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

Glen Grant 23, 1985 (Whisky Import Nederland)

Glen Grant 23, 1985, WIN

Those who are disappointed that I am not reviewing very many whiskies these days will be thrilled to see that this week’s review is of a Glen Grant that was released in the Netherlands almost nine years ago. I will have some more recently released Glen Grants in the weeks to come—I recently hosted a vertical tasting of Glen Grant for members of my local tasting group—but I’m starting with this bottle which I’ve been dipping into regularly since I opened it.

For a lot of people Glen Grant is associated with sherry maturation but it’s a spirit that seems to do very well in bourbon casks as well. It’s not a distillery with a sexy reputation these days, and few people seem to get excited about bourbon cask whisky, especially unpeated bourbon cask whisky, but bourbon cask Glen Grant is well worth a look.  Continue reading

Glen Garioch 25, 1990 (Signatory)

Glen Garioch 25, 1990, Signatory
I’ve not had much luck with Glen Garioch on the blog. Among the recent official releases I’ve reviewed, I liked the 16 yo Binny’s exclusive but the Founder’s Reserve and the 12 yo didn’t get me very excited. The older independents that I’ve reviewed have also not gone very far past the good/very good boundary. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being on the good/very good boundary—only that I haven’t reviewed a great one yet. This includes three others from the 1990 vintage: a 20 yo and a 22 yo from Kintra Whisky and a 21 yo from Archives. Will this slightly older 25 yo from Signatory be much better? Others who participated in the bottle split this sample came from had very good things to say about it, so I’m hopeful. (By the way, as you may know, in 1990 Glen Garioch were still using malt peated to a higher level than their current output. I believe it was in 1993/94 that their peating regimen changed.) Continue reading

Caol Ila, Feis Ile 2009

Caol Ila Feis Ile 2009
This was bottled for Feis Ile, the annual Islay whisky festival, back in 2009. It’s either a 12 or 13 yo and was bottled from a single sherry cask. My understanding is that the whiskies bottled by Caol Ila for Feis Ile are/were all from casks matured on Islay, at least back in the day—the vast majority of Caol Ila’s spirit, in case you’re wondering, is actually tankered off and matured on the mainland (terroir!). For those of us in the US, most of these Feis Ile bottles are out of reach. I’m always happy to see Laphroaig’s fairly priced Cairdeas—I’m more ambivalent about the Ardbegs that have been launched at Feis Ile in recent years. For all the others, however, you have to either go to Feis Ile or look to marked up bottles at auction. Of all of these releases, Lagavulin’s always garners the most interest—and the greatest auction premiums—but there are those who feel that some of Caol Ila’s releases have been on par with them. This 2009 release is particularly lauded. Let’s see what it’s like.  Continue reading

Kilkerran Work in Progress 7, Bourbon Wood

Kilkerran, Work in Progress 7, Bourbon Cask
I think the seventh release was the last of Kilkerran’s Work in Progress series. As with the previous couple of Work in Progress releases it came in both “Bourbon Wood” and “Sherry Wood” incarnations. However, this bourbon wood version was released at cask strength. I think by this point these releases were at 10 years old, give or take a year—someone will be along to confirm shortly. I don’t know if there’s a reason why this, of all the WIP releases, was bottled at cask strength (or why the companion sherry wood wasn’t). The regular release 12 yo that followed it this year is at the 46% of all the other Work in Progress releases. Anyway, I quite liked the bourbon cask Work in Progress 6, which I reviewed earlier this month (and which I tasted right before this one) and am looking forward to reviewing the regular 12 yo next month: let’s get this intervening release out of the way first.  Continue reading

Laphroaig 20, 1996 (TWE “Masterpieces”)

Laphroaig 20, 1996, TWE "Masterpieces"
After a week of bourbon reviews (all Four Roses single barrels: here, here and here) let’s close out the month with single malt whisky. This Laphroaig was bottled by the Whisky Exchange for their annual Whisky Show in October and was apparently a huge hit there. Remaining bottles made it to the website with a single bottle limit per customer. I snagged one before it sold out. Why the fuss? Well, it’s a 20 year old Laphroaig from a sherry cask, and a PX sherry cask at that. (I should say that I have no idea if this was matured full-term in a PX cask or if it finished its life in one—these days in the Scotch industry it’s best not to take anything for granted.) Between the Islay premium, the Laphroaig premium and the sherry bomb premium this was not a bargain bottle—but as a Laphroaig fan it was hard for me to look past it. As I’ve said before, the successful marriage of peat and sherry is one of the greatest things in the whisky universe and Laphroaig in particular stands up to heavy sherry really well. Anyway, let’s get to it.  Continue reading

Glenfarclas 40

Glenfarclas 40
The Glenfarclas 40 was first released in 2010. It got very good reviews, not least for its very fair price. In the US the retail price was less than $500 and in practice it could be found relatively easily for the next year or two for quite a bit less than that. This was very Glenfarclas. While most official releases of this age were and are released in fancy decanters with ludicrous packaging at prices far above $1000, Glenfarclas just popped their 40 year old in the same bottle and tube in which they sell their 10 yo and put the price in reach of regular punters. This used to be the case with their 30 yo too: not long ago it could easily be found in the UK for just above £100—and their 21 and 25 yo malts have always been very fairly priced vis a vis most of the rest of the market as well. For this reason, perhaps, no one has ever begrudged Glenfarclas for the higher prices on some of their Family Casks releases: they’ve always done right by regular drinkers. That said, the price of the 30 yo has gone up of late and I’m not sure what the status of the 40 yo is—the price being asked for it now in the US is quite a bit higher than $500, and I’m not sure if that’s for what’s left of the original release or if there have been more releases since. If you can shed light on any of this please write in below.  Continue reading

Ardbeg 28, 1972-2001, 222 Btls (Douglas Laing)

Ardbeg 28, 1972-2001, Douglas Laing
I started the month with a Douglas Laing cask of Ardbeg 27, 1973 that was bottled for their original Old Malt Cask line in 2000. In the middle of the month I posted a review of another of their casks: a 28 yo from 1972 that was bottled in 2000. I liked those two a lot. Here now is the third of those early 1970s OMC casks that I got in on via bottle splits. Will it be as good as the other two? Only one way to find out.

Ardbeg 28, 1972-2001 (49.5%; 222 Bottles; Douglas Laing OMC; from a bottle split)

Nose: A big phenolic hit as I pour; tarrier smoke when I sniff, with lime peel and salt right behind. Gets more medicinal almost immediately and then keeps going (disinfectant, gauze bandages, iodine, rubber gaskets on medicine jars). After a minute or two there’s some soft vanilla (just a bit) and some ham, a bit of sackcloth and quite a bit more salt. Gets brighter (acidic) and “cleaner” and less tarry as it sits. With a drop of water it gets even more austere: smoky almond oil.  Continue reading

Ardbeg 28, 1972-2000, 234 Btls (Douglas Laing)

Ardbeg 28, 1972-2000, Old Malt Cask
Last week I posted the first of three reviews of early 1970s Ardbegs from Douglas Laing’s Old Malt Cask line. I really, really liked that 27 yo. Here now is the first of two 28 yos. As noted in the previous review, these bottles did not have cask numbers on them and are identified by a combination of distillation and bottling years and their outturn. In this case, the abv is relevant too: at 50.1% it’s a touch higher than the usual 50% of the OMC line. Anyway, let’s get right to it.

Ardbeg 28, 1972-2000 (50.1%; 234 Bottles; Douglas Laing OMC; from a bottle split)

Nose: Bright, phenolic peat: more citrus and cereals here than in the 27 yo. Starts expanding almost immediately with salt crystals and olive brine, more disinfectant and the sweet, sweet stink of the sea. A little inkier as it sits and even more coastal (the sea, the beach, the air). More lime peel now and pickled mustard seed. With more time there’s some ham cure here too but not as pronounced as in the 27 yo. A few drops of water push the smoke back a bit and pull out more of the coastal notes and more of the ham cure and some preserved lemon.  Continue reading

Ardbeg 27, 1973-2000, 240 btls (Douglas Laing)

Ardbeg 27, 1973-2000, OMC
This is the first of three reviews of Ardbegs from the early 1970s that will be showing up on the blog in the next few weeks. Very few things in whisky geekdom are fetishized more than 1970s Ardbeg and, in particular, early 1970s Ardbeg. I’ve not had very many of these but I’m sorry to say that the few I have tried have all mostly lived up to the general hype (sorry because I’m temperamentally drawn to being contrary). Those, however, have all been official releases—see, for example, my reviews of the two US releases of the legendary Provenance series (here and here). These three, however, are independent releases. They were all bottled by Douglas Laing for their Old Malt Cask series—they were bottled in the early 2000s well before the split in the company. Two were distilled in 1972 and one in 1973; all were bourbon casks. Cask numbers were not listed and so these are identified by the number of bottles in the outturn. I got one ounce of each in a bottle split and on a per ounce basis these might add up to the most expensive whisky I’ve purchased. As such I’m really hoping not to be disappointed by them! Let’s see. First up, a 27 yo distilled in 1973. Continue reading

Glenfarclas 35, 1968, US Release

Glenfarclas 1968, US Release
This is one of two older Glenfarclas exclusives that were released in the US in the early-mid 2000s. The other was a 1974-2005 that I purchased south of $200 from Binny’s about five years ago. At the time this older 1968 vintage release (I’m not sure if it was bottled in 2003 or 2004) was still around but cost $50-100 more, depending on where you looked. Back then I was not in the practice of buying a lot of expensive whisky and so I passed; I think I also figured that since it had hung around for the better part of a decade already it wouldn’t be disappearing any time soon. Of course, this was a silly thing to do. By the time I wised up it was all gone—as was pretty much every other glut-era old malt that had hung around for a decade at stores like Binny’s. Anyway, I got to taste it again last month at another of my friend Rich’s Twin Cities malt gatherings—this one dedicated to sherried whiskies—and our friend Nick, who’d brought this bottle, was kind enough to share some more of it so I could at least review it. Here is that review.  Continue reading

Glen Grant 36, 1975 (Archives)

Glen Grant 36, 1975, Archives
It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a bottle from Archives, the excellent series from the Whiskybase shop which almost always provides good value; and so let’s go back to a bottle from their “First Release” (though if I recall correctly, this wasn’t actually their first release—it was preceded by an “Inaugural Release”). As with the Glencadam of similar age and vintage that I reviewed last month, this bottle is another reminder that just four years ago it was possible to purchase bottles of very old whisky of high quality for less than $200. And you didn’t have to be in a huge hurry either—I didn’t buy this as soon as it came out: I waited till reliable reviews of it were available.

I’m sorry if the above seems like a tiresome refrain. It just seems worthwhile to constantly remind ourselves of how much pricing has changed and in how short a period of time.
Continue reading

Clynelish 36, 1972 (G&M for LMDW)

Clynelish 36, 1972; G&M for LMDW
This is the oldest Clynelish I’ve yet had and the second from a sherry cask. I quite liked that SMWSA 29 yo from a refill sherry butt, but not as much as the Single Malts of Scotland 28 yo from a bourbon cask I’d reviewed last year. This is not because of the sherry influence per se. In fact, the sherry influence in the SMWSA 29 yo was quite muted—what held that one back was a lack of complexity, on the whole. This one is also from a refill cask but it is a hogshead and so there’s a good chance that the prized Clynelish characteristics of honey and wax might get drowned out by stronger notes of sherry and oak (from the smaller cask). That didn’t happen with the excellent Manager’s Dram release, but at 17 years old that was less than half the age of this one. But if it’s good, I don’t really care too much one way or the other. And given its antecedents there is a pretty good chance this will be good. It was bottled by Gordon & MacPhail for the reputed French store, La Maison du Whisky.  Continue reading

Mortlach 20, 1994 (Malts of Scotland)

Mortlach 20, 1994, Malts of Scotland
Here is an indie release from the Diageo distillery, Mortlach. Unlike Linkwood, Mortlach was promoted from obscurity to the frontline a few years ago when Diageo decided to put out a number of overpriced releases. (This was also the occasion for my whiffing badly in public as I’d anticipated that those releases would be priced very differently.) I’m not sure how those releases have worked out for Diageo. Whisky geeks have not been overly enthused about them but they may well be selling well to regular punters—if you have good information on this please chime in below. I’m also not sure how much Mortlach has been available since then to the independents; before then, of course, Mortlach was available almost entirely from the independents—the Flora & Fauna 16 yo being the only regular official release. Anyway, this was released last year by Malts of Scotland and looks to be very richly sherried.  Continue reading