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

Ben Nevis, McDonald’s Traditional, Batch 1


I couldn’t remember where my sample of the Benriach Heredotus Fumosus came from, but there is no mystery with this sample. The presence of the infernal black tape around the cap means it came from Michael K. (of Diving for Pearls). I guess I should be thankful he’s not dipping sample bottles in wax. Yet.

Everything I could tell you about the provenance of this NAS retro Ben Nevis would be stolen from Michael’s review, so you may as well go and read it first if you’re interested in that kind of thing. I’m not sure if new versions of this are still being made, or what really the status of Ben Nevis’ current official releases is. The new 10 yo—which was great—went away and then came back (is the returned version as good as the previous?). In between there was another batch release 10 yo which I did not care for very much. Hopefully, this will be better. Let’s see. Continue reading

Glen Ord 15, 1997 (Liquid Sun)


Here is the first of two Glen Ord 15s bottled by the Whisky Agency under their Liquid Sun label. This is a year older than the one I reviewed last month. I really liked the classic Ord mix of fruit and austere notes that one presented. Will this be as good? Let’s see.

Glen Ord 15, 1997 (49.9%; Liquid Sun; bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Bright fruit (apples, lemon, pear) mixed in with musky malt and some bready/yeasty notes. Very Glen Ord, in other words. With time that malty note moves a bit in the direction of putty. Water pulls out more of the malt and the smoke from the palate shows up here too now (a sooty, waxy outline around the malt).

Continue reading

Balblair 2006-2018 (Hand-Filled)


I filled this bottle at Balblair during my brief visit in June 2018. We stopped at the distillery on the way to Dornoch from the Speyside. We got there too late in the day for a tour to be possible; a pity as I rather liked the feel of the place, dour as it is. (You can see my brief account of the stop here.) They had one cask on the go and having been foiled at Aberlour, where I had hoped to fill a bottle from their usual bourbon cask only to find they had no casks of any kind available to bottle, I was hoping Balblair’s would be a good one. Truth be told, it’s a bit dangerous pondering these casks at the distilleries. You’re gone a long way to get there, and if you like the feel of the place you’re very primed to take a bottle away as a keepsake. And, of course, the theatre of filling the bottle yourself, writing your name and the bottle details in the register, and applying the label yourself is appealing too. Nonetheless, I had resisted the charms of a number of distilleries’ offerings in the Speyside; but I was beginning to worry that I might not have the opportunity to fill bottles from any distilleries on this trip. And so I was probably pretty primed to like Balblair’s cask. And indeed I did. Will I like it as much more than a year later? Let’s see. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 14, 1998 (Exclusive Casks)


The last Ben Nevis I reviewed was an official release: the Batch 1 release of a 10 yo from 2008. That was I believe an interim release till their new 10 yo—which I did like a lot—came back online. I don’t think there has been a Batch 2. Anyway, whatever its status, I was not a fan. I have not had the 2019 release of the regular 10 yo; I do hope it’s at the level of the prior release. The 14 yo I am reviewing today is an independent release. It was bottled by the Creative Whisky Co. in their Exclusive Casks line for Total Wine in the US. I believe that the Creative Whisky Co. is no longer a going concern as of 2018. There’s so much ferment in the whisky world. This whole introduction has been nothing but a record of uncertainty. What is certain, however, is that Michael K., the source of my sample, really liked this one (see his review), though he was undecided about the cask type. Our thoughts on Ben Nevis tend to align. Let’s see if that will continue to be the case here. Continue reading

Millburn 25, 1975, Rare Malts


Millburn was established in the Northern HIghlands in the early 19th century, though it appears to be unclear as to when it actually started distilling whisky on the regular. In the middle of the century it was repurposed as a flour mill and only returned to distilling whisky in the 1870s. It then changed owners a few times before becoming part of DCL—one of the precursors to Diageo—in 1937. It then remained in operation before closing in 1985, one of the later casualties of the downturn that saw so many distilleries close in that decade. Unlike some of those distilleries, however, Millburn never really ascended to cult status after its demise. This is perhaps due to the fact that very little Millburn has ever been available. The only one I remember seeing in the US is a G&M release. I stared at bottles of it on shelves in Minnesota more than a decade ago but never got around to buying one. This, therefore, is my first Millburn, a 25 yo released in 2001 as part of Diageo’s Rare Malts series. I’m curious to see what it’s like. Continue reading

Glen Ord 14, 1997 (The Whisky Agency)


Yesterday’s Old Pulteney 14 I described as being in the Clynelish-Glen Ord part of the spectrum. I guess I may as well round out bourbon cask, northern highlands week with an actual Glen Ord. On our trip to Scotland in June 2018 I’d considered stopping at Glen Ord as well but no one who’d been there seemed to think there was much there of interest to anyone but the completist distillery visitor. And that is not what I am. I am someone who leaps at the chance to drink Glen Ord though. It’s not a sexy distillery but I’ve had a lot of fine bourbon cask Glen Ord in my time. Let’s see if this is another of those.

Glen Ord 14, 1997 (50.4%; The Whisky Agency; bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Tart fruit (lime peel, green apples, gooseberries), just a touch of prickly oak and something mineral. As it sits a nice malty note develops. With a couple of drops of water the fruit expands and it’s a little sweeter now. Continue reading

Clynelish 23, 1991 (Van Wees)


I’ve never been clear on what the peating level is of the malt from which modern Clynelish is made. Scotchwhisky.com says their malt is unpeated but I consistently find at least mild levels of peat in almost all Clynelish I’ve had, including the OB 14 yo. And in some indie releases I find more smoke than that—never phenolic, usually leafy or dry wood smoke. This Van Wees release of two bourbon hogsheads vatted together is in the latter category. I found smoke in it when I opened the bottle and it seems to be more palpable in every pour. So, what’s the story? Is it that in the early ’90s Clynelish was using more heavily peated malt than they have been of late? Or is it that they do some peated runs? Or is the smoke showing up from random casks that may previously have held peated whisky from one of Diageo’s other distilleries? I don’t know but if you have any insight into this please write in below. Continue reading

Brora 25, 1981 (Duncan Taylor)


After yesterday’s Benrinnes 24, 1972, let’s go up one year of maturation and jump almost a decade ahead to 1981. Here is a Brora distilled just a couple of years before the legendary distillery shut down. The general consensus among whisky geeks is that early ’80s Brora is the least compelling Brora but when you’re dealing with single casks anything is possible. Let’s see where this one falls.

Brora 25, 1981 (56.5%; Duncan Taylor; cask 1423; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Dry to start, almost a bit vinegary, and then there’s some hay and other barnyard scents; also some tarry, almost acrid peat. As it sits there’s some tart fruit and the peat gets less acrid and more hot tarmac’ish. Okay, let’s see what water does. With a drop of water there’s sweeter fruit (a hint of peach?) and some wax. Continue reading

Glen Mhor 22, 1979, Rare Malts


On Monday I had a review of the recent Glentauchers from Archives. I noted there that I had very little experience with that distillery. Well, I have even less experience with Glen Mhor, a closed distillery. I’ve previously reviewed one Glen Mhor—a Scott’s Selection release that hung around in the US for a long time—and my spreadsheet tells me that’s the only I’ve had until now (though it must be said that my spreadsheet has become a little shaky/unreliable in the years since I started the blog. That was a 26 yo, distilled in 1978. This is a little younger and was distilled a year later—it was bottled in Diageo’s Rare Malts series from the early 2000s, a series that included some legendary releases but also some less than legendary ones. Where will this one fall? Let’s see.

Glen Mhor 22, 1979, Rare Malts (61%; from a bottle split)

Nose: An interesting mix of floral, leafy and mineral notes; some peppery peat too and some lemon and sweet pear. Gets sweeter as it sits and a malty, cereal note emerges. More expressive with a few drops of water with the floral notes expanding along with the cereal; some vanilla too now. After a minute or two there’s more fruit: sweet cherries and lemon peel. Continue reading

Ardmore 24, 1985 (SMWS)


In my last review of an Ardmore I noted that it was a hard distillery to get to know. No further clarity has emerged on that front since that review and so let’s dispense with an introduction to this review and get to business sharpish. I will note only that this is not the first Ardmore from the 1980s I’ve tried and that while I liked that 25 yo fine, it wasn’t anything  so very special. In fact I didn’t like it as much as that last Ardmore I reviewed, which was a 22 yo from the mid-1990s. Where will this 24 yo, bottled by the SMWS in 2009, fall? Let’s see.

Ardmore 24, 1985 (52.5%*; SMWS 66.30, “An outdoor banquet”; bourbon hogshead; from a sample received in a swap)

Nose: Typical Ardmore smoke, sooty and mineral (not phenolic), mixed in with lime zest and some brine. As it sits there’s a hint of vanilla and the citrus moves in the direction of citronella. Brighter and brinier with a few drops of water. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 10, 2008, Batch 1


I reviewed the (then) new Ben Nevis 10 early last year and really liked it. In fact, I asked—largely rhetorically—if it was the best entry-level malt whisky on the market (and it was very fairly priced too). In response it promptly went off the market. The distillery apparently ran out of stocks that would have allowed them to continue to make it to the same specifications—there’s an account of this in a review on Whiskybase or you could take a look at Michael K.’s recent review which summarizes matters. Rather than go completely off the market the distillery formulated this one-off cask strength release, which is a vatting of ex-bourbon, ex-sherry and ex-wine casks. And it is a vintage release from 2008 distillate. Since then the regular 10 yo has indeed come back on the market. This is good news, but it must be said that I have not read any reviews of the new release and am therefore only hopeful that it will be very similar, if not identical to the batch I really liked. This cask strength release I can tell you—spoiler alert—I don’t like as much, I opened it not too long after buying the bottle some months ago and thought it was just okay. I then took it to one of my local group’s tastings and it did quite well there. The bottle has since sat at below the halfway mark for a couple of months—I’m curious to see if it has improved further. Continue reading

Croftengea 13, 2005 (OMC, 20th Anniv. Release)


Oh no, not another one of those Old Malt Cask 20th anniversary releases! Yes, I’m afraid. so. I’ve already reviewed 57 or so of them and here’s another one. This is a 13 yo Croftengea distilled in 2005 and it has me hoping that it might be almost as good as that 9 yo bottled by the Whisky Exchange last year, or at least as good as the SMWS 15 yo from 2017. Like the Whisky Exchange release, this is from a bourbon cask. Also, most of the other OMC 20th anniversary releases I’ve reviewed have been pretty good—so the odds are good, right? That’s what I told myself anyway when I purchased a bottle a day after going in on this split but before tasting this sample. Let’s see if I’m going to regret that hastiness.

Croftengea 13, 2005 (50%; OMC, 20th Anniv. Release; from a bottle split)

Nose: Big peat, farmy, rubbery—rather Ledaig’ish though without as much of the dead rodent in wet undergrowth. On the second sniff there’s some lemon mixed in there as well. With time and then a few drops of water it gets more acidic and the smoke gets ashier and also more phenolic. Continue reading

Game of Thrones Whisky: The Night’s Watch (Oban)


You think watching the last season of Game of Thrones was hard? You should have tried watching the last season of Game of Thrones *and* reviewing all eight of Diageo’s Game of Thrones malts. Sure, only a couple have been completely dull but only a couple so far have been better than decent (the Lagavulin and the Clynelish). Nor have very many of the pairings made much sense: House Lannister (built on gold mines) got the smoky Lagavulin while the dragon-riding Targaryens got the Cardhu Gold. The Night’s Watch being assigned Oban makes very little sense as well. The Night’s Watch is at the very north of the known world of Westeros; shouldn’t they have been matched with one of the northernmost distilleries? If you ask me, House Stark should have been given Glen Ord or Teaninich instead of Dalwhinnie (which should have gone to House Tyrell), and the Night’s Watch should have got Clynelish. I’m upset about this because none of it matters. On to the whisky. Continue reading