Ninety percent I'll spend on good times & women & whisky. The other ten percent I'll probably just waste. - Tug McGraw


  1. Mackmyra Svensk Rök

    Single Malt — Sweden

    2.0 out of 5 stars
    Svensk Rok translates to “Swedish smoke”, so Mackmyra distillery isn’t trying to be creative with the name of this single malt- at all. This is a peated whisky and they experimented by adding juniper to the end of the smoking process in an effort to add serious spice and florals to the already smoky malt. It’s natural color and non-chill filtered, while bottled at 46.1% ABV and a 500ml bottle cost me $28. Not a bad price, even though it’s a small bottle. It’s pale yellow and makes medium, oily legs and drops while still appearing watery overall. The nose starts out quite medicinal on the smoky aspect. There’s a light, Laphroaig-y band aid note that needs to dissipate before you can pick up other subtle nuances like vanilla, Juniper flower, honey and a very faint brine scent. The palate was surprisingly heavy on the charcoal and cigarettes. The peat stayed strictly mineral and dry. Any florals and sweetness were over washed by the cigarette note, which really made this one a tough for me as I despise that smell. The mouthfeel was rough and abrasive, as well, so the whisky must be quite young. The finish came across as wet cigarettes that linger on and on (which I did not let last very long- I had to chase it with water after 15-20 seconds). Medicinal notes and minerals left everything dry and I couldn’t wait to chase this with another sweet, sherried malt. Overall, this did not suit my palate one bit. I’ve tasted tobacco on many malts before- and while I wouldn’t describe that as an overly enjoyable flavor IMHO, I have learned to appreciate what it adds to most richer tasting whiskies. This cigarette note, however, is an entirely different matter. I just do not like it. Thankfully, this was a small bottle and after I poured a long term sample (that I’ll never knowingly drink lol) and a few more for possible trades- there wasn’t much left so I dispatched the rest of the bottle very quickly. I know I won’t replace this one, but I’d still like to try a few more things from Mackmyra- but I think I’ll stick to unpeated malts going forward. This one gets 1.5-2 stars from me. Cheers.
    28.0 USD per Bottle
  2. Glenmorangie Tayne

    Single Malt — Highlands, Scotland

    3.0 out of 5 stars
    The final sample I needed from the Glenmorangie travel retail Legends Collection: The Tayne. This bottle pays homage to Spanish sailing ships that transported their wares from the Spanish coast up to Scotland and the U.K. Thanks to my NJ connection, @Richard-ModernDrinking I get to finish this lackluster trilogy off without having to spend another $85-100 to do so. This bottle contains non-age specific juice that was finished in Spanish Amontillado sherry casks. It’s chill filtered, has added color and was bottled at 43% ABV. It’s rich gold in color and makes thin legs without leaving very many drops behind. The nose is ripe raspberries, oranges and dried orchard fruit. There’s a heavy, dry roasted peanut note along with the faintest of oak. The palate starts with more berries and oranges but transitions quickly to cinnamon and paprika spices before a nice, bitter chocolate note rounds things out. It definitely seems much stronger than 43%, but it has to be youthful spirit giving that impression. The finish is long and warm, spicy with a lingering oily sherry note. This is hands down the best aspect of the dram- it just hangs there until you wash it away. Overall, I’m not sure which of the Legends bottles I liked the most. This one lacked any serious complexity, but it was quite palatable- like most Glenmorangie. It seems as though they are never exciting drams- with the exception to the inaugural, Signet bottle. It’s a shame you have to pay $160+ to get to that level with a Glenmorangie, though. This one is a decent, if unremarkable, whisky. 3 stars. Thanks again, Richard. Cheers.
  3. Red Spot 15 Year Single Pot Still

    Single Pot Still — Ireland

    4.25 out of 5 stars
    Rebirth of a legendary whisky from the 1960’s: Red Spot 15yo Irish whiskey. This bottle has reappeared in 2018, after Mitchell & Sons passed the old recipe down to Midleton distillery. The Green Spot and Yellow Spot bottles have also reappeared, with a release of Blue Spot due on the horizon. This release is a blend of whiskey that was matured for 15 years in a combination of ex-bourbon, Oloroso sherry and Marsala wine casks. It’s bottled at 46% and runs about $115. It’s amber and warm copper in color (natural) and has oily, thin legs and watery drops. The nose begins slightly nutty and roasted with a hefty waft of cinnamon breakfast cereal creeping in immediately after the pour. After some time, toffee and light oak mingle with apple skins and beeswax. There’s no real hint of heat, even at a robust 46% ABV. The palate sings of all spice, cinnamon and spicy barrel notes. Hints of smoked, ginger marinated beef jerky provide the crux of the flavors on the tongue, with some vanilla and light citrus cooling things off on the back end. It’s moderately rich with a mouth coat that seems thin at times, while oily at others. The finish is long and steadily warming, with cinnamon and caramel leading the charge. Lingering cereal notes keep the flavors balanced, although maybe a little boring, at the very end. It ultimately entices you to go back in for another sip- which is usually a sign of a wonderful whiskey...and this one certainly is. Overall, this is a fine product. The recipe has been recreated wonderfully and it makes me want to taste an old pour of the Red Spot from the 60’s. Good luck finding that, I know, but damn I really want to. Thanks to my buddy, @Scott_E from Long Island, for this generous pour. I went out and bought a bottle several months ago and I think it’s going to be a losing battle if I try not to open the entire Spot range of bottles. This stuff is fantastic. 4.25 stars, although I’d love to see this bottle drop a little in price (again, good luck I know) as I’ve noticed Irish whiskey is finally getting caught up in the whiskey craze and driving prices northward. This seems like a no brainer at $80-85, but I had to pay $117 for my bottle and that’s quite expensive for a 15yo bottle of whiskey. But, I still highly recommend finding a pour, at least, and experiencing this one for yourself. You won’t be disappointed. Cheers.
    117.0 USD per Bottle
  4. Lagavulin 9 Year (Game of Thrones-House Lannister)

    Peated Single Malt — Islay, Scotland

    3.5 out of 5 stars
    I think I’m overdue to review another Game of Thrones themed scotch whisky. This is the one I think I was most excited for when the distillery list was officially released: Lagavulin. Now, to be honest, I’m not a diehard Laga fan like, say, Parks & Rec actor Nick Offerman. They have a staple whisky with their 16yo offering and I also enjoyed the 8yo that they released for their 200th anniversary (which quickly became a core range release). Owner, Diageo, also releases a cask strength, 12yo as part of their annual, limited releases and I’d have to say that is my favorite Lagavulin. So, the Game of Thrones release is a 9yo whisky that’s bottled at 46%. I’m sure there’s added color (to make it exactly the same as the rest of the GoT bottles). I do believe it is still non-chill filtered, however. It’s bronze in color and still looks very watery in the Glencairn. It produces a few large drops after a spin, but they tend to stick to the glass. The nose is a meaty, charcoal smoke at first. Some light mint and citrus peel fold around the smoke before turning sweeter than I expected. Fresh cut oak provides a strong backbone here, though. The palate strikes me as overly sweet on the initial sip. I get cotton candy and vanilla creams crowding the smoked beef and lightly abrasive oak and young juice. It seems like the sweet side is fighting with the smoky side- and neither can gain control or a strong foothold. The later batches of the 16yo seemed to have this same issue, albeit the whisky was much more smooth due to the extra maturation time. The finish is long and slightly harsh. There’s a dry smoke on the back of the tongue and lingering vanilla. Overall, I’m not sure I’m a big fan of this whisky. It’s a quality release from Lagavulin, but I tend to like the higher proof or the straight smoky aspect from this distillery. The sherry cask parts seem to overpower the peat in this malt. So, my score isn’t me indicating that this is a subpar malt, it’s just my opinion towards a flavor profile that I don’t prefer from Lagavulin. Give me the 8yo and 12yo CS every time and I’ll be a happy man. This is just a 3.5 star dram for me. I fully understand that your mileage may vary. Cheers.
    52.0 USD per Bottle
  5. Highland Park 21 Year

