Let’s start the month with a week of reviews of whiskies from Craigellachie. Located in the Speyside, Craigellachie has not always had a high visibility among non-whisky geeks. It was established in the late 19th century and produced malt for blends for most of its life. Indeed, until relatively recently, there were no regular official bottlings from the distillery. The turning point was the purchase of the distillery in 1998 by John Dewar & Sons, themselves a subsidiary of Bacardi. In 2014 official Craigellachies appeared: a 13 yo, a 17 yo and a 23 yo. Idiosyncratic age statements to be sure, and perhaps meant as a reflection of the spirit’s idiosyncratic character. For whisky geeks, Craigellachie—available from independent bottlers before this—has always been of interest as one of the few distilleries still using old-fashioned worm tubs to condense their spirit. This results in spirit that can have a “meaty” texture and character. I’ve not had enough Craigellachie to be able to track all this meaningfully but I am interested to try this official 13 yo—which somehow I have not had at all since it was first released. This sample comes from a bottle from the 2017 release. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
I’ve not reviewed very many Balvenies over the years (only 10 total and only a handful in the last 4-5 years). There was a time when their 12 yo Double Wood was a regular in my rotation but that was a long time ago. It seems to be available for a relatively reasonable price in Minnesota. Should I give it a go? I do know I wasn’t terribly impressed the last time I tried it but it may have improved since, I suppose. I was also a huge fan a decade ago of their 15 yo Single Barrel series that was all from bourbon casks (here’s the only one I’ve reviewed). But that got replaced by a hot sherry bomb that cost a lot more and which I was not very impressed with the first time I tried it, though I did like the second cask I tried better. The Balvenie I’m reviewing today is also sherried, albeit the sherry comes in only via a finish: it spends some time in PX casks after initial maturation in American oak (presumably ex-bourbon) casks. It was/is a Travel Retail exclusive, which makes it a bit surprising both that it has an age statement and that it’s at a good drinking strength of 48.7%. How much of its 18 years it spends in either cask type I’m not sure, but here’s hoping the finish is well-integrated. Let’s see. Continue reading
From Ardmore in the eastern highlands we move a bit north and a bit west to Glenrothes in the Speyside. Like Monday’s Ardmore this Glenrothes too was bottled by Signatory in its Un-Chillfiltered Collection series and was also matured in a bourbon cask—albeit, unlike that Ardmore, this was not an ex-Islay cask. And like the Ardmore this is a recent release—both were bottled in 2021. Bourbon cask Glenrothes is not very common—most of the official releases from the distillery, past and present, have involved sherry casks in the vattings. As a result, Glenrothes is one of those distilleries—Highland Park is another—whose official profile is associated with sherry maturation, and it is to the independents we must go to get a sense of what their spirit is like when matured entirely in bourbon casks. I think I’ve mentioned before that I rather like bourbon cask Glenrothes and also that I have samples of a few ex-bourbon Glenrothes bottles on my shelves. And I think I may also have been promising reviews of those samples for almost as long as the blog has been active. Well, if I like this one maybe I’ll actually get around to digging those out and reviewing them as well. Continue reading
As the last review for May was of a 20+ yo Speyside malt, I might as well begin June with a review of another 20+ yo Speyside malt. This one too is from an unglamorous distillery, Dufftown and at 26 years of age is easily the oldest Dufftown I’ve yet tried. It’s not a recent release, having been distilled in 1988 (not 1987 as I mistakenly listed it as in my “Coming Soon” post) and bottled in 2015 by Cadenhead. I don’t know if it took a while after that to finally make it to the US or if I just didn’t notice it before because that’s roughly when I started paying less and less attention to whisky release news. Anyway, I noticed it in a local liquor store a month or so ago, along with a few other interesting-looking bottles, and managed to convince some friends to go in on splits of all of them with me. I kept 9 ounces of each bottle and they took the rest between them. This is the oldest of the three and in some ways the one I’m most intrigued to try. Though it’s in Cadenhead’s squat bottled “Small Batch” series, I suspect it’s from a single cask as the cask type is a bourbon hogshead and the outturn 228 bottles—which is more or less what you’d expect from a single hogshead of this strength at this age. Continue reading
As you may recall, the theme for this week’s whisky reviews is 20+ yo whiskies from distilleries located in different production regions of Scotland. The week began with an official release of 20 yo Arran—Brodick Bay. It continues today with a 23 yo from the Speyside. Which distillery exactly in the Speyside? I’m afraid I can’t tell you as this was a private label bottling for Costco by Alexander Murrary and as with most/all such Costco releases, no distillery is specified. This was matured in ex-bourbon casks and finished in oloroso sherry (which is hopefully the only explanation for the dark colour of the whisky in the sample bottle). I don’t have a whole lot of experience with Costco’s Kirkland-branded single malt Scotch releases. I believe I’ve only ever reviewed one other—this 18 yo, also from the Speyside. I didn’t think very highly of that one, finding it to be too watered down in every way. Will this at a more respectable 46% abv (ignore the abv on the sample label—it’s an error) have more oomph/character? I certainly hope so. Continue reading
A week of Mortlach reviews began on Monday with a 10 yo bourbon cask bottled by Signatory and continued on Wednesday with a 12 yo sherry cask bottled by Sovereign for K&L. It concludes today with a 20 yo bottled by Gordon & MacPhail from a refill sherry hogshead. As I’ve said before, Mortlach usually shows its best side in the context of sherry maturation and this week’s reviews bear that out. Will a refill sherry cask be as good of a frame for Mortlach’s spirit as the darker 12 yo sherry cask was? If the cask was relatively spent then the extra eight years of maturation may not mean much in terms of imparting sherry character. In any event, I think the point I would make is that what we think of when we think of Mortlach’s “distillery character” is not just the character of the spirit as produced through distillation but also the character of that spirit as transformed through sherry cask maturation—see here for a post from several years ago that goes into this idea of “distillery character” at more length. At any rate, it’s interesting to try a distillery’s spirit from three different types of oak in close juxtaposition. Let’s see how this goes. Continue reading
As you may remember from Monday’s review, this week is a Mortlach week. This in order to try to redress the weak impression people who don’t know the distillery’s spirit well may have received from last Friday’s review of the official 14 yo for travel retail. Well, while Monday’s 10 yo release from Signatory was better, it didn’t exactly light my hair on fire either. Will that happen with today’s 12 yo? On the plus side, it is a sherry butt and Mortlach generally shows its best side with heavy sherry maturation. On the less than plus side, this was bottled for K&L and sold for just about $60. A seeming good deal at K&L can often/sometimes (depending on your point of view) be too good to be true. Hopefully this is not one of those cases. Certainly, I was not overly impressed by the last cask of K&L Mortlach I reviewed—which, like Monday’s Signatory, was also a bourbon cask. Was this one leftover in my stash from that same round of casks or did I acquire it in a separate bottle split? I can’t remember. Anyway, let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
Friday’s Mortlach, an official release for travel retail, didn’t impress very much. As I have some readers who are not very familiar with Mortlach I feel I must try to not leave them with a ho-hum impression of the distillery. Accordingly, I’m following that review with a full slate of Mortlach reviews this week. I’ve not tasted any of these bottles before but am hopeful that at least one of them will give a better idea of what Mortlach whisky’s appeal can be than that Alexander’s Way did. First up, is a 10 yo bottled by Signatory in its Un-Chillfiltered Collection series for Spec’s in Texas. As per Whiskybase a number of these 10 yos from 2008 were bottled by Signatory for stores in the EU as well, all matured in bourbon barrels just as this one was. Indeed, this one is a vatting of four bourbon barrels for a total release of 964 bottles. I believe barrels generally yield a little over 200 bottles. Dilution down to 46% brings the number up. I’ve always had a soft spot for Signatory’s UCF collection—when I first started out buying indie releases this was one of the lines I bought a lot of bottles from. It used to be pretty ubiquitous in the US and pretty reasonably priced. As to whether this Mortlach was reasonably priced on release in 2018, I don’t know—but I do hope it’s a good one. Continue reading
And so a week of reviews of official distillery releases comes to an end. It started on Monday with an outstanding Springbank 10 (the 2021 release) and continued on Wednesday with a typically solid Clynelish 14 (from 2018). I have another 14 year old to end the week, this one from the Speyside. This Mortlach is not from the distillery’s core range; it is rather a travel retail exclusive. It bears the name “Alexander’s Way”. This refers to a prior owner of the distillery who apparently came up with their unique so-called 2.81 distillation regime—which along with their use of worm tubs as condensers—creates the idiosyncratic character of Mortlach’s spirit. You have to hand it to Diageo: these days when a distillery release has the name of someone like that on its label it usually does not bear an age statement. But Diageo have gone ahead and given us a 14 yo. Of course, they haven’t gone so far as to give it to us at 46%, leave alone at cask strength. This is bottled at 43.4%. That extra .4% of abv above the bog standard 43% must be doing a lot of work. And nor have they offered any guarantee that the spirit in the bottle comes by its dark amber colour honestly. But if it tastes good that’s all that matters. Let’s see. Continue reading
Monday’s Glen Grant 13 was a very pleasant surprise. Here’s hoping the last whisky of the month—also from a Speyside distillery—will be in that vein. It’s from the less than storied Speyburn distillery. I wasn’t aware that they now put out an official 15 yo but apparently they do. Or at least they released one in 2017—I’m not seeing any others listed on Whiskybase. Did no more releases follow? This was put together from spirit matured in American oak and Spanish oak casks. The Spanish oak casks would be sherry casks; and though American oak is also used to make sherry casks, I’m assuming it refers here to bourbon casks—otherwise they’d be trumpeting all-sherry maturation for sure. This sample came to me from Michael Kravitz of Diving for Pearls—the source of a number of March’s other reviewed samples. He has reviewed this one too—he too reviewed a sample and then seemingly liked it enough to purchase a bottle. Will that be true for me as well? Let’s see. Continue reading
After two weeks of peated whiskies (a week at Ardmore and then a week on Islay, at Caol Ila, Laphroaig and Bowmore) let’s end the month with what should be a pair of milder Speysiders. First up. a bourbon cask Glen Grant, distilled in 1993 and bottled at 13 years of age by James MacArthur (are they still around?).
Glen Grant 13, 1993 (57.7%; James MacArthur; bourbon cask 121926; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Tart fruit off the top (a mix of apples/cider and orange) along with some oak and a bit of chalk. Maltier with a bit of air and the fruit turns a bit muskier (over-ripe pear, a hint of pineapple). The oak turns first resinous and then leafy and the citrus gets tarter (lime now rather than orange, some of it makrut lime). With time and air the musky fruit and the malt expand. Water pushes the acid and oak back and brings out more of the sweet fruit along with some cream. Continue reading
And another week of reviews of single casks from Speyside distilleries bottled for K&L comes to an end, once again with the oldest of the set: a 28 yo Glen Keith. On the first go around earlier this month the oldest—a Tamdhu 20—was the one I liked the least. Considering that I was quite underwhelmed by this Monday’s Benrinnes 23 and only barely whelmed by Wednesday’s Hector Macbeth/Glenfiddich 23, I’m rooting hard for this week to have a different ending. There’s some hope here in that I liked the last two 20+ yo Glen Keiths I reviewed (one a 21 yo from Single Malts of Scotland and another a 22 yo from Archives). Let’s see if that hope is borne out.
Glen Keith 28, 1993 (56.9%; OMC for K&L; refill barrel; from a bottle split)
Nose: Malt and apples and mild notes of citrus and oak. On the second sniff there’s some pineapple and waxy lemon peel and then it gets a bit biscuity. In the same vein with time and air. With a few drops of water the malt expands and the fruit gets muskier. Continue reading
Older K&L Speyside week began on Monday with a Benrinnes 23, 1997 that I did not care overmuch for. It continues today with another 23 yo distilled in 1997. This one is a teaspooned Glenfiddich bottled and sold by K&L as Hector Macbeth. I’ve previously reviewed another Hector Macbeth 23, 1997. That one was part of K&L’s 2020 cask selections. This sibling cask would have been bottled just a few months later. The earlier cask—which was a refill sherry butt—didn’t move me very much either. Let’s hope this refill hogshead is an improvement.
Hector Macbeth/Glenfiddich 23, 1997 (54.4%; Hepburn’s Choice for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Oak here too to start but there’s some citrus mixed in with it along with a grassy note. With a bit of time the citrus gets a bit sweeter (orange) and the oak takes a back seat. With more time it’s a little muskier (a hint of pineapple) and it also gets a little waxy. Water pulls out some softer notes (vanilla, cream). Continue reading
Let’s do another week of reviews of whiskies from Speyside distilleries and also another week of single casks bottled for K&L in California. We’ll continue the trajectory of rising age followed in this month’s first week of Speyside reviews—which included a 10 yo Dailuaine, an 18 yo Linkwood and a 20 yo Tamdhu. First up is a 23 yo Benrinnes. I believe it sold for $120 which seems like a blockbuster price for a 23 yo single malt. But as I’ve had occasion to note before, a good deal is not merely the ratio of price to age but more appropriately of price to quality. Will this Benrinnes fit the bill on both counts? Let’s see.
Benrinnes 23, 1997 (58.4%; OMC for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Sweet, slightly citrussy notes with a mineral, almost sooty edge. As it sits there’s a fair bit of malt and some vanilla. Sweeter as it sits with some honey joining the malt and then the citrus expands as well. Alas, with water the astringent notes begin to show up here as well. Continue reading
Speyside week comes to a close with another refill hogshead bottled for K&L in California. This is a Tamdhu and it is two years older than Wednesday’s Linkwood. You may recall that I quite liked that Linkwood and also Monday’s 10 year old Dailuaine (that one from a sherry cask). Will the oldest of the trio be at least as good as the one half its age? There are no guarantees but I did like the last Tamdhu 20 I reviewed—that one was also bottled by Old Malt Cask (for their own 20th anniversary). And I did also like the last K&L Tamdhu of similar age that I reviewed, that one a 19 yo. Anyway, let’s get to it.
Tamdhu 20, 2000 (52%; OMC for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Cereals, toasted oak and some sweet fruit—citrus at first but then some cherry joins in as well. As it sits the oak expands quite a bit, making me a bit apprehensive about the palate…On the plus side the cereals get more malted and the fruit turns a bit muskier (somewhere between apple and pear). With more time still the oak recedes again. Water pushes the oak back further and pulls out some cream. Continue reading
Let’s make it a week of not just Speyside whiskies but Speyside whiskies bottled for/by K&L in California. The week started with a 10 yo Dailuaine that I dubbed a very good value at the price. Here now is an 18 yo Linkwood. The Dailuaine is a sherry cask; the Linkwood a refill hogshead. The Dailuaine was still available as of Monday; this Linkwood is sold out. Like Dailuaine, Linkwood is a workhorse distillery in Diageo’s stable that predominantly produces malt for the group’s blends. Which of course means that they are as capable as any other distillery of producing casks that are rather excellent indeed. Monday’s Dailuaine stopped a bit short of sheer excellence; will this Linkwood make it all the way? Let’s see.
Linkwood 18, 2002 (53.9%; Hepburn’s Choice for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: A lovely mix of fruit—apples, pears, a bit of lemon. There’s some honey in there too and a mild grassiness. Gets maltier on the nose too with time and air. Some floral sweetness emerges with more time still. With water those sweet notes move in the direction of vanilla and it gets maltier still. Continue reading
From a week of reviews of heavily peated whiskies from the highlands let’s go to a week of milder fare from the Speyside. The last lot of Speysides I reviewed at the end of December were all fairly old—two 28 yo Glenfarclas (here and here) and a 33 yo Longmorn (here). We’ll start this week with a much younger whisky from a far less storied distillery: Dailuaine. This is from a sherry butt that was also part of K&L’s 2021 cask selections. I am now almost at the end of my reviews of that large batch; it would be good to get them done before the 2022 casks show up.
Dailuaine 10, 2010 (59.4%; Sovereign for K&L; sherry butt; from a bottle split)
Nose: A nice mix of sweet malt, light caramel and fruit (orange, apricot). Somewhat waxy on the second sniff with some honey in the mix too now. The citrus gets a little brighter as it goes and some cream emerges. The fruit gets richer as it sits and mixes nicely with the malt and the wax. With a lot more time it gets quite sweet. A few drops of water and the lemon wakes back up and picks up a biscuity note. Continue reading
The two Glenfarclas 28, 1992s I reviewed this week (here and here) were both very good but stopped just short of true excellence in my view. And so it’s time to bring out a guaranteed heavy hitter to close out the year. Not because this year has been anything to celebrate but in the hopes that it might augur better things for next year. This too is a Speysider, albeit a little older and distilled a long time before the two Glenfarclas. This is one of the great Longmorns bottled by Scott’s Selection in 2003 and 2004 for the US market. I’ve previously reviewed the 1968-2003, the 1967-2004 and the 1968-2004. This is the youngest of the set, distilled in 1971 and bottled in 2004. (The other in the group is the 1967-2003 of which I have a bottle in reserve.) Like most of the great Longmorns of that era, this features a heavy dose of fruit, most of it tropical. I know this because this is not my first bottle. These were all still widely available when I first began to buy a lot of whisky and I bought a pair each of this and the 1968-2003. The first bottle was finished before I launched the blog; here now is the second. My spreadsheet tells me I paid all of $162 for this back in December 2011. Those were indeed the days. Here’s to better days in 2022 as well. Continue reading