Two new whiskies for the Gordon & Macphail’s Private Collection. A 19yo Ledaig and a 20yo Balblair


Today, dear readers, you are going to get a two-for-one review session.

I’ve been reviewing whisky after whisky after whisky and have a whole host of notes at the ready.  However it’s been a little difficult finding the time to actually post my notes.

That said, seeing as I had a little window of time in which to post up a review, I thought I’d kill two whiskies birds with one review stone.

The two today, to me, are a couple of odd ducks.  I’ve never had a finished Ledaig until now.  The same goes with the Balblair I’m also reviewing today.  Both are wine finished and part of the Gordon Macphail “Private Collection” range of whiskies.  Furthermore, both are bottled at 45% ABV which is an unusual bottling strength given that 40%, 43%, 46% and cask strength tend to be the most common…

20yo Balblair finished in Crozes-Hermitage Wood – 45% ABV – $145

Some notes from Gordon & Macphail:

Private Collection Balblair Distillery Crozes-Hermitage Wood Finish was distilled in 1991 and bottled in 2012 and again finished for 40 months from casks from the northern Rhône region of France.

On the nose –  Very heavy with the wine influence on this one.  It smells of tannins and Acid brand cigars (herbed, herbal, perfumed, perfumal? Nah, just perfumed).

Wow, chili peppers and… salted avocado (???).

Some fruits are hiding behind the winey scents.

Still more, we have some damp, dank sweetness swirling about the glass.  A oddly interesting nose.

There seems to be a bit of a fight going on with the scents here.

On the mouth – Similar to what I got on the nose.  The chili pepper zing hits the side of my tongue.  Mouth begins to water.

Cranberry relish and other tart fruit relishes.  Lots of red fruit and an interesting mouthfeel.

There’s a wet-like viscosity that is drying my tongue.  It doesn’t make sense but, it’s happening.

Cigars again.

Finish – Long, drying and filled with red fruits.

In sum – Totally NOT what I look for in a Balblair.  While it’s not *my* bag but I can see folks loving this one.

If you like your whiskies with a heavy wine influence, look no further.  This does a good job highlighting that aspect while still retaining it’s whiski-ness.

19yo Ledaig finished in St. Joseph Wood – 45% ABV – $95

Some notes from Gordon & Macphail:

The expression from Ledaig Distillery was distilled in 1993 and bottled in 2012 and finished in St Joseph casks for 40 months.

On the nose –  What’s to be expected from a nice, older Ledaig: Soft peat and nice fruits.

Apple lollipops, even apple schnapps.

Spiced gum drops, allspice.  Lots of various candied scents.

A bit of a mishmash and focused on the fruity elements but really nice smelling overall.

On the mouth – Here’s where is begins to get real!

Very wine forward but oh, so pleasantly so (red fruits, black pepper and just a drop of fresh cement)!

A little woody but not in a bad way at all.  It helps add in some wood spice elements.

A touch of wet cardboard (I often get this in whiskies where the cut of the distillate has a fair amount of tails.  Heck, I get this a lot in most Ledaigs/Tobermorys).

Great mouthfeel.

Finish – Drying with threads of peat throughout.  Pretty gosh darned long…

In sum – A very interesting whisky.  I enjoyed it thoroughly.  While the nose seemed a bit too focused, it really drew me in to taste and this whisky shines in flavor.  A even keeled finish with decent length.

I could enjoy this repeatedly.

Thanks to CR for the official samples!!

Balvenie 17yo DoubleWood (not to be confused with the standard, 12yo version)


Speyside region – 43% ABV – $129

New to The Balvenie’s standard range is a 17yo whisky.

Before this launch, they had their 12yo Signature, 12yo DoubleWood, 15yo Single Barrel series (amazing series, people!) and a 21yo PortWood as their standard range.

There have been the one-off 17yo yearly releases such as the Madeira Cask, Islay Cask, Peated Cask, Sherry Wood, Rum Cask, etc…, etc…, etc…

What’s new this year is a now standard whisky: the 17yo DoubleWood.  Essentially, an older version of the 12yo.  At $40 (give or take) I’ve always found the 12yo DoubleWood to be one of the best buy whiskies out there.  With this one jumping nearly $90 in cost, let’s see what it does; what the differences are…

On the nose –  Kip Winger says she’s 17 but she don’t smell 17.

(Yes, I know that sounded a bit too off but, come on, you know who you’re reading folks!)

