It has been a few months since my last Laphroaig review—that was of a 21 yo bottled by the SMWS in 2016 or 2017. Today’s Laphroaig is also an indie release but it’s quite a bit younger at 8 years old. Oh yes, I should have started out by noting that it is a Laphroaig. Williamson—presumably named for the legendary Bessie Williamson of Laphroaig—seems to be the name under which independent Laphroaigs are now being released. When this started, I’m not quite sure. And as long as good indie Laphroaig continues to be available I won’t really care very much under what name it’s sold. As the label says “single malt” I’m going to assume this is not a teaspooned malt. Though I did read recently—perhaps on the Malt Maniacs F&F Facebook group—that casks that leave distilleries having been teaspooned for the indie market may not always be noted as such at release. As to whether that’s legal, I don’t know. I’d assume Berry Bros. & Rudd would play by the rules. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading
At this point everyone knows that a whole slew of casks filled at Littlemill in the 1988-1992 period and bottled 20+ years later by various indies has made us forget how awful the distillery’s official releases before it closed were. One wonders how many distilleries with indifferent to bad reputations that scenario might not work out well for. All this to say, I’m expecting this sample to blow my socks off and if it doesn’t then I will blame Michael K.
Littlemill 22, 1990 (54.3%; Berry Bros. & Rudd; cask 17 for Total Wine; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Lemon, grapefruit, tart pineapple, a whiff of gasoline. Chalkier and more mineral on the second sniff and there’s some gooseberry in there too now. With a few drops of water the acid backs off a bit and there’s some cream and a leafy note. Continue reading
Okay, let’s do one more old Glen Grant to close out the month. This one is two years older than Monday’s 35 yo and was distilled four years later, in 1974. The bottler, the venerable Berry Bros. & Rudd, put out one more 37 yo cask from 1974 (cask 7643). There have also been a large number of Duncan Taylor releases of older Glen Grants from 1974—including two bottled in the Lonach range. There are a few more releases from other independent bottlers as well. Clearly, there was a time when a large number of these casks were available to the indies—a broker or a blender’s surplus stock? In 2011, when this one was bottled, these could still be found at reasonable prices (which look like steals in today’s market where teenaged whiskies command more than $200). Anyway, I quite liked Monday’s 35 yo, despite its low bottling strength. This one is a single sherry cask and was bottled at closer to 50%. Let’s see if those things make any meaningful difference. Continue reading
I last reviewed a Linkwood exactly two years ago. The time is right for another review. Here it is. This Berry Bros. & Rudd cask is a bit of a mystery. Whiskybase lists the same cask at cask strength whereas this is at 46%. Normally, I would put this down to shenanigans on the part of the source of my sample, the diabolical Florin. However, Michael K. who also received a sample of this reports that this 46% version was indeed sold at Total Wine back in the day. Same cask, two releases at different strengths? Maybe. Anyway, here is my take on it (read Michael’s review from earlier this year here).
Linkwood 1991-2011 (46%; Berry Bros. & Rudd; cask 10343; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Oh this is nicely fruity—tinned fruit (a blend of peach, pineapple and mango) and also the tin. It’s not a fruit bomb—the fruit is not intense, but it is there. After a couple of minutes there’s a bit of prickly oak as well. As it sits the fruit expands a bit and there’s some citrus in there too now. A couple of drops of water push the metallic and oaky notes back. Continue reading
The last indie Ben Nevis I reviewed was excellent—this Archives 27 yo. It featured everything that has made Ben Nevis an unlikely hero in recent years: loads of fruit, malt and nut, and those other savoury, slightly funky notes that make Ben Nevis so unique. Of course, you don’t have to go to older Ben Nevis for these pleasures. The recent official 10 yo is also excellent (though I am not sure what its current status is). This cask from Berry Bros. & Rudd more or less splits the age difference between those two; will it be in line with those two? Or will it be closer to the 19 yo from Montgomerie’s that I reviewed in between those two and which was distilled in the same year? Let’s see.
Ben Nevis 20, 1997 (54.6%; Berry Bros. & Rudd; cask 85; from a bottle split)
Nose: Malty and juicy (orange juice) with a bitter edge that’s partly oak and partly plastic. As it sits the citrus expands and the bitter note moves more in the direction of bitter orange and zest. Water pushes the bitter notes back and pulls out brighter citrus. Continue reading
In my review last week of the very good Littlemill 22, 1989 from Archives, I said I’d have more older Littlemill next month. But here I am, a week early. And to think people say my reviews are untimely. This was distilled in 1992, a couple of years before the distillery closed. It was bottled in 2014 by Berry Bros. & Rudd. I believe this was a US release—I don’t think the cask number was specified.
