Best Buys of 2017 and the Big Bucks Favs


I was cruising the whisky aisle in Park Avenue Liquors in New York City a few weeks ago. It was an in-country bucket list dream come through. Next to me where two suit-and-ties, with one asking the other about what to purchase for a gift. A few were pointed out with the response “He’s not worth that much.” I chuckled to myself because the whiskies what were pointed out were in the under $100 range. Not a close pal indeed. That being said, the whisky market has a whisky for every price range and palate. Under $50 whisky doesn’t necessarily translate to poor tasting whisky. I have four such decent whiskies that I tasted for the first time during 2017 that I am pleased to share.

If you are stocking your whisky cart for the first time and don’t want to break the bank, this are my 2017 recommendations:

  • Highland Park Magnus at 40% offers a touch of smoke, full-bodied flavor with a touch of sea brine
  • Glen Moray Chardonnay Cask NAS at 40% is perfectly nice and easy to drink
  • Paul John Brilliance from India at $46% offers the “this is different” moment with a sweet fruity and hint of lemon
  • Dickel Rye for the base of a cocktail. It is a soft rye that won’t overpower and blends well in a Manhattan or Old Fashioned.

On the flip side of the whisky price list are the three whiskies that stood out for me of the 80 plus whiskies that were new to me during 2017.  The price range is $175 to about $400 – depending on your location. The three are not in any special order – they all scored a 3+ out of a possible 4.  There were no “4” scores this year, which I find curious. I’ll have to ponder that a while.

The Top Three of my 2017 tastings:

  • Springbank  19 YO Fresh Port Cask at 52.4% has a beautiful nose of chocolate and warm Port, the palate is almost thick. Amazing!
  • Glengoyne 25 YO at 48% is a true sherry bomb. Lovely!
  • Chapter 7 (Independent bottler, Switzerland) 19 YO Small Batch of 2 undisclosed Highland casks. Where did the pineapple notes come from? And there’s so much more flavor bursting forth.

Where ever you are on your whisky journey, savor the pleasure; pause a moment and take in your good fortune of being able to raise a glass.

I raise a glass to health, happiness and prosperity for you during 2018!



Something New: Sexton Single Malt

I recently ordered the New Zealand High Wheeler 21 YO Single Grain, more to have it because the distillery is no longer operating.  Some purchases are just like that and nothing more. Well, off I went to pick up my new purchase and low and behold I stumbled upon a distributer and ambassador in the midst of a tasting with the store whisky specialist, Holly Seidewand, aka herwhiskylove. Holly invited me to taste the new whisky. Yay! Unexpected pleasures are the best.

Bushmills Sexton1

Sexton is an Irish Single Malt produced by Bushmills as a no age statement, easy drinking malt.  The packaging and the price ($28 range) appears geared towards the younger, new to Irish whiskey set. It came out around Halloween – packaging perfect.

Bushmills Sexton2

The nose and palate are both sweet with hints of the whiskey’s time in sherry casks. The sweetness soon fades as does the overall taste. No burn, no real finish, but pour this youngster over some ice and you have a light, very light welcome to the world of single malt. Full disclosure: I have a bit of a cold so my nosing and tasting is not at 100% this week.

Bushmills Sexton3

The distributer then offered me a glass of Bushmills 21 YO. Now that’s what I call a special pour. One I would never refuse! I have a bottle of the 21 YO and find it lush with a sweetness brought out by the Madeira and viscosity that reminds me of the Glenmorangie Signet. Oh my, oh my, indeed. I should try them side by side sometime.

Well, then it was time to head off to lunch at a favorite deli Moody’s Delicatessen & Provisions. This place makes the best damn truffle potato chips that I have ever eaten. I drive 50 minutes for this $2.00 bag of delight.

Moodys Chips

Buy whisky, drink whisky, swoon over potato chips, grab a deli sandwich and back home again by 1:30 pm. Not a bad outing.


I raise a glass to living life, enjoying each moment of simple pleasures with gusto and sharing the good times with family and friends!

The Whisky Extravaganza: Boston, So Many Whiskies!

