Some time back I happened to spy Compass Box Artist Blend stilling on a shelf in NC and decided to give it a whirl. If memory serves it as about 44 beans which isn’t terribly expensive for a 43% ABV blended Scotch. I’ve liked most of the Compass Box offerings I have tried so I was hoping this one wouldn’t disappoint. The aroma was very fruity with apples and pears initially greeting the nose followed by sweet honey and just a hint of black pepper. The flavor was once again pear and apple with honey, but also supported a light caramel, black pepper, and leather backbone. The finish faded into dryness, but the sweet impression lingered into the aftertaste and the warming post consumption was pleasant, but seemed higher than the alcohol level. As much as I want to proclaim this isn’t worth the price of admission, I keep coming back to a complexity in the flavor which makes it worth every penny. The bottom line is this is a tasty bottle, and I’d likely snag one again if I run into it at an attractive price. Pick one up and let me know what you think.
While I like Scotch, often the price point of a Single Malt can be off-putting. Also with Scotch, I tend to tread lightly on the peaty bottles from Islay although I still enjoy them. When I finally spotted a bottle of Ardbeg Wee Beastie with a 45 buck price point, how could I say no? This is an anomaly for both it’s price point and it’s age being aged only 5 years. It rings in at 47.4% ABV and is not chill filtered. Upon initial opening my first thought is this is pure ashtray. I did a complete 180 a few days later when I poured another glass. The harsh ashy nature had matured into quite a nice drop. The aroma is filled with peat, chocolate, black pepper, apples, brown sugar, and leather in a briny backbone. The flavor was similar with peat, black pepper, apple, low brown sugar, leather, brine and chocolate coupled to a notable alcohol flavor. The finish goes pleasantly just dry with lasting chocolate, brine, leather, and brown sugar into the fading peat aftertaste. This truly is a stellar bottle of Scotch with a fantastic price point. If you haven’t tried it, you should. Wee Beastie will always be a welcomed bottle moving forward.
The first time I heard about Oban Little Bay was when a person from NC was complaining their local ABC would not bring the bottle. They would only get it if he agreed to purchase a case. Fast forward a few years and now Little Bay can be found in many ABC store, but the price of admission is $78. At that price I was not willing to give it a whirl. Somewhere along the way I happened upon a bottle for around $40 so I knew I had to bring it home. At 86 proof (43% abv) this is a restrained bottle of Scotch. The aroma presents with chocolate, candy, light citrus, spice, leather, and oak. The flavor also has chocolate, citrus, light smoke, leather, oak, spice, and breadcrust. The finish fades into light alcohol with light chocolate and leather with subtle sweetness long and pleasantly into the aftertaste. At $40 this is a no brainer. At NCABC prices it is a maybe. It’s a very nice bottle with good complexity, but by the time I get to 80 beans it’s time to take off the training wheels. This could use a boost in complexity to draw those dollars out of my wallet. If you find it at a midpoint price I’d say snag it, it is quite tasty!
I happened upon a bottle of Hatozaki Small Batch at Costco with a sub $30 price point so I figured why not. Imagine my shock when it showed up on NC at $60 per bottle. The alcohol level is 46%. Anyway, knowing this was a Japanese Whiskey I expected it to be very similar to a Speyside Scotch and it was. Unfortunately it was more like a little brother than a twin. The aroma presented as floral and fruity with peaches (think canned peaches), slight oak, hint of sherry, and a light bit of citrus coupled to restrained alcohol. The flavor was similar with slightly sweet peaches, light pepper spice, low oak, hints of leather, and a mild presence of alcohol. The finish was peaches, pepper spice, and light alcohol fading into the aftertaste. The bottle is tasty, but a bit boring and lacking in complexity. At the $30 I paid my thought was I would not want to pay more for this level of complexity. At $60 I would be upset at the price of admission. So if you want to give this one a whirl I suggest you check to see if your Costco might have a deal. Otherwise I don’t think I’d spend the money for this level of complexity.
I happened to snag a bottle of Shackleton Whisky when it was on sale for $32 and figured why not give it a spin. As a blend of Highland single malts aged in Bourbon and Sherry barrels I was hoping it would be tasty and was not disappointed. The aroma is light with honey, sherry, light alcohol, wildflowers, pears, and only slight hints of leather. The flavor is more honey, wildflowers, sherry, very slight alcohol, leather, pears, and cinnnamon. The aftertaste of the 80 proof Scotch has light leather, chocolate, and pleasant alcohol. This is not a complex Scotch and one would not expect it to be so at this price point. Even if the flavor is not complex you can feel good because a portion of the purchase price goes to the Antartic Heritage Trust. If you see a bottle and haven’t given it a try you should. I still prefer Monkey Shoulder as my go to blended Scotch, but this is also a tasty glass and as such should not be overlooked.
