Laphroaig 18, 1998 (Cadenhead)


Another Islay whisky. This Laphroaig 18 was bottled in 2017 by Cadenhead. Like the 12 yo OMC release I recently reviewed it is from a bourbon cask. I was expecting to like that younger cask a lot but was a little underwhelmed by its unidimensional, heavy smoke. Will this 18 yo bear out my usual confidence in teenaged ex-bourbon Laphroaig? Let’s see.

Laphroaig 18, 1998 (55.9%; Cadenhead; bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Ah yes, this is the Laphroaig I love—big phenolic smoke but interlaced with acidic fruit (lime) and a bit of cereal. The smoke is pungent but the fruit is unmistakable too (with time there’s pear and melon as well). With more time some vanilla pops up too but it’s not obtrusive. Water brings the acid out to the front, pulls out a bit more of the vanilla; and there’s a briny, hammy quality to it too now.  Continue reading

Bowmore 22, 1996, Cask 17078 (OMC 20th Anniv. Release)


On Monday I posted a review of one of two Bowmore 22, 1996s released by Hunter Laing to mark the 20th anniversary of the Old Malt Cask line. I really liked that one. Here now is my review of the second which I hope I will like at least as much. It is also from an ex-bourbon cask.

This is the last of my OMC 20th anniversary reviews—if anyone has any first-hand reports on any of the others released in the series, please write in below. I’m particularly interested in those that are still available: as you know I don’t approve of talk of whiskies that are not currently available. Thanks in advance.

Bowmore 22, 1996 (50%; OMC 20th Anniversary; cask 17078; from a bottle split)

Nose: Milder than the sibling cask with the floral notes, a bit of cream and a bit of smoke. With a few drops of water it’s a bit maltier and muskier but not very much more expressive.  Continue reading

Bowmore 22, 1996, Cask 17091 (Old Malt Cask 20th Anniv. Release)


Another week, another whisky released to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Old Malt Cask line, once part of the Douglas Laing portfolio, and now owned by the Hunter Laing company that spun off from it. (I still cluster all of these whiskies under the “Douglas Laing” umbrella in my categorization but that’s because it’s too much of a pain to go back and re-categorize whiskies released under labels that were once Douglas Laing lines and are now Hunter Laing). There seem to have been a rather large number of releases in the OMC 20 anniversary series, but I only have two left from the bottle split I went in on. Following last week’s Arran 21, Laphroaig 12 and Glen Grant 27, my last reviews of this series will be of two Bowmores. Each is 22 years old and distilled in 1996, matured in a hogshead and bottled at the classic 50% of the OMC line. As bourbon cask Bowmore of this age is usually very good indeed, I’m hoping for good things.  Continue reading

Glen Grant 27, 1991 (Old Malt Cask, 20th Anniv. Release)


Let’s keep the run of OMC 20th anniversary releases going. As you may recall, I really liked the Arran 21 and thought the Laphroaig 12 was a bit too mono-dimensional. Here now is a Glen Grant 27, the oldest of the bottles in the split I went in on. (I don’t really know what the complete line-up of these releases was—it’s possible there were others that were even older). I’m a big fan of older Glen Grant and a big fan of older, sherried Glen Grant—both of which this is. In theory, at least, this has every chance of being my cup of tea. Let’s see if that turns out to be the case.

Glen Grant 27, 1991 (50%; Old Malt Cask, 20th Anniv. Release; sherry cask 17079; from a bottle split)

Nose: The first impression is of oak, not tannic, a little mentholated; past it come sweeter notes of red fruit (raspberries) and vanilla. On the second sniff there’s some citrus (orange). With more time there’s some milk chocolate and some of the leafy stuff from the palate. With a few drops of water the fruit expands nicely: apricot now to go with the orange.  Continue reading

Laphroaig 12, 2006 (Old Malt Cask, 20th Anniv. Release)


Here’s the next whisky from the set of bottle splits I got in on of Hunter Laing’s releases to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Old Malt Cask label. I very much liked yesterday’s Arran 21, 1997, and all signs point to a strong likelihood that I will like this one a lot as well. Laphroaig is my favourite distillery and I have noted on many an occasion that my general feeling is that the sweet spot of Laphroaig is in ex-bourbon casks aged for 10-15 years. Let’s see if that holds up.

Laphroaig 12, 2006 (50%; Old Malt Cask 20th Anniv. Release; cask 17094; from a bottle split)

Nose: A big wave of peat and smoke with mezcal’ish notes mixed with the phenolic (Dettol). Not much of the cereal note that I like a lot in most bourbon cask Laphroaigs of this age. On the second sniff those mezcal’ish notes have taken a rubbery turn (rubber bands) and the smoke has some bitter, ashy edges. A couple of drops of water pull out faint musky notes.  Continue reading

Arran 21, 1997 (Old Malt Cask, 20th Anniv. Release)


Douglas Laing, the originators of the Old Malt Cask label, was established in 1948. I believe that for a long time their business was blends. I’m not sure if the Old Malt Cask line was their first foray into independent bottling of single malt whiskies but when I got into single malt whisky in a big way in the mid-late 2000s, it was a very established series with a very good reputation. You could have convinced me it had been around forever. As it happens, it was only introduced in 1998. At some point in the last few years the company split into two and the Old Malt Cask and Old & Rare labels went with the new Hunter Laing company (they also own the First Editions, Hepburn’s Choice and Sovereign labels). The Old Malt Cask packaging has remained the same, with the iconic hexagonal box and the whiskies are still bottled at 50%. Anyway, to mark the 20th anniversary of the label the company put out a number of releases last year, and through bottle splits I acquired a few of these. Over the next week and a half I’m going to go through them. I’m going to begin with this Arran 21. I actually purchased this bottle before tasting my sample, on account of a glowing review by Matt G. of Whisky Musings. Thankfully, I did like it a lot when I did try it and I’ve also been enjoying the bottle, which I opened right away. Here are my notes.  Continue reading

Balblair 1999-2016, 2nd Ed.


Once upon a time the most confusing whisky on the market was official Glenrothes. Their vintage releases had labels that noted the year of distillation and also the date on which the whisky was said to have been not bottled but “checked”. I don’t know if anyone quite understood what that meant. Then arrived Kilkerran’s Work in Progress series, with the different releases marked not by a clear year of release or number but by differences in label colour, some of which were very subtle indeed. Glenrothes has now gotten into the regular age stated game but Balblair is carrying the torch for confusing vintage releases. In their case both distillation and bottling years are clearly marked but there are multiple releases of editions marked by the same distillation year. Thus the 1999 Second Edition has come out in 2014, 2015, 2016, while the 1999 First Edition has come out in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and now 2018 (some of those seemingly as Travel Retail exclusives). In case you’re wondering if the two editions can be distinguished by cask type, they all seem to be from a mix of sherry and bourbon casks. And nor is it clear what it means for the same edition to be released in different years. This is the kind of thing that drives people to drink. And so I might as well pour this sample.  Continue reading

“Speyside Region” 43, 1973 (The Whisky Agency)


For my last whisky review of the year I have what I think may have been the oldest whisky I drank this year; in terms of maturation, that is (in terms of distillation year that was last week’s Glen Moray 42). This was bottled by the Whisky Agency for the Whisky Exchange last year (or was it a joint bottling?) and is from an undisclosed Speyside distillery. Well, it is technically undisclosed but everyone seems very sure it was a Glenfarclas. Glenfarclas, of course, do not allow their name to be placed on labels of independently bottled casks, but it’s also more usual to see names like Burnside or Speyside’s Finest or references to a family owned distillery on independent releases of the distillery’s whisky. At any rate, there were quite a few of these “Speyside Region” 1973s released in 2016 and 2017, and most of those were from the Whisky Agency—they seem to have come into a parcel of these casks. Anyway, I first tasted this at a gathering in St. Paul in early November that featured a number of excellent older whiskies. This one had one of the best noses of everything on the table that night. Thankfully, the owner of the bottle was happy to share a sample and so I got to take a second crack at it and write up some formal notes.  Continue reading

Glen Moray 42, 1962 (Murray McDavid)


The Glen Moray 34, 1977 I had at the Dornoch Castle Hotel’s bar in June was then, by far, the oldest Glen Moray I’d ever had. I recently discovered, however, that at some point in the near past I’d acquired via a bottle split a sample of an even older one. In fact, this 42 yo Glen Moray is the oldest malt whisky I’ve had. Not in terms of length of maturation—this Longmorn 46 is the oldest in that sense—but in terms of year of distillation. Where the Longmorn 46 was distilled in 1964, this was distilled in 1962. Which puts it on par in those terms with the oldest whisky of any kind I’ve had—the Archives North British 50, which was also distilled in 1962. None of this is very fascinating information for you, and frankly is a bit sad when you compare with the careers of those who review whiskies from the 1960s and 1950s on a seemingly weekly basis. But let’s face it, if you are a regular reader of this blog then sadness is something you are familiar with.  Continue reading

