Copper Dog Blended Malt
Blended Malt — Speyside, ScotlandTastedPleasant and assuming, but in a boring way. It's got some sweet fruit, sweet malt flavors, a little bit or herbal flavors but not much else going on. Not for me, but if you like the flavor, I could see how someone would like it as a daily drink. I'll stick with Glenmorangie or Compass box Great King Street which are in the general price range but are much more interesting to my palate.
Peated Single Malt — Islay, ScotlandTastedOverpowering vegetal peat on the nose. I feel like it just burns my nose - extremely overwhelming. Sharp phenol. It smells mossy, damp, with a turnip odor. A hint of sage. Rock salt and black pepper. It's extraordinarily pungent and the scent lingers. Perhaps a hint of cabbage. Smoked fish. Iodine and antiseptic. One does not "nose" this, one endures it, in an effort to learn its secrets. On the palate- dense herbal smoke, but it's dry smoke - sage. Peat, phenol. Very strong, but considerably milder than I was expecting from nosing it. Salt and crackling white peppercorns. An unexpected hint of caramel, with cracking fresh barley, crispy salted barley crackers, a hint of shortbread - a surprising hit of Stroopwaffels. I was not at all expecting the sweeter flavors, though they are most welcome and pleasant surprise. I get the vegetal raddish/turnip flavors in the finish. The finish is extremely long - dry smoke, rock salt, sea salt, barley malt. It takes over your whole mouth and lingers like a smokey cloud over the ocean. The smoke seems like dry wood smoke as it lingers in your mouth. I also get smoked fish emerging late. It's surprisingly drinkable, provided that you like peat, given the unrelenting nasal assault. I could drink this all day - fortunately, a little goes a long way. I have been looking forward to my next bottle of Octomore since I picked up my first one last year. This one does not dissapoint!
Highland Park Cask Strength Edition No. 1
Peated Single Malt — Islands, ScotlandTastedUncut - very strong nose - charcoal, sweet sherry, wisps of smoke, spicy herbal notes - heather and grass. The sherry has a citrusy, acidic funk that gives way to walnuts and raisins. I also get a little dark chocolate. The sherry is front and center on the palate- sweet, with an acidic bite. Earthy and nutty, but there is a dry almost fino like character as well. I get a little dry dark chocolate, and some smokey peat combined with coastal flavors- salt and white pepper, the smoke is dry and rolling and persists into the long finish. I get the honey and heather that I so closely associate with Highland Park, but it's not nearly as strong as the sherry flavors, which are turned up to 11 here. The sherry is creamy and there is a definite oakiness from the cask. I get chocolate and walnuts well into the finish. This is definitely Highland Park, and it works well at cask strength. It is very flavorful and robust. I'm not sure that it has quite the balance of the official distillery releases, but it does everything that I expect out of Highland Park, and it does all the things that make it one of my very favorite distilleries in the world. The intensity of the sherry is really quite enjoyable, but it somehow doesn't crowd out the more delicate flavors. The intensity of the flavors makes this a veritable storm in a glass- it tastes like an ancient wind-swept island. This is a perfect cold, windy day, drink in from of the fire kind of dram.
George T. Stagg Bourbon (Fall 2018)
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATastedChar, charcoal, very spicy nose, rye, marshmallow, candy corn, maybe some maraschino cherry and almonds. Nice spicy rye flavor that really wrestles with the corn. Very hot spicy pepper/cinnamon/alcohol burn. Very oaky, musty damp barrel wood. Tobacco and leather. Long finish with damp wood, tobacco, wet cotton, cinnamon burn, marzipan. Complex and well rounded, but definitely hot!
Glenmorangie A Tale of Cake
Single Malt — Highlands, ScotlandTastedThis is my first real drink after about a month long alcohol fast(due to a prolonged course of multiple antibiotics after an unexpected health emergency). By all means, this is certainly an interesting spirit to return to the whiskey world after what has been an unpleasantly interesting period of my life. First and foremost, this is Glenmorangie- it smells like Glenmorangie, it tastes like Glenmorangie - it's got the pleasant malt flavors, honey and grass, a little bit of citrus on the nose. It has a grassy and earthy nose, in some ways similar to a sherry, but not funky like sherry frequently gets. The taste is classic Glenmorangie, but it doesn't overwhelm the core spirit. It has more honey, more herbal flavors, grape, but it has a lemony/tart finish. I also found an earthy character similar to wet gravel. The finish is quite long for a Glenmorangie. When I started the glass, I didn't really get anything reminiscent of cake, but as I've gone along, those flavors are starting to pop out. It does remind me a bit of yellow cake with vanilla frosting, or maybe lemon pound cake. I've had many varieties of Glenmorangie, 10, 18, Signet, Sherry, Port, Sauternes, Milsean, and Cadboll. I'm enjoying this, but I'd put it in the middle. The Signet is sublime, but I think I'd stick with the cheaper Port or Sauternes or shell out a few more dollars to go for the 18. Still, it's a worthy entry into the catalog, particularly for one predisposed to enjoy Glenmorangie - something that I am guilty as charged. This weekend, I'm going to see if I can pair it with some pound cake, to see how it fairs. Dr. Bill might just be an insane genius - this might just be cake in a glass.
Ardbeg Wee Beastie
Peated Single Malt — Islay, ScotlandTastedPeat, smoke, and bourbon notes on the nose, but the smoke was not as strong as I expected. On the palate, there's not a ton going on with this whiskey, but it's only 5 years old, so that is to be expected, however everything that is going on is good. There is a pleasant lingering smokiness, but I don't find it as vegetal as other Ardbeg releases. I expected it to be smokier, but it's kind of an ashy, dry smoke - it's not as tarry as I've come to expect from ardbeg. I do get some salt, and black and white pepper in the smoke. The body is a little thin, but that's due to age. It's got a bit of fruity funkiness from the sherry casks but I also get the bourbon barrel influence. It's more refined and less "knock you off your feet with peat" than I was expecting in such a young whiskey. I also don't get the bacon/smoked fish flavors that are usually in Ardbeg. All in all, it's a pleasant and drinkable whiskey for smoke and peat lovers. It lacks the depth of flavor that you might find in an older whiskey, but it holds it's own. I'm not sure it will ever be a staple in my collection, but I'd buy it again. It hits the right smoke/peat notes and it's a fair bit cheaper than other Ardbeg releases, though it is by no means a cheap whiskey.
Speyburn companion cask
Single Malt — Speyside, ScotlandTastedPleasantly malty. I get a lot of malty shortbread flavor, some slight bourbon notes from the cask, and a hint of coconut. Perhaps a tiny bit of caramel. It's got a medium long finish full of cereal grain with the coconut hint. It's not a particularly complex whiskey, but the grain flavors are crisp, fresh, and very nicely balanced.
Johnnie Walker Blue Label
Peated Blend — ScotlandTastedSome nice barrel spice on the nose with a bit of smoke. Perhaps some malt and fruit. Quite pleasant, but nothing earth shattering. On the palate quite a lot of barrel spice, some vanilla, marzipan. Nice sherry notes. A bit of rounded out smoke. I get some salt and white pepper. It's quite oily, but I feel like the body is actually a bit thin, most likely due to the 40% ABV. If they bottled this at 46% or even 43%, I think it would be better. Moderately long finish with sherry, dark chocolate, barrel spice, marzipan. Also some malt. Very approachable and drinkable, reasonably complex, but nothing that really impresses me. If money is not an issue to you, and you just want a nice consistent drink, and exploring whiskey is not something you have a passion or even real interest in, this is a great go to - it's got a fair bit going on, and it's reliable. As a serious whiskey drinker and student of whiskey, I'm not impressed, particularly at the price. I've experienced everything that this blend does in much cheaper single malts and blends. If you really want a solid sherry experience get some GlenDronach, Aberlour, or Macallan. If you want to get all the oaky goodness, look at Compass Box Spice Tree. Going these routes, you can get a comparable bottle for probably less than half the price. I do like it, but I've had whiskeys that blow this away that are $50-100 cheaper, so consider that going in before dropping $200-300 for a full bottle of this. I generally try not to factor price into my tasting and reviews all that much, but I'm taking off a quarter of a point for price. I think this is a 4.0 if it were $150, but I can't give it that at >$200.
Wild Turkey Master's Keep Bottled in Bond 17 Year
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATastedRich vanilla, baking spice, barrel spice, and barrel funk on the nose. This is a deep, robust, full bodied whiskey. It has a strong interplay between earthy and sweet. I get a lot of rye spice, damp earth - almost mushrooms, barrel, vanilla, tobacco, smoke, as well as oak spice, cream, and baked apple. The finish is very long and is dominated by apple, oak spice, wood, leather, and tobacco. I think that I might also be picking up some roasted marshmallow. It has a lot of sharp flavors that have been mellowed and married together, to create a whiskey with lots of strong distinct flavors that are ultimately very balanced, but still easy to pull apart. The sweet flavors are very well balanced and contrasted to the barrel and earthy elements.
Ardbeg Blaaack (2020 Committee Release)
Peated Single Malt — Islay, ScotlandTastedPeaty nose, with some briney notes. I can definitely get some of the red fruit aromas from the wine, but they don't jump right out. I get maybe a mix of cherry or plum as well as red apple. The taste has a peaty, dry smoke, but it's not as strong as some other Ardbeg releases. I feel like Ardbeg often has a bit of a vegetal character, and I'm having trouble finding it here, perhaps the fruity wine notes cancel it out. I am also getting a baked apple flavor as it sits in the glass, although it's not overly sweet. In the finish, I get some salt and pepper and maybe some pine needles or pine resin. I also get some mellower red fruit. I feel like the wine fruit, maybe tames the Ardbeg a bit, for better and worse. They play nice together... maybe too nice, considering that this is one of the Islay heavyweights. The finish is quite lingering- it's dry spicy smoke with peppery waves... but I think some of the pepper may be coming from the wine as much as from the whiskey. If anything, this is smoother and quite a bit easier drinking than I had expected, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but possibly dangerous to sobriety and pocketbook. I like this. I'm not sure that I love it, considering this was well north of $100. Supernova is better, and the price isn't that much different. I will say that the pinot noir brings something interesting and different, and it actually works pretty well, but it's not going down in history as a classic and celebrated combo. If anything, I'd actually recommend buying a few moderately priced bottles of pinot noir if you are going to invest in this, if you don't have a lot of previous wine experience. I'm a whiskey drinker first and foremost, but I've polished off plenty of bottles of pinot over the years, and I think a lot of the interesting aspects of this whiskey would be lost on someone who didn't already have some wine background. Actually, this gets me thinking how Ardbeg might taste after some aging in a really robust red cask. Perhaps that is the magic that could take a project like this from good to magical. I gave myself a small pour of Uigeadail just to compare, and the peat is definitely toned down here compared to the Uigeadail. I also don't really get the classic Ardbeg smoked meat here, but it is front and center in the Uigeadail. It's a black sheep and it works, for sure, but I feel like it sacrifices some of it's origin to strike an interesting, milder balance.