Ben Nevis 27, 1990 (Archives)


Continuing my miniseries of older whiskies (after Monday’s Tomatin 25 and yesterday’s Caperdonich 27), here is a Ben Nevis. Unlike the other two, it was released this year but, alas, this review is not very timely. I purchased the bottle from Whiskybase—who bottled it under their Archives label—a couple of months ago and waited a bit too long to open and taste it. After my first taste I raced back to their site to get another but it was gone. Yes, I liked it a lot. What is the other proof of this? Well, I’ve finished the bottle less than a month after I opened it. Also, I recently took it to a whisky gathering in St. Paul that featured some very heavy hitters (early 70s Ardbeg, early 80s Port Ellen and Caol Ila, late 70s Laphroaig 10 and so on) and it held its own. Lovers of fruity malts already know this, but the once dodgy Ben Nevis distillery is now one of our very best sources for exuberantly fruity whisky. Of course, as it’s Ben Nevis it’s got some funky notes mixed in but that’s part of the fun.  Continue reading

Tomatin 25, 1988 (Malts of Scotland)


Please excuse me as I start a small run of reviews of progressively older malts, few, if any, of which are still available. If I were Serge I’d post all of them together on one day and have another 27 over the new few days but I am a mere human.

First up is this Tomatin 25, bottled a few years ago by the German outfit, Malts of Scotland. Older Tomatin can be very good indeed. I rather liked the old Tomatin 25, a malt that—at 43% abv—probably never sent too many whisky geeks’ pulses racing. I liked even more this Tomatin 25, 1975 bottled by MacKillop’s choice. Even though late-80s Tomatin does not have the reputation of mid-70s Tomatin, I expect to like this one too as the aforementioned Serge’s review, as well as the tasting notes on Whiskybase, lead me to expect a very fruity whisky and that’s my favourite kind these days. Let’s see if reality matches expectations.  Continue reading

Balblair 16


After three Ardmores in a row (here, here, and here), let’s go a little west and then north to Balblair (see here for my write-up of my brief visit to the distillery this summer). This isn’t any more of a timely review than the previous three, however. This 16 yo was phased out in the late 2000s when Balblair’s vintage releases started coming out. While I’ve liked the few of those vintages I’ve tried, I didn’t like them enough to keep trying each new release. And there’s not a whole lot of Balblair available from the independents, especially of late. As such, I’m more than a little out of touch with what the distillery has been doing in the last few years. I did always like the old 16 yo a lot though. I finished my last bottle some years ago but saved a reference sample from it. I’m looking forward to tasting it once more. By the way, as with some other malts that were/are bottled at 40% in the UK and Europe, the US version of the Balblair 16 was at 43%.  Continue reading

Glendronach 18, 1991


In my “Coming Soon” posts for the last couple of months I’ve promised a Glendronach 17 yo from 1995 bottled for the Whisky Exchange. But I’ll be damned if I know where that sample is. As I’m unlikely to have pulled something so specific out of thin air, there are two possibilities: the sample is lost somewhere on my shelves; or I drank it at some point without taking notes or clearing it from my samples database. It’s so wonderful getting old! Anyway, I have for you instead a Glendronach 18, 1991. This was released in 2010 and was from only the third batch of Glendronach’s releases. In those days the mania for this series had not yet set in and it was not difficult to acquire bottles; nor were the prices so high. It was also well before suspicions began to be expressed about the nature of these releases. You may have already seen my post about the question of whether these were/are indeed single casks in the way that most consumers understand the term—if not, you can read it here. Well, as it happens this putative single oloroso cask also yielded an unlikely number of bottles: 760 to be exact; suggesting that this too was a product of a cask or two being re-racked into an oloroso butt for the final phase of the maturation. Has this resulted in flabby whisky? Let’s see.  Continue reading

Glen Garioch 26, 1990 (Signatory for the Whisky Exchange)


A little bonus of my time in Edinburgh this June was finally getting to meet James, who comments on the blog from time to time, and who I’ve known on the whisky web for a while. He lives in Glasgow but as it’s a short hop from there to Edinburgh, he came over for a drink one night. We met at the Bow Bar and had a very good time talking a little about whisky but mostly about other things (and drinking a fair bit of peaty whisky). He was the source of some very good advice (he recommended the tour at Highland Park highly which I liked it a lot) and also some angst (he warned that our crossing of the Pentland Firth to Orkney might be really choppy; thankfully, it wasn’t). He was also the source of this generous sample of Glen Garioch 26, 1990 bottled by Signatory for the Whisky Show in Glasgow early last year. I’ve not had much pre-1995 Glen Garioch (that was the year they stopped using peated malt) and the last Glen Garioch from this year that I tried was a belter, with quite a bit of peat influence—and it was also bottled by Signatory. As such I was looking forward to getting into this one, which I finally did a couple of weeks later in London. Here now are my notes.  Continue reading

Glen Ord 14, 2001 (SMWS)


Last week I posted a review of an unusual rum cask Laphroaig. Here now is a relatively unusual Glen Ord. The distillery is best known—in official and independent incarnations—for bourbon cask matured whisky. This release from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society was, however, bottled from a sherry butt—a second-fill oloroso butt, to be exact. As that’s not something you across every day, and as I really like Glen Ord, I decided to take a chance on this as well at auction. I was dissuaded only a little by the fact that I had no idea what the SMWS tasting committee’s name for this whisky, “Japanese omelettes with Dunkelweizen” might refer to. I was conscious of the fact that I was overpaying but, again, sherry cask Glen Ord is not something we come across regularly in the US. I’ve not previously reviewed any sherried Glen Ords and indeed I’m not sure if I’ve had any. So this should at least be interesting. Let’s see if it’s more than that.  Continue reading

Clynelish, Distillery Exclusive, 2018 Release


We stopped at Clynelish on the way from Dornoch to Scrabster, where we boarded the ferry to Stromness on Orkney. Well, more immediately, we stopped at Clynelish on the way to Wick. I was scheduled to tour Pulteney at 2, but it seemed rash to drive by Clynelish without even stopping. I hadn’t planned to buy anything there but when I was in the distillery shop I chatted a bit with one of the staff and she offered me a taste of the current  distillery exclusive. Apparently this was selected by the distillery staff, though they had no idea of the age or composition (or they would not say). It’s not a bottle-your-own—they had loads of it on the shelves. I quite liked it and couldn’t resist overpaying for a bottle. Why do I say “overpaying”? Well, because I paid £80 for an NAS whisky, and one that’s not at cask strength. Yes, unlike the 2008 edition—which may have been the previous distillery exclusive—this is bottled at 48%. That’s not a bad abv per se, but the price is still high (as it was at Oban and Talisker last year—and their distillery exclusives were NAS as well). I’ll probably have a post later this month with some thoughts on the whole “distillery only”/”bottle your own” thing. For now here’s a review of the whisky itself. I opened it for my local group’s July tasting and we all liked it a fair bit.  Continue reading

Tomatin Legacy


Here’s another widely available official release. And it’s not expensive either. The Legacy is Tomatin’s current entry-level malt made from ex-bourbon and virgin oak matured spirit. It comes without an age statement because numbers are meaningless except on a price tag. There’s a rumour that this is not very much older than the legal minimum 3 years, which seems like an odd thing to tie the word “legacy” to; or more accurately, it’s more evidence for the proposition that when you see a whisky with a word like “legacy” on its label it’s likely to be very young. To be fair, Tomatin does have five age-stated whiskies in their range (most very fairly priced); there is also another NAS release, the Cask Strength, which I have not tried; and they’re not trying to charge the earth for this one either.

I did not purchase these minis. These were handed out to us at the end of our excellent tour of Tomatin in mid-June in lieu of the tasting portion of the tour—which we skipped on account of having to drive back to Edinburgh, and also because we don’t drink at 11 am (a philosophy not subscribed to by some of the others who were on the tour who’d clearly been drinking since well before 11). I’ll have a detailed account of that tour next month; here now are my notes on this whisky.  Continue reading

Glengoyne 12


Glengoyne is yet another distillery that I have reviewed very few malts from: only the OB 25 and 17 and a 14 yo from Malts of Scotland. Of these only the 25 yo really did it for me. Prior to starting the blog I had enjoyed the old Glengoyne 12 CS and the 21 yo. I’ve not had the 21 yo in a long time now but I do have a bottle of the 12 CS squared away. I’ll probably open it in a decade or two. Here in the meantime is the current, regular Glengoyne 12. I have no idea if it ever co-existed alongside the 12 CS. There is still a cask strength Glengoyne available but it is predictably now sold sans an age statement. And at some point the 17 yo seems to have turned into an 18 yo. I have to confess I haven’t really paid much attention to Glengoyne over the years, and in any case I am never very up on the ins and outs of distillery releases. Information you can get at other places. All I’m good for is dubious tasting notes of low utility.  Continue reading

Croftengea 9, 2008 (for the Whisky Exchange)


Loch Lomond, as you probably know, is a rather unusual Scottish distillery. For one thing, they’re one of the few distilleries that produce both grain and malt whisky. For another, they are set up to produce a wide range of distillates. This is not merely because they make peated whisky alongside unpeated but because they have a range of still setups. They have pot stills and continuous stills; and most of their pot stills—including the originals—have rectifying plates in their necks as opposed to the traditional swan neck. If that weren’t enough they also have a continuous still used to distill grain whisky from a 100% malted barley mash. And from all these different setups they produce a wide range of brands (not all are currently available): Loch Lomond, Old Rhosdhu, Inchmurrin, Inchfad, Inchmoan, Craiglodge, and yes, Croftengea. Croftengea is their peated malt whisky. It’s not made in large quantities, I don’t think. In fact, this is only the first Croftengea I’ve ever had.  Continue reading

Glenturret 33, 1980 (The Whisky Agency)


I noted in Monday’s review that Tullibardine is in the general vicinity of Glenturret; here now is a review of a Glenturret. This is my first Glenturret review and it may well be the first Glenturret I’ve ever tried, I purchased it in 2014 when 33 year old whiskies from unsung distilleries could still be had for very reasonable prices, and pretty much for that reason. I knew/know nothing about Glenturret’s general profile, but a long time in a refill hogshead is usually good news for whisky from any distillery. It was bottled by the Whisky Agency and sports one of the whimsical labels they were doing at the time. Well, I guess they might still be doing whimsical labels—I just can’t afford to buy Whisky Agency releases anymore. I opened this for my local group’s premium tasting earlier this year and it was very popular. I’ve been enjoying drinking the bottle down ever since and look forward to finishing it when I’m back in Minnesota next week*.  Continue reading

Tullibardine 24, 1993 (Cadenhead)


Our trip to Scotland is now over (we’re still in the UK for another 10 days though). As we spent most of our time in the Speyside and in the highlands and Orkney, my reviews this month have all been of whiskies from distilleries in those regions. This is true as well of this review, of an older Tullibardine. The distillery is located in Perthshire—just a little north-east of Sterling, in the relative vicinity of Deanston and Glenturret. I did not visit it. I did, however, purchase this whisky from Cadenhead’s in Edinburgh on this trip (as I did Friday’s Glen Ord); and so this is also my third review in a row of a whisky purchased and consumed on this trip (the Skara Brae Orkney malt was the first).

Tullibardine is a relatively young distillery. They’ve been in business since 1949. Amusingly, if you look at their website they try to fudge this with talk of a story that begins in 1488 and sees a royal charter granted for a brewery on the grounds in 1503; “our story” then jumps to 1947 when the founder apparently began converting “this original brewery” into a distillery. The age of this malt—bottled by Cadenhead’s—is more clear-cut: it is 24 years old, which is these days a pretty old age for a malt, and one for which no dubious narratives are needed. I finished this with a friend over a couple of days after purchasing it on our first day in Edinburgh. Here now are my notes.  Continue reading

Glen Ord 13, 2004 (Cadenhead’s)


We are leaving Orkney today and as we’ll be spending the night in the Highlands before heading down to Edinburgh tomorrow, I figured I’d post a review of another Highland malt. This is from a distillery not too far from where we’ll be putting up: Glen Ord. I’d had no plan to visit Glen Ord on this trip but when Aberlour disappointed me with the complete lack of a “distillery only” cask, I started grasping at straws for distilleries along the way to Dornoch that might have one. Accordingly, I called the Glen Ord visitor centre and asked if they had an exclusive. The person answering the phone helpfully informed me that all their whiskies are exclusive as they’re sold only in Southeast Asia and at the distillery; yes, I said, but do you have a cask that’s only available to visitors at the distillery. She repeated her information about the exclusivity of all Glen Ord bottles. Thinking that perhaps we had a case of battling Scottish and Indian/American accents on our ears, I handed the phone to a Canadian who has lived in Edinburgh for a year. She was met with the same response. All this to say that I did not go to Glen Ord after all. But this review is still trip-specific: it’s of a Glen Ord 13 that I purchased 200 ml of at Cadenhead’s in Edinburgh last week. It didn’t take long to disappear and I took notes as it did.  Continue reading

Ben Nevis 19, 1997 (Montgomerie’s)


Here is the last of four Total Wine exclusives that I purchased a couple of months ago. In April, Michael K. and I posted simul-reviews of three of these: a Glen Ord, a Caol Ila, and a Laphroaig. The last is this Ben Nevis. Michael K. has a sample of this as well but we didn’t end up setting up a simul-review of this one for some reason. Like the Glen Ord and the Caol Ila, this one was also bottled by Montgomerie’s. Ben Nevis of this age, from ex-bourbon casks can be very fruity indeed and so this has potential; on the other hand, the other Montgomerie’s selections did not exactly set the world on fire. Let’s see where this one falls.

Ben Nevis 19, 1997 (46%; Montgomerie’s; cask 186; from a bottle split)

Nose: Malty, slightly cardboardy to start but below that there’s milk chocolate and orange peel. An unlikely combination but it works. The citrus expands as it sits. A drop or three of water pull out more citrus still and also some cherry.  Continue reading