Friday, September 30, 2011

Scotch-a-palooza - where Barad tastes six single malts from the cellar

I usually have more than one single malt Scotch whisky bottle in the collection at a time.  Due to an amazing sale plus a visit from an old and dear friend, I find myself with six different single malts at the same time.  Combine that with an open evening at the lake house, and I make the somewhat questionable decision to have my own six scotch tasting.

Anyone looking to me as some Scotch tasting expert should immediately wipe that gnotion from their head.  I am a hack who happens to enjoy single malt Scotch.  My nose and palate have been known to vary greatly from day to day, and I'm heavily influenced by food, mood and even the music playing in the back ground.  With that out of the way, the Ipod on shuffle, here we go.

I tasted them in an order determined by me, tasting what I expected was the mildest flavors first and working my way up to the stronger whisky later.  I only related the tastes and smells I can clearly identify, all six of these fine drinks has a large number of subtle smells and tastes which are usually just beyond my ability to name.

Dalwhinnie 15 year.  Color: this was the palest of the six, with a very light gold or straw color.  Nose: Some kind of fragrant plant, I think it was heather.  I also detected faint pears.  Taste: Pepper, hint of smoke, some spice and herbs.

Glenfiddich 12 year. Color: very pale amber, this was darker than the Dalwhinnie & Scapa.  Nose: All I could pick out was faint honey.  Taste: There were a number of things going on here but all I could pick out was lightly buttered, slightly burnt toast.  It was not bad as I make it sound.

Scapa 16 year.  Color: very pale amber, only slightly darker than the Dalwhinnie.  Nose: It was very subtle, I got some apricot, some kind of spice I couldn't name and maybe white pepper.  Taste: Buttery with some hints of cocoa and caramel.

Balvenie Doublewood 12 year.  Color: Rich amber, only the Lagavulin was darker.  Nose: Fruity, sweet with a hint of vanilla.  Taste: Notes of spiciness, sweet, smoky and butter.

Lagavulin 16 year.  (I accidentally grabbed this as #5 - I had meant this to be #6) Color: Deep amber almost caramel, darkest of the six.  Nose: Strong peat and smoke with vanilla.  Taste: Strong peaty smoke, sea, dry wood, faint toffee with a spicy finish.

Laphroaig Quarter Cask.  Color: Amber, darker than the Glenfiddich, lighter than the Balvenie.  Nose: Smoky peat and sea smells.  Taste: Very smoky, fleeting buttery fudge and spices.

This tasting was much more work than I anticipated (... it seemed like a good idea at the time...).  The nosing was much harder than I expected with six glasses of Scotch on the table.  The color comparison required me to get some white background because I placed the glasses on a honey maple table.  I almost mixed up the glasses multiple times because I didn't mark them, simply put them in front of the bottles.  The concentration of attempting to discern the tastes of that many different drinks back to back was not as fun as I had hoped.  And lastly, even though I expected it to happen, palate fatigue made it harder to taste the Whisky.  I don't think I'll be doing six at a time again.  I much rather enjoy them one at a time.

So which one was my favorite?  Well, that is not an easy one to answer.  However, I won't completely pull a cowardly retreat and make some qualitative comments.

The Glenfiddich was my least favorite.  I tend to like my whisky with more character, and this whisky was a bit on the bland side and might be hard to differentiate from a blend.  A good whisky for someone new to single malt.  In general the 'Glens' tend to be my least favorite whisky.

Dalwhinnie is a nice whisky, and I would definitely recommend it for someone just getting into Scotch to compare to a blend.

Scapa is a very nice whisky but I would only recommend it for someone with a discerning palate as the tastes are very subtle.

Balvenie Doublewood has long been one of my favorite Scotch whiskys.  I feel it has some very rich and varied tastes for a 12 year whisky, and provides a lot of value for the money.  Not as strong a taste as the next two, but definitely on the top of my recommendations

Laphroaig Quarter Cask is higher in alcohol content than the others, had more wood contact, and definitely has character.  If you like your whisky heavy on the peat and smoke and have not tried this little gem, you are missing out.  If you like blended Scotch whisky, you won't like this.

Lagavulin is much like the Laphroaig, but more refined.  Still smoky and peaty, but I think there are more subtle tastes involved.  Perhaps it is not surprising as this is aged longer than the Laphroaig.  Also like the Laphroaig, if you prefer blends you might want to avoid this.  If you are a blend fan and want to see what is all the interest in these hearty whiskys, I'd recommend this one over the Laphroiag.

That is it for now, all this typing has made me thirsty.  Since I am already a little bit palate fatigued I think I'll go back to the Lagavulin.



  1. Well that looks like fun! I think it would be helpful for any aspiring scotch drinkers to list out the prices on these, considering its usual expense. Which of these would you say is the best buy or relative bargain?

    The one I haven't had here yet is Scalpa, I'll keep an eye out for it. Cheers

  2. Prices are approximate NH liquor store (and NH has relatively low prices compared to some locales)

    Glenfiddich 12yr - $35
    Dalwhinnie 15yr - $50
    Scapa 16yr - $70
    Balvenie Doublewood 12yr - $50
    Laphroaig Quarter Cask - $55
    Lagavulin 16yr - $70

    To me, the Balvenie Double Wood is a bargain for the quality/complexity of the whisky.

    Your mileage may vary. Thanks for reading/posting.



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