Tuesdays are normally restaurant review days on the blog. However, the World Cup has been messing with my schedule and I didn’t have time yesterday to finish resizing all the photographs from the meal I was scheduled to report on: the weekday lunch buffet at Kumar’s in Apple Valley. And so I’m going to post that tomorrow. In its place, here is the whisky review that was going to go up tomorrow.
This is the third release of Lagavulin’s Offerman Edition. The first came out in 2019. At the time I assumed it was a one-off. But then there was a second release last year, a finish in Guinness casks. And 2022 saw a third release, this one involving oak casks that were shaved down and re-charred. I’ve seen some references to the casks in question being American and European oak casks and some that specify that they were ex-bourbon and ex-red wine casks. I can tell you though that the text on the back of the box says that this particular edition (11 years old like the two previous) was “curated” to pair with a medium-rare steak. Personally, I don’t drink whisky with food but I’m not sure how seriously anyone should take any of that anyway. I think the text may be written in the voice of Ron Swanson (I cannot confirm as I still have not watched any Parks & Recreation). I liked the first two releases and hope this will be as good. Let’s see. Continue reading →
After a week of mezcal reviews (here, here and here), let’s get back to whisky, to Scotland, and specifically to Islay for a week of reviews of heavily peated whiskies. First up, is the 2022 iteration of the Laphroaig Cairdeas, bottled for Feis Ile, the annual Islay whisky festival. It’s a bit of a departure for the recent run of the series being from bourbon casks. Last year’s Cairdeas release was a cask strength version of the Laphroaig PX release; the 2020 Cairdeas was finished in port and wine casks; the 2019 was a cask strength version of the Triple Wood; the 2018 was a fino cask finish. The last ex-bourbon release was in 2017, with the cask strength version of the Quarter Cask. Indeed the last ex-bourbon Cairdeas from regulation ex-bourbon casks was back in 2015 for the 200th anniversary of the distillery. This year’s Cairdeas is back to bourbon casks, the twist being only that these were first-fill casks (from Maker’s Mark) matured in the distillery’s Warehouse No. 1. Will that mean too much oak influence and too much vanilla? The people who obliquely warned me about buying a bottle in the comments on other reviews are probably nodding in the background. But, as I do every year, I bought not one but two bottles: one to drink right away and one to put in my completely pointless Cairdeas collection, which goes back to 2011 (I’m realizing now that I’ve not reviewed the 2011 and 2012 releases, which were both pre-blog). Alright, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading →
Alright, let’s close out PX cask Kilchoman week with another cask bottled for the American market. As a reminder, all three of this week’s reviews have been Kilchomans distilled in 2015 from the distillery’s own barley, peated to 20 ppm, and then matured in PX sherry hogsheads—one for 5 years and two for six years. Cask 772—which I reviewed on Monday—was released in Germany; Cask 773—which I reviewed on Wednesday—was split between Canadian and American parties. Today’s cask was bottled for a store and a whisky club in California. It’s bottled at a slightly less eye-watering strength: 58% to the other two’s 60.2%. Despite their identical strength, though, casks 772 and 773 were from identical. Indeed, I did not care for 772 very much: too much oak; 773, on the other hand, was a more balanced affair, even if it couldn’t finally transcend its youth. I am curious to see what Cask 329 will be like. Let’s get to it. Continue reading →
Kilchoman week did not get off to the best start on Monday. (I’m reviewing three young, PX cask Kilchomans this week.) I found a bit too much oak in Cask 772, which was bottled for the German market. Today I have a review of Cask 773, which was also distilled from 100% Islay barley peated to 20 ppm, and bottled at 60.2% (what are the odds?). But this was bottled for a consortium of North Americans—some Canadian, some American (you can get the details on Kilchomania). Will I like this one more? I certainly hope so. By the way, ignore what it says on the label: this one is 6 years old.
Kilchoman 6, 2015 (60.2%; PX Cask 773; from a bottle split)
Nose: Leads with phenolic smoke with salt coming up from below. Some barbecue sauce on the second sniff along with some chilli pepper. Not much sign of the oak here or of red fruit. As it sits there’s a fair bit of char and cracked black pepper and some dried orange peel. More savoury as it goes with beef drippings and soy sauce. A few drops of water and the phenols recede a fair bit; softer now with toffee and milky cocoa. Continue reading →
I reviewed a fair number of bourbon cask whiskies in September. So let’s start October with a trio of heavily sherried whiskies and make them peated to boot.
This is the first of three Kilchomans that were distilled in 2015 from the distillery’s own barley, peated to 20 ppm. All were then matured in Pedro Ximinez hogsheads. As to whether these were regulation PX butts that were broken down and rebuilt as smaller hogsheads or whether these were regular hogsheads treated or seasoned with PX sherry, I don’t know. This one, cask 772 was bottled for the German market. The two that will follow this week were both released in North America. (Kilchoman, as you may know, has a pretty extensive single cask program.) Well, I like a good mix of sherry and peat as much as the next sap but in the past I’ve generally preferred bourbon cask Kilchoman to the sherried variety. Will this one buck that trend? Let’s see. Continue reading →
After a week of teenaged Caol Ilas bottled by Gordon & Macphail (here, here and here), I have a more heterogeneous set of reviews this week. Not all the same distillery (as far as I know—more on this later) and three different bottlers. What unites them is that each is from an island distillery. We’ll stay on Islay for this first one, a 15 yo Bunnahabhain bottled for K&L by Old Particular (one of the Laing outfits’ labels). Last week I cribbed about the fact that the two bourbon cask Caol Ilas were from first-fill bourbon barrels; this one is also from a bourbon barrel but it’s refill rather than first-fill. Now what exactly different bottlers mean by “refill” is not known: some do specify “second-fill”, implying that refill casks are those that have been previously filled with Scotch whisky at least twice but I don’t believe there is any mandated or enforced consistency on this point. At any rate, even a second-fill bourbon barrel will allow the oak less say than the distillate, which is always a good thing in my book. Since I can’t help but complain, however, I’ll note again that I wish this had been a refill hogshead (hogsheads being slightly larger than barrels and so affording even less oak contact). Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading →
Let’s round off this week of single casks of Caol Ila bottled by Gordon & Macphail with the oldest of the trio. This 16 yo was—like Wednesday’s 14 yo—matured in a first-fill bourbon barrel. Will the extra two years of maturation allow more of Caol Ila’s elegance to emerge or will the oak have a greater say? Let’s see.
Caol Ila 16, 2002 (54.9%; G&M; first-fill bourbon barrel; from my own bottle)
Nose: A big blast of carbolic peat mixed in with salt crystals, olive brine, lemon and cracked pepper. As it sits the coastal complex develops more fully with shells, oyster liquor and a campfire on the beach. With more time the lemon and salt meld and expand. With a few drops of water the lemon turns to citronella with a vengeance here as well but there’s some sweet malty notes too now and some charred pineapple. Continue reading →
Let’s keep G&M Caol Ila week going. On Monday I reviewed a 14 yo bottled by the Elgin stalwarts. That one was distilled in 2005 and matured in a refill sherry hogshead. Today I have another 14 yo but this one was distilled in 2003 and matured in a first-fill bourbon barrel. Teenaged bourbon cask Caol Ila is usually a cause for joy but the combination of both first-fill wood and the smaller barrel might be causes for concern—with the possibility of too much oak action. But hopefully the spirit will rise above it all. Let’s see.
Caol Ila 14, 2003 (56%; G&M; first-fill bourbon barrel; from my own bottle)
Nose: Carbolic peat off the top with sweeter notes of cereals and vanilla (not overbearing) mixed in. As it sits the vanilla retreats in favour of lemon and it begins to get quite coastal with shells and salt and kelp. Some white pepper in there too now and there’s a recently tarred road in the middle distance. Saltier still with time. With a bit of water it gets sweeter at first—not vanilla so much as sweet malt—and then there’s preserved lemon. The tar is gone. Continue reading →
Okay, let’s do another week of peat; and let’s go back to Islay and do a week all at one distillery. And for good measure let’s do a trio of releases from one independent bottler. Back in May I split several bottles with a small group of friends—Michael Kravitz of Diving for Pearls was among them but I don’t believe he’s reviewed any of them yet. Among the bottles were a trio of Caol Ilas released by Gordon & MacPhail in their redone Connoisseurs Choice series—to think that this was once an entry-level series in which G&M released anonymous whisky at 40% abv. Two of these Caol Ilas are from bourbon casks and one from a refill sherry cask. I’m going to start with the refill sherry. It was distilled in 2005 and bottled in 2019 at what is normally a promising strength in the mid-50s (this is the abv range in which Springbank usually operates with their cask strength releases). The fact that it’s a refill sherry hogshead suggests that a sherry butt was broken down and re-coopered as a hogshead; or maybe an ex-bourbon hogshead was seasoned with sherry. Hopefully, the former and not the latter as there’s a better chance of there not being a big dose of sherry sitting on top of the elegant Caol Ila peat. Let’s see. Continue reading →
