Housekeeping note: I did not post the usual Thursday recipe yesterday. For a change, I didn’t have the post ready to go a week prior, and the days leading up to Thanksgiving got a bit too full for me to get around to it. I’ll post that recipe on Saturday instead. Here, on schedule, however, is this week’s third booze post: the final post in my mini-run of mezcal reviews.
The first two were both Del Maguey releases: the Tobala on Monday and the Wild Tepextate on Wednesday. I liked both but the Tobala more than the other. Today’s offering is not not from Del Maguey but from an outfit named Quiquiriqui. This is a brand based in the UK that apparently works directly with producers in Oaxaca—though looking at their website, it’s hard to tell if they work with separate producers or just one family. Their range includes a number of pechugas: one made with mole (a la the Cinco Sentidos I reviewed earlier this year), one made with coffee, and this one which deploys cacao. I’m not sure how exactly this is done: are cacao beans hung over the still during the third distillation a la the traditional chicken or turkey? Are the cacao beans in addition to chicken/turkey or a replacement? If you know one way or the other, please write in below. Anyway, let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading →
I began this week of mezcal reviews with Del Maguey’s Tobala, which I rather liked. Here now is another of their releases: Wild Tepextate. As per the Mezcal Reviews site the producer is the same as that of the Tobala, which means it’s also from Santa Maria Albarradas. Tepextate is also a variety of agave found at high altitudes—you’ll never guess but it grows wild. That pretty much exhausts my knowledge about this mezcal. Well, I can tell you it also costs in the neighbourhood of $100 in most parts of the US and that it is currently available in Minnesota for a bit more than that. Okay, let’s get to it.
Del Maguey, Wild Tepextate (45%; Lot: TEP 181; from a bottle split)
Nose: More acidic than the Tobala, with more of a mineral note as well. Otherwise, similar notes of lime, green chiles and salt with mild passionfruit. Some charred pineapple in there too. More savoury as it sits with a bit of ham brine joining the party. With a couple of drops of water the “green” notes recede and the savoury notes expand. Continue reading →
Bourbon week draws to a close. I began with the 2021 George Dickel Bottled in Bond and then checked in with a 2019 store pick Elijah Craig Small Batch; and now I end with a single barrel of 1792 Bourbon that was bottled for Total Wine in 2020. I have very little experience with 1792 (made by the Barton 1792 distillery in Bardstown in Kentucky). I don’t what the cask number was. The mash bill for 1792 is 74% corn, 18% rye and 8% barley, which I believe means this has higher rye content than either the Dickel or the Elijah Craig. Will that give it more character? Let’s see.
1792 Single Barrel for Total Wine (49.3%; from a bottle split)
Nose: The most restrained nose of the three: some light caramel, some herbal notes and some nail polish remover. The nail polish remover thankfully burns off quickly but there’s not a whole lot of development after that. Nothing interesting happens with a few drops of water at first either but then there’s some apricot and honey to go with the caramel. Continue reading →
The week in sherry cask reviews began on Monday with a 6 yo Amrut. here now is an Aberlour that is almost twice as old and was matured in an oloroso cask. This was a cask available exclusively at the distillery earlier this year. There was also a bourbon cask. That was also 11 years old and bottled at the same strength—which seeming coincidence suggests these may not actually be bottled at cask strength. Aberlour distillery exclusives are not something you can count on purchasing if you visit the distillery. My old-time whisky readers—if more than one or two still remain—will remember my bemoaning the lack of any exclusives when I visited the distillery in 2018 (though I did enjoy the tour itself). This one, alas, was not purchased in person by me—I’ve not managed to get back to Scotland since 2018 (though I do have dreams of doing so in 2023). I was. however, pleased to have an opportunity to try it via a bottle split. It’s been a while since I’ve tried a heavily sherried Aberlour and so I am looking forward to it. Continue reading →
Kilkerran week got off to a strong start on Monday with Batch 6 of their 8 yo cask strength series. That one was matured in sherry casks and was a lovely example of the earthy Campbeltown sherry profile that should be very familiar to aficionados of Springbank’s whisky. Today I have for you a review of Batch 7 which was matured in port casks. It’s no secret that I am in general dubious about port cask whiskies. That said, the port-matured whiskies that work best for me tend to be ones with peat in the mix and there’s certainly some peat in the mix in these Kilkerran 8 CS releases. Will that be enough to elevate this port cask release? Let’s see.
