Tobermory Fino Sherry Finish, 12yo, 2005/2018

Rating37.1/40
OriginScotland, Highlands, Islands, Isle of Mull
DistilleryTobermory
OwnerDistell Group vis Burn Stewart Distillers
Distilled2005
StyleSingle Malt
CaskFino Sherry Finish
Bottled2018
Strength55.1% (110.2 Proof)
WhiskybaseWhiskybase

One of my all-time faves. The little sherry-finished Tobermory engine that could. And it seems to have flown below the radar of a lot of folks. Perhaps because it’s list price wasn’t exactly cheap for a distillery with a relatively low profile compared to the big players.

Nose: (9.1/10) A fresh squirt of fussy cola jumps over the rim of the glass first, revealing a deeper layer of dark shoe polish hiding behind it. This slowly peels off of some heavy furniture that’s been polished with teak oil. I watch all this happening while munching on delicate blackberry gummy bears. And the whole thing comes with free nose tickles. Lovely.

Palate: (9.5/10) A huge, thick, heavy sheet of concentrated, dry sherry slices and rumbles through my mouth like those flexing steel plates classical orchestras use for making thunder. This is sherry thunder and lightning in a bottle. On subsequent sips things calm down a bit and I can hear myself think again. But that sense of a vast expanse of dry sherry demanding room to fill doesn’t go away. If anything some of the furniture and shoe polish related notes are managing to make themselves heard and add further depth and complexity to the experience. That initial bit of cola, however, does not seem to have survived the storm. This is a gorgeous palate. Damn.

Finish: (9.2/10) Right after the impact of that palate perceiving the finish requires a conscious effort. Though it will rise to awareness on its own over time. A great dry, peaceful silence settles on everything. There is a residual glow lingering at the top of the palate. There is a mild warmth in the chest (and I wish there was just a little more heat there). And, whodathunk, that little bit of cola did survive after all and alights on each breath like a bunch of sun motes wafting about on the fading esophageal thermals. I am happy.

Balance: (9.3/10) What can I say. This is some really, seriously, very good whisky. Wish I could find more of it. Wish I had bought more at the time but, not knowing, it seemed pricey. The only complaint I have, and it barely qualifies as such, is that perhaps the finish could have been just a little stronger so the drop in intensity from the palate wasn’t quite so steep. What an astonishing dram. This kind of experience is why I love this stuff. Amazing.

BenRiach The Smoky Twelve, 12yo

Rating29.4/30
OriginScotland, Speyside, Lossie
DistilleryBenRiach
OwnerBrown-Forman
StyleSingle Malt
PeatedYes
CaskBourbon, Sherry and Marsala Casks
Strength46% (92 Proof)
WhiskybaseWhiskybase

The Smoky Twelve is one of the 4 base-line expressions of BenRiach recently revamped by their master blender, Dr. Rachel Barrie. I had the opportunity to taste all of them side-by-side which always makes for a very interesting experience. This one turned out to be my second favorite in that group.

Nose: Hm…. hello? Anybody there? This is a very shy nose. There’s something in the glass though. A little peat kitten hiding at the bottom, mewling forth little puffs of soft smoke. Very, very slowly the nose dares to emerge from the glass. A more refined smoke than the Smoky Ten but, for, uh, peat’s sake, please, come out of there already! Have a bit of fun in my nose! I won’t hurt you, I promise. Hints of mint. Or perhaps I’m hallucinating. Feeling a little bit lightheaded from the effort of breathing so hard to pull this nose up out of the glass. (7.0/10)

Palate: Hits with the texture of dry, dark chocolate. Quiet on flavors at first but subtly buzzing like a lit fuse. Then, after a few moments, flavor unfolds like an old canvas unrolling to reveal a rich painting of billowing dark smoke over glowing red depths. This is quite lovely and rather unexpected based on the nose. Not so unexpected is the degree of complexity compared to the Smoky Ten. Once again, as with the Original Ten and The Twelve, those extra 2 years made a huge difference. (7.6/10)

Finish: Not entirely unlike the Smoky Ten, the finish is struggling just a little bit to stay level. It’s really good though. Layers of smoke build up and only deflate occasionally and briefly. This one reaches just a little deeper into the chest than the Smoky Ten and flares up more pronouncedly on each breath. There’s a slight green aftertaste but it doesn’t bother me too much. (7.5/10)

Balance: All sides of this whisky are worth exploring but, man, that nose takes some effort to get to. No matter though. Once you’re a few sips in all is good and the struggle is quickly forgotten. The Smoky Ten is just fine but this one takes the same concept a notch or two further up. For BenRiach those extra 2 years from 10 to 12 have proven magical both for these peated and the non-peated expressions. Out of the basic BenRiach line-up revamped by Dr. Rachel Barrie both this and The Twelve have turned out to be clear successes. I’ll be happy to spot them on some bar’s shelf and have a dram or two. (7.3/10)

BenRiach The Twelve, 12yo

Rating30.8/40
OriginScotland, Speyside, Lossie
DistilleryBenRiach
OwnerBrown-Forman Corporation
StyleSingle Malt
CaskSherry, Bourbon and Port casks
Strength46% (92 Proof)
WhiskybaseWhiskybase

The Twelve is one of the 4 base-line expressions of BenRiach recently revamped by their master blender, Dr. Rachel Barrie. I had the opportunity to taste all of them side-by-side which always makes for a very interesting experience. This one turned out to be my favorite in that group.

Nose: Whoa… what a change from the Original 10! Usually I expect age to round off and diminish certain notes but this one has truly come to life with just another 2 years added. Darkly stained antique oranges, pleasingly arranged on an equally antique leather topped oak desk that’s been polished perhaps a week ago. A well disciplined nose, too. Somehow it’s managing to form a fairly precisely delineated volume hovering half an inch above the top of the glass like a mushroom cap and it doesn’t seem to move or spread from there. You can sort of just stick your nose into that space whenever you feel like having another whiff. This is quite nice! (7.7/10)

Palate: For a bottle strength whisky that’s a surprisingly bulky and solid mass pushing its way through the door, warmly buzzing into the room and spreading itself around comfortably wherever it can. It’s sort of all the bits from the nose but not in that formal arrangement. All the bits of wood, leather and antique oranges are stuck in a mildly sweet blob of delicious, honeyed dessert goop. The sweetness added to the other notes make for a nice balance of flavor all around. And unlike the Original 10 it doesn’t quickly fade away either. This is also quite nice! (7.7/10)

Finish: I wish the flavors of the palate carried over into the finish more. There are echoes that come to life on each breath but primarily the finish is all about an intense bright spot of heat in the very back of the throat radiating in every direction and, once again surprisingly for a bottle strength dram, quite deep into the chest. After waiting for a bit the deep and comforting heat makes you forget and forgive the loss of the palate’s flavors. If I was rating for the immediate finish only it I would have rated it slightly lower. But, after all, this is quite nice! (7.7/10)

Balance: Well now. Comparing this against the Original 10… we have a clear winner. Almost everything about this is, forgive me, quite nice! And the brief disappointment I experienced with the early finish can be easily forgiven. Nicely done, Dr. Rachel Barrie! (7.7/10)

Glenlivet, 12yo

Rating26.6/40
OriginScotland, Speyside, Livet
DistilleryGlenlivet
OwnerPernod Ricard via Chivas Brothers
StyleSingle Malt
CaskEuropean & American Oak
Strength40% (80 Proof)
WhiskybaseWhiskybase

The bog standardiest of bog standard single malts. But that shouldn’t stop anybody from occasionally enjoying a basic pleasant dram to ground themselves again after diving deep into high end stuff. No need to turn your nose up at this stuff. It’s cheap, it’s decent and you can find it just about anywhere.

