Caol Ila 20, 1996 (Montgomerie’s)


Here is the second of three simul-reviews this month with Michael K. of Diving for Pearls of whiskies that were bottled as exclusives for Total Wine (and here now is his review). Our first was last week’s Glen Ord 18, also bottled by Montgomerie’s. This Caol Ila—which rounds out a week of Islay reviews—is a bit older. The bottle cost $125; I’m not sure if it’s still around—I didn’t notice it at the store I purchased it from when I was in there again briefly earlier this week. Even though this is at 46% and not cask strength, it does seem like a fair price for a 20 year old peated Islay whisky—there are certainly older Caol Ilas from other independents that are going for a lot more in the US; and next Friday we’ll have a simul-review of a younger Laphroaig whose list price was almost $100 more.

A good price relative to age then, but what is it like in the glass?  Continue reading

Lagavulin 12 CS, 2016 Release


After a disappointing special release Bunnahabhain on Monday let’s move on to another special release from elsewhere on Islay. The Lagavulin 12 Cask Strength is a fixture on Diageo’s annual special release slate, and it is also always one that is guaranteed to be excellent—unlike, say, Ardbeg’s annual releases (see, for example, this year’s Grooves). I’ve recently reviewed the 2017 release and in the past I’ve reviewed the 2009, the 2010, the 2011, the 2012 and the 2013. Here now is my review of the 2016 release, which was also part of Lagavulin’s commemoration of its 200th anniversary. I opened it a month ago for my local group’s March tasting and it was very popular—though I think it might have been beaten by an Amrut Peated CS for overall honours on the night. I’ve been drinking the bottle down steadily since. These notes were taken at the halfway mark but I can tell you it’s been remarkably consistent as the level goes down.  Continue reading

Ardbeg Grooves, Committee Release


In which I start the month with a timely’ish review. The foolishly named Ardbeg Grooves is this year’s entry in Ardbeg’s annual exercise in folly. The regular release comes out on Ardbeg Day, otherwise known as June 2; this higher strength release came out a few weeks ago to whet the appetite of those who cannot get enough of Ardbeg and their folly. Despite being a fool myself, I’ve skipped these shenanigans entirely in recent years; and eventual reviews of their recent annual releases have not made me feel foolish about having done so. However, this year when the opportunity arose to taste the latest “Committee Release” via a bottle split, I decided to go for it. For some reason I thought I’d read very positive reviews of it—though I have not subsequently been able to track down what it is I’d thought I’d read. This whisky apparently contains some significant fraction of spirit matured in ex-red wine casks. The press materials tell me that these casks were charred extensively, producing grooves in them; evidently, Ardbeg’s proprietary cask charring system allows them to produce effects that fit with whatever silly concept they’ve hit on for the year (see also the Alligator). Also, Ardbeg was groovy in the 1960s and whatnot (yes, this is actually part of their sell). Continue reading

Bowmore 17, 1997 (SMWS)


On Saturday, to mark the fifth anniversary of the blog, I posted a review of the second release of the Bowmore Devil’s Casks. That official sherried Bowmore ended up being a bit too sulphurous even for my generally sulphur-tolerant palate. It was a good whisky, I thought, but it could have been a lot better. Today, I have a review of another heavily sherried Bowmore. This one was bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, and I believe it was bottled for the 2015 edition of Feis Ile. I purchased my bottle a couple of years ago at auction in the UK. It wasn’t cheap—though much cheaper than it is now—but I am a big fan of Bowmore and few propositions in whisky are more enticing to me than high-quality sherried Bowmore. The early reviews certainly made this out to seem like one of those. Spoiler alert: when I opened the bottle I found it to indeed be a high-quality sherried Bowmore. The bottle is now sadly empty. Here are my notes (taken when only about a quarter of the bottle remained). Continue reading

Bowmore 10, Devil’s Casks, 2nd Ed.


