Whisky Showdown! MacAllan Cask Strength vs. Glenfarclas 105

It’s a Christmas miracle! Another Whiskey Showdown just in time for the holidays.

On this festive occasion, I pit the MacAllan Cask Strength against the Glenfarclas 105.

My regular readers, if any, will remember from my initial review of the Glenfarclas 105 that, 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.  Thus, this Whiskey Showdown is as timely as it is special.

The MacAllan is aged in its famous sherry oak casks from Jerez, Spain and is a benchmark of quality in the world of whiskies.

The MacAllan is bottled at 60.1% abv and appears a beautiful mahogany red bordering on copper. The Glenfarclas is similarly bottled at 60% abv and is closer to a golden copper tone in appearance.

The nose of the MacAllan is ripe with dried fruits, vanilla, orange, and hints of fig. The nose of the Glenfarclas is more sweet, sharing some of the citrus in the form of orange peel, but mixing in apple, pear, caramel, and honey. This is starting off as an exercise in contrasts as the two whiskies put on entirely different experiences on the nose.

On the palate, the MacAllan is juicy and filled with dried fruits and figs, hinting of vanilla throughout. The Glenfarclas starts with spices and fruits, apples, figs, and honey. Surprisingly, it’s quite dry on the back end. Much like the nose, there’s a big difference in the tasting experience.

The finish on the MacAllan is long and spicy, filled with orange and oak. Some smoke fills in the gaps. The Glenfarclas is warm and gritty, with fruits making a final stand to a nicely balanced whisky.

Overall, these whiskies are both good and worth a taste. They aren’t what I would call every day drams, however. I hesitate to make a call, these are so different and will appeal differently depending on individual tastes. Personally, I find the MacAllan smoother and more agreeable, but the big bold impression of the Glenfarclas does have its merits. Whichever you choose, I hope the holidays find you well and wish a wonderful new year.


Laphroaig 18

I recently did something I hadn’t done in some time: open a new bottle of whisky. The bottle in question was not just any bottle either, it was a bottle of Laphroaig 18! I had purchased the bottle last summer but the occasions for indulging in premium whisky were few and far between until the holiday season. At the bequest of a visiting friend, the opportunity arose and a drinking experience matched by few others was at hand. Laphroaig is famous for its peated, smoky whiskies. Their Islay distillery also still runs its own malting floor, peating the green malt produced on site prior to kilning.

The Laphroaig 18 is bottled at 48% abv and barrier filtered. Barrier filtering is a non-chill filtering method designed to filter out larger particles in the spirit. Laphroaig uses Maker’s Mark casks in its maturation process. This 18-year-old expression recently replaced Laphroaig’s 15-year-old in their product lineup.

But enough background, on with the tasting!

The colour is a bright gold and exceptionally clear and crisp looking. The legs run smooth, thick, and slowly down the glass.

The nose does not come across as overly smoked or peated. Instead, the peat lets itself melt into nuts, honey, pear, and toffee. Some smoke lifts the oak into the sense and neatly ties all the components together.

The whisky is exceptionally smooth on the palate. I start tasting the peat immediately, but then the extraordinary depth and balance become known to me. I find some light citrus, mostly grapefruit, complimenting the nuts and honey that fill out the tasting experience. The subtle smoke plays a role in embracing the envelope of flavours and inviting me in for more. A little more concentration yield some spice and floral notes.

The finish starts sweet and continues into nuts and oak. The smoke continues to tie the experience together and reminds me of a midsummer barbecue on the smoker, but not before leaving some vanilla and honey. After a while, I get the distinct impression of salted cashew.

Overall, a wonderfully complex and full-bodied whisky. Having already reviewed the Quarter Cask, I was expecting something good from this expression, but I was not prepared for the full extent of what Laphroaig has accomplished with its 18-year-old.
This bottle is available at the SAQ in Quebec for $158. The LCBO in Ontario charges an outrageous $180. Your best bet in the area, however, is New Hampshire where a bottle can be had for $75. I love New Hampshire, which is where I purchases my example of this fine product



Whisky Showdown! Glenlivet 12 vs. Bruichladdich the Laddie 10

Last month, I reviewed Bruichladdich’s the Laddie 10 and revealed a tender but elegant Scotch. Today, I compare the Laddie 10 to the classic 12 from Glenlivet.

Both whiskies are a pale gold and are undistinguishable from one another. I had to ensure I kept tabs on each glass as I started the tasting to make sure I didn’t mix them up from the start! The legs run quick and thin on both, a sign of their youth according to some whisky experts.

The nose on the Glenlivet 12 does not betray its reputation for being soft and unassuming. I do however notice that the side by side tasting brings out the nose of the Laddie 10. The contrast in expressions allows me to notice the peat in the Laddie. Though I hadn’t noticed during my prior tasting, there is definitely a soft peaty background that accompanies the young fruity freshness of the Laddie 10. Overall, the Laddie 10 is stronger and more complex on the nose, making the Glenlivet 12 seem rather boring.

On the palate, the Glenlivet is pleasant, mild, and quite tasty with its nice apple notes. The Laddie 10 is a more deep concoction, keeping with a fruity contrasting the Glenlivet with shades of oak and peat, qualities I had not noted on my initial tasting. The Glenlivet is also more chewy against the Bruichladdich’s juicy texture. The higher alcohol content of 46% abv on the Laddie 10 is also quite obvious here, lending some punch to the overall flavour.

The finish of the Glenlivet is oddly similar to the Laddie 10, despite the differences in nose and palate between the two expressions. While the Glenlivet sticks to fruit, the Laddie one ups it with a twist of fig and compliments the rest of the experience very nicely.

Both are nice whiskies for everyday enjoyment and I’m sure will please most people. My personal preference is with the Laddie 10. Though a younger whisky, it is just a notch more complex than the Glenfiddich and makes for a more interesting experience.


Bruichladdich the Laddie Ten

It had been a while between reviews but I’m glad to say that the time was not wasted. No, the whisky collection has been renewed, bolstered, and refined. I am happy to say a new batch of reviews will guide us through fall and comfort us during those cold winter nights.

So on to the review of a whisky from the Bruichladdich distillery. The Bruichladdich Laddie Ten is the first ten-year-old produced by the new owners of the distillery after their purchase in 2000. The distillery had been closed in 1994 which meant that no 10-year-old could be produced until 2011. The distillery, a Victorian gem on the far west coast of Islay, began producing fresh 10-year-old whisky in September 2011. Since then, they have expanded their range significantly and you will surely have noticed that I have reviewed quite a few of their expressions already. I’m sure this will not be my last experience with Bruichladdich either.

Their flagship product, the Laddie Ten is bottled at 46% abv. The bottle in my possession is dated May 16, 2012 and comes in a nearly clear bottle with minimal labeling. The gift box is Bruichladdich’s trademark light teal colour and neatly packaged.

The colour is a nice light gold. Quick, thin legs run down my glass after a good twirl.

The nose quickly betrays the age of the whisky with young and fresh aromas of red apple and lemon easily distinguished. Some honeydew melon can also be detected with a bit of concentration.

The palate is silky sweet at first, melting into honey and citrus with time. Again, the youth of the product is obvious. However, this is not a knock against the whisky as it is quite pleasant and zesty. Some barley and a hint of chocolate are also qualities that can be enjoyed as the tasting progresses. A warm, sweet, zesty delight for the palate.

The finish does not linger as some older whiskies might, but compliments the experience perfectly. Once more, it is sweet, discrete, and fruity. The taste of fig comes to mind.

A bit fo water doesn’t do much to change the nose, though it does seem to make it more powerful and easier to detect the rich scent of apple. The palate becomes juicier and more intense. The chocolate noted previously turns into a soft memory of hazelnut spread. Continued tasting provides the slightest clue of oak. The finish seems a bit longer and adds nuts and a tiny fragment of hazelnut to it.

