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Staff Favorites - James Knight
2014 Fritz "Estate" Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc
Review Date: 11-04-2015
There is an enticing, "candied tropical fruit" aspect to this wine, as well as the oft-reported lemongrass quality--but "candied" lemongrass, if that makes sense. The finish is long, and decent acidity keeps it fresh.
Laphroaig "Quarter Cask" Islay Single Malt Whisky 750ml
Review Date: 10-22-2015
My journey back to Laphroaig has been long, but it's got a well-earned place in my short list of single malt favorites. The Quarter Cask is kind of like an elaboration on that rich, vanilla oak note that I retrieved from my first smoky, leathery bottle of Laphroaig 10. It's less rich and opulent than the Triple Wood, to be sure, but I enjoyed every pour of this--it even held up to a little ice, over the summer, purists be darned. I'm a Talisker fan, and love the Ardbeg Corryvreckan, but this well-priced Laphroaig shows, with just a bit of extra barrel treatment, the quality of the spirit that's coming out of the distillery.
Laphroaig "Triple Wood" Islay Single Malt Whisky 750ml
Review Date: 10-20-2015
Holy lovely peaty sherry goodness. My earlier review of Laphroaig 10 Year, as in, "Caution! And good news!" might be easily ignored at this point: it was an early Scotch for me, and on the outer boundaries of what I appreciated at the time. However: this single malt fulfills everything that I eventually love about a Laphroaig without having to wait a minute extra. It's got that vanilla and peat and that delicious malty, grainy note, and it's just delicious.
2014 Wittmann Estate Riesling Trocken Rheinhessen
Review Date: 10-13-2015
With aromas of citrus pith and earthy stone fruit--the skin of an apricot, the flesh of a just-maybe-ripe nectarine--and powdered sugar notes, just shy of honeycomb, this is fresher and more juicy on the palate than the much-missed 2010 version that we had in some months ago. Here's a great "gateway" Riesling for you New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc fans out there who are starting to have those disturbing, recurring dreams of cats peeing on a gooseberry bush--it's got all the refreshing zip, and twice the class on the finish.
2015 Pewsey Vale Riesling Eden Valley South Australia (Dry)
Review Date: 10-09-2015
What they said. And I'll add a comparison for those who may be more familiar with domestic market Riesling: for me, this hits somewhere in between the Trefethen Dry Riesling and the Kung Fu Girl Washington State Riesling -- and in between their respective prices, too. I find even more apple fruit here than in 2014, with a zippy grapefruit edge; not so much lime, for me. Also aromatic of white flowers, and the powdered sugar on an apple candy. If you find your Rieslings keep getting drier, like a Scotch fan finds the age statements they buy keep getting older, check out this fine Aussie version, while waiting for the main event: the next Museum Reserve.
2014 Cave de Tavel "Lauzeraies" Tavel
Review Date: 10-07-2015
I like a nicely deep, pink wine with fruit, punch, crunch and verve, and this Tavel rosé delivers. Not "fruit punch," mind you--this is a crisp, dry wine with crunchy acidity and punchy fruit--although its hue is wonderfully electric. (If anyone tries to tell you than rosé wine "should" be less pink, or this pink, or that other pink, do yourself a favor and tuck that information into an appropriate file and move on--this is pink wine we're talking about here, don't take the fun out of it!) Restrained, floral rose aromas and raspberry-cherry red fruit flavors. As an aperitif with Calabrese salami, cheese and almonds, the perfect, substantial, palate-cleansing rosé.
2013 Cambria "Katherine's Vineyard" Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay
Review Date: 08-24-2015
The barrel toast shows up here as just slightly burnt apple pie crust. An appealing note of pie glaze enters, with cinnamon spice, but the apples are elusive: I thought the flavor trended more toward pear tart. On the palate, the oak returns. Neither particularly "buttery" nor quite lean and zippy, this Chardonnay is ripe for just the right food-pairing.
2011 Bott-Geyl "Les Eléments" Riesling Alsace
Review Date: 06-03-2015
I love a dry wine with a sweet aroma, and this Riesling shows a note of orange blossom honey, dried apricots and white raisins on the aroma, yet it's crisp and darn near fully dry on the back end. There's more honey and pollen than outright fruit here, and the finish is firm, but not terribly austere. I enjoyed this wine; it's a bit in the same camp as the 2012 Tatomer Sisquoc, actually.
