Glengoyne 12 Year
Single Malt — Highlands, ScotlandTastedSis-in-law got me a bottle of this for Christmas! I’ve been looking forward to trying this one for a while. The nose offers gentle notes of heather, honeyed breakfast cereal, light vanilla, and worn leather. I get the impression of a hay bale in the sun from the nose. The palate carries these notes through to greater depth, and there is a biscuity maltiness at play that I really enjoy. More heather as well as sweeter notes are present, like dried apricots and oranges, pear crisp, and homemade cinnamon rolls. This finish is simple and yet sure of itself — sweet and malty to the end. I really like this whisky. It is what you’d hope a Glenlivet would be and what a Glenfiddich is trying to approach. And though it lacks the complexity or finesse of a Glen Garioch, like a Dalwhinnie it is confident in its simplicity.
Old Pulteney 21 Year
Single Malt — Highlands, ScotlandTastedKory and I went in on this bottle together prior to its discontinuation. This whisky invites time and careful consideration. It’s not going at anyone else’s pace. Old Pulteney 21 smells like barrel-aged stout, toasted cashews, vanilla, light peat smoke, and polished leather. The palate offers hints of brine, and suggests red fruit and black currant. The rich and nutty notes from the nose are emphasized here as well. But the most delightful aspect of the palate is the patient and storied oak. It’s truly captivating. The mouthfeel is balanced; oily, but not overwhelmingly so. The finish is smooth and round, bringing a slow but sure heat. The aftertaste is reminiscent of vanilla and plum. One to enjoy in solitude, and when there’s nothing else that needs to be done.
Mortlach 12 Year "The Wee Witchie"
Single Malt — Speyside, ScotlandTastedPicked up a bottle of this unexpectedly, looking for an unpeated Speyside or Highland. The nose is fruity and floral, and I smell grilled pineapple, citron zest, and dried cranberry. Caramel is also prominent. The palate is luxe: a bold, rich, spicy, and robust Speyside. I taste saltwater taffy and shortbread (god, I love shortbread), candied lemon peel and more grilled pineapple. The barrel-spice bourbon influence is discernible but plays well with the fruit-driven, more rounded sherry notes. As far as quality and character, it reminds me of the Glenrothes 1998, though it’s less sticky-sweet. In terms of boldness, I’m reminded of the Balvenie Tun series. The finish is consistent with this scotch’s other facets, and lives up to its nickname, “the Beast of Dufftown.” The finish is the only place that peat plays a prominent role, and in this case it is pleasantly mossy. Heather lingers in the dried glass. At $44 per bottle, I’d be hard pressed to find something as good as “the Wee Witchie.”
Single Malt — Highlands, ScotlandTastedThis bottle, buried in my wishlist, caught my eye from the top shelf at a French restaurant’s bar. It wasn’t on the menu, but I decided to pay the $15 negotiated with the bar tender for a half-pour. Tasted following duck confit crêpe and crème brûlée. Nose: sea salt caramel, dark chocolate, toasted coconut, coffee being roasted. Palate: toasty, malt driven, yet still well rounded, layered. Mouthfeel: waxy, tingling. Finish: warming, light-roast cortado. Empty glass: dark chocolate, mellow tobacco. Overall: As unique as it is exquisite, Signet is a barley beauty, with layer upon layer of maltiness showing off from start to finish.
Oban Distillers Edition
Peated Single Malt — Highlands, ScotlandTastedMy brother chose this for me for a gift for his wedding. That’s what kind of a person he is. And he also did his research! This one was distilled in 2004, bottled in 2018. The coppery color is enticing, though I wonder if it’s artificial. The nose is delightful. Citrus leaves, cinnamon, glazed peaches, vanilla, and a complicated earthiness. The palate is unique. The taste of fruitcake accompanies the peach and cinnamon notes. Yet it is also meaty, sweet and mouthwatering like capicola. All of the elements one could hope for in a good meal show up here. But the finish — the finish! — is magnificent. It is drying and spicy and warms all the way to the chest. A salty burn rises up the nasal passage and fades to a sweet aftertaste. A wonderful and unexpected gift, a wonderful and unexpected single malt.
