Craigellachie 20, 1995 (Malts of Scotland)

Craigellachie 20, 1995, Malts of Scotland
The last sample of a sherried 20 yo from Malts of Scotland that I reviewed—this Mortlach—made me rue that I had not gotten around to tasting it while the bottle was still around. Will that be true of this Craigellachie as well? It’s odd to say that I hope so, but I don’t want to be rooting for a bad review either!

Craigellachie, like Mortlach, used to be pretty obscure until their owners decided to take them mainstream with a line of official releases. Because it is owned by Bacardi and not Diageo the prices for this line are not obscene. At least the 13 yo and and the 17 yo are reasonably priced—the 23 yo is pretty expensive (though still about half the price of the Mortlach 25 yo). Indie Craigellachie is a far more reasonable affair and single sherry casks more fully demonstrate the meaty character of the distillate (which it also has in common with Mortlach). Well, let’s see what this is like.  Continue reading

Mortlach 20, 1994 (Malts of Scotland)

Mortlach 20, 1994, Malts of Scotland
Here is an indie release from the Diageo distillery, Mortlach. Unlike Linkwood, Mortlach was promoted from obscurity to the frontline a few years ago when Diageo decided to put out a number of overpriced releases. (This was also the occasion for my whiffing badly in public as I’d anticipated that those releases would be priced very differently.) I’m not sure how those releases have worked out for Diageo. Whisky geeks have not been overly enthused about them but they may well be selling well to regular punters—if you have good information on this please chime in below. I’m also not sure how much Mortlach has been available since then to the independents; before then, of course, Mortlach was available almost entirely from the independents—the Flora & Fauna 16 yo being the only regular official release. Anyway, this was released last year by Malts of Scotland and looks to be very richly sherried.  Continue reading

Springbank 1998-2015 (Malts of Scotland)

Springbank 1998-2015, Malts of Scotland
The last few Springbanks I’ve reviewed have been matured in a rum cask, double matured in bourbon and madeira casks, and double matured in bourbon and Calvados casks. Here now is one that has been matured in a single sherry hogshead. There’s a strong possibility of this being a sherry bomb—not only is it from a sherry cask but it’s from a cask about half the size of the usual sherry butt. The colour of the whisky, however, suggests that the sherry influence is muted. Let’s see if this turns out to be true on the nose and palate as well. I do expect it will be quite good though. This is not just because it was bottled by Malts of Scotland, who have a pretty good track record: in general, I can’t remember the last time I was disappointed by a Springbank from a sherry or bourbon cask—or indeed by any Springbank product that hadn’t seen the inside of a burgundy cask (see the sulphurous Longrow 14, Burgundy wood).  Let’s get to it.  Continue reading

Paul John 2009-2015, Peated (Malts of Scotland)

Paul John 2009-2015, Peated, Malts of Scotland
Here is the second Malts of Scotland Paul John cask. I was very pleasantly surprised by the unpeated cask I reviewed on Monday. That one was distilled in 2011 and I wondered if that marked an improvement in production processes at the distillery. Well, this one was distilled in 2009; if it too is better than its official peated sibling (see here) that hypothesis will be discounted. If you read that earlier review you’ll remember that while I liked it fine I thought the peat there merely covered up the flaws of the unpeated official Select Cask; in particular, masking the strong notes of raw wood present in the Select Cask. What will be the story here with (presumably) a couple more years of maturation? Keep in mind that a couple more years in India is not the same as a couple of years in Scotland or Japan in terms of evaporation etc. By the way, if anyone knows what the source of Paul John’s peated barley is, please let me know. I assume it comes from Scotland but some verification would be nice.  Continue reading

Paul John 2011-2015 (Malts of Scotland)

Paul John 2011-2015, Malts of Scotland
Paul John, as you may know, is the new(ish) Indian single malt distillery (there’s one even newer actually but let’s leave that for another time). I reviewed two of their official releases in early May—one an ongoing distillery release (the Select Cask Classic) and one an official bottling for Bresser & Timmer, the Dutch bottlers (the peated Cask 739). I was not overly impressed by either of those. Both were drinkable enough but the Select Cask had a little too much raw wood and the peated single cask masked those flaws with smoke but didn’t do much else. Neither suggested to me that Amrut were in danger of being trumped by their countrymen. As such I was not in a big hurry to taste the two independent releases I had also purchased samples of. Both of these were released by the German bottlers, Malts of Scotland: both are bourbon matured; this one, like the Select Cask, is unpeated; the other (which will be reviewed on Wednesday) is peated. I don’t have my hopes too high: let’s see how it goes.  Continue reading

Cragganmore 15, 1999 (Malts of Scotland)

Cragganmore 15, 1999, Malts of Scotland
I’ve not had very many Cragganmores and have reviewed even less. This is largely because this is not a malt you see very often from the independents, especially not of late: Signatory released a handful each year through the 2000s but Whiskybase doesn’t list any from them for the last few years. This one was bottled by the well-regarded German outfit, Malts of Scotland, and is only the second of two Cragganmores they’ve put out so far. In fact, they’re so unused to putting out Cragganmores that they misspelled the distillery’s name on the label (Craggenmore). I guess this might make this a collector’s item for idiots some day.

I just realized that not only have I not reviewed the ubiquitous Cragganmore 12, I’ve not even tasted it in more than five years. And I can’t remember if I’ve even ever had the Distiller’s Edition. I should try to address that. Anyway, let’s see what this one is like.  Continue reading

Springbank 1998-2014, Rum Cask (Malts of Scotland)

Springbank 16, 1997, Rum Cask, Malts of Scotland
After Monday’s rum cask finished bourbon (a Heaven Hill 14, 2001), which was more than a little reminiscent of a single malt, it was hard not to reach immediately for the one rum cask single malt I had easily at hand. Springbank has released a few official rum casks before but I haven’t seen too many around of late. This one is also from the German indie, Malts of Scotland but, unlike their Heaven Hill, appears to be matured full-term in a rum cask. Or at least, so I think. Let’s get right to it.

Springbank 1998-2014, Rum Cask (49.8%; Malts of Scotland cask 14037; from a purchased sample)

Nose: A slightly sweeter version of the regulation ex-bourbon Springbank profile. Which is to say that the usual machine oil, sackcloth, leather and salt/brine are all there but there’s an extra layer of simple syrup over it all. Gets pretty salty pretty fast; some preserved lemon as well. With water it’s less sweet and also less salty.  Continue reading

Heaven Hill 14, 2001, Caribbean Cask Finish (Malts of Scotland)

Heaven Hill, Caribbean Cask
I can’t say I’d ever wondered what bourbon finished in a rum cask would be like; but when a store I was purchasing samples from substituted this for something else I’d wanted that they were out of, I discovered that I quite wanted to find out. Rum finishes in the single malt world have never quite convinced me—the Balvenie 14 Caribbean Cask is the only one I can remember liking a fair bit. But Balvenie’s malt is a mild one and it’s not hard to see an overlap with a sweet and caramelly rum profile. Bourbon, on the other hand, is altogether more robust and I’m curious to see what impression, if any, the rum finish has been able to make on this one.

The bourbon in question was distilled by Heaven Hill and it was bottled by Malts of Scotland—this was bottled this year, so not in the same lot of releases that included the port finish I reviewed earlier this year as well as a sherry finish. I still have no idea whether these were all Heaven Hill experiments that Malts of Scotland ended up with and released as is, or if the finishing was done not at the distillery but in Germany. If you know more about this please write in below.   Continue reading

Inchgower 33, 1980 (Malts of Scotland)

Inchgower 33, 1980, Malts of Scotland
I have a poor record with Inchgower, liking only one of the three I’ve reviewed for the blog. All were from bourbon hogsheads, however, and this one is from a sherry hogshead. Maybe that’ll be the difference—the classic distillery profile is supposedly sherried. Age/era certainly won’t be: the one I liked the least was close to this in age and distilled only two years later. This was bottled by Malts of Scotland for the 10th anniversary of the French site, which was, as it happens, the very first whisky website I consulted when I began to become deranged about whisky about a decade ago. I hadn’t looked at the site in a long time before tonight and I’m very pleased to see that it looks just the same now as it did in 2004/2005 (i.e: like it was designed in 1994/1995). What I always appreciated about the site was the number of notes taken on the same whisky over a period of time. A much better model than my own.  Continue reading

Heaven Hill 2001-2015, Port Cask Finish (Malts of Scotland)

Heaven Hill, Port Finish
As to why a bottler named Malts of Scotland is releasing wine cask finished bourbons of America, I don’t know. They’ve also released a Heaven Hill 2001 from a sherry hogshead and a regulation Heaven Hill single barrel from 2005. All three were bottled this year. Other things I don’t know include: whether this means Malts of Scotland are getting into bourbon in a big way; if these are experiments conducted by Heaven Hill themselves that they got their hands on or if they took the bourbon and finished it in their own casks; why Minnesotans don’t know what to do at four-way stop signs. If you have the answers please don’t be shy. Anyway, I quite enjoyed the last port-bothered bourbon I drank. That was High West’s “A Midwinter Night’s Dram“, and I liked it so much I went out and purchased an expensive bottle. If this is as good I may have to look into whether it’s still available (it was only released in the EU, as you might expect).  Continue reading

Glenrothes 30, 1982 (Malts of Scotland)

Glenrothes 30, 1982, Malts of Scotland
Official Glenrothes, as I’ve noted before and as you probably already know, is almost always a vatting of spirit from sherry and bourbon casks. There are some exceptions (see the Robur and Alba Reserves, for example) but by and large this is true. And a lot of the independent releases that have appeared over the years, in the US at least, have been from sherry casks. As a result when people think of Glenrothes it is an at least somewhat sherried profile they have in mind. Drinking bourbon cask Glenrothes—when you can find it—feels like drinking the product of another distillery entirely. (Yes, this is a stealth build-up to my post on distillery character which will be going up very soon.) It’s always interesting to try such variations, and in this case this is also the oldest Glenrothes I’ve had—five years older than the not very good Wilson & Morgan cask I reviewed a couple of months ago and also the pretty good Archives release that I reviewed in 2014. Let’s see what it’s like.  Continue reading

Glengoyne 14, 2000 (Malts of Scotland)

Glengoyne 14, 2000, Malts of Scotland
I’ve not had very much Glengoyne. To a large degree this is because there isn’t much Glengoyne available from independent bottlers. Whiskybase lists only 125 independent releases over the years. This in itself is not so odd—there are a number of distilleries whose malts rarely show up from indies, and it’s not just the obscure ones pumping out malt for blends (when was the last time you saw an indie Oban?). Some do save what they don’t put out as single malt for their house/group blends (Talisker, for example), and some only put out single malt and so keep all/most of their product for themselves (Bruichladdich, for example). It’s the casks that move between blenders and brokers that are more likely to end up in the hands of the indies. What is unusual though is that none of the 125 indie releases of Glengoyne was/is from Gordon and MacPhail. And just as oddly, the indie that seems to have released the most Glengoyne is the relatively young Malts of Scotland—they have 30 releases, twice as many as the next highest, the Single Malt Whisky Society. What the explanation for these anomalies is, I don’t know. And you might say it’s not a very interesting matter either. In which case, you must be really resentful about having read all of this. Continue reading

Caol Ila 15, 2000 (Malts of Scotland for van Zuylen)

Caol Ila 15, 2000, Malts of Scotland
I am not generally a fan of whiskies finished in red wine casks. A lot of this is Glenmorangie and Murray McDavid/Bruichladdich’s fault, but when I see that a whisky has been finished in a red wine cask I assume the worst. That said, peated malts seem to survive such encounters the best and this here is a Caol Ila. Like Friday’s Ardbeg, this was bottled by Malts of Scotland for van Zuylen in their “Dunes An Oir” series (Gaelic for “dunes of gold”, I believe) and it was finished in a Banyuls cask. Banyuls is a sweet, fortified wine, and so, in theory, at least, it may end up closer to a sherry or madeira finish than to a regular red wine finish. I think this was matured for 15 years in a bourbon cask and probably only saw a very brief “finish” in the wine cask—I’m guess the original cask was bourbon both from the outturn and on the basis that it’s unlikely anyone would do a wine finish on top of sherry maturation. Anyway, this is a rusty red in the glass—let’s see what it’s like on the nose and palate. Continue reading

Ardbeg 17, 1998 (Malts of Scotland for van Zuylen)

Ardbeg 17, 1998, Malts of Scotland
Since I started the week with Ardbeg. I might as well end it with Ardbeg too. This is from a sherry cask and was also bottled by Malts of Scotland for van Zuylen’s Dunes An Oir series. Given how rare indie Ardbegs of any kind are, leave alone from sherry casks, and given how manic the market for Ardbeg usually is, you might expect this to have to sold out double-quick. But as of my writing this is still available. Have the distillery’s own annual shenanigans finally begun to puncture some of its mystique? Probably not, but one can hope. Still, you’d think whisky geeks tired of NAS Ardbeg with tall tales and funny names attached might be attracted anyway to a 17 yo at cask strength from a bespoke bottler. No, I’m not trying to give you the hard sell on behalf of the retailer; just trying to wrap my head around the vagaries of the whisky market.

Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading