My whisky reviews have been flirting with relevance this month. I’ve reviewed widely available official releases (Cragganmore 12, Wild Turkey 101 Rye), independent releases that are still available (the Archives Aberlour and Orkney releases), and an official release that can still be found in some places in the US (the Springbank 13 Green). Lest my reputation be ruined I am going to slide in the other direction for the next few reviews.
First up, an independent Ardmore released in 2012. This too was bottled by the Whiskybase shop under their Archives label. It was released at a time when there were a number of indie 1992 Ardmores on the market. I think this has led to 1992 being proclaimed a special year for the distillery—though again it would appear that it is merely a year from which a lot of whisky is available for people to generalize about: Whiskybase lists 11 Ardmores from 1991, 7 from 1993 and 10 from 1994. Meanwhile, there are 73 listings from 1992. It would appear that a major parcel of casks from that year survived in a warehouse somewhere (most of Ardmore goes into the Teacher’s blend). Continue reading →
Here is another timely review and another recent Archives bottling (see here for my review last week of their bourbon cask Aberlour 12). This is a 15 yo from an unnamed Orkney distillery—well, it’s Highland Park. It was bottled last year and is still available. This is a bit of a head-scratcher as the price is pretty good in this market for a 15 yo Highland Park at cask strength. Perhaps it’s because this is from a bourbon cask and bourbon cask Highland Park—like bourbon cask Aberlour—continues to be a bit of an unknown quantity when it comes to the average single malt enthusiast. My own enthusiasm for bourbon cask Highland Park is as high as my enthusiasm for bourbon cask Aberlour and I do not understand why more people are not interested in what their whisky tastes like without sherry cask involvement; especially as bourbon cask Highland Park tends to be more peat-forward than the regular (see this G&M release, for example). I opened it last month for a tasting of bourbon cask whiskies for my local group and it did very well. Indeed, it was the top whisky of the night, narrowly beating out an older Ardmore (which I liked better and will be reviewing soon). Here now are my notes. Continue reading →
Here is my first timely review in almost a month. This Aberlour was recently released by Archives (the label of the excellent Whiskybase store in Rotterdam) and is still available. It has a number of things to recommend it: the Archives releases are always at least solid; it is priced very fairly in the current market; and it is a bourbon cask Aberlour. I sing the praises of bourbon cask Aberlours every time I review one; it really boggles the mind that the distillery (or rather its owners) don’t do more to feature their bourbon casks. I opened this particular bottle recently for one of my local group’s tastings—the theme was ex-bourbon whisky and it was well-liked by everyone in attendance. I thought the oak was just a little bit too assertive but not enough to mar the whisky. I’m interested to see if it might have settled down now that the bottle is at the halfway mark. Of course, those who are less sensitive to oak in whisky than I am will probably not be bothered by that aspect of it anyway. Continue reading →
Ah, Whisky Galore—the name takes me back. This was Duncan Taylor’s entry-level line of malts for the enthusiast back in the day. The whiskies were bottled at 46% and were generally of a pretty good quality. Some of the bottles in this line were my earliest forays into the world of independently bottled whisky and gave me the confidence to spend more money on older whiskies—some of those in Duncan Taylor’s own older lines. At some point in the the last decade and a half the Whisky Galore line was replaced by the NC2 line and all the competitively-priced older Duncan Taylor releases disappeared. The NC2 series is also now gone. The entry-level Duncan Taylor line we see in the US now is Battlehill—ubiquitous on the shelves of the Total Wine chain.
