Thursday, November 28, 2013

12 Year Whiskey Review

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! It's been a great year and I have much to be thankful for. And in the spirit of celebrating, I thought we would imbibe just a bit. I've been doing a tour of a few 12 year whiskeys, with the majority being Scotch. I don't know whether it's the "Mad Men" impact or the correlation between increasing age and increased whiskey consumption, but I like it.

This review focuses on some 12 year Scotch, Irish, and Japanese whiskey, but I'll move on to a separate American whiskey review - in the form of bourbon. I'm especially excited about this because I was able to get my hands on some 12 year Old Rip Van Winkle through black market dealings (I *somehow* missed the 8 minute window for PA Fine Wine & Good Spirits - note the sarcasm).

I still consider myself a bit of a novice, but to put it simply, whiskey is the larger set, the universe, if you will. Of these, you can have different subsets. Scotch whiskey is made in, you guessed it, Scotland - typically made with malt and grains (wheat or rye). Irish whiskey is, yes, made in Ireland, with the principle flavoring being unmalted barley. Canadian whiskey is made by our neighbors up North, with the principle element being rye. Bourbon whiskey is made, by law, in America, and is typically associated with Kentucky. Bourbon is made with at least 51% corn and usually rye, though there are a few wheated bourbons out there, including Pappy.
But enough of the whiskey lesson for now, on to the good stuff. 

Jameson Special Reserve

Jameson 12 year special reserve, formerly known as Jameson 1780, is a blended Scotch whiskey. It's matured for 12 years in a combination of bourbon barrels and Olorosso sherry casks. A decent introduction to what aging can do to bottom shelf Jameson.

Nose: Sweet, emanating caramel and spice. 
Palate: Vanilla, spice, and cinnamon, with notes of sherry and some peat.  
Finish: Smooth, warm, long-lasting, without much smoke. 

Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 Year

Johnnie Walker Black Label is a 12 year blended Scotch of approximately 40 different whiskeys. This is the what is often described as the quintessential Johnnie Walker tipple. Due to the blending, it's a bit muddled for my taste. 

Nose: Sweet, emanating maple and caramel. 
Palate: Spice, with vanilla notes and some smoke that can overpower a bit.
Finish: Smooth, with a smoke that lingers.

Glenfiddich 12 Year

Glenfiddich 12 year is a single malt Scotch whiskey. Easy drinking, though was a bit bland compared to the others.

Nose: Floral and honey.
Palate: Spice which can be a bit harsh at first, but then the citrus develops a bit, with notes of green apple. 
Finish: Subtly sweet with some vanilla and honey.

Glenlivet 12 Year

The Glenlivet is also a single-malt 12 year and definitely my favorite. It's not surprising that this is one of the top, if not the best, selling whiskeys in the world. 

Nose: Herbal with some sweetness. 
Palate: Light spice and a bit of smoke, with vanilla and brown sugar continuously progressing. 
Finish: Smooth, long, warm, with malt that lingers.

The Macallan 12 Year 

Those of you that watch Lost know about The Macallan. Yes, there's also a "The" in front of this  drink as well. This is a single malt Scotch that coats the tongue and allows the flavors to develop.

Nose: Sweet notes of honey, light maple, and caramel. 
Palate: Hints of spice, with light smokiness and fruit coming through.
Finish: Smooth.

Now whiskey isn't limited to the Old World. Japan actually makes some fine whiskey as well. There are around 10 distilleries in Japan, with Suntory being the most predominant and well-known for its high rating. And Japan's foray into whiskey production came with Suntory's single malt, Yamazaki.

The Yamazaki 12 Year

When I visited the GF's family over Christmas, her dad gifted me this bottle, which was much appreciated. He's just starting to get into whiskey himself, so started his journey off with Glenlivet 12. But back to the Yamazaki. I can definitely see why it had such a high rating and took the world by surprise. 

Nose: Sweet note of cinnamon, apple, and sugar. 
Palate: Medium bodied, honey, and vanilla with apple coming through.
Finish: Pleasant with some more fruit lingering.

In the opinion of this self-professed whiskey ingenue, this quintet of 12 years was a nice introduction to what is possible with aged whiskey. I would say that The Macallan is definitely impressive for a 12 year. But Glenlivet is my favorite due to its great balance of light spice and smoke, which eventually lends itself to a subtle sweetness that continuously develops. Great anyday drinking.

So consider a whiskey to end your Thanksgiving meal - I know that it will be my drink of choice to end the night.

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