Overall, a quality product from Bruichladdich. It is an elegant whisky for its age and a wonderful companion to a night with friends, family, and foe. Available at the LCBO in Ontario for about $63 and $55 in New Hampshire. Unfortunately, it is currently out of stock in Quebec. I urge you to pick up a bottle post haste and enjoy the refined youth of the Bruichladdich Laddie Ten.


Bruichladdich the Laddie 10

Whisky Showdown! Macallan Select Oak vs. Macallan Cask Strength

A hot summer’s day is not usually a time I steal away to sip my favourite whiskies, but the cooling effect of the light rain falling as I sit under the eaves on the deck has motivated me to try a couple of Macallan products head to head. This evening’s pugilists are none other than the Macallan Select Oak from Macallan’s 1824 series and the Macallan Cask Strength, reviewed in this pages not too long ago. My review of these two Macallans should take place with the usual disclaimer that water was added to the 60% abv Macallan Cask Strength to reduce the alcohol proportion, though only a drop or two was added to the travel retail exclusive Select Oak.

The colour on the Select Oak is more pale than the deep shade of the Cask Strength. The elegance of the gold colour on the Select Oak is contrasted with the bold if not aggressive amber of the Cask Strength.

The softer nose on the Select Oak asks for recognition of its light fruits, honey, and gentle cinnamon and spice. The nose on the Cask Strength calls to attention a bold statement of oak, strong fruits, including orange, chocolate, and caramel. No nonsense on the Cask Strength, this is a whisky that is looking for trouble, and in my case has found it!

The palate on the Select Oak, with its grainy texture and butty core, requests notice of sweet fruits and cinnamon. The Select Oak demands immediate notice of its oak, apple, fruit, honey, noix de grenoble, caramel, cinnamon swirls, and strength. This Cask Strength is a heavyweight contender and is not shy about its intentions.

The finish on both are long, smooth, and flattering. The Select Oak ends as it started, softer than the Cask Strength and fading into memory of sweet fruits. The Cask Strength is more durable, keeping up the fight with spice, orange, and oak.

Overall, the winner is the Cask Strength. Though price points are higher on the Cask Strength, the whisky is fuller, more complete, complex, and flexible.


Aberlour 10

Vigilant readers, if any, will recall that I reviewed Aberlour’s exceptional 16-year-old whisky a while ago. Today, I go back to basics and try Aberlour’s 10-year-old expression for the first time. This beautiful, warm summer’s day in Montreal provides the backdrop for a relaxing moment spent tasting whisky on the deck with few other concerns occupying my thoughts.

Aberlour is an interesting Speyside distillery producing a narrow variety of whiskies which are especially popular in France. The distillery has been around for nearly 200 years in various forms, rebuilt due to fire and changing hands over the years. Quality expressions are a hallmark of this distillery whose name is Gaelic for “mouth of the chattering burn”. The Aberlour 10 is easily differentiated from its cousins as it is bottled in a tall bottle whereas the other expressions are bottled in shorter, wider bottles.

Th Aberlour 10 is bottled at 40% abv and is aged in ex-sherry and ex-bourbon oak casks.

The colour is a warm amber giving off thin, quick-running legs when swirled.

The nose is bold, with dried fruit being the first discernible scent. Some oak comes through and stays in the nose.

The palate starts with apple juice then confirms soft caramel. It tastes young, but vibrant. Sweet spice round off the profile.

The finish is short. Vanilla, oak, spice, some soft traces of nut, and light herbs cram into a small space.

Adding a bit of water opens up the nose considerably. The palate and finish do not appear to be much affected however.

