Could it be that the fate of the Breaker of Chains on Game of Thrones was signaled by spirits behemoth, Diageo? You see, as part of their Game of Thrones whisky marketing gimmick they matched House Targaryen with the Cardhu distillery. The natural pairing would have been with the one highly smoky whisky in the lineup; but that Lagavulin was given to House Lannister who really should have been paired with this release of Cardhu Gold. As it happens, House Lannister survived the ending of Game of Thrones while Daenerys Targaryen’s corpse was probably dropped into the sea when Drogon absent-mindedly flexed his claws mid-flight. Her heel turn prior to her demise shocked a lot of people—it had been signaled but not properly developed on the show—but we should have seen it coming, No house is going to rule a continent that has as its namesake whisky an artificially coloured malt from a minor distillery bottled at 40%. Daenerys Targaryen deserved a better arc on Game of Thrones and a better whisky too. All men must die, as that cheerful Valyrian saying goes, but it does not follow that all men must drink mediocre whisky while still among the living. Continue reading
So, Game of Thrones is done. No matter how you feel about Daenerys Targaryen, I can’t help feel she deserved to go out better than Roose Bolton. I mean the magic was strong with her: she was able to project her voice so that people hundreds and hundreds of feet away were able to hear her over the neighing of horses. And then she got stabbed by a guy who couldn’t be trusted to take his sword into a guarded cell but could apparently walk up to the queen with multiple stabby weapons with no guards present. Oh yes, SPOILER ALERT!
I was expecting to have the review right after the series finale be of the House Targaryen whisky but I’ve decided instead to go with House Tully, in honour of Erdmure Tully who re-emerged right on cue to be embarrassed again. House Tully is a dull, dull house and fittingly Diageo have matched them with Glendullan, a dull, dull distillery. I know I always say that every distillery is capable of producing great whiskies but I’m not sure anyone has ever had a great Glendullan. It would be a Game of Thrones level shocker if this turned out to be a great one but, alas, it is not. Oh yes, SPOILER ALERT! Continue reading
Okay, let’s do another older Glen Ord bottled by Cadenhead. This is 10 years older than Wednesday’s 21 yo (yes, that makes it 31 years old) and was bottled in 2014 from a single bourbon hogshead. I think this might be the oldest Glen Ord I’ve yet had. Considering how much I like the official 30 yo—and the fact that I really liked Wednesday’s 21 yo—I have my hopes up. Will they be fulfilled? Let’s see.
Glen Ord 31, 1983 (51%; Cadenhead; single bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Malty and a little bready off the top and then on the second sniff too. There’s some lemon and some wax as well but mostly it’s the malt that registers. After a minute or so fruit begins to emerge, mostly in the citrus family: lemon and grapefruit; some gooseberry too. Muskier with water and the lemon turns to citronella. Continue reading
Glen Ord, up in the northern highlands, is a curious case. A massive whisky factory pumping out spirit for Diageo’s blends, it nonetheless produces an austere spirit that can be very elegant indeed. It’s hard to take its measure, however. Diageo barely does anything with it—other than making it one of the three expressions in its Singleton range (I think the Singleton of Glen Ord is for the Asian market). And despite the high volume of spirit it pumps out there doesn’t seem to be as much of it available from the indies as one might expect either—at least not in the US. Cadenhead seem to be the only bottler that has been releasing casks of Glen Ord at a steady clip over the last few years. Despite this neglect Glen Ord has steadfast fans. And even though I cannot say I’ve had so very many Glen Ords I am one of them. I’m always looking to try more and so when I had the opportunity to get my hands on a few independent releases from the last decade, I went for it. First up is this 21 yo bottled by Cadenhead in 2017. Continue reading
There’s just one episode of Game of Thrones to go and nobody has any hope of the show suddenly beginning to make sense again in the finale. Too much has been rushed for the last couple of seasons—and really rushed this season—and consistency of character and plot have been sacrificed to the need to just get to the end. The show gained its identity—via the books—from unexpected reversals of genre expectations but then got trapped in the cycle of having to constantly present the unexpected (arguably this is true of the books as well). We are all prisoners to plot, serving out our sentence and there’s only one more episode to go. At least the show is making it hard for us to miss it when it’s gone.
And speaking of things that don’t make sense, here is the House Tyrell whisky from Diageo’s Game of Thrones marketing tie-in (see here for the ones I’ve previously reviewed). I’m sure Diageo has their reasons for making the House Tyrell whisky a Clynelish but from where I’m sitting it makes about as much sense as the zombie Mountain suddenly developing agency. Clynelish is in the northern Highlands whereas House Tyrell’s seat at Highgarden is in the south of Westeros. Clynelish is by the sea, Highgarden is by a river. And so on. On the plus side, this is the only cask strength release in this series. The Queen of Thorns would have approved. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
Longrow, as you know, is the name of the more heavily peated malt made by Springbank (there are other differences in the production process as well). Most of the bourbon cask Longrows—or ex-bourbon heavy releases—I’ve had have been very good, and those are most of the Longrows I’ve had. Indeed, it has been a long time since I’ve had a Longrow matured in sherry casks, and I don’t think I’ve reviewed any on the blog. I have reviewed a couple of wine cask Longrows, however. I did not care very much for the 14 yo Burgundy Wood release from 2012 or so which had a bit too much sulphur for my taste. I liked the 11 yo port cask Longrow Red better. Of course, none of this may have any bearing on this single first fill sherry cask which was bottled for the German market. The general stereotype (fact?) goes that German drinkers in general are fairly sulphur-positive or at least more so than most others. Will this cask play to that (possible) preference? Let’s see. Continue reading
You’d think that if you had a dragon stuck with a crossbow bolt in one battle, and another taken out by an all-world javelin thrower in another, you’d spend a bit of time thinking about your aerial strategy, but I guess there hasn’t been a flight combat school in the world of Game of Thrones for a long time. Anyway, this is not the House Targaryen whisky I’m writing about today, it’s the House Baratheon whisky. I swear I had this scheduled before it turned out there was going to indeed be a new Baratheon lord.
Well, I’ve complained about the distilleries selected for the Game of Thrones selections not really matching up with the houses in the books and show (a smoky whisky for House Lannister instead of the one that has gold in its name, a mild whisky for dour House Stark) but the Baratheon selection does fit as well as the Greyjoy/Talisker selection. There’s the fact that Robert Baratheon is as close as we’ve had to a legitimate monarch in the series; and also House Baratheon is a small upstart house and Lochnagar is the smallest distillery in Diageo’s portfolio (or one of the smallest anyway). Lochnagar was also destroyed before being rebuilt some years later and it seems the same is happening with the Baratheons. But how about the whisky? Is it anything Robert Baratheon would have wanted to get drunk on? Let’s see. Continue reading
My third Game of Thrones whisky review is of the House Greyjoy release, a Talisker. I am posting it today in honour of the passing of Theon Greyjoy (spoiler alert!), one of the few interesting characters on Game of Thrones over the course of the series—the only others, in case you’re wondering, were/are Sansa Stark, Roose Bolton and Tywin and Jaime Lannister (I am happy to have an argument about this in the comments).
This is one of the few distillery/House matches this series got right. House Greyjoy rules the Iron Islands and Skye is an island, and both are on the west coast; plus the peaty austerity of Talisker fits well with the dour nature of the Iron Islanders. That’s where the similarities end though: Talisker usually makes highly enjoyable whisky whereas, Theon aside, the rape-Vikings of the Iron Islands are a huge drag both in the tv show and especially in the books where they—along with Ramsay Bolton—carry the weight of George R.R. Martin’s near-pornographic obsession with sexual violence and torture. Yes, we get it, George, real knights and ladies were assholes. Continue reading
I have not really been keeping track of what has been going on with Bruichladdich’s official releases in recent years, and that extends to their heavily peated line, Port Charlotte. The regular Port Charlotte 10 yo—as opposed to the various annual releases in the PC5-11 line that led up to it—was first released in 2012 or 2013 but its status after that was not very clear. I don’t think it ever became a regular part of the range. I reviewed a bottle from that early release—back then they came in the same clear bottles as the then-new Bruichladdich 10 did—and thought it was solid but nothing special. Since then my Port Charlotte exposure has been limited to the PC releases and the occasional independent release (see, for example, the excellent Pl1 from the Whisky’s Exchange’s Elements of Islay line, a heavily sherried iteration). But a new version of the Port Charlotte 10, in new Octomore-dark livery, showed up last year and was positively reviewed by people I trust. That put it back on my radar and when I saw a bottle at a reasonable price in a local store I picked it up. I opened it for one of my local group’s tastings and it was received very well. At the time I thought there was way too much of the butyric note on the nose that I find in almost all modern Bruichladdich, but I did like it. Curious to see what it’s like now with more air in the bottle. Continue reading
