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KCM Spirit Reviews

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Review 218: G&M Glenburgie 10 Year

Review 218
Gordon and MacPhail Glenburgie 10 Year: 43% abv

Background: What’s there to say about Glenburgie? More than you’d think, actually. Here’s the scoop. The Glenburgie distillery was founded in 1829, under the name of Kilnflat. The distillery ceased production in 1870 and went through a series of changes. Water has been a short commodity at Glenburgie, and they have exchanged, on and off, a series of stills called Loch Lomond stills, which are substantially different than the typical swan neck pot stills that are used in most distilleries. Now, the Glenburgie whisky we’re drinking today is interesting, because Gleburgie just built a new building in 2004, so this might not be the same whisky you’ll be drinking tomorrow if you find a bottle. This is a G&M bottling, an independent bottler that provides some killer whiskies. G&M do tend to be pricier than their Signatory counterparts though.


Nose:  The nose starts off malty and creamy, having a gentle bready aroma and full barley complexity. There is a good amount of lemon, lime and vanilla in the nose, with tangerine citrus, along with bits of pineapple and banana. There is some nuttiness as well, which counterbalances the advertent sweetness, with salty water and green tea leaves adding some bitterness. There is fresh green mint leaves, as well as other herbal green notes. The smell is crisp, clean, and fresh. The nose is complex and presents some unique aromas that are unusual in Scotch.

Arrival: The arrival starts off with a nice blend of sweetness and zestiness. There is a unique, but strong mintiness that comes out. There is some earthiness and maple wood in the arrival, with a syrupy honey flavor as well. There is a vegetal note, one of dewy grass, that is quite interesting. There is a bitter green tea in the arrival, along with some spurts of pine. There are some hot spices in the arrival, which carry into the body.

Body: The body presents a full flavor of fresh, cooling mint. There is also a wonderful fullness of cocoa. The body is woody and full of flavor. The body has some sugar notes to it, but it still has some earthiness and spiciness in it.

Finish: The finish is incredibly minty and refreshing. It is cool and has some botanical flavor like the arrival. Cocoa is present in the finish, with citrus and wood notes as prevalent contributors to flavor. There is a certain IPA-like flavor as the finish carries through the whisky. Look hard enough, and you might find a little bit of tobacco on the finish.

With Water

Nose: After adding water, there is a bit of brown sugar and floral notes that come through. The balance in the nose is fairly good at this point, with the citrus notes backing off and giving more play to the rest of the notes.

Arrival: The arrival comes off as much more spicy, with pronounced cinnamon and nutmeg in the arrival. The flavors are more balanced, with spiciness. The arrival loses some of the flavors from before, and replaces it with the vegetal, mineral notes.
Body: The body displays mineral notes and spices, still sustaining some of its previous character. The whisky is very peppery. The body presents some caramel notes that weren’t present before.

Finish:  The finish is now more malty than before, but displays some oily notes as well. It has a good blend of vegetal flavors and spices. The caramel from the body is very dominant in the finish.

Final Comments: This is a very excellent whisky. It provides a great balance, complexity, and an extremely unique character that we haven’t seen in a lot of whiskies. Although there are mixed reviews out there on Glenburgies, this is evidence that they can put out a really great product that is approachable and compelling for advanced drinkers and beginners. At 43%, this whisky presents itself as a46% whisky at minimum, although we wouldn’t complain if they gave us the extra 3%. It is important to realize, however, that despite this very positive review, Independent bottlers don’t promise the kind of consistency that you will find from the big companies. This is a major deterrent for some.

Why you’d buy it: You are looking for something outside of your normal Glens and you’re willing to take a gamble on an Independent Bottling
Why you wouldn’t: You’re a conservative drinker that doesn’t want to try something new and interesting, and good.

