I put SMWS 53.345, a Caol Ila 11, 2008 on the list for this month but now I’ve gone and opened and begun to review SMWS 53.328, a Caol Ila 13, 2006 instead. How will you ever forgive me?
Anyway, this is the second of this week’s Islay reviews (following Monday’s Bowmore). It’s from a refill bourbon hogshead which is usually a very good thing as far as Caol Ila is concerned. Let’s get right to it.
Caol Ila 13, 2006 (58.9%; SMWS 53.328; refill bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Comes out with pretty strong phenolic notes mixed in with lemon and salt and a bit of mezcal—which is to say it noses younger than its 13 years. With a bit more time sweeter coastal notes emerge—shells, uni. With a lot more time and air the phenols back off a little and there’s more citrus—lime peel, citronella. A few drops of water push the phenols back further and bring out some cream and some unexpected spice notes—is that cardamom? Continue reading →
August ended with a peaty whisky (this Ledaig) and September began with another peaty whisky (this Laphroaig). Let’s stay on Islay this week and visit a few other distilleries, so to speak.
First up is this Bowmore from the Whisky Exchange’s Elements of Islay series. Indeed, it’s the very first Bowmore in that series. I’m not sure what number it’s up to now but I’ve previously reviewed the Bw5. As per Whiskybase, this was put together from refill sherry casks from 1994, but as neither piece of information is noted on either the bottle’s label or The Whisky Exchange’s original product listing it’s hard to verify them. I can tell you for sure that it was bottled in 2012, which is when I purchased a bottle for roughly $75 at the then quite brutal, pre-Brexit exchange rate. Since the Elements of Islay bottles are 500 ml that works out to about $112 for a 750 ml equivalent of likely 17-18 yo Bowmore from sherry casks. At the current exchange rate it would have been quite a bit lower. By comparison, the Bw8, said to be 16 years old, is currently available from the Whisky Exchange for £117 ex. vat for a 500 ml. That would be £175 for a 750 ml equivalent or roughly $242 at the current exchange rate. I’m no mathematician but it would appear the price has more than doubled in 9 years. This is why I no longer buy very much whisky. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading →
My last whisky review of August was of a Ledaig. Let’s get September off to a peaty start as well. We’ll stay with the Ls but move from the Isle of Mull to the Isle of Islay for my second review of an officially released Laphroaig in less than two months—and to think people say I review only esoteric whiskies…
Unlike July’s review of the 2009 release of the Triple Wood, this 16 yo is far more current. It was first released as a limited edition travel retail bottle as part of Laphroaig’s 200th anniversary but, as often happens these days, soon became part of Laphroaig’s regular stable. It’s made from whisky matured in ex-bourbon casks, I believe and bottled at 48%. As far as I can make out it goes for about $100 in most markets in the US—though I’ve seen references to a much higher price as well. $100 for a 16 yo at 48% is probably not too outrageous a price in this market (which is not to say it’s a reasonable price) but closer to the $140 I’ve seen mentioned here and there it becomes much harder to support no matter how good the whisky itself is. Speaking of which, let’s get to it. Continue reading →
For the last whisky review of the month let’s stick with the SMWS and with peated whisky. We’ll move from Ardmore in the eastern Highlands, however, to Ledaig/Tobermory on the Isle of Mull. In case you’re wondering, the SMWS uses the same code for Tobermory and Ledaig (which is the peated variant of Tobermory). Ledaig is much more heavily peated than Ardmore and far closer in profile to the heavier, phenolic malts of Islay (which Mull is also closer to). Like the last Ledaig I reviewed, one of K&L’s teaspooned casks from 2020, this one is from a refill hogshead. I rather liked that K&L cask, a nice break from most indie Ledaigs that hit the market from sherry casks. This one is 10 years younger, however. Let’s see how much of a difference that makes.
Ledaig 13, 2007 (56.6%; SMWS 42.50; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Very clearly peated Tobermory as the smoke and phenols sit on a big yeasty, bready base. The yeasty tang begins to drift towards lemon as it sits and the smoke expands, getting even more phenolic. Water gives it more “weight”: deeper char and sweeter smoke (pipe tobacco). Continue reading →
And here to close out Ardmore 1997 week is a 22 yo. Will it be closer to Monday’s 20 yo whose combination of fruit and smoke I really, really liked or to Wednesday’s 21 yo whose more austere charms I only really liked? I’ll find out soon. Oh yes, the SMWS’s panel named this one “A Vintage Dinner Suit” which probably means something.
