Allt-A-Bhainne 23, 1995 (Old Particular for K&L)


Let’s keep the reviews of recent 23 yo K&L exclusives distilled in 1995 going. So far I’ve reviewed their Clynelish and their Glen Moray. I gave them the same score (87 points) but not the same “buy” rating (“yes” on the Glen Moray, “no” on the Clynelish). Today I have another ex-bourbon cask from an unassuming distillery. Will I finally have a different score? Let’s see.

Allt-A-Bhainne 23, 1995 (50.7%; Old Particular for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Very nice bourbon cask nose. Lemon mixed with malt and mild grassy notes; cooked tart apple and pastry crust behind. As it sits the apple expands and it smells more than a bit like a kitchen in which an apple pie was baked the evening before. Water emphasizes the malt and knocks back the fruit. Well, it knocks back the apple/pie: there’s more lemon now. Continue reading

Glen Moray 23, 1995 (Old Malt Cask for K&L)


On Monday I had a review of a 14 yo Glen Moray bottled for Old Malt Cask’s 20th anniversary. Here now is another special Old Malt Cask bottling of Glen Moray. This is almost a decade older than Monday’s bottle and is part of K&L’s recent run of exclusive casks. I reviewed another of those last week—their Clynelish 23—and, alas, David OG of K&L was not very pleased with me. My review of the whisky itself was positive (I gave it 87 points) and my notes not too far away from his own on the K&L site. So I’m guessing his anger is actually at my suggestion that $250 is way too much for what that whisky is. But, these being the times we live in, he seized on an embarrassing but really inconsequential error on my part in my closing comments. I suggested there that rather than spend $250 on that Clynelish people might instead pick up something like the Springbank 18 and have money left over for a bottle of the Laphroaig 10 CS. I made this suggestion because the last time I had the Springbank 18 it was a pretty heavily sherried malt (composed of 80% sherry casks). I’ve not kept up with it—again on account of the high price—and so did not realize that at some point in the last few years the formulation changed to emphasize bourbon casks. An understandable error, you might think, and not surprising from someone who always notes he doesn’t really follow the industry closely anymore. But as far as David OG is concerned this error of fact invalidates my entire review—presumably he’d care less if they’d already sold out of the Clynelish (there seems to still be a fair amount of it in stock). Continue reading

Glen Moray 14, 2004 (Old Malt Cask 20th Anniv. Release)


Earlier this year I reviewed some ten of the many releases the Laings put out to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their popular Old Malt Cask line. And then a few months later, just when people thought this was finally an OMC 20 Anniv-free zone I hit you with another (this Auchroisk 24). Maybe you thought that was the last of it, but no, here’s another. But this finally is the last of it. I actually opened this a while ago. I took my time drinking it down to the halfway stage, at which point I took these notes and also set aside a sample for Michael K. of Diving for Pearls. After that I drank the rest at a faster clip, checking in on my notes each time to see if there were any major departures I should note (there were not). Here now are my notes. I mentioned setting aside a sample for Michael K.—as it happens, this is yet another of our simul-review packages. We did a week of simul-reviews of peated whiskies in November (the Offerman Lagavulin, Laphroaig 10 CS, Batch 011 and a Ledaig 6). We didn’t agree on all of those and I’m interested to see if we will today. As always, we have not seen each other’s notes or discussed them in any way prior to posting. I’ll be reading his review in the morning and will link to it once I’ve seen it (and here it is). Continue reading

Glenfarclas 20, 1986, Family Cask #3434


Glenfarclas has always had a very strong relationship with the whisky geek community. A very big part of this is explained by the fact that they put out good whisky in a range of ages and price points. Through the decade of NAS whisky from which we are now emerging Glenfarclas has continued to release age-stated whisky from 10 to 40 years of age. And while prices have risen towards the top of the range it is hard to feel resentful about this when you consider how fairly priced their 25 yo continues to be; it can still be found in the neighbourhood of $150. Compare with whisky of similar age from any other name distillery. Another part of their appeal to the whisky geek community has been that they are an independent family-owned distillery. This latter fact is doubtless connected to the first: they have no shareholders to please by squeezing out maximum profit from the youngest possible whisky, no expensive, gimmicky branding and so on. This is not to say that Glenfarclas does not put out any high-end whisky. Their Family Cask series, an early release from which I am reviewing today, comes in wooden boxes and costs a pretty penny. But, again, when you compare these releases to the excesses being perpetrated by many other distilleries it’s clear how different their ethos is. I believe the Family Cask series was launched in the late 2000s. In fact, it’s possible that this cask from 2007 was from one of the earliest releases, if not the first. If you know more about this, please write in below. For now let’s get to the review. Continue reading

Strathisla 37, 1967 (Duncan Taylor)


After a week of heavily peated whiskies, all simul-reviewed with Michael K.of Diving for Pearls, let’s change gears a little. Today I have a much older whisky than any of last week’s trio (the new Lagavulin 11, Offerman Edition, a Ledaig 6, 2004, and Batch 011 of the Laphroaig 10 CS) and it is from the Speyside. This 37 yo Strathisla was distilled in 1967 (before I was born) and bottled in 2004 by Duncan Taylor (before I started drinking single malt whisky). Unlike the Glen Grant 35 I reviewed last month this was released not in their lower-priced Lonach line but in their Rare Auld line. The cask type is not specified, though the 179 bottle outturn at 49.1% would suggest ex-bourbon—unless, of course, the cask was split. I am very interested to see what it is like. Though I have not had very many of them, older Strathislas can be very good indeed, and, as always, those distilled in the 1960s and early 1970s have a particularly strong reputation. Let’s see if this lives up to that. Continue reading

Glen Grant 37, 1974 (Berry Bros. & Rudd)


Okay, let’s do one more old Glen Grant to close out the month. This one is two years older than Monday’s 35 yo and was distilled four years later, in 1974. The bottler, the venerable Berry Bros. & Rudd, put out one more 37 yo cask from 1974 (cask 7643). There have also been a large number of Duncan Taylor releases of older Glen Grants from 1974—including two bottled in the Lonach range. There are a few more releases from other independent bottlers as well. Clearly, there was a time when a large number of these casks were available to the indies—a broker or a blender’s surplus stock? In 2011, when this one was bottled, these could still be found at reasonable prices (which look like steals in today’s market where teenaged whiskies command more than $200). Anyway, I quite liked Monday’s 35 yo, despite its low bottling strength. This one is a single sherry  cask and was bottled at closer to 50%. Let’s see if those things make any meaningful difference. Continue reading

Longmorn 36, 1976 (Malts of Scotland)


Earlier in the month I had a review of a dark sherry cask 17 yo Longmorn released in 2013. I liked it quite a lot but didn’t find anything very distinctive about it. Today’s Longmorn was also released in 2013 but is more than twice as old and is from a bourbon cask. As you may know, older Longmorns from the late ’60s and early ’70s have a very strong reputation for an intensely fruity character. It will be interesting to see if this is manifested in this malt distilled in 1976. Certainly, some of those who have left notes for it on Whiskybase mention tropical fruit. However, the other 1976 Longmorn I’ve had, a 34 yo also bottled by Malts of Scotland, was no fruit bomb—and nor, for that matter, was the 31 yo from 1978 bottled by the Whisky Exchange. And so my expectations for fruit are in check—it may be the case that production process changes had happened by the mid-70s that reduced that aspect of the malt’s character. That said, if this is as good as that Whisky Exchange bottle, a happy mix of fruit, oak and malt, I’ll be very pleased. Let’s see. Continue reading

Longmorn 17, 1996, Cask 72324


In 2013’ish van Wees bottled a number of sherry casks of Longmorn 1996. We didn’t know it then but that was right at the end of the era of reasonable prices for teenaged whiskies. Even with the higher Euro/USD exchange rate of the time these casks went for about $65. That’s for 17 year old sherry cask whisky. Can you imagine such a thing now? Anyway, these casks were very popular—all have very high scores on Whiskybase—but because the whisky world had not gone crazy yet they didn’t all sell out immediately. I purchased a bottle from cask 72315 and my friends Rob and Clara purchased a bottle from cask 72324. They opened theirs right away. I got a sample from their bottle and promptly forgot all about it and my own bottle. Here now more than five years after we purchased our bottles, and in a far less innocent time, is my review of the sample from their bottle. If I like it a lot, as I am expecting to do, I will open my own bottle next month. Continue reading

Benriach 12, Heredotus Fumosus


I’ve had variable luck with the official Benriachs I’ve recently reviewed. I thought this 29 yo from 1986, peated with an oloroso finish was good but nothing very special. On the other hand, I did not care very much at all for this 18 yo from 1998, which was not peated but had a PX sherry finish applied to it. As it happens, this Benriach 12—which dates from the period when Benriach were issuing whiskies with stupid faux-Latin names—is peated with a PX finish. So, will it fall between the other two or will it go past them and approach the wild glory of the 21 yo Authenticus? Only one way to find out.

By the way, I’ve no memory of how/where I received this sample. Normally, I would have suspected Jordan D. (who has reviewed it) and Michael K (also) of being likely sources, but the ugly scrawl on the label is mine. While I used to save reference samples from my own bottles once upon a time, I’ve never owned a full bottle of this. I think that might indicate that I filled it from a bottle someone brought a couple of years ago to one of my friend Rich’s “sherryfest” tastings in St. Paul. Yes, I know, not a very interesting mystery. Continue reading

Linkwood 1991-2011 (Berry Bros. & Rudd)


I last reviewed a Linkwood exactly two years ago. The time is right for another review. Here it is. This Berry Bros. & Rudd cask is a bit of a mystery. Whiskybase lists the same cask at cask strength whereas this is at 46%. Normally, I would put this down to shenanigans on the part of the source of my sample, the diabolical Florin. However, Michael K. who also received a sample of this reports that this 46% version was indeed sold at Total Wine back in the day. Same cask, two releases at different strengths? Maybe. Anyway, here is my take on it (read Michael’s review from earlier this year here).

Linkwood 1991-2011 (46%; Berry Bros. & Rudd; cask 10343; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Oh this is nicely fruity—tinned fruit (a blend of peach, pineapple and mango) and also the tin. It’s not a fruit bomb—the fruit is not intense, but it is there. After a couple of minutes there’s a bit of prickly oak as well. As it sits the fruit expands a bit and there’s some citrus in there too now. A couple of drops of water push the metallic and oaky notes back. Continue reading

Benriach 18, 1998, PX Sherry Finish


Last month I reviewed an older Benriach that was released in 2016 as part of the distillery’s 13th batch of single cask releases. I thought that one—an oloroso finish applied to whisky made from a peated run—was fine but nothing very special. This Benriach was also part of Batch 13 and is also a sherry finish, though PX this time; it is not, however, made from peated barley. I note that there was a Glendronach-style outturn of 670 bottles at a high strength. I’d guess multiple hogsheads were re-racked into a PX puncheon for a short time, making this a Glendronach-style “single cask”. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad whisky though. Let’s see what it’s like.

Benriach 18, 1998, PX Sherry Finish (57.3%; Batch 13, cask 6401; from a bottle split)

Nose: Rich sherried nose with plums, hoisin sauce and then some perfumed wood. The wood is more assertive on the second sniff—spicier and oakier now; the red fruit expands too, getting a touch cough syrupy. Water pushes both the richer notes and the spicy oak back and pulls out some pencil lead. With a lot more water there’s a mild, pleasant note of orange and a tiny bit of oak. Continue reading

Royal Brackla 14, 1998 (G&M for Binny’s)

This review comes to you despite the sordid machinations of Michael Kravitz. You see, many years ago, Florin (the original Fresh Prince of Bel Air) asked him to pass a sample on to me when we met for lunch in Los Angeles but what did Michael Kravitz do? Yes, he stole it. Now this will not surprise most of you who have been aware of the content of his character for a while now but it surprised and—I’m not unwilling to say it—shocked me when I found out about it. For I am by nature a trusting person who likes to believe in the best everyone can be. And even though Michael Kravitz looks a shifty type, I have never believed in judging a book by its cover. But now that I have read the dossier that a number of you have compiled of his various malfeasances over the years, I am forced to look the ugly truth in the eye. But enough negativity! Michael Kravitz stole my sample and gave it a bad review; but Florin sent me another anyway and I am here to set the record straight. Continue reading

Glenallachie 22, 1995 (Whiskybase)


This is the first Glenallachie I’ve reviewed and it may well be the first Glenallachie I’ve tasted. It was bottled just over a year ago by the good people of Whiskybase to commemorate a milestone on the popular crowdsourced whisky database: their 110,000th entry. I don’t know much about the distillery and so have no expectations. The distillery is relatively young, as Scottish distilleries go—it was opened in 1967 and then mothballed for a few years in the 1980s. For most of its life it produced mostly for blends but under the recent new ownership its malt offering has expanded. That new ownership, as you probably know, includes Billy Walker, ex-owner of Glendronach and pioneer of single cask shenanigans. As to whether we can expect more of that from Glenallachie as well—or The GlenAllachie, as the new owners style it—I guess only time will tell. For now let me tell you what I found this to be like after I opened the bottle. Continue reading

Benriach 29, 1986


One more peated whisky to round out the week and it’s the oldest of the three. It was distilled in 1986 and released in 2016, as part of Batch 13 of Benriach’s “single cask” releases. Like Monday’s Lagavulin, this was made complicatedly: distilled from peated barley, (presumably) matured in ex-bourbon barrels for a good while and then finished in an oloroso sherry cask. Interestingly, Billy Walker and co.—then owners of both Glendronach and Benriach—were more forthcoming on labels of Benriach than they were about the so-called single casks of Glendronach (none of which, as far as I know, had or have the word “finished” anywhere on their labels). How long this finish was is, nonetheless, not specified. And nor is there any reason to believe that this is a true “single cask” as most people would understand the term and not another case of multiple casks being re-racked together into a sherry cask for the final bit of maturation/finishing. Anyway, let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading