Having started the month with a review of a peated whisky from the eastern Highlands of Scotland (this Ardmore), it seems only right to head on over to what remains the bastion of peated whisky in Scotland: Islay. This is the first of a few review of peated Islay whiskies this month. We begin right off the ferry at Caol Ila. This is one of several young Caol Ilas distilled in the mid-2000s that Gordon & MacPhail have released in the past few years. Many are vattings of multiple casks, as is this one—a vatting of four first-fill sherry casks. This is actually a whisky I have reviewed before (just over a year ago). That first review was of a 2 oz sample from a bottle split. I liked that one quite a bit but it was fairly hot. The bottle is at 60.2% and the samples were probably poured from a fresh crack. As I noted in the first review, at the time of acquiring that sample I’d forgotten that I already owned a bottle. I decided to open it late last month as I was running low on high-octane peated whisky in my small lineup of open bottles and the first couple of pours confirmed the original review. A week and a half and a few pours later I am interested to see how it may have developed with a bit of air in the bottle. Continue reading
I don’t have much experience with Convalmore, a Speyside distillery that closed in 1985, just one year after this whisky was distilled. During its active period it produced exclusively for blends—as did and do most Scotch distilleries. The ownership situation of the brand is a bit confusing. My understanding is that when it was mothballed in 1985 the premises were sold to William Grant & Sons (owners of Glenfiddich and Balvenie) and used by them primarily for warehousing. The brand, however, is owned by Diageo—because the active distillery was part of the portfolio of Diageo’s precursor?—as is the remaining stock. If I am wrong about any of this—likely—or if you can confirm any of it, please do write in below. At any rate, very little Convalmore has ever been released as a single malt—Whiskybase lists only about 100 unique releases over the years. The most famous of these are a couple of Diageo special releases. Predictably G&M and Cadenhead have bottled far more. This cask was bottled by G&M for the American market in 2006. I purchased it from Binny’s in 2013—which should give you a sense of how relatively recent the boom in single malt purchasing insanity is. Anyway, I’d forgotten I had this bottle. Looking forward to finally tasting it. Continue reading
Glenlossie is the very definition of a workhorse distillery producing malt for Diageo’s blends; and in their case I don’t believe there even is a mainline blend they are closely associated with. There is no official release of their whisky as single malt, save for the occasional Flora & Fauna bottle (I am still fuzzy on the currency of that series). I have had very little Glenlossie in my time and have reviewed even less; only two others, in fact (this 10 yo and this 22 yo). Which means that this is without a doubt the oldest Glenlossie I’ve ever had (though in a few weeks it may not hold this title anymore). I said rude things about Auchentoshan last week—noting that it was one of the distilleries that seemed to give the lie to my belief that every distillery is capable of producing excellent casks—and it must be said that the few Glenlossies I’ve had have not inspired much confidence in that direction either. Will this much older iteration, distilled in the 1970s, confirm my optimism? I hope so. Continue reading
After a month of reviews of un-sherried whiskies—well, the Glen Scotia 14 probably had some sherry casks in the mix—let’s end with one from refill sherry casks. This is a 10 yo Caol Ila released in Gordon & MacPhail’s Connoisseurs Choice series at some point after the casks in that series started being bottled at 46% with new packaging. I think this was released in the mid-2010s, which would, I think, have been not too long after the revamping of the line. I almost always enjoy Caol Ila from sherry casks—and have a very good memory of this earlier G&M 10 yo from refill sherry casks (though that was in their old Cask Strength line). And I quite liked as well this G&M 10 yo from 2006 (also cask strength but in the new livery for their Cask Strength line). That latter one was from first-fill casks though. Well, as long as it’s better than the last sherried Caol Ila I reviewed—this sherry finished 7 yo that was an exclusive for K&L—I’ll be happy. Let’s see if that proves to be the case. Continue reading
I first promised a review of this Linkwood a long time ago, I think. Here it is now. I took these notes right after returning from India in February but unaccountably forgot to take my usual ratty photograph of the sample bottle. And so I’ve posted alongside a picture of a bottle lifted from Whiskybase. Against my usual rules, I know, but there are no rules during a pandemic.
