Ardmore 10, 2009 (Old Particular for K&L)


Oh no, it’s another peated whisky. For a change, however, it’s a very recently released whisky and in fact it may still be available—yes, I checked, it is. It’s another from K&L’s recent parcel of exclusives from the Laing companies. As you know, some of my reviews from this batch have endeared me even more to K&L’s staff. What can I say? I’m easy to love.

Anyway, Ardmore: usually good, and usually not very much of it available from the distillery’s owners. Last year I reviewed a 22 year old released to mark the 20th anniversary of the Old Malt Cask line (another Laing property) and really liked it. This one is about the half the age of that one. It’s from a barrel which might bode some risk of over-oaking—barrels are smaller than hogsheads—but it’s a refill barrel. I’m a fan of Ardmore’s brand of fruit and highland peat. Let’s hope it’s on display here. Continue reading

Glengoyne 21, 1996 (Old Malt Cask for K&L)


So far this month I’ve reviewed three of K&L’s recent exclusive casks. They’ve all been 23 yo malts distilled in 1995 (Clynelish, Glen Moray, Allt-A-Bhainne). I liked them all a lot (87 points each) though I had differing estimations of the price to quality ratio each present. Today I have another recent K&L cask but this time it’s a 21 yo distilled in 1996. Will I finally go above or below 87 points?

This is a somewhat unusual whisky in that it’s a Glengoyne from a bourbon cask—most official Glengoyne is sherry cask driven. It’s also unusual because it’s an independent cask of Glengoyne. It’s not a name you see very often from the indies. On Whiskybase it’s the very rare distillery that doesn’t have any releases listed from prolific indies, Gordon & MacPhail and Signatory (and there are only 12 indie releases total listed for 2019). So it should be an interesting proposition all around. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Glendronach 10, 2002, Virgin Oak


Behold, I, a wise man from the East, bring to you this day tidings of a whisky born of virgin oak!

Glendronach—the distillery that understands the word “single” in a manner different from the rest of us—is almost entirely associated with sherry cask-matured whisky. Very little non-sherried Glendronach ever seems to make out into the world, but some does from time to time. This cask is one of them. However, it is not likely to be one that can give me a sense of what Glendronach’s spirit is like away from the heavy influence of sherry that has become their calling card. This because not only is it not a sherry cask, it is a virgin oak cask, and chances are always good with virgin oak casks that the oak—not yet tamed by serial maturations of whisky—will be very talkative if not entirely overpowering. Let’s see if that proves to be the case here. Continue reading

Balblair 21, 1990 (C&S)


Here is a highly untimely review. This Balblair 21 was released in 2011, right around the time when I had begun to buy single malt whisky in a deranged manner. As per my spreadsheet it cost me $80 at the time (and back then the Euro was a lot stronger against the dollar). Sherry cask whisky was widely available then. Maybe it’s nostalgia talking but I also want to say that high quality sherry cask whisky was still widely available then. That is to say, it was possible to get sherried whiskies that didn’t seem to all have been matured in active oak casks that had a few bottle of cooking sherry pressure injected into them for a week or two. Whisky geeks are still enamoured of sherry cask whisky and especially of dark sherried whiskies but they mostly seem like dubious propositions these days, either flabby or raw. I can tell you that the sherry character in this Balblair is more old-school. I’ve been drinking the bottle down with pleasure since I opened it for one of my local group’s tastings a couple of months ago. Here now are my notes. Continue reading

Clynelish 23, 1995 (Signatory for K&L)


As I said in my post looking ahead to this month’s reviews, I recently participated in a split of a large number of bottles from K&L’s recent run of exclusive casks. In so doing I broke a promise to myself that I would not fall anymore for the promise of these exclusive casks, very few of which have in the past delivered for me. But I have poor impulse control. Hence this Clynelish which is being sold for $250 before tax, accompanied by K&L’s usual mix of over-the-top lyricism and incoherence. I don’t really spend this kind of money on any whisky anymore but I couldn’t resist 2 ounces to see if it could possibly live up to the breathless descriptions of it as a “legendary cask” of “superlative quality”, “deep and profound like the ocean itself” posing questions to the unprepared drinker such as “if you were a hotdog would you eat yourself?” and so on. Of course, what they don’t say is that there have been a large number of these sherried Clynelishes hitting the market in the last couple of years, getting more expensive each year—I reviewed a 21 yo, 1995 almost exactly two years ago, a Signatory exclusive for the Whisky Exchange that went for £120. Will this cask, two years older, really be so different from the sherried mean? Let’s see. Continue reading

Glen Ord 18, 1996 (Blackadder)


Another whisky distilled in the 1990s, another Glen Ord. I wasn’t sure I was going to get to this one this month but after Diageo announced an 18 yo Singleton of Glen Ord as part of their 2019 slate of over-priced releases I figured the time was right: that if there was ever going to be a surge of interest in 18 yo Glen Ord it would be now; and who better than me to stand poised to ride that wave all the way to marginally less irrelevance than I now boast in the marketplace of content.

The last couple of teenaged Glen Ords I’ve had—including Tuesday’s 15 yo—have been very good but nothing very exciting. Let’s see if this 18 yo does a little more for me and makes me consider paying a large amount of money for the new Singleton 18 yo for a few minutes before I slap myself across the head for being a fucking idiot. Continue reading

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