This has been a week of reviews of malts from highlands distilleries. It’s also been a week of reviews of ex-bourbon cask malts and, as it turns out, a week of reviews of 12 yo malts. On Monday I had a review of a 12 yo Teaninich bottled by the Thompson Bros.; on Wednesday I had a review of a 12 yo Glen Garioch bottled by Old Particular; today I have for you a review of a 12 yo Ardmore bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Long-time readers of this blog know that I have a soft spot for bourbon cask Ardmore. Indeed, I’ve had a fair number of bourbon cask Ardmores in recent years that I’ve enjoyed a lot, many of those bottled by the SMWS with numbers adjacent to this one. Among those have been 66.133, 66.137 and 66.138. Granted 137 and 138 were quite a bit older but it still bodes well for this one, which is 66.139 (and 133 was also a 12 yo). I’m sorry if you’re not familiar with the SMWS’ funky bottle codes. The numbers before the period identify the distillery (Ardmore is 66) and those after the period identify the number of the release—which means this was the 139th Ardmore bottled by the SMWS (they’re well past that number now). In addition, they like to give each release a silly name. This one was dubbed “Deerstalkers and hillwalkers”. Okay, let’s see what it is like. Continue reading
Okay, let’s move away from Diageo distilleries. You’ll recall that, as with last week’s survey of Diageo distillery exclusives (here, here and here), this is also a week of reviews of highlands distilleries. It started on Monday with a 12 yo Teaninich bottled for K&L in California. Today, I have for you a 12 yo Glen Garioch also bottled for K&L in California. This one is not from the Thompson Bros. but from one of K&L”s usual hookups: Old Particular (a label from one of the Laing outfits). Bourbon cask Glen Garioch is often austere and always interesting and I’m hoping this one will be too. Let’s dive right in.
Glen Garioch 12, 2008 (52.6%; Old Particular for K&L; refill barrel; from a bottle split)
Nose: A very interesting opening with a mix of lime and mineral notes with some pine and powdered ginger mixed in there as well. On the second sniff there’s a bit of vanilla as well and then it starts getting floral (not flowers themselves so much as floral-scented talcum powder). Gets fizzier as it sits (i.e it smells like it should be a fizzy, fruity drink) and also simultaneously begins to smell like gin. A few drops of water push the talcum powder back; still floral though. Continue reading
Last week I reviewed recent distillery exclusives from three Diageo distilleries located in the Highlands: an 11 yo Oban, a 12 yo Dalwhinnie, and a 14 yo Royal Lochnagar. Let’s start this week with another Diageo distillery in the highlands: Teaninich. This is not an official release or a distillery exclusive, however. This was bottled by the Thompson Brothers for K&L in California. Ignore the age statement and abv on the sample label in the pic alongside; that info accidentally got swapped by my sample source with that of the Thompson Brothers Caol Ila 8, 2013 for K&L that I’ve previously reviewed. This Teaninich is 12 years old and was bottled at 53.1%. Like the Caol Ila, it was bottled for K&L under the label, Redacted Bros. for some reason. K&L described it on their site as a single hogshead exclusive to them but only had 120 bottles—which is about half of what you’d expect to get from a hogshead at this age and strength. To confuse matters further there’s another Teaninich 12, 2009 at 53.1% that was released by the Thompson Bros. in Europe under their regular name. That one is from two refill bourbon hogsheads and 508 bottles are listed for it on Whiskybase. So, is this Redacted Bros release of 120 bottles a fraction of those 508 that came to the US? If not, where did the rest of this cask go? If you know, please write in below. Continue reading
