Tobermory (10 year)

This is akin to 10 year-old Springbank in many ways – from the earthy “not quite smokey” peat, to the industrial oily notes, and the emphasis on barrel char. At around $55, there isn’t a lot of reason to recommend this 10 year-old.

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Glenmorangie Finealta

I’m not sure if this evokes the era of the Savoy Hotel or the Age of Enlightenment or whatever the website says, but it’s a fine, straightforward dram with a lot of refined flavor.

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Black Bottle Blended Scotch

Black Bottle tends to win a lot of awards and has quite a following, even among malt-heads. Oh, here’s the kicker: the bottle’s about $20 in the US. … Either way, I’m calling it a “Must Have” because you can’t find a better peated blend – or almost any blend, for that matter – for this price.

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2012 Holiday Whisky Gift Guide

Around this time of year I get a lot of emails from people asking for gift suggestions. So, I’ve worked up a handy little chart for anyone who wants to gift something “slightly better” than last year’s gift.

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Ardbeg Galileo

This is a particularly sweet, aromatic whisky with a very muted peat profile. If someone handed me a glass, I can honestly say I would enjoy drinking it. Alas, this whisky is not worth the (exceptional) effort required to secure a bottle.

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Kilchoman Machir Bay

Subtle and accomplished, if light. The peat is masterfully understated, and plays beautifully with the naturally sweet lemon, honey, and floral elements. Don’t let the ‘light’ moniker distract from the fact that this is very highly peated malt, with far more subtlety than, say, Laphroaig, but a lot more power and sinus-burning peat than Highland Park. It does very much stand alone among the Islay malts, though, being light and playful, but also masterful and persuasive.

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Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition (1995)

Okay. Yeah, it’s aged in PX sherry, which is a big deal, but… this particular expression falls short with me. I’d stick to the 16, and get my sherry kick elsewhere.

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Arran Machrie Moor

It’s moderately well-balanced, but it’s neither particularly complex nor particularly exciting. It’s also been bottled far too young. Arran die-hard fans would be interested to see what smoking does to their favorite malt, but the rest of us shouldn’t offer more than a shrug.

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McCarthy’s Oregon Single-Malt

Amazing that a three year-old whisky distilled on a tiny brandy still in Oregon can smell and taste like an 8 or 10 year-old Islay single malt scotch. Sure, the imported barley has a lot to do with that, but Steve McCarthy’s attention to detail, careful (and economical) use of oak, and small slowly-running stills all come through in the product, which somehow tastes handcrafted.

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Lagavulin (12 year)

The 12 has a clearer, cleaner flavor than Lagavulin 16, more bright and more powerful. It shows Islay peat, pure and without excess wood or the sweetness inherent in the use of European oak.

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