Tuesdays are normally restaurant review days on the blog. However, the World Cup has been messing with my schedule and I didn’t have time yesterday to finish resizing all the photographs from the meal I was scheduled to report on: the weekday lunch buffet at Kumar’s in Apple Valley. And so I’m going to post that tomorrow. In its place, here is the whisky review that was going to go up tomorrow.
This is the third release of Lagavulin’s Offerman Edition. The first came out in 2019. At the time I assumed it was a one-off. But then there was a second release last year, a finish in Guinness casks. And 2022 saw a third release, this one involving oak casks that were shaved down and re-charred. I’ve seen some references to the casks in question being American and European oak casks and some that specify that they were ex-bourbon and ex-red wine casks. I can tell you though that the text on the back of the box says that this particular edition (11 years old like the two previous) was “curated” to pair with a medium-rare steak. Personally, I don’t drink whisky with food but I’m not sure how seriously anyone should take any of that anyway. I think the text may be written in the voice of Ron Swanson (I cannot confirm as I still have not watched any Parks & Recreation). I liked the first two releases and hope this will be as good. Let’s see. Continue reading →
After a week of mezcal reviews (here, here and here), let’s get back to whisky, to Scotland, and specifically to Islay for a week of reviews of heavily peated whiskies. First up, is the 2022 iteration of the Laphroaig Cairdeas, bottled for Feis Ile, the annual Islay whisky festival. It’s a bit of a departure for the recent run of the series being from bourbon casks. Last year’s Cairdeas release was a cask strength version of the Laphroaig PX release; the 2020 Cairdeas was finished in port and wine casks; the 2019 was a cask strength version of the Triple Wood; the 2018 was a fino cask finish. The last ex-bourbon release was in 2017, with the cask strength version of the Quarter Cask. Indeed the last ex-bourbon Cairdeas from regulation ex-bourbon casks was back in 2015 for the 200th anniversary of the distillery. This year’s Cairdeas is back to bourbon casks, the twist being only that these were first-fill casks (from Maker’s Mark) matured in the distillery’s Warehouse No. 1. Will that mean too much oak influence and too much vanilla? The people who obliquely warned me about buying a bottle in the comments on other reviews are probably nodding in the background. But, as I do every year, I bought not one but two bottles: one to drink right away and one to put in my completely pointless Cairdeas collection, which goes back to 2011 (I’m realizing now that I’ve not reviewed the 2011 and 2012 releases, which were both pre-blog). Alright, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading →
This week of Campbeltown hand-fills from August of this year began with a Hazelburn on Monday and continued with a Springbank on Wednesday. Let’s end with a Longrow. (A reminder: I did not fill these myself—I acquired these samples via a bottle split with the person who did.) Even though Hazelburn is supposed to be Springbank’s unpeated malt, I found a fair bit of smoke in there (and not for the first time). Well, Longrow is supposed to be Springbank’s heavily peated malt—will this one turn out to an anomaly as well? I do expect I will like it a lot either way as, usually, Longrow is my favourite variant of Springbank—and I really liked the last Longrow I reviewed, which also came directly from Campbeltown, having been issued by Cadenhead (who are owned by the same company that owns Springbank). This particular iteration of the hand-fill is pretty dark—quite a bit darker than the other two—which I would guess means sherry casks were involved at some point in this vatting. What will it all add up to? Let’s see. Continue reading →
Kilkerran week got off to a good start on Monday with Batch 6 in their 8 yo Cask Strength series, which was matured in sherry casks. It then hit a bit of a bump in the road on Wednesday with Batch 7 in that series, which was matured in port casks. Here now to close out the week is Batch 4 of a different Kilkerran series, the Heavily Peated. I’ve previously reviewed Batch 1 from this series, and I was not terribly impressed by it. You might think that would bode ill for this review but I think this one is a bit older. I believe the series—also referred to as Peat in Progress—features progressively older iterations of the heavily peated distillate. It doesn’t appear to be the case though that every release is a year older than the previous. As per Whiskybase, Batch 1 and Batch 2 both came out in 2019, Batch 3 in 2020 and both Batch 4 and Batch 5 in 2021; and Batch 6—the latest—came out this year. So this is probably only a little bit older than Batch 1. But enough to make a difference? Let’s see. Continue reading →
Alright, let’s close out PX cask Kilchoman week with another cask bottled for the American market. As a reminder, all three of this week’s reviews have been Kilchomans distilled in 2015 from the distillery’s own barley, peated to 20 ppm, and then matured in PX sherry hogsheads—one for 5 years and two for six years. Cask 772—which I reviewed on Monday—was released in Germany; Cask 773—which I reviewed on Wednesday—was split between Canadian and American parties. Today’s cask was bottled for a store and a whisky club in California. It’s bottled at a slightly less eye-watering strength: 58% to the other two’s 60.2%. Despite their identical strength, though, casks 772 and 773 were from identical. Indeed, I did not care for 772 very much: too much oak; 773, on the other hand, was a more balanced affair, even if it couldn’t finally transcend its youth. I am curious to see what Cask 329 will be like. Let’s get to it. Continue reading →
Kilchoman week did not get off to the best start on Monday. (I’m reviewing three young, PX cask Kilchomans this week.) I found a bit too much oak in Cask 772, which was bottled for the German market. Today I have a review of Cask 773, which was also distilled from 100% Islay barley peated to 20 ppm, and bottled at 60.2% (what are the odds?). But this was bottled for a consortium of North Americans—some Canadian, some American (you can get the details on Kilchomania). Will I like this one more? I certainly hope so. By the way, ignore what it says on the label: this one is 6 years old.
Kilchoman 6, 2015 (60.2%; PX Cask 773; from a bottle split)
Nose: Leads with phenolic smoke with salt coming up from below. Some barbecue sauce on the second sniff along with some chilli pepper. Not much sign of the oak here or of red fruit. As it sits there’s a fair bit of char and cracked black pepper and some dried orange peel. More savoury as it goes with beef drippings and soy sauce. A few drops of water and the phenols recede a fair bit; softer now with toffee and milky cocoa. Continue reading →
I reviewed a fair number of bourbon cask whiskies in September. So let’s start October with a trio of heavily sherried whiskies and make them peated to boot.
This is the first of three Kilchomans that were distilled in 2015 from the distillery’s own barley, peated to 20 ppm. All were then matured in Pedro Ximinez hogsheads. As to whether these were regulation PX butts that were broken down and rebuilt as smaller hogsheads or whether these were regular hogsheads treated or seasoned with PX sherry, I don’t know. This one, cask 772 was bottled for the German market. The two that will follow this week were both released in North America. (Kilchoman, as you may know, has a pretty extensive single cask program.) Well, I like a good mix of sherry and peat as much as the next sap but in the past I’ve generally preferred bourbon cask Kilchoman to the sherried variety. Will this one buck that trend? Let’s see. Continue reading →
Last week was island distillery week. We began with a Bunnahabhain and ended with a malt from an undisclosed island distillery and in between there was a Highland Park. This week I have for you a triple-themed week: all Scotch Malt Whisky Society releases; all distilleries located in the Highlands; and all distilleries whose names begin with “Glen”. First up, a young Glenturret. As I always say when reviewing a Glenturret, I have sampled very few Glenturrets: this review takes the count up to four. I expect to hit double digits before the polar icecaps melt. This was matured in a re-charred hogshead and bottled at a ludicrous strength. It’s also apparently peated. Crazy high abv? Check. Peat? Check. Which means all it’s missing from the trifecta that seemingly appeals the most to a large fraction of the malt whisky drinking populace is a mega dose of sherry. The SMWS’ tasting panel named this one “No two sips are the same”, presumably because you have fewer tastebuds left after each sip. Well, I’m ready for anything. Continue reading →
Island distilleries week began on Islay with a Bunnahabhain 15 and continued on Orkney with a Highland Park 24. Here now to close out the week is a much younger whisky from an undisclosed island distillery bottled by Single Cask Nation in connection with the release of the Water of Life Film. Usually, undisclosed island whiskies can be counted on to be from Highland Park—though they usually have either Orkney or some Orkney-specific word in their name. This one doesn’t have any of that and, more to the point, a Single Cask Nation rep. has apparently confirmed that it’s not an Orkney distillery (and it would be unlikely to be Scapa anyway). There not being very many other island distilleries, the candidates really are Talisker, Jura, Arran and Tobermory/Ledaig (I assume if it were an Islay distillery the name Islay would be featured prominently). If the identity of the distillery is not disclosed, the composition of the whisky is. It is apparently put together from six first-fill bourbon casks, of which five were unpeated and one lightly peated. This would seem to rule out Talisker as I’m not aware of unpeated whisky being made there (all these distilleries make at least some peated whisky as a matter of course). And I don’t particularly think of either Jura or Ledaig as being lightly peated—though, of course, they may have some lightly peated variants. Arran then? Well, only the bottlers know for sure—but let’s see if the whisky gives us any sign. Continue reading →
Let’s round off this week of single casks of Caol Ila bottled by Gordon & Macphail with the oldest of the trio. This 16 yo was—like Wednesday’s 14 yo—matured in a first-fill bourbon barrel. Will the extra two years of maturation allow more of Caol Ila’s elegance to emerge or will the oak have a greater say? Let’s see.
