A Bright, Figgy Treat from Campbeltown
“Whisky from the Whiskiest Place in the World” – Glen Scotia’s Victoriana is a dangerously lovely and easy sipper. Coming in at cask strength, it drinks as if the ABV was MUCH lower.
It may be a “Highland malt in the Speyside way”- but the Glenfarclas 17 year old is far more than a sherry bomb. Made exclusively for US, Japan and Sweden markets, the expression delivers a beautiful balance of sweet and spice – and here’s a hint… it’s very nice.
Why do we hang onto bottles, leaving them sitting on the shelf, unopened? I must confess that I’ve had this bottle for more than a year but never made time to open it. I didn’t mean to neglect it. Maybe I had a case of “SQUIRREL! syndrome” and other shiny bottlings caught my attention.
As I look at the full bottles gracing the shelves of my bar, it seems I may have a slight hoarding issue. I’m certainly no collector. But more are unopened than ready to pour. Perhaps some self discovery is in order with a dram or two of Arran 14 to ponder why.
What comes to mind when you hear the term “complex whisky?” I’ve heard some whisky folks describe a scotch as “complex” only if it has a litany of strong “in your face” layers from different flavor profiles. One person even told me only heavily peated whiskies or sherry bombs could be considered complex and that a “plain Highland whisky could never rank as a complex expression.” I just smiled and told him that I absolutely disagreed.
Fact: there are complex whiskies from each region, including this Highland malt – AnCnoc 12.
Value means different things to different people. For me, perceived value in whisky is a correlation of taste, price and experience. Unless you have sampled something beforehand or gotten a recommendation from a reviewer or friend, price is the only attribute that is known BEFORE buying a bottle. Just going by price alone won’t guarantee the best value.
I want to get my money’s worth from anything I buy, including whisky. The taste must be enjoyable and pleasing. It gets a little tricky when it comes to the value of my experience – the esoteric moment of sampling the whisky. These are the moments where I ponder the complexity, depth and overall impression. Again, this is different for everyone but my experience with the whisky is a big part of how I value it. The final verdict is when all three come together. Then, I’m happy.
Is there redemption for a whisky that just didn’t do it for you at the first taste? That initial sip may be unexpected or disappointing. Do you write it off as bad or allow yourself and the whisky another chance for another day? Maybe you apply the baseball rule: give it three separate tastings before deciding its fate. And if it still comes up short than it’s “three sips and you’re out!” How many shots do you give an initially disappointing whisky before declaring, “That XYZ whisky is not good at all.” and never bother with it again?
Below is my review of such a bottle: Glenfiddich 18 Year Small Batch Reserve. It is a bottle that I had to give a second chance and in doing so, I learned a lot about the whisky and myself. Don’t automatically think I panned it. You can skip to the tasting notes or better yet, come along with me on my journey of understanding why we need to be fair to the whisky.
Forty years ago, Bunnahabhain introduced its 12 year old expression. It’s been pleasing palates and winning awards since the first dram was served. This is not your stereotypical Islay – peaty, heavy and in your face. No – this is a gentle dram, an easy sipper. After almost a half century, I believe those folks at Bunna are on to something.
In 1979, the world was a different place. There were no blogs, text messages or social media. Computers were for the space program or enormous companies. Disco, leisure suits and Farrah Fawcett hair-dos were all the rage. We didn’t walk around with our face in a phone because it was permanently affixed to the wall. Yet on a small island off the west coast of Scotland, a remote distillery presented its 12 year old whisky – the same cornerstone of their core range we can enjoy today.
Where in my last post I was lamenting the discontinuance of a favorite bottle, Bunnahabhain has consistently produced a version of this whisky going on four decades. That speaks volumes to the integrity and quality of Bunnahabhain’s craft.
Did you get to experience a dram of Glen Grant 16? It is no longer available (insert weeping sounds here) and I’m still not over it. I shared the last of my bottle with my friend, Kristin, a self-proclaimed bourbon girl who doesn’t like scotch. She liked it. But the 16 is gone. Enter stage right – Glen Grant 15 Year Batch Strength.
During a visit at Oak Point Market in Central, LA (always worth the trip for their great selection and customer-centric service) I bought a bottle of the Glen Grant 15 Batch Strength. Not Cask Strength, but Batch Strength. With a 50% ABV its strength is the culmination of the entire batch run, not the exact ABV of a single cask. This offering is only in travel retail and the US market.
The first bottle of scotch I bought was the Oban Distillers Edition after I toured the distillery. That bottle was distilled in 2000 and bottled in 2015 so it was closer to 16 years than this (my 3rd or 4th) bottle at 14 years. Oban is a sentimental favorite as the distillery was where I had my first drink of scotch, ever. And you see where that led me!