Laphroaig 13, 1997 (Duncan Taylor)

Laphroaig 13, 1997, Duncan Taylor for Binny's
Here is the second of three Laphroaig reviews this week. Like the first (this 17 yo from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America), this was distilled in 1997 and matured in a bourbon cask. It’s a bit younger though, having been bottled at 13 years of age by Duncan Taylor for Binny’s of Chicago back in 2011. I remember that this cask took a long time to arrive at Binny’s and that I was rather obsessed with tracking its arrival—I think it was first mentioned in their Whisky Hotline in early 2011 but it finally showed up in 2012. This is partly because back then is when I was the height of my whisky derangement (having recently arrived at that state), and partly because Binny’s had released a few rather excellent (and well-priced) bourbon cask Laphroaigs and the odds seemed good that this would be another one. Having waited for it for more than a year I then didn’t get around to opening it for more than another three years. I guess I wanted to stay in a state of permanent anticipation. Yes, this is fascinating biography. Continue reading

Black Bull 30

Black Bull 30

I don’t really know too much about the Black Bull blends. I know the brand is owned by Duncan Taylor and that this 30 yo was blended at origin in the 1970s and then matured for the full term in an ex-sherry cask. So while this has grain whisky in the mix the grain component is also 30 years old and has been marrying with the malt the whole while (and I believe it’s 50/50 grain and malt whisky). That’s all pretty unusual for blends which are usually heavier on the grain and generally blended after the component casks have matured and then married for only a few months before bottling. As to what the sources of the components are, I have no idea. But I’m sure somebody more knowledgeable than me will be along shortly to fill in the details. I think this was released in the late 2000s and that it’s no longer part of the range (makes sense as one would imagine it would be hard to replicate).

I split this, and some other bottles, with friends some months ago. One of those people, Jordan Deveraux of Chemistry of the Cocktail coincidentally posted his own review a few days ago. I have studiously avoided looking at it and will do so only after this review has posted. [And here it is.] Continue reading

Glendronach 33, Three Generations (Duncan Taylor)

Glendronach Three Generations
With a name like “Three Generations” this whisky doubtless has some complicated story behind it. However, I’m too tired to track it down. I’m not even sure if it is a single cask. I know it is comprised of whisky distilled in 1975 and is, unusually for Glendronach, not from sherry casks. This sells in the vicinity of $300 in the US (where still available) but it was recently discounted heavily in the state of Oregon and this discounted price was split further between me, Jordan D. (of Chemistry of the Cocktail), Michael K. (of Diving for Pearls) and Florin (master of the oyster dance). Let’s get right to it.

Glendronach 33, 1975, Three Generations (51.4%; from a bottle split with friends)

Nose: Honey, malt and toasted oak–spicy and creamy with a nice hit of vanilla. Below that there’s a bit of prickly, peppery citrus (somewhere between lemon and orange). With time/air the fruit takes a slightly tropical turn with some (tinned) pineapple and papaya making their way into the mix. With more time the fruit gets muskier and takes over. With a lot more time there’s a fair bit of tart mango on the nose. With a drop of water the fruit is joined by more malt and wood. Continue reading

Rosebank 13, 1990 (Whisky Galore)

RosebankMy third Rosebank and my first from a sherry cask. There are some who say that Rosebank’s distinctive quaIities are best appreciated in bourbon cask matured malt, but I’ve obviously not had enough from the distillery to have any opinion on this front. This is from Duncan Taylor’s defunct Whisky Galore line.

Rosebank 13, 1990-2003 (46%; Whisky Galore, sherry cask; from a sample received in a swap)

Nose: Obviously sherried but not overbearingly so. Raisins, some honey, mild citrus. With time there’s an increased maltiness and a leafy quality. The citrus becomes a little stronger–somewhere between orange and lemon. Water takes it closer to lemon.

Palate: Hmmmm a little blank and flat on the palate. There are some sherried notes but this feels far more watered down than a whisky at 46% should. With time a little bit of lime maybe. Hmmm the palate seems to wake up a bit with some air–some indistinct sherried notes but a little more spark now. Dare I add water? Well, why the hell not. Water brings out some sweetness (simple syrup) and brightens it up a little. Odd how a few drops of water make it taste less watered down.

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Bunnahabhain 12, 1997 (Duncan Taylor)

bunna12nc2Been a while since my last Bunnahabhain review. Here’s another peated expression from an independent, this time Duncan Taylor in their NC2 range (the name refers to the fact that the whiskies are neither artificially coloured nor chill-filtered) which replaced their old Whisky Galore range of affordable malts. Let’s get right to it:

Bunnahabhain 12, 1997 (46%; Duncan Taylor NC2, peated; from a sample received in a swap)

Nose: Brine and farmy peat (something organic rotting in wet undergrowth). Dry smoke, not phenolic at all. With more time some darker sweetness emerges (some kind of fruit–having trouble figuring out what). With more time it gets more citrussy–lime peel (not a whole lot though); and the smoke is leafier now. With a few drops of water the dry/leafy smoke recedes a bit and there’s more citrussy sweetness. A minute later there are some toffee-like notes.
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Caperdonich 38, 1968 (Duncan Taylor)

Caperdonich 38, 1968

Another old Caperdonich, and another from Duncan Taylor, whose holdings in Caperdonichs from the late 1960s and early 1970s seemed until recently to rival Douglas Laing’s holdings in Port Ellen. How it is that certain independent bottlers seem to have disproportionate numbers of casks from certain distilleries I’m not sure. There were a number of these old Caperdonichs from Duncan Taylor available in the US until recently, and most at very reasonable prices. I got my first bottle of this 38 yo from 1968 a few years ago for a ridiculously low price especially given its age and quality (lower, for example, than Glenmorangie’s NAS Signet) and, against all odds, managed to find another bottle last year for about the same price. This would be unheard of in Europe. We may not get very much here in the US, but we do seem to have the luxury of bottles hanging around much longer.
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Ben Nevis 9, 1996 (Whisky Galore)

Ben Nevis
Ben Nevis
, located in the Highlands, is another distillery of no great reputation. On the one hand, in such cases this means you can often find independent bottlings at very good prices; on the other, it means that you take a greater chance with each bottle, as no one is clamouring to review every Ben Nevis or Glen Moray or Linkwood or Dufftown etc. etc. that comes on the market. The bottle I am tasting today is another from Duncan Taylor’s now defunct Whisky Galore line, and was selected by The Party Source in Kentucky. I bought it on a whim and didn’t open it for almost two years because I was convinced it wouldn’t be good and I’d regret the purchase–even though it was quite reasonably priced. I finally opened it and, predictably, loved it; went back for more, only to find it was all gone. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.

By the time I opened this bottle, the whisky had sat in it almost as long as it had matured in the cask.
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Longmorn 16, 1987 (Whisky Galore)

wglongmornLongmorn is a Speyside distillery most of whose output goes into Pernod Ricard’s blends. At least I assume it does as so litle is released as single malts by the distillery: there is an official 16 year old bottling (which replaced an earlier 15 yo) but that’s pretty much it. Most whisky geeks are puzzled by the owners’ seeming lack of interest in Longmorn as a single malt producer as its whisky–widely available as single malts from independent bottlers–is of uniformly high quality. Its principal quality is its soft mellow mouthfeel and a wonderful fruitiness, which manifests itself as bright summery fruit when young (especially when coming out of bourbon casks) and can exhibit wonderful and deep tropical and fermented notes once it gets to the 30 yo mark (and comes out of refill sherry casks).

The Longmorn I am tasting tonight was released by Duncan Taylor in 2003 as part of their now-defunct Whisky Galore line. Whisky Galore bottlings were generally affordable, and the few I have tried have all been quite good. This line has since been replaced by the NC2 line. The label does not specify but this is quite clearly from a bourbon cask, and given the lack of pronounced vanilla notes probably a refill cask.

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Two Caperdonichs from 1972

fruit-cocktailThe whiskies I am tasting tonight are from a closed distillery that has become something of a cult phenomenon in recent years: Caperdonich. As is not unusual among closed distilleries, the cult has been somewhat late to form. Caperdonich was never a storied distillery in its heyday of production, coming into being as Glen Grant 2, and then being closed for most of the 20th century until it was rebuilt in 1965 and renamed Caperdonich (due to a law prohibiting two distilleries from having the same name; this is also why the old Clynelish distillery became Brora in the late 1960s). It was never intended to be a frontline single malt, and most of its production went into blends until it was closed in 2002 (this is not unlike the situation with perhaps the most iconic of all closed distilleries, Port Ellen, which was a workhorse distillery until it closed in 1983). While some old-school independent bottlers–Cadenhead’s and Gordon & Macphail–released the odd single malt bottling over its active life (I have not tasted any of these) it wasn’t until the early 2000s–ironically, right after the distillery was closed–that it gained a wider reputation. This was due largely (entirely?) to the release of a number of bottlings of very old casks from the late 196os and early 1970s by a number of independent bottlers, especially Duncan Taylor. Continue reading