Dalwhinnie Winter's Gold

Diageo's Dalwhinnie distillery is centrally located and renowned as Scotland's highest (and coldest!) distillery. Cashing in on that has taken a bit of time but finally we have "Winter's Gold," a 2015 release of vatted casks laid down during the winter months and released without an age statement. Given that Diageo's marketing wing recommends drinking this from the freezer we can safely assume that we're dealing with a chill-filtered expression (so the liquid isn't cloudy when it gets a wee bit of a chill). I've never had any success with straight-from-the-freezer dramming so rest assured that this one will be sampled at a pleasant room temperature of 68F (20C).

Behind window #21: Dalwhinnie Winter's Gold, 43% alc., £33/$49

C: Golden (not surprisingly)

N: Quietly floral at the outset with hints of apple and pear, honey, and dried barley -- which is all to say it noses like a young whisky

P: Starts to liven up here with pronounced honey, toasted oats, pear skin, and clove -- credit where it's due, there's more texture than I anticipated despite the chill-filtration  

F: Moderate with lingering spice (cinnamon and clove) and dark honey

In conclusion: After a slow start on the nose the palate and finish really open up. There's a pleasant spiciness that builds on the palate after two or three sips and remains in the back of the throat after a few more. I'm really surprised; didn't think this would be nearly as tasty as it is! Maybe I'll have to return to it and see if the straight-from-the-freezer bit is more than marketing mumbo jumbo.

Sincere thanks to Master of Malt's Drinks by the Dram for the sample.

Fettercairn Fior

An eastern Highland distillery poked its head out of the whisky advent calendar this morning. Fettercairn is located approximately half way between Aberdeen and Dundee on the edge of the Cairngorms. I'm not sure it's a distillery that's on the radar of your average whisky drinker but they've rebranded themselves in the last couple of years and are making an assault on the vaunted "luxury market." 

Behind window #15: Fettercairn Fior, 42% alc., £32/$48

C: Copper

N: A quiet one but if you poke your nose about a bit there's beeswax, warm potting soil, freshly oiled leather, and just a hint of dried orange peels 

P: Could be juicier at a higher strength, as it is there are suggestions of red fruits (a bit of strawberry, perhaps) with honey and some cereal notes

F: Short with hints of caramel, honey, and mini strawberry tarts

In conclusion: I've had some good Fettercairns in my time but this isn't one of them, I'm sorry to report. It's just so flat and uninteresting. I'd hate for someone to taste this and then write off the entire distillery (although it would be tempting to do so). If this is Fettercairn's attempt to enter the luxury market they've got a long slog in front of them.

Sincere thanks to Master of Malt's Drinks by the Dram for the sample.

That Boutique-y Whisky Company, Arran Batch #4

Started in 2012, Master of Malt's That Boutique-y Whisky Company very quickly made a name for themselves with their small batch releases of single malt, blended Scotch, Scottish grain, American and Indian whiskies. Their non-age statement 50cl bottlings with esoteric, graphic-novel style labels and cask strength contents really offer something for everyone. Well worth putting them on your whisky radar if they're not already on it.

Behind window #11: That Boutique-y Whisky Company, Arran Batch #4, 52% alc., Sold Out

C: Extra virgin olive oil

N: Fresh and piney with grapefruit, artisanal sea salt, and unused pencil erasers 

P: Continues with the fresh theme (more grapefruit, some grassiness) but now adds a crisp maltiness to the mix, quite chocolatey as it transitions into the finish

F: Moderate length with continuing grassiness, dark chocolate bitterness, and a touch more sea salt

In conclusion: A very fun Arran that, while demonstrating some of Arran's core characteristics (citrus, sea salt, malt), is a bit of a break from the norm. Such an enjoyable combination of casks!

Sincere thanks to Master of Malt's Drinks by the Dram for the sample.

The Dalmore 15 Year Old

The Dalmore 15 Year Old is comprised of stock matured in three different types of sherry cask: Matusalem (combination of Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez sherries), Apostoles (Palo Cortado that spent some time in ex-Pedro Ximenez casks), and Amoroso (medium dry sherry). That's quite a lineup and speaks to just how seriously The Dalmore takes its sherry maturation program. The downside, of course, is that The Dalmore is still a proponent of chill filtering, color addition, and low strength bottling.

Behind window #5: The Dalmore 15 Year Old, 40% alc., £43/$65

C: Caramel

N: Wholewheat toast smeared with orange marmalade, high cocoa-content dark chocolate with crystallized orange peel, peanut brittle, garam masala, and then filtered coffee in the background

P: Flat across the palate (damn you 40% alc.!), porridge with maple syrup, more filtered coffee, more dark chocolate with orange peel, cardamom, and a little cinnamon

F: Short to moderate (see previous parenthetical comment), drying spice, bitter chocolate, coffee, and just a hint of chicory

In conclusion: While a perfectly enjoyable dram it could be so much more. Why take great stocks of sherry matured spirit and bottle them at such a low strength? Why chill filter away the original character? And why add color in order to tell a story that isn't true? Truth be told, there's a plethora of better sherried whiskies on the market that are worth your attention and  hard earned cash.

Sincere thanks to Master of Malt's Drinks by the Dram for the sample.