This week of reviews of malts from Highland distilleries began with a 10 yo Loch Lomond/Inchmoan. Let’s go further north now to Clynelish in the northern highlands and add a year to the age. Unlike Monday’s Inchmoan, which was made with wine yeast used in the fermentation process, there is nothing, as far as I know, out of the ordinary about this Clynelish. It was released by Signatory in their Unchillfiltered Collection. Signatory released a few of these 11 year olds from the 2008 vintage and I’m sorry to say that not having realized that before this evening I failed to ask the source of my samples for more specific cask information—and now I can’t remember who the source of my samples was! As always, getting old is a lot of fun. Anyway, of those 2019 releases were from bourbon barrels and so we know what the cask type is. Anyway: bourbon cask Clynelish is almost always a good thing and Signatory has always been a good source of Clynelish casks. And so I am hopeful that this will not disappoint. Let’s see. Continue reading
Okay, let’s do a week of reviews of Highland distilleries. First up is a Loch Lomond 10 bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Word on the street is that this is more specifically an Inchmoan. Inchmoan is, as you probably know, one of Loch Lomond’s peated lines. Though what exactly separates Inchmoan from the other peated Loch Lomonds—your Inchfads and Croftengeas—I’m not entirely sure and you may need to go to a more reliable source to find out. Well, this particular Inchmoan is quite different from most whiskies, whether made at Loch Lomond or elsewhere. That because the yeast used for the batch this cask came from was quite different from the types normally used in the fermentation process in making single malt whisky: it was a wine yeast. Now, for all I know, I’ve had other whiskies before without knowing it that had wine yeast in their production process but now that I do know for a fact that it was used to make this whisky I am very curious to see what characteristics it imparts. Let’s get to it. Continue reading
Here is the third of three Arran reviews for the week. The first two were official distillery releases: the Quarter Cask/The Bothy Batch 3, which is part of the distillery’s current range; and the 2018 release of the 14 yo, which has apparently since been discontinued. Today’s whisky is an independent release, a single bourbon hogshead bottled by Cadenhead in 2017. Somewhat unusually it seems to have been bottled for the American market. Coincidentally, there was also a distillery bottled 17 yo sherry cask from the 1999 vintage that was bottled for the Japanese market. But that is neither here nor there.
I liked the 14 yo quite a bit more than the NAS Quarter Cask. Will I like this 17 yo even more? Let’s see.
Arran 17, 1999 (55.2%; Cadenhead; bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Lemon and toasted oak to start. On the second sniff there’s malt and some toffee. The toffee expands as it sits and the fruit transitions from lemon to apricot (baked rather than fresh or jammy). Some wood glue in here too now. Sweeter with water but otherwise in the same vein. Continue reading
My week of Arran reviews got off to an inauspicious start with the Quarter Cask, Batch 3. Let’s hope this 14 yo moves us in the other direction. It’s been a while since I’ve had the Arran 14 but I’ve always liked it when I have in the past (see my review of a bottle from the 2010 release). I have to say I don’t remember seeing it on shelves here in a while but that may just be a marker of how little whisky I’ve bought in the last couple of years. This sample is not from a recent release, for what it’s worth: my source tells me the bottle is from 2018. I’m interested to see what it’s like.
Arran 14, 2018 Release (46%; from a bottle split)
Nose: Ah yes, a lovely blast of fruit, with lemon and pineapple leading the way; malt comes up from below to join the fruit, bringing a touch of yeast with it. Some oak framing it all below. On the second and third sniffs the fruit gets muskier with cider and overripe pears. A few drops of water push the acid down and emphasize the malt and muskier fruit. Continue reading
I think I may have promised a week of Arran reviews in July. Let’s get to it now before we get too far into August. First up, an official release and one that became part of the distillery’s portfolio in 2015. I’m not sure if this series has come to the US—Whiskybase only shows one 750 ml bottle and that’s from 2015. It is first matured in first-fill ex-bourbon casks and then finished in much smaller quarter casks (also American oak). I’ve seen references to the quarter cask finish having lasted two years for the first batch. I’m not sure if that has remained the case for subsequent releases. The overall age is, I’m guessing, not very high, which makes this a bit of an outlier relative to the last few Arrans I’ve reviewed: the 20 yo Brodick Bay and a 21 yo bottled for OMC’s 20th anniversary among them. I’m generally a fan of Arran’s fruity profile. I hope it’s not overwhelmed here by oak via both the first-fill bourbon and then the smaller quarter cask maturation. Having now jinxed myself let’s see what the whisky is actually like. Continue reading
Having started the month with a review of an Allt-a-Bhainne let’s end the the week with another Speyside distillery; and let’s get back to K&L’s recent parcel of casks with a Mortlach bottled by Old Particular. I did a week of reviews of Mortlach in May. Those included a 20 yo refill sherry cask, a 12 yo sherry cask (also bottled for K&L), and a 10 yo bourbon cask. I liked the two sherry casks more than the bourbon cask then. Was that a function of the cask type or the age? Today’s Mortlach is 15 years old and from a refill hogshead. It’s both older than the 10 yo and at cask strength. Let’s see if I like it any better.
