Laphroaig 18, 1997 (Berry Bros. & Rudd)

Laphroaig 18, 1997, Berry Bros. & Rudd for The Whisky Exchange
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, 7th Release

Blue Hanger, 7th Release
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

Caol Ila 10, 2000 (Berry Bros. and Rudd)

Caol Ila 10, 2000 (BB&R)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

Cragganmore 1989-2010 (Berry Bros. & Rudd)

Cragganmore 1989 BB&R
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

Clynelish 14, 1997 (BB&R)

Clynelish 14, 1997

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

Bowmore 1994 (BB&R)

Bowmore 1994This 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:
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Laphroaig 1998-2010 (BB&R)

Laphroaig 1998-2010 Berry Bros. & RuddAnother Laphroaig. Also from 1998 and bottled in 2010–not sure if it’s 11 or 12 years old as Berry Bros. & Rudd are always stingy with information on the label. 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, 1980 (BB&R)

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).
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