Caol Ila week began yesterday with a 12 yo finished in a Bordeaux cask. It started out well but I was not finally very enthusiastic about it. Today I have a 13 yo that was matured in a sherry cask. If I’m generally suspicious about red wine cask-matured whisky of any kind, I’m usually very excited to try Caol Ilas from sherry casks. Be it a richer sherry cask profile or a drier one, Caol Ila’s distillate usually matches it well. I certainly hope that will be the case for this one, a refill butt bottled by Old Particular for K&L in California. Let’s get right to it.
Caol Ila 13, 2008 (56.9%; Old Particular for K&L; refill butt; from a bottle split)
Nose: Very nice, very quintessentially Caol Ila notes of lemon, mineral peat and coastal notes (brine, oyster liquor) and green olives. Green peppery bite on the second sniff and a touch of cream. With time the cream expands a bit. A few drops of water and it gets softer still, with the smoke all but receding into the background. Continue reading →
Okay, let’s move away from Diageo distilleries. You’ll recall that, as with last week’s survey of Diageo distillery exclusives (here, here and here), this is also a week of reviews of highlands distilleries. It started on Monday with a 12 yo Teaninich bottled for K&L in California. Today, I have for you a 12 yo Glen Garioch also bottled for K&L in California. This one is not from the Thompson Bros. but from one of K&L”s usual hookups: Old Particular (a label from one of the Laing outfits). Bourbon cask Glen Garioch is often austere and always interesting and I’m hoping this one will be too. Let’s dive right in.
Glen Garioch 12, 2008 (52.6%; Old Particular for K&L; refill barrel; from a bottle split)
Nose: A very interesting opening with a mix of lime and mineral notes with some pine and powdered ginger mixed in there as well. On the second sniff there’s a bit of vanilla as well and then it starts getting floral (not flowers themselves so much as floral-scented talcum powder). Gets fizzier as it sits (i.e it smells like it should be a fizzy, fruity drink) and also simultaneously begins to smell like gin. A few drops of water push the talcum powder back; still floral though. Continue reading →
This week of sherry cask reviews began with a 6 yo old Amrut on Monday and continued with an 11 yo Aberlour on Wednesday. Let’s end now with a 15 yo Craigellachie. This was bottled by Old Particular for K&L in California—I think I might only have one or maybe two samples left to still review from the big split I went in on of their 2021/22 casks. Anyway, sherry cask Craigellachie can be a very good thing indeed—the savoury character of the distillate holds up well to and, indeed, complements sherry cask maturation. So I thought, for example, of the last single sherry cask of Craigellachie I reviewed (an official distillery release for the US market). That said, I was not quite as impressed by the one before that: a 14 yo bottled by, Hepburn’s Choice—like Old Particular, another Laing label—for, yes, K&L. Then, again, I very much liked the one I reviewed before that one: a 16 yo also bottled by Old Particular for K&L. Let’s hope this one is in that vein. Continue reading →
The theme for this week’s whisky reviews, I said on Monday, is Speyside distilleries. I should have said “bourbon cask whisky from Speyside distilleries”. Because that’s what these are. Monday’s Glentauchers was from a first-fill bourbon barrel and I quite liked it anyway. Today’s Aberlour is almost twice as old at 15 years of age and was matured in a refill hogshead—which is the cask type what I wish all bourbon cask maturation would happen. Between the larger volume over a barrel the consequent lower oak contact and the usually mellower oak influence in a cask that has had whisky filled in it a number of times, the malt is really able to express itself. And when the distillate is a fruity one—as so many from the Speyside are—it makes for a natural match. And as the official releases from the distillery seem to mostly emphasize sherry maturation, it’s always great to see an Aberlour from a bourbon cask of any kind, leave alone a refill hogshead. Let’s hope this was a good one. Continue reading →
I must apologize to you first for being a liar. I said this was going to be a week of whiskies bottled by the SMWS from highland distilleries whose names start with “Glen”. Such were Monday’s Glenturret and Wednesday’s Glencadam. I must now inform you shamefacedly that while today’s whisky is from a highlands distillery whose name starts with “Glen”, it was in fact bottled by Old Particular (one of the Laing outfits) for my old buddies, K&L in California. I don’t know why I got it in my head that this was also a SMWS release and I will not blame you if you choose to never forgive me for this betrayal. There are other continuities though. The Glenturret and the Glengoyne were both 8 years old. Add those together and you have 16 and that’s how old this Glengoyne is. And like those two, this one was also bottled at a high strength—though just shy of 60% in this case.
Folly aside, this is a good opportunity to try a Glengoyne from a bourbon cask—the official releases are largely sherried. I do hope I will like it better than the last refill hogshead Glengoyne for K&L I sampled, which was good but nothing very special (this 21 yo). Let’s see. Continue reading →
After a week of teenaged Caol Ilas bottled by Gordon & Macphail (here, here and here), I have a more heterogeneous set of reviews this week. Not all the same distillery (as far as I know—more on this later) and three different bottlers. What unites them is that each is from an island distillery. We’ll stay on Islay for this first one, a 15 yo Bunnahabhain bottled for K&L by Old Particular (one of the Laing outfits’ labels). Last week I cribbed about the fact that the two bourbon cask Caol Ilas were from first-fill bourbon barrels; this one is also from a bourbon barrel but it’s refill rather than first-fill. Now what exactly different bottlers mean by “refill” is not known: some do specify “second-fill”, implying that refill casks are those that have been previously filled with Scotch whisky at least twice but I don’t believe there is any mandated or enforced consistency on this point. At any rate, even a second-fill bourbon barrel will allow the oak less say than the distillate, which is always a good thing in my book. Since I can’t help but complain, however, I’ll note again that I wish this had been a refill hogshead (hogsheads being slightly larger than barrels and so affording even less oak contact). Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading →
Let’s finish the month with one more peated whisky, but let’s get off the island of Islay for at least one day. We’ll go up north to Skye, to Talisker and an unusual independent bottling. Unusual, not because I know something about this particular release but because independently bottled Talisker is not very common—though it’s relatively more common of late than it once used to be. I think this was part of K&L’s cache of 2021 casks. It’s twice the age of the two previous K&L Talisker releases I’ve reviewed, which were 5 and 6 years of age respectively. Add the fact that it’s from a refill hogshead and I am positively looking forward to this one. Let’s get right to it.
