Tag Archives: Charles MacLean

Johnnie Walker “White Walker” Limited Edition Scotch Review

I like whiskey. I like Game of Thrones. I sometimes like Johnnie Walker. That was enough for me to decide to give the Johnnie Walker “White Walker” Limited Edition Scotch a try.

My experience with Johnnie Walker’s Scotches are very hit or miss. Often when I’m cruising and can’t stomach the exorbitant prices for sub-par wines, I turn to whiskies which seem to be a better value on the ship. Many times (and with some good tips), the bartenders often indulge my geekiness which has given me several opportunities to try all the different Johnnie Walkers side-by-side.

After one such flight I composed a little ditty of my impressions. With my deepest apologies to Lord Byron.

Black and Blue are overrated
Though the Green is far less jaded.
While Gold and Platinum offer much,
Of the Red should never touch.

Let’s see how much I need to drink before I can think of something to rhyme with White Walker.

The Background

Unlike the highly patronizing and ridiculous Jane Walker Limited Release, the White Walker is a completely new blended Scotch composed primarily of malts from Cardhu and Clynelish. Unusual for whiskeys, this blend is designed to be served cold from the freezer. While serving with a ice sphere will chill it down, the most ideal temperature for many whiskeys are in the 60-65 °F range.

Launched in October, the cheeky packaging features the Johnnie Walker logo re-imagined as the Night King. It also notes that the whiskey was distilled, blended & bottled “north of the wall”. Which I guess is true if we’re talking about Hadrian’s.

The White Walker bottle also proudly touts that this whiskey is “chilled filtered”. While often looked down upon by Scotch aficionados, it makes sense why Johnnie Walker would do this apart from just marketing gimmicks. Serving this whiskey ice cold from the freezer would undoubtedly leave it looking very cloudy which confuses and turns off a lot of consumers. Much like tartrates with wine, aesthetics often trump education.

More GOT Whiskies on the Way

 

Photo by en:User:Cls With Attitude. Uploaed to Wikimedia Commons under cc-by-sa-2.5

The Cardhu Distillery. I might be intrigued by Diageo’s House Targaryen bottling from here.

Apparently Diageo, the parent company of Johnnie Walker, will be releasing a whole line-up of single malts as well with different bottlings representing the houses of Westeros.

Singleton of Glendullan Select (House Tully)
Dalwhinnie Winter’s Frost (House Stark)
Cardhu Gold Reserve (House Targaryen)
Lagavulin 9 Year Old (House Lannister)
Oban Bay Reserve (The Night’s Watch)
Talisker Select Reserve (House Greyjoy)
Royal Lochnagar 12 Year Old (House Baratheon)
Clynelish Reserve (House Tyrell)

Cardhu

Cardhu has long been one of my favorite Scotches with a great history of badass women. Founded in 1810 by John Cumming whose wife, Helen, became something of an expert in “distracting” the excisemen who visited the farmhouse to collect taxes. When John died in 1846, he was succeeded by his son Lewis with Helen helping to run the distillery. When Lewis died in 1872, his widow Elizabeth ran the distillery until selling it to John Walker & Sons in 1893.

During Elizabeth’s time, the distillery was completely rebuilt with new stills and warehouse. According to Charles MacLean’s Whiskeypedia, Cumming’s Cardhu was one of the few Speyside malts not named “Glenlivet” that was sold as a single malt in London. She also played a significant role in helping William Grant start Glenfiddich.

Clynelish

I haven’t had much experience with single malt bottlings of Clynelish. My one tasting of the 14 year was a bit too grassy for my personal style.

While distilling has been taking place in the parish of Clyne since 1819, the modern incarnation of Clynelish is relatively young and short. Built in 1967, the distillery became part of the Distillers Company Ltd in 1969. After recently losing Coal Ila, DCL turned Clynelish/Brora into a heavily-peated “Islay-style” malt until 1977. In 1975, a new distillery was built and renamed Brora but whiskey under the Clynelish label was still being produced.

Dave Broom notes in The World Atlas of Whisky that Brora/Clynelish had a bit of a post-peat renaissance until 1983. Today it is part of the Diageo stable which produces whiskies under both the Clynelish and Brora labels.

The Scotch is known for its waxy, oily character which often has hints of smoke, pepper and grass.

The Whiskey (Served Cold)

Taking it from the freezer, the whiskey is surprisingly fruity and floral on the nose. Usually the colder something is, the more muted the aromatics are. Medium-plus intensity nose with a mix of cherry and peaches. Not quite sweet smelling like in a pastry but more fresh like making a fruit salad. The Cardhu pedigree comes out with the white floral notes. There is also a little woodsy vanilla but no sense of smoke at all.

On the palate, the whiskey is lively and very easy to drink. The cherries are still surprisingly vibrant but I think the peach notes become more apple. Much to my surprise this isn’t a sweet whiskey at all but is rather well balance and crisp. No heat whatsoever but that is not surprising with its low 41.7% ABV. Moderate length finish lingers a little on some of the oak spice but is mostly dominated by the fruit.

Whiskey Neat and Normal

At room temperature the bottle is less glossy and the blue “Winter Is Here” logo is not as visible.

The nose changes dramatically when warm. Instead of being fresh, the fruit smells more dried and all the floral notes are gone. There is much more caramel and even a slight diesel smell which is vaguely reminiscent of Johnnie Walker Red.

On the palate, some of the cherry notes carry through but is very muted. The lightness of the whiskey’s low ABV really stands out more too. While not quite “watery”, it does feel exceptionally thin on the mouth. Still no back-end heat but the short finish has a slight bitter phenolic quality as well. Again, this reminds me of Red in a not so flattering way.

The Verdict

On the bottle of White Walker it says “This whisky develops in complexity as it warms to room temperature.” That’s bullshit.

Served cold, this whiskey is definitely a curiosity that’s fun to have at least once. It’s easy drinking and perfectly fine to share with friends while watching Game of Thrones. It’s not quite worth its $35-40 price tag but that’s not an outrageous premium either. It’s far more interesting than Johnnie Walker Black at $30-35.

But warm? This is nothing more than an overpriced mixer.

 

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60 Second Whiskey Reviews — Dalwhinnie Winter’s Gold

Some quick thoughts on the Dalwhinnie Winter’s Gold Single Malt.

The Geekery
According to Charles MacLean’s Whiskypedia, Dalwhinnie is the coldest distillery in Scotland with an average annual temperature of 42.8 °F (6 °C).

Founded in 1897, Dalwhinnie was sold in 1905 to American distiller Cook & Bernheimer, making it the first Scottish distillery under foreign ownership. The advent of US Prohibition in 1919 ushered its return to Scottish hands. Through mergers and acquisitions, the distillery changed owners multiple times over the years with it eventually ending up in the Diego stable where it is part of the Classic Malts series representing the Highlands.

The Winter’s Gold is a non-age statement bottling sourced from spirit distilled during the heart of winter between October and March. Like others in the Dalwhinnie line, it is crafted with lightly peated malt from Roseisle and water sourced from Lochan Doire Uaine in the Drumochter Hills. The whiskey is aged in mostly ex-bourbon barrels.

A unique expression, the distillery recommends enjoying the whiskey straight from the freezer.

The Whiskey
(Room temperature) Fruity nose, like candied citrus and honey. Some subtle oak spice. No note of peat.

(Freezer) Still very fruity but instead of citrus there is a mix of apple and tropical fruit. The spice completely disappears.

By Andrew Wood, CC BY-SA 2.0 on Wikimedia commons

The Dalwhinnie distillery is often snowbound during the winter.

The palate at room temperature is sweet with the honey and fruit being very prevalent. The peat appears finally but is slight. Very light in body at 43% ABV.

From the freezer, everything gets more muted except, paradoxically, the peat which becomes more of a floral heather peat like a very lightly peated Highland Park.

The Verdict

An interesting dram but I’m not sold on the “enjoy from the freezer” marketing angle and preferred it at room temp. It follows the typical light & sweet Dalwhinnie style and would be a good “Breakfast Scotch”.

At around $45-50, it offers a decent value but, personally, I think the jump to their 15 year in the $70-75 range delivers a lot more depth.

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60 Second Whiskey Reviews – Balblair 1999

A few quick thoughts on the 2nd release of the Balblair 1999 that was bottled in 2016.

The Geekery

According to Charles MacLean’s Whiskeypedia, Balblair is one of Scotland’s oldest distilleries with a history dating back to 1790. Originally owned and managed for over a century by the Ross family (who also leased Brora in the 1830s), the distillery went through a succession of owners including Robert Cumming (of Old Pulteney fame), Hiram Walker and Allied Domecq.

Since 1996, Balblair has been a part of the Inver House Distillers portfolio which includes Old Pulteney, AnCnoc, Balmenach, Knockdhu and Speyburn.

Located in the Highlands in the village of Edderton, water is sourced 5 miles away from the Struie Hills. The distillery uses unpeated malt from Portgordon Maltings and ages its whiskey in mostly ex-bourbon casks with the 1999 seeing some time in ex-Sherry casks as well.

The Whiskey

A very spicy nose with the Sherry notes quite evident. There is some meatiness but nothing like a Mortlach or Glenfarclas. I also found a little cereal note which makes me think of savory crepes.

On the palate is a very intriguing note of celery salt that contributes to the spicy and savory profile. Mouthwatering with a silky oilness. Very nice balance with the Scotch holding it’s 46% ABV well. This is a whiskey to enjoy neat.

By Alan Jamieson, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=54197146

The Balblair Distillery


The Verdict

A very impressive dram that is almost a meal in itself. Lots of layers that you want to spend time savoring and unfurling around your tongue.

At around $70, it is a fantastic value for essentially a 17 year single malt and would still be well worth the price up to the $100 range.

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60 Second Whiskey Reviews – Edradour 10 year

A few quick thoughts on the Edradour 10 year Single Malt Scotch.

The Geekery

Located in Milton of Edradour in the Highlands region of Perthshire, the distillery has a very colorful history according to Charles MacLean’s Whiskeypedia, beginning with its founding in 1825 as GlenForres and continuing through its time as part of J.G. Turney & Sons where it was featured in the blends of House of Lords and King’s Ransom.

During this time, the whiskey was frequently smuggled into the US during Prohibition by “sales consultant” and known mafioso Frank Costello who is rumored to be one of Mario Puzo’s inspirations for Vito Corleone in The Godfather.

It was first release as a single malt in 1986 by Campbell Distillers (owned by Pernord Ricard) and in 2002 was purchased by current owner Andrew Symington of Signatory Vintage Scotch Whiskey.

The whiskey is aged in a blend of Sherry and Bourbon casks before bottling at 40% ABV.

The Whiskey

Medium plus intensity aromatics. Extremely honeyed. You feel like Winnie the Pooh breaking into the honey jar. There are some Sherry wine notes but it is more like honey toasted almonds than the usual “Sherry-bomb” style of Macallan or Glenfarclas.

From Wikimedia Commons by Sylvia Berger released under  CC-BY-SA-4.0

Barrels in the Edradour warehouse


The palate is smooth and noticeably sweet. More vanilla comes in but the honey is still dominant. This isn’t as sweet as something like the Glenmorangie Nector d’Or, Balvenie Caribbean Cask or the Ainsley Brae Sauternes Finish but its not far off. Thankfully some spice comes out on the long finish to add balance to the sweetness. It’s a tad light at 40% ABV and I find myself craving a bit more weight.

The Verdict

It’s a sweet Scotch, no doubt, but it is very well made. At around $68 for a bottle, it falls inline with the Glenmorangie Nectar d’Or ($70) and Balvenie Caribbean Cask ($75) but is a bit higher than the non-age statement (NAS) Ainsley Brae ($35) made by Alexander Murray. The spice is a bonus in the complexity department but this is definitely a whiskey for when you are craving something smooth, light and sweet.

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60 Second Whiskey Review – Glenfarclas 30 year

Some quick thoughts on the Glenfarclas 30 year Single Malt.

The Geekery
Owned by J. & G. Grant, this Speyside distillery has a long history dating back to 1787 as illicit still in Ballindalloch. It came into the Grant family’s possession in 1865 when John Grant bought it and hired John Smith, formerly of Glenlivet, to manage it. Today it is ran by the sixth generation of the Grant family.

The name “Glenfarclas” means “the valley of the green grass”, refering to its location in the valley at the foot of Ben Rinnes with the mountain’s snowmelt being the key water source of the distillery.

According to Charles MacLean’s Whiskeypedia, the distillery is noted for having the largest stills in Speyside that are fueled by direct fire as opposed to gas. In 1968, it was the first to release a cask strength single malt. It was awarded Distiller of the Year in 2006 by the Icons of Whiskey Awards.

The whiskey is aged in majority ex-Oloroso Sherry casks with about third aged in ex-bourbon cask.

Smelling this whiskey reminded me of the coffee houses in Kuşadası, Turkey


The Whiskey

Beautiful dark color. Hugely aromatic nose with lots of spice and brown sugar. It makes me think of cooking gingerbread cookies at Christmas time. The sherry wine notes are present but they smell richer and deeper than typical sherries–more PX than Oloroso–with dried raisin and Turkish coffee aromas.

The palate is delightfully seductive. Creamy and silky with lots of weight. The spices carry through to the palate but the brown sugar and Turkish coffee aromas seemed to have morphed more into a rich, dark chocolate note that is far less sweet than what the nose suggested. The long finish delivers a load of freshness like freshly brewed herbal tea that was unexpected and entrancing.

The Verdict

A bloody fantastic dram! It’s a bit pricey at around $437 on Master of Malt but it is simply exquisite. I would say the cost is justifiable if you think of the years of pleasure you can get nursing it but it is so utterly scrumptious with its combination of power, depth and freshness that I fret the bottle wouldn’t last long in anyone’s house.

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