By the way, though the distillery officially closed in 1994, distillation ended in 1992: the distillery was mothballed till 1994 before being dismantled and largely destroyed over the next decade. Given that a housing development now occupies the site, this is one dead distillery that will not be coming back to life anytime soon. Anyway, let’s see if this is as good as the Archives bottle. Continue reading
Here is the last of three simul-reviews this month with Michael K. of Diving for Pearls. We’ve previously reviewed a Caol Ila 20, 1996 and a Glen Ord 18, 1997. Both were bottled by Montgomerie’s for Total Wine. This Laphroaig is also a Total Wine exclusive (I’m pretty sure) but it was bottled by a far more well-known concern, Berry Bros. & Rudd. My interest in this cask arose when I saw that it was cask 56 from 1997. I’ve previously tried and reviewed two other Berry Bros. & Rudd Laphroaig 18, 1997s from proximate cask numbers and liked them a lot. Most recently, cask 54, which was released in the Netherlands; and a year and half ago, cask 46, which was an exclusive for the Whisky Exchange. The TWE cask, in particular, presented a wonderful marriage of fruit and smoke—a very old-school Laphroaig profile. The Dutch cask was not quite as fruity but it was very good indeed too. Where will this one fall? Unlike the other two, it’s not at cask strength but that doesn’t necessarily mean much. Continue reading
A while ago I reviewed a Laphroaig 18, 1997 bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd for the The Whisky Exchange. That one was one of the best recent releases of Laphroaig I’ve had, packing a big fruity wallop alongside the expected smoke and phenols. Here now is another Laphroaig 18, 1997 bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd. I believe this one was bottled for Whisky Import Nederland (you’ll never believe it but they’re based in the Netherlands). Like the TWE cask, this one was a bourbon cask and it’s only 8 serial numbers away from the other; I think it’s safe to assume that they were filled at the same time in 1997 and probably bottled at more or less the same time in 2015. Given all of this it seems safe to expect this one to also be quite fruity. After all, many whisky geeks believe deeply in the shared qualities of particular vintages, and you’d accordingly expect two casks of the same type, filled with distillate made at the same time, and then bottled after the same period of maturation to be very close to each other. However, oak can be an unpredictable variable and whisky isn’t actually whisky till it’s matured in oak. Will this cask have given or taken away what the other did? Let’s see. Continue reading
I’ve only had and reviewed one other Allt-a-Bhainne. I noted in that review that I knew nothing about Allt-a-Bhainne, not even how the name is pronounced. My knowledge has since increased just a little bit. I know now that it was only founded in 1975 and that the correct pronunciation of the name is closer to “autobahn” than you might expect. I do know, however, that I quite liked the other one. That was a 21 yo bottled by Cadenhead’s. This one is a 16 yo bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd. Both are from bourbon casks selected by two highly reliable bottlers: that bodes well for this one as well. Let’s see if reality cooperates.
Allt-a-Bhainne 16, 1995 (53.4%; Berry Bros. & Rudd; cask #125284; from a sample received in a swap) Continue reading
This Laphroaig was bottled for the 2015 edition of the Whisky Exchange’s annual Whisky Show in London. I’ve tasted and purchased a number of these special bottlings over the years and they’ve always been very solid. So when the opportunity arose to get a large sample of this bottle in a split I jumped on it. As you will see below, I was not disappointed (this “introduction” is being written well after the notes were taken). Whisky geeks who are older and/or have more money rave about the tropical fruit notes in Laphroaig from the 1970s and earlier—notes that are not really present in latter day Laphroaig, which has tended to be all about the heavy peat and smoke. This one, from a cask filled in 1997, has a big whack of fruit; last year’s 200th anniversary release of the Laphroaig 15 had some fruit as well. Is this a note that’s re-emerging in middle-aged Laphroaig distilled around that time or is it just a case of unexpected things happening in certain casks? More data needed but it’s a welcome development if true. Continue reading
Blue Hanger is the name of a series of blended malts released by the venerable wine merchant and independent bottler of whisky (and other spirits), Berry Bros. & Rudd. There have been a number of releases over the years, though they seem to have picked up speed in recent years after a bit of a hiatus. “Blended malt”, in case you don’t remember, is the now legally correct name for the old category of vatted malts: i.e. whisky composed of malts from multiple distilleries with no grain whisky in the mix (unlike “blended whisky” which is a mix of malt and grain).
As per the K&L website this 7th release was composed of “one hogshead of Bruichladdich 1992, one butt of Bunnahabhain 1990, four hogsheads of Miltonduff 1997, and two hogsheads of Bunnahabhain Moine (peated) 2006”. If sold with an age statement it would therefore have been a 6 or 7 yo (it was released in 2013). In a case like this one it’s understandable if a bottler wants to go the NAS route; it also goes without saying that it’s creditable that they also make it easy to know what’s in the bottle (and in this case there’s quite a bit of whisky aged 15-22 years in it). An interesting mix too with older sherried Bunnahabhain, younger peated bourbon cask Bunnahabhain and quite a bit of bourbon cask Miltonduff (presumably used for its usually fruity character). But what is it like? Continue reading
Here to kick off a run of reviews of smoky whiskies is a younger and higher octane indie Caol Ila than the official 18 yo I recently reviewed. This is from the venerable English bottler Berry Brothers and Rudd, and is a vatting of two (presumably) bourbon casks. This was released in the US, and may have been an exclusive for the Total Wine chain. Let’s get right to it.