Anyway here’s a throwback review of a Whisky Galore release from an unheralded distillery. Glenlossie is another Speyside disitllery, part of Diageo’s portfolio, producing for their blends. Every distillery in Scotland is capable of producing excellent casks, however, and it’s the independents that let us see this. Let’s see if that’s the case here. Continue reading →
I’m going to stay in the Speyside this week but things are probably not going to get very much more mainstream or timely than Monday’s review of a Miltonduff released in 2012. Today’s review is of a malt from a distillery that closed amid the great slaughter of distilleries in 1983. Its reputation has never approached that of some of the other distilleries that closed then (Port Ellen, Brora) or even others that closed later (Caperdonich) and nor has it seen a wholesale re-evaluation in later years (as, for example, has Littlemill). This is presumably because not enough Dallas Dhu survived to emerge in the late 1990s and 2000s as casks from many other distilleries did. I’ve certainly enjoyed the few I’ve had. Like one of those this is from a cask filled in 1979 (ignore what it says on the label—that’s a typo) and was also bottled by Signatory. That bottle—more so than the other one I reviewed—exhibited a grainy, plasticky note that took a while to fade and which held it back at the time of my review. Let’s see if this one also has it. Continue reading →
Here’s a malt from a relatively obscure distillery released by a pretty obscure independent bottler. Well, I suppose Miltonduff is not so very obscure a name to whisky geeks but it has very little by way of reputation and not too many people have tasted very much of its output (I’ve only reviewed four others). The distillery is part of the Chivas Bros. portfolio and produces malt for the group’s blends. Other than in the seemingly-discontinued Cask Strength Edition series (for example), very few official releases have seen the light of day—though I believe there is now a 15 yo official release. As for Tasting Fellows, I have no idea who they were. I say “were” because Whiskybase only lists 12 releases and the last was in 2014. This Miltonduff was from their first release in 2012 and I purchased these samples then from the Whiskybase shop. I then forgot about them for almost six years until they recently emerged from a search in my shelves for something else. I decided to drink them before losing sight of the samples again. Continue reading →
Is this my first review of a whisky from the Speyside distillery? I believe it is. And I believe it is also the first (and only) whisky I’ve ever tasted from the Speyside distillery—it was only founded in 1990 and its first single malt release was in 1999. My only other exposure to anything related to this distillery is the independent bottler, Scott’s Selection: the Scott of Scott’s Selection, Robert Scott, was Master Blender at the Speyside distillery. I’m not entirely sure but I think Scott’s Selection—which I think is now defunct—was in fact a property of Speyside, which means that they are one of few distilleries that also operate as independent bottlers. Bruichladdich/Murray McDavid and Benromach/Gordon & MacPhail are few of the others that come to mind as similar examples, past and present, though Bladnoch under Raymond Armstrong is probably the nearest analogue. Doubtless there are others (please write in below). The distillery also produces the Drumguish and Cu Dubh brands. Continue reading →
My previous Laphroaig review was of a single rum cask—a 16 yo distilled in 1999. We return now to regular programming with a single ex-bourbon cask. This is a 18 yo distilled in 1997 and bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (who gave it the name, “A day at the beach”). The vintage and the age are exciting on their face. A number of recent Laphroaigs of this age from 1997 have displayed levels of fruit that range from the tantalizing to the highly excellent. On the other hand, there are others that have not (see this 18 yo from 1997 bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd). Where on the continuum will this one fall? Let’s see.
Laphroaig 18, 1997 (53.6%; SMWS 29.204; refill hogshead; from my own bottle)
Nose: Bright phenolic peat, lemon, salt, wet charcoal. Gets more savoury as it sits with some bacon fat (maybe sizzling on the charcoal?), and there’s some cracked pepper as well. Water knocks back the smoke here and brings out sweeter notes: a touch of vanilla, berries, some musky fruit that’s hard to pick. Continue reading →
Yesterday I had a report on my visit to Highland Park in June. Today I have a review of a Highland Park whisky of a kind you won’t hear too much about on a tour at Highland Park: one from an ex-bourbon cask. At the distillery they are very focused on official Highland Park’s sherry-based identity, though they will concede when asked that bourbon cask Highland Park is used to make some of their special editions. It’s a pity that they don’t embrace those casks and that profile more fully as, in my (unoriginal) opinion, bourbon cask Highland Parks can be one of the great and unusual pleasures of the world of single malt Scotch whisky. It is where you get to experience peat most fully in Highland Park, and it’s quite a unique flavour of peat, derived as it is from local heather, and quite different from the phenol-soaked variants of Islay or Jura or even the smoke of Springbank or some distilleries in the highlands. I’ve had some very good ones and I’m happy to say that this one is not a disappointment. Continue reading →
