Orkney Distillery 17, 2003 (OMC for K&L)


Here to close out the month is a Highland Park. This is my first Highland Park review since June when I reviewed three in a week. One of those was an official single sherry cask; another was an ex-bourbon cask with a rum finish from the SMWS; and the third was a regular bourbon hogshead bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd. Like the BB&R cask this too is a bourbon hogshead and like it it bears not the distillery’s name on the label but a reference to Orkney. As you may know, Highland Park no longer allows indie bottlers to put their name on labels. Well, whatever the name on the label, I am a big fan of bourbon cask Highland Park and I hope this will turn out to be more evidence of how good those casks can be. I will maintain this optimism even though this particular cask was selected by K&L as part of their 2021 releases. It was very reasonably priced too—now long sold out, I think. Anyway, let’s get to it. Continue reading

Oban 18, 2020 Release


Let’s continue with highlands week but swing around from Ardmore in the eastern highlands, all the way to Oban in the west.

With this review I believe Oban joins the very small list of distilleries all members of whose core lineups I have reviewed. Unless things have changed since I last looked, the 14 yo, the Distiller’s Edition and the NAS Little Bay are the only others in that core Oban lineup (I’m not counting “distillery only” bottlings or those that have shown up in Diageo’s annual special releases). The 18 yo was first released in 2008 as a special release but has since become a fixture. It’s somewhat unusual in that it is an exclusive for the US market where it goes from $100-$130. At least it used to be a US exclusive—I assume it still is given how few entries there are for it in the EU-centric Whiskybase listings. I believe it’s matured in all first-fill American ex-bourbon casks. As to whether it is made with malt peated to a higher degree than the 14 yo, I don’t know. The 14 yo is barely peated—too only about 2 ppm—but I picked up notes of smoke from my bottle anyway. I’m curious to see where this 18 yo bottled in 2020 (as per the bottle code) will fall on that front. The last time I had the Oban 18 was about a decade ago and I have no memory or notes of it. Continue reading

Ardmore 12, 2006 (SMWS 66.140)


Last week was a week of reviews of peated whiskies from Islay—one each from Caol Ila, Lagavulin and Laphroaig. I liked them all a lot. This week will be a week of reviews of whiskies from the highlands. We’ll begin with a young Ardmore that also keeps the peat theme going for a little longer. This is yet another Ardmore from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society—probably the most consistent source of Ardmore casks in the US. I’ve reviewed a number of their Ardmore releases before, most recently this 23 yo which I adored, and before that a trio comprising a 20 yo, a 21 yo and a 22 yo, all of which I really liked as well. This one is quite a bit younger at 12 years of age—though in today’s single malt market 12 years old sometimes seems positively middle aged. Will it approach the quality of its older siblings? Oh yes, the SMWS’ tasting panel gave this the whimsical name, “Hickory smoked lobster”. I can’t say I’ve had smoked lobster but it does sound good—any relation to the reality of what’s in the glass? Let’s see. Continue reading

Laphroaig 18, 1998 (SMWS 29.218)


I started the week with a review of a young bourbon cask Caol Ila. Wednesday brought the recent Guinness cask finish release of Lagavulin’s Offerman Edition. Let’s close the week at one of Lagavulin’s south coast neighbours: Laphroaig. Like the Caol Ila this is from a refill bourbon hogshead but it is eight years older; it was also bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Okay, let’s get to it.

Laphroaig 18, 1998 (58.1%; SMWS 29.218; refill bourbon hogshead; from my own bottle)

Nose: All the classic stuff: carbolic, phenolic peat out the wazoo, laced with lemon, brine and oyster liquor; sweeter cereals underneath. After a while there’s a hit of damp smouldering leaves and also some cracked black pepper. With more time and air still the cereals come to the fore. A few drops of water and the phenols recede just a bit as the lemon turns to citronella and some muskier tart fruit emerges (pineapple, unripe mango). Continue reading

