Friday, December 24, 2010

Holiday Scotch Whisky Suggestions!

The holiday season is now in full swing, crowds fill stores, people are smiling, children are giddy with anticipation of Santa, and well you . . . if you are a guy . . . probably haven't bought a gift yet.  Maybe you have to buy the father-in-law a whisky, then again it might be the mother-in-law.  The boss?  You need advice.  You need an opinionated blogger.  You need me. 

Bottom Shelf Blended Scotch Whisky
Where do you start?  Blends, vatted malts or single malts?  Do you buy the high end spirit or take a deep breath and grab some bottom shelf fire water?  Lets start with the bottom shelf and progress from there. 

The great appeal of bargain priced blended scotch whisky is that it is very affordable.  These are tough times.  The economy is not very nice to the hard working people of this world.  Not everyone is a Wall Street stock broker, financier or hedge fund operator.  Most of us have an honest job that pays just enough for us to make it from one pay check to the next.  And there is no shame in that.  Honest work is admirable, no matter what it is.  If you can only afford the lowest priced blends on the market, have no fear, there are some great blends available.  I cannot survey all of them, but I will point you in the direction of a good one, and suggest two terrible bottles to avoid. 

Three of the cheapest blended scotch whiskies that come to mind are Bell's Blended Scotch WhiskyGrant's Family Reserve and Teacher's Highland Cream

Grant's Family Reserve
This blend is sweet, thin in flavor, a flavor profile that consists of cinammon stick, stale cloves, nutmeg and grainy as the Zapruder film of the late President Kennedy.  As attractive as the triangular bottle may be, don't cave into the urge to heft it and think "this is alright."  No, don't do it.

Bell's Blended Scotch Whisky
This is another cheapie to stay away from.  The nose is malty, peppery and reminiscent of thyme.  The flavor profile is very sweet malt, green onion grainy, maybe a little lemon grass and lentils that belong in a Middle Eastern soup.  Cloyingly sweet brother.  The finish is malty again, moving to pepper and ending with grain that tries in vain to be smokey.  Drop the bottle! Who cares if it falls to the floor and shatters.  You just saved a fellow whisky drinker the pain, suffering and disappointment, much like what poor Liza Minnelli experienced everytime one of her marriages crashed and burned.

Teacher's Highland Cream
This is also probably the lowest priced scotch in the store.  The label is ancient and needs to be updated (which apparently will be rolled out shortly).  You read the back of it. 

"All blended scotch whiskies are made of two kinds of whisky - malt and grain.  But Teacher's Highland Cream has an exceptionally high malt content - at least 45%.  A feature which contributes to its unique character and flavour."

It is true that most blended scotch whiskies have a much lower malt whisky content, but does it make a difference?  The experts say yes.  All I know is the flavor is there.  What separates Teacher's from Grant's and Bell's is that there is 'flavor' as suggested in the following old ad:

Grant's is especially thin in terms of flavor, requiring you to suck it back like a Cherry Coke.  Bell's too, but with Teacher's there is a punch of bacon, sea salt, a little iodine and a big malty background that fills the palate.  While the nose of this scotch is close to petrol, the taste is not.  Take little sips if served neat.  I prefer a teaspoon of water to a double measure.  It works with ice too.

As a gift, I think this is good quality for your dollar.  If the person receiving your token of generosity is a scotch enthusiast, s/he will know and respect this spirit.  If s/he isn't very knowledgeable on the topic of spirits, well, a surprise is about to be sprung.

Premium Blended Scotch Whisky
You can afford more than the economy blended scotch category?  Ok.  This will be simple. 
I have two suggestions.  Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 years and Chivas Regal 12 years old.  You can't go wrong with either suggestion.

Ultra Premium Blended Scotch Whisky
Royal Salute 21 years.  That's all you need to know.  Never mind Johnnie Walker Blue Label and Ballantine's 17 year old.

 Blended Malt - Pure Malt - Vatted Malt
Or whatever you wanna call it, all you need to reach for is Johnnie Walker Green Label.  Middle of the road, honeyed with a flourish of peat to please the more sophisticated palate that wants complexity.

A Holiday Single Malt?
A Christmas single malt for me is one that is powerful and at the same time has a very rich, velvety flavor that is comparable to a great fruit cake in a bottle.  For the Christmas season, I have a couple of suggestions:  Highland Park 15Highland Park 18, 25 years and Clynelish Distiller's Edition 1992.  All are rich and luxuriant treatments of sherry, toffee and heather.  A delight to the serious whisky lover.

