Benriach 21, “Authenticus”


Hello! This is the Benriach 21 Authenticus, one of the long line of whiskies with silly names released in the Billy Walker era at the distillery; this one was peated to boot. It was discontinued some years ago and replaced with a 25 yo. I have no idea if that 25 yo has since been replaced by a NAS whisky named Feinticus Erroneous, though I rather expect it has. I purchased this from Binny’s as well right before it went off the market and only recently got around to opening it for one of my local group’s tastings. It was a big hit there, not least for displaying certain characteristics that you may be able to discern by reading between the lines of my opaque notes below. These characteristics, surprisingly, are not noted by everyone who has reviewed it—Serge, for example, mentions them not. Michael K., on the other hand, recognizes them gleefully, and if anyone should know, it is he. (Let’s just say that he has a great enthusiasm for horticulture.) Anyway, on to the untimely review!  Continue reading

Longrow 10, 100 Proof


This is the US edition of the Longrow 10, 100 Proof. That means it was bottled at 50% rather than the 57% of the 100 Proof editions sold in the UK and Europe. There were a number of those UK and Europe releases; I’m not sure, however, if there was more than one in the US. I got this from Binny’s in the summer of 2013, and I think it might have been released a year or so previous—if you know better, please write in below. Part of the reason it has taken me so long to open the bottle is that about two years ago Michael K. and Jordan D. published negative reviews of it. As our palates usually align more than they don’t, I figured I wouldn’t care for it either and kept pushing off opening it. And then last month I was putting together a tasting for my local group featuring different flavours of peat and there was finally a reason to open it. And wouldn’t you know it, I quite liked it, as did most members of the group (who all tasted it blind). Here now are my formal notes. If you’ve tried it as well, do write in below.  Continue reading

Lagavulin 23, 1979 (Murray McDavid)


Here’s something you don’t see everyday: an independent bottling of Lagavulin. And it’s an older Lagavulin distilled in the 1970s, no less. I didn’t even know it existed until the ever-generous Sku gave me a sample of it when we had dinner together in December. This was bottled by Murray McDavid—the indie bottling concern of Mark Reynier that was most active in the early years of Bruichladdich (though I think it’s still a going concern). This was part of their Mission series, which means they didn’t “ACE” it in a shiraz cask. Unlike some other Mission releases, it was not put out at cask strength. I guess if you get your hands on a cask of 23 yo Lagavulin you try to put out as many bottles of it as you can. Anyway, I’m very excited to taste this. I’ve not had very many Lagavulins past the age of 20; I’ve also liked most of the Mission releases I’ve tried (this Old Rhosdhu is the only one I’ve reviewed). Let’s see what it’s like.  Continue reading

Talisker 10, 2016 Release


Let’s start the month with a timeIy review. I last reviewed a Talisker 10 in July 2014 when the blog was just over a year old. That review was of a bottle from 2009 but it sparked a long discussion in the comments about the decline of the Talisker 10 in the ensuing decade. The point of contention was the question of whether reports of the decline of classic Diageo malts can be separated from whisky geeks’ negative feelings about everything else Diageo has done in that period (the move to NAS, higher prices etc. etc.). I couldn’t make any comment then on whether the Talisker 10 has in fact declined in this decade because I hadn’t tasted any released in this decade.  Well, it’s only taken me three and a half years but I now have a review of a bottle released in 2016. I opened it a couple of weeks ago for a tasting focused on peated whiskies for my local group. It placed last in terms of scores but most people liked it. I’m interested to get back into it for a review now that the bottle’s been open for a bit.  Continue reading

Ballechin 13, 2003


This is a distillery-only Ballechin—which is to say it is/was only available at the Edradour distillery (whose peated malt is called Ballechin, as you doubtless know). No, I did not pick it up while driving through the highlands last June. We did go very near Edradour on our way to Blair Castle but Tomatin was the only distillery in that part of the country that we stopped at, and that only for a little while. No, this is a sample from a bottle that the redoubtable Michael K. purchased at the distillery in 2016. Me, I didn’t even know that Edradour had bottled any Ballechin of this age. All I’ve had are most of the various younger, wine cask releases of yesteryear and the 10 yo that was released in 2014. Michael said in his review last year that he liked this very much at the distillery but not as much later. As you will see below, I liked it quite a bit now. I did also like the Ballechin #3, Port Cask—there seems to be something about the marriage of their peated malt and port casks that works well. Anyway, here are my notes.  Continue reading

Kilkerran 8, CS


I don’t really keep up with whisky news any more and so I don’t really know much about how or why it is that Glengyle released this 8 yo Kilkerran last year. The only other age-stated Kilkerran I know of is the 12 yo (which I reviewed here) and so I’m not sure why they seem to have followed it up with a younger one—isn’t that what the Work in Progress series was for? I guess we should just be glad that they’re putting age statements on their new whiskies.

