Three Ballechins bottled by Whisky Sponge to start the month and year, I said. On Monday I reviewed a 17 yo distilled in 2004 and matured in a first-fill bourbon barrel. On Wednesday another 17 yo from 2004, this time matured in a refill fino butt. Here now to close the week is another sherry cask but this one was distilled a year later and is two years younger. It’s from a second-fill sherry hogshead—what kind of sherry does not appear to have been specified in this case.
As I said on Monday, I only recently learned that Angus MacRaild (the Whisky Sponge) was bottling whisky. I don’t know what reputation his releases have at this point or where they fall price-wise in the market. I will say that I liked the other two fine but did not find them to be anything particularly extraordinary. Will this one be a departure in either direction? Let’s see. Continue reading →
Here is the second of three reviews of single casks of Ballechin—or peated Edradour—released recently by Whisky Sponge. See here for a review of the first cask (a first-fill bourbon barrel) and read the comments on that post for some discussion of the ethical issues that these releases raise. If you have any thoughts about any of that please add them to the comments on that first review so it all stays in one place.
Ballechin 17, 2004 (55.5%; WhiskySponge; Edition 36B; Refill Fino Sherry Butt; from a bottle split)
Nose: Dry, farmy peat with some sweet notes around the edges of the smoke. Gets more organic and vegetal as it sits—definitely something rotting in the undergrowth in the middle distance, the aroma being wafted over on a briny, sea breeze (yes, I know where Edradour is located). Water softens the whole up: the farmy peat abates and there’s a touch of vanilla now. The salt expands again with time. Continue reading →
Today is the day before Christmas and therefore I have for you a whisky with Christmas in its name. This is the 2021 edition of the Whisky Exchange’s “A Fine Christmas Malt”. It is 16 years old and ostensibly from a mystery distillery. However, at the bottom of the product page for this whisky on the TWE website the links offer “More from Highland Park”. I think this means that this is a Highland Park. Actually, I know it is but don’t ask me how I know: if word gets out that he’s been so indiscreet someone might have to shave his beard. I rather liked the last Highland Park I reviewed of this general age: a 17 yo bottled for K&L. Unlike that one this is not a single cask but a vatting of bourbon and sherry casks. A friend visiting London in November muled a bottle back to me. I was expecting it to be sold out by now but somehow it is still available—oh, when will the war on Christmas end? On the other hand, this means I am reviewing yet another currently available whisky. I truly am the king of timely whisky reviewers. Continue reading →
There have been a few general batch-numbered releases of a Kilkerran 8 CS in recent years. Going off the Whiskybase listings it would appear that the first couple of of these appeared in 2017 (I am not counting previous single cask releases or releases available only at the distillery). The 2017 (Batch 1 and Batch 2) and 2018 (Batch 3) releases were from bourbon casks. I was not the biggest fan of Batch 1 and have not tried the second or third batches. Batch 4 was released in 2019—I reviewed it earlier this year and after an unpromising opening rather liked—and was matured in re-charred oloroso sherry casks. After a year’s break, 2021’s release (Batch 5) is once again from oloroso sherry casks but this time they were first-fill oloroso casks. This is the release I am reviewing today as the first in a week of sherry cask whiskies. On Wednesday I’ll check in with a Balvenie single sherry cask and I’ll close out the week appropriately on Friday with The Whisky Exchange’s recent “A Fine Christmas Malt”. But first let’s get into this one. Continue reading →
Islay week started out with a Bowmore released in 2019 and then took a jump back in time with an Ardbeg Uigeadail released in 2007. We’re now back to the present, indeed back in 2021 itself. Closing out the week is this year’s edition of the Cairdeas, Laphroaig’s annual Feis Ile release. I was not a fan of 2020’s Port & Wine casks release. The release a year before that was a cask strength version of the Triple Wood from the regular lineup. This year’s release is a cask strength version of the PX release (is that still in the core lineup?) which is basically the Triple Wood but with oloroso casks as the third type of cask involved in the maturation (after regular bourbon casks and quarter casks). Will it send the series back in the right direction? Even if it does, I do wish Laphroaig would go back to releasing good young bourbon cask whiskies in this series. All of the Cairdeas releases I’ve liked best have been from bourbon casks. Either that or just give us a straight forward sherry cask release (both 2018’s Fino and 2014’s Amontillado releases were finsihes/double maturations too). Anyway, let’s see what this one is like—maybe it’ll make me eat my words. Continue reading →
Islay week continues. After starting at Bowmore on Monday we’ll now move down to the south coast for the remaining reviews of the week. And after a bourbon cask release to start the week we’ll head into deep, sherried territory. First up, a bottle from the 2007 release of the Ardbeg Uigeadail. In 2007 the Uigeadail was not new—the first release was in 2003—but it was certainly not the familiar name it has since become to fans of the distillery and of heavily peated whisky. The distillery itself was only in the early stages of its comeback. The release of the new 10 year old, distilled after the purchase and revitalization of the distillery in 1997 by Glenmorangie PLC, was still a year away. And the Uigeadail itself would not become a major sensation till 2009 when that sexist asshole in a Panama hat named it his pick for the best whisky in the world or whatever. Of course, in malt whisky lore, the golden age of the Ardbeg Uigeadail was already behind it then! It’s the releases from 2003 and 2004 that are famous for containing old sherried Ardbeg from1970s casks in them. But even if that time was gone by 2007, the Uigeadail of that era was rather excellent indeed. I want to say that this is the last of several bottles I’d purchased at the time but my usually trusty spreadsheet fails me. This is one of very few whiskies for which I have not recorded the place or date of purchase or a price. As I do have all that information recorded for my remaining bottles of the 2010 and 2013 releases I’m guessing this was not purchased alongside them. Anyway, what I have recorded is the score I gave the previous bottle—finished before I started the blog—and on that basis I am expecting to enjoy this very much. Let’s get to it. Continue reading →
Bowmore 15, Feis Ile 2019 (51.7%; first-fill bourbon casks; from a bottle split)
Nose: Takes a few beats to open up and then there’s the sweet Bowmore florals along with some passionfruit, some vanilla; mineral peat runs through it all. Brinier with each sniff. Not too much change after that. A few drops of water pull out some cream and turn the fruit more acidic. Continue reading →
Talisker Week began with the very first release of the Talisker 18 from 2004 and continued with the 2015 release of the Distillers Edition. Let’s now close it out with a 20 yo. This was released in 2003 and was put together from a number of ex-bourbon casks distilled in 1982, for a total of 12,000 bottles released worldwide. This came a year after (I think) another 20 yo from sherry casks from the 1981 vintage. That sherry cask release has divided whisky geeks who’ve had it. Some utterly love it, some find it marred by sulphur. The bourbon cask edition, however, I don’t think I’ve ever read any complaints about. It’s about as quintessential modern-era Talisker as you could hope for. Indeed, I wonder if this release didn’t inspire the 18 yo that became a part of the distillery’s core lineup the following year. I would not be surprised to learn that the vatting for that first 18 yo drew on casks that went into this 20 yo—after all, in the early 2000s it was still common for official releases to contain spirit older than the age on the label. At any rate, as I am currently drinking both side by side I find many points of similarity; the major difference being abv and that the 18 yo has some fraction of ex-sherry casks in it as well. Alright, let’s get to it. Continue reading →
Following Monday’s review of a bottle from the first-ever release of the Talisker 18 in 2004, let’s continue Talisker week with another from the distillery’s core range. The Talisker Distillers Edition—like all Diageo’s Distillers Edition releases—is the distillery’s entry-level age-stated malt—in this case the 10 yo—finished for a few months in sherry or wine casks—in this case, Amoroso sherry casks. As I’ve noted before, the only one of these I’ve consistently liked is the Lagavulin Distillers Edition. In most of the others the finish has not in my view tended to add very much that’s compelling to the base malt; though I suppose it is always good to have some variation. Such was my view of the only other Talisker Distillers Edition I’ve reviewed—the 2011 release. This one is from four years later. Will it be appreciably different? And will it make me curious enough about more recent releases to seek them out? Let’s see. Continue reading →
When we arrived in Minnesota in 2007 I fortuitously happened on Chicago-Lake Liquors while visiting the Midtown Global Market across the street. Chicago-Lake’s large collection of single malt whisky at minimal markups had a lot to do with my rapidly accelerating whisky mania at the time. Alas, those days are long gone—Chicago-Lake is still around but the selection shrank and the prices rose quite a few years ago. I will always be grateful to the owners of the store though for making it possible for me to try so many excellent official releases at such reasonable prices. These included the Laphroaig 15 for $40, the Glenlivet Nadurra for $55, Springbank 15 for about $65, the Highland Park 18 for $80 and, yes, the Talisker 18 for all of $50. The Talisker 18 had only just been introduced a few years ago and had recently been named the best whisky in the world by some publication or the other. And so I was very happy to try it. I loved it right away and for a good few years bought it regularly from Chicago-Lake. Elsewhere the price was higher—$80’ish—but that paled in comparison to the price hike around 2012 or so when it shot up to $140. Alas, I had not had the foresight to stock up on a case or two and so the memories of the early releases were soon all I had left of them. Thus when the chance recently presented itself to acquire a bottle of the 2004 release I jumped at it. I was curious to see what I would make of it now. I’d liked the 2011 release but not thought it very special; the 2007 release I’d liked a lot more. Would this one live up to my memory of it? Well, I’m very glad to say it does. Continue reading →
Here to close out the month is a Highland Park. This is my first Highland Park review since June when I reviewed three in a week. One of those was an official single sherry cask; another was an ex-bourbon cask with a rum finish from the SMWS; and the third was a regular bourbon hogshead bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd. Like the BB&R cask this too is a bourbon hogshead and like it it bears not the distillery’s name on the label but a reference to Orkney. As you may know, Highland Park no longer allows indie bottlers to put their name on labels. Well, whatever the name on the label, I am a big fan of bourbon cask Highland Park and I hope this will turn out to be more evidence of how good those casks can be. I will maintain this optimism even though this particular cask was selected by K&L as part of their 2021 releases. It was very reasonably priced too—now long sold out, I think. Anyway, let’s get to it. Continue reading →
Last week was a week of reviews of peated whiskies from Islay—one each from Caol Ila, Lagavulin and Laphroaig. I liked them all a lot. This week will be a week of reviews of whiskies from the highlands. We’ll begin with a young Ardmore that also keeps the peat theme going for a little longer. This is yet another Ardmore from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society—probably the most consistent source of Ardmore casks in the US. I’ve reviewed a number of their Ardmore releases before, most recently this 23 yo which I adored, and before that a trio comprising a 20 yo, a 21 yo and a 22 yo, all of which I really liked as well. This one is quite a bit younger at 12 years of age—though in today’s single malt market 12 years old sometimes seems positively middle aged. Will it approach the quality of its older siblings? Oh yes, the SMWS’ tasting panel gave this the whimsical name, “Hickory smoked lobster”. I can’t say I’ve had smoked lobster but it does sound good—any relation to the reality of what’s in the glass? Let’s see. Continue reading →
Laphroaig 18, 1998 (58.1%; SMWS 29.218; refill bourbon hogshead; from my own bottle)
Nose: All the classic stuff: carbolic, phenolic peat out the wazoo, laced with lemon, brine and oyster liquor; sweeter cereals underneath. After a while there’s a hit of damp smouldering leaves and also some cracked black pepper. With more time and air still the cereals come to the fore. A few drops of water and the phenols recede just a bit as the lemon turns to citronella and some muskier tart fruit emerges (pineapple, unripe mango). Continue reading →
The first Lagavulin Offerman Edition was released in 2019—you probably know the story: Nick Offerman is a big Lagavulin fan (as was his Parks and Recreation character, Ron Swanson). I reviewed it then (just over two years ago). At the time I assumed that was a one-off but now here’s a second. Like the first, this is 11 years old; unlike the first, it has received a finish of a few months in Guinness casks. As to whether the base spirit was matured and vatted in exactly the same way as the previous 11 yo, I do not know. If you know more about any of this please write in below. I do know that I liked the first Offerman edition—more than some others did, I think. I did not find it to be gimmicky at all. I have to say I’m far more dubious about this one. Even if I were more positively disposed towards “finished” whiskies the thought of a beer finish causes my eyebrows to twitch. Though I suppose there is some bass note crossovers between stout/porter and the dark pleasures of Lagavulin. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading →
After a week of heavily sherried Macallans (here, here and here), let’s do a week of heavily peated Islays. All of these are, I think, from bourbon casks. First up, a young Caol Ila distilled in 2008 and also bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. I quite liked the last SMWS Caol Ila 2008 I reviewed and if this is close I will be happy. The SMWS tasting panel gave this the name “Totally tropical smoke”. Sounds promising; let’s hope it’s an accurate description.
Caol Ila 10, 2008 (59.8%; SMWS 53.305; refill bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Ah, quite lovely with bright, carbolic peat mixed with some char, some brine and then quite a bit of the advertised musky fruit (charred lemon and pineapple). Gets saltier with each sniff, seemingly. As it sits the fruit recedes a bit and meatier notes come to the fore (charred pork). With more time still there’s a bit of cream but it melds nicely with the citrus and the smoke (smoked lime curd?). Water first emphasizes the coastal notes, bringing out more brine and some shells to go with it, and then the fruit pops out again. Continue reading →
On Wednesday I reviewed a Kilchoman released in 2015 and possibly available only at the distillery. Here now is a Kilchoman released just this year and a US exclusive to boot. This is a collaboration between Kilchoman and their US importer, ImpEx and features whisky matured in five barrels filled in 2012 that previously held wheated bourbon (I have no idea which ones). So a fairly small batch. It’s said to be “a tribute to the Bottled in Bond legacy of Bourbon in the US” but I’m not sure what that actually entails. If these five wheated bourbon barrels all held Bottled in Bond whiskey they don’t explicitly come out and say so. Is the connection just the BiB in both “Bottled in Bond” and “Bourbon Influenced Batch”? If you know more, please fill the rest of us in. Frankly, I’m not even sure what distinction is supposed to be imparted by the fact that this is “bourbon influenced”—I mean, isn’t most Kilchoman matured in bourbon casks? I don’t understand marketing. But I do like good whisky and hope this will prove to be one. Continue reading →
After having reviewed only eight KIlchomans over the first seven and a half years of the blog’s life, I reviewed another five in the first half of this year. Let’s get that count up even higher by starting November with another pair of Kilchomans. First up is a multi-vintage vatting released in 2015 to mark the 10th anniversary of the distillery’s founding. This contains spirit distilled from 2012 to 2005. It couldn’t have any from the vintages after 2012, of course, because by law Scotch whisky has to be at least three years old. The oldest whisky in the vatting was 10 years old and indeed this includes spirit from the first cask ever filled at the distillery. The cask types are a mix of bourbon and sherry but I’m not sure what the mix is or what the proportions of the various vintages is. And while I’m listing things I’m not sure of, I also don’t know if this ever came to the US—the distillery’s page indicates it was meant to be on sale at the distillery only. At any rate, here are my notes. Continue reading →
Closing out Campbeltown Week is the sherry cask counterpart to Wednesday’s excellent bourbon cask iteration of Kilkerran’s Work in Progress 5 release. This was, if I remember correctly, the first sherry cask release in the series—a feature repeated in the following Work in Progress releases. The Bourbon Wood was one of the best young whiskies I’ve had (and Monday’s 8 yo Glen Scotia was very good too). How will the Sherry Wood compare? Only one way to find out.
Kilkerran Work in Progress 5, Sherry Wood (46%; from my own bottle)
Nose: Though they’re exactly the same age and distillate this noses quite a bit younger than the Bourbon Wood with a mezcal-like note coming off the top. Below it is slightly rubbery peat, some lemon, some chalk and a lot of salt. Not much change with time. With a few drops of water it actually gets a little closer to the Bourbon as it becomes more austere and both the rubbery peat and the mezcal recede; more sweetness now: a bit of vanilla and some wet stones. Continue reading →