If you’re on your whisky journey and you’ve never explored some of the independent bottlings available in the market, I encourage you to give them all a try. From Duncan Taylor to Classic Casks to Black Adder, many of these independent bottlers (IBs) have the incredible goal of offering something unique and exceptionally good to the public from distilleries that might not normally bottle in the style that the IB has chosen. Picking a single cask to showcase a distillery is part of the magic that IBs bring to the table since most distilleries actually vat or “marry” a number of barrels to consistently create a specific house style.
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is a membership based IB that essentially pools resources from its membership base to pick and purchase hundreds and hundreds of unique single casks from well known (and lesser known) distilleries all over the world. Recently they decided to release a single cask pick (chosen by the infamous Ben Diedrich) to celebrate America’s independence. The bottle was only offered in America and I was lucky enough to grab one before they sold out. Almost everything from Glen Scotia seems to sell out really quickly as the distillery has some rabid fans!
I’m not one who typically enjoys whiskies from Campbeltown but one of the most endearing traits about single barrels is their ability to breakaway from the norms of a region. This bottling is no exception. A 13 year expression aged in a first fill port cask makes for a truly unique scotch whisky. Let’s dig into it!
A rose hued toasted straw in the glass. It’s quite gorgeous.
Sweetened light peat with quite a bit of salinity. There’s a shortbread buttery sweetness I keep finding with a touch of milk chocolate. With water, the nose turns into the caramel sweet of port and a bit of dark fruit. What a way to build anticipation!
Initial notes of plum and leather are interesting on the palate and they last until you take a breath where the finish starts it’s process. Oh man. With water, this gem shines! Fresh pan fried bacon drizzled in just a bit of plain maple syrup! Whoa… delicious bacon without the normal offenses of a peated whisky! This is magic!
The finish carries all of the heat, neat. A bit of water destroys the hot edge of the meat finish and replaces it with a bit of peppered bacon grease.
I love the sweet bacon without the typically accompanying flavors of tongue destruction. THIS is what peated whiskies should strive to provide more often! This easy to love and balanced dram is a fantastic example of the goodness that an IB can offer to the world of whisky. It makes me glad to be a member of the SMWS! (We’ll see if I renew lol)
Have you tried this? Are you a member of SMWSA? Let me know and let’s talk about it!
Belle Meade has done a lot of great things recently with their finished line of bourbons. Sherry, Cognac and now Madeira cask finishes are all out of the park home runs for [Sniff] and I. This is a blend of 10yr and older whiskies from MGP (formerly known as LDI). Andy Nelson of Nelson’s Greenbrier Distillery (co-owner of Belle Meade and head distiller) has always been very open about where they get their distillate from and how little or hands on they are with the processes of selecting the yeast strains, barrels and locations of aging. Will this Single Barrel make the cut? Or will we stick to the fancy finishes that they are so good at churning out? Read on to find out!
C: A light reddish orange liquid with lighter edges when the light catches it.
N: The nose has an eerily similar honeyed characteristic like that of The Balvenie 12 yr doublewood. It’s very soft on the nose but a sweet, subtly spiced oak. A very light toffee/caramel notes comes through after sticking my nose deep in the glass. Possibly cooked quince or a tart fruit (not a fruit tart).
P: Vanilla, with spiced chocolate notes flood the mouth. Slightly charred oak and licorice create a sour bitter note, handled well by the welcoming sweetness.
F: The bourbon finishes with a slightly peppery, welcomed oaky spice. The longer the glass lingers with bourbon in it, the more the caramel and toffee characteristics swell and tempt you back for more. After a full day of sampling and reviewing bourbons, I can honestly say that coming back to this bourbon is a real treat. It feels like home base, that all other higher proof bourbons can be judged against.
Great company, great people and a pretty darn tasty bourbon. Like I said before though, their finished bourbons and whiskies are nothing to shake a stick at and you should definitely pick up a few cases when you get a chance. Unless we get to them first.
This single barrel bourbon isn’t like the normal blends from multiple barrels that other bourbons are usually created from. Tagged as “Super Premium”, this whisky is aged in a single barrel for the full 18 years and then bottled when deemed ready by Master Distillers Parker and Craig Beam. First introduced in 1994, they discontinued the 18 year in 2012 after the demand for whiskey grew too great and there weren’t enough 18 year old barrels to meet it. They did however bring it back in 2015. Back for good? Not too sure, but we snagged a couple bottles to taste and see what all the hubbub is about.
C: Sunset orange with glints of reddish orange around the rim.
N: The smell you get from peeling an orange is the first thing that I get on the nose. That spritz of orange essential oils spraying into the air and perfuming everything, even your fingers and everything you touch afterwards. That is immediately followed by old oak, a little stale and musty saturated oak. Like under-ripe plum skins and over ripe apples sitting on your kitchen countertop that should have been eaten last week. It definitely smells rich and powerful, just not too sure yet if that’s a good thing or not. Oh, and a very faint ripe banana smell.
P: It is rich. And I’m immediately slapped in the face with oak, followed by that random banana. 90 proof plays the slow roll and gently singes the outer ends of your tongue. It’s spicy though, not to be mistaken with alcohol burn. The oak is extremely present but dark cocoa and stale cinnamon spice are layering up a defense to add something to the playing field. Smyrna Figs come through in a layer followed with raisins and black strap molasses. This is far better than the 23 year, you can actually taste things. Yeah, the figs are strong in this one.
F: The finish is full flavored. Full of spice, dry cocoa, nutmeg, dusty old cinnamon that you should have used 5 years ago, white pepper, a toothpick you should have stopped chewing on 10 minutes ago and vanilla extract. The oak is ever present in this expression, slightly dominating every aspect of the tasting, but somehow it does work. This bottle is a niche type of bourbon that a certain super premium bourbon buyer will want to have in there collection. There are definitely better values out there and I truly believe you’re not missing out on anything not buying this. But it is unique and always fun to explore.
This is something we’ve thought about doing for a long while now and thanks to a friend who lives in the video world, it’s become a reality. We’re hoping to bring a different perspective to the scotch and whisk(e)y world that might be a bit more relaxed than most people are used too. Then again, we think that everyone should be able to enjoy whisk(e)y without the pretensions that have been left at the quality spirit table.
Are there certain topics in the whisk(e)y world you’d like to hear about? Certain bottles you’d like to see reviewed? Leave us a comment here or on our new youtube channel and we’ll do our best to help you in your whisky journey 😀