Glen Ord 15, 1997 (Liquid Sun)


Here is the first of two Glen Ord 15s bottled by the Whisky Agency under their Liquid Sun label. This is a year older than the one I reviewed last month. I really liked the classic Ord mix of fruit and austere notes that one presented. Will this be as good? Let’s see.

Glen Ord 15, 1997 (49.9%; Liquid Sun; bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Bright fruit (apples, lemon, pear) mixed in with musky malt and some bready/yeasty notes. Very Glen Ord, in other words. With time that malty note moves a bit in the direction of putty. Water pulls out more of the malt and the smoke from the palate shows up here too now (a sooty, waxy outline around the malt).

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Balblair 2006-2018 (Hand-Filled)


I filled this bottle at Balblair during my brief visit in June 2018. We stopped at the distillery on the way to Dornoch from the Speyside. We got there too late in the day for a tour to be possible; a pity as I rather liked the feel of the place, dour as it is. (You can see my brief account of the stop here.) They had one cask on the go and having been foiled at Aberlour, where I had hoped to fill a bottle from their usual bourbon cask only to find they had no casks of any kind available to bottle, I was hoping Balblair’s would be a good one. Truth be told, it’s a bit dangerous pondering these casks at the distilleries. You’re gone a long way to get there, and if you like the feel of the place you’re very primed to take a bottle away as a keepsake. And, of course, the theatre of filling the bottle yourself, writing your name and the bottle details in the register, and applying the label yourself is appealing too. Nonetheless, I had resisted the charms of a number of distilleries’ offerings in the Speyside; but I was beginning to worry that I might not have the opportunity to fill bottles from any distilleries on this trip. And so I was probably pretty primed to like Balblair’s cask. And indeed I did. Will I like it as much more than a year later? Let’s see. Continue reading

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2019, Triple Wood CS


Hello, hello, here is one of my annual timely reviews: this year’s Cairdeas release from Laphroaig. Not so timely if you actually were at Feis Ile in June—the annual Islay festival where all the distilleries release special whiskies (the Cairdeas is Laphroaig’s)—but pretty timely in the US: the Cairdeas only arrived in the country in late July and only became widely available in mid-August. As always, Laphroaig has released this without much hoopla and at a very reasonable price for a cask strength whisky: it can be found for less than $70—compare with pretty much every other Islay distillery’s offerings, most of which can only be found at auction at several times the original price.

Like 2017’s Cairdeas this one is a cask strength version of a whisky from their regular lineup and like last year’s it is a sherried whisky. 2017’s was the Quarter Cask and last year’s release was a Fino sherry finish. And this year we get a cask strength version of the Triple Wood, matured in a combination of ex-bourbon casks, quarter casks and oloroso sherry casks. The Triple Wood itself was originally a duty-free-only release that became part of the core lineup. I liked the original version of that and still have a bottle on my shelves (I should review it at some point); but it’s been a long time and I don’t really recall any specifics.  Maybe I’ll open it before this bottle gets done and see how it compares. Here for now is the CS Cairdeas edition. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 14, 1998 (Exclusive Casks)


The last Ben Nevis I reviewed was an official release: the Batch 1 release of a 10 yo from 2008. That was I believe an interim release till their new 10 yo—which I did like a lot—came back online. I don’t think there has been a Batch 2. Anyway, whatever its status, I was not a fan. I have not had the 2019 release of the regular 10 yo; I do hope it’s at the level of the prior release. The 14 yo I am reviewing today is an independent release. It was bottled by the Creative Whisky Co. in their Exclusive Casks line for Total Wine in the US. I believe that the Creative Whisky Co. is no longer a going concern as of 2018. There’s so much ferment in the whisky world. This whole introduction has been nothing but a record of uncertainty. What is certain, however, is that Michael K., the source of my sample, really liked this one (see his review), though he was undecided about the cask type. Our thoughts on Ben Nevis tend to align. Let’s see if that will continue to be the case here. Continue reading

Lheraud Borderies 1975-2005 (Cognac)


Back to brandy, back to cognac, back to Lheraud. I have to date reviewed two releases of 1970s vintages from the renowned cognac house. I really liked the 1970 Fins Bois and was a little less enthused by the 1973 Petite Champagne (though I did like it). Today’s Lheraud was distilled in 1975 and is made from grapes from the Borderies region. Where will it fall in comparison to the other two. Let’s see.

