Distiller: Macallan. Region: Highlands. ABV: 48.2%. No age statement. Price: $80-100.
I think I’ve got a new favorite Macallan. Got an overdue taste of the excellent Edition No. 2 with my friends at Jay’s Bar recently. I’d heard raves about this no-age-statement release from Mark good folks at Scotch ‘n’ Sniff and Malt Review. Now I know why.
The Edition No. 2 is a collaboration between Macallan Whisky Maker Bob Dalgamo and Catalonia’s legendary El Cellar de Can Roca restaurant. In terms of profile, it’s square in Macallan’s sweet spot: dense sherried goodness balanced by just the right amount of darker, drier tannic notes.
On the nose there’s blood orange, marzipan, marshmallow, sweet old oak, and a whisper of mint. The palate adds sponge cake, toasted coconut macaroons, candied ginger, and fig. Full body. The finish has clove-studded Christmas orange with musty grapevine and more sweet oak.
BIG success, this one. Looking forward to adding a bottle to my collection–and trying it alongside the Edition 1.
The Henry McKenna Single Barrel Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon is an increasingly rarity: a high-quality, age-stated bourbon that comes at a very reasonable price.
As a single barrel, there’s always going to be a certain amount of variation, but the high quality of these has been very consistent. I found this particular bottle at the back of the shelf of a local store, and it turned out to be from a batch that was distilled in 2002. I was excited to check it out.
On the nose are notes of freshly cut wood with a very small hint of char (like laser-cut wood), mixed with warm new leather that’s been sitting out in the sun. The palate starts with medium sweetness, combined with herbal spices and cinnamon notes that provide a pleasant dose of heat. All of this is layered on top of a lovely base of dampened oak.
This was a good barrel indeed, and it reminds me why I always come back to this great bourbon, especially given its price point.
Hot damn. The Craigellachie 31 is in pretty rarefied territory. As Axis readers know, I’ve tried–and hugely enjoyed–every other distillery bottling: the 13 (one of the best buys in stores), the 17 (a welcome step up), the 19 (one of my favorites of 2016, sadly Duty Free-only), and the 23 (challengingly sulphuric, and damn pricey).
The 31, though, I doubted I’d get to try–at least any time soon. But there it was on offer at the end of the brilliant Dewars single malt dinner at Ink LA recently. I took full advantage.
Craigellachie is not for beginners, and they’re proud of it. The 31 is intense. Many other distillers release their oldest malts watered down, but this bottling is 52.2% ABV. It starts with a massive leathery note on the nose the younger Craigellachies don’t have. Dense strawberry and pineapple. Peppery vanilla bean. A little water, and the dram bursts open.
The palate explodes with spice-infused fruit: cinnamon, dried ginger, nutmeg. Bitter chocolate truffles. That characteristic Craigellachie meatiness. Toasted almonds. Old leather-bound library volumes. White smoke. Constant evolution in the glass, and a finish that goes on forever.
One of the more extraordinary drams I’ve tasted. The jury of Whisky Magazine’s World Whisky Awards seems to agree: they named the Craigellachie 31 the best single malt in the world for 2017.
Here’s to the grails, whether we’re drinking them or dreaming of them. Slàinte, friends! – BO
Oban is part of Diageo’s Classic Malts line, and is beloved in the U.S. for being rich, versatile, and approachable. And for being easy to pronounce.
Chicago’s weather calls for very specific whiskies in the spring, and I’d say the Oban 14 fits the bill perfectly. The nose has gentle heather, with hints of toffee, pine, and pear. The palate is more of this gentle wash, with an underlay of pan drippings. And the sustained finish is a minor miracle, one that grows in strength, only to ease away for a rolling delight. It’s one of my faves and fits our ever-changing weather beautifully.
If you’re looking to explore the distillery further, there’s an excellent annual Oban Distiller’s Edition, as well as a no-age-statement Little Bay, which has both fans and detractors. We’ll bring you a review of the latter soon.
California law hasn’t been kind to microdistilleries, though that’s finally changing for the better. My current home town of Los Angeles has been uncharacteristically slow on the uptake, but our sister city to the south is right in the center of the U.S. microdistilling boom. Among its most promising representatives is Malahat Spirits Co.
Malahat–the name of a schooner that ran bootleg booze to Southern California during Prohibition–was opened in 2014 by three friends, Ken Lee, Tom Bleakley and Tony Grillo. They focused on rum at first, with their Cabernet-aged rum winning Best in Class from the American Distilling Institute the last year. They also have one of the best-looking tasting rooms I’ve ever seen:
I learned about Malahat from a friend a good two years ago, and had been waiting for a taste of their bourbon and rye. The wait is over!
Malahat Straight Bourbon was aged 2+ years in 30-gallon barrels. The mash bill is undisclosed, but Tony Grillo told me it’s “fairly high wheat.” That shows on the nose, which is big and fruity. Apple is prominent, followed by fragrant notes of cedar, vanilla, and lemon pith. Very pretty nose, with little indication of the spirit’s youth.
The palate’s a bit of a let-down after such a promising beginning. The fruit and fragrant notes are here too, together with baking spice, raw leather, and a certain lacquer bite that carried through to the finish. With some more time, this one will likely be a winner.
The Malahat 100% Rye is ready right now. It’s a great young rye–and all the more impressive given the technical difficulty of distilling from a 100% rye mashbill. Asked why Malahat chose to go 100% rye, Tony said, “For the challenge!”
Met and mastered. The nose is amazingly bright. A fresh fruit and berry basket, with just a hint of mint. Blueberries stewed in cinnamon. Fresh sweet grain. Lemon danish.
The palate is just as enjoyable, with spiced apple peel, creme brulée, Meyer lemon, and vanilla pipe tobacco. The spice persists through the medium finish.
A strong start for Malahat’s whiskey-making. Availability is wide in California, including various online retailers.
Cheers, friends! – BO
Malahat Spirits graciously provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.
Producer: Virginia Distillery Company. Distiller: undisclosed Highland distillery. Region: Highlands. ABV: 46%. No age statement. Price: $50-55.
The Virginia Distillery Company is tucked away in Virginia’s Blue Ridge mountains, which, as you know if you’ve been there, is one of the most preposterously idyllic spots on earth. They’re currently maturing the American single malt they’re distilling themselves, which I’m already eager to try given that it’s aging in ex-bourbon barrels, as opposed to the overwhelming preponderance of virgin oak maturation among other American single malts.
In the meantime, they’re also sourcing Highland malt from an undisclosed Scottish distiller and finishing it in Virginia port barrels. The result is their Virginia Highland Malt Whisky.
It has a very appealing traditional Highland nose, one I’d put somewhere between Tomatin and Aberlour: Red Delicious apple, stewed pear, and butterscotch.
The palate immediately restrains the sweeter notes in a broad tannic grip–a great compliment to the fruit core. Texture and substance to the body. Hints at a sherry notes, but the port inclines things more toward raspberry and cranberry than raisin and fig. Dried orange rind late on. The finish is nicely lingering, with blackberry tea.
The Virginia Distillery Company has a winner on their hands here. And it should get some more attention after being lauded in the 2017 Whisky Magazine awards. The only downside is how high they’ve set the bar for their own single malt. Luxury problems, as they say.
Cheers, friends! – BO
The Virginia Distillery Company graciously provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.