Tomatin 25, 1994 (Hunter Laing)

My week of reviews of 20+ yo whiskies from distilleries from different whisky producing regions of Scotland got off to a good start on Monday with the Arran 20, Brodick Bay. It then hit a bump in the road with Wednesday’s Kirkland 23, Speyside. Both of those had sherry involvement. The Brodick Bay was matured in both bourbon and sherry casks and then finished in oloroso sherry. The Kirkland was matured in bourbon casks and also finished in oloroso sherry. I close out the week now with a whisky that received a full-term maturation in a sherry butt. At 25 years old this Tomatin is the oldest of the week and I hope it will give it a good end. Older Tomatin can be very good indeed. The butt yielded 452 bottles, which may seem particularly low to those used to Glendronach’s outturns from sherry butts. Keep in mind though that there seems to have been a fair bit of spirit lost to evaporation—at cask strength this came in at just 49.3%. Let’s hope that means that this will be an extra-fruity Tomatin. Continue reading

Mortlach 12, 2008 (Sovereign for K&L)


As you may remember from Monday’s review, this week is a Mortlach week. This in order to try to redress the weak impression people who don’t know the distillery’s spirit well may have received from last Friday’s review of the official 14 yo for travel retail. Well, while Monday’s 10 yo release from Signatory was better, it didn’t exactly light my hair on fire either. Will that happen with today’s 12 yo? On the plus side, it is a sherry butt and Mortlach generally shows its best side with heavy sherry maturation. On the less than plus side, this was bottled for K&L and sold for just about $60. A seeming good deal at K&L can often/sometimes (depending on your point of view) be too good to be true. Hopefully this is not one of those cases. Certainly, I was not overly impressed by the last cask of K&L Mortlach I reviewed—which, like Monday’s Signatory, was also a bourbon cask. Was this one leftover in my stash from that same round of casks or did I acquire it in a separate bottle split? I can’t remember. Anyway, let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Bowmore 21, 1998 (Old Particular)


Today is the ninth anniversary of my blog’s launch. I had no particular thoughts then—that I can remember at any rate—of how long I’d keep it going but nine years seems quite long. When Sku signed off from his blog after it turned 10 I’d thought I might one-up him and end mine when it turned nine. But don’t get your hopes up: I’m not going to. I don’t know how many more years I’ll keep at it but for now I’m still enjoying blogging—especially with the dual food and whisky focus, and the occasional foray into other things. I know that I’ve lost many of my original whisky readers with the diluted focus on whisky after the first couple of years. I do very much appreciate those of you who’ve stuck with the blog no matter when you happened on it, whether whisky or food is your prime interest. I’ve never been a volume reviewer of whisky—in the first year or so I posted a whisky review every day but I couldn’t keep that up very long. It’s been three reviews a week for a long time now and it’ll stay that way. My practice of only reviewing what I choose to drink and not accepting commercial samples will also continue. And my reviews of restaurant meals—in the Twin Cities metro and beyond—will also continue to be independent and will doubtless continue to win me more friends online as my recent review of Owamni did on Facebook; I’m glad to have at least a few blog readers who find those reviews of value (whether you agree or disagree). To those who cook from the recipes I post I feel perhaps the greatest gratitude—for in a sense letting me into your kitchen and making some of what we eat part of your own and your family’s repertoires.

But enough cloying sentiment! It’s been a tradition for every blog anniversary to be marked with a Bowmore review—as my first review happened to be of a lowly Bowmore—and so it will be this year as well. Continue reading

Laphroaig 12, 2004 (OMC)


Monday’s Caol Ila was a bit disappointing. Today’s Laphroaig is a year older, also from a bourbon cask and bottled by the Laing outfit that owns the Old Malt Cask label. I was not very enthused by the last Laphroaig 12 from OMC that I reviewed—one of their 20th anniversary releases. I hope this one, distilled a couple of years earlier, will be a lot better.

