Clynelish 17, 1997 (C&S)


1997 is supposed to be the magic year for Clynelish. My last 1997 Clynelish lacked magic. It’s not the fault of that whisky: the whole magic vintage thing is a lot of bullshit. I will not bore you by going over all that again—if you’re interested you can read my views here and here. Let’s just get directly to this 17 yo from a bourbon hogshead, bottled a couple of years ago by C&S, a bottler based in Germany.

Clynelish 17, 1997 (47%;  C&S Dram Collection; bourbon hogshead #5730; from a purchased sample)

Nose: Citrus (lemon peel, orange), a faint grassiness, some brine and okay, I could be talked into a little wax. With more time there’s a biscuity/malty thing going on as well. Less grassy, more biscuity with water.  Continue reading

Ballechin 13, 2003


This is a distillery-only Ballechin—which is to say it is/was only available at the Edradour distillery (whose peated malt is called Ballechin, as you doubtless know). No, I did not pick it up while driving through the highlands last June. We did go very near Edradour on our way to Blair Castle but Tomatin was the only distillery in that part of the country that we stopped at, and that only for a little while. No, this is a sample from a bottle that the redoubtable Michael K. purchased at the distillery in 2016. Me, I didn’t even know that Edradour had bottled any Ballechin of this age. All I’ve had are most of the various younger, wine cask releases of yesteryear and the 10 yo that was released in 2014. Michael said in his review last year that he liked this very much at the distillery but not as much later. As you will see below, I liked it quite a bit now. I did also like the Ballechin #3, Port Cask—there seems to be something about the marriage of their peated malt and port casks that works well. Anyway, here are my notes.  Continue reading

Clynelish 21, 1995 (Signatory for The Whisky Exchange)


It’s intoxicating, being a blogger who posts reviews of currently available whiskies! After Monday’s Bowmore, here is another Signatory exclusive for The Whisky Exchange. I’d guess they were released at the same time (were there others?). This one is quite a bit cheaper despite being older and despite being from another name distillery and also despite being from a sherry cask. As to whether being from a sherry cask is a good thing for Clynelish is another matter. There are those who believe that Clynelish is Clynelish only when matured in bourbon casks. Me, I like to keep an open mind. I’ve previously liked my fair share of ex-sherry Clynelish—including this one that was also distilled in 1995—and I’ve also had ex-bourbon Clynelish, including those from the alleged, magic year of 1997 that did not get me too excited. And even if it isn’t very Clynelish I’m not going to be too disappointed as long as it’s at least a good whisky.  Continue reading

Glendronach 20, 1994 (for Abbey Whisky)


It’s been more than two years since I’ve reviewed a Glendronach. That was a review of the 15 yo Revival, which was about to go on hiatus at the time. I’m not sure what the situation is with that or the 18 yo Allardice, especially as the distillery’s ownership has changed since then, with Billy Walker moving on to Glenallachie. I’m also not sure what the new ownership has been doing with Glendronach’s single cask program—I haven’t paid much attention to that either, having gotten slowly turned off the distillery as a whole since learning about their “single cask” shenanigans. I do have a bunch of single cask Glendronachs on my shelf, however—though I haven’t purchased any in the last couple of years—and my ambivalence about the distillery does not extend to refusing to open and drink or review them. This particular cask was bottled for Abbey Whisky, a British online store. I’ve previously reviewed another Glendronach exclusive to them—an oloroso cask—and it was that one that led me to purchase this one. I opened it at one of my friend Rich’s whisky gatherings up in the Twin Cities, and while a number of people there really liked it, I was not very convinced by it (and nor was he, I think). I’ve since taken it to my local tasting group’s most recent tasting as well and most people there loved it. I liked it a bit more on that occasion but not very much more. Continue reading

Tomatin 12, 2005 (Distillery Only)


After a couple of stops in the eastern Highlands (at Glencadam and Fettercairn) let’s take the bourbon cask train back to the northern Highlands, to Tomatin. Tomatin is the southernmost of the distilleries usually grouped in the northern Highlands—south of Glen Ord, Teaninich, Balblair etc. and quite a bit south of Clynelish and Pulteney. It’s also actually further south than a number of Speyside distilleries. But all of this is neither here nor there.

This is one of my more timely reviews, being of a whisky bottled this June. But it’s still not very useful as it was bottled by hand, by me in the distillery shop—it’s not available for sale outside the distillery (except at auction, I suppose). The shop (my report on which you may remember) had five casks available for filling bottles from in June. They kindly allowed me to get tastes of whatever I was interested in, even though I had not done a tour, and this 12 yo ex-bourbon cask was my favourite. It was my first time filling a bottle at a distillery and I don’t mind telling you it was very exciting. This is my first time drinking it since tasting it at the distillery and I’m interested to see what I make of it now that the excitement is behind me.  Continue reading

Fettercairn 23, 1993 (Cadenhead)


Let’s keep the bourbon cask train parked in the eastern Highlands.

Fettercairn is not located far from my last stop, Glencadam, and may perhaps be even less beloved a distillery. They’re owned by Whyte & Mackay, who also own Dalmore and Jura, and who are in turn now owned by the Phillipines-based Emperador Inc. They don’t put out very much malt whisky. They released a series of older malts in 2009—a 24 yo, a 30 yo and a 40 yo—but I don’t believe these were regular releases. The Fettercairn Fior, which was first released in 2010 or so, and which contains a fair bit of peated malt may, however, still be a going concern (it’s not available in the US). I assume they’re mostly producing for Whyte & Mackay’s blends. Anyway, all unloved distilleries are more than capable of of producing excellent single casks. And while none of the other Cadenhead’s releases from this early 2017 outturn (from BalmenachPulteney, Aultmore and Glen Spey) that I purchased samples of alongside this one in London in May turned out to be excellent, hope springs eternal.  Continue reading

Glencadam 15


I’m still on the ex-bourbon trail. The last stop was at Clynelish in the Highlands. I’m still in the Highlands today but all the way over in the east—past the Speyside—at Glencadam. The distillery is owned by Angus Dundee—who also own Tomintoul in the Speyside—and is on no one’s list of the greatest Scottish distilleries. What this means is that their whisky is still quite reasonably priced: even after recent increases, their 10 yo (which I quite like, though I have not yet reviewed it) is available for £35 in the UK and this 15 yo is currently going for just above £50 (inclusive of vat). This is particularly gratifying given that in the late 2000s the lineup got an upgrade to 46% abv and a lack of chill-filtering. They’ve since added an 18 yo (which I have not tried); previously the next up from the 15 yo was the 21 yo (also priced reasonably—in today’s world—at just above £90). They’ve also added some jazzed up sherry and port cask releases (which I also haven’t tried). Prices in the US are a little higher but at this point we should just be glad that they are putting out age-stated whisky. Which is not to say that they’re not putting out any NAS whisky: they also have something called the Origin 1825, which costs about the same as the 10 yo in the US (it’s cheaper in the UK). Anyway, let’s see what this 15 yo is like. Continue reading

Clynelish 12, 1997 (James Macarthur)


With an interesting but not excellent Campbeltown stop behind us, let’s take the bourbon cask train up north to the Highlands and see if things improve. On paper, they should. After all, this is a 1997 vintage Clynelish and all the whisky geeks who believe in magical vintages will tell you that 1997 is a special year for Clynelish. It’s also the case that bourbon cask Clynelish in general is a good bet—see this 14 yo from Archives, for instance, and this one from Berry Bros. & Rudd (both from 1997). This was bottled in 2009 by James Macarthur, an outfit that doesn’t seem to be terribly ubiquitous anymore—not in the US anyway. If you have information on their status, please write in below. This is from a single cask but was bottled at 45% for some reason. I got the sample from Michael K. of Diving for Pearls and I’m not sure what it means that he doesn’t seem to have gotten round to reviewing his own bottle. Anyway, if this is close to either the Archives or Berry Bros. bottles I’ll be happy—but I won’t believe anymore than I currently do in magical vintages.  Continue reading

Ben Nevis 19, 1996 (Cadenhead)


After a few very untimely reviews let’s do a couple this week that were bottled closer to the present—just last year, in fact (they’re not available any more either but you can’t have everything). First up, this Ben Nevis 19, 1996 bottled by the usually very reliable Cadenhead in their Small Batch series. I bought this at auction in the UK and the bottle did not come with the dangling paper thingy that contains all the cask details on these releases (is there a name for those things?). The label does say “Small Batch” but Whiskybase tells me there were only 222 bottles released. So, was it actually a single cask? Hard to see how you could blend two or more casks and arrive at so few bottles—unless only a part of the vatting was released here. Anyway, I bought it because ex-bourbon Ben Nevis can offer the tropical fruit that I so love in single malt whisky at a younger age than most distilleries, and because the last Cadenhead’s Small Batch ex-bourbon Ben Nevis from 1996 that I bought was just excellent (as was the last ex-sherry Ben Nevis from 1996 that I bought). I am happy to say that my hopes were not dashed on the shoals of reality.  Continue reading

Tomatin Cuatro, Blended + Musings


If you’ve been reading along for the last week you’ve probably noticed that I posted reviews of the four releases of Tomatin Cuatro (Fino, Manzanilla, Oloroso and PX). Of these I liked the PX release the best. Though I didn’t dislike any of the others, I didn’t find them to be particularly distinctive. I didn’t find the Fino and Manzanilla to be particularly sherried either, for that matter, in the way that we normally think of sherried whisky. It could be argued, however, that their dry, yeasty qualities might well be expressing the character of Fino and Manzanilla sherry quite well. The Oloroso and especially the PX casks were more in line with what whisky drinkers expect when they see the words “sherry matured/finished”. But because Tomatin does not clarify the kind of wood these casks were made of, it’s not clear if the greater stereotypical sherry influence of these two releases is down to the type of sherries these casks previously held or if it’s because these two releases had their second maturation in European oak while the other two were re-racked into American oak casks after the first nine years. Without this information it’s a little hard to come to any meaningful conclusions about the effect of aging in casks that had previously held different types of sherry.  Continue reading

Tomatin Cuatro 4: PX


And so, the last of the four whiskies in Tomatin’s Cuatro series: the PX. For those who came in late (salute yourself if you get the comics reference), I’ve previously reviewed the Fino, the Manzanilla and the Oloroso releases in this series. All were distilled in 2002, matured for 9 years in ex-bourbon casks and then re-racked into the specific sherry casks for the last three years. I didn’t find too much difference between the Fino and Manzanilla releases; which makes sense, as Fino and Manzanilla sherry are not that far apart, and so the odds that nuances between them would extend to whiskies double matured for three years in ex-Fino and Manzanilla casks were slim to begin with. The Oloroso had darker, leafier notes, more reminiscent of what we’ve come to think of as sherry cask notes, and I expect this PX cask will be similar: both Oloroso and PX sherries are made “oxidatively” and have more in common with each other than they do with Fino or Manzanilla sherries. Anyway, let’s get to it.  Continue reading

Tomatin Cuatro 3: Oloroso


With this, the third in Tomatin’s Cuatro series from a few years ago, we move to what should be a more richly sherried profile. At least that’s what we’ve been trained to think by Oloroso sherry cask releases by various Scottish distilleries. Oloroso sherry, as you probably know, is made differently than Fino and Manzanilla. For Fino and Manzanilla the layer of flor (or less poetically, film of yeast) that forms on the top of the maturing wine is not disturbed, which results in a paler and drier style of sherry. For Oloroso (and Amontillado) the flor is killed when the wine is fortified, resulting in a darker and richer, “oxidized” wine. When most whisky drinkers think of sherry character in single malt whisky it is Oloroso we are thinking of.

It is, of course, also likely that we attribute to Oloroso/sherry character is actually down to maturation in European oak. What the Fino and Manzanilla entries in the Cuatro series have suggested is that three years of double maturation in what are likely also American oak casks may not impart a very heavy sherry influence. Will that be true of the richer Oloroso sherry as well? Let’s see. Continue reading

Tomatin Cuatro 2: Manzanilla


On Monday I had a review of the first in Tomatin’s Cuatro series of sherry cask releases: the Fino. That post has all the relevant information on the series but if you haven’t read it and are too lazy to click, here’s the crucial bit: all four releases are of whisky distilled on the same day and aged for nine years in ex-bourbon cask and then then re-racked into Fino, Manzanilla, Oloroso and PX casks for another three years each. Unlike the regular 12 yo, these are at 46%. I did not find much overt sherry influence in the Fino release—as such I’ll be surprised to find very much of it in this Manzanilla version. The two sherries are broadly similar—Manzanilla is basically a regionally constrained version of Fino (it can only be made in a particular part of Spain).

Let’s get to it.  Continue reading

Tomatin Cuatro 1: Fino


The Tomatin Cuatro series of whiskies was released just about three years ago. Accordingly, I am reviewing those whiskies now. Ol’ Jas’ mention of the series in the comments on my review of the regular Tomatin 12 got me thinking about them and I decided to buy the lot for my local group’s September tasting.

You probably know the details of the series: all of the whisky was distilled on the same day in 2002 and matured for nine years in ex-bourbon casks. At that point it was transferred to Fino, Manzanilla, Oloroso and PX casks respectively for another three years.  In theory, the series allows whisky geeks to see the differing effects of maturation in four different kinds of sherry casks. In practice, of course, it’s not clear how much of this can in fact be accomplished. Continue reading