Laphroaig Cairdeas 2019, Triple Wood CS


Hello, hello, here is one of my annual timely reviews: this year’s Cairdeas release from Laphroaig. Not so timely if you actually were at Feis Ile in June—the annual Islay festival where all the distilleries release special whiskies (the Cairdeas is Laphroaig’s)—but pretty timely in the US: the Cairdeas only arrived in the country in late July and only became widely available in mid-August. As always, Laphroaig has released this without much hoopla and at a very reasonable price for a cask strength whisky: it can be found for less than $70—compare with pretty much every other Islay distillery’s offerings, most of which can only be found at auction at several times the original price.

Like 2017’s Cairdeas this one is a cask strength version of a whisky from their regular lineup and like last year’s it is a sherried whisky. 2017’s was the Quarter Cask and last year’s release was a Fino sherry finish. And this year we get a cask strength version of the Triple Wood, matured in a combination of ex-bourbon casks, quarter casks and oloroso sherry casks. The Triple Wood itself was originally a duty-free-only release that became part of the core lineup. I liked the original version of that and still have a bottle on my shelves (I should review it at some point); but it’s been a long time and I don’t really recall any specifics.  Maybe I’ll open it before this bottle gets done and see how it compares. Here for now is the CS Cairdeas edition. Continue reading

Lagavulin 24, 1991, Feis Ile 2015


I’m hoping to get to this year’s Laphroaig Cairdeas release by the end of the month but in the meantime here is another Feis Ile release from Islay’s south shore. This is not this year’s Lagavulin release though; it is the one they put out in 2015. At 24 years old it’s one of the older releases at recent Feis Iles. It’s also somewhat complicatedly made, being triple matured: first in ex-bourbon casks, then in PX sherry casks and then finally in oak puncheons (presumably either not sherry or refilled so many times as to not matter). The PX sherry maturation was apparently the briefest of the three. This was said to have been selected by the excellent Pinkie McArthur but I’m not sure exactly what that means in this case as there were 3500 bottles released—probably 6-8 puncheons worth at 59.9%. Were there in fact far more of these triple-matured puncheons, a few of which Pinkie selected to be vatted for Feis Ile 2015? That would appear to be the explanation. That makes you wonder what is happening/happened with the rest. Well, I cannot answer that question but I can tell you what I think of this bottle which I recently opened several years after acquiring it at auction for a king’s ransom (well, maybe not a very important king). Continue reading

Caol Ila 10, 2006 (Gordon & MacPhail)


Let’s do another young sherried Caol Ila to start the month and let’s hope I like it better than the other one I reviewed a few months ago. In fact, I really hope I do as I have a full bottle of this on my shelf—I had forgotten that when I acquired this sample. Like that one this is a vatting of four first-fill sherry casks. Will this show more sherry influence than that one did? Let’s see.

Caol Ila 10, 2006 (60.2%; Gordon & MacPhail; first fill sherry casks 306183+4, 306186+7; from a bottle split)

Nose: Slightly rubbery right off the bat and then there’s a fair bit of salt and phenolic peat below it. This is first-fill sherry? The rubber expands on the second sniff. After a bit the rubber begins to subside and sweeter coastal notes begin to develop (kelp, oysters); quite medicinal now (dettol). Water pushes the rubber back almost all the way and pulls out a lot of lemon to go with the salt and the coastal notes (which now include kippers). Another splash and now the rubber is gone and the lemon, salt, disinfectant and oysters have free rein. Continue reading

Caol Ila 33, 1984 (Gordon & MacPhail)


I said I’d close out the month without a mini-theme but I am a liar. Here’s another sherried whisky, albeit twice the age of yesterday’s Mortlach and made from far more heavily peated malt (I’m not sure what Mortlach’s peating levels are). I first tried this at a tasting up in St. Paul last November. That tasting featured a number of very impressive whiskies. I’ve reviewed some of those: the excellent Archives Ben Nevis 27, 1990; the “Speyside Region” 43 from the Whisky Agency; and another excellent old Caol Ila, a 34 yo distilled in 1982 and bottled by Cadenhead. I really liked that Cadenhead’s cask and at the tasting we had some difficulty deciding on which we liked better. As I recall, this one was smokier and heavier. By the way, though when I filled the label I put it down as a 34 yo, this is in fact a 33 yo. I am intrigued to see what I will make of it almost nine months later. I rather expect I will like it quite a bit more than the last sherried Caol Ila from G&M I reviewed. Continue reading

Bowmore 18, 1998 (Wemyss Malts)


From a 10 yo Laphroaig to a 12 yo Yoichi to now an 18 yo Bowmore. I’m pretty sure the Yoichi Peaty & Salty had a sherry component but this one I know for certain is from a sherry butt. It was bottled a couple of years ago by Wemyss Malts, aka the other indie bottler who like to give their releases whimsical names. They called this one “Mocha on the Deck”. It was another sample I took with me to Lake Superior with a view to actually drinking it on a deck but which I instead drank inside the cabin while the mosquitoes taunted me from the other side of the window screen.

Sherried Bowmore can be great—I’m thinking in particular of an excellent 18 yo bottled by A.D Rattray almost a decade ago*. But I was not a huge fan of the the last full-on sherried Bowmore I reviewed. That was the official “Dark & Intense“, a 10 yo. I am hoping this will be a lot better. Let’s see if that’s how it works out in reality. Continue reading

Laphroaig 10 CS, Batch 010


I reviewed Batch 009 of the Laphroaig 10 CS in May and really, really liked it (89 pts). I have not had the opportunity to try Batch 008 (which does not seem to be lurking on any local shelves I’ve looked at) but all the signs from Batch 006 onward suggest that the dip in quality at Batch 005 was just a blip. As to whether this is because the distillery is now setting aside particular casks for this release or whether the blip was entirely random, I have no way of knowing. All I can say is that Batch 009 was as good a Laphroaig 10 CS as I’ve had since Batch 001. And I am very pleased to say that Batch 010 keeps that positive momentum going—though I’m only now publishing these notes, I’ve been drinking this bottle down steadily for the last month. I can only hope that the 10 CS will continue to be released, will continue at this level, and will continue to be available in the US (or at least in Minnesota) at very reasonable prices. Now let’s get to the notes. Continue reading

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