Okay, let’s bring this week of reviews of hand-filled exclusives from Diageo distilleries to a close. You will recall that these are all distilleries located in the highlands—Oban on Monday and Dalwhinnie on Wednesday. We end now with Royal Lochnagar. The Oban was 11 years old and from a refill bourbon cask; the Dalwhinnie was 12 years old and from a re-charred sherry cask. This Lochnagar is the oldest of the three at 14 years old and is from a 2nd-fill sherry butt. While I’ve tasted a few more Lochnagars than Dalwhinnies in my time, this is only my third review of a whisky from the distillery. I was even less impressed by its entry in Diageo’s Game of Thrones cash grab than I was by the Dalwhinnie and Oban in that series; and I wasn’t super-enthused by the other one I’ve reviewed either—an indie release, also 14 years old and from a sherry cask. In other words, my expectations are low and it won’t surprise me if this manages to exceed them. Let’s see if that turns out to be the case. Continue reading
This is, as you will recall, a week of reviews of distillery exclusives filled by hand in October at Diageo distilleries in the highlands. Yes, that’s a very specific theme. The week began at Oban on Monday with a review of an 11 yo refill bourbon cask. Let’s go a bit north and a bit east to Dalwhinnie. As I say each time I review a Dalwhinnie, I do not have very much experience of their malt. There is very little Dalwhinnie out there to try. (Well, I suppose I should give the Distiller’s Edition a try sometime—does Diageo still put those out regularly for every distillery in its Classic Malts collection?) At any rate, this is only my third review of a Dalwhinnie—the others were also official distillery releases: the old faithful 15 yo and the so-called Winter’s Gold, which was part of Diageo’s Game of Thrones cash-grab. Neither really did very much for me (82 points each). So this 12 yo hand-fill from a re-charred sherry cask is not going to have to do very much to raise the distillery average on this blog. Let’s see if it’s up to the task. Continue reading
For the first full week of December let’s do a week of highland malts and a week of Diageo distillery hand-fills all at once. All three of this week’s malts were filled by hand at the distilleries in late October. Again, not by me but by the person I got these bottle splits from. Let’s begin with the youngest of the three, an 11 yo Oban.
When I visited Oban briefly in the summer of 2017, they had a NAS distillery exclusive in the shop, though not a hand-fill. You weren’t allowed a taste, only a sniff of a pour that had been sitting out for god knows how long. I duly sniffed it and was not impressed and passed on. Indeed, I was not impressed by the other exclusives I encountered at most Diageo distilleries on that trip. But it appears that these days Diageo is making more of an effort. All three of this week’s casks have age statements and are at cask strength. They also have cask types specified. This Oban is from a refill bourbon cask. Well, I rather liked the 2021 Special Release Oban which was about this age and also from bourbon casks—albeit a mix of first and refill casks. If this is at least as good, I’ll be happy. Continue reading
Tuesdays are normally restaurant review days on the blog. However, the World Cup has been messing with my schedule and I didn’t have time yesterday to finish resizing all the photographs from the meal I was scheduled to report on: the weekday lunch buffet at Kumar’s in Apple Valley. And so I’m going to post that tomorrow. In its place, here is the whisky review that was going to go up tomorrow.
This is the third release of Lagavulin’s Offerman Edition. The first came out in 2019. At the time I assumed it was a one-off. But then there was a second release last year, a finish in Guinness casks. And 2022 saw a third release, this one involving oak casks that were shaved down and re-charred. I’ve seen some references to the casks in question being American and European oak casks and some that specify that they were ex-bourbon and ex-red wine casks. I can tell you though that the text on the back of the box says that this particular edition (11 years old like the two previous) was “curated” to pair with a medium-rare steak. Personally, I don’t drink whisky with food but I’m not sure how seriously anyone should take any of that anyway. I think the text may be written in the voice of Ron Swanson (I cannot confirm as I still have not watched any Parks & Recreation). I liked the first two releases and hope this will be as good. Let’s see. Continue reading
After a week of mezcal reviews (here, here and here), let’s get back to whisky, to Scotland, and specifically to Islay for a week of reviews of heavily peated whiskies. First up, is the 2022 iteration of the Laphroaig Cairdeas, bottled for Feis Ile, the annual Islay whisky festival. It’s a bit of a departure for the recent run of the series being from bourbon casks. Last year’s Cairdeas release was a cask strength version of the Laphroaig PX release; the 2020 Cairdeas was finished in port and wine casks; the 2019 was a cask strength version of the Triple Wood; the 2018 was a fino cask finish. The last ex-bourbon release was in 2017, with the cask strength version of the Quarter Cask. Indeed the last ex-bourbon Cairdeas from regulation ex-bourbon casks was back in 2015 for the 200th anniversary of the distillery. This year’s Cairdeas is back to bourbon casks, the twist being only that these were first-fill casks (from Maker’s Mark) matured in the distillery’s Warehouse No. 1. Will that mean too much oak influence and too much vanilla? The people who obliquely warned me about buying a bottle in the comments on other reviews are probably nodding in the background. But, as I do every year, I bought not one but two bottles: one to drink right away and one to put in my completely pointless Cairdeas collection, which goes back to 2011 (I’m realizing now that I’ve not reviewed the 2011 and 2012 releases, which were both pre-blog). Alright, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading
This week of Campbeltown hand-fills from August of this year began with a Hazelburn on Monday and continued with a Springbank on Wednesday. Let’s end with a Longrow. (A reminder: I did not fill these myself—I acquired these samples via a bottle split with the person who did.) Even though Hazelburn is supposed to be Springbank’s unpeated malt, I found a fair bit of smoke in there (and not for the first time). Well, Longrow is supposed to be Springbank’s heavily peated malt—will this one turn out to an anomaly as well? I do expect I will like it a lot either way as, usually, Longrow is my favourite variant of Springbank—and I really liked the last Longrow I reviewed, which also came directly from Campbeltown, having been issued by Cadenhead (who are owned by the same company that owns Springbank). This particular iteration of the hand-fill is pretty dark—quite a bit darker than the other two—which I would guess means sherry casks were involved at some point in this vatting. What will it all add up to? Let’s see. Continue reading
My week of reviews of Campbeltown hand-fills continues. As with Monday’s Hazelburn, this Springbank was filled in August of this year (not by me). These hand-fills don’t have age or vintage statements and nor are the cask types disclosed. My understanding, as I said on Monday, is that this is because at Springbank these are not, as at most other distilleries, single casks that are replaced when depleted, but continuous vattings that get topped up once they get low. If you can confirm or deny that this is true, please write in below. Monday’s Hazelburn was somewhat uncharacteristic, being quite peaty (Hazelburn is supposed to be Springbank’s unpeated variant). Where will this Springbank fall on the spectrum? Let’s see.
Springbank Hand-Filled, August 2022 (57%; from a bottle split)
Nose: Nutty sweetness (almonds) with olive oil, mild brine and a bit of coriander seed. A bit of vanilla in the sweetness as it sits and also some acid below it (preserved lemon, a bit of tart-sweet apple). The preserved lemon expands as it sits and the almond and olive oil turn to almond oil. A few drops of water and the almond oil expands with some citronella coming up from below it. Continue reading
Okay, after a week of bourbon reviews let’s do a week of Campbeltown reviews. This is going to be a very low-utility series as all the reviews are going to be of bottles that were hand-filled at Springbank (presumably) in August. I did not fill them myself; I went in on a bottle split with the person who did. My understanding is that these hand-fills are not single casks but more like infinity vattings that get topped up when they get too low. And given the likely foot traffic at Springbank in the summer it’s quite likely that the composition turns over every day or two. I’ll start with the Hazelburn—the triple-distilled, unpeated variant of Springbank—then go on to the Springbank hand-fill and finally end the week with the Longrow, which is nominally more heavily peated than Springbank. I say “nominally” because in practice it’s not always possible to tell the peat levels of Springbank and Longrow apart; and, in fact, I’ve even had a Hazelburn that had more than a bit of peat in it. Let’s see where this one falls. Continue reading
This week’s theme has been official distillery releases of sherry-bothered whiskies. Monday’s review (of the 2021 release of the Springbank 18) and Wednesday’s review (of the 2021 release of the Glenallachie 12) were both of whiskies that had sherry cask-matured whisky in them but were not full-on sherry maturations. They were also not single casks. The last whisky of the week is a single cask and it is single PX cask. Or so the label says. Of course, this is a Glendronach single cask from the Billy Walker era. I took a side swipe at this in the intro to the Glenallachie 12 on Wednesday, but in case you don’t know, and didn’t follow the link then, the Glendronach “single casks” of that era were neither always single casks—as most people understand the term—nor always matured only in the cask type marked on the label. As to whether that’s true of this PX puncheon that was bottled for the Whisky Exchange in 2013, I’m not sure. My early pours from the bottle didn’t blow me away but they also didn’t come across as indicating an attempt to dress up tired whisky with a PX cask finish. The bottle has now been open for a week or so. Let’s see what some air in it has done for the whisky. Continue reading
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
Having spent a week in October reviewing whiskies from Kilkerran/Glengyle, let’s close the month out with a whisky from the big boy on the Campbeltown block: Springbank. But as a month finishes, a week begins, and so let’s make this the first whisky of the week with sherry involvement. Now, the Springbank 18’s cask composition has varied a fair bit over the last decade or so. In most years there’s been a decent amount of sherry casks in the mix. In 2016 it was 80% sherry, 20% bourbon; in 2017 the ratio shifted to 60-40; in 2020 it was 55-45 and in 2021, 50-50 sherry and bourbon. Contrariwise, in 2015 and 2018 it was all ex-bourbon and in 2019 it was apparently 88% bourbon and 12% port. Meanwhile it appears the 2022 release (not yet in the US, I don’t think) is 65% bourbon and 35% sherry. (All this info, by the way, is pulled from the Whiskybase listings for Springbank 18.) Well, the most recent Springbank 18 I’ve reviewed was from the sherry-heavy 2016 release. I’ve not kept up with it since as in the intervening period—the whisky world having gone crazy—Springbank’s whiskies have become heavily allocated in the US. It was a major achievement finding a few bottles of the 2021 Springbank 10 this spring and when I saw that one of the stores I got those from had the 18 yo as well, I couldn’t resist it despite the high price tag. My first impressions were not super positive but the bottle’s come on nicely since then. Here now are my notes. 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
After a week of reviews of whiskies from one distillery (Kilkerran: here, here and here) and before that a week of rums (here, here and here), let’s do a week of reviews of whiskies from three different distilleries. The connecting thread this week will be sherry cask maturation and we’ll take them in order of increasing age. First up, a 6 yo Amrut that was bottled for K&L in California. I liked the last Amrut I tried that was bottled for an American store very much indeed. That seven years old was triple-distilled and matured in bourbon casks (bottled for Spec’s in Texas) and so this is not likely to have very much in common with it. I have had other sherry cask Amruts before, though, that I have liked very much—not least the regular release Intermediate Sherry (is it still a regular release?)—and so I am hopeful that this will be good too. Truth be told, I’m not sure I’ve ever had an Amrut that wasn’t at least quite good (and I’m too lazy to look up my scores). Okay, let’s get to it. Continue reading
Kilkerran week got off to a good start on Monday with Batch 6 in their 8 yo Cask Strength series, which was matured in sherry casks. It then hit a bit of a bump in the road on Wednesday with Batch 7 in that series, which was matured in port casks. Here now to close out the week is Batch 4 of a different Kilkerran series, the Heavily Peated. I’ve previously reviewed Batch 1 from this series, and I was not terribly impressed by it. You might think that would bode ill for this review but I think this one is a bit older. I believe the series—also referred to as Peat in Progress—features progressively older iterations of the heavily peated distillate. It doesn’t appear to be the case though that every release is a year older than the previous. As per Whiskybase, Batch 1 and Batch 2 both came out in 2019, Batch 3 in 2020 and both Batch 4 and Batch 5 in 2021; and Batch 6—the latest—came out this year. So this is probably only a little bit older than Batch 1. But enough to make a difference? Let’s see. Continue reading