    Peated Single Malt — Islands, Scotland

    4.0 out of 5 stars
    So, this will be a dual review since I opened a bottle of this for my Fresh Takes video over on @Generously_Paul’s YouTube channel, Dapper Drams. The reason this will be a dual review is because Highland Park released two different versions of this whisky: the original 47.5% version and a reduced ABV 40% version when their 21yo stocks dwindled in 2010 & 2011. I opened the 40% bottle for the video, but I also had an open bottle of the 47.5% from a few months back. First, a little history about the releases: it was originally launched for travel retail in 2007, and in 2009 it won Best Single Malt Whisky at the World Whisky Awards. Well, naturally, demand skyrocketed and left HP scrambling to meet the demand- so they did the logical thing: the blended casks down to 40% to stretch the whisky and help meet the surge in demand. They returned it to original strength in 2012, and made it a core range release for the UK market, before discontinuing it completely in 2016- as they began to roll out the Viking re-theme and flood the market with more and more NAS whisky. Tisk-tisk. Onto the reviews: HP 21 47.5% ——————— Appearance: deep gold with oily, thin legs and heavy drops. I believe this does have some added color, but I’m almost certain it’s non-chill filtered because of the higher ABV. Nose: leathery, restrained smoke and tropical fruits, butterscotch and toffee and some lively citrus make it pop more on the tongue (the ABV helps here as well) Palate: medium smokiness with juicy, sherry cask notes, heavy tropical and orchard fruits. The oak is more noticeable in the original version than the 40%. The higher proof adds a definite boost in the heat factor, but I still wouldn’t add water. The mouth feel is consistent and luscious, not thick, but it still clings to everything it touches. Finish: medium-length with a lingering sweetness and pepper bite. The smoke is much richer here and really hangs around. Overall: this is a drinker’s whisky. The smoke is everywhere except on the nose. It’s deep and rich with a nice hit of power for a two decade old malt. 4.25 stars. HP 21 40% ——————- Appearance: it’s dark gold (evidence of added color, I think). Watery with fat legs and tons of medium-sized drops chase the legs down into the bottom of the glass. Nose: the smoke is really muted here, obviously so is the heat- it’s borderline weak. Orchard fruits on the nose, whereas the 47.5% version was almost completely tropical. Caramel and toffee make this seem more like a dessert than a whisky. Palate: sherry and more sherry appear from the jump, there’s a rich, chocolate smoke that permeates the entire sip (which is a plus over the higher proof stuff), this one is smoother and creamier, too. There’s zero heat and nothing lingering after you consume the liquid. Finish: short, almost non-existent. Which is where this dram suffers. A quick flash of sherry and smoke and then it’s gone. There’s no heat, no cask notes and nothing left behind. It’s a bit sad IMO. Overall: the palate delivers more complexity over the higher ABV, but the finish is ruined by all the added water to blend it down in strength. It’s not a bad whisky- in fact, it’s also quite good. 3.75-4 stars. Final thoughts: both of these whiskies are a beautiful example of well-aged, Highland Park. They both lack the uber complexity of the 18 year old and the sophistication of the 25, but they still showcase HP’s excellent malt and sherry cask maturation. I had to pay over $250 for both bottles at auction over the last year or so, so don’t expect a deal on either bottle- they’ve long disappeared from shelves and command a hefty price tag. If you’d like to acquire a bottle, I’d say watch the Scottish auction houses and bid on them when there’s an auction with multiple bottles up for grabs. I have seen a few go for $180-200 when there’s a lull in the bidding wars. Pay close attention to the ABV indication and go harder for the 47.5% version. That way you can blend it down if need be. That said, please check out my video uncorking and mini-review on YouTube: Dapper Drams. Maybe tell a friend and like or subscribe. Cheers and thanks for reading this long-winded, dual review.
    250.0 USD per Bottle
  6. Cardhu Gold Reserve (Game of Thrones-House Targaryen)

