Caol Ila 20, 1995 (Signatory for K&L)

Here’s a whisky review on a Thursday for a change. And it’s another Caol Ila—roughly the same age as the previous Caol Ila I reviewed, but distilled just about a decade later. This was bottled by Signatory for K&L in California. As I am generally a sucker for bourbon cask Caol Ila, I was intrigued by it when it was announced, but the high asking price ($150 or so) took care of that. Fortunately (for me, at least), Florin (Slovenian supermodel and future First Lady) purchased a bottle and shared samples with a few of us—see Jordan D’s review of a sample from this same bottle from a year ago. Jordan didn’t care for it overmuch, and nor did Florin (see his comment on Jordan’s review). But there are others who rave about it. Anyway, the easiest way to find out is to pour the sample and drink it. Here goes.
Continue reading

Glenburgie 19, 1995 (Signatory for Binny’s)

Glenburgie 19, 1995, Signatory for Binny's
I was not a big fan of the last Glenburgie I reviewed. That one, a 21 yo and also bottled by Signatory, was part of K&L’s uninspiring lot of single casks from late 2016. This one was bottled for Binny’s in Chicago—in 2014, I believe—and is in fact a sibling of another K&L cask, also 19 years old and from 1995 (K&L got cask 6449 and Binny’s got 6450). Well, I always say that when it comes to bourbon cask whisky I trust the Binny’s selection process far more than that of any other store in the US, and when first opened this bottle bore that out in spades: it was a perfect mix of oak and big fruit with tropical accents. I’d opened it for one of my local group’s tastings and it handily thumped the competition that night. Alas, with time and air in the bottle the fruit seems to have subsided somewhat on the palate—my last couple of small pours did not feature that explosion of fruit. Well, who knows, maybe it will come back again as the bottle sits [foreshadowing].  Continue reading

Glen Garioch 25, 1990 (Signatory)

Glen Garioch 25, 1990, Signatory
I’ve not had much luck with Glen Garioch on the blog. Among the recent official releases I’ve reviewed, I liked the 16 yo Binny’s exclusive but the Founder’s Reserve and the 12 yo didn’t get me very excited. The older independents that I’ve reviewed have also not gone very far past the good/very good boundary. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being on the good/very good boundary—only that I haven’t reviewed a great one yet. This includes three others from the 1990 vintage: a 20 yo and a 22 yo from Kintra Whisky and a 21 yo from Archives. Will this slightly older 25 yo from Signatory be much better? Others who participated in the bottle split this sample came from had very good things to say about it, so I’m hopeful. (By the way, as you may know, in 1990 Glen Garioch were still using malt peated to a higher level than their current output. I believe it was in 1993/94 that their peating regimen changed.) Continue reading

Imperial 20, 1995 (Signatory for K&L)

Imperial 20, 1995, Signatory for K&L
Here is the fourth and last review of what has turned out to be a pretty mediocre run of Signatory exclusive casks for K&L. Will this be the one to go past 80 points? I wasn’t terribly impressed with the last two Signatory Imperial 1995s for K&L that I reviewed: those were this 19 yo from last year and this 17 yo from their 2013 run of exclusive casks: I recorded 85 points for the 19 yo and 84 points for the 17 yo. Frankly, after the lackluster Linkwood, Glenburgie and Dufftown from this go-around I’d be very happy if this were a 84 point malt! At any rate, I am very glad indeed that I was able to taste all of these through bottle splits instead of buying full bottles of what seemed like “good values” that I would have completely regretted—as I have on many occasions in the past.

Let’s see how it goes.  Continue reading

Glenburgie 21, 1995 (Signatory for K&L)

Glenburgie 21, 1995, Signatory for K&L
K&L’s annual winter parcel of Signatory cask exclusives arrived a few weeks ago. As I did last year, I split these with a bunch of other whisky geeks—the idea being to try before buying. Given David Driscoll’s skill with hype—and the apparent endless market out there for hype—there’s always the risk of things selling out before you get around to tasting a sample, but that’s far better than the risk of spending $80 or more on what seemed like a great deal only to discover that it wasn’t. That was certainly true in spades with the Linkwood 19 that I reviewed last week. It was not terrible but it had absolutely nothing to recommend it. I’m hoping this Glenburgie will be better. Bourbon cask Glenburgie can be very good indeed (see, for example, this official release) and, as it happens, a couple of years ago K&L had another Glenburgie from Signatory that I quite liked. Well, let’s hope this one is closer to that than to this year’s Linkwood. Continue reading

