With everything that’s currently going on in the world, it’s a little hard to stay focused. It’s a bit difficult to celebrate pretty much anything in my life, even as there are positive vibes all around me. Whisky becomes a solace and a friend, there in times of the good and the ugly. And yes, I’m aware that one can slip up and fall into the vortex of irresponsible consumption in times such as these. Therefore, perhaps with this site, I stay true to my quest and enjoy, as proclaimed, only two drams a day. It is there that I then can establish the line, which I will not traverse, for the sake of my wellbeing. So let’s keep on this track and enjoy with the music! Now playing: Loscil – The Sails, Pt. 1.
Today I am tasting the whisky from an independent bottler, originally established in 1938, claiming to hold one of the largest collections of aged single malt, Duncan Taylor. There are a few labels under its umbrella, the most known to me being Black Bull, The Big Smoke, and The Octave, which I’ll be tasting tomorrow. But today, I am sipping on two drams from its brand new range called Single Cask, which is supposed to take over and replace their Dimensions. As the name implies, it is a bottling of a single, numbered cask, from a specific distillery, with the “whisky without compromise,” which translates to being neither chill-filtered nor artificially coloured, and of course, bottled at cask strength. First up is a dram from the Royal Brackla. This is a Highland distillery which is operated by John Dewar & Sons for Bacardi and, as a result, produces plenty of spirit which may find its way into the Dewar’s blends (along with Macduff, Aberfeldy, Aultmore and Craigellachie). This is a 10-year-old single malt, distilled in 2011, aged in a first-fill sherry butt, and bottled at 53.8% ABV. It’s light and citrusy on the nose, with hints of marmalade and green fruit. It’s a bit woody on the palate, with the sweetness of caramelized bananas, spice, and malt. The “oak-ey” flavour is courtesy of the European red oak, which Duncan Taylor eyes for the sherry cask range. The finish is a bit dry, unremarkable, deflating with a bit of black pepper.
For the next dram, we travel a bit south to Speyside and visit the Glenallachie distillery, which I have recently become a fan of, particularly for their older, PX and port-aged single malts. This dram is a 13-year-old whisky, distilled in 2008 and bottled at 53.7%. The distillery used to be owned by Chivas Brothers, who used it as a workhorse to produce spirit primarily for its Chivas Regal blend, but in 2017 it was taken over by Billy Walker, who bought the distillery and turned it into what it is today. This single barrel whisky comes from a short-fermentation process (the original distillation), which churns out the cloudy wart, and as a result, can retain flavours of nutty cereal. Just as in the above cask from Royal Brackla, the whisky spent its entire life in sherry casks made from red oak. The main point here being is that no ex-bourbon casks were used at all, from which the spirit can usually extract that vanilla and caramel flavour – the grape-based sherry is drier and less sweet than the corn-based bourbon. But this whisky is definitely sweeter on the nose than the Royal Brackla, with a bit of dry fruit and that nutty spice. When I taste it with just a bit of water, the scotch lands on my palate with a creamy mouthful, then quickly moves from sweet cake to the one that’s sprinkled with some cinnamon and cardamom and cloves and just a tad of dark chocolate orange.
So there you have it, folks. A few new drams to choose from for your quest. The Royal Brackla was a new distillery to me. But to be honest, it did not leave a particular impression. It was a cracking dram but did not much stand out next to Glenallachie, which was a lot more textured and complex with plenty of umami. Both whiskies were a lovely age, although the 13-year-old felt like a perfect time for this particular expression. And with that said, I will proclaim that the Glenallachie single cask from Duncan Taylor wins this round.