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

Invergordon 39, 1973 (Malts of Scotland)

Invergordon 39, 1973, Malts of Scotland
Invergordon is a grain distillery, the only one, I believe, that’s not located in the Lowlands. It’s located quite far north, actually, up in the vicinity of Glenmorangie. The distillery’s other claim to distinction is that the short-lived Ben Wyvis malt distillery was built inside its grounds. It’s owned by Whyte & Mackay, producing largely, I assume, for their blends (and their production capacity is very high indeed). I’ve not had any of their whisky previously and, indeed, I have had very little single grain whisky from any distillery. So, I have very little frame of reference for this. This should make my opinion of this whisky that much more useful to you (probably a moot point anyway as I don’t think this is still available).

Invergordon 39, 1973 (42%; Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead 12063; from a purchased sample) Continue reading

Caperdonich 17, 1996 (Malts of Scotland for van Zuylen)

Caperdonich 17, 1996, Dunes An Oir
Caperdonich was shuttered in 2002 and demolished in 2010. It is about as dead as a distillery can be. There’s still a fair bit of its malt from the years before closure floating around though and I hope some of it is being allowed to mature to a far greater age. As most whisky geeks know, old Caperdonichs from the 1960s and 1970s can be some of the most delightful and complexly fruity whiskies of them all. While this doubtless has a lot to do with older production regimes and barley varieties and so on, it would be interesting to find out how similar or different whisky distilled there in in later decades might be if allowed to reach similarly ripe old ages.

That said, I’ve enjoyed a number of teenaged Caperdonichs from the 1990s (see this 18 yo, for example). If this one, bottled by Malts of Scotland for the Dutch retailer, van Zuylen, is as good as those I’ll be happy enough.  Continue reading

Teaninich 39, 1973 (Malts of Scotland)

Teaninich 39, 1973, Malts of Scotland
I began the week with a very old Tomintoul. Let’s close it out as well with a very old whisky, albeit not quite as old. Like Tomintoul, Teaninich is not a storied distillery, which explains why this one was also quite reasonably priced on release. Of course, since this was bottled by the boutique Malts of Scotland it cost almost as much at 39 years old as that 45 year old from the far less-heralded Chester Whisky. It’s not just the marketers at the corporations that own distilleries that indulge in premiumization, you see.

Teaninich is a Diageo distillery. It’s not seen much official output: a few releases in the Rare Malts series, one Manager’s Choice and Manager’s Dram outing each and one Flora & Fauna and that’s it (as per Whiskybase anyway). Most of its output apparently goes into Johnnie Walker, and given how thirsty that blend monster is, not a whole lot of it even appears from the indies. Well, let’s see what this one is like. Continue reading

Port Charlotte 11, 2001 (Malts of Scotland)

Port Charlotte 11, 2001, Malts of Scotland
I believe this is the oldest Port Charlotte I’ve yet tried—it was bottled in 2013, just short of its 12th birthday. I’ve liked most of the Port Charlottes I’ve had a fair bit (the PC 8 most of all), with the heavy peat masking more or less effectively—as it does in Octomore as well—the sour milk note I usually get from current era-Bruichladdich’s distillate. This one, a single cask from the German bottler, Malts of Scotland, is a sherry cask to boot, and a sherry hogshead at that. It will be interesting to see how the combination of sherry, heavy peat and a bit of age work with this spirit.

The age also makes me wonder what Bruichladdich’s plans for the Port Charlotte line are. The Port Charlotte 10 was released a couple of years ago: are they going to be releasing and older version of that as well? And is the cask strength PC series going to keep going?

Continue reading