Auchentoshan 12 Review


Auchentoshan 12 Review

Distillery: Auchentoshan
Expression: Auchentoshan 12
Category: Single Malt Scotch
Region: Lowlands
ABV: 40%

After so many forays into Islay and the Highlands, tis’ occasionally nice to spends a bit of time with a Lowlands whisky for change of pace.

And in our book Auchentoshan is right there at the front of the Lowlands pack.

Established in 1800, the Gaelic name Auchentoshan translates into “the corner of the field.” 
The distillery is rumored to have been started by Irish settlers, which would help to explain why Auchentoshan is one of the few Scotches which triple-distills its whiskies.

It’s been dubbed “the breakfast whisky” due to its sweet and light character.

Auchentoshan whiskies are typically matured in bourbon, sherry, and fine French wine casks which adds even more sweetness to the equation.

So, you’re not going to find any traces of peat or smokiness here — just plenty of nutty/chocolate/caramel flavoring that makes for some pleasant sipping.

On the nose, the Auchentoshan 12 is rather bland and offers little more than a few weak lemon-citrus and floral notes.

Yet on the palate, you’re immediately hit with a pretty powerful one-two combination of nuttiness and American oak which belies Auchentoshan’s usual gentle nature present in its other expressions.

Yet the dram eventually returns to form as the oak splinters off into vanilla creaminess and the initial harshness smooths out as it approaches the finish line.

Although we’re quite big fans of the triple pot still distillation approached used in many Irish whiskies, some of the flavor seems to have leaked away in the case of this particular Auchentoshan expression.

It’s certainly not a bad whisky by any stretch, but it’s a little on the dull side.

Those in search of a smoother and fuller lowland should probably pony up the extra cash and opt for the Auchentoshan’s Three Wood instead.

Auchentoshan 12 Tasting Notes

Color:  Golden Honey
Nose: Weak floral and lemon notes
Palate: Heavy on almond and oak, some coffee as well
Finish: Fairly long and drifting with some spicy ginger and additional nuttiness.

Score 80 / 100

Tomatin 18 Review


Tomatin 18 Review

Distillery: Tomatin
Expression: Tomatin 18
Category: Single Malt Scotch
Region: Highland
ABV: 46%

Tomatin was once the largest malt distillery in Scotland, but for years it remained under the radar because 80% of its output was designated for blended whiskies.

As of late, they have refocused their efforts on single malt offerings and the results have been quite impressive.

The Tomatin 18 is a non-chill filtered whisky that is aged in refill (bourbon) American oak casks and finished in Spanish Oloroso sherry casks.

Make no bones about it; the Tomatin 18 is a supremely elegant whisky.

The taste of clean, sulfur-free sherry is present throughout and it’s one of the main highlight of this whisky.

Although the nose is rather inviting, it only hints at that the magic that’s to come.

It hits your palate with a firework display of dried fruits, cinnamon, vanilla, oak, and plenty of other surprises begin to sparkle.

The finish remains a complex interplay of sherry, oak, and dried fruits and it is long and satisfying.

After a small initial tasting, I poured an extra long dram and spent the next 30 minutes or so slowly sipping away and trying to pick out the lovely variety of notes in this whisky.

The Tomatin 18 is a fine addition to any whisky collection and an excellent introduction to older more mature whiskies.

Plus, it’s reasonably priced to boot.

In fact, James Bond should consider ditching his beloved Vesper martini and more recently, Heineken, (I mean seriously, how much did they have to pay for that product placement?) and consider making Tomatin 18 (served neat) his go-to drink of choice.

Tomatin 18 Tasting Notes

Color:  Harvest amber
Nose: Oak, vanilla, fresh sherry and nutmeg
Palate: Extreme elegance. There’s lots going on here.
Vanilla, cinnamon, dates, apple, oak, plus a small tinge of peat to keep things interesting.
Finish: Quite suave and invigorating finish that never gets out of line.

Score 91 / 100

Redbreast 15 Review


Redbreast 15 Review

Distillery: Redbreast
Expression: Redbreast 15
Category: Single Pot Still

ABV: 46

Along with the delectable Green Spot Whiskey, Redbreast is one of the few remaining single pot still whiskeys available.

Named after the red-breasted fly catcher, Redbreast is produced by Middleton distilleries in Cork County, Ireland.


Where is my royalty check, bitch?

Through a stroke of good luck we managed to get our mitts upon on a few bottles of Redbreast 15 (no small feat in Taiwan.)

To celebrate the occasion, I invited a few maniacal-malt-marauders over for a good ole’ fashioned tasting session.

After sampling a few single malts I casually slid the Redbreast across the bar.

Truth be told, some of these Scotch snobs nearly blew a head gasket when they glimpsed an Irish invader in their presence.

The tension was so palpable, you cut could it with a knife.

They were not amused.

“An Irish whiskey, huh? This ought to be interesting!”
“Is this really necessary? We’ve got plenty of good Scotches to last the evening.”
“Ah, feck!”
“How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?”

Yet through all the chaos, the Redbreast 15 remained undaunted.

Silently it stood it’s ground, the bottle glistening like a gem in the moonlit night.

I tried pouring a hearty dram for all but  the skeptical Scotch-o-philes shushed me with a wave of their fingers to indicate that a wee portion was more than enough.

Yet upon first sip, their Haggus lovin’ taste buds immediately perked up and started singing a different tune.

The first fellow told me it twas the finest “whiskey” …  AND “whisky” he EVER tasted.
Meanwhile, another lad started humming the opening bars of “Danny Boy” under his breath.
Still another cradled his empty glass and began begging like an orphaned street urchin from Oliver Twist.
“Please sir, may I have another?”

Needless to say, I was happy to oblige and we all enjoyed several “mighty drams” before calling it a night.

So what makes this whiskey so special?

For starters, the triple distillation helps smooth out the rough edges while the unmalted barley adds additional depth and flavor.

Redbreast has a wonderful mouthfeel to it that’s simultaneously oily and creamy and engulfs your entire palate.

It tantalizes every taste bud with a complex medley of mellow fruitiness and spice and it leaves behind a toasted almond and chocolate aftertaste.

At 46% this is an extremely well-balanced and complex whiskey with all notes intermingling and coexisting in perfect harmony.

If you happen to spot a Redbreast 15 in the wild, no matter which continent you may be on, be sure to swoop in and pick it up before it flies away.

Redbreast 15 Tasting Notes

Nose: Toasted wood, various spices, chocolate fudge, orange peel
Palate: Nutella, caramel, ripe fruits, hints of sherry, oily and creamy mouthfeel
Finish: Smooth yet powerful. Wonderful end to a masterful concerto.

Score: 92 / 100

King Robert II Blended Scotch Whisky Review

King Robert II Blended Whisky

King Robert II Blended Scotch Review

Distillery: Ian Macleod Distillery
Expression: King Robert II Blended Scotch
Category: Blended Scotch
ABV: 40%

King Robert II Blended Scotch Whisky is produced by the Ian Macleod Distillery.

It’s available in 40 markets worldwide and reportedly sells  a total of 500,000 cases annually.

Make no bones about it — this is a budget whisky for budget shoppers.

It’s conveniently available in several sizes including 20cl., 35cl., 70cl.*, 75cl.* and 1 liter.

Although there are certainly a few noble malts employed in King Robert II’s ranks, most of his men are young, grainy mercenaries.

Half-shaven, inexperienced, and reckless they lead the way, by storming the castle walls and recklessly setting your palate ablaze.

No subtlety. No strategy. No complexity.

Just burn baby burn in the harshest sense.

Yet soon the exuberance of youth comes crashing down to Earth and the attack putters out.

Defeated and dejected, the finish is a long, quite  era of peace that is mildly comforting but lacks excitement and flavor.

I could see this one coming in handy in the former Soviet Union if one were waiting on a bread line in the dead of winter.

But unless you consider yourself a malt masochists, this one’s strictly a mixer.

King Robert II Blended Scotch Tasting Notes

Color: Light Bronze
Nose:  Old hay, carnation flowers.
Palate:   Young grains on parade. A substantial weight to it though. A lone sliver of honey tries to assert itself but it’s quickly trampled underfoot.
Finish:   Some tobacco. Long, warm, and smooth. The finish is the highlight but it’s still rather bland and flavorless.

Score 66 / 100

Dun Bheagan 15 Review


Dun Bheagan 15 Review

Distillery:  Dhun Bheagan (Independent Bottler)
Expression: Dun Bheagan 15
Category: Single Malt Scotch
Region: Highland
ABV: 43%

The Dun Bheagan 15 is a non-chill filtered limited edition release.

It’s been aged in Hogshead wood, which seems to give the whisky a more pleasant and tender oak taste.

I came into this tasting knowing little about Dun Bheagan offerings, but after taking a few sips I was quite impressed.

From start to finish it’s an extremely well balanced whisky with fantastic delivery.

The oak provides a solid baseline that allows the sweeter notes to mingle and dance across your palate.

The oaky, sweet, and nutty notes all play together without anyone trying to steal the show.

Dun Bheagan 15 Tasting Notes

Color: Pinkish Copper
Nose:  Baked apple pie with cinnamon and vanilla frosting
Palate: Juicy Korean pear, toasted almonds, a slight tropical tang
Finish:  Long and dreamy

Score 89 / 100

Jack Daniels Sinatra Select: A Frank Review


Jack Daniels Sinatra Select

Distillery: Jack Daniels
Expression: Sinatra Select
Category: Tennessee Whiskey
Region: Tennessee, USA
ABV: 45%


Frank Sinatra was a sharp fella known for his impeccable taste.

So it may come as a surprise that his favorite whiskey in the world was Jack Daniels Old No. 7 and not some wildly expensive limited edition 50-year old single malt.

The Chairman of the Board even had his own pet names for his beloved spirit calling it “nectar of the gods” and “gasoline” for its ability to keep his engine roaring through the show.

When he was laid to rest someone slipped a JD-filled flask into his coffin so he could swig some booze en route to that great gig in the sky.

In cooperation with his estate, Jack Daniels decided to pay tribute to “Old Blue Eyes” by giving him his own JD special expression: Sinatra Select.

To provide some extra flavor and a bit of flair special “Sinatra Barrels” were employed in the maturation process. The Sinatra barrels had small grooves carved on the inside of the cask to expose the spirit to more wood thus providing more spice and oak flavor.

Sinatra Wood

We got a chance to sample this baby and flip through the packaging courtesy of the folks at Ounce, Taipei.

It’s certainly one of the boldest expression of Jack Daniels available.

At 90 proof, it’s the same strength that Old No. 7 was back in the days when Frankie was drinking it.

The Packaging

In a word: outstanding …

Sinatra Select comes in a sharp-looking black box which contains a nifty little booklet about Frank’s career and his 50-year love affair with Jack Daniels.

The iconic Jack Daniels bottle got a little makeover as well. It’s sleeker and has an orange (Frank’s favorite color) icon of a fedora on the neck.

For the time being, Sinatra is only available at select duty-free shops and a few high-end retailers, but it may be more widely distributed in the near future.


My first inclination was to give Sinatra Select “the business” for being a bit over-hyped and overpriced.

But at the end of the day, Sinatra Select is one of the finest Jack Daniels expressions available and it’s presented in a really well-crafted package.

If you’re a curious Jack Daniels lover who’s comfortable dropping US$150 on a bottle, go ahead and give it a go. But if you’re on a budget, you might take a pass and opt for the Single Barrel or Silver Select which offer better value.

Either way, you can start spreading the news that Jack Daniels Sinatra Select is a fine whiskey and a must-have collector’s item for all of his fans.

Jack Daniels Sinatra Select Tasting Notes

Nose: Damp wood, berries and ripe McIntosh apples floating in on the Summer Wind.
Palate: Potent oak meets spice like Strangers in the Night. Chewy banana notes and hints of cherry.
Finish: Long, dry and warming finish that will get under your skin but doesn’t overheat the taste buds.

Score: 89 / 100

Poacher Valley Blended Scotch Whisky

Poacher Valley Blended Scottish Whisky

Poacher Valley Whisky Review

Distillery:  Poacher Valley (Independent Bottler)
Expression: Poacher Valley
Category: Blended Scotch
ABV: 60%

Poacher Valley might be the most under-the-radar whisky we’ve ever reviewed.

I spotted it for the first (and only time) while whisky window shopping at Will’s Wine Bar.

(Try saying that fast five times)

The fact that it was 60% ABV and available at a measly NT$550 (US$16.50) immediately piqued my interest.

However, a rather thorough background search revealed zero information on the brand.

No reviews
No website
Absolutely nada

It didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out that this was a cheap blend designed solely for the Asian market.

The English description on the back was um … eh …. well have a look for yourself.

Poachers Valley Whisky

Say what? (Click to Enlarge)

The kind folks at Will’s were nice enough to let me sample a dram of it anyway.

Considering all the intangibles it was quite clear from the get-go that I was dealing with an wild and unruly beast.

While the nose was far from fragrant, it was better than expected.

However, on the palate, it was a quick descent into Hades.

You get a tiny bit of oak and a whole lotta’ heat.

Despite what the label says, it’s hard to call Poacher a whisky.

It’s more like a vodka spiked with plenty of caramel coloring to give the impression of age.

The finish is long, painful, and memorable, as in you’ll never forget the day you walked through a minefield and had both of your legs blown off.

The crowd at Will’s DID find a use for it though:

Mixing it with plenty of CC Lemon and wine to create some sort of Sangria from Hell.

Despite the low rating, the Poacher Valley may come in handy if you’re trying to go Old School and revisit your college days.

Mixing some kinda monstrosity with purple Kool-Aid probably wouldn’t be too far off the mark.