This was bottled by Gordon & MacPhail for the Soho Whisky Club. It was well-received right off the bat but got even more attention when Jim Murray randomly awarded it 97.5 points in the 2015 Whisky Bible. It nonetheless remained available for a while but was gone by the time I got to London in 2016. I’ve been curious about it for a while and so when the opportunity came to taste it via a bottle split I jumped at it. Here now are those notes. Continue reading
This review comes to you despite the sordid machinations of Michael Kravitz. You see, many years ago, Florin (the original Fresh Prince of Bel Air) asked him to pass a sample on to me when we met for lunch in Los Angeles but what did Michael Kravitz do? Yes, he stole it. Now this will not surprise most of you who have been aware of the content of his character for a while now but it surprised and—I’m not unwilling to say it—shocked me when I found out about it. For I am by nature a trusting person who likes to believe in the best everyone can be. And even though Michael Kravitz looks a shifty type, I have never believed in judging a book by its cover. But now that I have read the dossier that a number of you have compiled of his various malfeasances over the years, I am forced to look the ugly truth in the eye. But enough negativity! Michael Kravitz stole my sample and gave it a bad review; but Florin sent me another anyway and I am here to set the record straight. Continue reading
Let’s do another young sherried Caol Ila to start the month and let’s hope I like it better than the other one I reviewed a few months ago. In fact, I really hope I do as I have a full bottle of this on my shelf—I had forgotten that when I acquired this sample. Like that one this is a vatting of four first-fill sherry casks. Will this show more sherry influence than that one did? Let’s see.
Caol Ila 10, 2006 (60.2%; Gordon & MacPhail; first fill sherry casks 306183+4, 306186+7; from a bottle split)
Nose: Slightly rubbery right off the bat and then there’s a fair bit of salt and phenolic peat below it. This is first-fill sherry? The rubber expands on the second sniff. After a bit the rubber begins to subside and sweeter coastal notes begin to develop (kelp, oysters); quite medicinal now (dettol). Water pushes the rubber back almost all the way and pulls out a lot of lemon to go with the salt and the coastal notes (which now include kippers). Another splash and now the rubber is gone and the lemon, salt, disinfectant and oysters have free rein. Continue reading
I said I’d close out the month without a mini-theme but I am a liar. Here’s another sherried whisky, albeit twice the age of yesterday’s Mortlach and made from far more heavily peated malt (I’m not sure what Mortlach’s peating levels are). I first tried this at a tasting up in St. Paul last November. That tasting featured a number of very impressive whiskies. I’ve reviewed some of those: the excellent Archives Ben Nevis 27, 1990; the “Speyside Region” 43 from the Whisky Agency; and another excellent old Caol Ila, a 34 yo distilled in 1982 and bottled by Cadenhead. I really liked that Cadenhead’s cask and at the tasting we had some difficulty deciding on which we liked better. As I recall, this one was smokier and heavier. By the way, though when I filled the label I put it down as a 34 yo, this is in fact a 33 yo. I am intrigued to see what I will make of it almost nine months later. I rather expect I will like it quite a bit more than the last sherried Caol Ila from G&M I reviewed. Continue reading
Over the last decade and more Gordon & MacPhail have bottled a number of multi-cask vattings of 10-11 yo Caol Ila, many of them from sherry casks. Most have been well-received. I’ve liked most of the few I’ve had (see, example, this 10 yo, 1996), though there also have been some duds (see this 11 yo, 2000). I think this one, bottled in 2016, before Gordon & MacPhail’s livery changed, may be the first I’ve had from a vatting of four casks. I always wonder when something like this is released if one or two casks in the vatting might not have needed salvaging. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind you: a cask that might not be very interesting on its own can still work very well in a vatting, accentuating positive notes or even helping damp down some overbearing ones (anyone who has done a lot of home vatting knows this). The odd thing here is that these are said to have all been first-fill sherry butts but this is a rather light-coloured whisky. All American oak butts that held fino or manzanilla? Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
I said I’d have a brace of Ardmores this week but let’s make it three in a row. This one is the most useless review of the lot, being an independent release that came out well before yesterday’s Traditional and Friday’s Archives 20 yo. I don’t think I’d even heard of the distillery when this was released. Like the Archives this is from a bourbon cask, though it’s a fair bit younger. My sample came to me from Ardmore-enthusiast, Michael Kravitz (his review is here).
