...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, October 30, 2023

The Benromach Mini-Cluster!

That Benromach still produces whisky today is one of whiskydom's wee miracles. Before its first production year, 1900, had completed, the distillery was closed due to financial issues linked to the Pattison crash. It reopened in 1907 under a different name, Forres, and then closed three years later due to the onset of The Great War. It reopened after the war, then was closed again in 1931. Under the ownership of National Distillers of America, it reopened in 1938. It was scooped up by DCL in 1953, and then was closed again in 1983, along with many other of DCL/UD's distilleries during the Whisky Loch. But unlike most of the other shuttered facilities, Benromach was not bulldozed to the ground. Instead it was sold to independent bottler, Gordon & MacPhail, in 1993. G&M then fired up the stills in 1999, and they're still running in 2023.

The last I'd checked, Benromach was the smallest distillery in Speyside. Its capacity is similar to Springbank's, and like the famous Campbeltowner it only produces a fraction of that capacity each year. Most of its malt is peated at 12ppm (right in my favorite peaty window of 10-15ppm), though it also has occasional batches going in with the thumping power of 60ppm. Also similar to Springbank distillery, Benromach has widely varying fermentation times (67-115 hours) and a range of middle cut points (60%-72%).

All of this results in one of my favorite single malts. Its style feels old school, or at least satisfies my fantasy of old school scotch. The ever-present moderate peat isn't the main show, rather one of many well-balanced ingredients. That peat sometimes has a greasy, industrial edge not found in too many contemporary whiskies, which is what probably soothes the aforementioned fantasy. It feels like expertly-honed blue-collar scotch from a previous generation. And even if it isn't actually like "old school" whisky, at least it's delicious.

I have several bottles of Benromach, and I've been waiting to open a few this year. With autumn dawning around us, this felt like the perfect time to uncork 'em. I also have a host of Benromach samples gathering dust here, so it's time to cluster up!


1. Benromach Traditional - "One really gets a sense of Benromach's spirit here, which offers a combination of citrus and smoke that shows up in other great malts......The 40%abv is the problem."
2. Benromach 8 year old 2011, cask 400 for TWE - "...a hefty winter warmer, and probably a good dessert-after-dessert pour."
3. Benromach 2007 Cask Strength, Batch 1 - "The sherry casks have more influence than the ex-bourbon vessels, but the spirit still lives on."
4. Benromach 2009 Cask Strength, Batch 4 - "I could have certainly used a bottle of this during the early Covid Era."
5. Benromach 10 year old 2011 Polish Oak, cask 772 - "I bought this. I don't like this."
6. Benromach 10 year old, bottled 2010 - "The nose shows more balance than the busy palate, but everything works."
7. Benromach 10 year old, bottled August 2019 - "Salt, smoke, bitterness, tartness, and sweetness all caught in a neat little delivery, perfect for this autumn."
8. Benromach 10 year old, bottled December 2020 - "...this batch seems to be composed of more active casks. Thanks to Benromach's spirit, it's still a good drink."
9. Benromach 35 year old - "...the UD distillate flaunts lovely bright fruits with flickers of darkness in the background. But 43%abv?"

Friday, October 27, 2023

Tomatin 12 year old 2005, Distillery Exclusive cask 2709

In 2016, I visited Tomatin distillery and sampled all five of their distillery exclusive casks, enjoying the bourbon cask the most. I did not purchase a bottle.

In 2017, Mr. Opinions visited Tomatin distillery and sampled all five of their distillery exclusive casks, enjoying the bourbon cask the most. He did purchase a bottle

Ah, life choices. (Disclaimer: We tried different casks, but still.)

Since the chef shared a generous sample of his hand-filled bottle, Diving for Pearls will now live vicariously through My Annoying Opinions.

Distillery: Tomatin
Ownership: Tomatin Distillery Co. (Takara Shuzo Co. Ltd., Kokubu & Co., The Marubeni Corp.)
Region: Highlands
Age: 12 years (26 May 2005 - 8 June 2017)
Maturation: bourbon cask
Cask #: 2709
Exclusive to: the distillery, circa 2017
Alcohol by Volume: 58.3%
(Thank you, Your Annoying Opinions!)


