The Binny's tasting panel has sorted through this year's potential Hand Picked Scotch Selections. Look forward to what's coming.

   When we taste samples for our Hand Picked bourbon collection, we focus on continuity, on choosing consistent expressions that are recognizable. We taste in silence, and then notes to find the best examples of each profile.

   With Scotch, we throw that out the window. We just look for the best. The best whisky Scotland has to offer, the best whisky for your dollar. We talk as we taste and get chattier as we go. This time we tasted samples in pairs, though the numbers weren't perfect. One of our biggest worries is pouring carefully so everybody could get a taste from the tiny, 100mL sample bottles.

   Remember, these are just one guy's notes.



   Before starting, Brett flagged the Bunnahabhain 2001 and Tamdhu 2004 as good candidates for replacing last year's phenomenal Glenburgie, that is, they both offer the one-two punch of sherried and affordable. The Signatory lineup is a good mix varied woods, varied distillers, a range of prices. 


Tamdhu 2004 Butt First Fill #5441
   Brown sugar on the nose, dry leaves, and really spirited. Buttery and heavy on the palate, broad with a little raisin fruit. Interesting, at least.

Bunnahbhain 2001 Butt #1763
   This one starts out with a similar nose, but heavier on the brown sugar. Also buttery on the palate, with broad caramel notes. The wood is right out front. This is good, focused if not complex.


Mortlach 1991 First Fill Butt (sherry?) #7716
   Heavy baking spice, leading into honey. Really pleasant fruit and warm weight. Big and heavy.

Mortlach 1998 Bourbon Hogshead #1790
   Thin by comparison. High alcohol even shows on the nose, along with light spice and clove and grass. Interesting on the palate in a sour, bitter way. It seems youthful, especially for its age, with notes like grass and green apple. Even better with water, which allows some light spice through.


Linkwood 1995 Hogshead #649
   Baking spice and butterscotch on the nose. Feisty alcohol. Seems young, especially considering its age. On the palate, apples and spice apple pie before going in the oven? Good breadth, maintains freshness. Should end up being quite reasonably priced at cask strength.

Linkwood 1998 Hogshead #5123
   Green, bright. Light sweetness, almost cotton candy. Three years younger than the '95, much less complex.


Caperdonich 1994 Hogshead #96518
   Light on the nose, with the slightest smoke (?) and toasted sugar like creme brulee. Light salinity, light sweetness. Understated and complex, but easy to miss if you're not paying attention. I like this one.

Glenlossie 1992 Hogshead #3329
   Light and sweet like the Caperdonich, but less complex with more sweetness. My vote goes to the '94 Caperdonich. Both of these turn out to be pretty reasonably priced, so I'm pulling for them, but I don't think the group likes them as much as I do.


Laphroaig 1995 #52
   Heavier than much of what we're tasting (of course, right?). Some apple and light smoke on the nose. The palate wow! It's big, complex: peaches, cocoa ... and then I find out that it would retail at $120. That's a mood killer.

Laphroaig 2000 #3599
   Fresh and clean, with less smoke than I expected on the nose. Peppery, smoky, dry, light citrus on a palate that swells and builds into cocoa and herbs and a cool dusty quality. This is really good, also expensive. 


Bunnahabhain 1997 Peated
   Somehow I missed the peated Bunnahabhain in the shuffle. The consensus on the '97: Huge peat on the nose, with a delicate spirit underneath. Buttery, briney, grilled meat and smoke, all balanced with a touch of sweetness and bright cinnamon.

Imperial 1995
   I missed this one, too, which was unfortunate. They tell me it has a light peanut butter nose, with light, soft fruit (pears and apples), finishing with a little bit of baking spice. Sounds nice. Maybe I'll get to try it someday?


Gordon & Macphail

   Heading into the Gordon & Macphail samples, we talked about the heavy price tag that many of these selections pull. It's a bummer, but good to know. It's easy to fall in love before realizing it's out of your league. All of the G&M samples were aged in bourbon barrels.


Tomatin 2001 3143 (29)
   Understated, even flat. Lightly spicy with some clove. This leads into a bright and salinic, focused spirit with noticable acidity, like citrus.

Tomatin 2001 3141 (28)
   Also understated, also falls a little flat. This time, it's more autumnal. Heavier on the palate, with some brown sugar and heat. The better of the two. These would be fairly priced, if a little simple.


Mortlach 1998 Cask 14422 #8224
   Thin, light, even waxy. Butterscotch on the nose, and hints of strawberry. Lightly salty on the palate, with lots of wood and lemon. Kinda cool.

Mortlach 1998 Cask #14421 #8223
   Thinner, lighter up front. Faint butterscotch, but also more spirited. More broad and salty on the palate. If we don't buy either Mortlach as an exclusive cask, we'll at least suggest that the importer could get either.


Craigallachie 1993 #8225
   Another bright one on the nose, with tea leaf and some toffee. Tart on the palate, underripe, bitter. Maybe somebody else from the tasting panel wants offer a dissenting opinion. To me, a big letdown.

Glenburgie 1996 #8222
   Spicy! Similar in style, but more focused on the nose. Pleasant citrus fruit, light spice, finishing bitter.


Glenallachie 1999 #8219
   Light. Bright. Lightly spicy. Some bright sugar and citrus lemon drops? Spirited.

Glenallachie 1999 #8218
   Surprisingly complex. On the nose, meat ham. Strange at first, but pulls me in. Light smoke, green pepper, earthy. Salinic on the palate, with moss and ham. This manages to have real complexity without being overty 'peaty.' Unique.


Old Pulteney 1998 Cask #1056 Sample #8227
   Pleasantly herbal on the nose, showing light clove and even fennel. The wood is immediate on the palate, over brightly sweet fruit. Vague?

Old Pulteney 1998 Cask #1055 Sample #8226
   The smoky notes from the Glenallachie '99 seems to have carried over in my glass. Under the leftover smoke is a light, mellow spirit. Woody and hot, this lacks the sweet fruit of the other Old Pulteney sample. Both samples are considerably more expensive than regular distiller bottlings. Again, if Binny's doesn't buy this, the importer may pick some up, so it might be available.


Scapa 2000 Cask #1074 Sample #8220
   Nice, light and underripe. Mellow, buttery with some spice.

Scapa 2000 Cask #1079 Sample #8221
   Sort of flat? Mellow, sweet. The peach and grape fruit is muddled. High-toned, very little spice.