Caol Ila 10, 2000 (58.5%; casks 309796+309881; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Bright phenolic aromas: gauze bandages in an old-time dispensary, antiseptic lotion (Dettol). Lemon and green olives as well and some vanilla below that. Gets saltier as it goes. Textbook Caol Ila and quite a bruiser at full strength. The olive and lemon intensify with time keeping the increasing sweetness of the vanilla in check. With water the vanilla and lemon and smoke are integrated nicely and there’s some menthol coolness now. Continue reading
This Cragganmore, bottled by Berry Bros. and Rudd, is from a bourbon cask and is either 20 or 21 years old. I emptied the bottle a year and a half ago, but as is my custom with malts I find interesting for one reason or the other I’d put 6 ounces aside from when the bottle was near the halfway mark. In this case, actually, I saved it not because I found it to be such an interesting malt, but because Cragganmores are thin on the ground; and as I didn’t/don’t expect to have too many opportunities to buy Cragganmores in their 20s it seemed to make sense to save some for comparisons should I ever come across more. And, as it happens, I have. This is being sampled alongside another from 1989 (from a refill sherry cask) and that review will appear tomorrow.
Cragganmore 1989-2010 (53.5%; bourbon cask #2880; from a reference sample saved from my own bottle) Continue reading
There seems to be a sort of consensus developing that a number of high quality casks of Clynelish distilled in 1997 are about on the market. I’m sure some will or do say that this means that 1997 was a good year at Clynelish. It may well have been, but as I tediously repeat on all such occasions, what it probably really means is that for whatever reason there was a lot more Clynelish available to independent bottlers from the 1997 vintage and so a greater percentage of what got bottled as single malt is likely to have been the pick of what was available. Will this bottle from Berry Bros. & Rudd be one of them?
Clynelish 14, 1997 (55.5%; Berry Bros. & Rudd, casks 4659-61; from a sample received in a swap)
Berry Bros. & Rudd typically don’t specify the cask type but this is almost certainly from bourbon casks of some kind. Also, while the label on the sample bottle says the abv is 56.5%, that’s a transcription error. Continue reading
This Bowmore 1994 concludes my mini-run of reviews of (mostly) teenaged Bowmores from (mostly) the mid-1990s. This is from Berry Bros. & Rudd and was bottled in 2008–so it is either 13 or 14 years old. While the label did not specify (not that I recall), this is from a bourbon cask.
It was fun to review five Bowmores in a row. The two sherried ones from 1995 had very little smoke in them and very little of the Bowmore flowers and may well have been from a different distillery than the one that produced the bourbon cask matured Tempest and the Whiskybroker 14 yo. I am tempted to ask rhetorically if this bottle will split the difference, and present a bourbon cask Bowmore with mild smoke and floral notes; however, as this is from a bottle I finished some time ago I already know the answer (it is “no”)–this review too is of a pour from a 6 oz reference sample saved when the bottle had reached the halfway mark. And so, let’s get right to it:
Laphroaig 1998-2010 (58.9%, Berry Bros. & Rudd, ex-Bourbon cask #700254; from my own bottle)
Nose: Fruity peat (something musky–melon?); quite medicinal (bandages, disinfectant). Something meaty in there too–pork fat? Not smoky as much as ashy. With time, the nose gets more cereally, more limey. Water brings the fruit back and makes the nose pungent and intense again.
Palate: Viscous. Lime peel, musky fruit and then a huge wave of phenolic smoke. Gets ashy and salty at the end. Water makes the smoke leafy and acidic.
Finish: Long and ashy. Water makes the smoke more acidic and brings some of the fruit to the finish as well.
Comment: An interesting variation on the profile of the Malts of Scotland 1998 I reviewed a few weeks ago, and I think I like this one just a little bit better. It’s a little more phenolic and just a little bit more intense. Not as cereally though as the Malts of Scotland, which is something I really liked about that one.
Rating: 89 points.
Caol Ila is one of two Islay distilleries owned by the Evil Empire of Scotch, Diageo (Lagavulin is the other). It somehow maintains the kind of goodwill usually reserved for small, plucky craft distillers, despite operating at an industrial level and literally pumping out millions of liters of spirit–mostly for Diageo’s blends. Almost all (if not all) of Caol Ila’s spirit is tankered off Islay and matured and bottled in a central location in the Highlands (this is true of almost all of Diageo’s distilleries)–so much for the romance of terroir. However, as I say, Caol Ila’s reputation is strong and this is because their whisky is very good (and it’s worth remembering that almost all whisky is essentially an industrial product).