Macduff 31, 1980 (Wilson & Morgan)


This is the very first Macduff I have ever reviewed. It is also, I believe, the very first Macduff I have ever had—my spreadsheet does not record any other. Not much Macduff is available, and what is available is usually under the Glen Deveron name. In fact, Winesearcher currently shows nothing available in the US under either name. So for my American readers this is a particularly useless review. Not only is this whisky unavailable but if it should pique your interest in the distillery, it does not appear that we can even find anything else from them here. Such is life.

Macduff, part of the Bacardi/John Dewar holdings, is located in the Speyside and is a relatively new distillery. It was founded in the 1960s, and has mostly produced whisky for the owners’ blends. And at various points the distillery has in fact been named Glen Deveron. Some identity issues, obviously but that’s not all that’s unusual about them. They also apparently run a combination of two wash and three spirit stills. As to whether this is an interesting fact is a different matter. But I’m certainly hoping this older Macduff will be.  Continue reading

Highland Park 19, 1991 (Signatory)


On Wednesday I posted a review of a bourbon cask Highland Park bottled by A.D. Rattray and noted in passing that Highland Park used to be one of my favourite distilleries. I said I’d elaborate soon on why I’m more ambivalent about them now, and here I am, just two days later.

Well, it’s not for any earth-shatteringly surprising reason. Highland Park and I have both changed but they’ve changed more than I have: I’m losing hair but they’ve lost their minds. When I first started drinking single malt whisky, Highland Park put out a limited line of very good whisky at good prices in ugly bottles. In the last 15 years the bottles have got updated but in the process prices have gone up drastically (especially for their 18 yo). Their lineup has gotten more bloated than the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and they increasingly seem to be designing/marketing their whisky with children in mind: an endless series of Viking-themed whiskies (too many to list), black bottles (ditto), boxes shaped like amplifiers (the new Full Volume), this abomination, the list goes on…I know we’re only supposed to care about the whisky in the bottle but it’s got to the point where it’s embarrassing to be seen buying a bottle of Highland Park. I mean, they make mid-late 2000s Bruichladdich’s output seem restrained and thoughtful.  Continue reading

Highland Park 16, 1995 (A.D. Rattray)


Okay, one last ex-bourbon review to make November an all ex-bourbon cask whisky month. Here is what else I have reviewed as part of this unintended, extended series this month: Tomatin 12, 2005, Fettercairn 23, 1993, Glencadam 15, Clynelish 12, 1997, Glen Scotia 1992-2005, Arran 1996-2013, Bowmore 10, 2003, Bladnoch 18, 1992, Aberlour 20, 1990 and Aberlour 17, 1990. That tour has taken me across most of the Scottish mainland and a couple of southern and western islands. For the last stop let’s go north, all the way to Orkney, to what used to be one of my very favourite dstilleries: Highland Park. I’ll go over why I’m far more ambivalent about Highland Park now in a separate post soon. For now, I’ll say only that one of the great pleasures of their whisky is one that the distillery does not give us; and that is the pleasure of bourbon cask Highland Park. It is here that you’ll usually most clearly encounter Highland Park’s peaty character as well as a mineral, oily note, all of which get covered up—for the most part—in the sherry profile of most of the distillery’s official releases. It’s a quality I particularly prize and which I see putting them on a continuum with Clynelish and Springbank/Longrow. I’ve reviewed a few such single casks before and I’m glad to be able to do it again.  Continue reading

Fettercairn 23, 1993 (Cadenhead)


Let’s keep the bourbon cask train parked in the eastern Highlands.

Fettercairn is not located far from my last stop, Glencadam, and may perhaps be even less beloved a distillery. They’re owned by Whyte & Mackay, who also own Dalmore and Jura, and who are in turn now owned by the Phillipines-based Emperador Inc. They don’t put out very much malt whisky. They released a series of older malts in 2009—a 24 yo, a 30 yo and a 40 yo—but I don’t believe these were regular releases. The Fettercairn Fior, which was first released in 2010 or so, and which contains a fair bit of peated malt may, however, still be a going concern (it’s not available in the US). I assume they’re mostly producing for Whyte & Mackay’s blends. Anyway, all unloved distilleries are more than capable of of producing excellent single casks. And while none of the other Cadenhead’s releases from this early 2017 outturn (from BalmenachPulteney, Aultmore and Glen Spey) that I purchased samples of alongside this one in London in May turned out to be excellent, hope springs eternal.  Continue reading

Clynelish 12, 1997 (James Macarthur)


With an interesting but not excellent Campbeltown stop behind us, let’s take the bourbon cask train up north to the Highlands and see if things improve. On paper, they should. After all, this is a 1997 vintage Clynelish and all the whisky geeks who believe in magical vintages will tell you that 1997 is a special year for Clynelish. It’s also the case that bourbon cask Clynelish in general is a good bet—see this 14 yo from Archives, for instance, and this one from Berry Bros. & Rudd (both from 1997). This was bottled in 2009 by James Macarthur, an outfit that doesn’t seem to be terribly ubiquitous anymore—not in the US anyway. If you have information on their status, please write in below. This is from a single cask but was bottled at 45% for some reason. I got the sample from Michael K. of Diving for Pearls and I’m not sure what it means that he doesn’t seem to have gotten round to reviewing his own bottle. Anyway, if this is close to either the Archives or Berry Bros. bottles I’ll be happy—but I won’t believe anymore than I currently do in magical vintages.  Continue reading

Glen Scotia 1992-2005 (Signatory)


I’m still on the bourbon cask trail. From Aberlour in the Speyside I went down to Bladnoch in the Lowlands, then west to Islay, and back to Arran. Let’s stick in the general vicinity before heading north to the Highlands and beyond. This Glen Scotia will be my Campbeltown stop. I got this sample from my friend Patrick—he was also the source of one of the Aberlours and the Arran, and I suspect he has no memory of ever having given me this one. I certainly have no memory of having received it. I’ve had very few Glen Scotias and so have no real expectations. The last one I tried and reviewed was quite old and was very good. This one was distilled two decades after that one and was bottled when 12-13 years old by Signatory (all the way back in 2005). This is not from their vaunted cask strength or unchilfiltered series but from the more entry-level 43% series (I’m not sure if they still put these out). I’ve had some decent whiskies from that series so I’m not expecting that to mean very much.  Continue reading

Bowmore 10, 2003 (Whisky-fässle)


After a brief rum break, I am back on the bourbon cask single malt whisky trail. Previous stops have taken in the Speyside with a couple of Aberlours (here and here) and the Lowlands (this Bladnoch). Today I have a malt from Islay. This 10 yo Bowmore was distilled in 2003 and bottled in 2013 by the German outfit, Whisky-Fässle. I can’t remember if I’ve reviewed any of their Bowmore casks before but I have reviewed a couple of other bourbon cask Bowmores of similar age and vintage. See, for example, this 10 yo from 2002 bottled by van Wees, and this 11 yo, also from 2002, bottled by Exclusive Malts for K&L. I thought both of those were marred—to different degrees—by a soapy/glycerin note that sometimes pops up in bourbon cask Bowmore (and also in bourbon cask Ben Nevis). I am glad to report that it’s not an issue with this release. I opened the bottle a month and a half ago for one of my local group’s tastings and it went down a treat. I’ve been drinking it down steadily since. Here now is my review.  Continue reading

Bladnoch 18, 1992 (Chieftain’s for K&L)


My last two reviews have been of long-forgotten samples of bourbon cask whiskies released in 2010-2011 and, given how much I enjoyed those Aberlours (here and here), I figured I might as well keep that trend going. Here now is a review of a Bladnoch 18, distilled in 1992 and bottled by Chieftain’s in 2011 for my old friends in California, K&L. This was a more innocent time at K&L: Driscoll’s hype machine had not been cranked up to 13 yet and the hit rate for their cask selections was pretty good. It’s probably the case that the latter was true largely because more quality casks were available to independents then; and it’s also probably the case that the former was true because the latter was true. That is to say, the noise seems to have increased steadily over the years in inverse proportion to quality and value. Anyway, this Bladnoch, distilled before the Armstrong era at Bladnoch (now also ended), was rather good indeed and at $89.99 it was an excellent value. I’d meant to buy a second bottle but never got around to it. Thankfully, I saved 6 ounces from the middle of the bottle for future reference. Even more thankfully, that sample did not go flat in the intervening years. Let’s get to it.  Continue reading

Aberlour 20, 1990 (Signatory)


I was inspired by last week’s Blackadder Aberlour 17, 1990 review to see if I had any other samples lying around of bourbon cask Aberlour and found this 20 yo bottled by Signatory that I received in a swap a few years ago. This will be my third review of a bourbon cask Aberlour from the 1990 vintage (I know it’s a small n but I wonder if there were a bunch of casks from that year that made it to the warehouses of independents for whatever reason). If it’s as good as the other two, I will be very happy. Let’s see if it is.