Final Thought
I'm gonna go now, but I want to leave you with a song.  Please contemplate its message over the holidays.  Have a safe holiday, and I'll be in touch in the new year!

Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year!

Jason Debly

Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2011. All rights reserved.  Poster owns no copyright to music or video, which is posted for the purposes of nostalgia, education and entertainment.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Review: Old Pulteney 12 years Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Old Pulteney 12 years old Single Malt Scotch Whisky

I bought a bottle of this a little over a year ago and really didn't like it.  Read my previous review here.  I wasn't nice.  Adam Morin is a regular reader and takes issue with my review.  He likes it.  So, I thought I should post his review of this single malt, and that way you have two views of the same scotch.  Of course, you will have to ultimately judge for yourself.  Here's Adam's review:

The Highland whisky producing region in Scotland, that country's second-largest (next to Speyside), is marked by great variation in the whiskies produced. Unlike Speyside or Islay, each of whom produce in an instantly identifiable whisky style, Highland whiskies roam the map, literally and figuratively; sherried bruisers like Oban to heathered-honey drams like Dalwhinnie, or the soft dulcet tones of a Glenmorangie are all lumped together in the same category. Describing a whisky as being "Highland" is about as instructive as describing 7-Up as a carbonated beverage. While Old Pulteney is technically a Highland dram, its characteristics, location, and style make it, in many ways, the embodiment of a Coastal whisky; it is not known as "The Manzanilla of the North" for nothing.

Founded in Wick in 1826, a godforsaken, windswept coastal patch of northern Scotland, Old Pulteney holds the distinction of being the most northerly distillery in the Scottish mainland, just twenty-five kilometres south of John 'O Groats. Both the package and the bottle prominently display a steam-powered transport vessel, giving homage to a time when everything, from the barley to the finished product, had to be shipped by sea; indeed, many of its early employees doubled as fishermen in the summer. Aging barrels, though nearly airtight, are not immune to the effects of decades spent being buffeted by salt wind, and so the final product in all Coastal whiskies, Old Pulteney at the forefront, presents a briny, rugged character. Indeed the distillery itself, like its whisky, is not the model of grace and beauty; at the corner of Huddart and Rutherford streets in Wick, it presents a long, grey, crumbling wall to the street, located in a rubbly field strewn with trash surrounded by public housing. This is a blue collar whisky if ever there was one, and I'm loving it already - let's take a sip now.

Surprisingly gentle. Honey, vanilla, and almond notes mingle, like a freshly baked pound cake - this has clearly been aged in both bourbon and sherry casks. Behind it is a fresh, salty component, which is intensified if water or ice is added. Lovely - no trace of alcohol whatsoever. The colour, too, is nice, presenting a light amber, golden hue. But wait now, what's this? A closer look on the bottle reveals the tiny words "Mit farbstoff", in German, and beneath it in Danish, "Farven justeret med karamel". Uh oh. It's well known that many distillers use E150 caramel to darken the colour of their offerings, as marketing gurus have shown that a darker-coloured whisky is assumed to be, by the consumer, more aged, flavourful, and rich. I can live with that. What gets me is that they had to hide this fact in tiny letters, in Danish and German, on the English bottle. Although Germany and Scandinavia require the declaration of added colour by law, forcing their primarily English consumers to have to ascertain that by consulting a language dictionary seems disingenuous. And the final product is not even that dark anyway. Seems kind of pointless to me.

Light bodied. What was honey and almond on the nose turns to sweet malt and marzipan notes on the palate. However, upon transition to mid-palate the salty brine element becomes abundantly clear, marked by a noted tanginess, while the malt moves from sweetness to more fruity, citrusy notes. Tropical fruit is a term used by many reviewers to desribe the tangy, semisweet flavour some whiskies present mid-palate, and I can see that; slightly unripe mango is what springs to mind immediately, for me. That said, your mileage may vary, and the true joy of sipping whisky is in experiencing the interplay of different flavours it provides on your own terms. That tropical zest is something you can find in a lot of Speyside whiskies, but the mixture of salt found in Old Pulteney provides an extra layer of complexity and balance, which I've only ever tasted before in a Glen Scota 15-year old, another noted coastal whisky from Campbeltown. The addition of water tends to eliminate most of the sweetness leaving a harsh, salty drink in its midst, so I would recommend staying away from that, especially given its light body and 40% ABV.

