Old Crow, 1980s Release


After a long run of peated malts let’s do a week of things that are not unpeated and which are also not in fact malt whisky. First up, a bourbon. This is a 1980s release of Old Crow. The current Old Crow release is a bottom-shelf mainstay and has not had a good reputation since Jim Beam purchased the brand from National Distillers in the 1980s. This sample, however, which came to me from the Artist Formerly Known as Sku, is from the pre-Beam National Distillers period. This is from one of several 375 ml releases from the era. Despite the foregoing, I know nothing about how old Old Crow was made then—I’m just hoping this will be a drinkable bourbon. Let’s see.

(For Sku’s own review of one of these National Distillers Old Crows—though not of the bottle this sample is from—see here.) Continue reading

Lagavulin 1991, The Distillers Edition


As I’ve noted before, the Lagavulin entrty is my favourite in Diageo’s Distillers Edition series. The extra few months in PX sherry casks complements the original spirit very well in my view. My ratings of the 1993-2009 and 1997-2013 releases, which are the previous ones I’ve reviewed (here and here), are appropriately high. This one is from a couple of years earlier still: it was distilled in 1991 and released in 2007. I’ll be shocked if I don’t like it a lot as well.

Lagavulin 1991, The Distillers Edition, 2007 Release (43%; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Big phenolic notes mixed in coastal notes (seashells, kelp). The sherry comes up from below with notes both sweet (raisins) and salty. The sweeter notes—including pipe tobacco now—come to the fore after a minute or two in the glass and then dominate. With more time there’s some citrus as well (orange peel). A few drops of water emphasize the fruit: apricot and fig now along with the orange peel. Continue reading

Caol Ila 27, 1984 (Old Malt Cask for the Whisky Barrel)


The week’s first review was of a 19 yo Caol Ila from a bourbon cask. That one was bottled by the Whisky Exchange in 2012. Here now is another Caol Ila bottled the year before by Douglas Laing in their Old Malt Cask series. This one is a fair bit older and is from a refill sherry hogshead. As much as I like bourbon cask Caol Ila, sherried Caol Ila—relatively rare as it is—can be very good indeed and the best ones are among the whisky world’s unalloyed pleasures. See, for example, this one and this one, both also from 1984 distillate. I am hopeful that this will be in the class of those. Let’s see if it is.

Caol Ila 27, 1984 (52.4%; Old Malt Cask; refill sherry hogshead; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Leafy smoke cutting through sherried notes of orange peel, raisins, pipe tobacco and pencil lead. On the second sniff there’s some charred pork and also a hint of savoury sulphur; the smoke is a bit sharper now. The coastal notes emerge as it sits (brine) but it’s not terribly phenolic. Softer with water with a bit of toffee emerging. Continue reading

Caol Ila 19 (The Whisky Exchange)

Here’s a 19 yo Caol Ila bottled several years ago by the Whisky Exchange for their annual Whisky Show. That’s it, that’s the introduction.

Caol Ila 19 (55.9%; The Whisky Exchange for the Whisky Show, 2012; single bourbon cask; from my own bottle)

Nose: Ah yes, this is one of those “Port Ellen, who?” Caol Ilas. Lemon, oyster liquor, kelp, green olive brine, mineral smoke: it’s all here. A couple of minutes later there’s some ash and smouldering leaves mixed in with the mineral smoke, giving it a slightly bitter, vegetal quality. A few drops of water and it’s a mix of citronella, ash and vanilla-cream.

Palate: As predicted by the nose but with more phenols in the smoke and some sweeter notes as I swallow (vanilla). Gets more acidic as it sits and the leafy note from the nose begins to make its way to the palate as well. More acid with water—more preserved than fresh lemon now—and the phenols back off a bit (the ash doesn’t though). Continue reading

Ardmore 20, 1996


I started the month with a heavily-peated Islay that was a bit of a misfire (this year’s Cairdeas). Let’s continue with peated whisky but move on to the eastern highlands, to Ardmore who are not known for heavily peated whisky. Interestingly—and also worryingly—however, this particular 20 yo release was apparently finished in ex-Islay casks after an initial maturation in ex-bourbon casks. If these were casks from Laphroaig (possible given that Beam Suntory owns both distilleries) then there’s a good chance that the usual combination of mellow, peppery peat and fruit that characterizes the best Ardmores might get lost in a phenolic overlay. On the other hand, if the casks were ex-bourbon Bowmore casks—Bowmore being another Beam Suntory distillery—then that might actually be a good match. Let’s see how it goes. I’m a big fan of Ardmore, even though we don’t get very many opportunities to try their malt in the US, and I am hoping for the best. Continue reading

