Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Glenlivet 12 Year Old - Single Malt Scotch Review

The Glenlivet distillery produces the number one top selling single malt scotch in the United States. Turning to the rest of the world, it is the second largest seller of single malt scotch. I am guessing that Glenfiddich is number one based on its presence in all the bars I have ever been in. In any case, The Glenlivet 12 yr old is enormously popular. The question is: Is it a decent scotch? The answer is a resounding "yes!"

Nose (without water/ice)
A gentle floral scent will waft out of your glass like apple blossoms and vanilla extract.

Palate (without water/ice)
Medium bodied, chewy, dark toast, cinnamon rolls, fresh bread, a little apple, and plenty of dark plums.

Finish (without water/ice)
Fresh ground pepper on the finish with gentle sherry notes and a maltiness that hangs on the palate for quite a while.

General Impressions
I like this! There is a reason this is the number one selling single malt in the United States and number two in the world, it's damn good! Now, it is not the finest single malt scotch in the marketplace, but it doesn't pretend to be. It is not the best 12 year old single malt, but it is in the top ten.

This is a scotch that has no offensive edges. No alcohol burn. Pretty smooth except for some pepper on the finish.

I tried it with some water and did not find that there was an improvement. Some scotch improves with the addition of water, but not this one. Its' older sibling, the 18yr old certainly benefits from the addition of one or two teaspoons of distilled or Artesian water. Not the case with the Glenlivet 12 year old. The addition of water just seems to dull all the flavors, whereas the addition of water to the 18yr old brings out a unique complexity of flavors.

The Glenlivet 12 yr old provides great value for money. The price is very reasonable for the flavor profile. Its' chief rival is Glenfiddich 12 yr old and in a head to head tasting competition the Glenlivet comes out on top.

Another great point to make about this single malt scotch is that it is amazingly consistent from batch to batch. No change in the flavor profile and not known to have spoiled or flawed bottles. In a word, the quality assurance is A-1.

This is a single malt that I would not hesitate to serve at a party. It is particularly appropriate to serve to the casual scotch drinker or a crowd where you are unsure of everyone's tastes.

It is reasonably priced and of good quality. Something of interest to the serious scotch drinker and at the same time a pleasant experience for the novice.


© Jason Debly, 2009-2012. All rights reserved.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Johnnie Walker Ad, Beirut, Lebanon

I love this ad!

This photo was taken in Beirut, Lebanon a couple of years ago. Lebanon, as you probably know, is a country that has seen a lot war. The destruction of lives and buildings is inescapable anywhere you look in Lebanon. Nevertheless, the people are optimists and a local design company that did work for Diaego (the company that owns the Johnnie Walker brand) came up with this great ad. It tells the Lebanese, despite the fighting, wars, destruction, "Keep Walking."

This is pure genius advertising when you can convey a powerful message that is inextricably bound up with your product. No wonder Johnnie Walker is enormously popular in Lebanon. They should run this ad in Israel and any country touched by war or terrorism.


Jason Debly
© Jason Debly, 2009-2011. All rights reserved.

Vintage Scotch Ads

I was perusing some vintage scotch ads and really get a kick out of them. My how times have changed.

Scotch at one time was marketed at the male target audience exclusively. Men of wealth and taste are depicted in the ads in drawing rooms pondering their next billiard shot, etc. Of course, now scotch ads have abandoned such a blatantly elitist world view. The snobbery is still there but much more subtle. That is what is unfortunate with scotch whisky. It tends to have an elitist whiff about it. And this may be due to the fact that years ago, one had to be somewhat well-to-do to afford this magical spirit. Even today it is expensive at times, but I certainly think the elitism has disipated somewhat, thank God!

Nevertheless Johnnie Walker ads and others perpetuate the myth that scotch is for the rich and affluent only. Obviously, this marketing strategy produces results or they would not have continued in this manner.

The aim of this blog is to encourage everyone, men, women, people of any ethnicity, race or social standing to try scotch whisky, and discover its' secrets.

Anyway, hope you enjoy the ads! By the way, the ads are all for Teacher's Highland Cream, a blended scotch that has been around a long time and will continue for a long time into the future.


P.S. Click on the ads for full size!

© Jason Debly, 2009 - 2012. All rights reserved.

Friday, September 11, 2009

2006 Chateau Pipeau Grand Cru

I know this is primarily a scotch blog, but I also get excited about great wine from time to time. So, here and there, I will post my tasting notes and meandering musings on wine also. So, here goes!

