Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Glenmorangie Nectar D'Or

This is my fourth Glenmorangie review in the past three months. This is the last one I have planned for a while, unless I bump into a bottle of Sonnalta PX or Finealta. If anyone would like to see a review of Astar, please let me know.

For more info on Glenmorangie please see my review of Glenmorangie Original. Links at the end of the review. On to the review!

Nectar D'Or is Glenmorangie's Sauternes finished whisky. It is a twelve year old, spending the last two years in Sauternes casks. The production of Sauternes is quite interesting, and if you are not familiar with Sauternes and how it is produced, I recommend clicking here.

Nose: Honey, and fruity - apple, pear, pineapple, and grapes. In the background - spice, vanilla, light oak

Palate: Honey, fruit

Finish: Grape with toffee and almond in the background

Overall: I was not quite sure what to expect from this expression after not being very impressed with Lasanta, but really enjoying Quinta Ruban. This is a very easy drinking, sweet, complex expression - very nice. This is the expression for the person who enjoys The Original, but wished it were sweeter. This would also be a good choice for someone just learning about Single Malts or Whisky in general.

There is no doubt that this is a high quality expression, but it is a little sweeter that what I typically prefer, but good for a change. However, if you have a sweet tooth, this is highly recommended.

For my review of Glenmorangie Original, click here.
For my review of Glenmorangie Lasanta, click here.
For my review of Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban, click here.

Twitter - @USScotchReview

P.S. Have a Happy New Year! I am planning some changes for the New Year, maybe even some pictures! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Highland Park 12

Highland Park is generally regarded as a single malt Scotch that has a little of everything. It is lightly Sherried and lightly peated as well. If you have never tried this, and are thinking of picking up a bottle, or are just getting into Single Malt Scotch, I highly recommend giving it a try. This is a staple daily dram for many Scotch enthusiasts.

Nose: Sweet and fruity - Apple, orange, maple syrup, raisin, finishing with a bit of earthy peatiness

Palate: Apple follows through along with cinammon, caramel, a slight oakiness, vanilla

Finish: More of the earthy peatiness from the nose, and quite drying

Overall: There are not many Scotch whiskies that start sweet and finish dry, and pull it off as nicely as this one. Highland Park has really done a nice job of balancing the flavours into a very well balanced Scotch. One of the best of it's style, and certainly one of the best values around. Of course, if you are in the mood for a true peat punch or a sherry bomb, there are other choices out there, but this is a really good middle of the road whisky, and a nice choice for an everyday dram. Availability of the 12 and the 18 years old is good in stores, but I would like to see more special editions available in the U.S. (What's up with distillery only editions anyway?) Also, if any bar owners read this, please make sure you have this one in stock as it is a go to for many Scotch drinkers.
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Happy Holidays!!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban

Quinta Ruban is Glenmorangie's Port finished whisky. After spending 10 years in American Oak, it spends the last two in Port pipes. Port finished whiskies are not as common as Sherried whiskies, and this one seems to be one of the easiest to find in the United States, at least in the same price range.

Nose: Raisin, caramel, apple, orange, light oak, mint

Palate: Plum, grape, mint, cinnamon, light oak

Finish: Chocolate, coffee, mint, orange, Glenmorangie almond, toffee

In my review of Lasanta, I said the nose was great, but it fizzled out from there. This is not the case with the Quinta Ruban. It is a lush, decadent, full flavored whisky. The Glenmorangie website describes this one as "The darkest and most intense whisky" of their finished whiskies, and I certainly agree with this. I am a big fan of dark, intense whiskies so I really enjoy this one. The Lasanta is dark, but lacks the intensity that the Quinta Ruben pulls off so nicely. Also, the Quinta Ruben is more complex than Lasanta. In other words, if given a choice between the two, I would go with Quinta Ruban.

For my review of Glenmorangie Original, click here.
For my review of Glenmorangie Lasanta, click here.
For my review of Glenmorangie Nectar D'Or, click here.

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

SMWS 3.160 - Bowmore 10

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I've been lucky enough to sample another offering from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. This one is numbered 3.160, is 10 years old and is called Islay Beach Scene. A little investigation reveals this one is from Bowmore. Here is what the bottle has to say about this one: "The nose evokes pork chops and lemony prawns on a beach barbeque, then hints of buttery mint; fruitier with water, it also finds coconut and perfumed smoke. The palate has burnt heather and barbequed meats with fruit." To find out more about the Scotch Malt Whisky Society please read my earlier review here.

Nose: Sweet, floral, pineapple, smoke (barbeque), peat, butter, mint, pine

Palate: Burning heather, fruit, sweet BBQ, oak, mint

Finish: Long - peat smoke, almond

As you can see, their notes and mine are fairly similar on this one, except of course, theirs are much more poetic. I guess that is an area where I could stand some improvement. There is definitely something BBQey going on here, and that is not one of my typical descriptors.

Overall, this is another very well balanced, very enjoyable offering from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. However, I still can not get over having to join a club to purchase Scotch. Then again, maybe it is the $230 it costs to join the club that I have an issue with. Then there's the whole mail order thing - which is not even legal in all states. I just wish they would change their business model so I could purchase their offerings at the local shop (i.e. Signatory, etc). However, if you ever get the opportunity, I highly recommend giving one of these a go - I have very much enjoyed reviewing them here. Are any of you members?

As always, please follow me on Twitter - @USScotchReview

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Glenmorangie Lasanta

Glenmorangie Lasanta is one of the Sherried expressions from Glenmorangie. The other is Sonnalta PX. Lasanta is finished for two years in Oloroso Sherry casks, while the Sonnalta PX is finished in ex-Pedro Ximenez casks. For more information on Glenmorangie, please see my review of Glenmorangie 10.
On to the review:

Nose: Brown sugar, oak, honey, maple syrup, cinnamon, candy apples, raisin - classic Sherried nose - very nice!

Palate: Oak, waxed fruit, cinnamon, toffee

Finish: Almond, coffee, chocolate - short and dry

Overall: For me, the best part of this one is the nose - which is excellent. Unfortunately, it fizzles out from here. There is nothing flawed on the palate, but definitely nothing exciting either. The complexity of The Original is nowhere to be found. The finish, while nice, is very short. While not bad, this would not be my first choice of Sherried drams, but I guess it is worth a try. Availability in the US is not as good as The Original, but should be fairly easy to find in stores. In my area, this one runs around $50/750ml.

For my review of Glenmorangie Original, click here.
For my review of Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban, click here.
For my review of Glenmorangie Nectar D'Or, click here.

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Friday, November 19, 2010

SMWS 1:152 - Glenfarclas 12 Years Old

I am always excited to sample an offering by an independent bottler. I love the variety and differences between independent bottlings and their OB counterparts. Plus, many of them are cask strength, unchillfiltered, and/or no caramel added. Please forgive the Forest Gump allusion, but you never know what you're gonna get when you open one. This is why The Scotch Malt Whisky Society does not tell you what distillery the whisky is from on their label. They are all coded, so you do not have a preconceived notion of what to expect when you open the bottle - other than a name they give the whisky and their tasting notes. Of course, being the spoil sport I am, I cheated and looked up the code before I tried this one out. As I previously mentioned, you never know what to expect from and independent bottler, but I can tell you that from the first whiff I had of this sample this is NOT what I expected at all, in fact I was quite perplexed!

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society differs from other independent bottlers by being a membership only organization. Membership allows you to purchase bottles of whisky, gain entrance to their Members' Rooms, and members receive a nice quarterly magazine. The drawback to this scenario is that the whisky is sent via mail. Shipping alcohol is not legal in all states. In 2004, the Scotch Malt Whisky Society was purchased by Glenmorangie. Personally, I would like to see Glenmorangie expand this brand and eliminate the whole shipping of bottles. It can be done - I see bottlings by Signatory quite regularly in local shops.

Glenfarclas is one of my favorite distilleries. They are a Speyside distillery known for producing very good heavily Sherried whiskies. The OB 12 is nicely Sherried with waxed fruit (jelly beans, strawberry Twizzlers) with a hint of peat and a nice smokey finish - which I really enjoy in a sherried whisky.

