Ardbeg Uigeadail

Now this is a review through which I won’t be able to help being all gushy. The Ardbeg Uigeadail is just that good. It is the bar that my nose and my palate have set for all other whiskies to attempt to vault; many have tried, all have failed.

I don’t know what they’re doing there at Ardbeg, but this No Age Statement Scotch epitomizes my belief (as shared by Jim Murray, among others) that age doesn’t make a good whisky. Careful thought and expert craftsmanship make a good whisky. Laphroaig has done it with the Quarter Cask. Aberlour has done it with the a’Bunadh. Especially when peat is involved, there are merits to blending the youthful and the matured.

On to the review.

Nose: This has everything. Peat. sherry, whiffs of choclatey sweetness. Swirl the glass and get hickory BBQ sauce. There is so much depth here, and even at its full 54.2% ABV, it’s still pleasant to nose. That said, add a teaspoon of water. It opens everything up just that much more.

Palate: Peat, baby. Lots of it. Deliciously viscous, mouth-coating, and not too hot at all. Smooth, velvety and wonderful on the tongue. It delivers much of what the nose promises, but that’s what I like about it. It delivers them in a no-nonsense kind of way: the flavours are bold, but balanced. The best way I’ve been able to describe the Uigeadail is this:

“Start with a dark chocolate Aero bar, where the cocoa beans were roasted by peat fires. Then, fill the bubbles with peat-infused sherry. Take your peat-infused sherry-filled Aero and wrap it with peat-smoked bacon.”

Finish: Warming. Lasts for an eternity.

Grade: A

While this review doesn’t seem to be as complex as the Auchentoshan 18, I assure you that it is so much more. In that review, I proclaimed that a whisky, to get an A- or higher, should give me two experiences. That is still true, but it’s not an absolute. Sometimes a whisky does a handful of things so spectacularly that adding anything else would only muddy up the waters.

Now, in Ontario, the Ardbeg Uigeadail is a scam. $167 for 70cl. In Calgary, it is $101 for 75cl. Totally worth it. Also, in the U.S (Chicago) it is $70. I had my two bottles brought for me from Chicago, and this whisky is an absolute steal at that price. It’s very likely that I will never find another whisky under $100 anywhere that can compare to this Ardbeg. It’s also possible that, with the stores of Port Ellen around the world vanishing, I will never find another whisky that betters it, period. Of course, I hope that I’m wrong here, because it would be a short journey if this indeed was the summit.

Talisker 10

Talisker 10 gets a lot of praise across the board as a great daily dram malt, but sadly to say, I haven’t had that same experience.

These notes are relative to a re-tasting with a 20cl bottle that I had bought just recently. I had a full 70cl bottle that a friend gave me as a present, and since it stood in a rather lonely cabinet with only the Ardbeg Ten by it’s side, it received relatively weak reviews. Hence, my desire to give it that second shot.

Nose: Pepper, coastal saltyness. Leather. Slightly peaty with a little lemon.

Palate: Medium oily. Peppery and leathery (holy wow is it leathery!). Quite spiritus. Not as off-putting as the Glenmorangie Original, and doesn’t taste too much like bad bar alcohol, but it’s rough.

Finish: Medium long, dry, peaty with some jam notes.

Grade: B-

Maybe–like Lagavulin 16–Talisker 10 was a beast in it’s earlier days, but now it’s a little too edgy for me. Still a great bang-for-your-buck Scotch in many markets, but as you’ll find, the Laphroaig QC is $5-$20 cheaper, and it really needs binoculars to see the Talisker from so high up on its pedistal.

(Note to Talisker: raise the ABV 0.02% and skip the chill-filtration!)

Cragganmore 12

Cragganmore is one of those speysiders that doesn’t really taste like a speysider. To me, it tastes more like a lowland (think Auchentoshan) than a speyside.

Nose: It has a very ‘Auchie 18yr’ nose, but only part of it. It doesn’t have all the complexities of the Auchentoshan, but it does the barley/caramel thing very well, but with a noticeable touch of ‘coastal saltiness’, similar to the Talisker 10. I think the barley/caramel combination I smell is actually American oak, but I can’t be sure. I know the Cragganmore 21 is American oak aged, but I can’t find info on the 12.

Palate: Sweet, barley and caramel. Reasonably oily. Here, it does the standard in-your-face portion of the Auchentoshan 18 flavour very well, but it has no complexity, depth or maturity. A great daily dram, in that respect, if it weren’t so expensive here in Ontario.

Finish: Medium. Sticks around about as long as the Glenfiddich 12 does.

Grade: C+

The Cragganmore 12 wins points with me because I love the Auchentoshan 18. While it does what it does very well, at 40% ABV, it really suffers to get past the complexity level of the Glenlivet 12 or Glenfiddich 12. Being about $20-30 more per bottle in most markets, those watching their pocketbook can find better deals at this price-point or lower.

Clynelish 14

It’s nice to get back to reviewing some drams that I’ve really loved.

Clynelish 14–now this is a great affordable dram! A respectable 46% ABV, (but probably caramel-added,) it’s rich, oily, with a great mouth-feel. It makes me sad just remembering that the bottle is empty! While about $80 in Ontario (recently discontinued), it runs about $50 in the US, on par with the Highland Park 12. A great cabinet standard that I’d take over the HP 12 as my resident highland (and I love me some HP 12).

Nose: Butter rum, berries, and a very light smokiness. A deliciously well-blended nose that works well as a ‘bouquet’. It’s hard to really separate much out, but it works together in it’s own way.

Palate: Big, sweet burst of cotton candy (I think I’m alone on this part), cool salty anesthetic feel. Fruity, with sherry notes. Peat and smoke on the end. Wonderfully chewy.

Finish: Medium-long, warming, with sweet toffee notes.

Grade: B

While somewhat expensive in Canada (for what you’re getting), I’ll say that the Clynelish 14 is definitely one of the best bang-for-your-buck whiskies in the US.

Review Stub: Macallan 10 Fine Oak

A quick review of The Macallan 10 ‘Fine Oak’ from a tasting at a bar a few months ago.

Nose: Straight-forward toffee and chocolate. Sweetness.

Palate: Medium-oily. Smoother than Glenfiddich 12 by an inch. with similar notes to the nose (toffee and chocolate.)

Finish: Very short finish.

Grade: C

Another one-note bar whisky. Smoother than the Glenfiddich, but the finish disappears faster than any other whisky I’ve tried. It’s a shame too, given that the one-note isn’t all that bad.

Review Stub: Jura Superstition

A quick review of Jura Superstition from a tasting at a bar a few months ago.

Nose: Noticeable alcohol. Straight-forward honey and caramel. Sweet.

Palate: Medium-oily. Much of what the nose suggests, with honey, caramel, and that ‘bar-alcohol’ tinge.

Finish: Medium finish.

Grade: C

A rather one-note whisky that would be fine at a bar, but it falls below the benchmark set by Glenfiddich 12 and Glenlivet 12. It has that alcohol tinge that soured me on the Glenmorangie Original.

A tale of two Glens: Review double-header

This is a story of two Glens–perhaps the two most popular Glens in the Single Malt world. (note, I said popular, not spectacular.) This is a story of Glenfiddich 12, and Glenlivet 12. Every maltmuncher has one, and so mine is just a story and not the story, of course.

Both of these whiskies made their way to my cabinet as gifts. At ~$45 a bottle, they seemed like great ‘everyday dram’ bottles, but not being an everyday-dram kind of guy, I never picked up a bottle (I’d rather have a dram of Laphroaig QC or An Turas Mor on Wed-Fri-Sat then a finger of Glenfiddich 12 all week.) After trying both of them (spoiler) I don’t think my rule will change.

Glenfiddich 12

Nose:  Candied fruit, sweetness. Pretty weak.

Palate: Deliciously smooth, a wonderful, albeit simple, sweet treat of candied fruit, with some hints of vanilla.

Finish: Medium at best.

Grade: C+

Glenlivet 12

Nose: Wow. A booming bouquet of floral and apple juice. Crunchy type, like a granny smith or a mac.

Palate: Comes in a little weak to start, with what the nose promised: apple, creamy sweetness, and strangely, a faint hint of peat. Closer to the finish, the flavours step it up. I wish the palate would have come in more like a lion.

Finish:Surprisingly long.

Grade: C+

It’s funny that these reviews suggest that with the nose and finish of the Glenlivet, and the palate of the Glenfiddich, this might be a solid B whisky, up there with the Highland Park 12. However, these deficencies cost them points, and I can’t say I’d necessarily buy a bottle again for anything other than a party, or perhaps if we were burning our palates with cigars, the Glenlivet would provide an excellent nose/finish accompaniment. That said, if I walk into a bar and they have these two, and the Macallan 10 Fine Oak, or the Glenmorangie original, I’ll take either of these, with the Glenfiddich winning the day by a hair. Part of me wants to say that “anyone on a budget would find these a great deal”, but I might eat those words when I review my other gift, the Aberlour 10 yr in about a week.

Highland Park 12

This will be another quick review of a benchmark Scotch. It doesn’t need many words because that would seem inappropriate for such a simple, elegant dram.

Nose: Cereals, honey, slight musty with some citrus note.  Sometimes sulphury eggy notes, but they’re rare.

Palate: Nicely thick, slightly oily. Chewy. Peppery, salted toffee, sweet with slight peatiness and smoke–a very pleasant highland with islay and spey notes.

Finish: Medium long. Light smoke. Cool.

Grade: B-

Again, another Scotch that I can’t fault for it’s dangerously low ABV (43%). It’s flavourful and chewy–one of the chewiest scotches I’ve ever encountered–and I love it. It doesn’t do anything superbly, but it seems to do almost everything either average or above average. I’d say it’s right on the bubble of B-/B. A classic that is an affordable staple for any Scotch fan.

P.S: I have since replaced the Dun Bheagan 8 with the Highland Park 12 as my office bottle of scotch, and I couldn’t be happier.

Review Stub: Glenmorangie “The Original”

This review is a short stub from a bar tasting last week.

I was out as part of a work-related social event where I had the pleasure of adding another whisky experience to my belt. They had the Glenmorangie Original on the shelf, and after being so smitten with the Ben Nevis 17, I thought I’d try another Highland.

Nose: Candy sweetness with hints of oranges and smoke.

Palate: That typical “bar alcohol” taste up front. Sweet, woody, fair amount of spices and honey.

Finish: Sweet, medium, with tail ends of smoke.

Grade: C+

Not a terribly complex whisky, but a good one to try a glass of at a bar. I could have done much worse, of course! It’s good to try benchmarks like this so that you really appreciate the complexities of better whisky. The Ben Nevis is all the more wonderful now that I have tried this one.

The question this, (and recent Lagavulin 16… but that’s another review) and other 40-43% ABV raise in me is, “What is it about low ABV Scotch that gives it that alcohol-y tinge?”. Bruisers like the Ardbeg Uigeadail or the Aberlour a’Bunadh are as smooth as velvet compared to whiskies like The Original, so what makes them that way? Is it that they lack complexities that disguise or morph it?

I’ll say quite bluntly that it was the alcohol tinge that landed this Glenmorangie a grade lower than the smoother Glenfiddich 12.

Aberlour a’Bunadh (Batch 36)

Given that the Aberlour a’Bunadh is a whisky that I keep referring to in my reviews, it’s probably a good idea that I put up a review so that you can get a sense for what all the fuss is about. The Aberlour a’Bunadh is another example of a great ‘no age statement’ whisky, showing once again the truth in Jim Murray’s wise words, “age does not a good whisky make”. To me, it shares a number of characteristics with the Springbank 12 CW, but mostly in the richness, the colour, and the “christmas-y” nose and finish.

Nose: Apples and caramel, hints of raisins, and of course, sherry. Spices that would be discernable to a more experienced connisseur.

Palate: Rich, warm, buttery sherried caramel. Dark chocolate. Warm and anesthetic. It almost has the texture of melted butter to match the flavours. A truly spectacular winter dram

Finish: Long, warm, “christmas”, some residual ashes–a lovely touch.

Grade: B+

Sure, this review will be short, but that’s not for a lack of great things to say. There isn’t much qualification needed for this whisky. It fills one of my 5 permanent spots in my cabinet, satisfying my cravings for speyside, a sherry-bomb, viscosity, or a dessert (in winter). A whisky that serves so many purposes is worthy of such a spot.