Brora 25, 1981 (Duncan Taylor)


After yesterday’s Benrinnes 24, 1972, let’s go up one year of maturation and jump almost a decade ahead to 1981. Here is a Brora distilled just a couple of years before the legendary distillery shut down. The general consensus among whisky geeks is that early ’80s Brora is the least compelling Brora but when you’re dealing with single casks anything is possible. Let’s see where this one falls.

Brora 25, 1981 (56.5%; Duncan Taylor; cask 1423; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Dry to start, almost a bit vinegary, and then there’s some hay and other barnyard scents; also some tarry, almost acrid peat. As it sits there’s some tart fruit and the peat gets less acrid and more hot tarmac’ish. Okay, let’s see what water does. With a drop of water there’s sweeter fruit (a hint of peach?) and some wax. Continue reading

Longrow 14, 2003


In early May I reviewed a Longrow 13, 2003 from a single first-fill sherry cask. I found that one to be marred by a little too much sulphur but not irredeemably so. Here now is a sherried 14 yo Longrow from the same year but this one is from refill casks and a whole bunch of them: the total release of this whisky comprised 9000 bottles (not an unusual number for Springbank). So probably about 18 or 19 butts. That should theoretically allow for an averaging that guards against any major flaws. Let’s see if that turns out to be so.

Longrow 14, 2003 (57.8%; refill oloroso sherry cask; from a bottle split)

Nose: Uh oh, a mix of rubber and sour, yeasty notes. Some more pleasant sherry aromas lurk beneath (toffee, orange peel) but are completely dominated. Gets quite salty quite quickly. As it sits the sulphurous notes subside a bit. A few drops of water knock them back further and pulls out more salt along with cocoa and roasted nuts (hazelnuts, almonds). Continue reading

Lagavulin 18, Feis Ile 2018


The last time I reviewed one of Lagavulin’s special releases for Feis Ile was in 2014. I have a few of the subsequent releases on my shelves but haven’t opened any of them yet—hmmm I should do something about that. Anyway, that one was a 17 yo from a vatting of European oak sherry butts. This one is a year older and is put together far more complicatedly. It was a release of 6000 bottles from a vatting of refill American hogsheads, rejuvenated (presumably this means re-charred) hogheads and “bodega” sherry butts. Whether “bodega” here means American or European oak is anyone’s guess, as is whether that means these butts were actually used to mature or transport sherry or whether they were sourced from some bodega and filled with disposable sherry for a short period of time. Anyway, that 17 yo, bottled for Feis Ile in 2013 was very sherry forward in all the best ways. Let’s see what this one is like. Continue reading

Laphroaig 17, 1999 (SMWS)


It has been almost two months since my last Laphroaig review and more than six months since my last review of a sherried Laphroaig. Let’s end both those sad streaks in one go. This is from a refill sherry butt bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in 2016 or 2017. They called it “Divine, Dark Temptation”, which coincidentally is also my stripper name.

Laphroaig 17, 1999 (58.1%; SMWS; refill sherry butt 29.190; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: The usual Laphroaig medicinal complex plus cereals, smouldering leaves, salt and butterscotch. The sherry becomes more pronounced as it sits with the butterscotch joined by toffee and, yes, the inevitable raisins. Brighter and sharper with a bit of water and also more coastal—and after a bit there’s a bit of vanilla. Continue reading

Hazelburn 14, 2004


Here’s another 2019 Campbeltown release. I’ve previously reviewed the Springbank 21 and the new Kilkerran Heavily Peated. I liked the Springbank a lot, the Kilkerran less so, but neither got me very interested  in purchasing a bottle: the KIlkerran because it just wasn’t very interesting, the Springbank because it’s way too expensive for what it is. Next week I’ll have a review of the Longrow 18 released at the same time. Here now is the fourth from the stable: a Hazelburn, the triple-distilled, unpeated whisky distilled at Springbank. I’ve not had very many Hazelburns before and I don’t recall having had a heavily sherried one. And that is what this is: a large batch of 9900 bottles from oloroso sherry casks. As to whether they were full-term or only partially matured in the sherry casks, I do not know. If you do, please write in below. I’m interested to see what this is like at any rate. Let’s get right to it. Continue reading

Longrow 13, 2003, First Fill Sherry


Longrow, as you know, is the name of the more heavily peated malt made by Springbank (there are other differences in the production process as well).  Most of the bourbon cask Longrows—or ex-bourbon heavy releases—I’ve had have been very good, and those are most of the Longrows I’ve had. Indeed, it has been a long time since I’ve had a Longrow matured in sherry casks, and I don’t think I’ve reviewed any on the blog. I have reviewed a couple of wine cask Longrows, however. I did not care very much for the 14 yo Burgundy Wood release from 2012 or so which had a bit too much sulphur for my taste. I liked the 11 yo port cask Longrow Red better. Of course, none of this may have any bearing on this single first fill sherry cask which was bottled for the German market. The general stereotype (fact?) goes that German drinkers in general are fairly sulphur-positive or at least more so than most others. Will this cask play to that (possible) preference? Let’s see. Continue reading

Teaninich 29, 1983 (Signatory)


After Monday’s Game of Thrones Lagavulin 9 and yesterday’s not-very-sherried G&M Caol Ila 11, let’s make it three Diageo whiskies in a row. We go from the shores of Islay to the Highlands; from two iconic distilleries to one that is rather anonymous. Well, you might have said that about Glendullan as well, before Diageo made it part of the Singleton family and then assigned it to one of the Game of Thrones Houses (even if it’s only lame House Tully). No such recognition for Teaninich, who continue to produce large amounts of whisky for the group’s blends. As I say whenever I review a Teaninich, I have not had very much from this distillery. This is not the oldest Teaninich I’ve had (see this 39 yo bottled by Malts of Scotland); it is, however, the best Teaninich I’ve yet had. It was distilled a decade after that Malts of Scotland cask, in 1983, a year of major closures in the industry, and bottled three decades later by Signatory. My friend Pat brought this bottle to a tasting at our friend’s Rich’s place in St. Paul last November and it was a wonderful surprise. I can’t say how unlike other Teaninich of similar age and vintage it is but, thanks to Pat giving me a sample to take with me, I can tell you what it is like. Continue reading

Caol Ila 11, 2005 (Gordon & MacPhail)


Over the last decade and more Gordon & MacPhail have bottled a number of multi-cask vattings of 10-11 yo Caol Ila, many of them from sherry casks. Most have been well-received. I’ve liked most of the few I’ve had (see, example, this 10 yo, 1996), though there also have been some duds (see this 11 yo, 2000). I think this one, bottled in 2016, before Gordon & MacPhail’s livery changed, may be the first I’ve had from a vatting of four casks. I always wonder when something like this is released if one or two casks in the vatting might not have needed salvaging. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind you: a cask that might not be very interesting on its own can still work very well in a vatting, accentuating positive notes or even helping damp down some overbearing ones (anyone who has done a lot of home vatting knows this). The odd thing here is that these are said to have all been first-fill sherry butts but this is a rather light-coloured whisky. All American oak butts that held fino or manzanilla? Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Blair Athol 22, 1995 (First Editions)


I haven’t reviewed very many Blair Athols—it’s been almost a year since my last review in fact. That one was a single sherry cask, distilled in 1988 and bottled in 2014 or 2015 by Signatory. This one is not quite as old but is also from a single sherry cask. This is from the 1995 vintage and was bottled last year by First Editions, another of Hunter Laing’s lines. The arithmetic on this one is a little wonky though. The label says it’s a single sherry butt but also says only 234 bottles came from it. That seems about 50% too low for a sherry butt. Compounding the mystery is the fact that there was a Blair Athol 21, 1995 bottled in the same series in 2017 from a sherry butt with the exact same abv but that one apparently yielded 492 bottles and 492+234 is headed into Glendronach territory for a single sherry butt after 22 years. Now there’s also a First Editions release of Blair Athol 22, 1995 from 2017 with a slightly lower abv that’s listed as having yielded only 210 bottles. 210+234 is not an implausible number for a single sherry butt either. It’s also possible, of course, that the cask was split with a completely different bottler or that despite being listed on the label as a sherry butt it was actually a sherry hogshead. Either way, it’s obviously the case that independent bottlers can’t always be relied upon for very much more accuracy/transparency on labels than the distilleries themselves. If anyone has any light to shed on this please write in below. Continue reading

Croftengea 15, 2002 (SMWS 122.21)

Allah be praised: it’s not another Old Malt Cask 20th Anniversary release! No, it’s not. In fact this whisky has nothing to do with the Laing family. This is a 15 yo Croftengea released last year by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Because they are whimsical they gave it the name “Words from Random Phrase Generator”; or maybe it was “What’s cooking?” One or the other.

I got in on this bottle split because a Croftengea came out of nowhere to be one of my very favourite whiskies of 2018 (this one bottled by The Whisky Exchange). I therefore resolved to try as many Croftengeas as I possibly can, leading to this and also the purchase of a full bottle of a Croftengea 13 bottled for….wait for it, wait for it…the 20th Anniversary of the Old Malt Cask line! That’ll be next month; this is now. Continue reading

Glenlivet Nadurra, Oloroso, OL1015


Once upon a time, and a very nice time it was, Glenlivet, one of the two most popular single malt brands in the world and consequently not too concerned with the small hardcore enthusiast market made a malt for that market anyway. This was the Nadurra. Matured in ex-bourbon casks for at least 16 years and released in batches, the Nadurra was the one Glenlivet that the small hardcore enthusiast market was enthusiastic about. Naturally the distillery decided to fuck with a good thing and in 2014, or thereabouts, they dropped the age statement and introduced an oloroso version of the Nadurra, and then later a peated version. Well, to be frank it’s not just the distillery that’s responsible for this turn of events; it’s also whisky geeks who fetishize heavily sherried and peated malts. The Glenlivet brain trust probably thought this was what the cool kids wanted: Aberlour A’bunadh and Glenfarclas 105 and all that. And for all I know, the cool kids have indeed been buying these new Nadurras and proving the brain trust right. I’d meant to try the oloroso version myself when it first came out but never got around to it and then forgot about it. But now thanks to a bottle split I finally get to try one of the early releases, from 2015. Will it make me regret not having gotten aboard right away? Let’s see. Continue reading

Springbank 15, 2017 Release


On Wednesday I posted a review of a recent release of the Highland Park 12. Here now is a review of the 2017 release of another whisky that I used to enjoy a lot but have inconceivably neglected since my review in 2013 of a bottle from the 2010 release: the Springbank 15. Like the Highland Park 12, this bottle too has been redesigned. But if in the case of the Highland Park 12 what used to be a very unassuming bottle has been completely re-designed (more than once) to its current etched form, all that’s changed in the case of the Springbnk 15 is the label. And I am probably not alone in thinking that it is a change for the uglier rather than the prettier. Whatever else they’re spending their time and money on at the home base in Campbeltown, I’m not sure that they’re spending a lot of either on packaging design. But how about what’s inside the bottle? Has it too changed as the Highland Park 12 has? Read on to find out.  Continue reading

Highland Park 12, Viking Honour


The Highland Park 12 was one of the first whiskies I fell in love with when I started in on single malt whisky. Of course, that was many years and many bottle designs ago. Even though I have included it on both editions of my “Well-Rounded Single Malt Bar” lists, I have to admit that I had lost touch with it for a few years now. I reviewed it in 2014 back before the distillery had doubled down on its alleged Viking heritage (see the discussion in the comments on my write-up of my visit to the distillery last June to see how much this pivot bothers some people). Since then it’s been relaunched in a fancy new bottle with a slightly new name: it’s now the Viking Honour. I guess we have the honour of the Vikings to thank for the preservation of the age statement. Well, okay, that’s a cheap shot: while the distillery has indeed launched a number of NAS whiskies with Viking names it must be said that they’ve preserved their age-stated line and even delivered the occasional age-stated one-off (see the Full Volume). Anyway, I purchased this bottle on sale last year and opened it for a charity auction tasting friends asked me to host last month. I was curious to see what I would make of it—there’s been a lot of talk online about how it has gone completely downhill. Of course, with distilleries like Highland Park it is hard to separate people’s views of the whiskies from their views of their marketing. I liked my first pour at the event but wasn’t paying very close attention. I am now.  Continue reading

Glenmorangie, The Taghta


Let’s do another Glenmorangie. Alas, it’s another NAS whisky—Glenmorangie have released so many of them. Unlike the Tayne, the Taghta is not part of their current lineup. It was a limited edition released a few years ago and was said to be a crowd-sourced whisky with all aspects of the selection of the whisky apparently having been voted on (“Taghta” is apparently Gaelic for “chosen”). From various sherry/wine finishes a Manzanilla finish was selected by whoever did the voting. I’ve read some reports that indicate that this is the regular 10 yo plus a finish but there’s no official word to that effect. I guess the crowd that selected it didn’t get a say in the age. Unlike the Tayne, it’s at 46%, so it’s at least got that going for it. Anyway, let’s see what it’s like.

Continue reading