When it comes to whisky, there are some great ones out there that are simply too expensive or too rare to consider buying a full bottle. Some of these whiskys are so hard to find that you have to travel to some of the world’s great whisky bars just to get a sample of them.
Masters of Malt, an online whisky store out of the UK, has an innovative program which enables you to get a dram of some of these rare, expensive and special whiskys, shipped directly to your doorstep. Encased in small wax-sealed bottles, these Drinks By The Dram represent an amazing opportunity to experience some of the finest whiskeys in the world. Samples range in price from about $4 all the way up to over $120 (for the Glenfarclas 1952 Family Cask) for 30ml of whisky.
The selection is pretty strong, with over 250 different whiskys to chose from. For our three drams of whisky, we picked a Caol Ila 18 Year, Master of Malt 12 Year Old Lowland and Speyburn 26 Year Old 1980 Cask Strength Signatory Collection.These three selections gave us a cross section of three very different kinds of whisky and ones we wanted to try but never had the opportunity.
Caol Ila 18 Year (86 proof $88) was one of the whiskys we were the most interested in trying. Caol Ila 12 is readily available in the US from Diageo, who oddly doesn’t really do much to promote this absolute gem of an Islay scotch. The 18 builds on everything we love about Caol Ila 12. Light amber in color, the nose has a wonderful woody smoke to it (think cedar logs in a fireplace), with nice peat, iodine and a vegetal undertone that reminds us of green olive. The entry captures all of the woodsy fire from the nose with a nice sweet undertone. The peat begins to really take off in the mid palate and the opens up to a lighter, smokey, sweet flavor. The finish is nice with peat and a subtle hint of lingering smoke.
The Caol Ila 18 Year manages to be both strong and delicate – an incredible balancing act for an Islay Scotch. There’s enough here to really engage the palate but it has a delicacy that makes it really approachable. This is a whisky that we can see our selves really spending time on and enjoying. Very Highly Recommended
Master of Malt 12 Year Lowland (80 Proof – $58) comes from the Master of Malt’s secret bottling series. Since it’s a secret bottling, we don’t know which distillery the whiskey comes from, just that it’s a Lowland Scotch. Light amber in color, the nose of this whisky is very fragrant. Out of the gate you’re hit with a woodsy note that reminds us of pencil shavings, backed by a hint of dried apricot and a subtle wheat grassy note. The entry is very woodsy with the slightest hint of vanilla and cigar/tobacco. There isn’t a lot of heat in this whisky but the finish is very dry.
Master of Malt 12 Year Lowland has such a nice nose, it’s a shame that some of the complexity there doesn’t follow through. By no means do we dislike this whisky, but there isn’t enough to fall in love with here. Solidly Recommended
Speyburn 26 Year Old 1980 Cask Strength Signatory Collection (122.6 proof $106) is probably the rarest of all the whiskey we got from Masters of Malt. While we’d probably not consider plunking down the $100+ sight unseen, it was great to have a chance to taste this whisky this way. Speyburn 26 is incredibly light in color, almost clear – unexpected for a 26 year old whisky. The nose is a delicate mix of apricot, smoke and wood box. Considering its proof, we expected it to be much more vapory than it is. The entry is pretty intense with large smoke and slight sweetness which builds to the mid palate. There’s a spice in the mid palate along with some black pepper. The finish is very nice and it peters out to a nice lightly smokey and sweet taste.
Speyburn 26 Year Old 1980 Cask Strength Signatory Collection is an interesting whisky experience. It’s an intense expression that doesn’t overwhelm the palate. It’s also nice to experience a whisky like this at cask strength, as it shows off a side of scotch whisky not as widely shown in the market space. A dram did the trick, and that’s why this is a perfect candidate for the Master of Malt program. Highly Recommended
The Masters of Malt “Drinks By The Dram” program is an excellent way to try out whisky that either you can’t get or is to expensive to get a full bottle they are also perfect spirits gifts for the whisky enthousiast in your life.