Bunnahabhain 28, 1987 (Maltbarn)


I reviewed a 28 yo Auchroisk earlier this week. Today’s whisky is the same age but we go south and west to Islay, to Bunnahabhain, and one year in the past, to 1987.

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a Bunnahabhain. Coincidentally, the last one I reviewed was also a 28 yo and also from a sherry cask. That was distilled in 1989 and was bottled last year by K&L in California under their Faultline label. I quite liked it. In theory, this 28 yo, distilled in 1987, should be better as it was bottled by an outfit with a much better reputation, the German independent, Maltbarn—no longer the upstart they once were. This was their 43rd release and I suspect only a bit of the cask was bottled for it. This because there were only 89 bottles in this release and two years later they put out 88 bottles of a 30 yo, 1987 at a very similar abv. In fact, I now wonder if the 121 bottles of the 26 yo, 1987 they’d put out in 2014 was the first release from this cask (similar abv again), and if there’s more being saved for another older release. I guess we’ll never know for sure, but I’ll keep an eye out for more 1987 Bunnahabhains from Maltbarn.  Continue reading

Auchroisk 28, 1988 (Malts of Scotland)


Let us continue with this series of older whiskies. And following last week’s Tomatin 25, Caperdonich 27 and Ben Nevis 27, let’s stick with the “distilleries known for fruity whisky” theme. Like the Tomatin and the Ben Nevis, this Auchroisk was a recent release, and like the Tomatin it was distilled in 1988 and bottled by Malts of Scotland.

Auchroisk continues to not have much of a reputation, which means that independent releases of its whisky can be had for reasonable prices (there’s not much by way of official releases beyond the occasional inclusion in Diageo’s annual special release rosters; well, I guess there’s a “Flora & Fauna” release as well, but I don’t know how regular that is). I’ve not had so very many Auchroisks but have liked most of the ones I’ve had quite a lot, precisely on account of their fruity nature, especially past the age of 20. This 24 yo from Binny’s, in particular, stands out for its exuberant fruit, and I’m still kicking myself for not having got a second bottle. I liked this 27 yo (also from 1988 but bottled by Cadenhead) as well, but it was not quite as much of a fruit bomb. Let’s see where this one falls.  Continue reading

Caperdonich 27, 1974 (Old Malt Cask)


Caperdonichs of the late 1960s and early 1970s are celebrated for their fruitiness. The year 1972 is particularly fetishized by many whisky geeks. As I never get tired of pointing out, much of this has to do with the fact that there has always been far more Caperdonich 1972 available than from surrounding years. Why more should have survived from this year is hard to say but it’s the case. Just to update the numbers: Whiskybase currently has 79 listings for 1972 but only 24 for 1970, 1971, 1973, 1974 and 1975 combined (this includes 0 for 1973 and 1975). Given the scanty evidence about the whisky distilled and laid down in the years immediately before and after, there’s not much grounds for believing that there was something special about 1972; only that a lot of it somehow escaped being blended away and got matured to ripe old ages in the glut years that followed.

Here is a sample from a bottle of one of the few 1974 casks that survived. I received it in a sample swap some six years ago and forgot all about it. Hopefully, it hasn’t deteriorated in the sample bottle. Let’s see.  Continue reading

Tomatin 25, 1988 (Malts of Scotland)


Please excuse me as I start a small run of reviews of progressively older malts, few, if any, of which are still available. If I were Serge I’d post all of them together on one day and have another 27 over the new few days but I am a mere human.

First up is this Tomatin 25, bottled a few years ago by the German outfit, Malts of Scotland. Older Tomatin can be very good indeed. I rather liked the old Tomatin 25, a malt that—at 43% abv—probably never sent too many whisky geeks’ pulses racing. I liked even more this Tomatin 25, 1975 bottled by MacKillop’s choice. Even though late-80s Tomatin does not have the reputation of mid-70s Tomatin, I expect to like this one too as the aforementioned Serge’s review, as well as the tasting notes on Whiskybase, lead me to expect a very fruity whisky and that’s my favourite kind these days. Let’s see if reality matches expectations.  Continue reading

Glen Keith 21, 1996 (Single Malts of Scotland)


Yesterday’s review of a Glen Keith 22, 1995 doubled my erstwhile total, taking it to an awe-inspiring two reviews. Today I multiply that by a further time and a half with my third ever Glen Keith review. Feel the mastery! This is a year younger than yesterday’s bottle and distilled a year later. It was released by the Whisky Exchange’s sister company, Elixir Distillers (the artists formerly known as Speciality Drinks) under their Single Malts of Scotland Label. It is stated as being from a sherry butt but the label also says that only 294 bottles were released. That’s a bit low for a sherry butt at 56.2%. You might wonder if it was in fact a sherry hogshead but in that case 294 bottles would be a bit high. The only explanation I can think of is that the cask was split with someone else and that Elixir Distillers has only listed the number of bottles their share yielded. (Or maybe they put the rest to some other use: conditioner for Billy Abbot’s beard?) Anyway, let’s get to the whisky!  Continue reading

Glen Keith 22, 1995 (Archives)


This seems to be only my second review of a whisky from the Glen Keith distillery in the Speyside (here’s the first). It used to be owned by Seagram and is now part of the Chivas/Pernod Ricard holdings, along with Strathisla, Aberlour, Scapa etc. But unlike those distilleries it’s not really known for single malt whisky  and its production has historically been earmarked for blends. Also unlike the previously named distilleries, Glen Keith is not open to the public, though it is in the heart of the Speyside. We drove past it on the way to Strathisla this June. Strathisla is, of course, Pernod Ricard’s show distillery and it is an accurate allegory of the neighbouring Glen Keith’s status that Strathisla’s new make used to be piped to to their grounds for filling (I’m not sure if it still is).

As always, it is through the independent bottlers that we get to taste whiskies from distilleries such as this. My review today is of an older Glen Keith bottled this year by the excellent folk of Whiskybase for their Archives label. This is from a single bourbon hogshead and is still available. Like the Signatory release linked above, this is also from the 1995 vintage. The distillery was mothballed in 1999, by the way, and only reopened in 2013 by Pernod Ricard. This means this was distilled by the previous owners. Pernod Ricard launched a NAS Glen Keith last year; it remains to be seen if they will put out an age-stated release once their own spirit comes of greater age.  Continue reading

Balblair 16


After three Ardmores in a row (here, here, and here), let’s go a little west and then north to Balblair (see here for my write-up of my brief visit to the distillery this summer). This isn’t any more of a timely review than the previous three, however. This 16 yo was phased out in the late 2000s when Balblair’s vintage releases started coming out. While I’ve liked the few of those vintages I’ve tried, I didn’t like them enough to keep trying each new release. And there’s not a whole lot of Balblair available from the independents, especially of late. As such, I’m more than a little out of touch with what the distillery has been doing in the last few years. I did always like the old 16 yo a lot though. I finished my last bottle some years ago but saved a reference sample from it. I’m looking forward to tasting it once more. By the way, as with some other malts that were/are bottled at 40% in the UK and Europe, the US version of the Balblair 16 was at 43%.  Continue reading

Ardmore 13, 1990 (G&M)


I said I’d have a brace of Ardmores this week but let’s make it three in a row. This one is the most useless review of the lot, being an independent release that came out well before yesterday’s Traditional and Friday’s Archives 20 yo. I don’t think I’d even heard of the distillery when this was released. Like the Archives this is from a bourbon cask, though it’s a fair bit younger. My sample came to me from Ardmore-enthusiast, Michael Kravitz (his review is here).

I don’t have any Ardmore patter left after the last two reviews and so let’s get right to it.

Ardmore 13, 1990 (58.6%; Gordon & MacPhail; refill bourbon hogshead 12275; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Creamy at first whiff but then there’s white pepper, prickly peat (not phenolic) and mothballs. Very nice indeed. A drop of water brings out more of the mothballs.  Continue reading

Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel, Cleveland Bourbon Club Selection


Last week I reviewed a Wild Turkey rye and here now is a Wild Turkey bourbon. Russell’s Reserve is the brand name they use for their higher-end releases. There are currently two regular releases of bourbon under the Russell’s Reserve label—one a 10 yo bottled at 45% and one a single barrel release at 55%. Similarly there’s a 6 yo Russell’s Reserve Rye at 45% and a single barrel version at 52%. What the exact distinction is between the whiskey bottled as Russell’s Reserve and under Wild Turkey’s various other labels, I’m not sure but I’m sure somebody will be along shortly to fill in my ignorance. This particular single barrel is from a further subset of Russell’s Reserve’s single barrel program: it’s one of many private barrel selections they’ve bottled for stores and clubs. This one was selected by an outfit called the Cleveland Bourbon Club. I have no idea who they are but they’ve bottled a number of bourbons, including three Russell’s Reserve single barrels. As per the sample label from my source, the indomitable Michael K., this was from barrel 93 and at 55%. However, on the club’s website, barrel 93, which appears to be their first Russell’s Reserve selection (you have to look at the picture), is listed at 113 proof. As to whether the Michael or the website is in error, I am not sure. Anyway, as per their site this is 8 years old.  Continue reading

Orkney 15, 2002 (Archives)