Lagavulin 11, Offerman Edition Guinness Finish


The first Lagavulin Offerman Edition was released in 2019—you probably know the story: Nick Offerman is a big Lagavulin fan (as was his Parks and Recreation character, Ron Swanson). I reviewed it then (just over two years ago). At the time I assumed that was a one-off but now here’s a second. Like the first, this is 11 years old; unlike the first, it has received a finish of a few months in Guinness casks. As to whether the base spirit was matured and vatted in exactly the same way as the previous 11 yo, I do not know. If you know more about any of this please write in below. I do know that I liked the first Offerman edition—more than some others did, I think. I did not find it to be gimmicky at all. I have to say I’m far more dubious about this one. Even if I were more positively disposed towards “finished” whiskies the thought of a beer finish causes my eyebrows to twitch. Though I suppose there is some bass note crossovers between stout/porter and the dark pleasures of Lagavulin. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading

Caol Ila 10, 2008 (SMWS 53.305)


After a week of heavily sherried Macallans (here, here and here), let’s do a week of heavily peated Islays. All of these are, I think, from bourbon casks. First up, a young Caol Ila distilled in 2008 and also bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. I quite liked the last SMWS Caol Ila 2008 I reviewed and if this is close I will be happy. The SMWS tasting panel gave this the name “Totally tropical smoke”. Sounds promising; let’s hope it’s an accurate description.

Caol Ila 10, 2008 (59.8%; SMWS 53.305; refill bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Ah, quite lovely with bright, carbolic peat mixed with some char, some brine and then quite a bit of the advertised musky fruit (charred lemon and pineapple). Gets saltier with each sniff, seemingly. As it sits the fruit recedes a bit and meatier notes come to the fore (charred pork). With more time still there’s a bit of cream but it melds nicely with the citrus and the smoke (smoked lime curd?). Water first emphasizes the coastal notes, bringing out more brine and some shells to go with it, and then the fruit pops out again. Continue reading

Macallan 12, 2008, PX Cask (SMWS 24.151)


And so ends this week of Macallan 12, 2008s. As a reminder, this is the third of three casks released at the same time by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society this year. All started out as spirit matured in first-fill oloroso butts before being filled into ex-bourbon, ex-oloroso and ex-PX casks respectively for two more years. An interesting prospect, this juxtaposition but in reality I was not hugely impressed by either Monday’s ex-bourbon cask or Wednesday’s ex-oloroso. I thought both were overpowered finally by both the oak and the crazy high abv at which all of these were bottled. Will this PX cask finally be the one I really like? I hope so.

Macallan 12, 2008 (63.1%; SMWS 24.149; oloroso + PX casks; from a bottle split)

Nose: Ah, this is very nice from the jump: plum sauce, orange peel, leather and just a bit of oak to frame it all. Brighter citrus emerges after a few minutes in the glass along with some pencil lead and some damp autumn leaves. As it sits further it gets stickier, the oak gets a little spicier, the plum expands further and it’s better integrated still. A few drops of water push the oak back and soften it up a bit: quite a bit of toffee now and some apricot to go with the plum. Continue reading

Macallan 12, 2008, Oloroso Cask (SMWS 24.149)


Here is the second of the recent Macallan trio from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. As I noted on Monday, the SMWS took whisky that had matured in oloroso butts for 10 years and then put it into different cask types for a further two. Monday’s 12 year old spent its last two years in bourbon casks. This one spent two more years in oloroso—in the original casks? in re-coopered oloroso hogsheads? I do not know. Well, I was not hugely impressed by the bourbon cask—too much alcohol and too much oak for my taste. This oloroso cask is at an even higher abv, but will the sherry cover up some of the oak? Let’s see.

Macallan 12, 2008 (63.6%; SMWS 24.149; oloroso casks; from a bottle split)

Nose: Rich oloroso notes (big surprise): raisins, cherry liqueur, dried orange peel, a bit of salt and a mildly beany note. Not much sign of oak on the first few sniffs but it emerges as it sits and gets some air: a big tannic burn that begins to cut through the rich notes. With more time the oak calms down a bit and the fruit reasserts itself (orange peel and cherry now joined by some apricot jam). A few drops of water and there’s much better integration of the fruit and the oak, and there’s some leather too now. Continue reading

Macallan 12, 2008, Bourbon Cask (SMWS 24.152)


This week’s whisky reviews are of a slightly unusual set. This is not just because they’re all reviews of whiskies distilled at Macallan—a distillery I have not covered much on the blog. (Why have I not covered much Macallan on the blog? Well, mostly because the relationship between quality, price and high-concept marketing at Macallan went haywire more than a decade ago.) The set is also unusual as it comprises three independent releases—there’s not so very much indie Macallan out there you see, especially in the US. All of these were bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. What makes them truly unusual is the relationship between them. All originated in a group of 10 yo oloroso sherry butts which were then filled into first-fill ex-bourbon, ex-oloroso and ex-PX casks for a further two years of maturation and bottled at the same time (presumably there have been other releases of the source spirit as well). Now you might think this would be a more striking juxtaposition if the original 10 years of maturation had happened in refill bourbon casks—thus allowing the variations from the subsequent double maturations to present on a more subtle canvas—but it should, at least in theory, be interesting to compare the three anyway. First up is the ex-bourbon cask which for some reason was given the name “Albino Rhino”. Continue reading

Kilchoman 9, 2012, Bourbon Influenced Batch


On Wednesday I reviewed a Kilchoman released in 2015 and possibly available only at the distillery. Here now is a Kilchoman released just this year and a US exclusive to boot. This is a collaboration between Kilchoman and their US importer, ImpEx and features whisky matured in five barrels filled in 2012 that previously held wheated bourbon (I have no idea which ones). So a fairly small batch. It’s said to be “a tribute to the Bottled in Bond legacy of Bourbon in the US” but I’m not sure what that actually entails. If these five wheated bourbon barrels all held Bottled in Bond whiskey they don’t explicitly come out and say so. Is the connection just the BiB in both “Bottled in Bond” and “Bourbon Influenced Batch”? If you know more, please fill the rest of us in. Frankly, I’m not even sure what distinction is supposed to be imparted by the fact that this is “bourbon influenced”—I mean, isn’t most Kilchoman matured in bourbon casks? I don’t understand marketing. But I do like good whisky and hope this will prove to be one. Continue reading

Kilchoman 10th Anniversary Release


After having reviewed only eight KIlchomans over the first seven and a half years of the blog’s life, I reviewed another five in the first half of this year. Let’s get that count up even higher by starting November with another pair of Kilchomans. First up is a multi-vintage vatting released in 2015 to mark the 10th anniversary of the distillery’s founding. This contains spirit distilled from 2012 to 2005. It couldn’t have any from the vintages after 2012, of course, because by law Scotch whisky has to be at least three years old. The oldest whisky in the vatting was 10 years old and indeed this includes spirit from the first cask ever filled at the distillery.  The cask types are a mix of bourbon and sherry but I’m not sure what the mix is or what the proportions of the various vintages is. And while I’m listing things I’m not sure of, I also don’t know if this ever came to the US—the distillery’s page indicates it was meant to be on sale at the distillery only. At any rate, here are my notes. Continue reading

Inchgower 22, 1998 (Sovereign for K&L)


Let’s close out Sherry Cask Week (and the month in whisky reviews) with another distillery that has not featured very much on the blog over the last 8.5 years and which I have very little experience with off the blog as well: Inchgower. (See here for Monday’s Blair Athol and here for Wednesday’s Dalmore.) One of the many Scottish distilleries that produces largely for blends, in this case for Bell’s, Inchgower doesn’t really have much of an identity as a single malt. Outside of appearances in Diageo’s Flora & Fauna series—which highlights its lesser-known distilleries—and the occasional special release, there is no OB release I am aware of. It does show up from indies and all the ones I’ve previously reviewed have been indie releases, and have been in the general age group of this 22 yo from a refill sherry butt which is part of K&L’s 2021 cask exclusives. Well, I liked all those other 20+ yo Inchgowers I’ve reviewed—and I also liked the Blair Athol 12 from this K&L set—and so I’m hopeful this will be good as well. Continue reading

Dalmore 18, 2001 (Cadenhead)


Sherry Cask Week began at Blair Athol n the Highlands on Monday. I liked that 12 yo bottled by Sovereign for K&L fine and thought it was a good value for a daily sipper. We’ll remain in the Highlands for this review, going a bit further north to Dalmore and adding six more years of age. I’ve not reviewed very many Dalmores on the blog—only two in fact before this one. I enjoyed the 12 yo and the Cigar Malt back when I first started drinking single malt whisky, which was also back when Dalmore’s whiskies were reasonably priced. But it’s been a while now since the distillery’s pricing ascended into the sphere of the very silly; and it’s also the case that there isn’t so very much indie Dalmore about, especially in the US. Not even Gordon & MacPhail have put out so very many Dalmores—though I do note that there seems to have been a slight uptick in the last few years. This 18 yo from Cadenhead also came out a couple of years ago. It’s not a full-term sherry matured, spending only the last two years in a sherry hogshead. At two years it’s really past being a finish and is squarely in double maturation territory. Well, let’s see how it compares to the Blair Athol. Continue reading

