Tag Archives: nas

GlenDronach Cask Strength Review – Batch 3

Distiller: GlenDronach. ABV: 54.9% No age statement. Region: Highland. Price: $80-100.

My GlenDronach adventure started a while back when I stopped in K&L Wines Hollywood looking for something to fill the void of a Macallan Whisky Maker’s Edition I’d fallen for but couldn’t find outside the duty free.

The great David O-G offered the ‘Dronach 12 as a rough substitute. It hit the spot from the first dram. Lush sherry and oak in a balance worthy of the Macallan 12. GlenDronach’s been doing exciting things since being acquired by BenRiach in 2008, and the 12’s one of many good examples–not to mention an excellent value among single malts.

Recently I dove into the GlenDronach Cask Strength line with a bottle Batch 3. (There are 5 so far.) They’re all no-age-statement releases, and this one rings in at 54.9% ABV. It’s matured in a combination of Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez sherry casks.

It’s a wild dram, even next to sherry bombs like the great Aberlour A’Bunadh. The sherry’s there of course, but the profile is more dark and funky than the rounder, fruitier flavors of the Macallan Cask Strength or Glenfarclas 105.

It starts with a nose of dark dried fruits, creme brulée crust, and winey red grape must. The palate’s murky, wild, and tannic, with a dense mouthfeel. All sorts of good stuff emerging with water, so take your time and try different amounts to get what you want from it. Carrot cake with walnuts, savory notes–Moroccan olives? Even, oddly, a little watermelon. The finish is long and dark, with black tea, burnt toast, and roasted mushrooms.

GlenDronach’s stock is rising fast these days, and the Cask Strength series is one more reason why. Sláinte, friends! – BO

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Hibiki Harmony & Hibiki 12 – Side-by-Side Review

Hibiki 12 – Distiller: Suntory.  Age: 12 years. ABV: 43%. Price: $60 (where available).

Hibiki Harmony – Distiller: Suntory. No age statement. ABV: 43%. Price: $60.

Hibiki Smackdown! The increasingly scarce 12-year-old vs. the new NAS Harmony. Been wanting to try these together, both from pure curiosity and because the Harmony is the apparent replacement for the 12-year-old, which is being discontinued–like too many other fine aged whiskies–to keep up with demand.

Both are blends of malt whiskies and grain whisky from multiple Suntory distilleries, aged in various casks, including, interestingly, ex-plum liqueur casks.

Both are light, golden, honeyed, and beautifully balanced. The word “hibiki” means “harmony” in English, appropriately enough. Both have lovely subtle noses, great delicacy, a kiss of sherry, floral elements, and too short a finish.

What about the differences? It’s very much like comparing Nikka’s Taketsuru 12 and the new Taketsuru NAS side-by-side. In both cases, the 12 is a touch darker, rounder, smokier, and more composed. The NASes are a little brighter and wilder, and in the case of the Hibiki Harmony, there’s an extra candied citrus note and a bit more spice.

Both Hibikis are delicious–for lovers of whiskies lighter side, or as first drams. Don’t try these after you’ve had a Stagg Jr. But do try them. There’s plenty to like in both. Kanpai! – BO

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White Oak Akashi Single Malt Review

Distiller: White Oak. 46% ABV. No age statement. Price: $90.

The Akashi NAS single malt (not to be confused with the Akashi Blended Whisky) is a lovely, Speyside-y malt that combines the White Oak distillery’s 7, 5, and 4 year old malts.

Founded in 1919 by Eigashina Shuz–which makes it Japan’s oldest distillery, beating out Yamazaki by four years–the White Oak distillery is in operation for only one month a year, which leads to their combining various vintages to produce bottlings like this one.

Would that more no-age-statement whiskies were this good. The nose leads with honey and orchard fruit, followed by a palate that has more honey, then oak, pear, and ginger. The finish is spicier than I would have expected for a young NAS, and longer.

Unlike the Askashi Blended Whisky, which is both underpowered and underflavored at 40% ABV, the Akashi Single Malt is solid and satisfying. All in all, a damn fine drink. Cheers, friends! – TM

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Bruichladdich Scottish Barley ‘Classic Laddie’ Review

Distiller: Bruichladdich. 50% ABV. No age statement. Region: Islay. Price: $50-60.

Couldn’t have more respect for Bruichladdich, but the Scottish Barley “Classic Laddie” does not show the distillery at its best.

The name recalls the much-loved Laddie 10 it replaced–a modern classic if there ever was one, and an amazing deal while it lasted–but the comparison does the current offering no favors.

Very dry nose, with barley and wet hay. The palate is medicinal, with iodine and band aid notes that mimic the entry of certain heavily peated Islays such as Laphroaig or Bruichladdich’s own Octomore, but the Classic Laddie is unpeated, leaving you with just enough of a reminder of the familiar Bruichladdich malt to leave you yearning for their better offerings. Long sourish finish. Water and time do little to sweeten the deal.

Sad to say, but my advice is to give this one a miss. Incidentally, if you’re anywhere near Greece, I’ve heard rumors the Laddie 10 is still on the shelves there. Maybe time to plan a trip? – BO

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Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon Review

Distiller: Wild Turkey. ABV 55%, No age statement (estimated 8-9 years). Mashbill: 75% corn, 13% rye, 12% barley. Price: $35-50.

The Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon rounded out the night (bottle 9 out of 10) at our inaugural Axis of WhiskyFest in Chicago. Being a big Wild Turkey fan, I was glad the Russell’s was represented–seeing as it’s some of the best of what WT makes.

The Russell’s Reserve focuses on small batch releases like the excellent 10-year-old, and single barrels like these. Naturally there’s variation barrel to barrel, but you can count on them all for a quality pour.

This particular batch was extraordinarily close to the excellent Henry McKenna 10 from Heaven Hill. (Not such a surprise, perhaps, as the two share an identical mashbill.) Dark, leathery, and sweet, with burnt sugar and vanilla on the nose. The palate adds dark molasses–then the rye turns up as a spike of mint. The finish has dark oak and spice. It’s a pour that takes water well, given the relatively high bottling proof–a few drops will bring out more spice.

If you’re in the mood for a dense, dark, leathery bourbon from Wild Turkey, the Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel won’t let you down.

Cheers, friends! – BO

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Highland Park Harald Review

Distiller: Highland Park. ABV 40%. No age statement. Region: Islands. Price: $90-100.

Highland Park’s a first-rate distiller, Scotland’s northernmost, and one of just two distilleries on the Orkney Islands. Their 12-year-old is an excellent introduction to single malt for the uninitiated, and 18-year-old is the nectar of the gods.

Then there’s the Harald. This Duty Free-only release from their Warrior Series struck me as thin, raw, underpowered, and muddled. There are hints of familiar Highland Park flavors–baked apple, baking spice, and light peat–but they’re barely detectable at such a low ABV (40%). Which, at this price point, I find a bit baffling.

It’s the mixed blessing of the no-age-statement trend. You get home runs like the Aberlour A’Bunadh, then dribblers that go foul of the third base line.

When it comes to HIghland Park, at least, I’ll be sticking to the standard age-statement releases. – BO

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