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Four Glenfiddich Single Malts all under one review – 15yo, 15yo “102”, Glenfiddich 21yo Rum Finish & Snow Phoenix

Speyside region – Four expressions from Glenfiddich.

As I write this post, I am holed up in a hotel room room with my two little girls asleep in a king-sized bed in the next room while my wife and I are cuddled up on our hide-away couch/bed.

You see, we’ve been sort-of victimized by hurricane Irene.

Thank G-d (B”H) we and our family not hurt and our house is damage-free.  I consider us lucky compared to some people I know who’ve had their houses completely flooded; trees down on their houses, etc…  We’re lucky.  We’re only victims of an extended power outage.  Power should be restored sometime next week and once we have power, we’ll have water.  Not to get to graphic but, toilets are only good when they work.  It’s a shitty situation.

I hope and pray that all those affected by the storm can return to normal life ASAP.

So, what to do when you’re finally in a place where you have electricity?  Well, I don’t know about you but, I like to write whisky reviews so that’s what I’m’a doin’ right now.

Special thanks goes out to Heather Greene for the samples of the four Glenfiddichs below.  I had a lot of fun with them and fell in love with two of them!

Enjoy (I did)!
Glenfiddich 15yo Solera – 40%ABV – $35 | £32

On the nose Very woody – more so than I expected from a 15yo whisky such as this.  It’s not a bad thing, just a strong note.  Let’s hope there’s some spice or fruit to balance it out.

Moving on.

Honey and apricots and almond slivers.  Laminated cardboard and a warm… scratch that, hot sauna.

On the mouth Here comes the fruit I was looking for – casaba melon, red pear and red plum.  Honey and spice and a wisp or thread of peat smoke.  Increasingly spicy or, spiced.  Soft and mouth coating yet tannic.

Finish Very dry finish reminiscent of a light yet dry wine.

In sum  I had this whisky a few years back.  Actually, if was my first Glenfiddich and I liked it quite a bit.  Upon a return to it, I didn’t appreciate it as much as I did the first time around.  I think there’s just too much wood it’s a bit too drying for me.  I’d not say no to this if it were offered to me and I may choose it over other whiskies (old 12yo Bunnahabhain 40%ABV, I’m looking at you).  Then again, if I had a choice between a whisky at 40%ABV and a higher or cask strength version, I think I’d pass on this one – give me the Cask Strength version please!  The higher ABV let’s you play with the whisky a little more (adding water & how much?)  Speaking of which… let’s move on, shall we?

Glenfiddich 15yo “102” – 51%ABV – $55 | £40

On the nose Thick, fat, meaty mafia don sherried type nose.  Perhaps some root veggies in there (sugared as it were).  Ginger and nuts.  New sneakers, fresh in the box.  Big and rich raisins still in the cardboard box.

Just an overall pleasing, sherried nose.

On the mouth Pow!  The taste of this stuff is picking up where the nose left off.  Fried walnuts, dirty socks, sour apples and toasted apple skins.  Warm almonds and loads of popsicle sticks (wet and sugary).  Caramel, fudge and hazelnuts – Toffifay!

Oh, yum!

Finish Long with hints of plastic bags, walnuts and graham crackers (graham crackers??  Where’d you come from?)

In sum  It’s nice to taste a Glenifiddich in it’s natural cask strength.  Sort of a rare-ish opportunity to show you what the whisky is like in it’s natural state.  This is one for a late night and a good book or as part of a sherried whisky tasting event.  This’ll hold it’s own for sure!

Glenfiddich 21yo Gran Reserva Caribbean Rum Finish – 40%ABV – $120 | £77

On the nose Snooty college girls puffing on clove cigarettes.  NYC library.

Gobs and gobs of vanilla and a tad (just a tad) of honey mustard.  Black raisins, currant.

On the mouth Massive oak attack.

Tiramasu soaking, even dripping, with rum.  Back to the NYC library (like a warm oaken room).  Burnt sugar.

The mouthfeel is thin but then again, many of the rum cask finished whiskies I’ve had have had a thin mouth feel.

Finish Long and sweet with wine soaked grapes.  Buttery and oaky

In sumA lovely grouping of flavors and a nice little ride but, similar to the 15yo bottled at 40%, I really think this stuff would benefit from a higher ABV and no chill filtration.  Very nice smell and flavor-wise (great balance) but slightly…tired and I did not care for the mouth feel.

Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix – 47.6%ABV – $89 | £93

On the nose Big bright and rambunctious nose.  This is like the Pippy Longstockings of whisky.

Very fruity, slightly tropical but more like super fresh and sugared pears with a cinnamon dusting.  Light hay, honey, buttermilk biscuits.  What most notable about this whisky is just how lively and inviting it is.

Just a joy.

On the mouth Great malty attack with bursts of that initial sweetness/fruitiness I got on the nose.  Spicy, lemony (though not sour in anyway, very, very sweet).  Raisins in Reisling.  Incredibly fizzy and lively – this stuff just dances on your tongue.

There’s a slight off-note in here, like the rind or pith of a fruit.  Forget what I said about no sour note, it’s there (though integrated quite well).

A mere hint or thread of smoke in here (perhaps a wood effect?)

Finish Interestingly woody, long and spicy.

In sum  I’ve had many a ‘fiddich but few, if any, I found to be as lively and engaging as this one.  This will cure the summertime blues (forget what those guys say, there is a cure!).  I hope this experiment is one that the folks a Glenfiddich can use to help gauge what an additional direction for Glenfiddich could be.   I’ll be singing the glories of this whisky for some time to come…

Two Laphroaigs, both independently bottled. One from Royal Mile Whiskies the other from Signatory.

This is going to be a sort of cut-to-the-chase review.

More whisky, less preamble.

I’ve got a trip to Scotland to in a few days, lots to review and little time for posting more than notes.

So, two Laphroaigs, both independently bottled. One bottled by Royal Mile Whiskies, one by Signatory.  A death match to the finish (pun intended).

Laphroaig RMW 10yo 56.8% (this bottle is no longer available)

On the nose Smoky and abrasive yet fruity… sort of like a fruit orchard on fire.

Lemon custard pie with a side of honeycomb cereal.

Very aggressive nose – at 56.8% I’d expect so but… it seems somehow moreish in the hot-alcohol-on-the-nose department.

Pears, cinnamon and pepper; in that order.

Lastly, some notes of tinned pineapple… Tin and all.

On the mouth– 

Not as smoky as the nose lead on.

Fresh oats and other cereals. Very malty.

Creamy attack loaded with lemons and salted, honey and butter slathered toast.

Finish nice even, drying finish. Like licking a dry Popsicle stick or tongue depressors.

In Sum A nice well balanced Laphroaig. Well chosen you choosers of cask! I could easily pour this on a warm summer night or a cold winter day. Sounds odd but very doable!  Actually, I’d love to taste this as beer before it becomes spirit.  I imagine it’s delicious.

Laphroaig 8yo Signatory 46% $53

On the nose very similar, if you ask me, to the RMW version except softer (a result of the lower ABV?).

Here’s an unusual one: blueberry bramble.

Rubber gloves and other things that start with the prefix “Poly”.

On the mouth A watered down version of the first Laphroaig.

Much sweeter, however, and less malty than the first one.

Finish Not a dry as the previous Laphroaig and that’s too bad.

In Sum Something tells me that this would be really nice as a cask strength Whisky.  I might have enjoyed it more if I went for this before the RMW Laphroaig. Note to self, when reviewing two whiskies side by side and one of them is cask strength and the other not… Start with the lower octane one…  That is all.

Special thanks goes out to David H for the samples!

The GlenHatton dregs blend, take one, pt. 2 of 2

GlenHatton – glen · ha · tton\’(g)len · ha · tän\n\ A “luck of the draw, pour the dregs of a shit ton of whiskies into one bottle” whisk(e)y blend.

Yesterday, as you might have read right here, details of the GlenHatton were finally revealed.

As a quick reminder, I created a dregs bottle of whisk(e)y called The GlenHatton.  It is made up of the following whiskies (in no particular order or quantity):

After creating this dregs bottle I sent a message out to friends via the Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society Facebook page asking if anyone wants to get a taste of the stuff.  I had enough for 8 samples and got a taker for each one!  Based on the quick response and people’s seemingly burning desire to taste the stuff, I thought it’d make for a great post!

