Oh Taste & See: Jura Superstition Single Malt Scotch

I had a sample of Jura Superstition sent to me a while back, and I finally got around to having a taste of this no-age-statement Scotch from Isle of Jura Distillery. This 90 proof whisky is a good compromise for those times when you want something tough with a bit of smoky or peaty flavor, but you don't want to be overwhelmed with the funky flavors that can come from an Islay malt like Lagavulin or Caol Ila. It's also a good stepping stone to work your way up from non-peated whiskies to those crazy peat monsters that everyone seems to love these days.

Color: Jura Superstition has a rich, creamy caramel color that looks unusually thick and hearty for a Scotch. I'm guessing they either add caramel coloring, or there are some very hearty older whiskies in here (or both).

Nose: The dominant aromas of this whisky are smoke, leather, toast, and salty peat. They're all very well balanced and give a nice warm welcome. After adding a bit of water I also picked out a burnt grain or corn-like smell.

Flavor: The first flavor to hit you is a spiciness that's more expected in rye whiskeys as opposed to Scotch. There are notes of cinnamon and nutmeg. As the whiskey moved through my mouth I tasted hints of toffee and caramel, but overall it has a well below-average level of sweetness. This whisky has a sharp burn, but without being harsh, and after adding water I picked up a dry, smoky, ashy taste like the air just after putting out a camp fire.

Finish: The finish fades slowly from spicy to earthy/peaty and ends with a hint of smoked bacon.

Overall this is a balanced whisky with peat for those who want it, but not too much for those who don't. It's nice and dry with a gentle bite to warm you up on a cold night.


Oh Taste & See: Clynelish 14 Year Old Single Malt Scotch

I've been sitting on this bottle of Clynelish 14 Year Old for a few months, but I'm glad I finally got around to popping it open as it quickly jumped to the top of my list of favorite single malts. It's not a common single malt - I picked up this bottle at a duty-free shop, but if you see it it's worth every penny of the $45-$50 price tag.

Clynelish distillery is owned by Diageo and is billed as a Coastal Highland malt. It is located in the seaside town of Brora, and is across the road from the much older Brora Distillery which is owned by the same company. The vast majority of the whisky produced at Clynelish is used in Johnnie Walker blends, with the 14 Year Old being their most widely available single-malt bottling. It's bottled at 92 proof, and is a lovely example of a well-balanced Scotch fit for any occasion.

Color: Clynelish 14 Year Old is the color of a golden wheat field - quite light and very natural looking, with a bright pop to it.

Nose: This whisky has a delicate but interesting nose with light aromas in the sweet fruit and floral categories. I picked up hints of honey, lavender, apples, and prunes. The most striking thing about it is how well everything is balanced together, creating a very pleasant aroma that pulls you right in for that first sip.

Flavor: The flavors in Clynelish are equally well balanced and it has a nice rich, thick mouth-feel. There are notes of honey, oatmeal, cloves, vanilla, and just a tiny hint of smokiness and leather.

Finish: The finish is full-bodied with oak flavors that fade to pepper and cinnamon, again with just a hint of lingering smoke and leather to keep you warm until the next sip.

Overall, it's a winner!


Oh Taste & See: Old Forester Bourbon

Old Forester is one of the oldest names in the world of bourbon, but until recently it wasn't widely available here in Pennsylvania. Recently though I started seeing it on shelves at the state stores, and at $18.99 it seemed like it might be a good deal so I picked up a bottle. It's a rye-heavy bourbon, probably 4 to 5 years old, and bottled at 86 proof. Unfortunately when I started drinking it I was a bit disappointed. I can certainly recommend bourbons that I like better in the same price range - Four Roses and Buffalo Trace for example.

