The Glenrothes Robur Reserve
Single Malt — Speyside, ScotlandTastedI picked up this bottle back in September 2016 coming back to the US from Canada. It was around $60 for 1L, and came highly recommended by an elderly employee with a Scottish accent. I should’ve known better! Affordable (and most unaffordable) travel retail exclusives are disappointing, as a rule of thumb, and recommendations by people with Scottish accents do not override this. At least my wife liked it. We finished the bottle because she drank most of it. She’s a Macallan fan, and actually preferred the Robur cask to Macallan 12. I definitely prefer Macallan, but wouldn’t call myself a fan of Macallan. WHAT THE HELL IS A ROBUR? It’s Latin for Oloroso sherry, apparently. Forced exoticism, another clue for a disappointing dram. This is NAS and 40% ABV. Another clue. NOSE: Underdeveloped Oloroso. Dark berries, but not too sweet. Cedar. Maybe a little vanilla. Something’s a little off, like sourdough. Not a fan. PALATE: Sourdough pastry is actually more pleasant in the mouth than on the nose. Nutmeg wallop. Dry prune juice. Watery mouthfeel. FINISH: Short and unremarkable. Same flavors from the palate, dissipating quickly. Maybe vanilla and toffee giving a late introduction. VERDICT: The sourdough aspect was the most interesting for me. Aside from that, this is a watered down generic Speyside that I would skip next time. 74/100.
Lagavulin Distillers Edition
Peated Single Malt — Islay, ScotlandTastedWho wants Lagavulin 16 flavored with PX sherry? Oh, did I say flavored? I meant finished. When you take a younger whisky like Laphroaig’s NAS, and you finish it in PX sherry, you add sophistication. When you take something that’s already been aged 15 years, is on its way to becoming a canonized whisky, and you finish it in PX sherry, you are doing subtraction. I have a 2015 bottle that I’m struggling to finish, favoring heavily the original Lagavulin 16. With it being almost a year opened, this bottle evolved from being a PX dominated profile to a castrated Lagavulin 16 with only hints of sherry. NOSE: From a fresh bottle, PX sherry and oak are definitely present, but enveloped by smoke. The smoke is definitely lighter and fruitier than the standard LV 16. With time, the PX influence disappears. I can’t smell the sherry anymore in my bottle. PALATE: Salty raisins and plums. It’s heavy PX sherry flavors. The smoke emerges from the sweet arrival to add some dryness. The smoke is shy, while the PX is what’s bold. This reverses with time for an opened bottle. My wife, who cannot stand peat stronger than a Talisker 10, and absolutely hates the standard Ardbeg/Laphroaig/Lagavulin, actually gets upset if I pour myself the DE without pouring her some – that’s how I know they castrated this Lagavulin. FINISH: Raisins and plums return. It is delicious at first, but PX for me is one of those things that start out welcoming, but then outlasts its welcome, and then it’s like, get the fuck out of my mouth you raisins. With the long-opened bottle, the raisin flavors aren’t nearly as strong, and all I get is a dilute sweet smoke, which just makes me miss the original Lagavulin 16. Don’t get me wrong, this is a good whisky that deserves a respectable rating, but it is PX contaminating the legendary Lagavulin 16. 85/100.
Patrón Silver Tequila
Tequila Blanco — Los Altos, Jalisco, MexicoTastedMy go to shot. This does not belong outside a shot glass. No point in notes. This is unabashedly shottable, which is the cousin of “sippable.” For anyone who rates highly a whisky as sippable, just know it’s just a euphemism for shottable, and you may as well go all the way. This is agave, and it’s smooth when I slam 1.5 ounces down all at once. By the way, pairs well with Karaoke. Spanish songs only. And I don’t know how to speak Spanish. 45/100.
Crown Royal Maple
Canadian — Manitoba, CanadaTasted$4 pour from the bottle into a tumbler. Up. There is nothing more Canadian than Crown Royal flavored with maple syrup! Except maybe hockey. I think the next Crown Royal should be aged in staves constructed by laminating hockey-stick-grade plywood and flavored with hockey puck shavings. It might taste better than this. What they did here was take stock substandard even for the standard Crown Royal, and add cheap maple syrup to it. I couldn’t smell it much, thankfully – bartender poured it into a tumbler. It tastes like maple syrup and butterscotch. Acetone cheap grain alcohol. Subtle hints of whiskey. Very fleeting. The finish is missing some insulin. This is undrinkable; but I drank it, because I love my country. Wayne Gretzky pours this over his waffles. 0/100.
Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye
Canadian — Manitoba, CanadaTastedIn celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, I decided to open up a bottle of Jim Murray’s “whisky of the year 2016.” I picked this one up on sale for $28. As a Canadian who grew up in Toronto, I know how bad Canadian whiskey is, and of course I’m intrigued by a Canadian product that has made such a large splash. While Jim Murray is probably the world’s best known whisk(e)y critic, he drinks over 1,000 whiskies per year. That makes him an alcoholic – and alcoholics are not to be trusted. NOSE: Big oakiness and spice. The typical inoffensive vanilla and toffee characteristic of Crown Royal is hiding like Bruce Banner here. The rye strikes a sharp second note. Quickly, this gives the impression that this not the pacifist Canada; this is Canada circa WWI; this is FLQ circa 1970 Canada. PALATE: So odd, a Crown Royal with bite. Typical apples and pears fruitiness quickly gets taken over by oak and spiciness from cinnamon, spearmint, and cayenne. There is a familiar vanilla sweetness definitely present, but dominated by the spiciness and bitterness of a 90% rye mash bill. The mouthfeel is moderate, initially tasting like a low ABV whiskey, but as you swallow, this burns like it was 50+ ABV. FINISH: There is a finish! That’s a big accomplishment for crown. The burn gives way to apples, pears, and toffee. There is a grassy freshness and something a little funky. Dare I say, cannabis oil? The aftertaste lasts 3-5 minutes. VERDICT: Not the best bottle of whiskey I bought in 2016 (that goes to Laphroaig 10 Cask Strength). Not the best Canadian whiskey I tried in 2016 (that goes to Glen Breton 17 Ice wine cask finish). Not the best rye whiskey I tried in 2016 (that goes to Whisky Pig The Boss Hog Edition 3). But this is the best bottle of Crown Royal in the world. Cheers Jim Murray Eh! Happy Canada Day. 82/100
Peated Single Malt — Islay, ScotlandTastedBottle: I bought my latest on sale for $69 a few weeks ago. This is 57.1% ABV, no color, no chill filtering. Be careful with this dram! This is “fuck your tastebuds” in a bottle. Corryvreckan is the most intense whisky I’ve tried so far, and I’ve tried 4 different Octomores. It’s like they decided to turn up the peat of Ardbeg 10, and try to balance that by making it as sweet and spicy as possible. Nose: Salt and peat. Campfire and honey-coated smoked ham. Palate: So sweet and so smoky! The two profiles battle, and there is no clear winner. This is not the smooth, rich, sophisticated feel of Octomore. Corryvreckan is violent in your mouth. The sweet notes are honey, caramel, and cantaloupe. The smoke is dense ash, like licking a cigarette ashtray. This is salty, spicy, and fishy as well - kippers, as one who has tried kippers, might say. Tart fruits are present - like a gastrique. Ardbeg 10 is in there somewhere, but it is struggling in the vortex of flavors. There is definitely ingredients younger than the 10 in the NAS. The mouthfeel is not oily like the 10, despite being packed with flavors. The aftertaste is far less pleasant than Ardbeg 10 or Uigeadail. The smoke is harsher – cigarettes rather than cigars, and a coppery sweetness sticks to the back of the mouth. Water improves this dram by calming its rough edges. This can take quite a bit of water and will still have a youthful alcohol kick. But diluting down to less than 50%, and you will start to lose some of the flavors. Definitely a flawed dram, but I like to keep a bottle around for when I feel like to get beat up by a whisky. 88/100.
The Glenlivet 1968 37 Year (Duncan Taylor Lonach)
Single Malt — Speyside, ScotlandTastedThis was the highlight of my best tasting experience so far. 11/7/16, my wife's birthday, we went to Charleston in Baltimore, MD - best fine dining restaurant in Baltimore, and probably in the entire state of Maryland. After enjoying a great dinner, we decided to splurge on some expensive pours: highland park 25, followed by Duncan Taylor Lonach (43.1% ABV, distilled at Glenlivet in 1968, bottled in 2005), followed by Tesseron lot 53 (cognac). All of these were $50+ for 1.5 oz. The wife liked the HP 25, but I was most impressed by the Lonach. Because there was just a little left in the bottle afterwards, and it was a birthday, we got to keep the bottle. So, I do have a bottle of 37 year old whisky in my collection, but alas, it is empty. I don't have notes (can't be taking notes on my wife's birthday), but I have memories of garden flowers on the nose. Of course, it was so smooth - I remember giggling at the mouthfeel, because it didn't even feel like a liquid; it was like eating vapors. Despite the age, there was almost no oak. There were big floral notes, fresh apples, pears, peaches, apricot, and a soft cinnamon spiciness in the background. The finish was long and full of vanilla. Sadly, I probably will never get to try this again. Best whisky I've ever tried? Hmm... I'm not going to rate the dram, because the atmosphere, occasion, and inebriation probably was tipping the scales somewhat.
Highland Park 18 Year
Peated Single Malt — Islands, ScotlandTasted750mL bottle purchased on 11/16/16 for $140. 43% ABV, chill-filtered, no added color. I’ve enjoyed this one for 7 months, and will probably finish it finally this weekend, and will be looking for another bottle shortly thereafter. I wouldn’t give it a 99 like Distiller did, but I will say 99% of people who try this whisky will like it. It’s got top shelf smoothness, balance of all flavors, and a silky luxurious mouthfeel. I last tried this side-by-side with my $47 bottle of HP 12, initially claiming they might be about the same caliber. After one nose, I laughed. “Uh, nope.” The initial nose was similar, but HP 18 is just so much stronger and more confident. I get the sweetness dominating with toffee, caramel, cream, figs, vanilla, dark fruits. I’m used to Islay peat, so there’s not much smoke for me. Orcadian peat just complements the sweetness with an earthy, heathery, mushroom-y nose. The palate is a slow crescendo. Nothing explosive, but complex flavors slowly build. Everything is well-rounded, silky, and in balance. Oak, honey, and sherry balanced with the heathery spirit character. The finish is what really separates HP 18 from the 12. This one coats the mouth with an oily spice with just a touch of smoke that lasts for a good 10-15 minutes. I can best describe it as chorizo oil. None of the bitterness that comes with the 12 is present here. The flaws in HP 18 is that it is not very distinctive and suffers from not having enough ABV. Don’t try adding water to this. If this is a 99, than the HP 25 would have to be 100, right? I’m giving this one 91/100.
Talisker 10 Year
Peated Single Malt — Islands, ScotlandTastedBottle: 750 mL purchased on 3/15/17 for $60. 45.8% ABV. Chill filtered and artificially colored. Talisker 10 is my so-called “go to single malt.” I have consumed more Talisker 10 by far than any other single malt. This is the only spirit that I have had two bottles open simultaneously on my bar top. I am very familiar with this bottle and how it oxidizes, and my reasoning for opening a second bottle before the first one was finished, was that I wanted that fresh peppery kick in the mouth that you only get for maybe the first 3 or 4 pours. It is always good to go back to good old Talisker 10 when another whisky disappoints. For goodness sakes, I go to a new Talisker 10 bottle when an old Talisker 10 bottle disappoints. Nose: the sea, as the distillery advertises. You got lots of sodium, iodine, seaweed. There’s also something proteinaceous in there, like salted prawns or shellfish. The smoke is moderate, and behind the saltiness. Palate: So mouthwarming! Heat. Chilies. White pepper. Smoke; mostly campfire, subtle medicinal flavors. Sweet in the background. Bourbon and sherry influence are in perfect balance. Finish is dry, and you get some ashy peat with spice. There is the intrusion of coppery, metallic flavors in the taste, but this is a minor flaw. Talisker 10 is the dram I want after a hard day’s work, after running home in the rain, after noon on Wednesday. This is my 90/100 benchmark. Whiskies better than this (Springbank 10, Lagavulin 16, and Ardbeg Uigeadail from what I’ve reviewed) I dare not make my go to (because then I’d become an alcoholic). Whiskies worse than this are just not good enough to love. In this way, Talisker 10 is perfect. I think it’s time to pick up a few more bottles.
Johnnie Walker Blue Label
Peated Blend — ScotlandTastedBottle: 40% ABV, chill filtered, color added, 1L bottle purchased on 9/18/16 for $140, and I got a free Johnny Walker carry-on bag that broke after two uses. The only reason to buy this whisky is to give a non-whisky person a fancy gift. I am sure there are old whiskies and rare whiskies within a bottle of JW Blue, but you are paying a premium for a drink that is already drowned in the bottle. Nose: really anemic for a $100+ whisky. Subtle smoke and vegetal notes with lots of vanilla. Seaspray, as you explore, and subtle florals and fruitiness. Palate: the arrival is what JW banks on. There is a full, rich blend of flavors that is perfectly balanced. Sweet, smoke, fruit, spice, saltiness. Sadly, it drops off pretty quickly. As you hold the liquid in your mouth, some smoky and spicy notes barely captivate. I find most of the reward in playing "find the Talisker," but when I win, I only end up wanting a Talisker. The mouthfeel is that of a cheaper whisky. Many describe it as smooth and velvety, but that's because of the water added. The finish is the ultimate proof JW drowned this whisky to create more volume. Where is it? In the JW standard bottles, blue is the best if price were not a factor - there is actual complexity in the nose and palate, and there is no cheap grain filler notes that I get from the other JW's. But, if I am offered a free dram of JW Blue or a Talisker 10, I am taking the latter every time without hesitation. My current JW Blue is still 1/3 full after 9 months. It's not that I'm saving it for special occasions, I just don't want to have it. 81/100.