Glengoyne 12 is the sort of whisky that would have seemed (almost) ordinary back in the day when you could get The Macallan 10 or 12 for under $100. In Today's whisky world, Glengoyne 12 Year Old is rare treat at a price-point that is fairly reasonable.
It's cliche, I know, to drink Writers Tears while writing. A cliche that I know I share with many writers in the whisky genre. A cliche that I endured while writing The Whisky Cabinet. And for that reason, it was hard to rate this whisky. When reviewing whisky, it's important to outpour ones feelings when writing about the whisky, but be void of attachment when rating the whisky.
Making whisky is not unlike writing—you do it because you love the craft. You hope there's a big windfall, but in most cases you know that to simply be able to work on your craft and pay the bills is a win. Every person I've met that's in this business is passionate about making whisky. The passion, the enthusiasm, that drive is shared among whisky makers from the smallest to the largest distilleries.
When I first came across the bottle of Blanton's Original, I was in Las Vegas and early in my whisky writing career. The bartender took me through a long list of bourbons before ending the night with the last of his Blanton's. Many years later, I found myself at the lab of Buffalo Trace Distillery on a media tour with an wonderful insight to how each barrel of Blanton's is selected.
Kentucky and Scotland hate the B word. Mention it on Twitter, in Instagram, or during a whisky tour and they'll quickly tell you why you're wrong. "We don't blend! We marry the whisky in a vat." Yes, whisky particles are married, not blended. Despite the best-selling scotch in the world being a blend (Johnnie Walker), blended whisky has bad connotations going back to the 1800s.
Virginia Black American Whiskey is the otherwise known as Drake's whisky. This whisky is bound to be polarizing: Drake is pop culture at its highest level, and traditional whisky drinkers are likely disregards his music as stuff "young people listen to." It's also a celebrity booze product, which nearly always gets negative reviews from critics.
Celebrity booze is often jeered by whisky aficionados. Whisky “finished” in wine barrels likewise is often interpreted as a gimmick. But in this instance, these two gimmicks have combined for a competitive product.
Jim Murray's The Whisky Bible is one of the more influential book releases of the year. Each year a new book names the best whiskies in the world. Not everyone is a fan of Jim Murray's list, but the this list is hugely influential in the whisky world. Let's see what you can actually buy.
It would dramatic to say that there's a battle over the definition of Canadian whisky, but one small distillery is taking a stand against a Canadian regulation that has been in existence since 1887. Toronto Distillery Co, the city's first distillery since 1933, released a whisky aged under the minimum three years required for a spirit to be recognized as a whisky.
Laphroaig Lore is offers an unapologetic rush of flavors from a complex mixture of matured whisky. On paper, I would have called the concept behind this whisky a gimmick, but in tasting, the results are worthy of the ticket price.
The Single Barrel line-extension is an example of a product intended for whisky enthusiasts. It's rare that single malt scotch is released in the single barrel variety--most are a blend of tens, if not hundreds, of barrels of whisky. When one blends multiple barrels of whisky to create a single malt scotch, the complexity of the whisky comes from the blending process. When a distillery bottles an individual barrel, this demonstrates the confidence distillery owners have in their whisky. You can't blend the faults away.
The Gifted Horse is the latest release under Diageo's Orphan Barrel umbrella. Each previous release was based on old stock of barrels that Diageo procured and bottled. In this case, though, Diageo was offered an accidental mix of barrels.
Auchentoshan American Oak borrows on trends from the past and future. From the past, Auchentoshan boasts about being a triple-distilled. Folklore will tell you that only Irish whiskey and vodka are triple distilled (neither is true). Generally speaking, the third distillation is likely to remove heavier molecules from the spirit. Some of these heavier molecules are unpleasant, some would naturally oxidized down during barrel maturation, others are flavors that scotch drinkers might enjoy.
The higher the proof, the more volatile the whisky is inside the bottle. It'll change over time. The first time you pop-open a whisky bottle it'll be tight on flavor, and less expressive on the nose. You'll need to leave it out in the glass longer to get it to show-up with its full flavors. The closer to empty the bottle gets, the more the flavors will either flatten out or exaggerate (depending on the whisky).
I made the mistake of doing a blind tasting pitting Lagavulin 8 against Lagavulin 16. These two drinks could not be any different, and while the older scotch is more immediately pleasing on the nose, Lagavulin 8 Year Old is more brilliant then I would have imagined. It might even be better then Lagavulin 16, depending on your mood. It's also a big corporate middle finger to whisky writers that complain about no-age statement whisky (more on that later).
Last Barrels represents Canada's unintended nudge into bourbon territory, all from an experiment that started back in 2001. At that time Hiram Walker's master distiller, Jim Stanski, was promoted into management. Before leaving his post, Jim started an experiment from an old recipe J.P. Wiser used dating back to 1869.
Does one ever forget their first sip of Booker's? My first taste goes back many years. Booker's was one of a dozen or so whiskies featured during an LCBO media event at their tasting lab. The proof levels of the whiskies kept increasing throughout this self-paced tasting.
Lagavulin 16 Year Old is a crowd favourite among scotch drinkers. It made it to the last chapter of my book, when I answer the "what's my favorite whisky" question (somewhat ironically). Lagavulin Double Matured is part of a limited number of whisky that the distillery releases outside of the popular 16 year old expression. It’s, essentially, fan whisky for people that love Lagavulin.
Marketers will tell you that a great story will connect with consumers moreso than a great product. Big distilleries from Scotland and Kentucky have been using this logic from the very beginning with stories of prohibition, the "evil" taxmen, and family history. The problem with today's crowded whisky scene is these stories start sounding the same.