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 →
Here is a review of the sixth release of Lagavulin in the Whisky Exchange’s Elements of Islay series. I’ve previously reviewed the Lg1, Lg2 and Lg5, all of which I liked very much (Lg3 and Lg4 somehow escaped my notice). As with all Elements of Islay releases, this has no age statement—and like all recent Elements of Islay releases, this was far more expensive than the early releases in the series were, just a few years ago.
This has been sold out on the Whisky Exchange’s website for a while but as of a month and change ago there were still a number available in their Covent Garden store. I purchased it there for everyday drinking while in London and have in fact already disposed of the bottle (these notes were written up last week). Which means I need to get another heavily peated whisky for the next five weeks. Continue reading →
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 →
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 →
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.
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 →