Score:  9.5/10

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Review 217: Gentleman Jack

Review 217
Gentleman Jack: 40% abv

Background: Here we go. Occasionally, the KCM crew likes to step back to the classics. We have never done a Jack Daniels review and you shouldn’t expect many more, but this is an instance where a bottle has been purchased and is ready for judgment. Gentleman Jack is Jack Daniel’s attempt at making a middle-range bottling of Jack Daniels to charge customers more for. Would you guess they would raise the proof? Increase the age time? Do some unique finishing operation or change the mash bill? You’d be wrong on all accounts. Gentleman Jack gets the Tennessee treatment  twice, instead of once. This is charcoal filtering, and that allegedly makes Tennessee whiskey differentiable from Bourbon, which I won’t refute at this very moment. In an “informative” video, a man in a Jack Daniels shirt informs us that short finishes and lack of oak flavor in Gentleman are the staple qualities that set this thing apart. It also sports a classically cheap 40% abv, and this man informs us that often times it’s not what we taste, but where we taste it that’s important. I like to taste whiskey in my mouth. I’m sure by now we’re all excited to try this velvety smooth masterpiece.


Nose: Yes, this is sweet alright. They weren’t kidding with that. Instantly, smells of anise, candied cherries, vanilla extract and white sugar pronounce themselves. There is some confectionary aroma in this glass, with a very mild hint of grains. This seems like a corn-heavy mash bill, and  the sweetness makes the complexity difficult to find. There is a distinctive alcohol smell that actually becomes more pronounced as the whiskey opens up.

Arrival: The arrival starts very candied, with sweet artificial fruit flavors. The candied cherries are very dominant, and there is a sweet, syrupy flavor up front. It is almost maple in flavor. There is some spice as well that is distinctive in the arrival. There is some bitter fruit flavors in the arrival as well, such as slight cranberry, but none of it stays for very long.

Body: There are suggestions of oak flavor in the body, and is pretty thin. Hints of anise and hot spices come across in the body, but dissipate quickly.

Finish: The finish leaves with a strong taste of sweetened corn and some wheat flavor. There is some maraschino cherry juice in the finish, which is actually the most eventful part of the whisky. Gentleman just seems to do a good job of lacking substance. There seems to be an ashy, charry wood flavor that is retained through the finish, which serves as the most interesting feature of the whiskey.

Final Comments: Sorry, sports fans. I tried adding water and unfortunately there is nothing to report. So what is there to conclude. This is the pinnacle of gimmicky drinks. I guess it isn’t too bad, but it lacks balance, it certainly lacks complexity, and the most unique thing about it is it’s “smooth”. Folks, the fallacy that Jack is trying to promote with this bottle is that complexity and ease of drinking are mutually exclusive. Those things aren’t true. The idea that WHAT you taste isn’t as important as WHERE you taste it is just madness. This isn’t worth the money, it isn’t worth the bad marketing, and it isn’t worth the ignorance. It is drinkable, and it is tolerable, but it doesn’t engage the drinker. Overall, this isn’t worth buying, and Jack Daniels will find that our generation of drinkers isn’t looking for something lacking in dynamics.  

Why you’d buy it: You’re a Jack drinker and you want to splurge on something more expensive, and just as bad.
Why you wouldn’t: See review.

Score:  6.75/10

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Review 216: Ardbeg Ardbog

Review 216
Ardbeg Ardbog: 52.1% abv

Background: Here’s another Ardbeg for the peat lovers out there. Very lovingly named Ardbog, this whisky is another statement from the Islay powerhouse that introduces a different style into the mix. Oddly enough, although you won’t see it on the front of the bottle, the back of the bottle drops a hint that this whisky is 10 years of age. Maybe the expensive tag on this bottle doesn’t sound 10 Year-like? Another unique thing about this whisky that sets it apart is that all of those ten years are spent in ex-Manzanilla sherry casks. Although we have tried a lot of sherried whiskies, Manzanilla is a sweeter, less frequently used variant that has yet to find its way in one of our reviews. A theme of the Ardbog is to emphasize the historical relevance of peat, which explains the surplus of fossils and random artifacts presented on the packaging. Apparently, if you drank Ardbeg during that History final, you might not have failed. In any case, Ardbeg has been active in releasing limited edition variants and now we have to find out if it’s worth your limited budget.


