Blair Athol 26, 1988 (Signatory)


In 2014/2015 there were quite a few Blair Athol 1988s on the market, all in the mid-20s age-wise. Many of these were bottled by Signatory—21 of the 47 Blair Athols listed on Whiskybase are from Signatory*; and another 8 are from van Wees, who source from Signatory, I believe. I’ve reviewed some of these: I really liked this 26 yo bottled for K&L; I also liked this 26 yo and this 25 yo, both from van Wees. Most recently, I thought this 25 yo bottled for LMDW was excellent as well (I could be wrong but I think Signatory was the source of this cask as well—if you know differently, please write in below). All of these casks have proximate numbers, by the way, suggesting perhaps that a big parcel of casks was purchased all together by a broker.

Does that guarantee high quality for this one? Let’s see.  Continue reading

Mortlach 28, 1989 (Faultline)


And here is the last of my five reviews of recent K&L casks. The score so far is 3-1: I really liked the Bowmore 20 and the Bunnahabhain 25, and thought the Bunnahabhain 28 was solid; it was only the Mortlach 22 that I was not crazy about. Well, this is also a Mortlach and, like the Bunnahabhain 28, it’s also a Faultline. Which way will it go? Let’s see.

Mortlach 28, 1989 (42.5%; Faultline; first-fill sherry hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Raisins, a bit of orange and some oak. With time the orange expands a bit but there’s not much of note happening here. With more time still there’s some toffee. With a few drops of water the fruit expands significantly: orange and apricot.

Continue reading

Mortlach 22, 1995 (Faultline)


On Wednesday I posted the first of five reviews of some recentl K&L exclusive casks. I very much liked that Bowmore 20, which was bottled in Douglas Laing’s Old Particular line. Today’s Mortlach is a couple of years older but was bottled under K&L’s own Faultline label. More than any K&L casks, those bottled in the Faultline series have proven the most disappointing. Then again, I had low expectations of Wednesday’s Bowmore as well and those were easily exceeded. Will that be true of this Mortlach as well?

Sherry cask Mortlach—which is the most common version—can be a bit of a bruiser. The distillery produces a meatier, rougher spirit—their production process uses old-fashioned worm tubs for the condensation step, and with lower copper content in worm tubs, the spirit retains more of a sulphurous character. This can be a bit of an acquired taste but once you acquire it, it becomes a very specific pleasure. And a good sherry cask can amplify those pleasures. Let’s see if that has happened here or if this will be a regression to K&L’s cask selection mean.  Continue reading

Caol Ila 20, 1996 (Montgomerie’s)


Here is the second of three simul-reviews this month with Michael K. of Diving for Pearls of whiskies that were bottled as exclusives for Total Wine (and here now is his review). Our first was last week’s Glen Ord 18, also bottled by Montgomerie’s. This Caol Ila—which rounds out a week of Islay reviews—is a bit older. The bottle cost $125; I’m not sure if it’s still around—I didn’t notice it at the store I purchased it from when I was in there again briefly earlier this week. Even though this is at 46% and not cask strength, it does seem like a fair price for a 20 year old peated Islay whisky—there are certainly older Caol Ilas from other independents that are going for a lot more in the US; and next Friday we’ll have a simul-review of a younger Laphroaig whose list price was almost $100 more.

A good price relative to age then, but what is it like in the glass?  Continue reading

Glen Ord 18, 1997 (Montgomerie’s)


It’s been a while since Michael K. and I did a simultaneous review—in fact, I think, back then Sku may have been blogging for himself and not a liquor store; seems like so long ago now! Anyway, here is the first of three simul-reviews this month with Michael. We’ll be posting them on Fridays. They’re all of whiskies that, I believe, are/were exclusives for Total Wine. This Glen Ord and a Caol Ila 20 (next Friday) were bottled by Montgomerie’s, a brand I’ve not see anywhere except in Total Wine. The third, a Laphroaig 18 (the 27th), was bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd, and while it doesn’t say anywhere on the label that it is a Total Wine exclusive, I do believe it was listed at the store I purchased these bottles from as a “Spirits Direct” selection, which is a Total Wine thing. By the way, I know nothing about Montgomerie’s other than that their releases are sold at Total Wine, but after purchasing these bottles for a split I coordinated, I noticed that the Montgomerie’s bottles are identical in shape to the distinctive Berry Bros. & Rudd tall bottles. Just a coincidence? Or are they in fact one of BB&R’s private selection lines? If you can confirm or deny, please write in below. As with all Montgomerie’s releases—as far as I’ve noticed—this is at 46%.  Continue reading

Oban Little Bay


Here is the last entry in my quick Oban roundup. On Wednesday I reviewed the Oban 14, and was just about whelmed by it. On Friday I reviewed the Oban Distillers Edition and was somewhat underwhelmed by it. Will the NAS offering from the distillery be the one that gets me to the over? Anything is possible.

