I'd never seen a bottle of James MacArthur whisky until today, but I was aware that they were an old school style bottle operation. Today on my trip over to CVI, I was able to sample some of the new expressions that Paul had imported and add them to our store selection. Paul had MacArthur come up with some simple 45% expressions that would keep the prices down and I think it was a good idea in the end. All the malts are unchillfiltered and are single barrel expressions, but they're ready to drink right out of the bottle. None of these malts offer anything other than quality for the price. There are no extreme flavors, no cask enhancements, and all are aged in "bourbon oak," which I'm assuming is just a hogshead because they all taste just like hogshead whiskies - hints of vanilla, but no real richness or woody characteristics. Like I said, MacArthur puts out old school style whiskies, so if you want nothing more than some good ole' single malt, then these are for you. They must have good relations with Diageo because these are all from the empire, sans the Highland Park. Let's get to know our new whiskies in depth:
Glendullan 14 Year Old James MacArthur's Single Malt Whisky $59.99 - Glendullan is a Diageo-owned Speyside distillery that usually winds up as an 8 year available only in the UK, or the Singleton bottlings that we carry every now and then. This malt shows lots of fruit and white wine aromas with some oily textures on the palate. It's a classic Highland style - a bit of vanilla on the mid with flowers and sweet grains on the finish. Satisfying and tasty - what the majority of everyday malt drinkers are looking for.
Glen Ord 12 Year Old James MacArthur's Single Malt Whisky $59.99 - The rarely seen Glen Ord - a Diageo-owned distillery that pops its head up every now and again in the occasional independent bottle. I really like this whisky - vanilla beans on the nose, a meaty and robust palate for a malt that appears so light, hints of smoke, with a waxy finish that ends in cereal grains. I don't know who wouldn't like this. Plus, it's Glen Ord! How often do we get to drink this?
Mortlach 13 Year Old James MacArthur's Single Malt Whisky $59.99 - The normally sherried and robust Mortlach gets a bit of downsizing. This expression is completely devoid of sweetness, instead brimming with herbs and pepper, a bit of citrus peel, and spicy finish. Very unique, especially for a malt know for being Speysides most traditional!
Clynelish 12 Year Old James MacArthur's Single Malt Whisky $59.99 - One sip of this is all you need to fall in love with Clynelish - zesty citrus notes, oily flavors with that ball of Clynelish wax, vanilla undertones, and a smooth finish to wash it all down. Classic Clynelish that makes up for its lack of depth with utter charm.
Caol Ila 10 year Old James MacArthur's Single Malt Whisky $59.99 - Why should you buy this ten year old over the distillery bottle? Because this is a concentrated expression of what makes Caol Ila different than its Islay peers - peat moss on the nose rather than peat smoke, seaweed and maritime aromas, then campfire smoke on the palate. The marine flavors dominate and the heat or spice never overwelms. A great introduction to the one of Islay's most iconic distilleries.
Highland Park 12 Year Old James MacArthur's Single Malt Whisky $59.99 - To me this twelve year old is much more interesting than the standard distillery offering, even though its probably a bit more out-of-balance. There's definitely a phenolic character to the malt, but the tropical fruits and toasted cereal grains will keep you from truly deciphering it. There's creamy banana and soft vanilla everywhere and a big mouthful of malted barley on the finish. Yum!