Clynelish 21, 1995, Cask 8688 (Signatory)


Clynelish week began on Monday with a 23 yo second-fill oloroso butt bottled by the American outfit, Single Cask Nation. That was just excellent. Here now is a 21 yo refill sherry butt bottled by Signatory. Given my stated cask preferences for Clynelish—ex-bourbon and refill sherry over heavier sherry influence—you might expect I’d be likely to like this one even more. But individual casks easily buck trends/preferences. I liked that 23 yo quite a bit more than another Signatory-bottled Clynelish 21, 1995 that I reviewed a few years ago. Where will this one fall? Let’s see.

Clynelish 21, 1995 (51.2%; Signatory; refill sherry butt 8688; from a bottle split)

Nose: Very similar to the 23 yo with leafy notes mixed in with citrus (lemon, makrut lime) and salt. Ginger shows up on the second sniff along with malt and this too has a big Ben Nevis crossover going on. Gunpowder on the third sniff and then some sweet fruit begins to poke out as it sits (peach). Water brightens it up and pushes back the leafy notes; it does also emphasize the (savoury) gunpowder. Continue reading

Clynelish 23, 1995 (Single Cask Nation)


Okay, another single distillery week to close out the month (see last week’s Caol Ila reviews here, here and here). This will take the count of my year’s Clynelish reviews from zero to three. We’ll do these in decreasing order of age.

First up is a 23 yo distilled in 1995 and bottled in 2018 from a second-fill oloroso butt. I am among those who prefers Clynelish from bourbon casks or from refill sherry but I am also among those who manages to enjoy good whisky even if it doesn’t fit in his usual preferences. By the way, I have previously reviewed another Clynelish 23, 1995 that was also from a sherry butt (though that was described as a refill butt). That one was part of K&L’s 2019 exclusives and I liked it fine—as I also did a Clynelish 21, 1995 that was a Whisky Exchange exclusive and also from a sherry cask. Well, all of that suggests that the floor for this one is likely to be at least very good. Let’s see. Continue reading

Islay Strait/Caol Ila 10, 2010 (Sovereign for K&L)


After weeks themed first for peated and then for sherried whiskies let’s now do a week on a single distillery. That distillery is Caol Ila, the Islay workhorse that is also probably the most dependable distillery on the island (only Lagavulin is permitted to register an objection). We’ll start with one that mixes both of the previous themes—peated and sherried—and move on to bourbon casks. This one was another from K&L’s set of exclusives from 2020. I quite liked the other Caol Ila I tried from that set. That one was an 11 yo from a bourbon cask, this one is a sherry finish and one year younger—and apparently teaspooned with Bunnahabhain. I am usually wary of sherry finishes but perhaps this one will surprise me. Let’s see.

Islay Strait/Caol Ila 10, 2010 (59.6%; Sovereign for K&L; sherry butt finish; from a bottle split)

Nose: A lovely mix of leafy smoke, phenols, lime, brine and other coastal notes (shells, kelp, uni). The salt and the lime intensify on the second sniff and there’s ink in the bottom now. As it sits olives emerge—a mix of kalamata and brighter green olives. The coastal notes expand with a few drops of water and there’s some ham brine in there too now along with a bit of cream. Continue reading

Mortlach 21, 1990 (Signatory for Binny’s)


Sherry Cask Week comes to an end with this 21 yo Mortlach distilled in 1990 and bottled by Signatory for Binny’s in Chicago in 2012. Yes, I’ve sat on this bottle for almost 10 years, and no, I cannot begin to tell you why. Back in the day, Binny’s had one of the best cask exclusive programs in the US, if not the very best. Brett Pontoni and his team selected casks of a good quality and sold them for good prices without too much hoopla. Those days are long gone as no one seemingly is able to find good casks at good prices anymore and some don’t even seem able to reliably find acceptable casks at good prices. Hopefully the wheel will turn sometime soon. It’s sad to think of how much harder it is now for someone just entering the hobby to truly experience the full range of single malt whisky than it was a decade ago. Will the industry at some point price itself into a dead-end and have to retrench? Or will marketing win out? When you look at what is happening on social media with not just single malt whisky but also bourbon (and increasingly brandy), it seems hard to be hopeful that sanity will return anytime soon. The producers and marketers have whipped customers into a frenzy and all too many people seem excited to pay high prices for marginal bottles. Anyway, let’s go back to 2012 when this 21 yo sherry cask Mortlach cost $99. Continue reading

Laphroaig Triple Wood, 2009 Release


I actually had this Laphroaig pencilled in for last week’s series of peated whiskies but it fits well in this week as well. I forgot to say in the preamble to Monday’s Longmorn 17, 1996 review that this would be a week of reviews of sherried whiskies. And this was the first release—I am pretty sure—of Laphroaig’s NAS Triple Wood. As you may recall/know, the Triple Wood was/is basically the Quarter Cask finished for a further period in oloroso sherry casks—making this a triple maturation (as the Quarter Cask itself starts out in regular ex-bourbon casks before entering the smaller quarter casks). It was released as a duty-free exclusive (back then duty-free exclusives were in fact only available in airports). I purchased a couple of bottles on the way back from a trip to London in December 2009. I opened one not too long after and quite liked it. A little later it became part of Laphroaig’s core lineup but I lost track of it. I’m not sure what the reputation of those later releases is, especially in recent years. To be frank, I’ve not kept track of the Quarter Cask either, or for that matter even the regular 10 yo. The 10 CS is the only official Laphroaig I follow closely (well, I guess I buy the Cairdeas each year too). Now that I’ve finally gotten around to opening my second bottle of the original release I’m interested to see what I make of it 12 years later. Let’s see. Continue reading

Longmorn 17, 1996, Cask 72315 (van Wees)


As you may recall, in 2013 the Dutch bottler van Wees released a large parcel of Longmorn 17, 1996s, all matured to a dark mahogany hue in sherry casks. As I noted, just under two years ago, when I reviewed another of these casks, these went for just about $65 at the far less attractive exchange rate of the time. I shudder to think of how much would be charged for similar bottles now. In that previous review—of cask 72324, purchased by my friends Clara and Rob at the same time I purchased this bottle—I also noted that if I liked it I would open this a month later. Well, I did like it and here I am, only a little behind schedule, with the review of my bottle. I actually opened this bottle at the end of May. When first opened I found it to be somewhat imbalanced. Though 57.5% is not crazy high as stupid abv goes, the combination of the alcohol and the oak seemed to me to overpower everything else in the whisky. After a few pours I set the bottle aside for a few weeks and when I came back to it the whisky had mellowed a fair bit. This review is taken from one of the later pours (the bottle is now past the halfway mark) and, as you will see, time in the glass and water are still very good to it. Anyway, here are some more detailed notes. Continue reading

Edradour 10, 2009

Edradour Week comes to a close with another 10 yo from an oloroso sherry cask. But this is completely different from Monday and Wednesday’s 10 yo and 11 yo oloroso sherry casks, you see, as it was distilled in the year in between and not bottled for Specs. All kidding aside, I don’t really expect this to be very different from the other two. Which is not to say that Monday’s 11 yo and Wednesday’s 10 yo were identical: between the slight variations and Edradour’s idiosyncratic qualities it should at least be interesting to track the profile across another cask.

