Springbank 12 CS, Batch 14


After a geographically appropriate review on Wednesday (of a Caol Ila, posted while on Islay), I’m back to commemorating my first trip to Scotland by posting reviews of whiskies from distilleries that I’ve not actually visited or gone very close to. Well, in this case, we will be within 37 miles of Springbank a few hours after this review posts, but we’ll be turning in the other direction to drive back to Glasgow, where we’ll spend one night before returning to London on Saturday and then to Minnesota on Sunday. This has been a wonderful trip and I’ll have more posts about it than you can bear in the weeks to come. Though I did not tour many distilleries I did visit a bunch and have a lot of pictures. I will also have some reports on eating in the parts of Scotland we visited.

Okay, to the whisky! This is the 14th (current?) release of Springbank’s cask strength 12 yo. I’ve previously reviewed the 7th—the review was written in London, where I purchased the bottle and then drank it down at a very rapid clip. Though I don’t note this below it paired really well with all kinds of cheeseContinue reading

Old Pulteney 9, 2006 (Malts of Scotland)


A few hours after this review gets posted I will be driving north from Glasgow into the Highlands. I will not be going as far as Wick (where Pulteney is located), only to the Drumnadrochit area. Still, it feels appropriate to post a review of a northern Highland malt while I’m in the general vicinity. And so here’s a young Old Pulteney. This is unusual in several respects. First, that it’s an independent bottling of Pulteney. Second, that despite being an independent bottling it bears the Old Pulteney name—the distillery’s name is Pulteney; “Old Pulteney” is more like a brand name. Third, it’s from a sherry cask. It’s not that no sherry casks are used in formulating the malts in Pulteney’s regular lineup but it’s not a distillery you think of when you think of sherry bombs. And this is very much a sherry bomb. It’s also very much an alcohol bomb, at almost 60% abv. And it’s a brash youngster too. I can also tell you right off the bat that it’s a lot better than the Cadenhead’s 11 yo I recently reviewed, which was also from 2006. Continue reading

Glenfarclas 21


With this post I complete, as far as I know, a series of reviews of Glenfarclas’ entire basic age-stated range. And it’s a large range. Here are the others, in order of age, if not in order of review: 8 yo, 10 yo, 12 yo, 15 yo, 17 yo, 18 yo, 25 yo, 30 yo and 40 yo. I don’t know if there’s any other distillery that has ever offered such a large range of stops up their maturation ladder—yes, I know the 8 yo and 18 yo weren’t really part of the core range. The 21 yo and 25 yo continue to be available at very reasonable prices relative to the competition—the 21 yo a bit above $100 in many US market and the 25 yo at about $150. Alas, the same can no longer be said about the 30 yo (which never came to the US) and the 40 yo but it’s hard to complain about Glenfarclas in this respect. They’re one of the few Scottish distilleries whose prices seem to have the middle-class whisky enthusiast in mind. The less charitable may note that very few of the releases in their core range ever seem to get very many people excited but not all whisky needs to set off fireworks.  Continue reading

Glenfarclas 18


Let’s get back into age-stated Glenfarclas. For those who came in late: I’ve recently reviewed the 8 yo, the 10 yo, the 12 yo and the 15 yo. I’ve also previously reviewed the 17 yo, the 25 yo, the 30 yo and the 40 yo. This 18 yo and the 21 yo are all that remain (I think) in rounding out the full range of age-stated Glenfarclas from their core range (there are also the far more expensive Family Casks, but I’m not going to be running through them all any time soon). Well, I suppose this 18 yo isn’t part of their core range either—I think it’s actually a Travel Retail bottle, though I’m not sure if it’s available in all markets. And though I don’t know how much this one costs, Travel Retail these days is unfortunately usually a shorter way of saying “expensive but not very good”. But there are always exceptions to every rule. Will this Glenfarclas be one of them? It’s certainly different from most Travel Retail releases in that it has an age statement and doesn’t have a silly name.  Continue reading

Craigellachie 13, 2002 (Malts of Scotland)


There’s an official Craigellachie 13; this isn’t it. This is a 13 yo single sherry cask bottled by the German outfit, Malts of Scotland. The cask in question was a hogshead which means even more wood contact (and the colour would seem to corroborate this). And the abv is an eye-watering 60.5%.

If someone tries to tell you that Craigellachie makes sherried malt in the style of Macallan or Glenfarclas or Glendronach, you might check to see if they’re trying to sell you something. While individual casks might tend in the softer direction of those classic Speyside distilleries (which, of course, command good prices—probably the reason someone trying to sell you on the idea might bring their names up), Craigellachie has traditionally produced a meatier, earthier style of sherried whisky. The better comparison is to Mortlach. Such, for example, was this 20 yo, also bottled by Malts of Scotland, and this 18 yo bottled under the Hepburn’s Choice label for K&L. And such is this 13 yo—I opened the bottle for one of my local group’s tastings and drank it down pretty fast.  Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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