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Talisker 18
Glen Grant 21
Glen Scotia 17
Ledaig 15
Springbank 21
Lagavulin 16
Highland Park 18
Laphroaig 18
Clynelish 14
Balblair 1989
Glengoyne 17
Fettercairn 26

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Blind pours ready for the tasting

Brother Randall hosted a blind tasting featuring six (it’s been a loooooong time) expressions. His choice were fun and bold (more on that in second) but his most impactful contribution may be the addition he brought to the blind tasting format: the 30 expression landscape, within which the 6 actual expression lay. Here’s “the 30”:

Balvenie 12 Single Barrel
Balvenie 12 Doublewood
Glenrothes Bourbon Cask Reserve
Glenrothes Vintage Reserve
Glenrothes Peated Cask Reserve Islay Cask Finished Speyside Malt
Edradour 10
Edradour 12 Caledonia
Macallan 10
Macallan 12
Macallan Double Cask
Glenfiddich 10
Glenfiddich 14 Bourbon Barrel Reserve
Glenfiddich Experimental Series Release # 1 Finished in IPA Cask
Laphroig 10
Laphroig Triple Wood
Laphroig 18
Laphroig Quarter Cask
Tomatin 12
Tomatin 18
Tomatin Cu Bocan Lightly Peated
Glenkinchie 12
Glenkinchie Distiller’s Edition
Ardbeg 10
Ardbeg Kelpie
Ardbeg Uigeadail
Lagavulin 8
Lagavulin 16
Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition
Oban 14
Oban Distiller’s Edition
Oban Little Bay

Now, notwithstanding the fact that we’re not sure anyone can tell the difference between The Macallan 10 and The Macallan 12 this landscape proved inspired and at times treacherous. I really like having “the 30” and it made identifying the expressions much more feasible rather than the traditional completely industry-wide open ended format. I definitely don’t think it made it too easy either. After all I had the best score of 2 out of 6 as I identified The Macallan 12 and the Lagavulin entry. For the record here were the expressions in presentation order, with my guess, followed by the actual expression:

1) My guess: Glenfiddich 14 Bourbon Barrel Reserve; the right answer: Ardbeg Kelpie
2) My guess: Tomatin 12; the right answer: Oban Little Bay
3) My guess: Balvenie 12; Glenrothes Bourbon Cask Reserve
4) My guess: The Macallan 12; the right answer: The Macallan 12
5) My guess: Edradour Caldonia; the right answer: Tomatin Cu Bocan
6) My guess: Lagavulin ‘D’; the right answer: Lagavulin 8

After the pours. It was fun to do 6 expressions again in one tasting (it’s probably been 15 years).

More generosity from Brother Bluff who brought his unopened Ardbeg 21 *retails for over $600 at Master of Malt* to an unofficial (homemade) sushi pairing tasting at the home of Brother Bop. Demonstrating his status as a model ambassador of single malts, Bluff shows the proper way to transport Ardbeg 21.

Ardbeg 21 buckled in for the ride home

I thought I’d share this article from one of our featured links, scotchwhisky.com, listing out the exciting list of distilleries set to open in 2017.

In June, 2016 Brother Bluff opened his spirit armoire to an unofficial tasting for all those able to attend. By no means representing the full extent of the wonder contained therein, his generosity for this tasting focused on his largesse of new and unusual expressions which, outside of perhaps Ardbeg Alligator, were completely new experiences for all in attendance. Bluff may very well be the premiere single malt purchaser and consumer in the Chicago area when perspective, experience, creativity, dedication, and personal means are all factored together.

Ardbeg Alligator

Ardbeg Dark Cove

Balblair 1999

Craigduff 32 Signatory Cask Strength Collection

Longrow 18

Lagavulin Islay Jazz Festival

Lavagulin 8

Macallan Whisky Maker’s Edition

Finlaggan Old Reserve Islay Single Malt

Wolfburn Initial Release (3 yo)

The Duncan Taylor Octave Collection

Circled back to Delmonico in The Palazzo on my recent Vegas excursion. I wanted to have the seared ahi with the bone marrow Bearnaise (wasn’t on the menu, had Rambler’s bbq salmon over andouille hash; also amazing) and, of course, I wanted another crack at their “book of whisky”. It took me about 20 minutes, given the scope of their book, but I decided to try an expression from a distillery I hadn’t had before and one caught my eye: MacDuff. MacDuff is interesting to me because they sometimes release expressions under the brand “Glen Deveron”, which I find quite unique in the industry, yet here was a MacDuff branded expression:


MacDuff 14, Vintage 1998, Duncan Taylor “Octave”

The specific expression was an independent bottling from Duncan Taylor’s “Octave Collection”. An “octave” is a cask that is 1/8th the size of a standard cask and contains approximately 50 litres of whisky providing a higher wood to spirit contact ratio developing more character.

The 1998 Vintage is cask strength yet I didn’t even notice. What was remarkable to me was the light orange in the nose and the palate and, in short, that the nose, the palate, and the finish were all tremendous. Any one of those is a welcome experience. Getting two of three is the sign of something special. But, to get all three made this a truly memorable single malt. I enjoyed the dram pre-dinner along with my beef carpaccio which turned out to be an inspired pairing.

The GREAT news is this expression is widely available including at all Binny’s. To all of the upcoming Fear ‘an Tighs please, PLEASE consider putting this expression (and possibly other Octaves) in your tasting lineup!