Whiskeys and Liqueurs



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This month, we feature two categories of spirits: whiskeys and liqueurs. The whiskeys hail from four countries and represent some of the finest recent releases. Of special note is the Glenrothes 1974 Single Malt Whisky from the heart of Scotland's heralded Speyside whisky district. Since my first visit to this underappreciated distillery in the early 1990s, I've come to regard it as one of Speyside's benchmark distilleries. I know more than a handful of master distillers who likewise view Glenrothes as a top-notch whisky, both for blending and single-malt purposes. I believe this bottling to be the best Glenrothes I've yet evaluated. Then, there's Dewar's Signature Blended Whisky, a delicious new offering. While pricey, this toasty, complex whisky expands the Dewar's line with an ultrapremium expression that's ideal for collectors and connoisseurs.

In liqueurs, I am duly impressed with the lush, true-to-the-fruit source quality of the new to the marketplace Mathilde Liqueurs from France. The Mathilde Cassis and Framboise show extraordinary character and value and, as such, deserve to be part of any serious home bar.

Keep warm, and don't lick your flagpole.

—F. Paul Pacult

 

Scotch WHISKY
CLASSIC (96-100)/HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION

Glenrothes 1974 Speyside Single Malt Whisky (Scotland; Skyy Spirits LLC, New York, NY); 43% abv, $95. Only 3,000 bottles allotted for the USA. Bouquet is comprised of deep, moderately smoky, and robust aromas of old oak, black pepper, road tar, maple, dark-roasted malt and brown sugar. Palate entry is sweet, honey-like and very dark caramel-like; at midpalate, the taste profile highlights caramel and honey and a velvety texture. Aftertaste features a peppery, cocoa-like and Sherry sweet taste. The finest malt whisky that Glenrothes has ever released. Buy two.

SUPERB (90-95)/HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Dewar's Signature Blended Whisky, Bottle #56 (Scotland; Bacardi/John Dewar & Sons, Miami, FL); 43% abv, $200. Biscuity, almost doughy in the initial sniffings; later sniffings uncover elegant aromas of lightly toasted bread, almond paste and sweet malt, with traces of peat and cigar smoke. Palate entry is dry, grainy and lightly smoked; the midpalate is sap-like, alluringly sweet, woodsy and honeyed. Finishes medium-long and toasty. Core malt hails from the Central Highlands distillery, Aberfeldy. Terrific job of blending magic.

Glenmorangie 1977 Northern Highlands Single Malt Whisky (Scotland; Brown-Forman Beverages Worldwide, Louisville, KY); 43% abv, $200. Bottled at 21 years of age. First sniffs detect an immediate rush of heather, green pepper and sweet grain; further aeration allows the aroma to show delicate hints of unsweetened coconut, banana cream, light toffee and smoke. Palate entry is resiny/woody; at midpalate there's a gentle sting of mature spirit on the tongue and echoes of honey and vanilla. Finish is long, sweet, malty and honeyed. A Northern Highlands malt whisky at the height of its powers.

Irish WHISKEY
SUPERB (90-95)/HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Connemara Pure Pot Still Peated/Cask Strength Irish Whiskey, Cooley Distillery (Ireland; Preiss Imports, Ramona, CA); 60% abv, $60. Prickly, medicinal, but aromatic notes of brine, green olive and vinegar soften with aeration into a mildly sweet, moderately smoky/briny perfume that's salty, focused yet plentiful. Palate entry is beguiling and understated; the midpalate is compact, moderately smoky and tobacco-like. The lush texture supports lots of viscosity and natural oils. Aftertaste is long, lush, more sweet than smoky.

VERY GOOD (85-89)/RECOMMENDED

Jameson 18 Year Old Master Selection Irish Whiskey No. 03895 (Ireland; Pernod Ricard USA, White Plains, NY); 40% abv, $65.
Opening aromas are of cotton fabric and wet hay; time in the glass doesn't deepen the fragrance, adding only very delicate notes of damp grain, nectarine and spearmint. Palate entry is properly sweet and deliciously grainy; at the midpalate the flavor profile does its best work as taut tastes of oak resin, malted grains, pears, light honey and toasted honey wheat bread make a clear, definitive statement. Aftertaste is predictably mild, softly sweet and more grainy than woody.

Canadian WHISKY
VERY GOOD (85-89)/RECOMMENDED

Pendleton 10 Year Old Blended Canadian Whisky (Canada; Hood River Distillers, Oregon); 40% abv, $26.
Whiffs detect mature, oily/buttery scents of almond butter and oleo margarine followed by delicate traces of oak resin, pepper, palm oil and oloroso Sherry. Palate is succulent and honeyed, turning oily in texture and honey/Sherry-like. Aftertaste is long and toffee-like.

