My whisky reviews have been flirting with relevance this month. I’ve reviewed widely available official releases (Cragganmore 12, Wild Turkey 101 Rye), independent releases that are still available (the Archives Aberlour and Orkney releases), and an official release that can still be found in some places in the US (the Springbank 13 Green). Lest my reputation be ruined I am going to slide in the other direction for the next few reviews.
First up, an independent Ardmore released in 2012. This too was bottled by the Whiskybase shop under their Archives label. It was released at a time when there were a number of indie 1992 Ardmores on the market. I think this has led to 1992 being proclaimed a special year for the distillery—though again it would appear that it is merely a year from which a lot of whisky is available for people to generalize about: Whiskybase lists 11 Ardmores from 1991, 7 from 1993 and 10 from 1994. Meanwhile, there are 73 listings from 1992. It would appear that a major parcel of casks from that year survived in a warehouse somewhere (most of Ardmore goes into the Teacher’s blend). Continue reading →
The Cragganmore 12 was one of the first single malts that I drank and purchased a bottle of when I first started drinking single malt whiskies well over a decade ago. I liked it well enough then. But as my awareness of the category grew past easily available official bottlings to more and more obscure independent releases, I sort of lost track of it. The fact that the distillery is very rarely represented on independent bottlers’ lists probably didn’t help either. But this June, while in the Speyside, I made a brief visit to Cragganmore with my friend Daniel, and the few sips I had of the samples they gave us in the shop rekindled my interest. Especially as I realized that in the many years since I’d last tried it I’d more or less forgotten what the Cragganmore 12 was like: the malt I remembered was much more delicate than the one I tried (a similar thing happened for me with the Oban 14 not too long ago: another malt that I hadn’t tried since my early days in the hobby). I also rather liked the feel of the little distillery. Accordingly, on my return to Minnesota I purchased a bottle with a view towards renewing my acquaintance with the whisky more fully. Here are my notes from halfway down the bottle. Continue reading →
Here is another timely review and another recent Archives bottling (see here for my review last week of their bourbon cask Aberlour 12). This is a 15 yo from an unnamed Orkney distillery—well, it’s Highland Park. It was bottled last year and is still available. This is a bit of a head-scratcher as the price is pretty good in this market for a 15 yo Highland Park at cask strength. Perhaps it’s because this is from a bourbon cask and bourbon cask Highland Park—like bourbon cask Aberlour—continues to be a bit of an unknown quantity when it comes to the average single malt enthusiast. My own enthusiasm for bourbon cask Highland Park is as high as my enthusiasm for bourbon cask Aberlour and I do not understand why more people are not interested in what their whisky tastes like without sherry cask involvement; especially as bourbon cask Highland Park tends to be more peat-forward than the regular (see this G&M release, for example). I opened it last month for a tasting of bourbon cask whiskies for my local group and it did very well. Indeed, it was the top whisky of the night, narrowly beating out an older Ardmore (which I liked better and will be reviewing soon). Here now are my notes. Continue reading →
Please appreciate the fact that Michael K. wrote the label of the sample he sent me of this Springbank in green ink. The whisky is made entirely from organic barley, I believe. As to whether other aspects of the production were particularly environmentally friendly, I do not know. I do know that this was the second of Springbank’s “Green” releases. This was released in 2015; in the previous year there had been a 12 yo “Green”. That one was vatted from bourbon casks; this one is from sherry casks. As to whether the spirit had all been distilled at the same time, I do not know—no vintage is stated and these were large batches (9000 bottles each). Of the two I think only the 12 yo came to the US. I was not paying attention at the time and so have no idea how much it cost. The bottle of the 13 yo this sample came from was purchased by Michael in Scotland (you can read about the purchase alongside his review here). I’m a big fan of the sherry-based 12 yo CS Springbanks and so I’m particularly curious to see what this one is like. Continue reading →
Here is my first timely review in almost a month. This Aberlour was recently released by Archives (the label of the excellent Whiskybase store in Rotterdam) and is still available. It has a number of things to recommend it: the Archives releases are always at least solid; it is priced very fairly in the current market; and it is a bourbon cask Aberlour. I sing the praises of bourbon cask Aberlours every time I review one; it really boggles the mind that the distillery (or rather its owners) don’t do more to feature their bourbon casks. I opened this particular bottle recently for one of my local group’s tastings—the theme was ex-bourbon whisky and it was well-liked by everyone in attendance. I thought the oak was just a little bit too assertive but not enough to mar the whisky. I’m interested to see if it might have settled down now that the bottle is at the halfway mark. Of course, those who are less sensitive to oak in whisky than I am will probably not be bothered by that aspect of it anyway. Continue reading →
Last week I posted a look at a very brief stop at The Whisky Shop on Victoria Street in Edinburgh. Today I have a review of the 100 ml sample I purchased of their so-called Secret Islay cask. I say “so-called” because—as I noted last week—the gent attending to their store casks told us it was a young Bowmore before we’d even thought to ask. Less than 10 years old, I think he said it was. I got a taste and liked it enough to get a 100 ml sample. As I also noted last week, their store casks are not priced in line with what they are. This was £12, and that for a young whisky at 40%. Cadenhead’s seems like even more of a great deal by comparison; as I also noted last week, 500 ml of this would have cost me more than 700 ml of the far superior Cadenhead’s Campbeltown cask (a sherried Springbank). How do I know the Cadenhead’s Campbeltown cask was superior? I drank them both while up in the Speyside later that week and took these notes then. Continue reading →
Ah, Whisky Galore—the name takes me back. This was Duncan Taylor’s entry-level line of malts for the enthusiast back in the day. The whiskies were bottled at 46% and were generally of a pretty good quality. Some of the bottles in this line were my earliest forays into the world of independently bottled whisky and gave me the confidence to spend more money on older whiskies—some of those in Duncan Taylor’s own older lines. At some point in the the last decade and a half the Whisky Galore line was replaced by the NC2 line and all the competitively-priced older Duncan Taylor releases disappeared. The NC2 series is also now gone. The entry-level Duncan Taylor line we see in the US now is Battlehill—ubiquitous on the shelves of the Total Wine chain.
Anyway here’s a throwback review of a Whisky Galore release from an unheralded distillery. Glenlossie is another Speyside disitllery, part of Diageo’s portfolio, producing for their blends. Every distillery in Scotland is capable of producing excellent casks, however, and it’s the independents that let us see this. Let’s see if that’s the case here. Continue reading →
I’m going to stay in the Speyside this week but things are probably not going to get very much more mainstream or timely than Monday’s review of a Miltonduff released in 2012. Today’s review is of a malt from a distillery that closed amid the great slaughter of distilleries in 1983. Its reputation has never approached that of some of the other distilleries that closed then (Port Ellen, Brora) or even others that closed later (Caperdonich) and nor has it seen a wholesale re-evaluation in later years (as, for example, has Littlemill). This is presumably because not enough Dallas Dhu survived to emerge in the late 1990s and 2000s as casks from many other distilleries did. I’ve certainly enjoyed the few I’ve had. Like one of those this is from a cask filled in 1979 (ignore what it says on the label—that’s a typo) and was also bottled by Signatory. That bottle—more so than the other one I reviewed—exhibited a grainy, plasticky note that took a while to fade and which held it back at the time of my review. Let’s see if this one also has it. Continue reading →
Here’s a malt from a relatively obscure distillery released by a pretty obscure independent bottler. Well, I suppose Miltonduff is not so very obscure a name to whisky geeks but it has very little by way of reputation and not too many people have tasted very much of its output (I’ve only reviewed four others). The distillery is part of the Chivas Bros. portfolio and produces malt for the group’s blends. Other than in the seemingly-discontinued Cask Strength Edition series (for example), very few official releases have seen the light of day—though I believe there is now a 15 yo official release. As for Tasting Fellows, I have no idea who they were. I say “were” because Whiskybase only lists 12 releases and the last was in 2014. This Miltonduff was from their first release in 2012 and I purchased these samples then from the Whiskybase shop. I then forgot about them for almost six years until they recently emerged from a search in my shelves for something else. I decided to drink them before losing sight of the samples again. Continue reading →
