Category Archives: 1 – Highly Recommend

SMWS – 93.47 Seaweed, Sushi and Arbroath Smokies (59.7%)

SMWS-93-47I belong to a couple members-only whisky clubs, now, and my one barbed criticism of them overall has to be the shipping. I’ve bought bottles from public storefronts in England that made it to my door in four days without expediting the package, yet a bottle from a member’s-only club in the US can take up to a month.

At the risk of inciting a debate about Federalism, part of the problem lies with individual state’s rights. The repeal of prohibition saw some states choose to require extra licenses, moderate the quantity that can be sold, or place other restrictions on how and if alcohol can be delivered within their borders. It’s no easy task to navigate the labyrinth of individual regulations, three-tier distribution systems, and Alcoholic Beverage Control boards. Here, the SMWS has a wholesaler mail the whisky to a retailer when you order, and then you wait for that retailer to mail the bottle to you. Bureaucracy, saving us from the terror of economical shipping.

Slow shipping times are not entirely a state induced problem, though. Clubs like these tend to be staffed by very small teams of people. You might find yourself waiting ten days or more for the next batch of orders to come together before your bottle ever makes it into the first box. Even the package of three 100mL samples that the SMWS sends you when you join is preceded by a welcome letter, a week after joining, warning you it might take another four to six weeks for the samples to arrive. If there are small hold-ups over the many legs of the journey, they’ll quickly add up, so they give themselves a wide window. That can really take some of the luxury shine off of it, especially if you’re planning to buy a bottle for a special occasion and expect it to arrive before 11% of the entire year has passed. Understandably, they don’t advertise this detail before you join, either.

Charles Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol” in six weeks. You can grow radishes from seed in six weeks. You could sleep for 14 hours a day and and still walk from New Orleans to New York City in six weeks. There are few things more delicious than a muffaletta and the idea someone could deliver one from Central Grocery to New York on foot before a world famous club can deliver a single bottle to Connecticut makes me feel bad for myself. Thankfully, the first order took just under three weeks to arrive (the muffaletta would have only made it to Virginia), but my third order took almost seven.

Keep Calm and Wait Four to Six WeeksNow, is it worth the wait?  Let me say that this whisky right here is freaking awesome! In food, flavor rules. The best tasting preparation shouldn’t be determined by the length of time it takes to execute, it should be determined by the end result, and that tenet could easily be translated over to mail order whisky. Quality matters and there are few other operations selling stuff this good.

This 9 year old Glen Scotia from a refill barrel is top tier stuff. Plainly put, it doesn’t get much better than this. My love for the whisky juxtaposed with the excruciating delivery times has certainly put in me in a quandary and made me spend more time than I’d like to, wondering if it’s all really worth. It is, but I still wish I lived in the UK where it only takes two weeks.

Nose: Sultry iodine and calamari coddle the sweet and tangy peat. Clean but with heaps of kiwi fruit over sun-baked asphalt and a few, melted chocolate chips. Minerally, like ice cubes that have been sitting in your freezer for a little too long. Gentle, pecan and cherry wood smoke, clean-burning, deep and inexplicably rich like it was lit and maintained by a true pit-master with an affinity for chewing mint sprigs as they patiently waited, thanking their lucky stars that great barbecue doesn’t take 6 weeks. It’s a bit like the reclaimed rafters in an ocean side barbecue hall filled with lemon candy wrappers.

Palate: Well-mannered and exceptionally sweet at first. Words can’t describe the balancing act that unfolds; it changes and politely slips around your senses as you indulge. Despite the reserved demeanor, the sweetness still gives the peat the fight of its life for control of the palate. Ocean detritus and sweet berry tarts with creme anglaise duke it out before letting mild pepper and subtle oak quietly clean up the finish.

Rating: Highly RecommendAnother stunning expression. Kudos to the tasting panel! I feel extremely privileged drinking whisky like this; like I’m a member of some sort of exclusive club of whisky drinkers privy to special bottles which very few other people get to enjoy… oh, wait. Yea.

Thank you, Gabrielle Shayne and the US branch of the SMWS, for the sample!

SMWS – 48.29 Satisfyingly Sweet (61%)

SMWS-48-29The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is a member’s-only indie bottler.

One of the first things you’ll notice about their bottles is the strange number/title denomination. To explain, let’s consider 48.29 – Satisfyingly Sweet. The first part of the numerical id is the distillery number and the second part is the cask number. In this convention, 48.29 would be the 29th cask they bottled from the 48th distillery, which in this case, happens to be a 12 year old first-fill barrel. The worded part of the title is meant to describe the whisky and can manifest anywhere between pragmatic to over-enthusiastically whimsical. This one’s title is pretty straightforward, but trying to guess what a Continuous Snowfall of Curiosities tastes like could easily befuddled the unimaginative. Either way, I really dig the style.

The sterile, numerical designation and fun titles focus on the atypical nature of single casks and distracts you, temporarily, from thinking about the official house-style associated with the distillery. It’s not completely anonymous though; for those who can’t stand not-knowing, Google can provide you with a quick list of their distillery codes. According to those sources, this one is from Balmenach.

To an astute whisky drinker the detailed labels and cask pedigree can reveal a lot about what one might expect, but the SMWS goes the extra mile and provides extremely lavish tasting notes to accompany their bottles. Like the titles, the notes can range from romantic vignettes about the contents, to simple stream-of-consciousness flavors and aromas. I enjoyed reading their take on the samples almost as much as I enjoyed drinking them.

Unfortunately, that dreamy fugue quickly turned to anxiety. What could I write that, by comparison, wouldn’t make it painfully obvious I’m a total hack? The official notes are mouth watering! Thankfully, the whisky was so distracting that I quickly forgot there were notes at all.


scotch doge whisky reviews gives it an orange “wow”

Nose: Such sweet. So satisfy. Cherry cheese danish, spearmint leaf jelly candies and watermelon. Chicken fried steak plated over a handful of crystal malt. Like laying in a grassy field as a cool breeze drifts by. Perfume department mannequin. Dusty for moments in between tumultuous, molasses-glazed fruits. Sugar toast and passion fruit.

Palate: It’s peppery, but there’s more than enough sweetness to balance it out. Tangy malic acid. Tingly and cooling like the mint leaf jelly candies from the nose. Mouthwatering with Splenda and Juicy Fruit gum. Pear, pineapple, and kiwi. The Splenda pushes through to the sweet, peppery finish. The finish does most of its work in the mouth and very gently makes it down into the chest.

Rating: Highly RecommendThis is a delicious single cask offering that absolutely lives up to its name, plus, the pseudo-anonymous numbering system sings to my latent, neurotic desire to systematically collect sequential numbers of things.

Thank you, Gabrielle Shayne and the US branch of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, for the sample.

High West – Double Rye! (46%) batch 13H01

High West Double RyeDouble Rye! Shazam!!!

The official title includes the exclamation point but they should have included two more because this stuff is awesome!!! High west does a great job pairing whiskies from disparate sources to make unique products, but in my opinion, all of their blending skill culminates in their rye line-up. Maybe they were lucky and found some extra delicious stocks, but then again, maybe they’re just awesome at blending. I would lean towards the later. Either way, everything about this bottle is stunning.

The whisky is a mix of 2 year old and 16 year old straight rye whiskies. The younger of the two is LDI/MGPI’s 95% rye. The more mature stocks are 53% rye from the Barton 1792 Distillery which used to get funneled into Fleischmann’s. The rest of the mashbill in the 16 year old is corn, making it sweeter and fruitier to contrast the enthusiastically youthful MGPI. It’s the best of both worlds; spicy and sweet, young and old, bold and reserved, yin and yang.

At its average retail, $35, I would buy this up before it goes the way of Black Maple Hill, being filled up with higher priced, mediocre stocks while becoming impossible to find.

ECard Parody

Nose: Pumpernickel, mashed pencils, and black licorice ornaments on a freshly sawn Christmas tree. Polished jump boots filled with pear and rocks. Sweet desert sage and tempered mint. Light juniper sings with a citrus harmony. Melon liqueur and Cocoa Puffs. A few minutes of air finds a bowl of Beefaroni buried under toasted almonds and caramel cubes. Perfect. Goddamn perfect.

Palate: Nicely balanced. It’s the young, punchy rye and the mature, fruity rye mixed together. Crisp celery and juicy raspberry candies under a granite waterfall. Farmy hay couple with sugared lime, orange and lemon zest. Woody grape skins, melon and cooling white pepper flirt with beef. The yellow layer of a #2 pencil and mint rock the finish.

Rating: Highly RecommendI can’t say enough nice things about this whisky. There are so many whiskies out there that are not only worse, but more expensive and harder to find.

Thanks go to Katie Flanagan from High West for the bottle!

Exclusive Malts – Laphroaig – 1990 22yr (47.1%)

Exclusive Malts Laphroaig 1990 22yrI have the same problem every Halloween. The day after, I have a million awesome costume ideas and then September-next-year rolls around, people start planning their parties, invitations go out and all those awesome ideas disappear. Every damn time. The ideas I’m left with always end up making me feel stupid.

Hi! What am I supposed to be? I dunno. Let’s see. Uh, I didn’t shave for a while, soooo… a lumberjack? No, I’m not wearing plaid. Ummmm, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Naw, too political. Ooo, Adam Levine! Yea, that’s clever, right? Gah, I’m too fat… um… Al Borland? Sigh.

I always keep a spare set of regular clothes in the car for when I’m done feeling like an asshole. That’s okay, though; there are better things to focus on here in New England as the weather changes.

Costume ideas for the bearded and lazy...

Halloween ideas for the bearded and lazy

Exclusive Malts found a stunning cask, here. It’s a fall dram for sure. The dried leaves, campfire smoke, warming finish that makes me crave pumpkin pie for some reason; it’s got Halloween written all over it. Even the way it dances across the palate changing mid-way like it just contemptuously ripped off a costume it didn’t like.

Nose: This is a spirit in flux. The first wave, a slight hit of the classic medicated iodine against a lightly fruity berry chapstick. Chemical and sweetness battle, like the first few fragrant steps you take into a hardware store or the inside of a plastic pumpkin full of flavored Tootsie Rolls. Fresh Autumn mud and boiled lime peel fight with hard boiled eggs and roasted fish. A salumi plate with pineapple and fried dough.

Palate: Fresh iodine deliver first, with a finish that takes the whisky in a completely different direction at the last second, bringing savory fennel and citrus stuffed olives. Mild mint treads throughout. Peat smoke expands in the finish with a little white pepper and a subtle (for Laphroaig) medicinal tang. I want this one to last forever… and the finish almost does.

Rating: Highly RecommendThis is everything I want in an October (including impetuous costume removal).

Thank you to Katia at Impex Beverages for the sample!

Exclusive Malts – Tormore – 1984 29yr (51.4%)

Exclusive Malts Tormore 1984 29yrA few weeks ago my great-Aunt Rosemary passed away. At the family reunions she always had the best food. Christmas over her house was magical, almost too magical to have fully appreciated when I was younger. Wave after wave of finger foods until even the fattest among us could barely stand. There were alternating assaults of sweet and savory, breads and olives, meats and cakes. It was awesome.

Right away, smelling this whisky brings me back to the full Italian Christmas spread. It makes me miss Ro’… a lot. Life is short, people. Life is short.

Nose: Jordan almonds(!), walnuts and Italian cookie platters at Christmas – Roccoco, Canali, and Amaretti with the little cherries in the middle. They’re out of place on the platter but there are Fig Newtons, too… and some Red Bull. Next wave is the salumi platter, but I can’t stay long, I’m back for the marzipan and pie crust.

Palate: Almonds followed by a quickly fading peppery blast. Loads of the cookies from the nose, some dipped in chocolate. Hay extract with some grassy notes. I start to taste some mortadella and capicola and then the malt starts to contribute. The echo is all nuttiness, Fig Newtons and sugar cookies at first but after a few sips it transitions to peppery, cured meats.

Rating: Highly RecommendThis is like a warm hug from a family member you wished you spent more time with.


Thank you to Katia over at Impex Beverages for the sample!

Single Cask Nation – Glen Moray – 12yr (56.1%)

SCN Glen MorayThis single malt spent all twelve years in a first-fill ex-Bourbon cask, one which only 148 bottles escaped from, so hurry up! For scale, if you bought one bottle for everyone that works at your local supermarket there very likely wouldn’t be any left.

Glen Moray is considered an economy brand in the official bottle, but it has lots of potential, as illustrated by frequent indie bottlings like this. It’s image as a low cost blending constituent may have had something to do with why it’s previous owner, Glenmorangie, sold it to another French blending house in 2008. I haven’t had any of their official bottlings yet, but judging by this single cask, it’s also possible that they were actually too similar to Glenmorangie and the effort it would have taken to flush out Glen Moray into a luxury brand wouldn’t have added a new dimension to their portfolio.

If you’d like to sample all the Single Cask Nation releases you’ll have a chance to on October 9th and 10th at the Whisky Jewbilee. They have Designated Driver tickets available for $35 now; a commendable offering, in case you don’t feel safe piloting yourself home. That modest cost feeds your driver, and for those of you who don’t want to go stag, it can make it much easier to entice some of your non-whisky friends to join you. If you use the code H2DW13 in the promo code box you can 10% off of your general admission ticket, too!

They will have a new, extremely-limited bottle available at the event, one which will likely sell out quickly: SCN’s first ever Bourbon bottling: a high rye, high proof Heaven Hill. Joshua Hatton was kind enough to share a tiny sip with me at a tasting, and let’s just say I’ll be at the door early and may or mat not be wielding nunchucks to clear the way between me and the list. Check out the crazy awesome label!

SCN Heaven Hill Label

There were only 146 bottles of this awesome Glen Moray, to start. There aren’t even 100 of the Heaven Hill, but getting back to the Glen Moray…

Nose: Lush red grape skins baking in the sun are the first thing that comes to mind. Next streams of honey liqueur and dried apricots. It’s incredibly fruity with light strawberry air-freshener, that yellow melon I always forget the name of and juicy, papaya-drenched malt over a little bit of toffee. Eventually it transitions to sweet cedar.

Palate: Hot, as expected, but not as drying upfront. Mixed berries speed by too quickly to identify. Shark Bites fruit snacks wrapped in fresh grape leaves with a sprinkle of cayenne. A tint bit of pear with a bright, refreshing Honeydew (A-ha!) finish that sticks around.

Rating: Highly RecommendAnother very special offering from the Single Cask Nation. Thank you, Jason Johnstone-Yellin, for the sample!