Whisky and Words Number 106: Copper Dog vs. Naked Malt – Blended Malt Shootout

Note: if you came here for scurrilous photos (searching for ‘naked’ are you?) you will be disappointed….nothin’ but whisky here.

Monkey Shoulder, review No. 4!

Completely serendipitously, I find myself with two blended malt whiskies. These were purchases of opportunity. They are ‘Naked,’ imported by Edrington (the outfit behind Highland Park and Macallan), and Copper Dog, from the Craigellachie Hotel in the town of the same name, imported by Diageo.

First off, what is a blended malt? It is a blend of only malt whiskies, which can be from different distilleries. I like buying blended malts like Monkey Shoulder because for about the same price as a blend, you are getting pot-stilled malt whiskies, with no column-distilled grain alcohol (as you will find in even a nicely aged blend like Johnny Walker Black). What you usually do not get with a blended malt is an age statement, so the downside of a blended malt is that you may have some more aggressive, younger spirits in the mix.

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Whisky and Words Number 105: Balvenie Single ‘Guest’ Cask 14 yrs

Note: this is third in a series of 3 single-cask reviews.

Small bottle, big flavor. But what flavor?

On our visit to The Balvenie, we had the opportunity to valinch a small bottle (200 ml) from one of a few barrels they had set aside for that purpose. After a quick, slurped taste out of my hand, I chose  the 14-year-old sherry cask. Each bottle we valinched was £15, which is not too crazy considering a 5 cl bottle of Tomintoul cost me £10 in a shop! In fact, the three retired insurance company execs we toured with made off with armloads of these little bottles from The Balvenie.

I still have about half of my valinched bottle, as I’ve only broken it out for a couple special occasions. As I happened to review two single-barrel selections this month, I thought, why not compare this single barrel? How does the random ‘guest cask’ at the distillery tour compare to the malt master’s selected single cask release? And what better comparison than from Review 103, the Balvenie First Fill, Single Barrel?

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Whisky and Words Number 104: GlenAllachie Single Cask 2006

Note: this is second in a series of 3 single-cask reviews

That is one dark and fell liquid.

I have to admit, before  being presented this bottle (a gift, due to a long incumbency with my company), I had not heard of GlenAllachie. This is despite having visited its locale (Aberlour, Speyside) when I was in Scotland. We had actually walked halfway there (to Linn Falls) along the burn; what a missed opportunity! GlenAllachie is a fairly new distillery, being founded in 1967, changing hands a couple times, most recently by a private company which re-opened it in 2017. With but two wash and two spirit stills, it is a modest operation, producing about 4M liters a year. That compares well to Aberlour just down hill at about 3.5M liters a year.

The spirit under consideration today is their single cask ‘sherry bomb’ of 15 years maturity, and I am quite excited about it. It is bottled with a cask strength of 59.1% ABV and of course no chill filtering or added colors, as befits a special release.  I like to have a comparison dram, and fortunately I still have some of the 14-year-old Balvenie I valinched from a sherry cask during our visit there.

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Whisky and Words Number 103: The Balvenie Single barrel – First Fill

Note: this is first in a series of 3 single-cask reviews. Skip to Review 105 for a comparison to a ‘guest cask’ from The Balvenie.

Single cask, single barrel, singular experience.

I like that the William Grant organization is a family firm and that they maintain the full breadth of skills in whisky-making at The Balvenie. They also give an excellent distillery tour. So when I spotted this bottle of Single Barrel, First Fill (SBFF) in the local shop, not long after a payday, I plunked down a C-note. Single cask is always a risk, as the malt master has no leeway in mixing in anything else to fill holes in a spirit’s flavor profile or to dilute a flavor that’s over the top. But I have very nice memories, and some remaining samples, of spirits valinched from casks during our tour. There were some odd ones!

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Whisky and Words Number 101: The Glenlivet ‘Illicit Still’ 12-year

I suspect this tastes MUCH better than that old scotch moonshine!

Once again one of my friends comes through with a bottle of something I  have not tried and turns out a pleasant surprise. This Glenlivet is a special edition presumably in the style of the original pre-licensed operation, but apart from that we don’t know a whole lot about what goes into it. It is  12-year, bottled at a hefty 48%, and not chill-filtered. While their website alludes to ‘smaller’ copper stills being used for the original illicit whisky, they don’t exactly say if this whisky is distilled any differently than the standard expression. Given the fact it is available across the U.S., which implies a large production run, I’m guessing they used their usual production stills for this. The ‘learn more’ button on the page above takes you to an ordering page which does have tasting notes but no more on the  making of this dram.

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