Here’s the next whisky from the set of bottle splits I got in on of Hunter Laing’s releases to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Old Malt Cask label. I very much liked yesterday’s Arran 21, 1997, and all signs point to a strong likelihood that I will like this one a lot as well. Laphroaig is my favourite distillery and I have noted on many an occasion that my general feeling is that the sweet spot of Laphroaig is in ex-bourbon casks aged for 10-15 years. Let’s see if that holds up.
Laphroaig 12, 2006 (50%; Old Malt Cask 20th Anniv. Release; cask 17094; from a bottle split)
Nose: A big wave of peat and smoke with mezcal’ish notes mixed with the phenolic (Dettol). Not much of the cereal note that I like a lot in most bourbon cask Laphroaigs of this age. On the second sniff those mezcal’ish notes have taken a rubbery turn (rubber bands) and the smoke has some bitter, ashy edges. A couple of drops of water pull out faint musky notes. Continue reading →
Douglas Laing, the originators of the Old Malt Cask label, was established in 1948. I believe that for a long time their business was blends. I’m not sure if the Old Malt Cask line was their first foray into independent bottling of single malt whiskies but when I got into single malt whisky in a big way in the mid-late 2000s, it was a very established series with a very good reputation. You could have convinced me it had been around forever. As it happens, it was only introduced in 1998. At some point in the last few years the company split into two and the Old Malt Cask and Old & Rare labels went with the new Hunter Laing company (they also own the First Editions, Hepburn’s Choice and Sovereign labels). The Old Malt Cask packaging has remained the same, with the iconic hexagonal box and the whiskies are still bottled at 50%. Anyway, to mark the 20th anniversary of the label the company put out a number of releases last year, and through bottle splits I acquired a few of these. Over the next week and a half I’m going to go through them. I’m going to begin with this Arran 21. I actually purchased this bottle before tasting my sample, on account of a glowing review by Matt G. of Whisky Musings. Thankfully, I did like it a lot when I did try it and I’ve also been enjoying the bottle, which I opened right away. Here are my notes. Continue reading →
I believe this was the 5th edition of Compass Box’s Flaming Heart, released in 2015 to commemorate their 15th anniversary. I’ve had earlier editions of Flaming Heart and quite enjoyed them—I still have one unopened bottle; not sure which release it is, but it was purchased in 2012. Anyway, this edition is said to contain 27.1% 30 yo Caol Ila from a refill bourbon hogshead, 24.1% 20 yo Clynelish from a rejuvenated bourbon hogshead, 38.5% 14 yo Caol Ila from a refill ex-bourbon hoghshead and 10.3% of a 7 yo blend of Highland malts from Clynelish, Teaninich and Dailuaine that came out of some cask with French oak involvement. So officially this is 7 yo whisky for $140 (the price at release) and don’t let the fancy decimal points distract you from that. I kid, I kid: they could easily have left out that 10.3% and asked for even more money for this. That said, I’m not quite as enamoured of Compass Box’s whiskies as many whisky geeks. As I’ve said before, I can never quite shake the feeling that their bespoke presentation and ability to speak in the language of whisky geeks has a lot to do with their reception. That said, I did like the 10th anniversary Peat Monster a lot and I hope this will be in that vein. Let’s see. Continue reading →
For my last whisky review of the year I have what I think may have been the oldest whisky I drank this year; in terms of maturation, that is (in terms of distillation year that was last week’s Glen Moray 42). This was bottled by the Whisky Agency for the Whisky Exchange last year (or was it a joint bottling?) and is from an undisclosed Speyside distillery. Well, it is technically undisclosed but everyone seems very sure it was a Glenfarclas. Glenfarclas, of course, do not allow their name to be placed on labels of independently bottled casks, but it’s also more usual to see names like Burnside or Speyside’s Finest or references to a family owned distillery on independent releases of the distillery’s whisky. At any rate, there were quite a few of these “Speyside Region” 1973s released in 2016 and 2017, and most of those were from the Whisky Agency—they seem to have come into a parcel of these casks. Anyway, I first tasted this at a gathering in St. Paul in early November that featured a number of excellent older whiskies. This one had one of the best noses of everything on the table that night. Thankfully, the owner of the bottle was happy to share a sample and so I got to take a second crack at it and write up some formal notes. Continue reading →