I made my first post on this blog on March 24, 2013—I didn’t actually tell anybody about it till a while later but March 24 is the anniversary of the blog. My very first review on that day was a review of a Bowmore—the Legend—and I’ve marked every anniversary since with another Bowmore review. On the first anniversary I reviewed the first release of the Devil’s Casks, and now on the fifth anniversary I have a review of the second release (I don’t remember in what year this was actually released). I don’t know that I planned to be blogging for five years when I started out—my life is littered with things I started with great enthusiasm and then abandoned—but here I still am. Truth be told, adding food to the mix probably saved me from getting burned out. I’m not quite as engaged with the whisky world as I was when I started the blog and I’m not sure that whisky blogs (or food blogs, for that matter) are even particularly relevant anymore. I certainly read fewer blogs than I once did and can’t imagine why anybody reads mine.  Continue reading

Caol Ila 25, 1984 (Bladnoch Forum)


Here’s a very untimely review to start the week and it takes me back to the time when my interest in single malt whisky had just gone from enthusiasm to pathology. I’d joined the then-vibrant WhiskyWhiskyWhisky forum and was learning more and more about independent bottlers not seen in the US. One of these was the Bladnoch Forum. This was a side concern of Raymond Armstrong, then the proprietor of the Bladnoch distillery, and it offered single casks at unbelievably reasonable prices to members of the forum (though in practice you didn’t really have to be a member). I think this is pretty much where Martin Armstrong’s Whiskybroker business may have had its origin. These offerings included single casks of Port Ellen for less than £100 (unless my memory is exaggerating) and also a number of excellent older Caol Ilas. This is one of them. I acquired this sample in what may have been my first-ever swap, not long after it was released. I took a few sips then and put it away for another day. That day is here.  Continue reading

Laphroaig 18, 1997, Cask 54 (Berry Bros. & Rudd)


A while ago I reviewed a Laphroaig 18, 1997 bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd for the The Whisky Exchange. That one was one of the best recent releases of Laphroaig I’ve had, packing a big fruity wallop alongside the expected smoke and phenols. Here now is another Laphroaig 18, 1997 bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd. I believe this one was bottled for Whisky Import Nederland (you’ll never believe it but they’re based in the Netherlands). Like the TWE cask, this one was a bourbon cask and it’s only 8 serial numbers away from the other; I think it’s safe to assume that they were filled at the same time in 1997 and probably bottled at more or less the same time in 2015. Given all of this it seems safe to expect this one to also be quite fruity. After all, many whisky geeks believe deeply in the shared qualities of particular vintages, and you’d accordingly expect two casks of the same type, filled with distillate made at the same time, and then bottled after the same period of maturation to be very close to each other. However, oak can be an unpredictable variable and whisky isn’t actually whisky till it’s matured in oak. Will this cask have given or taken away what the other did? Let’s see.  Continue reading

Benromach 9, 2001


I’ve reviewed far too few Benromachs on the blog. As with some other distilleries, this is largely because there are very few Benromachs available from independent bottlers. In fact, while I haven’t looked it up, I suspect that the vast majority of indie Benromachs are from before Gordon & MacPhail purchased the distillery (in 1992) and brought it back online (in 1998). I guess when an independent bottler purchases a distillery, making their malt available to the competition is not high on their agenda. Then again, I am probably wrong and if so, I apologize to the good people at Gordon & Macphail for impugning their generosity.

This release, put together from seven first fill bourbon barrels, came out in 2010 and apparently hung around for a long time. It contains malt distilled in the G&M era.  Continue reading

Laphroaig 14, 1998 (Archives)


Here is another untimely review of a bourbon cask, peated Islay whisky released in 2013. This is a bit older than last week’s Bowmore and was released not by Malts of Scotland but by the lads at Whiskybase under their Archives label. It was part of a set of releases that marked the first anniversary of the launch of the Archives line—hence the “Anniversary Release” moniker (at least I think that’s what the anniversary was of). I own a couple more of these Anniversary Release bottles (a 22 yo Caol Ila and a 22 yo Littlemill) but given how long it has taken me to open this one, I’ve no idea when I will get around to those. This was their second release of a teenaged, bourbon cask Laphroaig. There was a 13 yo in their first release (I reviewed it a while ago). I can tell you that this one is as good as that one was: I opened it last month for a tasting of peated whiskies for my local group and I’ve drunk down the rest of the bottle at a very rapid clip. As I type this introduction only a couple more pours remain. Here are my notes.  Continue reading

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