Thursday, January 8, 2015

Whisky Review: Gordon & Macphail Glentauchers 16 Year

Glentauchers, is generally an obscure malt, but pulled off a trick that very few distilleries built in the late 19th-century managed: surviving the Patterson Crisis. Check out Malt Madness for the full history (and some transposed dates).

My only previous exposure was a 7 year old first-fill sherry cask that was bottled for The Good Spirits Co in Glasgow. That was only a taste, so I didn't get much of a sense of the distillery character.

This particular whisky is the semi-offical bottling from Gordon & Macphail, which was bottled at 43%, presumably with chill filtration and possibly with caramel color.

Thanks to Florin for the sample.

G&M Glentauchers 16 Year

Nose: clean malt, graham crackers, floral vanilla overtones, unripe green fruit, banana, very light oak, slightly vegetal, baking spices, and a hint of bacon-y smoke. After adding a few drops of water, the floral elements are emphasized over the malt, it becomes cleaner and less vegetal, with a touch of sea air and incense popping out,

Taste: sweet & sour malt throughout, cardboard-y oak, floral/vegetal mid-to-back, artificial fruit flavorings in the middle. After dilution, the sweetness becomes more syrupy, with the floral and fruit overtones integrating into the malt.

Finish: sour wine edge, floral/vegetal, malty, very mild cardboard-y oak, purple bubblegum

This one really seems to suffer for being bottled at 43%. G&M bottles often punch over their weight, but this one feels like it needs more than it has to offer to really shine. There are suggestions of depth and complexity, but the majority of what I'm getting is nice, clean malt. I can see why this would be good for blends, but it's not quite hitting the mark for me. However, if you'd like to try some, The Party Source appears to still have it, with the caveat that they don't ship alcohol anymore.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Whisky Review: Glen Moray 12 Year

Glen Moray is another distillery in Speyside that has mostly focused on production for blends, though their single malts have garnered a certain amount of fame/infamy. I'll let Malt Madness give you the details, but Glen Moray followed its big brother Glenmorangie's lead during the 1990s, releasing a number of wine cask matured and finished whiskies. Some of these were well-received, others less so.

This particular expression is about as basic as you get - all of the spirit was matured in ex-bourbon barrels for a dozen years, then proofed down for bottling at 40%, presumably with coloring and chill filtration.

Thanks to Florin for the sample.

Glen Moray 12 Year

Nose: lots of new make notes - sour green grass and barley, sugarcane, white wine, a whiff of vanilla and cinnamon smoke, dry grain, very light oak (more with time), lightly floral, pineapple, berries underneath. After adding a few drops of water, there are some odd sour citrus overtones, along with more grass and floral notes, and something kind of soapy, but it does get creamier with a bit more vanilla.

Taste: sweet barley throughout, rather green and bitter, with new make and slightly sour wine notes riding over everything, uncomplicated but soft. After dilution, the new make character settles down a bit, though the barley itself becomes more grassy and bitter - not much improvement, but it doesn't fall apart either.

Finish: fresh barley, a touch of wine, bitter grain/oak

This reads to me like a much, much younger whisky. It seems like most of it came from relatively inactive casks, as there's very minimal oak influence and the spirit itself is in the fore. To put a positive spin on that, it is, as Florin puts it, 'honest'. There are some vaguely interesting things going on with the nose, but it kind of falls flat on the palate for me. Overall, I found that it improved a fair bit with time in the glass, but never really lost its youthfulness. It's possible that this would be improved by higher strength - my experience with a bottle of Arran Bourbon Single Cask found that the off-notes were strengthened significantly by dilution - but it's hard to know.

All of this should be taken with a grain of salt, since I tend to be rather sensitive to new make character in a whisky (this is also why I've never been able to warm up to genever). Glen Moray also has the virtue of being extremely cheap - you can find the 12 Year for under $30 in some places - though I would pony up the extra cash for Glenmorangie Original if I was looking for a basic bourbon cask whisky.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Rum Review: Berry Bros. & Rudd Guadeloupe 12 Year/1998

Rhum agricole made from fresh cane juice rather than molasses is usually associated with Martinique, but other French islands also produce rhums in that style. This one comes from the islands of Guadeloupe, an overseas French department. While not specified on the label, I've read that this is from Distillerie Bellevue on the small island of Marie-Galante, which is a short hop from the larger islands of Basse-Terre and Grand-Terre.

Bellevue was originally built in 1769, with a new distillery on the site opening in 2003. As with all distilleries that produce rum from cane juice, the cane is grown nearby so that it can be harvested and transported to the distillery as quickly as possible to keep it from spoiling. As with most agricoles, the cane juice mash is distilled in a column still, though I can't find any information about the specs.

This single cask was purchased by Berry Bros. & Rudd, then bottled at 46% without coloring or chill filtration.

Berry Bros. & Rudd Guadeloupe 12 Year/1998

Nose: classic aged agricole - grassy, wine/raisins, edging into brown sugar, mild (European?) oak, nutmeg, vanilla, beeswax, baked apples, lime peel. After adding a few drops of water, it becomes buttery, with melted brown sugar, bright berries over toasted oak, and cinnamon rolls.

Taste: a little thin up front, a nice melange of grassiness, mild oak, and sugarcane/brown sugar sweetness at the beginning, berries/brandy near the back, nutmeg and a slight waxiness throughout. After dilution, it becomes a little watery, there are more berries, less grass/sugarcane, the oak becomes buttery, and there's a strong orange peel note throughout.

Finish: berries, sugarcane, mild oak, creamy, nutmeg

This is nearly everything you could want from an aged sugarcane rum - the distinctive grassiness hasn't been wiped out by the cask, but it is tempered by time. There's sweetness, but not nearly as much as you get from most molasses-based rums. Overall it's really well balanced, only falling short in terms of density of flavor, which I think could have been rectified by bumping up the bottling proof  a bit. The other reservation is price, which is a somewhat eye-watering $100+. While this is a very good rhum and I would love to drink more of it, I don't think it quite manages to justify its retail price. But I'll be keeping my eyes out for other sugarcane rums from Guadeloupe that are a little easier on the pocketbook. They're clearly making quality spirits on those islands.