The Whisky Extravaganza came to Boston last week and for once I was not out of state. And with the advent of Uber and boutique hotels, I planned to stay in the city for the night. Party on!
I rarely attend Master Classes at whisky festivals because they are usually scheduled at the same time as the grand tasting – can’t be cutting into my schmoozing and drinking time. Fortunately, the Master Classes were held before the general doors opened. I signed up for the class led by Holly Seidewand, aka HerWhiskyLove. The theme was “Get Handed the Scotch Menu” or as she stated in the promo “as women and young professionals in business, we need to take control of that whisky menu!” Interestingly enough the class was about 50-50 men and women.

At the class participants were given the whisky list for the grand tasting along with a description of Holly’s pours and a pocket notebook to help keep track of our tastings and notes. With the whisky list in hand, it was time to be strategic and scope out which were the whiskies to target my tasting. My goal was to try ten new-to-me whiskies, primarily scotch. This would be in addition to the six pours in the class. To ease the palate, four of the whiskies I simply poured into one ounce bottles for tasting at a later date. I prefer to actually taste the nuances of all the whiskies tasted and for me that takes will power to pace out the drinking and these days to stop completely at about ten pours. Granted the pours are small but it is still easy to get carried away with enthusiasm for the 200+ different whiskies available throughout the evening. Nourishment along the way slows down the pace and the whisky going straight to the veins! Yes, Whisky Extravaganza smartly provided a full buffet of hot and cold foods…even dark chocolate truffles that paired wonderfully with my last of the evening pour.

For those of you new to my blog, I am all about tasting several different whiskies – flights so to speak – to experience a better impact of flavors. It’s discovering the contrasts, the highlights, and nuances. Often, for me, surprises swirl out of the pours and unexpected favorites emerge. Plus it is just more fun.


The Master Class offered three new-to-me pours, along with three that already grace my scotch cabinet – Red Breast 12 YO, Kavalan Symphony, and Yamazaki 12 YO. The bottles were prime examples of the variation of whiskies from around the world. The India Paul John Brilliance was an easy drinking, not overly expressive dram. The nose, what there was of it, held a bit of earth, while the palate was sweet and fruity with a sprinkle of lemon, the finish, well, not so much there. Overall it was a surprise and a very pleasant one at that. Gordon and MacPhail Miltonduff 21 YO private cask brought on barley to the nose, a quick fruity tingle to the palate and a long sweet finish that expressed the American Oak cask. Huh, I preferred the Brilliance. The finale was a Four Roses Single Barrel – 8 YO OESF. I couldn’t get past the alcohol on the nose while the palate was a rush of toffee and rye. I do like rye!

On to the big event! First stop was the snack bar for a mix of appetizers to re-engage the palate and somewhat fill the tummy. Somewhat satiated I did a walk around the two rooms to feel the room and to see if there were any whiskies I missed on the pour list. Knowing that my “must try” list was apt to change as the night progressed I proceeded to the never-heard-of distillery, the New Zealand Whisky Company. Now defunct and turned into a parking lot, I was told that when it’s gone that’s it. So I decided to try two of the four offerings – The 21 YO Single Grain High Wheeler and the 25 YO South Island Single Malt. The High Wheeler was soft and slightly sweet, good actually. The Single Malt was richer, better. Neither I would say compares to what was to be tasted later in the evening, but it was a decent start.

The American whiskies – the ryes and bourbons – tried to sway me to their side of the ocean but there were too many single malts still calling my name. I really enjoy rye and an occasional bourbon and I appreciate all the effort going into USA small distilleries. I promise myself to have them be my main focus at one of these festivals soon. Really.
I wiggled my way to the crowded Highland Park table and snagged a pour of the Magnus for a punch of smoke and sea. Felt good. It was then time for some roast beef and potatoes and a re-look of my must try list.

Loch Lomond has been hitting the air waves for a while now and I haven’t seen any bottles on the shelves yet, making that table my next stop. Forbes McMullin, the VP of Sales-US, poured a Loch Lomond 18 YO and a Glen Scotia Double Cask in my take-away bottles, whilst I tasted the Glen Scotia Victoriana at 51.5% alc. This Campbeltown was big on the alcohol but not overpowering. Forbes claims this is what whisky tasted like during Queen Victoria’s era. Made me think of the Shackleton that was reproduced from the bottles found in Antarctica about ten years ago. The Shackleton, a blend, does not have the same punch, much more subtle.

At this point I was closing in on ten pours and had not yet found the new-to-me Japanese whisky, Matsui Kurayoshi 12 YO. I finally realized that Bikram Singh of Norfolk Wine and Spirits was offering the pour. He said it was so new to him that he hadn’t tried it. I found it completely different than anything else I had tried during the evening. At first I thought of Talisker but then it switched over to a fruitiness. This one I would like to try again with a fresh palate.

I capped off my tasting with some of the decadent dark chocolate flourless truffle of pure goodness with a Port Charlotte Scottish Barley, Heavily Peated. Wow but not overpowering. I do love me some peat.
Whisky Extravaganza Boston met all my expectations, from the Master Class with Holly Seidewand, to the full range of whiskies available, to the management of the room. Bravo. So what was my favorite of the evening….perhaps the Kurayoshi 12 YO, not because it was the best but perhaps because it was the most different and interesting.

I raise a glass to those who put the event together!



Three Whiskies to Try That Won’t Break the Bank

A few weeks ago I asked via Twitter which whisky I should purchase for the weekend. Instead of simply purchasing one bottle, I chose three recommended single malts that I had yet to taste. The price ranges went from $32 to $120. I was eager to go all in.


The three bottles chosen are: Glen Moray Classic Chardonnay Cask, Ardbeg An Oa, and Balvenie 15 YO Sherry Cask. Over the following week I spent time which each bottle. Very lucky me!

I read the PR on the boxes and decided that the Glen Moray with its Chardonnay Cask Finish made the most sense to be my first taste. Glen Moray is a 40 % ALC Speyside that promotes itself as an Elgin classic.  Price: $32. I tasted the whisky on two different evenings with the following results:

Tasting #1

  • Nose: oil, wood, lemon
  • Palate: soft, fruity, cinnamon, lemon grass, refreshing
  • Finish: lush, chardonnay comes through, late vanilla

Tasting #2

  • Nose: fruit in a can
  • Palate: citrus, heather, sprinkled with salted cinnamon and honey
  • Finish: pleasant citrus, light

With a hint of surprise, I am quite glad that I purchased this easy sipping whisky.

I am a fan of heavy peat as well as sherry bombs. Knowing that peat can be overwhelming, I chose to taste the Balvenie 15 YO Sherry Cask next. The 15 YO at 47.8% ALC is another Speyside whisky. The packaging is detailed with information from many aspects of the production…good reading. It is aged in European Oak Sherry Butts and is bottled as a single barrel whisky. Price: $120. I stayed away from the second tasting for more than a week…I found I kept giving it a frowning sideways glance.

Tasting #1

  • Nose: green apples, popcorn
  • Palate: where is the sherry?, no punch, spicy
  • Finish: berries, lime

Somewhat disappointing first taste. Hmmm, why is that?

Tasting #2

  • Nose: green apples, ALC kept pushing through
  • Palate: spicy, back end of sweet fruit, the sherry
  • Finish: burn flash, touch of berries

Not so disappointing; I knew what to expect and modified my bias.

This whisky needs my going back to it a few more times. The flavor is there, perhaps I am the one who must adjust to its subtlety…definition of subtle…delicately complex and understated. Could very well be.

Ardbeg. What can I say? I have many, many different expressions of this fine Islay whisky. I follow the peat, smoke and salty trail.

The Ardbeg An Oa is the total opposite from the single cask Balvenie 15 YO. An Oa states “here we marry together whisky from several different casks, including new charred oak, PX sherry and first fill bourbon.” Price $60.

I was looking forward to tasting this the third of my new threesome. Yet, my first tasting was puzzling. Where is the Ardbeg standard of a burst of peat and smoke? This was a youngster wanting to play in the big league. I enjoyed it but thought something was missing and wondered how it would compare with the two other Ardbegs that I hand on hand – the Uigeadail and the Corryvreckan.  The Corryvreckan has remained near the top of my favorite list for many years. The Uigeadail, not so much at the top but somewhere in the general mix.
So to help resolve the puzzle, I poured a dram of each and over the course of the evening tested and compared through two tastings.

An Oa looming over its predecessors

Tasting #1

  • An Oa 46.6% ALC
    Nose: oily fire, tinny, earthy, Dentyne gum
    Palate: smoke, cinnamon, wood
    Finish: fades too soon, I want more kick
  • Uigeadail 54.2% ALC
    Nose: damp wood, oily paint
    Palate: peppery spices, cinnamon, peat
    Finish: earthy
    Touch of water tames the high alcohol
  • Corryvreckan 57.1%
    Nose: melted butter, earth
    Palate: big, sooty, spicy
    Finish: long and hot
    Touch of water again tames the alcohol

Tasting #2 – Some revelations

An Oa

  • Nose: cinnamon, light tickle and burn


  • Nose: caramel burst
  • Palate: more camp fire, syrup


  • Palate: powerful, peaty, ashy

The tasting of the three Ardbegs was revealing. With the An Oa, once I had the punch and kick of the other two, I wanted the An Oa more. The Uigeadail, with the deepest color had the most distinct nose and the caramel stood out. The Corryvreckan carried the smoke proudly.

A shout out to Whiskey Obsession Sarasota for the Glencairn glasses

Clearly, the An Oa fought its way to my heart. The Uigedail went up the ladder a few notches. The Corryvreckan shouted it’s best on its own away from Ardbeg competition. I didn’t expect that at all.

As a sidebar, my Ardbeg tasting buddy didn’t know which three she was tasting. Her favorite for the evening was the Uigeadail…interestingly enough that has long been her favorite. You can fool some of the people some of the time….

There you have it. A whisky journey with three new-to-me whiskies. This hobby, aka passion, is replete with surprises, enthusiastic recommendations from fellow imbibers, and all around fun.

Lest I forget…thank you to @CoullFay @WeeRockWhisky @RatherBeOnIslay and @jaethan for your recommendations.

I raise a glass to new discoveries and evolving opinions.




Boar, Duck, Lamb, Steak & Six Kavalan Rare Sherry Cask Editions. Oh My!


IMG_0199There is that occasional opportunity to experience a whisky evening that is above and beyond. Holly Seidewand of Gordon’s Fine Wines and Liquors, Kelly McCarthy of Anchor Distilling Co and Jonathan Schick and Eli Shapiro of the Rail Stop Restaurant and Bar combined their talents and products for a spectacular dining and Kavalan whisky tasting event last week. Really, how often does one taste six high end expressions from one distiller with exquisite pairings?


Kavalan Whisky – the star of the show –  is fairly new to the whisky world and from an unexpected region…Taiwan. Check out their website for more information. Try their whisky if you can.


Ok, enough gushing….here are the details.The group of about 28 guests were welcomed with a Kavalan private bottling for Gordon’s (liquor and wines shops located in the Boston area), aptly called the “Symphony”…after the Kavalan Soloist editions. And what a nice beginning it was. The Symphony is silky, vanilla nosed and on the palate with a hint of brine and finished with some fruit notes. A dram to ease us into the evening.

IMG_0197      IMG_0200


The order of the whisky was to go from dry to sweeter and all are cask strength. The first course, beautifully presented was a wild boar terrine with apricot, cranberry and pommery mustard. Paired with the Kavalan Fino, which showed raisins and sherry on the nose, followed by a subtle sherry palate.


The second course, a duck confit, pickled grapes and bitter greens was eaven more heavenly than the terrine. I was contemplating if there was a way I could gnaw on the duck leg and lick the plate. Oh wait, there was a whisky to pair with it! The Kavalan Manzanilla showed its big alcohol on the nose with some sugar cane and salt. The palate offered more salt, a hint of melon said someone, but I found a sweet burn of orange rind.

Between courses, Kelly and Holly spoke about Kavalan in general as well as the individual notes for each of the six whiskies.  The pace of the evening gave the four guests at each table time to enjoy the food and converse about the whiskies.


The third course was a lamb lollipop, perfectly cooked to a medium rare and tender on the bone. Paired with the Kavalan Amontillado, I found my perfect combination. The Amontillado is more distinct than the Fino and Manzanilla. There is floral on the nose and a deep, rich color. I was surprised to find coconut and nuts on the palate along with some tobacco and earthiness. My way too soon empty glass spoke of lingering cinnamon.

And there was more to come. The Kavalan Moscatel was paired with a beautiful New York strip, potato, and roasted bone marrow butter. I found this dram sharp with fruit notes. The sweetness of the moscatel came through.


