I have not had very many old Glenlivets. And unless you’re a member of the whisky illuminati chances are you’ve not either. The few I’ve had have been very good indeed. The best of the lot was probably a Glenlivet 38, 1974 bottled by Berry Bros. and Rudd for the Whisky Exchange in 2012, and which I emptied a few weeks before starting this blog (hmm I should check to see if I saved a sample from that bottle as was my usual practice in those days). This old Glenlivet was also bottled for the Whisky Exchange but by Signatory. It’s also, unlike the BB&R bottle, from a sherry cask. And as this is 2018 and not 2012, it costs more than three times as much. These are the times in which we live. Not so long ago a bottle like this would have been within reach of regular punters looking to make a splurge; now it’s only for the rich. But what is it like? Courtesy Billy Abbot, who passed on a sample to me when we met for drinks in June at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s London tasting rooms, I can give you my answer. Continue reading
Here I am with my annual review of Laphroaig’s annual release for Feis Ile, the Islay festival: the Cairdeas (pronounced: car-chuss, roughly). I’ve reviewed the previous five releases—my most consistent commitment to timeliness. This year’s, like 2014’s Amontillado finish, also involves sherry and it also represents a failure on the distillery’s part to make my hopeful attempt at prediction come through: in the review of last year’s Quarter Cask release I’d noted it would be nice if Laphroaig gave us a young all-sherry cask release this year; but what they’ve given us is a a finish. Apparently, this is composed of six year old bourbon cask spirit finished in Fino sherry casks for an unspecified amount of time. Well, I quite liked the Amontillado release and I expected to like this one as well. (Keep in mind though that Laphroaig is my favourite distillery and I’m one of very few people who has liked almost all recent Cairdeas releases a lot—last year’s was the exception.) Continue reading
Yesterday I had a report on my recent visit to Aberlour. Today I have a review of their 10 yo whisky. I believe this is their current entry-level malt. It’s been a long time since I last tasted this whisky*, which comprises spirit married in bourbon and sherry casks and is generally fairly priced. Well the 10 yo was part of the tasting at the end of the tour as well, but I didn’t taste it then, as I was driving after. The sample I took away didn’t make much of an impression but it was a very small pour—much too small for a review. But as luck would have it the friend we stayed with in London for a few days after our Scotland trip had a bottle open and so I tried it a couple of times and wrote my notes up. Here they are.
*Potential correction: this may actually have been my first time trying this whisky. I think it’s the Aberlour 12 that’s more widely available in the US and that I’d last tried some years ago. Continue reading
This Campbeltown cask at Cadenhead’s represents my greatest whisky regret from our recent trip to Scotland. This is not because it was a disappointment; quite the opposite. I purchased a 200 ml bottle at Cadenhead’s on my first day in Edinburgh (along with their Islay cask, a Glen Ord 13 and a Tullibardine 24). I opened it on the second or third night and loved it; considered getting a full bottle but didn’t want to lock myself out of potential distillery-only purchases on our upcoming sojourn in the Speyside and Highlands (given limited luggage space). If that didn’t pan out, I figured I’d get a bottle in between returning our car and heading to the airport on our way back.
This plan suffered a mighty blow first when Aberlour turned out to not have any distillery exclusives available on the day I visited, and then a fatal blow when I realized that our flight to London was an hour earlier than I’d thought it was. And so, no full bottle of the Cadenhead’s Cambeltown cask for me. But this wasn’t all to the bad: it left room for an unplanned purchase of the TWE Croftengea in London, of which more soon. Continue reading
I am back in Minnesota. Our two weeks in Scotland were great, as were the 10 days that followed in London. I’ll have a number of reports on distilleries (and food) soon. But first, let me wind up my month of reviews of malts from Speyside and Highland distilleries. I’m sorry to say that few of the Speyside whiskies I reviewed in this series this month turned out to be appropriate for my commemorative purpose. Other than a Dailuaine and a Longmorn, it’s been a steady stream of mediocrity. Accordingly, I am going to end the series with a heavy hitter, the oldest single malt I’ve yet reviewed: a 46 yo Longmorn distilled in 1964 and bottled in 2011 as part of Gordon & MacPhail’s now legendary quintet of very old sherry cask Longmorns for van Wees in the Netherlands. The 1969 in this series is the best whisky I’ve ever had and the 1972 and 1968 were no slouches either. Only the 1966 showed some signs of extreme age. Will this one—two years older still—be even more over-oaked? Let’s see. Continue reading
We are leaving Orkney today and as we’ll be spending the night in the Highlands before heading down to Edinburgh tomorrow, I figured I’d post a review of another Highland malt. This is from a distillery not too far from where we’ll be putting up: Glen Ord. I’d had no plan to visit Glen Ord on this trip but when Aberlour disappointed me with the complete lack of a “distillery only” cask, I started grasping at straws for distilleries along the way to Dornoch that might have one. Accordingly, I called the Glen Ord visitor centre and asked if they had an exclusive. The person answering the phone helpfully informed me that all their whiskies are exclusive as they’re sold only in Southeast Asia and at the distillery; yes, I said, but do you have a cask that’s only available to visitors at the distillery. She repeated her information about the exclusivity of all Glen Ord bottles. Thinking that perhaps we had a case of battling Scottish and Indian/American accents on our ears, I handed the phone to a Canadian who has lived in Edinburgh for a year. She was met with the same response. All this to say that I did not go to Glen Ord after all. But this review is still trip-specific: it’s of a Glen Ord 13 that I purchased 200 ml of at Cadenhead’s in Edinburgh last week. It didn’t take long to disappear and I took notes as it did. Continue reading
After my review of the old, unlamented official Littlemill 12, I’d lined up reviews of a number of more recently released older, indie Littlemills from the late 1980s and early 1990s. Somehow, I never got around to posting any of them. Here’s the first one.
This was released by Whiskybase as part of the inaugural release of their Archives line. As you may know, Menno B. of Whiskybase is a renowned Littlemill collector, and all the Littlemills released by Archives have very good reputations. Unlike the other Littlemills of this era that I’ve reviewed—see this 20, 1990 from the Nectar and this 24, 1989 from the Whisky Agency—this is from a refill sherry hogshead. I opened this a while ago and liked it so much that it disappeared in just a few months—that might seem like a long time but I usually have bottles stay open for at least a year. Here now are my notes. Continue reading
In 2014/2015 there were quite a few Blair Athol 1988s on the market, all in the mid-20s age-wise. Many of these were bottled by Signatory—21 of the 47 Blair Athols listed on Whiskybase are from Signatory*; and another 8 are from van Wees, who source from Signatory, I believe. I’ve reviewed some of these: I really liked this 26 yo bottled for K&L; I also liked this 26 yo and this 25 yo, both from van Wees. Most recently, I thought this 25 yo bottled for LMDW was excellent as well (I could be wrong but I think Signatory was the source of this cask as well—if you know differently, please write in below). All of these casks have proximate numbers, by the way, suggesting perhaps that a big parcel of casks was purchased all together by a broker.
Does that guarantee high quality for this one? Let’s see. Continue reading
And here is the last of my five reviews of recent K&L casks. The score so far is 3-1: I really liked the Bowmore 20 and the Bunnahabhain 25, and thought the Bunnahabhain 28 was solid; it was only the Mortlach 22 that I was not crazy about. Well, this is also a Mortlach and, like the Bunnahabhain 28, it’s also a Faultline. Which way will it go? Let’s see.
Mortlach 28, 1989 (42.5%; Faultline; first-fill sherry hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Raisins, a bit of orange and some oak. With time the orange expands a bit but there’s not much of note happening here. With more time still there’s some toffee. With a few drops of water the fruit expands significantly: orange and apricot.
My series of reviews of recent K&L casks continues. The score so far is 2-1. The two casks I liked a lot were both Old Particular releases (a Bowmore 20, 1997 and a Bunnahabhain 25, 1991). The other was a Mortlach 22, 1995, an Alexander Murray cask bottled in K&L’s own Faultline series, and I thought it was ordinary. This one’s also a Bunnahabhain but it’s also another of the Alexander Murrary Faultline releases. That doesn’t bode well. Will this be another of K&L’s older whiskies that seems like a great value but isn’t actually worth it anyway? Let’s see.
Bunnahabhain 28, 1989 (42.1%; Faultline; first-fill sherry hogshead; from a bottle split)
On to review #3 of K&L’s recent single cask releases, and the oldest one so far. As you may recall, the first was a Bowmore 20, 1997, bottled by Douglas Laing’s Old Particular, and I quite liked that one. The second was a Mortlach 22, 1995 bottled under K&L’s own Faultline label (the cask came from Alexander Murray). I did not have much of an opinion of that one. Will this Bunnahabhain, also bottled by Old Particular, get things back on track? Like the Mortlach 22, it’s priced very well—I should say “was”, as it’s already sold out: $160, I believe. Considering the lowest price for the OB 25 yo on WineSearcher is $342, that seems like a very good deal indeed. But, as we saw with the Mortlach, age isn’t everything. Paying a relatively low price for an older whisky isn’t much of a steal if the whisky in the bottle isn’t very good. Older Bunnahabhain can be very good indeed, however, so I am hopeful. Let’s see how it goes. Continue reading
On Wednesday I posted the first of five reviews of some recentl K&L exclusive casks. I very much liked that Bowmore 20, which was bottled in Douglas Laing’s Old Particular line. Today’s Mortlach is a couple of years older but was bottled under K&L’s own Faultline label. More than any K&L casks, those bottled in the Faultline series have proven the most disappointing. Then again, I had low expectations of Wednesday’s Bowmore as well and those were easily exceeded. Will that be true of this Mortlach as well?
Sherry cask Mortlach—which is the most common version—can be a bit of a bruiser. The distillery produces a meatier, rougher spirit—their production process uses old-fashioned worm tubs for the condensation step, and with lower copper content in worm tubs, the spirit retains more of a sulphurous character. This can be a bit of an acquired taste but once you acquire it, it becomes a very specific pleasure. And a good sherry cask can amplify those pleasures. Let’s see if that has happened here or if this will be a regression to K&L’s cask selection mean. Continue reading
I’ve reviewed a number of very good whiskies this month but let’s close with something really special. This Highland Park 25 was released sometime in the mid-90s—most people say 1995 but I’m not sure if that’s confirmed (and no, I haven’t squinted at my bottle for an undecipherable code). I like to believe that it was released in 1995 because that would mean that there was distillate from 1970 in there and that’s the year I was born. (I know, this means a lot to you as well.) I opened the bottle on my 48th birthday this year—my new policy, now that I’m closer to death than birth, is to open a very special bottle on my birthday each year. This is Highland Park from well before they began to care about packaging (which started in the late 2000s and led to today’s series of embarrassments). High quality sherried whisky, not sold in a longboat or in a black bottle. It’s also from a time when you didn’t need to choose between paying your mortgage or purchasing Highland Park 25 for a special occasion. Anyway, as I’m in danger of veering into the territory of the negative—an area which, as you know, makes me very uncomfortable—I’m going to now turn to the review itself. Continue reading
After Wednesday’s review of the 2017 release of the Oban 14 (which I was just about whelmed by) here is my review of the 2017 release of the Oban Distillers Edition. As these—unlike the regular 14 yo—carry vintage statements, I am able to tell you that it was distilled in 2003. I have a bit of a spotty history with Diageo’s various Distillers Edition releases, which are basically the regular entry-level age-stated malt + a couple of months in various wine casks. Only the Lagavulin DE, which “finishes” the phenolic 16 yo in sweet PX casks, has consistently done it for me (here and here). I’ve previously also reviewed the 2011 release of the Talisker DE—I didn’t care for that one very much. In general, most of the Distillers Edition releases I’ve tried have seemed to drown the idiosyncratic qualities of the base malt in whatever wine cask the finish has been done in. In this case, the profile of the Oban 14 should theoretically be a good fit with the Montilla fino cask finish. Let’s see if that turns out to be the case. Continue reading