Speyside week comes to a close with another refill hogshead bottled for K&L in California. This is a Tamdhu and it is two years older than Wednesday’s Linkwood. You may recall that I quite liked that Linkwood and also Monday’s 10 year old Dailuaine (that one from a sherry cask). Will the oldest of the trio be at least as good as the one half its age? There are no guarantees but I did like the last Tamdhu 20 I reviewed—that one was also bottled by Old Malt Cask (for their own 20th anniversary). And I did also like the last K&L Tamdhu of similar age that I reviewed, that one a 19 yo. Anyway, let’s get to it.
Tamdhu 20, 2000 (52%; OMC for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Cereals, toasted oak and some sweet fruit—citrus at first but then some cherry joins in as well. As it sits the oak expands quite a bit, making me a bit apprehensive about the palate…On the plus side the cereals get more malted and the fruit turns a bit muskier (somewhere between apple and pear). With more time still the oak recedes again. Water pushes the oak back further and pulls out some cream. Continue reading →
Let’s make it a week of not just Speyside whiskies but Speyside whiskies bottled for/by K&L in California. The week started with a 10 yo Dailuaine that I dubbed a very good value at the price. Here now is an 18 yo Linkwood. The Dailuaine is a sherry cask; the Linkwood a refill hogshead. The Dailuaine was still available as of Monday; this Linkwood is sold out. Like Dailuaine, Linkwood is a workhorse distillery in Diageo’s stable that predominantly produces malt for the group’s blends. Which of course means that they are as capable as any other distillery of producing casks that are rather excellent indeed. Monday’s Dailuaine stopped a bit short of sheer excellence; will this Linkwood make it all the way? Let’s see.
Linkwood 18, 2002 (53.9%; Hepburn’s Choice for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: A lovely mix of fruit—apples, pears, a bit of lemon. There’s some honey in there too and a mild grassiness. Gets maltier on the nose too with time and air. Some floral sweetness emerges with more time still. With water those sweet notes move in the direction of vanilla and it gets maltier still. Continue reading →
From a week of reviews of heavily peated whiskies from the highlands let’s go to a week of milder fare from the Speyside. The last lot of Speysides I reviewed at the end of December were all fairly old—two 28 yo Glenfarclas (here and here) and a 33 yo Longmorn (here). We’ll start this week with a much younger whisky from a far less storied distillery: Dailuaine. This is from a sherry butt that was also part of K&L’s 2021 cask selections. I am now almost at the end of my reviews of that large batch; it would be good to get them done before the 2022 casks show up.
Dailuaine 10, 2010 (59.4%; Sovereign for K&L; sherry butt; from a bottle split)
Nose: A nice mix of sweet malt, light caramel and fruit (orange, apricot). Somewhat waxy on the second sniff with some honey in the mix too now. The citrus gets a little brighter as it goes and some cream emerges. The fruit gets richer as it sits and mixes nicely with the malt and the wax. With a lot more time it gets quite sweet. A few drops of water and the lemon wakes back up and picks up a biscuity note. Continue reading →
Three Ballechins bottled by Whisky Sponge to start the month and year, I said. On Monday I reviewed a 17 yo distilled in 2004 and matured in a first-fill bourbon barrel. On Wednesday another 17 yo from 2004, this time matured in a refill fino butt. Here now to close the week is another sherry cask but this one was distilled a year later and is two years younger. It’s from a second-fill sherry hogshead—what kind of sherry does not appear to have been specified in this case.
As I said on Monday, I only recently learned that Angus MacRaild (the Whisky Sponge) was bottling whisky. I don’t know what reputation his releases have at this point or where they fall price-wise in the market. I will say that I liked the other two fine but did not find them to be anything particularly extraordinary. Will this one be a departure in either direction? Let’s see. Continue reading →
Here is the second of three reviews of single casks of Ballechin—or peated Edradour—released recently by Whisky Sponge. See here for a review of the first cask (a first-fill bourbon barrel) and read the comments on that post for some discussion of the ethical issues that these releases raise. If you have any thoughts about any of that please add them to the comments on that first review so it all stays in one place.
