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.
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:
- Nose: oil, wood, lemon
- Palate: soft, fruity, cinnamon, lemon grass, refreshing
- Finish: lush, chardonnay comes through, late vanilla
- 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.
- Nose: green apples, popcorn
- Palate: where is the sherry?, no punch, spicy
- Finish: berries, lime
Somewhat disappointing first taste. Hmmm, why is that?
- 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 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
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
- 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.
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.