Robert Burns Single Malt Whisky
Isle of Arran Distillery. 43%ABV. $70.99 (+taxes) @ BC Liquor Store
Produced by the Isle of Arran Distillery and endorsed by the World Robert Burns Federation, this whisky is described by Arran as “ideal for drinking prior to or during a meal” and as “made for easy drinking.” They’re not wrong.
NOSE: I initially picked up some nice spicy oak notes along with some gentle floral elements along with hints of oatmeal with brown sugar. Further nosing brought out some intriguing savoury notes and a slightly out of place touch of dill.
PALATE: There’s a huge initial burst of oak and spice followed by brown sugar, pastries and pie crust.
FINISH: There’s a nice creaminess to the whisky and, although the oaky spice and pepper heat come on strong at the beginning, it all mellows to a gentle warmth and a delicately sweet finish.
OVERALL: this whisky was pretty much exactly as advertised – it’s a light, easy-drinking whisky that works well as a welcome dram or – as they suggest, before or during a meal. 86 POINTS
Monkey Shoulder Blended Malt Whisky
William Grant. 40%ABV. $62.99 (+taxes) @ BC Liquor Store
The marketing approach for this whisky confuses me… On one hand (and the bottle) they tout their legitimately impressive Speyside heritage (while the current product is the result of a closely guarded mix of malts, Monkey Shoulder was originally a blend of GlenFiddich, Balvenie and Kininvie malts) but their website prominently and repeatedly describes it as 100% Malt Whisky Made for Mixing… It seems to work, though, as they apparently sell buckets of the stuff.
NOSE: An initial whiff of flowers, some sugary pastries, a little fennel and maybe some dill or other herbs. There’s also a slight sherry-like funkiness that’s strangely off-putting.
PALATE: There’s some oak and wood notes to start with some brown sugar and hints of green apples over time.
FINISH: The finish is pretty thin, with some promising heat and spice at the beginning but it all fades away pretty quickly.
OVERALL: There’s nothing inherently wrong with this whisky and it’s easy enough to drink but at this price point there’s substantially better whiskies out there. 80 POINTS
Green Label 15 Year Old
Johnnie Walker. 43%ABV. $73.99 (+taxes) @ BC Liquor Store
Blended from Speyside, Highland, Lowland and Island malts including at least 15 year old Cragganmore, Caol Ila, Talisker and Linkwood spirits, this whisky brings a lot to the table and really showcases the easy drinking character of blended whiskies.
NOSE: There’s a lot going on here – heather and floral notes, sherry, oak, and even some savoury smoked BBQ notes. It’s all nicely balanced, though, and very inviting.
PALATE: There’s a pleasant burst of spicy/peppery wood notes up front followed by more delicate maple syrup and tropical fruit sweetness.
FINISH: Starts off nice and warm with those spicy wood notes and then mellows and softens nicely.
OVERALL: There’s nothing particularly complex or lingering about this whisky but it’s very easy to drink and seems to offer something for everyone at a decent price point. 84 POINTS
Scallywag Blended Speyside Malt
Douglas Laing. 46%ABV. $91.99 (+ taxes) @ BC Liquor Stores
Blended with spirits from Mortlach, Macallan and Glenrothes among others and matured in ex-sherry butts and ex-bourbon hogsheads this one has been recommended to me by a number of people who like its lively character and its sherry forward profile.
NOSE: There’s a lovely sherry funkiness with lots of sultana raisins and brown sugar along with some light floral notes and oak spice. The nose just got more inviting as the evening wore on – even after some fairly peated whiskies were introduced this one kept up quite nicely.
PALATE: This whisky has a nice oiliness to it with loads of sherry up front followed by oak and butter tarts.
FINISH: The finish is decently long with nicely balanced heat and sweetness.
OVERALL: A very nice, very easy to drink, nicely sherried whisky at a price that’s not going to break the bank but would make me think twice before picking up a bottle. 88 points
Flaming Heart 2018 Blended Malt
Compass Box. 48.9%ABV. $205.99 (+taxes) @ BC Liquor Stores
The BC Liquor Store describes Flaming Heart as “the first whisky to combine the rich, complex spice of scotch aged in French oak with the evocative peat-fired smoke of Islam malt… The 2018 edition is more brooding, indulgent and older than ever before, a whisky born of oak, smoke and fire…” I’d just describe it as damn fine whisky.
NOSE: There’s peat and iodine and bandaids balanced off by sherry and oak notes.
PALATE: A really buttery mouthfeel with loads of peat and oak and a really nice cherry Coke kind of sweetness in the background.
FINISH: Everything is balanced and smooth and deliciously drinkable… The peat and oak sort of duke it out with each other and in the end neither wins – except the drinker, of course.
OVERALL: Even with everything this whisky has going for it, at well over $200, I’m not sure I’ll be picking a bottle up any time soon. I definitely wouldn’t complain if someone gave me a bottle though! 92 points
Rock Oyster Cask Strength
Douglas Laing. 56.1%ABV. $119.99 (+ taxes) @ BC Liquor Stores
Containing malt whiskies from various whisky-producing Scottish islands including Islay, Jura, Arran and Orkney, this whisky seems to be trying to capture the essence of Scottish maritime whisky-making in a a single whisky. It mostly succeeds…
NOSE: There’s an intriguing new make peaty character to the whisky with loads of iodine and other medicinal chemicals, bandages and sea salt. There’s nothing at all light or delicate about this whisky about it at this point – it’s all rough edges and rawness.
PALATE: There’s a lovely oiliness and the expected smoke and peat, iodine and sea salt but there’s also a nice cherry pie sweetness and plenty of woody spices to balance it all off.
FINISH: The powerful maritime notes and the high ABV at first threaten to overwhelm, but it all comes together very nicely.
OVERALL: A strongly maritime whisky that’s a bit rough around the edges but absolutely perfect for drinking on a stormy winter night here on the West Coast. And pretty attractively priced to boot… 90 points