Kilkerran 8 CS, Batch 7, Port Cask (57.9%; from a bottle split)
Nose: Very much like the sherry cask at first sniff with roasted malt, damp earth, orange peel and brine in the front. Just a bit of sweetness around the edges to signal the port cask. More sourness on subsequent sniffs—tart cherry and orange but also oak—and a nutty/beany note. With time the sour oak recedes and the tart cherry and orange resolve to apricot; some char too now. A few drops of water push the oak back altogether. Continue reading →
I reviewed a fair number of bourbon cask whiskies in September. So let’s start October with a trio of heavily sherried whiskies and make them peated to boot.
This is the first of three Kilchomans that were distilled in 2015 from the distillery’s own barley, peated to 20 ppm. All were then matured in Pedro Ximinez hogsheads. As to whether these were regulation PX butts that were broken down and rebuilt as smaller hogsheads or whether these were regular hogsheads treated or seasoned with PX sherry, I don’t know. This one, cask 772 was bottled for the German market. The two that will follow this week were both released in North America. (Kilchoman, as you may know, has a pretty extensive single cask program.) Well, I like a good mix of sherry and peat as much as the next sap but in the past I’ve generally preferred bourbon cask Kilchoman to the sherried variety. Will this one buck that trend? Let’s see. Continue reading →
Let’s keep the “Glen” distilleries thing going a bit longer. That won’t be the theme of this week though. The theme for this week is Speyside distilleries. And there won’t be a through line of labels either—each will be from a different bottler.
If I’d thought to do this Glentauchers last week instead of the Glengoyne it would have been three 8 yo whiskies from distilleries whose names start with “Glen” bottled by the SMWS. Unlike last week’s 8 year olds, however, (from Glencadam and Glenturret), this one was not bottled at a ludicrous strength. Compared to those >62% strength monsters, 56.1% seems downright restrained. What it does have in common with them—in addition to the bottler and age—is that I have very little experience of Glentauchers’ malt as well. It’s part of Pernod Ricard’s portfolio and apparently contributes heavily to the popular Ballantine’s blend—which is doubtless why so little of it emerges as single malt: a reminder as always that, for the most part, the single malt category is a by-product of the world’s thirst for blended Scotch whisky. Well, this review takes my Glentauchers score to five. The ones I’ve reviewed before have all been a fair bit older—the youngest twice the age of this one (this G&M 16 yo)—and I quite liked most of them (this 21 yo from Archives most of all). Let’s see where this one falls. Continue reading →
Here is the first part of an interesting diptych from Kilchoman. Islay’s farm distillery’s hallmark seems to have become the release of more and more single casks and cask variations and so forth to go along with their more edited regular lineup which—please correct me if I’m wrong—comprises the Machir Bay, Sanaig, Loch Gorm and the 100% Islay. For whatever reason, they seemingly are not interested in putting out a regular age-stated whisky—even though they would be able to put out a 15 yo by now. I guess if you can sell much younger NAS whisky then there isn’t much reason to tie up limited warehouse space. Or maybe there’s an age-stated lineup in the works and we won’t know till it hits us. Anyway, in 2021 they launched a “Cask Comparison” series. The idea is to release similar whiskies with some variation in them that allows the drinker to compare the effect of a single variable being shifted. Batch 1—a UK exclusive—comprised two casks of 8 yo spirit, distilled days apart in 2012 and matured for just over 8 years in ex-Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels. What’s the variable that’s different? Cask 719—this one—was filled with spirit distilled from 100% Islay barley peated to 20 ppm; cask 726—which I’ll be reviewing on Friday—was filled with spirit distilled from barley from the Port Ellen maltings peated to 50 ppm. The idea is that the juxtaposition will allow us to tease out the difference between the peating levels…or wait…is it the difference between the types of barley…or wait…is it the difference between the combination of both those things? Hmmm the premise is at risk of breaking down before I even begin and so it may be best to just get to it. Continue reading →
I think I may have promised a week of Arran reviews in July. Let’s get to it now before we get too far into August. First up, an official release and one that became part of the distillery’s portfolio in 2015. I’m not sure if this series has come to the US—Whiskybase only shows one 750 ml bottle and that’s from 2015. It is first matured in first-fill ex-bourbon casks and then finished in much smaller quarter casks (also American oak). I’ve seen references to the quarter cask finish having lasted two years for the first batch. I’m not sure if that has remained the case for subsequent releases. The overall age is, I’m guessing, not very high, which makes this a bit of an outlier relative to the last few Arrans I’ve reviewed: the 20 yo Brodick Bay and a 21 yo bottled for OMC’s 20th anniversary among them. I’m generally a fan of Arran’s fruity profile. I hope it’s not overwhelmed here by oak via both the first-fill bourbon and then the smaller quarter cask maturation. Having now jinxed myself let’s see what the whisky is actually like. Continue reading →
A 7 yo single malt from a no-name distillery that’s been bottled at >60% abv? Normally that would send chills up my spine. The only saving grace here is that it’s not virgin oak or even first-fill bourbon—or a raw sherry bomb for that matter. Well, I’m assuming it won’t be raw. Allt-a-Bhainne is not the most storied distillery, and it’s not a distillery I have very much experience with but I’ve always found it interesting even as I’ve not developed any real sense of what its profile might be like. On that informational note, let’s get to this SMWS cask which the brain trust at the Society dubbed “Seductive sweetness and smooth smoke”. It’s not every day that I drink a whisky whose name contains not one but two of my old stripper names. Should be special.
Allt-a-Bhainne 7, 2011 (60.8%; SMWS 108.23; second-fill ex-bourbon barrel; from a bottle split)
Nose: Rather closed at first—unsurprising given the strength. Then there’s a bit of candied lemon and some oak and subtle malty/cereal sweetness. A bit of incense in the distance as it sits. With more time there’s a herbal/rooty note as well and a bit of anise. With water it’s the same as before but a bit more intense and a bit more integrated. Some wet wool in there too now. Continue reading →
On Monday I had a review of a Braes of Glenlivet/Braeval. Speyside week continues now with another relatively obscure distillery: Glen Elgin. This is only my third review of a Glen Elgin, which may be reliable indicator of how little Glen Elgin is generally available in the American market. It was bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society at the tender age of 10 from a first-fill bourbon barrel. That combination of age and cask type sets off some warning bells but hopefully the whisky will rise above. The venerable society named this one “Aloha!”. I’m not sure what the reason for that is but at least it fits with my ongoing food reports from Hawaii, Okay, let’s get to it.
[Actually, before I get to it, I should note that this Speyside week might well grind to a halt with this Glen Elgin. This because I had not—as I thought I had—taken notes on the third whisky of the set before leaving for Ireland, where I’ve been for a week now on work. I get back home tonight but jet lag may keep me from having the wherewithal to review anything till the end of the week. Let’s see how it goes.] Continue reading →
Last week’s series of reviews of recent Old Particular/K&l releases ended with a Ledaig 15 that I quite liked. Let’s keep that peat blast going this week with three reviews of smoky whiskies from Islay. First up is a Laphroaig, the Laphroaig 10 Cask Strength, to be exact.
I try to stay as current on the Laphroaig 10 CS as I can. I’ve reviewed every batch release from 001 to 012 and very rarely has it disappointed me. I’ve been waiting for Batch 013 to hit Minnesota for a while now. It was released in 2021 but I only saw it on local shelves a month or two ago. Meanwhile, Batch 014 and Batch 015 are both out as well, and as per Whiskybase were both also released in 2021. Indeed, Batch 014 seems to have been released in the US too—there’s a 750 ml bottle listed on Whiskybase. I’ve no idea when that will come to Minnesota but am happy nonetheless to be able to review Batch 013. Let’s get to it. Continue reading →
As I noted on Monday, this is a week of several overlapping themes: whiskies from distilleries from different regions of Scotland; sherry cask whiskies; whiskies bottled by Old Particular; whiskies bottled for K&L in California. And for at least the first two you could add, whiskies from Glen- distilleries. The week began with a 16 yo Glenrothes from the Speyside; we’ll now continue with a 17 yo Glenturret from the highlands. I will repeat what I have said in my introduction to every Glenturret I’ve reviewed—all two of them: I have very little experience of Glenturret. Of the two I have reviewed I really liked a 33 yo distilled in 1980, and really did not like a 6 yo distilled in 2013. This one doesn’t fall in the exact middle of those two age-wise but at 17 years of age it’s got some respectable age on it. And unlike that 6 yo, it’s not at a stupidly high abv. All of that is good. It is, of course, no guarantee that all of this means it is a good whisky or, at least, a whisky to my taste, Only one way to find out for sure. Continue reading →
Let’s start the month with a week of reviews of whiskies from Craigellachie. Located in the Speyside, Craigellachie has not always had a high visibility among non-whisky geeks. It was established in the late 19th century and produced malt for blends for most of its life. Indeed, until relatively recently, there were no regular official bottlings from the distillery. The turning point was the purchase of the distillery in 1998 by John Dewar & Sons, themselves a subsidiary of Bacardi. In 2014 official Craigellachies appeared: a 13 yo, a 17 yo and a 23 yo. Idiosyncratic age statements to be sure, and perhaps meant as a reflection of the spirit’s idiosyncratic character. For whisky geeks, Craigellachie—available from independent bottlers before this—has always been of interest as one of the few distilleries still using old-fashioned worm tubs to condense their spirit. This results in spirit that can have a “meaty” texture and character. I’ve not had enough Craigellachie to be able to track all this meaningfully but I am interested to try this official 13 yo—which somehow I have not had at all since it was first released. This sample comes from a bottle from the 2017 release. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading →
I’ve not reviewed very many Balvenies over the years (only 10 total and only a handful in the last 4-5 years). There was a time when their 12 yo Double Wood was a regular in my rotation but that was a long time ago. It seems to be available for a relatively reasonable price in Minnesota. Should I give it a go? I do know I wasn’t terribly impressed the last time I tried it but it may have improved since, I suppose. I was also a huge fan a decade ago of their 15 yo Single Barrel series that was all from bourbon casks (here’s the only one I’ve reviewed). But that got replaced by a hot sherry bomb that cost a lot more and which I was not very impressed with the first time I tried it, though I did like the second cask I tried better. The Balvenie I’m reviewing today is also sherried, albeit the sherry comes in only via a finish: it spends some time in PX casks after initial maturation in American oak (presumably ex-bourbon) casks. It was/is a Travel Retail exclusive, which makes it a bit surprising both that it has an age statement and that it’s at a good drinking strength of 48.7%. How much of its 18 years it spends in either cask type I’m not sure, but here’s hoping the finish is well-integrated. Let’s see. Continue reading →
Let’s do another week of Ben Nevis. Another?, you ask. Yes, I did a Ben Nevis week back in April. That was a trio of 20 year olds: two distilled in 1997 (one from Exclusive Malts and one from Berry Bros. & Rudd), and the other was distilled in 1999 (and bottled by the Daily Dram). We’ll start this week with another 20 yo, this time distilled in 1996 and bottled by Single Cask Nation. Like the Exclusive Malts and Berry Bros. bottles, this one is from a sherry cask—a refill oloroso puncheon to be exact. Even though I generally prefer bourbon cask Ben Nevis, I did like both of those. Let’s hope this one is in their vein.
Ben Nevis 20, 1996 (55.6%; Single Cask Nation; refill oloroso puncheon; from a bottle split)
Nose: Opens with brown sugar, dried ginger and roasted nuts. Orange peel and orange juice as it sits and then whiffs of muskier fruit (tart-sweet mango, a hint of passionfruit). The muskier fruit never quite arrives fully. With a few drops of water there’s some light caramel and some cocoa and then more of the musky fruit. Continue reading →
As you may recall, the theme for this week’s whisky reviews is 20+ yo whiskies from distilleries located in different production regions of Scotland. The week began with an official release of 20 yo Arran—Brodick Bay. It continues today with a 23 yo from the Speyside. Which distillery exactly in the Speyside? I’m afraid I can’t tell you as this was a private label bottling for Costco by Alexander Murrary and as with most/all such Costco releases, no distillery is specified. This was matured in ex-bourbon casks and finished in oloroso sherry (which is hopefully the only explanation for the dark colour of the whisky in the sample bottle). I don’t have a whole lot of experience with Costco’s Kirkland-branded single malt Scotch releases. I believe I’ve only ever reviewed one other—this 18 yo, also from the Speyside. I didn’t think very highly of that one, finding it to be too watered down in every way. Will this at a more respectable 46% abv (ignore the abv on the sample label—it’s an error) have more oomph/character? I certainly hope so. Continue reading →
Highland Park was once one of my very favourite distilleries but it’s been a while since I cared to keep up with what they were up to. Of course, this is not a reflection on the distillery itself but on the owners but they’ve gone down an increasingly silly path of premiumization over the last half decade, with prices increasing and NAS releases proliferating. As I’ve stopped following them, I had no idea they’d launched a new cask strength edition until the chance came up to go in on a bottle split on the first release from 2020. Though as I say that I’m not sure that it is in fact the first release—or rather, what that means. As per Whiskybase, this is the first release of this particular Highland Park Cask Strength (subtitled, “Robust and Intense”). But Whiskybase also lists four other cask strength distillery releases, the last of which came out in 2019—all of those were 350 ml bottles for the Swedish market. So, it may be more appropriate to say that this is the first general release of a cask strength line under the “Robust & Intense” moniker. There’s been a second release in 2021 as per Whiskybase. Unlike the Swedish casks, which don’t specify, this first release is listed as having been matured in “sherry seasoned American oak casks”; the second added sherry seasoned European oak casks to the mix. That one seems to have come to the US too—I’ll keep an eye out for a possible bottle split of that as well. Continue reading →