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
Glenfarclas week started out with a 15 yo on Monday, which I thought was good but nothing very special. In the middle on Wednesday was a 21 yo that I thought was excellent. Let’s close the week out now with a 42 yo. This was distilled in 1970 and I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t consider buying it when it was released by K&L back in 2012. 1970 is when I was distilled as well and I was on the lookout then for 1970 vintage whiskies to buy and stash for my 50th birthday. But the price was quite high—$500+, I think (and it got quite a bit higher later)—and given my general allergy to K&L’s marketing blather, I decided not to take the chance; especially, as I’d purchased this Tomatin 40, 1970 for quite a bit less for the same purpose a year prior. I then forgot about it until it showed up unexpectedly last month in a box of samples from Sku—also the source of Monday’s 15 yo. I’m very interested to find out now if I should have grit my teeth back then and paid the high tariff. Let’s see. Continue reading
Today’s Glenfarclas is a bit older than Monday’s in terms of age and a bit more still in terms of vintage. This was distilled in 1980 and bottled from a single cask for Filliers, who—as best as I can make out—are a Belgian concern. The cask is described as a “dark sherry cask”, which I assume means it had previously held oloroso sherry. Monday’s 15 yo also featured a big sherry profile but there the bigness seemed a little “engineered” to me—driven by active oak and tannins that covered up a lot of the fruit. This seems to me to happen a lot with heavily sherried whiskies these days. I have had similar complaints about a number of other sherry casks in recent years. Glenfarclas from the 1970s, however, has reliably been a lot fruitier (such, for example, is the excellent Glenfarclas 31, 1974, which I have not reviewed yet) and I am hoping that this one too will display a lot of fruit as part of the “dark” profile. Let’s see. Continue reading
Okay, it’s not clear if more than three people are still reading my whisky reviews so let’s do a week of brandy. First up, a Lous Pibous from armagnac indie darlings, L’Encantada. I’m no armagnac maven—and nor do I follow these releases closely—but Lous Pibous seems to be the big name among actual armagnac mavens. A number of casks of Pibous have made it to the US in recent years, showing up as exclusives at various stores around the country. And since they’re all (?) single casks they inspire the kind of devotional comparative assessment that you can only expect from whisky geeks—which is basically what all the new brandy mavens in the US started out as. What’s the point of drinking something, they seem to say, if you can’t do a line-up of 12 sibling casks and rank them vis a vis one another? This particular single cask was not bottled by a store but was a personal selection by a member of a brandy club, I think. Or at least so Sku—who is the source of the sample with an uncharacteristically legible label—told me. I believe it has a very strong reputation. I’ve previously reviewed a few other L’Encantada Pibous—including two more 1996s (here and here)—and if this is as good as those I’ll be pleased. Let’s see if it is. Continue reading
I’ve only reviewed one other release from Hanyu, a closed Japanese distillery. That was back in 2013, not too long after I’d started the blog, and I see that in that review I’d threatened a review of another cask of Hanyu. This whisky is not that one—I think I know which one that was supposed to be but I have no idea where the hell that sample disappeared to. Maybe I drank it and forgot to review it? This particular whisky was distilled in 2000, the year Hanyu stopped production. It’s another in the Ichiro’s Malt series—named for Ichiro Akuto, best-known now for the Chichibu distillery. I don’t really follow Japanese whisky very closely—what would be the point when there’s so little worth drinking that’s affordable these days?—and so I don’t really know if there are still casks of Hanyu emerging, or for that matter what the story is with Chichibu. Anyway, this one was bottled in 2012 for the Tokyo International Bar Show and was finished in quarter casks (that’s what the “chibidaru” refers to). Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
This Springbank was released for the German market in the early/mid 1990s. It is one of a few bottles released with the so-called “House & Tree” label. Whiskybase has records of a NAS House & Tree label for the French market that was a release of 251 bottles. Serge has a review of another NAS House & Tree label for the German market (which may or may not be this one, a release of 319 bottles). This made me think that the label on this sample was mistaken about the age statement, and so I checked with the source of the sample, the Notorious Pat T. He sent me pictures of the bottle this sample came from and I can confirm that the bottle has a smaller label around the neck with the age statement and that the back specifies that it was bottle 43 of a release of 294 bottles, possibly for Krüger’s Whiskygalerie. So much confusion and none of it, frankly, very interesting. I say this after having made you read a paragraph about it. You’re welcome. Continue reading
Continuing with review of things that are not whisky, here is a review of a brandy, more specifically of an Armagnac. And if you want to be even more specific, a review of an Armagnac from the Ténarèze region. I note this latter because the vast majority of Armagnacs I’ve had are from the dominant Bas-Armaganc region. Exceptions include a Pellehaut that I liked a lot and a couple of Grangeries that I had a more variable experience with (here and here). All those were brought in by K&L as is this one. It’s no secret that I find the K&L marketing style exhausting and often ridiculous but it must be said they have done more than any other store in the US in expanding brandy horizons here. Pouchegu is, or rather was, a micro-producer even by the rustic standards of Armagnac. In fact, as per the K&L notes, they never produced on a commercial scale or with a commercial market in mind. And with the passing of the proprietor, Pierre Laporte, there may not be any more Pouchegu being made. There is something melancholy about drinking a spirit with such a backstory but it’s also an opportunity to celebrate the skills of its maker. Well, if it’s good, I suppose; but as per the source of my sample—the outsider artist, Sku—it is very good. He does note “huge oak notes” though—Laporte believed in using new Limousin oak casks, apparenrly—and that’s rarely my speed. Let’s see. Continue reading
The run of reviews of peated whiskies from sherry casks to end the month continues with this Talisker. It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a Talisker—the last one was the Game of Thrones release which I wrote up just over a year ago. And it’s been a while since I’ve felt very positively about the distillery whose recent releases have been on the cynical side. The whisky I’m reviewing today, however, is a different story. Which is not to say that people felt very positive about all aspects of it when it was released either. It was part of Diageo’s Manager’s Choice series which featured not very old whiskies at very high prices. With hindsight that series probably set the tone for Diageo’s special release pricing in the decade that followed. Which is not to say that the whiskies released in it weren’t good. My first go at this one was at one of my friend Rich’s tastings—during which I made the decision to pay the most I’ve ever paid for a teenaged whisky. But I’m not reviewing that bottle right now—it’s still closed. I did go to open it but in the process discovered this sample which I acquired in the first swap I did with Rich more than seven years ago. It may even have been drawn from the bottle I got a taste of a few years later. Here are my notes. Continue reading
Last week I reviewed a Laphroaig 21, 1998 bottled recently by the Whisky Exchange that I thought was amazing. Here now is another Laphroaig 21. This was distilled in 1990 and bottled in 2012 by the well-regarded Italian outfit, Silver Seal. I nabbed a bottle from Whiskybase when it was released. Even with the much higher exchange rate of the time it ran me less than $150. Those were the days etc. After almost 8 years on my shelves I opened this last week to pair with the TWE cask. When I tried it alongside that one it felt a bit overshadowed and so I decide to taste it a few more times and take notes on it by itself so it wouldn’t suffer unfairly by juxtaposition. Here now are those notes as the bottle has come down to the 3/4 full mark.
Laphroaig 21, 1990 (57.7%; Silver Seal; sherry cask #10839; from my own bottle)
Nose: Big sherry here too but much more organic than the TWE cask. There’s toffee and citrus peel and cocoa but floating above it is something rotting in wet undergrowth (I know it doesn’t sound appetizing but it works). Definitely a dose of savoury sulphur here. Dry woodsmoke running through it all. Gets saltier as it sits (soy sauce) and earthier (dried shiitakes) and the decomposing rodent note subsides. A few drops of water push the sulphur back almost entirely and emphasize sweeter biscuity notes along with pipe tobacco. Continue reading
Here is another recent Whisky Exchange exclusive and it too is a peated whisky matured in a sherry cask. This is a Ledaig and a bit younger than Friday’s Laphroaig 21 (which you may recall I found to be outstanding). I don’t dare hope that this one will be as good but there has been a lot of excellent sherried Ledaig about in the last half decade. I suppose there must have been some that I tried and did not like but I can’t recall any and am too lazy to open another window and check. (Before the pandemic this was a character flaw; now it is a sign of my humanity.) Anyway, let’s see what this is like.
Ledaig 13, 2005 (57.4%; The Whisky Exchange; sherry butt 900174; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Earthy peat, salt, preserved lime. On the second sniff the classic organic, farmy Ledaig notes are here though not as much of the dead rodent as is often present. The salt expands with each sniff as does the lime but it also picks up some sweetness. Nothing new as it sits but it all comes together really well. A few drops of water bring out some pastry crust and cream. Continue reading
Earlier this month I reviewed a Glenburgie 21, 1998 bottled by the Whisky Exchange. Here now is another 21 yo whisky distilled in 1998 and bottled by the Whisky Exchange under their obscure “The Whisky Exchange” label, this one a Laphroaig. I think it may have been bottled for TWE’s 20th anniversary, though it’s not listed on the page they have for those releases. Then again, the Inchmurrin 9, 2010 I reviewed on Tuesday was definitely released for their 20th anniversary and it’s not on that page either despite still being available. Mysterious are the ways of the Whisky Exchange. Anyway, back to this Laphroaig. It was distilled in 1998; in 2010 it was re-racked into an oloroso sherry cask (ex-bourbon before that? maybe it says on the label). Given that nine years is longer than seemingly most whisky being released in Scotland right now—if it even has an age statement—I think it’s well past being regarded as a “finish”. As a 21 yo Laphroaig, and sherry-bothered at that, this went for a very pretty penny, I think. It’s now sold out, which will save me a lot of soul searching if I like it as much as the reviews I’ve read make me think I will. Let’s see. Continue reading