Mortlach 20, 2000 (G&M)


A week of Mortlach reviews began on Monday with a 10 yo bourbon cask bottled by Signatory and continued on Wednesday with a 12 yo sherry cask bottled by Sovereign for K&L. It concludes today with a 20 yo bottled by Gordon & MacPhail from a refill sherry hogshead. As I’ve said before, Mortlach usually shows its best side in the context of sherry maturation and this week’s reviews bear that out. Will a refill sherry cask be as good of a frame for Mortlach’s spirit as the darker 12 yo sherry cask was? If the cask was relatively spent then the extra eight years of maturation may not mean much in terms of imparting sherry character. In any event, I think the point I would make is that what we think of when we think of Mortlach’s “distillery character” is not just the character of the spirit as produced through distillation but also the character of that spirit as transformed through sherry cask maturation—see here for a post from several years ago that goes into this idea of “distillery character” at more length. At any rate, it’s interesting to try a distillery’s spirit from three different types of oak in close juxtaposition. Let’s see how this goes. Continue reading

Mortlach 12, 2008 (Sovereign for K&L)


As you may remember from Monday’s review, this week is a Mortlach week. This in order to try to redress the weak impression people who don’t know the distillery’s spirit well may have received from last Friday’s review of the official 14 yo for travel retail. Well, while Monday’s 10 yo release from Signatory was better, it didn’t exactly light my hair on fire either. Will that happen with today’s 12 yo? On the plus side, it is a sherry butt and Mortlach generally shows its best side with heavy sherry maturation. On the less than plus side, this was bottled for K&L and sold for just about $60. A seeming good deal at K&L can often/sometimes (depending on your point of view) be too good to be true. Hopefully this is not one of those cases. Certainly, I was not overly impressed by the last cask of K&L Mortlach I reviewed—which, like Monday’s Signatory, was also a bourbon cask. Was this one leftover in my stash from that same round of casks or did I acquire it in a separate bottle split? I can’t remember. Anyway, let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Mortlach 10, 2008 (Signatory for Spec’s)


Friday’s Mortlach, an official release for travel retail, didn’t impress very much. As I have some readers who are not very familiar with Mortlach I feel I must try to not leave them with a ho-hum impression of the distillery. Accordingly, I’m following that review with a full slate of Mortlach reviews this week. I’ve not tasted any of these bottles before but am hopeful that at least one of them will give a better idea of what Mortlach whisky’s appeal can be than that Alexander’s Way did. First up, is a 10 yo bottled by Signatory in its Un-Chillfiltered Collection series for Spec’s in Texas. As per Whiskybase a number of these 10 yos from 2008 were bottled by Signatory for stores in the EU as well, all matured in bourbon barrels just as this one was. Indeed, this one is a vatting of four bourbon barrels for a total release of 964 bottles. I believe barrels generally yield a little over 200 bottles. Dilution down to 46% brings the number up. I’ve always had a soft spot for Signatory’s UCF collection—when I first started out buying indie releases this was one of the lines I bought a lot of bottles from. It used to be pretty ubiquitous in the US and pretty reasonably priced. As to whether this Mortlach was reasonably priced on release in 2018, I don’t know—but I do hope it’s a good one. Continue reading

Ballechin 10, 2010 (Signatory)


This week of reviews of peated whiskies began on Monday with an indie Port Charlotte that is said to have some sherry involvement. It continued on Wednesday with the 2018 release of the official Ledaig 10 that may or may not have sherry casks in the vatting. Here to close out the week is another indie that is unambiguously sherried. Indeed it’s from a single sherry butt and a first-fill butt at that. It’s a 10 yo Ballechin—or peated Edradour—from Signatory, who’ve bottled a number of sherried Ballechins of this general age in the last few years. I’ve liked the ones I’ve tried and so have high hopes for this one. Let’s see if they’re borne out.

It just struck me, by the way, that this week ended up having a secondary theme: not only were these all peated whiskies but they’re all the heavily peated variants from distilleries that are at least nominally known for unpeated/lightly peated malt. Continue reading

Port Charlotte 14, Batch 7 (That Boutiquey Whisky Co.)


