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).

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.

Glendronach 15 ‘Revival’

Music: In-Flight Safety, “Silent Treatment”

Sometimes so few words says it best, so I will be brief, here. Of the middle-aged range sherry monsters (and perhaps the cask-strengths, too), Glendronach’s revival wins.

Nose: Sherry and oak. No alcohol, just flavour. It’s very soft, but also extremely complex. Espresso, berries and chocolate cherries. Mint and vanilla. A touch of classy match-stick sulphur.

Palate: Viscous and rich. Fudge, sweetness, and cookies. Sherry tang.

Finish: Long, chocolatey sweetness, espresso and berries.

Grade: A-

It’s a refreshing to come across a standard range bottling that is so magnificent, for so cheap (relatively speaking). Craftsmanship, plain and simple.

Note: I’ve also tried the old bottling, pre-Revival, and it is so awful that I can’t believe they come from the same distillery.

“Cause all these years have made you a soldier, you’re carrying the weight of two worlds on your shoulders.”

Port Choco-lotte: Port Charlotte 10yo

Music: Summertime Sadness (Cedric Gervais Remix) – Lana Del Rey

I’ve been rooting for Bruichladdich since their plan to resurrect the Port Charlotte distillery. Of course, the An Turas Mor was my first foray into PC, due to afforadability and availability. When the Laddie Ten came to Ontario at a reasonable price, I bought 2, and shared them liberally. A great dram at a great price. Now the PC 10 is coming to Ontario, and I’m equally excited. This review comes about from a scotch night with a good friend.

Nose: Very Laddie! Caramel, leather and rubber. Creamy.  Very lightly peated on the nose, despite being young and “heavily peated”. Some Fireworks sulphur, cool!

Palate: Medium viscosity. Spicy, peat, leather, milk chocolate.  A tad sour on the end of the palate, but not overwhemingly so.

Finish: Medium, milk chocolate and peat smoke.

Grade: B+

Like the Laddie Ten, it’s a B+ for it’s uniqueness. Bruichladdich has a knack for novelty, and this is no exception. A peated Islay that has characteristics unlike most Islays, and sometimes that’s a good thing.

“Honey, I’m on fire; I feel it everywhere. Nothing scares me anymore.”

With Apologies to Glenfarclas: Glenfarclas 15yo, Revisted

Glenfarclas 15yo is a reason (if not the reason,) to take data seriously. Having read so many glowing reviews of the Glenfarclas 15, I tried it in a bar in hopes of being won-over, as so many others had been before me. Instead, it came across as a spectacular nose, but a let-down everywhere else. A B-, really.

A bar tasting isn’t always enough, though. Given the chance to buy a bottle on the (somewhat) cheap in Montreal, I took it, and haven’t regretted it.

Nose: The old review carries. Cookies. Butterscotch, cinnamon, orange peel and cherry. A real basket of great, sweet flavours. Smooth. Smells older than 15.

Palate: Sherry, chocolate and butterscotch. Rich, like a fresh cookie. Nowhere near as spiritous as the first time I tried it.

Finish: Sweetness, sherry, chocolate and some light smoke  and tobacco on the finish. A real rich dram.

Grade: B+

A really strong showing from this dram when you own a whole bottle. The maturity makes up for the 46% ABV (nothing to sneeze at, but weaker compared to the ‘105’) and makes it just as flavourful as the 10 year ‘105’, but without all the prickly boom of 60% ABV.

ArdBen: The BenRiach 10 Curiositas

I haven’t been kind to BenRiach as of late. Kind I have not been, but fair.. that I have. As it stands, the core range at 16 years and under are uninspiring, and I would never buy a bottle for the cabinet. The 20 year old is another story, and at $80, very affordable for a 20yr. That said, I’d rather spend such money on a 20yo Bladnoch at cask strength, given the choice.

Cue the Curiositas. An inexpensive peated Speyside that has picked up some attention and high praise in the whisky community. At $64, I decided to try it. I have not been disappointed. It comes off rather like a sweet heavily-peated Islay than a peated sweet Speyside. Where I draw the line here is in how the peat comes across. In peated non-Islays, they always come across as rather synthetic peat to my tastes. That is, the peat has been noticeably ‘added’ in some way. Islays, on the other hand, feel so organically joined, the spirit and the peat. They’ve done some good work here at BenRiach, and at such a young age. Puts my faith back in the distillery.

Nose: Peat and smoke upfront. A true Islay nose. Banana bread. That’s right, you heard me: banana bread. This might be why I love it so much. Cinnamon. A couple drops of water opens it all up nicely.

Palate: The peat is there, but it takes a backseat to the BBQ smoke.

Finish: Long and pleasant.

Grade: B

I can’t fault this whisky in many ways: it’s delicious, and a great wood-fired dessert dram that works both in the winter, and as the sunsets on a cooler summer evening. If all your new releases have this quality/price ratio, BenRiach, you can be sure that I’ll be picking up what you’re putting down.

Peat in the Highlands: Ardmore Traditional Cask

Finally getting around to reviewing the Ardmore Traditional Cask. Like Laphroaig’s Quarter Cask, this one, too, is aged for a short period in traditional quarter casks. Like Laphroiag, it is a good’un, but not that good. For the price, it pretty much can’t be beat, though. It has taken me so long to write up a review because this bottle became my office bottle, and as I’m not in my office until the late dramming hours all too often, I rarely afford myself the chance to open the bottle. Each time I do, however, I am reminded about what a great bang-for-your-buck this really is. Given the data of 2 QC whiskies being so good, I’m guaranteed to try the next cost-effective QC whisky that makes it to our shores.

Nose: Sweet barley. Honeyed pears, and oak. Peat (of the Ardbeg variety). A bit salty too. Cinnamon hearts. Reminds me of that Simpson’s moment where Homer says “Look boy! I’m in Australia! Now I’m America. Australia! America!”. I find myself saying “I’m drinking a Glenfiddich! Now I’m drinking Auchentoshan! Glenfiddich! Auchentoshan! …Bruichladdich?”

Palate: Reasonably smooth for such youth. Oily. Sweet cinnamon red hots, baby. Fruit, sweetness, some cinnamon and pepper. It, again, reminds me of Auchentoshan, but not so bright and vibrant. The peat and rich Speyside characteristics take it down a few shades, and that’s alright!  It’s interesting to have a dessert whisky be peated so well. I was worried that a $44 peated whisky would turn out like Dun Bheagan’s 8yo Islay: fruit with peat sprinkles. No, this one is well married together. The peat is a compliment, not the goal itself.

Finish: Tart fruit and smoky peat. This is the end you’d expect, and love.

Grade: B-

I had this at a B upon opening, but it’s a tad rougher than my B should be. It’s by no means bad, however. A few years in the cask (get it up to 10yo and we’ll talk) would make the peat a little more “sexy” as I’ve heard others describe aged peat. Of course you’ll ask, “if the notes are so kind, why is the mark so poor”? Well, the notes are as kind as those of Highland Park 12, Oban 14, and others in it’s range. Nothing sticks out as being bad, but nothing makes me want to buy a case and sit on it with a sling-shot in fear that it’ll never come back. It’s just a good whisky, and in the end, for $44 in Ontario, that’s damn fine. We can’t all be drinking Uigeadail every week. If you’re a peat fan, this is a must-try. In fact, it’s a must-own.

Review Stub: Glenfarclas 15yo (and “Remembering the Family Cask”)

A friend’s recent birthday get together just happened to be at a bar with a decent Scotch collection, stocking many whiskies that I would be unlikely to buy a bottle of because of the price and/or review consensus.

Nose: Cookies. Butterscotch, cinnamon, orange peel and cherry. A real basket of great, sweet flavours. Smooth. Smells older than 15.

Palate: Rather hot and rough, with or without water, for a 15 year old. Creamy sherry, raisins and other soft fruits. Almonds.

Finish: Medium length with a noticeable dark chocolate note.

Grade: B-

Retasted and re-evaluated UP. See the updated notes HERE.

