Tag Archives: Ginger

Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar dram # 13 – Single Cask Nation’s “Undisclosed” Islay 7yo, Cask 613-2/2112


Region – Um, Islay – ABV – 56.3%

You know, it just did not seem right that I would review a whisky that my company, Jewish Whisky Company, bottled. We bottle whisky under the Single Cask Nation label and today’s whisky is a 7yo single malt from an “Undisclosed” distillery.

This is the second “Undisclosed” Islay we’ve bottled and while both this and our first Undisclosed are completely sold out, our third “Undisclosed” Islay is still available to members of Single Cask Nation.

I will now pass the baton over to my friend, Dr, Matt Lurin.  Being a long time aficionado and collector aside, Matt puts on a wonderful charitable whisky event in NYC called “Water of Life.”  You can find out more about Matt’s event here.

It’s all you, buddy!

I was honored when Joshua asked me to be a guest reviewer for The Whisky Advent Calendar day 13. Although some may find the number unlucky, I consider myself the fortunate one here. You may ask what qualifies me as a guest reviewer, which is a fair question. In a nutshell, I am a long time collector, organize a large charity whisky event, and am one of the ‘founding father members’ at SCN.

Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar 2015I enjoy all sorts of whisky, but am well known for my fondness for Islay whiskies, and am found there in late May each year for the Feis Ile, a celebration of the wonderful islands (Islay and Jura) and a time to appreciate their great whisky.

You may be curious about my fondness for Islay whiskies, and that too would be fair. I tell everyone there are 3 main reasons I love them, First off, the iodine and medicinal tastes. I work as an ER doctor, and this smell takes me back home in a positive way. Secondly, the smoke. This reminds me of the smell at my old job in the ambulance bay, when the nurses take break and gather by the no smoking sign, puffing away. And third, most folks would not believe the stuff I have to smell daily at work. No human being should have to endure that, and it takes a strong whisky to help clean my sinus and palate, as well as help me to forget. There you have it.

On that note let’s approach today’s whisky.

Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar 2015Hello to ‘2008 Undisclosed Islay’, 7 yo, 56.3%, the third undisclosed Islay whisky bottled by SCN in the past year. and what a dram it is.

Visually I appreciate a straw colored liquid. Makes me appreciate the youthfulness of this dram, as well as the likelihood of this being from a Bourbon Barrel. I’m excited, let’s continue.

The nose screams to me – Northern Islay. I appreciate the smells of the ocean, a sea spray if you will, that takes me back to a boat ride on the sound, checking out the seals and feeling the crisp breeze in my face. I also find myself enjoying a little waxy lipstick scent, some peppers, peppermint, smoke and some dusty cellar. At 56.3% I do get a little alcohol burn on my nose, but the freshness survives.

The palate is rich and oily. Loving the smoke, and the iodine. It’s now that I want to fall back to a favorite tasting note. “I get tropical fruit”, and to be fair since all fruits are considered tropical on Islay I’d be correct. But let’s work a little harder. Is that banana? A Creme Brullee note? Wait a second, there’s the pepper, ginger, and black licorice. Patience truly is a virtue.

The finish is long and warm. I was truly hoping to enjoy this dram outside on a New York December night, having this warm me up. However, Holiday lights not withstanding, I am able to sit outside in a short sleeved Islay shirt, enjoying the 60 + degrees heat. I do find this very soothing, on the finish. Cracked pepper, menthol and oh that peaty goodness.

In Sum: A wonderful winter dram, even if a warm 60 degrees. It may be an Undisclosed Islay, but it’s a classic Islay and a cracking whisky.

Thanks for the opportunity Joshua. See you May 12, 2016 at Water of Life, and I hope a few times before then. Now back to you.
Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar 2015

Compass Box – Spice Tree “The Second Coming”

Blended Malt whiskies from the Highlands – 46%ABV – $58 | £35 | €41

There a great story behind the Compass Box Spice Tree and why there needed to be a “Second Coming” of the blend.  You see, this whisky was, at one time, deemed illegal by the SWA due to some interesting and innovative casking practices for this whisky.

To release this new version, Compass Box had to make some tweaks to how the whisky was extra-matured.  Compass Box being Compass Box, the tweaks were made but quality was not adversely effected.  Compass Box explains their new, updated (and now legal) maturing process:

“Over the past three years we have developed a new maturation process which yields similar if not superior results to our previous method, and this new process is something the SWA can’t take any issue with.

As in the past, The Spice Tree is 100% malt whisky sourced from northern Highland distilleries, (notably and primarily malt whisky distilled at the Clynelish distillery). The primary maturation is in a mix of first-fill and refill American oak.

What is different is the secondary maturation. Rather than using inner stave inserts, as we did for the original Spice Tree, we rack the whisky into barrels with heavily toasted new French oak heads. We have created a method for getting a super heavy toast on the cask heads which imparts a flavour profile similar to the flat staves used for the original Spice Tree. We use oak with three different levels of toasting on the barrel heads, thus allowing us to blend the resultant whiskies to create additional layers of complexity. This secondary maturation lasts as long as two years.”

Sounds interesting, right??

On the noseInner tire tubes lead to orange zest and cloves.

Biscuits and blackberry bramble.

Some quick hints of dry sherry then an interesting blend of ginger beer and cream soda ride up my nose using the aforementioned inner tire tube.

Hint of soft yet dry red wine.

On the mouth Big, waxy, chewy and insanely appetizing.

There’s a reason this is called the spice tree; you name it – ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg are all joining schwartzes here.

It’s as if those spices are being mixed in a cup of orange vanilla cream.

Cherry tarts.

As we get closer to the finish, there’s an oakiness that comes through.

Finish Long and oaken with ever lasting hints of vanilla and cherry.

In sum A lovely after dinner sipper that’s got a decent nose but shines like a diamond in the tasting of it.  An instant favorite for me but I could see this being almost too spiced and sweet for some people.  This is as ‘in-your-face’ as a bourbon yet NOTHING like a bourbon (it is Scotch malt whisky after all).  For bourbon drinkers, this could be a gateway whisky for you into the wide world of Scotch malt whisky.

While I found the Compass Box Hedonism to be my favorite blended whisky of 2010, I think I would have had made a different choice if I reviewed this one last year.

Special thanks goes out to Robin R for the sample!

There are a lot of good reviews out there for this whisky but I thought I’d bring your attention to this one from the Malt Impostor(s) – I love their reviews <jedi mind trick> and so do you </jedi mind trick>

Connemara Turf Mor – Peated & Cask Strength Irish whiskey

Ireland – 58%ABV – $80 | £51 | €60 – soon to be released – 20,000 bottles total

A short time back I was asked by the good folks at Cooley Distillery (currently, the only independent AND Irish owned distillery in operation in Ireland) if I was interested in trying a whisky that was yet to be released and if I’d post my thoughts on it.

My initial thought upon seeing this email from them was, to quote Jeffery “The Dude” Lebowski, “Does the pope shit in the woods!?”

For those who’ve not yet seen The Big Lebowski — go and rent it ASAP!!  Or, watch this summation (a word to the wise – there are a few cuss words in this video…):

OK, back to the matter at hand – peated Irish whiskey.  So, what’s it like?  You’ll see below.  I’ve reviewed their standard Peated Cask Strength whiskey here.  Let’s see how this differs…

On the nose Fishing rubbers, bouncy balls & rubber chickens… I think you get the idea – very rubbery.

Lemon peel & espresso.

Raw, uncooked rhubarb.

A wee bit of soy sauce.

On the mouthPeaty yet not a smoke-bomb; earthy yet sweet; wet stones & flint yet grassy.

Immensely fruity — think citrus and over-tart purple plums (more tart, less plum).

All the bite you get in pickled ginger without the ginger.

Wicked mouthfeel – all of these flavors make your mouth water something fierce making the experience a nice creamy one.

Finish Almond paste with the most minor hint of vanilla.  Tannic, hot and pretty lengthy.

In sum I’m not going to lie — this whisky is not for everyone.  However, if you like the more medicinal/peaty/earthy whiskies – this will please you.  It’s a powerful whisky for sure – one for the colder season (smart of Cooley Distillery to release it in December).

The Arran Malt 10yr – a young beauty not to be overlooked

Islands region – 46%ABV – $40-45 | £28 | €33

Hidden jems, most of the time are not really hidden.  Oftentimes they simply go undetected; even in plain sight.

At 15 years of age, The Arran Malt Distillery is one of the newer kids on the block.  So, you may not heave heard of them just yet.

There’s nothing over-the-top or super eye-catching about their standard packaging (though, I think the bottles have a bit of a regal look to them).  So, you may have overlooked them in the single malt section of your local spirits shop.

I’m going to dedicate the next couple of weeks to The Arran Malt Distillery and their whiskies.  I feel as if I’ve stumbled upon a bit of a hidden gem here and I want to share my findings with you.

Let’s start with their entry level dram – the 10 year old:

On the nose Aggressive young nose with an initial sea element to it.

Something a bit smokey too (this is not peated but there are mere hints of a beach bonfire).

Getting beyond this and you’ll find obvious notes of crystalized ginger and red delicious apples (or perhaps, delicious red apples).

Hot cinnamon.

Malt, lots of it.

On the mouth Nice mouth feel, even steven.

Caramels and almond nougats.

Hot apple cider.

More of the ginger I detected on the nose but not as upfront on the palate.

Wet paper bags filled with white berries (perhaps gooseberry).

Finish Longy McLongerson, refreshing and sweet.

In sum The balance is fantastic.  It’s not everyday you find an everyday dram but, damn, I done found one!  Complex, a bit challenging, immensely enjoyable and easily drunk (the fluid, not me).

Amrut Single Malt Whisky 46%ABV & Cask Strength – head to head

India – 46%ABV – $50 | £27 | €31

Indian whisky, eh?  Whisky from India?  Damn straight and, why not?  Malt whisky is malt whisky & you can make it where ever you want so long as you have:

Barley (check – The barley is specially grown in the foothills of the Himalayas and the whisky is matured at 3,000ft at Bangalore.)

Water (check – have you see the Himalayas lately?)

Yeast (C’mon, this stuff is everywhere)

A place to mature your whisky (Check – the whisky is matured at 3,000ft at Bangalore and these particular expressions are matured in New American Oak and ex-bourbon before bottling).

For this head-to-head comparison between the Amrut Single Malt bottled at 46% and the Cask Strength version, I decided NOT to add any water to the Cask Strength version figuring that the 46% ABV version did this for me already.  A big thanks to Amrut for catering to my lazy side.

On the nose New York City tap water (from a Connecticutian’s perspective) or perhaps clean fresh rain.

Spiced butter on freshly baked sesame bread (oh, I like this – a lot!).

A bag of dried grains (think oats & barely).

There’s a savory warmth in here that keeps drawing me in.

Cinnamon rubbed apricots, stewing.

Gruyere cheese.

Vanilla and macaroons.

On the mouth Excessively chewy.

Chlorinated pool water

And, as much as I wanted to steer clear of indian food references, mango chutney with noticeable gingery notes.

Pine nut and basil pesto (with a clear focus on pine nuts).

Finish Savory finish filled with buttery breads and more pine nuts.

In sum Highly enjoyable.  The mouthfeel alone had me in a happy spot.  A nice balanced whisky that is unique.  Easy to approach and exceedingly yummy.  This is a great every day dram, no doubt.

And now onto the cask strength version which has nearly 16% more alcohol by volume…

India – 61.8%ABV – $68 | £34 | €39

On the nose At 61.8%, the first thing I notice is a blast of grain alcohol.

Yes, I know this is a malted whisky but this was the initial impression I got.

Very forward.

Dry popsicle sticks.

Melon pith.


On the mouth Hot but, strangely accessible (sort of…).

Sugared melon (honey dew).

Very sweet with notes of caramel apples.

Soy sauce soaked sesame seeds (say that three times real fast!).

Cardamom & fennel seed.


Finish Blisteringly numbing but now those popsicle stick are back.

Very sweet.

Notes of dry, uncooked pasta.

In sum for the Cask Strength and the overall experience between the two Someone PLEASE put my mouth out!!  Hot damn, this stuff will wake you up (and put to right back to sleep if you have too much of it!).

The cask strength expression can be reserved for days when you’ve just had enough and want to say “F### it all!”. I’ve never suggested this before but, go ahead, knock it back and start bitching with your friends!

I’ve got to say, between this cask strength version and the 46% ABV version, I much prefer the 46% ABV (it really is a nice every day dram and one I plan to keep on my whisky shelf).

Special thanks goes out to Raj at Purple Valley Imports for the tasting samples.