Linkwood 19, 1997 (Signatory for K&L)

Linkwood 19, 1997, Signatory for K&L
Just about a year ago I posted reviews of four exclusive Signatory casks for K&L in California. I split those bottles with a bunch of other people. I liked a couple of them a lot (the Blair Athol 26 and the Benrinnes 20) and while the other two didn’t get me very excited, they were solid malts as well (a Glen Elgin 24 and an Imperial 19). Here I am now with the winter 2016 edition of K&L’s Signatory casks. In addition to this Linkwood 19, there is an Imperial 20, a Dufftown 18 and a Glenburgie 21. Three are priced quite reasonably (<$100); I guess we’re being asked to pay a closed distillery premium for the Imperial ($120). In my review of last year’s Glen Elgin 24 I closed by saying that that bottle only seemed like a good deal for the age if you fetishized a high age statement, not so much for the actual whisky, which was just a middle of the road malt of its type. Still, I did like all of last year’s casks. Will these be at least at that level? Continue reading

Dallas Dhu 26, 1979 (Signatory)

Dallas Dhu 26, 1979, Signatory
This Dallas Dhu was bottled in 2006. I stared at it on the shelves of a local retailer for most of the years since, trying to decide if I wanted to take a chance on it. This summer I finally did it—thankfully, the price hadn’t gone up too dramatically in the interim (it’ll take a lot to make Dallas Dhu sexy, apparently). Was it worth it? Well, as you’ll see below, while I liked it, I did not love it—which is about how I felt about a Dallas Dhu 30, 1980 I reviewed three years ago. But I would still say it’s worth it. It’s a very unsexy profile but very interesting in the glimpse it gives us into an older style of malt whisky. I would urge whisky geeks who’ve only come to the obsession relatively recently, and, like me, may not have tried so very many 1970s whiskies, to ignore scores and check out malts like these with idiosyncratic profiles that are really not around any more. You don’t only have to drink and buy “90 point whiskies”.   Continue reading

Balmenach 26, 1988 (Signatory for Binny’s)

Balmenach 26, 1988, Signatory for Binny's
Here is the last of the recent’ish Binny’s exclusives that I split with a bunch of other whisky geeks. I’ve previously reviewed a Glenlivet 19, a Laphroaig 17, a Linkwood 16, and a Clynelish 7 (all from Signatory); an Ardmore 16 and a Ledaig 13 (both from G&M); and a OB Glen Garioch 16. This Signatory Balmenach is the oldest of the lot (I mention this in case you are really bad at counting); it is, however, a year younger than mentioned on Binny’s website—there it is listed as a 27 yo but, in fact, it is a 26 yo (the correct age is on the label along with the distilling and bottling dates). I”d been planning to review this one a while ago, and I’m not really sure why I never got around to it. As a result, however, I am reviewing this after the bottle has been near the halfway mark for a bit over two months (nearly half the bottle went into the splits as soon as I received it). And so this review is not going to be representative of a freshly opened bottle.  Continue reading

Glenlivet 19, 1995 (Signatory for Binny’s)

Glenlivet 19, 1995, Signatory for Binny's
Yet another recent Signatory exclusive for Binny’s from the group bottle split I coordinated in February. I’ve previously reviewed a very young Clynelish, a 16 yo Linkwood and a 17 yo Laphroaig from the Signatorys in that lot. After this 19 yo Glenlivet all that will remain will be a 26 yo Balmenach (and also a G&M Ledaig) and I’ll then go back to my usual diet of entirely irrelevant reviews. Let’s get right to it.

Glenlivet 19, 1995 (58.3%; Signatory for Binny’s; first fill sherry butt 166947; from a bottle split)

Nose: Raisins and pencil lead at first and then the rest of the first fill sherry package arrives: orange peel, leather, plum sauce, apricot, soy sauce (just a bit), dried shiitakes, just a hint of gunpowder. As it sits the sweeter fruit expands and there’s just a touch of sweet pipe tobacco too now. With a few drops of water the gunpowder recedes and it gets stickier with toffee; after a few beats the fruit begins to expand (particularly the apricot).  Continue reading

Linkwood 16, 1998 (Signatory for Binny’s)

Linkwood 16, 1998, Signatory for Binny's
This Linkwood was also part of the larger Binny’s bottle split I coordinated a month and a half or so ago. I saved most of my share of the bottle for my local group’s March tasting and it went down a treat there. Here now are my own notes taken separately from a larger pour than we drink at our tastings.

