Glenmorangie, A Tale of Cake


A week of reviews of Glenmorangie’s recent Private Edition releases comes to an end with the most recent (?), the 2020 release: A Tale of Cake. No, I’m not making that up: that’s the actual name they gave it. I’d said in the introduction to Wednesday’s review of the Allta that its concept—the use of local wild yeast—might have indicated that Glenmorangie’s vaunted high concept team was running out of ideas. Well, the idea behind this one seems to confirm that. Leave alone the fact that it’s a whisky finished in Tokaji wine casks—a reference that strikes fear into the hearts of old-school whisky geeks—this was apparently created to evoke the memory of the joy of cakes eaten in childhood or made with children. Yes, there’s nothing that quite reminds us all of the sweet memories of childhood like whisky! But is this supposed to taste like cake or am I supposed to drink so much of it that I run around giggling dementedly while soiling myself? Well, I suppose if it doesn’t end up tasting like cake I’ll have no other choice. I hope one of you will back me up on this if she initiates divorce proceedings. Then again, who knows? Maybe I’ll like this as much as I liked the Spios, the most conventionally made of the trio. Continue reading

Glenmorangie Allta


Glenmorangie Week continues with the 2019 release in the Private Edition series: Allta. You may recall that the Spios (reviewed on Monday) comprises spirit matured in rye casks. What is the twist in the Allta’s tale? Apparently, it is made using Glenmorangie’s own yeast. No, not harvested from the august personage of Bill Lumsden—I’m told he is very fastidious about hygiene—but wild yeast from somewhere around the distillery. This is either a very interesting thing or they’re running out of ideas. Anyway, let’s get to it.

Glenmorangie Allta (51.2%; from a bottle split)

Nose: The Spios featured big rye notes off the top and the Allta feature big yeasty notes; or at least big sour notes—it’s not particularly bready as the nose on many malts that feature yeasty notes often is. Instead here it melds nicely with lemon and a bit of grass; sort of like the base Glenmorangie spirit with some extra tangy sharpness: it works well enough. Not much change really with water—maybe a bit more acid? Continue reading

Glenmorangie, Spios


Last week featured three malts from highland distilleries, all of which were extremely fruity (from Tomatin, Ardmore and Ben Nevis). I’ll stay in the highlands again this week but take up a brief residency at another distillery: Glenmorangie. And I’ll be reviewing the three most recent annual releases in Glenmorangie’s Private Edition series, all with Gaelic names of one kind or the other—I guess the owners go goofy with Ardbeg’s annual releases and play up Gaelic roots with Glenmorangie. Well, there’s not been much that’s been very Gaelic about these releases which have included a number of wine cask finishes. Such, for example, was the very first release, the Sonnalta (PX finish), the Artein (Sassicaia finish) and the Companta (mix of wine cask finishes). On the other hand, the Ealanta—yes, as I joked many years ago on Twitter, it’s hard to tell the names of Glenmorangie’s special releases apart from those of South Korean sedans—had no wine involvement at all, having been matured in virgin oak casks. The Spios—the 2018 release—also has no wine cask involvement. Instead it’s been matured full-term in rye whiskey casks. This is an experiment that some whisky geeks have been calling for for many years. I remember discussion of it on the WhiskyWhiskyWhisky forums more than a decade ago—a good thing someone finally paid attention. Of course, if Glenmorangie wanted to really impress us they’d also tell us what kind of rye casks these were—MGP? A higher barely rye mashbill from someone else? Well, we can’t expect so much information when the distillery won’t even tell us how old the whisky is. Yes, this is a NAS release. Anyway, let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Tomatin 23, 1976 (OMC)


So here we are at the end of Highlands Week (see here for Wednesday’s Ardmore and here for Monday’s Ben Nevis). It’s been a week of excellent whiskies so far and it’s also been a week of wonderfully fruity whiskies, albeit two of quite different profiles. Today’s Tomatin—which also takes us roughly another decade back in time in terms of bottling year—promises to keep that streak of fruity excellence going and it’s also likely to be of a different profile still. Tomatins of any era—leave alone the 1970s—don’t exhibit the mineral peat of Ardmore or the malty-gingery funkiness of Ben Nevis. What 1970s Tomatins—and 1976 Tomatin in particular—are known for is tropical fruit. I’ve registered on many occasions previously my suspicion of the notion of “magic vintages” for any distillery—usually these high scores turn out to be a case of sampling bias. That said, I have enjoyed the few Tomatin ’76s I’ve had immensely—I’ve reviewed two (here and here). This bottle is one I purchased from Binny’s in Chicago more than a decade after it was released—imagine that a Tomatin 1976 that hung around on the shelf of a major retailer for some 11-12 years—and didn’t pay anything approaching a king’s ransom for it—imagine that as well. There are a couple of these 23 yo, 1976s bottled by Old Malt Cask, by the way. This one was for the US market only (as far as I know), distilled in November 1976 and bottled in July 1999, yielding only 186 bottles. Let’s get into it. Continue reading

Ardmore 19, 1992 (Whisky Doris)


Highlands Week got off to a great and terrifically fruity start on Monday with this Ben Nevis 23. It was also a timely start to the week and month, what with the cask having been bottled only in 2020. Today we go back almost a decade to a cask bottled almost a decade ago in 2012. This Ardmore 19 was one of several of similar age released at that time from the 1992 vintage. I’ve previously reviewed a 20 yo released by Whiskybase under their Archives label and another 20 yo released by the Whisky Agency (are they still around? I don’t think I’ve seen anything released by them in quite some time). Those ran the gamut from very good indeed to excellent. Both the Archives and the Whisky Agency cask were very fruity and so I am hoping that this one will not belie the hope I expressed on Monday that this would turn out to be not only Highlands Week but also Fruity Whisky Week. Let’s see how it goes. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 23, 1996 (First Editions)


Let’s get the month off to a likely fruity start with this Ben Nevis. I have three Ben Nevis on my long list for May and I’d said that if I reviewed a whisky that was part of a listed trio I’d likely review all three—as I’m liking organizing my reviews in a themed manner. However, given that I did a Ben Nevis week back in October and have reviewed three more since then, perhaps I don’t need to do another all Ben Nevis week. Accordingly, this will be the first in another week of reviews of highland malts (and I suspect it will also end up being a week of reviews of highly fruity malts).

This Ben Nevis was released in 2020—thus allowing me to spit in the eye of people who accuse me of only posting useless reviews of whiskies released a long time ago. Well, I don’t know that this review will be of any use to anyone either from a purchasing perspective, as I’d guess this sold out a long time ago. But perhaps some of my readers have or have already finished a bottle of this. If so, please consider sharing your take on it in the comments as well. Continue reading

Glendronach 18, 1994 (PX Puncheon for the UK)


As I said on Monday, the last week of this month is sherry cask month. The week got off to a high abv start with a Glenrothes 12 bottled by the SMWS from a first-fill oloroso sherry cask. Today I have an official Glendronach 18, a PX puncheon bottled for the UK. On release this cost me $103 at the then much higher $/£ exchange rate. These days I’m sure it would cost a far prettier penny on the secondary market.

I have to say I am a little nervous going into this. On the one hand, some of my favourite Glendronachs have involved PX (including this one, also bottled for the UK market). However, my experience also suggests that these PX releases are also the most likely to involve shenanigans from Glendronach’s so-called “single cask” regimen and unsuccessful ones at that. Certainly some of the flabbiest of these alleged “single casks” I’ve had from the distillery have seemed to involve re-racking in PX casks to rescue spirit that had probably gotten over-oaked or just gone flat in terms of flavour. Such, for example, was this one, also a PX puncheon. Let’s hope this is closer to the 1993 than the 1990. Continue reading

Glenmorangie 16, 1993 (SMWS 125.22)


Highlands week started at Dalwhinnie and then moved up north to Dalmore. Let’s go a bit further north today, to Tain and the Glenmorangie distillery. I noted on Wednesday that independent Dalmore is a pretty rare commodity; the same is true of Glenmorangie, indeed, even more so. As per Whiskybase, Dalmore has been bottled by a number of indie outfits; for Glenmorangie, on the other hand, Whiskybase lists very little. It’s a rare distillery that doesn’t have any releases from either Gordon & MacPhail or Cadenhead but Glenmorangie is one of them. Whiskybase shows only one mini from James MacArthur and then a fairly large number of releases from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. The fact that Glenmorangie now owns the SMWS doubtless has something to do with the fact that that is the one indie bottler that gets a number of their casks. As a result it’s also the place to go to try Glenmorangie’s whisky outside of the wine-finished high-concept format that rules their official lineup beyond the 10 and 18 yo. This whisky is one of those: a 16 yo from a first-fill bourbon barrel that the Society saw fit to dub “Vibrant and exotic”. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Cromarty’s Firth/Dalmore 13, 2007 (Hepburn’s Choice for K&L)

Cromarty's Firth:Dalmore 13, 2007, Hepburn's Choice
Let’s stay in the highlands but go 75 miles or so up the A9 from Dalwhinnie to Dalmore.

Dalmore sits on Cromarty Firth, hence presumably the name of this release—though why the possessive has been added to the name I do not know. I haven’t had official Dalmore in ages—not since the prices for their regular releases rose sharply, though not as sharply as the rate of release of bullshit from the distillery, whether in bottled or marketing form. Still, independently bottled Dalmore is very rare on the ground and just as rare is bourbon cask Dalmore and so this is very intriguing on the face of it. As with a number of K&L’s recent round of cask exclusives, this one is teaspooned. I assume that is the distillery’s way of making sure that no independent whisky appears with the name Dalmore on the label. My experience so far of these teaspooned K&L casks has been middling. I was not overly impressed by either the 28 yo John McCrae/Balvenie or the 23 yo Hector Macbeth/Glenfiddich. Will this Dalmore set a new trend? I hope so as I have a few more of these teaspooned casks left to review. Continue reading

Dalwhinnie 15


Here’s an old standby that I have never reviewed and which I last tasted so long ago that I do not remember when it was. Dalwhinnie is one of those distilleries that Diageo plucked out of obscurity by including it in its Classic Malts lineup in days of yore but—like Glenkinchie from the same lineup—it has never really had much of a profile. Very little Dalwhinnie has ever been released—indeed, until the recent NAS “Winter’s Gold” release this 15 yo was the only regular release from the distillery. It was also included in Diageo’s random Game of Thrones money grab and that’s the only Dalwhinnie I’ve reviewed on the blog until now. An older Dalwhinnie was in Diageo’s Special Release lineup last year; it got good reviews but I’m never going to be tasting that. Given the paucity of independent releases my count of Dalwhinnie reviews is not likely to rise dramatically any time soon—though I should try to track down a sample of the Winter’s Gold at some point. I am nonetheless glad to double my current count with this review. Continue reading

Loch Lomond 12 “Perfectly Balanced”


Let’s close out Loch Lomond week with the new Loch Lomond 12. Well, I’m not actually sure if there is anything new about this version of the 12 yo beyond the packaging and the “Perfectly Balanced” epithet it now bears. The Inchmurrin 12 and Inchmoan 12, you may recall, go by “Fruity & Sweet” and “Smoke & Spice” respectively. As to whether this Loch Lomond 12 is meant to be the perfect balance between those two or represent some more Platonic perfect balance of malt whisky character, I don’t know. I do know that I liked the last Loch Lomond 12 I tried and if this is at least as good I will be happy. I’ll be happier still if the distillery knocks off its dubious marketing claims re its origins—which decidedly do not go back to 1814 no matter what their packaging may claim. Why they insist on selling this bogus claim when they make interesting and rather unique whisky that can stand on its own merits I really can’t say. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading

Inchmoan 12 “Smoke & Spice”


Here is another whisky from the distillery that has for some reason decided to mislead people about its history/origins even though they make whisky that can stand on its own merits.

Actually, Loch Lomond makes a number of different styles of whisky. On Monday I reviewed the new Inchmurrin 12 and today I have a review of the new 12 yo version of  Inchmoan aka the whisky with the most unintentionally and comically dirty name in all of Scotland. My understanding is that Inchmoan is essentially peated Inchmurrin, made the same way except with peated malt. Like Inchmurrin, and a few of the other Loch Lomond variants, Inchmoan is named for an island in Loch Lomond—the loch not the distillery. How exactly it differs from Loch Lomond’s other peated whiskies—Inchfad and Croftengea among them—I don’t know but someone else can doubtless tell us. Unlike the Inchmurrin, I don’t believe there’s ever been a regular release of Inchmoan and so this 12 yo—which bears the epithet “Smoke & Spice”—may be a newcomer to the stable. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Inchmurrin 12 “Fruity & Sweet”

At some point recently the Loch Lomond distillery revamped their slate of official releases. At the entry-level now are three 12 yo malts, all very fairly priced: an Inchmurrin, an Inchmoan (basically peated Inchmurrin) and a Loch Lomond. The Inchmurrin is billed as “Fruity & Sweet”, which will come as no surprise to anyone who has had malts from this label or any malts really produced in the last decade or so at Loch Lomond: they all tend to be fairly fruity, Inchmurrin in particular. Also at some point recently—more regrettably—the Loch Lomond distillery decided to engage in some pretty dishonest marketing about their history. I’ve gone over this in a separate post last month: essentially, despite only having been founded in 1965 or 1966 they are now claiming a history going back to the early 1800s. This is really regrettable as the whisky they’re making can stand on its own merits. I will admit that it’s been a bit of a quandary for me whether to review these whiskies from the distillery or not, given their dishonest marketing. I decided finally to go ahead but to foreground that dishonest marketing each time. I do hope they’ll knock it off soon. Continue reading

Glengoyne 11, 2008 (Old Particular for K&L)

I usually have restaurant meal reports on Tuesdays but as this is officially still primarily a whisky blog let’s start the month with a whisky review instead. I’ll have a report tomorrow on our most recent takeout meal, which saw us return to Godavari in Eden Prairie.

Meanwhile, back to K&L’s exclusive casks from late 2020. I’ve had a pretty decent outing with them so far—only the Glenfiddich/Hector Macbeth 23 disappointed a bit and even that was far from bad; the Bunnahabhain 12, the Craigellachie 16, the Blair Athol 24 and the Glen Garioch 10 all came in above 85 points. That’s on my regular ratings scale. On my patented EW! or Everybody Wins! rating system they scored quite a bit higher but you should not bother with that unless you work at K&L. Okay, time to see what this Glengoyne is like. It’s not the best sign that it’s been finished in PX—often an indicator of a rescue attempt on something over-oaked. Let’s see if that’s the case. Continue reading

Glen Garioch 10, 2010 (Old Particular for K&L)


Except for the teaspooned Glenfiddich 23 I’ve had a pretty good run so far with the most recent lot of K&L’s exclusive casks. I really liked both the Blair Athol 24 and the Craigellachie 16 and the Bunnahabhain 12 was not far behind: very high EW! ratings all around. And even the Glenfiddich was not bad, just a bit boring. The EW! rating, in case you’re wondering, is a special rating I have designed for very sensitive people who suffer emotional damage when they see what they think are very low scores on my K&L reviews—as far as I can make out, anything less than 90 points is very low for some people. Being a nice guy, I came up with this revolutionary rating system to help them focus on the words and not the numbers or to just feel good about the numbers if that’s all they care about. Anyway, I’m hopeful this young Glen Garioch will keep the general positive streak going. Glen Garioch can be a difficult distillate and I’ve certainly not been very enthused by  the distillery’s official younger releases. Let’s see what this is like. Continue reading

Blair Athol 24, 1995 (Old Particular for K&L)


Here is another of K&L’s recent exclusive casks to close the week out. Like Monday’s Glenfiddich, I mean “Hector Macbeth”, this one is a twenty something in age and from a sherry cask; unlike it, however, it wears its distillery’s name openly: Blair Athol. K&L has had at least one other sherried Blair Athol of a similar age as part of their exclusives before—and indeed so have a lot of bottlers in the EU. I’ve reviewed a few of them but those were all casks of whisky distilled in the late 1980s. This one is from 1995. As it turns out, Whiskybase lists a large number of casks from 1995 that have been bottled by various indies. They have only two listed from 1994, only one from 1996 and then a whole bunch again from 1997. Clearly the supply of older Blair Athols wanes and waxes—there must be a lot of it moving around for blending purposes. Well, whatever the reason, I’m glad to see this one. Blair Athol of this age from a sherry cask is a pretty reliable proposition and the odds are good that this will get this run of K&L casks back in the right direction after the relative disappointment of Monday’s Glenfiddich (You may recall that I previously enjoyed the teenaged Craigellachie and Bunnahabhain). Let’s see if that’s indeed how it goes. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 22, 1997 (Single Malts of Scotland)


Okay, let’s get off Islay and head up the western coast of Scotland and make a right turn to Ben Nevis. I reviewed a few 20+ yo indie releases of Ben Nevis towards the end of last year: a 22 yo, a 24 yo and a 26 yo, all distilled in 1991 and released by Signatory and a 21 yo from 1996 released by Whisky Doris. They were all very good, a couple of them exceptional. Those were all from sherry casks and so is this 22 yo released in 2019 by Single Malts of Scotland. Odds are good that this will be at least very good as well. Let’s see if that proves true.

Ben Nevis 22, 1997 (58.4%; Single Malts of Scotland; sherry butt #91; from a bottle split)

Nose: Roasted malt, salted nuts, orange peel and raisins; some powdered ginger too and some dusty oak. There seems to be some richer fruit in the background trying to get out but the alcohol may be holding it back. Let’s give it time and then water. Gets richer as it sits with the orange peel expanding and being joined by some apricot jam and some soy sauce. With a squirt of water the citrus brightens—between orange and lemon now—and then it begins to get more musky with charred pineapple and more apricot. The citrus turns to citronella. Continue reading

Deanston 18, Bourbon Finish


I have only reviewed three Deanstons before this one and only one of those made it into the 80s. That was this 15 yo bottled for Whiskybase’s Archives label. The only official Deanston I’ve reviewed—the 12 yo—had me making analogies to Gerard Butler. But that was more than seven years ago. This Deanston 18 wasn’t even part of the distillery’s portfolio then, having been added to it in 2015. It’s fairly unusual in that it’s a bourbon cask finish. No, it wasn’t matured in sherry first; instead it started out in second-fill bourbon casks and was finished in first-fill bourbon casks. For how long I don’t know and I don’t know what I make of the idea: why not just vat second-fill and first-fill casks? Is it just a gimmick? Or is there precedent for this kind of thing? At any rate, I’m hoping this will be my second Deanston to crack the 80 point barrier. Let’s see if that proves to be the case. It’s actually available in Minnesota—though not cheap at $130 before tax—and so it’s not an academic question. Continue reading