Bowmore 10, 2002 (van Wees)

Bowmore 10, 2002, van Wees
Here is a review of a Bowmore that was released four and a half years ago and not in the United States. You’re welcome!

As you may know, Bowmore’s 1980s distillate has a very bad reputation, with a lot of the whisky produced from it demonstrating overly perfumed and soapy qualities. I’m one of those who thinks—based on my limited, random sampling—that the problem was mostly worked out by 1989 or so. However, it must be admitted that the soapy/glycerine thing pops up from time to time in the following decades as well. This 10 yo is an example of that. It wasn’t so pronounced when I first opened the bottle last year—it did very well at one of my local group’s blind tastings—but as it stayed open it magnified a little too much on the palate. I don’t mean to set off another round of Bowmore hysteria but I’m curious as to whether anyone else has encountered this elsewhere in early 2000s distillate. It may well be, of course, a case of an off barrel being bottled by an indie—I haven’t had any recent official releases that would have been distilled in this era.  Continue reading

Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition, 2013

Lagavulin Distiller's Edition, 1997-2013
I ended 2016 with a review of a Laphroaig; let’s start 2017 with a review of a Lagavulin. This is the 2013 release of their annual Distiller’s Edition. It comprises malt distilled in 1997, matured for 16 years and then finished for an unspecified period of time in Pedro Ximinez sherry casks. Until the release of the Lagavulin 8 I would have said that officially released Lagavulins were as close to a guarantee of excellence in the Scotch whisky world as you can hope to find; and the Distiller’s Edition has always helped keep that average up. It basically drinks like a more heavily sherried version of the regular 16 yo (dependably excellent in its own right) and is one of the best examples of the marriage of heavy peat and sherry that is widely available—perhaps even the best. I reviewed the 2009 edition three years ago and rather liked it. It’s taken as many years for me to get around to opening this bottle and I can tell you right away that I liked it just as much. It is a liter bottle, purchased in Duty Free (back when good deals on very good whisky were actually available in Duty Free), and I’ve much enjoyed the time it’s taken me to drink it down. And despite being bottled at 43% it has stayed remarkably consistent over the life of the bottle—this review is taken from the bottom quarter. Continue reading

Laphroaig 10 CS, Batch 007

Laphroaig 10 CS, Batch 007
Here to close out 2016 on the blog is Batch 007 of Laphroaig’s 10, CS. I’m not sure if Batch 008 made it to the US—I haven’t seen it in Minnesota, at any rate. This year we got a bit of a scare when word began to make the rounds that the 10 CS was going to be discontinued after Batch 008; the distillery put out statements shortly thereafter to reassure customers that this is not true (I covered all this in my review of Batch 006 earlier this year). Since then, however, I’ve been told by a reliable person that he’d heard first-hand at Feis Ile from a high-up at the distillery that the 10 CS was indeed on the chopping block—so who knows? If it is going out—and I hope it is not—I hope it will go out strong. The series took a big dip with Batch 005. Unlike some others, I thought Batch 006 was a big improvement, and I’m hoping Batch 007 will be further along in that direction. It certainly has been received a lot better than Batch 006 (see here for Grinch Kravitz’s take). Less vanilla and more phenols: that’s what we want.  Continue reading

Laphroaig 20, 1996 (TWE “Masterpieces”)

Laphroaig 20, 1996, TWE "Masterpieces"
After a week of bourbon reviews (all Four Roses single barrels: here, here and here) let’s close out the month with single malt whisky. This Laphroaig was bottled by the Whisky Exchange for their annual Whisky Show in October and was apparently a huge hit there. Remaining bottles made it to the website with a single bottle limit per customer. I snagged one before it sold out. Why the fuss? Well, it’s a 20 year old Laphroaig from a sherry cask, and a PX sherry cask at that. (I should say that I have no idea if this was matured full-term in a PX cask or if it finished its life in one—these days in the Scotch industry it’s best not to take anything for granted.) Between the Islay premium, the Laphroaig premium and the sherry bomb premium this was not a bargain bottle—but as a Laphroaig fan it was hard for me to look past it. As I’ve said before, the successful marriage of peat and sherry is one of the greatest things in the whisky universe and Laphroaig in particular stands up to heavy sherry really well. Anyway, let’s get to it.  Continue reading

Ardbeg 28, 1972-2001, 222 Btls (Douglas Laing)

Ardbeg 28, 1972-2001, Douglas Laing
I started the month with a Douglas Laing cask of Ardbeg 27, 1973 that was bottled for their original Old Malt Cask line in 2000. In the middle of the month I posted a review of another of their casks: a 28 yo from 1972 that was bottled in 2000. I liked those two a lot. Here now is the third of those early 1970s OMC casks that I got in on via bottle splits. Will it be as good as the other two? Only one way to find out.

Ardbeg 28, 1972-2001 (49.5%; 222 Bottles; Douglas Laing OMC; from a bottle split)

Nose: A big phenolic hit as I pour; tarrier smoke when I sniff, with lime peel and salt right behind. Gets more medicinal almost immediately and then keeps going (disinfectant, gauze bandages, iodine, rubber gaskets on medicine jars). After a minute or two there’s some soft vanilla (just a bit) and some ham, a bit of sackcloth and quite a bit more salt. Gets brighter (acidic) and “cleaner” and less tarry as it sits. With a drop of water it gets even more austere: smoky almond oil.  Continue reading

Jack’s Pirate Whisky, Das Gestohlene Schiff Part V

Jack's Pirate Whisky
I confess that I purchased this whisky a few years ago for rather shallow reasons—two of them, in fact. First there was the irresistible label. I mean just look at that dog, peg leg and all. Then there’s the fact that this Islay malt, from an undisclosed distillery and of uncertain age, was billed as being finished for 17 months in a Port Ellen sherry cask. You have to support that kind of shamelessness. I had no expectations of the quality of the actual contents of the bottle and so didn’t open it for a very long time. Not, in fact, till this August when I took it, along with another bottle, to one of my friend Rich’s annual tastings celebrating sherried whiskies—the same one that featured the Glengoyne 25, the Bowmore Feis Ile 2012 and the Glenfaclas 1968, among others. The other bottle I took was my main contribution—this one was just a novelty. But as it turned out a number of the people in attendance had it in their top three for the night, and I have to say I rather liked it too. This was a very pleasant surprise. I’d meant to review it formally right away but somehow never got around to it. Until now. Let’s see how it’s developed as it’s sat for a couple of months with some headspace in the bottle. Continue reading

Bowmore 23, 1989 (A.D. Rattray)

Bowmore 23, 1989, A.D. Rattray
Here is a Bowmore from the late 1980s. As you may know, Bowmores from the 1980s have a dodgy reputation among whisky geeks—this because of the presence of strongly perfumed and/or soapy notes in a lot of the whisky they produced in this era. I’ve noted before that this (generally well-deserved) reputation has extended past the point at which these problems began to disappear: a lot of people’s suspicion of Bowmore extends to vintages produced well into the 1990s. My own experience would suggest that the problems were mostly gone by the early 1990s and that even a lot of the late 1980s distillate was not marred in this way—see, for example, this other 1989 from Liquid Sun. And my experience would also suggest that A.D. Rattray—with their Bowmore connections—have always been a very good bet when it comes to this iconic distillery. Some of the best indie Bowmores I’ve had have come from them—see this 20 yo from 1990, for example (and there was also an 18 yo from 1991 that was just excellent—I finished my last open bottle of that before I started the blog but still have a bottle in reserve). Will this one be as good as the best of the Rattray bottlings of this era? I’m hoping for the best. Continue reading

Caol Ila 14, Unpeated

Caol Ila 14, Unpeated, 2012 Release
It’s Diageo Special Release season and here I am with this unpeated Caol Ila that was part of the lineup in 2012. Timely! I’ve previously reviewed the 2009 and 2010 releases—I liked both of those a lot. While the 10 yo released in 2009 was indeed unpeated, the 12 yo released in 2010 was anything but. I’m not sure what the story is supposed to be with this 2012 release. I am hopeful though that I will like it more than some have (see Michael K.’s review from 2013 here and Jordan D.’s review from earlier this month here—Jordan’s sample came from the same bottle as mine). This one is also unusual in that it is from European oak casks. This essentially means sherry casks—bourbon casks are made from American oak and I assume they’d have specified if these were wine casks. Anyway, peated Caol Ila from sherry casks can be really excellent—I’m curious to see how unpeated Caol Ila from sherry casks comes out.  Continue reading

Laphroaig Lore

Laphroaig Lore
The Lore is a new entry in Laphroaig’s lineup—which is so much larger suddenly than it used to be when I first acquired whisky derangement syndrome. It is apparently the replacement for the discontinued 18 yo and will see batch releases every year. It will not surprise you to learn that it is a NAS whisky. The talk around it is that there’s a mix of ages and cask types in the blend but it’s probably the case that most of it is very young. It’s also said to be an attempt at putting together an expression of Laphroaig that pulls together all parts of their profile—young, old, bourbon cask, sherried, wine cask etc. But if there’s a lot of sherry cask spirit in here I will be almost as surprised as I would be if there turned out to be very much in here over 10 years of age. If pressure on teenaged stock is what made the 18 yo go away and the 200th anniversary 15 yo just a one-off, then there’s probably only just enough older whisky in here for them to be able to wink in its direction without too much embarrassment. Well, as I purchased a bottle anyway and am reviewing it I guess I shouldn’t get on too high a horse about this—what can I say? I’m a fan of Laphroaig and people I trust said it’s a good one. Well, let’s see.  Continue reading