Lheraud Borderies 1975-2005 (47%; Cognac; Borderies; from a bottle split)

Nose: A mix of caramel, dried orange peel, apricot jam and honey. Gets brighter as it sits with sweeter notes coming to the top (berries of some kind); a bit of cola too. Water seems to mute all of the above though it doesn’t do too much damage. Continue reading

Benriach 18, 1998, PX Sherry Finish


Last month I reviewed an older Benriach that was released in 2016 as part of the distillery’s 13th batch of single cask releases. I thought that one—an oloroso finish applied to whisky made from a peated run—was fine but nothing very special. This Benriach was also part of Batch 13 and is also a sherry finish, though PX this time; it is not, however, made from peated barley. I note that there was a Glendronach-style outturn of 670 bottles at a high strength. I’d guess multiple hogsheads were re-racked into a PX puncheon for a short time, making this a Glendronach-style “single cask”. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad whisky though. Let’s see what it’s like.

Benriach 18, 1998, PX Sherry Finish (57.3%; Batch 13, cask 6401; from a bottle split)

Nose: Rich sherried nose with plums, hoisin sauce and then some perfumed wood. The wood is more assertive on the second sniff—spicier and oakier now; the red fruit expands too, getting a touch cough syrupy. Water pushes both the richer notes and the spicy oak back and pulls out some pencil lead. With a lot more water there’s a mild, pleasant note of orange and a tiny bit of oak. Continue reading

Millburn 25, 1975, Rare Malts


Millburn was established in the Northern HIghlands in the early 19th century, though it appears to be unclear as to when it actually started distilling whisky on the regular. In the middle of the century it was repurposed as a flour mill and only returned to distilling whisky in the 1870s. It then changed owners a few times before becoming part of DCL—one of the precursors to Diageo—in 1937. It then remained in operation before closing in 1985, one of the later casualties of the downturn that saw so many distilleries close in that decade. Unlike some of those distilleries, however, Millburn never really ascended to cult status after its demise. This is perhaps due to the fact that very little Millburn has ever been available. The only one I remember seeing in the US is a G&M release. I stared at bottles of it on shelves in Minnesota more than a decade ago but never got around to buying one. This, therefore, is my first Millburn, a 25 yo released in 2001 as part of Diageo’s Rare Malts series. I’m curious to see what it’s like. Continue reading

Royal Brackla 14, 1998 (G&M for Binny’s)

This review comes to you despite the sordid machinations of Michael Kravitz. You see, many years ago, Florin (the original Fresh Prince of Bel Air) asked him to pass a sample on to me when we met for lunch in Los Angeles but what did Michael Kravitz do? Yes, he stole it. Now this will not surprise most of you who have been aware of the content of his character for a while now but it surprised and—I’m not unwilling to say it—shocked me when I found out about it. For I am by nature a trusting person who likes to believe in the best everyone can be. And even though Michael Kravitz looks a shifty type, I have never believed in judging a book by its cover. But now that I have read the dossier that a number of you have compiled of his various malfeasances over the years, I am forced to look the ugly truth in the eye. But enough negativity! Michael Kravitz stole my sample and gave it a bad review; but Florin sent me another anyway and I am here to set the record straight. Continue reading

Glenallachie 22, 1995 (Whiskybase)


This is the first Glenallachie I’ve reviewed and it may well be the first Glenallachie I’ve tasted. It was bottled just over a year ago by the good people of Whiskybase to commemorate a milestone on the popular crowdsourced whisky database: their 110,000th entry. I don’t know much about the distillery and so have no expectations. The distillery is relatively young, as Scottish distilleries go—it was opened in 1967 and then mothballed for a few years in the 1980s. For most of its life it produced mostly for blends but under the recent new ownership its malt offering has expanded. That new ownership, as you probably know, includes Billy Walker, ex-owner of Glendronach and pioneer of single cask shenanigans. As to whether we can expect more of that from Glenallachie as well—or The GlenAllachie, as the new owners style it—I guess only time will tell. For now let me tell you what I found this to be like after I opened the bottle. Continue reading

Springbank 16, Local Barley


Here is another contemporary classic: the 16 yo that was the first release in Springbank’s recent’ish Local Barley series. I’ve previously reviewed the 11 yo that was the second release in the series and I liked that one a lot. Based on the coverage of this one I’m expecting to like it a lot too. Let’s see if that comes to pass.

Springbank 16, Local Barley (54.3%; from my own bottle)

Nose: An austere mix of mineral oil, sack cloth, lemon, brine and cracked coriander seed. On the second sniff some soot joins the party as well. Gets sweeter as it sits. With a few drops of water it gets brighter/more acidic and the soot expands as well; some tart apple too under it all now. Continue reading

Benriach 29, 1986


One more peated whisky to round out the week and it’s the oldest of the three. It was distilled in 1986 and released in 2016, as part of Batch 13 of Benriach’s “single cask” releases. Like Monday’s Lagavulin, this was made complicatedly: distilled from peated barley, (presumably) matured in ex-bourbon barrels for a good while and then finished in an oloroso sherry cask. Interestingly, Billy Walker and co.—then owners of both Glendronach and Benriach—were more forthcoming on labels of Benriach than they were about the so-called single casks of Glendronach (none of which, as far as I know, had or have the word “finished” anywhere on their labels). How long this finish was is, nonetheless, not specified. And nor is there any reason to believe that this is a true “single cask” as most people would understand the term and not another case of multiple casks being re-racked together into a sherry cask for the final bit of maturation/finishing. Anyway, let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Kavalan 8, 2006, Peaty Cask


It’s been a while since my last Kavalan review; more than three years, actually. That was a review of one of their Solist sherry casks. To be honest, I’ve not really kept up with Kavalan over the years. Their whiskies, at least the ones available in the US fall into two categories: affordable but unremarkable; and good but very expensive. And I’ve more or less given up on buying expensive whisky. And it’s also fair to say that it’s not just Kavalan that I’ve not kept up with—I’ve become rather disconnected from the the whisky world in general. But that’s another post for another day. Here is an unusual Kavalan: one of their “Peaty Cask” releases. I *think* this is regular Kavalan spirit matured or finished in an imported cask that had held peated whisky. If not, someone will be around shortly to correct me. And, no, this is not a new release—it came out in 2015 or so. I purchased a sample with a view towards possibly purchasing a bottle and then promptly forgot about it. I think I’ve been threatening to review it for the last year or so. Anyway, here it is now. Continue reading

Lagavulin 24, 1991, Feis Ile 2015


I’m hoping to get to this year’s Laphroaig Cairdeas release by the end of the month but in the meantime here is another Feis Ile release from Islay’s south shore. This is not this year’s Lagavulin release though; it is the one they put out in 2015. At 24 years old it’s one of the older releases at recent Feis Iles. It’s also somewhat complicatedly made, being triple matured: first in ex-bourbon casks, then in PX sherry casks and then finally in oak puncheons (presumably either not sherry or refilled so many times as to not matter). The PX sherry maturation was apparently the briefest of the three. This was said to have been selected by the excellent Pinkie McArthur but I’m not sure exactly what that means in this case as there were 3500 bottles released—probably 6-8 puncheons worth at 59.9%. Were there in fact far more of these triple-matured puncheons, a few of which Pinkie selected to be vatted for Feis Ile 2015? That would appear to be the explanation. That makes you wonder what is happening/happened with the rest. Well, I cannot answer that question but I can tell you what I think of this bottle which I recently opened several years after acquiring it at auction for a king’s ransom (well, maybe not a very important king). Continue reading

Lheraud Petite Champagne 1973-2003 (Cognac)


On Wednesday I reviewed a Lheraud distilled in 1970 and bottled in 2007. I really liked that one. Today I have another Lheraud from the 1970s but it’s a bit younger. However, while the 1970 was from the Fins Bois cru, this one is from Petite Champagne, which is, along with Grande Champagne, one of the premier crus of Cognac. Apparently, the brandy made from Petite Champagne grapes can be particularly fruity. All of this bodes well in theory. Let’s see how it works out in practice.

Lheraud Petite Champagne 1973-2003 (48%; Cognac; Petite Champagne; from a bottle split)

Nose: Richer than the Fins Bois 1970 with prunes, dark maple syrup, apricot jam, dried orange peel and tobacco. Thins out as it sits. Let’s see if water unlocks any more richness. Hmm there’s an herbal thing that happens and maybe there’s a bit of plum but nothing more of interest. Continue reading