Different facets of the nose emerge with time. At first clementines, toasted oak, and cashews arise from the glass. After 15 minutes: Peach nectar and fresh rosemary. Then at ~30 minutes there's a fun combo of Cow Tales candy and vanilla cream-filled donuts. Maybe because I've been drinking mostly ≤46%abv whiskies recently, this Tomatin's neat palate reads a bit hot to my sensitive face. Mildly sweet citrus and tangy chiles cut through the burn, followed by pineapple, dried apricots, and a hint of strawberry candy. With less heat, the finish offers a nice mix of sweet and tangy. Tart citrus notes last the longest.

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

The nose turns prettier, full of flowers, peach skins, ground cloves and, yes, vanilla cream-filled donuts. I get a better read on the palate now, with its pineapple, plums, and pie crust. The finish matches the palate.


I looked back on my notes on the cask (#2592) I'd tried in 2016, and it was indeed very similar in character to #2709: fruity Highland spirit on top, good American oak on the bottom. Part of me wishes I'd bought my bottle, because what I really need is more things. Part of me sees its 62.1%abv and says, "Nope".

But this post isn't about the whisky I don't have, rather the whisky I do. Cask 2709 registers as a much better representative of the reliable Tomatin style than the bourbon cask Contrast, and (if one's palate was tougher than mine tonight) the whisky could prove to be a great springtime pour. It's good stuff, dang that Opinions Man.

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

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Things I Really Drink: Tomatin Decades, first edition

Yes, I reviewed this in June 2014, but that was a purchased sample. I adored that pour so much I bought a bottle two weeks later for $85 (the second edition was triple that price). Seven-and-a-half years passed before I opened the thing.

Sorry for the weird chiaroscuro style.
The bottle is about to be seduced by
a femme fatale.

On Monday, I dished out all sorts of numbers regarding the Tomatin Contrast bottles. That won't happen this time because the distillery didn't list the number of each of these casks, with one exception:

One refill sherry hogshead, distilled May 17, 1967 (~44 years old)
Oloroso sherry butts, distilled December 7, 1976 (~34 years old)
Refill sherry hogsheads, distilled June 21, 1984 (~27 years old)
First Fill Bourbon Barrels, distilled September 24, 1990 (~20 years old)
First Fill Bourbon Barrels of peated spirit, December 7, 2005 (~5 years old)

The older stuff is sherried and the newer stuff is bourboned, but because the cask count is unlisted it's difficult to gauge the majority of the mix. I will proffer that very, very little of the 5 year old peated element appears in the nose and palate. My guess that much/most of the content is from the 1990 barrels, with some low ABV whisky coming from the older sherry casks.

So, sorry everyone! Less math this time. But more drinking.

Ownership: Tomatin Distillery Co. (Takara Shuzo Co. Ltd., Kokubu & Co., The Marubeni Corp.)
Region: Highlands
Maturation and Age: See above
Bottled: 2011
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Outturn: 9000 bottles (70cL and 75cL)
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from the bottom half of my bottle)


Sooooo much fruit on the nose. Apples, yellow plums, yellow peaches, lemons, grapefruits. Some toffee and ocean notes. A warm peach cobbler note arrives after 45 minutes. With the whisky reduced to 40%abv, the nose simplifies, as it's all pears, green apples, peaches, and vanilla.

Loads of citrus (tart and sweet) meet a dry toastiness in the palate. The tartness and sweetness balance very well throughout. And then the papaya juice appears, followed by apricots and cilantro. A touch of herbal bitterness stays in the background. At 40%abv, the mouthfeel thickens but the palate narrows. Apples, pears, and tart stone fruit meet a louder bitterness.

Peaches, lemons, apples, toasted oak, and a bright bitterness merge well in the finish. A gentle smokiness stays on the tongue after the fruits depart. At 40%abv, it finishes sweet, tangy, and slightly oaky.


The Tomatin Contrasts did serve as Taste Off partners here, but they could not compete. Decade's fruitiness commands attention, especially from a drinker who's always on the lookout for fruity single malts. Aside from the papaya and heavier toasted oak notes, the whisky drinks like a 18-22 year old thing (which is why I mentioned the 1990 casks above), and that touch of smoke in the finish works pretty well. 

