Tag Archives: Salted Meats

Usquaebach – a review of their three standard expressions

Delving once more into the world of the unpronounceable names.

Well, there’s the ever famous YHVH (you can see the Hebrew to the left); the Tetragrammaton (or unpronouncable name of G-d… sorry folks, it’s not pronounced Yahweh.  Like I said, it’s an unpronounceable name).

But, this is not a religious site it’s a whisky site so let’s talk about unpronounceable names of whisky.

A while back we discussed Ardbeg’s Airigh Nam Beist (pronounced Ari Nam Baysht).  And, let’s not forget the Ardbeg Uigeadail (pronounced Oo-g’dal, or so I’m told).

Today we’re faced with USQUAEBACH (gesundheit!) blended whiskies.  Some people pronounce it as “Oosk’eh-bah”.  Some say “Us-quay-batch”.  I’ve even heard this brand referred to as “Whisk-ay-bay” (which I think is the way speakers of Gaelic may say it).   Either way, the pronunciation I hear most in the US is “Oosk’eh-bah” so, until I am told otherwise, that will be how I pronounce it.

So, what is Usquaebach?  Other than the Gaelic way of saying “Water of life”, it’s a blended whisky brand out of the Highlands which has recently be re-launched here in the US with three standard expressions: Usquaebach Reserve, Usquaebach 15yo vatted malt whisky and Usquaebach Old-Rare.

Usquaebach Reserve blended whisky – 43% ABV

On the nose A pleasant nose filled with notes of pears and charcoal.

Beat up Chuck Taylors and maybe even some white pepper.

A grainy sweetness fills my nostrils as does the scent of heavily used pencil erasers.

On the mouth Light mouth feel.

Grassy and flowery.

Slightly salty and hints of citrus hit the front of the tongue.

Finish A peppery finish, medium in length.

In sum Dangerously easy to go down the gullet yet nothing overwhelmingly magical about it.  A pleasant blend.

Usquaebach 15yo vatted malt whisky – 43% ABV

On the nose Hot sauna stones in a wooden sweat lodge.

Incredibly saltily smelling.

Mushroom & barley; earthy yet hints of honeysuckle and cucumber sauce.

Wow, those mushrooms come back in full force with a thin backbone of smoke, very subtle smoke.

On the mouth Peppery entry with cured meats and vinegar – very foodie.

A touch of jasmine.

Browned lemons and freezerburn.

Grassy notes – farm hay on a hot summer’s day.

Finish Medium finish with what I’d swear is very mild green olive but others would disagree…

In sum A very enjoyable vatted malt with nearly too much meatiness but just enough for me to be OK with it.  There’s a fine line for me on the “meaty”malts and this one walks it quite well.  I had this whisky as part of a tasting event I did for 20 some-odd people and I kept going back to it.  Very enjoyable stuff.

Usquaebach Old-Rare blended whisky – 43% ABV

On the nose Fun-fun-fun nose filled with dark roasted coffee beans and hot peppers.

Spiced fruits and stewed prunes.

Dates and chewy date bread.

On the mouth A slithery smooth mouthfeel (did I just use the word slithery because Conan the Barbarian is on TV right now and Conan just killed that big-ass snake?  Could be…).

Something slightly coastal about it.

More coffee, a bit lighter than the nose.

Raisins, simple syrup and cream sherry.

Apples and peppers (like on the nose).

Finish Beach pebbles, dates and sea air – a lengthy finish

In sum — A fantastic blend.  Beautifully balanced with lip-smacking sherry notes.  A bit of a warmer-upper – perhaps best on a cold early spring night.

Over all, I think each of these three whiskies has a time and a place.  The “Reserve” is a good any day dram (not to be confused with an everyday dram though).  The 15yo is an impressive malt that goes well with rich foods and good company.  And lastly, the Old-Rare is a celebratory dram.

You can find the Reserve here.

You can find the 15yo here.

You can find the Old-Rare here.

Special thanks goes out to Noah Goldstein for the samples!

The Balvenie 17yr Sherry Wood

Speyside – 43%ABV – 750ml – $80-100 (another HUGE spread!) | £85 | €104

And so I begin Balvenie week.

You may have noticed, if you’ve poked around the blog a bit, that I’ve only reviewed one expression of The Balvenie so far: The Balvenie 17yr Madeira Cask.  Truth be told, Balvenie whiskies have always been whiskies I’ve held very dear and, until now, I haven’t really wanted to share my thoughts and notes on them.  Selfish, I know.  But, they were mine.

Well, times have changed.  And as I tell my daughters every day, Sharing is Caring™.  So, all this week, I will be sharing my thoughts on some very nice expressions from The Balvenie.

What’s more is, every day this week, in addition to my notes, I’ll be featuring some exclusive videos of people from The Balvenie distillery and they too will be sharing with you.  They will share what their favorite Balvenie expression is and why.  A BIG ‘ol thank you to Sam Simmons (aka Dr. Whisky) for the footage!

Video #1 – Stuart Watts, Distillery Manager at The Balvenie:

While I won’t be reviewing the DoubleWood today (that review is forthcoming…this week), I will give you my notes on their 17yr Sherry Wood:

On the nose A strange nose of this Balvenie.

Sherry, for sure but hints off the bat of salted meats (while I’m not smelling this here, I’m struck with a memory of roast beef and mayonnaise sandwiches for lunch in the 3rd grade – I wasn’t raised kosher or vegetarian.  My, how things have changed).

Smoked cheese and cinnamon.  Some slight dried fruit and chocolatey notes.  Shaved dark chocolate.

Big sherry now but the Balvenie honey notes smooth out the sharpness I find in many sherried whiskies.

On the mouth Soft, almost watery entry.  Let’s try this again…

Soft for sure yet, less watery – thinned oil (in texture).

Third sip and, wow!  It’s like a game of whisky tennis in my mouth – Balvenie honey & citrus notes bounce over to prunes and Ice Cube chocolates (the candy), back to the honey then soft vanilla.

This whisky is so soft that this can be lost on the sherryheads out there.  This is not an attack of sherry.

This, like most Balvenies I’ve had, just screams of elegance.

Finish A slightly salty finish, medium long and with traces of almonds and dark chocolate.

In sum This is one to relax with but also one to get your mind going.  Start concentrating on the whisky then move onto bigger life issues.