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Säntis Appenzeller Single Malt Edition Sigel

On my recent trip to Zurich, I brought back a number of sample bottles of Swiss single malt whiskies to try. First up is Santis Malt Edition Sigel.

Switzerland likely doesn’t leap out to you as a major whisky producer – and that’s because whisky production has only been legal in Switzerland since July 1999. So by definition, much of what they have produced is still quite young. Note that like Scotland, Swiss law requires that a distillate made from malt has to be aged for at least three years in wood barrels before it can be called whisky.

Like with many new malt whisky producers across the world, Appenzeller Säntis Malt (“Swiss Alpine Whisky”) is an offshoot of a brewery (Brauerei Locher). In my travels, I was impressed with the quality of two US malt whisky distilleries that grew out of craft breweries (Copperworks and Westland), and slightly less so with a Belgian one (Gouden Carolus). So I was naturally curious to try these Santis malts.

A signature feature of Santis is their use of old beer barrels for aging, imparting a distinctive character to their malt whisky. Santis has been distilling since 1999, and they are currently one of the largest malt whisky producers in Switzerland. Since 2003, the distillery reports using only locally-sourced barley, grown in Switzerland’s mountain areas. They have won a number of awards, and Jim Murray declared their Edition Dreifaltigkeit his “European Whisky of the Year” in 2010 (my review of that expression is coming soon).

There aren’t a lot of reviews of Swiss whiskies in my Meta-Critic Database, but here is what you will find right now:

Säntis Alpstein (all editions): 8.59 ± 0.12 on 3 reviews ($$$$$)
Säntis Edition Sigel: 7.93 ± 0.87 on 7 reviews ($$$$)
Säntis Edition Säntis: 7.57 ± 0.84 on 7 reviews ($$$)
Säntis Edition Dreifaltigkeit / Cask Strength Peated: 7.37 ± 1.67 on 9 reviews ($$$$)
Swiss Highland Classic Single Malt: 8.59 ± 0.48 on 4 reviews ($$$$$)

Here is how they compare to some other European malt whisky producers, outside of the UK. Note that most of these are fairly recent whisky producers as well.

Box The 2nd Step Collection 02 (Sweden): 8.91 ± 0.05 on 3 reviews ($$$$$)
Box The Festival 2014 (Sweden): 8.94 ± 0.14 on 3 reviews ($$$$$)
Gouden Carolus Single Malt (Belgium): 8.09 ± 0.17 on 3 reviews ($$$$)
Mackmyra First Edition (Den Första Utgåvan) (Sweden): 8.65 ± 0.36 on 17 reviews ($$$)
Mackmyra Brukswhisky (Sweden): 8.45 ± 0.60 on 9 reviews ($$$)
Mackmyra Midnattssol (Sweden): 8.14 ± 0.72 on 5 reviews ($$$$)
Mackmyra Midvinter (Sweden): 8.55 ± 0.52 on 3 reviews ($$$)
Mackmyra Reserve Single Cask (Sweden): 9.01 ± 0.49 on 7 reviews ($$$$$)
Millstone 8yo French Oak (Netherlands): 7.96 ± 0.65 on 4 reviews ($$$$)
Millstone 12yo Sherry Cask (Netherlands): 8.95 ± 0.25 on 7 reviews ($$$$)
Smögen Primör (Sweden): 8.51 ± 0.24 on 4 reviews ($$$$$)
Smögen Single Cask (Sweden): 8.91 ± 0.15 on 3 reviews ($$$$$)
Spirit of Hven Sankt Claus (Sweden): 8.61 ± 0.58 on 3 reviews ($$$$$)
Spirit of Hven Tycho’s Star (Sweden): 8.58 ± 0.07 on 3 reviews ($$$$)

As a general rule, the Santis malt whiskies are not faring well in this comparison. With the exception of the various premium wine cask-finished Alpstein expressions, the standard Santis expressions are getting relatively low average scores in my Meta-Critic Database, and higher than typical variance across reviewers.

Note that I had not included Santis in my database prior to sampling their whiskies, so I truly tasted these “blind.”

I have started this series of reviews with the Santis Edition Sigel, which is one of the base expressions available from this distiller. Sigel means “Sun” in old German, and is the likely root of the modern siegel (for seal). Edition Sigel is exclusively “matured in small oak beer casks” (with no finishing) and is bottled at 40% ABV. The 50 mL sample bottle from Zurich cost me ~$8.50 CAD.

Let’s see what I find in the glass:

Colour: Light gold, but with a slightly brownish tint (reminding me of beer, naturally enough).

Nose: Light nose, no alcohol burn. Sweet and somewhat fruity, with red (stawberrry) licorice and candy apples – indeed, candied is the best descriptor. Some citrus. Oak with a bit of wood spice, maybe some anise. Tobacco. Almost earthy in a way – but seems oddly faint, almost as if watered-down. There is a strange effect of the beer cask aging, adding a slightly skunky note (like beer that has long since passed its expiration date, or where the bottle seal has failed). Certainly unique, it doesn’t quite seem like a malt whisky.

Palate: Not as fruity as the nose suggested – some pear, with a bit of red licorice. Tobacco. Very sour though. Motor oil? Seems very young, and oddly synthetic tasting.  Makes wonder if this is what “Synthehol” on Star Trek – The Next Generation would taste like. Some tongue tingle. That skunkiness from the nose comes back with a vengeance as you swallow – making you wish you hadn’t! This is frankly a bit of a mess, with some definite off-putting notes.

Finish: Short (fortunately). A strong Aspartame-like artificial note, mixed with pear and sour apple. Makes me want to rinse my mouth out with a better whisky immediately (which is exactly what I did, when I was done with this tasting).

I’ll be honest here – I couldn’t finish my standard 1.5 ounce pour of this one. I came back to the rest of the sample bottle a couple of nights later, to see if I had misjudged it. Nope, it was just as bad. And if anything, the nose was even weaker now (which was the best part of this whisky originally, if you could call it that). I’m sorry, but my advice to Santis on this one would be to re-distill it and age it longer, please. Also skip the beer casks, if that is what is producing the unique skunky notes.

Interestingly, I got a very similar candied nose on the Gouden Carolus malt – making me think this is also a consequence of the beer mash or beer cask aging. But that whisky lacked the off-notes present here, so I felt the Meta-Critic average score was justified. In contrast, I wouldn’t score Edition Sigel above the low 7s – putting this whisky in my bottom 5th percentile.

For additional reviews, Jim Murray and Patrick and RV of Quebec Whisky all give it an average score for their respective reviewing ranges. Andre of Quebec Whisky and Dominic of Whisky Advocate give it relatively low scores. The Reddit user cake_my_day gives it one of his lowest scores ever.

