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

Ledaig 10, 2004 (Signatory)


On Friday I had a review of a heavily sherried Ledaig, an 11 yo from 2005. Here now is another heavily sherried Ledaig, a 10 yo from 2004. It is from the same series of casks of sherried Ledaigs that emerged a couple of years ago. Interestingly, despite having been distilled the previous year this has a higher cask number 900170 to the 2005’s 900162. A while ago I’d reviewed another of these 10 yo casks from 2004—that one was 900176. Now, I know that distilleries usually restart their cask numbering every year but it seems very coincidental that casks filled a year later, and in turn bottled a year later, should have numbers in the same range. The more likely explanation may be that these are Signatory’s cask numbers. They may have acquired a parcel of sherried Ledaigs from 2004 and 2005 and re-numbered them in this 900xxx series. It does appear from Whiskybase that all the 90014x, 90015x, 90016x and 90017x casks were either released by Signatory or outfits Signatory is said to be the source for (van Wees, LMDW). And they all seem to date from 2004 or 2005. Well, this may not be a very interesting mystery but if you do know the answer or have a better theory, please write in below.  Continue reading

Ledaig 11, 2005 (Single Malts of Scotland)


On Wednesday I had a review of an excellent heavily peated, heavily sherried malt released in 2012 (the Elements of Islay Pl1); today I have a review of another heavily peated, heavily sherried malt, this one released in 2017. This was also bottled, under the Single Malts of Scotland label, by an outfit in the Whisky Exchange portfolio, the erstwhile Speciality Drinks, who are now known as Elixir Distillers. Apparently this is an autonomous entity; I think the Whisky Exchange shop may have its own releases as well that are not from Speciality Drinks/Elixir Distillers—please correct me if I’m wrong. I am a simple man and find all this hard to keep straight, which is why in my “categories” listing on the blog I just bung them all together under “The Whisky Exchange”. Technically, I suppose this is wrong as Speciality Drinks/Elixir Distillers are independent bottlers who supply to more stores than just the Whisky Exchange.

Anyway, this has been a fascinating introduction to this review, hasn’t it? I bet you could read a lot more about it, but it’s time to get to the whisky itself.  Continue reading

Port Charlotte Pl1 (Elements of Islay)


The malts bottled by the Whisky Exchange in their Elements of Islay line have been of a uniformly high quality—at least, all the ones I have had have been very good. I remember the very first Lagavulin, Ardbeg, Laphroaig and Caol Ila in the series were particularly good (I reviewed those in the early months of the blog: Ar1, Lg1, Lp1, CI1). They were also quite reasonably priced. Since then, as with the whisky market in general, the prices of these releases has risen sharply, making it harder to justify the value of what is after all NAS whisky. Don’t get me wrong, I still buy these when I get the opportunity—now that TWE no longer ships to Minnesota, that opportunity is when I am in the UK—but I am conscious of the fact that I am inclined to cut the Whisky Exchange some slack for their NAS releases that I do not extend to big whisky companies. Anyway, here is my review of the first Port Charlotte released in this series. Unlike the 1s linked above, this was bottled from a sherry cask. It was released in 2012 and I have no idea why I waited six years to open it. I’ve not had any of the others in the series; the Pl2 was from rum casks and the next two from wine casks, and I passed. I see that the Pl5, released this year, is from a bourbon hogshead. I’ll keep an eye out for that one. Anyway, let’s see what this is like.  Continue reading

Caol Ila 34, 1982 (Cadenhead)

After last Friday’s Longmorn, here’s another 34 yo whisky. We go from the Speyside to Islay, to Caol Ila. There have been a number of older Caol Ilas from 1982 bottled in the last 5-7 years. And as per Whiskybase, in 2016 and 2017 Cadenhead put out nine 34 and 35 yo releases. This 34 yo is one of them and while the label describes it as a “small batch” release it’s in fact a single cask, a single hogshead. I guess whoever was printing the labels at Cadenhead that day wasn’t paying attention. It was bottled for the Dutch importer Bresser & Timmer in 2016. Old Caol Ila from the 1980s can be a wondrous thing; and while I haven’t reviewed very many of them, they’ve all been excellent (the one exception being an overpriced Samaroli that was just quite good).

