Convalmore 21, 1984 (Gordon & Macphail)


I don’t have much experience with Convalmore, a Speyside distillery that closed in 1985, just one year after this whisky was distilled. During its active period it produced exclusively for blends—as did and do most Scotch distilleries. The ownership situation of the brand is a bit confusing. My understanding is that when it was mothballed in 1985 the premises were sold to William Grant & Sons (owners of Glenfiddich and Balvenie) and used by them primarily for warehousing. The brand, however, is owned by Diageo—because the active distillery was part of the portfolio of Diageo’s precursor?—as is the remaining stock. If I am wrong about any of this—likely—or if you can confirm any of it, please do write in below. At any rate, very little Convalmore has ever been released as a single malt—Whiskybase lists only about 100 unique releases over the years. The most famous of these are a couple of Diageo special releases. Predictably G&M and Cadenhead have bottled far more. This cask was bottled by G&M for the American market in 2006. I purchased it from Binny’s in 2013—which should give you a sense of how relatively recent the boom in single malt purchasing insanity is. Anyway, I’d forgotten I had this bottle. Looking forward to finally tasting it. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 21, 1996 (Whisky Doris)


I reviewed three 20+ yo Ben Nevis last month, all from Signatory, all distilled in 1991 and all from sherry butts. I found the 22 yo and the 24 yo from the trio to be excellent and the 26 yo to be merely very, very good. None of them exhibited sherry bomb character, allowing the distillery’s unique funky mix of fruit and malt and mineral notes to come through front and center. Today I have another 20+ yo Ben Nevis from a sherry butt (this time specified as a refill sherry butt). This was bottled not by Signatory but by the German outfit, Whisky Doris—though for all I know, Signatory may be the source of their casks. This one is from 1996, another year from which a number of casks have been bottled. In addition to the official 1996-2012 I’ve reviewed a number of indies as well: an 18 yo from Liquid Treasures; a couple from Cadenhead (this 19 yo and this 17 yo); and another 18 yo from Whisky Import Nederland. Indeed, my very first Ben Nevis review was of a 9 yo, 1996 bottled by Duncan Taylor under their Whisky Galore label. All of them—whether from bourbon or sherry casks—have ranged from very good to excellent; and all have been anything but cookie cutter whiskies. Let’s hope this one doesn’t let the side down. Continue reading

Glenrothes 12, 2007 (SMWS 30.110)


On Wednesday I had a review of a 12 yo Glenrothes distilled in 2007, matured in a first-fill sherry butt, and bottled in late 2019 or early 2020 by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society at a very high abv. Here now is another. Will I like it as much as I did the sibling cask despite it being a young sherry bomb at a ludicrous strength? Let’s see. They named this one “Espresso to the Power of 4” which means…something.

Glenrothes 12, 2007 (64.5%; SMWS 30.110; first-fill sherry butt; from a bottle split)

Nose: This is fruitier from the get-go than the sibling cask, with plum and apricot coming through very strongly. Some raisins in there too and a bit of dusty oak. Water pulls out toffee and light maple syrup and amps the apricot up pretty high.

Palate: Ah yes, all the fruit from the nose, mixed in nicely with orange peel, all framed by a solid backbone of spicy (but not tannic) oak. More approachable and expressive at full strength than the other. Let’s see what water does. It amplifies the fruit further and pushes the oak back a bit. Continue reading

Glenrothes 12, 2007 (SMWS 30.109)


In my review in the summer of a very old Glenrothes I noted that despite the fact that my introduction to single malt Scotch whisky had involved a number of teenaged OB releases, I hadn’t reviewed any of them on the blog. Indeed, the youngest Glenrothes I’ve previously reviewed was a 15 yo (this Signatory release of a refill sherry butt, reviewed when the blog was just a few months old). Well. I have two reviews of 12 yo Glenrothes this week. Neither are official releases, however. Indeed both are from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society; they were distilled in 2007 and released in late 2019 (or maybe early 2020). Both are also high-octane whiskies from first-fill sherry butts. I’m always a bit iffy about both whiskies with stupidly high strengths and young sherry bombs; these SMWS releases fit both descriptions and yet I went in on bottle splits of them anyway. What can I say? I am large, I contain multitudes. Despite my prejudices, will I find this “strangely soothing”? (That’s the name the SMWS gave this, in case you’re wondering.) Let’s see. Continue reading

Clynelish 24, 1989 (Adelphi)


As we wait, wait, wait for election results to come in, here is a review of a Clynelish: my third review overall of a 20+ yo Clynelish from 1989 and only my second Clynelish review for the year. Data! Everyone loves meaningless data, right? Maybe I’ll apply for a job at fivethirtyeight.com. Sorry, where was I? Oh yes, this is the third 1989 Clynelish I’ve had and it’s the third from a bourbon cask to boot. The previous two were 22 and 23 years old, respectively and I liked the 23 yo more than the 22 yo. This one is 24 years old. That might seem like a guarantee of extra goodness but that extra year could have been fatal. Let’s see if that was indeed the case.

Clynelish 24, 1989 (53.1%; Adelphi; refill bourbon cask 3846; from my own bottle)

Nose: Honey, lemon zest, a bit of pepper and yes, wax. A little grassier on the second sniff and a little herbal (sage). Gets more savoury as it sits with some ham brine. With more time there’s some sweeter fruit (apricot). Not a tremendous change with water: some cream, less ham, but otherwise more or less the same mix. Continue reading

Ardmore 12, 2006 (SMWS 66.133)


In July I had a review of an Ardmore 13, 2006 released by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society that I was not terribly enthused about. Here now is an Ardmore 12, 2006 released by the SMWS that I am expecting to like a fair bit more. That’s because unlike the 13 yo—which was a red wine finish for some reason—this one is from a refill bourbon hogshead. Ardmore’s mineral peat and lemon notes should come out front and center. The operative word there is “should”. The fact that the SMWS named this one “Farm Salad” seems like a good sign but let’s see if things actually go as planned. Certainly the last SMWS refill hogshead Ardmore I reviewed was excellent as was the most recent Ardmore I reviewed back in early September. Both of those were a fair bit older, of course. But I’m keeping my hopes in check anyway: if being an American in 2020 has taught me anything it’s to not get my hopes up. Continue reading

Allt-a-Bhainne 7, 2011 (SMWS)


Okay, let’s bring the long run of sherry casks to an end with this Allt-a-Bhainne. It does not, however, bring the shorter run of peated whiskies to an end. Apparently, Allt-a-Bhainne recently became another of the Speyside distilleries that traffics in peated whisky. When exactly this happened I do not know—I stopped following whisky news a long time ago. They’ve released an official NAS peated whisky and it’s been met with very poor reviews. This one—a cask from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society—may not be very much older than the NAS release: it’s 7 years old, which is the kind of age that whisky companies feel very embarrassed about after years and years of trying to convince people that age equals quality. The fact that the SMWS has the decency to mark the age of their cask does not, of course, mean that it’s necessarily any better than the previously mentioned official release. That said, I’ve quite liked the few Allt-a-Bhainnes I’ve reviewed previous to this one though the youngest of those was 16 years old. Let’s see what this is like. Continue reading

Ledaig 17, 1998 (A.D. Rattray)


Here is another Ledaig from a sherry cask that was released in the middle of the decade. This is almost twice the age of Friday’s cask and was bottled by A.D. Rattray, not Signatory. It’s also a ludicrously high strength. 65.8% after 17 years? Just where was this cask stored? I have to say I am not a big fan of whiskies being bottled at these crazy strengths (or any other kind of spirit for that matter). Its hard for me to enjoy most drinks fully very much above 55%—and I usually tend to like things closer to 50%. Sure I can—and do—dilute things down to where I like them but it’s an unnecessary level of futzing with your drink, in my view. I realize there’s a layer of authenticity that comes with the “cask strength” tag and that it gets some extra sheen of machismo probably when that cask strength is eye-wateringly high. Add to all of those prejudices that this is a Ledaig—a spirit that can be challenging even at a much lower strength—and I have some trepidation entering this pour. Let’s see how it pans out. Continue reading

Auchroisk 22, 1990 (Whisky-Fässle)


This is not a Ben Nevis. It was not distilled in 1991 and it was not bottled by Signatory. But it is from a sherry cask and from a distillery that often produces very fruity whisky: Auchroisk. I haven’t had too many—and have reviewed even less—but the best have been very good indeed. Such, for example, was the one 1990 I’ve previously reviewed—this 24 yo bottled by Signatory for Binny’s, which I scored a little lower than I should have. If this one is as good I’ll be very happy indeed; I certainly hope that the sherry maturation won’t have covered up the fruit (as it hadn’t in the case of last week’s Ben Nevis trio). Let’s see.

Auchroisk 22, 1990 (49.8%; Whisky-Fässle; sherry cask; from my own bottle)

Nose: Copper coins, leather and a big dose of fruit running through it (orange peel, plantain, apricot). The orange peel expands as it sits and the oak begins to peep out here as well. Water brightens it up and pulls out malt and toffee. As it sits the fruit gets muskier too (more tropical accents). Continue reading

Ben Nevis 26, 1991 (Signatory)


Let us bring Ben Nevis week to a close. To recap, three sherry casks filled in 1991 and bottled by Signatory at the ages of 22, 24, and 26. I thought the 22 yo was a gem and then liked the 24 even more. Do I dare hope that the 26 will be better still? Of course, we know that age is no reliable predictor of quality—a few extra years can take a cask past its prime just as easily as they can add further depth. I am hoping for good things though as the colour of this sample suggests that this too was not an over-active sherry cask. Hopefully, that funky, fruity Ben Nevis character will be front and center here as well. Let’s see if that’s the case.

Ben Nevis 26, 1991 (57.3%; Signatory; sherry butt 2377; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: That familiar mix once again of musky citrus, powdered ginger, malt and yeast. On the second sniff the powdered ginger moves in the slightly rubbery direction of old-school medicine bottles. With time and air the sweeter fruit from the palate (peach nectar) joins the musky citrus. A few drops of water and there’s more malt and some very milky cocoa to go with all the rest. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 24, 1991 (Signatory)


Here is the second of three Ben Nevis 1991s this week. Like Monday’s 22 yo, this 24 yo was bottled by Signatory from a sherry butt. I loved the 22 yo—will this one be as good? Let’s see.

Ben Nevis 24, 1991 (55.7%; Signatory; sherry butt 3834; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: A very obvious relative of the 22 yo but here the roasted malt and nutty notes are on top of the citrus (which is brighter/more acidic: lime). On the second sniff the citrus is muskier (makrut lime peel) and here’s the powdered ginger too now. Continues in this vein. A few drops of water and there’s a big hit of citronella and then the fruit begins to get first sweeter and then savoury: peach nectar laced with lime juice and a bit of salt. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 22, 1991 (Signatory)


Here starts a week of reviews of sherry matured whiskies from Ben Nevis. All three of this week’s whiskies were distilled in 1991 and were bottled by Signatory. Signatory, by the way, have bottled 31 of the 42 releases of 1991 Ben Nevis listed on Whiskybase. They’ve all but cornered the market on that vintage. My reviews start with this 22 yo; on Wednesday I’ll have a review of a 24 yo; and Friday I’ll have a review of a 26 yo. Assuming the casks were of similar character/quality this may shed some minor light on the effects of a few more years of aging past the 20 year mark. All these samples, by the way, came to me from the excellent Michael K. of Diving for Pearls. Last week he reviewed all three and added on two others for good measure—a 23 yo and a 25 yo. So if you’re interested in that question of the incremental effects of aging you can find more specific data on his blog. I have avoided looking at his reviews so as to not be overly influenced by his silken tones. Continue reading

Littlemill 22, 1990 (Berry Bros. & Rudd for Total Wine)


At this point everyone knows that a whole slew of casks filled at Littlemill in the 1988-1992 period and bottled 20+ years later by various indies has made us forget how awful the distillery’s official releases before it closed were. One wonders how many distilleries with indifferent to bad reputations that scenario might not work out well for. All this to say, I’m expecting this sample to blow my socks off and if it doesn’t then I will blame Michael K.

Littlemill 22, 1990 (54.3%; Berry Bros. & Rudd; cask 17 for Total Wine; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Lemon, grapefruit, tart pineapple, a whiff of gasoline. Chalkier and more mineral on the second sniff and there’s some gooseberry in there too now. With a few drops of water the acid backs off a bit and there’s some cream and a leafy note. Continue reading

Teaninich 10, 2009 (SMWS)


Here is another 10 yo Teaninich from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. This was distilled a year after Monday’s Teaninich 10 and was bottled a year later as well. The 2008 was a quintessentially austere Highlands whisky from a bourbon cask that had not seemingly interfered too much with the base spirit: the fruit was tart and joined by wax and mineral notes. I don’t say “quintessential Teaninich” above because I’ve not had enough to be able to rule on that. At any rate, I liked it a lot. Will this one be as good? The SMWS in their wisdom called it “This Ain’t No Pussycat”. Hopefully it’s not a dog either. Let’s see.

Teaninich 10, 2009 (58.4%; SMWS 59.58; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Less austere than the other, this presents with a lot of fruit from the get-go (pear, tart apple, lemon) along with wax and a peppery, mineral quality. After a few minutes there’s a fair bit of cream and also a leafy note; the wax moves towards paraffin. Water takes the lemon and the paraffin towards citronella and pulls out bits of pineapple and gooseberry. Continue reading

Teaninich 10, 2008 (SMWS)


A Speysider to close September (this Longmorn) and a Speysider to start October (this Glenburgie); let’s move to the Highlands for a bit. Here is a 10 yo Teaninich, the first of two this week, both bottled by the SMWS in the last couple of years. Unlike Longmorn and Glenburgie, Teaninich does not have a reputation for very fruity malt; its profile is quite a lot more austere in comparison. So at least have been most of the few I’ve had—the one exception being this very old one from Malts of Scotland). At 10 years old I doubt this will be quite that fruity. Let’s see if that in fact proves to be the case.

Teaninich 10, 2008 (56.2%; SMWS 59.56; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Quite austere to start with a bit of olive oil, wax and a touch of lemon and grass (but not lemongrass); some tart green apples too. Some sweeter fruit as it sits but also some bitter lemon peel. Continues in this vein. With a lot more time and air it becomes less austere and there’s some cream now and a fair bit of malt and cereals. Water softens it further and pulls out more of the malt and turns the fruit muskier. Continue reading

Glenburgie 16, 1998 (Chieftain’s)


I closed out September with a review of a bourbon cask whisky from a Speyside distillery; let’s start October with another bourbon cask whisky from a Speyside distillery. Glenburgie is only about 20 minutes away from Longmorn—which is where Wednesday’s whisky was distilled. I guess that’s not saying much as most distilleries in the Speyside seem to be within 20 minutes drive of each other. Like Longmorn, except even more so, Glenburgie is not a heralded distillery, producing mostly for Pernod-Ricard’s blends (Pernod-Ricard also own Longmorn). I say “except even more so” because Longmorn has a strong reputation via indie bottlers, especially for their whiskies from the 1960s and 1970s. Glenburgie, on the other hand, I don’t think anyone has ever gotten very excited about. They make excellent whisky though and I’m always happy to try a Glenburgie. Let’s see if this one bears out my confidence. Continue reading

Bunnahabhain 23, 1991 (Whisky-Fässle)


Here’s a Bunnahabhain.

Oh, okay, I’ll try a little harder. This is a single bourbon cask bottled by the German outfit, Whisky-Fässle in 2015. That was near the very end of the golden age of independently bottled Scotch whisky, when 20+ yo whiskies of high quality were available for not much more than $100. These days high quality indies of any age at good prices seem very thin on the ground. In fact, I can’t remember the last indie bottle I purchased—not that I purchase much whisky of any kind any more. Anyway! Official Bunnahabhain is usually heavily sherry-bothered and so it’s always nice to try bourbon casks from independent bottlers. I’ve reviewed two others this year: this 6 yo bottled for the Whisky Barrel, and this 30 yo bottled by Old Particular for K&L in California. It pains me to say that I liked the 6 yo more than the 30 yo (but it also pleases me to say that I had not purchased a bottle of the 30 yo). As a better portent, I did like the last Bunnahabhain 1991 I reviewed (this 25 yo, also from K&L)—though that was from a sherry cask. Let’s hope this is as good. Continue reading

Benrinnes 21, 1997 (SMWS)


Here’s a Benrinnes.

Benrinnes 21, 1997 (60.6%; SMWS; refill bourbon barrel; from a bottle split)

Nose: Pretty tight at first. As it sits there’s some cereals, some wax, some pepper and some lemon. Softens as it sits and there’s some cream too now. With more time the cereals and wax expand and there’s a sweeter note too—dried pineapple? Softer and creamier with a few drops of water; the lemon turns into citronella and the pepper turns into a light sooty note.

Palate: Pretty much as on the nose and, as expected, hot, hot, hot. This is going to need a fair bit of air and then some water. With time the lemon expands and the wax follows suit and the texture gets more full. Still pretty hot though. Okay, let’s add water. Sweeter at first with water and then there’s a burst of slightly bitter lemon peel. Continue reading