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2020, Port & Wine Casks


I look forward to the release of the Laphroaig Cairdeas every year, even though Laphroaig has not consistently been giving me very many reasons in recent years to look forward to it. I liked 2018’s Fino cask finish but last year’s Triple Wood CS and 2017’s Quarter Cask CS were acceptable but not at all special. The distillery seems to have got caught in an endless cycle of cask finishes; a far cry from 2011 and 2012 which saw them release excellent bourbon cask whiskies (neither of which, I realize, I’ve reviewed). And the only truly excellent Cairdeas since then—2015’s 200th anniversary release—was also from bourbon casks. But there’s no excitement in bourbon cask releases, I guess. Will next year be a rum cask? A marsala cask? Or will we see another Frankenwine release like this year’s (a vatting of port and wine casks)? Well, I suppose if the results taste good there’s no point complaining about the high-concept gimmickry. Let’s see if that is indeed the case. Continue reading

Amrut Naarangi, Batch 5


So far in August I’ve sandwiched two weeks of brandy and rum reviews between two weeks of single malt whisky reviews. Let’s close the month with a review of a release whose category identity is a little more ambiguous. The Amrut Naarangi—of which this is the 5th batch—is made in a complicated way. Amrut takes casks of sherry, adds Indian oranges to them and lets them macerate. The casks are then emptied, filled with Amrut’s spirit and allowed to mature for an unspecified period of time before it is bottled. In Scotland this could not be labelled whisky. Compass Box’s Orangerie—which is made in a similar manner—is officially a “whisky infusion”. In India, however, genre boundaries are looser—a lot of Indian whisky is, of course, technically rum—and so Naarangi is sold as a single malt whisky. Is this an outrage? I don’t know—a lot of contemporary sherry and wine cask whiskies taste to me like infusions made with far less care. The more interesting question is whether this is any good. Let’s see. Continue reading

Glenfarclas 42, 1970, Family Casks (for K&L)


Glenfarclas week started out with a 15 yo on Monday, which I thought was good but nothing very special. In the middle on Wednesday was a 21 yo that I thought was excellent. Let’s close the week out now with a 42 yo. This was distilled in 1970 and I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t consider buying it when it was released by K&L back in 2012. 1970 is when I was distilled as well and I was on the lookout then for 1970 vintage whiskies to buy and stash for my 50th birthday. But the price was quite high—$500+, I think (and it got quite a bit higher later)—and given my general allergy to K&L’s marketing blather, I decided not to take the chance; especially, as I’d purchased this Tomatin 40, 1970 for quite a bit less for the same purpose a year prior. I then forgot about it until it showed up unexpectedly last month in a box of samples from Sku—also the source of Monday’s 15 yo. I’m very interested to find out now if I should have grit my teeth back then and paid the high tariff. Let’s see. Continue reading

Glenfarclas 21, 1980, Dark Sherry Cask


Today’s Glenfarclas is a bit older than Monday’s in terms of age and a bit more still in terms of vintage. This was distilled in 1980 and bottled from a single cask for Filliers, who—as best as I can make out—are a Belgian concern. The cask is described as a “dark sherry cask”, which I assume means it had previously held oloroso sherry. Monday’s 15 yo also featured a big sherry profile but there the bigness seemed a little “engineered” to me—driven by active oak and tannins that covered up a lot of the fruit. This seems to me to happen a lot with heavily sherried whiskies these days. I have had similar complaints about a number of other sherry casks in recent years. Glenfarclas from the 1970s, however, has reliably been a lot fruitier (such, for example, is the excellent Glenfarclas 31, 1974, which I have not reviewed yet) and I am hoping that this one too will display a lot of fruit as part of the “dark” profile. Let’s see. Continue reading

Glenfarclas 15 (for TWE)


It’s been a few weeks since I posted a whisky review. Last week’s booze reviews were all of rums (Caroni, Caroni, Worthy Park); and the week before focused on brandies (Lous Pibous, Dartigalongue, Copper & Kings). It’ll be whisky from now till the end of the month but I’m going to keep this week themed as well: it’ll be all releases of sherried whisky, and all from Glenfarclas. I’ll begin with this 15 yo and then go up in age with each review.

