Whisky Review: Tullibardine Sovereign

Tullibardine Sovereign

In 2013, the Perthshire distillery of Tullibardine announced a re-launch of their single malt whisky range. The re-launch affected both what’s inside the bottles and what’s on them, with a total re-branding and the new tagline, “A drop of pure Highland gold.” The new lines became available in May in the United States. Why the change? According to international sales manager James Robertson, the distillery was starting to feel like they were slipping behind the times.

The principle whisky line produced at the distillery before the re-branding was the Tullibardine Aged Oak, which didn’t include an age statement. Robertson explained the problem with the Aged Oak, which the Sovereign has now replaced: “The previous bottles that were available were good, but there seemed to be little continuity, consumers could not identify with the brand, and the vintage dates confused them … we feel that Sovereign has a more powerful image and one with a meaning.” With the re-branding, the distillery has also raised their prices, stating that they were previously selling their whiskies well below their market value. “I feel that these six new whiskies at last provide Tullibardine with a core range that has an identity,” said Robertson.

So how does this “drop of pure Highland gold” measure up? I decided to put the Tullibardine Sovereign to the test. In the bottle, it certainly looks like gold—the rich warmth of the color is beautiful, and a hopeful hint of what is inside.

Opening the bottle, I feel like someone has just handed me a fresh bouquet. There are some strong floral notes in here, interwoven with honey, peaches, toffee and vanilla. It’s hard to say for sure what the floral notes are, but they are not at all sharp, nicely mellowed out by the vanilla and toffee. On the palate, the Tullibardine Sovereign is very smooth and viscous, perhaps even more so than it appeared in the bottle. I taste some kind of vanilla pastry sweetness, which grows as I hold the liquid on my tongue. Then I pick up orange rind and peaches, together with the distinctive bite of fresh ginger. There seems to be a hint of chocolate in here as well. The finish is quite brief; this one definitely doesn’t linger. The ginger dominates the finish along with some other spices.

While the finish is a bit brief for my liking, the flavors are nice and rich, and the ginger does a nice job balancing out the other elements. I am surprised that the floral notes I detect with my nose don’t really seem to come out on the palate, but it is an enjoyable dram, and I was concerned they’d take over. I particularly enjoy the smooth, viscous texture of the dram; it is almost velvety. While it is not the most amazing scotch whisky I have tried at the price point (around $42), it is still quite good, and I would try it again. The Tullibardine re-branding appears to me to have been a success.

Summary: Tullibardine Sovereign

Colour: Bright gold.

Nose: Strongly floral, together with honey, vanilla, peaches and toffee.

Palate: Vanilla pastry, orange rind, peaches, ginger, chocolate, spices.

Bourbon Review: Angel’s Envy

Angel's Envy Bourbon

Last month I reviewed a bourbon by Jim Beam called “Devil’s Cut” Kentucky Straight Bourbon. I thought I’d stick with the theme and review Angel’s Envy Bourbon, which hit the market the same year. Angel’s Envy is brewed by Lincoln Henderson, a member of the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame. This whisky is aged for five years in the rickhouse, and then spends another six months aging in a port barrel. A couple other versions have since been released, including Angel’s Envy Cask Strength Bourbon and Angel’s Envy Rye Whisky.

Angel’s Envy sells in an eye-catching bottle with a sleek shape designed to complement the drawing of angel’s wings adorning the front. The liquid inside is a warm, bright golden color which is immediately inviting. When I open the bottle, I detect vanilla with a maple syrup sweetness. There is also a toasted scent lingering in the backdrop, maybe toasted nuts.

Taking a sip, I pick up the vanilla first and foremost. What I thought was maple may actually be caramel or toffee, but I’m not really sure. There is also something fruity, which may be raisin or something in that vein. This note along with the vanilla definitely come from the six months aging in the port casks. There’s a subtle hint of spice as well. One thing I really love about this bourbon is that it isn’t harsh or astringent in any way. There’s almost no detectable burn at all. It’s just incredibly smooth and pleasant. The finish is long and dry, with the raisin and vanilla lingering on the palate.

