Balvenie 17yr Madeira Cask – Like a sexy cougar, you come to me

Speyside – 43%ABV – 750ml – $95 – $140 (another HUGE spread!) | £64 | €75

I have been a huge fan of madeiras for some time. Madeira, ports, nice hearty dessert wine…

I loves me a port finished dram but never had a madeira one.

Initial whiff Spiced dried fruit (imagine a fruity pot pourri), big grapes (not like sherry.  Sorry sherry heads, this is MUCH better than a sherry bomb (I.E. A’bunadh) for me), honeyed oakiness and a side of Kim Chee. Yes, there’s a slight sour & spicy cabbage smell here that I get upon the 3rd whiff. Somehow, it works and it’s nice.

On the mouth The nose tells you what you’re going to get. I like that. The spice is pronounced here. Grapey but not overly so. It’s chewy too, almost like a spiced gum drop (an orange one, much like the High West Rendezvous Rye I tasted the other day – there’s a little citrus here).

Finish Honeyed oak with a long spicey vanilla type deliciousness.

In sum One thing I’d say is, as nice as this drop is, it would benefit from from a higher abv, perhaps 46%? Just to add to the spice,  maybe add a bit more bite…  I liken this dram to a sexy 40 something cougar. Voluptuous, sensual, spicey. This dram knows what it wants and it wants you to drink it. Seductive. Dare I say, even more so than the 21yr portwood. This dram is a hot MILF (Did I just say that?! Yes, yes I did).

The best interactive map of the Distilleries of Scotland I’ve ever seen

Courtesy of the Malt Maniacs!

Here’s a link to, seriously, the coolest interactive map of the Distilleries of Scotland I’ve ever seen:

The reason I was searching out a map like this was to see the proximity of the Port Ellen distillery on Islay to the Campbeltown region of Scotland.  I rec’d a sample of the 24yr 2nd Annual Port Ellen (59.35%abv) and it nosed much like a Springbank or perhaps a heavily peated Longrow. Very interesting and a very nice Shabbat Dram.  I’ll be posting notes soon.


High West Rye – Rendezvous batch 17

Park City, Utah, USA– 45%ABV – 750ml bottle – $35

The first time I had a Rye Whiskey was about 3 years ago in Chicago (3yrs ago, before I even knew how to really taste whiskies).  It was Templeton Rye, the same stuff Al Capone drank – cool!  I remember it being very spicy but, inviting.

Earlier in the week I went to Binny’s in Schaumburg, IL just to see what they had — not really to buy anything but, they always have such a large selection, I just wanted to check it all out and drool a little bit.  And drool I did!  Man-o-Maneschewitz, they have a lot to look at (much of it is a bit overpriced though…).

Binny’s allows you to taste many of their whiskies before you buy (very cool value-added feature of their stores).  Walking through, I saw the Templeton Rye and they had a sample so I asked to try a some.  Quite nice stuff and at $26 a bottle, very buyable.  The salesman, however, suggested that before I buy a Rye, I should try the High West Rendezvous (I can not stand typing that word: “Rendezvous”, so unnatural!).  I did and… wow-wow-wee-wow-wow!! Awesome stuff, hence my buy, hence the review.

Here we go!

The High West Rendezvous is actually a blend of two ryes – a 16yr made from 80% rye and a 6yr made from a bill of 95% rye!  Both of those are well above the standard rye bill of about 51% (the minimum).  Even with the age of the 80% rye (16yrs), I was expecting something so insanely spicey that it’d be too much to handle. O-contrare-mon-frare!  The spice was there but not biting at all.

Initial whiff Fennel seed (think candied fennel seeds one would get from a good Indian or Pakastani restaurant), cinnamon, maybe spiced pumpkin (or the spices that make up that smell)

On the mouth Chewy. Chewy sugared gumdrops, the orange ones (I used to be addicted to these gum drops, sucking off all of the sugar until just the chewy goodness was there to masticate), quite a bit of vanilla, maybe some toasted coconut.  This one is all over the place, very nice.

