Lagavulin 1991, The Distillers Edition


As I’ve noted before, the Lagavulin entrty is my favourite in Diageo’s Distillers Edition series. The extra few months in PX sherry casks complements the original spirit very well in my view. My ratings of the 1993-2009 and 1997-2013 releases, which are the previous ones I’ve reviewed (here and here), are appropriately high. This one is from a couple of years earlier still: it was distilled in 1991 and released in 2007. I’ll be shocked if I don’t like it a lot as well.

Lagavulin 1991, The Distillers Edition, 2007 Release (43%; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Big phenolic notes mixed in coastal notes (seashells, kelp). The sherry comes up from below with notes both sweet (raisins) and salty. The sweeter notes—including pipe tobacco now—come to the fore after a minute or two in the glass and then dominate. With more time there’s some citrus as well (orange peel). A few drops of water emphasize the fruit: apricot and fig now along with the orange peel. Continue reading

Caol Ila 27, 1984 (Old Malt Cask for the Whisky Barrel)


The week’s first review was of a 19 yo Caol Ila from a bourbon cask. That one was bottled by the Whisky Exchange in 2012. Here now is another Caol Ila bottled the year before by Douglas Laing in their Old Malt Cask series. This one is a fair bit older and is from a refill sherry hogshead. As much as I like bourbon cask Caol Ila, sherried Caol Ila—relatively rare as it is—can be very good indeed and the best ones are among the whisky world’s unalloyed pleasures. See, for example, this one and this one, both also from 1984 distillate. I am hopeful that this will be in the class of those. Let’s see if it is.

Caol Ila 27, 1984 (52.4%; Old Malt Cask; refill sherry hogshead; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Leafy smoke cutting through sherried notes of orange peel, raisins, pipe tobacco and pencil lead. On the second sniff there’s some charred pork and also a hint of savoury sulphur; the smoke is a bit sharper now. The coastal notes emerge as it sits (brine) but it’s not terribly phenolic. Softer with water with a bit of toffee emerging. Continue reading

Amrut Naarangi, Batch 5


So far in August I’ve sandwiched two weeks of brandy and rum reviews between two weeks of single malt whisky reviews. Let’s close the month with a review of a release whose category identity is a little more ambiguous. The Amrut Naarangi—of which this is the 5th batch—is made in a complicated way. Amrut takes casks of sherry, adds Indian oranges to them and lets them macerate. The casks are then emptied, filled with Amrut’s spirit and allowed to mature for an unspecified period of time before it is bottled. In Scotland this could not be labelled whisky. Compass Box’s Orangerie—which is made in a similar manner—is officially a “whisky infusion”. In India, however, genre boundaries are looser—a lot of Indian whisky is, of course, technically rum—and so Naarangi is sold as a single malt whisky. Is this an outrage? I don’t know—a lot of contemporary sherry and wine cask whiskies taste to me like infusions made with far less care. The more interesting question is whether this is any good. Let’s see. Continue reading

Glenfarclas 42, 1970, Family Casks (for K&L)


Glenfarclas week started out with a 15 yo on Monday, which I thought was good but nothing very special. In the middle on Wednesday was a 21 yo that I thought was excellent. Let’s close the week out now with a 42 yo. This was distilled in 1970 and I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t consider buying it when it was released by K&L back in 2012. 1970 is when I was distilled as well and I was on the lookout then for 1970 vintage whiskies to buy and stash for my 50th birthday. But the price was quite high—$500+, I think (and it got quite a bit higher later)—and given my general allergy to K&L’s marketing blather, I decided not to take the chance; especially, as I’d purchased this Tomatin 40, 1970 for quite a bit less for the same purpose a year prior. I then forgot about it until it showed up unexpectedly last month in a box of samples from Sku—also the source of Monday’s 15 yo. I’m very interested to find out now if I should have grit my teeth back then and paid the high tariff. Let’s see. Continue reading

Glenfarclas 21, 1980, Dark Sherry Cask


Today’s Glenfarclas is a bit older than Monday’s in terms of age and a bit more still in terms of vintage. This was distilled in 1980 and bottled from a single cask for Filliers, who—as best as I can make out—are a Belgian concern. The cask is described as a “dark sherry cask”, which I assume means it had previously held oloroso sherry. Monday’s 15 yo also featured a big sherry profile but there the bigness seemed a little “engineered” to me—driven by active oak and tannins that covered up a lot of the fruit. This seems to me to happen a lot with heavily sherried whiskies these days. I have had similar complaints about a number of other sherry casks in recent years. Glenfarclas from the 1970s, however, has reliably been a lot fruitier (such, for example, is the excellent Glenfarclas 31, 1974, which I have not reviewed yet) and I am hoping that this one too will display a lot of fruit as part of the “dark” profile. Let’s see. Continue reading

