Category Archives: A Wee Dram

A Wee Dram… Laphroaig An Cuan Mòr

So a few days ago I’m at my regular dramming buddy, Richard’s, place for a chat and a drink. While there, Richard’s wife, who is on her way home after visiting family abroad, FaceTimes him from the Duty Free shop so he can pick out his own gift bottle…

I shit you not!

Why the language, you ask? Well, my own wife was out of the country not so long ago and, despite my asking sweetly for a nice travel exclusive, she returned empty handed… Supposedly, “There just wasn’t time.” 

Anyway, as Richard’s wife relayed the bottles she was considering through the magic of technology, I saw the Laphroaig An Cuan Mòr and secretly crossed my fingers that it would be Richard’s selection… I love Laphroaig! Fortunately for me, Richard has good taste, so I left the evening quite satisfied that I’d be sampling a lovely Islay before too long. 

Tonight was the night!

This is a beautiful dram, all orangey-copper, with thick, fat legs, thanks to the 48% abv.  The nose is amazing and I found myself enjoying the briny maritime notes and heavy peat for several minutes before finally giving in to take my first sip.  On the palate, this whisky is unmistakably Laphroaig, with licorice and medicinal qualities along with that familiar sweet backbone of ripe red fruits. However, compared to other Laphroaig expressions I have tasted, this one seems far more silky, smoother and, actually, more sophisticated. I love me some Laphroaig 10 or Quarter Cask but this whisky is something different and special.  There is a buttery, caramel and apricot-laden bourbon note (which will win me over every time) but there is also a rich, chewy fruitiness… Richard said figs but I thought it was dates.  The finish is medium long and full of salty licorice, oak and honey, with a return of smouldering peat. A brilliant dram, Laphroaig An Cuan Mòr is delicious whisky!


A Wee Dram… Wild Turkey 81

So, this weekend, we had a bit of a family gathering at my place and, as is the custom between my father-in-law and me, we each brought a bottle of whisky to the party. In this case it was actually whiskey on both sides as both Pops and I chose a bourbon. My contribution will get the full-review treatment later on, but I’ll do a quick “Wee Dram” for the Wild Turkey 81 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey brought by my father-in-law. 

I don’t post prices for bottles that I haven’t purchased myself but I am aware that this is a very reasonably priced bourbon. The label notes state it is a blend of whiskeys aged up to 6-8 years and that it is made special through the use of an alligator char on the casks. I have no idea what makes this type of char different from other cask-toasting methods but I do suspect that the word choice, “up to” should be interpreted as meaning that most of the spirit in the bottle actually being younger than 6 years. This bourbon is, obviously, 81 proof – 40.5% abv. 

Not a lot going on with the nose, although the basic bourbon aromas seem to be there: caramel corn, vanilla, a bit of baking spice… Nothing bad but nothing special either and a bit understated, perhaps. The flavours are again pretty straightforward for bourbon., if not all that assertive. A bit of oak, punky corn and a ribbon of vanilla-infused sweetness, with a hint of cinnamon and spice hitching along. I am a bit disappointed by the thin mouth-feel of this whisky, in comparison to many of the bourbons I’ve been enjoying recently. The finish, however, is surprising long with more oak and sweet, toasty cornbread and was a highlight of the dram. 

Overall, Wild Turkey 81 seems to be a perfectly mediocre bourbon. It’s a decent value purchase, I think, and I wouldn’t turn one down in a pinch but it’s not quite interesting enough and doesn’t pack enough bite for my liking. It is probably best suited as a mixer, in my opinion.

A Wee Dram… Actually, Three Wee Drams!

I recently attended a local Burns Night, once again put on at a local establishment that is managed by a friend. And, once again, the event did not disappoint… especially considering that it was taking place in my small hometown of Camrose, Alberta. 

Because of my son’s basketball tournament, I was not able to make it until the event was well underway. Fortunately, there aren’t too many scotch fanatics in Camrose so I was confident, so long as my dramming pal Richard and his father hadn’t cleaned the place out, that I’d still be able to sample some terrific whiskies. 

Once again, the selection was better than expected and the prices were favourable!  I sampled three whiskies: The Highland Park 18, the Lagavulin Double Matured and the Glenfiddich 21 Year Old Reserva.  Here are some brief thoughts on all three, in the order that I tasted them. 

Highland Park 18

I have had the HP18 before but it has been a while. Anyone who has spent much time on this blog (especially early on) probably knows how much I adore Highland Park whiskies, so seeing the HP18 on the list made it a no-brainer for my first dram of the evening.  Golden in colour and with the classic subtle smoke and honeycombe Highland Park nose. On the palate, flavours toffee, toasted malt, vanilla and baking spices predominate, along with some orange zest and maybe a hint of dark chocolate. That familiar HP floral, heathery peatiness is certainly on display, which is especially evident in the lengthy honey-drenched finish. There is not a rough edge to be found on this whisky, it’s almost dangerously smooth. Great whisky… but I think I still slightly prefer the 12!

Lagavulin Double Matured

I love Islay whiskies, so I was very pleased to see a Lagavulin on the menu. (And yes, I’ll have had words with my friend about the spelling error on her selection menu, lol!) I had previously only enjoyed the Lag8 and Lag16, so I was excited to take this PX “finished” version for a spin. Rich, bunt amber in my glass, this whisky visually hints to the strong aromas and flavours it will reveal. Peat and smoke, obviously, are on the nose, along with rubber bands, iodine, that maritime sea-weediness, and something vaguely like bananas. On the tongue, it’s all Islay, with more smoke and peat, malty sweetness and a bit more of the medicine cabinet as a menthol-eucalyptus note arrives.  The PX casks are evident in a lingering chewy-grape sweetness, as well. The finish is long and earthy as the smoky-peatiness fades to sponge toffee and s’mores. 

Glenfiddich 21 Year Reserva Rum Cask Finish

Having arrived late, I was quite content with the two drams I had selected. But, when the manager comes to offer a free-pour of the most expensive whisky on the list, it would be rude to say no, right! The healthy dram displayed dark coppery-gold in my glass and gave off fairly typical Speyside aromas of vanilla, fruit and a grassy note… There was a definite oakiness as well as an “older” note of leather. The rum did not jump out of the glass at me on the nose. The flavours were rich and delicious – maybe the knowledge of the rum finish influenced my palate, but molasses certainly came to mind, along with caramel and more vanilla. I know it doesn’t sound overly interesting, but it was a rich, well composed palate. The finish was medium in length and delivered a raisin-like quality that I only then realized had been there all along, in the nose and on the palate, as well. 

Once again, my local Burns Night delivered. Good friends and good conversation are really what make it so, but good whisky never hurts, either!

A Wee Dram… Oban 14 Yr Old

It is my extremely good fortune to have married into a fantastic family! My wife’s parents have always treated me like one of their own and they are the best grandparents I could wish for my kids. My brother-in-law and I also hit it off right away, playing senior hockey together, fishing and finding other ways to cause trouble… Although he teases about being the brother he never wanted, I’m glad to call him family and consider him one of my best friends! 

Ok, enough of the sappy stuff… What’s really important here is that my brother-in-law also continues to improve with age, just like a fine spirit! Increasingly, he has been more interested in scotch whisky and, at our most recent family get together, he surprised us by breaking out a bottle of Oban 14.  I was sure I’ve tried this whisky before but couldn’t recall where or when.  Nevertheless, I was more than happy to sample it anew!

The nose was rather soft and understated, with obvious vanilla and caramel as well hints of smoke and orange zest. I was longing for my Glencairn since I was sure this dram had more to offer than I could tease out with a tumbler! The first sip surprised me with a very full-bodied mouthfeel. The palate included vanilla and a sweet malt graininess front and centre, with burnt sugar and a herbal, floral honey. There was also a wisp of smoke but it was more like campfire than peat, in my opinion. This whisky finished medium-long, with salted caramels and lingering licorice.

All in all, I thought this was a delicious whisky!  At 43%abv, Oban 14 was smooth and easy drinking but it was also nuanced and interesting… I may have to get myself a bottle!

