Bunnahabhain 21 (Faultline)

Bunna 21, Faultline
This is one of K&L’s cask selections for 2013, though it arrived in early 2014. They bottled a number of casks for their Faultline label, many of them at very good prices relative to age and so laden with temptation I could not resist. Alas, my random sampling of these bottles—based on what I ordered and tasted via swaps—suggested the prices may have been good for a reason. A few were pretty decent, most were mediocre, and a couple were less than mediocre. In the last category I’d place the Bowmore 16 and this Bunnahabhain (though, as you’ll see, I liked it a bit more than the Bowmore).

I’d purchased it (and some of the others) for the tastings I do for our local group—this allows me to spread the risk of unknown quantities at attractive prices around a bit (which I’m sure the few members of my group who read the blog will be very happy to know). I first opened it for our October tasting and most present were not very enthusiastic though nobody actively disliked it. I tasted it a couple of times after that and it seemed like it might be improving. Accordingly, I poured it again at our most recent tasting. Our scores and comments suggest that while we thought the nose had improved the palate and finish had degraded. This review is an amalgam of notes taken at our tasting and at a more focused session at home before emptying the bottle. Continue reading

Faultline Bourbon (Smooth Ambler)

Faultline Bourbon
I don’t really know much about the ins and outs of the American whiskey world (“makes perfect sense that you’d do a whole month of American whiskey reviews then,” ed.) and I’m not even sure who or what Smooth Ambler is. Smooth Operator’s more leisurely sibling? Eric Ambler’s porn name? Anyway, I got this sample from Sku on my recent trip to LA and from his typically verbose review I gather  that some entity named Smooth Ambler put together this bourbon for K&L’s Faultline label from two MGP bourbons—one from a low rye mashbill and one from a high rye mashbill; and it was doubtless the greatest bourbon ever in at least one excited email from David Driscoll.

Anyway, this been has an entirely pointless and almost entirely content-free introduction—though hopefully I’ve caused at least one of you to look up Eric Ambler.

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Jura 23, 1989 (Signatory for K&L)

Jura 23, 1989, Signatory

Following the official “Prophecy”, here is an older, independent, heavily peated Jura. This was bottled by Signatory for K&L in California, and is one of the few of K&L’s selections for 2013 that I thought was pretty good.

I didn’t like it so much from the get-go though. I first opened it for one of local group’s tastings and at the time I thought it was fine but nothing more. The group (who tasted it blind) seemed to agree and it didn’t do very well in terms of either ranking or overall score. I let it sit in the bottle for a few more months and then brought it back to another of our tastings (the photograph was taken right before the second tasting, and the notes were taken the night after). Lo and behold, the whisky seemed to have improved dramatically in the bottle and it took top honours for the night (everyone but me again drinking blind). Yet more evidence of how dynamic a whisky can be and how misleading reviews based on single samples (as so many of mine are) can be if they’re presented or taken as comprehensive pronouncements (as I hope mine aren’t) rather than as snapshots of a particular tasting experience and moment in a bottle’s life.

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Bowmore 11, 2002 (Exclusive Malts for K&L)

Bowmore 11, 2002I received a sample of this Bowmore 11 in a swap with Michael K. of Diving for Pearls and after I received it I realized I already had an unopened bottle of it. I finally opened it a few months ago for one of our local group’s tastings and we finished the rest of the bottle at our August tasting—I occasionally repeat bottles that were contentious in some way or the other to see if our responses might change as the whisky does with time and air. I’d planned to review it when the bottle had just been opened but didn’t get around to it because I read Michael’s review and wanted to forget about it before tasting—and then I forgot about the whisky completely. This review is of the last pour from the bottle, but please keep in mind that the evening before this had been at the halfway point—so it’s not a hugely oxidized pour that’s been sitting at the very bottom of the bottle for a long time (and the bottle itself was only open for less than five months).

(I’d also assumed I’d photographed the bottle when I’d originally planned to review it but while posting this review realized I never had: hence the picture of the empty bottle.) Continue reading

Cragganmore 23, 1989 (Faultline)

Cragganmore 23, Faultline
This is the second of two reviews of 1989 Cragganmores. Unlike yesterday’s iteration this one is from a refill sherry cask. It was bottled for K&L in California for their Faultline label. This is the second Cragganmore they’ve bottled in that series, and I’ve had a sample of the previous one, a 20 yo, 1991 from a bourbon cask. That one didn’t impress me overmuch. As I paid for a full bottle of this one I’m hoping it puts on a better showing. I have a pretty good streak going with K&L’s selections and despite what I think of their marketing ways I’m not bloody-minded (or rich) enough to want to have paid for middling or poor whisky just so I can complain about them even more.

Cragganmore 23, 1989 (54.6%; single refill sherry cask; from my own bottle)

Nose: Orange peel and cloves. With more time there’s apricot jam and a leafy quality; some salt too. Very nice. With even more time notes of brandied raisins emerge and some toasted oak and roasted malt as well. Water mellows it out and emphasizes the raisins and the wood. Continue reading