Kilkerran 8, CS


I don’t really keep up with whisky news any more and so I don’t really know much about how or why it is that Glengyle released this 8 yo Kilkerran last year. The only other age-stated Kilkerran I know of is the 12 yo (which I reviewed here) and so I’m not sure why they seem to have followed it up with a younger one—isn’t that what the Work in Progress series was for? I guess we should just be glad that they’re putting age statements on their new whiskies.

This is put together entirely from bourbon casks—and as I recall, I quite liked the last Work in Progress release I tried that was from bourbon casks and at cask strength. Let’s hope this one is as good (though it’s a bit younger than the other). I haven’t tried all the Work in Progress releases but I haven’t yet tried any Kilkerrans that I thought were less than good.  Continue reading

Laphroaig 18, 1995 (SMWS 29.148)


Let’s get the year started off right with a Laphroaig. This was bottled a couple of years ago by the Scotch Malt Whisky Association and they managed to give it a less whimsical name than usual. Well, I guess “A Fantastic Fusion of Flavours” isn’t exactly restrained but at least it’s easy enough to decipher. I first tasted this at one of my friend Rich’s peat-themed whisky gatherings in St. Paul right after it was released, and when our host offered to purchase bottles from the SMWSA for anyone who wanted one, I jumped at it.

Fast forward a few years to a rough review from Michael K. on Diving for Pearls. This shook me, as Michael and I are usually not very far apart on our evaluation of whiskies. Was it possible, I wondered, that I’d over-estimated my small taste of this whisky on account of the tasting context? I opened the bottle right after reading Michael’s review and was relieved to discover I still liked it a lot. And then I realized that his notes were not actually far away from my own—it’s just that he didn’t like what it all added up to and I did. Always a good reminder: it’s not scores that matter but notes. And on that note, here are my own.  Continue reading

Bowmore 18, Manzanilla Cask


Not an exclusive release for the Whisky Exchange, but a currently available, recent release. Bowmore have released a couple of whiskies in what they’re calling the Vintner’s Trilogy. There’s this one, which is 18 years old—matured in ex-bourbon casks for 13 years and then in ex-Manzanilla sherry casks for another five (five years seems too long to be called a “finish”). There’s also a 26 year old which spent 13 years in ex-bourbon casks and another 13 in French wine casks. And the third will be released next year: a 27 yo whose second maturation will be in port pipes. This 18 yo is probably the only one you should expect to see me review. It runs around £100 in the UK whereas the 26 yo is around £400.

I was interested in this one as Bowmore’s generally coastal profile should in theory be a good match with dry, yeasty Manzanilla sherry notes. Let’s see if that proves to be the case.  Continue reading

Tobermory 19, 1994 (Single Malts of Scotland)


Let’s make it three malts from The Whisky Exchange in a row for the week. This one was bottled not by Signatory and not this year (unlike Monday’s Bowmore and Wednesday’s Clynelish). This was released a few years ago by the Speciality Drinks division of the company (now known as Elixir Distillers even though they don’t actually distill anything as far as I know) in their Single Malts of Scotland series. While there are a lot of sherried Ledaigs about—Ledaig, as you know, is the name for Tobermory’s peated variant—there is not as much sherried Tobermory available and so this caught my eye back then. I opened it recently for one of my local group’s tastings (dedicated to sherried whiskies) and it did quite well. While deviants like Florin—the fifth man on the moon—will disagree, it’s entirely possible that sherry aging is needed to saw off Tobermory’s nastier bits. In this case it’s also a sherry hogshead which means greater oak contact. Anyway, here are my notes.  Continue reading

Clynelish 21, 1995 (Signatory for The Whisky Exchange)


It’s intoxicating, being a blogger who posts reviews of currently available whiskies! After Monday’s Bowmore, here is another Signatory exclusive for The Whisky Exchange. I’d guess they were released at the same time (were there others?). This one is quite a bit cheaper despite being older and despite being from another name distillery and also despite being from a sherry cask. As to whether being from a sherry cask is a good thing for Clynelish is another matter. There are those who believe that Clynelish is Clynelish only when matured in bourbon casks. Me, I like to keep an open mind. I’ve previously liked my fair share of ex-sherry Clynelish—including this one that was also distilled in 1995—and I’ve also had ex-bourbon Clynelish, including those from the alleged, magic year of 1997 that did not get me too excited. And even if it isn’t very Clynelish I’m not going to be too disappointed as long as it’s at least a good whisky.  Continue reading

Bowmore 15, 2001 (Signatory for The Whisky Exchange)


Since I am the kind of blogger who regularly posts reviews of whiskies that are currently available (see my recent reviews of the Ardbeg 10, the Lagavulin 12 CS, the Highland Park “Full Volume”, Old Weller Antique etc.), here is a review of a Bowmore 15 that is still available. It’s true that it’s only available from The Whisky Exchange in London, but how much do you want from me?! Does nothing satisfy you?!

