Arran 11yo Single ex-bourbon cask – Absolute deliciousness.

Islands Region – Cask #650 – 57.6%ABV – $85 | £46

Just over a month ago, the Connecticut chapter of the Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society (or at least a part of it) had the distinct honor of having Andy Hogan of the Arran Malt Distillery host a tasting for us.

Twenty-two people gathered together to taste, experience and explore a collection of Arran’s best whiskies.  We had some people trek a good way to be a part of our tasting.  Joe H from Boston and Stephen M from Providence (and of Malt Impostor fame) both drove about 2.5 hours to join us.  Thanks guys!! Great having you there!  Also, Andy flew all the way from Scotland to be with us – Thank you, Andy!!

Andy did a wonderfully fantastic job taking us through his whiskies; teaching us about Arran as well as the ins and outs of Scotch Whisky in general.  We learned, we laughed, we tasted, we had a blast.  Mr. Hogan brought with him 6 different whiskies: Arran 10yo, Arran 14yo, Machrie Moor (peated Arran whisky), Arran Amarone Cask, a very secret Arran whisky that’s never been bottled (but was totally delicious; perhaps the 2nd favorite of the night) and lastly, this here whisky — an 11yo Single Ex-bourbon cask (first fill).  This whisky was the easily favorite of the night.  I liked it so much I bought two bottles!

Here are my notes:

On the nose Intense notes of banana peels and salted green apple skins.

A bit of nail polish remover (in a nice way).

Fresh-fresh coconut shreds & chunks followed by spiced anjou pears and lemons.

Delicious warmed rice pudding.  Fresh, uncut green grass.

All of these notes are incredibly strong — this is a no holds barred nose.

I’ll have to take this one by the horns and ride the rodeo.  Next up, the taste…

On the mouth Chewy, thick, oily mouth feel with loads of warmed caramels and gooseberry jam.

Back to the grassy notes (fresh grass) but there’s a great note of sassafras in here – hey now!

Buttered butter beans and green beans.

Back to the savory chewy/candied notes: candied walnuts, toffee and salted caramels.

An intense malty & oaky note creeps in (not sure how I missed it from the start.  It basically slapped me in the face just now).

A good deal of vanilla as well.

FinishVery long with notes of malt and the sassafras I got on the palate.

In sum While delicious, this whisky is not to be taken lightly.  I might suggest it be diluted by a little bit of water if you feel you need it (however it is not required).  To be enjoyed at dusk just as it starts to get a little cooler and almost sweatery.

Master of Malt Bloggers Blends – my tasting notes on the whole she-bang!

This was one hell of a feat, I tells ya!  My charge to myself: taste ten whiskies over two days WITHOUT getting tipsy – a lot to review but a ton ‘o fun to do.

You might remember I posted on the details of the Master of Malt Blogger’s Blend contest a few weeks back (a brilliant idea – find 10 whisky bloggers and ask them to try and create the ultimate whisky blend).  I hope some of you out there had a chance to participate in the contest.  Sadly the voting is now closed, but Master of Malt made some more sets (they did sell out for a bit if I’m not mistaken but are stocked up again) for you to buy then try.  It was a fun tasting experience.

I will say that this group of bloggers did a great job on their blends and I felt extremely honored to be among them.  It was tough for me to choose a favorite out of these 10 blends.  However, two of then really stuck out for me.  Let’s see if, based on my notes below, you can figure out which two were my favorites…

On the nose A Both sweet and peppery at the same go.  Some lemon tart sweetness and a tad dusty.   A touch smoky but it’s all around the edges – crispy burnt edges.  Twine & paper bags.
On the mouth A Nice soft mouthfeel, honied and a bit of toffee upfront.  Milk chocolate, raisins and nuts (I’ve gotten this in a few other whiskies before – Cadbury Fruit & Nut Bar).  Second sip is offering up some clear notes of tobacco and just-lit-cigars.  Like on the nose, there’s a crispiness around the edges (think pepper-rubbed foods).
Finish A Chocolates and pepper and lasting tobacco.

On the nose B A touch sour and bit vinegary.  Band-Aids.  Salted corn (?)… something salty.  Let’s see if I can make sense of it after I get a taste.  Back to the nosing: Salted fruits – clear note of papaya.  Pepper & dark chocolates.  Ginger root.  There appears to be a good deal of grain influence on this one.
On the mouth B Herbal and wildflowery (think daisies and dandelions).  Grain comes through loud and clear with hints of tin cans and plastic bags.  Light teas with and old lemon.  Salty with some vanilla and wood out there in the distance
Finish B Shortish with hints of oak.