My 91-point grade back in 2014 was a bit enthusiastic. Decades's simplicity, while very charming, also feels limited, like it could have used a boost of (more) older stuff to lift it into all-timer status. It's still great, great whisky, and I'd certainly buy another bottle (pending price). If, like me, you adore fruity Highland malt, I doubt you'd mind a pour of Tomatin Decades.

Availability -
Secondary market

Pricing - not as lovely as it once was
Rating - 88

Monday, October 23, 2023

Things I Really Drink: Tomatin Contrast, Bourbon and Sherry Casks

Tomatin's cask experiments in the 2010s won the hearts of many a geek (including this dweeb). Their first Decades release combined casks from 1967, 1976, 1984, 1990, and 2005, included actual cask information on the packaging, and resulted in a thick fruity delight. In 2015, the distillery tried out another pair of cask combinations that encouraged study and contrasts, and that also received raves.

The Tomatin Contrast box includes two half-sized (350mL) bottles. One bottle contains whisky aged entirely in bourbon casks, the other in sherry casks. Both whiskies held casks from 1973, 1977, 1988, 1991, 2002, and 2006. Here's the breakdown:

At first glance these combinations may look like they include very generous proportions of 35+ year old whisky. But when one considers chemistry and evaporation rate (aka "the angels"), and an analysis of the actual outturn, it becomes clear that either some of these casks lost A LOT of their contents, or only parts of the casks' contents were used.

To wit, some maths:
--5400 350mL bottles = 1890 liters (or 2700 700mL bottles)
--That's 1890 liters of diluted 46%abv whisky.
--The spirit went into the casks at 63.5%abv.
--That means ~55% of the sherry casks', and ~61% of the bourbon casks' alcohol content has vanished if the entirety of all the casks were used to make Contrast.

Taking into consideration that 30%-33% of the casks used were only 8-13 years old, one begins to glean that not much of the old stuff made it into the mix. I wouldn't doubt that there wasn't much left of the old vessels, and their contents may have been in "spirit drink" territory. It also wouldn't surprise me if the 7-12yo casks made up more than 70% of each Contrast whisky.

I'm suggesting that those individuals pursuing this release in the secondary marketplace should not expect to find much old whisky in these whiskies, and Tomatin's marketing team pulled a nifty little twist with their cask disclosure.

ANYWAY, Doctors Springbank and I split a Contrast set this year, and I've already finished half of my share. That's half of a half of half-sized bottles. It's time to finish half of what's left. So kids, how many fluid ounces of whisky will I actually drink in total during this session?

Tomatin Contrast - Bourbon Cask Matured 46%abv Tomatin Contrast - Sherry Cask Matured 46%abv
Its nose first arrives in the form of an interesting salad dressing: champagne vinegar, honey, and lemon. Vanilla marshmallows and applesauce rise up and take over. Hints of cologne and sawdust linger in the background. Diluting the whisky to 40%abv pushes it all the way into dessert territory, with brown sugar, vanilla extract, and cinnamon up front, hints of peaches and apple chips in the back.Its nose is funkier and mustier than the bourbon casks, at first. It cleans up fast, turning into vanilla, caramel, and almond extract. Apple skins, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, and damp bark show up next. It gets flatter/staler with time. Once diluted to 40%abv, it smells of Glenmorangie Lasanta. And that's not a compliment. It's all oak spices, caramel, black raisins, and a hint of dried apricots.
The palate starts off tangy, a little malty. Plenty of vanilla, lemons, and tart nectarines perk up. Within 30 minutes toasty oak spices (like cloves) overwhelm, and it gets much sweeter. At 40%abv, it's loaded with vanilla and sugar. Maybe some tinned peaches and lime candy too.Anything other than very sweet raisins struggle to be found in the palate. Some tarts citrus, cloves, peppercorns, and cinnamon red hots whisper in the background. Then come the tannins. It may have improved at 40%abv, with tangier citrus, baked plums, and a mild bitterness.
It finishes full of brown sugar and vanilla, peppercorns and cloves. At 40%abv, it doesn't change much.It finishes with raisins, prunes, and lemon candies. Then come the tannins. At 40%abv, it's slightly less woody, and some off-season plums appear.


