I said I was going to post my write-up of a visit and tour of Tomatin today but I have roughly 37,573 photographs from the day and when I sat down today to make a selection, resize and upload it was all too much. Accordingly, I have punted that to next week and I have another whisky review today. If you are disappointed you can always ask for your money back. Since this was going to have been an all Islay week (with Monday’s Laphroaig, Wednesday’s Bowmore and yesterday’s Kilchoman), I decided to at least be consistent with that. Here, therefore, is a review of a Port Charlotte (Bruichladdich’s peated malt, if you don’t follow this stuff closely). The distillery is, of course, known for a wide range of wine cask finishes, but the fact that they produced this from eau de vie casks (or is it a single cask?) surprised even me. I fear that my jokes from past years that the brain trust at Bruichladdich would eventually release Jägermeister and then septic tank finishes may soon come true. Continue reading
Let’s make it a week of Islay whiskies. On Monday I had a review of an 18 yo Laphroaig and yesterday I had a review of a 10 yo Bowmore. We have another big drop in age today, all the way down to 3 years old, the legal minimum for Scotch whisky; and we’re also moving from the larger, more established and storied distilleries to a small upstart. Kilchoman, the small Islay farm distillery (which I visited briefly last June), only started distilling in late 2005. I believe the first official whiskies were released in 2009. There were a bunch of cask strength releases in the US in mid-2010. I still have some of at least one of these saved (the Binny’s cask) and will probably get around to reviewing it one of these decades. At around the same time they had begun to release larger vattings at 46%. There were a number of these seasonal releases for at least the first few years—I confess I’ve sort of lost sight of what Kilchoman has been up to in recent years, despite rather liking all the early releases I’d tried. Well, maybe I’ll try to address that.
Meanwhile, here’s a blast from the past. This was put together in a complicated way with a mix of bourbon and sherry casks—a finish may have been involved (I’m too lazy to look it up). Continue reading
Last month I reviewed the Bowmore 15 “Golden & Elegant”, one of the three age-stated whiskies that make up Bowmore’s recent’ish revamp of their travel-retail line (I guess given how many of the whiskies sold in airports cost more there than they do on the high street the companies feel self-conscious about using the term “duty free”). This 10 yo is the youngest in the line. The name “Dark & Intense”—I assume they named it after me—indicates the different composition of this release. Where the “Golden & Elegant” is a vatting of first-fill bourbon casks, this is a vatting of Spanish oak sherry casks. In theory that should be very good news. Bowmore from sherry casks can be very good indeed and I’ve had some very nice intensely sherried ones of this general age—see this 11yo and this slightly older 13 yo; the official Devil’s Casks 1st Ed. and 2nd Ed.—both also 10 year olds—were pretty good too. Unlike those, or even the Golden & Elegant, however, this is only at 40%. Will it be as good as its 15 yo sibling? Let’s see. Continue reading
My previous Laphroaig review was of a single rum cask—a 16 yo distilled in 1999. We return now to regular programming with a single ex-bourbon cask. This is a 18 yo distilled in 1997 and bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (who gave it the name, “A day at the beach”). The vintage and the age are exciting on their face. A number of recent Laphroaigs of this age from 1997 have displayed levels of fruit that range from the tantalizing to the highly excellent. On the other hand, there are others that have not (see this 18 yo from 1997 bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd). Where on the continuum will this one fall? Let’s see.
