One more peated whisky to round out the week and it’s the oldest of the three. It was distilled in 1986 and released in 2016, as part of Batch 13 of Benriach’s “single cask” releases. Like Monday’s Lagavulin, this was made complicatedly: distilled from peated barley, (presumably) matured in ex-bourbon barrels for a good while and then finished in an oloroso sherry cask. Interestingly, Billy Walker and co.—then owners of both Glendronach and Benriach—were more forthcoming on labels of Benriach than they were about the so-called single casks of Glendronach (none of which, as far as I know, had or have the word “finished” anywhere on their labels). How long this finish was is, nonetheless, not specified. And nor is there any reason to believe that this is a true “single cask” as most people would understand the term and not another case of multiple casks being re-racked together into a sherry cask for the final bit of maturation/finishing. Anyway, let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
It’s been a while since my last Kavalan review; more than three years, actually. That was a review of one of their Solist sherry casks. To be honest, I’ve not really kept up with Kavalan over the years. Their whiskies, at least the ones available in the US fall into two categories: affordable but unremarkable; and good but very expensive. And I’ve more or less given up on buying expensive whisky. And it’s also fair to say that it’s not just Kavalan that I’ve not kept up with—I’ve become rather disconnected from the the whisky world in general. But that’s another post for another day. Here is an unusual Kavalan: one of their “Peaty Cask” releases. I *think* this is regular Kavalan spirit matured or finished in an imported cask that had held peated whisky. If not, someone will be around shortly to correct me. And, no, this is not a new release—it came out in 2015 or so. I purchased a sample with a view towards possibly purchasing a bottle and then promptly forgot about it. I think I’ve been threatening to review it for the last year or so. Anyway, here it is now. Continue reading
On Wednesday I reviewed a Lheraud distilled in 1970 and bottled in 2007. I really liked that one. Today I have another Lheraud from the 1970s but it’s a bit younger. However, while the 1970 was from the Fins Bois cru, this one is from Petite Champagne, which is, along with Grande Champagne, one of the premier crus of Cognac. Apparently, the brandy made from Petite Champagne grapes can be particularly fruity. All of this bodes well in theory. Let’s see how it works out in practice.
Lheraud Petite Champagne 1973-2003 (48%; Cognac; Petite Champagne; from a bottle split)
Nose: Richer than the Fins Bois 1970 with prunes, dark maple syrup, apricot jam, dried orange peel and tobacco. Thins out as it sits. Let’s see if water unlocks any more richness. Hmm there’s an herbal thing that happens and maybe there’s a bit of plum but nothing more of interest. Continue reading
Let’s keep rolling with the themes and do a week of brandy reviews. First up, another Lous Pibous armagnac bottled by L’Encantada. I have previously reviewed casks 187 and 188, both distilled in 1996. Here now is cask 124, distilled in 1993 and three years older than the other two. You only need to take one glance at the label on the bottle alongside to know who my sample came from. Yes, it is he. Well, I liked those 1996 casks a fair bit, and I think this one is supposed to be even better. Let’s see if that’s how it works out for me.
Lous Pibous 23, 1993 (52.5%; L’Encantada; cask 124; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Rich, notes of dried orange peel, dark marmalade, apricots, leather. On the second sniff there’s some cinnamon and oak. As it sits the apricot comes to the fore. With a few drops of water there’s more of the orange peel. Continue reading
Yesterday’s Old Pulteney 14 I described as being in the Clynelish-Glen Ord part of the spectrum. I guess I may as well round out bourbon cask, northern highlands week with an actual Glen Ord. On our trip to Scotland in June 2018 I’d considered stopping at Glen Ord as well but no one who’d been there seemed to think there was much there of interest to anyone but the completist distillery visitor. And that is not what I am. I am someone who leaps at the chance to drink Glen Ord though. It’s not a sexy distillery but I’ve had a lot of fine bourbon cask Glen Ord in my time. Let’s see if this is another of those.
Glen Ord 14, 1997 (50.4%; The Whisky Agency; bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Tart fruit (lime peel, green apples, gooseberries), just a touch of prickly oak and something mineral. As it sits a nice malty note develops. With a couple of drops of water the fruit expands and it’s a little sweeter now. Continue reading
Let’s stay in the northern highlands of Scotland and go a little further up, well all the way up the coast to Wick to Pulteney. This is, of course, the itinerary we covered in the June of 2018 on our way from Dornoch to Orkney. We stopped briefly at Clynelish and then longer at Pulteney where I took the surprisingly excellent tour. “Surprisingly excellent” not because I had any reason to think it wouldn’t be good but because Pulteney rarely seems to come up when people talk about distillery tours in Scotland. Anyway, I recommend a tour of Pulteney highly, though I’m not sure there’s much else to recommend Wick to someone on a short visit to Scotland.
This particular release was a single cask, filled in 2004 and bottled in 2018: cask 197, a bourbon barrel. Which, I guess, after Monday’s Clynelish 23, means both that we’re staying in the northern highlands and staying with bourbon casks. Continue reading
I’ve never been clear on what the peating level is of the malt from which modern Clynelish is made. Scotchwhisky.com says their malt is unpeated but I consistently find at least mild levels of peat in almost all Clynelish I’ve had, including the OB 14 yo. And in some indie releases I find more smoke than that—never phenolic, usually leafy or dry wood smoke. This Van Wees release of two bourbon hogsheads vatted together is in the latter category. I found smoke in it when I opened the bottle and it seems to be more palpable in every pour. So, what’s the story? Is it that in the early ’90s Clynelish was using more heavily peated malt than they have been of late? Or is it that they do some peated runs? Or is the smoke showing up from random casks that may previously have held peated whisky from one of Diageo’s other distilleries? I don’t know but if you have any insight into this please write in below. Continue reading
Let’s do another young sherried Caol Ila to start the month and let’s hope I like it better than the other one I reviewed a few months ago. In fact, I really hope I do as I have a full bottle of this on my shelf—I had forgotten that when I acquired this sample. Like that one this is a vatting of four first-fill sherry casks. Will this show more sherry influence than that one did? Let’s see.
Caol Ila 10, 2006 (60.2%; Gordon & MacPhail; first fill sherry casks 306183+4, 306186+7; from a bottle split)
Nose: Slightly rubbery right off the bat and then there’s a fair bit of salt and phenolic peat below it. This is first-fill sherry? The rubber expands on the second sniff. After a bit the rubber begins to subside and sweeter coastal notes begin to develop (kelp, oysters); quite medicinal now (dettol). Water pushes the rubber back almost all the way and pulls out a lot of lemon to go with the salt and the coastal notes (which now include kippers). Another splash and now the rubber is gone and the lemon, salt, disinfectant and oysters have free rein. Continue reading
Okay, after a week of bourbons followed by a week of 20+ yo whiskies followed by a week of peated whiskies let’s maybe close out the month with no theme at all. This is the new’ish 16 yo from Mortlach. It’s all a bit hazy now but some years ago Diageo had suddenly put out a range of Mortlachs, including an 18 yo which replaced the old Flora & Fauna 16 yo (reviewed here). The original range was rather overpriced even by Diageo’s enthusiastic standards, especially considering the bottles were 500 ml. This must have been when everyone thought the market for single malt whisky was going to go through the roof in Asia and that the appetite for expensive whisky would be bottomless. Well, that second part isn’t entirely untrue but high prices on that Mortlach range didn’t quite work out. Apart from the enthusiast crowd no one really had heard of Mortlach and the enthusiast crowd were not enthused by the high prices (£180 for the 18 yo). And then something rather unusual happened: Diageo withdrew that range and in 2018 relaunched the official Mortlach range with new whiskies at far more reasonable prices. This new 16 yo was part of that and was offered at less than half the price of the 18 yo. It’s matured in American and European oak sherry casks, a mix of first and refill. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
From a 10 yo Laphroaig to a 12 yo Yoichi to now an 18 yo Bowmore. I’m pretty sure the Yoichi Peaty & Salty had a sherry component but this one I know for certain is from a sherry butt. It was bottled a couple of years ago by Wemyss Malts, aka the other indie bottler who like to give their releases whimsical names. They called this one “Mocha on the Deck”. It was another sample I took with me to Lake Superior with a view to actually drinking it on a deck but which I instead drank inside the cabin while the mosquitoes taunted me from the other side of the window screen.
