Laird of Fintry Single Malt Cask Strength
Single Malt — Vernon, British Columbia, CanadaTasted 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 — JapanTasted 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 — CanadaTasted 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 — JapanTasted 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, ScotlandTasted 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 — ScotlandTasted 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, CanadaTasted 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.
Jim Beam Pre-Prohibition Style Rye
Rye — Kentucky, USATasted April 10, 2020Jim Beam Rye makes a pleasant Old Fashioned, and is OK for sipping if you enjoy a hunky, spicy rye. The nose is warm if undistinguished. First taste recalls cinnamon toast, though not as sweet as that. There’s not much complexity or length here, just classic rye flavours.
Glen Marnoch Islay
Single Malt — Islay, ScotlandTasted February 21, 2020No one else has commented on this absurdly cheap Aldi whiskey, so I suppose it’s down to me. I tasted it straight after a couple of Taliskers, so the competition is stiff. Still, Aldi products have repeatedly won blind taste tests so it’s important to be open minded. The colour is pale straw, like an Ardbeg, but the aroma is like iodine daubed on burnt bicycle tires. Not so good. The first taste yields smoke and, er, that’s about it. No fruit, that I can detect, and not much Islay chewy meatiness. They say this stuff is actually Caol Ila or Lagavulin, but if so they’re scraping the bottom of the barrel with this expression. I would love to be shown that a 20 quid whiskey can be a giant killer, but this ain’t it.
Talisker 57º North
Peated Single Malt — Islands, ScotlandTasted February 21, 2020I’m tasting this back to back with the popular 10yo trying to understand the big difference in the rating, and I can’t work it out. The nose is far less antiseptic, and the flavour better balanced-for my palate-between sweet and peaty notes. Not that it goes easy on the iodine and bacon, mind, but the delightful caramel up front leads you into that dark tarn in far friendlier way. Perhaps it lacks some of the breezy saltiness of the 10yo, but makes up for it with a pleasing ethanol punch. Overall, a more approachable and satisfying malt, I’d say.