Ben Nevis 20, 1997 (The Exclusive Malts)

Another day, another 20 year old Ben Nevis distilled in 1997. Monday’s iteration was bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd; today’s was bottled by the Exclusive Malts/Creative Whisky Company. If I’m not mistaken the company is now defunct (a thousand apologies if that’s not true). Unlike Berry Bros. & Rudd, they specified the cask type: a refill sherry hogshead. I hazarded the opinion on Monday that the Berry Bros. & Rudd cask might also have been refill sherry. Let’s see if I like this one as much as I did that one.

Ben Nevis 20, 1997 (51.9%; The Exclusive Malts; refill sherry hogshead #38; from a bottle split)

Nose: Musty oak off the top and quite a bit of it; a leafy quality too (like damp, rotting leaves). On the second sniff the oak turns to cedar and some sweet orange begins to push its way out. As it sits the citrus becomes more tart/acidic and there’s a mineral, slightly chalky edge to it. With time the oak more or less fades here and is replaced by sweeter notes of butterscotch and brown sugar. Fruitier with water as the orange is joined by some papaya and hints of tart-sweet mango. Continue reading


Tamdhu 26, 1984 (Exclusive Malts for the WWW Forum)

I purchased this bottle in December 2010. I cannot fully explain why it has taken me more than a decade to open it. I do know why I didn’t open it right away though. I’d been drinking single malt whisky for the better part of a decade at that point but 2009/2010 is when I began to spend a lot of money on it and when I began acquiring more bottles than I could drink down at my normal, rather moderate rate of intake (1-2 drinks a night). This was not one of the very first older whiskies I’d purchased then but it was the first whisky I’d purchased that was a pick by a group I was part of. That group was the venerable Whisky Whisky Whisky forum, which I was an active member of then, before it—like many forums—fell prey to the creep of social media. I think I’ve said before that the decline of that forum was a large part of the impetus for starting this blog in 2013. This was the first—only?—cask of whisky bottled by the forum and for me it was an entree to an exciting world of “exclusive” picks that I’d only read about till that point. And so I put it away for a special occasion…and then forgot about it for a decade. Now I’m drinking my collection—mostly acquired in the 2009-2014 timeframe—down far more rapidly than I’ve ever done and I’ve begun to open a number of these “special” bottles. I was a bit nervous when I uncorked this one for the first time last week—after a decade’s wait would it actually be good?—but I’m glad to report the notes don’t include retroactive regret. Continue reading

Fettercairn 17, 1995 (Exclusive Malts)

I keep saying this about most of the minor Scottish distilleries but I have very little experience of Fettercairn. I’ve only reviewed a couple of them before this one and have maybe tried twice as many in total. As such I have no expectations. Of the two I’ve reviewed one did nothing for me and the other was average—which leaves the door open for this one to be the first Fettercairn that will really move me. Okay, so it also leaves the door open for this to be the first Fettercairn I end up pouring into the sink—why do you have to be so negative?

This particular Fettercairn was bottled by Exclusive Malts for K&L in California. Being negative, you might say that this is not a very promising combination but I have had very good whiskies from both. Let’s see if this is another one of those. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 14, 1998 (Exclusive Casks)

The last Ben Nevis I reviewed was an official release: the Batch 1 release of a 10 yo from 2008. That was I believe an interim release till their new 10 yo—which I did like a lot—came back online. I don’t think there has been a Batch 2. Anyway, whatever its status, I was not a fan. I have not had the 2019 release of the regular 10 yo; I do hope it’s at the level of the prior release. The 14 yo I am reviewing today is an independent release. It was bottled by the Creative Whisky Co. in their Exclusive Casks line for Total Wine in the US. I believe that the Creative Whisky Co. is no longer a going concern as of 2018. There’s so much ferment in the whisky world. This whole introduction has been nothing but a record of uncertainty. What is certain, however, is that Michael K., the source of my sample, really liked this one (see his review), though he was undecided about the cask type. Our thoughts on Ben Nevis tend to align. Let’s see if that will continue to be the case here. Continue reading

Littlemill 24, 1988 (Exclusive Malts)

This is the fourth Littlemill I’ve reviewed this year. The first was the old Littlemill 12, which was, as I said then, as unloved an OB whisky as you could hope to find. The other two were much older, part of the revival of Littlemill’s reputation that got underway in the early years of this decade as a number of casks bottled in the late 1980s came to market that had been matured to a far greater age than was probably intended for them at time of distillation. One of of those I really liked—the Archives 22 yo distilled in 1989. The other—a Berry Bros & Rudd 21 yo bottled distilled in 1992—was quite good but nothing so very special. This one from the Creative Whisky Company, under their Exclusive Malts label, is older than both of those and distilled the earliest. That might lead you to think that it’s got a good chance of being the best of the lot but things don’t always work out that way with whisky: the idiosyncrasies of individual casks are hard to predict and not all bottlers can be relied on for consistency. Anyway, let’s see what this is like.  Continue reading

Aberlour 13, 2000 (Exclusive Malts)

Though I am writing this review well before it will post, when you read it (if you’re in the US), I will have likely just finished touring Aberlour. This is set to be our last day in the Speyside on this trip to Scotland and I’ve been looking forward to visiting Aberlour in particular. I will doubtless have an image-heavy report from the distillery soon enough but in the meantime, here’s a review of an Aberlour 13 released five years ago. This was bottled by the Creative Whisky Co. for their Exclusive Malts label and was an exclusive for K&L in California. This cask is not listed on Whiskybase, by the way—the only Exclusive Malts Aberlour 2000 they have is a sibling cask that was a year younger. This is an ex-bourbon cask—which is a rare but pleasant treat from Aberlour, whose official releases all stress the sherry. I’ve quite liked the other bourbon cask Aberlours I’ve reviewed (relatively) recently and I’m hoping this will keep the streak going. Let’s get to it.  Continue reading

Bowmore 11, 2002 (Exclusive Malts for K&L)

Bowmore 11, 2002I received a sample of this Bowmore 11 in a swap with Michael K. of Diving for Pearls and after I received it I realized I already had an unopened bottle of it. I finally opened it a few months ago for one of our local group’s tastings and we finished the rest of the bottle at our August tasting—I occasionally repeat bottles that were contentious in some way or the other to see if our responses might change as the whisky does with time and air. I’d planned to review it when the bottle had just been opened but didn’t get around to it because I read Michael’s review and wanted to forget about it before tasting—and then I forgot about the whisky completely. This review is of the last pour from the bottle, but please keep in mind that the evening before this had been at the halfway point—so it’s not a hugely oxidized pour that’s been sitting at the very bottom of the bottle for a long time (and the bottle itself was only open for less than five months).

(I’d also assumed I’d photographed the bottle when I’d originally planned to review it but while posting this review realized I never had: hence the picture of the empty bottle.) Continue reading

Island Distillery / Ledaig 7, 2005 (Exclusive Malts for K&L)

Ledaig 7, 2005The run of reviews of smoky whiskies is threatening to become a run of reviews of Ledaig. Well, this one from David Stirk’s Exclusive Malts at least doesn’t say Ledaig on the bottle. It says “Island Distillery” but it has all but explicitly been confirmed that this is a Ledaig. This was an exclusive bottling for my old pals at K&L. Let’s see what it does to my fairly positive streak with Ledaig.

Island Distillery/ Ledaig 7, 2005 (57.2%. Exclusive Malts for K&L; from a sample received in a swap)

Nose: Ah yes, the familiar farmy/organic peat. There’s a fair bit of vanilla sweetness with it though along with some salt and lemon and a bit of rubber/vinyl. After a few minutes the vanilla sweetness eases into a creamier, butter-pastry kind of thing, and I’m getting some sort of baked fruit as well (apple maybe?). With even more time (10-15 minutes in) the farmy/organic peat is still there but more muted and in better balance with the other notes. Water pushes back the smoke and accentuates the lemon and the sweetness (stony now as it was on the palate). Continue reading

Aberlour 22, 1990 (Exclusive Malts)

Aberlour 22, 1990(This is the fourth of five simultaneous reviews with Michael Kravitz from Diving for Pearls. Here is his review.)

Aberlour are known for their sherried malt, whether it is the young, cask strength A’bunadh, beloved of so many geeks, or the regular 12 and 16 yos. They do mature a fair bit in bourbon casks, obviously–obvious because their non-A’bunadh releases tend to be double matured or vatted from sherry and bourbon casks–but very little of this, if any, sees the light of day as official distillery releases. As always, we have the indies to turn to for the variety the distilleries are reluctant to give us in order to maintain their “distillery character”, and so this 22 yo from Exclusive Malts which is the oldest Aberlour I think I’ve had to date.

This bottle is from a first fill barrel–the label does not specify but it’s ex-bourbon. It was featured at our local group’s February tasting where it was quite well received. These notes are taken from the end of the bottle but it’s not been open very long. Continue reading

Clynelish 15, 1997 (Exclusive Malts)

emclynelishThis is a bottle I brought back from Los Angeles this week. It was bottled by David Stirk (of the Creative Whisky Co.) in his Exclusive Malts line. I know David just a little bit from a whisky forum we are both members of. He is enthusiastic and likable–which I’m sure disposes me favourably towards his bottlings. This Clynelish is one of nine of his bottlings that represent his entree to the American market. Hitherto, his bottlings have been available largely in the UK and the EU (though I believe he *may* be in the Japanese market as well) and there they are largely in the “good value” band of the pricing spectrum. Of course, with the three-tier system in the US (with importers, distributors and retailers all adding a healthy markup) that’s not quite as true here, at least not with this first consignment.

As per David, this first lot of whiskies are being released only in California; and this Clynelish is retailing a little above $100. I got my bottle from Silver Lake Wine. David is apparently going to be running tastings of his whiskies at a number of LA stores in the coming weeks, including one at Silver Lake Wine, I believe, so if you’re in the LA area you might want to check him out. K&L is also carrying some of this initial consignment but not this Clynelish (presumably because they have their own exclusive cask of Clynelish of similar age and vintage from A.D. Rattray that this would compete with; if you have a bottle of that one and might be interested in swapping a sample from this one, let me know via the “Contact” page above).

On to the whisky.

Continue reading