I’d like to personally thank InBev for sending their Brand Ambassador from Old Pulteney (and Balblair, Speyburn, Balmenach, and anCnoc) to the Toronto Whisky Society.
For those of you who don’t want to have to jump over: Shame on you, reading is fun! What would Levar Burton say?
International Beverages own the 5 above distilleries, with anCnoc being made at Knockdhu, which has a similar name to another distillery and was renamed for totally different reasons.
Let’s get down to brass tacks on each one, shall we?
Catto’s 12 was up first. This blend was originally founded in 1861 by James Catto. Back then, if you owned a grocery store, you made your own blend to sell. That was a better use of your time then checking on the turnips for the 16th time that day.
This is also one of the first exported around the world, only because James had a friend with a shipping company.
The dram itself is made up of all 5 distilleries owned by InBev, and they are quite proud that it contains 30% malt content. As they should be.
So let’s see how this tastes, shall we?
Price: Not currently available at the LCBO, however it is coming soon.
Colour: 5Y 9/8
Nose: Mango, rocket (arugula), light, brine
I originally said rocket during the tasting, and the brand ambassador was somewhat surprised, as no one had described it that way.
Immediately the “TOModera’s wrong” memes started flying. However later I did talk to him and he stated it does have both a peppery and vegetal note, so those memes were put to rest. For now.
It’s a lighter nose. Fruitly, some brine (assume that’s the Old Pulteney influence). Not off putting.
Taste: Pepper, earth, cereal, cream, wax
More pepper and earth. Nice waxiness to it, nice cream, some cereal.
On the other hand, it’s simplistic. Don’t go looking for waterfalls here, it’s just streams. Maybe the odd billabong. Maybe a little more earth than some might want too.
Finish: Orange, meat, nutty, almond milk
Nutty finish. More orange than I’d like, though meaty too. So kinda odd.
You know, there’s no rough notes on the finish though. It’s quite clean.
Conclusion: I mean, it’s a young mostly malted blended scotch whisky. And it shows. Good entry level malt. Sure, I wish there was peat in here, but I’m a peat head, so that’s a moot point.
It’s a simple dram. Probably great for relaxing with a dram you don’t think too much about, having on an autumn day, or just shooting the shit with cocktails.
I’d say this is a whisky worth trying. It’s not a bad dram, and has few bad notes. Well balanced.
Speyburn Bradan Orach is up next. This is the entry malt from Speyburn, and are proud to announce that they doubled the capacity of the distillery last year. Eventually there will be a 15 and 18 year old version next year, as they are building up stock, much like an alcoholic squirrel builds up nuts for winter.
If those nuts were whisky.
This whisky has a gaelic name, and as such, is NAS, as is the gaelic tradition. My jokes about the Scotch whisky industries marketing habits aside, it means Golden Salmon. The name probably comes from the unique water source that Speyburn uses.
The whisky itself is aged in ex-bourbon casks for 6-8 years.
Let’s see how it tastes, shall we?
Price: Currently not available at the LCBO, may be coming in the future
Colour: 5Y 9/6
Nose: Grapefruit, caramel, earth funk, grass, perfume
Tart nose at first, eventually more of a floral/earthy element. We’re told that comes from the water source and all that.
It’s closer to a Lowland, though with some caramel strength to it. If you like cutting the grass… I can’t help you, I live in an apartment. However this whisky may help.
Taste: Lemon-lime, perfume, grapefruit, light caramel
More floral, somewhat tart, light caramel, and some start to citrus. Actually it’s quite a bit of citrus, and as some have stated, has a soap/perfume note to it.
Oh, also don’t drink perfume, otherwise you’ll end up like me.
Finish: Pepper, grass, cloves, more grass
Short finish, which is disappointing. It’s quite a bit of grass notes and then ends. It’s not a bad tasting finish, just seems to end before I’m able to really enjoy it. No fruit either. And as log cabin Republicans have found out, everything is better with fruit.
Conclusion: An interesting dram, I’d be praising it a lot more if it had a much better finish. Honestly it’s a more ballsy version of most low level Lowlands, it just fails near the end, which is too bad.
If you like floral and citrus, it’s for you. I personally do. Don’t expect much from the finish, however it’s a grass person’s happy place.
Lawns are weird man.
At this point, the natives of the TWS started to get ornery. Well, as ornery as a bunch of polite whisky drinkers get. So… some were tutting quietly.
Thus the BA, knowing his shit, brought out the first of the big guns: Balblair 97 (2nd Release)
So what’s the big deal, right? It’s NAS, right? Well, not really. See Balblair releases based on vintages, with each year have 2-3 releases, and lasting 2-3 years.
Thus for the first Balblair, we have the 2nd time they took whisky that was distilled in 1997, a great year as that’s when I figured out how to masturbate. Also some other things happened too. Probably. I had my hands full.
So this vintage was aged in second fill American bourbon casks, as first fill has a tendency to overpower the Balblair malt. Oh, and it’s 15 years old, which if you do some math, this isn’t NAS.
Granted given how education systems are going in the US where this is popular, we may see anything to do with math become NAS.
Let’s see how this tastes, shall we?
Price: No longer available at the LCBO
Colour: 5Y 9/6
Nose: Pine, pizza dough, mandarin, vanilla, wafer cookies
This needs time to open up a little bit. Some of the initial alcohol lasts even after a nice sitting. Eventually a orange madeleine note pops up out of the whole thing. Well balanced, however you have to wait for the sweets to show up on this one.
I guess Pink Floyd was correct: You can’t have any pudding until you have your meat. Wait, am I talking about jerking off again?
Taste: Coconut, honey, brown sugar, liquid sugar, pineapple, grass
This bounces between a lighter sugar side (honey, liquid sugar) and darker sugar (brown sugar) area. It’s quite tropical, has some grass notes to balance that out as well.
Can be quite sweet. I enjoy sugar, so I’m not bothered, but you may be if you don’t think diabetes is a goal like me.
Finish: Cocoa, pineapple, lemongrass, caramel, lemon pastry, white pepper
Nice earth mixed with the sweet now. Honestly the finish does what the taste was trying to do. Really shows off a balanced malt. Sure, it’s still quite sweet, but it feels more complex than before.
To put it another way: The taste is cake batter, and the finish is a cake fresh from the oven. Drenched in white rum.
Conclusion: Nice, though I wish the molasses went a little deeper. Granted I’m a giant slut for molasses. Good finish, nicely balanced, and does things very well. It’s hard to bash on this one.
I guess I’d say it’s not going to blow your socks off, however it is going to be unique, you’re probably going to enjoy it, and it may be too sweet for some. The finish is what you’re aiming for, however give it time to open up fully before judging.
Okay, let’s see if you’ve learned anything: Up next we have Balblair 90 (2nd Release).
A quick Google search will show you this was bottled in 2013, right?
And right. Confused yet? So am I, and sadly I couldn’t find any writing on this at all.
From what I’ve found, there are three versions of Balblair 90 (2nd Release). One bottled in 2013, one bottled in 2015, and one bottled in 2017. No official report, nothing on any whisky sites (that I could find), and the only way I found this out was a bunch of image searches.
And yeah, we did check the pictures after the tasting, incase we were too drunk. Yup, says bottled 2017.
So the main thing that all of them have in common is they were placed in 2nd fill ex-bourbon casks for 21 years. And then finished in 1st fill Oloroso sherry casks. The difference is the amount of time in sherry. This one was in there for 6 years.
I also have a sample of the 2013 release too, so it’ll be interesting to see the comparison.
Let’s see how the oldest one tastes, shall we?
Price: $296.00 CAD at the LCBO
Colour: 2.5Y 8/8
Nose: Cherry, raisin, grass, Eton Mess, Xmas spices, chipotle
Interesting. A good amount of time in the Oloroso has given it more red fruits than normal. Not light ones, more like a PX cask with raisin, cherry, and raspberry (Eton Mess).
Nice amount of spices, and it’s balanced by some nice heat and grass from the malt. Spices are really where a lot of the complexity is coming from on this one.
Taste: Raisin, dry red apple, cinnamon, candied ginger, lime zest
Less spicy, however it keeps that raisin note, the lime zest adds some nice dimension to this.
It’s rare to have all the notes in a dram work well together, but here we are. It’s not too sweet, good amount of spice, great acid, and the raisin reminds me of an apple raisin turnover.
Finish: Cinnamon bread, raisin, ginger ale, apple, cocoa, Twizzlers
Long finish. Makes up for the short finish before. Because I ain’t want no 5 second dram.
Again has that cinnamon raisin bread mix. Good amount of spice, nice apple, and there’s a distinct red fruit sweetness on this on.
Yeah, I’m all twitterpated with this one.
Conclusion: That’s right, I’ll make mention of jerking off and a Disney movie in the same review. I’m a renaissance man, that’s for certain.
Okay, so what is up with this dram? Any one of these elements would be a nice part to a dram. You’d talk about them being quite nice. However all together? Technical masterpiece at that point.
