Inchgower 20, 1995 (Hepburn’s Choice for K&L)


I have been accused before of reviewing too many long-gone bottles that were never released in the US to begin with. Accordingly, here is a review of a bottle that was a US exclusive and which is no longer available. You’re welcome!

This Inchgower was selected by K&L in California and was released last year (I think). I don’t really put much stock by K&L’s reviews of their own bottles. Driscoll’s notes on Spirits Journal contain a lot of words that are often used to describe whisky but they very rarely seem to describe the specific whisky he is flogging. I’ve been burned once too often by what seemed like good values based on his gushing. These days, therefore, I wait till trustworthy sources report on bottles they’ve purchased. If this means I miss on the occasional quality bottle which sells out before I get a positive report I trust, so be it. Anyway, in this case the positive report I trust came from Michael K. at Diving for Pearls. Michael really liked it. I opened my bottle a few months ago for one of my local group’s tastings but have only just gotten around to reviewing it*.  Continue reading

Aultmore 12


I reviewed a SMWS Aultmore 18 a month or so ago and quite liked it. Accordingly, I’d planned to purchase a bottle of the OB 12 yo on my return to the US. But I ended up picking up a bottle from Royal Mile Whiskies here in London instead. I needed a mild, bourbon cask whisky for my cheese/whisky pairing experiments and it seemed like a good idea to kill two birds with one stone. It turns out to be one of those malts that’s actually cheaper in parts of the US than in the UK—I paid £48 for it here in London. On the other hand, it’s actually available in London but not in Minnesota, so I don’t care too much. Well, you might remember that it turned out to be the most versatile of the malts I attempted to pair with various cheeses—but what is it like when not being paired with cheese? Here is my answer to that question. (By the way, if you know what the Foggie Moss bit on the label is about, please write in: as usual I’m too lazy to look it up.)  Continue reading

Glenfarclas 15


I’ve recently reviewed the Glenfarclas 8, the Glenfarclas 10 and the Glenfarclas 12; here now is my review of the Glenfarclas 15. Like the 8 yo, it is not available in the US. Its status, however, is not as murky as that of the 8 yo: it is a staple of Glenfarclas’ lineup in the UK and Europe. It differs from the other releases in Glenfarclas’ regular age-stated lineup in that it is bottled at 46% abv rather than 40% or 43%. This is apparently because that’s the strength at which George Grant’s grandfather always preferred it. The 15 yo is very popular among whisky geeks, partly because it’s more sherried than its younger siblings, partly because it’s at 46%, and also because it’s dependably good and reasonably priced. Back in the US I tend to hoard my bottles a little jealously as they’re not easy to replace: as the cost of international shipping makes it less of a value, I tend to get my Glenfarclas 15 via friends visiting the UK. Here in London though it’s readily at hand and I’ve been going through this bottle at a rapid rate. So even though I’ve almost drunk the bottle down I’ve not recorded separate notes for different points in its life—as it’s been open just over two weeks. Anyway, let’s get to it. Continue reading

Glenrothes 27, 1989 (Cadenhead’s)


Let’s take a break from the Glenfarclas reviews but let’s stay on the Speyside. Here is a somewhat unusual Glenrothes bottled by Cadenhead’s earlier this year. I don’t believe I’ve ever come across rum cask Glenrothes before and for that matter there’s not that much bourbon cask Glenrothes around. This is from Cadenhead’s “Small Batch” series and is apparently a vatting of a single bourbon barrel and a rum cask of some sort. Wild to think that there was a 27 yo rum cask just laying around. Also intriguing that they wouldn’t just have released it as such—has anyone come across a single rum cask malt of that age? Of course, this might imply that the contents of the cask might not have been that great on their own but it might have been worth it for novelty alone. It’s also possible, of course, that the rum barrel was a finish/double maturation of a cask put away in 1989—though again you have to wonder why that wouldn’t have been worth releasing by itself. Anyway, I haven’t reviewed much Glenrothes on the blog so I’m hoping this will represent the distillery well. And I suppose if I like it there’s a decent chance that it might still be available from the Cadenhead’s shop in London. Let’s see.  Continue reading

Bowmore 11, 2000 (Douglas Laing OMC)


