Aug 262016
 

This, to me, is the highlight of the flight of drams from Scotland Grindlay’s Selection.

Photo Credit: wikimedia.org

Photo Credit: wikimedia.org

Dailuaine is one of Diageo’s very classic Speyside distilleries, with some 98% of it’s output going into the Johnnie Walker blends, and it creates different charactered whisky according to what blenders think they’ll need down the road. The distillery can make a Clynelish like waxy whisky, a sulfury full bodied Mortlachy style and a grassy or nutty new make. It would seem that 1996 was a grenn/grassy year, as this seems the be the base freshness so clearly in the character of this dram from Grindlay’s  🙂

 

Photo Credit: scotlandgrindlay.com

Photo Credit: scotlandgrindlay.com

Grindlay’s Selection, Dailuaine 19 Year Old, Distilled 17/9/1996, Cask 110621, Yield 236 Bottles (57% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Golden, the whisky looks pretty viscous with very slow legs peeling off a rather sturdy necklace.

Nose: very clean and fresh honey and lemon. Below that freshness is an almost old layer of Oak. Allow to rest, the nose turns more and more lemony. A drop of water revives the fresh honey but the nose is definitely congruent with a two decade old whisky.

Palate: A sweet wave washes over the tongue turning into spice and fizzy fresh lemon towards the back of the tongue and gullet. A drop of water highlights the spice bringing it to the forefront, also highlighting a clean note of honey right after the spice.

Linger: a rather gentle pepper together with dryness in the mouth and a little bit of a citrusy spice in the gullet and the inner cheeks tingle, but I’m not sure if it’s the 57% ABV or the whisky itself. With a drop of water, the linger is spicier and longer. The linger stays for a very long time, with a tingle on the inner cheeks and a sweet honey note on the tongue, with hints of spice.

Conclusion

This Dailuaine is a beautiful expression with a lot going on and definitely the type of whisky you’d expect from an older single cask. This one is definitely my favorite of the flight.

 

 

Dec 222014
 

Yamazaki is Japan’s oldest distillery, but Nikka’s Yoichi is the most “Scottish” distillery in Japan. It’s located near the sea on the west coast of the northern island of Hokkaido, in conditions that are close to those of the western coastal Highlands (think Oban or Adelphi’s new Ardnamurchan) or even Islay, and still use direct coal fire to heat the stills. The location was chosen by Masataka Taketsuru, of Yamazaki fame, after leaving Suntory to start Nikka in 1934.

By 1940, World War II in the east was in full blow, and Nikka (then named Dainipponkaju, which would never work on exports) was sitting pretty with defense contracts to supply whisky to the Imperial Navy, where officers had to have their whisky and Scotch wasn’t an option because of the war.

Photo Credit: wikimedia.org

Yoichi has a core range of 5 single malts (NAS, 10, 12, 15 and 20 year old), with the bulk of the production going into Nikka’s Taketsuru vatted malts, the Nikka Pure Malt Black and the blends Nikka makes.

Yoichi is known for its coastal, even medicinal, qualities. The whisky is full bodied, even oily, with varying degrees of peatiness and smokiness, and the 10 showcases that character nicely.

Photo Credit: whisky.fr

Photo Credit: whisky.fr

Yoichi 10 (45% ABV)

Appearance: Gold, slow legs dripping from a long lasting ring.

Nose: First comes the peat. More highland than maritime, though. Under the peat is a layer of sherry sweetness. There’s also an oily-vegetal note which opens to floral notes and bread dough.

Palate: Peat, honey, peppery spice and zesty orange peel.

Linger: The spice lingers in the whole mouth, with light sweetness and smoke resolving into some metallic notes in a long lasting finish.

Conclusion

This is good stuff, not that we’d expect anything less from the Japanese whisky industry.

Again, price is a concern, as it is with all Japanese whisky, with Yoichi being in even more of a bind because it didn’t foresee the current boom, and didn’t lay down enough stock to age. Expect shortages, and price hikes on this front too.

The Yoichi 10 was tasted as part of the December meeting of the Malt Mongers Israel Whisky Club

 

 

 

Dec 212014
 

The Yamazaki 18 is a highly acclaimed whisky. It has much more sherry matured whisky than the 12, yet retains the characteristic “vanilla-orange” florals of  the Yamazaki.