Canadian Gold Very Light Canadian Whisky, a Blend (Canada; Wellington Distillers Products, Scobeyville, NJ); 40% abv, $8. First sniffs pick up delicate, grainy aromas that are simple but mildly alluring; more air contact stimulates a caramel-like sweetness, with a trace of almonds. Palate entry is pleasingly sweet in a sugary manner; the midpalate is sugary then leans more towards honey in the finish. Unpretentious, drinkable and recommendable for whisky neophytes.

American WHISKEY
SUPERB (90-95)/HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon Spring 1990 Kentucky Straight Bourbon (USA; Brown-Forman Corporation, Louisville, KY); 46.5% abv, $35.
First inhalations detect an easy, polite aroma that highlights sweet grain, bread crust and a trace of vanilla; aroma expands with exposure to air, affording the grain element to deepen. Palate entry is firm, sinewy and grainy sweet; the midpalate opens to include dark caramel, honey, vanilla bean and tobacco leaf. Aftertaste is warming, moderately sweet, caramel-like and almost biscuity.

VERY GOOD (85-89)/RECOMMENDED
Old Forester Birthday Bourbon Fall 1990 Kentucky Straight Bourbon (USA; Brown-Forman Corporation, Louisville, KY); 44.5% abv, $35.
From the opening whiff, this bouquet offers scents of corn-on-the-cob, spice and light caramel—a genuinely lovely, if restrained Bourbon bouquet. Palate entry flares with fiery spirit on the tip of the tongue, then settles down at midpalate as the taste profile turns lean, resiny, even a tad candied at the end. Finishes austere, medium-sweet and short.

LIQUEURS
CLASSIC (96-100)/HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION

Mathilde Liqueur Framboise (France; W.J. Deutsch & Sons, Harrison, NY); 18% abv, $20.
Very ripe, intense aromas of fresh-off-the-vine raspberries; further aeration stimulates a trace of welcome tartness brought on by acidity that perfectly counters the concentrated ripeness. Palate entry is sweet, ripe and juicy; the midpalate is medium-bodied, ripe, sweet/sour without being jammy or overbearing. Finishes long and intensely raspberry-like.

Mathilde Liqueur Cassis (France; W.J. Deutsch & Sons, Harrison, NY); 16% abv, $20.
The first sniffs scream "black currants"; further aeration brings out the scent of black currant nicely, without fanfare, jamminess or sweetness. Palate entry is tart, concentrated and curranty; the midpalate is more balanced in that the natural acids offset the intense preserves-like sweetness. Aftertaste is long, more bittersweet than sweet and luscious.

SUPERB (90-95)/HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Amaretto di Puglia Liqueur (Italy; Puglia, Inc., Brookfield, CT); 28% abv, $20
. The assertive bouquet opens up with hearty, bittersweet scents of almond and apricot stone. Palate is lush, firm in texture and richly sweet; the midpalate is toasty, warm, intensely nutty and silky. Concludes medium-long and downright luscious.

Illy Espresso Liqueur (Italy; Niche Wines & Spirits, Cedar Knolls, NJ); 28% abv, $25.
Whiffs find an intensely bean-like aroma that's simultaneously bitter and cocoa-like. Palate entry is startlingly bitter and intense; at the midpalate, the espresso intensity fades slightly, but definitely picks up in the cocoa-like end. An ideal topper for vanilla ice cream.

Mathilde Liqueur Peches (France; W.J. Deutsch & Sons, Harrison, NY); 18% abv, $20. First inhalations pick up nothing but sweet, beguiling ripe peach perfume; aeration expands the aroma by adding tarter scents of peach skin and pit. Palate entry is lean, tart and acidic yet ripe; the midpalate finds the acid underpinning gracefully balancing the sweet, peachy ripeness. Aftertaste is long, light-bodied and appropriately juicy.

Mathilde Liqueur Poires (France; W.J. Deutsch & Sons, Harrison, NY); 18% abv, $20.
The perfume of fresh pears is astounding. Palate entry is delicately sweet; the midpalate is ambrosial and shows a hint of tartness through all the ripe pulp. End is clean, fruity and fresh.

Prunier Liqueur d'Orange La Lieutenance (France; Halby Marketing, Sonoma, CA); 40% abv, $21. The orange aroma grows substantially in the glass, expanding and mingling perfectly with the Cognac. Palate entry is zesty, piquant, peppery and spicy; the midpalate makes the tongue glow with spirity warmth as the flavor profile takes the orange zest/peel to the edge of bitterness. Ends bittersweet, zesty and luscious.

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