I’ve been going on for some years now about how Ben Nevis’s historically iffy reputation has been poised to turn around and it seems like that time is finally here. Official releases of Ben Nevis fetch top dollar and indie iterations are also seeing rises in price. This is largely because Ben Nevis is one of the most reliable sources of exuberant tropical fruit in single malt whisky—and in their case it’s often mixed with malt and cocoa and a certain wild edge; altogether it makes for a very idiosyncratic combination. I keep an eye out for indie Ben Nevis, especially from bourbon casks and in the late teens age-wise (see, for example, this other 17 yo Ben Nevis from Cadenhead that I absolutely loved). Accordingly, I purchased this one in the UK that was bottled by the German outfit, The Whisky Agency, for an Australian importer named Casa de Vinos. I’m not sure if the entire run was bottled for the Australian market or if some of this cask was released in the EU as well. Anyway, I opened this last month for one of my local group’s tastings, expecting it to be a highlight. To my dismay, it was rather flat. I set it aside to see if some air in the bottle would do it any good, and here now are my notes a few weeks after it was opened. Continue reading
“The Perfect Dram” is a series from the highly-regarded bottler, The Whisky Agency, and most geeks would be willing to describe any Tomatin from 1976 as perfect drams. 1976 is considered to be a special “vintage” for Tomatin. This gives me yet another opportunity to register my skepticism about magical years at distilleries (I didn’t get where I am by being shy about accepting the opportunities to repeat myself that I give myself). Here’s what I said on the occasion of my previous review of a Tomatin from 1976:
[T]hose who make the case for Tomatins from 1976 don’t seem to notice that a disproportionate number of casks are simply available from this year as compared to others in that era–close to 60 bottles from 1976 are listed on Whiskybase, but only 23 from 1973, 1974, 1975, 1977 and 1978 combined (and almost half of those are from 1977).
Let us take a break from Ledaig and on this day, the 4th of July, review an Ardmore. Ardmore, as you know, is what the Founding Fathers drank as they signed the Declaration of Independence. It’s a fact.
This Ardmore, from a bourbon barrel, was bottled by the Whisky Agency for the Auld Alliance, a famous whisky bar in Singapore. The last time I was in Singapore I was not yet sufficiently crazy about whisky to be seeking out whisky bars, but if I make it back I certainly will try to go. This is as close as I get for now.
(Please appreciate the lettuce from my garden that forms the backdrop for the highly essential photograph of the sample bottle.) Continue reading
After yesterday’s 20 yo from the Nectar here is a 24 yo Littlemill from another respected European bottler, the Whisky Agency–this one released once the Littlemill renaissance was well underway. Will this bust my streak of soap in Littlemill and finally take me into the 90s for this distillery? Let’s jump right into it and see.
Littlemill 24, 1989 (50.4%; The Whisky Agency; refill hogshead; from a purchased sample)
Nose: Lime peel and ginger and juniper. The lime transitions quickly to darker/sweeter citrus: orange peel now. Gets sweeter as well as more fruit begin to emerge: some peach, some grapefruit. Some malt too and a hint of white chocolate. With time, quite a bit of vanilla and it’s quite reminiscent of fresh pastry with a tart-sweet lemon filling. The citrus gets brighter with water. Continue reading
There’s a lot of Laphroaig about in the world and this is a good thing. Generally more forthright and robust than most Caol Ilas, more various than Lagavulin (just the 12 yo cs, the iconic 16 yo and not an indie in sight), and always more not-eye-roll-inducing than Ardbeg, Laphroaig is my pick of the iconic Islay distilleries that are on a similar peaty continuum (Bowmore is a different kind of animal and Bruichladdich’s Port Charlotte and Octomore lines are not quite iconic yet–ditto for the very promising Kilchoman).
Of their official bottlings, the 25 yo is priced astronomically (and, from my very limited experience, doesn’t quite live up to the price tag), but everything below it is priced reasonably–though if you live in California you may beg to demur re the 18 yo (let me soothe you by noting that for almost two years it was available for $43 from a notorious store in Minneapolis, and is now up to $80 in the region). And there’s a lot of it available from independents–mostly 21 years and below (I don’t recall seeing any much older indie Laphroaigs in the last couple of years). So, if you like a good thing, and like having a lot of iterations of that good thing available to you, then Laphroaig is the good thing for you. It certainly is for me.