Clynelish 23, 1989 (Thosop Import)


On Monday I posted a review of an official Clynelish released a decade ago. Today I have another Clynelish, doubtless much older than the NAS distillery exclusive bottle, but released a few years later. This was bottled by the Belgian independent, Thosop Import, known both for the quality of its releases and the handwritten labels on the bottles. Thosop was originally set up by one-time Malt Maniac, Luc Timmermans, but I believe he quit the business a while ago. I think I recall that someone else took over the series. I’m not sure if it’s still a going concern—I suspect not, as Whiskybase doesn’t list anything from them after 2013. This particular Clynelish has a very strong reputation. I’ve not had too many older Clynelishes from the late 1980s, but the only other I’ve reviewed—a 22 yo from Malts of Scotland, also from 1989—was very good indeed. If this is at least as good, I’ll be happy. Let’s see.  Continue reading

Clynelish, Distillery Only (2008 Release)


Clynelish is another of Diageo’s iconic distilleries from which very few official expressions are available. There’s the always reliable 14 yo and a Distiller’s Edition—which sees that 14 yo “finished” in oloroso casks, and which is not as easily found in the US as the Lagavulin and Talisker Distiller’s Editions. That’s pretty much it. Diageo have not yet gotten around to releasing a regular NAS Clynelish, though one such did come out as part of their annual Special Release collection a couple of years ago. This one is an official release but when released in 2008, it was only available at the distillery. It is an NAS bottle—-back in 2008 nobody got exercised about NAS releases—and I have no idea how old it is or is rumoured to be in reality. (I purchased the bottle at auction in the UK a while ago.) I’m not sure if Clynelish regularly releases “distillery only” bottles. If all goes according to plan, I might stop at Clynelish in June and I guess I might take a look and see. For now here’s my review of an exclusive from a decade ago.  Continue reading

Glen Ord 18, 1997 (Montgomerie’s)


It’s been a while since Michael K. and I did a simultaneous review—in fact, I think, back then Sku may have been blogging for himself and not a liquor store; seems like so long ago now! Anyway, here is the first of three simul-reviews this month with Michael. We’ll be posting them on Fridays. They’re all of whiskies that, I believe, are/were exclusives for Total Wine. This Glen Ord and a Caol Ila 20 (next Friday) were bottled by Montgomerie’s, a brand I’ve not see anywhere except in Total Wine. The third, a Laphroaig 18 (the 27th), was bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd, and while it doesn’t say anywhere on the label that it is a Total Wine exclusive, I do believe it was listed at the store I purchased these bottles from as a “Spirits Direct” selection, which is a Total Wine thing. By the way, I know nothing about Montgomerie’s other than that their releases are sold at Total Wine, but after purchasing these bottles for a split I coordinated, I noticed that the Montgomerie’s bottles are identical in shape to the distinctive Berry Bros. & Rudd tall bottles. Just a coincidence? Or are they in fact one of BB&R’s private selection lines? If you can confirm or deny, please write in below. As with all Montgomerie’s releases—as far as I’ve noticed—this is at 46%.  Continue reading

Oban Little Bay


Here is the last entry in my quick Oban roundup. On Wednesday I reviewed the Oban 14, and was just about whelmed by it. On Friday I reviewed the Oban Distillers Edition and was somewhat underwhelmed by it. Will the NAS offering from the distillery be the one that gets me to the over? Anything is possible.

I’m not sure when the Little Bay was launched—2014? 2015?—or what its story is (all NAS whisky these days has a story). I used to think that its name was redundant—like “chai tea”—as Oban means “Little Bay”. But it turns out that Oban actually means “Little Bay of Caves” (see the picture of the label from my review of the DE). I guess this means we can someday expect another NAS named Oban Caves. It’ll be extra dark and maybe it’ll be sold to us as being especially good on the rocks. I don’t mean to give anyone any ideas.  Continue reading

Oban Distillers Edition, 2003-2017


After Wednesday’s review of the 2017 release of the Oban 14 (which I was just about whelmed by) here is my review of the 2017 release of the Oban Distillers Edition. As these—unlike the regular 14 yo—carry vintage statements, I am able to tell you that it was distilled in 2003. I have a bit of a spotty history with Diageo’s various Distillers Edition releases, which are basically the regular entry-level age-stated malt + a couple of months in various wine casks. Only the Lagavulin DE, which “finishes” the phenolic 16 yo in sweet PX casks, has consistently done it for me (here and here). I’ve previously also reviewed the 2011 release of the Talisker DE—I didn’t care for that one very much. In general, most of the Distillers Edition releases I’ve tried have seemed to drown the idiosyncratic qualities of the base malt in whatever wine cask the finish has been done in. In this case, the profile of the Oban 14 should theoretically be a good fit with the Montilla fino cask finish. Let’s see if that turns out to be the case.  Continue reading

Oban 14


I began the month and week with a review of a stunt whisky: Ardbeg Grooves, the 2018 edition of Ardbeg’s annual special release. Today I have a review of an altogether more classic malt—one that is always available and has been available for a long time: the Oban 14. It was recently brought to my attention that I have not yet reviewed a single Oban. This is not entirely my fault as there are very few Obans one could review. Until recently, this 14 yo and a sherry-finished Distillers’ Edition were the only Obans that were easily found (no indie releases that I can think of)—there’s a 18 yo as well, but it’s a more limited release (and in a rare twist, I believe it’s a US exclusive). A couple of years ago an inevitable NAS offering, “Little Bay”, joined the regular line-up; but unlike with Talisker, Diageo has not yet made that line-up mushroom further. If you’re in Oban you can go to the distillery and try your luck with the distillery exclusive, but here in the US we only have three or four Obans to choose from. To make up for my neglect of the distillery, I’m going to review most of these in succession. Today, the 14 yo; on Friday, the Distillers’ Edition; and on Monday, “Little Bay”. In one fell swoop I will go from having reviewed no Obans to having reviewed almost all available Obans.  Continue reading

Ben Nevis 17, 1999 (The Whisky Agency for Casa de Vinos)


I’ve been going on for some years now about how Ben Nevis’s historically iffy reputation has been poised to turn around and it seems like that time is finally here. Official releases of Ben Nevis fetch top dollar and indie iterations are also seeing rises in price. This is largely because Ben Nevis is one of the most reliable sources of exuberant tropical fruit in single malt whisky—and in their case it’s often mixed with malt and cocoa and a certain wild edge; altogether it makes for a very idiosyncratic combination. I keep an  eye out for indie Ben Nevis, especially from bourbon casks and in the late teens age-wise (see, for example, this other 17 yo Ben Nevis from Cadenhead that I absolutely loved). Accordingly, I purchased this one in the UK that was bottled by the German outfit, The Whisky Agency, for an Australian importer named Casa de Vinos. I’m not sure if the entire run was bottled for the Australian market or if some of this cask was released in the EU as well. Anyway, I opened this last month for one of my local group’s tastings, expecting it to be a highlight. To my dismay, it was rather flat. I set it aside to see if some air in the bottle would do it any good, and here now are my notes a few weeks after it was opened.  Continue reading

Balblair 2003, First US Release


So few Balblairs reviewed on this blog. It’s almost as though I have something against Balblair. But I assure you that this is not true. I am pro-Balblair; while I could not say that some of my best friends are Balblairs (I barely even know any people named Blair), I am certainly Balblair-positive. Which is not to say that I have been infected by Balblair, merely that I am positively inclined towards Balblair. Why is this? you ask. Well, I cannot say. It’s not the case that I’ve had any Balblairs that have made me want to rhapsodize (though I do have a sample of one from the mid-1960s that might fit that description). But their whiskies are always solid and they put vintages and age markers on them, and generally don’t engage in much marketing malarkey. I am hoping to stop at the distillery on our planned trip to Scotland in June, and may even attempt to convey my appreciation of these qualities to a befuddled distillery employee. But enough folly! What Balblair is this? It is a 11 or 12 yo from the 2003 vintage. The first US release, says the label from the industrious Michael K.—which leads me to believe that there may have been another twelve or seventeen releases since. Well, I don’t know if any of those have been any good but I will soon be able to tell you what I think of this one.  Continue reading

Glendronach 25, 1968


A third 25 yo whisky to end the week and this is an official release with a rather big reputation: a Glendronach distilled in 1968 and bottled in 2003. I’ve had small pours of it on a couple of occasions before; this large sample came to me from the ever-generous Sku. This is a throwback to Glendronach’s past, distilled and bottled before the Billy Walker era (which itself ended last year). Indeed this whisky was bottled when the distillery was still owned by Allied Distillers and before it was mothballed in 1996. It’s an old-school sherry monster that does more at 43% than most others of its kind do at cask strength, and I’m looking forward to making its acquaintance again.

By the way, the usually restrained Johannes van den Heuvel gave this whisky 97 points! I’m not sure when in his whisky tasting career he rated this or what he would make of it now. Anyway, let’s get to it.  Continue reading

Glen Ord 28


Benromach isn’t the only distillery from the northern Speyside/Highlands region that I have not reviewed very many whiskies from. This is only my sixth review of a Glen Ord. Given that Glen Ord is a workhorse producer for blends—which means its casks are no strangers to the warehouses of brokers and independent bottlers—there’s less obvious reason for my not having reviewed very much Glen Ord than there is for Benromach. Especially as I rather like almost everything I’ve tasted from Glen Ord—though next month I will probably have a review of the Singleton 12 yo…Of the prestige bottlings that Diageo has seen fit to release, I’ve previously reviewed the 30 yo that was part of their 2005 Special Release slate and the 25 yo that was part of their 2004 Special Release. Here now is my review of the 28 yo that came out before both of those in 2003. I don’t think Glen Ord has shown up as a Special Release since 2005—presumably because their malt might have been diverted to feed the Singleton monster. Anyway, I hope Diageo will get around to releasing more official Glen Ord beyond the Singleton sometime soon. The marriage of orchard fruit and oak in Glen Ord can be really special.  Continue reading

Blair Athol 25, 1988 (LMDW)


As per Whiskybase, there have been 44 casks of Blair Athols from 1988 released in the last three years. I guess someone acquired a huge parcel of those casks and sold them on. And given that most of the releases are from Signatory, I’d guess they’re that someone and are the source for many of the other indie releases as well. Given that there were a decent number released just last year, I suspect we’ll continue to see Blair Athol 1988s for a while.

I’ve previously reviewed three other 1988s in the 25-26 yo range. I very much liked this 25 yo from van Wees and this 26 yo from Signatory for K&L; this 26 yo—also from van Wees—I liked a bit less. The one I’m reviewing now was bottled by La Maison Du Whisky, the famed Paris whisky store. It’s part of their “Artist” series—all of which have very pretty labels. As to whether the prettiness of the labels says anything about the contents of the bottles, I don’t know; I do know the bottles are pretty expensive. I didn’t pay for a whole bottle of this one; this was part of a bottle split—which is really a very good way to try a lot more whiskies than would be feasible otherwise. Anyway, let’s see if this is as good as the others.  Continue reading

Old Pulteney Clipper Commemorative


I’ve not reviewed very many Pulteneys. This is largely because there aren’t generally very many Pulteneys to be had from the independents (my last two reviews were of indie releases, however: here and here). The official lineup used to be small too but in recent years, like so many other distilleries, they’ve amped up the NAS engine and put out a number of high concept releases—though, to be fair, they’ve also done some (expensive) vintage releases. In the case of Pulteney the high concept often has to do with sailing. They’ve had a number of boat-themed releases in the last few years, though, thankfully, none of them involve maturation on boats (not yet anyway). I’ve previously reviewed one of these, the WK 217 Spectrum. This one is also boat-themed: it was released in 2014 to commemorate an around-the-world boat race. It’s put together from ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. Let’s see what it’s like.  Continue reading

Clynelish 17, 1997 (C&S)


1997 is supposed to be the magic year for Clynelish. My last 1997 Clynelish lacked magic. It’s not the fault of that whisky: the whole magic vintage thing is a lot of bullshit. I will not bore you by going over all that again—if you’re interested you can read my views here and here. Let’s just get directly to this 17 yo from a bourbon hogshead, bottled a couple of years ago by C&S, a bottler based in Germany.

Clynelish 17, 1997 (47%;  C&S Dram Collection; bourbon hogshead #5730; from a purchased sample)

Nose: Citrus (lemon peel, orange), a faint grassiness, some brine and okay, I could be talked into a little wax. With more time there’s a biscuity/malty thing going on as well. Less grassy, more biscuity with water.  Continue reading

Ballechin 13, 2003


This is a distillery-only Ballechin—which is to say it is/was only available at the Edradour distillery (whose peated malt is called Ballechin, as you doubtless know). No, I did not pick it up while driving through the highlands last June. We did go very near Edradour on our way to Blair Castle but Tomatin was the only distillery in that part of the country that we stopped at, and that only for a little while. No, this is a sample from a bottle that the redoubtable Michael K. purchased at the distillery in 2016. Me, I didn’t even know that Edradour had bottled any Ballechin of this age. All I’ve had are most of the various younger, wine cask releases of yesteryear and the 10 yo that was released in 2014. Michael said in his review last year that he liked this very much at the distillery but not as much later. As you will see below, I liked it quite a bit now. I did also like the Ballechin #3, Port Cask—there seems to be something about the marriage of their peated malt and port casks that works well. Anyway, here are my notes.  Continue reading