This week’s theme: things that aren’t single malt whiskies. First up, a rum.
I haven’t reviewed very many rums on the blog; rarely going over 1 review per year. And all the rums I have reviewed have been from single distilleries. This one’s the exception. It is a blend of Jamaican pot still and Guyanese column still rums. The age and identities of the constituent rums are unknown to me. This was bottled for K&L in California a few years ago and went for the low, low price of $20. I have a horrible feeling that I am going to deeply regret having waited more than three years since receiving this sample from Sku to review it.
Golden Devil Dark Overproof Rum (57%; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Molasses and (over-ripe) plantains and a slight rubbery note off the top and then the funk begins to come through bringing some diesel with it. Burnt caramel as it sits and a slight mossy note emerges as well. The funk recedes as it sits and it’s the plantains and caramel that dominate. A few drops of water push the funk back further and pull out some vanilla and aniseed. Continue reading →
Speyside week comes to a close with another refill hogshead bottled for K&L in California. This is a Tamdhu and it is two years older than Wednesday’s Linkwood. You may recall that I quite liked that Linkwood and also Monday’s 10 year old Dailuaine (that one from a sherry cask). Will the oldest of the trio be at least as good as the one half its age? There are no guarantees but I did like the last Tamdhu 20 I reviewed—that one was also bottled by Old Malt Cask (for their own 20th anniversary). And I did also like the last K&L Tamdhu of similar age that I reviewed, that one a 19 yo. Anyway, let’s get to it.
Tamdhu 20, 2000 (52%; OMC for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Cereals, toasted oak and some sweet fruit—citrus at first but then some cherry joins in as well. As it sits the oak expands quite a bit, making me a bit apprehensive about the palate…On the plus side the cereals get more malted and the fruit turns a bit muskier (somewhere between apple and pear). With more time still the oak recedes again. Water pushes the oak back further and pulls out some cream. Continue reading →
Let’s make it a week of not just Speyside whiskies but Speyside whiskies bottled for/by K&L in California. The week started with a 10 yo Dailuaine that I dubbed a very good value at the price. Here now is an 18 yo Linkwood. The Dailuaine is a sherry cask; the Linkwood a refill hogshead. The Dailuaine was still available as of Monday; this Linkwood is sold out. Like Dailuaine, Linkwood is a workhorse distillery in Diageo’s stable that predominantly produces malt for the group’s blends. Which of course means that they are as capable as any other distillery of producing casks that are rather excellent indeed. Monday’s Dailuaine stopped a bit short of sheer excellence; will this Linkwood make it all the way? Let’s see.
Linkwood 18, 2002 (53.9%; Hepburn’s Choice for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: A lovely mix of fruit—apples, pears, a bit of lemon. There’s some honey in there too and a mild grassiness. Gets maltier on the nose too with time and air. Some floral sweetness emerges with more time still. With water those sweet notes move in the direction of vanilla and it gets maltier still. Continue reading →
From a week of reviews of heavily peated whiskies from the highlands let’s go to a week of milder fare from the Speyside. The last lot of Speysides I reviewed at the end of December were all fairly old—two 28 yo Glenfarclas (here and here) and a 33 yo Longmorn (here). We’ll start this week with a much younger whisky from a far less storied distillery: Dailuaine. This is from a sherry butt that was also part of K&L’s 2021 cask selections. I am now almost at the end of my reviews of that large batch; it would be good to get them done before the 2022 casks show up.
Dailuaine 10, 2010 (59.4%; Sovereign for K&L; sherry butt; from a bottle split)
Nose: A nice mix of sweet malt, light caramel and fruit (orange, apricot). Somewhat waxy on the second sniff with some honey in the mix too now. The citrus gets a little brighter as it goes and some cream emerges. The fruit gets richer as it sits and mixes nicely with the malt and the wax. With a lot more time it gets quite sweet. A few drops of water and the lemon wakes back up and picks up a biscuity note. Continue reading →
Having reviewed what was said to be “possibly” Speyside’s finest it’s time to move on to what might “plausibly” be Speyside’s finest. The first was rather good, just held back by a bit too much oak and a thinnish texture. Will this one improve on those and other points? Let’s see.
Plausibly Speyside’s Finest/Glenfarclas 28, 1982 (46.4%; OMC for K&L; refill bourbon barrel; from a bottle split)
Nose: More muted than the other at first with a leafy note with some dusty oak behind. Starts to open after a few beats with lemon and pear and some powdered sugar. With time the pineapple begins to emerge more fully on the nose as well. A few drops of water soften it up and pull out some cream—the dusty oak is long gone. Continue reading →
I’ve decided to end the year with a trio of older whiskies. First up, an indie Glenfarclas. Glenfarclas has long (always?) disallowed the use of its name on independent bottlings and it’s quite common to see variations on “Speyside’s Finest” used instead. This 28 yo bottled by Sovereign for K&L this year is named “Possibly Speyside’s Finest”. There’s another bottled alongside named “Plausibly Speyside’s Finest’ (which I might possibly/plausibly review on Wednesday). Now which is a more reassuring qualifier in this context: “Possibly” or “Plausibly”? This follows, by the way, on the heels of last year’s K&L cask which was named “Perhaps Speyside’s Finest”. What’s next? “Purportedly”? “Potentially?” “Perchance”?
As with many indie Glenfarclases (Glenfarclas? Glenfarcli? Glenfarcleaux?), this is from a bourbon cask. It’s always interesting to try whiskies that depart significantly from the home distilleries official profiles. Yes, it’s true that the distillery has also bottled a few ex-bourbon casks in their Family Casks series (for example, this one) but you know what I mean: Glenfarclas is generally synonymous with sherry cask maturation. Anyway, let’s see what this one is like. Continue reading →
Here to close out the month is a Highland Park. This is my first Highland Park review since June when I reviewed three in a week. One of those was an official single sherry cask; another was an ex-bourbon cask with a rum finish from the SMWS; and the third was a regular bourbon hogshead bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd. Like the BB&R cask this too is a bourbon hogshead and like it it bears not the distillery’s name on the label but a reference to Orkney. As you may know, Highland Park no longer allows indie bottlers to put their name on labels. Well, whatever the name on the label, I am a big fan of bourbon cask Highland Park and I hope this will turn out to be more evidence of how good those casks can be. I will maintain this optimism even though this particular cask was selected by K&L as part of their 2021 releases. It was very reasonably priced too—now long sold out, I think. Anyway, let’s get to it. Continue reading →
Ben Nevis is located less than 50 miles drive from Oban but the profiles of the distilleries’ malts are much further away from each other. Where Oban produces a relatively austere spirit, Ben Nevis puts out what can fairly be called a consistently funky one. Independent releases in recent years have done a lot to improve the distillery’s reputation and the official 10 yo was excellent too when I last checked in on it (I’m not sure of its current status). It’s no secret to those who read the blog regularly that I really enjoy Ben Nevis—exactly one year ago I placed it in the list of my five favourite distilleries. Their whiskies are not always great but they’re always interesting. Let’s see if this one manages to be both. It was bottled a couple of years ago by the Laings’ Old Particular label as part of a series of “cards”—I think there were cards for various regions. Ben Nevis, appropriately, was named “King of the Hills”. Continue reading →
Let’s close out Sherry Cask Week (and the month in whisky reviews) with another distillery that has not featured very much on the blog over the last 8.5 years and which I have very little experience with off the blog as well: Inchgower. (See here for Monday’s Blair Athol and here for Wednesday’s Dalmore.) One of the many Scottish distilleries that produces largely for blends, in this case for Bell’s, Inchgower doesn’t really have much of an identity as a single malt. Outside of appearances in Diageo’s Flora & Fauna series—which highlights its lesser-known distilleries—and the occasional special release, there is no OB release I am aware of. It does show up from indies and all the ones I’ve previously reviewed have been indie releases, and have been in the general age group of this 22 yo from a refill sherry butt which is part of K&L’s 2021 cask exclusives. Well, I liked all those other 20+ yo Inchgowers I’ve reviewed—and I also liked the Blair Athol 12 from this K&L set—and so I’m hopeful this will be good as well. Continue reading →
I was planning to close the month out with the SMWS Macallan trio that was on the list for the month. However, for one reason or the other I have not had time to go pick up my share from those bottle splits. And so they’ll have to wait till November. Filling their sherry-forward slots instead are a trio of sherry cask-matured malts from three different distilleries. First up, the youngest of the three, a Blair Athol 12.
This is also my first review of K&L’s 2021 casks. This lot—at least the ones I’ve got samples of from bottle splits—don’t seem to be teaspooned out the wazoo. Presumably with the Trump tariff on single malts a thing of the past, teaspooning is no longer needing to be resorted to in order to keep prices down. Well, I suppose K&L’s 2020 Blair Athol cask—twice the age of this one—bore the distillery’s name openly too. I rather liked that one; let’s see if this is a worthy stablemate. Continue reading →
And here finally is my review of the last of the samples I got from a big bottle split of K&L’s single casks from late 2020. A bit of a miracle really that I actually reviewed them all in 2021. Next month I’ll start on some of the 2021 casks. The penultimate review from this lot was posted on Monday. That was a nine year old Linkwood that really surprised me with its mix of fruit and oak. That was from a refill bourbon barrel. This Aberlour is a fair bit older at 25 years of age and despite what the sample label says it’s not from a sherry butt. I’ve not seen the bottle myself but the label on Whiskybase clearly indicates that it’s a refill hogshead and there’s no sign of it being a sherry hogshead—which you’d expect would be touted by any indie bottler. K&L’s own marketing spiel for this one was unusually reserved, by the way: not a single store employee can be found here waxing poetic about its qualities. And just in case you think it’s only sample bottles that have inaccurate information, the K&L text says 184 bottles came out of the cask but the bottle label as seen on Whiskybase notes it produced 211 bottles. Lots of confusion all around. Anyway, let’s see what the whisky itself is like. Continue reading →
I believe that after this review I will only have one whisky left to write up from K&L’s 2020 parcel of casks—or at least the ones I went in on bottle splits of. A good thing too as their 2021 casks have begun to arrive, as have my shares of bottle splits of some of those casks! Anyway, after this Linkwood I will only have an Aberlour 25 to review and I expect to get to that this month as well. At nine years of age this one is quite a bit younger—and it’s also quite a bit younger than the teaspooned Linkwood they brought in last year. I was not terribly enthused by that 27 yo. Will this one, a third its age and bottled from a refill bourbon barrel at an eye-popping strength, be any better? Let’s see.
Linkwood 9, 2010 (62.6%; Old Particular for K&L; refill barrel 14285; from a bottle split)
Nose: Quite expressive despite the high strength: red fruit (cherry) mixed with lemon; some floral sweetness; cereals; malt; and a bit of polished oak. The fruit intensifies with time and the oak expands a bit too. A few drops of water and this turns into a lemon bar dusted liberally with powdered sugar. Continue reading →
Continuing with K&L’s teaspooned casks from 2020 (see here for last week’s review of a 27 yo teaspooned Linkwood), here is a 22 yo Dailuaine. I think after this review I will have only two left from last year’s parcel—an older Aberlour and a younger Linkwood. Dailuaine, like Linkwood, is a distillery with no real identity of its own. It produces a mild classic Speyside spirit that goes into Diageo’s blends. Which is not to say, of course, that single casks of Dailuaine cannot be very good or even excellent—every distillery is more than capable of producing great casks of whisky (it’s just a matter of whether they ever see the light of day in single malt form). It is to say, however, that no one really goes to a bottle of Dailuaine looking for something very individual or idiosyncratic. But good whisky is good whisky even if it doesn’t set the pulse racing. That said, not all of K&L’s older teaspooned casks from 2020 have proved to be very good whisky. Let’s hope this 22 yo is closer to their Ledaig 23 than to their Glenfiddich 23. Continue reading →
Here to close out 25+ yo whisky week is a 27 yo Linkwood (see here for Monday’s Ben Nevis and here for yesterday’s Bunnahabhain). Actually, technically this is not a Linkwood as it is yet another of K&L’s teaspooned casks from their late 2020 parcel of exclusives. Which other distillery the small amount out of 27 yo used to teaspoon this cask came from I have no idea. Linkwood itself is an unstoried name and Diageo does so little to promote it as a single malt that it’s a bit surprising they care enough to insist on indie casks of its whisky being teaspooned and sold under another name. Then again, I suppose it may not be Diageo that’s insisting on the teaspooning: some/many of the teaspooned casks in this K&L parcel are not from Diageo distilleries. K&L’s own comments about this are characteristically confusing: as far as I can make out, they’re saying the decision to teaspoon is a decision to offer better value to the customer. But why would their source sell them for less the exact same cask they could have charged K&L more for just because they teaspooned it? Or is it something like avoiding an add-on licensing fee for using the name of the distillery? If so, why does it need to be teaspooned—why can’t it just be given a different name? And why doesn’t the source care that K&L tells everyone in its marketing that this is in fact a Linkwood? If you understand the nuances please let me know. Continue reading →
When this week’s series of reviews kicked off on Monday I said that it would fulfill three themes: all Hepburn’s Choice whiskies, all K&L exclusive casks, and all Speyside distilleries. I forgot a fourth category they all fulfill: they’re all teaspooned malts (i.e have had a small amount of malt of at least the same age but made at another distillery added to the cask so as to prevent it from being sold as a single malt from the distillery the cask originated in). So was Monday’s Mortlach 13, so was Wednesday’s Craigellachie 14, and so is today’s Glenfarclas which is one year older than the other two put together. Unlike the other two—and most/all of the other teaspooned malts in this round of K&L casks—the variant name used here, “Perhaps Speyside’s Finest” is not a one-off, though it represents a bit of scaling back of the claim. What I mean is that over the years the various Laing outfits have released a number of Glenfarclas casks under the label “Probably Speyside’s Finest”. I’ve reviewed a 22 yo that bore that label. I was not a huge fan of that one but I’ll try not to read too much into the greater uncertainty in this one’s name or in the fact that it’s from a refill barrel and not a sherry cask—I’ve not generally had a lot of good luck with other older Glenfarclas from bourbon casks (see here). Anyway, let’s get into it and see what’s what. Continue reading →
Hepburn’s Choice/K&L’s 2020 casks/Speyside week started on Monday with a teaspooned 13 yo Mortlach and continues today with a teaspooned 14 yo whisky from a distillery located not too far away from Mortlach: Craigelllachie. Like Mortlach, Craigellachie is known for a robust spirit and largely for its sherry cask or at least sherry-involved incarnations. While Monday’s Mortlach was a bourbon cask, this Craigellachie is from a refill sherry cask. Let’s see if it ends up being a more characteristic expression of the distillery’s output than the Mortlach was.
Behind the Highlander/Craigellachie 14, 2006 (51.7%; Hepburn’s Choice for K&L; refill sherry butt; from a bottle split)
Nose: Quite rubbery off the top but there’s some sweeter stuff below, both floral and fruity (berries). The rubbery note recedes as it sits but never goes away completely. After 10 minutes or so, however, it’s all about the sweeter notes. More acid here too with time (lime). With a few drops of water there’s quite a bit of cream. Continue reading →
Okay, here is a week that will fulfill multiple themes: all Hepburn’s Choice whiskies; all whiskies bottled for K&L in California; all whiskies from Speyside distilleries. First up is a teaspooned 13 yo Mortlach (you may recall that most/all of K&L’s cask exclusives last year were teaspooned, i.e had a bit of whisky from another distillery mixed in). Mortlach is most well-known in its sherried avatar. The combination of the sherry casks, its unusual distillation regimen and its use of worm tubs often lends Mortlach’s spirit a meaty and slightly sulphurous quality. In this case the cask is a refill hogshead, which almost certainly means it previously contained bourbon. In theory a sherry butt can also be broken down and re-coopered into a hogshead but given the premium charged for any whisky to whose label the word “sherry” could be attached in any form, it seems unlikely that this is such a sherry hogshead. Anyway, let’s see how it compares to last month’s Mortlach 21 which was from a sherry cask. Continue reading →
After weeks themed first for peated and then for sherried whiskies let’s now do a week on a single distillery. That distillery is Caol Ila, the Islay workhorse that is also probably the most dependable distillery on the island (only Lagavulin is permitted to register an objection). We’ll start with one that mixes both of the previous themes—peated and sherried—and move on to bourbon casks. This one was another from K&L’s set of exclusives from 2020. I quite liked the other Caol Ila I tried from that set. That one was an 11 yo from a bourbon cask, this one is a sherry finish and one year younger—and apparently teaspooned with Bunnahabhain. I am usually wary of sherry finishes but perhaps this one will surprise me. Let’s see.
Islay Strait/Caol Ila 10, 2010 (59.6%; Sovereign for K&L; sherry butt finish; from a bottle split)
Nose: A lovely mix of leafy smoke, phenols, lime, brine and other coastal notes (shells, kelp, uni). The salt and the lime intensify on the second sniff and there’s ink in the bottom now. As it sits olives emerge—a mix of kalamata and brighter green olives. The coastal notes expand with a few drops of water and there’s some ham brine in there too now along with a bit of cream. Continue reading →