As you may recall, this week’s theme is whiskies aged 25 years and above. I started with a 25 yo Ben Nevis on Monday (which I really liked) and the plan had been to add a year and do a 26 yo next: this Bunnahabhain 1987 released by Whiskybase for their Archives label in 2013. But as I was looking more closely at the bottle today while pouring a little more to taste while writing this fascinating preamble to the review proper (already recorded a while ago) I noticed an anomaly: the age is stated on the rear label as 26 years but the distillation date (11/1987) and bottling date (10/2013) suggest it is indeed a month short of being a true 26 yo. Now it’s possible that the error is not with the age statement but with those dates (the months might possibly be transposed) but here at Glen MyAnnoyingOpinions we believe in erring on the side of a lower not higher age statement. And so I’m noting it here as a 25 yo. Continue reading
Anyway, this is the second of this week’s Islay reviews (following Monday’s Bowmore). It’s from a refill bourbon hogshead which is usually a very good thing as far as Caol Ila is concerned. Let’s get right to it.
Caol Ila 13, 2006 (58.9%; SMWS 53.328; refill bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Comes out with pretty strong phenolic notes mixed in with lemon and salt and a bit of mezcal—which is to say it noses younger than its 13 years. With a bit more time sweeter coastal notes emerge—shells, uni. With a lot more time and air the phenols back off a little and there’s more citrus—lime peel, citronella. A few drops of water push the phenols back further and bring out some cream and some unexpected spice notes—is that cardamom? Continue reading
First up is this Bowmore from the Whisky Exchange’s Elements of Islay series. Indeed, it’s the very first Bowmore in that series. I’m not sure what number it’s up to now but I’ve previously reviewed the Bw5. As per Whiskybase, this was put together from refill sherry casks from 1994, but as neither piece of information is noted on either the bottle’s label or The Whisky Exchange’s original product listing it’s hard to verify them. I can tell you for sure that it was bottled in 2012, which is when I purchased a bottle for roughly $75 at the then quite brutal, pre-Brexit exchange rate. Since the Elements of Islay bottles are 500 ml that works out to about $112 for a 750 ml equivalent of likely 17-18 yo Bowmore from sherry casks. At the current exchange rate it would have been quite a bit lower. By comparison, the Bw8, said to be 16 years old, is currently available from the Whisky Exchange for £117 ex. vat for a 500 ml. That would be £175 for a 750 ml equivalent or roughly $242 at the current exchange rate. I’m no mathematician but it would appear the price has more than doubled in 9 years. This is why I no longer buy very much whisky. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading
My last whisky review of August was of a Ledaig. Let’s get September off to a peaty start as well. We’ll stay with the Ls but move from the Isle of Mull to the Isle of Islay for my second review of an officially released Laphroaig in less than two months—and to think people say I review only esoteric whiskies…
Unlike July’s review of the 2009 release of the Triple Wood, this 16 yo is far more current. It was first released as a limited edition travel retail bottle as part of Laphroaig’s 200th anniversary but, as often happens these days, soon became part of Laphroaig’s regular stable. It’s made from whisky matured in ex-bourbon casks, I believe and bottled at 48%. As far as I can make out it goes for about $100 in most markets in the US—though I’ve seen references to a much higher price as well. $100 for a 16 yo at 48% is probably not too outrageous a price in this market (which is not to say it’s a reasonable price) but closer to the $140 I’ve seen mentioned here and there it becomes much harder to support no matter how good the whisky itself is. Speaking of which, let’s get to it. Continue reading
If you are the kind of person who purchases bottles from whisky auctions—I’m not any more—this is the kind of bottle that you might be interested in but then be inclined to pass on. There’s not much information, if any, out there on it and the people who can usually be relied on to have passed judgment on bottles like this haven’t done so. But then you remind yourself it’s a Caol Ila from 1980 and from a bourbon cask—and that it was bottled by Cadenhead doesn’t hurt—and you decide to take the not ruinously expensive but not cheap plunge. Then years later you finally open it and pour yourself some with more than a little bit of apprehension. Why are you, I mean I going on in the second person like this? Anyway, I am the person previously described—I came across this at an auction and eventually decided to buy it—and secured it without it getting bid up. I’ve now opened it—a couple of weeks ago now—and here finally are my notes. Continue reading
After weeks themed first for peated and then for sherried whiskies let’s now do a week on a single distillery. That distillery is Caol Ila, the Islay workhorse that is also probably the most dependable distillery on the island (only Lagavulin is permitted to register an objection). We’ll start with one that mixes both of the previous themes—peated and sherried—and move on to bourbon casks. This one was another from K&L’s set of exclusives from 2020. I quite liked the other Caol Ila I tried from that set. That one was an 11 yo from a bourbon cask, this one is a sherry finish and one year younger—and apparently teaspooned with Bunnahabhain. I am usually wary of sherry finishes but perhaps this one will surprise me. Let’s see.