 

 

Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Solera Edition

I recently reviewed the Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Distillery Edition, which features the standard Glenfiddich “house style” (i.e., like the standard 12 and 18 year-olds). But the Distillery Edition is not widely available – in most jurisdictions, the Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Solera Edition fills this niche instead. This is interesting, as the profile of the Solera Edition is quite distinct.

Glenfiddich uses a modified version of the classic solera system used by sherry makers, which was designed to ensure consistency in sherry. I am not an expert on the process, but the way it works in this case (put simply) is that whiskies are mixed in a giant solera vat. This vat contains whisky from previous batches, and is never emptied completely – as batches are drawn from the vat, more whisky is poured in. The profile of whiskies going into the vat is different from other Glenfiddichs, and includes sherry casks, ex-bourbon casks, and ex-bourbon hybrids casks (ones transferred into new oak cask for some period of time). Presumably, the use of the solera system helps “even out” the profile of the resulting final vattings, ensuring some similarity from batch to batch.

Sold for $80 CAD at the LCBO, the 15 Year Old Solera Edition is less expensive than the Distillery Edition ($95 CAD). It is also bottled at the minimum industry standard of 40% ABV, like the standard 12 and 18 year-olds (the Distillery Edition is a much higher 51% ABV).

Here is how the 15 Year Old Solera Edition compares to other whiskies in my Metacritic database, starting with other Glenfiddichs:

Glenfiddich 1963 Original Malt: 8.27 ± 0.47 on 7 reviews ($$$$)
Glenfiddich Malt Master’s Edition: 8.30 ± 0.30 on 7 reviews ($$$$)
Glenfiddich 12yo: 8.11 ± 0.24 on 24 reviews ($$$)
Glenfiddich 14yo Bourbon Barrel Reserve: 8.44 ± 0.17 on 6 reviews ($$$$)
Glenfiddich 14yo Rich Oak: 8.60 ± 0.32 on 9 reviews ($$$)
Glenfiddich 15yo Distillery Edition: 8.71 ± 0.30 on 13 reviews ($$$$)
Glenfiddich 15yo Solera: 8.60 ± 0.25 on 24 reviews ($$$$)
Glenfiddich 18yo: 8.59 ± 0.37 on 18 reviews ($$$$$)

While not as highly ranked as the Distillery Edition, the 15 yo Solera Edition gets a similar overall score to the much more expensive Glenfiddich 18 yo (which is nearly twice the price here in Ontario).  Here’s how it compares to other whiskies in its age group:

Caol Ila 15yo Unpeated: 8.54 ± 0.41 on 8 reviews ($$$$$)
Dalmore 15yo: 8.33 ± 0.50 on 17 reviews ($$$$)
Dalwhinnie 15yo: 8.69 ± 0.34 on 18 reviews ($$$$)
Glencadam 15yo: 8.45 ± 0.41 on 10 reviews ($$$$)
GlenDronach 15yo Revival: 8.91 ± 0.28 on 19 reviews ($$$$)
Glenfarclas 15yo: 8.67 ± 0.29 on 16 reviews ($$$$)
Glengoyne 15yo: 8.48 ± 0.53 on 9 reviews ($$$$)
Glenlivet 15yo French Oak: 8.38 ± 0.25 on 17 reviews ($$$$)
Tobermory 15yo: 8.54 ± 0.33 on 13 reviews ($$$$$)

The Solera Edition scores pretty well in the middle of the pack for this group.

I recently got to sample this one in a bar. Let’s see what I find in the glass:

Nose: Sweet sherried nose, with the typical sherry dark fruits (raisins, sultanas and figs) and a bit of citrus (lemon in particular). Lots of honey and vanilla, plus some caramel. A bit malty. No real off notes – a nice malt, more sherried than I expected.

Palate: Sweetness continues, with a few lighter fruits adding to the classic sherry notes above. Caramel/vanilla turn more into fudge now, plus some icing sugar. A bit of baking spice comes in (nutmeg), but not much. Mouthfeel is a bit watery for my tastes, in keeping with the 40% ABV.

Glenfiddich.15.SoleraFinish: Medium-short. Light fruit syrup is the main characteristic, with some bitterness coming in over time. Overall balance good, but a bit short.

I think the overall Metacritic score for this one is quite reasonable – I would peg it at about an average level of quality (which is currently somewhere around ~8.5-8.6 in my database). That said, I personally don’t think the Distillery Edition deserves much of a higher ranking – and I would put the 18 yo slightly above both of these 15 year-olds. As an aside, it’s a shame they don’t also bottle this one at a higher ABV, like the Distillery edition.

Among my Metacritic reviewers, Jim Murray, Savannah of the Whiskey Wash and Chip the Rumhowler are all very positive. Jan of Best Shot Whisky and Jason of In Search of Elegance are also fairly positive, all giving this expression an above average score. I’m more in line with the average scores by Nathan the Scotch Noob, Dave of Whisky Advocate, Josh of the Whiskey Jug, and the guys at Quebec Whisky. The lowest score I’ve seen comes from Ruben of Whisky Notes.

Singleton of Dufftown 12 Year Old

While Singleton is not exactly a house-hold name, that may be changing. Owned by the large multinational drinks conglomerate Diageo (of Johnnie Walker fame), the Singleton brand is their attempt to do for single malts what they have long done for blends – raise brand awareness centered on an extended family.

While Diageo may be a top player in the single malt world, this isn’t immediately obvious to most casual drinkers since they don’t own the common entry-level malts (like Glenlivet and Glenfiddich), or the really big recognizable names (like Macallan). Instead, Diageo dominates by sheer volume across a range of price points. Singeton is their attempt to double-down on the entry-level, with a series of very well priced offerings.

Focusing on the Speyside region of Scotland, Diageo is currently highlighting three of their distilleries through this shared Singleton brand – Dufftown, Glen Ord and Glendullan. Rather than finding their output poured into the Diageo blending empire (as was presumably the case previously), these distilleries are now going head-to-head through the common Singleton label with the ubiquitous Glenlivets and Glenfiddichs.

Refreshingly, the main Singleton expressions all carry age statements (12, 15 and 18 years of age), and are all meant to showcase the classic Speyside “gentle” character (i.e., no fancy finishes or unusual cask blending). They are also all very reasonably priced for their ages.

To expand the market, Diageo has also released a number of no age statement (NAS) expressions for each distillery, many intended to attract a younger audience for mixed drinks (these are are similarly budget priced along with the 12 yo version). There are also a number of NAS duty-free retail expressions for the more well-healed traveler. Here is where you are more likely to find the wine cask finishes and the like – many of these are more expensive than the standard age range expressions, but still reasonably priced for their respective styles.

Let’s see how the various Singletons compare in my Metacritic Database, relative to their main competitors (note that not all the new expressions have enough reviews to be included in the public database yet).