Last week’s reviews were all of peated whiskies that had spent at least some time in port casks. The week began with a Bunnahabhain that spent three of its eight years in a tawny port cask and ended with a Longrow that spent all of its 11 in a refill port pipe. In between was an 8 yo Kilchoman that was finished in a ruby port cask. This week’s whiskies do not involve port—not that I know of anyway—but they are all also heavily peated. First up is a Port Charlotte 14 bottled by Master of Malt’s That Boutiquey Whisky Co. label. I’m not too sure about how these TBWC batch releases work. This one apparently comprised 662 bottles but they were all 375 ml, which makes it not the largest batch. Indeed, the total volume would approximate 331 regulation 750 ml bottles—which is between a hogshead and a butt. So if a batch was put together from more than one cask (as you would expect) it might be the marriage of a bourbon hogshead and part of a sherry butt. This is all speculation, of course—but in the absence of detail from the bottlers it’s all I’ve got. My sample came to me from the redoubtable Michael Kravitz of Diving for Pearls (see here for his review). Continue reading

Longrow 11, 2007 (Cadenhead)


The first two entries in this week of peated whiskies that spent time in port casks were both from Islay, were both 8 years old, and were both distilled in 2013. Monday’s Bunnahabhain (bottled by Cadenhead) was double matured in a tawny port cask. Wednesday’s Kllchoman received a (presumably briefer) ruby port cask finish. Today’s Longrow (also bottled by Cadenhead) is both older than the other two by three years and spent far more time in a port cask: indeed, it was matured fully in a port cask. That may make it seem likely to be far more port-influenced than the others but it was also a refill port pipe. Depending on how many fills that port cask had gone through the port influence may in fact be quite muted. This is not my first review of a Longrow from a port cask—that would be the Longrow Red release from 2014 which was also a full-term port maturation, albeit in fresh port casks. I didn’t find that one—coincidentally also an 11 yo—to be overly wine-dominated but I also did not think it was anything so very special. Will this one be better? Let’s see. I did like both the Bunnahabhain and the Kilchoman a fair bit and it would be nice to end the week on a high note. Continue reading

Bunnahabhain 8, 2013 (Cadenhead)


After a week of wacky mezcals—which began with one distilled with Iberico ham and ended with one distilled with mole poblano—let’s do a week of wacky single malts. Well, not really that wacky. These are all whiskies that involved port cask maturation or finishes. They’re also, as it happens, all peated whiskies. I’m not generally a fan of port cask maturation but—as I believe I’ve noted before—I think it’s in a marriage with heavy peat that it shows to its best advantage. Bunnahabhain may not be what you think of when you read the words “heavy peat”…or maybe that isn’t true anymore given how much peated Bunnahabhain, indie and official, has hit the market in the last decade. At any rate this is peated Bunnahabhain. It is eight years old. It was distilled in 2013 and spent five years or so in a bourbon cask and then three years or so in a tawny port cask. That pretty much counts as double maturation in my book. And hopefully that means the usual problems of wine finishes will be held at bay. Let’s see. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 20, 1999 (The Daily Dram)


I must apologize for lying to you. On Monday I said that all three of this week’s reviews would be of 20 yo Ben Nevises distilled in 1997. This was true of Monday’s Berry Bros. & Rudd cask and also of Wednesday’s Exclusive Malts cask. But it turns out that this one—bottled by The Daily Dram—was actually distilled in 1999. It is a Ben Nevis though and 20 years old, which means I’m only 33% a liar. It’s also different from the other two in that while those were both sherry casks—well, the Berry Bros. cask does not specify but it seems pretty obviously a sherry cask—this one is not. Okay, so this one does not specify the cask type either but by the looks of it this seems very much like an ex-bourbon cask. Will it be more quintessentially Ben Nevis than the other two were? I did like both of those but felt the sherry covered up the Ben Nevis funk a bit too much. In theory, at least, the bourbon cask should let more of that out. Let’s see if that proves to be the case. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 20, 1997 (The Exclusive Malts)


Another day, another 20 year old Ben Nevis distilled in 1997. Monday’s iteration was bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd; today’s was bottled by the Exclusive Malts/Creative Whisky Company. If I’m not mistaken the company is now defunct (a thousand apologies if that’s not true). Unlike Berry Bros. & Rudd, they specified the cask type: a refill sherry hogshead. I hazarded the opinion on Monday that the Berry Bros. & Rudd cask might also have been refill sherry. Let’s see if I like this one as much as I did that one.

Ben Nevis 20, 1997 (51.9%; The Exclusive Malts; refill sherry hogshead #38; from a bottle split)

Nose: Musty oak off the top and quite a bit of it; a leafy quality too (like damp, rotting leaves). On the second sniff the oak turns to cedar and some sweet orange begins to push its way out. As it sits the citrus becomes more tart/acidic and there’s a mineral, slightly chalky edge to it. With time the oak more or less fades here and is replaced by sweeter notes of butterscotch and brown sugar. Fruitier with water as the orange is joined by some papaya and hints of tart-sweet mango. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 20, 1997 (Berry Bros. & Rudd)


Let’s start the month with a trio of Ben Nevis. After that we’ll be ready for anything. All three that I’ll be reviewing this week are 20 years old and distilled in 1997. I’m curious to see how much variation there will be across the set. First up, a cask from Berry Bros. & Rudd, a name that is generally a reliable marker of baseline quality. True to form, they do not specify the cask type but, as you’ll see, I have a guess.

