Ballechin 15, 2005, Second-Fill Sherry (WhiskySponge)


Three Ballechins bottled by Whisky Sponge to start the month and year, I said. On Monday I reviewed a 17 yo distilled in 2004 and matured in a first-fill bourbon barrel. On Wednesday another 17 yo from 2004, this time matured in a refill fino butt. Here now to close the week is another sherry cask but this one was distilled a year later and is two years younger. It’s from a second-fill sherry hogshead—what kind of sherry does not appear to have been specified in this case.

As I said on Monday, I only recently learned that Angus MacRaild (the Whisky Sponge) was bottling whisky. I don’t know what reputation his releases have at this point or where they fall price-wise in the market. I will say that I liked the other two fine but did not find them to be anything particularly extraordinary. Will this one be a departure in either direction? Let’s see. Continue reading

Ballechin 17, 2004, Refill Fino (WhiskySponge)


Here is the second of three reviews of single casks of Ballechin—or peated Edradour—released recently by Whisky Sponge. See here for a review of the first cask (a first-fill bourbon barrel) and read the comments on that post for some discussion of the ethical issues that these releases raise. If you have any thoughts about any of that please add them to the comments on that first review so it all stays in one place.

Ballechin 17, 2004 (55.5%; WhiskySponge; Edition 36B; Refill Fino Sherry Butt; from a bottle split)

Nose: Dry, farmy peat with some sweet notes around the edges of the smoke. Gets more organic and vegetal as it sits—definitely something rotting in the undergrowth in the middle distance, the aroma being wafted over on a briny, sea breeze (yes, I know where Edradour is located). Water softens the whole up: the farmy peat abates and there’s a touch of vanilla now. The salt expands again with time. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 20, 1997, King of the Hills (Old Particular)


We’ll stay in the western part of Scotland for the last of this week’s highlands reviews (which began at Ardmore on Monday and continued at Oban on Wednesday).

Ben Nevis is located less than 50 miles drive from Oban but the profiles of the distilleries’ malts are much further away from each other. Where Oban produces a relatively austere spirit, Ben Nevis puts out what can fairly be called a consistently funky one. Independent releases in recent years have done a lot to improve the distillery’s reputation and the official 10 yo was excellent too when I last checked in on it (I’m not sure of its current status). It’s no secret to those who read the blog regularly that I really enjoy Ben Nevis—exactly one year ago I placed it in the list of my five favourite distilleries. Their whiskies are not always great but they’re always interesting. Let’s see if this one manages to be both. It was bottled a couple of years ago by the Laings’ Old Particular label as part of a series of “cards”—I think there were cards for various regions. Ben Nevis, appropriately, was named “King of the Hills”. Continue reading

Oban 18, 2020 Release


Let’s continue with highlands week but swing around from Ardmore in the eastern highlands, all the way to Oban in the west.

With this review I believe Oban joins the very small list of distilleries all members of whose core lineups I have reviewed. Unless things have changed since I last looked, the 14 yo, the Distiller’s Edition and the NAS Little Bay are the only others in that core Oban lineup (I’m not counting “distillery only” bottlings or those that have shown up in Diageo’s annual special releases). The 18 yo was first released in 2008 as a special release but has since become a fixture. It’s somewhat unusual in that it is an exclusive for the US market where it goes from $100-$130. At least it used to be a US exclusive—I assume it still is given how few entries there are for it in the EU-centric Whiskybase listings. I believe it’s matured in all first-fill American ex-bourbon casks. As to whether it is made with malt peated to a higher degree than the 14 yo, I don’t know. The 14 yo is barely peated—too only about 2 ppm—but I picked up notes of smoke from my bottle anyway. I’m curious to see where this 18 yo bottled in 2020 (as per the bottle code) will fall on that front. The last time I had the Oban 18 was about a decade ago and I have no memory or notes of it. Continue reading

Ardmore 12, 2006 (SMWS 66.140)


