Tag Archives: Scotch whisky

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!

Advertisements

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!

The Glenrothes 1995

Admittedly, I’ve steered clear of the Glenrothes for quite a while… Once upon a time, I purchased a bottle of the 1998 vintage (the 2010 bottling, I believe) and, while I recall enjoying the nose, it had an off-putting vinegar-like quality that did not agree with me. After sampling the Select Reserve at a buddy’s place and again finding a little of that same sour note again, I kind of made up my mind that maybe the Glenrothes was just not going to be a distillery that matched up with my palate. 

But the other day I found myself in the local bottle shop contemplating a 2015 bottling of the 1995 vintage. I recalled reading somewhere that the ’95 was the first vintage laid down with a specific profile in mind. So my thinking goes something like: 

Vinegar wouldn’t be an intentional profile… Would it?! 

                20 year old whisky… That’s getting there! 

                                 Kinda like the funky bottle…

                                                   Screw it, I’m buying this one!

Come on, I believe in second chances! This particular vintage of the Glenrothes is bottled at 43% abv and ran me about $70 CDN. 

  

To the Eye

Brilliantly clear, with a golden honey colour. I don’t have proof, but I’m pretty certain this would be chill-filtered; most whiskies bottled at less than 45% are chill-filtered… This dram is just that bright and clear! A swirl of my glass ends up with skinny but extremely reluctant legs drooping down the sides. 

In the Nose

I don’t know what they’re called but there are these candies that are basically marshmallows covered in toasted coconut – my Grandma used to have them around and that is what my fist sniff of this whisky reminds me of. As the dram breaths a bit, a typical sherried Speyside nose develops: ripe red apples, caramel, vanilla and toasted oats… Think apple crisp in a glass!

On the Tongue

That’s not caramel, that’s butterscotch! There must be a some bourbon barrels among the 1995 casks because those buttery, caramelized-sugary notes are coming through beautifully. Orchard fruits, a dash of white pepper, a touch of oaky spiciness and something floral, a bit like rose water. The medium finish carries pencil shavings, more of that interesting floral character, supported by bits of cilantro and lemon zest.

Final Thoughts

Well then! I am certainly glad that I got over my worries about the Glenrothes. This is a thoroughly enjoyable dram that I liked just a little bit better every time I sampled it! Perhaps that’s the thing about vintage-expressions, where consistency is not the order of the day. Every vintage is going to have a different character, making it difficult to make generalizations from one to the next. 

Although not overly complex, the Glenrothes ’95 is nicely balanced and exceedingly drinkable! (With a buddy around, a dram or two could easily become three or four!) At the price I paid, I would consider this a very good-value whisky.

Auchentoshan 12 Year Old

Auchentoshan is the only Lowland malt I have so far had the opportunity to try, but I will admit to being a bit of a fan. I don’t remember when I bought my first Bottle, but I’m sure it has since crept into my personal top 3-5 of most frequently purchased malts. I find this realization surprising (and a bit confusing) since I probably wouldn’t name it among my favourite drams.

Auchentoshan claims to be the only Scotch distillery that employs a triple distillation process. Triple distillation is common amongst Irish whiskies but it is apparently unique amongst Scotch whiskies, where double distillation is the norm.  The distillery would have us believe that this extended process results in a smoother whisky with a more complex profile. Auchentoshan 12 Year Old is a single malt bottled at 40% abv and is available in my market for approximately $45 per bottle.

To the Eye

This whisky displays as a bright honeyed-copper with flashes of orange. After a spin of my Glencairn, it took some serious patience to wait for the moderate legs to release and trickle extremely slowly down the glass.

In the Nose

Apples, first and foremost. Ripe red ones!  I’m not sure I’ve encountered a dram that so clearly exhibited a specific fruit on the first sniff. Further exploration reveals kiwi fruit and grapes – Oloroso sherry casks, of course!  There are gentle citrus notes and vanilla, evoking a hint of a orange soda and ice cream float. More patience allows bits of leather and peppercorns to join the party and a slightly smokey, salty aroma as well. For whatever reason, I’m also thinking of sesame snaps. I can’t believe how much I have written here since I wouldn’t have labelled the nose of Auchentoshan 12 as “complex” but, obviously, I’m glad I took the time to find out what was hiding behind those apples!

On the Tongue

Not nearly as sweet as the nose suggests. Grapefruit pith and freshly shelled walnuts – you know that slightly bitter walnut skin you sometimes get a little bit of? There is a surprisingly assertive oakiness, considering that it was not more prominent on the nose. There’s also sponge toffee, as well as a little bit of black pepper in there.  Again, not overly complex, but neither is this whisky a one note wonder. The finish is relatively short, as far as flavour is concerned, although a hint of pencil shavings lingers along with that walnut bitterness.  I do like it… quite a bit, actually!

Final Thoughts

Auchentoshan 12 is somewhat of an enigma for me. I can’t bring myself to name it a favourite, but there is definitely a reason why I almost always have a bottle of it in my cupboard.  I think it’s kind of a Darcy Tucker of whisky! (You will probably have to be a Maple Leafs hockey fan of a certain age to properly appreciate this comparison!)

To clarify, this whisky may not necessarily stand out as exceptional in any particular way, but it is so darn solid in every way that it endears itself and deserves respect and appreciation!  At the very least, I think you find this dram to be smooth and easy drinking – approachable for the newbie Scotch drinker but with enough to offer that more sophisticated palates will still appreciate it.