This is put together entirely from bourbon casks—and as I recall, I quite liked the last Work in Progress release I tried that was from bourbon casks and at cask strength. Let’s hope this one is as good (though it’s a bit younger than the other). I haven’t tried all the Work in Progress releases but I haven’t yet tried any Kilkerrans that I thought were less than good.  Continue reading

Laphroaig 18, 1995 (SMWS 29.148)


Let’s get the year started off right with a Laphroaig. This was bottled a couple of years ago by the Scotch Malt Whisky Association and they managed to give it a less whimsical name than usual. Well, I guess “A Fantastic Fusion of Flavours” isn’t exactly restrained but at least it’s easy enough to decipher. I first tasted this at one of my friend Rich’s peat-themed whisky gatherings in St. Paul right after it was released, and when our host offered to purchase bottles from the SMWSA for anyone who wanted one, I jumped at it.

Fast forward a few years to a rough review from Michael K. on Diving for Pearls. This shook me, as Michael and I are usually not very far apart on our evaluation of whiskies. Was it possible, I wondered, that I’d over-estimated my small taste of this whisky on account of the tasting context? I opened the bottle right after reading Michael’s review and was relieved to discover I still liked it a lot. And then I realized that his notes were not actually far away from my own—it’s just that he didn’t like what it all added up to and I did. Always a good reminder: it’s not scores that matter but notes. And on that note, here are my own.  Continue reading

Bowmore 18, Manzanilla Cask


Not an exclusive release for the Whisky Exchange, but a currently available, recent release. Bowmore have released a couple of whiskies in what they’re calling the Vintner’s Trilogy. There’s this one, which is 18 years old—matured in ex-bourbon casks for 13 years and then in ex-Manzanilla sherry casks for another five (five years seems too long to be called a “finish”). There’s also a 26 year old which spent 13 years in ex-bourbon casks and another 13 in French wine casks. And the third will be released next year: a 27 yo whose second maturation will be in port pipes. This 18 yo is probably the only one you should expect to see me review. It runs around £100 in the UK whereas the 26 yo is around £400.

I was interested in this one as Bowmore’s generally coastal profile should in theory be a good match with dry, yeasty Manzanilla sherry notes. Let’s see if that proves to be the case.  Continue reading

Bowmore 15, 2001 (Signatory for The Whisky Exchange)


Since I am the kind of blogger who regularly posts reviews of whiskies that are currently available (see my recent reviews of the Ardbeg 10, the Lagavulin 12 CS, the Highland Park “Full Volume”, Old Weller Antique etc.), here is a review of a Bowmore 15 that is still available. It’s true that it’s only available from The Whisky Exchange in London, but how much do you want from me?! Does nothing satisfy you?!

This is an exclusive bottling for TWE by Signatory and it costs a pretty penny. 16,000 pretty pennies, to be exact—which may seem to you—as it does to me—like a lot of pennies for a 15 yo Bowmore from an ex-bourbon cask (not, in the abstract, such a rare commodity). However, the price is said to be justified by its fruity quality and so when the opportunity to split a bottle with a few people arose, I jumped at it. At this price, you want to try before you buy. Well, let’s try it now.   Continue reading

Ardbeg 10, 2016 Release


Three relevant whisky reviews in one week: who am I and what have I done with myself?

Like the Old Weller Antique, the Ardbeg 10 is not a special release. Unlike the Old Weller Antique, it’s actually available everywhere whisky is sold. Amid all the shenanigans that Ardbeg have gotten up to since they re-opened, their 10 yo has been the mainstay of their range, Unlike the Uigeadail and the Corryvreckan (which came later), there have not been many reports of changes in its character or even of decline. I’ve previously reviewed bottles from 2007 and 2009 and liked them a lot; more to the point, Serge V. gave the 2015 release 89 points. That should bode well, in theory, for this bottle which was released in 2016. By the way, it’s become much easier to read the bottle codes on Ardbeg bottles (see below): I don’t know how the Ardbeg obsessives are coping with the loss of their special codes.  Continue reading

Lagavulin 12 CS (2017)


At the risk of becoming a relevant reviewer, here is another whisky released this autumn and reasonably widely available across the US: the 2017 edition of the Lagavulin 12 CS. The Lagavulin 12 CS is a fixture on Diageo’s annual special releases roster and is, along with the Caol Ila Unpeated, the most affordable of those whiskies and, by itself, the most dependable of them. I’ve previously reviewed the 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 editions and liked them all very much. The Lagavulin 16 is always excellent and so is the Lagavulin 12 CS. Sadly, it’s not easy to find in the $80-85 range any more and so when I saw a bottle as I was picking up the Highland Park “Full Volume”, I couldn’t resist buying it as well. I am not sure why I ended up opening it right away, well before the bottles of the 2014, 2015 and 2016 releases that are also languishing on the shelf; but maybe the people who give me grief for not being a relevant reviewer will get off my back now.  Continue reading

Highland Park 17, 1999, “Full Volume”


Less than a week ago, I complained in my review of an ex-bourbon cask Highland Park bottled by A.D. Rattray that the distillery itself doesn’t see fit to give us ex-bourbon Highland Park, one of the true secret pleasures of the single malt whisky world. It was very soon pointed out to me by EricH in the comments that one of the distillery’s most recent releass, Full Volume, is in fact all ex-bourbon whisky. I had actually been aware of the existence of this whisky but, as I noted, its stupid name had led me to believe that it was one more in Highland Park’s unending series of NAS whiskies, and so I’d ignored it. Lo and behold, it turns out to not only have a vintage statement but an age statement as well. It’s a 17 yo put together this year from casks distilled in 1999. And it’s at a respectable 47.2% abv. Of course, it’s also clad in extremely ridiculous packaging (a black bottle, in a box that is meant to resemble a Marshall amp) but having complained incorrectly about the lack of an official ex-bourbon Highland Park, I felt it was only right that I should check out the one that had just been released. And my decision to do that was made easier by the discovery that it’s actually priced quite reasonably—as low as $89 in Minnesota. Not cheap in the abstract, but these days an official 17 yo at a strength above 43% for less than $120 seems like a steal.  Continue reading

Highland Park 19, 1991 (Signatory)


On Wednesday I posted a review of a bourbon cask Highland Park bottled by A.D. Rattray and noted in passing that Highland Park used to be one of my favourite distilleries. I said I’d elaborate soon on why I’m more ambivalent about them now, and here I am, just two days later.

Well, it’s not for any earth-shatteringly surprising reason. Highland Park and I have both changed but they’ve changed more than I have: I’m losing hair but they’ve lost their minds. When I first started drinking single malt whisky, Highland Park put out a limited line of very good whisky at good prices in ugly bottles. In the last 15 years the bottles have got updated but in the process prices have gone up drastically (especially for their 18 yo). Their lineup has gotten more bloated than the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and they increasingly seem to be designing/marketing their whisky with children in mind: an endless series of Viking-themed whiskies (too many to list), black bottles (ditto), boxes shaped like amplifiers (the new Full Volume), this abomination, the list goes on…I know we’re only supposed to care about the whisky in the bottle but it’s got to the point where it’s embarrassing to be seen buying a bottle of Highland Park. I mean, they make mid-late 2000s Bruichladdich’s output seem restrained and thoughtful.  Continue reading

Highland Park 16, 1995 (A.D. Rattray)


Okay, one last ex-bourbon review to make November an all ex-bourbon cask whisky month. Here is what else I have reviewed as part of this unintended, extended series this month: Tomatin 12, 2005, Fettercairn 23, 1993, Glencadam 15, Clynelish 12, 1997, Glen Scotia 1992-2005, Arran 1996-2013, Bowmore 10, 2003, Bladnoch 18, 1992, Aberlour 20, 1990 and Aberlour 17, 1990. That tour has taken me across most of the Scottish mainland and a couple of southern and western islands. For the last stop let’s go north, all the way to Orkney, to what used to be one of my very favourite dstilleries: Highland Park. I’ll go over why I’m far more ambivalent about Highland Park now in a separate post soon. For now, I’ll say only that one of the great pleasures of their whisky is one that the distillery does not give us; and that is the pleasure of bourbon cask Highland Park. It is here that you’ll usually most clearly encounter Highland Park’s peaty character as well as a mineral, oily note, all of which get covered up—for the most part—in the sherry profile of most of the distillery’s official releases. It’s a quality I particularly prize and which I see putting them on a continuum with Clynelish and Springbank/Longrow. I’ve reviewed a few such single casks before and I’m glad to be able to do it again.  Continue reading