The Comeback Kid: Jura Elixir 12

Music: DJ Cutman, “Legend of Korra – End Credits”

After the Superstition, I never expected much from Jura. A handful of people have told me, since, that the Superstition is something great, but it was bland, bland, sweet then bland when I tried it. Cue the Elixir. A dram that had been hailed as a great daily dram, sweet but not cloying, viscous and 46%. All the right boxes for a nice sipper. That, and because it came in just under $60 in Ontario, I had to give it a go. After all, I’d only ever had one Jura, and you can’t really pass judgement on a distillery with one data point from one bottle. So, in came the Elixir.

Nose: Cinnamon and sugar on buttered toast, with a touch of hickory smoke. Biscuity goodness with some peaches and plums. Sherry here and there. A hair of acetone, but only if you look.

Palate: Weighty, almost immediately, with a tad bit of nip. Plums and grapes all over, almost Welch’s. A slight sour smoky, sweet and lovely.

Finish: Fruits all over the medium-length finish. Was hoping to get some of the biscuity nose in the finish, but no dice.

Grade: B+

Hard to discern way too much out of this whisky, but there is a lot going on here: it’s just in a basket of goodies so well married together that you just have to enjoy the mélange. At the price of $60 per bottle, this is a keeper on a shelf. A great party whisky, and perhaps even the base for a really good old fashioned or manhattan (cue the cringe from bourbon die-hards).

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The Last of its Kind: Bruichladdich 12 (2nd Edition)

Music: Teddie Films, “Dream and Shout” (“Scream and Shout” Les Miserables parody)

As I get ready to “get hitched”, I find myself looking back on the past, and wondering how much things will change after the papers are signed. It has led me to look back at some sample bottles I’ve stored from bottles long depleted to finally put pen to paper on them and write up reviews.

Nose: Gentle coastal salt and vanilla. The bourbon cask is very noticeable here. Vegetal notes. Apricot and pear. Similar to an Arran Malt. Still a bit young so as to be a bit prickly, but it’s still really good.

Palate: Sweet, barely sugar. Lemon and pear. Slight bit of varnish. Somewhat peated at the end.

Finish: Medium length, warming and tart. Lemon cough sweets.

Grade: B

This one is bittersweet, both in profile and in sentiment. There is something glorious about enjoying a piece of a distillery’s past (which, I guess, any dram is), but somewhat saddening to know that this is the last dram you’ll ever have of this chapter in the distillery’s history.  Mixed feelings, but a damn good dram. If you see a bottle sitting on a shelf this summer for a reasonable price, do pick it up, as it’s a perfect summer dram: light, fruity and sweet.

“Here we go, goin’ take this town, because everywhere we go is revolution.

Sheer Elegance in its Simplicity: Glenfarclas 12

Music: Karen Overton, “Your Loving Arms”

Brief and clean with this review, much like the dram itself.

Nose:
Sweet, but not cloying. I’ve seen the note “creamy” quite a bit with this one, and this Glenfarclas has it so clearly. It’s a rather rich, honeyed dram, with cinnamon and clove. Not much sherry, to my nose. Light smokiness to it, too. A very “Scotchy Scotch”.

Palate: Creamy, sweet and oddly viscous for 43%. Warm, dried fruit and nuts. This is what Glenfarclas is all about, and I’m more than sold by what they do. There is that malty flavour that a good whisky should have, but it has all these nice little accents that make it so appealing—and they’re just that, accents. There may be some sherry here, but it doesn’t take center stage the way I’d imagined it would.

Finish: Not the longest of finishes, but in that way, it’s a very good party dram. It’s complex on the intake, but doesn’t monopolize your time. Apples, pear, and honey. The sherry starts to finally show itself here. A nice touch.

Grade: B+

My favourite low-cost dram, that was, until the LCBO shot the price from $64 to $75. What a tragic day that was.

“And when I dream of the fear that you’re leaving, I reach out…”

Scotch Night with the Lads

Spent a recent mid-week evening reuniting with a couple of old friends from my undergrad over a collection of slivers from different bottles. A great night to share some old favourites, and to try some new ones. Because we’d intended this to be a rather peaty occasion, a couple of the latter drams didn’t get the most unbiased palate I had to offer. I did, however, get to save a little of the Macallan Whisky Maker’s Edition for another night, so that review is more honest than the Select Oak.

No. 1: Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban

Nose: Toffee. Butterscotch. Slightly winey.
Palate: Smooth, sweet and nose-confirming.
Finish: Medium-long.

Grade: B+

All the best parts of the Lasanta without any of the off-notes. This is Glenmorangie getting finishing right.

No. 2: Laphroaig Triple Wood

Nose: Typical Laphroaig tobacco, but where the Cairdeas is like an unlit cigar, the TW is more unlit cigarette. Tar and iodine. Sweet red wine, and almost Speyside-esque. 
Palate: Peat and tobacco smoke, honey, brown sugar and cinnamon.
Finish:
Long and smoky.

Grade: B+

So, we had a whole flight of Laphroaig (10yo, TW, QC and Cairdeas) and this one came in 3rd. The QC is still so much for so little, and the Cairdeas blows me a way. That said, the TW is a nice, sweeter Laphroaig than the QC, and would make a great choice for a winter dram on the nights when you can’t decide between a sweet Speyside and a beasty Islay.

No. 3: Springbank 12 Cask Strength

Nose: Cookies, vanilla, leather and dried apircots. Toffee pudding.
Palate: Cherry, apricot and wheat, vanilla and a hint of chocolate. This one is superbly complex for something so young, and it really knocks the socks off the 10yo. Springbank, we are friends again.
Finish:
Long, warming and smoky.

Grade: A-

Of the ones I hadn’t tried, this Springbank was the best. Everything the 10yo wants to be, but isn’t. Makes me think that the 18yo must be truly amazing.

No. 4: The Macallan Select Oak

Nose: Vanilla, Toffee and raisins.
Palate: Floral, vanilla, and toffee
Finish:
Medium.

Grade: B-

My least favourite of the night. Not bad, but a rather plain Macallan. Smooth, easy drinking, and a great daily dram, but for something that would probably be in the $90 range in Canada, you’d expect more. Drams like this make me want to guard my discontinued Macallan Cask Strength carefully.

No. 5: The Macallan Whisky Maker’s Edition

Nose: Honeycomb, butter and toffee. Hints of mushrooms and a bit of sulphur.
Palate: Cherry, strawberry and chocolate. Some of the mushroom scent. Medium viscosity (not watery, but less viscous than the the 12yo).
Finish: Medium, slightly smoky.

Grade: B

Good, easy drinking whisky. Not my favourite of the night, but not my least favourite! Similar sentiments to #4, but this one is more of that classic rich cherry-like Macallan than the select oak. Another case of a good nose, but a weak palate. Not as elegant as the 12yo, though.

Original Gangsta: GlenDronach 12 ‘The Original’

Music: The Gentlemen’s Club, “The Servant”

In anticipation of an occasion that would permit me to open my GlenDronach 15 ‘Revival’, I’ve given the 12yo Original a try because a) it’s had good reviews (save for at ATW), b) it’s cheap in Ontario, and c) I needed a 43%-er in my collection to sit between all the cask-strengths I own. Sometimes you don’t want to knock your socks off. To top it all off, I’ve saved the last 2/3 of the bottle for a scotch and cigar night with a colleague. It will most definitely be perfect for that.

Nose: Sherried like all hell, but the sherry balances some rather strong cereals. I really like this part, though ATW doesn’t. I love a good cereals whisky, and this gives the GlenDronach a second dominant note. Noticeable cola and a bit of barbecue sauce. Some chocolate cherries a la the Glenfarclas ‘105’. Despite being at 43%, this is really rich, even more so than its 46% ABV brethren, the Glenmorangie 12yo ‘Lasanta’. Raisins and Evergreen. Occasionally some faint eggy notes, but nothing to get all huffy about.

Palate: Medium viscosity. Sweet sherry up front. Fruity, if not truly discernable. Cola, baby (so happy that came through). A sweet-yet-sour citrus… maybe grapefruit? It then goes very much into a peppery rye flavour. Ends with dark chocolate.

Finish: Drying, chocolate, maraschino cherry.

Grade: B-

A great bang-for-the-buck whisky that’s interesting and powerful at 43%. Perhaps the best whisky in the under $60 range. It has me excited about the Revival, that’s for sure.

“Put your trust in me—I’ll do the same.”

Classic Coal: Caol Ila 12

Bought a full litre of this wonderful stuff at the Denver Airport Duty free for $54. That’s about half of what you’d pay at the LCBO. Most of the offerings they had were slim in the scotch category, so I decided that I should give this old classic a try. I usually like to travel off the beaten path with my whisky purchases, but as an Islay fan, and a Caol Ila fan, it was about time to give this classic dram it’s due.

Nose: Coal, tar, dill pickles and orange candy. Smoked fish and ham. Cookies. Barley notes.

Palate: Smooth, somewhat oily arrival. Peat and smoke. Sweet citrus. Ashy (in a good way).

Finish: Long and pleasant, dominated by notes of chili pepper, lemon, smoke.

Grade: B+

Very rarely do I give a “standard dram” more than a B. Caol Ila 12 deserves such a grade, however, because it manages to do with 43% what so many others cannot. It’s complex and medium oily, with a long finish. It’s bizarrely refreshing for an Islay, something that can be enjoyed on a cold winter night, or a not-too-hot summer’s day. I look forward to doing a flight with the Natural Cask Strength, 1998 Distillers Edition and the 19yo TWE CS sometime in the near future.

The Little Black Bottle: Bunnahabhain 12

Bunna and I had a strange introduction. I was initially quite excited to try this whisky, hearing that it was a mild and mysterious Islay that was strangely so lightly peated. The first few drams tasted oddly of acetone, and strongly so. I was worried that I managed an off bottle. As luck would have it, though, letting the bottle rest for a month really changed the character of the whisky. Now it’s smooth, silky and sweet. Everything I’d expected it to be, it is.

Nose: Like a chocolatey bog. A strange concept, yes, but a pleasant one. Sherry and salted caramel. Hay. Very light on the peat. Somewhat briny and smoky.

Palate: Oily. Sweet, chocolate, sherry. Kind of grassy, almost like chewing alfalfa (if you’ve ever had it).

Finish: Medium-long and sweet, smoke, chocolate, some stewed black cherry.

Grade: B+

Damn it, this is one fine whisky. Not your typical Islay, but in that way it’s truly remarkable. It surprises you, and the surprise is a good one. It’s not an earth-shattering whisky, but at 12 years, it does the trick. It also makes me wistfully wonder what the 18yo is like. Probably a notch or two higher!