Benromach 8, 2011 (for The Whisky Exchange)


This is a Benromach blog now. All Benromach reviews all the time. Well, this week anyway. On Monday I reviewed a young bourbon cask that was a UK exclusive. I really liked that one. Yesterday I had a review of the recent sherry cask edition of the distillery’s Peat Smoke release. That one seemed unpromising at first but then improved dramatically with water. Today another young Benromach from a sherry cask, another UK exclusive. This one was in fact exclusive to one particular store, The Whisky Exchange: it was one of several whiskies bottled to mark the store’s 20th anniversary. This is from a single sherry cask, a first-fill hogshead. Good friends were visiting London right when the pandemic hit and they were kind enough to bring me back a couple of bottles recommended by Billy Abbott at TWE (this Inchmurrin was the other). Billy recommended this one highly. When I first opened the bottle a couple of months ago I found it to be a bit too hot and indistinct but it’s mellowed nicely since. Here now are my notes. Continue reading

Benromach Peat Smoke 2010-2018, Sherry Cask


Typical: no Benromach reviews for two years and then two come at once. On Monday I had a review of a lovely young Benromach from a first-fill bourbon cask that was a UK exclusive. Today I have a review of a young Benromach from sherry casks (full-term maturation or finish? I don’t know). The Benromach Peat Smoke has been around for some time but has previously been an ex-bourbon whisky—and released without an age or vintage statement, I’m pretty sure. I’m not sure if this one—distilled in 2010 and released in 2018— was a special one-off or whether it’s an ongoing limited edition release or, for that matter, if it’s now a regular part of their lineup. I could look it up I suppose, but it’s late here in Minnesota—if you know, please write in below. At any rate, I suppose we should be glad they didn’t name it “Profit Maximizer”, or maybe it would have been more honest if they had. We whisky enthusiasts are a silly lot and very little induces us to shell out the big bucks more than the combination of sherry and peat. Well, with Monday’s bourbon cask I noted that the smoke and the old-school Highland peat character was not covered up by sherry. How overbearing is the sherry going to be here? Let’s see. Continue reading

Amrut, Sherry Cask (Blackadder)


It’s been a year and a half since my last Amrut review—what kind of an Indian am I? It’s not my fault though: there just isn’t so much Amrut around in the US. The last one I reviewed—the Amaze, a single cask release for an Indian club—was bottled in late 2018. This one came out half a decade earlier. A NAS release (like most Amruts), I purchased it right after it was bottled in 2013. Like most Amruts it’s also been bottled at an eye-wateringly high proof. The bottler is Blackadder. They’ve put out a large number of Amruts, far more than any other bottler—Whiskybase only lists a handful of others and they only seem to have one or two each. I wonder what Blackadder’s connection is. The cask was first-fill sherry. I rather liked the last sherry cask Amrut I had—this PX cask—and their Intermediate Sherry is one of my favourites, if now a little too expensive for my wallet. And so I have high hopes for this one. Let’s see if they’re borne out. Continue reading

Brora 19, 1981 (Signatory)


Here’s another review of a whisky from a closed distillery, this time Scottish, not Japanese. Or at least this distillery was closed when this whisky was released, and indeed until a couple of years ago. Brora, as you will recall, was revived by Diageo—along with Port Ellen—a few years ago. When I visited Clynelish briefly in 2018 work was already in progress on the zombie Brora plant; I’m not sure where things stand now—do write in below if you know. God knows what the spirit from zombie Brora will be like but I’m sure Diageo needs its cash cows to produce more milk—they must be close to running out of casks they can charge $3000 per bottle for. Of course, it’s going to take a long time for the new spirit to get to the age of the whisky I’m reviewing today, leave alone the age of the bottles that command the high prices. This is a very young 19 yo by Brora standards—most of its whisky was bottled at higher ages well after the distillery close. Then again, Diagep knows as well as I do that there are a lot of people with a lot of money to burn who just want to have bottles with Brora labels in their cabinets. I am not among them but I can tell you what this one is like. Continue reading

Auchentoshan “Heartwood”


I know I’d said I’d have a review today of barbecue from Ted Cook’s 19th Hole in Minneapolis but what can I say? I spent last evening watching Basu Chatterjee’s 1974 gem Rajnigandha and a few episodes of Schitt’s Creek and didn’t get around to it. If your primary interest is food, go back and read yesterday’s post on American food media’s relationship with diversity. Or if you want to read about barbecue in the Twin Cities, go back and read my review of Big Daddy’s from a few years ago (but keep in mind that they’ve changed ownership since then). Today I have another whisky review. This is an Auchentoshan, shockingly only the second official Auchentoshan I’ve ever reviewed (the first was the cask strength Valinch). Well, maybe it’s not so shocking: there aren’t that many official Auchentoshans around. I believe this one was released only for the Travel Retail market—I’m not sure if it’s still on the go there. It’s a NAS vatting of spirit matured in ex-bourbon and ex-oloroso casks. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Springbank 10, House & Tree Label


This Springbank was released for the German market in the early/mid 1990s. It is one of a few bottles released with the so-called “House & Tree” label. Whiskybase has records of a NAS House & Tree label for the French market that was a release of 251 bottles. Serge has a review of another NAS House & Tree label for the German market (which may or may not be this one, a release of 319 bottles). This made me think that the label on this sample was mistaken about the age statement, and so I checked with the source of the sample, the Notorious Pat T. He sent me pictures of the bottle this sample came from and I can confirm that the bottle has a smaller label around the neck with the age statement and that the back specifies that it was bottle 43 of a release of 294 bottles, possibly for Krüger’s Whiskygalerie. So much confusion and none of it, frankly, very interesting. I say this after having made you read a paragraph about it. You’re welcome. Continue reading

Caol Ila 10 (Gordon & MacPhail)


After a month of reviews of un-sherried whiskies—well, the Glen Scotia 14 probably had some sherry casks in the mix—let’s end with one from refill sherry casks. This is a 10 yo Caol Ila released in Gordon & MacPhail’s Connoisseurs Choice series at some point after the casks in that series started being bottled at 46% with new packaging. I think this was released in the mid-2010s, which would, I think, have been not too long after the revamping of the line. I almost always enjoy Caol Ila from sherry casks—and have a very good memory of this earlier G&M 10 yo from refill sherry casks (though that was in their old Cask Strength line). And I quite liked as well this G&M 10 yo from 2006 (also cask strength but in the new livery for their Cask Strength line). That latter one was from first-fill casks though. Well, as long as it’s better than the last sherried Caol Ila I reviewed—this sherry finished 7 yo that was an exclusive for K&L—I’ll be happy. Let’s see if that proves to be the case. Continue reading

Bunnahabain 10, 1999 (Prime Malt)

One last peated-sherried malt to close out the month. This one is unlike the others I’ve reviewed this month. For one thing it’s not from a distillery known for its peated malt, at least not at the time at which this was distilled, back in 1999. While Bunnahabhain now puts out official releases of peated malt, independent bottlers used to be the only sources of peated Bunnahabhain from this era. I’ve had a few 1997s that were peated (see here, here and here) but this will be my first 1999, I think. This is also not a heavily sherried malt—it’s from a refill sherry cask and the colour of the whisky suggests it was a long way from being a first-fill cask. The bottler too has no real reputation. In fact, I’m still not sure who was behind Prime Malt which put out a number of releases in the US in the 2000s. I was under the impression that Duncan Taylor were the source but Whiskybase lists the bottler as Gordon Bonding and I have no idea who they are/were. If you know more about them please write in below. In the meantime let’s get to this whisky. Continue reading

Talisker 14, 1994, “Manager’s Choice”


The run of reviews of peated whiskies from sherry casks to end the month continues with this Talisker. It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a Talisker—the last one was the Game of Thrones release which I wrote up just over a year ago. And it’s been a while since I’ve felt very positively about the distillery whose recent releases have been on the cynical side. The whisky I’m reviewing today, however, is a different story. Which is not to say that people felt very positive about all aspects of it when it was released either. It was part of Diageo’s Manager’s Choice series which featured not very old whiskies at very high prices. With hindsight that series probably set the tone for Diageo’s special release pricing in the decade that followed. Which is not to say that the whiskies released in it weren’t good. My first go at this one was at one of my friend Rich’s tastings—during which I made the decision to pay the most I’ve ever paid for a teenaged whisky. But I’m not reviewing that bottle right now—it’s still closed. I did go to open it but in the process discovered this sample which I acquired in the first swap I did with Rich more than seven years ago. It may even have been drawn from the bottle I got a taste of a few years later. Here are my notes. Continue reading

Laphroaig 21, 1990 (Silver Seal)


Last week I reviewed a Laphroaig 21, 1998 bottled recently by the Whisky Exchange that I thought was amazing. Here now is another Laphroaig 21. This was distilled in 1990 and bottled in 2012 by the well-regarded Italian outfit, Silver Seal. I nabbed a bottle from Whiskybase when it was released. Even with the much higher exchange rate of the time it ran me less than $150. Those were the days etc. After almost 8 years on my shelves I opened this last week to pair with the TWE cask. When I tried it alongside that one it felt a bit overshadowed and so I decide to taste it a few more times and take notes on it by itself so it wouldn’t suffer unfairly by juxtaposition. Here now are those notes as the bottle has come down to the 3/4 full mark.

Laphroaig 21, 1990 (57.7%; Silver Seal; sherry cask #10839; from my own bottle)

Nose: Big sherry here too but much more organic than the TWE cask. There’s toffee and citrus peel and cocoa but floating above it is something rotting in wet undergrowth (I know it doesn’t sound appetizing but it works). Definitely a dose of savoury sulphur here. Dry woodsmoke running through it all. Gets saltier as it sits (soy sauce) and earthier (dried shiitakes) and the decomposing rodent note subsides. A few drops of water push the sulphur back almost entirely and emphasize sweeter biscuity notes along with pipe tobacco. Continue reading

Ledaig 11, 2008 (The Whisky Barrel)


Yesterday I had a review of an excellent teenaged Ledaig from a sherry cask. That was a 13 yo bottled by the Whisky Exchange. Today I have a review of another Ledaig from a sherry cask. This one is a couple of years younger and was an exclusive from another store, the Whisky Barrel. I reviewed three of the Whisky Barrel’s other recent exclusives in March. Like two of those—a 10 yo Balblair and a 10 yo Bunnahabhain—this too is from a first-fill oloroso hogshead. I’m not sure how they got their hands on all these first-fill oloroso hogsheads from different distilleries at the same time. It wouldn’t surprise me if these are all cases of re-racked “single casks” (a la Glendronach) but that’s just speculation. Anyway, howsoever it is that these were matured, I was not a huge fan of the Balblair but liked the Bunnahabhain a lot more. Here’s hoping that this Ledaig will be at least as good as that Bunnahabhain even if it doesn’t quite reach the heights of yesterday’s Whisky Exchange release. Let’s see. Continue reading

Ledaig 13, 2005 (The Whisky Exchange)


Here is another recent Whisky Exchange exclusive and it too is a peated whisky matured in a sherry cask. This is a Ledaig and a bit younger than Friday’s Laphroaig 21 (which you may recall I found to be outstanding). I don’t dare hope that this one will be as good but there has been a lot of excellent sherried Ledaig about in the last half decade. I suppose there must have been some that I tried and did not like but I can’t recall any and am too lazy to open another window and check. (Before the pandemic this was a character flaw; now it is a sign of my humanity.) Anyway, let’s see what this is like.

Ledaig 13, 2005 (57.4%; The Whisky Exchange; sherry butt 900174; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Earthy peat, salt, preserved lime. On the second sniff the classic organic, farmy Ledaig notes are here though not as much of the dead rodent as is often present. The salt expands with each sniff as does the lime but it also picks up some sweetness. Nothing new as it sits but it all comes together really well. A few drops of water bring out some pastry crust and cream. Continue reading

Laphroaig 21, 1998 (The Whisky Exchange)


Earlier this month I reviewed a Glenburgie 21, 1998 bottled by the Whisky Exchange. Here now is another 21 yo whisky distilled in 1998 and bottled by the Whisky Exchange under their obscure “The Whisky Exchange” label, this one a Laphroaig. I think it may have been bottled for TWE’s 20th anniversary, though it’s not listed on the page they have for those releases. Then again, the Inchmurrin 9, 2010 I reviewed on Tuesday was definitely released for their 20th anniversary and it’s not on that page either despite still being available. Mysterious are the ways of the Whisky Exchange. Anyway, back to this Laphroaig. It was distilled in 1998; in 2010 it was re-racked into an oloroso sherry cask (ex-bourbon before that? maybe it says on the label). Given that nine years is longer than seemingly most whisky being released in Scotland right now—if it even has an age statement—I think it’s well past being regarded as a “finish”. As a 21 yo Laphroaig, and sherry-bothered at that, this went for a very pretty penny, I think. It’s now sold out, which will save me a lot of soul searching if I like it as much as the reviews I’ve read make me think I will. Let’s see. Continue reading