Last week was a week of reviews of peated whiskies from Islay—one each from Caol Ila, Lagavulin and Laphroaig. I liked them all a lot. This week will be a week of reviews of whiskies from the highlands. We’ll begin with a young Ardmore that also keeps the peat theme going for a little longer. This is yet another Ardmore from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society—probably the most consistent source of Ardmore casks in the US. I’ve reviewed a number of their Ardmore releases before, most recently this 23 yo which I adored, and before that a trio comprising a 20 yo, a 21 yo and a 22 yo, all of which I really liked as well. This one is quite a bit younger at 12 years of age—though in today’s single malt market 12 years old sometimes seems positively middle aged. Will it approach the quality of its older siblings? Oh yes, the SMWS’ tasting panel gave this the whimsical name, “Hickory smoked lobster”. I can’t say I’ve had smoked lobster but it does sound good—any relation to the reality of what’s in the glass? Let’s see. Continue reading

Dalmore 18, 2001 (Cadenhead)


Sherry Cask Week began at Blair Athol n the Highlands on Monday. I liked that 12 yo bottled by Sovereign for K&L fine and thought it was a good value for a daily sipper. We’ll remain in the Highlands for this review, going a bit further north to Dalmore and adding six more years of age. I’ve not reviewed very many Dalmores on the blog—only two in fact before this one. I enjoyed the 12 yo and the Cigar Malt back when I first started drinking single malt whisky, which was also back when Dalmore’s whiskies were reasonably priced. But it’s been a while now since the distillery’s pricing ascended into the sphere of the very silly; and it’s also the case that there isn’t so very much indie Dalmore about, especially in the US. Not even Gordon & MacPhail have put out so very many Dalmores—though I do note that there seems to have been a slight uptick in the last few years. This 18 yo from Cadenhead also came out a couple of years ago. It’s not a full-term sherry matured, spending only the last two years in a sherry hogshead. At two years it’s really past being a finish and is squarely in double maturation territory. Well, let’s see how it compares to the Blair Athol. Continue reading

Blair Athol 12, 2009 (Sovereign for K&L)


I was planning to close the month out with the SMWS Macallan trio that was on the list for the month. However, for one reason or the other I have not had time to go pick up my share from those bottle splits. And so they’ll have to wait till November. Filling their sherry-forward slots instead are a trio of sherry cask-matured malts from three different distilleries. First up, the youngest of the three, a Blair Athol 12.

This is also my first review of K&L’s 2021 casks. This lot—at least the ones I’ve got samples of from bottle splits—don’t seem to be teaspooned out the wazoo. Presumably with the Trump tariff on single malts a thing of the past, teaspooning is no longer needing to be resorted to in order to keep prices down. Well, I suppose K&L’s 2020 Blair Athol cask—twice the age of this one—bore the distillery’s name openly too. I rather liked that one; let’s see if this is a worthy stablemate. Continue reading

Old Pulteney 16, 2002


I forgot to say on Monday that this week’s theme is bourbon cask whisky. The week kicked off with a 9 yo Linkwood. Here now is a 16 yo Old Pulteney. I have not reviewed very many Pulteneys on the blog: a total of eight over the last eight and a half years and the last was more than two years ago. After my visit to the distiller in 2018—as I said, one of the very best distillery tours I’ve been on—I’d hoped to try more of the distillery’s whisky. But it’s not one that’s widely available from the indies and certainly not in the US. Like the 14 yo I reviewed in 2019, this is an official single cask release. This one was released in the Japanese market. Let’s see what it’s like.

Old Pulteney 16, 2002 (54.2%; cask 722; from a bottle split)

Nose: Very salty off the top with wet wool and vegetal notes below (boiled and mashed turnips). On the second sniff there’s some mineral oil. With time some fruitier notes emerge (lime peel, gooseberry and then much later some sweeter stone fruit). With a few drops of water the sweeter fruit is emphasized and the wet wool turns into a cereal note. Continue reading

Ardmore 23, 1997 (SMWS 66.197)


Okay, let’s end this week of peat in the eastern highlands of Scotland, at Ardmore. (You may recall that I started the week on Islay at Caol Ila on Monday and stopped in the Speyside at Benromach on Wednesday.) Ardmore is one of my very favourite distilleries these days. The only reason really that I didn’t put in my list of top five distilleries last year is that it’s very hard to come by Ardmore in the US and the official lineup has never been very inspiring. The one regular source for a varied supply of Ardmore in the US is the Scotch Malt Whisky Society but I’m not sure if even they send more than just a few of their Ardmore selections here. I reviewed three SMWS Ardmores in August and I don’t see 750 ml releases for any of them listed on Whiskybase. Nor for that matter is a 750 ml release listed for this one. (If you know if any of these were in fact released in the US please write in below.) August’s Ardmore trio were a 20 yo, a 21 yo and a 22 yo—all distilled in 1997. This one is a 23 yo distilled in 1997. Unlike the first three, however, which were matured entirely in refill bourbon hogsheads, this one spent 21 years in refill bourbon and then the next two years in a refill Spanish oak sherry hogshead. Will the sherry cover up all that I love about bourbon cask Ardmore? Let’s see. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 25, 1991 (Signatory)


Alright, after a week of peated Islay whiskies followed by a week of rums, let’s do a week of older whiskies; specifically a week of 25 yo and over whiskies. First up is a Ben Nevis distilled in 1991 and bottled in September 2016 by Signatory from a sherry butt. As regular readers of the blog know, I am a big fan of the idiosyncratic malts made by Ben Nevis. Always fruity, Ben Nevis usually gets even more so with age. The last Ben Nevis I reviewed was a 23 yo from a refill sherry butt and I loved it. I also really liked this 22 yo from 1997—also from a sherry butt—and this 21 yo from 1996 from a refill sherry butt. And for that matter I’ve previously reviewed three other sherry cask Signatory 1991 Ben Nevises—a 26 yo, a 24 yo and a 22 yo—and liked them all very much (though I do note that I liked the 26 yo the least). I guess what I’m saying is that sherry cask maturation rarely seems to get in the way of the pleasures of Ben Nevis’ distillate. Anyway, let’s see what this one is like. Continue reading

Ardmore 22, 1997 (SMWS 66.174)


And here to close out Ardmore 1997 week is a 22 yo. Will it be closer to Monday’s 20 yo whose combination of fruit and smoke I really, really liked or to Wednesday’s 21 yo whose more austere charms I only really liked? I’ll find out soon. Oh yes, the SMWS’s panel named this one “A Vintage Dinner Suit” which probably means something.

Ardmore 22, 1997 (56.1%; SMWS 66.174; refill bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: A big zesty hit of lime off the top, a lime that has been charred heavily. The lime is sweeter on the second sniff and then muskier fruit begins to emerge (pineapple, a hint of passionfruit). The char burns off and now there’s more of a mineral note; the lime turns to citronella. As it sits the char begins to come back though it’s more ashy now; some cream too. Water emphasizes the fruit and the cream—really very nice now. Continue reading

Ardmore 21, 1997 (SMWS 66.146)


Ardmore 1997 week continues with another refill bourbon hogshead bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. I really liked Monday’s 20 yo which displayed a lovely mix of rich fruit, char and mineral notes. Will this one, which is a year older, be as good or better? Let’s see.

Ardmore 21, 1997 (51.9%; SMWS 66.146; refill bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Comes in with more lime and less mineral peat than the 21 yo and there’s some cream here as well; some ham brine too. As it sits the mineral note expands and it gets more peppery; the fruit is less expansive though than in the younger cask. With time muskier fruit begins to peep out. Let’s see if water releases it more fully. Well, the citrus expands and turns to citronella but the hints of muskier fruit remain just that. Continue reading

Ardmore 20, 1997 (SMWS 66.138)


This will be a week of malts from Ardmore. What’s more they were all distilled in 1997, matured in refill hogsheads, and  bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. And they were bottled in successive years at 20, 21 and 22 years of age. Now I don’t want to pretend that very significant differences can be spotted between malts a year or two apart in age from each other even with all other variables quite similar to each other, but it’s an interesting juxtaposition anyway. What’s certain is that I like Ardmore a lot; it’s always a pleasure to try their mildly-peated, fruity malt, especially when matured in ex-bourbon casks. I’ve reviewed a few SMWS Ardmore releases before, including a couple from 1997. Indeed, I’ve reviewed another 20 yo (which I liked a lot) and another 22 yo (which I also liked a lot). And I’ve also reviewed casks from adjacent years from other bottlers (most of which I also liked a lot). All of this history seems to bode well for this one. Let’s see if it works out that way in practice. Continue reading

Behind the Highlander/Craigellachie 14, 2006 (Hepburn’s Choice for K&L)


Hepburn’s Choice/K&L’s 2020 casks/Speyside week started on Monday with a teaspooned 13 yo Mortlach and continues today with a teaspooned 14 yo whisky from a distillery located not too far away from Mortlach: Craigelllachie. Like Mortlach, Craigellachie is known for a robust spirit and largely for its sherry cask or at least sherry-involved incarnations. While Monday’s Mortlach was a bourbon cask, this Craigellachie is from a refill sherry cask. Let’s see if it ends up being a more characteristic expression of the distillery’s output than the Mortlach was.

Behind the Highlander/Craigellachie 14, 2006 (51.7%; Hepburn’s Choice for K&L; refill sherry butt; from a bottle split)

Nose: Quite rubbery off the top but there’s some sweeter stuff below, both floral and fruity (berries). The rubbery note recedes as it sits but never goes away completely. After 10 minutes or so, however, it’s all about the sweeter notes. More acid here too with time (lime). With a few drops of water there’s quite a bit of cream. Continue reading

Inchmurrin 17, 2003 (SMWS 112.68)


The second Loch Lomond week of the year began with another official release (a recent 18 yo) and continued with an independent release (a Cooper’s Choice bottling of a peated Inchfad 15). Let’s close the week out now with another recent independent release. This one is from the Scotch Malt Whisky society and is a bourbon cask Inchmurrin released in 2020. I really liked the new official Inchmurrin 12, just as I did another SMWS release from a couple of years ago. And so have hopes for fruity goodness from this one as well; let’s see if they’re borne out.

Inchmurrin 17, 2003 (56.8%; SMWS 112.68; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: A little spirity at first and then there’s a big wave of acid (lime, grapefruit). The fruit gets muskier with each sniff with some melon, pineapple and hints of overripe banana joining the citrus. The fruit melds together well and intensifies as it sits and there’s some cream floating over it now. The cream expands as it sits further and the citrus turns to citronella. Water just amplifies everything, especially the citronella. Continue reading

Inchfad 15, 2005 (Cooper’s Choice)


My second week of Loch Lomond reviews in 2021 started on Monday with an official release—a recent—though not the current—release of Loch Lomond 18. This followed a week of reviews in April that were all of current official releases: the new Loch Lomond 12, the Inchmurrin 12 and the Inchmoan 12. We move now to a couple of independent releases. First up, an Inchfad 15 bottled by Cooper’s Choice earlier this year. Inchfad, like Inchmoan and Croftengea, is one of Loch Lomond’s peated brands. For all I know, there are others. I am not really sure what the production differences between these peated brands are and will leave it to someone more informed to explain it to us in the comments if they’re willing. I will say that peated Loch Lomond can be a truly wonderful thing. This on account of the underlying spirit which is rather fruity. Peat, fruit and bourbon casks: this is in theory a good combination. Let’s see if it paid off here. Continue reading

Loch Lomond 18


Back in April I reviewed a trio of recent official Loch Lomond releases: the Loch Lomond 12 (newly dubbed “Perfectly Balanced”); the Inchmoan 12 (“Smoke & Spice”); and the Inchmurrin 12 (“Fruity & Sweet”). Those bottles were actually purchased with two other Loch Lomonds, one official release and one independently bottled. This 18 yo is the other official release. It’s not the new Loch Lomond 18 though. That one also comes with an accompanying epithet now (I’m not sure what it is—maybe “Historically Dubious“?). It was/is my first time trying the Loch Lomond 18 though and I was interested to see what I would make of it compared to its younger siblings, all of which I had quite liked (especially for the price). Here now to kick of another week of Loch Lomonds are my notes—I’ll have the review of the fifth from this quintet, an Inchfad 15 (bottled by Cooper’s Choice) on Wednesday; and I’ll close the week with another Inchmurrin (bottled by the SMWS). Continue reading

Clynelish 17, 1997 (Berry Bros. & Rudd)


Clynelish Week began with a 23 yo second-fill Oloroso butt bottled by Single Cask Nation and continued with a 21 yo refill sherry butt bottled by Signatory Vintage. Here now to close it out is a 17 yo bourbon cask bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd. Despite my usual preferences I liked the second-fill butt more than the refill sherry butt. Where will this bourbon cask fall? Let’s see.

Clynelish 17, 1997 (55.2%; Berry Bros. & Rudd; cask 4050; from a bottle split)

Nose: Sweet fruit off the top (peach, nectarine) along with some oak and some honeycomb. As it sits there’s more lemon (candied) at first and then some malt. With time there’s quite a bit of toasted oak. The fruit expands and gets quite a bit muskier with several drops of water. Continue reading