Sherried Bowmore can be great—I’m thinking in particular of an excellent 18 yo bottled by A.D Rattray almost a decade ago*. But I was not a huge fan of the the last full-on sherried Bowmore I reviewed. That was the official “Dark & Intense“, a 10 yo. I am hoping this will be a lot better. Let’s see if that’s how it works out in reality. Continue reading
Peat week continues. Yesterday I had Batch 010 of the Laphroaig 10 CS. Today’s malt is 2 years older but was never as easily to hand as any iteration of Laphroaig 10 CS. I could be wrong but I believe this was only ever available at the Yoichi distillery; and as that’s on Hokkaido you’d have to be very dedicated to get to it. I have never been to Japan (except in transit), leave alone to Hokkaido and I did not get this at auction either (which is probably the only other place to find it now). I got it via a sample swap some years ago with a fellow whisky geek who had indeed made the journey to Hokkaido. I believe this and a number of others were made available at the distillery as so-called “key malts”, components that went into Nikka’s signature blends—others included “Sherry & Sweet” and “Woody & Vanilla”. I’ve reviewed a number of the other hard-to-get Yoichis I acquired in that sample swap but somehow forgot all about this one. I took the sample with me to Lake Superior earlier this month. I’d hoped to drink it on the rocks by the lake but the mosquitoes made short work of that fantasy. I drank it inside the cabin instead, looking at the lake through a window. Please construct your own metapor. Continue reading
I reviewed Batch 009 of the Laphroaig 10 CS in May and really, really liked it (89 pts). I have not had the opportunity to try Batch 008 (which does not seem to be lurking on any local shelves I’ve looked at) but all the signs from Batch 006 onward suggest that the dip in quality at Batch 005 was just a blip. As to whether this is because the distillery is now setting aside particular casks for this release or whether the blip was entirely random, I have no way of knowing. All I can say is that Batch 009 was as good a Laphroaig 10 CS as I’ve had since Batch 001. And I am very pleased to say that Batch 010 keeps that positive momentum going—though I’m only now publishing these notes, I’ve been drinking this bottle down steadily for the last month. I can only hope that the 10 CS will continue to be released, will continue at this level, and will continue to be available in the US (or at least in Minnesota) at very reasonable prices. Now let’s get to the notes. Continue reading
Let’s make it a week of whiskies in their 20s. This Glenburgie is a year younger than Monday’s Benrinnes and distilled eight years after Tuesday’s Brora. I liked both of those whiskies a lot and as I usually enjoy bourbon cask Glenburgie I am also expecting to like this one a lot. Indeed the only Glenburgie I’ve reviewed that I did not think was at least very good was a 21 yo Signatory exclusive for K&L; others have been the very epitome of fruity and oaky bourbon cask goodness. This 23 yo was also an exclusive; it was bottled for the now defunct Chester Whisky, a combo shop and bottler based in Chester, England. Well, as I type that I realize that I don’t know if the shop is defunct as well; it may just be the indie bottling operation that is no longer on the go. They didn’t bottle very many whiskies even when they were on the go. I’ve previously reviewed their Bowmore 15, 1998 (which was just fine) and their Tomintoul 45, 1968 (which I liked a fair bit). Let’s see how this one goes. Continue reading
After yesterday’s Benrinnes 24, 1972, let’s go up one year of maturation and jump almost a decade ahead to 1981. Here is a Brora distilled just a couple of years before the legendary distillery shut down. The general consensus among whisky geeks is that early ’80s Brora is the least compelling Brora but when you’re dealing with single casks anything is possible. Let’s see where this one falls.
Brora 25, 1981 (56.5%; Duncan Taylor; cask 1423; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Dry to start, almost a bit vinegary, and then there’s some hay and other barnyard scents; also some tarry, almost acrid peat. As it sits there’s some tart fruit and the peat gets less acrid and more hot tarmac’ish. Okay, let’s see what water does. With a drop of water there’s sweeter fruit (a hint of peach?) and some wax. Continue reading