Mortlach 21 (Gordon & MacPhail)

Mortlach 21
Gordon & MacPhail have a Mortlach 15 and a Mortlach 21 in fairly regular release and I’ve always been very curious about both. I’ve never pulled the trigger on a purchase both because I’ve heard inconsistent things about both bottlings (and there’s no year of release or batch number clearly marked) and because the prices I’ve seen have always seemed a little high for non-cask strength indie releases. Accordingly, when this 21 yo went on sale in Minneapolis last year I finally went for it. I opened it as the lead whisky in a tasting of older malts with my local group late last year and while it was no one’s favourite it put on a decent show in the company of some higher powered malts (including this Archives Bunnahabhain and this Scott’s Selection Glen Grant).

I sat down with it later for a formal review. Herewith, my findings (these notes were taken more than a month ago—the bottle itself is long gone). Continue reading

Glendronach 23, 1990, Cask 1240

Glendronach 23, 1990
A little over a year ago I published what has probably become the most read of all my whisky posts: my report on Glendronach’s somewhat freewheeling use of the term “single cask”. This post has been in the top 10 most read pages on the blog every month since, and it seems like it gets linked to on some whisky forum somewhere in the world for the first time every week.

While whisky geeks seem to find the question interesting they also seem to have largely shrugged at the practice. There hasn’t been any sort of sustained outrage, and nor have there been calls for Glendronach to clarify their practices or use less misleading language on their labels—I haven’t myself purchased any of the single cask releases since then and so can’t confirm if there has in fact been any change on that front.

Well, we get the transparency that we ask for, and the industry is probably all too pleased that we don’t really ask for very much. Continue reading

Bowmore 18

Bowmore 18
The blog turns 2 today
. My first review was of the entry-level Bowmore Legend and I marked the first anniversary last year with a review of the Bowmore 12. As I don’t have any of the 15 yo Darkest at hand, this year I have the Bowmore 18. This is a malt I haven’t had in many years now, and one that seems to get lost in the shuffle among whisky geeks (and the biggest of all whisky geeks really doesn’t like it). You don’t find people talking about this as much as about 18 yo whiskies from most other distilleries of similar stature and it rarely seems to be recommended to anyone looking for a (relatively) older bottle.

Serge’s redoubtable influence aside, some of this is, I’m sure, due to lingering phobia about older Bowmores on account of the problems of the 1980s distillate; some of it is probably due to the fact that it continues to be bottled at 43% with chill-filtration and a fake tan; and some of it is probably due to the fact that the distillery itself has been making most of its noise in recent years around limited editions like the Tempest, Laimrig and the Devil’s Casks. While these three limited editions are not NAS there does seem to be more of that now at Bowmore than ever before: the Small Batch has joined the Legend in the core range, and only one of the three new Islay beach-themed travel retail exclusives is not NAS (the White Sands 17). Well, Bowmore has been putting out a large range of whisky for some time now—there’s probably little reason to worry about middle-aged bottles disappearing. Continue reading

Clynelish 28, 1982 (Single Malts of Scotland)

Clynelish 28, 1982
I purchased this Clynelish (the oldest I’ve ever had) from the Whisky Exchange in December 2011 (this is from their own line, Single Malts of Scotland) and it took me almost three years to open it. I’m not quite sure why. Maybe it was the growing certainty that I would likely never be able to afford a Clynelish of this age again—back in 2011 this cost only a little over $100 ex. vat. At any rate, I opened it last November for a small group tasting of Clynelish that I hosted for some members of our local tasting group. We started that night with the OB 14, moved on to a single cask 14 yo from Whiskybase’s Archives series, then the 22 yo, 1989 from Malts of Scotland and then finally this one. As good as the others were, this one was just in a different class, and everyone had a big smile on their face nosing it. I’ve been sipping it from time to time since then and have been looking forward to sitting down and spending some time with a large pour. That time is now. Continue reading

Quick Bites: Spiced Cashews

Spiced Cashews
Those who know me know I have a bit of a cashew problem. I eat them compulsively and can go through a large jar in an implausibly short amount of time. I like them salted and unsalted but my favourite version is lightly spiced cashews. Many commercial versions are available but none quite satisfy. They’re either too salty, too overloaded with spice, too overloaded with non-complementary flavours (garlic) or all of the above.

Luckily, it’s very easy to make spiced cashews at home and get them just how you like them. This recipe is for how I like them: just a bit of heat, a little bit of savoury tang, all allowing the cashewnewss of the cashews to come through clearly. The spices set off the cashews, the cashews are not a delivery mechanism for the spices. Continue reading

Springbank 1999-2013, Port Cask 246

Springbank 1999-2012, Fresh Port Cask
My (possibly anomalous) experience with the Benromach Origins 2, Port Cask didn’t go so well. Let’s see if this Springbank can reverse my port cask trajectory.

