The Highland Park 28, 1980 that I ended last week’s series of reviews of late 2000s Mackillop’s Choice releases was quite peaty but not phenolic. This week will be pretty peaty and phenolic. All the whiskies this week will be peated Islay releases. And what’s more they’ll be from the three distilleries from Islay’s south shore: Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg. I’ll take them in that order, which is also the order in which you’d encounter the distilleries if you set out from Port Ellen on the A846. A young Laphroaig will kick things off. This was bottled by the Whisky Exchange’s spin-off company, Elixir Distillers for their Single Malts of Scotland label (which they inherited from the parent company). I believe this was an exclusive for the US market. It’s from a single bourbon hogshead. Generally with young Laphroaig, ex-bourbon casks are a good bet; and as Single Malts of Scotland has historically been a pretty reliable label, I am hopeful. Let’s hope this doesn’t make me regret giving hope a chance. Continue reading
Category Archives: The Whisky Exchange
Caol Ila 17, 1991 (Single Malts of Scotland)
This week’s recipe will also not post on a Thursday (today) but on a Friday (tomorrow). Instead, I have for you today the last in this week’s independently bottled Caol Ila triad featuring three different cask profiles.
The week began on Monday with a 12 yo bottled by DS Tayman. That one was a bourbon cask that had been finished in a Bordeaux cask. On Wednesday I posted a review of a 13 yo bottled by Old Particular for K&L in California. That one was from a refill butt. I liked both fine—and the 13 yo a bit more than the 12 yo—but neither got me very excited. I already know that I like today’s 17 yo from a single bourbon hogshead more than either. That’s because this is taken from a large reference sample I saved from the bottle many years ago. Yes, unlike the DS Tayman and Old Particular releases, this is one of my signature highly untimely reviews. This 17 yo was distilled in 1991 and bottled in 2008 by Single Malts of Scotland—back when my referring to Single Malts of Scotland as the Whisky Exchange’s indie label didn’t make Billy Abbot’s beard quiver with rage. I have the score I gave it then recorded in my spreadsheet but not my notes. Let’s see if the scores match across the years. Continue reading
Linkwood 13, 2008 (Single Malts of Scotland)
The first two whiskies in my week of reviews of recent US releases of malts from Single Malts of Scotland did not do very much for me. The week began on Monday on Islay with a young Laphroaig that was decent but nothing more. Tuesday moved us to the higlands with a slightly older Clynelish that I liked even less, finding far too much oak in it. For the last of the trio we are in the Speyside with the oldest of the three. Will this 13 year old Linkwood prove luckier for me? Let’s see.
Linkwood 13, 2008 (48%; Single Malts of Scotland; bourbon hogsheads; from a bottle split)
Nose: Orchard fruit (apples, pears, a hint of peach), cream, pastry crust, a bit of toasted oak. This is the kind of bourbon cask nose I like. The cream expands as it sits; the oak, thankfully, remains in the background. A few drops of water and there’s more of the fruit (with more acid) and cream and less of the oak. Continue reading
Clynelish 10, 2011 (Single Malts of Scotland)
Yes, Tuesday is usually a restaurant report day on the blog, but we’re desperately trying to finish the last season of Better Call Saul before we leave for India and I didn’t have time last evening to resize all the images for my first restaurant report of 2023. And so here is the second review of the trio of releases by Single Malts of Scotland that I am reviewing this week.
The series began yesterday with a young Laphroaig that was fine enough but didn’t really impress me—especially relative to the price. This Clynelish—which also bears the appellation “Reserve Casks”—is three years older but was a little bit cheaper ($65 to the Laphroaig’s $80, I think). I guess there’s no Islay peat tax to be paid here. Like the Laphroaig it’s not a single cask; this is a vatting of three bourbon barrels. Let’s hope the barrels were not over-active and that this proves to be a better value. Continue reading
Laphroaig 7, 2014 (Single Malts of Scotland)
Let’s start the year in whisky reviews with a young Laphroaig. This is a 7 year old put together as a vatting of three bourbon hogsheads by Single Malts of Scotland—once a Whisky Exchange label, now put out by their sister company, Elixir Distillers. There was a time when whiskies from Single Malts of Scotland were not available in the US. That time is past. This Laphroaig and a few others that I’ll be reviewing this week that also bear the “Reserve Casks” appellation were released in the US market in 2022. And they’re not the first Single Malts of Scotland bottles to make it here. The Caol Ila 10, 2009 I reviewed in December was also a US release and, for all I know, they’ve been here even longer. I think I’ve mentioned before that I no longer follow whisky marketing news—if one of my readers knows more about this I hope you’ll write in below. As for these “Reserve Casks” releases, I expect “Reserve Casks” is just a nice way of saying “Not Single Cask or at Cask Strength”—these are all bottled at 48%. I say this because single casks at cask strength might well be what people expect of indie releases, especially when a 7 yo whisky costs $90 and above as this Laphroaig did on release. Well, let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
Caol Ila 10, 2009 (Single Malts of Scotland)
The first whisky review of December is the last of my peated Islay week. The first two reviews were of official distillery releases that came out this year—yes, not only did I have two timely reviews, I had them back to back: Monday’s Laphroaig Cairdeas 2022 and Tuesday’s Lagavulin 11, Offerman Edition, Charred Oak. I liked both well enough. Today’s review is of an independent release of Caol Ila—in about the general ballpark of the others, age-wise (I assume the Laphroaig is somewhere near 10 years old as well). It’s not the most untimely of my reviews, as this was released only about three years ago, in November 2019. The bottler is the Whisky Exchange, I mean, Elixir Distillers, under the Single Malts of Scotland label. Yes, yes, I know Elixir Distillers was spun off as a separate company some years ago but it’s all the Whisky Exchange to me. Teenaged ex-bourbon hogshead Caol Ila is one of my favourite profiles of whisky and I’m hoping that this 10 yo turns out to be precocious in that regard. Continue reading
Ardmore 19, 1992 (Single Malts of Scotland)
Ardmore week began on a low note with Monday’s 6 yo Ardlair (unpeated Ardmore bottled by Signatory) and then hit a big high on Wednesday with a regularly made 10 yo (bottled by Single Cask Nation). Will today’s 19 yo (bottled by Single Malts of Scotland) from 1992 go even higher? Only one way to find out. This sample also came to me from Michael K. of Diving for Pearls but I’m not sure if he’s reviewed it yet himself. I greedily accepted the offer of the sample even though I have a full bottle myself.
Ardmore 19, 1992 (49.3%; Single Malts of Scotland; bourbon barrel 9464; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Everything you want your Ardmore 19 to be: mineral peat mixed with sweet floral notes and savoury notes (ham cure). On the second sniff the smoke has begun to turn ashy and the floral notes begin to move in the direction of musky fruit (honeydew melon) and fruit custard. Citronella builds in the background and then comes to the fore. With time and air the citronella moves in the direction of sweet orange and the sweet fruit moves somewhere between peach and overripe pineapple. The smoke builds as it sits. A few drops of water and it all melds perfectly. Continue reading
Longmorn 18, Whisky Show 2011
I think the Whisky Exchange’s annual Whisky Show is coming up soon. I say annual but they obviously skipped it last year (this year’s show is in person again, I think). Anyway, I didn’t mean this review of a Longmorn 18 released 10 years ago at the 2011 edition of the Whisky Show to come close to coinciding with it—I’ve actually had this bottle open for some months now but have just not gotten around to reviewing it. Now that it has dipped below the half-full line it is time.
Speaking of the Whisky Exchange, you may have come across the recent news that they have been purchased by Pernod Ricard. Given how much difficulty I’ve had with keeping track of all of the Whisky Exchange properties, affiliates and spin-off concerns over the years, I don’t actually know what this means for the various whisky releases their various bottling concerns put out. Will this mean greater access to malts from the group’s distilleries? Less attention to malts from competitors? (Longmorn, of course, is part of the Pernod Ricard portfolio.) The most important question is whether the new corporate masters will approve of Billy Abbott’s beard. Only time will tell. Continue reading
Bowmore, Bw1 (Speciality Drinks)
August ended with a peaty whisky (this Ledaig) and September began with another peaty whisky (this Laphroaig). Let’s stay on Islay this week and visit a few other distilleries, so to speak.
First up is this Bowmore from the Whisky Exchange’s Elements of Islay series. Indeed, it’s the very first Bowmore in that series. I’m not sure what number it’s up to now but I’ve previously reviewed the Bw5. As per Whiskybase, this was put together from refill sherry casks from 1994, but as neither piece of information is noted on either the bottle’s label or The Whisky Exchange’s original product listing it’s hard to verify them. I can tell you for sure that it was bottled in 2012, which is when I purchased a bottle for roughly $75 at the then quite brutal, pre-Brexit exchange rate. Since the Elements of Islay bottles are 500 ml that works out to about $112 for a 750 ml equivalent of likely 17-18 yo Bowmore from sherry casks. At the current exchange rate it would have been quite a bit lower. By comparison, the Bw8, said to be 16 years old, is currently available from the Whisky Exchange for £117 ex. vat for a 500 ml. That would be £175 for a 750 ml equivalent or roughly $242 at the current exchange rate. I’m no mathematician but it would appear the price has more than doubled in 9 years. This is why I no longer buy very much whisky. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading
Ben Nevis 22, 1997 (Single Malts of Scotland)
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
Lagavulin, Lg8 (Elements of Islay)
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
Caol Ila 19 (The Whisky Exchange)
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
Laphroaig 16, Retro Label (The Whisky Exchange)
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
Ledaig 13, 2005 (The Whisky Exchange)
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
Laphroaig 21, 1998 (The Whisky Exchange)
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
Glenburgie 21, 1998 (The Whisky Exchange)
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
Port Ellen, Pe5 (Elements of Islay)
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
Ledaig 11, “Time IV” (The Whisky Exchange)
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