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 were released, you can add a new name to the mix: Speciality Drinks is history and has been replaced by Elixir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
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
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
Okay, 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
Here 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
I 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
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.