The fifth Port Ellen entry in the Whisky Exchange’s Elements of Islay series was released in 2011, I think. And it may have been the last of the Port Ellens released in that series—at least Whiskybase does not list a Pe6. I’ve been sitting on this sample since early 2012. I acquired this sample through a rare act of honesty on my part: I had placed an order for a Karuizawa from TWE (this was back when Karuizawas could be acquired for <$200) and due to a glitch in their systems was charged only a fraction of the price. I alerted Tim Forbes who was then doing web stuff for TWE, and who was also a member of the then-very active Whisky Whisky Whisky forums. He confirmed that I was not in fact a winner of a special lottery and, as appreciation for my letting him know, threw a few fancy samples in with the order, one of which was this one. Why it has then taken me almost 8 years to drink it, I couldn’t tell you. Anyway, being released in 2011 it is at least 28 years old (Port Ellen closed in 1983) and probably a bit older. It’s also from a sherry cask, as three of the other four Elements of Islay Pe releases had been as well. It was very well received at the time. I, of course, did not buy a bottle because I thought it was horrendously overpriced. Cut to the present where the multiplier for any Port Ellen released in 2011 is about 10x. Anyway, let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
The Jazz Festival series is Lagavulin’s second annual series of special releases, bottled to commemorate the Islay Jazz festival every autumn. As I noted in my review of the 2015 Jazz Festival release, this series doesn’t seem to inspire the mania of the summer Feis Ile releases. This is doubtless due to the unpredictable vagaries of the collectors’ market which is anything but rational. Certainly, I liked the 2015 Jazz Festival release a lot. That bodes well for this 2017 release which, like the 2015, is comprised of spirit matured in refill American oak hogsheads and refill European oak butts. This is not the standard regimen for these releases: the intervening 2016 release—which I picked up a bottle of at the distillery in 2017—was matured only in American oak. In practice, however, the 2015 release did not betray much, if any, palpable sherry influence; I’m curious to see if this will be any different in that regard. Let’s see. Continue reading
Here is the last of my reviews of Lheraud cognacs from the 1970s. The tally between the excellent and the merely very good currently sits at 2:2. I really liked the Fins Bois and the Bons Bois but was not as enthused by the Petite Champagne or the Borderies. Which way will this Grande Champagne take the score? On the one hand, Grande Champagne is said to be the top cru of cognac. On the other hand, even at 25-26 years of age I think this is the youngest of the five bottles and my understanding is that the fruity notes that I prize arise more predictably in cognac with even greater age. That said, the Bons Bois was younger than both the Petite Champagne and the Borderies. And speaking of qualities I prize, please don’t forget that all my brandy reviews are from the perspective of a single malt whisky drinker and particularly a single malt drinker who loves notes of tropical fruit. Other subtleties that may appeal to cognac aficionados may be either lost or wasted on me. With that caveat registered let’s get to it. Continue reading
Here is another contemporary classic: the 16 yo that was the first release in Springbank’s recent’ish Local Barley series. I’ve previously reviewed the 11 yo that was the second release in the series and I liked that one a lot. Based on the coverage of this one I’m expecting to like it a lot too. Let’s see if that comes to pass.
