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Whisk(e)y Revi(e)ws: BalDonach 12 year old

Matt here with my second review of obscure whisk(e)ys from around the world.  At the behest of my fellow Maltese Falcons (hello chaps!) I returned to Kourosh’s Booze-aar for another obscure bottle of sweet Scottish bliss, and like manna from heaven, it fell to me at the low price of $56.19:  BalDonach 12 year old.

BalDonach trail: A trail as old as time

BalDonach is one of the smallest and oldest distilleries in Scotland.  Nestled in the scenic Campbelltown hills, BalDonach is Gaelic for “terrain that’s rough and hilly”.  It is served by the Donachie river (think estuary-meets-curb-side-run-off) that provides some of the salty aspects of this dram, and only receives direct sunlight three days of the week (that’s all they can afford.)  A couple of miles down the hill from the distillery, the Donachie runs into Loch Donach, which is renowned for its blind para-sailing club, “The Look-Outs”.

Loch Donach in all its Loch-ness

Anyhow, on to the review.

Nose:  Have you ever taken a piece of chalk in your hand, and crushed it up into your fist, and then gone for a bike ride in the rain, stopped for a churro from 7-11, wiped the cinnamon onto your pants, and then fired off a firecracker?  It’s kind of like that, but you’re drunk.

Taste:  Kourosh (see previous review) gets another pat on the back for this one.  Smoke is lightly present, as are toffee, coffee, salty-licorice, and caramelized green banana, like on your uncle’s breath at Christmas.  The coffee flavour makes way for black tea as it sits for a while, much like your uncle does after Christmas dinner.

Can’t beat Beets!

Finish:  If you could describe a flavour as Ernest Hemingway meets Natalie Imbruglia, that would be it.  But you can’t, obviously, so I’d have to say it’s like someone whispered a secret about horses to you inside a cardboard factory over lunch, and the guy next to you is eating spaghetti and pickled beets.

I’ve heard the 18 year old expression focuses more on the nutmeg/nuts/eggs aspect, so I’ll probably try that one as a comparison, but overall I’m quite impressed, BalDonach.  Quite impressed.

Final score, 89/100.

See you next time,


Whisk(e)y Revi(e)ws: Glengrechnie 16 Distiller’s Edition

Hello fellow obscure whiskophiles,

Kourosh's Place

It’s the only place to go for saffron when you’re shopping for a ’97 Saturn.

Matt here with my first review of obscure whisk(e)ys from around the world.  I thought I would start off with the newest addition to my collection, the Glengrechnie 16yo “Distiller’s Edition” single malt.  I picked up a bottle from the Iranian grocer in the used car district near my house a couple of weeks ago.  Apparently, the mild-mannered Kourosh (not his real name), spice-and-meat-merchant by day, runs an illegal liquor store out of his back door by night.  Quelle surprise!!!  He “imports” a lot of spirits from around the world (in bags of lentils and chickpeas) that we cannot otherwise get here in Alberta, because they are not approved by the AGLC for whatever reason.  I was lucky enough to be tipped off to this hidden booze-aar by the local Scotch club I belong to (thanks again, fellow Maltese Falcons).

I decided to try the Glengrechnie 16 because it is not readily available in Canada (or the US for that matter) and because it comes from one of the smallest and oldest distilleries in all of Scotland.  Glengrechnie is a Lowland Scotch by name only, as I discovered, and tasted nothing like the Auchentoshen drams I’ve been accustomed to in my childhood.  The distillery (I had to literally look them up in the phone book to get this information) sits adjacent to the Grechnie river, which is so small you won’t find it on any maps.  It comes from the Gaelic word for “rough, hilly terrain”.  I won’t bore you with the full history that was recounted to me while I racked up a dreadful long distance bill, but suffice to say, there are more than a few bodies buried on the property, and the distillery has changed hands more than a few times.  Many suggest some of the former owners still have an “influence” on the taste of the whisky.  Perhaps this is why they are not licensed to sell on this continent.

Anyhow, on to the review.

Nose:  On first pass, I was sure that my grandmother had come back from the dead, hadn’t showered for 12 days, and brought me a basket of moldy figs and congealed hamster blood.  But in a good way.  After a few minutes of opening up, some of the more lichen-y notes became apparent, blue and black lichen specifically.  There is also a faint hint of door-to-door vacuum salesman aftershave, like if one stopped by your house around 3:30 in the afternoon on a muggy day.  Apples and caramel (but certainly not a caramel apple) also present.

Glengrechnie distillery

Could you imagine if your name was Glen and you lived in Scotland? You’d go nuts.

Taste:  Oh.  My.  Kourosh (again, likely not his real name) you have a return customer on your hands.  Ok.  So it starts off medium smoke, but it’s not a real peaty smoke, it’s like when your friend pees on a campfire to put it out, but before that he had been drinking nothing but caramel milkshakes for 3 days.  It’s hard to explain properly.  Mandrake root, wasn’t expecting that…. frozen peach fuzz shavings… almost a metallic flavour, but more vibrant, like if you lick a tuning fork…  some minor medicinal notes, but not herbal, more of an over-the-counter kind of thing going on…  It’s long and fairly narrow, and oily, like my neighbor’s driveway.  I’m guessing aged in sherry casks that were washed up on shore, having been discarded in the oceans around northern Spain.

Finish:  I’m left with what I can best describe as a ghostly oral reminder of mid-1860’s Glasgow, that one of my dogs seems to find very interesting.  The other doesn’t seem to care for it.

All in all, I’m very impressed with my first taste of obscure Scotch, and I will be visiting Kourosh again quite soon.  I will have to make sure I don’t accidentally call him Kourosh, because again, it is not his real name.  It is made up.

Final score, 89/100.

See you next time,