Being a boozehound, I tend to gravitate toward booze related shows. The one I’m currently watching is Drops of God, which is available for viewing on Apple TV+. It’s an adaptation of a wine manga of the same title created by Tadashi Agi. Both the show and manga revolve around two people who are competing to inherit the wine collection of (what I think is) their version of Robert Parker.
If you’re an oenophile, I recommend you read the manga. The manga mainly shares the basics of wine and how varied it is. I can’t claim the show will stick to this, as only a few episodes have aired. The manga has 44 volumes. Despite the topic, they’re not serious all the time. The authors do a great job at inserting comedic relief from time to time. The first few volumes were translated into English and have hard copies available, while the rest of the English translated volumes were only made available at Kindle. (Side note: It seems like there’s a manga for everything doesn’t it? There’s even one on cocktails and bartending called Bartender.)
As of writing this, only four episodes have aired. One of the lines in these episodes is what prompted this article. The context is that the main character was having a hard time tasting wine. So, the person assigned to train the main character said, “see past the alcohol.”
“See past the alcohol.” Being snarky, I would also add “and the brand.” It’s such a simple concept, but it’s something the majority doesn’t do. Just look at how a large part of the market still shows trepidation when drinking a spirit that’s bottled at 40% ABV. Another sign of this is still them wanting to drink a dram on the rocks to taste less of the alcohol.
As for not being able to see past the brand: consumers tend to choose what to drink not depending on the liquid’s quality,, but rather on how popular or familiar it is. Which is saddening, as it’s usually educated folk who get duped by the excessive embellishment of brands. What’s sadder is that relying on marketing prevents people from developing and building confidence in their senses.
Just sticking to Scotch for this instance, I think the awareness of these factors both get Scotch drinkers into exploring the less popular, but growing, independent bottler (IB) scene. However, it also prevents them from exploring the less popular distilleries. What do I mean? The SKUs of IBs that move well are single malts bottled from the popular distilleries that the big brands have. Regardless of the IB’s name, it’s single malts from distilleries such as Caol Ila, Laphroaig, Ardbeg, and Macallan that still sell out the fastest. Yes, you’re likely to be buying a superior yet more affordable product, mostly due to being bottled at a higher ABV, being non-chill filtered and having no added coloring. Plus, there’s way less marketing costs being slapped on them.
However, have you asked yourself how much more are you really exploring by sticking to distilleries you already know of? How different are Caol Ilas bottled by different IBs and aged in similar casks going to be from each other? Don’t the distillery bottlings of independent companies deserve to get more love as well?
Despite the growing market, a lot of single malts like Glencadam, Loch Lomond, Tomatin, and Glen Scotia still pretty much fly under the radar. Yes, the world is huge and their limited stocks are holding back their being readily available. So, not everyone will be at fault for this. But the Malt’s readership are mostly from mature markets. You’re already taking a chance on IBs since a lot of them are single casks. So why not also take a chance on lesser-known brands that will have present quality and a consistent product?
Doing my best not to be hypocrite, here I am trying single malts from distilleries that I haven’t really given much attention to. I think this will be my first review of a distillery bottling Glen Scotia, as I’ve only reviewed a SMWS bottling of it. I’ve also not yet reviewed anything from Tomatin. It’s a good thing that there are 30ml samples of these available locally, so I don’t need to commit to a bottle.
Glen Scotia 15 – Review
46% ABV. £68.95 from The Whisky Exchange.
On the nose: I immediately get a long and bold aroma of maltiness. It comes with a short burst of apples, smoke, and something acidic that reminds me of vomit. After these, is another layer of maltiness, but it’s lighter. Behind it are light and brief aromas of cantaloupe, strawberry, leather, honey, unpeeled nuts, lemons, and bananas. At the end is more of that vomit aroma.
In the mouth: The notes here aren’t as coherent as on the nose. There’s more heat here as well. I still get a lot of malt. But it’s like some hot sauce was spilt on it due to the non-existent heat on the nose. Behind the heat are medium and brief tastes of honey, toffee, caramel, vanilla, lemon-flavored dessert, stone fruit jam and frozen grapes.
I love the distillery DNA of Glen Scotia. It’s not as meaty as worm tub single malts like Mortlach, or dirty single malts like Clynelish. I’d describe it as somewhat like a more expressive Highland single malt. There’s a good balance of maltiness and fruitiness. Plus, the distillery doesn’t try to hide the distillery DNA behind ex-sherry casks. In my opinion, had this been owned by Diageo, it would mostly end up as a blending malt, similar to what they do with Blair Athol.
I love the nose on this. It’s just expressive enough, and also well-balanced. Sadly, the nose and mouth of this aren’t the same. Had the notes in the mouth been as cohesive and lacking of heat as on the nose, I’d have given this an 8. Still, it’s a pretty good single malt. I look forward to exploring more Glen Scotia expressions.
Tomatin Legacy – Review
43% ABV. £33.25 from The Whisky Exchange.
On the nose: I get lots of tropical fruits. There are light but sharp and brief aromas of green kiwi, coconut sugar syrup, Juicy Fruit gum, oak, coconut husk, sapodilla, cantaloupe with skin, red dragon fruit and citrus peel.
In the mouth: I get light tastes of coconut sugar syrup, oak, honey, tangy sweet citrus, diluted Juicy Fruit gum, hints of lychee and ginger candy.
This is more expressive on the nose than in the mouth, but I find that the aromas are too tightly packed and too brief. A less experienced drinker will find it hard to pick apart the different aromas. More experienced drinkers may also have a hard time dissecting this if in a less familiar or a rowdy setting.
Also, while the marketing for this says it’s a blend of virgin oak and ex-bourbon casks, I think the percentage of virgin oak in this is minimal. The virgin oak profile isn’t really expressive. I think Tomatin partially employed this technique just to gain a better quality control of their aging program.
This lighter style of Scotch isn’t my thing anymore. But, from an objective perspective, this is a pretty good single malt. I think this is a style of single malt Scotch that fans of Kavalan, Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Ancnoc, and Tullibardine will like. Also, note that this is cheaper than a 40% Glenlivet.
Images courtesy of The Whisky Exchange.
What! John, you say this reminds you of vomit (and other better smelling stuff) on the nose. Then you are disappointed that the mouth doesn’t quite match up to the nose?
Hi Ravi, I try to be as objective as I can be for tasting notes. Fermentation can produce a certain acid that smells and/or tastes like vomit. I’m a fan of funk. So even if this comes out in the mouth, I’ll take it as it is. How I’ll score it will depend on how intense or how well it meshes with the other flavors.
I know you tend to be sensitive to sulphur which in my opinion can have a faint sicky smell.
Is it possibly a hint of that? Do Glen Scotia use ex sherry for their 15?
I know the double cask can have a faint off smell just as the bottles been opened with some being stronger than others.
Hi Mark, I;m not sure what you mean by sticky. But if it means sticky as in it lingers than I agree.
All online sources I’ve seen say the Scotia 15 only uses ex-bourbon casks.
I haven’t had the Double Cask so I can’t comment on it.
Sicky as in smells like sick
Lost in translation maybe.
Ah. My bad. I read sicky as sticky. Maybe the sicky smell youre mentioning is the vomit note?
I would say so.