Birthday Scotch

I’ve been spoiled lately with some excellent bottles, and was gently reminded that I’m behind on posting my impressions. Here are three recent favorites, plus an old friend.

The Balvenie 15 Year Single Barrel Sherry Cask

Decadent yet comfortable. Balvenie’s 12 Year DoubleWood is on my short list of go-to Scotches, perfect for introducing someone to the joys of single malt; the 15 Year Single Barrel Sherry Cask is just as approachable – Susan had several tastes and declared “This is one of the best I’ve tried.” Gorgeous mahogany in the glass, the nose is dominated by the sherry. On the tongue it begins with gentle cinnamon spice and quickly fills the mouth, rich and sweet. More winter spices as it develops, the faintest hint of smoke on the finish. I found the finish shorter than I’d have liked, but Susan noted that it didn’t outstay its welcome.

Lagavulin 11 Year Offerman Edition

Diageo has pushed television tie-ins recently, with its Game of Thrones editions and now this Lagavulin expression driven by a sitcom performer. I’m a Parks and Rec fan, have enjoyed the many Lagavulin references, but when I first read about this release I figured it wasn’t worth the premium for clever packaging. I was pleasantly surprised at how well crafted the whisky turned out to be. Copper in the glass, Lagavulin’s distinctive smoke on the nose balanced with apple sweetness. On the palate it’s vanilla leavened with peat, less assertive than other Lagavulin expressions. Long finish with the smoke you expect, and a gentle salty sweetness.

The Sassenach

Speaking of TV tie-ins…I saw Sam Heughan introduce his blended Scotch on Stephen Colbert’s show, appalled at Colbert’s mixing with a can of Sprite. Like the Offerman Edition, I wasn’t convinced this would be worth twice what a bottle of Monkey Shoulder goes for; when a friend who knows my affection for the Outlander adaptation gifted this bottle I was happy to change my mind. Pale in the glass, and not much on the nose – zesty. Heavier on the palate than expected, oily and satisfying, expanding with butterscotch and apricot far beyond what had been suggested. Satisfying finish, with lingering spice.

Lagavulin 16

Probably my favorite Scotch ever, it’s been a long time since I bought a bottle for myself. When it arrived yesterday, a nice birthday surprise, I was reminded of the first time I tried this nectar. “It’s like cough medicine” I protested, my previous Scotch experience limited to the much tamer Dalwhinnie 15. I kept returning to the Lagavulin though, discovering new aspects every time. The satisfying peat smoke and full, meaty body are like coming home now.

Thank you to those who’ve gifted these bottles: Dave, Anna, Karen, Cathy. I’m blessed by your thoughtfulness.