Classic Single Malts
Friday January 15
In current whisky culture, the classic malts as defined by big corporations, are disappearing and a new guard is stepping in to take their vacant positions. With these new “Classic” candidates continuing to crop up on the market, the line up is constantly changing and the term classic needs to be redefined. Though there is a fair amount of new material to work with, the premise of the class stays the same with a few expressions of American oak, different regions, some unique and special casks and so on. The most exciting part of these classes though is the medium of how these aspects are conveyed. Without further commentary, here is what we enjoyed that evening.
Carn Mor Strictly Limited “Westport” 17
Originally from the distillery of Glenmorangie, this “blended malt” is made up of two or more distilleries. The speculation here is that before Glenmo parted with the barrel they teaspooned in a dash of something else for precaution, preventing any hasty independent bottlers from declaring the barrels true origin.
A quick nose brings out honey, vanilla sweets and a generally rich nose. The characters of citrus infused dessert comes about, drizzled in toffee.Tasting is even more truculent with its oily constitution and crème brulee nature. Following is that sweet honeysuckle accompanied by tangerine candies. An American Oak bombshell if I’ve ever seen one. $119.99
First Edition Auchentoshan 1998
16 years in barrel for any Auchentoshan is enough to bring about a grace unseen in almost any other distillery bottling and this one is no exception. A fine lowland whisky from one of the few stills operating triple distillation brings about quicksilver flavors, sharp and ephemeral in the finest of ways.
It was my favourite. A nose of spring time, floral elegance floats around an underlying sweetness of the bakery. Confectioner and barley sugars poof in the face continuing the illusion of being in an artisan workshop, procuring fine baked goods.
Tasting refreshes an image of lemon glaze and angel food cake. An intricate palate dashes the cumbersome sweetness with a refreshing blast of cooling herbs. Exquisite. - $149.99
Creative Whisky Company Irish Single Malt 2002
Now, the class is called Classic Malts implying that the unifying theme is single malt whisky. That is definitely what this is, though with a slight twist. To be fair to the Irish, they have been doing it longer so they should receive due credit. This specific bottling is from an undisclosed distillery making this liquid all the more mysterious. With 13 years in barrel and completely unfiltered there was a lot going on in this unique spirit. Here’s what we found.
A nose of fruit laden bread and spices abound. Apricots and dried bits of pear come to mind whisking the imagination away to the orchard. A hint of perfume rises over time, but that could be my imagination!
A vessel of many sensations at such a young age is quite uncommon. Fruit spread full of chunky white fruits jumps in first, soon to be followed by Halloween caramel chews and a nutty fudge from Banff. Fireworks display from start to finish, also top pick of the night. - $132.99
Gordon & MacPhail Glenturret 2000
This one should be retitled: “How I Learned to Love the Bomb, the Sherry Bomb”. Fifteen years in a sherry cask will do wonders to almost any whisky, it just so happens the lucky distillery that got to carry it out was Glenturret. Unfortunately for them, the cask got snagged by one of the largest independent bottling companies out there. No issue for us though, we still got to drink it.
Rich to start, treacle and demerara right off the bat creating a sauce to simmer raisins and dates in. The sherry is still fresh with no sign of overcooking which is fine by me.
The Christmas cake is strong with this one, moving from to dessert to after dessert with cigar box and dark chocolates. There isn’t much else to say, it’s a sherry cask and it’s good. - $109.99
Glen Scotia Double Cask
Bit of an oddball here from one of the three existing Campbeltown distilleries. A sherry cask comes together with bourbon barrel and its peated, interesting combo. Not odd for all whisky fans, but the decrepit distillery’s mostly undistributed single malt might be a new experience for some, if not most. As well, new packaging! Praise be to the higher power who scrapped that last design, it was better suited to a gift shop at a tourist trap.
Sweetness of sherry casks is quite overriding and this release is no exception. That said, peat’s riding shotgun pulling the whole “I’m not driving but here’s what you should do” act. A sooty nose reaches over for the map, the sherry rebukes, it’s quite an affair!
Tasting brings out an interesting experience with the savoury now mingling with a coastal character. Hints of brine and fresh leather lead to a peppery sweet display with the sherry coming in a final flash. Another favourite of the night coming in third. - $93.99
Benromach Chateau Cissac 2006
Bneromach is the “new age” old school distillery. With the overhaul on packaging design, it is an apparent attempt on revitalization that has been made by contemporary distillers. Though packaging may change, the concepts remain the same with Benromach continuing to be the last of tradition in my humble opinion. This specific bottling has intrigue as it is aged in wine casks from Chateau Cissac, a Haut Medoc producer out of the Bourdeaux region. These barrels provide some interesting character. Here’s what we got.
Orange marmalade, pithy with all the bits, taking a walk to the barnyard, striding amongst hay and a small bonfire, clearing out the edges of the fields. Billowing smoke plays around the nose creating that old school feel.
Tasting brings out smoked edibles and blood orange. Candied ginger takes the stage with a set of backup singers crooning notes of perfumed wooden boxes. Excellent complexity for such a youthful whisky. - $99.99
Kilchoman KWM Single Barrel
Islay whisky fans are known for their varied preferences of peated whisky, especially with particular distilleries. Caol Ila is, in my opinion, one of the most well rounded Islay distillers out there with its smouldering ashy core, billowing brine and delicate tones of infused barrel making for one of the most well balanced spirits available on the island. At least that is what I thought until I tried Kilchoman. What is there to be said about a distillery that takes the best aspects of the (subjectively) best spirits on Islay? To paint a picture is almost injustice but I will strive to do it well.
Standing on the pier, a tempest blows sea air and ozone onto your face. A storm is brewing up, so you’d better step in for the night. Inside a rustic thatched hut resides a small peat fire in the hearth warming the room with embers and noxious fumes. Incense flits around next to the apothecary jars full of vanilla beans and coconut shavings. Grabbing a salt rimed glass the taste of fire warms the chilled cockles of your heart, heat of the cask coming forth like dragon’s breath. Savoury sweet notions of hickory smoking a glazed ham quell the beast. Wind howling, thick oils linger with the raw taste of Islay in that rustic shack, slowly fading, leaving you to find yourself sitting back at home enjoying a glass of the island. Perfect dram, 10/10. – $139.99