Category Archives: Arran

Arran Machrie Moor Peated Malt Whisky (plus a way to win a full bottle for yourself)

Islands Region – 46%ABV – £39 (soon to be released in the US this March, 2011) – Limited to 9,000 bottles for this first release.

I’m going to skip some of the preamble today as I think the most important parts of today’s post is the review (of course) and the details of an exclusive giveaway below!

Special thanks to Andy Hogan for the sample and for working with the JSMWS on this great giveaway!

While I did say I’d be bypassing some of the preamble, that still does imply that there will be a little of it for you to read.  Just what is the story behind Arran’s naming of the Machrie Moor??   Here’s what they tell us:

“On the west coast of the Isle of Arran lies a windswept and mystical peat bog called Machrie Moor. Bronze Age stone circles and standing stones are strewn across its barren, undulating terrain. One of the stone circles is known as Fingal’s Cauldron Seat, where sits a stone with a carved hole. The legendary warrior giant Fingal is said to have tethered his favourite dog Bran to this stone. This peated expression of the Arran Single Malt perfectly captures the rugged beauty and lore of the landscape. Unleash the legend that is Machrie Moor.

Well, roar (or, woof)!!  Let’s try this stuff:

On the nose — Salted & sooty chimney pipe (chim-chimney-chim-chimney-chim-chim-ka-booze).

Root-like vegetables and very grassy.

Perhaps even a little salted fudge – YUM!

After a minute of so, the peat is not as sooty.  Rather, it’s adding a really nice earthy tone to the whisky – sort of like a brackish stream snaking it’s way through a field of wild-flowers.

Additional notes range from lemon zest to shortbread dough (unbaked).

Very salty/coastal nose.

On the mouth — Oh yeah – just the right amount of peat gives a great brush-fire flavor in the mouth.

Baked apples, even apple-sauce.

I can’t shake the feeling of campfire/brushfire out of my head as I sip this.

Very comforting and bringing me to my childhood happy place.

Lemons galore – lemon marmalade and cream custard.

Salted and a touch peppery (just a touch).

Chewy mouthfeel and, as we get into the finish…

Finish — There’s a superb butteriness here, salted butter that creeps up and does not wish to leave you.

Added to that are hints of apricot, warmed margarine and bread.

In sum — I don’t often talk about color or how the whisky looks in the glass (E.G. legs) but I have to say, the legs on this whisky are gorgeous!  A wonder to look at.  For me, I encounter the same wonderment when watching a Guinness form it’s head – that beautiful head!

This whisky has legs and knows how to use them.

A thoroughly enjoyable treat.  Very salty stuff!  I’d imagine chocolates would go wonderfully with this whisky giving you that salty/sweet goodness many of us seek out.

Peated to a level of 14ppm, the folks at Arran knew what they were doing!!  Enough peat to add some dimension to the whisky, enough to give the peat/smoke-heads something to get excited about yet not so much so as to overpower all of the natural beauties of Arran Malt whisky (Apples, butter, lemons & a superb saltiness).  A nice late summer, near dusk type dram.


The fun part – a way for you to win a full bottle of the new Arran Machrie Moor and signed by the Master Distiller – James McTaggart!!

Yes, thats right.  We here at the JSMWS worked closely with Arran and they were kind enough to partner up with us on a very exclusive giveaway.  A full bottle of Arran Machrie Moor peated whisky signed by none other than James McTaggart, Arran’s Distillery Manager!!

“How do I win a bottle!?” you ask.

“Easy.” says all of us at The Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society.

We’re looking to reach 1100 followers on our Facebook page.

If you’re already a fan, cool.  You’re currently in the running.

If you’re not yet a fan, click here to join and get in the running.

Do you know someone who loves whisky?  Ask them to join The Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society Facebook page.

The quicker we get to 1313 people, the closer we’ll be to announcing, perhaps you, as our winner of this great whisky.  The lucky person will be picked at random and named on the Facebook page.

Welcome to the Facebook group and good luck!!

The Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society’s favorite whiskies of 2010

This is quite possibly one of the toughest posts I’ll do this year.  Being that in 2010 alone I reviewed over 200 whiskies; I’d say the choosing of the 11 whiskies below was uber-hard.  Thankfully it’s the first post of the year so it’s nice to get the hard schtuff out of the way 😉

The following list is not meant to be a shopping guide for you though I highly suggest that you seek out the whiskies on this list – they really are the best of the best of all the whiskies I reviewed in 2010.  Just in case you do wish to use this list as a shopping guide, I’ve included links (where applicable) to online shops so you can purchase a bottle if you wish.

Being that I don’t currently use a rating system, you might wonder how I chose the whiskies below.  Good question.  I basically read through all of my reviews and scoured my memory banks to try and remember the experience.  Once I made my choices, if I still had some of the whisky left, I tasted it again just to make sure I’ve chosen well.

And just so you know, this is not a list of best whiskies released in 2010.  Rather, it’s a list of best whiskies I tasted in 2010.

So, what are the categories?  They are as follows:

  • Best Bourbon
  • Best Rye
  • Best American Single Malt
  • Best Scotch sherrybomb
  • Best Scotch peated whisky
  • Best Scotch Non, or lightly peated whisky
  • Best Scotch blend
  • Best Japanese blend
  • Best Japanese single malt
  • Best every (or any) day drinker
  • Best whisky of 2010 (taking ALL whisk(e)ys reviewed into consideration)

Best Bourbon – Angel’s Envy

Noses quite different than your standard bourbon.

This bourbon was extra matured in ex-port barrels.

While yet to be released, we should see this on the shelves in 2011 – expect to pay around $45 per bottle.

This was easily my favorite bourbon this year – kudos goes out to the Louisville Distilling Company for taking chances in making the first release an experimental one.

You can read the full review here.

Best Rye – Rittenhouse Rye 100 Proof

I’m not sure what’s best about this rye…

Is it great because it’s always released at full proof (50% ABV)?

Perhaps it’s due to the fact that it’s less than $20 per bottle?

Could it be that, flavor-wise, it’s damned robust and lip-smacking?

At $20 a bottle (or £25 in the UK), go find out for yourself.

You can read my full review here.

Best American Single Malt – Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey

If you thought America was unable to produce a kick-ass single malt, think again.

While Hudson has a solid 2nd runner up, the Stranahan’s Single Malt Colorado Whiskey is, well, amazingly balanced and damned delicious!

You can read my full review here.

You can get a bottle for $57 in the USA here or a bottle for £64 in the UK here.

Best Scotch sherrybomb – Bruichladdich, 1986, “Blacker Still”

I never formally reviewed this whisky on the blog so I’m going to do that here and now (sans pictures – to save space).

On the nose Massive amounts of chocolate, prunes and dirty, dirty smoke.  Some soapiness and sea breeze.  Balsamic vinaigrette.  Pine wreathes (welcome to the Christmas aisle at your local department store).  Think pine embers from a recently dead fire.  Wet dog.  Fresh towels.

On the mouth This dram does not believe that size doesn’t matter.  Luizianne coffee.  Bitter cherries.  Generous amounts of rich sherry.  Raisins and more cherries (the dry type).  All of the pure licorice chews from the All Sorts bag (oh, I want some All Sorts now!).  Rubber fishing boots with sea salt on them.  Toffee, more coffee, more… simply more of everything I mentioned.  Like I said, this is massive!  Did I mention the mouth feel is oily and num-num-nummy?

FinishChocolate sauce and lasting notes of prunes and pines.

In sum Man, this whisky shines like a black star! Balanced – all the flavors are perfectly integrated.  If you’re not a sherry head, this would not be up your alley.  If you are into the sherried whiskies and have the cash for a bottle, welcome to yumsville!  For holidays and all things celebratory.  Good luck finding some of this whisky though… It’s been sold out for a good long while.  You may be able to find a bottle here on occasion.

Special thanks to Rick C for the sample (yes, THE Rick from the Blind Tasting series I did earlier this year)!!

Best Scotch peated whisky – Port Ellen 1978, 24yo, 2nd release

Sadly, most people will not have a chance to taste this whisky.  In fact, this release of Port Ellen is no longer available.  You may be able to find a bottle here on occasion but be prepared to spend a few hundred Euros.

Port Ellen is a distillery located on Islay that has been moth-balled (closed & not in operation) for decades now so any whisky you find from them is going to be old & expensive.

A big thanks to Keith of Whisky Emporium for the sample!

This whisky was a pure treat to taste – You can read my full review here.

Best Scotch Single Malt  – Non or lightly peated – Glenmorangie Quarter Century

Glenmorangie Quarter Century can easily be an over looked and understated whisky.  I think the biggest issue is, because it costs so damn much($559 – $799 in the US or £190 in the UK), people will save this whisky until the end of an evening or served as the last whisky in a tasting.  That’s a BIG no-no.  The Quarter Century is way too delicate for that.  I would lead off with this whisky in a tasting or have it before dinner.  It’s a total power house in a settings such as those.

