There’s a liquor retailer in the UK called Master of Malt, and despite its name, it sells more than just whisk(e)y. In the summer of 2010, they started a program called Drinks by the Dram, wherein they’ll sell you little sample bottles of many of their products–from low-end to high. The samples are 3cl/30ml, or a little over an ounce.
The goal is to provide a try-before-you-buy program, allowing consumers to buy small drams at reasonable prices, so that they may sample unique and hard-to-find bottlings without paying possibly hundreds of dollars for something they may not like.
Someone from MoM contacted me a couple of weeks ago, and offered to send me a package of them if I was interested in covering this program. Wanting to learn more about Irish and Scotch whiskies, I agreed. So just before Christmas, I got these:
Edradour 1998 Sassicaia
Highland malt. Bottled at cask strength, 56.9%. Distilled and matured in 1998, bottled in 2009.
[Edradour 1998 Sassicaia - Straight from the Cask sample; £4.45 for 30ml, or about $7.35 US]
Sassicaia is an Italian wine, so this means it’s aged in wine barrels to pick up some of that flavor. Fewer than 500 bottles of this were released.
Color: A pale amber with reddish undertones.
Nose: Floral, spicy, sweet but not cloying.
Tasting notes: Well-balanced scotch. Hot, in keeping with its barrel strength. Drying. Notes of chocolate and stone fruit, the latter probably from the wine barrel. The stone fruit reminds me a bit of cherry. At this strength, it definitely needs some water. Moderately creamy texture. Subtle smoke.
Final word: At the price point (£41.97, or about $70 US) for a 500-ml bottle, there are better scotches on the market.
Johnnie Walker Blue
Nuff said. Does this require a review? I think they’re including it mainly to show that their samplers cover a range of whisk(e)y styles, including high-end blends.
[Johnnie Walker Blue Label sample; £8.45 for 30ml, or about $13.95 US]
Master of Malt 12 Year Old Lowland
I know next to nothing about this. It’s from something called Master of Malt’s Secret Bottlings Series, which bottles scotches from undisclosed distilleries.
[Master of Malt 12 Year Old Lowland sample; £3.45 for 30ml, or about $5.75 US]
Lowland malt, 40% abv.
Nose: Walnut, pecan. Butterscotch, toffee, honey.
Tasting notes: Candied nuts, hint of smoke, honey, malt. Fresh and light, with hints of lemon and grass. Moderately bitter on finish.
Final word: Tasty example of Lowlands style. At £34.95 (or about $58 US) for 700ml, might make a nice present for a scotch lover who’s a completest, or at the opposite end of the scale, for someone fairly new to scotch, since the Lowlands style tends to appeal to beginners.
Tyrconnell 10 Year Old Sherry Cask Finish
Single-malt Irish whiskey is a category that seems to be little-known among US consumers. Shame, if this one’s any indication.
[Tyrconnell 10 Year Old Sherry Cask Finish sample; £3.95 for 30ml; or about $6.50 US]
Single-malt Irish whiskey, 46% abv.
Color: Copper, dark amber.
Nose: Malt, hint of spice, caramel, chocolate, white pepper. Nose opens up over time.
Tasting notes: Not winey, despite the sherry finish, but there is a hint of stone fruit and sherry-nuttiness, possibly from the cask. Dried fruit–apricot, maybe. Rich, well-balanced.
Final word: Delicious. I’d drink this often, if I could find and afford it. I want to linger over the precious grams that remain in my glass.
Master of Malt offers this for £49.14 for 700ml, or about $81 US.
Greenore 15 Year Old
Single-grain Irish whiskey, 43% abv.
[Greenore 15 Year Old sample; £4.45 for 30ml; or about $7.35 US]
Color: Light amber, honey.
Tasting notes: Chocolate, vanilla, honey, bourbon.
Final word: Would recommend for bourbon drinkers branching out into single malts. Very smooth whiskey. Definitely lighter and sweeter than most single malts, so a good stepping stone to single-malt Irish and Scotch bottlings. The grain here is corn, with just a little bit of malted barley to start the fermentation process, according to the Cooley Distillery website. Aged in bourbon casks. The 15-year retails for £52.45 for 700ml, or about US$86, but Greenore also makes an 8-year that goes for about $50.
Drinks by the Dram: The Takeaway
I really enjoyed sampling through these whiskeys, so I think Masters of Malt has a good program going here. These wee bottles would make great individual stocking stuffers. A multi-bottle sampler box would be perfect for the aficionado who’s looking to try new bottlings.