Ben Nevis 18, 1991 (Mackillop’s Choice)


After two weeks in a row of bourbon cask whiskies (from Bladnoch, Linkwood, Dailuaine, Ardmore, Glen Garioch and Teaninich), let’s finish the month, and the year, with a week of sherry-matured whiskies. Instead of going up in age over the course of the week—as I usually do—let’s do them in order of increasing sherry influence. First up, accordingly is a single cask Ben Nevis 18, 1991 that was bottled by Mackillop’s Choice back in 2010. I purchased this bottle not too long after, and as with so many bottles purchased in that time period, I have no idea why I haven’t opened it in all these years—except perhaps that I purchased rather a lot of bottles in that time period. Anyway, it’s open now.

By the way, I was surprised to learn that Mackillop’s Choice is still a going concern—or at least that it was just a few years ago. Whiskybase doesn’t have any listings for 2022 or 2021 releases from the label but there were at least a few releases in 2020. If you’d asked me before I looked it up, I would have guessed they’d long gone the way of Scott’s Selection. Based on Whiskybase listings, the heyday does seem to have ended in the early 2010s, when they were still releasing 20-30 malts in most years. Continue reading

Bladnoch 20, Cow Label


The first two days of this week of reviews of bourbon cask malts were spent in the Speyside: at Dailuaine on Monday, and at Linkwood on Wednesday. Let’s now close out the week in the lowlands, at Bladnoch. This 20 yo was released in the early-mid 2010s, during the Raymond Armstrong-led heyday of the distillery. Under Raymond Armstrong, Bladnoch was a significant force in what, with hindsight, was the last gasp of the golden age of single malt whisky. They released whiskies, both their own and of casks from other distilleries, for the regular drinker. Their whiskies were priced well, did not come with any marketing flim-flam, and were usually of a high quality. This was true both of their independently bottled and directly sold whiskies on offer from their Bladnoch forum (I think I might still have one Caol Ila 25 left) and of their own releases. Many of their releases of Bladnoch’s whisky were single casks, but they didn’t always mark this information on the labels. And the way to know if many of these releases were sherry matured or bourbon matured was by checking to see if the label featured sheep (sherry) or cows (bourbon). See here for a review of a 19 yo cow label. This 20 yo cow label is one of the very last Bladnochs left on my shelves (I still have two bottles of a 12 yo sherry cask). Let’s get into it. Continue reading

Linkwood 19, 1997 (Alexander Murray)


Let’s stay in the Speyside for the second of this week’s reviews of bourbon cask whiskies. Like Dailuaine (Monday’s port of call), Linkwood is a workhorse distillery that doesn’t see much official release. Independents do decently by it though. The bottler of the 19 yo I am reviewing today is Alexander Murray. I have little experience of their releases and know even less about them. I did like a Glenlossie 19, 1997 they put out, also from bourbon casks, and hope that’s a good portent for this one. They were, however, also the source of a rather anonymous 23 yo unnamed Speyside malt for Costco’s Kirkland label. Let’s see where this one falls.

Linkwood 19, 1997 (53.8%; Alexander Murray; bourbon casks; from a bottle split)

Nose: Bright fruit (tart-sweet apple, a bit of lemon) mixed in with some oak and some malt. More lemon on the second sniff and some over-ripe pear to go with the apple. Softer notes of cream and light toffee emerge with time. A few drops of water and it gets muskier/maltier with a slight leafy note popping out as well. Continue reading

Dailuaine 10, 2008 (SMWS 41.116)


Last week I reviewed three 12 yo bourbon cask whiskies from three different highlands distilleries: a Teaninich 12, 2009 bottled by the Thompson Bros. for K&L; a Glen Garicoh 12, 2008 bottled by Old Particular, also for K&L: and an Ardmore 12, 2006, bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. We’ll stick with bourbon cask whisky for this week as well, but we’ll ditch the 12 yp and highlands-only themes. The first one takes us to the Speyside. It’s. a 10 yo Dailuaine, also bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Let’s jump right in.

Dailuaine 10, 2008 (61.3%; SMWS 41.116; refill barrel; from a bottle split)

Nose: Toasted oak, damp leaves, lemon, malt. The lemon moves in the direction of Makrut lime as it sits. A little bit of cream, maybe, with time and the toasted oak moves to the front, but not much development here. With a splash of water there’s more cream, a bit of pastry crust and it all melds very nicely with the lemon. As it sits more fruit emerges: berries, pineapple; all of it encased in pastry crust. Continue reading

Ardmore 12, 2006 (SMWS 66.139)


This has been a week of reviews of malts from highlands distilleries. It’s also been a week of reviews of ex-bourbon cask malts and, as it turns out, a week of reviews of 12 yo malts. On Monday I had a review of a 12 yo Teaninich bottled by the Thompson Bros.; on Wednesday I had a review of a 12 yo Glen Garioch bottled by Old Particular; today I have for you a review of a 12 yo Ardmore bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Long-time readers of this blog know that I have a soft spot for bourbon cask Ardmore. Indeed, I’ve had a fair number of bourbon cask Ardmores in recent years that I’ve enjoyed a lot, many of those bottled by the SMWS with numbers adjacent to this one. Among those have been 66.133, 66.137 and 66.138. Granted 137 and 138 were quite a bit older but it still bodes well for this one, which is 66.139 (and 133 was also a 12 yo). I’m sorry if you’re not familiar with the SMWS’ funky bottle codes. The numbers before the period identify the distillery (Ardmore is 66) and those after the period identify the number of the release—which means this was the 139th Ardmore bottled by the SMWS (they’re well past that number now). In addition, they like to give each release a silly name. This one was dubbed “Deerstalkers and hillwalkers”. Okay, let’s see what it is like. Continue reading

Glen Garioch 12, 2008 (Old Particular for K&L)


Okay, let’s move away from Diageo distilleries. You’ll recall that, as with last week’s survey of Diageo distillery exclusives (here, here and here), this is also a week of reviews of highlands distilleries. It started on Monday with a 12 yo Teaninich bottled for K&L in California. Today, I have for you a 12 yo Glen Garioch also bottled for K&L in California. This one is not from the Thompson Bros. but from one of K&L”s usual hookups: Old Particular (a label from one of the Laing outfits). Bourbon cask Glen Garioch is often austere and always interesting and I’m hoping this one will be too. Let’s dive right in.

Glen Garioch 12, 2008 (52.6%; Old Particular for K&L; refill barrel; from a bottle split)

Nose: A very interesting opening with a mix of lime and mineral notes with some pine and powdered ginger mixed in there as well. On the second sniff there’s a bit of vanilla as well and then it starts getting floral (not flowers themselves so much as floral-scented talcum powder). Gets fizzier as it sits (i.e it smells like it should be a fizzy, fruity drink) and also simultaneously begins to smell like gin. A few drops of water push the talcum powder back; still floral though. Continue reading

Teaninich 12, 2009 (Thompson Bros.)


Last week I reviewed recent distillery exclusives from three Diageo distilleries located in the Highlands: an 11 yo Oban, a 12 yo Dalwhinnie, and a 14 yo Royal Lochnagar. Let’s start this week with another Diageo distillery in the highlands: Teaninich. This is not an official release or a distillery exclusive, however. This was bottled by the Thompson Brothers for K&L in California. Ignore the age statement and abv on the sample label in the pic alongside; that info accidentally got swapped by my sample source with that of the Thompson Brothers Caol Ila 8, 2013 for K&L that I’ve previously reviewed. This Teaninich is 12 years old and was bottled at 53.1%. Like the Caol Ila, it was bottled for K&L under the label, Redacted Bros. for some reason. K&L described it on their site as a single hogshead exclusive to them but only had 120 bottles—which is about half of what you’d expect to get from a hogshead at this age and strength. To confuse matters further there’s another Teaninich 12, 2009 at 53.1% that was released by the Thompson Bros. in Europe under their regular name. That one is from two refill bourbon hogsheads and 508 bottles are listed for it on Whiskybase. So, is this Redacted Bros release of 120 bottles a fraction of those 508 that came to the US? If not, where did the rest of this cask go? If you know, please write in below. Continue reading

