Bunnahabhain 30, 1988 (Old Particular for K&L)


I am almost at the end of my run of reviews of K&L’s recent exclusive casks. This Bunnahabhain 30 is the oldest of them—well, the oldest I acquired a sample of, at any rate. K&L have brought in older Bunnahabhains before. I’ve previously reviewed a 25 yo and a 28 yo. The 25 yo was another Old Particular and the 28 yo was in their own Faultline series (is that still on the go?). Both were from sherry casks and I liked both a fair bit. This one, as with a number of their exclusives in this run, was matured in a refill hogshead. Let’s hope it’ll be closer to the two aforementioned in quality anyway than to the 21 yo from a hogshead they’d put out in 2013/14. That one had seemed like a very good value for the age; I purchased a bottle and was very disappointed.At $99 for a 21 yo in 2013-14, it was, in the abstract a very good value for the age—and these days $350 for a 30 yo is similarly, in the abstract, a good value for the age—but you’re not drinking the age to price ratio, you’re drinking a whisky. Let’s see what this particular one is like. Continue reading

Bowmore 11, 2001 (Maltbarn)


Hello, the blog is seven years old today. As per Sku, I have three more years before I have to shut it down. Though, truth be told, I’m having some trouble right now mustering enough enthusiasm to keep it going through the isolation/quarantine—and judging by readership numbers very few of you are currently enthusiastic enough to show up to read this shortly after it posts. But an anniversary is an anniversary.

My very first review was of a Bowmore—the lowly Bowmore Legend of years past—and since then I’ve marked every anniversary with a Bowmore review. What can i say? I’m notoriously sentimental. I am feeling particularly sentimental today as this is the fourth of five reviews of bottles I opened during my 50th birthday week that mark significant years of my life (see here, here and here). This Bowmore was distilled in 2001, the year I met my partner. We’re currently 19 years in but this is only an 11 yo. Continue reading

Caol Ila 19, 1995 (Maltbarn)


I’m having a tough time summoning the energy to write stupid preambles to these reviews that were written a couple of weeks ago. Here is all I could manage for this one: this is a 19 yo Caol Ila distilled in 1995 and bottled by Maltbarn. Accurate!

Caol Ila 19, 1995 (52.8%; Maltbarn; from my own bottle)

Nose: Lemon and phenolic peat with olive brine running through it. In other words, quintessential Caol Ila. On the second sniff there are sweeter notes of cereals and vanilla behind the smoke and just a hint of gasoline. With a few drops of water the vanilla turns to cream and expands

Palate: The peat is in the lead here and there’s more tar than was indicated by the nose. Very nice texture at full strength and very approachable. With time the lemon and olive brine expand here as well and there’s some smouldering leaves in there with the tarry smoke. Water brings the pepper out earlier and it’s sweeter/creamier here too now, though the smoke and lemon are still the top notes. Better balance on the whole now. Continue reading

Staoisha 6, 2013 (The Whisky Barrel)


Last week I had a review of a young first-fill oloroso sherry cask Bunnahabhain released by the Whisky Barrel. This week I have for you a review of an even younger Bunnahabhain released by the Whisky Barrel, this one from a first-fill bourbon barrel. It is bottled as a Staoisha, which is one of the names used for peated Bunnahabhain. This “Staoisha” business is, I think, relatively new. I’m not sure if the distillery mandates that name for independently released peated Bunnahabhain or if this is something the indies came up with on their own (there do seem to be more than a few new’ish Staoishas around). I’d suspect the former but, again, as I don’t follow industry news I can’t say for sure. If somebody who knows more is reading along, please write in below. Well, to begin to get to the whisky: I wouldn’t normally be very intrigued by a 6 yo whisky but last week’s 10 yo was very good; odds should be good that the Whisky Barrel did a good job of picking this cask as well. Let’s see if that turns out to be true. Continue reading

Bunnahabhain 10, 2009 (The Whisky Barrel)


In September 2019 I reviewed a young sherry cask Bunnahabhain. That was an official release for Feis Ile 2015, matured in manzanilla sherry casks. I was not a big fan. I cared even less for the official PX finish 14 year old that I reviewed in 2018. And nor was I enamoured of the official 12 yo I reviewed in 2013, a release heavy on the sherry casks. All of that makes me a little wary of today’s whisky, a 10 yo released by the online store, the Whisky Barrel. Not only is it a young sherry cask release but the cask in question is a first-fill oloroso hogshead. Between the first-fill and the smaller cask the potential for over-oaking and sherry bombing seems high. That prospect might actually get some excited but it’s not my preferred incarnation of sherried whisky. On the other hand, I really liked the heavily sherried 12 yo Ballechin the Whisky Barrel picked in 2018 (that was a Signatory release; this is under their own name). There may be some hope there. Let’s see how it goes. Continue reading

Laphroaig 9, 2001 (SMWS)


I started out the week with a review of a 21 yo official Laphroaig. Let’s close out the week’s whisky reviews—and also the month—with a review of a young independent Laphroaig. This is a 9 year old bottled in 2010 by the SMWS. I got a sample in a swap not too long after. I have no memory of who I got it from though: if someone who is reading recognizes their handwriting on this label, please let me know. Confusingly, I also have a full bottle of this—and I’ve not recorded the source of that either (I am not a member of the SMWS). It’s possible that I received two separate samples, tasted one and tracked down a bottle. Or perhaps I traded for a sample and then decided I didn’t need to taste it to pull the trigger on a bottle. In those days it was hard for me to turn down opportunities to buy any affordable Laphroaigs, particularly ones matured in sherry casks as this one was. Well, however, I came to get it, here I am finally opening up this sample. Let’s see if it lives up to the name the SMWS gave it. Continue reading

Laphroaig 21, 200th Anniversary Release


Today is my 50th birthday. And to mark the occasion I have a review of a whisky from my favourite distillery, Laphroaig. These notes were, of course, not taken today, but I look forward to drinking some more of it tonight—along with a couple of other things. This 21 yo was released to mark the distillery’s 200th anniversary in 2015, one of several bottles released for that commemorative purpose. One of my favourite recent official Laphroaigs was also part of that larger release: the 2015 Cairdeas. On the other hand, I was not blown away by the one-off return of the 15 yo that was also part of the group. Hopefully, this 21 yo will be more in line with the former than with the latter. Unlike those releases this was only available as a 350 ml bottle and initially only available via ballot. It didn’t sell out immediately, however: £99 for 350 ml may have seemed like a lot to people then, I suppose. And the price didn’t seem to rise very quickly on the secondary market either. I purchased it at auction a couple of years later and I believe I paid the original price. Of course, now it would be a different story: £99 would seem like a steal for an official Laphroaig 21. Anyway, let’s see if it gets my 50th birthday celebrations off to a good early start. Continue reading

Bowmore 14, 1996 (A.D. Rattray for BevMo)


Last month I reviewed a Bowmore 14, 1996 bottled by A.D. Rattray for BevMo. This is not that Bowmore 14, 1996. It is another one bottled at the same time but which for some reason does not show up on Whiskybase or have much of any other kind of trail online. I purchased a bottle in the Hollywood BevMo not too long after it was released and finished it not too long thereafter (before starting the blog). As per my spreadsheet I liked it a lot. Reviewing the other one reminded me of this one and the likelihood that I had saved a 6 oz reference sample of it—as used to be my practice back then with all bottles I owned.Sure enough, when I looked there it was. And here now is a formal review.

Bowmore 14, 1996 (59.1%; A.D. Rattray for BevMo; bourbon cask 960029; from a reference sample saved from my own bottle)  Continue reading

Caol Ila Distillery Exclusive, 2017


A few weeks ago I reviewed the Lagavulin Distillery Exclusive from 2017. Here now is the Caol Ila Distillery Exclusive from the same year. (Neither of these were “fill your own” casks”.) I visited Caol Ila as well in June 2017—as with the Lagavulin exclusive, I don’t believe I saw this on the shelves at the distillery either. The Lagavulin was made in a somewhat complicated manner, involving moscatel casks (which used to be/is the cask type used in the Caol Ila Distiler’s Edition). I’m not sure, however, how this one is made—Whiskybase does not say. It would be fitting if this involved PX casks (which is what the Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition is “finished” in). I don’t mean to give Diageo any ideas for future releases though; on the other hand, if something like this starts happening I hope you will be willing to serve as witnesses in my intellectual property infringement  suit against them. Okay, enough folly! Let’s get to the whisky itself and see what it’s like.
Continue reading

Port Ellen, Pe5 (Elements of Islay)


The fifth Port Ellen entry in the Whisky Exchange’s Elements of Islay series was released in 2011, I think. And it may have been the last of the Port Ellens released in that series—at least Whiskybase does not list a Pe6. I’ve been sitting on this sample since early 2012. I acquired this sample through a rare act of honesty on my part: I had placed an order for a Karuizawa from TWE (this was back when Karuizawas could be acquired for <$200) and due to a glitch in their systems was charged only a fraction of the price. I alerted Tim Forbes who was then doing web stuff for TWE, and who was also a member of the then-very active Whisky Whisky Whisky forums. He confirmed that I was not in fact a winner of a special lottery and, as appreciation for my letting him know, threw a few fancy samples in with the order, one of which was this one. Why it has then taken me almost 8 years to drink it, I couldn’t tell you. Anyway, being released in 2011 it is at least 28 years old (Port Ellen closed in 1983) and probably a bit older. It’s also from a sherry cask, as three of the other four Elements of Islay Pe releases had been as well. It was very well received at the time. I, of course, did not buy a bottle because I thought it was horrendously overpriced. Cut to the present where the multiplier for any Port Ellen released in 2011 is about 10x. Anyway, let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Lagavulin “Jazz Festival 2017”


The Jazz Festival series is Lagavulin’s second annual series of special releases, bottled to commemorate the Islay Jazz festival every autumn. As I noted in my review of the 2015 Jazz Festival release, this series doesn’t seem to inspire the mania of the summer Feis Ile releases. This is doubtless due to the unpredictable vagaries of the collectors’ market which is anything but rational. Certainly, I liked the 2015 Jazz Festival release a lot. That bodes well for this 2017 release which, like the 2015, is comprised of spirit matured in refill American oak hogsheads and refill European oak butts. This is not the standard regimen for these releases: the intervening 2016 release—which I picked up a bottle of at the distillery in 2017—was matured only in American oak. In practice, however, the 2015 release did not betray much, if any, palpable sherry influence; I’m curious to see if this will be any different in that regard. Let’s see. Continue reading

Bowmore 21, 1996 (Old Malt Cask for K&L)


Let’s continue with the review of the recent K&L exclusive casks. And no, they’re not paying me for all this free, extended coverage of their whiskies. For that matter, they don’t even appear to be enjoying it. Ah well, can’t please everyone.

Speaking of not pleasing everyone, Bowmore is also a distillery that has not always pleased everyone. This is mostly due to folly on the part of the fraction of everyone who have not been pleased. Bourbon cask Bowmore from the early 1990s on is usually a very good proposition. So much so that I’ve even really liked a K&L exclusive cask in that vein. Last year they had an OMC 22 year old that I purchased on Sku’s recommendation while in Los Angeles and loved to the tune of 91 points. I won’t need this to be that good to make me happy but I will also not object if it is. Let’s see. Continue reading

Ardbeg Drum


This was Ardbeg’s 2019 Feis Ile release. I have to admit I stopped paying attention to Ardbeg some years ago. The 10 year old is still an Islay classic and my last bottles of the Uigeadail and Corryvreckan were very good too (albeit neither were anywhere close to being recent releases), but most of the noise emanating from the distillery—or rather from its owners—has seemed for a while to be in the service of high-concept silliness. I thought 2018’s Feis Ile release, the Grooves, was fairly ordinary. Why then am I reviewing the 2019 release? Well, largely because in theory at least bourbon cask Ardbeg finished in rum casks does not seem like a bad idea. (Of course, they say they’ve “rested” their spirit in rum casks; unlike all those other distilleries who make their spirit ride treadmills and run marathons in finishing casks.) Will the reality of this whisky in fact match up with that theoretical promise? Only one way to find out. Continue reading

Bunnahabhain 18, 2016 Release


Way back in the early months of the blog I posted a review of the 2012 release of the Bunnahabhain 18. Because I am so current I have for you today a review of a bottle from the 2016 release. I opened this bottle a few months ago but hadn’t gotten around to reviewing it until a chance mention of it in the minor fracas over my comments on K&L’s recent Clynelish exclusive reminded me that I should. As you may remember, I noted of that Clynelish that I did not think it was the best use for $250. After an initial erroneous recommendation of the Springbank 18 as a cheaper sherried alternative—when I last had the Springbank 18 it was far more sherry-driven than it is now—I mentioned the Bunnahabhain 18 in a similar vein. As you will readily imagine, David Othenin-Girard of the K&L spirits department—who apparently is my most devoted reader—was very pleased with this suggestion: he kindly wished me great enjoyment of the Bunnahabhain 18. Accordingly, I am here now with the details of that enjoyment. Continue reading