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
Peat Week continues. On Monday I reviewed a 23 yo Ledaig bottled under the Old Malt Cask label for K&L in California. I quite liked that one—a mellower take on the usually brash Ledaig profile. Today I have a review of a whisky less than half the age of that one, distilled on another island in the Inner Hebrides, this time Skye. And it’s something you don’t see every day: an independent release of Talisker that bears the name of the distillery openly on the label. Or at least you didn’t used to see it openly back in the day—has Diageo loosened things up a bit now? This was distilled in 2009 and bottled in 2020 under the Old Particular label, which like OMC, is owned by one or the other of the Laing outfits. It is from a single refill hogshead and so it’s an opportunity to try a 10 yo Talisker that should be somewhat different from the distillery’s standard-bearer 10 yo, which has at least some sherry component. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
Having set the world afire with a week of Edradour—by which I mean that absolutely no one was interested—let’s do a non-distillery-themed week. Three different distilleries this week but the malts will all have one thing in common: peat. Let’s start with the oldest. This is a 23 yo Ledaig bottled by one of the Laing outfits for my old pals K&L in California. Yes, this means the return of the EW! Rating (patent pending). This was part of their parcel of exclusive casks from late last year. As with many in that parcel this cask was teaspooned, which is to say it had a small bit of malt from some other distillery added to it. Hence also the silly name. It can’t officially be a Ledaig— but for all intents and purposes it is. Well, let’s hope this one turns out well. I’ve had an up and down run with the others from this parcel of K&L exclusives I’ve reviewed so far. I’ve liked most of them but none have hit it out of the park for me. And indeed, two of the 20+ year olds were among those that disappointed. Where will this one land? Let’s see. Continue reading
Peated Islay Whisky Week comes to an end with another 11 yo (following Wednesday’s Kilchoman). This time it’s a Caol Ila. Like that Kilchoman—and also Monday’s Laphroaig 10 CS—this is a bourbon cask whisky. Well, I suppose there may be non-bourbon casks in the Laphroaig 10 CS too, but if so they’ve never registered. This was another in the big parcel of 2020 single cask releases from K&L that I went in on a split of at the end of last year. I’m just past the halfway mark of reviewing them all (I think) and it’s probably accurate to say that the set as a whole has not got me very excited so far; though I have liked some of the individual casks a lot (for example, this Blair Athol and also this Craigellachie). Caol Ila—especially bourbon cask Caol Ila—is always a good bet so I am hopeful that this will be the one of the better ones. Well, whatever the score I end up giving it, I remind my sensitive friends at K&L to look only at my patented Everybody Wins! (or EW!) score, which is what I have devised to spare their feelings. This way all their releases score above 100 points and I”m not accused of having a vendetta aganist them. Everybody wins! Or ew! Continue reading
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