...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Birthday Booze: Yoichi 15 year old

I've just reviewed five long-aged single malts and there wasn't a killer in the bunch. In fact, the best of the five were the two with the lowest ABVs. The key to their mild successes were good palates. I didn't have a problem with the five noses, but lots of time sometimes equals lots of cask which in turn endangers the palate. Unless the drinker loves tannins. I am not that drinker.

Anyway, hear ye! Hear ye! Birthday whisky! No, I didn't open a 1978 bottle, nor did I open something that is of my age. Yes, I did declare the same bottle that I opened on Mathilda's first day of kindergarten as my birthday bottle. I'd been traveling for business for some time when I came home for my birthday and then did not have the mental energy to open up something else.

But now I'd like to briefly open up the past. (Segue!) Rewind seven years ......

...... when I was very excited about the rumor that Nikka was bringing their single malts to America. Then they arrived and I saw Yoichi 15 year old's price. $120! What? I tried it and loved it, but still that seemed a little silly. But I bought one bottle. Then age-stated Japanese single malts vanished, and Yoichi 15's price went to $300, then $400. Now there are US retailers selling it for $700-$1000.

What's it like opening a thousand-dollar whisky? I don't know, I paid $120 for it. What I do recognize is that I'll never own another bottle of Yoichi 15. We're likely 8-10 years away from seeing an updated release, and if people are paying $400-$600 (let along $1000) for a bottle now, why should anyone expect Nikka to price the next batch under $400?

There are a lot of dollar signs in the previous two paragraphs. But what did you expect? This is Diving for Pearls and I'm moping about Japanese whisky. Here are some actual tasting notes.

Distillery: Yoichi
Ownership: Nikka
Region: Hokkaidō, Japan
Age: minimum 15 years
Maturation: I've seen references to bourbon casks, sherry casks and a mix of casks. The label helpfully clarifies everything by saying, "oak casks"
Alcohol by Volume: 45%
Bottle Purchased: April 2014

NEAT
Diaphanous(!) peat and wisps of charcoal smoke float along the surface of the nose. There's melon, plum wine, butterscotch pudding with smoked almonds and a hint of ginger candy. After 30 minutes, notes of clay and anise arise. A salty, seaweedy peat reads louder in the palate. Weaving through the peat is a good balance of calvados, subtle orange marmalade sweetness, black peppercorns and savory dried herbs. The finish is similar to to the palate with the salt, marmalade and calvados. The smoke grows more savory with time.

A few drops of water...

DILUTED TO ~43%abv, or ¼ tsp per 30mL whisky
The water brings more sugary notes to the nose. Also citronella, limes and an almost chocolatey peat smoke. No big change to the palate. Maybe more of a mineral note. A moment of sugar cookies. The finish also remains similar. Perhaps slightly sweeter with more of a cigarette smoke.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
The graceful peat reads like nothing coming from Scotland right now (or ever?), and all the whisky's facets play well together in both the palate and nose. Nothing ever looms too large. The finish is moderate but very satisfying. At times it feels a bit tighter than I remember it to be, but airing it out seems to fix that.

While Yoichi 15 elicits neither sobs or swoons, as Yamazaki 18 has been known to do, it is still a great whisky. The whisky world would be better off with it readily available on shelves around the world, but its absence is more of disappointment than a tragedy. I'll enjoy this bottle while it lasts, and that will be enough.

Availability - Primary market, secondary market, tertiary market, etc.
Pricing - High
Rating - 89

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Birthday Booze: Speyside Region 41 year old 1975 Antique Lions of Spirits

There seems to be a number of 1975 "Speyside Region" single malts that were aged in Fino sherry casks and bottled at advanced ages. I do wonder if they all spent their entire lives in Fino casks because who really was buying up a bunch of Fino casks in the mid-seventies just to fill with Glenfarclas(?) spirit?

The cynicism is just a way to hide the fact that I'm pretty excited about this whisky. Here's my 41 year old pour for my 14th birthday.


Distillery: Glen First Class?
Region: Speyside (obvs)
Independent Bottler: Antique Lions of Spirits
Series: The Birds
Age: 41 years old (1975 - 2016)
Maturation: Fino Sherry Cask
Outturn: 230
Alcohol by Volume: 46.9%
(from a purchased sample)

The autumnal nose is wonderfully excessive. Old rye, fresh fruit cake and roasted almonds. Apple cider, fruity cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon peel. It's as if someone is simmering some awesome mulled wine right in the glass. Vigorous tannins stop just short of nuking the palate. Mulled wine flows somewhere behind that creaky door. Then Old Red gum, salt, metal, apple skins and a whiff of dunnage. After an hour, nuts and dried fruit escape their woody captor, but then they're chased by bitter oak. The metallic, tannic finish has apple skins and cinnamon sticks. Hints of nutmeg, wood smoke and bitterness.

The same old oak that sculpted such a lovely sniffer also produced the lumbering (ha!) palate. I find this same issue with a certain famous (hint: It's the Pappy Van Winkle of Bourbon) bourbon brand's 20 and 23 year old bottlings. Smells great, tastes like furniture. Whatever the cask situation was for this "Speyside Region", the nose is a riot. I'm not sure how a palate could match it, but tannins tannins tannins tannins tannins tannins falls short of even mild expectations. Or it was wrong for me to hope a whisky wouldn't start to fall apart at age forty-one, unlike some of us.

Availability - ???
Pricing - around €600
Rating - 85

Monday, August 26, 2019

Birthday Booze: Ardbeg 1978, bottled 1998

I had thought that this whisky, with its bottling code of L81244ML, was bottled in 2008 making it a ~30yo single malt. But after some research I discovered the 1978 vintage was only bottled between 1997 and 1999. So this sample that's been snoozing for goodness knows how long is of a ~20yo Ardbeg. On the bright side, my experiences with pre-LVMH Ardbeg are very positive. And though this old Ardbeg was diluted to 43%abv, I'm not too worried because I liked the ol' 30yo which was bottled at 40%abv.

Let's get to it. My next-to-last sample of 1978 whisky:


Distillery: Ardbeg
Owners at time of distilling: Hiram Walker and DCL
Region: Southern Islay
Maturation: refill casks of some sort
Vintage: 1978
Bottle code: L81244ML
Bottling year: 1998
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
(from a purchased sample)

The delicate nose seems devoid of oak. There's delicate peat, grapefruit and moss. Saline, Amaretto, pineapple, guava and a hint of hay. Old tractors rusting in the fields. The palate is much smokier. Peppercorns and citrus peels. Sea salt and very dark chocolate. Sweet tobacco in the background. It's simple, but very direct. It finishes with smoke and pepper. Hints of sugar, soot and engine exhaust. No tannins to be found.

It's like Port Ellen meets indie Bowmore, but young and with the volume turned way down. Unlike the aforementioned 30 year old, the low ABV does keep this whisky from lifting off. I will say this about the current ownership, they probably wouldn't have bottled this lower than 46%. On the other hand, they would cask-ed the hell of the spirit.

If you're eyeing this bottling on the secondary market and price is of no concern (which would have to be the case because Jeebus), then know that this whisky is of decent educational and historical interest, while also serving as a good moderately-peated whisky, but don't expect much more than that.

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - anywhere from £400 to £1200
Rating - 87

Friday, August 23, 2019

Strathisla 40 year old 1967 Duncan Taylor, cask 1891

Today is the last day I can count myself among the 40 year old population. So I'm going to celebrate (or mourn) it with a 40 year old Strathisla.

About a month ago, my friend Matt shared a sample of one of G&M's ancient Strathislas, approximately 42 years old, and it was fabulous, remarkably rich and industrial and dense at a mere 43%abv.

Today's Strathisla is two years younger than that one, but from a single cask and bottled at full power, with full power being 46.4%abv. This was also part of the Calabasas Classic, and is finally the last whisky left from that event. So, I guess this is partially about ending old adventures and embarking on new ones. Right? Sounds good to me.


Distillery: Strathisla
Bottler: Duncan Taylor
Series: Rare Auld
Region: Speyside (Keith)
Age: 40 years (March 1967 - April 2007)
Maturation: "Oak Cask" (helpful, again)
Cask number: 1891
Outturn: 120 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 46.4%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Coloring? No

NEAT
Dusty books and old furniture in the far corner of an antique store. That's the one BIG note the nose gives off at first. Then there's something iodine-medicinal and a butterscotch pudding with smoked salt. Then figs, mango juice and incense. The palate is sweet and delicate, but oddly hot. There's Juicy Fruit gum, vanilla pudding, Lucky Charms "marshmallows". Tangy lemons, hints of wood smoke and Band-Aids. It's also very salty. It finishes with bananas and tart lemons. Minor notes of tannins and wood smoke. A lot of salt (bible joke?).

DILUTED TO ~43%abv, or ½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
More overripe tropical and stone fruits on the nose now. Honey, butterscotch, figs and yellow bananas. A little bit of dunnage in the palate and a rummy vanilla sweetness. It's still salty and slightly woody. The finish is woodier and vanilla-er. Salt and lemons. It gets sweeter with time.

NOSE NOSE NOSE
That nose. It's sublime, and best without dilution. In fact, water also starts neutering the palate and filling the finish with wood. The palate is fine when neat, and not that much better than "fine", though there's a significant phenolic element to the palate that tells me we're a long way from current-day Strathisla. It saves the palate from slipping into a more generic territory, and the same element adds yet another facet to the excellent nose.

Next week: The birthday whiskies. And as I write this, I'm not sure what that's going to consist of. Stay tuned.

Availability - ???
Pricing - ???
Rating - 86 (neat only)

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Glen Grant 35 year old 1970 Lonach

Remember that time I hosted that private epic whisky event in The Valley? Of course you do. From that event I escaped with a one ounce vial of 35 year old Glen Grant. I have a lot of Glen Grant samples, but only five actual reviews of that single malt. So there will be a Glen Grant week or month in 2020, probably.

Compared to Monday's Inchgower, this specific Speyside is on the other side of the ABV world, specifically 41.8%abv. Lonach seems to have been the label for Duncan Taylor casks that were about to fall underproof and/or a chance to blend underproof old whisky with enough legal whisky to bring the abv up to 40%. In hindsight, Lonach prices were CRAYZAY, often providing an opportunity to buy 40 year old whisky for $100. Glendarroch, anyone? I have no idea if these whiskies were any good, but they did have wonderfully swole age statements. Today's Glen Grant is one of the earlier Lonach releases (the ones with a sepia photo mid-label) from back in 2005.


Distillery: Glen Grant
Bottler: Duncan Taylor
Brand: Lonach
Region: Speyside (Rothes)
Age: 35 years (1970 - 2005)
Maturation: "Oak Cask" (helpful!)
Alcohol by Volume: 41.8%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Coloring? No

NOTES
The nose is musty, dusty and fusty, like me! Damp basements, machine shops and crumbling wet logs. There's also a stone fruit note (yellow and red plums) beneath that layer, and it expands with time. Rye bread, eucalyptus and a hint of Good 'n Plenty candy. It's still humming along after 45 minutes. The palate is similar to the nose, with half the mustiness, and with louder fruits (now with oranges!). Mild sweetness and an impressively minimal vanilla note. A pleasantly spicy zip and a hint of bitterness. It's all citrus, baking spices and mint leaves after 45 minutes. The finish is the cleanest part. Sweet and tart fruits and menthol, with hints of salt and bitterness. Just a hint of tannins along its moderate length.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
Of this week's three whiskies, this Glen Grant with its very low ABV was assigned my lowest expectations. And yet it delivered a good surprise, countering Monday's mess. This 35yo was all in balance, carrying just the right amount of sweets, spice and bitterness. It doesn't wow, but it does deliver. It's certainly a bottle to open and enjoy in the spring or summer, if you were wise enough to pick it up back in the day. Perhaps I shouldn't underestimate well-aged Glen Grant.

Availability - ???
Pricing - ???
Rating - 87

Monday, August 19, 2019

Inchgower 30 year old 1982 AD Rattray, cask 6964

I've decided to start mining the sample stash for the oldies more frequently. And by "oldies" I mean long-aged whiskies and/or samples I've had for a long time. Since I turn 91 years old on Saturday, I'm going try some nice roundly numbered single malts this week, all from Speyside.

Today's sample is an Inchgower — I like Inchgower — bottled by A. Dewar Rattray — I like A. Dewar Rattray — and was distilled in 1982. I love 1982. Two of my favorite humans were produced in 1982. This Inchgower is 30 years old, yet is still humming in at 56.3%abv. Perhaps this was a stubborn cask, or it sat in a warm corner of the warehouse. Or both. Or neither. I don't know, I'm just here for the whisky.


Distillery: Inchgower
Independent Bottler: A. Dewar Rattray
Region: Speyside (Banffshire)
Age: 30 years (30 June 1982 - 29 October 2012)
Maturation: bourbon hogshead
Cask number: 6964
Outturn: 208 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 56.3%
(from a purchased sample)

NEAT
The nose begins with fudge and raspberry candy. Small notes of mothballs, chlorine and moldy dunnage. Some peaches and apricots in the background. It gets more chocolatey with time. No alcohol prickle or burn. The palate is......unusual. Bitter fruit rinds, red pepper flakes, yellow mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Very tart, very tannic, very sweet. The finish is bitter, tannic and moldy with cocoa and burnt plastic. The heat lasts the longest.

I can't say that was pleasant. A little bit of water...

DILUTED TO ~48%abv, or 1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky
Lots of sugary candy shop notes in the nose. Some honeydew. There are also hints of plastic, metal and dunnage mold. While the palate has gotten more savory and gained a tangy lime, there's also plenty of burnt hair, burnt plastic and burnt peppers. There's a worrisome poisonous edge to it. The finish has gotten sweeter, but the bitter, tannic and peppery notes remain. Burnt plastic, burnt cocoa.

That did not help matters. More water.

DILUTED TO ~43%abc, or 1¾ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
Gone are the nose's funky elements. Now there are roasted nuts, orange oil, caramel sauce and anise. The palate is less harsh, but it's still very tannic, moldy and plasticky. Peppercorns and sugar. The finish is bitter and tannic.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
I like Inchgower a lot, and I'm aware that its single malt gets a bit divisive and weird with extended maturations. That's part of why I like it. And this whisky's low online scores actually inspired me to buy this sample.

But there are problems with this particular whisky, and it's a cask issue, not an Inchgower issue. The tannic assault is likely due to the whisky being left in the hoggie for too long, but the other palate problems may have been present years or decades earlier. I'm not sure if this could have been salvageable.

These are the bottler's official tasting notes, to wit:

Palate - Burnt Cajun spices and ginger.
Finish - An exceptionally different aged malt - curious.

Firstly, it's never a great sign when the official notes say "different", and even less great when they say "exceptionally different", and even more exceptionally less great when they say "curious". Secondly, the palate notes. "Burnt"? Certainly, but that's not always something to brag about. And, have they actually eaten Cajun food? Or, to be more American about it, do you even Cajun, bro?

The whisky's nose is very good, which makes grading this thing even goofier than usual. The real concern here is that five out of the last six Rattray products I've tried have been disappointing or worse. And I have another Rattray sample in the queue that is also not great. It's time for me to give up on this bottler.

Availability - ???
Pricing - ???
Rating - 74 (a generous grade which drops 3-5 when the whisky is diluted)

Friday, August 16, 2019

Ardmore 20 year old 1992 Archives, cask 4764

When a whisky unearths emotions it's due to two things: 1.) It reminds the drinker of another time and another place. 2.) Alcohol is a depressant.

Sorry to spoil the romance.

I caught a wee case of the feels when I poured this sample into my glass. This was a bottle I should have gotten, but didn't. It was seven years ago, to the month. I'd just fallen in deep smit over early '90s Ardmores when I put in a Whiskybase Shop order for a bottle of a beloved Whisky Doris '92. CJ (aka Ras Mazunga of The Shop) recommended their Archives Ardmore bottling of the same vintage. I turned it down, as I wasn't in the habit of buying multiple hundred-dollar whiskies at the same time. (I was so much older then.) Three months later I thought, yeah I'll get one of those. But they were gone, forever.

Life was very different seven years ago. With most of my non-cerebellum and non-skeletal cells having been replaced during that time, I'm pretty sure I'm a different person. Nothing seems to be the same. I don't know if I believe Heraclitus's shtick about being unable to step into the same river twice, or, per Mahayana Buddhism, if there even is a river.

Mathilda started kindergarten today. We'll see who sheds tears about this first, the five year old or the father. I'm opening up a bottle I reserved for the occasion. No, not an Ardmore '92. And, no, I won't finish it on the spot. One drink will do. Maybe two. Then I'll review it in a couple months. In the meantime, here's a sample of the Archives bottling of Ardmore 1992:


Distillery: Ardmore
Region: Highlands (Eastern)
Independent bottler: Archives
Age: 20 years (June 1992 to June 2012)
Maturation: "barrel"
Cask number4765
Outturn: 90(!) bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 48.6%
(Thank you, MAO.)

The nose is lovely and delicate. Lychee, dried apricots, Kasugai peach gummies, lime zest, dried roses, strawberries in cream. Notes of sake aged in cedar. A soft smoke that moves from wood to coal with time. The palate begins with lemon bars and a minerally white wine. Light smoke, a drop of herbal liqueur and a ribbon of salted butterscotch pudding. Then it slips into a different gear, full of extra virgin olive oil and tart guava juice. Though gentle in delivery, the finish lasts remarkably long. Limes, lemons and lychee on one level; stones, dunnage and a hint of bitter herbs on another.

I've used words like "delicate", "gentle" and "soft" here, and indeed this is the gentlest cask strength Ardmore (early '90s or not) I have come across. But none of it is fleeting. The nose and finish, specifically, seem everlasting. I could say they don't make whisky like this anymore, but I don't know who "they" are or what "this" is or if that statement is 100% true. But the whisky from this cask is gorgeous and alarmingly easy to drink. Hail, Ardmore.

Availability - gone
Pricing - ???
Rating - 90

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Kilchoman 5 year old 2007 cask 3010/2007 for Fountainhead

On Monday it was a 5 year old Kilchoman distilled in 2007 and matured in a bourbon cask. Today it's a 5 year old Kilchoman distilled in 2007 and matured in a sherry butt.  These two whiskies were bottled 6+ years ago and I have nothing Kilchoman-related scheduled for the rest of 2019. BUT, I intend to do two sets of comparative/retrospective reviews of Kilchoman single malts in 2020. And I'm kinda excited about those.

But for now, let's focus on Back Then. Single sherry casks of Kilchoman were a hot commodity several years back, mostly because sopping wet casks were being used by the young distillery, delivering righteous sherry+peat bombs at 4-6 years of age. I confirm that some of these were pretty super, but the prices — though short of Kavalan's nonsense — were prohibitive. I would like to thank Vik for the sample of this feisty thing!


DistilleryKilchoman
Region: Islay
Age: 5 years (14 November 2007 - 24 May 2013)
Maturation: sherry butt
Cask: 3010/2007
Exclusive to: Fountainhead (Chicago, IL)
Alcohol by Volume: 57.4%
Colored? No
Chillfiltered? No

NEAT
Pears, molasses, plums and mint leaves on the nose. Blue-scented Mr. Sketch marker smoke. A massive chalk note slowly transforms into a farmy note after some time in the glass. The palate begins with earth, almonds and blueberry jam. Cracked black pepper and red pepper flakes. Hefty smoke, mint candy and a brisk herbal bitterness. Some of this complexity disappears within 30 minutes. Again, heavy smoke in the finish. Black pepper, bitter herbs and moderate jammy sweetness.

DILUTION TO ~46%abv, or 1½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
PEAT, coal and burning twigs on the nose. Then cherry popsicles and a new dollar bill. Less cask action in the palate, more straight up peated malt. There's a good balance of smoke, bitterness, sweetness and minerals. A gentle creamy nuttiness is probably from the cask, though. Dry peat smoke, smoked nuts and sweet lemons in the finish.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
Plenty of violence again, but it's less of a rawness, less of an alcohol punch, more of a flavor blast. It's richer and more complex when neat, but it achieves a better balance with water. The low level of sticky sherry is a big plus in my book, so the cask promoted more positives than negatives, making this a better drink than the 5yo bourbon cask. If you still have a bottle of this on your shelf, it should probably be opened the next time the winter vortex hits Chicago.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 86

Monday, August 12, 2019

Kilchoman 5 year old 2007 cask 360/2007

I'm reviewing a pair of 5 year old single cask Kilchomans this week because my older daughter is 5 years (and 3 months) old and there isn't another 5 year old whisk(e)y I have any interest in drinking for fun right now. The first Kilchoman is from a bourbon cask, the second from a sherry cask. They both were released exclusively in the USA.

Today's sample was given to me by Saint Brett of Riverside (thank you, Brett!) right around the time I hit Kilchoman fatigue at the end of 2015. Yes, that means I haven't reviewed a Kilchoman in more than 3½ years. Which means I don't really know what's going on with them. I can confirm they keep Machir Bay, Loch Gorm and the 100% Islays on the shelves each year, but beyond that I dunno. And to continue my usual relevancy, today's and tomorrow's reviews are for casks released 6+ years ago. More about this on Wednesday. I want to get to the review part.


DistilleryKilchoman
Region: Islay
Age: 5 years (18 October 2007 - 7 November 2012)
Maturation: bourbon cask
Cask: 360/2007
Alcohol by Volume: 59.9%
Colored? No
Chillfiltered? No

NEAT
Violence on the nose, but, you know, classy violence. It's very green and very herbal and has a good dose of chili oil running through it. Then burnt sugars, burnt cocoa, cinnamon sticks, mint extract and fresh apple cider. After 30+ minutes, it releases sugar cookie and wet earth notes. Billowing black smoke and chili oil in the palate, followed by mint and anise candies. A sharp bitter herb note. A bit tangy. There's also a salty/brothy note in the background. The finish is similar to the palate. Lots of smoke and pepper. Bitterness, tanginess and a spoonful of soil.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 1¾ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose calms down. Smoked cinnamon sticks, eucalyptus, chlorine, anise and a moderate farmy note are what remains. Big clean smoke in the palate, along with a simple sweetness and a hint of bitterness. There's also a creamy citrus pudding effect that lifts it up. The smoky sweet finish has a nice tangerine note that lingers for a while.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
Before this tasting, I was curious to see if my opinion of young (read: less than 6 year old) Kilchoman had changed. Though I'd toned down my fandom by late 2015, I still respected their bourbon cask stuff. And, based one ounce of this single cask alone, my take remains the same. As of 2012/2013 the distillery was at least one step ahead of everyone else when it came to < 6yo single malt, yet it would be foolish to say that the whisky is as good as it can get.

This cask is limited in its violence and simplicity at full strength. Dilution helps by bringing out the farm and citrus notes. It could take on modern Ardbeg twice its age, but if this stuff had more fruit, less sugar and less brutality then it would a hell of thing. It would probably be fun to try a single cask with more age, but with the 8-10 year olds running $150 and up, I doubt I ever will.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 84

Friday, August 9, 2019

A man walks into a whisky store...

...and leaves empty-handed.

My declaration that 2018 was the year of sickness was shortsighted as 2019 quickly became the sequel. It's my strange physical system's turn to malfunction. While I have not been impressed by the results coming from either Western medicine nor some of its alternatives, I'll keep plugging away at both until something works. Meanwhile, because we Kravitzes cannot suffer in silence — Dear God Why A Papercut!, etc. — I'm writing this post.

Despite the FACT that this body will run for another 314.159 years, thoughts unleashed themselves the night after I saw the sixth doctor in four months. I thought about the three ladies who share their home and lives with me. Then I thought about the choices I've made, on both ends of the quality spectrum. Approximately 700 melodramatic moments later, I thought about whisky. Three things, specifically.

First, there's a possibility that alcohol consumption is (*gasp*) not the best thing for my wellbeing and at some point a medical professional will tell me that. Secondly, my alcohol tolerance has vanished. Just call me Mad Two-Drink Max. Thirdly, I'm never going to drink all my whisky if I continue buying whisky.

Thoughts → action. Observing that I possess a quantity of samples that I will never ever consume, I decided it was time to give the sink a drink. Rather, drinks. A shivery thrill ran up my back as I dumped 21 samples down the drain. I have another dozen in mind for this weekend.