Ardmore 22, 1997 (56.1%; SMWS 66.174; refill bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: A big zesty hit of lime off the top, a lime that has been charred heavily. The lime is sweeter on the second sniff and then muskier fruit begins to emerge (pineapple, a hint of passionfruit). The char burns off and now there’s more of a mineral note; the lime turns to citronella. As it sits the char begins to come back though it’s more ashy now; some cream too. Water emphasizes the fruit and the cream—really very nice now. Continue reading →
Ardmore 1997 week continues with another refill bourbon hogshead bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. I really liked Monday’s 20 yo which displayed a lovely mix of rich fruit, char and mineral notes. Will this one, which is a year older, be as good or better? Let’s see.
Ardmore 21, 1997 (51.9%; SMWS 66.146; refill bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Comes in with more lime and less mineral peat than the 21 yo and there’s some cream here as well; some ham brine too. As it sits the mineral note expands and it gets more peppery; the fruit is less expansive though than in the younger cask. With time muskier fruit begins to peep out. Let’s see if water releases it more fully. Well, the citrus expands and turns to citronella but the hints of muskier fruit remain just that. Continue reading →
This will be a week of malts from Ardmore. What’s more they were all distilled in 1997, matured in refill hogsheads, and bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. And they were bottled in successive years at 20, 21 and 22 years of age. Now I don’t want to pretend that very significant differences can be spotted between malts a year or two apart in age from each other even with all other variables quite similar to each other, but it’s an interesting juxtaposition anyway. What’s certain is that I like Ardmore a lot; it’s always a pleasure to try their mildly-peated, fruity malt, especially when matured in ex-bourbon casks. I’ve reviewed a few SMWS Ardmore releases before, including a couple from 1997. Indeed, I’ve reviewed another 20 yo (which I liked a lot) and another 22 yo (which I also liked a lot). And I’ve also reviewed casks from adjacent years from other bottlers (most of which I also liked a lot). All of this history seems to bode well for this one. Let’s see if it works out that way in practice. Continue reading →
My second week of Loch Lomond reviews in 2021 started on Monday with an official release—a recent—though not the current—release of Loch Lomond 18. This followed a week of reviews in April that were all of current official releases: the new Loch Lomond 12, the Inchmurrin 12 and the Inchmoan 12. We move now to a couple of independent releases. First up, an Inchfad 15 bottled by Cooper’s Choice earlier this year. Inchfad, like Inchmoan and Croftengea, is one of Loch Lomond’s peated brands. For all I know, there are others. I am not really sure what the production differences between these peated brands are and will leave it to someone more informed to explain it to us in the comments if they’re willing. I will say that peated Loch Lomond can be a truly wonderful thing. This on account of the underlying spirit which is rather fruity. Peat, fruit and bourbon casks: this is in theory a good combination. Let’s see if it paid off here. Continue reading →
If you are the kind of person who purchases bottles from whisky auctions—I’m not any more—this is the kind of bottle that you might be interested in but then be inclined to pass on. There’s not much information, if any, out there on it and the people who can usually be relied on to have passed judgment on bottles like this haven’t done so. But then you remind yourself it’s a Caol Ila from 1980 and from a bourbon cask—and that it was bottled by Cadenhead doesn’t hurt—and you decide to take the not ruinously expensive but not cheap plunge. Then years later you finally open it and pour yourself some with more than a little bit of apprehension. Why are you, I mean I going on in the second person like this? Anyway, I am the person previously described—I came across this at an auction and eventually decided to buy it—and secured it without it getting bid up. I’ve now opened it—a couple of weeks ago now—and here finally are my notes. Continue reading →
After weeks themed first for peated and then for sherried whiskies let’s now do a week on a single distillery. That distillery is Caol Ila, the Islay workhorse that is also probably the most dependable distillery on the island (only Lagavulin is permitted to register an objection). We’ll start with one that mixes both of the previous themes—peated and sherried—and move on to bourbon casks. This one was another from K&L’s set of exclusives from 2020. I quite liked the other Caol Ila I tried from that set. That one was an 11 yo from a bourbon cask, this one is a sherry finish and one year younger—and apparently teaspooned with Bunnahabhain. I am usually wary of sherry finishes but perhaps this one will surprise me. Let’s see.
