Independent bottlers perform many services to whisky aficionados. First and foremost they are usually the only or major sources of single malt releases from workhorse distilleries whose owners all or most of their stock for blends. And for distilleries that do have single malt ranges of their own they offer the opportunity to taste single cask releases and malts at ages other than those at which the official releases are bottled. Finally, they sometimes offer the opportunity to taste expressions of a distillery’s malt that are outside the distillery’s official profile. This is particularly true of distilleries that are associated with sherry cask whiskies. Be it Highland Park or in this case, Aberlour, the independents have long been either the only or the only regular sources of opportunities to see what these distillates are like when matured in ex-bourbon casks. I am a big fan in general of bourbon cask Aberlour (see, for example, this and this) and so when the opportunity arose to purchase this 26 yo at a reasonable price at auction in the UK, I took it. I know nothing about this particular bottler. In fact, the only reference to Cooper’s Gold on Whiskybase is to this cask. And it appears likely that this is a cask that was bottled for a private individual who then decided to sell some of the bottles on. If you know more about the provenance of this release, do write in below. Continue reading
Let’s keep the bourbon cask train rolling but with a bit of peat added to the mix. I acquired a sample of this Caol Ila 8 as part of a split of a few bottles of young Caol Ila last year. I’ve already reviewed a 7yo bottled for K&L. That one was a sherry finish and I thought it was just about decent. This one was bottled in 2019 for Douglas Laing’s Old Particular label. As it happens, there was another Caol Ila 8, 2010 bottled by Old Particular for K&L the previous year (I’ve not had that one). This one appears to have been part of a series called “The Elements”, representing “Earth”. Not sure what the other distilleries/releases in this series were–Air? Water? Fire? Or am I thinking of The Last Airbender? Will this actually have any earthy qualities? I tend to associate Caol Ila more with the ocean. Let’s see how it turns out. My opinion of the K&L 7 yo and this elemental business notwithstanding, Caol Ila is usually a very reliable malt. Continue reading
It has been almost three years since my last Glen Spey review and in fact this is only my fourth-ever Glen Spey review. Of three I’ve previously reviewed the only one I liked a lot was the 21 yo that was part of Diageo’s special release slate back when some of the whiskies in their special release slate were priced reasonably—in other words, ten years ago. The other two were solid but unremarkable. I’m hoping this one will even the balance. Let’s see if that proves to be the case.
Glen Spey 12, 1999 (59.8%; Blackadder; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: A big fruity wave off the top (apples mostly, some pear too) along with some mild, toasted oak. Very nice indeed. Maltier as it sits and some citrus emerges to join the orchard fruit. With more time it’s fruitier still—more citrus now and some muskier notes peeping through too (pineapple). A few drops of water seem to mute things a bit—let’s see if it wakes up again with some more air. Continue reading
One last peated-sherried malt to close out the month. This one is unlike the others I’ve reviewed this month. For one thing it’s not from a distillery known for its peated malt, at least not at the time at which this was distilled, back in 1999. While Bunnahabhain now puts out official releases of peated malt, independent bottlers used to be the only sources of peated Bunnahabhain from this era. I’ve had a few 1997s that were peated (see here, here and here) but this will be my first 1999, I think. This is also not a heavily sherried malt—it’s from a refill sherry cask and the colour of the whisky suggests it was a long way from being a first-fill cask. The bottler too has no real reputation. In fact, I’m still not sure who was behind Prime Malt which put out a number of releases in the US in the 2000s. I was under the impression that Duncan Taylor were the source but Whiskybase lists the bottler as Gordon Bonding and I have no idea who they are/were. If you know more about them please write in below. In the meantime let’s get to this whisky. Continue reading
Yesterday I had a review of an excellent teenaged Ledaig from a sherry cask. That was a 13 yo bottled by the Whisky Exchange. Today I have a review of another Ledaig from a sherry cask. This one is a couple of years younger and was an exclusive from another store, the Whisky Barrel. I reviewed three of the Whisky Barrel’s other recent exclusives in March. Like two of those—a 10 yo Balblair and a 10 yo Bunnahabhain—this too is from a first-fill oloroso hogshead. I’m not sure how they got their hands on all these first-fill oloroso hogsheads from different distilleries at the same time. It wouldn’t surprise me if these are all cases of re-racked “single casks” (a la Glendronach) but that’s just speculation. Anyway, howsoever it is that these were matured, I was not a huge fan of the Balblair but liked the Bunnahabhain a lot more. Here’s hoping that this Ledaig will be at least as good as that Bunnahabhain even if it doesn’t quite reach the heights of yesterday’s Whisky Exchange release. Let’s see. Continue reading
Here is another Whisky Exchange exclusive. Unlike with last week’s Glenburgie 21, there is no confusion about who the bottler of this release is. This was an official release but bottled exclusively for the Whisky Exchange as part of the commemoration of their 20th anniversary—for which a remarkably large number of bottles were released, most now sold out. Inchmurrin, as you may know, is one of the various brands produced at the Loch Lomond distillery—a distillery that seems to be in the process of a somewhat unlikely turnaround of their profile. This turnaround—if I am in fact accurate in describing it as such—has a lot to do with the raised profile in recent years of Croftengea, their heavily peated brand. The fruity quality of Croftengea—seen in spades in this earlier Whisky Exchange exclusive that I loved, also a 9 yo—is said to be even more of a hallmark of Inchmurrin. I say “said to be” because I’m not sure that I’ve actually had any Inchmurrin before. Well, if this one lives up to expectations I will make it a point to hunt some of those regular official releases out—they’re available in Minnesota. Let’s see how it goes. (One small mystery though: the label says this was one of 121 bottles. That’s a very small number—where did the rest of this cask go?) Continue reading
I was not very enamored of the Glenburgie 21, 1998 I reviewed on Wednesday. Here now is another Glenburgie 21, 1998. Wednesday’s was bottled by Douglas Laing for K&L in California. This one was also bottled for a store, in this case the Whisky Exchange in London. I’m more than a little unclear on who the bottler technically is, however. The Whisky Exchange has had a number of labels over the years and recently spun off Elixir Distillers as a separate indie bottling concern. In fact, there is another Glenburgie 21, 1998 bottled by Elixir Distillers under the old Single Malts of Scotland label. This Glenburgie 21 and a number of other recent exclusive releases, however, were put out under a Whisky Exchange label. I am a simple man and I find all this very confusing. I guess I could have asked the source of my sample, the estimable Billy Abbott, to clear it all up but I am also an old man and things don’t occur to me at the right time. Billy, if you read this, please explain in the comments. Anyway, let’s get to it. Continue reading
On Friday I had a review of a 9 yo Dailuaine from a sherry butt, bottled by the SMWS. Today I have another sherried Dailuaine. A bit older at 12 years of age, this one was bottled by Douglas Laing in their Old Particular series for K&L. This is one of the very last reviews I have left outstanding from my bottle splits of K&L’s 2019 exclusives. I’m hoping it will turn out to be one of the better ones. I’ve liked some of the others but the most recent one I reviewed—the Bunnahabhain 30—left me a little cold. Hopefully this and the Glenburgie 21—which is the only other one I haven’t gotten to yet—will take this series to a solid conclusion.
Dailuaine 12, 2007 (57.6%; Old Particular for K&L; sherry butt; from a bottle split)
Nose: Quite similar to the SMWS 9 yo off the top; a siimilar mix of orange peel, raisins, metallic notes—a bit more malt here. As with the SMWS, theres salt here too as it sits; the malt expands too. Not much change at first with a few drops of water: salt is still the top note. As it sits again it gets a little richer with toffee and just a hint of tobacco. Continue reading
I’ve only reviewed five Dailuaines in seven years. Let’s up the count a bit this month. Here is the first of two young Dailuaines. This was bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and given the whimsical name of “Wankers Running Out of Ideas”. Actually, I’m told they named it “Sherry, Sherry Baby!”. Same thing. It’s from a first-fill oloroso butt, which may be bad news. Let’s see.
Dailuaine 9, 2006 (58.7%; SMWS 41.83; first-fill oloroso butt; from a bottle split)
Nose: Orange peel, raisins, dried leaves, copper. On the second sniff there’s a bit of cocoa and a hint of wood smoke; some salt too. A few drops of water and it turns quite salty and dry—almost fino-like.
Palate: Pretty much as promised by the nose plus a big whack of roasted malt. Very approachable at full strength. Salt here too on the second sip, plus some oak (no tannic grip though) and some red fruit. Not much change with time; let’s see what water does. As on the nose, it’s much drier and more acidic with a few drops of water, and the oak is pushed back. Continue reading
I first promised a review of this Linkwood a long time ago, I think. Here it is now. I took these notes right after returning from India in February but unaccountably forgot to take my usual ratty photograph of the sample bottle. And so I’ve posted alongside a picture of a bottle lifted from Whiskybase. Against my usual rules, I know, but there are no rules during a pandemic.
