Benromach 1978-1997 (Scott’s Selection)

Benromach 1978-1997, Scott's Selection
I watched this Benromach 1978 from Scott’s Selection rise in price slowly over nine years at a well-known Twin Cities metro area store. And then this year I finally purchased it. I got it with the idea of doing a bottle split with some fellow whisky geeks but couldn’t find very many people who were interested. I guess people are only interested in 1970s distillate if it’s from a small subset of name distilleries and/or aged well over 20 years. This is either 18 or 19 years old (always hard to know with Scott’s Selection) and Benromach is not a name that sets very many people’s pulses racing. It is one of the Speysiders that uses perceptibly peated malt (Ardmore and the defunct Dallas Dhu are/were two of the others) but it doesn’t really have much of a cult. Maybe things would have been different if it had stayed closed when operations ceased in 1983 (when so many now sought after distilleries closed) but in 1992 Gordon & MacPhail acquired the distillery, and re-opened it at the end of the decade. G&M’s own distillate is now finally online—and I hope to review some of their releases soon (though some of the prices in the US are a little hard to understand). In the meantime please enjoy this blast from an unsexy past.  Continue reading

Old Pulteney 17

Old Pulteney 17
I’ve barely reviewed any Pulteney on the blog, and none from the core age-stated, official range—though I did include the 12 yo in my “well-rounded single malt bar“. Here now is the 17 yo. I believe this is from a bottling from 2012 or so and is a vatting of both bourbon and sherry casks.

Pulteney is in the Northern Highlands—way up in the north of Scotland. Its closest neighbour on the mainland is Clynelish, I believe, and the two Orkney distilleries may be even closer. In terms of profile I usually find it to be close to Balblair (also in the Northern Highlands) and Clynelish—which may say something after all for the notion of regional profiles, which I’m usually suspicious of. Pulteney is the name of the distillery, by the way—Old Pulteney is the name of the whisky produced by the distillery. I believe it used to be the case that independents couldn’t use the “Old Pulteney” name—certainly the case for the older Scott’s Selection and Cadenhead’s bottles I’ve reviewed—but of late I’ve been seeing it on indie labels as well.  Continue reading

Imperial 20, 1995 (Signatory for K&L)

Imperial 20, 1995, Signatory for K&L
Here is the fourth and last review of what has turned out to be a pretty mediocre run of Signatory exclusive casks for K&L. Will this be the one to go past 80 points? I wasn’t terribly impressed with the last two Signatory Imperial 1995s for K&L that I reviewed: those were this 19 yo from last year and this 17 yo from their 2013 run of exclusive casks: I recorded 85 points for the 19 yo and 84 points for the 17 yo. Frankly, after the lackluster Linkwood, Glenburgie and Dufftown from this go-around I’d be very happy if this were a 84 point malt! At any rate, I am very glad indeed that I was able to taste all of these through bottle splits instead of buying full bottles of what seemed like “good values” that I would have completely regretted—as I have on many occasions in the past.

Let’s see how it goes.  Continue reading

Dufftown 18, 1997 (Signatory for K&L)

Dufftown 18, 1997, Signatory for K&L
Ah yes, Dufftown, Homer Simpson’s favourite distillery. I know very little about it and in fact this is the first Dufftown I have ever tasted. I’ve had a G&M exclusive for Binny’s on my shelf for years now but have somehow never felt like opening it—isn’t this fascinating information?! More useful information from Malt Madness tells us that it is named for the part of Speyside it is located in: Dufftown. It has a number of other distilleries as neighbours but the most famous of them all is Glenfiddich. It’s a Diageo distillery, producing almost entirely for blends (Bell’s in particular). There is an official Singleton release but that’s pretty much it outside of the independents.

Anyway, I hope my first Dufftown will be a good one and that it will buck the trend of mediocrity set by the two other recent K&L Signatory exclusives (the Linkwood 19 and the Glenburgie 21, only one of which cracked 80 points).  Continue reading

Glenburgie 21, 1995 (Signatory for K&L)

Glenburgie 21, 1995, Signatory for K&L
K&L’s annual winter parcel of Signatory cask exclusives arrived a few weeks ago. As I did last year, I split these with a bunch of other whisky geeks—the idea being to try before buying. Given David Driscoll’s skill with hype—and the apparent endless market out there for hype—there’s always the risk of things selling out before you get around to tasting a sample, but that’s far better than the risk of spending $80 or more on what seemed like a great deal only to discover that it wasn’t. That was certainly true in spades with the Linkwood 19 that I reviewed last week. It was not terrible but it had absolutely nothing to recommend it. I’m hoping this Glenburgie will be better. Bourbon cask Glenburgie can be very good indeed (see, for example, this official release) and, as it happens, a couple of years ago K&L had another Glenburgie from Signatory that I quite liked. Well, let’s hope this one is closer to that than to this year’s Linkwood. Continue reading

Linkwood 19, 1997 (Signatory for K&L)

Linkwood 19, 1997, Signatory for K&L
Just about a year ago I posted reviews of four exclusive Signatory casks for K&L in California. I split those bottles with a bunch of other people. I liked a couple of them a lot (the Blair Athol 26 and the Benrinnes 20) and while the other two didn’t get me very excited, they were solid malts as well (a Glen Elgin 24 and an Imperial 19). Here I am now with the winter 2016 edition of K&L’s Signatory casks. In addition to this Linkwood 19, there is an Imperial 20, a Dufftown 18 and a Glenburgie 21. Three are priced quite reasonably (<$100); I guess we’re being asked to pay a closed distillery premium for the Imperial ($120). In my review of last year’s Glen Elgin 24 I closed by saying that that bottle only seemed like a good deal for the age if you fetishized a high age statement, not so much for the actual whisky, which was just a middle of the road malt of its type. Still, I did like all of last year’s casks. Will these be at least at that level? Continue reading

Kilkerran Work in Progress 7, Bourbon Wood

Kilkerran, Work in Progress 7, Bourbon Cask
I think the seventh release was the last of Kilkerran’s Work in Progress series. As with the previous couple of Work in Progress releases it came in both “Bourbon Wood” and “Sherry Wood” incarnations. However, this bourbon wood version was released at cask strength. I think by this point these releases were at 10 years old, give or take a year—someone will be along to confirm shortly. I don’t know if there’s a reason why this, of all the WIP releases, was bottled at cask strength (or why the companion sherry wood wasn’t). The regular release 12 yo that followed it this year is at the 46% of all the other Work in Progress releases. Anyway, I quite liked the bourbon cask Work in Progress 6, which I reviewed earlier this month (and which I tasted right before this one) and am looking forward to reviewing the regular 12 yo next month: let’s get this intervening release out of the way first.  Continue reading

Laphroaig 20, 1996 (TWE “Masterpieces”)

Laphroaig 20, 1996, TWE "Masterpieces"
After a week of bourbon reviews (all Four Roses single barrels: here, here and here) let’s close out the month with single malt whisky. This Laphroaig was bottled by the Whisky Exchange for their annual Whisky Show in October and was apparently a huge hit there. Remaining bottles made it to the website with a single bottle limit per customer. I snagged one before it sold out. Why the fuss? Well, it’s a 20 year old Laphroaig from a sherry cask, and a PX sherry cask at that. (I should say that I have no idea if this was matured full-term in a PX cask or if it finished its life in one—these days in the Scotch industry it’s best not to take anything for granted.) Between the Islay premium, the Laphroaig premium and the sherry bomb premium this was not a bargain bottle—but as a Laphroaig fan it was hard for me to look past it. As I’ve said before, the successful marriage of peat and sherry is one of the greatest things in the whisky universe and Laphroaig in particular stands up to heavy sherry really well. Anyway, let’s get to it.  Continue reading

Aberlour 17 (for the Whisky Exchange)

Aberlour 17, Cask 2371, for the Whisky Exchange
I have not reviewed very many Aberlours on the blog and I certainly have reviewed any in a while—the last one was Batch 45 of their ever popular A’bunadh series, which I wasn’t too excited about. Among whisky geeks the A’bunadh is really where the interest in Aberlour seems to lie. The market for big sherry bombs at high strengths is seemingly endless. Those, of course, have no age statements on them and most are likely quite young (<10 yo). I’ve liked a number of the ones I’ve had over the years but have often found others to be either too hot or too woody or both. Accordingly, I was very interested to see this 17 yo bottled especially for the Whisky Exchange, which seems to essentially be a grown-up A’bunadh. Still from first-fill sherry, at cask strength but at a reasonable abv, and all of 17 years old. This should hopefully give some sense of how this distillate does with heavy sherry over a longer period of time.

Incidentally, even though this is a single cask, and the cask number is specified, the Whisky Exchange don’t specify the year of distillation. Since this was bottled in early 2016, however, it’s probably from 1998.  Continue reading

Benrinnes 20 (The Whisky Exchange)

Benriness 20, Time II, The Whisky Exchange
The Whisky Exchange has recently launched a new series that they call Time. Apparently, the intent is to explore the effects of different times of maturation. However, as the series features whiskies of different ages from different distilleries, from different cask types, and of different peating levels, it’s not clear if this exploration of time makes finally for more than a nice label. On the other hand, we should be glad that they’re not going with a timeless theme as so many official releases are these days.

This Benrinnes, the second release in the series, is the oldest of the four that have come out so far. There’s also a 15 yo “nudge, nudge, wink, wink, it’s Glenfarclas”, an 8 yo Glen Moray and an 11 yo Ledaig. I believe they were released at TWE’s annual Whisky Show in October but don’t quote me on that. They all appear to be single cask releases but for some reason the year of distillation doesn’t seem to be noted for any of them and while the number of bottles for each release is listed the cask number is left out—I’m not sure why that is. I’m also not sure what it means that this is listed as a Whisky Exchange bottling and not a Single Malts of Scotland bottling. Is that basically what happens when a release is a TWE store exclusive? Or are they selected by entirely different people as well? Continue reading

Clynelish 25, 1984 (SMWS 26.67)

Clynelish 25, 1990, SMWSA
Well, here’s my first whisky review after the apocalypse. A too quick return to business as usual, you might say; but returning to old routines, I’ve had other, more personal reasons to recently learn, is a good way to deal with potentially paralyzing news. Anyway, as I continue to process what this election means and how I should engage with my world in response to it, here’s one of a few reviews that were written in a more innocent time, when I dared believe Sam Wang’s projection of a >99% chance of a Clinton win. We can’t go forward in complacency or denial but we can’t give up on pleasure either. If we do that then Rudy Giuliani wins.

Clynelish 25, 1984 (48.9%; SMWSA 26.67; refill sherry butt; from a sample from a friend)  Continue reading

Glenfarclas 40

Glenfarclas 40
The Glenfarclas 40 was first released in 2010. It got very good reviews, not least for its very fair price. In the US the retail price was less than $500 and in practice it could be found relatively easily for the next year or two for quite a bit less than that. This was very Glenfarclas. While most original releases of this age were and are released in fancy decanters with ludicrous packaging at prices far above $1000, Glenfarclas just popped their 40 year old in the same bottle and tube in which they sell their 10 yo and put the price in reach of regular punters. This used to be the case with their 30 yo too: not long ago it could easily be found in the UK for just above £100—and their 21 and 25 yo malts have always been very fairly priced vis a vis most of the rest of the market as well. For this reason, perhaps, no one has ever begrudged Glenfarclas for the higher prices on some of their Family Casks releases: they’ve always done right by regular drinkers. That said, the price of the 30 yo has gone up of late and I’m not sure what the status of the 40 yo is—the price being asked for it now in the US is quite a bit higher than $500, and I’m not sure if that’s for what’s left of the original release or if there have been more releases since. If you can shed light on any of this please write in below.  Continue reading

Kilkerran Work in Progress 6, Bourbon Wood

Kilkerran Work in Progress 6, Bourbon Cask
Until Kilkerran’s whisky began to be available a few years ago there were only two functional distilleries in Campbeltown—once the heart of Scottish whisky production. These distilleries were/are Glen Scotia and Springbank. Now Springbank does produce the Hazelburn and Longrow malts as well, but as any whisky geek will tell you, these are merely production variants of Springbank, produced at the same distillery. Kilkerran, however, is distilled at a completely different distillery. Confusingly, the distillery’s name is not Kilkerran but Glengyle. And Glengyle has a long and convoluted history: it was founded in the 1870s but by the early 1900s was not really making whisky anymore. After a number of abortive attempts to get it going again throughout the century it was finally re-started in 2000 by the same people who own Springbank—bringing the distillery full-circle: it was originally started by a member of the same family who’d broken away from the Springbank business. However, at this point Glengyle was a brand name owned by Loch Lomond (who operate Glen Scotia) and so Kilkerran was the name chosen for the malts made at the reopened Glengyle distillery. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 19, Batch 4 (TBWC)

Ben Nevis 19, That Boutiquey Whisky Company
That Boutiquey Whisky Company is a line of whiskies released by Master of Malt, the UK whisky store best known for not being the Whisky Exchange but seemingly desperately wanting to be. Take for example, this series, in 500 ml bottles, that launched after TWE’s 500 ml Elements of Islay series. The TBWC malts, however, are not limited to Islay and have labels as colourful (or garish, if you prefer) as those of Elements of Islay are minimalist. It’s a campier look, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but the problem is that reviewers I trust rarely seem to have overmuch praise for what’s in TBWC’s bottles. That used to generally also be true of Ben Nevis, though its previously dodgy reputation seems to be on the rise of late. I’m on record as saying that Ben Nevis, especially from sherry casks, may well be the next big thing among whisky geeks. It’s certainly true that well-aged, independent, sherried Ben Nevis can still be found at reasonable prices. I’m not sure if this one was reasonably priced though—these TBWC releases are usually priced pretty high as well. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. At least it’s not NAS as many of their earlier releases were (and, to be fair, as every single Elements of Islay release has been).  Continue reading