Ballechin 17, 2004 (55.5%; WhiskySponge; Edition 36B; Refill Fino Sherry Butt; from a bottle split)
Nose: Dry, farmy peat with some sweet notes around the edges of the smoke. Gets more organic and vegetal as it sits—definitely something rotting in the undergrowth in the middle distance, the aroma being wafted over on a briny, sea breeze (yes, I know where Edradour is located). Water softens the whole up: the farmy peat abates and there’s a touch of vanilla now. The salt expands again with time. Continue reading →
Back in the middle of 2020 I posted reviews of a trio of whiskies from Edradour. Let’s begin 2021 with reviews of a trio that bear the name Ballechin, aka peated Edradour. Until that trio of Edradours in mid-2020 I had actually only ever reviewed Ballechins from the distillery. And with only one exception—this Signatory release—I had only reviewed official releases, including a number of the cask variations (port, oloroso, marsala, madeira) released during the spirit’s initial march to the first 10 yo release. Since then a number of older Ballechins have hit the market from various indie bottlers. which leads us to this trio which represents the oldest Ballechins I have yet tried. This trio, furthermore, has been bottled by WhiskySponge, the outfit that bears the nickname of its proprietor, Angus MacRaild. The Whisky Sponge first became known to the general populace via the excellent eponymous blog that lampooned the excesses of the industry—and occasionally published more serious commentary as well. Somewhere along the line Angus M. seems to have become an indie bottler himself—more evidence that I really am out of touch with malt whisky developments is that I only noted this relatively recently. He also became a contributing writer on Serge Valentin’s Whiskyfun a few years ago. Now Angus seems to be an upstanding type but I have to confess I find a little messy the situation of one independent bottler regularly reviewing releases from his competition on what is undoubtedly the most influential whisky buying guide around—especially for indie releases. Continue reading →
The two Glenfarclas 28, 1992s I reviewed this week (here and here) were both very good but stopped just short of true excellence in my view. And so it’s time to bring out a guaranteed heavy hitter to close out the year. Not because this year has been anything to celebrate but in the hopes that it might augur better things for next year. This too is a Speysider, albeit a little older and distilled a long time before the two Glenfarclas. This is one of the great Longmorns bottled by Scott’s Selection in 2003 and 2004 for the US market. I’ve previously reviewed the 1968-2003, the 1967-2004 and the 1968-2004. This is the youngest of the set, distilled in 1971 and bottled in 2004. (The other in the group is the 1967-2003 of which I have a bottle in reserve.) Like most of the great Longmorns of that era, this features a heavy dose of fruit, most of it tropical. I know this because this is not my first bottle. These were all still widely available when I first began to buy a lot of whisky and I bought a pair each of this and the 1968-2003. The first bottle was finished before I launched the blog; here now is the second. My spreadsheet tells me I paid all of $162 for this back in December 2011. Those were indeed the days. Here’s to better days in 2022 as well. Continue reading →
Having reviewed what was said to be “possibly” Speyside’s finest it’s time to move on to what might “plausibly” be Speyside’s finest. The first was rather good, just held back by a bit too much oak and a thinnish texture. Will this one improve on those and other points? Let’s see.
Plausibly Speyside’s Finest/Glenfarclas 28, 1982 (46.4%; OMC for K&L; refill bourbon barrel; from a bottle split)
Nose: More muted than the other at first with a leafy note with some dusty oak behind. Starts to open after a few beats with lemon and pear and some powdered sugar. With time the pineapple begins to emerge more fully on the nose as well. A few drops of water soften it up and pull out some cream—the dusty oak is long gone. Continue reading →
I’ve decided to end the year with a trio of older whiskies. First up, an indie Glenfarclas. Glenfarclas has long (always?) disallowed the use of its name on independent bottlings and it’s quite common to see variations on “Speyside’s Finest” used instead. This 28 yo bottled by Sovereign for K&L this year is named “Possibly Speyside’s Finest”. There’s another bottled alongside named “Plausibly Speyside’s Finest’ (which I might possibly/plausibly review on Wednesday). Now which is a more reassuring qualifier in this context: “Possibly” or “Plausibly”? This follows, by the way, on the heels of last year’s K&L cask which was named “Perhaps Speyside’s Finest”. What’s next? “Purportedly”? “Potentially?” “Perchance”?
As with many indie Glenfarclases (Glenfarclas? Glenfarcli? Glenfarcleaux?), this is from a bourbon cask. It’s always interesting to try whiskies that depart significantly from the home distilleries official profiles. Yes, it’s true that the distillery has also bottled a few ex-bourbon casks in their Family Casks series (for example, this one) but you know what I mean: Glenfarclas is generally synonymous with sherry cask maturation. Anyway, let’s see what this one is like. Continue reading →
Today is the day before Christmas and therefore I have for you a whisky with Christmas in its name. This is the 2021 edition of the Whisky Exchange’s “A Fine Christmas Malt”. It is 16 years old and ostensibly from a mystery distillery. However, at the bottom of the product page for this whisky on the TWE website the links offer “More from Highland Park”. I think this means that this is a Highland Park. Actually, I know it is but don’t ask me how I know: if word gets out that he’s been so indiscreet someone might have to shave his beard. I rather liked the last Highland Park I reviewed of this general age: a 17 yo bottled for K&L. Unlike that one this is not a single cask but a vatting of bourbon and sherry casks. A friend visiting London in November muled a bottle back to me. I was expecting it to be sold out by now but somehow it is still available—oh, when will the war on Christmas end? On the other hand, this means I am reviewing yet another currently available whisky. I truly am the king of timely whisky reviewers. Continue reading →
The week began with a review of the current batch of the Kilkerran 8, CS which was put together from first-fill oloroso cask matured spirit. Today’s review is of another sherry cask-matured whisky. This one, from Balvenie in the Speyside, is almost twice the age of the Kilkerran. The old Balvenie 15 Single Barrel series was one of my favourites back when I got into malt whisky in a big way. Those were all single bourbon casks. A little less than 10 years ago or so that series was discontinued in favour of a new 15 y sherry cask series. Unsurprisingly, these releases cost a lot more. The lowest price in the US right now seems to be just under $100 though in most states they cost a lot more than that—in Minnesota the lowest price shown on Winesearcher is currently $130 before tax. The only other cask in the series that I’ve reviewed so far was certainly not a whisky I’d want to pay $130 for—or for that matter even much less. Now, it’s true that there are very few whiskies any more of any age or cask type that I’m willing to pay those kinds of prices for. Will this one turn out to be one of them? Let’s see. I’m not sure when this was bottled, by the way—I assume sometime in the last couple of years. Continue reading →
There have been a few general batch-numbered releases of a Kilkerran 8 CS in recent years. Going off the Whiskybase listings it would appear that the first couple of of these appeared in 2017 (I am not counting previous single cask releases or releases available only at the distillery). The 2017 (Batch 1 and Batch 2) and 2018 (Batch 3) releases were from bourbon casks. I was not the biggest fan of Batch 1 and have not tried the second or third batches. Batch 4 was released in 2019—I reviewed it earlier this year and after an unpromising opening rather liked—and was matured in re-charred oloroso sherry casks. After a year’s break, 2021’s release (Batch 5) is once again from oloroso sherry casks but this time they were first-fill oloroso casks. This is the release I am reviewing today as the first in a week of sherry cask whiskies. On Wednesday I’ll check in with a Balvenie single sherry cask and I’ll close out the week appropriately on Friday with The Whisky Exchange’s recent “A Fine Christmas Malt”. But first let’s get into this one. Continue reading →
Islay week started out with a Bowmore released in 2019 and then took a jump back in time with an Ardbeg Uigeadail released in 2007. We’re now back to the present, indeed back in 2021 itself. Closing out the week is this year’s edition of the Cairdeas, Laphroaig’s annual Feis Ile release. I was not a fan of 2020’s Port & Wine casks release. The release a year before that was a cask strength version of the Triple Wood from the regular lineup. This year’s release is a cask strength version of the PX release (is that still in the core lineup?) which is basically the Triple Wood but with oloroso casks as the third type of cask involved in the maturation (after regular bourbon casks and quarter casks). Will it send the series back in the right direction? Even if it does, I do wish Laphroaig would go back to releasing good young bourbon cask whiskies in this series. All of the Cairdeas releases I’ve liked best have been from bourbon casks. Either that or just give us a straight forward sherry cask release (both 2018’s Fino and 2014’s Amontillado releases were finsihes/double maturations too). Anyway, let’s see what this one is like—maybe it’ll make me eat my words. Continue reading →