Aberlour 20, 1990 (56.1%; Signatory; cask 101777; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Starts out malty with toasted cereal. The fruit begins to build behind that pretty quickly: lemon peel, apricot, a hint of peach. With more air there’s some oak (nothing tannic or overbearing). With water it’s less oaky, more fruity.  Continue reading

Aberlour 17, 1990 (Blackadder)


After a recently bottled atypical malt to start the week—the new official, peated Balvenie—here is an atypical malt that was bottled just over 10 years ago. It’s atypical because it’s an Aberlour from an ex-bourbon cask. Other than distillery-only bottlings, Aberlour only release sherried malts. Of course, they mature a fair bit in ex-bourbon but it’s to the independents you have to go to taste that spirit. I’ve previously reviewed an older ex-bourbon Aberlour from Exclusive Malts (I quite liked it). This one is from a bottle purchased before that one and finished before I started the blog. The independent in question here is Blackadder. However, this one was not bottled at cask strength (a bit of an anomaly for them) and had no silly bits of char in the bottle. I’d forgotten that I’d ever saved anything from it and found a large reference sample while rummaging through my shelves tonight for something non-sherried and non-peated. Let’s go back in time. Continue reading

Glen Scotia 40, 1972 (Malts of Scotland)


I’ve had very few Glen Scotias and I’ve certainly not had any as old as this one. I’ve only reviewed two others, 20 year olds both (here and here), which means their ages together add up to this one’s. I have no idea what the word is supposed to be on 1970s Glen Scotia or what Glen Scotia is generally supposed to be like at such an advanced age. If it’s better than the undisclosed Speyside 41 yo I reviewed recently, I’ll be very happy—that was very good, but not, I thought, great.

This was bottled a few years ago by the German bottler, Malts of Scotland in their “Diamonds” line. I’m not sure if that is an alternate name for their “Warehouse Diamonds” line but when the word “diamond” is thrown around you can be sure you’ll pay a lot. However, all I paid for was a 60 ml sample and I didn’t feel the pinch too much. Herewith, my notes. Continue reading

Glenlivet 1977-2004 (Scott’s Selection)


I’ve been threatening this review for a while. This Glenlivet 1977-2004 is the third of three Scott’s Selections bottles that I split last year with Michael K. (of Diving for Pearls), Jordan D. (of Chemistry of the Cocktail) and Florin (Craft Distiller of the Year). I’ve previously reviewed the Auchentoshan 1983 and the Bunnahabhain 1988 we got along with this one—I liked both, the Bunnahabhain more than the Auchentoshan. The Glenlivet I kept hearing iffy things about and that made me reluctant to move it to the front of the review line. But then Michael reviewed it last month and even though he didn’t love it, there was enough intriguing in his notes that made me finally get into it—especially his description of the fruity nose. I’m sorry to say that I didn’t get as much fruit off the nose as he did, but—considering I have another four ounces of this—I’m glad to say I liked it anyway. Here are my notes. Continue reading

Speyside Region 41, 1975 (Whisky-Fässle)


Okay, after Monday’s Ben Nevis 19, 1996 from Cadenhead, here’s another whisky released in 2016 by an indie bottler. The bottler in this case is the German outfit Whisky-Fässle. The whisky is much older, distilled in 1975 but it’s not said where it was distilled. I haven’t looked around to see if there’s any nudge-nudge, wink-wink out there about the identity. It is said to be a classic 1970s-style fruit bomb which might lead people who bought bottles to hope it’s a Longmorn or Caperdonich. But if it were either, I imagine the bottler would trumpet that. So either a distillery like Glenfarclas which suppresses indie use of its name or a less marketable name. Anyway, there were a number of these 1975 casks released last year, I believe—which suggests a parcel was unearthed somewhere and snapped up by various indies. It’s also curious to see the cask specified as Fino. Granted, I have far less experience of this stuff than many, but I don’t think I’ve seen that level of specificity marked on many casks put away in that period. I was tempted to buy a bottle when it was available, but the price—north of 300 Euros—took quick care of that. I’m glad though to have the opportunity to taste it via a bottle split. Let’s see what it’s like.  Continue reading

Ben Nevis 19, 1996 (Cadenhead)


After a few very untimely reviews let’s do a couple this week that were bottled closer to the present—just last year, in fact (they’re not available any more either but you can’t have everything). First up, this Ben Nevis 19, 1996 bottled by the usually very reliable Cadenhead in their Small Batch series. I bought this at auction in the UK and the bottle did not come with the dangling paper thingy that contains all the cask details on these releases (is there a name for those things?). The label does say “Small Batch” but Whiskybase tells me there were only 222 bottles released. So, was it actually a single cask? Hard to see how you could blend two or more casks and arrive at so few bottles—unless only a part of the vatting was released here. Anyway, I bought it because ex-bourbon Ben Nevis can offer the tropical fruit that I so love in single malt whisky at a younger age than most distilleries, and because the last Cadenhead’s Small Batch ex-bourbon Ben Nevis from 1996 that I bought was just excellent (as was the last ex-sherry Ben Nevis from 1996 that I bought). I am happy to say that my hopes were not dashed on the shoals of reality.  Continue reading