Let’s make it a week of Islay whiskies. On Monday I had a review of an 18 yo Laphroaig and yesterday I had a review of a 10 yo Bowmore. We have another big drop in age today, all the way down to 3 years old, the legal minimum for Scotch whisky; and we’re also moving from the larger, more established and storied distilleries to a small upstart. Kilchoman, the small Islay farm distillery (which I visited briefly last June), only started distilling in late 2005. I believe the first official whiskies were released in 2009. There were a bunch of cask strength releases in the US in mid-2010. I still have some of at least one of these saved (the Binny’s cask) and will probably get around to reviewing it one of these decades. At around the same time they had begun to release larger vattings at 46%. There were a number of these seasonal releases for at least the first few years—I confess I’ve sort of lost sight of what Kilchoman has been up to in recent years, despite rather liking all the early releases I’d tried. Well, maybe I’ll try to address that.
Meanwhile, here’s a blast from the past. This was put together in a complicated way with a mix of bourbon and sherry casks—a finish may have been involved (I’m too lazy to look it up). Continue reading →
Last week I posted a review of an unusual rum cask Laphroaig. Here now is a relatively unusual Glen Ord. The distillery is best known—in official and independent incarnations—for bourbon cask matured whisky. This release from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society was, however, bottled from a sherry butt—a second-fill oloroso butt, to be exact. As that’s not something you across every day, and as I really like Glen Ord, I decided to take a chance on this as well at auction. I was dissuaded only a little by the fact that I had no idea what the SMWS tasting committee’s name for this whisky, “Japanese omelettes with Dunkelweizen” might refer to. I was conscious of the fact that I was overpaying but, again, sherry cask Glen Ord is not something we come across regularly in the US. I’ve not previously reviewed any sherried Glen Ords and indeed I’m not sure if I’ve had any. So this should at least be interesting. Let’s see if it’s more than that. Continue reading →
This is the fourth Littlemill I’ve reviewed this year. The first was the old Littlemill 12, which was, as I said then, as unloved an OB whisky as you could hope to find. The other two were much older, part of the revival of Littlemill’s reputation that got underway in the early years of this decade as a number of casks bottled in the late 1980s came to market that had been matured to a far greater age than was probably intended for them at time of distillation. One of of those I really liked—the Archives 22 yo distilled in 1989. The other—a Berry Bros & Rudd 21 yo bottled distilled in 1992—was quite good but nothing so very special. This one from the Creative Whisky Company, under their Exclusive Malts label, is older than both of those and distilled the earliest. That might lead you to think that it’s got a good chance of being the best of the lot but things don’t always work out that way with whisky: the idiosyncrasies of individual casks are hard to predict and not all bottlers can be relied on for consistency. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading →
This was one of five 200 ml bottles I purchased from my first visit to Cadenhead’s on my first afternoon in Edinburgh in early June. I’ve already reviewed the Glen Ord 13 and the Tullibardine 24 that were part of that haul—I’d not planned to get anything more (I’d also picked up a Worthy Park rum) but couldn’t resist their store casks. They had five casks on the go in the store: one Islay, one Highlands, one Lowlands, one Campbeltown and one rum cask. I purchased 200 ml of the Islay (obviously) and also of the Campbeltown cask (review coming soon). The prices are fixed for all the casks: £14 for 200 ml, £24.50 for 350 ml and £48 for 700 ml. My understanding is that these are all “living” cask vattings, topped up once they get low. This means that the composition can change from week to week—I have no idea how often they top these casks up. I think I was told that the Islay cask as constituted at the time I made my purchase had a fair bit of young Lagavulin in it—but I could be making that up. It is possible to get a taste before you make a decision but I was comfortable trusting that they’d probably be good. I’m happy to say that this trust was well rewarded. I took these notes in Edinburgh itself—my friend Mike and I polished this off at a pretty rapid rate after purchase. Continue reading →
A few summers ago I posted a number of recipes for home-made jams. These were not popular with my whisky readership. Do you know what is even less popular with said whisky readership, or whatever remains of it? You guessed it: my reviews of blended whiskies released many decades ago. And interest in them goes down with each one I post, rather than the other way around. Accordingly, I am pleased to present this review of a rather obscure blend. Well, obscure to me. I believe this bottle was from the US market—though I doubt Old Rarity was only released in the US. The source of the sample estimates that the bottle might date from the 1960s. That is the extent of my non-knowledge about Old Rarity. I’ll add only that the name of this whisky suggests that the practices of adding the word “old” to things that aren’t very old and of suggesting things are rare by calling them things like “rarity” are obviously not innovations of our time. Continue reading →
Following last week’s old Haig & Haig 12, here is a Haig & Haig 8 yo that is four years younger but may have been released half a decade earlier. Again, I know very little about these old blends and can therefore tell you very little about their antecedents or history. My interest is only in seeing, in the aggregate, what the qualities of whiskies from earlier eras were like. I’m not likely to have much chance to taste single malts released in the 1940s and 1950s, so samples of these old blends are pretty much my only window to the era. It’s true that with many decades spent sitting in bottles—plus the uncertainties of storage—there’s no guarantee that what we are tasting now is very close to what these whiskies were like when consumed upon release, but there’s no solving that conundrum. My limited sample size does suggest, however, that whisky drinkers of the mid-century (synonymous then with blend drinkers) drank much better than current blend drinkers, and that there was much more peat, and likely much more malt whisky in blends of that era. That said, I didn’t like the Haig & Haig 12 quite as much as some of the other old blends I’ve reviewed but I did like it. Let’s see what this 8 year old is like. Continue reading →
We’re leaving the UK today to return to Minnesota and my month of reviews of Speyside and Highland whiskies is also almost at an end. Here now is something you don’t see very often: a bourbon cask Mortlach. As you may know, Mortlach is generally associated with heavily sherried whisky. Its whisky also has a pronounced meaty quality, which results from their use of worm tubs for condensation during the distillation process—less copper contact means more sulphur in the spirit. I’ll be interested to see what that manifests as in a bourbon cask. Let’s see how it goes.
Mortlach 17, 1995 (49.1%: Dewar Rattray; bourbon hogsheasd 2437; from a purchased sample) Continue reading →
Another distillery whose name starts with “Glen” and another that is quite unsung. Glentauchers is located in the Speyside and is part of Pernod Ricard’s portfolio. I can’t remember if we passed it while in the Speyside a couple of weeks ago—it did feel like we’d driven past every single Speyside distillery—but I don’t believe they have a visitors centre anyway. It’s another distillery that I have very little experience of: I’ve only ever reviewed one other. In that review I noted that I didn’t even know how the name of the distillery was pronounced. Almost five years later, I can proudly tell you that I have a better idea of that. Unless I’m completely confused—happens a few times a hour—it’s pronounced “Glen-tockers”. And if you do a deep dive on Google maps, you’ll see that there is a burn/small river named Tauchers in the Keith/Mulben area—as this is the area in which we coincidentally stayed, it’s likely I suppose that we did pass the distillery. Fascinating, I know. Continue reading →
Way back in 2010, when the whisky world was a less complicated place, Highland Park released three vintage bottles to duty-free. There was a 1990, a 1994, and this 1998. All were bottled at 40%—which is the kind of thing we grumbled about then, not knowing that a day would come when Highland Park would replace ages and vintages on their bottles with names of Vikings. I purchased my bottle of the 1998 from World of Whiskies in Heathrow in 2010. It cost $55, which I guess was pretty steep even then for an 11 yo at 40%, considering the regular 12 yo was then available for $32 in the Twin Cities and the 15 yo for a bit less than $55. I cannot remember how much the 1990 and 1994 cost. I finished my bottle a long time ago but saved a large reference sample. I then forgot all about it, and only found it while rummaging around for a Highland Park sample that I might review to mark my visit to the distillery today. I also found a sample of the 1994 that I’d received in a swap a long time ago, but, alas, that sample seemed to have deteriorated a bit in the bottle (perhaps because of the low strength). I’ve consigned the remains of that sample to one of my home vattings and have instead a review of the 1998, which has held up fine. Continue reading →
Though I am writing this review well before it will post, when you read it (if you’re in the US), I will have likely just finished touring Aberlour. This is set to be our last day in the Speyside on this trip to Scotland and I’ve been looking forward to visiting Aberlour in particular. I will doubtless have an image-heavy report from the distillery soon enough but in the meantime, here’s a review of an Aberlour 13 released five years ago. This was bottled by the Creative Whisky Co. for their Exclusive Malts label and was an exclusive for K&L in California. This cask is not listed on Whiskybase, by the way—the only Exclusive Malts Aberlour 2000 they have is a sibling cask that was a year younger. This is an ex-bourbon cask—which is a rare but pleasant treat from Aberlour, whose official releases all stress the sherry. I’ve quite liked the other bourbon cask Aberlours I’ve reviewed (relatively) recently and I’m hoping this will keep the streak going. Let’s get to it. Continue reading →
Here is the third in my slow motion series of reviews of blended whiskies from earlier eras. (See here for my review of an old Dewar’s White Label, and here for a review of a King George IV bottled in the 1940s or 1950s.). I don’t know much about this Hudson’s Bay brand, except that I think it was made for the US market and that while this particular bottle was released in the 1950s, the brand is still around. And if it ever had a strong reputation, it’s not exactly high-end whisky now: you can get a 1.75 liter bottle of the current Hudson’s Bay for not much more than $20. (I am, of course, assuming it’s the same brand.) Then again, I really liked the older Dewar’s White Label despite finding the current version to be bordering on undrinkable; and so I’m not assuming anything about this one. Well, let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading →
Here is the last of four Total Wine exclusives that I purchased a couple of months ago. In April, Michael K. and I posted simul-reviews of three of these: a Glen Ord, a Caol Ila, and a Laphroaig. The last is this Ben Nevis. Michael K. has a sample of this as well but we didn’t end up setting up a simul-review of this one for some reason. Like the Glen Ord and the Caol Ila, this one was also bottled by Montgomerie’s. Ben Nevis of this age, from ex-bourbon casks can be very fruity indeed and so this has potential; on the other hand, the other Montgomerie’s selections did not exactly set the world on fire. Let’s see where this one falls.
Ben Nevis 19, 1997 (46%; Montgomerie’s; cask 186; from a bottle split)
Nose: Malty, slightly cardboardy to start but below that there’s milk chocolate and orange peel. An unlikely combination but it works. The citrus expands as it sits. A drop or three of water pull out more citrus still and also some cherry. Continue reading →
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.
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.