I started the month with a heavily-peated Islay that was a bit of a misfire (this year’s Cairdeas). Let’s continue with peated whisky but move on to the eastern highlands, to Ardmore who are not known for heavily peated whisky. Interestingly—and also worryingly—however, this particular 20 yo release was apparently finished in ex-Islay casks after an initial maturation in ex-bourbon casks. If these were casks from Laphroaig (possible given that Beam Suntory owns both distilleries) then there’s a good chance that the usual combination of mellow, peppery peat and fruit that characterizes the best Ardmores might get lost in a phenolic overlay. On the other hand, if the casks were ex-bourbon Bowmore casks—Bowmore being another Beam Suntory distillery—then that might actually be a good match. Let’s see how it goes. I’m a big fan of Ardmore, even though we don’t get very many opportunities to try their malt in the US, and I am hoping for the best. Continue reading
On Tuesday I had a review of a bourbon cask Inchmurrin bottled by the SMWS in 2018. Here now is another. This one is a few years older. By the way, despite what the label on the sample bottle might lead you to think, I did not get this from Sku.
Inchmurrin 14, 2004 (60%; SMWS 112.39; 2nd-fill hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: The usual mix of bright acid and mineral notes to start; then lime peel and salt expand along with more tropical notes of tart mango and dragonfruit and just a hint of passionfruit. With time the lime peel is still the top note and the mineral quality is right there with it along with a whiff of paraffin. A few drops of water push back the paraffin, bring out some sweeter notes (vanilla) and make the whole bigger. A bit more water and there’s more fruit still: sweeter (berries) and richer. Continue reading
Okay, back to whisky. Here’s a young Inchmurrin from a bourbon cask. Inchumurrin, as you probably know, is one of the several lines of whisky produced at the Loch Lomond distillery. Its profile is typically very fruity and sans the peat that marks their Croftengea line. I confess I am never able to remember how Inchmurrin or Croftengea differ from the other lines made by Loch Lomond—Inchfad, Inchmoan and so on. I did really like my last young Inchmurrin from a bourbon cask. That one was an official 9 yo single cask selected by the Whisky Exchange last year to commemorate their 20th anniversary, and I was glad to have procured a full bottle of it. This one is a bit older at 11 years of age and was bottled by the SMWS. They gave it the fanciful name “A Piece of Paradise”. If it’s filled with tropical fruit I’ll forgive them. Let’s see if that turns out to be the case and if I regret only having a 2 oz sample. Continue reading
Alas, I don’t have another Ardmore with which to make this a full week of Ardmore reviews to match last week’s Benromach trio. But I do have a sample of another SMWS malt with which to make it a week of SMWS review. Let’s go a bit to the west and then to the north, to Clynelish. After Wednesday’s red wine finish misadventure we’re back to a bourbon cask. Unlike Monday’s Ardmore, however, this is a barrel, not a hogshead and it’s a first-fill not refill cask; it’s also much younger. That combination of a smaller cask size and more active wood can be an overbearing one for a young whisky such as this; but in theory, at least, Clynelish’s spirit should be able to stand up to it. Let’s see if that’s been the case here.
Clynelish 8, 2010 (57.5%; SMWS 26.104; first-fill bourbon barrel; from a bottle split)
Nose: Toasted oak, ripe pear, apple cider, sweet malt. Very nice indeed. As it sits sweeter notes come to the fore—more apple along with the pear–but the oak and the cider are still here. With water and a few beats the fruit gets muskier: lemon peel, pineapple. Continue reading
Okay, let’s make it two Ardmores in a row. I really liked the 20 yo I reviewed on Monday. Like this one, that was also bottled by the SMWS. Unlike this one, however, that was from a refill bourbon cask. This one very much is not. Well, it started out in bourbon cask but ended up in a red wine cask for some reason. I’m yet to come across any compelling reason to finish whisky in red wine casks. Will this change my mind? Let’s see.
Ardmore 13, 2006 (58.1%; SMWS 66.161; red wine finish; from a bottle split)
Nose: Fairly jumbled with some pickled/acidic notes, some char, some oak, some red fruit. On the second and third sniffs there’s quite a bit of lime. As it sits the smoke takes on a slightly plasticky/acryclic character. The nose settles down with time and air and the plastic/acrylic note recedes. Water brings out a cured meat note. Continue reading
Last week I reviewed a slew of Benromachs—well, three of them anyway. Let’s stay in the general vicinity and let’s stick with Highland peat. Ardmore is the other distillery in that general part of Scotland that is known for peated whisky. As at Benromach, Ardmore’s peat is not phenolic in the Islay style and nor is it as farmy/brutal as Ledaig’s can be. Instead it typically has a peppery, mineral character, with soot and coal in place of the phenols. It’s hard to find much indie Ardmore in the US—or even very much officially released Ardmore—but I am a big fan of the distillery and try their whisky every chance I get. And I usually like it a lot. Why, I even liked a 10 yo put out by K&L last year! More to the point and closer to the age of this one, I also really liked a 22 yo from 1996 released to mark the 20th anniversary of the OMC line in 2018. If this is as good as either of those I’ll be very happy. Let’s see if that proves to be the case. Continue reading
I keep saying this about most of the minor Scottish distilleries but I have very little experience of Fettercairn. I’ve only reviewed a couple of them before this one and have maybe tried twice as many in total. As such I have no expectations. Of the two I’ve reviewed one did nothing for me and the other was average—which leaves the door open for this one to be the first Fettercairn that will really move me. Okay, so it also leaves the door open for this to be the first Fettercairn I end up pouring into the sink—why do you have to be so negative?
This particular Fettercairn was bottled by Exclusive Malts for K&L in California. Being negative, you might say that this is not a very promising combination but I have had very good whiskies from both. Let’s see if this is another one of those. Continue reading
My recent batting average with Ben Nevis is very high. I can’t remember the last one I disliked and most have been very good indeed; in particular a few that were distilled in 1996 (for example, this, this and this). That’s good news because this is a Ben Nevis, 1996 too. Therefore, as per science, this is likely to be very good. Let’s see if that’s the case.
Ben Nevis 18, 1996 (50.7%; Liquid Treasures; bourbon hogshead; from my own bottle)
Nose: Big fruit (sweet citrus mixed in with tinned pineapple and a bit of peach) along with a big malty note as well as some cocoa. In other words, very Ben Nevis. The malt gets yeastier as it sits and some tingling oak emerges as well; the fruit is all still here though. Sweeter and more floral with a few drops of water. Continue reading
Speaking of independent bottlers allowing us to experience malts that are outside the profile a distillery is officially associated with, and following Monday’s bourbon cask Aberlour, here is a Glendronach from a bourbon cask. It was bottled in the Whisky Galore series that Duncan Taylor put out through the mid-2000s. Usually (always?) bottled at 46% and without added colour or chill-filtration, this label put out a lot of high quality malt at highly reasonable prices. The name was changed later to NC2. As the whisky loch of the 1980s dried up the volume of quality whisky available at reasonable prices dropped dramatically across the board and the current incarnation of Duncan Taylor’s affordable line, Battlehill (often sold at Total Wine in the US) seems to offer fewer hidden treasures. Glendronach itself is, of course, highly identified with sherry cask whisky, especially the alleged “single casks” they began to put out in large numbers in the late 2000s and on. What does their whisky taste like when not from a sherry cask? Well, the results from this virgin oak cask were not encouraging, but virgin oak is a very different beast from ex-bourbon wood. Let’s see what this one is like. Continue reading
