Here to close out the week and the month is yet another whisky from a distillery with “Glen” in its name. This time it’s Glenlossie. It’s yet another relatively obscure distillery of which I have little experience or knowledge—this is only my fifth review of a whisky from Glenlossie. I know they’re located in the Speyside and that they produce spirit for Diageo’s blends. I also know very little about the bottler, Alexander Murray, a relatively recent entrant into the independent bottling ranks. From their website it appears they are based in the US—it also seems to say that the company was “born in 1911” but there’s no further explanation of what that means, or indeed any other history provided. Who knows, maybe they only mean that some guy named Alexander Murray was born in 1911. What is history anyway? As Loch Lomond will tell you, it’s just a story and you can move dates and names around as you see fit: no one will care. Anyway, let’s see what this whisky from an obscure distillery, released by an obscure bottler is like. Continue reading
The theme for this week’s whisky reviews, I said on Monday, is Speyside distilleries. I should have said “bourbon cask whisky from Speyside distilleries”. Because that’s what these are. Monday’s Glentauchers was from a first-fill bourbon barrel and I quite liked it anyway. Today’s Aberlour is almost twice as old at 15 years of age and was matured in a refill hogshead—which is the cask type what I wish all bourbon cask maturation would happen. Between the larger volume over a barrel the consequent lower oak contact and the usually mellower oak influence in a cask that has had whisky filled in it a number of times, the malt is really able to express itself. And when the distillate is a fruity one—as so many from the Speyside are—it makes for a natural match. And as the official releases from the distillery seem to mostly emphasize sherry maturation, it’s always great to see an Aberlour from a bourbon cask of any kind, leave alone a refill hogshead. Let’s hope this was a good one. Continue reading
Let’s keep the “Glen” distilleries thing going a bit longer. That won’t be the theme of this week though. The theme for this week is Speyside distilleries. And there won’t be a through line of labels either—each will be from a different bottler.
If I’d thought to do this Glentauchers last week instead of the Glengoyne it would have been three 8 yo whiskies from distilleries whose names start with “Glen” bottled by the SMWS. Unlike last week’s 8 year olds, however, (from Glencadam and Glenturret), this one was not bottled at a ludicrous strength. Compared to those >62% strength monsters, 56.1% seems downright restrained. What it does have in common with them—in addition to the bottler and age—is that I have very little experience of Glentauchers’ malt as well. It’s part of Pernod Ricard’s portfolio and apparently contributes heavily to the popular Ballantine’s blend—which is doubtless why so little of it emerges as single malt: a reminder as always that, for the most part, the single malt category is a by-product of the world’s thirst for blended Scotch whisky. Well, this review takes my Glentauchers score to five. The ones I’ve reviewed before have all been a fair bit older—the youngest twice the age of this one (this G&M 16 yo)—and I quite liked most of them (this 21 yo from Archives most of all). Let’s see where this one falls. Continue reading
I must apologize to you first for being a liar. I said this was going to be a week of whiskies bottled by the SMWS from highland distilleries whose names start with “Glen”. Such were Monday’s Glenturret and Wednesday’s Glencadam. I must now inform you shamefacedly that while today’s whisky is from a highlands distillery whose name starts with “Glen”, it was in fact bottled by Old Particular (one of the Laing outfits) for my old buddies, K&L in California. I don’t know why I got it in my head that this was also a SMWS release and I will not blame you if you choose to never forgive me for this betrayal. There are other continuities though. The Glenturret and the Glengoyne were both 8 years old. Add those together and you have 16 and that’s how old this Glengoyne is. And like those two, this one was also bottled at a high strength—though just shy of 60% in this case.
Folly aside, this is a good opportunity to try a Glengoyne from a bourbon cask—the official releases are largely sherried. I do hope I will like it better than the last refill hogshead Glengoyne for K&L I sampled, which was good but nothing very special (this 21 yo). Let’s see. Continue reading
SMWS Highland Glens Week continues. On Monday I had a review of an 8 yo Glenturret bottled at a foolish strength. Today I have a review for you of an 8 yo Glencadam bottled at an even more foolish strength. I don’t have very much more experience of Glencadam, by the way, than I have of Glenturret—this will be my fifth review of a whisky distilled there. And so I will spare you further introductory prattle and get right to it.
Glencadam 8, 2011 (63.5%; SMWS 82.23; second-fill bourbon barrel; from a bottle split)
Nose: Though it is predictably tight, floral sweetness does emerge from under the alcohol. Gets quite sweet as it gets some air with simple syrup and some red fruit in there as well (cherries in syrup). Some cereals and a bit of crystallized lemon in there too. A bit of vanilla emerges with time and the lemon moves in the direction of citronella. With a few drops of water the the cereal note expands and so does the fruit (peach, berries)—there are some rose petals in there too. A few more drops and now it’s really quite lovely with the fruit turning muskier and malt and a bit of buttery pastry crust emerging to join it. Continue reading
Last week was island distillery week. We began with a Bunnahabhain and ended with a malt from an undisclosed island distillery and in between there was a Highland Park. This week I have for you a triple-themed week: all Scotch Malt Whisky Society releases; all distilleries located in the Highlands; and all distilleries whose names begin with “Glen”. First up, a young Glenturret. As I always say when reviewing a Glenturret, I have sampled very few Glenturrets: this review takes the count up to four. I expect to hit double digits before the polar icecaps melt. This was matured in a re-charred hogshead and bottled at a ludicrous strength. It’s also apparently peated. Crazy high abv? Check. Peat? Check. Which means all it’s missing from the trifecta that seemingly appeals the most to a large fraction of the malt whisky drinking populace is a mega dose of sherry. The SMWS’ tasting panel named this one “No two sips are the same”, presumably because you have fewer tastebuds left after each sip. Well, I’m ready for anything. Continue reading
Island distilleries week began on Islay with a Bunnahabhain 15 and continued on Orkney with a Highland Park 24. Here now to close out the week is a much younger whisky from an undisclosed island distillery bottled by Single Cask Nation in connection with the release of the Water of Life Film. Usually, undisclosed island whiskies can be counted on to be from Highland Park—though they usually have either Orkney or some Orkney-specific word in their name. This one doesn’t have any of that and, more to the point, a Single Cask Nation rep. has apparently confirmed that it’s not an Orkney distillery (and it would be unlikely to be Scapa anyway). There not being very many other island distilleries, the candidates really are Talisker, Jura, Arran and Tobermory/Ledaig (I assume if it were an Islay distillery the name Islay would be featured prominently). If the identity of the distillery is not disclosed, the composition of the whisky is. It is apparently put together from six first-fill bourbon casks, of which five were unpeated and one lightly peated. This would seem to rule out Talisker as I’m not aware of unpeated whisky being made there (all these distilleries make at least some peated whisky as a matter of course). And I don’t particularly think of either Jura or Ledaig as being lightly peated—though, of course, they may have some lightly peated variants. Arran then? Well, only the bottlers know for sure—but let’s see if the whisky gives us any sign. Continue reading
This week’s reviews are of whiskies from island distilleries. On Monday I tasted a Bunnahabhain 15 bottled by Old Particular for K&L in California. Today I have a Highland Park 24 bottled by Signatory for another store, the famous La Maison du Whisky in Paris. This was distilled in 1990 and bottled in 2015 after maturing in a sherry butt. The cask yielded 489 bottles at 51.4% which must seem like very little to anyone whose notion of sherry cask outturn has been conditioned by Glendronach’s cask shenanigans. I purchased this bottle some years ago and only opened it a week or so ago. I enjoyed the first couple of pours a lot and am looking forward to taking some notes on it. Let’s get right to it.
Highland Park 24, 1990 (51.4%; Signatory for La Maison du Whisky; sherry butt 15706; from my own bottle)
Nose: Orange peel, honey and light caramel with a big seam of toasted malt running through it all. The malt edges into milky cocoa pretty quickly and there’s a bit of vanilla to go with it. Brighter/more acidic with time. With a few drops of water some pastry crust emerges and melds with the orange. Continue reading
After a week of teenaged Caol Ilas bottled by Gordon & Macphail (here, here and here), I have a more heterogeneous set of reviews this week. Not all the same distillery (as far as I know—more on this later) and three different bottlers. What unites them is that each is from an island distillery. We’ll stay on Islay for this first one, a 15 yo Bunnahabhain bottled for K&L by Old Particular (one of the Laing outfits’ labels). Last week I cribbed about the fact that the two bourbon cask Caol Ilas were from first-fill bourbon barrels; this one is also from a bourbon barrel but it’s refill rather than first-fill. Now what exactly different bottlers mean by “refill” is not known: some do specify “second-fill”, implying that refill casks are those that have been previously filled with Scotch whisky at least twice but I don’t believe there is any mandated or enforced consistency on this point. At any rate, even a second-fill bourbon barrel will allow the oak less say than the distillate, which is always a good thing in my book. Since I can’t help but complain, however, I’ll note again that I wish this had been a refill hogshead (hogsheads being slightly larger than barrels and so affording even less oak contact). Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading
Let’s round off this week of single casks of Caol Ila bottled by Gordon & Macphail with the oldest of the trio. This 16 yo was—like Wednesday’s 14 yo—matured in a first-fill bourbon barrel. Will the extra two years of maturation allow more of Caol Ila’s elegance to emerge or will the oak have a greater say? Let’s see.
Caol Ila 16, 2002 (54.9%; G&M; first-fill bourbon barrel; from my own bottle)
Nose: A big blast of carbolic peat mixed in with salt crystals, olive brine, lemon and cracked pepper. As it sits the coastal complex develops more fully with shells, oyster liquor and a campfire on the beach. With more time the lemon and salt meld and expand. With a few drops of water the lemon turns to citronella with a vengeance here as well but there’s some sweet malty notes too now and some charred pineapple. Continue reading
Let’s keep G&M Caol Ila week going. On Monday I reviewed a 14 yo bottled by the Elgin stalwarts. That one was distilled in 2005 and matured in a refill sherry hogshead. Today I have another 14 yo but this one was distilled in 2003 and matured in a first-fill bourbon barrel. Teenaged bourbon cask Caol Ila is usually a cause for joy but the combination of both first-fill wood and the smaller barrel might be causes for concern—with the possibility of too much oak action. But hopefully the spirit will rise above it all. Let’s see.
Caol Ila 14, 2003 (56%; G&M; first-fill bourbon barrel; from my own bottle)
Nose: Carbolic peat off the top with sweeter notes of cereals and vanilla (not overbearing) mixed in. As it sits the vanilla retreats in favour of lemon and it begins to get quite coastal with shells and salt and kelp. Some white pepper in there too now and there’s a recently tarred road in the middle distance. Saltier still with time. With a bit of water it gets sweeter at first—not vanilla so much as sweet malt—and then there’s preserved lemon. The tar is gone. Continue reading
Okay, let’s do another week of peat; and let’s go back to Islay and do a week all at one distillery. And for good measure let’s do a trio of releases from one independent bottler. Back in May I split several bottles with a small group of friends—Michael Kravitz of Diving for Pearls was among them but I don’t believe he’s reviewed any of them yet. Among the bottles were a trio of Caol Ilas released by Gordon & MacPhail in their redone Connoisseurs Choice series—to think that this was once an entry-level series in which G&M released anonymous whisky at 40% abv. Two of these Caol Ilas are from bourbon casks and one from a refill sherry cask. I’m going to start with the refill sherry. It was distilled in 2005 and bottled in 2019 at what is normally a promising strength in the mid-50s (this is the abv range in which Springbank usually operates with their cask strength releases). The fact that it’s a refill sherry hogshead suggests that a sherry butt was broken down and re-coopered as a hogshead; or maybe an ex-bourbon hogshead was seasoned with sherry. Hopefully, the former and not the latter as there’s a better chance of there not being a big dose of sherry sitting on top of the elegant Caol Ila peat. Let’s see. Continue reading
Last month I kicked off a week of highlands distilleries with a peated Loch Lomond: an Inchmoan. This time I’m kicking off an entire month with a peated Loch Lomond, but this time it’s a Croftengea. (Again, you’ll need to go to more detail-oriented people to find out exactly how Inchmoan and Croftengea differ from each other or, for that matter, from Inchfad, Loch Lomond’s other peated line.) I’m also using it to end a week of reviews of peated whiskies (after Monday’s Lagavulin and Wednesday’s Talisker), even though the SMWS named this one, “It’s peat, Jim, but not as we know it…”
I’ve rather liked the other Croftengeas I’ve reviewed. This, a 7 yo, is the youngest of them yet, but I will remind you that one of my favourite whiskies of 2018 was a 9 yo Croftengea. Which is to say in a hopeful tone of voice that young Croftengea can be very good indeed. Let’s see if that hope survives reality. Continue reading
Let’s finish the month with one more peated whisky, but let’s get off the island of Islay for at least one day. We’ll go up north to Skye, to Talisker and an unusual independent bottling. Unusual, not because I know something about this particular release but because independently bottled Talisker is not very common—though it’s relatively more common of late than it once used to be. I think this was part of K&L’s cache of 2021 casks. It’s twice the age of the two previous K&L Talisker releases I’ve reviewed, which were 5 and 6 years of age respectively. Add the fact that it’s from a refill hogshead and I am positively looking forward to this one. Let’s get right to it.
Talisker 11, 2009 (59.6%; Old Particular for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Mild notes of lemon and malted wheat with some light mineral smoke running through it. Sweeter with each sniff and then more savoury (ham brine). With time the lemon turns to citronella. A bit of water brings the salt out here as well and push the lemon back. Continue reading
There was a time when the Lagavulin 12 was another annual release—along with the Laphroaig Cairdeas—that I purchased every year; it was certainly the only member of Diageo’s annual special release about which that could be said. But I haven’t purchased a bottle since 2017. The following year—as I have doubtless noted before—is when the price of this release went up sharply, and it also became harder to find in stores in the US. I have managed to get my hands on some each year via bottle splits, however, and so have been able to remain more or less current with it (I’m yet to review the 2014 and 2015 releases though I do have bottles of those in my stash). The 2022 Special Release roster should be on shelves soon. I’m not expecting to buy the 2022 iteration either but am hopeful I’ll be able to review it anyway at some point. The 2021 edition had a lion on the label and bore the sobriquet “The Lion’s Fire”—we can only hope the fire did not emerge from the rear. And no, it’s not a hint of it being a sherry cask either. This is from refill bourbon casks (all the Lagavulin 12s have been ex-bourbon, I believe—please correct me if I’m wrong). Price and marketing shenanigans aside, the Lagavulin 12 has always been quality whisky and some releases have been truly excellent. Let’s see where this one falls. Continue reading
Here is the second cask in the first batch of Kilchoman’s Cask Comparison series. As I noted in the introduction to my review of the first cask on Wednesday, this batch comprises two casks, both distilled in 2012 and matured for 8 years in ex-Buffalo Trace barrels. Cask 719 was distilled from the distillery’s own farm barley peated to 20 ppm (making it a 100% Islay release), whereas this cask, Cask 726, was distilled from malt from Islay’s Port Ellen maltings peated to 50 ppm. So there are two variables in play here: barley type and peating level. Let’s close the comparison out. By the way, when I took notes on Cask 719 I tasted 1.5 oz of it over an hour or so, tasting .5 oz of Cask 726 alongside for reference. My notes on Cask 726 were likewise taken from the remaining 1.5 oz of that sample with the remaining .5 oz of Cask 719 as reference. I am nothing if not conscientous here at the My Annoying Opinions Tasting Rooms. More detail on my comparison of the two casks follows the review itself. Continue reading
Here is the first part of an interesting diptych from Kilchoman. Islay’s farm distillery’s hallmark seems to have become the release of more and more single casks and cask variations and so forth to go along with their more edited regular lineup which—please correct me if I’m wrong—comprises the Machir Bay, Sanaig, Loch Gorm and the 100% Islay. For whatever reason, they seemingly are not interested in putting out a regular age-stated whisky—even though they would be able to put out a 15 yo by now. I guess if you can sell much younger NAS whisky then there isn’t much reason to tie up limited warehouse space. Or maybe there’s an age-stated lineup in the works and we won’t know till it hits us. Anyway, in 2021 they launched a “Cask Comparison” series. The idea is to release similar whiskies with some variation in them that allows the drinker to compare the effect of a single variable being shifted. Batch 1—a UK exclusive—comprised two casks of 8 yo spirit, distilled days apart in 2012 and matured for just over 8 years in ex-Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels. What’s the variable that’s different? Cask 719—this one—was filled with spirit distilled from 100% Islay barley peated to 20 ppm; cask 726—which I’ll be reviewing on Friday—was filled with spirit distilled from barley from the Port Ellen maltings peated to 50 ppm. The idea is that the juxtaposition will allow us to tease out the difference between the peating levels…or wait…is it the difference between the types of barley…or wait…is it the difference between the combination of both those things? Hmmm the premise is at risk of breaking down before I even begin and so it may be best to just get to it. Continue reading
The month began with reviews of a pair of Speysides. This was followed by a week of Arran and then a week of distilleries in the Highlands. Let’s close the month out now with a big dose of peat. First up is Kilchoman, three of them to be exact. I’ll begin with a special cask strength release of their Machir Bay release. This was put out to mark their East Coast Tour of 2016. (I believe Journey was the opening act. I couldn’t make it to this tour but hope to catch them at the Minnesota State Fair one of these years.) It’s made with malt peated to 50 ppm (I can’t remember if that’s the case for all the Machir Bay releases) and from spirit mostly matured in ex-bourbon casks (90%) and partly in ex-oloroso casks (10%). A total of 840 bottles were released, which is actually a limited release as these things go. The last time I reviewed a Machir Bay of any kind was back in 2014, just a year into the blog’s life. That was the regular 2012 release at 46%—the very first release, as it happens. I’m curious to see how much similarity there will be between that and this one at 60.1% from four years later. At any rate, I’m sure this will be very different from the last two Kilchomans I reviewed this year, both of which were ruby port cask matured (here and here). Continue reading