Nose: Although the nose is initially pretty overbearing, there are some interesting notes that come out without water. There is a grilling smoke smell that emanates from the glass, with savory, meaty flavors present up front. This includes campfire wood and sweet maple. This whisky is in essence completely reminiscent of a family camping trip up north. There is some sweet apple on the nose, with brown sugar and candied bacon also adding sweetness. The sherry presents itself on the nose with a molasses-like, concentrated Cognac and rum smell. There is a tinge of spice in the nose, but it is very subtle. There is also a light cigar aroma in the whisky. Ultimately, the nose is very dense and rewarding, but it can be challenging to extract flavors with the high alcohol.   

Arrival: The arrival is spicy, syrupy, and doesn’t hold back on the peat. There is a really concentrated peat and ash flavor, complimented by the subtle sweetness of the Manzanilla sherry. The spice is close to clove and black pepper. There is some black tea flavor that comes through as well, but it is hard to pick up too much due to the high concentration of alcohol. There is some molasses in the arrival.

Body: The body carries the peaty, ashy flavor from before, but also takes on some salty, briny character in the whisky which is very enjoyable. Salt water is present, but there are also a high level of tannins as well.

Finish: The finish is fantastically peaty, with a strong, dry tobacco and ash finish. There is a grainy character as well, but it is very limited. There is certainly alcohol heat present, and drives a quick finish. The sweetness is not substantial through the finish.

With Water

Nose: The nose certainly doesn’t become tame with a few drops of water. It is very lively still, but reveals some desired complexity in maltiness, light cinnamon and brown sugar, sea salt and

Arrival: The arrival is more pleasant after adding water. Clove, nutmeg and cinnamon become pretty dominant in the arrival, with tea leaves and dried nuts also present.
Body: There is a lot more spice in the body after adding water. The wood is very dominant, and there is dry vegetal notes that take place in the whisky. The peat is very strong in the body, and it tends to be a bit more aggressive after adding water, where the alcohol isn’t just covering the smokey character.

Finish:  The finish still remains relatively bitter, taking on the tobacco, tea leaves, slight sherry and woody notes to it. The whisky is slightly leathery, and the vegetal notes from the body carry into the finish. The finish offers up some complexity in tarry, medicinal notes. Some of the phenolic character is very strongly present in the finish, and dwells.

Final Comments: Admittedly, this is a very tough one for KCM. This whisky has challenging aspects to it, and it presents itself as a very dense whisky, but I can’t seem to avoid the fact that this is lacking in some complexity. When I compare this to Uigeadail, it doesn’t really compare, in all honesty. It is a good whisky, and I really enjoy drinking it. In fact, it grew on me. I was initially pretty disappointed with it, admittedly, but it still lacks in some spark. I don’t believe a fan of sherried peated Scotches would really frown on this bottle, but I just fail to want to pick this over the standard offering. That being said, it wouldn’t hurt somebody to try this whisky, and if you’re a fan of Ardbeg, this isn’t far outside the range of accessible whiskies.

Why you’d buy it: You like the monster peat, high proof stuff, and Laphroaig isn’t your style.
Why you wouldn’t: Ardbeg Uigeadail

Score:  8.5/10

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Review 215: Old Pulteney Navigator

Review 215
Old Pulteney Navigator: 46% abv

Background: Now and again, our smaller distilleries will go out on a limb and release a limited edition bottling. Old Pulteney, despite their size, actually does quite a bit of this. Between their extensive travel range and the new releases (they just announced a 35 Year offering), Old Pulteney is a very active distillery. One of their most recent bottlings is the Navigator, a non-age statement whisky aged in a mixture of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. It totes an impressive 46% abv and non-chill filtering, and I can confidently report that it also does not appear to be artificially colored. So while Pulteney has held onto the “craft” spirit of this limited edition bottling, it does raise some questions. Is this just an excuse to introduce a younger whisky into the market? Does this fight toe to toe with the 12 Year? Let’s pour a dram and dig into it more.


Nose: To start, the nose illustrates a salty, intense flavor to this whisky. The immediate impression is fresh maltiness, young and vibrant. There is some floral, vegetal notes to the whisky, but it is more dominantly a buttery, creamy vanilla smell that comes forward. The briny, sea salt flavor is extremely assertive in the nose, and there is a presence of allspice as well. There is some fruity, candy apple smell that starts to come through after a little bit of time, with a slight sweet sherry note in there. The nose starts to have a slightly sugary smell to it, with light hints of pear and marmalade. Ultimately, the sweet, fruity notes combat with the intensely salty character to the aroma.

