...where distraction is the main attraction.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Craigellachie 14 year old 2000 Old Malt Cask, cask 10892

Craigellachie Week began, yesterday, with the vibrant, zesty 13 year old official bottling. That one was from refill ex-bourbon casks. Today's Craig is from a single sherry butt bottled by Hunter Laing in the Old Malt Cask range. I bought this sample (amongst many others) from Master of Malt a month before InBev took them over and further damned Americans' access to scotch whisky.

Distillery: Craigellachie
Ownership: Bacardi
Region: Central Speyside
Independent Bottler: Hunter Laing
Label: Old Malt Cask
Age: 14 years (Feb 2000 - Oct 2014)
Maturation: Sherry Butt
Cask #: HL10892
Bottles: 680
Alcohol by Volume: 50%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No

The nose is intensely earthy and herbal at the start. Roots, leaves and grass. Lemons and teeny bit of vanilla. Hints of wet cardboard and menthol. On the palate, it's tobacco, bitter herbs, limes and silky toffee pudding. More limes and herbs with time. Lingering smoke and some chili oil heat. One can really feel the citrus in the big finish, along with the nose's dusty earthy note. The toffee has its moment, but that earthy thing expands with time.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
Let us gaze upon the bottler's tasting notes:
Not only do those notes sound oaky and unappealing to me, they also read like generic American oak sherry cask stuff. One can get those flavors and smells from many whiskies. There's no need to go to Craigellachie for them. Also, see "smooth".

The good news is, my notes are nearly the opposite of Laing's. It's not a perfect whisky. I could have done without the cardboard note, and the palate was much tamer than the entertaining nose. But this is the kind of dirty sherry cask Craigellachie I'm in the market for, as opposed to the sherry cask something from the official notes.

Availability - Maybe a few continental Europe retailers
Pricing - ~€80
Rating - 86

Monday, September 17, 2018

Craigellachie Week begins with Craigellachie 13 year old

I could say I've always liked Craigellachie, but I've really only tried four Craigellachie single malts. Only one of those four were disappointing, but I think that was more of a Dimensions problem than a Craigellachie problem. The other three Craigs didn't behave like clean crowd-pleasing Speysiders. Yes there was fruit, and they were all well textured, but they each had something dingy underneath while herbs and wax and cereal notes floated above.

It's time for me to further explore this distillery. This week I'm going to review five Craigellachies. You'll notice there are no NASes or single-digit whiskies here. Each have some age on them. And most are from sherry casks.



First up is the official 13 year old, rolled out to the market by Bacardi in 2014. Like its mates in the Craig range, it has a proper 46%abv + no chill-filtration + no colorant presentation. And they all come from American oak casks, exclusively. The 13 is just refill casks, so someone's got some pride over there at Bacardi.


Distillery: Craigellachie
Ownership: Bacardi
Region: Central Speyside
Age: minimum 13 years
Maturation: refill American oak
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No
(Sample gifted by St. Brett of Riverside. Thanks, Brett!)

The nose starts off with peaches, apricots, saltwater and chocolate malt. There's an exotic citrus note — can't put my finger on the fruit — but it's a stinger. A whiff of hot tar. It gets maltier with time, picking up a slight raspberry candy note. The palate is warm, malty and grassy. There's a great trio of mellow herbal bitterness + light sweetness + lemons that lasts throughout. Another hint of something tarry and phenolic. The long finish ditches the sweetness altogether. It's malty, salty, herbal, peppery with gentle bitterness and citrus.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
This whisky has triggered some curious reactions. Serge tried it twice, had issues with it twice, finding it too raw. Ruben of Whiskynotes was similarly unimpressed. Meanwhile, Josh of The Whisky Jug thought it was great. After reading Josh's take on it, Andy (of LAWS and LASC fame) had me taste Craigellachie 13 blindly. We both were less enthusiastic about it than Josh. Now I try it four years later, and I like it. And per Andy's LAWS notes, it's grown on him as well.

I'll agree with Serge, this whisky is nearly oakless, which means the spirit runs free. But I dig it. It's much less raw than all the recent 5-8 year old single cask indies I've tried. And it's certainly more mature and complex than the Wolfburn bottlings that have received better reviews (but not from me).

Ignoring everyone's opinions, for a moment, I think we may all confirm that this is not an easygoing whisky. And if you're looking for oak, you'd be better off going with bourbon. Or one of many NAS single malts.

Availability - Many specialty liquor retailers worldwide
Pricing - $40-$70 (USA)
Rating - 86

Friday, September 14, 2018

Springbank 12 year old 2003 Single Cask, port pipe

Single cask Springbank releases are more frequent in Europe than they are in the US, and often considerably cheaper. The retailers than ship internationally aren't much help because their supply vaporizes amongst their expanded customer base. An American is left with two choices, either one can stare wistfully at each release announcement, or one can start a blog just so one can mooch off of one's better connected friends.

My friend Matt, who seems to have every single release, shared a sample of this single port pipe, a release I'd never heard of.


Judging by the bottle count, this was a proper port pipe. And though Springbank may practice similar "single cask" hijinks as GlenDronach, they have less motivation to do so. Glendronach finds itself under pressure to keep putting out rich sherry cask whisky every several months, while Springbank can announce the release a three year-old Hazelburn matured in a used colostomy bag and it would still sell out in a minute.

Okay, maybe not Hazelburn.

Now I will rinse my brain with cask strength single malt. Won't you join me?

^^^ Whisky Data!
NEAT
The whisky has an apricot gold color to it. A tawny port pipe, maybe? It's that fortified wine that's parked in the nose's foreground. Mixed berry compote, grape drink, agave nectar and candied citrus peels. Not much peat or smoke, if there's any at all. A metallic note appears after a bit. The port retreats in the palate, replaced by sooty smoke, chili oil and a wee farmy edge. There a subtle berry note to it, but the whisky's sweetness feels more honeyed than fruity. The 58.3%abv feels manageable. With time in the glass, the whisky gets farmier, and suddenly there are notes of black licorice and unaged rye. The finish has that chili oil and soot, and a little of the rye. The sweetness stays mild and there are small notes of blueberry jam and tart lemons.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 1.5tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The metallic note gets much louder in the nose, and is joined by little bit of charcoal barbecue smoke. There's still plenty of pretty stuff, like maraschino cherries, strawberry bubble gum, flowers and orange oil. The palate is farmy and grassy. Sweeter than before. Agave nectar, leather and cinnamon-y unaged rage. The finish is sweet and sooty and long. A little bit of cinnamon and seaweed-y peat.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
With its strength, cask, and (what used to be considered) youth, the whisky was expected to be expressive, and in that it does not disappoint. The ABV isn't too intrusive. Water doesn't open the whisky, so much as it calms it down. If you're wine cask-phobic, then the nose will put you off, but be brave and give it a sip because the spirit gets top billing in the palate. So, yes, this Springbank goes off in different directions, but all are decent and none are too extreme.

One thing I did notice this week, was that all three of these Springbanks read young. Which means they were neither overbaked nor entirely done baking. The sparring partners — Springbank Green 13 year old and this 10yo indie port cask — felt more mature and well-rounded. Yes, those two were not bottled at cask strength, but heat and tightness weren't the issues with the CSes. There's no conspiracy at hand, though. Each of this week's whiskies were distilled in different years and bottled at different times utilizing different casks. And with that, let's move on to a different distillery next week.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 85

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Springbank 1997 Vintage, batch 1


This relaxing tasting included Monday's 19yo 1991, the organic Green 13yo and today's whisky, the 1997 Vintage. Springbank released two batches of this "vintage", the first in 2007, the second in 2008. Batch 2 was from regular sherry casks, while the first batch was from re-charred sherry butts.

Back in 2014, whisky man Florin picked up a bottle of this stuff in Germany at a price of $84, and split it up. In the four years since, it's one of the very few Springbanks that haven't become outrageously expensive on the secondary market. Though one can find it at European shops for $200+, it's gone for ~$100 at auctions this year.

I bought 1/3rd of the bottle four years ago, and saved the last two ounces for a Taste Off such as this.


Distillery: Springbank
Brand: Springbank
Owner: Springbank Distillers Ltd.
Region: Campbeltown, on Well Close, just off of Longrow
Age: 9-10 years (1997 to June 2007)
Maturation: Recharred Sherry Butts
Outturn: ???
Alcohol by Volume: 55.2%abv
Chillfiltered? No
Colorant Added? No
(from a bottle split)

NEAT
The nose has some decent complexity for a whisky of its age. White peaches, roses, cocoa, plastic toys and moss up front. It gets both smokier and more floral with time, while developing a sugary citrus note. The palate feels bigger and more complex than the 1991. Orange sorbet, mild smoke and lots of oak spice. It has a savory and salty angle, tangy limes, cinnamon and burlap. Its finish is long and spicy with tangy limes and peppercorns.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 1¼tsp per 30mL whisky
The nose shifts and expands, releasing notes of cherries, plum wine, dark chocolate and sugary peat. There are also smaller notes of roses and ocean air. The palate balances a grassy herbal side with a dried fruit and carob side. It gets sweeter with time. The finish is sweeter than the neat version, and warmer. Notes of anise, peat and roses.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
The opposite of Monday's Springbank, this one is mostly cask, especially when neat. Still, the casks are good, reading more re-toasted than re-charred. There's more complexity when it's neat, but I enjoyed it more at 46%abv. Overall, it makes the Monday's '91 seem kinda crappy in comparison.

BUT, the Green 13yo won fair and square. And the current official 10 year old is both more complex and a better drink than this one. So I'd recommend both of those whiskies over batch one of the 1997 Vintage.

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - $100-$225
Rating - 86

Monday, September 10, 2018

Springbank 19 year old 1991-2011 Murray McDavid

I started some Springbank tastings last week, and I now I can't stop. So, how about three more this week? Yes? Good!

One bottle of Springbank Green 13yo was opened for the Kill Bottle event two weeks ago. Opening a bottle when trying to empty existing bottles makes a whole lot of sense. But from the first sip, I was reminded why I like Green 13yo so much. A week later, I set up a tasting of today's whisky, Wednesday's whisky and the Green 13yo. And it was good.

The oldest of the three was this 19 year old from Murray McDavid. Murray McDavid is probably best known for their "ACEing" (a branding(?) word for cask finishing), a practice of theirs that has produced some of the vilest whisky I've ever tried. This is one of their whiskies they — for whatever reason — chose to keep in one cask for its entire life.

Distillery: Springbank
Brand: Springbank
Owner: Springbank Distillers Ltd.
Region: Campbeltown, on Well Close, just off of Longrow
Independent Bottler: Murray McDavid
Age: 19 years (1991 - 2011)
Maturation: refill sherry cask
Outturn: 559 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 56.1%
(from a purchased sample)

NEAT
Its color is very pale. How many refills did this cask weather? The nose shows anise, lime zest and LOTS of butter. In fact the butter note overwhelms all else. There's the occasional dried fruit note and some flowers. After 30 minutes, there are oranges, pears, rye new make and wet cardboard. The palate is sweet, peppery and more pleasant than the nose. Vanilla, cinnamon and mild heat. It picks up some industrial notes and arugula later on. It finishes tart, peppery, grassy and less sweet than the palate.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 1⅓tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose is farmier, more focused and without wet cardboard. Cinnamon hot candies and cinnamon coffee cake. Lemons and limes. The palate is puckeringly tart and peppery. Less sweet than before, with cinnamon, butter and acidic citrus. Butter in the finish as well. Lots of pepper and a generic tartness.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
Well, that was a nearly dead cask. The whisky read less than half its age, except not as fun. Dilution improves the nose and seems to wake up the palate. The finish neither soars nor sucks.

This whisky seems like it would have been the perfect candidate for a MMcD cask finish. I don't know why this one escaped their ACEing claws (or clause?). Perhaps they were out of first fill garbage barrels that day.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 79 (dilution preferred)

Friday, September 7, 2018

Killing Whisky History, Episode 16 - 14 year old Ben Nevis and Blair Athol from 1978

Haven't had enough Birthday Booze posts? Great! Here's one more.

Step into my office...


In this episode, number 16, I compare a pair of Highland single malts that have the same age, distillation year and bottler; and I am very happy about it.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Springbank 15 year old 2000 Jamaican Rum Barrel for Springbank Society

On Monday I reviewed a single cask of 15 year old Springbank that was distilled in 2000. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say the unspecified rum utilized to season that cask was not Jamaican. I come by this uneducated guess because I tried that whisky head-to-head with today's whisky, a Springbank aged in a Jamaican rum barrel.

For the readers out there who think every rum is tooth-rottingly sweet syrup, may I encourage you to try a Jamaican rum or two or three. Jamaican rum, especially Hampden, has more spunk, funk and wallop than nearly any whisky in production. Of course, it's getting tougher to find Hampden now that Whiskyfun lavishes every Hampden release with wild praise. Accordingly one should also anticipate rising prices.

But it's true what you hear. Hampden Estate, it's Esterrific!

There are at least a half dozen Jamaican distilleries other than the big H. So who knows what sat in this barrel first...
Distillery: Springbank
Brand: Springbank
Owner: Springbank Distillers Ltd.
Region: Campbeltown, on Well Close, just off of Longrow
Age: 15 years (November 2000 to October 2016, almost 16!)
Maturation: Jamaican Rum Barrel
Exclusive to: Springbank Society
Limited release: 228 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 51.2%abv
Chillfiltered? No
Colorant Added? No
(from a sample purchased via Sjoerd)

NEAT
The nose is grungier than Monday's whisky, though still sugary. There's a balance to it: limes, oranges, beef, hot dirty hay, subtle peat. It gets brinier and fruitier with time, picking up a brief whiff of sulphur. Woooo, the palate. Think young bourbon barrel Springbank + Smith & Cross + Thai chilies. Rich creamery butter. Cinnamon hot candies and sea salt. A smoke/fuel note. It gets grassier with time. More chilies in the finish, then salt, sugar, ethyl and tannins.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 2/3tsp of water to 30mL whisky
The nose is cleaner, fruitier. A little bit of peat and sugar. Dried herbs and that flinty note. The palate is a lighter, sweeter take on the neat version. Some curry-ish spice rises up to make things more fun. The finish actually improves, with soil and tangy citrus join the heat-and-sweet party.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
While the gnarliest of Jamaican rums was not in play, there be hogo here. And that's fine, because when an aggressive cask is used the rum wins out, like in this Amrut thingy. Instead, this Springbank shows off some balance. The (whisky) spirit comes across more rugged than the usual 15yo Springbank, but that's what was needed, resulting in fruit and fuel and salt and spice. It's far from being an artful Springbank, but I don't say that as an insult. It's a vigorous creation, especially once the chile note kicks in. If you're vigor triggered, then dilution is key. I'd take this over Monday's whisky any day.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 85

Monday, September 3, 2018

Springbank 15 year old 2000 Fresh Rum Cask for The Nectar

This past weekend I had the pleasure of trying two single cask Springbanks — both 15 years old, distilled in 2000 and matured in rum casks — side by side.

Today's Springbank was bottled exclusively for The Nectar in Belgium. It was aged in a "Fresh Rum Cask" (there are lot of types of rum out there) and had an oddly low cask strength of 46.5%abv. So I wasn't sure what to expect.
Distillery: Springbank
Brand: Springbank
Owner: Springbank Distillers Ltd.
Region: Campbeltown, on Well Close, just off of Longrow
Age: 15 years (April 2000 to Sept 2015)
Maturation: "Fresh Rum Cask"
Exclusive to: The Nectar
Limited release: 198 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 46.5%abv
Chillfiltered? No
Colorant Added? No
(sample from My Annoying Opinions. Thanks, MAO!)

NEAT
Definitely a sugary rum (as opposed to a diesel-y rum) on the nose. Coconut cream, toasted coconut, wood smoke and a grassy note. Smaller notes of cinnamon candy and orange candy. Feels like 75% rum & oak, 25% Springbank. After 30 minutes notes of citrus, fabric and raspberry yogurt sneak out. The rum is subtler in the palate. Decent mouthfeel. Plenty sweet, like coconut ice cream. Chile oil heat. It's the oak that's parks itself in the fore, flaunting sugar and caramel sauce. Later on there's cinnamon, clove cigarettes and black peppercorns. The warm finish summarizes everything that came before: vanilla, caramel, coconut, peppercorns, sugar and clove cigarettes.

Just a little bit of water, since the abv's already low.

DILUTED TO ~43%abv, or 1/2tsp water per 30mL whisky
All the late notes (citrus, fabric, raspberry yogurt) remain in the nose, but nothing else other than coconut cream and mesquite chips. The palate goes syrupy sweet, but also very peppery. Vanilla and coconut. It finishes with sugar and peppercorns. Vanilla and a whiff of smoke.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
When I scheduled this tasting, I'd forgotten that I've had a mixed experience with rum cask Springbanks (see here, here and here). Never had one I loved. This is the third one that was underwhelming.

MAO and I have somewhat different takes on this whisky. I found it the sugary rum to be too forward on the nose, and the oak has the same issue on the palate. He found more Springbank in this Springbank than I did. But we do agree that the rum is louder on the nose, and that water weakens the whole thing.

It's not a bad whisky, it's an easy drinking dessert whisky, though I highly encourage you to forgo dilution. It certainly comes for a different cask than Wednesday's whisky.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 81 (neat only, at least 5 points lower when diluted)

Friday, August 31, 2018

Randy Brandy drinks Darroze 40 year old Les Grands Assemblages Armagnac

Kravitz wants me to keep this brief. Yes, the James A. Michener of whisky bloggers demands a short post. That guy's idea of editing is adding more commas. If he heard the word "brevity" he'd think it was the new Ardbeg release, then camp out overnight and submit himself to a grim sexual encounter just to get a low-res blurry crooked photo of the bottle.

Too far? Good.

Darroze does this series of "Grands Assemblages", or "blends" to be not French about it, in nice round numbers like 20, 30, 40 and 50 years. And 8 and 12 years because they add up to 20. The 40 year old was bottled at the CRAZY Georges Stagg-esque abv of 42%.

I bought this sample.
Just kidding.
What kind of cheap ass--
Here are my notes.

Darroze 40 year old Les Grands Assemblages Armagnac, 42%abv

Color - Reddish
Nose - Great. Almonds, walnuts and cashews floating in red wine. Honey, cocoa powder, cassis and Fig Newtons. Cinnamon raisin bread. A snort of rubber cement.
Palate - Citrus, foremost. Sour cherries, golden raisins and salt. Ladyfingers (the cookies, maybe) in coffee. A nutty sweet loaf. After a while there are bitter herbs and minerals.
Finish - Stone fruits, but less sweet than the palate, maybe more salt. Drying.

There were my notes.

Excellent until the finish. Still, it looks a hell of a lot better than that whisky he drank. What a shame. Brandy wins. This conclusion is getting too extensive. This armagnac probably beats the cognac, but both serve their purpose. I hope Kravitz buys a bottle of this.

Darroze 40 year old Les Grands Assemblages Armagnac
NOT WHISKY RATING: B+

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Birthday Booze: MacPhail's 40 year old single malt, Gordon & MacPhail (current edition)

Thank you to Randy who so kindly detailed my Saturday night whisky party. The rest of the weekend was a blur, though not a tipsy one. Weekends pause for no man, no woman, no child. I'm pretty sure at least one of my daughters was crying for 48 hours. But at least I wasn't crying. Or was I?

Our strict dietary protocol collapsed for one night when Kristen baked two Winning Hearts and Minds cakes. She comes from a long line of fierce bakers, and (though she won't admit it) tops them all. Meanwhile, I received much love from family and friends. Especially from Randy, who really liked that cognac. I wish I knew where the bottle was because I would have poured him a sample to take home.

This week on Diving for Pearls you'll find reviews of three spirits, all of a certain age. This is the second spirit. And this is the only one that's a whisky. It's MacPhail's 40 year old mystery meat. Looks like they've been producing this bottling since at least The Glut. The fact that they still bottle a four-decade-old whisky at 40%abv seems somewhere between goofy and criminal. Clearly, I didn't mind it that much when I found a sample for sale...


Distillery: ???
Brand: MacPhail's
Bottler: Gordon & MacPhail
Age: minimum 40 years
Maturation: OAK
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
Chillfiltered? ???
Colorant added? ???
(from a purchased sample)

Its color is bourbon dark. So does the nose take me on a journey? Well, sorta. It starts somewhere inside a barrel, then floats up into a dunnage warehouse. Except, it gets its foot caught between two staves. Forever. There are cashews and almonds and good cinnamon. Dark chocolate and earth and kale. A whiff of incense. Not much development other than hints of vanilla, honey, black raisins and saline. And freshly sawn planks. The palate is gentle, subtle. Except for the oak part. Cherries, currants and lemon pass through, but only momentarily. There's vanilla pudding, salt and a musty dunnage note. It's mostly violently tannic and increasingly bitter. The finish is like chewing on a pencil. There are some hints of oranges and black cherries. Something earthy and bitter. But it's mostly tannins.

OAK. It's been a tough year, and this is a tough whisky. OAK. The key phrase here is "violently tannic." OAK. It's right up there with Pappy 23 and Forged OAK as the most tannic thing I've sipped. OAK. One should obviously expect some OAK in a whisky of this age, but I've had the great pleasure of trying several other whiskies 40 years and up, and none of them were as woody as this. OAK. While not stupendous, the nose delivers some excitement amongst the OAK, coming across nutty and dirty and dark at times. But OAK.

SPOILER ALERT: This is not the best drink of the three this week.

Availability - A few dozen European and Japanese retailers
Pricing - $450-$800
Rating - 81 (I'm feeling generous towards this old thing)

Monday, August 27, 2018

Randy Brandy drinks Dudognon Heritage 40 Year Old Grande Champagne Cognac

I dutifully attended Diving for Perks's Kill Bottle party this weekend. He set out many bottles, unfortunately it was nearly all whisky. Everyone weathered the man's non-stop prattling for hours on end just so we could drink for free. There was much hilarity when he spoke the sentence, "I literally can't even", because he was reduced to articulating like a 14-year old girl. As opposed to his usual 16-year-old girl talk. For reals.

Late into the night, there was much talk of crapping in foreign toilets (he only mentioned Japan eight times) and rum cocktails. But this isn't the Dummy's post, so I'll strut ahead to the main attraction.

By candlelight and everything
There is no age statement on the bottle, but retailers say it's 40 years old, and retailers are always fully informed and never lie to sell things, so let's go with what they say. Plus that'll make Kravitz feel better about himself, and that's always important to me.

Here are my notes.

Dudognon Heritage 40 Years Old Grande Champagne Cognac, Lot G1, 41%abv

I had more than one glass of it. I mean, he left the bottle out, what was I supposed to do? And by "left the bottle out" I mean he hid it under the desk in his office. So I had three pours.

Color - Dark gold, but reasonable dark gold.
Nose - Active right from the start. Lots of apricots, pears, kiwis and fennel. Orange marmalade and lemon zest. A pack of golden raisins. A pack of gummi worms.
Palate - Not much going on at first. Needs 30 minutes and/or three pours. Then it's apricots, pears, kiwis and gummi worms again. More dried fruit and more flowers with more time. There's oak in there, but no vanilla or bitterness. (Sorry bourbon fans.)
Finish - Warm, sweet and fruity. Mostly citrus and pineapple.

There were my notes.

40 years, 20 years, 10 years, whatever — I can say that because I didn't buy the bottle — it's good cognac. I'd drink it again. I am drinking it again. But if Krabs asks you where the bottle is, you have no idea where the bottle is.

Dudognon Heritage 40 Years Old Grande Champagne Cognac, Lot G1
NOT WHISKY RATING: B+

Friday, August 24, 2018

Pre-Birthday Whisky: Glenugie 31 year old 1977 Signatory, cask 7

A Glenugie! My only Glenugie. What is a Glenugie?

Glenugie was a distillery on the east coast of the Highlands that permanently shuttered one year short of its 150th birthday in 1983. The facility was closed at least five times during that period and once had a brewery tacked on. The distillery had one whole pair of stills and was once owned by Whitbread & Co. (aka Long John Distillers) who also owned Ben Nevis and Laphroaig at the time.

Glenugie single malt is scarce. Like really scarce. I don't think there's been a release in six years, which makes one wonder if there's any more Ugie left to Glen. Is it endangered or extinct? Either way, I am going to drink this one from Signatory. It had a secondary maturation of seven years in a sherry butt after spending its first 24 years in (2?) hogsheads.


Distillery: Glenugie
Region: Eastern Highlands
Independent Bottler: Signatory Vintage
Age: 31 years (December 20, 1977 - September 14, 2009)
Maturation: 24 years in hogsheads + 7 years in a sherry butt
Cask #: 7
Outturn: 577
Alcohol by Volume: 58.1%
(Sample from a paid event, years ago)

NEAT
Its color is a rich reddish brown. An active sherry cask? The nose begins with a riot of exotic fruit, like mango and papaya and things I don't know the name of. That's followed by sea brine, hot fudge, purple Mr. Sketch scented marker and in-season dark red cherries. With 30+ minutes in the glass, the whisky picks up coffee ice cream and prune notes, then focuses on chocolate-covered cherries and the sea. The palate goes in a different direction. A filthy sherry cask direction. Sooty and grungy and metallic. But it's also loaded with sweet oranges and blackberries. Hard ginger candy. A little bit of heat. Simple overall, but big. The long, warm finish is mostly metal, soil and tobacco with a hint of pears.

That was a lot of words. How about a little bit of water?

DILUTED TO 50%abv, or 1tsp of water per 30mL whisky
This shifts the nose into classic sherry cask territory. Dried stone fruits and dried berries, with some oak spice and tobacco. Then halvah, pencil graphite and a hint of vanilla. The palate gets oakier, bitterer and drying. It feels as if the water closed it up. It's salty and tangy. Limes and a little bit of that pencil graphite. It finishes sweeter and tarter than the palate. Still some wood bitterness in there, along with metallic moments.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
The good news first. This was a hell of thing when neat. It has one of the best sniffers I've sniffed this year. The palate's dual dimensions are both pretty darn solid. The finish has a great length to it, but not much else, which is curious considering the age, strength and mix of oaks.

Adding water sunk it, though, unveiling both generic sherry notes and aggressive oak. A bummer. And the less I say about it the better.

At full power it delivers a full experience, and never reads as hot as one would think with its big ABV. The contrast between the nose and mouth works as a strength, I only wish there was more to the finish. It's a fine whisky, though. I wish Glenugie wasn't limited to the Serges, Sukhinders and White Fedoras of the world, but that's where we are and there's no going back now.

Availability - Secondary market in Europe
Pricing - probably north of $500
Rating - 89 (neat only!)

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Pre-Birthday Whisky: Benriach 32 year old 1979 Adelphi

Twenty-seven months ago, I led a private whisky event that was more luxurious than anything I'll probably host in the future. (Unless I go full nihilist and just start opening up all my gems in one night.) Here's that placemat, once again:
I've reviewed 9 of the 12 whiskies from that event. Today I'll do the 10th, a Benriach that may have been my favorite of the set when I bottled little samples for myself the next morning.

For the official sample tasting (last night), I paired it with this official 19 year old single cask BenRiach. That teenager did not make for a good sparring partner since it had mutated into a oaky mess over the past three years. Or was it always an oaky mess? The Benriach of real interest, the 32 year old, was a much different character, curious in its own way.

Distillery: Benriach
Ownership: Brown-Forman
Independent Bottler: Adelphi
Region: Speyside (Lossie)
Age: 26 years old (1979 - 2012)
Maturation: see concluding section below
Outturn: see concluding section below
Cask #: 515
Alcohol by Volume: 48.4%

NEAT
Its color is 1st-fill-sherry-cask dark. But it's supposedly not a 1st fill sherry cask. The delicate nose takes a while to lift off. First it's very bready and nutty. Then there's an earth and orange combo, followed by hints of anise, menthol, pine sap and rye seeds. The palate is more aggressive. Fresh mint, fresh ginger and tangy limes. Light on the oak and sweets. A few moments of incense. The finish holds onto the mint and limes. Aromatic oak spices and a puff of smoke. Decent length.

DILUTED TO 46%abv, or 1/3tsp of water per 30mL whisky
Add just a little bit of water......and it's a different whisky. Golden raisins, mango, raspberry fruit leather and applesauce on the nose. The palate is creamier, saltier. But also kinda sherried, with lots of dried fruit and nuts. The ginger and limes have receded. Some grassy and herbal notes sneak in. Now the finish reads like a sherry cask. Dried berries, berry jam, salt and savory herbs.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
Let us (I am us) talk about this cask. Whiskybase says it's "Ex-Bourbon American Oak Barrel". One WB reviewer says it's a refill. The other WB reviewer says it's very active. Meanwhile, if I'd tasted the lightly diluted version blind, I'd have thought it was from a refill sherry cask. Meanwhile, WB lists its outturn at 151 bottles, and the reviewers list it as 78 and 171 bottles. At least the 78 count would make sense for a split cask, but, um, I have no idea how many actual bottles came out of this "barrel".

Ignoring all that, I'm happy to say the whisky is good. Good, but not as superlative as I'd anticipated or remembered. Its nose is the most fun, with or without water. The palate and finish are fine, but (other than the incense notes) there's nothing really unique going on. That's significant because the palate has the bigger punch, while the nose needs to be teased out. But but but it's still a quality whisky, especially since its oak is much more under control than just about every much-younger modern whisky thing around.

Availability - ???
Pricing - Binny's had it on closeout for $300-ish two years ago
Rating - 87

Monday, August 20, 2018

Life changes, the blog continues. Unasked questions answered.

I used to fill my posts with personal news and photos. This practice decreased gradually as each of my children arrived, as I realized that most of my readers were people I don't know. While I'm sure that the vast majority of my readers are awesome folks, you know as well as I do that there are a lot of very strange individuals on the Internet. And they all drink whisky.

I'm kidding. Some drink brandy.

But I'm going to get into a little bit of personal stuff now because it affects the way I experience whisky and this blog.

The past four years have been very full. Mathilda arrived in 2014. I traveled alone to Japan in 2015. My wife and I traveled to Scotland in 2016. We sold our house and moved across the USA in 2016. I traveled alone to Japan, again, in 2017. Beatrice arrived in 2017.

2018 has been the year of sickness. Some ailments have been quickly curable, some have not. This has resulted in an abrupt dietary change in our home, as well as a significant decrease in the consumption of alcoholic products.

These changes have been shifting the way I experience drinking and buying whisky. Four years ago it was probably already clear that I was no longer interested in The Chase for the newest whisky thingamabob. That philosophy has only deepened since then. Some of you are more informed of the whisky scene than I am, but I promise I always do my best to make sure my whisky scribblings are informed.

Meanwhile, with two beautiful children and the most stressful desk job I've ever had, I've been rethinking about how I want to spend my recreational time and money. I no longer have two consecutive hours to myself, so the film world has passed me by. Reading puts me to sleep almost instantly thanks to constant eye strain. And every time I fall down an internet rabbit hole, I get angry that I let myself die for an hour like that.

My free time is better spent with something more interactive, more compelling. That's why this blog is so important to me. I hope to do more in-depth studies of brands or distilleries in 2019 to keep things interesting for you and me. I've already made some recent changes to add variety to the Diving for Pearls experience. I brought in two guest reviewers for brandy and rum. And I started the Killing Whisky History monthly video series.

Killing Whisky History also emerged because it was time to start opening up my older stuff. Those bottles do no good collecting additional dust. I'm also having a Kill Bottle event for my birthday because all my open whiskies need to be shared and emptied. Those half-finished bottles are doing no one any favors, either. It's time for a refresh.

Where does that leave that whole casual drinking thing? Well, I do much less of it than I used to. When I do drink casually, I want to it be casual. And I don't see the logic of spending $100 for a casual sipper, let alone $200. When I do shop, I'm looking for a bottle that's under $70. Six years ago, my casual bottles were $40 or less. Add that in as one more reason why I've made only four whisky purchases this year. The inhuman emotionless force of the market has failed to change. But I have. At some point along this timeline I'll leave the market to its fate, as I abandon whisky purchases altogether, and just open the bottles I already have.

But samples, though...

Friday, August 17, 2018

Lagavulin 21 year old 1991 (thank you, Brett!)

Today's sample (and many other samples) comes from Brett, a very good man who will travel great distances, through Southern California traffic, just to share a drink and hang out. He took over the reins of the OC Scotch Club, even though he lives in Riverside.

(For those of you not from the LA area, the distance between Riverside and the usual OC Scotch Club event is roughly that of Milwaukee, WI to Uranus, Uranus.)

Just before I left California, Brett invited me over to his housee. I walked through the door and exclaimed, "OH MY GOD YOU HAVE LOT OF WHISKIES."

Actually, that's not totally true. I knew he had a lot of whiskies because he sent me a list beforehand and offered up samples. So, true to self, I arrived with a dump truck full of sample bottles. Because if I'm anything, I'm a mooch. What I did exclaim when I walked through the door was, "OH MY GOD YOU HAVE LOT OF DOGS." Brett and his awesome wife, Linda, have a jubilance of doggies. A zealous of wagging tails. A fete of little noses.

Here's the whisky:


Distillery: Lagavulin
Owner: Diageo
Type: Single Malt
Region: Southern Islay
Age: minimum 21 years (1991-2012)
Maturation: 1st Fill Ex-Sherry European Oak Casks
Outturn: 2772 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 52%

NEAT
Leather, earth and dark chocolate take the fore in the nose. Cherry sno-cones, root beer barrel candies, banana bread and fruity cinnamon. The peat has grown very rich over the years, abandoning gloom for the daylight. Plums, salt and peat start off the palate. Then tart limes, cayenne pepper and paprika. A wee bit of other fresh stone fruits in the background. It gets leaner and saltier with time. It finishes meaty and very smoky, with some salt and a light stone fruit sweetness.

DILUTED TO 48%abv, or .5tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose gets beachier and earthier. Ginger, mint, cinnamon and orange oil. The palate intensifies. Big charred meat notes. Jalapeños and honey. Tar and hot cinnamon candy. The finish keeps its good length. It has that jalapeño and honey combo, but also a fresh fruity side.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
Two observations. First, the whisky seems to get younger once water is added. Secondly, there are no routine sherry cask notes here. Both are good things in their own way. It's probably a lovely drink during a cold winter or a rainy autumn (frequent happenings in Riverside). It never fades even after 45 minutes in the glass.

The only issue is that Lagavulin makes superlative whisky. Is that an issue? Well, the 12yo cask strength releases are consistently killer. And the 2016 Feis Ile was a stonking honking flonking gem. And let us speak not but in hushed tones about the previous 21yo. So this 21 has a lot of competition from its own distillery's recent history, and it now goes for £1000 on the secondary market. Thus, I say, go find your Brett and try a sip of this whisky before paying a mortgage on the bottle.

Availability - Europe, primary and secondary, here and there, if you have the coin
Pricing - ££££
Rating - 89

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Glen Ord 28 year old 1975 (thank you, MAO!)

Thank you to M.A.O., the guy who knows the guy who once talked to the guy who came up with the name for the blog called My Annoying Opinions, for this sample of Glen Ord 28 year old.

When I first started reading his online opinions he went by another nom de plume. Unless his real name is Mongo. Or Mao. Or Michael. At first he seemed like a particularly prickly pear about everything whisky-related. But then I started actually reading what he was writing and found it all......reasonable. Then one day, in a private group of whisky bloggers, MAO attempted to discuss "the soft corruption" in the relationship between whisky bloggers and the industry, resulting in a chorus of the self-unaware calling him a troll. Not only was MAO correct, but he was being gentle. The corruption was and is hardcore. (It's just accepted now, I guess.) And the fact that no one in the group could admit to the slightest snuggling up made it all very discouraging. Well done, MAO. Thanks to you I hate whisky.

But I like Glen Ord. The Tri-Ords (25yo, 28yo and 30yo) that Diageo released when we were all younger have become a piece of whisky history, with the beautiful whisky inside the clonky bottle inside the shoebox. I have a bottle of the 30 year old that will be opened when I turn 130-something. My wife and I had the 25yo at Fiddler's in Drumnadrochit. And here's the 28.

Thank you, Masked Man
Distillery: Glen Ord
Owner: Diageo
Type: Single Malt
Age: minimum 28 years (1975-2003)
Maturation: ????????????
Region: Northern Highlands
Outturn: 3600 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 58.3%

NEAT
Oh my. The nose. An old musty wine cellar. Then fresh peaches and apricots. Moss and roses. Almond cookies. Hints of hot oregano, coastal peat and lemon cake. The palate is big and warm. Immense citrus levels. Spearmint gum. Vanilla cake, lemon candy, ginger powder and just a bit of fustiness. There's fruit (fresh and candied) in the finish. Some oak spice. Very warm.

Just a little bit of water here...

DILUTED TO 52%abv, or .75tsp of water to 30mL whisky
The nose is similar, with a little more citrus. Lemons, specifically. A bit chalkier, too. Lemon cake turns into angel cake. The hints of oregano and coastal peat remain. The fruit becomes more focused, more specific in the palate now. Think lemons and limes. A good tartness. More minerals, more chalk. Moments of coconut cream, vanilla pudding and nutmeg+molasses. That baking spice note continues into the finish, and leads to ginger snap cookies. Then lemons and a hint of vanilla. Great length.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
The noses on the Tri-Ords exude near magnificence. They reveal levels and dimensions and themes and facets, and they also smell good. As MAO mentions in his review, dilution helps the palate out. There's a lot of citrus and (good) oak in the palate. Between that and the assertive ABV, perhaps the palate is held back — just a smidge — from greatness. But the nose can't be shackled. And that will push it up one point to 90, just so that I can be 1% more positive today.

Availability - Oddly not too difficult to find at online European retailers
Pricing - all over the place, but mostly $350-$500
Rating - 90

Monday, August 13, 2018

Black Bull 30 year old Blended Whisky (thank you, Jordan!)

In addition to being reviews of well-regarded whiskies, this week's posts are thank-yous to three fellows whose generosity have helped keep this blog going. Sadly, I have yet to figure out how to offer a proper thank you to Florin. Perhaps it would be a ten-part whisky tasting lasting until 4am, as how it usually goes when I visit him. (Damn, that gives me a stupid idea!)

There are many other people who have been very charitable during sample swaps or who have just handed me great stuff from the excellence of their hearts (and whisky bunkers). I can never thank you folks enough.



First up, thank you to Jordan of Chemistry of the Cocktail for including Black Bull 30yo in a sample swap. Apparently, Oregon is its own planet when it comes to liquor retailing. Twice I saw Black Bull 30 selling for $160 in California, but the following year those same bottles were priced above $300. Meanwhile, Oregon had them for closeout under $100.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Jordan is indeed a chemist and his long-form posts are a hell of a thing — and easily readable for those of us who are not scienticians. Whether he's writing about The Physics of Double Retort Pot Stills and Thumpers or questioning the "uncritical valorization of cask strength whiskies", Jordan challenges us to think about what we drink. Also his cocktail recipes are pretty sweet.


As for Black Bull 30yo......The blend of 50% malt and 50% grain was married at birth in the late '70s, then aged in sherry casks for three decades. I'd say that's a damned good approach to making whisky. Serge thought they whisky was "top notch" and "top shelf". Nearly the entire parliament of LAWSers went a step further, declaring it among the best blends in existence (in 2009).

Brand: Black Bull
Ownership: Duncan Taylor
Type: Scotch Blended Whisky
Parts: 50/50 malt/grain
Maturation: Sherry casks
Age: minimum 30 years
Alcohol by Volume: 50%
Bottled: 2009

NEAT
Mmmmm, dunnage nose. Nutty sherry, orange peel, watermelon rind, and grape jelly. Chocolate covered roasted almonds. Sticky candy meets salty sea air. Something about the palate reminds me of Springbank single sherry casks. Maybe it's just that these were good sherry casks. Anyway, there's citrus, musty oak and French oak baking spices. Limes, toffee, salt and pepper. Light bitterness and a gentle herbal note. It finishes with oranges, salt, grapey sherry, honey and toffee. There's also some bitterness to it, as well as a mineral edge.

DILUTED TO 46%abv, or 1/2tsp of water to 30mL whisky
Baskets full of dried fruit on the nose. Hershey's syrup, roasted nuts and bananas. Ah, but there's earth underfoot. Toasted nuts and toasted oak in the palate. Chocolate + coffee. Lightly sweet. Possibly denser and richer than when neat. The finish has coffee, salt, oranges and minerals.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
I tried this up against Old Perth 21yo 1996 vatted malt, which it beat, though not by a lot. It comes pretty close to the 20yo 1994 Exclusive Blended Malt I so adore. All three are examples of very good sherry cask whisky. The Old Perth and Exclusive were all malt, while this was 50/50. As with the Old Perth, the sherry cask(s) dominate Black Bull 30's content. The Exclusive vatting wins out because it's a little dirtier, while also revealing a variety of fresh fruits.

That's mostly nitpicking. Blending a blend from the start is a smart approach. Using good casks is...well...kinda the point. The 50%abv works in Black Bull 30's favor because tinkering with dilution may in fact improve the experience. Overall, the whisky should appeal to any sherried-whisky lover and would taste quite fine on a cold winter night.

Availability - Sold out worldwide, probably
Pricing - it was anywhere from <$100 to >$400
Rating - 89

Friday, August 10, 2018

Glenlossie 22 year old 1992 van Wees The Ultimate, cask 3447

I paused a day between the two 1992 Glenlossies because I was concerned you were getting burned out on Glenlossie. Goodness knows, I was burned out after trying four in two days. Also, I only had four Glenlossie samples in total, so I had to skip a day. And I don't want to leave everyone without a whisky review on Friday.

Time for full disclosure. I tried four ex-bourbon cask Glenlossies this past weekend because I've been considering buying something from this distillery. The result? I'm not going to buy something from this distillery right now. Though today's 'Lossie was my favorite of the bunch, none of these showed signs of a thrilling spirit / distillery character / whathaveyou. There's a lot of competition in the Speyside area, hell, even on the distillery grounds. Mannochmore has been more my speed thus far.

Anyway, on with the winner of the week.


Distillery: Glenlossie
Ownership: Diageo
Independent Bottler: Signatory
Age: 22 years (November 18, 1992 - August 20, 2015)
Maturation: hogshead
Cask number: 3447
Outturn: 348 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
Colored? No

NEAT
Like the other whiskies this week, today's Glenlossie's color is pale. Yet it also has a slight peach tint to it that sets it apart. The nose releases a burst of very ripe very musky melons. Then cherries, vanilla, toasted coconut and roasted marshmallows. Something between lemon custard and lemon-scented soap. And something between cotton and burlap. It has a zippy fruity palate. Peach and grapefruit. Amaretto and flowers. Saltines. A slight bitterness. Its simple finish holds peach pits, salt and flowers. Sweet and lightly tangy with a warming bitterness.

DILUTED TO 40%abv, or <1tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The fruits have abandoned the nose. Barley, honey mustard and toasted oak are what remains. The palate gets much simpler. Sweet, tangy and salty, with ginger and black pepper. The finish is very similar to the palate with, perhaps, some bran flakes and more oak.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
A perfectly acceptable aquaphobic whisky. Nothing is really wrong with it when neat. A good flourish in the nose. The palate proves friendly and shows little-to-no oak. It finishes moderately and agreeably. It fits perfectly in an amicable Speyside style (if that really exists). It would've been great if it could swim better, but it would be great if I could swim better too. It was nice to have two ounces of it and now I'm done. Thanks to MAO for the sample! He had a similar overall opinion of it. The whiskybase community is, as ever, more enthusiastic about it than we are.

Availability - Maybe on the European continent?
Pricing - €90ish
Rating - 85 (neat only)

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Glenlossie 18 year old 1992 Signatory, cask 3329 for Binny's

Yeesh, that last 'Lossie was lame. Let us now turn to the often reliable Signatory for what should be something considerably better. Historically (read: in my experience), the Binny's crew makes good Scotchy picks too.

Of course, this Glenlossie is even less relevant than yesterday's, as it was bottled five months earlier than that one. And sold out sooner.

Distillery: Glenlossie
Ownership: Diageo
Independent Bottler: Signatory
Age: 18 years (November 16, 1992 - June 5, 2011)
Maturation: hogshead
Cask#: 3329
Outturn: 280 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 58%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No
Exclusive to: Binny's
(Thanks to Florin for the sample from, like, years ago)

NEAT
The nose leads with melon, roses, lemons and grapefruit. Crayons and scented markers in the mid-ground. After a while, the fresh fruit smells drift toward artificial scratch-n-sniff fruit smells. Then in comes a hint of soap and bitter ash. The palate is extra limey. Then mild sweetness, ginger, crayon wax and the expected heat from its ABV. It finishes floral and gingery with very tart citrus.

DILUTED TO 46%abv, or 1.5tsp per 30mL whisky
The nose balances flowers, fruity candy and toasted coconut. But then, in rolls the cardboard. The palate has more vanilla and coconut to go along with the lime. It's sweeter and bitterer. Some paper and wax. The finish has become very sweet, along with a mix of tart citrus and cardboard. This results in a strange aftertaste.

That took a weird turn. How about some more water?

DILUTED TO 40%abv, or 2.75tsp per 30mL whisky
Lemon zest, notebook paper and ink on the nose. Vanilla, sugar, soap and vinegar sourness on the palate. Sweet and sour finish. Also soap.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
I spent nearly two hours with this whisky (and Friday's whisky), which in hindsight was not the best idea because this Glenlossie seems averse to air and water. It was on its best behavior right up front. So I'd recommend appreciating it as a small pour in less than 20 minutes. After that, son, you're on your own.

Does anyone out there actually have an unopened bottle of this? Were US Americans madly hoarding more whisky than they could drink back in 2011? I have a feeling this review is for no one.

Echo.
Echo. 
Echo.
Echo.

Availability - Exclusive at Binny's during Obama's first term
Pricing - ???
Rating - 82 (but don't wait, don't dilute!)

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Glenlossie Week: 11 year old 2000 Duncan Taylor Dimensions

Glenlossie Week continues with a release that's about as old as the first whisky review on this website. It's so old that the Dimensions series was still affordable when it was released. Actually the bottle is still for sale at some continental European stores, so that doesn't bode tremendously well.

Like this week's other three Glenlossies, it was aged in American oak. Due to its color, I'd bet it was a refill cask. That could be good. That could also be not good.


Distillery: Glenlossie
Ownership: Diageo
Region: Speyside (Lossie)
Bottler: Duncan Taylor
Series: Dimensions
Age: 11 years old (2000 - 2011)
Maturation: a 🙁cask
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
(Thank you to Tetris for donating this MoM sample to D4P Laboratories!)

NEAT
Its color is very pale. The nose starts off with an odd combo of white mezcal, raisins and yeast. After 10 minutes that mezcal note goes straight to Cuervo Gold. Then apples and Dove soap. The palate starts with sugar and raw heat. It has a cheap blend sourness and bite. Then comes the soap and perfume. It finishes with sugar, perfume, sourness and bitterness.

