Alright, let’s bring this week of peated whiskies to an end. We started on Islay with a 6 yo Bunnahabhain and continued in Campbeltown with a Kilkerran that is probably not very much older than that Bunnahbhain. We’ll end now with a Ledaig that is positively ancient by comparison, at 14 years old. Even though Ledaig is distilled on the Isle of Mull (it is, of course, essentially peated Tobermory), in a sense we’re still in Campbeltown for this review. This because this sample comes from a bottle purchased at Cadenhead’s Warehouse Tasting in Campbeltown, late last fall. I have not been to Campbeltown myself. I very much hope to go if I make it back to Scotland anytime soon—and if I do, the Cadenhead Warehouse Tasting will be high on my list of things to do. That will be true, by the way, even if this Ledaig disappoints. Though I don’t expect it will.
As I said on Monday, this week will also be a week of reviews of peated whiskies. But unlike last week’s Caol Ila cluster (here, here and here), this week’s reviews feature peated whiskies from three different distilleries. The week began on Monday with a young Bunnahabhain bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. I liked that one a bit more than I was expecting to. Today, we’ll leave Islay and head to Campbeltown. Now this Kilkerran Heavily Peated I am expecting to enjoy quite a bit. It’s true I was not a big fan of Batch 1 but I loved Batch 4. Batch 5 should be more in line with Batch 4, right? That’s the hope anyway. Let’s see if it pans out.
Kilkerran Heavily Peated, Batch 5 (57.5%; from a bottle split)
Nose: A bit closed at first but then there’s almond oil, preserved lemon and a mix of mineral peat and coal smoke. The salt expands on the second sniff. With time it’s all about the preserved lemon, coal smoke and brine. Water pulls out earthier notes of putty, wax and burlap at first and then the pineapple from the palate emerges. With time it’s the preserved lemon that wins out again. Continue reading
After a week of Caol Ila, let’s keep the peat fires burning a little while longer. We’ll stay on Islay for the first review of the week, at a distillery not primarily known for its peated malt: Bunnahabhain. Well, they weren’t traditionally known for their peated malt; these days they make a fair bit of it—you’re not going to lose money in Scotland selling smoky whisky. This one, very young at six years of age, is not an official release. It was bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. It began its life in a bourbon hogshead before being finished in a recharred cask (HTMC=heavily toasted, medium char?) and bottled at an eye-watering strength. Youth? Heavily peated? Big oak contact? Stupid strength? It checks almost all the boxes for whisky I am normally wary of. Hopefully, it will all work somehow. Let’s see. Continue reading
This week’s recipe will also not post on a Thursday (today) but on a Friday (tomorrow). Instead, I have for you today the last in this week’s independently bottled Caol Ila triad featuring three different cask profiles.
The week began on Monday with a 12 yo bottled by DS Tayman. That one was a bourbon cask that had been finished in a Bordeaux cask. On Wednesday I posted a review of a 13 yo bottled by Old Particular for K&L in California. That one was from a refill butt. I liked both fine—and the 13 yo a bit more than the 12 yo—but neither got me very excited. I already know that I like today’s 17 yo from a single bourbon hogshead more than either. That’s because this is taken from a large reference sample I saved from the bottle many years ago. Yes, unlike the DS Tayman and Old Particular releases, this is one of my signature highly untimely reviews. This 17 yo was distilled in 1991 and bottled in 2008 by Single Malts of Scotland—back when my referring to Single Malts of Scotland as the Whisky Exchange’s indie label didn’t make Billy Abbot’s beard quiver with rage. I have the score I gave it then recorded in my spreadsheet but not my notes. Let’s see if the scores match across the years. Continue reading
Caol Ila week began yesterday with a 12 yo finished in a Bordeaux cask. It started out well but I was not finally very enthusiastic about it. Today I have a 13 yo that was matured in a sherry cask. If I’m generally suspicious about red wine cask-matured whisky of any kind, I’m usually very excited to try Caol Ilas from sherry casks. Be it a richer sherry cask profile or a drier one, Caol Ila’s distillate usually matches it well. I certainly hope that will be the case for this one, a refill butt bottled by Old Particular for K&L in California. Let’s get right to it.
Caol Ila 13, 2008 (56.9%; Old Particular for K&L; refill butt; from a bottle split)
Nose: Very nice, very quintessentially Caol Ila notes of lemon, mineral peat and coastal notes (brine, oyster liquor) and green olives. Green peppery bite on the second sniff and a touch of cream. With time the cream expands a bit. A few drops of water and it gets softer still, with the smoke all but receding into the background. Continue reading
It’s been almost exactly three months since my last week of reviews of malts from a single distillery. That was a Kilkerran week (here, here and here). This week will feature three Caol Ilas. They’re from three different cask types: ex-bourbon, refill butt, and in the case of today’s review, a Bordeaux finish. I will confess that when I purchased this bottle I did not realize this was a Bordeaux finish. I generally avoid red wine finishes. But I was at the store without my reading glasses and the font size on the details on the label is very small indeed. That label is by a bottler I had not previously heard of: DS Tayman. Their website says their whiskies are available in the US, UK, Israel and Australia—so I assume it’s not an American concern, as I’d first though they might be. If you know more about them, please write in below. The bottles are attractive; the whisky is bottled at 46%; and the price—at least on this Caol Ila was fair: cheaper at Total Wine than the official Caol Ila 12 at 43%. What’s not to like? Well, maybe the red wine finish. Let’s see. Continue reading
On Monday I reviewed a WhiskySponge Ardmore 24 from a refill bourbon hogshead. I simultaneously liked it a fair bit and was a bit disappointed with it. Today I have a 22 yo Ardmore that started out in a refill hogshead and was then subjected to a sherry finish. I have to confess my default reaction to such a sequence is first one of anguish: why risk marring one of Scotland’s truly idiosyncratic profiles with a brief, potentially overbearing dalliance with sherry? And then one of skepticism: was the sherry finish applied in the manner of lipstick on a pig? But though my initial response may be skeptical, my mind remains open and I am hoping for the best. Will those hopes be rewarded or will they fall apart like an ill-conceived sherry finish? Let’s see. Continue reading
There were competing requests last week for themed weeks centered on Ardmore and on WhiskySponge releases. Competing because I cannot do both: two of the Ardmores are WhiskySponge releases. As a compromise I propose a week of WhiskySponge releases now and then the third, non-WhiskySponge Ardmore at the end of the month, to be paired with a whisky from another highlands distillery, with which I’ll kick off February’s booze reviews.
So, here’s the first of two WhiskySponge Ardmores. This is the older of the two: 24 years old and from a refill hogshead. On paper, at least, that sounds very good indeed. Will that be true in the glass? I liked the only other WhiskySponge releases I’ve reviewed—a trio of Ballechins from almost exactly a year ago (here, here and here)—but was not blown away by them. I’m hoping this January’s trio will live up to all the hype. Let’s see. Continue reading
The first two whiskies in my week of reviews of recent US releases of malts from Single Malts of Scotland did not do very much for me. The week began on Monday on Islay with a young Laphroaig that was decent but nothing more. Tuesday moved us to the higlands with a slightly older Clynelish that I liked even less, finding far too much oak in it. For the last of the trio we are in the Speyside with the oldest of the three. Will this 13 year old Linkwood prove luckier for me? Let’s see.
Linkwood 13, 2008 (48%; Single Malts of Scotland; bourbon hogsheads; from a bottle split)
Nose: Orchard fruit (apples, pears, a hint of peach), cream, pastry crust, a bit of toasted oak. This is the kind of bourbon cask nose I like. The cream expands as it sits; the oak, thankfully, remains in the background. A few drops of water and there’s more of the fruit (with more acid) and cream and less of the oak. Continue reading
Yes, Tuesday is usually a restaurant report day on the blog, but we’re desperately trying to finish the last season of Better Call Saul before we leave for India and I didn’t have time last evening to resize all the images for my first restaurant report of 2023. And so here is the second review of the trio of releases by Single Malts of Scotland that I am reviewing this week.
The series began yesterday with a young Laphroaig that was fine enough but didn’t really impress me—especially relative to the price. This Clynelish—which also bears the appellation “Reserve Casks”—is three years older but was a little bit cheaper ($65 to the Laphroaig’s $80, I think). I guess there’s no Islay peat tax to be paid here. Like the Laphroaig it’s not a single cask; this is a vatting of three bourbon barrels. Let’s hope the barrels were not over-active and that this proves to be a better value. Continue reading
Let’s start the year in whisky reviews with a young Laphroaig. This is a 7 year old put together as a vatting of three bourbon hogsheads by Single Malts of Scotland—once a Whisky Exchange label, now put out by their sister company, Elixir Distillers. There was a time when whiskies from Single Malts of Scotland were not available in the US. That time is past. This Laphroaig and a few others that I’ll be reviewing this week that also bear the “Reserve Casks” appellation were released in the US market in 2022. And they’re not the first Single Malts of Scotland bottles to make it here. The Caol Ila 10, 2009 I reviewed in December was also a US release and, for all I know, they’ve been here even longer. I think I’ve mentioned before that I no longer follow whisky marketing news—if one of my readers knows more about this I hope you’ll write in below. As for these “Reserve Casks” releases, I expect “Reserve Casks” is just a nice way of saying “Not Single Cask or at Cask Strength”—these are all bottled at 48%. I say this because single casks at cask strength might well be what people expect of indie releases, especially when a 7 yo whisky costs $90 and above as this Laphroaig did on release. Well, let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
Here to close out the week, the month and the year in whisky reviews on my blog is a Glenburgie. It is 21 years old and was bottled in 2014 for Cadenhead’s whisky club in Europe from a single sherry cask. In case you’re wondering, I purchased it at auction some years ago. As you may recall, this week is a week of sherried whiskies. It got off to a very good start on Monday with an 18 yo Ben Nevis. The Glen Elgin 16 I reviewed on Wednesday was also good but not quite at the level of the Ben Nevis. This Glenburgie, I know, is very good indeed—I opened it a few weeks ago. Indeed, when first opened I liked it more than I had the Ben Nevis when it was first opened. But now it’s sat with a bit of air in the bottle and I’m curious to see how it’s developed. My experience with Glenburgie is not very extensive and is largely centered on bourbon casks. It’s a distillate that can be very fruity indeed and there was certainly a lot of fruit in the first few pours from this bottle. Has that fruit expanded further? Let’s see. Continue reading
I know most of you set your clocks and calendars by my blog posting schedule and so it would be irresponsible of me to not say very clearly that today is not Wednesday. Yes, my second whisky review of the week is usually posted on Wednesdays, with Tuesday being my restaurant review day. But for boring reasons we don’t need to go into, I don’t have a restaurant review post ready today. That post—my look at a bunch of meals eaten at Grand Szechuan over the course of the year—will be published tomorrow. Today, I have for you the second in this week’s series of reviews of sherried malts.
Monday’s Ben Nevis was released in 2010. This review is no more timely. It is of a Glen Elgin 16 that was part of Diageo’s Special Release slate in 2008. Like the Ben Nevis, it is another bottle that I purchased more than a decade ago and kept around for no good reason. Like the Ben Nevis, it’s open now and here are my notes. Continue reading
After two weeks in a row of bourbon cask whiskies (from Bladnoch, Linkwood, Dailuaine, Ardmore, Glen Garioch and Teaninich), let’s finish the month, and the year, with a week of sherry-matured whiskies. Instead of going up in age over the course of the week—as I usually do—let’s do them in order of increasing sherry influence. First up, accordingly is a single cask Ben Nevis 18, 1991 that was bottled by Mackillop’s Choice back in 2010. I purchased this bottle not too long after, and as with so many bottles purchased in that time period, I have no idea why I haven’t opened it in all these years—except perhaps that I purchased rather a lot of bottles in that time period. Anyway, it’s open now.
By the way, I was surprised to learn that Mackillop’s Choice is still a going concern—or at least that it was just a few years ago. Whiskybase doesn’t have any listings for 2022 or 2021 releases from the label but there were at least a few releases in 2020. If you’d asked me before I looked it up, I would have guessed they’d long gone the way of Scott’s Selection. Based on Whiskybase listings, the heyday does seem to have ended in the early 2010s, when they were still releasing 20-30 malts in most years. Continue reading
The first two days of this week of reviews of bourbon cask malts were spent in the Speyside: at Dailuaine on Monday, and at Linkwood on Wednesday. Let’s now close out the week in the lowlands, at Bladnoch. This 20 yo was released in the early-mid 2010s, during the Raymond Armstrong-led heyday of the distillery. Under Raymond Armstrong, Bladnoch was a significant force in what, with hindsight, was the last gasp of the golden age of single malt whisky. They released whiskies, both their own and of casks from other distilleries, for the regular drinker. Their whiskies were priced well, did not come with any marketing flim-flam, and were usually of a high quality. This was true both of their independently bottled and directly sold whiskies on offer from their Bladnoch forum (I think I might still have one Caol Ila 25 left) and of their own releases. Many of their releases of Bladnoch’s whisky were single casks, but they didn’t always mark this information on the labels. And the way to know if many of these releases were sherry matured or bourbon matured was by checking to see if the label featured sheep (sherry) or cows (bourbon). See here for a review of a 19 yo cow label. This 20 yo cow label is one of the very last Bladnochs left on my shelves (I still have two bottles of a 12 yo sherry cask). Let’s get into it. Continue reading
Let’s stay in the Speyside for the second of this week’s reviews of bourbon cask whiskies. Like Dailuaine (Monday’s port of call), Linkwood is a workhorse distillery that doesn’t see much official release. Independents do decently by it though. The bottler of the 19 yo I am reviewing today is Alexander Murray. I have little experience of their releases and know even less about them. I did like a Glenlossie 19, 1997 they put out, also from bourbon casks, and hope that’s a good portent for this one. They were, however, also the source of a rather anonymous 23 yo unnamed Speyside malt for Costco’s Kirkland label. Let’s see where this one falls.
Linkwood 19, 1997 (53.8%; Alexander Murray; bourbon casks; from a bottle split)
Nose: Bright fruit (tart-sweet apple, a bit of lemon) mixed in with some oak and some malt. More lemon on the second sniff and some over-ripe pear to go with the apple. Softer notes of cream and light toffee emerge with time. A few drops of water and it gets muskier/maltier with a slight leafy note popping out as well. Continue reading
Last week I reviewed three 12 yo bourbon cask whiskies from three different highlands distilleries: a Teaninich 12, 2009 bottled by the Thompson Bros. for K&L; a Glen Garicoh 12, 2008 bottled by Old Particular, also for K&L: and an Ardmore 12, 2006, bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. We’ll stick with bourbon cask whisky for this week as well, but we’ll ditch the 12 yp and highlands-only themes. The first one takes us to the Speyside. It’s. a 10 yo Dailuaine, also bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Let’s jump right in.
Dailuaine 10, 2008 (61.3%; SMWS 41.116; refill barrel; from a bottle split)
Nose: Toasted oak, damp leaves, lemon, malt. The lemon moves in the direction of Makrut lime as it sits. A little bit of cream, maybe, with time and the toasted oak moves to the front, but not much development here. With a splash of water there’s more cream, a bit of pastry crust and it all melds very nicely with the lemon. As it sits more fruit emerges: berries, pineapple; all of it encased in pastry crust. Continue reading
This has been a week of reviews of malts from highlands distilleries. It’s also been a week of reviews of ex-bourbon cask malts and, as it turns out, a week of reviews of 12 yo malts. On Monday I had a review of a 12 yo Teaninich bottled by the Thompson Bros.; on Wednesday I had a review of a 12 yo Glen Garioch bottled by Old Particular; today I have for you a review of a 12 yo Ardmore bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Long-time readers of this blog know that I have a soft spot for bourbon cask Ardmore. Indeed, I’ve had a fair number of bourbon cask Ardmores in recent years that I’ve enjoyed a lot, many of those bottled by the SMWS with numbers adjacent to this one. Among those have been 66.133, 66.137 and 66.138. Granted 137 and 138 were quite a bit older but it still bodes well for this one, which is 66.139 (and 133 was also a 12 yo). I’m sorry if you’re not familiar with the SMWS’ funky bottle codes. The numbers before the period identify the distillery (Ardmore is 66) and those after the period identify the number of the release—which means this was the 139th Ardmore bottled by the SMWS (they’re well past that number now). In addition, they like to give each release a silly name. This one was dubbed “Deerstalkers and hillwalkers”. Okay, let’s see what it is like. Continue reading