I really wanted to like this one. Going into it, I had heard great things, and I wanted so badly for it to knock me off my socks and make me buckle down and buy a bottle. The nose began with so much promise, but the palate was a rather rough let-down. Not terrible, not even bad really, but just your average speysider with some maturity. To that end, I’ve currently got so many other Speysides that, for a similar price, do the same thing so much better.

Coarse Notes on the ’97 Glenfarclas ‘Family Cask’ for Kensington Wine Market (Calgary, AB):

Something about this review really makes me think about the merits of cask-strength and small batch for some distilleries (the going consensus on the Scotch blogs I follow seems to be that Highland Park is fine, if not better, at the standard 43-46% ABV, for example). Upon tasting the 15yo Glenfarclas, I compared it to the (14 yo) ’97 Glenfarclas Famiy Cask I tried at Kensington Wine Market in Calgary, which came in at 56.3% ABV. It definitely makes the 15yo look flat-out boring in comparison. Neat, the nose is powerful, but not too spiritous—mostly a bowl of mixed nuts, brown sugar and sherry, all in beautiful balance. On the palate, the ’97 FC hits you like a ton of bricks, but they are delicious bricks. Mouth-coating, creamy, with sherry, raisins, brown sugar, nuts, and a whole fruit-bowl, just… just everything you could want in a Speyside, and all in turn. I had about 10 minutes to try it, so the notes were never clear enough in my head to write even a review stub, but man was it good. In hindsight, I should have bought the bottle, as it was only about $20 more expensive there than the 15yo is here. Sadly, it was limited edition, too, and it’s gone. My rational originally was “Oh, I have too many Speysiders at the moment”, and I’ve regretted rationalizing my way out of that bottle. To those that have found their way to this post searching for thoughts on the Family Cask series, the 14yo ’97 Family Cask is a solid A.

Christmas Lite: Glenmorangie 12yo ‘Lasanta’

This review is a bit of a redemption for my earlier faith in Glenmorangie (note: I use the phrase “a bit”). I had really high hopes for their ‘Original’, but upon trying it, it failed to live up to my expectations on so many levels that I was very disheartened with the distillery. I try not to do this after only trying a couple drams of one expression at a bar, but it really wasn’t all that spectacular, and I felt let down. Especially the way I’ve heard other blogs tout ‘The Original’ as the place where everyone should start their Single Malt journey.

Why, then, did I pick up the Lasanta? Well, the LCBO was having (and might still be having) a great sale where they slashed the price roughly 25%, so I thought to give it a try. For a wintry, sherried dram on the cheap, it was definitely a pleasant surprise. Permits me to save my a’Bunadh for special occasions with friends.

Nose: Honey heather (much like mead), sweet caramel and sherry, but not the sherry bomb it looks like it would be. Your typical package of ‘Christmas’ spices: cinnamon, nutmeg. Rum-raisin and christmas pudding. This nose is rather unspiritous, lacking the prickly nature you’d expect from a 12yo. However, there are some of those sulphury notes that sherry casks are guilty of from time to time. There is also a bit of souring on the end of the nose. Sometimes these off notes are there, sometimes not.

Palate: Bright, noticeably but yet delightfully warming. Creamy, but not too thick. Sherry, toffee, sultanas, christmas spices (cinnamon, nutmeg) and slightly malty. Just delightful. I can’t really pick everything out, but I don’t want to because it marries so well. Just delicious… and that’s what counts. With a drop or two of water, the spiritous heat calms right down, and all that remains is that initial delightful warmth. The sour note sometimes transfers to the palate, but not always.

Finish: Much of what the nose and palate advertise, with that wonderful chest-warming feeling that you want in a winter dram. Creamy vanilla and caramel. Ending with notes of honey and tobacco.

Grade: B-

Now, this whisky won’t force you to buy a case, and you won’t want to drink it for a month straight, etc. It’s not the a’Bunadh, and it doesn’t have the overwhelming complexity of the a’Bunadh, but that’s alright. It’s great at what it does, and that’s providing a reasonably contemplative whisky that is reasonably delicious, albeit with some off-notes here and there. If the sulphur and sour notes were gone, I’d give this a B.

Would a few more years in the barrel (say, to 15) make this any smoother? Probably, but then it might lose some of this pleasant warmth that you want in a winter whisky. May not be as nice in the heat of the summer, but for this time of year, it’s a keeper.

1992 Clynelish 18yr (Signatory Unchillfiltered Collection)

Upon the depletion of my magical bottle of ’93 Ben Nevis (Signatory), I began to seek out another Highland to fill the space in my cabinet. Having had good luck with the Signatory Unchillfiltered Collection, I decided to venture towards the last well-aged bottle at the LCBO: an 18yr Clynelish from 1992. Bottled from 2 hogsheads by Signatory in 1992, this bottling was limited to 771 bottles.

I have to begin, before the standard notes, by noting the colour. Master of Malt does not lie in their photo. It is a pale yellow, to the point of being the shade of your typical Chardonnay. Made me worry a little, seeing as it has apparently been in barrels for almost a full score. Perhaps it’s the hogsheads. I don’t know much about hogsheads, truth be told.

Update: Instead of hiding my earlier ignorance, I thought I’d leave it, and admit mistakes. Hogsheads are different from Sherry Butts, not in the sherry sense, but in the butt sense, as they are relative volume measures. Butts are larger than hogsheads (2:1 ratio). Strangely, this implies more wood contact than the sherry butts used in other Signatory UCC bottlings of similar ages. The only inference I can make from the colour of the Clynelish is perhaps it’s not a sherry hogshead? 

Also, I’d like to mention that Signatory, for me, underscores what I dislike about most popular distillery flagship bottlings (Cragganmore 12, Talisker 10, Glenmorangie Original, Springbank 10, and even Lagavulin 16, to name a few) by doing the opposite. The alcohol-y tinge that I get from the big boys, despite their being less than 46% percent, is completely absent from the higher strength Signatorys. The big boys’ flagships all have this roughness to them that I have yet to find in the non-chillfiltered, small batch, or cask-strength offerings as of late. The Clynelish gets points for passing this test.

Nose: Coastal sea salt, black pepper. Very much like Talisker with it’s freshness, plus those typical table shakers, and hints of leather. A sweet smokiness. Citrus in the background (lemon and lime, as far as I can tell). Like a margarita, actually. A hint of that agave.  After some time, there is a sweetness that comes in that turns the margarita into lemon merangue/key lime pie. What I’ve come to associate with these yellowy highlands as a bready, barley scent.

Palate: A little bit thin, but not watery. Lightly-peated, Malty, buttery, salt and pepper. A little minty, with noticeable lemon and lime. Slightly smoky. A tad of that agave. Deceptively chewy, given the colour (I associate deeper colours with thickness, though I probably shouldn’t). Ooh, and it’s a tad spicy on the end (something like cayenne pepper). Of course, the key distinction is that this spicy is flavour, and not heat.

Finish: Medium-long. Smoky, slightly sweet, with buttered-and-sugared toast. Tobacco and honeydew melon in the mouth when all is said and done. Overall mouth-drying effect.

Grade: B

Signatory has bottled another good one. What’s more, it’s a whisky with a purpose, should it choose to accept it: this Clynelish could show the folks at Talisker a thing or two. To me, I love the coastal salt, leather and lemon pepper package that Talisker delivers, but they do it so roughly and without the full craft presentation (non-chillfiltering, no caramel added) that it just comes out half-assed. This bottle shows a little more of what a good Talisker profile could be. Similar to the Laddie Ten, but not as sweet, the nose is fresh, but mature enough so as not to be harsh. Though, to be fair, that maturity is bound to come from the extra 8 years in the barrel.

The nose is quite lovely. Not too strong, but in a good way, as it lets you hunt for notes without being overwhelmed by any one scent. The palate is good, but not the earth-shattering brilliance of the Ben Nevis. It reminds me of a lightly-peated high-quality tequila at times, but a classic well-aged highland at others. It may not be as mouth-coatingly oily of the Ben Nevis, but it’s not watery. It does have that lovely smooth maturity I’ve come to expect from old Signatorys. Like the other Signatorys, too, it has definitely improved with time. A month later, and it’s settled down to deliver a more balanced dram.