This was bottled by Gordon & MacPhail for the Soho Whisky Club. It was well-received right off the bat but got even more attention when Jim Murray randomly awarded it 97.5 points in the 2015 Whisky Bible. It nonetheless remained available for a while but was gone by the time I got to London in 2016. I’ve been curious about it for a while and so when the opportunity came to taste it via a bottle split I jumped at it. Here now are those notes. Continue reading
I’m having a tough time summoning the energy to write stupid preambles to these reviews that were written a couple of weeks ago. Here is all I could manage for this one: this is a 19 yo Caol Ila distilled in 1995 and bottled by Maltbarn. Accurate!
Caol Ila 19, 1995 (52.8%; Maltbarn; from my own bottle)
Nose: Lemon and phenolic peat with olive brine running through it. In other words, quintessential Caol Ila. On the second sniff there are sweeter notes of cereals and vanilla behind the smoke and just a hint of gasoline. With a few drops of water the vanilla turns to cream and expands
Palate: The peat is in the lead here and there’s more tar than was indicated by the nose. Very nice texture at full strength and very approachable. With time the lemon and olive brine expand here as well and there’s some smouldering leaves in there with the tarry smoke. Water brings the pepper out earlier and it’s sweeter/creamier here too now, though the smoke and lemon are still the top notes. Better balance on the whole now. Continue reading
Last week’s review of a Glendronach 19, 1993 was the first of five reviews of bottles I opened to mark my 50th birthday. As I said last week, all five whiskies were distilled and/or bottled in significant years of my life. That Glendronach was distilled in 1993, the year I left India for the United States, where I’ve lived ever since. Today’s Springbank was distilled in 1996 which is not a particularly significant year in my life; but it was bottled in 2009, the year our first child was born. I really liked last week’s Glendronach; I’ll be really bummed if I picked a less than good cask to mark the year of his birth.
The odds, however, are good. I’ve liked all the other casks in this sherry wood series that Springbank’s old importers, Preiss Imports, released back in 2009. I’ve previously reviewed the Oloroso cask; others included a Cream Sherry and an Amontillado cask (bottles emptied pre-blog). I could be wrong but I think this was among the first of what turned out to be a regular series of single sherry cask Springbank releases in the US (there were a couple of wine cask releases before this). It was followed by a 14 yo sherry cask series a couple of years later and there’s been a regular trickle of these ever since, at ever increasing prices. I purchased this not too long after release and have been sitting on it ever since for no good reason. Well, let’s open it now and see what it’s like. Continue reading
It’s been a while since my last armagnac review. That was a 23 yo Lous Pibous. This one is almost twice that age: it was distilled in 1974 and bottled a few years ago. Like the previous this was also bottled by L’Encantada, the French independent bottler who’re more responsible probably than anyone else for raising the profile of armagnac among whisky drinkers, at least in the US. This particular armagnac is from a small producer that is no longer around. As per the L’Encantada website, there were only three distillations, in 1973, 1974 and 1976 and all the brandy was aged for 40 years or more. Presumably this was never meant for commercial release. My understanding is that the L’Encantada team wanders the countryside on the weekends in their jalopies, raiding the cellars of old country houses. Did they find a good one here? I was not super impressed by the last similarly aged armagnac I reviewed (a 50 yo Chateau de la Grangerie) but perhaps this one will be better. Let’s see. Continue reading
In September 2019 I reviewed a young sherry cask Bunnahabhain. That was an official release for Feis Ile 2015, matured in manzanilla sherry casks. I was not a big fan. I cared even less for the official PX finish 14 year old that I reviewed in 2018. And nor was I enamoured of the official 12 yo I reviewed in 2013, a release heavy on the sherry casks. All of that makes me a little wary of today’s whisky, a 10 yo released by the online store, the Whisky Barrel. Not only is it a young sherry cask release but the cask in question is a first-fill oloroso hogshead. Between the first-fill and the smaller cask the potential for over-oaking and sherry bombing seems high. That prospect might actually get some excited but it’s not my preferred incarnation of sherried whisky. On the other hand, I really liked the heavily sherried 12 yo Ballechin the Whisky Barrel picked in 2018 (that was a Signatory release; this is under their own name). There may be some hope there. Let’s see how it goes. Continue reading