Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Review: Six Singles
In the world of single malt scotch, the holidays are when the limited releases are, well, released. The Classic Malts Selection has come out with a bunch of new get-them-while-you-can varieties. I already posted something on the Caol Ila Unpeated 10-year-old, my favorite of the group. Here are a few notes on the delicacies:
PORT ELLEN 30-YEAR-OLD: Port Ellen is a so-called “ghost distillery,” and thus highly prized and sought after by scotch enthusiasts. The distillery closed in 1983. What we see today are allocations of an ever-shrinking stock of whisky remaining in barrels. It's not surprising, then, that this is priced at $375. It's probably best that this scotch will be drunk by scotch connoissuers, because this is a challenging dram, perhaps not best suited for the average drinker. It's not a lean-back-and-relax scotch. It's a sit-up-and-take-notice scotch. The nose is heavy on the salt and iodine, with pepper and brush as well. The taste is intense and spicy, like hot peppers or spiced hot peat. There's a real briney-salty streak in the center, and a slightly bitter aftertaste. Not immediately appealing, this is for the seasoned taster.
OBAN DISTILLER'S EDITION: This scotch, from the famed maker on the west coast of Scotland's mainland Highlands, was double-matured in Montilla Fino wood. It has a beautiful orange-amber color. This is the opposite in character to the Port Ellen. It's a smooth and creamy treat. Orange, caramel, vanilla and apricot are seasoned with spices that are mellow and Christmasy—clove and allspice. This scotch is easygoing and satisfying. Cost is $100.
TALISKER 25-YEAR-OLD: Talisker, so unique, so utterly balanced, which that peculiar hot spice to it, may be my favorite scotch. So I loved sampling this. The 25-year-old was matured in American and European Oak refill casks, with just 5,862 bottles available. On the nose, it's pear, pear, and ripe pear. Also peach, salt, and brine. This is a very peaty scotch, so if you don't like peat, it's not for you. There is honey and fruit (including more pear), but they're in retreat. Towards the finish, it mellows out. It comes in at $200.
BRORA 30-YEAR-OLD: I am not overly familiar with Brora, so this was a pleasant discovery. It's another "ghost distillery," on the Sutherland coast, having shut down in 1983. There are only 2,598 bottles worldwide. The Brora 30-Year-Old is vatted from a mixture of American Oak and European Oak refill casks. Such an attractive scotch. The nose is honey and nectarine and fig backed by a hint of pepper. Drinking, it's smooth in the basement, spicy on the roof. The liquid is fleshy in the mouth, cream and caramel, structured, yet loose in its long finish. After finishing my sample, I was ready to go out and buy a bottle. But it's $400. So I guess I'll just ask for one from Santa and hope.
DALWHINNIE DISTILLERS EDITION: This version of the Highlands scotch was double-matured in Oloroso Sherry casks. It's a light orange-gold. You'll find that orange on the nose, too, as well as it's citrus friends. This scotch has a light-medium body. It's nicely balanced, even and dry, with caramel, allspice, cooked pear, vanilla and nut notes on the tongue. It has a long, spicy finish. $75 is your price.
ROYAL LOCHNAGAR SELECTED RESERVE: You've got a deep amber color here from this small Highland distillery. As you'd expect from such a color, it has a rich nose of toffee, candy corn, caramel and butterscotch. It's rich and oily on the tongue, with flavors of smooth burnt orange, caramel, maple and honey. This whisky will coat your mouth. Royal Lochnagar doesn't make a lot of scotch. It has just two small stills, and its typically not sold in the US. Thus, the price—$210—is understandable.