This is an exclusive bottling for TWE by Signatory and it costs a pretty penny. 16,000 pretty pennies, to be exact—which may seem to you—as it does to me—like a lot of pennies for a 15 yo Bowmore from an ex-bourbon cask (not, in the abstract, such a rare commodity). However, the price is said to be justified by its fruity quality and so when the opportunity to split a bottle with a few people arose, I jumped at it. At this price, you want to try before you buy. Well, let’s try it now.   Continue reading

Ardbeg 10, 2016 Release


Three relevant whisky reviews in one week: who am I and what have I done with myself?

Like the Old Weller Antique, the Ardbeg 10 is not a special release. Unlike the Old Weller Antique, it’s actually available everywhere whisky is sold. Amid all the shenanigans that Ardbeg have gotten up to since they re-opened, their 10 yo has been the mainstay of their range, Unlike the Uigeadail and the Corryvreckan (which came later), there have not been many reports of changes in its character or even of decline. I’ve previously reviewed bottles from 2007 and 2009 and liked them a lot; more to the point, Serge V. gave the 2015 release 89 points. That should bode well, in theory, for this bottle which was released in 2016. By the way, it’s become much easier to read the bottle codes on Ardbeg bottles (see below): I don’t know how the Ardbeg obsessives are coping with the loss of their special codes.  Continue reading

Lagavulin 12 CS (2017)


At the risk of becoming a relevant reviewer, here is another whisky released this autumn and reasonably widely available across the US: the 2017 edition of the Lagavulin 12 CS. The Lagavulin 12 CS is a fixture on Diageo’s annual special releases roster and is, along with the Caol Ila Unpeated, the most affordable of those whiskies and, by itself, the most dependable of them. I’ve previously reviewed the 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 editions and liked them all very much. The Lagavulin 16 is always excellent and so is the Lagavulin 12 CS. Sadly, it’s not easy to find in the $80-85 range any more and so when I saw a bottle as I was picking up the Highland Park “Full Volume”, I couldn’t resist buying it as well. I am not sure why I ended up opening it right away, well before the bottles of the 2014, 2015 and 2016 releases that are also languishing on the shelf; but maybe the people who give me grief for not being a relevant reviewer will get off my back now.  Continue reading

Macduff 31, 1980 (Wilson & Morgan)


This is the very first Macduff I have ever reviewed. It is also, I believe, the very first Macduff I have ever had—my spreadsheet does not record any other. Not much Macduff is available, and what is available is usually under the Glen Deveron name. In fact, Winesearcher currently shows nothing available in the US under either name. So for my American readers this is a particularly useless review. Not only is this whisky unavailable but if it should pique your interest in the distillery, it does not appear that we can even find anything else from them here. Such is life.

Macduff, part of the Bacardi/John Dewar holdings, is located in the Speyside and is a relatively new distillery. It was founded in the 1960s, and has mostly produced whisky for the owners’ blends. And at various points the distillery has in fact been named Glen Deveron. Some identity issues, obviously but that’s not all that’s unusual about them. They also apparently run a combination of two wash and three spirit stills. As to whether this is an interesting fact is a different matter. But I’m certainly hoping this older Macduff will be.  Continue reading

Glendronach 20, 1994 (for Abbey Whisky)


It’s been more than two years since I’ve reviewed a Glendronach. That was a review of the 15 yo Revival, which was about to go on hiatus at the time. I’m not sure what the situation is with that or the 18 yo Allardice, especially as the distillery’s ownership has changed since then, with Billy Walker moving on to Glenallachie. I’m also not sure what the new ownership has been doing with Glendronach’s single cask program—I haven’t paid much attention to that either, having gotten slowly turned off the distillery as a whole since learning about their “single cask” shenanigans. I do have a bunch of single cask Glendronachs on my shelf, however—though I haven’t purchased any in the last couple of years—and my ambivalence about the distillery does not extend to refusing to open and drink or review them. This particular cask was bottled for Abbey Whisky, a British online store. I’ve previously reviewed another Glendronach exclusive to them—an oloroso cask—and it was that one that led me to purchase this one. I opened it at one of my friend Rich’s whisky gatherings up in the Twin Cities, and while a number of people there really liked it, I was not very convinced by it (and nor was he, I think). I’ve since taken it to my local tasting group’s most recent tasting as well and most people there loved it. I liked it a bit more on that occasion but not very much more. Continue reading

Highland Park 17, 1999, “Full Volume”