The Glen Moray 34, 1977 I had at the Dornoch Castle Hotel’s bar in June was then, by far, the oldest Glen Moray I’d ever had. I recently discovered, however, that at some point in the near past I’d acquired via a bottle split a sample of an even older one. In fact, this 42 yo Glen Moray is the oldest malt whisky I’ve had. Not in terms of length of maturation—this Longmorn 46 is the oldest in that sense—but in terms of year of distillation. Where the Longmorn 46 was distilled in 1964, this was distilled in 1962. Which puts it on par in those terms with the oldest whisky of any kind I’ve had—the Archives North British 50, which was also distilled in 1962. None of this is very fascinating information for you, and frankly is a bit sad when you compare with the careers of those who review whiskies from the 1960s and 1950s on a seemingly weekly basis. But let’s face it, if you are a regular reader of this blog then sadness is something you are familiar with. Continue reading →
Here is the second whisky I drank at the Dornoch Castle Hotel‘s excellent whisky bar. Monday’s Bunnahabhain 34, 1980 was Phil Thompson’s value selection from the then current whisky list; this Glen Moray 34, 1977 was Simon Thompson’s. I have no idea if either whisky is still available at the bar. Before I drank it this whisky’s most significant characteristics were 1) that I’d not previously tried any older Glen Moray (though this record will not stand long as I have an even older one coming on Friday); and 2) that the name of the distillery is misspelled on the label. The good people at Malts of Scotland apparently didn’t catch that they had it as “Glen Morey” till the labels were on and apparently then decided not to bother. After I drank the whisky its mot significant characteristic became that it is the best Glen Moray I’ve yet had the pleasure of tasting. Here are my notes. Continue reading →
Yesterday I posted a brief look at the Dornoch Castle Hotel. Here now is a review of one of two whiskies I drank at their famous whisky bar: a Bunnahabhain 34, 1980 bottled by/for Whisky Fair. As I mentioned in my write-up yesterday, their bar has a rather impressive collection of whiskies. You can choose between whiskies bottled in the 1970s (and earlier), older whiskies distilled in the 1970s (and earlier) and also many recent and contemporary whiskies of very strong reputation. And the prices are very fair as well—each bottle has its by the pour price marked on it, which keeps nasty shocks at bay. They also have a large printed list. I took a look at it, I looked at everything in the cabinets and on the shelves, and my eyes began to glaze over a bit. Accordingly, I decided to just go with the recommendations of the Thompson brothers as listed with those of other staff members at the front of the whisky list. This was my first pour, Phil Thompson’s value pick from the then-current list. Continue reading →
On Wednesday I had a review of an 11 yo Orkney/Highland Park bottled at a ludicrous strength of 63.7%. Here now is a review of an 11 yo Deanston bottled at an even more ludicrous strength of 64.7%. I have to admit I have never understood the appeal of whisky bottled at such strengths—they are almost always too hot, in my experience, and there is not one that I have not found improved radically by bringing it down closer to 55% or less. This is also true of bourbon, a category in which you see these strengths more often, and whose aficionados tend to be more committed to drinking at full strength. To each their own, I suppose, but my recent experiences of young, high strength Scotch whisky is beginning to make me wonder if bottlers are not making a bet that a very high strength may be a selling point in and of itself; a sort of whisky machismo mixed in with notions of cask strength “purity”. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading →
I guess this has de facto turned into a sherried whisky month—all my reviews save for that of the Loch Lomond 12 have been of whiskies from sherry casks of one kind or the other. Might as well keep that going. Like Monday’s Ballechin 12, this too was released as an exclusive for the Whisky Barrel, and I got this sample as part of the same larger bottle split. This is an Orkney 11 yo, or an indie Highland Park—it seems like new indie releases of Highland Park mostly bear the Orkney nomenclature these days; and I think I read recently that Highland Park may even be cracking down on indie bottlings altogether—shame if that’s true. Anyway, I suppose it’s possible that an Orkney cask could also be from Scapa. But since I know less about these matters than most, I will go along with the notion that Orkney=Highland Park in the indie market unless there is info to the contrary. I was particularly interested in this one as it’s from a PX sherry hogshead (presumably not full matured) and I don’t think I’ve ever had one of those. Continue reading →
Back again to the combo of big sherry and big peat. This Ballechin was/is an exclusive for the Whisky Barrel. It was bottled by Signatory and as Signatory owns Edradour—whose peated malt Ballechin is—it seemed a pretty good bet that this would be a good cask. Also relevant: I quite liked the old limited edition Ballechin 4 which was from oloroso casks (or finished in oloroso casks, I can’t remember). I got this sample as part of a bottle split and indeed liked it so much (spoiler alert) that I purchased a couple of bottles. I was surprised to see later that Serge didn’t rate it very highly. This may explain why this is still available from the Whisky Barrel. I think it’s one that requires some time and then water to reveal all its charms. Anyway, I do recommend it highly, especially if you like that combo of big sherry and big peat.
Let’s keep the peated-sherried thing going. Here is a review of a high-octane Laphroaig bottled by van Wees in the Netherlands in late 2011. As I mentioned in my review of yesterday’s Ledaig, the word on the street is that Signatory is the source of much of van Wees’ releases—and indeed the numbering convention of this cask seems to map onto that of Signatory’s Ledaig casks. That’s neither here nor there, I suppose. This came out at a time in 2011/2012 when there seemed to be a lot of 13 year old Laphroaig about. I’ve reviewed a few of them—see the bourbon cask releases from Archives and Malts of Scotland; and also sherry cask releases from Kintra Whisky and yes, another van Wees. I really liked that other van Wees cask (700394 to this one’s 700348). I only have vague memories of this bottle, which I finished before starting the blog, and I think in my head I had run it together with the Kintra Whisky bottle, which I’d found a bit too rough. And so I’m curious to renew this one’s acquaintance (I’d saved a 6 oz sample from the top of the bottle, as had been my wont in those days). God knows there’s not as much indie Laphroaig available now and the price of sherried Laphroaig has risen sharply. Continue reading →
On Friday I had a review of a heavily sherried Ledaig, an 11 yo from 2005. Here now is another heavily sherried Ledaig, a 10 yo from 2004. It is from the same series of casks of sherried Ledaigs that emerged a couple of years ago. Interestingly, despite having been distilled the previous year this has a higher cask number 900170 to the 2005’s 900162. A while ago I’d reviewed another of these 10 yo casks from 2004—that one was 900176. Now, I know that distilleries usually restart their cask numbering every year but it seems very coincidental that casks filled a year later, and in turn bottled a year later, should have numbers in the same range. The more likely explanation may be that these are Signatory’s cask numbers. They may have acquired a parcel of sherried Ledaigs from 2004 and 2005 and re-numbered them in this 900xxx series. It does appear from Whiskybase that all the 90014x, 90015x, 90016x and 90017x casks were either released by Signatory or outfits Signatory is said to be the source for (van Wees, LMDW). And they all seem to date from 2004 or 2005. Well, this may not be a very interesting mystery but if you do know the answer or have a better theory, please write in below. Continue reading →
On Wednesday I had a review of an excellent heavily peated, heavily sherried malt released in 2012 (the Elements of Islay Pl1); today I have a review of another heavily peated, heavily sherried malt, this one released in 2017. This was also bottled, under the Single Malts of Scotland label, by an outfit in the Whisky Exchange portfolio, the erstwhile Speciality Drinks, who are now known as Elixir Distillers. Apparently this is an autonomous entity; I think the Whisky Exchange shop may have its own releases as well that are not from Speciality Drinks/Elixir Distillers—please correct me if I’m wrong. I am a simple man and find all this hard to keep straight, which is why in my “categories” listing on the blog I just bung them all together under “The Whisky Exchange”. Technically, I suppose this is wrong as Speciality Drinks/Elixir Distillers are independent bottlers who supply to more stores than just the Whisky Exchange.
Anyway, this has been a fascinating introduction to this review, hasn’t it? I bet you could read a lot more about it, but it’s time to get to the whisky itself. Continue reading →
The malts bottled by the Whisky Exchange in their Elements of Islay line have been of a uniformly high quality—at least, all the ones I have had have been very good. I remember the very first Lagavulin, Ardbeg, Laphroaig and Caol Ila in the series were particularly good (I reviewed those in the early months of the blog: Ar1, Lg1, Lp1, CI1). They were also quite reasonably priced. Since then, as with the whisky market in general, the prices of these releases has risen sharply, making it harder to justify the value of what is after all NAS whisky. Don’t get me wrong, I still buy these when I get the opportunity—now that TWE no longer ships to Minnesota, that opportunity is when I am in the UK—but I am conscious of the fact that I am inclined to cut the Whisky Exchange some slack for their NAS releases that I do not extend to big whisky companies. Anyway, here is my review of the first Port Charlotte released in this series. Unlike the 1s linked above, this was bottled from a sherry cask. It was released in 2012 and I have no idea why I waited six years to open it. I’ve not had any of the others in the series; the Pl2 was from rum casks and the next two from wine casks, and I passed. I see that the Pl5, released this year, is from a bourbon hogshead. I’ll keep an eye out for that one. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading →