Lagavulin “Jazz Festival 2015”


Here is a Lagavulin bottled for the Islay Jazz Festival in 2015. This is a completely separate event from the recently concluded Feis Ile, taking place in the autumn rather than the summer. This year’s festival is from September 15-17 (and here is last year’s program). I’m not sure if Lagavulin is the only distillery that does an annual release to mark the festival (in addition to their Feis Ile release), but I can’t off the top of my head recall Jazz Festival releases from any other distilleries. It is sponsored by Lagavulin but events happen at other distilleries too. Anyway, there also does not seem to be as much mania around these Jazz Festival releases as there is around Lagavulin’s Feis Ile releases. Indeed, plenty of bottles of the 2016 Jazz Festival release were available at the distillery when I visited earlier this month—I’m not sure how they survived the onslaught of Feis Ile auction flippers.  Continue reading

Glen Spey 15, 2001 (Cadenhead’s)


This is third of five Cadenhead’s Authentic Collection releases that I purchased in mini form from their Marylebone shop in early May. I’m afraid I did not care overmuch for the first two I’ve so far tried and reviewed: the Pulteney 11 yo I found to be overly sour and yeasty/bready; the Balmenach 12 was better but nothing worth getting excited about. I’m hopeful that this Glen Spey may continue the upward trend and move this series more firmly into the territory of the good.

I’ve not had or reviewed very many Glen Speys so far, only two older ones: the Diageo Special Release 21 yo from a few years ago (which I really liked) and a 25 yo from Archives (which disappointed a bit). Let’s see where this one, which is also from a bourbon cask, falls. Continue reading

Springbank 12 CS, Batch 14


After a geographically appropriate review on Wednesday (of a Caol Ila, posted while on Islay), I’m back to commemorating my first trip to Scotland by posting reviews of whiskies from distilleries that I’ve not actually visited or gone very close to. Well, in this case, we will be within 37 miles of Springbank a few hours after this review posts, but we’ll be turning in the other direction to drive back to Glasgow, where we’ll spend one night before returning to London on Saturday and then to Minnesota on Sunday. This has been a wonderful trip and I’ll have more posts about it than you can bear in the weeks to come. Though I did not tour many distilleries I did visit a bunch and have a lot of pictures. I will also have some reports on eating in the parts of Scotland we visited.

Okay, to the whisky! This is the 14th (current?) release of Springbank’s cask strength 12 yo. I’ve previously reviewed the 7th—the review was written in London, where I purchased the bottle and then drank it down at a very rapid clip. Though I don’t note this below it paired really well with all kinds of cheeseContinue reading

Caol Ila 12, 2002 (G&M for TWE)


Okay, here’s a geographically appropriate review for a change from my ongoing visit to Scotland. I previously posted reviews of a Speysider on the day we left for Glasgow, an Old Pulteney while leaving Drumnadrochit for Skye, and a Highland Park while leaving Skye for Islay. We’re still on Islay and this is a Caol Ila.

I’m not sure if I will make it to Caol Ila on this trip though I would like to at least see the outside of the distillery. I’d thought this would happen as our ferry arrived in Port Askaig from Kennacraig on Monday evening but apparently views of the distillery are only available from the ferry from/to Colonsay. Nonetheless, here’s a Caol Ila. This was bottled by Gordon & MacPhail for the Whisky Exchange and I purchased a bottle on one of my visits to their Covent Garden store. I drank it down before leaving London—the notes below were taken well before this preamble was written. Continue reading

Highland Park 19, 1995 (SMWSA)


Allow me to continue my geographically-inexact series of whisky reviews. Last week I posted a review of a Speyside whisky (a Balmenach) on the day I left for Glasgow, and a review of an Old Pulteney when up in the Highlands (okay, so that one wasn’t so far off the map). Today is our last day in Skye and as I don’t have any Talisker at hand I am posting this review of a Highland Park (which is at least also located on an island).

This was bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America and they saw fit to give it the name “Nordic Nosh”. It’s from a bourbon cask. The distillery doesn’t put out anything (?) that’s exclusively bourbon cask—even though ex-bourbon Highland Park can be excellent—but the indies pick up the slack. I quite liked the last ex-bourbon Highland Park from the SMWSA that I reviewed, so I’m hopeful.  Continue reading

Old Pulteney 9, 2006 (Malts of Scotland)


A few hours after this review gets posted I will be driving north from Glasgow into the Highlands. I will not be going as far as Wick (where Pulteney is located), only to the Drumnadrochit area. Still, it feels appropriate to post a review of a northern Highland malt while I’m in the general vicinity. And so here’s a young Old Pulteney. This is unusual in several respects. First, that it’s an independent bottling of Pulteney. Second, that despite being an independent bottling it bears the Old Pulteney name—the distillery’s name is Pulteney; “Old Pulteney” is more like a brand name. Third, it’s from a sherry cask. It’s not that no sherry casks are used in formulating the malts in Pulteney’s regular lineup but it’s not a distillery you think of when you think of sherry bombs. And this is very much a sherry bomb. It’s also very much an alcohol bomb, at almost 60% abv. And it’s a brash youngster too. I can also tell you right off the bat that it’s a lot better than the Cadenhead’s 11 yo I recently reviewed, which was also from 2006. Continue reading

Balmenach 12, 2004 (Cadenhead’s)


[We’re off to Scotland today. In a couple of weeks I’ll have some reports, probably, of the parts of our trip that are whisky-related (not many); but to commemorate my first-ever trip to Scotland I’m also going to post more whisky reviews this week and the next than I have been since I slowed down my pace of whisky reviewing earlier this year.]

Devoted readers will remember that I went to Cadenhead’s in London last month and only purchased five minis. What, you don’t remember?! And why are you sniggering when you read the words “devoted readers”? Anyway, I did buy five minis. I did not enjoy the first of those that I reviewed: an Old Pulteney 11. Here now is a slightly older Balmenach, also from their recent outturn. This was the only one of which full bottles are still available and so if I really like it I might go back and get one. I’ve not had very many Balmenachs but they’re certainly capable of putting out the kind of fruity ex-bourbon cask malt that I really like (see this older one from Signatory); they’re also capable of putting out malt I’m not crazy about (see this other older on from Signatory). Let’s see how this one goes.  Continue reading

Benromach 10, 100 Proof


Benromach, as you probably know, is owned by Gordon & MacPhail. When they purchased the distillery in 1993 it was in poor condition and it was only in 1998 that it was restored to working condition and re-opened. G&M had to install new stills at the time of bringing the distillery back to production—so it’s not the same whisky made by new owners. Still, G&M’s version of Benromach stays true to the distillery’s tradition of lightly peated whisky in the old Highlands style (see, for example, this 1978 from Scott’s Selection). Their 10 yo was first released in 2009 and then in 2014 there was a bit of a revamp of the line with new packaging. I’m not sure if the composition of the actual whisky changed but the new 10 yo got very good reviews from most whisky geeks—indeed, Ralfy named it his whisky of the year. Even more popular among a fair number of whisky geeks was this 100 proof version (we’re talking the British 100 proof) which showed up with the revamp, though it took a bit longer to come to the US. Continue reading

Glenfarclas 21


With this post I complete, as far as I know, a series of reviews of Glenfarclas’ entire basic age-stated range. And it’s a large range. Here are the others, in order of age, if not in order of review: 8 yo, 10 yo, 12 yo, 15 yo, 17 yo, 18 yo, 25 yo, 30 yo and 40 yo. I don’t know if there’s any other distillery that has ever offered such a large range of stops up their maturation ladder—yes, I know the 8 yo and 18 yo weren’t really part of the core range. The 21 yo and 25 yo continue to be available at very reasonable prices relative to the competition—the 21 yo a bit above $100 in many US market and the 25 yo at about $150. Alas, the same can no longer be said about the 30 yo (which never came to the US) and the 40 yo but it’s hard to complain about Glenfarclas in this respect. They’re one of the few Scottish distilleries whose prices seem to have the middle-class whisky enthusiast in mind. The less charitable may note that very few of the releases in their core range ever seem to get very many people excited but not all whisky needs to set off fireworks.  Continue reading

