Friday, January 8, 2021

“Everyday” Samples: Glen Spey, GlenDronach, Tormore, Kirkland

It’s a tough gig, trying to write a review of almost everything new I try. On one hand, I’d like to keep record of what I’ve enjoyed so I can go back and check later, in the other there’s so many different bottles out there and with my preference to unique single casks… well, it’s a rough life writing these. But these reviews also force me to pace myself from drinking too fast so perhaps it’s not all doom and gloom. Here are some unique but not super-fancy samples:

Glen Spey-Glenlivet 20 Cadenhead’s SiB, 59.9%
So what’s with the “-Glenlivet” name? I was curious too: https://scotchwhisky … es-called-glenlivet/. So in short, the -Glenlivet is a historical name that has nothing to do with modern Glenlivet distillery. This is a “Glen Spey 20” that’s been bottled by Cadenhead’s store/retailer/bottler. Claiming to be the Scotland’s oldest independent bottler, the current Cadenhead is owned by same folks that own Springbank and situated primarily around Campbeltown with some locations around big UK cities. Ultimately doesn’t matter too much. They bottle spirits and ostensibly know their stuff, even if they may lean towards somewhat more traditional or safer bottlings based on company age and established practices, but let the spirit talk for itself, yes? :) .
The nose is peppery with ex-bourbon funk and slightly alcohol heavy due to proof. Behind that alcohol, nice maltiness comes out with few woody perfume notes. It is a fairly light nose experience other than the proof. The palate is reasonably good refill bourbon cask that tastes lighter than the proof suggests. Ex bourbon pepperiness is back in force here, as well as vanilla and malt notes, not too sweet and it leans towards a balanced drinking experience. Slightly bitter on the back and aftertaste and it’s a slight letdown here, as the mouth goes dry and a little woody. On the plus side for the aftertaste, little bursts of flavor last for a very long time. Somewhat middle of the road experience to be honest, other than the aftertaste. A bit of water opens it up into spicier but faster-fading cascade that is notably maltier and slightly sweeter but doesn’t make it better or worse than before, only different. A few drops of water wouldn’t hurt it and either way is enjoyable enough. Considering that this costs about $99 and is a single cask… I gotta admit I’ve had plenty of similarly specced bottles that I thought were more interesting. Beyond a fairly obscure distillery, this doesn’t really offer anything special in a plentiful field of ex bourbon single casks at the price point. I don’t regret trying this sample for the checkbox but I would certainly not chase this bottling down. As a personal note, this tastes like a ‘generic ~20 year old refill bourbon single malt’ by being tasty and not memorable at the same time. It’s been about 5 minutes since I drank it and I legitimately cannot recall what it I liked or disliked about it beyond ‘generally above average’. I’ll summarize this as a ‘generally okay’.
Score: C

GlenDronach 11 K&L SP, 60.1%
Store page:
Yay more GlenDronach… https://www.aerin.or … y:entry201022-152914 has some… opinions. This time a K&L Single Cask at 11 years old. A sherry puncheon (bigger cask) this time too. The nose is concentrated sherry in a good way. Okay you know what, I’ve accidentally spilled a half of this on my desk by knocking the glass over. So… I’ll summarize instead. It’s a classic Glendronach sherry profile. The abv is well hidden by the flavor concentration. Tasty, reasonably woody at 11 years, dark chocolate, tobacco and sherry flavors galore without becoming a varnish, yet it is a tiny bit young and offers little depth to the palate beyond very tasty sherry profile. Aftertaste is amazing, long and deliciously GlenDronach. Good? Yes. Amazing? Right on the border to greatness. At the price? Incredibly hard to beat.
Score: A-

Tormore 14 Connoisseur’s Choice, 46%
A rare distillery to see on the shelf or in a bottle in US. This is one of the younger ones in Scotland, having been built in 1960 in Speyside. This really reminds me of the best of Old Malt Cask bottlings with no sherry at all and just pure wood. Citrus, vanilla and a little bit of wood (clearly refill ex bourbon here). The palate is continuation of the nose mostly, buttery but little on the thin side. In the very back, notes of smoke or wood char appear and round off a well enjoyable experience that lasts for quite a while in the aftertaste. The woodiness becomes more apparent as whiskey sits in my glass along repeated sips. Not overly sweet, this oak and vanilla palate that reminds me of buttery chardonnays wine. Highly enjoyable and drinkable but nothing to contemplate too much on. The flavors are inoffensive and pleasant yet interesting enough to drink. The proof is low enough to allow casual drinking making it a perfect @work or social faire of the lighter style of whiskey… just like white wine. As with most Speyside scotch this could really benefit from a sherry cask aging or finish to become a treat.
Score: B-

Glendronach PortWood, 46%
Short version: ‘Yum’. Longer version: ‘Yuuuuuuum’! So this is a No Age Stated (NAS) but likely ~10 year old GlenDronach as usual aged in PX and Oloroso sherry casks and then additionally finished in portwood barrels or pipes or whatever they are called. The smell is very much younger GlenDronach and this reminds me a lot of the 12 with addition of winey raisins with sweet but tannic profile that adds additional layer of flavor to already excellent spirit. Let me summarize this… It’s essentially GD 12 + wine finish. I like both wine-finished whiskey and GD12 so this is good across the board. Fantastic yet a bit young bottle that really doesn’t disappoint especially for those that like dessert whiskey and GlenDronach (or sherried Speysiders) in particular. Layers and layers of flavor that keeps on cascading in my mouth here, yes it’s young, yes its batched… and likely little overpriced for the spec compared to the excellent 15. I like it and there’s not much to dislike there for most folks.
Score: B+

Kirkland 23, Speyside Sherry Finish late 2020, 46%
A late 2020 follow up to (supposedly, excellent) 22 year old bottling… Speyside, distillery unknown, aged 23 years and finished in sherry casks. I want to go on the record that this smells like pure peanuts to me. After some time in the glass peanuts thankfully drift away leaving… a pleasant generic sherry nose. The palate isn’t interesting at all. It is mostly savoury instead of sweet and tastes like a badly fortified, woody sherry. The palate evokes ‘industrial flavors’ feelings from me. The aftertaste is more wood and finally some red fruits come in. Very uninteresting and honestly not recommended. This may be a bargain on the specs vs price but flavors-wise this is a boring, uninteresting and somewhat of a unfocused mess that I wouldn’t want to inflict on anyone. Probably palatable with food. Supposedly, my palate isn’t ‘broken’ today as wife confirmed my opinions by similarly disliking it.
Score: D+

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