Tag Archives: scotch

Glenfiddich 14 Yr Old Rich Oak

It’s kind of an unwritten rule for get-togethers with my father-in-law, that we each bring a bottle of scotch to share. We never go too over-the-top with the whiskies that we bring… It’s all about sharing a dram or two, not trying to impress each other with something expensive. (Pops puts a lot of ice in his dram and we want to feel comfortable leaving whatever is left in each other’s cabinet, but maybe we’re just a little on the cheap side!) Nevertheless, we do both like to bring something expected to be a new experience for the other. Generally, it’s quite a bit of delicious fun!

Well, this year was once again time to spend Christmas with my wife’s family and this time I decided to bring two bottles that fit the bill for our little whisky exchange: a personal inexpensive favourite in Bruichladdich Classic Laddie and something I hadn’t yet tried before – Glenfiddich 14 yr Rich Oak. (In case you’re wondering, Pops’ bottle was Aberlour 12.)

Apparently this Speyside malt is aged for 14 years, using Glenfiddich’s usual casking regime before separate finishing periods in both European and American casks. This whisky is bottled at 40% abv and it cost me about $65 CDN. 

To the Eye

This whisky displays a rich coppery-gold that brings bourbon to mind. I suppose this could be expected but it also has me wondering about caramel colouring. My usual tot and swirl results in some moderate legs that dissipate quite quickly. 

In the Nose

The name alone had me expecting a big blast of wood from this dram… That’s not really what I found, however. The oak does linger in the background but it’s not an assertive aroma nor one that really seems to provide a backbone or common thread to the nosing experience. Instead, I picked up some of the usual Glenfiddich character: orchard fruits, vanilla and a herbaceous note. Each of these were rather muted, though, and that herbal note, in particular was quite a long way off from the fresh, grassy quality that I usually enjoy from Glenfiddich and many other Speyside malts. I also find vanilla and a touch of biscuity malt but it’s kind of flat.

With water, the fruits stand out a bit more and become a little more juicy and maybe even somewhat tropical

On the Tongue

If I had to sum it up succinctly, I’d say this whisky comes across as rather bourbony, without coming close to the complexity or deliciousness of a quality bourbon. There is sweetness, but a metallic bitterness quickly makes you forget about it. There are a few spices but they are overpowered by vanillins. The oak is certainly there but it’s a muddy sort of dominating flavour, if that makes any sense – it just doesn’t compliment anything else that’s going on in my glass. The finish is on the short side, with bitter oak tannins and a dry, acrid metallic after taste that again suggests the use of E150a. 

With a few drops of water, I found the oakiness and the vanilla flavours were tamed and pointed in a more complimentary direction that allowed a malty sweetness to come forward. Water also helped some citrusy flavours to assert themselves and it also changed the finish into something more toasty much less bitter. 

Final Thoughts

I don’t usually water my whisky but I was forced to try it with this one. While I was not enjoying my first couple of drams, my father-in-law was finding his glasses of scotch-flavoured ice to be quite delicious… So I figured I could give it a try. In this case, I found a little water transformed the Glenfiddich 14 yr Rich Oak from something almost undrinkable into a pretty decent drop. 

The Balvenie DoubleWood 12 yr Old

The Balvenie has been a distillery that I’ve… let’s not say avoided… It more like ignored.  Fair or not, you know what they say about first impressions and I was not a fan of the Carribean Cask as my introduction to the Balvenie and, well, I just haven’t had much urge to give ‘er another go… until recently. 

Lately, my whisky journey has been leading me toward drams that market themselves as throwbacks in some way. Call me old fashioned but I guess I kind of romanticize the idea of doing things from scratch or, at the very least, small-scale, hands-on craftsmanship. So, I’m in the bottle shop and I finally pull down a carton for the Balvenie and I read the words:

Hook, line and sinker… It was time to give them another chance! This whisky is bottled at 40% abv and cost me approximately $80 CDN. 

To the Eye

Lovely bourbony copper-orange with the odd flash of brighter brass. A tilt of my glass produces thick, stubborn legs. 

In the Nose

My first sniff reveals loads of orchard fruits – ripe red apples and juicy pears. Then comes some red licorice, honey and some typical vanilla-caramel goodness. Eventually, with time, a firm, spicy oak backbone reveals itself along with a subtle note that reminds me of kosher pickle brine. Overall, I find the combination of aromas to create a soft yet sophisticated nosing experience. 

On the Tongue

I had been a little discouraged that this dram was only 40% but it’s one of those good 40% whiskies that delivers plenty of flavour!  Oak, buttered toast, filberts. It’s not nearly as sweet as the nose suggested, although there is a drop of honey in there. Vanilla, a hint of cinnamon, dark, stewed fruit… Perhaps a bit of marmalade. (Maybe it’s the time of year but I get a vague sense of Christmas pudding but not in a heavy or overly sweet way.) Man, I really like how that oakiness asserts itself early and serves to harness all of the other flavours, weaving them into a thread of pleasant toasty, nutty bitterness!

The finish is medium, with pepper and licoricy fennel seeds, followed by a return of the oak and some mineral notes, with honey bringing up the rear. This dram exits with a similarly pleasant bitterness that was found earlier on the palate and creates a nice, slightly dry finish that encourages another sip!

Final Thoughts

I’m sure glad I grabbed this bottle and got sucked into the romanticized farm-to-glass marketing – this is a quality drop! I find The Balvenie DoubleWood 12 yr Old whisky to be wonderfully balanced and I love how it seems to hint at sweet while playing a savoury riff throughout. This is a well-composed whisky that needs to be in your cabinet, if it’s not already – I think all whisky drinkers, newbies or experienced drammer’s will appreciate it!

Glenfiddich IPA Experiment

In addition to whisk(e)y, I’m a sucker for beer… Especially the big, hoppy, flavourful types! So imagine my excitement when I noticed a couple bottles of the Glenfiddich IPA Experiment, tucked away on the top shelf at one of my local liquor stores! While I have tried “hopped” Canadian whiskies before – which didn’t particularly impress me, mind you – I was curious to see what kind of riff a big-time scotch distillery might play on this idea. I was even more intrigued, seeing as the bottle presentation seemed to make it quite clear that this was not a low-end offering!

From what I can gather, the IPA Experiment is one of two whiskies in Glenfiddich’s recent experimental series, with the othe being dubbed Project XX. Since I haven’t yet stumbled upon the latter, I am forced to focus on just the IPA Experiment today.  Apparently, this is a collaboration between Speyside Craft Brewery and Glenfiddich, where a special recipe India Pale Ale was commissioned to season Glenfiddich whisky casks in such a way to impart specific, intentional effects upon the single malt over a 3 month finishing period. I read that the IPA recipe made good use of Challenger hops, which, as a former homebrewer, I know to be a particularly aromatic type of bittering hop, so I imagine that its floral, spicy character and sweet citrus flavours might be a good match for Glenfiddich’s fruity, Speyside profile. 

Enough rambling… This whisky is bottled at 43% abv and cost me about $115 CDN. 

To the Eye

Gorgeous bright gold … The appearance has me quite at ease that this whisky is free of artificial colourings but the bright clarity, not to mention the abv, leads me to believe that it is chill filtered.  A customary tilt of my glass reveals moderate but rather speedy legs. 

I think it’s also worth mentioning, here, that this brown beer-bottle version of the Glenfiddich  presentation, as well as the understated carton is really cool!

In the Nose

Lots of typical Speyside aromas jump out of my Glencairn. Juicy apples and fresh, grassy notes and some subtle, sweet caramel, vanilla and some underlying oakiness. After a few minutes, some additional characteristics start to stand out – ripe pears, marshmallows and, there it is… Hops! However, it’s not hop aromas like you experience while drinking an ale, it’s the fresh, floral and vegetal smell of fresh hops cones right off the vine. The experience is both unusual and captivating and I can’t shake the thought that it is all very similar to a nice Chardonnay. Brilliant!

On the Tongue

This is certainly a Glenfiddich, as the standard orchard fruits, vanilla and grassy, hay-like flavours stand out upon the palate. Oak is rather prominent but in no way overbearing and I feel like this NAS dram seems rather mature beyond its years… Freshly cracked peppercorns, menthol and grapefruit, pith and all. The medium finish is dry, with an espresso bitterness, eucalyptus and a faint vegetal note that could be hops but I might just be looking really hard for them!

Final Thoughts

The Glenfiddich IPA Experiment is one of those whiskies that I have a hard time assessing. It is a refreshing dram and I’ve been having a lot of fun sampling it, trying to tease out the impression that the ale-seasoned casks have imparted upon the spirit. I suppose that alone means the experiment has been a success. At the same time, I’m left wishing that the IPA influence was more obvious.  While this dram is discernibly different from other Glenfiddich offerings, I can’t really say that the IPA finish is the clear reason behind it. (Even though it probably is!)

Yeah, I’d love more hoppiness so that this dram could scream “IPA!!!” at me… but, while I love me some hoppy beer, that might not make for an enjoyable whisky. Maybe we’ll never know! All in all, this Glenfiddich IPA Experiment is a very drinkable whisky, it looks great when I pull it out to share with friends and it has offered me a new challenge, so I’ll likely try to score another bottle or two, if I can!

The Ileach – Islay Single Malt (NAS)

First off, I may as well admit that my purchase of this bottle was a bit of an impulse buy… in the sense that I entered the bottle shop to pick up beer on this occasion but, during my usual swing down the scotch aisle, it caught my eye.  My thought process went something like this:

Islay malt…. I like Islay malts! A Lot!

Never noticed this one beforeAt this point, it’s getting harder to find scotch I haven’t tried before

45 bucksKinda seems like a low-risk, high-reward proposition, doesn’t it? SOLD!!

So, knowing absolutely nothing about The Ileach Single Malt – zero – I made the purchase anyway. Eventually a closer inspection of the carton and the label revealed, well, actually nothing! There were some vague references to the quality and character of the inhabitants of Islay which I suppose was meant to assure me of the quality and character of the spirit inside but that was about it. No tasting notes, no cask regiment, no history of the distillery, no nothing. In fact, what jumped out the most was that I couldn’t even find an indication of a distillery name at all, leading me to the rather obvious conclusion that this whisky is an independent bottling of an Islay malt by The Highlands & Islands Scotch Whisky Company (which was noted in tiny font on the front of the carton). A quick Google search confirmed my uncanny skills of deduction while simultaneously filling my head with rumours of this malt being anything from a Kilchoman to a Lagavulin. 

But who really cares? After all, I bought this whisky on a whim, as an inexpensive adventure/gamble… On to the review!

The Ileach Single Malt is bottled at 40% abv and, when it was all said and done, still came in under $50CDN. 

To the Eye

Fairly rich orangey-gold. It’s a rather peculiar colour, in my opinion… Not quite red enough to convince me of sherry influence… caramel colouring, perhaps? A swirl of my glass leaves an oily sheen that dissipates almost instantly, without really leaving any suggestion of legs at all… just a few lonely beads of liquid, hovering above the rest of the dram. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that before with a whisky.

In the Nose

Sweet peat, it does smell like Islay! Or at least it offers enough of the required aromas to help me connect the dots. A nice peaty backbone with hints of smoke, iodine and a salty-sweet toffee. There is also a subtle earthy meatiness in the background. Not all that complex, but nice. 

On the Tongue

This is a young one, this dram. Despite the low abv, a rough alcohol edge is the first impression I received during each of my tastings while preparing this review. Again, just as with the nose, the basic semblance a of an Islay profile presents itself: peat, smoke, burned rubber that is verging upon a tar-like quality, and some sweet dried fruit to round it out. The finish contains a mouthful of bitter ashes that quickly fades to fleeting walnuts. Overall, the finish would be quite short if not for a final wallop of alcohol astringency and a faint but lingering note of honey.

Final Thoughts

This is a wholly unremarkable whisky and, while it receives my lowest possible designation of Not Great, I feel compelled to offer a couple of caveats. First of all, it is obvious that there is no intention of trying to create a “great” whisky in The Ileach Single Malt. From the noticeable youth of this whisky to the meagre price point, this one is more likely aimed at being a drinkable Islay malt for the more budget-conscious drammer. And, while that doesn’t really turn my crank, these days, I certainly know people who would quite happily stock this sort of dram in their home bars. Secondly, the relative inexpensiveness of this whisky probably should carry more weight in my evaluation since there are so few Islay single malts anywhere near a $50 price point.

               Did I just make the same basic point twice?!

I said that my purchase was low-risk but it didn’t come through with much of a reward, in my opinion. The Ileach offers limited complexity and has too many extra-rough edges for my particular tastes. I haven’t been left with a strong feeling that this dram offers good value, even at its low cost and, for “Islay-on-a-budget”, more or less, I would much rather buy a bottle of Johnny Walker Double Black!

Scapa Glansa

The Scapa distillery sub-titles itself as “The Orcadian” and markets its claim to being the second most northerly distillery in the world, due to being only a short drive south from its Orkney Island roommate, Highland Park. Well, if you read this blog, you’re probably well aware of my appreciation for Highland Park whiskies, so I was quite excited to see if proximity would lead to the concoction of similar magic. 

Scapa Glansa is an NAS offering that, apparently, is the first peated offering from a whisky maker that usually goes to lengths in order to keep peat out of the profile. However, the peated character of this whisky is achieved not by peat-smoking or through the use of peat-infused water source, instead, Scapa Glansa is finished in oak casks that were previous seasoned with peated whisky. Since this distillery does not manufacture any other of their own peated expressions, I am left to wonder from where these peat-seasoned casks might have been sourced… Scapa Glansa is bottled at 40% abv and it cost me roughly $75 CDN. 

To the Eye

 I don’t usually bother commenting on bottle presentation since it ultimately has zero impact on the quality of my dram but this is one of the rare occasions when I feel compelled to acknowledge a top-notch presentation. Scapa Glansa comes in a rather elegant, yet masculine bottle, housed in a striking blue and brown carton that instantly makes me think of a coastal location. I also appreciate the distillery information and the profile notes that are provided. For what it’s worth, I think it looks terrific. 

As for the whisky, I see a nice golden honey-coloured liquid in my glass that produces skinny legs that fall rapidly down my glass after the customary tilt and swirl. It looks good!

In the Nose

Okay, so where is that peat? Right out of the gate, I get a sweet waft of pears and honey. There is vanilla and maaaaybeee just the faintest wisp of smoke, but that’s about it. Seriously, though, no peat?!

On the Tongue

There it is! It seems strange to have a whisky offer such little indication of peat on the nose but still smack me with a mouthful of the stuff on my first sip. This is also where I seem to find a hint of Scapa’s Orcadian heritage since it’s a very floral, heathery type of peat flavour that reminds me very much of Highland Park. (Hmmm… Since this whisky only becomes peated through the use of ex-peated casks, is it possible that Scapa’s peat-seasoned casks are simply rolled down the road from their neighbours on the island?) Other flavours include pepper, a sweet, vaguely banana flavour and a bitter, burnt sugar note on the end. Underlying it all however, is an alcohol astringency and a sense of a very young, underdeveloped whisky. (Hmmm… Could THAT be the real reason for the peat-cask finishing?) The shortish finish delivers a nutty note, with more bitter alcohol. 

Final Thoughts

I feel like maybe I am being unnecessarily harsh so the Scapa Glansa but, when it comes down to it, I feel like this whisky is a disappointment. It’s not undrinkable but, from the price tag to the snappy bottle presentation, I expected much more. Highland Park 12, for example, despite seeing a recent increase in price in my locale, can still be had for about $10 less than the Scapa Glansa and is, in my opinion, a much better dram. 

Auchentoshan 2000 Single Cask #1757 (Berry Bros. & Rudd)

So, I was just up to the city for yet another of my son’s spring hockey games and, on the way home, we happened to stop for a bite right beside a big new bottle shop… What a coincidence! Well, with yet another graduate course recently put in the rear view, I figured I deserved to whip in and see if there were any treasures to be uncovered. I’m not sure if it’s a treasure or not, but I did find an independent bottling of Auchentoshan, a distillery I quite enjoy. This whisky was bottled in 2014 by Berry Bros. & Rudd, from Auchentoshan cask #1757, which was laid down in the year 2000, making it a 13 yr old expression. There was no carton for this bottle but the rear label explains that this bottling was produced exclusively for the North American market. This whisky is 53.6% abv and costs about $95 CDN. 

To the Eye

Pale, straw-gold in colour. A twist of my Glencairn builds a crest that reluctantly releases fat, exceedingly stubborn legs. 

In the Nose

Apples, which are always front and centre for me, when nosing an Auchentoshan. But, on this dram, these apples seem decidedly more crisp and tart, more like a green Granny Smith than the usual sweet, ripe reds I tend to pick up from this distillery. Werther’s Original caramels, vanilla and cotton candy are also quite assertive. With time, more subtle aromas also join the party: malt, leather and a dry grassy note. 

On the Tongue

Whoa! This whisky is much richer and more potent than the typical core expressions from Auchentoshan – I guess an extra 13-14% abv will help with that! The mouthfeel is much thicker and creamier, as well. Flavours of juicy fruits, particularly stone fruit preserves jump out at me, along with Cuban honey (if you’ve had it, you understand the difference), sweet malted grain and real black licorice flavour. There is herbal, citrusy note that arrives toward the end… not exactly understated but a bit more like a lime-basil than like the actual citrus fruit. Either way, the tang is a welcome counterpoint to the sweet flavours at the onset. There is a satisfying alcohol burn in this dram, which creates a tingling, effervescent finish of medium length, full with pineapple, more licorice and a hint of barrel wood… this may sound unusual, but the finish is a little reminiscent of drinking a nice Chardonnay. 

Final Thoughts

I’m impressed! I’ve long appreciated Auchentoshan whiskies and this is a very good one. I have not gotten in to many independent bottlings but this single cask offering by Berry Bros. & Rudd has me thinking I’ve ignored this category of whisky for long enough. It’s rich, sophisticated and well-composed! Complex, yet smooth, but still providing a nice burn. Delicious and highly recommended – if this was a more readily available dram, I would consider labelling it as a new favourite!

Strathisla 12 Yr Old

After a rather lengthy hiatus from my blog, it’s time to get back in the saddle. My graduate courses, coaching a Pee Wee AA hockey team (To a league championship and a provincial bronze medal, mind you!), not mention the job that actually pays the bills and family responsibilities… Let’s just say that something had to give for a while and it was my whisky blog that took a backseat.  

This does not mean, however, that I haven’t been making time to drink whisky! I’ve been keeping notes and I will try to get personal reviews complete for a few drams I’ve been sitting on. Today, I’m celebrating the start of the Easter break with one of those drops, the Strathisla 12 Year Old Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky. 

This is the first Strathisla I have purchased. According to the carton notes, it is the oldest working distillery in the highlands of Scotland, but all I really want to know is if it’s any damned good?  This whisky is bottled at 40% abv and cost me about $45 CDN. 


To the Eye

This whisky is a beautiful golden colour and a swirl of my glass produces thick, moderately stubborn legs. 

In the Nose

Not quite the quintessential Speyside nose, maybe a bit more interesting, actually. There’s fruit, yes, but it’s slightly more citrusy than the typical orchard fruits of a Speyside. There is also a herbal note but, instead of the usual grassiness, the Strathisla 12 offers a more floral character. Vanilla, cardamom and sweet, toasted malt round out the main aromas. 

On the Tongue

Malty, that’s the first thought the crosses my mind. And the thick, creamy mouthfeel is the second. There is a raisiny sherried note, along with some baking spices and a hint of apple sauce. (I guess that counts as some of those orchard fruits I was expecting.) a bit of caramel but the main thing I notice on the back is a bitter astringency. It’s not altogether unpleasant but it’s not altogether delicious either. That bitterness lingers into the otherwise short finish, although a meaty umami quality does develop.

Final Thoughts

The Strathisla 12 is a whisky that kind of leaves me feeling like I got what I paid for… which is rarely a good thing. The nose had me intrigued every time I poured a dram but that buildup as never fulfilled by the rest of the experience, which was disappointing. For me, this is a rather single-note single malt, with too much bitterness for the limited flavour it has to offer. For only about $10 more, there are several far superior whiskies to enjoy.