Singleton of Dufftown 12yo: 7.93 ± 0.43 on 9 reviews ($$)
Singleton of Dufftown 15yo: 8.33 ± 0.21 on 6 reviews ($$$)
Singleton of Dufftown 18yo: 8.41 ± 0.14 on 4 reviews ($$$$)
Singleton of Dufftown Spey Cascade: 7.53 ± 0.53 on 3 reviews ($$)
Singleton of Dufftown Tailfire: 8.17 ± 0.46 on 3 reviews ($$)
Singleton of Dufftown Unité: 8.13 ± 0.27 on 4 reviews ($$)
Singleton of Glen Ord 12yo: 8.31 ± 0.25 on 6 reviews ($$)
Singleton of Glen Ord 15yo: 8.46 ± 0.41 on 4 reviews ($$$$)
Singleton of Glen Ord 18yo: 8.39 ± 0.26 on 3 reviews ($$$$)
Singleton of Glen Ord Signature: 7.92 ± 0.25 on 3 reviews ($$$)
Singleton of Glendullan 12yo: 8.04 ± 0.41 on 13 reviews ($$)

AnCnoc 12yo: 8.63 ± 0.32 on 18 reviews ($$$)
Auchentoshan 12yo: 8.29 ± 0.26 on 21 reviews ($$$)
Auchentoshan American Oak: 7.59 ± 0.89 on 7 reviews ($$)
Auchentoshan Three Wood: 8.26 ± 0.41 on 21 reviews ($$$$)
Balvenie 12yo Doublewood: 8.41 ± 0.34 on 21 reviews ($$$$)
GlenDronach 12yo Original: 8.59 ± 0.21 on 20 reviews ($$$)
Glenfiddich 12yo: 8.10 ± 0.24 on 24 reviews ($$$)
Glenfiddich 14yo Rich Oak: 8.60 ± 0.32 on 9 reviews ($$$)
Glenfiddich 15yo Distillery Edition: 8.70 ± 0.30 on 13 reviews ($$$$)
Glenfiddich 15yo Solera: 8.59 ± 0.25 on 24 reviews ($$$$)
Glenfiddich 18yo: 8.59 ± 0.37 on 18 reviews ($$$$$)
Glenlivet 12yo: 8.06 ± 0.30 on 20 reviews ($$$)
Glenlivet 15yo French Oak: 8.38 ± 0.25 on 17 reviews ($$$$)
Glenlivet 18yo: 8.61 ± 0.21 on 21 reviews ($$$$$)
Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve: 7.94 ± 0.44 on 12 reviews ($$)
Glenmorangie 10yo: 8.48 ± 0.45 on 23 reviews ($$$)
Glenmorangie Lasanta: 8.40 ± 0.36 on 19 reviews ($$$)
Glenmorangie Nectar d’Or: 8.76 ± 0.28 on 20 reviews ($$$$)
Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban: 8.57 ± 0.48 on 21 reviews ($$$)

Those are a lot of numbers, but the general point is that the age-statement Singletons (broadly speaking) are getting similar or slightly lower reviewer scores compared to the more established brands. The budget-priced NAS Singleton offerings typically score lower than the base 12 yo age expression, consistent with the pattern for the more established brands.

I’ve started to see the entry-level age statement Singletons show up more often lately, in places where whisky is not a specialty. Case in point, I ran across this Singleton of Dufftown 12 Year Old in an Air Canada Maple Leaf lounge during my travels. Normally all these lounges carry is an entry-level Glenlivet malt (12 or Founder’s Reserve, depending on local availability), Johnnie Walker Black, and Crown Royal – so this was an unexpected opportunity to finally give Singleton a shot.  It is bottled at 40% ABV, like much of the competition.

And now for what I find in the glass:

Nose: Light apple juice, with a bit of honey and vanilla, plus some caramel. Not much fruit (dried fruit, what little there is). Some light hay and grass notes. A bit of acetone comes up at the end, unfortunately. Pretty standard stuff.

Palate: Honey sweetness starts off, followed by an extreme caramel gooey-ness (this is almost like the inside of a Caramilk bar). Golden raisins join the light pear and apple fruits. Some light cinnamon. Not much else here. Grass still present, and maybe a slight nuttiness. Absolutely no burn, seems very light (even for 40% ABV).  A bit of citrus emerges eventually.

Finish‎: Medium length. Caramel creamy. Some fruit lingers, with a hint of wood spice. Slightly artificial sweetener aftertaste, unfortunately. Very mild and unoffensive (also rather forgettable).

This is a very inoffensive dram – it just isn’t very interesting. The Singleton of Dufftown 12 year old is probably a good option for those looking for something a little sweeter than the other entry level malts. Personally, I’ll be sticking with JW Black or Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve in the Maple Leaf lounge.

The most positive review I’ve seen for this whisky comes Oliver of Dramming. Personally, I fall more in line with the guys at Quebec Whisky and Serge of Whisky Fun.  The most scathing review I’ve seen comes from Jim Murray – he’s definitely not a fan. Overall, I think the price reflects the value here.

Midleton Very Rare 2016

Late last year, I reviewed the 2015 vintage of Midleton Very Rare from a friend’s bottle. This is a premium blended Irish whiskey, produced by Irish Distillers at the New Midleton Distillery in East Cork.

The LCBO wants a pretty steep $216 CAD for it at the moment, which is more than I am willing to pay. But when I came across the 2016 edition on sale at a Shanghai duty free for ~$140 CAD, I thought I’d take the plunge. I recently brought it over to my friend’s house for a dinner party, and we were able to directly compare the two vintages side-by-side.

First a bit of background on this whisky. Midleton Very Rare is produced in a vintage year manner, with reportedly only 50 hand-picked casks going into each batch. It is a blend of single pot still whisky and grain whisky, all triple-distilled. Although this is a no-age-statement (NAS) whisky, the casks are reported to be between 12 and 25 years of age, matured in either ex-bourbon or ex-Sherry casks. Consistently bottled at 40% ABV, each bottle has a unique identifier number, and is presented in a nice wooden case with a registration card.

Since each batch is a new defined vintage, each year is expected to differ somewhat from the others – although all within an overall profile range. Having the two vintages side-by-side gave us a good opportunity to directly test this.