Ben Nevis 20, 1997 (54.6%; Berry Bros. & Rudd; cask 85; from a bottle split)

Nose: That very Ben Nevis mix of ginger, salted nuts, white pepper and malt off the top. On the second sniff there’s a faint whiff of diesel as well plus bright citrus. Continues in this general vein. With water there’s the diesel turns to paraffin and the ginger and citrus turn to citronella. Continue reading

Glen Grant 13, 1993 (James MacArthur)


After two weeks of peated whiskies (a week at Ardmore and then a week on Islay, at Caol Ila, Laphroaig and Bowmore) let’s end the month with what should be a pair of milder Speysiders. First up. a bourbon cask Glen Grant, distilled in 1993 and bottled at 13 years of age by James MacArthur (are they still around?).

Glen Grant 13, 1993 (57.7%; James MacArthur; bourbon cask 121926; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Tart fruit off the top (a mix of apples/cider and orange) along with some oak and a bit of chalk. Maltier with a bit of air and the fruit turns a bit muskier (over-ripe pear, a hint of pineapple). The oak turns first resinous and then leafy and the citrus gets tarter (lime now rather than orange, some of it makrut lime). With time and air the musky fruit and the malt expand. Water pushes the acid and oak back and brings out more of the sweet fruit along with some cream. Continue reading

Bowmore 21, 1998 (Old Particular)


Today is the ninth anniversary of my blog’s launch. I had no particular thoughts then—that I can remember at any rate—of how long I’d keep it going but nine years seems quite long. When Sku signed off from his blog after it turned 10 I’d thought I might one-up him and end mine when it turned nine. But don’t get your hopes up: I’m not going to. I don’t know how many more years I’ll keep at it but for now I’m still enjoying blogging—especially with the dual food and whisky focus, and the occasional foray into other things. I know that I’ve lost many of my original whisky readers with the diluted focus on whisky after the first couple of years. I do very much appreciate those of you who’ve stuck with the blog no matter when you happened on it, whether whisky or food is your prime interest. I’ve never been a volume reviewer of whisky—in the first year or so I posted a whisky review every day but I couldn’t keep that up very long. It’s been three reviews a week for a long time now and it’ll stay that way. My practice of only reviewing what I choose to drink and not accepting commercial samples will also continue. And my reviews of restaurant meals—in the Twin Cities metro and beyond—will also continue to be independent and will doubtless continue to win me more friends online as my recent review of Owamni did on Facebook; I’m glad to have at least a few blog readers who find those reviews of value (whether you agree or disagree). To those who cook from the recipes I post I feel perhaps the greatest gratitude—for in a sense letting me into your kitchen and making some of what we eat part of your own and your family’s repertoires.

But enough cloying sentiment! It’s been a tradition for every blog anniversary to be marked with a Bowmore review—as my first review happened to be of a lowly Bowmore—and so it will be this year as well. Continue reading

Laphroaig 12, 2004 (OMC)


Monday’s Caol Ila was a bit disappointing. Today’s Laphroaig is a year older, also from a bourbon cask and bottled by the Laing outfit that owns the Old Malt Cask label. I was not very enthused by the last Laphroaig 12 from OMC that I reviewed—one of their 20th anniversary releases. I hope this one, distilled a couple of years earlier, will be a lot better.

Laphroaig 12, 2004 (50.5%; OMC; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Bright carbolic peat off the top; quite a bit of Dettol and also a cereal sweetness. With the second sniff citrus begins to expand (lime) and then it begins to get increasingly coastal (brine, seashells). With more time there’s a hint of vanilla. A bit more of the vanilla with water but it melds well with the lime and the smoke and avoids becoming cloying. With time there’s some citronella as well. Continue reading

Caol Ila 11, 2007 (Berry Bros. & Rudd)


After a week of Ardmore in the eastern Highlands let’s swing over west and south to Islay. This time it won’t be a single distillery that occupies our time but three different ones. And the peat will be heavier. First up: one of younger bourbon cask Caol Ilas that are usually rather good indeed. This cask was bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd, which theoretically should also be a good sign. But the proof is in the glass. Let’s see.

