Glenmorangie, A Tale of Cake


A week of reviews of Glenmorangie’s recent Private Edition releases comes to an end with the most recent (?), the 2020 release: A Tale of Cake. No, I’m not making that up: that’s the actual name they gave it. I’d said in the introduction to Wednesday’s review of the Allta that its concept—the use of local wild yeast—might have indicated that Glenmorangie’s vaunted high concept team was running out of ideas. Well, the idea behind this one seems to confirm that. Leave alone the fact that it’s a whisky finished in Tokaji wine casks—a reference that strikes fear into the hearts of old-school whisky geeks—this was apparently created to evoke the memory of the joy of cakes eaten in childhood or made with children. Yes, there’s nothing that quite reminds us all of the sweet memories of childhood like whisky! But is this supposed to taste like cake or am I supposed to drink so much of it that I run around giggling dementedly while soiling myself? Well, I suppose if it doesn’t end up tasting like cake I’ll have no other choice. I hope one of you will back me up on this if she initiates divorce proceedings. Then again, who knows? Maybe I’ll like this as much as I liked the Spios, the most conventionally made of the trio. Continue reading

Glenmorangie Allta


Glenmorangie Week continues with the 2019 release in the Private Edition series: Allta. You may recall that the Spios (reviewed on Monday) comprises spirit matured in rye casks. What is the twist in the Allta’s tale? Apparently, it is made using Glenmorangie’s own yeast. No, not harvested from the august personage of Bill Lumsden—I’m told he is very fastidious about hygiene—but wild yeast from somewhere around the distillery. This is either a very interesting thing or they’re running out of ideas. Anyway, let’s get to it.

Glenmorangie Allta (51.2%; from a bottle split)

Nose: The Spios featured big rye notes off the top and the Allta feature big yeasty notes; or at least big sour notes—it’s not particularly bready as the nose on many malts that feature yeasty notes often is. Instead here it melds nicely with lemon and a bit of grass; sort of like the base Glenmorangie spirit with some extra tangy sharpness: it works well enough. Not much change really with water—maybe a bit more acid? Continue reading

Dalwhinnie 15


Here’s an old standby that I have never reviewed and which I last tasted so long ago that I do not remember when it was. Dalwhinnie is one of those distilleries that Diageo plucked out of obscurity by including it in its Classic Malts lineup in days of yore but—like Glenkinchie from the same lineup—it has never really had much of a profile. Very little Dalwhinnie has ever been released—indeed, until the recent NAS “Winter’s Gold” release this 15 yo was the only regular release from the distillery. It was also included in Diageo’s random Game of Thrones money grab and that’s the only Dalwhinnie I’ve reviewed on the blog until now. An older Dalwhinnie was in Diageo’s Special Release lineup last year; it got good reviews but I’m never going to be tasting that. Given the paucity of independent releases my count of Dalwhinnie reviews is not likely to rise dramatically any time soon—though I should try to track down a sample of the Winter’s Gold at some point. I am nonetheless glad to double my current count with this review. Continue reading

Loch Lomond 12 “Perfectly Balanced”


Let’s close out Loch Lomond week with the new Loch Lomond 12. Well, I’m not actually sure if there is anything new about this version of the 12 yo beyond the packaging and the “Perfectly Balanced” epithet it now bears. The Inchmurrin 12 and Inchmoan 12, you may recall, go by “Fruity & Sweet” and “Smoke & Spice” respectively. As to whether this Loch Lomond 12 is meant to be the perfect balance between those two or represent some more Platonic perfect balance of malt whisky character, I don’t know. I do know that I liked the last Loch Lomond 12 I tried and if this is at least as good I will be happy. I’ll be happier still if the distillery knocks off its dubious marketing claims re its origins—which decidedly do not go back to 1814 no matter what their packaging may claim. Why they insist on selling this bogus claim when they make interesting and rather unique whisky that can stand on its own merits I really can’t say. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading

John McCrae/Balvenie 28, 1991 (Hepburn’s Choice for K&L)

John McCrae:Balvenie 28, 1991, Hepburn's Choice
Okay, let’s end the month with another older Speyside from a bourbon cask, and having started the month with one of K&L’s recent exclusives, let’s end it with another. This is one more of the many teaspooned casks released by K&L this year, in this case a teaspooned Balvenie—why John McCrae, I have no idea. As far as I can make out from K&L’s marketing spiel, this cask was not teaspooned prior to bottling but right at the beginning when the spirit entered the cask, presumably using a bit from one of William Grant’s other malts (Glenfiddich or Kininvie) but that’s only speculation on my part. Balvenie almost never shows up under its own name from independent bottlers— and very rarely shows up at all by any name. And so, however this was made and sent out into the world, it is a welcome opportunity to try older bourbon cask Balvenie. Let’s hope what’s in the bottle doesn’t let me down. Continue reading

Glengoyne 11, 2008 (Old Particular for K&L)

I usually have restaurant meal reports on Tuesdays but as this is officially still primarily a whisky blog let’s start the month with a whisky review instead. I’ll have a report tomorrow on our most recent takeout meal, which saw us return to Godavari in Eden Prairie.

Meanwhile, back to K&L’s exclusive casks from late 2020. I’ve had a pretty decent outing with them so far—only the Glenfiddich/Hector Macbeth 23 disappointed a bit and even that was far from bad; the Bunnahabhain 12, the Craigellachie 16, the Blair Athol 24 and the Glen Garioch 10 all came in above 85 points. That’s on my regular ratings scale. On my patented EW! or Everybody Wins! rating system they scored quite a bit higher but you should not bother with that unless you work at K&L. Okay, time to see what this Glengoyne is like. It’s not the best sign that it’s been finished in PX—often an indicator of a rescue attempt on something over-oaked. Let’s see if that’s the case. Continue reading

Hector Macbeth/Glenfiddich 23, 1997 (Hepburn’s Choice for K&L)


Okay, back to K&L exclusives. I’ve quite liked the two I’ve already reviewed from this batch of casks—a Bunnahabhain 12 and a Craigellachie 16. Today’s review is of a cask going by name you migtht not recognize: Hector Macbeth. This is a a Glenfiddich that has been teaspooned. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry: it’s nothing kinky. Teaspooning refers to the practice of adding a tiny amount of a malt from a different distillery to a malt to prevent it from being sold as a single malt. It’s a practice certain distilleries engage in to keep their brand from being diluted—from their perspective—on the independent market; or, if not diluted, presented differently than they would like it to be. This K&L parcel contains a number of these teaspooned malts, some of them pretty old. This “Glenfiddich”, for example, is 23 years old. It was finished in a refill sherry butt (what kind of cask the teaspoon came from is unknown). I’m not sure if it’s still available but $120 was the price being asked for it when I last checked. That seems like a great deal in the abstract but my history with K&L exclusive casks with big age statements that are priced like they’re crazy deals has me not overly optimistic. But I’ll be very happy to be surprised. Continue reading

Glen Scotia “Victoriana”


Now that I am a whisky blogger who only reviews official releases here’s one from Campbeltown. The Victoriana is a NAS release that was added to the revamped Glen Scotia lineup (which revamp, I can’t remember) in 2015. That it’s an official NAS release is no surprise: pretty much every distillery had at least one NAS release by 2015. However, it’s unusual in that it’s bottled at a relatively high strength, Also somewhat unusual is the manner in which it is put together: after initial ex-bourbon maturing 30% of the eventual vatting goes into first-fill PX casks and the rest goes into heavily charred American oak. Wouldn’t it just be easier to make a 12 yo ex-bourbon whisky from refill casks? I know, I’m a very simple man. But however it’s made, is this any good? I know I didn’t care at all for Glen Scotia’s other NAS core release, the Double Cask. At the time I said “I wouldn’t buy it for $20 leave alone the $75+ being asked for it in Minnesota”. Well, the Victoriana is currently $90+. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Deanston 18, Bourbon Finish


I have only reviewed three Deanstons before this one and only one of those made it into the 80s. That was this 15 yo bottled for Whiskybase’s Archives label. The only official Deanston I’ve reviewed—the 12 yo—had me making analogies to Gerard Butler. But that was more than seven years ago. This Deanston 18 wasn’t even part of the distillery’s portfolio then, having been added to it in 2015. It’s fairly unusual in that it’s a bourbon cask finish. No, it wasn’t matured in sherry first; instead it started out in second-fill bourbon casks and was finished in first-fill bourbon casks. For how long I don’t know and I don’t know what I make of the idea: why not just vat second-fill and first-fill casks? Is it just a gimmick? Or is there precedent for this kind of thing? At any rate, I’m hoping this will be my second Deanston to crack the 80 point barrier. Let’s see if that proves to be the case. It’s actually available in Minnesota—though not cheap at $130 before tax—and so it’s not an academic question. Continue reading

Glen Moray 24, 1994 (SMWS)


Okay, time to head north. Let’s go all the way up to the Speyside, to Glen Moray. I still regret not finding the time to tour Glen Moray when I visited in 2018—hopefully, I’ll get the chance again someday. However, since then I have got to enjoy a few Glen Morays, including a 23 yo, distilled in 1994 that was part of K&L’s exclusive haul last year. Today’s Glen Moray is a year older and distilled a year later. Where the K&L cask was a refill barrel this one is from a first-fill toasted hogshead and I suspect that difference will mean more than the closeness in age and vintage. Hopefully, it won’t mean overbearing oak. I’ve been reviewing a lot of SMWS casks of late courtesy a bunch of bottle splits. Every time I hit a run of strong casks I begin to think that maybe I should join the SMWS after all these years despite their high prices. There isn’t a lot of interesting indie whisky around these days at reasonable prices after all. But then I invariably run into a cask that makes me iffy again. Where will this one fall? Let’s see how it works out. Continue reading

Glencoe 8


Let’s close the month with a Scotch whisky that is neither a single malt nor a blend. Yes, it’s in everybody’s favourite confusingly named category: blended malt whisky! Once known more clearly as “vatted whisky”, this category comprises vattings of malt (but no grain) whiskies from more than one distillery. There’s not very many of these out there from big name producers—William Grant & Sons’ Monkey Shoulder comes to mind, as does Diageo’s Green Label. Otherwise, this category is mostly the province of people like the bespoke suit-clad gents at Compass Box. This Glencoe 8 is a product of the owners of Ben Nevis and it’s barely a blended/vatted malt. The story seems to be that it is made up of malt from Ben Nevis and one other distillery (which one? I don’t know). The even more unusual things about are its age statement, proof and price. Normally you’d expect a distillery to dilute something like this down well below 50%, swap out the age statement for words such as “Reserve”, “Select”, “Pride” or something in Gaelic and sell it for a very high price. Good on the Ben Nevis brain trust for not doing any of those things. Well, that last part is true in the UK where this goes for £40 or so; the few listings I found for the US were closer to $100. This sample comes from a bottle released a couple of years ago with a label different from the current iteration—which is in line with the new Ben Nevis house label; the whisky in the bottle itself has apparently not changed. But what is that whisky in the bottle like? Continue reading

Jameson Irish Whiskey, Bottled Early-Mid 1980s


On Monday I had a review of a malt whisky from a relatively unknown Taiwanese distillery. Here now is a review of a whiskey from the most famous brand name in Ireland: Jameson, made at the Midleton distillery. What do they have in common? Nothing other than the fact that neither is Scottish.

I know very little about Irish whiskey and have reviewed very few Irish whiskies. And I’ve not had very good luck with the few Jamesons I’ve reviewed. Those were all contemporary releases, however, whereas this one was bottled sometime in the early-mid 1980s. I assume it was still made in the same way then, as a blend of grain and pot still whiskey. You are doubtless sick of hearing Scotch whisky geeks go on about how much better single malts and blends were in the 1970s and 1980s. Was the same true of Irish whiskey? Let’s see what this one indicates. Continue reading

Nantou “Omar”, Bourbon Type, 2016 Release


Nantou is the other Taiwanese distillery; Omar is the name of their single malt; this particular release is presumably all from bourbon casks. Omar is a relatively new brand—just about a decade old. Lest you think this is one of my more esoteric reviews, it is actually available in the US (though this is a review of the 2016 release). I’ve had a low-level curiosity about Nantou/Omar for a while and so when Michael K. of Diving for Pearls asked me if I was interested in a sample, I jumped at it (read his review here).  The current release can actually be found for what is a fairly low price in the current single malt whisky market—a place in New York lists it for $40; to be fair, the median price seems quite a bit higher and in Minnesota the lowest I can see on Winesearcher is twice that at the local Total Wine. Still, quite a bit cheaper than your average Kavalan cask which is probably not very much older. Will it be as good as the average Kavalan cask though? Let’s see. Continue reading

Allt-a-Bhainne 7, 2011 (SMWS)


Okay, let’s bring the long run of sherry casks to an end with this Allt-a-Bhainne. It does not, however, bring the shorter run of peated whiskies to an end. Apparently, Allt-a-Bhainne recently became another of the Speyside distilleries that traffics in peated whisky. When exactly this happened I do not know—I stopped following whisky news a long time ago. They’ve released an official NAS peated whisky and it’s been met with very poor reviews. This one—a cask from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society—may not be very much older than the NAS release: it’s 7 years old, which is the kind of age that whisky companies feel very embarrassed about after years and years of trying to convince people that age equals quality. The fact that the SMWS has the decency to mark the age of their cask does not, of course, mean that it’s necessarily any better than the previously mentioned official release. That said, I’ve quite liked the few Allt-a-Bhainnes I’ve reviewed previous to this one though the youngest of those was 16 years old. Let’s see what this is like. Continue reading

Cragganmore 16, 2001 (SMWS)

There isn’t a lot of indie Cragganmore about—especially in the US. I’ve reviewed a grand total of 3 Cragganmores before this one. And so when I had a chance to get in on a bottle split of this Cragganmore from the SMWS I took it even though it’s a madeira finish and even though the SMWS gave it the name “Coconut Curry Down the Douro Valley”. My general antipathy to wine finishes is no secret and I don’t think I’ve yet found anything resembling any kind of curry in any whisky said to be reminiscent of it. Let’s see if this one surprises me on either front.

Cragganmore 16, 2001 (56.4%; SMWS 37.127; madeira finish; from a bottle split)

Nose: Sweet, spicy toasted wood to start—rosewood? cherry wood? On the second sniff there’s some cherry (the fruit), some orange peel, a bit of cinnamon. Gets more floral as it sits (yes, roses). Gets more savoury as it sits and I hate to admit it but I am indeed getting aromas of coconut milk infused with herbs. The savoury notes recede with time and it’s the sweet red fruit that’s ascendant. Water pushes the cherry back, pulls out some cream and makes the whole mellower. Continue reading

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2020, Port & Wine Casks


I look forward to the release of the Laphroaig Cairdeas every year, even though Laphroaig has not consistently been giving me very many reasons in recent years to look forward to it. I liked 2018’s Fino cask finish but last year’s Triple Wood CS and 2017’s Quarter Cask CS were acceptable but not at all special. The distillery seems to have got caught in an endless cycle of cask finishes; a far cry from 2011 and 2012 which saw them release excellent bourbon cask whiskies (neither of which, I realize, I’ve reviewed). And the only truly excellent Cairdeas since then—2015’s 200th anniversary release—was also from bourbon casks. But there’s no excitement in bourbon cask releases, I guess. Will next year be a rum cask? A marsala cask? Or will we see another Frankenwine release like this year’s (a vatting of port and wine casks)? Well, I suppose if the results taste good there’s no point complaining about the high-concept gimmickry. Let’s see if that is indeed the case. Continue reading

Amrut Naarangi, Batch 5


So far in August I’ve sandwiched two weeks of brandy and rum reviews between two weeks of single malt whisky reviews. Let’s close the month with a review of a release whose category identity is a little more ambiguous. The Amrut Naarangi—of which this is the 5th batch—is made in a complicated way. Amrut takes casks of sherry, adds Indian oranges to them and lets them macerate. The casks are then emptied, filled with Amrut’s spirit and allowed to mature for an unspecified period of time before it is bottled. In Scotland this could not be labelled whisky. Compass Box’s Orangerie—which is made in a similar manner—is officially a “whisky infusion”. In India, however, genre boundaries are looser—a lot of Indian whisky is, of course, technically rum—and so Naarangi is sold as a single malt whisky. Is this an outrage? I don’t know—a lot of contemporary sherry and wine cask whiskies taste to me like infusions made with far less care. The more interesting question is whether this is any good. Let’s see. Continue reading

Glenfarclas 15 (for TWE)


It’s been a few weeks since I posted a whisky review. Last week’s booze reviews were all of rums (Caroni, Caroni, Worthy Park); and the week before focused on brandies (Lous Pibous, Dartigalongue, Copper & Kings). It’ll be whisky from now till the end of the month but I’m going to keep this week themed as well: it’ll be all releases of sherried whisky, and all from Glenfarclas. I’ll begin with this 15 yo and then go up in age with each review.

This particular release was bottled for the Whisky Exchange. I’m not sure if it was from a single cask and nor am I sure why no vintage is noted. I suppose it’s possible that it’s a vatting of at least 15 yo casks from a couple of different years, but that seems like a lot of trouble to go to and not mention or mine for marketing reasons. More likely, I’d guess, is that this is just TWE being idiosyncratic. They’ve released other whiskies too that bore no cask or vintage information (such was this Laphroaig 16). I’ve had my eye on this Glenfarclas for a while—almost pulling the trigger a couple of times when friends were coming over from London. The thought of a cask strength version of the excellent 15 yo that is not available in the US was enticing; but there’s no guarantee, of course, that a cask strength version of the 15 yo is what this amounts to. Will I regret that uncharacteristic restraint? Let’s see. Continue reading