I’m not sure when the Little Bay was launched—2014? 2015?—or what its story is (all NAS whisky these days has a story). I used to think that its name was redundant—like “chai tea”—as Oban means “Little Bay”. But it turns out that Oban actually means “Little Bay of Caves” (see the picture of the label from my review of the DE). I guess this means we can someday expect another NAS named Oban Caves. It’ll be extra dark and maybe it’ll be sold to us as being especially good on the rocks. I don’t mean to give anyone any ideas.  Continue reading

Oban Distillers Edition, 2003-2017


After Wednesday’s review of the 2017 release of the Oban 14 (which I was just about whelmed by) here is my review of the 2017 release of the Oban Distillers Edition. As these—unlike the regular 14 yo—carry vintage statements, I am able to tell you that it was distilled in 2003. I have a bit of a spotty history with Diageo’s various Distillers Edition releases, which are basically the regular entry-level age-stated malt + a couple of months in various wine casks. Only the Lagavulin DE, which “finishes” the phenolic 16 yo in sweet PX casks, has consistently done it for me (here and here). I’ve previously also reviewed the 2011 release of the Talisker DE—I didn’t care for that one very much. In general, most of the Distillers Edition releases I’ve tried have seemed to drown the idiosyncratic qualities of the base malt in whatever wine cask the finish has been done in. In this case, the profile of the Oban 14 should theoretically be a good fit with the Montilla fino cask finish. Let’s see if that turns out to be the case.  Continue reading

Oban 14


I began the month and week with a review of a stunt whisky: Ardbeg Grooves, the 2018 edition of Ardbeg’s annual special release. Today I have a review of an altogether more classic malt—one that is always available and has been available for a long time: the Oban 14. It was recently brought to my attention that I have not yet reviewed a single Oban. This is not entirely my fault as there are very few Obans one could review. Until recently, this 14 yo and a sherry-finished Distillers’ Edition were the only Obans that were easily found (no indie releases that I can think of)—there’s a 18 yo as well, but it’s a more limited release (and in a rare twist, I believe it’s a US exclusive). A couple of years ago an inevitable NAS offering, “Little Bay”, joined the regular line-up; but unlike with Talisker, Diageo has not yet made that line-up mushroom further. If you’re in Oban you can go to the distillery and try your luck with the distillery exclusive, but here in the US we only have three or four Obans to choose from. To make up for my neglect of the distillery, I’m going to review most of these in succession. Today, the 14 yo; on Friday, the Distillers’ Edition; and on Monday, “Little Bay”. In one fell swoop I will go from having reviewed no Obans to having reviewed almost all available Obans.  Continue reading

Ardbeg Grooves, Committee Release


In which I start the month with a timely’ish review. The foolishly named Ardbeg Grooves is this year’s entry in Ardbeg’s annual exercise in folly. The regular release comes out on Ardbeg Day, otherwise known as June 2; this higher strength release came out a few weeks ago to whet the appetite of those who cannot get enough of Ardbeg and their folly. Despite being a fool myself, I’ve skipped these shenanigans entirely in recent years; and eventual reviews of their recent annual releases have not made me feel foolish about having done so. However, this year when the opportunity arose to taste the latest “Committee Release” via a bottle split, I decided to go for it. For some reason I thought I’d read very positive reviews of it—though I have not subsequently been able to track down what it is I’d thought I’d read. This whisky apparently contains some significant fraction of spirit matured in ex-red wine casks. The press materials tell me that these casks were charred extensively, producing grooves in them; evidently, Ardbeg’s proprietary cask charring system allows them to produce effects that fit with whatever silly concept they’ve hit on for the year (see also the Alligator). Also, Ardbeg was groovy in the 1960s and whatnot (yes, this is actually part of their sell). Continue reading

Balblair 2003, First US Release


So few Balblairs reviewed on this blog. It’s almost as though I have something against Balblair. But I assure you that this is not true. I am pro-Balblair; while I could not say that some of my best friends are Balblairs (I barely even know any people named Blair), I am certainly Balblair-positive. Which is not to say that I have been infected by Balblair, merely that I am positively inclined towards Balblair. Why is this? you ask. Well, I cannot say. It’s not the case that I’ve had any Balblairs that have made me want to rhapsodize (though I do have a sample of one from the mid-1960s that might fit that description). But their whiskies are always solid and they put vintages and age markers on them, and generally don’t engage in much marketing malarkey. I am hoping to stop at the distillery on our planned trip to Scotland in June, and may even attempt to convey my appreciation of these qualities to a befuddled distillery employee. But enough folly! What Balblair is this? It is a 11 or 12 yo from the 2003 vintage. The first US release, says the label from the industrious Michael K.—which leads me to believe that there may have been another twelve or seventeen releases since. Well, I don’t know if any of those have been any good but I will soon be able to tell you what I think of this one.  Continue reading

Tobermory 18, 1994 (Wilson & Morgan)


Let’s start the month with a review of a malt from a distillery that is probably one of the most acquired of tastes in all of whiskydom, and a taste that I have not yet quite managed to acquire: Tobermory. The two Tobermorys I’ve liked the most have both been from sherry casks (this 19 yo from The Whisky Exchange, and this much older one from Alambic Classique). I’ve not fared as well with ex-bourbon Tobermory, where the idiosyncrasies of the distillate really get a chance to shine. I’m not a fan of the official 10 yo and nor was I particularly enthused by the 17 yo from Glen Fahrn that I reviewed in January—though I did find things to like about it. (It’s a different story with their peated variant, Ledaig, which I’ve been getting more and more into in the last few years—both ex-sherry and ex-bourbon.)

Well, let’s see how this 18 yo goes.  Continue reading

Glenfarclas 1989-2013, The Family Casks (for Astor Wines)


Glenfarclas’ “Family Casks” series of single cask releases has a very strong reputation among whisky geeks. Here in the US, we see very few of them and so when I saw that Astor Wine in New York City had one as an exclusive bottling, I picked up a bottle. Distilled in 1989 and bottle in 2013 this is either 23 or 24 years old. It cost a fair bit more than the standard 25 yo but I rationalized the purchase given the higher abv and the general reputation of the Family Cask line. Of course, that reputation is largely based on the sherry casks that form of the majority of the series, and this one—though it doesn’t say so on the label—is from a bourbon cask. Still, I was looking forward to opening it, which I did about a year ago for one of my local group’s tastings. While some in the group really liked it, a few of us were unconvinced: the nose was very nice but it seemed over-oaked on the palate. I’d hoped that time and air would fix a lot of that. Let’s see if that’s happened a year later with lots of air and time.  Continue reading

Tamdhu 22, 1991 (Càrn Mòr)


After an Allt-a-Bhainne released in 2012 and an Old Pulteney released in 2014, let’s complete the trifecta of reviews of whiskies no one cares about with a Tamdhu released in 2013 or 2014. It’s also hard to know if anyone cares about Tamdhu in general. It’s certainly better known than Allt-a-Bhainne, having put out official single malts for some time now, and having relatively recently overhauled their branding in a premium direction; but I’m not sure when the last time was I heard or read anyone talking excitedly about Tamdhu. Of course, every distillery is capable of putting out great casks, and I have liked 75% of the Tamdhus I’ve reviewed a fair bit (the most recent I liked more after it “opened up” in the bottle after a few months. That was also—like this one—a first fill sherry cask, but about half the age and from a butt not a hogshead. 22 years in a sherry hogshead does seem a long time (unless it was only re-racked into the sherry hogshead for a shorter period at the end of the maturation period). Let’s hope this isn’t an oak bomb.  Continue reading

Tobermory 17, 1995 (Glen Fahrn)


I recently reviewed a bourbon cask Arran bottled by the German store Glen Fahrn. I was not a fan. In the hope that that was an aberration, I reached for another set of samples of Glen Fahrn. Now, you might say that Tobermory is not the best distillery on which to pin hopes of a turnaround, that maybe I should have picked the two 20 ml bottles of Miltonduff next to these instead. Unlike you, however, I choose to accentuate the  positive, and I will remind you that I quite liked the last Tobermory in its late teens—and from a proximate year—that I tried. But, you say, that was from a sherry cask and this is from a bourbon cask, and so more likely to flaunt Tobermory’s deviant character. All I can say in response is that you should be ashamed of yourself for throwing words like “deviant” around; it’s very judgmental of you and, frankly, suggests an alarmingly narrow view of the world. It’s people like you who make people like Florin (Tobermory Superfan #1) feel unwelcome and alone.  Continue reading