Sunday, September 28, 2014

Scapa the Orcadian 16 Year Single Malt Scotch

This is a bottle that came well-recommended by the bearded fellow working at the liquor store the day I picked this up.  I figured, who better to trust than the guy with the full beard working at the liquor store.  Even afterwards I researched this Scotch a bit on the internet before I got a chance to open it, and the reviews were promising.  I was very eager to get home and try this one out that evening.

I was tempted by "honeyed vanilla, caramel custard, and mouth-coating maltiness," as I had read in one review.  It sounded like everything I love in a good Scotch.  Perhaps I set the bar too high, maybe hyped it up a bit in my mind.  But, this one just did not live up to its billing.

I expected this to be a bit subtle, but very drinkable, with a warm, sweet finish.  What I found, however, was that it had more burn than expected, and that it generally lacked in the subtle flavors I had hoped to enjoy.  I did not taste any vanilla, nor any honey, nor much sweetness at all, whether at the tip of my tongue or the back of my throat.

Rather, it came across as bitter and, quite frankly, of similar quality to far cheaper Scotches.  I actually struggled to finish this bottle, drinking it occasionally here and there almost as a matter of necessity, as though I was going to have to finish the bottle eventually anyway, so I might as well get it over.  

Ultimately, for the price, there is better whisky to be had.  As I worked my way through this bottle, rather than enjoy it, I was instead looking forward to whatever was next up for me to try.

Grade: D+

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 Year Single Malt Scotch

Credit goes to my wife for selecting and bringing home this single malt Scotch.  I've always been a fan of rum (I fell in love with Appletons when I visited Jamaica).  So, she thought it only made sense that I might like a Scotch that had been aged in rum barrels.  She couldn't have been more right.

It doesn't come on strong when you first sip it.  However, it quickly fills your mouth with hints of vanilla and cinnamon mixed with undertones of citrus.  The influence of the rum casks provides just enough spice to make you notice it, but not enough that I would consider this a "spicy" Scotch.  It finishes with a strong vanilla sweetness that I didn't entirely expect. 

I couldn't keep this bottle long enough, as I found I couldn't settle for just one glass.  This is a great bottle, and I definitely recommend it to anyone that prefers that mixture of vanilla and spice.  It's also one of those bottles that only gets better after opening.  While the first pour was good, the latter pours were excellent!

This is one of those bottles where I was truly sad when I got to the bottom.

Grade: A-

Glenfiddich 12 Year Single Malt Scotch

This single malt was my introduction to drinking whiskey without mixing it.  In fact, the Glenfiddich 12 Year is what taught me that I have a taste for and enjoy Scotch, and whiskey in general.  This is the dram that introduced me to some of the complexities and nuances of drinking whiskey.  It's the dram that taught me how to enjoy a good pour.

What I found I like most about the Glenfiddich 12 year is not the initial taste.  It has a slight, citrus bite to it, but nothing bold or robust about it. In fact, I find that it's not as drinkable as I would like.  It's not the smoothest of pours, initially.  However, it leaves a lingering buttery flavor in my mouth reminiscent of the generic butterscotch candies I used to get at Halloween, and that always leaves me wanting another sip.

There is nothing overly complex about this whisky, but its simplicity is what makes this one of the most popular Scotches in the world.  It's a quality Scotch at an affordable price, and you can pretty much find it an any bar or restaurant in the country.

I don't necessarily use the Glenfiddich 12 Year as my standard against which I compare all other Scotches.  I actually used its older brother, the Glenfiddich 15 Year as my benchmark.  However, when my options are limited, I know it will always satisfy my thirst.

Grade: B-

Friday, September 26, 2014

Eagle Rare 10 Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon

As someone who drank primarily Scotch for a long time, I sought out recommendations as I ventured into bourbons, and this was one of the first recommendations I received.  I couldn't have been more pleased, and I have found that I frequently use this bourbon as my baseline for rating other bourbons. 

The whiskey is bold and has a toasty sweetness at the start, perfectly matching its dark amber color.  But it's not too sweet, and that sweetness then turns to a tangy-ness that I wasn't really expecting.  It really provided that perfect balance I look for in a whiskey.

I hate the term “drinkability.”  It seems to be bandied about all too often when referring to booze in general.  However, this whiskey truly has drinkability.  It has minimal burn and an incredibly smooth finish that leaves you immediately wanting that next sip.

At only $30 a bottle, this may be my new “go-to” bottle, the kind of whiskey I’d like to keep on hand at all times.  It is easily the best I’ve ever had for this price.  Considering how much I like this 10-year, I have to get my hands on the 17-year at some point, though based on the availability of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, I may have to wait a while on that.

This is not the best whiskey I've ever tasted, but it's as solid as they come, and has very much served as the standard for me.

Grade: B+