John McCrae/Balvenie 28, 1991 (Hepburn’s Choice for K&L)

John McCrae:Balvenie 28, 1991, Hepburn's Choice
Okay, let’s end the month with another older Speyside from a bourbon cask, and having started the month with one of K&L’s recent exclusives, let’s end it with another. This is one more of the many teaspooned casks released by K&L this year, in this case a teaspooned Balvenie—why John McCrae, I have no idea. As far as I can make out from K&L’s marketing spiel, this cask was not teaspooned prior to bottling but right at the beginning when the spirit entered the cask, presumably using a bit from one of William Grant’s other malts (Glenfiddich or Kininvie) but that’s only speculation on my part. Balvenie almost never shows up under its own name from independent bottlers— and very rarely shows up at all by any name. And so, however this was made and sent out into the world, it is a welcome opportunity to try older bourbon cask Balvenie. Let’s hope what’s in the bottle doesn’t let me down. Continue reading

Glencoe 8


Let’s close the month with a Scotch whisky that is neither a single malt nor a blend. Yes, it’s in everybody’s favourite confusingly named category: blended malt whisky! Once known more clearly as “vatted whisky”, this category comprises vattings of malt (but no grain) whiskies from more than one distillery. There’s not very many of these out there from big name producers—William Grant & Sons’ Monkey Shoulder comes to mind, as does Diageo’s Green Label. Otherwise, this category is mostly the province of people like the bespoke suit-clad gents at Compass Box. This Glencoe 8 is a product of the owners of Ben Nevis and it’s barely a blended/vatted malt. The story seems to be that it is made up of malt from Ben Nevis and one other distillery (which one? I don’t know). The even more unusual things about are its age statement, proof and price. Normally you’d expect a distillery to dilute something like this down well below 50%, swap out the age statement for words such as “Reserve”, “Select”, “Pride” or something in Gaelic and sell it for a very high price. Good on the Ben Nevis brain trust for not doing any of those things. Well, that last part is true in the UK where this goes for £40 or so; the few listings I found for the US were closer to $100. This sample comes from a bottle released a couple of years ago with a label different from the current iteration—which is in line with the new Ben Nevis house label; the whisky in the bottle itself has apparently not changed. But what is that whisky in the bottle like? Continue reading

Spirit of Speyside 10, Festival Bottling, 2018


I mentioned this whisky yesterday in my write-up of our visit to Glen Grant just shy of a month ago. It is the only thing we purchased at the distillery. Well, when I say “we”, I mean that my friend Daniel purchased this 200 ml bottle (we didn’t see any other size of bottle).  It was bottled for the 2018 iteration of the annual Spirit of Speyside festival—which took place in early May, I think. 200 ml bottles seem like a good idea for this kind of thing—not too expensive and more bottles for more people to try. As per the young man I asked about it at the distillery, it is a blend of a number of Speyside single malts, all aged at least 10 years. I’m not sure if a vatting of this kind is released every year for the festival or if they’re always 10 years old or both. I assume some of the distilleries release their own exclusives a la the Islay distilleries for Feis Ile. At any rate, it seemed like an appropriate whisky to drink at the end of our first full day in the Speyside. Did that prove to be the case?  Continue reading

Atholl Highlander


As noted in my report on a quick visit to Tomatin, we’d spent a few hours that day at Blair Castle. (There is, of course, a distillery near Blair Castle as well (Blair Atholl) but we did not go there.) As I’ve also noted, we really enjoyed Blair Castle. We didn’t really know what to expect as it doesn’t look like your classic grey, stone fortress. But it turned out to be a great first stop on a rainy day, with a nice woodland drive to it from the A9 as a bonus. The castle has a large number of rooms open to visitors and it’s particularly good with small children as they have a detailed activity sheet that keeps them occupied and interested during the self-guided tour. Alas, due to the rain we were not able to visit their gardens, which are apparently rather lovely. Blair Castle, as you may know, has a private army, the Atholl Highlanders. We missed their annual parade and gathering by about 10 days but didn’t miss this whisky which is said to be  bottled “Exclusively for the Atholl Highlanders” but is also available to any and all civilians in the gift shop. It’s not expensive but I restricted myself to a mini, which, later that evening, became the first highland malt that I drank in the highlands. Unfortunately, it was not the best highland malt I had in the highlands… Continue reading

Peat Monster, 10th Anniversary (Compass Box)

Compass Box Peat Monster, 10th Anniversary
This review commemorates the 2nd anniversary of the release of the 10th anniversary edition of Compass Box’s Peat Monster. The regular peat monster is a bit of a misnomer as it’s not really much of a peat monster—it’s certainly not in Ardbeg Supernova or Port Charlotte or Octomore territory. Nonetheless, it’s quite beloved of whisky geeks. As I’ve noted before, I’m never sure how much of the love thrown Compass Box’s way is on the merits of what they bottle and how much a mix of a love of the idea of Compass Box and/or an appreciation of their laudable transparency about their recipes and processes (at least until the Scotch Whisky Association recently slammed them for it)—I’m sure the bespoke packaging and quirky names help too (as does the fact that John Glaser seems like a very genial gent).

Anyway, my hit rate with them is not as good as their reputation would suggest. I did not care for the widely loved Hedonism and thought Great King Street was just okay; I did like Eleuthera though. Calibrate your opinion of my review of this one accordingly.  Continue reading

Blue Hanger, 7th Release

Blue Hanger, 7th Release
Blue Hanger is the name of a series of blended malts released by the venerable wine merchant and independent bottler of whisky (and other spirits), Berry Bros. & Rudd. There have been a number of releases over the years, though they seem to have picked up speed in recent years after a bit of a hiatus. “Blended malt”, in case you don’t remember, is the now legally correct name for the old category of vatted malts: i.e. whisky composed of malts from multiple distilleries with no grain whisky in the mix (unlike “blended whisky” which is a mix of malt and grain).

As per the K&L website this 7th release was composed of “one hogshead of Bruichladdich 1992, one butt of Bunnahabhain 1990, four hogsheads of Miltonduff 1997, and two hogsheads of Bunnahabhain Moine (peated) 2006”. If sold with an age statement it would therefore have been a 6 or 7 yo (it was released in 2013). In a case like this one it’s understandable if a bottler wants to go the NAS route; it also goes without saying that it’s creditable that they also make it easy to know what’s in the bottle (and in this case there’s quite a bit of whisky aged 15-22 years in it). An interesting mix too with older sherried Bunnahabhain, younger peated bourbon cask Bunnahabhain and quite a bit of bourbon cask Miltonduff (presumably used for its usually fruity character). But what is it like?  Continue reading