You don’t see many products boasting that they were aged in Mizunara casks. It’s an expensive, time consuming, and generally annoying step to take — even when you’re doing so for high quality, highly priced spirits. And going through all this effort this for a no-name scotch seems like absolute overkill… but it’s something that definitely piqued my interest enough to grab a bottle.
Interestingly, there does not appear to be an actual Glen Fohdry distillery. Rather, this appears to be a private label brand for Total Wine stores that was created by Quality Spirits International.
Incorporated in 1986, Quality Spirits International is a private labeling company that re-bottles spirits from other distilleries and appears to be owned by the folks at William Grant & Sons. They produce single malt scotch whisky under the brand names of Glen Fohdry, Grangestone, and Creag Isle.
- Learn More: What Is Scotch Whisky?
This is a spirit that is simultaneously oddly specific and frighteningly vague.
There’s no mention of what distillery the base spirit here comes from, but since it is a single malt scotch we can assume that it was made from 100% malted barley that was cooked, fermented, and distilled on-site at the same location before being aged for at least three years in oak barrels. The specific type of oak first used isn’t disclosed, but it’s usually previously-used American oak bourbon barrels.
Where this gets specific and interesting is that the whiskey then apparently takes a nap in Japanese Mizunara oak barrels, which is a specific variety of oak tree that lacks many of the same waterproofing properties as American or European oak. The result is greater interaction between the whiskey and the barrel — and a bigger headache for the barrel makers and the distiller.
The bottle claims that this rests for a grand total of twelve years in oak barrels before being bottled… but what portion of those years is in the mizunara barrels is not disclosed.
Looking at the bottle there’s only one thing that came to mind: the sarcastic “daring today, aren’t we?”
This looks like pretty much any other single malt scotch whisky bottle on the shelf. It’s almost indistinguishable from Shieldaig or Glenlivet or a wide swath of other boilerplate private label brands, with the wine-bottle-shaped body and the traditional stamp-edging label.
Really, the only differentiating factor here is the green color on the bottle and the sleeve, noting it as something slightly different from the other offerings from the same distillery.
Now, I’m not necessarily saying that this bottle shape and label combination is bad — it is incredibly prevalent for a reason, after all. But… it’s not going to get noticed on the shelf. It blends in as background noise, making you very unlikely to choose it out of a lineup (or off of a store shelf).
I don’t notice anything interesting in the color of the spirit, since caramel coloring is the norm in Scotland. What does stand out just a little bit, though, is the aroma coming off the glass. At first, I get the normal Speyside or Highlands notes — things like floral blossoms, honey, sourdough bread, and melon — but there’s a touch more oak in the aroma than I’m used to seeing. It seems to be adding a bit of caramel and toffee into the aroma mix that I don’t usually find.
Taking a sip, at first this is a little richer and more mouth filling in texture than usual. That’s probably thanks in part to the fact that this wasn’t chill filtered, meaning some of the delicious lipids and other dissolved elements are still in the spirit.
The first flavors I found are pretty common Highland scotch notes; specifically, this tastes like a fancy Sunday brunch: there’s the honey, some nice baked bread, a bit of melon, some fresh flowers, and some black tea in the background adding a bit of depth. There’s also a touch of that toffee caramel we saw in the aroma layered into the flavors, which adds some interesting depth to the combination. But as the flavor develops, that toffee caramel component turns into something close to a bitterness that makes the whole thing take a bit of a sour turn on the finish.
Normally, when you drop a couple ice cubes into a spirit, you lose a lot of the more delicate aspects of the flavor profile. Thankfully, that’s not the case here. Some flavors do soften and rearrange themselves a bit, but it’s entirely to the improvement of the spirit.
If anything, the floral aspects of the flavor are significantly toned down. But, then again, so is that bitterness we saw develop in the flavor profile. It’s a smoother and more well rounded drink at this point, and it even retains much of that caramel toffee aspect that we’ve been seeing all along.
This is a pretty solid scotch whisky. I think that building bitterness might be a touch too much when taken neat but when you add a couple cubes of ice to it, you get a much better experience without losing much of the flavor.
That said, for a spirit at this price point, I was expecting more. I don’t feel like I really got much benefit from the expensive Mizunara barrel finishing process that I couldn’t have just as easily gotten from a fresher (cheaper) American bourbon barrel. And especially when you add in the slight bitterness that develops in the flavor profile, I don’t think this is necessarily worth the money.
|Glen Fohdry 12 Year Mizunara Oak Cask Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Classification: Single Malt Scotch Whiskey
Aging: 12 Years
Proof: 47.1% ABV
Price: $59.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 2/5
A whole lot of effort for something so mediocre.