Getting us started is a whisky bottled by the Cadenhead store in Edinburgh in 2014. The store always has a Campbeltown cask on the go and this was the one they had when two friends and willing mules, D & B, visited it in 2014. The store was then managed by the renowned Jolly Toper who I knew from the Whisky Whisky Whisky forums. I’d asked him to put together a selection of interesting whiskies they could bring back for me. He selected a 21yo Allt-a-Bhainne and a 22 yo Tamdhu and also their current Campbeltown and Islay casks. When I visited Edinburgh in 2018 I purchased a few more of their exclusives including the then-current Campbeltown cask—almost entirely 15 yo sherry cask Springbank and rather good (review here). I have to confess that I’d forgotten that I still had an unopened 350 ml bottle of a 2014 incarnation of that cask; but I found it earlier this year and opened it a month and change ago. Here now are my notes. Continue reading
Clynelish Week began with a 23 yo second-fill Oloroso butt bottled by Single Cask Nation and continued with a 21 yo refill sherry butt bottled by Signatory Vintage. Here now to close it out is a 17 yo bourbon cask bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd. Despite my usual preferences I liked the second-fill butt more than the refill sherry butt. Where will this bourbon cask fall? Let’s see.
Clynelish 17, 1997 (55.2%; Berry Bros. & Rudd; cask 4050; from a bottle split)
Nose: Sweet fruit off the top (peach, nectarine) along with some oak and some honeycomb. As it sits there’s more lemon (candied) at first and then some malt. With time there’s quite a bit of toasted oak. The fruit expands and gets quite a bit muskier with several drops of water. Continue reading
Clynelish week began on Monday with a 23 yo second-fill oloroso butt bottled by the American outfit, Single Cask Nation. That was just excellent. Here now is a 21 yo refill sherry butt bottled by Signatory. Given my stated cask preferences for Clynelish—ex-bourbon and refill sherry over heavier sherry influence—you might expect I’d be likely to like this one even more. But individual casks easily buck trends/preferences. I liked that 23 yo quite a bit more than another Signatory-bottled Clynelish 21, 1995 that I reviewed a few years ago. Where will this one fall? Let’s see.
Clynelish 21, 1995 (51.2%; Signatory; refill sherry butt 8688; from a bottle split)
Nose: Very similar to the 23 yo with leafy notes mixed in with citrus (lemon, makrut lime) and salt. Ginger shows up on the second sniff along with malt and this too has a big Ben Nevis crossover going on. Gunpowder on the third sniff and then some sweet fruit begins to poke out as it sits (peach). Water brightens it up and pushes back the leafy notes; it does also emphasize the (savoury) gunpowder. Continue reading
Okay, another single distillery week to close out the month (see last week’s Caol Ila reviews here, here and here). This will take the count of my year’s Clynelish reviews from zero to three. We’ll do these in decreasing order of age.
First up is a 23 yo distilled in 1995 and bottled in 2018 from a second-fill oloroso butt. I am among those who prefers Clynelish from bourbon casks or from refill sherry but I am also among those who manages to enjoy good whisky even if it doesn’t fit in his usual preferences. By the way, I have previously reviewed another Clynelish 23, 1995 that was also from a sherry butt (though that was described as a refill butt). That one was part of K&L’s 2019 exclusives and I liked it fine—as I also did a Clynelish 21, 1995 that was a Whisky Exchange exclusive and also from a sherry cask. Well, all of that suggests that the floor for this one is likely to be at least very good. Let’s see. Continue reading
If you are the kind of person who purchases bottles from whisky auctions—I’m not any more—this is the kind of bottle that you might be interested in but then be inclined to pass on. There’s not much information, if any, out there on it and the people who can usually be relied on to have passed judgment on bottles like this haven’t done so. But then you remind yourself it’s a Caol Ila from 1980 and from a bourbon cask—and that it was bottled by Cadenhead doesn’t hurt—and you decide to take the not ruinously expensive but not cheap plunge. Then years later you finally open it and pour yourself some with more than a little bit of apprehension. Why are you, I mean I going on in the second person like this? Anyway, I am the person previously described—I came across this at an auction and eventually decided to buy it—and secured it without it getting bid up. I’ve now opened it—a couple of weeks ago now—and here finally are my notes. Continue reading
Caol Ila week began with a sherry butt-finished 10 yo bottled by Sovereign (another of the Laing labels) for K&L in California. I really liked that one. Here now is an 11 yo. This is a bourbon hogshead and was bottled by a relatively new outfit named The Whisky Jury who have not put out so very many casks. I don’t really know anything about them or what the reputation of their releases is but Caol Ila + bourbon hogshead is almost always a recipe for goodness. Let’s hope this doesn’t let me down.
Caol Ila 11, 2008 (53.1%; The Whisky Jury; bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: A bit closed as I pour but opens up quickly to reveal mineral peat, loads of seashells plus brine and kelp (a whole coastline’s worth), citronella and dettol. Some vegetal notes on the second sniff along with some machine oil and shoe polish. Continues in this vein. A few drops of water emphasize the citronella and bring out some white pepper. Continue reading
After weeks themed first for peated and then for sherried whiskies let’s now do a week on a single distillery. That distillery is Caol Ila, the Islay workhorse that is also probably the most dependable distillery on the island (only Lagavulin is permitted to register an objection). We’ll start with one that mixes both of the previous themes—peated and sherried—and move on to bourbon casks. This one was another from K&L’s set of exclusives from 2020. I quite liked the other Caol Ila I tried from that set. That one was an 11 yo from a bourbon cask, this one is a sherry finish and one year younger—and apparently teaspooned with Bunnahabhain. I am usually wary of sherry finishes but perhaps this one will surprise me. Let’s see.
Islay Strait/Caol Ila 10, 2010 (59.6%; Sovereign for K&L; sherry butt finish; from a bottle split)
Nose: A lovely mix of leafy smoke, phenols, lime, brine and other coastal notes (shells, kelp, uni). The salt and the lime intensify on the second sniff and there’s ink in the bottom now. As it sits olives emerge—a mix of kalamata and brighter green olives. The coastal notes expand with a few drops of water and there’s some ham brine in there too now along with a bit of cream. Continue reading
Sherry Cask Week comes to an end with this 21 yo Mortlach distilled in 1990 and bottled by Signatory for Binny’s in Chicago in 2012. Yes, I’ve sat on this bottle for almost 10 years, and no, I cannot begin to tell you why. Back in the day, Binny’s had one of the best cask exclusive programs in the US, if not the very best. Brett Pontoni and his team selected casks of a good quality and sold them for good prices without too much hoopla. Those days are long gone as no one seemingly is able to find good casks at good prices anymore and some don’t even seem able to reliably find acceptable casks at good prices. Hopefully the wheel will turn sometime soon. It’s sad to think of how much harder it is now for someone just entering the hobby to truly experience the full range of single malt whisky than it was a decade ago. Will the industry at some point price itself into a dead-end and have to retrench? Or will marketing win out? When you look at what is happening on social media with not just single malt whisky but also bourbon (and increasingly brandy), it seems hard to be hopeful that sanity will return anytime soon. The producers and marketers have whipped customers into a frenzy and all too many people seem excited to pay high prices for marginal bottles. Anyway, let’s go back to 2012 when this 21 yo sherry cask Mortlach cost $99. Continue reading
As you may recall, in 2013 the Dutch bottler van Wees released a large parcel of Longmorn 17, 1996s, all matured to a dark mahogany hue in sherry casks. As I noted, just under two years ago, when I reviewed another of these casks, these went for just about $65 at the far less attractive exchange rate of the time. I shudder to think of how much would be charged for similar bottles now. In that previous review—of cask 72324, purchased by my friends Clara and Rob at the same time I purchased this bottle—I also noted that if I liked it I would open this a month later. Well, I did like it and here I am, only a little behind schedule, with the review of my bottle. I actually opened this bottle at the end of May. When first opened I found it to be somewhat imbalanced. Though 57.5% is not crazy high as stupid abv goes, the combination of the alcohol and the oak seemed to me to overpower everything else in the whisky. After a few pours I set the bottle aside for a few weeks and when I came back to it the whisky had mellowed a fair bit. This review is taken from one of the later pours (the bottle is now past the halfway mark) and, as you will see, time in the glass and water are still very good to it. Anyway, here are some more detailed notes. Continue reading
I started Peat Week with a 23 yo on Monday (this Ledaig). On Wednesday, we went down quite a bit in age with a 10 yo (this Talisker). Today we go even younger with a 6 yo Glenturret that presents as a triple-threat: a very young whisky and a ludicrously highly abv and a re-charred hogshead. The last of those qualities also means that this week’s secondary theme was maturation in hogsheads. I’ve not had very many Glenturrets—as I said on the occasion of my previous Glenturret review (this much older and rather good 33 yo)—and I have certainly not previously had any peated Glenturret single malt. As per Scotchwhisky.com (RIP), the distillery makes some heavily peated malt each year under the name Ruadh Mhor or “Big Red”, which was previously allocated to a peaty variant of the Famous Grouse (when both distillery and brand were part of the Edrington Group). Presumably some went into the Black Grouse as well, and if so, I’ve indirectly had some peated Glenturret. Let’s hope this is better than the Black Grouse. Continue reading
Peat Week continues. On Monday I reviewed a 23 yo Ledaig bottled under the Old Malt Cask label for K&L in California. I quite liked that one—a mellower take on the usually brash Ledaig profile. Today I have a review of a whisky less than half the age of that one, distilled on another island in the Inner Hebrides, this time Skye. And it’s something you don’t see every day: an independent release of Talisker that bears the name of the distillery openly on the label. Or at least you didn’t used to see it openly back in the day—has Diageo loosened things up a bit now? This was distilled in 2009 and bottled in 2020 under the Old Particular label, which like OMC, is owned by one or the other of the Laing outfits. It is from a single refill hogshead and so it’s an opportunity to try a 10 yo Talisker that should be somewhat different from the distillery’s standard-bearer 10 yo, which has at least some sherry component. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
Having set the world afire with a week of Edradour—by which I mean that absolutely no one was interested—let’s do a non-distillery-themed week. Three different distilleries this week but the malts will all have one thing in common: peat. Let’s start with the oldest. This is a 23 yo Ledaig bottled by one of the Laing outfits for my old pals K&L in California. Yes, this means the return of the EW! Rating (patent pending). This was part of their parcel of exclusive casks from late last year. As with many in that parcel this cask was teaspooned, which is to say it had a small bit of malt from some other distillery added to it. Hence also the silly name. It can’t officially be a Ledaig— but for all intents and purposes it is. Well, let’s hope this one turns out well. I’ve had an up and down run with the others from this parcel of K&L exclusives I’ve reviewed so far. I’ve liked most of them but none have hit it out of the park for me. And indeed, two of the 20+ year olds were among those that disappointed. Where will this one land? Let’s see. Continue reading
After Monday’s Jamaican rum and ex-bourbon cask lovechild, let’s move on to an altogether more conventionally matured Highland Park. Well, not very conventionally by the standards of the distillery’s own releases which are overwhelmingly sherry cask-driven. This 14 yo bottled by Berry Bros. and Rudd is from an ex-bourbon cask. And like almost all current indie releases of Highland Park, seemingly, it does not bear the distillery’s name. Instead it’s billed as “Orkney Islands” (this crackdown on the use of official distillery names by indies seems to be spreading through the industry). Well, I suppose it could theoretically be Scapa too. I will note, as I always do when reviewing bourbon cask Highland Park, that I really dig this profile and wish the distillery itself would release more in this vein and not just the massive single sherry casks that seem to be their current calling card (I”ll be reviewing one of those on Friday). Of course, there’s far more money to be made by selling massive sherry cask whiskies in this market and no one ever accused the proprietors of Highland Park, the Edrington Group, of being averse to making large amounts of money. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading
Having set the whisky world afire last week with my reviews of three single bourbon barrels of Glen Scotia released by the SMWS (here, here and here), I now turn to a week of Highland Park for a reprise. Yes, we’re going all the way from Campbeltown to Orkney.