Islay Strait/Caol Ila 10, 2010 (59.6%; Sovereign for K&L; sherry butt finish; from a bottle split)
Nose: A lovely mix of leafy smoke, phenols, lime, brine and other coastal notes (shells, kelp, uni). The salt and the lime intensify on the second sniff and there’s ink in the bottom now. As it sits olives emerge—a mix of kalamata and brighter green olives. The coastal notes expand with a few drops of water and there’s some ham brine in there too now along with a bit of cream. Continue reading
I actually had this Laphroaig pencilled in for last week’s series of peated whiskies but it fits well in this week as well. I forgot to say in the preamble to Monday’s Longmorn 17, 1996 review that this would be a week of reviews of sherried whiskies. And this was the first release—I am pretty sure—of Laphroaig’s NAS Triple Wood. As you may recall/know, the Triple Wood was/is basically the Quarter Cask finished for a further period in oloroso sherry casks—making this a triple maturation (as the Quarter Cask itself starts out in regular ex-bourbon casks before entering the smaller quarter casks). It was released as a duty-free exclusive (back then duty-free exclusives were in fact only available in airports). I purchased a couple of bottles on the way back from a trip to London in December 2009. I opened one not too long after and quite liked it. A little later it became part of Laphroaig’s core lineup but I lost track of it. I’m not sure what the reputation of those later releases is, especially in recent years. To be frank, I’ve not kept track of the Quarter Cask either, or for that matter even the regular 10 yo. The 10 CS is the only official Laphroaig I follow closely (well, I guess I buy the Cairdeas each year too). Now that I’ve finally gotten around to opening my second bottle of the original release I’m interested to see what I make of it 12 years later. Let’s see. Continue reading
The final whisky of Kilchoman Week is the oldest. And with a young distillery it’s not surprise that it’s the oldest vintage as well. This was distilled in 2006—one year before Monday’s 3 yo—and bottled in 2019 from a single sherry cask. This was a private bottling for some entity called Islay Cask Company. Who they are, I have no idea. This does have a very high rating on Whiskybase which is promising because, Wednesday’s 7 yo notwithstanding, I’ve generally not been very persuaded by sherry cask Kilchoman. Let’s hope this keeps the positive streak going.
Kilchoman 12, 2006 (56.1%; sherry cask 324/2006 for the Islay Cask Company; from a bottle split)
Nose: Dry, ashy smoke mixed in with a leafy note. Some sweeter notes (orange peel) begin to come through as it sits but the smoke remains dry on the whole. Stays consistent with time which is another way of saying there isn’t much development. A few drops of water make it a bit richer: tobacco rather than ashy/leafy smoke now. Continue reading
Kilchoman Week began with a review of a 3 yo distilled in 2007 and matured in a bourbon cask. Here now is a 7 yo distilled in 2011 and matured in a sherry cask (the label on the sample bottle says 8 years old but as per Whiskybase this is a 7 yo). And this was one of their 100% Islay releases, which I think means it was made from Islay barley, perhaps from one of the nearby farms. This was a US release, bottled for the importer ImpEx. Historically, I have preferred bourbon cask Kilchoman to the sherry cask versions. Let’s see if this one breaks that mold.
Kilchoman 7, 2011, 100% Islay (56.1%; sherry cask #622/11; from a bottle split)
Nose: Ashy peat shot through with a mix of orange peel, brandied raisins and smouldering leaves. Some pencil lead/graphite in there too. A little saltier as it sits and then a sweeter mix of milky cocoa and vanilla emerges and expands along with the citrus. A few drops of water pull out some apricot to go with the citrus and push the ash back a bit. Continue reading
After a week of reviews of whiskies from Highland Park (which followed a week of reviews of whiskies from Glen Scotia) let’s do a week of reviews of whiskies from Kilchoman, Islay’s small farm distillery. This was the very first Kilchoman I ever had. It was bottled in 2010 for Binny’s in Chicago at the ripe young age of three. The distillery put out a number of these store exclusives among their earliest releases and they helped make their name in the US (and elsewhere too). Those were the days when Binny’s shipped out of state and I purchased a bottle right away. I drank it down slowly over the next few years and before finally finishing it in early 2013—as per my spreadsheet, a month before I started the blog—I put four ounces away for future reference, as was my practice at the time (well, my usual practice was to put away 6 ounces). In other words, this review is of a sample that was put away more than 8 years ago and from a bottle that was opened more than 10 years ago. Though I’ve stopped saving these reference samples in recent years, I do very much enjoy going back to some of the whiskies I drank a long time ago. I really liked this one back then, as I have a number of other young Kilchomans. Let’s see what I make of it now. Continue reading
And I close out what turned out to be a week of sherry cask whiskies with the Feis Ile 2020 release from Lagavulin. (See here for Monday’s Springbank and here for Wednesday’s Kilkerran.) Feis Ile 2021 is currently in progress—it is being held online again this year on account of the pandemic. I can only hope for all our sakes, whether we are whisky drinkers or fans of whisky festivals or not, that it can go back to being in-person next year.