This juice has the youthful quality of light bright fruit upon first sniff (pears, which are slight, as well as green plums).

A touch of rain water and then some sherry notes pop in: dates, mainly, then a seemingly perfumed cola…

Nosing after a few sips and the wood starts to come through in a welcome way.

On the mouth – Packed full of light flavors:  Honey (“The” signature Balvenie character), light wood spice, white/yellow cherries.

Insanely approachable whisky.  Easy going.  Almost too easy.

Sugared breakfast cereal (thinking Alpha-Bits, to be sure).  Soft mouthfeel.

Not very viscous but again, easy.

Finish – Biscuits, buttered with honey and medium wood spice.

In sum – For my tastes, I think I like the 12yo DoubleWood over this 17yo.  Both are fine whiskies to be sure but I think the 12yo is a more challenging whisky and I’m one that likes to be challenged.

For those in the audience that is looking for what is quite possibly the easiest drinking whiskies I’ve had in a while, this baby is for you.

Special thanks to AW for the official sample!

Three various Single Casks in the Chieftain’s range: Jura, Glen Kieth and Craigellachie


Various regions of Scotland…  3 different single casks bottled for the Chieftain’s range.

After a few quick points, we will get straight on to the reviews today!

Special thanks to the folks from ImpEx for the cask samples!

To learn more about the Chieftain’s Range in general, click here.

Chieftain’s Glen Kieth 17yo bottled at 54.9% ABV

On the nose  A light peat influence here, or so it would seem.

Salty, hay and a touch of candy-like lemon drops (a thread of smoke?).

Sherry-like influence (getting hints of Amontillado) but also sort of bourbon in character (think wood spice, honey and even a shake of white pepper).

A fun little nose, if a little confused.

On the mouth Light white berries, unripened plums, sugared plums as well.

Biscuits, undercooked.  Pie crusts… Oh!  Gooseberry pie.  This is nice.

Somewhat simple but nice and focused.

Lightly oily slightly effervescent feel to it.

Finish –  Shortish with, again, a thread of smoke.

Chieftain’s Jura 12yo bottled at 58.4% ABV

On the nose Few whiskies yell at me from the glass saying, “Hey Hatton, I was distilled at such and such distillery… duh!!!” like Jura yells at me.

It always seems to start off with a note that I can only call Eeore’s thistles – like burning pricker bushes.

On top of this is a slight soapy quality.  People get a little freaked out about a soap quality in a whisky.  For me, done right, the soap “quality” can be just that, a “quality.”

The soap on this is within tolerance but surely on the higher side.

There’s also a touch of lavender in here as well as calking.

On the mouth Very industrial to taste, window putty, calking, wet cement.

Pushing these notes to the side and now we discover some great gristy notes.  You can taste the wash (beer to be distilled into spirit) but it’s very beer-like.  Lager-like.  But, a good lager (sans hops, obviously).

Rainbow candy buttons.

Finish Short and slightly drying.

Chieftain’s Craigellachie 21yo bottled at 58.3% ABV

On the nose You can see why they use so much of this malt in the Dewar’s blend.  It’s got a nice, balanced nose.

Let me start of with the fact that, even at 58.3%ABV, it’s not hot on the nose.  The scents are all right there.

This noses like a 21yo:  Wood spice and dill covered lemon slices.  Green wood and honey spice.  Apple sauce with brown spices.  Are you catching a theme here?  Tough to get beyond the spiced quality.

I’m a fan of the spice bombs so, let see how it translates in the flavor profile.

Adding a dash of water brings out some notes of pool water and gobs of malt!

On the mouth Yeah, yeah… this is it.  This is what I look for in, say, some of the older Dailuaines…  Fruity little spice bombs.

This is, however, just a little hot.  Without water, we’ve got baked pears with a slight hint of cloves.  Also, vanilla.  A good deal of vanilla.  Yeah, water is needed with this one.

Not just to temper the heat but the water *really* opens up this whisky!

Ooey flan comes to mind as I take another sip.  Browned sugar and candied fennel.

Finish A long and overly spiced finish.  Perhaps a bit too spiced (if there were such a thing).  Wow, very long.

In sum

Glen Kieth:  An interesting whisky.  My first Glen Kieth.  Over all, I liked it.  I wonder what a few more years in the cask might have done for this whisky…

Jura: Yeah, this is an odd one.  Over all, while it was a little all over the place, I enjoyed drinking it.  Nosing it was enjoyable mainly because it’s got that Jura oddness that has you coming back for more.  This really is a winter-warmer-upper!