My first sips of these whiskies (long before this tasting) were not good. They were each a different shade of oak juice. Time has calmed the tannins a little bit, but both whiskies' results aren't super. They're decent, essentially generic bourbon cask and sherry cask whisky with a lot of vanilla, sugar, and raisins. The Sherry cask Contrast has the more interesting nose, while the Bourbon cask Contrast has the preferred palate arrival and departure, and they both wind up with the same score. Older whisky elements may appear as Oak and the early musty note in the Sherry, but otherwise remain hidden or absent.

I disagree with Malt-Review that these are "a great way to experience Tomatin". The standard 12yo and 18yo are much more representative of the distillery, and would likely mop the floor with Contrast in a blind tasting. And I'm not sure what Whiskyfun was drinking, but it's absolutely not the stuff in my Glencairns.

So yes, again I'm the party pooper, but a very curious party pooper. In my next post I'll do a little comparison to see how valid today's post was...

Tomatin Contrast, Bourbon Cask Matured - 80
Tomatin Contrast, Sherry Cask Matured - 80

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Caperdonich 34 year old 1972 Lonach Collection

Duncan Taylor's 30-45 year old Lonach Collection whiskies were still easily available for a song one decade ago. And I never bought one. I remember a Bunnahabhain, Glendarroch (Glenfarclas), and a blend, all older than me (at the time), all cheaper than teenage Macallans, all bottled below 43%abv. That last point must have been what stopped me from picking up all of them from BevMo or Total Wine. It seemed like the Lonach label was there for Duncan Taylor to dump casks that were about to fade into "Spirit Drink" territory. It was until a few years later that I started hearing tales of the terrific old Lonach Highland Parks, Tomatins, Strathislas, Glen Grants, and Caperdonichs. By then the shelves had been cleared.

Four years ago, I reviewed a 35yo 1970 Glen Grant Lonach. Today, another Lonach, this time a bottling from Duncan Taylor's famous stash of 1972 Caperdonichs. Three of these Capers were rolled out in the Lonach fashion, with this cask bearing the highest ABV, 43%. I tried it alongside Monday's great SMWS 1979, in what turned out to be a decent evening.

Distillery: Caperdonich
Region: Speyside (Rothes)
Distiller: Seagram Distillers
Bottler: Duncan Taylor
Series: Lonach Collection
Age: 34 years (1972 - 2007)
Maturation: ???
Outturn: ??? bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
(from a bottle split)


Immediately, the nose reminds me of very old Cognac. Loquats, apricots, and orange blossoms first. Then peach pie and eucalyptus. It holds out in the glass for well over an hour, releasing quieter notes of black walnuts, Frangelico, and strawberry jello over that time.

The palate has everything. Sweet stone fruits (apricots again), tart citrus (kabosu), unsmoked mild cigar, bitter cocoa, a lean minerality, and mizunara-style spice. A gentle smokiness arises after an hour.

Most of the palate's elements stick around for the surprisingly lengthy finish, with the apricots, bitter cocoa, minerals, and a tangier citrus lasting longest.


At times reading more expansive than Monday's 55.3%abv pour, this calm, complex, and deeply moreish Caperdonich whispers delights of long-aged spirits from another era. My goodness, I am grateful my senses of smell and taste returned after their brief absence. Even my allergies stepped aside to let me enjoy this whisky, my last Caperdonich sample.

Availability - ???
Pricing - ???
Rating - 91

Monday, October 16, 2023

Caperdonich 23 year old 1979 SMWS 38.12

Last week, before I sat down to drink this Caperdonich, I tested out my nose and palate and discovered that I could neither smell nor taste anything. That was a first. A Covid test told me I'd avoided that shitty virus. So, I don't know. This has been the worst year of allergies I've ever had, so I hoped that's all it was. 24+ hours later, my senses returned to near 100%, and have not abandoned me since. And now I'm back to drinking. Slàinte Mhaith!

Today's Glen Grant 2: Electric Boogaloo (also known as Caperdonich) was bottled by SMWS 20 years ago, back before their cask names became "funny". The spirit was distilled in 1979, and judging by the color, its sherry cask may have been very gentle. Which could be a very good thing, as I've always enjoyed Caperdonich more than oak juice.

Distillery: Caperdonich
Region: Speyside (Rothes)
Distiller: Seagram Distillers
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Age: 23 years (November 1979 - March 2003)
Maturation: sherry butt
Cask #: 38.12, "Spiced cooking apples"
Outturn: 608 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 55.3%
(from a bottle split)


Peachy! Fresh peaches and peach candy hit the nose first, then strawberry Bubble Yum, roses, and mango juice. It gradually shifts to dried apricots and gooey toffee across the expanse of an hour. The palate strikes boldly, very tartly, with a moderate sweetness. Ginger beer, roses, and an almost smoky woodiness plays peek-a-boo. It finishes tart and gingery, fizzy, not too sweet. A hint of the nose's peaches makes a cameo.

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

It's become very delicate now. The nose is more floral, with subtler peaches and mangoes, though an orange oil note has appeared. Malt and limes show up in the palate first, then toasty oak spice and fresh ginger. The sweetness remains in check. It finishes with wood spice, limes, and peach skin.


One can't always judge a whisky by its color, but that works for this Caperdonich. This refill sherry butt contributes only moderately to the bottled product. The whisky does seem a bit fragile as it almost collapses at 46%abv, but since I don't know how long this this bottle had been open, I'm not going to assess this one too aggressively for it. But I do prefer it at full strength, wherein the palate is never shy, and the nose is a particular treat. As much as I enjoyed this particular Caperdonich, it did have a sparring partner......

Availability - ???
Pricing - ???
Rating - 88 (when neat)

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Caperdonich 18 year old Peated, batch CP002

Hey, I have three Caperdonich samples! Time to drink 'em.

First up, a peated official bottling. Yes indeed, Pernod Ricard sat on a slew of peated Caperdonich casks for a while before offering up the first batch (CP001) in 2019. The whisky's distillation corresponds with Caperdonich's final year or two, with the distillery closing in 2002. My previous Caperdonich review (from FOUR years ago) was of a dirty peated creature distilled by Seagram Distillers in 1998, which leaves me wondering how long they'd been producing this alternate style. If anyone knows the facts, please let us all know in the comment section below. Thanks!

Distillery: Caperdonich
Distiller: Seagram Distillers
Current Owner: Pernod Ricard
Region: Speyside (Rothes)
Age: minimum 18 years
Maturation: American oak barrels
Batch: CP002
Bottled: 04.02.2020
Alcohol by Volume: 38%
Chillfiltered? No
e150? Yes
(from a bottle split)


Had I tried this blind I would have thought it an Islay malt. Cinnamon, peat, baked pears, and zucchini bread arrive first in the nose. Spearmint gum, moss, and a slight leafiness appear next. The background gets more interesting with time, with drifting notes of manure, metal, and wood smoke.

The palate matches the nose at first, all cinnamon, peat, and mint candy. More character emerges with time: sweet apples, menthol, iron, oranges, and a sprinkling of cracked peppercorns.

It finishes sweeter and with a woodier smoke. Salt and lemon join the peat moss later on.


This is NOT a $300 18-year-old peated whisky (as of 2023), which is great! In fact, it can be found for less than half that price in Europe. It was priced even lower in Japan, when I was there this year too. But is it good whisky?

Yes it is. It won't stun you or inspire you to buy a case, but it's very solid, has an excellent ABV, and if you close your eyes you can pretend it was fashioned by the Ileachs. It isn't oaky, but does feel like it has a little bit of age to it. 21 and 25 year old batches have also seen the light of day (or of store shelves), but I think one may find more of the peated spirit in the 18s. Many thanks to Pernod for bottling this stuff. Hopefully they can ditch the caramel colorant in future batches.

Availability - other batches in Europe and Asia
Pricing - Japan: $100-$125; Europe: $120-$180
Rating - 86

Monday, October 9, 2023

Four Roses: 10 Private Barrels, 10 Recipes, 10 years too late

Diving for Pearls celebrated 13 years of whisky reviews last month! Or rather it/I didn't. Children, work, and a certain Bunnahabhain cluster had my attention.

Also around that time, Columbus Scotch Night held an event that offered me a moment to be part of the audience rather than holding court as the edjumacator. Two very generous fellows, Anuj P. and Matt M., opened their whisk(e)y bunkers and provided bottles of 10 Four Roses private barrel picks of all 10 Four Roses mash/yeast recipes, all of which were distilled during the Jim Rutledge Era. As usual, I took my wee pours home for dissection.

It's been a while since I've said anything about Four Roses on this site, so here's a quick recap of the Four Roses recipe naming convention:

Four Letters:
O = Four Roses Distillery
B or E = Mash bills: B is 35% rye, E is 20% rye
S = Straight distillation
F or K or O or Q or V = Yeast strands

So there are really two variables, not four. Two mash bills * five yeast strains = ten combinations.


I can't write this without thinking how much more vital and exciting this post would have been in 2013, when whisk(e)y geek hunger for honest, independent exploration was more vivid. And at least some private picks would have been easier to obtain ten years ago, when FOMO levels were less destructive. I remain deeply grateful for all the folks who offer up their bottles for group tastings, especially when at a fraction of the secondary market's price. They may be the only people keeping whisky enthusiasm alive.


In order to prevent untold disasters, I am splitting this into two tastings, "B" Tasting and "E" Tasting. I will nose and taste ~15mL of each whiskey from wee glencairns, and give the bourbons letter-based grade ranges. OBSK has always(?) been my favorite recipe, but I can't remember the last time I tried an OBSK (or any single recipe), so I don't know why I preferred it. Thus I'm going into this kinda fresh. Here I go...

The "B" Mashbill (35% rye) Tasting

OBSF Recipe
10 years 8 months, bottled in November 2021 for Bottle Republic, 57.7%abv

Nose - It leads with a wallop of barrel char, VOCs, and Heath Bar, with milder notes of black pepper and brine appearing later.

Palate - Doesn't begin great with ethyl, chlorine, and tannins, but it does pick up salty corn on the cob and gingerbread with time.

Finish - Perhaps its best aspect, with some dried berries and gingerbread.

Comments - This is not the quality I remember from Four Roses, as the bourbon reads both undercooked and too oaky at the same time, Craft-style. I do enjoy the gingerbread and Heath Bar notes though.
Rating Range: C/C+ (76-78)

OBSK Recipe
10 years 2 months old, bottled for Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, 52.8%abv

Nose - A complete change of pace from the OBSF. Peach nectar, apricot jam, milk chocolate, vanilla extract, and a slight prickle of rye whiskey.

Palate - More on almonds, than vanilla or caramel. Irish soda bread, fresh ginger, jalapeño oil, and medium sweetness.

Finish - Mirrors the palate well, with the ginger and jalapeños registering loudest, and vanilla and brown sugar quieter.

Comments - Ha! This is a happy reminder of why I used to enjoy this lively, delicious combination. SPOILER: It's my favorite of the Bs.
Rating Range: B+ (87-89)

OBSO Recipe
9 years 3 months, bottled in April 2021 for OHLQ(!), 55.6%abv

Nose - Sort of blank at first. Then, in order: pine, caramel, vanilla, black cherry ice cream, and a hint of halvah materialize.

Palate - Whew, hot and peppery. Sour. I taste tannins for miles and miles. A little bit of shortbread in the background.

Finish - Hot, sour, and peppery, like the palate, but now with apples.

Comments - With easily my least favorite palate of the B group, this bourbon also slumps like Craft whiskey. I'm not sure what the Ohio pickers saw in this one, or if they even had a choice.
Rating Range: C (74-76)

OBSQ Recipe
11 years 7 months, bottled in October 2022 for ???, 54.1%abv

Nose - Very chocolatey, with subtle notes of earth, dried cherries, and rosemary. Vanilla and floral notes expand with time.

Palate - It's a big burly whiskey, not hot though. Lots of baked goods and roasted nuts. Hint o' figs.

Finish - Salt, grains, almonds, Fig Newtons, and a hint of smoke.

Comments - This one, the oldest of the ten, has caught me by surprise. It's unique and of a high quality, sort of a single malt lover's bourbon, and good pour for the winter.
Rating Range: B/B+ (85-87)

OBSV Recipe
9 years 10 months, bottled in November 2021 for ???, 53.6%abv

Nose - Like Q and K, it's dessert-y. Chocolate mousse pie and German chocolate cake. Roses and dried apricots.

