is almost too much of a good thing. Today’s Vintages release highlights
Scotch whisky with 22 selections, including four Vintages Essentials.
Meanwhile last Wednesday; the LCBO launched its Whisky Rocks Unplugged
promotion featuring an additional 31 whiskies from around the world,
including two Japanese “Single Malts” at over $100 a bottle.
my surprise when I walked into the tasting lab and was confronted by some
50 whiskies. My first thought: where’s my driver? Figuring out how to
taste them was my first challenge. My
dad told me not to fiddle with my Scotch. I was taught to taste Scotch
neat without any water, ice and/or carbonated flavoured beverages. Having
acquired this taste, I was then told by whisky makers that this was all
wrong. To get the real smell, I was supposed to cut the spirit with a
splash of pure water. The latter would release the aromatics and flavours.
I would have loved to try tasting them both ways, it was far more than my
palate could handle. I decided to focus on the smaller lots appearing in
Vintages. It meant tasting 22 whiskies blind. Of
course, the order was a problem - should I taste by age and/or region? I
ended up simply tasting by price, from the least expensive to the most
all spirits, Scotch lovers are the most stubborn when it comes to
selecting what is “best”. Just like wine, single malts are initially
defined by the region they come from - each one having its own
characteristics. Of course, there is the question of distillery style and
exactly how it was made. It becomes so complicated, that even the size and
shape of the still can influence the final taste.
than try and explain all the factors involved, I leave it to the experts,
authors like Charles MacLean, Dave Broom, Robin Tucek and John Lamond. The
best-known book is Michael
Jackson’s Malt Whisky Companion published by Dorling Kindersley and
is now in its fifth edition.
begin with I want to recommend the least expensive Scotch tasted, which is
justifiably a Vintages Essential: Te
Bheag Connoisseurs’ Blend
(949172) at $34.95 (700 mL). Praban Na Linne, meaning “a smugglers
outlet by the Sound of Sleat”, makes this blend. It is also known
as The Gaelic Whiskies, a small independent company based on the Isle of
Skye founded in 1976 by Sir Iain Noble of Eilean Iarmain as part of a
project to create employment in the south of Skye.
1992, Te Bheag (pronounced "chey vek")
is "unchilfiltered" perhaps explains its superior taste.
Chilfiltering, which ensures total transparency, entails cooling the
whiskey to zero and filtering out the now solidified proteins. It
has a light golden
amber colour and a fairly intense, floral, fresh plum nose with some
spicy, honeyed notes and a refined touch of smoky peat. On the palate it
is slightly peppery, quite well structured and gently honeyed with peat
tinged, ripe plum flavours.
up is reasonably elegant Highland single malt Glen
Garioch 15 Year Old Highland Single Malt
at $64.95 with 43% alcohol. Initially it is a bit neutral on the nose,
with some hints of hay and faintly smoky, plumy notes. On the palate, it
is harmonious and slightly spicy with peppery, medium-light bodied, very
slightly smoky, dried ripe plum flavours.
the latter is great for those who don’t like strong peaty flavours, I
happened to love ‘Auld
Reekie’ 12 Year Old Islay Single Malt
(660068) at $79.95. ‘Auld Reekie’ (old smelly) was the 18th century
name for the smoke-covered city of Edinburgh, where over 400 illicit
stills were operating. Produced by independent bottler Duncan Taylor, it
is referred to as “The Big Smoke”. The extremely smoky, complex,
caramel tinged, menthol-peat nose isn’t for everyone. With 46% alcohol,
the fairly peppery, rather pungent, smoky flavours are laced with fairly
lush, rich, plumy notes in the middle and a smoldering fire finish that
goes on and on.
the five Islay malts from Bowmore, the best value is Bowmore
‘Dawn’ Islay Single Malt
(964288) at $89.95, which was aged 12 years in bourbon barrels and
finished for two years in Ruby Port cask. It has a fairly peaty, slightly
peppery, caramel tinged nose - the smoky notes grow in the glass. It is
very dry but fairly harmonious with slightly peppery (51.5% alcohol),
smoky, ripe plum and caramel flavours.
up to one of the best of the entire tasting: Bowmore
25 Year Old Islay Single Malt
(714113) at $249.95 (43% alcohol). The nose is seductively smoky and
complex with spice tinged, baked plum and caramel notes. The harmonious,
slightly smoky, complex, ripe plum flavours have a lifted, slightly
lemony, peat tinged finish. In the top three of the 22 tasted.
the most expensive of the group was also one of the best. At $429.95,
Diageo-owned “Rare Malts Reflection” Talisker
25 Year Old Isle of Skye Single Malt
(960211) is something to behold with 57.8% alcohol. The complex nose shows
nuts, spices and dried fruit. On the palate, the extremely bright,
slightly peppery, caramel-tinged, ripe lemon flavours go on and on.
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