Laphroaig 18, 1997 (53.6%; SMWS 29.204; refill hogshead; from my own bottle)
Nose: Bright phenolic peat, lemon, salt, wet charcoal. Gets more savoury as it sits with some bacon fat (maybe sizzling on the charcoal?), and there’s some cracked pepper as well. Water knocks back the smoke here and brings out sweeter notes: a touch of vanilla, berries, some musky fruit that’s hard to pick. Continue reading
Yesterday I had a report on my visit to Highland Park in June. Today I have a review of a Highland Park whisky of a kind you won’t hear too much about on a tour at Highland Park: one from an ex-bourbon cask. At the distillery they are very focused on official Highland Park’s sherry-based identity, though they will concede when asked that bourbon cask Highland Park is used to make some of their special editions. It’s a pity that they don’t embrace those casks and that profile more fully as, in my (unoriginal) opinion, bourbon cask Highland Parks can be one of the great and unusual pleasures of the world of single malt Scotch whisky. It is where you get to experience peat most fully in Highland Park, and it’s quite a unique flavour of peat, derived as it is from local heather, and quite different from the phenol-soaked variants of Islay or Jura or even the smoke of Springbank or some distilleries in the highlands. I’ve had some very good ones and I’m happy to say that this one is not a disappointment. Continue reading
Here is a rather atypical Laphroaig. This is the first rum cask Laphroaig I’ve ever come across and I cannot remember reading reviews of any others. This is not to say that there have not been any others: Douglas Laing have released at least a couple of rum finished Laphroaigs and Whiskybase lists a Malts of Scotland release as well—I’m not sure if that one’s explicitly stated to be a finish or now. This one was released by a bottler named Kingsbury who, as far as I know, operate in the Japanese market. It is said to have been matured full-term in the rum cask. However, it doesn’t say so explicitly on the bottle and as we all know—courtesy Glendronach—the rules allow bottlers to describe a whisky in terms of the last cask it was in. If it was indeed a full-term maturation in a rum cask then this means that Laphroaig must have a lot more in their warehouses. If so, what might they be planning to do with them? Continue reading
In the last year or so Bowmore have released a new series of whiskies for travel retail as part of a larger overhaul of their portfolio (the Small Batch has been discontinued). Somewhat unusually for releases for this market, the new Bowmores have age statements: there’s a 10 yo, a 15 yo and an 18 yo. Of course, since it’s for travel retail they also have silly names. The 10 yo is billed as “Dark & Intense” and the 18 yo as “Deep & Complex”. This 15 yo is “Golden & Elegant”. As you might expect from the name, this whisky comprises spirit matured in first-fill bourbon casks.; this is in contrast to the regular release Bowmore 15 “Darkest” (which I should really get around to reviewing sometime). Personally, I think teenaged bourbon cask Bowmore can be a very excellent and somewhat unique thing. Certainly the even younger Tempest (later sold as the Dorus Mor in the US) was very good. Let’s take a closer look at this one. Continue reading
I purchased this 200 ml bottle of Caol Ila 14 at the Edinburgh Cadenhead’s shop this June. It is one in their popular series of “cage” cask samples. Limited numbers of these 200 ml bottles show up in the Cadenhead’s shops every week and sell out immediately (from what I can make out). I’m not sure what the story behind these is. Are they true cask samples? Leftover bits from their single cask or small batch releases? A bit from column A and a bit from column B? If you know more, do write in below. All I know is that these are very enticing indeed and priced very fairly and entirely by age range, regardless of distillery of origin. I’ve gone so far on Twitter as to say that if I lived in Edinburgh I’d probably stop buying full bottles and just pick up a few of these 200 ml bottles each week. You can take that as confirmation that I quite liked the first one I picked up. Here are my notes. Continue reading
Here I am with my annual review of Laphroaig’s annual release for Feis Ile, the Islay festival: the Cairdeas (pronounced: car-chuss, roughly). I’ve reviewed the previous five releases—my most consistent commitment to timeliness. This year’s, like 2014’s Amontillado finish, also involves sherry and it also represents a failure on the distillery’s part to make my hopeful attempt at prediction come through: in the review of last year’s Quarter Cask release I’d noted it would be nice if Laphroaig gave us a young all-sherry cask release this year; but what they’ve given us is a a finish. Apparently, this is composed of six year old bourbon cask spirit finished in Fino sherry casks for an unspecified amount of time. Well, I quite liked the Amontillado release and I expected to like this one as well. (Keep in mind though that Laphroaig is my favourite distillery and I’m one of very few people who has liked almost all recent Cairdeas releases a lot—last year’s was the exception.) Continue reading
Loch Lomond, as you probably know, is a rather unusual Scottish distillery. For one thing, they’re one of the few distilleries that produce both grain and malt whisky. For another, they are set up to produce a wide range of distillates. This is not merely because they make peated whisky alongside unpeated but because they have a range of still setups. They have pot stills and continuous stills; and most of their pot stills—including the originals—have rectifying plates in their necks as opposed to the traditional swan neck. If that weren’t enough they also have a continuous still used to distill grain whisky from a 100% malted barley mash. And from all these different setups they produce a wide range of brands (not all are currently available): Loch Lomond, Old Rhosdhu, Inchmurrin, Inchfad, Inchmoan, Craiglodge, and yes, Croftengea. Croftengea is their peated malt whisky. It’s not made in large quantities, I don’t think. In fact, this is only the first Croftengea I’ve ever had. Continue reading
As I am known for my highly timely reviews, I am pleased to present this review of a whisky whose existence I did not even know of until a few hours ago (as of this writing)—at which point I purchased a 50 ml sample immediately. It also turns out to be a whisky about which the world—or the part of it represented in Google search results and on Whiskybase—knows nothing. There are five whiskies with the name Skara Brae associated with them on Whiskybase but this is none of them. No, I purchased this at Skara Brae, the amazing neolithic archeological site on mainland Orkney—which you should really visit if you’re ever on Orkney (and take a detour from there to the Yesnaby cliffs on your way to wherever you’re going next). As you may know, almost every major tourist site in Scotland seems to have a branded whisky on offer (see here for last year’s disastrous mini purchase from Blair Castle), and this one, fittingly is described as an “Orkney Single Malt Whisky”. As neither possibility—Highland Park or Scapa—inspires fear and loathing, I decided to take a chance with £6. Let’s see if I would have been better of saving that money to buy a couple of pints of beer on the ferry back to Scrabster in a couple of days. Continue reading
It’s been almost three year since my last review of an Amrut. The distillery’s strong reputation among single malt whisky drinkers endures, even if they’re not quite as exciting a prospect as they were a few years ago. Their lineup hasn’t changed very much either, and in the US we mostly see the Fusion and the regular and cask strength editions of their standard and peated releases. As far as I know, we have still not begun to get the single casks that go to the UK and EU and even to Canada. If true, I’m not sure why that is—is the market for Amrut in the US not strong enough to sustain that? I’d imagine that those paying >$100 for the Intermediate Sherry and Portonova releases would be fine shelling out for the occasional single cask as well.
Anyway, I’ve reviewed the Amrut Peated CS before—that was Batch 4, released in January 2010. This is Batch 9 and was released only a few months later. I assume by now they’re on to Batch 50 or so. I liked that previous bottle a lot and when I opened this one recently for one of my local group’s tastings, I liked it a lot too (as did the others: it was our top whisky on the night, beating out the Lagavulin 12 CS, 2016 release). Here now are my formal notes. Continue reading
I’m going to start the month with reviews of some of K&L’s recently released exclusives. This may seem timely but keep in mind that most of these have already sold out. This Bowmore, bottled under the Old Particular label from Douglas Laing, might still be available, however. The last time I reviewed a bunch of K&L selections—back in December 2016, starting with this Linkwood)—things didn’t go so well. Will this lot be any better? The odds, frankly, are not great. K&L’s strategy seems to be to look for casks with high age and low price numbers on them with the quality an afterthought. A lot of people want deals and 20-30 yo whisky for less than $200 seems like a great deal in this market in the abstract. It’s in the marketing copy that they’ll seek to convince you that you’re also getting amazing whisky. And even though David Driscoll is now gone from K&L, their ability to turn on the tap of hyperbole remains unaffected. Continue reading
Here is the last of three simul-reviews this month with Michael K. of Diving for Pearls. We’ve previously reviewed a Caol Ila 20, 1996 and a Glen Ord 18, 1997. Both were bottled by Montgomerie’s for Total Wine. This Laphroaig is also a Total Wine exclusive (I’m pretty sure) but it was bottled by a far more well-known concern, Berry Bros. & Rudd. My interest in this cask arose when I saw that it was cask 56 from 1997. I’ve previously tried and reviewed two other Berry Bros. & Rudd Laphroaig 18, 1997s from proximate cask numbers and liked them a lot. Most recently, cask 54, which was released in the Netherlands; and a year and half ago, cask 46, which was an exclusive for the Whisky Exchange. The TWE cask, in particular, presented a wonderful marriage of fruit and smoke—a very old-school Laphroaig profile. The Dutch cask was not quite as fruity but it was very good indeed too. Where will this one fall? Unlike the other two, it’s not at cask strength but that doesn’t necessarily mean much. Continue reading