Less than a week ago, I complained in my review of an ex-bourbon cask Highland Park bottled by A.D. Rattray that the distillery itself doesn’t see fit to give us ex-bourbon Highland Park, one of the true secret pleasures of the single malt whisky world. It was very soon pointed out to me by EricH in the comments that one of the distillery’s most recent releass, Full Volume, is in fact all ex-bourbon whisky. I had actually been aware of the existence of this whisky but, as I noted, its stupid name had led me to believe that it was one more in Highland Park’s unending series of NAS whiskies, and so I’d ignored it. Lo and behold, it turns out to not only have a vintage statement but an age statement as well. It’s a 17 yo put together this year from casks distilled in 1999. And it’s at a respectable 47.2% abv. Of course, it’s also clad in extremely ridiculous packaging (a black bottle, in a box that is meant to resemble a Marshall amp) but having complained incorrectly about the lack of an official ex-bourbon Highland Park, I felt it was only right that I should check out the one that had just been released. And my decision to do that was made easier by the discovery that it’s actually priced quite reasonably—as low as $89 in Minnesota. Not cheap in the abstract, but these days an official 17 yo at a strength above 43% for less than $120 seems like a steal.  Continue reading

Highland Park 19, 1991 (Signatory)


On Wednesday I posted a review of a bourbon cask Highland Park bottled by A.D. Rattray and noted in passing that Highland Park used to be one of my favourite distilleries. I said I’d elaborate soon on why I’m more ambivalent about them now, and here I am, just two days later.

Well, it’s not for any earth-shatteringly surprising reason. Highland Park and I have both changed but they’ve changed more than I have: I’m losing hair but they’ve lost their minds. When I first started drinking single malt whisky, Highland Park put out a limited line of very good whisky at good prices in ugly bottles. In the last 15 years the bottles have got updated but in the process prices have gone up drastically (especially for their 18 yo). Their lineup has gotten more bloated than the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and they increasingly seem to be designing/marketing their whisky with children in mind: an endless series of Viking-themed whiskies (too many to list), black bottles (ditto), boxes shaped like amplifiers (the new Full Volume), this abomination, the list goes on…I know we’re only supposed to care about the whisky in the bottle but it’s got to the point where it’s embarrassing to be seen buying a bottle of Highland Park. I mean, they make mid-late 2000s Bruichladdich’s output seem restrained and thoughtful.  Continue reading

Highland Park 16, 1995 (A.D. Rattray)


Okay, one last ex-bourbon review to make November an all ex-bourbon cask whisky month. Here is what else I have reviewed as part of this unintended, extended series this month: Tomatin 12, 2005, Fettercairn 23, 1993, Glencadam 15, Clynelish 12, 1997, Glen Scotia 1992-2005, Arran 1996-2013, Bowmore 10, 2003, Bladnoch 18, 1992, Aberlour 20, 1990 and Aberlour 17, 1990. That tour has taken me across most of the Scottish mainland and a couple of southern and western islands. For the last stop let’s go north, all the way to Orkney, to what used to be one of my very favourite dstilleries: Highland Park. I’ll go over why I’m far more ambivalent about Highland Park now in a separate post soon. For now, I’ll say only that one of the great pleasures of their whisky is one that the distillery does not give us; and that is the pleasure of bourbon cask Highland Park. It is here that you’ll usually most clearly encounter Highland Park’s peaty character as well as a mineral, oily note, all of which get covered up—for the most part—in the sherry profile of most of the distillery’s official releases. It’s a quality I particularly prize and which I see putting them on a continuum with Clynelish and Springbank/Longrow. I’ve reviewed a few such single casks before and I’m glad to be able to do it again.  Continue reading

Tomatin 12, 2005 (Distillery Only)


After a couple of stops in the eastern Highlands (at Glencadam and Fettercairn) let’s take the bourbon cask train back to the northern Highlands, to Tomatin. Tomatin is the southernmost of the distilleries usually grouped in the northern Highlands—south of Glen Ord, Teaninich, Balblair etc. and quite a bit south of Clynelish and Pulteney. It’s also actually further south than a number of Speyside distilleries. But all of this is neither here nor there.

This is one of my more timely reviews, being of a whisky bottled this June. But it’s still not very useful as it was bottled by hand, by me in the distillery shop—it’s not available for sale outside the distillery (except at auction, I suppose). The shop (my report on which you may remember) had five casks available for filling bottles from in June. They kindly allowed me to get tastes of whatever I was interested in, even though I had not done a tour, and this 12 yo ex-bourbon cask was my favourite. It was my first time filling a bottle at a distillery and I don’t mind telling you it was very exciting. This is my first time drinking it since tasting it at the distillery and I’m interested to see what I make of it now that the excitement is behind me.  Continue reading