Aberfeldy 16, 2003 (G&M)


There’ll be no whisky review this Friday as it’s the first of the month and so let’s call it a mini-sherry cask week (following Monday’s Balvenie PX Finish). I noted on Monday that I have not reviewed very many Balvenies; well, this is only my second review of an Aberfeldy. The first was a 17 yo bottled by Cadenhead in 2014 from bourbon hogsheads. This one is a year younger and was bottled in 2020 by G&M from a refill sherry hogshead. I quite liked the ex-bourbon 17 yo—will this one be at least as good? Let’s see.

Aberfeldy 16, 2003 (58.8%; G&M; refill sherry hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: No sherry bomb, this comes in with some dried orange peel, cereals and dried leaves. The orange peel picks up as it sits and some mildly-spicy oak joins it. With time the oak softens and some toffee emerges along with some roasted malt; a bit of cream/milky cocoa too now. Water emphasizes this development and pulls out more of the leaves as well. Continue reading

Balvenie 18, PX Finish


I’ve not reviewed very many Balvenies over the years (only 10 total and only a handful in the last 4-5 years). There was a time when their 12 yo Double Wood was a regular in my rotation but that was a long time ago. It seems to be available for a relatively reasonable price in Minnesota. Should I give it a go? I do know I wasn’t terribly impressed the last time I tried it but it may have improved since, I suppose. I was also a huge fan a decade ago of their 15 yo Single Barrel series that was all from bourbon casks (here’s the only one I’ve reviewed). But that got replaced by a hot sherry bomb that cost a lot more and which I was not very impressed with the first time I tried it, though I did like the second cask I tried better. The Balvenie I’m reviewing today is also sherried, albeit the sherry comes in only via a finish: it spends some time in PX casks after initial maturation in American oak (presumably ex-bourbon) casks. It was/is a Travel Retail exclusive, which makes it a bit surprising both that it has an age statement and that it’s at a good drinking strength of 48.7%. How much of its 18 years it spends in either cask type I’m not sure, but here’s hoping the finish is well-integrated. Let’s see. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 21, 1996 (The Daily Dram)


Ben Nevis week got off to a disappointing start with Monday’s 20 yo from 1996. That one, bottled by Single Cask Nation, was from a refill oloroso puncheon. Today I have for you another from the 1996 vintage, with an additional year of age. It is also from a refill sherry cask—a butt in this case, and the type of sherry not specified. This one was bottled by the Daily Dram—which, I have to constantly remind myself is an independent bottler unrelated to the Nectar’s “Daily Drams” series. Anyway, I’m hoping this will reset this week of Ben Nevis. Odds are good as I can’t remember the last time I had two indifferent Ben Nevises in a row.

Ben Nevis 21, 1996 (50.6%; The Daily Dram; refill sherry butt; from a bottle split)

Nose: A classic Ben Nevis arrival with roasted nuts, malt, ginger powder, yeasty dough and rubber gaskets from old medicine bottles. On the second sniff there’s a fair bit of salt and just a hint of smoke. As it sits some sweet citrus emerges (orange peel and juice). With time the yeast comes to the fore and is joined by some white pepper. Water pushes the yeast back a bit and brings out more citrus. Continue reading

Tomatin 25, 1994 (Hunter Laing)

My week of reviews of 20+ yo whiskies from distilleries from different whisky producing regions of Scotland got off to a good start on Monday with the Arran 20, Brodick Bay. It then hit a bump in the road with Wednesday’s Kirkland 23, Speyside. Both of those had sherry involvement. The Brodick Bay was matured in both bourbon and sherry casks and then finished in oloroso sherry. The Kirkland was matured in bourbon casks and also finished in oloroso sherry. I close out the week now with a whisky that received a full-term maturation in a sherry butt. At 25 years old this Tomatin is the oldest of the week and I hope it will give it a good end. Older Tomatin can be very good indeed. The butt yielded 452 bottles, which may seem particularly low to those used to Glendronach’s outturns from sherry butts. Keep in mind though that there seems to have been a fair bit of spirit lost to evaporation—at cask strength this came in at just 49.3%. Let’s hope that means that this will be an extra-fruity Tomatin. Continue reading

Kirkland 23, Speyside (Alexander Murray)


As you may recall, the theme for this week’s whisky reviews is 20+ yo whiskies from distilleries located in different production regions of Scotland. The week began with an official release of 20 yo Arran—Brodick Bay. It continues today with a 23 yo from the Speyside. Which distillery exactly in the Speyside? I’m afraid I can’t tell you as this was a private label bottling for Costco by Alexander Murrary and as with most/all such Costco releases, no distillery is specified. This was matured in ex-bourbon casks and finished in oloroso sherry (which is hopefully the only explanation for the dark colour of the whisky in the sample bottle). I don’t have a whole lot of experience with Costco’s Kirkland-branded single malt Scotch releases. I believe I’ve only ever reviewed one other—this 18 yo, also from the Speyside. I didn’t think very highly of that one, finding it to be too watered down in every way. Will this at a more respectable 46% abv (ignore the abv on the sample label—it’s an error) have more oomph/character? I certainly hope so. Continue reading

Arran 20, Brodick Bay


After a week of reviews of whiskies from Mortlach (here, here and here) and then a week of reviews of whiskies from Highland Park (herehere and here), here is a week of reviews with a more diffuse theme: 20+ yo whiskies from distilleries from different whisky producing regions of Scotland. First up, representing the islands, is a distillery I have not reviewed very much from: Arran.

Brodick Bay is an official release, a 20 yo whisky that came out in 2020 and was the first in something called The Explorer Series. I don’t know how many more releases have followed or how they were made but I can tell you that this was put together from spirit matured in a mix of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks and finished in bodega oloroso casks (not sure if that means European or American oak). It’s not the oldest Arran I’ve reviewed (that would be this 21 yo) but it’s close. Let’s hope it’s at least as good. Continue reading

Highland Park Cask Strength, First Release


Highland Park was once one of my very favourite distilleries but it’s been a while since I cared to keep up with what they were up to. Of course, this is not a reflection on the distillery itself but on the owners but they’ve gone down an increasingly silly path of premiumization over the last half decade, with prices increasing and NAS releases proliferating. As I’ve stopped following them, I had no idea they’d launched a new cask strength edition until the chance came up to go in on a bottle split on the first release from 2020. Though as I say that I’m not sure that it is in fact the first release—or rather, what that means. As per Whiskybase, this is the first release of this particular Highland Park Cask Strength (subtitled, “Robust and Intense”). But Whiskybase also lists four other cask strength distillery releases, the last of which came out in 2019—all of those were 350 ml bottles for the Swedish market. So, it may be more appropriate to say that this is the first general release of a cask strength line under the “Robust & Intense” moniker. There’s been a second release in 2021 as per Whiskybase. Unlike the Swedish casks, which don’t specify, this first release is listed as having been matured in “sherry seasoned American oak casks”; the second added sherry seasoned European oak casks to the mix. That one seems to have come to the US too—I’ll keep an eye out for a possible bottle split of that as well. Continue reading

Mortlach 20, 2000 (G&M)


A week of Mortlach reviews began on Monday with a 10 yo bourbon cask bottled by Signatory and continued on Wednesday with a 12 yo sherry cask bottled by Sovereign for K&L. It concludes today with a 20 yo bottled by Gordon & MacPhail from a refill sherry hogshead. As I’ve said before, Mortlach usually shows its best side in the context of sherry maturation and this week’s reviews bear that out. Will a refill sherry cask be as good of a frame for Mortlach’s spirit as the darker 12 yo sherry cask was? If the cask was relatively spent then the extra eight years of maturation may not mean much in terms of imparting sherry character. In any event, I think the point I would make is that what we think of when we think of Mortlach’s “distillery character” is not just the character of the spirit as produced through distillation but also the character of that spirit as transformed through sherry cask maturation—see here for a post from several years ago that goes into this idea of “distillery character” at more length. At any rate, it’s interesting to try a distillery’s spirit from three different types of oak in close juxtaposition. Let’s see how this goes. Continue reading

Mortlach 12, 2008 (Sovereign for K&L)


As you may remember from Monday’s review, this week is a Mortlach week. This in order to try to redress the weak impression people who don’t know the distillery’s spirit well may have received from last Friday’s review of the official 14 yo for travel retail. Well, while Monday’s 10 yo release from Signatory was better, it didn’t exactly light my hair on fire either. Will that happen with today’s 12 yo? On the plus side, it is a sherry butt and Mortlach generally shows its best side with heavy sherry maturation. On the less than plus side, this was bottled for K&L and sold for just about $60. A seeming good deal at K&L can often/sometimes (depending on your point of view) be too good to be true. Hopefully this is not one of those cases. Certainly, I was not overly impressed by the last cask of K&L Mortlach I reviewed—which, like Monday’s Signatory, was also a bourbon cask. Was this one leftover in my stash from that same round of casks or did I acquire it in a separate bottle split? I can’t remember. Anyway, let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Mortlach 14, Alexander’s Way


And so a week of reviews of official distillery releases comes to an end. It started on Monday with an outstanding Springbank 10 (the 2021 release) and continued on Wednesday with a typically solid Clynelish 14 (from 2018). I have another 14 year old to end the week, this one from the Speyside. This Mortlach is not from the distillery’s core range; it is rather a travel retail exclusive. It bears the name “Alexander’s Way”. This refers to a prior owner of the distillery who apparently came up with their unique so-called 2.81 distillation regime—which along with their use of worm tubs as condensers—creates the idiosyncratic character of Mortlach’s spirit. You have to hand it to Diageo: these days when a distillery release has the name of someone like that on its label it usually does not bear an age statement. But Diageo have gone ahead and given us a 14 yo. Of course, they haven’t gone so far as to give it to us at 46%, leave alone at cask strength. This is bottled at 43.4%. That extra .4% of abv above the bog standard 43% must be doing a lot of work. And nor have they offered any guarantee that the spirit in the bottle comes by its dark amber colour honestly. But if it tastes good that’s all that matters. Let’s see. Continue reading

Ballechin 10, 2010 (Signatory)


This week of reviews of peated whiskies began on Monday with an indie Port Charlotte that is said to have some sherry involvement. It continued on Wednesday with the 2018 release of the official Ledaig 10 that may or may not have sherry casks in the vatting. Here to close out the week is another indie that is unambiguously sherried. Indeed it’s from a single sherry butt and a first-fill butt at that. It’s a 10 yo Ballechin—or peated Edradour—from Signatory, who’ve bottled a number of sherried Ballechins of this general age in the last few years. I’ve liked the ones I’ve tried and so have high hopes for this one. Let’s see if they’re borne out.

It just struck me, by the way, that this week ended up having a secondary theme: not only were these all peated whiskies but they’re all the heavily peated variants from distilleries that are at least nominally known for unpeated/lightly peated malt. Continue reading

Port Charlotte 14, Batch 7 (That Boutiquey Whisky Co.)


Last week’s reviews were all of peated whiskies that had spent at least some time in port casks. The week began with a Bunnahabhain that spent three of its eight years in a tawny port cask and ended with a Longrow that spent all of its 11 in a refill port pipe. In between was an 8 yo Kilchoman that was finished in a ruby port cask. This week’s whiskies do not involve port—not that I know of anyway—but they are all also heavily peated. First up is a Port Charlotte 14 bottled by Master of Malt’s That Boutiquey Whisky Co. label. I’m not too sure about how these TBWC batch releases work. This one apparently comprised 662 bottles but they were all 375 ml, which makes it not the largest batch. Indeed, the total volume would approximate 331 regulation 750 ml bottles—which is between a hogshead and a butt. So if a batch was put together from more than one cask (as you would expect) it might be the marriage of a bourbon hogshead and part of a sherry butt. This is all speculation, of course—but in the absence of detail from the bottlers it’s all I’ve got. My sample came to me from the redoubtable Michael Kravitz of Diving for Pearls (see here for his review). Continue reading

Ben Nevis 20, 1997 (The Exclusive Malts)


Another day, another 20 year old Ben Nevis distilled in 1997. Monday’s iteration was bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd; today’s was bottled by the Exclusive Malts/Creative Whisky Company. If I’m not mistaken the company is now defunct (a thousand apologies if that’s not true). Unlike Berry Bros. & Rudd, they specified the cask type: a refill sherry hogshead. I hazarded the opinion on Monday that the Berry Bros. & Rudd cask might also have been refill sherry. Let’s see if I like this one as much as I did that one.

Ben Nevis 20, 1997 (51.9%; The Exclusive Malts; refill sherry hogshead #38; from a bottle split)

Nose: Musty oak off the top and quite a bit of it; a leafy quality too (like damp, rotting leaves). On the second sniff the oak turns to cedar and some sweet orange begins to push its way out. As it sits the citrus becomes more tart/acidic and there’s a mineral, slightly chalky edge to it. With time the oak more or less fades here and is replaced by sweeter notes of butterscotch and brown sugar. Fruitier with water as the orange is joined by some papaya and hints of tart-sweet mango. Continue reading

Ardlair 6, 2011 (Signatory)


After a week of non-single malt whisky reviews (rum, Irish, bourbon) let us return to our normal programming, which also means a return to Scotland. This week will see reviews of three whiskies from the same distillery. That distillery—in case you’re wondering what “Ardlair” is—is Ardmore. Ardlair is apparently the name given to their unpeated malt (Ardmore, as you know, is one of the few Highlands distilleries that normally distills peated malt). As to whether this name is used by the distillery or is required to be used by independent bottlers, so as to protect the distillery’s branding, I do not know. For all I know, it’s a Signatory-only naming convention. At any rate, I’ve never tasted unpeated Ardmore before and so am looking forward to this one even though it has two potential strikes against it, going in: 1) It’s very young; and 2) it’s at a stupid strength. Will the brilliance of the Ardmore distillate shine through anyway? Let’s see. Continue reading

Caol Ila 12, 2008 (Adelphi)


Let’s close out this week of reviews of whiskies from Islay distilleries with another young whisky released in 2021. As you have memorized and therefore don’t need me to remind you, my first review this week was of the new Ardbeg 8 and my second review was of the new Laphroaig 10 Sherry Oak. I am not sure what, if any, sherry cask involvement there is in the Ardbeg 8 but the Laphroaig has the sherry applied via an oloroso cask finish—a finish that melds very well with the spirit. This 12 yo Caol Ila takes the sherry further: it’s the result of a full-term maturation in a first-fill oloroso hogshead. The combination of “first-fill” and “hogshead” gives me a bit of pause: hopefully it’s not a recipe for raw, oaky sherry bomb. I am hopeful, however, as some of my very favourite sherried peated whiskies have been Caol Ilas—though I can’t recall if I have previously reviewed a specified oloroso cask. Let’s see where this one falls. Continue reading

Laphroaig 10, Sherry Oak, 2021 Release


I am the person you come to for timely reviews of very recently released whiskies. On Monday I posted my review of the limited edition 8 yo released by Ardbeg last year. Today I have for you a review of the sherry finished 10 yo also released last year by one of Ardbeg’s neighbours to the slight southwest: Laphroaig. My understanding is that this is basically the regular 10 yo Laphroaig “finished” for a short period in oloroso sherry casks. Which would distinguish it from the previous Triple Wood and PX releases, both of which involved quarter cask maturation and also lacked any age statement. I suppose it’s also possible that the 10 years of maturation includes a longer period spent in sherry casks but nothing I’ve seen in my desultory googling substantiates this possibility. If you know definitively one way or the other, please do write in below. Apart from the sherry involvement this also differs from the regular 10 yo in being bottled at 48% abv and costing quite a bit more—though not as much more as you might expect: Wine-Searcher shows prices in the US as “low” as $65. I think this did come to Minnesota as well but in the pandemic I did not manage to rouse myself to look for a bottle. Will this sample make me regret my lack of energy? Let’s see. Continue reading

Old Pulteney 15, 1982, Cask 1300


For the last whisky review of January I have an official Pulteney—and so, an Old Pulteney—distilled in 1982 and bottled in 1998. Pulteney released a number of these 15 yo casks in the late 1990s, seemingly to mark the oncoming end/start of the millennium. I say “seemingly” because I remain a bit confused as to why they would release in 1997/1998 casks aimed to commemorate something happening 2 years later. Then again I have never claimed to understand whisky marketing. The release I am reviewing today is from cask 1300, a sherry cask which was, I believe, released in the Japanese market. Not all of these casks seem to have been ex-sherry; but, assuming Whiskybase’s listing is complete, all seem to have been bottled at very high strengths. This one certainly was at 60%. As to whether this too was a conscious choice for this series or if 15 yo Pulteney consistently flows out of the cask at 60% up there in the cold weather of Wick, I don’t know. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading

Dailuaine 10, 2010 (Sovereign for K&L)


From a week of reviews of heavily peated whiskies from the highlands let’s go to a week of milder fare from the Speyside. The last lot of Speysides I reviewed at the end of December were all fairly old—two 28 yo Glenfarclas (here and here) and a 33 yo Longmorn (here). We’ll start this week with a much younger whisky from a far less storied distillery: Dailuaine. This is from a sherry butt that was also part of K&L’s 2021 cask selections. I am now almost at the end of my reviews of that large batch; it would be good to get them done before the 2022 casks show up.

Dailuaine 10, 2010 (59.4%; Sovereign for K&L; sherry butt; from a bottle split)

Nose: A nice mix of sweet malt, light caramel and fruit (orange, apricot). Somewhat waxy on the second sniff with some honey in the mix too now. The citrus gets a little brighter as it goes and some cream emerges. The fruit gets richer as it sits and mixes nicely with the malt and the wax. With a lot more time it gets quite sweet. A few drops of water and the lemon wakes back up and picks up a biscuity note. Continue reading