Whisky and Words Number 87: Dalwhinnie 15 (vs. Clynelish 14)

Deep color and a stout bottle with classic labeling.

Dalwhinnie 15 is a whisky that has flown under my radar for too long. Before the pandemic, the Dalwhinnie was mentioned by a whisky buddy as her favorite. I smacked myself in the forehead, of course! How had I missed it?

Located on the Trium, a tributary of the Spey, Dalwhinnie is considered both a Speysider but also a Highland distillery. The distillery is located on the far side of Cairngorms National Park from Dufftown (heart of the Speyside region) and they brag about it being the highest and coldest whisky distillery in Scotland, so I’m approaching it as a Highlander and will compare to the Clynelish 14, a lower-priced dram, but also a Highlander. Both are from Diageo and I’m interested to see how they are differentiated.

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Whisky and Words Number 86: Glenfiddich 15 Solera (vs. Glenlivet 15 French Oak)

Glenfiddich 15 Solera, deep color, rich aroma.

Glenfiddich is made by the same outfit that produce the Balvenie, and right next door at that, in the heart of Speyside. I find their 12-year okay, along the lines of the Glenlivet 12. In fact they duked it out in Glenfiddich’s 12-year review, the Battle of the Speyside Giants. The Glenfiddich 12 had a good nose, was not too sweet, sported some floral notes, was smooth, and not much of a finish. I covered the Glenlivet 12 here. Today however we’re stepping up a fair bit to the Solera Reserve 15-year. We’re a further $20 up the road from the 12, what’s the big deal?

Of course, this spirit has been 3 years in cask longer than the 12 but also developed from whiskies in a range of casks: the typical ex-bourbon, but also new oak and sherry casks. The new oak is a twist on the regular 12, but the big deal here is the vatting, where the selection of casks for the bottling are married. That’s where the Solera vat comes into play. As noted in the 12-year review, Glenfiddich uses oak tuns for the marry; furthermore, these Solera tuns are never emptied. As we read on the back of the carton, these tuns “host an infinity of malts.” William Grant also add a blurb about being family owned, which is quite remarkable for such a large producer.

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Whisky and Words Number 85: Highland Park 18

The HP-18 gets its amazing color from 18 years in all sherry-treated casks.

Highland Park first came to my attention early on when I was reading many other blogs about Scotch. The HP 12-year was mentioned as a solid, well-made scotch at a reasonable price by a couple reviewers, but it was Jason Debly’s blog post here that sold me. In my own review of the 12-year, I covered some details of Highland Park’s creation: barrel selection and treatment, and where they get their barley:

We are malting 20% of the total malt we use onsite. We then peat this malt before drying. Our makeup of malt is 20% peated (malted and peated on site) and 80% unpeated (bought from commercial maltsters).

So I encourage you to give that review a look if you’re interested in some of the Highland Park production details. The snippet above gives you a hint to their whisky’s flavor profile: HP is mildly peated, with only 20% of the malt having been treated with peat smoke. It won’t clear out a room when you open it, sending peat neophytes grabbing for their masks (as an Octomore would). But it does have enough smokiness to help you imagine being near a cheery bonfire at the beach. Just not downwind.

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Whisky and Words Number 84: Balvenie Caribbean Cask

The Caribbean Cask has 14 years of mojo…and then some.

I first had this whisky at the distillery, as it was one of the tasters at the end of the tour. I was impressed then, have owned it, but forgot to review it. It’s an unusual finishing (rum cask) of the Balvenie, whose Doublewood I have reviewed favorably. In this case, however, we have an extra couple years aging on ex-bourbon barrels, then an unspecified time finishing in rum casks. I’m excited about the extra years’ maturation, as the 14 to 15-year rage is a sweet spot for Scotch; Oban 14 and the Glenlivet 15 both being examples of tasty spirits in that age range. (I have two more 15s coming, up, a Dalwhinnie and  a Glenfiddich so watch this space).

I do not have an equivalent whisky to which I can compare this, so I’ll use the trusty Doublewood, a 12-year offering from Balvenie to see if this is a good power-up from the distillery. It’s a bit pricier, $74 locally, $10 more than the Doublewood. There is a lot of writing on the carton, but it’s not telling us a whole lot more that is new. The rum casking is intended to enhance the Balvenie’s vanilla notes with spicy aromatic qualities. David Stewart, the malt master, is noted for his 50 years’ experience. Wow!

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Whisky and Words Number 81: Talisker Distiller’s edition

Talisker Distiller’s Edition – the 10, sherried.

Here’s a whisky that’s been languishing in a box for months, what was I thinking? Talisker is an excellent warm-you-up whisky for winter and here we have sunshine, daffodils and buds in Portland. However, there is rain coming, so it’s a good time to taste a Talisker. This bottle is only $10 more ($80) than the standard 10-year Talisker, and thus gives the Talisker lover a new twist on their favorite without having to break the bank.

The Distiller’s Edition is a range from Diageo they do yearly. In each case, there’s a core whisky which is aged as per the brand’s standard then aged further in some other cask. The Talisker DE is aged for 10 years in ex-bourbon and then finished in Amoroso (medium-dry sherry) casks. I have the 2018 edition, as you can see from the photo above (click on the photo for a closer look; the date of distillation and bottling is in the lower label). However, they have followed the same pattern since the mid 2000’s and the 2020 release is of the same formula.

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