So here we are at the end of Highlands Week (see here for Wednesday’s Ardmore and here for Monday’s Ben Nevis). It’s been a week of excellent whiskies so far and it’s also been a week of wonderfully fruity whiskies, albeit two of quite different profiles. Today’s Tomatin—which also takes us roughly another decade back in time in terms of bottling year—promises to keep that streak of fruity excellence going and it’s also likely to be of a different profile still. Tomatins of any era—leave alone the 1970s—don’t exhibit the mineral peat of Ardmore or the malty-gingery funkiness of Ben Nevis. What 1970s Tomatins—and 1976 Tomatin in particular—are known for is tropical fruit. I’ve registered on many occasions previously my suspicion of the notion of “magic vintages” for any distillery—usually these high scores turn out to be a case of sampling bias. That said, I have enjoyed the few Tomatin ’76s I’ve had immensely—I’ve reviewed two (here and here). This bottle is one I purchased from Binny’s in Chicago more than a decade after it was released—imagine that a Tomatin 1976 that hung around on the shelf of a major retailer for some 11-12 years—and didn’t pay anything approaching a king’s ransom for it—imagine that as well. There are a couple of these 23 yo, 1976s bottled by Old Malt Cask, by the way. This one was for the US market only (as far as I know), distilled in November 1976 and bottled in July 1999, yielding only 186 bottles. Let’s get into it. Continue reading
Let’s stay in the highlands but go 75 miles or so up the A9 from Dalwhinnie to Dalmore.
Dalmore sits on Cromarty Firth, hence presumably the name of this release—though why the possessive has been added to the name I do not know. I haven’t had official Dalmore in ages—not since the prices for their regular releases rose sharply, though not as sharply as the rate of release of bullshit from the distillery, whether in bottled or marketing form. Still, independently bottled Dalmore is very rare on the ground and just as rare is bourbon cask Dalmore and so this is very intriguing on the face of it. As with a number of K&L’s recent round of cask exclusives, this one is teaspooned. I assume that is the distillery’s way of making sure that no independent whisky appears with the name Dalmore on the label. My experience so far of these teaspooned K&L casks has been middling. I was not overly impressed by either the 28 yo John McCrae/Balvenie or the 23 yo Hector Macbeth/Glenfiddich. Will this Dalmore set a new trend? I hope so as I have a few more of these teaspooned casks left to review. Continue reading
Okay, let’s end the month with another older Speyside from a bourbon cask, and having started the month with one of K&L’s recent exclusives, let’s end it with another. This is one more of the many teaspooned casks released by K&L this year, in this case a teaspooned Balvenie—why John McCrae, I have no idea. As far as I can make out from K&L’s marketing spiel, this cask was not teaspooned prior to bottling but right at the beginning when the spirit entered the cask, presumably using a bit from one of William Grant’s other malts (Glenfiddich or Kininvie) but that’s only speculation on my part. Balvenie almost never shows up under its own name from independent bottlers— and very rarely shows up at all by any name. And so, however this was made and sent out into the world, it is a welcome opportunity to try older bourbon cask Balvenie. Let’s hope what’s in the bottle doesn’t let me down. Continue reading
I usually have restaurant meal reports on Tuesdays but as this is officially still primarily a whisky blog let’s start the month with a whisky review instead. I’ll have a report tomorrow on our most recent takeout meal, which saw us return to Godavari in Eden Prairie.