What would people think of it and what did they think might be in it?  With the exception of the Malt Impostors, no one knew that the dregs sat in a Hibiki bottle.  And, with the exception of a few other things, none of which had to do with the make up of this whisky, this is all I told people about the whisk(e)y:

“Dear Guinea Pig, I mean, participant…

You are one of eight people to join the GlenHatton inner circle.  Congratulations.

It took me a long time but I finally filled (for the most part) a full bottle with the dregs of whiskies from many, many different samples & countries.  There are over 26 different whiskies in here from all over the world: Scotland, Japan, Sweden, USA & Taiwan!

I’d say more than 95% of this is malt whisky but there is some grain (in the form of bourbon & and grain content from a blend or two I dumped in there).

The rules:

Rule # 1 — There is no Fight Club

Rule # 2 — Enjoy.  It’s an odd duck.  I didn’t go about creating this dregs fluid in the attempt to design some master blend.  No, this is all random stuff.  Solid!

Rule # 3 — Aside from enjoying it, try to taste it as if you were reviewing it as best you can and PLEASE, write down your notes.  I’d love to get the standard Nose, Palate, Finish notes.

Additionally, when I do post this up, I will reveal the contents of this dregs sample.  Go ahead and try to take some guesses as to what you think may be in there (you don’t have to try and guess all 26+ whiskies).  The person (or people) who get more than 7 correct will get a surprise whisky sample.

Hmmm, 7 may be a high number.  Ok, the person who gets the most correct will get a surprise sample.  Sound cool?  Cool.

Thanks again for your participation!

All the best!  L’chayim/Slainte/Cheers/Kampai!”

So, who are the participants in this grand experiment and what did people think of the GlenHatton?  Well, here are the final 4 guest reviews (as a reminder, here is a link to yesterday’s reviews from the first 4 tasters):

Review #5

Ewan Morgan – Diageo Master of Whisky

Bio: Ewan is a third generation “whisky man.” In Scotland, Ewan spent his childhood living within the grounds of a large distillery. Both his father and grandfather worked their entire careers in the business before retiring as distillery manager and brewer, respectively. When he was of age, he inevitably began working there as a maltman himself.

Ewan was chosen to become a Master of Whisky due to his in-depth working knowledge of the industry as well as his extreme, unrelenting passion for whisky. He has traveled the world giving presentations and tastings to large audiences in Asia, Europe and North America. If you asked Ewan what he loves most about his job, he’d tell you, “there’s no other job like it, you get to travel, meet interesting people and have the opportunity to educate and enthuse about something that’s very close to your heart – that makes me a very lucky person indeed!”

Nose: floor polish, hubba bubba, sweet latex rubber, rhubarb compote, plumy, young green oaky vanilla, leather

Palate: cardamom, bitter crab apple, minty panacotta, fruity mid palate, burnt caramel and plum sauce, white pepper.

Finish: dry, short and sweet.

Caspar the whisky ghost.

Review #6

Malt Impostor(s)

Bio: Variously and unmentionably employed during the day, Bill, Stephen, and John are full-blown Malt Impostors by night.  From the bowels of their Malt Cave, the Impostors endeavor to drink out the words they feel certain are already there in the expression–it is an expression, after all.  They got their start making fun of some of the more pretentious tasting notes they saw out there on the web.  Now, The Malt Impostor has evolved into a site providing highly idiosyncratic tasting notes for your favorite malts–preferably in miniature form.

This dregs dram, a composite consisting of a plethora of whisky expressions, is the creation of a budding master blender, a crazy genius, or a truly lucky bastard.

On the nose, we found Hibiki flowers (perhaps because we knew it had been blended in a full-sized Hibiki 12 bottle–damn, the power of suggestion!), sherry, a hint of smoke, and light varnish on light wood—we were thinking a varnished sorority paddle.  Bill also thought he detected notes of a Dremel tool playing roto-rooter in a robot’s aluminum nostril.

On the mouth, if the core or center isn’t bourbon, at least one of the inner concentric rings must be.  It’s very smooth, but also electric on the tip of the tongue, like tiny catfish heads with barbs dipped in Hoisin sauce.

