A few hours after this review gets posted I will be driving north from Glasgow into the Highlands. I will not be going as far as Wick (where Pulteney is located), only to the Drumnadrochit area. Still, it feels appropriate to post a review of a northern Highland malt while I’m in the general vicinity. And so here’s a young Old Pulteney. This is unusual in several respects. First, that it’s an independent bottling of Pulteney. Second, that despite being an independent bottling it bears the Old Pulteney name—the distillery’s name is Pulteney; “Old Pulteney” is more like a brand name. Third, it’s from a sherry cask. It’s not that no sherry casks are used in formulating the malts in Pulteney’s regular lineup but it’s not a distillery you think of when you think of sherry bombs. And this is very much a sherry bomb. It’s also very much an alcohol bomb, at almost 60% abv. And it’s a brash youngster too. I can also tell you right off the bat that it’s a lot better than the Cadenhead’s 11 yo I recently reviewed, which was also from 2006. Continue reading
I purchased this Pulteney from Cadenhead’s in Marylebone on my visit a couple of weeks ago. They sell a range of minis of their various bottlings, and as they don’t seem to be set up to let customers taste bottles they’re interested in it’s the only way to try before you buy. In theory, at least: in practice, right now they only have a mini of one bottle that is actually still in stock and this Pulteney is not it (it’s a 12 yo Balmenach, if you want to know). Still, the price was less than that of a pour in most bars and so I decided to buy it (and a few others) anyway. There aren’t that many opportunities to taste indie Pulteney out there and I did like an even younger one Cadenhead’s bottled a long while ago (this 8 yo, distilled in 1990). And as I also have a review lined up of another young indie Pulteney (from a sherry cask), I thought I’d put this review of a bourbon cask up first and make it seem like I had a master plan. Continue reading
I’ve not had much luck with Glen Garioch on the blog. Among the recent official releases I’ve reviewed, I liked the 16 yo Binny’s exclusive but the Founder’s Reserve and the 12 yo didn’t get me very excited. The older independents that I’ve reviewed have also not gone very far past the good/very good boundary. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being on the good/very good boundary—only that I haven’t reviewed a great one yet. This includes three others from the 1990 vintage: a 20 yo and a 22 yo from Kintra Whisky and a 21 yo from Archives. Will this slightly older 25 yo from Signatory be much better? Others who participated in the bottle split this sample came from had very good things to say about it, so I’m hopeful. (By the way, as you may know, in 1990 Glen Garioch were still using malt peated to a higher level than their current output. I believe it was in 1993/94 that their peating regimen changed.) Continue reading
Lochside is one of those closed distilleries that is never coming back. Located in the eastern Highlands—well east of the Speyside and separated by it from most of the distilleries we usually associate with the Highlands—it was closed in 1992 and then demolished in 2004-2005. It was somewhat unusual in that it was set up to produce both grain and malt whisky—though I’m not sure if grain whisky was indeed produced there for its entire history. As with a number of closed distilleries, Lochside’s reputation expanded well after its closure. It is also one of the distilleries that has a magical year of production associated with its name. People go on about Caperdonich distilled in 1972 and BenRiach and Tomatin distilled in 1976, and in the case of Lochside, it’s the 1981 vintage that is said to be the magical one. I haven’t looked into it closely but I suspect the same selection bias is at play as I’ve described for Caperdonich and Tomatin. Feel free to heap coals on my head. It won’t be the first time. Continue reading
My first review in November was of a 19 yo Ben Nevis, bottled by Master of Malt in their That Boutiquey Whisky Company series. I did not care for it very much. It was a little too spirity and not generally very good evidence for my repeated claim that Ben Nevis may well become the next big thing among whisky geeks, as the prices of current top line distilleries, especially for sherry casks, continue to rise towards and past the roof. I noted of that one that it was frustrating because everything I like about Ben Nevis was obviously there in it but covered by chemical/artificial notes of one kind or the other. I am happy to say that this one does not suffer from any of those problems. It was bottled by Whisky Import Nederland and this is my second bottle. I went through the first at a pretty rapid rate—I also took it to one of my whisky group’s tastings a few months ago, and it was a hit with everyone there as well. It’s from a refill sherry cask but not a very shy one. Let’s get to it. Continue reading
I’ve barely reviewed any Pulteney on the blog, and none from the core age-stated, official range—though I did include the 12 yo in my “well-rounded single malt bar“. Here now is the 17 yo. I believe this is from a bottling from 2012 or so and is a vatting of both bourbon and sherry casks.
Pulteney is in the Northern Highlands—way up in the north of Scotland. Its closest neighbour on the mainland is Clynelish, I believe, and the two Orkney distilleries may be even closer. In terms of profile I usually find it to be close to Balblair (also in the Northern Highlands) and Clynelish—which may say something after all for the notion of regional profiles, which I’m usually suspicious of. Pulteney is the name of the distillery, by the way—Old Pulteney is the name of the whisky produced by the distillery. I believe it used to be the case that independents couldn’t use the “Old Pulteney” name—certainly the case for the older Scott’s Selection and Cadenhead’s bottles I’ve reviewed—but of late I’ve been seeing it on indie labels as well. Continue reading
Well, here’s my first whisky review after the apocalypse. A too quick return to business as usual, you might say; but returning to old routines, I’ve had other, more personal reasons to recently learn, is a good way to deal with potentially paralyzing news. Anyway, as I continue to process what this election means and how I should engage with my world in response to it, here’s one of a few reviews that were written in a more innocent time, when I dared believe Sam Wang’s projection of a >99% chance of a Clinton win. We can’t go forward in complacency or denial but we can’t give up on pleasure either. If we do that then Rudy Giuliani wins.
Clynelish 25, 1984 (48.9%; SMWSA 26.67; refill sherry butt; from a sample from a friend) Continue reading
That Boutiquey Whisky Company is a line of whiskies released by Master of Malt, the UK whisky store best known for not being the Whisky Exchange but seemingly desperately wanting to be. Take for example, this series, in 500 ml bottles, that launched after TWE’s 500 ml Elements of Islay series. The TBWC malts, however, are not limited to Islay and have labels as colourful (or garish, if you prefer) as those of Elements of Islay are minimalist. It’s a campier look, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but the problem is that reviewers I trust rarely seem to have overmuch praise for what’s in TBWC’s bottles. That used to generally also be true of Ben Nevis, though its previously dodgy reputation seems to be on the rise of late. I’m on record as saying that Ben Nevis, especially from sherry casks, may well be the next big thing among whisky geeks. It’s certainly true that well-aged, independent, sherried Ben Nevis can still be found at reasonable prices. I’m not sure if this one was reasonably priced though—these TBWC releases are usually priced pretty high as well. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. At least it’s not NAS as many of their earlier releases were (and, to be fair, as every single Elements of Islay release has been). Continue reading
This is the oldest Clynelish I’ve yet had and the second from a sherry cask. I quite liked that SMWSA 29 yo from a refill sherry butt, but not as much as the Single Malts of Scotland 28 yo from a bourbon cask I’d reviewed last year. This is not because of the sherry influence per se. In fact, the sherry influence in the SMWSA 29 yo was quite muted—what held that one back was a lack of complexity, on the whole. This one is also from a refill cask but it is a hogshead and so there’s a good chance that the prized Clynelish characteristics of honey and wax might get drowned out by stronger notes of sherry and oak (from the smaller cask). That didn’t happen with the excellent Manager’s Dram release, but at 17 years old that was less than half the age of this one. But if it’s good, I don’t really care too much one way or the other. And given its antecedents there is a pretty good chance this will be good. It was bottled by Gordon & MacPhail for the reputed French store, La Maison du Whisky. Continue reading
This is the first Aberfeldy I’ve reviewed on the blog and it may well be only the second Aberfeldy I’ve ever tasted. Not much of it is available. Until recently, there were only a 12 yo and a 21 yo available from the distillery and my experience of the 12 yo did not ever make me curious about the 21 yo. I found it to be an unremarkable malt, in a somewhat generic, mildly fruity Highlands style: not offensive but not really intriguing. Not that intrigue would have helped much: there’s very little Aberfeldy available from the independents (most of it goes into the bottomless vats of the Dewar’s blends) and most of those seem to be G&M releases in their Connoisseur’s Choice line—which also has rarely gotten very many whisky geeks’ pulses racing. This one was bottled
last year in 2014 by Cadenhead’s in their Small Batch series. As my experience with the last lot of Cadenhead’s Small Batch releases was pretty positive I was willing to take a chance on it. I am happy to say I rather like it. Continue reading
I recently reviewed the official Glencadam 21. Here now is a much older Glencadam from the German bottler Whisky-Fässle. I purchased it in 2012, which may have been the last year that it was easy to get older bottles, especially from 1970s distillate, for reasonable prices from the independents. These days teenaged Laphroaigs are going for close to $200, and probably for more (oh yes, quite a bit more: I just saw a 18 yo Laphroaig 1990 listed for 230 Euros!) It is for this reason that I’ve been slow to open the not very many older bottles I have left—it’s all but impossible now to find any now at non-extortionate prices. This is from a refill sherry cask and its strength has dropped naturally in the cask to just over the minimum 40% required for whisky. I’ve had a number of similarly low strength malts from similarly aged whiskies from this era that have displayed wonderful fruity characteristics (see this G&M Longmorn 40, 1971) and so I was expecting this to be very good when I did open it. Continue reading
The only Glencadam I have reviewed so far is also a 21 yo—this from Blackadder. This one is the official 21 yo. I don’t really know much about Glencadam—it’s another of the distilleries whose output I have tasted very little of—and so I can’t really speak to its general profile. I bought a bottle of this 21 yo in the summer of 2012, along with bottles of the 10 and 15 yo. I’d planned to organize a blind tasting of the three but here I am almost four years later and I’m yet to open any of the bottles; this is what happens when you buy too much whisky (this review is of a sample I got from Michael K—who presumably purchased a full bottle at some point: his own review is of a purchased sample. Man, this is a complicated parenthetical aside). I have recently opened another, much older, independent bottling so maybe I’ll get around to doing that vertical at some point soon after all. Continue reading
Michael K. recently offered me a sample of this and I took him up on it saying I’d finished my own bottle well before the blog. That statement is true but, as with the Redbreast 12 CS, it turns out I had already reviewed it in the summer of 2013, when the blog was relatively new, and had just completely forgotten. Now I’ve got no shortage of never-reviewed whiskies (samples and bottles) on my shelves but it was sort of interesting to re-review that Redbreast and also this Ben Nevis recently, and so I decided I’d give this another go as well. I have not looked at my previous notes or exact score again before this second go-around. Let’s see if I come up with much variance.
I’ve reviewed this Ben Nevis before. That was a review of a purchased sample — I ended by saying I might have to purchase a bottle and I did. I opened the bottle pretty quickly after purchase and took it to one of my local group’s tastings (where it did quite well). I’ve been drinking the bottle down at a pretty steady clip since then and figured I’d re-review it to see how much overlap there is between my notes on the two occasions. You’ll have to believe me when I say that I have not re-read the first review before starting on this one.
Ben Nevis 18, 1995 (55.5%; Wilson & Morgan; sherry butt 657; from my own bottle)
Nose: Sharp and a little varnishy at first; some paraffin too. Then the fruit begins to emerge: bright citrus and a more indistinct muskiness below. Gets quite dusty as it sits and a little bit malty as well. With a lot more time the sharper notes recede and the fruit is to the fore (and sweeter now). And with water the sharp notes are all but gone and there’s a biscuity quality to go with the sweet citrus. Continue reading