Meanwhile, back to K&L’s exclusive casks from late 2020. I’ve had a pretty decent outing with them so far—only the Glenfiddich/Hector Macbeth 23 disappointed a bit and even that was far from bad; the Bunnahabhain 12, the Craigellachie 16, the Blair Athol 24 and the Glen Garioch 10 all came in above 85 points. That’s on my regular ratings scale. On my patented EW! or Everybody Wins! rating system they scored quite a bit higher but you should not bother with that unless you work at K&L. Okay, time to see what this Glengoyne is like. It’s not the best sign that it’s been finished in PX—often an indicator of a rescue attempt on something over-oaked. Let’s see if that’s the case. Continue reading
Except for the teaspooned Glenfiddich 23 I’ve had a pretty good run so far with the most recent lot of K&L’s exclusive casks. I really liked both the Blair Athol 24 and the Craigellachie 16 and the Bunnahabhain 12 was not far behind: very high EW! ratings all around. And even the Glenfiddich was not bad, just a bit boring. The EW! rating, in case you’re wondering, is a special rating I have designed for very sensitive people who suffer emotional damage when they see what they think are very low scores on my K&L reviews—as far as I can make out, anything less than 90 points is very low for some people. Being a nice guy, I came up with this revolutionary rating system to help them focus on the words and not the numbers or to just feel good about the numbers if that’s all they care about. Anyway, I’m hopeful this young Glen Garioch will keep the general positive streak going. Glen Garioch can be a difficult distillate and I’ve certainly not been very enthused by the distillery’s official younger releases. Let’s see what this is like. Continue reading
Here is another of K&L’s recent exclusive casks to close the week out. Like Monday’s Glenfiddich, I mean “Hector Macbeth”, this one is a twenty something in age and from a sherry cask; unlike it, however, it wears its distillery’s name openly: Blair Athol. K&L has had at least one other sherried Blair Athol of a similar age as part of their exclusives before—and indeed so have a lot of bottlers in the EU. I’ve reviewed a few of them but those were all casks of whisky distilled in the late 1980s. This one is from 1995. As it turns out, Whiskybase lists a large number of casks from 1995 that have been bottled by various indies. They have only two listed from 1994, only one from 1996 and then a whole bunch again from 1997. Clearly the supply of older Blair Athols wanes and waxes—there must be a lot of it moving around for blending purposes. Well, whatever the reason, I’m glad to see this one. Blair Athol of this age from a sherry cask is a pretty reliable proposition and the odds are good that this will get this run of K&L casks back in the right direction after the relative disappointment of Monday’s Glenfiddich (You may recall that I previously enjoyed the teenaged Craigellachie and Bunnahabhain). Let’s see if that’s indeed how it goes. Continue reading
Okay, back to K&L exclusives. I’ve quite liked the two I’ve already reviewed from this batch of casks—a Bunnahabhain 12 and a Craigellachie 16. Today’s review is of a cask going by name you migtht not recognize: Hector Macbeth. This is a a Glenfiddich that has been teaspooned. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry: it’s nothing kinky. Teaspooning refers to the practice of adding a tiny amount of a malt from a different distillery to a malt to prevent it from being sold as a single malt. It’s a practice certain distilleries engage in to keep their brand from being diluted—from their perspective—on the independent market; or, if not diluted, presented differently than they would like it to be. This K&L parcel contains a number of these teaspooned malts, some of them pretty old. This “Glenfiddich”, for example, is 23 years old. It was finished in a refill sherry butt (what kind of cask the teaspoon came from is unknown). I’m not sure if it’s still available but $120 was the price being asked for it when I last checked. That seems like a great deal in the abstract but my history with K&L exclusive casks with big age statements that are priced like they’re crazy deals has me not overly optimistic. But I’ll be very happy to be surprised. Continue reading
A Benrinnes review on Monday and there’ll be another Benrinnes review on Friday. In between here is a Craigellachie. This is another from K&L’s recent round of exclusive casks and is from a sherry butt. It’s been three years since my last Craigellachie review and almost four since my last review of one from a sherry cask. I am a big fan of the earthier, meatier style of spirit that Craigellachie produces and in my limited experience it’s particularly good coming out of good sherry casks. Is this one of them? Let’s see.
(And remember, as I announced in my review of K&L’s Bunnahabhain 12 last week, I have an exciting new feature for these K&L reviews: a second rating—Everybody Wins! or EW! for short—that those who get sad when I don’t give everything 90 points can look at and feel happy about.) Continue reading
As I noted on Monday, I went in once again at the end of last year on bottle splits of a large number of K&L’s exclusives (maybe even all of them? I’m not sure). There’s a rather large number of them, most, if not all, from the various Laing outfits. There were a large number of teaspooned malts in the set but also some that dare to openly wear their distillery’s name on their labels. This Bunnahabhain is one of the latter. It’s also one of the younger malts in the set. We’ll start with it anyway.
