Springbank 10, House & Tree Label


This Springbank was released for the German market in the early/mid 1990s. It is one of a few bottles released with the so-called “House & Tree” label. Whiskybase has records of a NAS House & Tree label for the French market that was a release of 251 bottles. Serge has a review of another NAS House & Tree label for the German market (which may or may not be this one, a release of 319 bottles). This made me think that the label on this sample was mistaken about the age statement, and so I checked with the source of the sample, the Notorious Pat T. He sent me pictures of the bottle this sample came from and I can confirm that the bottle has a smaller label around the neck with the age statement and that the back specifies that it was bottle 43 of a release of 294 bottles, possibly for Krüger’s Whiskygalerie. So much confusion and none of it, frankly, very interesting. I say this after having made you read a paragraph about it. You’re welcome. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 18, 1996 (Liquid Treasures)


My recent batting average with Ben Nevis is very high. I can’t remember the last one I disliked and most have been very good indeed; in particular a few that were distilled in 1996 (for example, this, this and this). That’s good news because this is a Ben Nevis, 1996 too. Therefore, as per science, this is likely to be very good. Let’s see if that’s the case.

Ben Nevis 18, 1996 (50.7%; Liquid Treasures; bourbon hogshead; from my own bottle)

Nose: Big fruit (sweet citrus mixed in with tinned pineapple and a bit of peach) along with a big malty note as well as some cocoa. In other words, very Ben Nevis. The malt gets yeastier as it sits and some tingling oak emerges as well; the fruit is all still here though. Sweeter and more floral with a few drops of water. Continue reading

Glenlossie 29, 1978 (Gordon & MacPhail)


Glenlossie is the very definition of a workhorse distillery producing malt for Diageo’s blends; and in their case I don’t believe there even is a mainline blend they are closely associated with. There is no official release of their whisky as single malt, save for the occasional Flora & Fauna bottle (I am still fuzzy on the currency of that series). I have had very little Glenlossie in my time and have reviewed even less; only two others, in fact (this 10 yo and this 22 yo). Which means that this is without a doubt the oldest Glenlossie I’ve ever had (though in a few weeks it may not hold this title anymore). I said rude things about Auchentoshan last week—noting that it was one of the distilleries that seemed to give the lie to my belief that every distillery is capable of producing excellent casks—and it must be said that the few Glenlossies I’ve had have not inspired much confidence in that direction either. Will this much older iteration, distilled in the 1970s, confirm my optimism? I hope so. Continue reading

Caol Ila 10 (Gordon & MacPhail)


After a month of reviews of un-sherried whiskies—well, the Glen Scotia 14 probably had some sherry casks in the mix—let’s end with one from refill sherry casks. This is a 10 yo Caol Ila released in Gordon & MacPhail’s Connoisseurs Choice series at some point after the casks in that series started being bottled at 46% with new packaging. I think this was released in the mid-2010s, which would, I think, have been not too long after the revamping of the line. I almost always enjoy Caol Ila from sherry casks—and have a very good memory of this earlier G&M 10 yo from refill sherry casks (though that was in their old Cask Strength line). And I quite liked as well this G&M 10 yo from 2006 (also cask strength but in the new livery for their Cask Strength line). That latter one was from first-fill casks though. Well, as long as it’s better than the last sherried Caol Ila I reviewed—this sherry finished 7 yo that was an exclusive for K&L—I’ll be happy. Let’s see if that proves to be the case. Continue reading

Auchentoshan 15, 1997 (Old Malt Cask)


I often say that every distillery is capable of producing high quality malt. But I have to admit that Auchentoshan is one of the distilleries that really tests my faith in this proposition. In my years of drinking single malt whisky I have not yet come across an official Auchentoshan that I have wanted to purchase or even drink again; and, more damningly, I have not also come across any indie releases that have convinced me that owners Morrison Bowmore have been blending quality casks away, whether in the official vattings or in the group’s blends. I’m not denying the possibility that they exist; merely noting that I have not yet randomly encountered one. Of the few I have reviewed, I liked this 23 yo from Archives the best and I gave that 86 points. But hope springs eternal and perhaps this will be the one that rewards my faith. Like some of the other whiskies I’ve been reviewing recently it too was a release from a long time ago—I’ve been sitting on this sample too for a while. Well, let’s get to it now. Continue reading