Blair Athol 12, 2009 (Sovereign for K&L)


I was planning to close the month out with the SMWS Macallan trio that was on the list for the month. However, for one reason or the other I have not had time to go pick up my share from those bottle splits. And so they’ll have to wait till November. Filling their sherry-forward slots instead are a trio of sherry cask-matured malts from three different distilleries. First up, the youngest of the three, a Blair Athol 12.

This is also my first review of K&L’s 2021 casks. This lot—at least the ones I’ve got samples of from bottle splits—don’t seem to be teaspooned out the wazoo. Presumably with the Trump tariff on single malts a thing of the past, teaspooning is no longer needing to be resorted to in order to keep prices down. Well, I suppose K&L’s 2020 Blair Athol cask—twice the age of this one—bore the distillery’s name openly too. I rather liked that one; let’s see if this is a worthy stablemate. Continue reading

Kilkerran Work in Progress 5, Sherry Wood


Closing out Campbeltown Week is the sherry cask counterpart to Wednesday’s excellent bourbon cask iteration of Kilkerran’s Work in Progress 5 release. This was, if I remember correctly, the first sherry cask release in the series—a feature repeated in the following Work in Progress releases. The Bourbon Wood was one of the best young whiskies I’ve had (and Monday’s 8 yo Glen Scotia was very good too). How will the Sherry Wood compare? Only one way to find out.

Kilkerran Work in Progress 5, Sherry Wood (46%; from my own bottle)

Nose: Though they’re exactly the same age and distillate this noses quite a bit younger than the Bourbon Wood with a mezcal-like note coming off the top. Below it is slightly rubbery peat, some lemon, some chalk and a lot of salt. Not much change with time. With a few drops of water it actually gets a little closer to the Bourbon as it becomes more austere and both the rubbery peat and the mezcal recede; more sweetness now: a bit of vanilla and some wet stones. Continue reading

Kilkerran Work in Progress 5, Bourbon Cask


Campbeltown Week began with a 8 yo Glen Scotia on Monday that I really liked. Here now is a 9 yo from the Glengyle distillery whose whiskies bear the Kilkerran name. Released in 2013, this was part of the fifth edition of their Work in Progress series that followed the distillate till the eventual issue of their standard malt. Until the 4th release these releases had been singular; with the 5th release they doubled, with a Bourbon Wood release and a Sherry Wood release. I’ve had most of the Works in Progress releases over the years but for some reason have only reviewed the Bourbon Wood releases from the 6th and 7th releases. If you need more info about Kilkerran/Glengyle, by the way, you should read the intro to my review of the 6th release. I should note here that even though the name of the distillery is Glengyle, I use the Kilkerran name in my category listings as I’m guessing that’s the name most people look for. I have yet to try a Kilkerran I did not like and so I have high expectations of this one. Continue reading

Glen Scotia 8, 2012 (SMWS 93.145)


This week’s theme is Campbeltown but we’ll also keep last week’s bourbon cask theme going for a while with both today and Wednesday’s whiskies.

Today’s review is of another Scotch Malt Whisky Society bottling of Glen Scotia. With my usual scrupulous attention to detail I had listed SMWS 93.140 in this month’s “Coming Soon” post. When going to review it I realized that I’d already reviewed it back in June. What I’d meant to list was the 93.145, which is less than half the age of the 93.140. That one was 17 years old, this one is 8 years old; both are from refill bourbon barrels. I’m hoping it might be in the general ballpark of the other, which I really liked. And I have to say that I have, on the whole, quite appreciated the few SMWS Glen Scotias I’ve had. Given the general low visibility of the official releases in the US and the even greater paucity of indie releases here from other directions, the SMWS remains one of the few places where the profile of distilleries such as Glen Scotia (or Ardmore) can be explored (if not at a reasonable price, usually). Anyway, let’s see what this one is like. The SMWS tasting panel dubbed it “Sweet Filth” which is certainly promising. Continue reading

Aberlour 25, 1995 (Old Particular for K&L)


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