At around $40, this isn’t the cheapest bourbon around, but it’s definitely in an affordable price range, particularly for the excellent quality you’re getting. Because it’s such a smooth drink, I can see why this whisky has such widespread appeal. It was an instant classic the year it came out, and remains very popular. If you enjoy port flavors, you won’t want to miss this one.

Summary: Angel's Envy Bourbon

Colour: Warm, bright gold.

Nose: Vanilla, maple, toasted nuts.

Palate: Vanilla, raisins, caramel, spices. Classic port flavors, no harshness.

Bourbon Review: Jim Beam “Devil’s Cut”

Jim Beam "Devil's Cut"

When you take a look at the label on the Jim Beam “Devil’s Cut,” you’ll read the following:

“As Bourbon Ages, the Angel’s Share is Lost to Evaporation. The Devil’s Cut is Trapped in the Barrel Wood – until Now.”

This bourbon hit the market in 2011. The cute name is a reference to the aging process of the whisky in the barrel. As with any liquid, part of the whisky evaporates. This lost whisky is often called the “angel’s share.” The longer a whisky ages, the greater the share that goes to the angels and not to us poor mortals. Whisky isn’t just lost to the air though; it also gets soaked into the barrel.

Jim Beam claims to have perfected an extraction process to get this absorbed whisky back out of the wood and into our glasses. After extracting the whisky from the barrel, they mix it in with some six-year-old Jim Beam bourbon and sell it at 90 proof as the Devil’s Cut. They say they use a “proprietary process,” but it isn’t particularly clear what this means. There are actually some fairly simple methods for doing this which have been in use for … well, pretty much forever, the most common being “swishing” or “Barrel sweating,” which isn’t particularly proprietary. Amusingly enough, this product came out the same year as an 86.6-proof bourbon called Angel’s Envy.

Getting along with things, the Devil’s Cut is a medium warm brown liquid in the bottle; it isn’t quite reddish enough that I would call it “amber.” Opening the bottle, I smell charred oak and some kind of nut, probably almond. There is also some sweetness, maybe brown sugar or toffee. I am also catching a hint of banana.

Now on to the tasting. The first thing I am getting on the palate tastes very sugary, almost like root beer. There is some vanilla here as well as that charred oak and some peppery spices. Something in here reminds me distinctly of fall or winter, a kind of holiday flavor—probably cinnamon or nutmeg, or both. The sweetness goes out before the long finish—and it is a long finish. The oak lingers for a good long time along with a hint of bitter toffee, if that is possible. The spices are still there too, and now I think I detect clove as well. All in all, a very nice whisky bourbon for around $20, especially if you are a fan of oak (what can you expect, with a whisky extracted from a barrel?).

Summary: Jim Beam “Devil’s Cut” Kentucky Straight

Colour: Warm, medium brown, almost amber.

Nose: Charred oak, almond, toffee or brown sugar, banana.

Palate: Charred oak, toffee or brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, clove.

Whisky Review: Glenmorangie “The Original” 10 Years Old

Glenmorangie The Original 10 Years Old

When you think Scotch whisky, you usually think “peat.” The Glenmorangie Highland Single Malt “The Original” Ten Years Old is a nice alternative if you are not a big fan of peat, and has the perfect set of fresh, light flavors for the summer. This Scotch whisky has been aged for ten years in designer casks brought in from Missouri. When you see the bright golden liquid in the bottle, it even looks light and refreshing.

Opening the bottle, I half-expected peat just out of habit, but the aroma is largely citrus and a hint of peach. There is also a slight creaminess which I think is coming from vanilla. On the palate, vanilla is the first thing I taste. The body of the whisky is very light, just as I had guessed when I swirled the bottle. The next thing I taste seems to be either peach or pear juice with a hint of citrus (not as strong as I’d expected from the aroma), and something that reminds me of dessert, possibly cake. There is just a dash of salt which mellows out the sweetness and rounds out the flavour profile.

On the long, malty finish, the citrus emerges again—grapefruit or possibly lemon. There is a slight tingle on the tongue that almost makes me think of mineral water or champagne or something else with a bit of a sparkle to it. All in all, very satisfying and again, just what I had hoped for on a hot summer day. Can’t complain about the price either—I paid around $40 for my bottle. I wish I’d discovered it earlier in the year!

