|Bottler||William Grant & Sons via Quality Spirits International|
|Cask||Premium Rum Cask Finish|
|Strength||40% (80 Proof)|
Trader Joe’s describes it as having been matured in traditional oak casks until it had achieved the perfect balance and flavor, upon which it was transferred into first-fill premium rum casks to increase the depth of flavor. Sadly I must report that I have discovered neither perfection nor premium anything in this whisky. I wish this one had turned out to be one of those hidden treasures in the twenty to thirty US dollar range, in part because I generally like the influence of rum casks on whisky, but, alas, it did not. William Grant & Sons bottled this through a subsidiary of theirs. Since WG&S currently own only Speyside single malt distilleries in Scotland (Balvenie, Glenfiddich and Kininvie) the Highland label is either somewhat inaccurate by SWA standards, though sometimes Speysiders are labeled as Highlanders, or they bottled juice from a distillery not their own for this. Balvenie does play around with rum casks, e.g. for their 14yo Carribbean Cask releases, so perhaps this is something made there that wasn’t deemed fit for use in a proper, labeled Balvenie.
Nose: The rum finish isn’t completely obvious here though there is a presence of it. It’s less like nosing rum-finished whisky than it is like nosing somewhat plain whisky sloshing over a framed photo of brown sugar. Eventually more rummy molasses begins to seep through pushing a few classic whisky citrus sparkles into the background. Neither element is particularly prominent and both are somewhat… simple. Decent enough, I guess, though the sugar gives it a decidedly non-premium, one might even say cheap, feel. (4.9/10)
Palate: The entrance is rather goopy but it does deliver a considerably more detailed report on the sugars and citrus fruit involved. That report has been printed on a thin sheet of wood. Not at all bad, actually. It’s really surprisingly entertaining after the less than thrilling nose. That is until you swallow it, anyways. (5.9/10)
Finish: Bah! All the nice, interesting and shiny bits that popped out on the palate quickly sink into a dull, sugary swamp that sucks the life right out of everything. Just a bored, plain, sweet coating is all that’s left behind. A few desperate lemons struggle valiantly for a few moments, trying to stay afloat, but they too are quickly sucked down into the sludge. The best thing about the finish is a soft hint of warmth in the chest. (4.1/10)
Balance: I’m always happy to find pearls on the bottom shelf. But this ain’t one. It’s more like a small, boring but not totally ugly picture of a pearl that someone put into an oversized and rather lame picture frame. Unfortunately they mounted the picture with lots of sugary glue so there is nothing you can do about it. I am disappoint. Anything one might even remotely consider “premium” is crammed into the brief but enjoyable palate. If you must drink this whisky I recommend holding onto the whisky in your mouth for as long as humanly possible for that is where all of the limited joy is. (4.8/10)