I’ve reviewed a few of Lagavulin’s Feis Ile releases over the last few years. I was a huge fan of the 24 yo released in 2015 and also of the 17 yo released in 2013; the 18 yo released in 2018 I thought was very good but not great. What all of them had in common was sherry involvement, though only the 2013 was straightforwardly from sherry casks. This 2020 release is a vatting of refill hogsheads (ex-bourbon presumably) with hogsheads “seasoned” with PX and oloroso sherry. As to what exactly the “seasoning” involves, I don’t know, and nor do I know how long the spirit that came out of those casks spent in them. Well, that 2015 release was also complicatedly made and I thought it was just excellent; let’s hope this one will prove to be so as well. Continue reading
Peated Islay Whisky Week comes to an end with another 11 yo (following Wednesday’s Kilchoman). This time it’s a Caol Ila. Like that Kilchoman—and also Monday’s Laphroaig 10 CS—this is a bourbon cask whisky. Well, I suppose there may be non-bourbon casks in the Laphroaig 10 CS too, but if so they’ve never registered. This was another in the big parcel of 2020 single cask releases from K&L that I went in on a split of at the end of last year. I’m just past the halfway mark of reviewing them all (I think) and it’s probably accurate to say that the set as a whole has not got me very excited so far; though I have liked some of the individual casks a lot (for example, this Blair Athol and also this Craigellachie). Caol Ila—especially bourbon cask Caol Ila—is always a good bet so I am hopeful that this will be the one of the better ones. Well, whatever the score I end up giving it, I remind my sensitive friends at K&L to look only at my patented Everybody Wins! (or EW!) score, which is what I have devised to spare their feelings. This way all their releases score above 100 points and I”m not accused of having a vendetta aganist them. Everybody wins! Or ew! Continue reading
I was going to say it’s been a long time since my last Kilchoman review but I actually reviewed one just this past January. That was from a sherry cask. Maybe I should say it’s been a long time since I’ve reviewed a bourbon cask Kilchoman. That would take me back to 2018 and this 3 yo. Today’s bourbon cask Kilchoman is quite a bit older at 11 years old. It was apparently bottled for a private group. As to whether that group is named “Friends of Kilchoman” or that’s just the name for the private cask program, I don’t know. I do know I’ve always generally been impressed by the quality of bourbon cask Kilchoman at very young ages and so I am curious to find out what it is like at 11 years of age. Are they still planning to only release young’ish whisky? As I recall that was the plan at the beginning—though, of course, at the time they did not have any aged whisky to sell. I guess I could have asked if I’d done a less perfunctory visit when we were on Islay a few years ago. Well, if I ever get back there again I will do a proper tour. Continue reading
Okay, let’s move down south and a bit west from the northern highlands, all the way to Islay for a week of peated whiskies. First up, the 2020 release of the Laphroaig Cask Strength: Batch 012. Considering this was bottled in February, 2020—ah the pre-pandemic times!—I suppose it is possible that Batch 013 has already been released this year. If so, I did not see it when I purchased this bottle locally in April. If you’ve seen it in Minnesota, or when you see it, please let me know. (Also let me know if you see/have seen the new sherry-finished 10 yo.)
There’s been a lot of nonsense going on at Laphroaig in recent years. The number of releases from the distillery has proliferated, with a lot happening both at the relatively affordable and the definitely not affordable ends of the roster. This has not been accompanied, however, by widespread acclaim from reviewers for all these whiskies. Indeed, some have come in for a fair bit of stick. Nor have the recent annual Cairdeas releases all been getting everyone excited. Even I—an avowed fan of the distillery—found little to like in last year’s Port & Wine release. Through all of this hubbub, however, the quality of the Laphroaig 10 Cask Strength has stayed on course. (The regular 10 yo I can speak less confidently of, not having tried recent releases.) Let’s see if Batch 012 keeps that streak going. Continue reading
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
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
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
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