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

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

Ardmore 10, 2009 (Old Particular for K&L)


Oh no, it’s another peated whisky. For a change, however, it’s a very recently released whisky and in fact it may still be available—yes, I checked, it is. It’s another from K&L’s recent parcel of exclusives from the Laing companies. As you know, some of my reviews from this batch have endeared me even more to K&L’s staff. What can I say? I’m easy to love.

Anyway, Ardmore: usually good, and usually not very much of it available from the distillery’s owners. Last year I reviewed a 22 year old released to mark the 20th anniversary of the Old Malt Cask line (another Laing property) and really liked it. This one is about the half the age of that one. It’s from a barrel which might bode some risk of over-oaking—barrels are smaller than hogsheads—but it’s a refill barrel. I’m a fan of Ardmore’s brand of fruit and highland peat. Let’s hope it’s on display here. Continue reading

Longrow 14, 2010 Release


Let’s make it two weeks in a row of reviews of peated whiskies. This also rounds out a week of reviews with terrifically low utility. On Wednesday I reviewed a Caol Ila sold exclusively at the distillery in 2017; on Monday I reviewed a Port Ellen released in 2011. Today I have a Longrow 14 that was released in 2010. The last Longrow 14 I reviewed was from the 2011 release, so I appear to be going backwards in time. Someday I hope to review one released less than nine years ago (I don’t seem to have any in the stash). If you’ve had a more recent release perhaps you can tell me if my notes on the 2010 and 2011 releases track with what the 14 yo is like now. Okay, on to the review!

Longrow 14, 2010 Release (46%; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: The usual Longrow goodness. That is to say, sweet, mineral peat along with a bit of coal smoke and below all of that lemon and salt. The lemon gets more preserved as it sits and there’s some savoury gunpowder. A few drops of water brightens the lemon up a bit. 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

Lagavulin Distillery Exclusive, 2017


I visited Scotland for the first time in 2017. And on that trip I visited Islay and I visited Lagavulin (here is my account of the excellent Warehouse Experience with the even more excellent Pinkie McArthur). That was in June right after Feis Ile. I picked up a bottle of the Feis Ile release but I don’t believe this distillery exclusive was on the shelves then. It was apparently made in a fairly complicated manner that involved 16 yo spirit finished in moscatel casks and vatted with younger bourbon cask spirit. I don’t believe I’ve ever encountered moscatel-finished Lagavulin before—Diageo must have had some casks surplus to requirements from the Caol Ila Distiller’s Edition (is that even made anymore? I don’t see anything but the Lagavulin and Talisker Distiller’s Editions in Minnesota, not that I’m looking so very hard). Of course, I have no idea what the proportions of the vatting may have been: the moscatel influence may well be minimal. Let’s find out. Continue reading