Savory Rums & Single Malts


The headliners of this month’s Spirits Buying Guide have to be the merchant bottling single malts from Hart Brothers and Murray McDavid plus the lip-smacking rums from Australia (of all places) and the Caribbean region. Assuming that you read, if not memorized, my in-depth article on independent merchant bottlings of single malt Scotch whisky (October 2003), you’ll be primed and hopefully appreciative of the reviewed offerings soon to follow. Hart Brothers and Murray McDavid are two of my favorite independent merchant bottlers because they consistently provide malt whiskies that have been chosen and handled with great care.

Two of the Hart Brothers bottlings come from malt distilleries that are little known in the U.S., except to the most avid of malt freaks, Glenturret from the Eastern Highlands and Inchgower from northern Speyside. The tourist-friendly Glenturret Distillery overlooks the River Turret in the lovely Perthshire countryside. The three things that Glenturret is famous for are, one, many different bottlings of their malt at various ages; two, perhaps the finest distillery tours in the business; and, three, Towser, their late distillery cat, who was such a prodigious and efficient hunter of mice that his exploits have been widely documented worldwide, even in the Guinness Book of World Records. The distillery staff claims to have been able to confirm 28,899 rodent victims.

The Inchgower Distillery, whose single malt is rarely seen in the U.S., is owned by Diageo. Inchgower, which lies near the coast east of the city of Elgin, devotes the bulk of its production volume to the making of Bell’s, a brand of blended Scotch that’s highly popular in the United Kingdom. (Deservedly so, because it is an excellent blend.) Results of the Inchgower Distillery cat’s predatory successes remain, to my knowledge, unpublished and, therefore, the private information of the distillery manager.

With rum being one of the hottest spirits categories at the present time, it’s only right to unearth for you seven of the most intriguing new releases of 2003. The front-runner is Inner Circle Green Spot from the land of Oz. Green Spot is a cask strength, overproof (114.4-proof/57.2% alcohol by volume) bruiser of a rum that drinks like it’s 86 proof. Other rums of note are the two new flavored rums from Cruzan, makers of the category’s state-of-the-art flavored rums. Grand Havana Reserva from Grenada and Prichards’ Fine Rum made in Tennessee round out the category’s best.

Now you know what to go out and buy before the snow starts falling. Wait a minute, did I just see the first snowflake of the season?

—F. Paul Pacult


SUPERB (90-95)/Highly Recommended
Hart Brothers Finest Collection Glenturret 1991 10 Year Old Eastern Highlands Single Malt Whisky (Scotland; CVI Brands, San Carlos, CA); 55.5% abv, cask strength, $63. The first aromatic impressions are delightfully fruity and floral, with just the merest trace of off-dry malt; the flower-fest continues in the nose with the additions of honeysuckle and light new oak. Palate entry is sweet, pleasantly thick and robust; at midpalate, the zesty spirit takes charge and guides the woody/floral/grainy supplementary flavors into the sweet, slightly honeyed aftertaste. A treat from an overlooked, under-appreciated distillery.

Hart Brothers Finest Collection Inchgower 1976 26 Year Old Speyside Single Malt Whisky (Scotland; CVI Brands, San Carlos, CA); 49.9% abv, cask strength, $142. The first whiffs detect reluctant grain and forest floor notes; the bouquet opens up markedly following aeration, offering off-dry scents of green olive, light peat and sweet midsummer grass. Palate entry supplies a grainy/malty sweet taste that’s medium- to full-bodied, then at midpalate the taste takes off in sweet, almost honeyed/Sherried flavors that last well into the long, off-dry finish.

Hart Brothers Finest Collection Macallan 1968 34 Year Old Speyside Single Malt Whisky (Scotland; CVI Brands, San Carlos, CA); 46.3% abv, cask strength, $230. Early aromatic nuances of grass/forest vegetation and pine; with aeration, the bouquet expands, adding zesty, dry notes of cedar, black pepper and hay. Palate entry is lean, off-dry and sap-like; by midpalate, the flavor swings more in the traditional Macallan way, offering luscious vanilla-laden, oloroso Sherry, maple-sweet tastes.

