This has been a week of reviews of malts from highlands distilleries. It’s also been a week of reviews of ex-bourbon cask malts and, as it turns out, a week of reviews of 12 yo malts. On Monday I had a review of a 12 yo Teaninich bottled by the Thompson Bros.; on Wednesday I had a review of a 12 yo Glen Garioch bottled by Old Particular; today I have for you a review of a 12 yo Ardmore bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Long-time readers of this blog know that I have a soft spot for bourbon cask Ardmore. Indeed, I’ve had a fair number of bourbon cask Ardmores in recent years that I’ve enjoyed a lot, many of those bottled by the SMWS with numbers adjacent to this one. Among those have been 66.133, 66.137 and 66.138. Granted 137 and 138 were quite a bit older but it still bodes well for this one, which is 66.139 (and 133 was also a 12 yo). I’m sorry if you’re not familiar with the SMWS’ funky bottle codes. The numbers before the period identify the distillery (Ardmore is 66) and those after the period identify the number of the release—which means this was the 139th Ardmore bottled by the SMWS (they’re well past that number now). In addition, they like to give each release a silly name. This one was dubbed “Deerstalkers and hillwalkers”. Okay, let’s see what it is like. Continue reading
Okay, let’s move away from Diageo distilleries. You’ll recall that, as with last week’s survey of Diageo distillery exclusives (here, here and here), this is also a week of reviews of highlands distilleries. It started on Monday with a 12 yo Teaninich bottled for K&L in California. Today, I have for you a 12 yo Glen Garioch also bottled for K&L in California. This one is not from the Thompson Bros. but from one of K&L”s usual hookups: Old Particular (a label from one of the Laing outfits). Bourbon cask Glen Garioch is often austere and always interesting and I’m hoping this one will be too. Let’s dive right in.
Glen Garioch 12, 2008 (52.6%; Old Particular for K&L; refill barrel; from a bottle split)
Nose: A very interesting opening with a mix of lime and mineral notes with some pine and powdered ginger mixed in there as well. On the second sniff there’s a bit of vanilla as well and then it starts getting floral (not flowers themselves so much as floral-scented talcum powder). Gets fizzier as it sits (i.e it smells like it should be a fizzy, fruity drink) and also simultaneously begins to smell like gin. A few drops of water push the talcum powder back; still floral though. Continue reading
Last week I reviewed recent distillery exclusives from three Diageo distilleries located in the Highlands: an 11 yo Oban, a 12 yo Dalwhinnie, and a 14 yo Royal Lochnagar. Let’s start this week with another Diageo distillery in the highlands: Teaninich. This is not an official release or a distillery exclusive, however. This was bottled by the Thompson Brothers for K&L in California. Ignore the age statement and abv on the sample label in the pic alongside; that info accidentally got swapped by my sample source with that of the Thompson Brothers Caol Ila 8, 2013 for K&L that I’ve previously reviewed. This Teaninich is 12 years old and was bottled at 53.1%. Like the Caol Ila, it was bottled for K&L under the label, Redacted Bros. for some reason. K&L described it on their site as a single hogshead exclusive to them but only had 120 bottles—which is about half of what you’d expect to get from a hogshead at this age and strength. To confuse matters further there’s another Teaninich 12, 2009 at 53.1% that was released by the Thompson Bros. in Europe under their regular name. That one is from two refill bourbon hogsheads and 508 bottles are listed for it on Whiskybase. So, is this Redacted Bros release of 120 bottles a fraction of those 508 that came to the US? If not, where did the rest of this cask go? If you know, please write in below. Continue reading
Okay, let’s bring this week of reviews of hand-filled exclusives from Diageo distilleries to a close. You will recall that these are all distilleries located in the highlands—Oban on Monday and Dalwhinnie on Wednesday. We end now with Royal Lochnagar. The Oban was 11 years old and from a refill bourbon cask; the Dalwhinnie was 12 years old and from a re-charred sherry cask. This Lochnagar is the oldest of the three at 14 years old and is from a 2nd-fill sherry butt. While I’ve tasted a few more Lochnagars than Dalwhinnies in my time, this is only my third review of a whisky from the distillery. I was even less impressed by its entry in Diageo’s Game of Thrones cash grab than I was by the Dalwhinnie and Oban in that series; and I wasn’t super-enthused by the other one I’ve reviewed either—an indie release, also 14 years old and from a sherry cask. In other words, my expectations are low and it won’t surprise me if this manages to exceed them. Let’s see if that turns out to be the case. Continue reading
This is, as you will recall, a week of reviews of distillery exclusives filled by hand in October at Diageo distilleries in the highlands. Yes, that’s a very specific theme. The week began at Oban on Monday with a review of an 11 yo refill bourbon cask. Let’s go a bit north and a bit east to Dalwhinnie. As I say each time I review a Dalwhinnie, I do not have very much experience of their malt. There is very little Dalwhinnie out there to try. (Well, I suppose I should give the Distiller’s Edition a try sometime—does Diageo still put those out regularly for every distillery in its Classic Malts collection?) At any rate, this is only my third review of a Dalwhinnie—the others were also official distillery releases: the old faithful 15 yo and the so-called Winter’s Gold, which was part of Diageo’s Game of Thrones cash-grab. Neither really did very much for me (82 points each). So this 12 yo hand-fill from a re-charred sherry cask is not going to have to do very much to raise the distillery average on this blog. Let’s see if it’s up to the task. Continue reading
For the first full week of December let’s do a week of highland malts and a week of Diageo distillery hand-fills all at once. All three of this week’s malts were filled by hand at the distilleries in late October. Again, not by me but by the person I got these bottle splits from. Let’s begin with the youngest of the three, an 11 yo Oban.
When I visited Oban briefly in the summer of 2017, they had a NAS distillery exclusive in the shop, though not a hand-fill. You weren’t allowed a taste, only a sniff of a pour that had been sitting out for god knows how long. I duly sniffed it and was not impressed and passed on. Indeed, I was not impressed by the other exclusives I encountered at most Diageo distilleries on that trip. But it appears that these days Diageo is making more of an effort. All three of this week’s casks have age statements and are at cask strength. They also have cask types specified. This Oban is from a refill bourbon cask. Well, I rather liked the 2021 Special Release Oban which was about this age and also from bourbon casks—albeit a mix of first and refill casks. If this is at least as good, I’ll be happy. Continue reading
The first whisky review of December is the last of my peated Islay week. The first two reviews were of official distillery releases that came out this year—yes, not only did I have two timely reviews, I had them back to back: Monday’s Laphroaig Cairdeas 2022 and Tuesday’s Lagavulin 11, Offerman Edition, Charred Oak. I liked both well enough. Today’s review is of an independent release of Caol Ila—in about the general ballpark of the others, age-wise (I assume the Laphroaig is somewhere near 10 years old as well). It’s not the most untimely of my reviews, as this was released only about three years ago, in November 2019. The bottler is the Whisky Exchange, I mean, Elixir Distillers, under the Single Malts of Scotland label. Yes, yes, I know Elixir Distillers was spun off as a separate company some years ago but it’s all the Whisky Exchange to me. Teenaged ex-bourbon hogshead Caol Ila is one of my favourite profiles of whisky and I’m hoping that this 10 yo turns out to be precocious in that regard. Continue reading
Tuesdays are normally restaurant review days on the blog. However, the World Cup has been messing with my schedule and I didn’t have time yesterday to finish resizing all the photographs from the meal I was scheduled to report on: the weekday lunch buffet at Kumar’s in Apple Valley. And so I’m going to post that tomorrow. In its place, here is the whisky review that was going to go up tomorrow.
This is the third release of Lagavulin’s Offerman Edition. The first came out in 2019. At the time I assumed it was a one-off. But then there was a second release last year, a finish in Guinness casks. And 2022 saw a third release, this one involving oak casks that were shaved down and re-charred. I’ve seen some references to the casks in question being American and European oak casks and some that specify that they were ex-bourbon and ex-red wine casks. I can tell you though that the text on the back of the box says that this particular edition (11 years old like the two previous) was “curated” to pair with a medium-rare steak. Personally, I don’t drink whisky with food but I’m not sure how seriously anyone should take any of that anyway. I think the text may be written in the voice of Ron Swanson (I cannot confirm as I still have not watched any Parks & Recreation). I liked the first two releases and hope this will be as good. Let’s see. Continue reading
After a week of mezcal reviews (here, here and here), let’s get back to whisky, to Scotland, and specifically to Islay for a week of reviews of heavily peated whiskies. First up, is the 2022 iteration of the Laphroaig Cairdeas, bottled for Feis Ile, the annual Islay whisky festival. It’s a bit of a departure for the recent run of the series being from bourbon casks. Last year’s Cairdeas release was a cask strength version of the Laphroaig PX release; the 2020 Cairdeas was finished in port and wine casks; the 2019 was a cask strength version of the Triple Wood; the 2018 was a fino cask finish. The last ex-bourbon release was in 2017, with the cask strength version of the Quarter Cask. Indeed the last ex-bourbon Cairdeas from regulation ex-bourbon casks was back in 2015 for the 200th anniversary of the distillery. This year’s Cairdeas is back to bourbon casks, the twist being only that these were first-fill casks (from Maker’s Mark) matured in the distillery’s Warehouse No. 1. Will that mean too much oak influence and too much vanilla? The people who obliquely warned me about buying a bottle in the comments on other reviews are probably nodding in the background. But, as I do every year, I bought not one but two bottles: one to drink right away and one to put in my completely pointless Cairdeas collection, which goes back to 2011 (I’m realizing now that I’ve not reviewed the 2011 and 2012 releases, which were both pre-blog). Alright, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading
This week of Campbeltown hand-fills from August of this year began with a Hazelburn on Monday and continued with a Springbank on Wednesday. Let’s end with a Longrow. (A reminder: I did not fill these myself—I acquired these samples via a bottle split with the person who did.) Even though Hazelburn is supposed to be Springbank’s unpeated malt, I found a fair bit of smoke in there (and not for the first time). Well, Longrow is supposed to be Springbank’s heavily peated malt—will this one turn out to an anomaly as well? I do expect I will like it a lot either way as, usually, Longrow is my favourite variant of Springbank—and I really liked the last Longrow I reviewed, which also came directly from Campbeltown, having been issued by Cadenhead (who are owned by the same company that owns Springbank). This particular iteration of the hand-fill is pretty dark—quite a bit darker than the other two—which I would guess means sherry casks were involved at some point in this vatting. What will it all add up to? Let’s see. Continue reading
My week of reviews of Campbeltown hand-fills continues. As with Monday’s Hazelburn, this Springbank was filled in August of this year (not by me). These hand-fills don’t have age or vintage statements and nor are the cask types disclosed. My understanding, as I said on Monday, is that this is because at Springbank these are not, as at most other distilleries, single casks that are replaced when depleted, but continuous vattings that get topped up once they get low. If you can confirm or deny that this is true, please write in below. Monday’s Hazelburn was somewhat uncharacteristic, being quite peaty (Hazelburn is supposed to be Springbank’s unpeated variant). Where will this Springbank fall on the spectrum? Let’s see.
Springbank Hand-Filled, August 2022 (57%; from a bottle split)
Nose: Nutty sweetness (almonds) with olive oil, mild brine and a bit of coriander seed. A bit of vanilla in the sweetness as it sits and also some acid below it (preserved lemon, a bit of tart-sweet apple). The preserved lemon expands as it sits and the almond and olive oil turn to almond oil. A few drops of water and the almond oil expands with some citronella coming up from below it. Continue reading
Okay, after a week of bourbon reviews let’s do a week of Campbeltown reviews. This is going to be a very low-utility series as all the reviews are going to be of bottles that were hand-filled at Springbank (presumably) in August. I did not fill them myself; I went in on a bottle split with the person who did. My understanding is that these hand-fills are not single casks but more like infinity vattings that get topped up when they get too low. And given the likely foot traffic at Springbank in the summer it’s quite likely that the composition turns over every day or two. I’ll start with the Hazelburn—the triple-distilled, unpeated variant of Springbank—then go on to the Springbank hand-fill and finally end the week with the Longrow, which is nominally more heavily peated than Springbank. I say “nominally” because in practice it’s not always possible to tell the peat levels of Springbank and Longrow apart; and, in fact, I’ve even had a Hazelburn that had more than a bit of peat in it. Let’s see where this one falls. Continue reading
Bourbon week draws to a close. I began with the 2021 George Dickel Bottled in Bond and then checked in with a 2019 store pick Elijah Craig Small Batch; and now I end with a single barrel of 1792 Bourbon that was bottled for Total Wine in 2020. I have very little experience with 1792 (made by the Barton 1792 distillery in Bardstown in Kentucky). I don’t what the cask number was. The mash bill for 1792 is 74% corn, 18% rye and 8% barley, which I believe means this has higher rye content than either the Dickel or the Elijah Craig. Will that give it more character? Let’s see.
