Key West Whiskey Review

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Category : whiskey review

The Great Scotch Pass of 2011 – Samples Reviewed

I reviewed 3 samples sent to me via Reddit, by Texacer. Below are my scores ; however, they are listed order of what I would actually purchase and not the standard high to low layout. Aberlour was the star of the show—bar none. It wins simply based on its overall quality verses price. Second prize goes to: Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition – 1991. And bringing up third place is Talisker D.E.

They are all wonderful, worthy drams. See below for my scoring and notes:





Aberlour 12 (an affordable gem) [ 88 points]

The nose has bits of toffee, brown sugar, caramel, and delicate notes of fruit—apple being the dominate. Burnt sugar wafts up from its depths at random moments making this whiskey quite intriguing and complex. Aberlour 12 carries all the distinct presence of bourbon on the nose without the overly sweet harshness that often comes with such a Kentucky dram.

Aberlour is a complex and layered flavor that initially greets the pallet with honey that ultimately transitions to a finish of fruit–specifically apple. The body contains very light notes of caramel. The mouth feel is warm and velvety. A delicate spiciness rolls about on the tongue that lasts far after the initial flavors have long departed the pallet. A slight bit (and I mean slight bit) of sweetness long lingers as well; however, I wish it was a touch less. I am sure the older version of this dram rectifies this situation.

This was the first time I had ever tasted Aberlour 12 and I have to say that I am impressed. The balance on this dram is perfect and that’s saying something for a younger whiskey. Each part of this dram transitions with perfect balance from one note to the next. The sweet never overpowers and there are almost none of the astringent notes many young drams suffer from.
This, in many ways, reminds me of older Highland Park.

Aberlour 12 makes the list for a “must have” for the whiskey shelf. It was definitely my favorite of the list overall if you take price into account. Some places offer this bottle for as little as $35.00 online. In the midst of a scotch craze it is almost impossible to find anything worthy under the $50.00 mark.
If I were rating this scotch solely on quality based on price I would score it at a 93; however, I am going to be a little less biased and rate it blind at 88. This score would have been a 90 had the sweeter notes on the finish been somewhat muted.


Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition – 1991 [90 points]


The nose on this one is an Islay monster – A campfire by the sea; notes of hickory and honey are eclipsed by Strong notes of smoky barbecue and brine that combine to a wonderful nosing experience—the best of the lot, hands down.

The initial flavor is a smoky bombshell. Hickory smoke dominates with notes of campfire ash. The body is something more akin to your standard Islay experience. Honey wells up and transitions into flavors of oatmeal cookie. Notes of sea spray layer into a moody and unique Islay experience—a bit of sipping is required to decipher the complexity of this firecracker. The finish dovetails nicely with a bit of prickling heat on the tongue. Traces of honey and spice bred linger on the pallet.

Compared side by side, the Lagavulin 16 is outclassed to say the least. The nose of the Lagavulin 16 is downright anemic in comparison. The notes of hickory are still present on the 16; however, it has much less complexity (especially on the body and finish) than the D.E.

I very much enjoy the D.E. far above the 16; however, I still think (within the Laga line) I would prefer the 12 year old Cask Strength. That being said, the D.E. is a worthy edition to any collection and I would not shy away from it.


Talisker D.E. [89 Points]


The nose is soft and quite muted; I detect only faint hints of honey and fresh bakery bread. Notes of ripe melon also interplay, and form the softest of the aromatic notes.

This is a very pleasant diversion from the standard Talisker. Honey dominates the
opening notes as a perfect velvety mouth-feel play across the tongue. Very soft citrus fruit switch gears and reveal the prickle and heat of a cask strength beasty. A soft peppery finish of the classic Talisker is then revealed–a wonderful dram! This is rich full bodied Talisker that outshines the standard release. I like this quite a bit and would love to see it on my shelf.

Birthday Drammage

Birthdays… After 30, birthdays serve little purpose; however, this year I decided to go out in style. I contacted Binnys (Thank you Brett) and ordered three birth year bottles. That is to say, three bottles cask in 1974.  I had always wanted to taste a birth year bottle, and this was my very first exploration into that realm.

I am (for the most part) a lover of young and fiery peated scotches and these older bottles are quite a radical departure from that norm. I usually do not love older drams; however, I was quite surprised with these bottles.

MACALLAN – 1974 – 30 year (Scotts Selection) 92 Points

Nose- Sweet notes hints of oak and honey, and oatmeal cookie.

(Ammie’s Nosing notes) Lemon, very sweet – leaning to lemonade, Apricot, and brown sugar. Light and fruity and notes of wine.

This was the stunner of the lot. Very light on the palette—notes of oak that quickly transition into a body with hints of apricot. As quickly as these notes appear they vanish in a silky soft finish of light oatmeal cookie. This is the finest old Macallan I have ever tasted. If one could drink velvet, this would be it.  As soon as the light magical flavors pass you just want another dram.

This was one of the finest 30 something scotches I have ever had. On my palette, older scotches taste somehow flat. The oak often overpowers, and (to me) the whisky falls flat. This is a perfect example of what older scotches can become.

GLEN FARCLAS – 1974 – 31 year 88 Points

Nose- Burnt sugar (brown sugar)

(Ammie’s Nosing notes) fresh saw dust, green apple.

This is an incredibly sweet and complex dram. The body is a mixture of honey and plum that transition to a finish ending in a puff of smoke. This dram is incredibly hard to pin down as each time I have tasted it, I have noted something different. The flavors come on strong, and take your taste buds for quite a wild ride that ends in a Smokey flash.

This is a classic Farclas, and if you are inclined to like sweeter drams (older bourbons, Ben Riach) you will be truly happy with this bottle in your collection.

For me, that initial burst of sweetness was just a touch overpowering. If I could have muted this one trait I would have rated it in the 90’s.

TOMATIN – 1974 – 30 year Classic Cask 89 Points

Nose- oatmeal cookie, standard “old dram” notes.

(Ammie’s Nosing notes) Green apple candies

This is a delicate dram with lights notes of honey that stay right on to the finish. In many a way it reminds me of the delicate composition of an Oban; however, unlike the Oban, the finish has quite a punch. Just when you think this dram is gone, it comes back with a lovely spike of heat that is comprised of faint traces of pepper and hoppy goodness.  The notes of hops stay around for some time after the other flavors are long gone.

The finish is the really saving grace on this sleeper. It is an excellent older dram for an excellent price.