Bowmore 12 Year
Peated Single Malt — Islay, ScotlandTastedSomehow I’d never tried anything from Bowmore after all these years of drinking whisky. It’s actually the only Islay whisky I’d never tasted. (Gartbreck and Ardnahoe notwithstanding of course.) I smell honeycrisp apples, smoked ham, some sort of pastry aroma, and spices like allspice and turmeric. The palate brings notes of toffee, peat moss, pinewood smoke, and pork belly. And I kid you not, that pastry note from the nose hits me as a freakin’ wildberry pop-tart. It’s subtle but I’m glad it’s there. (Okay boomer, it’s this amazing pop-tart that has purple frosting with teal blue stripes. A millennial mainstay.) The mouthfeel is smooth and juicy at the front and feels more tannic and astringent rear palate. Swallowing, this malt loses its sweet and fruit-based notes, emphasizing a salty and smoky finish of short to medium length. It tends to stay at the hard palate and gently lighten one’s senses. A reliable, everyday Islay.
Mezcal Vago Espadin
Mezcal Joven — Oaxaca, MexicoTastedPimienta blanca, maduros, chicle FruitStripe (lo de los 90 que lleva la cebra en el paquete), e increíblemente vívido.
Kilkerran 12 Year
Peated Single Malt — Campbeltown, ScotlandTastedSo long anticipated. The whisky’s color is of antique gold, so exquisite that pouring it out of the bottle seems injurious. The aroma is sweet and creamy. Estery notes of honeydew, pear, and sun-ripened wild strawberries dance upward. The peat is discernible as thyme and red raspberry leaf. Beeswax candle reaches the back of the nose. Half an hour passes and I finally take a sip. On the palate this whisky is a wonder. Its oaken foundation is resinous and spice-driven, with clove and nutmeg coming to mind. Delicate notes of tropical fruit are found at the front—more honeydew, papaya, kumquat. Other notes come and go before a salty wave resets the senses: balsamic reduction, more thyme, spiced pear, and the gooey cinnamon at the center of a cinnamon roll? The finish is as complex as everything that has come before, intoxicating the throat and reaching back up to the tip of the tongue. Delightfully spicy and kippery, it is a finish that begs another start. But the glass is empty before I’ve appreciated all the layers this whisky contains. It is the most nuanced and complicated potion of a single malt I’ve ever tasted. With only a few pours left in the bottle, I will be just as mystified by the last as I was by the first.
Longrow red 12 fresh Pinot noir casks
Peated Single Malt — Campbeltown, ScotlandTastedMy share of this bottle is in a decanter that last held Hazelburn 12. Its color is to die for. The initial nosing reveals black cherry, blood orange, and grape must. Underlying these rich fruit flavors the aromas are reminiscent of an old forest. Peat explodes across the palate, adding to the aroma a medicinal quality. It’s rich and sweet, and very peaty. Sweet pepper jam and honey and raspberries also come to mind. The peat and the wine, rather than being melded together, play independent and strong roles. The pinot noir influence is ultimately the louder of the two. The boreal finish is astringent with wine tannins and barrel spice, giving way to the rich fruit notes from the nose and palate. This one is for enjoying on a chilly night in front of a bonfire. Maybe the only whisky out of Springbank Distillery that I haven’t loved – but I do like it very much.
Highland Park Dark Origins
Peated Single Malt — Orkney, ScotlandTastedThis NAS Highland Park dram is excellent. It boasts that it is the kin of the Highland Park 18, as it should. The nose is rich and promising, and the honeycomb note I associate with Highland Park is present here. On the palate this whisky is initially salty. A quenching minerality accompanies luxe notes of black plum and cardamom. The peat and sherry partner stunningly in Dark Origins. The waxy Highland Park trademark is limited to the nose this time, as the mouthfeel is actually somewhat oily. I enjoy a malty and spicy finish and a decadently oaken aftertaste. A truly excellent whisky.