Sunday, December 20, 2009

Dalwhinnie 15 year old - Single Malt Scotch Review

Dalwhinnie 15 years Highland Single Malt Scotch




Wood Management
Aged exclusively in ex-bourbon casks.  However, Distiller's Editions released by this distillery frequently involve some aging in ex-Oloroso sherry casks.

Nose (undiluted)
Vanilla, lemon, apple blossoms, pears.

Palate (undiluted)
Apple skins, bruised apple sweetness, salted almonds drizzled in honey, caramel, syrup and barley toys.

Mid-to-Late Palate
Spiciness emerges, baking soda, black pepper, but only slightly.

Finish (undiluted)
Drying malt, pencil lead, graphite, oak, balsa, a wee smoke, peat and heather.

General Impressions
Whenever I encounter the flavor profile of Dalwhinnie, the best word to describe a unique aspect of the flavor profile at mid-palate is the word 'heather.' I hate to use a term that I cannot define well. Who eats heather? What does it taste like? Heather is a common, low-lying shrub that goes by the latin name of "Calluna vulgaris." Wikipedia states that it has a characteristic strong taste. Bee hives located near bogs or moorland containing heather tend to produce a much stronger variety of honey. So, when I use the term 'heather' think of it as that taste you experience of the other flavors on steroids so to speak. "Heather honey" is stronger than ordinary honey.

In any event, the heather works beautifully with the honey, cinammon, cocoa, coffee and other flavors (ie. oak) in this Highland malt.

Tasted neat, it's a single malt scotch that starts out silky, very sweet, but quickly develops very rich honey flavors. Nothing bitter or too robust that will put off the novice drinkers.

Dalwhinnie also delivers 'some' complexity of flavor that will set it apart from others. I say 'some' because it is not overly so.

I recommend this as a great gift to all those who want an inoffensive, yet interesting Highland single malt.


Jason Debly

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

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Winter's Night!

Well, winter has arrived in Atlantic Canada. Above is a picture of my snowbound abode. I just got in this evening from snowblowing the driveway. Temperature is colder than a witch's tit and a wind that causes snow to pelt my face at a most unpleasant angle. Ah! winter. You lush, you white bearded tormentor. I am ready to do battle, armed with my L.L.Bean parka, fleece lined jeans and trusty snowblower. I happily take up arms against the hostile elements of howling wind, driving snow and cold temperatures. Happily? Yup, because my reward, once the driveway is cleared of snow by my weary snowblower, is waiting inside the house. In the basement . . .

Well, the driveway has been snowblown, my walk is shoveled, the wife and children are asleep, it's 10pm and time to come in. The blizzard continues outside. I hear the gentle ping of freezing rain pellets against the window panes adjacent to the front door. I shake off my parka, hat and boots, leaving a massive puddle of snow on the tiled entry way. I head to the basement, kickback in the recliner, pull a blanket over me and reach for some Lagavulin 16yrs.

The Lagavulin just doesn't warm me up enough. I need something more intense, warmer. I reach for the Knob Creek. Now we're talking. 9 yr old Kentucky bourbon warms me up big time as I kick back in the lazy boy. Big rounded flavors of sweet corn, rye, brown sugar and candy cane make for the perfect whisky on this cold night.

This is just a quick post. Tomorrow or the next day I hope to finish my tasting note for Royal Salute, a 21 year old blended scotch whisky. Royal Salute is one of those ultra premium blends and what I have been pondering is whether or not it is worth the price.

Until then cheers!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Chivas Regal 18 yr old

It's an overcast Friday afternoon with the temperature dropping. Work is finished for another week, and so my day as an office gnome has come to a close. I head down the street to the local pub. You know the place. There is one in every city. There's a bartender, a college kid, standing behind the bar that has a line of bottles behind him, piled in pyramid fashion against a mirrored wall. Up above is a shelf lined with many different spirits, nearly all scotch. The place prides itself on its claim of 200 plus different scotches.

Elsewhere in the pub are college students adorning tables and chairs. The guys talk tough to their admiring lady friends while middle aged, disheveled suits like me collapse into one of the polished brown chairs that have more nicks and notches than David Lee Roth or Tiger Woods have in their belts.

The lone waitress spies me from a afar, nods, heads for the bar reaches for a thick black binder and brings it to me with a tall glass of ice water.

I leaf through the binder which lists the 200 plus whiskies from all over the world. What shall I have? A question I always enjoy answering.

All week I have been thinking about what I would have on Friday afternoon and post on this blog. Lately, I have been sampling a lot of single malts and bourbon. I thought, it's time to return to what attracted me to scotch and whisky in the first place. The blended scotch.

For me, it all started with Johnnie Walker Black. Hmmm . . good stuff, but need to try another blend that I read a lot about but never had. And so, that is how I arrived at Chivas Regal 18yrs old.

I really like Johnnie Walker Black, Green and Blue. No need to revist them today. Other scotch blends have not always been so great. Grant's Family Reserve and J&B are on my most hated list of scotch blends. There are others too. Will save those for future reviews. Nevertheless, I am still on a quest to find a blend that rivals some of the Johnnie Walker line, particularly Black Label, just the best blend for me. So, the brand Chivas Regal comes to mind as a possible rival worth exploring.

A long time ago I had tried Chivas Regal 12 yr old and just found it unremarkable. Not great, but not terrible. Very suitable for using as a component of a mixed drink. Now, I had heard tremendous praise for Royal Salute 21 yr old, another Chivas Regal offering. A blend that is praised by everyone. At $20 a dram, I have decided to take a pass on that today. I usually have two or three drams before formulating my tasting note. Today that was just too expensive for me. So, by default I decided to Chivas Regal 18yrs a try. So, I looked up at the waitress and uttered the magic words "Chivas Regal 18." Without a word she turned and headed to the bar. God lover her!

Nose (undiluted)
Easy peat, a little pepper and sea salt. New risen bread fresh out of the over. Nice nose, but no show stopper.

Palate (undiluted)
Sweet.  Very sweet to start.  Orange rind, some honey, sugar donut and classic malt flavors. Medium body and warming, without burn or bite. The scotch is a little sweet at this point. What I do not detect much of is sherry.  There's a little.  Not a flaw, just an observation.  It is also a tad grainy. 

Finish (undiluted)
The malt and honey flavors are crowned by peat and salt. There is a hint of peat on the finish that zings across the palate at the very end taking away the sweetness of the midpalate.  I say hint of 'peat' as it is very close to becoming grainy.  I am shocked by the grainy elements of the flavor profile.

General Impressions
A smooth, honey, malty, sugared cheerio scotch with peat and salt on the finish. Every component of the aforementioned flavor profile is in balance, but that is the problem! It's kinda boring. It's like the scotch was blended by a computer program targeting the mainstream demographic of the middle aged dad who gets a nip at holidays only and so wants something that is very, very easy drinking and takes no chances.

Value for Money?
At the high price tag attached to a bottle of this blended scotch, you expect much more complexity and pizzaaz! You also expect a total absence of grainy flavors.  This is a big let down for me.  For $20 to $30 dollars less you can purchase single malts that are much better than Chivas Regal 18 yrs old. Which ones? Dalwhinnie, Cragganmore, and Glenfiddich 15 yrs Solera to name but a few.  But, those are single malts.  How does it compare to other 18 year old blended scotch whiskies?  Not well, I must advise.

Johnnie Walker Gold Label 18 yrs and Famous Grouse 18yrs are better.  By better, I mean more flavor and less grainy.  Matter of fact, Johnnie Walker Green Label 15 years is also superior and lower priced.  Frankly, Johnnie Walker Black Label has more flavor.

Flavor is a problem with Chivas Regal 18.  The smooth quality of this blended scotch comes from the use of grain whiskies.  Trouble is, the more grain whisky used will reduce the impact of the flavors of single malts in the blend.  Hence, I find myself taking big sips in search of flavor.
You are not getting value for money when you buy Chivas Regal 18 yrs old blended scotch. 

So Why Buy It?
I would only buy Chivas Regal 18 yr old blended scotch if I had to buy a gift for someone who I understood liked scotch without knowing whether or not they liked blends, single malts, peaty, smokey or honeyed drams. Moreover, if the person was a bit of a status nut, or liked impressive or snobby aspects of scotch, Chivas Regal 18yrs would fit the bill with its fancy packaging and high price.

It has a little smoke, a little peat, some honey, a little this, a little that, a little of everything. Pretty hard for the casual drinker of scotch not to like it. A very safe bet is Chivas Regal 18yrs. Very smooth which is generally the novice's sign of quality.  Mistake!  Really unimpressive.  Not horrible, but not great.

But, if you are like me, you require more! For that reason, I, personally, would not buy Chivas Regal 18yrs again because there is always a better single malt or blend (Johnnie Walker Black - just add a little water to take away the graininess) that is much lower priced.


Jason Debly

P.S.  I updated this review about a year later.  You can read it here.

© Jason Debly, 2009-2016. All rights reserved.