In my “Coming Soon” posts for the last couple of months I’ve promised a Glendronach 17 yo from 1995 bottled for the Whisky Exchange. But I’ll be damned if I know where that sample is. As I’m unlikely to have pulled something so specific out of thin air, there are two possibilities: the sample is lost somewhere on my shelves; or I drank it at some point without taking notes or clearing it from my samples database. It’s so wonderful getting old! Anyway, I have for you instead a Glendronach 18, 1991. This was released in 2010 and was from only the third batch of Glendronach’s releases. In those days the mania for this series had not yet set in and it was not difficult to acquire bottles; nor were the prices so high. It was also well before suspicions began to be expressed about the nature of these releases. You may have already seen my post about the question of whether these were/are indeed single casks in the way that most consumers understand the term—if not, you can read it here. Well, as it happens this putative single oloroso cask also yielded an unlikely number of bottles: 760 to be exact; suggesting that this too was a product of a cask or two being re-racked into an oloroso butt for the final phase of the maturation. Has this resulted in flabby whisky? Let’s see. Continue reading →
Is this my first review of a whisky from the Speyside distillery? I believe it is. And I believe it is also the first (and only) whisky I’ve ever tasted from the Speyside distillery—it was only founded in 1990 and its first single malt release was in 1999. My only other exposure to anything related to this distillery is the independent bottler, Scott’s Selection: the Scott of Scott’s Selection, Robert Scott, was Master Blender at the Speyside distillery. I’m not entirely sure but I think Scott’s Selection—which I think is now defunct—was in fact a property of Speyside, which means that they are one of few distilleries that also operate as independent bottlers. Bruichladdich/Murray McDavid and Benromach/Gordon & MacPhail are few of the others that come to mind as similar examples, past and present, though Bladnoch under Raymond Armstrong is probably the nearest analogue. Doubtless there are others (please write in below). The distillery also produces the Drumguish and Cu Dubh brands. Continue reading →
I said I was going to post my write-up of a visit and tour of Tomatin today but I have roughly 37,573 photographs from the day and when I sat down today to make a selection, resize and upload it was all too much. Accordingly, I have punted that to next week and I have another whisky review today. If you are disappointed you can always ask for your money back. Since this was going to have been an all Islay week (with Monday’s Laphroaig, Wednesday’s Bowmore and yesterday’s Kilchoman), I decided to at least be consistent with that. Here, therefore, is a review of a Port Charlotte (Bruichladdich’s peated malt, if you don’t follow this stuff closely). The distillery is, of course, known for a wide range of wine cask finishes, but the fact that they produced this from eau de vie casks (or is it a single cask?) surprised even me. I fear that my jokes from past years that the brain trust at Bruichladdich would eventually release Jägermeister and then septic tank finishes may soon come true. Continue reading →
Let’s make it a week of Islay whiskies. On Monday I had a review of an 18 yo Laphroaig and yesterday I had a review of a 10 yo Bowmore. We have another big drop in age today, all the way down to 3 years old, the legal minimum for Scotch whisky; and we’re also moving from the larger, more established and storied distilleries to a small upstart. Kilchoman, the small Islay farm distillery (which I visited briefly last June), only started distilling in late 2005. I believe the first official whiskies were released in 2009. There were a bunch of cask strength releases in the US in mid-2010. I still have some of at least one of these saved (the Binny’s cask) and will probably get around to reviewing it one of these decades. At around the same time they had begun to release larger vattings at 46%. There were a number of these seasonal releases for at least the first few years—I confess I’ve sort of lost sight of what Kilchoman has been up to in recent years, despite rather liking all the early releases I’d tried. Well, maybe I’ll try to address that.
Meanwhile, here’s a blast from the past. This was put together in a complicated way with a mix of bourbon and sherry casks—a finish may have been involved (I’m too lazy to look it up). Continue reading →
Last month I reviewed the Bowmore 15 “Golden & Elegant”, one of the three age-stated whiskies that make up Bowmore’s recent’ish revamp of their travel-retail line (I guess given how many of the whiskies sold in airports cost more there than they do on the high street the companies feel self-conscious about using the term “duty free”). This 10 yo is the youngest in the line. The name “Dark & Intense”—I assume they named it after me—indicates the different composition of this release. Where the “Golden & Elegant” is a vatting of first-fill bourbon casks, this is a vatting of Spanish oak sherry casks. In theory that should be very good news. Bowmore from sherry casks can be very good indeed and I’ve had some very nice intensely sherried ones of this general age—see this 11yo and this slightly older 13 yo; the official Devil’s Casks 1st Ed. and 2nd Ed.—both also 10 year olds—were pretty good too. Unlike those, or even the Golden & Elegant, however, this is only at 40%. Will it be as good as its 15 yo sibling? Let’s see. Continue reading →