I passed through Chicago recently and after moaning on Twitter that there was nothing very inspiring on Binny’s website, I found myself inevitably standing in the whisky section of one of their outlets anyway (the branch on W. Grand Ave.). Binny’s has sadly stopped shipping liquor and beer completely. This is a great contemporary American tragedy (and stems from the ancient and ongoing farce of American liquor laws and hypocritical public morality). If Binny’s had not been shipping when I began to take a serious interest in malts I would probably not have developed a serious interest in malts and I would not have a blog now and then where would the world be? Anyway, I went to Binny’s—how can you go to Chicago and not go to Binny’s? And I was glad to see that the store I was in had a decent selection of their recent “handpicked” single malt casks. Brett Pontoni and team don’t make a lot of noise about their selections—no breathless, hyperbolic emails and dubious narratives—but they pick good whisky. And when it comes to ex-bourbon cask selections from less-heralded distilleries there is no American store I trust more. I walked away with bottles from three of them, aged 19-25 (plus a young, sherried Tamdhu). First up, this Auchroisk.
Auchroisk 24, 1990 (58.3%; Signatory for Binny’s; hogshead 3662; from my own bottle)
Nose: Intensely musky fruit to start (makrut lime, overripe pineapple, peach) along with a good dose of pepper, some honey and a bit of fried plantain; roasted malt below it all. Really quite intoxicating. With a bit more time it’s more malt-forward and the fruit is more simply acidic. A few drops of water makes everything brighter still but also pulls out some apricot and a bit of toffee.
Palate: Very much as advertised by the nose. It starts with bright citrus too but there’s a bigger wave of tropical fruit here to follow. More oaky spice as well (cinnamon to go along with the pepper). Absolutely drinkable at full strength with a thick mouthfeel. The fruit gets brighter as it goes (the citrus trumping the tropical notes). Water pushes the oak back and rounds out the citrus.
Finish: Medium-long. Nothing new here and the oak notes become a touch too tannic. Water extends the finish and keeps the fruit going much longer.
Comments: This is really very nice (and takes water well). The musky fruit, pepper and oak are in such great balance on the nose and palate. It’s just the finish that lets it down a bit. I should also say that this is not very complex whisky; but it is very pleasurable whisky. If Binny’s still shipped, or I lived in Chicago, I’d get a second bottle tomorrow.
Rating: 88 points.
Bought a bottle based on this review. Amazing . Just so much fruit. I get more mango/kiwi, banana skins and wood varnish. Huge wave of candied lime. I usually gravitate towards the sherry/peat or the coastal bourbon matured whiskys but this is an eye opener. Can’t say I have ever had anything like this. White grape skin and lime on the finish with ginger. So good!
By the way, given how much you liked this, keep an eye out for this Ben Nevis 17, 1996 released by Cadenhead a couple of years ago: there are still bottles floating around in the US.
Glad I didn’t lead you astray.
I actually bought a “17 year old” (It was bottled in 2015 – shouldn’t it be 18 years old?) 1996 Ben Nevis from the Creative Whisky Company at the same time. Has a plastic shopping bag note that I actually like. Maybe cats are on to something. I only have had a sip but it is from a Sherry barrel, is very fruity and briny.
Whiskybase shows nearly 150 different bottlings for that vintage.