As I’ve noted before, Springbank actually do a lot of wine and other exotic cask maturations (they even put out a calvados cask recently) but don’t really catch the same guff for this as distilleries such as Glenmorangie or Bruichladdich do (or did in the past). Some of this is doubtless due to the fact that Springbank doesn’t make a huge to-do out of everything they do and they don’t come up with silly Gaelic names for their whiskies or snazzy branding for each new release (in place usually of an age statement); instead they put them out in the same relaxed manner they put out all their whiskies—as a result, probably, even when people are disappointed they don’t feel like they’ve been sold a dubious bill of goods. But it’s also probably because, unlike most distilleries playing around with wine casks etc., Springbank don’t really do finishes per se: most of their wine cask malts are either full-term matured or matured for a secondary term of at least three years or so. As a result the “distillery character” is almost always front and center. Continue reading

Karta Thai

Pad Kee Mow

Karta Thai was recommended to me in a Chowhound discussion on Thai Food in the Twin Cities. The proposition advanced by some (and supported by me) and argued by others there was that most Thai restaurants in the area continue to suffer from the “too sweet” malady. My sub-argument was that outside of Bangkok Thai Deli and On’s Kitchen in St. Paul Thai food in the Twin Cities is also pedestrian at best. Since then we’ve eaten at Sen Yai Sen Lek, which I’d put just above pedestrian (though much better than the likes of Supatra). Karta Thai it was suggested was also a dependable place, offering solid execution of a standard menu. As we’re often in the neighbourhood for food shopping, and as solidly executed Thai food is something we’re always happy to eat, we stopped in some weeks ago. Herewith the report. Continue reading

Benromach Origins 2, Port

Benromach Origins 2, Port
Three whisky reviews in three days—what is this, a whisky blog? Yes, despite my unhealthy obsession with gaining acceptance from Foodgawker, it still is. And to make up for all the food posting that my core readership (the few, the not-so proud) have been putting up with I’m adding a little bonus whisky content.

This is my first Benromach review and frankly I’ve not had very many Benromachs. This is largely because there haven’t always been very many Benromachs to try in the US. There’s been the Traditional (with a name like that you know it’s NAS), the 10 yo, a 18 yo, 21 yo, a 22yo, a 25 yo, a 30 yo, a bunch in this Origins series and a bunch of wine finishes. Fine, fine, scratch that: there are in fact a large number of Benromachs in the US and there’s no good reason for my not having tried very many of them. Okay, let’s be exact, I’ve only had two of them before: the Traditional (which I might review next month if I can actually get around to picking up the sample a friend in town has for me) and the 10 yo (I liked the bottle I finished some years ago fine but never got around to replacing it). Continue reading

Ballechin #2, Madeira

Ballechin 2

After a week of 20+ yo whiskies and a week of 10 yo whiskies, might as well give this week a theme too: wine cask whiskies. Yesterday I had the Springbank 12, Claret Wood, and here now is Edradour’s second release of their limited edition peated line, matured in Madeira casks (I’ve previously reviewed #3, #4 and #5 and last week reviewed the brand new regular release 10 yo).

I think the only other Madeira cask whiskies I’ve had have been from Springbank and I liked both of those a fair bit (see here for the 14 yo K&L put out a couple of years ago; I guess I never got around to reviewing the 11 yo that I liked even more; hmmm I think I might have a large’ish sample saved from that one). And I’ve also liked all of these Ballechins. A good omen? Let’s see.

This sample, like that of the Ballechin 10, came from Florin (the junior senator from Indiana). I introduced Florin to the Ballechin series via a sample swap a while ago and now he’s like some goddamned evangelist for the line, won’t shut up about it. That said, I can’t recall what he thinks of this one. Continue reading

Springbank 12, Claret Wood

Springbank 12, Claret Wood
Here is the review of the Springbank 12, Claret Wood that was promised to Ol’ Jas long ago. I hope he’s happy.

This is from a long deceased bottle (the 4 ounce sample was saved when the bottle was above the halfway mark). This is from a series of “wood expressions” Springbank released in the late 2000s. Others in the series included whiskies from Madeira, Gaja Barolo and Marsala casks as well as a series of 12 year olds from various types of sherry casks. Some of these were full-term matured in the relevant casks; others were matured for an initial, longer period in bourbon casks and then transferred to the cask on the label for a few more years. This Claret Wood was of the latter type, spending nine years first in bourbon and the last three in the wine casks.

This approach, which Springbank has continued with its more recent “exotic” cask releases (such as the calvados wood), seems closer to me to double maturation than to what usually gets described as “finished” whisky. Certainly, all of Springbank’s releases in this vein that I’ve tried have seemed to me to be very well integrated and far from “winesky”. That is my memory of this one as well but it’s been a while since I last tasted it. Continue reading