Talisker 11, 2009 (59.6%; Old Particular for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Mild notes of lemon and malted wheat with some light mineral smoke running through it. Sweeter with each sniff and then more savoury (ham brine). With time the lemon turns to citronella. A bit of water brings the salt out here as well and push the lemon back. Continue reading →
Having started the month with a review of an Allt-a-Bhainne let’s end the the week with another Speyside distillery; and let’s get back to K&L’s recent parcel of casks with a Mortlach bottled by Old Particular. I did a week of reviews of Mortlach in May. Those included a 20 yo refill sherry cask, a 12 yo sherry cask (also bottled for K&L), and a 10 yo bourbon cask. I liked the two sherry casks more than the bourbon cask then. Was that a function of the cask type or the age? Today’s Mortlach is 15 years old and from a refill hogshead. It’s both older than the 10 yo and at cask strength. Let’s see if I like it any better.
Mortlach 15, 2006 (56.7%; Old Particular for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Cereals, dusty oak and then rapidly expanding lemon peel and zest, getting quite oily as it goes. As it sits there’s some of what we call ber in India—jujube in English? Anyway, there’s some tart-sweet red fruit. With time there’s some plum mixed in there too. A few drops of water and the lemon peel/oil recedes a bit; there’s more of the ber/jujube along with some ham brine. Continue reading →
This week of sherry casks from distilleries from different whisky producing regions of Scotland bottled by Old Particular for K&L got off to a good start on Monday with a 16 yo Glenrothes. It then hit a bit of a pothole in the road with a 17 yo Glenturret. Let’s see if the youngest of the trio can take us to a strong finish. This is a 15 yo Ledaig, or peated Tobermory from the Isle of Mull. There has been a lot of Ledaig available from independent bottlers in the last decade and a fair bit of it from sherry casks. Ledaig’s flavour of peat tends towards the farmy and organic. It can be funky but it also takes sherry very well. At least that has been my experience. Let’s see if that is borne out here.
Ledaig 15, 2006 (51.8%; Old Particular for K&L; refill butt DL 14901; from a bottle split)
Nose: Big farmy peat mixed in with rich sherry (orange peel, raisins, fruitcake). Saltier with each sniff. With more time and air it softens, with some toffee and milky cocoa and a touch of vanilla. Some rotting leaves mixed in there too now in the farmy peat complex. A squirt of water pulls out a lot of lime and mixes it nicely with the salt; ashier here too now. With a bit more time the lime moves towards preserved lemon. Continue reading →
As I noted on Monday, this is a week of several overlapping themes: whiskies from distilleries from different regions of Scotland; sherry cask whiskies; whiskies bottled by Old Particular; whiskies bottled for K&L in California. And for at least the first two you could add, whiskies from Glen- distilleries. The week began with a 16 yo Glenrothes from the Speyside; we’ll now continue with a 17 yo Glenturret from the highlands. I will repeat what I have said in my introduction to every Glenturret I’ve reviewed—all two of them: I have very little experience of Glenturret. Of the two I have reviewed I really liked a 33 yo distilled in 1980, and really did not like a 6 yo distilled in 2013. This one doesn’t fall in the exact middle of those two age-wise but at 17 years of age it’s got some respectable age on it. And unlike that 6 yo, it’s not at a stupidly high abv. All of that is good. It is, of course, no guarantee that all of this means it is a good whisky or, at least, a whisky to my taste, Only one way to find out for sure. Continue reading →
Let’s make this a triple or even quadruple-themed week: 1) three whiskies from three different regions; 2) all sherry cask whiskies; 3) all whiskies bottled by Old Particular (a label of one of the Laing offshoots); 4) all whiskies bottled for K&L in California. Yes, I once again went in on a bottle splits of one of K&L’s recent parcel of casks. I assume these are all sold out by now so these reviews will not be of use as a buying guide—but if you’ve picked up a bottle of any of these, let me know if your notes resonate with mine. First up is a Glenrothes 16, distilled in 2005 and matured in a sherry butt. There seem to be a number of these sherry cask Glenrothes around these days. Across 2020 and 2021 I reviewed a trio bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (here, here, and here). In addition to being sherry bombs, those were all massive alcohol bombs: all bottled north of 64.5%. I am glad to say that this one is at a tame 57.2% by comparison. I really don’t see the point of most whiskies past 60% I have to say but I realize I am out of tune with the times. I really liked all three of those anyway and am hoping this might be as good. Let’s see. (And for a recent review of a Glenrothes from a bourbon hogshead, see here.) Continue reading →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →