Monday, October 28, 2019

Scotch Review: 9 year old Teaninich "Hepburn's Choice" (Hunter Laing)

Hepburn's Choice is a line of single malt releases put out by the independent Scotch whisky bottler Hunter Laing.  This product line always features 46% ABV, non-chill filtered, and natural color.  Even more interesting is that the bottles are poured from a single cask.  The bottle I have is one of 420 poured from a single cask.  And the best tidbit, I save for last: the price is not bad.  Quite reasonable actually for a single malt with the aforementioned attributes.

Earlier this year, I picked up another in this series, namely a 10 year old Linkwood, which was truly amazing.  I went back to the liquor store and bought up the remaining four bottles.  I reviewed it on YouTube, but never got around to posting it on here.  That was a spellbinding, quintessential Speysider.  Well worth seeking out, if you can find it.

The Teaninich Distillery was established in 1817.  Currently owned by Diageo and the massive quantity of malt produced (10 million litres annually) is mostly used as an ingredient of Johnnie Walker Red Label.

The distillery is located in the Highland region of Scotland.

Single Malt.

Independent Bottler
Hunter Laing have bought up some of the new make spirit of the Teaninich distillery and supplied the casks the spirit is aged in.

Age Statement 
9 years (distilled in 2008 - bottled in 2017).

Nose (undiluted)
Hay, citrus, slight peat (low phenolic level), sweet dandelion.

Palate (undiluted)
Citrus, lime note, lemon pith, grapefruit chunks. Delicate.

Finish (undiluted)
Sour white grape/wine gums. Lemon meringue pie, limes and a grapefruit pith bitterness.

General Impressions
This is a light whisky that showcases bitter and sweet white wines/grapefruit pith.  It's a different type of malt.  The grapefruit pith bitter notes mostly on the finish may put some people off, but I kinda like it.  When I first opened the bottle, I was not impressed with that bitter finish, but the oxidation that transpired over a couple of weeks took that bitterness down sufficiently such that you can really enjoy it.

While it is 46% ABV, I wouldn't add water.  Works nicely neat.  The lack of chill filtration and artificial color contributes to the complexity of this malt.

Again, the price point is really reasonable for this malt and this factor makes it worth trying.  If you are looking for something different and wondering what some of the ingredient malts of Johnnie Walker Red taste like, try Hepburn's Choice 'Teaninich 9 years.


Jason Debly

Friday, October 11, 2019

Review: Martell Blue Swift

Martell is a very old and well established Cognac producer, dating back to 1715.  This producer is famous for a number of offerings.  I am a fan of their Cordon Bleu.  Nice stuff.

In April 2018, Martell 'Blue Swift' was launched.  It's a bit of a departure from what this cognac house has produced in the past because the 'Blue Swift' is not technically a cognac.  While the spirit is made up exclusively of VSOP cognacs, they are aged further, or what we call 'finished' for a couple of months in ex-bourbon casks from Kentucky.  We don't know the distillery that the sourced casks are from either.

French law governing cognac requires that the spirit be aged exclusively in French oak, and because Blue Swift has additional aging in ex-bourbon casks, Martell cannot market it as cognac.  Accordingly, on the label, the words 'Spirit Drink' appear.

Ok, enough said.  Let's move on to the review.

Martell 'Blue Swift'


Age Statement
None, but as it is made up of exclusively VSOP cognacs, we can say that there is no spirit less than 4 years of age.  May not sound like much in the whisky world, but in the realm of cognac, 4yrs denotes quality.


Artificial Color?

Cork stopper.


Launch Date
April 2018.

Candied, warm apple crumble, melted toffee, distinctly sweet.

Sweet arrival of apple cider, creme brûlée's, oak, ginger and a lot of vanilla.  Too much!

Warm caramel, tingling baking spices, oak again, very heavy oak and then vanilla.

General Impressions
When I first opened this bottle, the Blue Swift tasted pretty awful.  The caramel flavour tasted artificial and burnt.  Just dreadful.  But, two weeks or so later, having gotten some oxidation going on as the bottle was now opened, it improved in taste.  The improvement was to something that is tolerable, but that over-the-top vanilla and oak was still there while the artificial caramel notes had settled down.  I am still not a fan, and would not recommend this spirit drink.

When I consider the price point of $100 in Canada and $60 in the US, I don't think it delivers value for money.  It probably works as a base of a cocktail, but again its expensive mix.  This spirit is not well suited to sip on its own.

Not recommended.


Jason Debly

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Scotch Review: Bowmore 18 years Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Sam lived across the street in a Dijon mustard yellow stucco, three-storey walk-up, whose horseshoe arched windows were trimmed in provencal blue paint.  He was about to turn in for the night when he happened to gaze through his bedroom dormer and see a dim light on in Rick’s Café Américain.  He had seen the bar keep, Sacha, snap the lights off when they closed earlier.  With a big sigh, Sam thought a moment, and rather than retire for the evening, headed back downstairs and across the street to the Café.

