After a week of reviews of whiskies from Highland Park (which followed a week of reviews of whiskies from Glen Scotia) let’s do a week of reviews of whiskies from Kilchoman, Islay’s small farm distillery. This was the very first Kilchoman I ever had. It was bottled in 2010 for Binny’s in Chicago at the ripe young age of three. The distillery put out a number of these store exclusives among their earliest releases and they helped make their name in the US (and elsewhere too). Those were the days when Binny’s shipped out of state and I purchased a bottle right away. I drank it down slowly over the next few years and before finally finishing it in early 2013—as per my spreadsheet, a month before I started the blog—I put four ounces away for future reference, as was my practice at the time (well, my usual practice was to put away 6 ounces). In other words, this review is of a sample that was put away more than 8 years ago and from a bottle that was opened more than 10 years ago. Though I’ve stopped saving these reference samples in recent years, I do very much enjoy going back to some of the whiskies I drank a long time ago. I really liked this one back then, as I have a number of other young Kilchomans. Let’s see what I make of it now. Continue reading
Highland Park Week began with an indie release from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society which featured a Jamaican rum finish. On Wednesday, I reviewed an ex-bourbon cask from Berry Bros. & Rudd. Here to close out the series is an official distillery release that has the distillery’s favoured official profile front and center: sherry. Indeed, it is a single sherry cask. In the last few-several years Highland Park have really stepped up their single cask program. This one is a 13 yo distilled in 2006 and as per Whiskybase there are at least 40 such releases from the 2006 vintage alone and at least as many from each of the preceding years in the decade (the 2007s and 2008s appear to still be coming online. Not being insane, I have not gone and looked at the details of each cask but a random sampling suggests they’re all heavily sherried and all at ludicrous strengths, and that many if not most are from first-fill European oak casks. It’s no big surprise that this should be the case. In this market there’s only one thing that would top the mix of stupidly high abv and a sherry bomb when it comes to convincing whisky geeks to pay the big bucks and that’s if you add heavy peat to the mix. Continue reading
After Monday’s Jamaican rum and ex-bourbon cask lovechild, let’s move on to an altogether more conventionally matured Highland Park. Well, not very conventionally by the standards of the distillery’s own releases which are overwhelmingly sherry cask-driven. This 14 yo bottled by Berry Bros. and Rudd is from an ex-bourbon cask. And like almost all current indie releases of Highland Park, seemingly, it does not bear the distillery’s name. Instead it’s billed as “Orkney Islands” (this crackdown on the use of official distillery names by indies seems to be spreading through the industry). Well, I suppose it could theoretically be Scapa too. I will note, as I always do when reviewing bourbon cask Highland Park, that I really dig this profile and wish the distillery itself would release more in this vein and not just the massive single sherry casks that seem to be their current calling card (I”ll be reviewing one of those on Friday). Of course, there’s far more money to be made by selling massive sherry cask whiskies in this market and no one ever accused the proprietors of Highland Park, the Edrington Group, of being averse to making large amounts of money. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading
Having set the whisky world afire last week with my reviews of three single bourbon barrels of Glen Scotia released by the SMWS (here, here and here), I now turn to a week of Highland Park for a reprise. Yes, we’re going all the way from Campbeltown to Orkney.
First up is another SMWS release and, like Friday’s Glen Scotia, this is another 17 yo distilled in 2002. However, it’s not from a bourbon barrel. Well, it started out in a bourbon cask with but ended up in one that had most recently contained Jamaican rum. Did Highland Park have barrels of Jamaican rum lying around or did the SMWS have one filled? I’d guess the latter. At any rate, the label on the bottle says that the Jamaican rum barrel was the “final cask”. How much time did it spend in this “final cask”? Who can say and who would be bold enough to try? The wild profile of Jamaican rum seems an odd match for Highland Park but I guess someone’s got to try these experiments. (Or do they?) The SMWS named this one “When pineapple met pigeon”, which is certainly a name. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
Glen Scotia Week comes to an end but most of you probably didn’t notice. Monday’s 11 yo and Wednesday’s 12 yo didn’t exactly get a lot of interest: just about 50 views each so far this week. I doubt today’s 17 yo will attract a lot more attention. Some of this is doubtless down to the fact that my own whisky readership has likely declined in the last couple of years even as my food readership has grown. However, a lot of it is probably down to the low to non-existent profile of Glen Scotia. They’ve never been a distillery with a high profile and the owners’ attempts to raise that profile over the last decade via various ill-conceived branding makeovers has doubtless not helped. It’s also the case that they continue to make a relatively old-school, austere type of whisky that doesn’t perhaps have a natural home in the contemporary whisky geek market which remains focused on whiskies that are either heavily sherried, heavily peated or both. Well, I can’t say I’ve found very many of the not-very many Glen Scotias I’ve had to be very exciting but outside of the official releases I’ve found them all to be interesting departures from the mainstream of Scottish single malt whisky. It would be good, I think, if more whisky geeks expanded their tasting portfolios, so to speak. Continue reading
Glen Scotia Week is burning up the internet! Actually, that’s not true: barely anyone read Monday’s review of SMWS 93.118 (an 11 yo distilled in 2007). Undeterred, I carry on with SMWS 93.135 (a 12 yo distilled in 2007). This is also a first-fill bourbon barrel. I liked 93.118—will the extra year on 93.135 translate to an extra point or two? Let’s see.
