Laphroaig Cairdeas 2019, Triple Wood CS


Hello, hello, here is one of my annual timely reviews: this year’s Cairdeas release from Laphroaig. Not so timely if you actually were at Feis Ile in June—the annual Islay festival where all the distilleries release special whiskies (the Cairdeas is Laphroaig’s)—but pretty timely in the US: the Cairdeas only arrived in the country in late July and only became widely available in mid-August. As always, Laphroaig has released this without much hoopla and at a very reasonable price for a cask strength whisky: it can be found for less than $70—compare with pretty much every other Islay distillery’s offerings, most of which can only be found at auction at several times the original price.

Like 2017’s Cairdeas this one is a cask strength version of a whisky from their regular lineup and like last year’s it is a sherried whisky. 2017’s was the Quarter Cask and last year’s release was a Fino sherry finish. And this year we get a cask strength version of the Triple Wood, matured in a combination of ex-bourbon casks, quarter casks and oloroso sherry casks. The Triple Wood itself was originally a duty-free-only release that became part of the core lineup. I liked the original version of that and still have a bottle on my shelves (I should review it at some point); but it’s been a long time and I don’t really recall any specifics.  Maybe I’ll open it before this bottle gets done and see how it compares. Here for now is the CS Cairdeas edition. Continue reading

Benriach 29, 1986


One more peated whisky to round out the week and it’s the oldest of the three. It was distilled in 1986 and released in 2016, as part of Batch 13 of Benriach’s “single cask” releases. Like Monday’s Lagavulin, this was made complicatedly: distilled from peated barley, (presumably) matured in ex-bourbon barrels for a good while and then finished in an oloroso sherry cask. Interestingly, Billy Walker and co.—then owners of both Glendronach and Benriach—were more forthcoming on labels of Benriach than they were about the so-called single casks of Glendronach (none of which, as far as I know, had or have the word “finished” anywhere on their labels). How long this finish was is, nonetheless, not specified. And nor is there any reason to believe that this is a true “single cask” as most people would understand the term and not another case of multiple casks being re-racked together into a sherry cask for the final bit of maturation/finishing. Anyway, let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Kavalan 8, 2006, Peaty Cask


It’s been a while since my last Kavalan review; more than three years, actually. That was a review of one of their Solist sherry casks. To be honest, I’ve not really kept up with Kavalan over the years. Their whiskies, at least the ones available in the US fall into two categories: affordable but unremarkable; and good but very expensive. And I’ve more or less given up on buying expensive whisky. And it’s also fair to say that it’s not just Kavalan that I’ve not kept up with—I’ve become rather disconnected from the the whisky world in general. But that’s another post for another day. Here is an unusual Kavalan: one of their “Peaty Cask” releases. I *think* this is regular Kavalan spirit matured or finished in an imported cask that had held peated whisky. If not, someone will be around shortly to correct me. And, no, this is not a new release—it came out in 2015 or so. I purchased a sample with a view towards possibly purchasing a bottle and then promptly forgot about it. I think I’ve been threatening to review it for the last year or so. Anyway, here it is now. Continue reading

Lagavulin 24, 1991, Feis Ile 2015


I’m hoping to get to this year’s Laphroaig Cairdeas release by the end of the month but in the meantime here is another Feis Ile release from Islay’s south shore. This is not this year’s Lagavulin release though; it is the one they put out in 2015. At 24 years old it’s one of the older releases at recent Feis Iles. It’s also somewhat complicatedly made, being triple matured: first in ex-bourbon casks, then in PX sherry casks and then finally in oak puncheons (presumably either not sherry or refilled so many times as to not matter). The PX sherry maturation was apparently the briefest of the three. This was said to have been selected by the excellent Pinkie McArthur but I’m not sure exactly what that means in this case as there were 3500 bottles released—probably 6-8 puncheons worth at 59.9%. Were there in fact far more of these triple-matured puncheons, a few of which Pinkie selected to be vatted for Feis Ile 2015? That would appear to be the explanation. That makes you wonder what is happening/happened with the rest. Well, I cannot answer that question but I can tell you what I think of this bottle which I recently opened several years after acquiring it at auction for a king’s ransom (well, maybe not a very important king). Continue reading

Caol Ila 10, 2006 (Gordon & MacPhail)


Let’s do another young sherried Caol Ila to start the month and let’s hope I like it better than the other one I reviewed a few months ago. In fact, I really hope I do as I have a full bottle of this on my shelf—I had forgotten that when I acquired this sample. Like that one this is a vatting of four first-fill sherry casks. Will this show more sherry influence than that one did? Let’s see.

Caol Ila 10, 2006 (60.2%; Gordon & MacPhail; first fill sherry casks 306183+4, 306186+7; from a bottle split)

Nose: Slightly rubbery right off the bat and then there’s a fair bit of salt and phenolic peat below it. This is first-fill sherry? The rubber expands on the second sniff. After a bit the rubber begins to subside and sweeter coastal notes begin to develop (kelp, oysters); quite medicinal now (dettol). Water pushes the rubber back almost all the way and pulls out a lot of lemon to go with the salt and the coastal notes (which now include kippers). Another splash and now the rubber is gone and the lemon, salt, disinfectant and oysters have free rein. Continue reading

Caol Ila 33, 1984 (Gordon & MacPhail)


I said I’d close out the month without a mini-theme but I am a liar. Here’s another sherried whisky, albeit twice the age of yesterday’s Mortlach and made from far more heavily peated malt (I’m not sure what Mortlach’s peating levels are). I first tried this at a tasting up in St. Paul last November. That tasting featured a number of very impressive whiskies. I’ve reviewed some of those: the excellent Archives Ben Nevis 27, 1990; the “Speyside Region” 43 from the Whisky Agency; and another excellent old Caol Ila, a 34 yo distilled in 1982 and bottled by Cadenhead. I really liked that Cadenhead’s cask and at the tasting we had some difficulty deciding on which we liked better. As I recall, this one was smokier and heavier. By the way, though when I filled the label I put it down as a 34 yo, this is in fact a 33 yo. I am intrigued to see what I will make of it almost nine months later. I rather expect I will like it quite a bit more than the last sherried Caol Ila from G&M I reviewed. Continue reading

Bowmore 18, 1998 (Wemyss Malts)


From a 10 yo Laphroaig to a 12 yo Yoichi to now an 18 yo Bowmore. I’m pretty sure the Yoichi Peaty & Salty had a sherry component but this one I know for certain is from a sherry butt. It was bottled a couple of years ago by Wemyss Malts, aka the other indie bottler who like to give their releases whimsical names. They called this one “Mocha on the Deck”. It was another sample I took with me to Lake Superior with a view to actually drinking it on a deck but which I instead drank inside the cabin while the mosquitoes taunted me from the other side of the window screen.

Sherried Bowmore can be great—I’m thinking in particular of an excellent 18 yo bottled by A.D Rattray almost a decade ago*. But I was not a huge fan of the the last full-on sherried Bowmore I reviewed. That was the official “Dark & Intense“, a 10 yo. I am hoping this will be a lot better. Let’s see if that’s how it works out in reality. Continue reading

Yoichi 12, “Peaty and Salty”


Peat week continues. Yesterday I had Batch 010 of the Laphroaig 10 CS. Today’s malt is 2 years older but was never as easily to hand as any iteration of Laphroaig 10 CS. I could be wrong but I believe this was only ever available at the Yoichi distillery; and as that’s on Hokkaido you’d have to be very dedicated to get to it. I have never been to Japan (except in transit), leave alone to Hokkaido and I did not get this at auction either (which is probably the only other place to find it now). I got it via a sample swap some years ago with a fellow whisky geek who had indeed made the journey to Hokkaido. I believe this and a number of others were made available at the distillery as so-called “key malts”, components that went into Nikka’s signature blends—others included “Sherry & Sweet” and “Woody & Vanilla”. I’ve reviewed a number of the other hard-to-get Yoichis I acquired in that sample swap but somehow forgot all about this one. I took the sample with me to Lake Superior earlier this month. I’d hoped to drink it on the rocks by the lake but the mosquitoes made short work of that fantasy. I drank it inside the cabin instead, looking at the lake through a window. Please construct your own metapor. Continue reading

Laphroaig 10 CS, Batch 010


I reviewed Batch 009 of the Laphroaig 10 CS in May and really, really liked it (89 pts). I have not had the opportunity to try Batch 008 (which does not seem to be lurking on any local shelves I’ve looked at) but all the signs from Batch 006 onward suggest that the dip in quality at Batch 005 was just a blip. As to whether this is because the distillery is now setting aside particular casks for this release or whether the blip was entirely random, I have no way of knowing. All I can say is that Batch 009 was as good a Laphroaig 10 CS as I’ve had since Batch 001. And I am very pleased to say that Batch 010 keeps that positive momentum going—though I’m only now publishing these notes, I’ve been drinking this bottle down steadily for the last month. I can only hope that the 10 CS will continue to be released, will continue at this level, and will continue to be available in the US (or at least in Minnesota) at very reasonable prices. Now let’s get to the notes. Continue reading

Brora 25, 1981 (Duncan Taylor)


After yesterday’s Benrinnes 24, 1972, let’s go up one year of maturation and jump almost a decade ahead to 1981. Here is a Brora distilled just a couple of years before the legendary distillery shut down. The general consensus among whisky geeks is that early ’80s Brora is the least compelling Brora but when you’re dealing with single casks anything is possible. Let’s see where this one falls.

Brora 25, 1981 (56.5%; Duncan Taylor; cask 1423; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Dry to start, almost a bit vinegary, and then there’s some hay and other barnyard scents; also some tarry, almost acrid peat. As it sits there’s some tart fruit and the peat gets less acrid and more hot tarmac’ish. Okay, let’s see what water does. With a drop of water there’s sweeter fruit (a hint of peach?) and some wax. Continue reading

Benrinnes 24, 1972 (Signatory)


I’ve reviewed very little Benrinnes on the blog and have not had very many more than I have reviewed. All the ones I have reviewed have been in their 20s, the oldest being this 23 yo distilled in 1988. Today’s is a year older than that but was distilled much earlier, in 1972. The early 1970s mark for many whisky geeks a boundary of sorts between eras. Whiskies made at a number of distilleries through 1972 or so have a greater reputation than anything they’ve made since (and in some cases, before). Such, for example, are Longmorn and Caperdonich. I somewhat doubt that there are any golden age narratives for Benrinnes, a distillery with not much of a reputation of any kind but I am interested to see what continuity, if any, there may be between Benrinnes of this era and more recent examples of its malt. Both the Whisky Exchange and Signatory 20 year olds I’ve reviewed had a bracing mix of lime peel and mineral notes with palpable peat. Let’s see if this one is in the same family (despite being from a sherry butt). Continue reading

Longrow 14, 2003


In early May I reviewed a Longrow 13, 2003 from a single first-fill sherry cask. I found that one to be marred by a little too much sulphur but not irredeemably so. Here now is a sherried 14 yo Longrow from the same year but this one is from refill casks and a whole bunch of them: the total release of this whisky comprised 9000 bottles (not an unusual number for Springbank). So probably about 18 or 19 butts. That should theoretically allow for an averaging that guards against any major flaws. Let’s see if that turns out to be so.

Longrow 14, 2003 (57.8%; refill oloroso sherry cask; from a bottle split)

Nose: Uh oh, a mix of rubber and sour, yeasty notes. Some more pleasant sherry aromas lurk beneath (toffee, orange peel) but are completely dominated. Gets quite salty quite quickly. As it sits the sulphurous notes subside a bit. A few drops of water knock them back further and pulls out more salt along with cocoa and roasted nuts (hazelnuts, almonds). Continue reading

Lagavulin 18, Feis Ile 2018


The last time I reviewed one of Lagavulin’s special releases for Feis Ile was in 2014. I have a few of the subsequent releases on my shelves but haven’t opened any of them yet—hmmm I should do something about that. Anyway, that one was a 17 yo from a vatting of European oak sherry butts. This one is a year older and is put together far more complicatedly. It was a release of 6000 bottles from a vatting of refill American hogsheads, rejuvenated (presumably this means re-charred) hogheads and “bodega” sherry butts. Whether “bodega” here means American or European oak is anyone’s guess, as is whether that means these butts were actually used to mature or transport sherry or whether they were sourced from some bodega and filled with disposable sherry for a short period of time. Anyway, that 17 yo, bottled for Feis Ile in 2013 was very sherry forward in all the best ways. Let’s see what this one is like. Continue reading

Laphroaig 17, 1999 (SMWS)


It has been almost two months since my last Laphroaig review and more than six months since my last review of a sherried Laphroaig. Let’s end both those sad streaks in one go. This is from a refill sherry butt bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in 2016 or 2017. They called it “Divine, Dark Temptation”, which coincidentally is also my stripper name.

Laphroaig 17, 1999 (58.1%; SMWS; refill sherry butt 29.190; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: The usual Laphroaig medicinal complex plus cereals, smouldering leaves, salt and butterscotch. The sherry becomes more pronounced as it sits with the butterscotch joined by toffee and, yes, the inevitable raisins. Brighter and sharper with a bit of water and also more coastal—and after a bit there’s a bit of vanilla. Continue reading