Thursday, April 28, 2016

Whisky Review: Glentauchers 1994 by Gordon & MacPhail

The Glentauchers Distillery was established in 1897 or 1898 depending on which textbook you consult or website you land on.  Being such an old distillery and having an output of around 3 million litres annually, you would expect this distillery would enjoy a bit of brand-name recognition.  Not so.  I had never heard of it either till I laid my eyes on a bottle during a recent visit to my local liquor emporium with fellow whisky dawg, Ken.  Our mission was to buy some obscure bottling for our next whisky club meeting.

Sitting proudly on the shelf was a bottle of Glentauchers, but this whisky was not released by the distillery as an official bottling.  Instead, Gordon & MacPhail had bought up some Glentauchers 'new-make' spirit, poured it into their own casks, maybe let it remain at the distillery warehouse for further aging or moved it to their storage facilities.  I don't know as this independent bottler is not about to give away their tricks of the trade.  Nevertheless, G&M saw potential in the 1994 distillation of Glentauchers single malt and felt with just the right amount of aging in their choice of casks they just might have a winner.  They bottled it in 2014 and out to market it went.

Just another quick note about Glentauchers.  While you are not familiar with the name, you probably have tasted it in the past, well, at least as a component single malt added to blended Scotch whiskies like Ballantine's Finest, Teacher's Highland Cream and Black & White.  The only time the distillery had an official release of the single malt to the public was in 2000 and that was a 15 year old edition.

$125 Canadian





Natural cork stopper


Cask Type
Sherry butts and remade American hogsheads.

Nose (undiluted)
A little peat, very little tickles the nose before some orange and lime peel and lemon pulp appear.  Pleasant.

Palate (undiluted)
Sweet lemon meringue, oak, soft vanilla, pineapple chunks with lots of citrus notes, especially lemon and ruby red grapefruit.

Finish (undiluted)
Apricot, star fruit, light treatment of sherry, drying, balsa wood.

General Impressions
If I had to sum up the taste of this Speyside single malt in a word, it would be: grapefruit.  It tastes like ruby red grapefruit juice.  It is also sweet with some drying sensation on the finish.  The malt is cleansing and light.  A dessert whisky.  If you like Glenkinchie, Balblair, Glenmorangie Nectar D'OR and other sweet light whiskies then this is in your wheelhouse my friend.

Criticisms?  Maybe not overly complex.  The flavors are not simple, but not exhibiting any 'wow' factor.  Nicely balanced and pleasing, it goes down incredibly easy and before you know it, half the bottle is gone.  Trouble is, this goes for $125 a bottle (not $140 as I mistakenly stated in my video review), and at that price point, this is not quaffing whisky.  I would happily pay $75 to $80, but again, north of $100 is just too much.  Damn those prices!  Ah well, it is what it is.


Jason Debly

P.S.  As stated above Glentauchers is principally used for blending and functions well in that capacity, but on its own, it does not sparkle.  A blender's malt for sure.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Search for Black Bottle blended Scotch

It's always nice to discover an affordable economy blended Scotch that punches way above its weight class.  Black Bottle was once a great blend delivering luscious Islay notes in a cheap bottle.  Here is my old review of that beauty:

Unfortunately, in 2013, the flavor profile changed dramatically (as the corporate masters sought to increase sales by going for the lowest common denominator) from a strong Islay influence to a boring, mainstream Speyside style.  Nevertheless, one of my readers, Bob, and I were trading some email, as he searched for the best affordable blends. Here is his tale of Black Bottle discovery that he emailed me the other day:

It's rare that I am in the right place at the right time, like when Microsoft first offered it's stock to me circa 1985 and I poo-pooed it at the time when it was around $5 a share and had yet to split about a dozen times after that. Ahhh, a $5000 investment at the time would probably be worth $350,000+ today but to even think about it still makes me sad so I will digress. Thus, I will fast forward to the present to get to the gist of this e-mail rather than waxing poetic on love scorned, opportunities lost, ad infinitum.

So for the past 2 months since reading all the rave reviews about Black Bottle blended Scotch, only to read further that all the fuss was about the old bottling I had pretty much made up my mind that it was just not in the cards for me. I am not (read 'my wife will not let me') buy a bottle at auction for $120 or more. Or order one from the U.K. and have to endure a 55 £ shipping charge. So I resigned myself to finding a bottle of the 'new' version in person rather than ordering one. Which was no small feat! Pennsylvania and New Hampshire have state stores that all carry the same stuff and neither state stocked Black Bottle. Ditto Vermont. So I scoured Connecticut and found one place that had it in stock, but at $26.99 a bottle I passed figuring another store would have it for less (I had seen it for $20 online) on the same trip. Well after 200 miles of driving and 9 additional stops, I was kicking myself for not getting it, just to try it.

Several weeks and dozens of stores in various states later, I could still not find a store that stocked Black Bottle and most had never even heard of it. Then on a whim my wife and I were away on a short business trip (I sell used & rare bass guitars for a living after suffering as an accounting manager back in those early Microsoft stock days) and it was late so I decided to just try one more store before we headed to our hotel. I headed right for the Scotch aisle and of course, started at the bottom shelf. Right next to the Inver House I saw a 'sale' tag for Black Bottle at $17.99 but did not see any. I bent down and moved a few bottles around and there on the bottom shelf, behind the Inver House were. They were covered in dust with the original hang tags on them! I only saw one at first and acted as if I had discovered the Mother Lode, according to my wife. I was in shock as I got down on my stomach and pulled out a 2nd, 3rd and 4th bottle! Of course, later in the week when I had to drive through the area I tried every dinky liquor store within a 40-mile radius and as expected, not a single one had ever heard of Black Bottle new or old. 

So I consider myself as lucky as if I hit the lottery or something like that! The thrill of the hunt was as exciting as actually finding a few bottles of 'the good stuff' and I feel a bit let down now that it's over. Of course I won't stop looking but my short-term obsession has waned more out of necessity than anything else. Now I just have to sit down and try it when I am back home in a few weeks! We are in Denver, Colorado this week so I'll scour the area a bit for a small prize before I get worn out.

Best, Bob