Dinner could not be complete without dessert, meaning (in my world) chocolate. Two chocolate French Macaroons were paired with the Kavalan Pedro Ximenez. Ahhh….deepest color with dancing pears and chocolate wafting their way across the tongue. A wonderful ending.


The rich food and the rich whiskies tried with all their might to overload the senses. At times they did, but I believe in the end I came out unscathed but completed satiated and with a new appreciation for Kavalan whiskies. The price of the Kavalan Rare Sherry Cask Expressions is not for every day purchasing. The range is from $414 to $584 locally. Egads and holy bat shxxt!

While there is not a poor whisky in the lot, I was able to distinguish preferences amongst them. I did break the bank and purchase one of each of my top three. From favorite to least fav ended up like this:

  • Amontillado Sherry Cask
  • Pedro Ximenez
  • Gordon’s Symphony (only 1/3 the price)
  • Moscatel
  • Manzanilla

An evening well spent is the understatement of the day.  I raise a glass to those who plan and present high end whisky and dinner events. Thanks!



Six Japanese Whiskies/Six Drinkers Review

Japanese lineup

What is one to do when six bottles of Japanese whisky are begging to be tasted? Call in the troops, call up the pastry chef, and call the event a mini-fundraiser for the local Council on Aging. All that was left was to drink.

I knew the six bottles had contrasting flavors, age statements, price points and more. The six tasters were all women with an equally varied experience with whisky – Japanese or otherwise. Perfect set up all around.

japanese table set up

My goal was to pair the whiskies with desserts that would complement and not contrast all the while relaxing on a cool summer evening overlooking the beach.

Each of the ladies received a handout which gave a brief history of Japanese whisky, websites, books to read and general whisky definitions; a whisky wheel to help with descriptions of the nose, palate, and finish; as well as a review of each whisky posted on (I still have a bit of my workshop presenter in me! I can’t help but share information.)

After a welcome non-alcoholic cocktail and appetizers, the six were gathered and the serious business of tasting began.

The first two whiskies: The Chita by Suntory vs Nikka Coffey Grain. Both are grain whiskies. The Chita is not yet available in the USA but I am told it is coming! The dessert was a shortbread cookie with a matcha glazed leaf shape shortbread.

japanese cookiesshortbread

The group tasted and talked and nibbled and tasted and came up with the following descriptions:

  • The Chita: buttery, light caramel, banana fruity, woody and sweet.
  • Nikka Coffey Grain: sweet and smoky, soft milk chocolate, smoker after the shortbread cookie.

The Mars and the Hakushu are very different whiskies, which is why they were in the middle of the tasting. The Mars is a blend and the Hakushu has more peat than any of the other whiskies tasted during the evening.  These two outliers were paired with  almond bites topped with a swath of dark chocolate ganache. YUM!

japanese cookies2

  • Mars Iwai: does not jump out at you, cinnamon, spicy but mild, smooth.
  • Hakushu 12 YO: tart and tasty, fruity and jammy, earthy and yeasty, sweet peat.

The final pairing brought on the big names from Suntory Yamazaki, both a tad harder to find and both only going up in price. I believe I spent $300 on the 18 YO….good thing I love it! The desserts paired with these two whiskies included a sour cream coffee cake with peaches, dark chocolate and raspberry cupcakes and strawberries dipped in white chocolate. Just like the whiskies….something for everyone.

japanese desserts

  • Yamazaki 12 YO: fruity to caramel, sweet nutty toffee, balanced and smooth.
  • Yamazaki 18 YO: deep smoke, cinnamon, cherry pie, leather, licorice, very strong.

The tasting results were interesting, not everyone was partial to the Japanese whiskies overall. The scores were all over the place. The method used was:

1 = never buy this    2 = buy this for me, maybe     3 = definitely buy me a bottle, honey     4 = honey, please buy me two bottles of this and I will hide one.

The final results, from highest overall score to lowest:

  1. Hakushu 12 YO = 3.6
  2. Yamazaki 18 YO = 3.6
  3. Yamazaki 12 YO = 3.3
  4. The Chita = 2.8
  5. Nikka Coffey Grain = 2.1
  6. Mars Iwai = 1.5

The tasters were not told the price points nor my favorites until after we finished and on to gobbling up more desserts. Oddly enough though, this is how I would have ranked the whiskies with maybe an edge to the Yamazaki 18 YO.

japanese 18 with linda

At the end of the day, every palate and preference is different. Enjoy the whiskies that call to you. I raise a glass to tasting good whisky for a good cause and with good friends!







A Tipple at the Dentist


Three’s a charm!


June is a significant month in many ways – the year is half over, weddings abound, winter is clearly in hindsight for us Northeasterners; and for me especially it is time to visit the dentist and have a whisky tasting. Yup. OK, so it is actually the end of July and I am behind in posting this blog. Another casualty of summer distractions.

Dr. Paul and I have been scheduling my appointment at the end of the day for about seven years now. Doesn’t everyone drink with their dentist at the end of their appointment?


Dr. Paul



Over the years with Dr. Paul I have expounded my everlasting love for Lagavulin 16 YO, but for some odd reason we have never shared a dram. With that in mind I brought three different Lagavulin expressions to taste. The intent was to bring the full Lagavulin experience to him. As I was packing the bottles, I realized that I have NEVER tasted three Lagavulins together. This ramped up my interest.

Dr. Paul brought a few familiar bottles, just in case – Highland Park 18 YO, Hakushu 12 YO, and the Irish Glendalough.  The Hakushu was the only one I secretly thought worth sampling along with the Lagavulins. My peat and smoke preference was rearing its spoiled head.


bottles with cups
Dentistry glassware


The Lagavulins were cracked and the first pour, the 200th Anniversary 8 YO, was offered…in dentistry rinsing cups no less…one must make the best of available “glassware”. My plan was to say nothing and let Dr. Paul give his opinion without any slant from me.  He said there was a sweetness and no burn and that he didn’t get a lot of peat until the finish.  He commented that he would drink this one straight up.

I mentioned that this time I was going to take a few notes when he commented on each whisky. He jumped up to rinse his mouth, which he never did during our tastings before, because he said he wanted to give a clean opinion of each whisky.

The 16 YO was next. Besides noting the deeper color, his expression completely changed after the first sip. I knew he was hooked. He immediately said it was smoother, with some caramel and rounded out edges. He went on, “You want to sip this to get the after taste where the smoke adds to the taste. The 16 is proportioned better than the 8. I definitely like this. I’ll buy it.” He quickly copied down the name and year.  His perfect scenario was to buy a bottle and enjoy it while sitting in his library with a good book.

The third taste was the 1991/2007 Distillers Edition double matured Lagavulin. Richer in color still, due to the maturation in Pedro Ximenez casks, Dr. Paul only found a subtle difference in this whisky compared to the 16 YO. He remarked that it didn’t overpower and he admitted that five years ago he wouldn’t have been able to appreciate the nuances of any of the three expressions. I felt a tingle of pride knowing I had a hand in bringing him not only over to the Islay side but to an awareness of tasting and appreciating the differences in whiskies in general.

The Hakushu 12 YO was poured to see how it stood up to the Lagavulins. It didn’t stand out but it managed to stand alongside them.  That surprised me. Some of the delicate smoke of the Hakushu was lost but it still presented itself overall well. (More on the Hakushu on my upcoming blog about six Japanese whiskies poured for a local fundraiser.)

While we were finishing the Hakushu, Tommy, I assume a patient, came in and handed some cash to Dr. Paul. Tommy joked that it was his bookie money. We offered him a “glass”. Tommy first read all the labels, stated that he was a Jameson guy, and went right for the Glendalough, poured and drank it right down with a big thanks to follow. Then off he went. Not quite our usual ending of the tasting day.

I came away thinking the Lagavulin 8 YO a disappointment after the 16 YO and the Distillers Edition. Actually, how could this have been a 200th Anniversary special bottling? It is drinkable, but lacking and not up to Lagavulin standards.


Now that’s a glass!


The 16 YO shines brightly for me again and again. My comfortable shoes, the sunset over the ocean, all the warm and fuzzy things in life – constant and consistent. The Distillers Edition provides a campfire smoke that sets it apart from the 16, not better, not lacking, simply well worth a good pour.

I raise a glass to quiet moments sharing a few special drams…even if it is with a dentist. See you in December Dr. Paul!