Early in the beginning of the previous decade Glenfiddich seemingly decided to become a more interesting single malt producer. Not content with being the most recognizable bottle and most recognizable name in all of single malt whisky-dom in the world they decided they too needed the attention of the
obsessive idiots cool kids who make up a tiny fraction of the world whisky market—and indeed also of the world single malt market. The Snow Phoenix and its ludicrous tin may have been their entry into this phase, confirming as it did that obsessive idiots discerning malt drinkers will hoover up anything with a good story attached. Releases like the Age of Discovery and Cask of Dreams and Ark of the Covenant followed (okay, I made one of those up). Then things went quiet for a while (by which I mean I stopped paying attention: for all I know they kept putting out special releases). Then a few years ago they launched their so-called Experimental series. The IPA cask was the first in 2016 (I was intrigued but never got around to trying it). Then came the XX which was sexy but not did not involve penetration (or so I assume). Then something called the Winter Storm which was banned in Minnesota for being too close to life. Then came the Fire & Cane (in 2018?). This is made from a mix of peated and unpeated spirit that is finished in rum casks. How old is it? How dare you ask such personal questions! I was intrigued by this one as well and when a chance recently came to taste it via a bottle split I jumped at it. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
This was Ardbeg’s 2019 Feis Ile release. I have to admit I stopped paying attention to Ardbeg some years ago. The 10 year old is still an Islay classic and my last bottles of the Uigeadail and Corryvreckan were very good too (albeit neither were anywhere close to being recent releases), but most of the noise emanating from the distillery—or rather from its owners—has seemed for a while to be in the service of high-concept silliness. I thought 2018’s Feis Ile release, the Grooves, was fairly ordinary. Why then am I reviewing the 2019 release? Well, largely because in theory at least bourbon cask Ardbeg finished in rum casks does not seem like a bad idea. (Of course, they say they’ve “rested” their spirit in rum casks; unlike all those other distilleries who make their spirit ride treadmills and run marathons in finishing casks.) Will the reality of this whisky in fact match up with that theoretical promise? Only one way to find out. 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
Another 15 yo whisky, and another that may still be available: I’m in severe danger of losing my “untimely reviews” edge. This was bottled by the distillery for the Nectar, a store in Belgium. It’s a single cask release (though the cask number is not mentioned) of a total of 198 bottles. And that single cask was a fresh rum cask. Now, of course, this doesn’t tell us anything about how many years the rum that had previously been in there had spent in that cask or what kind of rum it was (which, of course, is the same with bourbon cask maturation as well). I assume it would have been an American oak cask. I’m not sure what the story is with the low abv (relatively speaking). As it happens, the last rum cask Springbank I reviewed (this 1998-2014 release from Malts of Scotland) also had an abv below 50% (just a coincidence, I’m sure). I wasn’t hugely taken with that one. Let’s see what this one is like. Continue reading
Let’s take a break from the Glenfarclas reviews but let’s stay on the Speyside. Here is a somewhat unusual Glenrothes bottled by Cadenhead’s earlier this year. I don’t believe I’ve ever come across rum cask Glenrothes before and for that matter there’s not that much bourbon cask Glenrothes around. This is from Cadenhead’s “Small Batch” series and is apparently a vatting of a single bourbon barrel and a rum cask of some sort. Wild to think that there was a 27 yo rum cask just laying around. Also intriguing that they wouldn’t just have released it as such—has anyone come across a single rum cask malt of that age? Of course, this might imply that the contents of the cask might not have been that great on their own but it might have been worth it for novelty alone. It’s also possible, of course, that the rum barrel was a finish/double maturation of a cask put away in 1989—though again you have to wonder why that wouldn’t have been worth releasing by itself. Anyway, I haven’t reviewed much Glenrothes on the blog so I’m hoping this will represent the distillery well. And I suppose if I like it there’s a decent chance that it might still be available from the Cadenhead’s shop in London. Let’s see. Continue reading
After Monday’s rum cask finished bourbon (a Heaven Hill 14, 2001), which was more than a little reminiscent of a single malt, it was hard not to reach immediately for the one rum cask single malt I had easily at hand. Springbank has released a few official rum casks before but I haven’t seen too many around of late. This one is also from the German indie, Malts of Scotland but, unlike their Heaven Hill, appears to be matured full-term in a rum cask. Or at least, so I think. Let’s get right to it.
Springbank 1998-2014, Rum Cask (49.8%; Malts of Scotland cask 14037; from a purchased sample)
Nose: A slightly sweeter version of the regulation ex-bourbon Springbank profile. Which is to say that the usual machine oil, sackcloth, leather and salt/brine are all there but there’s an extra layer of simple syrup over it all. Gets pretty salty pretty fast; some preserved lemon as well. With water it’s less sweet and also less salty. Continue reading
I can’t say I’d ever wondered what bourbon finished in a rum cask would be like; but when a store I was purchasing samples from substituted this for something else I’d wanted that they were out of, I discovered that I quite wanted to find out. Rum finishes in the single malt world have never quite convinced me—the Balvenie 14 Caribbean Cask is the only one I can remember liking a fair bit. But Balvenie’s malt is a mild one and it’s not hard to see an overlap with a sweet and caramelly rum profile. Bourbon, on the other hand, is altogether more robust and I’m curious to see what impression, if any, the rum finish has been able to make on this one.
The bourbon in question was distilled by Heaven Hill and it was bottled by Malts of Scotland—this was bottled this year, so not in the same lot of releases that included the port finish I reviewed earlier this year as well as a sherry finish. I still have no idea whether these were all Heaven Hill experiments that Malts of Scotland ended up with and released as is, or if the finishing was done not at the distillery but in Germany. If you know more about this please write in below. Continue reading