Ardbeg 28, 1972-2000, 234 Btls (Douglas Laing)

Ardbeg 28, 1972-2000, Old Malt Cask
Last week I posted the first of three reviews of early 1970s Ardbegs from Douglas Laing’s Old Malt Cask line. I really, really liked that 27 yo. Here now is the first of two 28 yos. As noted in the previous review, these bottles did not have cask numbers on them and are identified by a combination of distillation and bottling years and their outturn. In this case, the abv is relevant too: at 50.1% it’s a touch higher than the usual 50% of the OMC line. Anyway, let’s get right to it.

Ardbeg 28, 1972-2000 (50.1%; 234 Bottles; Douglas Laing OMC; from a bottle split)

Nose: Bright, phenolic peat: more citrus and cereals here than in the 27 yo. Starts expanding almost immediately with salt crystals and olive brine, more disinfectant and the sweet, sweet stink of the sea. A little inkier as it sits and even more coastal (the sea, the beach, the air). More lime peel now and pickled mustard seed. With more time there’s some ham cure here too but not as pronounced as in the 27 yo. A few drops of water push the smoke back a bit and pull out more of the coastal notes and more of the ham cure and some preserved lemon.  Continue reading

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2016

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2016
The 2016 edition of the Laphroaig Cairdeas has been in the US for almost two months now and I’ve finally got my hands on a bottle (okay, two bottles). I am very happy to say that I paid only $5 more per bottle than I did for my first bottle of Cairdeas back in 2011. And I’m also very happy that those of us in the US still have no difficulty purchasing the Cairdeas which is always widely available here, unlike every other Feis Ile release which require trips to Islay or large amounts of money or both.

Last year’s edition of Cairdeas was a classic bourbon cask Laphroaig. This year’s edition, however, returned to the wine cask experiments that marked the previous few years (the 2014 release was double matured in amontillado sherry casks and the 2013 in port casks). This year’s has been double matured in “Madeira seasoned traditional hogsheads”. I assume these means that these were not casks actually used to mature Madeira. The wine influence should therefore be mild. I’m curious to see what it’s like—though as a Laphroaig aficionado the odds are against my not liking it (please keep this bias in mind).  Continue reading

Lagavulin, Lg5 (Speciality Drinks)

Lg5, Elements of Islay
This is the fifth release of Lagavulin from The Whisky Exchange’s Elements of Islay series. These are 500 ml bottles with periodic table of element style names that refer to the distilleries (though you’re supposed to be coy and not take the identities for granted). The early entries in the line came out together at a steady clip some years ago (and I purchased most of them) but I lost sight of them in there somewhere. I reviewed the Lg1 and the Lg2 relatively early in the life of the blog but I never saw any sign of the Lg3 or the Lg4. Given how much I liked those early entries in the series when I had a chance to grab a 2 oz sample from a bottle split I went for it. This has received a heady score from Serge Valentin on Whiskyfun and so I’ve particularly been looking forward to it. Having started the week with an outstanding peated malt from Islay it’ll be nice to end it with another one as well. Then again Serge liked the recent official 8 yo quite a lot more than I did...  Continue reading

Ardbeg 27, 1973-2000, 240 btls (Douglas Laing)

Ardbeg 27, 1973-2000, OMC
This is the first of three reviews of Ardbegs from the early 1970s that will be showing up on the blog in the next few weeks. Very few things in whisky geekdom are fetishized more than 1970s Ardbeg and, in particular, early 1970s Ardbeg. I’ve not had very many of these but I’m sorry to say that the few I have tried have all mostly lived up to the general hype (sorry because I’m temperamentally drawn to being contrary). Those, however, have all been official releases—see, for example, my reviews of the two US releases of the legendary Provenance series (here and here). These three, however, are independent releases. They were all bottled by Douglas Laing for their Old Malt Cask series—they were bottled in the early 2000s well before the split in the company. Two were distilled in 1972 and one in 1973; all were bourbon casks. Cask numbers were not listed and so these are identified by the number of bottles in the outturn. I got one ounce of each in a bottle split and on a per ounce basis these might add up to the most expensive whisky I’ve purchased. As such I’m really hoping not to be disappointed by them! Let’s see. First up, a 27 yo distilled in 1973. Continue reading