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. Continue reading →
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 →
Let’s close out the week’s whisky reviews with yet another K&L exclusive. On Monday I reviewed a Tamdhu 19. I liked it, thought it was very drinkable indeed, but was not blown away by it. Today I have a Ben Nevis that is a year younger. As regular readers of the blog know, I am generally a big fan of contemporary Ben Nevis. The distillery’s malt usually provides a very unique mix of fruit, malt and a characteristic funk that is very hard to describe. Will this one be in that vein? I certainly hope so. Let’s see.
Ben Nevis 18, 2001 (52.8%; Old Particular for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Takes a few seconds to open up and then there’s some lemon with a prickly, peppery mineral note alongside. Below that is some malt, some sweet notes of vanilla and cream and just a bit of that Ben Nevis gasoline funk. As it sits richer, muskier fruit begins to gather in the background but doesn’t quite pop out—maybe with more time? Well, not so much with time but with water there’s sweeter fruit (peach?) and it melds nicely with the malt and the cream. Continue reading →
Another week, another K&L exclusive. This here is a 19 year old whisky from another distillery I haven’t had a lot of; again because there hasn’t always been such a huge amount of its malt out there, certainly not in the US. I’m one of the few people who enjoyed the old Tamdhu 10 from 10-12 years ago but haven’t followed it since it got the Coke bottle-style redesign. Actually, I just looked up the official website and it appears the current 10 year old is a limited edition being sold for the very reasonable price of £120. For reference, the old 10 yo used to be available <$30. (In fact, as I think about it I may still have a bottle of the old 10 yo—perhaps I’ll open it next month.) The regular lineup now includes a 12 yo and a 15 yo plus a couple of NAS releases. If you have tried any of these please write in below to let me know if I’m missing an experience I shouldn’t miss. Meanwhile. I have reviewed a few indie Tamdhus of this approximate age before (see here and here for the two most recent). In fact the last one I reviewed was also in the Old Malt Cask line—part of the release commemorating the 20th anniversary of the label—and I quite liked it. Will this be as good or better? I hope so. Let’s see. Continue reading →
This Littlemill is one of the older casks in K&L’s 2019 run of exclusives. As a 29 yo from 1988 the latest it would have been bottled would have been in 2018—I guess it just took a while to get to California. It may also be the oldest Littlemill I have had from the large parcel of late 1980s/early 1990s casks of Littlemill that began appearing from independents in the first half of the last decade (see here and here, for example). Most of those have been very good, with a big dose of fruit balanced nicely with oak and malt, with none of the funkier notes that can sometimes overwhelm Littlemill. Let’s hope this one is in that vein as well.
Littlemill 29, 1988 (55.%; OMC for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: A little spirity to start. After a few beats there’s a funky mix of malt, a light rubbery/plasticky note (a new beach ball) and lime peel. As it sits some sweeter fruity notes begin to emerge but don’t quite pop—some vanilla with them too. With more time there’s cereal and the fruit gets muskier. Less funky, more fruity with a few drops of water. Continue reading →
Oh no, it’s another peated whisky. For a change, however, it’s a very recently released whisky and in fact it may still be available—yes, I checked, it is. It’s another from K&L’s recent parcel of exclusives from the Laing companies. As you know, some of my reviews from this batch have endeared me even more to K&L’s staff. What can I say? I’m easy to love.
Anyway, Ardmore: usually good, and usually not very much of it available from the distillery’s owners. Last year I reviewed a 22 year old released to mark the 20th anniversary of the Old Malt Cask line (another Laing property) and really liked it. This one is about the half the age of that one. It’s from a barrel which might bode some risk of over-oaking—barrels are smaller than hogsheads—but it’s a refill barrel. I’m a fan of Ardmore’s brand of fruit and highland peat. Let’s hope it’s on display here. Continue reading →
Let’s continue with the review of the recent K&L exclusive casks. And no, they’re not paying me for all this free, extended coverage of their whiskies. For that matter, they don’t even appear to be enjoying it. Ah well, can’t please everyone.
Speaking of not pleasing everyone, Bowmore is also a distillery that has not always pleased everyone. This is mostly due to folly on the part of the fraction of everyone who have not been pleased. Bourbon cask Bowmore from the early 1990s on is usually a very good proposition. So much so that I’ve even really liked a K&L exclusive cask in that vein. Last year they had an OMC 22 year old that I purchased on Sku’s recommendation while in Los Angeles and loved to the tune of 91 points. I won’t need this to be that good to make me happy but I will also not object if it is. Let’s see. Continue reading →
So far this month I’ve reviewed three of K&L’s recent exclusive casks. They’ve all been 23 yo malts distilled in 1995 (Clynelish, Glen Moray, Allt-A-Bhainne). I liked them all a lot (87 points each) though I had differing estimations of the price to quality ratio each present. Today I have another recent K&L cask but this time it’s a 21 yo distilled in 1996. Will I finally go above or below 87 points?
This is a somewhat unusual whisky in that it’s a Glengoyne from a bourbon cask—most official Glengoyne is sherry cask driven. It’s also unusual because it’s an independent cask of Glengoyne. It’s not a name you see very often from the indies. On Whiskybase it’s the very rare distillery that doesn’t have any releases listed from prolific indies, Gordon & MacPhail and Signatory (and there are only 12 indie releases total listed for 2019). So it should be an interesting proposition all around. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading →
Let’s keep the reviews of recent 23 yo K&L exclusives distilled in 1995 going. So far I’ve reviewed their Clynelish and their Glen Moray. I gave them the same score (87 points) but not the same “buy” rating (“yes” on the Glen Moray, “no” on the Clynelish). Today I have another ex-bourbon cask from an unassuming distillery. Will I finally have a different score? Let’s see.
Allt-A-Bhainne 23, 1995 (50.7%; Old Particular for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Very nice bourbon cask nose. Lemon mixed with malt and mild grassy notes; cooked tart apple and pastry crust behind. As it sits the apple expands and it smells more than a bit like a kitchen in which an apple pie was baked the evening before. Water emphasizes the malt and knocks back the fruit. Well, it knocks back the apple/pie: there’s more lemon now. Continue reading →
On Monday I had a review of a 14 yo Glen Moray bottled for Old Malt Cask’s 20th anniversary. Here now is another special Old Malt Cask bottling of Glen Moray. This is almost a decade older than Monday’s bottle and is part of K&L’s recent run of exclusive casks. I reviewed another of those last week—their Clynelish 23—and, alas, David OG of K&L was not very pleased with me. My review of the whisky itself was positive (I gave it 87 points) and my notes not too far away from his own on the K&L site. So I’m guessing his anger is actually at my suggestion that $250 is way too much for what that whisky is. But, these being the times we live in, he seized on an embarrassing but really inconsequential error on my part in my closing comments. I suggested there that rather than spend $250 on that Clynelish people might instead pick up something like the Springbank 18 and have money left over for a bottle of the Laphroaig 10 CS. I made this suggestion because the last time I had the Springbank 18 it was a pretty heavily sherried malt (composed of 80% sherry casks). I’ve not kept up with it—again on account of the high price—and so did not realize that at some point in the last few years the formulation changed to emphasize bourbon casks. An understandable error, you might think, and not surprising from someone who always notes he doesn’t really follow the industry closely anymore. But as far as David OG is concerned this error of fact invalidates my entire review—presumably he’d care less if they’d already sold out of the Clynelish (there seems to still be a fair amount of it in stock). Continue reading →
Earlier this year I reviewed some ten of the many releases the Laings put out to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their popular Old Malt Cask line. And then a few months later, just when people thought this was finally an OMC 20 Anniv-free zone I hit you with another (this Auchroisk 24). Maybe you thought that was the last of it, but no, here’s another. But this finally is the last of it. I actually opened this a while ago. I took my time drinking it down to the halfway stage, at which point I took these notes and also set aside a sample for Michael K. of Diving for Pearls. After that I drank the rest at a faster clip, checking in on my notes each time to see if there were any major departures I should note (there were not). Here now are my notes. I mentioned setting aside a sample for Michael K.—as it happens, this is yet another of our simul-review packages. We did a week of simul-reviews of peated whiskies in November (the Offerman Lagavulin, Laphroaig 10 CS, Batch 011 and a Ledaig 6). We didn’t agree on all of those and I’m interested to see if we will today. As always, we have not seen each other’s notes or discussed them in any way prior to posting. I’ll be reading his review in the morning and will link to it once I’ve seen it (and here it is). Continue reading →