This particular release was bottled for the Whisky Exchange. I’m not sure if it was from a single cask and nor am I sure why no vintage is noted. I suppose it’s possible that it’s a vatting of at least 15 yo casks from a couple of different years, but that seems like a lot of trouble to go to and not mention or mine for marketing reasons. More likely, I’d guess, is that this is just TWE being idiosyncratic. They’ve released other whiskies too that bore no cask or vintage information (such was this Laphroaig 16). I’ve had my eye on this Glenfarclas for a while—almost pulling the trigger a couple of times when friends were coming over from London. The thought of a cask strength version of the excellent 15 yo that is not available in the US was enticing; but there’s no guarantee, of course, that a cask strength version of the 15 yo is what this amounts to. Will I regret that uncharacteristic restraint? Let’s see. Continue reading

Copper & Kings Brandy, “A Song for You”


Let’s round out brandy week with yet another sample from Sku, who appears to be trolling me with yet another rather sober sample bottle label. Unlike Monday’s Lous Pibous and Wednesday’s Dartigalongue, however, this is not an armagnac but an American brandy. This is from the upstart Copper & Kings distillery in Kentucky. It was bottled last year to mark their fifth anniversary. I’m not sure if it has any of their own distillate in it but I believe the vatting contains some of the very first sourced brandy they released. As with a number of their releases this has the name of a song slapped on it; in this case, “A Song for You”—whether the Leon Russell or the Donny Hathaway version, I’m not sure (or it could be the Carpenters or Cher or Willie Nelson too, I suppose). I have to say I’ve not been terribly convinced by the few Copper & Kings brandies I’ve had so far (see here for my review of the Butchertown Brandy and here for my review of their pear brandy). Maybe I’ll like this one more. I hope so. Continue reading

Springbank 1997, Batch 2


On Wednesday I had a review of the Springbank 1997, Batch 1, released in 2007. Here now is a review of Batch 2, released a year later. This one I did purchase a whole bottle of. I liked Batch 1 a lot and so am hoping that Batch 2 will be comparable. Let’s see if it in fact is.

Springbank 1997, Batch 2 (54.9%; from my own bottle)

Nose: Typical Springbank notes of damp earth and sackcloth with some dried orange peel and some coastal notes (kelp, brine, seashells) running through them. With time there’s more salt and some red fruit—plum?—along with the orange peel. Sweeter and softer with water (cream, malt) at first and then some pencil lead. Continue reading

Springbank 1997, Batch 1


Springbank released two batches of the 1997 vintage, one in 2007 and one in 2008. I bought a bottle of the second batch not too long after its release and have been sitting on it now for about a decade for some reason. Well, I think the reason might have been that I’d hoped to find a bottle of the first batch and open them together. That never happened but a few years ago I did acquire 8 ounces of Batch 1 via a bottle split; not sure why I didn’t do that paired tasting then but better late than never.

The bottle was acquired by Florin—the man who brought the good news from Ghent to Aix—at a store in Berlin in 2014. Michael Kravitz of Diving for Pearls and I then split it with him. Michael, being a young hasty type, only waited four years to review a part of his share. Here now are my notes. Continue reading

Littlemill 20, 1992 (Archives)


Let’s start the month with a closed distillery—that seems appropriate for the pandemic. Earlier this year I reviewed a 29 yo Littlemill that was distilled in 1988 and bottled in 2018. This one was distilled a few years later but also bottled near the very start of the Littlemill renaissance when several excellent casks from the late 1980s through the early 1990s suddenly became available in Europe. The distillery’s low reputation—well earned by official releases—rebounded dramatically and prices for these releases started going up before they eventually all but dried up. This particular cask was bottled by the Whiskybase store in Rotterdam under their Archives label. Menno of Whiskybase is a Littlemill collector and that always seemed like a good guarantor of quality for their Littlemill releases. They’ve put out eight or so of these casks, of which I think this was the second. I’ve previously reviewed the first one, which was from a refill sherry hogshead. I quite liked it. This is from a bourbon hogshead. I’ve had it open for more than a month now and have been dipping into it on the regular. Here now before I finish the bottle before remembering to take notes (which has happened on some occasions), is my review. Continue reading