Springbank 16, Local Barley (54.3%; from my own bottle)
Nose: An austere mix of mineral oil, sack cloth, lemon, brine and cracked coriander seed. On the second sniff some soot joins the party as well. Gets sweeter as it sits. With a few drops of water it gets brighter/more acidic and the soot expands as well; some tart apple too under it all now. Continue reading
I’m hoping to get to this year’s Laphroaig Cairdeas release by the end of the month but in the meantime here is another Feis Ile release from Islay’s south shore. This is not this year’s Lagavulin release though; it is the one they put out in 2015. At 24 years old it’s one of the older releases at recent Feis Iles. It’s also somewhat complicatedly made, being triple matured: first in ex-bourbon casks, then in PX sherry casks and then finally in oak puncheons (presumably either not sherry or refilled so many times as to not matter). The PX sherry maturation was apparently the briefest of the three. This was said to have been selected by the excellent Pinkie McArthur but I’m not sure exactly what that means in this case as there were 3500 bottles released—probably 6-8 puncheons worth at 59.9%. Were there in fact far more of these triple-matured puncheons, a few of which Pinkie selected to be vatted for Feis Ile 2015? That would appear to be the explanation. That makes you wonder what is happening/happened with the rest. Well, I cannot answer that question but I can tell you what I think of this bottle which I recently opened several years after acquiring it at auction for a king’s ransom (well, maybe not a very important king). Continue reading
Monday I had a review of an armagnac; today I have a review of a cognac. Lheraud is a family business with a long history. I don’t know very much about them and am not going to try to give you the impression that I do. I can tell you that it is a house with a very fine reputation and prices to match. Lherauds of similar older vintages as Vallein-Tercinier etc. are available but they cost quite a lot more. Meanwhile, a number of cognac aficionados rave about them. The gents at Plebyak have made the comparison to 1960s Bowmore both in terms of profile (heavily fruity) and quality. That is a heady comparison indeed. But on account of the aforementioned high prices of Lherauds it was not enough to convince me to take a flyer on a bottle. However, when a chance recently arose to participate in a bottle split of a quintet of Lherauds I leapt at it. As a bonus, the quintet covers five of the six crus of Cognac. First up, a Fins Bois which also happens to be the oldest vintage in the set. Continue reading
I said I’d close out the month without a mini-theme but I am a liar. Here’s another sherried whisky, albeit twice the age of yesterday’s Mortlach and made from far more heavily peated malt (I’m not sure what Mortlach’s peating levels are). I first tried this at a tasting up in St. Paul last November. That tasting featured a number of very impressive whiskies. I’ve reviewed some of those: the excellent Archives Ben Nevis 27, 1990; the “Speyside Region” 43 from the Whisky Agency; and another excellent old Caol Ila, a 34 yo distilled in 1982 and bottled by Cadenhead. I really liked that Cadenhead’s cask and at the tasting we had some difficulty deciding on which we liked better. As I recall, this one was smokier and heavier. By the way, though when I filled the label I put it down as a 34 yo, this is in fact a 33 yo. I am intrigued to see what I will make of it almost nine months later. I rather expect I will like it quite a bit more than the last sherried Caol Ila from G&M I reviewed. Continue reading
Here is the last of four reviews of recent releases from the lords of Campbeltown. I’ve already reviewed the 2019 release of the Springbank 21, the Hazelburn 14, Oloroso and the new Kilkerran, Heavily Peated. Here now is the 2019 release of the revered Longrow 18 (Longrow, in case you don’t know, is the name for the heavily peated, double-distilled malt made at Springbank). I’ve previously reviewed two other releases of the Longrow 18: the 2008 release (which was, I believe the first release) and the 2011 release. I liked both a lot. I also have a bottle of the 2014 release on my shelves which I should really open some day soon. The reason I don’t go through Longrow 18 as often/quickly as some other regular releases from Springbank is that it costs the earth in the US. And so I wait to buy it in the UK or Europe once every few years. Well, my parents will soon be passing through London on the way to visiting us—so let’s see if this is good enough to have shipped to my uncle’s place in London, where they will be stopping for a week. Continue reading
I have Sku to blame for my sudden interest in cognac. He’s been going on about brandy in general for a good while now—you may remember that in 2013 he’d proclaimed the Golden Age of Brandy. I took that as a sign and a couple of months later promptly started this whisky blog (well, it used to be a whisky blog then). I ignored the whole brandy thing for a while till the bastard got me into first calvados and then armagnac. And then this past winter, when we met in Los Angeles, he passed me a bunch of samples, which included the Vallein Tercinier, Lot 70. As you may recall, I liked that one a lot. Enough to grab a couple of bottles. And enough in fact to look more fully into this cognac thing. One thing led to another and I purchased a few older cognacs and passed samples of the couple I’ve opened so far on to Sku. I was going to ask him what he thought of them but then I thought I’d ask him if he’d be willing to share his notes alongside mine on the blog. He readily agreed—clearly he misses writing reviews. Here then is the first of two cognac reviews that feature my tasting notes and then below them a terse capsule review of the kind we all enjoyed on Sku’s Recent Eats before he shut up shop. Try to control your emotions. Continue reading
After Monday’s Game of Thrones Lagavulin 9 and yesterday’s not-very-sherried G&M Caol Ila 11, let’s make it three Diageo whiskies in a row. We go from the shores of Islay to the Highlands; from two iconic distilleries to one that is rather anonymous. Well, you might have said that about Glendullan as well, before Diageo made it part of the Singleton family and then assigned it to one of the Game of Thrones Houses (even if it’s only lame House Tully). No such recognition for Teaninich, who continue to produce large amounts of whisky for the group’s blends. As I say whenever I review a Teaninich, I have not had very much from this distillery. This is not the oldest Teaninich I’ve had (see this 39 yo bottled by Malts of Scotland); it is, however, the best Teaninich I’ve yet had. It was distilled a decade after that Malts of Scotland cask, in 1983, a year of major closures in the industry, and bottled three decades later by Signatory. My friend Pat brought this bottle to a tasting at our friend’s Rich’s place in St. Paul last November and it was a wonderful surprise. I can’t say how unlike other Teaninich of similar age and vintage it is but, thanks to Pat giving me a sample to take with me, I can tell you what it is like. Continue reading
Here’s another Old Malt Cask bottle but don’t panic, it’s not another from their 20th Anniversary release. No, this is a single cask of Bowmore, a refill hogshead, bottled for K&L in California. Somewhat unusually, it is bottled not at the standard 50% abv of the Old Malt Cask line but at 53.9%. Not that I follow K&L’s announcements very closely anymore—after Driscoll’s departure it’s a bit like going to the circus after they’ve got rid of all the clowns—but I didn’t recall much noise having been made about it. Thus when I asked Sku in January—when I was in Los Angeles—if there were any K&L exclusives he’d recommend I was surprised when he mentioned this. But I always do what Sku says and so I purchased a bottle. At about $150 it was not cheap but that’s pretty good these days for a Bowmore of this age. When I got back to Minnesota I opened it right away, and man, Sku was right. Which leads me to think that the lack of noise about this from K&L must mean either that they really don’t know what they have or that the way to separate the crap from the quality in what they bring in is to ignore the ones they shout about and get the ones they trust to sell themselves (though this did hang around for a good while). If K&L were still shipping out of state I would have purchased a few more bottles within minutes of tasting this, but they don’t and then they finally sold out anyway a few days later. Here at any rate are my notes. Continue reading
The blog turns six today and so here is the customary Bowmore review. My first ever review was of the lowly Bowmore Legend and since then I’ve posted a Bowmore review on every anniversary. In 2014 I reviewed the Bowmore 12 and in 2015 the Bowmore 18—but that’s as high as the age statements have gone on these anniversary reviews. Well, this year’s review is of a much older Bowmore—indeed, the oldest I’ve ever tasted—and it’s from a series with a very strong reputation: the Sea Dragon. A number of batches of these were released from the late 1990s through the early 2000s, all in ceramic bottles with striking art on them and it’s not always easy to know which release a given bottle is from. I got this sample from Matt G. and he couldn’t find a bottle code anywhere on his black ceramic bottle. Assuming this was not actually from a 2000s release, this will be both my first-ever 30 yo Bowmore and my first-ever 60s Bowmore. Continue reading
More rum but not from a distillery I’ve reviewed before. This is from Worthy Park, like Hampden, a Jamaican distillery. The distillery has a long history but not a continuous one. It stopped distilling in 1960 and only started up again in 2005 with brand new facilities (see here for more on the distillery). This means this particular rum was produced in the first year of the distillery’s revival. It was bottled 11 years later by Cadenhead in Scotland. I’m not sure when Scottish and other European bottlers began to carry rum in a big way but I can only imagine that this has been a boon for the revitalized distilleries of the Caribbean. Now if only more of these rums would be available in the US. I purchased a 200 ml bottle from Cadenhead’s Edinburgh store last June and have been looking forward to tasting it. My only other exposure to Jamaican rum has been through a few wild releases of Hampden and I am curious to see how much of that character is shared by Worthy Park.
Okay, here’s another brandy. This is not Armagnac, however; it’s Cognac, Armagnac’s more worldly cousin, the one who gets into all the clubs. I know little about Armagnac and I know even less about Cognac: only that the stuff that’s widely available is considered by aficionados to be inferior, usually artificially goosed-up brandy designed to appeal to people who just want something easy to like. God, I sound like an asshole. Anyway, small estate Cognac is said to be very different and this is an instance of small estate Cognac. The “Lot 70” in the name apparently signifies that this was distilled in 1970; as it was bottled just last year that means it is 47-48 years old. It was bottled for Flask, a store in California and it seems to still be available. The price is not low but if it’s good and if you’re looking for something very old then it is, again, affordable compared to single malt whisky of much lower age. And as I am Lot 70 myself, it might be hard for me to resist a bottle if I do in fact like this a lot. Let’s see how it goes. Continue reading