The Colorado rocky mountain high,
Maybe it's because I just returned from the Rockies, but I'm feeling pure Rocky Mountain High all over this glass. I just poured myself a dram of Single Cask Nation's first Glen Moray bottling, a 12 year old, first fill bourbon barrel expression that was one of only 148 bottles from the cask. This is my second review* of a Nation whisky so far. Yesterday I wrote about the whisky that started it all, a 12yo Arran finished for 4 years in a pinot noir cask. I'm going through all of their original (now sold out) expressions until I make my way up to their current line-up.
*[Regarding reviews: unless I say otherwise in the write-up, I only review stuff that I like** or that leaves a deep impression on me. I'll pen my notes on origin, craftsmanship, and tasting, and I'll even tell you how much I seem to like it and compare it to what I already know. My "reviews" are more like a journal in that respect. Nevertheless, I'm still happy to tell you what I think about the usual stuff.]
**[Which means you should totally seek out the drinks you read about in this section; again, unless I am warning you otherwise.]
This is my only real experience with a Glen Moray, so it's hard for me to know what I'm supposed to expect on the nose. Like many Speyside whiskies, the origin doesn't really help here as "Speyside" the style is often quite different from "Speyside" the specific distillery. This particular Glen Moray cask presents more like a highland whisky, all light and buttery oaked, not entirely unlike Glenmorangie's Astar. The light, heathery sweetness makes this drink quite palatable for whisky newcomers, or when you're trying to show off the many unique facets of Scotch whisky style. I've even had great success drizzling this whisky on vanilla froyo and peach custard (yes, you really should).
Of course, it's not all Scotch you're getting on the nose. That first fill bourbon cask leaves its mark with delicious buttery sourdough and rye spices. Don't confuse the rye spice for an oak spice, it's definitely a high-rye bourbon imprint we're dealing with here. The oak leaves its mark with a cool mountain lake of vanilla. Underneath the bakery we have hints of highland flowery shrubs and lichens, with a warm field of granite evaporating off an early summer rain.
My mouth is already watering. I've added water to open up the whisky's nose a bit, but this is one of those rare whiskies that you can actually sip at cask strength (56.1% ABV) and not worry about the alcohol burn: "neat and sweet." I love letting this one sit on the palate for a while.
The sweetness jumps out at you in the form of pure, tangy honeysuckle honey, not that sugary processed honey you buy in the little plastic bears. There may even be a honeycomb waxiness here. The rye spices come marching in, and I'm starting to wonder if I sipped a bourbon for a moment. Then the fruity malt shows up and I'm back in the highlands. This is just a delicious little dream of a dram, but I'm not done yet. I have an experiment in mind.
I'm going to add an equal dose of Breckenridge Bitters to my glass and see what happens. It seems everyone is making their version of a "bitters" these days (which are basically just infused vodkas unworthy of names like "citron" and "razz"), but Breckenridge has something special on their hands. As legend would have it, their master distiller personally hikes up above 8,000 ft (which Breckenridge, the "world's highest distillery," basically is anyway) and gathers the herbal ingredients for this highland infusion. There's something distinctly "Colorado" on the nose of these bitters (if you've ever been hiking up near tree line, you'll recognize the aromas immediately), but here's the bottom line: it is basically an American Drambuie! It even looks the part.
The combination of Breckenridge Bitters and this buttered up Scotch is superb! I'd be tempted to muddle in some fruit and put it all on ice for a tipple. I think Breckenridge imagined the potential of pairing their bitters with their bourbon as being an Americanization of the Rusty Nail. It works beautifully, I can attest to that, but then I almost prefer the marriage on display here. A Scotch barley malt, matured in American bourbon barrels, mixed with American bitters not unlike its close Scottish cousin, and matured in Scottish terroir. The Pond is shrinking by the hour.
Tasting is a synesthetic experience. In this blog, every whisky gets a song - one that describes, suits, and evokes. I review any whisky that suits my fancy, and some that don't. I don't give scores. You'll know whether it's a winner or loser when we peel back its mysteries and start putting pen to paper.