Liquid gold.

You can read my full review here.

Best Scotch blend – Compass Box Hedonism

Sadly, I did not taste or review enough blends this year.  Luckily for me, I got the chance to taste & review a few Compass Box whiskies.

Hedonism is a blend of premium grain whiskies – no malted barley whatsoever.

Complex as all heck – a joy to nose.  Buttery smooth mouth feel with notes of gingerbread and an interesting nuttiness to it.  A wonderful whisky that would also go brilliantly in a mint julep.  But, unless you’ve got money to burn, you’d be dumb to do so.  Expect to pay $89 in the US or £47 in the UK.

You can read my full review here.

Best Japanese blend – Suntory Hibiki 21yo

I was, to put it lightly, blown away by this Japanese blend.

You can read my full review here but I’ll tell you right here and now – this is an expertly crafted whisky.

A whisky that’s VERY hard to come by, the Suntory Hibiki 21 has won three gold metals, three years in a row and has just won the title of “World’s Best Blended Whisky” in 2010 by the WWA.

This is not available in the US, expect to pay £103.40 | ¥13,700 for a bottle.

Big thanks, again, goes out to Yoshi at Suntory for the sample!

Best Japanese single malt – Nikka Yoichi, 20yo, 1988 vintage

A massive, big, huge, immense THANK YOU goes out to Christopher Jew of  The Whisky Wall for a sample of this nectar.

I’ve enjoyed Japanese whiskies for a while now but it was this particular whisky that sort of stopped me in my tracks and told me that Japan is capable of pure genius when it comes to the craft of whisky making (among other things).

While this 1988 vintage is no longer available, you can get the standard 20yo Nikka Yoichi for £185 here and the 1989 vintage for £180 here.

You can read my full review here.


Best every (or any) day drinker – Glenmorangie Original 10yo

You’d think choosing THE BEST every day whisky would be easy to do but no, it isn’t.

Lot’s of factors to consider – taste, complexity, ease of drinking, ease of getting your non-whisky drinkers to appreciate it (without adding a shit ton of ice or just knocking it back) and, of course, price.

For me, my favorite every day drinker is the Glenmorangie Original 10yo.

For just under $40 in the US or £25 in the UK you can’t go wrong.

There were a few runners up, however.  All of them could have fit the bill of “Best every (or any) day drinker” but, I had to choose only one.

The runners up are:

You can read the full Glenmorangie review here (though please know that this review is a combined review of me and a few members of my society)

Best whisky of 2010 (taking ALL whisk(e)ys reviewed into consideration) – Suntory Hibiki 21yo

A lot of hemming and hawing on my part but after much consideration, I’ve come to the conclusion that this whisky, the Suntory Hibiki 21yo, is the best whisky I tasted in 2010.

It truly is brilliance in a glass!  So well composed, perfectly balanced and perfectly delicious.

As mentioned above, you can read my full review here.

This is not available in the US, expect to pay £103.40 | ¥13,700 for a bottle.

Arran 15yr Anniversary whisky – an 11yr whisky finished in Amontillado Sherry casks

Islands region – 54.60%ABV – $75 – $85 | £49 | €58

Wait a second here… an 11 year old whisky to celebrate a 15 year anniversary?

Why not?  Does it make it a little confusing?  Well, yes – especially when there’s another distillery only bottling to celebrate 15yr and that one is 15 years old.  Now that I’ve explained the difference in the two, you can quit your complaining ’cause I done un-confused yeh 😉

On to the matter at hand — A very limited release whisky to celebrate an immensely momentous occasion.  So limited, in  fact, that there’s only 5,460 bottles to go around.  Interesting that the ABV is 54.60% and that there’s a release of 5,460 bottles total.  Chance?  Luck?  Marketing?  Who knows.

What I do know is that out of all of the Arran whiskies I’ve had to date (up until, let’s say, the end of 2010) this is my very favorite.

On the nose Ummm… Sherry!  Amontillado sherry – very nutty and rich smelling with obvious notes of dried fruit and a clear focus on raisins.

Corncob pipes.

Thai curry (peanuty massaman  perhaps).

Earthy with notes of freshly chopped wood, ginger and oregano.

This is a very generous nose and, dare I say, spell binding!

Sweetened baked beans with molasses.  Oh!  Brisket!!  (this “meaty” note I am getting is not as upfront and over-powering as what I found on the Sauternes finished Arran).

On the mouth Big and oily.

Lots of flavors fighting for the foreground (for some reason the mud wrestling scene in Stripes! comes to mind).

Buttered lobster (man, it’s been years since I’ve eaten fish, kosher or no).

Filbert nuts (better yet, Nutella – chocolately and hazelnutty).


Ginger and honey.

Finish Lengthy!  Sour notes come creeping up and those filberts return.

In sum A delicious dram for happy times!!  Oh, this one will make you smile.  It’s a mood changer (from bad to good, never the other way around).  A sexy bottle & box for a sexy-ass whisky!  Happy anniversary Arran!  You have a lot to celebrate and I thank you for making us a part of that celebration!

A sincere thanks goes out to Andy Hogan for the generous sample!

Arran 15yr – Distillery Only, Open Day Dram

Islands region – 700ml bottle – £95.00 – Sold through the Arran website or at the Distillery only, 600 bottles in all!

Man-o-Maneschewitz, did I have a lot of fun opening this bottle or what!?  I did mentioned it in my post about WhiskyFest NYC — I was not planning on opening this bottle for a while but an opportunity presented itself and whisky is meant for enjoying and sharing in the right company.

Well, the opportunity was there – I had a bottle.  The company was there too – Andy Hogan of Arran, John Hansell of The Malt Advocate magazine and the What Does John Know? blog as well as Lew Bryson (managing editor of Malt Advocate).

The time was right — it was the night just before WhiskyFest; a very festive time… what better reason to open the bottle!?

What’s more is, I got to share this again later that night at Ward III with Michael Neff (one of the owners of the Ward III), a new friend Keith and the infamous World Traveler, Prankster & Ladies’ Man, Greenie D. McGee!

So, what is the Arran Open Day Whisky?  Not to be confused with the Arran 15yr Anniversary dram which is actually an 11yr old whisky finished in Amontillado Sherry casks — It’s a bottling of whisky (600 bottles in all) made of the first spirit fun from their stills back in 1995.  They vatted three casks from this run (all first-fill bourbon) to create this very limited bottling.

Here are my thoughts on the whisky (preview: great stuff!) —

On the nose Big yummy bourbon nose!!

Hazelnuts – freshly cracked.

Coconut – freshly shredded and toasted.

Creamy and thick quality with over-ripened bananas.

Abundant vanilla and caramel.  Just a joy to nose.

Lychee nuts in syrup.

Some ocean breeze.

With a touch of water a really pleasant soapy quality is revealed.

Surgical soap and fruity taffy.

On the mouth Apples, dowsed in caramel and nut laden.

Banana returns with a toasty feel to it.

Perfectly fresh mouth feel.

A touch of water brings out some pears.

But really, the water accentuates the apples and brings out a spiciness, also, the brine/salt that I got on the nose is now more pronounced.

Finish A toasty & spicy finish, decent length.

Actually quite long with those lychee nuts just lingering about.

In sum The balance is fantastic.  A wonderfully mature whisky but with enough spice to give you a “what for”.  A celebratory dram and one to enjoy on special occasions and with friends.  As you can see, I’ve done just that!

Arran – Matured in Jerusalem and bottled for and by the Israeli Whisky Society

Islands region – matured in Scotland for two years then in Jerusalem (in the basement of the American Colony Hotel) for another two years.  Total of 214 bottles, bottled for the Israeli Whisky Society.

I heard about this whisky a while back from my good friend Gal of Whisky Israel and followed it with great interest.  If I had more money at the time, I would have bought a bottle.

We’re looking at a single cask of whisky – first fill bourbon barrel (which basically means that it was used once to mature bourbon and then used to mature this whisky) – cask strength – a whopping 63.5% ABV… This is some high octane stuff!!

A sincere thanks goes out to Gal of Whisky Israel for the sample!

On the nose Like sniffing piranas – this stuff bites you in your nose.  Very spicy.

Wooden popsicle sticks.

Notes of pears & baked apple.

Uncooked bacon (in the distance).

Something metallic here too…

On the mouth Like drinking a fire ball (it is 63.5% ABV after all…).  Let’s add water.  Done.

Now, with water — Vanilla, heat, sugar, more heat, woody – very woody, more and more heat.

Finish Savory spices, a bit of orange zest and more oak.  Long.

In sum “Is it soup yet?” No, sadly it is not.  Way too young here.  Not much of a fan.  I’m not sure what went wrong.  At four years of age and with two of those years maturing in Israel, you’d think that the whisky would be ready.

With all of the woodiness in here I’d say it was over aged but there is so much youth/non-complexity that would lead me to believe that it wasn’t ready.  Like drinking a conundrum wrapped in a paradox.