Pulteney 11, 2006 (Cadenhead’s)


I purchased this Pulteney from Cadenhead’s in Marylebone on my visit a couple of weeks ago. They sell a range of minis of their various bottlings, and as they don’t seem to be set up to let customers taste bottles they’re interested in it’s the only way to try before you buy. In theory, at least: in practice, right now they only have a mini of one bottle that is actually still in stock and this Pulteney is not it (it’s a 12 yo Balmenach, if you want to know). Still, the price was less than that of a pour in most bars and so I decided to buy it (and a few others) anyway. There aren’t that many opportunities to taste indie Pulteney out there and I did like an even younger one Cadenhead’s bottled a long while ago (this 8 yo, distilled in 1990). And as I also have a review lined up of another young indie Pulteney (from a sherry cask), I thought I’d put this review of a bourbon cask up first and make it seem like I had a master plan.  Continue reading

Glenfarclas 18


Let’s get back into age-stated Glenfarclas. For those who came in late: I’ve recently reviewed the 8 yo, the 10 yo, the 12 yo and the 15 yo. I’ve also previously reviewed the 17 yo, the 25 yo, the 30 yo and the 40 yo. This 18 yo and the 21 yo are all that remain (I think) in rounding out the full range of age-stated Glenfarclas from their core range (there are also the far more expensive Family Casks, but I’m not going to be running through them all any time soon). Well, I suppose this 18 yo isn’t part of their core range either—I think it’s actually a Travel Retail bottle, though I’m not sure if it’s available in all markets. And though I don’t know how much this one costs, Travel Retail these days is unfortunately usually a shorter way of saying “expensive but not very good”. But there are always exceptions to every rule. Will this Glenfarclas be one of them? It’s certainly different from most Travel Retail releases in that it has an age statement and doesn’t have a silly name.  Continue reading

Lagavulin, Lg6 (Speciality Drinks)


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

Craigellachie 13, 2002 (Malts of Scotland)


There’s an official Craigellachie 13; this isn’t it. This is a 13 yo single sherry cask bottled by the German outfit, Malts of Scotland. The cask in question was a hogshead which means even more wood contact (and the colour would seem to corroborate this). And the abv is an eye-watering 60.5%.

If someone tries to tell you that Craigellachie makes sherried malt in the style of Macallan or Glenfarclas or Glendronach, you might check to see if they’re trying to sell you something. While individual casks might tend in the softer direction of those classic Speyside distilleries (which, of course, command good prices—probably the reason someone trying to sell you on the idea might bring their names up), Craigellachie has traditionally produced a meatier, earthier style of sherried whisky. The better comparison is to Mortlach. Such, for example, was this 20 yo, also bottled by Malts of Scotland, and this 18 yo bottled under the Hepburn’s Choice label for K&L. And such is this 13 yo—I opened the bottle for one of my local group’s tastings and drank it down pretty fast.  Continue reading

Inchgower 20, 1995 (Hepburn’s Choice for K&L)


I have been accused before of reviewing too many long-gone bottles that were never released in the US to begin with. Accordingly, here is a review of a bottle that was a US exclusive and which is no longer available. You’re welcome!

This Inchgower was selected by K&L in California and was released last year (I think). I don’t really put much stock by K&L’s reviews of their own bottles. Driscoll’s notes on Spirits Journal contain a lot of words that are often used to describe whisky but they very rarely seem to describe the specific whisky he is flogging. I’ve been burned once too often by what seemed like good values based on his gushing. These days, therefore, I wait till trustworthy sources report on bottles they’ve purchased. If this means I miss on the occasional quality bottle which sells out before I get a positive report I trust, so be it. Anyway, in this case the positive report I trust came from Michael K. at Diving for Pearls. Michael really liked it. I opened my bottle a few months ago for one of my local group’s tastings but have only just gotten around to reviewing it*.  Continue reading