Glen Ord, up in the northern highlands, is a curious case. A massive whisky factory pumping out spirit for Diageo’s blends, it nonetheless produces an austere spirit that can be very elegant indeed. It’s hard to take its measure, however. Diageo barely does anything with it—other than making it one of the three expressions in its Singleton range (I think the Singleton of Glen Ord is for the Asian market). And despite the high volume of spirit it pumps out there doesn’t seem to be as much of it available from the indies as one might expect either—at least not in the US. Cadenhead seem to be the only bottler that has been releasing casks of Glen Ord at a steady clip over the last few years. Despite this neglect Glen Ord has steadfast fans. And even though I cannot say I’ve had so very many Glen Ords I am one of them. I’m always looking to try more and so when I had the opportunity to get my hands on a few independent releases from the last decade, I went for it. First up is this 21 yo bottled by Cadenhead in 2017. Continue reading
There’s just one episode of Game of Thrones to go and nobody has any hope of the show suddenly beginning to make sense again in the finale. Too much has been rushed for the last couple of seasons—and really rushed this season—and consistency of character and plot have been sacrificed to the need to just get to the end. The show gained its identity—via the books—from unexpected reversals of genre expectations but then got trapped in the cycle of having to constantly present the unexpected (arguably this is true of the books as well). We are all prisoners to plot, serving out our sentence and there’s only one more episode to go. At least the show is making it hard for us to miss it when it’s gone.
And speaking of things that don’t make sense, here is the House Tyrell whisky from Diageo’s Game of Thrones marketing tie-in (see here for the ones I’ve previously reviewed). I’m sure Diageo has their reasons for making the House Tyrell whisky a Clynelish but from where I’m sitting it makes about as much sense as the zombie Mountain suddenly developing agency. Clynelish is in the northern Highlands whereas House Tyrell’s seat at Highgarden is in the south of Westeros. Clynelish is by the sea, Highgarden is by a river. And so on. On the plus side, this is the only cask strength release in this series. The Queen of Thorns would have approved. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
You’d think that if you had a dragon stuck with a crossbow bolt in one battle, and another taken out by an all-world javelin thrower in another, you’d spend a bit of time thinking about your aerial strategy, but I guess there hasn’t been a flight combat school in the world of Game of Thrones for a long time. Anyway, this is not the House Targaryen whisky I’m writing about today, it’s the House Baratheon whisky. I swear I had this scheduled before it turned out there was going to indeed be a new Baratheon lord.
Well, I’ve complained about the distilleries selected for the Game of Thrones selections not really matching up with the houses in the books and show (a smoky whisky for House Lannister instead of the one that has gold in its name, a mild whisky for dour House Stark) but the Baratheon selection does fit as well as the Greyjoy/Talisker selection. There’s the fact that Robert Baratheon is as close as we’ve had to a legitimate monarch in the series; and also House Baratheon is a small upstart house and Lochnagar is the smallest distillery in Diageo’s portfolio (or one of the smallest anyway). Lochnagar was also destroyed before being rebuilt some years later and it seems the same is happening with the Baratheons. But how about the whisky? Is it anything Robert Baratheon would have wanted to get drunk on? Let’s see. Continue reading
Following the second episode of the last season of Game of Thrones, here is my second review of Diageo’s Game of Thrones whiskies (here’s the first). This is the House Stark malt. You’d think a family from a region known for its dour character would get a more austere whisky but no, the House Stark malt is from Dalwhinnie, a distillery known for producing mild, inoffensive whiskies (think House Tyrell or House Tully). What should they have gotten? Probably Teaninich or Glen Ord (further north in the Highlands still than Dalwhinnie). Will this whisky have more development than we’ve seen in the plot of the first two episodes of the season? I can only hope. Don’t get me wrong, both episodes have been enjoyable, the second more so than the first; but with so much story still out there, and only four episodes left, it felt a bit maddening to not get very much more than yet more table setting. I’m guessing the battle of Winterfell and its aftermath will take up two episodes, leaving one for dealing with Cersei and co. and one for the overall aftermath. Which feels somewhat rushed. Well, I guess George R.R. Martin is mostly to blame. If he’d managed to put out just one more book in the last eight years we would have been save the oddly compressed structure of the last two seasons of the show. Anyway, let’s hope this whisky has better structure. Continue reading
After Monday’s Game of Thrones Lagavulin 9 and yesterday’s not-very-sherried G&M Caol Ila 11, let’s make it three Diageo whiskies in a row. We go from the shores of Islay to the Highlands; from two iconic distilleries to one that is rather anonymous. Well, you might have said that about Glendullan as well, before Diageo made it part of the Singleton family and then assigned it to one of the Game of Thrones Houses (even if it’s only lame House Tully). No such recognition for Teaninich, who continue to produce large amounts of whisky for the group’s blends. As I say whenever I review a Teaninich, I have not had very much from this distillery. This is not the oldest Teaninich I’ve had (see this 39 yo bottled by Malts of Scotland); it is, however, the best Teaninich I’ve yet had. It was distilled a decade after that Malts of Scotland cask, in 1983, a year of major closures in the industry, and bottled three decades later by Signatory. My friend Pat brought this bottle to a tasting at our friend’s Rich’s place in St. Paul last November and it was a wonderful surprise. I can’t say how unlike other Teaninich of similar age and vintage it is but, thanks to Pat giving me a sample to take with me, I can tell you what it is like. Continue reading
I haven’t reviewed very many Blair Athols—it’s been almost a year since my last review in fact. That one was a single sherry cask, distilled in 1988 and bottled in 2014 or 2015 by Signatory. This one is not quite as old but is also from a single sherry cask. This is from the 1995 vintage and was bottled last year by First Editions, another of Hunter Laing’s lines. The arithmetic on this one is a little wonky though. The label says it’s a single sherry butt but also says only 234 bottles came from it. That seems about 50% too low for a sherry butt. Compounding the mystery is the fact that there was a Blair Athol 21, 1995 bottled in the same series in 2017 from a sherry butt with the exact same abv but that one apparently yielded 492 bottles and 492+234 is headed into Glendronach territory for a single sherry butt after 22 years. Now there’s also a First Editions release of Blair Athol 22, 1995 from 2017 with a slightly lower abv that’s listed as having yielded only 210 bottles. 210+234 is not an implausible number for a single sherry butt either. It’s also possible, of course, that the cask was split with a completely different bottler or that despite being listed on the label as a sherry butt it was actually a sherry hogshead. Either way, it’s obviously the case that independent bottlers can’t always be relied upon for very much more accuracy/transparency on labels than the distilleries themselves. If anyone has any light to shed on this please write in below. Continue reading
Allah be praised: it’s not another Old Malt Cask 20th Anniversary release! No, it’s not. In fact this whisky has nothing to do with the Laing family. This is a 15 yo Croftengea released last year by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Because they are whimsical they gave it the name “Words from Random Phrase Generator”; or maybe it was “What’s cooking?” One or the other.
I got in on this bottle split because a Croftengea came out of nowhere to be one of my very favourite whiskies of 2018 (this one bottled by The Whisky Exchange). I therefore resolved to try as many Croftengeas as I possibly can, leading to this and also the purchase of a full bottle of a Croftengea 13 bottled for….wait for it, wait for it…the 20th Anniversary of the Old Malt Cask line! That’ll be next month; this is now. Continue reading
Oh my god, will this fucker’s series of reviews of OMC 20th Anniversary releases ever end? Yes, it will, but not today. I still have a couple of unopened bottles left after throwing this one on the pile.
I was very interested in this bottle though. I really liked the last two Glen Gariochs of this general age and vintage that I tried (both from Signatory: a 25 yo and a 26 yo) and I was hoping this would be close to that level. As you may remember, Glen Garioch used mildly peated barley till the early 1990s. They stopped doing so in 1994 and this was distilled in 1993. I opened the bottle for my local group’s January tasting and it was a big hit. Indeed, two members of the group decided to purchase full bottles. I liked it very much too and have been waiting to come back to it to take more careful notes. Here now are those more careful notes. Continue reading
Rounding out a week of reviews of bourbon cask whiskies from unheralded distilleries here is one not from the Speyside (like Monday’s Glentauchers and Tuesday’s Inchgower) but from the northern Highlands. Teaninich is another of Diageo’s workhorse distilleries, pumping out malt for the group’s blends. We drove by it on our way from the Speyside to Dornoch last June but as they’re not open to visitors there was no question of stopping. I don’t have much experience of their whisky either—I think the only official release is in the Flora & Fauna series; and you don’t see a whole lot of it from the independents either—not in the US at least, This 19 yo was another in Hunter Laing’s extensive release commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Old Malt Cask label and like many of the bottles in the series from non-name distilleries it is still available.. Will this be as good as the Inchgower or the Arran? Let’s see. Continue reading
Hunter Laing released a large number of whiskies last year to mark the 20th anniversary of the Old Malt Cask line; they may have miscalculated a bit as a bunch of them are still available. Among these are this Ardmore 22, distilled in 1996. Ardmore is a bit of an enigma in the Scotch whisky world. From its somewhat off the beaten path location in the Eastern Highlands—don’t bother stopping by, they’re not open to the public—to the seeming general lack of interest on the part of the owners in pushing their whisky, it’s a hard distillery to get to know. There’s never been much of it available in official form and even less seemingly from the independents—though there’s been more probably from both directions in the last few years than in the years previous. This despite the fact that they’re one of the few non-Islay distilleries that make palpably peated malt, and you’d expect that to be a winning market proposition. Well, I guess Beam Suntory may be reserving a lot of its output for their blends. Anyway, while I have not had very many Ardmores—on account of lack of opportunity—I’ve liked all that I’ve had. And so I was more than willing to take a chance on this bottle. Let’s see if it has paid off. Continue reading
The last indie Ben Nevis I reviewed was excellent—this Archives 27 yo. It featured everything that has made Ben Nevis an unlikely hero in recent years: loads of fruit, malt and nut, and those other savoury, slightly funky notes that make Ben Nevis so unique. Of course, you don’t have to go to older Ben Nevis for these pleasures. The recent official 10 yo is also excellent (though I am not sure what its current status is). This cask from Berry Bros. & Rudd more or less splits the age difference between those two; will it be in line with those two? Or will it be closer to the 19 yo from Montgomerie’s that I reviewed in between those two and which was distilled in the same year? Let’s see.
Ben Nevis 20, 1997 (54.6%; Berry Bros. & Rudd; cask 85; from a bottle split)
Nose: Malty and juicy (orange juice) with a bitter edge that’s partly oak and partly plastic. As it sits the citrus expands and the bitter note moves more in the direction of bitter orange and zest. Water pushes the bitter notes back and pulls out brighter citrus. Continue reading
Let’s do another Glenmorangie. Alas, it’s another NAS whisky—Glenmorangie have released so many of them. Unlike the Tayne, the Taghta is not part of their current lineup. It was a limited edition released a few years ago and was said to be a crowd-sourced whisky with all aspects of the selection of the whisky apparently having been voted on (“Taghta” is apparently Gaelic for “chosen”). From various sherry/wine finishes a Manzanilla finish was selected by whoever did the voting. I’ve read some reports that indicate that this is the regular 10 yo plus a finish but there’s no official word to that effect. I guess the crowd that selected it didn’t get a say in the age. Unlike the Tayne, it’s at 46%, so it’s at least got that going for it. Anyway, let’s see what it’s like.
Once upon a time the most confusing whisky on the market was official Glenrothes. Their vintage releases had labels that noted the year of distillation and also the date on which the whisky was said to have been not bottled but “checked”. I don’t know if anyone quite understood what that meant. Then arrived Kilkerran’s Work in Progress series, with the different releases marked not by a clear year of release or number but by differences in label colour, some of which were very subtle indeed. Glenrothes has now gotten into the regular age stated game but Balblair is carrying the torch for confusing vintage releases. In their case both distillation and bottling years are clearly marked but there are multiple releases of editions marked by the same distillation year. Thus the 1999 Second Edition has come out in 2014, 2015, 2016, while the 1999 First Edition has come out in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and now 2018 (some of those seemingly as Travel Retail exclusives). In case you’re wondering if the two editions can be distinguished by cask type, they all seem to be from a mix of sherry and bourbon casks. And nor is it clear what it means for the same edition to be released in different years. This is the kind of thing that drives people to drink. And so I might as well pour this sample. Continue reading
On Wednesday I had a review of an 11 yo Orkney/Highland Park bottled at a ludicrous strength of 63.7%. Here now is a review of an 11 yo Deanston bottled at an even more ludicrous strength of 64.7%. I have to admit I have never understood the appeal of whisky bottled at such strengths—they are almost always too hot, in my experience, and there is not one that I have not found improved radically by bringing it down closer to 55% or less. This is also true of bourbon, a category in which you see these strengths more often, and whose aficionados tend to be more committed to drinking at full strength. To each their own, I suppose, but my recent experiences of young, high strength Scotch whisky is beginning to make me wonder if bottlers are not making a bet that a very high strength may be a selling point in and of itself; a sort of whisky machismo mixed in with notions of cask strength “purity”. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading