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.

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Glenmorangie, The Tayne


Yesterday I posted a review of a whisky available only in India, a sample of which I acquired while in Delhi last month but which I did not drink there: Amrut Amaze. Today I have for you a review of a whisky available worldwide—though mostly (only?) in duty-free shops in airports—that I did in fact drink and review in Delhi: Glenmorangie’s The Tayne. A bottle of this was in my father’s bar and I tasted it on a couple of occasions. I failed to photograph it, however, and after returning asked my parents to take a picture and WhatsApp it to me. What you see alongside is the best of many pictures they sent me. It appears to be of a full bottle which means my father had more than one hanging around. Okay, now that I’m done with the fascinating family anecdote, what can I tell you about the antecedents of the whisky itself? Not very much, I’m afraid. I have no idea why it is called “The Tayne” and I am reluctant to find out as it may make me feel bad about laughing to myself sophomorically every time I think of it as Glenmorangie, The Taint. I can tell you that it is a NAS whisky that has been “finished” in Amontillado casks. How long the original maturation lasted and how long the finish, I do not know. But I can tell you what I thought of it.  Continue reading

Glen Grant 27, 1991 (Old Malt Cask, 20th Anniv. Release)


Let’s keep the run of OMC 20th anniversary releases going. As you may recall, I really liked the Arran 21 and thought the Laphroaig 12 was a bit too mono-dimensional. Here now is a Glen Grant 27, the oldest of the bottles in the split I went in on. (I don’t really know what the complete line-up of these releases was—it’s possible there were others that were even older). I’m a big fan of older Glen Grant and a big fan of older, sherried Glen Grant—both of which this is. In theory, at least, this has every chance of being my cup of tea. Let’s see if that turns out to be the case.

Glen Grant 27, 1991 (50%; Old Malt Cask, 20th Anniv. Release; sherry cask 17079; from a bottle split)

Nose: The first impression is of oak, not tannic, a little mentholated; past it come sweeter notes of red fruit (raspberries) and vanilla. On the second sniff there’s some citrus (orange). With more time there’s some milk chocolate and some of the leafy stuff from the palate. With a few drops of water the fruit expands nicely: apricot now to go with the orange.  Continue reading

Arran 21, 1997 (Old Malt Cask, 20th Anniv. Release)


Douglas Laing, the originators of the Old Malt Cask label, was established in 1948. I believe that for a long time their business was blends. I’m not sure if the Old Malt Cask line was their first foray into independent bottling of single malt whiskies but when I got into single malt whisky in a big way in the mid-late 2000s, it was a very established series with a very good reputation. You could have convinced me it had been around forever. As it happens, it was only introduced in 1998. At some point in the last few years the company split into two and the Old Malt Cask and Old & Rare labels went with the new Hunter Laing company (they also own the First Editions, Hepburn’s Choice and Sovereign labels). The Old Malt Cask packaging has remained the same, with the iconic hexagonal box and the whiskies are still bottled at 50%. Anyway, to mark the 20th anniversary of the label the company put out a number of releases last year, and through bottle splits I acquired a few of these. Over the next week and a half I’m going to go through them. I’m going to begin with this Arran 21. I actually purchased this bottle before tasting my sample, on account of a glowing review by Matt G. of Whisky Musings. Thankfully, I did like it a lot when I did try it and I’ve also been enjoying the bottle, which I opened right away. Here are my notes.  Continue reading

“Speyside Region” 43, 1973 (The Whisky Agency)


For my last whisky review of the year I have what I think may have been the oldest whisky I drank this year; in terms of maturation, that is (in terms of distillation year that was last week’s Glen Moray 42). This was bottled by the Whisky Agency for the Whisky Exchange last year (or was it a joint bottling?) and is from an undisclosed Speyside distillery. Well, it is technically undisclosed but everyone seems very sure it was a Glenfarclas. Glenfarclas, of course, do not allow their name to be placed on labels of independently bottled casks, but it’s also more usual to see names like Burnside or Speyside’s Finest or references to a family owned distillery on independent releases of the distillery’s whisky. At any rate, there were quite a few of these “Speyside Region” 1973s released in 2016 and 2017, and most of those were from the Whisky Agency—they seem to have come into a parcel of these casks. Anyway, I first tasted this at a gathering in St. Paul in early November that featured a number of excellent older whiskies. This one had one of the best noses of everything on the table that night. Thankfully, the owner of the bottle was happy to share a sample and so I got to take a second crack at it and write up some formal notes.  Continue reading

Bunnahabhain 34, 1980 (Whisky Fair)


Yesterday I posted a brief look at the Dornoch Castle Hotel. Here now is a review of one of two whiskies I drank at their famous whisky bar: a Bunnahabhain 34, 1980 bottled by/for Whisky Fair. As I mentioned in my write-up yesterday, their bar has a rather impressive collection of whiskies. You can choose between whiskies bottled in the 1970s (and earlier), older whiskies distilled in the 1970s (and earlier) and also many recent and contemporary whiskies of very strong reputation. And the prices are very fair as well—each bottle has its by the pour price marked on it, which keeps nasty shocks at bay. They also have a large printed list. I took a look at it, I looked at everything in the cabinets and on the shelves, and my eyes began to glaze over a bit. Accordingly, I decided to just go with the recommendations of the Thompson brothers as listed with those of other staff members at the front of the whisky list. This was my first pour, Phil Thompson’s value pick from the then-current list.  Continue reading

Deanston 11, 2006 (Signatory)


On Wednesday I had a review of an 11 yo Orkney/Highland Park bottled at a ludicrous strength of 63.7%. Here now is a review of an 11 yo Deanston bottled at an even more ludicrous strength of 64.7%. I have to admit I have never understood the appeal of whisky bottled at such strengths—they are almost always too hot, in my experience, and there is not one that I have not found improved radically by bringing it down closer to 55% or less. This is also true of bourbon, a category in which you see these strengths more often, and whose aficionados tend to be more committed to drinking at full strength. To each their own, I suppose, but my recent experiences of young, high strength Scotch whisky is beginning to make me wonder if bottlers are not making a bet that a very high strength may be a selling point in and of itself; a sort of whisky machismo mixed in with notions of cask strength “purity”. Anyway, let’s see what this is like.  Continue reading

Orkney 11, 2007 (North Star)


I guess this has de facto turned into a sherried whisky month—all my reviews save for that of the Loch Lomond 12 have been of whiskies from sherry casks of one kind or the other. Might as well keep that going. Like Monday’s Ballechin 12, this too was released as an exclusive for the Whisky Barrel, and I got this sample as part of the same larger bottle split. This is an Orkney 11 yo, or an indie Highland Park—it seems like new indie releases of Highland Park mostly bear the Orkney nomenclature these days; and I think I read recently that Highland Park may even be cracking down on indie bottlings altogether—shame if that’s true. Anyway, I suppose it’s possible that an Orkney cask could also be from Scapa. But since I know less about these matters than most, I will go along with the notion that Orkney=Highland Park in the indie market unless there is info to the contrary. I was particularly interested in this one as it’s from a PX sherry hogshead (presumably not full matured) and I don’t think I’ve ever had one of those.  Continue reading

Ballechin 12, 2005 (Signatory for the Whisky Barrel)


Back again to the combo of big sherry and big peat. This Ballechin was/is an exclusive for the Whisky Barrel. It was bottled by Signatory and as Signatory owns Edradour—whose peated malt Ballechin is—it seemed a pretty good bet that this would be a good cask. Also relevant: I quite liked the old limited edition Ballechin 4 which was from oloroso casks (or finished in oloroso casks, I can’t remember). I got this sample as part of a bottle split and indeed liked it so much (spoiler alert) that I purchased a couple of bottles. I was surprised to see later that Serge didn’t rate it very highly. This may explain why this is still available from the Whisky Barrel. I think it’s one that requires some time and then water to reveal all its charms. Anyway, I do recommend it highly, especially if you like that combo of big sherry and big peat.

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Tomatin 16, Distillery Exclusive PX Cask


More sherried whisky but this time sans peat. I purchased this bottle at the Tomatin distillery this June and filled it myself (see here for an account of the distillery tour I took that day). Tomatin seems to regularly have five casks on offer for hand-bottling at their distillery shop. Both on this visit and on my brief stop in June 2017 these casks were ex-bourbon, virgin oak, ex-oloroso, ex-PX and an older cask. Last year I bottled just the ex-bourbon 12 yo. This year I bottled both the current 12 yo ex-bourbon cask and this 16 yo PX cask. This after getting tastes of both of these and the oloroso. This was not matured for all 16 years in a PX cask (does any distillery do full-term PX maturation?). Instead, it spent the first ten years in a bourbon cask and then the last six in PX. That’s well past the cut-off for what I would call double maturation. Anyway, while I liked it enough at the distillery to fill a bottle, when I opened it a month and a half ago I didn’t like it as much: it seemed much too hot. However, when I took it too my local group’s November tasting it had clearly settled down with some more headspace in the bottle and it was the top bottle on the night (everyone but me drinks blind). These notes were taken after that tasting.  Continue reading