Monday, June 28, 2010

Single Malt Scotch: Short and (not) Sweet Reviews Updated

As I wrote earlier this year, it must be nice to be Jim Murray. In his annual series of  Whisky Bible books, Mr. Murray can wax poetic, on and on, about the aroma, taste and finish of single malt Scotch, without drooling on his keyboard.

I have discovered that I have a tough time translating all those sensory perceptions into flowery prose, especially if several different bottles are in, shall we say, "test mode" for the evening.

     For example, Mr. Murray says this about the Abelour 12 in his Whisky Bible:
"...just the right degree of spiciness. Silky, decisive olorosa again showing an uncanny excellence in spice; not a single off note."
My review? "Taste of farm tractor diesel."

Regarding Glenlivet 12, Mr. Murray expounds: "A surfeit of apples on nose and body. The malt is quite rich at first but thins out for the vanilla and thick toffee at the death."

Fred the future alcoholic sez: "Bland, dull, boring. On second try: no aroma, no taste, no finish. Pussy whisky."

(Taster's note: "whiskey" and "whisky" are technically the same. The latter, though, imparts an air of well-aged manure from barley-fed cattle in wood-paneled bars.)

Although lacking an alcohol-based thesaurus, I can slap together a few 140-character single malt Scotch reviews on my Twitter page, which features daily garden tips...along with the occasional whisky critique.

In 2009, these were the best single malts that found their way from my nose, tongue, taste buds, throat, esophagus, stomach lining, etc. to Twitter:
Macallan 10, Bunnahabhain 12, Finlaggan, Laguvalin 16. Alright...Top 4.

And here are the Twitter single malt reviews from the first half of 2010. And you can tell right away that an intervention isn't too far off:

January 2010

Single malt Scotch of the morning: Bunnahabhain 12 (40% abv). Toffee aroma with a hint of the Islay peat. The smoothest of the island.

Single Malt Scotch of the Night: Cragganmore 12 (40% abv). Aroma of medicinal fruit (banana-flavored iodine?) with an afterburn.
Single Malt Scotch of the Night: Bowmore 18 (43% abv). New to me. Ho-Hum. Faint aroma. Bowmore Legend is better. And much cheaper.

Single Malt of the day: Macallan Cask Strength (59.7%). Sherry aroma, smooth burn. To quote Reginald Van Gleason:

Single Malt Smackdown of the night: Lismore vs. Speyside 12: Another victory for Trader Joe's Lismore, delightful aroma, smooth going down!

February 2010

The saddest sound in the world: a full bottle of Bowmore Legend smashing against the tile floor.

Aroma of single malt Scotch on tile floor repels ants.

Saturday's Single Malt Scotch: Talisker 10. More spice than smoke or peat. Nice, but not in the same league with Laguvalin and Laphroaig.

Sat. Nite Smackdown: Laguvalin 16 vs. Balvenie 12. Not a fair fight. Like Mike Tyson fighting Woody Allen.

Single Malt Scotch of the Night: Balvenie 12 Double Wood (43% abv). Aged in two barrels, first oak...then sherry. Heavy sherry. Too heavy.

International single malt whisky battle: Connemara 12/Ireland vs. Abelour 10/Scotland. Conneamara wins for peaty aroma vs. overt toffee of Abelour.

Single Malt Scotch lists at restaurants are boring. It's mostly supermarket Scotch. Hey restaurants! Add more selections from Islay!

March 2010

Single Malt Smackdown: Macallan Cask Strength (59.3%) vs. Balvenie 12 Double Wood (43%). Spoon of sugar (Balvenie) beats vinegar barrel.

Laphroaig headache this morning? Finish your peaty experience with Ardbeg 10 and Caol Ila 12. Then, go to TJ's for Finlaggan.
Why is Macallan 10 Fine Oak so damn tasty? With a wonderful aroma? Please don't tell me it's that the barrels are near the bathrooms.

April 2010

After 62 mile bike ride, multi-single malt Scotch of the Night: Glenmorangie, Talisker, Finlaggan, Bowmore. Winner: Bowmore Legend.

Single Malt of the Night: Islay-based Kilchoman 3 yr (46% abv). Poured by it's managing director, Anthony Willis, tonight in Sacramento.

Single Malt Scotch of the Night: Macallan 12 (43% abv). Too much sherry, like the Macallan quarter cask. I'll stick with Macallan 10.
Great day on the bike! Now, a Bunnahabhain single malt soak. Then, back to writing angry, drunk diatribes. Apologies if I call you a dipshit later.

May 2010

Single Malt Smackdown: Bunnahabhain 12 (40%) vs. Ardbeg Udigal (54.1%): Can't beat the Bunna's smoothness. Ardbeg is too complex.

My goal: Finish off the mostly empty single malt scotch bottles. First up: Glenfiddich 12, Auchentoshan Three Wood. Wish me luck.

Single Malt Scotch of the Day: Laguvalin 12 (57.9% abv). Aroma: peaty smooth, but Yeow! Add water. Or die, a medicinal death.

June 2010

Cheap intro to good single malt Scotch, at Trader Joe's: Lismore and Finlaggan. Both under $20. (Not available in Arizona. Don't ask.)

Single Malt Scotch of the night: Glenmorangie Sonnalta (46% abv). Sherry aged, but not dominant. Good balance, but not citrusy.

Single Malt Scotch of the Night: Macallan Cask Strength (59.7% abv). Very sherry. Too sherry. ABV explains my rantings last night.

Twitter is over capacity. So is my single malt Scotch cabinet. Lonely bottle of Lismore sitting on counter, whimpering...

Bermudagrass ceases to be a problem after a couple of glasses of Macallan 10 Fine Oak. Getting out of the hot tub takes its place.


And the best of 2010, so far? Bunnahabhain 12, Macallan 10 Fine Oak, Lismore, and...may it rest in peace...Bowmore Legend.

But my favorite whisky Tweet of 2010 (so far) comes from the Fake AP Stylebook: "No matter how good the scotch involved was, the word "delicious" should never appear in a DUI story."


  1. Hope you don't mind a scotch whisky related question. My daughter has just moved to Sacramento for law school. She needs to find a bottle of Macallan 18 to give as a gift [its a long story]. Can you point her to a store in Sacramento that carries the Mac 18?
    Many thanks,
    Tony K, languishing in Virginia.

  2. BevMo (Beverages and More) has the largest selection of single malts in Sacramento, with the most outlets. I have seen Macallan 18 there, as well as at Total Wine in Roseville. Sometimes, grocery chains such as Raleys and Save Mart carry Macallan 18.