Is this my first review of a whisky from the Speyside distillery? I believe it is. And I believe it is also the first (and only) whisky I’ve ever tasted from the Speyside distillery—it was only founded in 1990 and its first single malt release was in 1999. My only other exposure to anything related to this distillery is the independent bottler, Scott’s Selection: the Scott of Scott’s Selection, Robert Scott, was Master Blender at the Speyside distillery. I’m not entirely sure but I think Scott’s Selection—which I think is now defunct—was in fact a property of Speyside, which means that they are one of few distilleries that also operate as independent bottlers. Bruichladdich/Murray McDavid and Benromach/Gordon & MacPhail are few of the others that come to mind as similar examples, past and present, though Bladnoch under Raymond Armstrong is probably the nearest analogue. Doubtless there are others (please write in below). The distillery also produces the Drumguish and Cu Dubh brands. Continue reading
I said I was going to post my write-up of a visit and tour of Tomatin today but I have roughly 37,573 photographs from the day and when I sat down today to make a selection, resize and upload it was all too much. Accordingly, I have punted that to next week and I have another whisky review today. If you are disappointed you can always ask for your money back. Since this was going to have been an all Islay week (with Monday’s Laphroaig, Wednesday’s Bowmore and yesterday’s Kilchoman), I decided to at least be consistent with that. Here, therefore, is a review of a Port Charlotte (Bruichladdich’s peated malt, if you don’t follow this stuff closely). The distillery is, of course, known for a wide range of wine cask finishes, but the fact that they produced this from eau de vie casks (or is it a single cask?) surprised even me. I fear that my jokes from past years that the brain trust at Bruichladdich would eventually release Jägermeister and then septic tank finishes may soon come true. Continue reading
Let’s make it a week of Islay whiskies. On Monday I had a review of an 18 yo Laphroaig and yesterday I had a review of a 10 yo Bowmore. We have another big drop in age today, all the way down to 3 years old, the legal minimum for Scotch whisky; and we’re also moving from the larger, more established and storied distilleries to a small upstart. Kilchoman, the small Islay farm distillery (which I visited briefly last June), only started distilling in late 2005. I believe the first official whiskies were released in 2009. There were a bunch of cask strength releases in the US in mid-2010. I still have some of at least one of these saved (the Binny’s cask) and will probably get around to reviewing it one of these decades. At around the same time they had begun to release larger vattings at 46%. There were a number of these seasonal releases for at least the first few years—I confess I’ve sort of lost sight of what Kilchoman has been up to in recent years, despite rather liking all the early releases I’d tried. Well, maybe I’ll try to address that.
Meanwhile, here’s a blast from the past. This was put together in a complicated way with a mix of bourbon and sherry casks—a finish may have been involved (I’m too lazy to look it up). Continue reading
Last month I reviewed the Bowmore 15 “Golden & Elegant”, one of the three age-stated whiskies that make up Bowmore’s recent’ish revamp of their travel-retail line (I guess given how many of the whiskies sold in airports cost more there than they do on the high street the companies feel self-conscious about using the term “duty free”). This 10 yo is the youngest in the line. The name “Dark & Intense”—I assume they named it after me—indicates the different composition of this release. Where the “Golden & Elegant” is a vatting of first-fill bourbon casks, this is a vatting of Spanish oak sherry casks. In theory that should be very good news. Bowmore from sherry casks can be very good indeed and I’ve had some very nice intensely sherried ones of this general age—see this 11yo and this slightly older 13 yo; the official Devil’s Casks 1st Ed. and 2nd Ed.—both also 10 year olds—were pretty good too. Unlike those, or even the Golden & Elegant, however, this is only at 40%. Will it be as good as its 15 yo sibling? Let’s see. Continue reading
My previous Laphroaig review was of a single rum cask—a 16 yo distilled in 1999. We return now to regular programming with a single ex-bourbon cask. This is a 18 yo distilled in 1997 and bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (who gave it the name, “A day at the beach”). The vintage and the age are exciting on their face. A number of recent Laphroaigs of this age from 1997 have displayed levels of fruit that range from the tantalizing to the highly excellent. On the other hand, there are others that have not (see this 18 yo from 1997 bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd). Where on the continuum will this one fall? Let’s see.
Laphroaig 18, 1997 (53.6%; SMWS 29.204; refill hogshead; from my own bottle)
Nose: Bright phenolic peat, lemon, salt, wet charcoal. Gets more savoury as it sits with some bacon fat (maybe sizzling on the charcoal?), and there’s some cracked pepper as well. Water knocks back the smoke here and brings out sweeter notes: a touch of vanilla, berries, some musky fruit that’s hard to pick. Continue reading
Yesterday I had a report on my visit to Highland Park in June. Today I have a review of a Highland Park whisky of a kind you won’t hear too much about on a tour at Highland Park: one from an ex-bourbon cask. At the distillery they are very focused on official Highland Park’s sherry-based identity, though they will concede when asked that bourbon cask Highland Park is used to make some of their special editions. It’s a pity that they don’t embrace those casks and that profile more fully as, in my (unoriginal) opinion, bourbon cask Highland Parks can be one of the great and unusual pleasures of the world of single malt Scotch whisky. It is where you get to experience peat most fully in Highland Park, and it’s quite a unique flavour of peat, derived as it is from local heather, and quite different from the phenol-soaked variants of Islay or Jura or even the smoke of Springbank or some distilleries in the highlands. I’ve had some very good ones and I’m happy to say that this one is not a disappointment. Continue reading
Like most people, I have not had very many whiskies from Cardhu. This is because there are very few whiskies from Cardhu for people to try. Even the redoubtable Serge—who just posted his 14,000th whisky review—has reviewed “only” 34 Cardhus. And Whiskybase lists less than 100 different Cardhus—and most of those are different incarnations of the 12 yo (which I have reviewed and liked—almost five years ago). At any rate, if there exist people who can confidently tell you what the characteristics of Cardhu are at different ages, from different decades, and from different cask types, I am not one of them. I’m sure those people exist, by the way—and as per the comments on my review of the 12 yo, they’re probably in Spain, where Cardhu is apparently a very popular malt. As the only other Cardhu I’ve ever had is the 12 yo this is both the second and the oldest Cardhu I’ve ever had. It was bottled by the SMWS in 2012 and they called it “Lovely sweet toffee surprise”. That sounds rather promising; let’s see if it’s what I get. Continue reading
A little bonus of my time in Edinburgh this June was finally getting to meet James, who comments on the blog from time to time, and who I’ve known on the whisky web for a while. He lives in Glasgow but as it’s a short hop from there to Edinburgh, he came over for a drink one night. We met at the Bow Bar and had a very good time talking a little about whisky but mostly about other things (and drinking a fair bit of peaty whisky). He was the source of some very good advice (he recommended the tour at Highland Park highly which I liked it a lot) and also some angst (he warned that our crossing of the Pentland Firth to Orkney might be really choppy; thankfully, it wasn’t). He was also the source of this generous sample of Glen Garioch 26, 1990 bottled by Signatory for the Whisky Show in Glasgow early last year. I’ve not had much pre-1995 Glen Garioch (that was the year they stopped using peated malt) and the last Glen Garioch from this year that I tried was a belter, with quite a bit of peat influence—and it was also bottled by Signatory. As such I was looking forward to getting into this one, which I finally did a couple of weeks later in London. Here now are my notes. Continue reading
Last week I posted a review of an unusual rum cask Laphroaig. Here now is a relatively unusual Glen Ord. The distillery is best known—in official and independent incarnations—for bourbon cask matured whisky. This release from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society was, however, bottled from a sherry butt—a second-fill oloroso butt, to be exact. As that’s not something you across every day, and as I really like Glen Ord, I decided to take a chance on this as well at auction. I was dissuaded only a little by the fact that I had no idea what the SMWS tasting committee’s name for this whisky, “Japanese omelettes with Dunkelweizen” might refer to. I was conscious of the fact that I was overpaying but, again, sherry cask Glen Ord is not something we come across regularly in the US. I’ve not previously reviewed any sherried Glen Ords and indeed I’m not sure if I’ve had any. So this should at least be interesting. Let’s see if it’s more than that. Continue reading
About four and a half years ago K&L released a 5 yo Talisker—the so-called “Speakeasy”, bottled by Douglas Laing. It had a cool label design and the whisky inside was pretty decent, if nothing very special. A couple of years ago they released another young Talisker bottled by Douglas Laing, this one, from a sherry cask. It cost about $40 and I was sorely tempted to get one. Especially as in their tasting notes they said things like, “It’s loaded with equal parts salt, smoke, fruit, and sweet malt character with a spray of sea water on the finish”. But then I remembered that K&L’s tasting notes are mostly random word soups designed to make people want to buy whiskies and that if they match up with what’s in the bottle it is entirely by accident. Sometime later I had an opportunity to get a sample from a bottle split, and with a much lower financial risk at stake I gave it a go. Will I regret my skepticism and wish I’d bought a bottle? Let’s see. Continue reading
Here is a rather atypical Laphroaig. This is the first rum cask Laphroaig I’ve ever come across and I cannot remember reading reviews of any others. This is not to say that there have not been any others: Douglas Laing have released at least a couple of rum finished Laphroaigs and Whiskybase lists a Malts of Scotland release as well—I’m not sure if that one’s explicitly stated to be a finish or now. This one was released by a bottler named Kingsbury who, as far as I know, operate in the Japanese market. It is said to have been matured full-term in the rum cask. However, it doesn’t say so explicitly on the bottle and as we all know—courtesy Glendronach—the rules allow bottlers to describe a whisky in terms of the last cask it was in. If it was indeed a full-term maturation in a rum cask then this means that Laphroaig must have a lot more in their warehouses. If so, what might they be planning to do with them? Continue reading
This Cadenhead’s cask sample was purchased at the same time as Monday’s Caol Ila, in Cadenhead’s Edinburgh shop in June. It was not purchased by me though. I was there with my friend Mike and while we both grabbed a 200 ml bottle each of the Caol Ila, he took the last Ledaig, the bastard. Later in more gentlemanly fashion he saved me a good size sample from the bottle. I think Mike liked this better than the Caol Ila. Let’s see if that holds true for me as well.
Ledaig 19 (53.7%; Cadenhead’s Manager’s Cask Sample; single bourbon barrel; from a friend’s bottle)
Nose: Big rubbery smoke mixed with that very Ledaig smell of death (a rodent in wet undergrowth). Some fruit struggles to make its way past the big notes (citrus, maybe plum). With more time the overpowering notes burn off (or maybe my nostrils adjust) and the fruit is more apparent, along with sweeter notes (vanilla). Brighter, sharper, ashier with a drop of water and the fruit’s more pronounced now. Continue reading
In the last year or so Bowmore have released a new series of whiskies for travel retail as part of a larger overhaul of their portfolio (the Small Batch has been discontinued). Somewhat unusually for releases for this market, the new Bowmores have age statements: there’s a 10 yo, a 15 yo and an 18 yo. Of course, since it’s for travel retail they also have silly names. The 10 yo is billed as “Dark & Intense” and the 18 yo as “Deep & Complex”. This 15 yo is “Golden & Elegant”. As you might expect from the name, this whisky comprises spirit matured in first-fill bourbon casks.; this is in contrast to the regular release Bowmore 15 “Darkest” (which I should really get around to reviewing sometime). Personally, I think teenaged bourbon cask Bowmore can be a very excellent and somewhat unique thing. Certainly the even younger Tempest (later sold as the Dorus Mor in the US) was very good. Let’s take a closer look at this one. Continue reading
I purchased this 200 ml bottle of Caol Ila 14 at the Edinburgh Cadenhead’s shop this June. It is one in their popular series of “cage” cask samples. Limited numbers of these 200 ml bottles show up in the Cadenhead’s shops every week and sell out immediately (from what I can make out). I’m not sure what the story behind these is. Are they true cask samples? Leftover bits from their single cask or small batch releases? A bit from column A and a bit from column B? If you know more, do write in below. All I know is that these are very enticing indeed and priced very fairly and entirely by age range, regardless of distillery of origin. I’ve gone so far on Twitter as to say that if I lived in Edinburgh I’d probably stop buying full bottles and just pick up a few of these 200 ml bottles each week. You can take that as confirmation that I quite liked the first one I picked up. Here are my notes. Continue reading