On the nose C Very sweet with loads of fresh cherries and other red fruits.  A good deal of oak but in a good way.  Salty and floral (like mother’s day flowers).   Back to the red fruits (raspberries?).  Some black pepper and perhaps a little pear.
On the mouth C Smokey entry (this’ll grab you but good) and very viscous chewy, chewy mouthfeel.  Dark chocolates, tobacco (dark tobacco cigars filled with spice).  Buckwheat honey (the dark syrupy sweet stuff).  A bit of citrus (burnt) and salted grapefruits (focus is more on the salt and less of the grapefruit).  Perhaps even some coffee in there too.  There’s a lot to discover here.
Finish C Medium to long with a good deal of spice, chocolates & fizz.

On the nose D Honied, floral and has some notes of pomegranate and some cardamom in the distance.  A touch of smoke – very inviting; drawing me in.  Some sour notes.  Some sour cherries too.  A touch of spice to it but more on the fruity side.
On the mouth D Cereals, malty and a bit of smoke.  Rolled oats.  Decent mouthfeel.  Not overly complex but enjoyable.  Some very light oak and honey notes.
Finish D Fairly quick finish with some pepper lasting just at the back of the throat.

On the nose E Seems to be a theme here with the sour cherry notes.  Some added vinegar.  Burning twigs and leaves.  Red wine and apricots.  Some nail polish remover.  Smoked lemons.  Really enjoyable nose.
On the mouth E Nice creamy mouthfeel with some grain coming through (in a positive way).  Sour oranges and tangerines.  Some sherry influence – stewed dark fruits.  Citrus tarts with a lightly buttered crust.
Finish E Slightly chalky (think Necco wafer chalky).  Decent length.

On the nose F Smoky yet some citrusy grain influence here as well.  Grilled pineapple and burning bramble.  A touch of pepper and some savory spice.
On the mouth F Smoky again with loads of burnt tea leaves.  Much smokier than any of the other drams so far.  Someone here likes their peat!  Apples and the sauce thereof.  Stewed carrots with a touch of ginger.
Finish FToasty almonds (marzipan) through and through with a decent length to it.

On the nose G Brown paper bag filled with an assortment of fruits.  Vanilla, oak and more fruits (tough to get past the fruitiness of this).  A whiff of smoke and the smell of that super subtle taste you get from Jicama.  Art class paste.
On the mouth G Warm water mouth feel.  All of the flavors seem to be in the distance: Lemons, pie crust and grapefruit marmalade.  Vanilla ice cream.
Finish GThe finish is a more intense version of what I tasted – near exact.

On the nose H Derumura sugar and spiced rum.  Booze soaked oak.  Sugar cane.  All things dark and sweet.  A fantastic nose.
On the mouth H Not as intense as the nose lead on nor as thick and/or oily as I would have expected.  A touch oaky and dusty.  Wild flowers and various burned things.  Citrus spice with a touch of smoked sugar (if there is such a thing).
Finish H Very fruity with some berries and light brown sugar.

On the nose I Light and flowery, salty and flinty.  Lemons lurk in the back as do sauna stones.  Spiced apples and elderflower.  Some graininess swirled throughout.
On the mouth ISmoky and flinty – slightly reminded of Port Ellen here.  A very, very light version of Port Ellen, mind you.  Coastal & notes of late fall.  A bit waxy too.  This is delicious stuff.
Finish I Long and warming throughout.

On the nose J Oh, this is a nice citrusy light & grainy blend.  Youth & young manhood.  Dusty – like an empty room in a old house.  Fresh cut grass and baked rhubarb.
On the mouth J Fresh, light and clean – like a Sauvignon Blanc of whisky.  Clean & still grassy.  Grainy for sure but in a very pleasant way.  Balanced and delicious.
Finish J Medium and tangy.

A fresh perspective on The West Dunbartonshire Council’s boycott on Israel and the counter-boycott on Scotch Whisky

Today I am pleased to announce that we have a guest blogger.  His name is Joshua London and he is offering up a new perspective regarding The West Dunbartonshire Council’s boycott on Israel and the counter-boycott on Scotch Whisky.  Joshua’s bio is listed at the end of this post.

The purpose of the Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society’s posting of this piece is not to present our specific stance on the subject.  Rather, it is to offer a perspective that is not being discussed along with the revelation of details that many people who are participating in the counter-boycott may not be aware of.

I hope you enjoy the piece!

Pro-Israel activism or just foutering aboot?

by Joshua E. London

(A version of this article first appeared in the 6/16/2011 print edition of the Washington Jewish Week.)

The Scots phrase fouter is one who muddles through; aimless, exasperating person. The adverb form is foutering, as in “Yer foutering aboot. Stope it!”

As a writer, a proud, observant Jew, and a local whisky aficionado, a polite phrase for pedant alcoholic, my email has been unusually bombarded over a very silly story from Scotland. Weaved into each of these emailed “reports” of the Scottish menace is a rallying cry amongst some of the boozier set in the American Jewish community for a boycott or, rather, a “counter” boycott of Scotch whisky. Or, at least, a counter boycott of Scotch whisky produced in West Dunbartonshire, Scotland.

The hubbub is this. A little local government body in Scotland, the West Dunbartonshire Council (WDC), decided in January 2009 to do its bit to condemn Israel’s Operation Cast Lead by announcing a boycott of Israeli goods, apparently followed more recently by an “order” to area libraries to not purchase any Israeli published books moving forward. Some versions of the story extend this “ban” to Israeli authored books. Another variation of the story claims that the City of Dundee wished to adopt this policy, but instead adopted it only unofficially, with the intent to single out Israeli produced goods with some symbol designating it as Israeli. Another twist has it that this policy of boycotting Israeli produced goods is spreading across Scotland, with another 10 left-wing local councils actively considering the new policy.

This story hit the blogosphere hard in late May, has elicited Jewish and non-Jewish official censure, and has now gone viral on the internet with calls for the pro-Israel community to boycott Scotch whisky, or at least Scotch whisky produced under the jurisdiction of the WDC. Initially, this was claimed to include a large list of whisky distilleries and brands, almost none which were even physically near the WDC, such as the nearly 200 years old Laphroaig, which is produced on the south coast of the Hebridean Island of Islay and is owned by Beam Global, one of the world’s largest premium spirits companies and the drinks business-end of Fortune Brands, a Deerfield, Illinois based company.

A little perspective is in order. First, the WDC is the 11th smallest regional council in Scotland, serving a population of 90,920, and was very recently described by the UK’s Daily Express newspaper as “the worst unemployment blackspot in the UK.” Second, the WDC’s “ban,” such as it is, applies only to WDC bodies and officers and does not have the force of law in either the private or public sector. Nor does the WDC have any real enforcement mechanism. Which calls to mind the common Scottish expression for Members of Scottish Parliament: “These numpties couldnae organise a piss up in a brewery.

The picture isn’t much different as regards the City of Dundee. As the Daily Express notes, “a similar boycott move by Dundee City Council has had to be abandoned because legal experts advised such a move is illegal under EU law.” Dundee City Council represents a population of around 150,000, and is also dogged by high unemployment. It remains to be seen whether or not they will devise a way to codify their own moral posturing.

So, what to make of all this? Well, obviously, the WDC’s actions are deplorable, and several of its council members have apparently been strident in their pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel defense of the WDC’s codified moral posturing. Clearly, these folks are not investing in Israel Bonds anytime soon.

Be that as it may, the apparent temptation to retaliate against WDC via a boycott of Scotch whisky by the pro-Israel community strikes me as a little dubious under the circumstances. The City of Dundee has zero distilleries that are near enough to fall under its jurisdiction. As for West Dunbartonshire, there are, in fact, only FOUR actual distilleries from which whisky may still be found. One of these, the Loch Lomond Distillery, produces a wide variety of malts and blends but none of these are easy to find in the US, two of the other distilleries within the WDC’s jurisdiction were closed down in the 1990s, although some of their whiskies are still available through independent bottlers: the Inverleven Distillery which was closed down in 1991, and the Littlemill Distillery which closed in 1994, and was subsequently destroyed in 2004 by arson.

The fourth distillery within the WDC’s jurisdiction, the Auchentoshan Distillery, presents two additional issues that make a punitive boycott less satisfying to contemplate. First, Auchentoshan is owned and operated by Morrison Bowmore Distillers Ltd, a holding company in Glasgow that is actually owned by Japanese drinks company Suntory. So boycotting this distillery does little to punish WDC.

Further – and I find this particularly noteworthy – Morrison Bowmore has been working with the Kashruth Authority of the London Beth Din (KLBD) to ensure that at least two of their Auchentoshan whiskies (the widely available “Classic” and the Duty Free exclusive “Select” expressions) are now certified kosher (Morrison Bowmore’s McClelland’s brand has another two whiskies under KLBD certification). This strikes me as another good reason not to punish these folks, a private company, for the unfortunate decisions of the local government council where their 188 year old distillery happens to reside.

It is also worth mentioning one other Scotch whisky company in this context. Many of those who wish to “punish” the WDC through some counter-boycott have rather strangely focused some of their animus on Chivas Brothers under the mistaken notion that many of its whisky brands are produced in that area. This is also very silly.

Chivas Brothers is owned by Pernod Ricard, a French based drinks company with a global reach and presence. Chivas Brothers has a bottling plant in Kilmalid, Dunbarton that employs 350 people. They do not produce so much as a drop of any of their whisky there, merely bottle some of it. Chivas’ most famous brands, such as The Glenlivet and Chivas Regal, are not even bottled there but in another bottling plant in Paisley, Renfrewshire (outside of the WDC’s jurisdiction).

A little due diligence by the “organizers” of this counter boycott would not have gone amiss. Even if this campaign had, from the get-go, correctly identified which companies and which brands had the misfortune to be commercially tied to the jurisdiction of the WDC, and had been more careful in stating the facts, such as which of these private companies’ brands were and were not actually produced in this area, the effort would still be lacking in perspective.

First, there is the moral question of whether or not it is just to take punitive action against a globally-invested private company because of the moral posturing of the feeble and feckless local council over which that private company has no direct or obvious connection other than geographic circumstance. This would be like boycotting all Wisconsin cheese out of anger against a resolution passed by the Sheboygan County Council against sending the marines to free Tibet. [My apologies to the presumably good people of Sheboygan County for a little poetic license in making an impossibly silly point.]

Second, assuming such a punitive counter-boycott could somehow be made effective and actually caused sales figures to dip noticeably for Morrison Bowmore or Chivas Brothers, how exactly would that help anything?

Let’s assume, for a moment, that Chivas Brothers does indeed note a larger dip in sales in this already downturn economy.  Discounting, for another moment, the global market growth and market trends and, for the sake of simplicity, presuming that it would be obvious to the account managers at every level of the commercial chain that the sluggish sales were due to bad press caused by this Jewish campaign, explain what happens next?

Internal memos signaling distress cause the global Pernod Ricard parent company to suddenly get local and political and demand that the WDC reverse its January 2009 motion. Then what? The Left-wing, anti-capitalist WDC feels Pernod Ricard’s pain, eats humble pie, and gives-in to exactly the sort of “disproportionate” bullying tactics it accuses Israel of engaging in against the Palestinians by reversing its 2009 “ban” on Israeli produced goods. Really?

There is an additional data point here that is worthy of note. Following a formal inquiry on this matter by the indefatigably pro-Israel Senator Mark Kirk (R-Illinois), the Scottish Government has provided an official response: “In Scotland, directly elected local authorities may pass motions on issues that they choose to debate: that is a feature of our democratic local government. The Scottish Government does not advocate boycotting Israeli goods.”

As you contemplate what to make of all this silliness, I suggest doing so over a large glass of the lovely Auchentoshan 18 year old ($90) single malt Scotch whisky. Aged exclusively in used Bourbon casks, this triple distilled whisky is light and refreshing, aperitif like, with aromas and flavors of fresh fruits, raisins, flowers, honey, almonds, vanilla, and a kiss of candied ginger, all against a deep and full backdrop of toasted malt and oak. Then a lovely, refreshing zesty citrus quality emerges and shines through in the finish. L’Chaim!

Joshua E. London’s writings on wine and spirits may be followed at:

Joshua E. London has been drinking, writing and talking professionally about Scotch whisky and other wines and spirits for well over a decade. Currently, London is a weekly columnist on wines and spirits for the Washington Jewish Week and the spirits lecturer for TasteDC. He has conducted dozens of wine and whisky tastings, and has taught classes on kosher wines and the kashrus issues of Scotch whisky and other spirits. His writing on wines and spirits has appeared in such publications as Malt Advocate, The Washington Examiner, The Jewish Press, LA Jewish Journal, and The Jewish Week. Unrelated to booze, London is also the author of “Victory in Tripoli: How America’s War with the Barbary Pirates Established the U.S. Navy and Shaped a Nation (John Wiley & Sons, September 2005).

Springbank 15yo – A whisky shelf must.

Campbeltown Region – 46%ABV –$75 – 90 | £44 | €50

I submitted the following to the Edinburgh Whisky Blog in the hopes to win a small sample of The Glenlivet 70yo.  My entry was among 13 favorites chosen by Lucas (one of the two fine chaps who run the blog, in case you’re not familiar…).  I had some tough competition and in the end did not win but hey, it was fun to write and I was happy to be chosen as one of Lucas’ favorites.

Here’s a link to all of the entries.

I’m reminded of a story my father once told about his trying to listen to, and appreciate, Bob Dylan. All of his friends were talking about this protest singer with a gravel-like voice that was telling it like it is. We’re talking circa 1964/65. He picked up two albums suggested to him by friends: “Bob Dylan” and “Freewheelin’”. He listened to these albums but could not get into it — he couldn’t understand what his friends liked about him. But he knew, from all of the praise about Bobby D, there had to be something. So, he listened to them over and over and over again and then realized that he kept playing them because he could not stop listening. He fell in love.

The story near mirrors my experience, from many years ago, with Springbank 15yo. It tasted like no whisky I’d had before and no whisky I wanted to have ever again. Yet EVERYBODY LOVED this whisky. There had to be something to it. I had to come back to it over and over again. It took me about 650 ml of my 750 ml bottle to fall in love. Now, it’s a staple bottle on my shelf (along side many other springers)! The moral is that it may not be the whisky that’s “bad” but our nose or palate that’s not ready for what it has to offer.

On the nose Flinty soil, coastal hay/grass and a good touch of tinned pineapple and fresh orange juice.

Smoked & oily whitefish – salty stuff!

Peat smoke and burning brush (so well integrated).

Apple juice and mulling spices… a bit waxy in scent as well.

A fun mix that can take a bit to get used to but all-in-all thoroughly enjoyable.

On the mouth This smacks of doused campfires and morning orange juice.

Candy/chalky wafers (yes, the Necco type).

Very sweet with notes of dried fruits (dates, mostly).

Even mouthfeel with both a juicy and tannic quality.

Browned lemons, grilled lemons and a bit of the fishiness I got on the nose.

Turnips and freshly paved roads.

Finish A slightly winey finish, tannic, long and notes of burnt wood.

In sum First & foremost, I threw a lot of scents and tasting notes out there for this one but I must try to express that on the whole; as a summation of all that’s going on here, this is uniquely “Springbank”.  Springbank is thoroughly unique and pretty damn unmistakable.  This is a good thing!  I’d enjoy this one as often as you could and keep it on your shelf – I do!

Whisky Round Table – Year 2, question # 1

Well, well, well… has it been a year already?

Just over a year ago, Jason Johnstone-Yellin of had a great idea: bring together 12 prominent whisky blogger and hold a monthly conversation regarding whisky; the ins, the outs… everything and anything whisky-related.

In case you’ve missed the previous year’s Whisky Round Table Discussions: click here to catch up.

So, Jason has posed a new question to we Knights of the Whisky Round Table:

In February of 2010 John Hansell, Malt Advocate Magazine, named whisky bloggers his Whisky Pioneers of the Year.  At that time we were witnessing a gradual rise in the number of whisky bloggers online but since then there has been an explosion.  Now there are questions surrounding the motives of whisky bloggers (“they’ll say anything for the free whisky and free trips”) and questions surrounding whether or not bloggers are even a worthwhile source for whisky information anymore (“how can I trust these guys when everything they taste is the best thing ever” and “will they tell the truth about a poor quality whisky if it means they might lose their connection to free whisky”).  What role do you see whisky bloggers playing over the next couple of years and how much of the scene is really a whisky grab?  Is the whisky blogosphere still a meritocracy where the best get better or is it a race to the bottom where simply tasting a lot makes one seem more important than one really is?

As you can imagine, the answers to the above question would be not just varied but lengthy (yeah, we tend to go on and on…) so Jason decided to post the answer in two parts.

Click here for part one.

Click here for part two.

As a reminder, the valiant Knights (and links to their blogs) of this round table are:

Chris – Nonjatta
Keith – Whisky Emporium
Karen & Matt – Whisky For Everyone
Ruben – Whisky Notes
Mark – Glasgow’s Whisky (And Ale)
Neil & Joel –
Lucas & Chris – Edinburgh Whisky Blog
Jason – Guid Scotch Drink
Gal – Whisky Israel
Mike – Whisky Party
Peter – The Casks
Joshua (hey, that’s me!)– The Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society

Again, for all of the Whisky Round Table discussions, click here.