Croftengea 15, 2002 (SMWS 122.21)

Allah be praised: it’s not another Old Malt Cask 20th Anniversary release! No, it’s not. In fact this whisky has nothing to do with the Laing family. This is a 15 yo Croftengea released last year by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Because they are whimsical they gave it the name “Words from Random Phrase Generator”; or maybe it was “What’s cooking?” One or the other.

I got in on this bottle split because a Croftengea came out of nowhere to be one of my very favourite whiskies of 2018 (this one bottled by The Whisky Exchange). I therefore resolved to try as many Croftengeas as I possibly can, leading to this and also the purchase of a full bottle of a Croftengea 13 bottled for….wait for it, wait for it…the 20th Anniversary of the Old Malt Cask line! That’ll be next month; this is now. Continue reading

Glen Garioch 24, 1993 (OMC 20th Anniv. Release)


Oh my god, will this fucker’s series of reviews of OMC 20th Anniversary releases ever end? Yes, it will, but not today. I still have a couple of unopened bottles left after throwing this one on the pile.

I was very interested in this bottle though. I really liked the last two Glen Gariochs of this general age and vintage that I tried (both from Signatory: a 25 yo and a 26 yo) and I was hoping this would be close to that level. As you may remember, Glen Garioch used mildly peated barley till the early 1990s. They stopped doing so in 1994 and this was distilled in 1993. I opened the bottle for my local group’s January tasting and it was a big hit. Indeed, two members of the group decided to purchase full bottles. I liked it very much too and have been waiting to come back to it to take more careful notes. Here now are those more careful notes. Continue reading

Ardmore 22, 1996 (OMC 20th Anniv. Release)


Hunter Laing released a large number of whiskies last year to mark the 20th anniversary of the Old Malt Cask line; they may have miscalculated a bit as a bunch of them are still available. Among these are this Ardmore 22, distilled in 1996. Ardmore is a bit of an enigma in the Scotch whisky world. From its somewhat off the beaten path location in the Eastern Highlands—don’t bother stopping by, they’re not open to the public—to the seeming general lack of interest on the part of the owners in pushing their whisky, it’s a hard distillery to get to know. There’s never been much of it available in official form and even less seemingly from the independents—though there’s been more probably from both directions in the last few years than in the years previous. This despite the fact that they’re one of the few non-Islay distilleries that make palpably peated malt, and you’d expect that to be a winning market proposition. Well, I guess Beam Suntory may be reserving a lot of its output for their blends. Anyway, while I have not had very many Ardmores—on account of lack of opportunity—I’ve liked all that I’ve had. And so I was more than willing to take a chance on this bottle. Let’s see if it has paid off. Continue reading

Lagavulin 16, 2013 Release


The last time I reviewed the Lagavulin 16 was in 2015 and that was a relatively timely review, being of a bottle from the 2014 release. And the previous year I’d reviewed another Lagavulin 16 from the 2012 release. Well, I’m sorry to say that my review in 2019 is not quite so timely, being of a bottle released between the other two. But any idiot can be useful; it takes a special kind of idiot to care whether a bottle from a massive release from one year is very much like the two in the adjacent years. Let’s see if it is.

Lagavulin 16, 2013 Release (43%; from my own bottle)

Nose: Big mossy, organic peat and quite a bit of lemon too; the whole medicinal/disinfectant complex is right there too. As it sits the big phenolic notes come to the front, picking up sweet inky notes along the way, and it gets quite briny as well. With more time there’s pencil lead, a touch of ham and also a sweeter note of vanilla-cream. Water blunts it a little bit and pushes back the smoke. Continue reading

Springbank 15, 2017 Release


On Wednesday I posted a review of a recent release of the Highland Park 12. Here now is a review of the 2017 release of another whisky that I used to enjoy a lot but have inconceivably neglected since my review in 2013 of a bottle from the 2010 release: the Springbank 15. Like the Highland Park 12, this bottle too has been redesigned. But if in the case of the Highland Park 12 what used to be a very unassuming bottle has been completely re-designed (more than once) to its current etched form, all that’s changed in the case of the Springbnk 15 is the label. And I am probably not alone in thinking that it is a change for the uglier rather than the prettier. Whatever else they’re spending their time and money on at the home base in Campbeltown, I’m not sure that they’re spending a lot of either on packaging design. But how about what’s inside the bottle? Has it too changed as the Highland Park 12 has? Read on to find out.  Continue reading

Highland Park 12, Viking Honour


The Highland Park 12 was one of the first whiskies I fell in love with when I started in on single malt whisky. Of course, that was many years and many bottle designs ago. Even though I have included it on both editions of my “Well-Rounded Single Malt Bar” lists, I have to admit that I had lost touch with it for a few years now. I reviewed it in 2014 back before the distillery had doubled down on its alleged Viking heritage (see the discussion in the comments on my write-up of my visit to the distillery last June to see how much this pivot bothers some people). Since then it’s been relaunched in a fancy new bottle with a slightly new name: it’s now the Viking Honour. I guess we have the honour of the Vikings to thank for the preservation of the age statement. Well, okay, that’s a cheap shot: while the distillery has indeed launched a number of NAS whiskies with Viking names it must be said that they’ve preserved their age-stated line and even delivered the occasional age-stated one-off (see the Full Volume). Anyway, I purchased this bottle on sale last year and opened it for a charity auction tasting friends asked me to host last month. I was curious to see what I would make of it—there’s been a lot of talk online about how it has gone completely downhill. Of course, with distilleries like Highland Park it is hard to separate people’s views of the whiskies from their views of their marketing. I liked my first pour at the event but wasn’t paying very close attention. I am now.  Continue reading

Ledaig 11, “Time IV” (The Whisky Exchange)


Okay, after an Armagnac, a Cognac, and a rum, let’s get back to whisky. This 11 yo whisky was released by the Whisky Exchange in a series they called Time. I’ve previously reviewed two of the other releases from this series: a Benrinnes 20 and a “Family Owned Distillery” 15 (probably a Glenfarclas). I was intrigued by the other releases as well but didn’t get around to ordering them before they sold out/TWE stopped shipping to Minnesota. Anyway, I liked both of the others I did buy a lot, and I can tell you the streak continued with this Ledaig. It took me a long time to get around to it—I eventually opened it as a sparring partner with a stupidly sherried Ledaig (also 11 years old and also from the Whisky Exchange). That one had the maximum sherry thing going on with the peat but this bourbon cask whisky held its own quite well. I drank it down quite quickly after opening it. Here now are the particulars.  Continue reading

Laphroaig 18, 1998 (Cadenhead)


Another Islay whisky. This Laphroaig 18 was bottled in 2017 by Cadenhead. Like the 12 yo OMC release I recently reviewed it is from a bourbon cask. I was expecting to like that younger cask a lot but was a little underwhelmed by its unidimensional, heavy smoke. Will this 18 yo bear out my usual confidence in teenaged ex-bourbon Laphroaig? Let’s see.

Laphroaig 18, 1998 (55.9%; Cadenhead; bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Ah yes, this is the Laphroaig I love—big phenolic smoke but interlaced with acidic fruit (lime) and a bit of cereal. The smoke is pungent but the fruit is unmistakable too (with time there’s pear and melon as well). With more time some vanilla pops up too but it’s not obtrusive. Water brings the acid out to the front, pulls out a bit more of the vanilla; and there’s a briny, hammy quality to it too now.  Continue reading

Bowmore 22, 1996, Cask 17078 (OMC 20th Anniv. Release)


On Monday I posted a review of one of two Bowmore 22, 1996s released by Hunter Laing to mark the 20th anniversary of the Old Malt Cask line. I really liked that one. Here now is my review of the second which I hope I will like at least as much. It is also from an ex-bourbon cask.

This is the last of my OMC 20th anniversary reviews—if anyone has any first-hand reports on any of the others released in the series, please write in below. I’m particularly interested in those that are still available: as you know I don’t approve of talk of whiskies that are not currently available. Thanks in advance.

Bowmore 22, 1996 (50%; OMC 20th Anniversary; cask 17078; from a bottle split)

Nose: Milder than the sibling cask with the floral notes, a bit of cream and a bit of smoke. With a few drops of water it’s a bit maltier and muskier but not very much more expressive.  Continue reading

Bowmore 22, 1996, Cask 17091 (Old Malt Cask 20th Anniv. Release)


Another week, another whisky released to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Old Malt Cask line, once part of the Douglas Laing portfolio, and now owned by the Hunter Laing company that spun off from it. (I still cluster all of these whiskies under the “Douglas Laing” umbrella in my categorization but that’s because it’s too much of a pain to go back and re-categorize whiskies released under labels that were once Douglas Laing lines and are now Hunter Laing). There seem to have been a rather large number of releases in the OMC 20 anniversary series, but I only have two left from the bottle split I went in on. Following last week’s Arran 21, Laphroaig 12 and Glen Grant 27, my last reviews of this series will be of two Bowmores. Each is 22 years old and distilled in 1996, matured in a hogshead and bottled at the classic 50% of the OMC line. As bourbon cask Bowmore of this age is usually very good indeed, I’m hoping for good things.  Continue reading

Laphroaig 12, 2006 (Old Malt Cask, 20th Anniv. Release)


Here’s the next whisky from the set of bottle splits I got in on of Hunter Laing’s releases to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Old Malt Cask label. I very much liked yesterday’s Arran 21, 1997, and all signs point to a strong likelihood that I will like this one a lot as well. Laphroaig is my favourite distillery and I have noted on many an occasion that my general feeling is that the sweet spot of Laphroaig is in ex-bourbon casks aged for 10-15 years. Let’s see if that holds up.

Laphroaig 12, 2006 (50%; Old Malt Cask 20th Anniv. Release; cask 17094; from a bottle split)

Nose: A big wave of peat and smoke with mezcal’ish notes mixed with the phenolic (Dettol). Not much of the cereal note that I like a lot in most bourbon cask Laphroaigs of this age. On the second sniff those mezcal’ish notes have taken a rubbery turn (rubber bands) and the smoke has some bitter, ashy edges. A couple of drops of water pull out faint musky notes.  Continue reading

Compass Box Flaming Heart, 15th Anniversary


I believe this was the 5th edition of Compass Box’s Flaming Heart, released in 2015 to commemorate their 15th anniversary. I’ve had earlier editions of Flaming Heart and quite enjoyed them—I still have one unopened bottle; not sure which release it is, but it was purchased in 2012. Anyway, this edition is said to contain 27.1% 30 yo Caol Ila from a refill bourbon hogshead, 24.1% 20 yo Clynelish from a rejuvenated bourbon hogshead, 38.5% 14 yo Caol Ila from a refill ex-bourbon hoghshead and 10.3% of a 7 yo blend of Highland malts from Clynelish, Teaninich and Dailuaine that came out of some cask with French oak involvement. So officially this is 7 yo whisky for $140 (the price at release) and don’t let the fancy decimal points distract you from that. I kid, I kid: they could easily have left out that 10.3% and asked for even more money for this. That said, I’m not quite as enamoured of Compass Box’s whiskies as many whisky geeks. As I’ve said before, I can never quite shake the feeling that their bespoke presentation and ability to speak in the language of whisky geeks has a lot to do with their reception. That said, I did like the 10th anniversary Peat Monster a lot and I hope this will be in that vein. Let’s see.  Continue reading

Ballechin 12, 2005 (Signatory for the Whisky Barrel)


Back again to the combo of big sherry and big peat. This Ballechin was/is an exclusive for the Whisky Barrel. It was bottled by Signatory and as Signatory owns Edradour—whose peated malt Ballechin is—it seemed a pretty good bet that this would be a good cask. Also relevant: I quite liked the old limited edition Ballechin 4 which was from oloroso casks (or finished in oloroso casks, I can’t remember). I got this sample as part of a bottle split and indeed liked it so much (spoiler alert) that I purchased a couple of bottles. I was surprised to see later that Serge didn’t rate it very highly. This may explain why this is still available from the Whisky Barrel. I think it’s one that requires some time and then water to reveal all its charms. Anyway, I do recommend it highly, especially if you like that combo of big sherry and big peat.

Continue reading

Laphroaig 13, 1998 (van Wees)


Let’s keep the peated-sherried thing going. Here is a review of a high-octane Laphroaig bottled by van Wees in the Netherlands in late 2011. As I mentioned in my review of yesterday’s Ledaig, the word on the street is that Signatory is the source of much of van Wees’ releases—and indeed the numbering convention of this cask seems to map onto that of Signatory’s Ledaig casks. That’s neither here nor there, I suppose. This came out at a time in 2011/2012 when there seemed to be a lot of 13 year old Laphroaig about. I’ve reviewed a few of them—see the bourbon cask releases from Archives and Malts of Scotland; and also  sherry cask releases from Kintra Whisky and yes, another van Wees. I really liked that other van Wees cask (700394 to this one’s 700348). I only have vague memories of this bottle, which I finished before starting the blog, and I think in my head I had run it together with the Kintra Whisky bottle, which I’d found a bit too rough. And so I’m curious to renew this one’s acquaintance (I’d saved a 6 oz sample from the top of the bottle, as had been my wont in those days). God knows there’s not as much indie Laphroaig available now and the price of sherried Laphroaig has risen sharply.  Continue reading