Here is a Glentauchers to close out my week of heavily sherried 25+ year old whiskies bottled by Gordon & MacPhail. Glentauchers is a pretty anonymous Speyside distillery. I’ve reviewed five others previously—I believe those were all from ex-bourbon casks. Like Monday’s Aberfeldy, this one is from a first-fill sherry puncheon; Tuesday’s Mortlach was from a first-fill butt (a bit smaller than a puncheon). Well, I liked the Mortlach quite a bit more than the Aberfeldy and so hope that the cask type is not going to be the predictor of quality here. Let’s get right to it.
Glentauchers 27, 1993 (54.3%; first-fill sherry puncheon 2635; Gordon & MacPhail; from a bottle split)
Nose: Ah yes, this is a richer, fruitier sherry cask. It leads with dried orange peel, fig jam and a touch of hoisin. Sweeter on the second sniff with brandied raisins. A bit of pencil lead too. With time some apricot jam joins the party. With a few drops of water there’s some camphor and it get spicier on the whole. Continue reading →
Yesterday, I posted only my third-ever review of a Aberfeldy. Today’s whisky is from a distillery whose whisky I have far more of a familiarity with: Mortlach. Like yesterday’s Aberfeldy, this is a 25 yo single cask, also a first-fill sherry cask, bottled by Gordon & MacPhail. Mortlach is very well-known in sherried incarnations—the interplay of sherry oak, especially when from an European oak cask, and Mortlach’s naturally meaty profile can yield truly pleasurable results. Though, while I liked the last sherried Mortlach I reviewed quite a bit, it wasn’t really one that displayed that character that one would think of as quintessentially Mortlach (let me once again encourage you to read my post from several years ago probing the question of “distillery character“). I have liked most sherried Mortlachs I’ve tried, however—with a couple of exceptions from K&L’s series of casks that are not really the bargains they seem. But I’m still chasing the memory of a Mortlach 13 bottled by G&M in their old Reserve series (anyone remember those bottles? cask strength, green labels?). It wasn’t a world-beater but it was a truly idiosyncratic meatily sulphurous beast. I finished that bottle a couple of years before I started the blog and, alas, do not seem to have saved a large reference sample from it as was my usual practice at the time. Anyway, let’s see if this 25 yo is in that vein or something more refined. Continue reading →
After a week of weirdo Kilchomans that included two red wine cask-bothered releases (here and here) and one mezcal finish (here), let’s get back to more conventional ground: sherry cask-matured whisky. All three of this week’s whiskies—like the Linkwood that led off the month—were bottled by Gordon & Macphail in their Connoisseurs Choice line, which is a lot fancier these days than it used to be. We’ll begin the week in the highlands with an Aberfeldy. This is only my third-ever Aberfeldy review and is by some distance the oldest of the three. The other two included a Cadenhead’s small batch release from bourbon hogsheads and another G&M Connoisseurs Choice release from a refill sherry cask. This one is from a first-fill sherry puncheon. The refill sherry cask was fine but didn’t excite me very much. Will this first-fill sherry cask, which is nine years older be better? Let’s see. Continue reading →
One of the possible themed weeks I might do this month is “Unfancied Speysiders”. Though this review is obviously not part of that week, Linkwood too is an unfancied Speysider. It is one of many Diageo distilleries that, outside of the Flora & Fauna line, don’t get any but the rare official release. And when Diageo does put any older Linkwood out, it’s at a nosebleed price. As such, as with so many such distilleries, if we want to taste more of their output, and if we want to taste reasonably affordable iterations of their older malt, it is to the indie bottlers we must go.
In this case, to the giants of Elgin, Gordon & MacPhail. (Linkwood too is located in Elgin, by the by.) This 23 yo Linkwood was released in Gordon & MacPhail’s refurbished Connoisseurs Choice line. Older whisky drinkers will remember that a decade-plus ago this was G&M’s entry-level label, usually bottled at 40% or 43%, and no one got very excited about it. Of course, even before that many well-regarded older whiskies from the 1960s and 1970s had also been released under this label—usually also at 40%; the obsession with cask strength whisky is a relatively new thing, after all. Anyway, the Connoisseurs Choice label is fancy again, and now at cask strength—which is another way of saying “expensive”. Will this Linkwood, bottled from a refill sherry hogshead, prove to be a good value anyway? Let’s see. Continue reading →
This ancient Glen Mhor was bottled by Gordon & MacPhail in 2011. It was part of a legendary parcel of casks bottled for Van Wees in the Netherlands. The other casks in the parcel included a legendary quintet from Longmorn. One of those, a 41 year old distilled in 1969, was the recipient of the highest score I have yet given a whisky; and the others were no slouches either. I’m hopeful that this Glen Mhor will prove worthy of its company and signal a good start to the month in whisky reviews. Let’s see.
Glen Mhor 44, 1966 (52.1%; Gordon & MacPhail for Van Wees; refill sherry hogshead; from my own bottle)
Nose: Sweet orange, paper, old coins, brown butter, an old wooden box, just a hint of soot. The citrus gets brighter/more acidic as it sits and the softer notes expand as the brown butter is joined by some malt; a leafy note now too. As it sits the fruit comes to the fore and there’s pineapple and a bit of apricot now along with the citrus. Continue reading →
Let’s stick with peat for the last whisky review of the month. Only a bit of peat though. This is a 21 yo Ardmore bottled by Whisky Doris half a decade or so ago from a bourbon hogshead. The last Whisky Doris Ardmore I reviewed was also from a bourbon cask—albeit, a barrel—and was pretty damned good. It didn’t have a striking label like this one though. Well, let’s hope the label design is not the most notable thing about this Ardmore and that I like it more than the 24 yo bourbon cask bottled by Whisky Sponge, which was also distilled in 1997.
Ardmore 21, 1997 (49.4%; Whisky Doris; bourbon hogshead; from my own bottle)
Nose: Lime, mineral peat, paraffin and whiffs of muskier fruit which expand with each sniff. Some candle wax too with time. The musky fruit (pineapple, a bit of peach) merges with the lime and also with emerging vanilla and cream. A bit of water and the peat gets pushed back a fair bit. Continue reading →
Alright, let’s bring this week of peated whiskies to an end. We started on Islay with a 6 yo Bunnahabhain and continued in Campbeltown with a Kilkerran that is probably not very much older than that Bunnahbhain. We’ll end now with a Ledaig that is positively ancient by comparison, at 14 years old. Even though Ledaig is distilled on the Isle of Mull (it is, of course, essentially peated Tobermory), in a sense we’re still in Campbeltown for this review. This because this sample comes from a bottle purchased at Cadenhead’s Warehouse Tasting in Campbeltown, late last fall. I have not been to Campbeltown myself. I very much hope to go if I make it back to Scotland anytime soon—and if I do, the Cadenhead Warehouse Tasting will be high on my list of things to do. That will be true, by the way, even if this Ledaig disappoints. Though I don’t expect it will.
After a week of Caol Ila, let’s keep the peat fires burning a little while longer. We’ll stay on Islay for the first review of the week, at a distillery not primarily known for its peated malt: Bunnahabhain. Well, they weren’t traditionally known for their peated malt; these days they make a fair bit of it—you’re not going to lose money in Scotland selling smoky whisky. This one, very young at six years of age, is not an official release. It was bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. It began its life in a bourbon hogshead before being finished in a recharred cask (HTMC=heavily toasted, medium char?) and bottled at an eye-watering strength. Youth? Heavily peated? Big oak contact? Stupid strength? It checks almost all the boxes for whisky I am normally wary of. Hopefully, it will all work somehow. Let’s see. Continue reading →
This week’s recipe will also not post on a Thursday (today) but on a Friday (tomorrow). Instead, I have for you today the last in this week’s independently bottled Caol Ila triad featuring three different cask profiles.
The week began on Monday with a 12 yo bottled by DS Tayman. That one was a bourbon cask that had been finished in a Bordeaux cask. On Wednesday I posted a review of a 13 yo bottled by Old Particular for K&L in California. That one was from a refill butt. I liked both fine—and the 13 yo a bit more than the 12 yo—but neither got me very excited. I already know that I like today’s 17 yo from a single bourbon hogshead more than either. That’s because this is taken from a large reference sample I saved from the bottle many years ago. Yes, unlike the DS Tayman and Old Particular releases, this is one of my signature highly untimely reviews. This 17 yo was distilled in 1991 and bottled in 2008 by Single Malts of Scotland—back when my referring to Single Malts of Scotland as the Whisky Exchange’s indie label didn’t make Billy Abbot’s beard quiver with rage. I have the score I gave it then recorded in my spreadsheet but not my notes. Let’s see if the scores match across the years. Continue reading →
Caol Ila week began yesterday with a 12 yo finished in a Bordeaux cask. It started out well but I was not finally very enthusiastic about it. Today I have a 13 yo that was matured in a sherry cask. If I’m generally suspicious about red wine cask-matured whisky of any kind, I’m usually very excited to try Caol Ilas from sherry casks. Be it a richer sherry cask profile or a drier one, Caol Ila’s distillate usually matches it well. I certainly hope that will be the case for this one, a refill butt bottled by Old Particular for K&L in California. Let’s get right to it.
Caol Ila 13, 2008 (56.9%; Old Particular for K&L; refill butt; from a bottle split)
Nose: Very nice, very quintessentially Caol Ila notes of lemon, mineral peat and coastal notes (brine, oyster liquor) and green olives. Green peppery bite on the second sniff and a touch of cream. With time the cream expands a bit. A few drops of water and it gets softer still, with the smoke all but receding into the background. Continue reading →
It’s been almost exactly three months since my last week of reviews of malts from a single distillery. That was a Kilkerran week (here, here and here). This week will feature three Caol Ilas. They’re from three different cask types: ex-bourbon, refill butt, and in the case of today’s review, a Bordeaux finish. I will confess that when I purchased this bottle I did not realize this was a Bordeaux finish. I generally avoid red wine finishes. But I was at the store without my reading glasses and the font size on the details on the label is very small indeed. That label is by a bottler I had not previously heard of: DS Tayman. Their website says their whiskies are available in the US, UK, Israel and Australia—so I assume it’s not an American concern, as I’d first though they might be. If you know more about them, please write in below. The bottles are attractive; the whisky is bottled at 46%; and the price—at least on this Caol Ila was fair: cheaper at Total Wine than the official Caol Ila 12 at 43%. What’s not to like? Well, maybe the red wine finish. Let’s see. Continue reading →
Thursday is usually recipe day on the blog. But this week’s recipe—for chana masala—will be posted tomorrow. Instead, today I have for you the third of this week’s whisky reviews—which is also the third of this week’s reviews of recent releases by WhiskySponge. On Monday, I’d posted my review of a 24 yo bourbon cask Ardmore that I both enjoyed and was a little disappointed by. On Wednesday, I had a review of a 22 yo sherry-finished Ardmore that I was less enthused by. Both are good whiskies, in my opinion, but I found neither to be particularly distinctive or worth the high prices that were asked for them. Today, I have what is officially a malt from an undisclosed Speyside distillery but is said to be a Glen Grant. And my understanding is that it is made from lightly peated malt, which makes it more than a little unusual for Glen Grant. I don’t believe I’ve ever had a modern-era Glen Grant with palpable peat in it and I’m looking forward to trying it for that reason alone. Let’s get to it. Continue reading →
I am typing this preamble in a hurry before leaving for the airport and so will keep it brief.
On Monday I reviewed a WhiskySponge Ardmore 24 from a refill bourbon hogshead. I simultaneously liked it a fair bit and was a bit disappointed with it. Today I have a 22 yo Ardmore that started out in a refill hogshead and was then subjected to a sherry finish. I have to confess my default reaction to such a sequence is first one of anguish: why risk marring one of Scotland’s truly idiosyncratic profiles with a brief, potentially overbearing dalliance with sherry? And then one of skepticism: was the sherry finish applied in the manner of lipstick on a pig? But though my initial response may be skeptical, my mind remains open and I am hoping for the best. Will those hopes be rewarded or will they fall apart like an ill-conceived sherry finish? Let’s see. Continue reading →
There were competing requests last week for themed weeks centered on Ardmore and on WhiskySponge releases. Competing because I cannot do both: two of the Ardmores are WhiskySponge releases. As a compromise I propose a week of WhiskySponge releases now and then the third, non-WhiskySponge Ardmore at the end of the month, to be paired with a whisky from another highlands distillery, with which I’ll kick off February’s booze reviews.
So, here’s the first of two WhiskySponge Ardmores. This is the older of the two: 24 years old and from a refill hogshead. On paper, at least, that sounds very good indeed. Will that be true in the glass? I liked the only other WhiskySponge releases I’ve reviewed—a trio of Ballechins from almost exactly a year ago (here, here and here)—but was not blown away by them. I’m hoping this January’s trio will live up to all the hype. Let’s see. Continue reading →
The first two whiskies in my week of reviews of recent US releases of malts from Single Malts of Scotland did not do very much for me. The week began on Monday on Islay with a young Laphroaig that was decent but nothing more. Tuesday moved us to the higlands with a slightly older Clynelish that I liked even less, finding far too much oak in it. For the last of the trio we are in the Speyside with the oldest of the three. Will this 13 year old Linkwood prove luckier for me? Let’s see.
Linkwood 13, 2008 (48%; Single Malts of Scotland; bourbon hogsheads; from a bottle split)
Nose: Orchard fruit (apples, pears, a hint of peach), cream, pastry crust, a bit of toasted oak. This is the kind of bourbon cask nose I like. The cream expands as it sits; the oak, thankfully, remains in the background. A few drops of water and there’s more of the fruit (with more acid) and cream and less of the oak. Continue reading →
Yes, Tuesday is usually a restaurant report day on the blog, but we’re desperately trying to finish the last season of Better Call Saul before we leave for India and I didn’t have time last evening to resize all the images for my first restaurant report of 2023. And so here is the second review of the trio of releases by Single Malts of Scotland that I am reviewing this week.
The series began yesterday with a young Laphroaig that was fine enough but didn’t really impress me—especially relative to the price. This Clynelish—which also bears the appellation “Reserve Casks”—is three years older but was a little bit cheaper ($65 to the Laphroaig’s $80, I think). I guess there’s no Islay peat tax to be paid here. Like the Laphroaig it’s not a single cask; this is a vatting of three bourbon barrels. Let’s hope the barrels were not over-active and that this proves to be a better value. Continue reading →
Let’s start the year in whisky reviews with a young Laphroaig. This is a 7 year old put together as a vatting of three bourbon hogsheads by Single Malts of Scotland—once a Whisky Exchange label, now put out by their sister company, Elixir Distillers. There was a time when whiskies from Single Malts of Scotland were not available in the US. That time is past. This Laphroaig and a few others that I’ll be reviewing this week that also bear the “Reserve Casks” appellation were released in the US market in 2022. And they’re not the first Single Malts of Scotland bottles to make it here. The Caol Ila 10, 2009 I reviewed in December was also a US release and, for all I know, they’ve been here even longer. I think I’ve mentioned before that I no longer follow whisky marketing news—if one of my readers knows more about this I hope you’ll write in below. As for these “Reserve Casks” releases, I expect “Reserve Casks” is just a nice way of saying “Not Single Cask or at Cask Strength”—these are all bottled at 48%. I say this because single casks at cask strength might well be what people expect of indie releases, especially when a 7 yo whisky costs $90 and above as this Laphroaig did on release. Well, let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading →
Here to close out the week, the month and the year in whisky reviews on my blog is a Glenburgie. It is 21 years old and was bottled in 2014 for Cadenhead’s whisky club in Europe from a single sherry cask. In case you’re wondering, I purchased it at auction some years ago. As you may recall, this week is a week of sherried whiskies. It got off to a very good start on Monday with an 18 yo Ben Nevis. The Glen Elgin 16 I reviewed on Wednesday was also good but not quite at the level of the Ben Nevis. This Glenburgie, I know, is very good indeed—I opened it a few weeks ago. Indeed, when first opened I liked it more than I had the Ben Nevis when it was first opened. But now it’s sat with a bit of air in the bottle and I’m curious to see how it’s developed. My experience with Glenburgie is not very extensive and is largely centered on bourbon casks. It’s a distillate that can be very fruity indeed and there was certainly a lot of fruit in the first few pours from this bottle. Has that fruit expanded further? Let’s see. Continue reading →