Okay, let’s get off Islay and head up the western coast of Scotland and make a right turn to Ben Nevis. I reviewed a few 20+ yo indie releases of Ben Nevis towards the end of last year: a 22 yo, a 24 yo and a 26 yo, all distilled in 1991 and released by Signatory and a 21 yo from 1996 released by Whisky Doris. They were all very good, a couple of them exceptional. Those were all from sherry casks and so is this 22 yo released in 2019 by Single Malts of Scotland. Odds are good that this will be at least very good as well. Let’s see if that proves true.
Ben Nevis 22, 1997 (58.4%; Single Malts of Scotland; sherry butt #91; from a bottle split)
Nose: Roasted malt, salted nuts, orange peel and raisins; some powdered ginger too and some dusty oak. There seems to be some richer fruit in the background trying to get out but the alcohol may be holding it back. Let’s give it time and then water. Gets richer as it sits with the orange peel expanding and being joined by some apricot jam and some soy sauce. With a squirt of water the citrus brightens—between orange and lemon now—and then it begins to get more musky with charred pineapple and more apricot. The citrus turns to citronella. Continue reading →
On Wednesday we were at Laphroaig, having taken the high road across from Bowmore. Let’s go a mile up the road now to Lagavulin. This is the 8th Lagavulin released by the Whisky Exchange in their Elements of Islay series. Yes, I know this is now released by Elixir Distillers who are supposedly a separate concern but I am a simple man and it’s easier for me to just refer to all the Whisky Exchange whiskies as Whisky Exchange whiskies (please forgive me, Billy). This was apparently distilled in 2006 and vatted from two bourbon barrels. I say “apparently” because neither of these pieces of information is actually on the label. That’s what it says on Whiskybase and in reviews from people who got advance samples from the bottlers. What I don’t understand why if this info isn’t worth putting on the labels it needs to be distributed to those who talk up these whiskies before release. Again, I am a simple man. Anyway, past Elements of Islay Lg experience suggests this will be very good. Let’s see if that’s the case. Continue reading →
Here’s a 19 yo Caol Ila bottled several years ago by the Whisky Exchange for their annual Whisky Show. That’s it, that’s the introduction.
Caol Ila 19 (55.9%; The Whisky Exchange for the Whisky Show, 2012; single bourbon cask; from my own bottle)
Nose: Ah yes, this is one of those “Port Ellen, who?” Caol Ilas. Lemon, oyster liquor, kelp, green olive brine, mineral smoke: it’s all here. A couple of minutes later there’s some ash and smouldering leaves mixed in with the mineral smoke, giving it a slightly bitter, vegetal quality. A few drops of water and it’s a mix of citronella, ash and vanilla-cream.
Palate: As predicted by the nose but with more phenols in the smoke and some sweeter notes as I swallow (vanilla). Gets more acidic as it sits and the leafy note from the nose begins to make its way to the palate as well. More acid with water—more preserved than fresh lemon now—and the phenols back off a bit (the ash doesn’t though). Continue reading →
Let’s keep the run of bourbon cask reviews going but add one that’s heavily peated. This Laphroaig was bottled for the Whisky Exchange’s annual Whisky Show in 2015 and I purchased it soon after when bottles that survived the show went on sale. It has an attractive “retro” label. I think they put out two of these labels in different years; I think I’ve seen a reference to an 18 yo as well. Well, whether as a mark of its retro identity or not, the label does not specify year of distillation. But given the 2015 bottling I’d hazard that there’s a very good chance it was distilled in 1998. Well, the fact is I’ve enjoyed almost all the Laphroaigs I’ve had from the late 1990s distillations a great deal; particularly those that have expressed an excellent fruity quality along with the signature smoke and phenols. Will this be another such cask (assuming it was indeed a single cask)? Well, there’s only one way to find out. Continue reading →
Here is another recent Whisky Exchange exclusive and it too is a peated whisky matured in a sherry cask. This is a Ledaig and a bit younger than Friday’s Laphroaig 21 (which you may recall I found to be outstanding). I don’t dare hope that this one will be as good but there has been a lot of excellent sherried Ledaig about in the last half decade. I suppose there must have been some that I tried and did not like but I can’t recall any and am too lazy to open another window and check. (Before the pandemic this was a character flaw; now it is a sign of my humanity.) Anyway, let’s see what this is like.
Ledaig 13, 2005 (57.4%; The Whisky Exchange; sherry butt 900174; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Earthy peat, salt, preserved lime. On the second sniff the classic organic, farmy Ledaig notes are here though not as much of the dead rodent as is often present. The salt expands with each sniff as does the lime but it also picks up some sweetness. Nothing new as it sits but it all comes together really well. A few drops of water bring out some pastry crust and cream. Continue reading →
Earlier this month I reviewed a Glenburgie 21, 1998 bottled by the Whisky Exchange. Here now is another 21 yo whisky distilled in 1998 and bottled by the Whisky Exchange under their obscure “The Whisky Exchange” label, this one a Laphroaig. I think it may have been bottled for TWE’s 20th anniversary, though it’s not listed on the page they have for those releases. Then again, the Inchmurrin 9, 2010 I reviewed on Tuesday was definitely released for their 20th anniversary and it’s not on that page either despite still being available. Mysterious are the ways of the Whisky Exchange. Anyway, back to this Laphroaig. It was distilled in 1998; in 2010 it was re-racked into an oloroso sherry cask (ex-bourbon before that? maybe it says on the label). Given that nine years is longer than seemingly most whisky being released in Scotland right now—if it even has an age statement—I think it’s well past being regarded as a “finish”. As a 21 yo Laphroaig, and sherry-bothered at that, this went for a very pretty penny, I think. It’s now sold out, which will save me a lot of soul searching if I like it as much as the reviews I’ve read make me think I will. Let’s see. Continue reading →
I was not very enamored of the Glenburgie 21, 1998 I reviewed on Wednesday. Here now is another Glenburgie 21, 1998. Wednesday’s was bottled by Douglas Laing for K&L in California. This one was also bottled for a store, in this case the Whisky Exchange in London. I’m more than a little unclear on who the bottler technically is, however. The Whisky Exchange has had a number of labels over the years and recently spun off Elixir Distillers as a separate indie bottling concern. In fact, there is another Glenburgie 21, 1998 bottled by Elixir Distillers under the old Single Malts of Scotland label. This Glenburgie 21 and a number of other recent exclusive releases, however, were put out under a Whisky Exchange label. I am a simple man and I find all this very confusing. I guess I could have asked the source of my sample, the estimable Billy Abbott, to clear it all up but I am also an old man and things don’t occur to me at the right time. Billy, if you read this, please explain in the comments. Anyway, let’s get to it. Continue reading →
The fifth Port Ellen entry in the Whisky Exchange’s Elements of Islay series was released in 2011, I think. And it may have been the last of the Port Ellens released in that series—at least Whiskybase does not list a Pe6. I’ve been sitting on this sample since early 2012. I acquired this sample through a rare act of honesty on my part: I had placed an order for a Karuizawa from TWE (this was back when Karuizawas could be acquired for <$200) and due to a glitch in their systems was charged only a fraction of the price. I alerted Tim Forbes who was then doing web stuff for TWE, and who was also a member of the then-very active Whisky Whisky Whisky forums. He confirmed that I was not in fact a winner of a special lottery and, as appreciation for my letting him know, threw a few fancy samples in with the order, one of which was this one. Why it has then taken me almost 8 years to drink it, I couldn’t tell you. Anyway, being released in 2011 it is at least 28 years old (Port Ellen closed in 1983) and probably a bit older. It’s also from a sherry cask, as three of the other four Elements of Islay Pe releases had been as well. It was very well received at the time. I, of course, did not buy a bottle because I thought it was horrendously overpriced. Cut to the present where the multiplier for any Port Ellen released in 2011 is about 10x. Anyway, let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading →
Okay, after an Armagnac, a Cognac, and a rum, let’s get back to whisky. This 11 yo whisky was released by the Whisky Exchange in a series they called Time. I’ve previously reviewed two of the other releases from this series: a Benrinnes 20 and a “Family Owned Distillery” 15 (probably a Glenfarclas). I was intrigued by the other releases as well but didn’t get around to ordering them before they sold out/TWE stopped shipping to Minnesota. Anyway, I liked both of the others I did buy a lot, and I can tell you the streak continued with this Ledaig. It took me a long time to get around to it—I eventually opened it as a sparring partner with a stupidly sherried Ledaig (also 11 years old and also from the Whisky Exchange). That one had the maximum sherry thing going on with the peat but this bourbon cask whisky held its own quite well. I drank it down quite quickly after opening it. Here now are the particulars. 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 →
Yesterday’s review of a Glen Keith 22, 1995 doubled my erstwhile total, taking it to an awe-inspiring two reviews. Today I multiply that by a further time and a half with my third ever Glen Keith review. Feel the mastery! This is a year younger than yesterday’s bottle and distilled a year later. It was released by the Whisky Exchange’s sister company, Elixir Distillers (the artists formerly known as Speciality Drinks) under their Single Malts of Scotland Label. It is stated as being from a sherry butt but the label also says that only 294 bottles were released. That’s a bit low for a sherry butt at 56.2%. You might wonder if it was in fact a sherry hogshead but in that case 294 bottles would be a bit high. The only explanation I can think of is that the cask was split with someone else and that Elixir Distillers has only listed the number of bottles their share yielded. (Or maybe they put the rest to some other use: conditioner for Billy Abbot’s beard?) Anyway, let’s get to the whisky! Continue reading →
After three less than whelming whiskies to start the month, and also to start my run of reviews of malts from the Speyside and the Highlands this month, here is one that I know is very good. This is a Longmorn bottled by the Single Malts of Scotland label of Speciality Drinks (now Elixir Distillers, I think) a few years ago. I opened it for my local group’s February tasting and it went down very well with the group. Here now are my notes.
Longmorn 24, 1990 (53.7%; Single Malts of Scotland; hogshead #191954; from my own bottle)
Nose: Tart apple, lemon peel, dried leaves, grass, toasted oak. The lemon peel expands as it sits, getting oilier and zestier. Softer and maltier with water. Continue reading →
No, I don’t know what’s going on in the background of this photograph either.
Here’s another whisky from a relatively obscure and unloved distillery: Dailuaine. It is located in the Speyside and is owned by (who else?) Diageo. It is one of Diageo’s workhorse distilleries, producing almost entirely for blends. As far as I know, it has only seen regular official single malt release in the Flora & Fauna series. There have been a few one-offs: for example, a Manager’s Dram release, a Rare Malts release, and then in 2015, out of the blue, a 34 yo version was included in Diageo’s Special Release slate. There haven’t been so very many indie releases either. The redoubtable Serge V. has only reviewed 52 Dailuaines. (I say “only” because he probably reviewed 52 rums this past weekend alone—I haven’t checked.) Continue reading →
Let’s make it three malts from The Whisky Exchange in a row for the week. This one was bottled not by Signatory and not this year (unlike Monday’s Bowmore and Wednesday’s Clynelish). This was released a few years ago by the Speciality Drinks division of the company (now known as Elixir Distillers even though they don’t actually distill anything as far as I know) in their Single Malts of Scotland series. While there are a lot of sherried Ledaigs about—Ledaig, as you know, is the name for Tobermory’s peated variant—there is not as much sherried Tobermory available and so this caught my eye back then. I opened it recently for one of my local group’s tastings (dedicated to sherried whiskies) and it did quite well. While deviants like Florin—the fifth man on the moon—will disagree, it’s entirely possible that sherry aging is needed to saw off Tobermory’s nastier bits. In this case it’s also a sherry hogshead which means greater oak contact. Anyway, here are my notes. Continue reading →
At the risk of lapsing into relevance, here is a review of another whisky that is still available. It is an exclusive for the Whisky Exchange, who had it as the first release in their somewhat confusingly conceived series called “Time”. Confusing because, as I noted while reviewing the second release in this series (this Benrinnes 20), it’s not clear how drinking whiskies of different ages from different distilleries is supposed to give you much sense of time as a variable—which I think is the rationale of the series. More importantly, however, this is a very good whisky. I was a little surprised to discover today that it’s still available. Perhaps the fact that there’s no distillery name on the bottle has something to do with it? Though you’d think most whisky geeks would just assume this is a Glenfarclas. That’s what I had assumed as well, and my initial pours had borne out that assumption. However, as the bottle has gone on, I could just as easily swear that it is a Balvenie (also a family owned distillery). The language of the TWE listing probably indicates it’s a Glenfarclas: Balvenie is not thought of as being “classically sherried”. Anyway, while I’ve liked this a lot from the get-go, it’s the second half of the bottle that’s really been great—and it’s from that part of the bottle that these notes were taken. Here they are. Continue reading →
If like me you were ever confused about the relationship between the Whisky Exchange and Speciality Drinks, under whose name all the TWE releases (Elements of Islay, Single Malts of Scotland, Whisky Trail etc.) were released, you can add a new name to the mix: Speciality Drinks is history and has been replaced by Elixir Whisky Distillers; or maybe I should say that Speciality Drinks is now named Elixir Whisky Distillers. Apparently, a completely separate operation with the folks who work at the Whisky Exchange’s retail end not involved at all in picking casks etc. (which they may not have been before either, I suppose). This Bowmore, however, was released in the Elements of Islay series before the bottlers’ name changed. I’ve previously reviewed a few Ardbegs (Ar1 and Ar2) and Lagavulins (most recently, the Lg6) and a Laphroaig (Lp1) and a Caol Ila (the Ci1). As you can tell this is the fifth Bowmore they’ve released. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading →
Here is the last of the Glen Grants I’d said I’d review back in February; and it’s the last Glen Grant I’ll probably review for a while. Like the Whisky-fässle and Maltbarn bottles I reviewed recently, this is also from 1992, but it is two years older than those two. It’s also unlike them in that it’s smoky, which I was not quite expecting. Now, the Whisky Exchange’s notes do mention “a distinct whiff of wood smoke” but there’s quite a bit more than a whiff here—everyone in my local tasting group remarked it when the bottle was opened earlier this year and if anything it’s got stronger as the bottle’s stayed open. In fact, I would say it’s smokier than indicated in Whisky Magazine’s notes, which do mention smoke. Surprisingly, Serge Valentin’s notes on Whiskyfun don’t mention smoke at all—that one’s a bit of a head-scratcher; there are no notes on it on Whiskybase. If you’ve had it, please write in and let me know if you found no/faint/palpable smoky notes. Continue reading →