Glen Scotia 14, 2004 Release


Here is the Glen Scotia 14 that I mentioned when I reviewed the Glen Scotia 12 last October. I’m finally drinking my sample hoard down and have begun to make deep inroads into the back catalog. And I mean “back catalog” quite literally: many of the samples I’ve been reviewing of late are from sample swaps from a long time ago: I placed them on my sample shelves and they got obscured by others that came in after them. This one, in fact, might be from a swap from 2011 or so. I received two 1 oz samples of this. My spreadsheet tells me I drank one in 2012 and gave it 85 points. And then I forgot about the other ounce. Which is good since I get to formally review it now. Don’t worry, it’s been in a tightly-sealed, parafilm-wrapped bottle in a cold basement the whole time and the fill-level hasn’t dropped at all. The whisky inside is even older still. As the label notes, the bottling year was 2004. A long way away from the current official Glen Scotia releases—I’m not even sure what their range looks like now—and so unlikely to be any kind of guide. But it’s always fun to drink whiskies released at a time when distilleries were sitting on deep stocks. Let’s see what this one was like. Continue reading

Bunnahabhain 1997-2010 (Murray McDavid)


Okay after two reviews of things that are not whisky, let’s get back to whisky. But this might be barely whisky. It’s a Murray McDavid red wine-bothered Bunnahabhain, and Murray McDavid wine-bothered anything is rarely a good idea (see, for example, this Bowmore from red wine casks and also this Bowmore from white wine casks). The only sign of hope is that this is one of those peated 1997 Bunnahabhains and that kind of heavy, organic peat (as opposed to Bowmore’s more delicate, floral variety) can theoretically stand up more successfully to the depredations of a red wine finish. Will that be the case here though? Let’s see.

This is another sample that I acquired a long time ago—from Jordan of Chemistry of the Cocktail—and am only getting around to opening now. Continue reading

Laphroaig 16, Retro Label (The Whisky Exchange)


Let’s keep the run of bourbon cask reviews going but add one that’s heavily peated. This Laphroaig was bottled for the Whisky Exchange’s annual Whisky Show in 2015 and I purchased it soon after when bottles that survived the show went on sale. It has an attractive “retro” label. I think they put out two of these labels in different years; I think I’ve seen a reference to an 18 yo as well. Well, whether as a mark of its retro identity or not, the label does not specify year of distillation. But given the 2015 bottling I’d hazard that there’s a very good chance it was distilled in 1998. Well, the fact is I’ve enjoyed almost all the Laphroaigs I’ve had from the late 1990s distillations a great deal; particularly those that have expressed an excellent fruity quality along with the signature smoke and phenols. Will this be another such cask (assuming it was indeed a single cask)? Well, there’s only one way to find out. Continue reading

Glendronach 13, 1990 (Whisky Galore)


Speaking of independent bottlers allowing us to experience malts that are outside the profile a distillery is officially associated with, and following Monday’s bourbon cask Aberlour, here is a Glendronach from a bourbon cask. It was bottled in the Whisky Galore series that Duncan Taylor put out through the mid-2000s. Usually (always?) bottled at 46% and without added colour or chill-filtration, this label put out a lot of high quality malt at highly reasonable prices. The name was changed later to NC2. As the whisky loch of the 1980s dried up the volume of quality whisky available at reasonable prices dropped dramatically across the board and the current incarnation of Duncan Taylor’s affordable line, Battlehill (often sold at Total Wine in the US) seems to offer fewer hidden treasures. Glendronach itself is, of course, highly identified with sherry cask whisky, especially the alleged “single casks” they began to put out in large numbers in the late 2000s and on. What does their whisky taste like when not from a sherry cask? Well, the results from this virgin oak cask were not encouraging, but virgin oak is a very different beast from ex-bourbon wood. Let’s see what this one is like. Continue reading

Aberlour 26, 1989 (Cooper’s Gold)


