...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, September 30, 2022

Glencadam 8 year old 2011 SMWS 82.23

Time for a baby Glencadam! Today's whisky was pulled from a second fill bourbon barrel before its first decade was done, and the color is sort of pinot gris, so maybe this will provide a better glimpse into the spirit and solve the smoky mystery. Or it'll burn my face with its 63.5%abv. Only one way to find out!

Distillery: Glencadam
Owner: Angus Dundee Distillers
Region: Eastern Highlands
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Age: 8 years (16 Mar 2011 - 2019)
Maturation: second-fill bourbon barrel
Cask #: 82.23
Outturn: 235 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 63.5% 🔥🔥🔥
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

The nose is very purdy. Roses, flower kiss candy and lemon juice appear first. Then cucumber, dandelion(?), dried apricots, soil and mint candy. Some vanilla-scented soap in the background. Smells beer-like at times, and never reads too hot. The palate doesn't burn too badly either. It's a little sweet, a little floral, and a little yeasty. Some bubblegum and ginger beer, with mild bitterness in the background. Its finish reads similar to the palate: Roses, grassy, yeast, sugar, gentle bitterness and a peppery bite.

Hosing it down:

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or 2¼ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

Gets a little weird here, with the nose firing off notes of mustard, dried grass, dried flowers, sugar and peach candy. The palate simplifies, resulting in flowers, barley and herbal bitterness. It finishes with roses, mint and sugar.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Another SMWS release that hits close to its cask name, "Petals and peaches". And it's not bad for such a young high-ABV malt. (Mr. Opinions likes it even more than I do!) I should have matched this up with last Friday's 8yo Glentauchers to see how they played off each other. The Glencadam does not solve the outstanding phenolic mystery, instead reading more like its reportedly floral newmake. Rarely will I say this about such a heater, but I prefer it at full power.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - was around €60
Rating - 82

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Glencadam 15 year old

I wish there were more opportunities to try Glencadam's single malt. It's neither a highly desired distillery, nor is it frequently bottled by the indies. And rarely have I heard anyone say, "Hey, who wants in on the new Glencadam?"

Though I adored my two bottles of the Brechin distillery's malt, it's been eight years since I reviewed the official 21yo (which I bought right after the post). Over the past two years, I've consumed at least 1/3 of a bottle's worth of samples of the current official 15 year old — spending nearly as much as an actual 700mL bottle of the stuff — trying to sort out the whisky. My palate has almost always picked up some sort of peat, or nearly-peat, notes on Glencadam even though the distillery allegedly uses unpeated malt. The mystery remains unsolved. Here's my last sample of the 15:

Distillery: Glencadam
Owner: Angus Dundee Distillers
Region: Eastern Highlands
Age: minimum 15 years
Maturation: bourbon casks
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltration? No
e150a? No
(from a bottle split)

NOTES

Barley, funky honey, almond extract and Cow Tales candy fill the nose's foreground. A heavy industrial (without being peaty) note sits in the middle. Orange zest and orange blossoms sit in the back. More barley and yeast notes arrive with time, as do bits of toasted coconut and sharp cheddar.

I find both peppery smoke and charred chile skin notes in the palate. It's impressively devoid of sweetness, with sharp grapefruit and tart green grapes in the midground, and plenty of grassiness in the background.

It finishes slightly earthy, with tart citrus and the charred chiles.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Still can't crack it. It probably isn't peated, but something is going on with the spirit that reads smoke-like. That contributes towards making the all-bourbon-cask whisky more interesting than other more famous Glens, and it has that great 46%/nc/ncf presentation. Whether you're ordering from in Europe, or buying it here in The States, its price isn't terrible. But I'm not sure I'm going chase down a bottle of my own. Might just have to try it again. 🙂

Availability - many specialty whisky retailers around the world
Pricing - $70-$85 (USA); $60-$70 (Europe) 
Rating - 85

Monday, September 26, 2022

Glenlossie 24 year old 1993 Cadenhead single cask

The Glens continue with Glenlossie, Mannochmore's older sibling, and another one of Diageo's malt-for-blends machines. It's often found in Johnnie Walker and Haig recipes, but very rarely as its own single malt. The spirit has a (theoretically) soft grassy and fruity style, which is a plus for my palate. Today's whisky spent 24 years in a hogshead and has an unoaked Chardonnay hue, so I'm cautiously optimistic here...

pic from whiskybase

Distillery: Glenlossie
Ownership: Diageo
Independent Bottler: Cadenhead
Range: Single Cask
Age: 24 years (1993 - Oct 2018)
Maturation: hogshead
Outturn: 240 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 53.6%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

Sure enough, the nose has fruits. Apples, pears, apricots and cantelope, to be more specific. Pilsner and butterscotch. Wet grass after the rain and a hint of ocean brine. Hay, apricots, orange juice and a sprinkle of salt start the palate, followed by cantelope, barley, burlap, honey and late harvest sauvignon blanc. It finishes with a nice simple combination of honey, apricots, melons and salt.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky

On the nose, it reads like Glenfiddich's cousin with its pears and grass. Ginger, orange candy and heather arrive later on. Mildly grassy, sweet and tart, the palate holds onto the melons, citrus and pears; and that's exactly how it finishes.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

This single quality hoggie held onto the spirit notes almost halfway into the third decade of maturation without leaving the whisky raw or hot, resulting in my favorite Glenlossie so far. This could be a great spring or summer whisky, especially thanks to the lovely nose. I preferred it undiluted, but perhaps a little more or less water could bring out an even cleaner style. Hopefully there are more Glenlossie casks like this!

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 88

Friday, September 23, 2022

Glentauchers 8 year old 2010 SMWS 63.58

Tuesday brought my first Glenglassaugh review, Friday now presents my first Glentauchers post, albeit not of a 39 year old whisky. Nor even a 9 year old whisky. But I gotta start somewhere.

Quietly celebrating its 125th birthday this year, Glentauchers distillery passed in and out of James Buchanan & Co's hands until it wound up at DCL-SMD-UD for 74 years. It then went to Allied for 16 years before being added to Pernod Ricard's portfolio. It survived seven years in mothballs during scotch's dark days in the '80s, coming out on the other side as one of the main malts in Ballantine's blended whisky.

Now it's time to chase today's history lesson with some scotch.

Distillery: Glentauchers
Owner: Pernod Ricard
Region: Speyside (Moray)
Independent Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Age: 8 years (22 Sep 2010 - 2019)
Maturation: first-fill bourbon barrel
Cask#: 63.58, "Dental damage"
Outturn: 258 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 56.1%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

Juicy Fruit gum, yeast and mint extract arrive first in the nose, followed by oatmeal topped with brown sugar and bananas. Bits of grapefruit and pine linger. The Juicy Fruit morphs into Big League Chew. The malty, sweet palate leans heavily on lemon candy and orange candy, with some yeasty wort in the background. Lots of oranges and a little bit of barley in the very sweet finish.

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or 1¼ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

Limoncello and bitter lemon soda meet malt and confectioner's sugar in the nose. Some herbal bitterness now appears in the palate but sugar rules the day. Plenty of malt can be found from start to finish, along with confectioner's sugar.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

"Dental damage" may be the most accurate cask name SMWS has ever issued. This is one of the sweetest whiskies I've ever tried, yet it remains appealing, like a piece of hard candy when a mouth needs a quick sugar hit. Drinkers with bigger sweet teeth may like this Glentauchers even more, but I do think it's an appealing take on partially-baked whisky.

Availability - 
Sold out

Pricing - was around €50
Rating - 84

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Things I Really Drink: Glenmorangie 18 year old (versus Glenmorangie 18 year old)

Bottled in a comically heavy glass weapon, and secured within a giant casket, Glenmorangie 18 year old posses the name Extremely Rare, the silliest sub-appellation since Mortlach Rare Old. But the 18 year old whisky has been reliable in the past, so I bought a 2021 bottling of the stuff and have since consumed the amber fluid that looks superfluous within its packaging:


Not only did I save a few ounces of the EXTREMELY RARE Glenmo, but I also unearthed a pre-2007 mini of the old 18 year old:


So you're getting a twofer here. One TIRD and a Taste Off.

Here are the details:

Distillery: Glenmorangie
Ownership: Louis Vuitton Moet-Hennessy (the accents and umlauts are on a smoke break)
Region: Highlands (Northern)
Age: at least 18 years
Maturation: 70% spent 18 years in American oak + 30% with 15 years in American oak & 3 years in oloroso casks
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
Chill-filtered? Yes
e150a? Yes

And here is the:

Tain Twain

Glenmorangie 18 year old
bottled 2021
Glenmorangie 18 year old
bottled pre-2007
The nose starts off with apples, cinnamon, saline and minerals, with lemon zest and concrete in the background. Hints of vanilla, roses and circus peanuts arise after a while. The fresh apples turn baked as well, with some brown sugar sprinkled on top.Farm, yeast, pears and mead in the nose, reminding me of yesterday's 39yo Glenglassaugh. Slightly leafy as well, with a hint of white peaches. After 30 minutes it gains toasted almonds, pineapple and papaya.
A decent blend of tart and bitter, mixed with toasted oak and tobacco, arrives in the early palate. Lemons, citrons and green bananas later. It gets oakier with time.Some OBE-esque dust and metal shows up in the palate, but it remains beneath the lemons, chile oil and toffee.
It finishes with sweet citrus, bitter citrus and vanilla, though it never gets too tannic.The finish keeps the lemons and chiles, while also finding a hint of coal smoke.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

The older 18's nose was, by far, the highlight of the night. In fact it had me pondering if I had enough stupid money to track down a 700/750mL bottle. While the palate did not (could not?) match the sniffer, it did offer a sensory connection to the current bottling. They felt related there. The older version comes out on top due to its lighter oak and touch of something peated, in addition to the super nose. The 2021 batch reads perfectly produced for a contemporary palate, thanks to its citrus, vanilla, and determination not to rankle. So the blending team hit the mark, but also created something that's forgotten as soon as the glass is empty. Consider that before buying a bottle.

On one final note, I would like to thank LVMH for designing the perfect sized burial box for my daughters' stuffed animals. There is currently a closed-casket service underway for one unfortunate critter, or maybe seven. But never fear, they will walk again.

RATINGS:
Glenmorangie 18 year old Extremely Rare (2021) - 84
Glenmorangie 18 year old (pre-2007) - 87

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Glenglassaugh 39 year old 1972, cask 2896

Glenglassaugh distillery's NAS official bottlings never inspire my palate, with the peated Torfa being damned near unpleasant. I don't understand why they haven't aspired to something better, or at least age-stated, in the fourteen years since their stills restarted. As a result, this site's first Glenglassaugh will be a 39 year old single cask distilled during the Highland Distillers era. Andrea Caminneci selected it for the German market from official Glenglassaugh casks ten years ago, when people could still do that sort of thing. It's a real heater for its age, 57.5%abv!

Serge and Ruben both gave this cask a score of 93 points, which to the online world is essentially the word of God, so my heresy will be confirmed if I grade it higher or lower. Cheers!

Distillery: Glenglassaugh
Distilled by: Highland Distillers
Current Owner: Brown-Forman
Region: Eastern Highlands (Banffshire)
Age: 39 years (1972 - 2012)
Maturation: refill sherry butt
Cask#: 2896
Outturn: 516 bottles
Exclusive to: Germany
Alcohol by Volume: 57.5%
(from a bottle split)

NOTES

First gear: One of the waxiest noses I've come across, with farm, beach and old calvados filling in every corner. Second gear: Chalk, yuzu, lime and pear up top; toffee and wood spice underneath. Third gear: lychee and more wax.

Dunnage, salt, toasted nuts and mead arrive first in the palate, followed by tart cherries, yuzu, coal and fried plantains, getting sweeter with time.

The very long finish has toasty nuts and spices, honey, menthol, yuzu, lime, fried plantains and a hint of coal smoke.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

How does one bottle Torfa, Evolution and Revival knowing this is the quality of malt that came before? Yes, those whiskies are ~3 years old, while cask 2896 is 39, but......almost a decade and a half have passed since the distillery reopened. How dark is that shadow?

While the 39's palate and finish are very good, the nose makes the world go quiet. Quality refill sherry butts continue to be the magical vessel. I spent a very long time with this pour, and I recommend that anyone who possesses a bottle of this whisky does the same.

Availability - Secondary markets
Pricing - ?
Rating - 91

Monday, September 19, 2022

The Night of 7 Mini Manhattan Cocktails

There has been less and less scotch at Columbus Scotch Night. Scotch whisky's availability and pricing have been going opposite directions in the US, and the Ohio market favors American whiskey. We also like to push the occasional Armagnac or Cognac night, and those always sell out.

Working together, my friends Mr. NO and Secret Agent Man curated a Rye Blind night last Monday. Seven half-ounce drops of different American ryes, labelled A through G, were poured for the group. Six were between $20 and $35, and a seventh originally sold for nearly $200. No one, other than Mr. NO, knew which was which. Interestingly, one of those whiskies turned out to be the favorite for 70% of the group.

I didn't take part in the tasting, and I wasn't much help in my edutainment role, because I was exhausted from the day. Also, as I've referenced in previous posts, my alcohol tolerance isn't what it used to be. So I took the samples home.


What to do with those seven samples? Manhattan Night for me! Seven mini Manhattan cocktails with identical recipes would be matched side by side. Part of me hoped that they would not all be awesome so I could spill a few out and not have a bad evening. Also I didn't want to be tempted to buy seven bottles of rye.

The recipe was simple: 2:1 ratio of rye to Carpano Antica, two dashes of Angostura bitters, two drops of Luxardo cherry syrup. These were the tools:


As a wiser, balder man than I once said, in the future: Engage.

The Manhattans


Manhattan from Rye A - Stellar balance of peppery spice, fruit and sugar. Would buy!
Rating: ★★★★ (out of five)

Manhattan from Rye B - Flat. Bland, yet harsh. It tastes plastic-bottle-whiskey cheap.
Rating: ★½

Manhattan from Rye C - Some really good heft to it. Spice leads the way. Probably the best finish.
Rating: ★★★½

Manhattan from Rye D - Well, it's different than the rest. Nuts, metal, flowers, a cherry lollipop too. Weird overall.
Rating: ★★½

Manhattan from Rye E - Clean, but light. Lowest ABV of the bunch? A little bit of spice and a slight vegetal note.
Rating: ★★½

Manhattan from Rye F - Also a bit strange as it has a strong cologne note. Balance is otherwise decent enough.
Rating: ★★½

Manhattan from Rye G - Easy drinking, right-down-the-middle balance. This would be a great Manhattan rye for a restaurant or bar.
Rating: ★★★

Okay. Ready for the reveal?

. . . . .

. . . . .

Ranked Reveal! With Notes!


#1 - Rye A - ★★★★ - Elijah Craig Rye, 47%abv, $33 in Ohio.
Yes! My bottle of this stuff has already been consumed, but I saved a sample so I owe the world a post about it. 

#2 - Rye C - ★★★½ - Kentucky Owl 11 year old ye, batch 1, 55.3%abv, was $189
This was the clear winner during the event, when people sipped their ryes neatly. I can confirm its bottle smelled good. Also, I'm somewhat relieved that it didn't place first during my tasting because its secondary market price is brutal.

#3 - Rye G - ★★★ - Rittenhouse BIB, 50%abv, $27
Thank goodness Ritt BIB still works. My last couple of bottles were subpar, but that was a half decade ago. As I said in my notes, this would be a great Manhattan rye for a restaurant or bar.

#4 - Rye D - ★★½ - Wild Turkey 101 Rye, 50.5%abv, $25
I expected this to rate higher as it's always been a go-to for my cabinet. Not sure what caused the odd notes.

#5 - Rye F - ★★½ - Old Forester Rye, 50%abv, $23
Another one I'd expected to rate higher, as I've been championing it since I first tried it. There's an unopened bottle in my cabinet. It'll be the next rye I open.

#6 - Rye E - ★★½ - Sazerac Rye, 45%abv, $30
I've never been the biggest fan of baby Saz. It works but doesn't thrill, especially for actual Sazerac cocktails. And I sorta guessed the ABV situation correctly.

#7 - Rye B - ★½ - George Dickel Rye, 45%abv, $22
The most filtered of the bunch, Dickel stood out from the group, and not in a good way, or even an acceptable way. I was probably generous in my rating. It was like I'd made my cocktail with Kessler or Fleischman's Preferred. Mr. NO said, "That Dickel is just garbage."

Final Thoughts, in list form

  • This was a sticky mess. That's how you get ants.
  • I dumped half of D, F, E and B, partially for safety (D, F, E), partially for bleh (B).
  • Dickel Fail
  • I'm looking forward to my next bottle of Elijah Craig rye, and will give Rittenhouse another chance.
  • WT101 and Old Forester require further study.
  • Congrats to everyone who picked up a bottle of Kentucky Owl rye, batch 1, when it first came out. I hope you drank it!
  • Thank you to Mr. NO and Secret Agent Man for curating this tasting!

Friday, September 16, 2022

Glen Elgin 10 year old 2007 SMWS 85.49

Though I've had no more than a handful of Glen Elgin single malts, I've yet to have a whisky from this Lossie distillery that I actually enjoy. Even the official 12 year old, whose review was pulled from this blog before posting because I thought the sample was ruined, is not something I'm interested in sipping again, even after three tries. I'm not one to hold grudges (a lie), so I hope this SMWS cask wins me over (a truth).


Distillery: Glen Elgin
Owner: Diageo
Region: Speyside (Lossie)
Independent Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Age: 10 years (25 Oct 2007 - 2018)
Maturation: first-fill bourbon barrel
Cask#: 85.49
Outturn: 222 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 60.9%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

The nose is HOT, raw and slightly malty. Flower kiss candy, wet leaves and confectioner's sugar float in vodka. The hot, sweet and floral palate gradually allows minor notes of metal and oranges to escape. It finishes with sweet and tangy citrus, woody ash and ethanol.

DILUTED to ~46%, or 2 tsp of water per 30mL whisky

Flowers join the flower kiss candy in the nose, followed by coconut, vanilla and barrel char. The palate begins with something floral and a lot of woody bitterness, followed by orange pixy stix and saline. Gets very sweet, like a sugar-doped rum. It finishes with barrel char, orange candy, and that sugared-up rum note.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

As you can guess, this Glen Elgin did not win me over, but that's due less to the spirit and more to the barrel itself. It's a capital "C" Craft whisky, hot AF yet oaky AF. This was a difficult sample to finish, which is a shame since the similarly aged SMWS Dailuaine from last week was quite good. An uneven start for the Glens this week.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ?
Rating - 74

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Glen Spey 20 year old Cadenhead Small Batch

I know nothing about this Glen Spey-Glenlivet bottling, as there isn't much about it online. It's one of those rectangular small batch Cadenhead bottlings that was released in the US a few years ago. This series tends to offer pretty reliable single malts, while Glen Spey's quality varies broadly.

(And no, I have no commentary regarding the recent announcement regarding Cadenhead shop closures, since I don't know the full story, thought it does seem like single malt gets more difficult to purchase with each passing year.)

Onto the review!

Distillery: Glen Spey
Owner: Diageo
Region: Speyside (Rothes)
Independent Bottler: Cadenhead
Range: Small Batch
Age: 20 years (???? - ????)
Maturation: ???
Outturn: ??? bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 59.9%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

A lot of stuff going on in the nose, but without any development. Almond butter, flowers, chlorine and Cynar sit up front; orange oil, vanilla bean and ash drift beneath. The simple palate starts with sweet citrus and ginger candy. Hay and miso arrive later, along with (maybe?) some ash. The citrus gets tarter in the finish, and the miso remains, but raw heat is the loudest note.

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or 1¾ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

The nose brightens up, with the flowers turning into white peaches, and the citrus merging with toasted oak. Hints of caramel and grassiness fill the edges. The palate goes the other direction, turning bitter, peppery, salty, and tangy but without the fruit. It finishes tart, salty and acidic.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

This almost reads like one dead refill cask + one active first fill barrel, as these "small batches" tend to contain 1-3 casks. Both sorta raw and sorta oaky. The nose works better when diluted, but the palate tastes better when neat. I'd probably prefer it neat, though the ash notes are strange. Not sure if I'm motivated to find out anything else about this whisky.

Availability - perhaps still around in America?
Pricing - ?
Rating - 79

Monday, September 12, 2022

Glen Moray 25 year old 1994 SMWS 35.275

How about some Glenz? I'm going to review nine Glens over the next three weeks, with only one of them being a Sexy Glen (no, not Glenn Frey; note his two Ns). Each week will have the usual three reviews, the oldest of the trio first, the youngest last.

Though I've reviewed only three Glen Moray single malts on the blog so far, I tend to like the whisky, especially the now retired official 10yo Chardonnay Cask. This 25 year old indie may be the oldest Glen Moray I've had, which is fun, but it appears to have spent its entire life in a first-fill toasted hogshead, which is......interesting.

Distillery: Glen Moray
Owner: La Martiniquaise
Region: Speyside (Elgin)
Independent Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Age: 25 years (24 Nov 1994 - 2020)
Maturation: first-fill toasted hogshead
Cask#: 35.275
Outturn: 180 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 59.6%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

Dessert whisky. Cinnamon toffee pudding, crème brûlée, candy corn and tobacco leaf arrive first in the nose. Touches of mint leaf, ginger powder, soil and dunnage provide depth. The palate is a bit warm and spicy, definitely a winter pour, but not brutal, highlighted by gently sweet citrus, toasted cashews, a bit of MGP rye whisky and cinnamon raisin bread. That cinnamon raisin bread leads the finish, with subtler notes of lemons, cloves and toasted cashews.

DILUTED to ~50%abv, or ~1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky

The neat nose's characteristics have intensified. The spices are quite lovely, and it's rich like an even older malt at times. Mango and peach sneak in. Bright citrus moves to the front of the palate, spices (cinnamon, clove, ginger powder) to the middle. A little more mint. The fruit's tartness keeps the sweetness in check. It finishes with limes, ground cloves, dried mint and a hint of ginger.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Um, this is pretty darned good. If this is how whisky ages in a toasted hoggie, then I wish the industry would lean into The Toast, rather than virgin char bombs. Even though this cask was toasted, I do think this would appeal to American whisky fans, specifically rye geeks. Those spices! Does the Glen Moray spirit have any influence here? I don't know. But it took well to its vessel.

Keep in mind, this isn't Neu Whisky (though maybe Neu! Whisky?) because many wine / fortified wine casks are toasted rather than charred. Just picture those casks with the wine removed. To me, it worked very well this time.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - was around $300 upon release
Rating - 89

Friday, September 9, 2022

Dailuaine 34 year old 1980, Special Release 2015

I'm getting quite fond of Dailuaine, and will once again implore Diageo to add it to The Classic Malts (or the secondary group, The Classic Malt Rejects; I'm looking at you, Cardhu). The Flora & Fauna (the tertiary tier) edition is one of the best of the F&Fs. Meanwhile the distillery cranks out 5 million liters of alcohol annually, and nearly all of it goes into The Big D's blends, especially Johnnie Walker. Every once in a while they pull a whoopsie by releasing an official Dailuaine, like today's 34 year old, which was hatched before the distillery's own maltings were retired, and spent its entire maturation time in refill bourbon casks. It's time to see how it held up against yesterday's excellent 30yo.

Distillery: Dailuaine
Ownership: Diageo
Region: Speyside (Central)
Series: Special Releases 2015
Age: 34 years (1980 - 2015)
Maturation: refill American oak casks
Outturn: 2952 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 50.9%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

Nose - Picture a cheese plate without the cheese. Walnuts, dried apricots, fig jam, maybe a few smoked almonds. Then there's honeycomb, broken stones, pear skins, old boots and dunnage.

Palate - Thick and heavy texture. Citrons, oranges and Assam. Raspberry jam, sage and a hint of bacon. Lemons and dunnage.

Finish - Minerally smoke, lemons and honey, with hints of savoriness and bitterness.

Careful with that water, Kravitz...

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or > ½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

Nose - Roses, mango juice and broken stones. Romantic!

Palate - Assam now steeped a little longer, served with a berry tart and toasted almonds.

Finish - Honey, lemons, smoked almonds and earth.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Another beautiful Dailuaine. The lovely match between this and SMWS's 30yo from 1988 turned into one of the best Taste Offs of the year. I'd rather not pick a favorite, but this one sings with or without dilution. Some masterful cask management from Diageo here, as I've seen from many of their elder Special Releases. And as with any gem, please open your bottle and share!

Availability - Still at some European shops
Pricing - still in the three-digit range thanks to exchange rates
Rating - 91

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Dailuaine 30 year old 1988 SMWS 41.118

Staying with Dailuaine, staying with the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, but jumping back to 1988 with this 30 year old whisky. This will be the oldest Dailuaine I've reviewed up to this point, and it has a very drinkable ABV, but its maturation could be problematic depending on that second cask...

Distillery: Dailuaine
Ownership: Diageo
Region: Speyside (Central)
Independent Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Series: The Vaults Collection
Age: 30 years (28 Sept 1988 - 2019)
Maturation: 27 years in a bourbon hoggie, then three years in a first-fill PX hoggie
Cask#: 41.118
Outturn: 244 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 49.2%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

The perky nose is loaded with fruit candies of the apple, strawberry and watermelon sort. Dried pineapple too. Some ginger powder, baked pears, saline. Shortbread with toffee chips. The palate starts with dates, incense and a whiff of pipe tobacco. Toasted marshmallow, graham crackers, sweet oranges and pineapple juice fill the middle. Chalk and lemongrass dot the background. It catches a second wind after 45 minutes as it gains stewed berries, tart lemons and more tobacco. A basket of fruits in the finish! Pineapples, kiwis and lemons, with a pinch of horseradish bitterness.

With reluctance, I add a little water:

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or < ½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

Baked apple and honey arrive first in the nose, followed by dates, shortbread, pineapple and toasted oak. The palate is still fruity and floral after all this time, especially on the citrus side. Tobacco and tea tannin provide some angles. Fewer zesty fruits in the finish, more baking spice and dates.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

I adore this whisky. The secondary maturation added some character, but didn't drive the whisky away from its ultra fruity spirit. Any more time in either cask would probably have been too much, so kudos to whomever at SMWS was in charge of the cask management here. Adding water didn't break the whisky, but I preferred it at its reasonable full strength, where the palate offers multiple levels of development, and the damned thing smells gorgeous. If only it had a proper Dailuaine sparring partner......

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - was £305 upon release in 2019
Rating - 91

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Dailuaine 12 year old 2007 Old Particular for K&L Wine Merchants

This week's first Dailuaine came from a refill bourbon barrel. The second comes from a refill sherry butt. They're of a similar age and vintage, so I tasted them side-by-side. SMWS versus D. Laing. Barrel versus butt.

Distillery: Dailuaine
Ownership: Diageo
Region: Speyside (Central)
Independent Bottler: Douglas Laing
Range: Old Particular
Age: 12 years (March 2007 - 19 August 2019)
Maturation: refill sherry butt
Cask#: DL 13293
Outturn: 573 bottles
Exclusive to: K&L Wine Merchants
Alcohol by Volume: 57.6%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

The nose starts off with a mix of toffee, raw nuts, ocean and a hint of smoke. Citron, baked apple with cinnamon and the anticipated flower blossom touch fill the mid- and background. Notes of golden raisins and toasted oak build with time. Fudge, golden raisins and dried blueberries rule the palate, with black raisins and dried currants lingering beneath. It finishes with a blend of dried currants and golden raisins. Hints of salt and prunes appear later on.

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or 1½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

Baked apples and fresh apple peels meet with hay and golden raisins in the rustic nose. The palate picks up more bitterness and more honey. Maybe some tart citrus too. Good mouthfeel. It gets a bit sour and peppery on the finish, with some bright lemons in the background.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Though the 10yo SMWS and this 12yo OP are close in quality, and I can see how one could rate the 12 higher, I enjoyed the crisp, fruity and floral 10 more. That one held closer to the bright spirit, while this one has more oomph and age to it. For a rosier take on this 12, please see the review by K&L's most boisterous enthusiast, Mr. Opinions himself.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - $65 upon release
Rating - 83

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Dailuaine 10 year old 2008 SMWS 41.116

I'm not sure why there aren't more Dailuaine reviews on this site. The spirit has a very pleasant floral note, even into its teenage years. No, not perfume, but actual flower blossoms. Of course, I haven't actually had a Dailuaine in six years, so I have no idea how this week's quartet of reviews will play out. It begins with youngest of the four...

Distillery: Dailuaine
Ownership: Diageo
Region: Speyside (Central)
Independent Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Age: 10 years (9 April 2008 - 2018)
Maturation: refill bourbon barrel
Cask#: 41.116
Outturn: 218 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 61.3%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

Huzzah, the florals are there in the nose, alongside oranges, limoncello, confectioner's sugar and raspberries. Very pretty. The palate begins worty and yeasty, almost smoky. Salt and brown sugar. Lemons and roses. It finishes hot and sweet, with plenty of citrus and salt as well.

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or 2 tsp of water per 30mL whisky

The nose reads fresh and clean, with lemon zest, fresh cherries and mint candy up front, wort in the back. Orange blossoms and roses mix with a hint of herbal bitterness in the gently sweet palate. It finishes with simple sweet citrus and that whiff of bitter herbs.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Though this whisky reads younger than its age statement it works well as a spring or summer pour, especially when diluted. It's a simple cuddly youth, not a violent one. I like this approach, and probably would have enjoyed a bottle of this Dailuaine, quite a bit.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - around $70 when released
Rating - 84

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Balmenach 33 year old 1988 WhiskySponge

Sorry, this post arrives two days late. Life keeps blasting aside things I'd rather be doing. My alcohol consumption has dropped a bit too, as I navigate through compounding stressors. But I'm here now to close out my Balmenach week with a WhiskySponge release that has some real age on it.


Distillery: Balmenach
Ownership at time of distillation: United Distillers (proto-Diageo)
Region: Speyside (Moray)
Bottler: WhiskySponge
Series: No. 51
Age: 33 years old (1988-2022)
Maturation: refill hoggie
Outturn: 211 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 50%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

Quite a bit of oak on the nose, though it works well alongside the lemons and guavas. Some saline and wax. Honeyed pastry and Twizzlers. There's also a slight medicinal tilt to it. The palate reads hotter than the ABV. Oak and grains. Pepper and bitterness. Hints of sea salt and lemon candy. But no development after 45 minutes. It finishes bitterly and peppery, with a little bit of earth and mouth-drying tannin.

I didn't anticipate diluting this one, but...

DILUTED to ~43%abv, or 1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky

Less oak on the nose, more oranges and dried herbs. Some citronella and talcum powder. Beeswax. The palate is also less oaky, or at least the wood offers more spice than bitterness now. It's still plenty peppery and salty, with some tart oranges in the background. Less bitterness in the finish, more citrus.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

My opinion of this whisky does not groove with that of the Whiskybase community. The oak on the palate read out of control when the whisky was neat. Thankfully, dilution helped matters. Still, it was flatter and less balanced in the mouth than I'd expected. The excellent nose was on a very different plane, too bad the rest didn't match it.

Availability - ???
Pricing - ???
Rating - 83 (diluted only)

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Balmenach 12 year old 1975 SMWS 48.1

Balmenach is distillery #48 in the Scotch Malt Whisky Society's library. And ".1" means, yes, this was SMWS's first Balmenach, bottled back when SMWS was using their charming generic labels, before the "charming" cask names were introduced. Monday's 1970s Balmenach was a malty, sturdy thing at 43%abv. I'm curious to sniff a full-powered version from this era. Here it goes:

pic from whiskybase
Distillery: Balmenach
Ownership at time of distillation: United Distillers (proto-Diageo)
Region: Speyside (Moray)
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Age: 12 years (March 1975 - October 1987)
Maturation: ???
Cask: 48.1
Outturn: ???
Alcohol by Volume: 55.2%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

The nose is all raw seeds, raw nuts and apple cider at first. Then Delirium Tremens (the Belgian ale, not the syndrome) rises from the middle, followed by pumpkin pie and a touch of hay. The palate leads with a perky bitterness, like bitter citrus, followed by sea salt and barley, with hints of hay and halvah in the background. It finishes bitter and tangy, with moments of barley, hay and ash.

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or 1¼ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

The nose is yeasty and malty, with notes of cashews, mushrooms, saline and apple cider. The citrus becomes sweeter in the palate, and the bitterness reads herbal. Raw almonds and sativa flower float in the  midground. The finish stays similar, perhaps slightly sweeter and nuttier.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Another Balmenach in the buff, and another good one. Like the 14yo Sesante, this 12yo has apple cider and raw nut notes, as well as something nearly peated, but this one is slightly more to my liking. The notes of DT, cashews and sativa certainly don't hurt, but the gentle farminess puts it over the top. This would be a fun bottle to possess because time and different dilution levels may bring out even better results.

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - ???
Rating - 87

Monday, August 29, 2022

Balmenach-Glenlivet 14 year old Extra Special, Sesante, bottled 1980s

What the hell is a Balmenach anyway? Other than the occasional Signatory cask, Balmenach single malt rarely finds its way to retailer shelves or blog posts. Its current owner, Inver House, refuses to produce official bottlings because the malt is so desired by blenders, which is bummer because the rest of owner's distillery portfolio is frequently interesting (like Balblair, Old Pulteney, Speyburn and AnCnoc). But Hanky ain't gonna Bannister itself.

Balmenach was one of the rare distilleries that United Distillers chose to sell instead of destroy. Inver House scooped up the facility in 1997 after it had been mothballed for four years. According to both the Malt Whisky Yearbook and scotchwhisky.com, Balmenach currently produces an old school, hefty, meaty whisky.....and also gin.

But I'm not going to review anything distilled by Inver House this week. Instead, each of this week's three Balmenachs came from the United Distillers period post-floor malting (>1964), but pre-closure (<1993), all bottled by independent companies.

Image from
whiskybase
Sesante's 14 year old Extra Special Balmenach came in three formats: 43%abv, 57.5%abv, and a crystal decanter with 40%abv fluid within. It was a short lived set that may have been distilled in the early 1970s. I'm grateful to have had an opportunity to take part in a bottle split of the 43%abv edition.

Distillery: Balmenach
Ownership at time of distillation: United Distillers (proto-Diageo)
Region: Speyside (Moray)
Bottler: Sesante
Age: at least 14 years old
Maturation: ???
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
(from a bottle split)

NOTES

A hardy combination of barley, apple cider and sooty garage appears first in the nose, followed by quieter notes of lemon, lox, metal and apple cake. It gets yeastier with time.

The palate starts off very malty, with a little bit of brown sugar and Campari-esque bitterness in the midground. It gains lemon, raw bitter nuts and slightly more brown sugar after a while.

In early sips, it finishes with a warm bitterness and something beer-like. Later on, it concludes slightly sweeter with tart oranges and raw walnuts in the background.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

It's a fairly naked whisky but not in the same way that contemporary baby malts are produced. The barley rides way up front, framed by an unromantic bitterness. The palate's citrus gives it a nice twist, as does the nose's industrial side. I wouldn't call it a super whisky, but it would be nice to have something like this available today. Maybe a vatting of Benromach, Tobermory and Loch Lomond? Anyone?

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - no, don't look
Rating - 85

Friday, August 26, 2022

Birthday Booze: Blended Scotch Whisky 44 year old 1976 The Maltman, cask #8140

Normally I try to provide a little bit of background regarding fancier whiskies, but I don't know the full story on this one. Whiskybase says this blend is a mix of Ben Nevis, Clynelish, Teaninich, Macduff, Dailuaine and Invergordon, and that it was sherry cask matured with an outturn of 327 bottles. So, were this whiskies hanging out in the same cask for 44 years? Or were they pulled from other casks, blended, then finished in a sherry hoggie (considering bottle count)? I dunno. Feel free to inform me in the comment section below. Huzzah to 44!

Blender: Meadowside Blending
Range: The Maltman
Type: Scotch Blended Whisky
Age: at least 44 years (1976 - 2021)
Malt Ingredients: Ben Nevis, Clynelish, Teaninich, Macduff, Dailuaine
Grain Ingredient: Invergordon
Maturation: "sherry cask"
Outturn: 327 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 46.4%
(from a bottle split)

NOTES

The nose begins with a big note of old funky paxarette-style sherry cask. Lots of dunnage too. Those notes gradually lift, revealing mocha ice cream and Kinder Bueno minis. Cassis and dulce de leche. Hints of root beer barrel candy and new leather float in the background.

Though there's plenty of oak in the palate, it reads less tannic than bourbon one-third of this whisky's age. It's gingery and chocolatey, with figs and grapefruits as well. There's also a mix of Underberg and Cynar pepping up the affair. It gets sweeter, tangier and dustier with time, while gaining some wood spice.

It finishes with figs, dark chocolate, molasses, Cynar, tangy oranges and lots of tannins.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

The nose says that this really was a very long single maturation, but the palate and finish are a little less clear. An overactive cask could have been engaged for a secondary maturation. This is mostly oak juice, as the age and the whisky's moderately-steeped black tea color warned me, but it's very nice oak juice. It smells wonderful and I don't have splinters in my mouth. Also figs.

Next week I'll try another trio of oldies, but "oldies" of a different sort.

Availability - ???
Pricing - ???
Rating - 88 (powered by the nose)

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Birthday Booze: Caol Ila 25 year old 1978, Special Release 2004

Much to my surprise, samples of vintage 1978 whisky still exist in the stash! Happy birthday to me! This year, I'm pouring an official Caol Ila '78, aged in refill casks and bottled at full strength.

Sometimes my palate registers Caol Ila as Ardmore's slightly brawnier cousin, which is a good thing, in fact I'd like to meet their entire family. Anyway, CI is the lone peated Islay malt I enjoy drinking in the late summer. The rest of those heaters don't taste as good until November. So there are my zillion reasons for drinking cask strength peated whisky on a humid evening. Sláinte!

Distillery: Caol Ila
Ownership: Diageo
Region: Port Askaig, Islay
Age: at least 25 years old (1978-2004)
Maturation: refill casks 💚
Outturn: 6000 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 59.4%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

The nose brings fruit first, peat second. Pineapples and citrons. Kelp and beach bonfire. Ah, there's the mango juice! Candied yuzu peels and a pretty floral note arise after 30 minutes. The palate starts off full of salty seaweed, with lemon bars and a hint of mango in the background. It stays quite lemony while gaining more smoke and baking spice with time. It finishes with salty savory smoke up front and touches of tart and bitter citrus in the back.

Pretty good, but what if I hydrate it to my favorite ABV?

DILUTED to 48%abv, or 1½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

Smoke stacks and toasted seaweed mingle with peach pie and pineapple cake in the nose, with some citrons and roses in the background. The palate gets a little more savory while picking up all sorts of new notes like wasabi, grapefruit, pineapple and toasted sunflower seeds. The finish keeps its good length, while gaining sweet fruit and reducing the smoke.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Yep, that little bit of water did what it needed to, pushing this into 90-point territory. And if my opinion ain't enough for you, there's a certain other person's opinion you may want to review. Part of me wishes Diageo dropped a cask strength 25yo Caol Ila each year, mirroring Talisker's old approach, but the other part of me knows how peckish the ravenous secondary market would have become for each bottle. So I'm just going to enjoy what I have here and finish off the rest of this fruity creature after I click "Publish". On to 44!

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - It was £150 in 2004, it is not £150 now
Rating - 90 (with water)

Monday, August 22, 2022

Birthday Booze: Longmorn 43 year old 1968 Gordon & MacPhail, cask 909 for Van Wees

Allow me to recap age 43: I got divorced, caught Covid-19, was booted from one company to another, injured one rotator cuff just as the other was completing 18 months of healing, was told my left ankle has nearly no tendon left, got back to my pre-parenting weight for like 1 month, and obtained a cat whom I swear is trying to kill me in my sleep. To celebrate the close of this uneventful year, I am relieving my 1968 Longmorn sample bottle of its contents.

For those not in the know, G&M dropped a clench of outrageous Longmorn casks for Van Wees seemingly all at once, about a decade ago. Today's whisky is one of that clench. I didn't buy any of those bottles because the €500-€700 price range was out of my reach. Casks like this would go for 5x that amount nowadays and still sell out. I am not the target demographic for this delicious whisky.

pic gently lifted
from whiskybase 
Distillery: Longmorn
Ownership at time of distillation: Longmorn-Glenlivet Distillery Co
Region: Speyside (Lossie)
Bottler: Gordon & MacPhail
Range: Reserve
Age: ~43 years old (15 February 1968 - June 2011)
Maturation: first fill sherry butt
Cask #: 909
Outturn: 523 bottles
Exclusively for: van Wees
Alcohol by Volume: 55.4%
(from a bottle split)

NOTES

Nose - It reads like neither 55+%abv, nor a 1st fill sherry butt, or perhaps contemporary bottlings have conditioned my senses the wrong direction. First, fresh black plums and floral white peaches. Damp earth and toasted almonds. Lychee syrup. And then the guava, oh the guava! Madeira? Hints of dry gravel and Walker's shortbread in the background.

Palate - Oh. Oh dear. All the citrus. All the stone fruits. All the tropical fruits. I dunno, I'll try to list the things. Lots of oranges (cara caras, mandarins, bloods), figs, yellow peaches, guava, mango, dunnage, a soft earthy peat. It's tart and righteous. Massive, but never hot.

Finish - Glowingly tart. It's a citrus freakout, with Rainier cherries, mead, incense, pound cake, and a lovely bitterness also arriving in endless waves.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

As complex as the nose was, the palate was my favorite part. What a lovely thing. This fruity-fruit-fruit Longmorn era produced some of the most delicious single malts I've ever tried. If you get an opportunity to try Longmorn distilled in the 1960s, or early 1970s, seize it! There are some Longmorns even better than this specific one, but I'm perfectly happy to settle. Good bye, 43!

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - ????
Rating - 92

Friday, August 19, 2022

Things I Really Drink: Ardmore 19 year old 1992 Single Malts of Scotland, cask 9464

It would be inaccurate to say Ardmore made me the man I am today — I can thank genetics, fear and questionable choices for that — but it did help me understand my palate. My first sips of early '90s Ardmore revealed balances of salt-sweet, fruit-smoke, roots, herbs and stones that I'd never had before. It wasn't quite like seeing a new color, rather I saw existing colors more clearly. And I said, "Oh, this is what I like."

That's why I've sprinkled "Ardmore that" and "Ardmore this" throughout the blog. And since our time is limited, and my taste buds aren't getting any smarter, it's time to start dusting off the good stuff. Like, say, Ardmore.

I opened this bottle of '92 Ardmore in January, then promptly caught Covid. THANK YOU ELIXIR DISTILLERS. But seriously folks, it's dumb luck that any whisky remained for this review.

Distillery: Ardmore
Owner: Beam Suntory
Region: Highlands (Eastern)
Independent Bottler: Elixir Distillers
Range: The Single Malts of Scotland
Age: 19 years old (18 June 1992 - 21 June 2011)
Maturation: bourbon barrel
Cask: 9464
Outturn: 207 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 49.3%
(from the bottom third of my bottle)

NOTES

Two fronts slowly merge in the nose. Seaweed + apricot meets lychee, fresh strawberries, coal smoke and palo santo smoke. Hints of black walnuts and orange peels linger behind. The fruits take over after 30 minutes, as in-season nectarines arrive.

The palate begins with lemons, salt, coal smoke and chile oil, followed by smoked black walnuts (if that's a thing) and yellow nectarines. Then it shifts gears as big rooty herbal bitterness and stony minerals arrive. The fruits get tangier and muskier with time.

It finishes with gentle smoke, whiffs of the bitter roots, tart and sweet fruits like pineapple, guava and those nectarines.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

This summer, my older daughter, Mathilda, and I happened upon a pile of perfect nectarines. The sweet floral middles (not too juicy) allow just a micron of tartness then whoosh it away. I nearly forget where I am when tucking into sublime nectarines, except when sharing the moment with my daughter. We stand in the kitchen, pigging out and laughing about fruit.

Also, this Ardmore, bottled at the perfect strength, is what I like. See Serge's, Ruben's and Mr. Opinions's reviews as well.

Availability - Sold out years ago, sorry
Pricing - ???
Rating - 90 (maybe higher, I don't know)

Monday, August 15, 2022

Talisker 10 year old: six batches across 20 years

Talisker's early history was a bit bumpy. In the 1820s, the MacAskill brothers bought a piece of land on Skye, then set about booting all of the rural renters off the property, Clearance-style. They built Talisker distillery in 1830, but the poor jerks couldn't figure out the business, filing for bankruptcy in 1848 and turning the distillery over to the bank. Donald MacLennan bought the distillery, then sold it ten years later when he couldn't turn a profit. The new owner, John Anderson, lasted all of twelve years before he went to prison for fraud. Robert Kemp, one of the next co-owners, only stayed on for twelve years as well, choosing instead to buy some distillery called "Macallan". In 1898, Talisker ownership merged with Dailuaine and Imperial. This lasted less than 18 years when the owner died and Distillers Company Limited took over. DCL → UD → Diageo has run Talisker ever since.

Though the distillery's ownership has remained stable for nearly a century, Talisker has seen changes. Triple distillation was discontinued in 1928, the distillery burst into flames in 1960, on-site malting ended in 1972 and in 1988, Talisker 10 year old was born as part of United Distillers' Classic Malts series.



This Taste Off has been a long time coming. Talisker 10 and I go back about 18 years. And that's been a long 18 years. But the whisky has survived, and apparently so have I. Over the past eight years I've had a suspicion that the whisky's quality has sunk. Or my palate has shifted dramatically. Or both.

With this same curiosity and concern I compared three bottlings of Talisker 18 year old, back in 2020. Not only did that Taste Off prove my point, but I was able to hypothesize what had happened to the whisky over the years. Three years before that writeup, I compared seven batches of Ardbeg Ten, and I fairly enjoyed that experience. May this Taste Off find the best elements of both of those posts!

Here's the lineup:

  1. 1990s Map Label, brown bottle, US release - From a very healthy bottle split.
  2. 2001 bottling, Stone Label, L15T03328098 - My bottle, about 1/3 of the way down.
  3. 2009 bottling, from the ol' blue box - Bottle split!
  4. 2012 bottling, end of the ol' blue box era, L2107CM000 - My bottle, originally reviewed in 2014.
  5. 2015 bottling, Made by the Sea era, L5224CM000 - Sample courtesy of one Florin.
  6. 2019 bottling, Made by the Sea era, L9023 - My 200mL bottle.

A technical note: For the purposes of this tasting, I am opening both windows behind me. As with the consumption of Springbank's single malts, the drinking of Talisker goes best with fresh air. And it is raining.


Whisky Notes
THE NOSES
Map Label (1990s)Smoked salmon, uncooked uncured bacon and ocean water. Green grapes, honeydew, newspaper print. Hints of toffee pudding and mesquite.
L15T03328098 (2001)Possibly the smokiest of the group. Smoked almonds, smoky bacon and burnt grass. Ocean water, fresh sage and green bell peppers. With time it develops a combo of dark chocolate and berries.
L9 (2009)Oh dear. Plastic siding in the summer + mesquite chips + white peaches + mint leaves. Green apples, milk chocolate and a hint of fresh herbs drift through the background.
L2107CM000 (2012)The loudest nose. Mezcal, apple skins and serrano oil up front. Nutritional yeast and saline in the middle. Lemons and fish in the background.
L5224CM000 (2015)Bologna (the "meat", not the place) meets heavily charred veg. Mesquite ashes, horseradish and dry soil. It gets ashier with time, while picking up notes of raw cocoa and black walnuts.
L9023 (2019)Vanilla extract mixes with cinnamon, caramel, fresh sage, mesquite and woody ashes. Floral soap and candy cane notes arrive later.

Whisky Notes
THE PALATES
Map Label (1990s)The nose's lox, bacon and mesquite merge flawlessly with yellow plums and lemons. Kelp and cayenne dot the edges.
L15T03328098 (2001)Milder than the '90s version. Mellow pepper, salt, sweet and smoke. Mint and limes in the middle. Picks up a pleasant fresh berry fruitiness after a half hour.
L9 (2009)Gloriously peppery, but also full of nectarines, yellow plums and lychees. Minerals and smoke frame it all.
L2107CM000 (2012)Very smoky. Plenty of cinnamon and (Cajun) blackened seasoning as well. A bit of alcohol heat never lets up. Smoked salt and lemons are waaaaaay in the back.
L5224CM000 (2015)Hay and salt. Tangy citrus and tangy pepper sauce. Artificial sweetener and a touch of soap.
L9023 (2019)Bitter and watery at first. It gains mint, pepper and hay after 20 minutes. Some lemon and mezcal later on.

Whisky Notes
THE FINISHES
Map Label (1990s)Plums and lemons at the beachside. Gentle earthiness and light sweetness in the background.
L15T03328098 (2001)Sweet oranges meet pepper sauce and a little bit of minerals.
L9 (2009)Stone fruit sweetness, green herbs, truffle salt and roasted chiles.
L2107CM000 (2012)Sweeter and tarter here. Good length. Smoke and chiles in the background.
L5224CM000 (2015)Sweet, ashy, lightly peppery, with a hint of citron.
L9023 (2019)Black peppercorns, simple syrup and a squeeze of lemon.

Whisky Notes Rating
COMMENTARY AND RATINGS
Map Label (1990s)A perfectly assembled single malt. I don't think there's anything like this on the market right now, from Talisker or anyone else.
90
L15T03328098 (2001)I was a little worried about the palate on this one (especially since I have most of a bottle remaining), but once the fruit slipped in I was reassured.
88
L9 (2009)Fanfuckingtastic. Depth, balance, glory, strobe lights. Even better than I remembered this era of the 10 year old to be.
91
L2107CM000 (2012)Much rawer than the previous three. My palate had to recalibrate because this was a different whisky. Decent stuff though overall, with plenty of entertainment in the nose.
85
L5224CM000 (2015)A very unfortunate palate. The nose saves the whole thing from descending into C-grade territory. A strange, but limp, batch of casks perhaps?
82
L9023 (2019)Another startling shift to a different style, that of the contemporary era. Youth, oak, and thinness. Barely recognizable as Talisker.
80


FINAL THOUGHTS

I wanted to be proven wrong. I was not. To repeat my final note, the 2019 bottling was barely recognizable as Talisker. Unfortunately I have two bottles of it. Fortunately they are both 200mL. But the problems did not start with the 2019, as the 2015 had the most regrettable palate of the group. Though the 2012 survived following the big guns, it revealed the start of a less-balanced approach to the 10 year old. Did the older bottlings have older whisky within?

Speaking of which, of course my two favorites were the batches I know the least about. The 1990s version was a sparkling gem, while the 2009 edition somehow topped it. The first trio made Talisker feel like Caol Ila's saucy cousin. So what was responsible for the change in style? Younger ingredients? Or could it have been due to new mash tun and worm tubs installed in 1998?

No matter what, I am reassured that older batches of Talisker 10 are indeed lovely, but I doubt I'll be buying any current versions of Skye's oldest distillery's output any time soon.