Ben Nevis 19, 1996 (Cadenhead)


After a few very untimely reviews let’s do a couple this week that were bottled closer to the present—just last year, in fact (they’re not available any more either but you can’t have everything). First up, this Ben Nevis 19, 1996 bottled by the usually very reliable Cadenhead in their Small Batch series. I bought this at auction in the UK and the bottle did not come with the dangling paper thingy that contains all the cask details on these releases (is there a name for those things?). The label does say “Small Batch” but Whiskybase tells me there were only 222 bottles released. So, was it actually a single cask? Hard to see how you could blend two or more casks and arrive at so few bottles—unless only a part of the vatting was released here. Anyway, I bought it because ex-bourbon Ben Nevis can offer the tropical fruit that I so love in single malt whisky at a younger age than most distilleries, and because the last Cadenhead’s Small Batch ex-bourbon Ben Nevis from 1996 that I bought was just excellent (as was the last ex-sherry Ben Nevis from 1996 that I bought). I am happy to say that my hopes were not dashed on the shoals of reality.  Continue reading

Auchroisk 27, 1988 (Cadenhead’s)


One of my great, unexpected whisky pleasures in recent years was the explosion of fruit in an Auchroisk 24, 1990 bottled by Signatory for Binny’s. Ever since then I’ve been on the lookout for Auchroisks of similar age and vintage, in the hopes of striking gold again. Accordingly, when I was in London for a week in the summer of 2016 and saw this bottle at the Cadenhead’s shop, I had few qualms about purchasing it even though the salesman was somewhat vague when I asked if this was indeed a fruity Auchroisk (“it’s smooth,” is all he ventured; but that was an odd experience all around, as previously detailed). I opened it for my local group’s premium tasting earlier this year and after getting back from our much longer sojourn in London in the spring, I drank it down pretty fast. These notes were taken just past the midway point of the bottle. Read on to discover if it too presented a lot of fruit or if it was indeed the quintessence of smoothness.  Continue reading

Tomintoul 30, 1985 (Cadenhead)


Please admire the picture of the empty sample bottle at left. I failed to take a photograph of it before drinking the contents. I did remember to take tasting notes on it though, so that’s something.

I have so far reviewed only four Tomintouls on the blog. Only one was a young expression and that was a 8 yo from some decades ago. The others may well have been distilled around the same time as that one but were bottle at much older ages: a 45 yo for Chester Whisky, a 44 yo released in the US by Samaroli and a 42 yo from Kintra Whisky. I liked them all. For a while at least, super-aged Tomintouls from the late 1960s were ubiquitous and given the distillery’s low-key reputation, not very expensive. This one is also old—though not quite as old as those three indies—but is from 1985. It’s a single cask bottled by Cadenhead last year, I believe. And as with so many Cadenhead releases from Speyside distilleries it bears the Glenlivet suffix, which I was under the impression the Glenlivet distillery had long ago managed to prevent other distilleries from using. If anyone knows how Cadenhead gets to keep using it, please let me know. Continue reading

Aultmore 19, 1997 (Cadenhead’s)


Here is the fourth of five minis I purchased from Cadenhead’s shop in London in early May. They were all from their early 2017 outturn, I believe. I have previously reviewed the Pulteney 11, 2006, the Balmenach 12, 2004 and the Glen Spey 15, 2001: in order of increasing age, and I liked them pretty much in that order. If the pattern holds I should like this Aultmore 19 even more than I did the Glen Spey—which will be good as none of the others got me very excited. I’ve had and reviewed very few Aultmores before this but have liked the others—including the official 12 yo. My hopes are therefore high on that count as well.

(I seem to have unaccountably not taken a separate picture of this mini before opening it, drinking the contents and throwing the bottle away, but, if you hold up a magnifying glass and squint, you can see it right behind the Glen Spey.)  Continue reading

Glen Spey 15, 2001 (Cadenhead’s)


This is third of five Cadenhead’s Authentic Collection releases that I purchased in mini form from their Marylebone shop in early May. I’m afraid I did not care overmuch for the first two I’ve so far tried and reviewed: the Pulteney 11 yo I found to be overly sour and yeasty/bready; the Balmenach 12 was better but nothing worth getting excited about. I’m hopeful that this Glen Spey may continue the upward trend and move this series more firmly into the territory of the good.

I’ve not had or reviewed very many Glen Speys so far, only two older ones: the Diageo Special Release 21 yo from a few years ago (which I really liked) and a 25 yo from Archives (which disappointed a bit). Let’s see where this one, which is also from a bourbon cask, falls. Continue reading

Balmenach 12, 2004 (Cadenhead’s)


[We’re off to Scotland today. In a couple of weeks I’ll have some reports, probably, of the parts of our trip that are whisky-related (not many); but to commemorate my first-ever trip to Scotland I’m also going to post more whisky reviews this week and the next than I have been since I slowed down my pace of whisky reviewing earlier this year.]

Devoted readers will remember that I went to Cadenhead’s in London last month and only purchased five minis. What, you don’t remember?! And why are you sniggering when you read the words “devoted readers”? Anyway, I did buy five minis. I did not enjoy the first of those that I reviewed: an Old Pulteney 11. Here now is a slightly older Balmenach, also from their recent outturn. This was the only one of which full bottles are still available and so if I really like it I might go back and get one. I’ve not had very many Balmenachs but they’re certainly capable of putting out the kind of fruity ex-bourbon cask malt that I really like (see this older one from Signatory); they’re also capable of putting out malt I’m not crazy about (see this other older one from Signatory). Let’s see how this one goes.  Continue reading

Pulteney 11, 2006 (Cadenhead’s)


I purchased this Pulteney from Cadenhead’s in Marylebone on my visit a couple of weeks ago. They sell a range of minis of their various bottlings, and as they don’t seem to be set up to let customers taste bottles they’re interested in it’s the only way to try before you buy. In theory, at least: in practice, right now they only have a mini of one bottle that is actually still in stock and this Pulteney is not it (it’s a 12 yo Balmenach, if you want to know). Still, the price was less than that of a pour in most bars and so I decided to buy it (and a few others) anyway. There aren’t that many opportunities to taste indie Pulteney out there and I did like an even younger one Cadenhead’s bottled a long while ago (this 8 yo, distilled in 1990). And as I also have a review lined up of another young indie Pulteney (from a sherry cask), I thought I’d put this review of a bourbon cask up first and make it seem like I had a master plan.  Continue reading

Glenrothes 27, 1989 (Cadenhead’s)


Let’s take a break from the Glenfarclas reviews but let’s stay on the Speyside. Here is a somewhat unusual Glenrothes bottled by Cadenhead’s earlier this year. I don’t believe I’ve ever come across rum cask Glenrothes before and for that matter there’s not that much bourbon cask Glenrothes around. This is from Cadenhead’s “Small Batch” series and is apparently a vatting of a single bourbon barrel and a rum cask of some sort. Wild to think that there was a 27 yo rum cask just laying around. Also intriguing that they wouldn’t just have released it as such—has anyone come across a single rum cask malt of that age? Of course, this might imply that the contents of the cask might not have been that great on their own but it might have been worth it for novelty alone. It’s also possible, of course, that the rum barrel was a finish/double maturation of a cask put away in 1989—though again you have to wonder why that wouldn’t have been worth releasing by itself. Anyway, I haven’t reviewed much Glenrothes on the blog so I’m hoping this will represent the distillery well. And I suppose if I like it there’s a decent chance that it might still be available from the Cadenhead’s shop in London. Let’s see.  Continue reading

Glen Grant 31, 1984 (Cadenhead’s)

Glen Grant 31, 1984, Cadenhead's
Last week I reviewed a bourbon cask Glen Grant that was distilled in 1985 and bottled in 2008. This week I have another Glen Grant from that era. This was distilled a year earlier but was bottled quite a bit later, in 2016 by Cadenhead’s. So, it’s not as untimely a review as the previous. It’s also not from a bourbon cask. Despite these important differences I’m interested to see if any obvious throughlines emerge from these two casks from the mid-1980s that might cause me to revise my skepticism about the notion of “distillery character”. I’m also interested to see how long-aged sherry cask Glen Grant from the mid-1980s compares to long-aged sherry cask Glen Grants from an earlier era—such as this excellent older release from Scott’s Selection.

(Cadenhead’s continues to use the -Glenlivet suffix on a number of their Speyside releases. Is this no longer prohibited?)  Continue reading

Glen Moray 16, 1998 (Cadenhead’s Small Batch)

Glen Moray 16 (Cadenhead's)
I purchased this Glen Moray from Cadenhead’s Small Batch series at the same time as this Aberfeldy 17 and opened it alongside it. I did not like it as much as that one when first opened and indeed I didn’t really like it much, period, then. I took it to my local group’s July tasting and my opinion was echoed by a number of others. But as so often happens, as the bottle stayed open it began to improve, and by the halfway mark it was a lot fruitier and some of the funkier notes that I hadn’t liked very much at first became more appealing. I took it back to my group’s September tasting earlier this month and my revised opinion was again echoed by the group (who were tasting blind as they always do). Even though it never turned into anything spectacular this is another reminder/lesson to not come to quick conclusions about newly opened bottles (especially those at cask strength). And it’s a reminder as well that the “reliability” of any review you’re reading anywhere is susceptible to uncertainty re the point in the bottle’s life the review comes from (and the reviewer may not even know when it comes to samples): in other words, please don’t take my notes or scores too seriously.  Continue reading

Aberfeldy 17, 1997 (Cadenhead’s Small Batch)

Aberfeldy 17, 1998, Cadenhead's Small Batch
This is the first Aberfeldy I’ve reviewed on the blog and it may well be only the second Aberfeldy I’ve ever tasted. Not much of it is available. Until recently, there were only a 12 yo and a 21 yo available from the distillery and my experience of the 12 yo did not ever make me curious about the 21 yo. I found it to be an unremarkable malt, in a somewhat generic, mildly fruity Highlands style: not offensive but not really intriguing. Not that intrigue would have helped much: there’s very little Aberfeldy available from the independents (most of it goes into the bottomless vats of the Dewar’s blends) and most of those seem to be G&M releases in their Connoisseur’s Choice line—which also has rarely gotten very many whisky geeks’ pulses racing. This one was bottled last year in 2014 by Cadenhead’s in their Small Batch series. As my experience with the last lot of Cadenhead’s Small Batch releases was pretty positive I was willing to take a chance on it. I am happy to say I rather like it.  Continue reading

Glenfarclas 33, 1973 (Cadenhead’s)

Glenfarclas 33, 1973, Cadenhead's
Here’s something you don’t see every day: both an older, bourbon cask Glenfarclas and an indie Glenfarclas labeled as such. This was released 10 years ago by Cadenhead’s, who seem able to break a number of these labeling rules (see their recent Small Batch releases of Speyside distilleries with the old-style Glenlivet sufffix hyphenated on). Since then I think there has been the odd official Family Casks release from a bourbon cask, and there may have been other indie releases as well from bourbon casks that didn’t have the Glenfarclas name on them (as is usual). Anyway, I’ve not had any before, old or young, and so I’m very interested to see what this is like. It goes without saying that this is long gone.

(I’d originally planned to review it alongside the official Glenfarclas 30 but tree pollen put paid to those plans.)  Continue reading

Pulteney 8, 1990 (Cadenhead’s)

Pulteney 8, 1990, Cadenheads
I think this review has been long promised/threatened. It’s a good thing I didn’t get around to it when I first said I would because this is one of those whiskies that went from being blah when first opened to being quite pleasant after it had sat with some in the air in the bottle for a few weeks/months. The very high strength doubtless had something to do with that. Anyway, this is somewhat unusual because it’s an independent Old Pulteney: you don’t see too many of those around (I believe the distillery requires that the indies drop the “Old” from their labels). And this bottle itself is not a recent release. It’s from a Cadenhead’s series from before they left the US market (only to come back again a couple of years ago). A number of the whiskies released in this series in the mid-late 1990s can still be found here and there: the prices and quality are variable but, as I said, you don’t see too many indie Pulteneys around.   Continue reading

Longmorn 26, 1987 (Cadenhead’s)

Longmorn 1987, Cadenhead's
My last review of a Longmorn saw me give out my highest score yet. That was for the staggeringly good 1969-2011 bottled by Gordon & MacPhail for van Wees in the Netherlands. Later this month I will have a review of another bottle from that series (thr 1972-2011) and I may also get around to a 31, 1978 bottled for the Whisky Exchange a couple of years ago. And so I am in the decadent position of feeling like this 26 yo from 1987 bottled by Cadenhead’s is not that old and not that special. Excuse me while I slap myself.

Okay, I’m back. This is from the recent(ish) release of cask strength dumpy bottles by Cadenhead’s, a part of their general makeover. I’ve reviewed a large number of the bottles that came to the US in late 2013 and liked all of those—some a lot. That’s one reason I’m hopeful that this will also be very good (this one was released in Europe). The other reason is that if it turns out to be the case that old Longmorn from any era can exhibit the qualities of the 60s and 70s distillate then we can all mourn a little bit less the passing of bottles from those decades. Continue reading