Ben Nevis 27, 1990 (Archives)


Continuing my miniseries of older whiskies (after Monday’s Tomatin 25 and yesterday’s Caperdonich 27), here is a Ben Nevis. Unlike the other two, it was released this year but, alas, this review is not very timely. I purchased the bottle from Whiskybase—who bottled it under their Archives label—a couple of months ago and waited a bit too long to open and taste it. After my first taste I raced back to their site to get another but it was gone. Yes, I liked it a lot. What is the other proof of this? Well, I’ve finished the bottle less than a month after I opened it. Also, I recently took it to a whisky gathering in St. Paul that featured some very heavy hitters (early 70s Ardbeg, early 80s Port Ellen and Caol Ila, late 70s Laphroaig 10 and so on) and it held its own. Lovers of fruity malts already know this, but the once dodgy Ben Nevis distillery is now one of our very best sources for exuberantly fruity whisky. Of course, as it’s Ben Nevis it’s got some funky notes mixed in but that’s part of the fun.  Continue reading

Glen Keith 22, 1995 (Archives)


This seems to be only my second review of a whisky from the Glen Keith distillery in the Speyside (here’s the first). It used to be owned by Seagram and is now part of the Chivas/Pernod Ricard holdings, along with Strathisla, Aberlour, Scapa etc. But unlike those distilleries it’s not really known for single malt whisky  and its production has historically been earmarked for blends. Also unlike the previously named distilleries, Glen Keith is not open to the public, though it is in the heart of the Speyside. We drove past it on the way to Strathisla this June. Strathisla is, of course, Pernod Ricard’s show distillery and it is an accurate allegory of the neighbouring Glen Keith’s status that Strathisla’s new make used to be piped to to their grounds for filling (I’m not sure if it still is).

As always, it is through the independent bottlers that we get to taste whiskies from distilleries such as this. My review today is of an older Glen Keith bottled this year by the excellent folk of Whiskybase for their Archives label. This is from a single bourbon hogshead and is still available. Like the Signatory release linked above, this is also from the 1995 vintage. The distillery was mothballed in 1999, by the way, and only reopened in 2013 by Pernod Ricard. This means this was distilled by the previous owners. Pernod Ricard launched a NAS Glen Keith last year; it remains to be seen if they will put out an age-stated release once their own spirit comes of greater age.  Continue reading

Ardmore 20, 1992 (Archives)


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

Orkney 15, 2002 (Archives)


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

Aberlour 12, 2006 (Archives)


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

Littlemill 22, 1989 (Archives)


After my review of the old, unlamented official Littlemill 12, I’d lined up reviews of a number of more recently released older, indie Littlemills from the late 1980s and early 1990s. Somehow, I never got around to posting any of them. Here’s the first one.

This was released by Whiskybase as part of the inaugural release of their Archives line. As you may know, Menno B. of Whiskybase is a renowned Littlemill collector, and all the Littlemills released by Archives have very good reputations. Unlike the other Littlemills of this era that I’ve reviewed—see this 20, 1990 from the Nectar and this 24, 1989 from the Whisky Agency—this is from a refill sherry hogshead. I opened this a while ago and liked it so much that it disappeared in just a few months—that might seem like a long time but I usually have bottles stay open for at least a year. Here now are my notes.  Continue reading

Laphroaig 14, 1998 (Archives)


Here is another untimely review of a bourbon cask, peated Islay whisky released in 2013. This is a bit older than last week’s Bowmore and was released not by Malts of Scotland but by the lads at Whiskybase under their Archives label. It was part of a set of releases that marked the first anniversary of the launch of the Archives line—hence the “Anniversary Release” moniker (at least I think that’s what the anniversary was of). I own a couple more of these Anniversary Release bottles (a 22 yo Caol Ila and a 22 yo Littlemill) but given how long it has taken me to open this one, I’ve no idea when I will get around to those. This was their second release of a teenaged, bourbon cask Laphroaig. There was a 13 yo in their first release (I reviewed it a while ago). I can tell you that this one is as good as that one was: I opened it last month for a tasting of peated whiskies for my local group and I’ve drunk down the rest of the bottle at a very rapid clip. As I type this introduction only a couple more pours remain. Here are my notes.  Continue reading

Glen Grant 36, 1975 (Archives)

Glen Grant 36, 1975, Archives
It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a bottle from Archives, the excellent series from the Whiskybase shop which almost always provides good value; and so let’s go back to a bottle from their “First Release” (though if I recall correctly, this wasn’t actually their first release—it was preceded by an “Inaugural Release”). As with the Glencadam of similar age and vintage that I reviewed last month, this bottle is another reminder that just four years ago it was possible to purchase bottles of very old whisky of high quality for less than $200. And you didn’t have to be in a huge hurry either—I didn’t buy this as soon as it came out: I waited till reliable reviews of it were available.

I’m sorry if the above seems like a tiresome refrain. It just seems worthwhile to constantly remind ourselves of how much pricing has changed and in how short a period of time.
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Auchentoshan 23, 1990 (Archives)

Auchentoshan 23, 1990, Archives
I think I can say safely that this is the oldest Auchentoshan I’ve ever had. I’ve not had too many Auchentoshans of any age, actually—I’ve not been a big fan of most of what I’ve had and have therefore not sought out much more. On the one hand, the general profile seems to fall in an acidic bourbon cask spectrum made all over the Speyside; on the other, there’s been something a bit weird about most of the few I’ve had that I can’t quite describe (though I did like this 14 yo from Cadenhead’s). Anyway, I’ll be interested to see what longer aging has done to this cask, which was bottled jointly by Whisky Fässle and Whiskybase (for their Archives label). It seems to have divided opinion on Whiskybase quite widely—there are a lot of ratings for it and they go evenly from the high 70s to the low 90s. Consequently, perhaps, this is still available.
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Clynelish 14, 1997 (Archives)

Clynelish 14, Archives
This Clynelish 14, from the Whiskybase boys for their Archives range, was opened last November for the same Clynelish tasting I hosted for some friends that featured the OB 14, a Malts of Scotland 22 yo, and a Single Malts of Scotland 28 yo. I have no idea why it’s taken me so long to get around to reviewing this one. It’s not because I don’t like it—I’ve been drinking it down at a steady pace.

That exhausts my patter: so let’s get right to it.

Clynelish 14, 1997 (53.9%; Archives; bourbon hogshead 4634; from my own bottle)

Nose: An almost chalky tartness to start, resolving into lemon and sour apple. Some brine too after a minute. Stays quite acidic with time but a sweeter note does emerge (I’m going to call it apple as well). A faint whiff of paraffin, just bordering on smoky. With a lot more time the acid recedes a bit and there’s a sauvignon blanc’ish thing going on. Water pulls out more of the sweeter apple and the paraffin turns to mothballs.  Continue reading

Glen Spey 25, 1988 (Archives)

Glen Spey 25, Archives

I’ve not had too many Glen Speys. But I’m not alone in this—very few people have had very many Glen Speys. This is because Glen Spey is mainly a producer of bulk malt for Diageo’s blends and is rarely seen in single malt form. Diageo did release an excellent 21 yo as part of the annual special release a few years ago (and I really liked it), but there are no other official releases out there. Nor does it see much exposure from the independents. This part is more mysterious as, usually, indies tend to get their hands on a lot of casks from these kinds of distilleries: compare a total of 120 entries on Whiskybase for Glen Spey against 202 from Braeval or 320 from Benrinnes (only five of those 120 Glen Speys on Whiskybase are OBs, by the way, and of those three were the aforementioned one-off 21 yo and the likewise one-off Manager’s Dram and Manager’s Choice—the other two are an older 8 yo and one in the Flora & Fauna series that may or may not still be a going concern).

As such it’s always hard to resist a Glen Spey when it is available. And as this one was released by Whiskybase in their Archives series, it seemed like a good bet: everything I’ve had in the series has been at least solid, some have been very, very good, and none have been duds. Let’s get to it.

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Deanston 15, 1997 (Archives)

Deanston 15,1997, Archives

I’ve said rude things about the Deanston 12—I believe I may have compared it to Gerard Butler. That is also the only Deanston I’ve ever had and so I’m curious to see how representative an experience that was. This, of course, is a single cask (a bourbon hogshead) bottled by Whiskybase for their Archives label.

I’ve had very good luck with Whiskybase’s selections and so I’m hopeful this will be much better than the official bottle. And I’m very grateful for their samples program which allows one to make considered choices*. Though, of course, given the frenzy in the whisky world it’s rarely the case that a bottle you’re interested in will still be available after you’ve tasted the sample. This, however, seems to have been a “controversial” selection, with scores all over the map on Whiskybase, and there are still quite a few bottles available. Is one of those in my future? Let’s see.

*They do seem to have fewer and fewer samples available of late, and fewer interesting ones.

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Glen Ord 15, 1997 (Archives)

Glen Ord 1997, ArchivesThis Glen Ord was part of the fourth release of Whiskybase’s Archives series in 2012. I don’t think they’d started selling samples then and though I was very intrigued—I’ve not had too many Glen Ords but I’ve liked all the ones I’ve tried quite a lot—I was put off chancing my arm on a full bottle by the low scores it received from the Whiskybase community. And then I kind of forgot about it. Recently, however, I noticed it was still available at the store and that samples were now also available, and so here I am. What a deeply uninteresting introduction this has been. Let me see if I can manage another paragraph that can compete with it.

The Glen Ord distillery is the last distillery remaining on the Black Isle in the northern highlands. The Black Isle is not an island at all but a peninsula and therefore is not the setting of the early Tintin story, The Black Island, which was one of the first Tintins I ever read—the other was King Ottokar’s Sceptre. I believe The Black Island was my sister’s and the other was mine. There’s no distillery in The Black Island (and no Captain Haddock) but Tintin’s dog Snowy gets drunk on Loch Lomond whisky. Okay, this paragraph may possibly be more interesting than the previous; but the interesting bits are mostly redundant as I’ve gone over it all before here. What do I win? Continue reading

Bunnahabhain 23, 1990 (Archives)

Bunnahabhain 1990, ArchivesArchives is Whiskybase’s line of proprietary releases—they’re only available at their store and are always excellent value for money. That said, not everything they’ve released has garnered rave reviews; and this Bunnahabhain, released this year as part of their “Fishes of Samoa” series, is one that not everyone seems to have loved. References have been made, I think, to the dread beast “sulphur”, and you know how it is with us whisky geeks when references to things like sulphur and chill-filtration and E-150 get tossed around. As a result perhaps this bottle is still hanging around—not usually a fate that befalls intensely sherried Bunnahabhains, as this one’s colour advertises it to be.

I don’t have a very high sulphur sensitivity myself so I’m approaching it with optimism (as I do everything, really—that’s the kind of guy I am). I have a few older Bunnahabhains on my shelf but have a bit of a gap in the low 20s, age-wise, and it would be nice to find something affordable to plug it for a mega-Bunnahabhain vertical tasting I have in mind. Continue reading