Thursday, October 19, 2017

Whisky Review: Whisky-Doris A Speyside Distillery 23 Year 1992/2015

Single malts from unnamed or obviously pseudonymous distilleries are one of the great mysteries in the whisky world. Most of the time though a bit of detective work can track down the source. In the case of bottles labeled "Probably Speyside's Finest" or "A Speyside Distillery" the finger usually points towards Glenfarclas, which is one of the few distilleries that normally bars independent bottlers from using their name. This is especially true when the casks are ex-bourbon rather than the ex-sherry that forms their house style, which might give consumers a mistaken impression of their OBs.

This whisky was distilled in December 1992, filled into a bourbon hogshead, then bottled in November 2015 at 48.7% without coloring or chill filtration.

This sample was purchased from the WhiskyBase Shop.

Whisky-Doris A Speyside Distillery 23 Year 1992/2015 Cask #7376

Nose: lots of berry esters, banana, peach, melon, orange, moderate American oak, clean malt, vanilla, floral, green/black tea. After adding a few drops of water it becomes more malt-driven, the fruit recedes a bit, the oak is amplified, and some honey/caramel notes come out.

Taste: moderately sweet malt with berry, peach, and citrus notes up front, a little coconut in the middle, fades through light oak tannins through spices (cardamom?) and vanilla malt at the back. After dilution the fruit notes spread across the palate but become less distinct and the oak it muted.

Finish: berry, citrus, moderately tannic oak, clean malt

This is a really nice example of an ex-bourbon cask that was filled with quality spirit and allowed to age for a good but not excessive amount of time. It's not flashy, but the nose especially shows some nice flourishes. As currently priced the quality level isn't quite high enough to make me pull the trigger, but if it was about 20% less I might be wiling to bite.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Whisky Review: Alchemist Springbank 10 Year Port Cask 1995/2006

IB Springbanks, while once a fairly common sight, are becoming thin on the ground as stocks from the 1990s dwindle and many hold back casks for further aging to sell at ever increasing prices. So here is one from yesteryear, a younger port cask from the bottler Alchemist.

The whisky was distilled in December 1995, filled into a mix of first-fill ex-bourbon and first-fill ex-port casks, then vatted and bottled at 46% without coloring or chill filtration in April 2006.

Thanks to Michael Kravitz for splitting this bottle.

Alchemist Springbank 10 Year 1995/2006 Port Cask

Nose: rich but not overwhelming port cask berry/grape, dry malt, savory, sawdust, oak in the background, wood smoke. After adding a few drops of water it becomes softer and the port influence recedes, while the oak and peat smoke gaining ground.

Taste: bittersweet port throughout, oak tannins and dirty peat come in around the middle, becoming more bitter towards the back, clean malt underneath everything. After dilution the structure remains largely unchanged while it becomes softer, except for amplified oak tannins and a sour note near the back.

Finish: berries, savory oak, mild peat

Port cask whiskies have been extremely hit or miss for me. I've enjoyed a few of them, but most end up being too sweet. While this one didn't excite me too much, it also wasn't bad. The cask influence was present but didn't completely stomp on the spirit, though I could have done with a bit more peat as counterpoint. Where this succeeds I think it does so because it fits one of my preferred methods for adding fortified wine casks to whiskies - the ex-bourbon casks help to restrain its overall influence and give it a more rounded profile.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Whisky Review: Cutty Sark Prohibition

This whisky was created largely to capitalize on the popularity of the Prohibition era in the current cocktail world. It has all the hallmarks of the current moment: a round and bartender-friendly 50% ABV, a respectable price point, and a grossly exaggerated story.

So what's actually in here? While no specs have been released, as a blended whisky it's a mix of malt (with what seems like a higher proportion than many) and grain whisky that were in all likelihood mostly ex-bourbon, with possible a few sherry casks in the mix. Given that this is produced by Edrington, the most probable malts come from Glenrothes, Glenturret, Macallan, and Highland Park (probably the source of the peat in the mix). There are good odds that it has been colored with caramel and it may still be chill filtered despite the higher strength.

Cutty Sark Prohibition

Nose: balanced malt and grain, toffee, mild dry peat, floral vanilla, jammy berries, a little chocolate. After adding a few drops of water more peat comes out but it's also softer and ashier,

Taste: slightly bitter oak tannins throughout, citrus peel and citric sourness with dirty/earthy peat beginning around the middle, bitter grain with mild oak near the back. After dilution it becomes much sweeter and the oak tannins are subdued up front, the peat largely disappears into the oak near the back, and the citrus notes are mostly lost.

Finish: slightly sweet grain, vanilla, bitter oak, berry and peat residue

While this is far from being the best whisky I've ever tasted, it is undeniably a good value. There are not a lot of blended whiskies under $30 in the States right now that I would consider to really be drinkable, but this one is really quite good. The malt content makes itself known and the grain is not overly obtrusive. It has more peat than, say, Chivas Regal, so I think it would hold its own for a Johnnie Walker Black fan. Isle of Skye 8 Year remains my standard in that category, but this is a solid pick if you can't find that in your area. All in all a good effort by Edrington that I'm glad to see on the shelves. Hopefully more companies follow suit in releasing blends at reasonable price points that have more heft than the standard 40% ABV releases.