Usquaebach Reserve – Producer: Usquaebach. Distillers: undisclosed. Blend: 50% 17-19 year old Highland single malts, 50% younger grain whisky. Price: $45.
Usquaebach Old-Rare – Producer: Usquaebach. Distillers: undisclosed. ABV: 43%. Blend: 85% single malt, 15% grain. Price: $100-140.
Fearlessly old-fashioned in an iPhone era, fearlessly unpronounceable in an age of ignorance (not really – it’s “oos-ke-bah”), Usquaebach is a line of Highland blended whiskies that jumps out on the shelf–especially that ceramic flagon–and long had me curious.
The name Usquaebach is Scots Gaelic for “water of life,” and pays tribute to the great Scottish poet Robert Burns. who wrote in “Tam o’ Shanter”: “Wi usquaebach we’ll face the devil!” Tried two of their three releases: the Reserve (big bottle), and is a blend of 50% 17- to 19-year-old Highland single malts and 50% younger grain whisky. The Old-Rare (flagon) is 85% single malt, 15% grain. They also have a 15-year-old Vatted Highland Malt bottling, which I have yet to try.
The Reserve is the more robust of the two, and my favorite, though it’s less than half the price of the Old-Rare. The Reserve’s nose is fresh and a little raw without being spirit-heavy: bright, slightly underripe Bosc pears dressed in lemon. Palate adds raw ginger and white pepper. Transition to the finish brings lemongrass and a little hickory, and finish itself is bracing and refreshing. Surprisingly good with food!
The Old-Rare is more restrained. It has a somewhat shy nose, but with more oak than the Reserve, and with that, vanilla and caramel. On the palate, there’s Demerara sugar, new leather, and sweet hay. A touch of sherry fruit. The finish is short and light with sweet-and-sour oak.
Two very enjoyable blends, neither overly complex, but both balancing bracing grain notes with a flavorful malt and fruit core.
Cheers, friends! – BO