Monthly Archives: July 2012

Glenfiddich 12 y.o. Review

Glenfiddich 12 y.o.

40% abv

Score:  83/100


By show of hands, who here didn’t cut their teeth on this whisky?  The world’s best selling single malt, and deservedly so.  Not because it is the best, mind you…but because everything here is done right.  This is the perfect introduction to the world of whiskies.

Glenfiddich 12 y.o. is what we call a branded whisky.  Purists, scoff and raise your noses all you like.  I, like you, have a tendency toward the craft whiskies, but have learned in humility that some things, no matter how much we want to dislike them (ahem…Nickelback), are popular for a reason.  We want to blow the dust off of some obscure bottle and pour a glass with reverence…but a hard lesson to learn is NEVER put prestige before your taste buds.

The branded whiskies, like Glenfiddich are produced with an eye to consistency.  Generally bottled at 40% abv, colored with E150 caramel, packaged uniquely and identifiably and well marketed.  I think the idiom behind this is something along the lines of, ‘we found a good thing…and if it ain’t broke…don’t fix it’.  For this reason, the integrity of a bottle of Glenfiddich is for the most part uncompromised in terms of batch variation.  Every bottle is similar…every bottle is good, and it is readily available at a good price.

Is the Glenfiddich 12 a great whisky?  Well, no.  Is it a good whisky?  Absolutely.

The nose is gentle.  You can safely stick your beak right into the glass without eyes watering, and pull in a deep breath.  The rewards are sweet fruit and light spice.  Apple and chunky pear.  Perhaps vanilla.  Something refreshing there as well.

The simplicity of development is the biggest charm here, I believe.  Arrival is sweet and fruity.  A little bit of spice and creamy vanilla.  A little woody.  This isn’t one that unravels slowly and allows you to pull strands of flavor out individually, instead it is a nicely layered whisky that gives it all to you at once.  I have read of others picking out hints of peat and nut, but…not really seeing it.  The finish is pleasantly long, and the aftertaste mild.

An early evening sipper for certain.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Balvenie Signature 12 y.o. Review

Balvenie Signature 12 y.o.007

40% abv

Score:  84.5/100


“Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest

Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!

Drink and the devil had done for the rest

Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!”

I am not won over yet by this whisky, but I am intrigued enough to occasionally feel its lure from behind the closed door of my cabinet.  The Balvenie Signature 12 year old is a nifty l’il whisky.  Its character is surprisingly assertive.  Just the thought of certain drams is enough to paint a vivid picture for me (the Islays come to mind…as does the Fusion).  This is just such a whisky.

So, why the sea shanty (fictional or otherwise) atop the page?  Well…I don’t really know.  All you need to know about this whisky is that it is absolutely defined by its overwhelming woodiness.  All I could think of was pungent wet wood.  Resinous planks soaked in whisky.  This in turn led me to…pirate ships.  Hey…I said it painted a picture.  Didn’t say it was logical.  Now tell me you’re not thinking the same next time you sip.

This Highlander spends 12 years maturing in first-fill bourbon, refill and sherry casks.  The rich deep color obviously imparted through the latter.

There is wood (obviously) on the nose.  Sherry and all the dry fruitcake notes that usually accompany it make an appearance, as does marmalade.  Some spice, scones and vanilla.  The nose is massive and deep, and very nostalgically pleasant.  Almost…dusty somehow.  This is much bigger than I would have expected from a whisky at only 40%.  I have to use the word ‘pungent’ again here to describe it.

Across the palate…a little thinner than I’d like, but not overly.  It leaves a dry finish, similar to sipping a big-bodied cabernet.  Those fruitcake notes are all over the tongue as well.  Raisins…plum perhaps…a hint of rum.

The finish rolls on and on like waves against the barnacle-encrusted hull of said fictional pirate ship.  A finish that lingers is imperative in whisky, however the last notes in this one are not all pleasant.  There is a slight bitterness at the tail end.  I would score this higher if the mouthfeel was a little more beefy.  Oh well.

This whisky really is a grower.  Though uncertain about it at first, I find I appreciate it a little more every time I pour one.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Black Grouse Review

Black Grouse

40% abv

Score:  71.5/100

Unapologetically I have to be the dissenting voice here on the Black Grouse.Having read more than one review suggesting that this was a top notch peated blend, I truly found myself in a whirlpool of doubt. I even held off reviewing this for several months, trying this at various times, and with various company, concerned that my palate was perhaps just not up to snuff each time. I’ve knocked the hell out of half a bottle now…shared with many others…and finally, others’ opinions notwithstanding, I have to commit and say…This is not good.I know some of the malts used to weave this blend. More than one I truly adore. Others I at least respect. This motley collection, when presented as a unified front, is just not firing on all cylinders. As a result, certain characteristics of some of those malts, stick out at odd angles and make for a really uncomfortable ride.

Now. Please forgive my cynicism. There is a certain someone out there who holds a lot of sway in the wider whisky circles. I truly wonder if some of the published opinion of said individual hasn’t helped lead others to their own weigh-in on this one. I honestly have so much trouble with this Grouse that perhaps I’m grasping at straws to cover my own stunted palate. Who knows.

On to the juice…

The nose delivers an attack of cloyingly offensive peat. Overpowering directly out of the bottle. Kinda like a mulekick right to the beak. It’s hard for me to admit that, as I know what is supposedly contributing this peat reek. Here, for whatever reason, it is terribly sharp and dirty. It is smoky and cigar rich, qualities I normally admire, though here they just don’t quite work. it is bitterly prunish, almost like raisin fruit tarts, but…not. Pungently malty like a young Highland Park (hint hint), almost to the point of sticking your head in a mash tun.