There was a time when the Lagavulin 12 was another annual release—along with the Laphroaig Cairdeas—that I purchased every year; it was certainly the only member of Diageo’s annual special release about which that could be said. But I haven’t purchased a bottle since 2017. The following year—as I have doubtless noted before—is when the price of this release went up sharply, and it also became harder to find in stores in the US. I have managed to get my hands on some each year via bottle splits, however, and so have been able to remain more or less current with it (I’m yet to review the 2014 and 2015 releases though I do have bottles of those in my stash). The 2022 Special Release roster should be on shelves soon. I’m not expecting to buy the 2022 iteration either but am hopeful I’ll be able to review it anyway at some point. The 2021 edition had a lion on the label and bore the sobriquet “The Lion’s Fire”—we can only hope the fire did not emerge from the rear. And no, it’s not a hint of it being a sherry cask either. This is from refill bourbon casks (all the Lagavulin 12s have been ex-bourbon, I believe—please correct me if I’m wrong). Price and marketing shenanigans aside, the Lagavulin 12 has always been quality whisky and some releases have been truly excellent. Let’s see where this one falls. Continue reading →
Here is the second cask in the first batch of Kilchoman’s Cask Comparison series. As I noted in the introduction to my review of the first cask on Wednesday, this batch comprises two casks, both distilled in 2012 and matured for 8 years in ex-Buffalo Trace barrels. Cask 719 was distilled from the distillery’s own farm barley peated to 20 ppm (making it a 100% Islay release), whereas this cask, Cask 726, was distilled from malt from Islay’s Port Ellen maltings peated to 50 ppm. So there are two variables in play here: barley type and peating level. Let’s close the comparison out. By the way, when I took notes on Cask 719 I tasted 1.5 oz of it over an hour or so, tasting .5 oz of Cask 726 alongside for reference. My notes on Cask 726 were likewise taken from the remaining 1.5 oz of that sample with the remaining .5 oz of Cask 719 as reference. I am nothing if not conscientous here at the My Annoying Opinions Tasting Rooms. More detail on my comparison of the two casks follows the review itself. Continue reading →
Here is the first part of an interesting diptych from Kilchoman. Islay’s farm distillery’s hallmark seems to have become the release of more and more single casks and cask variations and so forth to go along with their more edited regular lineup which—please correct me if I’m wrong—comprises the Machir Bay, Sanaig, Loch Gorm and the 100% Islay. For whatever reason, they seemingly are not interested in putting out a regular age-stated whisky—even though they would be able to put out a 15 yo by now. I guess if you can sell much younger NAS whisky then there isn’t much reason to tie up limited warehouse space. Or maybe there’s an age-stated lineup in the works and we won’t know till it hits us. Anyway, in 2021 they launched a “Cask Comparison” series. The idea is to release similar whiskies with some variation in them that allows the drinker to compare the effect of a single variable being shifted. Batch 1—a UK exclusive—comprised two casks of 8 yo spirit, distilled days apart in 2012 and matured for just over 8 years in ex-Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels. What’s the variable that’s different? Cask 719—this one—was filled with spirit distilled from 100% Islay barley peated to 20 ppm; cask 726—which I’ll be reviewing on Friday—was filled with spirit distilled from barley from the Port Ellen maltings peated to 50 ppm. The idea is that the juxtaposition will allow us to tease out the difference between the peating levels…or wait…is it the difference between the types of barley…or wait…is it the difference between the combination of both those things? Hmmm the premise is at risk of breaking down before I even begin and so it may be best to just get to it. Continue reading →
The month began with reviews of a pair of Speysides. This was followed by a week of Arran and then a week of distilleries in the Highlands. Let’s close the month out now with a big dose of peat. First up is Kilchoman, three of them to be exact. I’ll begin with a special cask strength release of their Machir Bay release. This was put out to mark their East Coast Tour of 2016. (I believe Journey was the opening act. I couldn’t make it to this tour but hope to catch them at the Minnesota State Fair one of these years.) It’s made with malt peated to 50 ppm (I can’t remember if that’s the case for all the Machir Bay releases) and from spirit mostly matured in ex-bourbon casks (90%) and partly in ex-oloroso casks (10%). A total of 840 bottles were released, which is actually a limited release as these things go. The last time I reviewed a Machir Bay of any kind was back in 2014, just a year into the blog’s life. That was the regular 2012 release at 46%—the very first release, as it happens. I’m curious to see how much similarity there will be between that and this one at 60.1% from four years later. At any rate, I’m sure this will be very different from the last two Kilchomans I reviewed this year, both of which were ruby port cask matured (here and here). Continue reading →
Monday’s Laphroaig 10 CS, Batch 013 was fine but nothing more. Wednesday’s Caol Ila 8, 2013 was a lot better. Islay peat week now concludes with the oldest whisky of the trio: a 16 yo Port Charlotte or peated Bruichladdich. Will this keep the positive trajectory going? I hope so even though I am not a fan of that buytryic sour milk/parmesan rind note I get off almost everything from Bruichladdich. Like the Laphroaig and the Caol Ila this is bourbon cask matured; from a single bourbon barrel, in fact. It was bottled a few years ago by the Whiskybase lads for their Archives label. Once upon a time I used to buy those Archives releases on the regular. Alas, in recent years it’s become very difficult to purchase whisky from abroad in the US. And even though some Archives releases have come to the US, intra-state shipping here has also become all but impossible—and I don’t think any of their releases have come to Minnesota. And so I am compltely out of touch with what they’ve been up to in recent years. Anyway my sample of this one comes to me from the redoubtable Michael Kravitz of Diving for Pearls. His review of the same whisky—which I have not read yet—can be found here. Continue reading →
Peated Islay week started with Batch 013 of the Laphroaig 10 CS. It turned out to be my least favourite of the batches so far—though by no means a bad whisky. Today I have a review of a slightly younger Islay whisky. Speaking of which, ignore what it says on the sample bottle label in the picture alongside: that second line listing age and abv was swapped accidentally with that of a Thompson Bros. Teaninich. This is a Caol Ila 8, distilled in 2013 and bottled at 57% abv. Caol Ila is almost always good for the kind of nuance missing in that Laphroaig 10 CS, especially when matured in bourbon casks; and this one was matured in a refill hogshead. The bottlers are Simon and Phil Thompson of the Dornoch Distillery and hotel (see my brief account of a visit there in 2018). They are well-known figures in the single malt whisky world and are working as small-scale independent bottlers as their own spirit waits to come online. This is one of a few casks they’ve bottled recently for K&L in California. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading →
Last week’s series of reviews of recent Old Particular/K&l releases ended with a Ledaig 15 that I quite liked. Let’s keep that peat blast going this week with three reviews of smoky whiskies from Islay. First up is a Laphroaig, the Laphroaig 10 Cask Strength, to be exact.
I try to stay as current on the Laphroaig 10 CS as I can. I’ve reviewed every batch release from 001 to 012 and very rarely has it disappointed me. I’ve been waiting for Batch 013 to hit Minnesota for a while now. It was released in 2021 but I only saw it on local shelves a month or two ago. Meanwhile, Batch 014 and Batch 015 are both out as well, and as per Whiskybase were both also released in 2021. Indeed, Batch 014 seems to have been released in the US too—there’s a 750 ml bottle listed on Whiskybase. I’ve no idea when that will come to Minnesota but am happy nonetheless to be able to review Batch 013. Let’s get to it. Continue reading →
Last week’s reviews were all of peated whiskies that had spent at least some time in port casks. The week began with a Bunnahabhain that spent three of its eight years in a tawny port cask and ended with a Longrow that spent all of its 11 in a refill port pipe. In between was an 8 yo Kilchoman that was finished in a ruby port cask. This week’s whiskies do not involve port—not that I know of anyway—but they are all also heavily peated. First up is a Port Charlotte 14 bottled by Master of Malt’s That Boutiquey Whisky Co. label. I’m not too sure about how these TBWC batch releases work. This one apparently comprised 662 bottles but they were all 375 ml, which makes it not the largest batch. Indeed, the total volume would approximate 331 regulation 750 ml bottles—which is between a hogshead and a butt. So if a batch was put together from more than one cask (as you would expect) it might be the marriage of a bourbon hogshead and part of a sherry butt. This is all speculation, of course—but in the absence of detail from the bottlers it’s all I’ve got. My sample came to me from the redoubtable Michael Kravitz of Diving for Pearls (see here for his review). Continue reading →
Port and peat week started at Bunnahabhain on Monday. That was an 8 yo that spent 5 years or so in ex-bourbon casks and the rest of the time in ex-tawny port casks. I’d call that a proper double maturation. That cask was bottled by Cadenhead and I rather liked it. Today I have for you another 8 yo and another whisky from an Islay distillery. It’s from Kilchoman and is an official release (are there any indie Kilchomans?). This one is billed as a ruby port finish. As to whether that means it spent just a few months in the port cask or quite a bit longer than that, I don’t know. It was released in the US as part of the “Cask Evolution” series by Impex, who are Kilchoman’s importers in the country. (And no, I have no idea what the other releases in this “Cask Evolution” series are or what the concept of the series is supposed to be.) Will this be as good as Monday’s Bunnahabhain or will my general fears of port cask whiskies and finishes—to say nothing of port cask finishes—be realized? Only one way to find out. Continue reading →