Berry, Berry Nice: Macallan Cask Strength

Music: Bloodhound Gang, “Uhn Tiss Uhn Tiss Uhn Tiss”

Update: I hate you, Macallan! Why, oh why, did you discontinue this great dram?

One of the last bottles at the LCBO before being discontinued, I picked this one up after having great luck with the other widely-available NAS sherry bombs offered by the other big boys. It breaks my heart to think that this may be the last Macallan I might ever buy, as they have gone the way of weak 40%-43% NAS offerings with their 1824 series, and anything worth trying seems to be prohibitively expensive. A true shame, as I do like anything sherried that Macallan does.

Nose: Molasses, salted caramel and figs. Vanilla. Any sherry in the nose is very subtle. There is also this cinnamon sugar oatmeal scent, like one of those instant quaker packets.

Palate: Sweet sherry and cherry one-two punch, with smoke and leather on the uppercut. Chocolately, and all sorts of berry flavours (blackberries and red grapes). You’d think the alcohol would hit you like a ton of bricks at 60.1% ABV, but this one is pure elegance. With only half a teaspoon of water, this one is intensely warming, but not biting. Aberlour’s a’Bunadh fails that test.

Finish: Sherry, chocolate and cherry. Not as immediately drying, which is nice for something so sugary sweet.

Having to review stellar whiskies that are the last of their kind is so depressing. Delicious, to be sure, but depressing.

“Just jot me down on your to-do list under, ‘put out like a fire’.”

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Review Stub: The Arran Malt, Amarone Cask Finish

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. This is review 2 of 2 for that series.

Nose: Rich and thick with all sorts of berries. More savoury than sweet. Leathery. A little salt and smoke, too.

Palate: Spicy, woody, with plenty of chocolate cherries and sour berries. Not all that thick. The full-bodied dry wine characteristic is there, but not overpoweringly so. Almonds.

Finish: Medium length with almonds all over the place.

Grade: B-

This one was a bit of a step up from the Glenfarclas 15 I had that night. Still rougher than I’d like my whisky to be, but at what is about 7 years younger, this one was smoother than the Glenfarclas. A little different from what you expect in a Scotch, but I’m always up for new whisky experiences. Am I glad I didn’t buy a bottle when this hit the shelves? Mostly (if only for the fact that my cabinet was rather full at the time.) But, after two tastes of some relatively good Arran, am I going to buy the 12yo CS Arran when it comes out? You betcha.

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.

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.