    Single Malt — Speyside, Scotland

    3.5 out of 5 stars
    Duh duh da-da-duh duh. Ah, Game of Thrones. Television that captured the attention of the world for 7.5 seasons, then it became a show that infuriated most fans in its final 3+ hours. Well, whisky conglomerate Diageo had to get their hands in on some of the piles of money this show has raked from every corner of the globe. But how? Whisky releases that are themed to each House/Major Family on the show, and Castle Black/The Wall. That should fetch a hefty haul, shouldn’t it? The good news is that they used 8 solid, scotch distilleries to supply thirsty fans, some of which supplied a new, special whisky just for the Game of Thrones line. The bad news- some of the bottles contained the exact same whisky already released by said distillery- as is the case with this Cardhu. Gold Reserve is already a U.K. market release. They just slapped a Targaryen-themed label on it and re-issued it, although this time it went worldwide. It’s still 40% ABV, chill filtered and has so much added color it looks just like every other Game of Thrones bottle. It’s a crystal bronze in color and appears very watery in the Glencairn. Lots of watery, runny drops form and race back down the ring after a healthy spin. The nose started out heavily on the apples and pears, an artificial fruity note that I found similar to freshly unwrapped, salt water taffy wafted up for the first few minutes, then mysteriously disappeared and left behind standard vanilla and lightly toasted oak and candied malt. Some tropical notes emerged as I went in for the first sip and it reminded me of the song “Rastafarian Targaryen”. (If you haven’t heard this please go to YouTube and watch the Game of Thrones Red Nose Day special from the band Coldplay. It’s quite entertaining and amusing and takes you back to a time before the botched show’s ending). The palate was ushered in by the aforementioned tropical flavors and they are quite enjoyable. More orchard fruits splash across the tongue, typical Speyside sherry cask notes arrive at mid sip, and despite the rather thin mouth coat- this is an enjoyable dram. There’s absolutely no heat involved with this whisky- it’s almost like you’re drinking fruit juice. The finish is short and borderline overly sweet, but as you’ve already come this far, you knew how it was probably going to finish. It’s not bad, mind you- just sweet. As I pondered the whisky for a few moments after finishing the pour, I immediately thought of a great way to describe this whisky: it’s the leftover syrup from a Dole Fruit Cup...with alcohol in it. That stuff is a waxy and thin, fruity and sweet, and quite delicious! I have a couple bottles of this- as I built a few complete sets in case the collectibility went through the roof. (It did initially, but Diageo got wise and flooded the market with more, and drove the demand back down). Thanks to a sample pour from my buddy, @Generously_Paul from Michigan, I’m able to keep my sets intact. Thanks again, bro. I actually picked my bottles up for $32 each and after a quick search I found that the regular Gold Reserve runs about $42-45 online. So, I got a great deal. It gets 3-3.25 stars for flavor and I’ll bump it a bit for the $10 discount I got from Virginia ABC. Cheers, my friends. Now, Cue the music: Game of what now? I'm a rastafarian, Targaryen I got some dragons and they're Very scary and Been here and there and then I've Been everywhere again Rastafarian, Targa... Call me Daenerys Targaryen When you wanna reach me And if you feel the love Then you can call me Khaleesi Got so many names I'm Queen of the Andals Queen of the Meereen Yeah ! You can kiss m' sandals
    32.0 USD per Bottle
  7. Laphroaig Cairdeas 2012 Origin Edition

    Peated Single Malt — Islay, Scotland

    4.5 out of 5 stars
    As I work my way farther back with the Laphroaig Feis Ile Cairdeas releases, I find myself enjoying the history behind the bottles just as much as the whisky itself. This is the 2012 release, subtitled: Origin Edition. It’s named this based on the fact that they used a portion of the blend from the original Cairdeas blends that came before it: aged 13-21 years in ex-bourbon casks. There’s also quarter casked, 7 year old juice providing the majority of the blend. There were 3,000 bottles available the day of the festival and these days you must search the auction houses to find the few that remain. I’ve purchased 2 bottles over the last year or two, one I had to pay $300 to win and the other I snagged, while most bidders were preoccupied I guess, for $159. It’s bottled at 51.2% ABV and isn’t chill filtered or colored. It’s a light straw in the tasting glass and makes some lightning fast legs and thin drops on the rim after a spin. The nose is dominated by leather, bandaids and smoked bacon. There’s a hint of raisin-like sweetness and eucalyptus/aloe gel creating a crazy funk, mixed with earthy peat after an extended rest in the glass. It wasn’t overly smoky and everything seemed muted and well entangled. The youthful whisky didn’t overpower the older stuff, so maybe the exact blended amounts were closer to 50/50 than I would’ve guessed. The palate showcases typical-Laphroaig, meaty smoke and bandaid funk, with earthy minerals. The elevated ABV was also very well hidden- at no point does it seem hot. There was even a citrus and berry sweetness around mid sip- very unexpected. It really was mouth watering and refreshing. The finish was long, smoky and leathery. There was a lingering zest and I had to chase away the medicinal notes with some water after several minutes. It felt like I had wrapped a used bandaid around my tongue after 10-15 minutes. I really wanted that flavor gone at that point, lol. Overall, I love the fact that this bottle contained some pretty old Laphroaig. You gotta think that back before the current whisky craze, distilleries put older stuff out to market a whole lot more liberally just because they wanted things to be as good as could be and didn’t know that they could’ve sold this stuff for a huge mark up if they had just held onto it for another 5-6 years. That same 21yo whisky could’ve been released as a single malt in 2018 as a 27yo with an asking price of $650. And while this Cairdeas isn’t experimental, it is a fantastic representation of Laphroaig and signals their respect and love for fans of their whisky. This one rates a 4.25 rating, with a slight bump just because it has some two decade old juice in it. 4.5 stars. If you’re a Laphroaig fanboy, like me, do yourself a favor and save up and search for these old Feis Ile bottles. They’re really good and have a great story to tell. Cheers, my friends.
    230.0 USD per Bottle
  8. Caol Ila Natural Cask Strength

    Peated Single Malt — Islay, Scotland

    4.0 out of 5 stars
    As I venture into the 5-6th year of my scotch whisky drinking/collecting hobby, I find myself reaching for more examples of extreme scotch single malts and blends. It’s almost like I need everything dialed up to 11 before it really gets my blood flowing on most days: Cask strength Macallans, Ardbegs, Laphroiags, etc are the order of the day now. So, when I saw these NAS Natural Cask Strength Caol Ila bottles at auction, I quickly scanned my google spreadsheet to see if I’d had the peated version of the full strength Caol Ila’s. I know I’ve had several of the limited release, unpeated versions and they run the gamut from mediocre to very solid. But, Caol Ila is always about salty peat and citrus (much like a good Talisker). I needed to try these. So, I ended up spending $108/ea for a pair of Caol Ila Natural Cask Strength bottles from 2015. Yeah, I overpaid a bit, but I felt like I needed this in my arsenal. These particular batch releases came in at a robust, 59.3% and I won them in the spring over at Scotch Whisky Auctions (out of Glasgow). They are pale yellow in color (with no added color or chill filtration) and produce some translucent, fast-running, thick legs and leave behind lots of tiny drops behind on the rim of your cleanest Glencairn. The nose is a powerhouse blast of sea spray, pepper spice and alcohol ABV. At first I assumed they filled 2/3 of each bottle with whisky directly from the still and the rest with ocean water from right off the coast. This is the most maritime nose I think I’ve ever experienced in any dram. Mineral-infused peat floats around the bowl of the glass, disappearing and reappearing as if on a timer. Time doesn’t dilute it, either- it simply fills whatever venue you’re drinking at with notes of coastal Scotland. That added time, however, did make the palate more, uh..., palatable. I went in quickly after a pour only to feel like I swallowed straight seawater. It was like when you’re a kid at the beach and you ride your inflatable raft into a breaking wave and inadvertently take in a mouthful of sea foam and immediately begin to choke and dry heave. I literally had to catch my breath after that first sip. Overbearing salt and heat. Fast forward to 15-20 minutes of recovery...once the dram relaxes and “cools” a bit you are rewarded with a Clynelish-like waxiness and some light, citrus fruits and berries. It still felt insanely dry and hot, with salt and mineral, earthy peat lingering on the back of the tongue and recesses of your mouth. The finish remains hot, biting and dry. It’s more astringent than I hoped, but it did allow more of the peat to finally take center stage (it’s a late, third act in this dram- but it is here in all its glory). The only thing finally left behind is more salt. I actually felt parched after doing back to back, multiple pours from this bottle- it leaves you thirsty haha. I did need a healthy, Glendronach to finish off my session and the next morning I still had salty, Glendronach on my tongue. Overall, this isn’t my favorite Caol Ila, but damn it still put a smile on my face thinking back about it as I write this review. This would be my poster child for Scotch Whisky Turned Up To 11. I can see the fishermen on Islay drinking this straight from the bottle on their way back to port after a long day at sea. Something tells me this is their dram. 4 stars and a big, ole smile for this one. If you see this bottle collecting dust and think you’ve already had the saltiest, sea-worthy scotch you’ll ever try...well, prepare to be corrected. Cheers, my friends.
    108.0 USD per Bottle
  9. Nikka Days

    Blended Grain — Japan

    2.5 out of 5 stars
    This Japanese blend from Nikka contains whisky from both the Yoichi and Miyagikyo distilleries. It’s all NAS juice, but it is comprised of all Japanese malt and grain whisky. It’s limited to the European Union countries and not available here in the states. I added a bottle of this to an international order back in the spring of 2019. It’s bottled at 40% and I got it for $34. So, it was an easy throw-in bottle to a medium-sized order. It’s shimmering gold in the tasting glass with watery, fat legs and very heavy, watery droplets. The nose is mostly floral with vanilla pound cake and some slightly astringent and distant citrus notes. There’s no need to let it linger prior to going in for a taste- it doesn’t open up to any surprises or complexities. The palate is all cereals and light malts, with more floral and bready components. There’s some orchard fruits like pears and red delicious apples forming a mid sip backbone. The finish is short and somewhat sweet, vanilla and toffee candies that lead to the ultimate final dry florals. It’s so easy drinking it’s scary. Ultimately, I’m not sure what this could be used for except adding alcohol to a weak, fruity cocktail or tossing in some ice cubes and drinking it while mingling with friends at some backyard cookout or party. You can brag about drinking the “new hotness: Japanese whisky” without spending serious money on the heavy hitter bottles. There is that, I suppose. Overall, it’s a 2.5 star dram with a slight bump for the low price, but sadly it’s not available in North America. So, the bump gets retracted because it’s limited release for Europeans. If you can grab a bottle or a pour for less than $3-4 I’d say give it a go, otherwise, it’s easily forgettable. Cheers.
    34.0 USD per Bottle
  10. Ardbeg Auriverdes

    Peated Single Malt — Islay, Scotland

    3.75 out of 5 stars
    It’s time for a rare, 2014 Feis Ile festival sample from Ardbeg: Auriverdes. This release was designed to honor the 2014 Men’s FIFA World Cup in Brazil. The colors of the Brazilian flag are green and gold and that’s how this whisky is named. Auri (gold) and verdes (green) also tie-in to the golden color of the whisky and the iconic, green bottle. The only thing done to the whisky itself is that the end caps of the casks were toasted to impart a more charred flavor into the NAS whisky. It’s bottled at 49.9% ABV and is NCF with no added colorant. It’s a deep, golden yellow in the glass with thin, undefined legs and tiny droplets. The nose is primarily smoked brisket, oak spirals and fire pit smoke. The secondary flavors are slightly minty, eucalyptus leaves and some lemon zest that’s traditionally associated with Ardbeg. They aren’t reinventing the wheel with this release at all. The palate is both campfire smoke and earthy peat and there’s a faint sherry sweetness and vanilla note arriving at mid sip. The youthful spirit powers the backend, while being oily and warming. The mouthfeel is on the lighter side and turns dry towards the finish. Speaking of finish, it’s medium length with a very light sweetness and smoke. Earthy minerals linger and turn the final bits a tad bitter and harsh. It doesn’t turn the experience bad, but it also doesn’t help matters either. As a festival release, I was slightly disappointed. There no real experimentation going on here. Bottles have all but disappeared from store shelves and you’ll have to head to an auction site to find one now. Prices have remained steady with this one- $80-100 a bottle should win you one, but I’m not sure it’s worth that price, honestly. Stick with the 10yo or the An Oa for $20-30 less. Thanks to my buddy @Telex, from Maryland, for this sample pour. I have a couple bottles of this, as I’ve put together a few Ardbeg Feis Ile sets, but I see no reason to open them. They are moderately collectible, so that’s how I’ll keep them. 3.5-3.75 stars. Cheers.
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