I’m also rolling out a new feature for this round of K&L reviews. As longtime readers know, K&L staff and I have not always been in perfect alignment on our ratings of their releases, either in terms of scores or values. They’ve always expressed themselves with kind restraint but I’ve been able to sense their disapproval. It hurts me to hurt anyone’s feelings and so these reviews will be accompanied by two sets of scores. One for the rest of us and also the EW! or Everybody Wins! rating (patent pending) which those who think my scores are too low can focus on and be happy about. Continue reading
The week’s first review was of a 19 yo Caol Ila from a bourbon cask. That one was bottled by the Whisky Exchange in 2012. Here now is another Caol Ila bottled the year before by Douglas Laing in their Old Malt Cask series. This one is a fair bit older and is from a refill sherry hogshead. As much as I like bourbon cask Caol Ila, sherried Caol Ila—relatively rare as it is—can be very good indeed and the best ones are among the whisky world’s unalloyed pleasures. See, for example, this one and this one, both also from 1984 distillate. I am hopeful that this will be in the class of those. Let’s see if it is.
Caol Ila 27, 1984 (52.4%; Old Malt Cask; refill sherry hogshead; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Leafy smoke cutting through sherried notes of orange peel, raisins, pipe tobacco and pencil lead. On the second sniff there’s some charred pork and also a hint of savoury sulphur; the smoke is a bit sharper now. The coastal notes emerge as it sits (brine) but it’s not terribly phenolic. Softer with water with a bit of toffee emerging. Continue reading
I often say that every distillery is capable of producing high quality malt. But I have to admit that Auchentoshan is one of the distilleries that really tests my faith in this proposition. In my years of drinking single malt whisky I have not yet come across an official Auchentoshan that I have wanted to purchase or even drink again; and, more damningly, I have not also come across any indie releases that have convinced me that owners Morrison Bowmore have been blending quality casks away, whether in the official vattings or in the group’s blends. I’m not denying the possibility that they exist; merely noting that I have not yet randomly encountered one. Of the few I have reviewed, I liked this 23 yo from Archives the best and I gave that 86 points. But hope springs eternal and perhaps this will be the one that rewards my faith. Like some of the other whiskies I’ve been reviewing recently it too was a release from a long time ago—I’ve been sitting on this sample too for a while. Well, let’s get to it now. Continue reading
Let’s keep the bourbon cask train rolling but with a bit of peat added to the mix. I acquired a sample of this Caol Ila 8 as part of a split of a few bottles of young Caol Ila last year. I’ve already reviewed a 7yo bottled for K&L. That one was a sherry finish and I thought it was just about decent. This one was bottled in 2019 for Douglas Laing’s Old Particular label. As it happens, there was another Caol Ila 8, 2010 bottled by Old Particular for K&L the previous year (I’ve not had that one). This one appears to have been part of a series called “The Elements”, representing “Earth”. Not sure what the other distilleries/releases in this series were–Air? Water? Fire? Or am I thinking of The Last Airbender? Will this actually have any earthy qualities? I tend to associate Caol Ila more with the ocean. Let’s see how it turns out. My opinion of the K&L 7 yo and this elemental business notwithstanding, Caol Ila is usually a very reliable malt. Continue reading
And here is the last of my reviews of K&L’s 2019 exclusives. (I think it’s the last anyway—I hope there isn’t another sample lurking somewhere.) As with most K&L consignments over the years, I’ve found it to be a bit of a mixed bag. That said this might have been one of the stronger years. None have been bad, none have been great, most have fallen in the drinkable to very good range. Fair enough: that’s where most single malt whiskies fall. And if I still lived in Los Angeles there were a couple I would have liked to have picked up—the Ardmore, in particular, was very well priced relative to its quality. I’m hopeful though that this Glenburgie will be a strong closer, following on last week’s sherry cask Dailuaine which I quite liked even as I didn’t find it very distinctive. Bourbon cask Glenburgies can be very good indeed and as I don’t get too many opportunities to try them in the US I am looking forward to this one. That it’s from a refill hogshead is even better news in my book. Let’s see how it goes. Continue reading
On Friday I had a review of a 9 yo Dailuaine from a sherry butt, bottled by the SMWS. Today I have another sherried Dailuaine. A bit older at 12 years of age, this one was bottled by Douglas Laing in their Old Particular series for K&L. This is one of the very last reviews I have left outstanding from my bottle splits of K&L’s 2019 exclusives. I’m hoping it will turn out to be one of the better ones. I’ve liked some of the others but the most recent one I reviewed—the Bunnahabhain 30—left me a little cold. Hopefully this and the Glenburgie 21—which is the only other one I haven’t gotten to yet—will take this series to a solid conclusion.
