Talisker 9, Distillery Hand-Fill, October 2022

Okay, let’s do a week of official Taliskers (still pretty much the only kind there are). When I first got into single malt whisky, there wasn’t much Talisker about. Really just the 10 yo and the Distillers Edition. This was in the early 2000s. The 18 yo was introduced in 2004 and that’s also when the 25 yo became a regular annual release (the first one had been released in 2001). The 30 yo came along a few years after that. With both the 25 yo and the 30 yo in the special release category, it was really the 10 yo and the 18 yo that carried the distillery’s flag through the 2000s and into the early 2010s. Even without the excellent 25 and 30 year olds taken into account, the distillery’s batting average was pretty high. In the decade and a half since, the official releases have proliferated somewhat. You might say that’s a good thing: the more Talisker, the better. I would have said the same if this expanded range were more to my taste but I’m afraid I don’t have a very high opinion of the newer NAS releases. Well, the Talisker that leads off this week is not NAS—it’s a 9 yo (though no vintage is mentioned). And it’s not a wide release, being a cask that was available last year to be filled by hand at the distillery. The source of my bottle split filled it in late October (along with the Oban, Lochnagar and Dalwhinnie I reviewed in December). It’s from a “rejuvenated” red wine cask, which means that there are two things about it that scare me. Let’s see if it allays my fears. Continue reading


Glentauchers 27, 1993 (Gordon & MacPhail)

Here is a Glentauchers to close out my week of heavily sherried 25+ year old whiskies bottled by Gordon & MacPhail. Glentauchers is a pretty anonymous Speyside distillery. I’ve reviewed five others previously—I believe those were all from ex-bourbon casks. Like Monday’s Aberfeldy, this one is from a first-fill sherry puncheon; Tuesday’s Mortlach was from a first-fill butt (a bit smaller than a puncheon). Well, I liked the Mortlach quite a bit more than the Aberfeldy and so hope that the cask type is not going to be the predictor of quality here. Let’s get right to it.

Glentauchers 27, 1993 (54.3%; first-fill sherry puncheon 2635; Gordon & MacPhail; from a bottle split)

Nose: Ah yes, this is a richer, fruitier sherry cask. It leads with dried orange peel, fig jam and a touch of hoisin. Sweeter on the second sniff with brandied raisins. A bit of pencil lead too. With time some apricot jam joins the party. With a few drops of water there’s some camphor and it get spicier on the whole. Continue reading

Mortlach 25, 1994 (Gordon & MacPhail)

Yesterday, I posted only my third-ever review of a Aberfeldy. Today’s whisky is from a distillery whose whisky I have far more of a familiarity with: Mortlach. Like yesterday’s Aberfeldy, this is a 25 yo single cask, also a first-fill sherry cask, bottled by Gordon & MacPhail. Mortlach is very well-known in sherried incarnations—the interplay of sherry oak, especially when from an European oak cask, and Mortlach’s naturally meaty profile can yield truly pleasurable results. Though, while I liked the last sherried Mortlach I reviewed quite a bit,  it wasn’t really one that displayed that character that one would think of as quintessentially Mortlach (let me once again encourage you to read my post from several years ago probing the question of “distillery character“). I have liked most sherried Mortlachs I’ve tried, however—with a couple of exceptions from K&L’s series of casks that are not really the bargains they seem. But I’m still chasing the memory of a Mortlach 13 bottled by G&M in their old Reserve series (anyone remember those bottles? cask strength, green labels?). It wasn’t a world-beater but it was a truly idiosyncratic meatily sulphurous beast. I finished that bottle a couple of years before I started the blog and, alas, do not seem to have saved a large reference sample from it as was my usual practice at the time. Anyway, let’s see if this 25 yo is in that vein or something more refined. Continue reading

Aberfeldy 25, 1993 (Gordon & MacPhail)

After a week of weirdo Kilchomans that included two red wine cask-bothered releases (here and here) and one mezcal finish (here), let’s get back to more conventional ground: sherry cask-matured whisky. All three of this week’s whiskies—like the Linkwood that led off the month—were bottled by Gordon & Macphail in their Connoisseurs Choice line, which is a lot fancier these days than it used to be. We’ll begin the week in the highlands with an Aberfeldy. This is only my third-ever Aberfeldy review and is by some distance the oldest of the three. The other two included a Cadenhead’s small batch release from bourbon hogsheads and another G&M Connoisseurs Choice release from a refill sherry cask. This one is from a first-fill sherry puncheon. The refill sherry cask was fine but didn’t excite me very much. Will this first-fill sherry cask, which is nine years older be better? Let’s see. Continue reading

Kilchoman 7, 2013 (ImpEx Cask Evolution, Mezcal Finish)