Nose:  Apples. Apple pie, in fact, permeated by soft cinnamon and vanilla notes that, on occasion, shift gears into a more perfumy type mode. The apples are of one of the more tart varieties. Some faint acerbic notes of dry wood float about. Mild but pleasant. (6.5/10)

Palate: The autumn winds must have ripped some dry, old wooden shingles off the roof. The shingles didn’t get very far and quickly plopped into a nearby, small, inflatable pool next to a bare apple tree. Some apples had fallen into the stagnant water where they’re now listlessly bobbing up and down. (5.5/10)

Finish: The standing water has evaporated and all that’s left are memories of using those dried up, crumbly old shingles to grate a batch of sweet and wrinkly winter apples. (7.5/10)

Balance: The somewhat forgettable mid section is bookended by quite enjoyable notes on either side, which makes up for the sad dip and ultimately adds up to a pleasant experience. A perfectly fine daily drinker or a pleasant starter and warm-up dram for a serious evening of tasting whiskies. (7.1/10)

Macallan Double Cask Lunar New Year 2020 Pack, 12yo

Rating24.7/40
OriginScotland, Central Speyside
DistilleryMacallan
OwnerWilliam Grant & Sons via Edrington Group
SeriesDouble Cask
EditionLunar New Year 2020 Pack
StyleSingle Malt
CaskOloroso seasoned American and European oak casks
Bottled2019
Strength40% (80 Proof)
WhiskybaseWhiskybase
Wine SearcherWine Searcher

One of Macallan’s slightly gimmicky Lunar New Year releases, this one for 2020, the year of the rat. To be honest the packaging is perhaps slightly more impressive than the whisky itself. It’s certainly quite nice but neither demands nor requires attention. A pleasant dram for distracted enjoyment at a reasonable price, at least compared to the usual Macallan price range.

Nose: A wooden bowl of creamy orange yogurt with some honey drizzled on top. Later it begins to dissolve and fragment and ends up shifting towards paint thinner flavored candy. Pleasant but with a slight impulse to try and turn less so. (6.2/10)

Palate: Quite nice. It puffs itself up to a decent volume filled with those orange notes from the nose minus the creamy yogurt and, luckily, the paint thinner candy. After a few sips some bitter elements begin to dominate things but, again, not to an extent that really throws a wrench in the flavor works. (6.2/10)

Finish: Decent heat, decent volume, decent flavor, decent length. Just not spectacular or particularly noteworthy. Slight to the better side of average. I do like the surprising amount of warmth it manages to develop near the solar plexus given it clocks in at basic bottle strength. (6.1/10)

Balance: This is nice? But if I’ve ever met a whisky that really doesn’t require attention it’s this one. Perfect for distracting social settings and yet that thought makes me feel like it’s a whisky wasted. (6.2/10)

Dailuaine, Old Particular K&L Exclusive, 12yo, 2007/2019

Rating33.5/40
OriginScotland, Central Speyside
DistilleryDailuaine
OwnerDiageo
DistilledMarch 2007
BottlerDouglas Laing & Co.
SeriesOld Particular
StyleSingle Barrel Single Malt
CaskSherry Butt DL13293
BottledAugust 19th, 2019
Bottles573
Strength57.6% (115.2 Proof)
RetailerK&L Wine Merchants

A delicious single sherry butt cask strength bottling of a single malt from one of Speyside less known distilleries, Dailuaine, which mostly produces component whiskies for Diageo’s portfolio of blends and rarely gets bottled as single malt, comes to us courtesy of Douglas Laing.

Nose: A friendly neighborhood flower shop that stocks nothing but pretty meadow flowers on the main floor. Though I get a sense that they’re keeping a few buckets of roses stashed away in a backroom somewhere. And I’m fairly certain the owner had grilled Branzino for lunch. Much later there are passing whiffs of freshly watered grass in the sun. (8.5/10)

Palate: A hot wave spills through my mouth and finally breaks, foaming with bright and tangy notes more reminiscent of top shelf oranges than flowers. Quite lovely. (8.5/10)

Finish: Echoes of orange juice and bitter herbs are hovering high above a growing and comforting heat right behind my sternum. Ultimtely the warmth doesn’t last all that long but it’s wonderful while it lasts. (8/10)

Balance: Very pretty but not as timid as one would expect. A mellow, pleasant late spring and early summer filled with plenty of joyful times. Very nice. (8.5/10)

Yamazaki, 12yo

Rating32.5/40
OriginJapan
DistilleryYamazaki
OwnerSuntory Holdings via Beam Suntory
StyleSingle Malt
Strength43% (86 Proof)
WhiskybaseWhiskybase

Thanks to a bottle donation there was suddenly this rare opportunity to once again try this classic Japanese 12 year old single malt from Osaka’s Yamazaki distillery. Like many age statement release from Japan this one was discontinued a few years ago and bottles have all but disappeared from most shelves. What’s left fetches a rather high price due to increased collectibility.

Nose: Sherry steamed green apples create a nice interplay between sweet and sour/acidic notes. Unfortunately the sherried aspect fades and only the green apples stay. After the first contact with the palate the nose becomes almost undetectable. Still, quite lovely. (8/10)

Palate: This is the very principle of a light and fruity single malt purified almost out of existence at first but then, very slowly, dark planks of oak float up from its depths to bob about on gentle waves. This is very polished and there is not a whole lot of individuality to this whisky but it’s very enjoyable. (8/10)

Finish: A soft, dark, smooth and, surprisingly, very long lasting afterglow that reaches almost to the mid-point of my chest. Rather unexpected for a bottle strength whisky but very welcome. (8.5/10)

Balance: There’s nothing to complain about at all but also nothing that really makes you think. But if you take it own its own very light and gentle terms it actually has quite a bit to offer. (8/10)

Glengyle Kilkerran, 12yo.

Glengyle Kilkerran 12yo., close-up
Rating28/40
OriginScotland, Campbeltown
DistilleryGlengyle
OwnerMitchell Family
StyleSingle Malt
PeatedYes
Strength46% (92 Proof)
WhiskybaseWhiskybase
Wine SearcherWine-Searcher

The 12 year old Kilkerran is the baseline single male release of the youngest Campbeltown distillery, Glengyle. The name Kilkerran was chosen to avoid confusion with an existing Highland blend bottled under the same name of Glengyle.

Nose: Wood sticking out of a roll of wet felt that’s been drying since someone spilled some lightly peated whisky on it a little while ago. Later some wine notes making a non-committal showing in the background. (6.5/10)

Palate: A bright flash of an initial hit infused with mildly sour plums spreading out from a high center splashing outwards towards the edges of my mouth. Almost seems to float a millimeter or two above the tongue refusing to make contact. Geometrically interesting but not a ton of flavor. (7.5/10)

Finish: The splash from the palate leaves a ring of residual flavor around the fringes of the mouth that is quite pleasant. But there’s not a lot happening in the back. There’s bits alive in slow waves on my breath but overall it sort of just peters out. (7/10)

Balance: The dynamics of the palate is the most interesting part but I wish there was just a little more of a constant deep finish to enjoy afterwards. The nose is… a bit meh. (7/10)

Aultmore Foggie Moss, 12yo

Rating27/40
OriginScotland, Central Speyside
DistilleryAultmore
OwnerBacardi via John Dewar & Sons
StyleSingle Malt Whisky
Strength46% (92 proof)
Price$39-125

Nose: Clean wood, some hints of licorice. Water flattens it. (6/10)

Palate: Citrussy, leans toward grapefruit. Water opens things up wide. (7/10)

Finish: Burnt sugar, nice warmth, hints of lemon around the edges. Water teases out some darker notes. (7/10)

Balance: Decent dram but what is gained from water on the back end comes with a hefty price at the front. (7/10)

Tomatin, 12yo, 2018

Rating26/40
OriginScotland, Northern Highlands
DistilleryTomatin
OwnerTaKaRa Holdings via Takara Shuzo
StyleSingle Malt Whisky
CasksBourbon, Sherry
Bottled2018
Strength43% (86 proof)
Price$25-80

Nose: Slightly sour and otherwise there is simply not much there. (5/10)

Palate: Nice! After the largely absent nose the rich and butter flavors comes as a pleasant surprise. (8/10)

Finish: This one lingers pleasantly but ultimately fades out into astringent wood notes. (7/10)

Balance: Overall not shabby but I really wish the nose was living up to the rest of the whisky. (6/10)