Glen Moray 34, 1977 (Malts of Scotland)


Here is the second whisky I drank at the Dornoch Castle Hotel‘s excellent whisky bar. Monday’s Bunnahabhain 34, 1980 was Phil Thompson’s value selection from the then current whisky list; this Glen Moray 34, 1977 was Simon Thompson’s. I have no idea if either whisky is still available at the bar. Before I drank it this whisky’s most significant characteristics were 1) that I’d not previously tried any older Glen Moray (though this record will not stand long as I have an even older one coming on Friday); and 2) that the name of the distillery is misspelled on the label. The good people at Malts of Scotland apparently didn’t catch that they had it as “Glen Morey” till the labels were on and apparently then decided not to bother. After I drank the whisky its mot significant characteristic became that it is the best Glen Moray I’ve yet had the pleasure of tasting. Here are my notes.

Continue reading

Bunnahabhain 34, 1980 (Whisky Fair)


Yesterday I posted a brief look at the Dornoch Castle Hotel. Here now is a review of one of two whiskies I drank at their famous whisky bar: a Bunnahabhain 34, 1980 bottled by/for Whisky Fair. As I mentioned in my write-up yesterday, their bar has a rather impressive collection of whiskies. You can choose between whiskies bottled in the 1970s (and earlier), older whiskies distilled in the 1970s (and earlier) and also many recent and contemporary whiskies of very strong reputation. And the prices are very fair as well—each bottle has its by the pour price marked on it, which keeps nasty shocks at bay. They also have a large printed list. I took a look at it, I looked at everything in the cabinets and on the shelves, and my eyes began to glaze over a bit. Accordingly, I decided to just go with the recommendations of the Thompson brothers as listed with those of other staff members at the front of the whisky list. This was my first pour, Phil Thompson’s value pick from the then-current list.  Continue reading

Deanston 11, 2006 (Signatory)


On Wednesday I had a review of an 11 yo Orkney/Highland Park bottled at a ludicrous strength of 63.7%. Here now is a review of an 11 yo Deanston bottled at an even more ludicrous strength of 64.7%. I have to admit I have never understood the appeal of whisky bottled at such strengths—they are almost always too hot, in my experience, and there is not one that I have not found improved radically by bringing it down closer to 55% or less. This is also true of bourbon, a category in which you see these strengths more often, and whose aficionados tend to be more committed to drinking at full strength. To each their own, I suppose, but my recent experiences of young, high strength Scotch whisky is beginning to make me wonder if bottlers are not making a bet that a very high strength may be a selling point in and of itself; a sort of whisky machismo mixed in with notions of cask strength “purity”. Anyway, let’s see what this is like.  Continue reading

Orkney 11, 2007 (North Star)


I guess this has de facto turned into a sherried whisky month—all my reviews save for that of the Loch Lomond 12 have been of whiskies from sherry casks of one kind or the other. Might as well keep that going. Like Monday’s Ballechin 12, this too was released as an exclusive for the Whisky Barrel, and I got this sample as part of the same larger bottle split. This is an Orkney 11 yo, or an indie Highland Park—it seems like new indie releases of Highland Park mostly bear the Orkney nomenclature these days; and I think I read recently that Highland Park may even be cracking down on indie bottlings altogether—shame if that’s true. Anyway, I suppose it’s possible that an Orkney cask could also be from Scapa. But since I know less about these matters than most, I will go along with the notion that Orkney=Highland Park in the indie market unless there is info to the contrary. I was particularly interested in this one as it’s from a PX sherry hogshead (presumably not full matured) and I don’t think I’ve ever had one of those.  Continue reading

Ballechin 12, 2005 (Signatory for the Whisky Barrel)


Back again to the combo of big sherry and big peat. This Ballechin was/is an exclusive for the Whisky Barrel. It was bottled by Signatory and as Signatory owns Edradour—whose peated malt Ballechin is—it seemed a pretty good bet that this would be a good cask. Also relevant: I quite liked the old limited edition Ballechin 4 which was from oloroso casks (or finished in oloroso casks, I can’t remember). I got this sample as part of a bottle split and indeed liked it so much (spoiler alert) that I purchased a couple of bottles. I was surprised to see later that Serge didn’t rate it very highly. This may explain why this is still available from the Whisky Barrel. I think it’s one that requires some time and then water to reveal all its charms. Anyway, I do recommend it highly, especially if you like that combo of big sherry and big peat.

Continue reading