Sometimes I have people over who have never tasted whisky before. If they enjoy their time with an accommodating, gentle dram, I typically reach for a blockbuster for pour number two or three. Just to show them what whisky can really do.
Quite often, I've gone to the Solstice for exactly that reason, and it never seems to disappoint—even among people not used to huge whiskies with no small amount of peat. Usually their eyes light up and they say, “wow!” In a good way, mind you!
I'm telling you right now that if you're reading this page, you probably care about good spirits at least a little bit, and this is definitely a scotch that will make your eyes widen, even if you consider yourself pretty jaded about new products.
First of all, the Solstice is gigantic, but it's perfectly balanced. There's a wonderful kind of musky and ashy peat that lends some depth and sticks around well into the finish, but nowhere does it become unwelcome or too brash. Peat lovers will love this as well, I think. The level of smoke here somehow manages to be both bold and sophisticated simultaneously, and kudos to that.
However, for guys like me that like the right peated whisky rather than every peated whisky, the real star of the Solstice is the influence of the port casks. Basically, in tandem with the peat, you get a massive explosion of blackberry and raspberry on the development. This dram has sweet, grilled fruits to burn. It's hard to describe the sheer juiciness of this whisky, which seems like a cop-out for someone who writes about booze semi-professionally, but I can guarantee you that this will become a baseline for judging how well other scotches can be pleasantly and authentically fruity.
Also, this is a Speyside whisky, so if you imagine that Speysides are supposed to be light, demure, and non-peaty, the Solstice is proof enough that regional categories of scotch are about as useful in the 21st century as a VCR cleaning kit.
The joke among my friends and I is that a slower a bottle typically moves on our shelves, the more we actually love it. At the time of this writing, I have about two-thirds of my bottle left that I bought about eight months ago. The Solstice is a perfect example of that concept in action. Knowing that I've run out of the bottle will produce some kind of psychological pain. And wallet pain when I have to replace the bottle, and of course I will.
Tonight, though: I decided to treat myself for no particular reason. The Solstice delivered in spades. It's not cheap at about $110 a bottle, but this is one of those cases where you absolutely get what you pay for. It might not have the prestige factor of a well-aged Macallan or Johnny Walker Blue, but scotch drinkers in the know absolutely go apeshit for this stuff. Ignore it and miss out.