Arrival: The arrival doesn’t start off sweet by any means, highlighting the salty, intensely malty character of the whisky up front. There is a vegetal quality to the arrival, with vanilla and oaky notes up front. That same creaminess found in the nose is also fairly dominant in the arrival. With some sour barley grain leading into the body. Refined spice notes of allspice and clove are also a noticeable contribution to the initial flavor.

Body: Once into the body, the introduction of spices and tart flavors becomes more evident. This single malt retains the rich, barley flavor that eludes to how youthful it is. There is also some cinnamon stick and gingerbread in the body, which lasts into the finish.

Finish: The finish is a blast of malt, with salt and vegetal grain notes carrying through. There is some sweetness from the sherry cask that becomes somewhat prevalent. The finish seems to be well dominated by the spirit presence. There is a tinge of sherry in the finish, but it is a weak note which tends to be washed over by the other parts of the whisky. Subtleties of orange and lemon are present as well, which adds some variety to the flavor profile.

With Water

Nose: After adding some water, some rich fruit flavors are coming out, with dark berries and red grapes at the forefront. The whisky is also fairly jammy, while presenting some orange marmalade on the nose. A powdery malt flavor is still present, but the floral, fruity flavors are definitely more prominent now.  As the Scotch opens up more, the orange is becoming a more prevalent flavor.

Arrival: The salt and seawater is still present here, and in no lesser form than before. There is more of a dry, malty presence now. The whole experience is actually slightly more bitter now, with bitter black pepper notes being relatively dominant.
Body: The body retains the bitter, dry notes from before. There is still some creamy, vanilla notes to the whisky, but the bitterness is much more up front than before.

Finish: The finish has some intense spice to it now, but it lost some level of complexity at this point. There is a grassy, green vegetable note that is coming through in the finish now. 

Final Comments: Old Pulteney is definitely a consistently good whisky, whether it be the 12, 17, or 21 Year offerings. This special edition is something of a conflicting story. The quality of this spirit is good, and to some degree, the complexity and uniqueness is also above average. That being said, this Scotch is undoubtedly immature  and there is no getting around that. The harshness, bitterness, and unforgiving intensity is not characteristic of Pulteney, although some of the flavors are. That being said, this can easily be forgiven considering the price of the whisky, but it does seem as if Navigator could have used a few more years of well-rounded aging to bring it to that next level. In either case, this is not poor buy, and as long as the 12 Year is protected from NAS bottling fate, this type of release is certainly welcome.

Why you’d buy it: You’d like to try a young, vibrant Old Pulteney at a good price.
Why you wouldn’t: You demand the quality of Pulteney 17 in everything you drink.

Score:  8.25/10

Monday, June 2, 2014

Review 214: Glen Garioch 12 Year

Review 214
Glen Garioch 12 Year: 48% abv

Background: Welcome to KCM Review 214. This review is evidently different, because it is an offsite review of something I found in Montreal, Canada. Subsequently, I have no intentions of bringing the bottle back, so I figured I’d squeeze out a quick review before heading back. You might notice from the picture I’m drinking this out of a tumbler, so the aromas might not be as comprehensive as I’d like, but I’ll make due. Now onto the spirit. This is a Highland Single Malt Scotch, Glen Garioch 12 Year, bottled at an impressive 48%, non chill-filtered, and aged in a mixture of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. Glen Garioch only has a few standard offerings, with this being one of them. So is it worth your time, and at such a beefy proof?


Nose: So of course, I’m nosing this out of an improper glass, so bear with me. Despite the tumbler, there is a huge aroma of sherry, barley grain, sweet malt, tons of vanilla, and some caramel as well. The sherry is complimented by a sweet honey flavor, but is contrasted by some slight vegetal and floral flavors as well. There is a prominent oakiness to the whisky which becomes distinguishable as the flavors open up. There is also a bit of apple fruitiness, giving a nice caramel apple smell.