Old Forester is made in Louisville by Brown Forman, and I have to say I like their other value-price bourbon - Early Times 354 - a lot better, although it still isn't widely available nationwide. I have met people who swear by Old Forester, and it seems to work fine as a mixer, so maybe I'm being too hard on it. I will also say that I tried the latest Old Forester Birthday Bourbon a few weeks ago at Time and it was very nice - rich, fruity, and packing a nice punch without being too boozy, but that's a true premium bourbon at double the price. In any case, my notes on Old Forester are below.

Color: Old Forester is standard young-bourbon color - medium-to-dark golden brown with a light, thin look as you swirl it in the glass.

Nose: The main element on the nose is ethanol - a boozy character that doesn't fade away at all until you add ice or water. It's an overall clean nose with just a hint of grain silo dust and charcoal. Adding ice cools down the ethanol, but also hides the other aromas leaving a flat nose.

Flavor: The main flavor element is heat and spice, both the burn of harsh alcohols and the peppery spice of rye, showing up mainly in the back of the mouth. Up front this bourbon is flat and lacks any distinct flavors. Adding ice brings out a bit of earthy funk that I didn't really like.

Finish: The finish has some hope with a medium-length, spicy fade-out with a just a bit of burn in the throat. While some 100 proof bourbons can be easy sippers, this one manages to be harsh and overly boozy at just 86 proof.


Oh Taste & See: The Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch

I've been working on this bottle of The Balvenie DoubleWood for a while, but realized that I had never posted a tasting, and since it's a perfect drink as summer cools into fall I figure now is the time. The Balvenie is one of the larger small Scotch distilleries, or one of the smaller large Scotch distilleries. The distillery was built in 1892, by William Grant. The company he founded, William Grant & Sons, is now a major producer of Scotch and other spirits, but Balvenie remains one of their prize products. Balvenie single-malts tend to be excellent, well-balanced whiskies that are widely available, so what's not to like?

The 12 year old DoubleWood is The Balvenie's entry level whisky, and it's a great, crowd-pleasing Scotch since it doesn't lean too heavily on any particular style or flavor. It's aged in both ex-bourbon barrels and ex-sherry barrels, giving it a very well-rounded character.

Color: The Balvenie has a rich honey-caramel color that's quite dark for a 12 year old Scotch.

Nose: The nose is rich, sweet, and warm with hints of honey and toffee. There are fruity undertones of ripe  apples, dried cherries, and milk chocolate. As it sits, a brown sugar aroma develops that makes it very inviting.

Flavor: This Scotch is extremely smooth with sweet flavors of oak, vanilla, and honey up front. The mouth-feel is thick and rich with a bit of buttered toast flavor. After a while more brown sugar and nutty flavors start to come out.

Finish: The finish is long, warm, and sweet. There are hints of raisins and figs and more sweet vanilla. At the tail end there's a hint of tar which isn't a bad way for such a sweet and smooth Scotch to finish off.

Overall, The Balvenie Double Wood is a great "everyday" single malt that hits a lot of key flavors without being overly aggressive with any of them. It's also one of the few whiskies that I strongly prefer to drink totally neat without a splash of water or ice cube. It's not weak, but it doesn't need any mellowing out at all...spot on.


Ken Burns' Prohibition - A Great Excuse to Enjoy a Drink!

If you're reading this be thankful that it's 2011 and not 1911. In 2011 you can legally and comfortably sit back, enjoy a glass of whiskey, and watch TV while reading this blog on the internet. In 1911 you could have had the whiskey, but you would have felt the cloudy days of Prohibition approaching quickly, and the TV and internet things would have sounded like absolute crazy talk.

Anyway, I recommend you enjoy a bit of all three. First pour yourself a glass of whiskey - a nice Canadian whiskey, such as Forty Creek, is probably the most appropriate if you're trying to be period-correct and drink something that would have been common during Prohibition. Second, use the internet watch the first episode of Ken Burns' latest PBS documentary entitled Prohibition. Third, use your TV to watch the rest of the series as it airs this week. Nobody tells a story like Ken Burns, so this should be a great way to learn a bit more about one of the strangest times in America's history.

Watch the full episode. See more Ken Burns.