1792 Single Barrel for Total Wine (49.3%; from a bottle split)
Nose: The most restrained nose of the three: some light caramel, some herbal notes and some nail polish remover. The nail polish remover thankfully burns off quickly but there’s not a whole lot of development after that. Nothing interesting happens with a few drops of water at first either but then there’s some apricot and honey to go with the caramel. Continue reading
Bourbon week continues. On Monday I had a review of the 2021 release of the George Dickel Bottled in Bond; today I have for you a review of an Elijah Craig Small Batch that was bottled for Spec’s in Houston a couple of years ago. I’ve only reviewed two Elijah Craigs before this: the old 12 yo Small Batch (which used to be very reasonably priced and is now gone bye-bye); and the Elijah Craig 18 (which has never been reasonably priced and is still around). You will not be shocked to hear that the current Elijah Craig Small Batch has no age statement. Well, I suppose in this time of bourbon market insanity we should consider it a minor miracle that the NAS version doesn’t cost twice as much as the old 12 yo did; in fact, it seems to cost about the same (at least in Minnesota where it is available for $25). Now as to whether this store pick is very different from the regulation release, I have no idea. If I like this maybe I’ll pick up a regular Small Batch and see what that’s like. Continue reading
Okay, for our first full themed week in November, let’s do a trio of bourbon reviews. First up, the 2021 release of the George Dickel Bottled in Bond. Since I am such an informed bourbon drinker, I was not aware that George Dickel has a Bottled in Bond release. This has apparently been an annual release since 2019, or three years after my previous George Dickel review–of the 17 yo, which no longer seems to be part of their range. In fact, the No. 12 seems to be history as well—as you may recall this was not actually a 12 yo whiskey. The Bottled in Bond releases do have age statements, however. This 2021 release was distilled in 2008 and is 13 years old. This was their second release in this series that was distilled in 2008. The 2020 release (I think) was an 11 yo also distilled in 2008. Suffice to say, I have not had that or any other of their Bottled in Bond releases. This particular bottle was purchased by a friend of mine from a store whose manager fronted it as a very rare selection—which I don’t think it quite is (though with the bourbon world having gone insane, who knows?). He brought it over one evening a month ago and we put a decent dent in it. I also stole a sample for review at leisure. Here now are my notes from it. Continue reading
This week’s theme has been official distillery releases of sherry-bothered whiskies. Monday’s review (of the 2021 release of the Springbank 18) and Wednesday’s review (of the 2021 release of the Glenallachie 12) were both of whiskies that had sherry cask-matured whisky in them but were not full-on sherry maturations. They were also not single casks. The last whisky of the week is a single cask and it is single PX cask. Or so the label says. Of course, this is a Glendronach single cask from the Billy Walker era. I took a side swipe at this in the intro to the Glenallachie 12 on Wednesday, but in case you don’t know, and didn’t follow the link then, the Glendronach “single casks” of that era were neither always single casks—as most people understand the term—nor always matured only in the cask type marked on the label. As to whether that’s true of this PX puncheon that was bottled for the Whisky Exchange in 2013, I’m not sure. My early pours from the bottle didn’t blow me away but they also didn’t come across as indicating an attempt to dress up tired whisky with a PX cask finish. The bottle has now been open for a week or so. Let’s see what some air in it has done for the whisky. Continue reading
Glenallachie, or The GlenAllachie, as they style themselves, is another of the Scottish distilleries I have very little experience of. I’ve only reviewed one other—this 22 yo bottled by/for Whiskybase. It is a young distillery—only built in 1967—and is also one of the few independent distilleries left in Scotland. Mothballed in 1985, it was purchased in 1989 by Campbell Distillers, who in turn later became part of Pernod Ricard’s holding. In 2017 it was purchased by a group including Billy Walker, ex of Glendronach. The following year the distillery released a new core range, featuring 10, 12, 18 and 25 yo whiskies. They’ve since added 8, 15, 21 and 30 yo expressions to that lineup. Good on them for not going the NAS route as so many have done. They’ve not as yet released any single cask whiskies—as far as I know—which means we might have to wait a while to find out if in the move from Glendronach to Glenallachie, Billy Walker’s understanding of what the term “single cask” means has undergone any development. At any rate, I am interested to see what this 12 yo is like. My understanding is it is put together as a vatting of ex-oloroso, PX and virgin oak-matured spirit. An unusual combo, to be sure. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
Having spent a week in October reviewing whiskies from Kilkerran/Glengyle, let’s close the month out with a whisky from the big boy on the Campbeltown block: Springbank. But as a month finishes, a week begins, and so let’s make this the first whisky of the week with sherry involvement. Now, the Springbank 18’s cask composition has varied a fair bit over the last decade or so. In most years there’s been a decent amount of sherry casks in the mix. In 2016 it was 80% sherry, 20% bourbon; in 2017 the ratio shifted to 60-40; in 2020 it was 55-45 and in 2021, 50-50 sherry and bourbon. Contrariwise, in 2015 and 2018 it was all ex-bourbon and in 2019 it was apparently 88% bourbon and 12% port. Meanwhile it appears the 2022 release (not yet in the US, I don’t think) is 65% bourbon and 35% sherry. (All this info, by the way, is pulled from the Whiskybase listings for Springbank 18.) Well, the most recent Springbank 18 I’ve reviewed was from the sherry-heavy 2016 release. I’ve not kept up with it since as in the intervening period—the whisky world having gone crazy—Springbank’s whiskies have become heavily allocated in the US. It was a major achievement finding a few bottles of the 2021 Springbank 10 this spring and when I saw that one of the stores I got those from had the 18 yo as well, I couldn’t resist it despite the high price tag. My first impressions were not super positive but the bottle’s come on nicely since then. Here now are my notes. Continue reading