Mortlach 15, 2006 (56.7%; Old Particular for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Cereals, dusty oak and then rapidly expanding lemon peel and zest, getting quite oily as it goes. As it sits there’s some of what we call ber in India—jujube in English? Anyway, there’s some tart-sweet red fruit. With time there’s some plum mixed in there too. A few drops of water and the lemon peel/oil recedes a bit; there’s more of the ber/jujube along with some ham brine. Continue reading
A 7 yo single malt from a no-name distillery that’s been bottled at >60% abv? Normally that would send chills up my spine. The only saving grace here is that it’s not virgin oak or even first-fill bourbon—or a raw sherry bomb for that matter. Well, I’m assuming it won’t be raw. Allt-a-Bhainne is not the most storied distillery, and it’s not a distillery I have very much experience with but I’ve always found it interesting even as I’ve not developed any real sense of what its profile might be like. On that informational note, let’s get to this SMWS cask which the brain trust at the Society dubbed “Seductive sweetness and smooth smoke”. It’s not every day that I drink a whisky whose name contains not one but two of my old stripper names. Should be special.
Allt-a-Bhainne 7, 2011 (60.8%; SMWS 108.23; second-fill ex-bourbon barrel; from a bottle split)
Nose: Rather closed at first—unsurprising given the strength. Then there’s a bit of candied lemon and some oak and subtle malty/cereal sweetness. A bit of incense in the distance as it sits. With more time there’s a herbal/rooty note as well and a bit of anise. With water it’s the same as before but a bit more intense and a bit more integrated. Some wet wool in there too now. Continue reading
On Monday I had a review of a Braes of Glenlivet/Braeval. Speyside week continues now with another relatively obscure distillery: Glen Elgin. This is only my third review of a Glen Elgin, which may be reliable indicator of how little Glen Elgin is generally available in the American market. It was bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society at the tender age of 10 from a first-fill bourbon barrel. That combination of age and cask type sets off some warning bells but hopefully the whisky will rise above. The venerable society named this one “Aloha!”. I’m not sure what the reason for that is but at least it fits with my ongoing food reports from Hawaii, Okay, let’s get to it.
[Actually, before I get to it, I should note that this Speyside week might well grind to a halt with this Glen Elgin. This because I had not—as I thought I had—taken notes on the third whisky of the set before leaving for Ireland, where I’ve been for a week now on work. I get back home tonight but jet lag may keep me from having the wherewithal to review anything till the end of the week. Let’s see how it goes.] Continue reading
So far this month my whisky review themes have been the following: Craigellachie (here, here and here); sherry casks bottled by Old Particular for K&L (here, here and here); and heavily peated Islay whiskies (here, here and here). Let’s now end the month with reviews of some more delicate Speysiders. First up is a 16 yo Braes of Glenlivet (the throwback name for Braeval) bottled by Cadenhead in 2013. It was released in their “Small Batch” series. But as the outturn was 270 bottles and the cask type is specified as bourbon hogshead, it seems safe to assume this was a single cask release. I bought this at the same time as I did this Dufftown 26 (also from Cadenhead) and this Unnamed Orkney 14 (bottled by Signatory) and also a G&M Caol Ila trio I have not yet reviewed. All were purchased with a consortium of friends. I kept half of each botle and they split the rest. I’ve been drinking and enjoying this for the last two months and here finally are my tasting notes. Continue reading
Monday’s Laphroaig 10 CS, Batch 013 was fine but nothing more. Wednesday’s Caol Ila 8, 2013 was a lot better. Islay peat week now concludes with the oldest whisky of the trio: a 16 yo Port Charlotte or peated Bruichladdich. Will this keep the positive trajectory going? I hope so even though I am not a fan of that buytryic sour milk/parmesan rind note I get off almost everything from Bruichladdich. Like the Laphroaig and the Caol Ila this is bourbon cask matured; from a single bourbon barrel, in fact. It was bottled a few years ago by the Whiskybase lads for their Archives label. Once upon a time I used to buy those Archives releases on the regular. Alas, in recent years it’s become very difficult to purchase whisky from abroad in the US. And even though some Archives releases have come to the US, intra-state shipping here has also become all but impossible—and I don’t think any of their releases have come to Minnesota. And so I am compltely out of touch with what they’ve been up to in recent years. Anyway my sample of this one comes to me from the redoubtable Michael Kravitz of Diving for Pearls. His review of the same whisky—which I have not read yet—can be found here. Continue reading
Peated Islay week started with Batch 013 of the Laphroaig 10 CS. It turned out to be my least favourite of the batches so far—though by no means a bad whisky. Today I have a review of a slightly younger Islay whisky. Speaking of which, ignore what it says on the sample bottle label in the picture alongside: that second line listing age and abv was swapped accidentally with that of a Thompson Bros. Teaninich. This is a Caol Ila 8, distilled in 2013 and bottled at 57% abv. Caol Ila is almost always good for the kind of nuance missing in that Laphroaig 10 CS, especially when matured in bourbon casks; and this one was matured in a refill hogshead. The bottlers are Simon and Phil Thompson of the Dornoch Distillery and hotel (see my brief account of a visit there in 2018). They are well-known figures in the single malt whisky world and are working as small-scale independent bottlers as their own spirit waits to come online. This is one of a few casks they’ve bottled recently for K&L in California. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
Last week’s series of reviews of recent Old Particular/K&l releases ended with a Ledaig 15 that I quite liked. Let’s keep that peat blast going this week with three reviews of smoky whiskies from Islay. First up is a Laphroaig, the Laphroaig 10 Cask Strength, to be exact.
I try to stay as current on the Laphroaig 10 CS as I can. I’ve reviewed every batch release from 001 to 012 and very rarely has it disappointed me. I’ve been waiting for Batch 013 to hit Minnesota for a while now. It was released in 2021 but I only saw it on local shelves a month or two ago. Meanwhile, Batch 014 and Batch 015 are both out as well, and as per Whiskybase were both also released in 2021. Indeed, Batch 014 seems to have been released in the US too—there’s a 750 ml bottle listed on Whiskybase. I’ve no idea when that will come to Minnesota but am happy nonetheless to be able to review Batch 013. Let’s get to it. Continue reading
This week of sherry casks from distilleries from different whisky producing regions of Scotland bottled by Old Particular for K&L got off to a good start on Monday with a 16 yo Glenrothes. It then hit a bit of a pothole in the road with a 17 yo Glenturret. Let’s see if the youngest of the trio can take us to a strong finish. This is a 15 yo Ledaig, or peated Tobermory from the Isle of Mull. There has been a lot of Ledaig available from independent bottlers in the last decade and a fair bit of it from sherry casks. Ledaig’s flavour of peat tends towards the farmy and organic. It can be funky but it also takes sherry very well. At least that has been my experience. Let’s see if that is borne out here.
Ledaig 15, 2006 (51.8%; Old Particular for K&L; refill butt DL 14901; from a bottle split)
Nose: Big farmy peat mixed in with rich sherry (orange peel, raisins, fruitcake). Saltier with each sniff. With more time and air it softens, with some toffee and milky cocoa and a touch of vanilla. Some rotting leaves mixed in there too now in the farmy peat complex. A squirt of water pulls out a lot of lime and mixes it nicely with the salt; ashier here too now. With a bit more time the lime moves towards preserved lemon. Continue reading
As I noted on Monday, this is a week of several overlapping themes: whiskies from distilleries from different regions of Scotland; sherry cask whiskies; whiskies bottled by Old Particular; whiskies bottled for K&L in California. And for at least the first two you could add, whiskies from Glen- distilleries. The week began with a 16 yo Glenrothes from the Speyside; we’ll now continue with a 17 yo Glenturret from the highlands. I will repeat what I have said in my introduction to every Glenturret I’ve reviewed—all two of them: I have very little experience of Glenturret. Of the two I have reviewed I really liked a 33 yo distilled in 1980, and really did not like a 6 yo distilled in 2013. This one doesn’t fall in the exact middle of those two age-wise but at 17 years of age it’s got some respectable age on it. And unlike that 6 yo, it’s not at a stupidly high abv. All of that is good. It is, of course, no guarantee that all of this means it is a good whisky or, at least, a whisky to my taste, Only one way to find out for sure. Continue reading
Let’s make this a triple or even quadruple-themed week: 1) three whiskies from three different regions; 2) all sherry cask whiskies; 3) all whiskies bottled by Old Particular (a label of one of the Laing offshoots); 4) all whiskies bottled for K&L in California. Yes, I once again went in on a bottle splits of one of K&L’s recent parcel of casks. I assume these are all sold out by now so these reviews will not be of use as a buying guide—but if you’ve picked up a bottle of any of these, let me know if your notes resonate with mine. First up is a Glenrothes 16, distilled in 2005 and matured in a sherry butt. There seem to be a number of these sherry cask Glenrothes around these days. Across 2020 and 2021 I reviewed a trio bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (here, here, and here). In addition to being sherry bombs, those were all massive alcohol bombs: all bottled north of 64.5%. I am glad to say that this one is at a tame 57.2% by comparison. I really don’t see the point of most whiskies past 60% I have to say but I realize I am out of tune with the times. I really liked all three of those anyway and am hoping this might be as good. Let’s see. (And for a recent review of a Glenrothes from a bourbon hogshead, see here.) Continue reading
Craigellachie week got off to an unremarkable start with the 2017 release of the official 13 yo on Monday. Wednesday’s 13 yo, 2007 bottled by Cadenhead brought it roaring back in the other direction. To end the week now I have another official release, this time a 19 yo. This is not part of Craigellachie’s regular lineup; it was a single cask release for the US market a few years ago. I got this sample from Michael Kravitz (of the excellent Diving for Pearls blog). Michael bought it because it was distilled on his 21st birthday. I gather it was quite expensive. But that’s the single malt whisky market these days, especially for official distillery releases: 19 year olds are the new 25 year olds. The fact that this was a sherry butt probably also helped convince customers; I could be wrong but I think American whisky drinkers fetishize dark whiskies more than Europeans do. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading
Craigellachie week did not get off to the strongest start on Monday. The official 13 yo did not make me regret failing to try it in the near decade that it’s been out (though I suppose it may have improved a lot since the 2017 release, which is what I reviewed). Today I have a review of another 13 yo but this one is an indie release. It’s a single bourbon hogshead, and an ex-peated one at that. I do not know which distillery was the source of the peated cask; I don’t believe Bacardi—the owners of Craigellachie—have any other distilleries in their portfolio that traditionally produce peated malt (though one of the them may put out a peated variant). I suppose it’s also possible that the source of the cask may have been the bottler, Cadenhead—but that’s all speculation. If you have any ideas/knowledge on this score, please do share below. I can tell you it was distilled in 2007 and that the Cadenhead name is usually a good thing. Will it put Craigellachie week back on track? I can only hope so. Continue reading
Let’s start the month with a week of reviews of whiskies from Craigellachie. Located in the Speyside, Craigellachie has not always had a high visibility among non-whisky geeks. It was established in the late 19th century and produced malt for blends for most of its life. Indeed, until relatively recently, there were no regular official bottlings from the distillery. The turning point was the purchase of the distillery in 1998 by John Dewar & Sons, themselves a subsidiary of Bacardi. In 2014 official Craigellachies appeared: a 13 yo, a 17 yo and a 23 yo. Idiosyncratic age statements to be sure, and perhaps meant as a reflection of the spirit’s idiosyncratic character. For whisky geeks, Craigellachie—available from independent bottlers before this—has always been of interest as one of the few distilleries still using old-fashioned worm tubs to condense their spirit. This results in spirit that can have a “meaty” texture and character. I’ve not had enough Craigellachie to be able to track all this meaningfully but I am interested to try this official 13 yo—which somehow I have not had at all since it was first released. This sample comes from a bottle from the 2017 release. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading