Early in the beginning of the previous decade Glenfiddich seemingly decided to become a more interesting single malt producer. Not content with being the most recognizable bottle and most recognizable name in all of single malt whisky-dom in the world they decided they too needed the attention of the
obsessive idiots cool kids who make up a tiny fraction of the world whisky market—and indeed also of the world single malt market. The Snow Phoenix and its ludicrous tin may have been their entry into this phase, confirming as it did that obsessive idiots discerning malt drinkers will hoover up anything with a good story attached. Releases like the Age of Discovery and Cask of Dreams and Ark of the Covenant followed (okay, I made one of those up). Then things went quiet for a while (by which I mean I stopped paying attention: for all I know they kept putting out special releases). Then a few years ago they launched their so-called Experimental series. The IPA cask was the first in 2016 (I was intrigued but never got around to trying it). Then came the XX which was sexy but not did not involve penetration (or so I assume). Then something called the Winter Storm which was banned in Minnesota for being too close to life. Then came the Fire & Cane (in 2018?). This is made from a mix of peated and unpeated spirit that is finished in rum casks. How old is it? How dare you ask such personal questions! I was intrigued by this one as well and when a chance recently came to taste it via a bottle split I jumped at it. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
I usually have restaurant meal reports on Tuesdays but as this is officially still primarily a whisky blog let’s start the month with a whisky review instead. I’ll have a report tomorrow on our most recent takeout meal, which saw us return to Godavari in Eden Prairie.
Meanwhile, back to K&L’s exclusive casks from late 2020. I’ve had a pretty decent outing with them so far—only the Glenfiddich/Hector Macbeth 23 disappointed a bit and even that was far from bad; the Bunnahabhain 12, the Craigellachie 16, the Blair Athol 24 and the Glen Garioch 10 all came in above 85 points. That’s on my regular ratings scale. On my patented EW! or Everybody Wins! rating system they scored quite a bit higher but you should not bother with that unless you work at K&L. Okay, time to see what this Glengoyne is like. It’s not the best sign that it’s been finished in PX—often an indicator of a rescue attempt on something over-oaked. Let’s see if that’s the case. Continue reading
A Bowmore to close the month. This is a Bowmore 18 but it is not the 18 yo that is part of the core range. No, this is a member of Bowmore’s travel retail collection or at least it originally was. I think all of these whiskies may now be available from regular stores as well in the UK and EU. The 18 yo, at any rate, is certainly listed at a few places in the UK and I got my bottle from a store in the EU. I’ve previously reviewed the two others from that collection that had similar epithets attached to their name: the Bowmore 10, Dark & Intense and the Bowmore 15, Golden & Elegant. I liked the 15 yo quite a bit and the 10 yo rather less (too much sulphur, even for me). Like that 10 yo—but not the 15 yo—this 18 yo is also from sherry casks, being a mix of spirit matured in oloroso and PX casks. What the exact mix is, I don’t know. It’s been a long time now since I last had the standard 18 yo but I rather liked it when I did. If this is as good as that I will be happy enough. Let’s see. Continue reading
Except for the teaspooned Glenfiddich 23 I’ve had a pretty good run so far with the most recent lot of K&L’s exclusive casks. I really liked both the Blair Athol 24 and the Craigellachie 16 and the Bunnahabhain 12 was not far behind: very high EW! ratings all around. And even the Glenfiddich was not bad, just a bit boring. The EW! rating, in case you’re wondering, is a special rating I have designed for very sensitive people who suffer emotional damage when they see what they think are very low scores on my K&L reviews—as far as I can make out, anything less than 90 points is very low for some people. Being a nice guy, I came up with this revolutionary rating system to help them focus on the words and not the numbers or to just feel good about the numbers if that’s all they care about. Anyway, I’m hopeful this young Glen Garioch will keep the general positive streak going. Glen Garioch can be a difficult distillate and I’ve certainly not been very enthused by the distillery’s official younger releases. Let’s see what this is like. Continue reading
Earlier in the month I had a review of the new(ish) Lagavulin 10, which is supposed to be an exclusive for the travel retail market. (I say “supposed to be” because I purchased it from a regular EU store.) Here now is a Lagavulin from the distillery’s core lineup: the Distillers Edition. In the past I’ve always understood this to be the regular 16 yo with a couple of months of a PX finish applied to it—and I’ve also assumed that the same relationship of age and finish applies to all of Diageo’s malts that have Distillers Editions releases. Certainly, all the other Lagavulin Distillers Editions I’ve seen and reviewed (here, here, and here) seemed to be at least 16 years old. This one, however, as I reported earlier, is not. It’s the 2020 release but is from the 2005 vintage. Is this a one-off due to lack of availability of enough 16 yo stock? Or is this going to be the new normal? I guess we’ll see what happens with the 2021 release later this year. In the meantime I assume this is still spirit that would have gone into the 16 yo, just finished and released a year earlier than usual. If anyone knows different or has confirmation from the distillery on any of these points do write in below. In the meantime let’s see what this is like. Continue reading
Here is another of K&L’s recent exclusive casks to close the week out. Like Monday’s Glenfiddich, I mean “Hector Macbeth”, this one is a twenty something in age and from a sherry cask; unlike it, however, it wears its distillery’s name openly: Blair Athol. K&L has had at least one other sherried Blair Athol of a similar age as part of their exclusives before—and indeed so have a lot of bottlers in the EU. I’ve reviewed a few of them but those were all casks of whisky distilled in the late 1980s. This one is from 1995. As it turns out, Whiskybase lists a large number of casks from 1995 that have been bottled by various indies. They have only two listed from 1994, only one from 1996 and then a whole bunch again from 1997. Clearly the supply of older Blair Athols wanes and waxes—there must be a lot of it moving around for blending purposes. Well, whatever the reason, I’m glad to see this one. Blair Athol of this age from a sherry cask is a pretty reliable proposition and the odds are good that this will get this run of K&L casks back in the right direction after the relative disappointment of Monday’s Glenfiddich (You may recall that I previously enjoyed the teenaged Craigellachie and Bunnahabhain). Let’s see if that’s indeed how it goes. Continue reading
I found this bottle of the Glen Scotia 15 on my shelves a month or so ago. It was a big surprise to me as I had no record or memory of ever having purchased it. After a bit of forensic analysis of credit card statements I was able to determine that I almost certainly purchased it at our local Costco a few days before we left for India in January 2020. Given everything that happened in short order after we got back I think I can be excused for not remembering this purchase. I think I must have bought it on a whim because it was on sale for less than $60 and that must have seemed like a good price for a 15 yo whisky at 46%. I mean, it is a very good price for a 15 yo whisky at 46%. As to whether that is its normal price in the US market, I don’t know: I have not looked. Anyway, I am very glad to add to my series of reviews of the current Glen Scotia core range and can only hope I will like it more than I did the NAS twins, the Double Cask and the Victoriana (which I reviewed last month). Let’s see how it goes. Continue reading
Okay, back to K&L exclusives. I’ve quite liked the two I’ve already reviewed from this batch of casks—a Bunnahabhain 12 and a Craigellachie 16. Today’s review is of a cask going by name you migtht not recognize: Hector Macbeth. This is a a Glenfiddich that has been teaspooned. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry: it’s nothing kinky. Teaspooning refers to the practice of adding a tiny amount of a malt from a different distillery to a malt to prevent it from being sold as a single malt. It’s a practice certain distilleries engage in to keep their brand from being diluted—from their perspective—on the independent market; or, if not diluted, presented differently than they would like it to be. This K&L parcel contains a number of these teaspooned malts, some of them pretty old. This “Glenfiddich”, for example, is 23 years old. It was finished in a refill sherry butt (what kind of cask the teaspoon came from is unknown). I’m not sure if it’s still available but $120 was the price being asked for it when I last checked. That seems like a great deal in the abstract but my history with K&L exclusive casks with big age statements that are priced like they’re crazy deals has me not overly optimistic. But I’ll be very happy to be surprised. Continue reading
On Monday I had a review of a Benrinnes 22, 1995. Here now is a review of another Benrinnes 22, 1995. Though Monday’s was bottled by the Paris store, La Maison du Whisky and today’s was bottled by Signatory, there is a pretty good chance that the source is the same. I don’t mean the distillery but Signatory themselves—as I noted on Monday, I’ve read before that they are the sources of LMDW’s casks (and also of some other EU stores and bottlers). At any rate this cask is just a few numbers away from Monday’s: that was hogshead 9063 and this is hogshead 9065. You may recall that I really liked Monday’s whisky. If this one is as good I will be very happy no matter what the nature of their sourcing may have been in reality. I believe this cask was bottled for the Nectar, a Belgian importer and wholesaler whose Daily Drams series is well-regarded (and from which I’ve previously reviewed a few releases). All signs point to a good outcome. Let’s see if that proves to be the case. Continue reading
A Benrinnes review on Monday and there’ll be another Benrinnes review on Friday. In between here is a Craigellachie. This is another from K&L’s recent round of exclusive casks and is from a sherry butt. It’s been three years since my last Craigellachie review and almost four since my last review of one from a sherry cask. I am a big fan of the earthier, meatier style of spirit that Craigellachie produces and in my limited experience it’s particularly good coming out of good sherry casks. Is this one of them? Let’s see.