The delivery brings that tangy maltiness and bitter peat right up front. Then those sharp almost-mincemeat fruitcake flavors hit the palate, but sour and marbled with what seem like off-notes. The fade is slow into tobacco and peat. Normally a long finish is a necessity in my whiskies. Here…shaving a few minutes off would not necessarily be a bad thing.

Hey…call me out on it if you think I’m wrong. Perhaps I have a faulty batch. The door is always open. I have a half bottle here only a few months old and any brave souls are welcome to have a go, and tell me I’m wrong.

Now…I gotta say something here to ease my conscience. There ARE some pleasant notes in here. It’s sort of like a faded old tapestry with the odd brilliantly colored thread woven throughout. In the end however…it still looks like an old rag.


Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Isle Of Jura 18 y.o. Review

Isle Of Jura 18 y.o.

40% abv

Score:  82/100


So…this kid and Jura?  We’re not the best of friends.  Don’t mind it.  Don’t love it.  Until the Prophecy came along I was a little indifferent to be honest.  Indifferent or underwhelmed.  The entire lure of Jura for me is the mystique associated with the island’s history and geography.  The true heartbreak in my relationship with Jura is that last year’s pond-hopping took me to Islay, but didn’t give me quite enough time to get across to Jura.  Next time, suppose.

Jura 18.  Hm.  18 years is just hitting a sweet spot in terms of maturation.  From here till about…oh…30 or so has a nifty little flavor profile that you can tack on to almost any malt and see certain characteristics revealed (a waxy, rubbery, dusty, oaky influence from the cask that is bloody sexy).  Indeed we do see a little of that in the Jura 18, but not quite enough to mask the youthful dry nuttiness I just can’t seem to evade with Jura malts.

Having said that…there is ample charm here to make this a rewarding dram.  And one well worth the ridiculously low price point.  Problem being…I believe this one is no longer in production.


Bourbon rides hard on the nose.  There is a mild perfumed waxiness (almost like a snuffed scented candle) and warm broken leather up front.  Dry nut and a little too much oak, then into an oddly forced spiciness (hard to describe, but doesn’t seem to flow naturally).  Toffee….some candied nuts…and finally the fruits arrive with a late fanfare.

The delivery is oaky.  Very oaky.  Almond (that dry nuttiness) and a hint of white pepper appear.  This one is slightly tannic, likely a result of the Oloroso influence.  All followed by a nice pleasant fade of ebbing oak and spiced apple pie.

Less fruity than I imagined it would be, but hey…that’s my preconception failing me.

All in…not a bad drink at all.  Hm…could I slowly be coming ’round to Jura?

Next up…Isle Of Jura Superstition.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Sheep Dip Old Hebridean 1990 Review

Sheep Dip Old Hebridean 1990

40% abv

Score:  92/100


Wow.  Mature peat meets mature sherry.  These two flirty ol’ folks can stay liplocked all night as far as I’m concerned.  This is like a fine old flick from decades back where the romance sweeps you up in its arms almost as if it were you on screen staring into the eyes of Audrey Hepburn or whichever faded old starlet lit your lamp.

If rumors hold any truth, this blended malt is comprised of 19 year old Dalmore, 21 year old Fettercairn and…yes!…25 year old Ardbeg.  An odd marriage, but a stunner.  What a truly remarkable vatting to pull off a profile this large and a balance this absolute.

The nose…

Smoke and cracked black pepper.  Briny, but with a fruity underbelly.  There is a neat little undercurrent of jam or jelly or something.  Kinda inexplicable.  Sort of like Amaretto…or Cherry Coke…or Dr. Pepper.  Big bursting purple grapes, and a lovely fresh biscuit-y quality.  Mince and mint.  Oodles more, so much that I could pick out nuances for paragraph after paragraph, but alas…you’d be bored and I’d be ‘scent-logged’ to cop a phrase from a favorite German author.

Again…phenomenal balance between peat and sweet, even on the palate.  Slightly tannic ashiness here bobs and weaves on a salty wash and hits that grape wine-iness early on.  The smoke coalesces and looms larger and larger the longer you hold it.  For such a woefully underpowered dram (40%?  For whiskies of this age?  C’mon!) the finish has a surprising staying power.

Quite simply one of the best vatted malts I have ever tasted.  Brilliant stuff.  A little thin at 40%, but still…close enough for this guy.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Bunnahabhain Darach Ur Review

Bunnahabhain Darach Ur

46.3% abv

Score:  79.5/100


Darach Ur.  Gaelic for ‘New Oak’.  Yep…it sure is.  Holy hell.  You want tasting notes?  Ok.  Oak…oak…oak…vanilla…oak.

Seriously though…oak and vanilla.  Poached pear and rose petals.  Ginger and grapefruit.  Bourbon and pepper.  And oak.  This is not exciting.  With the brilliant strides Bunnahabhain have taken with the recent re-releases of the 12, 18 and 25, I came in to this one with higher expectations than were perhaps fair.  Either way…

Much more happening on the palate than the nose.  But wham! what an arrival.  Like being hit in the mouth with a whisky-soaked 2×4.  Malt-soaked white fruits and ginger candy.  Toothpicks and barley.  Perhaps the faintest echo (perhaps) of smoke.

Ok…Bunna’s folks have claimed malts aged up to 20 years in here.  Really?  These must have been measured in thimblefuls.  This certainly doesn’t present like a whisky with much age to its credit, but…hey…I’ve been fooled before.

I believe you can only find this in Duty Free or at the distillery.  Don’t sweat it.  Do rush out and give Bunna your money…just make sure you’re getting something like the standard 18 y.o. in return.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Piers