And here finally is my review of the last of the samples I got from a big bottle split of K&L’s single casks from late 2020. A bit of a miracle really that I actually reviewed them all in 2021. Next month I’ll start on some of the 2021 casks. The penultimate review from this lot was posted on Monday. That was a nine year old Linkwood that really surprised me with its mix of fruit and oak. That was from a refill bourbon barrel. This Aberlour is a fair bit older at 25 years of age and despite what the sample label says it’s not from a sherry butt. I’ve not seen the bottle myself but the label on Whiskybase clearly indicates that it’s a refill hogshead and there’s no sign of it being a sherry hogshead—which you’d expect would be touted by any indie bottler. K&L’s own marketing spiel for this one was unusually reserved, by the way: not a single store employee can be found here waxing poetic about its qualities. And just in case you think it’s only sample bottles that have inaccurate information, the K&L text says 184 bottles came out of the cask but the bottle label as seen on Whiskybase notes it produced 211 bottles. Lots of confusion all around. Anyway, let’s see what the whisky itself is like. Continue reading
I believe that after this review I will only have one whisky left to write up from K&L’s 2020 parcel of casks—or at least the ones I went in on bottle splits of. A good thing too as their 2021 casks have begun to arrive, as have my shares of bottle splits of some of those casks! Anyway, after this Linkwood I will only have an Aberlour 25 to review and I expect to get to that this month as well. At nine years of age this one is quite a bit younger—and it’s also quite a bit younger than the teaspooned Linkwood they brought in last year. I was not terribly enthused by that 27 yo. Will this one, a third its age and bottled from a refill bourbon barrel at an eye-popping strength, be any better? Let’s see.
Linkwood 9, 2010 (62.6%; Old Particular for K&L; refill barrel 14285; from a bottle split)
Nose: Quite expressive despite the high strength: red fruit (cherry) mixed with lemon; some floral sweetness; cereals; malt; and a bit of polished oak. The fruit intensifies with time and the oak expands a bit too. A few drops of water and this turns into a lemon bar dusted liberally with powdered sugar. Continue reading
One of my great regrets from our trip to Scotland in 2018 is that while on the Speyside I didn’t stop in at Benromach. I hope to remedy that at some time in the future when international travel will be less complicated. I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve had from the distillery since it was taken over by Gordon & Macphail—their brand of non-phenolic Highland smoke is very nice indeed. Which is not to suggest that I’ve tried so very much of their whisky. But I really liked this 9 yo bottled for Costco in San Diego; and more to the point I really liked this 8 yo bottled for the Whisky Exchange and this release of the Benromach Peat Smoke, More to the point because like those latter two releases this one—distilled in 2009 and bottled in 2020—features sherry cask maturation. In this case it’s not a single cask release (like the TWE bottle) or exclusively from sherry casks (like the Peat Smoke). My understanding is that it was put together from 29 casks, some first-fill bourbon and some first-fill oloroso sherry. The colour of the bottle would suggest the sherry casks had more to say. Let’s see if that’s borne out in the glass. And no, I’ve not had any of the previous batches of the Cask Strength (I believe this was the first release in this bottle design). None of these have come to the US as far as I know. I hope that will change. Continue reading
I think the Whisky Exchange’s annual Whisky Show is coming up soon. I say annual but they obviously skipped it last year (this year’s show is in person again, I think). Anyway, I didn’t mean this review of a Longmorn 18 released 10 years ago at the 2011 edition of the Whisky Show to come close to coinciding with it—I’ve actually had this bottle open for some months now but have just not gotten around to reviewing it. Now that it has dipped below the half-full line it is time.
Speaking of the Whisky Exchange, you may have come across the recent news that they have been purchased by Pernod Ricard. Given how much difficulty I’ve had with keeping track of all of the Whisky Exchange properties, affiliates and spin-off concerns over the years, I don’t actually know what this means for the various whisky releases their various bottling concerns put out. Will this mean greater access to malts from the group’s distilleries? Less attention to malts from competitors? (Longmorn, of course, is part of the Pernod Ricard portfolio.) The most important question is whether the new corporate masters will approve of Billy Abbott’s beard. Only time will tell. Continue reading
Continuing with K&L’s teaspooned casks from 2020 (see here for last week’s review of a 27 yo teaspooned Linkwood), here is a 22 yo Dailuaine. I think after this review I will have only two left from last year’s parcel—an older Aberlour and a younger Linkwood. Dailuaine, like Linkwood, is a distillery with no real identity of its own. It produces a mild classic Speyside spirit that goes into Diageo’s blends. Which is not to say, of course, that single casks of Dailuaine cannot be very good or even excellent—every distillery is more than capable of producing great casks of whisky (it’s just a matter of whether they ever see the light of day in single malt form). It is to say, however, that no one really goes to a bottle of Dailuaine looking for something very individual or idiosyncratic. But good whisky is good whisky even if it doesn’t set the pulse racing. That said, not all of K&L’s older teaspooned casks from 2020 have proved to be very good whisky. Let’s hope this 22 yo is closer to their Ledaig 23 than to their Glenfiddich 23. Continue reading
Here to close out 25+ yo whisky week is a 27 yo Linkwood (see here for Monday’s Ben Nevis and here for yesterday’s Bunnahabhain). Actually, technically this is not a Linkwood as it is yet another of K&L’s teaspooned casks from their late 2020 parcel of exclusives. Which other distillery the small amount out of 27 yo used to teaspoon this cask came from I have no idea. Linkwood itself is an unstoried name and Diageo does so little to promote it as a single malt that it’s a bit surprising they care enough to insist on indie casks of its whisky being teaspooned and sold under another name. Then again, I suppose it may not be Diageo that’s insisting on the teaspooning: some/many of the teaspooned casks in this K&L parcel are not from Diageo distilleries. K&L’s own comments about this are characteristically confusing: as far as I can make out, they’re saying the decision to teaspoon is a decision to offer better value to the customer. But why would their source sell them for less the exact same cask they could have charged K&L more for just because they teaspooned it? Or is it something like avoiding an add-on licensing fee for using the name of the distillery? If so, why does it need to be teaspooned—why can’t it just be given a different name? And why doesn’t the source care that K&L tells everyone in its marketing that this is in fact a Linkwood? If you understand the nuances please let me know. Continue reading
When this week’s series of reviews kicked off on Monday I said that it would fulfill three themes: all Hepburn’s Choice whiskies, all K&L exclusive casks, and all Speyside distilleries. I forgot a fourth category they all fulfill: they’re all teaspooned malts (i.e have had a small amount of malt of at least the same age but made at another distillery added to the cask so as to prevent it from being sold as a single malt from the distillery the cask originated in). So was Monday’s Mortlach 13, so was Wednesday’s Craigellachie 14, and so is today’s Glenfarclas which is one year older than the other two put together. Unlike the other two—and most/all of the other teaspooned malts in this round of K&L casks—the variant name used here, “Perhaps Speyside’s Finest” is not a one-off, though it represents a bit of scaling back of the claim. What I mean is that over the years the various Laing outfits have released a number of Glenfarclas casks under the label “Probably Speyside’s Finest”. I’ve reviewed a 22 yo that bore that label. I was not a huge fan of that one but I’ll try not to read too much into the greater uncertainty in this one’s name or in the fact that it’s from a refill barrel and not a sherry cask—I’ve not generally had a lot of good luck with other older Glenfarclas from bourbon casks (see here). Anyway, let’s get into it and see what’s what. Continue reading
Hepburn’s Choice/K&L’s 2020 casks/Speyside week started on Monday with a teaspooned 13 yo Mortlach and continues today with a teaspooned 14 yo whisky from a distillery located not too far away from Mortlach: Craigelllachie. Like Mortlach, Craigellachie is known for a robust spirit and largely for its sherry cask or at least sherry-involved incarnations. While Monday’s Mortlach was a bourbon cask, this Craigellachie is from a refill sherry cask. Let’s see if it ends up being a more characteristic expression of the distillery’s output than the Mortlach was.
Behind the Highlander/Craigellachie 14, 2006 (51.7%; Hepburn’s Choice for K&L; refill sherry butt; from a bottle split)
Nose: Quite rubbery off the top but there’s some sweeter stuff below, both floral and fruity (berries). The rubbery note recedes as it sits but never goes away completely. After 10 minutes or so, however, it’s all about the sweeter notes. More acid here too with time (lime). With a few drops of water there’s quite a bit of cream. Continue reading
Okay, here is a week that will fulfill multiple themes: all Hepburn’s Choice whiskies; all whiskies bottled for K&L in California; all whiskies from Speyside distilleries. First up is a teaspooned 13 yo Mortlach (you may recall that most/all of K&L’s cask exclusives last year were teaspooned, i.e had a bit of whisky from another distillery mixed in). Mortlach is most well-known in its sherried avatar. The combination of the sherry casks, its unusual distillation regimen and its use of worm tubs often lends Mortlach’s spirit a meaty and slightly sulphurous quality. In this case the cask is a refill hogshead, which almost certainly means it previously contained bourbon. In theory a sherry butt can also be broken down and re-coopered into a hogshead but given the premium charged for any whisky to whose label the word “sherry” could be attached in any form, it seems unlikely that this is such a sherry hogshead. Anyway, let’s see how it compares to last month’s Mortlach 21 which was from a sherry cask. Continue reading
Sherry Cask Week comes to an end with this 21 yo Mortlach distilled in 1990 and bottled by Signatory for Binny’s in Chicago in 2012. Yes, I’ve sat on this bottle for almost 10 years, and no, I cannot begin to tell you why. Back in the day, Binny’s had one of the best cask exclusive programs in the US, if not the very best. Brett Pontoni and his team selected casks of a good quality and sold them for good prices without too much hoopla. Those days are long gone as no one seemingly is able to find good casks at good prices anymore and some don’t even seem able to reliably find acceptable casks at good prices. Hopefully the wheel will turn sometime soon. It’s sad to think of how much harder it is now for someone just entering the hobby to truly experience the full range of single malt whisky than it was a decade ago. Will the industry at some point price itself into a dead-end and have to retrench? Or will marketing win out? When you look at what is happening on social media with not just single malt whisky but also bourbon (and increasingly brandy), it seems hard to be hopeful that sanity will return anytime soon. The producers and marketers have whipped customers into a frenzy and all too many people seem excited to pay high prices for marginal bottles. Anyway, let’s go back to 2012 when this 21 yo sherry cask Mortlach cost $99. Continue reading
As you may recall, in 2013 the Dutch bottler van Wees released a large parcel of Longmorn 17, 1996s, all matured to a dark mahogany hue in sherry casks. As I noted, just under two years ago, when I reviewed another of these casks, these went for just about $65 at the far less attractive exchange rate of the time. I shudder to think of how much would be charged for similar bottles now. In that previous review—of cask 72324, purchased by my friends Clara and Rob at the same time I purchased this bottle—I also noted that if I liked it I would open this a month later. Well, I did like it and here I am, only a little behind schedule, with the review of my bottle. I actually opened this bottle at the end of May. When first opened I found it to be somewhat imbalanced. Though 57.5% is not crazy high as stupid abv goes, the combination of the alcohol and the oak seemed to me to overpower everything else in the whisky. After a few pours I set the bottle aside for a few weeks and when I came back to it the whisky had mellowed a fair bit. This review is taken from one of the later pours (the bottle is now past the halfway mark) and, as you will see, time in the glass and water are still very good to it. Anyway, here are some more detailed notes. Continue reading
I began this week of reviews of Speyside whiskies on Monday with a Glenburgie distilled in 1997 and bottled in 2012. On Wednesday I jumped back in time to review a Mannochmore distilled in 1978 and bottled in 1998. Let’s close the week with a Glen Grant distilled just a few years before the Glenburgie and only bottled in 2019.
This was bottled by Signatory for the Nectar in Belgium and, like the other two whiskies this week, it’s from a bourbon cask, in this case a bourbon barrel (Signatory have always been more forthcoming with cask information than Scott’s Selection, the bottlers of Wednesday’s Mannochmore, ever were). I’ve liked a lot of the bourbon cask Glen Grants I’ve had, including the official Glen Grant 18, which I reviewed earlier this year. Well, I don’t know if that’s listed specifically as being from bourbon casks but that seemed very obviously to be the case. And I did very much like the last one I reviewed that was unambiguously from a bourbon barrel—this 22 yo, 1992 from Single Malts of Scotland. So the odds are good. But the proof is in the glass. Let’s get to it. Continue reading
Speyside week continues but today we’ll jump back almost two decades from Monday’s Glenburgie, all the way back to 1978 when this Mannochmore was distilled. It was bottled 20 years later by the enigmatic Scott’s Selection who never specified ages or cask types. This is either 19 or 20 years old but what’s not in any doubt is that it’s a bourbon cask. This is one of many Scott’s Selection bottles from non-name distilleries that hung around in the US for, well, decades after they were released—you can probably still find this Mannochmore on shelves somewhere. Of course, there’s non-name distilleries and then there is Mannochmore, which might be said to have a negative name considering it was the distillery behind the notorious Loch Dhu—if you’ve never tried it consider yourself lucky. Well, in 1978 Mannochmore was a young distillery, only having been founded seven years previously, and still a long way away from distilling the spirit that was dyed black to make Loch Dhu. It was built to produce spirit for blends for Diageo’s previous incarnation, DCL and have continued to produce spirit for blends for Diageo—though I believe they were mothballed for much of the 1980s. I’ve not had much experience with their malt from any decade—and this is only my first review of a Mannochmore on the blog. It’s a bottle I stared at on the shelves of a local’ish store for many years before deciding to chance my arm and now I’ve finally opened it. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
So far this month I’ve done two weeks of reviews of highland whiskies and one of peated whiskies from Islay. For the last full week of the month let’s move north east to the Speyside and do a week of unpeated whiskies. First up, this Glenburgie. This was bottled all the way back in 2012 in Chivas Bros.’ late, lamented Cask Strength Edition series. The 500 ml bottles in this series were officially available only in the distillery shops but in reality came to be available from regular retailers as well. Indeed. I purchased this one from the Whisky Exchange in London. And it wasn’t the first such Glenburgie I purchased from them. In fact, I only purchased it because the first one had been so excellent that it compelled me to see if all such Glenburgies were excellent. (I reviewed that one in the early days of the blog, by the way.) Of course, as was my way with so many of the some many bottles I purchased in that era, I didn’t get around to opening it till almost a decade later. But better late than never and here I am now. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
Here to close out sherry cask week and the month on the blog is a 27 yo Auchroisk bottled by Cadenhead in 2016. It is somewhat atypically—based on my experience anyway—a sherry cask. Bourbon cask Auchroisk can be wonderfully fruity and I’ve been intrigued by the distillery ever since I drank this fruit bomb bottled for Binny’s by Signatory some years ago (and which I probably gave too low a score then). Most of the other Auchroisks I’ve had have been bourbon casks as well (for example, this, this and this—the last of those another 27 yo from Cadenhead). But I don’t mean to suggest that I’ve not had any sherry cask Auchroisks before; just last year I reviewed another, a 22, 1990 bottled by Whisky-Fässle. I liked that one a lot and particularly liked that the sherry in that case was not very obtrusive and certainly did not cover up the fruit. I’m a little less sure of this one—the reviews on Whiskybase suggest it may be one best aligned with the tastes of the German market, with more than one reviewer noting the presence of “dirty sherry”, which is another way of saying sulphur. Well, as it happens I don’t mind sulphur when it presents in the savoury gunpowder end of things. But I do hope that it won’t block the fruit. Let’s see how it goes. Continue reading
I’ve already done three themed weeks of whisky reviews this month and so may as well end with another. The first was a week of whiskies from the Loch Lomond distillery—the new Inchmurrin 12, the new Inchmoan 12 and the new Loch Lomond 12. That was followed by a week of whiskies from Highland distilleries—a Dalwhinnie, a Dalmore and a Glenmorangie. Then last week saw three whiskies from Springbank—the 2019 Local Barley release, a Hazelburn 12 from a decade previous and last year’s Springbank 17, Madeira Wood. What there hasn’t been a lot of this month is sherry cask whiskies and so let’s end with a week of single sherry casks.
First up is this Glenrothes 12, 2007 bottled by the SMWS. I’ve previously reviewed two other Glenrothes 12, 2007s bottled by the SMWS (their two Glenrothes releases immediately prior to this one, in fact—here and here). Both of those were at ludicrous abvs and so is this one. I’m not generally a fan of whiskies at stupid strengths—especially those coming out of first-fill sherry casks, as all three of these did—but I did end up liking those two a fair bit once I added the right amount of water. I’m guessing this will need a fair bit of water too—I do hope it will be as good as the others.Oh yes, the SMWS named this “Inferno Toffee Pudding”. Continue reading
Following Monday’s Tamdhu and Wednesday’s Balvenie, let’s make it a whole week of 20+ yo Speyside whiskies. This Glen Moray was bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and they gave it the relatively restrained—by their standards—nickname “Desert Island Dr(e)am”. It was bottled from a first-fill toasted hogshead. I assume this means a relatively tired hogshead was reconditioned via toasting and then filled. Was this done at origin in 1994 or is this merely the cask in which this whisky spent some time prior to bottling? I do not know. If you know more about this please write in below. In the meantime, I will note that I have previously reviewed a SMWS-issued Glen Moray 24, 1994 and that too was from a first-fill toasted hogshead. I wasn’t overly enthused by that one, which I found to be far too oak-driven for my taste. Let’s hope this one puts on a better, less woody show—though given the dark colour, I am a little nervous. Continue reading
Okay, let’s end the month with another older Speyside from a bourbon cask, and having started the month with one of K&L’s recent exclusives, let’s end it with another. This is one more of the many teaspooned casks released by K&L this year, in this case a teaspooned Balvenie—why John McCrae, I have no idea. As far as I can make out from K&L’s marketing spiel, this cask was not teaspooned prior to bottling but right at the beginning when the spirit entered the cask, presumably using a bit from one of William Grant’s other malts (Glenfiddich or Kininvie) but that’s only speculation on my part. Balvenie almost never shows up under its own name from independent bottlers— and very rarely shows up at all by any name. And so, however this was made and sent out into the world, it is a welcome opportunity to try older bourbon cask Balvenie. Let’s hope what’s in the bottle doesn’t let me down. Continue reading