Speyside 21, 1992 (Alambic Classique)


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

Bowmore 10, Dark & Intense


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

Aberlour 10


Yesterday I had a report on my recent visit to Aberlour. Today I have a review of their 10 yo whisky. I believe this is their current entry-level malt. It’s been a long time since I last tasted this whisky*, which comprises spirit married in bourbon and sherry casks and is generally fairly priced. Well the 10 yo was part of the tasting at the end of the tour as well, but I didn’t taste it then, as I was driving after. The sample I took away didn’t make much of an impression but it was a very small pour—much too small for a review. But as luck would have it the friend we stayed with in London for a few days after our Scotland trip had a bottle open and so I tried it a couple of times and wrote my notes up. Here they are.

*Potential correction: this may actually have been my first time trying this whisky. I think it’s the Aberlour 12 that’s more widely available in the US and that I’d last tried some years ago.  Continue reading

Tomatin Legacy


Here’s another widely available official release. And it’s not expensive either. The Legacy is Tomatin’s current entry-level malt made from ex-bourbon and virgin oak matured spirit. It comes without an age statement because numbers are meaningless except on a price tag. There’s a rumour that this is not very much older than the legal minimum 3 years, which seems like an odd thing to tie the word “legacy” to; or more accurately, it’s more evidence for the proposition that when you see a whisky with a word like “legacy” on its label it’s likely to be very young. To be fair, Tomatin does have five age-stated whiskies in their range (most very fairly priced); there is also another NAS release, the Cask Strength, which I have not tried; and they’re not trying to charge the earth for this one either.

I did not purchase these minis. These were handed out to us at the end of our excellent tour of Tomatin in mid-June in lieu of the tasting portion of the tour—which we skipped on account of having to drive back to Edinburgh, and also because we don’t drink at 11 am (a philosophy not subscribed to by some of the others who were on the tour who’d clearly been drinking since well before 11). I’ll have a detailed account of that tour next month; here now are my notes on this whisky.  Continue reading

Spirit of Speyside 10, Festival Bottling, 2018


I mentioned this whisky yesterday in my write-up of our visit to Glen Grant just shy of a month ago. It is the only thing we purchased at the distillery. Well, when I say “we”, I mean that my friend Daniel purchased this 200 ml bottle (we didn’t see any other size of bottle).  It was bottled for the 2018 iteration of the annual Spirit of Speyside festival—which took place in early May, I think. 200 ml bottles seem like a good idea for this kind of thing—not too expensive and more bottles for more people to try. As per the young man I asked about it at the distillery, it is a blend of a number of Speyside single malts, all aged at least 10 years. I’m not sure if a vatting of this kind is released every year for the festival or if they’re always 10 years old or both. I assume some of the distilleries release their own exclusives a la the Islay distilleries for Feis Ile. At any rate, it seemed like an appropriate whisky to drink at the end of our first full day in the Speyside. Did that prove to be the case?  Continue reading

Auchroisk 18, 1988 (Blackadder)


On Monday I had a review of two red wine cask finished Benromachs; I did not care for either one very much. Today, I have a whisky from another Speyside distillery, but this one is altogether more conventional. It’s from Auchroisk, a distillery that does not have too much of a reputation but which often produces single bourbon casks that are rather fruity and pleasant. See, for example, this older one from the Binny’s/Signatory combo that I rather liked some years ago and this one—also from 1988—that I liked just a bit less. This Blackadder was bottled much earlier than the Signatory and the Cadenhead’s—all the way back in 2007, in fact.

The sample came to me from renowned parakeet breeder, Florin. He was his usual taciturn-bordering on sullen self at the time of exchange and I have no idea what he thinks of the whisky. I’m sure he’ll be around soon to tell me I’ve got it all wrong. That’s the kind of person he is—I expect it comes from all the nights spent playing romantic music to parakeets to get them in the mood. Anyway, let’s get to it (as he likes to say when the covers are on the cages).  Continue reading

Two Wine-Finished Benromachs: Hermitage and Chateau Cissac

If all has gone well, I am in Edinburgh as you are reading this and probably jet-lagged out of my whisky-loving mind. Please be assured that this review was not written in that state. I It was written more than a week ago in a slightly more lucid state in Minnesota.

I’m going to be up in the Speyside for the first time very soon and accordingly will be posting a number of reviews of Speyside whiskies this month. First up is a two-fer: head-to-head reviews of two releases from Gordon & MacPhail’s distillery, Benromach. I hope to be able to stop at the distillery briefly when we visit Elgin and environs at the end of the week. I’ll be interested to see if they have any distillery exclusives. Given how much I liked the 10 yo 100 proof, odds are good I’d buy anything similar if available for a reasonable price. The whiskies I’m reviewing here are not, however, anything similar. They were distilled in 2005 and 2006 and finished in red wine casks: Hermitage and Chateau Cissac casks, respectively; both were released in 2014. I’m really not sure why anyone ever wants to finish whisky in red wine casks—I’m yet to taste one that I particularly like, but hey, hope springs eternal. Let’s see what these are like.  Continue reading

Bunnahabhain 14, 2003, PX Finish


I have not reviewed an official Bunnahabhain in a while—not since the 25 yo, almost two years ago—and this recent special release seems like as good a choice as any for a return. It was released late last year and has been very well received online. It goes without saying in our era of hype, that it all disappeared very quickly.

As per the distillery, this was matured for 11 years in ex-bourbon casks and then transferred to first-fill Pedro Ximinez sherry casks for another three years—which I would say would put it in “double maturation” rather than “finish” territory. I can’t remember if I’ve had, let alone reviewed, any other Bunnahabhains that involved PX casks but I’m intrigued. Bunnahabhain’s spirit plays well with sherry casks, and in theory, at least, the richer, sweeter PX character should be a good match as well. Let’s see if that indeed proves to be the case.  Continue reading

Littlemill 12


As you may know, in recent years malts from the closed lowlands distillery, Littlemill have become among the most sought after whiskies on the market. This mania, I should quickly clarify, is focused entirely on much older casks from the late 1980s and early 1990s that began to come to market in the early years of this decade. There was something very ironic about this development because when Littlemill was in fact open nobody had very much positive to say about it. I joke sometimes that more unsung or disliked distilleries should close down to turn their reputations around, but in Littlemill’s case this seems to be what’s happened. The truth, of course, is more likely to lie in the fact that once the distillery had closed, more of its surviving casks accidentally aged to a quality that was previously undiscovered in the official releases. For example, in this 12 yo, which is as unloved an OB release as you can hope to find. Having been warned away from it when I first began to pursue single malt whisky, this will actually be my first time tasting it. Will the bad reputation be warranted? Or will I regret not having tried it when bottles could easily be found on shelves in whisky stores everywhere? Let’s see.  Continue reading

Jack Daniel’s


Ah, Jack Daniel’s! The subject of the most tedious discussion in all of whiskey-dom (“is it or isn’t it bourbon?”); the whiskey of choice of people with Harley Davidson and Stars and Stripes tattoos; the whiskey so ubiquitous it can’t possibly be any good. Don’t worry this is not leading up to a review in which I will reveal that it is in fact very good. No, it’s only leading up to a review in which I discover that it’s…surprisingly decent. Why surprising? Well, because—being a whisky snob—I hadn’t actually had any Jack Daniel’s in well over a decade and had no memory of it. “A likely story,” you say, “that bottle in your ratty photograph is less than half-full”. As it happens, I have no idea as to how this bottle came into my possession. My guess is someone brought it to a party and left it behind. (It’s no crime: in my time I have foisted many bottles of dubious liquor onto other people.) Anyway, I thought I’d reviewed it a while ago but it turns out I’d only meant to review it but hadn’t actually gotten around to doing it. Well, now I have.  Continue reading

Old Pulteney Clipper Commemorative


I’ve not reviewed very many Pulteneys. This is largely because there aren’t generally very many Pulteneys to be had from the independents (my last two reviews were of indie releases, however: here and here). The official lineup used to be small too but in recent years, like so many other distilleries, they’ve amped up the NAS engine and put out a number of high concept releases—though, to be fair, they’ve also done some (expensive) vintage releases. In the case of Pulteney the high concept often has to do with sailing. They’ve had a number of boat-themed releases in the last few years, though, thankfully, none of them involve maturation on boats (not yet anyway). I’ve previously reviewed one of these, the WK 217 Spectrum. This one is also boat-themed: it was released in 2014 to commemorate an around-the-world boat race. It’s put together from ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. Let’s see what it’s like.  Continue reading

Arran 16, 1996 (Glen Fahrn)


Despite what you might think, this is not a pointless review of a long disappeared whisky. Well, the review may be pointless, but the whisky is still around. Glen Fahrn are a German retailer who started releasing their own bottlings a few years ago (I’m not sure if they still do). I purchased samples of a few of these from Whiskybase a while ago but had somehow forgotten to drink any of them. I came across these Arran samples recently and decided it was time. Much to my surprise, when I looked up the whisky I discovered that it’s still available from Glen Fahrn’s store. There might be a reason for this: it pains me to tell you that my review is not likely to make you want to rush out and purchase a bottle. I’m always disappointed when this happens with an indie bottling of a whisky from an indie distillery. It’s especially disappointing in this case as I’ve enjoyed the few bourbon cask Arrans I’ve had a fair bit (see the most recently reviewed) and was hoping the positive streak would continue.  Continue reading

Singleton of Dufftown


Ah yes, my second-ever Dufftown review and, indeed, my second-ever Dufftown. As I know no more about the distillery now than I did when I reviewed the other late last year, and as I already made my Homer Simpson joke on that occasion, I have nothing more to say about it. I will only register the faint hope that this may prove to be better than that K&L cask. The hope is faint because Diageo’s Singleton releases don’t really have strong reputations. They’re intended as entry-level malts and some would and do say that they pretty much taste like blend replacements, or as a way to get blend drinkers to pay a bit more for a single malt without risking turning them off. I believe all of the Singleton releases are 12 years old—which would make them competitors for the Glenlivet and Glenfiddich 12s. (In the US we get the Singleton of Glendullan. I think the Singleton of Dufftown goes to Europe and the Singleton of Glen Ord to Asia—I might have those swapped.) Anyway, let’s see what this one is like anyway.  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