Caol Ila 27, 1984 (Old Malt Cask for the Whisky Barrel)


The week’s first review was of a 19 yo Caol Ila from a bourbon cask. That one was bottled by the Whisky Exchange in 2012. Here now is another Caol Ila bottled the year before by Douglas Laing in their Old Malt Cask series. This one is a fair bit older and is from a refill sherry hogshead. As much as I like bourbon cask Caol Ila, sherried Caol Ila—relatively rare as it is—can be very good indeed and the best ones are among the whisky world’s unalloyed pleasures. See, for example, this one and this one, both also from 1984 distillate. I am hopeful that this will be in the class of those. Let’s see if it is.

Caol Ila 27, 1984 (52.4%; Old Malt Cask; refill sherry hogshead; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Leafy smoke cutting through sherried notes of orange peel, raisins, pipe tobacco and pencil lead. On the second sniff there’s some charred pork and also a hint of savoury sulphur; the smoke is a bit sharper now. The coastal notes emerge as it sits (brine) but it’s not terribly phenolic. Softer with water with a bit of toffee emerging. Continue reading

Caol Ila 19 (The Whisky Exchange)

Here’s a 19 yo Caol Ila bottled several years ago by the Whisky Exchange for their annual Whisky Show. That’s it, that’s the introduction.

Caol Ila 19 (55.9%; The Whisky Exchange for the Whisky Show, 2012; single bourbon cask; from my own bottle)

Nose: Ah yes, this is one of those “Port Ellen, who?” Caol Ilas. Lemon, oyster liquor, kelp, green olive brine, mineral smoke: it’s all here. A couple of minutes later there’s some ash and smouldering leaves mixed in with the mineral smoke, giving it a slightly bitter, vegetal quality. A few drops of water and it’s a mix of citronella, ash and vanilla-cream.

Palate: As predicted by the nose but with more phenols in the smoke and some sweeter notes as I swallow (vanilla). Gets more acidic as it sits and the leafy note from the nose begins to make its way to the palate as well. More acid with water—more preserved than fresh lemon now—and the phenols back off a bit (the ash doesn’t though). Continue reading

Littlemill 20, 1992 (Archives)


Let’s start the month with a closed distillery—that seems appropriate for the pandemic. Earlier this year I reviewed a 29 yo Littlemill that was distilled in 1988 and bottled in 2018. This one was distilled a few years later but also bottled near the very start of the Littlemill renaissance when several excellent casks from the late 1980s through the early 1990s suddenly became available in Europe. The distillery’s low reputation—well earned by official releases—rebounded dramatically and prices for these releases started going up before they eventually all but dried up. This particular cask was bottled by the Whiskybase store in Rotterdam under their Archives label. Menno of Whiskybase is a Littlemill collector and that always seemed like a good guarantor of quality for their Littlemill releases. They’ve put out eight or so of these casks, of which I think this was the second. I’ve previously reviewed the first one, which was from a refill sherry hogshead. I quite liked it. This is from a bourbon hogshead. I’ve had it open for more than a month now and have been dipping into it on the regular. Here now before I finish the bottle before remembering to take notes (which has happened on some occasions), is my review. Continue reading

Inchmurrin 14, 2004 (SMWS)


On Tuesday I had a review of a bourbon cask Inchmurrin bottled by the SMWS in 2018. Here now is another. This one is a few years older. By the way, despite what the label on the sample bottle might lead you to think, I did not get this from Sku.

Inchmurrin 14, 2004 (60%; SMWS 112.39; 2nd-fill hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: The usual mix of bright acid and mineral notes to start; then lime peel and salt expand along with more tropical notes of tart mango and dragonfruit and just a hint of passionfruit. With time the lime peel is still the top note and the mineral quality is right there with it along with a whiff of paraffin. A few drops of water push back the paraffin, bring out some sweeter notes (vanilla) and make the whole bigger. A bit more water and there’s more fruit still: sweeter (berries) and richer. Continue reading

Inchmurrin 11, 2007 (SMWS)


