Johnnie Walker Gold Label

To celebrate Johnnie Walker’s 100th year, the family produced a top notch blend which is the subject of today’s tasting. A multitude of whiskies are blended to produce one of the market’s more premium blends, Johnnie Walker Gold Label. This blend is labelled at 18 years, meaning the youngest of the whiskies blended into the final product was aged 18 years, though a good portion of the whiskies used are probably considerably older. I’m not quite sure which whiskies are used in the blend, but Johnnie Walker mentions that the distinctive single malt produced by Clynelish is one of them. Interestingly enough, blended Scotch was illegal for quite some time, and it was only in the 1860s that Johnnie Walker started to produced blends more vigorously.

The Gold Label, like the Red Label and the Black Label, is bottled at 40% abv. Most blends are consumed in mixes drinks, but I’ll be hard pressed to recommend that you mix Johnnie Walker Gold 18 with anything but a little bit of water. The quality of the whiskies involved is just to great to be diluted and lost in glass of ginger ale. This tasting will consist of a glass of Gold Label already seasoned with a few drops lf water and chilled in the freezer for a few minutes as recommended by Johnnie Walker. Let’s see how that works out.

The colour is tantalizing with golden hues that match the label and box perfectly. The legs run thick and slow, though that may have something to do with the temperature at which it is served.

The nose brings on honey at first and most prominently. Fruit and manzanilla cherry can be whiffed on subsequent takes. There’s an impression of smoke somewhere in the background that drives all the other scents.

On the palate, the whisky must be allowed to warm and release its flavour. A rich texture, somewhat oily coats the tongue and whispers of wood, smoke, honey, and fruit. This is a sweet whisky and the flavours are not what one could call intense.

The finish is smooth and long. It is a soft and satisfying mix of sweet fruit, mainly honeydew melon, smoke, wood, and vanilla at the very end.

Overall, a wonderfully light and easy drinking spirit that is flexible.  It’s only weakness is that is lacks some depth and complexity.  The flavours are light and fruity and quite enjoyable, but it lacks the extra layers of depth that for me help a fine whisky stand out from the crowd.

I would like to point out that you shouldn’t confuse this for the new Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve, which has no age statement and is a different product altogether.  Gold Label 18 can be purchased at the SAQ for approximately $86.  It is surprisingly unavailable in Ontario and, insane as it may seem, is actually more expensive in New Hampshire!!



Whisky Showdown! Macallan 12 vs. Clynelish Distiller’s Edition

Todays whisky showdown pits Macallan’s popular 12 year old product vs. Clynelish’s Distiller’s Edition, which is aged 14 years according to the date indicators on the bottle. The Macallan is a favorite across the world and the lesser known Clynelish distillery produces a limited range of products but deserves some attention in my opinion.  My original review of the Macallan 12 is here and you can follow the link here for my full review of the Clynelish.

Without further ado, let’s see how these two stack up.

There are few whiskies as satisfying to the eye as the Macallan. It’s a rich colour and stands out next to the lighter amber hue of the Clynelish. Given a twirl of the glass, the Macallan’s legs run down thick but relatively quickly compared to the slow running legs of the Clynelish.

The nose on the Macallan is more oak and sherry than anything the Clynelish offers. The latter yields soft notes of orange and chocolate, mixing in a bit of spice. The Macallan shares one characteristic with the Clynelish as it too gives off some orange, albeit much more subtly. Both are absent of any hint of peat.

The palate of the Macallan brings sherry, oak, some smoke, and light notes of fruit. The palate of the Clynelish is all about orange and milk chocolate with cream. There’s some fruitiness in there, but I wouldn’t call it sweet on its own. However it is sweeter than the Macallan 12, which seems almost dry in comparison.

The finish on both is long and rewarding. The Macallan goes into a display of wood and smoke to differentiate from the Cynelish. The Cynelish stays mellow at this stage with fruits and nuts wrapping up the experience.

Overall, the Macallan is a more complex product despite the 2 years difference in age. I’ll give a nod to the Macallan on this one, the Cynelish being more suitable for easy drinking and those with a preference for sweeter single malts. The Clynelish is also an excellent product for initiation into the world of whiskies with its softer profile.


Glenfarclas 105

This whisky review has been a long time in the making.  I have had a soft spot for cask strength editions for quite some time, and having greatly enjoyed Glenfarclas’ 17 year old edition, I have longed for a taste of their cask strength product.  I have patiently waited until now to try a dram though I have held it in my stock for some time now.  The product is called Glenfarclas 105.  The story behind the name is explained on the box by John Grant, chairman of Glenfarclas.  As the story goes, in 1968 George S. Grant, the grandfather of the current chairman, bottled a cask at 105 degrees British Proof for Christmas and thus gave birth to the product.  The current edition is bottled at 60% abv after 10 years of aging in some of the finest casks in Glenfarclas’ warehouses.

Now that we’re done with the history lesson, time to taste the product and determine whether it was a gift well received in Christmas of 1968.

An amber colour greets the eyes and a good swirl produces thick, slow running legs.  Quite nice.

The nose is caramel and apple, some pear, spice, pie crust, honey,  a hint of cinnamon, and orange peel .  Maybe a bit of vanilla at the back end of that.  It is soft and sweet, but deeply satisfying.

The palate is just as satisfying with a rush of sweet fruits, caramel, apple, honey, and oak in the background.  The texture is a bit gritty though.

The finish is long and warm, yielding more honey, sweet fruits, oak, and vanilla.

Adding a healthy dose of water changes the texture and lightens the intensity of it all.

The nose maintains its initial charms and adds a bit of melon and nut.

The palate adds banana and nut, apricot, sherry, raisins and a hint of tangerine.

The finish stays long, but smoother than before.

Overall, this is quite a revelation in the world of cask strength whiskies that tend to come on a bit too strong.  Though the whisky warms the mouth, it does not burn.  Though I am not a fan of gritty whiskies, the overall experience on this one is pleasant and casually invites the drinker to continue experiencing all that it has to offer.  A complex whisky, it can be purchased at the SAQ for about $73 or $74 whereas the LCBO is retailing it for about $80 so go figure.

Enjoy this one neat at first to address it in its raw state, then go ahead and take it with water to take out some of the grit and expose the hidden qualities of this whisky.

Oh, and by the way I’ve already got this bottle if you’re thinking of Christmas gifts, but feel free to give it to another worthy soul on your Christmas list.  They will not be disappointed.


Whisky Showdown! Macallan 12 vs. Macallan Select Oak

This edition of Whisky Showdown! has us exploring two different products from the same distiller.  An exciting tasting which should lead us to discover how the two different production methods compare and contrast.  The two products in question are Macallan 12 and Macallan Select Oak.

The Macallan 12 is a sherry oak product.  The oak used in making the casks that will age the whisky are from the north of Spain, specifically the forests of Galicia, Cantabria, and Asturias.  The wood is air dried in the north of Spain before being shipped south to be toasted in Jerez and turned into casks.  These casks are then used to produce dry oloroso sherry.  After 18 months aging sherry, the caks are emptied and sent to Macallan’s distillery for use in its whisky production.

The Select Oak is part of Macallan’s 1824 Collection and available only at travel retail sites.  This whisky is aged in three different cask types, Spanish sherry oak casks, American oak casks that held sherry, and American ex-bourbon oak casks.  I am not sure how long the aging process is for this whisky, though I expect it to be less than the 12 years of its challenger.

Both are similar in legs, having thick legs that run rather quickly.  The Macallan 12 is darker and richer in appearance than the Select Oak however, making it easy for me to distinguish them as I go through this tasting.

The nose on the Macallan 12 is full of sherry while the Select Oak brings out intense orange, cinnamon, spice, and vanilla.  Some other fruit is also apparent in the nose of the Select Oak.  The Macallan 12 also has some faint hints of orange, but it is more smokey and dry overall.

On the palate, the Macallan 12 is more sherry, smoke, oak, dried fruit, and hints of orange.  The Select Oak has cinnamon and spice, sugar, citrus, and dried fruit.

The Macallan 12 finishes smoky with wood and spice.  It’s dry overall, but has some faint hints of dried fruits.  It lingers for quite some time.  The Select Oak is sweeter and less long lasting, but not to say less satisfying.  The sweetness is very nice in itself and hugs the tongue as it works itself through its stages.

Overall, I’ll give the Macallan 12 the slight edge overall.  It is more complex overall and an interesting experience, but I like the sweetness of the Select Oak quite a bit.  Depending on my mood, my overall rating could change, but on this cold November evening I prefer to the Macallan 12’s smokey, oak filled tasting experience.  The Select Oak is harder to find of course since its distribution is limited, but I strongly recommend purchasing both.  The Macallan 12 should be purchased in New Hampshire if you happen to be going through as it is easily less than half the price than in Quebec and Ontario.  For my full review of the Macallan 12, click here and you can find my review of the Macallan Select Oak by clicking here.


Bruichladdich Waves

Bruichladdich has quickly become one of my favourite distillers and I will certainly be reviewing more of their products for these pages. The latest in my series of Bruichladdich tastings is their Waves edition. Though I had tasted it months ago, I recently rediscovered it in a friend’s collection and took some notes for my readers. Bottled at 46% abv at the Islay distillery, this is part of the brand’s Waves/Peat/Rocks line. There’s no age statement here, but inquiring minds will want to know that this whisky is aged in ex-bourbon casks followed by Madeira wine casks. I’ll expect some hints of wine and maybe some of the sweetness that the fortified Spanish wine is sometimes known for.

The bottle, as with all of Bruichladdich products, is nicely designed and presented. A small label shows the striking image of waves hitting rocks on the coast and the trademark “B” appears just above. Bruichladdich is located on the other side of the Bowmore distillery across Loch Indaal and one wonders what kind of rivalry exists in this remote part of the land.

The whisky is a light gold colour and runs thin and fast down the sides of the glass after a good swirl.

On the nose, it is light and sweet, with some apple, cinnamon, spices, honey, and dried fruit.

