On Monday I had a review of a 14 yo Glen Moray bottled for Old Malt Cask’s 20th anniversary. Here now is another special Old Malt Cask bottling of Glen Moray. This is almost a decade older than Monday’s bottle and is part of K&L’s recent run of exclusive casks. I reviewed another of those last week—their Clynelish 23—and, alas, David OG of K&L was not very pleased with me. My review of the whisky itself was positive (I gave it 87 points) and my notes not too far away from his own on the K&L site. So I’m guessing his anger is actually at my suggestion that $250 is way too much for what that whisky is. But, these being the times we live in, he seized on an embarrassing but really inconsequential error on my part in my closing comments. I suggested there that rather than spend $250 on that Clynelish people might instead pick up something like the Springbank 18 and have money left over for a bottle of the Laphroaig 10 CS. I made this suggestion because the last time I had the Springbank 18 it was a pretty heavily sherried malt (composed of 80% sherry casks). I’ve not kept up with it—again on account of the high price—and so did not realize that at some point in the last few years the formulation changed to emphasize bourbon casks. An understandable error, you might think, and not surprising from someone who always notes he doesn’t really follow the industry closely anymore. But as far as David OG is concerned this error of fact invalidates my entire review—presumably he’d care less if they’d already sold out of the Clynelish (there seems to still be a fair amount of it in stock).
Anyway, I own the error but the effective point of the comment is not really affected by it. That point again is that, in my opinion, for $250 you can get cheaper sherried whiskies of equal or better quality than K&L’s new Clynelish and still have a fair bit of money left over. If you fetishize cask strength sherry bombs you could purchase multiple bottles of the A’bunadh. And if you’re not looking for a high strength sherried whisky you could, in fact, buy two bottles of this Glen Moray 23 and still have money left over. But would that be a good idea? Let’s see. I hope I do hope I won’t anger David again.
Glen Moray 23, 1995 (49.8%; Old Malt Cask for K&L; refill barrel; from a bottle split)
Nose: Starts out bright with lemon and tart apple. On the second sniff there’s a strong leafy note along with a herbal quality. Some tingly oak as well. Very nice and fresh. Gets sweeter as it sits and then with more time the fruit gets muskier. Maltier with water and the fruit and malt meld nicely.
Palate: Comes in sweet here with simple syrup, toasted oak and light malt. Very approachable at full strength—really a very nice drinking strength. On the second sip that leafy thing is happening here too (greener leaves here) but the herbs aren’t along. Maltier with each sip and the lemon gets stronger too. Okay, let’s see what water does. It makes it more acidic and brings out a pepperiness too with the acid and the malt.
Finish: Medium. The oak—tingly, not tannic—is most present here. Longer and generally as on the palate with water.
Comments: Oh, I like this one for the price. The extra decade or so has rounded off the high acid and yeasty/bready notes found in Monday’s 14 yo but they’re still here—it’s just not as idiosyncratic. It’s not a great 23 yo whisky but it’s very good whisky for $99. If K&L were still shipping to Minnesota I’d have one on its way to me now. As much of a value at $99 as the Clynelish isn’t at $250. But you have to like non-fireworks bourbon cask whisky—and I’m not sure how many whisky geeks like those simpler pleasures any more.
Rating: 87 points.
I think David OG’s point was fair and concise; your defense above at the beginning of the review however was rambling and comes off as overly defensive. If you dish it, you should be able to take it, and not be so thin-skinned when someone has a valid response to your review. For what it’s worth, I don’t think he’s arguing that the error about the Springbank 18 invalidates your review, but it’s just a sign of carelessness that weakens your credibility as a critic (and for all intents and purposes, you are a critic).
I appreciate your reviews overall (one request here for the Laphroaig 16 limited edition), but I do wish you covered K&L without the unnecessary snark. They’re not perfect but they’re a very decent store and the guys there like David OG work very hard to bring a decent selection. No affiliation personally besides being a longtime and satisfied customer there.
Thanks for your take. And I’m sorry you think I’m being thin-skinned: merely responding to his criticism. Rambling, sure.
But you don’t think “Your analogies are about as accurate your reviews” indicates that he wants to suggest that my error invalidates my review?
And as for carelessness and my credibility as a critic, such as it is: I have always stressed that I am not a reliable source of information. In fact, you might say that I am the Pappy van Winkle of careless bloggers*.
*A deep cut for long-time aficionados of K&L marketing.
It’s not everyday that I find myself in defense of a liquor store, but I feel like a lot of us whisky geeks hold K&L to a much higher standard than we hold any other store in America. Yes, they are very proud of the casks they find and hype them accordingly. But they’re really the only store in the US that can provide a similar experience to the specialty shops in Europe and their prices aren’t very different from what you would pay in London anyway. Clynelish is in short supply, and if you like it old and sherry matured, then I don’t know where else to find one now. Sure it’s more expensive then it feels like it should be, but that’s because it’s Clynelish. All prices for indy blue chip single cask offerings are through the roof on top being really hard to find in the US. I don’t blame K&L for asking $250 for the same thing I bought for $75 at Liquors Hasegawa four years ago, because that’s the way it is now. But that being said, I’ve bought a number of their casks over the years (some for seeming good deals and some not), and have really appreciated you and others that have been good guides for what they’re offering at the moment. So, cheers?
This is all fair enough. I would only add two points of clarification:
1. I believe—and I don’t think I am the only one—that K&L’s hype often gets a bit much. Yes, things are much improved on this front since the departure of David D. but there’s still too much hyperbole. And I think the quality of the casks they bring in is highly variable. Say what you will about my feelings about them, I have reviewed their selections consistently and have given them high scores (by my standards) when I’ve liked them a lot.
2. Re the Clynelish 23 my point was not that this is an inflated price for a 23 yo sherry cask Clynelish in the abstract. My point is that it doesn’t seem like a good use of $250 in my book. Sure, if you’re looking for an older sherry cask Clynelish this may be a good deal, but I would much rather allocate the money differently based on my impression of this whisky. Certainly others may feel differently. I can only offer my impressions. And, again, I gave it a high score.
K&L guy is incensed by 87/100 score on humble blog with “Annoying” in its name, and yet MAO is the one with thin skin! Haha
Incensed is not the right word, but anyone who has read MAO from the start knows that he’s always had it out for us. Not sure why, but maybe he thinks we’re some soulless greedy mega-chain, instead of a the family owned small business that is actually K&L. Perhaps it has something to do with the way we sell this stuff. This would all be so boring if every write up was just a history of the distillery and the cask details. Of course i love the whisky we sell, I pick them, I drink them, I love them. Sure some are better than others and some better values, but we’re not in a vacuum. We have to fight the European stores for great stock and push hard to keep prices down. No one else is trying even half as hard as we are. It’s just more fun for me and my customers to write them up in a way that’s interesting. They’re not idiots, everyone knows I’m selling them stuff, but no one can accuse of being greedy or disingenous. I don’t care about the score (87 is one of the highest he’s ever given us) and the clynelish is almost sold out by the way (more than 400 bottles gone of 516) with many people coming back for multiples, but to compare it to Springbank 18 and Aberlour A’Bunadh is just silly and incorrect. This is all about taste and MAO is more than entitled to his own. I’m grateful for any exposure, even if we don’t agree. Likewise, equally entitled to tell him when I think he’s wrong, biased or misinformed. That’s said he isn’t wrong about this one though! It’s delish.