Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Whisky of the Year!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am the worst procrastinator of all time.  Christmas is one day away and do you think I have my gift shopping done?  No!  I am the worst.  No doubt about it.

My procrastination extends to this blog too.  I was at a whisky festival in late November and walked out of there bedazzled and gobsmacked by an incredible run of single and blended malts.  I thought, I must write on that cold wintery night and let you know that there are still some stars twinkling in that inky, foreboding night whisky sky.  Did I get that post out?  Hell no!  The black hole of procrastination bent back any ray of ambition I had..  Well, until now.  I'm gonna tell ya all about it now brother!  I have broken free of the gravitational, soul-sucking force of the collapsed dead star of my procrastination.

So, I was at this whisky festival and most of the tastings were OK, but no surprises, and well there were a lot of no age statement releases that left me wanting, left me with considerable Charlie Brownesque discontent.  However, the last tasting of the night put a smile on my face like the rare one on Chuck pictured above.

I and the whisky dogs (that's how we pretentiously refer to our whisky club members) went to the usual tastings put on by Ardbeg, Macallan, Highland Park and others.  But, like I said, the magic just wasn't there.  Fortunately, I had suggested we check out Hart Brothers.  Alistair Hart would be leading a tasting of Hart Brothers latest releases.

Hart Brothers are independent bottlers.  As you know, independent bottlers do not own a distillery and therefore do not actually make whisky.  But, they inhabit a special place in the whisky cosmos where they have the uncanny skill to see merit and potential in unwanted whiskies of an established or even a mothballed single malt distillery.  So, Hart Brothers, Gordon & MacPhail, Berry Bros, and others are constantly buying up the unwanted stocks of distilleries both famous and unknown.  They do their own blending and wood management/aging, warehousing, etc and the end result can be pretty amazing at times.  Needless to say, I was pumped to attend the Hart Bros tasting.

The first whisky up was the Mortlach Distillery 14 year old single malt.


Pale straw.

Nose (undiluted)
Lightly peated, rich  yet restrained sherry notes, damp earth, a delightful mustiness too.

Palate (undiluted)
Concentrated citrus, apple juice, hay, honey, spiced marmalade.

Finish (undiluted)
Malty, sherried, raspberries appear, drying, pomegranate.

General Impressions
Wow!  This is good!  This is the reason why I like whisky and deep down believe Scotch to offer what no other varieties of whisky can: magical complexity.  Specifically, there are mineral notes delicately weaved with honey, that delivers a fine mosaic of flavors.  This is complexity, this is what great whisky is all about.  But, this is not the whisky of the year. The others were good, but then I had my moment of oneness with the universe . . .

Hart Brothers Blended Malt 17 year old Port Finish
When I tasted the 17 year old blended malt with a port finish, I was stopped dead in my tracks.  Atheists!  Take note!  Drink this and you may abandon your previous notions of a lack of divinity.  This spirit has been touched by the hand of G-d.

I don't have a tasting note, but I can tell you this, it was incredibly complex, the port finish delivered what sherry never can, dark, rich fruits of plum, blackberry, logan berry and the best Christmas cake with COMPLEXITY.  The tapestry of flavors woven so well, it left me at a loss for words (a truly rare phenomenon).  Aging in port pipes is tricky and fickle business, but Alistair Hart and his team succeeded where many have failed.

While I don't have a tasting note written down, I and everyone in the room held their breath when they drank this blended malt.  It was the best of the night and the festival.  I was so in awe, I wanted my picture taken with Alistair.  I mean, I wanted to stand next to the guy who had a hand in creating this masterpiece.

The ABV of the Port Finish Blended Malt is 50%, but of course I was enjoying it neat because it was that damn good!

I tried to get Alistair to tell me what were some of the single malts making up this blended malt.  With some prodding, he mentioned Glenfarclas.  He also said that this and other malts were aged in first fill port pipes.  No chill filtering and color added.  This is the real deal.

I rarely get super excited about a whisky, but this is one, that I can say in the past year was the best.

You've got one day till Christmas, a few more till New Years, so do the right thing and pick up a bottle as a gift for that special person in your life!

Cheers!  Happy Holidays!  Merry Christmas and I hope Santa finds you!

Jason Debly


  1. Well... Firstly... Merry Christmas to you and yours Jason.
    Just come home home from Chrissy lunch at Mum-In-Law's... About to have a snooze in my mancave. Got a few vouchers for the local Çellar' as presents.. I'll be looking to see what they have in that range.... depending on price of course.
    What did you get from your better half?
    OO ROO Mate.

    AL from OZ

    1. Al, my wife got me a bottle of Mortlach 14 yrs, a red plaid flannel LL Bean shirt and a gift to the liquor store. I will need a snooze later in the day too, as the kids were up at 6 am.

      Happy Holidays!!

  2. Hi Jason,
    A happy & healthy new year to you & your family.
    Found the Hart Bros blended at te SAQ @ $118.
    Worth it ?

    1. Hi! Best wishes to you and yours.

      The Hart Bros. blended at $118 is worth it.

      American readers can probably pick it up for less than $100.

      Few bottles are worth over $100 but the blended malt port finish is one of them. Grab it!

  3. Happy New Year to you Jason. Im thinking of picking up myself a bottle, but for the price of about 120 CAD here, is it a better bottle than Glenmorangie's Quinta Ruban? The QR goes for 80 CAd,,, and is 750ml.. the Hart is 700.. which is the better deal?

    1. Yes, I really think the Hart Bros is better. The flavors are more complex. A real rare example of a magical dram.Cheers!

  4. Hi Jason, hope the weather in Fredericton isn't as bad as here in Montreal. We have had freezing rain turning into rock solid ice, and with the windchill factor we should be close to -40 celcius by midnight tonight!!! What I would love then is a winter warmer scotch, and I think this might fit the bill nicely, but have a question if you would be so kind as to consider. I am a huge fan of Balvenie's 21 year portwood, but on a poor man's salary can't justify it... here in la belle province the SAQ bloodsuckers want close to $300 for it... they actually just started carrying the Hart Bro's 17 yr port finish at 118, but unless you are dressed like a million bucks wont offer you any sample prior to buying. How does this compare to the Balvenie? I know we are talking about a 21 year old vs a 17, but is the Balvenie actually worth almost 3 times the Hart Bros? I see a previous poster also mentionned the Quinta Ruban, which I also liked, but found lacked the "ooomph" if you will of the Balvenie. Any thoughts/comments would be much appreciated.

    Lupo from Mtl.

    1. The Hart Bros. 17 yr port finish can definitely hold its own in a heads-up match with the Balvenie Portwood 21 yr old. They are both fantastic, but with the price differential, the Hart Bros. is a no-brainer! And as distribution in Canada is very limited, I would grab it.