Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Scotch Whisky Search Continues . . .

I am a man on a mission.  Lately, all the scotch and other whiskies of the world I have been reviewing have been quite unexceptional, middle-of-the-road, take-no-chances, snore fest, white Oxford button-down shirt kinda stuff.

I need some tire screeching, Ferrari engine red-lining, acid flashback memories of a shouting match with an ex-girlfriend in a French, white table cloth, restaurant in front of all those nice diners in their hushed conversations, Brooks Brothers navy blazers and Prada dresses, while I wear a fine barolo tossed in my face by some screaming harpie that I thought was normal and turned out to be about as well adjusted as Sybil! (all the while I am thinking we're gonna make up and in her fury she is nevertheless beautiful!)  Yeah, gimme some of that excitement and tension!  What scotch can deliver that kind of roller coaster ride of the palate?  I need some plaid jacket style whisky with a wild paisley lining!

I know what you are thinking.  Highland Park 12, 18, Macallan 18, Hibiki 17 and a few others deliver that excitement.  Yes, I agree!  Wholeheartedly, but I want a new discovery.  Those aforementioned nobility of the spirits world are obvious.  I need to find a single malt or other world whisky that is not so obvious.  Kinda like my discovery of Jim Beam Black.  I still marvel at how damn good that bourbon is even though it costs $19 a bottle!

I am not looking for a bargain.  I figure that one day I will be dead a long time, so damn the cost!  I am desperate for an explosion of flavour that leaves me speechless, stuttering and totally stunned.  So, to that end I will attend this year's New Brunswick Spirits Festival held in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.  There will be a 'master class' where they pour twelve of the most expensive whiskies featured at the festival.  By the way, I am not affiliated with the festival in anyway.  I just find this festival and others as a good starting point in this most difficult of quests that I now undertake.  The festival main event takes place on Friday, November 18th, and between now and then I will continue to review whiskies, as I search for the truly good amongst the bad and the ugly.


Jason Debly

Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2011. All rights reserved. Any and all use is prohibited without permission except for images above taken from the film "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" as they belong to Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.    I do not own any rights to this film which is posted for the purposes of nostalgia and entertainment.


  1. Well, I'm not sure how much you care about Jim Murray, but he just released his Whisky Bible for 2012 and named Old Pulteney 21 as the best whisky this year.

    Might be a good one to try.

  2. Hello Dulahey,

    I am not a huge fan of Jim Murray only because I rarely agree with what he declares to be the 'whisky of the year' like Ballantine's 17yrs for last year. That being said, the man has devoted his life to reviewing whisky and publishing annually on that so his opinion is always worth examining.

    At the up coming NB Spirits Festival they will be featuring Port Ellen 32, Knockando 25,Old Pulteney 30, Highland Park 30 yr, Laphroaig 25, and The Macallan 25. So, I will get to taste some of high end stuff. If Old Pulteney 30yrs is a stand-out, maybe the 21 will worth looking at.

  3. So I'm sitting in my car waiting for my wife to come out of Ross Dress for Less (I hate that store) and I'm listening to NPR, when on comes an interview with the aforementioned Jim Murray talking about his whisky of the year, Old Pulteney 21.

    A few doors down from Ross is a Total Wine outlet. I get out of my car, go into the store and, lo and behold, they have two bottles of OP 21. I grab one, not cheap at $110 US, but like you, I agree that dead lasts a long time.

    Having previously read your review of OP 12, describing it as pretty much salt water, I was unsure what to expect. Well, I don't believe Murray to be the be all and end all of whiskey ratings, either, but I think he gave the 21 a 97.5 rating. Numbers aren't the best motivation to use when selecting scotch, but curiousity and a certain amount of mystique sure is. "Whisky of the Year," oh my.

    Anyway, I just cracked it and sipped a half dram and in my opinion, Murray picked a winner this time. None of the strong salt taste you attributed to the 12 (which I've never tried, in part thanks to you). Lots of caramel on the nose and a hint of orange peel. Not a particularly long finish and only the slightest bite of heat on the tongue. It lets you know you're drinking a spirit without (insert ode to Talking Heads here)burning down the house.

    Murray said he tasted around 1,500 whiskies in his quest for the best. I don't know his points of comparison, but the OP 21 is pretty good stuff. I don't have buyer's remorse, that's for sure. If you get a chance, give it a whirl. I would love to compare notes.

  4. I will do my best to find a bottle of OP 21. Should be interesting.

  5. I'll be interested to hear what you think of those high-end malts you mentioned. I've never had anything older than 18 years, but from what I've read I gather that most malts really peak around 18 years, maybe some up to 25, but it seems pretty rare to me to get the sense that whiskies improve after that.

    Maybe you should check out some premium American whiskies? The Buffalo Trace antique collection or the Van Winkle releases seem to be perennial favorites.

  6. I think the way to understand single malts over 18 years is in terms of variety. What I mean is that, as you have pointed out, most malts are at their best between say 15 and 18 years. Over 18, the single malts are more 'different' than say better.

    For example, Highland Park 25 is a very concentrated, explosive, powerful dram. Is it better than the 18? Maybe, maybe not. The 25 is simply very different.


  7. Hi Jason,
    A quick search seems to indicate that you haven't written about Springbank yet. I strongly recommend trying the Springbank 10 year (the standard expression, not the 100 proof). Try to get your hands on a recent bottling as well, with the new packaging.

    I can't guarantee it will be to your liking, but it shouldn't come across as a button-down oxford.


  8. Jason, here's a suggestion for you: St George Single Malt (the California guys, not the British ones). Their latest, Lot 10, makes you grateful to be alive. I'm not sure if KL Wines ships to Canada, but if they do, you should check it out.

    Also, if this is not old news for you, try anything from High West. Double Rye is a favorite of mine.

    Incidentally, I was also blown away by Jim Beam black, discovered earlier this year. As I write I am sipping on Booker's, JB's top offering, which does not move me as much as the JB 8yr Black.

  9. Thanks for the suggestions.

    In regards to the high end bourbon offerings like Booker's, Eagle Rare and several others, I still prefer JB Black too. I know such talk is sacrilege to some, but does go to show there still is a real good bargain out there.

  10. Jeff, thanks for mentioning Springbank 10yrs. I do hear it is very good. I will try to acquire a bottle.