Saturday, November 14, 2020

Cragganmore, Balvenie 14, GlenGrant 15, Classic Laddie

I’ve been reviewing a lot of samples that are or not related to tastings for a while now. It’s been a long-ish time since I’ve wrote about what is living on my shelf currently and quite a few things there need an overview so that I’m able to finally catch up and not feel too guilty about not mentioning them. Bottles have feelings too ya know!

Cragganmore 1997 Distiller’s Edition, 2012 Port Cask
Link to someone else’s review: https://thewhiskyphi … dition-bottled-2010/
Oh boy, it’s been so long since I wrote about my shelf that this bottle is almost empty now… Perhaps it’s a testament of my enjoyment of this style. I made no secrets of liking red wine finish on single malt and this one is port wine finish. A little bit about this bottle, it’s been distilled in 1997 and then bottled in 2010 as part of Diageo’s “Distiller’s Edition” line. The older style and bottling makes this a bit of a dusty bottle which is great for me. While spirits do not age in the bottles further, the distillation year has a huge impact on overall source quality of the malt and it could be argued that the average quality for newer distilled spirits have been slowly lowering itself as mass market demands more and more quantity without much of a concern for quality. End Rant.
This is deliciously red port wine forward and highly malty on the nose. The palate is very sweet, has a teeny bit of smoke notes, but they are barely noticeable. Has a luscious viscosity in the mouth… and is almost a let-down on the mouthfeel… with 40% abv it’s just too watery, the palate starts amazing… and then sorta falls through into flatness. Thanks Obama Diageo! The aftertaste has notes of ginger spice, malt, sweet red port wine, some honey and is great. If this would have been a 43% or 46% abv, it would have been amazing… As is… it’s a great, highly complex, dessert whiskey that is somewhat let down by its low proof, though I could concede that it may become too sweet if proof is higher.
Score: B

Balvenie 14, Caribbean Cask (Recent Bottling)
Before I start, I wanted to note that this is the more recent bottling of Caribbean Cask which could be different from older ones by having a tan-colored label vs the older ones that were printed on white paper. Is there a difference? It’s hard to tell since I don’t really have a side by side comparison to compare and it’s been years since I had the older one.
I’ll give you a short version here… I’m a fan of Balvenie spirit. This was aged in bourbon casks and then finished in rum casks to amp the sweetness up. This is fantastic intro single malt for anyone that’s interested and should be all around crowd-pleaser. Rum cask finish gives this sweetness, and balvenie is vanilla oak, matly, slightly spicy and for the lack of better phrasing… ‘clean’ spirit. If you’re a fan of sweet non-smoky and non-sherried malts this is right up your alley. Could this be a little more interesting? Sure. But this is a general release from the core range that’s been around for years now, this is about as good as it gets its market space.
Score: B

Glen Grant (GlenGrant) 15, Batch 1
For some inexplicable reason the distillery name is written as one word on a lot of packaging.
This review will concern their 15 year old bottling that’s bottled at ‘batch strength’, which, for the record, means absolutely nothing to regulation but for whatever reason happens to be set at 50% abv by the distillery. Regulatory nonsense aside, how does this taste? Well good news… it’s actually really good. My wife described it as a “Sav Blanc” of whiskey and I am agreeing with her on this. This is very citrus, green orchard fruits, and melon forward mixed with sweet malt flavors. The nose, palate and aftertaste are in line with each other and this is just great overall. 50% abv does not hinder it whatsoever and and makes for a very flavorful tasting. There are some wood and vanilla notes on the palate meaning it wasn’t just aged in inert barrels. Overall, and especially considering the price ~$60 currently, this is a great deal and very worth trying or even stocking for the home bar. Very slight edge on Balvenie 14 by being a higher proof.
Score: B+

Bruichladdich, Classic Laddie 50% Abv
This isn’t actually an open shelf bottle, but instead a sample… but I do what I want.
This is classic unpeated Laddie, this should be on average about 10 years old spirit, I don’t have exact bottle spec of this being a sample but it’s some sort of a big batch of different barleys and barrels… Very minor remainder of smoke mostly from water and environment. Super malty and super flavorful. I cannot quite put a finger on what exactly the taste evokes in me. Almost savory but at the same time sweet and malty that sweet-salty balance is fantastic. Laddie spirit is just generally great stuff. This happens to be wood/residual smoke/malt balance. Very slight varnish notes in the glass. Old woodshop experience is in there. If I were to compare it to food, perhaps it reminds me of caramelized onions or a good burger where everything works together so very well that the smoke isn’t a detriment but instead works as an enhancer of the other flavors. (I must be hungry while writing this review). It’s a great intro into unpeated islay malts of which there are a handful and this particular expression remains somewhat underrated of all the others available. Is it worth trying? Yes. Are there better options? Also yes. Speaking of better options, more sherry or an interesting cask finish would elevate this into greatness! Is it slightly too residually astringent for those that aren’t fans of smoke? Probable yes?
Score: B-

Scoring Breakdown: https://www.aerin.or … age=scores_breakdown