Hey Dora, you want some more’a that Chieftain’s 30yo Brora?

Highlands Region – 54.6%ABV – Sherry Butt # 1523 – 469 bottles –  1981/2011 – 30yo – was $249 at K&L Wines but is sadly all sold out (in a pre-release sale nonetheless!)

…how about you Fauna? You wanna?

A gold star to the first person that gets the references in this post’s title and in the first sentence.

It’s not often you get a chance to have Brora in your glass and when you do you need to give thanks to G-d, Adonai, the Whisky Fairy, El, Elvis… what ever you call your higher power.  Brora whiskies are like hens teeth.  Very expensive hens teeth (though comparatively speaking, at $249, this 30 Brora is cheap.  The last 30yo Brora I reviewed was from a $400 bottle!)

The Brora distillery, or “old Clynelish” as it’s sometimes referred to, closed in 1983 (along with many other distilleries).  It’s stills are no longer operational.  We’ll never see this lost distillery opened again which is quite sad as they produced stellar spirit!

As I pointed out in my last review of a Brora whisky, Serge Valentin of WhiskyFun! did a great piece on the Brora distillery over at the Connosr website.  It’s well worth a read.

On to the whisky at hand.

On the nose Upon first nosing there’s an oh-so noticeable waft of sherry and oak.  It sort of slaps you.  Wakes you up.  Well, I’m already awake and prefer not to be slapped.

Let’s give this whisky a little time with some air.  (Ten minutes go by.)

It’s amazing how I am rewarded just by simply displaying a touch of patience.  The sherried notes are there, yes, as is the oak/age.  However, wonderful hints of mint and fennel followed by smoked caramels (salted) say hello to my nose.  Hi.

I am now able to inhale deeply and when I do there’s a fair amount of black pepper and some cured meats (think Linguiça).

Increasingly peppery with traces of dried fruits and tanning oil.

On the mouth Wow.  Wow-wow.  Deliciously oily and slightly waxy.

Bursts of pepper along the sides of the tongue, crushed fruit cherry bars and sweet rose water up the center of the tongue.

Baked apples with a ton of brown spices and sugar.

Pot pourri, fig newtons.  Lots of fig cookie qualities here – breading and all.

Hints of smoke here and there.  Everytime you think you found the smoke, it hides away.

Not a touch of sulfur or a bit of that over-oaked “quality” you’d be concerned with in an older whisky such as this.

Finish Incredibly lengthy with an Oolong, floral sweetness at the way back of the tongue.

In sum  A absolute stunning single cask of whisky.  One of the best I’ve had this year.  Easily.  Balanced, luxurious, indulgent and warming.

Kudos to Chieftain’s for choosing this cask of Brora (great choice!)  and adding it to their range.

Highland Park Thor. Hammers not included.

Islands region – 52.1%ABV – $180 | £120

I want to take the high road and not talk about the packaging choice for this whisky.  However, such a statement suggests that I am not a fan of the packaging and this is simply not the case.

I actually think the packaging is sort of cool.  Is it a bit over the top?  Yes.  Does it add on cost to the final selling price of the product?  Of course it does.  Can I use the wooden portion in someway?  (If I ever start playing Dungeons and Dragons again and *need* a prop to represent the boat to cross the River Styx???)  You’re gosh darned right I can!

I dig the concept for this new line of whiskies from Highland Park – a line that highlights Orkney’s Scandinavian history.  I also like the fact that, as opposed to the four vintages released by Highland Park recently, this whisky (23,000 bottles in all) is released at cask strength.

If I have one complaint about Highland Park (and I think there’s *only one* complaint), it’s that a majority of their whiskies are released at 40-43% ABV.  Thor, on the other hand, has been bottled at the wonderfully tasty strength of 52.1%ABV.

So, let us see how the Hammer of the Gods tastes.  Will it pack a punch?  Can it live up to the legend of Thor’s might?  I’m dying to find out…

On the nose Forceful, sweet and malty, this Highland Park grabbed me off the bat with lovely, lightly smoked, tropical fruits (a mixture of pineapple and lemon).

I can not tell a lie, the nose on this whisky is intoxicatingly beautiful.

There’s a bit of spice and orange flavored salt water taffies.

The balance between sweet, spice, malt, light peating level…  Really, really lovely.

On the mouth The peat is much more upfront here.  In fact, it’s the first thing to greet me upon initial sip.

Spicy along the side of the tongue.  Sweet and malty (again) right down the center of the tongue.

There’s a good deal of honey comb in here and the mouthfeel is both oily and effervescent-like at the same time.

There’s a fruity tartness here as well.

While *nothing* like the Highland Park 18yo, it has the same wonderful balance found in that whisky.

Finish Long, spicy, oily and filled with slightly burned things.

In sum  Four words: I am in love.  While I join the camp that thinks the packaging is over the top, there’s no denying that the liquid inside the bottle is exquisite.  I *shudder* at the thought that people will buy this whisky for its packaging and stick it on their whisky shelf to collect dust with the rest of the collection.  This whisky needs to be enjoyed.  Yeah, it’s that good.

Special thanks to Steph R for the sample!

Want to taste and know more about moonshine?

A bit last minute but if you feel like making the trek to Julio’s Liquors in Westboro, MA, there are two great masterclasses going on tomorrow — Saturday, June 23rd, 2012.

If you sign up for the classes you are entered into a drawing to win a bottle of Ardbeg’s new “Ardbeg Day” bottling.

Not bad if you ask me!

First up, from 2pm – 3pm is Curtis McMillan of McMillan Distillery.  Theme of this class is:

Understanding taxed moonshine
What is the difference between taxed and non taxed shine, and how it should be used? This class will go over how to use taxed shine in mixed drinks, and why shine is leaps and bounds ahead of vodka. Click Here to Sign-Up for Class #1

Up next is Gable Erenzo of Tuthilltown (Hudson “Real American” Whiskey).  Theme of his class is:

A Brief History of NY Shine As Distiller and Brand
Click Here to Sign-Up for Class #2

Then, from 7-9 there is a free whiskey expo where you’ll have a chance to taste moonshine from:

(Sampling Raw and Mixed) Tuthilltown, Knockeen Hills, TryBox, Georgia Moon, Prichards, Deaths Door, Midnight Moon, Catdaddy, Dark Corner, Bully Boy, House Spirits, Ole Smokey, XXX Shine, Georiga Still, Kymar Farm, Outlaw Moonshine, Dutch, High West, Buffalo Trace


Glen Moray 10yo Chardonnay Cask

Speyside region – 40% ABV – £25 | $39

Yet another interesting release from Glen Moray; a 10yo single malt matured exclusively in ex-chardonnay barriques.

I’ve got to hand it to Glen Moray, they have no problem releasing some more off-the-beaten-track whiskies – the single chenin blanc cask as an example.

While others are finishing (many with great success) in ex-wine casks, Glen Moray is releasing full maturation versions these ex-wine casked whiskies.

This is bottled at 40% ABV (remember my admitting my whisky-snobbery regarding 40% ABV in my last Glen Moray post? – that one bottled at 60.7% ABV).  Let’s see what happens and if my snobbishness prevails or the whisky:

On the nose Triple S – Sweet, sugared and supple.  Sugary chamomile tea with lemon wedges.

It’s funny how I find most chardonnay wines to be over-oaked and find this one not to be overtaken by oak in any way.

Corn Pops cereal with paperboard box and all.

Bonkers fruit chews and other taffy like candies.

On the mouth Slightly less sweet to taste with a lovely malted backbone.

Lemon log cake.

Sweetened butter and lemony honey (watered down).  Simple syrup.

More that of that chamomile tea and even a touch of white tea (Cloud Mist to be exact).  Actually a bit salty after a couple of minutes.  Interesting.

Finish Drying toward the back of the mouth with jujyfruit-like sweetness.

In sum  This is going to sound terribly sexist but, this is a whisky for the ladies.

I say this knowing full well that more than 60-70% of the the women that come to my local tasting events prefer big, peaty whiskies.

I say this knowing that I love, love, love a good martini cosmopolitan.

I say this knowing that I love “chick-flicks” and have no issues weeping on cue.

Like the perfect mixture of bon-bons and the latest episode of General Hospital – this one is sweet, comforting and somehow indulgent.

Special thanks to IA for the sample!

Islay distilleries explained thru Rock and Roll comparisons – Part 6 – Bunnahabhain & my review of the 20yo Single Sherry cask from Master of Malt

Islay distilleries and their whiskies explained through Rock and Roll – Part VI (of VIII)

I was hoping to get part six of this series up last week but time just got away from me. Having only three more Islay/Rock posts left (including today’s post), I’ll be sad to see this series end.

Here’s one of the beauties of Islay: We’re going from young, brash and heavily peated Kilchoman, to older and gentler, Bunnahabhain.  Bunnahabhain’s tagline is “Welcome to the gentle taste of Islay.”

Known as Islay’s [basically] unpeated whisky, Bunnahabhain is also known for often being generously sherried.  Today’s whisky, though not bottled by Bunnahabhain, is no exception to this generalization.

Before we move forward, let’s quick run down the Islay distilleries & their rock and roll equivalents we’ve covered so far — Part one:Bruichladdich as The Sex Pistols, Part two: Ardbeg as Slayer, Part three: Caol Ila as The 80′s (They get their very own decade!), Part four:Bowmore as David Bowie and Part five: Kilchoman as the Jackson Five (somewhat fitting, in retrospect, with them both bearing the number five).

Today we’re reviewing a 20yo Bunnahabhain bottled by Master of Malt.  Sadly, this bottling is completely sold out however, Master of Malt still have some of this as part of their “Drinks by the Dram” offering.  I’m glad I bought a bottle before they were all sold out!

20yo Bunnahabhain – 54.1%ABV – bottled by Master of MaltSold Out (though you can get a 3cl sample of it for only £5/$7)

On the nose What you’d come to expect with a heavily sherried whisky (and I mean heavily):  Furniture polish, cherry stones, tanned leather, rum balls and/or tiramasu, stewed prunes, burning cigars, unlit cigars (dark wrappers)… You name it, it’s in here and nicely organized.

On top of this is a very evident woody note… Oaky and I can almost smell the tannins.

With water and there’s some added unlit pipe tobacco (floral and reminiscent of some hookah stuff I’ve smoked before) and dark chocolates.

On the mouth MASSIVE ATTACK.  It’s like all of the aforementioned items I got on the nose were jammed into my mouth.  Thinnish mouthfeel and highly drying.  Hmmm… a bit too oaky given its age.  Let me try some water here.  ¡¡Agua al rescate!!


The mouth feel is saved and there less heat and less attack upon entry.

The flavors seem to match the nose (again) yet the addition of chocolate covered raisins and wafts of light smoke offer up something quite delicious.

Still a bit drying which leads me to the finish…

Finish Somehow my mouth starts to water as the whisky continues to dry in a long and slightly spicy finish.

In sum  This whisky is a powerhouse, no doubt.  Without water, it’s a difficult whisky to drink.  With a dash of water, it’s delicious (yet the oak will not be subdued and therefore, it’s a bit off balance).

An autumn whisky for sure.  This’ll warm you – boy, will it warm you!


Bunnahabhain – The Band!

With Michael Stipe’s unique voice rising over the band’s overall unmistakable sound and while every song was quite different, every song was very much R.E.M.

Like them or not (and I happen to love them), you can’t argue with this fact.

The same could ring true with Bunnahabhain.  While they do experiment with peated and ex-bourbon expressions such as “Toiteach (and a few others),” it’s fairly safe to say you know what you’re going to get when you taste their 12yo, 18yo,  25yo.  Big sherried whiskies.

What’s more is, like when bands have their music remastered, in 2011 Bunnahabhain “remastered” their standard range.  Moving their ABV from 40%/43% up to 46.3%, discontinuing the use of E150a caramel coloring and the ending the practice of chill-filtration has seemed to do wonders to the their standard range, breathing in new life and vibrancy.

So, rock on Bunnahabhain!  Stand in the place where you live.  Don’t Lose Your Religion, just distill while playing your Finest Worksong.