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
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
Okay, after a week of bourbon reviews let’s do a week of Campbeltown reviews. This is going to be a very low-utility series as all the reviews are going to be of bottles that were hand-filled at Springbank (presumably) in August. I did not fill them myself; I went in on a bottle split with the person who did. My understanding is that these hand-fills are not single casks but more like infinity vattings that get topped up when they get too low. And given the likely foot traffic at Springbank in the summer it’s quite likely that the composition turns over every day or two. I’ll start with the Hazelburn—the triple-distilled, unpeated variant of Springbank—then go on to the Springbank hand-fill and finally end the week with the Longrow, which is nominally more heavily peated than Springbank. I say “nominally” because in practice it’s not always possible to tell the peat levels of Springbank and Longrow apart; and, in fact, I’ve even had a Hazelburn that had more than a bit of peat in it. Let’s see where this one falls. Continue reading
Having spent a week in October reviewing whiskies from Kilkerran/Glengyle, let’s close the month out with a whisky from the big boy on the Campbeltown block: Springbank. But as a month finishes, a week begins, and so let’s make this the first whisky of the week with sherry involvement. Now, the Springbank 18’s cask composition has varied a fair bit over the last decade or so. In most years there’s been a decent amount of sherry casks in the mix. In 2016 it was 80% sherry, 20% bourbon; in 2017 the ratio shifted to 60-40; in 2020 it was 55-45 and in 2021, 50-50 sherry and bourbon. Contrariwise, in 2015 and 2018 it was all ex-bourbon and in 2019 it was apparently 88% bourbon and 12% port. Meanwhile it appears the 2022 release (not yet in the US, I don’t think) is 65% bourbon and 35% sherry. (All this info, by the way, is pulled from the Whiskybase listings for Springbank 18.) Well, the most recent Springbank 18 I’ve reviewed was from the sherry-heavy 2016 release. I’ve not kept up with it since as in the intervening period—the whisky world having gone crazy—Springbank’s whiskies have become heavily allocated in the US. It was a major achievement finding a few bottles of the 2021 Springbank 10 this spring and when I saw that one of the stores I got those from had the 18 yo as well, I couldn’t resist it despite the high price tag. My first impressions were not super positive but the bottle’s come on nicely since then. Here now are my notes. Continue reading
Kilkerran week got off to a good start on Monday with Batch 6 in their 8 yo Cask Strength series, which was matured in sherry casks. It then hit a bit of a bump in the road on Wednesday with Batch 7 in that series, which was matured in port casks. Here now to close out the week is Batch 4 of a different Kilkerran series, the Heavily Peated. I’ve previously reviewed Batch 1 from this series, and I was not terribly impressed by it. You might think that would bode ill for this review but I think this one is a bit older. I believe the series—also referred to as Peat in Progress—features progressively older iterations of the heavily peated distillate. It doesn’t appear to be the case though that every release is a year older than the previous. As per Whiskybase, Batch 1 and Batch 2 both came out in 2019, Batch 3 in 2020 and both Batch 4 and Batch 5 in 2021; and Batch 6—the latest—came out this year. So this is probably only a little bit older than Batch 1. But enough to make a difference? Let’s see. Continue reading
Kilkerran week got off to a strong start on Monday with Batch 6 of their 8 yo cask strength series. That one was matured in sherry casks and was a lovely example of the earthy Campbeltown sherry profile that should be very familiar to aficionados of Springbank’s whisky. Today I have for you a review of Batch 7 which was matured in port casks. It’s no secret that I am in general dubious about port cask whiskies. That said, the port-matured whiskies that work best for me tend to be ones with peat in the mix and there’s certainly some peat in the mix in these Kilkerran 8 CS releases. Will that be enough to elevate this port cask release? Let’s see.
Kilkerran 8 CS, Batch 7, Port Cask (57.9%; from a bottle split)
Nose: Very much like the sherry cask at first sniff with roasted malt, damp earth, orange peel and brine in the front. Just a bit of sweetness around the edges to signal the port cask. More sourness on subsequent sniffs—tart cherry and orange but also oak—and a nutty/beany note. With time the sour oak recedes and the tart cherry and orange resolve to apricot; some char too now. A few drops of water push the oak back altogether. Continue reading
Following a week of Kilchoman and a week of Jamaican rum, let’s do a week of Kilkerran. As you may know, Kilkerran is not the name of a distillery but the brand of whisky produced at the Glengyle distillery in Campbeltown. (See here for why the whisky produced there is sold under the name Kilkerran and not Glengyle.) Glengyle is owned by the same people who own Springbank and made in much the same way. Or at least so I assume as I find a lot in common between the whiskies produced at Springbank and the Kilkerrans I’ve tried—I suppose you could put this down to terroir if you believe in it in the context of whisky. The one I am tasting today is the sixth batch in their Kilkerran 8 CS series. I’ve previously reviewed Batch 1 (ex-bourbon), Batch 4 (re-charred oloroso sherry) and Batch 5 (first-fill oloroso sherry). Batch 6 is also from sherry casks but there doesn’t seem to be any further detail on cask type specified. It was released earlier this year which makes this quite a timely review by my standards. Let’s get into it. 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
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
Yes, this is Campbeltown week. On Monday I reviewed a Kilkerran released in 2009; today I have a Glen Scotia released a decade later. What is time to me? A toy! A nothing! I move through it like a wayward god! Kneel before me!
Er, where was I? I’ve had a pretty good run with Glen Scotias bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in the last year and change. All have been from bourbon casks—and all have been releases in the vicinity of this one (93.138). Some have been truly excellent; none have come close to being bad. These have included, most recently, an 8 yo (93.145) that I clocked at 89 points and a 17 yo (93.140) that I thought was good for 88. And before that was a 12 yo (93.135) that I gave 87 points. That’s a pretty good spread across the sub-20 yo age spectrum. So I am confident that this one will anchor the middle of the week well. Let’s see if that proves to be the case. Continue reading
People who have come to single malt whisky more recently probably get impatient when people like me talk about how different things were 10-15 years ago in terms of selection and price. But what you don’t understand is the hardships we also went through then. For example, when Kilkerran started releasing their Work in Progress series annually in 2009 they didn’t put the years or any other identifying marks on the labels. The only way to know which was which was by the colour of the label. And as in that period you didn’t need to rush out within hours of release to be sure of getting a bottle of even limited releases—and could indeed wait a year or three before buying anything—you would often find yourself in a shop looking at a bottle of Kilkerran Work in Progress, trying to work out what colour the label was and whether it was one you already owned. This was, I tell you, a terrible, terrible hardship. No matter whatever else may have happened in the whisky world since, I think we can all be glad that nightmare is over. Continue reading
There have been a few general batch-numbered releases of a Kilkerran 8 CS in recent years. Going off the Whiskybase listings it would appear that the first couple of of these appeared in 2017 (I am not counting previous single cask releases or releases available only at the distillery). The 2017 (Batch 1 and Batch 2) and 2018 (Batch 3) releases were from bourbon casks. I was not the biggest fan of Batch 1 and have not tried the second or third batches. Batch 4 was released in 2019—I reviewed it earlier this year and after an unpromising opening rather liked—and was matured in re-charred oloroso sherry casks. After a year’s break, 2021’s release (Batch 5) is once again from oloroso sherry casks but this time they were first-fill oloroso casks. This is the release I am reviewing today as the first in a week of sherry cask whiskies. On Wednesday I’ll check in with a Balvenie single sherry cask and I’ll close out the week appropriately on Friday with The Whisky Exchange’s recent “A Fine Christmas Malt”. But first let’s get into this one. Continue reading
Closing out Campbeltown Week is the sherry cask counterpart to Wednesday’s excellent bourbon cask iteration of Kilkerran’s Work in Progress 5 release. This was, if I remember correctly, the first sherry cask release in the series—a feature repeated in the following Work in Progress releases. The Bourbon Wood was one of the best young whiskies I’ve had (and Monday’s 8 yo Glen Scotia was very good too). How will the Sherry Wood compare? Only one way to find out.
Kilkerran Work in Progress 5, Sherry Wood (46%; from my own bottle)
Nose: Though they’re exactly the same age and distillate this noses quite a bit younger than the Bourbon Wood with a mezcal-like note coming off the top. Below it is slightly rubbery peat, some lemon, some chalk and a lot of salt. Not much change with time. With a few drops of water it actually gets a little closer to the Bourbon as it becomes more austere and both the rubbery peat and the mezcal recede; more sweetness now: a bit of vanilla and some wet stones. 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
Today’s review is of another Scotch Malt Whisky Society bottling of Glen Scotia. With my usual scrupulous attention to detail I had listed SMWS 93.140 in this month’s “Coming Soon” post. When going to review it I realized that I’d already reviewed it back in June. What I’d meant to list was the 93.145, which is less than half the age of the 93.140. That one was 17 years old, this one is 8 years old; both are from refill bourbon barrels. I’m hoping it might be in the general ballpark of the other, which I really liked. And I have to say that I have, on the whole, quite appreciated the few SMWS Glen Scotias I’ve had. Given the general low visibility of the official releases in the US and the even greater paucity of indie releases here from other directions, the SMWS remains one of the few places where the profile of distilleries such as Glen Scotia (or Ardmore) can be explored (if not at a reasonable price, usually). Anyway, let’s see what this one is like. The SMWS tasting panel dubbed it “Sweet Filth” which is certainly promising. Continue reading
Glen Scotia Week comes to an end but most of you probably didn’t notice. Monday’s 11 yo and Wednesday’s 12 yo didn’t exactly get a lot of interest: just about 50 views each so far this week. I doubt today’s 17 yo will attract a lot more attention. Some of this is doubtless down to the fact that my own whisky readership has likely declined in the last couple of years even as my food readership has grown. However, a lot of it is probably down to the low to non-existent profile of Glen Scotia. They’ve never been a distillery with a high profile and the owners’ attempts to raise that profile over the last decade via various ill-conceived branding makeovers has doubtless not helped. It’s also the case that they continue to make a relatively old-school, austere type of whisky that doesn’t perhaps have a natural home in the contemporary whisky geek market which remains focused on whiskies that are either heavily sherried, heavily peated or both. Well, I can’t say I’ve found very many of the not-very many Glen Scotias I’ve had to be very exciting but outside of the official releases I’ve found them all to be interesting departures from the mainstream of Scottish single malt whisky. It would be good, I think, if more whisky geeks expanded their tasting portfolios, so to speak. Continue reading
Glen Scotia Week is burning up the internet! Actually, that’s not true: barely anyone read Monday’s review of SMWS 93.118 (an 11 yo distilled in 2007). Undeterred, I carry on with SMWS 93.135 (a 12 yo distilled in 2007). This is also a first-fill bourbon barrel. I liked 93.118—will the extra year on 93.135 translate to an extra point or two? Let’s see.
Glen Scotia 12, 2007 (56.9%; SMWS 93.135; first-fill bourbon barrel; from a bottle split)
Nose: More lemon here right off the bat than in Monday’s 11 yo and more of the machine shop grease; and the oak is not really very present in this one. With time and air there’s some sweeter fruit (hard to pick: a hint of peach?) and some cream. The mineral notes expand with a few drops of water (some carbon paper/graphite here now) and then the richer fruit pops out (yes, some peach and also some pineapple). As it sits again there’s quite a bit of citronella and more of the cream. Continue reading