Okay, back to whisky. Here’s a young Inchmurrin from a bourbon cask. Inchumurrin, as you probably know, is one of the several lines of whisky produced at the Loch Lomond distillery. Its profile is typically very fruity and sans the peat that marks their Croftengea line. I confess I am never able to remember how Inchmurrin or Croftengea differ from the other lines made by Loch Lomond—Inchfad, Inchmoan and so on. I did really like my last young Inchmurrin from a bourbon cask. That one was an official 9 yo single cask selected by the Whisky Exchange last year to commemorate their 20th anniversary, and I was glad to have procured a full bottle of it. This one is a bit older at 11 years of age and was bottled by the SMWS. They gave it the fanciful name “A Piece of Paradise”. If it’s filled with tropical fruit I’ll forgive them. Let’s see if that turns out to be the case and if I regret only having a 2 oz sample. Continue reading

Clynelish 8, 2010 (SMWS)


Alas, I don’t have another Ardmore with which to make this a full week of Ardmore reviews to match last week’s Benromach trio. But I do have a sample of another SMWS malt with which to make it a week of SMWS review. Let’s go a bit to the west and then to the north, to Clynelish. After Wednesday’s red wine finish misadventure we’re back to a bourbon cask. Unlike Monday’s Ardmore, however, this is a barrel, not a hogshead and it’s a first-fill not refill cask; it’s also much younger. That combination of a smaller cask size and more active wood can be an overbearing one for a young whisky such as this; but in theory, at least, Clynelish’s spirit should be able to stand up to it. Let’s see if that’s been the case here.

Clynelish 8, 2010 (57.5%; SMWS 26.104; first-fill bourbon barrel; from a bottle split)

Nose: Toasted oak, ripe pear, apple cider, sweet malt. Very nice indeed. As it sits sweeter notes come to the fore—more apple along with the pear–but the oak and the cider are still here. With water and a few beats the fruit gets muskier: lemon peel, pineapple. Continue reading

Ardmore 13, 2006 (SMWS)


Okay, let’s make it two Ardmores in a row. I really liked the 20 yo I reviewed on Monday. Like this one, that was also bottled by the SMWS. Unlike this one, however, that was from a refill bourbon cask. This one very much is not. Well, it started out in bourbon cask but ended up in a red wine cask for some reason. I’m yet to come across any compelling reason to finish whisky in red wine casks. Will this change my mind? Let’s see.

Ardmore 13, 2006 (58.1%; SMWS 66.161; red wine finish; from a bottle split)

Nose: Fairly jumbled with some pickled/acidic notes, some char, some oak, some red fruit. On the second and third sniffs there’s quite a bit of lime. As it sits the smoke takes on a slightly plasticky/acryclic character. The nose settles down with time and air and the plastic/acrylic note recedes. Water brings out a cured meat note. Continue reading

Ardmore 20, 1997 (SMWS)


Last week I reviewed a slew of Benromachs—well, three of them anyway. Let’s stay in the general vicinity and let’s stick with Highland peat. Ardmore is the other distillery in that general part of Scotland that is known for peated whisky. As at Benromach, Ardmore’s peat is not phenolic in the Islay style and nor is it as farmy/brutal as Ledaig’s can be. Instead it typically has a peppery, mineral character, with soot and coal in place of the phenols. It’s hard to find much indie Ardmore in the US—or even very much officially released Ardmore—but I am a big fan of the distillery and try their whisky every chance I get. And I usually like it a lot. Why, I even liked a 10 yo put out by K&L last year! More to the point and closer to the age of this one, I also really liked a 22 yo from 1996 released to mark the 20th anniversary of the OMC line in 2018. If this is as good as either of those I’ll be very happy. Let’s see if that proves to be the case. Continue reading

Amrut, Sherry Cask (Blackadder)


It’s been a year and a half since my last Amrut review—what kind of an Indian am I? It’s not my fault though: there just isn’t so much Amrut around in the US. The last one I reviewed—the Amaze, a single cask release for an Indian club—was bottled in late 2018. This one came out half a decade earlier. A NAS release (like most Amruts), I purchased it right after it was bottled in 2013. Like most Amruts it’s also been bottled at an eye-wateringly high proof. The bottler is Blackadder. They’ve put out a large number of Amruts, far more than any other bottler—Whiskybase only lists a handful of others and they only seem to have one or two each. I wonder what Blackadder’s connection is. The cask was first-fill sherry. I rather liked the last sherry cask Amrut I had—this PX cask—and their Intermediate Sherry is one of my favourites, if now a little too expensive for my wallet. And so I have high hopes for this one. Let’s see if they’re borne out. Continue reading

