Let’s bring this week of reviews of bourbon hogsheads bottled by Cadenhead to a close. The week started with a Glenburgie and continued with a Glentauchers. Both were bright, summery malts. For the last review, I have a non-Glen and non-Speyside distillery: Blair Athol. This is a 12 yo distilled in 2009. The last Blair Athol I reviewed was also a 12 yo distilled in 2009, and was at a very similar strength as this one—but that was a sherry butt. I liked that one but it stopped well short of excellence. Let’s see where this less adorned bourbon cask falls.
Blair Athol 12, 2009 (59.8%; Cadenhead; bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Fizzy lemon; that nutty note I often get in Blair Athol; baked apples; malt; a bit of damp oak. Continues in this vein for a while. With more time and air the acid backs off a little and lets more of the musky notes through—a floral note too now, or is that peach? With a few drops of water the acid recedes further; the nutty note and the damp oak are gone too. Continue reading →
Tuesday is usually Twin Cities restaurant review day on the blog, but this week’s review—of a recent dinner at Petite Leon—will be posted not today, but tomorrow. It’s the end of the term and I’ve been too busy catching up with everything I need to get done to have time to resize the photographs from the meal. That review will be posted tomorrow, after I finish all my current grading today (and then a fresh wave of papers will come in over the weekend). In the meantime, you can go read my previous review of dinner at Petite Leon, or just read the second in this week’s reviews of bourbon casks bottled by Cadenhead.
Monday’s whisky was from Glenburgie. Today’s whisky is also from a Speyside distillery, and one that is even less vaunted than Glenburgie: Glentauchers. I really liked the last Glentauchers I reviewed, but that was almost twice the age of this one, and from a sherry cask. All the other Glentauchers I’ve reviewed have been from bourbon casks—and while none reached the heights of that 27 yo, none disappointed. And so I am hopeful that will at least be good. Let’s see. Continue reading →
There’s been a fair bit of peat and sherry in my whisky reviews this month. And so it’s only fitting that I close out the month, and start the next, with a complete lack of peat and sherry. This week’s reviews will all be of bourbon cask whiskies. All were bottled by Cadenhead, all from bourbon hogsheads. First up, a 14 yo Glenburgie.
Glenburgie 14, 2004 (53.6%; Cadenhead; bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Bright fruity notes off the top (lemon, apple, pear) with some toasted oak and some icing sugar. On the second sniff the fruit is already muskier and there’s some plum and nectarine in there too. Continues in this general vein with the oak getting a little pricklier with time. With more time there’s some cereals as well. With a few drops of water there’s quite a bit of malt and some pastry crust (with baked apples behind). Continue reading →
This week of Benromach reviews has gone quite well so far. It got off to a good start on Monday with Batch 1 of the Benromach Cask Strength. And things improved further with Wednesday’s review of an 11 yo bourbon hogshead bottled for Binny’s (the Cask Strength was also 11 years old). The last whisky of the week is the youngest at 9 years old. It was also bottled for Binny’s and is from a first-fill sherry hogshead. Hopefully, it won’t break the hot streak. Let’s see.
Benromach 9, 2011 (60.6%; first-fill sherry hogshead 719 for Binny’s; from a bottle split)
Nose: Leads with nutty, slightly salty notes with a bit of butterscotch running under them. The high strength is damping things down, of course, but this is not as peaty off the top as the bourbon cask. On subsequent sniffs the peat is more apparent: slightly rubbery with hot stones/tarmac and some milky cocoa. With more time some fruit begins to poke through as well: plum, orange peel, a bit of apricot; after more airing, there’s a fair bit of lime as well. With a few drops of water the fruit come all the way to the front, the apricot leading the way; the salt turns to rock salt. Continue reading →
Benromach week continues. On Monday, I reviewed the first batch of the current Benromach Cask Strength, an 11 yo put together from bourbon and sherry casks. I thought it was quite good but well short of great. Today, I have for you a review of another official 11 yo. This is a single bourbon barrel, distilled in 2010 and bottled for Binny’s in Chicago. There was a time when Binny’s shipped all over the US, and they played a major part in the years that my whisky mania was approaching its peak. Now it’s been several years since the Binny’s supply got choked off for people residing elsewhere; I now barely buy any whisky from anywhere; and its been a while since my relationship with whisky collecting/amassing passed the manic stage. Now I am slowly drinking down what I amassed just short of a decade ago and not mourning too much the missed opportunities to try releases not available in Minnesotsa. Will this cask of Benromach make me melancholy? Let’s see. Continue reading →
Benromach is a rare Speyside distillery that is known for its peated malt, which is made not as a one-off, as at some other distilleries, but as the norm. I’ve reviewed a few recent Benromach releases in the last couple of years and have generally liked them all a fair bit. This includes Batch 04 of the Benromach Cask Strength, which was an 11 yo distilled in 2009 and put together from a large number of bourbon and sherry casks. Batch 1 was also 11 years old and also put together from bourbon and sherry casks, though I’m not sure how many went into the vatting. Unlike subsequent batches, this was released in the US. Will this sample make me regret not paying attention at the time? Let’s see. Continue reading →
Let’s close Islay week with another classic, this one from the third of the South Shore distilleries: Ardbeg. I’ve previously reviewed three releases of the once-beloved Uigeadail: the 2007 and the 2011 and 2014 releases (the latter two side-by-side in a blind tasting). As with the Lagavulin 16, there’s been a narrative of decline for the Uigeadail for a while. And it’s true that the rich sherry character of the early releases faded after a while. That said, back in 2015 I quite liked the 2014 release, and liked it more than the 2011. But that was almost a decade ago. This 2020 release will bring us more or less to the present day and might help me decide whether to give in to the voice that has been telling me for some months now that I should really take a flyer on the current Uigeadail and Corryvreckan releases. So far it’s been losing to the more rational voice that reminds me that I still have unopened bottles of both from the early 2010s and should get to those first. But if this one is very good I may have to thumb my nose at rationality yet again. Continue reading →
This week of reviews of whiskies from distilleries on Islay’s south shore began on Monday with a young Laphroaig. Let’s go a mile or so down the road for the second, to Lagavulin. This is the 2017 release of the 16 yo. I’ve previously reviewed the 2012, 2013 and 2014 releases. I’ve since lost touch with this classic release, which really seems like a shame. Back in the mid-2010s there was already a bit of a narrative of decline around the Lagavulin 16, but I liked the 2014 release a lot. Will I like the 2017 release as much? Will it make me want to open the bottle of the 2018 release that my spreadsheet tells me is somewhere on my shelves? Let’s see.
Lagavulin 16, 2017 Release (43%; from a bottle split)
Nose: A characteristic mix of phenolic peat and organic notes (rotting leaves, damp wood). On the second sniff there’s salt, some sweet orange peel and a bit of woodsmoke. The woodsmoke expands with each sniff. With time the sweeter notes move in the direction of vanilla and cream, and there’s some milky coffee in the distance too now. A couple of drops of water soften it further, emphasizing the creamy note (smoked cream?). Continue reading →
The Highland Park 28, 1980 that I ended last week’s series of reviews of late 2000s Mackillop’s Choice releases was quite peaty but not phenolic. This week will be pretty peaty and phenolic. All the whiskies this week will be peated Islay releases. And what’s more they’ll be from the three distilleries from Islay’s south shore: Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg. I’ll take them in that order, which is also the order in which you’d encounter the distilleries if you set out from Port Ellen on the A846. A young Laphroaig will kick things off. This was bottled by the Whisky Exchange’s spin-off company, Elixir Distillers for their Single Malts of Scotland label (which they inherited from the parent company). I believe this was an exclusive for the US market. It’s from a single bourbon hogshead. Generally with young Laphroaig, ex-bourbon casks are a good bet; and as Single Malts of Scotland has historically been a pretty reliable label, I am hopeful. Let’s hope this doesn’t make me regret giving hope a chance. Continue reading →
A week of reviews of late 2000s releases by Mackillop’s Choice comes to a close today. You will recall that these are all older whiskies and distilled in successive decades. Monday’s review was of a Tomintoul 41, 1966. Wednesday’s review was of a Glenlivet 30, 1977. Today’s review is of the youngest in the set, a Highland Park 28, 1980. Will it scale the heights of that Tomintoul? Well, if it’s as good as the Glenlivet I’ll be happy enough.
Highland Park 28, 1980 (43%; Mackillop’s Choice; from a bottle split)
Nose: That prickly, lightly smoky, heathery Highland Park thing off the top. Earthier on the second sniff, even as some creme brulee emerges on top: the peat is more vegetal now and there’s some shoe polish and some greased metal. Continues in this vein. With a drop of water there’s more of the creme brulee. Continue reading →
I remind you that the theme for this week’s reviews is older whiskies bottled by Mackillop’s Choice. And they were distilled in consecutive decades. First up on Monday was a 41 yo Tomintoul that was distilled in 1966. Next up is a Glenlivet that is roughly a decade younger and was distilled roughly a decade later. This is not my first review, as it happens, of a Glenlivet distilled in 1977. I’ve previously reviewed a 1977-2004 release from Scott’s Selection—who, like Mackillop’s Choice—were once a reliable source in the US for solid older whiskies at reasonable prices. Unlike Scott’s Selection, however, Mackillop’s Choice is still a going concern—or at least it was a few years ago. If anyone knows if they’re still bottling casks on the regular, please write in below. Anyway, I quite liked that Scott’s Selection Glenlivet 1977-2004, even as I noted that it was quite oak-forward. I’m hoping that this cask might have a little less oak and a little more fruit. Let’s see if that pans out at all. Continue reading →
This will be a week of reviews of older whiskies, all >25 years old. They were all bottled by Mackillop’s Choice for the US market, and were distilled in successive decades. I’ll begin with the oldest, a 41 yo Tomintoul, distilled in 1966. It was bottled at 42.7%. As I doubt this was an abv arrived at by choice, I assume it was the natural strength of the cask at time of bottling. Casks that have naturally aged down to lower strengths often demonstrate greater depth than those that have been diluted to identical or similar strengths and I’m hoping that will be the case here. It can be depressing to drink a very good older whisky while all the while sensing the great whisky it could have been with a bit more weight. But what is lost in strength can be made up for by aging. 41 years is a long time though and there’s also the risk of far too much oak influence. It’s not the oldest Tomintoul I’ve had—not that I’ve had so very many. I’ve previously reviewed a 45 yo that was distilled in 1968. That one was at a higher strength and thankfully did not demonstrate massive oak impact. I’ve also reviewed another 1960s pair in their 40s (in age and abv). None of those blew me away, though I did like two of them quite a lot. Let’s see if this one improves on them. Continue reading →
This week’s reviews are of a couple of Kilkerran distillery exclusive hand-filled casks. On Wednesday, I reviewed one that was filled at the distillery (or maybe at Springbank) in late-August 2022. Today I have one that was filled at the distillery (or maybe at Springbank) in late-October 2022. (I’m not sure because I was not the one who filled them.) The late-August hand-fill started out very nicely on the nose but then things went south in a hurry on the palate and finish. I’m hoping this cask will redeem it some. Let’s see how it goes.
Kilkerran Hand-Filled, October 2022 (58.9%; from a bottle split)
Nose: A very nice start with lemon, wet wool and peppery peat off the top and muskier fruit coming up from below (charred pineapple). Sweeter as it goes with some peach in there as well. With more time the lemon turns to lime and there’s some salt as well. Water pulls the passionfruit out here as well and mixes it with some vanilla (just a bit). Continue reading →
It’s a short week of whisky reviews—the month having started on Monday—and so I had to rummage around to see what I had a natural duo/pair of. And in the depths of the sample drawer I found two Kilkerran hand-filled casks. These were both acquired with the other Campbeltown hand-fills I reviewed late last year and earlier this year. I hope you don’t recall that the first of those was a set that was filled at Springbank in August (here, here and here); and the other a set that was filled there in October (here, here and here). Let’s take these Kilkerran hand-fills chronologically as well, and start with the August cask. A reminder: these hand-fill casks are not exactly single casks—as they are topped off from time to time—and don’t have vintage or age statements associated with them. I’m not even sure what cask type or types go into the vattings; and if I recall what I was told correctly, they aren’t even filled from casks per se but from large glass containers. If I’m in error about any of this, I hope someone will correct me in the comments. Continue reading →
Glenallachie week comes to a close with another heavily sherried, cask strength whisky. But this is not yet another batch of the 10 yo CS (see here for my review of Batch 2 on Monday, and here for my review of Batch 3 on Wednesday). This is a 12 yo and it’s a single cask that was bottled for Spec’s in Texas. And where both batches of the 10 yo CS were vatted from whiskies matured in more than one type of cask, this one was matured in a PX puncheon. Or at least so it seems. Keep in mind that Glenallachie is run by Billy Walker, and when he was at Glendronach, they used a much looser definition of the term “single cask” (see here for more on all that if you don’t know what I’m referring to). So maybe this is all whisky that was matured for 12 years in this specific single cask; or maybe it’s whisky that was re-racked into this cask before being bottled. If you know one way or the other, please write in below. Anyway, I liked both batches of the 10 yo CS that I reviewed this week quite a lot. Let’s see if this keeps that streak alive. Continue reading →
Let’s continue with the reviews of sherry cask-matured, cask strength Glenallachie. I reviewed Batch 2 of the Glenallachie 10, Cask Strength on Monday. Here now is Batch 3. Batch 2 was released in 2018. Batch 3 was released in 2019 in the Europe and in 2020 in the US. As to whether the 2020 release was the same vatting as the 2019, just released later, or if it was a different vatting, I don’t know. But I’d guess it was the latter since, as per Whiskybase, the US release was bottled a full year later. Or I suppose they might have released an 11 yo as a 10 yo to preserve the branding of the series. At any rate, both releases, like Batch 2, are officially 10 years old. However, while Batch 2 was vatted from spirit matured in oloroso, PX and virgin oak casks, Batch 3 dropped the virgin oak, making it an all-sherry cask whisky. I liked Batch 2 quite a lot and given that this one doesn’t have virgin oak casks in the mix, odds are good I’ll like it even more. Let’s see if that proves to be the case. Continue reading →
I’ve reviewed a couple of official Glenallachies in the last six months—see here for the 2021 release of the 12 yo, and here for the 15 yo (release year unknown). Those are two of the only three Glenallachies I’ve reviewed—the third was an older independent release from Whiskybase from before the Billy Walker era. This week I will double my total Glenallachie count. Yes, this is going to be a week of reviews of Glenallachie. They will all be official releases, they will all involve at least some sherry, and they will all be at cask strength. First up: Batch 2 of the Glenallachie 10 CS. This was released in 2018 in the US market (and, for all I know, in other markets as well). I don’t remember seeing it in Minnesota but then again I don’t really spend much time in liquor stores any more—or for that matter on liquor websites. It’s a vatting of spirit matured in oloroso, PX and virgin oak casks. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading →
Let’s bring this series of reviews of Bowmore 17, 2004s bottled by the SMWS to a close. The three whiskies reviewed this week were from consecutively numbered casks, all filled on the same day in 2004 and matured in second-fill hogsheads. On Monday, I reviewed cask 3.337; on Wednesday, I reviewed cask 3.338. I liked both very much indeed; and liked 3.338 a bit more than 3.337. If you’re good at math like me, you’ll eventually figure out that today’s review is of cask 3.339. And you might also expect that I will like it a bit more than 3.338. But that’s now how whisky reviewing math works, fool! The SMWS’ tasting panel named this one “So wonderfully close, yet so wonderfully far”. This is, as far as I can make out, a reference to the whisky having conjured up visions of the Caribbean for them. I’ll be happy enough if it’s close enough to cask 3.331—which I reviewed last month, and which I liked the most so far of all these SMWS Bowmore 17, 2004s. Okay, let’s get to it. Continue reading →