There was a time when the Lagavulin 12 was another annual release—along with the Laphroaig Cairdeas—that I purchased every year; it was certainly the only member of Diageo’s annual special release about which that could be said. But I haven’t purchased a bottle since 2017. The following year—as I have doubtless noted before—is when the price of this release went up sharply, and it also became harder to find in stores in the US. I have managed to get my hands on some each year via bottle splits, however, and so have been able to remain more or less current with it (I’m yet to review the 2014 and 2015 releases though I do have bottles of those in my stash). The 2022 Special Release roster should be on shelves soon. I’m not expecting to buy the 2022 iteration either but am hopeful I’ll be able to review it anyway at some point. The 2021 edition had a lion on the label and bore the sobriquet “The Lion’s Fire”—we can only hope the fire did not emerge from the rear. And no, it’s not a hint of it being a sherry cask either. This is from refill bourbon casks (all the Lagavulin 12s have been ex-bourbon, I believe—please correct me if I’m wrong). Price and marketing shenanigans aside, the Lagavulin 12 has always been quality whisky and some releases have been truly excellent. Let’s see where this one falls. Continue reading
My week of reviews of 20+ yo whiskies from distilleries from different whisky producing regions of Scotland got off to a good start on Monday with the Arran 20, Brodick Bay. It then hit a bump in the road with Wednesday’s Kirkland 23, Speyside. Both of those had sherry involvement. The Brodick Bay was matured in both bourbon and sherry casks and then finished in oloroso sherry. The Kirkland was matured in bourbon casks and also finished in oloroso sherry. I close out the week now with a whisky that received a full-term maturation in a sherry butt. At 25 years old this Tomatin is the oldest of the week and I hope it will give it a good end. Older Tomatin can be very good indeed. The butt yielded 452 bottles, which may seem particularly low to those used to Glendronach’s outturns from sherry butts. Keep in mind though that there seems to have been a fair bit of spirit lost to evaporation—at cask strength this came in at just 49.3%. Let’s hope that means that this will be an extra-fruity Tomatin. Continue reading
Let’s start the month with the closest thing there is to a sure thing in the world of Scotch whisky: a malt from the Springbank distillery. It’ll also kick off a week of reviews of official distillery releases.
This is the 2021 release of Springbank’s 10 yo, which is still their entry-level malt. The price has gone up quite a lot in just the last couple of years. I purchased two bottles in 2019 for $55 each; now the cheapest price I can see in the US appears to be about $85. Which is still a bargain compared to the prices asked for the now annual Local Barley releases, which have been of the same general age. I’ve liked all of those a lot and am curious to see how the regular 10 yo compares. The last of these that I reviewed was from the 2017 release (that was all the way back in 2018). I thought that was very good indeed and if this is as good I will be pleased. Let’s see. Continue reading
The first two entries in this week of peated whiskies that spent time in port casks were both from Islay, were both 8 years old, and were both distilled in 2013. Monday’s Bunnahabhain (bottled by Cadenhead) was double matured in a tawny port cask. Wednesday’s Kllchoman received a (presumably briefer) ruby port cask finish. Today’s Longrow (also bottled by Cadenhead) is both older than the other two by three years and spent far more time in a port cask: indeed, it was matured fully in a port cask. That may make it seem likely to be far more port-influenced than the others but it was also a refill port pipe. Depending on how many fills that port cask had gone through the port influence may in fact be quite muted. This is not my first review of a Longrow from a port cask—that would be the Longrow Red release from 2014 which was also a full-term port maturation, albeit in fresh port casks. I didn’t find that one—coincidentally also an 11 yo—to be overly wine-dominated but I also did not think it was anything so very special. Will this one be better? Let’s see. I did like both the Bunnahabhain and the Kilchoman a fair bit and it would be nice to end the week on a high note. Continue reading
Ardmore week began on a low note with Monday’s 6 yo Ardlair (unpeated Ardmore bottled by Signatory) and then hit a big high on Wednesday with a regularly made 10 yo (bottled by Single Cask Nation). Will today’s 19 yo (bottled by Single Malts of Scotland) from 1992 go even higher? Only one way to find out. This sample also came to me from Michael K. of Diving for Pearls but I’m not sure if he’s reviewed it yet himself. I greedily accepted the offer of the sample even though I have a full bottle myself.
Ardmore 19, 1992 (49.3%; Single Malts of Scotland; bourbon barrel 9464; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Everything you want your Ardmore 19 to be: mineral peat mixed with sweet floral notes and savoury notes (ham cure). On the second sniff the smoke has begun to turn ashy and the floral notes begin to move in the direction of musky fruit (honeydew melon) and fruit custard. Citronella builds in the background and then comes to the fore. With time and air the citronella moves in the direction of sweet orange and the sweet fruit moves somewhere between peach and overripe pineapple. The smoke builds as it sits. A few drops of water and it all melds perfectly. Continue reading
Ardmore week got off to a very shaky start with Monday’s 6 year old Ardlair (unpeated Ardmore). I am hoping that today’s regulation peated Ardmore will reset the week despite being only four years older. This one was bottled a couple of years ago by Single Cask Nation from a single first-fill bourbon hogshead. I maintain this optimism even though the last Ardmore of this general age I reviewed didn’t set my hair on fire. What can I say? I’m an optimistic guy. Okay, let’s get to it.
Ardmore 10, 2009 (58.8%; Single Cask Nation; first-fill bourbon hogshead 707927; from a bottle split)
Nose: Mild mineral peat with lemon, wax, wet wool and some sweeter notes of vanilla. The lemon begins to turn to citronella pretty quickly and some paraffin emerges as well. The peat picks up with more time and it becomes quite briny as well. With more time and air it gets quite creamy. A few drops of water and the acid is amplified again with some chalk in there as well; after a few beats a more savoury note emerges as well (ham brine). Continue reading
Campbeltown week started out strong with the Kilkerran Work in Progress 1 and then hit a major pothole with a SMWS Glen Scotia 11, 2008 that ran completely counter to the quality and profile of all the other SMWS Glen Scotias I’ve reviewed in the last year. Here to set things right is a Longrow 18. This is from the 2014 release. By the way, the eventual symmetry in this week’s reviews was not planned. By which I mean I began with a Kilkerran released in 2009, moved on to a Glen Scotia released in 2019 (or maybe it was 2020) and am ending with a Longrow released right between those two in 2014. I purchased this bottle in 2015 and for some reason am only reviewing it in 2022. I am confident that it will set things right because the Longrow 18 is as close as you get to a sure thing in the world of single malt whisky (I’ve previously reviewed the 2008, 2011, 2019 and 2020 releases). Also, this is my third pour from the bottle and so I already know it is excellent. Prescience is easier when it follows experience. Continue reading
The two Glenfarclas 28, 1992s I reviewed this week (here and here) were both very good but stopped just short of true excellence in my view. And so it’s time to bring out a guaranteed heavy hitter to close out the year. Not because this year has been anything to celebrate but in the hopes that it might augur better things for next year. This too is a Speysider, albeit a little older and distilled a long time before the two Glenfarclas. This is one of the great Longmorns bottled by Scott’s Selection in 2003 and 2004 for the US market. I’ve previously reviewed the 1968-2003, the 1967-2004 and the 1968-2004. This is the youngest of the set, distilled in 1971 and bottled in 2004. (The other in the group is the 1967-2003 of which I have a bottle in reserve.) Like most of the great Longmorns of that era, this features a heavy dose of fruit, most of it tropical. I know this because this is not my first bottle. These were all still widely available when I first began to buy a lot of whisky and I bought a pair each of this and the 1968-2003. The first bottle was finished before I launched the blog; here now is the second. My spreadsheet tells me I paid all of $162 for this back in December 2011. Those were indeed the days. Here’s to better days in 2022 as well. Continue reading
Islay week continues. After starting at Bowmore on Monday we’ll now move down to the south coast for the remaining reviews of the week. And after a bourbon cask release to start the week we’ll head into deep, sherried territory. First up, a bottle from the 2007 release of the Ardbeg Uigeadail. In 2007 the Uigeadail was not new—the first release was in 2003—but it was certainly not the familiar name it has since become to fans of the distillery and of heavily peated whisky. The distillery itself was only in the early stages of its comeback. The release of the new 10 year old, distilled after the purchase and revitalization of the distillery in 1997 by Glenmorangie PLC, was still a year away. And the Uigeadail itself would not become a major sensation till 2009 when that sexist asshole in a Panama hat named it his pick for the best whisky in the world or whatever. Of course, in malt whisky lore, the golden age of the Ardbeg Uigeadail was already behind it then! It’s the releases from 2003 and 2004 that are famous for containing old sherried Ardbeg from1970s casks in them. But even if that time was gone by 2007, the Uigeadail of that era was rather excellent indeed. I want to say that this is the last of several bottles I’d purchased at the time but my usually trusty spreadsheet fails me. This is one of very few whiskies for which I have not recorded the place or date of purchase or a price. As I do have all that information recorded for my remaining bottles of the 2010 and 2013 releases I’m guessing this was not purchased alongside them. Anyway, what I have recorded is the score I gave the previous bottle—finished before I started the blog—and on that basis I am expecting to enjoy this very much. Let’s get to it. Continue reading
After a week of Talisker let’s keep the focus on peat but shift south to another island: Islay.
Up first is a Bowmore 15, released for Feis Ile 2019 and put together from spirit matured in first-fill bourbon casks. In this it differs from the other Bowmores I’ve reviewed this year, which include one from refill sherry casks, a port finish, one from a mix of oloroso and PX casks, and another single refill sherry cask. Well, bourbon cask Bowmore is a particular favourite of mine and so I hope this is a good instance of that style. Let’s see.
Bowmore 15, Feis Ile 2019 (51.7%; first-fill bourbon casks; from a bottle split)
Nose: Takes a few beats to open up and then there’s the sweet Bowmore florals along with some passionfruit, some vanilla; mineral peat runs through it all. Brinier with each sniff. Not too much change after that. A few drops of water pull out some cream and turn the fruit more acidic. Continue reading
Talisker Week began with the very first release of the Talisker 18 from 2004 and continued with the 2015 release of the Distillers Edition. Let’s now close it out with a 20 yo. This was released in 2003 and was put together from a number of ex-bourbon casks distilled in 1982, for a total of 12,000 bottles released worldwide. This came a year after (I think) another 20 yo from sherry casks from the 1981 vintage. That sherry cask release has divided whisky geeks who’ve had it. Some utterly love it, some find it marred by sulphur. The bourbon cask edition, however, I don’t think I’ve ever read any complaints about. It’s about as quintessential modern-era Talisker as you could hope for. Indeed, I wonder if this release didn’t inspire the 18 yo that became a part of the distillery’s core lineup the following year. I would not be surprised to learn that the vatting for that first 18 yo drew on casks that went into this 20 yo—after all, in the early 2000s it was still common for official releases to contain spirit older than the age on the label. At any rate, as I am currently drinking both side by side I find many points of similarity; the major difference being abv and that the 18 yo has some fraction of ex-sherry casks in it as well. Alright, let’s get to it. Continue reading
When we arrived in Minnesota in 2007 I fortuitously happened on Chicago-Lake Liquors while visiting the Midtown Global Market across the street. Chicago-Lake’s large collection of single malt whisky at minimal markups had a lot to do with my rapidly accelerating whisky mania at the time. Alas, those days are long gone—Chicago-Lake is still around but the selection shrank and the prices rose quite a few years ago. I will always be grateful to the owners of the store though for making it possible for me to try so many excellent official releases at such reasonable prices. These included the Laphroaig 15 for $40, the Glenlivet Nadurra for $55, Springbank 15 for about $65, the Highland Park 18 for $80 and, yes, the Talisker 18 for all of $50. The Talisker 18 had only just been introduced a few years ago and had recently been named the best whisky in the world by some publication or the other. And so I was very happy to try it. I loved it right away and for a good few years bought it regularly from Chicago-Lake. Elsewhere the price was higher—$80’ish—but that paled in comparison to the price hike around 2012 or so when it shot up to $140. Alas, I had not had the foresight to stock up on a case or two and so the memories of the early releases were soon all I had left of them. Thus when the chance recently presented itself to acquire a bottle of the 2004 release I jumped at it. I was curious to see what I would make of it now. I’d liked the 2011 release but not thought it very special; the 2007 release I’d liked a lot more. Would this one live up to my memory of it? Well, I’m very glad to say it does. Continue reading
I started the week with a review of a young bourbon cask Caol Ila. Wednesday brought the recent Guinness cask finish release of Lagavulin’s Offerman Edition. Let’s close the week at one of Lagavulin’s south coast neighbours: Laphroaig. Like the Caol Ila this is from a refill bourbon hogshead but it is eight years older; it was also bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Okay, let’s get to it.
Laphroaig 18, 1998 (58.1%; SMWS 29.218; refill bourbon hogshead; from my own bottle)
Nose: All the classic stuff: carbolic, phenolic peat out the wazoo, laced with lemon, brine and oyster liquor; sweeter cereals underneath. After a while there’s a hit of damp smouldering leaves and also some cracked black pepper. With more time and air still the cereals come to the fore. A few drops of water and the phenols recede just a bit as the lemon turns to citronella and some muskier tart fruit emerges (pineapple, unripe mango). Continue reading
Campbeltown Week began with a 8 yo Glen Scotia on Monday that I really liked. Here now is a 9 yo from the Glengyle distillery whose whiskies bear the Kilkerran name. Released in 2013, this was part of the fifth edition of their Work in Progress series that followed the distillate till the eventual issue of their standard malt. Until the 4th release these releases had been singular; with the 5th release they doubled, with a Bourbon Wood release and a Sherry Wood release. I’ve had most of the Works in Progress releases over the years but for some reason have only reviewed the Bourbon Wood releases from the 6th and 7th releases. If you need more info about Kilkerran/Glengyle, by the way, you should read the intro to my review of the 6th release. I should note here that even though the name of the distillery is Glengyle, I use the Kilkerran name in my category listings as I’m guessing that’s the name most people look for. I have yet to try a Kilkerran I did not like and so I have high expectations of this one. Continue reading
Okay, let’s end this week of peat in the eastern highlands of Scotland, at Ardmore. (You may recall that I started the week on Islay at Caol Ila on Monday and stopped in the Speyside at Benromach on Wednesday.) Ardmore is one of my very favourite distilleries these days. The only reason really that I didn’t put in my list of top five distilleries last year is that it’s very hard to come by Ardmore in the US and the official lineup has never been very inspiring. The one regular source for a varied supply of Ardmore in the US is the Scotch Malt Whisky Society but I’m not sure if even they send more than just a few of their Ardmore selections here. I reviewed three SMWS Ardmores in August and I don’t see 750 ml releases for any of them listed on Whiskybase. Nor for that matter is a 750 ml release listed for this one. (If you know if any of these were in fact released in the US please write in below.) August’s Ardmore trio were a 20 yo, a 21 yo and a 22 yo—all distilled in 1997. This one is a 23 yo distilled in 1997. Unlike the first three, however, which were matured entirely in refill bourbon hogsheads, this one spent 21 years in refill bourbon and then the next two years in a refill Spanish oak sherry hogshead. Will the sherry cover up all that I love about bourbon cask Ardmore? Let’s see. Continue reading
Alright, after a week of peated Islay whiskies followed by a week of rums, let’s do a week of older whiskies; specifically a week of 25 yo and over whiskies. First up is a Ben Nevis distilled in 1991 and bottled in September 2016 by Signatory from a sherry butt. As regular readers of the blog know, I am a big fan of the idiosyncratic malts made by Ben Nevis. Always fruity, Ben Nevis usually gets even more so with age. The last Ben Nevis I reviewed was a 23 yo from a refill sherry butt and I loved it. I also really liked this 22 yo from 1997—also from a sherry butt—and this 21 yo from 1996 from a refill sherry butt. And for that matter I’ve previously reviewed three other sherry cask Signatory 1991 Ben Nevises—a 26 yo, a 24 yo and a 22 yo—and liked them all very much (though I do note that I liked the 26 yo the least). I guess what I’m saying is that sherry cask maturation rarely seems to get in the way of the pleasures of Ben Nevis’ distillate. Anyway, let’s see what this one is like. Continue reading
First up is this Bowmore from the Whisky Exchange’s Elements of Islay series. Indeed, it’s the very first Bowmore in that series. I’m not sure what number it’s up to now but I’ve previously reviewed the Bw5. As per Whiskybase, this was put together from refill sherry casks from 1994, but as neither piece of information is noted on either the bottle’s label or The Whisky Exchange’s original product listing it’s hard to verify them. I can tell you for sure that it was bottled in 2012, which is when I purchased a bottle for roughly $75 at the then quite brutal, pre-Brexit exchange rate. Since the Elements of Islay bottles are 500 ml that works out to about $112 for a 750 ml equivalent of likely 17-18 yo Bowmore from sherry casks. At the current exchange rate it would have been quite a bit lower. By comparison, the Bw8, said to be 16 years old, is currently available from the Whisky Exchange for £117 ex. vat for a 500 ml. That would be £175 for a 750 ml equivalent or roughly $242 at the current exchange rate. I’m no mathematician but it would appear the price has more than doubled in 9 years. This is why I no longer buy very much whisky. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading
When this week’s series of reviews kicked off on Monday I said that it would fulfill three themes: all Hepburn’s Choice whiskies, all K&L exclusive casks, and all Speyside distilleries. I forgot a fourth category they all fulfill: they’re all teaspooned malts (i.e have had a small amount of malt of at least the same age but made at another distillery added to the cask so as to prevent it from being sold as a single malt from the distillery the cask originated in). So was Monday’s Mortlach 13, so was Wednesday’s Craigellachie 14, and so is today’s Glenfarclas which is one year older than the other two put together. Unlike the other two—and most/all of the other teaspooned malts in this round of K&L casks—the variant name used here, “Perhaps Speyside’s Finest” is not a one-off, though it represents a bit of scaling back of the claim. What I mean is that over the years the various Laing outfits have released a number of Glenfarclas casks under the label “Probably Speyside’s Finest”. I’ve reviewed a 22 yo that bore that label. I was not a huge fan of that one but I’ll try not to read too much into the greater uncertainty in this one’s name or in the fact that it’s from a refill barrel and not a sherry cask—I’ve not generally had a lot of good luck with other older Glenfarclas from bourbon casks (see here). Anyway, let’s get into it and see what’s what. Continue reading