Talisker 9, Distillery Hand-Fill, October 2022

Okay, let’s do a week of official Taliskers (still pretty much the only kind there are). When I first got into single malt whisky, there wasn’t much Talisker about. Really just the 10 yo and the Distillers Edition. This was in the early 2000s. The 18 yo was introduced in 2004 and that’s also when the 25 yo became a regular annual release (the first one had been released in 2001). The 30 yo came along a few years after that. With both the 25 yo and the 30 yo in the special release category, it was really the 10 yo and the 18 yo that carried the distillery’s flag through the 2000s and into the early 2010s. Even without the excellent 25 and 30 year olds taken into account, the distillery’s batting average was pretty high. In the decade and a half since, the official releases have proliferated somewhat. You might say that’s a good thing: the more Talisker, the better. I would have said the same if this expanded range were more to my taste but I’m afraid I don’t have a very high opinion of the newer NAS releases. Well, the Talisker that leads off this week is not NAS—it’s a 9 yo (though no vintage is mentioned). And it’s not a wide release, being a cask that was available last year to be filled by hand at the distillery. The source of my bottle split filled it in late October (along with the Oban, Lochnagar and Dalwhinnie I reviewed in December). It’s from a “rejuvenated” red wine cask, which means that there are two things about it that scare me. Let’s see if it allays my fears. Continue reading


Studio Distilling, Masala Chai Flavored Whiskey

My week of reviews of things that are not single malt whiskies began with a blended rum on Monday and continued with a bourbon on Wednesday. It closes today, quite naturally, with a masala chai flavoured whisky.

This is a product of a Minnesota distillery: Studio Distilling in St. Paul. They seem to make a range of products—at least I think they distill all their own stuff—but I’ve not had any of the others: rye malt whiskey, bourbon, gin and, yes, three other flavoured whiskies. Another of these flavoured whiskies also involves tea, Earl Grey in that case. The masala chai variant is made not, as I had feared, by infusing grain alcohol with flavourings, but by steeping tea and spices in their rye malt base (which I assume means the wash from which the rye malt is normally distilled) and then distilling that. (The Earl Grey process is the same except it involves their bourbon base and bergamot and vanilla in addition to tea.) An unspecified period of aging then follows. I purchased a 375 ml bottle impulsively in 2020 but have not since been able to bring myself to actually try it. Until now. Continue reading

Tap 8, Canadian Rye

Earlier in the month I had a review of a craft whiskey from a distillery in Montana that I had not heard of till a friend gave me the sample. Here now is a review of another whisky I had not heard of till a friend gave me a sample. It is from a place even more inscrutable and mysterious than Montana: Canada. And in no sphere is Canadian inscrutability better embodied than in its whisky industry. No one knows which distillery anything is distilled at. In fact, it’s not clear if there’s more than one distillery or if Alberta Distillers just slaps different labels on its bottles on different days of the week. Adding to the confusion is the fact that producers are allowed to flavour their whiskies with anything they like. I’m told most use maple syrup. Which means this mystery Canadian whisky is even more unusual still for it is made by adding amontillado sherry to the original rye. Now you might say that adding sherry to whisky is effectively what most Scottish distilleries do too, with their sherry finishes and whiskies “matured” in casks pressure treated with cooking sherry. But trust wild, impetuous, madcap Canada to flaunt their lawlessness in all our faces and just go ahead and pour sherry right into their rye. What a bunch of outlaws! Continue reading

Talisker 6, 2009 (OMC for K&L)

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

Glen Scotia, Double Cask

I don’t have any experience with recently released Glen Scotias and so when I noticed this mini as I was leaving the Whisky Exchange’s London store towards the end of our trip last month, I couldn’t resist picking it up. I somehow missed Glen Scotia’s psychedelic cow period entirely and I figured I might as well check out what they’re up to now in more staid livery. Having spent a decent amount of money in the store purchasing full bottles of other things, I decided to give this NAS Double Cask a go (though as I say that I cannot recall if they even had minis of the age stated line available). Reading up, I learned that this is made from whisky matured in first fill bourbon barrels and then finished “for up to 12 months” in PX casks. Of course, when a distillery can’t even tell you exactly how many months their “finish” lasted you don’t get a good feeling about how many total years were likely involved in the maturation process; but I am, as you know, a very positive person and so I poured this with an open mind. Here’s how it went.  Continue reading

Atholl Highlander

As noted in my report on a quick visit to Tomatin, we’d spent a few hours that day at Blair Castle. (There is, of course, a distillery near Blair Castle as well (Blair Atholl) but we did not go there.) As I’ve also noted, we really enjoyed Blair Castle. We didn’t really know what to expect as it doesn’t look like your classic grey, stone fortress. But it turned out to be a great first stop on a rainy day, with a nice woodland drive to it from the A9 as a bonus. The castle has a large number of rooms open to visitors and it’s particularly good with small children as they have a detailed activity sheet that keeps them occupied and interested during the self-guided tour. Alas, due to the rain we were not able to visit their gardens, which are apparently rather lovely. Blair Castle, as you may know, has a private army, the Atholl Highlanders. We missed their annual parade and gathering by about 10 days but didn’t miss this whisky which is said to be  bottled “Exclusively for the Atholl Highlanders” but is also available to any and all civilians in the gift shop. It’s not expensive but I restricted myself to a mini, which, later that evening, became the first highland malt that I drank in the highlands. Unfortunately, it was not the best highland malt I had in the highlands… Continue reading

Coppersea Green Malt Rye

Coppersea Green Malt Rye
are a new’ish New York craft distillery. In the world of American spirits very few phrases evoke the kind of terror that “craft distillery” does. Despite what their websites say, many craft distilleries seem to stand for unpleasant, undrinkable spirits you pay vastly inflated prices for while the well-meaning, young people with beards who run them figure out how to make whisky or whatever with some production twist that is meant to intrigue as well.

Do Coppersea have a production twist? Yes, they do; more than one actually: they make their whiskey from grain that is still germinating (thus green malt) and they don’t kiln it; and they apparently use some barrels made of New York oak (locally sourced!). They have the inflated price down too. The retail price for this rye is $95 for 375 ml. That almost makes up the upcoming Booker’s Rye seem like a bargain at $300—after all, at Beam they actually have been making whisky a long time and Booker’s Rye is probably going to be very good and aged longer than the .6 years this one was aged for. (Yes, you read that correctly: there’s a decimal point before the 6.)  I guess they couldn’t wait another .4 years. Continue reading

Faultline Blended Scotch Whisky

Faultline Blended Scotch, K&L
K&L released this blend under their Faultline label earlier this year (or was it late last year)? I wasn’t very interested in it at first but when Michael K. suggested a bottle split I decided to give it a go. It’s cheap to begin with and a quarter of the bottle was really cheap. He then suggested we review it simultaneously and roped Jordan D. of Chemistry of the Cocktail in as well. And so here I am. If all goes according to plan Michael and Jordan’s reviews should go up at the same time, and I’ll link to them when I’m awake in the morning. (Here and here.)

I know nothing about this whisky or of what David D. said about it, but I’m sure it’s the very best blended whisky anyone has ever made. I think I remember Sku liking it a lot, so I guess it has a decent ceiling; at worst, the rest’ll get used up in my vattings. Continue reading

Glenfiddich Caoran Reserve

Glenfiddich Caoran Reserve

These days pretty much every distillery has boarded the peat train (from Tomatin to Knockdhu/An Cnoc to Bunnahabhain) but you can’t accuse Glenfiddich of being followers. This peated Glenfiddich (Caoran apparently means “peat ember”) was first released early in the 2000s (there’s a Whisky mag review by Michael Jackson and Dave Broom from 2002); and another indication of it not being a product of the moment is that it had an age statement, being 12 years old. The bottle my samples came from was released in 2005. I don’t see any listings for it on Whiskybase after 2008 and so assume it is no longer being produced. If this is an incorrect assumption please let me know below and I will add it to my long list of lazy errors. (I do see that some stores in the US still list it, but Glenfiddich’s own site does not.)

Tangentially: does anyone know which distilleries with official releases that were hitherto sans tangible peat have not jumped on the peated whisky train in recent years? Other than Glengoyne, that is. Off the top of my head, I’m pretty sure Macallan haven’t and probably not Glen Grant, Glenrothes or Glenlivet.

Continue reading

The Famous Grouse

The Famous GrouseI’ve reviewed the Black Grouse but not the member of the family that makes all the money: the original Famous Grouse. Until now.

The Famous Grouse is reportedly the most popular whisky in Scotland, at least in terms of sales. You must remember, of course, that Budweiser is similarly the most popular beer in the US, and McDonald’s the makers of the most popular hamburger. That said, I will admit there are occasions when I enjoy a cold Bud—mostly at sporting events where the other options are Corona or Miller—and I have also occasionally enjoyed the Famous Grouse, with ice and water. Hot on the heels of my very positive review of the very popular Johnnie Walker Black Label, therefore, in a continuing attempt to become the Blogger of the People, here is a review of the Famous Grouse. Will it reward close attention the way the Black Label did or will its flaws be all the more apparent? Continue reading

Koval, Lion’s Pride, Dark Rye

Koval, Lion’s Pride Dark Rye, Barrel 198
is a small distillery in Illinois who’ve released a number of whiskeys made from 100% mashbills of various kinds of grains (there’s also oat and millet) as well as a bourbon which has millet in place of the usual rye and barley complement, and a four grain whiskey from oat, wheat, rye and malted barley. They currently also have an aged 100% rye and a 100% white rye but this Dark Rye (I don’t know what “dark rye” is) doesn’t seem to be part of their current/continuing lineup. So, clearly they’re doing interesting stuff—but is it any good?

It’s not just the Dark Rye that’s gone, by the way. Their current releases don’t sport the “Lion’s Pride” moniker either. I believe the early releases were all dubbed Lion’s Pride for the owners’ son who is apparently named Lion.

Lion’s Pride Dark Rye (40%; Barrel 198; from a sample received in a swap) Continue reading

“Mystery Spirit”

Mystery Spirit
The run of reviews of peated whiskies will pause for one day as I post a blind review of this “Mystery Spirit”. This is a sample of unknown origin sent to both Michael Kravitz of Diving for Pearls and to me by the famous Romanian actor, Florin. As the name indicates, it may not even be whisky. Michael and I are publishing our notes on it simultaneously (I’ll post the link to his review once I have it). Once our notes are up Florin will tell us what it is/was. Hopefully, it’s not his urine. (Actually, I think Michael sent Florin his notes yesterday and found out what it is–as our reviews are being published simultaneously I won’t know what it is till after this goes up).

[And here is the link to Michael’s notes.]

Continue reading

Compass Box, Hedonism

Compass Box HedonismFollowing yesterday’s review of the Eleuthera, one of Compass Box’s vatted malts, here is the Hedonism, which may be the only all-grain blend they’ve released (at least in general release). I’ve not had too many Scotch grain whiskies, and those only much older single grains, which is a category that seems to be picking up steam among whisky geeks these days. The Hedonism also has old whisky in it and as per their site it’s all from 100% first-fill American oak barrels and/or rejuvenated American oak hogsheads. As they specify barrels and hogsheads this would imply that they’re ex-bourbon (sherry is also matured in American oak casks–European oak is used primarily during storage and shipping*–but in much larger butts or puncheons).

*This is something I learned recently from my friend Rich who visited a number of sherry bodegas in Spain earlier this year. Continue reading

Glenmorangie Artein

Glenmorangie Artein

The Artein was released a year or two ago. It’s a vatting of whisky from 15 year old and 21 year old Glenmorangie finished in Sassicaia casks (a so-called “Super Tuscan” Bordeaux-style red wine). There is twice as much 15 yo as 21 yo whisky in the vatting. I can’t say I’ve loved too many (any?) red wine finished whiskies but let’s see what I make of this one.

Glenmorangie Artein (46%; finished in Sassicaia casks; from a sample received in a swap)

Nose: Red fruit and berries but not particularly bright and sweet. There’s some polished wood with a little rye. With a minute or so of airing the wood gets quite perfumed/aromatic; in fact, it’s almost in men’s eau de cologne territory. Seriously (a nice cologne though–something Cary Grant would have worn). Continue reading