Bowmore 11, 2001 (Maltbarn)

Hello, the blog is seven years old today. As per Sku, I have three more years before I have to shut it down. Though, truth be told, I’m having some trouble right now mustering enough enthusiasm to keep it going through the isolation/quarantine—and judging by readership numbers very few of you are currently enthusiastic enough to show up to read this shortly after it posts. But an anniversary is an anniversary.

My very first review was of a Bowmore—the lowly Bowmore Legend of years past—and since then I’ve marked every anniversary with a Bowmore review. What can i say? I’m notoriously sentimental. I am feeling particularly sentimental today as this is the fourth of five reviews of bottles I opened during my 50th birthday week that mark significant years of my life (see here, here and here). This Bowmore was distilled in 2001, the year I met my partner. We’re currently 19 years in but this is only an 11 yo. Continue reading


Caol Ila 19, 1995 (Maltbarn)

I’m having a tough time summoning the energy to write stupid preambles to these reviews that were written a couple of weeks ago. Here is all I could manage for this one: this is a 19 yo Caol Ila distilled in 1995 and bottled by Maltbarn. Accurate!

Caol Ila 19, 1995 (52.8%; Maltbarn; from my own bottle)

Nose: Lemon and phenolic peat with olive brine running through it. In other words, quintessential Caol Ila. On the second sniff there are sweeter notes of cereals and vanilla behind the smoke and just a hint of gasoline. With a few drops of water the vanilla turns to cream and expands

Palate: The peat is in the lead here and there’s more tar than was indicated by the nose. Very nice texture at full strength and very approachable. With time the lemon and olive brine expand here as well and there’s some smouldering leaves in there with the tarry smoke. Water brings the pepper out earlier and it’s sweeter/creamier here too now, though the smoke and lemon are still the top notes. Better balance on the whole now. Continue reading

Aultmore 21, 1997 (Maltbarn)

I’ve only reviewed three Aultmores prior to this one, all in 2017 (here, here and here). I’d love to say that 2020 will be the year when I get my Aultmore review count into the double digits but there’s not very much Aultmore out there to be reviewed—very little that’s available in the US at any rate. A pity, as I’ve liked all the (few) Aultmores I’ve tried, even if none have gotten me very excited. Will this—the oldest I’ve yet tried, from the reliable indie outfit, Maltbarn—be the one that gets me very excited? I certainly hope it won’t be the one that I don’t like at all. Let’s see.

Aultmore 21, 1997 (50.7%; Maltbarn; bourbon cask; from a bottle split)

Nose: Fruity ex-bourbon goodness with apple cider, pear and lemon. On the second sniff there’s some malt and a slightly grassy note along with a bit of candle wax and a touch of white pepper. The fruit gets muskier as it sits (pineapple). With a few drops of water there’s a sweet floral note to go with the pineapple. Continue reading

Port Charlotte 17, 2001 (Maltbarn)

Four reviews in a week—what is this? a spirits blog?

Here’s an indie Port Charlotte (the heavily peated whisky produced at Bruichladdich (but not as heavily peated as Octomore)). This is the oldest Port Charlotte I’ve reviewed and probably the oldest I’ve had. It was distilled in 2001, which may have been the year Port Charlotte started being distilled (please let me know derisively in the comments below if that’s wrong). I have reviewed another 2001 Port Charlotte; that was an 11 yo bottled by the German outfit, Malts of Scotland. I quite liked that one. This one is also bottled by a German outfit, in this case, Maltbarn; it was apparently their 105th selection—I had no idea they’d bottled that many; I think my first Maltbarn reviews were of some of their earliest releases (indeed, my first Maltbarn review was of their 8th release, an older Glenrothes). How the kids have grown up and so on. Continue reading

Bunnahabhain 28, 1987 (Maltbarn)

I reviewed a 28 yo Auchroisk earlier this week. Today’s whisky is the same age but we go south and west to Islay, to Bunnahabhain, and one year in the past, to 1987.

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a Bunnahabhain. Coincidentally, the last one I reviewed was also a 28 yo and also from a sherry cask. That was distilled in 1989 and was bottled last year by K&L in California under their Faultline label. I quite liked it. In theory, this 28 yo, distilled in 1987, should be better as it was bottled by an outfit with a much better reputation, the German independent, Maltbarn—no longer the upstart they once were. This was their 43rd release and I suspect only a bit of the cask was bottled for it. This because there were only 89 bottles in this release and two years later they put out 88 bottles of a 30 yo, 1987 at a very similar abv. In fact, I now wonder if the 121 bottles of the 26 yo, 1987 they’d put out in 2014 was the first release from this cask (similar abv again), and if there’s more being saved for another older release. I guess we’ll never know for sure, but I’ll keep an eye out for more 1987 Bunnahabhains from Maltbarn.  Continue reading

Glen Grant 20, 1992 (Maltbarn)

Back in February I’d posted a review of a Glen Grant 23, 1985 and said I’d have more Glen Grant reviews in the weeks to come. Because I am a shameless liar I only posted one more Glen Grant review in the roughly 20 weeks that came after that. But what is time? An illusion, a fog. Here we are now in mid-July and the weeks fall away like magic and we’re returned to that halcyon time when all three people who read this blog regularly were agog at the thought of successive weeks of reviews of Glen Grants that are no longer available and were only available in Europe to begin with. See, dreams can come true.

This was bottled by Maltbarn, a small German independent bottler. This was only their 12th release—I’m not sure what number they’re up to now. The label says “ex-sherry butt” but, as you’ll see, it’s not exactly a sherry monster. Continue reading

Ledaig 9, 2005 (Maltbarn)

Ledaig 9, 2005, Maltbarn
I’ve reviewed and praised a number of young, sherry cask Ledaigs (most recently this stunner from Signatory). Here now is a bourbon cask from the same vintage as most of those. This was bottled by the new’ish German outfit, Maltbarn. I guess it might have been more useful to review it while it was still available, but I’ve never really been a very useful person. Let’s get right to it.

Ledaig 9, 2005 (48.1%; Maltbarn; bourbon cask; from a purchased sample)

Nose: Rubbery peat at first but it takes a very quick, sweet turn: sort of a simple syrup sweetness sitting on top of the rubber and vegetal and floral notes. Altogether, somewhat mezcal’ish. With a bit of air there’s some vanilla and also some pepper. With more time the floral/rubbery notes recede and the vanilla is joined by some fruit (apple, lemon) and faint cereally notes. The citrus expands further as it sits. (The peat is present throughout.) As so often happens, the citrus gets muskier with water; more salt too now.  Continue reading

Inchgower 24, 1990 (Maltbarn)

Inchgower 24, 1990, Maltbarn
Here is another 24, yo from 1990 from another relatively obscure Speyside distillery in Diageo’s portfolio: Inchgower. Inchgower produces mostly for blends—as with other Diageo workhorses, a Flora & Fauna bottling may be the only regular official release (I’m not counting the special Rare Malts and Manager’s Choice/Dram releases). Johannes of Malt Madness says of Inchgower that “the malt whisky is of excellent quality – at least the stuff they used to distill around 1980”. I am hopeful that someday soon I’ll get to experience some of this. I’ve not had very many, all have been pretty old and none have excited me (see here for quick notes on the two I’ve reviewed for the blog).

This one is from 1990, so well past Johannes’ cut-off for excellence, but who knows, it might be special too. Like Wednesday’s Glen Garioch it’s also from Maltbarn and is also still available.  Continue reading

Glen Garioch 21, 1993 (Maltbarn)

Glen Garioch 21, 1993, Maltbarn
At least one person has asked me why I did not mention anything from Glen Garioch in the “austere whisky” category in my post on stocking a well-rounded single malt bar. After all, Glen Garioch rarely presents easy pleasures but has a strong reputation anyway. My answer was and is that I have not had much luck with recent official releases, and those are what are most easily available (especially the Founder’s Reserve and the 12 yo). Independent releases are a different matter and show the distillery in a better light, in my view. That said, it is true that the indies I’ve tried tend to be from earlier eras than the standard OBs—in fact, all three of the indies that I’ve reviewed were distilled in 1990 and were quite a bit older. This one is from 1993. 1994 is said to be when Glen Garioch stopped using peated malt and so it probably also does not have too much in common with contemporary official releases. But this is still around itself so you can see if my take sounds enticing enough for you to consider a bottle. Continue reading

Miltonduff 30, 1982 (Maltbarn)


And after yesterday’s 23 yo Miltonduff here is an even older one. This one is stated as being from a sherry cask. It was bottled by Maltbarn and I’m hoping it is better than their Glenrothes 1990 that I reviewed last week. With a 63 bottle outturn the cask was obviously split with someone else. Let’s get right to it.

Miltondfuff 30, 1982 (49.5%; Maltbarn; sherry cask; from a purchased sample)

Nose: Not much evidence of sherry, at first anyway. Instead there’s some musky fruit with hints of gasoline and some creamy vanilla. No real development. And not with water either.

Palate: Very much as on the nose except sans the gasoline, and with some minerally notes in its place. That musky lime is more fresh and effervescent here. Gets a little more bitter (lime zest) on the second sip and there’s also some sweetness on the tail. Not much change after that. Let’s add some water. No, that doesn’t do much good–more than a little soapiness emerges. Maybe a hint of tropical fruit at the very end. Continue reading

Glenrothes 22, 1990 (Maltbarn)

Glenrothes may have the most distinctive bottles of any distillery but, alas, don’t always put very distinctive liquid inside them. I’ve not had any official releases that I found to be very bad (well, maybe the Select Reserve); but by the same token I’ve not had many that were far above average either, and only one that I thought was very, very good (the 1985-2005). The distillery seems to be aiming at the high-end blend drinker who occasionally drinks single malts–and while there’s nothing wrong with that approach whatsoever, given the number of interesting malts out there it does tend to not make me very apt to keep track of what’s new from them.

I’m interested, therefore, to see what this single cask from a relatively new bottler, Maltbarn, is like. Maltbarn has garnered a pretty strong reputation in a short while and this should at least be interesting. Continue reading