Tag Archives: highland

Dalwhinnie 15 Review

Distiller: Dalwhinnie. ABV: 43%. Age: 15 years. Region: Speyside. Price: $50-60.

The Dalwhinnie 15 is the kind of bottle you might be pleasantly surprised to find on an otherwise single malt-free liquor cart after an all-day Easter brunch away from home–the eat-nap-eat-nap kind. Or eat-nap-eat-nap-sip.

The Dalwhinnie 15 is a light, accessible Highland single malt that makes an excellent introduction to single malts. Easy to find–you’ll see it at nearly any Trader Joe’s that’s allowed to sell liquor–and easy to enjoy.

Apple and pear on the nose, soft and pleasant. Honey, candle wax, and lemon poppy seed cake. Take a sip: there’s the vanilla icing from that cake, plus the mildest white smoke. Fades like the wisp at the end of a candle on the finish.

WhiskyCast’s Mark Gillespie recently got an interesting Twitter discussion going on folks’ recommendations for “beginner whiskies” under the hashtag #3Whiskies. What would you recommend? – BO

Buy Dalwhinnie 15 online at Mash + Grape

Glenmorangie Milsean Review

Distiller: Glenmorangie. ABV: 46%. Region: Highlands. Age: 12.5 years (though officially no age statement). Price: $100.

Our first taste of Glenmorangie’s 7th Private Edition bottling, Milsean, made us feel like kids in a candy store. We had the pleasure of being walked through a tasting of this new release–which means “sweet things” in Gaelic–by Glenmorangie Master Distiller Dr. Bill Lumsden at a launch event in Chicago.

Dr. Bill said his own sweet tooth came from the privations of his Presbyterian upbringing: if he asked for a treat as a boy, he’d get a slice of buttered bread. With the Milsean, he’s making up for it.

The new bottling was meant to be on the sweeter side. They started with the standard Glenmorangie 10, then finished it for two and a half years in heavily re-toasted red wine barriques from the Douro region of Portugal. Initially, Dr. Bill said, they wanted to finish it for 5 years, but the re-toasting so heavy (leading to major caramelization of the wood sugars on the inside of the barrel), that they were concerned about the result being too sweet.

We think they hit it just right. The nose has caramel, pepper, and candied oranges, with hints of sugar cane and candied lemon. The taste is also on the sweeter side, with slight peppery chile and chocolate fudge. The finish is unusually long and spicy with hints of brown sugar and the European Oak.

It’s meant to be a one-time annual release, with 5,000 cases on the market. Cheers, friends! -JTR & TM

Buy Glenmorangie Milsean online at Mash + Grape

Tomatin 18 Review

Distiller: Tomatin. ABV: 46%. Age: 18 years. Region: Highlands. Price: $75-80.

Tomatin is a Highlands distillery that puts 80% of its output into blends, but has been reconfiguring much of its single malt line over the past few years in an effort to raise its profile: higher ABVs, new cask finishes, and new packaging set to launch in March 2016. (The current look, staid without quite being classical, isn’t doing them any favors–the picture above shows the pre-March 2016 look.)

The latest Tomatin 18 is finished in ex-Oloroso sherry casks for 2.5 years, after 15.5 years in ex-bourbon casks. They refer to the release as “heavily sherried,” which I wouldn’t–not in a time of wall-to-wall sherry bombs like the Aberlour A’Bunadhs and Glenfarclas 105. I would, however, call the Tomatin 18 delicious–and an excellent value for an 18-year-old in today’s market.

The nose is darkly fruity with Black Forest cake and nice round malt. The palate has red fruit, fresh ginger, clove, and light smoke. The complexity grows with time in the glass, as does the smoke–so much I half-wonder whether a little peated malt didn’t creep in there somewhere. The finish is long and spicy, with dried cherry and barrel-bottom tannins in great balance.

A good first malt from a distiller you’re new to is one that makes you want to explore more. On that score–and many others–the Tomatin 18 is a big success. Sláinte! -BO

Buy Tomatin 18 online at Mash + Grape

Glenfarclas 12 Review

Distiller: Glenfarclas. ABV: 43%. Age: 12 years. Region: Highland. Price: $50.

Ah, Glenfarclas! Macallan may be the granddaddy of sherried Highlanders, and Glendronach’s been killing it with their entry- to mid-level sherried releases recently, but don’t sleep on Glenfarclas.

This 12-year-old release is a great pour and a great value, a daily dram that can stand proud alongside the Macallan and Glendronach 12s.

It’s got a big fruit-basket nose: morello cherries, stewed figs, apple sauce, and the faintest wisp of peat that came through for me as orange pekoe tea.

On the palate, there’s chocolate-cherry Black Forest cake with a touch of char on the bottom. The finish is spicy, oaky, and bittersweet–quite close to the Macallan 12.

The older that Glenfarclas bottlings get, the richer, more heavily sherried, and more magical–especially their Family Cask releases. The 29-year-old 1974 vintage J.T. Rickhouse shared with me not long ago was hands-down the best sherried single malt I’ve ever tasted. Take a run at those if you ever get the chance. But in the $50ish, readily available range, the 12’s a delicious place to start.

Sláinte! – BO

Buy Glenfarclas online at Mash + Grape

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

Buy GlenDronach Cask Strength online at Mash + Grape

Glenmorangie 1970s Collection Review

What’s it like to taste $50,000 worth of whisky?

It’s a hard question to answer – even once you’ve done it. But one thing’s for sure: the experience around it says a lot about the wild moment in the ultra-premium whisk(e)y market we’re living through.

The Axis was lucky enough to receive an invitation both to the press/industry preview of Glenmorangie’s #Unseen Luxury Pop-Up in New York City this September, and, amazingly, to a VIP Tasting of Glemo’s mind-blowing 1970s Collection – only 10 in the world, only 3 of them in the U.S., retailing for $50,000 apiece. (N.B.: The event was covered for the Axis by our dear friend J.T. Rickhouse – lucky guy. The tasting notes below are his. – BO)

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Photo for the Axis by instagram.com/scotch_in_the_city

We approached the pop-up and tasting with lots of questions. What is a brand like Glenmorangie trying to accomplish with such a wildly expensive offering? Scotch exports fell by 7% globally and by 9% to the U.S. in 2014. There’s more competition than ever from the U.S. super-premium bourbon revival, from malt whiskies from Japan, India, South Africa, Scandanavia even. How do major brands find a balance between exclusivity and aspirational dreams (e.g., a 5-bottle set costing $50,000) and securing a broad enough market for sustained growth?

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