Okay, after two red wine-bothered Kilchomans (here and here), it’s time for something completely different. This Kilchoman received an 8 month mezcal finish after 7 years of maturation in a Buffalo Trace Barrel. No word on what the mezcal was. I assume that’s the next step in cask hyper-detail: what brand of mezcal, what type of agave and so on. Or maybe not. At any rate, I am pretty sure this is the first mezcal-bothered whisky I’ve yet had. Now, I have had and reviewed a mezcal that received a bourbon cask finish, but this, I’m pretty sure is a first for me. As to how many other mezcal-finished whiskies there are floating about in the world, I have no idea. If you know or have had others, please write in below. Of course, I do often find mezcal’ish notes in young whiskies—and, indeed, have found them in young peated Islay whiskies in particular. These notes are associated in my palate with youth. Does that mean this mezcal finished whisky will register as younger than 7 years (itself not a very ripe old age) on my palate? Let’s see. Continue reading

Kilchoman 9, 2011, STR Finish, for Drammers

STR = Shaved, Toasted, Re-charred, if you’re wondering (as I was before I looked it up). I’m sure there’s a good reason why a cask would be toasted and re-charred but I don’t know what that is. In this case, it’s a shaved, toasted and re-charred ex-red wine cask and the whisky was finished in it for 19 months after 7+ years of maturation in a bourbon barrel. It was then bottled for the New York whisky club, Drammers. All of this information is from the excellent Kilchomania, by the way. I liked Monday’s red wine-bothered Kilchoman a lot more than I was expecting to. Of course, that was a full-term red wine maturation and this one is just a finish, but I am hopeful nonetheless. I assume the shaving, toasting and re-charring removes a lot of the red wine influence? If so, hopefully there won’t be much, if any wine separation—just as there wasn’t in the full-term matured whisky. And perhaps the longer maturation time—this is almost twice the age of Monday’s whisky—will give it more depth and development as well. Well, let’s see. Continue reading

Kilchoman 5, 2012, Red Wine Casks

Let’s do a week of weirdo Kilchomans. By “weirdo” I mean any kind of maturation other than ex-bourbon or ex-sherry. I know, it’s very old-fashioned of me. First up, is a a five year old matured in red wine casks, specifically red wine casks from the Douro Valley in Portugal. (Note: this is not a single cask release and nor is it a cask strength release: it was a worldwide release put together from 20 red wine casks at 50% abv.) Now, I don’t have a good history with red wine cask whisky. But I’m not actually sure I’ve ever had anything other than a red wine finish. This one was actually full-term matured in red wine casks (or at least so I think). I am hopeful that this will at least prevent one of the things I have not enjoyed about red wine cask whisky: the red wine notes separating from and floating above the whisky. I can only hope it will also guard against the other major thing I have not enjoyed about red wine cask whisky: eau de cologne on the nose. Another potential good sign is that this is, of course, heavily peated whisky (I believe at 50 ppm). I’m not a huge fan of port cask whisky either but have generally found it to work best with peated whiskies. With all my hopes and reservations on the table, let’s get to it. Continue reading

Linkwood 23, 1998 (Gordon & MacPhail)

One of the possible themed weeks I might do this month is “Unfancied Speysiders”. Though this review is obviously not part of that week, Linkwood too is an unfancied Speysider. It is one of many Diageo distilleries that, outside of the Flora & Fauna line, don’t get any but the rare official release. And when Diageo does put any older Linkwood out, it’s at a nosebleed price. As such, as with so many such distilleries, if we want to taste more of their output, and if we want to taste reasonably affordable iterations of their older malt, it is to the indie bottlers we must go.

In this case, to the giants of Elgin, Gordon & MacPhail. (Linkwood too is located in Elgin, by the by.) This 23 yo Linkwood was released in Gordon & MacPhail’s refurbished Connoisseurs Choice line. Older whisky drinkers will remember that a decade-plus ago this was G&M’s entry-level label, usually bottled at 40% or 43%, and no one got very excited about it. Of course, even before that many well-regarded older whiskies from the 1960s and 1970s had also been released under this label—usually also at 40%; the obsession with cask strength whisky is a relatively new thing, after all. Anyway, the Connoisseurs Choice label is fancy again, and now at cask strength—which is another way of saying “expensive”. Will this Linkwood, bottled from a refill sherry hogshead, prove to be a good value anyway? Let’s see. Continue reading

Springbank 10, July 2022 Release

Springbank, as you know, has become one of the most highly allocated distilleries in the US. It has become all but impossible to find the 12 yo Cask Strength or the 15 and 18 year olds in the wild; and even if you do find them, the prices asked might make the blood drain from your head. And let’s not even talk about the Local Barley or single cask releases. From the regular lineup the 10 yo is the only one that can still be found from time to time without extra effort—at least in Minnesota—and, at roughly $80 before tax, it is almost a reasonably priced whisky in this current extremely stupid market. Relative to age, that is, Relative to quality, I have to say that $80 seems like a very good price compared to many other whiskies that cost more—and, for that matter, many other whiskies that cost less. I loved the March 2021 release that I reviewed a little less than a year ago. And so when I walked into my local Total Wine and saw the July 2022 release sitting on a shelf, I immediately reached for a bottle. Whiskybase tells me that this release was a vatting of 60% ex-bourbon and 40% ex-sherry casks (do the vattings vary across release dates in the same year? I wouldn’t think so). I opened the bottle right away and have been enjoying it over the last week and a half. Here now are some notes. Continue reading

Amrut “Aatma” 7, 2013, Ex-Port

And here is the last of this week’s Amrut “Aatma” releases. Here are the first, second and third ones I reviewed. There have been more than four “Aatma” releases, by the way—it’s just that I only got my hands on four samples. Like the others, this was a US exclusive and bottled at 56.5%. Like the two sherry casks, this one was made from unpeated barley. It was, however, matured in a port pipe (full-term maturation? I’m not sure). I’m usually wary of port cask whiskies when peat has not been involved. I’m hoping Amrut will raise my average with the genre.

Amrut “Aatma” 7, 2013, Ex-Port (56.5%; cask 4670; from a bottle split)

Nose: Slightly cough syrupy at first sniff and then there’s plum sauce and a bit of hoisin. A little bit of leather as well in there as it sits and some cherry jam. With more time the sweet notes get darker: caramel, brandied raisins. A few drops of water brighten it up: apricot and orange peel now. Continue reading

Amrut “Aatma” 7, 2012, Ex-Oloroso

Here’s the third of my Amrut “Aatma” reviews this week. This one was matured in an ex-oloroso sherry cask (see here for Monday’s ex-bourbon cask, and here for Tuesday’s ex-fino sherry cask). I believe this may have been the second of the “Aatma” releases. Like the other two, it was a US exclusive and bottled at 56.5%. And with that I have exhausted my introductory patter. Let’s get right to it.

Amrut “Aatma” 7, 2012, Ex-Oloroso (56.5%; cask 4136; from a bottle split)

Nose: Rich sherry (dried tangerine peel, caramel, brandied raisins) with some pencil lead mixed in. Some cherry as it sits. Stickier with time and then there’s some Ben Nevis-style roasted malt and powdered ginger. With a few drops of water the orange pops to the front first and turns quickly to a mix of marmalade and apricot jam; some mango leather as well. Continue reading

Amrut “Aatma” 5, 2016, Ex-Fino

The promised/expected Tuesday restaurant report will be posted on Wednesday. A busier than expected Monday didn’t leave me enough time to resize what turned out to be a lot of pictures taken over the course of two meals at a Vietnamese restaurant in Burnsville. I’ll work on that tomorrow while waiting for what is forecast to be an epic snowstorm in the upper midwest. Here, in its place today, is the second whisky in my series of reviews of the Amrut “Aatma” releases. While Monday’s ex-bourbon cask was in fact the first of these to be released, this one was not the second; at least three others were bottled between the first and this one. I’m reviewing it second, however, since as an ex-fino sherry cask it is likely to be next on the richness spectrum from Monday’s ex-bourbon cask. Unlike that one, this was made from unpeated Indian barley. It was, however, also a US exclusive and was bottled at the same reasonable strength. Will it be at least as good as the first “Aatma” release? Let’s see. Continue reading

Amrut “Aatma” 7, 2011, Ex-Bourbon

Let’s do a week of reviews of whiskies from Amrut. I recently acquired samples of releases from a series Amrut calls Aatma—the Hindi/Sanskrit word for soul. These are all single casks, and all seem to be from different cask types. As far as I can tell from looking at Whiskybase listings, today’s release was the first of the bunch and it seems to have been an exclusive for the American market. I’d guess it cost a pretty penny. It’s a single ex-bourbon barrel, filled in late 2011 and bottled in mid-2019. Which makes it 7 years old. Amrut’s marketing would have it that this is equivalent to 21 years of aging in Scotland but you don’t have to be as soulless as me to recognize this as just that: marketing. This cask was filled with spirit made from peated Scottish barley. It’s been a while since I’ve had Amrut’s regular peated cask strength release (do they still put that out?); I’d imagine at 7 years, this cask is a bit older than the whiskies that make up the standard Amrut releases. I am pleased to note though that it was not bottled at the ludicrous strength of the last Amrut Peated CS I reviewed, which topped the scales at 62.8% abv. At 56.5% this one is downright civilized in comparison. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Laphroaig 10 CS, Batch 015

This turned into a week of age-stated official releases from distilleries in different whisky producing regions of Scotland. We began in Campbeltown on Monday with the Kilkerran 16, and continued in the Speyside on Wednesday with the Glenallachie 15. I liked the Kilkerran quite a bit more than the Glenallachie. Today’s whisky is the youngest of the lot and also the peatiest of the lot. We’re on Islay to close out the week with a Laphroaig. No, I have no idea why I’m going on like I’m narrating a History Channel documentary—maybe it’s because I’ve been watching Cunk on Earth, which is something I recommend you do as well. I don’t however recommend watching it while drinking a whisky, especially a high strength whisky like Batch 015 of the Laphroaig 10 Cask Strength. That’s how I watched the first two episodes and it almost killed me. But enough about me. I believe Batch 015 is the most recent batch of the Laphroaig 10 CS. But, as I readily admit, I don’t really keep up with these things any more. I do know that I never saw Batch 014 in Minnesota. Which means my reviews of this series is now missing both Batch 008 and Batch 014. If you have bottles of these and would be willing to share samples, please use the “Contact Me” link above. Alright, let’s get to the whisky. Continue reading

Glenallachie 15

Let’s make it a week of age-stated, official releases from three different parts of Scotland. From Campbeltown on Monday, let’s move to the Speyside. Like the Kilkerran 16, the Glenallachie 15 is a relatively recent entrant into the market. As far as I can make out, it was first released in 2019, with more releases in the years following. Like the Glenallachie 12 (which I quite liked), this is a sherry cask whisky. Unlike the 12 yo, which has virgin oak cask matured spirit in the mix, the 15 yo is vatted entirely from PX and oloroso casks. Once again, I don’t know which year’s release my sample came from. But in this case it may not matter very much. This because there is apparently a lot of batch variation in these releases from the same years; and so the year of release by itself would not mean very much. In other words, here’s yet another completely useless review. You’re welcome. Continue reading

Kilkerran 16

Last week’s reviews were all of bottles filled from the hand-fill casks at the Springbank distillery in October 2022 (Hazelburn, Springbank, Longrow). Let’s stay in Campbeltown at least to start this week. But instead of Springbank, let’s go down the road to Glengyle, which is where Kilkerran is distilled. And instead of whiskies bottled only at the distillery shop, let’s do a general release. The Kilkerran 16 was first released in 2020. There were releases in 2021 and 2022 as well. Apparently, these releases have had different cask compositions, varying further by market. The 2020 US release was 98% ex-bourbon and 2% ex-madeira, for example, whereas the 2020 European release was 96% ex-bourbon and 4% ex-marsala. On the other hand, the 2021 US and European releases were both 75% ex-bourbon and 25% ex-sherry. The 2022 European release upped the sherry to 30%; if there’s been a 2022 US release it’s not on Whiskybase yet, and so I can’t tell you if it follows the 2020 or 2021 approach. Continue reading

Longrow Hand-Filled, October 2022

Here is the third of this week’s trio of reviews of Springbank distillery hand-filled bottles from October 2022. I reviewed the Springbank from the set on Tuesday and the Hazelburn on Monday. I found that Hazelburn—as I had the August 2022 Hazelburn hand-fill—to be quite palpably peaty. In fact, blind, I would have guessed it was a Longrow. I also liked it a lot. Here now is the actual Longrow from the set and I can only hope that it will not turn out to be devoid of peat. I would also say that I expect to like this even more but the Longrow in the August trio was actually the weakest of that set (which is not to say it was bad). Let’s get right to it.

(As with the other Springbank hand-fills, there is no information on age, distillation here or cask type for this Longrow.)

Longrow Hand-Filled, October 2022 (57.6%; from a bottle split)

Nose: Earthy peat with a bit of savoury gunpowder, dried orange peel and dried mushrooms. Maltier and saltier on the second sniff. With more time there’s toffee as well. A few drops of water and the gunpowder recedes a fair bit and there’s more malt now. Continue reading

Springbank Hand-Filled, October 2022

I am having a hell of a time getting over jet lag after getting back from India last Friday afternoon. I have not had the energy to sit down and resize pictures and write my next restaurant report. Therefore, here, a day early, is this week’s second whisky review.

This is also the second of this week’s reviews of a trio of hand-fills bottled at Springbank in October 2022 (I did not fill them myself; I acquired the samples from the person who did). You may recall that I reviewed the Hazelburn from the set yesterday, and that I liked it a lot. I found quite a bit of peat in that Hazelburn, as I had in the August iteration as well. Will this Springbank be likewise atypical? Or will it be more in line with the Springbank in the August set, which I liked a lot? Let’s see.

Continue reading