Let’s start the month with one of the five single cask bottles I opened in the week of my 50th birthday. I selected whiskies that were distilled and/or bottled in significant years of my life. The secondary goal was to end up with a group that spanned the old Scotch regions and also a range of whisky styles that I enjoy. First up from the set is this Glendronach 19. It was distilled in 1993, the year I left India for the US—permanently, as it turned out. This is a PX cask that was bottled for the UK market. It’s one of several 19 year olds distilled that year and bottled in 2012 or 2013—Whiskybase lists 17! Now, we know that at Glendronach “single cask” doesn’t necessarily mean the whisky is from a single cask. And it’s also true that some of the least successful examples of “single cask” whisky from Glendronach have been PX casks (see, for example, this one and also this one). On the other hand, there have also been some I’ve liked (like this one). Where will this one fall?
Let’s see. Continue reading
I started out the week with a review of a 21 yo official Laphroaig. Let’s close out the week’s whisky reviews—and also the month—with a review of a young independent Laphroaig. This is a 9 year old bottled in 2010 by the SMWS. I got a sample in a swap not too long after. I have no memory of who I got it from though: if someone who is reading recognizes their handwriting on this label, please let me know. Confusingly, I also have a full bottle of this—and I’ve not recorded the source of that either (I am not a member of the SMWS). It’s possible that I received two separate samples, tasted one and tracked down a bottle. Or perhaps I traded for a sample and then decided I didn’t need to taste it to pull the trigger on a bottle. In those days it was hard for me to turn down opportunities to buy any affordable Laphroaigs, particularly ones matured in sherry casks as this one was. Well, however, I came to get it, here I am finally opening up this sample. Let’s see if it lives up to the name the SMWS gave it. Continue reading
Today is my 50th birthday. And to mark the occasion I have a review of a whisky from my favourite distillery, Laphroaig. These notes were, of course, not taken today, but I look forward to drinking some more of it tonight—along with a couple of other things. This 21 yo was released to mark the distillery’s 200th anniversary in 2015, one of several bottles released for that commemorative purpose. One of my favourite recent official Laphroaigs was also part of that larger release: the 2015 Cairdeas. On the other hand, I was not blown away by the one-off return of the 15 yo that was also part of the group. Hopefully, this 21 yo will be more in line with the former than with the latter. Unlike those releases this was only available as a 350 ml bottle and initially only available via ballot. It didn’t sell out immediately, however: £99 for 350 ml may have seemed like a lot to people then, I suppose. And the price didn’t seem to rise very quickly on the secondary market either. I purchased it at auction a couple of years later and I believe I paid the original price. Of course, now it would be a different story: £99 would seem like a steal for an official Laphroaig 21. Anyway, let’s see if it gets my 50th birthday celebrations off to a good early start. Continue reading
Benrinnes is a distillery whose whiskies I always find interesting. Sadly, I don’t often get a chance to taste them as there’s not a lot of it around—not in the US anyway. I’ve only reviewed a small handful on the blog. The last time I reviewed a Benrinnes bottled as an exclusive cask for K&L the bottler was Signatory and the cask was 20 years old. Now the bottler is Old Particular and the cask is 15 years old. However, as you will see, I had a similar experience with both: finding notes in them that I was not prepared for by K&L’s tasting notes, in particular, a fair bit of peat. I noted last time that I had worried that the sample had been mislabeled but then heard from others who had found similar things in it. This time I’ve not heard from anyone else. If you too have a sample of this whisky or, better still, an open bottle, do write in below to say if my notes track at all with yours. I’m particularly interested in hearing from you if you are not an employee of K&L. Let’s get to it.
It’s time for my annual Blair Athol review. I’ve not reviewed very many of them and all the ones I’ve previously reviewed have been from sherry casks, I believe (this includes the official 12 yo Flora & Fauna release which may or may not be still a thing). This one, however, is from a bourbon cask, and like many of K&L’s casks from their recent release it’s from a refill hogshead. It’s always interesting to try a malt in a different guise than its norm and refill hogsheads are—in principle anyway—a good thing. Let’s see if this one rewards that confidence.
Blair Athol 21, 1997 (56.1%; Old Particular for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Malt, a bit of sugar, some apple. Pleasant but somewhat generic right off the bat. With a bit of time there’s some more sweeter fruit (berries of some kind) but it’s still not terribly interesting. With more time there’s some vanilla and some pastry crust. With time and a few drops of water the fruit is a little more pronounced. Continue reading
Let’s close out the week’s whisky reviews with yet another K&L exclusive. On Monday I reviewed a Tamdhu 19. I liked it, thought it was very drinkable indeed, but was not blown away by it. Today I have a Ben Nevis that is a year younger. As regular readers of the blog know, I am generally a big fan of contemporary Ben Nevis. The distillery’s malt usually provides a very unique mix of fruit, malt and a characteristic funk that is very hard to describe. Will this one be in that vein? I certainly hope so. Let’s see.
Ben Nevis 18, 2001 (52.8%; Old Particular for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Takes a few seconds to open up and then there’s some lemon with a prickly, peppery mineral note alongside. Below that is some malt, some sweet notes of vanilla and cream and just a bit of that Ben Nevis gasoline funk. As it sits richer, muskier fruit begins to gather in the background but doesn’t quite pop out—maybe with more time? Well, not so much with time but with water there’s sweeter fruit (peach?) and it melds nicely with the malt and the cream. Continue reading
There are a lot of things I post on the blog that most of my old whisky readership has no interest in: recipes, restaurant reviews, pictures of markets, reviews of old blended whiskies. Accordingly, here is a review of a Black & White released sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s. I expect it will be enjoyed by the tens of visitors who also read my review of a late 1940s/early 1950s Ballantine’s back in December. As for myself, I will be happy if I like this one as much as I liked that one. This is not actually my first review of a Black & White from the days of yore. Back in 2013, just a few months into the blog’s existence, I’d reviewed one from the 1960s. That was an unscored review but my notes indicate that I quite liked it. Let’s see how this one fares.
Black & White (43.4%; Late 1940s/Early 1950s release; from a bottle split)
Nose: Mild sweet notes (orange) mixed with putty and a decent whack of peat (though not medicinal). The peat gets more organic as it sits (dead rat). Some brine in there too with time. Gets maltier with a few drops of water and some mildly honeyed notes emerge as well. Continue reading
Another week, another K&L exclusive. This here is a 19 year old whisky from another distillery I haven’t had a lot of; again because there hasn’t always been such a huge amount of its malt out there, certainly not in the US. I’m one of the few people who enjoyed the old Tamdhu 10 from 10-12 years ago but haven’t followed it since it got the Coke bottle-style redesign. Actually, I just looked up the official website and it appears the current 10 year old is a limited edition being sold for the very reasonable price of £120. For reference, the old 10 yo used to be available <$30. (In fact, as I think about it I may still have a bottle of the old 10 yo—perhaps I’ll open it next month.) The regular lineup now includes a 12 yo and a 15 yo plus a couple of NAS releases. If you have tried any of these please write in below to let me know if I’m missing an experience I shouldn’t miss. Meanwhile. I have reviewed a few indie Tamdhus of this approximate age before (see here and here for the two most recent). In fact the last one I reviewed was also in the Old Malt Cask line—part of the release commemorating the 20th anniversary of the label—and I quite liked it. Will this be as good or better? I hope so. Let’s see. Continue reading
I’ve only reviewed three Aultmores prior to this one, all in 2017 (here, here and here). I’d love to say that 2020 will be the year when I get my Aultmore review count into the double digits but there’s not very much Aultmore out there to be reviewed—very little that’s available in the US at any rate. A pity, as I’ve liked all the (few) Aultmores I’ve tried, even if none have gotten me very excited. Will this—the oldest I’ve yet tried, from the reliable indie outfit, Maltbarn—be the one that gets me very excited? I certainly hope it won’t be the one that I don’t like at all. Let’s see.
Aultmore 21, 1997 (50.7%; Maltbarn; bourbon cask; from a bottle split)
Nose: Fruity ex-bourbon goodness with apple cider, pear and lemon. On the second sniff there’s some malt and a slightly grassy note along with a bit of candle wax and a touch of white pepper. The fruit gets muskier as it sits (pineapple). With a few drops of water there’s a sweet floral note to go with the pineapple. Continue reading
Last month I reviewed whiskies from Port Ellen and Brora. Here now is a whisky from another distillery that closed in the early 1980s but whose post-closure releases have not developed the aura, on the whole, that the whiskies from Port Ellen and Brora have: the Lowlands distillery, Linlithgow/St. Magdalene. I’ve only reviewed two other Linlithgows (and not had very many more than two). At the time of my first review (also of a 1982 distillation), I noted that I did not know if anything distinguished the malt released under the Linlithgow name from that released as St. Magdalene. Almost six years later, I still don’t; if you know the answer, please write in below. This particular Linlithgow was released in 2011 or 2012 by Mackillop’s Choice. I’m not entirely sure if Mackillop’s Choice is still on the go (another question for the better informed to answer)—at any rate, I don’t see any 2019 releases from them on Whiskybase and there were only a handful in 2018. Anyway, let’s get to the whisky! Continue reading
The Singleton of Glen Ord is the Singleton release Diageo sends to the Asian market. Or at least it used to. Does it still do so? Is the Singleton series still on the go? These are questions for more informed people to answer. I did note that Diageo put a Singleton of Glen Ord 18 on their special release roster last year—though I don’t believe I’ve read any reviews of it. Anyone know what it was like?
I’d planned to review it when I first put it on the possible reviews list a few months ago. But LV33’s comment denigrating it put me off—I am a very impressionable sort, you see. But the sample sat around making sad eyes at me and I was no longer able to avoid it. Here, therefore, with some trepidation is my review.
Last month I reviewed a Bowmore 14, 1996 bottled by A.D. Rattray for BevMo. This is not that Bowmore 14, 1996. It is another one bottled at the same time but which for some reason does not show up on Whiskybase or have much of any other kind of trail online. I purchased a bottle in the Hollywood BevMo not too long after it was released and finished it not too long thereafter (before starting the blog). As per my spreadsheet I liked it a lot. Reviewing the other one reminded me of this one and the likelihood that I had saved a 6 oz reference sample of it—as used to be my practice back then with all bottles I owned.Sure enough, when I looked there it was. And here now is a formal review.
Bowmore 14, 1996 (59.1%; A.D. Rattray for BevMo; bourbon cask 960029; from a reference sample saved from my own bottle) Continue reading
Speaking of Highlands peat, here’s a Brora. While Ardmore is in the eastern Highlands (some would even say the Speyside), Brora/Clynelish is located in the northern Highlands, well north of Inverness (though not quite as far north as Wick). The old Brora distillery, shut down in 1983 along with so many others, is, as you probably know, in the process of being revived (along with Port Ellen). We stopped at Clynelish on the way to Orkney in 2018 but didn’t have time to do a hard hat tour of the Brora premises. Somehow I don’t think I’ll get the opportunity again. I also don’t think I’m going to have too many more opportunities to drink the whisky produced by the old Brora (which was itself the old/original Clynelish distillery) as it’s now all priced well above my pay grade. I have a few samples and one unopened indie bottle left and that’ll be it. So it goes.
This is an official release. It was the seventh, I think, in Diageo’s special releases of Brora, and the first and only 25 year old released in the series. From what I can tell it has a more up and down reputation than the 30 year olds released before and after it. I’m curious to see what I make of it or if I find it appreciably different than the 30 yo 5th and 6th releases that I have reviewed. Continue reading
Oh no, it’s another peated whisky. For a change, however, it’s a very recently released whisky and in fact it may still be available—yes, I checked, it is. It’s another from K&L’s recent parcel of exclusives from the Laing companies. As you know, some of my reviews from this batch have endeared me even more to K&L’s staff. What can I say? I’m easy to love.
Anyway, Ardmore: usually good, and usually not very much of it available from the distillery’s owners. Last year I reviewed a 22 year old released to mark the 20th anniversary of the Old Malt Cask line (another Laing property) and really liked it. This one is about the half the age of that one. It’s from a barrel which might bode some risk of over-oaking—barrels are smaller than hogsheads—but it’s a refill barrel. I’m a fan of Ardmore’s brand of fruit and highland peat. Let’s hope it’s on display here. Continue reading
Let’s make it two weeks in a row of reviews of peated whiskies. This also rounds out a week of reviews with terrifically low utility. On Wednesday I reviewed a Caol Ila sold exclusively at the distillery in 2017; on Monday I reviewed a Port Ellen released in 2011. Today I have a Longrow 14 that was released in 2010. The last Longrow 14 I reviewed was from the 2011 release, so I appear to be going backwards in time. Someday I hope to review one released less than nine years ago (I don’t seem to have any in the stash). If you’ve had a more recent release perhaps you can tell me if my notes on the 2010 and 2011 releases track with what the 14 yo is like now. Okay, on to the review!
Longrow 14, 2010 Release (46%; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: The usual Longrow goodness. That is to say, sweet, mineral peat along with a bit of coal smoke and below all of that lemon and salt. The lemon gets more preserved as it sits and there’s some savoury gunpowder. A few drops of water brightens the lemon up a bit. Continue reading
A few weeks ago I reviewed the Lagavulin Distillery Exclusive from 2017. Here now is the Caol Ila Distillery Exclusive from the same year. (Neither of these were “fill your own” casks”.) I visited Caol Ila as well in June 2017—as with the Lagavulin exclusive, I don’t believe I saw this on the shelves at the distillery either. The Lagavulin was made in a somewhat complicated manner, involving moscatel casks (which used to be/is the cask type used in the Caol Ila Distiler’s Edition). I’m not sure, however, how this one is made—Whiskybase does not say. It would be fitting if this involved PX casks (which is what the Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition is “finished” in). I don’t mean to give Diageo any ideas for future releases though; on the other hand, if something like this starts happening I hope you will be willing to serve as witnesses in my intellectual property infringement suit against them. Okay, enough folly! Let’s get to the whisky itself and see what it’s like.
The fifth Port Ellen entry in the Whisky Exchange’s Elements of Islay series was released in 2011, I think. And it may have been the last of the Port Ellens released in that series—at least Whiskybase does not list a Pe6. I’ve been sitting on this sample since early 2012. I acquired this sample through a rare act of honesty on my part: I had placed an order for a Karuizawa from TWE (this was back when Karuizawas could be acquired for <$200) and due to a glitch in their systems was charged only a fraction of the price. I alerted Tim Forbes who was then doing web stuff for TWE, and who was also a member of the then-very active Whisky Whisky Whisky forums. He confirmed that I was not in fact a winner of a special lottery and, as appreciation for my letting him know, threw a few fancy samples in with the order, one of which was this one. Why it has then taken me almost 8 years to drink it, I couldn’t tell you. Anyway, being released in 2011 it is at least 28 years old (Port Ellen closed in 1983) and probably a bit older. It’s also from a sherry cask, as three of the other four Elements of Islay Pe releases had been as well. It was very well received at the time. I, of course, did not buy a bottle because I thought it was horrendously overpriced. Cut to the present where the multiplier for any Port Ellen released in 2011 is about 10x. Anyway, let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
The Jazz Festival series is Lagavulin’s second annual series of special releases, bottled to commemorate the Islay Jazz festival every autumn. As I noted in my review of the 2015 Jazz Festival release, this series doesn’t seem to inspire the mania of the summer Feis Ile releases. This is doubtless due to the unpredictable vagaries of the collectors’ market which is anything but rational. Certainly, I liked the 2015 Jazz Festival release a lot. That bodes well for this 2017 release which, like the 2015, is comprised of spirit matured in refill American oak hogsheads and refill European oak butts. This is not the standard regimen for these releases: the intervening 2016 release—which I picked up a bottle of at the distillery in 2017—was matured only in American oak. In practice, however, the 2015 release did not betray much, if any, palpable sherry influence; I’m curious to see if this will be any different in that regard. Let’s see. Continue reading