The name on the label of 1:152 is Jelly Belly Beans Galore. As I mentioned, waxed fruit is a flavor I get from the original Glenfarclas 12, so I did not think I was in for a big surprise with this expression - maybe just a bit more waxed fruit than normal? What should have given me a hint is the color of this whisky - very light. On to the official tasting notes, which I did not really pay much attention to until after I nearly passed out from shock: "The nose is sweet, jelly beans (toffee popcorn, peach, liquorice and melon), water brings charcouterie meats, grapes and pineapple. The palate is substantial - cinnamon, chilli and chocolate; then tarragon and lime on reduction"

Ok so, I pour a dram, let it breathe for a while, pick it up give it a quick nose, expecting something familiar, and POW - Peat! A peatiness that I have never experienced in a Glenfarclas before. Ladies and Gentleman, what we have here is an unsherried, moderately peated Glenfarclas. This is more Islay than Speyside. Peaty, but not much actual smokiness. Fruitier and sweeter than an Islay, but more Islay than Speyside.

I'm not even going to get into my exact tasting notes here - that is not the important story here. I did find some scents and flavors not listed, and vice versa, and it is not the way I would have described it, but the real story is the difference between this and the OB bottling - total opposites!

Overall: Excellent whisky - and not just from a novelty factor either, this is truly good quality Scotch. Availability is terrible - you have to join a club, and have it shipped to you just to be able to obtain a bottle, and of course, each individual bottling is very limited - apparently they split each cask up between continents. The Price of their 12 year old bottlings is $110. Is it worth it? Considering that this is 56.7%, and very unique whisky, I say yes, if you have the extra coin to spend - especially if you are a Glenfarclas fan.

Also, check out my review of SMWS 3.160 - Bowmore 10 here.

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Glenmorangie Original

Glenmorangie is a very well known distillery in the Highland region of Scotland. Along with Ardbeg, Glenmorangie is owned by the Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy group. Glenmorangie Original is the number one selling Single Malt Whisky in Scotland. In the States, expressions by Glenmorangie are typically readily available in stores, but your local restaurant or bar may not have this one in stock. Glenmorangie has several expressions in their range that were finished in various types of wine barrels, and they were one of the pioneers in finishing. I will be reviewing several of these whiskies in the future, so stay tuned! On to the review:

Nose: Citrus, Honey, Syrup, Pine, Floral, Spice, Oak

Palate: Vanilla, Cream, Oak, Spice, Citrus

Finish: Raisin, Peach, Almond, Coffee

Overall – A very complex 10 year old whisky that would fit nicely into a daily dram rotation – nothing ground breaking, but reliable! It is not peaty or sherried, so it is also a good choice if you burn yourself out on those types of whiskies. As a 10 year old Scotch that is very complex, it is a very good value. This one runs around $45 in my area.

For my review of Glenmorangie Lasanta, click here.
For my review of Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban, click here.
For my review of Glenmorangie Nectar D'Or, click here.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Macallan 12

Macallan is one of the most well known and historically respected distilleries. They are most famous for their Sherry Oak collection, although they recently released the Fine Oak collection. A few feathers were ruffled with Single Malt purists upon the release of the Fine Oak collection, and Macallan has continued to do so with some of their advertising and marketing campaigns.

Macallan 12 (Sherry Oak) is one of the more common Single Malts in the U.S., and is generally thought of as a classic expression. Many expressions by Macallan are highly collectible, such as the Fine and Rare, and Lalique collections.

Nose: Spice, Oak, Fruit, Caramel, Vanilla, Cream

Palate: Spice, Caramel, and Fruit carry over from the Nose, as well as Cinammon

Finish: Earthy, Coffee, Hints of Smoke

Overall: A nice, elegant sherried whisky. If you have never sampled this, I recommend trying this the first time in a nice quiet environment rather than in a busy loud restaurant, so you can focus on the subtleties of this whisky. If you do not spend some time with this one, it can taste flat, but with a little concentration, is a lovely dram. A must try if you want to gain knowledge about Single Malt Whiskies, especially sherried ones. Miniature bottles and 350ml bottles should be easy enough to find in the U.S. Price is about $50/750ml in my area. For more information about Macallan click Here or Here. Please follow me on Twitter @USScotchReview. Also, if you missed my interview with Jim McEwan of Bruichladdich, see my older posts!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Interview with Jim McEwan of Bruichladdich