This one, I can tell you, is indeed excellent. I took it to one of my friend Rich’s tastings earlier this month and it held its own against some very high-powered whiskies—well, at least until the early 70s Ardbeg came out. (I’ll have reviews of a few of those high-powered whiskies in the next month or two; though alas not the early 70s Ardbeg.) While not cheap, a Caol Ila like this is about as close as those of us who are not independently wealthy can get to good value for a >30 yo peated whisky from Islay—and, frankly, it stands shoulder to shoulder with Port Ellens of similar age that go for far, far more money. Here now are my notes.  Continue reading

Talisker 30, 2015 Release


At the end of my review of the Brora 30, 5th release I noted that older Taliskers share that profile. Here now is an older Talisker. Diageo has released a number of these but as with the 25 yo, the 30 yo stopped being released at cask strength at the end of the last decade. The last Talisker 25 yo at cask strength came out in 2009 (I’ve reviewed it, and probably gave it a slightly low score), and the last Talisker 30 yo was released in 2010. I have a bottle of that 2010 release on my shelves—not sure why I’m waiting to open it. In the meantime I’ve reviewed the 2006 and 2012 releases. I liked both a lot and I’ll be surprised if I don’t like this one as well. Older Taliskers tend to be very much in line with the profiles of the 10 yo and the 18 yo, mellower than the one and more austere than the other. I’m not sure what the fate of the 30 yo is. It’s not part of the 2018 special release slate (which instead includes a much younger Talisker). Then again, they’d skipped 2016 as well and released one in 2017. In any event, I’m sure the next one, if there is one, will cost a lot more than this one did in Duty Free at Dublin airport in 2016 (where a friend went above and beyond to snag one for me; I’d been alerted by international whisky geek bat signal that it was on sale). Anyway, none of this preamble has been very interesting; let’s get to the whisky.  Continue reading

Ardmore 13, 1990 (G&M)


I said I’d have a brace of Ardmores this week but let’s make it three in a row. This one is the most useless review of the lot, being an independent release that came out well before yesterday’s Traditional and Friday’s Archives 20 yo. I don’t think I’d even heard of the distillery when this was released. Like the Archives this is from a bourbon cask, though it’s a fair bit younger. My sample came to me from Ardmore-enthusiast, Michael Kravitz (his review is here).

I don’t have any Ardmore patter left after the last two reviews and so let’s get right to it.

Ardmore 13, 1990 (58.6%; Gordon & MacPhail; refill bourbon hogshead 12275; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Creamy at first whiff but then there’s white pepper, prickly peat (not phenolic) and mothballs. Very nice indeed. A drop of water brings out more of the mothballs.  Continue reading

Ardmore Traditional


On Friday I had a review of an indie Ardmore 20 released some six years ago. Today I have a review of an official release. It’s not of much utility, however, as this Ardmore Traditional—the first official Ardmore to ever be widely released, about a decade ago—was discontinued some years ago (though stray bottles may still be hanging around in the US. It was replaced by another NAS malt at 40% abv by the name of Legacy. In the world of No Age Stated whisky, you see, the fancier the name gets, the crappier the whisky becomes. The Traditional, however, was not crappy despite being young and despite being made in a slightly complicated way with the whisky “finished” in quarter casks. As with all of Ardmore’s malt it is mildly peated. It used to be a very good deal in most American markets and I think I might have purchased my last bottle—from which this sample was saved—for less than $30 in the Twin Cities. The Legacy runs about $40, which is not terribly high in this market but I’ve also not read any reviews of it that have made me want to try it. The Traditional, by the way, was brought back by the owners a few years ago as just Tradition, but for the travel retail market—though it appears to be available more widely in the UK. I’m not sure how much it goes for; maybe I’ll keep an eye out for it while traveling to Hong Kong and India this winter. Anyway, here are my notes on the Traditional as it once was—this bottle is probably from the 2012 release or so.  Continue reading