Glen Silver’s 12 Year Old

Admittedly, I’m a bit of a single malt snob when it comes to my Scotch. Sure, I’ve found a few blends that I don’t mind, and a couple that I genuinely enjoy but, I’ve always found more hits and fewer misses in the single malt category.

For this reason, I was somewhat reserved when my brother-in-law brought over a bottle of Glen Silver’s 12 Year Old, but I was mildly intrigued since it was a whisky I’d never even seen, let alone tried, and I was cautiously optimistic since this blend acted a little bit like a single malt with its corked stopper and classy labelling. I was about to discover that a pure malt whisky is a very different style of whisky from other blends.

Most blends, in addition to malt, contain a percentage of grain whisky, from unfermented barley, resulting in a drier, less flavourful spirit – at least in my opinion. A pure malt, on the other hand is composed entirely from malt whiskies, so the character of the dram seems a lot more like a single malt.

Glen Silver’s 12 Year Old is bottled at 40% abv and is available in Alberta for less than $40 per bottle.

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To The Eye
This is a bright golden dram that reminds me of Glenmorangie. The most striking thing about its appearance is how reluctant the legs are to return to the glass… I haven’t yet noticed another whisky do that.

In The Nose
Okay, now I’m convinced that Glenmorangie must make up a significant portion of this blend since I’m immediately reminded of it’s aroma. Ripe pears are front and centre, along with a honey-like character that I’ll call beeswax, since it’s not as sweet smelling as honey. Oak and peat are also very evident.

On The Tongue
This is a smooth, pleasant dram that displays plenty of oak on the palate, along with pepper, peat and maybe a hint of licorice. It’s not overly complex but it’s certainly easy to drink. This pure malt blend has none of that dry, puckering, alcohol-without-flavour quality that I usually find in grain whisky blends. The finish is medium, leaving me with a sense of oaky sawdust.

Final Thoughts
I won’t try to convince anyone that Glen Silver’s 12 Year Old is a spectacular whisky but it’s not a poor one either. Any time I find a bottle of Scotch for less than $40 that’s half decent, well, I’m kind of impressed! It’s not a connoisseurs dram but, if your looking for an affordable bottle that can do double duty as a sipper or a mixer, it might be exactly what you’re looking for. In addition, this bottle has opened my eyes to another type of whisky – pure malt – that I might have otherwise ignored because of my bias towards blends.

Aberlour 12 Year Old

I first encountered Aberlour a little more than a year ago, when I had a sudden dram-craving while on a camping trip. Not wanting to shell out too much for a bottle that was destined to be enjoyed alongside potato chips, s’mores, etc, I was looking for something inexpensive. What I found in that particular store was the Aberlour 10, and I soon discovered that age statements and price-points don’t always tell you much about the quality of the spirit inside the bottle – it was quite delicious! That experience led me to reach for the Aberlour 12 Year Old the next time I was snooping around one of my hometown liquor stores. After all, a couple more years in the wood should only improve the whisky, right? In any case, for less than $45 per bottle, I figured it was worth the risk! Aberlour 12 Year Old is bottled at 40% abv.

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To the Eye
This whisky is immediately identifiable as a well-sherried offering as it displays obvious red hues while still in the bottle. But, once poured into my Glencairn, it loses that redness and instead appears somewhere between deep gold and copper. A tilt of the glass leaves clinging, stubborn legs .

In the Nose
At first, the aroma of this dram is somewhat curious. My first notion is of an air freshener… but not the overpoweringly artificial sort. My first few sniffs make me think of a fresh, toned-down fragrance… has anyone ever described a whisky’s nose as “Cool Breeze” or “Crisp Linen”? All I know is that it’s gentle and inviting.

As the nose further develops, I can definitely pick out an obvious sherry note, along with ripe red apples. With even more time, I can begin to sense toasted marshmallows, a little bit of sawdust and maybe even a hint of cinnamon. I have to admit, gentleness aside, I’m surprised by the nuances in the aroma of this whisky!

On the Tongue
Unsurprisingly, sherry is one of the first tastes I pick up, but not as strongly as I expected. This is definitely not a sherry-bomb and, in fact, oak is a more dominant early flavour. As I continue enjoying my dram, I also taste orchard fruits and, eventually, a toasted cereal character that, in combination, makes me think of apple pie. Maybe it’s that thought influencing my taste buds, but I’m sure I can also taste those flavours of cinnamon that I smelled earlier. The finish is a medium exit with a very smooth, gentle warming and that malty, fruity apple-pie character lingers for a bit.

Final Thought
I don’t expect a massive barrage of flavour from an 80-proof whisky and I find Aberlour 12 Year Old almost as gentle on my palate as it was on my sniffer. I’m not saying it’s lacking flavour, quite the opposite, actually, I just wonder what else it might deliver at an abv somewhat closer to cask strength.

This is a whisky that is easy-going enough for beginners but complex enough to be enjoyed by experienced drammers as well. I find Aberlour 12 to be a terrific all-around whisky that will be a staple every-dayer in my cabinet.