Knob Creek Small Batch


After Monday’s discontinued Heaven Hill 6, Bottled in Bond, and Tuesday’s single cask release of Heaven Hill 9, here’s a widely available bourbon: the Knob Creek Small Batch. As you may know, Knob Creek is one of Jim Beam’s fancy lines. It’s made from a low rye mash bill (75% corn, 13% rye, 12% barley)—the same mash bill that produces the regular Jim Beam, I think, and also Booker’s. The difference with the more downmarket Jim Beam presumably is age—the regular Knob Creek is in the 8-9 yo band, I think—and cask selection; does the difference with Booker’s go beyond Booker’s much higher abv? People who actually know about bourbon can write in and answer/correct/expand as necessary. I’ve always enjoyed Knob Creek, both as a casual sipper and in cocktails and am glad to finally get to writing up some tasting notes.
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Heaven Hill 9 (Archives)


Yesterday I had a review of the Heaven Hill 6, Bottled in Bond that cost about $12; alas, it has recently been discontinued. Today I have a review of a 9 yo Heaven Hill that cost quite a bit more—I’m not sure how much exactly as it was only available from a couple of stores in Georgia and maybe also K&L in California. This is a single cask bottled by the excellent Dutch store Whiskybase for their indie label, Archives. It was part of the first set of Archives releases to make it to the US (earlier this year) and the only American whiskey in the set. The number of European indie releases of American whisky seems to have started rising in recent years and if I’m not mistaken, Heaven Hill may be more represented in this phenomenon than any other major American whiskey maker. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve randomly come across more of them. I’ve already reviewed two released by Malts of Scotland: one a Caribbean cask and one a Port cask. As far as I know this Archives cask is just a regular cask. It is, however, at a highly irregular 69.1! Continue reading

Speyside 26, 1992 (Archives)


Here is the fourth of the five Archives whiskies to hit the US a month or so ago, the fourth of the four single malts (the fifth is a bourbon), and the oldest of the lot. This is not from the Speyside distillery but from an undisclosed distillery in the Speyside (yes, that’s a confusing sentence for people who don’t follow Scotch whisky). The label says only “a Speyside distillery” but I vaguely remember reading speculation that it might be a Glenlivet. I don’t expect the bottlers to confirm this one way or the other but if you have some solid intel please write in below. I’ve liked all the others in the series that I’ve reviewed so far (see here for the Ledaig, here for the Glentauchers, and here for the Orkney) and I’m hoping the streak will continue with this one.

Speyside 26, 1992 (51.5%; Archives; barrel; from a bottle split)

Nose: Pastry crust, toffee and sweet orchard fruit with a musky edge (peach, apricot). Really quite enticing. Some malt here too with time. With a few drops of water there’s a mild note of anise mixed in with the rest. Continue reading

Lagavulin 18, Feis Ile 2018


The last time I reviewed one of Lagavulin’s special releases for Feis Ile was in 2014. I have a few of the subsequent releases on my shelves but haven’t opened any of them yet—hmmm I should do something about that. Anyway, that one was a 17 yo from a vatting of European oak sherry butts. This one is a year older and is put together far more complicatedly. It was a release of 6000 bottles from a vatting of refill American hogsheads, rejuvenated (presumably this means re-charred) hogheads and “bodega” sherry butts. Whether “bodega” here means American or European oak is anyone’s guess, as is whether that means these butts were actually used to mature or transport sherry or whether they were sourced from some bodega and filled with disposable sherry for a short period of time. Anyway, that 17 yo, bottled for Feis Ile in 2013 was very sherry forward in all the best ways. Let’s see what this one is like. Continue reading

Laphroaig 17, 1999 (SMWS)


It has been almost two months since my last Laphroaig review and more than six months since my last review of a sherried Laphroaig. Let’s end both those sad streaks in one go. This is from a refill sherry butt bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in 2016 or 2017. They called it “Divine, Dark Temptation”, which coincidentally is also my stripper name.

Laphroaig 17, 1999 (58.1%; SMWS; refill sherry butt 29.190; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: The usual Laphroaig medicinal complex plus cereals, smouldering leaves, salt and butterscotch. The sherry becomes more pronounced as it sits with the butterscotch joined by toffee and, yes, the inevitable raisins. Brighter and sharper with a bit of water and also more coastal—and after a bit there’s a bit of vanilla. Continue reading

Ledaig 10, 2008 (Archives)


Here is the third of the five Archives bottles recently released in the US. I’ve previously reviewed the Glentauchers 21 and the Orkney 15 in the series and liked them both a lot. This Ledaig is much younger and much peatier than those two and like them is from a bourbon cask. The last 10 yo Ledaig I had was from a red wine cask but I still liked it a lot. Will this be as good as that or its Archives stablemates? Let’s see.

Ledaig 10, 2008 (54.9%; Archives; hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Holy burning rubber! And below that there’s some of the usual Ledaig rotting rodent. It takes a few minutes but the rubber mostly burns off and the dead rat funk subsides a bit as well. Below that is some vanilla, some malt and some milky cocoa; and after a bit there’s expanding lime. A somewhat unlikely combination/progression but it works. A few drops of water—after almost any hour—pull out more of the citrus along with muskier fruit (melon, pineapple). The rubber and funk are distant memories now. Continue reading

Auchroisk 24, 1994 (Old Malt Cask 20th Anniv. Release)

Just when you thought you were safe, here’s another review of one of the whiskies released in 2018 to commemorate Old Malt Cask’s 20th anniversary. Most recently from this series I’ve reviewed a Glen Garioch 24, a Teaninich 19, an Inchgower 20, an Ardmore 22, and a Tamdhu 20. All were in the good to very good range, with the Glen Garioch and the Ardmore teetering on the edge of excellence. I’m hopeful that this Auchroisk will be as good as those two—I’ve had other ex-bourbon Auchroisks of similar age that have been wonderfully fruity and malty and that’s a profile I really like—indeed it may be my current favourite profile. Let’s see if this fulfills my hopes.

Auchroisk 24, 1994 (50%; Old Malt Cask 20th Anniv. Release; from my own bottle)

Nose: Honey and big malty, almost bready notes. Beneath it is some toasted oak. As it sits there’s some tart apple and lemon peel as well. Muskier with a drop or two of water and there’s some cream too now. Continue reading

Glen Mhor 22, 1979, Rare Malts


On Monday I had a review of the recent Glentauchers from Archives. I noted there that I had very little experience with that distillery. Well, I have even less experience with Glen Mhor, a closed distillery. I’ve previously reviewed one Glen Mhor—a Scott’s Selection release that hung around in the US for a long time—and my spreadsheet tells me that’s the only I’ve had until now (though it must be said that my spreadsheet has become a little shaky/unreliable in the years since I started the blog. That was a 26 yo, distilled in 1978. This is a little younger and was distilled a year later—it was bottled in Diageo’s Rare Malts series from the early 2000s, a series that included some legendary releases but also some less than legendary ones. Where will this one fall? Let’s see.

Glen Mhor 22, 1979, Rare Malts (61%; from a bottle split)

Nose: An interesting mix of floral, leafy and mineral notes; some peppery peat too and some lemon and sweet pear. Gets sweeter as it sits and a malty, cereal note emerges. More expressive with a few drops of water with the floral notes expanding along with the cereal; some vanilla too now. After a minute or two there’s more fruit: sweet cherries and lemon peel. Continue reading

Glentauchers 21, 1997 (Archives)


Last week I reviewed one of the first five releases in Whiskybase’s Archives label to hit the American market—an Orkney 15 yo (Highland Park). Here now is another from the set: a 21 yo Glentauchers. I don’t have much experience with Glentauchers—not very far beyond the three I have reviewed on the blog. The most recent of those reviews was of a 20 yo from 1997, bottled by Signatory, a vatting of two bourbon barrels. I quite liked it though it didn’t rise to the level of anything special. Will this one be much the same? This is a single barrel, for what it’s worth. Let’s see what it’s like.

Glentauchers 21, 1997 (53.3%; Archives; refill barrel; from a bottle split)

Nose: Very juicy as I pour with orange, lemon and apricot. No sign of oak at all first. As it sits the citrus moves towards citronella and a slight chalkiness emerges along with a leafy quality and some dusty oak. With time the fruit gets muskier and there’s some sweet pastry crust as well. Water pushes the leafy note back and the musky notes expand. Continue reading

Ardmore 24, 1985 (SMWS)


In my last review of an Ardmore I noted that it was a hard distillery to get to know. No further clarity has emerged on that front since that review and so let’s dispense with an introduction to this review and get to business sharpish. I will note only that this is not the first Ardmore from the 1980s I’ve tried and that while I liked that 25 yo fine, it wasn’t anything  so very special. In fact I didn’t like it as much as that last Ardmore I reviewed, which was a 22 yo from the mid-1990s. Where will this 24 yo, bottled by the SMWS in 2009, fall? Let’s see.

