Aberfeldy 16, 2003 (G&M)


There’ll be no whisky review this Friday as it’s the first of the month and so let’s call it a mini-sherry cask week (following Monday’s Balvenie PX Finish). I noted on Monday that I have not reviewed very many Balvenies; well, this is only my second review of an Aberfeldy. The first was a 17 yo bottled by Cadenhead in 2014 from bourbon hogsheads. This one is a year younger and was bottled in 2020 by G&M from a refill sherry hogshead. I quite liked the ex-bourbon 17 yo—will this one be at least as good? Let’s see.

Aberfeldy 16, 2003 (58.8%; G&M; refill sherry hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: No sherry bomb, this comes in with some dried orange peel, cereals and dried leaves. The orange peel picks up as it sits and some mildly-spicy oak joins it. With time the oak softens and some toffee emerges along with some roasted malt; a bit of cream/milky cocoa too now. Water emphasizes this development and pulls out more of the leaves as well. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 21, 1998 (Archives)


This week of Ben Nevis has not turned out to be all I hoped it would be. Monday’s 20 yo from Single Cask Nation was disappointing; while Wednesday’s 21 yo from the Daily Dram was a fair bit better, it didn’t have me reaching for superlatives either. Those were both refill sherry casks. Today’s closer is also 21 years old but is from a hogshead. Will it reward my oft-stated faith in bourbon cask Ben Nevis? Let’s see.

Ben Nevis 21, 1998 (48.2%; Archives; hogshead 188; from a bottle split)

Nose: Quite fruity with melon, pineapple, tart-sweet apple. The nuts and powdered ginger and funky notes are so far not here. The powdered ginger emerges with time along with some cream and some dusty oak A few drops of water make the cream expand and bring out more sweet fruit to go with it—some blueberries too now. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 21, 1996 (The Daily Dram)


Ben Nevis week got off to a disappointing start with Monday’s 20 yo from 1996. That one, bottled by Single Cask Nation, was from a refill oloroso puncheon. Today I have for you another from the 1996 vintage, with an additional year of age. It is also from a refill sherry cask—a butt in this case, and the type of sherry not specified. This one was bottled by the Daily Dram—which, I have to constantly remind myself is an independent bottler unrelated to the Nectar’s “Daily Drams” series. Anyway, I’m hoping this will reset this week of Ben Nevis. Odds are good as I can’t remember the last time I had two indifferent Ben Nevises in a row.

Ben Nevis 21, 1996 (50.6%; The Daily Dram; refill sherry butt; from a bottle split)

Nose: A classic Ben Nevis arrival with roasted nuts, malt, ginger powder, yeasty dough and rubber gaskets from old medicine bottles. On the second sniff there’s a fair bit of salt and just a hint of smoke. As it sits some sweet citrus emerges (orange peel and juice). With time the yeast comes to the fore and is joined by some white pepper. Water pushes the yeast back a bit and brings out more citrus. Continue reading

Ardmore 11, 2009 (Signatory)


Last week featured malt whiskies from three different Indian distilleries (Kamet, Amrut and Paul John). This week will feature malt whiskies from three different Scottish distilleries. In a further connection, they’re all bottled by Signatory—and to be more specific, they were all bottled in Signatory’s Un-Chillfiltered Collection. Bottles in this series, usually but not always at 46% abv, were a major part of my malt whisky education more than a decade ago. I lost track of them for a while after that but was very glad to see a bunch of recent releases in the series on the shelves of a local liquor store in early May. I bought two of those and both will be reviewed this week. First up, is an Ardmore 11, 2009. I am—as is no secret—a big fan of Ardmore’s peated profile, with its emphasis on pepper, mineral notes and fruit. I didn’t realize until I got home that this cask might not display those qualities. Why? Well, because the label says “Bourbon Barrel after Islay” which I take to mean an ex-bourbon barrel that had previously held Islay whisky. If a heavily peated one, those notes might easily overpower Ardmore’s more delicate profile. Did that in fact prove to be the case? Read on. Continue reading

Tomatin 25, 1994 (Hunter Laing)

My week of reviews of 20+ yo whiskies from distilleries from different whisky producing regions of Scotland got off to a good start on Monday with the Arran 20, Brodick Bay. It then hit a bump in the road with Wednesday’s Kirkland 23, Speyside. Both of those had sherry involvement. The Brodick Bay was matured in both bourbon and sherry casks and then finished in oloroso sherry. The Kirkland was matured in bourbon casks and also finished in oloroso sherry. I close out the week now with a whisky that received a full-term maturation in a sherry butt. At 25 years old this Tomatin is the oldest of the week and I hope it will give it a good end. Older Tomatin can be very good indeed. The butt yielded 452 bottles, which may seem particularly low to those used to Glendronach’s outturns from sherry butts. Keep in mind though that there seems to have been a fair bit of spirit lost to evaporation—at cask strength this came in at just 49.3%. Let’s hope that means that this will be an extra-fruity Tomatin. Continue reading

Clynelish 14, 2018 Release


The week and month got off to a great start on Monday with the 2021 release of the Springbank 10. Here now is another official distillery release, the Clynelish 14, once one of only two releases from the distillery (along with the rarely seen Distiller’s edition). When I first started drinking single malt whisky this was one of my very favourite whiskies. I remember purchasing a bottle along with one of the Lagavulin 16 from Astor  in New York in the mid-2000s. Thanks to Astor’s then seemingly permanent Lagavulin sale I got both for $100. Anyway, though I liked it very much in those days, I’ve lost track of the Clynelish 14 in the last several years. Indeed, I haven’t reviewed it since 2014 and that was of a bottle purchased before 2010. And so I was very happy to take the opportunity to reacquaint myself with a recent release (this is from 2018). Let’s see what it’s like.
Continue reading

Ballechin 10, 2010 (Signatory)


This week of reviews of peated whiskies began on Monday with an indie Port Charlotte that is said to have some sherry involvement. It continued on Wednesday with the 2018 release of the official Ledaig 10 that may or may not have sherry casks in the vatting. Here to close out the week is another indie that is unambiguously sherried. Indeed it’s from a single sherry butt and a first-fill butt at that. It’s a 10 yo Ballechin—or peated Edradour—from Signatory, who’ve bottled a number of sherried Ballechins of this general age in the last few years. I’ve liked the ones I’ve tried and so have high hopes for this one. Let’s see if they’re borne out.

It just struck me, by the way, that this week ended up having a secondary theme: not only were these all peated whiskies but they’re all the heavily peated variants from distilleries that are at least nominally known for unpeated/lightly peated malt. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 20, 1999 (The Daily Dram)


I must apologize for lying to you. On Monday I said that all three of this week’s reviews would be of 20 yo Ben Nevises distilled in 1997. This was true of Monday’s Berry Bros. & Rudd cask and also of Wednesday’s Exclusive Malts cask. But it turns out that this one—bottled by The Daily Dram—was actually distilled in 1999. It is a Ben Nevis though and 20 years old, which means I’m only 33% a liar. It’s also different from the other two in that while those were both sherry casks—well, the Berry Bros. cask does not specify but it seems pretty obviously a sherry cask—this one is not. Okay, so this one does not specify the cask type either but by the looks of it this seems very much like an ex-bourbon cask. Will it be more quintessentially Ben Nevis than the other two were? I did like both of those but felt the sherry covered up the Ben Nevis funk a bit too much. In theory, at least, the bourbon cask should let more of that out. Let’s see if that proves to be the case. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 20, 1997 (The Exclusive Malts)


Another day, another 20 year old Ben Nevis distilled in 1997. Monday’s iteration was bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd; today’s was bottled by the Exclusive Malts/Creative Whisky Company. If I’m not mistaken the company is now defunct (a thousand apologies if that’s not true). Unlike Berry Bros. & Rudd, they specified the cask type: a refill sherry hogshead. I hazarded the opinion on Monday that the Berry Bros. & Rudd cask might also have been refill sherry. Let’s see if I like this one as much as I did that one.

Ben Nevis 20, 1997 (51.9%; The Exclusive Malts; refill sherry hogshead #38; from a bottle split)

Nose: Musty oak off the top and quite a bit of it; a leafy quality too (like damp, rotting leaves). On the second sniff the oak turns to cedar and some sweet orange begins to push its way out. As it sits the citrus becomes more tart/acidic and there’s a mineral, slightly chalky edge to it. With time the oak more or less fades here and is replaced by sweeter notes of butterscotch and brown sugar. Fruitier with water as the orange is joined by some papaya and hints of tart-sweet mango. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 20, 1997 (Berry Bros. & Rudd)


Let’s start the month with a trio of Ben Nevis. After that we’ll be ready for anything. All three that I’ll be reviewing this week are 20 years old and distilled in 1997. I’m curious to see how much variation there will be across the set. First up, a cask from Berry Bros. & Rudd, a name that is generally a reliable marker of baseline quality. True to form, they do not specify the cask type but, as you’ll see, I have a guess.

Ben Nevis 20, 1997 (54.6%; Berry Bros. & Rudd; cask 85; from a bottle split)

Nose: That very Ben Nevis mix of ginger, salted nuts, white pepper and malt off the top. On the second sniff there’s a faint whiff of diesel as well plus bright citrus. Continues in this general vein. With water there’s the diesel turns to paraffin and the ginger and citrus turn to citronella. Continue reading

Ardmore 19, 1992 (Single Malts of Scotland)


Ardmore week began on a low note with Monday’s 6 yo Ardlair (unpeated Ardmore bottled by Signatory) and then hit a big high on Wednesday with a regularly made 10 yo (bottled by Single Cask Nation). Will today’s 19 yo (bottled by Single Malts of Scotland) from 1992 go even higher? Only one way to find out. This sample also came to me from Michael K. of Diving for Pearls but I’m not sure if he’s reviewed it yet himself. I greedily accepted the offer of the sample even though I have a full bottle myself.

Ardmore 19, 1992 (49.3%; Single Malts of Scotland; bourbon barrel 9464; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Everything you want your Ardmore 19 to be: mineral peat mixed with sweet floral notes and savoury notes (ham cure). On the second sniff the smoke has begun to turn ashy and the floral notes begin to move in the direction of musky fruit (honeydew melon) and fruit custard. Citronella builds in the background and then comes to the fore. With time and air the citronella moves in the direction of sweet orange and the sweet fruit moves somewhere between peach and overripe pineapple. The smoke builds as it sits. A few drops of water and it all melds perfectly. Continue reading

Ardmore 10, 2009 (Single Cask Nation)


Ardmore week got off to a very shaky start with Monday’s 6 year old Ardlair (unpeated Ardmore). I am hoping that today’s regulation peated Ardmore will reset the week despite being only four years older. This one was bottled a couple of years ago by Single Cask Nation from a single first-fill bourbon hogshead. I maintain this optimism even though the last Ardmore of this general age I reviewed didn’t set my hair on fire. What can I say? I’m an optimistic guy. Okay, let’s get to it.

Ardmore 10, 2009 (58.8%; Single Cask Nation; first-fill bourbon hogshead 707927; from a bottle split)

Nose: Mild mineral peat with lemon, wax, wet wool and some sweeter notes of vanilla. The lemon begins to turn to citronella pretty quickly and some paraffin emerges as well. The peat picks up with more time and it becomes quite briny as well. With more time and air it gets quite creamy. A few drops of water and the acid is amplified again with some chalk in there as well; after a few beats a more savoury note emerges as well (ham brine). Continue reading

Ardlair 6, 2011 (Signatory)


After a week of non-single malt whisky reviews (rum, Irish, bourbon) let us return to our normal programming, which also means a return to Scotland. This week will see reviews of three whiskies from the same distillery. That distillery—in case you’re wondering what “Ardlair” is—is Ardmore. Ardlair is apparently the name given to their unpeated malt (Ardmore, as you know, is one of the few Highlands distilleries that normally distills peated malt). As to whether this name is used by the distillery or is required to be used by independent bottlers, so as to protect the distillery’s branding, I do not know. For all I know, it’s a Signatory-only naming convention. At any rate, I’ve never tasted unpeated Ardmore before and so am looking forward to this one even though it has two potential strikes against it, going in: 1) It’s very young; and 2) it’s at a stupid strength. Will the brilliance of the Ardmore distillate shine through anyway? Let’s see. Continue reading

Tomatin Decades, First Edition


The first edition of the Tomatin Decades was released in 2011 and put together by their Master Distiller, Douglas Campbell to mark his five decades at the distillery. The vatting comprised casks from the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. They ranged from 5-6 years of age all the way to 43-44 years of age. And they were a mix of cask types: refill sherry hogsheads, oloroso sherry butts, first-fill bourbon hogsheads. (The refill sherry hogsheads were from 1967 in case you’re wondering—the practice of breaking butts down and re-coopering them as smaller hogsheads is obviously not anything new.) As far as I know, it was never disclosed what the proportion of spirits of different ages and cask types was. And as was not unusual for Tomatin in that era, it was released at 46% abv. Also not unusual for that era was the price. If you came to single malt whisky more recently you may want to avert your eyes. This went for all of about $90 in 2011. There was a second release some years later. I know nothing about that one. Continue reading

Glen Ord 9, 2011 (Signatory)


Alright, let’s keep highlands whisky week moving. My first review in February was of a Glen Ord and my first review of March is also of a Glen Ord. I rather liked that 11 yo from Cadenhead and am hoping this 9 yo from Signatory—bottled at an eye-watering 61.1%—will be as good. This one is from a bourbon barrel, and a first-fill barrel at that. Hopefully, that does not indicate very heavy oak influence. Let’s see.

Glen Ord 9, 2011 (61.1% Signatory; first-fill bourbon barrel 800324; from a bottle split)

Nose: Apple to start here too but much sweeter than in last month’s 11 yo and mixed with cereals, malt and candied lemon peel. As it sits some oak emerges as well and then it begins to get maltier and muskier with overripe pear joining the apple. With more time and air there’s some sweet melon and the malt expands as well, picking up some cream. With water the oak recedes and the malt and musky fruit expand; there’s some ripe berries in there too (for my South Asian readers: ber).  Continue reading

Glenmorangie 18, 2021 Release


My last whisky review for January was for a malt from a highlands distillery (this Old Pulteney) and my last whisky review for February will also be for a malt from a highland distillery, this time from Glenmorangie. That Old Pulteney review kicked off a week of highlands reviews with stops at Glen Ord and Balblair. This week too will feature two more highland distilleries.

This sample of the Glenmorangie 18 came to me in a box from Michael Kravitz of the excellent Diving for Pearls (he’s not reviewed it yet himself). When he asked me if I was interested in trying it I was surprised to discover that I’d not ever reviewed the Glenmorangie 18. I used to drink it quite often back in the day when at $89 (or thereabouts) it was a very reasonably priced officially released 18 yo from a name distillery. It’s actually not very much more expensive now—it can be found for $99 in Minnesota. And so if I like this recent release as much as I remember liking those from a decade ago I may very well get a bottle. Let’s see how it goes. Continue reading

Balblair 26, 1990 (Cadenhead)


I started this week of reviews of whiskies from distilleries in the northern highlands up in Wick at Pulteney. On Wednesday I went south, so to speak, to Glen Ord, a little northwest of Inverness. To close the week I go just a little further north again, to Balblair on the outskirts of Tain.

We visited the distillery briefly in 2018 and I still regret not having had time for a proper tour (as I enjoyed a couple of days later at Pulteney). That visit was just a couple of years after this 26 yo was bottled. [“That’s a forced transition!”, Ed.]. I purchased it at auction in the UK in 2017 for what seemed like a good price for a whisky of its age. The fact that it was bottled by Cadenhead from a single bourbon barrel seemed like further endorsements. Cadenhead have a good track record and bourbon cask Balblair is always a good bet. And then I forgot about the bottle on my shelves…I’m looking forward to finally getting into it. I quite liked the last Balblair I had of this age—the second official release of the Balblair 1990—though that was a mix of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry whereas this is from a single bourbon barrel—one that dropped a fair bit of abv as it aged. Continue reading

Glen Ord 11, 2006 (Cadenhead’s)


Northern highlands week began with a 15 yo Old Pulteney. We move 100 miles or so south now to Glen Ord. This is an 11 yo from a bourbon hogshead that my source says may have been a private cask split with Binny’s in Chicago. As it happens, there’s also a Glen Ord 11, 2006 with the same abv bottled by Cadenhead that is still available at some Total Wine outlets (though none in Minnesota). So maybe it was split between Binny’s and Total Wine? Or maybe the abv is just a coincidence: the Total Wine listing is not for a single cask by a small batch release. If you can solve this uninteresting mystery please write in below. Confusion about the source of this bottle aside, I am always happy to review a Glen Ord—which is something I don’t get to do very often. Bourbon cask Glen Ord, in particular, can be very good indeed (see, for example, the last indie cask I reviewed); and it’s rarely the case that it’s not at least solid, highly drinkable malt whisky—that’s true even of the official 12 yo Singleton of Glen Ord. Let’s see where this one falls. Continue reading