Caol Ila 16, 2002 (54.9%; G&M; first-fill bourbon barrel; from my own bottle)
Nose: A big blast of carbolic peat mixed in with salt crystals, olive brine, lemon and cracked pepper. As it sits the coastal complex develops more fully with shells, oyster liquor and a campfire on the beach. With more time the lemon and salt meld and expand. With a few drops of water the lemon turns to citronella with a vengeance here as well but there’s some sweet malty notes too now and some charred pineapple. Continue reading →
Let’s keep G&M Caol Ila week going. On Monday I reviewed a 14 yo bottled by the Elgin stalwarts. That one was distilled in 2005 and matured in a refill sherry hogshead. Today I have another 14 yo but this one was distilled in 2003 and matured in a first-fill bourbon barrel. Teenaged bourbon cask Caol Ila is usually a cause for joy but the combination of both first-fill wood and the smaller barrel might be causes for concern—with the possibility of too much oak action. But hopefully the spirit will rise above it all. Let’s see.
Caol Ila 14, 2003 (56%; G&M; first-fill bourbon barrel; from my own bottle)
Nose: Carbolic peat off the top with sweeter notes of cereals and vanilla (not overbearing) mixed in. As it sits the vanilla retreats in favour of lemon and it begins to get quite coastal with shells and salt and kelp. Some white pepper in there too now and there’s a recently tarred road in the middle distance. Saltier still with time. With a bit of water it gets sweeter at first—not vanilla so much as sweet malt—and then there’s preserved lemon. The tar is gone. Continue reading →
Okay, let’s do another week of peat; and let’s go back to Islay and do a week all at one distillery. And for good measure let’s do a trio of releases from one independent bottler. Back in May I split several bottles with a small group of friends—Michael Kravitz of Diving for Pearls was among them but I don’t believe he’s reviewed any of them yet. Among the bottles were a trio of Caol Ilas released by Gordon & MacPhail in their redone Connoisseurs Choice series—to think that this was once an entry-level series in which G&M released anonymous whisky at 40% abv. Two of these Caol Ilas are from bourbon casks and one from a refill sherry cask. I’m going to start with the refill sherry. It was distilled in 2005 and bottled in 2019 at what is normally a promising strength in the mid-50s (this is the abv range in which Springbank usually operates with their cask strength releases). The fact that it’s a refill sherry hogshead suggests that a sherry butt was broken down and re-coopered as a hogshead; or maybe an ex-bourbon hogshead was seasoned with sherry. Hopefully, the former and not the latter as there’s a better chance of there not being a big dose of sherry sitting on top of the elegant Caol Ila peat. Let’s see. Continue reading →
Last month I kicked off a week of highlands distilleries with a peated Loch Lomond: an Inchmoan. This time I’m kicking off an entire month with a peated Loch Lomond, but this time it’s a Croftengea. (Again, you’ll need to go to more detail-oriented people to find out exactly how Inchmoan and Croftengea differ from each other or, for that matter, from Inchfad, Loch Lomond’s other peated line.) I’m also using it to end a week of reviews of peated whiskies (after Monday’s Lagavulin and Wednesday’s Talisker), even though the SMWS named this one, “It’s peat, Jim, but not as we know it…”
I’ve rather liked the other Croftengeas I’ve reviewed. This, a 7 yo, is the youngest of them yet, but I will remind you that one of my favourite whiskies of 2018 was a 9 yo Croftengea. Which is to say in a hopeful tone of voice that young Croftengea can be very good indeed. Let’s see if that hope survives reality. Continue reading →
Let’s finish the month with one more peated whisky, but let’s get off the island of Islay for at least one day. We’ll go up north to Skye, to Talisker and an unusual independent bottling. Unusual, not because I know something about this particular release but because independently bottled Talisker is not very common—though it’s relatively more common of late than it once used to be. I think this was part of K&L’s cache of 2021 casks. It’s twice the age of the two previous K&L Talisker releases I’ve reviewed, which were 5 and 6 years of age respectively. Add the fact that it’s from a refill hogshead and I am positively looking forward to this one. Let’s get right to it.
Talisker 11, 2009 (59.6%; Old Particular for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Mild notes of lemon and malted wheat with some light mineral smoke running through it. Sweeter with each sniff and then more savoury (ham brine). With time the lemon turns to citronella. A bit of water brings the salt out here as well and push the lemon back. Continue reading →
There was a time when the Lagavulin 12 was another annual release—along with the Laphroaig Cairdeas—that I purchased every year; it was certainly the only member of Diageo’s annual special release about which that could be said. But I haven’t purchased a bottle since 2017. The following year—as I have doubtless noted before—is when the price of this release went up sharply, and it also became harder to find in stores in the US. I have managed to get my hands on some each year via bottle splits, however, and so have been able to remain more or less current with it (I’m yet to review the 2014 and 2015 releases though I do have bottles of those in my stash). The 2022 Special Release roster should be on shelves soon. I’m not expecting to buy the 2022 iteration either but am hopeful I’ll be able to review it anyway at some point. The 2021 edition had a lion on the label and bore the sobriquet “The Lion’s Fire”—we can only hope the fire did not emerge from the rear. And no, it’s not a hint of it being a sherry cask either. This is from refill bourbon casks (all the Lagavulin 12s have been ex-bourbon, I believe—please correct me if I’m wrong). Price and marketing shenanigans aside, the Lagavulin 12 has always been quality whisky and some releases have been truly excellent. Let’s see where this one falls. Continue reading →
Here is the second cask in the first batch of Kilchoman’s Cask Comparison series. As I noted in the introduction to my review of the first cask on Wednesday, this batch comprises two casks, both distilled in 2012 and matured for 8 years in ex-Buffalo Trace barrels. Cask 719 was distilled from the distillery’s own farm barley peated to 20 ppm (making it a 100% Islay release), whereas this cask, Cask 726, was distilled from malt from Islay’s Port Ellen maltings peated to 50 ppm. So there are two variables in play here: barley type and peating level. Let’s close the comparison out. By the way, when I took notes on Cask 719 I tasted 1.5 oz of it over an hour or so, tasting .5 oz of Cask 726 alongside for reference. My notes on Cask 726 were likewise taken from the remaining 1.5 oz of that sample with the remaining .5 oz of Cask 719 as reference. I am nothing if not conscientous here at the My Annoying Opinions Tasting Rooms. More detail on my comparison of the two casks follows the review itself. Continue reading →
Here is the first part of an interesting diptych from Kilchoman. Islay’s farm distillery’s hallmark seems to have become the release of more and more single casks and cask variations and so forth to go along with their more edited regular lineup which—please correct me if I’m wrong—comprises the Machir Bay, Sanaig, Loch Gorm and the 100% Islay. For whatever reason, they seemingly are not interested in putting out a regular age-stated whisky—even though they would be able to put out a 15 yo by now. I guess if you can sell much younger NAS whisky then there isn’t much reason to tie up limited warehouse space. Or maybe there’s an age-stated lineup in the works and we won’t know till it hits us. Anyway, in 2021 they launched a “Cask Comparison” series. The idea is to release similar whiskies with some variation in them that allows the drinker to compare the effect of a single variable being shifted. Batch 1—a UK exclusive—comprised two casks of 8 yo spirit, distilled days apart in 2012 and matured for just over 8 years in ex-Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels. What’s the variable that’s different? Cask 719—this one—was filled with spirit distilled from 100% Islay barley peated to 20 ppm; cask 726—which I’ll be reviewing on Friday—was filled with spirit distilled from barley from the Port Ellen maltings peated to 50 ppm. The idea is that the juxtaposition will allow us to tease out the difference between the peating levels…or wait…is it the difference between the types of barley…or wait…is it the difference between the combination of both those things? Hmmm the premise is at risk of breaking down before I even begin and so it may be best to just get to it. Continue reading →
The month began with reviews of a pair of Speysides. This was followed by a week of Arran and then a week of distilleries in the Highlands. Let’s close the month out now with a big dose of peat. First up is Kilchoman, three of them to be exact. I’ll begin with a special cask strength release of their Machir Bay release. This was put out to mark their East Coast Tour of 2016. (I believe Journey was the opening act. I couldn’t make it to this tour but hope to catch them at the Minnesota State Fair one of these years.) It’s made with malt peated to 50 ppm (I can’t remember if that’s the case for all the Machir Bay releases) and from spirit mostly matured in ex-bourbon casks (90%) and partly in ex-oloroso casks (10%). A total of 840 bottles were released, which is actually a limited release as these things go. The last time I reviewed a Machir Bay of any kind was back in 2014, just a year into the blog’s life. That was the regular 2012 release at 46%—the very first release, as it happens. I’m curious to see how much similarity there will be between that and this one at 60.1% from four years later. At any rate, I’m sure this will be very different from the last two Kilchomans I reviewed this year, both of which were ruby port cask matured (here and here). Continue reading →