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

Glenrothes 25, 1988 (Archives)

Glenrothes 25, 1988 (Archives)This is the oldest Glenrothes I’ve yet tried. Unlike the distillery’s vintage releases, which are typically vattings of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry spirit, this release in the “Fishes of Samoa” series from Archives (the imprint of the Whiskybase shop in Rotterdam) is from a single refill sherry hogshead (presumably rebuilt from a broken down butt). Let’s get right to it.

Glenrothes 25, 1988 (53%; refill sherry hogshead #7318; from a purchased sample)

Nose: Bright and fresh–fresh squeezed oranges as I pour but by the time I lift the glass to my nose there’s more lemon than orange. A spirity edge at first but it goes away as the lemon begins to get both muskier and sweeter. Lots of malt as well under the fruit which now includes a bit of pineapple and a bit of grapefruity bitterness. Later it settles down to lime and a simple syrupy sweetness. Water brings out a fair bit of vanilla and also a more floral sweetness. Continue reading

Tormore 29, 1984 (Archives)

This is my first Tormore ever. I know that it is in the Speyside, that its malt largely goes into the blends in owners Pernod-Ricard’s portfolio and that it doesn’t have much of a reputation–and that is pretty much it. Therefore, I will not be able to tell you if this bottling–in Whiskybase’s Archives series–is representative or an outlier.

Tormore 29, 1984 (51%; Archives, “Fishes of Samoa”; Barrel No. 3669; from a purchased sample)

Nose: Malty, slightly grassy sweetness. A touch of lime below that which expands along with the maltiness; some salt too now. After a minute or two the lime is ascendant and is rather nice–mellow, not terribly acidic. With a lot more time the lime fades some and there’s some indistinct fruity sweetness now. With a drop or three of water there’s an expanding butteriness (with a little bit of vanilla). Continue reading

Laphroaig 13, 1998 (Archives)

Laphroaig 14, 1998, ArchivesIt’s been too long since I last reviewed a Laphroaig. And considering the last one was from port casks it’s time to get back to bourbon cask basics. This was bottled by Menno and CJ of Whiskybase for their Archives label. It’s the first of two 1998 Laphroaigs they’ve put out (I have a bottle of the other but who knows when it will be opened). This is claimed to be 13 1/2 years old, but let’s not upset the Scotch Whisky Association.

Laphroaig 13, 1998 (54.2%; Archives, bourbon hogshead #700228; from a purchased sample)

I don’t actually remember purchasing this sample. Those of you who’ve purchased from Whiskybase know that they always kindly include a few 20 ml samples. But as I have two of these, and as I’ve been purchasing samples in pairs (so as to have more to taste) I think these must have been purchased too. Continue reading

Glen Scotia 20, 1992 (Archives)

Glen Scotia 20, 1992, ArchivesGlen Scotia is the other Campbeltown distillery, in the shadow of Springbank. The reputation of Glen Scotia’s malt has been more down than up among whisky geeks; and until recently they had not offered very much by way of variety either. Then came a sudden reboot and a series of shockingly ugly bottles. I’m not sure what the quality of the whisky inside those is but this bottle from Archives (the label of the Whiskybase boys) is very good. It was a big hit at our local group’s December tasting.

Glen Scotia 20, 1992 (50.4%; Archives, hogshead 08/71; from my own bottle)

As Whiskybase only released 80 bottles some other bottler must have got the rest. Something to keep in mind if you own this and are also enticed by another Glen Scotia 20, 1992 that does not specify the cask number. Continue reading

Glen Garioch 21, 1990 (Archives)

Archives Glen Garioch, 1990

Following my recent review of a 20 yo from 1990 bottled by Kintra Whisky here is a 21 yo from Whiskybase’s Archives label, also from 1990. It was tasted, and these notes taken, right after the Kintra. It will not surprise you to learn that I found these to be similar in many ways. I also found them to be quite different from the current official releases that I’ve reviewed. Of course, that may simply be a function of these being single casks and being much older. They do make me want to seek out more Glen Garioch from the 1980s and earlier. Anyway, let’s get to the notes.

Glen Garioch 21, 1990 (54%; Hogshead #252, Archives; from a purchased sample)

Nose: Much richer than the Kintra with more malt, more toasted wood and a nice dose of peppery citrus (lemon peel, grapefruit). Faint hints of soot at first that gets a little more pronounced and minerally with time. With even more time those notes recede and its the citrus (bitter lemon peel) that presides. A couple of drops of water and time bring out rich apricot notes and some polished wood. Continue reading

Quick Hits: An Old Dailuaine, An Older Strathmill

Dailuaine Strathmill
Tonight a quick look at two early releases from the Archives series of bottlings by Menno and CJ of Whiskybase. Their selections are always solid at a minimum and always fairly priced. The samples I am checking out tonight are of bottles from two Speyside distilleries that are not known for sending anyone’s pulse racing. The worst that can be said about Dailuaine is that it is one of Diageo’s workhorses–it rarely garners plaudits or brick-bats (I quite like the lone official release I’ve tried from Diageo’s Flora & Fauna range). Strathmill, on the other hand, is actively despised by many; but then so is Old Rhosdhu and I quite liked the one I tried a few nights ago. Let’s see if the signs from these samples are promising.

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North British 50, 1962 (Archives)

North British 1962 Archives

Please appreciate our late April snow.

North British
is a grain distillery. There is nothing very remarkable about it (if you would like to feel a little frisson take a look at the image on the top of this page on their site) except that casks of very old whisky distilled at North British in the 1960s have emerged recently, and some of them have been quite competitively priced (compared to very old malt whiskies).

Of all of those, the one I am tasting tonight was perhaps the most remarkable deal. Archives is the name of the label operated by the excellent Whiskybase store in the Netherlands. Menno and CJ, the lads behind Whiskybase (which has been around for a while as the most comprehensive crowd-sourced database of reviews and ratings online; the store opened much later), are whisky drinkers first and foremost, and their bottlings tend to be no-nonsense and exceptional values. In keeping with that let’s keep the preamble short and get right to the notes. Continue reading