose and a Smooth, silky, white chocolate, pears-in-cream palate.

As always, please enjoy this months scotch responsibly.

Take a look at our recommended Books on Scotch and Scotch Tasting

For throse of you interested in learning more about scotch and scotch tasting, or are simply looking for a great gift idea we have compiled a list of books that should appeal to anyone interested in scotch history or the art of scotch tasting. Click here to browse the listing.

White Labeling Single Malts

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Are some distilleries bottling their whiskies under multiple labels for sale as a different malt? Are they selling younger unbottled whiskies to other companies for the purpose of distributing as a new single malt?

November’s scotch, The Ileach, has led me realize that this may be the case. This practice may in fact be relatively common.

Contributors to some of my research sources (the Internet) mention the taste comparisons between these mystery scotches and some even mention that it comes directly from the Lagavulin distillery.

I was not able to find very much company information on the Ileach’s distillery at the time of my review, in fact I was surprised that it didn’t appear to be bottled by a distillery at all: “bottled by The Highlands and Islands Scotch Whiskey Company“. Michael from Halifax, who has inspired me to do a little research into this, had tasted a whisky bottled as Cooper’s Choice which he believes to be a “LaPhroaig 10 year old under” the  Highlands and Islands branding.

I understand the practice that goes on when crafting a blended scotch and that the single malts included are most often a mystery to the public, but singles being ported around and bottled by third parties is a little more intriguing to me. I don’t believe that it has to be dishonest however. If these bottlings are different (in age and other factors maybe) than the ones distributed by the original distillery then maybe we’re gaining a palate of new tastes that we would not have otherwise experienced.

After all, one of the reasons I enjoy scotch so much is the complexities as well as the subtlies in the differences noticed between distilleries, bottlings and even between sips. I am not saying that these are poor quality scotches. In fact I thoroughly enjoyed the Ileach and it’s unrepentant brashness.

Nevertheless I am curious about this and have submitted an inquiry to the Highlands company and will update as with any information I can get.

As always your comments are welcome!

Chivas Regal 12 Year Old – February Scotch of the Month

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Chivas Regal 12 Year

Chivas Regal 12 Year

I’ve always found February to be a somewhat predictable month. It’s far enough away from Christmas that it seems that winter should be subsiding soon, but in my experience it never does. Everyone is ready for the season to change, but it’s just not ready to yet.

So… that’s my reasoning behind this month’s scotch. It’s something that I normally would not consider, which gives me a of a change of pace while the weather stays the same.

I was, at one time, a Crown Royal drinker. The classic Crown and coke was my drink of choice for a period. With Chivas Regal, I think I associate the “Regal” part in the Chivas with the “Royal” part in the Crown. It gives me the impression that this is a Canadian rye whiskey rather than a blended scotch whisky, which are two very different tastes. Maybe it just seems too Regal for me.

Actually, I received a small bottle of this at Christmas and have been saving it for this month’s review. but I’m sure I would have chosen this 12 year old bottle of Chivas Regal as February’s Scotch of the Month anyways.

This blend is a light amber colour. It’s a 12 year which means that each of the scotches used in the blend are aged at least 12 years. The include malt and grain whiskies and the base of all Chivas Regal scotches is Strathisla.

The nose is warm and rich with a buttery honey. Theres a light floral scent as well. It is very gentle and filled with subtle  floral scents.

The palate is quite different from the nose. It actually contains a number of sharper, more distinct flavours. It is dominated by a heavy musky wood which seems to overshadow some vanilla and nut. This taste is surprisingly different from the extremely pleasant nose. Hold it on your tongue for a moment and it turns to more of a citrus or acidic feeling that you get just before the finish.

As this whiskey slides to the back of my throat I get an odd warmth and a light scent of burnt caramel in my sinuses which quickly subsides to reveal the finish. The finish is different again. It holds a burnt oak with caramel flavours. Then if you wait a very light honey.

This doesn’t strike me as being a blend that I would call a favourite, but it is by no means the worst.  And it certainly does not resemble a Canadian whiskey, like I had envisioned from looking at the label.

“Live with Chivalry” is the interesting marketing campaign that the Chivas distillery is running right now. You can read some stories of modern day chivalry on their website (http://www.chivas.com) or join the movement yourself.

