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A Trio of Fine Scotches

by Alex Knapp on 29 July 2009

Dalmore Cigar Malt

Like a lot of guys, I am a fan of many different kinds of alcohols–fine ales, a good vodka, a well-aged rum–but when you just get right down to it, there’s really nothing that beats a good single malt scotch. So, for your benefit, I’ve taken it upon myself to review a few bottles for you to keep in mind the next time you go scotch shopping.

The Dalmore Cigar Malt

My everyday, go-to scotch when I don’t feel like trying a new brand is the Dalmore Cigar Malt. It’s a single malt, aged 12 years, and it’s a terrific scotch. It’s got a strong, malty taste that can be overwhelming, but after a bit of savoring you’ll notice that behind the strong malt is a delightful medley of citrus, as well as a strong, smoky flavor throughout. The scotch is blended with cigar smoking in mind. Personally, I find that this scotch pairs with cigars very well, especially with medium or fuller-flavored cigars that have a bit of spice to them–particularly cigars with Nicaraguan or Honduran fillers. It doesn’t pair as well with maduros, in my opinion, but I’ve also been told by others that that’s crazy talk. Even if you don’t enjoy cigars, this is a fine scotch to sip on your porch at the end of a long day.

Alex’s Arbitrary Scotch Rating: 9.0 out of 10.0

The Speyside 12 Year Single Malt

One problem with being a Scotch enthusiast is the fact that, especially in economic times like these, a good single malt is expensive. That’s when it’s good to know about The Speyside 12 Year Single Malt. The scotch itself is a nice pale gold, with a hint of honey, smoke, and sherry in the aroma. It has a nice, viscous feel that hits sweet, smooth, and sour notes all at the same time. The finish lingers on quite nicely–a little dry, but the sherry and vanilla hints come out. A nice, solid sipping scotch that’s a heckuva value at around $35 a bottle.

Alex’s Arbitrary Scotch Rating: 8.0/10.0

The Talisker 18 Year Single Malt

One of the best scotches I’ve ever had is an 18 year cask aged single malt from Talisker, which was a groomsman gift from a good friend on the occasion of his wedding. The scotch itself is coloured between a pale and old gold, and the initial aroma is citric and smoky, with hints of vanilla and honey. The texture of the scotch is smooth and clean in the mouth, and has a nice, sherry taste with hints of leather and tobacco. The finish lingers wonderfully in the mouth, with hints of lime and smoke in the aftertaste. This is one of the best scotches I’ve ever had. I highly recommend it.

Alex’s Arbitrary Scotch Rating: 9.6/10.0

That’s all the scotch reviews I have for now, but fear not–my scotch decanter is currently empty, which means I’m going to have to pick up another bottle or two to try.

Any suggestions?

About Alex Knapp

Alex has been published in the Kansas City Star, TCS Daily, and Comic Book Resources. He’s been blogging at Heretical Ideas since October, 2001 and at Outside the Beltway since June 2006. He also reviews cigars at Cigar Jack's Cigar News and Reviews.

{ 1 trackback }

Man Laws — MANzine
5 August 2009 at 15:08

{ 4 comments }

1 Ari Bavel 29 July 2009 at 15:05

I love the Talisker, especially the 18 year, and Alex’s description is spot on. The Speyside is a good whisky, too. I haven’t tried the Cigar Malt. But I’d suggest, in addition to these fine whiskys, the Macallan 18, the Balvenie Doublewood and the Portwood (the Doublewood is my prefered of the two – a second casking in sherry casks imparts a finish that is too good to belive!), and my all-time favorite: the Glenfarclas. Amber hued and smoother than a baby’s butt, this highland single malt bears just the right suggestions of peat and smoke, but doesn’t overpower the pallet. Perhaps not the best pairing with a cigar, but with no more than 2 cubes of ice, or a splash of water (room temp OF COURSE!), this Scotsman’s ambrosia will fill the bill and then some. Enjoy.

2 Steve Hynd 2 August 2009 at 16:59

Alex, great revues. I’ve drank all three and for me the Talisker was one of the best.

Try any of these, if you can get them in the U.S.:

  • Knockando 12 yr old, a no-nonsense relatively cheap Speyside malt.
  • Isle of Jura (aged in bourbon, not sherry, casks for a far subtler blending of tastes) – especially the 18 yr old. My personal all-time favorite whisky.
  • Dalwhinnie 29 yr old. A Speyside malt. Sublime.
  • Old Fettercairn 13 yr old: another Speyside malt, and all round wonderful.
  • Glenkinchie 20 yr old: a lowland malt, fruity and smooth.
  • Laguvalin: An Islay malt, rich and peaty. Practically a meal on its own. Try to get it in single-cask, cask strength for a real treat (but remember to add a wee bit water).

Regards, Steve

3 DBL 3 August 2009 at 17:14

Try the Port Ellen. The distillery closed down in 1983 but you can still find bottles around. I tried it at the Scotch Bar at the Willard Hotel in Washington and it was memorable.

4 Russ 3 August 2009 at 18:54

There are no official own bottlings (OB) of Port Ellen around — you need to obtain them from independent bottlers like Signatory or Murray McDavid (and if you want a primer on that, I’ll be happy to contribute).
Try Ardmore — a real good combination of Macallan and Ardbeg.  Has the strong peat of an Islay and the sweetness of the Speyside malts.  The better blends use it a LOT.
For a typical Highland malt, try Edradour or Mortlach — these are fairly obscure.  Edradour is the “smallest distillery in Scotland” and produces a full bodied malt, unlike the thin Glenlivets and Glenfiddiches.  Mortlach is another fairly solid Highland (actually, technically a Speyside) that is not well-known.  Mortlach is used a lot in Johnnie Walker blends.
For an Islay, try the Caol Ila — either from the distillery or a Signatory bottling should work.  These are sweeter and often smoother than a Laphroiag or Lagavulin, with about as much peat smoke.
And as much as folks rattle on about how great single malt scotches are, look into some vatted malts.  These are all-malt whiskies (no grain whiskey used, just barley malt whiskey) that combine product from different distilleries.  Compass Box makes some good ones.  I bought an un-named vatting of two Islay malts from Cadenhead (independent bottler) that was awesome.  I asked where the components came from and for contractual reasons the salesman couldn’t tell me but he said “one distillery starts with a ‘C’ and the other starts with an ‘L’”.  So it was a Caol Ila and Lagavulin/Laphroaig combo — good stuff.

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