One day I’m going to actually taste all this whiskey goodness while weathering the Scottish climate. In person. That’s how it should be done, eh? Only question is whether we should combine that trip with the cheese tasting tour of Europe, the week of cooking in Tuscany, or the river cruise we want to do, or…
Glenfiddich Bourbon Barrel Reserve 14 Year Old
The Bourbon Barrel Reserve 14 Year Old is a single malt whiskey matured in American bourbon barrels. Last year’s tasting included a couple of these bourbon barrel reserves and I didn’t particularly care for either. This one I liked. The mild bourbon flavour didn’t overwhelm the familiar taste of Glenfiddich.
Of all the Speyside whiskeys, Glenfiddich is far and away my favourite. I’ve tasted several of their variations and have liked them all. The balance of peat and malt always appeals and that singular flavour I identify as Glenfiddich is apparent every time—even in the cask strength whiskeys that sear your nostril hairs as you take a sip.
The 14 Year Old Bourbon cask is a comparatively affordable drop ($45 a bottle locally), and one I’d consider buying when my beloved 18 Year Old isn’t on sale. 😉
Arran Port Cask Finish
The Arran distillery is located on the isle of Arran, which is pretty much on the opposite side of Scotland—to the south west instead of north east. Founded only about 20 years ago by a former director of Chivas, Arran is only just now producing drinkable whiskey (in our tasters’ vaunted opinions). The distillers certainly know what they’re doing, however.
The Port Cask Finish is a single malt whiskey that has been aged in oak barrels and ‘finished’ in Portuguese port casks. It had a strong perfume in the glass, which I find characteristic of whiskeys finished in wine casks. The flavour was more brandy than whiskey, though. Not unpleasant, but not what I’d want in a glass of single malt.
I would be interested in tasting Arran’s Sauterne Cask Finish. I might have to mention it to our organizer for next time.
118 proof Tamdhu
First up, I love the Tamdhu website. After answering ‘yes’ to the question of whether you are legal or not, you’re in. This is refreshing change from having to scroll a long way down the list of years to enter my birthdate. I also really like Tamdhu’s packaging. It has an old world whimsy and made for interesting reading as we passed the bottle around.
The whiskey itself is another Speyside and the 118 proof is extremely strong. I sipped before adding water and I’m pretty sure I killed a few taste buds. A splash of water didn’t mellow the flavour at all, which is a good thing. No one wants a glass of ashy water, which is what single malt can taste like if you over water. If I was drinking this at home, I’d add couple cubes of ice and let it sit for a few minutes.
The flavour is nice, when it’s not burning things. Distinctively Speyside with notes of sherry from the casks used to mature the whiskey.
Springbank 18 Year Old
The Springbank distillery is based in Campbeltown, which was once considered the whiskey capital of the world. Their 18 year old single malt is a great example of what makes Scotch whiskey so distinctive. It’s peaty. Super peaty. It’s not a whiskey for first time drinkers, and not what you’d use to convert someone to the, ah, cause.
As for regular drinkers, you’ll either love it or hate it. That tends to be how most of us fall when it comes to the strong flavour of peat. It’s dirty, ashy and definitely an acquired taste.
The Springbank 18 Year Old smells good and tastes wonderful at the first sip. I’d definitely call it a sipping Scotch, however. A second sip too close to the first really amps up the flavour of the peat. Or it did for me. It became a little overwhelming. As a glass to nurse while curled up by a roaring fire, though? Absolutely perfect. This is a whiskey that needs time to develop in the glass.
Our final taste of the night was a very special drop, and not one many of us would go out and buy for ourselves—unless you’re in the habit of dropping upward of $200 on a bottle of whiskey. (Maybe after I write a bestseller!)
I was looking forward to the Glenmorangie Signet for a couple of reasons. One would be that it was the special bottle, the one we were all looking forward to. The special bottle doesn’t always work out, but I’ve tasted two other Glenmorangie varieties and have liked both very well. They have a similar character to the Speysides I love so much, but a definite flavour all their own. The Nectar D’Or is a favourite. It’s matured in sauterne casks, which soften the peat without destroying it.
The Signet is made differently. It’s a blend of their oldest whiskeys, some thirty years old. It still counts as a single malt, however, as it’s all their whiskey. My first thought upon tasting the Signet was “Oh my God”. Really. I thought it and said it. My next thought compared it to heaven in a bottle. The texture was velvety on the tongue, the flavour both smooth and complex. When my husband mentioned the viscosity, I changed my heaven in a bottle description to blood of the ancients. Either way, this is one of those whiskeys most of us will only taste once in a lifetime.
It’s also one you’ll want to sip slowly. Not because of the overwhelming peat, but because it was so smooth, if you drank it all at once, you’d miss all the subtle flavours.
For more information on each of these whiskeys, including tasting notes written by someone with the proper vocabulary, click the title of each.
2 thoughts on “A Tasting Tour of Scotland”
I’m surprised there was no Laphroaig in the list. They had an anniversary edition released recently and it’s pretty tasty. I’m a Glenfiddich gal myself and have to agree, these are much tastier when sitting in the Highlands 🙂 Perhaps a future writing retreat? I’m game!!
We tasted twice a year, so we manage to get through quite a variety. Different distilleries each time. From memory, we had a Laphroaig (which autocorrect wants to change to Aphrodite) on the list last time. 🙂
Yes to a writing retreat in the Highlands! Though, honestly, can you imagine us sitting on our bums writing when there’s all of Scotland to explore?