This week’s theme has been official distillery releases of sherry-bothered whiskies. Monday’s review (of the 2021 release of the Springbank 18) and Wednesday’s review (of the 2021 release of the Glenallachie 12) were both of whiskies that had sherry cask-matured whisky in them but were not full-on sherry maturations. They were also not single casks. The last whisky of the week is a single cask and it is single PX cask. Or so the label says. Of course, this is a Glendronach single cask from the Billy Walker era. I took a side swipe at this in the intro to the Glenallachie 12 on Wednesday, but in case you don’t know, and didn’t follow the link then, the Glendronach “single casks” of that era were neither always single casks—as most people understand the term—nor always matured only in the cask type marked on the label. As to whether that’s true of this PX puncheon that was bottled for the Whisky Exchange in 2013, I’m not sure. My early pours from the bottle didn’t blow me away but they also didn’t come across as indicating an attempt to dress up tired whisky with a PX cask finish. The bottle has now been open for a week or so. Let’s see what some air in it has done for the whisky. Continue reading
Glenallachie, or The GlenAllachie, as they style themselves, is another of the Scottish distilleries I have very little experience of. I’ve only reviewed one other—this 22 yo bottled by/for Whiskybase. It is a young distillery—only built in 1967—and is also one of the few independent distilleries left in Scotland. Mothballed in 1985, it was purchased in 1989 by Campbell Distillers, who in turn later became part of Pernod Ricard’s holding. In 2017 it was purchased by a group including Billy Walker, ex of Glendronach. The following year the distillery released a new core range, featuring 10, 12, 18 and 25 yo whiskies. They’ve since added 8, 15, 21 and 30 yo expressions to that lineup. Good on them for not going the NAS route as so many have done. They’ve not as yet released any single cask whiskies—as far as I know—which means we might have to wait a while to find out if in the move from Glendronach to Glenallachie, Billy Walker’s understanding of what the term “single cask” means has undergone any development. At any rate, I am interested to see what this 12 yo is like. My understanding is it is put together as a vatting of ex-oloroso, PX and virgin oak-matured spirit. An unusual combo, to be sure. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
Having spent a week in October reviewing whiskies from Kilkerran/Glengyle, let’s close the month out with a whisky from the big boy on the Campbeltown block: Springbank. But as a month finishes, a week begins, and so let’s make this the first whisky of the week with sherry involvement. Now, the Springbank 18’s cask composition has varied a fair bit over the last decade or so. In most years there’s been a decent amount of sherry casks in the mix. In 2016 it was 80% sherry, 20% bourbon; in 2017 the ratio shifted to 60-40; in 2020 it was 55-45 and in 2021, 50-50 sherry and bourbon. Contrariwise, in 2015 and 2018 it was all ex-bourbon and in 2019 it was apparently 88% bourbon and 12% port. Meanwhile it appears the 2022 release (not yet in the US, I don’t think) is 65% bourbon and 35% sherry. (All this info, by the way, is pulled from the Whiskybase listings for Springbank 18.) Well, the most recent Springbank 18 I’ve reviewed was from the sherry-heavy 2016 release. I’ve not kept up with it since as in the intervening period—the whisky world having gone crazy—Springbank’s whiskies have become heavily allocated in the US. It was a major achievement finding a few bottles of the 2021 Springbank 10 this spring and when I saw that one of the stores I got those from had the 18 yo as well, I couldn’t resist it despite the high price tag. My first impressions were not super positive but the bottle’s come on nicely since then. Here now are my notes. Continue reading
This week of sherry cask reviews began with a 6 yo old Amrut on Monday and continued with an 11 yo Aberlour on Wednesday. Let’s end now with a 15 yo Craigellachie. This was bottled by Old Particular for K&L in California—I think I might only have one or maybe two samples left to still review from the big split I went in on of their 2021/22 casks. Anyway, sherry cask Craigellachie can be a very good thing indeed—the savoury character of the distillate holds up well to and, indeed, complements sherry cask maturation. So I thought, for example, of the last single sherry cask of Craigellachie I reviewed (an official distillery release for the US market). That said, I was not quite as impressed by the one before that: a 14 yo bottled by, Hepburn’s Choice—like Old Particular, another Laing label—for, yes, K&L. Then, again, I very much liked the one I reviewed before that one: a 16 yo also bottled by Old Particular for K&L. Let’s hope this one is in that vein. Continue reading
The week in sherry cask reviews began on Monday with a 6 yo Amrut. here now is an Aberlour that is almost twice as old and was matured in an oloroso cask. This was a cask available exclusively at the distillery earlier this year. There was also a bourbon cask. That was also 11 years old and bottled at the same strength—which seeming coincidence suggests these may not actually be bottled at cask strength. Aberlour distillery exclusives are not something you can count on purchasing if you visit the distillery. My old-time whisky readers—if more than one or two still remain—will remember my bemoaning the lack of any exclusives when I visited the distillery in 2018 (though I did enjoy the tour itself). This one, alas, was not purchased in person by me—I’ve not managed to get back to Scotland since 2018 (though I do have dreams of doing so in 2023). I was. however, pleased to have an opportunity to try it via a bottle split. It’s been a while since I’ve tried a heavily sherried Aberlour and so I am looking forward to it. Continue reading
After a week of reviews of whiskies from one distillery (Kilkerran: here, here and here) and before that a week of rums (here, here and here), let’s do a week of reviews of whiskies from three different distilleries. The connecting thread this week will be sherry cask maturation and we’ll take them in order of increasing age. First up, a 6 yo Amrut that was bottled for K&L in California. I liked the last Amrut I tried that was bottled for an American store very much indeed. That seven years old was triple-distilled and matured in bourbon casks (bottled for Spec’s in Texas) and so this is not likely to have very much in common with it. I have had other sherry cask Amruts before, though, that I have liked very much—not least the regular release Intermediate Sherry (is it still a regular release?)—and so I am hopeful that this will be good too. Truth be told, I’m not sure I’ve ever had an Amrut that wasn’t at least quite good (and I’m too lazy to look up my scores). Okay, let’s get to it. Continue reading
Following a week of Kilchoman and a week of Jamaican rum, let’s do a week of Kilkerran. As you may know, Kilkerran is not the name of a distillery but the brand of whisky produced at the Glengyle distillery in Campbeltown. (See here for why the whisky produced there is sold under the name Kilkerran and not Glengyle.) Glengyle is owned by the same people who own Springbank and made in much the same way. Or at least so I assume as I find a lot in common between the whiskies produced at Springbank and the Kilkerrans I’ve tried—I suppose you could put this down to terroir if you believe in it in the context of whisky. The one I am tasting today is the sixth batch in their Kilkerran 8 CS series. I’ve previously reviewed Batch 1 (ex-bourbon), Batch 4 (re-charred oloroso sherry) and Batch 5 (first-fill oloroso sherry). Batch 6 is also from sherry casks but there doesn’t seem to be any further detail on cask type specified. It was released earlier this year which makes this quite a timely review by my standards. Let’s get into it. Continue reading
Alright, let’s close out PX cask Kilchoman week with another cask bottled for the American market. As a reminder, all three of this week’s reviews have been Kilchomans distilled in 2015 from the distillery’s own barley, peated to 20 ppm, and then matured in PX sherry hogsheads—one for 5 years and two for six years. Cask 772—which I reviewed on Monday—was released in Germany; Cask 773—which I reviewed on Wednesday—was split between Canadian and American parties. Today’s cask was bottled for a store and a whisky club in California. It’s bottled at a slightly less eye-watering strength: 58% to the other two’s 60.2%. Despite their identical strength, though, casks 772 and 773 were from identical. Indeed, I did not care for 772 very much: too much oak; 773, on the other hand, was a more balanced affair, even if it couldn’t finally transcend its youth. I am curious to see what Cask 329 will be like. Let’s get to it. Continue reading
Kilchoman week did not get off to the best start on Monday. (I’m reviewing three young, PX cask Kilchomans this week.) I found a bit too much oak in Cask 772, which was bottled for the German market. Today I have a review of Cask 773, which was also distilled from 100% Islay barley peated to 20 ppm, and bottled at 60.2% (what are the odds?). But this was bottled for a consortium of North Americans—some Canadian, some American (you can get the details on Kilchomania). Will I like this one more? I certainly hope so. By the way, ignore what it says on the label: this one is 6 years old.
Kilchoman 6, 2015 (60.2%; PX Cask 773; from a bottle split)
Nose: Leads with phenolic smoke with salt coming up from below. Some barbecue sauce on the second sniff along with some chilli pepper. Not much sign of the oak here or of red fruit. As it sits there’s a fair bit of char and cracked black pepper and some dried orange peel. More savoury as it goes with beef drippings and soy sauce. A few drops of water and the phenols recede a fair bit; softer now with toffee and milky cocoa. Continue reading
This is the first of three Kilchomans that were distilled in 2015 from the distillery’s own barley, peated to 20 ppm. All were then matured in Pedro Ximinez hogsheads. As to whether these were regulation PX butts that were broken down and rebuilt as smaller hogsheads or whether these were regular hogsheads treated or seasoned with PX sherry, I don’t know. This one, cask 772 was bottled for the German market. The two that will follow this week were both released in North America. (Kilchoman, as you may know, has a pretty extensive single cask program.) Well, I like a good mix of sherry and peat as much as the next sap but in the past I’ve generally preferred bourbon cask Kilchoman to the sherried variety. Will this one buck that trend? Let’s see. Continue reading
This week’s reviews are of whiskies from island distilleries. On Monday I tasted a Bunnahabhain 15 bottled by Old Particular for K&L in California. Today I have a Highland Park 24 bottled by Signatory for another store, the famous La Maison du Whisky in Paris. This was distilled in 1990 and bottled in 2015 after maturing in a sherry butt. The cask yielded 489 bottles at 51.4% which must seem like very little to anyone whose notion of sherry cask outturn has been conditioned by Glendronach’s cask shenanigans. I purchased this bottle some years ago and only opened it a week or so ago. I enjoyed the first couple of pours a lot and am looking forward to taking some notes on it. Let’s get right to it.
Highland Park 24, 1990 (51.4%; Signatory for La Maison du Whisky; sherry butt 15706; from my own bottle)
Nose: Orange peel, honey and light caramel with a big seam of toasted malt running through it all. The malt edges into milky cocoa pretty quickly and there’s a bit of vanilla to go with it. Brighter/more acidic with time. With a few drops of water some pastry crust emerges and melds with the orange. Continue reading
Okay, let’s do another week of peat; and let’s go back to Islay and do a week all at one distillery. And for good measure let’s do a trio of releases from one independent bottler. Back in May I split several bottles with a small group of friends—Michael Kravitz of Diving for Pearls was among them but I don’t believe he’s reviewed any of them yet. Among the bottles were a trio of Caol Ilas released by Gordon & MacPhail in their redone Connoisseurs Choice series—to think that this was once an entry-level series in which G&M released anonymous whisky at 40% abv. Two of these Caol Ilas are from bourbon casks and one from a refill sherry cask. I’m going to start with the refill sherry. It was distilled in 2005 and bottled in 2019 at what is normally a promising strength in the mid-50s (this is the abv range in which Springbank usually operates with their cask strength releases). The fact that it’s a refill sherry hogshead suggests that a sherry butt was broken down and re-coopered as a hogshead; or maybe an ex-bourbon hogshead was seasoned with sherry. Hopefully, the former and not the latter as there’s a better chance of there not being a big dose of sherry sitting on top of the elegant Caol Ila peat. Let’s see. Continue reading
This week of sherry casks from distilleries from different whisky producing regions of Scotland bottled by Old Particular for K&L got off to a good start on Monday with a 16 yo Glenrothes. It then hit a bit of a pothole in the road with a 17 yo Glenturret. Let’s see if the youngest of the trio can take us to a strong finish. This is a 15 yo Ledaig, or peated Tobermory from the Isle of Mull. There has been a lot of Ledaig available from independent bottlers in the last decade and a fair bit of it from sherry casks. Ledaig’s flavour of peat tends towards the farmy and organic. It can be funky but it also takes sherry very well. At least that has been my experience. Let’s see if that is borne out here.
Ledaig 15, 2006 (51.8%; Old Particular for K&L; refill butt DL 14901; from a bottle split)
Nose: Big farmy peat mixed in with rich sherry (orange peel, raisins, fruitcake). Saltier with each sniff. With more time and air it softens, with some toffee and milky cocoa and a touch of vanilla. Some rotting leaves mixed in there too now in the farmy peat complex. A squirt of water pulls out a lot of lime and mixes it nicely with the salt; ashier here too now. With a bit more time the lime moves towards preserved lemon. Continue reading
As I noted on Monday, this is a week of several overlapping themes: whiskies from distilleries from different regions of Scotland; sherry cask whiskies; whiskies bottled by Old Particular; whiskies bottled for K&L in California. And for at least the first two you could add, whiskies from Glen- distilleries. The week began with a 16 yo Glenrothes from the Speyside; we’ll now continue with a 17 yo Glenturret from the highlands. I will repeat what I have said in my introduction to every Glenturret I’ve reviewed—all two of them: I have very little experience of Glenturret. Of the two I have reviewed I really liked a 33 yo distilled in 1980, and really did not like a 6 yo distilled in 2013. This one doesn’t fall in the exact middle of those two age-wise but at 17 years of age it’s got some respectable age on it. And unlike that 6 yo, it’s not at a stupidly high abv. All of that is good. It is, of course, no guarantee that all of this means it is a good whisky or, at least, a whisky to my taste, Only one way to find out for sure. Continue reading
Let’s make this a triple or even quadruple-themed week: 1) three whiskies from three different regions; 2) all sherry cask whiskies; 3) all whiskies bottled by Old Particular (a label of one of the Laing offshoots); 4) all whiskies bottled for K&L in California. Yes, I once again went in on a bottle splits of one of K&L’s recent parcel of casks. I assume these are all sold out by now so these reviews will not be of use as a buying guide—but if you’ve picked up a bottle of any of these, let me know if your notes resonate with mine. First up is a Glenrothes 16, distilled in 2005 and matured in a sherry butt. There seem to be a number of these sherry cask Glenrothes around these days. Across 2020 and 2021 I reviewed a trio bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (here, here, and here). In addition to being sherry bombs, those were all massive alcohol bombs: all bottled north of 64.5%. I am glad to say that this one is at a tame 57.2% by comparison. I really don’t see the point of most whiskies past 60% I have to say but I realize I am out of tune with the times. I really liked all three of those anyway and am hoping this might be as good. Let’s see. (And for a recent review of a Glenrothes from a bourbon hogshead, see here.) Continue reading
Craigellachie week got off to an unremarkable start with the 2017 release of the official 13 yo on Monday. Wednesday’s 13 yo, 2007 bottled by Cadenhead brought it roaring back in the other direction. To end the week now I have another official release, this time a 19 yo. This is not part of Craigellachie’s regular lineup; it was a single cask release for the US market a few years ago. I got this sample from Michael Kravitz (of the excellent Diving for Pearls blog). Michael bought it because it was distilled on his 21st birthday. I gather it was quite expensive. But that’s the single malt whisky market these days, especially for official distillery releases: 19 year olds are the new 25 year olds. The fact that this was a sherry butt probably also helped convince customers; I could be wrong but I think American whisky drinkers fetishize dark whiskies more than Europeans do. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading
There’ll be no whisky review this Friday as it’s the first of the month and so let’s call it a mini-sherry cask week (following Monday’s Balvenie PX Finish). I noted on Monday that I have not reviewed very many Balvenies; well, this is only my second review of an Aberfeldy. The first was a 17 yo bottled by Cadenhead in 2014 from bourbon hogsheads. This one is a year younger and was bottled in 2020 by G&M from a refill sherry hogshead. I quite liked the ex-bourbon 17 yo—will this one be at least as good? Let’s see.
Aberfeldy 16, 2003 (58.8%; G&M; refill sherry hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: No sherry bomb, this comes in with some dried orange peel, cereals and dried leaves. The orange peel picks up as it sits and some mildly-spicy oak joins it. With time the oak softens and some toffee emerges along with some roasted malt; a bit of cream/milky cocoa too now. Water emphasizes this development and pulls out more of the leaves as well. Continue reading
I’ve not reviewed very many Balvenies over the years (only 10 total and only a handful in the last 4-5 years). There was a time when their 12 yo Double Wood was a regular in my rotation but that was a long time ago. It seems to be available for a relatively reasonable price in Minnesota. Should I give it a go? I do know I wasn’t terribly impressed the last time I tried it but it may have improved since, I suppose. I was also a huge fan a decade ago of their 15 yo Single Barrel series that was all from bourbon casks (here’s the only one I’ve reviewed). But that got replaced by a hot sherry bomb that cost a lot more and which I was not very impressed with the first time I tried it, though I did like the second cask I tried better. The Balvenie I’m reviewing today is also sherried, albeit the sherry comes in only via a finish: it spends some time in PX casks after initial maturation in American oak (presumably ex-bourbon) casks. It was/is a Travel Retail exclusive, which makes it a bit surprising both that it has an age statement and that it’s at a good drinking strength of 48.7%. How much of its 18 years it spends in either cask type I’m not sure, but here’s hoping the finish is well-integrated. Let’s see. Continue reading