Lagavulin 12 CS (2017)


At the risk of becoming a relevant reviewer, here is another whisky released this autumn and reasonably widely available across the US: the 2017 edition of the Lagavulin 12 CS. The Lagavulin 12 CS is a fixture on Diageo’s annual special releases roster and is, along with the Caol Ila Unpeated, the most affordable of those whiskies and, by itself, the most dependable of them. I’ve previously reviewed the 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 editions and liked them all very much. The Lagavulin 16 is always excellent and so is the Lagavulin 12 CS. Sadly, it’s not easy to find in the $80-85 range any more and so when I saw a bottle as I was picking up the Highland Park “Full Volume”, I couldn’t resist buying it as well. I am not sure why I ended up opening it right away, well before the bottles of the 2014, 2015 and 2016 releases that are also languishing on the shelf; but maybe the people who give me grief for not being a relevant reviewer will get off my back now.  Continue reading

Bowmore 10, 2003 (Whisky-fässle)


After a brief rum break, I am back on the bourbon cask single malt whisky trail. Previous stops have taken in the Speyside with a couple of Aberlours (here and here) and the Lowlands (this Bladnoch). Today I have a malt from Islay. This 10 yo Bowmore was distilled in 2003 and bottled in 2013 by the German outfit, Whisky-Fässle. I can’t remember if I’ve reviewed any of their Bowmore casks before but I have reviewed a couple of other bourbon cask Bowmores of similar age and vintage. See, for example, this 10 yo from 2002 bottled by van Wees, and this 11 yo, also from 2002, bottled by Exclusive Malts for K&L. I thought both of those were marred—to different degrees—by a soapy/glycerin note that sometimes pops up in bourbon cask Bowmore (and also in bourbon cask Ben Nevis). I am glad to report that it’s not an issue with this release. I opened the bottle a month and a half ago for one of my local group’s tastings and it went down a treat. I’ve been drinking it down steadily since. Here now is my review.  Continue reading

Kilchoman 2006-2012 (for K&L)


I was recently mock-praised for reviewing something released as recently as a year ago. As even mock-praise makes me uncomfortable, I have in response a review of a whisky released five years ago: a sherry cask Kilchoman bottled for K&L in California.

Kilchoman was not quite new at the time but they weren’t quite as established and didn’t have as much of an identity as they do now. But they were already producing whisky that belied its (young) age. I think the very first Kilchoman I had was a 3 yo bottled for Binny’s in 2010 (I don’t think I reviewed it, but I do have a large reference sample saved…) and it was way better than any 3 yo whisky has any right to be. Most of the ones that I have reviewed have been just a bit older (including another K&L cask, this one ex-bourbon, and a PX cask bottled for WIN in the Netherlands). I’ve generally liked them all. And I can tell you before you get to the review that I liked this one—which was probably distilled at around the same time as that Binny’s ex-bourbon cask a lot. A more detailed accounting follows.  Continue reading

Caol Ila 20, 1995 (Signatory for K&L)


Here’s a whisky review on a Thursday for a change. And it’s another Caol Ila—roughly the same age as the previous Caol Ila I reviewed, but distilled just about a decade later. This was bottled by Signatory for K&L in California. As I am generally a sucker for bourbon cask Caol Ila, I was intrigued by it when it was announced, but the high asking price ($150 or so) took care of that. Fortunately (for me, at least), Florin (Slovenian supermodel and future First Lady) purchased a bottle and shared samples with a few of us—see Jordan D’s review of a sample from this same bottle from a year ago. Jordan didn’t care for it overmuch, and nor did Florin (see his comment on Jordan’s review). But there are others who rave about it. Anyway, the easiest way to find out is to pour the sample and drink it. Here goes.
Continue reading

An Tigh Seinnse, Portnahaven (Scotland)


I have been trying to construct a hilarious joke about “An Tigh Seinnse” being the Gaelic name for Bruichladdich’s wine experiments but have failed. In fact, as far as I can make out, it translates as “the public house” or something along those lines (some sources say “the house of singing”), and that is in fact what An Tigh Seinnse is: a cozy pub in Portnahaven, a tiny town at the southwestern end (or one of the southwestern ends) of Islay, all the way at the opposite end of Loch Indaal from the American Monument (a few miles west from Port Ellen). We went to Portnahaven after my tour at Bowmore. We didn’t have anything particular in mind. We knew we were unlikely to see the seals that often lie on the rocks around the bay there—it was a grey and rainy day—but we did want to drive around more of Islay. So we went anyway, enjoying the scenery, and when we got there we happened upon An Tigh Seinnse, just as we were beginning to wonder what we should do for lunch. Herewith a brief account of this meal. Continue reading

Dinner at the Lochside Hotel, Bowmore (Scotland)


I described this dinner last week as the bad one between two decent meals at the Islay Hotel in Port Ellen. It was, in fact, the worst meal we had on Islay, and probably the worst we had in Scotland—the fish and chips from the food truck outside Fiddler’s in Drumnadrochit at least had the virtue of being much cheaper. We ended up here after our attempt to eat dinner at the Port Charlotte Hotel failed on account of our having failed to make a reservation. The dining room was absolutely empty but they could not seat us. Now, it’s likely they had reservations for every table and didn’t want to risk us going late but there was something about the pause and once-over the manager gave us before saying they couldn’t seat us that made us feel a little odd. But I digress. Leaving Port Charlotte, we thought about trying the Bridgend Hotel but parking was hectic and so we kept going and ended up in Bowmore instead. After parking near the pier we walked up the street which has the restaurants and as the Lochside Hotel came up first we poked our heads in; and when they said they could seat us, we sat down. There was a nice photograph of Pinkie MacArthur on the wall next to my head and this seemed like a good omen. Alas, it was not. Continue reading

Two Dinners at the Islay Hotel, Port Ellen (Scotland)


I only have a few meal reports left from our trip to Islay in June. As I said in my review of our lunch at Royal China, Canary Wharf last week, writing these reports, and then reading them later, is a good way to relive our time in the UK. Perhaps they’re of some use as well to people who might travel to these places too? Well, even if not, here’s an account of two dinners we ate at the Islay Hotel in Port Ellen on Islay. We did not stay at the hotel, which is located bang in the middle of Port Ellen—you pass it as you come off the ferry; we only ate at the restaurant, which is open to all. Continue reading

Port Charlotte PC7


After a very timely review on Friday (the new Laphroaig Cairdeas) let’s go back to another late 2000s release. This is also from Islay but was released a year after last Monday’s Caol Ila. It’s also a fair bit younger: 7 years old, to be exact. It was the third release in Bruichladdich’s limited edition run towards what became the regular Port Charlotte 10. I’ve not had the PC5; I’ve reviewed the PC6 (good, but nothing special, I thought) and the PC8 (which I really liked). I have unopened bottles of the PC9 and PC10 on the shelf—I’m not sure where the series stands now.

I opened this bottle for my local group’s August tasting. It was a big hit there, garnering some big scores from a few people. I quite liked it too and have been looking forward to sitting down and taking some formal notes. Here they are.  Continue reading

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2017


A shockingly timely whisky review for once.

The 2017 edition of Laphroaig’s Feis Ile release, the Cairdeas, landed in the US this month. You will recall that Laphroaig are the only Islay distillery that release their Feis Ile bottle in the US. They’re also the only one who seem to envision their festival bottling as intended for everyone and not just for those willing to spend a lot of money, either by going to Islay or on an auction site. This cost £77 on Islay (where a lot of it was still available in the distillery shop a few weeks after Feis Ile) and in Minnesota it seems to be going between $70 and $85, and is available at a number of stores including a big chain. Compare this with the cost and contortions necessary to get your hands on the Feis Ile releases from any of the other Islay distilleries. Continue reading

Caol Ila 1984-2007 (Scott’s Selection)


