Glen Grant 31, 1984 (Cadenhead’s)

Glen Grant 31, 1984, Cadenhead's
Last week I reviewed a bourbon cask Glen Grant that was distilled in 1985 and bottled in 2008. This week I have another Glen Grant from that era. This was distilled a year earlier but was bottled quite a bit later, in 2016 by Cadenhead’s. So, it’s not as untimely a review as the previous. It’s also not from a bourbon cask. Despite these important differences I’m interested to see if any obvious throughlines emerge from these two casks from the mid-1980s that might cause me to revise my skepticism about the notion of “distillery character”. I’m also interested to see how long-aged sherry cask Glen Grant from the mid-1980s compares to long-aged sherry cask Glen Grants from an earlier era—such as this excellent older release from Scott’s Selection.

(Cadenhead’s continues to use the -Glenlivet suffix on a number of their Speyside releases. Is this no longer prohibited?)  Continue reading

Lochside 29, 1981 (Captain Burn’s)

Lochside 29, 1981

Lochside is one of those closed distilleries that is never coming back. Located in the eastern Highlands—well east of the Speyside and separated by it from most of the distilleries we usually associate with the Highlands—it was closed in 1992 and then demolished in 2004-2005. It was somewhat unusual in that it was set up to produce both grain and malt whisky—though I’m not sure if grain whisky was indeed produced there for its entire history. As with a number of closed distilleries, Lochside’s reputation expanded well after its closure. It is also one of the distilleries that has a magical year of production associated with its name. People go on about Caperdonich distilled in 1972 and BenRiach and Tomatin distilled in 1976, and in the case of Lochside, it’s the 1981 vintage that is said to be the magical one. I haven’t looked into it closely but I suspect the same selection bias is at play as I’ve described for Caperdonich and Tomatin. Feel free to heap coals on my head. It won’t be the first time.  Continue reading

Evan Williams Single Barrel

Evan Williams Single Barrel
I was not planning to review another bourbon this week but news came in earlier on Monday of the passing of Parker Beam. Parker Beam was Heaven Hill’s master distiller from 1975 till his retirement a few years ago after he was diagnosed with ALS. It seemed like an appropriate time to raise a glass of one of the bourbons he made, and I had this bottle of Evan Williams Single Barrel at hand. I did not ever meet Parker Beam and nor am I going to pretend to know very much about him—I’m not a bourbon maven by any means. But even I know enough to know that he was a true giant of the whiskey world, a true master distiller, one of those who shaped modern bourbon. And though I don’t know if it’s true, I’d like to believe that the fact that so many of Heaven Hill’s lineup of very drinkable bourbons are also very, very affordable bourbons has something to do with him. Even now, with everything that’s going on with Elijah Craig, Heaven Hill makes excellent whiskey for everyone—and there are very few distilleries around the world that can say that. Certainly the Evan Williams Single Barrel series has been synonymous with high quality for a very long time and it’s very easily found in the neighbourhood of $20. It may not be the greatest bourbon available from Heaven Hill but it’s an appropriate bourbon to toast him with: here’s to you, Mr. Beam!  Continue reading

Auchentoshan 1983-2004 (Scott’s Selection)

Auchentoshan 1983-2004, Scott's Selection

This Auchentoshan is one of several Scott’s Selection releases from the mid-2000s. While the Longmorns and Glen Grants and the Port Ellens released around the same time have long disappeared—and are now commanding massive premiums on the secondary market—and the Linlithgows, Glen Mhors and Highland Parks have also now mostly been purchased, this and some others continue to languish on shelves around the country. Even as I type, at least three whisky geeks in different parts of the country are looking at bottles of Scott’s Selection Auchentoshan, Bunnahabhain. Glenlivet, Benromach, Craigellachie and Mannochmore in specialist stores and are wondering whether to give in to the temptation to buy them. In a couple of minutes they will decide against the purchase because there’s no information out there on the quality of these bottles. That was me for many years. But then Binny’s recently put a number of these stragglers on major sale and four of us split a bottle each of this Auchentoshan, a Bunnahabhain 1988-2004 and a Glenlivet 1977-2004—Michael K. and Jordan D. will probably review their portions at some point soon (the deplorable, blog-less Florin was the fourth). As I’ve reviewed very few Auchentoshans of any kind I decided to start with this one—I’ll review the other two later this month (or maybe next) as well.  Continue reading

Rampur Select Casks

Rampur Select
Rampur is the latest Indian malt whisky to hit the market, following Paul John and the more established Amrut. Unlike those, Rampur is based in North India. The distillery was established in 1943, before India gained its independence, but it wasn’t until the early 1990s that they started distilling malt whisky—until very recently most of this went into their own blends. The distillery is owned by Radico-Khaitan and produces a mind-boggling volume of neutral spirit from molasses and grain, and also produces and sells a large range of whisky, rum, brandy and vodka (feast your eyes on the company’s romantic website). Most of these are for the Indian market—unlike the Rampur Select, which is only for the international market. This market now includes the United States. This release showed up here earlier this year and is going for anywhere between $60 and $75. Presumably, a large part of this is going to recoup the cost of the ludicrous packaging (each bottle is inside a silk pouch inside a round tin) and whoever they paid to come up with the purple prose of the marketing materials. Among other things, we are told that Rampur is the Kohinoor of single malts—I guess that means that the company will shortly be illegally taken over by the British crown. On the tin we’re also told that the princely state of Rampur rated a 15 gun salute—they’re going to feel really silly when some distillery located in an ex-princely state that rated a 21 gun salute puts their whisky on the market.  Continue reading

Glenlossie 22, 1992 (van Wees)

Glenlossie 22, 1992, van Wees
This is the first Glenlossie I have reviewed on the blog and it may well be the first Glenlossie I’ve ever had. I know very little about the distillery except that it is in the Speyside, is owned by Diageo and produces malt for their blends. As per Whiskybase there have been no official releases other than one each in the Flora & Fauna, Manager’s Dram and Manager’s Choice series and the most recent of those was released in 2009. What this means, of course, is that next year Diageo will put a 37 yo Glenlossie in their annual special release and ask £2000 for it.

There does seem to have been a slight uptick in independent releases in recent years but I’m not sure that I’ve heard or read anyone waxing rhapsodic about Glenlossie. As you will see below, I won’t be waxing rhapsodic about this bottle either but it was a pleasant, easy drinker.  Continue reading

Old Pulteney 17

Old Pulteney 17
I’ve barely reviewed any Pulteney on the blog, and none from the core age-stated, official range—though I did include the 12 yo in my “well-rounded single malt bar“. Here now is the 17 yo. I believe this is from a bottling from 2012 or so and is a vatting of both bourbon and sherry casks.

Pulteney is in the Northern Highlands—way up in the north of Scotland. Its closest neighbour on the mainland is Clynelish, I believe, and the two Orkney distilleries may be even closer. In terms of profile I usually find it to be close to Balblair (also in the Northern Highlands) and Clynelish—which may say something after all for the notion of regional profiles, which I’m usually suspicious of. Pulteney is the name of the distillery, by the way—Old Pulteney is the name of the whisky produced by the distillery. I believe it used to be the case that independents couldn’t use the “Old Pulteney” name—certainly the case for the older Scott’s Selection and Cadenhead’s bottles I’ve reviewed—but of late I’ve been seeing it on indie labels as well.  Continue reading

Imperial 20, 1995 (Signatory for K&L)

Imperial 20, 1995, Signatory for K&L
Here is the fourth and last review of what has turned out to be a pretty mediocre run of Signatory exclusive casks for K&L. Will this be the one to go past 80 points? I wasn’t terribly impressed with the last two Signatory Imperial 1995s for K&L that I reviewed: those were this 19 yo from last year and this 17 yo from their 2013 run of exclusive casks: I recorded 85 points for the 19 yo and 84 points for the 17 yo. Frankly, after the lackluster Linkwood, Glenburgie and Dufftown from this go-around I’d be very happy if this were a 84 point malt! At any rate, I am very glad indeed that I was able to taste all of these through bottle splits instead of buying full bottles of what seemed like “good values” that I would have completely regretted—as I have on many occasions in the past.

Let’s see how it goes.  Continue reading

Glenburgie 21, 1995 (Signatory for K&L)

Glenburgie 21, 1995, Signatory for K&L
K&L’s annual winter parcel of Signatory cask exclusives arrived a few weeks ago. As I did last year, I split these with a bunch of other whisky geeks—the idea being to try before buying. Given David Driscoll’s skill with hype—and the apparent endless market out there for hype—there’s always the risk of things selling out before you get around to tasting a sample, but that’s far better than the risk of spending $80 or more on what seemed like a great deal only to discover that it wasn’t. That was certainly true in spades with the Linkwood 19 that I reviewed last week. It was not terrible but it had absolutely nothing to recommend it. I’m hoping this Glenburgie will be better. Bourbon cask Glenburgie can be very good indeed (see, for example, this official release) and, as it happens, a couple of years ago K&L had another Glenburgie from Signatory that I quite liked. Well, let’s hope this one is closer to that than to this year’s Linkwood. Continue reading

Four Roses: OESO + OBSO

Four Roses 10, OESO, Liquor Barn Selection
Here is the third entry in my Four Roses recipe roundup. Already posted this week: head-to-head reviews of OESQ and OBSQ barrels and of OESV and OBSV barrels. I really liked both barrels of the the Q, preferring the low-rye OE selection a little more. I was less excited about both V barrels, preferring the high-rye OB in that case. What will be the story with this pairing, which features the O yeast strain? Four Roses says it imparts rich fruit, light vanilla, caramel and full-bodied texture—that should put it right in my wheelhouse. Let’s see.

Once again, these are both store selections. They’re also both 10 year olds, though the OBSO is at a whopping 60.6% abv to the OESO’s 52.6%!

Continue reading

Four Roses: OESV + OBSV

Four Roses 9, OESV, for Crown Liquors
Here is the second installment of my Four Roses recipe roundup. For details on what I’m doing check out this post from last week. And see here for my head-to-head review of two single barrels, one low-rye (OE) and one high-rye (OB) made with the “Q” yeast. Today’s head-to-head features the “V” yeast, which is said to impart light fruit, light vanilla, caramel and a creamy texture. In today’s pairing the OESV is at a higher strength and is two years younger but I’m starting with it anyway as I expect the higher-rye recipe will be bolder in general (and it’s not like 57.6% is very much lower anyway). Today’s barrels are also store selections—I’m not sure where these stores are located or what their reputations are vis a vis single barrel picks. Anyway, I really liked yesterday’s OESQ/OBSQ pairing; I’m hoping these will at least match them. Florin (the man who filmed the moon landing) predicted that I would like the “V” yeast recipes the best but he also enjoys plum brandy so who knows what that is worth.  Continue reading

Ben Nevis 19, Batch 4 (TBWC)

Ben Nevis 19, That Boutiquey Whisky Company
That Boutiquey Whisky Company is a line of whiskies released by Master of Malt, the UK whisky store best known for not being the Whisky Exchange but seemingly desperately wanting to be. Take for example, this series, in 500 ml bottles, that launched after TWE’s 500 ml Elements of Islay series. The TBWC malts, however, are not limited to Islay and have labels as colourful (or garish, if you prefer) as those of Elements of Islay are minimalist. It’s a campier look, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but the problem is that reviewers I trust rarely seem to have overmuch praise for what’s in TBWC’s bottles. That used to generally also be true of Ben Nevis, though its previously dodgy reputation seems to be on the rise of late. I’m on record as saying that Ben Nevis, especially from sherry casks, may well be the next big thing among whisky geeks. It’s certainly true that well-aged, independent, sherried Ben Nevis can still be found at reasonable prices. I’m not sure if this one was reasonably priced though—these TBWC releases are usually priced pretty high as well. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. At least it’s not NAS as many of their earlier releases were (and, to be fair, as every single Elements of Islay release has been).  Continue reading

Bowmore 23, 1989 (A.D. Rattray)

Bowmore 23, 1989, A.D. Rattray
Here is a Bowmore from the late 1980s. As you may know, Bowmores from the 1980s have a dodgy reputation among whisky geeks—this because of the presence of strongly perfumed and/or soapy notes in a lot of the whisky they produced in this era. I’ve noted before that this (generally well-deserved) reputation has extended past the point at which these problems began to disappear: a lot of people’s suspicion of Bowmore extends to vintages produced well into the 1990s. My own experience would suggest that the problems were mostly gone by the early 1990s and that even a lot of the late 1980s distillate was not marred in this way—see, for example, this other 1989 from Liquid Sun. And my experience would also suggest that A.D. Rattray—with their Bowmore connections—have always been a very good bet when it comes to this iconic distillery. Some of the best indie Bowmores I’ve had have come from them—see this 20 yo from 1990, for example (and there was also an 18 yo from 1991 that was just excellent—I finished my last open bottle of that before I started the blog but still have a bottle in reserve). Will this one be as good as the best of the Rattray bottlings of this era? I’m hoping for the best. Continue reading

Caol Ila 14, Unpeated

Caol Ila 14, Unpeated, 2012 Release
It’s Diageo Special Release season and here I am with this unpeated Caol Ila that was part of the lineup in 2012. Timely! I’ve previously reviewed the 2009 and 2010 releases—I liked both of those a lot. While the 10 yo released in 2009 was indeed unpeated, the 12 yo released in 2010 was anything but. I’m not sure what the story is supposed to be with this 2012 release. I am hopeful though that I will like it more than some have (see Michael K.’s review from 2013 here and Jordan D.’s review from earlier this month here—Jordan’s sample came from the same bottle as mine). This one is also unusual in that it is from European oak casks. This essentially means sherry casks—bourbon casks are made from American oak and I assume they’d have specified if these were wine casks. Anyway, peated Caol Ila from sherry casks can be really excellent—I’m curious to see how unpeated Caol Ila from sherry casks comes out.  Continue reading