Talisker Distiller's Edition Isle of Skye Single Malt Whisky 750ml
Review Date: 03-07-2015
Of all the expressions of Talisker I've enjoyed so far, I believe that this may be my favorite. It's got the ashy peat, the caramel and sherry, and the chili pepper heat. My tasting notes don't record a kippers/smoked fish character, however: more like cream soda, cinnamon spice, and peat that smells like a spaded-up dry lawn, not like the iodine or burning leather like some Islay single malts that you may have tried. If you would like to sniff some smoky peat in your whisky, but don't like it too dry, hot, or ashy, I recommended Talisker, by all means: get both the Talisker 10 and the Distillers for comparison; both are immediately enjoyable on the caramel-sherry, subtle smoky peat and salty sense-of-place spectrum. 2002 version, bottled 2013.
Bowmore 12 year old Islay Single Malt Whisky 750ml
Review Date: 03-05-2015
I'm pretty pleased with the standard Bowmore 12, in fact, just a little beyond expectations, for the price. I have to agree with Enthusiast's mention of the cookie dough in the background, but there's also a bit of wet plaster, rancio and roasted walnut lurking--a hint of some of the older, single barrel expressions. It's drier and less "maritime" than Talisker 10, and the peat is more ashy like an Ardmore Traditional Cask or Lagavulin 16. A nice cabinet standby, or at least a reference point.
Highland Park 12 year old, Isle of Orkney Single Malt Whisky 750ml
Review Date: 02-24-2015
The malty, soft, cereal grain and butterscotch aroma of the Highland Park 12 is imbued with a whisper of peat that draws one in to a deeper place. For me, it's the long-ago memory of an oceanside cottage--opening the door, the cupboards, the aroma was always familiar and comforting yet distant, salty, and of the sea. That's Highland Park, to me: a straightforward butter cookie of a whisky, but the window's open just a crack, and you can smell the sea and heather coming in.
Highland Park "Dark Origins" Single Malt Whisky 750ml
Review Date: 01-14-2015
Highland Park peat is like no other that I've encountered, so far, on my whisky journey. And this whisky's response to a heavy dose of sherry is singular, too. "Dark Origins" is a NAS (no age statement) single malt, and as I understand it, many people have reservations and/or criticisms of this genre of whisky. Certainly, the opaque black bottle, the price point, and the "outlaw" backstory may set off some alarms, for some. Caution--am I being marketed to? Yes, but here's what I found: Highland Park don't fool around. This is a medium-bronze hue, not luridly dark (the label says, a naturally dark hue but does not specifically say it's not colored; it does state non-chill filtered). The peat aroma is of a floral, gentle heather sort, not a hot, burning heather like some young Islay peaters; there's milk chocolate, too, accenting the perfumy sherry--no walnut or rancio character, here. Like an HP 21-year that I sampled last year, this retains its applejack character to the last, but it's so refined, it's like the champagne of whiskies--the warmth spreads slowly across the palate, instead of quickly burning a retronasal path out and up. Maybe, eventually, I'll appreciate the more subtle, ethereal whiskies for what they are, but for now, this is like my perfect fantasy of what Highland Park can be--the subtle grace, plus a wee bit more stuffing.
Glendronach 12 year old Distillery Bottling Single Malt Whisky 750ml
Review Date: 01-04-2015
This whisky just keeps getting better, in my estimation. Rich and sherried, reminiscent of summer and winter treats: caramel apples and roasted, candied nuts. The Glendronach 12 has spicy, rum-raisin aromas, roasted nuts--filberts, Brazil nuts--and baked apple and pear notes, which repeat on the palate, so cotton-candy smooth, and the fruit flavors deepen toward the dry, smoky finish. Similar to: Aberlour 16. More flavor than: Glenlivet 12. Fiercer, less smooth than: Macallan 12 or Glenmorangie 10. More easygoing but in a somewhat similar profile to: Glendronach Allardice, Aberlour A'Bunadh. A standby, a classic. UPDATE: I have tried the Glendronach 15 Year Port-finished edition, a really svelte, nice dram, for sure, but I STILL prefer the 12 Year. If you like rich, nutty, sherried single malt, you really ought to try the Glendronach 12.
Ardbeg Corryvreckan Islay Single Malt Whisky 750ml
Review Date: 12-05-2014
For sure, the next time I have enough spare change to be able to decide between purchasing a Talisker 18 or the Corry, I am likely to experience some cognitive dissonance--and I mean before I have had any whisky! UPDATE: After first sampling the Corryvreckan, I was able to purchase a bottle and am very happy with it. This whisky presents luxe aromas of vanilla, caramel, and a hint of chocolate liqueur, haunted by a roasted seaweed, smoked fish and bacon sort of peatiness. If you've tried the Ardbeg 10 but felt it was just somewhat too aggressively peaty for you, at least for now, check out this one. It's got all the soft, lovely smoky beauty of a Talisker Distiller's, say, but with a spicier, cinnamon mint finish--like a younger Islay, like our Kilchoman single barrels, for instance. If you don't mind a hot finish, and love a single malt that tantalizes your nose with seductive, smoky and sweet aromas, this is it.
Balvenie 12 year old Single Barrel Single Malt Whisky 750ml
Review Date: 07-15-2014
Lovers of Glenlivet and Glenfiddich who are looking for something a little different and even a little prettier on the palate might look here. The Balvenie 12 single barrel has a light hue, with pretty aromas of wildflower honey, dates and dried figs, with buttery pear, and a really nice, silky finish. I enjoyed this Balvenie.
Balcones Single Malt Whisky 750ml
Review Date: 07-11-2014
I would seriously never have considered a Texas single malt whisky unless it was sitting in front of me, nearly daring me, saying, hey, I dare ya. What a surprise. A surprisingly developed aroma of roasted walnut, with a deep, darkly sherried palate that reminds me a little of, say, the Cragganmore 23, but with cinnamon spice, too--not in a bourbony way. This rich, dark single malt may be not quite as complex of some of our older, nutty Scotch single malts, but it is a really great effort from the single star, I mean the Lone Star state.
Kilchoman K&L Exclusive Single Bourbon Barrel #74 Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky 750ml
Review Date: 07-11-2014
Wow, this is a spicy, forward, yet ethereal whisky with a distinctive personality, indeed. Mr. Driscoll got it right about the cinnamon Red Hots aroma that hits your nose on the wind of a burning field of flowering heather. My only previous taste of Kilchoman was a wee airplane bottle of young, lightly heathery whisky; this one's richer, and more sure of itself--the only comparison I can make is with Port Charlotte Scottish Barley Heavily Peated.
Isle Of Skye 12 year old Matured Scotch Whisky 750ml
Review Date: 06-25-2014
Yes, this really does have a bit of the Talisker character. With a hint of orange rind over slightly smoky, bacon scone-y sweet characteristics, it's a fine Scotch on the rocks that retains some of its grain alcohol character while offering something more interesting than a lot of blended Scotches. But it's not a substitute for single malt Talisker: while I may enjoy it as a Scotch on ice from time to time, I follow it up, when I can, with a nice Talisker 10 or Distiller's Edition--neat!
Lagavulin 16-year-old Islay Single Malt Whisky 750ml
Review Date: 06-17-2014
Earthy, smoky, ashy, and underneath it all, sweet and chewy. I waited nearly a month and a half after opening the Lagavulin 16 to review it; I figured it would reveal itself over time, that this lion would lamb out a bit. Well. I agree that it is defiantly smoky (as Dave Broom says), like a hearth, with some caramel candy and smoked meats like, say, the Talisker 10 (aka the Precious...in my regard) on the tongue. Nosing is hot and spicy, and the finish is like hot smoke. Richer, with less thin, iodine character than some Islay single malts--maybe a hint of singed seaweed. A serious Islay at a whacky good price.
Ardbeg Uigeadail Traditional Strength Islay Single Malt Whisky
Review Date: 06-05-2014
Recommended for those with a love for--or a tolerance that may blossom at some time in the indeterminate future--peaty, sherry-influenced single malt. After I had tasted a sample of the Ardbeg Uigeadail and sort of gave it thumbs down in my personal notes, later I purchased a whole bottle and followed it over a while. Why? There's just something about it. There's dried seaweed, some plaster from a seaside cottage renovation, perhaps, some dried fish on a grill fired by beach brush. And mid to high-toned sherry underneath. But there's more, and whatever that more is, it keeps me coming back from time to time.
Glendronach 15 year old "Revival" Distillery Bottling Single Malt Whisky 750ml
Review Date: 06-05-2014
I like Scotch ale, the "wee heavy" beer, and I like this Glendronach 15-year "Revival." It's more than a wee bit richer than the 12. It's spicy, and smoky; candy apples smoking cigarettellos at a pumpkin pie party. Comparisons? Here's my take: Spicier than Glendronach 12; not quite as intense as Aberlour A'bunadh....but getting there. Way more fiery than Macallan 12, but super sherried and rich. A sort of Lagavulin 16 ashiness on the palate, perhaps. A powerfully inviting detour.
Aberlour 16 Year Old Speyside Single Malt Whisky 750ml
Review Date: 05-05-2014
Apple pie is right--or more like hot apple cider, for me. Warm, spicy holiday punch, with ginger and cinnamon and delicious, caramel and apple flavor. Not as hot and spicy as the A'Bunadh, the dignified Aberlour 16 is a rich, smooth, and delightful companion to, say, a good book; to be sipped and savored.
Talisker 10 year old Isle of Skye Single Malt Whisky 750ml
Review Date: 04-29-2014
Goodness, I love the Talisker 10. It hits just about every note that I want to hear, when a single malt sings to me. To get an idea of whether it will sing for you, here's the way I came about it: After ignoring whisky for a decade-plus in favor of wine, I rediscovered scotch. I set about finding out what I liked, what I didn't, and what grew on me. I like sweet, sherried single malts, but I also like smoky peat--not too much--and most importantly, a sea shore, briny sense of place. This is Talisker 10, in a nutshell, a light amber, buttery, butterscotchy single malt smelling of scones baked with smoked ham, somewhere near the sea shore. Finishes hot and spicy, but like they say about Talisker, more like nice, spicy "chili pepper" than just plain alcohol heat. It's always a fun dram.
Springbank 15 year old, Distillery Bottling Single Malt Whisky 750ml
Review Date: 04-28-2014
Richer and more mellow than: Port Charlotte Peat. Much less peaty than: Talisker 10. Kinda maybe like: Cragganmore 12. I got butterscotch candy and salty, nutty notes a little like a Jura whisky from a sample of this dram; it's got nice lemony, butterscotchy notes that are appealing.
Port Charlotte Scottish Barley Heavily Peated Single Malt Whisky 750ml
Review Date: 04-28-2014
It's like sipping an artisanal lemon drop cocktail while a hay field burns around me; it's heather and honey dressed in blonde suede; it's too hot to handle--or is it? (from a sample) This is a light, bright, and high-toned smoky spirit, not on the dark side of peaty drams, that is for sure. But it is alive and interesting.
Cragganmore 12 Year Old Single Malt Whisky 750ml
Review Date: 04-28-2014
When I'm not tasting single malt whisky, I'm tasting and rating wine, and a recent Russian River Valley Chardonnay made me think of Cragganmore whisky. I couldn't include the reference in my review, because, well, a little too arcane, right? But when you've got caramel-coated apples, golden sherry aromas with sweet hay and spring flowers, it sounds like a good beverage, either way. The Cragganmore has chocolate mint hints over sweet heather, hay, and caramel notes. Sort of like: Talisker 10, without the smoke and heat; Kilchoman, but imagine it older. Recommended: If you've only had Glenfiddich and Glenlivet thus far, step up to Cragganmore.
Bowmore 15 year old Darkest Sherry Casked Islay Single Malt Whisky 750ml
Review Date: 04-28-2014
"Amber. Whoa. Campfire...peaty fire...suede jacket (nice, not Laphroaig shoe); smoked ham. Some old deli memory, 70s, 80s?" That was my first impression of the Bowmore 15 "Darkest" from a 30cl sample. Later I purchased a full bottle. Initial impressions were consistent: It's a meaty, dry, savory single malt. There's a strong, sherried, rum-raisin component, for sure. There's intensity, but don't expect peatiness like an Ardbeg or Laphroaig. To put it in perspective, I'd say: Dryer and meatier than Talisker 10; may appeal to fans of Glendronach 15 Revival, though smoky; maybe, maybe somewhere in the neighborhood of Lagavulin 16. The last of my notes read, "Have to revisit!"
Laphroaig 10 year old Islay Single Malt Whisky 750ml
Review Date: 04-25-2014
Caution! And good news! True, we're trying to sell some single malt here, but to those customers who have not delved into peaty single malts much, I would counsel caution and/or patience, and here's why: I purchased the classic Laphroaig 10 early in my single malt rediscovery series...probably after the mellow Balvenie 12. Holy burning shoe leather! The level, and character of the peat is so serious, it almost made my eyes sting. So I left it alone for a long time, revisiting it from time to time. And eventually, I noticed the richness underneath. The sweet caramel. The seaweed. The beauty...of that burning shoe. By the last few drams, I was almost telling the Laphroaig 10 how sorry I was that I had misunderstood it...but I didn't have that many drams.
Aberlour - A'Bunadh Cask Strength Single Malt 750ml
Review Date: 04-25-2014
Talk about having your cake and eating your whisky, too. I can't get over how bourbony this scotch is: spicy, cinnamon, allspice and cardamon; Christmas spice cake, intense rancio, sherried nose, and...bourbon. Good bourbon. I know, according to Aberlour, it's aged in all Oloroso sherry barrels. But this one (Batch #46) reminds me of my last Four Roses Single Barrel. Because I'm more of a Balvenie 12 fan, the A'Bunadh is long-lived in my bar. But bourbon fans who haven't ventured back to scotch for a while might want to start here. It is delicious. (And at this proof, a little ice doesn't hurt!)