Glenlossie 35, 1975 (The Whisky Agency)


I started the month with a review of the then oldest Glenlossie I’d ever had—a 29 yo from a bourbon cask. Here now to close the month is a review of what is now the oldest Glenlossie I’ve ever had—a 35 yo, also from a bourbon cask. This was bottled by the Whisky Agency for Shinanoya in Tokyo. I got a sample of it from my friend Nick in Minneapolis a few years ago and completely forgot about it before finding it last month during my ongoing cull of the vast hoard of samples I’d accumulated over the years. I’ve tasted it before at one of our friend Rich’s whisky gatherings up in the Ciites. I remember liking it a lot but those sessions usually involve a fair number of over-the-top whiskies and others sometimes get a little lost in the shuffle. And so I’m pleased to be able to spend a little bit more time with this one. Let’s see what I make of it now. Continue reading

Fettercairn 17, 1995 (Exclusive Malts)


I keep saying this about most of the minor Scottish distilleries but I have very little experience of Fettercairn. I’ve only reviewed a couple of them before this one and have maybe tried twice as many in total. As such I have no expectations. Of the two I’ve reviewed one did nothing for me and the other was average—which leaves the door open for this one to be the first Fettercairn that will really move me. Okay, so it also leaves the door open for this to be the first Fettercairn I end up pouring into the sink—why do you have to be so negative?

This particular Fettercairn was bottled by Exclusive Malts for K&L in California. Being negative, you might say that this is not a very promising combination but I have had very good whiskies from both. Let’s see if this is another one of those. Continue reading

Port Ellen 24, 1982 (Signatory)


Let’s make it a full week of reviews of whiskies from closed distilleries. On Tuesday I had a review of a Brora. Here now is a whisky from Diageo’s other once a workhorse, now a cash cow distillery: Port Ellen. Like Brora, Port Ellen was slated for zombification last year. I’m not sure where any of that stands either. This one was distilled in 1982—the year before the distillery was closed—and bottled in 2006, when Port Ellens were available at prices that seemed high then but look like crazy screaming deals now.

Port Ellen 24, 1982 (43%; Signatory; hogshead 1145; from a sample received in a swap)

Nose: Lemon, cereals, bright carbolic peat (Dettol), cottonwool. Sweeter on the second sniff with some seashells and vanilla. The citrus gets muskier as it sits (more lime peel than lemon now) and there are hints (just hints) of faintly tropical notes interlaced with the increasingly acidic smoke. The vanilla gets creamier with a few drops of water. Continue reading

Brora 19, 1981 (Signatory)


Here’s another review of a whisky from a closed distillery, this time Scottish, not Japanese. Or at least this distillery was closed when this whisky was released, and indeed until a couple of years ago. Brora, as you will recall, was revived by Diageo—along with Port Ellen—a few years ago. When I visited Clynelish briefly in 2018 work was already in progress on the zombie Brora plant; I’m not sure where things stand now—do write in below if you know. God knows what the spirit from zombie Brora will be like but I’m sure Diageo needs its cash cows to produce more milk—they must be close to running out of casks they can charge $3000 per bottle for. Of course, it’s going to take a long time for the new spirit to get to the age of the whisky I’m reviewing today, leave alone the age of the bottles that command the high prices. This is a very young 19 yo by Brora standards—most of its whisky was bottled at higher ages well after the distillery close. Then again, Diagep knows as well as I do that there are a lot of people with a lot of money to burn who just want to have bottles with Brora labels in their cabinets. I am not among them but I can tell you what this one is like. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 18, 1996 (Liquid Treasures)


My recent batting average with Ben Nevis is very high. I can’t remember the last one I disliked and most have been very good indeed; in particular a few that were distilled in 1996 (for example, this, this and this). That’s good news because this is a Ben Nevis, 1996 too. Therefore, as per science, this is likely to be very good. Let’s see if that’s the case.

Ben Nevis 18, 1996 (50.7%; Liquid Treasures; bourbon hogshead; from my own bottle)

Nose: Big fruit (sweet citrus mixed in with tinned pineapple and a bit of peach) along with a big malty note as well as some cocoa. In other words, very Ben Nevis. The malt gets yeastier as it sits and some tingling oak emerges as well; the fruit is all still here though. Sweeter and more floral with a few drops of water. Continue reading

Glenlossie 29, 1978 (Gordon & MacPhail)


Glenlossie is the very definition of a workhorse distillery producing malt for Diageo’s blends; and in their case I don’t believe there even is a mainline blend they are closely associated with. There is no official release of their whisky as single malt, save for the occasional Flora & Fauna bottle (I am still fuzzy on the currency of that series). I have had very little Glenlossie in my time and have reviewed even less; only two others, in fact (this 10 yo and this 22 yo). Which means that this is without a doubt the oldest Glenlossie I’ve ever had (though in a few weeks it may not hold this title anymore). I said rude things about Auchentoshan last week—noting that it was one of the distilleries that seemed to give the lie to my belief that every distillery is capable of producing excellent casks—and it must be said that the few Glenlossies I’ve had have not inspired much confidence in that direction either. Will this much older iteration, distilled in the 1970s, confirm my optimism? I hope so. Continue reading

Caol Ila 10 (Gordon & MacPhail)


After a month of reviews of un-sherried whiskies—well, the Glen Scotia 14 probably had some sherry casks in the mix—let’s end with one from refill sherry casks. This is a 10 yo Caol Ila released in Gordon & MacPhail’s Connoisseurs Choice series at some point after the casks in that series started being bottled at 46% with new packaging. I think this was released in the mid-2010s, which would, I think, have been not too long after the revamping of the line. I almost always enjoy Caol Ila from sherry casks—and have a very good memory of this earlier G&M 10 yo from refill sherry casks (though that was in their old Cask Strength line). And I quite liked as well this G&M 10 yo from 2006 (also cask strength but in the new livery for their Cask Strength line). That latter one was from first-fill casks though. Well, as long as it’s better than the last sherried Caol Ila I reviewed—this sherry finished 7 yo that was an exclusive for K&L—I’ll be happy. Let’s see if that proves to be the case. Continue reading

Auchentoshan 15, 1997 (Old Malt Cask)


I often say that every distillery is capable of producing high quality malt. But I have to admit that Auchentoshan is one of the distilleries that really tests my faith in this proposition. In my years of drinking single malt whisky I have not yet come across an official Auchentoshan that I have wanted to purchase or even drink again; and, more damningly, I have not also come across any indie releases that have convinced me that owners Morrison Bowmore have been blending quality casks away, whether in the official vattings or in the group’s blends. I’m not denying the possibility that they exist; merely noting that I have not yet randomly encountered one. Of the few I have reviewed, I liked this 23 yo from Archives the best and I gave that 86 points. But hope springs eternal and perhaps this will be the one that rewards my faith. Like some of the other whiskies I’ve been reviewing recently it too was a release from a long time ago—I’ve been sitting on this sample too for a while. Well, let’s get to it now. Continue reading

Bunnahabhain 1997-2010 (Murray McDavid)


Okay after two reviews of things that are not whisky, let’s get back to whisky. But this might be barely whisky. It’s a Murray McDavid red wine-bothered Bunnahabhain, and Murray McDavid wine-bothered anything is rarely a good idea (see, for example, this Bowmore from red wine casks and also this Bowmore from white wine casks). The only sign of hope is that this is one of those peated 1997 Bunnahabhains and that kind of heavy, organic peat (as opposed to Bowmore’s more delicate, floral variety) can theoretically stand up more successfully to the depredations of a red wine finish. Will that be the case here though? Let’s see.

This is another sample that I acquired a long time ago—from Jordan of Chemistry of the Cocktail—and am only getting around to opening now. Continue reading