Islay Strait/Caol Ila 10, 2010 (59.6%; Sovereign for K&L; sherry butt finish; from a bottle split)
Nose: A lovely mix of leafy smoke, phenols, lime, brine and other coastal notes (shells, kelp, uni). The salt and the lime intensify on the second sniff and there’s ink in the bottom now. As it sits olives emerge—a mix of kalamata and brighter green olives. The coastal notes expand with a few drops of water and there’s some ham brine in there too now along with a bit of cream. Continue reading →
I actually had this Laphroaig pencilled in for last week’s series of peated whiskies but it fits well in this week as well. I forgot to say in the preamble to Monday’s Longmorn 17, 1996 review that this would be a week of reviews of sherried whiskies. And this was the first release—I am pretty sure—of Laphroaig’s NAS Triple Wood. As you may recall/know, the Triple Wood was/is basically the Quarter Cask finished for a further period in oloroso sherry casks—making this a triple maturation (as the Quarter Cask itself starts out in regular ex-bourbon casks before entering the smaller quarter casks). It was released as a duty-free exclusive (back then duty-free exclusives were in fact only available in airports). I purchased a couple of bottles on the way back from a trip to London in December 2009. I opened one not too long after and quite liked it. A little later it became part of Laphroaig’s core lineup but I lost track of it. I’m not sure what the reputation of those later releases is, especially in recent years. To be frank, I’ve not kept track of the Quarter Cask either, or for that matter even the regular 10 yo. The 10 CS is the only official Laphroaig I follow closely (well, I guess I buy the Cairdeas each year too). Now that I’ve finally gotten around to opening my second bottle of the original release I’m interested to see what I make of it 12 years later. Let’s see. Continue reading →
I started Peat Week with a 23 yo on Monday (this Ledaig). On Wednesday, we went down quite a bit in age with a 10 yo (this Talisker). Today we go even younger with a 6 yo Glenturret that presents as a triple-threat: a very young whisky and a ludicrously highly abv and a re-charred hogshead. The last of those qualities also means that this week’s secondary theme was maturation in hogsheads. I’ve not had very many Glenturrets—as I said on the occasion of my previous Glenturret review (this much older and rather good 33 yo)—and I have certainly not previously had any peated Glenturret single malt. As per Scotchwhisky.com (RIP), the distillery makes some heavily peated malt each year under the name Ruadh Mhor or “Big Red”, which was previously allocated to a peaty variant of the Famous Grouse (when both distillery and brand were part of the Edrington Group). Presumably some went into the Black Grouse as well, and if so, I’ve indirectly had some peated Glenturret. Let’s hope this is better than the Black Grouse. Continue reading →
Peat Week continues. On Monday I reviewed a 23 yo Ledaig bottled under the Old Malt Cask label for K&L in California. I quite liked that one—a mellower take on the usually brash Ledaig profile. Today I have a review of a whisky less than half the age of that one, distilled on another island in the Inner Hebrides, this time Skye. And it’s something you don’t see every day: an independent release of Talisker that bears the name of the distillery openly on the label. Or at least you didn’t used to see it openly back in the day—has Diageo loosened things up a bit now? This was distilled in 2009 and bottled in 2020 under the Old Particular label, which like OMC, is owned by one or the other of the Laing outfits. It is from a single refill hogshead and so it’s an opportunity to try a 10 yo Talisker that should be somewhat different from the distillery’s standard-bearer 10 yo, which has at least some sherry component. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading →
Having set the world afire with a week of Edradour—by which I mean that absolutely no one was interested—let’s do a non-distillery-themed week. Three different distilleries this week but the malts will all have one thing in common: peat. Let’s start with the oldest. This is a 23 yo Ledaig bottled by one of the Laing outfits for my old pals K&L in California. Yes, this means the return of the EW! Rating (patent pending). This was part of their parcel of exclusive casks from late last year. As with many in that parcel this cask was teaspooned, which is to say it had a small bit of malt from some other distillery added to it. Hence also the silly name. It can’t officially be a Ledaig— but for all intents and purposes it is. Well, let’s hope this one turns out well. I’ve had an up and down run with the others from this parcel of K&L exclusives I’ve reviewed so far. I’ve liked most of them but none have hit it out of the park for me. And indeed, two of the 20+ year olds were among those that disappointed. Where will this one land? Let’s see. Continue reading →
The final whisky of Kilchoman Week is the oldest. And with a young distillery it’s not surprise that it’s the oldest vintage as well. This was distilled in 2006—one year before Monday’s 3 yo—and bottled in 2019 from a single sherry cask. This was a private bottling for some entity called Islay Cask Company. Who they are, I have no idea. This does have a very high rating on Whiskybase which is promising because, Wednesday’s 7 yo notwithstanding, I’ve generally not been very persuaded by sherry cask Kilchoman. Let’s hope this keeps the positive streak going.
Kilchoman 12, 2006 (56.1%; sherry cask 324/2006 for the Islay Cask Company; from a bottle split)
Nose: Dry, ashy smoke mixed in with a leafy note. Some sweeter notes (orange peel) begin to come through as it sits but the smoke remains dry on the whole. Stays consistent with time which is another way of saying there isn’t much development. A few drops of water make it a bit richer: tobacco rather than ashy/leafy smoke now. Continue reading →
Kilchoman Week began with a review of a 3 yo distilled in 2007 and matured in a bourbon cask. Here now is a 7 yo distilled in 2011 and matured in a sherry cask (the label on the sample bottle says 8 years old but as per Whiskybase this is a 7 yo). And this was one of their 100% Islay releases, which I think means it was made from Islay barley, perhaps from one of the nearby farms. This was a US release, bottled for the importer ImpEx. Historically, I have preferred bourbon cask Kilchoman to the sherry cask versions. Let’s see if this one breaks that mold.
Kilchoman 7, 2011, 100% Islay (56.1%; sherry cask #622/11; from a bottle split)
Nose: Ashy peat shot through with a mix of orange peel, brandied raisins and smouldering leaves. Some pencil lead/graphite in there too. A little saltier as it sits and then a sweeter mix of milky cocoa and vanilla emerges and expands along with the citrus. A few drops of water pull out some apricot to go with the citrus and push the ash back a bit. Continue reading →
After a week of reviews of whiskies from Highland Park (which followed a week of reviews of whiskies from Glen Scotia) let’s do a week of reviews of whiskies from Kilchoman, Islay’s small farm distillery. This was the very first Kilchoman I ever had. It was bottled in 2010 for Binny’s in Chicago at the ripe young age of three. The distillery put out a number of these store exclusives among their earliest releases and they helped make their name in the US (and elsewhere too). Those were the days when Binny’s shipped out of state and I purchased a bottle right away. I drank it down slowly over the next few years and before finally finishing it in early 2013—as per my spreadsheet, a month before I started the blog—I put four ounces away for future reference, as was my practice at the time (well, my usual practice was to put away 6 ounces). In other words, this review is of a sample that was put away more than 8 years ago and from a bottle that was opened more than 10 years ago. Though I’ve stopped saving these reference samples in recent years, I do very much enjoy going back to some of the whiskies I drank a long time ago. I really liked this one back then, as I have a number of other young Kilchomans. Let’s see what I make of it now. Continue reading →
Glen Scotia Week comes to an end but most of you probably didn’t notice. Monday’s 11 yo and Wednesday’s 12 yo didn’t exactly get a lot of interest: just about 50 views each so far this week. I doubt today’s 17 yo will attract a lot more attention. Some of this is doubtless down to the fact that my own whisky readership has likely declined in the last couple of years even as my food readership has grown. However, a lot of it is probably down to the low to non-existent profile of Glen Scotia. They’ve never been a distillery with a high profile and the owners’ attempts to raise that profile over the last decade via various ill-conceived branding makeovers has doubtless not helped. It’s also the case that they continue to make a relatively old-school, austere type of whisky that doesn’t perhaps have a natural home in the contemporary whisky geek market which remains focused on whiskies that are either heavily sherried, heavily peated or both. Well, I can’t say I’ve found very many of the not-very many Glen Scotias I’ve had to be very exciting but outside of the official releases I’ve found them all to be interesting departures from the mainstream of Scottish single malt whisky. It would be good, I think, if more whisky geeks expanded their tasting portfolios, so to speak. Continue reading →