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Secret Whisky Shopper Part 4 | Blog #15

Now down to the final whisky.

My heart really wanted to grab both of the sold out bottles of Rye from Willet and Angels Envy but alas it was not meant to be.

So to counterbalance my bourbon purchase I decided that it would have to be Scotch.

There was only one clear winner in my mind, again suggested by Chris. The Shieldaig 18 year old Single Malt sounded like just the ticket for a dram on the patio later that evening overlooking the pool. I do love Speyside malts and there are definitely lots of reasons why it is the most heavily populated whisky region in Scotland.

Undisclosed distillery of course, but Chris did have his thoughts on what the culprit might be. I can’t print those secrets here however otherwise he would have to kill me.

Bottled at 40% so most likely chill filtered. The Shieldaig Speyside has a lovely colour that is at once a combination of deep amber with just a hint of red-ish tinge. Looks like, baring caramel, that there would definitely be some potential Sherry Cask element to the combination of casks combined to put this Single Malt together.

Nicely presented in a gift box with a window to the whisky bottle within. “A true reflection of Scotland” is the tag line. This would sit happily on anyone’s shelf and not look out of place with much more expensive packaging alongside.

Nose: Comes across very soft and even without knowing its only 40% would seem like it could be no more than that. A little caremelised citrus with some creamed honey on toast. I had to get out the Glencairn on this one as it really helps to focus the nose which was very subtle.

Palate: Zero alcohol prickle still with the Glencairn glass tells me instantly that this whisky was designed to please the masses. Completely unobtrusive the softness continues and it takes multiple sips to begin to pick out the character. The sweetness is still there but very muted and the citrus fades to something akin to the fading aftermath of a lemon drop the last suck of which was completed two hours before. A little hint of creamy white chocolate makes a mark.

The finish: with some concentration the finish can be detected for quite a while but again is still very suibtle.

I was right on with this being perfect for vacation time in Florida. Not one to really enjoy a hearty peated dram in 30+ degree weather this is perfect for those warm days when you want something light. Any watering would render the subtle complexities non existant I expect so let me give it a go and see what happens……… insert watered dram drinking here.

Yep do not splash this one or throw it on the rocks or its all over. There was funnily enough however a little more persistent nose. With a little water this bottle could be knocked back really fast as it became so light and airy that you would be forgiven for thinking that you are not drinking whisky anymore.

The 18 years has certainly softened the whisky as age tends to do and the combination of casks and the 40% alcohol have done the rest. For most this will be a super smooth dram that is almost velvet in its lack of impact on the palate.

Delicious and well worth the $ 39.99 price tag. This was a worthwhile suggestion from Chris and I can see why for the price that Total Wine wanted this as an exclusive.

This is an awesome introductory whisky for any newcomers and there is more than enough there for $ 40 for the experienced imbiber.

No doubt there were potentially better whiskies on the wall in both categories but given time constraints and my constant questions I have to hand it to both Tony and Chris for making some very sound suggestions that did not disappoint for the price and would keep me coming back to ask their opinion again in the future.

We normally head down to Florida on a fairly regular basis and I am looking forward to taking both Chris and Tony out for a pint (or a dram) as a thank you for spending so much time with Cindy and I and caring about our customer experience.

Hats off to Total Wine and their excellent staff for an awesome secret shopper excursion.

I will definitely do this again as it was a blast

Cheers Tony and Slainte Chris you guys were awesome – well done Total Wine.

Next week I blog as a Canadian and we’ll celebrate with a great new Canadian Single Malt.

Until then eh!

Keep dramming …



Secret Whisky Shopper Part 3 | Blog #14

So after some really quality time with Tony and Chris I had to make up my mind on the purchases.

The first whisky on the list to be removed from the store in my possession was the Hancock’s President’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon. With the balmy 35 degrees Celsius in Florida on a daily basis I was thinking that a nice smooth bourbon on the deck would be a treat. As you have read in my previous blog this was recommended to me by Chris (Total Wine) who did an awesome job and spent a lot of time answering my questions and offering me some fine choices.

44.45% a weird ABV to conjure up so I’m thinking potentially a cask strength barrel.

Deep amber in colour and a decent package with a unique bottle and hefty cork.

Nose: Instantly bourbon with sweet light spices, a touch of cinnamon and traces of the tropics with some papaya lifting through. Despite the overproof ABV the nose is not boozy and is light and fresh. I was instantly happy about this choice as the weather, the vacation and the deck were demanding something along these lines.

I drank this with 2 cubes which I would normally not do for the purposes of writing a tasting note. This time however given the setting and me being on vacation you are going to have to forgive me. Atmosphere is an important part of any whiskey experience and I wanted this to all come together. At the same time I was thirsty and hot and wanted something cooling and refreshing.

I can hear the gnashing of teeth and renting of clothes by many whiskey bloggers and experts. Sometimes though having fun and enjoying the moment can be more important than nailing every nuance.

Palate: Dishes out more sweetness with wild flower honey supported with undertones of rich spice. A touch of cardamom and clove. Very mouth filling and even with some watering from ice melt remained rich and creamy. Balanced.

The finish: Lingers with just an undertone of bitters. I think this would be great in a Manhattan and will have to try just that in the near future.

Thanks Chris for suggesting this. Good choice by the Total Wine buyers to pick this cask as an exclusive. Amazing value for $38.99.

I would recommend this Bourbon for any fan of this genre of whiskey. 89 points in Wine Enthusiast is a good recommendation and the whiskey certainly delivers on the promises made by Chris. Balanced and delicious.

The other bottle that had caught my eye was the Willet Pot Still Reserve Bourbon. I have been a fan of the Willet line for a while but have not had the pleasure of trying this as it is not available in Canada.

90 points malt advocate and only 1 dollar more than the Hancock’s. If I was wandering the store alone this is probably the whiskey that I would have walked out with. I will grab a bottle next time I am in the US and a tasting note will be forthcoming. I like many consumers are also impressed by awesome packaging. The Willet Bourbon is in a bottle shaped like a pot still to denote their pot still range. Very cool marketing and instantly stands out on the shelf.

So next week the last installment and the second whisky purchase. Write in and tell me about your favorite Bourbon.

Until then,

Keep dramming!