Lagavulin 18, Feis Ile 2018


The last time I reviewed one of Lagavulin’s special releases for Feis Ile was in 2014. I have a few of the subsequent releases on my shelves but haven’t opened any of them yet—hmmm I should do something about that. Anyway, that one was a 17 yo from a vatting of European oak sherry butts. This one is a year older and is put together far more complicatedly. It was a release of 6000 bottles from a vatting of refill American hogsheads, rejuvenated (presumably this means re-charred) hogheads and “bodega” sherry butts. Whether “bodega” here means American or European oak is anyone’s guess, as is whether that means these butts were actually used to mature or transport sherry or whether they were sourced from some bodega and filled with disposable sherry for a short period of time. Anyway, that 17 yo, bottled for Feis Ile in 2013 was very sherry forward in all the best ways. Let’s see what this one is like. Continue reading

Laphroaig 17, 1999 (SMWS)


It has been almost two months since my last Laphroaig review and more than six months since my last review of a sherried Laphroaig. Let’s end both those sad streaks in one go. This is from a refill sherry butt bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in 2016 or 2017. They called it “Divine, Dark Temptation”, which coincidentally is also my stripper name.

Laphroaig 17, 1999 (58.1%; SMWS; refill sherry butt 29.190; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: The usual Laphroaig medicinal complex plus cereals, smouldering leaves, salt and butterscotch. The sherry becomes more pronounced as it sits with the butterscotch joined by toffee and, yes, the inevitable raisins. Brighter and sharper with a bit of water and also more coastal—and after a bit there’s a bit of vanilla. Continue reading

Port Charlotte 17, 2001 (Maltbarn)


Four reviews in a week—what is this? a spirits blog?

Here’s an indie Port Charlotte (the heavily peated whisky produced at Bruichladdich (but not as heavily peated as Octomore)). This is the oldest Port Charlotte I’ve reviewed and probably the oldest I’ve had. It was distilled in 2001, which may have been the year Port Charlotte started being distilled (please let me know derisively in the comments below if that’s wrong). I have reviewed another 2001 Port Charlotte; that was an 11 yo bottled by the German outfit, Malts of Scotland. I quite liked that one. This one is also bottled by a German outfit, in this case, Maltbarn; it was apparently their 105th selection—I had no idea they’d bottled that many; I think my first Maltbarn reviews were of some of their earliest releases (indeed, my first Maltbarn review was of their 8th release, an older Glenrothes). How the kids have grown up and so on. Continue reading

Laphroaig 10 CS, Batch 009


I have previously reviewed the first seven batches of the Laphroaig 10 CS (after the demise of the old “red stripe” version). Here now, jumping over Batch 008—which I have not seen locally and which none of you ungrateful bastards have seen fit to offer to send me samples of—is my review of Batch 009. I found it hiding behind a bunch of Batch 010 bottles at a local store last week and picked it up (to be safe I bought a bottle of Batch 010 as well). This was released in February 2017—which leads me to wonder what batch we’re up to now: do these come out one per year? Anyway, the early batch releases of the Laphroaig 10 CS ranged from very good to excellent (especially Batch 003) but then the series hit a snag with the weaker (though still not bad) Batch 005. Batches 006 and 007 seemed to suggest an upward trajectory. Here’s hoping this means that I will find Batch 009 to be even better than I would have found Batch 008 to be if you ungrateful bastards etc. And, oh yes, shout out to Beam Suntory for continuing to keep the Laphroaig 10 CS priced very reasonably indeed. In the decade and a half that I have been buying it the price has barely budged. Anyway, on to the whisky! Continue reading

Port Charlotte 10, 2018 Release


I have not really been keeping track of what has been going on with Bruichladdich’s official releases in recent years, and that extends to their heavily peated line, Port Charlotte. The regular Port Charlotte 10 yo—as opposed to the various annual releases in the PC5-11 line that led up to it—was first released in 2012 or 2013 but its status after that was not very clear. I don’t think it ever became a regular part of the range. I reviewed a bottle from that early release—back then they came in the same clear bottles as the then-new Bruichladdich 10 did—and thought it was solid but nothing special. Since then my Port Charlotte exposure has been limited to the PC releases and the occasional independent release (see, for example, the excellent Pl1 from the Whisky’s Exchange’s Elements of Islay line, a heavily sherried iteration). But a new version of the Port Charlotte 10, in new Octomore-dark livery, showed up last year and was positively reviewed by people I trust. That put it back on my radar and when I saw a bottle at a reasonable price in a local store I picked it up. I opened it for one of my local group’s tastings and it was received very well. At the time I thought there was way too much of the butyric note on the nose that I find in almost all modern Bruichladdich, but I did like it. Curious to see what it’s like now with more air in the bottle. Continue reading

Bowmore 21, 1996 (OMC)


The last 1996 Bowmore I reviewed was also bottled by Hunter Laing in their Old Malt Cask series and was dynamite. It was full of coastal notes and tropical fruit. That one was an exclusive for K&L in California and was bottled at cask strength from a hogshead. Before that I’d reviewed another couple of OMC Bowmore 22, 1996s that were part of the Old Malt Cask 20th anniversary release. Those were both also bottled from hogsheads. I liked one of those very much as well, and the other a bit less. There does seem to be a lot of 1996 Bowmore about—Whiskybase lists 143 releases, bottled between 2005 and 2018. Then again they list even more 1997s and 1998s and even 2000s—so it must just be the case that a lot of Bowmore from that era became available to the independents. I don’t know if anyone’s sorted through enough releases from all these years to come up with a magic vintage theory yet. Maybe if I like this one a lot too I can start a Bowmore 1996 campaign. Let’s see how it goes. Continue reading

Caol Ila 11, 2005 (Gordon & MacPhail)


Over the last decade and more Gordon & MacPhail have bottled a number of multi-cask vattings of 10-11 yo Caol Ila, many of them from sherry casks. Most have been well-received. I’ve liked most of the few I’ve had (see, example, this 10 yo, 1996), though there also have been some duds (see this 11 yo, 2000). I think this one, bottled in 2016, before Gordon & MacPhail’s livery changed, may be the first I’ve had from a vatting of four casks. I always wonder when something like this is released if one or two casks in the vatting might not have needed salvaging. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind you: a cask that might not be very interesting on its own can still work very well in a vatting, accentuating positive notes or even helping damp down some overbearing ones (anyone who has done a lot of home vatting knows this). The odd thing here is that these are said to have all been first-fill sherry butts but this is a rather light-coloured whisky. All American oak butts that held fino or manzanilla? Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Game of Thrones Whisky: House Lannister (Lagavulin)


So, it’s come to this. Yes, it has. Starting today, I will be reviewing one of Diageo’s Game of Thrones single malt releases every Monday after a new episode of the final season of the show. As there are only six episodes but eight of these whiskies, I will end with an all-Game of Thrones week after the finale. No, this is not being sponsored by Diageo or Game of Thrones. I scoffed at this marketing nonsense when it was first released (and available) but later when I had the opportunity to get 50 ml of each bottle from a split, I could not resist. So, here is my first review after a middling first episode.

What becomes obvious immediately is that nobody at Diageo’s marketing actually watches Game of Thrones or reads the books and/or that nobody at Game of Thrones marketing knows anything about whisky. Why? Well, because there is only one heavily-peated, smoky whisky in the lineup and they’ve not given it to House Targaryen, who you may remember have dragons and the habit of setting people and things on fire. Instead, the brain trust has seen fit to make the Lagavulin the Lannister whisky. This despite the fact that the Lannisters are associated with gold and one of the other whiskies in the lineup is the Cardhu Gold Reserve…which, of course, they’ve given to House Targaryen. Clerical error? Well, I guess we should just be happy they didn’t add a House Bolton release to the list as that might have meant having to drink a NAS Glenkinchie (“it’ll feel like you’re being flayed alive!”). I’m not very convinced by most of the other whisky/house pairings either—more on those later. Continue reading

Bowmore 22, 1996 (Old Malt Cask for K&L)


Here’s another Old Malt Cask bottle but don’t panic, it’s not another from their 20th Anniversary release. No, this is a single cask of Bowmore, a refill hogshead, bottled for K&L in California. Somewhat unusually, it is bottled not at the standard 50% abv of the Old Malt Cask line but at 53.9%. Not that I follow K&L’s announcements very closely anymore—after Driscoll’s departure it’s a bit like going to the circus after they’ve got rid of all the clowns—but I didn’t recall much noise having been made about it. Thus when I asked Sku in January—when I was in Los Angeles—if there were any K&L exclusives he’d recommend I was surprised when he mentioned this. But I always do what Sku says and so I purchased a bottle. At about $150 it was not cheap but that’s pretty good these days for a Bowmore of this age. When I got back to Minnesota I opened it right away, and man, Sku was right. Which leads me to think that the lack of noise about this from K&L must mean either that they really don’t know what they have or that the way to separate the crap from the quality in what they bring in is to ignore the ones they shout about and get the ones they trust to sell themselves (though this did hang around for a good while). If K&L were still shipping out of state I would have purchased a few more bottles within minutes of tasting this, but they don’t and then they finally sold out anyway a few days later. Here at any rate are my notes. Continue reading

