Mortlach 21, 1990 (Signatory for Binny’s)


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

Longmorn 17, 1996, Cask 72315 (van Wees)


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

Glen Grant 24, 1995 (Signatory for the Nectar)


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

Mannochmore 1978-1998 (Scott’s Selection)


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

Glenburgie 14, 1997, Cask Strength Edition


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

Auchroisk 27, 1989 (Cadenhead)


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

Glenrothes 12, 2007 (SMWS 30.111)


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

Glen Moray 25, 1994 (SMWS 35.275)


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

John McCrae/Balvenie 28, 1991 (Hepburn’s Choice for K&L)

John McCrae:Balvenie 28, 1991, Hepburn's Choice
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

Tamdhu 26, 1984 (Exclusive Malts for the WWW Forum)


I purchased this bottle in December 2010. I cannot fully explain why it has taken me more than a decade to open it. I do know why I didn’t open it right away though. I’d been drinking single malt whisky for the better part of a decade at that point but 2009/2010 is when I began to spend a lot of money on it and when I began acquiring more bottles than I could drink down at my normal, rather moderate rate of intake (1-2 drinks a night). This was not one of the very first older whiskies I’d purchased then but it was the first whisky I’d purchased that was a pick by a group I was part of. That group was the venerable Whisky Whisky Whisky forum, which I was an active member of then, before it—like many forums—fell prey to the creep of social media. I think I’ve said before that the decline of that forum was a large part of the impetus for starting this blog in 2013. This was the first—only?—cask of whisky bottled by the forum and for me it was an entree to an exciting world of “exclusive” picks that I’d only read about till that point. And so I put it away for a special occasion…and then forgot about it for a decade. Now I’m drinking my collection—mostly acquired in the 2009-2014 timeframe—down far more rapidly than I’ve ever done and I’ve begun to open a number of these “special” bottles. I was a bit nervous when I uncorked this one for the first time last week—after a decade’s wait would it actually be good?—but I’m glad to report the notes don’t include retroactive regret. Continue reading

Glenfiddich “Fire & Cane”


Early in the beginning of the previous decade Glenfiddich seemingly decided to become a more interesting single malt producer. Not content with being the most recognizable bottle and most recognizable name in all of single malt whisky-dom in the world they decided they too needed the attention of the obsessive idiots cool kids who make up a tiny fraction of the world whisky market—and indeed also of the world single malt market. The Snow Phoenix and its ludicrous tin may have been their entry into this phase, confirming as it did that obsessive idiots discerning malt drinkers will hoover up anything with a good story attached. Releases like the Age of Discovery and Cask of Dreams and Ark of the Covenant followed (okay, I made one of those up). Then things went quiet for a while (by which I mean I stopped paying attention: for all I know they kept putting out special releases). Then a few years ago they launched their so-called Experimental series. The IPA cask was the first in 2016 (I was intrigued but never got around to trying it). Then came the XX which was sexy but not did not involve penetration (or so I assume). Then something called the Winter Storm which was banned in Minnesota for being too close to life. Then came the Fire & Cane (in 2018?). This is made from a mix of peated and unpeated spirit that is finished in rum casks. How old is it? How dare you ask such personal questions! I was intrigued by this one as well and when a chance recently came to taste it via a bottle split I jumped at it. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Hector Macbeth/Glenfiddich 23, 1997 (Hepburn’s Choice for K&L)


Okay, back to K&L exclusives. I’ve quite liked the two I’ve already reviewed from this batch of casks—a Bunnahabhain 12 and a Craigellachie 16. Today’s review is of a cask going by name you migtht not recognize: Hector Macbeth. This is a a Glenfiddich that has been teaspooned. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry: it’s nothing kinky. Teaspooning refers to the practice of adding a tiny amount of a malt from a different distillery to a malt to prevent it from being sold as a single malt. It’s a practice certain distilleries engage in to keep their brand from being diluted—from their perspective—on the independent market; or, if not diluted, presented differently than they would like it to be. This K&L parcel contains a number of these teaspooned malts, some of them pretty old. This “Glenfiddich”, for example, is 23 years old. It was finished in a refill sherry butt (what kind of cask the teaspoon came from is unknown). I’m not sure if it’s still available but $120 was the price being asked for it when I last checked. That seems like a great deal in the abstract but my history with K&L exclusive casks with big age statements that are priced like they’re crazy deals has me not overly optimistic. But I’ll be very happy to be surprised. Continue reading

Benrinnes 22, 1995 (Signatory for The Nectar)


