Croftengea 9, 2008 (for the Whisky Exchange)

Loch Lomond, as you probably know, is a rather unusual Scottish distillery. For one thing, they’re one of the few distilleries that produce both grain and malt whisky. For another, they are set up to produce a wide range of distillates. This is not merely because they make peated whisky alongside unpeated but because they have a range of still setups. They have pot stills and continuous stills; and most of their pot stills—including the originals—have rectifying plates in their necks as opposed to the traditional swan neck. If that weren’t enough they also have a continuous still used to distill grain whisky from a 100% malted barley mash. And from all these different setups they produce a wide range of brands (not all are currently available): Loch Lomond, Old Rhosdhu, Inchmurrin, Inchfad, Inchmoan, Craiglodge, and yes, Croftengea. Croftengea is their peated malt whisky. It’s not made in large quantities, I don’t think. In fact, this is only the first Croftengea I’ve ever had.  Continue reading

Longmorn 46, 1964 (Gordon & MacPhail)

I am back in Minnesota. Our two weeks in Scotland were great, as were the 10 days that followed in London. I’ll have a number of reports on distilleries (and food) soon. But first, let me wind up my month of reviews of malts from Speyside and Highland distilleries. I’m sorry to say that few of the Speyside whiskies I reviewed in this series this month turned out to be appropriate for my commemorative purpose. Other than a Dailuaine and a Longmorn, it’s been a steady stream of mediocrity. Accordingly, I am going to end the series with a heavy hitter, the oldest single malt I’ve yet reviewed: a 46 yo Longmorn distilled in 1964 and bottled in 2011 as part of Gordon & MacPhail’s now legendary quintet of very old sherry cask Longmorns for van Wees in the Netherlands. The 1969 in this series is the best whisky I’ve ever had and the 1972 and 1968 were no slouches either. Only the 1966 showed some signs of extreme age. Will this one—two years older still—be even more over-oaked? Let’s see. Continue reading

Glenturret 33, 1980 (The Whisky Agency)

I noted in Monday’s review that Tullibardine is in the general vicinity of Glenturret; here now is a review of a Glenturret. This is my first Glenturret review and it may well be the first Glenturret I’ve ever tried, I purchased it in 2014 when 33 year old whiskies from unsung distilleries could still be had for very reasonable prices, and pretty much for that reason. I knew/know nothing about Glenturret’s general profile, but a long time in a refill hogshead is usually good news for whisky from any distillery. It was bottled by the Whisky Agency and sports one of the whimsical labels they were doing at the time. Well, I guess they might still be doing whimsical labels—I just can’t afford to buy Whisky Agency releases anymore. I opened this for my local group’s premium tasting earlier this year and it was very popular. I’ve been enjoying drinking the bottle down ever since and look forward to finishing it when I’m back in Minnesota next week*.  Continue reading

Highland Park 25, 1995 Release

I’ve reviewed a number of very good whiskies this month but let’s close with something really special. This Highland Park 25 was released sometime in the mid-90s—most people say 1995 but I’m not sure if that’s confirmed (and no, I haven’t squinted at my bottle for an undecipherable code). I like to believe that it was released in 1995 because that would mean that there was distillate from 1970 in there and that’s the year I was born. (I know, this means a lot to you as well.) I opened the bottle on my 48th birthday this year—my new policy, now that I’m closer to death than birth, is to open a very special bottle on my birthday each year. This is Highland Park from well before they began to care about packaging (which started in the late 2000s and led to today’s series of embarrassments). High quality sherried whisky, not sold in a longboat or in a black bottle. It’s also from a time when you didn’t need to choose between paying your mortgage or purchasing Highland Park 25 for a special occasion. Anyway, as I’m in danger of veering into the territory of the negative—an area which, as you know, makes me very uncomfortable—I’m going to now turn to the review itself.  Continue reading

Clynelish 23, 1989 (Thosop Import)

On Monday I posted a review of an official Clynelish released a decade ago. Today I have another Clynelish, doubtless much older than the NAS distillery exclusive bottle, but released a few years later. This was bottled by the Belgian independent, Thosop Import, known both for the quality of its releases and the handwritten labels on the bottles. Thosop was originally set up by one-time Malt Maniac, Luc Timmermans, but I believe he quit the business a while ago. I think I recall that someone else took over the series. I’m not sure if it’s still a going concern—I suspect not, as Whiskybase doesn’t list anything from them after 2013. This particular Clynelish has a very strong reputation. I’ve not had too many older Clynelishes from the late 1980s, but the only other I’ve reviewed—a 22 yo from Malts of Scotland, also from 1989—was very good indeed. If this is at least as good, I’ll be happy. Let’s see.  Continue reading

Lagavulin 12 CS, 2016 Release

After a disappointing special release Bunnahabhain on Monday let’s move on to another special release from elsewhere on Islay. The Lagavulin 12 Cask Strength is a fixture on Diageo’s annual special release slate, and it is also always one that is guaranteed to be excellent—unlike, say, Ardbeg’s annual releases (see, for example, this year’s Grooves). I’ve recently reviewed the 2017 release and in the past I’ve reviewed the 2009, the 2010, the 2011, the 2012 and the 2013. Here now is my review of the 2016 release, which was also part of Lagavulin’s commemoration of its 200th anniversary. I opened it a month ago for my local group’s March tasting and it was very popular—though I think it might have been beaten by an Amrut Peated CS for overall honours on the night. I’ve been drinking the bottle down steadily since. These notes were taken at the halfway mark but I can tell you it’s been remarkably consistent as the level goes down.  Continue reading

Bowmore 17, 1997 (SMWS)

On Saturday, to mark the fifth anniversary of the blog, I posted a review of the second release of the Bowmore Devil’s Casks. That official sherried Bowmore ended up being a bit too sulphurous even for my generally sulphur-tolerant palate. It was a good whisky, I thought, but it could have been a lot better. Today, I have a review of another heavily sherried Bowmore. This one was bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, and I believe it was bottled for the 2015 edition of Feis Ile. I purchased my bottle a couple of years ago at auction in the UK. It wasn’t cheap—though much cheaper than it is now—but I am a big fan of Bowmore and few propositions in whisky are more enticing to me than high-quality sherried Bowmore. The early reviews certainly made this out to seem like one of those. Spoiler alert: when I opened the bottle I found it to indeed be a high-quality sherried Bowmore. The bottle is now sadly empty. Here are my notes (taken when only about a quarter of the bottle remained). Continue reading

Glendronach 25, 1968

A third 25 yo whisky to end the week and this is an official release with a rather big reputation: a Glendronach distilled in 1968 and bottled in 2003. I’ve had small pours of it on a couple of occasions before; this large sample came to me from the ever-generous Sku. This is a throwback to Glendronach’s past, distilled and bottled before the Billy Walker era (which itself ended last year). Indeed this whisky was bottled when the distillery was still owned by Allied Distillers and before it was mothballed in 1996. It’s an old-school sherry monster that does more at 43% than most others of its kind do at cask strength, and I’m looking forward to making its acquaintance again.

By the way, the usually restrained Johannes van den Heuvel gave this whisky 97 points! I’m not sure when in his whisky tasting career he rated this or what he would make of it now. Anyway, let’s get to it.  Continue reading

Caol Ila 25, 1984 (Bladnoch Forum)

Here’s a very untimely review to start the week and it takes me back to the time when my interest in single malt whisky had just gone from enthusiasm to pathology. I’d joined the then-vibrant WhiskyWhiskyWhisky forum and was learning more and more about independent bottlers not seen in the US. One of these was the Bladnoch Forum. This was a side concern of Raymond Armstrong, then the proprietor of the Bladnoch distillery, and it offered single casks at unbelievably reasonable prices to members of the forum (though in practice you didn’t really have to be a member). I think this is pretty much where Martin Armstrong’s Whiskybroker business may have had its origin. These offerings included single casks of Port Ellen for less than £100 (unless my memory is exaggerating) and also a number of excellent older Caol Ilas. This is one of them. I acquired this sample in what may have been my first-ever swap, not long after it was released. I took a few sips then and put it away for another day. That day is here.  Continue reading

Hampden 18, 1998 (Kill Devil)

I have been slow to board the rum boat. I’ve only reviewed three rums till now. In the meantime, Serge V.—who all but singlehandedly got whisky geeks around the world to start drinking rum—has already reviewed more rums than I have whiskies in the entire time that I’ve been reviewing whiskies. This is not an exaggeration.

One of the problems with being late to the party is that most of what first got people excited is already gone and prices have begun to rise. Still, they’ve got a long way to go to catch up with whisky. Hampden is a cult distillery, for instance, and this 18 yo, released last year, is still around and costs far less than the Highland Park 18. Of course, the bigger problem for those of us in the US is how little interesting rum is available here. K&L in California were the only ones committed to a rum program but the new limitations on inter-state shipping may have put paid to that: large numbers of bottles of a Hampden they brought in early in the year and expected to sell out in a day or two are still sitting on their shelves (well, it’s possible that asking $70 for a 9 yo rum may also have something to do with that). Anyway, there’s an opportunity here for independent bottlers who already have distribution channels across the US: if you make good rum available to us widely, we will buy it.  Continue reading

Lagavulin 12 CS (2017)

At the risk of becoming a relevant reviewer, here is another whisky released this autumn and reasonably widely available across the US: the 2017 edition of the Lagavulin 12 CS. The Lagavulin 12 CS is a fixture on Diageo’s annual special releases roster and is, along with the Caol Ila Unpeated, the most affordable of those whiskies and, by itself, the most dependable of them. I’ve previously reviewed the 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 editions and liked them all very much. The Lagavulin 16 is always excellent and so is the Lagavulin 12 CS. Sadly, it’s not easy to find in the $80-85 range any more and so when I saw a bottle as I was picking up the Highland Park “Full Volume”, I couldn’t resist buying it as well. I am not sure why I ended up opening it right away, well before the bottles of the 2014, 2015 and 2016 releases that are also languishing on the shelf; but maybe the people who give me grief for not being a relevant reviewer will get off my back now.  Continue reading

Macduff 31, 1980 (Wilson & Morgan)

This is the very first Macduff I have ever reviewed. It is also, I believe, the very first Macduff I have ever had—my spreadsheet does not record any other. Not much Macduff is available, and what is available is usually under the Glen Deveron name. In fact, Winesearcher currently shows nothing available in the US under either name. So for my American readers this is a particularly useless review. Not only is this whisky unavailable but if it should pique your interest in the distillery, it does not appear that we can even find anything else from them here. Such is life.

Macduff, part of the Bacardi/John Dewar holdings, is located in the Speyside and is a relatively new distillery. It was founded in the 1960s, and has mostly produced whisky for the owners’ blends. And at various points the distillery has in fact been named Glen Deveron. Some identity issues, obviously but that’s not all that’s unusual about them. They also apparently run a combination of two wash and three spirit stills. As to whether this is an interesting fact is a different matter. But I’m certainly hoping this older Macduff will be.  Continue reading

Glen Scotia 40, 1972 (Malts of Scotland)

I’ve had very few Glen Scotias and I’ve certainly not had any as old as this one. I’ve only reviewed two others, 20 year olds both (here and here), which means their ages together add up to this one’s. I have no idea what the word is supposed to be on 1970s Glen Scotia or what Glen Scotia is generally supposed to be like at such an advanced age. If it’s better than the undisclosed Speyside 41 yo I reviewed recently, I’ll be very happy—that was very good, but not, I thought, great.

This was bottled a few years ago by the German bottler, Malts of Scotland in their “Diamonds” line. I’m not sure if that is an alternate name for their “Warehouse Diamonds” line but when the word “diamond” is thrown around you can be sure you’ll pay a lot. However, all I paid for was a 60 ml sample and I didn’t feel the pinch too much. Herewith, my notes. Continue reading

Lagavulin “Jazz Festival 2015”

Here is a Lagavulin bottled for the Islay Jazz Festival in 2015. This is a completely separate event from the recently concluded Feis Ile, taking place in the autumn rather than the summer. This year’s festival is from September 15-17 (and here is last year’s program). I’m not sure if Lagavulin is the only distillery that does an annual release to mark the festival (in addition to their Feis Ile release), but I can’t off the top of my head recall Jazz Festival releases from any other distilleries. It is sponsored by Lagavulin but events happen at other distilleries too. Anyway, there also does not seem to be as much mania around these Jazz Festival releases as there is around Lagavulin’s Feis Ile releases. Indeed, plenty of bottles of the 2016 Jazz Festival release were available at the distillery when I visited earlier this month—I’m not sure how they survived the onslaught of Feis Ile auction flippers.  Continue reading