Springbank 15, 2017 Release


On Wednesday I posted a review of a recent release of the Highland Park 12. Here now is a review of the 2017 release of another whisky that I used to enjoy a lot but have inconceivably neglected since my review in 2013 of a bottle from the 2010 release: the Springbank 15. Like the Highland Park 12, this bottle too has been redesigned. But if in the case of the Highland Park 12 what used to be a very unassuming bottle has been completely re-designed (more than once) to its current etched form, all that’s changed in the case of the Springbnk 15 is the label. And I am probably not alone in thinking that it is a change for the uglier rather than the prettier. Whatever else they’re spending their time and money on at the home base in Campbeltown, I’m not sure that they’re spending a lot of either on packaging design. But how about what’s inside the bottle? Has it too changed as the Highland Park 12 has? Read on to find out.  Continue reading

Highland Park 12, Viking Honour


The Highland Park 12 was one of the first whiskies I fell in love with when I started in on single malt whisky. Of course, that was many years and many bottle designs ago. Even though I have included it on both editions of my “Well-Rounded Single Malt Bar” lists, I have to admit that I had lost touch with it for a few years now. I reviewed it in 2014 back before the distillery had doubled down on its alleged Viking heritage (see the discussion in the comments on my write-up of my visit to the distillery last June to see how much this pivot bothers some people). Since then it’s been relaunched in a fancy new bottle with a slightly new name: it’s now the Viking Honour. I guess we have the honour of the Vikings to thank for the preservation of the age statement. Well, okay, that’s a cheap shot: while the distillery has indeed launched a number of NAS whiskies with Viking names it must be said that they’ve preserved their age-stated line and even delivered the occasional age-stated one-off (see the Full Volume). Anyway, I purchased this bottle on sale last year and opened it for a charity auction tasting friends asked me to host last month. I was curious to see what I would make of it—there’s been a lot of talk online about how it has gone completely downhill. Of course, with distilleries like Highland Park it is hard to separate people’s views of the whiskies from their views of their marketing. I liked my first pour at the event but wasn’t paying very close attention. I am now.  Continue reading

Ledaig 11, “Time IV” (The Whisky Exchange)


Okay, after an Armagnac, a Cognac, and a rum, let’s get back to whisky. This 11 yo whisky was released by the Whisky Exchange in a series they called Time. I’ve previously reviewed two of the other releases from this series: a Benrinnes 20 and a “Family Owned Distillery” 15 (probably a Glenfarclas). I was intrigued by the other releases as well but didn’t get around to ordering them before they sold out/TWE stopped shipping to Minnesota. Anyway, I liked both of the others I did buy a lot, and I can tell you the streak continued with this Ledaig. It took me a long time to get around to it—I eventually opened it as a sparring partner with a stupidly sherried Ledaig (also 11 years old and also from the Whisky Exchange). That one had the maximum sherry thing going on with the peat but this bourbon cask whisky held its own quite well. I drank it down quite quickly after opening it. Here now are the particulars.  Continue reading

Ben Nevis 20, 1997 (Berry Bros. & Rudd)


The last indie Ben Nevis I reviewed was excellent—this Archives 27 yo. It featured everything that has made Ben Nevis an unlikely hero in recent years: loads of fruit, malt and nut, and those other savoury, slightly funky notes that make Ben Nevis so unique. Of course, you don’t have to go to older Ben Nevis for these pleasures. The recent official 10 yo is also excellent (though I am not sure what its current status is). This cask from Berry Bros. & Rudd more or less splits the age difference between those two; will it be in line with those two? Or will it be closer to the 19 yo from Montgomerie’s that I reviewed in between those two and which was distilled in the same year? Let’s see.

Ben Nevis 20, 1997 (54.6%; Berry Bros. & Rudd; cask 85; from a bottle split)

Nose: Malty and juicy (orange juice) with a bitter edge that’s partly oak and partly plastic. As it sits the citrus expands and the bitter note moves more in the direction of bitter orange and zest. Water pushes the bitter notes back and pulls out brighter citrus.  Continue reading

Glenmorangie, The Taghta


Let’s do another Glenmorangie. Alas, it’s another NAS whisky—Glenmorangie have released so many of them. Unlike the Tayne, the Taghta is not part of their current lineup. It was a limited edition released a few years ago and was said to be a crowd-sourced whisky with all aspects of the selection of the whisky apparently having been voted on (“Taghta” is apparently Gaelic for “chosen”). From various sherry/wine finishes a Manzanilla finish was selected by whoever did the voting. I’ve read some reports that indicate that this is the regular 10 yo plus a finish but there’s no official word to that effect. I guess the crowd that selected it didn’t get a say in the age. Unlike the Tayne, it’s at 46%, so it’s at least got that going for it. Anyway, let’s see what it’s like.

Continue reading

Glenmorangie, The Tayne


Yesterday I posted a review of a whisky available only in India, a sample of which I acquired while in Delhi last month but which I did not drink there: Amrut Amaze. Today I have for you a review of a whisky available worldwide—though mostly (only?) in duty-free shops in airports—that I did in fact drink and review in Delhi: Glenmorangie’s The Tayne. A bottle of this was in my father’s bar and I tasted it on a couple of occasions. I failed to photograph it, however, and after returning asked my parents to take a picture and WhatsApp it to me. What you see alongside is the best of many pictures they sent me. It appears to be of a full bottle which means my father had more than one hanging around. Okay, now that I’m done with the fascinating family anecdote, what can I tell you about the antecedents of the whisky itself? Not very much, I’m afraid. I have no idea why it is called “The Tayne” and I am reluctant to find out as it may make me feel bad about laughing to myself sophomorically every time I think of it as Glenmorangie, The Taint. I can tell you that it is a NAS whisky that has been “finished” in Amontillado casks. How long the original maturation lasted and how long the finish, I do not know. But I can tell you what I thought of it.  Continue reading

Laphroaig 18, 1998 (Cadenhead)


Another Islay whisky. This Laphroaig 18 was bottled in 2017 by Cadenhead. Like the 12 yo OMC release I recently reviewed it is from a bourbon cask. I was expecting to like that younger cask a lot but was a little underwhelmed by its unidimensional, heavy smoke. Will this 18 yo bear out my usual confidence in teenaged ex-bourbon Laphroaig? Let’s see.

Laphroaig 18, 1998 (55.9%; Cadenhead; bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Ah yes, this is the Laphroaig I love—big phenolic smoke but interlaced with acidic fruit (lime) and a bit of cereal. The smoke is pungent but the fruit is unmistakable too (with time there’s pear and melon as well). With more time some vanilla pops up too but it’s not obtrusive. Water brings the acid out to the front, pulls out a bit more of the vanilla; and there’s a briny, hammy quality to it too now.  Continue reading

Bowmore 22, 1996, Cask 17078 (OMC 20th Anniv. Release)


On Monday I posted a review of one of two Bowmore 22, 1996s released by Hunter Laing to mark the 20th anniversary of the Old Malt Cask line. I really liked that one. Here now is my review of the second which I hope I will like at least as much. It is also from an ex-bourbon cask.

This is the last of my OMC 20th anniversary reviews—if anyone has any first-hand reports on any of the others released in the series, please write in below. I’m particularly interested in those that are still available: as you know I don’t approve of talk of whiskies that are not currently available. Thanks in advance.

Bowmore 22, 1996 (50%; OMC 20th Anniversary; cask 17078; from a bottle split)

Nose: Milder than the sibling cask with the floral notes, a bit of cream and a bit of smoke. With a few drops of water it’s a bit maltier and muskier but not very much more expressive.  Continue reading

Bowmore 22, 1996, Cask 17091 (Old Malt Cask 20th Anniv. Release)


Another week, another whisky released to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Old Malt Cask line, once part of the Douglas Laing portfolio, and now owned by the Hunter Laing company that spun off from it. (I still cluster all of these whiskies under the “Douglas Laing” umbrella in my categorization but that’s because it’s too much of a pain to go back and re-categorize whiskies released under labels that were once Douglas Laing lines and are now Hunter Laing). There seem to have been a rather large number of releases in the OMC 20 anniversary series, but I only have two left from the bottle split I went in on. Following last week’s Arran 21, Laphroaig 12 and Glen Grant 27, my last reviews of this series will be of two Bowmores. Each is 22 years old and distilled in 1996, matured in a hogshead and bottled at the classic 50% of the OMC line. As bourbon cask Bowmore of this age is usually very good indeed, I’m hoping for good things.  Continue reading

Glen Grant 27, 1991 (Old Malt Cask, 20th Anniv. Release)


Let’s keep the run of OMC 20th anniversary releases going. As you may recall, I really liked the Arran 21 and thought the Laphroaig 12 was a bit too mono-dimensional. Here now is a Glen Grant 27, the oldest of the bottles in the split I went in on. (I don’t really know what the complete line-up of these releases was—it’s possible there were others that were even older). I’m a big fan of older Glen Grant and a big fan of older, sherried Glen Grant—both of which this is. In theory, at least, this has every chance of being my cup of tea. Let’s see if that turns out to be the case.

Glen Grant 27, 1991 (50%; Old Malt Cask, 20th Anniv. Release; sherry cask 17079; from a bottle split)

Nose: The first impression is of oak, not tannic, a little mentholated; past it come sweeter notes of red fruit (raspberries) and vanilla. On the second sniff there’s some citrus (orange). With more time there’s some milk chocolate and some of the leafy stuff from the palate. With a few drops of water the fruit expands nicely: apricot now to go with the orange.  Continue reading

Laphroaig 12, 2006 (Old Malt Cask, 20th Anniv. Release)


Here’s the next whisky from the set of bottle splits I got in on of Hunter Laing’s releases to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Old Malt Cask label. I very much liked yesterday’s Arran 21, 1997, and all signs point to a strong likelihood that I will like this one a lot as well. Laphroaig is my favourite distillery and I have noted on many an occasion that my general feeling is that the sweet spot of Laphroaig is in ex-bourbon casks aged for 10-15 years. Let’s see if that holds up.

Laphroaig 12, 2006 (50%; Old Malt Cask 20th Anniv. Release; cask 17094; from a bottle split)

Nose: A big wave of peat and smoke with mezcal’ish notes mixed with the phenolic (Dettol). Not much of the cereal note that I like a lot in most bourbon cask Laphroaigs of this age. On the second sniff those mezcal’ish notes have taken a rubbery turn (rubber bands) and the smoke has some bitter, ashy edges. A couple of drops of water pull out faint musky notes.  Continue reading

Arran 21, 1997 (Old Malt Cask, 20th Anniv. Release)


Douglas Laing, the originators of the Old Malt Cask label, was established in 1948. I believe that for a long time their business was blends. I’m not sure if the Old Malt Cask line was their first foray into independent bottling of single malt whiskies but when I got into single malt whisky in a big way in the mid-late 2000s, it was a very established series with a very good reputation. You could have convinced me it had been around forever. As it happens, it was only introduced in 1998. At some point in the last few years the company split into two and the Old Malt Cask and Old & Rare labels went with the new Hunter Laing company (they also own the First Editions, Hepburn’s Choice and Sovereign labels). The Old Malt Cask packaging has remained the same, with the iconic hexagonal box and the whiskies are still bottled at 50%. Anyway, to mark the 20th anniversary of the label the company put out a number of releases last year, and through bottle splits I acquired a few of these. Over the next week and a half I’m going to go through them. I’m going to begin with this Arran 21. I actually purchased this bottle before tasting my sample, on account of a glowing review by Matt G. of Whisky Musings. Thankfully, I did like it a lot when I did try it and I’ve also been enjoying the bottle, which I opened right away. Here are my notes.  Continue reading

Balblair 1999-2016, 2nd Ed.


Once upon a time the most confusing whisky on the market was official Glenrothes. Their vintage releases had labels that noted the year of distillation and also the date on which the whisky was said to have been not bottled but “checked”. I don’t know if anyone quite understood what that meant. Then arrived Kilkerran’s Work in Progress series, with the different releases marked not by a clear year of release or number but by differences in label colour, some of which were very subtle indeed. Glenrothes has now gotten into the regular age stated game but Balblair is carrying the torch for confusing vintage releases. In their case both distillation and bottling years are clearly marked but there are multiple releases of editions marked by the same distillation year. Thus the 1999 Second Edition has come out in 2014, 2015, 2016, while the 1999 First Edition has come out in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and now 2018 (some of those seemingly as Travel Retail exclusives). In case you’re wondering if the two editions can be distinguished by cask type, they all seem to be from a mix of sherry and bourbon casks. And nor is it clear what it means for the same edition to be released in different years. This is the kind of thing that drives people to drink. And so I might as well pour this sample.  Continue reading

Compass Box Flaming Heart, 15th Anniversary


I believe this was the 5th edition of Compass Box’s Flaming Heart, released in 2015 to commemorate their 15th anniversary. I’ve had earlier editions of Flaming Heart and quite enjoyed them—I still have one unopened bottle; not sure which release it is, but it was purchased in 2012. Anyway, this edition is said to contain 27.1% 30 yo Caol Ila from a refill bourbon hogshead, 24.1% 20 yo Clynelish from a rejuvenated bourbon hogshead, 38.5% 14 yo Caol Ila from a refill ex-bourbon hoghshead and 10.3% of a 7 yo blend of Highland malts from Clynelish, Teaninich and Dailuaine that came out of some cask with French oak involvement. So officially this is 7 yo whisky for $140 (the price at release) and don’t let the fancy decimal points distract you from that. I kid, I kid: they could easily have left out that 10.3% and asked for even more money for this. That said, I’m not quite as enamoured of Compass Box’s whiskies as many whisky geeks. As I’ve said before, I can never quite shake the feeling that their bespoke presentation and ability to speak in the language of whisky geeks has a lot to do with their reception. That said, I did like the 10th anniversary Peat Monster a lot and I hope this will be in that vein. Let’s see.  Continue reading