Category Archives: What’s In My Decanter?

The fancy stuff. Doesn’t have to mean expensive, just don’t you dare add Coca Cola!!

Scotchy, scotch, scotch. Down into my belly.

You know what’s more pretentious than a wine snob that will only drink classified growths? A scotch drinker. I’m kidding (no, I’m not).

I’ve had a number of die-hard scotch clients in my career and I have never been able to convert a single one to a different beverage. And not only is it pointless to suggest a different type of whisk(e)y to a scotch drinker, it usually is a waste of breath to mention switching from a blended scotch to single malt and vice versa. You also better find out if ice cubes are tolerated or considered sacrelige because a wrong guess could mean having a new hole torn in a sensitive area. What is it that is so crutial about this bevvy? Hell, if I know, but here’s what I can tell you:

Scotch whisky (notice the absence of the ‘e’) is a malt or grain whisky distilled, aged a minimum of three years, and bottled in Scotland.  That’s the simple part.ey-region-map

There are five main whisky producing regions in Scotland;
Highlands, Lowlands, Speyside, Campbeltown, and Islay, each with a distinct style and sense of terroir, generally defined by how potently the peat smoke is sensed. Peat is prehistoric compost that is cut, dried, and smoked to add flavor to the malt during the drying process. It adds a unique rustic, earthy nuance to the whisky. Some folks love it and those that don’t avoid scotch.

EDC2A9 Peat burning at the Laphroaig Whisky Distillery on the island of Islay, Scotland
Peat burning at the Laphroaig Whisky Distillery on the island of Islay, Scotland. Photo credit Wine Enthusiast

In each of these regions we break down, even further, into two main types of scotch – blended and single malt. This difference is the question I am asked most often and usually serves to confuse more than it answers, so I’m gonna keep it really cut and dry here. If you have more questions, please send me a message or comment and I can develop.

  • A blended scotch whisky is a blend of various whiskies from multiple batches and distilleries. There is not a distillery named J&B or Johnnie Walker or Buchanan. All of these are different brand names owned by Diageo that employs Master Blenders to combine seperate batches of whisky to arrive at consistent “house” styles.
  • A single malt scotch whisky is also a blend of various whiskies from multiple batches, but originating from one single distillery. The distilleries employ their own Master Distillers that typically double as the Master Blender. It doesn’t matter if the whisky was aged in European or American oak, finished in Pomerol barrels, or if the some of the blend was aged 3 years and some 18. If it comes from one distillery (The Glenlivet, Ardberg, or Dalmore, for example) it may be called a single malt.

To avoid proving how much of an outsider I really am, here’s where I’ll be shuttin me geggie as far as technical aspects go.

ABRACHAN Triple Oaked Blended Malt Scotch Whisky (>€15) 15027417_909875919144897_5331911791707177156_n

For the past year I’ve picked up on a little industry buzz about the store brand blended scotch for Lidl (supermarket chain). I’d read it had blown away the bigger name brands at several European competitions. As a wine judge I know better than to get caught up in that type of spin, but I thought that for 15 euros, I wouldn’t be risking much.

The label reads that it is a rich, silky, and smooth blend of single malts (trying to sound more chic than reality without using false claims) and that the use of bourban barrels, oloroso sherry butts, and tawny port ‘cigars’ have added a complexity to the blend.

The first thing I noticed is that the color is really dark – like something that should have been aged at least 18 years. giphy

Yeah, they’re adding caramel coloring. It happens more often than you’d think (what, you thought Señors Cuervo and Bacardi really age all that “gold” tequila and rum? hahaha).15032833_909875909144898_1601003585466097459_n

The nose furthered my suspicions when the bouquet offered no wood scent – bourban, sherry or otherwise. I did pick up on some black cherry notes that were pleasant and a hint of smoke.

The mouthfeel was not what I would describe as rich, silky, and smooth. Not at all. It was actually rather thin and had a short finish, indicitive of very young spirits. The alcohol burned – and not in the good way. The flavors were orange peel, candied black cherry, sea salt, earth.

I decided that this would be a mixing scotch, so I added some Coca Cola to finish the glass.  I had a headache within two hours. Get what you pay for, dammit.

Not a scotch. Not even a bourban. Still rocks.

So, no, this will not be poured into my spirits decanter because 1) it does not merit the honor and 2) I already have BULLEIT Rye Whiskey in there.


Domaine Chiroulet Vieil Armagnac Resérve 15 ans

For the first installment of “What’s in My Decanter” I was in the mood for Armagnac.

Never heard of it? You’re not alone if you live outside of France, so here is a brief overview:

Brandy is a spirit distilled from a fruit wine. Armagnac and Cognac are both brandies made from white grape wines. The longer a spirit sits in the barrel, the more smooth and complex it becomes, but once it is ‘in-bottle’ the evolution stops. Armagnac differs from Cognac in a couple of ways:

  1. Cognac comes from the village of Cognac in Charente and Armagnac comes from the village of Armagnac in Gascony. This is going to effect the terrior (a sense of place detected in the finished product). The climate and soil are different in the towns so the types of grapes used and the minerality will often be noticable.
  2. Cognac is distilled in pot stills twice where Armagnac is distilled in column stills one time. The more you distill, the more the impurities are removed. Why wouldn’t one want to remove all impurities if possible? Because that’s also where the flavor comes from, otherwise we’d have vodka.

    A pot still at Pierre Ferrand Cognac. Ars, France
    A pot still at Pierre Ferrand Cognac. Ars, France
  3. Cognac is always blended from multiple barrels and (or) vintages to attain a consistant flavor. Everytime Kanye picks up a bottle of Hennessey he knows what to expect. Armagnac artisans tend to prefer creating unique profiles and will often bottle a selection as a vintage (single harvest year). This is why there is less produced and why you are less likely to find a huge selection of Armagnac brands outside of France.

Domaine Chiroulet is situated on the highest point of Armagnac with a south-facing vineyard exposure. They produce both red and white wines and armagnac. Find more information and photos by clicking the link.


Domaine Chiroulet Resérve 15 ans 30-50€

Tasting Notes: The color is a dark amber with orange reflects. On the nose, I picked out orange peel and caramel notes. It has a medium bodied mouth-feel with the perfect amount of heat to tickle your nose on the first sip and the flavors were of toffee, medium roast coffee beans and vanilla. The finish was a long, five seconds.

IMG_2617  <<Still figuring out how to upload videos. Just click the link.

I prefer to drink armagnac out of a champagne flute to take advantage of the delicate nose. And it’s always better paired with a book and a chimney fire!!

3 out of 5 stars