Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy
Single Pot Still — IrelandReviewed February 3, 2022I was a little disappointed with this when I first opened it-the wooden box and shapely bottle were so sumptuous I expected something spectacular from the first sip. Perhaps it needed to breathe a bit? Anyway, it’s come into its own now. It’s a lovely, leggy red-blonde (no tittering at the back there boys) with a sweet aroma of orange blossom and heather. The first sip smothers your tongue in a delightfully warm, fruity embrace, with more orange and honey and dried stone fruit flavours. The length is superb: integrated, concentrated and harmonious. Irish whiskey is sooo much better value than Scotch. This wasn’t cheap by any means, but it was about 1/4 the price of a comparable Scotch. Truly an exquisite dram.
Ardbeg Wee Beastie
Peated Single Malt — Islay, ScotlandReviewed December 21, 2021I’ve never been a big fan of Ardbeg. The astringency of the 10, for instance, is too little balanced by fruity notes for my taste. So I was surprised by this much cheaper expression from the same distillery. It has the usual pale straw colour and smoky nose, but the iodine notes are more reminiscent of a Talisker. It’s got great legs in the glass, though, which hints at a powerful dram. The first taste is also classic Ardbeg: scratchy lime, scorched turf, and peat smoke, but soon after a pleasing shock of salt sea air with a bit of bonfire ash floating about in it. Then something extraordinary happens: a lovely spreading cacao flavour that holds and holds. Suddenly I’m back at the bus stop in my teens, sucking on a chocolate lime, waiting for that burst of warm sweetness to soothe the acidic pucker. There’s a bit of toffee, too, and a faint ashy note I don’t love, but overall this is the balance I’ve always wanted from Ardbeg. It may be the entry level option, but for my money it’s one of the best.
Talisker Distillers Edition
Peated Single Malt — Islands, ScotlandReviewed April 21, 2021It’s hard to beat Talisker 10 and 57 North-these mildly briny, gently peated malts are the perfect balance for my palate. The 2020 Distillers, finished in sweet Sherry butts, just about does it though. The finish adds a rich honey-grapey front end to the delicious 10, yielding a luscious fruity-smoky syrup that’s a world away from the bolshy assertiveness of a Laphroaig or the astringent lime of an Ardbeg. Is it a little cloying? Maybe, but you’re not going to drink more than one shot at a time, are you???
Laird of Fintry Single Malt Cask Strength
Single Malt — Vernon, British Columbia, CanadaReviewed March 2, 2021Laird of Fintry is the flagship offering from the Okanagan distillery in Canada’s premier wine growing region. (That’s not a windup. Canadian wine is really a thing!) I’m writing this from my home in Kelowna, so this award-winning whisky is from the home team. It’s a luscious deep orange in colour, with a nose of dried apricots that recalls the other big crop of the region. It’s poky, at 56%, and quite viscous on the glass. The first taste, unwatered, is vivid, sweet, and fruity-a veritable avalanche of honey and stone fruit, with a lovely long almond finish-but perhaps a little cloying. A splash of water eases the sweetness down a notch, bringing out red licorice, marmalade and beeswax notes. This whisky recalls Glenmorangie’s Nectar D’Or, but even more dessert orientated. It’s completely different from most Canadian drams, which are spicy and rye-heavy, leaning more towards a sweet, high-corn American whisky like JD. If you enjoy a Gewürztraminer or an ice wine, you’ll love this-and I do!
Hakushu Distiller's Reserve
Peated Single Malt — JapanReviewed January 24, 2021The expert review is spot on, but doesn’t mention the strong malt forward character that strikes you first. Or second, after the urinous hue, perhaps. Green apples and pear drops is exactly right, with a faint peaty and green turf note on the finish. Quite pleasant, but not a real favourite for this drinker.
Canadian Club 100% Rye
Canadian — CanadaReviewed December 5, 2020It’s a little too orange in the bottle. Canadian whiskey is allowed colourings and flavourings that are barred elsewhere, so one cannot know where that alarming hue comes from exactly. The nose - honeysuckle with with whiffs of turpentine - is far more authentic and enticing. It sets you up for a pleasant first taste that’s sweet and spicy, with just enough crackly bite that you know it’s 100% rye. A hint of rose water balances out some hefty allspice notes. It’s not the most refined or complex Canadian rye, but it’s a great local alternative to Jim Beam’s Prohibition Rye, for example.
Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky
Single Grain — JapanReviewed November 29, 2020There’s a lot to like about this unusual Japanese whisky, from the neat, understated pink label to the rich honey colour and the enticing sweet aroma. It IS quite a bit like bourbon though, in a good way: the corn dominance means the flavour leads with warm Demerara and vanilla that’s strongly reminiscent of American drams. As it unfolds, on the other hand, surprising notes of stone fruit, ethanol (unexpected at 45%) and, yes, cinnamon take this whisky somewhere quite new. At nearly CAD100, it seems over-priced (as Japanese offerings often are) but it’s tasty and intriguing nonetheless.
Laphroaig 10 Year
Peated Single Malt — Islay, ScotlandReviewed November 27, 2020There’s something utterly disingenuous about the Laphroaig bottle, as if one were to approach a whitewashed Presbyterian kirk only to find a drug-fuelled rave going on inside. So it is with this innocuous hay-coloured drink. The nose does give fair warning, mind, with its bouquet of burning car tires. Unlike more retiring Islay malts, moreover, it doesn’t save its smoke for the afterburn-the peat smacks you in the gob from the first sip. It’s massive, chewy, savoury, like an alcoholic BLT. And all those off putting pharmacological comparisons-to Germolene antiseptic, iodine, etc-are true. It’s unique and powerful, but is it pleasant? Not exactly. My wife sits at the other end of the sofa when I drink it, and sometimes I feel like moving there too.
Johnnie Walker Green Label 15 Year
Peated Blended Malt — ScotlandReviewed November 27, 2020I must have some deep association with JW whiskies because the square bottles and jaunty tilted label just seem sophisticated to me. Then I taste them, and disappointment sets in. JW Green ought to be a winner-I love Talisker and some, at least, of the Islay malts. So let’s see... Smart bottle, check. Honey tone, check. Lightly phenolic maritime nose, OK, with something fruity like pear drops drifting through. The first taste is surprisingly sweet, almost syrupy, and it’s followed by a nice zesty orange flavour reminiscent of boiled sweets. Then the peat smoke wafts in, growing stronger into the finish. It’s certainly more phenolic than T10, which doesn’t recommend it to my palate, but rather nice at first blush. On subsequent tastes, though, that malt-forward quality barges in and takes over, detracting from the delightful peaty sweetness. Much better than any other JW I’ve tasted, but not my favourite peated scotch.
Gooderham & Worts Eleven Souls
Canadian — Ontario, CanadaReviewed June 7, 2020I’m a huge fan of Canadian whiskey, and this is one of the very best. Golden yellow, sweet on the nose, Eleven Souls promises rich, fruity delights - and delivers from the first sip. There are dark red fruits and rye spices, as you might expect, but the total effect is... banoffee pie! That’s right. Warm caramel and creamy banana are boosted to dizzy sublimity by a hefty 49% alcohol, and that lovely flavour just unreels and unreels. Awesome. Try it.