Croftengea 15, 2002 (SMWS 122.21)

Allah be praised: it’s not another Old Malt Cask 20th Anniversary release! No, it’s not. In fact this whisky has nothing to do with the Laing family. This is a 15 yo Croftengea released last year by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Because they are whimsical they gave it the name “Words from Random Phrase Generator”; or maybe it was “What’s cooking?” One or the other.

I got in on this bottle split because a Croftengea came out of nowhere to be one of my very favourite whiskies of 2018 (this one bottled by The Whisky Exchange). I therefore resolved to try as many Croftengeas as I possibly can, leading to this and also the purchase of a full bottle of a Croftengea 13 bottled for….wait for it, wait for it…the 20th Anniversary of the Old Malt Cask line! That’ll be next month; this is now. Continue reading

Glen Garioch 24, 1993 (OMC 20th Anniv. Release)


Oh my god, will this fucker’s series of reviews of OMC 20th Anniversary releases ever end? Yes, it will, but not today. I still have a couple of unopened bottles left after throwing this one on the pile.

I was very interested in this bottle though. I really liked the last two Glen Gariochs of this general age and vintage that I tried (both from Signatory: a 25 yo and a 26 yo) and I was hoping this would be close to that level. As you may remember, Glen Garioch used mildly peated barley till the early 1990s. They stopped doing so in 1994 and this was distilled in 1993. I opened the bottle for my local group’s January tasting and it was a big hit. Indeed, two members of the group decided to purchase full bottles. I liked it very much too and have been waiting to come back to it to take more careful notes. Here now are those more careful notes. Continue reading

Teaninich 19, 1999 (OMC 20th Anniv. Release)

Rounding out a week of reviews of bourbon cask whiskies from unheralded distilleries here is one not from the Speyside (like Monday’s Glentauchers and Tuesday’s Inchgower) but from the northern Highlands. Teaninich is another of Diageo’s workhorse distilleries, pumping out malt for the group’s blends. We drove by it on our way from the Speyside to Dornoch last June but as they’re not open to visitors there was no question of stopping. I don’t have much experience of their whisky either—I think the only official release is in the Flora & Fauna series; and you don’t see a whole lot of it from the independents either—not in the US at least, This 19 yo was another in Hunter Laing’s extensive release commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Old Malt Cask label and like many of the bottles in the series from non-name distilleries it is still available.. Will this be as good as the Inchgower or the Arran? Let’s see.

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Inchgower 20, 1998 (OMC 20th Anniv. Release)


Okay, let’s make this a week of reviews of unsexy bourbon cask whiskies from unsung distilleries. Yesterday I had a review of a 20 yo Glentauchers bottled by Signatory; today I have a review of a 20 yo Inchgower bottled by Hunter Laing as part of their series commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Old Malt Cask line. I’ve reviewed a bunch already from this series: Ardmore 22, 1996, Tamdhu 20, 1998, Bowmore 22, 1996, another Bowmore 22, 1996, Glen Grant 27, 1991, Laphroaig 12, 2006, and Arran 21, 1997. I only scored one of those below 85 points (against all odds it was the Laphroaig), and a couple of them I thought were very good indeed. When I first opened this bottle I thought it was closer to the Laphroaig end of the range; I opened it for my local group’s January tasting and nobody was overly enthused by it. However, as the bottle has stayed open it has really blossomed and I’ve been drinking it down at a rapid rate. Here, before it’s all gone, are my notes. Continue reading

Glentauchers 20, 1997 (Signatory)

This is only the third Glentauchers I have reviewed in the almost six years that I’ve been writing this blog. During that time I have not acquired any greater knowledge of the distillery than I had at the time of the first review, where I said I knew nothing about the distillery. Like many distilleries it is owned by Pernod Ricard and like most of their distilleries its primary, secondary and tertiary purpose is to produce whisky of a certain mild style to use in the group’s blends—see also Miltonduff, Braeval and Alt-a-Bhainne. But lots of very good whisky comes out of single casks from anonymous distilleries—let’s see if this is another such cask.

Glentauchers 20, 1997 (50.4%; Signatory; bourbon barrels 4168+4170; from a bottle split)

Nose: Fresh and fruity (apple, pear, a touch of lemon) and malty. The fruit gets a little more intense as it sits and a bit of pepper emerges too along with a mild grassiness. A few drops of water make the fruit a little muskier and brings out some sweeter floral notes as well. Continue reading

Ardmore 22, 1996 (OMC 20th Anniv. Release)


Hunter Laing released a large number of whiskies last year to mark the 20th anniversary of the Old Malt Cask line; they may have miscalculated a bit as a bunch of them are still available. Among these are this Ardmore 22, distilled in 1996. Ardmore is a bit of an enigma in the Scotch whisky world. From its somewhat off the beaten path location in the Eastern Highlands—don’t bother stopping by, they’re not open to the public—to the seeming general lack of interest on the part of the owners in pushing their whisky, it’s a hard distillery to get to know. There’s never been much of it available in official form and even less seemingly from the independents—though there’s been more probably from both directions in the last few years than in the years previous. This despite the fact that they’re one of the few non-Islay distilleries that make palpably peated malt, and you’d expect that to be a winning market proposition. Well, I guess Beam Suntory may be reserving a lot of its output for their blends. Anyway, while I have not had very many Ardmores—on account of lack of opportunity—I’ve liked all that I’ve had. And so I was more than willing to take a chance on this bottle. Let’s see if it has paid off. Continue reading

Lagavulin 16, 2013 Release


The last time I reviewed the Lagavulin 16 was in 2015 and that was a relatively timely review, being of a bottle from the 2014 release. And the previous year I’d reviewed another Lagavulin 16 from the 2012 release. Well, I’m sorry to say that my review in 2019 is not quite so timely, being of a bottle released between the other two. But any idiot can be useful; it takes a special kind of idiot to care whether a bottle from a massive release from one year is very much like the two in the adjacent years. Let’s see if it is.

Lagavulin 16, 2013 Release (43%; from my own bottle)

Nose: Big mossy, organic peat and quite a bit of lemon too; the whole medicinal/disinfectant complex is right there too. As it sits the big phenolic notes come to the front, picking up sweet inky notes along the way, and it gets quite briny as well. With more time there’s pencil lead, a touch of ham and also a sweeter note of vanilla-cream. Water blunts it a little bit and pushes back the smoke. Continue reading

Glenlivet Nadurra, Oloroso, OL1015


Once upon a time, and a very nice time it was, Glenlivet, one of the two most popular single malt brands in the world and consequently not too concerned with the small hardcore enthusiast market made a malt for that market anyway. This was the Nadurra. Matured in ex-bourbon casks for at least 16 years and released in batches, the Nadurra was the one Glenlivet that the small hardcore enthusiast market was enthusiastic about. Naturally the distillery decided to fuck with a good thing and in 2014, or thereabouts, they dropped the age statement and introduced an oloroso version of the Nadurra, and then later a peated version. Well, to be frank it’s not just the distillery that’s responsible for this turn of events; it’s also whisky geeks who fetishize heavily sherried and peated malts. The Glenlivet brain trust probably thought this was what the cool kids wanted: Aberlour A’bunadh and Glenfarclas 105 and all that. And for all I know, the cool kids have indeed been buying these new Nadurras and proving the brain trust right. I’d meant to try the oloroso version myself when it first came out but never got around to it and then forgot about it. But now thanks to a bottle split I finally get to try one of the early releases, from 2015. Will it make me regret not having gotten aboard right away? Let’s see. Continue reading

Tamdhu 20, 1998 (OMC 20th Anniv. Release)


Back in January I posted reviews of a number of the releases that Hunter Laing put out last year to mark the 20th anniversary of the Old Malt Cask label. I liked a number of those a lot (especially the Arran 21; and surprisingly, not the Laphroaig 12) and this emboldened me to buy a few more of the releases from the series. A bunch of these are still available—perhaps because there’s no information on them at Whiskybase, and really no reviews at all on most of them. It’s also, of course, the case that the ones that are still available are malts distilled at non-name distilleries. Such is this Tamdhu 20. And so I find myself in the unusual position of being perhaps the first person to review a recently released whisky that is still available. I opened this bottle last month at a tasting that featured two more whiskies from this series that are still available (from the similarly unsexy distilleries, Inchgower and Teaninich) and it was quite well received. Here now are my formal notes. Continue reading

Springbank 11, 2006, Local Barley


Here is the second edition in Springbank’s recent Local Barley series. The first was a 16 yo that was released in 2016 (I have a couple of bottles, as yet unopened). This one was released in 2017 and was matured entirely in bourbon casks. I believe there’s been a 10 yo in the series since, also released in 2017. Please let me know if there’s another that I’m unaware of. All have been very well received. As the name implies. these are releases distilled from locally grown barley and in the case of at least this one that local barley was bere barley, a Scottish strain that has a lower yield than the varieties normally used to make whisky (please let me know if the others were also from bere barley). The only other bere barley-based malt I’ve had was from Bruichladdich and I wasn’t overly impressed with that one (I don’t think I’ve reviewed it). Will this Springbank be much better? Will it make me regret not having got a bottle? Let’s see.
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Springbank 15, 2017 Release


On Wednesday I posted a review of a recent release of the Highland Park 12. Here now is a review of the 2017 release of another whisky that I used to enjoy a lot but have inconceivably neglected since my review in 2013 of a bottle from the 2010 release: the Springbank 15. Like the Highland Park 12, this bottle too has been redesigned. But if in the case of the Highland Park 12 what used to be a very unassuming bottle has been completely re-designed (more than once) to its current etched form, all that’s changed in the case of the Springbnk 15 is the label. And I am probably not alone in thinking that it is a change for the uglier rather than the prettier. Whatever else they’re spending their time and money on at the home base in Campbeltown, I’m not sure that they’re spending a lot of either on packaging design. But how about what’s inside the bottle? Has it too changed as the Highland Park 12 has? Read on to find out.  Continue reading

Highland Park 12, Viking Honour


The Highland Park 12 was one of the first whiskies I fell in love with when I started in on single malt whisky. Of course, that was many years and many bottle designs ago. Even though I have included it on both editions of my “Well-Rounded Single Malt Bar” lists, I have to admit that I had lost touch with it for a few years now. I reviewed it in 2014 back before the distillery had doubled down on its alleged Viking heritage (see the discussion in the comments on my write-up of my visit to the distillery last June to see how much this pivot bothers some people). Since then it’s been relaunched in a fancy new bottle with a slightly new name: it’s now the Viking Honour. I guess we have the honour of the Vikings to thank for the preservation of the age statement. Well, okay, that’s a cheap shot: while the distillery has indeed launched a number of NAS whiskies with Viking names it must be said that they’ve preserved their age-stated line and even delivered the occasional age-stated one-off (see the Full Volume). Anyway, I purchased this bottle on sale last year and opened it for a charity auction tasting friends asked me to host last month. I was curious to see what I would make of it—there’s been a lot of talk online about how it has gone completely downhill. Of course, with distilleries like Highland Park it is hard to separate people’s views of the whiskies from their views of their marketing. I liked my first pour at the event but wasn’t paying very close attention. I am now.  Continue reading

Ledaig 11, “Time IV” (The Whisky Exchange)


Okay, after an Armagnac, a Cognac, and a rum, let’s get back to whisky. This 11 yo whisky was released by the Whisky Exchange in a series they called Time. I’ve previously reviewed two of the other releases from this series: a Benrinnes 20 and a “Family Owned Distillery” 15 (probably a Glenfarclas). I was intrigued by the other releases as well but didn’t get around to ordering them before they sold out/TWE stopped shipping to Minnesota. Anyway, I liked both of the others I did buy a lot, and I can tell you the streak continued with this Ledaig. It took me a long time to get around to it—I eventually opened it as a sparring partner with a stupidly sherried Ledaig (also 11 years old and also from the Whisky Exchange). That one had the maximum sherry thing going on with the peat but this bourbon cask whisky held its own quite well. I drank it down quite quickly after opening it. Here now are the particulars.  Continue reading

Ben Nevis 20, 1997 (Berry Bros. & Rudd)


The last indie Ben Nevis I reviewed was excellent—this Archives 27 yo. It featured everything that has made Ben Nevis an unlikely hero in recent years: loads of fruit, malt and nut, and those other savoury, slightly funky notes that make Ben Nevis so unique. Of course, you don’t have to go to older Ben Nevis for these pleasures. The recent official 10 yo is also excellent (though I am not sure what its current status is). This cask from Berry Bros. & Rudd more or less splits the age difference between those two; will it be in line with those two? Or will it be closer to the 19 yo from Montgomerie’s that I reviewed in between those two and which was distilled in the same year? Let’s see.

Ben Nevis 20, 1997 (54.6%; Berry Bros. & Rudd; cask 85; from a bottle split)

Nose: Malty and juicy (orange juice) with a bitter edge that’s partly oak and partly plastic. As it sits the citrus expands and the bitter note moves more in the direction of bitter orange and zest. Water pushes the bitter notes back and pulls out brighter citrus.  Continue reading