Arrival: The arrival starts off with a blend of nice maltiness, a beautiful caramel apple sweetness, coupled by nice sherry and vanilla sweetness. There is some citrus and pear in the arrival as well, giving a healthy blast of fruit flavors that really drag out the arrival quite intensely. The sherry is light, and is closer to a heather honey flavor than a raison flavor. There is actually a bit of cocoa as well in the arrival, which comes and goes quickly.

Body: The body shows off some powdered malt flavor, with a delicate graininess and the same fruitiness that is found in the arrival. The sherry really comes forward in the body, and there is some nice oak flavor as well.

Finish: The finish leaves you with a nice, crisp apple flavor, followed by long lasting malt and slight citrus overtones. The caramel sticks around quite a bit, but is overshadowed by some very strong vegetal notes. These are similar notes to what we saw in the Founder’s Reserve, but they seem less aggressive in the 12 Year version. Again, like the FR, the 12 Year ends dry and grainy, but has as very prominent aftertaste. There is even a bit of fresh pine in the finish as well.

With Water

Nose: With this whisky, don’t be afraid to add a little bit of water. It really can take it, and it doesn’t back down the flavor much at all. The nose is still really beefy (not literally, of course) with a large collage of spices and vegetal flavors up front, backing off from the sweeter notes. There is still a pleasant, almost confectionary type of smell to the whisky, with cookie dough and flour as aroma.

Arrival: The arrival now shows off some brilliant spice notes, with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger all playing into the whisky. The sweetness is still prevalent, complemented by succulent berries and a beautiful array of sweet fruits.
Body: The body retains the graininess from before, but balances it out with a more refreshing, less dry palate. There is also berry sweetness in the body now, with slightly less complexity than before. This is still really pleasant, however.

Finish:  The finish is now nicely blended with oak flavors, sweet fruits, vanilla, caramel, and a lasting spiciness that was not present before. The finish has a gentle, subtle linger to it, which coats the mouth and only begs for a second round. Truly, this is a tantalizing Scotch from beginning to end.

Final Comments:  Okay, so I like it. Is it because I’m in Montreal? Not likely. Glen Garioch proved to us that they could produce a Scotch which was complex at a young age, and that they didn’t need to follow the regular rules of presentation (40%, 43%, 46%). I like Glen Garioch for their ambition, and their quality of spirit. Does this take a step up from the Founder’s Reserve? Yes, it does. This is a complex, enjoyable, and affordable whisky which should be sold everywhere, so far as I’m concerned. It could be more complex, and it could be more original, but it does so much where it is, and for the price this is a new personal favorite.
Why you’d buy it: You can find it, and you want to support a brilliant distillery by enjoying their brilliant product
Why you wouldn’t: You live in Michigan and can’t find it.

Score:  9.25/10

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Review 211: Bowmore 12 Year

Review 211
Bowmore 12 Year: 40% abv

Background: Welcome back to Islay for another Single Malt Scotch review. KCM tends to stray away from the 40% bottlings, but Bowmore is a distillery we haven’t yet visited, so here’s our due diligence. Bowmore is actually the oldest licensed distillery on Islay, and produces a significant amount of malted barley in house, which is presently an uncommon occurrence. Bowmore also ages a good portion of their whiskies in house. This being said, the Bowmore brand sits in the middle of the peat spectrum, and lacks in the craft presentation that many of their competitors have. Bowmore has a lot of potential for improvement from the get go, but where do they stand in current quality?


Nose: There is a lot of interesting notes in this whisky. This whisky has an interesting leathery note right off the nose. There is a slight peatiness which compliments the leather notes, along with subtle notes of malt. There is a bit of wood smoke that suggests itself to the senses, but not too . Floral lavender smell is also present along with some perfume-like notes. There are some fruit notes, including over ripened bananas and cherries. You  also find some coastal, salty notes in the whisky, characteristic of the Islay malts. KCM also found this close to the smell of Worcestershire sauce. This is very original in smell, although presumably unappealing to some.

Arrival: The arrival starts off mild, with some burnt sugar, sherry, malt and salty flavors. There is a slightly medicinal character in the arrival, with some oak charcoal flavor as well.

Body: The body has a strong cool mintiness. This mint is very much like mouthwash you might buy at CVS. There is still some malt flavor in the whisky as well. In addition, dark flavors of maple and molasses are both present in this whisky. There is a grainy character in the body, somewhat pushing outside of the barley malt traditional.

Finish: The finish sustains the mint and oak flavors, with a bit of malt and sea salt. There is plenty of mineral notes, and a vegetal, peaty note to the finish as well. There is a leathery, wood char note as well. Although the finish is unique in flavor, there is no dynamics to the whisky. The finish ends on a slightly flat note.

Final Comments: Bowmore is an example of a good whisky with tons of potential. We really enjoyed the unique flavor profile that Bowmore has to offer, and it sits in stark contrast to many of the other Islay Scotches we experience. That being said, the low proof and the presentation of the whisky detracts from the overall quality and complexity. At the end of the day, this does not stay competitive for a lot of reasons. Bowmore also edges on the pricier end for what they give you. Ultimately, this is worth trying, but maybe more of a bar dram than a bottle to own.
Why you’d buy it: You want an Islay with a different style.
Why you wouldn’t: You don’t buy things with minimum credentials.

Score:  8.0/10

Friday, April 18, 2014

Review 213: Highland Park Signatory 18 Year 1991/2010

Review 213
Highland Park Signatory 18 Year 1991/2010: 46% abv

Background: We’re back at independent bottlings with a 18 year old Highland Park. Highland Park, as a reminder, is an island distillery and holds the title of the most northern distillery in Scotland. They have a pretty loyal fan base, and tend to produce a wide variety of whiskies. This one sat in a sherry butt for 18 long years. Sherry butts are 500 liter vessels, and they tend to be less common than hogsheads. This Signatory bottling still has good presentation, having 46% abv, natural color, and no chill filtration.


Nose: The nose starts off with a good mixture of citrus and grain, with malt being a predominant aroma up front. There is a noticeable peat to the Scotch, with a considerable spiciness in the nose as well. The spice includes nutmeg and gingerbread. There is some vanilla and custard in the nose, with a smooth lemon and orange involved as well. There is some white grape acidity and other light fruits as well. There is some old leather and sawdust aroma, with the addition of light cocoa.

Arrival: The arrival starts off with soft, creamy grain notes, and some definitive citrus notes. The arrival has the smoothness of sweet grain, but doesn’t provide terribly complex flavors.

Body: The body really carries out the citrus, with slight amounts of malt. There is a little bit of agave, with some cinnamon and nutmeg in the body. There is a lot of lemon, lime, and orange in the body.

Finish: The finish introduces some tobacco and peat into it, retaining the malt and citrus notes from the rest of the whisky. There is some custard and spices in the finish as well, which add to the smoky, peaty flavor. There is an introduction of grapefruit in the finish as well. There is a salty coastal character in the finish.

With Water

Nose: The nose seems to be essentially the same after adding water. One difference between this and before water is a subtle raison smell that comes through.

Arrival: The arrival is more complex and citrusy than before water.

Body: There is a little more peat flavor in the body, with intense citrus and coastal notes coming to the front much more aggressively.

Finish:  There is some custard and vanilla in the finish, with a large peaty flavor and orange citrus flavors dominating. The finish is still salty and coastal.

Final Comments: This whisky is an interesting one for sure, but it doesn’t deliver on all fronts. Surprisingly, it is worth saying that the cask quality of this particular whisky might be a little under par in comparison to many others we’ve had in the past, especially for an 18 year old Scotch. Although the whisky does exert some mature flavors, and a relatively decent complexity, it doesn’t seem to be competitive with other bottlings from Highland Park or Signatory. That’s not to say this is a bad whisky. It is still an affordable alternative with an interesting personality, and it is not hard to sip and enjoy. 
Why you’d buy it: You’re a fan of Highland Park and want to see more dimensions of their whisky.
Why you wouldn’t: Your expectation for a sherried whisky is in the realm of Glendronach

Score:  8.5/10