On Monday I reviewed a WhiskySponge Ardmore 24 from a refill bourbon hogshead. I simultaneously liked it a fair bit and was a bit disappointed with it. Today I have a 22 yo Ardmore that started out in a refill hogshead and was then subjected to a sherry finish. I have to confess my default reaction to such a sequence is first one of anguish: why risk marring one of Scotland’s truly idiosyncratic profiles with a brief, potentially overbearing dalliance with sherry? And then one of skepticism: was the sherry finish applied in the manner of lipstick on a pig? But though my initial response may be skeptical, my mind remains open and I am hoping for the best. Will those hopes be rewarded or will they fall apart like an ill-conceived sherry finish? Let’s see. Continue reading
There were competing requests last week for themed weeks centered on Ardmore and on WhiskySponge releases. Competing because I cannot do both: two of the Ardmores are WhiskySponge releases. As a compromise I propose a week of WhiskySponge releases now and then the third, non-WhiskySponge Ardmore at the end of the month, to be paired with a whisky from another highlands distillery, with which I’ll kick off February’s booze reviews.
So, here’s the first of two WhiskySponge Ardmores. This is the older of the two: 24 years old and from a refill hogshead. On paper, at least, that sounds very good indeed. Will that be true in the glass? I liked the only other WhiskySponge releases I’ve reviewed—a trio of Ballechins from almost exactly a year ago (here, here and here)—but was not blown away by them. I’m hoping this January’s trio will live up to all the hype. Let’s see. Continue reading
Yes, Tuesday is usually a restaurant report day on the blog, but we’re desperately trying to finish the last season of Better Call Saul before we leave for India and I didn’t have time last evening to resize all the images for my first restaurant report of 2023. And so here is the second review of the trio of releases by Single Malts of Scotland that I am reviewing this week.
The series began yesterday with a young Laphroaig that was fine enough but didn’t really impress me—especially relative to the price. This Clynelish—which also bears the appellation “Reserve Casks”—is three years older but was a little bit cheaper ($65 to the Laphroaig’s $80, I think). I guess there’s no Islay peat tax to be paid here. Like the Laphroaig it’s not a single cask; this is a vatting of three bourbon barrels. Let’s hope the barrels were not over-active and that this proves to be a better value. Continue reading
After two weeks in a row of bourbon cask whiskies (from Bladnoch, Linkwood, Dailuaine, Ardmore, Glen Garioch and Teaninich), let’s finish the month, and the year, with a week of sherry-matured whiskies. Instead of going up in age over the course of the week—as I usually do—let’s do them in order of increasing sherry influence. First up, accordingly is a single cask Ben Nevis 18, 1991 that was bottled by Mackillop’s Choice back in 2010. I purchased this bottle not too long after, and as with so many bottles purchased in that time period, I have no idea why I haven’t opened it in all these years—except perhaps that I purchased rather a lot of bottles in that time period. Anyway, it’s open now.
By the way, I was surprised to learn that Mackillop’s Choice is still a going concern—or at least that it was just a few years ago. Whiskybase doesn’t have any listings for 2022 or 2021 releases from the label but there were at least a few releases in 2020. If you’d asked me before I looked it up, I would have guessed they’d long gone the way of Scott’s Selection. Based on Whiskybase listings, the heyday does seem to have ended in the early 2010s, when they were still releasing 20-30 malts in most years. Continue reading
This has been a week of reviews of malts from highlands distilleries. It’s also been a week of reviews of ex-bourbon cask malts and, as it turns out, a week of reviews of 12 yo malts. On Monday I had a review of a 12 yo Teaninich bottled by the Thompson Bros.; on Wednesday I had a review of a 12 yo Glen Garioch bottled by Old Particular; today I have for you a review of a 12 yo Ardmore bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Long-time readers of this blog know that I have a soft spot for bourbon cask Ardmore. Indeed, I’ve had a fair number of bourbon cask Ardmores in recent years that I’ve enjoyed a lot, many of those bottled by the SMWS with numbers adjacent to this one. Among those have been 66.133, 66.137 and 66.138. Granted 137 and 138 were quite a bit older but it still bodes well for this one, which is 66.139 (and 133 was also a 12 yo). I’m sorry if you’re not familiar with the SMWS’ funky bottle codes. The numbers before the period identify the distillery (Ardmore is 66) and those after the period identify the number of the release—which means this was the 139th Ardmore bottled by the SMWS (they’re well past that number now). In addition, they like to give each release a silly name. This one was dubbed “Deerstalkers and hillwalkers”. Okay, let’s see what it is like. Continue reading
Okay, let’s move away from Diageo distilleries. You’ll recall that, as with last week’s survey of Diageo distillery exclusives (here, here and here), this is also a week of reviews of highlands distilleries. It started on Monday with a 12 yo Teaninich bottled for K&L in California. Today, I have for you a 12 yo Glen Garioch also bottled for K&L in California. This one is not from the Thompson Bros. but from one of K&L”s usual hookups: Old Particular (a label from one of the Laing outfits). Bourbon cask Glen Garioch is often austere and always interesting and I’m hoping this one will be too. Let’s dive right in.
Glen Garioch 12, 2008 (52.6%; Old Particular for K&L; refill barrel; from a bottle split)
Nose: A very interesting opening with a mix of lime and mineral notes with some pine and powdered ginger mixed in there as well. On the second sniff there’s a bit of vanilla as well and then it starts getting floral (not flowers themselves so much as floral-scented talcum powder). Gets fizzier as it sits (i.e it smells like it should be a fizzy, fruity drink) and also simultaneously begins to smell like gin. A few drops of water push the talcum powder back; still floral though. Continue reading
Last week I reviewed recent distillery exclusives from three Diageo distilleries located in the Highlands: an 11 yo Oban, a 12 yo Dalwhinnie, and a 14 yo Royal Lochnagar. Let’s start this week with another Diageo distillery in the highlands: Teaninich. This is not an official release or a distillery exclusive, however. This was bottled by the Thompson Brothers for K&L in California. Ignore the age statement and abv on the sample label in the pic alongside; that info accidentally got swapped by my sample source with that of the Thompson Brothers Caol Ila 8, 2013 for K&L that I’ve previously reviewed. This Teaninich is 12 years old and was bottled at 53.1%. Like the Caol Ila, it was bottled for K&L under the label, Redacted Bros. for some reason. K&L described it on their site as a single hogshead exclusive to them but only had 120 bottles—which is about half of what you’d expect to get from a hogshead at this age and strength. To confuse matters further there’s another Teaninich 12, 2009 at 53.1% that was released by the Thompson Bros. in Europe under their regular name. That one is from two refill bourbon hogsheads and 508 bottles are listed for it on Whiskybase. So, is this Redacted Bros release of 120 bottles a fraction of those 508 that came to the US? If not, where did the rest of this cask go? If you know, please write in below. Continue reading
Okay, let’s bring this week of reviews of hand-filled exclusives from Diageo distilleries to a close. You will recall that these are all distilleries located in the highlands—Oban on Monday and Dalwhinnie on Wednesday. We end now with Royal Lochnagar. The Oban was 11 years old and from a refill bourbon cask; the Dalwhinnie was 12 years old and from a re-charred sherry cask. This Lochnagar is the oldest of the three at 14 years old and is from a 2nd-fill sherry butt. While I’ve tasted a few more Lochnagars than Dalwhinnies in my time, this is only my third review of a whisky from the distillery. I was even less impressed by its entry in Diageo’s Game of Thrones cash grab than I was by the Dalwhinnie and Oban in that series; and I wasn’t super-enthused by the other one I’ve reviewed either—an indie release, also 14 years old and from a sherry cask. In other words, my expectations are low and it won’t surprise me if this manages to exceed them. Let’s see if that turns out to be the case. Continue reading
This is, as you will recall, a week of reviews of distillery exclusives filled by hand in October at Diageo distilleries in the highlands. Yes, that’s a very specific theme. The week began at Oban on Monday with a review of an 11 yo refill bourbon cask. Let’s go a bit north and a bit east to Dalwhinnie. As I say each time I review a Dalwhinnie, I do not have very much experience of their malt. There is very little Dalwhinnie out there to try. (Well, I suppose I should give the Distiller’s Edition a try sometime—does Diageo still put those out regularly for every distillery in its Classic Malts collection?) At any rate, this is only my third review of a Dalwhinnie—the others were also official distillery releases: the old faithful 15 yo and the so-called Winter’s Gold, which was part of Diageo’s Game of Thrones cash-grab. Neither really did very much for me (82 points each). So this 12 yo hand-fill from a re-charred sherry cask is not going to have to do very much to raise the distillery average on this blog. Let’s see if it’s up to the task. Continue reading
For the first full week of December let’s do a week of highland malts and a week of Diageo distillery hand-fills all at once. All three of this week’s malts were filled by hand at the distilleries in late October. Again, not by me but by the person I got these bottle splits from. Let’s begin with the youngest of the three, an 11 yo Oban.
When I visited Oban briefly in the summer of 2017, they had a NAS distillery exclusive in the shop, though not a hand-fill. You weren’t allowed a taste, only a sniff of a pour that had been sitting out for god knows how long. I duly sniffed it and was not impressed and passed on. Indeed, I was not impressed by the other exclusives I encountered at most Diageo distilleries on that trip. But it appears that these days Diageo is making more of an effort. All three of this week’s casks have age statements and are at cask strength. They also have cask types specified. This Oban is from a refill bourbon cask. Well, I rather liked the 2021 Special Release Oban which was about this age and also from bourbon casks—albeit a mix of first and refill casks. If this is at least as good, I’ll be happy. Continue reading
This week’s theme has been official distillery releases of sherry-bothered whiskies. Monday’s review (of the 2021 release of the Springbank 18) and Wednesday’s review (of the 2021 release of the Glenallachie 12) were both of whiskies that had sherry cask-matured whisky in them but were not full-on sherry maturations. They were also not single casks. The last whisky of the week is a single cask and it is single PX cask. Or so the label says. Of course, this is a Glendronach single cask from the Billy Walker era. I took a side swipe at this in the intro to the Glenallachie 12 on Wednesday, but in case you don’t know, and didn’t follow the link then, the Glendronach “single casks” of that era were neither always single casks—as most people understand the term—nor always matured only in the cask type marked on the label. As to whether that’s true of this PX puncheon that was bottled for the Whisky Exchange in 2013, I’m not sure. My early pours from the bottle didn’t blow me away but they also didn’t come across as indicating an attempt to dress up tired whisky with a PX cask finish. The bottle has now been open for a week or so. Let’s see what some air in it has done for the whisky. Continue reading
I must apologize to you first for being a liar. I said this was going to be a week of whiskies bottled by the SMWS from highland distilleries whose names start with “Glen”. Such were Monday’s Glenturret and Wednesday’s Glencadam. I must now inform you shamefacedly that while today’s whisky is from a highlands distillery whose name starts with “Glen”, it was in fact bottled by Old Particular (one of the Laing outfits) for my old buddies, K&L in California. I don’t know why I got it in my head that this was also a SMWS release and I will not blame you if you choose to never forgive me for this betrayal. There are other continuities though. The Glenturret and the Glengoyne were both 8 years old. Add those together and you have 16 and that’s how old this Glengoyne is. And like those two, this one was also bottled at a high strength—though just shy of 60% in this case.
Folly aside, this is a good opportunity to try a Glengoyne from a bourbon cask—the official releases are largely sherried. I do hope I will like it better than the last refill hogshead Glengoyne for K&L I sampled, which was good but nothing very special (this 21 yo). Let’s see. Continue reading
SMWS Highland Glens Week continues. On Monday I had a review of an 8 yo Glenturret bottled at a foolish strength. Today I have a review for you of an 8 yo Glencadam bottled at an even more foolish strength. I don’t have very much more experience of Glencadam, by the way, than I have of Glenturret—this will be my fifth review of a whisky distilled there. And so I will spare you further introductory prattle and get right to it.
Glencadam 8, 2011 (63.5%; SMWS 82.23; second-fill bourbon barrel; from a bottle split)
Nose: Though it is predictably tight, floral sweetness does emerge from under the alcohol. Gets quite sweet as it gets some air with simple syrup and some red fruit in there as well (cherries in syrup). Some cereals and a bit of crystallized lemon in there too. A bit of vanilla emerges with time and the lemon moves in the direction of citronella. With a few drops of water the the cereal note expands and so does the fruit (peach, berries)—there are some rose petals in there too. A few more drops and now it’s really quite lovely with the fruit turning muskier and malt and a bit of buttery pastry crust emerging to join it. Continue reading
Last week was island distillery week. We began with a Bunnahabhain and ended with a malt from an undisclosed island distillery and in between there was a Highland Park. This week I have for you a triple-themed week: all Scotch Malt Whisky Society releases; all distilleries located in the Highlands; and all distilleries whose names begin with “Glen”. First up, a young Glenturret. As I always say when reviewing a Glenturret, I have sampled very few Glenturrets: this review takes the count up to four. I expect to hit double digits before the polar icecaps melt. This was matured in a re-charred hogshead and bottled at a ludicrous strength. It’s also apparently peated. Crazy high abv? Check. Peat? Check. Which means all it’s missing from the trifecta that seemingly appeals the most to a large fraction of the malt whisky drinking populace is a mega dose of sherry. The SMWS’ tasting panel named this one “No two sips are the same”, presumably because you have fewer tastebuds left after each sip. Well, I’m ready for anything. Continue reading
Last month I kicked off a week of highlands distilleries with a peated Loch Lomond: an Inchmoan. This time I’m kicking off an entire month with a peated Loch Lomond, but this time it’s a Croftengea. (Again, you’ll need to go to more detail-oriented people to find out exactly how Inchmoan and Croftengea differ from each other or, for that matter, from Inchfad, Loch Lomond’s other peated line.) I’m also using it to end a week of reviews of peated whiskies (after Monday’s Lagavulin and Wednesday’s Talisker), even though the SMWS named this one, “It’s peat, Jim, but not as we know it…”
I’ve rather liked the other Croftengeas I’ve reviewed. This, a 7 yo, is the youngest of them yet, but I will remind you that one of my favourite whiskies of 2018 was a 9 yo Croftengea. Which is to say in a hopeful tone of voice that young Croftengea can be very good indeed. Let’s see if that hope survives reality. Continue reading
Highlands distilleries week began on a strong note with a 10 yo Loch Lomond/Inchmoan. On Wednesday, an 11 yo Clynelish kept things on a positive trajectory. Here now to close out the week is a 12 yo, from Oban in the western highlands. This 12 yo from the 2008 vintage was part of Diageo’s Special Release roster in 2021 (has the 2022 Special Release lineup been announced yet?). The price was reasonable as the Diageo Special Release generally goes. And it’s generally been received well. Despite this bottles are still hanging around a year later, at least in the UK. It was also released in the US but I don’t think I’ve seen a bottle in Minnesota (not that I’m hunting for things as doggedly as I once did). There is some confusion about the casks that went into this. Diageo’s materials say that it’s made from spirit matured in “freshly charred American oak casks”—and this is what it says on websites like the Whisky Exchange. However, the bottle’s actual label apparently lists ex-bourbon and refill casks. Were they all freshly charred? Are the refill casks not ex-bourbon? The only thing I can tell you for sure is that there is both a bird and two wolves on the label. Okay, enough babble: let’s see what this is like. Continue reading
This week of reviews of malts from Highland distilleries began with a 10 yo Loch Lomond/Inchmoan. Let’s go further north now to Clynelish in the northern highlands and add a year to the age. Unlike Monday’s Inchmoan, which was made with wine yeast used in the fermentation process, there is nothing, as far as I know, out of the ordinary about this Clynelish. It was released by Signatory in their Unchillfiltered Collection. Signatory released a few of these 11 year olds from the 2008 vintage and I’m sorry to say that not having realized that before this evening I failed to ask the source of my samples for more specific cask information—and now I can’t remember who the source of my samples was! As always, getting old is a lot of fun. Anyway, of those 2019 releases were from bourbon barrels and so we know what the cask type is. Anyway: bourbon cask Clynelish is almost always a good thing and Signatory has always been a good source of Clynelish casks. And so I am hopeful that this will not disappoint. Let’s see. Continue reading
Okay, let’s do a week of reviews of Highland distilleries. First up is a Loch Lomond 10 bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Word on the street is that this is more specifically an Inchmoan. Inchmoan is, as you probably know, one of Loch Lomond’s peated lines. Though what exactly separates Inchmoan from the other peated Loch Lomonds—your Inchfads and Croftengeas—I’m not entirely sure and you may need to go to a more reliable source to find out. Well, this particular Inchmoan is quite different from most whiskies, whether made at Loch Lomond or elsewhere. That because the yeast used for the batch this cask came from was quite different from the types normally used in the fermentation process in making single malt whisky: it was a wine yeast. Now, for all I know, I’ve had other whiskies before without knowing it that had wine yeast in their production process but now that I do know for a fact that it was used to make this whisky I am very curious to see what characteristics it imparts. Let’s get to it. Continue reading