Welcome to WINE ALAK

Kumusta kayo? The sole aim of this website is to provide you with independent scotch whisky tasting notes. Hopefully, these notes will aid your purchasing decisions.

Writing whisky reviews is an eccentric hobby of mine. Pure and simple. I do not work in the whisky industry and do not accept any form of compensation from any scotch or whisky distiller. Hopefully this post can give you some knowledge about wine (ALAK PA)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Johnnie Walker green Label

The pure malt amongst the Johnnie Walker 'family', bottled at 15 years old. A great gift malt, and a good, sweet but hearty malt with bags of character. The lead malts in this are Talisker, Linkwood, Cragganmore and Caol Ila.

Sold in just a limited number of countries, it has been recommended, by those lucky enough to have experienced it. Named 'Best Blended Malt' by international judges the popularity of and demand for this whisky has grown to such an extent that J.W. can no longer keep it a secret.

This success has led to it being renamed Green Label and joining the core Walker family. It will now be available much more widely to allow more people to share in this exceptional whisky.

Its unique flavour is created by blending only a selection of vibrant 15-year-old malts - whiskies selected for their intense flavours and distinct tones. They are combined in a delicate balance and it is for this reason that the flavour of Green Label seems to change each time you pick up the glass.

This is an outdoors whisky - an external one, a 'natural' one. There's a hint of forest, shore and fruit. Shut your eyes and think about where it takes you. Outdoors, in the woods after rain. Concentrated, intense flavours work together while retaining their individuality. The different elements are in evidence yet also in harmony. It changes every time you pick up the glass.

Green Label is one of those spirits that you learn to appreciate more with every glass – I didn’t appreciate this whisky nearly as much as I did after a few glasses later on a different day when the complexities and the subtle variations were more obvious.

Green Label — a blended malt using only four malts "drawn from the four corners of Scotland" – the intent of the blend is to deliver depth, substance, intensity. Each of the malts is selected by the blender for balance and each malt whisky is matured for a minimum of 15 years

It's Tasting Time

Johnny Walker’s new Double Black Label

Double Black Label — a new addition to the Johnnie Walker Family of Whisky. The whisky was created taking Black Label as a blueprint and adding heavily-peated malts and some aged in deeply charred oak casks

Recently, Johnny Walker unveiled a new delicacy for the discerning whisky connoisseur, the Double Black Blended Scotch. This new blend excellently represents Walker’s brand heritage and further pushes the typical Johnny Walker tasting notes to another degree of refinement. Regarding JW, the peat-level and smokiness reveals a truly new aroma, which already scored a masters award from this years World Whisky Masters Awards. If savoured entirely, the tinted charcoal grey bottle will remain as a keepsake, recalling the hours of relief, contemplation and sophisticated conversations.

Double secret probation and double rainbows may be old news, but Johnnie Walker Double Black is different. Created around a similar premise to Belvedere’s Intense Vodka, this blended scotch whiskey is designed to provide a bolder, smokier flavor compared to its ubiquitous predecessor. The added flavor comes from taking the original spirit and aging it longer with peat flavored malts in charred oak barrels. It’s only available in select duty-free airport stores and will cost you 20% more than regular Black Label, but you should see Double Black Label stocked at your local spirits purveyor sometime in March 2011. If you do manage to get your hands on a bottle though, be sure to save it for the special occasions where one just isn’t enough. In other words… know any twins?

It's Tasting Time

Johnnie Walker black Label Scotch Whisky

The name Johnnie Walker is one of the best known in the world of Scotch, the square bottle, colored labels distinguishing the blends and the complex flavors have all combined over the years to make this Scotch one of the best selling in the world. The key to Johnnie Walker's success is the consistent, beautifully mastered blends and the Black Label is a shining example of the art of blending fine whisky for a reasonable price. In 1820 John Walker began blending whiskies and in 1909 his son Alexander brought the family business to a new level by relaunching an old recipe under a new, easier to call, name: Black Label.

Whisky blends, like people, have individual characters. Some are smooth and polished in their manners, but may be short of character; then there are others that have strength, but lack lasting presence. But a characterful whisky blend, like a person, should be interesting to get to know. If everything is divulged at once, then there is nothing further to be revealed. However, if you feel that there's more to discover, then you will want to explore your acquaintance further.
Johnnie Walker Black Label has an enigmatic character. The first sip leaves you with an overwhelming curiosity to discover more. As Black Label's deep taste unfolds a myriad of flavours are revealed in several waves: first, there is an impression of silky richness; then deep and fruity foreground flavours give way to drier peaty nuances, followed by the complementary flavour tones of sweet vanilla and raisins.

This unique complexity is achieved by expertly blending an extremely diverse, but complementary range of malt whiskies, each of which has been matured for a minimum of 12 years and some for much longer. In total, up to 40 malts and grain whiskies make up the Johnnie Walker Black Label blend. Island and Islay malts deliver spice, richness and lingering peat. Speyside malts make an important contribution to the depth of taste, bringing smoky malt, fruitiness, apple freshness and a rich sherry character to the blend. At the heart of Black Label lies 12 year old Cardhu, an outstanding malt from Speyside, which imparts silkiness, a characteristic which has made it famous as a single malt.

Like a growing friendship between two people, getting to know Black Label is a profoundly satisfying experience that reveals new pleasures every time you meet. It's a taste that goes deeper than any 12 year old deluxe brand.

Black Label — an 80 proof (40% ABV) blend of about 40 whiskies, each aged at least 12 years. Writer Christopher Hitchens has called this his drink of choice, referring to it as Mr. Walker's Amber Restorative.

It's Tasting Time

Johnnie Walker Red Label Scotch Whisky

Johnnie Walker Red Label Scotch Whisky is the world's largest selling scotch whisky.
The blend contains 35 malt and 5 grain whiskies.
Malts in the recipe include Aberfeldy and Cardhu.

Red Label — an 80 proof (40% ABV) blend of 35 grain and malt whiskies. It is intended for making mixed drinks, although it drinks fine on its own, being rather maltier than the other Walker colors. According to William Manchester this was the favorite Scotch of Winston Churchill, who mixed it with soda.

Many whisky blenders make the mistake of thinking that to produce a brand of Scotch Whisky that will be popular internationally, they need to create a blend with not much flavour. Nothing could be further from the truth as Johnnie Walker Red Label has proved. It is the world's most popular whisky, yet it has a distinctive strength of character and a fullness of flavour that sets it apart from other brands.
When Johnnie Walker began in business in 1820, he developed an immense respect for malt whiskies with real flavour. In particular, he favoured robust Islay and Island malt whiskies, because they added depth and vigour to his blends. His grandson, Alexander Walker, inherited all his grandfather's blending skills and his taste preferences. When he developed the Johnnie Walker Red Label blend, he made sure that, although it was much smoother and somewhat lighter than many of its contemporaries, it retained the authentic flavour of traditional Scotch Whisky.

That was at the turn of the century. Within twenty years Red Label had become the first truly global brand, sold in over 120 countries around the world. It also gained a devoted following at home in Britain. King George V liked Johnnie Walker whisky so much that he granted a Royal Warrant to the company in 1933, and Johnnie Walker has remained an official purveyor of whisky to the Royal Household to the present day.

Red Label whiskies have consistently won awards in competitions; recently Red Label won Gold and Grand Gold Medals at the Monde Selection Awards, one of the drinks industry's most respected international events. And in 1996 it won a Gold Medal in the International Wine and Spirit Competition in the blended Scotch Whisky category.

It's Tasting Time

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ginebra San Miguel Premium Gin

I have tried some brilliant gins recently and all the while, at the back of my mind, I have had this nagging thought that I should be trying some of the lesser known and more budget gins.

In a stroke of serendipitous timing, an opportunity presented itself recently when a fellow gin enthusiast asked if I would like a bottle of Ginebra San Miguel. “San Miguel do a gin?!”, I asked incredulously; apparently so – gin from the Philippines. I was a little trepid, but graciously accepted the kind offer.

Looking at the San Miguel website is an interesting experience. There is almost no information about this gin other than it being a “Dutch-type gin“, it’s “80-proof“, that it is “produced from selected spirits and botanical extracts” and the “predominant flavor comes from juniper berries“.

The site also makes the rather bold claim that Ginebra San Miguel is “acknowledged as the world’s number one gin” and “currently the largest-selling gin and the third largest distilled spirit in the world“.

Could this be a hidden gem of the Philippines?

The box arrived in the post and I took it home, along with a bottle of Oxley I ordered previously. The bottle was textured – little beaded lumps – and the colourful label, which insisted that is was for domestic sale only, was stuck-on wonky; good start.

Opening the bottle and giving it a good sniff sent my nose reeling; the aroma was of vodka with faint wafts of surgical spirit and methylated spirits. Acetone was also a contributing scent. Worryingly, there wasn’t the slightest hint of juniper.

Sampling neat translated all of the aromas of the aforementioned solvents into taste form. There was an underlying sweetness and a hint of juniper, but there was also a chemical twang that was hard to pin down – it reminded me of my days in the organic chemistry labs though. There is something hiding in all of this which might be considered citrus, lemon probably, but I wouldn’t like to say for sure.

Adding water didn’t help.

Adding tonic water drove off lots of solvent smells but it did help me pin-down that elusive taste, as it came off with the effervescence of the tonic – it was a ketone used in a type of glue used for sticking fletchings to arrows. Fancy that, another solvent. A little research reveals this to be methyl ethyl ketone (AKA: Butanone).

The G&T, with and without lime, and at varying concentrations was simply solvent-heavy tonic water. It is in no way pleasant and leaves me with the presentiment of a tragic hangover and a rather acrid chemical aftertaste.

I dread to think what a martini made with Ginebra San Miguel would taste like.
Maybe the kind soul that sent me this is actually trying to kill me by calling a lethal chemical concoction gin and posting it to me.

Try it yourself. The hidden pearl of the Philippines.

Alcoholic Beverages/Hard Liquor
Top-of-the-class gin made from Extra Neutral Alcohol

*a 70 proof TOP-OF-THE-CLASS Gin made from Extra Neutral Alcohol.

*With an exquisite blend of botanicals, flavors of juniper berries splashed with a tang of delectable citrus.

*Gives drinkers a 'INDULGENCE' to cap their day off.

*Lives up the Ginebra San Miguel's more than 170 years of heritage with a soothing, classy taste and just the right kick of alcohol!


750mL (Longneck) - 12 bottles per case - 15.45kg per case - 1,200 cases per 20ft. container - dimensions (l x w x h) 310x234x279

It's Tasting Time


Novice scotch fans
What do they like? I should know because I used to be one. Usually, someone unfamiliar with scotch whisky or only having a casual acquaintance with it will gravitate toward the sweet, honey and cinnamon malts of the Speyside region. Easy drinking, smooth, kind of like a liquid candy bar. Hence, the popularity of blends like J&B, Bells, Ballantines and others. Generally, the novice does not like peaty scotch and the peatiest come from Islay.

A Stash of Scotch
George is a lawyer (don't hold that against him) and every once in awhile a client is happy with what he has done, and so a gift in the form of a bottle would appear at reception. Over the years, quite a few bottles have accumulated at his office. Strange thing is that he has never gotten around to taking them home or having a drink at the end of a long day. Anytime there was a drink it would be in a bar.

Well, that all changed this winter when I dropped by the office unannounced and discovered how charitable his clients had been. There were bottles in the bookcase, a couple in the kitchen sitting in the cupboards and a few in his desk. They were all covered in dust and unopened! Royal Salute, Glenlivet 12 yrs, Highland Park 12, Glenlivet 18, Johnnie Walker Blue and others. They were obviously old because in many cases the labels were clearly from the 1980’s. George was the only scotch drinker in the office. The other two employees were ladies who had no interest. When I would show up we typically headed to a local bar or pub. Well, a couple of weeks ago that all changed when I suggested we open some of these antique bottles (not really antique but certainly not new). He agreed. The one we tried was a Bowmore 10 year old (700ml) that had been a special bottling for the Opimian Society. By the way, the Opimian Society is a cooperative that buys wine for its members. George was a member at one time. So was I until kids came and I found the wine collecting/drinking habit too expensive.

Peat. Ash. Tar. Restrained for an Islay single malt.

Salt, brine, dries on palate as a plume of pipe smoke takes over.

General Impressions
I was impressed. I am not a huge Islay scotch fan but do enjoy this one. George was not so impressed. He described it as the diet cola of Islay scotch or something to that affect. He said he could not understand how a peaty scotch could be so light bodied.

Also present for the tasting was Mike, he turned up that Friday afternoon in the course of various building maintenance duties. I hollered down the hall for him to join us and he did. Mike was not a fan. He did not like it at all. But, it should be noted that he is not a novice scotch fan, but rather a scotch virgin and needs to suckle at the breast of blended Speyside scotch whisky before venturing into Islay territory. Mike did have some Highland Park 12 year old on another Friday after work and he was very impressed. We will have to mentor Mike to see the fine attributes of Islay scotch. As for George, a veteran of many empty scotch bottles, well I guess there is no explaining bad taste .

Delicate smoke, sulphur, and medium peat. This single malt scotch has probably the gentlest of Islay malt aromas. The scent of sulphur is a little off-putting, but don’t worry, it never rears its head in the palate.

Palate (undiluted)
Sweet, 300 thread-count, pillow soft, peat. Lakeside bonfire smoke of fallen tree branches that had been gathered on a windswept, overcast October afternoon.

Finish (undiluted)
Quite long. Drying sea salt, black tea and a little mint, all in a cloud of mild Canadian cigarette smoke. The final taste is ashes. The tail end of a big cigar.

General Impressions
A nice change from Lagavulin 16 years. Sometimes I am not in the mood for Lagavulin 16 years. As great a single malt as it is, it is rather ‘over the top’ and so, does not lend itself to being casually enjoyed while say chatting with friends or watching The Masters. Lagavulin 16yrs commands or rather demands your attention. Naturally, it is not suitable for every occasion.

When you want to just unwind with friends and make small talk, watch the game or just unwind in front of the TV, Bowmore 12 years fits the bill to a “T.”

Ardbeg 10 years Comparison
Ardbeg 10 years is a competitor to Bowmore 12 years. The Ardbeg is coarser. The peat, salt and smoke flavors are more robust and lacking the sophistication of the Bowmore. Certainly, Ardbeg 10 years has its fans, who probably number more than the Bowmore, but I cannot be counted among them. I definitely prefer the Bowmore for its’ restraint. Finally, Ardbeg 10 is more expensive by a considerable margin, which again makes Bowmore 12 more attractive from an economic point of view.

Price Point
In terms of price point, it’s very reasonable. Actually, it is one of the lowest priced 12 year old single malts. By factoring in the price and considering the flavor profile, you soon realize there is value for money here.

Is this for you?
Probably. It’s fairly difficult not to like this single malt. Even if you are a novice scotch fan lacking a deep affection for Islay malts with their classic peat and smoke flavors, this malt probably will reel you in. The main reason for it’s appeal is that none of the Islay flavors are too robust. Everything is gentle, balanced and therefore not likely to offend. Accordingly, it is a great ‘starter’ Islay single malt for those who are unfamiliar with Islay or in the past had decided it was not for them. If you have held such thoughts, Bowmore 12 years may change your mind.

One caveat though. This is a type of scotch that I cannot sit down several nights in a row and drink. It's just a bit much in the peat/smoke department. So, I am happy to have it in the cabinet as a nice change but it is not a regular 'go-to' scotch or whisky like Johnnie Walker Black, Highland Park 12, Jim Beam Black and a few others that I simply never seem to tire of. An exception to my comment would be if you are a peat and smoke fan of Islay single malts. I am, at heart, a hardcore Speyside/Highland nut. Maybe an Islay fan would insist that this could be a daily drinker. Just not for this guy.


Lately, all I seem to purchase are single malt scotch whiskies. What about a good blended scotch whisky? I like Johnnie Walker Black Label. Green Label is very good. Chivas Regal 12 years works too. What about Dewar's 12 years? Me thinks I need to try it. So, a bottle was procured from my local liquor store by yours truly, and so here we are.

Nose (undiluted)
Muted dandelions and malt notes. No strong aromas here. Very gentle scents.

Palate (undiluted)
Very sweet entry onto the palate followed by some feeble attempt to dry or evaporate, but this is mostly a failed attempt. Instead of drying there is a warm graininess. As for flavors, you will be greeted by sugary, cloyingly so, honey, followed by some malty notes and dark chocolate. There is a slight barnyard funkiness, something spoiled going on here. Not easy to put my finger on it. Think of the taste of rinds of tangerines left in the fruit bowl too long by the kitchen window, as the sun beams down day after day.

Finish (undiluted)
Artificially sweetened cereal. Think Captain Crunch and Lucky Charms in a bowl of chocolate milk with saccharine liberally sprinkled on top. That’s the very brief lingering taste. The saccharine really is a distinct and unfortunate (like a car accident) flavor on the finish. Yuck!

Nose (diluted)
Add a teaspoon of water and the pleasing undiluted nose disappears. In its place is the scent of damp leaves.

Palate (diluted)
The disappointment continues. The addition of water just punches up the NutraSweet levels to near diabetic coma conditions. Flavors? I dunno. I guess you could call it honey, Dollar Store honey, way past expiry date that was safe for human consumption.

Finish (diluted)
Graphite, cheap and short like Madonna's mini skirts from early '80's music videos. This is junk scotch.

General Impressions
Please avoid at all costs. Drinking Dewar’s 12 years evokes childhood memories of bouts of car sickness on the long drive to Grandma’s house.

If I were to sum it up in a few words, I would say: grainy sweet with some malt notes on the finish. The taste is cheap. Reminds me of something rummies would drink. I am surprised it is a 12 year old blend. Also reminds me of J&B, which is not a good thing. I am still emotionally scarred from the last J&B tasting. Both are ridiculously sweet with simple, unadulterated flavors of artificial sweetener, honey and some malty cereal. Probably the best feature of this blended scotch whisky was the undiluted nose. It was subtle and pleasing and consequently provided no warning of the huge pedestrian crosswalk disappointment that awaits the unsuspecting and trusting fool.

Value for Money?
Me thinks not. The price is within $1 of Johnnie Walker Black Label, another 12 yr old blended scotch, and it is the same price as Chivas Regal 12 years. Dewar's tastes more like an economy blended scotch and they (ie. Johnnie Walker Red Label, Ballantines) are better. Dewar's 12 years old is too expensive for what you get. It is similar to J & B Rare, another terribly sweet blended scotch that is better consumed as part of a mixed drink. Dewar's may work as mix, but the trouble is one should not have to spend that much for mix!

I still have about half a bottle. I am not going to finish it. I will give it to someone, but the questions is: Who do I dislike that much?

It's Tasting Time


Every seasons comes or each year, in late November and early December, whisky and scotch bloggers across the internet start posting their 'awards.' 'This whisky is the best or that one is the best.' Often the 'winners' are very expensive, limited release bottlings that are not obtainable by the average Joe or Jane (in case you are a lady whisky fan).

Anyhow, I have no such list, awards, ribbons or medals to decorate certain bottles that I am mighty passionate about. Why? Laziness mostly. It takes time and a lot of thought (and maybe a wee little arrogance too) to declare that this or that whisky is the best.

People do like lists. They are helpful, a guide of sorts. Especially during the holiday season. I must receive a minimum of five emails a month asking me what are the best whiskies. I always respond by first asking: what do you like? Smokey, peaty whisky? If so, I have my Islay recommendations ready for you. If you are a honey, cinammon nut with a flourish of smoke, I have a list of Speyside, Highland and other suggestions. Maybe I should post my suggestions. I'll get to work on that . . .

Nose (undiluted)
Soft peat, Oriental tea, wet cedar.

Palate (undiluted)
Sweet at first. Peat, limes, green tea, turning to slight tangerine entwined with very sticky honey. The effervesence of lime Perrier and other citrus notes will delight the palate. Grain is sweet and very good. The palate is easy, rounded and displays a classic blended scotch style. Very mellow.

Finish (undiluted)
The lasting flavors change up from mellow to give a little kick of interest. Malty, oak laden and tangy sea salt hang and dries a little, which is an interesting twist on a common theme.

General Impressions
This is a very good blended scotch whisky. Frankly, one of the better blends. Ranking among blends I would put it a little ahead of Johnnie Walker Blue Label, but behind Royal Salute. In my mind, Royal Salute is simply the best blended scotch whisky. Ballantine's 17 years is a very close and respectable second place.

Ballantine's 17 years will meet all the basic attributes that the mainstream consumer requires from their scotch whisky. It is smooth yet interesting. Pleasing to the senses (ie. eye, nose, taste). No bite or offensive qualities. Makes a super holiday gift for the casual drinker seeking a pleasurable whisky without taking any risks in terms of flavor. You cannot go wrong buying this for someone you know who likes other premium blends like Johnnie Walker Blue, Chivas Regal 18, etc.

So, with respect to Jim Murray's remark that Ballantine's 17 "marks the epitome of great blending . . ." I agree. This is one of the finer blended scotch whiskies available. Well, maybe not the 'epitome,' but yeah it is a very good blend. However, it is by no means the "nectar of the gods." That would imply that this blend is superior to all other whiskies, including single malts. This is the point where I and Jim part ways. Of course you might think: "Jason, you are not reviewing the same bottle release as he. You are not comparing apples and oranges." I hear ya, and I can appreciate that there can be deviation in taste in blended scotch (rare as that may be, but not so unusual in single malt), but Mr. Jim makes claims that go beyond this. Jim is of the opinion that this blended scotch is superior to all single malts this year!

Whisky Intelligence (click here) is a website which posts all the press releases of the whisky industry, and so naturally it had also announced Mr. Murray's selection of Ballantine's 17 years as the "Whisky of the Year" for 2011 (click here). Perusal of the press release indicates that Jim is of the opinion that Ballantine's 17 outshines all other whiskies. I would refer you to the last two sentences of his tasting note:

"One of the most beautiful, complex and stunningly structured whiskies ever created. To the extent that for the last year, I have simply been unable to find a better whisky anywhere in the world."

Mr. Murray describes Ballantine's 17 as one of the most complex whiskies ever created.

To my mind, 'complexity' refers to the ability of a whiskey, when upon the palate, to display numerous distinct flavors simultaneously. This is where a good single malt leaves blended scotch in the dust. Think of Clyenlish 14, Cragganmore 12, Glenlivet 18, Glenfiddich 15 years and others. These are whiskies that have complexity: delicate flavors that you can count and pick out with considerable clarity, as if each flavor was the footstep of a tiny dancer on your tongue. The flavors are fresh and easy to delineate.

Now, think of blended whisky, whether premium or not. Start with Johnnie Walker Red Label, Teacher's Highland Cream, Ballantine's Finest and then step up to the premium blends like Chivas Regal 18yrs, Famous Grouse 12, Ballantine's 17 and even the mighty Johnnie Walker Blue. Here all the flavors are what I term 'rounded' or 'generalized.' These spirits deliver a melding or melting pot of flavors where none dominate, and all share a slice of some generalized flavor pie diagram. Rarely can a blended scotch escape from such mainstream mellow mediocrity when compared to single malts. Nor do they want to. Blended scotch exhibits the flavor profile I have described for good reason: this is what the vast majority of casual whisky consumers prefer. But, for Mr. Murray to say that Ballantine's 17 is "the most beautiful, complex and stunningly structured whiskies ever created" simply defies logic.

And so, I also have to disagree with his statement: "To the extent that for the last year, I have simply been unable to find a better whisky anywhere in the world." What he must be drinking cannot be even remotely in the same flavor profile as what I am drinking.

Talk about hyperbole! Can't find a better whisky anywhere in the world he says? There are several single malts that are, in my opinion, stunningly complex, beautiful and awesome:

Highland Park 15 year old Earl Magnus

Highland Park 25 years

Laphroaig Cairdeas (2010)

Or how about an awesome blended whisky:

Royal Salute

Hibiki 17years

. . . and frankly, Johnnie Walker Black Label 12yrs. I prefer Johhnnie Black to Ballantines' 17. Maybe some will disagree, but if so, I think a sip of Hibiki will settle any argument that that fine Japanese whisky out classes Ballantine's 17 any day.

Bottom Line
I fail to understand how Jim Murray can declare Ballantine's 17 years to be the overall whisky of 2011. Truly baffling. This whisky is an excellent blend. Pleasing, enjoyable, a tad expensive but not disappointing so long as you do not compare it to some stellar single malts or the fine Japanese blend mentioned above. Now, I am drinking the Ballantine's 17 from the year before, so it is possible that there is a huge improvement in taste, but somehow I doubt that is the case. But even with a huge improvement, the claim he is making is incredulous.

With the upcoming holiday season, you will read many 'must buy' lists and award winning whiskies, but a healthy dose of scepticism is useful too. Remember in the end, only your opinion truly counts!

It's Tasting Time


The Glenlivet range of single malt whiskies starts at 12 yrs, followed by 15 and then 18. There are other expressions from time to time that appear in duty free shops at airports. In any case, today I am trying the 18 yr old.

Glenlivet scotch is the second best selling single malt scotch in the world. With that kind of world wide market share and popularity, one has to wonder if it is any good. I am here to report that this distillery makes a pretty good 18 yr old single malt.

Floral (peony, roses) notes mixed with tendrils of sherry.

Undiluted Palate
Slightly sweet, rich sherry initially followed by red fruit, caramelized pears, malty backbone, all accompanied by modest spiciness and a little oak.

The Glenlivet 18yr old is a product of the blending of this single malt from some casks that previously held bourbon while others held sherry. The result is a single malt that is memorable and the sherry seems to come out on top in the overall flavor profile.

Add Water
Add a little water (ie. a teaspoon or two) and the sherry and spiciness is toned down. At the same time, it becomes sweeter and with a greater malty presence mid-palate. On the ‘finish’ the heather flavor is elevated and visited by a newcomer, mint.

Finish (undiluted)
Warming heather and restrained peat flavors drying across the palate accompanied by some light spiciness.

Finish (diluted)
Sweeter than without water and a little richer taste as the warming heather and gentler peat evaporates in your mouth. A gentle spiciness also lingers to finish this out.

General Impressions
I definitely prefer this with two teaspoons of water to a shot of the single malt. The water transforms an otherwise middle of the road single malt into a strong performer. For those readers who like their scotch with ice, this is a single malt that will dance with the ice cube. A marriage made in heaven for those who like ice.

Consumed neat, it is pleasing, concentrated, but a little simple or one dimensional. It’s good, but not what I would regard among the greats like Highland Park 18 yrs or Talisker. As mentioned previously, the addition of water takes it to a higher level. Strangely, it acquires some complexity with the addition of water.

Price Point
The price of this single malt is among the lowest in the market place for an 18 year old. As a result, making this purchase is clearly going to deliver value for money given the above satisfactory tasting note. It’s not the best 18 year old single malt on the market, but it certainly is far from the worst.

Bottom Line
An above average single malt scotch that benefits from the addition of a bit of water.

It's Tasting Time


Heres a short review about GLENFIDDICH. William Grant & Sons Ltd. is the company that makes Grant's Family Reserve, a blended scotch whisky which I consider a very poor entry level blended scotch whisky. It is weak in flavor, grainy and instantly forgettable.

William Grant & Sons Ltd. also make Glenfiddich single malt scotch at the distillery of the same name in Dufftown, Scotland. The Glenfiddich brand is a good one. The iconic triangular bottle that was introduced into the market place in the 1960's steadily grew in popularity until it appeared and continues to appear in virtually every bar in the world. So, can something so common be any good? Well, we know that Grant's Family Reserve is common, like chicken pox, but is not good. Meanwhile, Glenfiddich single malt scotch, regardless of how common it may be, actually is good!

The Glenfiddich product line starts with the 12 year old single malt, a citrus, honey, oak dram that is rounded and pleasing. Next up is the 15 year old, the subject of today's review. The 18 and 21 year olds are special also but will have to wait for another day. I gotta keep you coming back somehow!

When I indulge in the 15 year old, I am immediately struck by how much distance there is in quality between it and the 12 year old. While the 12 year old is a decent and pleasing introduction to Speyside single malts, it is the 15 year old that will reveal why single malts enjoy cult like affection from their admirers.


Nose (undiluted)
The aromas drifting upwards from your glass are heaven sent. Rich, fragrant spices with oak and a little peat swirl. Rarely does a single malt have aromas that can be termed complex, but this is one. A real treat to nose. The only other scotch with a possibly superior aroma is Johnnie Walker Gold Label. Is it better? I am unsure. They are both great.

Palate (undiluted)
The complexity promised by the aromas is fulfilled on the palate. Take a sip and you will enjoy honeyed, coffee crisp candy bar center, with an intricate spiciness. All of this takes place against a tapestry of oak and white chocolate.

Finish (undiluted)
Puckering dryness with intensifying spices moving eventually to mild peppercorns.

General Impressions
This is a light bodied single malt which showcases the best that Speyside has to offer. It is smooth, yet interesting. The honey and vanilla are there, coupled with oak and some toffee. You will enjoy a concentrated flavor profile. The honey flavors have a wild taste, some heather mixed in, making for a complex dram.

Good price! They could raise this price by $10 and it would not affect market share in my opinion.

If you like Dalwhinnie, Cragganmore, Chivas Regal 18 year old and in general anything from Speyside, then Glenfiddich 15 year Solera Reserve will not disappoint!

It's Tasting Time


As the name gold the price also gold. . .lol! I'll discuss a short review about this golden wine.

The Johnnie Walker product line is easy to understand. Certain labels denote the level of quality of the relevant blended whisky. Red Label is the entry level offering, drunk by itself is a pleasant endeavour, and so, very suitable for adding soda or making mixed drinks. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the Blue Label, a blend of scotch whiskies up to 40 yrs of age, sourcing single malts of distilleries that are no longer in operation. In between these two extremes are: Black, Green and Gold labels. As you can see, the Gold Label falls just before the zenith of scotch blends, Johnnie Walker Blue Label. So, the question that arises: Is Gold Label that good? And the answer is . . . yes, it is. Very good indeed.

It was introduced into the market place in 1995. Little advertising on TV and in magazines in the US. Advertising is considerable in the Far East where Johnnie Walker enjoys a huge following. China, Japan, Singapore, Thailand are filled with ads of this scotch.
In North America, the price of Gold Label, I think causes consumers to opt for single malt over it. In any case, despite the lack of profile and advertising in North America, it is well worth discovering.
Gold Label Composition
The Gold Label is made up of a combination of grain and single malt whiskies having a minimum age of 18yrs in casks, prior to actual bottling. Remember scotch, unlike wine, does not improve with age once bottled. At the core of this blend are a number of single malts that are purported to be quite scarce. Specifically, Clynelish which is distilled from spring water that supposedly runs through veins of gold. I am frankly a little sceptical, and do not think that water passing by or through veins of gold will actually impart a distinctive flavor. Anyway, the bottom line is tha this blend is made up of high quality and obscure single malts. Diageo (the company that owns Johnnie Walker) is very guarded as to the contents of this blend. In my humble opinon, there are two reasons: first, they want to minimize competition; and secondly, there may be more grain whisky than people would expect, that if divulged might negatively impact sales.
I could nose this scotch for hours. There is so much there and you just know they spent a bloody fortune trying to get the scents just right. I am a guy who is not particularly concerned with interior decor or the color of my socks in relation to my suit, but this scotch, I am fascinated by the scents it gives. Its like sniffing a rose, and coming back over and over. Even my wife sniffed it and was shocked it was scotch. There is a lot going on, specifically, the scent of fresh bread, roses, and other flowers that frankly smell nice, but don't have a clue to identify. If this is a gift, your recipient will be impressed upon nosing this blend.
Suggested Serving
This is not to be drank with anything more than a drop or two of distilled water or a single ice cube. If you consult the Johnnie Walker US website, you will be advised to try the Gold Label by freezing a shot in a glass in your freezer for 24 hours. Dont worry, due to the alcohol content, it doesnt freeze, but it does thicken. A sip of this scotch that has been subjected to your freezer for 24 hrs results is a scotch that upon sipping, in a chilled tumbler, provides a concentrated dram of honey and heather. I tried freezing a shot in a tumbler and then sipping and must say I was impressed. I chased a sip with some milk chocolate and was in awe. It transforms from a scotch to a dessert liqueur almost.

This is a gentle, soft introduction to a sophisticated honeyed dram. The honey is presented libereally on the palate, but mixed in with notes of heather, rich cream, spicy cinnamon, zing of candy cane, faint reverberations of peat and whisps of smoke. A wrapping of flavors that can be truly called complex. There is no burn or roughness here. You know upon your first sip that you are experiencing a high quality blend of spice, honey, smoke and peat in a flavor wrapping like no other.

If you tried it after being in the freezer for 24hrs, the flavors will linger much longer than if served neat at room temperature. Frozen, you will swallow, and minutes later you will still be able to taste the honey, heather, peat and smoke in that unique envelope of single malts and blends. The warming affect of your mouth upon the chilled scotch is truly very pleasing and unique.
Served neat, the flavor remains upon being swallowed, but does not linger as long as when served frozen and in a chilled tumbler. I realize that it is outrageous to serve scotch after having been in a freezer for 24 hours but it does work in this case.
General Impressions
Johnnie Walker Gold Label is to be served on special occasions for people who will appreciate a complex, honeyed, refined and very smooth dram. If you graduate from university and your parents choosing to serve this, they are on the mark. If you are in the bar at 2 am and contemplating taking a leak in the dumpster outside with your college buddies, you have missed the mark by a wide margin.'Smooth' and 'honey' in a complex wrapping of flavor is what I think of when considering this scotch. The only negative comment I have is with respect to the tail end of the tasting or finish. I pick up some heather or mint that is a little off. It annoys me a bit, but I am being very fussy and only a couple of my connosieur friends agree with me on this point.

It's Tasting Time


I'm gonna share my first encounter with Chivas Regal 12 year old blended scotch whisky. It was during my high school days.

One time following a Christmas time exam that finished at noon, I and a couple of classmates piled into a taxi and dropped by a local bar on the ground floor of a hotel, Sheraton, at that time. The dimly lit bar would be mostly empty except for the odd business types eating club sandwhiches and maybe cougars travelling in packs of two, who were feasting on salads. Myself, a mature student, who left a career as an insurance adjuster to return to school, Gordon, a failed businessman who thought law would lead to days of wine and roses, John, a top student suffering soul searching angst about whether he should go to med school instead (wish I had that problem) and Brian, not really a friend, but like a bad penny, we just couldn’t shake, would tumble into the bar and attract stares of consternation from the aforementioned patrons and bar staff. Brian, I might add, was cruelly nicknamed Barney after the character on the “Simpsons” because he was disheveled, smelled bad and looked like a drunk who just woke up on a park bench or under a bridge.

In any case, we would drop into red leather wingback chairs, dark burnished wood panel walls behind us and stare out the massive windows at the winter river that was mostly frozen. To warm ourselves up, and defrost our minds from the frantic study leading up to the exam, we would order Rusty Nails. This drink was composed of 60/40 mix of Drambuie and Chivas Regal 12 years old plus a couple of ice cubes. What a nice drink! The Drambuie and Chivas melded into an incredible drink.

In those days, I did not enjoy scotch neat, matter of fact, I had no appreciation of scotch whatsoever. Two weeks ago, I found myself in the liquor store scanning a wall of scotch, thinking what will I review next? Chivas Regal 12 years old appeared and I remembered I liked it as an active ingredient in a Rusty Nail, but would it work on its own?

Nose (undiluted)
Citrus, apples, maybe damp leaves.

Palate (undiluted)
Smooth, sweet honey, applesauce and hazelnut. Mid-palate: creamy vanilla, ocean spray of sea salt and heather.

Finish (undiluted)
A little Oloroso sherry? I think so. Some peat/smoke, heather and sea salt linger nicely and dry across the palate in an expansive manner.

General Impressions
The taste starts out sweet but finishes dry. I am impressed!

Frankly, I had very low expectations. Anything so widely available can’t be that good I thought to myself. I was wrong. This blended scotch exhibits no bite, bitterness or rough edges. It is designed to be smooth and totally inoffensive. It succeeds in this aim.

I am also pleased by the lack of a certain graininess that is very common in many blended scotch whisky. By graininess, I mean an unadulterated alcohol/bitter flavor that I associated with cheap blends.

It is a 12 year old blended scotch whisky, and compared to other 12 year old blended scotches, it does very well. Matter of fact, it can hold its own against the gold standard of 12 year olds, Johnnie Walker Black Label. Chivas Regal 12 years is priced competitively too so you are getting good value for money. Unfortunately, when you upgrade to the 18 year old bottling of Chivas, you could buy many superior single malt blends for less.

The limitations to this scotch are if you compare it to single malt scotch whisky. Of course it will come up a bit short in such a comparison, but you are not making a fair comparison. General Motors manufactures Chevrolet and Cadillac, but comparisons are not helpful as you are not comparing apples to apples.

Nevertheless, I do prefer this to some single malts. Depending on my mood, I could enjoy this blend just as much as Glenfiddich 12yrs or Glenlivet 12 yrs. But, there are certainly single malts that are superior like Cragganmore, Dalwhinnie and others!

Chivas Regal 12 years old serves up a rich, smooth blended scotch that most certainly is dominated by Speyside single malts. At the core of this blend is Strathisla single malt. You probably never heard of Strathisla and that is due to the fact that the Chivas and Glenlivet Group (the corporate owners of Chivas Regal) do not promote the brand. The principal purpose of owning Strathisla is to cement a steady supply of the main single malt ingredient making up the Chivas Regal blends.

I am so impressed with Chivas Regal 12 years old that I will have to reconsider my review of the 18 year old bottling. The 18 is very good, it just fails on the price point. Too much money for a blended scotch whisky. Anyway, I will return to the 18yr old at another date.

It's Tasting Time

The Dimple Pinch

This elegant looking wine. Apparently "The Dimple Pinch" ranks fourth in world sales in the 'blended scotch' sales. I am unsure if this is accurate, as it seems every blended scotch producer makes similar claims that their spirit is in the top 5 somewhere. Anyway, the owners of this brand sell a helluva lot of it, particularly in the United States.

The Dimple does have a following in the US that is pretty large. A lot of ordinary working men enjoy this dram at the end of a day. Whether they be grandads, dads, sons and grandsons, they like their Dimple Pinch, and like it a lot. Why? It's friendly, unpretenious, smooth, sweet, not peaty and quite honeyed. Add ice and it transforms from a loving labrador retriever into a pussy cat. What's not to like? Me, being a total scotch nut, must investigate this passion of so many, and see if I too, can join their ranks.

Nose (undiluted)
Dandelion, malt notes, apple juice and wisps of peat. I mean wisps or was that my imagination? That's how faint it was.

Palate (undiluted)
Sweet Graham crackers, some maltiness, chased by a spiciness that quicky degenerates into graininess. Also an apple cider aspect to this flavor profile.

Finish (undiluted)
The spiciness of the palate that I said turned grainy does not leave on the finish. Down this sweet spirit and you are left with a grainy taste mixed with apple cider. There is some vanilla and oak, but it's stale and reminiscent of the smell you'd suffer when sitting in a taxi, that is supposedly non-smoking. Remnants of stale cigarette smoke, windows up on a hot summer day with car sickness only minutes away.

Price Point
I paid around $33 in New Hampshire for this bottle. Not worth the money. I expected a lot more for the price and for allegedly being a 15 year old blended scotch. No value for money here.

Here's a thought. If you like the sweet, malty flavor profile, and don't mind a little grain flavor, try Cutty Sark. A much more reasonably priced alternative. Nothing special, but it is comfort scotch for when you need it.
General Impressions
This blended scotch is aged 15 years, but tastes much younger. Not a good thing. It exhibits no complexity of flavor. Light body with a sweet cereal or wheat style that leaves the drinker bored and unimpressed. I’d rather stare at a TV test pattern than take another slug of this cheap perfume. Or worse, start reading books recommended by Oprah. Calgon take me away! Far away, to a place where single malts and good blended scotch reign supreme!

There is a Zapruder-esque graininess to it and perfume quality that is very disappointing. I expected a lot more from a 15 year old blend that is supposedly made up of single malts like Lagavulin, Linkwood and Glenkinchie. I could not detect any Lagavulin in this blend at all. I can understand the Glenkinchie, which no doubt contributes the sweet honey entry. As for Linkwood, not detecting it either. I think a lot of grain whisky makes up this blend.

This scotch was clearly styled for the occasional, non-serious scotch fan, who wants a smooth taste, no alcohol bite, and lots of Juicy Fruit gum sweetness. To achieve such a medical flat-liner, middle of the road, mainstream, snorefest, Piers Morgan type of scotch, you have to sacrifice peat, smoke and complexity that would make this spirit interesting. Very easy-drinking, pronounced sweetness, and little else. This is perfectly suited for the vast majority of blended scotch consumers who infrequently drink and want just a friendly, inoffensive nip. If that's you, then I can recommend the Dimple. If you require more from your scotch, like me, then I cannot recommend this whisky.

Tasting Time

Johnnie Walker Blue Label

I wanna share something about this expensive whisky. Well, I am sipping some Johnnie Walker Blue Label. The bottle came from my cousin, as a gift for my Birth Day, and I just got around to opening it a month or so ago.

I like this less and less, the more I drink it. It’s not bad, but gee, is it ever overrated or what? On the plus side, it is smooth, a bonus for hack amateur whisky critics like myself. It seems that only really strong, throat burning whiskies, at cask strength (read over 80 proof) attract the praise of whisky critics these days. If a whisky, scotch or bourbon is a mere 80 proof, it is somehow, automatically lacking in some way. Gimme a break! I hate dogmatism in politics, economics and religion and also in scotch appreciation.

I recognized a similar phenomenon in the world of wine criticsm a few years ago. Robert Parker, the esteemed wine critic, heaped praise on wines that were bold, robust and generally dominated by oak on the palate. So, powerful was he that sales of delicate, non-oakey (not a word, but I just invented it this very moment) languished while Napa Valley oak bombs like Silver Oak flourished. Delicate and complex French Pinot Noir (ie. Louis Jadot) sales suffered because ol’ Robbie Parker scored them lower due to a lack of oak and robust flavor profile.

Similarly, the scotch whisky critics like Jim Murray, (I really do pick on him too much, but he’s such an easy target) seem to heap the praise on those cask strength whiskies that are 114 proof and up! You need to water them down with a fire hose, otherwise you essentially sear your mouth with a flame-thrower.

So, on the plus side, the ol’ Johnnie Blue Label is smooth, which in itself is not a problem. What else can I say? I dunno. I taste white cake bread and caramelized onions. On the con side, I am really not impressed. There is some smoke and peat, but not very interesting. I would not buy this. If I am going to drop a lot of money for a high end blend it will be Ballantines 17yr old, Famous Grouse 18 or 30yrs, and Royal Salute. Famous Grouse 18 and 30 year old blends offer up more complexity and interesting flavor profiles than Johnnie Walker Blue. The difference between the Famous Grouse bottlings and Johnnie Blue is the amount of marketing dollars involved. I really believe that Johnnie Walker Blue is all about marketing. The silk lined box, blue-green colored glass bottle, the quaint little booklet, individually numbered bottles and the snobby advertisements are what sell this blended scotch. If you put those same marketing dollars behind Famous Grouse 18 or 30 year old blended scotch whisky, they would achieve the same level of sales, if not better, as they are better blends.

I want to review Famous Grouse 18 and 30yr old, but just don’t have the funds right now to purchase them. The 30yr old, in particular, blows Blue Label out of the water, based on my recollection. Anyway, that’s all I have to report for now.


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