Colour: Full Gold
This is the danger we face today as whisky enthusiasts. When drama and flair overtake the fundamentals of quality. That by building a story and dressing it up in tassels becomes the only way to pander a product.
And Mr Richard Paterson is a master of this craft, I must admit. So much so that I think he believes him self too.
Unveiled at a tasting recently amid much fanfare and oohs and aahs this gloriously packaged 600GBP bottle is a sight for sore eyes. But sight is the only sense it stimulates.
Nose: The expected nose of chocolate gravy and rum cake, black peppercorns, orange peel and grated ginger greet you in one massive THUD! No complexity. No layers. Just a square blow to your face.
Palate: The equally one dimensional and medium bodied palate is chocolate sweet and peppercorn spicy but does introduce a fig in a cigar box quality to it.
Finish: The medium finish is spicy and retains that cigar box touch.
Look, I don’t mind this whisky but if you’re going to set it up so high you better deliver. But the ultimate victory belongs to the marketeers who know there’s enough people out there who will gladly shell out this kind of money just to parade this in front of formal company.
And that’s the danger.
Distillery/Brand: Glen Elgin
Colour: Pale Straw
I don’t mind whiskies like this one. There’s not much fanfare. They choose to remain understated and deliver above your expectations.
Primarily a distillery that produces malts for blending giants Diageo, Glen Elgin has a charming expression in this 12 year old.
A bright nose with sparkling fruits – like a fruit salad dropped in an aerated drink complemented by a faint layer of cherry licorice and musky mens’ cologne. Nice.
A no-nonsense palate if a touch one-dimensional. Toffee and banana caramel sprinkled with white spices. Maybe a touch of limestone. Not very intense.
A medium finish also a bit spicy and a touch chalky.
When you don’t expect a lot you can be pleasantly surprised. A morning whisky if there is one.
The Springbank is part of my ongoing fascination with Campbeltown whiskies. For no particular reason I am just fascinated by this region. It’s like having a love affair with someone difficult. You are crushed when they fail you but their triumphs fill you with delight.
While this 18 year old does not exactly set the night on fire it is a beautiful whisky with a unique earthy quality.
Nose: Lightly peated with a touch of smoke the nose is dominated by wild red berries sprinkled with salt. The sherry influence is warm and earthy giving it a peculiar dusty quality. And finally there is that musky aftershave. I wouldn’t mind splashing this one on after a morning shave.
Palate: Quite a strong oily mouthfeel – confident without overpowering. The earthy sherry is back and it brings with it the berries. Then some figs and raisins with a sprinkle of all-spice.
Finish: The finish is oily too with that familiar earthiness and musky overtones. Wait. Scratch that. I get Coca Cola. I swear.
Another subtly unique gem from C’town.
I recently spent an evening with Whyte & Mackay Master Blender Mr Richard Paterson and I have to say he’s a hell of a character. You can’t help but like him. He’s a great story teller and you’re forced to hang on to his every word. Such is the mans’ charms.
Of course a lot of what he says is carefully manufactured marketing sell-points but one tends to look past that and enjoy the show. However, his whiskies should not be judged by the same standards. Especially if you’re shelling out in excess of GBP2000 for a bottle.
Which is what this 1992 Vintage from The Constellation series costs. But I will judge this spirit independent of it’s price tag.
Matured for 10 years in 1991 First Fill Kentucky Bourbon QA casks and then 9 years in a 2002 European Oak, Port Pipe you can expect the nose to be super sweet. There is marmalade, chocolate, marzipan, squishy plums, candied orange with grated ginger and a sprinkle of crushed almonds. Very intense.
The palate explodes with dark chocolate, grapes, cloves and a smear of that all too familiar orange marmalade. The high ABV helps in making the flavors even more intense.
The finish is long with woody spices, nutmeg and, yes, that orange marmalade once again.
Now let me tell you that this is a very good whisky. It comes at you strongly and refuses to let up.
But the burning question is whether it’s worth the price tag.
To display on your shelf to impress your friends? Certainly.
To drink? Certainly not.
Distillery/Brand: Compass Box
Colour: Young Sauternes
Compass Box are known for their unusual flavor profiles and their magnificent packaging. Sometimes they fall short but mostly they hit it out of the park. And this one has home-run written all over it.
A marriage of three different single malts, aged in American and French oak this has possibly one of the most complex noses found on a blended whisky.
The smoky peat, black salt and diesel hits you first. The sweetness comes through next on the back of marzipans dipped in creamy chocolate syrup in a stew of apples with a drizzle of pineapple citrus. Finally a touch of cigar box and tamarind for that extra layer of complexity.
The silky smooth delivery is chocolate sweet with candied orange brittle held together by that wonderfully balanced peaty smoke.
The oily finish is as complex as the nose with woody cinnamon on sandalwood and something a smidge bitter.
I would love to know what went into making this gem!
Bottling: Chivas Century of Malts
These drink giants are known for their marketing gimmicks and will do anything to get rid of stock lying around. And I was pretty sure this expression with 100 single malts was just that.
I was wrong.
It has a lovely fruity nose with tangerines, honey melon and pomegranate seeds. All clumped together with sticky toffee and candied fruits. Finished off with a touch of wood, fresh cucumbers and a hint of smoke.
The palate has all that the nose had on offer. But with it comes a creamy limestone chocolate quality with a wisp of smoky peat. Very, very nice.
The finish is long and satisfying with a touch of wood and cherry cinnamon.
If this is a gimmick it’s certainly a successful one!