Glenallachie, or The GlenAllachie, as they style themselves, is another of the Scottish distilleries I have very little experience of. I’ve only reviewed one other—this 22 yo bottled by/for Whiskybase. It is a young distillery—only built in 1967—and is also one of the few independent distilleries left in Scotland. Mothballed in 1985, it was purchased in 1989 by Campbell Distillers, who in turn later became part of Pernod Ricard’s holding. In 2017 it was purchased by a group including Billy Walker, ex of Glendronach. The following year the distillery released a new core range, featuring 10, 12, 18 and 25 yo whiskies. They’ve since added 8, 15, 21 and 30 yo expressions to that lineup. Good on them for not going the NAS route as so many have done. They’ve not as yet released any single cask whiskies—as far as I know—which means we might have to wait a while to find out if in the move from Glendronach to Glenallachie, Billy Walker’s understanding of what the term “single cask” means has undergone any development. At any rate, I am interested to see what this 12 yo is like. My understanding is it is put together as a vatting of ex-oloroso, PX and virgin oak-matured spirit. An unusual combo, to be sure. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
This week of sherry cask reviews began with a 6 yo old Amrut on Monday and continued with an 11 yo Aberlour on Wednesday. Let’s end now with a 15 yo Craigellachie. This was bottled by Old Particular for K&L in California—I think I might only have one or maybe two samples left to still review from the big split I went in on of their 2021/22 casks. Anyway, sherry cask Craigellachie can be a very good thing indeed—the savoury character of the distillate holds up well to and, indeed, complements sherry cask maturation. So I thought, for example, of the last single sherry cask of Craigellachie I reviewed (an official distillery release for the US market). That said, I was not quite as impressed by the one before that: a 14 yo bottled by, Hepburn’s Choice—like Old Particular, another Laing label—for, yes, K&L. Then, again, I very much liked the one I reviewed before that one: a 16 yo also bottled by Old Particular for K&L. Let’s hope this one is in that vein. Continue reading
The week in sherry cask reviews began on Monday with a 6 yo Amrut. here now is an Aberlour that is almost twice as old and was matured in an oloroso cask. This was a cask available exclusively at the distillery earlier this year. There was also a bourbon cask. That was also 11 years old and bottled at the same strength—which seeming coincidence suggests these may not actually be bottled at cask strength. Aberlour distillery exclusives are not something you can count on purchasing if you visit the distillery. My old-time whisky readers—if more than one or two still remain—will remember my bemoaning the lack of any exclusives when I visited the distillery in 2018 (though I did enjoy the tour itself). This one, alas, was not purchased in person by me—I’ve not managed to get back to Scotland since 2018 (though I do have dreams of doing so in 2023). I was. however, pleased to have an opportunity to try it via a bottle split. It’s been a while since I’ve tried a heavily sherried Aberlour and so I am looking forward to it. Continue reading
Here to close out the week and the month is yet another whisky from a distillery with “Glen” in its name. This time it’s Glenlossie. It’s yet another relatively obscure distillery of which I have little experience or knowledge—this is only my fifth review of a whisky from Glenlossie. I know they’re located in the Speyside and that they produce spirit for Diageo’s blends. I also know very little about the bottler, Alexander Murray, a relatively recent entrant into the independent bottling ranks. From their website it appears they are based in the US—it also seems to say that the company was “born in 1911” but there’s no further explanation of what that means, or indeed any other history provided. Who knows, maybe they only mean that some guy named Alexander Murray was born in 1911. What is history anyway? As Loch Lomond will tell you, it’s just a story and you can move dates and names around as you see fit: no one will care. Anyway, let’s see what this whisky from an obscure distillery, released by an obscure bottler is like. Continue reading
The theme for this week’s whisky reviews, I said on Monday, is Speyside distilleries. I should have said “bourbon cask whisky from Speyside distilleries”. Because that’s what these are. Monday’s Glentauchers was from a first-fill bourbon barrel and I quite liked it anyway. Today’s Aberlour is almost twice as old at 15 years of age and was matured in a refill hogshead—which is the cask type what I wish all bourbon cask maturation would happen. Between the larger volume over a barrel the consequent lower oak contact and the usually mellower oak influence in a cask that has had whisky filled in it a number of times, the malt is really able to express itself. And when the distillate is a fruity one—as so many from the Speyside are—it makes for a natural match. And as the official releases from the distillery seem to mostly emphasize sherry maturation, it’s always great to see an Aberlour from a bourbon cask of any kind, leave alone a refill hogshead. Let’s hope this was a good one. Continue reading
Let’s keep the “Glen” distilleries thing going a bit longer. That won’t be the theme of this week though. The theme for this week is Speyside distilleries. And there won’t be a through line of labels either—each will be from a different bottler.
If I’d thought to do this Glentauchers last week instead of the Glengoyne it would have been three 8 yo whiskies from distilleries whose names start with “Glen” bottled by the SMWS. Unlike last week’s 8 year olds, however, (from Glencadam and Glenturret), this one was not bottled at a ludicrous strength. Compared to those >62% strength monsters, 56.1% seems downright restrained. What it does have in common with them—in addition to the bottler and age—is that I have very little experience of Glentauchers’ malt as well. It’s part of Pernod Ricard’s portfolio and apparently contributes heavily to the popular Ballantine’s blend—which is doubtless why so little of it emerges as single malt: a reminder as always that, for the most part, the single malt category is a by-product of the world’s thirst for blended Scotch whisky. Well, this review takes my Glentauchers score to five. The ones I’ve reviewed before have all been a fair bit older—the youngest twice the age of this one (this G&M 16 yo)—and I quite liked most of them (this 21 yo from Archives most of all). Let’s see where this one falls. Continue reading
Having started the month with a review of an Allt-a-Bhainne let’s end the the week with another Speyside distillery; and let’s get back to K&L’s recent parcel of casks with a Mortlach bottled by Old Particular. I did a week of reviews of Mortlach in May. Those included a 20 yo refill sherry cask, a 12 yo sherry cask (also bottled for K&L), and a 10 yo bourbon cask. I liked the two sherry casks more than the bourbon cask then. Was that a function of the cask type or the age? Today’s Mortlach is 15 years old and from a refill hogshead. It’s both older than the 10 yo and at cask strength. Let’s see if I like it any better.
Mortlach 15, 2006 (56.7%; Old Particular for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Cereals, dusty oak and then rapidly expanding lemon peel and zest, getting quite oily as it goes. As it sits there’s some of what we call ber in India—jujube in English? Anyway, there’s some tart-sweet red fruit. With time there’s some plum mixed in there too. A few drops of water and the lemon peel/oil recedes a bit; there’s more of the ber/jujube along with some ham brine. Continue reading
A 7 yo single malt from a no-name distillery that’s been bottled at >60% abv? Normally that would send chills up my spine. The only saving grace here is that it’s not virgin oak or even first-fill bourbon—or a raw sherry bomb for that matter. Well, I’m assuming it won’t be raw. Allt-a-Bhainne is not the most storied distillery, and it’s not a distillery I have very much experience with but I’ve always found it interesting even as I’ve not developed any real sense of what its profile might be like. On that informational note, let’s get to this SMWS cask which the brain trust at the Society dubbed “Seductive sweetness and smooth smoke”. It’s not every day that I drink a whisky whose name contains not one but two of my old stripper names. Should be special.
Allt-a-Bhainne 7, 2011 (60.8%; SMWS 108.23; second-fill ex-bourbon barrel; from a bottle split)
Nose: Rather closed at first—unsurprising given the strength. Then there’s a bit of candied lemon and some oak and subtle malty/cereal sweetness. A bit of incense in the distance as it sits. With more time there’s a herbal/rooty note as well and a bit of anise. With water it’s the same as before but a bit more intense and a bit more integrated. Some wet wool in there too now. Continue reading
On Monday I had a review of a Braes of Glenlivet/Braeval. Speyside week continues now with another relatively obscure distillery: Glen Elgin. This is only my third review of a Glen Elgin, which may be reliable indicator of how little Glen Elgin is generally available in the American market. It was bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society at the tender age of 10 from a first-fill bourbon barrel. That combination of age and cask type sets off some warning bells but hopefully the whisky will rise above. The venerable society named this one “Aloha!”. I’m not sure what the reason for that is but at least it fits with my ongoing food reports from Hawaii, Okay, let’s get to it.
