Port Ellen 18, 1981 (Douglas Laing OMC)

Port Ellen 18, 1981, OMC
This is, I’m pretty sure, the youngest Port Ellen I’ve had (this 21 yo is the youngest I’ve previously reviewed). This was released in 2000, one year before the first annual release; in other words, before Port Ellen was quite Port Ellen. As you may be tired of being told (and I’m sure I’ve said it many times before myself), Port Ellen was a workhorse distillery when it was operational and almost no single malt version was released until the the mid-late 1980s (after it had closed) and it wasn’t until the late 1990s and really the early 2000s that it became widely known and it’s now iconic reputation sealed. So someone who bought this bottle when it was first released probably did not pay very much more for it than they would have for whisky of similar age from open distilleries and would probably have thought you were kidding if you’d told them then that 15 years later the entry-level price for Port Ellen would be well north of $500.

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Craigellachie 18, 1995 (Hepburn’s Choice for K&L)

Craigellachie 18, 1995, K&L
I don’t have very much experience with Craigellachie; in fact, I’m not sure if I’ve had anything other than this G&M bottling for the Party Source. As with Diageo’s Mortlach, Craigellachie produces a heavier, meaty spirit and the G&M cask I tried was as close to Mortlach as I’ve come from any other distillery. I did like that one quite a bit and so have been on the look out for more since: of course, there hasn’t been very much of it around—especially in the US—since, as with so many distilleries, it mostly produces for blends (it is a core component of the Dewars blends). The owners, Bacardi announced last year that they would be launching a new range of single malts from Craigellachie. The new 13, 17 and 23 year olds have been well-received, on the whole, but from what I can tell they’re not deeply sherried brutes. And so when K&L announced this single sherry cask I put aside my misgivings based on their 2013 selections and got a bottle.

Well, I opened it for my local group’s April tasting and it was quite popular. Due to the vagaries of schedules we actually did two small group tastings separated by a couple of weeks, and while I liked it fine the first time, I liked it even more on the second occasion. Let’s see what I think of it now that it’s been open for about a month. Continue reading

Laphroaig 17, 1987 (OMC)

Laphroaig 17, 1987
This is a somewhat useless review even by my standards as it is not only of a bottle released in 2004 but also from an unidentified cask (but at least it’s a beautiful sample bottle picture). Yes, when I got this sample in a swap I failed to ask for cask information and failed to follow up later.  Whiskybase lists three Old Malt Cask releases of single casks of Laphroaig 17, 1987 and since all OMC bottles are released at 50%, the abv is of no help either. “Why don’t you just ask the person you got it from?”, I hear you ask. It’s a good question but the problem is this was a UK member of the WWW forum who has since given up whisky and drifted away from the whisky parts of the net. Also, this was three years ago, so even if I were to intrude on him out of the blue I highly doubt he’d remember. I’m writing it up anyway because I haven’t had too many 1980s Laphroaigs and in any case I don’t really worry too much about the utility of my tasting notes: if you like Laphroaig you may find it of interest anyway. Continue reading

Laphroaig 14, 2000 (Old Malt Cask)

OMC Laphroaig 14

I purchased this Laphroaig in knee-jerk mode. Laphroaig is my favourite distillery; sherried Laphroaigs are thin on the ground; the marriage of peat and sherry is great when it works out; almost every sherried Laphroaig I’ve had has been very good. So this seemed like as sure a bet as I was ever going to make.

I opened this bottle for one of local group’s tastings earlier in the fall and it did not do so well. One person did like it a lot but almost everyone else had it as their bottom whisky of the night (we drink an ounce each of four whiskies at each tasting and everyone other than me drinks blind). It wasn’t my bottom whisky but I didn’t give it a high score either. The problem? Sulphur. Now, it’s been my experience that sulphur can sometimes dissipate and so I let the bottle sit for a long time before coming back to taste it again. I could tell that there was a very nice whisky under there somewhere and I hoped time and air would pull it out. Did it happen? I’m sorry to kill the suspense, but no, it did not. There was some improvement but it remained a sulphured mess.

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Talisker 5, 2008, “The Speakeasy” (Douglas Laing)

Talisker 5. The Speakeasy
This 5 yo Talisker is rather unusual. Both because it is very young and because it is almost as rare to see a Bengal tiger in the wild as it is to see an indie bottle of Talisker that is allowed to bear the distillery’s name. Dubbed “The Speakeasy” this is from the Laing warehouses and was bottled for K&L. I was unable to resist getting one for myself when they were announced. When I mentioned this on Twitter I was asked what on earth the appeal of this bottle could be and my response was that it was a combination of perverse curiosity and a desire to compare it with the Talisker 57 North, which is probably the youngest official Talisker. Frankly, I have no expectations of this whisky–I am a huge fan of Talisker and given how few opportunities we have to drink their malt the reasonable price on this made it hard for me to pass up.
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Brora 21, 1981 (Douglas Laing OMC)

OMC Brora 21, 1981This is not the bottle for the true sulphur-sensitive or the sulphurphobe. I’ve had it open now for a few years and the notes of sulphur, which were muted at first, have expanded a fair bit. The sulphur here is of the savoury gunpowder/struck matches variety; and I am in the seeming tiny minority in the whisky geek world that does not find this to be objectionable per se, and indeed sometimes quite enjoys these notes when in balance with others. All this to say that while I am not overly bothered by the notes of gunpowder here, I can see how others might dismiss this as a flawed whisky. I myself might not be very pleased if I’d paid an exorbitant price for it, but I found it a few years ago sitting in plain sight on the shelves of a local liquor store with the original price from the time of release still below the bottle. Or rather, the price tag was below an OMC Glenlivet bottle but the manager found the right bottle in the back (he was insistent that if they’d actually sold out of it they would have removed the tag from the shelf). Continue reading