Port Charlotte 13, 2001 (Rest & Be Thankful)


As long-time readers of the blog—the few, the ashamed—know, I almost always pick up a strong butyric note on Bruichladdich’s whiskies. Ranging from scalded milk to sour butter to parmesan rind all the way to more vomitous associations, this quality is not my favourite. I find it more pronounced, ususally, in the unpeated Bruichladdich line. In the heavily peated Port Charlotte the peat and smoke tend to neutralize it after a while. In the case of this release, a 13 yo bottled by an indie outfit named Rest & Be Thankful, there is also a wine cask involved. This is rarely good news when you’re dealing with Bruichladdich who’ve made a lot of wineskys. I had not heard of Jurançon wine before looking this cask up. Jurançon is a French AOC that produces white wines, dry and sweet, apparently known for their tropical fruity character. I’ve no idea which kind of Jurançon wine this cask had previously held but a) I’m glad this is not from a red wine cask and b) I’m intrigued by the theoretical promise of fruit. Let’s see how it goes in practice. Continue reading

Longmorn 36, 1976 (Malts of Scotland)


Earlier in the month I had a review of a dark sherry cask 17 yo Longmorn released in 2013. I liked it quite a lot but didn’t find anything very distinctive about. Today’s Longmorn was also released in 2013 but is more than twice as old and is from a bourbon cask. As you may know, older Longmorns from the late ’60s and early ’70s have a very strong reputation for an intensely fruity character. It will be interesting to see if this is manifested in this malt distilled in 1976. Certainly, some of those who have left notes for it on Whiskybase mention tropical fruit. However, the other 1976 Longmorn I’ve had, a 34 yo also bottled by Malts of Scotland, was no fruit bomb—and nor, for that matter, was the 31 yo from 1978 bottled by the Whisky Exchange. And so my expectations for fruit are in check—it may be the case that production process changes had happened by the mid-70s that reduced that aspect of the malt’s character. That said, if this is as good as that Whisky Exchange bottle, a happy mix of fruit, oak and malt, I’ll be very pleased. Let’s see. Continue reading

Glen Scotia 12


Ah, Glen Scotia: forever labouring in the shadow of Springbank in Campbeltown. I’d love to say that I’ve always been a champion of this underdog but, as I always note when posting a review of a Glen Scotia, I’ve had very little Glen Scotia in my time. When I first started drinking single malt whisky there wasn’t a whole lot of it around and nothing I read led me to want to seek it out. Since then I’ve had a couple of older Glen Scotias that I really liked (two 20 yo releases from Archives and Wilson & Morgan and one 40 yo from Malts of Scotland) and two younger ones that I did not care for very much (one indie released in the mid-2000s and one more recent official release, the Double Cask). The official line has been revamped a couple of times in recent years and there are now at least a couple of teenaged releases out there along with the NAS Double Cask. This 12 yo dates from the early-mid 2000s, I think, before their bizarre disco cow bottle design. I *think* I might also have a sample of the older 14 yo knocking about somewhere (unless in my addled state I am confusing it with a sample of Scapa—another distillery labouring in the shadow of a more famous neighbour). Let’s see if this one leads me to want to track it down. Continue reading

Ben Nevis, McDonald’s Traditional, Batch 1


I couldn’t remember where my sample of the Benriach Heredotus Fumosus came from, but there is no mystery with this sample. The presence of the infernal black tape around the cap means it came from Michael K. (of Diving for Pearls). I guess I should be thankful he’s not dipping sample bottles in wax. Yet.

Everything I could tell you about the provenance of this NAS retro Ben Nevis would be stolen from Michael’s review, so you may as well go and read it first if you’re interested in that kind of thing. I’m not sure if new versions of this are still being made, or what really the status of Ben Nevis’ current official releases is. The new 10 yo—which was great—went away and then came back (is the returned version as good as the previous?). In between there was another batch release 10 yo which I did not care for very much. Hopefully, this will be better. Let’s see. Continue reading

Longmorn 17, 1996, Cask 72324


In 2013’ish van Wees bottled a number of sherry casks of Longmorn 1996. We didn’t know it then but that was right at the end of the era of reasonable prices for teenaged whiskies. Even with the higher Euro/USD exchange rate of the time these casks went for about $65. That’s for 17 year old sherry cask whisky. Can you imagine such a thing now? Anyway, these casks were very popular—all have very high scores on Whiskybase—but because the whisky world had not gone crazy yet they didn’t all sell out immediately. I purchased a bottle from cask 72315 and my friends Rob and Clara purchased a bottle from cask 72324. They opened theirs right away. I got a sample from their bottle and promptly forgot all about it and my own bottle. Here now more than five years after we purchased our bottles, and in a far less innocent time, is my review of the sample from their bottle. If I like it a lot, as I am expecting to do, I will open my own bottle next month. Continue reading

Benriach 12, Heredotus Fumosus


I’ve had variable luck with the official Benriachs I’ve recently reviewed. I thought this 29 yo from 1986, peated with an oloroso finish was good but nothing very special. On the other hand, I did not care very much at all for this 18 yo from 1998, which was not peated but had a PX sherry finish applied to it. As it happens, this Benriach 12—which dates from the period when Benriach were issuing whiskies with stupid faux-Latin names—is peated with a PX finish. So, will it fall between the other two or will it go past them and approach the wild glory of the 21 yo Authenticus? Only one way to find out.

By the way, I’ve no memory of how/where I received this sample. Normally, I would have suspected Jordan D. (who has reviewed it) and Michael K (also) of being likely sources, but the ugly scrawl on the label is mine. While I used to save reference samples from my own bottles once upon a time, I’ve never owned a full bottle of this. I think that might indicate that I filled it from a bottle someone brought a couple of years ago to one of my friend Rich’s “sherryfest” tastings in St. Paul. Yes, I know, not a very interesting mystery. Continue reading

Bowmore 16, 1996 (SMWS)


A Bowmore to close out the month. I took this sample of a 16 yo bottled by the SMWS with me to our trip to the North Shore in July. But my dreams of drinking it on the deck while listening to Lake Superior crash on the rocks in front of the cabin were dashed or rather punctured by the swarms of mosquitoes that made it all but impossible to be outside the cabin unless covered in deet. I did manage to taste it inside the cabin though. I might not have been able to hear Lake Superior (the screens on the windows sucked and so they had to be kept closed at all times) but I could at least see it. None of this has anything to do with Bowmore really, except that the distillery is also located by the side of a large body of cold water. Anyway, I’ve held on to these notes for a long time for no good reason. So, now that summer is well and truly done in Minnesota and even the mosquitoes are finally on the run, let’s get to it. Continue reading

Linkwood 1991-2011 (Berry Bros. & Rudd)


I last reviewed a Linkwood exactly two years ago. The time is right for another review. Here it is. This Berry Bros. & Rudd cask is a bit of a mystery. Whiskybase lists the same cask at cask strength whereas this is at 46%. Normally, I would put this down to shenanigans on the part of the source of my sample, the diabolical Florin. However, Michael K. who also received a sample of this reports that this 46% version was indeed sold at Total Wine back in the day. Same cask, two releases at different strengths? Maybe. Anyway, here is my take on it (read Michael’s review from earlier this year here).

Linkwood 1991-2011 (46%; Berry Bros. & Rudd; cask 10343; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Oh this is nicely fruity—tinned fruit (a blend of peach, pineapple and mango) and also the tin. It’s not a fruit bomb—the fruit is not intense, but it is there. After a couple of minutes there’s a bit of prickly oak as well. As it sits the fruit expands a bit and there’s some citrus in there too now. A couple of drops of water push the metallic and oaky notes back. Continue reading

Bunnahabhain 11, 2004, Rubha A’ Mhail


In August I reviewed Lagavulin’s 2015 Feis Ile release. Here now is Bunnahabhain’s 2015 Feis Ile release, or at least one of them. This is an 11 yo with a long Gaelic name and is composed of spirit matured full-term in two Manzanilla sherry butts. You don’t often see Manzanilla-matured whisky around and so this is intriguing. Or at least so I thought at the gathering in St. Paul to which my friend Pat brought the bottle from which this sample was poured. However, I didn’t think very highly of it at the time. It’s true that we tasted it at the end of the evening on the heels of some rather impressive older malts and so it is possible that the juxtaposition was not in its favour. True to form I then forgot about this sample for a long time. As it happens, I’ve not reviewed much Bunnahabhain recently—in fact, I’ve not reviewed any this year so far—and so it’s a good job I happened on this jar while trying to organize my backlog of sample bottles last month. Anyway, let’s see what I make of it tonight as I give it my full attention. Continue reading

Glen Ord 15, 1997 (Liquid Sun)


Here is the first of two Glen Ord 15s bottled by the Whisky Agency under their Liquid Sun label. This is a year older than the one I reviewed last month. I really liked the classic Ord mix of fruit and austere notes that one presented. Will this be as good? Let’s see.

Glen Ord 15, 1997 (49.9%; Liquid Sun; bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Bright fruit (apples, lemon, pear) mixed in with musky malt and some bready/yeasty notes. Very Glen Ord, in other words. With time that malty note moves a bit in the direction of putty. Water pulls out more of the malt and the smoke from the palate shows up here too now (a sooty, waxy outline around the malt).

Continue reading

Balblair 2006-2018 (Hand-Filled)


I filled this bottle at Balblair during my brief visit in June 2018. We stopped at the distillery on the way to Dornoch from the Speyside. We got there too late in the day for a tour to be possible; a pity as I rather liked the feel of the place, dour as it is. (You can see my brief account of the stop here.) They had one cask on the go and having been foiled at Aberlour, where I had hoped to fill a bottle from their usual bourbon cask only to find they had no casks of any kind available to bottle, I was hoping Balblair’s would be a good one. Truth be told, it’s a bit dangerous pondering these casks at the distilleries. You’re gone a long way to get there, and if you like the feel of the place you’re very primed to take a bottle away as a keepsake. And, of course, the theatre of filling the bottle yourself, writing your name and the bottle details in the register, and applying the label yourself is appealing too. Nonetheless, I had resisted the charms of a number of distilleries’ offerings in the Speyside; but I was beginning to worry that I might not have the opportunity to fill bottles from any distilleries on this trip. And so I was probably pretty primed to like Balblair’s cask. And indeed I did. Will I like it as much more than a year later? Let’s see. Continue reading

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2019, Triple Wood CS


Hello, hello, here is one of my annual timely reviews: this year’s Cairdeas release from Laphroaig. Not so timely if you actually were at Feis Ile in June—the annual Islay festival where all the distilleries release special whiskies (the Cairdeas is Laphroaig’s)—but pretty timely in the US: the Cairdeas only arrived in the country in late July and only became widely available in mid-August. As always, Laphroaig has released this without much hoopla and at a very reasonable price for a cask strength whisky: it can be found for less than $70—compare with pretty much every other Islay distillery’s offerings, most of which can only be found at auction at several times the original price.

Like 2017’s Cairdeas this one is a cask strength version of a whisky from their regular lineup and like last year’s it is a sherried whisky. 2017’s was the Quarter Cask and last year’s release was a Fino sherry finish. And this year we get a cask strength version of the Triple Wood, matured in a combination of ex-bourbon casks, quarter casks and oloroso sherry casks. The Triple Wood itself was originally a duty-free-only release that became part of the core lineup. I liked the original version of that and still have a bottle on my shelves (I should review it at some point); but it’s been a long time and I don’t really recall any specifics.  Maybe I’ll open it before this bottle gets done and see how it compares. Here for now is the CS Cairdeas edition. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 14, 1998 (Exclusive Casks)


The last Ben Nevis I reviewed was an official release: the Batch 1 release of a 10 yo from 2008. That was I believe an interim release till their new 10 yo—which I did like a lot—came back online. I don’t think there has been a Batch 2. Anyway, whatever its status, I was not a fan. I have not had the 2019 release of the regular 10 yo; I do hope it’s at the level of the prior release. The 14 yo I am reviewing today is an independent release. It was bottled by the Creative Whisky Co. in their Exclusive Casks line for Total Wine in the US. I believe that the Creative Whisky Co. is no longer a going concern as of 2018. There’s so much ferment in the whisky world. This whole introduction has been nothing but a record of uncertainty. What is certain, however, is that Michael K., the source of my sample, really liked this one (see his review), though he was undecided about the cask type. Our thoughts on Ben Nevis tend to align. Let’s see if that will continue to be the case here. Continue reading

Benriach 18, 1998, PX Sherry Finish


Last month I reviewed an older Benriach that was released in 2016 as part of the distillery’s 13th batch of single cask releases. I thought that one—an oloroso finish applied to whisky made from a peated run—was fine but nothing very special. This Benriach was also part of Batch 13 and is also a sherry finish, though PX this time; it is not, however, made from peated barley. I note that there was a Glendronach-style outturn of 670 bottles at a high strength. I’d guess multiple hogsheads were re-racked into a PX puncheon for a short time, making this a Glendronach-style “single cask”. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad whisky though. Let’s see what it’s like.

Benriach 18, 1998, PX Sherry Finish (57.3%; Batch 13, cask 6401; from a bottle split)

Nose: Rich sherried nose with plums, hoisin sauce and then some perfumed wood. The wood is more assertive on the second sniff—spicier and oakier now; the red fruit expands too, getting a touch cough syrupy. Water pushes both the richer notes and the spicy oak back and pulls out some pencil lead. With a lot more water there’s a mild, pleasant note of orange and a tiny bit of oak. Continue reading