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Clynelish 14 Review

Distillery: Clynelish. Region: Highlands. ABV: 46%. Age: 14 years. Price: $55-65.

Where once there was Brora, now there is Clynelish (pron. KLINE-lish). The legendary heavily peated Brora came from an upper Highlands distillery known as Clynelish 1–right across the street from today’s Clynelish 2. C1 was supposed to be shuttered when the more modern C2 opened in 1968, but it got a new lease on life with the new name Brora, and the two ran side by side from 1969-83, when C1 was closed for good.

That ’69-83 Islay-style run at Brora was legendarily good, but the milder malt made at its sister distillery across the street is nothing to sneeze at.

Clynelish is peated at 30ppm, which for me is a real sweet spot.(Ardbeg 10 is 55-65ppm for comparison.) Most of Clynelish’s production is blended into Johnnie Walker Gold, but it’s in this distillery bottling (and the odd independent bottling) that it shines as a single malt.

Intriguing, supple mix of golden malt, strawberry roll, toasty baked goods, and candles on the nose. More and more interesting with time in the glass. The peat is just detectable on the palate–closer to the sweet mesquite end of the spectrum than the briny. Buttery char, without losing its brightness. The shortish finish brings you back for another sip quickly.

There’s something for everyone here, except the most incorrigible extremists. A fair 46% ABV, $55-65. Save one for later–you’ll be glad you did.

Cheers, friends! -BO

Highland Park Fire Review

Distiller: Highland Park. Region: Highlands/Islands. ABV: 45.2%. Age: 15 years. Price: $300.

I’m always a sucker for a good whisk(e)y story, especially when it comes from a distillery I’ve loved for pretty much my entire whisky drinking life. Highland Park, on the remote Orkney Islands of Scotland (long a bucket list destination), has delved fully into the Viking heritage of that part of the British Isles with a series of special bottlings.

Several months ago, I sampled their Ice, named after the mythical Viking Ice Giants. More recently, the distillery was gracious enough to send a sample of the next release in this vein, the Highland Park Fire Edition.

A limited release of 28,000 bottles, the Fire is intended to honor the Fire Giants, foremost of whom was Surtr, who, in mythology, destroyed the world in Ragnarok. So, the main question: is this whisky worthy of a world-destroying giant?

In two words: Hell. Yes. Unlike most of the distillery’s products, the 15-year-old Fire was barreled not in the traditional sherry casks, but in a 100% refill port wine-seasoned cask. Now, mind you, I’ve always enjoyed the Highland Park, but the port has opened worlds to me.

The nose has hints of cinnamon, as you’d expect from the bottle, but also lovely and nutty dark chocolate, a flowing and mellow vanilla, and something reminiscent of the tail end of a hog roast. The palate just sings. More pronounced vanilla, to be sure, but I adored the rich roasted coffee, along with orange rind, very slight plantain, and tobacco akin to a Cuban cigar I once enjoyed. The finish is perfectly sustained. It teeters on the brink of fiery, but never tilts harsh. Instead, what you get is an ending you’ll want to savor until the last elements are fully gone.

Now, at this price and limited availability, there’s no way that it can be a staple, but if you can find a bottle, grab it. It’s an infinitely rewarding whisky and one I plan to savor for years to come.

Slàinte, friends, and grab the sublime when you find it. – TM

Highland Park graciously provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

Benromach Imperial Proof

Distiller: Benromach. Region: Speyside. ABV: 57%. Age: 10 years. Price: $100.

I’ve liked everything I’ve tried from Benromach, a small-scale Speyside distillery owned by the great independent bottler Gordon & MacPhail. That includes their 10-year-old standard bearer, several wine cask finishes, a 15-year-old, an all-organic release, and a heavily peated bottling. But the 57% ABV Imperial Proof may be my favorite yet.

The concept behind Benromach was to recreate a “pre-1960s” Speyside style, meaning lightly peated, on a deliberately small scale. It’s Speyside’s lowest-production distillery, run by just three staff, and the facility is not only computer-free, it doesn’t even have pressure gauges. Maturation is done exclusively in first-fill bourbon and sherry casks–a rarity, and a sign they don’t cut corners.

The Imperial Proof ups the ante on everything I like about the standard 10-year-old, but it doesn’t stop there. The nose is salty and pungent, with a little wet barn/boathouse funk. Organic. Alive. There’s sweetness here too, particularly with a few drops of water: Werther’s coffee-flavored caramels.

All these notes explode on the palate–with very little heat at full strength–along with the tarry smoke I love in other Benromachs. Takes water well. Chocolate syrup and bourbon fruits on the finish.

Even a taste of this is memorable. Now I’ve got to find myself a full bottle. Cheers, friends! – BO

A Benromach representative graciously provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

Feature photo from Benromach via whiskey__in_the_jar.

Westland Winter Whiskey Review

Distiller: Westland. ABV: 50%. Grain bill: 65% Washington Select Pale Malt, 14% Signature 5-Malt, 21% Baird’s Heavily Peated Malt (21%). No age statement.

I’m a firm believer that there is a perfect whiskey for every setting. Where you are, who you are with, and how you feel are all important in the art of picking a bottle to pour.

There’s seven inches of snow outside, and crushing cold is closing in on Chicago. The bundle of firewood sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace will soon be put to good use. There’s something special about gathering the family around the hearth on a frigid night and just relaxing in its warmth as the stress of the daily grind melts away.

I can’t think of a better whiskey to pour tonight than Westland’s limited edition Winter 2016 American Single Malt. Master Distiller Matt Hofmann’s superior blending skills are once again showcased with this inaugural seasonal release of 2,400 bottles. It’s a mix of nine casks: six ex-bourbon casks, one ex-Westland, and one new oak were filled with a combination of Westland’s signature malts; one ex-Oloroso hogshead was filled with the Seattle distillery’s heavily peated spirit.

Light and clean smoke is on the nose, mixed with sweet dark stone fruit and honeycrisp apples. The palate has a lot of depth, and the smoke and sweetness have the right amount of balance. The fruit notes of the nose take on a more baked profile on the palate, which plays nicely with the warmth from its 50% ABV. Faint shaved chocolate and spice add an additional layer of complexity. The finish is sustained and leaves a nice smoky reminder of that hogshead of peated malt.

Another great release from Westland–one I know will be the perfect pour to pair with tonight’s fire. To keeping your body and soul warm. Cheers! – JTR

Buy Westland whiskey online at Mash + Grape

Westland graciously provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

West Cork Bourbon Cask & 10-Year-Old Single Malt Review

West Cork Bourbon Cask Blended Irish Whiskey – Distiller: West Cork Distillers. ABV: 40%. Blend: undisclosed. Price: $26.

West Cork 10-Year-Old Single Malt Whiskey – Distiller: West Cork Distillers. ABV: 40%. Age: 10 years. Price: $37.

New Irish whiskey brands are popping up all over these days: Teeling, Hyde, Egan’s, The Quiet Man, to name a few. But for the moment, many of these are bottlings of spirit sourced from the Cooley Distillery. Operations like Teeling are doing their own distilling, but their new juice is still too young to bottle, so it’s sourced whiskey to the rescue–as sourced spirits from LDI in Indiana have floated many a U.S. microdistiller until their homemade product is mature enough to market.

Enter West Cork Distillers, one of the few independent Irish distillers already selling their own whiskey. WCD was founded by three friends in 2003: food chemist John O’Connell and former fisherman Dennis and Ger McCarthy. Their production is distinguished by the use of Irish spring water and in-house malting. Their products have recently hit the U.S. market, and I for one am happy they have.

West Cork’s Bourbon Cask is a blended whiskey of unspecified proportions, bottled at 40% ABV. Fresh grain and sweet vanilla oak on the nose, maple and vanilla on the palate, and a pleasantly drying finish, light but lingering, with new leather and wet cedar. For $26, this is a slam dunk.

West Cork’s 10-Year-Old Single Malt (40% ABV) is even more impressive. Peach cobbler and apple danish on the nose. Sweet but not too sweet. A little marzipan and the slightest hint of smoke. The palate is mild and rounded, with honey and more peach, both baked and canned. The finish has an unexpected, delicate smokiness, a hit of lemon pepper, and the new leather of the Bourbon Cask. For fans of lighter, bourbon-matured Speyside and Highland single malts, this is a must-try.

Cheers, friends! – BO

West Cork Distillers graciously provided samples for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

Glen Scotia Double Cask Review

Distiller: Glen Scotia. Region: Campbeltown. ABV: 46%. No age statement. Price: $50.

It was a pleasure kicking off last weekend with another tasty dram from the Loch Lomond Group: the Glen Scotia Double Cask. Scotia is one of the few Campbeltown distilleries in operation today, though the region was once the distilling capital of Scotland, with 32 active distilleries. Springbank is the single malt distillery most whisky lovers associate with Campeltown–and a personal favorite of mine–though Glen Scotia deserves attention too.

The no-age-statement Double Cask is part of Glen Scotia’s new core range. The name refers to its two-part maturation: first-fill bourbon casks, followed by Pedro Ximenez sherry butts.

The nose isn’t a shy one. Tons of rich salted caramel, with a slight musty parchment note. Buttery popcorn. Sugar cookies. Some stewed sherry fruits. The body is dense, and the palate mixes sweet, savory, and spicy: toffee, roast chicken with balsamico, then ground ginger and white pepper. The finish is medium-long, with buttery peanut brittle and a touch of gunpowder smokiness toward the end.

Distinct, unique, substantial at 46% ABV, and very fairly priced. Looking forward to more good things from Glen Scotia! – BO