Poor Merlot and its' undeserved reputation
Sideways was an off-the-wall comedy film that came out in 2004 about two guys, Miles and Jack, one facing the prospect of marriage, while the other, not facing much of anything other than a lot of disappointment and regret in life. So, the two embark on a road trip of Californian wine country (Santa Barbara, I think), doing a fair bit of drinking and ending up in some ridiculous predicaments. What I and many people remember from the film was Miles' tirade on how much he hated Merlot. I mean the guy really hated Merlot. Why? It's boring, flat, unexceptional, hopelessly mainstream. Pinot Noir, declared Miles, was what people who knew wine were drinking.

Sideways was a popular film back in 2004. It was not a blockbuster by any means, but it was successful. It won a few awards, and the two lead actors were nominated for Oscars (they didn't win). Now here is the surprising tidbit. The negative comments of the fictional main character 'Miles' about Merlot actually caused sales of Merlot to drop. Use Google to search "Sideways movie merlot" and you will find articles on this. I checked Wikipedia and it notes this phenomenon too. Merlot sales dropped by 2% while Pinot Noir sales increased by 16% shortly after the movie was released. It's unbelievable that people would alter their wine selection based on a movie, but it just goes to show that not all the monkeys are in the zoo.

The Defender of Merlot's Tattered Reputation
That task is the aim of this review. Merlot can be interesting, nuanced, delivering flavors of great complexity and tannic structure in a manner that the other noble grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, etc.) cannot.

It is true that Merlot can be boring. No doubt about it. Part of the reason for this propensity is due to the thickness of the skin of the Merlot grape. It is considerably thinner than the Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo or Syrah. The skin is the source of tannins. Hence, a thinner grape skin means a less tannic wine. And so, Merlot being less tannic, is less offensive than say a mighty Cab that needs aging during which the tannins soften.

Many novice drinkers of wine prefer Merlot because it is very smooth, and often a flat flavor that is totally inoffensive. Hell, the stuff tastes almost on par with cream soda. Californian vintners are not alone in producing very boring Merlot. Argentina, Chile, South Africa and especially Australia produce some terribly uninspired wines based on this grape.

However, there is a notable exception. France. In particular, wines from the lovely little town of Saint Emilion are almost wholly based on Merlot, and the result is anything but boring.

Saint Emilion
This quaint little French town with its narrow streets, yellow stucco buildings tightly fitted on a grid of streets, has been producing wine since at leat 2 A.D. Today, it is most famous for its red wine that is often pure Merlot, meaning it has not been blended with other grapes (Cabs, Petit Verdot, etc.). What is amazing is the wine. It is like a distant cousin of Merlot. It shares some of the same attributes, but is very, very different and intriguing.

How do the winemakers of Saint Emilion do it? Well, in a sense it is done for them. The soil (limestone and clay), weather (warm and sunny, but not heatwave material) and plenty of aging in French oak barrels. The 2006 Chateau Pipeau Grand Cru from Saint Emilion is a fine example of how Merlot can be interesting and of course quite enjoyable in a manner much different than possible with other varietals.

Although I said above that many Saint Emilion wines are made purely from Merlot, there are also some that blend in a few other grapes in small percentages. Chateau Pipeau is such a case. The 2006 Chateau Pipeau Grand Cru is made up of 80% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc. The Cabernet Franc is a nice touch that adds some of the tannic flavors that will come up later in my tasting note.

Dark purple, no light will pass through this one.

Some flower, but fairly restrained.

You will taste lots of silky red fruit like dark berries, black cherrie, fig and kitchen spices accompanied by a soaring tannic flavor profile, that I am sure you have never experienced in a Merlot before. It is tannic with a capital "T" but will soften as time passes. Even though I did not sample this until 45 minutes after decanting, it still was tannic, but please understand, it was in a very pleasant way. Another element to this wine upon the palate is: oak. French oak tastes different than say Merlot aged in Californian or Slovenian oak. For some people, it may take some time getting used to it, but well worth the endeavor. Other flavors I pick up are graphite, earth and flint. This is a good thing, to borrow a phrase from Martha Stewart.

The dark fruit fades into some smooth licorice and a zing of mint/bay leaf or maybe tarragon which lingers for quite a while. nice!

Most Merlot can be opened and drank almost immediately, but not this one or most Saint-Emilion wines. The 2006 Chateau Pipeau St Emilion Grand Cru requires time. Exposure to the air is a must to take the edge off the tannins, while never rough, it becomes more rounded with time.

A lot of American and Australian Merlot is intended for immediate consumption or within 2 yrs tops of hitting the shelves of your favorite wine shop. Not the case with this one. Aging will soften the tannins and reduce the fruitniness to some extent. This is a young wine that can be drank now, but could be cellared for up to ten years.

For those who can afford it, I would recommend buying a case and open one bottle a year to see how the flavor profile changes over time. When it reaches what you consider to be ideal, consume them all (not at one sitting of course, unless you want to end up face down pretty quick).

In any case, at this point the wine is very young with plenty of life.

Like so many wines, this is best with food or at the very least some strong cheese like gorgonzola and crusty French bread.

General Impressions
To the accusation of being boring and hopelessly mainstream, Merlot's response is: Chateau Pipeau Grand Cru, a wine which demonstrates that this such a proposition is not true. Matter of fact, I would go even further and suggest that most grand cru classe wines of Saint Emilion are hardly boring.

Great value at this price. The aging potential is exceptional and will assure years of pleasant surprise as you open a bottle here and there and note the changes. I highly recommend this wine.

The wine critic, Robert Parker, rated this 89-91pts out of 100.


© Jason Debly, 2009 - 2011. All rights reserved.

Cragganmore 12 yr Old Single Malt Scotch Review

Cragganmore 12 yr old
Speyside single malt scotch is whisky distilled in and around the River Spey, within the Moray, Strathspey and Badenoch regions of Scotland.

Speyside scotch can in general terms be distinguished from Islay scotch whisky on the basis of an absence of peat or at most a minimal amount of it. Speyside scotches are generally non-peaty, sometimes sweet and full of smoke. Cragganmore 12 yr old is a classic example of all that is wonderful in a Speyside scotch.

Serving Suggestion
Add half a teaspoon of distilled or spring water to a shot of this very fine scotch. The water makes the flavors richer, sweeter and the spiciness on the finish to soar.

Beautiful nose. Incredible! Flowers, baked bread and the twinkle or zing of heather upon one’s nose in a most wonderful fashion. This one of very few that claim to have a complex nose.

On entry, malt, honey and marzipan. Moves quickly to smoke with a beautiful sweetness through out. A tapestry of rich, smokey flavors, perfectly in balance, woven such that there are no unsightly seams. Truly heaven sent.

Burnt toast, cinnamon, brown sugar and sea spray woven most intricately with wisps of smoke and gentle spices linger considerably upon the palate. Wow! Having drunk this, I know I am in the presence of greatness!

General Impressions
This is smooth, refined, sophisticated and wonderful beyond its’ mere 12 years of aging. I’d put this up against many 18 yr old single malts, and Cragganmore would come out on top hands down! Pretty much a total absence of peat flavors. If you dislike peaty scotch, then you will love Cragganmore 12 yr old.

If you are a Johnnie Walker Green Label fan, this is the single malt answer to that fine blend. Cragganmore, along with Linkwood, Talisker and Caol Ila form the core of Green Label.  If you like one, you will definitely enjoy the other. 

I never truly understood the meaning of the term “complexity” with respect to scotch tastings until I tried Cragganmore 12 years old.  An impressive tapestry of flavors to consider.


Jason Debly

© Jason Debly, 2009-Present. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Review: The Glenlivet 18 yr Old Single Malt Scotch

Updated tasting note on November 6, 2016
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.

Reasonable considering it is an 18 year old single malt.


Cork stopper.



Combination of first fill and second fill American (ex-bourbon) and European oak (ex-sherry) casks.

Nose (undiluted)
Concentrated vanilla, aromatic sherry, orange blossoms, cherry blossoms.

Palate (undiluted)
Up front spiced oranges, honey, fuzzy pears, then a herbal note, caraway seed or mineral like quality followed by sherry and oak.

Finish (undiluted)
Dominated by lumbering oak that is so spicy that it becomes bitter but not to the point of astringency.

General Impressions
This is good value for money. Not the best single malt but not the greatest in the 18year old category. Oban 14yrs is similar in taste but is superior.

In order to get rid of the bitterness or grapefruit pith notes you need to add a little water.  The water makes it more creamy, brings out milk chocolate and eliminates the bitterness referenced above.

Years ago, I do not recall the spiciness of the oak moving towards bitterness.  In the past this malt had more of a milk chocolate profile.  That has changed.  Water is a must!


Jason Debly

© Jason Debly, 2009 - Present. All rights reserved.