I look forward to the release of the Laphroaig Cairdeas every year, even though Laphroaig has not consistently been giving me very many reasons in recent years to look forward to it. I liked 2018’s Fino cask finish but last year’s Triple Wood CS and 2017’s Quarter Cask CS were acceptable but not at all special. The distillery seems to have got caught in an endless cycle of cask finishes; a far cry from 2011 and 2012 which saw them release excellent bourbon cask whiskies (neither of which, I realize, I’ve reviewed). And the only truly excellent Cairdeas since then—2015’s 200th anniversary release—was also from bourbon casks. But there’s no excitement in bourbon cask releases, I guess. Will next year be a rum cask? A marsala cask? Or will we see another Frankenwine release like this year’s (a vatting of port and wine casks)? Well, I suppose if the results taste good there’s no point complaining about the high-concept gimmickry. Let’s see if that is indeed the case. Continue reading
This Benriach, peated and finished in a tawny port cask, was brought by my friend Rich to a whisky gathering to celebrate his birthday last fall. It is from a cask that won a “Gold Medal” from the Malt Maniacs back in 2012, also picking up their award that year for the best peated whisky. The Malt Maniacs may award a lot of medals but very few of them are gold and so this would seem to be a sure thing. At our tasting, however, it got a less rapturous reception. While no one came close to disliking it, most of us—including me—found it a bit of an oddball (though I liked its oddness a lot), with vegetal, meaty and sweet flavours going in and out. It was not clear, however, if it was suffering juxtapositional effects: everything else we had that night was fairly straightforward ex-boubon or ex-sherry and it’s possible aspects of the port/peat character got exaggerated as a result. I came away with a large sample though and so am able now to evaluate it by itself. Continue reading
As to why a bottler named Malts of Scotland is releasing wine cask finished bourbons of America, I don’t know. They’ve also released a Heaven Hill 2001 from a sherry hogshead and a regulation Heaven Hill single barrel from 2005. All three were bottled this year. Other things I don’t know include: whether this means Malts of Scotland are getting into bourbon in a big way; if these are experiments conducted by Heaven Hill themselves that they got their hands on or if they took the bourbon and finished it in their own casks; why Minnesotans don’t know what to do at four-way stop signs. If you have the answers please don’t be shy. Anyway, I quite enjoyed the last port-bothered bourbon I drank. That was High West’s “A Midwinter Night’s Dram“, and I liked it so much I went out and purchased an expensive bottle. If this is as good I may have to look into whether it’s still available (it was only released in the EU, as you might expect). Continue reading
This is another of High West’s high concept whiskeys. It is a blend of two rye whiskies, one a 6 yo 95% rye, and the other a 16 yo 80% rye, finished in port and French oak casks. In other words, it’s the Rendezvous Rye finished in port and French oak casks. As to whether it goes into the finishing casks in sequence or whether some fraction is finished in one and the rest in the other and then vatted together, I have no idea.
I tasted this in late December at the home of Fabulous Florin (head of small animal husbandry at the San Diego Wild Animal Park) and do know that I liked it a lot; more, I think, than I had the Rendezvous Rye itself. I’ve since found a store in the vicinity that has a bottle and so I’m interested to taste it again and see if that initial impression is confirmed.
The 2013 edition of the Laphroaig Cairdeas was double matured in bourbon and port casks and was met with the usual gnashing of teeth by the usual suspects who decry single malt whisky going near any sort of wine cask (never mind that the most traditional of all casks used to mature single malt whisky previously held wine too: sherry). Well, I guess I’ve said rude things about the Glenmorangie Artein and the Bruichladdich Black Art as well, but that’s because I don’t think those whiskies quite work. I don’t rule out the possibility that port/marsala/madeira/etc. cask matured whisky can be very good, and as it happens I think this Cairdeas is very good. At least so I and all the others (including a couple of people who’re not big fans of peated whisky) thought at our local group’s October tasting where I opened this bottle. It’s now past the halfway mark—let’s see how it holds up. Continue reading