Tomatin 40, 1970 (Old Malt Cask)


Here is the last of the five whiskies I opened in the week I turned 50, all bottles either distilled or bottled in years that have been important ones in my life. I’ve previously reviewed a Glendronach 19 distilled the year I left India for the US; a Bowmore 11 bottled the year I met my partner; a Springbank 12 bottled the year our older child was born; and a Highland Park 27 bottled the year our younger child was born. Here now to complete the set is a Tomatin 40 that was distilled the year I was born and bottled the year our younger child was born.

Tomatins from the early-mid 1970s have a very strong reputation. I’m not sure, however, if I’ve seen many reviews of Tomatins from 1970—indeed, this particular release does not seem to have been reviewed at all—even Serge hasn’t gotten to it. This might explain why I was able to purchase this bottle from the Whisky Exchange back in 2011 without having to pay and arm and a leg. But as we’ve recently seen, a good price on an older whisky does not in and of itself mean that it was money well spent. What’s the story with this one? Continue reading

Balblair 10, 2009 (The Whisky Barrel)


Earlier in the month I began a series of reviews of recent exclusive casks from the Whisky Barrel with a 10 year old Bunnahabhain from a first-fill oloroso hogshead. That one handily surpassed my low expectations. Here now is another 10 yo from a first-fill oloroso hogshead, this time a Balblair. Will this turn out to be as good? I can’t think of any recent sherry bomb Balblairs I’ve had. Anyway, let’s see.

Balblair 10, 2009 (59.4%; The Whisky Barrel; first-fill oloroso hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Big sherry (raisins, orange peel, a metallic note) mixed in with roasted malt and some powdered ginger. As it sits a leafy note develops as well. Water brings out some plum sauce. Continue reading

Glendronach 19, 1993, PX Cask 26


Let’s start the month with one of the five single cask bottles I opened in the week of my 50th birthday. I selected whiskies that were distilled and/or bottled in significant years of my life. The secondary goal was to end up with a group that spanned the old Scotch regions and also a range of whisky styles that I enjoy. First up from the set is this Glendronach 19. It was distilled in 1993, the year I left India for the US—permanently, as it turned out. This is a PX cask that was bottled for the UK market. It’s one of several 19 year olds distilled that year and bottled in 2012 or 2013—Whiskybase lists 17! Now, we know that at Glendronach “single cask” doesn’t necessarily mean the whisky is from a single cask. And it’s also true that some of the least successful examples of “single cask” whisky from Glendronach have been PX casks (see, for example, this one and also this one). On the other hand, there have also been some I’ve liked (like this one). Where will this one fall?
Let’s see. Continue reading

Blair Athol 21, 1997 (Old Particular for K&L)


It’s time for my annual Blair Athol review. I’ve not reviewed very many of them and all the ones I’ve previously reviewed have been from sherry casks, I believe (this includes the official 12 yo Flora & Fauna release which may or may not be still a thing). This one, however, is from a bourbon cask, and like many of K&L’s casks from their recent release it’s from a refill hogshead. It’s always interesting to try a malt in a different guise than its norm and refill hogsheads are—in principle anyway—a good thing. Let’s see if this one rewards that confidence.

Blair Athol 21, 1997 (56.1%; Old Particular for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Malt, a bit of sugar, some apple. Pleasant but somewhat generic right off the bat. With a bit of time there’s some more sweeter fruit (berries of some kind) but it’s still not terribly interesting. With more time there’s some vanilla and some pastry crust. With time and a few drops of water the fruit is a little more pronounced. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 18, 2001 (Old Particular for K&L)


Let’s close out the week’s whisky reviews with yet another K&L exclusive. On Monday I reviewed a Tamdhu 19. I liked it, thought it was very drinkable indeed, but was not blown away by it. Today I have a Ben Nevis that is a year younger. As regular readers of the blog know, I am generally a big fan of contemporary Ben Nevis. The distillery’s malt usually provides a very unique mix of fruit, malt and a characteristic funk that is very hard to describe. Will this one be in that vein? I certainly hope so. Let’s see.

Ben Nevis 18, 2001 (52.8%; Old Particular for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Takes a few seconds to open up and then there’s some lemon with a prickly, peppery mineral note alongside. Below that is some malt, some sweet notes of vanilla and cream and just a bit of that Ben Nevis gasoline funk. As it sits richer, muskier fruit begins to gather in the background but doesn’t quite pop out—maybe with more time? Well, not so much with time but with water there’s sweeter fruit (peach?) and it melds nicely with the malt and the cream. Continue reading

The Singleton of Glen Ord 12


The Singleton of Glen Ord is the Singleton release Diageo sends to the Asian market. Or at least it used to. Does it still do so? Is the Singleton series still on the go? These are questions for more informed people to answer. I did note that Diageo put a Singleton of Glen Ord 18 on their special release roster last year—though I don’t believe I’ve read any reviews of it. Anyone know what it was like?

I’d planned to review it when I first put it on the possible reviews list a few months ago. But LV33’s comment denigrating it put me off—I am a very impressionable sort, you see. But the sample sat around making sad eyes at me and I was no longer able to avoid it. Here, therefore, with some trepidation is my review.
Continue reading

Brora 25, 7th Release


Speaking of Highlands peat, here’s a Brora. While Ardmore is in the eastern Highlands (some would even say the Speyside), Brora/Clynelish is located in the northern Highlands, well north of Inverness (though not quite as far north as Wick). The old Brora distillery, shut down in 1983 along with so many others, is, as you probably know, in the process of being revived (along with Port Ellen). We stopped at Clynelish on the way to Orkney in 2018 but didn’t have time to do a hard hat tour of the Brora premises. Somehow I don’t think I’ll get the opportunity again. I also don’t think I’m going to have too many more opportunities to drink the whisky produced by the old Brora (which was itself the old/original Clynelish distillery) as it’s now all priced well above my pay grade. I have a few samples and one unopened indie bottle left and that’ll be it. So it goes.

This is an official release. It was the seventh, I think, in Diageo’s special releases of Brora, and the first and only 25 year old released in the series. From what I can tell it has a more up and down reputation than the 30 year olds released before and after it. I’m curious to see what I make of it or if I find it appreciably different than the 30 yo 5th and 6th releases that I have reviewed. Continue reading

Ardmore 10, 2009 (Old Particular for K&L)


Oh no, it’s another peated whisky. For a change, however, it’s a very recently released whisky and in fact it may still be available—yes, I checked, it is. It’s another from K&L’s recent parcel of exclusives from the Laing companies. As you know, some of my reviews from this batch have endeared me even more to K&L’s staff. What can I say? I’m easy to love.

Anyway, Ardmore: usually good, and usually not very much of it available from the distillery’s owners. Last year I reviewed a 22 year old released to mark the 20th anniversary of the Old Malt Cask line (another Laing property) and really liked it. This one is about the half the age of that one. It’s from a barrel which might bode some risk of over-oaking—barrels are smaller than hogsheads—but it’s a refill barrel. I’m a fan of Ardmore’s brand of fruit and highland peat. Let’s hope it’s on display here. Continue reading

Glengoyne 21, 1996 (Old Malt Cask for K&L)


So far this month I’ve reviewed three of K&L’s recent exclusive casks. They’ve all been 23 yo malts distilled in 1995 (Clynelish, Glen Moray, Allt-A-Bhainne). I liked them all a lot (87 points each) though I had differing estimations of the price to quality ratio each present. Today I have another recent K&L cask but this time it’s a 21 yo distilled in 1996. Will I finally go above or below 87 points?

This is a somewhat unusual whisky in that it’s a Glengoyne from a bourbon cask—most official Glengoyne is sherry cask driven. It’s also unusual because it’s an independent cask of Glengoyne. It’s not a name you see very often from the indies. On Whiskybase it’s the very rare distillery that doesn’t have any releases listed from prolific indies, Gordon & MacPhail and Signatory (and there are only 12 indie releases total listed for 2019). So it should be an interesting proposition all around. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Glendronach 10, 2002, Virgin Oak


Behold, I, a wise man from the East, bring to you this day tidings of a whisky born of virgin oak!

Glendronach—the distillery that understands the word “single” in a manner different from the rest of us—is almost entirely associated with sherry cask-matured whisky. Very little non-sherried Glendronach ever seems to make out into the world, but some does from time to time. This cask is one of them. However, it is not likely to be one that can give me a sense of what Glendronach’s spirit is like away from the heavy influence of sherry that has become their calling card. This because not only is it not a sherry cask, it is a virgin oak cask, and chances are always good with virgin oak casks that the oak—not yet tamed by serial maturations of whisky—will be very talkative if not entirely overpowering. Let’s see if that proves to be the case here. Continue reading

Balblair 21, 1990 (C&S)


Here is a highly untimely review. This Balblair 21 was released in 2011, right around the time when I had begun to buy single malt whisky in a deranged manner. As per my spreadsheet it cost me $80 at the time (and back then the Euro was a lot stronger against the dollar). Sherry cask whisky was widely available then. Maybe it’s nostalgia talking but I also want to say that high quality sherry cask whisky was still widely available then. That is to say, it was possible to get sherried whiskies that didn’t seem to all have been matured in active oak casks that had a few bottle of cooking sherry pressure injected into them for a week or two. Whisky geeks are still enamoured of sherry cask whisky and especially of dark sherried whiskies but they mostly seem like dubious propositions these days, either flabby or raw. I can tell you that the sherry character in this Balblair is more old-school. I’ve been drinking the bottle down with pleasure since I opened it for one of my local group’s tastings a couple of months ago. Here now are my notes. Continue reading

Clynelish 23, 1995 (Signatory for K&L)


As I said in my post looking ahead to this month’s reviews, I recently participated in a split of a large number of bottles from K&L’s recent run of exclusive casks. In so doing I broke a promise to myself that I would not fall anymore for the promise of these exclusive casks, very few of which have in the past delivered for me. But I have poor impulse control. Hence this Clynelish which is being sold for $250 before tax, accompanied by K&L’s usual mix of over-the-top lyricism and incoherence. I don’t really spend this kind of money on any whisky anymore but I couldn’t resist 2 ounces to see if it could possibly live up to the breathless descriptions of it as a “legendary cask” of “superlative quality”, “deep and profound like the ocean itself” posing questions to the unprepared drinker such as “if you were a hotdog would you eat yourself?” and so on. Of course, what they don’t say is that there have been a large number of these sherried Clynelishes hitting the market in the last couple of years, getting more expensive each year—I reviewed a 21 yo, 1995 almost exactly two years ago, a Signatory exclusive for the Whisky Exchange that went for £120. Will this cask, two years older, really be so different from the sherried mean? Let’s see. Continue reading

Glen Ord 18, 1996 (Blackadder)


Another whisky distilled in the 1990s, another Glen Ord. I wasn’t sure I was going to get to this one this month but after Diageo announced an 18 yo Singleton of Glen Ord as part of their 2019 slate of over-priced releases I figured the time was right: that if there was ever going to be a surge of interest in 18 yo Glen Ord it would be now; and who better than me to stand poised to ride that wave all the way to marginally less irrelevance than I now boast in the marketplace of content.

The last couple of teenaged Glen Ords I’ve had—including Tuesday’s 15 yo—have been very good but nothing very exciting. Let’s see if this 18 yo does a little more for me and makes me consider paying a large amount of money for the new Singleton 18 yo for a few minutes before I slap myself across the head for being a fucking idiot. Continue reading

Glen Ord 15, 1996 (Liquid Sun)


Day two of 1990s week is here and today I have a Glen Ord 15. (Yesterday I had a Laphroaig 19.) No, you’re not experiencing deja vu: I did recently review another Glen Ord 15 bottled by Liquid Sun. But that one was distilled in 1997, and this one in 1996. I liked that one but wasn’t blown away by it. Will this be better? Only one way to find out. Oh yes, you may think this is another untimely review but news broke yesterday that a Glen Ord is part of this year’s special release slate from Diageo. Therefore this is highly relevant content.

Anyone have any thoughts by the way on this year’s special releases? I was struck both by how few will be even sold in the US (an effect of the Scotch tariffs?) and by the fact that Diageo seems eternally committed to seeing if it can get people to shell out large sums of money for Mortlach: $2000 for a 26 yo Mortlach? I salute their shamelessness, I mean, their chutzpah! Meanwhile a 29 yo Pittyvaich produced in the exact same convoluted way will sell for $430. (Or will it? Only time will tell.) Meanwhile the Singleton of Glen Ord 18 begins to look like a bargain at $170. Almost. Well, since no one is likely to have anything to add about this Liquid Sun Glen Ord 15, I invite you to weigh in instead in the comments on Diageo’s latest excesses. Continue reading