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Ten Whisky Regrets

Have you every craved an expensive indulgence? Scrimped and saved and tricked yourself into thinking your deserved the object of your desire, and finally after much soul-searching plunked your hard-earned cash down, then discovered that you had been played the fool! Collecting whisky can be like that. Those bottles behind the glass counter look so inviting at the store, and you can think of a dozen special occasions that deserve such elixirs. It doesn’t take much convincing to get you sucked in.

Today, I think it is only fair, that I list a few of the whisky decisions I have regretted. The list I came up with, isn’t really a list of horrible whiskies that left me gasping (although a couple are). It is more of a list of whiskies which in some way tainted my enjoyment such that I kind of wished I had never succumbed to their charm in the first place.

They made me run to them, and then they made me run from them, kind of like that Gloria Jones song covered by Soft Cell:


These are my whisky regrets, and I publish this list in hopes that I can help you avoid a regret or two.  (Just for the fun of it, I think I will count them down in reverse order starting with a few minor regrets, working my way to my biggest whisky regret.)

10)  McClelland’s Speyside Single Malt

I can recognize the Speyside style of this single Malt, with spicy oak  mixed with caramel and vanilla.  Unfortunately the whisky is defeated by an omnipresent bitterness. Flavours of cocoa  and a dark leathery burnt oak tannin are prevalent, as is an oily smoke with dried fruit. These components vainly try to bind the bitter with the sweet; it is a failed attempt.

9)   Proof Whisky

This is a strange one. The confusion arises as I wonder whether I really am supposed to be sipping on this whisky, or whether I should marinade a few chicken breasts for the oven with it instead. The dominant flavours appear to be lemon and pepper which work great on baked chicken, but I am not entirely convinced they work as a dominant flavour duo in Canadian Whisky. The Proof Whisky also carries a floral/grassy element which reminds me of saffron, and I can also taste rose-hips and bit of willow bark. This is so different from what I expect from a Canadian Whisky, that I wonder if I really understand what is going on.

8)  Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey

There is a very strange medicinal sweetness with this one. Despite the sweetness, there is also a bitter ‘walnut-like’ undercurrent which runs through the whiskey and a strange  ‘ashy” flavour which reminds me of charred firewood. The ‘ashy’ flavour is subtle; but it is a consistent impression I receive every time I take a sip. In the end I can find no enjoyment when sipping the Tullamore Dew whether I sip neat, with water or with ice. The Whiskey is strictly a mixer, and only then in cocktails which disguise the flavour.

7)  Nikka Whisky From the Barrel 

The problems with this one begin with the bottle. It is a stubby bottle with an incredibly small neck which makes the whisky an absolute nightmare when trying to pour the first few drams without spilling. As a whisky lover I really do not want to spill anything; but I did, and so did my friend Dennis when I asked him to try to pour a little. When two grown men who are used to pouring whisky are forced to waste some….

( I wondered aloud in my review, did no one in Marketing even attempt to pour a dram from a full bottle?)

The whisky itself isn’t that bad, it has a nice richness with complex flavours, but…(isn’t that a dreadful word)…alongside the richness and complexity of the whisky lies an unmistakable accent of something which is sour and pungent (perhaps this is a hint of sulphur). This sour accent throws everything askance and brings the richness of flavour in my mouth to a crashing halt. What a Pity!

6) (rī)1 Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey  

This Whiskey is sharp and uncomfortable. There is a lot of hot spice, and a disconcerting burn in the throat when you swallow. I taste bitter sap and that disconcerting burn continues to heat the mouth well after the whiskey is consumed, and although some welcome flavours of caramel and honeycomb appear, the astringency of the whiskey sabotages my enjoyment. Another supposed sipping whiskey relegated to the mixing shelf.

5)  Glendronnach 1975 33 Year old Cask 706 (Duncan and Taylor)

This one is bottled at 51.4 % abv. and when I took my first sip it felt like a mule had kicked me in the tonsils. It carries severe alcohol heat (and a biting oak spice) through the delivery right down your throat. But that is not what puts this whisky on the list. It’s the phenolic peat flavours that refuse to let me taste the whisky underneath. In my mind the purpose of peat is to carry great whisky flavour in its wake bringing a malt to a new level of enjoyment. However sometimes peat seems to be there only for its own sake, or maybe it just hides bad whisky. I never did review this one, I just couldn’t get through the tasting sessions.

4)   McClelland’s Lowland Single Malt

This is not light and laid back as I expect a Lowland whisky to be. It has an alcohol harshness, with a woody, bitter pronunciation to the taste. Charred wood and burnt sugars are forefront on the palate. There is a sherry cask influence with expressions of prunes, figs, and dried currants under the charred and woody flavours. Unfortunately these flavours are swallowed by the woody bitterness. Rather than a laid back expression of lowland malt, this is more of an expression of bittersweet pungent woody oak tannins. Thankfully this whisky only costs 30 bucks. If it was more expensive I might have been tempted to make it #1 on this list.

3)  Bruichladdich 16 Year Aged Bourbon Cask

The first thing I noticed about this whisky was an odd tasting bitterness, which seemed to steal all of the pleasure from the experience. It was as if the sweetness of the malt has been quelled and the more bitter flavours have been allowed free rein. Dank remnants of corn and vanilla have turned bittersweet and pungent. The addition of an ice-cube helps, but all of the nice flavours I encounter in whisky, the butterscotch, the honey, the oaky tannins are all tainted with that odd pungent bitterness, and they seem to be slightly thickened or perhaps more concentrated than they ought to be. I struggled through various tasting sessions trying to see if maybe my mood was affecting my taste perception, or if maybe my palate had been compromised by an earlier experience; but, the odd bitterness is always there. It acts as an unwelcome house guest thwarting my efforts to find pleasure.

2)  StrathIsla 40 Year Old Single Malt Whisky  (Gordon and MacPhail)

A consistent note of bitterness holds the key to the flavour of this whisky. The bitterness is in the form of an acrid sappy taste that seems to grow in the mouth the longer you hold the whisky there. There is dried fruit and raisins and a bit of brown sugar sweetness as well as a mild peatiness. But these flavours do not seem to provide a counterbalance to the acrid taste of sap which dwells within the floral peat and the sherry smoke. The result is a whisky which dries out the mouth and puckers the palate. (It is strangely reminiscent of gooseberries and spruce bark.)  To call things pleasant in the mouth would be an overstatement.

What makes this one particularly regretful is that I purchased this bottle for about $320.00 to open on a special occasion, and that occasion came about when my Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup after a drought of 39 years. It seemed rather fitting to me to open a 40 Year Old bottle of whisky for this event as the 40th year of the Bruin Stanley Cup drought was averted. It turned out to be a bittersweet moment when my beloved Bruins hoisted the cup, and quickly thereafter the so-called peace-loving citizens of Vancouver (my fellow Canadians) attempted to tear down their own city just because they lost.

Though watching the news unfold that night was bittersweet, attempting to celebrate my Bruins’ Stanley Cup Victory with Gordan and MacPhail’s 40 Year old Single Malt Whisky was an unmitigated failure.

1)  Pittyvaich 1979 Cask 5635 (Duncan and Taylor)

What can I say, this one is just dreadful. I received the bottle as a gift so I am not really sure how much it costs, but whatever the price, it was too much. No list of tasting notes could do justice to how vile, I feel this whisky is. I know that one bad experience should not taint me against an entire distillery; but, whenever I see the name “Pittyvaich” , I treat it like a warning label, it kind of means, “not meant for human consumption”.


5 Responses to “Ten Whisky Regrets”

  1. Jonathan said

    I’ve tried all of the McClellands and none of them are worth the $45 or so it costs here in BC. The Highland was passable? But not worth the time or effort to find a redeeming part in it. Tullamore Dew also was a difficult one to stomach, especially when my first taste of Irish whiskey was Bushmills 10 yr single malt.

  2. Ryan said

    Might as well go for the McClelland’s hat-trick: the Islay was once my introduction to scotch. I did not try another scotch for about 3 years after that debacle!

    • Powderhoundricy said

      hahaha A friend of mine bought it and told me to taste it.

      At first it was ok, but after a few seconds, it went downhill, and downhill FAST. It’s a weird Scotch, and that’s being friendly.

  3. Mike said

    Agreed on Proof and Tullamore. Haven’t tried most of the others.

  4. Henry said

    Thank you for the sharing your regrets. As someone who drinks more rum than whisky I appreciate you helping me steer clear of these bombs.

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