Wednesday, 15 February 2017



I've been lucky to savour almost 250 single malts, including a few single singles. I'll tell you one thing-it keeps a grumpy 65 year old tied down in smoky fumes while waxing eloquent about the positives of barley, water and yeast. See what a good single can do to simple writing?
Complicate it and join the 'Haves' of this contra-rotating antithetic malt world!

And the tidbits that follow to tickle you a tad, if you've had a bath.
Scotch drinkers like to keep things simple. Most Scotch drinkers want to enjoy the smoky flavour unadorned except perhaps for water. Scotch drinkers are trying to find the top distilleries in Scottish towns from the Highlands to the Lowlands that produce the best Single Malt Scotch. Rest assured that my list includes whiskies from the Scottish Isles that are hard to pronounce, but these are all names worth knowing. Enjoy my selection of Great Single Malt Scotch Whiskies, in no particular order. I like the Singleton of Glen Ord 18 YO the most, followed by the Japanese Yamazaki 12 YO, JW Island Green, Talisker 18 and Lagavulin 16. I'll review those left out later. 

1. Glenmorangie.  A wonderful Highland malt that comes in a variety of excellent finishes - Portwood, Madeira, and Sherry. I'd like to try the Sauternes finish, which sounds wonderful. Somebody help, please. Best of all: the '97 Nectar D'or, which I prefer to the very expensive Signet. Prices were fine before LVMH took it over and jacked up costs threefold. Shaft them!

2. Laphroaig. Islay's best-known malt. The fifteen-year old is cloying when you get to tasting and deconstructing the whisky to reveal its true heritage.It represents outstanding value for cost. Perhaps best of all is the sherry-finished thirty-year-old - an unusual but beautiful balance between sweet sherry and smoky peat. Even the Laphroaig 10 quarter cask is super. I got one from Cyprus, on sale.


3. Ardbeg. Another excellent Islay malt, especially delicious in its older bottlings. Try the Ardbeg 10, the good old peat example, or Provenance, cut with a little water to bring out the flavour and soften its near 56% ABV or 98 proof. I had my first Ardbeg in Osaka's Bar Satoh way back in '99, in the best whisky bar in the world as my ADC, one Capt. Saito, told me and the taste of Ardbeg always takes me back there. The
Uigeadail and Ardbog are mighty good too.

4. Glenfiddich 18. Luxe and easy-sipping. Look for enticing notes of butterscotch, baked pear, cinnamon and clove on the nose and palate, swathed in just the right amount of smokiness. 

5. The Glenlivet 12. Yes, the 12 YO and not the 15 or 18 YO expressions from The Glenlivet, matured in French Limousin Oak casks notwithstanding. Limousin Oak is a popular choice for maturation of Cognac.

Nose: Light fruits, of course. I get grape flesh and fresh almond slivers, at first. Accenting this freshness is something plant-like/leafy or even "piney", like dried pineapple. There's also an impression of yellow apple and butter. (Lesser influences of vanilla, butterscotch, toasted coconut, and rose.) Palate: A butter-smooth entrance welcomes... but quickly transforms to sour white peach, rather gingery. Then to tannic, purple grape skins and something menthol-y, like pine. Finish: Butter and yellow apples emerge, rescuing the prickly palate. But the youth can't hide, and the finish closes with pine and powdered ginger. Vanilla/underripe peach lightly occupy the background.
The Glenlivet 12 is light and nondescript. It is not objectionable, and just served a good purpose: improving my flight by giving me something interesting to focus on for a short while. There is quite an atmosphere to overcome, and it does so suitably. I am therefore grateful for its availability. No wonder it is one of the best selling malts in the world, well-worth re-visiting. I would probably add a case to my lower-altitude cabinet. 

6. The Macallan Cask Strength. The Macallan brand is synonymous with top-tier Single Malt Scotch, and the unsung hero of their portfolio is their cask strength. This malt hails from the Easter Elchies House of Macallan overlooking the River Spey. This cask strength has a sherried finish making it bright, rich and accessible; it explodes with caramel, brown sugar, toffee and vanilla so complex and intertwined it drinks like a dessert. It’s well balanced on the palate with a sweet, tawny port and cinnamon bouquet. At this price point, I think it's a steal. Make that "The Steal". 

7. Talisker 18. The wonderful bouquet includes scents of seaweed, smoke, peat, iodine, kippers and pipe tobacco. The palate entry is briny and intense; the midpalate is oily with traces of anise, butterscotch and linseed oil. Finishes vibrantly with tastes of salted butter, oil and brine. Highly idiosyncratic: for lovers of robust, seaside malts. I rate it very highly. Alternate: Talisker 10.

8. Aberlour A'bunadh

Speyside cake. ABV: 59%.Colour: Amontillado Sherry.If you like fruit cake, chocolate pot, creme brulee, marshmallow, banana mousses, pecan pie, apple strudel, Christmas cake, marzipan, toffee fudge sprinkled with icing sugar. YOU WILL like this gem of a scotch.The flavors are so intense and layered, making this whiskey a fun experiment where you can add little bit of water each time to see just how the complexity of its flavors unfold. It also has a lovely rum tone to its noise, amazing

9. Cardhu
Cardhu has a warmth and cleanliness of taste - often described as sleek, a popular taste known and liked globally. Served from its classy decanter, high end Cardhu is the classic Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky. The Cardhu 12 year old has the flavor of luscious rich fruit, sweet honey and nut all smoothly balanced by a delicious dry freshness, bottled at 40 per cent ABV. “It is gold and honey to look at, its nose powered by heather and sweet honey and nut. It is enticing yet intriguing, harmonious but softer with water; malt-cereal; spicy wood, moorland and faint traces of wood-smoke. Its body is soft, pleasing, medium while its palate is well balanced, smooth mouth-feel; sweet and fresh, then drying. Moorish. Enjoyable with a little water or ice. The FINISH is quite short. Lingering sweet smoke in the attractive, drying aftertaste (Jim Murray).”    

10. Balblair 1997.
This is one of Scotland's best 'hidden gems' from a distillery up on the North East coast . It is a Starburst fruit bowl with fresh citrus and green fruit notes and just enough earthiness to stop it from being cloying. This full-bodied malt is fused with the citrus aromas of pineapple, apricot and lemon to create a long-lasting sweet finish. On the nose, the American oak barrels, used in the distillate's maturation, produce an inviting, spicy fragrance.

11. Bowmore. Another Islay malt, but different from most. "The whiskies of Bowmore are between the intense malts of the south shore and the gentlest extremes of the north. Their character is not a compromise but an enigma…". Best value: Bowmore Legend. Best taste: any of the twenty-five + bottlings. I managed two from when I was last in der Vaterland in 2011. 

12. The Singleton of Glen Ord 18 YO

13. On the nose, a gentle waft of beeswax opening up to honey, followed by distant yet distinct flavours of cinnamon, basel, Sinhalese pine, lemon peel, quince and vanilla. Chilly powder. Palate: Big. Waxen and chocolate malt-sugar sweet. Clotted cream, Italian lemon, dried fruits - nectarines, apricot, Asian gooseberries and tangerines. Mirabelle jam. Half a teaspoon of water highlights the multi-sherried wood, wax, honey, and vanilla, but depresses the fruit. Traces of armagnac. Finish: Long and luxurious. Doesn''t lose anything. Just glorious. Punchy yet divinely elegant. Rajasthani Asha liquor, Asian kitchen mash. Maybe that’s why it’s sold in Asia only! 

14. Johnnie Walker Island Green NAS Blended Malt

  It is made with whiskies from four different distilleries, each from different regions of Scotland - Caol Ila distillery in Islay, Clynelish distillery in the Highlands, Glenkinchie distillery in the Lowlands, and Cardhu Distillery in Speyside. This whisky is bottled at 43% ABV. 
Color: Amber

Nose: Nice smoky start… Not as strong as an Islay expression but still very definitive… light and fresh aromas, like a morning walk in the park, fruits, flowers and grass… presence of malty wood notes… honey and vanilla with a healthy amount of wood spices… peppery…

Palate: Complex but not so balanced flavors… Heavy on the smoky and spicy side… sweetness from pears… honeyed malt cereals and vanilla with hints of citrus… faint notes of chocolaty bitterness…

Finish: Medium but warm finish… very spicy …  leaving behind some bitter, tar like flavors on the tongue…

Island Green is a great ‘blend’ expression as someone would expect from Johnnie Walker. But if you are a real Islay lover, this bottle will not quench your thirst of smoke and peat. On the other hand, if you like lightly peated whiskies or just starting to explore the wonderful world of smoky whisky, this may be the perfect dram to start things of.


Experts advise you to drink Single Malt whisky neat or with a tiny bit of water. The water supposedly ‘Releases the Serpent’ from the whisky.

If there is a serpent, there is also an Angel. As it ages, 2.0-2.5 % of the whisky maturing in a barrel is lost to evaporation every year. Distillers refer to this as the ‘angel’s share’.

But the Devil has the last word. The larger the barrel used to mature whisky, the more the spirit that is absorbed by the wood and lost, called by distillers the ‘Devil’s Cut’.

The most expensive country in which to buy Scotch is where it’s made, the UK. 
 18,000 liters of Scotch whisky worth over $800,000 (£ 500,000) were accidentally flushed down the drain at Chivas Brothers’ Dumbarton bottling plant of in March 2013. 
Earlier, Glen Catrine Bonded Warehouse in Catrine village had spilled 6,600 liters of whisky on 6 September 2011− mostly into the River Ayr. They were fined £12,000. 
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