Dufftown 18, 1997 (Signatory for K&L)

Dufftown 18, 1997, Signatory for K&L
Ah yes, Dufftown, Homer Simpson’s favourite distillery. I know very little about it and in fact this is the first Dufftown I have ever tasted. I’ve had a G&M exclusive for Binny’s on my shelf for years now but have somehow never felt like opening it—isn’t this fascinating information?! More useful information from Malt Madness tells us that it is named for the part of Speyside it is located in: Dufftown. It has a number of other distilleries as neighbours but the most famous of them all is Glenfiddich. It’s a Diageo distillery, producing almost entirely for blends (Bell’s in particular). There is an official Singleton release but that’s pretty much it outside of the independents.

Anyway, I hope my first Dufftown will be a good one and that it will buck the trend of mediocrity set by the two other recent K&L Signatory exclusives (the Linkwood 19 and the Glenburgie 21, only one of which cracked 80 points).  Continue reading

Linkwood 19, 1997 (Signatory for K&L)

Linkwood 19, 1997, Signatory for K&L
Just about a year ago I posted reviews of four exclusive Signatory casks for K&L in California. I split those bottles with a bunch of other people. I liked a couple of them a lot (the Blair Athol 26 and the Benrinnes 20) and while the other two didn’t get me very excited, they were solid malts as well (a Glen Elgin 24 and an Imperial 19). Here I am now with the winter 2016 edition of K&L’s Signatory casks. In addition to this Linkwood 19, there is an Imperial 20, a Dufftown 18 and a Glenburgie 21. Three are priced quite reasonably (<$100); I guess we’re being asked to pay a closed distillery premium for the Imperial ($120). In my review of last year’s Glen Elgin 24 I closed by saying that that bottle only seemed like a good deal for the age if you fetishized a high age statement, not so much for the actual whisky, which was just a middle of the road malt of its type. Still, I did like all of last year’s casks. Will these be at least at that level? Continue reading

Chateau de la Grangerie 20, 1994 (Armagnac)

Chateau de La Grangerie 20, 1994 (Armagnac)
Here is my fourth Armagnac review and the third review of a K&L exclusive Armagnac. I thought their Domaine de Baraillon 30 was quite good and that the Chateau de Pellehaut 17 was excellent and so my hopes are up for this one as well. Like Pellehaut, Chateau de la Grangerie is located in the Ténarèze appellation; unlike it, this is made entirely from the Ugni Blanc grape. K&L has brought in a number of other Armagnacs as well from this producer—indeed next week I will have a review of a much older one. And that more or less exhausts my opening patter…and so let’s get right to it.

Chateau de la Grangerie 20, 1994 (45.5%; bottled for K&L; from a sample from a friend)
Continue reading

Tom’s Foolery, Bonded Bourbon, Batch 1

Tom's Foolery, Bonded Bourbon
When I first heard of Tom’s Foolery Bourbon, I thought, wow, that’s inappropriate. But then I looked into it and discovered that Tom’s Foolery isn’t a chain that hosts birthday parties for small children but a small, craft distillery in Ohio. Normally the words “craft distillery” fill me with horror—some of my least positive (or most negative, if you prefer) experiences with American whiskey have come courtesy craft distilleries (ye olde Balcones, Seven Stills, Coppersea and Koval, for example). But I was charmed by their low-tech website and by the fact that they say that their products are for “hard-working people, for adventurers, and for dreamers”—all three of those are things I pretend to be while I lie on my couch, mindlessly reloading the same sequence of websites every hour of every day of the week. Do I dare try this bourbon these fine hard-working, adventurous dreamers have put out? I dasn’t not! Especially since it’s actually four years and not four months old and they are not shamelessly charging the earth for it.  Continue reading

Domaine Hubert, (Calvados)

Domaine Hubert, Calvados; K&L
As I said on July 1, I am very new to Calvados. As such even though I’ve already made disclaimers about the nature of my Calvados reviews (there’ll be at least three this month), I’m going to make them again.

In brief, I am the furthest thing from an expert on Calvados. I am also pretty far from being an expert on Scotch whisky but in that case I know a decent amount about the history of Scotch whisky; I know quite a bit about different styles of Scotch whisky and the likely effects of variables in the production process; I know a fair bit about a bunch of the major distilleries and the profiles they’ve produced over time; and I certainly know when a whisky has flaws (whether it overcomes them or not) and when it has achieved very desirable characteristics. In the case of Calvados, I currently know only whether the one I am drinking appeals to me. And since my palate is conditioned by single malt whisky (which is also very relevant to my reviews of American whiskey) it may well be the case that what appeals or doesn’t appeal to me about a particular Calvados may have little relationship to the qualities looked for or scorned by connoisseurs of Calvados. (Among other things, I also don’t know what the plural of Calvados is: one Calvados, two Calvadoses? Calvadosi? Calvadeaux?)  Continue reading

Teeling Whiskey, Small Batch

Teeling Whiskey, Small Batch
No, this isn’t Teeling whisky from Guadeloupe and it isn’t 8 years old. This is a NAS Irish whisky—it’s just that the sample is from avant garde mixed-media artist, Sku. You may think I’m making fun of him but consider the fact that this sample is of an Irish whiskey finished for 6 months in rum casks. Here’s the short version of the Teeling story: new distillery; hasn’t released any of its own aged spirit yet; in American style is selling purchased whiskey (from Cooley) under its own name; who the hell knows if what they are distilling themselves, once it’s ready to be bottled, will taste anything like the stuff they’re putting out now.

I gather they have more recently put out a single grain whiskey and a single malt whiskey; this one, however, is a blend and it was first released in the US about two years ago . Will it improve my sorry record with Irish whiskeys? I can only hope it will. Let’s see.  Continue reading

Old Grand-Dad, 80 Proof

Old Grand-Dad, 80 Proof
No, my nose and palate are not back in action (though I’m close): I just realized that I’d never actually published these notes on my bottle of Old Grand-Dad that were taken a long time ago (the picture is of the current state of the bottle, which is nearly empty). Here they are now with a newly-written “introduction”.

As you probably know, the Old Grand-Dad line is one of several put out by Beam. Other than their eponymous, and most famous, Jim Beam label, the distillery also puts out a number of premium “small batch” brands (Knob Creek, Basil Hayden, Baker’s and Booker’s); Old Grand-Dad is at the other end of the price spectrum (but is made from the same mash bill as Basil Hayden, which makes sense as the old grand-dad referred to in the name is the actual Basil Hayden). This 40% abv version can be purchased by the liter for less than $15, a Bottled in Bond version at 50% abv  goes for not too many dollars more and the 114 at 57% comes in shy of $30 in most markets. The cognoscenti will tell you that it’s the latter two that you should buy, and they’re not wrong, but as a man of the people here I am with a review of the lowliest in the line.  Continue reading

Clynelish 7, 2008 (Signatory for Binny’s)

Clynelish 7, 2008; Signatory for Binny's
This Clynelish was acquired as part of the same set of bottle splits as last Friday’s Ardmore. If you read that review you’ll find many similar notes mentioned in this one but, as you’ll see, a much lower score at the end. This is a case where you have two whiskies at different ends of the same style continuum: a sort of old-school Highlands profile. The Ardmore is peatier, of course, but there are other similarities. The problem here is that some of the notes that are either more muted in that Ardmore, or which dissipate with time, are stronger here and linger; and this one doesn’t have the compensations of the Ardmore. It’s also quite far away from what most people have come to expect from Clynelish in terms of “distillery character“. This is down partly, I think, to the young age. Some of these off-notes might well have dissipated with more time (and less wood contact in a slightly larger hogshead) and other characteristics might have emerged.  Continue reading

Balcones True Blue

Balcones True Blue
It is with some trepidation that I approach this review. Dedicated readers of the blog—should any such depraved people exist—will remember that my first encounter with Balcones, a batch of their much ballyhooed Brimstone, was not a happy experience; I think it remains my lowest score to date. I did like the other batch of the Brimstone that I got to try later quite a bit more, but, in general, I remain dubious about Balcones from the Chip Tate-era. It seems to me, and I’ve voiced this opinion before, that falling in love with Balcones, which a number of whiskey bloggers did, might have required falling in love with Chip Tate, or the idea of Chip Tate first. Of course, the Chip Tate era ended in a very controversial manner last year and it may well be that new era Balcones will make even me nostalgic for their original product (the new bosses certainly seem much harder to fall in love with). And it remains to be seen what Tate’s new whisky, once he is legally allowed to start making it again next year, will be like. Continue reading

Cut Spike Single Malt, 2 YO (for K&L)

Spike Milligan
I unaccountably failed to take a picture of the sample bottle before the review and then cleaned it and removed the label before I discovered the omission. And so in place of the picture of the bottle and label (one of Sku’s more staid efforts) here is a picture of Spike Milligan about to cut something with a knife and fork. As for Cut Spike itself, it’s a single malt whisky (whiskey?) distilled in Nebraska in pot stills made in Scotland, but matured in new American oak. So, it could be said to be a hybrid of Scottish and American whisk(e)y styles. For more of its story, I will send you to Sku’s own review. I can tell you that K&L purchased all of the early stock of this new distillery’s product and hyped the hell out of it last year. The first batch sold out double quick and the second batch sold out as well. Continue reading

Glenrothes 25, 1988 (Wilson & Morgan)

Glenrothes 25, 1988, Wilson & Morgan
Because I am so on top of things I was going to say that this is the oldest Glenrothes I’ve ever had. But then, because I am even more on top of things, I checked and found that I’ve already reviewed another Glenrothes 25, 1988. So this is not the oldest Glenrothes I’ve ever had (that’s coming soon though). However, I will soon be an authority on 25 yo Glenrothes from 1988, or at least more of an authority than that other whisky blogger you follow who’s only had one Glenrothes 25, 1988, the poor sap, I don’t know how he lives with himself. So far this has been five sentences with zero useful content (four if you generously count this sentence as useful, and you really should since I did go back and count). And frankly, the odds are not good of there being dramatic improvement.. So I should probably just get to the review already—I mean don’t you want to find out about this Glenrothes 25, 1988 from a relatively obscure Italian bottler with a non-Italian name?  Continue reading

Highland Park “Dark Origins”

Highland Park, Dark Origins
After the recent mini-run of bourbon cask matured Highland Park from indie bottlers (1 and 2) here’s an OB sherried version. This NAS Highland Park was released last year and is said to contain twice as much first-fill sherry cask matured malt than the regular Highland Park 12. Of course, for all we know the Highland Park 12 has been matured twice as long. Highland Park, one of my favourite distilleries, have really upped the ante on NAS releases and general tomfoolery in recent years but as long as they continue to give us the core age stated range at reasonable prices I’m not going to complain. Oh wait, the prices of the 25 yo and 30 yo have reportedly skyrocketed recently and even the 18 yo seems to be going up. And with all these younger and/or travel retail releases will they have enough stock to keep the 12 yo a viable concern or is that the next endangered creature? That sound you hear is my complaint engine beginning to rev up. Continue reading

Bladnoch 11, 2002 (for K&L)

Bladnoch 11, K&L
Whisky geeks with good memories will remember David Driscoll of K&L making some impolitic remarks about Bladnoch a couple of years ago (first on his blog and then in an attempt to defend them on the WWW forum). Among his claims were that Bladnoch’s reputation was poor and that the Armstrongs’ “blending skills” for what they’d put out themselves had not been strong either. This was news to most of us as a) Bladnoch seemed to us like one of the most grounded and solid distilleries in Scotland: putting out quality malt at excellent prices with no marketing nonsense; and b) Bladnoch’s various “sheep” and “cow” label releases had been very well received in the main.

Of course, the subtext, as always with Driscoll, was that it was K&L that was going to release the first good OB Bladnochs. When K&L’s casks did show up my plan was to ignore them—I have a number of other Bladnochs already on my shelf. But when I saw this 11 yo lightly peated in the lineup I couldn’t resist. I really enjoyed this Armstrong release of a 9 yo lightly peated cask and hoped this would be as good. I’m sorry to say it wasn’t. Continue reading

Maker’s Mark

Maker's Mark

Maker’s Mark is one of the iconic American whiskies, though one suspects this has as much to do with its iconic look as with anything else about it. That famous red wax makes it unmistakeable and also makes everyone who tries to cut through it to open the bottles curse mightily. As you probably know, it is also relatively unusual among widely available bourbons in that it is made with no rye in the mashbill (replaced by wheat) and quite unusual in that they spell the word “whisky” without the “e” on the label. Only one of these facts is interesting.

Of late Maker’s Mark has been in the news on account of their acquisition, or rather their parent company’s acquisition by Suntory (as the subsidiary Beam Suntory). This caused some underpants twisting among the xenophobic (and uninformed: Maker’s Mark and Beam are by no means the only iconic bourbon makers owned by Japanese companies). But this fruitless controversy was not as loud as that over the decision a year earlier to lower the proof of the whisky from the traditional 45% to 42%. That controversy actually bore fruit as Maker’s Mark quickly reversed course. Continue reading