Summary: Glenmorangie “The Original” 10 Years Old

Colour: Warm, bright gold.

Nose: Grapefruit, nutmeg, peach, vanilla, almonds, something floral.

Palate: Pear, vanilla, cream, cake, wheat, hint of salt.

Whisky Review: Tullamore Dew 12 y.o. Sherry Cask Finish

Tullamore Dew 12 Year Old Sherry Finish

The Tullamore Dew 12 Year Old Sherry Cask Finish is a Limited Edition whisky sold only in Heinemann airport duty free shops in Germany, Austria, Norway, Hungary, and Slovakia. Speaking about the release in the duty free shops, William Grant & Sons Europe Regional Director Andre De Almeida said, “The combination of highly trained, consumer-focused staff and the attraction of outstanding visual display and a commitment to consumer interaction makes us very confident that Heinemann is the perfect partner in this case.”

Of course, the exclusive release makes this whisky a bit hard to get a hold of if you’re not located near one of Heinemann’s shops. The whisky runs around $50.00 a bottle. Brewed at Bushmills distillery, this particular version of the 12 Year Old spent six months maturing in sherry casks in the Tullamore Dew warehouse located in Clonmel. The 12 Year Old Special Reserve has won a number of awards, including two Gold medals at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2006, 2007, and 2008. I finally got my chance to try the 12 Year Old, and I was not disappointed.

The whisky is a rich amber gold in the bottle. When I open the cap, I am greeted with a delicious nutty aroma with hints of toasted wood, vanilla, and something that reminds me of pastry or cake. There is also just a trace of citrus, possibly lemon or orange. Spices come through as well, adding a pleasant edge to the rest of the notes.

On the first sip, I get toasted wood with almonds. Vanilla rounds out the flavor, along with that taste of cake and orange or lemon. There may be a couple of other fruity notes present as well, but it the whisky is so well blended that it is a challenge to distinguish them. Spices layered across the top add a little something extra. And of course the wood notes from the aging in the sherry cask come through beautifully. This is a very smooth whisky with a rich, lingering, elegant finish. Sweetness balances out the spices nicely, and the lemon note hangs on at the end, a satisfying concluding note to a beautiful symphony of flavors. The aroma of the whisky is a solid preview of the flavors.

I am sure that the Tullamore Dew 12 Year Old Sherry Cask Finish would be great mixed into other beverages, but it seems almost a shame to water it down in any way. It is a very delicious whisky, entirely deserving of the merits it has received, and I enjoy it very much on its own. If you get a chance to pick up one of these, go for it. Fifty bucks is not cheap, but the experience is well worth every penny. This is one to enjoy on special occasions and make last as long as you can—though that may be a challenge!

Summary

Color: Medium amber.

Nose: Almond, toasted wood, vanilla, cake, citrus, spice.

Taste: Almond, toasted wood, vanilla, cake, orange, lemon, spice. Sweet, smooth, lingering taste.

Whisky Review: Lagavulin 1995 Distillers Edition

Lagavulin 1995 Distillers Edition

The Lagavulin 1995 Distillers Edition is a premium single malt Scotch whisky produced by the Lagavulin distillery in Islay. The history of the distillery opens up in the year 1816, and at that time there were actually two distilleries on the site, operated by John Jonston and Archibald Campbell. The 1995 Distillers Edition is one of the best-known drams produced by the Lagavulin distillery. In this case, “Distillers Edition” means something special; it refers to the special Pedro Ximénez sherry casks in which the whisky is distilled.

The liquid inside the bottle is a rich amber brown in colour and has a thick, syrupy quality. Opening the bottle, I can tell right from the start this is going to be a perfect dram for dessert. I smell peat, as expected, but also something sweet, possibly caramel. This is probably the result of the sherry casks. There is something fruity in here too, possibly raisins. There are also woody notes.

Peat is the most prominent flavor, but it is nicely balanced out by the sweet notes of raisin and caramel mentioned earlier. It is thick, syrupy, and quite decadent. The finish on the palate has the richness of cocoa. I can easily see why this dram has received so many accolades, and why the price tag was as high as it was.