I don’t have any Ardmore patter left after the last two reviews and so let’s get right to it.
Ardmore 13, 1990 (58.6%; Gordon & MacPhail; refill bourbon hogshead 12275; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Creamy at first whiff but then there’s white pepper, prickly peat (not phenolic) and mothballs. Very nice indeed. A drop of water brings out more of the mothballs. Continue reading
Yesterday I had a report on my visit to Highland Park in June. Today I have a review of a Highland Park whisky of a kind you won’t hear too much about on a tour at Highland Park: one from an ex-bourbon cask. At the distillery they are very focused on official Highland Park’s sherry-based identity, though they will concede when asked that bourbon cask Highland Park is used to make some of their special editions. It’s a pity that they don’t embrace those casks and that profile more fully as, in my (unoriginal) opinion, bourbon cask Highland Parks can be one of the great and unusual pleasures of the world of single malt Scotch whisky. It is where you get to experience peat most fully in Highland Park, and it’s quite a unique flavour of peat, derived as it is from local heather, and quite different from the phenol-soaked variants of Islay or Jura or even the smoke of Springbank or some distilleries in the highlands. I’ve had some very good ones and I’m happy to say that this one is not a disappointment. Continue reading
I am back in Minnesota. Our two weeks in Scotland were great, as were the 10 days that followed in London. I’ll have a number of reports on distilleries (and food) soon. But first, let me wind up my month of reviews of malts from Speyside and Highland distilleries. I’m sorry to say that few of the Speyside whiskies I reviewed in this series this month turned out to be appropriate for my commemorative purpose. Other than a Dailuaine and a Longmorn, it’s been a steady stream of mediocrity. Accordingly, I am going to end the series with a heavy hitter, the oldest single malt I’ve yet reviewed: a 46 yo Longmorn distilled in 1964 and bottled in 2011 as part of Gordon & MacPhail’s now legendary quintet of very old sherry cask Longmorns for van Wees in the Netherlands. The 1969 in this series is the best whisky I’ve ever had and the 1972 and 1968 were no slouches either. Only the 1966 showed some signs of extreme age. Will this one—two years older still—be even more over-oaked? Let’s see. Continue reading
Jim Murray has apparently deemed a Glendullan to be the best something or the other. This is not that Glendullan. This is also not the Singleton of Glendullan, the 12 yo from that distillery that used to be the most ubiquitous, or more accurately, the only ubiquitous Glendullan in the US. No, this is a single cask bottled by Gordon & MacPhail for Binny’s in 2012 or thereabouts. In other words, this is an extremely untimely review: I doubt anyone at Binny’s or Gordon & MacPhail even remembers this whisky. But that’s what I’m here for: to make sure we never forget these one-off releases from Scotland’s third and fourth tier distilleries, to resist the relentless pressure of the now. Or maybe I just randomly review whatever’s at hand. Can you tell that I have nothing to say about this distillery, which mostly produces for Diageo’s blends? I’ve only ever reviewed one other—a Cadenhead’s release from a couple of years ago that was nice enough. Let’s see what this one is like. Continue reading
Okay, after a bunch of still available—if not always easily purchased—whiskies in recent weeks let’s get back to being useless. I have two very old whiskies tonight. The first is the oldest I’ve ever had—not in terms of age, but in terms of when it was distilled. This is a Gordon & MacPhail release of a Glenlivet distilled in 1940. I confess I do not have any idea when it was actually bottled or how old it is (and Whiskybase doesn’t have details either—it’s this one). Regardless, it was very cool to drink a whisky distilled before my parents were born. The other was distilled a couple of years before I was born and it’s from a distillery that is no longer in operation: it’s a 36 yo Glenury Royal from 1968. I don’t believe I’ve had any other Glenury Royals. I actually took these notes in March, before leaving for London—I just forgot that I’d done so and so am only getting around to posting them now. As they were taken from 20 ml samples I’ve not assigned scores to them. Continue reading
Okay, here’s a geographically appropriate review for a change from my ongoing visit to Scotland. I previously posted reviews of a Speysider on the day we left for Glasgow, an Old Pulteney while leaving Drumnadrochit for Skye, and a Highland Park while leaving Skye for Islay. We’re still on Islay and this is a Caol Ila.
I’m not sure if I will make it to Caol Ila on this trip though I would like to at least see the outside of the distillery. I’d thought this would happen as our ferry arrived in Port Askaig from Kennacraig on Monday evening but apparently views of the distillery are only available from the ferry from/to Colonsay. Nonetheless, here’s a Caol Ila. This was bottled by Gordon & MacPhail for the Whisky Exchange and I purchased a bottle on one of my visits to their Covent Garden store. I drank it down before leaving London—the notes below were taken well before this preamble was written. Continue reading
This is the oldest Clynelish I’ve yet had and the second from a sherry cask. I quite liked that SMWSA 29 yo from a refill sherry butt, but not as much as the Single Malts of Scotland 28 yo from a bourbon cask I’d reviewed last year. This is not because of the sherry influence per se. In fact, the sherry influence in the SMWSA 29 yo was quite muted—what held that one back was a lack of complexity, on the whole. This one is also from a refill cask but it is a hogshead and so there’s a good chance that the prized Clynelish characteristics of honey and wax might get drowned out by stronger notes of sherry and oak (from the smaller cask). That didn’t happen with the excellent Manager’s Dram release, but at 17 years old that was less than half the age of this one. But if it’s good, I don’t really care too much one way or the other. And given its antecedents there is a pretty good chance this will be good. It was bottled by Gordon & MacPhail for the reputed French store, La Maison du Whisky. Continue reading
Yet another sherried Ledaig. Unlike all the others I’ve reviewed of late this one is from refill sherry and it’s from a hogshead not a butt. So there’s the prospect of both greater oak influence (from the smaller cask size) and lesser sherry influence. This is a Gordon & MacPhail exclusive for Binny’s and is the penultimate whisky from the eight bottle split I coordinated back in late-February.
I remember somebody making a cryptic comment earlier this month (I can’t remember on which post) about this being “different”. In Minnesota to call something “different” is not a good thing, but I don’t know if the person who made that comment is Minnesotan. Anyway, let’s find out if it’s Minnesotan different or just regular different or if, indeed, I don’t find it particularly different in any sense. Continue reading
Here is another teenaged, sherried Ledaig. This was distilled a year before Wednesday’s 17 yo, 1998 from Cooper’s choice and is a year younger. And where that one was from a sherry butt (fill type unspecified), this was matured by Gordon & MacPhail in a refill sherry hogshead (and bottled for The Whisky Exchange). I opened my bottle a couple of months ago and it was quite rough to start. I’ve been drinking it down slowly and while it has mellowed a bit it’s still pretty aggressive on the peat front. Time now to finally record my notes (this is from the last quarter of the bottle).
Ledaig 16, 1997 (56.8%; Gordon & MacPhail for TWE; refill sherry hogshead #465; from my own bottle)