I don’t have much experience with Convalmore, a Speyside distillery that closed in 1985, just one year after this whisky was distilled. During its active period it produced exclusively for blends—as did and do most Scotch distilleries. The ownership situation of the brand is a bit confusing. My understanding is that when it was mothballed in 1985 the premises were sold to William Grant & Sons (owners of Glenfiddich and Balvenie) and used by them primarily for warehousing. The brand, however, is owned by Diageo—because the active distillery was part of the portfolio of Diageo’s precursor?—as is the remaining stock. If I am wrong about any of this—likely—or if you can confirm any of it, please do write in below. At any rate, very little Convalmore has ever been released as a single malt—Whiskybase lists only about 100 unique releases over the years. The most famous of these are a couple of Diageo special releases. Predictably G&M and Cadenhead have bottled far more. This cask was bottled by G&M for the American market in 2006. I purchased it from Binny’s in 2013—which should give you a sense of how relatively recent the boom in single malt purchasing insanity is. Anyway, I’d forgotten I had this bottle. Looking forward to finally tasting it. Continue reading
On Wednesday I had a review of a 12 yo Glenrothes distilled in 2007, matured in a first-fill sherry butt, and bottled in late 2019 or early 2020 by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society at a very high abv. Here now is another. Will I like it as much as I did the sibling cask despite it being a young sherry bomb at a ludicrous strength? Let’s see. They named this one “Espresso to the Power of 4” which means…something.
Glenrothes 12, 2007 (64.5%; SMWS 30.110; first-fill sherry butt; from a bottle split)
Nose: This is fruitier from the get-go than the sibling cask, with plum and apricot coming through very strongly. Some raisins in there too and a bit of dusty oak. Water pulls out toffee and light maple syrup and amps the apricot up pretty high.
Palate: Ah yes, all the fruit from the nose, mixed in nicely with orange peel, all framed by a solid backbone of spicy (but not tannic) oak. More approachable and expressive at full strength than the other. Let’s see what water does. It amplifies the fruit further and pushes the oak back a bit. Continue reading
In my review in the summer of a very old Glenrothes I noted that despite the fact that my introduction to single malt Scotch whisky had involved a number of teenaged OB releases, I hadn’t reviewed any of them on the blog. Indeed, the youngest Glenrothes I’ve previously reviewed was a 15 yo (this Signatory release of a refill sherry butt, reviewed when the blog was just a few months old). Well. I have two reviews of 12 yo Glenrothes this week. Neither are official releases, however. Indeed both are from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society; they were distilled in 2007 and released in late 2019 (or maybe early 2020). Both are also high-octane whiskies from first-fill sherry butts. I’m always a bit iffy about both whiskies with stupidly high strengths and young sherry bombs; these SMWS releases fit both descriptions and yet I went in on bottle splits of them anyway. What can I say? I am large, I contain multitudes. Despite my prejudices, will I find this “strangely soothing”? (That’s the name the SMWS gave this, in case you’re wondering.) Let’s see. Continue reading
Having recently posted a review of a whisky released in 2019—Wednesday’s Allt-a-Bhainne—let me annoy you with a review of a whisky released in 2009. This is one of the first whiskies I fell in love with and bought multiples of. I am referring not just to Balvenie’s 15 yo Single Barrels of days of yore—the original ex-bourbon series—but to cask 1708 in particular. Seemingly endless quantities of it were available in 2010 from Chicago-Lake Liquors, a Minneapolis store that meant a lot to us middle-class Minnesotan whisky drinkers. They had a very good selection of distillery release whiskies in those days and were known for their low markups. It was thanks to their low prices that I got to try so many whiskies, including this Balvenie 15 SB, which—as per my spreadsheet—cost me all of $49 before tax in 2010. Those days are long gone—as are the days when Scottish distilleries of any kind, leave alone name distilleries, released whiskies older than 15 years old in their 15 yo series. Yes. the ex-bourbon Balvenie 15 yo SB series saw 16-18 yo casks bottled under its label—and if I’m not mistaken there were even reports of the occasional 20 yo (but perhaps that’s lunatic nostalgia talking). Speaking of 20 yo Balvenies, Chicago-Lake used to carry the Balvenie 21 Port cask for $99. And no, I never got around to purchasing a bottle because that seemed like a lot to pay for whisky in 2010. Don’t you love these reminiscences? Now, join me as I turn back time and see if my very last bottle of barrel 1708 of the Balvenie 15 Single Barrel will be as good as I remember it being. Continue reading
This is not a Ben Nevis. It was not distilled in 1991 and it was not bottled by Signatory. But it is from a sherry cask and from a distillery that often produces very fruity whisky: Auchroisk. I haven’t had too many—and have reviewed even less—but the best have been very good indeed. Such, for example, was the one 1990 I’ve previously reviewed—this 24 yo bottled by Signatory for Binny’s, which I scored a little lower than I should have. If this one is as good I’ll be very happy indeed; I certainly hope that the sherry maturation won’t have covered up the fruit (as it hadn’t in the case of last week’s Ben Nevis trio). Let’s see.
Auchroisk 22, 1990 (49.8%; Whisky-Fässle; sherry cask; from my own bottle)
Nose: Copper coins, leather and a big dose of fruit running through it (orange peel, plantain, apricot). The orange peel expands as it sits and the oak begins to peep out here as well. Water brightens it up and pulls out malt and toffee. As it sits the fruit gets muskier too (more tropical accents). Continue reading
I closed out September with a review of a bourbon cask whisky from a Speyside distillery; let’s start October with another bourbon cask whisky from a Speyside distillery. Glenburgie is only about 20 minutes away from Longmorn—which is where Wednesday’s whisky was distilled. I guess that’s not saying much as most distilleries in the Speyside seem to be within 20 minutes drive of each other. Like Longmorn, except even more so, Glenburgie is not a heralded distillery, producing mostly for Pernod-Ricard’s blends (Pernod-Ricard also own Longmorn). I say “except even more so” because Longmorn has a strong reputation via indie bottlers, especially for their whiskies from the 1960s and 1970s. Glenburgie, on the other hand, I don’t think anyone has ever gotten very excited about. They make excellent whisky though and I’m always happy to try a Glenburgie. Let’s see if this one bears out my confidence. Continue reading
Okay, let’s close out the month with another teenaged malt from a Speyside distillery. Unlike Monday’s Cragganmore, however, this has no wine involvement. This is a straight-up bourbon cask whisky, a Longmorn issued in Chivas’s old Cask Strength Edition series that was originally available only at their distilleries. Every whisky I’ve had in this series has been very good at the least. I’m not sure if the series is still on the go though. I’d hoped to find some releases when I visited Strathisla, Aberlour and Scapa in 2018 but didn’t see any. Anyway, I’m looking forward to this one. All the excitement about Longmorn is about older vintages from the ’60s and ’70s and contemporary Longmorn doesn’t have much of an identity—and not very much of it shows up from the indies anymore either. The few I’ve had suggest that the modern distillate could also produce real greatness if allowed to age up to 30 years or more. Of course, if any such modern Longmorns are ever released in the next few years, I won’t be able to afford them… Continue reading
There isn’t a lot of indie Cragganmore about—especially in the US. I’ve reviewed a grand total of 3 Cragganmores before this one. And so when I had a chance to get in on a bottle split of this Cragganmore from the SMWS I took it even though it’s a madeira finish and even though the SMWS gave it the name “Coconut Curry Down the Douro Valley”. My general antipathy to wine finishes is no secret and I don’t think I’ve yet found anything resembling any kind of curry in any whisky said to be reminiscent of it. Let’s see if this one surprises me on either front.
Cragganmore 16, 2001 (56.4%; SMWS 37.127; madeira finish; from a bottle split)
Nose: Sweet, spicy toasted wood to start—rosewood? cherry wood? On the second sniff there’s some cherry (the fruit), some orange peel, a bit of cinnamon. Gets more floral as it sits (yes, roses). Gets more savoury as it sits and I hate to admit it but I am indeed getting aromas of coconut milk infused with herbs. The savoury notes recede with time and it’s the sweet red fruit that’s ascendant. Water pushes the cherry back, pulls out some cream and makes the whole mellower. Continue reading
Benrinnes 21, 1997 (60.6%; SMWS; refill bourbon barrel; from a bottle split)
Nose: Pretty tight at first. As it sits there’s some cereals, some wax, some pepper and some lemon. Softens as it sits and there’s some cream too now. With more time the cereals and wax expand and there’s a sweeter note too—dried pineapple? Softer and creamier with a few drops of water; the lemon turns into citronella and the pepper turns into a light sooty note.
Palate: Pretty much as on the nose and, as expected, hot, hot, hot. This is going to need a fair bit of air and then some water. With time the lemon expands and the wax follows suit and the texture gets more full. Still pretty hot though. Okay, let’s add water. Sweeter at first with water and then there’s a burst of slightly bitter lemon peel. Continue reading
Glenfarclas week started out with a 15 yo on Monday, which I thought was good but nothing very special. In the middle on Wednesday was a 21 yo that I thought was excellent. Let’s close the week out now with a 42 yo. This was distilled in 1970 and I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t consider buying it when it was released by K&L back in 2012. 1970 is when I was distilled as well and I was on the lookout then for 1970 vintage whiskies to buy and stash for my 50th birthday. But the price was quite high—$500+, I think (and it got quite a bit higher later)—and given my general allergy to K&L’s marketing blather, I decided not to take the chance; especially, as I’d purchased this Tomatin 40, 1970 for quite a bit less for the same purpose a year prior. I then forgot about it until it showed up unexpectedly last month in a box of samples from Sku—also the source of Monday’s 15 yo. I’m very interested to find out now if I should have grit my teeth back then and paid the high tariff. Let’s see. Continue reading
Today’s Glenfarclas is a bit older than Monday’s in terms of age and a bit more still in terms of vintage. This was distilled in 1980 and bottled from a single cask for Filliers, who—as best as I can make out—are a Belgian concern. The cask is described as a “dark sherry cask”, which I assume means it had previously held oloroso sherry. Monday’s 15 yo also featured a big sherry profile but there the bigness seemed a little “engineered” to me—driven by active oak and tannins that covered up a lot of the fruit. This seems to me to happen a lot with heavily sherried whiskies these days. I have had similar complaints about a number of other sherry casks in recent years. Glenfarclas from the 1970s, however, has reliably been a lot fruitier (such, for example, is the excellent Glenfarclas 31, 1974, which I have not reviewed yet) and I am hoping that this one too will display a lot of fruit as part of the “dark” profile. Let’s see. Continue reading
When I first started drinking single malt whisky I was really into Glenrothes for a while. Some of this, truth be told, was due to the funky bottle shape of official releases (which are by far the majority of Glenrothes); but a large part of it was due to the fact that the vintage releases I first tried were very pleasant, very accessible whiskies. Such were the1991-2006, 1994-2009 and 1985-2005. I finished my last bottles of all of those before I started the blog and hence no reviews—though I should really check if I have reference samples of those saved (in those days I used to routinely save 6 oz of each bottle I opened for future reference). Anyway, as a result, all the Glenrothes I’ve reviewed on the blog have been independent releases and most are above the age of 20. This one, however, is both an official release and the oldest Glenrothes I’ve yet had in terms of either age or vintage. It was distilled in 1972 and bottled in 2005. I found it a few years ago in the locked liquor room of a Korean grocery store in Los Angeles, listed for the long-ago price. I couldn’t find any reviews of it online but given the reasonable price to age ratio decided to take a chance on it. I’d saved the bottle for one of my whisky group’s premium tastings; but as it’s not clear when the pandemic will ever allow us to get together to drink again, I decided to open it by myself earlier this month. I’ve been drinking the bottle down at a rapid clip. Here before it dips too far below the halfway mark are my notes. Continue reading
This is a Benromach blog now. All Benromach reviews all the time. Well, this week anyway. On Monday I reviewed a young bourbon cask that was a UK exclusive. I really liked that one. Yesterday I had a review of the recent sherry cask edition of the distillery’s Peat Smoke release. That one seemed unpromising at first but then improved dramatically with water. Today another young Benromach from a sherry cask, another UK exclusive. This one was in fact exclusive to one particular store, The Whisky Exchange: it was one of several whiskies bottled to mark the store’s 20th anniversary. This is from a single sherry cask, a first-fill hogshead. Good friends were visiting London right when the pandemic hit and they were kind enough to bring me back a couple of bottles recommended by Billy Abbott at TWE (this Inchmurrin was the other). Billy recommended this one highly. When I first opened the bottle a couple of months ago I found it to be a bit too hot and indistinct but it’s mellowed nicely since. Here now are my notes. Continue reading
Typical: no Benromach reviews for two years and then two come at once. On Monday I had a review of a lovely young Benromach from a first-fill bourbon cask that was a UK exclusive. Today I have a review of a young Benromach from sherry casks (full-term maturation or finish? I don’t know). The Benromach Peat Smoke has been around for some time but has previously been an ex-bourbon whisky—and released without an age or vintage statement, I’m pretty sure. I’m not sure if this one—distilled in 2010 and released in 2018— was a special one-off or whether it’s an ongoing limited edition release or, for that matter, if it’s now a regular part of their lineup. I could look it up I suppose, but it’s late here in Minnesota—if you know, please write in below. At any rate, I suppose we should be glad they didn’t name it “Profit Maximizer”, or maybe it would have been more honest if they had. We whisky enthusiasts are a silly lot and very little induces us to shell out the big bucks more than the combination of sherry and peat. Well, with Monday’s bourbon cask I noted that the smoke and the old-school Highland peat character was not covered up by sherry. How overbearing is the sherry going to be here? Let’s see. Continue reading
I last reviewed malts from Benromach just over two years ago. That was a set of capsule reviews of two young wine-finished malts that I was just about whelmed by. Today I have for you a straight-up bourbon cask Benromach. It was bottled in 2018 as an exclusive for the UK markert and is either 8 or 9 years old. It is from a first-fill bourbon cask. I’ve previously reviewed another Benromach of similar age from first-fill bourbon but that was a vatting of a few casks. Still, I rather liked that one and take that as a positive portent for this one. I can’t help but be positive—it’s in my nature. You should try it sometime. Where was I? Oh yes, I was about to say that I generally really like Benromach’s old-school Highland peat profile—quite some distance from Islay peat’s phenolic wallop or the earthy, farmy peat of Campbeltown or Mull. And without heavy sherry covering things up this should be an opportunity to take a clear measure of what that profile is looking like in the whiskies the distillery is now putting out. Let’s get to it. Continue reading
I started the month with a review of the then oldest Glenlossie I’d ever had—a 29 yo from a bourbon cask. Here now to close the month is a review of what is now the oldest Glenlossie I’ve ever had—a 35 yo, also from a bourbon cask. This was bottled by the Whisky Agency for Shinanoya in Tokyo. I got a sample of it from my friend Nick in Minneapolis a few years ago and completely forgot about it before finding it last month during my ongoing cull of the vast hoard of samples I’d accumulated over the years. I’ve tasted it before at one of our friend Rich’s whisky gatherings up in the Ciites. I remember liking it a lot but those sessions usually involve a fair number of over-the-top whiskies and others sometimes get a little lost in the shuffle. And so I’m pleased to be able to spend a little bit more time with this one. Let’s see what I make of it now. Continue reading
Glenlossie is the very definition of a workhorse distillery producing malt for Diageo’s blends; and in their case I don’t believe there even is a mainline blend they are closely associated with. There is no official release of their whisky as single malt, save for the occasional Flora & Fauna bottle (I am still fuzzy on the currency of that series). I have had very little Glenlossie in my time and have reviewed even less; only two others, in fact (this 10 yo and this 22 yo). Which means that this is without a doubt the oldest Glenlossie I’ve ever had (though in a few weeks it may not hold this title anymore). I said rude things about Auchentoshan last week—noting that it was one of the distilleries that seemed to give the lie to my belief that every distillery is capable of producing excellent casks—and it must be said that the few Glenlossies I’ve had have not inspired much confidence in that direction either. Will this much older iteration, distilled in the 1970s, confirm my optimism? I hope so. Continue reading
Independent bottlers perform many services to whisky aficionados. First and foremost they are usually the only or major sources of single malt releases from workhorse distilleries whose owners all or most of their stock for blends. And for distilleries that do have single malt ranges of their own they offer the opportunity to taste single cask releases and malts at ages other than those at which the official releases are bottled. Finally, they sometimes offer the opportunity to taste expressions of a distillery’s malt that are outside the distillery’s official profile. This is particularly true of distilleries that are associated with sherry cask whiskies. Be it Highland Park or in this case, Aberlour, the independents have long been either the only or the only regular sources of opportunities to see what these distillates are like when matured in ex-bourbon casks. I am a big fan in general of bourbon cask Aberlour (see, for example, this and this) and so when the opportunity arose to purchase this 26 yo at a reasonable price at auction in the UK, I took it. I know nothing about this particular bottler. In fact, the only reference to Cooper’s Gold on Whiskybase is to this cask. And it appears likely that this is a cask that was bottled for a private individual who then decided to sell some of the bottles on. If you know more about the provenance of this release, do write in below. Continue reading