Bowmore 15, 2004 (SMWS for Feis Ile 2020)


The blog turns 8 today. What did you get it? Nothing? Typical. As long time readers—down to the low single digits at this point—know, my first-ever review was of a Bowmore—the one-time entry-level Bowmore Legend—and so I’ve marked every anniversary since with a review of a Bowmore: The OB 12 in 2014, the OB 18 in 2015 and so forth—the only other official release since 2015 was the 30 yo Sea Dragon in 2019; other than that it’s been a run of independent releases. Well, today’s is an independent release as well, bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society for Feis Ile 2020. It was apparently finished in a first-fill barrique or port cask after 14 years in a bourbon hogshead and was given the whimsical name, Loungecore Stave Exoticism. (I’m sure this makes sense to someone but I am fine not having any idea what it’s a reference to.) I’m not sure that I’ve ever had any kind of port-bothered Bowmore before. Well, what better time than at the start of the blog’s ninth year? Continue reading

Williamson 8, 2012 (Berry Bros. & Rudd)


It has been a few months since my last Laphroaig review—that was of a 21 yo bottled by the SMWS in 2016 or 2017. Today’s Laphroaig is also an indie release but it’s quite a bit younger at 8 years old. Oh yes, I should have started out by noting that it is a Laphroaig. Williamson—presumably named for the legendary Bessie Williamson of Laphroaig—seems to be the name under which independent Laphroaigs are now being released. When this started, I’m not quite sure. And as long as good indie Laphroaig continues to be available I won’t really care very much under what name it’s sold. As the label says “single malt” I’m going to assume this is not a teaspooned malt. Though I did read recently—perhaps on the Malt Maniacs F&F Facebook group—that casks that leave distilleries having been teaspooned for the indie market may not always be noted as such at release. As to whether that’s legal, I don’t know. I’d assume Berry Bros. & Rudd would play by the rules. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading

Lagavulin 12 CS, 2020 Release


And here to close out Lagavulin 12 CS week here is the most recent release, from 2020 (see here for the 2019 and here for the 2018 release). I thought the 2018 was excellent and the 2019 just a little behind that. Where will the 2020 fall? Let’s see.

Lagavulin 12 CS, 2020 Release (56.4%; from a bottle split)

Nose: Closer to the 2018 than the 2019: lemon, carbolic peat, salt smouldering leaves; the sweeter notes on the 2019 are not present—at least not at first. The salt expands as it sits—more brine now than salt and some cracked white pepper to go with it. The nose really gets quite lovely with air as some cracked spices (coriander) join the party along with some Springbank’ish burlap and earth and a touch of some muskier fruit (charred pineapple). With more time still there are some meaty notes as well (ham). Okay, time to add water. A few drops brighten it up, pulling out citronella and more of the pineapple—plus is that a bit of peach? Continue reading

Lagavulin 12 CS, 2019 Release


Next up in Lagavulin 12 CS week is the 2019 release. As I think I noted in the intro to Monday’s review of the 2018 release, it was in 2019 that Diageo changed the label design for the Lagavulin 12 from the old functional label to something altogether prettier; and I think they raised the price too. Let’s see if they did anything to what’s inside the bottle.

Lagavulin 12 CS, 2019 Release (56.5%; from a bottle split)

Nose: Very close to the 2018 with a big hit of lemon, carbolic peat, salt and a mild farmy note. The smoke gets drier as it sits but then with more time and air there are some sweeter, coastal notes (shells, kelp). Okay, let’s add water. A few drops of water push the lemon back a bit and pull out more mineral notes (wet stones, chalk) along with more salt. Continue reading

Lagavulin 12 CS, 2018 Release

Last week was Caol Ila week. It attracted so little interest that I am now motivated to do a Lagavulin week. And not just a general Lagavulin week but a Lagavulin 12 week. First up is the 2018 release. This was the first release since 2011 that I did not purchase at least one bottle of. And I did not go on to purchase the 2019 or 2020 releases either. That is because this was the point at which the price for this release went past the $100 threshold in the US. Having paid a fair bit less for every release prior—and quite remarkably less for some of them—I was unable to follow it into its new price band, where it has remained ever since. The odds of it coming down from there seem negligible. Starting in 2019 Diageo gave what used to be a fairly functional though austerely attractive bottle more premium livery and that’s never a good sign for the prospects of a popular whisky’s affordability. With younger official Lagavulins now out there—from the 8 yo to the 10 yo to the Offerman Edition—this is seemingly no longer intended to be a good value for the Lagavulin faithful; instead it’s more fully become a member of Diageo’s annual special release roster: no longer the member of the lineup aimed at the masses but a full-fledged premium release in its own right. That’s too bad. Well, while I’m not likely to buy another bottle of it—or chase this one on the secondary market—I am glad to get the opportunity to at least taste it via a bottle split. Continue reading

Caol Ila 25, 2018 Release


Caol Ila week concludes with an official release, the top of the line malt from the distillery’s regular lineup: the 25 yo. (See here for Wednesday’s 15 yo and here for Monday’s 11 yo.) I’d listed this one in the February and March “Coming Soon…” lineups as a 2019 release. That was because that was how the retailer I’d purchased it from had listed it. But the bottle code revealed that it is actually the 2018 release. Or more accurately, a 2018 release. Diageo put out two separate bottlings of Caol Ila 25 in 2018: one in February and then another in September. This is the kind of thrilling insight you can be privy to if you too squint at bottling codes on bottles of whisky. This bottle is from the original February release. It should be noted that unlike the initial Caol Ila 25 releases from 2004 and 2005, the later Caol Ila 25s have neither been vintage releases nor at cask strength. This is, of course, also true of Diageo’s Talisker 25—though that stayed at cask strength all the way till 2009. The Caol Ila 25, however, only saw those two special vintage releases in 2004 and 2005 (I’ve reviewed the 1978-2004 release—I was a little harder to please back then) and then silence till it returned sans vintage statement at 43% in 2010; it has been a staple of the lineup ever since (though Whiskybase does not list a 2011 or 2015 release). Perhaps it’s these factors—43% abv, regular availability—that keep whisky geek frenzy away from this release, allowing it to be sold at a reasonable price in Europe even in these insane days (alas, the price in the US is far less reasonable). Okay, let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Caol Ila 15, 2004 (G&M)


As I said on Monday, this is Caol Ila week. I’m tempted to say it’s my first-ever Caol Ila week but on Monday I also admitted that I’d listed a whisky on the list of potential reviews for February and March that I had already reviewed in January. For all, I know I did an all Caol Ila week in December as well.

Monday’s review was of an 11 yo that was finished for three months in an amontillado sherry cask. I quite liked it. Today’s is a 15 yo and is also sherried but this one was a full-term maturation in a refill sherry cask. What kind of sherry, I don’t know. I opened this bottle a month and a half ago. I split half of it with friends and have been drinking my half down steadily since. Indeed, I’m finishing the last pour tonight while writing this introduction. The notes themselves were taken some weeks ago when the bottle was just past the halfway mark. It’s been very consistent from start to finish. Continue reading

Caol Ila 11, 2008 (James Eadie)


Have I ever done a Caol Ila week before? Well, I’m going to do one now. The plan had been to start with a 15 yo G&M cask, then the 16 yo Feis Ile 2020 and finally the 25 yo from 2018/2019. Then I discovered last week that while I’d listed it among potential reviews for both February and March, I had in fact already reviewed the Feis Ile 2020 in January! I’m totally on top of things. To keep the age progression intact I’ve moved the G&M 15 yo to Wednesday and am instead beginning the week with an 11 yo bottled by a new ‘ish outfit named James Eadie. As per Whiskybase, they’ve been bottling their releases since 2016 but there seems to have been an uptick in the last few years. If you know more about them, please write in below. They seem to have released at least a few finished whiskies. This Caol Ila is one of them. It spent 3 months in a first-fill amontillado sherry cask—a detail that is refreshingly noted on the label of the bottle. Sherried Caol Ila can be very good indeed but a Caol Ila with a short sherry finish? Let’s see. Continue reading

Bowmore 18, Deep & Complex


A Bowmore to close the month. This is a Bowmore 18 but it is not the 18 yo that is part of the core range. No, this is a member of Bowmore’s travel retail collection or at least it originally was. I think all of these whiskies may now be available from regular stores as well in the UK and EU. The 18 yo, at any rate, is certainly listed at a few places in the UK and I got my bottle from a store in the EU. I’ve previously reviewed the two others from that collection that had similar epithets attached to their name: the Bowmore 10, Dark & Intense and the Bowmore 15, Golden & Elegant. I liked the 15 yo quite a bit and the 10 yo rather less (too much sulphur, even for me). Like that 10 yo—but not the 15 yo—this 18 yo is also from sherry casks, being a mix of spirit matured in oloroso and PX casks. What the exact mix is, I don’t know. It’s been a long time now since I last had the standard 18 yo but I rather liked it when I did. If this is as good as that I will be happy enough. Let’s see. Continue reading

Lagavulin Distillers Edition, 2005-2020


Earlier in the month I had a review of the new(ish) Lagavulin 10, which is supposed to be an exclusive for the travel retail market. (I say “supposed to be” because I purchased it from a regular EU store.) Here now is a Lagavulin from the distillery’s core lineup: the Distillers Edition. In the past I’ve always understood this to be the regular 16 yo with a couple of months of a PX finish applied to it—and I’ve also assumed that the same relationship of age and finish applies to all of Diageo’s malts that have Distillers Editions releases. Certainly, all the other Lagavulin Distillers Editions I’ve seen and reviewed (here, here, and here) seemed to be at least 16 years old. This one, however, as I reported earlier, is not. It’s the 2020 release but is from the 2005 vintage. Is this a one-off due to lack of availability of enough 16 yo stock? Or is this going to be the new normal? I guess we’ll see what happens with the 2021 release later this year. In the meantime I assume this is still spirit that would have gone into the 16 yo, just finished and released a year earlier than usual. If anyone knows different or has confirmation from the distillery on any of these points do write in below. In the meantime let’s see what this is like. Continue reading

Bunnahabhain 12, 2007 (Old Particular for K&L)


As I noted on Monday, I went in once again at the end of last year on bottle splits of a large number of K&L’s exclusives (maybe even all of them? I’m not sure). There’s a rather large number of them, most, if not all, from the various Laing outfits. There were a large number of teaspooned malts in the set but also some that dare to openly wear their distillery’s name on their labels. This Bunnahabhain is one of the latter. It’s also one of the younger malts in the set. We’ll start with it anyway.

I’m also rolling out a new feature for this round of K&L reviews. As longtime readers know, K&L staff and I have not always been in perfect alignment on our ratings of their releases, either in terms of scores or values. They’ve always expressed themselves with kind restraint but I’ve been able to sense their disapproval. It hurts me to hurt anyone’s feelings and so these reviews will be accompanied by two sets of scores. One for the rest of us and also the EW! or Everybody Wins! rating (patent pending) which those who think my scores are too low can focus on and be happy about. Continue reading

Lagavulin 10


I was not aware until a few minutes before I purchased this bottle from a store in the EU that Lagavulin is now putting out a 10 yo whisky. It was apparently first released in 2019 and is a travel retail exclusive. Which does not explain how I purchased it from a regular store but doubtless there’s an explanation: it does seem to be available at a number of stores in the EU. The more surprising thing is that I did not notice it in duty free shops on the way to or back from India in early 2020 but the explanation for that may well be that I did not really look closely, having long before given up on the possibility of finding good value for anything in a duty free shop. If I missed this a year ago then shame on me. Especially since it’s priced quite reasonably for an age-stated whisky from a name distillery. I’m not sure what relationship it bears to the other whiskies in Lagavulin’s core range, especially the only slightly younger 8 yo (which I was not as enamoured of as some). It is made from spirit matured in “rejuvenated and ex-bourbon casks”. Theoretically that should put it closer to the all ex-bourbon limited edition 12 CS as the 16 yo has some sherry cask involvement. But the proof is in the glass. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Lagavulin Distillers Edition Change?


Here’s a quick question about a bottle I opened last night: the 2020 release of the Lagavulin Distillers Edition. I didn’t pay close attention at purchase and assumed it was, like all previous releases of the Lagavulin Distillers Edtion, 16 years old. That is to say that it was—as it used to be—the Lagavulin 16 + a few months extra maturation in PX sherry casks. See, for example the three I’ve previously reviewed: the 1991-2007, the 1993-2009 and the 1997-2013; but it’s not just mine: all the listings on Whiskybase for releases prior to 2020 have the same 16 year gap between distillation and release. However, this label lists a 2005 distillation before bottling in 2020. There doesn’t appear to have been a change in the nature of the double maturation—the box still notes that PX sherry casks are used. So why this change? Is this a one-off due to insufficient stocks from 2004? Or is the Lagavulin Distillers Edition going to be younger going forward? For that matter, I suppose, there may have been changes in the ages of Diageo’s other Distillers Editions as well—I confess I haven’t tracked them. If you know more about this please write in to the comments below. Continue reading

Bowmore 25, 1994 (Adelphi)


I’m still on Islay. On Friday I had a review of a 23 yo indie Bunnahabhain; today I have a review of an indie Bowmore that is a couple of years older still. I’ve not had too many Bowmores in this age range and have only reviewed one older than this one (the Sea Dragon). I have had a number of Bowmores from the period in which this was distilled and have liked almost all of them very much indeed. As you may know/recall, 1980s Bowmore does not have a very good reputation—for among other things, a soapy character—and a lot of whisky geeks remained suspicious of the distillery’s output into the early/mid 1990s as well. My own experience—far more limited than some others’—suggests that the problems had begun to sort themselves out by 1989 or so and that by the early 1990s the distillery was once again putting out elegant whisky that displayed fruit alongside its trademark florals. Of course, those floral notes are also not to everyone’s taste but that’s not to say they’re a flaw. Anyway, I’m very interested to see what this one is like, both on account of its age and because it’s from a refill sherry cask. I think all the others I’ve reviewed from this era have been either ex-bourbon or more heavily sherried. Let’s get to it. Continue reading

Bunnahabhain 23, 1990 (Archives)


Well, I went almost three weeks but I’m breaking with my run of official distillery releases in order to finish the tour of Islay left incomplete last month. I’ve already hit Kilchoman and Bruichladdich/Port Charlotte this week; here now is a Bunnahabhain. This is quite a bit older than both of the others reviewed this week. It’s a single sherry butt bottled by Whiskybase for their Archives label back in 2014 or so. “Gather round, children, Grampa’s going to tell you how much more affordable single sherry cask whisky past the age of 20 was back then.” Okay, whatever, if you’re going to make fun of me I’m just going to review the damned whisky.

Bunnahabhain 23, 1990 (47.9%; Archives; sherry butt 52; from my own bottle)

Nose: Sweet raisiny sherry with some savoury gunpowder and leather interlaced with it. On the second sniff there’s some soy sauce and a touch of hoisin along with an earthy note of dried mushrooms (more like the soaking liquid). The salt expands as it sits and a big plummy note emerges. A few drops of water emphasize the orange—more juicy than dried now. Continue reading

Port Charlotte PC9, “An Ataireachd Ard”


Let’s stay on Islay and continue with the distilleries I didn’t cover in December. After Monday’s Kilchoman detour here is a stop at Bruichladdich. This was the fifth limited release of the peated Port Charlotte distillate en route to the eventual regular release of the 10 yo. I’ve previously reviewed the PC6, PC7 and PC8: here now is PC9. This is from the 2002 vintage, bottled in 2011 at the age of 9. The series was supposed to end with PC8 but they decided to keep going with more limited releases (this is bottle 1086 of just 6000; compare to the 30,000 of PC8). Well, they did say at the time of the release that this was going to be the last limited release before the “full-scale bottling” in 2012 but as it happens there was a PC10 (I have an unopened bottle). And then the PC11 and a PC12 were also released later. Both of the latter were travel retail releases and I do not have bottles of those. I assume the series ended there. By the way, the info sheet for PC9 only mentioned American oak but the official tasting notes refer to Spanish sherry casks. As it was not touted as a sherry-matured release, I think we can assume it was a vatting of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks (most sherry casks are also made of American oak). Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Kilchoman Fino Sherry Matured, 2020 Release


It’s the 18th of the month and this is my seventh review in a row of an official distillery release. No, I don’t know what’s going on either.

I missed Kilchoman on my mini tour of Islay in December and so here now is a review of a Kilchoman. (I also missed Bunnahabhain and Bruichladdich and will be stopping in at both of those distilleries this week as well.) I was a big fan of Kilchoman’s early releases of very young bourbon casks but have somehow lost track of them in the last five years or so. I’d hoped they’d graduate to putting out a regular 10-12 yo and it doesn’t seem like that’s happened yet. Their website only lists four NAS releases in their core lineup (of which I’ve reviewed releases of the Machir Bay and 100% Islay) and several annual limited editions. This was one of their limited editions for 2020, vatted from spirit fully matured in 11 fresh and one refill fino sherry butt. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Caol Ila 16, Feis Ile 2020


After Wednesday’s Glen Scotia 14, here is another whisky that was released to mark an annual whisky festival that was forced to go virtual: Caol Ila’s release for Feis Ile 2020. This also now make two weeks in a row of reviews of only official distillery releases. It’s okay to be alarmed: Nostradamus had this as one of the signs of the apocalypse.

At Feis Ile 2019 Caol Ila released a pair of whiskies: a surprise bottle-your-own 28 yo from refill American oak barrels that was only announced on the morning of their Open Day and for their regular release, a 22 yo from what was billed as “sherry-treated American oak casks”. 2020’s release is more in the direction of the 22 yo. The whisky that went into this was matured in refill bourbon hogsheads and then received a finish in “Amoroso treated hogsheads”. It’s also a throwback to 2017’s Feis Ile release which was a 12 yo that had been finished in Amoroso casks. Presumably, all these Amoroso casks are leftovers from fellow Diageo stablemate, Talisker whose Distillers Edition release is finished in Amoroso casks. Well, sherried Caol Ila can be a very good thing. Let’s see if this proves to be one. Continue reading