Two Wine-Finished Benromachs: Hermitage and Chateau Cissac

If all has gone well, I am in Edinburgh as you are reading this and probably jet-lagged out of my whisky-loving mind. Please be assured that this review was not written in that state. I It was written more than a week ago in a slightly more lucid state in Minnesota.

I’m going to be up in the Speyside for the first time very soon and accordingly will be posting a number of reviews of Speyside whiskies this month. First up is a two-fer: head-to-head reviews of two releases from Gordon & MacPhail’s distillery, Benromach. I hope to be able to stop at the distillery briefly when we visit Elgin and environs at the end of the week. I’ll be interested to see if they have any distillery exclusives. Given how much I liked the 10 yo 100 proof, odds are good I’d buy anything similar if available for a reasonable price. The whiskies I’m reviewing here are not, however, anything similar. They were distilled in 2005 and 2006 and finished in red wine casks: Hermitage and Chateau Cissac casks, respectively; both were released in 2014. I’m really not sure why anyone ever wants to finish whisky in red wine casks—I’m yet to taste one that I particularly like, but hey, hope springs eternal. Let’s see what these are like.  Continue reading

Ardbeg Grooves, Committee Release


In which I start the month with a timely’ish review. The foolishly named Ardbeg Grooves is this year’s entry in Ardbeg’s annual exercise in folly. The regular release comes out on Ardbeg Day, otherwise known as June 2; this higher strength release came out a few weeks ago to whet the appetite of those who cannot get enough of Ardbeg and their folly. Despite being a fool myself, I’ve skipped these shenanigans entirely in recent years; and eventual reviews of their recent annual releases have not made me feel foolish about having done so. However, this year when the opportunity arose to taste the latest “Committee Release” via a bottle split, I decided to go for it. For some reason I thought I’d read very positive reviews of it—though I have not subsequently been able to track down what it is I’d thought I’d read. This whisky apparently contains some significant fraction of spirit matured in ex-red wine casks. The press materials tell me that these casks were charred extensively, producing grooves in them; evidently, Ardbeg’s proprietary cask charring system allows them to produce effects that fit with whatever silly concept they’ve hit on for the year (see also the Alligator). Also, Ardbeg was groovy in the 1960s and whatnot (yes, this is actually part of their sell). Continue reading

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2016

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2016
The 2016 edition of the Laphroaig Cairdeas has been in the US for almost two months now and I’ve finally got my hands on a bottle (okay, two bottles). I am very happy to say that I paid only $5 more per bottle than I did for my first bottle of Cairdeas back in 2011. And I’m also very happy that those of us in the US still have no difficulty purchasing the Cairdeas which is always widely available here, unlike every other Feis Ile release which require trips to Islay or large amounts of money or both.

Last year’s edition of Cairdeas was a classic bourbon cask Laphroaig. This year’s edition, however, returned to the wine cask experiments that marked the previous few years (the 2014 release was double matured in amontillado sherry casks and the 2013 in port casks). This year’s has been double matured in “Madeira seasoned traditional hogsheads”. I assume these means that these were not casks actually used to mature Madeira. The wine influence should therefore be mild. I’m curious to see what it’s like—though as a Laphroaig aficionado the odds are against my not liking it (please keep this bias in mind).  Continue reading

Springbank 16, 1997, Bourbon/Madeira

Springbank 16, 1997, Bourbon/Madeira
This is the Springbank whose existence Ol’ Jas denied over Easter weekend. Springbank has released a few madeira casks in the past. I’ve previously reviewed a 14 yo single cask that was a K&L exclusive. I liked it but not as much as the old 11 yo (which I have not reviewed yet on account of a reluctance to open my last bottle). Both of those and this one are from 1997 but obviously not from the same set of casks: those were full-term matured in madeira casks whereas this one was matured for the first 10 years in refill bourbon casks and then for the last six years in fresh madeira casks. So, obviously it’s not a finish either; more like true double maturation. Springbank seem to be the only distillery that does this kind of double maturation as a matter of course (they’re also probably the only distillery that doesn’t make a lot of silly noise about these kinds of releases). And probably because they do double maturation and not quick finishes their wine cask releases tend to be really well integrated with the usual distillery profile.    Continue reading

Caol Ila 15, 2000 (Malts of Scotland for van Zuylen)

Caol Ila 15, 2000, Malts of Scotland
I am not generally a fan of whiskies finished in red wine casks. A lot of this is Glenmorangie and Murray McDavid/Bruichladdich’s fault, but when I see that a whisky has been finished in a red wine cask I assume the worst. That said, peated malts seem to survive such encounters the best and this here is a Caol Ila. Like Friday’s Ardbeg, this was bottled by Malts of Scotland for van Zuylen in their “Dunes An Oir” series (Gaelic for “dunes of gold”, I believe) and it was finished in a Banyuls cask. Banyuls is a sweet, fortified wine, and so, in theory, at least, it may end up closer to a sherry or madeira finish than to a regular red wine finish. I think this was matured for 15 years in a bourbon cask and probably only saw a very brief “finish” in the wine cask—I’m guess the original cask was bourbon both from the outturn and on the basis that it’s unlikely anyone would do a wine finish on top of sherry maturation. Anyway, this is a rusty red in the glass—let’s see what it’s like on the nose and palate. Continue reading

Benromach Origins 2, Port

Benromach Origins 2, Port
Three whisky reviews in three days—what is this, a whisky blog? Yes, despite my unhealthy obsession with gaining acceptance from Foodgawker, it still is. And to make up for all the food posting that my core readership (the few, the not-so proud) have been putting up with I’m adding a little bonus whisky content.

This is my first Benromach review and frankly I’ve not had very many Benromachs. This is largely because there haven’t always been very many Benromachs to try in the US. There’s been the Traditional (with a name like that you know it’s NAS), the 10 yo, a 18 yo, 21 yo, a 22yo, a 25 yo, a 30 yo, a bunch in this Origins series and a bunch of wine finishes. Fine, fine, scratch that: there are in fact a large number of Benromachs in the US and there’s no good reason for my not having tried very many of them. Okay, let’s be exact, I’ve only had two of them before: the Traditional (which I might review next month if I can actually get around to picking up the sample a friend in town has for me) and the 10 yo (I liked the bottle I finished some years ago fine but never got around to replacing it). Continue reading

Springbank 12, Claret Wood

Springbank 12, Claret Wood
Here is the review of the Springbank 12, Claret Wood that was promised to Ol’ Jas long ago. I hope he’s happy.

This is from a long deceased bottle (the 4 ounce sample was saved when the bottle was above the halfway mark). This is from a series of “wood expressions” Springbank released in the late 2000s. Others in the series included whiskies from Madeira, Gaja Barolo and Marsala casks as well as a series of 12 year olds from various types of sherry casks. Some of these were full-term matured in the relevant casks; others were matured for an initial, longer period in bourbon casks and then transferred to the cask on the label for a few more years. This Claret Wood was of the latter type, spending nine years first in bourbon and the last three in the wine casks.

This approach, which Springbank has continued with its more recent “exotic” cask releases (such as the calvados wood), seems closer to me to double maturation than to what usually gets described as “finished” whisky. Certainly, all of Springbank’s releases in this vein that I’ve tried have seemed to me to be very well integrated and far from “winesky”. That is my memory of this one as well but it’s been a while since I last tasted it. Continue reading