In my last review of an Ardmore I noted that it was a hard distillery to get to know. No further clarity has emerged on that front since that review and so let’s dispense with an introduction to this review and get to business sharpish. I will note only that this is not the first Ardmore from the 1980s I’ve tried and that while I liked that 25 yo fine, it wasn’t anything so very special. In fact I didn’t like it as much as that last Ardmore I reviewed, which was a 22 yo from the mid-1990s. Where will this 24 yo, bottled by the SMWS in 2009, fall? Let’s see.
Ardmore 24, 1985 (52.5%*; SMWS 66.30, “An outdoor banquet”; bourbon hogshead; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Typical Ardmore smoke, sooty and mineral (not phenolic), mixed in with lime zest and some brine. As it sits there’s a hint of vanilla and the citrus moves in the direction of citronella. Brighter and brinier with a few drops of water. Continue reading →
Here is the last of four reviews of recent releases from the lords of Campbeltown. I’ve already reviewed the 2019 release of the Springbank 21, the Hazelburn 14, Oloroso and the new Kilkerran, Heavily Peated. Here now is the 2019 release of the revered Longrow 18 (Longrow, in case you don’t know, is the name for the heavily peated, double-distilled malt made at Springbank). I’ve previously reviewed two other releases of the Longrow 18: the 2008 release (which was, I believe the first release) and the 2011 release. I liked both a lot. I also have a bottle of the 2014 release on my shelves which I should really open some day soon. The reason I don’t go through Longrow 18 as often/quickly as some other regular releases from Springbank is that it costs the earth in the US. And so I wait to buy it in the UK or Europe once every few years. Well, my parents will soon be passing through London on the way to visiting us—so let’s see if this is good enough to have shipped to my uncle’s place in London, where they will be stopping for a week. Continue reading →
I reviewed the (then) new Ben Nevis 10 early last year and really liked it. In fact, I asked—largely rhetorically—if it was the best entry-level malt whisky on the market (and it was very fairly priced too). In response it promptly went off the market. The distillery apparently ran out of stocks that would have allowed them to continue to make it to the same specifications—there’s an account of this in a review on Whiskybase or you could take a look at Michael K.’s recent review which summarizes matters. Rather than go completely off the market the distillery formulated this one-off cask strength release, which is a vatting of ex-bourbon, ex-sherry and ex-wine casks. And it is a vintage release from 2008 distillate. Since then the regular 10 yo has indeed come back on the market. This is good news, but it must be said that I have not read any reviews of the new release and am therefore only hopeful that it will be very similar, if not identical to the batch I really liked. This cask strength release I can tell you—spoiler alert—I don’t like as much, I opened it not too long after buying the bottle some months ago and thought it was just okay. I then took it to one of my local group’s tastings and it did quite well there. The bottle has since sat at below the halfway mark for a couple of months—I’m curious to see if it has improved further. Continue reading →
There was some rare good news recently on the American market for Scotch whisky front. Archives, the independent bottler label from the good lads at Rotterdam’s Whiskybase—one of the premier whisky stores in Europe—is finally available in the country. We usually get none of the top independent bottlers from the continent and so this was welcome news, especially as the Archives releases are marked both for the usual value and quality they represent. However, the news was tempered almost immediately by the discovery that these releases are restricted right now to stores in Georgia and California, making it all but impossible for most American whisky drinkers to get their hands on them, given the continuing farcical state of restrictions on inter-state shipping. And, of course, also by the fact that the three-tier mark-up system in the US renders these more expensive than they would be in Europe. I don’t know if the latter problem can be addressed but I am hopeful that availability at least may soon be expanded. At any rate, here is my review of the first of five bottles in their initial American release. I’ll have reviews of the other four as well in the coming weeks. Continue reading →
Four reviews in a week—what is this? a spirits blog?
