Getting us started is a whisky bottled by the Cadenhead store in Edinburgh in 2014. The store always has a Campbeltown cask on the go and this was the one they had when two friends and willing mules, D & B, visited it in 2014. The store was then managed by the renowned Jolly Toper who I knew from the Whisky Whisky Whisky forums. I’d asked him to put together a selection of interesting whiskies they could bring back for me. He selected a 21yo Allt-a-Bhainne and a 22 yo Tamdhu and also their current Campbeltown and Islay casks. When I visited Edinburgh in 2018 I purchased a few more of their exclusives including the then-current Campbeltown cask—almost entirely 15 yo sherry cask Springbank and rather good (review here). I have to confess that I’d forgotten that I still had an unopened 350 ml bottle of a 2014 incarnation of that cask; but I found it earlier this year and opened it a month and change ago. Here now are my notes. Continue reading
Okay, another single distillery week to close out the month (see last week’s Caol Ila reviews here, here and here). This will take the count of my year’s Clynelish reviews from zero to three. We’ll do these in decreasing order of age.
First up is a 23 yo distilled in 1995 and bottled in 2018 from a second-fill oloroso butt. I am among those who prefers Clynelish from bourbon casks or from refill sherry but I am also among those who manages to enjoy good whisky even if it doesn’t fit in his usual preferences. By the way, I have previously reviewed another Clynelish 23, 1995 that was also from a sherry butt (though that was described as a refill butt). That one was part of K&L’s 2019 exclusives and I liked it fine—as I also did a Clynelish 21, 1995 that was a Whisky Exchange exclusive and also from a sherry cask. Well, all of that suggests that the floor for this one is likely to be at least very good. Let’s see. Continue reading
So here we are at the end of Highlands Week (see here for Wednesday’s Ardmore and here for Monday’s Ben Nevis). It’s been a week of excellent whiskies so far and it’s also been a week of wonderfully fruity whiskies, albeit two of quite different profiles. Today’s Tomatin—which also takes us roughly another decade back in time in terms of bottling year—promises to keep that streak of fruity excellence going and it’s also likely to be of a different profile still. Tomatins of any era—leave alone the 1970s—don’t exhibit the mineral peat of Ardmore or the malty-gingery funkiness of Ben Nevis. What 1970s Tomatins—and 1976 Tomatin in particular—are known for is tropical fruit. I’ve registered on many occasions previously my suspicion of the notion of “magic vintages” for any distillery—usually these high scores turn out to be a case of sampling bias. That said, I have enjoyed the few Tomatin ’76s I’ve had immensely—I’ve reviewed two (here and here). This bottle is one I purchased from Binny’s in Chicago more than a decade after it was released—imagine that a Tomatin 1976 that hung around on the shelf of a major retailer for some 11-12 years—and didn’t pay anything approaching a king’s ransom for it—imagine that as well. There are a couple of these 23 yo, 1976s bottled by Old Malt Cask, by the way. This one was for the US market only (as far as I know), distilled in November 1976 and bottled in July 1999, yielding only 186 bottles. Let’s get into it. Continue reading
Highlands Week got off to a great and terrifically fruity start on Monday with this Ben Nevis 23. It was also a timely start to the week and month, what with the cask having been bottled only in 2020. Today we go back almost a decade to a cask bottled almost a decade ago in 2012. This Ardmore 19 was one of several of similar age released at that time from the 1992 vintage. I’ve previously reviewed a 20 yo released by Whiskybase under their Archives label and another 20 yo released by the Whisky Agency (are they still around? I don’t think I’ve seen anything released by them in quite some time). Those ran the gamut from very good indeed to excellent. Both the Archives and the Whisky Agency cask were very fruity and so I am hoping that this one will not belie the hope I expressed on Monday that this would turn out to be not only Highlands Week but also Fruity Whisky Week. Let’s see how it goes. Continue reading
Let’s get the month off to a likely fruity start with this Ben Nevis. I have three Ben Nevis on my long list for May and I’d said that if I reviewed a whisky that was part of a listed trio I’d likely review all three—as I’m liking organizing my reviews in a themed manner. However, given that I did a Ben Nevis week back in October and have reviewed three more since then, perhaps I don’t need to do another all Ben Nevis week. Accordingly, this will be the first in another week of reviews of highland malts (and I suspect it will also end up being a week of reviews of highly fruity malts).
This Ben Nevis was released in 2020—thus allowing me to spit in the eye of people who accuse me of only posting useless reviews of whiskies released a long time ago. Well, I don’t know that this review will be of any use to anyone either from a purchasing perspective, as I’d guess this sold out a long time ago. But perhaps some of my readers have or have already finished a bottle of this. If so, please consider sharing your take on it in the comments as well. Continue reading
Having done a week of reviews of highland malts, let’s go all the way down south from Tain to Campbeltown for a week of reviews of whiskies from the Springbank distillery: two Springbanks and a Hazelburn.
Let’s begin with a Springbank 10. This is part of the vaunted Local Barley series; it was distilled in 2009 and bottled in 2019. Another 10 yo was released in 2020 in the same series but that one was, I believe, matured entirely in oloroso casks. This one is put together in a complicated manner, involving 77% bourbon cask whisky, 20% sherry cask whisky and 3% port cask whisky. I’m sure there are people who swear by that 3% of port casks but I’ll be shocked if I’ll be able to find any trace of it here. I won’t be shocked, however, if I like this a lot. I’ve liked all the others I’ve had in the Local Barley series a lot: I’ve previously reviewed a 16 yo, an 11 yo and a 9 yo. That 9 yo was also from the 2009 vintage but I think it was made in altogether more conventional way. At any rate, if this is as good as that one was I’ll be very happy indeed. Let’s see if that proves to be the case. Continue reading
And here to close out Lagavulin 12 CS week here is the most recent release, from 2020 (see here for the 2019 and here for the 2018 release). I thought the 2018 was excellent and the 2019 just a little behind that. Where will the 2020 fall? Let’s see.
Lagavulin 12 CS, 2020 Release (56.4%; from a bottle split)
Nose: Closer to the 2018 than the 2019: lemon, carbolic peat, salt smouldering leaves; the sweeter notes on the 2019 are not present—at least not at first. The salt expands as it sits—more brine now than salt and some cracked white pepper to go with it. The nose really gets quite lovely with air as some cracked spices (coriander) join the party along with some Springbank’ish burlap and earth and a touch of some muskier fruit (charred pineapple). With more time still there are some meaty notes as well (ham). Okay, time to add water. A few drops brighten it up, pulling out citronella and more of the pineapple—plus is that a bit of peach? Continue reading
Last week was Caol Ila week. It attracted so little interest that I am now motivated to do a Lagavulin week. And not just a general Lagavulin week but a Lagavulin 12 week. First up is the 2018 release. This was the first release since 2011 that I did not purchase at least one bottle of. And I did not go on to purchase the 2019 or 2020 releases either. That is because this was the point at which the price for this release went past the $100 threshold in the US. Having paid a fair bit less for every release prior—and quite remarkably less for some of them—I was unable to follow it into its new price band, where it has remained ever since. The odds of it coming down from there seem negligible. Starting in 2019 Diageo gave what used to be a fairly functional though austerely attractive bottle more premium livery and that’s never a good sign for the prospects of a popular whisky’s affordability. With younger official Lagavulins now out there—from the 8 yo to the 10 yo to the Offerman Edition—this is seemingly no longer intended to be a good value for the Lagavulin faithful; instead it’s more fully become a member of Diageo’s annual special release roster: no longer the member of the lineup aimed at the masses but a full-fledged premium release in its own right. That’s too bad. Well, while I’m not likely to buy another bottle of it—or chase this one on the secondary market—I am glad to get the opportunity to at least taste it via a bottle split. Continue reading
Caol Ila week concludes with an official release, the top of the line malt from the distillery’s regular lineup: the 25 yo. (See here for Wednesday’s 15 yo and here for Monday’s 11 yo.) I’d listed this one in the February and March “Coming Soon…” lineups as a 2019 release. That was because that was how the retailer I’d purchased it from had listed it. But the bottle code revealed that it is actually the 2018 release. Or more accurately, a 2018 release. Diageo put out two separate bottlings of Caol Ila 25 in 2018: one in February and then another in September. This is the kind of thrilling insight you can be privy to if you too squint at bottling codes on bottles of whisky. This bottle is from the original February release. It should be noted that unlike the initial Caol Ila 25 releases from 2004 and 2005, the later Caol Ila 25s have neither been vintage releases nor at cask strength. This is, of course, also true of Diageo’s Talisker 25—though that stayed at cask strength all the way till 2009. The Caol Ila 25, however, only saw those two special vintage releases in 2004 and 2005 (I’ve reviewed the 1978-2004 release—I was a little harder to please back then) and then silence till it returned sans vintage statement at 43% in 2010; it has been a staple of the lineup ever since (though Whiskybase does not list a 2011 or 2015 release). Perhaps it’s these factors—43% abv, regular availability—that keep whisky geek frenzy away from this release, allowing it to be sold at a reasonable price in Europe even in these insane days (alas, the price in the US is far less reasonable). Okay, let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
On Monday I had a review of a Benrinnes 22, 1995. Here now is a review of another Benrinnes 22, 1995. Though Monday’s was bottled by the Paris store, La Maison du Whisky and today’s was bottled by Signatory, there is a pretty good chance that the source is the same. I don’t mean the distillery but Signatory themselves—as I noted on Monday, I’ve read before that they are the sources of LMDW’s casks (and also of some other EU stores and bottlers). At any rate this cask is just a few numbers away from Monday’s: that was hogshead 9063 and this is hogshead 9065. You may recall that I really liked Monday’s whisky. If this one is as good I will be very happy no matter what the nature of their sourcing may have been in reality. I believe this cask was bottled for the Nectar, a Belgian importer and wholesaler whose Daily Drams series is well-regarded (and from which I’ve previously reviewed a few releases). All signs point to a good outcome. Let’s see if that proves to be the case. Continue reading
I’m still on Islay. On Friday I had a review of a 23 yo indie Bunnahabhain; today I have a review of an indie Bowmore that is a couple of years older still. I’ve not had too many Bowmores in this age range and have only reviewed one older than this one (the Sea Dragon). I have had a number of Bowmores from the period in which this was distilled and have liked almost all of them very much indeed. As you may know/recall, 1980s Bowmore does not have a very good reputation—for among other things, a soapy character—and a lot of whisky geeks remained suspicious of the distillery’s output into the early/mid 1990s as well. My own experience—far more limited than some others’—suggests that the problems had begun to sort themselves out by 1989 or so and that by the early 1990s the distillery was once again putting out elegant whisky that displayed fruit alongside its trademark florals. Of course, those floral notes are also not to everyone’s taste but that’s not to say they’re a flaw. Anyway, I’m very interested to see what this one is like, both on account of its age and because it’s from a refill sherry cask. I think all the others I’ve reviewed from this era have been either ex-bourbon or more heavily sherried. Let’s get to it. Continue reading
Okay, done with the heavy peat but let’s stay on Campbeltown through the end of the week. Having lapsed into relevance on Wednesday with a review of the 2020 release of the Longrow 18—a whisky that is still available—let me now go back to my core competency: reviews of whiskies released 10 years ago. I reviewed the 2016 release of the Springbank 18 last month and mentioned then that I had a reference sample saved from my first-ever bottle of the Springbank 18, released in 2010. I managed to locate it and tasted it somewhat nervously, fully expecting that it had gone flat. But it had not and indeed tracked very well with the truncated notes I’d taken on the bottle in those pre-blog days. I drank the rest of this down in very quick order after taking these notes. Spoiler alert: I really enjoyed it. However, I doubt I will buy another bottle of Springbank 18 anytime soon. This is not due to the fact that the current Springbank 18 has less sherry in the mix but because it costs the bloody earth. Continue reading
This is a 21 yo Laphroaig from a refill bourbon barrel, bottled by the Scotch Mat Whisky Society. I acquired it, along with a few other SMWS Laphroaigs, at auction in the UK a few years ago, back when it was possible to have whisky shipped to the US without having to sell a kidney or a child first. I don’t know what I’d been saving it for all these years but on November 7 of this year an appropriate time was finally at hand. On the one hand, I was in the dangerous situation of not having an open bottle of Laphroaig. On the other, I needed an appropriate celebratory bottle to open to go with the day’s news. My eyes lit upon the label of this bottle. The SMWS had given it the name “Jumping for Joy”. I usually make fun of the SMWS’s silly names for their releases but this seemed like it had been bottled for just such an occasion. I’ve been drinking it down steadily since I opened the bottle. Here now are my notes. Continue reading
I don’t have much experience with Convalmore, a Speyside distillery that closed in 1985, just one year after this whisky was distilled. During its active period it produced exclusively for blends—as did and do most Scotch distilleries. The ownership situation of the brand is a bit confusing. My understanding is that when it was mothballed in 1985 the premises were sold to William Grant & Sons (owners of Glenfiddich and Balvenie) and used by them primarily for warehousing. The brand, however, is owned by Diageo—because the active distillery was part of the portfolio of Diageo’s precursor?—as is the remaining stock. If I am wrong about any of this—likely—or if you can confirm any of it, please do write in below. At any rate, very little Convalmore has ever been released as a single malt—Whiskybase lists only about 100 unique releases over the years. The most famous of these are a couple of Diageo special releases. Predictably G&M and Cadenhead have bottled far more. This cask was bottled by G&M for the American market in 2006. I purchased it from Binny’s in 2013—which should give you a sense of how relatively recent the boom in single malt purchasing insanity is. Anyway, I’d forgotten I had this bottle. Looking forward to finally tasting it. Continue reading
Okay, after Taiwanese and Irish whiskies and French brandy, let’s get back to Scottish single malt whisky. Here is a Springbank. This is the youngest of the whiskies released widely so far in their recent Local Barley series. I’ve so far reviewed the 16 yo (released in 2016) and the 11 yo (released in 2017). There were also a couple of 10 yo releases, I think—in 2017 and 2019—and this year a 8 yo. The 16 yo I thought was excellent and the 11 yo only a little short of that. Where will the 9 yo, released in 2018, fall? Let’s see.
Springbank 9, 2009, Local Barley (57.7%; from a bottle split)
Nose: Peppery and peaty to start with a mix of rubber and hot tarmac coming up from below. Salt on the second sniff and some sweetness under the rubber that I can’t quite pick. With air the familiar Springbank notes of sackcloth/burlap and cracked spices (mustard seed, coriander seed) begin to come through along with some dried mango. As it sits the sweet note expands and becomes fruitier (plum, apricot, lemon) and more honeyed. About 40 minutes in the nose is just brilliant with all of the above plus some cream. A few drops of water and there’s more brine, more cracked spices, more apricot and more cream; plus some dried orange peel. Continue reading
Here is the second of three Ben Nevis 1991s this week. Like Monday’s 22 yo, this 24 yo was bottled by Signatory from a sherry butt. I loved the 22 yo—will this one be as good? Let’s see.
Ben Nevis 24, 1991 (55.7%; Signatory; sherry butt 3834; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: A very obvious relative of the 22 yo but here the roasted malt and nutty notes are on top of the citrus (which is brighter/more acidic: lime). On the second sniff the citrus is muskier (makrut lime peel) and here’s the powdered ginger too now. Continues in this vein. A few drops of water and there’s a big hit of citronella and then the fruit begins to get first sweeter and then savoury: peach nectar laced with lime juice and a bit of salt. Continue reading
Here starts a week of reviews of sherry matured whiskies from Ben Nevis. All three of this week’s whiskies were distilled in 1991 and were bottled by Signatory. Signatory, by the way, have bottled 31 of the 42 releases of 1991 Ben Nevis listed on Whiskybase. They’ve all but cornered the market on that vintage. My reviews start with this 22 yo; on Wednesday I’ll have a review of a 24 yo; and Friday I’ll have a review of a 26 yo. Assuming the casks were of similar character/quality this may shed some minor light on the effects of a few more years of aging past the 20 year mark. All these samples, by the way, came to me from the excellent Michael K. of Diving for Pearls. Last week he reviewed all three and added on two others for good measure—a 23 yo and a 25 yo. So if you’re interested in that question of the incremental effects of aging you can find more specific data on his blog. I have avoided looking at his reviews so as to not be overly influenced by his silken tones. Continue reading
After Monday’s Old Crow, not-malt whisky week continues with the first of two cognacs that were bottled for the Facebook group, Serious Brandy. Serious Brandy was set up by Sku some years ago and has been his primary spirits focus since he regrettably shut down his blog in 2017. It’s a very good resource on brandy. Earlier this year Steve announced the group’s first exclusive pick. I should say picks, rather, as there were two of them: two casks of cognac sourced by the Pasquets (their own distillations are a bit younger). Not sure who the producer was but this is from the Petite-Champagne region and made from the ugni blanc grape. These are both casks that were filled in 1962 and bottled this year—making them 57 or 58 years old. At that age most malt whisky would long have turned into oak extract, but cognac takes to extreme aging a lot better. Cognac’s pricing for 58 year old spirit is also a lot better than whisky’s and so, despite having backed away from expensive whisky purchases a while ago, I decided to put my money down for a bottle of each of these. Orders were finally able to be placed in early August and after a few weeks of anxious waiting, the bottles were finally in hand last week. I’ve opened and tasted both a couple of times since arrival. Here now is my review of Cask 1. Continue reading