The lightness of body is unusual even by Coastal whisky standards. This is due in part to the unique shape of the wash stills at Old Pulteney, as they lack the distinctive swan-neck at the top that concentrates the first distillation (producing what is known as low wines). It's rumoured that when the original stills were delivered in 1826, they were slightly too tall for the stillhouse and so the manager at the time ordered that the swan-necks be cut off. Subsequent generations of distillation equipment were modified like the original to maintain the distinctive flavour Old Pulteney had by then established. Modified stills are by no means unique to them, though; Glenmorangie boasts the tallest stills in Scotland at 26 ft. 3 inches, which they claim produces their trademark light, fresh quality, and the original stills at Cragganmore were modified by distiller Big John Smith to have a flatter top than usual, and subsequently maintained. But with the dozens of independent factors inherent in single malt production, it's hard to tell exactly what role a slight manipulation of the stills plays, and subsequent generations of distillers typically keep the stills as-is out of fear of inadvertently altering anything; a dented still, when replaced, will have a new dent hammered into it, in exactly the same place, by the cooppsersmith. Roddy MacKenzie, manager of the LInkwood distillery in the 1930s, refused to even clear out the spiderwebs in his stillhouse for that reason. This combination of the vast amount of independent factors that lead to a whisky's final taste is known among single malt makers by the term provenance - an expression of the sum total of the production process. Provenance is the reason that Balvenie, though literally across the street from Glenfiddich and using the same water, barley, barrels, aging and expertise as the latter, produces an entirely different whisky altogether. Why is that? Nobody knows.

This is an example of Oak Done Right. Aging in bourbon and sherry casks gives the finish a nutty, slightly honeyed feel, with the oak providing a clean, unobtrusive dryness. While apparent, it never overwhelms the spirit (remarkable for one so light-bodied as this), and merges with the salt element to provide a quick, yet graceful exit that finishes very clean and zesty, almost like a gin and tonic. That said, this is no long, drawn out finish by any means, and is almost entirely gone within a few seconds, making this offering an excellent aperitif if so inclined.

"Unashamedly excellent and deserves so much more recognition around the world." - Jim Murray, whisky guru, as quoted on the box

Though often given to hyperbole, Jim Murray is right; there's no question that Old Pulteney is not among Scotland's more celebrated drams, and the unique whisky it produces should receive greater recognition. It's perhaps the quintessential Coastal dram, with a brazen saltiness some find off-putting but I, personally, love. What's great, though, is that the salt is kept in check the whole way - in the nose and opening palate by bourbon and sherry aging, and in the finish by the oak, with the pleasant result that the salt is a welcome passenger along for the ride. The fact that they can accomplish this fine balancing of flavours in such a light-bodied whisky is, well, providential - a slight tweak in one direction or the other could send the whole thing off-kilter; these distillers, despite the aged, dilapidated facility they work in, know WTF they're doing. That said, an increase to 43% ABV might give the whisky a little added weight, and for such a light-bodied light-coloured spirit the addition of E150 caramel is simply unacceptable, and unnecessary. One wonders what the spirit looks like prior to colourization - must be no darker than a Pinot Grigio- but I'm an open minded guy, and would accept it as is. Especially considering the bottle is encased in a solid box. I had no idea what the spirit even looked like until I got home. But I digress. This is a wonderful whisky for novice fans, or hardcore veterans, with something to appeal to each. If you're looking to try something decently-priced, that is a clear reflection of its geography, Old Pulteney is a good way to go.
Adam Morin

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Crystal Decanters and Emperor Caligula

My Mother kindly gave me a crystal whisky decanter that I had been eyeing for a long time.  The occasion was my birthday.  I, ever the whisky nut, thought it would be great to store my finest single malt in, and dispense on special occasions (typically every Friday night!).

And then I discovered that my whisky decanter shared something in common with a depraved ancient Roman Emperor, no not Silvio Berlusconi, but the other one: Caligula.  You know, that really degenerate creature who tried to make his horse a senator, when he was not having people killed for his amusment.  Example: one day at the games, intermission proved boring as there were no criminals left to feed to the wild animals, so he ordered his guards to toss a section of the crowd into the arena in order to spice things up a bit.