I feel like a traitor writing a review of this Scotch. Most of my friends and probably several people who have followed this blog over the years know I am an avid Game of Thrones fan and have been showcasing the beers from Ommegang for a long time. Johnnie Walker White Walker was the first Game of Thrones Scotch release from Diageo and it is a blend which includes single malts from Cardhu and Clynelish. So let’s break it down.
It comes in a temperature-sensitive ink technology label (themocromic ink) which reveals a special message when it becomes cold.
Serving this Scotch cold. Heck, serving this Scotch room temperature or at all. Also the message wasn’t all that special although I did like they blue eye glow when cold.
Make that the ugly truth. This Scotch blows cold. This Scotch blows at room temperature neat. I suspect this Scotch just blows no matter how you try to consume it. I started cold to see the message and thought it would be a miracle if ice cold this was good. It was decidedly not good. It was fusel with citrus notes and alcohol. After warming it was much better, but still fusel with citrus notes and alcohol coupled to caramelized sugar.
In the end the $40-50 price point is far too steep a price to pay for a thermal reacting ink bottle of rubbing alcohol. At half the price this is still crap. At a quarter of the price it would still be a hard pass. Do yourself a favor and find something you like more and enjoy that instead of purchasing this.
PS: Whoever was responsible for this blend should be introduced to Ramsay Snow (Bolton).
Yet another deal on Scotch surfaced when Glen Moray Single Malt Sherry Cask Finish went on sale at NCABC for $25. Very similar to the Port Cask Finish the Sherry Cask Finish starts on the sweet side and then exhibits oak and leather. I expected this to have more Sherry character, but those flavors were muted in the grand scheme of this whisky. Oak and chocolate dominated with leather and cinnamon spice following up behind. The 40% ABV alcohol was not hidden either, but never became hot. What this was missing was complexity, but at 25 beans I can overlook the lapse of character. This was smooth and easy to drink, but unlike the Port Cask I will probably not revisit it in the future. I would suggest you try this for yourself as the oak and leather might be just what the Doctor ordered.
Several years ago we posted a note on Connemara Peated Irish Whiskey and it’s about time we revisit it. Back when we originally penned some notes our knowledge of Irish Whiskey and Scotch was not quite as advanced as it is today. Peated whiskeys are a rarity in Ireland and Connemara is one of the few. This 80 proof whiskey gets it’s name from an insanely beautiful area in Ireland which you should visit at some point in your life. Unfortunately the whiskey is made nowhere near it’s namesake, but that should not stop you from visiting the area and certainly should not stop you from trying this whiskey. The peat has the interesting characteristic of being both strong and subdued at the same time. The sweetness of the malt shines in both the aroma and the flavor and as the peat lessens with time and consumption the complexity of the aroma and flavor keeps you engaged. It has the sweet characteristics which are the hallmark of many Irish Whiskeys and the peat which permeates the region from chimneys during cooler times. If you have ever visited Ireland you would be a fan of both and if you have not visited the Emerald Isle yet, plan your trip now as it is a magical place. I recommended you give this a try a few years ago and now this is a solid buy. At 45 beans a bottle it is worth a spot in your bar.
Earlier this year Tomatin 12 Year Scotch Whisky was on sale for 30 beans with NC ABC and I was unable to find a fifth near me. I asked a friend in another county to pick up a bottle for me and was excited to give it a whirl when I finally got my hands on it. The aroma was filled with butter, caramel, light spice, and sherry. The flavor did not diverge from the aroma with the exception of a big of brown sugar, leather, and a light lingering presence of alcohol. At 86% it was never hot and even the warming post consumption was restrained. This Scotch is aged in both Bourbon and Sherry casks, but Sherry is front and center. At 30 bucks it is a nice bargain for a Single Malt, but I wish it had a little more complexity. It is just on the edge of being wonderful, but with so much restraint needs a kick in the pants to showcase what it truly has to offer. If you have not tried it, find some and give it a whirl.
No, this is not an April Fools Joke. Tonight I decided to drain what remained of a bottle of Kirkland Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky Aged 18 Years I had of course picked up at Costco. As I recall the price of admission was $55 or perhaps a skinch more. I’ve found with Bourbon anything past 15 years seems to be hit or miss, but Scotch seems to stand the test of time much better. In this case the flavors had melded and became subdued, but the Sherry Cask shined through. Despite being 92 proof (46% ABV) the only indicator of the heat was the warmth post consumption. The aroma was filled with sherry, brown sugar, and hints of oak and leather and an aroma I identify as cedar. The flavor was smooth with more brown sugar, leather, and cedar spice which led to a finish of light spice, oak, sherry, and of course a light alcohol burn just to let you know you had more alcohol in your glass than you might have suspected. While this one was not outrageously priced, I can think of slightly less expensive whiskeys I might enjoy more. I do enjoy trying all the various Kirkland products from Alexander Murray and will keep checking them out as I spot them at Costco.
In case you were wondering the back label indicated this was aged in Bourbon barrels and then finished in Oloroso Sherry casks for six months.