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
Despite reviews of whiskies from two Campbeltown distilleries—Springbank and Kilkerran—last week was not a Campbeltown whisky week. Instead, with Friday’s Lagavulin 2020 Feis Ile release it became a week of sherry cask whiskies. This week, however, is a Campbeltown week. But the whiskies are all from the third Campbeltown distilllery, the one no one ever gets very excited about: Glen Scotia. And to
double quadruple the theme it’ll also be a week of reviews of Scotch Malt Whisky Society releases of Glen Scotia, all from bourbon barrels.
I’ve not reviewed very many Glen Scotias. The first few were all indie releases and I liked them a lot, including a 20 yo bottled by Whiskybase’s Archives label and a 40 yo bottled by Malts of Scotland. Of late, however, I’ve mostly reviewed official releases, none of which have gotten me very excited. Let’s see if this SMWS series brings out the distillery’s most interesting qualities. We’ll start with the youngest and work our way up. This 11 yo is one the Society’s studiedly whimsical tasting panel decided to call “Aladdin’s Cave”. Let’s see if it turns out to be rich or exciting at all. Continue reading
The new month may have begun in the middle of the week but that doesn’t mean I’m going to not keep this week themed as well. And no, the fact that Monday’s review was of a Springbank and today’s is of a Kilkerran does not mean the theme is Campbeltown. This will instead be a week of sherry cask reviews. I’m not sure what Friday’s review will be of but while I have a few sherry cask-matured whiskies on the long list for June I don’t have any more from Campbeltown.
It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a Kilkerran (almost exactly two years in fact) and indeed I’ve not reviewed very many of their releases or, for that matter, stayed current on what they’re up to. I’ve really liked all the Kilkerrans I’ve tried, though I think those may all have been from bourbon casks. Well, let’s hope I find this one to be a better exemplar of the distillery’s style than I did Monday’s Springbank Local Barley. Continue reading
For the last review of May I have the 2020 edition of the Springbank Local Barley. Seemingly an annual fixture in Springbank’s portfolio of releases, the Local Barley releases that I have had have all been very good. The ones that I have had and reviewed are the 16 yo released in 2016 that re-launched this series; the 11 yo released in 2017; the 9 yo released in 2018; and the 10 yo released in 2019. There may be others released in this period that I’ve missed; if so, please let me know. The 2020 release sticks close to the age range of the post-2016 releases—it’s another 10 yo—but it departs from all its predecessors in cask type. While those were all either from ex-bourbon casks or ex-bourbon cask dominated (the 2019 release had 20% sherry casks in the vatting to 77% bourbon) this one was matured entirely in oloroso sherry casks. Between the sherry cask involvement—and resulting dark colour—and the general mania that has built up about this series, this release apparently went for pretty silly money in both the US and Europe—for quite a lot more than the retail price of $160 or so asked for the 16 yo in 2016. Such is life. I did not get a bottle but I did go in on a split from which I got all of one oz. For the little they’re worth, here are my notes. Continue reading
Springbank week began on Monday with a review of the 2019 edition of the Local Barley. On Wednesday I had a rather more untimely review: the 2009 release of the Hazelburn 12. Today’s review is far more timely, being of a whisky released in 2020. But the whisky world being what it is these days, you may not have very much luck in finding a bottle. And Springbank prices being what they are these days, even if you did you’d probably have to sell a kidney to buy it. The whisky in question is a 17 yo billed on the front label as “Madeira Cask Matured”. In fact—as the rear label clarifies—it’s a vatting of 14 yo rum and bourbon cask spirit matured for a further 3 years in fresh madeira hogsheads. As it happens, one of the first Springbanks I had outside of the standard age-stated lineup was an 11 yo Madeira wood release from 2009—well before I started this blog—and I liked that one a lot (I think I still have a bottle of it on my shelves). And I also quite liked a 14 yo released by K&L in 2011 as well as a 16 yo released in 2013 that was double matured for 10 + 6 years in bourbon and madeira casks. So the odds seem to be in favour of my liking this one as well, despite its more Frankenstein’s monster’ish composition. Let’s see if that actually proves to to be the case. Continue reading
Springbank week began with the 2019 release in the Local Barley series. It continues with a Hazelburn 12 released a decade before that. This is one of many bottles that I purchased in the 2008-2012 timeframe—also known as The End of the Golden Age of Single Malt Whisky—and never got around to opening (on account of having purchased too many bottles of whisky at the time). Well, I’m opening them up now one by one and the time of this Hazelburn has come.
As you doubtless know, Hazelburn is the triple-distilled, nominally unpeated whisky produced at Springbank. I say “nominally unpeated” because among the Hazelburns I’ve reviewed (not very many) is one that had fairly palpable peat. That was an 8 yo from a bourbon cask. I’ve also reviewed another 8 yo doubled matured in a Sauternes cask and more recently a 14 yo from an oloroso sherry cask. I liked them all fine but none got me very excited (I scored them all in the 84-86 point window). This one also clearly has a heavy sherry component—let’s see where it falls. Continue reading
Having done a week of reviews of highland malts, let’s go all the way down south from Tain to Campbeltown for a week of reviews of whiskies from the Springbank distillery: two Springbanks and a Hazelburn.
Let’s begin with a Springbank 10. This is part of the vaunted Local Barley series; it was distilled in 2009 and bottled in 2019. Another 10 yo was released in 2020 in the same series but that one was, I believe, matured entirely in oloroso casks. This one is put together in a complicated manner, involving 77% bourbon cask whisky, 20% sherry cask whisky and 3% port cask whisky. I’m sure there are people who swear by that 3% of port casks but I’ll be shocked if I’ll be able to find any trace of it here. I won’t be shocked, however, if I like this a lot. I’ve liked all the others I’ve had in the Local Barley series a lot: I’ve previously reviewed a 16 yo, an 11 yo and a 9 yo. That 9 yo was also from the 2009 vintage but I think it was made in altogether more conventional way. At any rate, if this is as good as that one was I’ll be very happy indeed. Let’s see if that proves to be the case. Continue reading
Okay, let’s make it three peat weeks in a row. Unlike Caol Ila week and Lagavulin week, this week saw stops at Laphroaig and Bowmore and now I’m at a third distillery that isn’t even on Islay. We’re not that far away in the scheme of things though—at Springbank in Campbeltown. Monday’s Laphroaig was from a bourbon cask and Wednesday’s Bowmore was a port finish; this Longrow is from a fresh sherry hogshead and was bottled for the Nectar in Belgium. All of that should add up to goodness but you never really know. My last Longrow from a first-fill sherry cask was this 13 yo which I was not very crazy about—a bit too much sulphur, even for me. I did like the last Springbank I reviewed, which was coincidentally also of a sherry cask, though a bit younger at 12 years old and from quite a few year previous; and, of course, not as heavily peated—at least in theory–as Longrow usually is. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading
I found this bottle of the Glen Scotia 15 on my shelves a month or so ago. It was a big surprise to me as I had no record or memory of ever having purchased it. After a bit of forensic analysis of credit card statements I was able to determine that I almost certainly purchased it at our local Costco a few days before we left for India in January 2020. Given everything that happened in short order after we got back I think I can be excused for not remembering this purchase. I think I must have bought it on a whim because it was on sale for less than $60 and that must have seemed like a good price for a 15 yo whisky at 46%. I mean, it is a very good price for a 15 yo whisky at 46%. As to whether that is its normal price in the US market, I don’t know: I have not looked. Anyway, I am very glad to add to my series of reviews of the current Glen Scotia core range and can only hope I will like it more than I did the NAS twins, the Double Cask and the Victoriana (which I reviewed last month). Let’s see how it goes. Continue reading
Thanks to you-know-what, none of the Scottish whisky festivals were held in 2020. Most distilleries released what would have been their festival bottles anyway. This would have been Glen Scotia’s at the Campbeltown festival. Was it their only festival release? I have to admit that I’ve not really tracked whisky festivals beyond Feis Ile very much; indeed, this may be my first review of a Campbeltown festival release (though I’m probably forgetting something). Unlike my last two official Glen Scotias (including the Double Cask and Monday’s Victoriana) this one has an age statement. It’s a 14 yo matured first in first-fill barrels and then finished in American oak hogsheads that had been treated with tawny port. How long in each container, I don’t know—if you do, please write in below. Will this be the first official Glen Scotia I like a lot? My track record with port-bothered whiskies would suggest that’s unlikely. But I’m famous for my open-mindedness. Let’s see what this one is like. Continue reading
Now that I am a whisky blogger who only reviews official releases here’s one from Campbeltown. The Victoriana is a NAS release that was added to the revamped Glen Scotia lineup (which revamp, I can’t remember) in 2015. That it’s an official NAS release is no surprise: pretty much every distillery had at least one NAS release by 2015. However, it’s unusual in that it’s bottled at a relatively high strength, Also somewhat unusual is the manner in which it is put together: after initial ex-bourbon maturing 30% of the eventual vatting goes into first-fill PX casks and the rest goes into heavily charred American oak. Wouldn’t it just be easier to make a 12 yo ex-bourbon whisky from refill casks? I know, I’m a very simple man. But however it’s made, is this any good? I know I didn’t care at all for Glen Scotia’s other NAS core release, the Double Cask. At the time I said “I wouldn’t buy it for $20 leave alone the $75+ being asked for it in Minnesota”. Well, the Victoriana is currently $90+. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
Let’s stay in Campbeltown, at the Springbank distillery, for one more day; but let’s not get any more timely than last Friday’s 2010 release of the Springbank 18. Indeed, this whisky was released in 2009. It was one of four sherry cask releases for the US market under the “Wood Expressions” banner. All were distilled in 1996. I’ve reviewed two of the others: the oloroso and the fino. This cream sherry cask was actually the first one I opened even though it’s the last I’m reviewing—I’d saved a 6 oz sample from it as used to be my usual practice at the time. Well, usual but not invariable: I have no saved sample I can find of the amontillado cask even though my spreadsheet says I’d consumed a bottle of that around the same time as this one. Ah well. I stopped preserving 6 oz samples from bottles a few years ago, as my shelves had gotten overrun with them and I was worried they’d degrade before I got to them all. Most of the ones I’ve opened recently have been in perfect condition, however, both making me thankful that I saved some of these to try again many years later and making me wonder if I should re-start the practice now so I can savour some of the bottles I’m opening now in another 8-10 years. Time warps and whatnot. Continue reading
Okay, done with the heavy peat but let’s stay on Campbeltown through the end of the week. Having lapsed into relevance on Wednesday with a review of the 2020 release of the Longrow 18—a whisky that is still available—let me now go back to my core competency: reviews of whiskies released 10 years ago. I reviewed the 2016 release of the Springbank 18 last month and mentioned then that I had a reference sample saved from my first-ever bottle of the Springbank 18, released in 2010. I managed to locate it and tasted it somewhat nervously, fully expecting that it had gone flat. But it had not and indeed tracked very well with the truncated notes I’d taken on the bottle in those pre-blog days. I drank the rest of this down in very quick order after taking these notes. Spoiler alert: I really enjoyed it. However, I doubt I will buy another bottle of Springbank 18 anytime soon. This is not due to the fact that the current Springbank 18 has less sherry in the mix but because it costs the bloody earth. Continue reading
Okay, I am done with my mini-tour of Islay (stops at Caol Ila, Bowmore, Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg). But I’m not done with peat. Let’s take the ferry back to the mainland and head south, to Campbeltown. And let’s get quite timely for a change. This is the 2020 release of the Longrow 18. I reviewed the 2019 release last year and thought it was just excellent. Will this be as good? Well, it’s certainly not made in the same way. Though I did not note it in that review, the 2019 release was put together from a vatting that was 75% ex-sherry and 25% ex-bourbon casks. This year’s edition has a more complicated composition, being from 25% ex-bourbon, 55% ex-sherry and
4520% ex-rum casks. Now, I’ve never had a Longrow that had been near rum casks before—that I know of at any rate—and I’ve never been too impressed with any whisky that came out of a rum cask, but I am a little bit intrigued anyway to see what that might do to Longrow’s trademark austere character. Let’s see. Continue reading
Okay, after Taiwanese and Irish whiskies and French brandy, let’s get back to Scottish single malt whisky. Here is a Springbank. This is the youngest of the whiskies released widely so far in their recent Local Barley series. I’ve so far reviewed the 16 yo (released in 2016) and the 11 yo (released in 2017). There were also a couple of 10 yo releases, I think—in 2017 and 2019—and this year a 8 yo. The 16 yo I thought was excellent and the 11 yo only a little short of that. Where will the 9 yo, released in 2018, fall? Let’s see.
Springbank 9, 2009, Local Barley (57.7%; from a bottle split)
Nose: Peppery and peaty to start with a mix of rubber and hot tarmac coming up from below. Salt on the second sniff and some sweetness under the rubber that I can’t quite pick. With air the familiar Springbank notes of sackcloth/burlap and cracked spices (mustard seed, coriander seed) begin to come through along with some dried mango. As it sits the sweet note expands and becomes fruitier (plum, apricot, lemon) and more honeyed. About 40 minutes in the nose is just brilliant with all of the above plus some cream. A few drops of water and there’s more brine, more cracked spices, more apricot and more cream; plus some dried orange peel. Continue reading
An old post of mine on distillery character and whether it exists suddenly became very popular earlier this week—I guess someone linked to it somewhere on Facebook? In that post I registered skepticism about the idea of distillery character as normally bandied about by whisky geeks. I have to admit though that Springbank is the distillery that most rebukes my argument (the exception that proves the rule?) with a profile that is remarkably consistent across official and (rare) independent releases and across their Springbank and Longrow lines (it’s been a long time since I had a Hazelburn). Indeed, the Springbank DNA is evident in Kilkerran as well. That profile is present in spades in this Springbank 18 as well (spoiler alert: I rather like it). I’m very glad to review this 2016 release, not just because I love that Springbank profile but because I was under the impression I’d reviewed more than one Springbank 18 in the past when in fact I have hitherto reviewed a total of zero. It’s high time this gap was filled. Continue reading
On Wednesday I had a review of the Springbank 1997, Batch 1, released in 2007. Here now is a review of Batch 2, released a year later. This one I did purchase a whole bottle of. I liked Batch 1 a lot and so am hoping that Batch 2 will be comparable. Let’s see if it in fact is.
Springbank 1997, Batch 2 (54.9%; from my own bottle)
Nose: Typical Springbank notes of damp earth and sackcloth with some dried orange peel and some coastal notes (kelp, brine, seashells) running through them. With time there’s more salt and some red fruit—plum?—along with the orange peel. Sweeter and softer with water (cream, malt) at first and then some pencil lead. Continue reading