Roman coin depicting Emperor Caligula

Enough of the history lesson.  So, what does the above noted wicked emperor share in common with my crystal decanter?  Answer:  Lead.

And therein lies the rub.  Lead is a key ingredient of fine crystal like my decanter.  It makes crystal sparkle brilliantly, bends light in a manner that pleases us, and in general, amuse our eyes.  The more lead in the glass, the more brilliant it becomes.

Caligula was described by a number of ancient historians as being insane.  While the first couple of years of his rule were relatively calm and productive with only the occasional needless execution (after all, he was a Roman emperor), it would not last as his mental health began to decline.  Started thinking he was a god (yes, hedge fund founders weren't the first to pull that one!) and building temples (no, not in the Hamptons) in his honor all suggested that poor 'ol Little Boots (a nickname from childhood) was losing his mind. 

Recent studies of Roman wine drinking habits have claimed that lead levels in the wine were dangerously high.  The Romans were in the habit of boiling their wine in lead pots.  Alcoholics like Caligula, so the theory goes, were literally suffering from lead poisoning.  This might explain his extreme paranoia, lack of good judgment and basically all of his murderous and perverse foibles.  The History Channel has a great series of programs entitled "Ancients Behaving Badly" (again, no, it is not about Berlusconi and nubile 18 year old ladies) and one episode is devoted to Caligula.  On that particular segment, the lead poisoning theory is explored quite convincingly.

The point I am trying to make is that my lead crystal decanter imparts lead into the whisky stored in it.  Just like the Roman lead pots and other vessels that poisoned Caligula.  Don't believe me?  Check out what the United States Library of Medicine had to say about the use of crystal decanters in a lovely little article entitled: "Potential Lead Exposures from Lead Crystal Decanters" (click here).  Or how about the Canadian government's take on the situation in an aptly titled article: "Lead Crystalware and Your Health" (click here). 

The above references too scientific for you?  I hear ya.  For an easier read, free of scientific geek speak, try the New York Times article "Storing Wine in Crystal Decanters May Pose Lead Hazard" (click here) or the Washington Post article "Crystal Decanters - Off Limits" (click here).

Too lazy to read the article and want me to sum it up in a couple of choice sound bites.  Ok, I can do . . .

Wine, whisky, water, basically any liquid will become contaminated with lead at detectable levels following as little as 24 hours in a crystal decanter.  The longer your choice spirit or wine is stored in the decanter, the higher the unhealthy lead reading will be.  Old crystal can have higher lead concentration (ie. 32%) whereas new crystal is now no greater than 24%.  The manufacturers have voluntarily limited lead content to 24%.  Still an unsafe level if you intend to store your choice drink in a decanter for a long period of time.

So, what can I do?  Based on what I have read, I apparently should fill my decanter just before guests arrive, serve it, and empty my decanter back into the original bottle after they leave.  The articles I read stated whisky in crystal glasses or decanters for a couple of hours during a meal or social event was within safe limits. 

I guess I am not so envious now of the super rich lad who paid $460,000 US for a 64 year old Macallan single malt in a Lalique crystal decanter! (click here)  While he may have over paid for the whisky, his spendthrift ways are to be applauded, as it was for charity.


Jason Debly

Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2015.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Canadian Whisky Awards - 2010

When you hear the words "Canadian whisky" what comes to mind?  For me, as of late, it has been the fictional character, Don Draper, of the television show, Mad Men, reaching for a bottle of Canadian Club.  Ohh, Don, you're such a lovable 'ol SOB.  Even when you hold a tumbler of CC, you're poking a stick in the eye of Canadian whisky's reputation.  There are so many other Canadian whiskies that are far better.  CC is good with 7-up and that's about it.

Americans buy more Canadian whisky than anyone else.  During Prohibition, that dark time in history when alcohol was banned in the United States, enterprising Canadians were more than happy to meet the US market demand for whisky.  Consumption was strong and the whisky was not great.  Times have changed.

There are now many great Canadian whiskies.  The best site on the web to learn about them is operated by a fellow Canuck, Davin de Kergommeaux (pictured above in a most pensive pose).  Davin's site is aptly entitled "Canadian Whisky" (click here).  He has recently posted the "Canadian Whisky Awards" which recognizes the best Canadian whiskies.  

Check it out!


Jason Debly

Monday, December 6, 2010

Review: Ballantine's 17 years old Blended Scotch Whisky

Ballantine's 17 Years old Blended Scotch Whisky

Each year, in late November and early December, whisky and scotch bloggers across the internet start posting their 'awards.'  'This whisky is the best or that one is the best.'  Often the 'winners' are very expensive, limited release bottlings that are not obtainable by the average Joe or Jane (in case you are a lady whisky fan).  

Anyhow, I have no such list, awards, ribbons or medals to decorate certain bottles that I am mighty passionate about.  Why?  Laziness mostly.  It takes time and a lot of thought (and maybe a wee little arrogance too) to declare that this or that whisky is the best. 

People do like lists.  They are helpful, a guide of sorts.  Especially during the holiday season.  I must receive a minimum of five emails a month asking me what are the best whiskies.  I always respond by first asking:  what do you like?  Smokey, peaty whisky?  If so, I have my Islay recommendations ready for you.  If you are a honey, cinammon nut with a flourish of smoke, I have a list of Speyside, Highland and other suggestions.  Maybe I should post my suggestions.  I'll get to work on that . . .

In any case, the reason I am posting today is to acknowledge that I, like you, read those lists, and cyber award ceremonies that the online experts state are the best of the best whiskies.  Probably the first whisky authority to make that declaration this year was Jim Murray.  (Jim, if you're reading this, I hope it is ok for me to refer to you by your name, as the write-up on you in Wikipedia states you have trademarked your name.)

Jim Murray in a pensive moment

If you go to Mr. Jim's website (click here) you will note that on October 12th, 2010, he wrote that Ballantine's 17 years old blended scotch whisky is the 2011 "World Whisky of the Year."  A blended whisky that is better than all those wonderful single malts?  Yep, according to Jim that's the facts.

I must say I was very sceptical about such a claim.  Why?  Well, for starters, Ballantine's Finest, the standard bottling of blended whisky is about one of the worst I have ever tried.  More candied than Donny and Marie Osmond crooning on their show of the same name that ran from 1976 to 1979.

Jim is undeterred by my opinion.  You see, he also declared that Ballantine's Finest was the best, no age statement, standard, blended scotch whisky.  Truly baffling to me.

Returning to Ballantine's 17 years old, Jim wrote:

"This currently marks the epitome of great blending, indeed, great whisky: nowhere else can you find balance, texture, and content come together in such a sensual, graceful way.  It really is the nectar of the gods, except even they might struggle to get to the bottom of its labyrinthine complexity.  It needed something out of this world to see off the two Buffalo Trace whiskeys . . . and this was it." 

(emphasis added)

"Nectar of the gods" and "out of this world" . . . how many times have you read those trite, overused phrases?  Jim, you are setting the bar very high.

Jim reviewed the 2010-11 release pictured below:

My bottling is from the year before.  Blended scotch tends to be very consistent in flavor profile from year to year.  Ballantine's have been at it a very long time.  So, there should not be much deviation in flavor from my bottling and Jim's.  That would be the underlying assumption of my review.  Here goes my non-expert opinion:
Ballantine's 17 years old blended scotch whisky

Nose (undiluted)
Soft peat, Oriental tea, wet cedar.

Palate (undiluted)
Sweet at first.  Peat, limes, green tea, turning to slight tangerine entwined with very sticky honey.  The effervesence of lime Perrier and other citrus notes will delight the palate.  Grain is sweet and very good.  The palate is easy, rounded and displays a classic blended scotch style.  Very mellow.

Finish (undiluted)
The lasting flavors change up from mellow to give a little kick of interest.  Malty, oak laden and tangy sea salt hang and dries a little, which is an interesting twist on a common theme.

General Impressions
This is a very good blended scotch whisky.  Frankly, one of the better blends.  Ranking among blends I would put it a little ahead of Johnnie Walker Blue Label, but behind Royal Salute.  In my mind, Royal Salute is simply the best blended scotch whisky.  Ballantine's 17 years is a very close and respectable second place.

Ballantine's 17 years will meet all the basic attributes that the mainstream consumer requires from their scotch whisky.  It is smooth yet interesting.  Pleasing to the senses (ie. eye, nose, taste).  No bite or offensive qualities.  Makes a super holiday gift for the casual drinker seeking a pleasurable whisky without taking any risks in terms of flavor.  You cannot go wrong buying this for someone you know who likes other premium blends like Johnnie Walker Blue, Chivas Regal 18, etc.

So, with respect to Jim Murray's remark that Ballantine's 17 "marks the epitome of great blending . . ." I agree.  This is one of the finer blended scotch whiskies available.  Well, maybe not the 'epitome,' but yeah it is a very good blend.  However, it is by no means the "nectar of the gods."  That would imply that this blend is superior to all other whiskies, including single malts.  This is the point where I and Jim part ways.  Of course you might think: "Jason, you are not reviewing the same bottle release as he.  You are not comparing apples and oranges."  I hear ya, and I can appreciate that there can be deviation in taste in blended scotch (rare as that may be, but not so unusual in single malt), but Mr. Jim makes claims that go beyond this.  Jim is of the opinion that this blended scotch is superior to all single malts this year!

Whisky Intelligence (click here) is a website which posts all the press releases of the whisky industry, and so naturally it had also announced Mr. Murray's selection of Ballantine's 17 years as the "Whisky of the Year" for 2011 (click here).  Perusal of the press release indicates that Jim is of the opinion that Ballantine's 17 outshines all other whiskies.  I would refer you to the last two sentences of his tasting note:

"One of the most beautiful, complex and stunningly structured whiskies ever created.  To the extent that for the last year, I have simply been unable to find a better whisky anywhere in the world."

Mr. Murray describes Ballantine's 17 as one of the most complex whiskies ever created. 

To my mind, 'complexity' refers to the ability of a whiskey, when upon the palate, to display numerous distinct flavors simultaneously.  This is where a good single malt leaves blended scotch in the dust.  Think of Clyenlish 14, Cragganmore 12, Glenlivet 18, Glenfiddich 15 years and others.  These are whiskies that have complexity: delicate flavors that you can count and pick out with considerable clarity, as if each flavor was the footstep of a tiny dancer on your tongue.  The flavors are fresh and easy to delineate. 

Now, think of blended whisky, whether premium or not.  Start with Johnnie Walker Red Label, Teacher's Highland Cream, Ballantine's Finest and then step up to the premium blends like Chivas Regal 18yrs, Famous Grouse 12, Ballantine's 17 and even the mighty Johnnie Walker Blue.  Here all the flavors are what I term 'rounded' or 'generalized.'  These spirits deliver a melding or melting pot of flavors where none dominate, and all share a slice of some generalized flavor pie diagram.  Rarely can a blended scotch escape from such mainstream mellow mediocrity when compared to single malts.  Nor do they want to.  Blended scotch exhibits the flavor profile I have described for good reason: this is what the vast majority of casual whisky consumers prefer.  But, for Mr. Murray to say that Ballantine's 17 is "the most beautiful, complex and stunningly structured whiskies ever created" simply defies logic.

And so, I also have to disagree with his statement:  "To the extent that for the last year, I have simply been unable to find a better whisky anywhere in the world."  What he must be drinking cannot be even remotely in the same flavor profile as what I am drinking.

Talk about hyperbole!  Can't find a better whisky anywhere in the world he says?  There are several single malts that are, in my opinion, stunningly complex, beautiful and awesome:

Highland Park 15 year old Earl Magnus

Highland Park 25 years

Laphroaig Cairdeas (2010)

Or how about an awesome blended whisky:

Royal Salute

Hibiki 17years

. . . and frankly, Johnnie Walker Black Label 12yrs.  I prefer Johhnnie Black to Ballantines' 17.  Maybe some will disagree, but if so, I think a sip of Hibiki will settle any argument that that fine Japanese whisky out classes Ballantine's 17 any day.

Bottom Line
I fail to understand how Jim Murray can declare Ballantine's 17 years to be the overall whisky of 2011.  Truly baffling.  This whisky is an excellent blend.  Pleasing, enjoyable, a tad expensive but not disappointing so long as you do not compare it to some stellar single malts or the fine Japanese blend mentioned above.  Now, I am drinking the Ballantine's 17 from the year before, so it is possible that there is a huge improvement in taste, but somehow I doubt that is the case.  But even with a huge improvement, the claim he is making is incredulous.

With the upcoming holiday season, you will read many 'must buy' lists and award winning whiskies, but a healthy dose of scepticism is useful too.  Remember in the end, only your opinion truly counts!

Until next time . . .


Jason Debly

Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2011. All rights reserved except for image of Jim Murray, a photograph that is in the Public Domain  according to Wikipedia and therefore free to be used by anyone.