In the second half of April I went on a long run of reviews of whiskies from sherry casks. Let’s reset the balance a bit in May with a run of reviews of whiskies from bourbon casks. First up is a Balblair 2005. This is the first release. I don’t actually know what that means. I think you have to enroll in special seminars to understand how Balblair’s vintage releases work. Me, I am a simple man and do not dare aspire to such understanding. Now you may be thinking that even I cannot be so simple as to not understand that this must simply be the first release of Balblair’s 2005 vintage. But before you judge me keep in mind that different editions of the first and second releases of Balblair 1999 were released in the same years and that it is entirely possible—nay, likely—that different editions of the same releases were of different ages. Whose head’s hurting now? Let’s agree to not talk about this anymore. At least with changes with Balblair’s lineup this confusion is no longer an issue: they scrapped the vintage releases last year and moved to regular age-stated releases. On the other hand, most of Balblair’s lineup is now unaffordable. Isn’t the world of whisky so fun and not at all alienating? Continue reading
Here is another Whisky Exchange exclusive. Unlike with last week’s Glenburgie 21, there is no confusion about who the bottler of this release is. This was an official release but bottled exclusively for the Whisky Exchange as part of the commemoration of their 20th anniversary—for which a remarkably large number of bottles were released, most now sold out. Inchmurrin, as you may know, is one of the various brands produced at the Loch Lomond distillery—a distillery that seems to be in the process of a somewhat unlikely turnaround of their profile. This turnaround—if I am in fact accurate in describing it as such—has a lot to do with the raised profile in recent years of Croftengea, their heavily peated brand. The fruity quality of Croftengea—seen in spades in this earlier Whisky Exchange exclusive that I loved, also a 9 yo—is said to be even more of a hallmark of Inchmurrin. I say “said to be” because I’m not sure that I’ve actually had any Inchmurrin before. Well, if this one lives up to expectations I will make it a point to hunt some of those regular official releases out—they’re available in Minnesota. Let’s see how it goes. (One small mystery though: the label says this was one of 121 bottles. That’s a very small number—where did the rest of this cask go?) Continue reading
Here is the last of the five whiskies I opened in the week I turned 50, all bottles either distilled or bottled in years that have been important ones in my life. I’ve previously reviewed a Glendronach 19 distilled the year I left India for the US; a Bowmore 11 bottled the year I met my partner; a Springbank 12 bottled the year our older child was born; and a Highland Park 27 bottled the year our younger child was born. Here now to complete the set is a Tomatin 40 that was distilled the year I was born and bottled the year our younger child was born.
Tomatins from the early-mid 1970s have a very strong reputation. I’m not sure, however, if I’ve seen many reviews of Tomatins from 1970—indeed, this particular release does not seem to have been reviewed at all—even Serge hasn’t gotten to it. This might explain why I was able to purchase this bottle from the Whisky Exchange back in 2011 without having to pay and arm and a leg. But as we’ve recently seen, a good price on an older whisky does not in and of itself mean that it was money well spent. What’s the story with this one? Continue reading
Earlier in the month I began a series of reviews of recent exclusive casks from the Whisky Barrel with a 10 year old Bunnahabhain from a first-fill oloroso hogshead. That one handily surpassed my low expectations. Here now is another 10 yo from a first-fill oloroso hogshead, this time a Balblair. Will this turn out to be as good? I can’t think of any recent sherry bomb Balblairs I’ve had. Anyway, let’s see.
Balblair 10, 2009 (59.4%; The Whisky Barrel; first-fill oloroso hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Big sherry (raisins, orange peel, a metallic note) mixed in with roasted malt and some powdered ginger. As it sits a leafy note develops as well. Water brings out some plum sauce. Continue reading
Let’s start the month with one of the five single cask bottles I opened in the week of my 50th birthday. I selected whiskies that were distilled and/or bottled in significant years of my life. The secondary goal was to end up with a group that spanned the old Scotch regions and also a range of whisky styles that I enjoy. First up from the set is this Glendronach 19. It was distilled in 1993, the year I left India for the US—permanently, as it turned out. This is a PX cask that was bottled for the UK market. It’s one of several 19 year olds distilled that year and bottled in 2012 or 2013—Whiskybase lists 17! Now, we know that at Glendronach “single cask” doesn’t necessarily mean the whisky is from a single cask. And it’s also true that some of the least successful examples of “single cask” whisky from Glendronach have been PX casks (see, for example, this one and also this one). On the other hand, there have also been some I’ve liked (like this one). Where will this one fall?
Let’s see. Continue reading
It’s time for my annual Blair Athol review. I’ve not reviewed very many of them and all the ones I’ve previously reviewed have been from sherry casks, I believe (this includes the official 12 yo Flora & Fauna release which may or may not be still a thing). This one, however, is from a bourbon cask, and like many of K&L’s casks from their recent release it’s from a refill hogshead. It’s always interesting to try a malt in a different guise than its norm and refill hogsheads are—in principle anyway—a good thing. Let’s see if this one rewards that confidence.
Blair Athol 21, 1997 (56.1%; Old Particular for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Malt, a bit of sugar, some apple. Pleasant but somewhat generic right off the bat. With a bit of time there’s some more sweeter fruit (berries of some kind) but it’s still not terribly interesting. With more time there’s some vanilla and some pastry crust. With time and a few drops of water the fruit is a little more pronounced. Continue reading
Let’s close out the week’s whisky reviews with yet another K&L exclusive. On Monday I reviewed a Tamdhu 19. I liked it, thought it was very drinkable indeed, but was not blown away by it. Today I have a Ben Nevis that is a year younger. As regular readers of the blog know, I am generally a big fan of contemporary Ben Nevis. The distillery’s malt usually provides a very unique mix of fruit, malt and a characteristic funk that is very hard to describe. Will this one be in that vein? I certainly hope so. Let’s see.
Ben Nevis 18, 2001 (52.8%; Old Particular for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Takes a few seconds to open up and then there’s some lemon with a prickly, peppery mineral note alongside. Below that is some malt, some sweet notes of vanilla and cream and just a bit of that Ben Nevis gasoline funk. As it sits richer, muskier fruit begins to gather in the background but doesn’t quite pop out—maybe with more time? Well, not so much with time but with water there’s sweeter fruit (peach?) and it melds nicely with the malt and the cream. Continue reading
The Singleton of Glen Ord is the Singleton release Diageo sends to the Asian market. Or at least it used to. Does it still do so? Is the Singleton series still on the go? These are questions for more informed people to answer. I did note that Diageo put a Singleton of Glen Ord 18 on their special release roster last year—though I don’t believe I’ve read any reviews of it. Anyone know what it was like?
I’d planned to review it when I first put it on the possible reviews list a few months ago. But LV33’s comment denigrating it put me off—I am a very impressionable sort, you see. But the sample sat around making sad eyes at me and I was no longer able to avoid it. Here, therefore, with some trepidation is my review.
Speaking of Highlands peat, here’s a Brora. While Ardmore is in the eastern Highlands (some would even say the Speyside), Brora/Clynelish is located in the northern Highlands, well north of Inverness (though not quite as far north as Wick). The old Brora distillery, shut down in 1983 along with so many others, is, as you probably know, in the process of being revived (along with Port Ellen). We stopped at Clynelish on the way to Orkney in 2018 but didn’t have time to do a hard hat tour of the Brora premises. Somehow I don’t think I’ll get the opportunity again. I also don’t think I’m going to have too many more opportunities to drink the whisky produced by the old Brora (which was itself the old/original Clynelish distillery) as it’s now all priced well above my pay grade. I have a few samples and one unopened indie bottle left and that’ll be it. So it goes.
This is an official release. It was the seventh, I think, in Diageo’s special releases of Brora, and the first and only 25 year old released in the series. From what I can tell it has a more up and down reputation than the 30 year olds released before and after it. I’m curious to see what I make of it or if I find it appreciably different than the 30 yo 5th and 6th releases that I have reviewed. Continue reading