Independent bottlers perform many services to whisky aficionados. First and foremost they are usually the only or major sources of single malt releases from workhorse distilleries whose owners all or most of their stock for blends. And for distilleries that do have single malt ranges of their own they offer the opportunity to taste single cask releases and malts at ages other than those at which the official releases are bottled. Finally, they sometimes offer the opportunity to taste expressions of a distillery’s malt that are outside the distillery’s official profile. This is particularly true of distilleries that are associated with sherry cask whiskies. Be it Highland Park or in this case, Aberlour, the independents have long been either the only or the only regular sources of opportunities to see what these distillates are like when matured in ex-bourbon casks. I am a big fan in general of bourbon cask Aberlour (see, for example, this and this) and so when the opportunity arose to purchase this 26 yo at a reasonable price at auction in the UK, I took it. I know nothing about this particular bottler. In fact, the only reference to Cooper’s Gold on Whiskybase is to this cask. And it appears likely that this is a cask that was bottled for a private individual who then decided to sell some of the bottles on. If you know more about the provenance of this release, do write in below. Continue reading

Caol Ila 8, 2010 (Old Particular)


Let’s keep the bourbon cask train rolling but with a bit of peat added to the mix. I acquired a sample of this Caol Ila 8 as part of a split of a few bottles of young Caol Ila last year. I’ve already reviewed a 7yo bottled for K&L. That one was a sherry finish and I thought it was just about decent. This one was bottled in 2019 for Douglas Laing’s Old Particular label. As it happens, there was another Caol Ila 8, 2010 bottled by Old Particular for K&L the previous year (I’ve not had that one). This one appears to have been part of a series called “The Elements”, representing “Earth”. Not sure what the other distilleries/releases in this series were–Air? Water? Fire? Or am I thinking of The Last Airbender? Will this actually have any earthy qualities? I tend to associate Caol Ila more with the ocean. Let’s see how it turns out. My opinion of the K&L 7 yo  and this elemental business notwithstanding, Caol Ila is usually a very reliable malt.  Continue reading

Glen Spey 12, 1999 (Blackadder)


It has been almost three years since my last Glen Spey review and in fact this is only my fourth-ever Glen Spey review. Of three I’ve previously reviewed the only one I liked a lot was the 21 yo that was part of Diageo’s special release slate back when some of the whiskies in their special release slate were priced reasonably—in other words, ten years ago. The other two were solid but unremarkable. I’m hoping this one will even the balance. Let’s see if that proves to be the case.

Glen Spey 12, 1999 (59.8%; Blackadder; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: A big fruity wave off the top (apples mostly, some pear too) along with some mild, toasted oak. Very nice indeed. Maltier as it sits and some citrus emerges to join the orchard fruit. With more time it’s fruitier still—more citrus now and some muskier notes peeping through too (pineapple). A few drops of water seem to mute things a bit—let’s see if it wakes up again with some more air. Continue reading

Balblair 2005, First Release


In the second half of April I went on a long run of reviews of whiskies from sherry casks. Let’s reset the balance a bit in May with a run of reviews of whiskies from bourbon casks. First up is a Balblair 2005. This is the first release. I don’t actually know what that means. I think you have to enroll in special seminars to understand how Balblair’s vintage releases work. Me, I am a simple man and do not dare aspire to such understanding. Now you may be thinking that even I cannot be so simple as to not understand that this must simply be the first release of Balblair’s 2005 vintage. But before you judge me keep in mind that different editions of the first and second releases of Balblair 1999 were released in the same years and that it is entirely possible—nay, likely—that different editions of the same releases were of different ages. Whose head’s hurting now? Let’s agree to not talk about this anymore. At least with changes with Balblair’s lineup this confusion is no longer an issue: they scrapped the vintage releases last year and moved to regular age-stated releases. On the other hand, most of Balblair’s lineup is now unaffordable. Isn’t the world of whisky so fun and not at all alienating? Continue reading

Bunnahabain 10, 1999 (Prime Malt)

One last peated-sherried malt to close out the month. This one is unlike the others I’ve reviewed this month. For one thing it’s not from a distillery known for its peated malt, at least not at the time at which this was distilled, back in 1999. While Bunnahabhain now puts out official releases of peated malt, independent bottlers used to be the only sources of peated Bunnahabhain from this era. I’ve had a few 1997s that were peated (see here, here and here) but this will be my first 1999, I think. This is also not a heavily sherried malt—it’s from a refill sherry cask and the colour of the whisky suggests it was a long way from being a first-fill cask. The bottler too has no real reputation. In fact, I’m still not sure who was behind Prime Malt which put out a number of releases in the US in the 2000s. I was under the impression that Duncan Taylor were the source but Whiskybase lists the bottler as Gordon Bonding and I have no idea who they are/were. If you know more about them please write in below. In the meantime let’s get to this whisky. Continue reading

Talisker 14, 1994, “Manager’s Choice”


The run of reviews of peated whiskies from sherry casks to end the month continues with this Talisker. It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a Talisker—the last one was the Game of Thrones release which I wrote up just over a year ago. And it’s been a while since I’ve felt very positively about the distillery whose recent releases have been on the cynical side. The whisky I’m reviewing today, however, is a different story. Which is not to say that people felt very positive about all aspects of it when it was released either. It was part of Diageo’s Manager’s Choice series which featured not very old whiskies at very high prices. With hindsight that series probably set the tone for Diageo’s special release pricing in the decade that followed. Which is not to say that the whiskies released in it weren’t good. My first go at this one was at one of my friend Rich’s tastings—during which I made the decision to pay the most I’ve ever paid for a teenaged whisky. But I’m not reviewing that bottle right now—it’s still closed. I did go to open it but in the process discovered this sample which I acquired in the first swap I did with Rich more than seven years ago. It may even have been drawn from the bottle I got a taste of a few years later. Here are my notes. Continue reading

Laphroaig 21, 1990 (Silver Seal)


Last week I reviewed a Laphroaig 21, 1998 bottled recently by the Whisky Exchange that I thought was amazing. Here now is another Laphroaig 21. This was distilled in 1990 and bottled in 2012 by the well-regarded Italian outfit, Silver Seal. I nabbed a bottle from Whiskybase when it was released. Even with the much higher exchange rate of the time it ran me less than $150. Those were the days etc. After almost 8 years on my shelves I opened this last week to pair with the TWE cask. When I tried it alongside that one it felt a bit overshadowed and so I decide to taste it a few more times and take notes on it by itself so it wouldn’t suffer unfairly by juxtaposition. Here now are those notes as the bottle has come down to the 3/4 full mark.

Laphroaig 21, 1990 (57.7%; Silver Seal; sherry cask #10839; from my own bottle)

Nose: Big sherry here too but much more organic than the TWE cask. There’s toffee and citrus peel and cocoa but floating above it is something rotting in wet undergrowth (I know it doesn’t sound appetizing but it works). Definitely a dose of savoury sulphur here. Dry woodsmoke running through it all. Gets saltier as it sits (soy sauce) and earthier (dried shiitakes) and the decomposing rodent note subsides. A few drops of water push the sulphur back almost entirely and emphasize sweeter biscuity notes along with pipe tobacco. Continue reading

Ledaig 11, 2008 (The Whisky Barrel)


Yesterday I had a review of an excellent teenaged Ledaig from a sherry cask. That was a 13 yo bottled by the Whisky Exchange. Today I have a review of another Ledaig from a sherry cask. This one is a couple of years younger and was an exclusive from another store, the Whisky Barrel. I reviewed three of the Whisky Barrel’s other recent exclusives in March. Like two of those—a 10 yo Balblair and a 10 yo Bunnahabhain—this too is from a first-fill oloroso hogshead. I’m not sure how they got their hands on all these first-fill oloroso hogsheads from different distilleries at the same time. It wouldn’t surprise me if these are all cases of re-racked “single casks” (a la Glendronach) but that’s just speculation. Anyway, howsoever it is that these were matured, I was not a huge fan of the Balblair but liked the Bunnahabhain a lot more. Here’s hoping that this Ledaig will be at least as good as that Bunnahabhain even if it doesn’t quite reach the heights of yesterday’s Whisky Exchange release. Let’s see. Continue reading