Spirits Review: the Glen Silver’s Special Reserve Blended Scotch Whisky

If you were to ask me, “If you were stranded on a desert island and you could only have one type of alcohol, which would it be?”, I’d probably say, “Tequila.” It’s strong, it’s warm weather-friendly, and as long as it’s 100% agave, it’s not very easy to mess up.

Glensilver

The Tasting Lab, neater than it has been in quite some time.

But hold on a second – that’s not to say that tequila is hands down my favorite spirit. There are just too many to pick from, and to me, the optimal spirit depends on the circumstances. It’s usually assumed that the desert island scenario refers to a tropical island, palm trees and all, and if that island was tropical, then yes, tequila would be my first choice. But if this were an island somewhere a little farther away from the equator, maybe in the Arctic, or even in the middle of one of the Great Lakes, tequila wouldn’t be my first choice. It would definitely have to be scotch. The peaty smokiness, the fiery black pepper tinge, and the light sweetness of scotch make it a perfect cold weather spirit, and on a slightly chilly night like last night, that’s what was on the menu.

I’m usually a fan of the brutally peaty Islay malts, but sometimes I don’t have the cash to splurge on a bottle of Laphroaig or Lagavulin. Sometimes I just want something I can drink a lot of, and not feel bad that I just drank what could have been a week’s worth of groceries. And that’s where the Glen Silver’s Special Reserve comes in. This modestly-priced blend comes in at $15.99 per bottle – even less than some of its bottom-shelf competitors. I have to admit that the low price put me off at first, but I enjoyed the 8- and 12-year scotches from Glen Silver’s, so with confidence, I removed the golden screw cap on this rather nice-looking bottle and went to work. Before I get into the taste, here’s some info on this blended whisky.

Stats

Packaging: 750ml bottle

Alcohol content: 40% (80 proof)

Price: $15.99 + tax

Aging: No age statement.

Appearance

Deep golden brown with slender but extremely slow legs.

Aroma

Sherry oak, light honey, toffee, and peat.

Taste

Neat, this whiskey was somewhat full-bodied with notes of black pepper, tar, hay, and a bit of honey sweetness. Adding a few drops of water mellows it greatly, allowing a subtle nutty taste to come through. The finish is long with lots of oak and a bit of peat. Judging solely from the price tag, I was expecting some of that distinct cheap whisk(e)y taste – that overwhelming peppery bite and vodka-like alcohol aftertaste that you get from ordering a shot of whiskey at a bar, without specifying what kind – but the Glen Silver’s Special Reserve, while not mind-blowingly complex, was smooth and tasty.

Final Thoughts

While the price is suspiciously low, the Glen Silver’s Special Reserve is one of the better blended whiskies I’ve had, including some of the higher-end, bigger-name blends. It’s smooth, but it still has that peppery, smoky edge I look for in a fuller-bodied scotch. I could happily sip a couple of glasses of this on the rocks before (or after) dinner, but since it’s so inexpensive, I wouldn’t feel bad making a Rob Roy or a Rusty Nail out of it. It’s no single malt, but the Glen Silver’s Special Reserve has definitely earned a space in my liquor cabinet.

The Weekly Cuvée, Volume 2

It’s time for another edition of the Weekly Cuvée! Sure, it’s been 2 weeks since the last edition, but that just means we have a lot more to talk about this time around. For anyone who missed the last one, the Weekly Cuvée is our (semi-) weekly wine and spirits news roundup. So without further ado, here’s what’s been going on in the wine and spirits world as of late.

Photograph by Gerard Prins

Photograph by Gerard Prins

First off, Great Northwest Wine reports that the 2013 Washington State grape harvest brought in upwards of 220,000 tons of grapes, shattering the previous record of 188,000 tons in 2012.  This significant increase in tonnage is due to the large number of new vineyards in Washington. “We’re not seeing any big surprises as far as yields being up or down,” Kevin Corliss, vineyard operations director for Ste. Michelle Wine estates, told Great Northwest Wine. Corliss added that Merlot and Syrah yields were a little better than they predicted, while Cabernet Sauvignon fell behind slightly.

Back in New York, Sen. Charles Schumer recently announced his support of a proposal to remove a Prohibition-era law banning the shipment of alcohol through the United States Postal Service, according to USA Today. Currently, the shipment of beer, wine, and liquor is restricted to private shipping companies – the new law would only allow federally licensed breweries, wineries, and distilleries to ship via the USPS. According to Schumer, removal of the law could bring an estimated $225 million to the struggling Postal Service.

And now for some global news – some of you may have heard the recent rumors of a worldwide wine shortage. Thankfully, experts have rebuked these rumors, according to an SFGate article. While a report from MorganStanley claimed the world’s wine demand surpassed supply by around 300 million cases in 2012, analysts say wine production has “increased significantly” while “consumption is stabilizing.” So while we, of all people, are not going to tell you not to stock up (we have great case discounts!), we will say that it’s probably not necessary to panic.

Finally, three whiskeys we love (and carry!) have made it on Wine Enthusiast’s list of 7 Must-Try New York Whiskeys. While we’re glad Catskill Distilling Company‘s Defiant Rye Whiskey, Tuthilltown Spirits‘ Hudson New York Corn Whiskey, and Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery‘s Black Dirt Bourbon all made the list, we find it a bit surprising that there was no mention of the Widow Jane Bourbon Whiskey. Regardless, it’s nice to see some New York State spirits featured in a publication as prominent as Wine Enthusiast.

And that’s it for this edition of the Weekly Cuvée – check back next week for our very first wine review, and be sure to ‘like’ us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter if you haven’t already!

Got a suggestion for our next review? Feel free to leave it in a comment!