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

Tomatin 12, 2016 Release


I last reviewed the Tomatin 12 about two years ago. It’s a malt that I’ve always enjoyed as a casual sipper and it was historically always a very good value (as is the Tomatin 18). The Tomatin packaging has received a makeover since then: with all new bottles and labels and a generally more premium look (I suppose: I always liked the clean labels of the previous design). It didn’t see a bump in the abv, however. Anyway, I’d been curious to see if there had been any significant change to the whisky inside the bottle as well and picked up a bottle late last year. I’ve since taken it to two of my local whisky group’s tastings (always blind) and it did well at both—this was particularly pleasing to a few of our members who are forever complaining that I make them taste whiskies that they like but can never actually find. You won’t have any trouble finding this one, no matter where you live. But what is it like? Here are my notes. Continue reading

Old Pulteney 9, 2006 (Malts of Scotland)


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

Pulteney 11, 2006 (Cadenhead’s)


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

Glen Garioch 25, 1990 (Signatory)

Glen Garioch 25, 1990, Signatory
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 29, 1981 (Captain Burn’s)

Lochside 29, 1981

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

Ben Nevis 18, 1996 (Whisky Import Nederland)

Ben Nevis 18, 1996, WIN
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

Old Pulteney 17

Old Pulteney 17
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

Clynelish 25, 1984 (SMWS 26.67)

Clynelish 25, 1990, SMWSA
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