Overall, this is a better whisky than I expected given its age. Easy to drink, it makes a wonderful every day dram and is good for initiation to whisky. I look forward to comparing this to its older siblings in future comparisons and seeing how the additional years in the casks affect the outcome. Available at the SAQ in Quebec for just short of $47, in Ontario the LCBO carries it for $50. I picked it up during a promotional event for about $40 at the SAQ.


Aberlour 10

Whisky Showdown! Macallan 12 vs. Macallan Cask Strength

A fantastic matchup today, the Macallan 12 goes up against the Macallan Cask Strength. I normally pit cask strengths against like products, but given the two products eminate from the same distillery, I am curious as to how these whiskies compare.

Both products look similar with the only difference being a slightly deeper shade of red on the cask strength. The legs run a tad slower and thicker on the Macallan 12.

On the nose, the Macallan 12 is softer than the Macallan Cask Strength. The latter is less fruity than the former and more of the wood and smoke comes through. Otherwise, there is little difference between the two.

On the palate, the differences are more readily identified. The Macallan 12 is softer, less obviously fruity, stronger in vanilla, and lighter in texture. The Macallan Cask Strength pulls no punches. The fruit is powerful, the texture is deeper, it is bolder in bringing out the wood from the cask, sweeter overall, and stronger with the smoke.

The finishes on both are satisfying and complex. The cask strength is nuttier and a bit longer. The 12 is somewhat more bitter on the finish.

Overall, these are two nice whiskies. However, there is a clear winner in this showdown and I am at ease in declaring the Macallan Cask Strength the victor. The cask strength is a more complex experience. The stronger flavours are coupled with a degree of variety seldom experienced with whiskies so young. It is more malleable as well, allowing the drinker to experiment with the alcohol quotient and arrive at a level most suitable for his taste.

Therefore, budgets allowing, I strongly recommend the Macallan Cask Strength over the 12. If you buy it during a promotional period, as I did, you can have it for a bargain. It is currently available in ample quantities in Quebec and New Hampshire. However, Ontario has limited quantities of a different batch than the one I have reviewed in these pages.


The Macallan Cask Strength

Macallan’s Fine Oak series was born out of the distillery’s misplaced notion that consumers prefered lighter, bourbon cask aged whiskies. Thankfully, their core products were not discontinued and Macallan decided to join the growing ranks of distilleries producing cask strenght bottles. I picked out up recently at the SAQ for about $96, but was given a gift card for 15% of that amount as a reward for purchasing above the promotions price point. The LCBO in Ontario carries the bottle for about $100.

This whisky is aged in Macallan’s famous sherry oak casks from Jerez, Spain at 60.1% abv. I remark that the bottle contains a neat little hologram of Easter Elchies House, the “spiritual home” of the Macallan. Perhaps this is to prevent counterfeits. Of note, I recently learned that guests of the distillery can stay at the Easter Elchies house.

Instantly, I am impressed by the deep, rich amber/copper colour of the whisky. A stunning display of how high quality sherry casks can impart their qualities on a whisky which I assume to be aged a short period as no age statement is given on this bottle. Some distilleries may age their products longer but use lower quality casks, Macallan seasons its casks for two years with aged sherry before shipping the selected barrels to the distillery in Scotland.

The whisky runs quick, thin legs in my glass after a good swirl.

The nose is intense with caramel, orange, spice, oak, dried fruit, chocolate, and a touch of vanilla.

The palate swells with dried fruit, orange, warm figs, and a hint of vanilla.

The finish is long and full, leaving spice and fruit behind.

I tried this one first without water and added some more until it reached about 50% abv. I normally water down cask strength whiskies to about 45% to 50% and find that this works best in optimizing the tasting experience. However, this is a matter of personal preference and cask strength products allow a degree of experimentation.

The water intensifies the orange on the nose and makes the vanilla more clear.

The palate showcases the dried fruit again, adds some caramel, and strengthens the vanilla. It still warms the tongue when held a few seconds and reminds me of warmed figs, but the intensity is not as strong as before on this level.

The finish is longer still and zestier than before. The spice lingers and memories of oak and orange with the faintest hint of smoke follow.

This is a fantastic find and well worth the price of admission. I hear, however unconfirmed, that the product is discontinued. If this is the case, I implore that you seek out a bottle at your nearest dealer of fine spirits and add this one to your collection.


Macallan Cask Strength 3

Whisky Showdown! Glenlivet 12 vs. Yamazaki 12

People often ask me what I think about one whisky or another. Far be it for me to deprive the world of my opinion, I often comply with these requests. Comparing and contrasting one whisky versus another aids in these discussions. Many of these conversations find their genesis in the person’s desire to choose their next bottle carefully. Giving a reference point facilitates the decision-making process. Most of these discussions revolve around Scotch but I like to point out that Japanese whisky is a worthy contender. This brings me to today’s Showdown! The popular Glenlivet 12 goes up against a strong contender, the Yamazaki 12.

I added but a few drops of water prior to tasting the two whiskies bottled at 40% abv for the Glenlivet and 43% for the Yamazaki.

In appearance, one is challenged to tell them apart. Nearly identical in colour and consistency, the two can most likely only be told apart at the point of pouring.

The nose on the Glenlivet is soft and smooth against a slightly stronger Yamazaki. Side by side, I would say the biggest difference between the two is that the Glenlivet is more lemony while the Yamazaki is stronger on caramel.

The palate on the Glenlivet is soft and silky while the Yamazaki is spicy and bold. The Glenlivets fruits and honey and softer than the similar notes on the Yamazaki. The Yamazaki proves to be richer on the palate.

The finish on the Glenlivet is again smooth and silky and contrasts with the Yamazaki, whose spice and bold flavour continue into a long and satisfying conclusion. Honey and melon continue long after consuming the Yamazaki and transform into sweet spice.

Overall, the Yamazaki delivers a bolder, richer, more complex and more intense experience than the Glenlivet. The Glenlivet is still a nice whisky and versatile as a whisky for all occasions, but the Yamazaki is the clear winner for the traists menitoned above. If you can find it, the Yamazaki is a bit more expensive that the Glenlivet. However, the quality of the product merits its price point. I believe I picked up my bottle for about $65 at the SAQ in Quebec. I have not seen it in Ontario or New Hampshire recently. The Glenlivet 12 is commonly found at any store that sells fine spirits.


Whisky Showdown! Glenlivet 12 vs. anCnoc 12

Having just reviewed a whisky whose flavour profile was surprisingly pleasant and rich at 12 years, I decided a comparison against a popular whisky of the same age was in order. The Glenlivet 12 is not just a popular whisky, it is a good everyday dram. The question I have is whether this popularity is well deserved against a lesser known rival.

Both whiskies are bottled at 40% abv and are at the starting point of their range.

In appearance, both whiskies are identical in colour and consistency. They both have a yellow colour, bordering gold. The the anCnoc may, and I stress the “may”, be slightly more pale.

On the nose, the Glenlivet is light and sweet. Apple and vanilla with a hint of cinnamon are the order of the day. The fruitiness of the Glenlivet easily is contrasted against the lemon and honey of the anCnoc. Concentrate on the nose for a while and with the proper amount of water (very little to both), and you will be able to find their common trait: vanilla.

One the palate, the soft and silky Glenlivet provides gentle apple, wood, and pear. The anCnoc is very similar, but the flavours much stronger. There’s apple and pear to the anCnon, like the Glenlivet, but the flavours are more easily identified. The anCnoc adds honey but less wood, making for a sweeter profile.

The finish on the Glenlivet is pleasant, with wood and milk chocolate. I notice a slight oily texture on my tongue as well. The anCnon 12 provides deep malts and sweet notes. The finish on the anCnon is longer, but not very long either.

I’ll give an edge to the anCnoc here, it’s a more complex whisky with interesting points throughout the tasting.