Ardmore 24, 1985 (52.5%*; SMWS 66.30, “An outdoor banquet”; bourbon hogshead; from a sample received in a swap)

Nose: Typical Ardmore smoke, sooty and mineral (not phenolic), mixed in with lime zest and some brine. As it sits there’s a hint of vanilla and the citrus moves in the direction of citronella. Brighter and brinier with a few drops of water. Continue reading

Orkney 15, 2003 (Archives)


There was some rare good news recently on the American market for Scotch whisky front. Archives, the independent bottler label from the good lads at Rotterdam’s Whiskybase—one of the premier whisky stores in Europe—is finally available in the country. We usually get none of the top independent bottlers from the continent and so this was welcome news, especially as the Archives releases are marked both for the usual value and quality they represent. However, the news was tempered almost immediately by the discovery that these releases are restricted right now to stores in Georgia and California, making it all but impossible for most American whisky drinkers to get their hands on them, given the continuing farcical state of restrictions on inter-state shipping. And, of course, also by the fact that the three-tier mark-up system in the US renders these more expensive than they would be in Europe. I don’t know if the latter problem can be addressed but I am hopeful that availability at least may soon be expanded. At any rate, here is my review of the first of five bottles in their initial American release. I’ll have reviews of the other four as well in the coming weeks. Continue reading

Port Charlotte 17, 2001 (Maltbarn)


Four reviews in a week—what is this? a spirits blog?

Here’s an indie Port Charlotte (the heavily peated whisky produced at Bruichladdich (but not as heavily peated as Octomore)). This is the oldest Port Charlotte I’ve reviewed and probably the oldest I’ve had. It was distilled in 2001, which may have been the year Port Charlotte started being distilled (please let me know derisively in the comments below if that’s wrong). I have reviewed another 2001 Port Charlotte; that was an 11 yo bottled by the German outfit, Malts of Scotland. I quite liked that one. This one is also bottled by a German outfit, in this case, Maltbarn; it was apparently their 105th selection—I had no idea they’d bottled that many; I think my first Maltbarn reviews were of some of their earliest releases (indeed, my first Maltbarn review was of their 8th release, an older Glenrothes). How the kids have grown up and so on. Continue reading

Croftengea 13, 2005 (OMC, 20th Anniv. Release)


Oh no, not another one of those Old Malt Cask 20th anniversary releases! Yes, I’m afraid. so. I’ve already reviewed 57 or so of them and here’s another one. This is a 13 yo Croftengea distilled in 2005 and it has me hoping that it might be almost as good as that 9 yo bottled by the Whisky Exchange last year, or at least as good as the SMWS 15 yo from 2017. Like the Whisky Exchange release, this is from a bourbon cask. Also, most of the other OMC 20th anniversary releases I’ve reviewed have been pretty good—so the odds are good, right? That’s what I told myself anyway when I purchased a bottle a day after going in on this split but before tasting this sample. Let’s see if I’m going to regret that hastiness.

Croftengea 13, 2005 (50%; OMC, 20th Anniv. Release; from a bottle split)

Nose: Big peat, farmy, rubbery—rather Ledaig’ish though without as much of the dead rodent in wet undergrowth. On the second sniff there’s some lemon mixed in there as well. With time and then a few drops of water it gets more acidic and the smoke gets ashier and also more phenolic. Continue reading

Francois Voyer, Grande Champagne, Extra


The cognac reviews continue. And for a change here’s one that isn’t a Vallein Tercinier. You may remember that I loved their Lot 70 (for Flask) and Rue 71 and thought their Lot 90 (also for Flask) was very good too. Today’s cognac, however, is from Francois Voyer. I know nothing about the world of cognac and so cannot tell you anything about the relative significances of these producers. Nor can I tell you exactly what “Extra” signifies here. Unlike in the Scotch whisky world there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of exactness about age with cognac. You have to believe that Lot 70 truly indicates that the brandy was distilled in 1970 and aged continuously in oak till it was bottled in 2018 or whenever. And a term like “Extra”, which would invite derision in the NAS-heavy world of single malt whisky is trusted to refer to cognac that may indeed be more than 30 years of age. I guess, despite their lack of exactness, cognac producers haven’t done as much as Scotch whisky companies to make consumers leery about their claims. Continue reading