Caol Ila 11, 2005 (Gordon & MacPhail)


Over the last decade and more Gordon & MacPhail have bottled a number of multi-cask vattings of 10-11 yo Caol Ila, many of them from sherry casks. Most have been well-received. I’ve liked most of the few I’ve had (see, example, this 10 yo, 1996), though there also have been some duds (see this 11 yo, 2000). I think this one, bottled in 2016, before Gordon & MacPhail’s livery changed, may be the first I’ve had from a vatting of four casks. I always wonder when something like this is released if one or two casks in the vatting might not have needed salvaging. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind you: a cask that might not be very interesting on its own can still work very well in a vatting, accentuating positive notes or even helping damp down some overbearing ones (anyone who has done a lot of home vatting knows this). The odd thing here is that these are said to have all been first-fill sherry butts but this is a rather light-coloured whisky. All American oak butts that held fino or manzanilla? Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Game of Thrones Whisky: House Lannister (Lagavulin)


So, it’s come to this. Yes, it has. Starting today, I will be reviewing one of Diageo’s Game of Thrones single malt releases every Monday after a new episode of the final season of the show. As there are only six episodes but eight of these whiskies, I will end with an all-Game of Thrones week after the finale. No, this is not being sponsored by Diageo or Game of Thrones. I scoffed at this marketing nonsense when it was first released (and available) but later when I had the opportunity to get 50 ml of each bottle from a split, I could not resist. So, here is my first review after a middling first episode.

What becomes obvious immediately is that nobody at Diageo’s marketing actually watches Game of Thrones or reads the books and/or that nobody at Game of Thrones marketing knows anything about whisky. Why? Well, because there is only one heavily-peated, smoky whisky in the lineup and they’ve not given it to House Targaryen, who you may remember have dragons and the habit of setting people and things on fire. Instead, the brain trust has seen fit to make the Lagavulin the Lannister whisky. This despite the fact that the Lannisters are associated with gold and one of the other whiskies in the lineup is the Cardhu Gold Reserve…which, of course, they’ve given to House Targaryen. Clerical error? Well, I guess we should just be happy they didn’t add a House Bolton release to the list as that might have meant having to drink a NAS Glenkinchie (“it’ll feel like you’re being flayed alive!”). I’m not very convinced by most of the other whisky/house pairings either—more on those later. Continue reading

Enmore 25, 1992 (Golden Devil for K&L)


Yesterday I reviewed a 19 yo Golden Devil exclusive rum for K&L. That one was from Guadeloupe. For this review let’s leap over to Guyana and go up a few years in age. This is a 25 yo Enmore, referred to by some—and few less enthusiastically as the people selling it—as the Port Ellen of rum. I’m not really sure what that means. Enmore and Port Ellen are closed distilleries but so is Dallas Dhu; why is Enmore not the Dallas Dhu of rum? I demand answers! But seriously, you can’t expect me to get excited about something that’s not the Pappy of its category—Driscoll must have been slacking on the job that day.

The history of the Enmore distillery and of Guyanese rum in general is complicated. All the Guyanese distilleries were consolidated into one in the mid-1990s and even before that Enmore produced both column still and pot still rum. This particular release is a single cask of pot still rum and it was bottled at a whopping strength of 63%. I have, as it happens, had another 25 yo Enmore bottled for K&L—that one was from their less fancy Faultline label (is that still on the go?) but I liked it a fair bit. Will this be as good? Let’s see. Continue reading

Bellevue 19, 1998 (Golden Devil for K&L)


From Cognac to rum. This is another K&L selection and another sample from Sku. I know only a little more about rum than I do about Cognac and so I can tell you that Bellevue is a distillery in Guadeloupe (a word that is very hard to spell late at night) but I cannot tell you very much more than that. This was also bottled by Hunter Laing in their Golden Devil series—I think that’s the name used for their Kill Devil line in the US (is that because there’s an American producer named Kill Devil?). Anyway, I know nothing about the characteristics of Guadeloupean rum and so am curious to see what this is like. Let’s find out.

Bellevue 19 (59.7%; Golden Devil; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: A little blank at first but then there’s a pretty standard if muted dark rum profile laced with aniseed and an herbal character (sage?). As it sits it begins to open up with more caramel. Let’s see what water does. Not very much really—no interesting change to report. Continue reading

Duodognon Napoleon II (for K&L)


Last week I had a review of a K&L exclusive Bowmore that I rather liked. May as well take that as a spur to do a week of reviews of K&L exclusives. And as that Bowmore was a bottle recommended by Sku, I might as well make it a week of K&L exclusives that I received samples of from Sku. First up is a Cognac. I know very little about Cognac—as I’ve said before—and so I cannot tell you anything about Duodognon (presumably the producer). I do know that the Napoleon designation means that the brandy is at least six years old. However, I cannot tell you why this is called Duodognon Napoleon II, though I’d guess the prosaic answer is that this is the second Duodognon Napoleon bottled by/for K&L. This was issued in 2016. Sku reviewed it then and seemed to like it: he said it was “nice” and he must have thought so: the review contains more than 10 words, a rarity for Sku. Anyway, I am looking forward to trying a younger Cognac, the two others I’ve reviewed so far having been a lot older. Continue reading

Springbank 19, 1995 (for Dr. Jekyll’s Bar)


The last Springbank I reviewed was from a bourbon cask—the 11 yo Local Barley—and I liked it a lot. Here now is another official Springbank from a bourbon cask but one that’s almost twice the age of the previous. This was bottled in 2014 from a refill bourbon cask for Dr. Jekyll’s, a whisky bar in Oslo. I got this sample in a bottle split. I’m not sure how the person who had the bottle laid his hands on it, though I assume it was at auction. Only 100 bottles were apparently released for general sale and disappeared in a matter of hours. I do not know what the price charged for it then was; I’m pretty sure it would have been much lower than the current going rate for cask strength Springbanks. The prices asked for recent independent Springbanks have been eye-watering indeed and official cask strength releases of a lower age in the US are no less aggressively priced these days. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading

Bowmore 22, 1996 (Old Malt Cask for K&L)


Here’s another Old Malt Cask bottle but don’t panic, it’s not another from their 20th Anniversary release. No, this is a single cask of Bowmore, a refill hogshead, bottled for K&L in California. Somewhat unusually, it is bottled not at the standard 50% abv of the Old Malt Cask line but at 53.9%. Not that I follow K&L’s announcements very closely anymore—after Driscoll’s departure it’s a bit like going to the circus after they’ve got rid of all the clowns—but I didn’t recall much noise having been made about it. Thus when I asked Sku in January—when I was in Los Angeles—if there were any K&L exclusives he’d recommend I was surprised when he mentioned this. But I always do what Sku says and so I purchased a bottle. At about $150 it was not cheap but that’s pretty good these days for a Bowmore of this age. When I got back to Minnesota I opened it right away, and man, Sku was right. Which leads me to think that the lack of noise about this from K&L must mean either that they really don’t know what they have or that the way to separate the crap from the quality in what they bring in is to ignore the ones they shout about and get the ones they trust to sell themselves (though this did hang around for a good while). If K&L were still shipping out of state I would have purchased a few more bottles within minutes of tasting this, but they don’t and then they finally sold out anyway a few days later. Here at any rate are my notes. Continue reading

Blair Athol 22, 1995 (First Editions)


I haven’t reviewed very many Blair Athols—it’s been almost a year since my last review in fact. That one was a single sherry cask, distilled in 1988 and bottled in 2014 or 2015 by Signatory. This one is not quite as old but is also from a single sherry cask. This is from the 1995 vintage and was bottled last year by First Editions, another of Hunter Laing’s lines. The arithmetic on this one is a little wonky though. The label says it’s a single sherry butt but also says only 234 bottles came from it. That seems about 50% too low for a sherry butt. Compounding the mystery is the fact that there was a Blair Athol 21, 1995 bottled in the same series in 2017 from a sherry butt with the exact same abv but that one apparently yielded 492 bottles and 492+234 is headed into Glendronach territory for a single sherry butt after 22 years. Now there’s also a First Editions release of Blair Athol 22, 1995 from 2017 with a slightly lower abv that’s listed as having yielded only 210 bottles. 210+234 is not an implausible number for a single sherry butt either. It’s also possible, of course, that the cask was split with a completely different bottler or that despite being listed on the label as a sherry butt it was actually a sherry hogshead. Either way, it’s obviously the case that independent bottlers can’t always be relied upon for very much more accuracy/transparency on labels than the distilleries themselves. If anyone has any light to shed on this please write in below. Continue reading

Ledaig 10, 2007 (Chieftain’s)


As long-time readers (the few, the imaginary) know, I am not generally a fan of wine-finished whiskies. But I am a fan of giving things a chance if they don’t cost too much. Here therefore is a young Ledaig distilled in 2007 and finished in Pomerol casks. How many Pomerol casks, I’m not sure. The bottle label lists three cask numbers with a total outturn of 689 bottles. That would seem like three bourbon hogsheads worth. So either three bourbon casks got emptied into a large Pomerol cask or each ended up in a separate Pomerol cask before being vatted for bottling. I’d guess the latter as I think only the cask(s) that last held the spirit can be listed on the label. However it was made, I got two ounces from a bottle split last year. I’ve recently had a number of high quality young Ledaigs from around this period and it seemed like a decent bet. It’s still available, by the way. Continue reading

Talisker 8, Old Release


Having posted a review of a release of the Bowmore 30, Sea Dragon on the occasion of the 6th anniversary of the blog yesterday, I may as well continue to further the illusion that I am the kind of whisky blogger who spends all his time drinking bottles of whisky from bygone eras. Here accordingly is a Talisker 8. Not the one that was part of Diageo’s Special Release slate for 2018 (did that one even come to the US?) but one that was released at some point in the 1970s. That would make it a late 1960s or early 1970s distillation and I don’t believe I’d previously had any Talisker from the 1960s or early 1970s. My friend Nick S. brought it to one of our mutual friend Rich H.’s tastings in St. Paul last November—a tasting that featured a number of other excellent whiskies including this Caol Ila 34, 1982, this Ben Nevis 27, 1990 and this “Speyside Region” 43, 1973, plus some others I haven’t written up yet. Nick was also kind enough to pour me a 1.5 oz sample at the end of the evening to spend a little more time with later. I was very excited to taste it at the initial gathering—the O.W.I (Online Whisky Illuminati) have trained us well to prize any and all whisky released in the 1970s—and I’m even more appreciative of the opportunity to taste it again when I can spend more time with it. Here now are my thoughts after spending more time with it. Continue reading

Bowmore 30, Sea Dragon


The blog turns six today and so here is the customary Bowmore review. My first ever review was of the lowly Bowmore Legend and since then I’ve posted a Bowmore review on every anniversary. In 2014 I reviewed the Bowmore 12 and in 2015 the Bowmore 18—but that’s as high as the age statements have gone on these anniversary reviews. Well, this year’s review is of a much older Bowmore—indeed, the oldest I’ve ever tasted—and it’s from a series with a very strong reputation: the Sea Dragon. A number of batches of these were released from the late 1990s through the early 2000s, all in ceramic bottles with striking art on them and it’s not always easy to know which release a given bottle is from. I got this sample from Matt G. and he couldn’t find a bottle code anywhere on his black ceramic bottle. Assuming this was not actually from a 2000s release, this will be both my first-ever 30 yo Bowmore and my first-ever 60s Bowmore. Continue reading

Vallein Tercinier, Lot 90 (for Flask)

Here is only my second Cognac review and it is also my second review of a Cognac from the small house of Vallein Tercinier. I tasted a sample of their Lot 70 and loved it, bought some for myself and recommended it to friends. This one—also bottled for/by Flask in California—is quite a bit younger though not young per se. It’s a Lot 90, distilled in 1990 and bottled in 2018, making it 27 or 28 years old. The Lot 70 was 47-48 years old and barely bore any trace of long maturation in oak. Though as I write that I seem to remember reading that it is not unusual for older Cognacs to have been stored in glass for years before being bottled—meaning that the presence of a vintage but not a specific age statement may be meaningful. So while this was distilled 20 years later for sure, it’s not as clear how much less time it may have spent in an oak cask. If you can shed light on how this works, either for this house or the category in general, please write in below. In the meantime here are my formal thoughts on this bottle which I opened about a month ago and found to be quite a bit oakier than the Lot 70 which was just a tropical fruity delight. I’m curious to see what a bit more air in the bottle may have done for this. Continue reading

Croftengea 15, 2002 (SMWS 122.21)

Allah be praised: it’s not another Old Malt Cask 20th Anniversary release! No, it’s not. In fact this whisky has nothing to do with the Laing family. This is a 15 yo Croftengea released last year by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Because they are whimsical they gave it the name “Words from Random Phrase Generator”; or maybe it was “What’s cooking?” One or the other.

I got in on this bottle split because a Croftengea came out of nowhere to be one of my very favourite whiskies of 2018 (this one bottled by The Whisky Exchange). I therefore resolved to try as many Croftengeas as I possibly can, leading to this and also the purchase of a full bottle of a Croftengea 13 bottled for….wait for it, wait for it…the 20th Anniversary of the Old Malt Cask line! That’ll be next month; this is now. Continue reading

Teaninich 19, 1999 (OMC 20th Anniv. Release)

Rounding out a week of reviews of bourbon cask whiskies from unheralded distilleries here is one not from the Speyside (like Monday’s Glentauchers and Tuesday’s Inchgower) but from the northern Highlands. Teaninich is another of Diageo’s workhorse distilleries, pumping out malt for the group’s blends. We drove by it on our way from the Speyside to Dornoch last June but as they’re not open to visitors there was no question of stopping. I don’t have much experience of their whisky either—I think the only official release is in the Flora & Fauna series; and you don’t see a whole lot of it from the independents either—not in the US at least, This 19 yo was another in Hunter Laing’s extensive release commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Old Malt Cask label and like many of the bottles in the series from non-name distilleries it is still available.. Will this be as good as the Inchgower or the Arran? Let’s see. Continue reading