Finish The spice is mostly gone now, but my mouth is still all a’coat with warmth. Nice oily feel.

In sum The folks who made this are artisans, plain and simple.  I could drink this any time of the year and in most moods.  This stuff is not available in Connecticut, check their website for availability in your area.  Seek this one out.

Talisker 18yr – Warm peat, a spicy, sweet treat

Islands – 45.8%ABV – 750ml bottle – $59-90 (crazy spread, right?!) | £53 | €62

Ah, another dearly departed dram (from my own liquor cabinet that is)…  Oh well, on with the review — I was first introduced to Talisker through the 10yr at a Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse which is now a favorite of mine (not really a steak eater (as some of you in whisky-land may know) but, because of business, I find my self at steakhouses a few times a month).

When I went to buy a bottle I figured that if the 10yr was so good, the 18yr had to be better. As many of you know, with whisky, age doesn’t always matter.  With the Taliskers, I think the extra youth in the peat really adds to the over all experience of the whisky so, this being said, I do prefer the 10yr over the 18yr expression

While I find the 10yr to be a much tastier drop over the 18yr, I’m not going to do a comparative review. I will review the 18yr on it’s own merits. I just thought, for those who like to find a bargain, you can save a good and fair amount of $$ sticking with the 10yr, if you so choose.

Initial whiff I found myself nosing this for quite some time. So nice and warm, almost savory. Some oak notes here too. Some peat, quite subdued however. Subtle fruits – overripe berries or spiced pear. Quite lovely. Kind of like when you go to the bakery during bake time, you just want to keep sniffing!

On the mouth Warm & spicy. Toasted coconut, apple cake that has been re-heated in the toaster for too long and became slightly burnt (can’t tell you how many times I’ve done crap like that – I can be such a dumb-dumb at times), kind of peppery, honey glazed baked goods and burnt grass – hello peat!

Finish Medium long with a bit more smoke. Oily coat. Some of the extra maturation can be tasted here – there’s some nice oakiness which I only noticed on the nose.

In sum This made me want to bulk up on carbs! A nice baguette with some oil…here I come!

Suntory Yamazaki 12yr – Is there anything the Japanese can’t do?

Japan – 43%ABV – 750ml –  $35-40 | £35 | €41

I bought my bottle of Suntory Yamazaki 12yr more a year ago (it is now gone, sadly) and I broke it out on rare occasions. Not because it’s the most spectacular dram but because it’s so very different than scotch and I’m not always in the mood for it.

Don’t get me wrong, this is some pretty impressive stuff and it makes me want to try more Japanese whiskies. I don’t drink it all the time but when I do, it makes my mouth happy.

Initial whiff The stuff noses like my dad’s old bourbon (I always loved sneaking sniffs of my dad’s bourbons when I was a kids because it burned my nose and made me sneeze – ah, to be 8 again…). The stuff has an initial bourbon-y element, some sour corn and alcohol. Followed by some honey and dried fruits. Like a scottish bourbon if there were one.

On the mouth Smooth honey and drying oak. This is one of the driest single malts I’ve ever had. This is a nice thing actually. Oh, some vanilla came through now, nice.  There is a cream soda element to it too (even feels a wee bit effervescent).

Finish Dry & long. Honey and oak. The sour corn comes back too.

In sumThis is a huge bargain (in the US), well worth the $35 bucks or so that I paid for it.  Though this made me want to try other Yamazakis, the 18yr is about $100 and from what I heard, it’s just not worth the price.  Maybe I’ll find a swanky Japanese joint that has the 18yr and I’ll try it but $100 too much casheesh for me!!  Also, Yamazaki came out with a sherry cask see it here at Master of Malt (plug, plug).  The color on the sherry cask looks like the color of a nice 20+ year rum!

If you want to try some right quick (without buying a bottle), go to a Benihana’s (Japanese restaurant), they have it as a standard malt on their menu.

One thing that still throws me off is that this is not a corked bottle but a screw top. Strange but…cool. Arigato Japan!