But if  you find yourself praying to the porcelain gods after streaking through the streets like Frank the Tank, don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Poacher Valley Whisky Tasting Notes

Color: Dark Gold
Nose: Heavy whiff of ethanol with caramel.
Palate: Oak and a whole lotta’ heat. Tastes like vodka.
Finish: Long, hot, and painful. Memorable in a bad way.

Score: 49 / 100

The Black Grouse Review


The Black Grouse Review

Distillery:  Famous Grouse
Expression: Black Grouse
Category: Blended Scotch
Region: Perth, Scotland
ABV: 40%

Twas a rainy, mild-typhoon August day in Taiwan when I decided to give the Black Grouse a whirl.

After weeks of dancing with flavorful Irish whiskeys and sweet bourbons I started jonesin’ for something a bit different.

But for the sake of Whisky Jerk readers and to satisfy my own sneaking curiosity I settled on The Black Grouse: a peaty version of the Famous Grouse.

Truth be told, I had recently sampled the original Grouse and while it was fine (in an entry-level-blend kinda way) I wasn’t particularly impressed.

However I would soon discover that the Black Grouse is a different beast entirely.

It was developed back in 2007 to satisfy the peaty taste buds of the Swedish market and soon after launched worldwide.

The nose of the Black Grouse offers a hint of the bonfire to come with a delightful  sultana sweetness interlude.

On the palate it gets a bit spicy with some milk chocolate and a clean sheet of vanilla icing to sweeten the pot.

The finish is long and contains a nice bit of peatiness …. but it’s not a full on assault.

It’s like a contained, surgical peat bombing campaign on the outskirts of your tongue.

While it’s not as nearly as raging, powerful or complex as an Islay single malt by any stretch, this is a fantastic peaty-teaser blend that you can pick up at one helluva low price.

For bartenders, if you’re looking to experiment with some smoky cocktail ideas consider making The Black Grouse your go-to bottle for the early stages of you drink’s evolution.

Then upgrade to an Islay big dog if required.

In some cases, it might not be necessary.

Black Grouse Tasting Notes

Color: Dark Gold
Nose: Peat, Sultanas, and Dried Apricot.
Palate: Light peat, milk chocolate, with a sugary sheet of vanilla cake icing leading the way.
Finish: Long and peaty but contained. Well orchestrated to remain smooth.

Score 81 / 100

Jameson Gold Reserve Review

Jameson Gold Reserve

Jameson Gold Reserve Review

Distillery: Jameson
Expression: Gold Reserve
Category: Blended Whiskey
Region: Ireland
ABV: 43%

The Gold Reserve is a blend of  three aged whiskies that were aged in American Virgin Oak (the only Jameson that uses this method), bourbon, and sherry casks.

Although this seems as if it could lead to a balanced whiskey with lots of little nuances to pick up, the imperialist American Oak bullies and overpowers its allies, leading to a bland, woody whisky drinking experience.

It pales in comparison to the outstanding Jameson 12 Special Reserve which is more complex at a significantly lower price.

The Jameson Gold Reserve is just too peppery and oaky with nothing extraordinary to liven things up.

Very drinkable albeit, just nothing spectacular for all the hype.

Jameson Gold Reserve
When you consider the price point, overall quality of the whiskey, and the trick box packaging (as pictured above, purchased at the duty-free shop in Bangkok), which gives you the illusion you’re getting a much larger bottle, I can’t think of a more fitting video than the one below.

Jameson Gold Reserve Tasting Notes

Nose:  Citrus rind, caramel, ethyl alcohol
Palate:  Very light and peppery with overtones of oak
Finish:  Quick and dry. Mellow and ghost-like.  Lacks fullness and flavor

Score 81 / 100

Tullamore D.E.W. 12 Special Reserve Review



Tullamore D.E.W. 12 Special Reserve

Distillery: Tullamore D.E.W. 
Expression: 12 Special Reserve
Blended Whiskey

The Tullamore D.E.W. is an intriguing triple distilled blend of the three types of Irish whiskies, matured in bourbon and sherry casks for at least 12 years.

However, the pot still character takes center stage.

It’s quite a leap up in quality from the regular Tullamore D.E.W. and it certainly represents itself nicely in the NT$1,000 (US$30) range.

It took home the World Whiskies Award for Best Irish Whiskey 12 Years and Under in 2011 and after a few sips it’s easy to see why.

If you’re growing tired of smoked-out peaty scotches, give this dessert whiskey a go as and treat your taste buds to something new.

Tullamore D.E.W. 12 Special Reserve 
Tasting Notes

Nose:  Pot-still meets bourbon
Palate:  Creamy texture with some vanilla, sherry, and chocolate hazelnut.
Finish:  Medium-length with a slight burn and hints of almond.

Score 87/ 100

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