Bowmore 30, Sea Dragon


The blog turns six today and so here is the customary Bowmore review. My first ever review was of the lowly Bowmore Legend and since then I’ve posted a Bowmore review on every anniversary. In 2014 I reviewed the Bowmore 12 and in 2015 the Bowmore 18—but that’s as high as the age statements have gone on these anniversary reviews. Well, this year’s review is of a much older Bowmore—indeed, the oldest I’ve ever tasted—and it’s from a series with a very strong reputation: the Sea Dragon. A number of batches of these were released from the late 1990s through the early 2000s, all in ceramic bottles with striking art on them and it’s not always easy to know which release a given bottle is from. I got this sample from Matt G. and he couldn’t find a bottle code anywhere on his black ceramic bottle. Assuming this was not actually from a 2000s release, this will be both my first-ever 30 yo Bowmore and my first-ever 60s Bowmore. Continue reading

Lagavulin 16, 2013 Release


The last time I reviewed the Lagavulin 16 was in 2015 and that was a relatively timely review, being of a bottle from the 2014 release. And the previous year I’d reviewed another Lagavulin 16 from the 2012 release. Well, I’m sorry to say that my review in 2019 is not quite so timely, being of a bottle released between the other two. But any idiot can be useful; it takes a special kind of idiot to care whether a bottle from a massive release from one year is very much like the two in the adjacent years. Let’s see if it is.

Lagavulin 16, 2013 Release (43%; from my own bottle)

Nose: Big mossy, organic peat and quite a bit of lemon too; the whole medicinal/disinfectant complex is right there too. As it sits the big phenolic notes come to the front, picking up sweet inky notes along the way, and it gets quite briny as well. With more time there’s pencil lead, a touch of ham and also a sweeter note of vanilla-cream. Water blunts it a little bit and pushes back the smoke. Continue reading

Laphroaig 18, 1998 (Cadenhead)


Another Islay whisky. This Laphroaig 18 was bottled in 2017 by Cadenhead. Like the 12 yo OMC release I recently reviewed it is from a bourbon cask. I was expecting to like that younger cask a lot but was a little underwhelmed by its unidimensional, heavy smoke. Will this 18 yo bear out my usual confidence in teenaged ex-bourbon Laphroaig? Let’s see.

Laphroaig 18, 1998 (55.9%; Cadenhead; bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Ah yes, this is the Laphroaig I love—big phenolic smoke but interlaced with acidic fruit (lime) and a bit of cereal. The smoke is pungent but the fruit is unmistakable too (with time there’s pear and melon as well). With more time some vanilla pops up too but it’s not obtrusive. Water brings the acid out to the front, pulls out a bit more of the vanilla; and there’s a briny, hammy quality to it too now.  Continue reading

Bowmore 22, 1996, Cask 17078 (OMC 20th Anniv. Release)


On Monday I posted a review of one of two Bowmore 22, 1996s released by Hunter Laing to mark the 20th anniversary of the Old Malt Cask line. I really liked that one. Here now is my review of the second which I hope I will like at least as much. It is also from an ex-bourbon cask.

This is the last of my OMC 20th anniversary reviews—if anyone has any first-hand reports on any of the others released in the series, please write in below. I’m particularly interested in those that are still available: as you know I don’t approve of talk of whiskies that are not currently available. Thanks in advance.

Bowmore 22, 1996 (50%; OMC 20th Anniversary; cask 17078; from a bottle split)

Nose: Milder than the sibling cask with the floral notes, a bit of cream and a bit of smoke. With a few drops of water it’s a bit maltier and muskier but not very much more expressive.  Continue reading

Bowmore 22, 1996, Cask 17091 (Old Malt Cask 20th Anniv. Release)


Another week, another whisky released to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Old Malt Cask line, once part of the Douglas Laing portfolio, and now owned by the Hunter Laing company that spun off from it. (I still cluster all of these whiskies under the “Douglas Laing” umbrella in my categorization but that’s because it’s too much of a pain to go back and re-categorize whiskies released under labels that were once Douglas Laing lines and are now Hunter Laing). There seem to have been a rather large number of releases in the OMC 20 anniversary series, but I only have two left from the bottle split I went in on. Following last week’s Arran 21, Laphroaig 12 and Glen Grant 27, my last reviews of this series will be of two Bowmores. Each is 22 years old and distilled in 1996, matured in a hogshead and bottled at the classic 50% of the OMC line. As bourbon cask Bowmore of this age is usually very good indeed, I’m hoping for good things.  Continue reading