Islay week continues. After starting at Bowmore on Monday we’ll now move down to the south coast for the remaining reviews of the week. And after a bourbon cask release to start the week we’ll head into deep, sherried territory. First up, a bottle from the 2007 release of the Ardbeg Uigeadail. In 2007 the Uigeadail was not new—the first release was in 2003—but it was certainly not the familiar name it has since become to fans of the distillery and of heavily peated whisky. The distillery itself was only in the early stages of its comeback. The release of the new 10 year old, distilled after the purchase and revitalization of the distillery in 1997 by Glenmorangie PLC, was still a year away. And the Uigeadail itself would not become a major sensation till 2009 when that sexist asshole in a Panama hat named it his pick for the best whisky in the world or whatever. Of course, in malt whisky lore, the golden age of the Ardbeg Uigeadail was already behind it then! It’s the releases from 2003 and 2004 that are famous for containing old sherried Ardbeg from1970s casks in them. But even if that time was gone by 2007, the Uigeadail of that era was rather excellent indeed. I want to say that this is the last of several bottles I’d purchased at the time but my usually trusty spreadsheet fails me. This is one of very few whiskies for which I have not recorded the place or date of purchase or a price. As I do have all that information recorded for my remaining bottles of the 2010 and 2013 releases I’m guessing this was not purchased alongside them. Anyway, what I have recorded is the score I gave the previous bottle—finished before I started the blog—and on that basis I am expecting to enjoy this very much. Let’s get to it. Continue reading →
Bowmore 15, Feis Ile 2019 (51.7%; first-fill bourbon casks; from a bottle split)
Nose: Takes a few beats to open up and then there’s the sweet Bowmore florals along with some passionfruit, some vanilla; mineral peat runs through it all. Brinier with each sniff. Not too much change after that. A few drops of water pull out some cream and turn the fruit more acidic. Continue reading →
Talisker Week began with the very first release of the Talisker 18 from 2004 and continued with the 2015 release of the Distillers Edition. Let’s now close it out with a 20 yo. This was released in 2003 and was put together from a number of ex-bourbon casks distilled in 1982, for a total of 12,000 bottles released worldwide. This came a year after (I think) another 20 yo from sherry casks from the 1981 vintage. That sherry cask release has divided whisky geeks who’ve had it. Some utterly love it, some find it marred by sulphur. The bourbon cask edition, however, I don’t think I’ve ever read any complaints about. It’s about as quintessential modern-era Talisker as you could hope for. Indeed, I wonder if this release didn’t inspire the 18 yo that became a part of the distillery’s core lineup the following year. I would not be surprised to learn that the vatting for that first 18 yo drew on casks that went into this 20 yo—after all, in the early 2000s it was still common for official releases to contain spirit older than the age on the label. At any rate, as I am currently drinking both side by side I find many points of similarity; the major difference being abv and that the 18 yo has some fraction of ex-sherry casks in it as well. Alright, let’s get to it. Continue reading →
Following Monday’s review of a bottle from the first-ever release of the Talisker 18 in 2004, let’s continue Talisker week with another from the distillery’s core range. The Talisker Distillers Edition—like all Diageo’s Distillers Edition releases—is the distillery’s entry-level age-stated malt—in this case the 10 yo—finished for a few months in sherry or wine casks—in this case, Amoroso sherry casks. As I’ve noted before, the only one of these I’ve consistently liked is the Lagavulin Distillers Edition. In most of the others the finish has not in my view tended to add very much that’s compelling to the base malt; though I suppose it is always good to have some variation. Such was my view of the only other Talisker Distillers Edition I’ve reviewed—the 2011 release. This one is from four years later. Will it be appreciably different? And will it make me curious enough about more recent releases to seek them out? Let’s see. Continue reading →
When we arrived in Minnesota in 2007 I fortuitously happened on Chicago-Lake Liquors while visiting the Midtown Global Market across the street. Chicago-Lake’s large collection of single malt whisky at minimal markups had a lot to do with my rapidly accelerating whisky mania at the time. Alas, those days are long gone—Chicago-Lake is still around but the selection shrank and the prices rose quite a few years ago. I will always be grateful to the owners of the store though for making it possible for me to try so many excellent official releases at such reasonable prices. These included the Laphroaig 15 for $40, the Glenlivet Nadurra for $55, Springbank 15 for about $65, the Highland Park 18 for $80 and, yes, the Talisker 18 for all of $50. The Talisker 18 had only just been introduced a few years ago and had recently been named the best whisky in the world by some publication or the other. And so I was very happy to try it. I loved it right away and for a good few years bought it regularly from Chicago-Lake. Elsewhere the price was higher—$80’ish—but that paled in comparison to the price hike around 2012 or so when it shot up to $140. Alas, I had not had the foresight to stock up on a case or two and so the memories of the early releases were soon all I had left of them. Thus when the chance recently presented itself to acquire a bottle of the 2004 release I jumped at it. I was curious to see what I would make of it now. I’d liked the 2011 release but not thought it very special; the 2007 release I’d liked a lot more. Would this one live up to my memory of it? Well, I’m very glad to say it does. Continue reading →