Royal Lochnagar 14, Distillery Hand-Fill, October 2022


Okay, let’s bring this week of reviews of hand-filled exclusives from Diageo distilleries to a close. You will recall that these are all distilleries located in the highlands—Oban on Monday and Dalwhinnie on Wednesday. We end now with Royal Lochnagar. The Oban was 11 years old and from a refill bourbon cask; the Dalwhinnie was 12 years old and from a re-charred sherry cask. This Lochnagar is the oldest of the three at 14 years old and is from a 2nd-fill sherry butt. While I’ve tasted a few more Lochnagars than Dalwhinnies in my time, this is only my third review of a whisky from the distillery. I was even less impressed  by its entry in Diageo’s Game of Thrones cash grab than I was by the Dalwhinnie and Oban in that series; and I wasn’t super-enthused by the other one I’ve reviewed either—an indie release, also 14 years old and from a sherry cask. In other words, my expectations are low and it won’t surprise me if this manages to exceed them. Let’s see if that turns out to be the case. Continue reading

Dalwhinnie 12, Distillery Hand-Fill, October 2022


This is, as you will recall, a week of reviews of distillery exclusives filled by hand in October at Diageo distilleries in the highlands. Yes, that’s a very specific theme. The week began at Oban on Monday with a review of an 11 yo refill bourbon cask. Let’s go a bit north and a bit east to Dalwhinnie. As I say each time I review a Dalwhinnie, I do not have very much experience of their malt. There is very little Dalwhinnie out there to try. (Well, I suppose I should give the Distiller’s Edition a try sometime—does Diageo still put those out regularly for every distillery in its Classic Malts collection?) At any rate, this is only my third review of a Dalwhinnie—the others were also official distillery releases: the old faithful 15 yo and the so-called Winter’s Gold, which was part of Diageo’s Game of Thrones cash-grab. Neither really did very much for me (82 points each). So this 12 yo hand-fill from a re-charred sherry cask is not going to have to do very much to raise the distillery average on this blog. Let’s see if it’s up to the task. Continue reading

Oban 11, Distillery Hand-Fill, October 2022


For the first full week of December let’s do a week of highland malts and a week of Diageo distillery hand-fills all at once. All three of this week’s malts were filled by hand at the distilleries in late October. Again, not by me but by the person I got these bottle splits from. Let’s begin with the youngest of the three, an 11 yo Oban.

When I visited Oban briefly in the summer of 2017, they had a NAS distillery exclusive in the shop, though not a hand-fill. You weren’t allowed a taste, only a sniff of a pour that had been sitting out for god knows how long.  I duly sniffed it and was not impressed and passed on. Indeed, I was not impressed by the other exclusives I encountered at most Diageo distilleries on that trip. But it appears that these days Diageo is making more of an effort. All three of this week’s casks have age statements and are at cask strength. They also have cask types specified. This Oban is from a refill bourbon cask. Well, I rather liked the 2021 Special Release Oban which was about this age and also from bourbon casks—albeit a mix of first and refill casks. If this is at least as good, I’ll be happy. Continue reading

Caol Ila 10, 2009 (Single Malts of Scotland)

The first whisky review of December is the last of my peated Islay week. The first two reviews were of official distillery releases that came out this year—yes, not only did I have two timely reviews, I had them back to back: Monday’s Laphroaig Cairdeas 2022 and Tuesday’s Lagavulin 11, Offerman Edition, Charred Oak. I liked both well enough. Today’s review is of an independent release of Caol Ila—in about the general ballpark of the others, age-wise (I assume the Laphroaig is somewhere near 10 years old as well). It’s not the most untimely of my reviews, as this was released only about three years ago, in November 2019. The bottler is the Whisky Exchange, I mean, Elixir Distillers, under the Single Malts of Scotland label. Yes, yes, I know Elixir Distillers was spun off as a separate company some years ago but it’s all the Whisky Exchange to me. Teenaged ex-bourbon hogshead Caol Ila is one of my favourite profiles of whisky and I’m hoping that this 10 yo turns out to be precocious in that regard. Continue reading

Lagavulin 11, Offerman Edition, Charred Oak


Tuesdays are normally restaurant review days on the blog. However, the World Cup has been messing with my schedule and I didn’t have time yesterday to finish resizing all the photographs from the meal I was scheduled to report on: the weekday lunch buffet at Kumar’s in Apple Valley. And so I’m going to post that tomorrow. In its place, here is the whisky review that was going to go up tomorrow.

This is the third release of Lagavulin’s Offerman Edition. The first came out in 2019. At the time I assumed it was a one-off. But then there was a second release last year, a finish in Guinness casks. And 2022 saw a third release, this one involving oak casks that were shaved down and re-charred. I’ve seen some references to the casks in question being American and European oak casks and some that specify that they were ex-bourbon and ex-red wine casks. I can tell you though that the text on the back of the box says that this particular edition (11 years old like the two previous) was “curated” to pair with a medium-rare steak. Personally, I don’t drink whisky with food but I’m not sure how seriously anyone should take any of that anyway. I think the text may be written in the voice of Ron Swanson (I cannot confirm as I still have not watched any Parks & Recreation). I liked the first two releases and hope this will be as good. Let’s see. Continue reading

Laphroaig Cairdeas, 2022 Release


After a week of mezcal reviews (here, here and here), let’s get back to whisky, to Scotland, and specifically to Islay for a week of reviews of heavily peated whiskies. First up, is the 2022 iteration of the Laphroaig Cairdeas, bottled for Feis Ile, the annual Islay whisky festival. It’s a bit of a departure for the recent run of the series being from bourbon casks. Last year’s Cairdeas release was a cask strength version of the Laphroaig PX release; the 2020 Cairdeas was finished in port and wine casks; the 2019 was a cask strength version of the Triple Wood; the 2018 was a fino cask finish. The last ex-bourbon release was in 2017, with the cask strength version of the Quarter Cask. Indeed the last ex-bourbon Cairdeas from regulation ex-bourbon casks was back in 2015 for the 200th anniversary of the distillery. This year’s Cairdeas is back to bourbon casks, the twist being only that these were first-fill casks (from Maker’s Mark) matured in the distillery’s Warehouse No. 1. Will that mean too much oak influence and too much vanilla? The people who obliquely warned me about buying a bottle in the comments on other reviews are probably nodding in the background. But, as I do every year, I bought not one but two bottles: one to drink right away and one to put in my completely pointless Cairdeas collection, which goes back to 2011 (I’m realizing now that I’ve not reviewed the 2011 and 2012 releases, which were both pre-blog). Alright, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading

Quiquiriqui Cacao Pechuga, Mezcal


Housekeeping note: I did not post the usual Thursday recipe yesterday. For a change, I didn’t have the post ready to go a week prior, and the days leading up to Thanksgiving got a bit too full for me to get around to it. I’ll post that recipe on Saturday instead. Here, on schedule, however, is this week’s third booze post: the final post in my mini-run of mezcal reviews.

The first two were both Del Maguey releases: the Tobala on Monday and the Wild Tepextate on Wednesday. I liked both but the Tobala more than the other. Today’s offering is not not from Del Maguey but from an outfit named Quiquiriqui. This is a brand based in the UK that apparently works directly with producers in Oaxaca—though looking at their website, it’s hard to tell if they work with separate producers or just one family. Their range includes a number of pechugas: one made with mole (a la the Cinco Sentidos I reviewed earlier this year), one made with coffee, and this one which deploys cacao. I’m not sure how exactly this is done: are cacao beans hung over the still during the third distillation a la the traditional chicken or turkey? Are the cacao beans in addition to chicken/turkey or a replacement? If you know one way or the other, please write in below. Anyway, let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Del Maguey, Wild Tepextate, Mezcal


I began this week of mezcal reviews with Del Maguey’s Tobala, which I rather liked. Here now is another of their releases: Wild Tepextate. As per the Mezcal Reviews site the producer is the same as that of the Tobala, which means it’s also from Santa Maria Albarradas. Tepextate is also a variety of agave found at high altitudes—you’ll never guess but it grows wild. That pretty much exhausts my knowledge about this mezcal. Well, I can tell you it also costs in the neighbourhood of $100 in most parts of the US and that it is currently available in Minnesota for a bit more than that. Okay, let’s get to it.

Del Maguey, Wild Tepextate (45%; Lot: TEP 181; from a bottle split)

Nose: More acidic than the Tobala, with more of a mineral note as well. Otherwise, similar notes of lime, green chiles and salt with mild passionfruit. Some charred pineapple in there too. More savoury as it sits with a bit of ham brine joining the party. With a couple of drops of water the “green” notes recede and the savoury notes expand. Continue reading

Del Maguey, Tobala, Mezcal


This month I’ve already done a week of reviews of a category I don’t know very much about: bourbon. I’m now pleased to do a week of reviews of a category I know even less about: mezcal. I’ll be reviewing two mezcals from Del Maguey, the brand that has in recent years raised the profile of mezcal among whisky drinkers, and another from Quiquiriqui, a brand I had not heard of until I acquired a sample of it. First up, Del Maguey’s Tobala. It is named for the variety of agave from which it is is distilled. The tobala agave is much smaller variety than most others used to make mezcal, grows at high elevations, takes a long time to reach maturity, and apparently its yields too are quite low. All of this means mezcals made from tobala are typically more expensive. This Del Maguey iteration—which is a single village/town expression from Santa Maria Albarradas—goes for over $100, if you can find it. I’ve never had a tobala mezcal before, and so will not be able to tell you if this is a representative example of the varietal, but I’m curious to try it. Continue reading

Longrow Hand-Filled, August 2022


This week of Campbeltown hand-fills from August of this year began with a Hazelburn on Monday and continued with a Springbank on Wednesday. Let’s end with a Longrow. (A reminder: I did not fill these myself—I acquired these samples via a bottle split with the person who did.) Even though Hazelburn is supposed to be Springbank’s unpeated malt, I found a fair bit of smoke in there (and not for the first time). Well, Longrow is supposed to be Springbank’s heavily peated malt—will this one turn out to an anomaly as well? I do expect I will like it a lot either way as, usually, Longrow is my favourite variant of Springbank—and I really liked the last Longrow I reviewed, which also came directly from Campbeltown, having been issued by Cadenhead (who are owned by the same company that owns Springbank). This particular iteration of the hand-fill is pretty dark—quite a bit darker than the other two—which I would guess means sherry casks were involved at some point in this vatting. What will it all add up to? Let’s see. Continue reading

Springbank Hand-Filled, August 2022


My week of reviews of Campbeltown hand-fills continues. As with Monday’s Hazelburn, this Springbank was filled in August of this year (not by me). These hand-fills don’t have age or vintage statements and nor are the cask types disclosed. My understanding, as I said on Monday, is that this is because at Springbank these are not, as at most other distilleries, single casks that are replaced when depleted, but continuous vattings that get topped up once they get low. If you can confirm or deny that this is true, please write in below. Monday’s Hazelburn was somewhat uncharacteristic, being quite peaty (Hazelburn is supposed to be Springbank’s unpeated variant). Where will this Springbank fall on the spectrum? Let’s see.

Springbank Hand-Filled, August 2022 (57%; from a bottle split)

Nose: Nutty sweetness (almonds) with olive oil, mild brine and a bit of coriander seed. A bit of vanilla in the sweetness as it sits and also some acid below it (preserved lemon, a bit of tart-sweet apple). The preserved lemon expands as it sits and the almond and olive oil turn to almond oil. A few drops of water and the almond oil expands with some citronella coming up from below it. Continue reading