Glenlivet Master Distiller’s Reserve

Glenlivet Master Distiller's Reserve 01Distillery: The Glenlivet
Region: Speyside
Age: No age statement
abv: 40%

Part of Glenlivet’s Travel Exclusives range, the Master Distiller’s reserve pays homage to Alan Winchester, Master Distiller at Glenlivet since 2009. He decided to craft a triple cask matured whisky, which was first aged in traditional American oak (used as the standard cask for most Glenlivet expressions), followed by a first-fil bourbon barrel and ex-sherry European oak. The result is a whisky with a wide-ranging flavour palette that’s very easily drinkable. Nevertheless, as a NAS bottling, this dram has likely not aged for very long, and this youthfulness means that the sophistication found in more mature Glenlivet expressions is sadly lacking.

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Glenrothes Select Reserve

Glenrothes Select Reserve ReviewDistillery: Glenrothes
Region: Speyside
Age: No age statement
abv: 43%

Glenrothes distillery is located in the Speyside and is known for its creamy, smooth, sweet whiskies. Their spirit matures rather quickly, and is very drinkable from a young age. As such, it has traditionally been very popular with blending houses, and forms the heart of such notable blends as Cutty Sark and Famous Grouse. The former is owned by one of London’s fanciest wine and spirit merchants – Berry Bros & Rudd Ltd – which has made Glenrothes its house whisky. These bottlings were initially vintages only, each with their own handwritten label. Therefore it was something of a breach of protocol when Glenrothes Select Reserve was released, as this is a vatting of casks from different ages. The result is a very drinkable whisky at a much more affordable price. While vatting was somewhat of an experiment for Glenrothes, the Select Reserve has turned out well and is thankfully here to stay.

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Macallan 12 year old Sherry Oak

Macallan Sherry Oak ReviewDistillery: Macallan
Region: Speyside/Highland
Age: 12 years old
abv: 40%

Obtaining a license to distil legally in 1824, the Macallan distillery is located in a beautiful manor house right on the banks of the river Spey. However, due to a set of regulatory changes in 2009, the Macallan is officially no longer a Speyside distillery and its bottles are now labelled as a Highland malt. Unburdened by legal wrangling, whisky experts nonetheless continue to consider Macallan as a Speyside malt. Being located only a mile away from Aberlour distillery, which is a Speyside whisky, this seems to make sense to me.

Either way, the Speyside/Highland debate is somewhat irrelevant, as Macallan stands out in whichever category you place it. It is praised by experts as one of the finest malts in production, and often sells for record prices at auctions. Macallan can even boast the likes of James Bond and Harvey Specter among its fans. Such marketing has paid off: Macallan is now the third best selling single malt in the world by volume. While I never ranked Macallan as one of my favourite whiskies, I recently tried the Macallan 12 years old Sherry Oak in a blind tasting and placed it head and shoulders above the other drams on offer that night.  Where other whiskies might receive an additional few months in sherry casks, Macallan 12 years old was matured exclusively in sherry casks, and it shows. This is an exquisitely smooth and luxurious dram, to be savoured in front of a hearth fire on a cold winter’s day.

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The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 year old

Balvenie 14 Caribbean CaskDistillery: The Balvenie
Region: Speyside
Age: 14 years old
abv: 43%

The Balvenie Caribbean Cask has been around for some time, but was
previously branded as the Cuban Cask (shh don’t let anyone know the Commies might have had anything to do with it) and Golden Cask (too nondescript). What all these different names point at is that the whisky has received an extra maturation in casks that previously held rum, giving it a sweet, spicy character. There are not too many rum finishes out there, so be sure to give this one a try. You won’t be disappointed!

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