Single Malt

Review: Glenmorangie Astar (2017)

Glenmorangie Astar is back on the market after a few years. It is essentially a high proof version of the beautifully delicate Glenmorangie Original. The distillery uses only ex-bourbon casks from specially selected slow-growth, American oak trees from the Ozarks. They are very picky about wood, if you haven’t noticed.

Where Glenmorangie Original carries a ten year age statement, Astar does not. What this whisky lacks in an age statement it than makes up in a fullness of flavor delivered at 52.5% ABV versus Original’s 43% ABV.

The nose features delicate aromas in a slightly robust way, with hints of vanilla bean, light toffee, coconut macaroons, and a sprinkling of nutmeg. The palate is creamy with hints of whipped vanilla creme. Splashes of mild spices, toasted oak, honey and light fruits soon develop. The finish is clean, but warming, driven by spiced vanilla and lightly roasted coffee bean.

This is everything we love about Glenmorangie Original turned up to 10. The higher proof delivers those flavors in a more concentrated way. It doesn’t come across as young, so those with a penchant for dismissing non age statement whiskies should rethink their stance here. Highly recommended! 8.5/10

Glenmorangie.com

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

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Highland Park Magnus Whisky Review

A new US and Canada exclusive from Highland Park, Magnus pays homage to the distillery’s founder, Magnus Eunson. According to Gordon Motion, the distillery’s Master Whisky Maker, Magnus uses a “high proportion of Sherry seasoned American oak casks along with refill casks.” It’s bottled at 40% and carries a $40 price tag.

As this sample was en route to me, I tried Magnus at one of my local spots. I thought the whisky was bland and lacked character. Of course, this taste came after trying some rum and cognac. In other words, my palate was off. The preceding spirits colored my tastebuds, thus altering my first impression of Magnus. A few days later, the sample arrived and I was excited to approach the whisky with a fresh palate.

I don’t comment on color a lot, but I have to happily note that Highland Park does not add caramel coloring to their whiskies. This whisky’s pale golden color is all natural. The nose is light and easy going with hints of lemon, grilled pineapple, light smoke, and heather. Taste-wise, Magnus features light toffee, vanilla cake, some spiced fruit and a touch of peat. Those notes carry onto the medium-length finish, along with the slightest hint of wood smoke.

I’m so glad my initial impressions were wrong. Magnus isn’t a nice whisky for the price – it’s just a nice whisky, period. Magnus plays to the lighter side of the Highland Park distillery character, probably because of the use of American casks instead of the spicier European casks. Press materials suggest Magnus could be used in an Old Fashioned. At its inexpensive price, I wouldn’t mind using Magnus in a cocktail. Whatever your preferred imbibing method, Magnus is a versatile addition to any bar. Recommended. 7.5/10

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

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2017

Photo courtesy of Beam Suntory

Mmm… Laphroaig.  It’s one of those whiskies that divides the masses.  One either loves or hates the whisky’s trademark heavily peated character.  There generally isn’t an in-between.  In fact, the brand has embraced the public’s honest assessment of their whisky with their hilarious #OpinionsWelcome campaign.  Here’s the latest spot, entitled “A First for Friends.”

Every year, Laphroaig releases a different expression under their Cairdeas (gaelic for friendship) umbrella.  The 2017 edition is a cask strength version of Laphroaig Quarter Cask.  The 57.2% abv whisky started with a 5-year plus maturation in first-fill bourbon barrels, followed by a six month secondary maturation in quarter casks.  The resulting whisky features no added color and is not chill filtered.

The nose is full of that signature Laphroaig funky Islay peat, as well as vanilla and tropical fruit.  It’s a touch more closed off at cask strength, but opens up with a splash of water, which brings about more of the fruity notes.  On the palate, it’s slighlty less sweet than the standard Quarter Cask, but packed with flavor.  Toffee, brine, and tropical fruits, especially mangos, define the whisky as much as the whallop of ashy smoke in the background.  Some young oak and herbal notes appear on the backend.  The finish is long and complex, featuring notes of vanilla cream, spice and smoke.

At a reasonable price increase compared to the standard Quarter Cask, Laphroaig Cairdeas 2017 ($80) is firing on all cylinders.  It’s younish for sure, but that allows for a larger peaty punch compared to older Laphroaig expressions.  Only 177 casks were emptied for this release, so those who want a bottle should act fast.  Recommended! 8.5/10

Laphroaig.com
Thanks to Beam Suntory for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.