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!