Bowmore, Bw5 (Speciality Drinks)


If like me you were ever confused about the relationship between the Whisky Exchange and Speciality Drinks, under whose name all the TWE releases (Elements of Islay, Single Malts of Scotland, Whisky Trail etc.) were released, you can add a new name to the mix: Speciality Drinks is history and has been replaced by Elixir Whisky Distillers; or maybe I should say that Speciality Drinks is now named Elixir Whisky Distillers. Apparently, a completely separate operation with the folks who work at the Whisky Exchange’s retail end not involved at all in picking casks etc. (which they may not have been before either, I suppose). This Bowmore, however, was released in the Elements of Islay series before the bottlers’ name changed. I’ve previously reviewed a few Ardbegs (Ar1 and Ar2) and Lagavulins (most recently, the Lg6) and a Laphroaig (Lp1) and a Caol Ila (the Ci1). As you can tell this is the fifth Bowmore they’ve released. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Tomintoul 30, 1985 (Cadenhead)


Please admire the picture of the empty sample bottle at left. I failed to take a photograph of it before drinking the contents. I did remember to take tasting notes on it though, so that’s something.

I have so far reviewed only four Tomintouls on the blog. Only one was a young expression and that was a 8 yo from some decades ago. The others may well have been distilled around the same time as that one but were bottle at much older ages: a 45 yo for Chester Whisky, a 44 yo released in the US by Samaroli and a 42 yo from Kintra Whisky. I liked them all. For a while at least, super-aged Tomintouls from the late 1960s were ubiquitous and given the distillery’s low-key reputation, not very expensive. This one is also old—though not quite as old as those three indies—but is from 1985. It’s a single cask bottled by Cadenhead last year, I believe. And as with so many Cadenhead releases from Speyside distilleries it bears the Glenlivet suffix, which I was under the impression the Glenlivet distillery had long ago managed to prevent other distilleries from using. If anyone knows how Cadenhead gets to keep using it, please let me know. Continue reading

Kilchoman


Here now is my last distillery report from our visit to Scotland in June. Fittingly, it’s of the most recently built, functioning distillery on Islay, Kilchoman. The smallest distillery on the island, it’s the one that’s least like the others: the most remote (relatively speaking), located not on the water but among farms, and absolutely independently owned. I’ve liked their malt since the very first one I ever tasted—a 3 yo bottled for Binny’s in 2010—and so I was glad to be able to stop in for a few minutes on our way for a ramble around Machir Bay (Kilchoman may not be on the water but you’re never far from the water on Islay). Continue reading

Aultmore 19, 1997 (Cadenhead’s)


Here is the fourth of five minis I purchased from Cadenhead’s shop in London in early May. They were all from their early 2017 outturn, I believe. I have previously reviewed the Pulteney 11, 2006, the Balmenach 12, 2004 and the Glen Spey 15, 2001: in order of increasing age, and I liked them pretty much in that order. If the pattern holds I should like this Aultmore 19 even more than I did the Glen Spey—which will be good as none of the others got me very excited. I’ve had and reviewed very few Aultmores before this but have liked the others—including the official 12 yo. My hopes are therefore high on that count as well.

(I seem to have unaccountably not taken a separate picture of this mini before opening it, drinking the contents and throwing the bottle away, but, if you hold up a magnifying glass and squint, you can see it right behind the Glen Spey.)  Continue reading

Bruichladdich, Barely (Summer 2017)


Here is my penultimate distillery visit report from our recent visit to Islay. I’ve already gone over my longer visits to Lagavulin, Laphroaig and Bowmore (where I did tours) and to Ardbeg (where we ate lunch) and short stops at Bunnahabhain and Caol Ila. Here now is a brief look at Bruichladdich. We stopped here a little after my tour at Bowmore. We were on our way to Portnahaven, trying to figure out where to have lunch, and stopped at Bruichladdich to see if they might have a cafe (for some reason I’d thought they might). They do not, but I took the opportunity to take a quick look around and take a bunch of photographs.  Continue reading