Laphroaig 12, 2004 (50.5%; OMC; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Bright carbolic peat off the top; quite a bit of Dettol and also a cereal sweetness. With the second sniff citrus begins to expand (lime) and then it begins to get increasingly coastal (brine, seashells). With more time there’s a hint of vanilla. A bit more of the vanilla with water but it melds well with the lime and the smoke and avoids becoming cloying. With time there’s some citronella as well. Continue reading

Glen Keith 28, 1993 (OMC for K&L)


And another week of reviews of single casks from Speyside distilleries bottled for K&L comes to an end, once again with the oldest of the set: a 28 yo Glen Keith. On the first go around earlier this month the oldest—a Tamdhu 20—was the one I liked the least. Considering that I was quite underwhelmed by this Monday’s Benrinnes 23 and only barely whelmed by Wednesday’s Hector Macbeth/Glenfiddich 23, I’m rooting hard for this week to have a different ending. There’s some hope here in that I liked the last two 20+ yo Glen Keiths I reviewed (one a 21 yo from Single Malts of Scotland and another a 22 yo from Archives). Let’s see if that hope is borne out.

Glen Keith 28, 1993 (56.9%; OMC for K&L; refill barrel; from a bottle split)

Nose: Malt and apples and mild notes of citrus and oak. On the second sniff there’s some pineapple and waxy lemon peel and then it gets a bit biscuity. In the same vein with time and air. With a few drops of water the malt expands and the fruit gets muskier. Continue reading

Hector Macbeth/Glenfiddich 23, 1997 (Hepburn’s Choice for K&L)


Older K&L Speyside week began on Monday with a Benrinnes 23, 1997 that I did not care overmuch for. It continues today with another 23 yo distilled in 1997. This one is a teaspooned Glenfiddich bottled and sold by K&L as Hector Macbeth. I’ve previously reviewed another Hector Macbeth 23, 1997. That one was part of K&L’s 2020 cask selections. This sibling cask would have been bottled just a few months later. The earlier cask—which was a refill sherry butt—didn’t move me very much either. Let’s hope this refill hogshead is an improvement.

Hector Macbeth/Glenfiddich 23, 1997 (54.4%; Hepburn’s Choice for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Oak here too to start but there’s some citrus mixed in with it along with a grassy note. With a bit of time the citrus gets a bit sweeter (orange) and the oak takes a back seat. With more time it’s a little muskier (a hint of pineapple) and it also gets a little waxy. Water pulls out some softer notes (vanilla, cream). Continue reading

Benrinnes 23, 1997, OMC for K&L


Let’s do another week of reviews of whiskies from Speyside distilleries and also another week of single casks bottled for K&L in California. We’ll continue the trajectory of rising age followed in this month’s first week of Speyside reviews—which included a 10 yo Dailuaine, an 18 yo Linkwood and a 20 yo Tamdhu. First up is a 23 yo Benrinnes. I believe it sold for $120 which seems like a blockbuster price for a 23 yo single malt. But as I’ve had occasion to note before, a good deal is not merely the ratio of price to age but more appropriately of price to quality. Will this Benrinnes fit the bill on both counts? Let’s see.

Benrinnes 23, 1997 (58.4%; OMC for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split) 

Nose: Sweet, slightly citrussy notes with a mineral, almost sooty edge. As it sits there’s a fair bit of malt and some vanilla. Sweeter as it sits with some honey joining the malt and then the citrus expands as well. Alas, with water the astringent notes begin to show up here as well. Continue reading

Golden Devil Dark Overproof Rum


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

Tamdhu 20, 2000 (OMC for K&L)


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

Linkwood 18, 2002 (Hepburn’s Choice for K&L)


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

Dailuaine 10, 2010 (Sovereign for K&L)


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

Plausibly Speyside’s Finest/Glenfarclas 28, 1982 (OMC for K&L)


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

Possibly Speyside’s Finest/Glenfarclas 28, 1992 (Sovereign for K&L)


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

Orkney Distillery 17, 2003 (OMC for K&L)


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 20, 1997, King of the Hills (Old Particular)


We’ll stay in the western part of Scotland for the last of this week’s highlands reviews (which began at Ardmore on Monday and continued at Oban on Wednesday).

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

Inchgower 22, 1998 (Sovereign for K&L)


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

Blair Athol 12, 2009 (Sovereign for K&L)


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

Aberlour 25, 1995 (Old Particular for K&L)


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