Why? Two reasons: (1) it's a good, honest assessment; (2) it's a reflection of what college students, on a budget, are buying. Read on:
One Cheap Single Malt...in Price, That is.
While I acknowledge that the best single malts will always out-do the best blends, I know some blends can also beat some single malts (for one example, I'd take a dram of Teacher's Highland Cream or Black Bottle over any Mclelland's offering any day of the week. Conversely, I'd bet Any single malt is superior to Clan Macgregor). That is perhaps an entry at a later time.
I'm a history major (alright, get the arbitrary "What are you gonna do with THAT!?" out of the way), and earlier this afternoon just completed my last final for the semester. Looking to unwind, I stopped by a local liquor store on my way home and picked up a bottle of this single malt which I hear much about, but have never tried myself. At $19.99 before tax, it was literally the cheapest malt in the store. While I had to take a big gulp and wipe some beads of sweat from my brow prior to making the final decision to purchase (trust me, I didn't walk in, grab the thing, and go to check-out...I was doing some serious deliberating in that store. Probably looked like a real shifty fella there), I couldn't help but revel in the simple fact I could purchase a single malt for such a price. Even by blend standards, the price is still in the entry-level range of the spectrum. I came home, ate my dinner of reheated fine deep-dish Chicago pizza, chilled for a few hours, and finally...came those fateful moments.
Yes, Some vague, soft red fruits and...prunes? Citrus waves at you after a few minutes of airing out. Quite a very restrained nose, but very pleasing to my senses, none the less. Hints of vanilla behind all of the fruity, honeyed goodness. Speyside to a "T".
The notes on the box are accurate for a change, this is fairly honeyed. A light bodied offering of vanilla, pretty sweet initially (don't worry, not like a cloying low-quality blend or anything like that), lots of caramel, does some decent drying with a bit of oak, a small puff of smoke, very shy peat, and maybe some white pepper, if that's not my imagination. This isn't the least subtle of malts.
A pretty small puff of smoke and faint, dank wood. It lingers long enough that I do not call it a low-quality affair that ends just about abruptly, but it is on the short side for a malt.
Palate (diluted/ as in- nothing more than a couple drops of water)
Slightly less sweet than neat, but loses a bit of complexity. Fruits are a bit drier. Hmm.
A difference of a bit more smoke and the introduction of some mild spice. I'd say I prefer this with a bit of water, even if it does lose a little complexity. The reason for this is that the drying is more thorough with the addition of a bit of water. For a whisky to start fairly sweet at this does, the drying needs to be more than slight.
A classic Speyside flavor profile that is not very complex, but has at least some complexity comparable to a solid blend. At about $20, I'd say this is on par with some pretty good blends out there. I'd say that this is on a borderline even keel to Teacher's Highland Cream, but alas, is a couple dollars more expensive by me and slightly less interesting than that blend. Thus, I'd pick Teacher's up more times than this, but would not mind having more of this malt by any stretch of the imagination.
. . .
Yochanan, thank you for the review!
Next week: A review of Glenmorangie "The Quinta Ruban" 12 year old Highland Single Malt, extra matured in Port Casks.