Glen Grant 22, 1992 (Single Malts of Scotland)


Here is the last of the Glen Grants I’d said I’d review back in February; and it’s the last Glen Grant I’ll probably review for a while. Like the Whisky-fässle and Maltbarn bottles I reviewed recently, this is also from 1992, but it is two years older than those two. It’s also unlike them in that it’s smoky, which I was not quite expecting. Now, the Whisky Exchange’s notes do mention “a distinct whiff of wood smoke” but there’s quite a bit more than a whiff here—everyone in my local tasting group remarked it when the bottle was opened earlier this year and if anything it’s got stronger as the bottle’s stayed open. In fact, I would say it’s smokier than indicated in Whisky Magazine’s notes, which do mention smoke. Surprisingly, Serge Valentin’s notes on Whiskyfun don’t mention smoke at all—that one’s a bit of a head-scratcher; there are no notes on it on Whiskybase. If you’ve had it, please write in and let me know if you found no/faint/palpable smoky notes.  Continue reading

At Ardbeg, Pt. 2: Lunch (Scotland)


On Wednesday I posted a brief description of the Ardbeg distillery grounds and visitor centre, replete with far too many photographs. Today I have a brief write-up of two lunches at their Old Kiln Cafe, which were the focal points of our visits to the distillery. Don’t worry, there aren’t quite as many photographs today though I do have—in what represents either a high or low for me (depending on your point of view)—four separate pictures of the same dish. The food on Islay, with one exception, was far better than I’d expected it would be, and our lunches at the Old Kiln Cafe were, in sum, the best of our meals on the island.  Continue reading

At Ardbeg, Pt. 1 (Summer 2017)


We visited Ardbeg on our first and second full days on Islay but on neither occasion was it for whisky-centered action. I did not do any of the tours or tastings the distillery offers. Instead, we were there to eat. Old Islay-hands already know this but Ardbeg’s Old Kiln Cafe may very well be the best place to eat on Islay—it certainly was where we had our best meals. I’d originally thought I’d only have the one post on our visits to Ardbeg, centered on food. But when the time came to resize and crop pics this weekend I discovered that, predictably, I’d taken an amount known to mathematicians as a shit-tonne—and I felt that it would be cruel to deny you the opportunity to look at all of them: many of which are of the same subject from multiple angles, taken with different white balance and aperture settings on different cameras. (There is no need to thank me.) Accordingly, my post on the Old Kiln Cafe will come on Friday. Today I have pictures of the distillery grounds and the visitor centre/shop, which we wandered while waiting for tables to open up.  Continue reading

Glenrothes 1980-2005 (Scott’s Selection)


I’ve not reviewed much Glenrothes on the blog, even though I keep saying I should review more. This is mostly because my interest in Glenrothes peaked and then faded before I started the blog. There isn’t much independently bottled Glenrothes around, and official Glenrothes, despite their unique bottles and their idiosyncratic approach to vintages and age statements, began to taste a little too generic to me: they were rarely poor but they never got me too excited. I quite liked the 1985-2005 and a 1991-2006 (neither of which I have reviewed) but nothing since has really made me want to seek out more—and the few tastes I’ve had of their more recent non-vintage/NAS offerings have been less encouraging still. (Though I do have one much older official release that I found in a now-closed supermarket in Los Angeles’ Koreatown a couple of years ago at more or less the original price. I’m saving that one for a special occasion.)  Continue reading

At Bowmore, Pt. 2 (Summer 2017)


On Wednesday I posted a look at the grounds and visitor centre of the venerable Bowmore distillery. Here now is a look at the interiors of many of the distillery’s most important buildings. As I’d mentioned, my initial hope had been to do the comprehensive Craftsman’s Tour but it was booked up before I got around to emailing the distillery. The basic tour was a consolation prize. This turned out to be a good thing though. For one thing, it meant I did the Warehouse Experience at Lagavulin (which was the highlight of the whisky parts of our Scotland trip); for another, it meant we had time on this day to visit Kilchoman and go on to Machir Bay—and our time at Machir Bay turned out to be one of the highlights of our entire trip. And as it happened, the basic tour at Bowmore is pretty damned good in its own right.  Continue reading

At Bowmore, Pt. 1 (Summer 2017)


After Laphroaig, Bowmore was the Islay distillery I most wanted to visit. The distillery evokes a love-hate response from most whisky geeks and I’m one of those who is in the love camp, most of the time. (What can I say? I’m all about love and positivity.) And more than any distillery tour I’d wanted to do the Craftsman Tour at Bowmore, a 4 hour extravaganza that leads you through the entire process of whisky making and ends with a tasting session inside their legendary No. 1 vaults. Alas, I left making a reservation too late and they were full up the entire time that we were on Islay. On the plus side, it’s because of this that I ended up doing the Warehouse Experience at Lagavulin, and if you’ve read my report you know how happy I am to have done that. At Bowmore I contented myself with just the basic 1 hour distillery tour. I can tell you that this is a pretty good tour—probably better than the tour portion of the Laphroaig Distillers’ Wares experience and about 500 times better than the perfunctory tour at Talisker. This post, however, does not describe that tour—that’s coming on Friday. This post merely presents a look at the distillery grounds and the shop and visitor centre. I have too many pictures, you see, and can’t be arsed to crop and resize them all at once. Continue reading

Glen Grant 20, 1992 (Whisky-Fässle)


Last week, I had a review of a Glen Grant 20, 1992 from a German bottler (Maltbarn). This week I have another. This one is from a bourbon hogshead and the bottler is Whisky-Fässle, whose releases I’ve generally had good luck with (though I’ve not reviewed many on the blog). I opened this bottle earlier this year along with the Maltbarn, a 23 yo from Whisky Import Nederland and another from 1992 bottled by the Whisky Exchange (review coming soon), all as part of a Glen Grant vertical for a subset of my local tasting group. We all liked this one more than the Maltbarn then, though the family resemblance was/is very strong. I drank the bottle down rather quickly after my return from London about a month ago—like the Maltbarn, it’s a particularly good summer malt—and I think I may have enjoyed the second half of the bottle more than the first. Here, before it’s all gone, are my notes. Continue reading

Caol Ila, Quickly (Summer 2017)


On Wednesday I posted brief impressions of Bunnahabhain, one of the two Port Askaig distilleries on Islay. Here now is a report on an equally brief visit to the other: Caol Ila.

Both Bunnahabhain and Caol Ila are located right on the Sound of Islay, across the water from Jura and both are massive factories: Caol Ila, however, is not as rundown as Bunnahabhain. Of course, assessments of “character” differ—see the dissenting comments on my endorsement of the upcoming renovations at Bunnahabhain—and actually even I wouldn’t say that Caol Ila—or the little I saw of it on my visit, which was mostly to the gift shop—has character. However, it doesn’t look like Oliver Twist is inside, asking for a little more gruel. That’s a type of lack of character that I can get behind. Continue reading

Bunnahabhain, Briefly (Summer 2017)


Of all the distilleries I visited in Scotland, whether in depth or on a hit and run basis, none were more of a pain to get to than Bunnahabhain, few had as idyllic a location when I got there, and none presented as depressing a prospect in such a lovely setting. This does not immediately appear to be the case as you approach the distillery—see the photograph alongside for the promise of charm. It’s a lovely glimpse after a not-very fun four mile drive on a single track road on which you meet far more oncoming traffic than you would like (more than 0 vehicles was far too many for me at some of the spots where we encountered trucks etc.) but the promise is not kept. At least not right now. It’s been reported recently that the owners are going to spend a lot of money to refurbish the distillery and I think you’ll understand why below.  Continue reading