Ben Nevis 19, 1996 (Cadenhead)


After a few very untimely reviews let’s do a couple this week that were bottled closer to the present—just last year, in fact (they’re not available any more either but you can’t have everything). First up, this Ben Nevis 19, 1996 bottled by the usually very reliable Cadenhead in their Small Batch series. I bought this at auction in the UK and the bottle did not come with the dangling paper thingy that contains all the cask details on these releases (is there a name for those things?). The label does say “Small Batch” but Whiskybase tells me there were only 222 bottles released. So, was it actually a single cask? Hard to see how you could blend two or more casks and arrive at so few bottles—unless only a part of the vatting was released here. Anyway, I bought it because ex-bourbon Ben Nevis can offer the tropical fruit that I so love in single malt whisky at a younger age than most distilleries, and because the last Cadenhead’s Small Batch ex-bourbon Ben Nevis from 1996 that I bought was just excellent (as was the last ex-sherry Ben Nevis from 1996 that I bought). I am happy to say that my hopes were not dashed on the shoals of reality.  Continue reading

Glendullan 12, 1999 (G&M for Binny’s)


Jim Murray has apparently deemed a Glendullan to be the best something or the other. This is not that Glendullan. This is also not the Singleton of Glendullan, the 12 yo from that distillery that used to be the most ubiquitous, or more accurately, the only ubiquitous Glendullan in the US. No, this is a single cask bottled by Gordon & MacPhail for Binny’s in 2012 or thereabouts. In other words, this is an extremely untimely review: I doubt anyone at Binny’s or Gordon & MacPhail even remembers this whisky. But that’s what I’m here for: to make sure we never forget these one-off releases from Scotland’s third and fourth tier distilleries, to resist the relentless pressure of the now. Or maybe I just randomly review whatever’s at hand. Can you tell that I have nothing to say about this distillery, which mostly produces for Diageo’s blends? I’ve only ever reviewed one other—a Cadenhead’s release from a couple of years ago that was nice enough. Let’s see what this one is like.  Continue reading

Tomatin Cuatro, Blended + Musings


If you’ve been reading along for the last week you’ve probably noticed that I posted reviews of the four releases of Tomatin Cuatro (Fino, Manzanilla, Oloroso and PX). Of these I liked the PX release the best. Though I didn’t dislike any of the others, I didn’t find them to be particularly distinctive. I didn’t find the Fino and Manzanilla to be particularly sherried either, for that matter, in the way that we normally think of sherried whisky. It could be argued, however, that their dry, yeasty qualities might well be expressing the character of Fino and Manzanilla sherry quite well. The Oloroso and especially the PX casks were more in line with what whisky drinkers expect when they see the words “sherry matured/finished”. But because Tomatin does not clarify the kind of wood these casks were made of, it’s not clear if the greater stereotypical sherry influence of these two releases is down to the type of sherries these casks previously held or if it’s because these two releases had their second maturation in European oak while the other two were re-racked into American oak casks after the first nine years. Without this information it’s a little hard to come to any meaningful conclusions about the effect of aging in casks that had previously held different types of sherry.  Continue reading

Tomatin Cuatro 4: PX


And so, the last of the four whiskies in Tomatin’s Cuatro series: the PX. For those who came in late (salute yourself if you get the comics reference), I’ve previously reviewed the Fino, the Manzanilla and the Oloroso releases in this series. All were distilled in 2002, matured for 9 years in ex-bourbon casks and then re-racked into the specific sherry casks for the last three years. I didn’t find too much difference between the Fino and Manzanilla releases; which makes sense, as Fino and Manzanilla sherry are not that far apart, and so the odds that nuances between them would extend to whiskies double matured for three years in ex-Fino and Manzanilla casks were slim to begin with. The Oloroso had darker, leafier notes, more reminiscent of what we’ve come to think of as sherry cask notes, and I expect this PX cask will be similar: both Oloroso and PX sherries are made “oxidatively” and have more in common with each other than they do with Fino or Manzanilla sherries. Anyway, let’s get to it.  Continue reading

Tomatin Cuatro 3: Oloroso


With this, the third in Tomatin’s Cuatro series from a few years ago, we move to what should be a more richly sherried profile. At least that’s what we’ve been trained to think by Oloroso sherry cask releases by various Scottish distilleries. Oloroso sherry, as you probably know, is made differently than Fino and Manzanilla. For Fino and Manzanilla the layer of flor (or less poetically, film of yeast) that forms on the top of the maturing wine is not disturbed, which results in a paler and drier style of sherry. For Oloroso (and Amontillado) the flor is killed when the wine is fortified, resulting in a darker and richer, “oxidized” wine. When most whisky drinkers think of sherry character in single malt whisky it is Oloroso we are thinking of.

It is, of course, also likely that we attribute to Oloroso/sherry character is actually down to maturation in European oak. What the Fino and Manzanilla entries in the Cuatro series have suggested is that three years of double maturation in what are likely also American oak casks may not impart a very heavy sherry influence. Will that be true of the richer Oloroso sherry as well? Let’s see. Continue reading

Tomatin Cuatro 2: Manzanilla


On Monday I had a review of the first in Tomatin’s Cuatro series of sherry cask releases: the Fino. That post has all the relevant information on the series but if you haven’t read it and are too lazy to click, here’s the crucial bit: all four releases are of whisky distilled on the same day and aged for nine years in ex-bourbon cask and then then re-racked into Fino, Manzanilla, Oloroso and PX casks for another three years each. Unlike the regular 12 yo, these are at 46%. I did not find much overt sherry influence in the Fino release—as such I’ll be surprised to find very much of it in this Manzanilla version. The two sherries are broadly similar—Manzanilla is basically a regionally constrained version of Fino (it can only be made in a particular part of Spain).

Let’s get to it.  Continue reading

Tomatin Cuatro 1: Fino


The Tomatin Cuatro series of whiskies was released just about three years ago. Accordingly, I am reviewing those whiskies now. Ol’ Jas’ mention of the series in the comments on my review of the regular Tomatin 12 got me thinking about them and I decided to buy the lot for my local group’s September tasting.

You probably know the details of the series: all of the whisky was distilled on the same day in 2002 and matured for nine years in ex-bourbon casks. At that point it was transferred to Fino, Manzanilla, Oloroso and PX casks respectively for another three years.  In theory, the series allows whisky geeks to see the differing effects of maturation in four different kinds of sherry casks. In practice, of course, it’s not clear how much of this can in fact be accomplished. Continue reading

Caol Ila 20, 1995 (Signatory for K&L)


Here’s a whisky review on a Thursday for a change. And it’s another Caol Ila—roughly the same age as the previous Caol Ila I reviewed, but distilled just about a decade later. This was bottled by Signatory for K&L in California. As I am generally a sucker for bourbon cask Caol Ila, I was intrigued by it when it was announced, but the high asking price ($150 or so) took care of that. Fortunately (for me, at least), Florin (Slovenian supermodel and future First Lady) purchased a bottle and shared samples with a few of us—see Jordan D’s review of a sample from this same bottle from a year ago. Jordan didn’t care for it overmuch, and nor did Florin (see his comment on Jordan’s review). But there are others who rave about it. Anyway, the easiest way to find out is to pour the sample and drink it. Here goes.
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Singleton of Dufftown


Ah yes, my second-ever Dufftown review and, indeed, my second-ever Dufftown. As I know no more about the distillery now than I did when I reviewed the other late last year, and as I already made my Homer Simpson joke on that occasion, I have nothing more to say about it. I will only register the faint hope that this may prove to be better than that K&L cask. The hope is faint because Diageo’s Singleton releases don’t really have strong reputations. They’re intended as entry-level malts and some would and do say that they pretty much taste like blend replacements, or as a way to get blend drinkers to pay a bit more for a single malt without risking turning them off. I believe all of the Singleton releases are 12 years old—which would make them competitors for the Glenlivet and Glenfiddich 12s. (In the US we get the Singleton of Glendullan. I think the Singleton of Dufftown goes to Europe and the Singleton of Glen Ord to Asia—I might have those swapped.) Anyway, let’s see what this one is like anyway.  Continue reading

Auchroisk 27, 1988 (Cadenhead’s)


One of my great, unexpected whisky pleasures in recent years was the explosion of fruit in an Auchroisk 24, 1990 bottled by Signatory for Binny’s. Ever since then I’ve been on the lookout for Auchroisks of similar age and vintage, in the hopes of striking gold again. Accordingly, when I was in London for a week in the summer of 2016 and saw this bottle at the Cadenhead’s shop, I had few qualms about purchasing it even though the salesman was somewhat vague when I asked if this was indeed a fruity Auchroisk (“it’s smooth,” is all he ventured; but that was an odd experience all around, as previously detailed). I opened it for my local group’s premium tasting earlier this year and after getting back from our much longer sojourn in London in the spring, I drank it down pretty fast. These notes were taken just past the midway point of the bottle. Read on to discover if it too presented a lot of fruit or if it was indeed the quintessence of smoothness.  Continue reading

Linkwood 1984-2014 (Malts of Scotland)


Linkwood, in the Speyside, is one of Diageo’s workhorses. Being included in last year’s collection of overpriced “special releases” hasn’t really raised its profile (in fact, I can’t remember reading any reviews of that bottle). I do remember some of my own reviews, however, and I was not a fan of the last Linkwood I reviewed. That was this 19 yo from 1997 that was part of K&L’s winter 2016 parcel of Signatory exclusives. It was quite a step down from the two previous Linkwoods I’d reviewed (another 19 yo from Chieftain’s and this 16 yo from Signatory). Here’s hoping this much older one (it’s a 30 yo) from 1984 will be much better. I’ve not had very many older Linkwoods, and the only others I’ve had from the 1980s (see this edition of “Quick Hits”) didn’t exactly set my world on fire either.

Well, I guess this has not been the most promising of openings but Malts of Scotland are usually a very reliable bottler. Let’s get right to it.  Continue reading

Bladnoch 22, 1990, Cask 5070


Here is another useless review. This Bladnoch was distilled in 1990 and bottled in 2013 by the Raymond Armstrong regime (they bottled it but it was distilled by the previous owners, United Distillers). The Raymond Armstrong era at Bladnoch, sadly, ended a couple of years ago and the new owners have gone the route of premiumization: the very opposite of Raymond’s approach. Well, this bottle is gone too. It was a single bourbon cask. I purchased it (and a few other Bladnochs) when the sale of the distillery was announced, and I opened it for one of my local group’s tastings last year. It did well enough there but I felt it improved as the bottle stayed open in the months following. These notes were taken towards the very end of the bottle when it had faded a bit again. I wish I’d thought of also recording my notes at the top and middle of the bottle. So it goes.
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Quick Hits: Two Old Whiskies


Okay, after a bunch of still available—if not always easily purchased—whiskies in recent weeks let’s get back to being useless. I have two very old whiskies tonight. The first is the oldest I’ve ever had—not in terms of age, but in terms of when it was distilled. This is a Gordon & MacPhail release of a Glenlivet distilled in 1940. I confess I do not have any idea when it was actually bottled or how old it is (and Whiskybase doesn’t have details either—it’s this one). Regardless, it was very cool to drink a whisky distilled before my parents were born. The other was distilled a couple of years before I was born and it’s from a distillery that is no longer in operation: it’s a 36 yo Glenury Royal from 1968. I don’t believe I’ve had any other Glenury Royals. I actually took these notes in March, before leaving for London—I just forgot that I’d done so and so am only getting around to posting them now. As they were taken from 20 ml samples I’ve not assigned scores to them. Continue reading

Springbank 15, 2000, Fresh Rum Cask for the Nectar


Another 15 yo whisky, and another that may still be available: I’m in severe danger of losing my “untimely reviews” edge. This was bottled by the distillery for the Nectar, a store in Belgium. It’s a single cask release (though the cask number is not mentioned) of a total of 198 bottles. And that single cask was a fresh rum cask. Now, of course, this doesn’t tell us anything about how many years the rum that had previously been in there had spent in that cask or what kind of rum it was (which, of course, is the same with bourbon cask maturation as well). I assume it would have been an American oak cask. I’m not sure what the story is with the low abv (relatively speaking). As it happens, the last rum cask Springbank I reviewed (this 1998-2014 release from Malts of Scotland) also had an abv below 50% (just a coincidence, I’m sure). I wasn’t hugely taken with that one. Let’s see what this one is like. Continue reading