Caol Ila 11, 2007 (55%; Berry Bros. & Rudd; cask 319464; from a bottle split)

Nose: Bright carbolic peat mixed with lemon and ash and salt. The salt expands on the second sniff, picking up more coastal accents (shells, kelp). The salt expands with each sniff and there’s a mezcal note in there too that speaks of youth. With more time there’s some vanilla mixed in as well and the lemon turns to citronella. With water the mezcal recedes but the vanilla expands. It gets more phenolic too but I’m not sure that mix of vanilla and heavy phenols works so well. Continue reading

Ardmore 19, 1992 (Single Malts of Scotland)


Ardmore week began on a low note with Monday’s 6 yo Ardlair (unpeated Ardmore bottled by Signatory) and then hit a big high on Wednesday with a regularly made 10 yo (bottled by Single Cask Nation). Will today’s 19 yo (bottled by Single Malts of Scotland) from 1992 go even higher? Only one way to find out. This sample also came to me from Michael K. of Diving for Pearls but I’m not sure if he’s reviewed it yet himself. I greedily accepted the offer of the sample even though I have a full bottle myself.

Ardmore 19, 1992 (49.3%; Single Malts of Scotland; bourbon barrel 9464; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Everything you want your Ardmore 19 to be: mineral peat mixed with sweet floral notes and savoury notes (ham cure). On the second sniff the smoke has begun to turn ashy and the floral notes begin to move in the direction of musky fruit (honeydew melon) and fruit custard. Citronella builds in the background and then comes to the fore. With time and air the citronella moves in the direction of sweet orange and the sweet fruit moves somewhere between peach and overripe pineapple. The smoke builds as it sits. A few drops of water and it all melds perfectly. Continue reading

Ardmore 10, 2009 (Single Cask Nation)


Ardmore week got off to a very shaky start with Monday’s 6 year old Ardlair (unpeated Ardmore). I am hoping that today’s regulation peated Ardmore will reset the week despite being only four years older. This one was bottled a couple of years ago by Single Cask Nation from a single first-fill bourbon hogshead. I maintain this optimism even though the last Ardmore of this general age I reviewed didn’t set my hair on fire. What can I say? I’m an optimistic guy. Okay, let’s get to it.

Ardmore 10, 2009 (58.8%; Single Cask Nation; first-fill bourbon hogshead 707927; from a bottle split)

Nose: Mild mineral peat with lemon, wax, wet wool and some sweeter notes of vanilla. The lemon begins to turn to citronella pretty quickly and some paraffin emerges as well. The peat picks up with more time and it becomes quite briny as well. With more time and air it gets quite creamy. A few drops of water and the acid is amplified again with some chalk in there as well; after a few beats a more savoury note emerges as well (ham brine). Continue reading

Ardlair 6, 2011 (Signatory)


After a week of non-single malt whisky reviews (rum, Irish, bourbon) let us return to our normal programming, which also means a return to Scotland. This week will see reviews of three whiskies from the same distillery. That distillery—in case you’re wondering what “Ardlair” is—is Ardmore. Ardlair is apparently the name given to their unpeated malt (Ardmore, as you know, is one of the few Highlands distilleries that normally distills peated malt). As to whether this name is used by the distillery or is required to be used by independent bottlers, so as to protect the distillery’s branding, I do not know. For all I know, it’s a Signatory-only naming convention. At any rate, I’ve never tasted unpeated Ardmore before and so am looking forward to this one even though it has two potential strikes against it, going in: 1) It’s very young; and 2) it’s at a stupid strength. Will the brilliance of the Ardmore distillate shine through anyway? Let’s see. Continue reading

Glen Ord 9, 2011 (Signatory)


Alright, let’s keep highlands whisky week moving. My first review in February was of a Glen Ord and my first review of March is also of a Glen Ord. I rather liked that 11 yo from Cadenhead and am hoping this 9 yo from Signatory—bottled at an eye-watering 61.1%—will be as good. This one is from a bourbon barrel, and a first-fill barrel at that. Hopefully, that does not indicate very heavy oak influence. Let’s see.

Glen Ord 9, 2011 (61.1% Signatory; first-fill bourbon barrel 800324; from a bottle split)

Nose: Apple to start here too but much sweeter than in last month’s 11 yo and mixed with cereals, malt and candied lemon peel. As it sits some oak emerges as well and then it begins to get maltier and muskier with overripe pear joining the apple. With more time and air there’s some sweet melon and the malt expands as well, picking up some cream. With water the oak recedes and the malt and musky fruit expand; there’s some ripe berries in there too (for my South Asian readers: ber).  Continue reading