Well, if you’re like me and are amazed that this was Oloroso casks, and that you enjoyed it, then you’ll think it’s a technical masterpiece. They’ve pulled out a balanced amount of citrus, spice, red fruits, and then amped up portions of that. This is all fruit breads for me, and big autumn flavours.
While it’s not as complex as others, I can’t help but rank this highly. A must buy, just make sure you check the date before buying.
So at this point, we’re pretty blown away by Balblair. Pretty good. And then they bring out something special: Old Pulteney New Make.
I mean… when are you going to try this again? Only if you go to the distillery. Which I hear is an amazing place to visit, and is a lot of fun. However when are you going to have it in Toronto? Yeah, this evening.
This comes right off the still. Pure new make. I don’t expect a high score, however I do expect to learn something about where the malt starts out, thus I’m really excited to try it.
Nose: Sweet corn, seaside, vegetal
Nose doesn’t have that odd pine/alcohol pain to it. I’ve had Poitin, Canadian moonshine, and American moonshine, and this smells different. The corn smell is there from the moonshine, however there’s more seaside notes.
So turns out it starts out salty. Like me when my partner takes their top off.
Taste: Corn, sugar, plum, floral, mint
Sweeter than I expected. Lots of floral and corn notes. Nice to sip on, like an okay vodka with actual flavours. That said, it’s sweet corn flavour. Don’t drink this expecting amazing complexity.
Finish: Earth, brine
Finish is short, earth, and more brine. Let’s keep with that pattern.
Conclusion: It’s a white whisky. However it’s not a bad white whisky. You’re not going to get a lot of depth, you’re just getting an idea of what starts out and what develops when you have another Old Pulteney. I rate it based on tasting it.
That said, I’ve had much worse whiskies that were in casks. This is brine forward and has corn elements. I’ll say that the brine continues on, there’s some nice earth elements, and some floral aspects. You’re not going to be able to order this most places, however if you have a chance to have it, drink it.
Old Pulteney 1990 Triple Matured is not on the market. We don’t know if it’ll ever be out. Right now I’m just talking about a test batch. A product that the amazing whizzes over at Old Pulteney are working on. Maybe they’ll never bring it out. We’ll always have Paris.
So what is this? Well it’s 27 year old malt, that is a mix of three different casks. At least 3 casks. No idea of how much.
So yeah, it’s ex-bourbon, ex-sherry, and ex-peated casks. If you’ve had the Old Pulteney 1989 vintage, you know that Old Pulteney had some casks around from a time when an Islay distiller was also owned by the same company.
So let’s see how this tastes, shall we?
Cask Types: Ex-bourbon, ex-Oloroso, and Ex-Peated Cask
Colour: 5Y 9/8
Nose: Floral, peat, brown sugar, sea air, cocoa, sugared plums, butterscotch
Interesting mix of flavours. The Old Pulteney salt is still there, and the earth is working here, however there’s lots of peat influence.
I’m enjoying the nose on this one more than the last ex-peat cask. At first I thought that was due to the floral part, then I realized the cask strength is doing it a lot of favours.
Taste: Taco spice mix, cocoa, cinnamon, brine, umami, banana bread
Again, the sherry adds some nice fruit, however I feel like the overall vanilla and banana elements come from the other casks, and that adds a nice dimension. Also it doesn’t take over too much.
Great umami flavour on this one as well.
Finish: Cocoa, strawberry, gingersnaps, peanut, dried banana, walnut
Finish finally shows off some sherry elements, and pulls it’s weight. Some nuttiness, some spice, and some dried banana notes. Really nice finish.
It’s not as complex as the other parts, though is nice.
Conclusion: Doesn’t need any water, surprisingly. Perfect abv.
I mean, it’s not overly complex, however it doesn’t have rough edges. There’s no off notes. The nose is interesting, different, and all over the place. It both shows off parts of the malt and takes to the peat better than the 1989. The taste continues this and is like falling into your spice cabinet (don’t do that, it hurts, but this is like that without face ow).
Finally the finish shows why they added the sherry element.
All in all, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the 1989. I think this solves issues it had. And I think the main problem with the 1989 was it wasn’t cask strength. This has those big flavours I wanted, sherry to finish, and bourbon to add to the taste.
If it ever comes out, check it out. Hope it’s cask strength though.
anCnoc Rascan is up next. Look, I’m going to be blunt here: You’re Beautiful.
Wait, fuck, wrong type of Blunt. I’m trying to say I’m high.
Shit, wrong blunt again. What I’m saying is I can’t cut it.
Dammit, wrong blunt again. What I’m trying to say is every time anCnoc brings out a peated whisky I shudder. Because I’ve had two, and they weren’t great.
There we go. Not that I’m trying to shoot them down before we even begin. I’m just saying this peat head has yet to be impressed.
One thing I did find out though: The PPM that anCnoc posts is the peat level after it’s been distilled, where as other peat levels we’ve read about are the peat levels prior to distillation. So while it may seem like a low PPM, it can’t actually be compared to other distilleries.
Now excuse me while I update to previous posts.
Now that that is updated, let’s try what I assume will be a sad whisky. Damn straight the cover of that book is dumb!
That seems to be enough sarcasm for today.
Price: $108.95 CAD at the LCBO
Cask Type: American Oak ex-Bourbon barrels
Number of bottles: 18,000
Colour: 5Y 9/3
Nose: Cocoa, earth, lime, grass, floral, smoke
Hey, nice amount of work done on the nose. Good cocoa, peat has gone to more of an earth level, good amount of floral/grass elements.
Yeah, it’s nothing to write home about (I’m not writing home, you’re stuck in here with me), however it’s nice. Grass and sweet notes. Floral is an interesting touch.
Why haven’t we found a peated Lowland yet, dammit?
Taste: Cocoa, caramel, ash, peach, vegetal
Taste is more of a caramel/cocoa mix. Almost hits that Caramilk level that my inner fat child and outer fat adult wants, however it’s missing a creamy part.
It’s a little more ashy than I like, but not too rough. It’s a tad too earthy here.
Finish: Cocoa, earth, peach, caramel, cherry, lemon
And finally to a bitter chocolate/fruit mixture at the end. Still missing something, though it’s not as rough as it’s older brothers on the finish. It’s a smoother finish.
Conclusion: So this is the oldest of the peat farming implements limited edition peated anCnocs, and it shows that it was needed. Frankly it’s one of the better ones as the rougher parts (earth) have rounded out. Yes, there’s a big ole ash part in the middle that sits there like a turd on your carpet (and that sucks because the carpet really pulled the room together), however if you can past that this is a step in the right direction.
Finish didn’t have a rough part, and was longer than normal. This is a lot better than Flaughter and Cutter, so it’s a “try a dram” type of whisky. Maybe if this upward turn continues, we can learn to trust again.
Stroma Liqueur is the last of the bunch. Not technically a whisky, however neither is Drambuie, and this is made as an alternative, so I’d be a giant dick if I didn’t review them it as well.
From what we’re told, this is an ongoing project for the distiller to make a whisky liqueur. They use plums as one of the sweetening ingredients, which I wasn’t able to guess at all. So guess my reviews are full of shit.
Joking aside, it’s bottled at higher strength than other whisky liqueurs, and they only use Highland whiskies in it. Sounds pretty different, let’s see how it tastes, shall we?
Price: N/A at the LCBO (based on their search)
Colour: 5Y 8/8
Nose: Vegetal, brine, peach, cloves, bananas foster
Odd, you expect these to initially smell like sugar. And then smell like sugar second. And then continue smelling like sugar. However initial nose is clearly Old Pulteney profile. Different.
Also damn whichever person figured out bananas foster before me. I hate you and you were 100% right.
Taste: Sugar, oak, caramel
Quite sweet. It’s a tad hard to get past the sugar, however there is some oak and caramel here. It’s like a whiskey! Which is a rarity in flavoured whiskies and whisky liqueurs and literally that entire group that marketers would prefer I not group together.
Finish: Heather, honey, dry apple
Nice finish. Very similar on the finish to Drambuie, though less syrupy. Oddly enough this has no honey in it. That I was told. Or heather. Or even seen by a woman named Heather.
Conclusion: It’s nice. I could see mixing this with a peated whisky and having it instead of a rusty nail. I belief they call that a Rusty Sail. It’s recommended to mix Old Pulteney 12 with it, however I’d think maybe a peated whisky would be nice as well.
By itself it’s nice, however I think they need to tweak it to really compete with Drambuie. Which is a compliment, if I’m being blunt, because you’re beautiful… dammit, already did that joke.
It’s impressive that a fairly new product to the market is able to compete with a former prince’s ancient recipe. Given more time and knowing that Old Pulteney is like a dog with a bone, I expect this will continue getting better.
Scotch reviews #667-674, Blend review #69, Speyside review #193, Highland reviews #110-115, Whisky Network reviews #1110-1117