This week of sherry cask reviews began with a 6 yo old Amrut on Monday and continued with an 11 yo Aberlour on Wednesday. Let’s end now with a 15 yo Craigellachie. This was bottled by Old Particular for K&L in California—I think I might only have one or maybe two samples left to still review from the big split I went in on of their 2021/22 casks. Anyway, sherry cask Craigellachie can be a very good thing indeed—the savoury character of the distillate holds up well to and, indeed, complements sherry cask maturation. So I thought, for example, of the last single sherry cask of Craigellachie I reviewed (an official distillery release for the US market). That said, I was not quite as impressed by the one before that: a 14 yo bottled by, Hepburn’s Choice—like Old Particular, another Laing label—for, yes, K&L. Then, again, I very much liked the one I reviewed before that one: a 16 yo also bottled by Old Particular for K&L. Let’s hope this one is in that vein. Continue reading
Jamaican rum week continues. On Monday I reviewed a 15 yo Long Pond that I liked a lot and which I said reminded me of rum from Worthy Park. And today I have a 16 yo Worthy Park. Well, I don’t think it was bottled with that name on the label but that is the distillery in question. This was a single cask bottled by the Thompson brothers of Dornoch Castle fame for K&L in California. I don’t believe I’ve ever had a Worthy Park I didn’t like—I don’t mean to give the impression that I’ve tried so very many of them. Let’s hope this won’t be the first.
Worthy Park 16, 2005, Rum (54%; Thompson Bros.; from a sample split)
Nose: Oh yes, quite a bit more funk in this one with motor oil, diesel and just a whiff of ripe garbage heap. Quite a bit of aniseed on the second sniff. As it sits there’s more fruit—dried tangerine peel—along with cinnamon and clove and quite a bit of caramel. With a lot of time and air the caramel lightens a bit and picks up some toffee and some plum sauce. A few drops of water and it seems to get sort of…flat: the funk and the fruit recede and are replaced by brown sugar. Continue reading
Now, Long Pong is not generally a misnomer for a Jamaican rum but that’s a typo on the sample label. The name of the distillery is Long Pond. It was once one of hundreds of Jamaican rum distilleries, its history—like those of all distilleries in the Caribbean—going back uneasily a few hundred years through the horrors of sugar plantation slavery and the triangular trade. If there’s a history of Caribbean rum that looks closely at its fundamental connections with the history of colonialism and slavery and their post/neo-colonial reverberations, I haven’t come across it. My sense is that the rum world is as quiet about this complicated history as the American bourbon industry is, but I may be wrong about that: if a book about this exists, I would be very interested to read it (please write in below). Anyway, almost all of those Jamaican distilleries are now gone. Long Pond itself—one of the last survivors—was closed in 2012 before being reopened in 2017. I gather it may now be producing again. The rum I am reviewing today, however, was distilled before that closure, in 2005. This cask was bottled in 2021 by the California-based importer ImpEx. It’s my first Long Pond and I am curious to see where it will fall on the funk spectrum between Hampden and Worthy Park, the two Jamaican distilleries I do have some experience of. Let’s get to it. Continue reading
Here to close out the week and the month is yet another whisky from a distillery with “Glen” in its name. This time it’s Glenlossie. It’s yet another relatively obscure distillery of which I have little experience or knowledge—this is only my fifth review of a whisky from Glenlossie. I know they’re located in the Speyside and that they produce spirit for Diageo’s blends. I also know very little about the bottler, Alexander Murray, a relatively recent entrant into the independent bottling ranks. From their website it appears they are based in the US—it also seems to say that the company was “born in 1911” but there’s no further explanation of what that means, or indeed any other history provided. Who knows, maybe they only mean that some guy named Alexander Murray was born in 1911. What is history anyway? As Loch Lomond will tell you, it’s just a story and you can move dates and names around as you see fit: no one will care. Anyway, let’s see what this whisky from an obscure distillery, released by an obscure bottler is like. Continue reading
The theme for this week’s whisky reviews, I said on Monday, is Speyside distilleries. I should have said “bourbon cask whisky from Speyside distilleries”. Because that’s what these are. Monday’s Glentauchers was from a first-fill bourbon barrel and I quite liked it anyway. Today’s Aberlour is almost twice as old at 15 years of age and was matured in a refill hogshead—which is the cask type what I wish all bourbon cask maturation would happen. Between the larger volume over a barrel the consequent lower oak contact and the usually mellower oak influence in a cask that has had whisky filled in it a number of times, the malt is really able to express itself. And when the distillate is a fruity one—as so many from the Speyside are—it makes for a natural match. And as the official releases from the distillery seem to mostly emphasize sherry maturation, it’s always great to see an Aberlour from a bourbon cask of any kind, leave alone a refill hogshead. Let’s hope this was a good one. Continue reading
Let’s keep the “Glen” distilleries thing going a bit longer. That won’t be the theme of this week though. The theme for this week is Speyside distilleries. And there won’t be a through line of labels either—each will be from a different bottler.