Like most people, I have not had very many whiskies from Cardhu. This is because there are very few whiskies from Cardhu for people to try. Even the redoubtable Serge—who just posted his 14,000th whisky review—has reviewed “only” 34 Cardhus. And Whiskybase lists less than 100 different Cardhus—and most of those are different incarnations of the 12 yo (which I have reviewed and liked—almost five years ago). At any rate, if there exist people who can confidently tell you what the characteristics of Cardhu are at different ages, from different decades, and from different cask types, I am not one of them. I’m sure those people exist, by the way—and as per the comments on my review of the 12 yo, they’re probably in Spain, where Cardhu is apparently a very popular malt. As the only other Cardhu I’ve ever had is the 12 yo this is both the second and the oldest Cardhu I’ve ever had. It was bottled by the SMWS in 2012 and they called it “Lovely sweet toffee surprise”. That sounds rather promising; let’s see if it’s what I get. Continue reading →
Last week I posted a review of an unusual rum cask Laphroaig. Here now is a relatively unusual Glen Ord. The distillery is best known—in official and independent incarnations—for bourbon cask matured whisky. This release from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society was, however, bottled from a sherry butt—a second-fill oloroso butt, to be exact. As that’s not something you across every day, and as I really like Glen Ord, I decided to take a chance on this as well at auction. I was dissuaded only a little by the fact that I had no idea what the SMWS tasting committee’s name for this whisky, “Japanese omelettes with Dunkelweizen” might refer to. I was conscious of the fact that I was overpaying but, again, sherry cask Glen Ord is not something we come across regularly in the US. I’ve not previously reviewed any sherried Glen Ords and indeed I’m not sure if I’ve had any. So this should at least be interesting. Let’s see if it’s more than that. Continue reading →
About four and a half years ago K&L released a 5 yo Talisker—the so-called “Speakeasy”, bottled by Douglas Laing. It had a cool label design and the whisky inside was pretty decent, if nothing very special. A couple of years ago they released another young Talisker bottled by Douglas Laing, this one, from a sherry cask. It cost about $40 and I was sorely tempted to get one. Especially as in their tasting notes they said things like, “It’s loaded with equal parts salt, smoke, fruit, and sweet malt character with a spray of sea water on the finish”. But then I remembered that K&L’s tasting notes are mostly random word soups designed to make people want to buy whiskies and that if they match up with what’s in the bottle it is entirely by accident. Sometime later I had an opportunity to get a sample from a bottle split, and with a much lower financial risk at stake I gave it a go. Will I regret my skepticism and wish I’d bought a bottle? Let’s see. Continue reading →
Here is a rather atypical Laphroaig. This is the first rum cask Laphroaig I’ve ever come across and I cannot remember reading reviews of any others. This is not to say that there have not been any others: Douglas Laing have released at least a couple of rum finished Laphroaigs and Whiskybase lists a Malts of Scotland release as well—I’m not sure if that one’s explicitly stated to be a finish or now. This one was released by a bottler named Kingsbury who, as far as I know, operate in the Japanese market. It is said to have been matured full-term in the rum cask. However, it doesn’t say so explicitly on the bottle and as we all know—courtesy Glendronach—the rules allow bottlers to describe a whisky in terms of the last cask it was in. If it was indeed a full-term maturation in a rum cask then this means that Laphroaig must have a lot more in their warehouses. If so, what might they be planning to do with them? Continue reading →
I know very little about Irish whiskey and I’ve not had very good luck with most of the Irish whiskies I’ve tried (and reviewed). I don’t know much about the Cooley distillery but am hoping this 21 yo will continue my recent positive Irish experience with the Redbreast 15 and be better than the last product of the Cooley distillery that I’ve reviewed (this Teeling). Okay, what do I know about Cooley? I know they make Tyrconnell and Connemara and are the source of a terrible whiskey with a Minnesota connection: 2 Gingers. Connemara is their peated line and presumably this Cooley 21 is basically what would be super-aged Connemara if released officially. I say this because I’m not aware of the distillery itself releasing whiskey under a Cooley brand. This one was bottled by the estimable Cadenhead of Campbeltown, Scotland. It was bottled in 2013 from a single bourbon barrel and was very well-received. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading →