Here’s a whisky review on a Thursday for a change. And it’s another Caol Ila—roughly the same age as the previous Caol Ila I reviewed, but distilled just about a decade later. This was bottled by Signatory for K&L in California. As I am generally a sucker for bourbon cask Caol Ila, I was intrigued by it when it was announced, but the high asking price ($150 or so) took care of that. Fortunately (for me, at least), Florin (Slovenian supermodel and future First Lady) purchased a bottle and shared samples with a few of us—see Jordan D’s review of a sample from this same bottle from a year ago. Jordan didn’t care for it overmuch, and nor did Florin (see his comment on Jordan’s review). But there are others who rave about it. Anyway, the easiest way to find out is to pour the sample and drink it. Here goes.
I have been accused before of reviewing too many long-gone bottles that were never released in the US to begin with. Accordingly, here is a review of a bottle that was a US exclusive and which is no longer available. You’re welcome!
This Inchgower was selected by K&L in California and was released last year (I think). I don’t really put much stock by K&L’s reviews of their own bottles. Driscoll’s notes on Spirits Journal contain a lot of words that are often used to describe whisky but they very rarely seem to describe the specific whisky he is flogging. I’ve been burned once too often by what seemed like good values based on his gushing. These days, therefore, I wait till trustworthy sources report on bottles they’ve purchased. If this means I miss on the occasional quality bottle which sells out before I get a positive report I trust, so be it. Anyway, in this case the positive report I trust came from Michael K. at Diving for Pearls. Michael really liked it. I opened my bottle a few months ago for one of my local group’s tastings but have only just gotten around to reviewing it*. Continue reading
As I made clear in my review of the Hampden 6 yo, I know nothing about Jamaican rum. I know even less about Demerara rum. And so I have nothing to say by way of introduction to this 25 yo rum from the Enmore distillery in Guyana except that it was bottled by K&L in California for their Faultline label and is long sold out. If you know more, please write in below.
Enmore 25, 1989, Demerara Rum (51.3%; Faultline; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Overripe bananas with brown sugar and caramel. Spicier on the second sniff with cinnamon and clove. Gets a little varnishy as it sits and there’s some dried paint in there too. Caramel is the top note with time and there’s a mildly smoky/leafy note too now. A little sweeter with water. Continue reading
Here is the fourth and last review of what has turned out to be a pretty mediocre run of Signatory exclusive casks for K&L. Will this be the one to go past 80 points? I wasn’t terribly impressed with the last two Signatory Imperial 1995s for K&L that I reviewed: those were this 19 yo from last year and this 17 yo from their 2013 run of exclusive casks: I recorded 85 points for the 19 yo and 84 points for the 17 yo. Frankly, after the lackluster Linkwood, Glenburgie and Dufftown from this go-around I’d be very happy if this were a 84 point malt! At any rate, I am very glad indeed that I was able to taste all of these through bottle splits instead of buying full bottles of what seemed like “good values” that I would have completely regretted—as I have on many occasions in the past.
Let’s see how it goes. Continue reading
K&L’s annual winter parcel of Signatory cask exclusives arrived a few weeks ago. As I did last year, I split these with a bunch of other whisky geeks—the idea being to try before buying. Given David Driscoll’s skill with hype—and the apparent endless market out there for hype—there’s always the risk of things selling out before you get around to tasting a sample, but that’s far better than the risk of spending $80 or more on what seemed like a great deal only to discover that it wasn’t. That was certainly true in spades with the Linkwood 19 that I reviewed last week. It was not terrible but it had absolutely nothing to recommend it. I’m hoping this Glenburgie will be better. Bourbon cask Glenburgie can be very good indeed (see, for example, this official release) and, as it happens, a couple of years ago K&L had another Glenburgie from Signatory that I quite liked. Well, let’s hope this one is closer to that than to this year’s Linkwood. Continue reading
Just about a year ago I posted reviews of four exclusive Signatory casks for K&L in California. I split those bottles with a bunch of other people. I liked a couple of them a lot (the Blair Athol 26 and the Benrinnes 20) and while the other two didn’t get me very excited, they were solid malts as well (a Glen Elgin 24 and an Imperial 19). Here I am now with the winter 2016 edition of K&L’s Signatory casks. In addition to this Linkwood 19, there is an Imperial 20, a Dufftown 18 and a Glenburgie 21. Three are priced quite reasonably (<$100); I guess we’re being asked to pay a closed distillery premium for the Imperial ($120). In my review of last year’s Glen Elgin 24 I closed by saying that that bottle only seemed like a good deal for the age if you fetishized a high age statement, not so much for the actual whisky, which was just a middle of the road malt of its type. Still, I did like all of last year’s casks. Will these be at least at that level? Continue reading
Last week I had a review of a 20 yo Chateau de la Grangerie distilled in 1994 and bottled for K&L in California. I was not a fan. This 50 yo from 1964 was bottled at the same time, also for K&L. Is it much better? It’s certainly the oldest Armagnac I’ve yet had
Chateau de la Grangerie 50, 1964 (43%; bottled for K&L; from a bottle split)
Nose: Rich fruit (plum, orange peel, a bit of apricot) and oak and spice (cinnamon mostly, some clove too). Gets more leathery as it sits and the orange peel expands and there’s some black tea as well. Gets thinner with a lot of time and there’s a slight note of talcum powder as well.
