Before we return to our meanderings across England, here is a list of the new whiskies we tried while in Edinburgh and our tasting notes.
This was our third time in Edinburgh, and on every trip we have ended each day by stopping by the Scotch Whisky Heritage Center at the top of the Royal Mile to taste some new whisky. The tastes are quite reasonable--usually between £2-£4. They don't have every expression of every distiller, but they have probably 300 single malts including some that are quite rare. The bartenders are friendly and very knowledgeable and, while they seem to spend most of their time saying the same thing over and over while serving up the 4 part tasting that comes with the cheesy barrel tour upstairs, when we express an interest and some basic knowledge they have always been happy to teach us more and point us to personal favorites. It's a fine tradition that I look forward to carrying on when next we visit.
The * denotes a favorite. "Flora & Fauna" are, as near as I can tell, select bottlings from small distilleries that are not much exported. I am trying to find a better definition but in a rare moment, the internet has completely failed me, as has Michael Jackson (no, not him, silly. Him.) In any event, in our now rather broad experience they are always exceptionally interesting and usually quite delicious malts.
Edradour 1995, Bordeaux Wood Finish
Rough finish, medicinal.
*Dalwhinnie Distiller's Edition, finished in Oloroso casks
Toffeeish with vanilla and honey. Light peatiness.
Caol Ila Distiller's Edition, Muscatel cask
Fresh sea air aromas and a sweet, fruity finish. A little smoky. Rich intensity.
Bowmore 16 y.o. Limited Edition 1990
Medicinal, not very pleasant. Very aggressive.
Smokehead (blended, a share from another patron)
Lisa says: Nondescript
Theresa says: Slightly peaty, alright.
Dufftown 15 y.o. Flora & Fauna
A little fruity, not too sweet, light and very smooth.
Glendullan 12 y.o. Flora & Fauna
Light and very smooth with a creamy, lingering finish.
*Mortlach 16 y.o. Flora & Fauna
Lots of character, smooth with a little smoke, a little fruit and a little sherry.
*Glenlivet Archive 21 y.o.
Creamy, smooth, sweet.
Auchentoshan Triple Wood
T says "Meh. Light and not very complex."
L says "A little sharp, but not in a bad way. Grassy."
*Benriach 15 y.o. Dark Rum Finish
Smooth, definitely taste the sweetness of the rum. Caramel nose.
Benriach 16 y.o.
A little smoky, fruity, hints of toffee. Honey nose.
Benriach 15 y.o. Tawny Port
Seemed sharp sometimes and smooth others. Caramel.
>>>Tangent: There were maybe 10 different expressions of Benriach, a Speyside, at the Scotch Heritage Whisky Center. For the first few days, we avoided them completely because, although located on the top shelf, they have a distinctly bottom-shelf-at-7-11 look to them; loud, garish colors and maybe even a little sparkly gold to kick up the cheesy sunset behind the mountain on the label. But one day, chatting up the bartender, we asked for his favorites and he pointed us to Benriach. These people need some new marketing, is all I have to say. Good whisky, ungodly bad labels.
*Balblair 1989 Vintage
Banana nose, long smooth finish. Really good for sipping.
Clynelish Distiller's Edition
Grassy finish, fruity nose
Very sweet, full taste. Raisiny. Velvet finish.
**Glenmorangie 15 y.o. Sauternes Finish
Well-rounded, marzipan, but can definitely taste the Sauternes. Amazing.
>>>Note: not to be confused with,
Glenmorangie Nectar D'Or (also finished in Sauternes casks)
Very light, fruity nose. A bit sharp. Very good, but nothin' compared to the Sauternes finish.
*Ardbeg Renaissance (Yes, the namesake of the cow)
Very smoky, but not overpowering. Citrus finish. Best with a splash of water.
>>>Note: this is a fine example of the bartenders at the Center providing great guidance. I have always avoided Ardbeg because I have always heard it described as "The peatiest of the Islay malts," followed by the answer to my question, "Yes, peatier than Laphroig." Peaty is usually used synonymously with "smoky" and Laphroig tastes like chewing on coal to me, so I ruled Ardbeg right out. But one day our bartender was waxing so rhapsodic about Ardbeg in general and this expression in particular that I figured what the hay. What a lovely surprise. It is quite smoky, but not so ashy as Laphroig, and the citrus and high notes make an effective balance.
Old Pulteney 21 y.o.
Very caramel nose. Slight pear finish. Slightly harsh.
Auchroisk 10 y.o. Flora & Fauna
Nose is strong and slightly fruity. Very smooth taste, lingering finish of apple, hint of butterscotch.
Longmorn 16 y.o. Flora & Fauna
Cherry and almond overtones. Smooth.
Inchgower 14 y.o. Flora & Fauna
*Mannochmore 12 y.o. Flora & Fauna
Hint of peat. Smooth and mellow.
Peaty tang, lingering pleasant smoky flavor.
*Tomintoul 12 y.o. Oloroso Finish
Very smooth and caramelly.
*Dailuaine 16 y.o. Flora & Fauna
Fruity with a smoky finish and a full body.
Rosebank Flora & Fauna
(we tried this at The Hind's Head before dinner at the Fat Duck, but forgot to make notes. I know I liked it, but I'm afraid the memory was overshadowed by the amazing dinner.)