Scotch

Review: Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare Glenury Royal

Johnnie Walker’s Ghost and Rare collection started strong with a blend built around Brora, followed by a second blend that placed malt from cult-favorite Port Ellen front and center. Sadly, the series comes to an end with this expression – Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare Glenury Royal.

I have to admit, I hadn’t heard of Glenury Royal until news of this release hit my inbox. The distillery operated from 1825 to 1985, when it was shut down. In addition to Glenury Royal, this blend contains malt whisky from Pittyvaich and grain whisky from Cambus, but long gone. Rare malt and grain whiskies from Glen Elgin, Inchgower, Glenlossie, Cameronbridge, and Glenkinchie are also utilized here.

The nose features a distinct apricot note as well as hints of creamy vanilla, roasted almonds, and slight herbal and earthy undertones. Bottled at 43.8% ABV, Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare Glenury Royal starts with creamy butterscotch drizzled with white and dark chocolate. Crisp orchard fruits bring some brightness while candied almonds add to the whisky’s complexity. A touch of smoke leads to a medium-length finish with lingering hints of dried fruit, nuts, and mocha.

Wow. Based on the nose, I was expecting a very fruit forward whisky. Instead, I was treated to a rich, decadent whisky… one I’d easily reach for after a big dinner. All the flavors pair well together, creating a nice balance. The Ghost and Rare series itself is almost like a three-course meal. Brora serves as the appetizer, with the hearty Port Ellen acting as the main dish. Glenury Royal provides a beautiful ending. 9/10

Johnniewalker.com

Thanks to Diageo for the sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Review: Compass Box The Circle

The Circle, one of Compass Box’s latest releases, is a blended malt made in collaboration with London-based bartender Rosey Mitchell from Three Sheets. Mitchell won a competition run by Compass Box.

“I wanted to make an approachable whisky to be shared with friends,” said Mitchell. “I wanted something you could share in the daytime, something with brightness. It could be served as a vibrant summery highball in the garden – sunshine whisky.”

The whisky itself is a blend of several single malts, including Tamdhu, Clynelish, and assumingely Highland Park. Also included is a small portion of “a Highland malt blend finished in French Oak casks.” It’s bottled at 46% ABV and available for $150.

The nose is fruity and crisp with hints of apples, vanilla, and malt. The official tasting notes are spot on. Additionally, a slightly floral top note adds to the fresh character of this whisky. The palate is equally vibrant, and light enough for a summer afternoon. Stewed apples and creamy vanilla are the stars here. Baking spices are integrated beautifully. A touch of heathery smoke provide more structure. The finish is short and a bit spicy.

A versatile, vibrant whisky indeed. It’s flavorful enough to sip neat, but structured enough to stand up in a whisky highball. Mitchell and the Compass Box team did a nice job with The Circle. Good stuff.

7.5/10

Review: Orphan Barrel Forager’s Keep

Photo credit: Diageo

We’re now five years into the Orphan Barrel brand’s existence. Wow, time certainly seems to fly by. The brand’s purpose was to showcase older or “forgotten” barrels. We’ve seen lots of bourbon and even a little Canadian whisky released under the brand’s umbrella. A few releases have been great, others not so much, and most lying somewhere in-between. Since the 2014 introduction of the brand, I’ve held my breath for a single malt release, as owner Diageo’s malt distillery profile is quite bountiful.

Now I can breathe easy.

Forager’s Keep, the latest Orphan Barrel entry, is a 26-year-old single malt whisky from the Pittyvaich distillery. You might not recognize the distillery, as it’s output was sent for blending in Bell’s. The single malt bottlings that did exist were very few and far between.

Also, Pittyvaich doesn’t exist anymore. It closed down in 1993 after only 18 years in operation and was demolished in 2002. The reasoning basically came down to the distillery being “surplus to requirements,” according to the excellent Whiskypedia section at Scotchwhisky.com.

Forager’s Keep is bottled at 48% ABV and priced at $399 a bottle. Not bad considering the age and rarity of the whisky. In fact, this whisky aged longer than the distillery was in existence.

The types of barrels used here have not been disclosed. Based on the color (which looks natural to my eyes) and the taste, I’d guess this whisky is made up of mostly ex-bourbon and refill casks. Maybe, maybe a sprinkling of European oak casks.

The nose is centered around refined orchard fruit aroma upfront. Then, hints of vanilla and light spice (cinnamon and cloves) appear, as do dried herbs and a touch of balsamic vinegar. Just a touch. The whisky comes across as a medium-to-heavy bodied and somewhat viscous on the palate, with hints of butterscotch, pecan, and vanilla ice cream topped with stewed spiced apples and garnished with citrus peel. The fruit intensifies as oak spice develops mid-palate alongside a very small earthy note. Light oak spice and apple sauce on the long, warm finish.

I’d mark Forager’s Keep among my favorite of the Orphan Barrel releases. Of course, it stands out as it’s a single malt Scotch and not a bourbon, so it might be a bit unfair to compare. Either way, this is a nicely matured older whisky that showcases the fruit-centric beauty of the late Speyside distillery. This is one bottle I’ll be looking to own. 9.5/10

Orphanbarrel.com

Thanks to Diageo for the sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.