This month we decided to try a few whiskies from the various islands around Scotland. In 2015 we tried a single cask of Arran Malt from an independent bottles, so we decided the standard Arran Malt 14 yr old expression, and unfortunately it was the least favorite Scotch of the night, perhaps too simple and dull. The Scapa Skiren impressed us, it’s not a distillery we were very familiar with but it was very unique and well liked by the group. The Highland Park 18 Year Old is hard to beat, many consider HP18 to be one of the best Scotches around, very complex with a pleasant peatnes, for the price it’s hard to beat, slightly better than the 15 yr old, but we might need to taste them side by side to really determine the difference, this was the clear winner of the night.
1. The Arran Malt 14 Year Old
Cost: $40- $60
Region: Islands: Isle of Arran
Casks: ex-bourbon, ex-European oak, finished in first fill sherry casks
Nose: Very fragrant and perfumed on the nose, with peaches, brandy, and ginger snaps, plus vanilla and mild oak.
Palate: Smooth and creamy on the palate, with spicy summer fruits, apricots, and hazelnuts.
Finish: The lingering finish is spicy, buscuity, and slowly drying, with just a hint of salt
Notes: Released in late 2010, this Arran 14yo is intended to be the standard issue bottling, taking over from the 12yo that appeared in late 2008. As has always been the case with Arran’s malt, this has been neither colored nor chill-filtered.
2. Scapa Skiren
Cost: $80- $90
Region: Islands: Orkney Islands
Nose: Classic Scapa green apples, toffee-covered and apple pie. With them comes a touch of sea spray, with both brine and a gently medicinal hint, some almost rye-whiskey-like spice and a hint of mint.
Palate: Soft and sweet, with brown-sugar-dusted buttery shortbread, a core of dried and candied apple slices, ground spice, and an autumnal surround of damp forests.
Finish: Apple skin, Ryvita and green leaves, with soft brown sugar.
Notes: The apple-y notes are typically Scapa, but there’s almost a hint of American-style-whisky spiciness – is there some new oak in the mix? It’s easy drinking and a great entry point for the new Scapa range.
3. Highland Park 18 Year Old
Cost: $120 – $140
Country: Islands: Orkney Islands
Casks: ex-sherry, and ex-bourbon
Nose: A profusion of ripe floral notes and fresh blossom with a delectable fruit salad. Notes of honeyed exotic fruits with a little botrytis.
Palate: Creamy and full with fruit conserves and espresso. A creaminess with cinnamon and allspice. Notes of toffee with thick black forest honey with a touch more citrus.
Finish: Long and well sugared with a herbal edge.
Notes: Highland Park is one of the few distilleries to malt its own barley, using locally cut peat. The peat is sourced from floral heather bushes, which burn hotter and cleaner than the grassy peats of Islay.
For this month we had intended to do a tasting of Scotch finished in 3 different types of Sherry casks, however we were not able to get the Glenkinchie Amontillado Cask as planned, so it ended up being more of a comparison between Scotch aged in Oloroso Sherry casks vs Pedro Ximénez Sherry casks. All three of these whiskies were great, the Glenkinchie 12 Yr Old was a solid basic scotch, the Dalwhinnie 1996, Oloroso Cask was complex and interesting and the Glen Scotia Pedro Ximénez Cask was very sweet and raisiny. In the future we hope to do a similar tasting again, but have the respective Sherry wine along with the Scotch
1. Glenkinchie 12 Yr Old
Cost: $50 – $60
Casks: ex-Bourbon casks
Nose: The nose is quite light, yet fragrant. Notes of fresh cereal and grist, some barley sweetness and a nutty note.
Palate: The palate is very fruity with notes of Madeira and sweet stewed fruits, lemon hard candies.
Finish: Lemon, The finish is of medium length with notes of cereal and a fresh greenness.
Notes: This 12 year old is the new entry level bottling from Glenkinchie, released in 2007 to replace the 10 year old. Glenkinchie is one of few distilleries which was allowed to maintain production during the WWII.
* Glenkinchie offers a scotch aged in Amontillado Sherry casks, unfortunately we were not able to get that particular bottle as originally planned, but it’s certainly a bottle we will seek out in the future. Amontillado sherry has a color between Fino and Oloroso, and is made with Palomino grapes.
2. Dalwhinnie 1996, Oloroso Cask
Cost: $70 – $90
Casks: Finished in Oloroso casks
Nose: Sweet citrus notes, with an unmistakable heather fluttering.
Palate: Rich and sherried, delicious grapes and sprinkles of spice.
Finish: The spice grown hotter on the finish, wonderfully energetic.
Notes: 1996 vintage, bottled in 2012. Oloroso sherry is a darker sherry made with Palomino grapes, produced by oxidative aging.
3. Glen Scotia, Pedro Ximénez Cask
Cost: $65 – $90
Casks: Finished in Pedro Ximénez sherry casks.
Nose: Vibrant fruit emerges first (peach flesh and green apple peels), followed by chewy vanilla fudge, a hint of salinity, then an array of oaky spices including some char.
Palate: Opens with more fudge with a little dusting of powdered sugar. Powerful, oily and a touch herbaceous with some German brandy character.
Finish: Sherried notes come through more on the finish.
Notes: Pedro Ximénez sherry (PX) is a sweet sherry made with Pedro Ximénez grapes, the grapes are laid out in the sun for several days to concentrate the sugar. Pedro Ximénez casks are more often used to finish heavily peated Scotch.
We are all familiar with the great single malts from Scotland, but we’re much less familiar with the increasingly popular single malts produced outside of Scotland, so we decided to picked out a few special international single malts to taste, all of which have won various whiskeys awards over the years. Overall, the Hibiki Japanese Harmony was the crowd favorite. Despite the hype, the Amrut Fusion didn’t go over very well with our group, it was universally disliked by our members, and the bottle has lasted several subsequent meetings with very little interest. This really has us scratching our heads as to why the online reviews of this are so positive.
1. Amrut Fusion $65 – $70
Nose: Barley, peaches, mangos, apricots, plus spicy cinnamon and clove, joined by aromas of Earl Grey tea and just a touch of peaty smoke and sea spray.
Palate: A real hit of fresh fruit and citrus-orange notes, with black pepper and cinnamon adding a zingy layer of spice.
Finish: Lingering spice and fruit.
Note: Amrut Fusion gets its name from the fact that it uses two barleys: Indian and Scottish, with the latter being peated for good measure.
2. Kavalan Single Malt Whisky $60 – $85
Nose: Fragrant, floral, fruity, with hints of honey, mango, vanilla.
Palate: Sweet mango juice, citrus fruit, spicy barley, oak, honey and chocolate
Finish: Medium, oily and citrus finish, with a touch of allspice, vanilla and pear skin
Note: Named after the indigenous people who originally inhabited this northeastern corner of the island: the Kavalan
3. Hibiki Japanese Harmony $60 – $70
Casks: American white oak, sherry, and mizunara oak (Japanese oak)
Nose: Apricots, orange blossom, marmalade, rose, hints of rosemary and mature wood
Palate: Oranges, apricots, honey-like sweetness, white chocolate, with a peppery spice
Finish: The spiciness takes over from the fruit and lingers, along with a little barrel char and a hint of Mizunara (Japanese oak)
This meeting came up quick, only one week after our holiday party extravaganza. We decided to keep this meeting simple by just picking a few bottles from the shelves of Tubby’s, and we were not disappointed. We realized that as a club we had never tasted any of the expressions from Glenfiddich, so that was an easy first choice, and most of us had never seen or heard of Shieldaig, so that peaked our interest, and the Glenlivet 18 seemed like a good pick too. Overall the Glenfiddich Solera 15 seemed to be the crowd favorite, probably due to the Solera fractional blending system used to produce this whisky, which seemed to give it a lot of complexity.
1. Shieldaig 12 Year $30 – $40
Casks: ex-bourbon casks
Nose: Fairly sweet, fruit-flavored candy
Palate: Fairly sweet, a bit of smoke, light peat
Finish: Surprisingly long, with some spice.
2. Glenfiddich Solera 15 Year $40 – $50
Casks: ex-bourbon, Portuguese sherry and virgin oak.
Nose: Sherry, citrus – orange in particular, dry wood
Palate: Medium, Sherry, raisins. Fruitcake, spices, sweetness
Finish: Candied fruits, raisins, spices, oak takes over
3. Glenlivet 18 Year $90 – $120
Casks: ex-sherry casks
Nose: Dark chocolate and glacé cherries, with apple and creamy vanilla-infused crême brûlée
Palate: Thick and fruit, with cream, stewed apple, candied orange and sweet vanilla.
Finish: Dry, with lingering spice.
To celebrate the end of the year and our new location at Tubby’s we decided to do something a little special, by purchasing three 21 year old bottles. This turned out to be our most expensive purchase thus far, which exceeded our budget, but was well worth a few extra bucks, thanks to everyone for pitching in to make this happen. It was certainly a memorable evening.
1. Aberfeldy 21 Year $146
Casks: ex-bourbon and ex-sherry
Nose: Blood oranges, honey, floral, oak, caramel, nutty, hint of campfire smoke
Palate: Hazelnut, oak, orange, wax, rosehip, heathery and herbal notes
Finish: Lingering finish, residual burnt sugar sweetness
The Aberfeldy distillery is in the highland region, in the town of Aberfeldy. The prefix “Aber” like in Aberlour or Aberfeldy originates from a tribe of people called the Picts. The Picts inhabited Scotland before the Scotti invaded from Ireland, and the island was originally called Pictland. Interestingly, the Picts has a society in which their family name and land was passed down from mother to daughter, and the current master distiller for Aberfeldy is a woman. The distillery was founded by John Dewar, and most of what they distill is used to produce Dewar’s Blended Scotch. However Aberfeldy also makes 3 whiskes in their standard range which are the 12, 18 and the 21 year old. The 21 year old was started in 2005 and is aged in bourbon and sherry casks. This whiskey is smooth and balanced, with some orange notes a touch of campfire smoke.
2. The Balvenie PortWood 21 Year $180
Casks: 30 yr old ex-Port pipes
Nose: Fruity and ripe raisin notes
Palate: Creamy and silky with fruit, honey and spice notes
Finish: Long and gentle nutty finish
Balvenie first started making the DoubleWood in 1993, and based on the overwlming success of the DoubleWood they decided to make the PortWood, just 2 years later in 1995. So this whiskey was aged in port pipes, a pipe is just a particular size of cask (550 liters). So when they first add the whiskey to the casks, the casks are already 30-40 yrs old. You’ll notice that the Port gives the whiskey a nice bronze, pinkish color. This is a very smooth and silky whiskey with some fruity and raisiny type notes, adding a splash of water will help bring out more of those fruity aromas and flavors.
3. The Glenlivet Archive 21 Year $230
Casks: American Oak and ex-Sherry
Nose: Rich sherriy, dried fruit, oak, rum cake, raisin, vanilla and cinnamon
Palate: Oak flavored fruit cake, caramel, vanilla, sherry, dried fruit, cinnamon, syrupy mouthfeel
Finish: Long, warm, rich and spicy
The Glenlivet 21 is from the Speyside region from the parish of Glenlivet, which is where the distillery gets its name. You probably know the story of Glenlivet, its was established in 1824, which was about 192 years ago by George Smith. George was was the first person in the Glenlivet parish to receive a license to run a distiller, so even though there were other distillery’s in that area that were using the name Glenlivet, he was the only one with a license so he was able to claim the name. Glenlivet has been in operation almost continuously and their 21 yr old is primarily aged in a mix of American and European Oak casks and finished in sherry casks. The 21 yr old used to be their oldest expression, but now it’s been superseded by the 25 year old as a part of their regular lineup. Some of the main characters from this whiskey are the oak, sherry and dried fruit, in addition it’s very balanced, smooth and easy to drink.
For our Nov 2016 meeting we decided to try 5 highly reviewed single malt scotches under $50. The five bottles we chose represented a range of styles, the Aberlour was subtle and complex, the Tomatin was slightly briny and harsh, the Highland Park was mildly peated and really well rounded, the Tomatin was very woody and smokey, and finally the Laphroaig was a typical Islay style, heavily peated, smokey and briny.
Overall the Aberlour 12 and Highland Park 12 were the two crowd favorites.
In addition this was our first meeting at Tubby’s Diner and Liquors in Laurel, MD. The meeting at Tubby’s went great; they had a diverse selection of food at very reasonable prices and a good selection of craft beer. Were looking forward to many more future meetings at Tubby’s.
1. Aberlour 12 Year, Double Cask Matured $35
Casks: ex-sherry and ex-bourbon casks
Nose: Buttery cinnamon toast, concentrated raisin, astringent woody, cherry, barrel char
Palate: Sweet, maple syrup, brown sugar, plump raisins, nutmeg, milk chocolate, char
Finish: Medium length, with chocolate, raisins and more char
2. Tomatin 12 Year $38
Casks: ex-sherry and ex-bourbon casks Nose: fruit and spice, green apple, cinnamon, nutmeg and a touch of milk chocolate.
Palate: Clean and fruity, grass, lemon, orange peel, followed by rich woody spice.
Finish: The refreshing citrus notes are balanced by the toasty oak.
3. Highland Park 12 Year $45
Casks: ex-Oloroso sherry casks and ex-Bourbon casks
Nose: Toffee, char, dried dark fruit, nutella, malt
Palate: Malt, cocoa and dried dark fruit lead the way followed by notes of peat, orchard fruit, char, apricots, some inky sherry-like sweetness and grilled fruit.
Finish: Long and fruity punctuated by notes of char, malt, smoke and wood
4. Talisker 10 Year $49
Region: Islay, Isle of Sky
Casks: ex-bourbon casks Nose: Honey, malt, toffee, some, vanilla, salt
Palate: Sweet and smoky with hints of malt, honey, dark dried fruit, char, wood and iodine.
Finish: Malt, sweetness, smoke, dark fruit, brine and honey with a touch of wood.
5. Laphroaig Quarter Cask $39
Casks: American oak bourbon barrels. Specially made quarter cask
s for the final 7-8 month
Nose: Soft peat, vanilla, wood, salt, smoked meat, grain
Palate: Pronounced smoke, accompanied by a surge of iodine, salt and wood followed by raw sugar, malt, dark fruit and a hint of citrus
Finish: Long finish filled with malt, smoke, silky sweetness, dark earthiness that fades to smoky wood.
ABV: 48 %
Found an educational program on YouTube by proud Scot and esteemed actor, Brian Cox, who teaches us how to correctly pronounce the names of all our favorite scotches. Pay attention. There will be a quiz at the end.
The Scotch Club turns 1!