Let’s start the month with a trio of Ben Nevis. After that we’ll be ready for anything. All three that I’ll be reviewing this week are 20 years old and distilled in 1997. I’m curious to see how much variation there will be across the set. First up, a cask from Berry Bros. & Rudd, a name that is generally a reliable marker of baseline quality. True to form, they do not specify the cask type but, as you’ll see, I have a guess.
Ben Nevis 20, 1997 (54.6%; Berry Bros. & Rudd; cask 85; from a bottle split)
Nose: That very Ben Nevis mix of ginger, salted nuts, white pepper and malt off the top. On the second sniff there’s a faint whiff of diesel as well plus bright citrus. Continues in this general vein. With water there’s the diesel turns to paraffin and the ginger and citrus turn to citronella. Continue reading
After a week of Ardmore in the eastern Highlands let’s swing over west and south to Islay. This time it won’t be a single distillery that occupies our time but three different ones. And the peat will be heavier. First up: one of younger bourbon cask Caol Ilas that are usually rather good indeed. This cask was bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd, which theoretically should also be a good sign. But the proof is in the glass. Let’s see.
Caol Ila 11, 2007 (55%; Berry Bros. & Rudd; cask 319464; from a bottle split)
Nose: Bright carbolic peat mixed with lemon and ash and salt. The salt expands on the second sniff, picking up more coastal accents (shells, kelp). The salt expands with each sniff and there’s a mezcal note in there too that speaks of youth. With more time there’s some vanilla mixed in as well and the lemon turns to citronella. With water the mezcal recedes but the vanilla expands. It gets more phenolic too but I’m not sure that mix of vanilla and heavy phenols works so well. Continue reading
Clynelish Week began with a 23 yo second-fill Oloroso butt bottled by Single Cask Nation and continued with a 21 yo refill sherry butt bottled by Signatory Vintage. Here now to close it out is a 17 yo bourbon cask bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd. Despite my usual preferences I liked the second-fill butt more than the refill sherry butt. Where will this bourbon cask fall? Let’s see.
Clynelish 17, 1997 (55.2%; Berry Bros. & Rudd; cask 4050; from a bottle split)
Nose: Sweet fruit off the top (peach, nectarine) along with some oak and some honeycomb. As it sits there’s more lemon (candied) at first and then some malt. With time there’s quite a bit of toasted oak. The fruit expands and gets quite a bit muskier with several drops of water. Continue reading
After Monday’s Jamaican rum and ex-bourbon cask lovechild, let’s move on to an altogether more conventionally matured Highland Park. Well, not very conventionally by the standards of the distillery’s own releases which are overwhelmingly sherry cask-driven. This 14 yo bottled by Berry Bros. and Rudd is from an ex-bourbon cask. And like almost all current indie releases of Highland Park, seemingly, it does not bear the distillery’s name. Instead it’s billed as “Orkney Islands” (this crackdown on the use of official distillery names by indies seems to be spreading through the industry). Well, I suppose it could theoretically be Scapa too. I will note, as I always do when reviewing bourbon cask Highland Park, that I really dig this profile and wish the distillery itself would release more in this vein and not just the massive single sherry casks that seem to be their current calling card (I”ll be reviewing one of those on Friday). Of course, there’s far more money to be made by selling massive sherry cask whiskies in this market and no one ever accused the proprietors of Highland Park, the Edrington Group, of being averse to making large amounts of money. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading
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