Here is a Glentauchers to close out my week of heavily sherried 25+ year old whiskies bottled by Gordon & MacPhail. Glentauchers is a pretty anonymous Speyside distillery. I’ve reviewed five others previously—I believe those were all from ex-bourbon casks. Like Monday’s Aberfeldy, this one is from a first-fill sherry puncheon; Tuesday’s Mortlach was from a first-fill butt (a bit smaller than a puncheon). Well, I liked the Mortlach quite a bit more than the Aberfeldy and so hope that the cask type is not going to be the predictor of quality here. Let’s get right to it.
Glentauchers 27, 1993 (54.3%; first-fill sherry puncheon 2635; Gordon & MacPhail; from a bottle split)
Nose: Ah yes, this is a richer, fruitier sherry cask. It leads with dried orange peel, fig jam and a touch of hoisin. Sweeter on the second sniff with brandied raisins. A bit of pencil lead too. With time some apricot jam joins the party. With a few drops of water there’s some camphor and it get spicier on the whole. Continue reading →
Yesterday, I posted only my third-ever review of a Aberfeldy. Today’s whisky is from a distillery whose whisky I have far more of a familiarity with: Mortlach. Like yesterday’s Aberfeldy, this is a 25 yo single cask, also a first-fill sherry cask, bottled by Gordon & MacPhail. Mortlach is very well-known in sherried incarnations—the interplay of sherry oak, especially when from an European oak cask, and Mortlach’s naturally meaty profile can yield truly pleasurable results. Though, while I liked the last sherried Mortlach I reviewed quite a bit, it wasn’t really one that displayed that character that one would think of as quintessentially Mortlach (let me once again encourage you to read my post from several years ago probing the question of “distillery character“). I have liked most sherried Mortlachs I’ve tried, however—with a couple of exceptions from K&L’s series of casks that are not really the bargains they seem. But I’m still chasing the memory of a Mortlach 13 bottled by G&M in their old Reserve series (anyone remember those bottles? cask strength, green labels?). It wasn’t a world-beater but it was a truly idiosyncratic meatily sulphurous beast. I finished that bottle a couple of years before I started the blog and, alas, do not seem to have saved a large reference sample from it as was my usual practice at the time. Anyway, let’s see if this 25 yo is in that vein or something more refined. Continue reading →
After a week of weirdo Kilchomans that included two red wine cask-bothered releases (here and here) and one mezcal finish (here), let’s get back to more conventional ground: sherry cask-matured whisky. All three of this week’s whiskies—like the Linkwood that led off the month—were bottled by Gordon & Macphail in their Connoisseurs Choice line, which is a lot fancier these days than it used to be. We’ll begin the week in the highlands with an Aberfeldy. This is only my third-ever Aberfeldy review and is by some distance the oldest of the three. The other two included a Cadenhead’s small batch release from bourbon hogsheads and another G&M Connoisseurs Choice release from a refill sherry cask. This one is from a first-fill sherry puncheon. The refill sherry cask was fine but didn’t excite me very much. Will this first-fill sherry cask, which is nine years older be better? Let’s see. Continue reading →
One of the possible themed weeks I might do this month is “Unfancied Speysiders”. Though this review is obviously not part of that week, Linkwood too is an unfancied Speysider. It is one of many Diageo distilleries that, outside of the Flora & Fauna line, don’t get any but the rare official release. And when Diageo does put any older Linkwood out, it’s at a nosebleed price. As such, as with so many such distilleries, if we want to taste more of their output, and if we want to taste reasonably affordable iterations of their older malt, it is to the indie bottlers we must go.
In this case, to the giants of Elgin, Gordon & MacPhail. (Linkwood too is located in Elgin, by the by.) This 23 yo Linkwood was released in Gordon & MacPhail’s refurbished Connoisseurs Choice line. Older whisky drinkers will remember that a decade-plus ago this was G&M’s entry-level label, usually bottled at 40% or 43%, and no one got very excited about it. Of course, even before that many well-regarded older whiskies from the 1960s and 1970s had also been released under this label—usually also at 40%; the obsession with cask strength whisky is a relatively new thing, after all. Anyway, the Connoisseurs Choice label is fancy again, and now at cask strength—which is another way of saying “expensive”. Will this Linkwood, bottled from a refill sherry hogshead, prove to be a good value anyway? Let’s see. Continue reading →
Here’s the third of my Amrut “Aatma” reviews this week. This one was matured in an ex-oloroso sherry cask (see here for Monday’s ex-bourbon cask, and here for Tuesday’s ex-fino sherry cask). I believe this may have been the second of the “Aatma” releases. Like the other two, it was a US exclusive and bottled at 56.5%. And with that I have exhausted my introductory patter. Let’s get right to it.
Amrut “Aatma” 7, 2012, Ex-Oloroso (56.5%; cask 4136; from a bottle split)
Nose: Rich sherry (dried tangerine peel, caramel, brandied raisins) with some pencil lead mixed in. Some cherry as it sits. Stickier with time and then there’s some Ben Nevis-style roasted malt and powdered ginger. With a few drops of water the orange pops to the front first and turns quickly to a mix of marmalade and apricot jam; some mango leather as well. Continue reading →
The promised/expected Tuesday restaurant report will be posted on Wednesday. A busier than expected Monday didn’t leave me enough time to resize what turned out to be a lot of pictures taken over the course of two meals at a Vietnamese restaurant in Burnsville. I’ll work on that tomorrow while waiting for what is forecast to be an epic snowstorm in the upper midwest. Here, in its place today, is the second whisky in my series of reviews of the Amrut “Aatma” releases. While Monday’s ex-bourbon cask was in fact the first of these to be released, this one was not the second; at least three others were bottled between the first and this one. I’m reviewing it second, however, since as an ex-fino sherry cask it is likely to be next on the richness spectrum from Monday’s ex-bourbon cask. Unlike that one, this was made from unpeated Indian barley. It was, however, also a US exclusive and was bottled at the same reasonable strength. Will it be at least as good as the first “Aatma” release? Let’s see. Continue reading →
Let’s make it a week of age-stated, official releases from three different parts of Scotland. From Campbeltown on Monday, let’s move to the Speyside. Like the Kilkerran 16, the Glenallachie 15 is a relatively recent entrant into the market. As far as I can make out, it was first released in 2019, with more releases in the years following. Like the Glenallachie 12 (which I quite liked), this is a sherry cask whisky. Unlike the 12 yo, which has virgin oak cask matured spirit in the mix, the 15 yo is vatted entirely from PX and oloroso casks. Once again, I don’t know which year’s release my sample came from. But in this case it may not matter very much. This because there is apparently a lot of batch variation in these releases from the same years; and so the year of release by itself would not mean very much. In other words, here’s yet another completely useless review. You’re welcome. Continue reading →
Last week’s reviews were all of bottles filled from the hand-fill casks at the Springbank distillery in October 2022 (Hazelburn, Springbank, Longrow). Let’s stay in Campbeltown at least to start this week. But instead of Springbank, let’s go down the road to Glengyle, which is where Kilkerran is distilled. And instead of whiskies bottled only at the distillery shop, let’s do a general release. The Kilkerran 16 was first released in 2020. There were releases in 2021 and 2022 as well. Apparently, these releases have had different cask compositions, varying further by market. The 2020 US release was 98% ex-bourbon and 2% ex-madeira, for example, whereas the 2020 European release was 96% ex-bourbon and 4% ex-marsala. On the other hand, the 2021 US and European releases were both 75% ex-bourbon and 25% ex-sherry. The 2022 European release upped the sherry to 30%; if there’s been a 2022 US release it’s not on Whiskybase yet, and so I can’t tell you if it follows the 2020 or 2021 approach. Continue reading →
This ancient Glen Mhor was bottled by Gordon & MacPhail in 2011. It was part of a legendary parcel of casks bottled for Van Wees in the Netherlands. The other casks in the parcel included a legendary quintet from Longmorn. One of those, a 41 year old distilled in 1969, was the recipient of the highest score I have yet given a whisky; and the others were no slouches either. I’m hopeful that this Glen Mhor will prove worthy of its company and signal a good start to the month in whisky reviews. Let’s see.
Glen Mhor 44, 1966 (52.1%; Gordon & MacPhail for Van Wees; refill sherry hogshead; from my own bottle)
Nose: Sweet orange, paper, old coins, brown butter, an old wooden box, just a hint of soot. The citrus gets brighter/more acidic as it sits and the softer notes expand as the brown butter is joined by some malt; a leafy note now too. As it sits the fruit comes to the fore and there’s pineapple and a bit of apricot now along with the citrus. Continue reading →
Caol Ila week began yesterday with a 12 yo finished in a Bordeaux cask. It started out well but I was not finally very enthusiastic about it. Today I have a 13 yo that was matured in a sherry cask. If I’m generally suspicious about red wine cask-matured whisky of any kind, I’m usually very excited to try Caol Ilas from sherry casks. Be it a richer sherry cask profile or a drier one, Caol Ila’s distillate usually matches it well. I certainly hope that will be the case for this one, a refill butt bottled by Old Particular for K&L in California. Let’s get right to it.
Caol Ila 13, 2008 (56.9%; Old Particular for K&L; refill butt; from a bottle split)
Nose: Very nice, very quintessentially Caol Ila notes of lemon, mineral peat and coastal notes (brine, oyster liquor) and green olives. Green peppery bite on the second sniff and a touch of cream. With time the cream expands a bit. A few drops of water and it gets softer still, with the smoke all but receding into the background. Continue reading →
I am typing this preamble in a hurry before leaving for the airport and so will keep it brief.
On Monday I reviewed a WhiskySponge Ardmore 24 from a refill bourbon hogshead. I simultaneously liked it a fair bit and was a bit disappointed with it. Today I have a 22 yo Ardmore that started out in a refill hogshead and was then subjected to a sherry finish. I have to confess my default reaction to such a sequence is first one of anguish: why risk marring one of Scotland’s truly idiosyncratic profiles with a brief, potentially overbearing dalliance with sherry? And then one of skepticism: was the sherry finish applied in the manner of lipstick on a pig? But though my initial response may be skeptical, my mind remains open and I am hoping for the best. Will those hopes be rewarded or will they fall apart like an ill-conceived sherry finish? Let’s see. Continue reading →
Here to close out the week, the month and the year in whisky reviews on my blog is a Glenburgie. It is 21 years old and was bottled in 2014 for Cadenhead’s whisky club in Europe from a single sherry cask. In case you’re wondering, I purchased it at auction some years ago. As you may recall, this week is a week of sherried whiskies. It got off to a very good start on Monday with an 18 yo Ben Nevis. The Glen Elgin 16 I reviewed on Wednesday was also good but not quite at the level of the Ben Nevis. This Glenburgie, I know, is very good indeed—I opened it a few weeks ago. Indeed, when first opened I liked it more than I had the Ben Nevis when it was first opened. But now it’s sat with a bit of air in the bottle and I’m curious to see how it’s developed. My experience with Glenburgie is not very extensive and is largely centered on bourbon casks. It’s a distillate that can be very fruity indeed and there was certainly a lot of fruit in the first few pours from this bottle. Has that fruit expanded further? Let’s see. Continue reading →
I know most of you set your clocks and calendars by my blog posting schedule and so it would be irresponsible of me to not say very clearly that today is not Wednesday. Yes, my second whisky review of the week is usually posted on Wednesdays, with Tuesday being my restaurant review day. But for boring reasons we don’t need to go into, I don’t have a restaurant review post ready today. That post—my look at a bunch of meals eaten at Grand Szechuan over the course of the year—will be published tomorrow. Today, I have for you the second in this week’s series of reviews of sherried malts.
Monday’s Ben Nevis was released in 2010. This review is no more timely. It is of a Glen Elgin 16 that was part of Diageo’s Special Release slate in 2008. Like the Ben Nevis, it is another bottle that I purchased more than a decade ago and kept around for no good reason. Like the Ben Nevis, it’s open now and here are my notes. Continue reading →
After two weeks in a row of bourbon cask whiskies (from Bladnoch, Linkwood, Dailuaine, Ardmore, Glen Garioch and Teaninich), let’s finish the month, and the year, with a week of sherry-matured whiskies. Instead of going up in age over the course of the week—as I usually do—let’s do them in order of increasing sherry influence. First up, accordingly is a single cask Ben Nevis 18, 1991 that was bottled by Mackillop’s Choice back in 2010. I purchased this bottle not too long after, and as with so many bottles purchased in that time period, I have no idea why I haven’t opened it in all these years—except perhaps that I purchased rather a lot of bottles in that time period. Anyway, it’s open now.
By the way, I was surprised to learn that Mackillop’s Choice is still a going concern—or at least that it was just a few years ago. Whiskybase doesn’t have any listings for 2022 or 2021 releases from the label but there were at least a few releases in 2020. If you’d asked me before I looked it up, I would have guessed they’d long gone the way of Scott’s Selection. Based on Whiskybase listings, the heyday does seem to have ended in the early 2010s, when they were still releasing 20-30 malts in most years. Continue reading →
This is, as you will recall, a week of reviews of distillery exclusives filled by hand in October at Diageo distilleries in the highlands. Yes, that’s a very specific theme. The week began at Oban on Monday with a review of an 11 yo refill bourbon cask. Let’s go a bit north and a bit east to Dalwhinnie. As I say each time I review a Dalwhinnie, I do not have very much experience of their malt. There is very little Dalwhinnie out there to try. (Well, I suppose I should give the Distiller’s Edition a try sometime—does Diageo still put those out regularly for every distillery in its Classic Malts collection?) At any rate, this is only my third review of a Dalwhinnie—the others were also official distillery releases: the old faithful 15 yo and the so-called Winter’s Gold, which was part of Diageo’s Game of Thrones cash-grab. Neither really did very much for me (82 points each). So this 12 yo hand-fill from a re-charred sherry cask is not going to have to do very much to raise the distillery average on this blog. Let’s see if it’s up to the task. Continue reading →
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 →