A straightforward but very well-executed malt. This is a quintessential ex-bourbon Highland malt, with primary characteristics of summer fruits, flowers, and honey. … In this way, with no peat or sherry or wine-cask influence, you can appreciate the elemental building blocks of single-malt.
We have something unique here, people. Everyone knows that some scotch is aged in sherry barrels (some of which are “wet” with residual liquid sherry), but who puts actually sherry in the vat with the whisky? Who’s actually allowed to do that? Canadian distillers, that’s who.
A mid-line sherried malt, without the “big fruit” hallmarks of a true sherry monster, but with plenty of berry, wine, and resin to produce the desired effect. The fruits are subdued, but do contain that aged, balsamic, resinous quality, and are balanced by slight malty sweetness. This is the kind of drink you reach for when you want to lean back and relax on a chilly winter evening, but not necessarily think too hard about what’s in your glass.
Another in a long line of sourced whiskies, with marketing story and bottle proudly proclaiming its California heritage, while actually being distilled in Indiana. At least these barrels were aged in Healdsburg California (aka Napa), giving them some vestiges of individuality.
I love myself a good Sauternes cask finish, and this Arran doesn’t disappoint … aged for 8 years in standard ex-bourbon casks before being transferred to a “selection” of Sauternes casks for an undisclosed amount of time before bottling at a laudable 50% ABV and without chill-filtration or added coloring.
Talk about taking a shtick and running with it, Dutch distiller Zuidam’s Millstone 100 rye is made from 100% rye grain (49% malted, 51% unmalted) distilled in small copper pot stills, and then is aged for 100 months (8 years, 4 months) in new American oak barrels, and then bottled at 100 proof (50% ABV). The marketing slogans almost write themselves.
This is an exemplar of the category of unpeated single malts aged exclusively in ex-bourbon. Unlike some other Speyside ex-bourbon malts, which are more like blank canvases that need a little sherry to bring them to their full potential, The BenRiach 12 showcases the twin effects of good ex-bourbon aging: clarity of grain and sweetness of oak.
The “other” Diageo Bourbon, I.W. Harper is another resurrected brand. The Bernheim brothers began selling I.W. Harper in 1879 and it has been (like most Bourbon brands) sold several times since. It saw a 20-year hiatus in the US, although it has been sold continuously in Japan. Now, Diageo is bringing it back in two forms.
Upstart farm distillery Kilchoman has added a new single malt to its permanent portfolio, next to one of my favorites, Machir Bay. Kilchoman specializes in pristine craft peated malt that is remarkable for being excellent at a young age – like 3 or 4 years young. Like Machir Bay, this is partially sherry-aged. In Sanaig’s case, it’s an extra 10 months of aging in oloroso sherry casks.
…both bourbons are made from a mashbill of 68% corn, 28% rye, and 4% malted barley (for enzymes). At more than twice the price of its NAS sibling, the 10-year is essentially the same juice, but aged for a full 10 years in charred white American oak barrels and bottled at a very slightly higher 91.2 proof (45.6% ABV).