A Wee Dram… Glenfarclas 15 and 25

Last night, I had the pleasure of a night out with my buddy Richard and our wives at a craft-beer event hosted by a local watering hole that is managed by one of our friends. Well, it’s certainly good to know people in high places… Our friend knows that I love a good whisky and, soon enough, generous drams of Glenfarclas 15 were sent over to our table. Shortly thereafter, we were also surprised with a second whisky to sample, the Glenfarclas 25, which gave me the perfect opportunity to compare the two whiskies side-by-side.  So this is actually two wee drams!

Glenfarclas 15

A soon as my glass was placed in front of me, I received a nose full of sherry. Grapey, wine-soaked oak, along with some nice citrus notes that eventually made way for vanilla. On the palate, I was surprised by how dominant the wood notes were but this was balanced quite nicely by a toasty malt-sweetness and a thread of smoke. The finish was medium, with a return of jammy berries from the sherry casks, more oak and a herbal-mint flourish at the end. Very nice, but maybe a little young-tasting compared to what I was expecting. This whisky is bottled at 46%abv. (Richard preferred this dram over the 25, stating that he loved the bold sherry and heavy oak character of this whisky.)

Glenfarclas 25

This whisky was a slightly lower 43% abv which was certainly enough to deliver an abundance of aroma and flavour. The nose was similar to the 15 but, in my opinion, more well-rounded with the addition of a floral, heathery quality. On the palate, the 25 restrains the wood notes better than the younger expression, allowing that floral character to come through as an interesting, almost-willowy note. There is also a sense of mint-chocolate, coupled with that same toasted malt-sweetness that might have a touch of honey about it this time. The 25 has a slightly longer finish, with the same big, sherried flavours and dry oakiness. This whisky, however, left me with lingering sensations of rose water and marmalade that I didn’t detect on the 15. (Obviously, I preferred the balance and nuance of 25 but both were fine whiskies!)

A Wee Dram… Bruichladdich Octomore 6.1

Stopped in for a quick nip at my best buddy’s place tonight and I was pleasantly surprised when he grabbed a brand new bottle of Bruichladdich Octomore… “The World’s Most Heavily Peated Single Malt.” Needless to say, I was excited. I’ve been meaning to try the Octomore for a while now!

As soon as the bottle was uncorked, the room was washed in rich peat smoke. As the glass breathed a bit, smoke made way  for dusty hay, oak, iodine and a surprising citrus note became apparent as well, although the smoke mellowed out, the peatiness remained. It was a very enjoyable nose! My fist sip was dominated by peat as well, but a malty sweetness eventually proved to be the backbone of this dram. The flavour of the smoke is actually quite gentle, as it allows a nuttiness to shine through, along with a salty maritime quality. And that finish… It just went on and on and on, not so much leaving smoke in its wake as just some nice chewy peat, with a healthy dose of heather!

I really enjoyed a drop of this whisky. What really struck me was how this malt was obviously a young one, yet it had a certain mature sophistication about it. Bright and lively, yet rich and fulfilling. I love Islay malts so I’ll be wanting to pick up one of these for my own cupboard!

A Wee Dram…. Forty Creek Double Barrel Reserve

By now, most whisky drinkers – especially Canadian ones – know the story of master distiller, John K. Hall and his Forty Creek whiskies. There is usually a bottle of the flagship Barrel Select in my cupboard, since it can do double duty as a suitable sipper for me and as a tip-notch mixer for my buddies. This sample of the Double Barrel Reserve, which is a step or two up in the core range, came with my most recent bottle of the standard offering, so it seems like the perfect opportunity for a quick Wee Dram!

This golden yellow drop has a subtle nose, mostly dominated by vanilla, with a hint of butterscotch and a touch of nuttiness. Wow! On the palate, this is the most toffee-like drop I have ever tasted… it’s unmistakeable and kind of surprising, actually! Toffee eventually gives way to creamy Werther’s Original candies (Which doesn’t sound much different, I know, but the change of flavour is distinct!) with a bit of oakiness and rye spice riding shotgun. The finish is long and delicious, with vanilla, lemon zest and oatmeal cookies.

Delicious whisky, this one! I’ve always thought Forty Creek had a little more of a bourbon-like character than most Canadian whiskies and this Double Barrel Reserve is even more reminiscent of a fine bourbon. I love it… and I should probably go buy a full sized bottle for a proper review!