Kilchoman 2006-2012 (for K&L)


I was recently mock-praised for reviewing something released as recently as a year ago. As even mock-praise makes me uncomfortable, I have in response a review of a whisky released five years ago: a sherry cask Kilchoman bottled for K&L in California.

Kilchoman was not quite new at the time but they weren’t quite as established and didn’t have as much of an identity as they do now. But they were already producing whisky that belied its (young) age. I think the very first Kilchoman I had was a 3 yo bottled for Binny’s in 2010 (I don’t think I reviewed it, but I do have a large reference sample saved…) and it was way better than any 3 yo whisky has any right to be. Most of the ones that I have reviewed have been just a bit older (including another K&L cask, this one ex-bourbon, and a PX cask bottled for WIN in the Netherlands). I’ve generally liked them all. And I can tell you before you get to the review that I liked this one—which was probably distilled at around the same time as that Binny’s ex-bourbon cask a lot. A more detailed accounting follows.  Continue reading

Speyside Region 41, 1975 (Whisky-Fässle)


Okay, after Monday’s Ben Nevis 19, 1996 from Cadenhead, here’s another whisky released in 2016 by an indie bottler. The bottler in this case is the German outfit Whisky-Fässle. The whisky is much older, distilled in 1975 but it’s not said where it was distilled. I haven’t looked around to see if there’s any nudge-nudge, wink-wink out there about the identity. It is said to be a classic 1970s-style fruit bomb which might lead people who bought bottles to hope it’s a Longmorn or Caperdonich. But if it were either, I imagine the bottler would trumpet that. So either a distillery like Glenfarclas which suppresses indie use of its name or a less marketable name. Anyway, there were a number of these 1975 casks released last year, I believe—which suggests a parcel was unearthed somewhere and snapped up by various indies. It’s also curious to see the cask specified as Fino. Granted, I have far less experience of this stuff than many, but I don’t think I’ve seen that level of specificity marked on many casks put away in that period. I was tempted to buy a bottle when it was available, but the price—north of 300 Euros—took quick care of that. I’m glad though to have the opportunity to taste it via a bottle split. Let’s see what it’s like.  Continue reading

Tomatin Cuatro 4: PX


And so, the last of the four whiskies in Tomatin’s Cuatro series: the PX. For those who came in late (salute yourself if you get the comics reference), I’ve previously reviewed the Fino, the Manzanilla and the Oloroso releases in this series. All were distilled in 2002, matured for 9 years in ex-bourbon casks and then re-racked into the specific sherry casks for the last three years. I didn’t find too much difference between the Fino and Manzanilla releases; which makes sense, as Fino and Manzanilla sherry are not that far apart, and so the odds that nuances between them would extend to whiskies double matured for three years in ex-Fino and Manzanilla casks were slim to begin with. The Oloroso had darker, leafier notes, more reminiscent of what we’ve come to think of as sherry cask notes, and I expect this PX cask will be similar: both Oloroso and PX sherries are made “oxidatively” and have more in common with each other than they do with Fino or Manzanilla sherries. Anyway, let’s get to it.  Continue reading

Tomatin Cuatro 3: Oloroso


With this, the third in Tomatin’s Cuatro series from a few years ago, we move to what should be a more richly sherried profile. At least that’s what we’ve been trained to think by Oloroso sherry cask releases by various Scottish distilleries. Oloroso sherry, as you probably know, is made differently than Fino and Manzanilla. For Fino and Manzanilla the layer of flor (or less poetically, film of yeast) that forms on the top of the maturing wine is not disturbed, which results in a paler and drier style of sherry. For Oloroso (and Amontillado) the flor is killed when the wine is fortified, resulting in a darker and richer, “oxidized” wine. When most whisky drinkers think of sherry character in single malt whisky it is Oloroso we are thinking of.

It is, of course, also likely that we attribute to Oloroso/sherry character is actually down to maturation in European oak. What the Fino and Manzanilla entries in the Cuatro series have suggested is that three years of double maturation in what are likely also American oak casks may not impart a very heavy sherry influence. Will that be true of the richer Oloroso sherry as well? Let’s see. Continue reading

Tomatin Cuatro 2: Manzanilla


On Monday I had a review of the first in Tomatin’s Cuatro series of sherry cask releases: the Fino. That post has all the relevant information on the series but if you haven’t read it and are too lazy to click, here’s the crucial bit: all four releases are of whisky distilled on the same day and aged for nine years in ex-bourbon cask and then then re-racked into Fino, Manzanilla, Oloroso and PX casks for another three years each. Unlike the regular 12 yo, these are at 46%. I did not find much overt sherry influence in the Fino release—as such I’ll be surprised to find very much of it in this Manzanilla version. The two sherries are broadly similar—Manzanilla is basically a regionally constrained version of Fino (it can only be made in a particular part of Spain).

Let’s get to it.  Continue reading

Tomatin Cuatro 1: Fino


The Tomatin Cuatro series of whiskies was released just about three years ago. Accordingly, I am reviewing those whiskies now. Ol’ Jas’ mention of the series in the comments on my review of the regular Tomatin 12 got me thinking about them and I decided to buy the lot for my local group’s September tasting.

You probably know the details of the series: all of the whisky was distilled on the same day in 2002 and matured for nine years in ex-bourbon casks. At that point it was transferred to Fino, Manzanilla, Oloroso and PX casks respectively for another three years.  In theory, the series allows whisky geeks to see the differing effects of maturation in four different kinds of sherry casks. In practice, of course, it’s not clear how much of this can in fact be accomplished. Continue reading

Glen Grant 20, 1992 (Maltbarn)


Back in February I’d posted a review of a Glen Grant 23, 1985 and said I’d have more Glen Grant reviews in the weeks to come. Because I am a shameless liar I only posted one more Glen Grant review in the roughly 20 weeks that came after that. But what is time? An illusion, a fog. Here we are now in mid-July and the weeks fall away like magic and we’re returned to that halcyon time when all three people who read this blog regularly were agog at the thought of successive weeks of reviews of Glen Grants that are no longer available and were only available in Europe to begin with. See, dreams can come true.

This was bottled by Maltbarn, a small German independent bottler. This was only their 12th release—I’m not sure what number they’re up to now. The label says “ex-sherry butt” but, as you’ll see, it’s not exactly a sherry monster. Continue reading

Lagavulin “Jazz Festival 2015”


Here is a Lagavulin bottled for the Islay Jazz Festival in 2015. This is a completely separate event from the recently concluded Feis Ile, taking place in the autumn rather than the summer. This year’s festival is from September 15-17 (and here is last year’s program). I’m not sure if Lagavulin is the only distillery that does an annual release to mark the festival (in addition to their Feis Ile release), but I can’t off the top of my head recall Jazz Festival releases from any other distilleries. It is sponsored by Lagavulin but events happen at other distilleries too. Anyway, there also does not seem to be as much mania around these Jazz Festival releases as there is around Lagavulin’s Feis Ile releases. Indeed, plenty of bottles of the 2016 Jazz Festival release were available at the distillery when I visited earlier this month—I’m not sure how they survived the onslaught of Feis Ile auction flippers.  Continue reading

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