“Boss, what’s wrong?”

Rick, seated at a table next to the piano, grunted something unintelligible, and stabbed a finger at the iPad that lit up at his touch.  “Why me?  Sam?  Why?,” Rick asked.

Sam glanced at the iPad.  It displayed an email, but before he could read it, Rick continued.  “I got my Heritage Tree DNA results back and their not good . . . I’m a match with Ilsa.”

“A match?”  Sam left school at 16 and played piano full time on a riverboat.  Being a geneticist was not a possibility on the bayou, but Sam had a good idea what Rick was hinting at.

“Yeah, we’re related.”

Sam read the email that contained the DNA test results.  “But, Boss it says you and her shared a common ancestor ten generations ago on your father’s side.”

“We are related.  That’s the end of it.  I been really bad.  C’mon Sam, you know . . . that’s sick.  But, I’ll show them sons a bitches!”  Rick pointed at the bottles lining the back of the mirrored bar.  “Gimme that one!”  Realizing he was bellowing at Sam, he lowered his voice, and whispered “that one.”

Sam had no clue what bottle Rick wanted, but made a random grab anyway, and set a bottle of Bowmore 18 years old single malt down on the table.  Rick was busy tearing open a new DNA test kit, in the semi-darkness of the bar, all the while muttering “I’ll show 'em, I’ll show 'em,” as bubble wrap fell all around him.  He poured the Bowmore into his tumbler, with a Q-tip, he swabbed the inside of the glass, and then dropped it into the specimen container.  Sam sent it out by courier the next day because he feared the use of the local courier service would soon be banned.  This is not outside the realm of possibility thought Sam, given the fact that a Nazi Major Strasser had arrived in town to investigate the recent murder of two German couriers and the disappearance of their precious cargo: Letters of Transit.  But, that's a story for another day.

A month or so later, Rick got a new Y-DNA 37 test result back that said:

Rick Blaine Y-DNA Test (AKA: Bowmore 18yrs Single Malt Scotch Whisky)

Reasonable considering it is an 18 year old single malt Scotch.


Artificial Color?

Chill Filtration?

Wood Management
A combination of ex-bourbon and Oloroso sherry casks.

Cork stopper.

Widely available.

Region of Scotland

Nose (undiluted)
Fragrant, sherry, light smoke, slight peat, seaweed.  Orange peel, orange chocolate.  Solid oak and malt notes.

Palate (undiluted)
Fruit forward, like a Napa Valley Cabernet, delivering cherries, black grapes, toffee, salted caramel, brown sugar, molasses, which is accented by a light treatment of peat and smoke.

Finish (undiluted)
Good length.  Red wine Bordeaux, bacon, vanilla, raisins, cigar smoke.

General Impressions
The stereotypical Islay single malt Scotch is a peat and smoke blast, and then, well more peat and more smoke with maybe some black pepper for good measure.  Bowmore 18’s DNA contributes to a departure from the aforementioned stereotype.  This Islay malt is sweet, soft, the peat and smoke is delicate, restrained and even muted by the aging in Oloroso sherry casks.  With a rather modest phenolic level of 35 ppm, it’s the sherry notes that dominate the peat and smoke of Islay.  Not the other way around, as one would normally expect of an Islay malt.

Bowmore 12 and 18 are very different malts for this reason.  The 12 is peated, briny and of the sea, so to speak. There can be no doubt of it’s regional origin, Islay.  But, if someone told me in a blind tasting to guess the ancestry of Bowmore 18 I would have thought the Highlands.

Criticisms?  Bowmore 18 takes no chances.  It’s a gentle malt, balanced to the point of being a bit boring/flat if you are into powerhouses with higher ABV’s or seeking complexity.  I really think had this whisky been non-chill filtered and no artificial color, we would be tasting more complexity.  Most 18 year old single malts will wow you in taste and complexity.  Bowmore 18 does not.  Nevertheless, very drinkable and my bottle disappeared quickly as I sampled and pondered it’s lack of nuance.  

So, if you are relatively new to whisky and want to try an inviting, balanced, easygoing single malt with an 18 years age statement, Bowmore 18 fits the bill.  If you consider yourself a serious connoisseur of malts where emphasis is placed upon complexity, power and the glory of single malt, well, you be best to pass on this.   And now, back to the story . . . 

Sam looked over the new DNA test results and said, “Mr. Richard, I don’t see Isla’s name here.  You’re good.  Just some distant relatives Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Port Ellen, whoever she is.”

Rick nodded and said, “I’ll drink to that!”