[Actually, before I get to it, I should note that this Speyside week might well grind to a halt with this Glen Elgin. This because I had not—as I thought I had—taken notes on the third whisky of the set before leaving for Ireland, where I’ve been for a week now on work. I get back home tonight but jet lag may keep me from having the wherewithal to review anything till the end of the week. Let’s see how it goes.] Continue reading
So far this month my whisky review themes have been the following: Craigellachie (here, here and here); sherry casks bottled by Old Particular for K&L (here, here and here); and heavily peated Islay whiskies (here, here and here). Let’s now end the month with reviews of some more delicate Speysiders. First up is a 16 yo Braes of Glenlivet (the throwback name for Braeval) bottled by Cadenhead in 2013. It was released in their “Small Batch” series. But as the outturn was 270 bottles and the cask type is specified as bourbon hogshead, it seems safe to assume this was a single cask release. I bought this at the same time as I did this Dufftown 26 (also from Cadenhead) and this Unnamed Orkney 14 (bottled by Signatory) and also a G&M Caol Ila trio I have not yet reviewed. All were purchased with a consortium of friends. I kept half of each botle and they split the rest. I’ve been drinking and enjoying this for the last two months and here finally are my tasting notes. Continue reading
Let’s make this a triple or even quadruple-themed week: 1) three whiskies from three different regions; 2) all sherry cask whiskies; 3) all whiskies bottled by Old Particular (a label of one of the Laing offshoots); 4) all whiskies bottled for K&L in California. Yes, I once again went in on a bottle splits of one of K&L’s recent parcel of casks. I assume these are all sold out by now so these reviews will not be of use as a buying guide—but if you’ve picked up a bottle of any of these, let me know if your notes resonate with mine. First up is a Glenrothes 16, distilled in 2005 and matured in a sherry butt. There seem to be a number of these sherry cask Glenrothes around these days. Across 2020 and 2021 I reviewed a trio bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (here, here, and here). In addition to being sherry bombs, those were all massive alcohol bombs: all bottled north of 64.5%. I am glad to say that this one is at a tame 57.2% by comparison. I really don’t see the point of most whiskies past 60% I have to say but I realize I am out of tune with the times. I really liked all three of those anyway and am hoping this might be as good. Let’s see. (And for a recent review of a Glenrothes from a bourbon hogshead, see here.) Continue reading
Craigellachie week got off to an unremarkable start with the 2017 release of the official 13 yo on Monday. Wednesday’s 13 yo, 2007 bottled by Cadenhead brought it roaring back in the other direction. To end the week now I have another official release, this time a 19 yo. This is not part of Craigellachie’s regular lineup; it was a single cask release for the US market a few years ago. I got this sample from Michael Kravitz (of the excellent Diving for Pearls blog). Michael bought it because it was distilled on his 21st birthday. I gather it was quite expensive. But that’s the single malt whisky market these days, especially for official distillery releases: 19 year olds are the new 25 year olds. The fact that this was a sherry butt probably also helped convince customers; I could be wrong but I think American whisky drinkers fetishize dark whiskies more than Europeans do. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading
Craigellachie week did not get off to the strongest start on Monday. The official 13 yo did not make me regret failing to try it in the near decade that it’s been out (though I suppose it may have improved a lot since the 2017 release, which is what I reviewed). Today I have a review of another 13 yo but this one is an indie release. It’s a single bourbon hogshead, and an ex-peated one at that. I do not know which distillery was the source of the peated cask; I don’t believe Bacardi—the owners of Craigellachie—have any other distilleries in their portfolio that traditionally produce peated malt (though one of the them may put out a peated variant). I suppose it’s also possible that the source of the cask may have been the bottler, Cadenhead—but that’s all speculation. If you have any ideas/knowledge on this score, please do share below. I can tell you it was distilled in 2007 and that the Cadenhead name is usually a good thing. Will it put Craigellachie week back on track? I can only hope so. Continue reading
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