Craigellachie: With a dash of water, I am incredibly impressed with this cask.  It tells a wonderfully balanced story from beginning to end (with the spice volume turned up just a touch too high at the finish).  Without the water….well, I suggest you add a dash.  Should you get a bottle, you’ll see what I mean.  This is one where the extra H20 makes an incredible difference.

For more solid reviews of Chieftain’s reviews, be sure to check out Peter’s (of “The Casks” fame) reviews.

Bowmore’s Ultimate Islay Adventure!

So, who here likes winning stuff?

Bowmore is offering 2 winners the chance to win a 5-day visit to Islay where they (the winners) will experience the Scottish wilderness with a renowned adventurer, take in the spectacular scenery during a photography master class and enjoy VIP touring (and tasting!) at the Bowmore distillery. Full details and entry forms can be found on the Bowmore website and on the Bowmore Facebook page.

Note that to enter the competition you need to be part of Bowmore’s Inner Core (so, expect to sign up for that as part of the entry).

Do yourself a favor and enter to win the competition!!

More details for you (taken right from the Bowmore website):

“Islay is a majestic, weather beaten land combining natural beauty with the rugged outdoors and we want to give two of our friends from around the world the chance to explore our island home on the ultimate Bowmore adventure.

Along with our Brand Advocates Ken Hames and Colin Prior, the winners will enjoy a unforgettable five day trip to Islay, from surviving on an uninhabited island overnight to photographing majestic eagles at dawn, this trip will be the ultimate outdoor lovers adventure around Islay.

After experiencing all the outdoors can throw at you its back to the Bowmore distillery to enjoy your reward. Highlights of your trip will include:

•  Dawn Islay photography master class with Colin Prior

•  Construction of a hide with Ken Hames

•  An overnight expedition to the island of Scarba

•  Foraging for lunch 

•  VIP tour and an in-depth tasting at Bowmore including some very 

   special expressions”

Also, I’ll be running a competition myself giving away a “Bowmore Accessory Pack.”  Details to follow in the coming days…

Lost Spirits Leviathan I, Cask #3


California – 53%ABV – $55 (solid pricing for single cask, cask strength whiskey!)

As I begin to write about this 3rd cask of Leviathan from Lost Spirits Distillery (Leviathan being a single malt whiskey from California peated with Canadian peat to 110ppm), I immediately began to wonder what to lead off with.

Sure, I could go right to the review but if I did, I’d be remiss in telling you that having looked at the awesome still at Lost Spirits, I was in some way reminded of Trogdor the Burninator.

Wait, come again?  You’ve not heard of Trogdor the Burninator?  I feel I must enlighten you:

(Yes.  I am still sort of 9 years old…)

My bit of fun off to the side now, seriously, check out the Lost Spirits still.  It’s a stunning work of art (that creates some fine juice).

Let’s review the whiskey!

Nose  Pushing initial thoughts of Mezcal out of my head and I find this to be a very grain-forward whiskey.  All upfront we have horse feed, barley draff and peated mash all ready to be turned into wash/beer.

It’s also very barn-yardy (to be expected with younger, peated whiskies).

Let’s not forget the fruits, shall we?  Milk chocolate covered strawberries.  Perhaps a touch of marzipan and peach pit.

Quite easy to nose at 53% ABV!  Smokey, for sure, but there’s a charred wood quality here, too.

Palate Big and juicy and fruity!  Tons of red berries, still getting some of those peach notes (the flesh right by the pit: tart yet over ripe).

Back to the barnyard-like notes.  In fact, and this note was pointed out to my by a good friend, there’s a touch of horse-hind.

Put your nose up to a horse and, bam!

Warming, comforting, almost a bit too fruity (if that’s possible).

Finish  Fruity notes increase as does a building spice along the sides of the tongue.

In sum Beyond the individual notes, taking the macro look and as previously reported, this is a very unique spirit!  While I thought the first one I had was a touch more balanced, this one was insanely enjoyable.  This to me is a summer dram.  Yes, it’s smokey & peaty, but the fruits and grain have their hands on the wheel with this one.  I’d love to have a dram of this while hanging out in a field of grains, reading a book.

Special thanks to BD for the official ample sample!