The Secret Islay (The Whisky Shop)

Last week I posted a look at a very brief stop at The Whisky Shop on Victoria Street in Edinburgh. Today I have a review of the 100 ml sample I purchased of their so-called Secret Islay cask. I say “so-called” because—as I noted last week—the gent attending to their store casks told us it was a young Bowmore before we’d even thought to ask. Less than 10 years old, I think he said it was. I got a taste and liked it enough to get a 100 ml sample. As I also noted last week, their store casks are not priced in line with what they are. This was £12, and that for a young whisky at 40%. Cadenhead’s seems like even more of a great deal by comparison; as I also noted last week, 500 ml of this would have cost me more than 700 ml of the far superior Cadenhead’s Campbeltown cask (a sherried Springbank). How do I know the Cadenhead’s Campbeltown cask was superior? I drank them both while up in the Speyside later that week and took these notes then. Continue reading

Glen Garioch 26, 1990 (Signatory for the Whisky Exchange)


A little bonus of my time in Edinburgh this June was finally getting to meet James, who comments on the blog from time to time, and who I’ve known on the whisky web for a while. He lives in Glasgow but as it’s a short hop from there to Edinburgh, he came over for a drink one night. We met at the Bow Bar and had a very good time talking a little about whisky but mostly about other things (and drinking a fair bit of peaty whisky). He was the source of some very good advice (he recommended the tour at Highland Park highly which I liked it a lot) and also some angst (he warned that our crossing of the Pentland Firth to Orkney might be really choppy; thankfully, it wasn’t). He was also the source of this generous sample of Glen Garioch 26, 1990 bottled by Signatory for the Whisky Show in Glasgow early last year. I’ve not had much pre-1995 Glen Garioch (that was the year they stopped using peated malt) and the last Glen Garioch from this year that I tried was a belter, with quite a bit of peat influence—and it was also bottled by Signatory. As such I was looking forward to getting into this one, which I finally did a couple of weeks later in London. Here now are my notes.  Continue reading

Talisker 6, 2009 (OMC for K&L)


About four and a half years ago K&L released a 5 yo Talisker—the so-called “Speakeasy”, bottled by Douglas Laing. It had a cool label design and the whisky inside was pretty decent, if nothing very special. A couple of years ago they released another young Talisker bottled by Douglas Laing, this one, from a sherry cask. It cost about $40 and I was sorely tempted to get one. Especially as in their tasting notes they said things like, “It’s loaded with equal parts salt, smoke, fruit, and sweet malt character with a spray of sea water on the finish”. But then I remembered that K&L’s tasting notes are mostly random word soups designed to make people want to buy whiskies and that if they match up with what’s in the bottle it is entirely by accident. Sometime later I had an opportunity to get a sample from a bottle split, and with a much lower financial risk at stake I gave it a go. Will I regret my skepticism and wish I’d bought a bottle? Let’s see.  Continue reading

Glenlivet 36, 1981 (Signatory for The Whisky Exchange)


I have not had very many old Glenlivets. And unless you’re a member of the whisky illuminati chances are you’ve not either. The few I’ve had have been very good indeed. The best of the lot was probably a Glenlivet 38, 1974 bottled by Berry Bros. and Rudd for the Whisky Exchange in 2012, and which I emptied a few weeks before starting this blog (hmm I should check to see if I saved a sample from that bottle as was my usual practice in those days). This old Glenlivet was also bottled for the Whisky Exchange but by Signatory. It’s also, unlike the BB&R bottle, from a sherry cask. And as this is 2018 and not 2012, it costs more than three times as much. These are the times in which we live. Not so long ago a bottle like this would have been within reach of regular punters looking to make a splurge; now it’s only for the rich. But what is it like? Courtesy Billy Abbot, who passed on a sample to me when we met for drinks in June at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s London tasting rooms, I can give you my answer.  Continue reading

Aberlour 13, 2000 (Exclusive Malts)


Though I am writing this review well before it will post, when you read it (if you’re in the US), I will have likely just finished touring Aberlour. This is set to be our last day in the Speyside on this trip to Scotland and I’ve been looking forward to visiting Aberlour in particular. I will doubtless have an image-heavy report from the distillery soon enough but in the meantime, here’s a review of an Aberlour 13 released five years ago. This was bottled by the Creative Whisky Co. for their Exclusive Malts label and was an exclusive for K&L in California. This cask is not listed on Whiskybase, by the way—the only Exclusive Malts Aberlour 2000 they have is a sibling cask that was a year younger. This is an ex-bourbon cask—which is a rare but pleasant treat from Aberlour, whose official releases all stress the sherry. I’ve quite liked the other bourbon cask Aberlours I’ve reviewed (relatively) recently and I’m hoping this will keep the streak going. Let’s get to it.  Continue reading

Mortlach 28, 1989 (Faultline)


And here is the last of my five reviews of recent K&L casks. The score so far is 3-1: I really liked the Bowmore 20 and the Bunnahabhain 25, and thought the Bunnahabhain 28 was solid; it was only the Mortlach 22 that I was not crazy about. Well, this is also a Mortlach and, like the Bunnahabhain 28, it’s also a Faultline. Which way will it go? Let’s see.

Mortlach 28, 1989 (42.5%; Faultline; first-fill sherry hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Raisins, a bit of orange and some oak. With time the orange expands a bit but there’s not much of note happening here. With more time still there’s some toffee. With a few drops of water the fruit expands significantly: orange and apricot.

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Bunnahabhain 28, 1989 (Faultline)


My series of reviews of recent K&L casks continues. The score so far is 2-1. The two casks I liked a lot were both Old Particular releases (a Bowmore 20, 1997 and a Bunnahabhain 25, 1991). The other was a Mortlach 22, 1995, an Alexander Murray cask bottled in K&L’s own Faultline series, and I thought it was ordinary. This one’s also a Bunnahabhain but it’s also another of the Alexander Murrary Faultline releases. That doesn’t bode well. Will this be another of K&L’s older whiskies that seems like a great value but isn’t actually worth it anyway? Let’s see.

Bunnahabhain 28, 1989 (42.1%; Faultline; first-fill sherry hogshead; from a bottle split)

Continue reading

Bunnahabhain 25, 1991 (Old Particular for K&L)


On to review #3 of K&L’s recent single cask releases, and the oldest one so far. As you may recall, the first was a Bowmore 20, 1997, bottled by Douglas Laing’s Old Particular, and I quite liked that one. The second was a Mortlach 22, 1995 bottled under K&L’s own Faultline label (the cask came from Alexander Murray). I did not have much of an opinion of that one. Will this Bunnahabhain, also bottled by Old Particular, get things back on track? Like the Mortlach 22, it’s priced very well—I should say “was”, as it’s already sold out: $160, I believe. Considering the lowest price for the OB 25 yo on WineSearcher is $342, that seems like a very good deal indeed. But, as we saw with the Mortlach, age isn’t everything. Paying a relatively low price for an older whisky isn’t much of a steal if the whisky in the bottle isn’t very good. Older Bunnahabhain can be very good indeed, however, so I am hopeful. Let’s see how it goes.  Continue reading

Mortlach 22, 1995 (Faultline)


On Wednesday I posted the first of five reviews of some recentl K&L exclusive casks. I very much liked that Bowmore 20, which was bottled in Douglas Laing’s Old Particular line. Today’s Mortlach is a couple of years older but was bottled under K&L’s own Faultline label. More than any K&L casks, those bottled in the Faultline series have proven the most disappointing. Then again, I had low expectations of Wednesday’s Bowmore as well and those were easily exceeded. Will that be true of this Mortlach as well?

Sherry cask Mortlach—which is the most common version—can be a bit of a bruiser. The distillery produces a meatier, rougher spirit—their production process uses old-fashioned worm tubs for the condensation step, and with lower copper content in worm tubs, the spirit retains more of a sulphurous character. This can be a bit of an acquired taste but once you acquire it, it becomes a very specific pleasure. And a good sherry cask can amplify those pleasures. Let’s see if that has happened here or if this will be a regression to K&L’s cask selection mean.  Continue reading

Bowmore 20, 1997 (Old Particular for K&L)


I’m going to start the month with reviews of some of K&L’s recently released exclusives. This may seem timely but keep in mind that most of these have already sold out. This Bowmore, bottled under the Old Particular label from Douglas Laing, might still be available, however. The last time I reviewed a bunch of K&L selections—back in December 2016, starting with this Linkwood)—things didn’t go so well. Will this lot be any better? The odds, frankly, are not great. K&L’s strategy seems to be to look for casks with high age and low price numbers on them with the quality an afterthought. A lot of people want deals and 20-30 yo whisky for less than $200 seems like a great deal in this market in the abstract. It’s in the marketing copy that they’ll seek to convince you that you’re also getting amazing whisky. And even though David Driscoll is now gone from K&L, their ability to turn on the tap of hyperbole remains unaffected.  Continue reading

Blair Athol 25, 1988 (LMDW)


As per Whiskybase, there have been 44 casks of Blair Athols from 1988 released in the last three years. I guess someone acquired a huge parcel of those casks and sold them on. And given that most of the releases are from Signatory, I’d guess they’re that someone and are the source for many of the other indie releases as well. Given that there were a decent number released just last year, I suspect we’ll continue to see Blair Athol 1988s for a while.

I’ve previously reviewed three other 1988s in the 25-26 yo range. I very much liked this 25 yo from van Wees and this 26 yo from Signatory for K&L; this 26 yo—also from van Wees—I liked a bit less. The one I’m reviewing now was bottled by La Maison Du Whisky, the famed Paris whisky store. It’s part of their “Artist” series—all of which have very pretty labels. As to whether the prettiness of the labels says anything about the contents of the bottles, I don’t know; I do know the bottles are pretty expensive. I didn’t pay for a whole bottle of this one; this was part of a bottle split—which is really a very good way to try a lot more whiskies than would be feasible otherwise. Anyway, let’s see if this is as good as the others.  Continue reading

Glenfarclas 1989-2013, The Family Casks (for Astor Wines)


Glenfarclas’ “Family Casks” series of single cask releases has a very strong reputation among whisky geeks. Here in the US, we see very few of them and so when I saw that Astor Wine in New York City had one as an exclusive bottling, I picked up a bottle. Distilled in 1989 and bottle in 2013 this is either 23 or 24 years old. It cost a fair bit more than the standard 25 yo but I rationalized the purchase given the higher abv and the general reputation of the Family Cask line. Of course, that reputation is largely based on the sherry casks that form of the majority of the series, and this one—though it doesn’t say so on the label—is from a bourbon cask. Still, I was looking forward to opening it, which I did about a year ago for one of my local group’s tastings. While some in the group really liked it, a few of us were unconvinced: the nose was very nice but it seemed over-oaked on the palate. I’d hoped that time and air would fix a lot of that. Let’s see if that’s happened a year later with lots of air and time.  Continue reading

Clynelish 21, 1995 (Signatory for The Whisky Exchange)


It’s intoxicating, being a blogger who posts reviews of currently available whiskies! After Monday’s Bowmore, here is another Signatory exclusive for The Whisky Exchange. I’d guess they were released at the same time (were there others?). This one is quite a bit cheaper despite being older and despite being from another name distillery and also despite being from a sherry cask. As to whether being from a sherry cask is a good thing for Clynelish is another matter. There are those who believe that Clynelish is Clynelish only when matured in bourbon casks. Me, I like to keep an open mind. I’ve previously liked my fair share of ex-sherry Clynelish—including this one that was also distilled in 1995—and I’ve also had ex-bourbon Clynelish, including those from the alleged, magic year of 1997 that did not get me too excited. And even if it isn’t very Clynelish I’m not going to be too disappointed as long as it’s at least a good whisky.  Continue reading

Bowmore 15, 2001 (Signatory for The Whisky Exchange)


Since I am the kind of blogger who regularly posts reviews of whiskies that are currently available (see my recent reviews of the Ardbeg 10, the Lagavulin 12 CS, the Highland Park “Full Volume”, Old Weller Antique etc.), here is a review of a Bowmore 15 that is still available. It’s true that it’s only available from The Whisky Exchange in London, but how much do you want from me?! Does nothing satisfy you?!

This is an exclusive bottling for TWE by Signatory and it costs a pretty penny. 16,000 pretty pennies, to be exact—which may seem to you—as it does to me—like a lot of pennies for a 15 yo Bowmore from an ex-bourbon cask (not, in the abstract, such a rare commodity). However, the price is said to be justified by its fruity quality and so when the opportunity to split a bottle with a few people arose, I jumped at it. At this price, you want to try before you buy. Well, let’s try it now.   Continue reading