The palate consists of moderate peat, vanilla, apple, orange slice, hints of wood, a bit of pepper and salt, and a variety if spice.

The finish is medium to long and brings back some of the sweetness of the nose. The peat continues to play its part without overwhelming the senses and the taste of wine finally makes an appearance on the tail end.

I’m not entirely sure how Bruichladdich got so much out of what seems to be a relatively young and fresh whisky but it is absolutely delightful.  Unfortunately, this product is no longer being offered by Bruichladdich.  The Waves was originally intended for the Italian market as a young version of Bruichladdich and eventually found its way into the trilogy mentioned above.  It is a midpoint between Peat and Rocks, with Peat also now being phased out.  Get this very nice whisky while you can at your local SAQ in Quebec, worth the price at about $55.  This bottling is no longer available in Ontario however.


Whisky Showdown! Macallan 12 vs. Glenlivet 12

This edition of the Whisky Showdown pits two twelve year old that are most likely staples in many home bars.  The Macallan 12 is extremely popular and has been for many years.  the same could be said of its challenger the Glenlivet 12.  For those with limited space or facing a decision as to which to order at the bar, this tasting should provide some guidance.

Let us start as usual with the visuals.  The Macallan is a darker colour than the Glenlivet with a deep amber hue compared to the latter’s light gold appearance.  They both produce thin, quick running legs after a good swirl of the glass, however the Macallan appears to run slightly slower.

On the nose, the Macallan whiffs of sherry, oak, hints of honey and fruit.  The Glenlivet’s much more sweet in comparison and softer overall with its notes of vanilla and fruit.  The sherry and oak mark the Macallan whereas the vanilla and apple mark the Glenlivet.  Both have a similar hint of orange and citrus.  An interesting introduction to both, but the Macallan seems to have the edge in arousing interest with its bolder and more complex introduction.

On the palate, the Macallan is about sherry, oak, honey, orange peels, and a hint of smoke delivered in a chewy texture that is well balanced and complex.  The Glenlivet is an exercise in apple, fruit, and vanilla in a more watery, though slightly chewy texture that results in a very easy drinking experience.  The Glenlivet has some hints of wood, not nearly as rich as the Macallan and even hints of milk chocolate to contrast with the Macallan’s approach to sherry and oak.

The finish on the Macallan gives way to more smoke and dark chocolate versus the Glenlivet’s milk chocolatey impression.  The Macallan lasts longer and eases into some variations on what the nose and palate had shown while the Glenlivet’s shorter finish is less diverse.

Overall, the Macallan is the winner due to its more interesting overall profile.  However, the Glenlivet goes down easy and may appeal to a broader base as a result.  I will go ahead and name the Macallan the winner here but stress that the Glenlivet is a good drink as an everyday dram and probably will satisfy more guests at parties and events while the Macallan is more suited to those who already have a more profound appreciation for whisky.  Congratulations to the Macallan, you can find my review of the winner here, and my review of the Glenlivet here.


Blanton’s Single Barrel

This tasting goes back to a bourbon. I have been looking for this particular make for quite some time, but it has never been available outside of the United States until very recently. This is good news for bourbon whiskey lovers as Blanton’s Single Barrel Special Reserve is a fine Kentucky straight. The bottle is named for Colonel Albert Bacon Blanton, longtime distillery manager at Buffalo Trace. This expression was created by Elmer Lee in 1984 to honour the memory of Blanton.

The bottle is unique in shape and decor. There’s a horse and jockey on the stopper. The horse is made of bronze and there are eight different poses, each one assigned a letter. Collect all eight and it spells BLANTONS. The label contains crucial information about the spirit inside. The dumping date, warehouse letter, barrel number, rick number, strength, and registered bottle number are all written by hand on the label. My bottle was dumped on August 23, 2011 from barrel number 55. It was stored in Warehouse H on rick number 2. The registered bottle number is 107 and bottled at 40% abv. Apparently, Blanton’s preferred location for aging was Warehouse H, thus all of Blanton’s Single Barrel production is aged there.

In appearance, it’s a deep amber colour. I always take bourbon with a couple of drops of water from the start, so my tasting will take this into consideration. I assume each barrel results in slight variations on the theme, so individual results may vary depending on the barrel.

On the nose, it is honey sweetness with a touch of mint. Some caramel and toffee mix in and the overall introduction is very nice. The mint took me by surprise.

On the palate, very sweet and spicy. The caramel and honey are quite apparent. Vanilla can be tasted throughout. The mint is also available to the palate. I noticed a light char overtone throughout the tasting.

The finish is long and smooth. The honey, spice, and mint remain and round out an excellent experience.

Overall, an excellent whiskey. In Quebec, the SAQ prices this stuff at $81, but it is much less costly in Ontario where the LCBO charges a reasonable $63 for the same thing! New Hampshire sells it for $50. A fine addition to any collection, I highly recommend this whiskey for anyone looking for a a higher end product at a reasonable cost. For Quebec, I recommend waiting for a sale however as the price is quite high and some more interesting Scotch whiskies can be had at around the same price point.