Mortlach 17, 1995 (Dewar Rattray)

We’re leaving the UK today to return to Minnesota and my month of reviews of Speyside and Highland whiskies is also almost at an end. Here now is something you don’t see very often: a bourbon cask Mortlach. As you may know, Mortlach is generally associated with heavily sherried whisky. Its whisky also has a pronounced meaty quality, which results from their use of worm tubs for condensation during the distillation process—less copper contact means more sulphur in the spirit. I’ll be interested to see what that manifests as in a bourbon cask. Let’s see how it goes.

Mortlach 17, 1995 (49.1%: Dewar Rattray; bourbon hogsheasd 2437; from a purchased sample)  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

Bowmore 23, 1989 (A.D. Rattray)

Bowmore 23, 1989, A.D. Rattray
Here is a Bowmore from the late 1980s. As you may know, Bowmores from the 1980s have a dodgy reputation among whisky geeks—this because of the presence of strongly perfumed and/or soapy notes in a lot of the whisky they produced in this era. I’ve noted before that this (generally well-deserved) reputation has extended past the point at which these problems began to disappear: a lot of people’s suspicion of Bowmore extends to vintages produced well into the 1990s. My own experience would suggest that the problems were mostly gone by the early 1990s and that even a lot of the late 1980s distillate was not marred in this way—see, for example, this other 1989 from Liquid Sun. And my experience would also suggest that A.D. Rattray—with their Bowmore connections—have always been a very good bet when it comes to this iconic distillery. Some of the best indie Bowmores I’ve had have come from them—see this 20 yo from 1990, for example (and there was also an 18 yo from 1991 that was just excellent—I finished my last open bottle of that before I started the blog but still have a bottle in reserve). Will this one be as good as the best of the Rattray bottlings of this era? I’m hoping for the best. Continue reading

Bowmore 20, 1991, Cask 2061 (A.D. Rattray)

Rattray Bowmore 20, 2061
Another Bowmore from A.D. Rattray who seem to have a pipeline to a lot of excellent Bowmores from the early-mid 1990s. This is the period right after Bowmore’s notorious run in the 1980s, associated with soapy and perfumed notes. I’ve expressed my views about the nature of the talk around that period before and so will not repeat them here. I’ve also noted that none of the 1990s Rattray Bowmores I’ve had have been anything less than good, and I’ve had another sherry cask from 1991 (an 18 yo, cask 2075) that was excellent. As this seems like it must be from the same distillation run I’m hoping #2061 was as good a cask as #2075 was. Let’s get to it.

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Glen Ord 12, 1998 (A.D. Rattray)

Glen Ord 12, 1998The number of Glen Ords I’ve tried does not pass single digits but I’ve liked every single one I’ve tried (the only ones I’ve reviewed so far are two of the older official releases, here and here). Will this 12 yo from A.D. Rattray keep the streak going? Let’s see.

Glen Ord 12, 1998 (60.1%; bourbon cask #24; from my own bottle)

Note: This review was written up when the bottle was freshly opened. The accompanying photograph of the bottle was taken a couple of days later. In the intervening period it was the star of our local group’s most recent tasting, and hence the much lowered level.

Nose: A little spirity and closed at first–not surprising given the strength and the fact that this is a freshly opened bottle. I’m going to let it sit for a bit. With the benefit of air and time there’s some grassy citrus and some vanilla and oak, but this is still pretty tight. With a lot more time this begins to open up, and now there’s teasing hints of tropical fruit along with some stewed apple and pastry crust. Water brings the fruit out to the front, and it’s not tropical fruit as much as it is good old lemon, and mostly lemon peel/preserved lemon at that. Some malty sweetness to go with it too. A little later the hints of tropical fruit are back. Continue reading

Balblair 20, 1991 (A.D. Rattray)

Balblair 20, Rattray
I’ve not had a very good showing with the two official Balblairs I’ve reviewed so far, but I have had a pretty good run with the A.D. Rattray bottles I’ve reviewed. So, what’s it going to be with this Rattray Balblair? Will the Rattray mojo prevail? Will the cask strength allow Balblair’s qualities to emerge more fully? Let’s take a look.

Balblair 20, 1991 (59.5%; A.D. Rattray, bourbon cask #3291; from a sample received in a swap)

Nose: Nice notes of biscuity malt come wafting up as I finish pouring and a little later some vanilla/butterscotch. Not much else; not surprising given the heat. Well, let’s give it some more air before adding water. Hmmm maybe some pine/wood spice and then some brown sugar. Much more sweetness on the nose after the first sip and the vanilla expands dramatically, picking some cream up as it goes. Water makes the vanilla even more intense if possible and there’s some aromatic lime peel in there too now plus definitely some pine.  Continue reading

Auchroisk 20, 1991 (A.D. Rattray)

Auchroisk 20, Rattray
This is the first of two reviews of malts from Auchroisk, a distillery I know nothing about other than that it’s in the Speyside, was founded not very long ago, and that almost all of its product goes into Diageo’s blends. Indeed, this may be my first Auchroisk. I thought I’d tried a couple in the past but my spreadsheet has no record of any Auchroisks. This, my friends, is what is known as anti-information. Perhaps your over-taxed brain had room for one more piece of useful minutiae but instead this is what you got. You’re welcome.

Auchroisk 20, 1991(54%, A.D. Rattray ; bourbon cask #16023; from a sample received in a swap)

Nose: Apples, vanilla cream, malty sweetness. Gets more grassy and there’s a hint of toasted wheat too. With more time there’s more stone fruit and cream (maybe some sort of fruit pastry). A few drops of water pull out some lime and the creaminess recedes.   Continue reading

Bowmore (From the Edge of the Danger Zone)


The venerable Islay distillery of Bowmore has the somewhat unique distinction of being simultaneously revered and reviled. Older bottles from the 1960s–particularly the famous (and now fantastically expensive) Black, Gold and White releases from the 1964 vintage–are among the most praised whiskies released in the modern era, and the reputation of their whisky released or distilled before the 1980s is consistently high. However, their distillate through most of the 1980s has a rather poor reputation. Starting around 1982, but not consistently, a mild to strong soapy note is prominent, especially on the palate. This, I have experienced for myself and found quite unpleasant in whiskies that were otherwise very pleasant on the nose–a 1982 cask released by Duncan Taylor comes to mind. A lot of whisky geeks also object very strongly to a highly perfumed aroma and flavour said to be prevalent in much of the 1980s distillate. This, I have not experienced, but that’s only because I have avoided spending money on bottles that were so described. I don’t, however, doubt the phenomenon, both because so very many people have reported it and also because some very trustworthy people have. So far, so uncontroversial. Continue reading