Murray McDavid Laphroaig 1988 14 Year Old Islay Single Malt Whisky (Scotland; Murray McDavid Imports, Chicago, IL); 46% abv $79. Displays peatiness/sea breeze right from the first whiff; further air contact releases medicinal aromas of iodine, antiseptic, seaweed, light wood smoke and kippers. Lovers of hearty Islay malts won’t be disappointed with the concentrated and cigarette smoke-like palate entry; at midpalate the taste comes off mildly maple-like, corn sugar-like and honeyed. Finishes clean and briny.

Murray McDavid Mortlach 1990 12 Year Old Speyside Single Malt Whisky (Scotland; Murray McDavid Imports, Chicago, IL); 46% abv $48. The early aromas of dry malt, light caramel and old oak provide plenty of interest. Further time adds scents of brown rice, cocoa, bacon fat and oatmeal. Palate entry is politely sweet and sap-like, then at midpalate seductive flavors of Christmas spices, nougat and pipe tobacco emerge. Aftertaste is medium-long, sappy sweet and a bit maple-like.

VERY GOOD (85-89)/Recommended

Hart Brothers Finest Collection Clynelish 1988 14 Year Old Northern Highlands Single Malt Whisky (Scotland; CVI Brands, San Carlos, CA); 53.3% abv, cask strength, $90
. The aroma begins in an intensely grainy, dry breakfast cereal-like way; additional time in the glass adds woodsy/open field notes of pine/cedar, heather and wood resin. Palate entry is dry to off-dry and grainy, then at midpalate flow semisweet waves of woody vanillin, cocoa, malt and light toffee. Finishes in a flurry of woody/caramel-like tastes.

Murray McDavid Macallan 1990 10 Year Old Speyside Single Malt Whisky (Scotland; Murray McDavid Imports, Chicago, IL); 46% abv, $48. The first couple of sniffings are gently sweet, clearly Sherried and honey-like, then the aroma turns biscuity, oaky vanilla- and marzipan-like, with background scents of wood resin and butterscotch. Palate entry is sweet, oaky and a touch hot and prickly; aggressive notes of bittersweet chocolate and cocoa appear at midpalate, eclipsing the oak. Finishes honey sweet, piquant and spirity.


CLASSIC (96-100)/Highest Recommendation

Inner Circle Green Spot Traditional Pot Still Rum (Australia; Spirit of Hartford, Hartford, CT); 57.2% abv, $24. The initial sniffings detect muscular, high-octane aromas of spirit, molasses, bacon fat and honey; aeration unleashes additional, complex scents of old oak, sautéed butter and walnuts. The spicy, biscuity palate entry is sweet in a baked manner, almost like the taste of a spiked coffee cake; the midpalate is a raging inferno of concentrated molasses/brown sugar/oak tastes and four-alarm spirit. Finish is loaded with peppery spice, oaky vanilla and honey. A beautiful and affordable beast. Best Buy.

SUPERB (90-95)/Highly Recommended

Cruzan Mango Rum (USVI; Todhunter Imports, Ltd., West Palm Beach, FL); 27% abv, $12.
Opening whiffs detect subtle, skillfully balanced scents of barely ripe mango; the aroma turns into an ambrosial bouquet that highlights the mango but offers lesser aromatic roles to pear and papaya. Palate entry is tart, even bitter, then at midpalate the flavor turns ripe and succulent. Aftertaste is sweet and fresh. Best Buy.

Cruzan Junkanu! Citrus Rum (USVI; Todhunter Imports, Ltd., West Palm Beach, FL); 35% abv, $14. The wonderfully piquant bouquet of citrus pulp features lemon first, then orange pulp; aeration adds hints of lime and grapefruit. Palate entry is tart, intensely citrusy; by midpalate, the acidity subsides leaving behind juicy, tart flavors of orange and lemon. Finishes properly acidic and mouth-puckering. Another winner from the world’s foremost flavored rum producer, Cruzan. Best Buy.

Grand Havana Rum Reserva Excelencia Batch No. 1106 (Grenada; Universal Liquor Imports, Miami, FL); 40% abv, $26. The opening nosing pass offers stately, classic scents of brown sugar and molasses; aeration stimulates further fragrances including honey, light toffee and maple. Palate entry is deliciously sweet and honey-like but light and agile on the tongue; by midpalate, flavors of milk chocolate and caramel emerge. Aftertaste is medium-bodied and moderately sweet.

Prichards’ Fine Rum (USA; Prichards’ Distillery, Inc., Kelso, TN); 40% abv, $30.
Teasing, atypical aroma opens up with subtle traces of black pepper, minerals and oak; after more aeration, the bouquet adds hints of black licorice, lemon drop and beeswax. Palate entry’s first impression is of black licorice, then a resiny oakiness takes over; by midpalate, the black pepper/spice returns along with a bittersweet flavor that’s nutty and nougat-like. Aftertaste is medium-weight and bittersweet.

VERY GOOD (85-89)/Recommended

Papagayo Spiced Rum (Paraguay); 40% abv, $20.
Atypical aromas of cigarette tobacco and smoke, dill and rubber tire open the nosing stages. Better in the mouth than in the nose, at palate entry the flavor displays an appealing brown sugar taste, then at midpalate the rum turns vegetal, ashy/sooty and intensely herbal. Aftertaste sums up the experience with a flash of spirity heat, followed by tastes of brown sugar, tobacco and dried herbs.

AVERAGE (80-84)
Kahlua Kuya Fusion Rum (USA; Allied Domecq Spirits, Westport, CT); 35% abv, $13. Initial nosings pick up a sweet aroma that’s equal parts vanilla, cola nut, citrus and cinnamon. Palate entry is very vanilla cola-like and sugary; by midpalate, the citrus element kicks in adding a balance to the sugary sweetness.

VERY GOOD (85-89)/Recommended

Seagram’s Orange Pineapple Bahama Mama Cooler (USA; United States Beverage, LLC, Stamford, CT); 5% abv. Sickly sweet pineapple scent dominates. The orangy/tropical fruit flavor doesn’t disappoint in terms of offering sweet and fruity taste. Drinkable and tasty.

AVERAGE (80-84)

Seagram’s Raspberry Daiquiri Cooler (USA; United States Beverage, LLC, Stamford, CT); 5% abv. The aroma is pretty much nowhere to be found. Soda pop-like in the mouth with manufactured raspberry/berry flavors from front to back. There’s a metallic note in the aftertaste.


SUPERB (90-95)/Highly Recommended

John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum Liqueur (Barbados; Spirit of Hartford, Hartford, CT); 11% abv, $14. A syrupy textured mixer comprised of liquid sucrose, lime juice, almond and clove essences and water—not to be consumed neat. Clove and lime juice on the nose. Thick and sweet on the palate, but the lime juice acts as the perfect balance for the high-octane liquid sucrose. Scores of applications in cocktails. Best Buy.

VERY GOOD (85-89)/Recommended

Dr. McGillicuddy’s French Kiss Vanilla Schnapps Liqueur (Canada; Sazerac Company, Frankfort, KY); 24% abv, $13. Mildly sweet vanilla bean perfume. Palate entry is sweet, while the midpalate displays a thick texture that supports the velvety vanilla frosting flavor. Finish is acceptably sweet and lip-smacking. Best Buy.

Sting Sour Raspberry Schnapps Liqueur (USA; White Rock Distilleries, Lewiston, ME); 40% abv, $20.
Bouquet offers ripe red raspberry perfume. Ultra-sour at palate entry, but by midpalate, the sour raspberry flavor is borderline astringent. Aftertaste is sour and mouth-puckering.

AVERAGE (80-84)

Poison Wild Berry Schnapps Liqueur (USA; White Rock Distilleries, Lewiston, ME); 40% abv, $20.
Sweet notes of mixed berrieson the nose, while palate entry is tart and bitter.

Viper Sour Apple Schnapps Liqueur (USA; White Rock Distilleries, Lewiston, ME); 40% abv, $20. The peculiar aroma initially smells of new carpeting; with aeration, green apple emerges. Sour and astringent on the palate.

A Mid-December Potpourri

Rather than focus on two or three spirits and beer categories this edition, I thought that it might be more fun to branch out and offer for your drinking delight a smattering of categories. In the Cognac section, I’ve included a handful of timeless favorites that I’ve not yet reviewed for Wine Enthusiast. Of Cognac’s so-called Big Four producers (Remy Martin, Hennessy, Courvoisier and Martell), the house of Martell is the smallest. In many people’s minds, it is likewise the finest. One of the reasons that connoisseurs relish Martell Cognacs is because the house acquires well over 50 percent of its eaux-de-vie from the Borderies region, a district renowned for its luscious, nutty eaux-de-vie. A trained palate can really taste the Borderies influence in the XO and the classic Cordon Bleu.

One other intriguing if exotic entry this issue is the Porfidio Agave Spirit from the Republic of South Africa, a nation that cultivates huge amounts of agave. While Mexico is famous for its Tequilas and mescals, both made from agave plant, the RoSA is vying for respectability with their agave spirit. Legally it cannot be called "Tequila." That distinction is reserved for the fabled spirits that are generated in the Mexican state of Jalisco.

Last, I offer five more extremely attractive Bas Armagnacs from the house of Francis Darroze, the region’s premier négociant. If you haven’t yet treated yourself to a Darroze Bas Armagnac, now is the time to begin. While I admire several Armagnac houses, none offers the amazing breadth and scope of Darroze.

Cheers! —F. Paul Pacult

CLASSIC (96-100)/Highest Recommendation

Martell XO Suprême Cognac (France; Pernod Ricard USA, White Plains, NY); 40% abv, $120. Aromas are ripe and melony, then turn deep with subtle hints of walnut, butter cream, oak and marzipan—a sensational bouquet. Right from palate entry the fruit concentration is perfectly balanced by a resiny, cheesy oakiness that blossoms at midpalate along with succulent tastes of raisins, vanilla and butterscotch. Finishes stately, almost chunky. The touch of rancio in the aftertaste puts it over the top. Gorgeous.

SUPERB (90-95)/Highly Recommended

Delamain Très Vénérable Grande Champagne Cognac (France; Kobrand Corporation, New York, NY); 40% abv, $245/bottle; $292/ decanter. Vivacious, nimble aromas of vanilla, spice and orange rind; aeration accentuates the citrus-zest element. At palate entry, it’s velvety in texture and herbal, almost woody in flavor; traces of rancio are displayed at midpalate. Finish is long and bittersweet.

Hennessy Izambard Single Distillery Cognac (France; Schieffelin & Somerset, New York, NY); 40% abv, $55. The nose opens with biscuity, caramel-like scents; aeration releases aromas including oak, pineapple, pears and nut. Palate entry is crisp, candied and spirity; at midpalate, flavors of coffee, spice and cocoa butter complement the dried fruit and oak. Finishes firm, sweet and oaky. Lovely.

Hennessy Le Peu Single Distillery Cognac (France; Schieffelin & Somerset, New York, NY); 40% abv, $65. The upfront aroma is austere and unripe; further air contact shows nectarine and pear. Palate entry is all about ripe grapes and tropical fruit, while the midpalate exposes vanilla, honey and oak. Aftertaste reflects the agile nature of this Cognac.

Martell Cordon Bleu Cognac (France; Pernod Ricard USA, White Plains, NY); 40% abv, $110. Bouquet is semisweet and prune-like; several minutes of aeration unleashes much deeper scents of honeydew melon, cantaloupe, roasted almonds and apple butter. The palate entry is full bodied and sweet; at midpalate, tastes of black cherry, black coffee and Macadamia nut blanket the tongue. Aftertaste is extended, smoky and

VERY GOOD (85-89)/Recommended

Hennessy Camp Romain Single Distillery Cognac (France; Schieffelin & Somerset, New York, NY); 40% abv, $60. Early on, the nose is assertive and meaty as aromas of cotton, oak and candy rule; aeration unveils toffee, candied nuts and ripe berries. Palate entry is sweet and candied, while the midpalate is honey-sweet. Finishes nutty, oaky and unabashedly sweet. For lovers of robust brandy.


AVERAGE (80-84)
Destileria Porfidio Unwooded Blue Agave Spirit (Rep. of South Africa; Tequila Porfidio USA, Inc, Laredo, TX); 40% abv, $30. First sniffings detect herbal/peppery scents, though the road tar/asphalt quality makes me think more of mezcal. Further time bolsters herbal agave pulpiness and introduces dill and fennel to the mix. Palate entry is sweet; by midpalate, the smokiness becomes bitter, then it turns sweet and black licorice-like. Finish mixes licorice sweetness with smoky bitterness.

SUPERB (90-95)/Highly Recommended

Moletto Distillato d’Uva Immature Brandy (Italy; Laird & Company, Scobeyville, NJ); 40% abv, $29. Fresh grapy aroma is ripe, and just a touch sweet; time in the glass reveals a pear-like quality that reminds me of Prosecco. Palate entry displays more grapy, peary, spicy ripeness than the bouquet; at midpalate, the astringency noted in the bouquet returns in the form of pomace, grape skins and light honey. Turns citrusy in the finish. Luscious.

SUPERB (90-95)/Highly Recommended

Michter’s US 1 Small Batch Unblended American Whiskey (USA; Michter’s Distiller, Schaefferstown, PA); 41.7% abv; $30. Bouquet opens with hazelnut, asphalt, fennel, asparagus and damp hay; additional air contact adds metallic/botanical fragrances that suggest lead pipe, dill, brine and charred oak. In the mouth, loads of rich, maple-like flavors delight the tastebuds. Finishes softer than I expected.

Old Fitzgerald 1849 8 Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (USA; Heaven Hill Distilleries, Bardstown, KY); 45% abv, $16. Bouquet is acidic and sharp at first; with aeration it smoothes out, displaying plump, candied scents of light toffee, caramel and nougat. Palate entry is full-bodied and semisweet; at midpalate, the flavors blossom into pipe smoke, sweetened coconut and breakfast cereal. Finish is long and luxurious.

VERY GOOD (85-89)/Recommended
Martin Miller’s Reformed London Dry Gin (England; Miller’s Gin, Inc., North Miami Beach, FL); 40% abv, $28. Opening whiffs are of black pepper and cassia bark; after six minutes, the bouquet adds subtle fragrances of licorice, juniper berry and bitter orange peel. The prevailing flavors feature the bitter orange peel; at midpalate, juniper dominates. Turns pleasantly floral and fruity in the finish.

SUPERB (90-95)/Highly Recommended

Rain Vodka (USA; Sazerac Company, New Orleans, LA); 40% abv, $22. Made from organically grown white corn. Smells of pear drop, moss and hay in the first sniffing; aeration allows the aroma to deepen, especially the appealing earthy moss/wet soil perfume. Palate entry is feather-light; at midpalate there’s a firm but satiny taste of sweet grain. Aftertaste is grainy. Delicious and delicate.

Published on August 29, 2005
About the Author
Dylan Garret

The latest wine reviews, trends and recipes plus special offers on wine storage and accessories