Inchgower 20, 1995 (Hepburn’s Choice for K&L)

I have been accused before of reviewing too many long-gone bottles that were never released in the US to begin with. Accordingly, here is a review of a bottle that was a US exclusive and which is no longer available. You’re welcome!

This Inchgower was selected by K&L in California and was released last year (I think). I don’t really put much stock by K&L’s reviews of their own bottles. Driscoll’s notes on Spirits Journal contain a lot of words that are often used to describe whisky but they very rarely seem to describe the specific whisky he is flogging. I’ve been burned once too often by what seemed like good values based on his gushing. These days, therefore, I wait till trustworthy sources report on bottles they’ve purchased. If this means I miss on the occasional quality bottle which sells out before I get a positive report I trust, so be it. Anyway, in this case the positive report I trust came from Michael K. at Diving for Pearls. Michael really liked it. I opened my bottle a few months ago for one of my local group’s tastings but have only just gotten around to reviewing it*.  Continue reading

Glenfarclas 15

I’ve recently reviewed the Glenfarclas 8, the Glenfarclas 10 and the Glenfarclas 12; here now is my review of the Glenfarclas 15. Like the 8 yo, it is not available in the US. Its status, however, is not as murky as that of the 8 yo: it is a staple of Glenfarclas’ lineup in the UK and Europe. It differs from the other releases in Glenfarclas’ regular age-stated lineup in that it is bottled at 46% abv rather than 40% or 43%. This is apparently because that’s the strength at which George Grant’s grandfather always preferred it. The 15 yo is very popular among whisky geeks, partly because it’s more sherried than its younger siblings, partly because it’s at 46%, and also because it’s dependably good and reasonably priced. Back in the US I tend to hoard my bottles a little jealously as they’re not easy to replace: as the cost of international shipping makes it less of a value, I tend to get my Glenfarclas 15 via friends visiting the UK. Here in London though it’s readily at hand and I’ve been going through this bottle at a rapid rate. So even though I’ve almost drunk the bottle down I’ve not recorded separate notes for different points in its life—as it’s been open just over two weeks. Anyway, let’s get to it. Continue reading

Glenfarclas 12

Back to Glenfarclas. I’ve previously recently reviewed the 8 yo and the 10 yo—I found the first to be passable (78 points) and the second a bit better (80 points). Will the 12 yo, with its bump up to 43% abv, continue the incremental improvement/rise in my ratings? Let’s see. This one, like the 10 yo, can be found easily all over the US.

Glenfarclas 12 (43%; from a bottle split)

Nose: As with the 8 yo and the 10 yo, there’s obvious citrus here (orange again) but this is maltier from the get-go and there’s a milk chocolate/cocoa powder note. Less citrus and more malt at first with a few drops of water but then the fruit comes back strong.

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Bowmore 11, 2000 (Douglas Laing OMC)

A second whisky review this week as today is the fourth anniversary of this blog going live, and I’ve always marked the anniversaries with a review of a Bowmore. My very first review was of the (then) entry-level Bowmore Legend. On March 24, 2014 I reviewed the official 12 yo, in 2015 the official 18 yo, and in 2016 another official release, the Prestonfield House Malt. This year I have an indie Bowmore. This is from Douglas Laing’s Old Malt Cask line and was bottled before the Laing business split, I think. It is from a sherry butt. There are actually two sherry butt OMC Bowmore 11s from 2000 released in November 2011 (as per Whiskybase). While the label on my sample bottle does not specify, I am pretty sure this is from Cask DL 7791; this because the source of my sample is listed as one of the raters for this cask on Whiskybase but not for the other—Jerome, if you’re reading, can you confirm? Well, whichever cask it is, let’s see what this is like.  Continue reading

Glenfarclas 10

Last week I reviewed the Glenfarclas 8—the malt that may or may not be the youngest age-stated malt in their lineup. The confusion stems from the fact that Winesearcher shows it on sale in many places in the EU (it was never available in the US) but Glenfarclas themselves don’t seem to list it on their website. The status of the 10 yo, however, is far clearer. Glenfarclas do not deny its existence on their website and it’s widely available everywhere, including the US. It may then be more accurate to say that this is effectively the entry-level malt in the Glenfarclas portfolio. In Minnesota it can be found in the low $30s but its average price nationally is $46. By the way, if you haven’t done so, you should check out the latest in Michael Kravitz’s annual parsing of production and price trends of Scotch whisky; the final entry in this year’s series lists, among other things, the rate of increase of price of most popular single malts—the Glenfarclas 10’s price has gone up almost 22% in the last 10 years. But what is it like?  Continue reading

Glenfarclas 8

Here’s one for those who complain that I don’t review enough entry-level whisky. That said, I don’t think the Glenfarclas 8 is available in the US. I can’t remember seeing it, at any rate. Then again I haven’t looked for younger Glenfarclas for some time now. For what it’s worth, it doesn’t show up for the US market on Winesearcher either and nor does it seem to be available in the UK. It does seem to be widely available all over Europe and not for very much money. So it’s got that going for it. I’m mostly interested to see the progression from it to the 10 and 12 yo and from there to the 15 yo and 18 yo (this one’s Europe-only too, I think) and the 21 yo. I acquired most of these together in a bottle split some time ago (the 15 yo I’ve had many times before but I’ll probably buy another bottle for regular drinking in London). But let’s start with the 8 yo and see how it goes. I assume that, as with most Glenfarclas, this is from sherry casks of one kind or the other—but I could well be wrong.  Continue reading

Glen Grant 31, 1984 (Cadenhead’s)

Glen Grant 31, 1984, Cadenhead's
Last week I reviewed a bourbon cask Glen Grant that was distilled in 1985 and bottled in 2008. This week I have another Glen Grant from that era. This was distilled a year earlier but was bottled quite a bit later, in 2016 by Cadenhead’s. So, it’s not as untimely a review as the previous. It’s also not from a bourbon cask. Despite these important differences I’m interested to see if any obvious throughlines emerge from these two casks from the mid-1980s that might cause me to revise my skepticism about the notion of “distillery character”. I’m also interested to see how long-aged sherry cask Glen Grant from the mid-1980s compares to long-aged sherry cask Glen Grants from an earlier era—such as this excellent older release from Scott’s Selection.

(Cadenhead’s continues to use the -Glenlivet suffix on a number of their Speyside releases. Is this no longer prohibited?)  Continue reading

Home Blend 35, 1980 (Wilson & Morgan)

Home Blend 35, 1980, Wilson & Morgan
This blended whisky was put out by the Italian bottlers, Wilson & Morgan. I’m not sure how it was made—other than noting sherry cask maturation the label does not specify. Was it one of those rare cases of a grain whisky and a malt whisky being combined at distillation and matured as a blend for the full term? Or was it two separate casks married together at the age of 35? Unless the sherry cask was merely a “finishing” or “marrying” cask I’d expect it to be blended at birth (so to speak), as I’m not sure how common maturing grain whisky in sherry casks would have been in 1980. It’s also the case that they released three separate casks of a 35 yo blend in 2015, all from the 1980 vintage. This might suggest that they were all single casks. I assume they came across these casks in someone’s moldering inventory and snapped them up—Wilson & Morgan don’t seem to have released any other such blends at any rate.. If you know more about the antecedents of these casks please write in below.  Continue reading

Caol Ila, Feis Ile 2009

Caol Ila Feis Ile 2009
This was bottled for Feis Ile, the annual Islay whisky festival, back in 2009. It’s either a 12 or 13 yo and was bottled from a single sherry cask. My understanding is that the whiskies bottled by Caol Ila for Feis Ile are/were all from casks matured on Islay, at least back in the day—the vast majority of Caol Ila’s spirit, in case you’re wondering, is actually tankered off and matured on the mainland (terroir!). For those of us in the US, most of these Feis Ile bottles are out of reach. I’m always happy to see Laphroaig’s fairly priced Cairdeas—I’m more ambivalent about the Ardbegs that have been launched at Feis Ile in recent years. For all the others, however, you have to either go to Feis Ile or look to marked up bottles at auction. Of all of these releases, Lagavulin’s always garners the most interest—and the greatest auction premiums—but there are those who feel that some of Caol Ila’s releases have been on par with them. This 2009 release is particularly lauded. Let’s see what it’s like.  Continue reading

Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition, 2013

Lagavulin Distiller's Edition, 1997-2013
I ended 2016 with a review of a Laphroaig; let’s start 2017 with a review of a Lagavulin. This is the 2013 release of their annual Distiller’s Edition. It comprises malt distilled in 1997, matured for 16 years and then finished for an unspecified period of time in Pedro Ximinez sherry casks. Until the release of the Lagavulin 8 I would have said that officially released Lagavulins were as close to a guarantee of excellence in the Scotch whisky world as you can hope to find; and the Distiller’s Edition has always helped keep that average up. It basically drinks like a more heavily sherried version of the regular 16 yo (dependably excellent in its own right) and is one of the best examples of the marriage of heavy peat and sherry that is widely available—perhaps even the best. I reviewed the 2009 edition three years ago and rather liked it. It’s taken as many years for me to get around to opening this bottle and I can tell you right away that I liked it just as much. It is a liter bottle, purchased in Duty Free (back when good deals on very good whisky were actually available in Duty Free), and I’ve much enjoyed the time it’s taken me to drink it down. And despite being bottled at 43% it has stayed remarkably consistent over the life of the bottle—this review is taken from the bottom quarter. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 18, 1996 (Whisky Import Nederland)

Ben Nevis 18, 1996, WIN
My first review in November was of a 19 yo Ben Nevis, bottled by Master of Malt in their That Boutiquey Whisky Company series. I did not care for it very much. It was a little too spirity and not generally very good evidence for my repeated claim that Ben Nevis may well become the next big thing among whisky geeks, as the prices of current top line distilleries, especially for sherry casks, continue to rise towards and past the roof. I noted of that one that it was frustrating because everything I like about Ben Nevis was obviously there in it but covered by chemical/artificial notes of one kind or the other. I am happy to say that this one does not suffer from any of those problems. It was bottled by Whisky Import Nederland and this is my second bottle. I went through the first at a pretty rapid rate—I also took it to one of my whisky group’s tastings a few months ago, and it was a hit with everyone there as well. It’s from a refill sherry cask but not a very shy one. Let’s get to it. Continue reading

Laphroaig 20, 1996 (TWE “Masterpieces”)

Laphroaig 20, 1996, TWE "Masterpieces"
After a week of bourbon reviews (all Four Roses single barrels: here, here and here) let’s close out the month with single malt whisky. This Laphroaig was bottled by the Whisky Exchange for their annual Whisky Show in October and was apparently a huge hit there. Remaining bottles made it to the website with a single bottle limit per customer. I snagged one before it sold out. Why the fuss? Well, it’s a 20 year old Laphroaig from a sherry cask, and a PX sherry cask at that. (I should say that I have no idea if this was matured full-term in a PX cask or if it finished its life in one—these days in the Scotch industry it’s best not to take anything for granted.) Between the Islay premium, the Laphroaig premium and the sherry bomb premium this was not a bargain bottle—but as a Laphroaig fan it was hard for me to look past it. As I’ve said before, the successful marriage of peat and sherry is one of the greatest things in the whisky universe and Laphroaig in particular stands up to heavy sherry really well. Anyway, let’s get to it.  Continue reading

Aberlour 17 (for the Whisky Exchange)

Aberlour 17, Cask 2371, for the Whisky Exchange
I have not reviewed very many Aberlours on the blog and I certainly have reviewed any in a while—the last one was Batch 45 of their ever popular A’bunadh series, which I wasn’t too excited about. Among whisky geeks the A’bunadh is really where the interest in Aberlour seems to lie. The market for big sherry bombs at high strengths is seemingly endless. Those, of course, have no age statements on them and most are likely quite young (<10 yo). I’ve liked a number of the ones I’ve had over the years but have often found others to be either too hot or too woody or both. Accordingly, I was very interested to see this 17 yo bottled especially for the Whisky Exchange, which seems to essentially be a grown-up A’bunadh. Still from first-fill sherry, at cask strength but at a reasonable abv, and all of 17 years old. This should hopefully give some sense of how this distillate does with heavy sherry over a longer period of time.

Incidentally, even though this is a single cask, and the cask number is specified, the Whisky Exchange don’t specify the year of distillation. Since this was bottled in early 2016, however, it’s probably from 1998.  Continue reading

Clynelish 25, 1984 (SMWS 26.67)

Clynelish 25, 1990, SMWSA
Well, here’s my first whisky review after the apocalypse. A too quick return to business as usual, you might say; but returning to old routines, I’ve had other, more personal reasons to recently learn, is a good way to deal with potentially paralyzing news. Anyway, as I continue to process what this election means and how I should engage with my world in response to it, here’s one of a few reviews that were written in a more innocent time, when I dared believe Sam Wang’s projection of a >99% chance of a Clinton win. We can’t go forward in complacency or denial but we can’t give up on pleasure either. If we do that then Rudy Giuliani wins.

Clynelish 25, 1984 (48.9%; SMWSA 26.67; refill sherry butt; from a sample from a friend)  Continue reading