Ben Nevis 10


While I have reviewed a number of independent releases of Ben Nevis, it has been more than three years since my last review of an official release—this single cask 1996-2012. As I’ve noted before, Ben Nevis’s somewhat dodgy past reputation has been overhauled in recent years, and this has been marked most clearly in the rising prices of their official vintage releases. The recent’ish makeover of their entry-level 10 yo, however, has not been accompanied by an unreasonable price. Not in the UK, at any rate: there you can get it for £32 ex. vat. I’m not even sure if it’s in the US. What pops up on Winesearcher is the old 10 yo (which had a different label), and that’s going for $75 and more. That might make it the priciest 10 yo on the market—and that older version was not even very good. This one is very good; since taking the picture, I’ve consumed half of the bottle—and though I have another on the shelf next to it, I might have to get another when I’m in the UK next month.  Continue reading

Old Blends: Dewar’s White Label, Late 1940s/Early 1950s


Some of you would like me to review more blends. You will accordingly be pleased to know that starting this week, for the next two months or so, I will be posting one review of a blended whisky per week. You may be less pleased to know that these are all blends released many decades ago.

First up is a Dewar’s White Label released sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s. I’ve previously reviewed the current Dewar’s White Label and I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that I found it barely drinkable (in fact, I barely drank it). This doesn’t make me nervous about this incarnation of the whisky though. My (limited) experience with old blends has led me to expect a much higher malt content and also a higher peat content. At the least, I expect it will be interesting.  Continue reading

Blair Athol 26, 1988 (Signatory)


In 2014/2015 there were quite a few Blair Athol 1988s on the market, all in the mid-20s age-wise. Many of these were bottled by Signatory—21 of the 47 Blair Athols listed on Whiskybase are from Signatory*; and another 8 are from van Wees, who source from Signatory, I believe. I’ve reviewed some of these: I really liked this 26 yo bottled for K&L; I also liked this 26 yo and this 25 yo, both from van Wees. Most recently, I thought this 25 yo bottled for LMDW was excellent as well (I could be wrong but I think Signatory was the source of this cask as well—if you know differently, please write in below). All of these casks have proximate numbers, by the way, suggesting perhaps that a big parcel of casks was purchased all together by a broker.

Does that guarantee high quality for this one? Let’s see.  Continue reading

Amrut Peated CS, Batch 9


It’s been almost three year since my last review of an Amrut. The distillery’s strong reputation among single malt whisky drinkers endures, even if they’re not quite as exciting a prospect as they were a few years ago. Their lineup hasn’t changed very much either, and in the US we mostly see the Fusion and the regular and cask strength editions of their standard and peated releases. As far as I know, we have still not begun to get the single casks that go to the UK and EU and even to Canada. If true, I’m not sure why that is—is the market for Amrut in the US not strong enough to sustain that? I’d imagine that those paying >$100 for the Intermediate Sherry and Portonova releases would be fine shelling out for the occasional single cask as well.

Anyway, I’ve reviewed the Amrut Peated CS before—that was Batch 4, released in January 2010. This is Batch 9 and was released only a few months later. I assume by now they’re on to Batch 50 or so. I liked that previous bottle a lot and when I opened this one recently for one of my local group’s tastings, I liked it a lot too (as did the others: it was our top whisky on the night, beating out the Lagavulin 12 CS, 2016 release). Here now are my formal notes.  Continue reading

Mortlach 28, 1989 (Faultline)


And here is the last of my five reviews of recent K&L casks. The score so far is 3-1: I really liked the Bowmore 20 and the Bunnahabhain 25, and thought the Bunnahabhain 28 was solid; it was only the Mortlach 22 that I was not crazy about. Well, this is also a Mortlach and, like the Bunnahabhain 28, it’s also a Faultline. Which way will it go? Let’s see.

Mortlach 28, 1989 (42.5%; Faultline; first-fill sherry hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Raisins, a bit of orange and some oak. With time the orange expands a bit but there’s not much of note happening here. With more time still there’s some toffee. With a few drops of water the fruit expands significantly: orange and apricot.

Continue reading

Bunnahabhain 28, 1989 (Faultline)


My series of reviews of recent K&L casks continues. The score so far is 2-1. The two casks I liked a lot were both Old Particular releases (a Bowmore 20, 1997 and a Bunnahabhain 25, 1991). The other was a Mortlach 22, 1995, an Alexander Murray cask bottled in K&L’s own Faultline series, and I thought it was ordinary. This one’s also a Bunnahabhain but it’s also another of the Alexander Murrary Faultline releases. That doesn’t bode well. Will this be another of K&L’s older whiskies that seems like a great value but isn’t actually worth it anyway? Let’s see.

Bunnahabhain 28, 1989 (42.1%; Faultline; first-fill sherry hogshead; from a bottle split)

Continue reading

Bunnahabhain 25, 1991 (Old Particular for K&L)


On to review #3 of K&L’s recent single cask releases, and the oldest one so far. As you may recall, the first was a Bowmore 20, 1997, bottled by Douglas Laing’s Old Particular, and I quite liked that one. The second was a Mortlach 22, 1995 bottled under K&L’s own Faultline label (the cask came from Alexander Murray). I did not have much of an opinion of that one. Will this Bunnahabhain, also bottled by Old Particular, get things back on track? Like the Mortlach 22, it’s priced very well—I should say “was”, as it’s already sold out: $160, I believe. Considering the lowest price for the OB 25 yo on WineSearcher is $342, that seems like a very good deal indeed. But, as we saw with the Mortlach, age isn’t everything. Paying a relatively low price for an older whisky isn’t much of a steal if the whisky in the bottle isn’t very good. Older Bunnahabhain can be very good indeed, however, so I am hopeful. Let’s see how it goes.  Continue reading

Mortlach 22, 1995 (Faultline)


On Wednesday I posted the first of five reviews of some recentl K&L exclusive casks. I very much liked that Bowmore 20, which was bottled in Douglas Laing’s Old Particular line. Today’s Mortlach is a couple of years older but was bottled under K&L’s own Faultline label. More than any K&L casks, those bottled in the Faultline series have proven the most disappointing. Then again, I had low expectations of Wednesday’s Bowmore as well and those were easily exceeded. Will that be true of this Mortlach as well?

Sherry cask Mortlach—which is the most common version—can be a bit of a bruiser. The distillery produces a meatier, rougher spirit—their production process uses old-fashioned worm tubs for the condensation step, and with lower copper content in worm tubs, the spirit retains more of a sulphurous character. This can be a bit of an acquired taste but once you acquire it, it becomes a very specific pleasure. And a good sherry cask can amplify those pleasures. Let’s see if that has happened here or if this will be a regression to K&L’s cask selection mean.  Continue reading

Bowmore 20, 1997 (Old Particular for K&L)


I’m going to start the month with reviews of some of K&L’s recently released exclusives. This may seem timely but keep in mind that most of these have already sold out. This Bowmore, bottled under the Old Particular label from Douglas Laing, might still be available, however. The last time I reviewed a bunch of K&L selections—back in December 2016, starting with this Linkwood)—things didn’t go so well. Will this lot be any better? The odds, frankly, are not great. K&L’s strategy seems to be to look for casks with high age and low price numbers on them with the quality an afterthought. A lot of people want deals and 20-30 yo whisky for less than $200 seems like a great deal in this market in the abstract. It’s in the marketing copy that they’ll seek to convince you that you’re also getting amazing whisky. And even though David Driscoll is now gone from K&L, their ability to turn on the tap of hyperbole remains unaffected.  Continue reading

Highland Park 25, 1995 Release


I’ve reviewed a number of very good whiskies this month but let’s close with something really special. This Highland Park 25 was released sometime in the mid-90s—most people say 1995 but I’m not sure if that’s confirmed (and no, I haven’t squinted at my bottle for an undecipherable code). I like to believe that it was released in 1995 because that would mean that there was distillate from 1970 in there and that’s the year I was born. (I know, this means a lot to you as well.) I opened the bottle on my 48th birthday this year—my new policy, now that I’m closer to death than birth, is to open a very special bottle on my birthday each year. This is Highland Park from well before they began to care about packaging (which started in the late 2000s and led to today’s series of embarrassments). High quality sherried whisky, not sold in a longboat or in a black bottle. It’s also from a time when you didn’t need to choose between paying your mortgage or purchasing Highland Park 25 for a special occasion. Anyway, as I’m in danger of veering into the territory of the negative—an area which, as you know, makes me very uncomfortable—I’m going to now turn to the review itself.  Continue reading

Laphroaig 18, 1997, Cask 56 (Berry Bros. & Rudd)


Here is the last of three simul-reviews this month with Michael K. of Diving for Pearls. We’ve previously reviewed a Caol Ila 20, 1996 and a Glen Ord 18, 1997. Both were bottled by Montgomerie’s for Total Wine. This Laphroaig is also a Total Wine exclusive (I’m pretty sure) but it was bottled by a far more well-known concern, Berry Bros. & Rudd. My interest in this cask arose when I saw that it was cask 56 from 1997. I’ve previously tried and reviewed two other Berry Bros. & Rudd Laphroaig 18, 1997s from proximate cask numbers and liked them a lot. Most recently, cask 54, which was released in the Netherlands; and a year and half ago, cask 46, which was an exclusive for the Whisky Exchange. The TWE cask, in particular, presented a wonderful marriage of fruit and smoke—a very old-school Laphroaig profile. The Dutch cask was not quite as fruity but it was very good indeed too. Where will this one fall? Unlike the other two, it’s not at cask strength but that doesn’t necessarily mean much. Continue reading

Clynelish 23, 1989 (Thosop Import)


On Monday I posted a review of an official Clynelish released a decade ago. Today I have another Clynelish, doubtless much older than the NAS distillery exclusive bottle, but released a few years later. This was bottled by the Belgian independent, Thosop Import, known both for the quality of its releases and the handwritten labels on the bottles. Thosop was originally set up by one-time Malt Maniac, Luc Timmermans, but I believe he quit the business a while ago. I think I recall that someone else took over the series. I’m not sure if it’s still a going concern—I suspect not, as Whiskybase doesn’t list anything from them after 2013. This particular Clynelish has a very strong reputation. I’ve not had too many older Clynelishes from the late 1980s, but the only other I’ve reviewed—a 22 yo from Malts of Scotland, also from 1989—was very good indeed. If this is at least as good, I’ll be happy. Let’s see.  Continue reading

Clynelish, Distillery Only (2008 Release)


Clynelish is another of Diageo’s iconic distilleries from which very few official expressions are available. There’s the always reliable 14 yo and a Distiller’s Edition—which sees that 14 yo “finished” in oloroso casks, and which is not as easily found in the US as the Lagavulin and Talisker Distiller’s Editions. That’s pretty much it. Diageo have not yet gotten around to releasing a regular NAS Clynelish, though one such did come out as part of their annual Special Release collection a couple of years ago. This one is an official release but when released in 2008, it was only available at the distillery. It is an NAS bottle—-back in 2008 nobody got exercised about NAS releases—and I have no idea how old it is or is rumoured to be in reality. (I purchased the bottle at auction in the UK a while ago.) I’m not sure if Clynelish regularly releases “distillery only” bottles. If all goes according to plan, I might stop at Clynelish in June and I guess I might take a look and see. For now here’s my review of an exclusive from a decade ago.  Continue reading

Caol Ila 20, 1996 (Montgomerie’s)


Here is the second of three simul-reviews this month with Michael K. of Diving for Pearls of whiskies that were bottled as exclusives for Total Wine (and here now is his review). Our first was last week’s Glen Ord 18, also bottled by Montgomerie’s. This Caol Ila—which rounds out a week of Islay reviews—is a bit older. The bottle cost $125; I’m not sure if it’s still around—I didn’t notice it at the store I purchased it from when I was in there again briefly earlier this week. Even though this is at 46% and not cask strength, it does seem like a fair price for a 20 year old peated Islay whisky—there are certainly older Caol Ilas from other independents that are going for a lot more in the US; and next Friday we’ll have a simul-review of a younger Laphroaig whose list price was almost $100 more.

A good price relative to age then, but what is it like in the glass?  Continue reading