The last 1996 Bowmore I reviewed was also bottled by Hunter Laing in their Old Malt Cask series and was dynamite. It was full of coastal notes and tropical fruit. That one was an exclusive for K&L in California and was bottled at cask strength from a hogshead. Before that I’d reviewed another couple of OMC Bowmore 22, 1996s that were part of the Old Malt Cask 20th anniversary release. Those were both also bottled from hogsheads. I liked one of those very much as well, and the other a bit less. There does seem to be a lot of 1996 Bowmore about—Whiskybase lists 143 releases, bottled between 2005 and 2018. Then again they list even more 1997s and 1998s and even 2000s—so it must just be the case that a lot of Bowmore from that era became available to the independents. I don’t know if anyone’s sorted through enough releases from all these years to come up with a magic vintage theory yet. Maybe if I like this one a lot too I can start a Bowmore 1996 campaign. Let’s see how it goes. Continue reading
Following the second episode of the last season of Game of Thrones, here is my second review of Diageo’s Game of Thrones whiskies (here’s the first). This is the House Stark malt. You’d think a family from a region known for its dour character would get a more austere whisky but no, the House Stark malt is from Dalwhinnie, a distillery known for producing mild, inoffensive whiskies (think House Tyrell or House Tully). What should they have gotten? Probably Teaninich or Glen Ord (further north in the Highlands still than Dalwhinnie). Will this whisky have more development than we’ve seen in the plot of the first two episodes of the season? I can only hope. Don’t get me wrong, both episodes have been enjoyable, the second more so than the first; but with so much story still out there, and only four episodes left, it felt a bit maddening to not get very much more than yet more table setting. I’m guessing the battle of Winterfell and its aftermath will take up two episodes, leaving one for dealing with Cersei and co. and one for the overall aftermath. Which feels somewhat rushed. Well, I guess George R.R. Martin is mostly to blame. If he’d managed to put out just one more book in the last eight years we would have been save the oddly compressed structure of the last two seasons of the show. Anyway, let’s hope this whisky has better structure. Continue reading
After Monday’s Game of Thrones Lagavulin 9 and yesterday’s not-very-sherried G&M Caol Ila 11, let’s make it three Diageo whiskies in a row. We go from the shores of Islay to the Highlands; from two iconic distilleries to one that is rather anonymous. Well, you might have said that about Glendullan as well, before Diageo made it part of the Singleton family and then assigned it to one of the Game of Thrones Houses (even if it’s only lame House Tully). No such recognition for Teaninich, who continue to produce large amounts of whisky for the group’s blends. As I say whenever I review a Teaninich, I have not had very much from this distillery. This is not the oldest Teaninich I’ve had (see this 39 yo bottled by Malts of Scotland); it is, however, the best Teaninich I’ve yet had. It was distilled a decade after that Malts of Scotland cask, in 1983, a year of major closures in the industry, and bottled three decades later by Signatory. My friend Pat brought this bottle to a tasting at our friend’s Rich’s place in St. Paul last November and it was a wonderful surprise. I can’t say how unlike other Teaninich of similar age and vintage it is but, thanks to Pat giving me a sample to take with me, I can tell you what it is like. Continue reading
Over the last decade and more Gordon & MacPhail have bottled a number of multi-cask vattings of 10-11 yo Caol Ila, many of them from sherry casks. Most have been well-received. I’ve liked most of the few I’ve had (see, example, this 10 yo, 1996), though there also have been some duds (see this 11 yo, 2000). I think this one, bottled in 2016, before Gordon & MacPhail’s livery changed, may be the first I’ve had from a vatting of four casks. I always wonder when something like this is released if one or two casks in the vatting might not have needed salvaging. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind you: a cask that might not be very interesting on its own can still work very well in a vatting, accentuating positive notes or even helping damp down some overbearing ones (anyone who has done a lot of home vatting knows this). The odd thing here is that these are said to have all been first-fill sherry butts but this is a rather light-coloured whisky. All American oak butts that held fino or manzanilla? Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
So, it’s come to this. Yes, it has. Starting today, I will be reviewing one of Diageo’s Game of Thrones single malt releases every Monday after a new episode of the final season of the show. As there are only six episodes but eight of these whiskies, I will end with an all-Game of Thrones week after the finale. No, this is not being sponsored by Diageo or Game of Thrones. I scoffed at this marketing nonsense when it was first released (and available) but later when I had the opportunity to get 50 ml of each bottle from a split, I could not resist. So, here is my first review after a middling first episode.
What becomes obvious immediately is that nobody at Diageo’s marketing actually watches Game of Thrones or reads the books and/or that nobody at Game of Thrones marketing knows anything about whisky. Why? Well, because there is only one heavily-peated, smoky whisky in the lineup and they’ve not given it to House Targaryen, who you may remember have dragons and the habit of setting people and things on fire. Instead, the brain trust has seen fit to make the Lagavulin the Lannister whisky. This despite the fact that the Lannisters are associated with gold and one of the other whiskies in the lineup is the Cardhu Gold Reserve…which, of course, they’ve given to House Targaryen. Clerical error? Well, I guess we should just be happy they didn’t add a House Bolton release to the list as that might have meant having to drink a NAS Glenkinchie (“it’ll feel like you’re being flayed alive!”). I’m not very convinced by most of the other whisky/house pairings either—more on those later. Continue reading