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)
Let there be rejoicing in the land: Binny’s is shipping again! Not to every state but, fortunately for me, the list includes a neighbouring state with a border town about an hour away in which a friend works. Accordingly, I organized a group split of eight of their current handpicked single malt casks. (You can see which the others are in this month’s “Coming Soon…” post.) Here first is this Ardmore which is one of the casks I was most interested in. The reason for this is that there isn’t a whole lot of Ardmore about in the US—minimal official releases and very few indies—and even fewer are from single sherry casks. As such this was an unusual proposition, hard to resist (and the risk underwritten by the fact that Binny’s generally picks very good casks). Let’s see if this story of hope has a good ending.
I purchased this Gordon & MacPhail Strathisla 25 at the same time as this Glen Grant 21. Both used to be familiar sights in better American liquor stores some years ago. As with the Glen Grant, this was bottled by G&M at 40%. It’s quite striking that G&M continue to bottle older vatted whiskies at lower strengths; one would expect that the segment of the market that is willing to pay larger amounts of money for older whisky now wants and expects higher strengths and single casks (or at the very least vintage statements). Of course, they do release many in those formats too. I think I’ve mentioned before my theory that the older whiskies they release at the lower strengths and/or without vintage statements might be vattings intended to rescue casks that have fallen below 40% in their legendary warehouses. Well, even if that’s true, some of the resulting whiskies have been very fine indeed (see this Longmorn 40, for instance). Continue reading
This is the fourth of the five ancient Longmorns bottled by Gordon and MacPhail for van Wees in 2011. I’ve previously reviewed the 1972, the 1969 and the 1968. All were excellent, and the 1969, in particular, I thought was magical (I’ll probably review the 1964 next month). I have very little to add to what I’ve already said in my preambles to those reviews (and I really want to duck the question of the financial irresponsibility and likely decadence of buying such expensive whisky, even in the form of a four-way split) and so let’s get right to the notes.
Longmorn 44, 1966 (44.3%; Gordon & MacPhail for van Wees; first fill sherry cask 5063; from a bottle split with friends)
Gordon & MacPhail do a number of “licensed” releases under these old-style labels (I put “licensed” in quotes here because while I’ve seen a number of references over the years to these as licensed bottlings, I don’t really know what that means in this context). The distilleries that most often show up in this general livery in the US these days are Mortlach, Strathisla and Glen Grant. Actually, I don’t know if they still show up steadily or if the bottles I see from time to time are old stock, as G&M don’t put bottling or vintage dates on most of these bottles. They also don’t bottle them at a very high proof: many of them are at 43% or below—nor do I know if the colour is natural. This one is at 40%. I’ve been tempted by it for some time but when a local retailer marked it down late last year I was finally unable to talk myself out of taking a flyer on it. Well, I am glad to say that it did not disappoint.
This is the third oldest of the five ancient Longmorns bottled by Gordon & MacPhail in 2011 for van Wees in the Netherlands. I have previously reviewed the 1972 (outstanding) and the 1969 (which I gave the highest score I’ve yet handed out). While I purchased full bottles of the 1969 and 1972, the 1964, 1966 and this 1968 I only have 6 ounces each of, having split them with three fellow Minnesota whisky geeks (the 1972 was also originally part of this split—I purchased a bottle after tasting it). The prices of the remaining stock all but doubled shortly after this purchase and so this is all I have and all I will ever have; and as it’s highly unlikely that 1960s/early 1970s whisky of this quality will be available again any time soon for the prices we paid this is almost certainly the first and last time that I will get to taste such a stellar lineup of whiskies. Each pour is thus very special. For this reason I have avoided getting into my shares of the three that I do not have full bottles of in the wings, waiting for special occasions.
Well, I suppose Bob Dylan’s 74th birthday is as good a time as any.
In December I reviewed an ancient Longmorn bottled by Gordon & MacPhail for van Wees in the Netherlands. I gave that one, a 42 yo distilled in 1969, 95 points, my highest score yet. That one was from a series of single first fill sherry casks which also included one from 1964, one from 1966, one from 1968 and one from 1972—all bottled together in 2011.
Somehow these bottles have stuck around for almost four years. How this came to be I don’t quite understand, but as of now word seems to be fully out on them and the few stores that still have bottles have raised the prices dramatically. This increase has apparently come down from van Wees, who seem to be belatedly trying to make money on a series they had trouble selling out at the initial lower prices (that or they held some stock back in the hopes that they’d eventually be able to charge a lot more). Continue reading