DILUTED TO ~40%abv, or <1tsp water per 30ml whisky
The nose ditches most of the Cuervo Gold. Picks up a little bit of stone fruit, moss and plastic. Maybe some barley. The palate gets buttery and biscuity, with some lemon. But then comes the agave/tequila thing, which expands and expands with time. The finish is the same as the palate, with extra bitter ash.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
I've previously had issues with Dimension whiskies, in that they lack, well, dimensions. But this is pretty horrible when neat, like some prank combo of Johnnie Walker Red and Cuervo and dish soap. It's better with water, at first very much so. But then the cheap tequila thing barges in. And that's when I decide not to finish the sample.

Style-wise, it bears no relation to the other three Glenlossies this week. While there's a possibility that the sample could be tainted in some way, I think it's much more likely that the cask was dead dead dead. It has wrung awful compounds into the spirit, rather than filtering awful compounds out. So though it reads like 3 or 4 year old whisky, the problem isn't the youth. The problem is bad whisky.

Availability - It can be found in Europe if you are so inclined
Pricing - Too much if not free
Rating - 68 (with water only, 10 points worse when neat)

Monday, August 6, 2018

Glenlossie Week: 17 year old 1997 Hepburn's Choice for K&L Wine Merchants

Hooray, it's GLENLOSSIE WEEK! If I lost you with that statement, then, well, you wouldn't have clicked to read this post anyway. So. Welcome, friends!

You may (not) be asking, "Michael, it's your birthday month. Do you really want to review four Glenlossies in a row?" The answer is, "yes". I've planned a Glenlossie week five times in the past two years and it keeps getting pushed off for something flashier. Like Auchroisk.

I've referenced today's whisky once before. At a Malt Nuts event two years ago, I tried eight Mannochmores. And, as it turned out, the second best Mannochmore was a Glenlossie.

To wit: Glenlossie and Mannochmore exist on the same plot of land. They're owned by the same folks (Haig, then UDV, then Diageo). Glenlossie is 95 years older but has a much smaller capacity than its conjoined sibling. Neither were deemed worthy of the Classic Malts series, so Diageo's only official releases of these Lossie distilleries was the Flora & Fauna collection. We have to go the indie bottlers to explore Glenlossie, and that's what I'm doing this week.

Today's Glenlossie was from a single hoggie bottled under Hunter Laing's Hepburn Choice label for K&L Wine and Spirits back in 2015. It sat on the shelf for so long that they dropped the price to $69.99. At that point I scooped up a bottle for a private whisky event.

Distillery: Glenlossie
Ownership: Diageo
Region: Speyside (Lossie)
Independent Bottler: Hunter Laing
Label: Hepburn's Choice
Exclusive to: K&L Wine Merchants
Age: 17 years (1997 - 2015)
Maturation: refill hogshead
Bottles: 281
Alcohol by Volume: 55.4%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No

NEAT
Its color is light gold. The nose starts with honey, lemons, cinnamon, yeast and creamy ale. After 20+ mins in the glass, the whisky releases candy corn and circus peanut notes that nearly take over the whole thing. The palate has some heat, but it's more chili oil than ethanol. It's sweet and creamy. There are dates and lemon juice. Hints of vanilla and sandalwood. A soft malty undercurrent runs throughout. Chili oil heat spices up the long finish. Ah there's the nose's lemon and honey; the palate's sandalwood. A whipped cream and vanilla trifle.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 1.25tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose's candy notes expand. Vanilla marshmallows and green apples jump in. The palate is quite similar to the nose now, with all that candy. A bit of a tart bite keeps things somewhat in control. With time, vanilla and bitter oak slip in. It finishes sweet and tart. The vanilla and bitter oak arrive late.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
This is a sweetie through and through. It's not the full on winner I thought it was two years ago, mostly because the oak gets more overactive than one would expect from a refill cask. Jordan of Chemistry of the Cocktail (whom I actually split part of the bottle with, totally forgot about that), found the oak pretty aggressive.

But maybe because I tried it next to a far inferior whisky (to be reviewed next), there was still some thrill to this Glenlossie; mostly in the nose. It worked best for me without dilution, as water brought out the oak. If you missed out on this bottling when its price dropped, I wouldn't worry too much. Yes, one can't find single cask 17yo whisky for $70 anymore, but a great deal doesn't equal great whisky.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - had its price dropped to $69.99
Rating - 84 (neat only)

Friday, August 3, 2018

Killing Whisky History, Episode 15 - Seagram's V.O. 6yo 1962, for Grandpa Milton

My father's father passed away before I was born. A blue-collar worker for more than 40 years, Milton preferred opera on the radio over going to the movies. He only turned on the TV to watch baseball. And he drank one thing, Seagram's V.O.


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Oban Cask Strength, Distillery Only (2010 bottling)

Diageo's single malt-only approach with the distillery is nice touch, but at the same time it's very frustrating because every version of Oban that hits the market sits at 43%abv. And there are no indie bottlings. So Oban's potential remains unexplored.

A rare exception to this situation was the 2013 official release of a cask strength 21 year old. That the whisky was very good was unsurprising. That the whisky cost more than twice what'd I be willing to pay for it was also unsurprising. As I mentioned in the comments of my review, the 21yo made me wish that Diageo had released something bolder than Little Bay when it came time for an NAS.

The only other way to get full strength official Oban is through a Distillery Only bottling, though they appear to produce these infrequently. Here's one that was bottled back in 2010.


Distillery: Oban
Ownership: Diageo
Region: Western Highlands
Age: ???
Maturation: probably American oak
Release year: 2010
Outturn: 8999 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 55.2%
Chillfiltered? Probably not
Caramel Colorant? Yes
(from a purchased sample)

NEAT
To keep with the distillery character, the whisky's color is DiageoGold™. The nose has duos of lemons + brine and nectarines + mint. Smaller notes of flowers and incense float about. The palate is hotter than the nose and needs a lot of air before distinct notes appear. It's big on minerals, milder on bitterness and sweets. Tart lemons and grapefruits. A bit grassy. Minerals and heat continue into the finish, joining hints of fruit and flowers.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 1.25tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose now has a savory side; think mushrooms and dried cheese. Fresh whole wheat bread, roasted nuts, honey and shisha. Moments of lemon zest and vanilla bean as well. The palate becomes sweeter, creamier and more approachable as well. Notes of honey and whipped cream don't pull it too far in one direction because the minerals and grass are still there, as well as a better bitterness. Sweetness, as is its habit, fades before long, and is nearly absent in the finish. A subtle smoky note also carries a peppery zing. Some herbal bitterness lingers.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
The nose is a complete joy, a good riff on a rich style of Highland malt. Meanwhile the palate dishes out a more austere(!) version of Highlands whisky, lean and rocky. The nose wins with or without water, but the palate requires dilution to unearth an additional dimension. It's fun to try Oban in a different form and I wish there were more options. Currently there's a 2018 Oban Distillery Exclusive bottling that comes from "rejuvenated" casks. Someday perhaps Diageo will take this distillery more seriously.

Availability - Secondary market?
Pricing - ???
Rating - 86