Find out more about this scotch and Chivas’ other whiskies at their company website: http://www.chivas.com.

If you have tried this scotch, please leave me a comment and let me know what you thought of it!

Happy Robbie Burns’ Day

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Robert Burns - January 25th, 1759 – July 21st, 1796

As some of you may already know, the celebration of the birth of Robert Burns is right around the corner. Burns was a Scottish poet and lyricist born on January 25, 1759. He is (unofficially) the national poet of Scotland and from some of his works a great lover of scotch. You may know of him through one of his more popular works Auld Lang Syne.

Now, you don’t have to celebrate Scottish traditions to enjoy their finest spirits, but for me my true introduction to Scotch Whiskey stems from the first time I dawned my kilt to celebrate this man’s works and life.

I was invited by my father to the yearly celebration put on by our local Burns’ Club and had heard that some people would bring a flask of scotch to share at the table. This sounded like a fun idea so I got some ideas about what type of scotch I should buy and headed out to the local liquor store. There I purchased a bottle of Glen Morangie10 Year Old. Now posed the problem of “how do I get this expensive liquor into my flask without spilling it”. I’ve learned my lesson and have since bought a funnel in an effort not to waste any more scotch.

At the event there were several open scotch bars at which they served Oban, 14 I think, which I immediately loved. We then commenced the ceremony, watched the pipers, dancers, toasted the Lassies and witnessed the cutting of the haggis. After dinner the flasks came out and I sampled an additional 4 varieties of scotch that night. Needless to say, on my first encounter I was overwhelmed with the uniqueness between the different scotches. I believe I was hooked from that point forward.

So this January 25 enjoy a wee dram, and if you’re in a pub and see a man in a kilt come in great him with a Gie her a haggis and buy him a peck o’ malt.

Old Pulteney 12 Year – January Scotch of the Month

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Old Pulteney 12 Year

Old Pulteney 12 Year

Happy New Year to all of our friends! I hope this year brings you joy and new experiences, including some new tastes along the way.

This New Year was a cold one, so I broke it in in the comfort of my living room, while enjoying some movies with my family. In addition to the Van Helsing’s Mouthwashbeer (I’ll let you guess what the dominant flavour of that was) I tried, I had the pleasure of sampling a lovely 12 year old highland single malt – Old Pulteney, 12 Year.

“A strange and beautiful sight to see the fleet put silently out against a rising moon, the sea-line rough as a wood with sails, and ever and again and one after another, a boat flitting swiftly by the silver disk.”  This quote adorns the front of the sleeve for this whiskey and is the reason, my lovely wife gave me this bottle this year, as it is by Robert Louis Stevenson whom I am partially named after. This was a gift so I don’t know the exact price in my neck of the woods, but I believe that it is around $60 CDN.

This light gold coloured whiskey is full of sweet smoke. It’s nose is of flowers and caramel with maybe a hint of citrus lingering withing the floral scents. Quite sweet, but not irritatingly so.

The palate is slightly different. The flowers give way to a mixture of fruit and nuts. There is a hint of orange along with other fruit like tones. This combined with a smokey nut flavour makes for a very clever and complex mixture of sweet and bitter.

This brings us to the finish. I haven’t always put together a correlation between the regions in which distilleries are located and the taste of the scotch they produce. Often distilleries are near the sea and claim a hint of the sea air in their tasting notes. I don’t always detect this, but then again I am not claiming to be an expert. Part if not all of the fun in tasting is learning as we go along.

This scotch, being produced on the Northern coast of Scotland, claims “This location has a dramatic effect on the maturing spirit. After it’s 12 years of maturation, Old Pulteney is intricate and memorable, balanced with a hint of sea air on the gentle clean finish.”

This scotch definitely has a taste of the sea air in the finish. There is a salt to it that compliments the bitter half of the palate while the sweetness slips away almost completely. It’s a nice sharp finish that makes one think of the fishing origins of the town of Wick (where this scotch is distilled).

I can definitely enjoy this scotch. It is distinctive enough to be appreciated apart from other single malts in this range, but not over the top in any area. As Jim Murray notes it has a “first-rate bitter sweet balance.”

The Old Pulteney Distillery uses a few unique pieces of equipment when making their scotch. They use their original wash still, which is said to have had it’s goose neck cut off due to height restrictions, and the spirit still is said to resemble that of a smuggler’s kettle.

Find out more about this scotch and Old Pulteney’s other labels at their  website: http://www.oldpulteney.com/.

If you have tried this scotch, please leave me a comment and let me know what you thought of it! All other comments are welcomed and appreciated.

Johnnie Walker Gold Label – December

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Johnnie Walker Gold Label

Johnnie Walker Gold Label

I found myself over at a friends this past November to watch the fights, eat some great food and sample a few different scotches in between rounds. He’s been a long time fan of Johnnie Walker and had a selection of each of their blends for me to taste. After much deliberation I chose his favourite, the 18 year old Gold Label, to post as this months Scotch of the Month.

I haven’t written about many blends and can’t say that I have had the opportunity to sample them on a regular basis, but this one may change my ways in this department. There seem to be a number of misconceptions around blends, but I believe a blend is on par with a single malt. A blend is the marriage of a number of single malts which “leads to interesting distinctive flavours that goes beyond the already excellent whisky that the distillery is producing”, as stated by the Johnnie Walker master blender.

I’ll write more on blends and their relevance later, but for now we’ll get down to tasting this scotch. 

This scotch, not surprisingly, has a rich golden colour that resonates an heir of indulgence. It’s qualities are luxurious throughout and is a very well rounded scotch.

The nose is prominent, but is far from overpowering. It is relatively soft around the edges with cream and honey standing out and a light spice.

In the palate it’s silky, light texture comes forth. Flavours of honey and fruit are present before it warms your tongue and slides down smooth and rich. It is quite distinctive in that there is a creaminess paired with a light almost mint overtone, which I’m sure wouldn’t be possible to achieve in a single malt.

The finish, as with the rest of this experience, is gentle and delicate, but decidedly satisfying and  worth the wait. The smoke starts to come out here and leaves you with a soft, slightly smoke, honey toned flavour. Which in turn leaves you ready for your next sip.

There is an interesting story around this particular blend. It was originally produced to celebrate the first 100 years of the House of Walker in 1920. It has actually only been available outside the company since the 1990s. Which is why it is referred to as the Centenary Blend.

Through the combination of 15 single malts, including Cardhu and  Clynelish (two very different malts), Johnnie Walker has produced a remarkable blend that is vastly complex yet remains delicate and subtle. As my friend who introduced me to this would say “Gold is Great” and blends are scotches too.  

Find out more about this scotch and Johnnie Walker’s other labels at their company website: http://www.johnniewalker.com/.

If you have tried this scotch, please leave me a comment and let me know what you thought of it!

The Ileach – November

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Ileach Single Malt Scotch

Ileach Single Malt Scotch

This month’s scotch selection was proved to have a greater level of difficulty than those past. I generally choose the month’s scotch from a single merchant. This month, however, there didn’t seem to be much selection in reasonably priced bottles that I hadn’t already sampled. As nothing caught my eye, I went to a new vendor and purchased a bottle of The Ileach Islay single malt scotch whiskey for around $50 CDN.

What really caught my attention was the label. On the front of the bottle, in capital letters is the word “PEATY”. 

“The Man From Islay” is subtitled on on the label here, which starts to make sense after tasting this malt. It’s a classic light amber, peaty malt, unapologetically rough around the edges and everything that you would expect a blue collar Islay man to sit down and enjoy after a hard days work.

The nose is strong and unmistakably peat rich with a sherry tone. That’s it. It’s simple and to the point.

In the palate again the peat comes to the front, than subsides slightly to reveal a bitter yet fruity flavour. You can really feel this malt on your tougue. It leaves you with a tingling numbness that enhances the finish.

The finish, for me is as memorable as the palate. It’s very long lasting ot say the least. A sweetness that didn’t appear before comes to light and the peat returns, more subdued than before. The taste really comes together in the finish which is very pleasant.

There is no information about the age of this scotch, but from comments I’ve read, it’s really quite young, which may contribute to the strength and simplicities found in this bottle. It’s bottled by The Highlands and Islands Scotch Whiskey Company. I’ve also read speculation that The Ileach, along with the Ileach the Dun Bheagan, may be a young Lagavulin.

At any rate, I like this scotch for what it is; a strong, peaty unapologetic malt.

If you have tried this scotch, please leave me a comment and let me know what you thought of it!