Edradour 10, 2009 (55.8%; oloroso sherry cask #2; from a bottle split)

Nose: Clearly a sibling of the other two but the nutty/beany thing is in far greater evidence here off the top. Below that is the usual oloroso complex of raisins and citrus peel. On the second sniff there’s quite a bit of oak. As it sits the oak recedes and the fruit begins to come through more fully: a lot of dried orange peel and some apricot and not as much red fruit as in Wednesday’s 10 yo. A few drops of water bring out some dry notes along with some salt and earth. Continue reading

Edradour 10, 2010 (for Specs)


Edradour Week began on Monday with an 11 yo distilled in 2008 and bottled in 2020 for Specs in Texas. Here today is a 10 yo distilled in 2010 and bottled in 2020 for Specs in Texas. Like Monday’s whisky (and also Friday’s) it is from a single oloroso sherry cask. I quite liked Monday’s 11 yo and am curious to see how much variation, if any, there will be in this one. My suspicion is there will not be a lot of variation as there tends to be a reversion to a heavy oloroso mean in young whiskies. But the proof is in the glass. Let’s get to it.

Edradour 10, 2010 (57.4%; oloroso cask 115 for Specs; from a bottle split)

Nose: Very similar to Monday’s 11 yo except with less of the nuts and ginger. Instead, more red fruit; the old-timey medicine bottle rubber gaskets/stoppers are here too though. Saltier as it sits and the fruit gets richer as well, with apricot and some orange peel joining the red fruit. As with the other, more malt here with time but the fruit is in the lead. Water softens it further and brings out more malt along with a fair bit of vanilla cream. Continue reading

Edradour 11, 2008 (for Specs)


I recently realized that all the Edradours I have yet reviewed on the blog have been Ballechins—Ballechin, as I’m sure you know, is the name of the peated variant of Edradour, much like the Ledaig/Tobermory split at Tobermory. If you don’t know the distillery, it’s in the highlands, is owned by the same people who own the indie outfit, Signatory, and is one of the smallest distilleries in Scotland. I’ve now driven more or less past it twice on two trips to Scotland—perhaps if I ever get back there I will finally stop in. Anyway, I do like a good Ballechin but it’s time to start bringing some balance to this picture. Accordingly, this week will feature three Edradours. They are all of similar age—10-11 years old—and all have been matured in single oloroso casks. First up is the oldest of the lot in terms of both length of maturation and of vintage, if only by the slightest of margins. This 11 yo was distilled in 2008 and bottled in 2020 for Specs, the large Texas spirits retailer. Way back in the golden age of single malt whisky in the US, when shipping between states was not an impossible or very expensive venture, I purchased a fair bit of old whisky from Specs. I don’t expect that this store selection of a young sherry cask Edradour will quite reach the heights of those ancient Caperdonichs and Banffs and the like but I’ll be happy enough even if it’s just a very good whisky. Let’s see how it goes. Continue reading

Kilchoman 12, 2006 (for the Islay Cask Company)


The final whisky of Kilchoman Week is the oldest. And with a young distillery it’s not surprise that it’s the oldest vintage as well. This was distilled in 2006—one year before Monday’s 3 yo—and bottled in 2019 from a single sherry cask. This was a private bottling for some entity called Islay Cask Company. Who they are, I have no idea. This does have a very high rating on Whiskybase which is promising because, Wednesday’s 7 yo notwithstanding, I’ve generally not been very persuaded by sherry cask Kilchoman. Let’s hope this keeps the positive streak going.

Kilchoman 12, 2006 (56.1%; sherry cask 324/2006 for the Islay Cask Company; from a bottle split)

Nose:  Dry, ashy smoke mixed in with a leafy note. Some sweeter notes (orange peel) begin to come through as it sits but the smoke remains dry on the whole. Stays consistent with time which is another way of saying there isn’t much development. A few drops of water make it a bit richer: tobacco rather than ashy/leafy smoke now. Continue reading

Kilchoman 7, 2011, 100% Islay (for ImpEx)


Kilchoman Week began with a review of a 3 yo distilled in 2007 and matured in a bourbon cask. Here now is a 7 yo distilled in 2011 and matured in a sherry cask (the label on the sample bottle says 8 years old but as per Whiskybase this is a 7 yo). And this was one of their 100% Islay releases, which I think means it was made from Islay barley, perhaps from one of the nearby farms. This was a US release, bottled for the importer ImpEx. Historically, I have preferred bourbon cask Kilchoman to the sherry cask versions. Let’s see if this one breaks that mold.

Kilchoman 7, 2011, 100% Islay (56.1%; sherry cask #622/11; from a bottle split)

Nose: Ashy peat shot through with a mix of orange peel, brandied raisins and smouldering leaves. Some pencil lead/graphite in there too. A little saltier as it sits and then a sweeter mix of milky cocoa and vanilla emerges and expands along with the citrus. A few drops of water pull out some apricot to go with the citrus and push the ash back a bit. Continue reading

Highland Park 13, 2006, Cask of the Forest


Highland Park Week began with an indie release from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society which featured a Jamaican rum finish. On Wednesday, I reviewed an ex-bourbon cask from Berry Bros. & Rudd. Here to close out the series is an official distillery release that has the distillery’s favoured official profile front and center: sherry. Indeed, it is a single sherry cask. In the last few-several years Highland Park have really stepped up their single cask program. This one is a 13 yo distilled in 2006 and as per Whiskybase there are at least 40 such releases from the 2006 vintage alone and at least as many from each of the preceding years in the decade (the 2007s and 2008s appear to still be coming online. Not being insane, I have not gone and looked at the details of each cask but a random sampling suggests they’re all heavily sherried and all at ludicrous strengths, and that many if not most are from first-fill European oak casks. It’s no big surprise that this should be the case. In this market there’s only one thing that would top the mix of stupidly high abv and a sherry bomb when it comes to convincing whisky geeks to pay the big bucks and that’s if you add heavy peat to the mix. Continue reading

Lagavulin 20, Feis Ile 2020


And I close out what turned out to be a week of sherry cask whiskies with the Feis Ile 2020 release from Lagavulin. (See here for Monday’s Springbank and here for Wednesday’s Kilkerran.) Feis Ile 2021 is currently in progress—it is being held online again this year on account of the pandemic. I can only hope for all our sakes, whether we are whisky drinkers or fans of whisky festivals or not, that it can go back to being in-person next year.

I’ve reviewed a few of Lagavulin’s Feis Ile releases over the last few years. I was a huge fan of the 24 yo released in 2015 and also of the 17 yo released in 2013; the 18 yo released in 2018 I thought was very good but not great. What all of them had in common was sherry involvement, though only the 2013 was straightforwardly from sherry casks. This 2020 release is a vatting of refill hogsheads (ex-bourbon presumably) with hogsheads “seasoned” with PX and oloroso sherry. As to what exactly the “seasoning” involves, I don’t know, and nor do I know how long the spirit that came out of those casks spent in them. Well, that 2015 release was also complicatedly made and I thought it was just excellent; let’s hope this one will prove to be so as well. Continue reading

Kilkerran 8, Recharred Oloroso Sherry Casks


The new month may have begun in the middle of the week but that doesn’t mean I’m going to  not keep this week themed as well. And no, the fact that Monday’s review was of a Springbank and today’s is of a Kilkerran does not mean the theme is Campbeltown. This will instead be a week of sherry cask reviews. I’m not sure what Friday’s review will be of but while I have a few sherry cask-matured whiskies on the long list for June I don’t have any more from Campbeltown.

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a Kilkerran (almost exactly two years in fact) and indeed I’ve not reviewed very many of their releases or, for that matter, stayed current on what they’re up to. I’ve really liked all the Kilkerrans I’ve tried, though I think those may all have been from bourbon casks. Well, let’s hope I find this one to be a better exemplar of the distillery’s style than I did Monday’s Springbank Local Barley. Continue reading

Springbank 10, 2010, Local Barley


For the last review of May I have the 2020 edition of the Springbank Local Barley. Seemingly an annual fixture in Springbank’s portfolio of releases, the Local Barley releases that I have had have all been very good. The ones that I have had and reviewed are the 16 yo released in 2016 that re-launched this series; the 11 yo released in 2017; the 9 yo released in 2018; and the 10 yo released in 2019. There may be others released in this period that I’ve missed; if so, please let me know. The 2020 release sticks close to the age range of the post-2016 releases—it’s another 10 yo—but it departs from all its predecessors in cask type. While those were all either from ex-bourbon casks or ex-bourbon cask dominated (the 2019 release had 20% sherry casks in the vatting to 77% bourbon) this one was matured entirely in oloroso sherry casks. Between the sherry cask involvement—and resulting dark colour—and the general mania that has built up about this series, this release apparently went for pretty silly money in both the US and Europe—for quite a lot more than the retail price of $160 or so asked for the 16 yo in 2016. Such is life. I did not get a bottle but I did go in on a split from which I got all of one oz. For the little they’re worth, here are my notes. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 23, 1996 (First Editions)


Let’s get the month off to a likely fruity start with this Ben Nevis. I have three Ben Nevis on my long list for May and I’d said that if I reviewed a whisky that was part of a listed trio I’d likely review all three—as I’m liking organizing my reviews in a themed manner. However, given that I did a Ben Nevis week back in October and have reviewed three more since then, perhaps I don’t need to do another all Ben Nevis week. Accordingly, this will be the first in another week of reviews of highland malts (and I suspect it will also end up being a week of reviews of highly fruity malts).

This Ben Nevis was released in 2020—thus allowing me to spit in the eye of people who accuse me of only posting useless reviews of whiskies released a long time ago. Well, I don’t know that this review will be of any use to anyone either from a purchasing perspective, as I’d guess this sold out a long time ago. But perhaps some of my readers have or have already finished a bottle of this. If so, please consider sharing your take on it in the comments as well. Continue reading

Auchroisk 27, 1989 (Cadenhead)


Here to close out sherry cask week and the month on the blog is a 27 yo Auchroisk bottled by Cadenhead in 2016. It is somewhat atypically—based on my experience anyway—a sherry cask. Bourbon cask Auchroisk can be wonderfully fruity and I’ve been intrigued by the distillery ever since I drank this fruit bomb bottled for Binny’s by Signatory some years ago (and which I probably gave too low a score then). Most of the other Auchroisks I’ve had have been bourbon casks as well (for example, this, this and this—the last of those another 27 yo from Cadenhead). But I don’t mean to suggest that I’ve not had any sherry cask Auchroisks before; just last year I reviewed another, a 22, 1990 bottled by Whisky-Fässle. I liked that one a lot and particularly liked that the sherry in that case was not very obtrusive and certainly did not cover up the fruit. I’m a little less sure of this one—the reviews on Whiskybase suggest it may be one best aligned with the tastes of the German market, with more than one reviewer noting the presence of “dirty sherry”, which is another way of saying sulphur. Well, as it happens I don’t mind sulphur when it presents in the savoury gunpowder end of things. But I do hope that it won’t block the fruit. Let’s see how it goes. Continue reading

Glendronach 18, 1994 (PX Puncheon for the UK)


As I said on Monday, the last week of this month is sherry cask month. The week got off to a high abv start with a Glenrothes 12 bottled by the SMWS from a first-fill oloroso sherry cask. Today I have an official Glendronach 18, a PX puncheon bottled for the UK. On release this cost me $103 at the then much higher $/£ exchange rate. These days I’m sure it would cost a far prettier penny on the secondary market.

I have to say I am a little nervous going into this. On the one hand, some of my favourite Glendronachs have involved PX (including this one, also bottled for the UK market). However, my experience also suggests that these PX releases are also the most likely to involve shenanigans from Glendronach’s so-called “single cask” regimen and unsuccessful ones at that. Certainly some of the flabbiest of these alleged “single casks” I’ve had from the distillery have seemed to involve re-racking in PX casks to rescue spirit that had probably gotten over-oaked or just gone flat in terms of flavour. Such, for example, was this one, also a PX puncheon. Let’s hope this is closer to the 1993 than the 1990. Continue reading