...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Bunnahabhain 10 year old 2005 Signatory, cask 579 for Binny's

I partnered yesterday's excellent easygoing excellent 10yo sherried Bunnahabhain with today's ??? 10yo sherried Bunnahabhain during my tastings this past weekend. This sample comes from an OC Scotch Club event right near by birthday 4½ years ago. This was the set:


I've since reviewed most of these. This Bunny and the Clynelish had just arrived at Binny's when we scooped them up. That may have been the worst Clynelish I've ever tried. Let's just say, my hopes are a little higher for the Bunnahabhain. Is hope dead?

Distillery: Bunnahabhain
Region: Islay
Independent Bottler: Signatory
Exclusive to: Binny's
Age: 10 years (9 March 2005 - 13 March 2015)
Maturation: 1st fill sherry butt
Cask number: 579
Outturn: 546 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 57.8%
Chillfiltered? No
Colorant added? No
(from an OCSC event)

NEAT
The nose starts with lumber, cinnamon, cloves and VOCs. Brine, rosewater and prunes escape 10+ minutes later. Dates and toffee pudding appear 30 minutes after the pour. The massively grapey palate is all PX-like sherry and wood, no spirit. Jammy sticky sweet. The finish is the same, but with a tannic edge.

DILUTED TO ~50%abv, or < 1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose remains oaky, but there's a lot more baking spice now. No prunes. Minor dunnage, floral and vanilla notes arise. The palate has lots of woody bitterness, tannins, soap. You know, all the good things. It does pick up some nuts, meats and florals after a while. It finishes bitter, nutty and salty.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
Well, crap. Though my notes make the whisky sound worse than it actually is, it actually is not good. Of course, the whiskybase community LOVES it. So, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

I mean, other than the fact that it's unbalanced and aggressively oaky with a one-note palate, goes soapy and bitter when diluted, and could be from any distillery or spirit genre, it's fine. 94 points!

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 73 (only when neat, and only stays above 70 because of the nose)

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Bunnahabhain 10 year old 2001 The Whisky Agency

Oh we're not done with the sherried Bunnahabhains, no way no how. I have random samples of this stuff from everywhere. Today's sample comes from My Annoying Opinions......and I don't think he published his opinion of it, yet.

It's difficult for Americans to get a hold of a Whisky Agency bottling, unless we're physically in another country. They don't bring their stuff to The States, and very few European online retailers (who ship out here) sell TWA's single casks. They have a number of ranges and series, with beautiful labels that don't stoop to T&A (I think). Anyway, I've tried three of their whiskies and liked them all. Here's number four, from their House Malt series:


Distillery: Bunnahabhain
Region: Islay
Independent Bottler: The Whisky Agency
Series: House Malt
Age: 10 years (2001-2011)
Maturation: "sherry wood"
Cask number909
Outturn: 414 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
Colorant added? No
(sample provided by the gentleman named above)

NOTES
The expansive nose begins with a bright fresh cherry note, then molasses chews, fruity cinnamon, ocean air and clay. A slight meatiness, slight greasy Clynelish note and slight breakfast cereal note drift in the background. The palate is warm and lightly sherried, more fruits than oak. Brandied fruits, candied orange peel and ginger snaps. There's also a subtle phenolic note that reads more earthy than smoky. The finish picks up some pepper and tannins, berry jam, cloves and whole wheat bread crust.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
House Malt indeed! This would be an excellent everyday pour. There's an impressive complexity to the nose, and the palate holds onto its quirky angles as the whisky vanishes down the gullet. Had the finish not faltered a little, then this whisky would be getting a gaudy score. Anyway, this is great stuff. It's a shame I didn't know about this bottle way back when, but I have the official 12 satisfy this particular thirst.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 87

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Bunnahabhain 23 year old 1990 AD Rattray, cask 3515

Dewar Rattray was one of my top three favorite independent bottlers when I began reviewing whiskies. But before Monday, five out of the six previous Rattrays I'd tried were not good. Some were letdowns, others awful. In fact, in the history of this blog there has been only one non-Bowmore Rattray that was a solid B whisky. Until Monday.

One sherried Rattray Bunnahabhain kicked ass, so how about another?! This one is older and from a big ol' puncheon. And it's the whisky on the right:


Going by the visuals, this one is on another planet. Whisky looks aren't everything, but they do often hint at what's within. Would this be a dead cask???


Distillery: Bunnahabhain
Region: Islay
Independent Bottler: AD Rattray
Age: 23 years (5 May 1990 - 23 Apr 2014)
Maturation: sherry puncheon
Cask number3515
Outturn: 604 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 56.8%
Chillfiltered? No
Colorant added? No
(from a purchased sample)

NEAT
Surprise! Plenty of fruity sherry on the nose. Mint extract, applesauce, citronella and wee hints of cardamom and coriander. A slight medicinal whiff floats into a clean barley note. The very malty palate has a nice soft bitterness, a gentle sweetness. Toffee, apricots and moss. It gets mustier and sweeter with time. The finish keeps the moss and bitterness. Dunnage. Lemons and limes.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 1⅓ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The whisky gets much younger, and the sherry drifts away. Pears, apples, jasmine flowers in the nose. Then hints of vanilla and white rice. The leafy palate leads with pears and ink, followed by barley and coriander. It finishes with pears, grass and a bit of earthiness.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
A not-dead second-fill sherry cask, that's my guess. If you want more of its influence, drink the whisky neat. You want to wash it away? Add water. The whisky is very good because the spirit is very good. There's a little bit of darkness hiding among the fruits and sweets. Some drinkers might even like this one better than cask 5450. Like Monday's Bunny, this cask was pulled at the right time, just before tannins start knocking everything out of balance. Of course this whisky was released almost six years ago, but well done, Rattray!

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 88 (I prefer it neat)

Monday, February 17, 2020

Bunnahabhain 20 year old 1991 AD Rattray, cask 5450

Because I am a hollow person, whisky bottles and I have histories. About seven or eight years ago, AD Rattray's cask 5450 of sherried Bunnahabhain was recommended to me by two individuals whom had much more whisky experience than I. Of course I did not buy a bottle. If I had a dime for every glorious bottle I didn't buy, I could afford to buy one of those bottles.

Anyway, I was able to get in on a bottle split of this very bottle this year (8 years after its release). And you know what? *SPOILER ALERT* The gentlemen who recommend this bottle were on to something.


Distillery: Bunnahabhain
Region: Islay
Independent Bottler: AD Rattray
Age: 20 years (2 December 1991 - 19 March 2012)
Maturation: sherry butt
Cask number: 5450
Outturn: 508 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 53%
Chillfiltered? No
mit Farbstoff? Nein
(from a bottle split)

NEAT
The nose starts off heavy on cherries, black plums and shisha. Hints of dunnage and hot asphalt. Bits of butterscotch, old rye and pipe tobacco. The palate is more salty and savory than sweet. Beef stock and brine. Salted roasted almonds. A little bit of those cherries. It shifts nicely after a while, moving towards dunnage, mint, thyme, almond extract and a bolder saltiness. Some dark chocolate slips into the long finish, along with smoked beef, dried herbs, sea salt and almond extract.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or < 1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky
More dried fruit shows up in the nose, alongside honey, ginger, toffee and toasted oak. It gets really musty after a while. The palate becomes earthier and grassier. Dried herbs, an herbal bitterness, ink, cayenne and hints of berry candy. The finish gets sweeter, but it remains quite herbal, along with some ink and a surprising barley note.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
It's even better than I'd anticipated! It's gorgeously complex, never gets too sweet, has multiple gears and swims well. A great winter warmer, this Bunnahabhain might even appeal to bourbon fans due its richness and fruitiness. The cask was also pulled at the perfect time. One can picture the tannin creep beginning within another year or two.

Now how did its sparring partner, another sherry cask Bunny from Rattray, fare up against this beaut? Stay tuned...

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 90

Friday, February 14, 2020

Randy Brandy drinks Two Lous Pibous Armagnacs

Happy Halloween, you goons. Now go buy your mothers some flowers and apologize. FOR EVERYTHING.

Randy Brandy will be drinking up another two armagnacs from independent bottlers, L'Encantada, today. Independent Bottlers. There's a phrase that lubricates the wallets of all you Scotch fans. Let me remind you of something. An independent bottler is just like the narrator in Heart's All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You, they may sound romantic but really they're just out there screwing hitchhikers, trying to get pregnant.

(Don't make me hold forth all day on Nancy Wilson's compositions. They don't call me Randy "Barracuda" Brandy for nothing.)

Randy Brandy don't mind the hustle. I love me my capitalism. It's as American as its founder Adam Smith. Judging by your preferred politicians, I know some of you sensitive types get the vapors when you read about persons, such as corporations, doing everything they can to succeed. Just like me stealing Kravitz's brandy samples.

Unlike "independent" bottlers Signaboring and Garden MacPhart, L'Encantada's hitchhiker seduction is just a side hustle and their cask strength bottlings are priced nicely. Today's hitchhiker is Lous Pibous, whose distilling went seins en l'air in 2005. Contrary to what you've heard, Lous Pibous did not use new oak in a dry warehouse, rather their armagnac matured in a swamp log upon which the owner sang "Rainbow Connection".

That was a frog joke. I have more.

Samples from Monsieurs Florin and Mathieu:

That's supposed to be F4RB. MK gets nothing.
Here are my notes.

L'Encantada - Lous Pibous 23 year old 1993, cask 124, 52.5%abv
Nose - Freshly polished jackboots and apfelwein (see what I did there? No? Curt Schilling would). Antique shops and madeira. Almond brittle, coffee and Stizel-Weller. Yes, your Pappy's Pappiez.
Palate - The whole spice cabinet emptied into your mulled wine. Your grandma's attic. Butterscotch, ginger beer, molasses chews and Angostura bitters. Throw in some crisp old Calvados for good measure.
Finish - I'm like The Kool Aid Man at a massage parlor, "OH YYYYYEAH!"

More Notes - I get it, you still drink $100 bourbon because America. Otherwise THIS is what you should be drinking right now. No more excuses. We just need to get Brandy Boy Sku and his cadre of facilitateurs to float more of these casks across the Atlantic. Alas, the French have not won! It is we who have lost. Well, not me. I'll drink Folle blanche yeast shit like this until Rapture.

Also.

L'Encantada - Lous Pibous 24 year old 1993, cask 16, 53.6%abv, my Jesus how much information do you people need?
Nose - Peaches, roses, limoncello. A carpenter's garage, cut wood and greasy tools. Maker's Mark but better. Pedro Ximenez. Then caramel, apple candy and cloves.
Palate - More fruit and spirit in this one. Sweet lemons and small dark grapes. Fresh ginger and a moldy warehouse. Berries floating in a mineral rosé. Some tannins and caramel.
Finish - Sweet and tart. Caramel candies and limes. Sugary grapes.

More Notes - You know what? Go ahead and drink your Pistle Whigs and Forged Rhetoric. I'm sure those producers and their products are 100% American. This 100% French thing mixes white Bordeaux with wheated bourbon and doesn't throw up, somehow. In fact, it's beyond competent. I should probably drink more. In general.

There were my notes.

Cask 16 is probably great, but Cask 124 would humiliate most brown spirits. I still have one ounce left of 124, an ounce I can drink and not talk about. In fact, it's High Time I get Straight On and listen to a little Dog & Butterfly with the lights low. I suggest you do the same.

RATINGS
L'Encantada Lous Pibous 23 year old 1993, cask 124:  A-
L'Encantada Lous Pibous 24 year old 1993, cask 16:  B

Monday, February 10, 2020

Two Sherry Cask Ben Nevises, one heavily peated

The Maltman (of Meadowside Blending) seems to squeeze out at least a couple Ben Nevii every year. Back in 2016 they birthed my favorite BN ever, a glorious sherry cask for Shinanoya. Just a few months ago, they deposited a 14 year old "Heavily Peated" Ben Nevis upon the marketplace, and I was able to take part in a bottle split.

At the same time, I got in on a split of a 20 year old sherry cask Ben Nevis from Elixir Distillers (formerly known as Specialty Drinks). Any day that I get to try two sherry cask Ben Nevii is a good day. Here are the results of this recent good day:


Distillery: Ben Nevis
Region: Highlands (Western)
Independent Bottler: Elixir Distillers
Range: Single Malts of Scotland
Age: 20 years old (25 October 1996 - 3 April 2017)
Maturation: sherry butt
Cask #: 1528
Outturn: 466 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 53.1%
(from a bottle split)

Photo from
Whiskybase
NEAT
The nose shows a front line of apricots, limes, dunnage, dried leaves and almond extract. Behind that are dozens of tiny notes, like tobacco, toffee, cantaloupe, shoe polish and miso. It still has some spirity fight to it even after two decades in a sherry cask. The palate is more earthy than smoky. It has a dried fruit sweetness, think dates, dried cherries and dried apricots. There's also a zesty bitterness to it that then carries over to the finish, where the dates, dried cherries, limes and earth follow.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or < 1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky
A nice shift here. There are white peaches, lime zest, kiwi Kasugai gummies and almond extract in the nose, but also a strong whiff of old newspapers. The palate feels bigger than the neat version. The dates are joined by citrus zests, white peaches and a Clynelish-ish industrial greasiness. The finish, happily matches the palate.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
There's a good mix of old school and new school, bright cask and dirty spirit. The whisky also takes to water very well. It's a very pleasurable Ben Nevis that doesn't force one to think too hard. I could see a bottle of this being emptied much too quickly.

RATING: 88 (with or without water)

Then......

Distillery:
 Ben Nevis
Region: Highlands (Western)
Independent Bottler: Meadowside Blending
Range: The Maltman
Age: 14 years old (Feburary 2005 - September 2019)
Maturation: refill butt
Cask #: 57251
Outturn: 552 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 53.9%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT
Photo from
Whiskybase
Cold peat kiln, smoked almonds and a leaf fire warm up the nose, with dried cranberries and pomegranate juice just beneath the haze. Then broken stones and orange zest. Per my notes: "A farm + a bakery. Cow pies?" I regret nothing. One can find quite a cocktail on the palate, which includes earth, stones, ganja and Carpano Antica. Then almond butter and a horseradish bitterness. As per the label, there is a real peat wallop but again it's more on earth than smoke. It finishes with leaf smoke, Underberg, leaf smoke, almond butter and grenadine.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky
On the nose, The Barn Is On Fire (sorry cows). Also jelly rings, poppy seed candies, clementines and melted toys. The palate is smokier and figgier than before. Some vanilla fudge, lemon candy and soil in the background. The fruits move forward and the smoke drifts back in the finish.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
Though this very modern whisky, with extra peat and extra cask, it's very entertaining throughout. Fun points abound. I'm not sure how "heavily peated" Heavily Peated is, but it doesn't dump the whisky into South Islay. Instead there's a good dose of earth, farm and bitterness, especially when neat. Also thanks to the reasonable abv and double-digit age statement, it's not exhausting and it's not a palate killer. Plus there's still plenty of Ben Nevis to be found within, and that's why I like it.

RATING: 87

Friday, February 7, 2020

Mortlach 19 year old 1991 Signatory UCF, cask 7710

Mortlach Week ends with an indie. Signatory seems to have (or have had) quite the stash of Mort casks in their Pitlochry warehouses, and today's whisky was dispatched from one of those wooden receptacles, then bottled in the respected Unchillfiltered series. Though it was a from sherry butt, the whisky's color is very light (as you may or may not be able to glean from the photo below) so I doubt this was a first fill.

I paired this whisky with Wednesday's official 16yo. The 16 was example of decent blending, so I though it would be fun to pit it against a single cask. Who would win......


Distillery: Mortlach
Owner: Diageo
Region: Speyside (Dufftown)
Independent Bottler: Signatory
Age: 19 years (1 October 1991 - 21 October 2010)
Maturation: Sherry Butt
Cask#: 7710
Outturn: 769
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
Colorant Added? No
(sample from My Annoying Opinions)

NEAT
The nose has a bit of a brothy meaty note. Then some nuts and mint. Snickerdoodles and golden raisins. It reads sort of like several casks mushed into one. The palate is hot and narrow. There's some tangy citrus, vanilla and flat stale raisins. A copper/blood note lingers in the background, then comes to the front of the finish, which is otherwise grainy, salty and ashy.

DILUTED TO ~43.4%abv, or ⅓ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
Golden raisins, vanilla, caramel and a hint of honeydew on the nose. The palate is very JW Black Label. Caramel, sugar, pepper, a dash of ash and a little bit of sour apple candy. More sugar and acid in the finish, with a little bit of black pepper.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
The UCF range is far from perfect, and this is one of those *shrug* kind of casks that would probably be right at home in the old G&M Connoisseurs Choice series. My brain really kept flashing JW Black Label sign with every sip. No, not the '70s stuff. Nor the '90s. The current JWBL. That's not a compliment, but it does speak to the whisky's mid-shelf-blend style. My Annoying Opinions did seem to like this Mortlach better than I did, but not by much. A couple of whiskybase readers liked it even more.

I'm not sure to whom I'd recommend this whisky. It won't excite bourbon cask Mortlach fans. It'll disappoint Meaty Sherry Bomb fans. Maybe it's for Johnnie Walker Black fans!?

Availability - Sold out a long ol' time ago
Pricing - from $90 to $110
Rating - 77

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Mortlach 16 year old "Distiller's Dram"

Diageo gave up on Perfume Bottle Mortlach and switched to something more consumer friendly in 2018. All three official Mortlachs now had age statements, different packaging and much lower prices. The 12 year old 'Wee Witchie' is ~$50, the 16 year old 'Distiller's Dram' ~$90 and the 20yo 'Cowie's Blue Seal' $200. Though I'm not saying $90 for a diluted official 16yo is a hot deal, but the Tacky Eighteen was $300, so this is a good step.

Unlike its sparring partner, Monday's Rare Old, the Distiller's Dram comes from sherry casks (first and refill) alone and I've seen no word about it being a mix of spirits. So perhaps this is a more focused whisky?


Distillery: Mortlach
Owner: Diageo
Region: Speyside (Dufftown)
Age: at least 16 years old
Maturation: first fill and refill sherry casks
Alcohol by Volume: 43.4%
Chillfiltered? Yes
Colorant added? Yes
(from a bottle split)

NOTES
The nose starts with a floral note similar to the Rare Old, but then shifts to bananas, papayas and orange zest. Moments of apple pie filling and pumpkin pie spice meet with raisiny sherry and dried leaves. The palate is sweet and friendly with LOTS of maltiness. Almond brittle and oranges in the  midground, some chiles, good bitterness and a hint of smoke in the background. More complex than the palate, the finish blends notes of coffee, smoke, leaves, almonds, bitterness and a slight woodiness.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
In my highly valued opinion, anticipated breathlessly by the industry, Mortlach 16 year old is two steps better than the Rare Old, with its two different sides merging well into a moderately complex and very drinkable whisky. The "smoke" note is likely related to the spirit's slightly sulfurous style, which may turn away some drinkers and attract others. Overall, the Distiller's Dram competes with (and probably tops) Macallan and Dalmore in the 15-18yo range, and at a lower price. I would have liked more spirit and less wood, but you knew that already.

Availability - Specialty retailers in US and Europe
Pricing - from $90 to $110
Rating - 85

Monday, February 3, 2020

Mortlach Rare Old

Nearly 1200 reviews here, but only 1 of Mortlach single malt. No, I'm not of the Mortlach cult, though I do like some of some fruity bourbon cask Morts I've had from indie bottlers. And I enjoyed watching Diageo's flubbed attempt to force an ultra luxury version of Mortlach (the bottles!) upon a market that did not want it. And I reveled even deeper in the irony-free hyper technicolor cheerleading of this branding, led by the usual industry apologists and industry employees masquerading as bloggers.

But the story didn't end with that Mortlach rebranding. Diageo has been known to pivot and adjust when something is not working. Yes, that Diageo. As mentioned in last year's post about single malt prices in America, the Big D has been leading the way on stabilizing the prices of their single malt in reaction to the market since 2016. And with Mortlach they knew enough to stop and reboot because Protzig Morty wasn't working.

But more about the new stuff next time. This time I'm going to review Rare Old, the Mortlach that was neither rare nor old, the Mortlach without an age statement, the Mortlach with an SRP of $140 in 2014. In February of 2016 I found this bottle of Rare Old.


Yes, that is $42.99, not $142.99. Such was the whisky's popularity. I then included it in that month's OC Scotch Club event. Here is the remaining pour from that bottle:


Distillery: Mortlach
Owner: Diageo
Region: Speyside (Dufftown)
Age: NAS
Maturation: first fill American and European oak casks, refill casks, rejuvenated casks, all the casks
Alcohol by Volume: 43.4%
Chillfiltered? Yes
Colorant added? Yes

NOTES
The nose begins with both a dirty, earthy edge and some sunny sugar. And they don't mix. Then there are flowers and brief peaches. The dirtier side recedes leaving flowers, Jolly Ranchers and a little bit of milk chocolate to make up the whole. The palate is mild but peppery, nuttier than I expected; specifically a mix of almond butter and honey. Lots of Milk Duds (caramel + milk chocolate). Milk Duds and pepper finish things up. A slight zippy horseradish note lingers in the background, as does some more honey.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
Other than sheer size, blending has historically been Diageo's greatest strength. But that is not showcased in Mortlach Rare Old. Not only are there four (or six) types of casks in the mix, but according to Ruben there are three spirit styles as well. These parts never congeal, so it feels like there are at least two whiskies battling it out throughout. Cuddly cask-driven chocolatey Speysider versus Burly spirity Northern Highlander. No one wins and everything remains partisan. *cough* As a result this Mortlach would make for an interesting $40 whisky but an unfortunate $140 whisky.

Availability - It is not in short supply in the US
Pricing - from $60 to $160
Rating - 79