Overall, the GlenHatton sports a deep, rich mouth:  we thought we detected some Macallan in here, but also some Gran Marnier, though we split on where we think the latter actually showed up:  Bill’s vote was in the foreground, Stephen’s was in the background, and John’s was underground—a dissident Gran Marnier, if you will, moving fluidly amongst the occupying forces.  The finish boasts loads of pepper—think GMO scotch bonnets injected subcutaneously, thereby bypassing direct contact with nerve endings—along with cinnamon and hints of corn silk.  Add a little water, and the nose softens significantly, imagine that same sorority paddle making contact with a clothesline-dried cotton skirt on its way to making contact with its ultimate target.  With water, on the mouth, it’s also predictably watery-er, but it does little to undermine the cinnamon and lasting spice on the finish. Overall, this dram is incredibly complex, but also very tight:  there’s no clear single vector here, but rather a series of distinct vectors continuously turning in on themselves.  If M.C. Escher were to blend a whisky, this’d be it.

On the scale of notable amateur (or semi-amateur) efforts, the GlenHatton is The Malt Impostor—unexpectedly well-received by discerning experts and subtly (or not so subtly) self-promotional, this dram creates its own singular niche—and does so admirably.

Review #7

Anne Benner

Bio: My name is Anne Benner, I’m 27, from Lake Constance in the south of Germany and have been a student of English and Spanish linguistics and literature in Heidelberg, Germany for quite a while now, actually 🙂 I love listining to music, mainly indie and alternative stuff (The National is my current favourite) and, apart from that I love travelling. I lived in Argentina for half a year and also spent 9 months in Scotland, working as an assistant teacher. On my last trip to Scotland in September 2010, I fell in love with some of Islay’s whiskies which made me think of writing about whisky in my master thesis. I’m currently doing this and writing about „The Language of Whisky Tasting Notes“ in English linguistics. Hoping to finish it sometime soon since my backpack’s been feeling quite lonely for the last couple of month, longing for some new adventures…

Beautiful light golden colour. But don’t trust it. It’ll lure you into some fairytale, looking innocent and pretending to be the wonderful princess of the Light sitting on its unicorn and not giving away what it really contains. Nose it and taste it and it will tell you a completely different story of what is actually to be expected 🙂 Bring it on…

Taking a first nose you will get hints of wood and nuts, accompanied by whiffs of sherry (and/or sherry cork?) and a smokiness that starts faint but then hits your nose with hot and persistent whiffs of smoke. On the second nose there are notes of marzipan and even fruit cake that are then chased away by a more fierce pepperiness that makes you want to sneeze the hell out of you. After having let it breathe for some minutes it will become a lot sweeter, more sherry, lots of sherry, more sweetness, more berries and sweet wood. Not only hints of wood that float into your nose, no it’s more like a light wooden board shoved up your nasal cavity (in a very good and painless way). Nosing too intensely, however, will make your eyes well up with tears, perceiving hints of vanilla at the same time. But hey this is crying in a good way.

Chewing the first sip makes this odd duck jump around like Darkwing Duck on your tongue. Ouch! Tongue to brain: “…please let me roll over!” But then … then it becomes worth while savouring: Its body is quite oily and heavy but successfully heaves itself to bringing out the sherry and wood notes from before, now even more persistent. This is hot stuff and not for feeble taste buds. Makes your facial colour go rather reddish. After having let it breathe you get more of the woodiness, apples, green I think, and lots of fruity hints, berries and cherry even.

The finish lasts. And lasts. It is very dry… still dry… A bit bitter on the palate, but the bitterness  fades to the back parts of your tongue after some moments. It then disappears and leaves you with notes of sherry and wood, even mint. More dryness. Even a sip of water cannot downplay the dryness. Oral cavity’s de-numbing, notes of sherry and wood still on. And on. And on…

WOW! A real ferocious duck this is. Change of facial colour: check. Scared the hell out of tongue: check. Tears in your eyes: check. Even a sip of water cannot really smooth down this duck’s temper. Funniest whisky I have tried so far, extremely strong in alcohol (would be interesting to know how much it actually is) and one that hits you in the face. I have no idea what you put in this, but there is much wood and sherry. Too sweet to not have sherried whisky in it. Might be some port as well. A bit of peat smoke definitely brings in Islay but I might be wrong on this one. Its hotness reminded me a bit of the Tomatin range (especially the 12yr and 15yr) I tasted some time ago. Woody notes from some light oak I’d say but I think I haven’t tasted enough different whiskies to actually tell.

Review #8

Richard Barr

Bio: I am a member of Whisky Israel. Love Whisky with a passion.  Wish I could be paid to travel the world promoting a whisky brand as a global brand ambassador.

I want to Thank Joshua Hatton for sticking with me. He sent the sample not once but twice, allowing me to, at long last, try his “dregs bottling” I’m sure somebody in either the American or Israeli Postal System enjoyed the first sample as much as I enjoyed the 2nd one that ultimately arrived.

Glen Hatton Vol. 1

Color: Gold, pure gold.

Nose: It starts off with a bit of smoke & peat, moving on to crisp green apple. This is quickly overshadowed by the sublime smells of buttery, rich buttery, really rich buttery toffee. It’s the same rich buttery aroma I get when making the toffee sauce for sticky toffee pudding (that sauce contains butter, brown sugar, vanilla & cream) only with an extra helping of butter – yum! Powering through the rich buttery toffee, I catch red candy apple. You know the kind of red candy apples one buys at a county fair. Oh, did I mention the rich buttery toffee?

Palate: The Glen Hatton starts off slightly sweet on the palate and the BAM!, it snuck up & smacked me with pepper, first white pepper, then black pepper, and finishing up with green bell pepper.  Starting off just as the nose would suggest and then that surprise attack of spice.

Finish: Long, really long starting with a warmth in the chest and working its way up to the nose and remaining there ever so long. Tapering off to leave the smoke the whole show started with. That smoke lingers in an afterglow for a minute of two, reminding me of what just happened.

Overall: A wonderful dram for an experiment. This test subject was glad to be a part of it. I’d give it 88/100


Ewan – I love the pic of your handwritten tasting notes.  I’d hand write my notes but I don’t think I’d be able to read them back to myself.  Yeah, my penmanship is THAT bad.  Very cool style of notes/descriptors as well.  An interesting take on this experimental dregs bottle.  This is one of the things I love about whisky – everybody’s taste & smell receptors are different and we can all come away with something unique.

Stephen, John, Bill… You guys never cease to amaze me.  I find I have to read your notes over and over and over again just to make sure I’m understanding and taking it all in.  Like a good Umberto Eco book, or perhaps an onion, there are many layers to what you guys write.  Thank you for being you.

Anne – Nice highly details notes.  You really picked up on a lot of the other elements people got: Vanilla, apples, spiciness, etc…  That and you mentioned Darkwing Duck?!  Fabulous!

Richard – While I won’t be posting my notes until Monday, I will tell you that we found some similar notes in there: Toffee, vanilla, more toffee.  Your tasting notes were deliciously fun and told a damn good story.

So, if you’ve been keeping track, you’ll notice that it is Jason Johnstone-Yellin of guidscotchdrink.com who ended up getting the most number of correctly guessed whiskies (see yesterday’s post for Jason’s review of the GlenHatton).  Congrats Jason!

Be sure to check in on Monday as you’ll finally see my notes on this “masterpiece” as well as a reveal on what Jason’s winning sample will be!

Two VERY different Bunnahabhains, both from Feis Ile 2010

I’m going to leave the preamble to a minimum here as I’d like to let the reviews speak for themselves.

I will tell you — last year I got caught up in all of the online hoopla about Islay’s 2010 Feis Ile festivial (thanks be to many blogs and Mark Gillespie’s fantastic coverage through his WhiskyCast Feis Ile Podcasts).  It was addictive.

I was Sofa King jealous of all those who got to go to the Feis Ile festival last year!  Thankfully,  my friend Shai Gilboa (frequent guest blogger on Whisky Israel) was able to go to Islay last year during Feis Ile and he was kind enough to pass some samples onto me – thanks Shai!!

Bunnahabhain bottled by “Queen of the Moorlands” for the Islay Feis Ile festival, 2010 – Heavily Peated – 53.2%ABV£60

On the noseEarthy and filled with man-sweat; salty and slightly… off.

Burnt asparagus, salty green leafy vegetables, dead autumn leaves and mountain air fill the nostrils.

Moving on to things a bit more man-made (artificial, not the sweat)…

Think rubber bands, paper bags and the plastic strips that were once attached to Fruit Roll-Ups (the addition of fruit makes an appearance here).

Pared pears, baked to perfection.

With water, the nose dies out.

On the mouth Very tight and thin.

Less complex in flavor as compared to the nose.

Very rubbery and smokey with a bit of salt and dead grass.

With water the mouth feels gets super creamy but really doesn’t do anything to the flavor as far as adding complexity.

The exception being the addition of vanilla and a touch of pine.

Finish Smokey and full of salty fizz.

In sum The nose was really interesting and complex but sadly this one fell flat for me on every other level.

Bunnahabhain’s own special bottling for the Islay Feis Ile festival, 2010 – Pedro Ximenez finish – 51.4%ABV£150

On the nose Heavy sherry influence and I’m somehow reminded of sticky, wine influenced fudge.

Dried bananas and spiced black plums (heavier on the spice note than on the plum note).

Cinnamon coffee cakes with some cherry and blueberry jam.

A fantastically fun and gets-you-hungry kind of nose.

On the mouth Sweet fruits of the dried variety.

Watery mouthfeel yet not thin (perhaps like Jell-o water before it thickens).

Spiced fruit leather and vanilla bean.

Apricots, dates, dried cherries, nutmeg, cloves, a fruity fall-mix compote.

While this is all there and fun is seems to lack a robust power to it.

I guess I was hoping for the flavors to blast.  Instead, they are merely presented to my palate (yet perfectly balanced).

Finish Every taste bud is pinched and squeezed of all its moisture (read: dry/tannic).

Long with the addition of fresh berries.

In sum A wonderfully rich and balanced Bunnahabhain.  A perfect evening dram to enjoy amongst friends and good conversation.  This one is a win for me.

Ardbeg Supernova, 2010 Edition “SN2010”

Islay region – 60.1%ABV – $130 | £80 | €92

A couple of nights ago I mentioned to the folks in a post on the Friends of the Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society Facebook page that I finally got around to reviewing the Ardbeg Supernova SN2010.

What seemed like it could have popped up 2.3 seconds before I posted my announcement, my friend Jason from the Guid Scotch Drink blog commented saying ‘Bout bloody time. 2011 will be along here shortly!”

Point taken.  Yeah, I’m a bit late on this but there are reasons for that.   To be very honest with you, it’s taken me many, many tastings to actually appreciate this stuff.  I’m not sure if I had a series of “off nights” where my nose was not working correctly or perhaps I was not in the right mood… Not sure.  I can tell you this is intense whisky – and deserves 100% of your attention.

On the nose Knock your socks off peat smoke, iodine and grapefruit or pomelo.

Lemon custard and buttery pie crust.

I am reminded of the show Alice with the head “chef” Mel cooking bacon while, and perhaps this is just a false memory, smoking a cigarette – match those two scents and that’s what I’m getting here.

Also salted pork and nori wraps.

On the mouth Soft and oily mouth feel with a strong bite of alcohol.

We’ll keep this to tiny sips… A bit tough to get past the heat, peat and lemons (strong with the lemons) but, it is a bit spellbinding.

Some red berries are in there as well.

Dry, dry cardboard and sugared rhubarb.

More on the lemons and a bit on the grapefruits – marmalades and candies rinds.  Yum!!

Wet ropes, fishing rubbers and salted caramels.

Lively yet not “young” – this seems to be bottled at maturity.

Vanilla now and a good deal of it.

Finish Long, hot and filled with a new note of plums (think slivovitz).

In sum The good news is: I loved this whisky.  Bright and energizing and balanced wonderfully between the fruits, drying qualities, salt and smoke.

The bad news is, as mentioned above: it’s taken me 66% of my bottle to come to this conclusion.  Is it me or the whisky… tough to tell.  It’s highly upfront and potent.

Overall, insanely enjoyable but it was hard to break through and unravel all of its many joys…  One to drink when you’re pissed off!  Its a mood changer for sure!

Let’s pray Jason is right – let’s hope there is a 2011 version of this whisky.

One of my favorite reviews of this whisky was given by Sarah Bergfeld (long time guest contributor to Guid Scotch Drink) – her review of the Supernova SN2010 (plus other Ardbegs) can be read here.