Ardbeg 10, 2016 Release


Three relevant whisky reviews in one week: who am I and what have I done with myself?

Like the Old Weller Antique, the Ardbeg 10 is not a special release. Unlike the Old Weller Antique, it’s actually available everywhere whisky is sold. Amid all the shenanigans that Ardbeg have gotten up to since they re-opened, their 10 yo has been the mainstay of their range, Unlike the Uigeadail and the Corryvreckan (which came later), there have not been many reports of changes in its character or even of decline. I’ve previously reviewed bottles from 2007 and 2009 and liked them a lot; more to the point, Serge V. gave the 2015 release 89 points. That should bode well, in theory, for this bottle which was released in 2016. By the way, it’s become much easier to read the bottle codes on Ardbeg bottles (see below): I don’t know how the Ardbeg obsessives are coping with the loss of their special codes.  Continue reading

Glendronach 20, 1994 (for Abbey Whisky)


It’s been more than two years since I’ve reviewed a Glendronach. That was a review of the 15 yo Revival, which was about to go on hiatus at the time. I’m not sure what the situation is with that or the 18 yo Allardice, especially as the distillery’s ownership has changed since then, with Billy Walker moving on to Glenallachie. I’m also not sure what the new ownership has been doing with Glendronach’s single cask program—I haven’t paid much attention to that either, having gotten slowly turned off the distillery as a whole since learning about their “single cask” shenanigans. I do have a bunch of single cask Glendronachs on my shelf, however—though I haven’t purchased any in the last couple of years—and my ambivalence about the distillery does not extend to refusing to open and drink or review them. This particular cask was bottled for Abbey Whisky, a British online store. I’ve previously reviewed another Glendronach exclusive to them—an oloroso cask—and it was that one that led me to purchase this one. I opened it at one of my friend Rich’s whisky gatherings up in the Twin Cities, and while a number of people there really liked it, I was not very convinced by it (and nor was he, I think). I’ve since taken it to my local tasting group’s most recent tasting as well and most people there loved it. I liked it a bit more on that occasion but not very much more. Continue reading

Glencadam 15


I’m still on the ex-bourbon trail. The last stop was at Clynelish in the Highlands. I’m still in the Highlands today but all the way over in the east—past the Speyside—at Glencadam. The distillery is owned by Angus Dundee—who also own Tomintoul in the Speyside—and is on no one’s list of the greatest Scottish distilleries. What this means is that their whisky is still quite reasonably priced: even after recent increases, their 10 yo (which I quite like, though I have not yet reviewed it) is available for £35 in the UK and this 15 yo is currently going for just above £50 (inclusive of vat). This is particularly gratifying given that in the late 2000s the lineup got an upgrade to 46% abv and a lack of chill-filtering. They’ve since added an 18 yo (which I have not tried); previously the next up from the 15 yo was the 21 yo (also priced reasonably—in today’s world—at just above £90). They’ve also added some jazzed up sherry and port cask releases (which I also haven’t tried). Prices in the US are a little higher but at this point we should just be glad that they are putting out age-stated whisky. Which is not to say that they’re not putting out any NAS whisky: they also have something called the Origin 1825, which costs about the same as the 10 yo in the US (it’s cheaper in the UK). Anyway, let’s see what this 15 yo is like. Continue reading

Clynelish 12, 1997 (James Macarthur)


With an interesting but not excellent Campbeltown stop behind us, let’s take the bourbon cask train up north to the Highlands and see if things improve. On paper, they should. After all, this is a 1997 vintage Clynelish and all the whisky geeks who believe in magical vintages will tell you that 1997 is a special year for Clynelish. It’s also the case that bourbon cask Clynelish in general is a good bet—see this 14 yo from Archives, for instance, and this one from Berry Bros. & Rudd (both from 1997). This was bottled in 2009 by James Macarthur, an outfit that doesn’t seem to be terribly ubiquitous anymore—not in the US anyway. If you have information on their status, please write in below. This is from a single cask but was bottled at 45% for some reason. I got the sample from Michael K. of Diving for Pearls and I’m not sure what it means that he doesn’t seem to have gotten round to reviewing his own bottle. Anyway, if this is close to either the Archives or Berry Bros. bottles I’ll be happy—but I won’t believe anymore than I currently do in magical vintages.  Continue reading

Glen Scotia 1992-2005 (Signatory)


I’m still on the bourbon cask trail. From Aberlour in the Speyside I went down to Bladnoch in the Lowlands, then west to Islay, and back to Arran. Let’s stick in the general vicinity before heading north to the Highlands and beyond. This Glen Scotia will be my Campbeltown stop. I got this sample from my friend Patrick—he was also the source of one of the Aberlours and the Arran, and I suspect he has no memory of ever having given me this one. I certainly have no memory of having received it. I’ve had very few Glen Scotias and so have no real expectations. The last one I tried and reviewed was quite old and was very good. This one was distilled two decades after that one and was bottled when 12-13 years old by Signatory (all the way back in 2005). This is not from their vaunted cask strength or unchilfiltered series but from the more entry-level 43% series (I’m not sure if they still put these out). I’ve had some decent whiskies from that series so I’m not expecting that to mean very much.  Continue reading

Glendullan 12, 1999 (G&M for Binny’s)


Jim Murray has apparently deemed a Glendullan to be the best something or the other. This is not that Glendullan. This is also not the Singleton of Glendullan, the 12 yo from that distillery that used to be the most ubiquitous, or more accurately, the only ubiquitous Glendullan in the US. No, this is a single cask bottled by Gordon & MacPhail for Binny’s in 2012 or thereabouts. In other words, this is an extremely untimely review: I doubt anyone at Binny’s or Gordon & MacPhail even remembers this whisky. But that’s what I’m here for: to make sure we never forget these one-off releases from Scotland’s third and fourth tier distilleries, to resist the relentless pressure of the now. Or maybe I just randomly review whatever’s at hand. Can you tell that I have nothing to say about this distillery, which mostly produces for Diageo’s blends? I’ve only ever reviewed one other—a Cadenhead’s release from a couple of years ago that was nice enough. Let’s see what this one is like.  Continue reading

Tomatin Cuatro 3: Oloroso


With this, the third in Tomatin’s Cuatro series from a few years ago, we move to what should be a more richly sherried profile. At least that’s what we’ve been trained to think by Oloroso sherry cask releases by various Scottish distilleries. Oloroso sherry, as you probably know, is made differently than Fino and Manzanilla. For Fino and Manzanilla the layer of flor (or less poetically, film of yeast) that forms on the top of the maturing wine is not disturbed, which results in a paler and drier style of sherry. For Oloroso (and Amontillado) the flor is killed when the wine is fortified, resulting in a darker and richer, “oxidized” wine. When most whisky drinkers think of sherry character in single malt whisky it is Oloroso we are thinking of.

It is, of course, also likely that we attribute to Oloroso/sherry character is actually down to maturation in European oak. What the Fino and Manzanilla entries in the Cuatro series have suggested is that three years of double maturation in what are likely also American oak casks may not impart a very heavy sherry influence. Will that be true of the richer Oloroso sherry as well? Let’s see. Continue reading

Tomatin Cuatro 2: Manzanilla


On Monday I had a review of the first in Tomatin’s Cuatro series of sherry cask releases: the Fino. That post has all the relevant information on the series but if you haven’t read it and are too lazy to click, here’s the crucial bit: all four releases are of whisky distilled on the same day and aged for nine years in ex-bourbon cask and then then re-racked into Fino, Manzanilla, Oloroso and PX casks for another three years each. Unlike the regular 12 yo, these are at 46%. I did not find much overt sherry influence in the Fino release—as such I’ll be surprised to find very much of it in this Manzanilla version. The two sherries are broadly similar—Manzanilla is basically a regionally constrained version of Fino (it can only be made in a particular part of Spain).

Let’s get to it.  Continue reading

Tomatin Cuatro 1: Fino


The Tomatin Cuatro series of whiskies was released just about three years ago. Accordingly, I am reviewing those whiskies now. Ol’ Jas’ mention of the series in the comments on my review of the regular Tomatin 12 got me thinking about them and I decided to buy the lot for my local group’s September tasting.

You probably know the details of the series: all of the whisky was distilled on the same day in 2002 and matured for nine years in ex-bourbon casks. At that point it was transferred to Fino, Manzanilla, Oloroso and PX casks respectively for another three years.  In theory, the series allows whisky geeks to see the differing effects of maturation in four different kinds of sherry casks. In practice, of course, it’s not clear how much of this can in fact be accomplished. Continue reading

Caol Ila 20, 1995 (Signatory for K&L)


Here’s a whisky review on a Thursday for a change. And it’s another Caol Ila—roughly the same age as the previous Caol Ila I reviewed, but distilled just about a decade later. This was bottled by Signatory for K&L in California. As I am generally a sucker for bourbon cask Caol Ila, I was intrigued by it when it was announced, but the high asking price ($150 or so) took care of that. Fortunately (for me, at least), Florin (Slovenian supermodel and future First Lady) purchased a bottle and shared samples with a few of us—see Jordan D’s review of a sample from this same bottle from a year ago. Jordan didn’t care for it overmuch, and nor did Florin (see his comment on Jordan’s review). But there are others who rave about it. Anyway, the easiest way to find out is to pour the sample and drink it. Here goes.
Continue reading

Linkwood 1984-2014 (Malts of Scotland)


Linkwood, in the Speyside, is one of Diageo’s workhorses. Being included in last year’s collection of overpriced “special releases” hasn’t really raised its profile (in fact, I can’t remember reading any reviews of that bottle). I do remember some of my own reviews, however, and I was not a fan of the last Linkwood I reviewed. That was this 19 yo from 1997 that was part of K&L’s winter 2016 parcel of Signatory exclusives. It was quite a step down from the two previous Linkwoods I’d reviewed (another 19 yo from Chieftain’s and this 16 yo from Signatory). Here’s hoping this much older one (it’s a 30 yo) from 1984 will be much better. I’ve not had very many older Linkwoods, and the only others I’ve had from the 1980s (see this edition of “Quick Hits”) didn’t exactly set my world on fire either.

Well, I guess this has not been the most promising of openings but Malts of Scotland are usually a very reliable bottler. Let’s get right to it.  Continue reading

Tomatin 12, 2016 Release


I last reviewed the Tomatin 12 about two years ago. It’s a malt that I’ve always enjoyed as a casual sipper and it was historically always a very good value (as is the Tomatin 18). The Tomatin packaging has received a makeover since then: with all new bottles and labels and a generally more premium look (I suppose: I always liked the clean labels of the previous design). It didn’t see a bump in the abv, however. Anyway, I’d been curious to see if there had been any significant change to the whisky inside the bottle as well and picked up a bottle late last year. I’ve since taken it to two of my local whisky group’s tastings (always blind) and it did well at both—this was particularly pleasing to a few of our members who are forever complaining that I make them taste whiskies that they like but can never actually find. You won’t have any trouble finding this one, no matter where you live. But what is it like? Here are my notes. Continue reading

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2017


A shockingly timely whisky review for once.

The 2017 edition of Laphroaig’s Feis Ile release, the Cairdeas, landed in the US this month. You will recall that Laphroaig are the only Islay distillery that release their Feis Ile bottle in the US. They’re also the only one who seem to envision their festival bottling as intended for everyone and not just for those willing to spend a lot of money, either by going to Islay or on an auction site. This cost £77 on Islay (where a lot of it was still available in the distillery shop a few weeks after Feis Ile) and in Minnesota it seems to be going between $70 and $85, and is available at a number of stores including a big chain. Compare this with the cost and contortions necessary to get your hands on the Feis Ile releases from any of the other Islay distilleries. Continue reading

Glen Grant 20, 1992 (Maltbarn)


Back in February I’d posted a review of a Glen Grant 23, 1985 and said I’d have more Glen Grant reviews in the weeks to come. Because I am a shameless liar I only posted one more Glen Grant review in the roughly 20 weeks that came after that. But what is time? An illusion, a fog. Here we are now in mid-July and the weeks fall away like magic and we’re returned to that halcyon time when all three people who read this blog regularly were agog at the thought of successive weeks of reviews of Glen Grants that are no longer available and were only available in Europe to begin with. See, dreams can come true.

This was bottled by Maltbarn, a small German independent bottler. This was only their 12th release—I’m not sure what number they’re up to now. The label says “ex-sherry butt” but, as you’ll see, it’s not exactly a sherry monster. Continue reading