A second whisky review this week as today is the fourth anniversary of this blog going live, and I’ve always marked the anniversaries with a review of a Bowmore. My very first review was of the (then) entry-level Bowmore Legend. On March 24, 2014 I reviewed the official 12 yo, in 2015 the official 18 yo, and in 2016 another official release, the Prestonfield House Malt. This year I have an indie Bowmore. This is from Douglas Laing’s Old Malt Cask line and was bottled before the Laing business split, I think. It is from a sherry butt. There are actually two sherry butt OMC Bowmore 11s from 2000 released in November 2011 (as per Whiskybase). While the label on my sample bottle does not specify, I am pretty sure this is from Cask DL 7791; this because the source of my sample is listed as one of the raters for this cask on Whiskybase but not for the other—Jerome, if you’re reading, can you confirm? Well, whichever cask it is, let’s see what this is like.  Continue reading

Glenfarclas 8


Here’s one for those who complain that I don’t review enough entry-level whisky. That said, I don’t think the Glenfarclas 8 is available in the US. I can’t remember seeing it, at any rate. Then again I haven’t looked for younger Glenfarclas for some time now. For what it’s worth, it doesn’t show up for the US market on Winesearcher either and nor does it seem to be available in the UK. It does seem to be widely available all over Europe and not for very much money. So it’s got that going for it. I’m mostly interested to see the progression from it to the 10 and 12 yo and from there to the 15 yo and 18 yo (this one’s Europe-only too, I think) and the 21 yo. I acquired most of these together in a bottle split some time ago (the 15 yo I’ve had many times before but I’ll probably buy another bottle for regular drinking in London). But let’s start with the 8 yo and see how it goes. I assume that, as with most Glenfarclas, this is from sherry casks of one kind or the other—but I could well be wrong.  Continue reading

Aultmore 18, 1997 (SMWS)

Aultmore 18, 1997
This is the first Aultmore I’ve reviewed on the blog and it may, indeed, be the first Aultmore I’ve ever tried. I can’t recall another and nor can my spreadsheet. Always nice to taste the whisky of a distillery one has never tried before. Of course, there’s no guarantee that this is going to be representative of what they usually put out. Aultmore is in the Speyside and is part of Bacardi’s Scotch whisky holdings. The distillery was mostly known for producing for blends but a couple of years ago they suddenly starting releasing official single malts. Among their current regular releases are a 12 yo, an 18 yo and a 25 yo. I can’t recall how these have been received by the cognoscenti but if I like this one I might be motivated to seek at least the 12 yo out. In the meantime, I have absolutely no idea what Aultmore’s general profile is supposed to be like and so I am going into this with absolutely no preconceptions. Well, let’s get to it.  Continue reading

Glen Grant 31, 1984 (Cadenhead’s)

Glen Grant 31, 1984, Cadenhead's
Last week I reviewed a bourbon cask Glen Grant that was distilled in 1985 and bottled in 2008. This week I have another Glen Grant from that era. This was distilled a year earlier but was bottled quite a bit later, in 2016 by Cadenhead’s. So, it’s not as untimely a review as the previous. It’s also not from a bourbon cask. Despite these important differences I’m interested to see if any obvious throughlines emerge from these two casks from the mid-1980s that might cause me to revise my skepticism about the notion of “distillery character”. I’m also interested to see how long-aged sherry cask Glen Grant from the mid-1980s compares to long-aged sherry cask Glen Grants from an earlier era—such as this excellent older release from Scott’s Selection.

(Cadenhead’s continues to use the -Glenlivet suffix on a number of their Speyside releases. Is this no longer prohibited?)  Continue reading

Glen Grant 23, 1985 (Whisky Import Nederland)

Glen Grant 23, 1985, WIN

Those who are disappointed that I am not reviewing very many whiskies these days will be thrilled to see that this week’s review is of a Glen Grant that was released in the Netherlands almost nine years ago. I will have some more recently released Glen Grants in the weeks to come—I recently hosted a vertical tasting of Glen Grant for members of my local tasting group—but I’m starting with this bottle which I’ve been dipping into regularly since I opened it.

For a lot of people Glen Grant is associated with sherry maturation but it’s a spirit that seems to do very well in bourbon casks as well. It’s not a distillery with a sexy reputation these days, and few people seem to get excited about bourbon cask whisky, especially unpeated bourbon cask whisky, but bourbon cask Glen Grant is well worth a look.  Continue reading

Glenburgie 19, 1995 (Signatory for Binny’s)

Glenburgie 19, 1995, Signatory for Binny's
I was not a big fan of the last Glenburgie I reviewed. That one, a 21 yo and also bottled by Signatory, was part of K&L’s uninspiring lot of single casks from late 2016. This one was bottled for Binny’s in Chicago—in 2014, I believe—and is in fact a sibling of another K&L cask, also 19 years old and from 1995 (K&L got cask 6449 and Binny’s got 6450). Well, I always say that when it comes to bourbon cask whisky I trust the Binny’s selection process far more than that of any other store in the US, and when first opened this bottle bore that out in spades: it was a perfect mix of oak and big fruit with tropical accents. I’d opened it for one of my local group’s tastings and it handily thumped the competition that night. Alas, with time and air in the bottle the fruit seems to have subsided somewhat on the palate—my last couple of small pours did not feature that explosion of fruit. Well, who knows, maybe it will come back again as the bottle sits [foreshadowing].  Continue reading

Home Blend 35, 1980 (Wilson & Morgan)

Home Blend 35, 1980, Wilson & Morgan
This blended whisky was put out by the Italian bottlers, Wilson & Morgan. I’m not sure how it was made—other than noting sherry cask maturation the label does not specify. Was it one of those rare cases of a grain whisky and a malt whisky being combined at distillation and matured as a blend for the full term? Or was it two separate casks married together at the age of 35? Unless the sherry cask was merely a “finishing” or “marrying” cask I’d expect it to be blended at birth (so to speak), as I’m not sure how common maturing grain whisky in sherry casks would have been in 1980. It’s also the case that they released three separate casks of a 35 yo blend in 2015, all from the 1980 vintage. This might suggest that they were all single casks. I assume they came across these casks in someone’s moldering inventory and snapped them up—Wilson & Morgan don’t seem to have released any other such blends at any rate.. If you know more about the antecedents of these casks please write in below.  Continue reading

Glen Garioch 25, 1990 (Signatory)

Glen Garioch 25, 1990, Signatory
I’ve not had much luck with Glen Garioch on the blog. Among the recent official releases I’ve reviewed, I liked the 16 yo Binny’s exclusive but the Founder’s Reserve and the 12 yo didn’t get me very excited. The older independents that I’ve reviewed have also not gone very far past the good/very good boundary. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being on the good/very good boundary—only that I haven’t reviewed a great one yet. This includes three others from the 1990 vintage: a 20 yo and a 22 yo from Kintra Whisky and a 21 yo from Archives. Will this slightly older 25 yo from Signatory be much better? Others who participated in the bottle split this sample came from had very good things to say about it, so I’m hopeful. (By the way, as you may know, in 1990 Glen Garioch were still using malt peated to a higher level than their current output. I believe it was in 1993/94 that their peating regimen changed.) Continue reading

Caol Ila, Feis Ile 2009

Caol Ila Feis Ile 2009
This was bottled for Feis Ile, the annual Islay whisky festival, back in 2009. It’s either a 12 or 13 yo and was bottled from a single sherry cask. My understanding is that the whiskies bottled by Caol Ila for Feis Ile are/were all from casks matured on Islay, at least back in the day—the vast majority of Caol Ila’s spirit, in case you’re wondering, is actually tankered off and matured on the mainland (terroir!). For those of us in the US, most of these Feis Ile bottles are out of reach. I’m always happy to see Laphroaig’s fairly priced Cairdeas—I’m more ambivalent about the Ardbegs that have been launched at Feis Ile in recent years. For all the others, however, you have to either go to Feis Ile or look to marked up bottles at auction. Of all of these releases, Lagavulin’s always garners the most interest—and the greatest auction premiums—but there are those who feel that some of Caol Ila’s releases have been on par with them. This 2009 release is particularly lauded. Let’s see what it’s like.  Continue reading

Bunnahabhain 1988-2004 (Scott’s Selection)

Bunnahabhain 1988-2004, Scott's Selection
This is the second of three Scott’s Selection releases from 2004 that I split with friends when Binny’s put them on a clearance sale a couple of months ago. I’ve already reviewed the Auchentoshan 1983-2004. The oldest of the three, the Glenlivet 1977-2004 is yet to come—though I’m constantly being warned against it.

I *think* that I might actually have tried this Bunnahabhain before. I have a vague memory of it being the malt, a small pour of which led off one of the tastings my friend Rich put together a couple of years ago. If so, I have an even vaguer memory of liking it then. As with all Scott’s Selection releases, there’s very little information out there on this one—no detail on cask type and very few reviews (though it does have a very good rating on Whiskybase). Anyway, let’s see what it’s like.  Continue reading