Family Owned Distillery, 15 (The Whisky Exchange)


At the risk of lapsing into relevance, here is a review of another whisky that is still available. It is an exclusive for the Whisky Exchange, who had it as the first release in their somewhat confusingly conceived series called “Time”. Confusing because, as I noted while reviewing the second release in this series (this Benrinnes 20), it’s not clear how drinking whiskies of different ages from different distilleries is supposed to give you much sense of time as a variable—which I think is the rationale of the series. More importantly, however, this is a very good whisky. I was a little surprised to discover today that it’s still available. Perhaps the fact that there’s no distillery name on the bottle has something to do with it? Though you’d think most whisky geeks would just assume this is a Glenfarclas. That’s what I had assumed as well, and my initial pours had borne out that assumption. However, as the bottle has gone on, I could just as easily swear that it is a Balvenie (also a family owned distillery). The language of the TWE listing probably indicates it’s a Glenfarclas: Balvenie is not thought of as being “classically sherried”. Anyway, while I’ve liked this a lot from the get-go, it’s the second half of the bottle that’s really been great—and it’s from that part of the bottle that these notes were taken. Here they are.  Continue reading

Tomatin 12, 2016 Release


I last reviewed the Tomatin 12 about two years ago. It’s a malt that I’ve always enjoyed as a casual sipper and it was historically always a very good value (as is the Tomatin 18). The Tomatin packaging has received a makeover since then: with all new bottles and labels and a generally more premium look (I suppose: I always liked the clean labels of the previous design). It didn’t see a bump in the abv, however. Anyway, I’d been curious to see if there had been any significant change to the whisky inside the bottle as well and picked up a bottle late last year. I’ve since taken it to two of my local whisky group’s tastings (always blind) and it did well at both—this was particularly pleasing to a few of our members who are forever complaining that I make them taste whiskies that they like but can never actually find. You won’t have any trouble finding this one, no matter where you live. But what is it like? Here are my notes. Continue reading

Port Charlotte PC7


After a very timely review on Friday (the new Laphroaig Cairdeas) let’s go back to another late 2000s release. This is also from Islay but was released a year after last Monday’s Caol Ila. It’s also a fair bit younger: 7 years old, to be exact. It was the third release in Bruichladdich’s limited edition run towards what became the regular Port Charlotte 10. I’ve not had the PC5; I’ve reviewed the PC6 (good, but nothing special, I thought) and the PC8 (which I really liked). I have unopened bottles of the PC9 and PC10 on the shelf—I’m not sure where the series stands now.

I opened this bottle for my local group’s August tasting. It was a big hit there, garnering some big scores from a few people. I quite liked it too and have been looking forward to sitting down and taking some formal notes. Here they are.  Continue reading

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2017


A shockingly timely whisky review for once.

The 2017 edition of Laphroaig’s Feis Ile release, the Cairdeas, landed in the US this month. You will recall that Laphroaig are the only Islay distillery that release their Feis Ile bottle in the US. They’re also the only one who seem to envision their festival bottling as intended for everyone and not just for those willing to spend a lot of money, either by going to Islay or on an auction site. This cost £77 on Islay (where a lot of it was still available in the distillery shop a few weeks after Feis Ile) and in Minnesota it seems to be going between $70 and $85, and is available at a number of stores including a big chain. Compare this with the cost and contortions necessary to get your hands on the Feis Ile releases from any of the other Islay distilleries. Continue reading

Caol Ila 1984-2007 (Scott’s Selection)


There’s been a lot of conversation on the blog recently about older whiskies that was spurred by a question about an older Pulteney 1977 released by Scott’s Selection in 2005. One of the reasons, I think, that so many of those Scott’s Selection releases from the mid-late 2000s stuck around for so long—and some are still around—is because there was and is so little information on them available. Very few people have reviewed them—and many of us whisky geeks whose wallets have bottoms are quite risk-averse. This is why it took me a long time to get around to finally pulling the trigger on some of those bottles, even if only as part of splits with friends. This Caol Ila, however, I purchased without a second thought when a store in the Twin Cities put it on sale at 15% off last year, bringing the price below $200 (I’d never seen it at the original price and so was able to rationalize the cost against prices for current Caol Ilas of similar age). They had another bottle but the cork was defective and it had leaked at least 50 ml—after tasting this bottle I told the manager I’d take the chance and take it off his hands if he discounted it quite a bit more but he was not willing to do so. I guess that’s a spoiler alert: yes, I quite like this one and have been drinking it down at a steady clip since opening it right after purchase. Here now, before I finish the bottle, are my notes.  Continue reading

Bowmore, Bw5 (Speciality Drinks)


If like me you were ever confused about the relationship between the Whisky Exchange and Speciality Drinks, under whose name all the TWE releases (Elements of Islay, Single Malts of Scotland, Whisky Trail etc.) were released, you can add a new name to the mix: Speciality Drinks is history and has been replaced by Elixir Whisky Distillers; or maybe I should say that Speciality Drinks is now named Elixir Whisky Distillers. Apparently, a completely separate operation with the folks who work at the Whisky Exchange’s retail end not involved at all in picking casks etc. (which they may not have been before either, I suppose). This Bowmore, however, was released in the Elements of Islay series before the bottlers’ name changed. I’ve previously reviewed a few Ardbegs (Ar1 and Ar2) and Lagavulins (most recently, the Lg6) and a Laphroaig (Lp1) and a Caol Ila (the Ci1). As you can tell this is the fifth Bowmore they’ve released. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Tomintoul 30, 1985 (Cadenhead)


Please admire the picture of the empty sample bottle at left. I failed to take a photograph of it before drinking the contents. I did remember to take tasting notes on it though, so that’s something.

I have so far reviewed only four Tomintouls on the blog. Only one was a young expression and that was a 8 yo from some decades ago. The others may well have been distilled around the same time as that one but were bottle at much older ages: a 45 yo for Chester Whisky, a 44 yo released in the US by Samaroli and a 42 yo from Kintra Whisky. I liked them all. For a while at least, super-aged Tomintouls from the late 1960s were ubiquitous and given the distillery’s low-key reputation, not very expensive. This one is also old—though not quite as old as those three indies—but is from 1985. It’s a single cask bottled by Cadenhead last year, I believe. And as with so many Cadenhead releases from Speyside distilleries it bears the Glenlivet suffix, which I was under the impression the Glenlivet distillery had long ago managed to prevent other distilleries from using. If anyone knows how Cadenhead gets to keep using it, please let me know. Continue reading

Is It Worth It? Buying Old(er) Whisky in 2017


This post is brought to you by two recent questions. One was asked of me last week by (ir)regular commenter Ol’ Jas regarding a 1977 Pulteney bottled by Scott’s Selection in the mid-2000s: he wanted input on whether it was worth it at the price. This pointed question focused for me another I’d been turning over in the back of my mind in the last couple of weeks while drinking down a bottle of Talisker 18, purchased some years ago at a much lower price than is currently being asked for it: it’s a whisky I like a lot, it’s one of the first whiskies I thought of as great when I first started getting into single malts in a big way, but I can’t be sure that I will ever buy a bottle of it again. Both scenarios have shifting price in common—that bottle of Pulteney was also being sold for quite a bit more than would have been asked for it five years ago, leave alone at release—but they’re not quite the same thing. And there are, of course, other kinds of scenarios as well which arise in relation to changing prices and the nebulous questions of value. And so, I thought I’d turn this into a blog post in its own right, less with a view to settling these questions and more to ask my readers how you negotiate them. Continue reading

Aultmore 19, 1997 (Cadenhead’s)


Here is the fourth of five minis I purchased from Cadenhead’s shop in London in early May. They were all from their early 2017 outturn, I believe. I have previously reviewed the Pulteney 11, 2006, the Balmenach 12, 2004 and the Glen Spey 15, 2001: in order of increasing age, and I liked them pretty much in that order. If the pattern holds I should like this Aultmore 19 even more than I did the Glen Spey—which will be good as none of the others got me very excited. I’ve had and reviewed very few Aultmores before this but have liked the others—including the official 12 yo. My hopes are therefore high on that count as well.

(I seem to have unaccountably not taken a separate picture of this mini before opening it, drinking the contents and throwing the bottle away, but, if you hold up a magnifying glass and squint, you can see it right behind the Glen Spey.)  Continue reading

Glen Grant 22, 1992 (Single Malts of Scotland)


Here is the last of the Glen Grants I’d said I’d review back in February; and it’s the last Glen Grant I’ll probably review for a while. Like the Whisky-fässle and Maltbarn bottles I reviewed recently, this is also from 1992, but it is two years older than those two. It’s also unlike them in that it’s smoky, which I was not quite expecting. Now, the Whisky Exchange’s notes do mention “a distinct whiff of wood smoke” but there’s quite a bit more than a whiff here—everyone in my local tasting group remarked it when the bottle was opened earlier this year and if anything it’s got stronger as the bottle’s stayed open. In fact, I would say it’s smokier than indicated in Whisky Magazine’s notes, which do mention smoke. Surprisingly, Serge Valentin’s notes on Whiskyfun don’t mention smoke at all—that one’s a bit of a head-scratcher; there are no notes on it on Whiskybase. If you’ve had it, please write in and let me know if you found no/faint/palpable smoky notes.  Continue reading

Glenrothes 1980-2005 (Scott’s Selection)


I’ve not reviewed much Glenrothes on the blog, even though I keep saying I should review more. This is mostly because my interest in Glenrothes peaked and then faded before I started the blog. There isn’t much independently bottled Glenrothes around, and official Glenrothes, despite their unique bottles and their idiosyncratic approach to vintages and age statements, began to taste a little too generic to me: they were rarely poor but they never got me too excited. I quite liked the 1985-2005 and a 1991-2006 (neither of which I have reviewed) but nothing since has really made me want to seek out more—and the few tastes I’ve had of their more recent non-vintage/NAS offerings have been less encouraging still. (Though I do have one much older official release that I found in a now-closed supermarket in Los Angeles’ Koreatown a couple of years ago at more or less the original price. I’m saving that one for a special occasion.)  Continue reading

Glen Grant 20, 1992 (Whisky-Fässle)


Last week, I had a review of a Glen Grant 20, 1992 from a German bottler (Maltbarn). This week I have another. This one is from a bourbon hogshead and the bottler is Whisky-Fässle, whose releases I’ve generally had good luck with (though I’ve not reviewed many on the blog). I opened this bottle earlier this year along with the Maltbarn, a 23 yo from Whisky Import Nederland and another from 1992 bottled by the Whisky Exchange (review coming soon), all as part of a Glen Grant vertical for a subset of my local tasting group. We all liked this one more than the Maltbarn then, though the family resemblance was/is very strong. I drank the bottle down rather quickly after my return from London about a month ago—like the Maltbarn, it’s a particularly good summer malt—and I think I may have enjoyed the second half of the bottle more than the first. Here, before it’s all gone, are my notes. Continue reading

Glen Grant 20, 1992 (Maltbarn)


Back in February I’d posted a review of a Glen Grant 23, 1985 and said I’d have more Glen Grant reviews in the weeks to come. Because I am a shameless liar I only posted one more Glen Grant review in the roughly 20 weeks that came after that. But what is time? An illusion, a fog. Here we are now in mid-July and the weeks fall away like magic and we’re returned to that halcyon time when all three people who read this blog regularly were agog at the thought of successive weeks of reviews of Glen Grants that are no longer available and were only available in Europe to begin with. See, dreams can come true.

This was bottled by Maltbarn, a small German independent bottler. This was only their 12th release—I’m not sure what number they’re up to now. The label says “ex-sherry butt” but, as you’ll see, it’s not exactly a sherry monster. Continue reading

Atholl Highlander


As noted in my report on a quick visit to Tomatin, we’d spent a few hours that day at Blair Castle. (There is, of course, a distillery near Blair Castle as well (Blair Atholl) but we did not go there.) As I’ve also noted, we really enjoyed Blair Castle. We didn’t really know what to expect as it doesn’t look like your classic grey, stone fortress. But it turned out to be a great first stop on a rainy day, with a nice woodland drive to it from the A9 as a bonus. The castle has a large number of rooms open to visitors and it’s particularly good with small children as they have a detailed activity sheet that keeps them occupied and interested during the self-guided tour. Alas, due to the rain we were not able to visit their gardens, which are apparently rather lovely. Blair Castle, as you may know, has a private army, the Atholl Highlanders. We missed their annual parade and gathering by about 10 days but didn’t miss this whisky which is said to be  bottled “Exclusively for the Atholl Highlanders” but is also available to any and all civilians in the gift shop. It’s not expensive but I restricted myself to a mini, which, later that evening, became the first highland malt that I drank in the highlands. Unfortunately, it was not the best highland malt I had in the highlands… Continue reading