Brora 25, 1981 (Duncan Taylor)


After yesterday’s Benrinnes 24, 1972, let’s go up one year of maturation and jump almost a decade ahead to 1981. Here is a Brora distilled just a couple of years before the legendary distillery shut down. The general consensus among whisky geeks is that early ’80s Brora is the least compelling Brora but when you’re dealing with single casks anything is possible. Let’s see where this one falls.

Brora 25, 1981 (56.5%; Duncan Taylor; cask 1423; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Dry to start, almost a bit vinegary, and then there’s some hay and other barnyard scents; also some tarry, almost acrid peat. As it sits there’s some tart fruit and the peat gets less acrid and more hot tarmac’ish. Okay, let’s see what water does. With a drop of water there’s sweeter fruit (a hint of peach?) and some wax. Continue reading

Benrinnes 24, 1972 (Signatory)


I’ve reviewed very little Benrinnes on the blog and have not had very many more than I have reviewed. All the ones I have reviewed have been in their 20s, the oldest being this 23 yo distilled in 1988. Today’s is a year older than that but was distilled much earlier, in 1972. The early 1970s mark for many whisky geeks a boundary of sorts between eras. Whiskies made at a number of distilleries through 1972 or so have a greater reputation than anything they’ve made since (and in some cases, before). Such, for example, are Longmorn and Caperdonich. I somewhat doubt that there are any golden age narratives for Benrinnes, a distillery with not much of a reputation of any kind but I am interested to see what continuity, if any, there may be between Benrinnes of this era and more recent examples of its malt. Both the Whisky Exchange and Signatory 20 year olds I’ve reviewed had a bracing mix of lime peel and mineral notes with palpable peat. Let’s see if this one is in the same family (despite being from a sherry butt). Continue reading

Longrow 14, 2003


In early May I reviewed a Longrow 13, 2003 from a single first-fill sherry cask. I found that one to be marred by a little too much sulphur but not irredeemably so. Here now is a sherried 14 yo Longrow from the same year but this one is from refill casks and a whole bunch of them: the total release of this whisky comprised 9000 bottles (not an unusual number for Springbank). So probably about 18 or 19 butts. That should theoretically allow for an averaging that guards against any major flaws. Let’s see if that turns out to be so.

Longrow 14, 2003 (57.8%; refill oloroso sherry cask; from a bottle split)

Nose: Uh oh, a mix of rubber and sour, yeasty notes. Some more pleasant sherry aromas lurk beneath (toffee, orange peel) but are completely dominated. Gets quite salty quite quickly. As it sits the sulphurous notes subside a bit. A few drops of water knock them back further and pulls out more salt along with cocoa and roasted nuts (hazelnuts, almonds). Continue reading

Lagavulin 18, Feis Ile 2018


The last time I reviewed one of Lagavulin’s special releases for Feis Ile was in 2014. I have a few of the subsequent releases on my shelves but haven’t opened any of them yet—hmmm I should do something about that. Anyway, that one was a 17 yo from a vatting of European oak sherry butts. This one is a year older and is put together far more complicatedly. It was a release of 6000 bottles from a vatting of refill American hogsheads, rejuvenated (presumably this means re-charred) hogheads and “bodega” sherry butts. Whether “bodega” here means American or European oak is anyone’s guess, as is whether that means these butts were actually used to mature or transport sherry or whether they were sourced from some bodega and filled with disposable sherry for a short period of time. Anyway, that 17 yo, bottled for Feis Ile in 2013 was very sherry forward in all the best ways. Let’s see what this one is like. Continue reading

Laphroaig 17, 1999 (SMWS)


It has been almost two months since my last Laphroaig review and more than six months since my last review of a sherried Laphroaig. Let’s end both those sad streaks in one go. This is from a refill sherry butt bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in 2016 or 2017. They called it “Divine, Dark Temptation”, which coincidentally is also my stripper name.

Laphroaig 17, 1999 (58.1%; SMWS; refill sherry butt 29.190; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: The usual Laphroaig medicinal complex plus cereals, smouldering leaves, salt and butterscotch. The sherry becomes more pronounced as it sits with the butterscotch joined by toffee and, yes, the inevitable raisins. Brighter and sharper with a bit of water and also more coastal—and after a bit there’s a bit of vanilla. Continue reading

Ledaig 10, 2008 (Archives)


Here is the third of the five Archives bottles recently released in the US. I’ve previously reviewed the Glentauchers 21 and the Orkney 15 in the series and liked them both a lot. This Ledaig is much younger and much peatier than those two and like them is from a bourbon cask. The last 10 yo Ledaig I had was from a red wine cask but I still liked it a lot. Will this be as good as that or its Archives stablemates? Let’s see.

Ledaig 10, 2008 (54.9%; Archives; hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Holy burning rubber! And below that there’s some of the usual Ledaig rotting rodent. It takes a few minutes but the rubber mostly burns off and the dead rat funk subsides a bit as well. Below that is some vanilla, some malt and some milky cocoa; and after a bit there’s expanding lime. A somewhat unlikely combination/progression but it works. A few drops of water—after almost any hour—pull out more of the citrus along with muskier fruit (melon, pineapple). The rubber and funk are distant memories now. Continue reading

Ardmore 24, 1985 (SMWS)


In my last review of an Ardmore I noted that it was a hard distillery to get to know. No further clarity has emerged on that front since that review and so let’s dispense with an introduction to this review and get to business sharpish. I will note only that this is not the first Ardmore from the 1980s I’ve tried and that while I liked that 25 yo fine, it wasn’t anything  so very special. In fact I didn’t like it as much as that last Ardmore I reviewed, which was a 22 yo from the mid-1990s. Where will this 24 yo, bottled by the SMWS in 2009, fall? Let’s see.

Ardmore 24, 1985 (52.5%*; SMWS 66.30, “An outdoor banquet”; bourbon hogshead; from a sample received in a swap)

Nose: Typical Ardmore smoke, sooty and mineral (not phenolic), mixed in with lime zest and some brine. As it sits there’s a hint of vanilla and the citrus moves in the direction of citronella. Brighter and brinier with a few drops of water. Continue reading

Longrow 18, 2019 Release

Here is the last of four reviews of recent  releases from the lords of Campbeltown. I’ve already reviewed the 2019 release of the Springbank 21, the Hazelburn 14, Oloroso and the new Kilkerran, Heavily Peated. Here now is the 2019 release of the revered Longrow 18 (Longrow, in case you don’t know, is the name for the heavily peated, double-distilled malt made at Springbank). I’ve previously reviewed two other releases of the Longrow 18: the 2008 release (which was, I believe the first release) and the 2011 release. I liked both a lot. I also have a bottle of the 2014 release on my shelves which I should really open some day soon. The reason I don’t go through Longrow 18 as often/quickly as some other regular releases from Springbank is that it costs the earth in the US. And so I wait to buy it in the UK or Europe once every few years. Well, my parents will soon be passing through London on the way to visiting us—so let’s see if this is good enough to have shipped to my uncle’s place in London, where they will be stopping for a week. Continue reading

Port Charlotte 17, 2001 (Maltbarn)


Four reviews in a week—what is this? a spirits blog?

Here’s an indie Port Charlotte (the heavily peated whisky produced at Bruichladdich (but not as heavily peated as Octomore)). This is the oldest Port Charlotte I’ve reviewed and probably the oldest I’ve had. It was distilled in 2001, which may have been the year Port Charlotte started being distilled (please let me know derisively in the comments below if that’s wrong). I have reviewed another 2001 Port Charlotte; that was an 11 yo bottled by the German outfit, Malts of Scotland. I quite liked that one. This one is also bottled by a German outfit, in this case, Maltbarn; it was apparently their 105th selection—I had no idea they’d bottled that many; I think my first Maltbarn reviews were of some of their earliest releases (indeed, my first Maltbarn review was of their 8th release, an older Glenrothes). How the kids have grown up and so on. Continue reading

Croftengea 13, 2005 (OMC, 20th Anniv. Release)


Oh no, not another one of those Old Malt Cask 20th anniversary releases! Yes, I’m afraid. so. I’ve already reviewed 57 or so of them and here’s another one. This is a 13 yo Croftengea distilled in 2005 and it has me hoping that it might be almost as good as that 9 yo bottled by the Whisky Exchange last year, or at least as good as the SMWS 15 yo from 2017. Like the Whisky Exchange release, this is from a bourbon cask. Also, most of the other OMC 20th anniversary releases I’ve reviewed have been pretty good—so the odds are good, right? That’s what I told myself anyway when I purchased a bottle a day after going in on this split but before tasting this sample. Let’s see if I’m going to regret that hastiness.

Croftengea 13, 2005 (50%; OMC, 20th Anniv. Release; from a bottle split)

Nose: Big peat, farmy, rubbery—rather Ledaig’ish though without as much of the dead rodent in wet undergrowth. On the second sniff there’s some lemon mixed in there as well. With time and then a few drops of water it gets more acidic and the smoke gets ashier and also more phenolic. Continue reading

Kilkerran, Heavily Peated, Batch No. 1


On Tuesday I reviewed the 2019 release of the Springbank 21. Here now is another recent Campbeltown release: a new NAS heavily peated whisky from Kilkerran. I don’t really pay attention to whisky news anymore and so I had no idea that this had been in the works. Like most optimistic idiots I’d assumed that once Kilkerran aged their stocks up they’d be putting out whiskies with age statements. And given how good the 2016 release of the Kilkerran 12 was I’d assumed they were just continuing on that path. But here’s a heavily peated NAS release. What is the impetus for this? To capture some more of the heavily peated market? Doesn’t the NAS Longrow already aim to do that for the group? I do hope they’re not going to do a Kilchoman-like pivot to a series of NAS malts. They put out an 8 yo at cask strength not too long ago; I’m assuming this one is a year or two younger than that. And that one I thought was rather unremarkable. That doesn’t seem to bode well for this. But the proof will be in the glass. Let’s see. Continue reading

Longrow 13, 2003, First Fill Sherry


Longrow, as you know, is the name of the more heavily peated malt made by Springbank (there are other differences in the production process as well).  Most of the bourbon cask Longrows—or ex-bourbon heavy releases—I’ve had have been very good, and those are most of the Longrows I’ve had. Indeed, it has been a long time since I’ve had a Longrow matured in sherry casks, and I don’t think I’ve reviewed any on the blog. I have reviewed a couple of wine cask Longrows, however. I did not care very much for the 14 yo Burgundy Wood release from 2012 or so which had a bit too much sulphur for my taste. I liked the 11 yo port cask Longrow Red better. Of course, none of this may have any bearing on this single first fill sherry cask which was bottled for the German market. The general stereotype (fact?) goes that German drinkers in general are fairly sulphur-positive or at least more so than most others. Will this cask play to that (possible) preference? Let’s see. Continue reading

Laphroaig 10 CS, Batch 009


I have previously reviewed the first seven batches of the Laphroaig 10 CS (after the demise of the old “red stripe” version). Here now, jumping over Batch 008—which I have not seen locally and which none of you ungrateful bastards have seen fit to offer to send me samples of—is my review of Batch 009. I found it hiding behind a bunch of Batch 010 bottles at a local store last week and picked it up (to be safe I bought a bottle of Batch 010 as well). This was released in February 2017—which leads me to wonder what batch we’re up to now: do these come out one per year? Anyway, the early batch releases of the Laphroaig 10 CS ranged from very good to excellent (especially Batch 003) but then the series hit a snag with the weaker (though still not bad) Batch 005. Batches 006 and 007 seemed to suggest an upward trajectory. Here’s hoping this means that I will find Batch 009 to be even better than I would have found Batch 008 to be if you ungrateful bastards etc. And, oh yes, shout out to Beam Suntory for continuing to keep the Laphroaig 10 CS priced very reasonably indeed. In the decade and a half that I have been buying it the price has barely budged. Anyway, on to the whisky! Continue reading

Game of Thrones Whisky: House Greyjoy (Talisker)


My third Game of Thrones whisky review is of the House Greyjoy release, a Talisker. I am posting it today in honour of the passing of Theon Greyjoy (spoiler alert!), one of the few interesting characters on Game of Thrones over the course of the series—the only others, in case you’re wondering, were/are Sansa Stark, Roose Bolton and Tywin and Jaime Lannister (I am happy to have an argument about this in the comments).

This is one of the few distillery/House matches this series got right. House Greyjoy rules the Iron Islands and Skye is an island, and both are on the west coast; plus the peaty austerity of Talisker fits well with the dour nature of the Iron Islanders. That’s where the similarities end though: Talisker usually makes highly enjoyable whisky whereas, Theon aside, the rape-Vikings of the Iron Islands are a huge drag both in the tv show and especially in the books where they—along with Ramsay Bolton—carry the weight of George R.R. Martin’s near-pornographic obsession with sexual violence and torture. Yes, we get it, George, real knights and ladies were assholes. Continue reading