Here is another timely review and another recent Archives bottling (see here for my review last week of their bourbon cask Aberlour 12). This is a 15 yo from an unnamed Orkney distillery—well, it’s Highland Park. It was bottled last year and is still available. This is a bit of a head-scratcher as the price is pretty good in this market for a 15 yo Highland Park at cask strength. Perhaps it’s because this is from a bourbon cask and bourbon cask Highland Park—like bourbon cask Aberlour—continues to be a bit of an unknown quantity when it comes to the average single malt enthusiast. My own enthusiasm for bourbon cask Highland Park is as high as my enthusiasm for bourbon cask Aberlour and I do not understand why more people are not interested in what their whisky tastes like without sherry cask involvement; especially as bourbon cask Highland Park tends to be more peat-forward than the regular (see this G&M release, for example). I opened it last month for a tasting of bourbon cask whiskies for my local group and it did very well. Indeed, it was the top whisky of the night, narrowly beating out an older Ardmore (which I liked better and will be reviewing soon). Here now are my notes.  Continue reading

Springbank 13 “Green”


Please appreciate the fact that Michael K. wrote the label of the sample he sent me of this Springbank in green ink. The whisky is made entirely from organic barley, I believe. As to whether other aspects of the production were particularly environmentally friendly, I do not know. I do know that this was the second of Springbank’s  “Green” releases. This was released in 2015; in the previous year there had been a 12 yo “Green”. That one was vatted from bourbon casks; this one is from sherry casks. As to whether the spirit had all been distilled at the same time, I do not know—no vintage is stated and these were large batches (9000 bottles each). Of the two I think only the 12 yo came to the US. I was not paying attention at the time and so have no idea how much it cost. The bottle of the 13 yo this sample came from was purchased by Michael in Scotland (you can read about the purchase alongside his review here). I’m a big fan of the sherry-based 12 yo CS Springbanks and so I’m particularly curious to see what this one is like.  Continue reading

Wild Turkey 101, Rye


It has been eight months since my last review of an American whiskey (I think my review of Jack Daniel’s was the previous one). To be frank, I’ve not been drinking much American whiskey this year. Scotch whisky is very much my preference and I’ve also been trying to get control of my vast collection of single malt samples (with little success) and my open bottles of single malt whisky (with a lot more success). I do enjoy good bourbon and rye when I drink it though, even if I feel far less confident of my ability to tease out nuance in those categories than I do with single malts. All of that should give you a good sense of how seriously you should take this review of Wild Turkey’s 101 Proof rye. The source of this sample, Michael K., tells me it’s from a recent release. That’s worth knowing because the 101 proof straight rye had disappeared a few years ago, replaced by a 81 proof version, and I don’t think the previous incarnation’s mash bill was the same as that of this revived version—which is, I think, a “barely rye” with just 51% rye in the mash bill. Anyway, I’m at risk of sounding like I know what I’m talking about, and so I’m going to stop here and just get to the notes.  Continue reading

Aberlour 12, 2006 (Archives)


Here is my first timely review in almost a month. This Aberlour was recently released by Archives (the label of the excellent Whiskybase store in Rotterdam) and is still available. It has a number of things to recommend it: the Archives releases are always at least solid; it is priced very fairly in the current market; and it is a bourbon cask Aberlour. I sing the praises of bourbon cask Aberlours every time I review one; it really boggles the mind that the distillery (or rather its owners) don’t do more to feature their bourbon casks. I opened this particular bottle recently for one of my local group’s tastings—the theme was ex-bourbon whisky and it was well-liked by everyone in attendance. I thought the oak was just a little bit too assertive but not enough to mar the whisky. I’m interested to see if it might have settled down now that the bottle is at the halfway mark. Of course, those who are less sensitive to oak in whisky than I am will probably not be bothered by that aspect of it anyway.  Continue reading

Dallas Dhu 25, 1979 (Signatory)


I’m going to stay in the Speyside this week but things are probably not going to get very much more mainstream or timely than Monday’s review of a Miltonduff released in 2012. Today’s review is of a malt from a distillery that closed amid the great slaughter of distilleries in 1983. Its reputation has never approached that of some of the other distilleries that closed then (Port Ellen, Brora) or even others that closed later (Caperdonich) and nor has it seen a wholesale re-evaluation in later years (as, for example, has Littlemill). This is presumably because not enough Dallas Dhu survived to emerge in the late 1990s and 2000s as casks from many other distilleries did. I’ve certainly enjoyed the few I’ve had. Like one of those this is from a cask filled in 1979 (ignore what it says on the label—that’s a typo) and was also bottled by Signatory. That bottle—more so than the other one I reviewed—exhibited a grainy, plasticky note that took a while to fade and which held it back at the time of my review. Let’s see if this one also has it.  Continue reading