First up is another SMWS release and, like Friday’s Glen Scotia, this is another 17 yo distilled in 2002. However, it’s not from a bourbon barrel. Well, it started out in a bourbon cask with but ended up in one that had most recently contained Jamaican rum. Did Highland Park have barrels of Jamaican rum lying around or did the SMWS have one filled? I’d guess the latter. At any rate, the label on the bottle says that the Jamaican rum barrel was the “final cask”. How much time did it spend in this “final cask”? Who can say and who would be bold enough to try? The wild profile of Jamaican rum seems an odd match for Highland Park but I guess someone’s got to try these experiments. (Or do they?) The SMWS named this one “When pineapple met pigeon”, which is certainly a name. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
Glen Scotia Week comes to an end but most of you probably didn’t notice. Monday’s 11 yo and Wednesday’s 12 yo didn’t exactly get a lot of interest: just about 50 views each so far this week. I doubt today’s 17 yo will attract a lot more attention. Some of this is doubtless down to the fact that my own whisky readership has likely declined in the last couple of years even as my food readership has grown. However, a lot of it is probably down to the low to non-existent profile of Glen Scotia. They’ve never been a distillery with a high profile and the owners’ attempts to raise that profile over the last decade via various ill-conceived branding makeovers has doubtless not helped. It’s also the case that they continue to make a relatively old-school, austere type of whisky that doesn’t perhaps have a natural home in the contemporary whisky geek market which remains focused on whiskies that are either heavily sherried, heavily peated or both. Well, I can’t say I’ve found very many of the not-very many Glen Scotias I’ve had to be very exciting but outside of the official releases I’ve found them all to be interesting departures from the mainstream of Scottish single malt whisky. It would be good, I think, if more whisky geeks expanded their tasting portfolios, so to speak. Continue reading
Glen Scotia Week is burning up the internet! Actually, that’s not true: barely anyone read Monday’s review of SMWS 93.118 (an 11 yo distilled in 2007). Undeterred, I carry on with SMWS 93.135 (a 12 yo distilled in 2007). This is also a first-fill bourbon barrel. I liked 93.118—will the extra year on 93.135 translate to an extra point or two? Let’s see.
Glen Scotia 12, 2007 (56.9%; SMWS 93.135; first-fill bourbon barrel; from a bottle split)
Nose: More lemon here right off the bat than in Monday’s 11 yo and more of the machine shop grease; and the oak is not really very present in this one. With time and air there’s some sweeter fruit (hard to pick: a hint of peach?) and some cream. The mineral notes expand with a few drops of water (some carbon paper/graphite here now) and then the richer fruit pops out (yes, some peach and also some pineapple). As it sits again there’s quite a bit of citronella and more of the cream. Continue reading
Despite reviews of whiskies from two Campbeltown distilleries—Springbank and Kilkerran—last week was not a Campbeltown whisky week. Instead, with Friday’s Lagavulin 2020 Feis Ile release it became a week of sherry cask whiskies. This week, however, is a Campbeltown week. But the whiskies are all from the third Campbeltown distilllery, the one no one ever gets very excited about: Glen Scotia. And to
double quadruple the theme it’ll also be a week of reviews of Scotch Malt Whisky Society releases of Glen Scotia, all from bourbon barrels.
I’ve not reviewed very many Glen Scotias. The first few were all indie releases and I liked them a lot, including a 20 yo bottled by Whiskybase’s Archives label and a 40 yo bottled by Malts of Scotland. Of late, however, I’ve mostly reviewed official releases, none of which have gotten me very excited. Let’s see if this SMWS series brings out the distillery’s most interesting qualities. We’ll start with the youngest and work our way up. This 11 yo is one the Society’s studiedly whimsical tasting panel decided to call “Aladdin’s Cave”. Let’s see if it turns out to be rich or exciting at all. Continue reading
I began this week of reviews of Speyside whiskies on Monday with a Glenburgie distilled in 1997 and bottled in 2012. On Wednesday I jumped back in time to review a Mannochmore distilled in 1978 and bottled in 1998. Let’s close the week with a Glen Grant distilled just a few years before the Glenburgie and only bottled in 2019.
This was bottled by Signatory for the Nectar in Belgium and, like the other two whiskies this week, it’s from a bourbon cask, in this case a bourbon barrel (Signatory have always been more forthcoming with cask information than Scott’s Selection, the bottlers of Wednesday’s Mannochmore, ever were). I’ve liked a lot of the bourbon cask Glen Grants I’ve had, including the official Glen Grant 18, which I reviewed earlier this year. Well, I don’t know if that’s listed specifically as being from bourbon casks but that seemed very obviously to be the case. And I did very much like the last one I reviewed that was unambiguously from a bourbon barrel—this 22 yo, 1992 from Single Malts of Scotland. So the odds are good. But the proof is in the glass. Let’s get to it. Continue reading