Glen Scotia 12, 2007 (56.9%; SMWS 93.135; first-fill bourbon barrel; from a bottle split)
Nose: More lemon here right off the bat than in Monday’s 11 yo and more of the machine shop grease; and the oak is not really very present in this one. With time and air there’s some sweeter fruit (hard to pick: a hint of peach?) and some cream. The mineral notes expand with a few drops of water (some carbon paper/graphite here now) and then the richer fruit pops out (yes, some peach and also some pineapple). As it sits again there’s quite a bit of citronella and more of the cream. Continue reading
Despite reviews of whiskies from two Campbeltown distilleries—Springbank and Kilkerran—last week was not a Campbeltown whisky week. Instead, with Friday’s Lagavulin 2020 Feis Ile release it became a week of sherry cask whiskies. This week, however, is a Campbeltown week. But the whiskies are all from the third Campbeltown distilllery, the one no one ever gets very excited about: Glen Scotia. And to
double quadruple the theme it’ll also be a week of reviews of Scotch Malt Whisky Society releases of Glen Scotia, all from bourbon barrels.
I’ve not reviewed very many Glen Scotias. The first few were all indie releases and I liked them a lot, including a 20 yo bottled by Whiskybase’s Archives label and a 40 yo bottled by Malts of Scotland. Of late, however, I’ve mostly reviewed official releases, none of which have gotten me very excited. Let’s see if this SMWS series brings out the distillery’s most interesting qualities. We’ll start with the youngest and work our way up. This 11 yo is one the Society’s studiedly whimsical tasting panel decided to call “Aladdin’s Cave”. Let’s see if it turns out to be rich or exciting at all. Continue reading
And I close out what turned out to be a week of sherry cask whiskies with the Feis Ile 2020 release from Lagavulin. (See here for Monday’s Springbank and here for Wednesday’s Kilkerran.) Feis Ile 2021 is currently in progress—it is being held online again this year on account of the pandemic. I can only hope for all our sakes, whether we are whisky drinkers or fans of whisky festivals or not, that it can go back to being in-person next year.
I’ve reviewed a few of Lagavulin’s Feis Ile releases over the last few years. I was a huge fan of the 24 yo released in 2015 and also of the 17 yo released in 2013; the 18 yo released in 2018 I thought was very good but not great. What all of them had in common was sherry involvement, though only the 2013 was straightforwardly from sherry casks. This 2020 release is a vatting of refill hogsheads (ex-bourbon presumably) with hogsheads “seasoned” with PX and oloroso sherry. As to what exactly the “seasoning” involves, I don’t know, and nor do I know how long the spirit that came out of those casks spent in them. Well, that 2015 release was also complicatedly made and I thought it was just excellent; let’s hope this one will prove to be so as well. Continue reading
The new month may have begun in the middle of the week but that doesn’t mean I’m going to not keep this week themed as well. And no, the fact that Monday’s review was of a Springbank and today’s is of a Kilkerran does not mean the theme is Campbeltown. This will instead be a week of sherry cask reviews. I’m not sure what Friday’s review will be of but while I have a few sherry cask-matured whiskies on the long list for June I don’t have any more from Campbeltown.
It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a Kilkerran (almost exactly two years in fact) and indeed I’ve not reviewed very many of their releases or, for that matter, stayed current on what they’re up to. I’ve really liked all the Kilkerrans I’ve tried, though I think those may all have been from bourbon casks. Well, let’s hope I find this one to be a better exemplar of the distillery’s style than I did Monday’s Springbank Local Barley. Continue reading
For the last review of May I have the 2020 edition of the Springbank Local Barley. Seemingly an annual fixture in Springbank’s portfolio of releases, the Local Barley releases that I have had have all been very good. The ones that I have had and reviewed are the 16 yo released in 2016 that re-launched this series; the 11 yo released in 2017; the 9 yo released in 2018; and the 10 yo released in 2019. There may be others released in this period that I’ve missed; if so, please let me know. The 2020 release sticks close to the age range of the post-2016 releases—it’s another 10 yo—but it departs from all its predecessors in cask type. While those were all either from ex-bourbon casks or ex-bourbon cask dominated (the 2019 release had 20% sherry casks in the vatting to 77% bourbon) this one was matured entirely in oloroso sherry casks. Between the sherry cask involvement—and resulting dark colour—and the general mania that has built up about this series, this release apparently went for pretty silly money in both the US and Europe—for quite a lot more than the retail price of $160 or so asked for the 16 yo in 2016. Such is life. I did not get a bottle but I did go in on a split from which I got all of one oz. For the little they’re worth, here are my notes. Continue reading
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
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
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
Peated Islay Whisky Week comes to an end with another 11 yo (following Wednesday’s Kilchoman). This time it’s a Caol Ila. Like that Kilchoman—and also Monday’s Laphroaig 10 CS—this is a bourbon cask whisky. Well, I suppose there may be non-bourbon casks in the Laphroaig 10 CS too, but if so they’ve never registered. This was another in the big parcel of 2020 single cask releases from K&L that I went in on a split of at the end of last year. I’m just past the halfway mark of reviewing them all (I think) and it’s probably accurate to say that the set as a whole has not got me very excited so far; though I have liked some of the individual casks a lot (for example, this Blair Athol and also this Craigellachie). Caol Ila—especially bourbon cask Caol Ila—is always a good bet so I am hopeful that this will be the one of the better ones. Well, whatever the score I end up giving it, I remind my sensitive friends at K&L to look only at my patented Everybody Wins! (or EW!) score, which is what I have devised to spare their feelings. This way all their releases score above 100 points and I”m not accused of having a vendetta aganist them. Everybody wins! Or ew! Continue reading
I was going to say it’s been a long time since my last Kilchoman review but I actually reviewed one just this past January. That was from a sherry cask. Maybe I should say it’s been a long time since I’ve reviewed a bourbon cask Kilchoman. That would take me back to 2018 and this 3 yo. Today’s bourbon cask Kilchoman is quite a bit older at 11 years old. It was apparently bottled for a private group. As to whether that group is named “Friends of Kilchoman” or that’s just the name for the private cask program, I don’t know. I do know I’ve always generally been impressed by the quality of bourbon cask Kilchoman at very young ages and so I am curious to find out what it is like at 11 years of age. Are they still planning to only release young’ish whisky? As I recall that was the plan at the beginning—though, of course, at the time they did not have any aged whisky to sell. I guess I could have asked if I’d done a less perfunctory visit when we were on Islay a few years ago. Well, if I ever get back there again I will do a proper tour. Continue reading
Okay, let’s move down south and a bit west from the northern highlands, all the way to Islay for a week of peated whiskies. First up, the 2020 release of the Laphroaig Cask Strength: Batch 012. Considering this was bottled in February, 2020—ah the pre-pandemic times!—I suppose it is possible that Batch 013 has already been released this year. If so, I did not see it when I purchased this bottle locally in April. If you’ve seen it in Minnesota, or when you see it, please let me know. (Also let me know if you see/have seen the new sherry-finished 10 yo.)
There’s been a lot of nonsense going on at Laphroaig in recent years. The number of releases from the distillery has proliferated, with a lot happening both at the relatively affordable and the definitely not affordable ends of the roster. This has not been accompanied, however, by widespread acclaim from reviewers for all these whiskies. Indeed, some have come in for a fair bit of stick. Nor have the recent annual Cairdeas releases all been getting everyone excited. Even I—an avowed fan of the distillery—found little to like in last year’s Port & Wine release. Through all of this hubbub, however, the quality of the Laphroaig 10 Cask Strength has stayed on course. (The regular 10 yo I can speak less confidently of, not having tried recent releases.) Let’s see if Batch 012 keeps that streak going. Continue reading
A week of reviews of Glenmorangie’s recent Private Edition releases comes to an end with the most recent (?), the 2020 release: A Tale of Cake. No, I’m not making that up: that’s the actual name they gave it. I’d said in the introduction to Wednesday’s review of the Allta that its concept—the use of local wild yeast—might have indicated that Glenmorangie’s vaunted high concept team was running out of ideas. Well, the idea behind this one seems to confirm that. Leave alone the fact that it’s a whisky finished in Tokaji wine casks—a reference that strikes fear into the hearts of old-school whisky geeks—this was apparently created to evoke the memory of the joy of cakes eaten in childhood or made with children. Yes, there’s nothing that quite reminds us all of the sweet memories of childhood like whisky! But is this supposed to taste like cake or am I supposed to drink so much of it that I run around giggling dementedly while soiling myself? Well, I suppose if it doesn’t end up tasting like cake I’ll have no other choice. I hope one of you will back me up on this if she initiates divorce proceedings. Then again, who knows? Maybe I’ll like this as much as I liked the Spios, the most conventionally made of the trio. Continue reading
Glenmorangie Week continues with the 2019 release in the Private Edition series: Allta. You may recall that the Spios (reviewed on Monday) comprises spirit matured in rye casks. What is the twist in the Allta’s tale? Apparently, it is made using Glenmorangie’s own yeast. No, not harvested from the august personage of Bill Lumsden—I’m told he is very fastidious about hygiene—but wild yeast from somewhere around the distillery. This is either a very interesting thing or they’re running out of ideas. Anyway, let’s get to it.
Glenmorangie Allta (51.2%; from a bottle split)
Nose: The Spios featured big rye notes off the top and the Allta feature big yeasty notes; or at least big sour notes—it’s not particularly bready as the nose on many malts that feature yeasty notes often is. Instead here it melds nicely with lemon and a bit of grass; sort of like the base Glenmorangie spirit with some extra tangy sharpness: it works well enough. Not much change really with water—maybe a bit more acid? Continue reading