They were line up in front of us and we made quick order in assessing the aroma, carefully nosing the glasses and jotting notes before moving on to the actual tasting portion. What follows is our findings.
This Scotch is a bit unrefined, rough around the edges with its intense alcohol heat burning the nose. Beneath this we found orange, honey and ginger spice, quite disjointed. The flavor was good with lots of orange and spice throughout. There was very little wood in the flavor, which surprised us, and was also without any smoke character.
There's no two ways around it, this was our favorite of the three offerings. To begin, the whisky had an incredibly well-rounded aroma (not at all harsh) with subdued notes of fresh cracked pepper and orange zest. This was very smooth too, the up-front honey sweetness reminiscent of a dry mead and only a touch of wood detected. If there were a bottle of this available, I would not hesitate to pick it up and share it with friends.
Choosing the '91 over this was difficult, there just wasn't anything wrong with this whisky. The aroma was a touch more subtle, but had more peppery spice to it. The taste, however, was just a bit out of balance in comparison, the spice coming through in a big way, leaving the orange peel notes wanting just a bit. Overall there did not seem to be enough difference to warrant the added cost for this vintage ($32 vs. $18 a glass). Perhaps that should be reworded - the 1991 was a better value for our taste.
I've since looked up the prices online for a bottle of '91 and '87 and found that the '91 goes for about 70 bucks, whereas the '87 sells goes for more than $80 (750 ml). Each bottle is hand labeled with the distillation date as well as the bottling date, with an approval signature too.
Additionally, each Scotch is made with Speyside malt - something I knew little about before an online search explained it a bit. This is from Scotchwhisky.com:
Speysides are essentially sweet whiskies. They have little peaty character (although some have a whiff of smoke) and their salient characteristic is estery - typically, this aroma is compared to pear-drops or solvent (nail varnish remover, particularly). They can be highly perfumed: scents of carnations, roses, violets, apples, bananas, cream soda and lemonade have all been discovered in Speyside malts.
They take maturation in sherry-wood well and can be rich and full bodied, medium and light-bodied.
That explains the lack of smoke (peat) in the whiskys. If you're in the area it certainly won't hurt to stop in and see if this flight is still available. If not, you might as well pull up a stool and enjoy the wonderful beers made by Brian Ford, starting with his pilsner in this summer heat.