Scotch Saturday: Italian Vacation

Arran Amarone Cask Finish
  • Aroma - 9.5/10
  • Palate - 9/10
  • Finish - 9/10


ArranThe Arran Amarone Cask is the most unique cask finish I've had yet, and most certainly the one I've most enjoyed.

A sharp departure from luscious sherry finishes, Arran has instead aged this malt in barrels that previously held Amarone, a dry Italian wine made from partially dried grapes.

I drank this bottle far too fast, although I did invite some guys over to share it. Normally, I don't pay much attention to the color of whisky, but this pours a really beautiful rose pink.

It smells like heaven, if heaven were made of marzipan, raisin cake and dark chocolate. I get a lot of stone fruit and raspberry on the first taste, but with time, dry roasted cocoa comes creeping back in. Fantastic, and finishes well too, with just a hint of earth and bitterness.


Scotch Saturday: Waste of a Good Cracker

Bowmore Tempest 10yr
  • Aroma - 4/10
  • Palate - 5/10
  • Finish - 2/10


bowmore-tempest-10-year-old-batch-4-whisky[1]Had a glass of Bowmore Tempest at a tasting hosted by Davidson's Liquor in Denver.

For some reason, in the US this bottle is called Dorus Mor, Gaelic for 'rough wild water.' Everywhere else, they are content to call it Tempest. I can only imagine that Bowmore thinks Yanks are easily swayed by a bit of exotic language.

I wasn't. After a half dozen sniffs, I could only confirm that it had started life as grain and ended as booze. Anything else was lost. Of course, this is a cask strength scotch with high alcohol content, which always makes it harder for me to get anything meaningful from the smell.

I took a sip, hoping it would improve. For me, the Bowmore opened with nail varnish, but grapefruit and dandelion are close behind, battling all the way to a finish that is mouth puckeringly astringent.

They'd have been better off using the barley to make a Triscuit.


Scotch Saturday: Before the Martini

Talisker 10 year old
  • Aroma - 8.5/10
  • Palate - 8/10
  • Finish - 7/10


Talisker_10In the original novels by Ian Fleming, James Bond drank Scotch. And he didn't need to bother giving a speech on how to serve it, because he mostly drank it neat.

When I enjoyed a dram of Talisker 10 at the Broadmoor, I felt my own inner Sean Connery begin to show. Right off the start, you get the perfect blend of peaty smoke and Scottish sea air. Far from overpowering, the smoke recedes to let fresh apple through. As I took my first sip, I was transported cliffside, sitting on the hood of my Aston Martin. The initial punch is volcanic and brine-sweet with a kick of iodine. It finishes earthy and calls you back for one more glass.


Scotch Saturday: Jack Sparrow’s Dram

Scotch Saturday – Weekly on JDB, because whisky is a fantastical, magical creation.

My own odd obsession is cask finishing. Unlike American bourbon, which by law can only be aged in new oak barrels, Scotch is often aged in used barrels. Most commonly, Scotch makers use casks that previously held sherry, a sweet fortified wine. Over time, that flavor comes back out of the oak, adding depth and smoothness to scotch. Less often there are more exotic options…  Like RUM!

Balvenie 14yr Caribbean Cask
  • Aroma - 8/10
  • Palate - 8.5/10
  • Finish - 6/10


balvenie Carib The alchemists at Balvenie took whisky that had already aged for 14 years, and transferred it to empty rum barrels to make the Balvenie Caribbean Cask. My wife bought me a bottle for Christmas, and I loved it to the very last drop. The rum is strongest in the aroma, bringing out some great allspice notes amongst the typical Balvenie vanilla and caramel. The taste is smooooooth, honeyed orange, stone fruits and just a hint of molasses. My only complaint is the finish, which can be both burning and cloying. I found that a few drops of water and a fifteen minute wait helped.