As per the interwebs, Michel Couvreur was a Belgian involved originally in the wine trade who at some point turned his attention to Scotch whisky. Unlike the average independent bottler, however, Couvreur was not interested in purchasing and bottling matured casks under his own name. Instead he apparently would purchase casks of new make, fill them into his own barrels and set them out to age in his own cellars in Burgundy and usually (if not always) vat/blend the results. If you’ve familiarized yourself with the laws governing the production of Scotch whisky you know that to be called Scotch, the whisky has to be both distilled and matured in Scotland. Therefore, even though Couvreur’s whiskies all originate (presumably) in Scotland they cannot be called Scotch. And the scale of production takes this far beyond the level of a hobbyist’s noodling. Couvreur passed away in 2013 but his methods and brand have been kept alive by his apprentices. Continue reading
Here is my fourth Armagnac review and the third review of a K&L exclusive Armagnac. I thought their Domaine de Baraillon 30 was quite good and that the Chateau de Pellehaut 17 was excellent and so my hopes are up for this one as well. Like Pellehaut, Chateau de la Grangerie is located in the Ténarèze appellation; unlike it, this is made entirely from the Ugni Blanc grape. K&L has brought in a number of other Armagnacs as well from this producer—indeed next week I will have a review of a much older one. And that more or less exhausts my opening patter…and so let’s get right to it.
Chateau de la Grangerie 20, 1994 (45.5%; bottled for K&L; from a sample from a friend)
Chateau de Pellehaut is in the Armagnac-Ténarèze appellation/region (Bas-Armagnac is the dominant one of the three; Haut-Armagnac is the third). Not knowing very much about the regions or their characteristic styles, I can only parrot what I have gleaned from other sources: brandies produced in Armagnac-Ténarèze are said to be more rustic and robust than those produced in Bas-Armagnac. This was made entirely from the Folle Blanche grape, which is historically the most important grape in Cognac and Armagnac production. I’m afraid I don’t know enough to be able to tell you how Folle Blanche Armagnac might differ from that made from other grapes—perhaps someone with more experience can fill us in on this in the comments.
This was bottled by K&L in California a few years ago. They’ve really done a remarkable job of promoting Armagnac in recent years. Continue reading
After two weeks of Armagnac let’s go back to Calvados Wednesdays for a bit. You may recall that my first Calvados review was of the new release of Domaine Hubert from K&L. You may also recall that I expressed some skepticism about the claim that this was essentially the same as their original release of Domaine Hubert, which had a vintage stated and was 6-7 years old. It certainly didn’t taste like it was very much more than four years old. Well, Florin, winner of the second season of Celebrity Apprentice, is a big fan of that 2006 Hubert and insisted that I try that one as well. (By the way, I’d sent him a sample of the new Hubert and he shared my reservations about it, though he did like it more.) He gave me a sample and here I am now with a review. I tasted it alongside a pour of the recent version. It couldn’t be done blind because the difference is obvious before you even taste them: the 2006 vintage is much darker—make of that what you will…
Okay, let’s stay in the brandy family for Wednesday reviews but let’s mix in some Armagnac with the Calvados. I know even less about Armagnac than about Calvados, if such a thing is possible. I blame Charles Neal for this: unlike his great book on Calvados, his book on Armagnac is out of print (and the reviews for it are not as strong). I know it is a grape brandy like Cognac: I know that unlike Cognac, and like a lot of Calvados, it is single-distilled; I know that it hails from Gascony; and I know that it has three sub-appellations, of which bas-Armagnac has the status that Pays d’Auge has in Calvados. That is more or less where my knowledge ends. I know very little about the producers and about which have stronger reputations than others. This is a bit of a shame as the variety of Armagnac available in the US is greater than that of Calvados and the prices are much better. If you know of a good guide to Armagnac producers please point me in its direction. Continue reading
Here is another K&L exclusive Calvados (after the Hubert) and another from the Domfrontais (after the Lemorton Reserve). This is another whose age is not stated, only alluded to. Sku, from whom I got this sample, notes in his review that “while there is no age listed, K&L tells us it is five years old”. Florin pointed out in the comments that the label states the “Réserve” category which is used for three year old Calvados and wondered why they wouldn’t have used the higher category if it were indeed five years old (“VSOP” or “Vieille Réserve”). Sku noted that he “spoke to K&L and they assured me that it is 5 years old, distilled 2011. Apparently, they used existing, available labels rather than create a new one to get it done more quickly.” I found this explanation from K&L a little unconvincing and said so there but I’ll repeat myself here (I’m good at repeating myself and believe in sticking with my strengths). Continue reading
As I said on July 1, I am very new to Calvados. As such even though I’ve already made disclaimers about the nature of my Calvados reviews (there’ll be at least three this month), I’m going to make them again.
In brief, I am the furthest thing from an expert on Calvados. I am also pretty far from being an expert on Scotch whisky but in that case I know a decent amount about the history of Scotch whisky; I know quite a bit about different styles of Scotch whisky and the likely effects of variables in the production process; I know a fair bit about a bunch of the major distilleries and the profiles they’ve produced over time; and I certainly know when a whisky has flaws (whether it overcomes them or not) and when it has achieved very desirable characteristics. In the case of Calvados, I currently know only whether the one I am drinking appeals to me. And since my palate is conditioned by single malt whisky (which is also very relevant to my reviews of American whiskey) it may well be the case that what appeals or doesn’t appeal to me about a particular Calvados may have little relationship to the qualities looked for or scorned by connoisseurs of Calvados. (Among other things, I also don’t know what the plural of Calvados is: one Calvados, two Calvadoses? Calvadosi? Calvadeaux?) Continue reading