Johnnie Walker’s Blue Label is a no age statement blended whisky that sells for $200 for a 750 ml. bottle. That’s some coin for a blend! So what makes JW’s Blue so special? According to Johnnie Walker (link above) the Blue is:
“an exquisite combination of Scotland’s rarest and most exceptional whiskies. Only one in every ten thousand casks has the elusive quality, character and flavor to deliver the remarkable signature taste.” They also give us some of the constituent whiskies: “Johnnie Walker Blue Label is created using a selection of rare casks from the Speyside and Highland distilleries – including delicate Cardhu and Clynelish, warm, rounded Benrinnes, as well as Islay malts for our signature smokiness.”
My Dewars vs. Johnnie Walker Red post was so popular, I reprised with the Irish titans, Bushmills vs. Jameson. Today, it’s Ballantine’s 12 vs. the venerable (and titanic) Johnnie Walker Black, another 12-year old blend.
The Ballantine’s story
So, who are behind Ballantine’s? George, the namesake, started his distillery in 1827, and gained some recognition in 1895 with a royal warrant. Ballantine’s Finest was developed in 1910. Their main expression, it sells 200,000 bottles a day according to their site. Assuming a 700 ml bottle, that’s 51 million liters a year! Prodigious. In 1959, they came up with the 12-year expression which is the subject of this review.
I first encountered Edradour whisky at The Ship Inn, located on the water in a little town called Stonehaven. Stonehaven is just north of Dunnottar Castle on the east coast of Scotland. The Ship Inn had a hefty book full of single malts to try and I liked their description of the Edradour 10-year. You can read the description in the photo below. It was a good dram, and I was pleased to find when I returned to the US I could find a 10-year ‘Distillery Edition’ in my state. I do not know if it is the same expression as I had at the Ship inn, as that might have been their cask-strength version, which is also 10-year aged (and non-chill-filtered).
It’s been a long time since I reviewed my old fave Bunna 12, and since then they have revamped the packaging, making it a good choice for the 50th review. The new packaging introduces a new style, new palette and a new Bunna captain as well.
Of the whisky inside, the features remain the same: 46.3% ABV, natural color, non-chill-filtered, “Double Matured in Ex Bourbon and Ex Sherry Casks.” What does that mean? The folks at Distell tell me Bunnahabhain “is made using 70% sherry casks with 30% bourbon casks, these casks are married (mixed) together in a vatting.” In this case, both sherry and bourbon casks will have been aged for at least 12 years. This is contrast to other part-bourbon, part-sherry offerings, like Glenmorangie’s Lasanta, where they start in bourbon casks and move to sherry for a final (shorter) maturation. So, Bunna is not actually ‘double matured,’ but the Bunnahabhain approach should result in a richer, more sherry-influenced profile.
The final Glenmorangie ‘specials’ review! Today we take on Nectar D’or, which takes the standard Glenmorangie 10 and ages it for two additional years in Sauternes barriques (a fairly small barrel). Sauternes being a sweet wine (think noble rot), we expect the Sauternes treatment to result in a sweet and smooth spirit. Glenmorangie telegraphs this expectation with their moniker for this expression – Nectar D’or. So, is it really a golden nectar? Glenmorangie thinks so:
Our sumptuous, special reserve whisky is aged first in American oak bourbon casks for smooth, fruity notes. We then finish this single malt in hand-selected wine casks from Sauternes, the most famous and ancient sweet wine-growing region of France. These rare casks bring layers of mellow sweetness to Glenmorangie’s renowned smooth style. Non chill-filtered for enhanced aroma and texture, our Nectar D’Or is enjoyed around the globe.
This is the second of three reviews of Glenmorangie special expressions, each of which has been finished in specialty casks to elicit different flavors. The Quinta Ruban builds on the standard Glenmorangie 10 with two additional years in Port pipes (large casks). Let’s see what Glenmorangie is saying about this spirit:
The darkest and most intense whisky in the extra-matured range, Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban has spent 10 years maturing in American white oak casks, before being transferred into specially selected ruby port pipes from the Quintas or wine estates of Portugal.
Extra maturation in these port pipes develops Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban into a voluptuous spirit with a complex balance of sweet and dry flavours and an intriguing contrast of smooth and crisp, cooling textures. Non chill-filtered for additional aroma and mouthfeel
As promised, here is the first of three reviews of Glenmorangie special expressions, each of which has been finished for two years in a specialty cask. In this case, the Lasanta (Gaelic for ‘warmth and passion’) takes the basic Glenmorangie 10 for a two-year ride in sherry-seasoned (Oloroso and PX Sherry) casks.
What do we get for an additional two years? Is the Lasanta able to challenge all-in sherry aged drams like Macallan’s Sherry Wood, Glenfarclas 12 or Highland Park’s 12? And how does it fare against another ‘finished’ whisky, in this case the very nice (and more expensive) Balvenie Doublewood? That’s what we’re here to find out.
The packaging is conservative and classy with a dark maroon label, an echo of sherry’s ruby tones, and you will see significant color in the spirit (see photo below). What does Glenmorangie say about its whisky? They are quite up front on the bottle about the extra two years maturation, so kudos for clear messaging. There are no claims of ‘craft’ techniques like non-chill filtration or avoidance of added coloration, but at the price point, $50 in Oregon, that’s not expected. On their website, we don’t get much more info than tasting notes, to wit: “the sherry casks bring rich raisin intensity, toffee and spices to Glenmorangie’s renowned smooth style”