Linkwood is another of Diageo’s workhorse distilleries: there are no regular official releases, and most of it goes into the group’s blends. While the indies have a put a fair number out I’ve had very few Linkwoods and have reviewed even less: only these two older ones distilled in the 1980s—and both of those were in my occasional “Quick Hits” series, which means this will be my first Linkwood review with a score. Fascinating, I know. Anyway, let’s get right to it.   Continue reading

Laphroaig 17, 1997 (Signatory for Binny’s)

Laphroaig 17, 1997, Signatory for Binny's
Monday’s Laphroaig 18, 1997, bottled by Berry Brothers and Rudd for The Whisky Exchange was a real beauty with unexpected fruit and a lot of it. Will lightning strike a second time with this 17 yo also distilled in 1997 and matured in a bourbon cask? Am I going to have to start hunting down Laphroaigs from the late 1990s bottled in the high teens?

This was bottled by Signatory for Binny’s in Chicago. Binny’s have an excellent track record with their Laphroaig selections and so even it isn’t as fruity as the TWE/Berry Bros. & Rudd I expect it will be very good anyway. Let’s see. I should note that the regular price is in the new normal range for Laphroaig (i.e $169.99 for a 17 yo)—but it’s currently discounted down into the almost plausible range ($129.99).   Continue reading

Clynelish 7, 2008 (Signatory for Binny’s)

Clynelish 7, 2008; Signatory for Binny's
This Clynelish was acquired as part of the same set of bottle splits as last Friday’s Ardmore. If you read that review you’ll find many similar notes mentioned in this one but, as you’ll see, a much lower score at the end. This is a case where you have two whiskies at different ends of the same style continuum: a sort of old-school Highlands profile. The Ardmore is peatier, of course, but there are other similarities. The problem here is that some of the notes that are either more muted in that Ardmore, or which dissipate with time, are stronger here and linger; and this one doesn’t have the compensations of the Ardmore. It’s also quite far away from what most people have come to expect from Clynelish in terms of “distillery character“. This is down partly, I think, to the young age. Some of these off-notes might well have dissipated with more time (and less wood contact in a slightly larger hogshead) and other characteristics might have emerged.  Continue reading

Glen Elgin 24, 1990 (Signatory for K&L)

Glen Elgin 24, 1990 (Signatory for K&L)
Here is the fourth of my four timely reviews of recent Signatory exclusives for K&L. Well, not entirely timely I guess: while the Imperial, Blair Athol and this Glen Elgin are still available, the Benrinnes is sold out.

Glen Elgin is another of the many distilleries of the Speyside with whose malt I don’t have a terrible lot of experience—in fact, this is the first I’ve reviewed on the blog. There’s not much available from it officially and in the US there’s not a whole lot available of it from the indies either. As such, this is another that I cannot really place in the context of the distillery’s usual profile. But I am curious to see if this turns out to be another of K&L’s selections of 20+ yo whisky that doesn’t actually display very many of the characteristics people associate with older whisky. Let’s see.  Continue reading

Blair Athol 26, 1988 (Signatory for K&L)

Blair Athol 26, 1988 (Signatory for K&L)
Here is the third, and penultimate, in my mini-run of reviews of recent Signatory exclusives for K&L. Will this hold any surprises as Monday’s Benrinnes did? I expect not as this is not my first sherried Blair Athol of this general age from this period. I’ve previously reviewed a 25 yo and a 26 yo, both from 1988, both from sherry casks and both bottled by van Wees. My understanding is that Signatory is also the source of van Wees’ casks; if that’s true then that bodes well for this one: I liked both the aforementioned (though one more than the other) despite their being at 46%; this one is at cask strength.

The strength is not the only difference though: this one is much more expensive than those van Wees bottlings were and that discrepancy is hard to ascribe only to the different strengths as the price multiplier is almost 2x. Whether Signatory or K&L are the source of the markup, I’m not sure but it made me very reluctant to pay for a full bottle considering how much less I had paid for the others (one bought for myself and one bought for friends). K&L’s marketing spiel would have it that the last Signatory Blair Athol 25, 1988 sent customers into a frenzy, with people calling to ask for it well after it sold out; that doesn’t seem to have translated yet into big demand for this one as, at time of writing, a lot of it is still available. Anyway: let’s see what this is like.  Continue reading