Here’s an indie Port Charlotte (the heavily peated whisky produced at Bruichladdich (but not as heavily peated as Octomore)). This is the oldest Port Charlotte I’ve reviewed and probably the oldest I’ve had. It was distilled in 2001, which may have been the year Port Charlotte started being distilled (please let me know derisively in the comments below if that’s wrong). I have reviewed another 2001 Port Charlotte; that was an 11 yo bottled by the German outfit, Malts of Scotland. I quite liked that one. This one is also bottled by a German outfit, in this case, Maltbarn; it was apparently their 105th selection—I had no idea they’d bottled that many; I think my first Maltbarn reviews were of some of their earliest releases (indeed, my first Maltbarn review was of their 8th release, an older Glenrothes). How the kids have grown up and so on. Continue reading →
Here’s another 2019 Campbeltown release. I’ve previously reviewed the Springbank 21 and the new Kilkerran Heavily Peated. I liked the Springbank a lot, the Kilkerran less so, but neither got me very interested in purchasing a bottle: the KIlkerran because it just wasn’t very interesting, the Springbank because it’s way too expensive for what it is. Next week I’ll have a review of the Longrow 18 released at the same time. Here now is the fourth from the stable: a Hazelburn, the triple-distilled, unpeated whisky distilled at Springbank. I’ve not had very many Hazelburns before and I don’t recall having had a heavily sherried one. And that is what this is: a large batch of 9900 bottles from oloroso sherry casks. As to whether they were full-term or only partially matured in the sherry casks, I do not know. If you do, please write in below. I’m interested to see what this is like at any rate. Let’s get right to it. Continue reading →
Oh no, not another one of those Old Malt Cask 20th anniversary releases! Yes, I’m afraid. so. I’ve already reviewed 57 or so of them and here’s another one. This is a 13 yo Croftengea distilled in 2005 and it has me hoping that it might be almost as good as that 9 yo bottled by the Whisky Exchange last year, or at least as good as the SMWS 15 yo from 2017. Like the Whisky Exchange release, this is from a bourbon cask. Also, most of the other OMC 20th anniversary releases I’ve reviewed have been pretty good—so the odds are good, right? That’s what I told myself anyway when I purchased a bottle a day after going in on this split but before tasting this sample. Let’s see if I’m going to regret that hastiness.
Croftengea 13, 2005 (50%; OMC, 20th Anniv. Release; from a bottle split)
Nose: Big peat, farmy, rubbery—rather Ledaig’ish though without as much of the dead rodent in wet undergrowth. On the second sniff there’s some lemon mixed in there as well. With time and then a few drops of water it gets more acidic and the smoke gets ashier and also more phenolic. Continue reading →
The cognac reviews continue. And for a change here’s one that isn’t a Vallein Tercinier. You may remember that I loved their Lot 70 (for Flask) and Rue 71 and thought their Lot 90 (also for Flask) was very good too. Today’s cognac, however, is from Francois Voyer. I know nothing about the world of cognac and so cannot tell you anything about the relative significances of these producers. Nor can I tell you exactly what “Extra” signifies here. Unlike in the Scotch whisky world there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of exactness about age with cognac. You have to believe that Lot 70 truly indicates that the brandy was distilled in 1970 and aged continuously in oak till it was bottled in 2018 or whenever. And a term like “Extra”, which would invite derision in the NAS-heavy world of single malt whisky is trusted to refer to cognac that may indeed be more than 30 years of age. I guess, despite their lack of exactness, cognac producers haven’t done as much as Scotch whisky companies to make consumers leery about their claims. Continue reading →
On Tuesday I reviewed the 2019 release of the Springbank 21. Here now is another recent Campbeltown release: a new NAS heavily peated whisky from Kilkerran. I don’t really pay attention to whisky news anymore and so I had no idea that this had been in the works. Like most optimistic idiots I’d assumed that once Kilkerran aged their stocks up they’d be putting out whiskies with age statements. And given how good the 2016 release of the Kilkerran 12 was I’d assumed they were just continuing on that path. But here’s a heavily peated NAS release. What is the impetus for this? To capture some more of the heavily peated market? Doesn’t the NAS Longrow already aim to do that for the group? I do hope they’re not going to do a Kilchoman-like pivot to a series of NAS malts. They put out an 8 yo at cask strength not too long ago; I’m assuming this one is a year or two younger than that. And that one I thought was rather unremarkable. That doesn’t seem to bode well for this. But the proof will be in the glass. Let’s see. Continue reading →
I am a big fan of the whiskies made at the Springbank distillery but not always a fan of their pricing, especially in the US. On the one hand the price of the 10 yo has remained constant for a long time (and it offers great value) and the 15 yo too—at this point anyway—remains reasonably priced for the age (and also very good). But after that the prices begin to go through the roof. The 18 yo is very expensive and the 21 yo even more so still. The lowest price currently shown for it in the US on Winesearcher is $350 (before tax) and there are stores charging north of $500 for it. As far as I can make out the justification for this is that it is not made in very large quantities and Springbank is a cult distillery. Certainly, while the only other Springbank 21 I’ve had was very good (the 2013 release) it did not remotely justify the price being asked for it then (which was about the same as the current price). Will this 2019 version be a lot better? I’m not sure but I’m curious to see what a Springbank from a combination of rum and port casks—which is what this is—is like. I’ve had rum cask Springbank and port cask Springbank and neither made me wish for more of those over their regular bourbon and sherry offerings. Let’s see how it goes. Continue reading →
I have Sku to blame for my sudden interest in cognac. He’s been going on about brandy in general for a good while now—you may remember that in 2013 he’d proclaimed the Golden Age of Brandy. I took that as a sign and a couple of months later promptly started this whisky blog (well, it used to be a whisky blog then). I ignored the whole brandy thing for a while till the bastard got me into first calvados and then armagnac. And then this past winter, when we met in Los Angeles, he passed me a bunch of samples, which included the Vallein Tercinier, Lot 70. As you may recall, I liked that one a lot. Enough to grab a couple of bottles. And enough in fact to look more fully into this cognac thing. One thing led to another and I purchased a few older cognacs and passed samples of the couple I’ve opened so far on to Sku. I was going to ask him what he thought of them but then I thought I’d ask him if he’d be willing to share his notes alongside mine on the blog. He readily agreed—clearly he misses writing reviews. Here then is the first of two cognac reviews that feature my tasting notes and then below them a terse capsule review of the kind we all enjoyed on Sku’s Recent Eats before he shut up shop. Try to control your emotions. Continue reading →
You think watching the last season of Game of Thrones was hard? You should have tried watching the last season of Game of Thrones *and* reviewing all eight of Diageo’s Game of Thrones malts. Sure, only a couple have been completely dull but only a couple so far have been better than decent (the Lagavulin and the Clynelish). Nor have very many of the pairings made much sense: House Lannister (built on gold mines) got the smoky Lagavulin while the dragon-riding Targaryens got the Cardhu Gold. The Night’s Watch being assigned Oban makes very little sense as well. The Night’s Watch is at the very north of the known world of Westeros; shouldn’t they have been matched with one of the northernmost distilleries? If you ask me, House Stark should have been given Glen Ord or Teaninich instead of Dalwhinnie (which should have gone to House Tyrell), and the Night’s Watch should have got Clynelish. I’m upset about this because none of it matters. On to the whisky. Continue reading →
Could it be that the fate of the Breaker of Chains on Game of Thrones was signaled by spirits behemoth, Diageo? You see, as part of their Game of Thrones whisky marketing gimmick they matched House Targaryen with the Cardhu distillery. The natural pairing would have been with the one highly smoky whisky in the lineup; but that Lagavulin was given to House Lannister who really should have been paired with this release of Cardhu Gold. As it happens, House Lannister survived the ending of Game of Thrones while Daenerys Targaryen’s corpse was probably dropped into the sea when Drogon absent-mindedly flexed his claws mid-flight. Her heel turn prior to her demise shocked a lot of people—it had been signaled but not properly developed on the show—but we should have seen it coming, No house is going to rule a continent that has as its namesake whisky an artificially coloured malt from a minor distillery bottled at 40%. Daenerys Targaryen deserved a better arc on Game of Thrones and a better whisky too. All men must die, as that cheerful Valyrian saying goes, but it does not follow that all men must drink mediocre whisky while still among the living. Continue reading →
So, Game of Thrones is done. No matter how you feel about Daenerys Targaryen, I can’t help feel she deserved to go out better than Roose Bolton. I mean the magic was strong with her: she was able to project her voice so that people hundreds and hundreds of feet away were able to hear her over the neighing of horses. And then she got stabbed by a guy who couldn’t be trusted to take his sword into a guarded cell but could apparently walk up to the queen with multiple stabby weapons with no guards present. Oh yes, SPOILER ALERT!
I was expecting to have the review right after the series finale be of the House Targaryen whisky but I’ve decided instead to go with House Tully, in honour of Erdmure Tully who re-emerged right on cue to be embarrassed again. House Tully is a dull, dull house and fittingly Diageo have matched them with Glendullan, a dull, dull distillery. I know I always say that every distillery is capable of producing great whiskies but I’m not sure anyone has ever had a great Glendullan. It would be a Game of Thrones level shocker if this turned out to be a great one but, alas, it is not. Oh yes, SPOILER ALERT! Continue reading →