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

Glenfarclas 40

Glenfarclas 40
The Glenfarclas 40 was first released in 2010. It got very good reviews, not least for its very fair price. In the US the retail price was less than $500 and in practice it could be found relatively easily for the next year or two for quite a bit less than that. This was very Glenfarclas. While most original releases of this age were and are released in fancy decanters with ludicrous packaging at prices far above $1000, Glenfarclas just popped their 40 year old in the same bottle and tube in which they sell their 10 yo and put the price in reach of regular punters. This used to be the case with their 30 yo too: not long ago it could easily be found in the UK for just above £100—and their 21 and 25 yo malts have always been very fairly priced vis a vis most of the rest of the market as well. For this reason, perhaps, no one has ever begrudged Glenfarclas for the higher prices on some of their Family Casks releases: they’ve always done right by regular drinkers. That said, the price of the 30 yo has gone up of late and I’m not sure what the status of the 40 yo is—the price being asked for it now in the US is quite a bit higher than $500, and I’m not sure if that’s for what’s left of the original release or if there have been more releases since. If you can shed light on any of this please write in below.  Continue reading

Ben Nevis 19, Batch 4 (TBWC)

Ben Nevis 19, That Boutiquey Whisky Company
That Boutiquey Whisky Company is a line of whiskies released by Master of Malt, the UK whisky store best known for not being the Whisky Exchange but seemingly desperately wanting to be. Take for example, this series, in 500 ml bottles, that launched after TWE’s 500 ml Elements of Islay series. The TBWC malts, however, are not limited to Islay and have labels as colourful (or garish, if you prefer) as those of Elements of Islay are minimalist. It’s a campier look, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but the problem is that reviewers I trust rarely seem to have overmuch praise for what’s in TBWC’s bottles. That used to generally also be true of Ben Nevis, though its previously dodgy reputation seems to be on the rise of late. I’m on record as saying that Ben Nevis, especially from sherry casks, may well be the next big thing among whisky geeks. It’s certainly true that well-aged, independent, sherried Ben Nevis can still be found at reasonable prices. I’m not sure if this one was reasonably priced though—these TBWC releases are usually priced pretty high as well. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. At least it’s not NAS as many of their earlier releases were (and, to be fair, as every single Elements of Islay release has been).  Continue reading

Jack’s Pirate Whisky, Das Gestohlene Schiff Part V

Jack's Pirate Whisky
I confess that I purchased this whisky a few years ago for rather shallow reasons—two of them, in fact. First there was the irresistible label. I mean just look at that dog, peg leg and all. Then there’s the fact that this Islay malt, from an undisclosed distillery and of uncertain age, was billed as being finished for 17 months in a Port Ellen sherry cask. You have to support that kind of shamelessness. I had no expectations of the quality of the actual contents of the bottle and so didn’t open it for a very long time. Not, in fact, till this August when I took it, along with another bottle, to one of my friend Rich’s annual tastings celebrating sherried whiskies—the same one that featured the Glengoyne 25, the Bowmore Feis Ile 2012 and the Glenfaclas 1968, among others. The other bottle I took was my main contribution—this one was just a novelty. But as it turned out a number of the people in attendance had it in their top three for the night, and I have to say I rather liked it too. This was a very pleasant surprise. I’d meant to review it formally right away but somehow never got around to it. Until now. Let’s see how it’s developed as it’s sat for a couple of months with some headspace in the bottle. Continue reading

Bowmore 23, 1989 (A.D. Rattray)

Bowmore 23, 1989, A.D. Rattray
Here is a Bowmore from the late 1980s. As you may know, Bowmores from the 1980s have a dodgy reputation among whisky geeks—this because of the presence of strongly perfumed and/or soapy notes in a lot of the whisky they produced in this era. I’ve noted before that this (generally well-deserved) reputation has extended past the point at which these problems began to disappear: a lot of people’s suspicion of Bowmore extends to vintages produced well into the 1990s. My own experience would suggest that the problems were mostly gone by the early 1990s and that even a lot of the late 1980s distillate was not marred in this way—see, for example, this other 1989 from Liquid Sun. And my experience would also suggest that A.D. Rattray—with their Bowmore connections—have always been a very good bet when it comes to this iconic distillery. Some of the best indie Bowmores I’ve had have come from them—see this 20 yo from 1990, for example (and there was also an 18 yo from 1991 that was just excellent—I finished my last open bottle of that before I started the blog but still have a bottle in reserve). Will this one be as good as the best of the Rattray bottlings of this era? I’m hoping for the best. Continue reading

Glengoyne 25

Glengoyne 25
As I’ve said each time I’ve reviewed a Glengoyne (two occasions total before this one), I’ve not had much Glengoyne and have reviewed even less. I actually thought about purchasing this 25 yo for one of my local group’s premium tastings when it was first released in 2014—the price was “reasonable”, which is to say it was high but seemed reasonable compared to what’s asked these days for 25 yo official releases from most distilleries. In the end though I remembered that I hadn’t had very much Glengoyne and decided to exercise caution until I’d had a chance to taste it. That ended up taking a couple of years. In fact it wasn’t till this August that I finally got around to tasting it. This was at the same St. Paul gathering celebrating sherried whiskies at which I tasted the Glenfaclas 1968. As with that one, and some others from that night which will hopefully show up on the blog in the coming weeks, I brought a 2 oz sample of the Glengoyne 25 home for a more careful review, and here now is that review.  Continue reading

Michel Couvreur 12, Peaty Overaged Malt Whisky (for K&L)

Michel Couvreur 12, Peaty, Overaged Malt Whisky
As per the interwebs, Michel Couvreur was a Belgian involved originally in the wine trade who at some point turned his attention to Scotch whisky. Unlike the average independent bottler, however, Couvreur was not interested in purchasing and bottling matured casks under his own name. Instead he apparently would purchase casks of new make, fill them into his own barrels and set them out to age in his own cellars in Burgundy and usually (if not always) vat/blend the results. If you’ve familiarized yourself with the laws governing the production of Scotch whisky you know that to be called Scotch, the whisky has to be both distilled and matured in Scotland. Therefore, even though Couvreur’s whiskies all originate (presumably) in Scotland they cannot be called Scotch. And the scale of production takes this far beyond the level of a hobbyist’s noodling. Couvreur passed away in 2013 but his methods and brand have been kept alive by his apprentices. Continue reading