Benrinnes 20 (The Whisky Exchange)

Benriness 20, Time II, The Whisky Exchange
The Whisky Exchange has recently launched a new series that they call Time. Apparently, the intent is to explore the effects of different times of maturation. However, as the series features whiskies of different ages from different distilleries, from different cask types, and of different peating levels, it’s not clear if this exploration of time makes finally for more than a nice label. On the other hand, we should be glad that they’re not going with a timeless theme as so many official releases are these days.

This Benrinnes, the second release in the series, is the oldest of the four that have come out so far. There’s also a 15 yo “nudge, nudge, wink, wink, it’s Glenfarclas”, an 8 yo Glen Moray and an 11 yo Ledaig. I believe they were released at TWE’s annual Whisky Show in October but don’t quote me on that. They all appear to be single cask releases but for some reason the year of distillation doesn’t seem to be noted for any of them and while the number of bottles for each release is listed the cask number is left out—I’m not sure why that is. I’m also not sure what it means that this is listed as a Whisky Exchange bottling and not a Single Malts of Scotland bottling. Is that basically what happens when a release is a TWE store exclusive? Or are they selected by entirely different people as well? Continue reading

Lagavulin, Lg5 (Speciality Drinks)

Lg5, Elements of Islay
This is the fifth release of Lagavulin from The Whisky Exchange’s Elements of Islay series. These are 500 ml bottles with periodic table of element style names that refer to the distilleries (though you’re supposed to be coy and not take the identities for granted). The early entries in the line came out together at a steady clip some years ago (and I purchased most of them) but I lost sight of them in there somewhere. I reviewed the Lg1 and the Lg2 relatively early in the life of the blog but I never saw any sign of the Lg3 or the Lg4. Given how much I liked those early entries in the series when I had a chance to grab a 2 oz sample from a bottle split I went for it. This has received a heady score from Serge Valentin on Whiskyfun and so I’ve particularly been looking forward to it. Having started the week with an outstanding peated malt from Islay it’ll be nice to end it with another one as well. Then again Serge liked the recent official 8 yo quite a lot more than I did...  Continue reading

Port Ellen, 1982-2011, “Royal Wedding Reserve” (The Whisky Exchange)

Port Ellen, Royal Wedding Reserve
I’ve had this sample of Port Ellen from a single sherry cask sitting around for a couple of years now—I’ve no idea why I haven’t reviewed it yet. The Whisky Exchange bottled it in 2011 to commemorate the marriage of Beyonce and Jay-Z. It’s a little odd that they did this three years after the fact but maybe they were waiting to see if the marriage would stick. It is an odd choice of distillery to commemorate a wedding though—you’d think they’d pick one that’s still a going concern, not one that had to be shut down. Maybe Sukhinder Singh is more of a Nas fan?

Port Ellens from the last couple of years of the distillery’s life don’t have quite as high a reputation as those distilled in the 1970s but I quite liked the one I previously reviewed (this one from Old Bothwell). Let’s see if this one is as good and if it does the royal couple proud; and if it makes me regret not purchasing a bottle when it was released—I’m not sure how much they asked for it back in 2011 but doubtless it was a fraction of the current going prices for Port Ellens of any quality.

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Port Askaig Harbour 19 (Speciality Drinks)

Port Askaig Harbour 19
Port Askaig is the name under which the Whisky Exchange has bottled a number of Caol Ilas. Why it is that they release some Caol Ilas with the distillery name under their Single Malts of Scotland label but also have this parallel Port Askaig line, I don’t know. Generally, when bottlers do these “mystery malt” labels it’s safe to assume that it’s partly because they want to leave themselves wiggle room if the source of the malt changes. So your random Islay malt with a non-distillery name could be peated Bunnahabhain most of the time and Laphroaig some other time. And, of course, by not publishing the actual distillery’s name they’re also able to coyly suggest or not discourage you from believing that what you have is a malt from a distillery you might prize more than the one it is actually from. To be fair, it’s also true that some distilleries may ask particular bottlers to not identify them (for fear of diluting their own brand) and that some bottlers may wish to create and promote their own brands.