A bottle of Lagavulin 1995 Distillers Edition is likely to run you around $100, but it is definitely worth the purchase if you ever get the opportunity. This whiskey sells out fast, and for good reason. I recommend taking your time with it and savoring every drop though. It’s excellent for pairing with chocolates or a fine cigar. If you really want to treat yourself, then this is the whisky to purchase. It’d also make a wonderful gift.

Whisky Review: Caol Ila 18 Year Old

Caol Ila 18 Year Old

The Caol Ila 18 Year Old is a smooth, warm, well-balanced Islay single malt. The Caol Ila distillery is located near Port Askaig and was founded in 1846 by Hector Henderson. Initially the Caol Ila struggled, and changed hands a couple of times before it was acquired by Bulloch Lade & Co. By the late 19th century, Caol Ila’s fortunes had changed, and the distillery was producing more than a hundred thousand gallons of whisky every year. The Caol Ila 18 Year Old is evocative of the scenic cove where the distillery is located, overlooking the water, with beautiful green hills in the backdrop.

In the bottle, the Caol Ila 18 Year Old is warm gold in colour. When I uncapped the bottle, I was greeted by a nicely blended, warm aroma of peat, flowers, lemon, and apricot, with overtones of burnt oak. There’s something herbal in here too, or maybe that comes from those floral notes I can detect.

The Caol Ila 18 Year Old tastes as smooth as it looks, and despite the presence of peat, it is very well balanced and quite mellow. Beginning whisky drinkers sometimes have difficulty with peat (in fact, some veteran whisky drinkers find it overpowering). Personally, I enjoy peat, but I also like when it doesn’t take over a dram. I can also taste that burnt wood, but I don’t taste the flowers and fruits very clearly. They are probably part of what is balancing out the peat, but they are so well blended it is hard to detect individual notes. There is a sea-like saltiness adding even more flavour.

It’s a very balanced dram featuring a lot of different elements which interact to form a delicious, warm, comforting whole. I think the Caol Ila 18 y.o. would appeal to a lot of different palates, including those who love peat and those who enjoy it, but in moderation only. A great drink for new or veteran whisky connoisseurs. The only drawback is the price, which can range around $100.

Summary

Colour: Warm gold.

Nose: Burnt wood, flowers, lemon, apricot, peat.

Palate: Burnt wood, peat, salt, subdued notes of flowers and fruits.

Whisky Review: Talisker 10 Year Old

Talisker 10 Year Old

The Talisker 10 Year Old is a classic Scotch whisky with a peaty flavour; if you do some research, you’ll find a ton of excellent reviews for it online. It isn’t cheap — expect to shell out around $50.00 for a bottle. But it’s worth every penny. The Talisker Distillery is based in Carbost on the Isle of Skye, and specializes in premium single malt whisky. The distillery has quite a history, going back to 1830. The original distillery was lost in a fire and was rebuilt in 1960. If you enjoy something bold and flavorful with a lot of distinction, then you will probably enjoy the Talisker 10 Year Old.

In the bottle, the Talisker 10 y.o. has a rich, warm golden hue. The aroma from the whisky smells of brine, seaweed, smoky peat, and fresh fruit — probably apples, pears, and some kind of citrus, maybe orange. There is also something spicy going on as well. The flavours are very smoky and briny, immediately bringing to mind the Isle of Skye where the distillery is located, classic Scotland. Pepper and cinnamon add some spice, while the fruit flavours add in a hint of sweetness, balancing everything out. There is also some kind of wood flavour here as well, possibly oak.

All in all, the Talisker 10 Year Old is a wonderful dram with a rich, complex range of flavours and aromas, and makes for a memorable and delightful experience—one I hope to repeat often. I can see why this is a favorite for so many whisky fans. One word of warning, however; if you are new to whisky, you may find this one a bit overpowering. And if you don’t like peat, you’ll probably want to steer clear. Otherwise, if you love the flavour of classic Scotch whisky, enhanced by rich, delicious fruits and spices, you will love the Talisker 10 Year Old.

Summary

Colour: Warm, bright gold.

Nose: Smoke, peat, seaweed, cinnamon, fruit.

Palate: Smoke, peat, seaweed, orange, apple, pear, cinnamon, pepper, oak.

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