Well, I went almost three weeks but I’m breaking with my run of official distillery releases in order to finish the tour of Islay left incomplete last month. I’ve already hit Kilchoman and Bruichladdich/Port Charlotte this week; here now is a Bunnahabhain. This is quite a bit older than both of the others reviewed this week. It’s a single sherry butt bottled by Whiskybase for their Archives label back in 2014 or so. “Gather round, children, Grampa’s going to tell you how much more affordable single sherry cask whisky past the age of 20 was back then.” Okay, whatever, if you’re going to make fun of me I’m just going to review the damned whisky.
Bunnahabhain 23, 1990 (47.9%; Archives; sherry butt 52; from my own bottle)
Nose: Sweet raisiny sherry with some savoury gunpowder and leather interlaced with it. On the second sniff there’s some soy sauce and a touch of hoisin along with an earthy note of dried mushrooms (more like the soaking liquid). The salt expands as it sits and a big plummy note emerges. A few drops of water emphasize the orange—more juicy than dried now. Continue reading →
Let’s start the month with a closed distillery—that seems appropriate for the pandemic. Earlier this year I reviewed a 29 yo Littlemill that was distilled in 1988 and bottled in 2018. This one was distilled a few years later but also bottled near the very start of the Littlemill renaissance when several excellent casks from the late 1980s through the early 1990s suddenly became available in Europe. The distillery’s low reputation—well earned by official releases—rebounded dramatically and prices for these releases started going up before they eventually all but dried up. This particular cask was bottled by the Whiskybase store in Rotterdam under their Archives label. Menno of Whiskybase is a Littlemill collector and that always seemed like a good guarantor of quality for their Littlemill releases. They’ve put out eight or so of these casks, of which I think this was the second. I’ve previously reviewed the first one, which was from a refill sherry hogshead. I quite liked it. This is from a bourbon hogshead. I’ve had it open for more than a month now and have been dipping into it on the regular. Here now before I finish the bottle before remembering to take notes (which has happened on some occasions), is my review. Continue reading →
This is the first Glenallachie I’ve reviewed and it may well be the first Glenallachie I’ve tasted. It was bottled just over a year ago by the good people of Whiskybase to commemorate a milestone on the popular crowdsourced whisky database: their 110,000th entry. I don’t know much about the distillery and so have no expectations. The distillery is relatively young, as Scottish distilleries go—it was opened in 1967 and then mothballed for a few years in the 1980s. For most of its life it produced mostly for blends but under the recent new ownership its malt offering has expanded. That new ownership, as you probably know, includes Billy Walker, ex-owner of Glendronach and pioneer of single cask shenanigans. As to whether we can expect more of that from Glenallachie as well—or The GlenAllachie, as the new owners style it—I guess only time will tell. For now let me tell you what I found this to be like after I opened the bottle. Continue reading →
Yesterday I had a review of the Heaven Hill 6, Bottled in Bond that cost about $12; alas, it has recently been discontinued. Today I have a review of a 9 yo Heaven Hill that cost quite a bit more—I’m not sure how much exactly as it was only available from a couple of stores in Georgia and maybe also K&L in California. This is a single cask bottled by the excellent Dutch store Whiskybase for their indie label, Archives. It was part of the first set of Archives releases to make it to the US (earlier this year) and the only American whiskey in the set. The number of European indie releases of American whisky seems to have started rising in recent years and if I’m not mistaken, Heaven Hill may be more represented in this phenomenon than any other major American whiskey maker. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve randomly come across more of them. I’ve already reviewed two released by Malts of Scotland: one a Caribbean cask and one a Port cask. As far as I know this Archives cask is just a regular cask. It is, however, at a highly irregular 69.1! Continue reading →
Here is the fourth of the five Archives whiskies to hit the US a month or so ago, the fourth of the four single malts (the fifth is a bourbon), and the oldest of the lot. This is not from the Speyside distillery but from an undisclosed distillery in the Speyside (yes, that’s a confusing sentence for people who don’t follow Scotch whisky). The label says only “a Speyside distillery” but I vaguely remember reading speculation that it might be a Glenlivet. I don’t expect the bottlers to confirm this one way or the other but if you have some solid intel please write in below. I’ve liked all the others in the series that I’ve reviewed so far (see here for the Ledaig, here for the Glentauchers, and here for the Orkney) and I’m hoping the streak will continue with this one.
Speyside 26, 1992 (51.5%; Archives; barrel; from a bottle split)
Nose: Pastry crust, toffee and sweet orchard fruit with a musky edge (peach, apricot). Really quite enticing. Some malt here too with time. With a few drops of water there’s a mild note of anise mixed in with the rest. Continue reading →
Here is the third of the five Archives bottles recently released in the US. I’ve previously reviewed the Glentauchers 21 and the Orkney 15 in the series and liked them both a lot. This Ledaig is much younger and much peatier than those two and like them is from a bourbon cask. The last 10 yo Ledaig I had was from a red wine cask but I still liked it a lot. Will this be as good as that or its Archives stablemates? Let’s see.
Ledaig 10, 2008 (54.9%; Archives; hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Holy burning rubber! And below that there’s some of the usual Ledaig rotting rodent. It takes a few minutes but the rubber mostly burns off and the dead rat funk subsides a bit as well. Below that is some vanilla, some malt and some milky cocoa; and after a bit there’s expanding lime. A somewhat unlikely combination/progression but it works. A few drops of water—after almost any hour—pull out more of the citrus along with muskier fruit (melon, pineapple). The rubber and funk are distant memories now. Continue reading →
Last week I reviewed one of the first five releases in Whiskybase’s Archives label to hit the American market—an Orkney 15 yo (Highland Park). Here now is another from the set: a 21 yo Glentauchers. I don’t have much experience with Glentauchers—not very far beyond the three I have reviewed on the blog. The most recent of those reviews was of a 20 yo from 1997, bottled by Signatory, a vatting of two bourbon barrels. I quite liked it though it didn’t rise to the level of anything special. Will this one be much the same? This is a single barrel, for what it’s worth. Let’s see what it’s like.
Glentauchers 21, 1997 (53.3%; Archives; refill barrel; from a bottle split)
Nose: Very juicy as I pour with orange, lemon and apricot. No sign of oak at all first. As it sits the citrus moves towards citronella and a slight chalkiness emerges along with a leafy quality and some dusty oak. With time the fruit gets muskier and there’s some sweet pastry crust as well. Water pushes the leafy note back and the musky notes expand. Continue reading →
There was some rare good news recently on the American market for Scotch whisky front. Archives, the independent bottler label from the good lads at Rotterdam’s Whiskybase—one of the premier whisky stores in Europe—is finally available in the country. We usually get none of the top independent bottlers from the continent and so this was welcome news, especially as the Archives releases are marked both for the usual value and quality they represent. However, the news was tempered almost immediately by the discovery that these releases are restricted right now to stores in Georgia and California, making it all but impossible for most American whisky drinkers to get their hands on them, given the continuing farcical state of restrictions on inter-state shipping. And, of course, also by the fact that the three-tier mark-up system in the US renders these more expensive than they would be in Europe. I don’t know if the latter problem can be addressed but I am hopeful that availability at least may soon be expanded. At any rate, here is my review of the first of five bottles in their initial American release. I’ll have reviews of the other four as well in the coming weeks. Continue reading →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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. Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →
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 →