Had the opportunity to check in at a Scotch Malt Whisky Society partner bar, Boyd’s Jig and Reel in Knoxville, TN. While not as imposing as Jack Rose in Washington, DC, Boyd’s still boasts close to 800 different bottles of spirits, most of them of the brown ilk.
I opted for three, self-created flights. The first, a set of four Bruichladdich 21-year old Whisky, each in a different wood. The lineup was as follows:
The straight-up 21 is finished in Oloroso Sherry casks and the combination of the wood, with the extended maturation really makes for an intense experience. The spirit is full-bodied and creamy with wisps of smoke and salty brine. An endless finish evolves on the palate with layers of complexity.
Bruichladdich 21 PX
Cuvee 407: PX (Pedro Ximenez Sherry Cask)
This Cuvee 407 has been further matured in rare Jerez butts that for decades held unctuous and ultra-rich sherry, made from the Moorish Pedro Ximenez grape. Once harvested, the grapes are shriveled to a raisin-like state under the baking sun of Andalucia to concentrate the sugars, resulting in a sweet wine of legendary viscosity and intensity.
For centuries, PX casks have been revered by whisky distillers for the Madeira cake richness they bring to maturing spirit; and our casks, extracted from the Fernando de Castilla Solera, are of the very highest provenance. This Bruichladdich Cuvee 407 is an indulgent, licentious whisky, a whisky for when the air is redolent of old leather, Cuban tobacco and cedarwood. A whisky to lose oneself in – an indulgent dream of a dram.
My favorite of the flight. Rich and sweet with intense butterscotch and coffee notes. The echoing hints of PX were clearly evident and added an interesting dimension to the palate. Endless on the finish with traces of vanilla and smoke.
Bruichladdich 21 Eroica
Cuvee 640: Eroica (Cognac Cask)
Cuvee 640 has been further matured in Limousin oak casks from Aquitaine that for many years contained one of the great eaux de vie. These casks tannins have added new layers of rich complexity to our own elegant, floral Bruichladdich. This is a spirit to give pause, to reflect on. A spirit as much for the mind as for the palate.
This profound, challenging whisky jealously guards its secrets from the uninitiated, but to those with patience and curiosity it reveals layer upon layer of subtle nuance, from Turkish Delight and wild strawberry, to darker notes of dark chocolate orange and espresso. To be enjoyed at the end of a great meal or a great day, alone or with a small cadre of like-minded Argonauts.
Of the four, the Eroica was my least favorite. More refined than the other three, the Eroica had milk chocolate notes with a surprisingly short finish. As the note above alludes, this Whisky seems a bit shy and needs lots of coaxing to bring out the beauty of the spirit.
Bruichladdich 21 La Berenice
Cuvee 382: La Berenice (Sauternes/Barsac Cask)
This American-oak-aged Bruichladdich has been further matured in casks that previously contained the lush sweet white wines of two of the greatest chateaux of Barsac and Sauternes. Casks that have held wine from grapes grown to honeyed intensity from some of the most blessed plots of Bordeaux now meet classic Bruichladdich spirit that has slumbered in our dank, dark loch-side warehouses for two decades. Elegant vanilla from the white oak, the honeyed fruit of the wine, the toasted malt of the the barley, the floral elegance of the spirit produced by our long-necked Victorian stills and the fresh tang of salt laden Atlantic winds here produce a sensuous, decadent and flirtatious whisky, with more than a hint of forbidden fruit.
The La Berenice was my second favorite of the flight. It was richer in character than the straight 21, with a honeyed quality and loads of creamy notes.
The second flight was a set of Scotch Malt Whisky Society bottles of varying age. The lineup was as follows:
44.65 (24-year-old Craigellachie)
Third favorite in the flight. Smoky and sweet with layers of spice. A strong peaty character with more smoke on the finish. Aged in refilled Ex-Bourbon hogsheads, this Speyside malt seemed a bit shy and needed lots of coaxing to show its best. Despite being bottled at 52.4%, the spirit was surprisingly tame.
95.2 (18-year-old Auchroisk)
Second favorite in the flight. Sweet and creamy on the nose with a little heat on the palate. Woody with a persistent sweetness. Aged in second fill Ex-Bourbon hogsheads, this Speyside malt also needed a bit of coaxing to show its best. Being bottled at 53.2% explains the heat on the palate.
37.75 (18-year-old Cragganmore)
My favorite of the flight. Soft and perfumed on the nose with vanilla hints. Smooth and sweet with a creamy, almost buttery finish. Absolutely beautiful. Aged in second fill Ex-Sauternes hogsheads, this Speyside malt is pure heaven. Despite being bottled at 55.1%, there is no trace of heat on the palate, just lush, creamy goodness.
28.3 (25-year-old Tullibardine)
My least favorite of the flight. Grassy and floral on the nose with a trace of honey, smoke and wood. Sweet on the palate with vanilla and butterscotch. The odd juxtaposition of the toffee-like sweetness against the green, grassy nose detracted. Aged in second fill Ex-Sauternes hogsheads, this Highland malt is tough to love. Being bottled at 53.3% surprisingly did not hurt the palate.
The third flight was a mix that the barkeep, Justin helped create (Betsy wanted to put this flight together and she did an admirable job!). The lineup was as follows:
Amrut Raw Cask (Blackadder)
Blackadder is a Scottish bottler, which specializes in unusual distilleries and/or orphaned casks. The Amrut is an interesting experience. Sweet and herbaceous in the nose with hints of anise and cumin. Rich on the palate, candied with echoing spiciness of cumin and curry. Strong iodine/briny finish. Aged in second fill Ex-Bourbon hogsheads, this single malt Whisky is made in Bangalore India. No age statement could be found, but the Raw Cask designation means that the spirit is bottled, unfiltered at cask strength. In this case, cask strength is 61.4% and it shows powerful heat on the palate. Despite the heat, the Whisky is remarkably complex and easy to drink with a few drops of spring water.
Auchentoshan 24-year-old (Blackadder)
My favorite of the flight. Woody with a strong vanilla and toffee nose. Intense on the palate, hot with incredible richness. Complex with a creamy note and loads of spice and pepper. Unusual burnt rubber on the finish, but it did not detract. Aged in second fill Ex-Bourbon hogsheads, this Lowland malt is superb, perhaps one of the best bottles of Whisky I have ever had. As with the Amrut, the Auchentoshan is a Raw Cask, bottled at 55%.
35.142 (21-year-old Glen Moray)
My second favorite of the flight. Sweet with strong vanilla notes. Smooth on the palate with a light spiciness and continued vanilla and butterscotch. Long finish with layers of complexity. Aged in first fill toasted hogsheads, this Speyside malt is perhaps one of the most underrated distillers in Scotland. Consistent and pleasant are the hallmarks of this producer.
9.9 (26-year-old Glen Grant)
My least favorite of the flight. Soft with a spicy and floral nose. Sweet and candied on the palate with continued spiciness and a briny, seaside finish. Aged in first fill Ex-Bourbon hogsheads, this Speyside malt is interesting, but undistinguished. Being bottled at 55.1%, it was surprising how little heat was present on the palate.
A shout out to our two barkeeps: Justin and Vanessa. We were cosseted and pampered during our stay at the bar, which made for an incredibly pleasant experience!