Photo Credit: Ethan Prater on everystockphoto.com

Photo Credit: ratongloton.com

Photo Credit: ratongloton.com

Yamazaki 18 (43% ABV)

Appearance: Bronze with thin legs.

Nose: The telltale Yamazaki floral-orange-vanilla note is clearly there, with a deeper sherry. Sultanas, cinnamon, light clove with light notes of furniture polish. Smooth bittersweet chocolate and oak close out the nose. The sherry is clearly there, lending sweetness to the nose, but this isn’t the heavy sherry of the Yamazaki Sherry Cask or true sherry bombs.

Palate: Less complex than the nose, delivering a combination of pepper and sweetness with citrus bitterness and wood spice (mostly pepper) warmness.

Linger: Longish linger with spice in the throat, sweetness in the center of the tongue and tartness on the sides. The inside of the cheeks have the sherry tanins.

Conclusion

Beautiful expression of the heights to which precision crafted whisky can get. It’s a very accurate and balanced dram.

The only obvious problem with this whisky is its price. It basically doubled in price over the past few years, and we’re nowhere near the end of that trend, with a 15-20% price hike planned by Suntory for April 2015. In the UK you’ll pay £155 for a bottle of the Yamazaki 18, whereas the discontinued Macallan 1995 18 Year Old Sherry Oak can be had for £10 cheaper, and is on average double the price of 18 year old Scotch.

Aug 272014
 

Blended Scotch whisky is not my thing. I’m not a snob, I’ve had quite a few, and will drink blends, but I just don’t really find them all that interesting. Apparently, whereas blends shoot for smoothness, I like the distinct flavors and rough edges single malts and well made vatted malts offer (there’s only one exception for me with vatted malts – the peated ones – but that’s a review all to its own in the very near future).

photo Credit: www.allthingswhisky.com

Photo Credit: www.allthingswhisky.com

Last November (2013), Compass Box came out with “The General”, a blended whisky that would give pause to any whisky snob.

The story goes like this: As proprietary blenders, The Compass Box has close working relationships with several companies (We know that Diageo is one of them, just by looking at the list of single malts in the Spice Tree and Oak Cross, which I previously reviewed and have linked to those posts). Anyway, two of those companies approached Mr. John Glaser, both having a batch of blended whisky prepared – one left to marry in sherry casks and the other in ex bourbon casks – a long time ago and forgotten. The younger of the two batches was 33 years old.

Rather than just bottling these great finds, Glaser – a true innovator who never took the “don’t play with your food” admonition too seriously – played around with vatting  (I guess blending is the correct verb here) them. The result is an outrun of 1,698 bottles of this 33 years old blend of blends, dubbed The General.

This is a very complex dram, which needs water, and can take quite a bit of it. You’ll have a great time “unfolding” it as it opens with water and time.

Photo Credit: wine-searcher.com

Photo Credit: wine-searcher.com

Compass Box The General Blended Scotch Whisky (54.3% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Amber, tiny beads taking a rediculously long time to form VERY slow legs.

Nose: Oranges, honey, fresh open fields, hay, malt, cereal, dried pineapple, cherry soda, an old spice shop, bakery and chocolate fudge.

Palate: Spicy, chewy and smooth, notes of honey and citrus come together, with hints of sherry sweetness with some fresh fruit.

Linger: Spicy linger in the back of the throat, with some pepper and sweet notes on the tongue. Also, some very mild tartness on the inside of the cheeks.

Conclusion

Yes, age matters, and this expression has it in. But The General is more than just old blended whisky. I’ve had some old blends (and even reviewed the W&M 30 Year Old), and have never been blown away.

This is a totally different animal. The rich old sherry matured whisky plays with the mature freshness of the Bourbon aged whisky to create a wonderfully complex whisky. In truth, I’d probably find even more depth in this dram given more time (and more of it 😉 ).

It’s not cheap (Originally £180, and the few bottles still on the market are now probably anywhere up to £250), but this whisky is really special. More than anything else, The General proves that well crafted and aged blends can be every bit as layered and complex as high quality single malts, and maybe even more so.

I wish to thank Chris for the official sample. Slainte!