I am honored to be able to present this interview with Mr. Jim McEwan of Bruichladdich as our first Interview here at American Scotch Review. Bruichladdich is one of my favorite distilleries because of their wide variety of expressions and their willingness to experiment. Also, all bottlings are non chill-filtered, and they never use caramel coloring. The distillery was mothballed in 1994 until it was purchased by a group of private investors led by Mark Reynier of Murray McDavid in December of 2000. This is when Jim McEwan was hired as Production Directory. My only issue with Bruichladdich is that their whisky is not as common as I would like. However, in certain circles, Bruichladdich is criticized for not having a core range, and for having too much variety. Some people have accused the distillery of experimenting with different types of finishes in order to hide flaws in inferior whiskies – in fact, this is probably one of the most controversial distilleries. To learn more about Bruichladdich click Here or Here

Q. You worked for Bowmore for many years before joining Bruichladdich. I understand that you started with Bowmore at the age of 15. What prompted the change to Bruichladdich ?

A. For the last 8 years of my time with Bowmore I was traveling 33 weeks a year around the world educating all sorts of people on Single Malt mainly Bowmore of course. I simply got tired of being away from my family and also wanted to return to making whisky, when the Bruichladdich offer came along it ticked all the boxes and it got me home again to Islay.

Q. Unfortunately, Bruichladdich is not seen as often as some other Single Malts in the U.S. Is this by design or will we have the pleasure of seeing your expressions in more places in the future?

We have our full range with the importer Winebow who are located in NJ and they are doing excellent work in getting the product on shelf. It takes as long to establish a brand as it does to mature the spirit and when you are a small company still trying to rebuild and improve a very old distillery the cash available has to stretch a long way, so our marketing budget compared with the larger companies is miniscule but word of mouth seems to be working well for us.

Q. What is your favorite expression in the Bruichladdich range?

A. Bruichladdich Classic is my regular dram at days end ,its a vatting of our Bruichladdich and older Bruichladdich from our predecessors and it works really well with the young guy and the older fella getting along just fine and that is what I am looking for.

Port Charlotte 8year old is our child and making me prouder by the day ,it's like watching your children growing up and develop into beautiful young people and PC8 is showing great potential and I want to be with him every step of the way and enjoy the taste differences as he develops.

Octomore Orpheus which is huge in peat terms and been ACED in Ch√Ęteau Petrus for some months has been a eye-opener and tastes brilliant ,the combo of smoke -mellow oak and the lush red fruit flavours of one of the greatest wines in the world is totally wicked ,you know you shouldn't do it but your on a one way ticket so if you can find it buy it and taste what is like no other Single Malt has been before. Life is too short .

Q. Do you ever drink whiskies other than Bruichladdich? If so, what are your favorites?

A. I drink little and taste many that way you survive and retain the gifts God gave you, under the Murray Mc David label which is our Independent Bottling line we have many of the great Single Malts from around the country and yesterday I tasted Glenlivet 1977 which had been ACED for short time in Y-Quem sauterne casks it was stunning a real elegant beauty,
On Monday it was a Mortlach 1994 from a refill bourbon hogshead, I love whisky from Mortlach as a blender in a former life this was THE Speyside that was the most sought after by all Blenders simply because of its strong character and great balance of Malt and oak.
So everyday or night ,time or place you find new opportunities to try some thing new and exciting ,it could be Keens Chop House in NYC or the Pot Still in Glasgow and how lucky are we to have this amazing menu of Scotland's best.

Q. One of the reasons I love Bruichladdich is because of the wide variety of expressions and experimentation. However, I have seen criticism of Bruichladdich because of the same thing. Some people even say that the reason Bruichladdich experiments so much is because you need to cover flaws in inferior whisky that you inherited from the previous owners. Would you care to address these rumors?

A. So many expressions ? is easy to explain if you have half a brain , this distillery closed in 1994 and reopened in May 2000 and then we waited a further 5 years before we started to use some of our distillate together with the stock that we had purchased from the previous owner along with the distillery, so for 11 years we have been waiting and during that period I created many small batch products which helped to fund our production, pay the salaries of 45 people, build a Bottling Hall, rebuild a Distillery and tons of other stuff. What should we have done? Watch the clock for 11years and borrow money from the bank at a huge rate of interest?
I don't think so.
Also one of the first things we did was to recask any spirit lying in what I considered to be less than perfect casks, a huge operation checking thousands of casks but it gave me a very clear picture that the spirit we had purchased was excellent.
Re many people saying the spirit was inferior I don't remember anyone being with me over the one year period that I spent on this operation so how would "some people " know .But there may be some geniuses out there who have some special skill that allows them to see inside a cask from hundreds of miles away. I would love to meet them and try and learn this skill it would save me coming to the Distillery I could simply do it from my bed.

Q. Bruichladdich is one of a few distilleries who are making whiskies which are very heavily peated. Do you think a whisky can be too heavily peated? Is there something that goes into the making of these whiskies that make them cost so much more than regular bottlings, or is it just the trendiness/limited availability/collector factor?

A. There are many Distilleries that make heavy peated malts ,why? Because many people love that style as the sales of Islay malts clearly show.

Why are our products more expensive ? well its 46.0% or indeed with Octomore it could 63.5% Alc ,its distilled stored and bottled on Islay with 40% of our production coming from Islay grown barley 4o% Organic from Inverness and 20% regular barley for Octomore and others. To grow Barley on Islay is expensive as the fertilizer has to be shipped in and the Barley sent to Inverness for malting and that's where the Ferry costs come into play, everything from bread to shampoo has to be shipped onto this and the other Scottish Island and in our case the bottles the cans the packaging and so on has come in and go back out and this costs money,yes. We could bottle and store on the Scottish mainland but what benefit would that be to the employment of Islay people? None.
Again the consumer has a choice he will find lots of Single Malts with cost reductions in the Supermarkets and they are all very good and mainly owned my a multi -national company, Bruichladdich is not- its owned by a small no. of whisky loving shareholders and of course everyone who is employed also has a stake in the company. Have you ever seen a cheap Rolls Royce.?
Limited editions are for us down to the stock levels we have as we await our own spirit aging and next year we reach 10 years so at last we can move forward with a exciting range of our own production ,It will be exciting and lots to talk about remember what does a consumer want > quality and choice and that's what we deliver.

Q. It seems to me that more people in the U.S. drink their whiskies on the rocks. Was Rocks designed with the American market in mind?

A. Rocks was designed with the US market in mind and yes it goes superbly with Ice because it is a young whisky full of life and excitement and perfect after a hard day at work and being stuck in traffic for 2 hours on your way home. Perfect before dinner and perfect with desert. Uncomplicated easy drinking without the need for any Bagpipes and haggis nonsense being fed into your already overloaded brain.

Q. Another distillery has an ad campaign that looks as if it was designed to attract younger people to the whisky market. Do you think this is a good idea?

A. Young people cannot afford to drink Single Malt at least in Scotland ,so things must be a whole lot better in your neck of the woods. Is it a good thing? Is any alcohol promotion? I don't know but companies spend a shedload of money doing it. It is said by those who know that the entry age for Single Malt consumers is 25 years of age.

Q. What do you feel is the future of Single Malt Whisky?

A. I have to hope that's the future is bright for Single Malt, the range is greater the quality consistent, the knowledge of the consumer is higher and it's the real deal, there are so many drinks available all based on Neutral Alcohol with flavourings and no heritage, no pride of ownership, its all about build a brand load it with bullshit and flog it. That's why God gave us the Scots whisky he knew we would love and cherish it and we do.

Q. Do you have any projects in the works that you would like to share with our readers?

A. Projects in the Works, you better believe it .Look out for our new Gin made with 21 Botanicals from Islay its makes a stunning Martini.

Q. I mentioned earlier that one of the reasons I am a fan of Bruichladdich is because of the wide variety. For the same reason, I enjoy expressions from independent bottlers.
How do you feel about independent bottlers? Are they good for the industry?

A. Independent Bottlers, I love them .We are one.

Q. Is there a specific whisky, good or bad, that brings back fond memories for you?

A. Having the privilege to grow up with and help select the Black Bowmore range, as most of the great guys who made it had passed on before it was bottled ,but when you tasted it you could feel their presence.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Glenfiddich 18

With last week's review of Glenfiddich 15 still fresh in my mind, I decided to follow up with a review of Glenfiddich 18. For more information on the distillery see last week's review or click Here. The 18 is a combination of whisky aged in Spanish Oloroso sherry casks, and whisky from American Oak.

Nose: Sherry influence is evident along with Apple, Raisin, Caramel, Honey, and a touch of floral is also evident. Nice nose.

Palate: Here the American oak is more evident with flavors of Oak, Vanilla, Cinnamon, and Honey. This is a more mellow and rounded than the 15.

Finish: Drying with flavors of Mocha, Cherry, Coffee, and a touch of Smoke.
Nice finish as well.

Overall: I really enjoyed the Nose and Finish of this whisky. Where I find it lacking is in the Palate. As I mentioned, it is more mellow and rounded than the 15, but for my taste, it is a bit too mellow. If the palate was as good as the nose and finish, they would have a real winner on their hands with this one. Please don't get me wrong, I enjoy this whisky, but I can not say that it is hands down better than the 15. I would give both the 15 and the 18 about the same score. In my area the 15 is about $45, and the 18 is $70/750ml. Comments?

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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Glenfiddich 15 Solera Reserve

Glenfiddich is the number one selling Single Malt in the world.  It is one of the iconic Speyside whiskies, famous for their triangular bottles and deer head insignias (the name means valley of the deer).  In the U.S., the Glenfiddich 12 is available even in those establishments that only have two or three Single Malts available. 

Glenfiddich 15 is aged in a solera system.  After this whisky is aged at least 15 years, the vat is partially emptied, but never more that fifty percent of the whisky is removed.  The vat is then refilled with slightly younger whisky and it is resealed and aged again.  This means that the youngest whisky is 15 years old, but there are some older whiskies in the vat as well - theoretically, some would be quite old.  It is aged in three types of oak - bourbon, sherry, and new oak for depth of flavor. 

Nose:  Spice, Fruity - Apple Citrus, Honey, Caramel, Tea

Palate:  Spice, Tea, Sherried influence coming through, fruit - slightly waxy

Finish:  Fruity, Oaky, Toffee, Almond - and a tiny bit bitter

Overall a very nice whisky, and a very good value.  In my area, this is priced around $45/ 750ml
For more information on Solera aging:  Click Here

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Ardbeg 10

Ardbeg is currently one of the more hip distilleries of Single Malt Scotch.  It is an Islay whisky owned by the  Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy group, who also own Glenmorangie. Ardbeg is known for it's peated whisky, although they do produce unpeated whisky as well.  If you have never had a peated whisky, this is a good start as the peat really stands out in this whisky.  If you are not familiar with peat, it is basically soil from a peat bog or marsh.  The peat is burnt as fuel to dry the barley, passing along a smokey, and well, peaty flavor.

Color:  Pale Straw
Nose:  Peat, citrus, honey, slightly floral
Palate:  A touch of salt in the beginning, peaty, smoky, toffee
Finish:  Nice and long with more peat and smoke
Price:  $49 

Overall:  I find that peated whisky is typically a love it or hate it affair.  Like I said earlier, if you have never had one, I feel this is a good starting point to see into which group you fall.  As always, I would recommend buying a mini bottle or trying in a bar before purchasing a whole bottle, if possible.  In a lot of areas of the U.S. this may not be possible.  Ardbeg 10 is a very lively, flavorful whisky which will never bore the palate.  An excellent value. 


Hello, and welcome to The American Scotch Review.  Tired of reading reviews where you have no idea what the descriptors even are?  This is the place for you.  Tired of reading reviews for Scotch that are not available in the U.S.?  This is the place for you.  New to Scotch and live in the U.S.?  This is the place for you.

My reviews will be focused mainly on Single Malt Scotch.  From time to time, I will review blends, Bourbon, Canadian, etc.  I will be posting reviews very soon, so stay tuned!  Please feel free to ask questions and make suggestions.