A bit of a change of pace from my usual, by the book, tongue in cheek (especially if she’s cute) reviews. By fluke, friends of mine were able to have a Scotch tasting up North recently at my parents cottage on National Scotch Day. If only it were in the US then we would have been official.
None the less, of the 12 Scotches we had, there were 4 that I hadn’t reviewed yet, so this will be both a “Scotch party” post and 4 Scotch reviews.
First we had an amazing dinner, cooked by my mother, my beautifully talented wife, and helped by yours truly. Dinner included:
- Baked ham with brown sugar and Chinese Five spice rub
- Garlic chili sauce green beans
- Ginger honey carrots
- Steamed cauliflower with a homemade bechamel sauce
- Roasted garlic and rosemary potatoes
Paired with the Scotches were:
- Fruit flan, homemade with blueberries and strawberries
- 8 year old cheddar, naturally aged
- Brie cheese
- Lindt creamy milk chocolate
- Manoa Hawaiian Chocolate Bars: 1 Bolivian Dark Chocolate 63% cocoa and 1 Pineapple Ghost Pepper Dark Chocolate
- Soma Aleppo Pepper Dark Chocolate bar
- Nanaimo bars
- Apple Fritters
- Cinnamon buns
Somehow we still had some room for Scotch after all of that. The Scotches we had to sample were:
- Aberlour 10 year
- Aberlour 12 year Sherry Cask
- Glenlivet 12
- Glenlivet 15 French Oak Cask
- Glenlivet 16 Nadurra
- Glenfiddich 21 Gran Reserva
Above you’ll see links to my previous reviews. And now, onto the reviews for the new ones:
Glenlivet 15 French Oak Cask
The second youngest in the limited series, the Glenlivet 15 French Oak Cask is aged partially in French oak for a little bit to give it some different characteristics from the 12, yet not too long to overpower the Glenlivet signature “Avon” flavour.
Price: $65.95 (CAD)
Nose: Green apple, oak, smoke, honey, lime, honey heather, floral
At first I found this one very similar to the 12 in the nose, yet as time goes on I am finding the floral notes to be more distinct, the smoke to be more present, and the honey to be a better quality honey (think No. 1 Amber versus Golden).
Taste: Smooth, smoke, orange, lime, burn, pepper, cinnamon, squash, lemon, yeast
Much smoother than the 12 (didn’t think that was possible), and some more smoke. Vegetal flavours stop by for a chat, though not a long visit. Also kinda yeasty. Interesting
Finish: Smoke, wood, blueberry, melon, violet, mushroom
The woody and earthy tones set this one apart from it’s younger brother, the My Little Pony of Scotch.
Conclusion: Nicer than the 12, as it has more complexity. I’d call this one the Adventure Time of Scotch. Kinda wacky but you can still recommend it to people without getting odd looks.
Glenlivet 16 Nadurra
The reigning champion of the Glenlivet, as it is Cask Strength, not the travel retail 48% (aka “What’s the point?”). Missing out on the typical feeling of “Is this missing something” that other Glenlivets suffer from, I’ve been looking forward to trying this for quite awhile.
Note: In order to not hold others up, I did not take my typical amount of time to review this one, and as such will be reviewing it again in the future.
Price: $84.95 (CAD)
Colour: Green Yellow
Nose: Green apple, honey, cardamon, cumin, banana, oak, vanilla
This starts out similar to the 15 yet has more spice and more “Oomph”. The spices push aside the typical fruity/flower smells and really show you what this Scotch can do.
Taste: Apple juice, pepper, smoke, taffy, chili, charcoal, lemon candy, coffee, licorice
Wow. Smoke and licorice are what Glenlivet has needed this whole time. There’s an abundance of different flavours, all nicely aligned. And it’s not watery like other Glenlivets.
Finish: Lots of smoke, cumin, cherry, lemon, tobacco, chewy sticks, cider
There’s a chewy, fruity flavour here. I’m going to have to revisit this, as I’m almost missing things, and the power has been shut off, so I’m trying to review while being a good host, and be all smiles.
Conclusion: If the other Scotches were kid’s shows watched by Adults, this has viewer discretion advised. This is the Breaking Bad of Scotch: the one who knocks. My score may change when I have a chance to fully appreciate this one, yet for now, this is the one who knocks.
Glenfiddich 21 Gran Reserva
One of my friends decided that he wasn’t screwing around when it came to a Scotch tasting, and he was going to show up with the Show Stopper, the big Bopper, the Cherry popping lover… wait, I think I went off topic.
Anyway, the Glenfiddich 21 Gran Reserva is a beast. Aged for 21 years and then finished in Rum casks for 4 months, this is a work of art. I was blown away that he brought it, and very happy I was able to try it in my lifetime.
I was also happy that we all took awhile to enjoy this one, and I even skipped the next Scotch in rotation to continue enjoying my dram.
Price: $241.95 (CAD)
Colour: Brown sugar
Nose: Sugar, smoke, lemon rind, orange, cocoa, tomato/acid, ginger, oak, banana
From one second to the next, you’re dealing with a changing bevy of great smells. Very sweet, not oaky, and wonderfully balanced.
Taste: Lime, orange, smooth, mango, pepper, ginger, light banana, little burn, plum, honey
The rum influence shows up after awhile, and I was happy for it. I think this really needs the rum to differentiate itself. That’s not to say it’s bad, I’m just saying that without the rum, this would be more of a gimmick than the great Scotch that it turns out to be.
Finish: Peach, oak, mint, orange, cheesecake, toffee, dry
Tons of Peach in the finish, and a lot of dryness mixed with fluffy sweetness.
Conclusion: This is a very well balanced, smooth, flavourful Scotch. The time in the barrel hasn’t caused an overabundance of oak or vanilla, and the extra time in the rum casks has really set it apart from other Glenfiddich offerings. It’s sweets, it’s smooth, and it’s flavourful. I’m still a big peat head, however if I had to change, I’d be happy with this one as well.
Tobermory 10 year
The Tobermory 10 year is an Island Scotch, the only one of the night. It comes from the Isle of Mull, and is a pretty inexpensive Scotch. In Ontario peaty Scotches usually have the greatest markup, so perhaps this will be a good alternative (Spoiler: NO).
Region: Isle of Mull
Price: $63.95 (CAD)
Colour: Neon yellow
Nose: Sour smoke, peat, poor/bad bacon, musky room, sour corn
At first I thought something had rotted. Then I wondered if not showering had been a good idea. Perhaps the power outage was caused by hundreds of dead squirrels on the power line.
Nope. It was the Scotch. Over time you get used to the sour corn smell and it’s just peat and musk. Not enticing to put in your mouth.
Taste: Sour lemon, pepper beef, sour veggies, burn, pepper
Why? Why sour? Of all the.. different flavours, we go for sour? Really? And the peat is gone, just pepper and burn now. I’d say Charcoal normally, but the sour… oh god, the Sour.
Finish: Lime, taco meat, bad grapes, yeast, peat, earth, wood, orange rind
The finish tries at least, yet the sourness keeps going. Kinda like your first sip of Bunnahabhain 12. Except Bunnahabhain 12 eventually leads to some nicer flavours and sheds the sourness, not amplifies it and offers it to you like a friend’s mom who thinks you’re too skinny while you’re eating dinner there for the first time.
Conclusion: Spend the extra money. Buy something else. Enjoy good smokey alcohol, not harsh, painful, sour mess.
Scotch reviews #55-#58, Speyside Reviews #12-#14, Island Review #4, Whisky Network review #77-80
1001 Whiskies to taste before you die review #45-47
101 Whiskies to try before you die review #12