If I’d thought to do this Glentauchers last week instead of the Glengoyne it would have been three 8 yo whiskies from distilleries whose names start with “Glen” bottled by the SMWS. Unlike last week’s 8 year olds, however, (from Glencadam and Glenturret), this one was not bottled at a ludicrous strength. Compared to those >62% strength monsters, 56.1% seems downright restrained. What it does have in common with them—in addition to the bottler and age—is that I have very little experience of Glentauchers’ malt as well. It’s part of Pernod Ricard’s portfolio and apparently contributes heavily to the popular Ballantine’s blend—which is doubtless why so little of it emerges as single malt: a reminder as always that, for the most part, the single malt category is a by-product of the world’s thirst for blended Scotch whisky. Well, this review takes my Glentauchers score to five. The ones I’ve reviewed before have all been a fair bit older—the youngest twice the age of this one (this G&M 16 yo)—and I quite liked most of them (this 21 yo from Archives most of all). Let’s see where this one falls. Continue reading
I must apologize to you first for being a liar. I said this was going to be a week of whiskies bottled by the SMWS from highland distilleries whose names start with “Glen”. Such were Monday’s Glenturret and Wednesday’s Glencadam. I must now inform you shamefacedly that while today’s whisky is from a highlands distillery whose name starts with “Glen”, it was in fact bottled by Old Particular (one of the Laing outfits) for my old buddies, K&L in California. I don’t know why I got it in my head that this was also a SMWS release and I will not blame you if you choose to never forgive me for this betrayal. There are other continuities though. The Glenturret and the Glengoyne were both 8 years old. Add those together and you have 16 and that’s how old this Glengoyne is. And like those two, this one was also bottled at a high strength—though just shy of 60% in this case.
Folly aside, this is a good opportunity to try a Glengoyne from a bourbon cask—the official releases are largely sherried. I do hope I will like it better than the last refill hogshead Glengoyne for K&L I sampled, which was good but nothing very special (this 21 yo). Let’s see. Continue reading
SMWS Highland Glens Week continues. On Monday I had a review of an 8 yo Glenturret bottled at a foolish strength. Today I have a review for you of an 8 yo Glencadam bottled at an even more foolish strength. I don’t have very much more experience of Glencadam, by the way, than I have of Glenturret—this will be my fifth review of a whisky distilled there. And so I will spare you further introductory prattle and get right to it.
Glencadam 8, 2011 (63.5%; SMWS 82.23; second-fill bourbon barrel; from a bottle split)
Nose: Though it is predictably tight, floral sweetness does emerge from under the alcohol. Gets quite sweet as it gets some air with simple syrup and some red fruit in there as well (cherries in syrup). Some cereals and a bit of crystallized lemon in there too. A bit of vanilla emerges with time and the lemon moves in the direction of citronella. With a few drops of water the the cereal note expands and so does the fruit (peach, berries)—there are some rose petals in there too. A few more drops and now it’s really quite lovely with the fruit turning muskier and malt and a bit of buttery pastry crust emerging to join it. Continue reading
Last week was island distillery week. We began with a Bunnahabhain and ended with a malt from an undisclosed island distillery and in between there was a Highland Park. This week I have for you a triple-themed week: all Scotch Malt Whisky Society releases; all distilleries located in the Highlands; and all distilleries whose names begin with “Glen”. First up, a young Glenturret. As I always say when reviewing a Glenturret, I have sampled very few Glenturrets: this review takes the count up to four. I expect to hit double digits before the polar icecaps melt. This was matured in a re-charred hogshead and bottled at a ludicrous strength. It’s also apparently peated. Crazy high abv? Check. Peat? Check. Which means all it’s missing from the trifecta that seemingly appeals the most to a large fraction of the malt whisky drinking populace is a mega dose of sherry. The SMWS’ tasting panel named this one “No two sips are the same”, presumably because you have fewer tastebuds left after each sip. Well, I’m ready for anything. Continue reading