Glenrothes 1972-2005


When I first started drinking single malt whisky I was really into Glenrothes for a while. Some of this, truth be told, was due to the funky bottle shape of official releases (which are by far the majority of Glenrothes); but a large part of it was due to the fact that the vintage releases I first tried were very pleasant, very accessible whiskies. Such were the1991-2006, 1994-2009 and 1985-2005. I finished my last bottles of all of those before I started the blog and hence no reviews—though I should really check if I have reference samples of those saved (in those days I used to routinely save 6 oz of each bottle I opened for future reference). Anyway, as a result, all the Glenrothes I’ve reviewed on the blog have been independent releases and most are above the age of 20. This one, however, is both an official release and the oldest Glenrothes I’ve yet had in terms of either age or vintage. It was distilled in 1972 and bottled in 2005. I found it a few years ago in the locked liquor room of a Korean grocery store in Los Angeles, listed for the long-ago price. I couldn’t find any reviews of it online but given the reasonable price to age ratio decided to take a chance on it. I’d saved the bottle for one of my whisky group’s premium tastings; but as it’s not clear when the pandemic will ever allow us to get together to drink again, I decided to open it by myself earlier this month. I’ve been drinking the bottle down at a rapid clip. Here before it dips too far below the halfway mark are my notes. Continue reading

Inchmurrin 14, 2004 (SMWS)


On Tuesday I had a review of a bourbon cask Inchmurrin bottled by the SMWS in 2018. Here now is another. This one is a few years older. By the way, despite what the label on the sample bottle might lead you to think, I did not get this from Sku.

Inchmurrin 14, 2004 (60%; SMWS 112.39; 2nd-fill hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: The usual mix of bright acid and mineral notes to start; then lime peel and salt expand along with more tropical notes of tart mango and dragonfruit and just a hint of passionfruit. With time the lime peel is still the top note and the mineral quality is right there with it along with a whiff of paraffin. A few drops of water push back the paraffin, bring out some sweeter notes (vanilla) and make the whole bigger. A bit more water and there’s more fruit still: sweeter (berries) and richer. Continue reading

Inchmurrin 11, 2007 (SMWS)


Okay, back to whisky. Here’s a young Inchmurrin from a bourbon cask. Inchumurrin, as you probably know, is one of the several lines of whisky produced at the Loch Lomond distillery. Its profile is typically very fruity and sans the peat that marks their Croftengea line. I confess I am never able to remember how Inchmurrin or Croftengea differ from the other lines made by Loch Lomond—Inchfad, Inchmoan and so on. I did really like my last young Inchmurrin from a bourbon cask. That one was an official 9 yo single cask selected by the Whisky Exchange last year to commemorate their 20th anniversary, and I was glad to have procured a full bottle of it. This one is a bit older at 11 years of age and was bottled by the SMWS. They gave it the fanciful name “A Piece of Paradise”. If it’s filled with tropical fruit I’ll forgive them. Let’s see if that turns out to be the case and if I regret only having a 2 oz sample. Continue reading

Clynelish 8, 2010 (SMWS)


Alas, I don’t have another Ardmore with which to make this a full week of Ardmore reviews to match last week’s Benromach trio. But I do have a sample of another SMWS malt with which to make it a week of SMWS review. Let’s go a bit to the west and then to the north, to Clynelish. After Wednesday’s red wine finish misadventure we’re back to a bourbon cask. Unlike Monday’s Ardmore, however, this is a barrel, not a hogshead and it’s a first-fill not refill cask; it’s also much younger. That combination of a smaller cask size and more active wood can be an overbearing one for a young whisky such as this; but in theory, at least, Clynelish’s spirit should be able to stand up to it. Let’s see if that’s been the case here.

Clynelish 8, 2010 (57.5%; SMWS 26.104; first-fill bourbon barrel; from a bottle split)

Nose: Toasted oak, ripe pear, apple cider, sweet malt. Very nice indeed. As it sits sweeter notes come to the fore—more apple along with the pear–but the oak and the cider are still here. With water and a few beats the fruit gets muskier: lemon peel, pineapple. Continue reading