There’s been a lot of conversation on the blog recently about older whiskies that was spurred by a question about an older Pulteney 1977 released by Scott’s Selection in 2005. One of the reasons, I think, that so many of those Scott’s Selection releases from the mid-late 2000s stuck around for so long—and some are still around—is because there was and is so little information on them available. Very few people have reviewed them—and many of us whisky geeks whose wallets have bottoms are quite risk-averse. This is why it took me a long time to get around to finally pulling the trigger on some of those bottles, even if only as part of splits with friends. This Caol Ila, however, I purchased without a second thought when a store in the Twin Cities put it on sale at 15% off last year, bringing the price below $200 (I’d never seen it at the original price and so was able to rationalize the cost against prices for current Caol Ilas of similar age). They had another bottle but the cork was defective and it had leaked at least 50 ml—after tasting this bottle I told the manager I’d take the chance and take it off his hands if he discounted it quite a bit more but he was not willing to do so. I guess that’s a spoiler alert: yes, I quite like this one and have been drinking it down at a steady clip since opening it right after purchase. Here now, before I finish the bottle, are my notes.  Continue reading

Bowmore, Bw5 (Speciality Drinks)


If like me you were ever confused about the relationship between the Whisky Exchange and Speciality Drinks, under whose name all the TWE releases (Elements of Islay, Single Malts of Scotland, Whisky Trail etc.) were released, you can add a new name to the mix: Speciality Drinks is history and has been replaced by Elixir Whisky Distillers; or maybe I should say that Speciality Drinks is now named Elixir Whisky Distillers. Apparently, a completely separate operation with the folks who work at the Whisky Exchange’s retail end not involved at all in picking casks etc. (which they may not have been before either, I suppose). This Bowmore, however, was released in the Elements of Islay series before the bottlers’ name changed. I’ve previously reviewed a few Ardbegs (Ar1 and Ar2) and Lagavulins (most recently, the Lg6) and a Laphroaig (Lp1) and a Caol Ila (the Ci1). As you can tell this is the fifth Bowmore they’ve released. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

At Ardbeg, Pt. 2: Lunch (Scotland)


On Wednesday I posted a brief description of the Ardbeg distillery grounds and visitor centre, replete with far too many photographs. Today I have a brief write-up of two lunches at their Old Kiln Cafe, which were the focal points of our visits to the distillery. Don’t worry, there aren’t quite as many photographs today though I do have—in what represents either a high or low for me (depending on your point of view)—four separate pictures of the same dish. The food on Islay, with one exception, was far better than I’d expected it would be, and our lunches at the Old Kiln Cafe were, in sum, the best of our meals on the island.  Continue reading

Lagavulin “Jazz Festival 2015”


Here is a Lagavulin bottled for the Islay Jazz Festival in 2015. This is a completely separate event from the recently concluded Feis Ile, taking place in the autumn rather than the summer. This year’s festival is from September 15-17 (and here is last year’s program). I’m not sure if Lagavulin is the only distillery that does an annual release to mark the festival (in addition to their Feis Ile release), but I can’t off the top of my head recall Jazz Festival releases from any other distilleries. It is sponsored by Lagavulin but events happen at other distilleries too. Anyway, there also does not seem to be as much mania around these Jazz Festival releases as there is around Lagavulin’s Feis Ile releases. Indeed, plenty of bottles of the 2016 Jazz Festival release were available at the distillery when I visited earlier this month—I’m not sure how they survived the onslaught of Feis Ile auction flippers.  Continue reading

Caol Ila 12, 2002 (G&M for TWE)


Okay, here’s a geographically appropriate review for a change from my ongoing visit to Scotland. I previously posted reviews of a Speysider on the day we left for Glasgow, an Old Pulteney while leaving Drumnadrochit for Skye, and a Highland Park while leaving Skye for Islay. We’re still on Islay and this is a Caol Ila.

I’m not sure if I will make it to Caol Ila on this trip though I would like to at least see the outside of the distillery. I’d thought this would happen as our ferry arrived in Port Askaig from Kennacraig on Monday evening but apparently views of the distillery are only available from the ferry from/to Colonsay. Nonetheless, here’s a Caol Ila. This was bottled by Gordon & MacPhail for the Whisky Exchange and I purchased a bottle on one of my visits to their Covent Garden store. I drank it down before leaving London—the notes below were taken well before this preamble was written. Continue reading