As this is my second review of a Midleton Very Rare, I’ve tried to break down the various vintages in my MetaCritic database, where possible. Given its limited availability, there aren’t many reviews of each vintage, so you will have to go by the composite score in most cases (i.e., only the 2015 vintage meets my reporting cut-off level of a minimum of 3 reviews).  Here is how they compare to some higher-end Irish whiskeys:

Bushmills 16yo Single Malt: 8.48 ± 0.48 on 16 reviews ($$$$)
Bushmills 21yo Single Malt: 8.93 ± 0.34 on 11 reviews ($$$$$)
Green Spot: 8.49 ± 0.38 on 16 reviews ($$$)
Green Spot Château Léoville Barton: 8.82 ± 0.35 on 7 reviews ($$$$)
Jameson 12yo Special Reserve: 8.35 ± 0.25 on 9 reviews ($$$$)
Jameson Gold Reserve: 8.46 ± 0.38 on 10 reviews ($$$$)
Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy: 9.07 ± 0.24 on 9 reviews ($$$$$)
Midleton Dair Ghaelach: 9.09 ± 0.30 on 7 reviews ($$$$$)
Midleton Very Rare (all vintages): 8.83 ± 0.45 on 12 reviews ($$$$$)
Midleton Very Rare 2015: 8.59 ± 0.41 on 5 reviews ($$$$$)
Powers 12yo John’s Lane: 8.82 ± 0.39 on 14 reviews ($$$$)
Redbreast 12yo: 8.75 ± 0.41 on 21 reviews ($$$)
Redbreast 15yo: 8.74 ± 0.26 on 13 reviews ($$$$)
Redbreast 21yo: 9.16 ± 0.32 on 14 reviews ($$$$$)
Tullamore Dew Blended 12yo: 7.97 ± 0.33 on 10 reviews ($$$)
Writers Tears Pot Still: 8.49 ± 0.34 on 16 reviews ($$)
Yellow Spot: 8.78 ± 0.27 on 14 reviews ($$$$)

Middleton Very Rare gets a very good score for an Irish whiskey – although the 2015 vintage seems to score a bit lower than most.

Let’s see what I find in the glass for the 2016 vintage:

Colour: The whisky is presumably not artificially coloured, as the 2016 was noticeably darker than the 2015. I would describe it as medium amber.

Nose: Honey and vanilla lead off, with a similar whipped cream note as I found on the 2015 (but fainter here). Apple and pear as before, but I am getting slightly tart red berries now (including some red currants). Much stronger baking spices than before, with a good amount of cinnamon in particular – definitely spicier overall. There is absolutely no hint of any organic solvent notes, which is impressive for an Irish whisky. The only thing missing here is the caramel – that was much more pronounced on the 2015 vintage. Personally, I’d give the 2016 a slight edge for the spicier and cleaner nose, but I could see that some may prefer the sweeter 2015 vintage.

Palate: Initial arrival is dominated by sweet vanilla, andit is still relatively fruit-forward, but with less caramel than the 2015 edition. Not as creamy either (although I’m still getting a faint touch of chocolate). Definitely spicier here, with noticeable cinnamon and a good amount of black pepper. A bit grassy, but lacking the cereal notes of the 2015. Mouthfeel is lighter and more watery now – much less silky than the 2016 (I’m guessing less grain whisky in the mix?). Some bitterness creeps in at the end of the palate, which wasn’t there before. Still no alcohol burn.

Finish: Medium. Similar Juicy Fruit gum sensation as before, but both the spicy and bitter notes from the oak wood are accentuated over the 2015 edition. Still not very long. A touch of astringency comes in at the end.

While the 2016 got off to a good start on the nose, the mouthfeel is definitely “thin” in comparison to the 2015, which is disappointing. I like the extra oaky spice in the 2016, but this is matched by a greater bitterness and astringency on the finish, which is not appealing. I personally scored the 2015 vintage at around the overall Metacritic average for all vintages of this whisky, but I would have to give the 2016 just a decimal point or so lower. It is still a very good whisky, but the value-for-money proposition is even less favourable in my mind (at least at standard list prices).

FYI, from among the dinner guests who also sampled both vintages, I can say that the 2015 was the unanimous favourite. This seemed to be due to the more overtly caramel sweetness in that vintage, along with a “smoother” palate (their descriptor, I believe they meant oilier). It should be mentioned that none of them were particularly big whisky drinkers.

The only reviewer in my database who has reviewed both is Jonny of Whisky Advocate. And although he notes many of the same differences that I found, he gives the 2016 a higher score. Among the other reviewers (for various vintages), you can check out Kurt of Whiskey Reviewer, Thomas of Whisky Saga, and Josh the Whiskey Jug for very positive scores. More moderate praise comes from Serge of Whisky Fun, with the lowest scores from the guys at Quebec Whisky. Jim Murray is historically very variable on this whisky, but hasn’t reviewed the recent batches.

SWISS Senator Lounge, Terminal E, Zurich, Switzerland

I don’t normally write reviews of Business Class lounges – since the whisky collection is usually pretty minimal and inconsistent. But this is my first experience of finding a fully-stocked whisky selection that rivals dedicated whisky bars, so I thought I would share.

When traveling in Europe, I find Lufthansa Senator lounges pretty decent experiences, and better than most Business Class lounges (including Lufthansa’s own Business lounges). But a whole new experience for me was the SWISS Senator Lounge in the Terminal E building of the Zürich Flughafen (ZRH) airport.

While SWISS International Airlines is a member of Star Alliance, only some of their  lounges in Zurich are open to non-SWISS flight passengers. They recently built a suite of new super high-end lounges in the Terminal E building, including an exclusive First Lounge, the Senator Lounge (open to Star Alliance Gold), and a regular Business Lounge (which is appended to the Senator lounge). They are located on the 3rd floor (with elevator access), close to Gate E37, and are open from 06:00 – 22:30.

Access is a bit complicated – this Senator Lounge E is open to First Class passengers on SWISS, Lufthansa and Star Alliance, as well as frequent fliers who hold status as HON Circle, Miles & More Senator, and Star Alliance Gold. Regular Business Class passengers on any of the above airlines without such status don’t have access to the Senator Lounge E, only the smaller Business Lounge.

The Senator Lounge E has a lot going for it – great food (personal chef to make an egg breakfast however you would like), very spacious design and set up (including outdoor seating area), and all the usual amenities (showers, business workstations, etc.). But what really distinguishes the Senator Lounge is the “Whisky Club 28/10” – a whisky Bar with a choice of over 200 whiskies.

Surprisingly to me, this whisky bar is open the whole time the lounge is (I was there at 07:30 last week), with a server on duty.  The whisky bar is also complimentary – there is no charge for any of the whiskies on hand. Over 180 were on display, shown below, with more out of site behind the bar.  Depending on your browser, doube-click or right-click on any of the images below, and then view image (should take you to my photobucket account, where you can zoom in to see higher resolution pics of all the visible bottles).

As you would expect, the bar is well stocked with entry-level bottles from across the world of malt whiskies, blends and bourbons. Impressively, most of the single malts have age statements (typically in the 10-16 year old range). There are some older bottles interspersed, including some independent bottlings (i.e., several Signatory, in the ~19-21 year old range).  It’s also a great place to try out Swiss whiskies as well (16 bottles on hand).

Given the early hour, I only sampled two. 😉  Reviews coming soon.

If you are traveling through Zurich and have appropriate status (or are traveling First Class), it is well worth checking out. Note that if you are not departing from Terminal E, there is a passport control station and a subway connecting you to the main terminal. So you would need to give yourself plenty of time to make your connection back and forth to the main terminal A/D gates.

You can read a full review of this lounge – with detailed pics of all the amenities – from one of the well-known airport lounge bloggers, the Points Guy. I agree with his take on this lounge.

Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Distillery Edition

The Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Distillery Edition (sometimes incorrectly referred to as Distillers Edition) was first released a couple of years ago.  While considered a “special release”, in some jurisdictions it is available as a regular member of the standard age line-up, along with the 12 and 18 year-old expressions. Not generally available in the US, it can be found here at the LCBO for $95 CAD,and I often come across it in international airport duty-free shops in my travels (along with a lot of NAS travel retail-only bottlings of Glenfiddich).

Like the standard 12 and 18 year-old expressions, this 15 year old Distillery Edition it is meant to be an unvarnished expression of the distillery’s character. That is, these three expressions all come from an undisclosed a mix of mainly ex-bourbon barrels with some sherry casks, with no additional finishing. That said, I personally find the 18 yo typically has a more noticeable sherry component in the mix than either the 12 yo or this 15 yo bottling. The 15 year old Distillery Edition is bottled at a higher than usual 51.0% ABV.

Note that this edition is not to be confused with the more common Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Solera Edition. That expression differs from the standard line by their use of a modified version of the sherry solera system.  I can say I’m an expert on the topic, but I understand that the way it works (simplified) is that whiskies from sherry, ex-bourbon, and ex-bourbon hybrids casks (i.e., ones transferred into new oak cask for some period of time) are mixed in a giant “solera” vat. This vat contains whisky from previous batches, and is never emptied completely – as batches are drawn from the vat, more whisky is poured in. The end result is a slightly different profile, compared to the standard age statement line of Glenfiddichs.

Here is how the 15 Year Old Distillery Edition compares to other whiskies in my Metacritic database, starting with other Glenfiddichs:

Glenfiddich 1963 Original Malt: 8.27 ± 0.47 on 7 reviews ($$$$)
Glenfiddich Malt Master’s Edition: 8.30 ± 0.30 on 7 reviews ($$$$)
Glenfiddich 12yo: 8.09 ± 0.24 on 23 reviews ($$$)
Glenfiddich 14yo Bourbon Barrel Reserve: 8.43 ± 0.16 on 6 reviews ($$$$)
Glenfiddich 14yo Rich Oak: 8.60 ± 0.32 on 9 reviews ($$$)
Glenfiddich 15yo Distillery Edition: 8.71 ± 0.31 on 12 reviews ($$$$)
Glenfiddich 15yo Solera: 8.59 ± 0.25 on 23 reviews ($$$$)
Glenfiddich 18yo: 8.57 ± 0.38 on 17 reviews ($$$$$)

As you can see, this is the highest ranking Glenfiddich among the entry-level NAS and younger age statement expressions. It also scores near the top of all similarly-priced unpeated 15 yo expressions in my database, as shown below for a representative sample.

Caol Ila 15yo Unpeated: 8.54 ± 0.40 on 8 reviews ($$$$$)
Dalmore 15yo: 8.33 ± 0.50 on 17 reviews ($$$$)
Dalwhinnie 15yo: 8.69 ± 0.34 on 18 reviews ($$$$)
Glencadam 15yo: 8.45 ± 0.41 on 10 reviews ($$$$)
GlenDronach 15yo Revival: 8.91 ± 0.28 on 19 reviews ($$$$)
Glenfarclas 15yo: 8.70 ± 0.24 on 16 reviews ($$$$)
Glengoyne 15yo: 8.48 ± 0.54 on 9 reviews ($$$$)
Glenlivet 15yo French Oak: 8.38 ± 0.25 on 17 reviews ($$$$)
Tobermory 15yo: 8.54 ± 0.33 on 13 reviews ($$$$$)

Given this level of support for the 15yo Distilery Edition, I had high hopes going into this tasting (sampled from a friend’s recently opened bottle). Let’s see what I find in the glass:

Nose: Classic Glenfiddich nose, with green apple and some pear (apple juice always comes to mind). Some citrus (orange) and banana. Caramel and vanilla sweetness. Floral notes, but nothing I can specifically identify. A bit nutty.  Even more caramel with water. Pleasant, like a more developed version of the standard 12 yo.

Palate: Sweet, same fruits as the nose. Some additional honey and butterscotch now. Also pepper and general wood spice. Indeed, palate is more “oaky” all the way around (i.e., both the sweet vanillins and bitter/spicey wood elements).  Silky texture to the mouthfeel, but a bit hot thanks to that higher 51% ABV.  Adding water lightens the texture, but it still remains surprisingly “ethanol” hot (i.e., has a kick to it).

Glenfiddich.15.DistilleryFinish: Medium. General sweetness lingers, but is overtaken by the oaky bitterness. Wood spice and pepper continues. A bit astringent (i.e., some mouth pucker).

Classic Glenfiddich character comes through, enhanced by the higher ABV.  I like the greater intensity over the standard 12 yo, but I find this one a touch too oaky for my tastes.  Personally, I prefer the slightly more interesting 18 yo expression. But I think this would make a good move for fans of the common 12 yo seeking more character and flavour, within a comparable profile.

The biggest fans of this whisky are Andre and Patrick of Quebec Whisky, Jim Murray, Oliver of Dramming and Michael of Diving for Pearls. Personally, my own assessment is more in line with Serge of Whisky Fun and My Annoying Opinions, who both give it a below average score. The lowest scoring review I’ve seen is from Ralfy.

Masterson’s 12 Year Old Straight Wheat

I have previously reviewed Masterson’s 10 year old Straight Rye and Straight Barley editions, and am now closing the loop with their slightly older Straight Wheat whisky. Like the other Masterson’s, this is sourced solely from Canadian whisky (likely Alberta Distillers again). Please see those earlier reviews for a discussion of Masterson’s history and production.

As a straight whisky, this 12 Year Old Straight Wheat is aged entirely in new charred oak barrels. It is also a pure wheat whisky (i.e., 100% wheat). While I am generally a fan of “wheaters” (i.e., American bourbons with a relatively high proportion of wheat in the mashbill), I’ve never experienced a true 100% wheat whisky before.

Bottled at 50% ABV. Note that this is not a regular expression for Masterson’s, and it is hard to find now. My sample came from from the first release, and was provided as part of a swap with redditor blaw84.

Here are how the various Masterson’s whiskies compare in my Whisky Database, relative to other wheated whiskies.

Masterson’s Straight Rye 10yo: 8.88 ± 0.41 on 17 reviews ($$$$)
Masterson’s Straight Wheat 12yo: 8.63 ± 0.23 on 9 reviews ($$$$)
Masterson’s Straight Barley 10yo: 8.58 ± 0.61 on 7 reviews ($$$$)

1792 Sweet Wheat Bourbon: 8.65 ± 0.21 on 7 reviews ($$$$)
Bernheim Original Straight Wheat 7yo Small Batch: 8.46 ± 0.54 on 18 reviews ($$)
Larceny Small Batch Bourbon: 8.37 ± 0.25 on 10 reviews ($$)
Maker’s Mark: 8.23 ± 0.43 on 22 reviews ($$)
Maker’s Mark 46: 8.76 ± 0.33 on 15 reviews ($$$)
Maker’s Mark Cask Strength: 8.71 ± 0.39 on 9 reviews ($$$$)
Old Fitzgerald Kentucky Straight Bourbon: 8.42 ± 0.52 on 6 reviews ($$)
Old Fitzgerald BiB: 7.98 ± 0.39 on 4 reviews ($$$)
Old Rip Van Winkle 10yo: 9.03 ± 0.21 on 8 reviews ($$$$$+)
Old Weller Antique 107: 8.68 ± 0.41 on 10 reviews ($$)
Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve Bourbon 15yo: 9.24 ± 0.24 on 10 reviews ($$$$$+)
Parker’s Heritage 4th 10yo Wheated Mash Bill Bourbon: 9.09 ± 0.22 on 5 reviews ($$$$$+)
Parker’s Heritage 8th 13yo Wheat Whiskey: 8.77 ± 0.54 on 8 reviews ($$$$$+)
Rebel Yell Kentucky Bourbon: 7.60 ± 0.59 on 11 reviews ($)
Van Winkle Special Reserve 12yo Lot B: 8.69 ± 0.18 on 7 reviews ($$$$$+)
W.L. Weller 12yo: 8.87 ± 0.25 on 12 reviews ($$$$$)
W.L. Weller Special Reserve: 8.43 ± 0.40 on 11 reviews ($)
William Larue Weller: 9.18 ± 0.25 on 11 reviews ($$$$$+)

Like the Straight Barley edition, this Straight Wheat gets a lower average score than the Straight Rye – but far more consistently from reviewers.  Let’s see what I find in the glass:

Colour: One of the lightest whiskies I’ve seen, on part with younger Arran and AnCnoc malts.

Nose: Very grain forward, but in a pleasant way. Vanilla. Not very fruity, but with some light dried fruits, and a bit of orange peel. Woody and earthy, it is a bit soapy – with a touch of dry glue (unfortunately). Not much heat for 50% ABV, and not as spicy as I was expecting for a 12 year old straight whisky. With water, the sweet notes are accentuated (with maybe a bit of honey), and I’m getting some light fresh berries.

Palate:  Delicate on initial approach, with light vanilla and caramel notes. Citrus is still there, but not a lot of fruit. Getting some rye-like spices now, especially cloves. Woody notes are quite strong, with tons of menthol and eucalyptus on the way out. Also some anise. Light mouthfeel for 50% ABV, with just a bit of tongue tingle. Easy to sip neat. Water brings up the rye-like spices (adds cinnamon), and imparts a creamier sensation. I recommend adding a few drops.

Finish: Medium short, buttery finish – with a strong baked goods sensation (shortbread cookies come to mind). A bit of bitterness initially, and some astringency builds over time (but not unpleasant).

This is interesting, as it is something quite different from most other Canadian or American whiskies.  Reminds me of some of the pure grain whiskies, like Nikka Coffey Grain or Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky, or Century Reserve 21 yo here in Canada.  A bit less character than the Nikka, but also fewer off notes.  I suspect most would find this an interesting oddity, but it’s not really an everyday sipper. I do recommend you add a little water – but go easy, as the delicate flavours can be easily drowned out.

Most reviewers give this a pretty middle-of-the-road review, including Davin of Whisky Advocate, Andre of Quebec Whisky, Jim Murray, Chip the Rum Howler and Jake of Whiskey Reviewer. The most positive I’ve seen is Patrick of Quebec Whisky. The least positive reviews I’ve seen come of Martin of Quebec Whisky and Jason of In Search of Elegance. I would say I fall into this latter camp as well – it is not offensive, but not something I would go out of my way to try again.

Masterson’s 10 Year Old Straight Barley

I have sampled plenty of Irish single pot still whiskies, where a mix of malted and unmalted barley is distilled together (in a copper pot still). But this is a first for me – a 100% unmalted barley whisky.

Typically, malted barley is used in whisky production, where the malting process activates native enzymes, breaking down long-chain starch molecules into more easily digestable sugars (necessary for yeast to work their magic in creating ethanol).  Unmalted barley can be added into the mash (as in the case of Irish whiskies) to introduce some “green” (aka tropical) fruits flavours. Interesting, this was originally a tax dodge used in the production of Irish whiskies, but is enjoying a particular resurgence today in the hands of Middleton.

But back to the topic at hand. This whisky is part of the Masterson’s family of whiskies produced by 35 Maple Street in the US – but actually made by Alberta Distillers in Canada. Which explains a few things, as Alberta distillers makes their own enzymes for unmalted whiskies (which is necessary here). I have previously reviewed Masterson’s 100% straight rye whisky (which is similarly unmalted) – the signature product from this producer.

As I understand it, the original spirit used in Masterson’s Straight Barley was distilled in a beer column still, then re-distilled in a stainless steel pot still (which is a bit of a different process). Sold as a “straight” whisky in the U.S., it must have been barreled and aged in virgin American Oak.

Here are how the various Masterson’s whiskies compare in my Whisky Database, relative to Irish pot still whiskies and North American malt whiskies.

Masterson’s Straight Rye 10yo: 8.88 ± 0.41 on 17 reviews ($$$$)
Masterson’s Straight Wheat 12yo: 8.63 ± 0.23 on 9 reviews ($$$$)
Masterson’s Straight Barley 10yo: 8.58 ± 0.61 on 7 reviews ($$$$)

Bushmills 10yo Single Malt: 8.18 ± 0.30 on 19 reviews ($$$)
Bushmills 16yo Single Malt: 8.48 ± 0.48 on 16 reviews ($$$$)
Copperworks American Single Malt: 8.60 ± 0.24 on 4 reviews ($$$)
FEW Single Malt: 8.44 ± 0.53 on 6 reviews ($$$$)
Glen Breton 10yo Single Malt: 8.03 ± 0.45 on 13 reviews ($$$$)
Glen Breton 14yo Single Malt: 8.08 ± 0.62 on 6 reviews ($$$$)
Glen Breton 15yo Single Malt: 8.53 ± 0.27 on 7 reviews ($$$$$)
Green Spot: 8.49 ± 0.38 on 16 reviews ($$$$)
Parker’s Heritage 9th 8yo Malt Whiskey: 8.41 ± 0.55 on 5 reviews ($$$$$)
Powers 12yo John’s Lane: 8.82 ± 0.39 on 14 reviews ($$$$)
Redbreast 12yo: 8.75 ± 0.41 on 21 reviews ($$$)
Redbreast 15yo: 8.74 ± 0.26 on 13 reviews ($$$$)
Stalk & Barrel Single Malt (All Casks): 8.27 ± 0.41 on 12 reviews ($$$)
Teeling Single Malt: 8.47 ± 0.34 on 7 reviews ($$$$)
Westland American Single Malt: 8.57 ± 0.35 on 11 reviews ($$$$)
Writers Tears Pot Still Irish Whiskey: 8.49 ± 0.34 on 16 reviews ($$)
Yellow Spot: 8.78 ± 0.27 on 14 reviews ($$$$)

First thing you will notice is that the standard deviation of scores on the Masterson’s Straight Barley is higher than usual, which is always an interesting signal.

My sample comes from Jason Hambrey of In Search of Elegance, and was from the first batch bottled in 2014.

Bottled at 46% ABV, with 10 year old age statement. Here is what I find in the glass:

Colour: Golden apple juice.

Nose: Incredibly herbal – reminds me more of some gins that I’ve tried than whisky. Not woody exactly – more plant-like (bamboo maybe?). Mint. Dill. Very earthy, with moist earth notes and cedar chips. All kinds of exotic spices, like cardamon, caraway seeds, anise – and tons more that I can’t identify. Baking spices too, but much beyond the all-spice level. All-dressed bagels (Montrealers will know what I mean). Some caramel. Fruit compose, with stewed apples.  This is an unbelievable nose – I’ve never come across a whisky like this before.

Palate: Caramel and vanilla initially. Sweet and soft in the mouth (like mineralized soft water). Same exotic spice notes from the nose return at the end, along with the baking spices and a heady rush of spearmint and menthol. Rye bread. Pepper. Earthy, with peanut shells. Yowza, this is a unique whisky! And it tastes much like it smells. Doesn’t need any water (although it ups the caramel sweetness slightly if you do). Easily drinkable at 46% ABV.

Finish: Long and lingering, with many of the earlier notes making a reappearance over time. A bit musty. Ends with the earthy herbal notes, dill weed and spearmint in particular. A bit anesthetizing on the tongue (flavour fatigue perhaps?).

I will definitely be keeping an eye out to see if this ever comes back – what are an incredible herbal rush! Seems more like some sort of natural product medicine than a whisky.  Mackmyra First Edition was the first thing that really brought in some noticeable herbal notes for me (more juniper in that case) – but this is completely over the top in comparison.  A tough one to score, I would personally give it in the high eights – incredibly complex, and not a gentle sipper by any means. May be too much character frankly, but it is always a treat to come across a quality product that is so unlike anything else on the market.

And again, why is Alberta Distillers not releasing these sorts of products into the local market? It blows away anything they produce under the Alberta Premium/Alberta Springs brand.

For further reviews of this whisky, it is really a love it or hate it proposition. Davin of Whisky Advocate, Jason of In Search of Elegance and Andre of Quebec Whisky all love it. Patrick of Quebec Whisky, Chip the Rum Howler and Jake of Whiskey Reviewer would all take a pass on this one.  Personally, I’m in the first camp with the fans. This expression is not currently available, but if you ever get the chance to try it, I recommend you go for it (but wouldn’t suggest picking up a bottle without tasting it first, given the polarizing views).

Bushmills Black Bush

Bushmills Black Bush is another example of an inexpensive blended Irish whisky – but it is in a different league from its entry-level little brother, Bushmills Original Blended.

As I explained in my Bushmills Original review, Bushmills blends single malt whisky with column-distilled grain whisky (just like blended scotch).  In the case of Black Bush though, the malt component makes up a greater relative proportion of the blend compared to regular Bushmills, or to other blends at this price point (i.e., I’ve seen up to 80% malt reported online for Black Bush).

The malt component of Black Bush is a mix of Oloroso sherry casks and ex-bourbon casks. This should add some sherried sweetness into the mix – another unusual feature at this price point.  The whisky has no official age statement, but I’ve seen differing reports online that the base malt has being been aged for “up to 7 years” or for “8-10 years” before blending with the grain. None of that is mentioned on the label though, so all such claims should be taken with a grain of salt.

Bottled at the standard 40% ABV, it is currently $37 CAD at the LCBO (compared to $32 for Bushmills original).

Let’s see how it does in my Meta-Critic whisky database compared to other Bushmills, and some other just-above entry-level Irish whiskies:

Bushmills 10yo Single Malt: 8.17 ± 0.30 on 19 reviews ($$$)
Bushmills 16yo Single Malt: 8.48 ± 0.48 on 16 reviews ($$$$)
Bushmills 21yo Single Malt: 8.93 ± 0.34 on 11 reviews ($$$$$)
Bushmills Black Bush: 8.35 ± 0.40 on 20 reviews ($$)
Bushmills Original Blended: 7.63 ± 0.49 on 15 reviews ($$)

Glendalough Double Barrel: 8.29 ± 0.40 on 5 reviews ($$)
Jameson Caskmates Stout Edition: 8.27 ± 0.48 on 8 reviews ($$)
Jameson Select Reserve (Black Barrel): 8.37 ± 0.38 on 17 reviews ($$)
Teeling Small Batch (Rum Cask Finish): 8.31 ± 0.41 1on 9 reviews ($$)
The Irishman Original Clan Irish Whiskey: 8.15 ± 0.22 on 4 reviews ($$)
The Irishman Founder’s Reserve: 8.32 ± 0.38 on 6 reviews ($$)

Bushmills Black Bush is getting a very reasonable score for the price.

Here is what I find in the glass:

Nose: Light, with a touch of sherry (red fruits, raisins) along with some light fruits (apple, pear). A bit of apple cider. Sweet, but not artificially so (as I found on the original blended) – more your classic vanilla here. Certainly a lot more malty, which is nice. No real alcohol burn or off notes.

Palate: Mild, with even less fruit showing up now – but more of the vanilla and caramel. Touch of baking spices, and baked goods in general (i.e., a bit cakey, maybe stewed apples). Thin body, with no real burn – somewhat watery mouthfeel. Certainly nothing offensive about it, but not much to really recommend it either. Would be better at higher proof.

Bushmills.Black.BushFinish: Short. Same notes as nose and palate, fading out without any real off notes.

This is definitely better than Bushmills Original blended, you could actually drink this one neat (although you are likely to find it a bit boring). For the extra $5 CAD, I would say this one is a no-brainer – Black Bush is a much nicer experience than the Original blended.

That said, I still think the average Meta-Critic score is a bit overly generous here. I would score it lower than the Meta-Critic – but then, I was also harder on the basic Bushmills Original too.

A number of reviewers really like this one, including Ralfy, jim Murray, Nathan the Scotch Noob, Jason of In Search of Elegance, and and Jan of Best Shot Whisky. Personally, I’m more in keeping with Oliver of Dramming and Thomas of Whisky Saga. One of the lowest scores I’ve seen is from Serge of Whisky Fun.

Bruichladdich 21 Year Old Cuvée 640 Eroica

Bruichladdich Cuvée 640 was the first of three whiskies released under the distillery’s Cuvée series, which are finished in a range of specialty casks. This edition 640 is entitled Eroica, and was aged primarily in American oak before being finished in Limousin oak brandy casks (i.e., French oak cognac casks).

The Cuvee series seems to be a little fanciful, given the unusual titles. Eroica (‘Heroic’ in english) is presumably a reference to Beethoven’s 3rd symphony (a great piece of music, by the way). This symphony was apparently intended as a tribute to Napolean – so I’m guessing this is the tenuous connection to the use of cognac casks here.

Bruichladdich has also provided subtitles to each release – in this case, ‘Oh mensch! Gieb acht! Was spricht die tiefe mitternacht?’, which is the opening line from a song in Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra (which Google Translate renders as: ‘Oh man! Take care! What is the deep midnight?’). FYI, this influential philosophical novel addressed among other things the concept of ‘eternal return’ (i.e., that all existence is recurring). I suppose this could be a veiled reference to re-using specialty casks for finishing whisky – but if so, I find it an ironic one, given this series is a limited release. 😉

Although an Islay producer, many of Bruichladdich’s offerings are based on unpeated malt – including these Cuvee editions.  Bottled at 46% ABV, this release was originally available for ~$140 CAD, from what I understand.  My sample was provided by the Redditor xile_, as a mystery sample swap.

Here is how it compares to similar offerings, and Bruichladdich’s unpeated range:

Bruichladdich 21yo Cuvée 382 La Berenice: 8.57 ± 0.61 on 5 reviews ($$$$$)
Bruichladdich 21yo Cuvée 407 PX: 8.98 ± 0.20 on 3 reviews ($$$$$+)
Bruichladdich 21yo Cuvée 640 Eroica: 8.72 ± 0.40 on 8 reviews ($$$$$)
Bruichladdich Classic Laddie Scottish Barley: 8.39 ± 0.44 on 8 reviews ($$$)
Bruichladdich Laddie Classic (Edition 01): 8.42 ± 0.56 on 6 reviews ($$$)
Bruichladdich Laddie Ten: 8.82 ± 0.30 on 16 reviews ($$$)
Bruichladdich Laddie Ten (Second Edition): 8.89 ± 0.27 on 7 reviews ($$$)
Bruichladdich Laddie Sixteen: 8.75 ± 0.22 on 12 reviews ($$$$)
Bruichladdich Laddie Twenty Two: 8.85 ± 0.25 on 10 reviews ($$$$$)
Bruichladdich Rocks: 8.36 ± 0.30 on 10 reviews ($$$$)
Bruichladdich Sherry Classic: 8.25 ± 0.86 on 6 reviews ($$$$)

Aberlour 16yo Double Cask Matured: 8.71 ± 0.18 on 12 reviews ($$$$)
Arran Malt Napoleon Cognac Finish: 8.70 ± 0.73 on 5 reviews ($$$$)
Glenlivet 15yo French Oak: 8.38 ± 0.25 on 17 reviews ($$$$)
Macallan 15yo Fine Oak: 8.38 ± 0.52 on 10 reviews ($$$$$)
Macallan 17yo Fine Oak: 8.80 ± 0.55 on 9 reviews ($$$$$)
Macallan 18yo Fine Oak: 8.82 ± 0.31 on 12 reviews ($$$$$)
Macallan 21yo Fine Oak: 8.52 ± 0.40 on 6 reviews ($$$$$+)
Macallan 25yo Fine Oak: 8.64 ± 0.24 on 3 reviews ($$$$$+)
Macallan Edition No. 1: 8.81 ± 0.47 on 8 reviews ($$$$$)
Macallan Edition No. 2: 8.81 ± 0.24 on 8 reviews ($$$$$)
Millstone 8yo French Oak: 7.95 ± 0.67 on 4 reviews ($$$$)
Sullivans Cove Double Cask: 8.28 ± 0.52 on 13 reviews ($$$$)
Sullivans Cove French Oak: 8.67 ± 0.28 on 8 reviews ($$$$$+)

The Cuvee series expressions are well ranked, as you might expect from their age and price.

Here is what I find in the glass:

Colour: Golden amber, with a slight brownish tinge (suggesting the cask finishing).

Nose: Honey and vanilla sweetness, with apple, pear and peach fruit notes (peach marmalade/cobbler). Definitely has that unpeated Islay “funk” – it is hard to describe, but is distinctive. Grassy, and something that could be hay (wet hay, specifically). Chocolate, coffee and a touch of mint. Some faint anise. A bit of nose hair singe, more than I would expect for 46% ABV. Although there is no smoke, you can’t shake the impression that it is hiding in the background somewhere. A good nose for me.

Palate: Sweet apple initially (apple juice), then lots of honey, marshmallow, and vanilla. Same orchard fruits as the nose, plus apricot now. Spicy, with cinnamon and a good hit of pepper giving it some zing. Malty and grassy. Chocolate and coffee notes really pick up at the end. Slightly oily and chewy – good mouthfeel. A slight antiseptic note slips over the tongue at the end – and that Islay funk again (but still no smoke).

Finish: Medium finish.  Sweeter notes slowly fade, as some oaky bitterness creeps in over time. Pepper lasts the longest. Something a bit earthy/nutty comes up at the end (and that funk again).

With water, no new fruits appear, but it sweetens up in the mouth with pancake syrup and brown sugar. It also brings up the chocolate and cinnamon spice further.

To be honest, I would have expected more fruit from the cognac here. Instead, it is really the French oak wood character that comes through. As Serge of Whisky Fun also noted, “very little Cognac but maybe a few spicy notes that hint at French oak … so less fruits and more grass.” Definitely has a lot of spicy peppery zing to it.

This is an interesting pairing of the Bruichladdich core with French oak casks. I’ve been meaning to start trying more Bruichladdies, and this has just reinforced that idea. It could use a little more fruit character throughout, so I think the Meta-Critic average score is reasonable for this one (and if anything, is a bit high).

It gets very mixed reviews from the guys at Quebec Whisky, with Patrick and Martin as fans, but Andre and RV less impressed. Serge at Whisky Fun also gives it a middle-of-the-road review. Among the most favourable reviews on Reddit are from t8ke, unclimbability and xile_ – but my own quality assessment is closer to cjotto9.

 

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