Then there was my inability to buy my annual August happy-birthday-to-me whisky present. I had intended to make that my last whisky purchase of the year. But now I feel little motivation to put a single bottle in my cart. I mean, I will do it, likely motivated by a bad work day, a synchronized double-daughter tantrum, and a second drink. But when sober and quiet, I don't see the need to buy anything.

BUT there will be more actual bottle reviews on D4P in the near future because I will be liberating some of my stash. There's a fundraiser this month, then Mathilda goes to kindergarten, then there will be something interesting (to me, at least) scheduled for the site in September, and then autumn follows summer. Then winter. Then spring. Then summer and another TL;DR personal post on Diving for Pearls.

Please enjoy what you have. It's better than anything you think you're missing.

On that note, reviews resume on Monday!

Thank you to Malt Klaus and Malt Fascination for their inspiring posts.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Springbank 17 year old 1995 Refill Sherry Butt

Today's Springbank is beloved by the whiskybase community. But there are no actual reviews written for it, nor do any of the scorers' names look familiar. Some of these folks could be using the Whisky Advocate approach of 90 points = good. I mean most, if not all, paid reviewers dish out hundreds of 90 point grades each year, one even gave Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye a 97.5 (let us never forget). Conversely, many individuals online believe that the entirety of the 100 point range must used in balance, thus an average whisky should receive a score of 50.

Though I'm not part of either school, I relate more to the latter than the former. If I score something below a 50, that means I'd rather sip Cuervo Gold or plastic bottle vodka. Thankfully, I have come across few whiskies that sink to those depths. It takes a hell of a lot for me to cough up a 90-point score and there are months when nothing gets that grade.

But no matter the drinker, circumstances affect one's perception, and ultimately one's grade, of a whisky. This includes one's drinking environment. Company, or lack thereof. First drink of the night or the seventh? Enthusiasm for a bottle purchase, or tougher expectations for a bottle purchase. The softness of the chair. Shoes. Astrological moon sign. Or, you know, one's individual palate.

My sample of this whisky comes from a bottle that was brought, half-full, to Columbus Scotch Night for 3 or 4 months before it was emptied. And that is a Springbank lovin' crowd too, mind you. It fascinated me that there was a 17 year old single sherry cask bottling of Springbank just sitting there and no one talked about it.


Distillery: Springbank
Brand: Springbank
Region: Campbeltown
Age: 17 years (June 1995 - December 2012)
Maturation: refill sherry butt
Outturn: 438 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 57%
Chillfiltered? No
Color added? No

NEAT
Lots of dried fruit in this nose, think cherries, prunes and golden raisins. There's also coal smoke, marzipan, amaretto and cinnamon raisin bread. The palate has almost none of the nose's fruit. Instead there's some aged dry cheese and black walnuts. Salt, metal and burnt plastic with a slight savory note. Salt, dry cheese and sooty smoke in the finish. Drying tannins on the tongue.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or < 1½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
More fresh stone fruits than dried ones in the nose. It's bright and sugar with a squeeze of lemon and an oceany hint. The palate is sweeter now and slightly more complex. There's less salt and savory, but still some of the metal and plastic. The tangy, salty, metallic finish is much shorter now.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
Well, the nose is great, with or without water. If Springbank was made only for sniffin' then this would be a big winner. The palate is sort of savory, sort of simple, but also loaded with metal and plastic, and not in a classic industrial Campbeltown sort of way. There's something off about it. The finish doesn't work for me, neat or diluted (the whisky, not me), dropping into bland territory (again, the whisky, not me). Either oxygen got to this bottle's contents, or this wasn't one of Springbank's honey casks. But the nose is very fine and worth spending time with, perhaps while sipping a different whisky. So much for theories about grades. I don't know what to do with this one.

Availability - Sold out years ago
Pricing - ???
Rating - 81 ? (saved by the nose)

Monday, August 5, 2019

Longrow 14 year old 2001 for Springbank Society

Last week was NOT one of my favorite review weeks. This week I'm going to try a pair of single sherry casks from Springbank distillery that should be less unusual.

The first one is a Longrow that was bottled for members of the Springbank Society. I'm not a member of that glamorous club but Sjoerd is. Wish me luck here...


