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
A Benrinnes review on Monday and there’ll be another Benrinnes review on Friday. In between here is a Craigellachie. This is another from K&L’s recent round of exclusive casks and is from a sherry butt. It’s been three years since my last Craigellachie review and almost four since my last review of one from a sherry cask. I am a big fan of the earthier, meatier style of spirit that Craigellachie produces and in my limited experience it’s particularly good coming out of good sherry casks. Is this one of them? Let’s see.
(And remember, as I announced in my review of K&L’s Bunnahabhain 12 last week, I have an exciting new feature for these K&L reviews: a second rating—Everybody Wins! or EW! for short—that those who get sad when I don’t give everything 90 points can look at and feel happy about.) Continue reading
As I noted on Monday, I went in once again at the end of last year on bottle splits of a large number of K&L’s exclusives (maybe even all of them? I’m not sure). There’s a rather large number of them, most, if not all, from the various Laing outfits. There were a large number of teaspooned malts in the set but also some that dare to openly wear their distillery’s name on their labels. This Bunnahabhain is one of the latter. It’s also one of the younger malts in the set. We’ll start with it anyway.
I’m also rolling out a new feature for this round of K&L reviews. As longtime readers know, K&L staff and I have not always been in perfect alignment on our ratings of their releases, either in terms of scores or values. They’ve always expressed themselves with kind restraint but I’ve been able to sense their disapproval. It hurts me to hurt anyone’s feelings and so these reviews will be accompanied by two sets of scores. One for the rest of us and also the EW! or Everybody Wins! rating (patent pending) which those who think my scores are too low can focus on and be happy about. Continue reading
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.
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