Monday, December 5, 2011

More Like a Wild Boar Than a Domestic hog: Pig's Nose Blended Scotch Whisky Review

"Designed to be smooth but full of character; character, indeed. After all, a pig’s nose spends most of its days nosing around in shit, mud, and feed."  - Dr Whisky

I'm a sucker for good packaging. Judging books by their cover is something I pride myself on. I have bought more books then I can count based on their covers. Some have been good and others have not. It's not an exact science, but I count it a success with the good ones I do find. That doesn't mean we should only focus on what we see on the outside, but odds are you'll get lucky every so often. The same goes for whisky (or rum for that matter - the first time I saw the Kraken I picked it up faster then you could say, "99 bottles of Rum on the wall," and I don't even really drink rum that often). Lets face it, appearance matters. Now we don't want to simply rely on what the outside shows, nor should our ultimate judgement be swayed by swagger, but as a producer if you value the quality inside the bottle you should value the quality on the outside. Time and care should be used in construction. When I am sitting at the table and I look over at my bar and see a beautifully constructed bottle sitting there, I just feel more comfortable in my ascetic surroundings. Call me strange, but I am sure there are many more of you out there like me. 

And this is exactly why Pig's Nose makes me so happy. It might at first seem like Pig's Nose or the SpencerfieldSpirit Company's other brand Sheep Dip, are no more than fun/collector item whiskies to be bought for a fathers day gift, yet both brands are currently receiving quite a lot of attention. And these great looking bottles are magnified by the fact that they have great owners who take pride in what they do (quality inside, quality outside). Alex Nicol (holding an impressive lineup, including work with Scottish & Newcastle, Glenmorangie, and Laphroaig) and partner Jane Eastwood took both Sheep Dip and Pig’s Nose as part of Nicol's severance package from Glasgow based distiller and blender Whyte & Mackay after he left the company a few years back. Though Pig's Nose has been around since 1977, the packaging as well as the content within has been revitalized due to much needed attention from Whyte & Mackay's master blender Richard Paterson. And it's turned out to be a mighty fine and unique blend.

Pig’s Nose Blended Scotch Whisky Review:

Price: Around $24.99 for a 750ml bottle.

Packaging/Labeling: Wonderfully modern and not over contrived.

Alcoholic Content: 80 Proof, 40% ABV. 

Nose: With a rather high malt content of 40 percent there is a prominent malty caramel and young green candied apples. A sherried oak on the back of the nose.

Tasting: Very sweet. Any of the malty caramel is drowned out by the very green and tart apple. Candied orange peels turns into prunes and sherried oak which is covered in a bitter vinegar. You would expect it to level out into a dry finish but the vinegar comes back and remains in the after taste. Peat running through the whole body.

Conclusion: Complexity is sure to be a defining point here, yet I feel there is a battle going on within the glass. Every flavor seems to be vying for attention, each ending up working out their differences in a rather unorganized fashion, not a team effort. The nose, while not overbearing, indicates the battle which awaits.

The question stands thus: how is it then? Well, the debate which has been going on in my head about how I should actually get this down on paper is sure sign that it will keep any whiskey enthusiast enthralled. I would suggest drinking this neat – some ice could actually tame some of the volatile flavors. I would state that this might not be the best thing to use for mixing cocktails, mostly because of the viscous texture, yet depending on your bar-man, it could be tamed. I would suggest Scottish Breakfast by Jeffrey Morgenthaler.

All in all Pig's Nose is, as the title says, more that of a wild boar than a domestic hog. It's young and viscous, but not something I would completely try to dull down. I would suggest that it be bottled at a higher proof, possible 8-10abv which would really bring on some more interesting notes, as well as control some of the complexity already there, but being a blended whisky I never see this happening. 

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