Distillery: Springbank
Brand: Longrow
Region: Campbeltown
Age: 14 years (October 2001 - October 2016)
Maturation: fresh sherry butt
Outturn: 600 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 53.2%
Chillfiltered? No
Color added? No
(from a purchased sample)

NEAT
Clean, dry sherry on the nose, especially clean compared to last week's quirky Qampbeltowns. There's a salty ocean air note, soot, coal and a little bit of fig. Small notes of apricots, brown sugar and pinot noir. The palate is fruitier than the nose. Dried stone fruits meet tart citrus. Moderate sweets and moderate peats. A slight salty broth note in the background. Tangy citrus, dried cranberries and fresh ginger in the finish. Hints of salt, earth and grape jam.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or < 1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky
More dried fruits on the nose now. The smoke reads softer. Beach and blossom notes. Something very Springbank 10 about it (yes, I know that's not helpful). At first there's lots of tart fruit in the palate. Mild peppery smoke. Some bitterness. Gradually it shifts to a fruity sherry and the smoke fades out. Sugary sherry, black pepper and smoky residue in the tangy finish.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
This was a very good cask that was bottled at just right time. It's never woody, yet there's plenty of rich sherry that never chokes out the distillery's spirit. It was the very thing I needed.

This is another one of many bottlings that blur the line between the Springbank and Longrow styles. I've had Springbanks that feel like they come from south Islay. And there have been Longrows lots of fruit and subtle peat. This happens with single casks and small batches with some age on them. Otherwise, there's a significant distance between Springbank 10 and Longrow Peated. Perhaps time and fortified wine casks are the equalizers? Whatever this is I don't remember experiencing it 5+ years ago. It's not a criticism, just an observation.

Also this is a good whisky.

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - ???
Rating - 88

Friday, August 2, 2019

Springbank Gone Wild: Springbank 25 year old bottled for IAAS


Earlier this year the Facebook group (yes), It's All About Springbank, got themselves their own single cask of Campbeltown Candy. The spirit spent 16 years in a bourbon cask, then another NINE years in a Chateau Petrus cask. Whiskybroker.uk did the in-between stuff. And I don't remember the exact bottle price but it was reasonable, probably less than half of what it's going for on the secondary market.

As you can see from this pic lifted from whiskybase, the whisky's color is precisely the level of maroon that terrifies many a whisky blogger.


Distillery: Springbank
Brand: Springbank
Owner: Springbank Distillers Ltd.
Region: Campbeltown, on Well Close, just off of Longrow
Bottler: Whiskybroker.uk
Age: minimum 25 years
Maturation: 16yrs in a bourbon cask, 9yrs in a Chateau Petrus cask
Alcohol by Volume: 47.5%abv
Chillfiltered? No
Colorant Added? No
(thank you Doctor Springbank for the sample!)

NEAT
It smells of Carpano Antica, tawny port and grape jam. There are also notes of French's yellow mustard, ginger, metal, lemon, soil and a hint of sulfur. It actually tastes like a mix of sweet white wine and Madeira. There's also a plasticky side to it, and some black walnuts. It finishes very sweet and tangy. Dry cheese and that sulfuric bit.

DILUTED TO ~43%abv, or ⅔ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
Fewer sticky sugars in the nose, and lower doses of Carpano Antica and cherry lollipops. More mustard, minerals and metal. The ghost of sulfur haunts it throughout. The palate is outrageously sweet and bitter and tannic, with a big dose of black walnuts. The finish is tannic and cloying.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
3 for 3 this week: Where's the Springbank? I mean, this is a 25 year old Springer, something we don't get to experience much anymore. It would be great to glimpse the spirit at that age. One can appreciate the fact that this wasn't a quickie finish, but the resulting volumes of wine and oak have buried (berried!) the whisky part.

The black walnut notes are my favorite part, and the nose is a whole lotta fun, but it's too sweet for my palate and the finish gets hairy. The good news is it's far from a whisky fail like Wednesday's thingy. On the other hand it could be nearly any spirit beneath the cask's influence.

Availability - secondary market, if at all
Pricing - ???
Rating - 78