Dailuaine 12, 2007 (57.6%; Old Particular for K&L; sherry butt; from a bottle split)
Nose: Quite similar to the SMWS 9 yo off the top; a siimilar mix of orange peel, raisins, metallic notes—a bit more malt here. As with the SMWS, theres salt here too as it sits; the malt expands too. Not much change at first with a few drops of water: salt is still the top note. As it sits again it gets a little richer with toffee and just a hint of tobacco. Continue reading
Here is the last of the five whiskies I opened in the week I turned 50, all bottles either distilled or bottled in years that have been important ones in my life. I’ve previously reviewed a Glendronach 19 distilled the year I left India for the US; a Bowmore 11 bottled the year I met my partner; a Springbank 12 bottled the year our older child was born; and a Highland Park 27 bottled the year our younger child was born. Here now to complete the set is a Tomatin 40 that was distilled the year I was born and bottled the year our younger child was born.
Tomatins from the early-mid 1970s have a very strong reputation. I’m not sure, however, if I’ve seen many reviews of Tomatins from 1970—indeed, this particular release does not seem to have been reviewed at all—even Serge hasn’t gotten to it. This might explain why I was able to purchase this bottle from the Whisky Exchange back in 2011 without having to pay and arm and a leg. But as we’ve recently seen, a good price on an older whisky does not in and of itself mean that it was money well spent. What’s the story with this one? Continue reading
I am almost at the end of my run of reviews of K&L’s recent exclusive casks. This Bunnahabhain 30 is the oldest of them—well, the oldest I acquired a sample of, at any rate. K&L have brought in older Bunnahabhains before. I’ve previously reviewed a 25 yo and a 28 yo. The 25 yo was another Old Particular and the 28 yo was in their own Faultline series (is that still on the go?). Both were from sherry casks and I liked both a fair bit. This one, as with a number of their exclusives in this run, was matured in a refill hogshead. Let’s hope it’ll be closer to the two aforementioned in quality anyway than to the 21 yo from a hogshead they’d put out in 2013/14. That one had seemed like a very good value for the age; I purchased a bottle and was very disappointed.At $99 for a 21 yo in 2013-14, it was, in the abstract a very good value for the age—and these days $350 for a 30 yo is similarly, in the abstract, a good value for the age—but you’re not drinking the age to price ratio, you’re drinking a whisky. Let’s see what this particular one is like. Continue reading
Benrinnes is a distillery whose whiskies I always find interesting. Sadly, I don’t often get a chance to taste them as there’s not a lot of it around—not in the US anyway. I’ve only reviewed a small handful on the blog. The last time I reviewed a Benrinnes bottled as an exclusive cask for K&L the bottler was Signatory and the cask was 20 years old. Now the bottler is Old Particular and the cask is 15 years old. However, as you will see, I had a similar experience with both: finding notes in them that I was not prepared for by K&L’s tasting notes, in particular, a fair bit of peat. I noted last time that I had worried that the sample had been mislabeled but then heard from others who had found similar things in it. This time I’ve not heard from anyone else. If you too have a sample of this whisky or, better still, an open bottle, do write in below to say if my notes track at all with yours. I’m particularly interested in hearing from you if you are not an employee of K&L. Let’s get to it.
It’s time for my annual Blair Athol review. I’ve not reviewed very many of them and all the ones I’ve previously reviewed have been from sherry casks, I believe (this includes the official 12 yo Flora & Fauna release which may or may not be still a thing). This one, however, is from a bourbon cask, and like many of K&L’s casks from their recent release it’s from a refill hogshead. It’s always interesting to try a malt in a different guise than its norm and refill hogsheads are—in principle anyway—a good thing. Let’s see if this one rewards that confidence.
Blair Athol 21, 1997 (56.1%; Old Particular for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Malt, a bit of sugar, some apple. Pleasant but somewhat generic right off the bat. With a bit of time there’s some more sweeter fruit (berries of some kind) but it’s still not terribly interesting. With more time there’s some vanilla and some pastry crust. With time and a few drops of water the fruit is a little more pronounced. Continue reading