On Monday I had a review of a Benrinnes 22, 1995. Here now is a review of another Benrinnes 22, 1995. Though Monday’s was bottled by the Paris store, La Maison du Whisky and today’s was bottled by Signatory, there is a pretty good chance that the source is the same. I don’t mean the distillery but Signatory themselves—as I noted on Monday, I’ve read before that they are the sources of LMDW’s casks (and also of some other EU stores and bottlers). At any rate this cask is just a few numbers away from Monday’s: that was hogshead 9063 and this is hogshead 9065. You may recall that I really liked Monday’s whisky. If this one is as good I will be very happy no matter what the nature of their sourcing may have been in reality. I believe this cask was bottled for the Nectar, a Belgian importer and wholesaler whose Daily Drams series is well-regarded (and from which I’ve previously reviewed a few releases). All signs point to a good outcome. Let’s see if that proves to be the case. Continue reading

Craigellachie 16, 2003 (Old Particular for K&L)


A Benrinnes review on Monday and there’ll be another Benrinnes review on Friday. In between here is a Craigellachie. This is another from K&L’s recent round of exclusive casks and is from a sherry butt. It’s been three years since my last Craigellachie review and almost four since my last review of one from a sherry cask. I am a big fan of the earthier, meatier style of spirit that Craigellachie produces and in my limited experience it’s particularly good coming out of good sherry casks. Is this one of them? Let’s see.

(And remember, as I announced in my review of K&L’s Bunnahabhain 12 last week, I have an exciting new feature for these K&L reviews: a second rating—Everybody Wins! or EW! for short—that those who get sad when I don’t give everything 90 points can look at and feel happy about.) Continue reading

Benrinnes “Over 20 Years”, 1995, Artist #8 (La Maison Du Whisky)


Here is the first of two Benrinnes reviews this week. This one was bottled by the famous French store, La Maison Du Whisky in their Artist series. The label lists the vintage as 1995 but the age is given as “Over 20 Years”. Which is true as it was bottled in 2018. This is the first instance I can remember of a bottler choosing not to go with a higher number on a label—was/is this par for the course for the Artist series? This means that this is probably the same age as my next Benrinnes, which is also from 1995 and is marked as a 22 yo by bottler Signatory. Indeed, I remember reading at some point that Signatory is probably the source of La Maison Du Whisky’s casks and so this may well be from the same parcel. I haven’t yet looked up the particulars of that cask and to do so would require me to get up and walk across the room so you’ll have to wait a couple of days or hope I remembered to do so before finalizing this review. Continue reading

Glen Grant 18


Let’s close the month with one more review of an official release. This Glen Grant 18 was apparently added to the distillery’s portfolio in 2016, where it sits at the top of the range. (The Glen Grant bottles were all redesigned at some point too—I have to admit I’ve not really kept track of the distillery releases.) Not too long after its introduction sentient wart Jim Murray named it one of the best whiskies of whatever year that was and I imagine that caused a mix of derision and frantic buying. It’s now widely available, including in the US where it seems to be going for anywhere between $110 and $160 and prices even further north. In the current single malt market an official release 18 yo in the $110 range is not a bad deal (if you can find it at that price). But is it any good?

Glen Grant 18 (43%; from a bottle split)

Nose: Fresh and juicy (apples, pears a bit of lemon) with some toaste oak in the background. Maltier/muskier on the second sniff with some pineapple in there too. Not too much change with time; maybe a bit sweeter. A drop or two of water and it’s muskier with more pear now than apple. Continue reading

Tamdhu 15


I’ve reviewed a few Tamdhus over the years but this is my first review of an official release. When I first started drinking single malt whisky the Tamdhu 10 was always a very affordable malt that presented reliable, if unspectacular pleasures. But about 10 years ago the line got revamped—I think there was an ownership change—with new bottle designs (somewhat resembling cola bottles) and higher prices. I still had a few bottles of the older 10 yo in reserve and by the time I got through with them (though I still have one bottle squared away, I think) I had lost touch entirely with the distillery. Indeed when the chance for this bottle split arose I was not sure how long ago the 15 yo joined their lineup. A quick bit of googling suggests that it hit the market in early 2019 as a “limited edition” of 24,000 bottles. And it is apparently entirely aged in oloroso sherry casks, made from a mix of European and American oak. Continue reading

Benromach 9, 2011 (for Costco, San Diego)


Here’s an unlikely whisky to kick off the year’s reviews. This 9 yo Benromach was bottled for Costco, San Diego. Hands up if you knew that Costco does store picks. Well, maybe you all live in more sophisticated places and each Costco in your city has its own pick but our local Costco has no store pick single malt whiskies that I’m aware of—and if any other local Costcos carry any I’m sure I would have heard. This was bottled and hit the shelves sometime in 2020 but seems to have been snapped up. Or so I’m told by Florin (second assistant rhinoceros wrangler at the San Diego Zoo) who went to a Costco there last week to see if any were still available and came away disappointed. He did mention that there was a Sassicaia cask finish Benromach on the shelf—as to whether that’s also a Costco, San Diego exclusive or just one of Benromach’s regular wineskies, I don’t know; but even if the latter that’s already a more exotic selection than is ever available at Costco, Burnsville. On the other hand, does Costco, San Diego carry whole goat? Continue reading