For what it’s worth, the received wisdom is that all the Port Askaigs have been Caol Ilas, and based on the few I’ve had, I’d not disagree. Continue reading

Longmorn 31, 1978 (The Whisky Exchange)

Longmorn 31, 1978, TWE
This was released for The Whisky Exchange’s annual Whisky Show back in 2010 under their “Masterpieces” label. I had the opportunity to purchase it then but felt it was too expensive: I believe the price was £120 ex. vat. Those were the days. Anyway, I’ve never had a late-1970s Longmorn before (not that I can remember anyway—I do have two small children). This is from a bourbon cask (many of the older ones I’ve had have been from sherry casks). As to whether this will reach the fruity heights of its storied stablemates from earlier in the decade, I don’t know, but can only hope.

Only 135 bottles were released by TWE (presumably from a single cask). If this is because they split a cask with someone else or because Sukhinder Singh (the proprietor and avowed Longmorn fan) kept the rest for himself, I don’t know, but let’s get to it. Continue reading

Clynelish 28, 1982 (Single Malts of Scotland)

Clynelish 28, 1982
I purchased this Clynelish (the oldest I’ve ever had) from the Whisky Exchange in December 2011 (this is from their own line, Single Malts of Scotland) and it took me almost three years to open it. I’m not quite sure why. Maybe it was the growing certainty that I would likely never be able to afford a Clynelish of this age again—back in 2011 this cost only a little over $100 ex. vat. At any rate, I opened it last November for a small group tasting of Clynelish that I hosted for some members of our local tasting group. We started that night with the OB 14, moved on to a single cask 14 yo from Whiskybase’s Archives series, then the 22 yo, 1989 from Malts of Scotland and then finally this one. As good as the others were, this one was just in a different class, and everyone had a big smile on their face nosing it. I’ve been sipping it from time to time since then and have been looking forward to sitting down and spending some time with a large pour. That time is now. Continue reading

Ledaig 7 (The Whisky Exchange)

Ledaig 7Okay, let’s do one more young Ledaig to bring the run of reviews of peated whiskies to a close. This one, like the 6 yo from Blackadder that I liked so much, is also from a sherry cask. It was bottled by the Whisky Exchange for the 2013 iteration of their annual whisky show. Oddly, they don’t note a vintage. As to whether this means that this was a vatting or that it’s merely in keeping with the “retro label” that this bottle (and others released at the show) sported, I don’t know. And frankly I’m not so very interested to find out.

Ledaig 7 (59.4%; sherry matured; from a sample received in a swap)

Nose: You’re never going to believe it but there’s farmy, organic peat notes in this! No rotting rodents though, just a lot of partially composted leaves. Quite a bit of salt too and some pipe tobacco. It’s not as clearly sherried as the Blackadder 6 yo but there are sweet fruit notes here too: plums, a little bit of orange peel, some raisins. More pastry/baked notes with time. The vegetal peat and the fruit marry surprisingly well with time. With water the citrus comes out in front but there’s still a lot of smoke (with more charred meat now). Continue reading

Caperdonich 12, 1998 (Single Malts of Scotland)

Caperdonich 12Here is another Caperdonich from the 1990s. This one is younger and from later in the decade than yesterday’s bottle from Hunter Hamilton. This was bottled by the Whisky Exchange for their Single Malts of Scotland line. And in a bit of a twist it’s heavily peated. I don’t think Caperdonichs were commonly heavily peated so this must have been a part of distillation runs made for specific blending needs.

Caperdonich 12, 1998 (57%; Single Malts of Scotland; Barrel 8712, Heavily Peated; from my own bottle)

Nose: Yes, this is indeed heavily peated. A big wave of smoke comes wafting out of the glass before I’ve finished pouring. By turns acidic, cereally and even a little bit fruity (lime but also some apples). I must say this is very Islay. With time there’s some ink as well and the lime gets stronger too. There’s some grapefruit too and a musky sweetness develops as well. Really quite fruity after a while (though I can’t quite pick what the fruit is exactly) and quite a lot of salt too. Gets more and more medicinal (bandages, mercurochrome) with time. Really very nice. Will the palate match it? And what will water do? Well, water seems to make it even more intense as the peat and lime try to beat each other up my nostrils. After a minute or so there’s some vanilla, but not a whole lot. More sweetness (and vanilla) as it sits and more cereal too. Continue reading

Ardbeg, Ar1 (Speciality Drinks)

Ardbeg Ar1I reviewed the Ar2, the second Ardbeg release in the Whisky Exchange/Speciality Drinks’ Elements of Islay series some months ago and unaccountably did not get around to following up with the Ar1. Well, here it is now. Not sure if/how many others were released in the series and am now too lazy to even click around a little to find out. If my condition does not improve by the time this is published perhaps someone will be so kind as to let me know.

Ardbeg, Ar1 (58.7%; Speciality Drinks; from my own bottle)

Nose: Sweet, cereally peat and bright carbolic smoke. A profile so clean and sharp you could operate with it on a battlefield with no risk of infection. Fresh bluefish guts and fat. After a bit there’s a lovely wave of preserved lemon and something almondy. A minute or two later this transitions to deep, sweet peat, wet limestone and ashes. Quite a lot of salt too now and also some charred meat. With a few drops of water (added more than 30 minutes after this was poured) it gets more acidic and the peat is now less clean (a farmy note appears). Continue reading

Ledaig 6, 2006 (Single Malts of Scotland)

Ledaig
Another day, another young Ledaig, this one also from a sherry butt. This time from the Whisky Exchange‘s highly dependable Single Malts of Scotland line, and at 6 years old, even younger than the Whisky Doris 9 yo. This one got very good reviews despite its young age.

This is my first time tasting it. I hope I will not regret too much my knee-jerk scepticism about very young malts combined with my knee-jerk scepticism about all Ledaigs that kept me from purchasing this when it was released, as it sold out very quickly. Well, I’m sure there’ll be another one along shortly regardless.
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Caol Ila, CI1 (Speciality Drinks)

Caol Ila Elements of IslayYet another Elements of Islay bottling from the Whisky Exchange, this time the first Caol Ila bottled for the series, the CI1. I think the series is up to CI5 at this point, but this is the only one I’ve had. I don’t have a lot to say other than I know from previous experience that this will reverse my recent run of disappointing Caol Ilas.

Let’s get right to it:

Nose: Very tight at first, as you might expect given the very high abv. But lemon, olives, oyster liquor, brine all peep out from under the alcohol. A little later quite a bit of coal and phenolic smoke. The alcohol gets a little overpowering now. The lemon gets quite pungent as well, and with more time there’s a fruity sweetness and later still a lot of citronella and ash. I must say time mellows the alcohol burn a fair but let’s see what water does. Well, it makes that citronella explode and brings out a creamy, almost buttery note.
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Laphroaig, Lp1 (Speciality Drinks)

Laphroaig Lp1After last night’s not very heavily peated Hakushu Heavily Peated let’s try a whisky that is very unambiguously heavily peated: Lp1, the first Laphroaig release in the Whisky Exchange’s Elements of Islay series. I have noted before my love of young bourbon cask Laphroaig and so I will not repeat myself here.

However: in a comment on my review of the Lg2 in that series, Billy Abbott of TWE noted cryptically that it may be an error to think of the whiskies in this series as young on account of there being no age stated on the labels (an assumption that is otherwise a safe one to make in today’s Scotch industry). Well, my memories of this one are that it is pretty youthfully aggressive. Let’s see what I make of it tonight:
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Bowmore 13, 1995 (Single Malts of Scotland)

Bowmore 13, 1995 Single Malts of Scotland
Hard on the heels of yesterday’s excellent Maltmen’s Selection here is another Bowmore 13, 1995, this time an independent bottling done by the Whisky Exchange for their Single Malts of Scotland line. As with the Maltmen’s Selection this is also sherried, but from a single butt. Let’s get right to it:

Bowmore 13, 1995 (56.4%, sherry butt #419; from a sample received in a swap)

Nose: Brandied raisins, some resin/pine. Then ink and slate and something savoury as well. Really quite pungent, but not particularly phenolic or smoky. With time there’s briny sea air, a hint of lime peel and a livery, gamey quality (I think this is what I was first getting as ink and slate). A grassy note as well. With even more time, vinous notes begin to emerge and more classic sherry notes begin to come to the fore (plum jam, fruitcake); but that inky note never goes away. Even later, it’s the lime peel that takes a turn on stage. I could nose this for a really long time: I have a feeling it’s got a few more transformations in it. With a drop of water the savoury note expands in concert with the lime peel. With a minute or two I get strong whiffs of pickling spices. Continue reading

Ardbeg, Ar2 (Speciality Drinks)

Another Elements of Islay bottling from Speciality Drinks, this time an Ardbeg. (see here and here for my reviews of the Lg1 and Lg2.) The second they released in the series, to be specific: the Ar2. No word on whether the bottle contains secret holograms from princesses on the run from galactic empires, but doubtless if I drank enough of this 60.5% whisky fast enough I would be able to see them.

Indie Ardbegs are not quite as rare as indie Lagavulins but they’re not terribly easy to find either. And with that I have exhausted my opening patter; let’s get right to it:
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