Island distilleries week began on Islay with a Bunnahabhain 15 and continued on Orkney with a Highland Park 24. Here now to close out the week is a much younger whisky from an undisclosed island distillery bottled by Single Cask Nation in connection with the release of the Water of Life Film. Usually, undisclosed island whiskies can be counted on to be from Highland Park—though they usually have either Orkney or some Orkney-specific word in their name. This one doesn’t have any of that and, more to the point, a Single Cask Nation rep. has apparently confirmed that it’s not an Orkney distillery (and it would be unlikely to be Scapa anyway). There not being very many other island distilleries, the candidates really are Talisker, Jura, Arran and Tobermory/Ledaig (I assume if it were an Islay distillery the name Islay would be featured prominently). If the identity of the distillery is not disclosed, the composition of the whisky is. It is apparently put together from six first-fill bourbon casks, of which five were unpeated and one lightly peated. This would seem to rule out Talisker as I’m not aware of unpeated whisky being made there (all these distilleries make at least some peated whisky as a matter of course). And I don’t particularly think of either Jura or Ledaig as being lightly peated—though, of course, they may have some lightly peated variants. Arran then? Well, only the bottlers know for sure—but let’s see if the whisky gives us any sign. Continue reading
After a week of teenaged Caol Ilas bottled by Gordon & Macphail (here, here and here), I have a more heterogeneous set of reviews this week. Not all the same distillery (as far as I know—more on this later) and three different bottlers. What unites them is that each is from an island distillery. We’ll stay on Islay for this first one, a 15 yo Bunnahabhain bottled for K&L by Old Particular (one of the Laing outfits’ labels). Last week I cribbed about the fact that the two bourbon cask Caol Ilas were from first-fill bourbon barrels; this one is also from a bourbon barrel but it’s refill rather than first-fill. Now what exactly different bottlers mean by “refill” is not known: some do specify “second-fill”, implying that refill casks are those that have been previously filled with Scotch whisky at least twice but I don’t believe there is any mandated or enforced consistency on this point. At any rate, even a second-fill bourbon barrel will allow the oak less say than the distillate, which is always a good thing in my book. Since I can’t help but complain, however, I’ll note again that I wish this had been a refill hogshead (hogsheads being slightly larger than barrels and so affording even less oak contact). Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading
Let’s round off this week of single casks of Caol Ila bottled by Gordon & Macphail with the oldest of the trio. This 16 yo was—like Wednesday’s 14 yo—matured in a first-fill bourbon barrel. Will the extra two years of maturation allow more of Caol Ila’s elegance to emerge or will the oak have a greater say? Let’s see.
Caol Ila 16, 2002 (54.9%; G&M; first-fill bourbon barrel; from my own bottle)
Nose: A big blast of carbolic peat mixed in with salt crystals, olive brine, lemon and cracked pepper. As it sits the coastal complex develops more fully with shells, oyster liquor and a campfire on the beach. With more time the lemon and salt meld and expand. With a few drops of water the lemon turns to citronella with a vengeance here as well but there’s some sweet malty notes too now and some charred pineapple. Continue reading
Let’s keep G&M Caol Ila week going. On Monday I reviewed a 14 yo bottled by the Elgin stalwarts. That one was distilled in 2005 and matured in a refill sherry hogshead. Today I have another 14 yo but this one was distilled in 2003 and matured in a first-fill bourbon barrel. Teenaged bourbon cask Caol Ila is usually a cause for joy but the combination of both first-fill wood and the smaller barrel might be causes for concern—with the possibility of too much oak action. But hopefully the spirit will rise above it all. Let’s see.
Caol Ila 14, 2003 (56%; G&M; first-fill bourbon barrel; from my own bottle)
Nose: Carbolic peat off the top with sweeter notes of cereals and vanilla (not overbearing) mixed in. As it sits the vanilla retreats in favour of lemon and it begins to get quite coastal with shells and salt and kelp. Some white pepper in there too now and there’s a recently tarred road in the middle distance. Saltier still with time. With a bit of water it gets sweeter at first—not vanilla so much as sweet malt—and then there’s preserved lemon. The tar is gone. Continue reading
Okay, let’s do another week of peat; and let’s go back to Islay and do a week all at one distillery. And for good measure let’s do a trio of releases from one independent bottler. Back in May I split several bottles with a small group of friends—Michael Kravitz of Diving for Pearls was among them but I don’t believe he’s reviewed any of them yet. Among the bottles were a trio of Caol Ilas released by Gordon & MacPhail in their redone Connoisseurs Choice series—to think that this was once an entry-level series in which G&M released anonymous whisky at 40% abv. Two of these Caol Ilas are from bourbon casks and one from a refill sherry cask. I’m going to start with the refill sherry. It was distilled in 2005 and bottled in 2019 at what is normally a promising strength in the mid-50s (this is the abv range in which Springbank usually operates with their cask strength releases). The fact that it’s a refill sherry hogshead suggests that a sherry butt was broken down and re-coopered as a hogshead; or maybe an ex-bourbon hogshead was seasoned with sherry. Hopefully, the former and not the latter as there’s a better chance of there not being a big dose of sherry sitting on top of the elegant Caol Ila peat. Let’s see. Continue reading
Last month I kicked off a week of highlands distilleries with a peated Loch Lomond: an Inchmoan. This time I’m kicking off an entire month with a peated Loch Lomond, but this time it’s a Croftengea. (Again, you’ll need to go to more detail-oriented people to find out exactly how Inchmoan and Croftengea differ from each other or, for that matter, from Inchfad, Loch Lomond’s other peated line.) I’m also using it to end a week of reviews of peated whiskies (after Monday’s Lagavulin and Wednesday’s Talisker), even though the SMWS named this one, “It’s peat, Jim, but not as we know it…”
I’ve rather liked the other Croftengeas I’ve reviewed. This, a 7 yo, is the youngest of them yet, but I will remind you that one of my favourite whiskies of 2018 was a 9 yo Croftengea. Which is to say in a hopeful tone of voice that young Croftengea can be very good indeed. Let’s see if that hope survives reality. Continue reading
Let’s finish the month with one more peated whisky, but let’s get off the island of Islay for at least one day. We’ll go up north to Skye, to Talisker and an unusual independent bottling. Unusual, not because I know something about this particular release but because independently bottled Talisker is not very common—though it’s relatively more common of late than it once used to be. I think this was part of K&L’s cache of 2021 casks. It’s twice the age of the two previous K&L Talisker releases I’ve reviewed, which were 5 and 6 years of age respectively. Add the fact that it’s from a refill hogshead and I am positively looking forward to this one. Let’s get right to it.
Talisker 11, 2009 (59.6%; Old Particular for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Mild notes of lemon and malted wheat with some light mineral smoke running through it. Sweeter with each sniff and then more savoury (ham brine). With time the lemon turns to citronella. A bit of water brings the salt out here as well and push the lemon back. Continue reading
This week of reviews of malts from Highland distilleries began with a 10 yo Loch Lomond/Inchmoan. Let’s go further north now to Clynelish in the northern highlands and add a year to the age. Unlike Monday’s Inchmoan, which was made with wine yeast used in the fermentation process, there is nothing, as far as I know, out of the ordinary about this Clynelish. It was released by Signatory in their Unchillfiltered Collection. Signatory released a few of these 11 year olds from the 2008 vintage and I’m sorry to say that not having realized that before this evening I failed to ask the source of my samples for more specific cask information—and now I can’t remember who the source of my samples was! As always, getting old is a lot of fun. Anyway, of those 2019 releases were from bourbon barrels and so we know what the cask type is. Anyway: bourbon cask Clynelish is almost always a good thing and Signatory has always been a good source of Clynelish casks. And so I am hopeful that this will not disappoint. Let’s see. Continue reading
Okay, let’s do a week of reviews of Highland distilleries. First up is a Loch Lomond 10 bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Word on the street is that this is more specifically an Inchmoan. Inchmoan is, as you probably know, one of Loch Lomond’s peated lines. Though what exactly separates Inchmoan from the other peated Loch Lomonds—your Inchfads and Croftengeas—I’m not entirely sure and you may need to go to a more reliable source to find out. Well, this particular Inchmoan is quite different from most whiskies, whether made at Loch Lomond or elsewhere. That because the yeast used for the batch this cask came from was quite different from the types normally used in the fermentation process in making single malt whisky: it was a wine yeast. Now, for all I know, I’ve had other whiskies before without knowing it that had wine yeast in their production process but now that I do know for a fact that it was used to make this whisky I am very curious to see what characteristics it imparts. Let’s get to it. Continue reading