Monday, February 08, 2010
Scotch Whisky Review: McCelland's Single Malt Speyside
So, tonight I'm tasting a single malt scotch that differs considerably from most of the single malts I've recently tasted. McClelland's apparently bottles a range of single malts representing regions: Lowland, Islay, Highland, and Speyside. It is also unusual in that it has no age statement, and goes here in Michigan for under $25 a bottle. That makes it a phenomenal deal in a field of beverages where the more famous bottlings usually go for more than twice that.
When I first took a taste of this, I could have sworn I was drinking an Irish whisky -- it's that different. The color in the glass is a pale, grassy gold, but with a slightly darker tinge, almost reddish. It makes me wonder if it was aged in a sherry cask. It clings to the glass like an Irish whisky, with a texture that is oily, thick, and almost resinous.
On the nose, there is a nice nice vanilla and maltiness, with a little bit of the oat flavor that I think Jim Murray calls "grist," but toasted, not raw as in some of the Irish whiskies. I detect some very light peat smoke. It has those "creamy" Irish notes: banana, and a dried fruit note: raisins, figs, and possibly dried cherry. Again, I suspect a possible sherry influence, but it would be brief.
In the mouth, there is a glutinous feel, a light burn in the back of the throat, and a custard-like creaminess that is very satisfying. Add a little water to this malt, which I recommend, and some of the drier flavors come forward. There is definitely a pronounced peppermint note, and also a medicinal menthol note; that might be part of what I'm imagining is a hint of peat. It's almost like a menthol cigarette without the tobacco. That makes it sound unpleasant, but the mint and menthol are actually quite enjoyable, like a mint julep or the mint leaves in a Mojito cocktail.
McClelland's web page suggests that the nose has "mint, menthol and freshly cut pine. Traces of fine dark chocolate and a lingering sweet malt aroma." I think that's fair. Pine? Maybe... but that makes me think of Pine-Sol cleaner, not this mild and refreshing whisky. The chocolate note is faint, not like it is in the Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban, but present. They describe the palate as having "nougat" -- sure, that's malty and sweet and nutty -- and "brazil and hazelnut." My palate is not quite trained enough to have picked those out of thin air, but yes, those oily tree nut notes really are there, both of them. They also call it "floral," which is also accurate -- maybe just a touch of carnation or rose, but not lavender?
If I've made it sound like this whisky has big robust flavors, I'm doing it a disservice -- the flavors and aromas are actually rather mild and delicate, and reward careful sipping.
I'm going to call this one 8.5. That places it neck and neck with the Tyrconnell, beating Knappogue Castle at 8.0. I'd say it is actually slightly more refined than the Tyrconnell, which has that unusual cheesy umami note, but I'm not giving out quarter-points. It is free of unpleasant notes and has quite a few intriguing flavors. This light and sweet style is not for everyone, but if you like Irish whisky, or you prefer the lighter Scotch whiskies, I'm guessing you'll enjoy this one quite a bit. I will be keeping an eye out for McClelland's other offerings.
Update: I've seen a lot of speculation online about the actual source of this whisky. Could it possibly be an 8-year-old Macallan? I'd have to do a direct comparison. Clearly, more research is called for!