Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt Whisky (Shackleton’s Antarctic whisky replica)

A mixture of Speyside & Highland region whiskies – 47.3%ABV – $165 | £99 | €111

I understand and fully appreciate that what I am about to taste here is history.  Actually, I’m getting a preview of the history that you all out there are about to taste (should you go out and pick up a bottle) and I thank all those involved for sending me a sample to allow me this opportunity.

I could say a lot about this whisky – much of is has been reported by the major (and minor) news outlets.

Rather than throw in my $0.02 in a poor attepmt to expand on the historical aspect of the Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt Whisky, I’ll let this video do the talking (then review it, as shown below):

On the nose Very grassy and flinty, a fist full of hay and a full jar of sea salt.

Untoasted & freezer burnt English muffins.

Then the fruits, nuts and saltier treats lay on good and thick – -pineapple, assorted nuts and unripened peach drizzled with melted toffee.

Threads of smoke from ocean grass and and driftwood.

Sea glass and a long walk on the beach (high tide).

An empty box that once held Nilla wafers (wow, that sounds pretentious but, I’m smelling it; the pretentious bastard I am…).

The mix of scents and over all balance is so nice, part of me is refusing to taste this stuff.  But, I must move on.

On the mouth Smoky, bright and crisp.

Lots of flavors here, all of them have burnt edges.

A touch of meatiness here (not in an offensive way, it’s subtle).

Lemon rinds, pears, bruised apples and a high malt influence.

Smokey, malty goodness.  Really, a good deal of malt.

Salty but not nearly as much as what I detected on the nose.

Nice mouthfeel over all, a good mix of light viscosity and zingy, fizzy effervescence.  I’m sure you know this but, when I say fizzy, effervescent, etc… I’m not suggesting that this (or any other whisky I describe as such) whisky is carbonated.  No, I’m describing the feel/sensation one gets from a fizzy drink.  Cool?  Cool.

Finish Fizzy pop rocks minus the “POP!”, long, salty

In sum My initial thought was that this resembles a nice Springbank mixed with some bourbon cask Port Ellen (due to the coastal, flinty, mineral, smokiness).  If this replica is exact, Mackinlay knew what he was doing and Shackleton was drinking some fine fancy juice!  Well balanced, composed and thoroughly delicious.  I’d save this as a treat for yourself or perhaps to impress your friends with.  There’s a fantastic story to accompany this one.  Lots of great conversation can started with this whisky.

Special thanks goes out to Jill of Whyte & Mackay & Andy H for working your magic to get the sample to me!

Single Cask, 30yo Caol Ila bottled by Master of Malt

Islay region – Master of Malt Exclusive Single Cask bottling limited to 154 bottles – 57.4%ABV – £99 | €111

Yay!  The whole “get a free sample of whisky using the JSMWS sample code at the Master of Malt website during checkout” works (details on that program can be found here).  I’m not here to push Master of Malt right now, not really.  I’m just reviewing one of their whiskies and letting you know how I ended up getting a sample of their new Caol Ila single cask whisky.

I am a patron of Master of Malt as well as Royal Mile Whiskies, The Whisky Exchange, SCOMA, Shoppers Vineyard, Abbey Whisky and many, many others… not trying to show favoritism here… I shop them all.  My whisky purchasing business gets spread all around as I want to help keep all of these stores up and running.

So, to continue with my story…

While spidering the MoM website, I uncovered some great deals so I took my own advise and used the “JSMWS sample” code in the shipping instructions during my last purchase to Master of Malt.  Lo and behold, what did I find in the box along side some Hanyu, Aberlour and Arran I bought?  A fun little 3ml sample of this 30yo Caol Ila single cask, that’s what!

So, it all worked out in the end.  I got some fancy whisky bottles and a shiny, bandy-new sample of Caol Ila.  Lucky for me because this is a well chosen cask of whisky!

On the nose More smoky than expected with this one being as old as it is… perhaps it’s the pepper attack that grabs my nose’s attention which is then followed by a smoke burst that makes it seem more smokey than it actually is.

Let’s give this another go.  Incredibly fruity – sugared tropical fruits.

Vanilla creams and lemon pepper.

Tobacco and fig ice cream (topped with fresh figs) – hungry yet??

On the mouth Soft – bloody f&%king soft entry (!!) and filled with salted sugary goodness.

Aged rum – this actually reminds me of some aged cask strength rums I’ve had.

Nowhere near as smoky as the nose suggested.

Smoked salt on pineapple (fried pineapple).

Peach Melba.  Fabulous.

Herbed incense.  Hot now, salty too.

Finish Long, longer, silken and warm with peaches.

In sum A luxurious Single Cask of Caol Ila.  Wonderfully composed, balanced and just a damn, damn tasty dram!  Powerful yet soft and elegant.  An any occasion dram – perhaps a dram to enjoy ASAP!  Before it sells out!

Del Maguey Single Village “Tobala” Mezcal

Oaxaca, Mexico – 45%ABV – $113

WARNING & DISCLAIMER – For those who keep, this mezcal is not certified as “Kosher” or “Kosher for Passover” – I am no rabbi but I think, based on their meticulous process and the fact that this Del Maguey Mezcal is made of 100% Wild Mountain Maguey, a type of agave, that this may be “Kosher by Nature”.

Crystal clear Mexican goodness.  That is what I am about to review here.

I’ve been a tequila drinker for a good long time now.  I never suffered the college-tequila-shot-binging that turns most people off to one of Mexico’s national drinks.

We are, however, not discussing tequila today.  We’re discussing Mezcal.

What are the differences?

Spoken in broad terms, most tequilas are made from blue agave (at least the better ones).  Sometimes 100% blue agave, sometimes a mix of different agave varietals.  Tequila is also twice distilled.

Mezcal is made from Maguey Agave (of which there are many different types) and is usually distilled only once.

Maguey Tobala (Wild Mountain Variety)
Maguey Espadin, what with the sword-shaped leaves. Do not fall on one of these plants people!

The Maguey Tobala (or wild mountain agave) is different than the Maguey Espadin (which has leaves shaped like long swords). It is smaller and broader leafed. It takes about eight Tobala hearts (the part of the plant that gets mashed, liquified and distilled) to equal one heart from the more commonly propagated and cultivated Maguey.

“Yeah but, how does it differ in taste?”

Tequila is known to be sweet and fruity.  Mezcal is similar but has an intense smokiness that one might equate to the smokiness of an Islay Scotch whisky like an Ardbeg or Laphroaig.  Yeah, they can be that smoky!

On the nose A tire shop after a recent shipment, burning rubber bouncy balls and smog.

Interesting that the label shows a line of traffic… this sort of smells like that.

Butter and rye seed.

Pulling my nose back a bit from the glass and I’m getting really nice notes of vanilla.

Lying ‘neath those heavy-heavy traffic and rubbery/smoky scents I’m finding mint sprigs, fresh mango (heavily sugared mango, that is) and dandelion flowers.

On the mouth Fruity and juicy tropical melons, a plastic fire and marjoram (?).

Such a smoky sweet tang to it… amazing really.  Cinnamon ribbon candy.

So oily, chewy & ooey…  I really can not stress how delicious this stuff is.

Finish Cinnamon finish, long and really lovely.

In sum This mezcal is made for those of us who love the peaty/smoky whiskies.  Smokiness aside, I find this mezcal to be a true treat.

I drink this on Passover because I can’t drink a grains based spirit but I also drink this on Passover because Passover is a time to celebrate and tonight, I’m celebrating.

To life, to family, to freedom.

Special thanks to Andrew of Liberty Bar in Seattle for introducing me to this gem.

Passover booze 2011 – Chateau du Tariquet Bas Armagnac – “Classique” 40%ABV

France – 40%ABV – $35 | £22 | €25

WARNING & DISCLAIMER – For those who keep, this armagnac is not certified as “Kosher” or “Kosher for Passover” (I am no rabbi but I think, being that this is nothing more than distilled wine matured in European oak casks, that this may be “Kosher by Nature”, not to be confused with “Naughty by Nature“)

It’s that Passover time of year where I (and millions of Jews around the world) abstain from any food or drink that is grain-based.  That means, you guessed it: No whisky (in any form be it Scotch, Japanese, Irish, Bourbon, Rye, corn… nothing!).

So, what are my options?

Wine? Yes.  Tequila? Yes!  Calvados? Yes.  Beer? No.  Rum/Rhum?  I think so…  Cognac? Yes!!  Armagnac? YES!!!

My first choice for Armagnac this Passover is Chateau du Tariquet “Classique” which is an Armagnac aged at least three years but is also a blend of different vintages and made up of two grape varietals: Baco 40% Ugni-blanc 60%.  For more information on what Armagnac is, check out this wiki-page.

On the nose Vanilla and honey right up front like they’re the teacher’s pet.  Simmer down guys, I’m a student here too…

Spicy here too and, get this, corn tortilla (let’s hope they didn’t slip any corn in the one or I’d have done messed up Passover right here and now).

White chocolate and crushed dried fruits (dates & raisins).

It actually noses like a lightly sherried whisky…

On the mouth Oh, good G-d!  Delicious!  Truth be told, I don’t know what to expect from an armagnac so what I’m tasting may not what people look for in one.  But I’ll tell you this, what I look for in Scotch whisky is what Im tasting here and now: Warm and slightly toasted flavors of  vanilla and honeyed almonds.

A thread of smokiness, wood and a fruity compote.

The mouthfeel is not too thick, not too thin.

Finish Dessert-like, scrumptious (think french vanilla bean ice cream and caramel topping).

In sum I could easily sip on this in place of your every day whisky.  Very easy going, full-flavored, sweet and perfect for an after dinner treat.

To all of those who celebrate and observe Passover, Chag Sameach (Happy Holiday)!

A blind-ish tasting of some crazy mixed up old juice…

A funny thing happened on the way to “GlenHatton”…

“Wait, what’s GlenHatton?”

“GlenHatton” is a something I’ve been brewing for some time now.  I’ve been pouring my “Dregs”* into a single bottle, about 26 whiskies in all, and reached a point were it seemed to smell & taste… interesting.  So, being taught that “sharing is caring” I reached out to some people via the JSMWS Facebook page to see if they wanted to try it.  I received more responses than I could shake a stick at and could only dole out about 6 samples.  There will be a a series of “GlenHatton” posts in the very near future…  “Watch this space”

*(“Dregs” Noun.  Meaning in the Whisky World: The final bits of many whisky bottles or samples that where there simply was not enough left to drink as a dram, or barely more than a few drops.)

So, one of the lucky 6 recipients of my GlenHatton Dregs whisky asked if I were interesting in tasting an all-malt blend that he had been working on (Sssseeeeee??? sharing IS caring!!).  I, of course, said ‘hell yeah!’ and asked what was in the blend.  He could not tell me.  All he could say was that this was some OLD juice!  He did give some names and a range of dates: 60’s Balvenie, 30’s Mortlach, some old-ass LittleMill and a few others.  Again, the information was as limited as could be.  That’s cool.  I figured it’d be a fun experiment regardless…

Thanks to EM for the sample!

On the noseFruity and dusty at the same time.

A high sweet corn-like note is uncovered after the first sip and is off-set by a slight touch of smoke.

Light berry jam (think a mix of raspberry and strawberry) and a whiff of wood.

Jasmine tea (a lovely note).

Light sweet butter.  A touch of coconut and a bit of pineapple.

On the mouth ***Incredibly thick*** and seemingly growing in volume  (perhaps my mouth is watering?).  Flat soda.

I’m guessed the ABV was pretty low, no more than 43% (EM corrected me, its just over 44%ABV).

Toasted cream pastries and warmed woody bits.

Spicy and spiced notes of fresh and juicy melon.

Mango, sticky rice and coconut milk (Thai mango sticky rice).

Finish Fruity & tropical – filled with mango and persimmons.  Lasting fruitiness.

In sum A cool mix of fruits, wood, smoke (however slight) and Asian-style goodness.  All-in-all a nicely balanced, enjoyable whisky.  Perhaps the best thing about this whisky was the mango sticky rice note (I am SO HUNGRY right now).