Ardbeg Supernova 2019
Peated Single Malt — Islay, ScotlandTastedIt’s snowing out. Not sure where we are, but it’s somewhere near the ocean because the air is crisp and clean with a hint of brine. Approaching a friendly campfire, we’re greeted with a wave of burning oak. It can almost be tasted in the snowflakes crashing down. Moving on toward a large barn the first hints of livestock arrive, but these are not your ordinary scents. No, they are far more exquisite….noble in fact. We have somehow stumbled on the king’s stable of thoroughbreds. Struck by the splendor of it all, their elegance fills the air and combine with the sweet savor of rare leather. Awakening…….wow, a dream so lifelike the taste of oily smoke still covers my tongue. Oak tannins tingle as they dry up the oils leaving lemon citrus and bourbon spiciness. Ardbeg heritage is unmistakable and wrapped in the conundrum of a never ending finest hour. 5 stars. #yfy (attribution @brent )180.0 USD per Bottle
Midleton Very Rare 2018
Blended — IrelandTastedReader Beware; whiskey review starts at paragraph two. The following is a golfing blueprint of southwestern Ireland for the benefit of my buddy and whisky guru, @LeeEvolved, who might someday make this trip. Where the odds of dying in a plane crash are 1 in 11 million, I can assure you they drop to 1 in 11 when driving the back roads of southern Ireland. Lee should keep these figures in mind when calculating his odds of venue survival. After spending 3 nights in Ennis and golfing 3 courses (Dromoland Castle, Lahinch, & Trump’s Doonbeg) we moved on to the lively village of Tralee, county town of County Kerry. From here we would cover another 5 links courses in 5 days (Ballybunnion’s Old Course & Cashen Course, Dooks GC, Dingle GC, and Tralee GC). The most impressive tracks from these groupings were the 2 courses of Ballybunnion with several others not far behind. The trip culminated with another move to the spirited town of Killarney. From this location we tackled the most picturesque leg of our journey with rounds at Waterville Golf Links on the Ring of Kerry and Old Head Golf Links of Kinsale. The course at Old Head was sculpted only 20 years ago on its cliffy headland that stretches 2 miles into the Atlantic, but it also hosts ruins dating back many centuries. A golfing nirvana, this was the highlight of the trip. Our tasting of Midleton Very Rare took place at the Pikeman Bar in Tralee‘s Grand Hotel. Unfortunately, this venerable setting wasn’t sufficient enough in raising the grade of this 2018 vintage. First released in 1984, this was the 35th iteration of a blend consisting of single pot still and single grain whiskies aged in ex-bourbon casks for 12 to 28 years. Each year the vintage can vary with 2019 an ex-bourbon aged from 13 to 34 years. Jim Murray has rated 32 of these releases with an average rating of only 84.6. Of this lot, he graded 8 in the lowly 70’s and only 6 in the lofty 90’s, with 95 being the highest grade. All of the offerings have been delivered at a consistent 40% ABV, and Murray’s meager reporting has done little to induce Midleton to up the ante. A pleasant and subtle nose brought hints of sweet vanilla, oak and spices, but lacked the ethanol punch capable of coining a description higher than “adequate.” Incredibly smooth on the palate, this was the whiskey’s signature attribute, but not uncommon amongst Irish blends and single pot stills. Drinkability is certainly a noble quality, but for 22 Euro a proper measure pour (35.5ml), we were expecting something more. On the palate, add pepper and citrus to the above formula and there you have it. An excellent whiskey; this one barely rings the bell at 4 stars.
Red Spot 15 Year Single Pot Still
Single Pot Still — IrelandTastedThe first stop on our recent golf trip to Ireland was Hotel Woodstock in Ennis. It was here at the Woodstock bar that I had my first taste of Mitchell & Son’s Red Spot, 15yo single pot still Irish whiskey. Established in 1805 as a confectionary and wine purveyor, they expanded into whiskey bonding in 1887 with distillate provided by Jameson’s historic Bow Street distillery in Dublin. The company is still managed by 6th and 7th generation Mitchell family members and their line of whiskies are now produced for their exclusive use by Irish Distillers at Midleton Distillery in Co. Cork. Irish Distillers was formed in 1966 by a merger of Cork Distilleries Company, John Jameson & Son, and John Power & Son, and was then acquired in 1988 by wine and spirits giant, Pernod Ricard. The new Midleton Distillery was built next to the old (now museum) in 1975 and currently produces whiskey brands Jameson, Powers, Paddy, Redbreast, Midleton Very Rare, Green Spot, Yellow Spot, Red Spot, and Tullamore Dew (William Grant & Sons). Red Spot went out of production over 50 years ago with the recipe resurrected more recently when 5yo bourbon aged whiskey was placed in Marsala casks acquired in Sicily in 2004, then later vatted with Oloroso sherry aged whiskey and released in November 2018. Just as Old Head Golf Links in Kinsale was the golfing gem of our trip, Red Spot was the whiskey tasting highlight, prompting an immediate purchase upon our return of this now hard-to-find treasure. Bottled reddish amber at 46% ABV, the nose is an incredibly robust mixture of cooked fruits, nuts, caramel, and baking spices all swirling in a lively whirlpool of ethanol. Striking the tongue oily and smooth, the addition water would be a travesty. This rich concoction validates the nose, adding a touch of sweetness that fades into a dry winey finish sprinkled lightly in black pepper. A warm, lengthy aftereffect seems to emanate from everywhere, making for a superb encounter from start to finish. Islay bias and pricing has me pressing slightly against the door at 4.5 stars. This may change after a few more sittings. :)
Midleton Dair Ghaelach Bluebell Forest
Single Pot Still — IrelandTastedWow, this whisky is special. It consists of single pot still spirits aged from 12 to 23 years in ex-bourbon casks then finished in virgin Irish oak (19 months) felled in the Bluebell forest of County Kilkenny at 130 years of age (Tree No. 4). The wood is dried and coopered in Jerez, Spain then sent back to Ireland for filling. It’s bottled at a cask strength ABV of 56.2% and comes at you headfirst like a fire breathing dragon. It’s rich amber in color suggesting sherry aging, and guess what? It also smells and tastes a bit like sherry aged whisky. I had to scour the literature to assure there were no sherry components mentioned. An exceedingly splendid nose is dominated by unique Irish oak swirling in a rich cloud of ethanol, and accompanied by sweet vanilla, nutty chocolate, and a measure of spice. Tasting is initially smooth and succulent, but if drank too quickly the virgin oak tannins will strip away whatever protective coating your taste buds can muster and introduce you to a good dose of astringency and alcoholic burn. Taking your time or adding water will tame the dragon and make for a most pleasant experience. The palate is very much like the nose adding stone fruits and peppery effervescence that fade into the finish. Here the signature oaken tannins proclaim their heritage, and leave you huddled in a warm, lengthy afterglow. The laser etched oak packaging features craftsmanship comparable to the Macallan Lalique series and makes for a handsome keepsake. This whisky checks all the boxes and I rate it at 5 stars. Please keep in mind, I may be slightly biased by a beautiful country, friendly people, and incredible golf courses we will soon be visiting. :)300.0 USD per Bottle
Ledaig 18 Year
Peated Single Malt — Islands, ScotlandTastedTasted from a Tobermory Wee Dram sample pack purchased on the helpful advice of @Richard-ModernDrinking. It’s a great way to explore the range with 5 samples aged from 10 to 19 years and matured in various cask types. Tobermory/Ledaig, Deanston, and Bunnahabhain are three Scottish distilleries that fall under the umbrella of Distell Group Ltd., a South African wine & spirits conglomerate with sales exceeding one billion (US). This particular offering has been polarizing here with ratings from 2 to 5 stars by the Distiller site regulars. Typically released in limited batches, I’ve only been able to track down one remaining bottle of their last batch (#3) in the Boston area. The company only advertises this product as a “Small Batch Spanish Sherry Wood Finish” spirit, but the bourbon/rye influence is very evident, and probably good indication of ex-bourbon barrel maturation. Take your pick of baking spices, but they team up nicely with sherry and leather to predominate the nose and quell any peat smoke rebellion that may be stirring. The nose is also muted in comparison to the Ledaig 10, despite both weighing in at a healthy 46.3% ABV. This is probably attributed to an Oloroso sherry cask finish that can sometimes flatten a nose as well as any prizefighter worth his salt. A viscous palate is greeted with a delightful combination of fruits and spices, and interweaved with enough smoke and sea spray to make for a respectable islander. I would probably rate the Ledaig 10 slightly higher, but I really enjoyed the uniqueness of this whisky and will give it a well-deserved 4.0 stars for overall quality.
Redbreast Family Collection
Single Pot Still — IrelandTastedThere’s something about the texture of a single pot still Irish whiskey that satiates the palate. Irish blends offer a similar feel in that they are all dangerously pleasant to drink neat. Maybe it has its basis in the inclusion of raw barley into the mash, or possibly the triple distillation, but I always seem to get myself in trouble whenever I partake of these forbidden fruits. It doesn’t help when you have a friend (claiming dubious Irish descent) that insists we coax down a casual beer with a glass of Jameson in the other hand. Our last get-together was followed by a mild silent treatment of a month or so from the wife. My favorite Irish whiskey experience; however, was a dram of Midleton Very Rare (peachy, 5 stars) enjoyed during a match of that fiendish game called Snooker. We played somewhere in Dublin years ago. British Army officers invented the sport, most believe, to drive the Irish crazy, and by all accounts, they’ve succeeded. For those unfamiliar, you take a regulation pool table and increase the size by 50%, then shrink the pockets by half. It requires a yoga pants type fit to sink a ball, and will produce a similar level of elation as the pants, when administered properly by the fairer sex. In any event, I purchased this 3-pack to get acquainted with single pot stills for our upcoming golf trip to Southern Ireland in September. The nose and palate on these whiskies were superb. For under $20, they were one hell of a buy to get exposure to this delightful category of whiskey. Check with Distiller’s experts for the flavor profiles, but I would rate all three with 4 stars.20.0 USD per Bottle
Compass Box Tobias & The Angel
Peated Blended Malt — ScotlandTastedAsked a couple of retailers to check with their distributors on this expensive limited edition. Happy to report #376 of 2,634 is mine. These will be hard to find and retailers in NY and CA are already gouging with a price of $800 a pop. I was very happy to get this for $425, so if you’re a CB fan, you need to be proactive to score one.
Bushmills Distillery Reserve 12 Year
Single Malt — IrelandTasted[Reader Beware! Lots of golf stuff.] Back in September of 2016, we had a magical golf trip to the north coast of Ireland. Betwixt and between, we took time to visit the Giant’s Causeway (geological wonder) and Old Bushmills Distillery for a tour and tasting of this “distillery only” single malt whiskey. For the benefit of golfers contemplating a trip to Great Britain or Ireland, this itinerary rates high on the list of “best golf destinations.” It’s impossible to describe the inherent beauty of these links courses all situated along the rugged and sandy north coast. We flew into Dublin and drove northwest to Letterkenny passing one picture-postcard farmhouse after another. The pristine landscape was spectacular and almost surreal in the perfect placement of things. We played 5 rounds in the Republic of Ireland starting at Narin & Portnoo, and moved clockwise to play two courses at Rosapenna (Old Tom Morris & Sandy Hills), and both at Ballyliffin (Old & Glashedy, 2018 Irish Open). We then traveled across the invisible border to Northern Ireland (UK) to play Portstewart (2017 Irish Open), Castlerock, two rounds at Royal Portrush (2019 British Open), and, lastly, Ardglass, as a consolation for not getting on the world’s top rated golf course of Royal County Down, next door and just south of Belfast. Had we stayed a 3rd week we could have played, but Ardglass mollified our disappointment with its picturesque, canon fortified clubhouse dating back to 1405 and majestic, ocean views layout. Diageo acquired Bushmills back in 2005, then traded it in 2014 to Jose Cuervo in exchange for the remaining share of Don Julio Tequila it did not already own. At the time of the tour, they quoted production output of 11 million liters; however, most of this coming from bottling services provided other distilleries, primarily Jameson. Bushmills’ own production has been static in recent years at roughly 4.5 million liters, but still significant. The bottling operation was the antithesis of Springbank’s where each bottle is labeled and inspected by hand. Here, production is fully mechanized and cases drop onto pallets six at a time. Our taste of the Distillery Reserve was memorable. Aged in both Oloroso Sherry and bourbon for 12 years, it is bottled at 40% ABV and sits in the glass looking medium amber and rich. The nose makes a great first impression and the palate was both dry and smooth with a near perfect blend of fruits, nuts and spices. The friendly ABV and soothing finish made it enjoyable by all. Would I make the long trek back to the distillery for another glass? Unequivocally.....yes! This year’s golf trip covers the southwest coast of Ireland my wife and I toured back in 2002. I’m really looking forward to it……as you can tell. :)
Dalmore Cigar Malt Reserve
Single Malt — Highlands, ScotlandTastedSpending time in Naples, FL and decided to spring for this since I found it for $20 less than up north. Priced at $160+ in the Boston area, couldn’t quite get myself to bite despite our weekly cigar gathering. Really enjoyed an earlier sample of Dalmore 18 (4.25 stars) provided by my buddy and whisky guru, @LeeEvolved , so I was hoping for a similar experience that didn’t quite materialize. The whisky does maintain it’s integrity during a light, but that’s “neither here nor there” as Shakespeare once wrote. You still need to like the pour. The nose is a little muted, but satisfactory. Certainly not what I would describe as elegant. The sherry, vanilla, and spices are obvious but not uplifting enough to produce a smile. The palate picks things up a bit with raisins, almonds, cinnamon, and sweet orange peel predominating, but then things flatten out again in the finish. The Oloroso provides an overly dry ending that’s a little flat and bitter. One might hope the Cabernet cask enhancer to provide a sweet pop to counterbalance, but such was not the case. A good pour but not rising to the 4 star level for me. 3.50 stars.
GlenDronach Tawny Port Finish 15 Year
Single Malt — Highland, ScotlandTastedGrowing up the only subject I hated worse than English was foreign language. Ten years of studying French in grade schools only to be left feeling betrayed after learning they were holding out on all the good stuff: Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and the French tickler. Entering the business world after college was equally shocking after realizing one’s income was predicated on shit luck and the ability to string words together. A melding of Shakespeare and Ecclesiastes says it best: “Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall; for time and chance happens to them all." So, now, here I sit happily retired after a career of loquacious drudgery still trying to please my customers. Today’s attempt at this is GlenDronach 15 Tawny Port. I've been on the lookout for this bottle ever since reading @LeeEvolved state he would pay a king’s ransom for the hard-to-find offering. Well, I’m here to report that said whisky is in my possession and awaiting shipment, pending his successful negotiation with my trading partner, Nancy Pelosi. I could wax (my car) poetically about this expression and its greatness, but would rather simply point to Lee’s 5-star review for all of the pertinent details. The nose and dry port finish on this one are spectacular and I would rate it at 4.75 stars.