(And remember, as I announced in my review of K&L’s Bunnahabhain 12 last week, I have an exciting new feature for these K&L reviews: a second rating—Everybody Wins! or EW! for short—that those who get sad when I don’t give everything 90 points can look at and feel happy about.) Continue reading
Here is the first of two Benrinnes reviews this week. This one was bottled by the famous French store, La Maison Du Whisky in their Artist series. The label lists the vintage as 1995 but the age is given as “Over 20 Years”. Which is true as it was bottled in 2018. This is the first instance I can remember of a bottler choosing not to go with a higher number on a label—was/is this par for the course for the Artist series? This means that this is probably the same age as my next Benrinnes, which is also from 1995 and is marked as a 22 yo by bottler Signatory. Indeed, I remember reading at some point that Signatory is probably the source of La Maison Du Whisky’s casks and so this may well be from the same parcel. I haven’t yet looked up the particulars of that cask and to do so would require me to get up and walk across the room so you’ll have to wait a couple of days or hope I remembered to do so before finalizing this review. Continue reading
As I noted on Monday, I went in once again at the end of last year on bottle splits of a large number of K&L’s exclusives (maybe even all of them? I’m not sure). There’s a rather large number of them, most, if not all, from the various Laing outfits. There were a large number of teaspooned malts in the set but also some that dare to openly wear their distillery’s name on their labels. This Bunnahabhain is one of the latter. It’s also one of the younger malts in the set. We’ll start with it anyway.
I’m also rolling out a new feature for this round of K&L reviews. As longtime readers know, K&L staff and I have not always been in perfect alignment on our ratings of their releases, either in terms of scores or values. They’ve always expressed themselves with kind restraint but I’ve been able to sense their disapproval. It hurts me to hurt anyone’s feelings and so these reviews will be accompanied by two sets of scores. One for the rest of us and also the EW! or Everybody Wins! rating (patent pending) which those who think my scores are too low can focus on and be happy about. Continue reading
I was not aware until a few minutes before I purchased this bottle from a store in the EU that Lagavulin is now putting out a 10 yo whisky. It was apparently first released in 2019 and is a travel retail exclusive. Which does not explain how I purchased it from a regular store but doubtless there’s an explanation: it does seem to be available at a number of stores in the EU. The more surprising thing is that I did not notice it in duty free shops on the way to or back from India in early 2020 but the explanation for that may well be that I did not really look closely, having long before given up on the possibility of finding good value for anything in a duty free shop. If I missed this a year ago then shame on me. Especially since it’s priced quite reasonably for an age-stated whisky from a name distillery. I’m not sure what relationship it bears to the other whiskies in Lagavulin’s core range, especially the only slightly younger 8 yo (which I was not as enamoured of as some). It is made from spirit matured in “rejuvenated and ex-bourbon casks”. Theoretically that should put it closer to the all ex-bourbon limited edition 12 CS as the 16 yo has some sherry cask involvement. But the proof is in the glass. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
Let’s close the month with one more review of an official release. This Glen Grant 18 was apparently added to the distillery’s portfolio in 2016, where it sits at the top of the range. (The Glen Grant bottles were all redesigned at some point too—I have to admit I’ve not really kept track of the distillery releases.) Not too long after its introduction sentient wart Jim Murray named it one of the best whiskies of whatever year that was and I imagine that caused a mix of derision and frantic buying. It’s now widely available, including in the US where it seems to be going for anywhere between $110 and $160 and prices even further north. In the current single malt market an official release 18 yo in the $110 range is not a bad deal (if you can find it at that price). But is it any good?
Glen Grant 18 (43%; from a bottle split)
Nose: Fresh and juicy (apples, pears a bit of lemon) with some toaste oak in the background. Maltier/muskier on the second sniff with some pineapple in there too. Not too much change with time; maybe a bit sweeter. A drop or two of water and it’s muskier with more pear now than apple. Continue reading
Okay, let’s get off Islay and head up the western coast of Scotland and make a right turn to Ben Nevis. I reviewed a few 20+ yo indie releases of Ben Nevis towards the end of last year: a 22 yo, a 24 yo and a 26 yo, all distilled in 1991 and released by Signatory and a 21 yo from 1996 released by Whisky Doris. They were all very good, a couple of them exceptional. Those were all from sherry casks and so is this 22 yo released in 2019 by Single Malts of Scotland. Odds are good that this will be at least very good as well. Let’s see if that proves true.
Ben Nevis 22, 1997 (58.4%; Single Malts of Scotland; sherry butt #91; from a bottle split)
Nose: Roasted malt, salted nuts, orange peel and raisins; some powdered ginger too and some dusty oak. There seems to be some richer fruit in the background trying to get out but the alcohol may be holding it back. Let’s give it time and then water. Gets richer as it sits with the orange peel expanding and being joined by some apricot jam and some soy sauce. With a squirt of water the citrus brightens—between orange and lemon now—and then it begins to get more musky with charred pineapple and more apricot. The citrus turns to citronella. Continue reading
Here’s a quick question about a bottle I opened last night: the 2020 release of the Lagavulin Distillers Edition. I didn’t pay close attention at purchase and assumed it was, like all previous releases of the Lagavulin Distillers Edtion, 16 years old. That is to say that it was—as it used to be—the Lagavulin 16 + a few months extra maturation in PX sherry casks. See, for example the three I’ve previously reviewed: the 1991-2007, the 1993-2009 and the 1997-2013; but it’s not just mine: all the listings on Whiskybase for releases prior to 2020 have the same 16 year gap between distillation and release. However, this label lists a 2005 distillation before bottling in 2020. There doesn’t appear to have been a change in the nature of the double maturation—the box still notes that PX sherry casks are used. So why this change? Is this a one-off due to insufficient stocks from 2004? Or is the Lagavulin Distillers Edition going to be younger going forward? For that matter, I suppose, there may have been changes in the ages of Diageo’s other Distillers Editions as well—I confess I haven’t tracked them. If you know more about this please write in to the comments below. Continue reading
I’m still on Islay. On Friday I had a review of a 23 yo indie Bunnahabhain; today I have a review of an indie Bowmore that is a couple of years older still. I’ve not had too many Bowmores in this age range and have only reviewed one older than this one (the Sea Dragon). I have had a number of Bowmores from the period in which this was distilled and have liked almost all of them very much indeed. As you may know/recall, 1980s Bowmore does not have a very good reputation—for among other things, a soapy character—and a lot of whisky geeks remained suspicious of the distillery’s output into the early/mid 1990s as well. My own experience—far more limited than some others’—suggests that the problems had begun to sort themselves out by 1989 or so and that by the early 1990s the distillery was once again putting out elegant whisky that displayed fruit alongside its trademark florals. Of course, those floral notes are also not to everyone’s taste but that’s not to say they’re a flaw. Anyway, I’m very interested to see what this one is like, both on account of its age and because it’s from a refill sherry cask. I think all the others I’ve reviewed from this era have been either ex-bourbon or more heavily sherried. Let’s get to it. Continue reading
Well, I went almost three weeks but I’m breaking with my run of official distillery releases in order to finish the tour of Islay left incomplete last month. I’ve already hit Kilchoman and Bruichladdich/Port Charlotte this week; here now is a Bunnahabhain. This is quite a bit older than both of the others reviewed this week. It’s a single sherry butt bottled by Whiskybase for their Archives label back in 2014 or so. “Gather round, children, Grampa’s going to tell you how much more affordable single sherry cask whisky past the age of 20 was back then.” Okay, whatever, if you’re going to make fun of me I’m just going to review the damned whisky.
Bunnahabhain 23, 1990 (47.9%; Archives; sherry butt 52; from my own bottle)
Nose: Sweet raisiny sherry with some savoury gunpowder and leather interlaced with it. On the second sniff there’s some soy sauce and a touch of hoisin along with an earthy note of dried mushrooms (more like the soaking liquid). The salt expands as it sits and a big plummy note emerges. A few drops of water emphasize the orange—more juicy than dried now. Continue reading