Palate - Dried cherries, dried currants, dried cranberries, and maple syrup...but it's not too sweet. There's a good tartness and pepperiness going on in the background, and a nibble of Irish soda bread.

Finish - Soda bread, dried cherries, and toasted nuts.

Comments - With a palate more complex than its nose, this bourbon reminds me that I used to like the OBSV recipe too! It also seems like it could pair very well with desserts.
Rating Range: B/B+ (85-87)

CONCLUSION: There's a very clear split here: 3 "yes" bourbons (which I'd be happy to buy or drink any day), and 2 "pass" bourbons (which I wouldn't). I also appreciate the bottle strength of all 5, with all staying below 120 US proof. Not a lot of commonalities between these five, so the yeast strands and maturation locations (only F and Q have the same warehouse) are doing most of the work. The actual rye element stayed mostly quiet, speaking loudest in OBSK, the top scorer in the group. I wonder how the Es will differ...

The "E" Mashbill (20% rye) Tasting

OESF Recipe
9 years 10 months, bottled for Loch & K(e)y Society, 55.8%abv

Nose - Straightforward: vanilla, bubblegum, caramel sauce, and cinnamon.

Palate - Ethyl, salt, lemons, and honey arrive first, then tart cherries and cherry lollipops. Just a hint of vanilla in the background.

Finish - A decent balance of those tart cherries, cherry lollies, and honey.

Comments - It's very different than its OBSF cousin, with the hot hot palate being their only similarity. It's also better than the B version, with a better mix of oak and spirit, and some fun cherry notes.
Rating Range: B- (82-84)

OESK Recipe
10 years 6 months, bottled for Luekens Wine & Spirits, 56.6%abv

Nose - Some figurative fireworks here. Flowers, bubblegum, Dr. Brown's cherry soda, vanilla, and pickle juice!

Palate - Less hot than OESF, but similarly lemony. Charred serranos and cayenne pepper meet Big Red gum.

Finish - It's a mix of bubblegum, cayenne, and tart citrus, with the sweetness winning out.

Comments - The wild nose works, but the palate's excitement never catches up. Nothing technically wrong with it, but it's missing the B version's complexity.
Rating Range: B-/B (83-85)

OESO Recipe
9 years 5 months, bottled in August 2022 for Corners Fine Wine & Spirits, 57.5%abv

Nose - Ooh, a good one. Candy shop + oranges blossom + cinnamon roll.

Palate - Baking spice rule this one. Cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and brown sugar first. Orange candy and dried cherries, second.

Finish - Cinnamon, cardamom, and orange candy last the longest.

Comments - While not the deepest whiskey, this bourbon is very pleasant all around, and a very easy drinker (especially at its strength). It's significantly better than its B cousin, providing an example of a lower-rye bourbon coming together better than a high-rye.
Rating Range: B (84-86)

OESQ Recipe
10 years 8 months, bottled in August 2022 for ???, 54.4%abv

Nose - Starts off a bit rough, with nothing but barrel char, but then the cherries roll in, followed by roses, maple syrup, and cherry-flavored cough syrup.

Palate - Very woody here too. It's like licking furniture. Add in its artificial lemon flavor, and maybe I'm looking at Pledge spray. Curiously, even with some sawdust added on, it's not terrible. Maybe the hints of brown sugar and black pepper help?

Finish - Drying and tannic, with a hint of cherry.

Comments - Here's the "E" group's oak monster. The nose works; the palate. a little less so; the finish, not really. It bears no resemblance to its OBSQ cousin.
Rating Range: C+ (77-79)

OESV Recipe
10 years 1 month, bottled February 18, 2020 for Schneider's of Capitol Hill, 59.6%abv

Nose - Dessert time again! Hershey's chocolate, whipped cream, mocha, and vanilla extract. You can smell the calories!

Palate - Less sugary than expected. Instead ground cloves and ginger powder layer on top of each other, with cream soda underneath, and a decent bitterness in the back.

Finish - Ground cloves, ginger powder, and a dab of chile oil.

Comments - Of all five pairs, this one comes closest to its cousin, but even here it's only in the nose. Otherwise it has its own zingy, spritely style in the mouth. I prefer the "B" version, but this one remains very good.
Rating Range: B (84-86)

CONCLUSION: Unlike the "B"s, the "E"s show some similar notes, like flowers, bubblegum, citrus, and cherries, though ultimately they are five very different bourbons (from five different warehouses). This group was less raw on the palate, but also a little less exciting. None of these were a big "yes", though none were a clearly ugly "no". 


The "E" Recipes' scores have a tighter grouping than the "B"s', though the two groups average out similarly (high B- for both). The wider quality variety in the "B" recipe also delivered more excitement and complexity. I'd like to think the extra rye had something to do with it. There were small connections between some of the whiskies, but these were ultimately ten different bourbons, which made the two tastings more entertaining than expected.

For the sake of completeness, here's how these bottles rank:

1. OBSK - Yes
2. OBSV - Yes
3. OBSQ - Yes
8. OESQ - Pass
9. OBSF - Pass
10. OBSO - Pass

So OBSK, OBSV, and high-rye bourbon in general still do it for me, thirteen years later.

Friday, October 6, 2023

Bea's Birthday Booze: Inchgower 37 year old 1982 Old & Rare Platinum Selection

Yes, I've just run off three 90-point reviews in a row, as if this were Whisky Advocate or something. Now I'm risking blowing even more sunshine out of my ass with today's 37 year old Inchgower. Now, Inchgowers can be weird, and I like weird, but a tragic 1982 Inchgower once found its way into my glass. Today's cask has a reasonable outturn and ABV, so no potential negative indicators there. And whiskybase's lone written review is by a reliable fellow. So I'm ready for this!

Distillery: Inchgower
Distilled by: Arthur Bell & Sons
Current owner: Diageo
Region: Speyside (Banffshire)
Independent Bottler: Hunter Laing
Range: Old & Rare
Sub-Range: Platinum Selection
Age: 37 years (1982 - 2019)
Maturation: probably a bourbon cask
Outturn: 178 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 50.1%
(from a bottle split)


The nose is......like nothing I've smelled before. I'll try to do it justice. Stale milk chocolate + Cheerios + hay + Underberg. Sour milk + agave nectar + mint toothpaste. Apple cider and metal? Not much changes once the whisky is diluted to 46%abv, maybe more flowers, orchard fruits, and metals. Maybe?

The palate is slightly easier to describe. Bouquets of flowers encircled by a minty glow. Flower Kiss candy, white peaches, and fresh cherries. Cashews and raw wheat. Never too sweet. Diluting the whisky to 46%abv, makes it sweeter and bitterer. The florals and mint still dominate, while a comfy apple cider note expands beneath.

It finishes cheerfully, with flowers, sunflower seeds, lemons, and mint leaf. At 46%abv, there's apple cider, mint, and a rooty bitterness.


Okay, maybe I wasn't ready for this. Is it UnWhisky or ÜberWhisky? Or both? It's strange, fascinating stuff, as Inchgower can be as it gets older. Not sure if I'd make a habit of drinking this whisky, but it's truly a singular spirit. It's the mintiest single malt I've ever had, and also one of the most floral (though never perfume-y). It's also the third straight whisky that left me preferring the palate over the nose, which probably has never happened before on this site. This Inchgower is remarkably unique, not unlike Beatrice (all flowers, lemons, mint, and rooty bitterness herself) who turns six years old today.

Availability - Might still be available in Europe?
Pricing - ???
Rating - 87 (a pointless (LOL) score)

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Bea's Birthday Booze: N.A.S. 30 year old Decadent Drinks

Deep within Signatory Vintage's Pitlochry warehouses, hidden in dark secret corners, casks filled with weird experiments await their freedom. We know this to be true now. Mr. Symington sold one of these mysteries to Mr. Sponge, who then bottled it for the (limited) world. I'll leave it to the Decadent Drinks site to describe their first N.A.S. (Notable Age Statement) release:
A single sherry butt of blended malt. This is vatted stock of numerous old Signatory cask samples and bottling run ends that was married and put into fresh sherry wood with a minimum age of 16 years old.

The composition is by now at least 30 years old, but contains within it many much, much older whiskies, many of which hail from closed distilleries and date back to the 1960s. We've bottled this butt at natural cask strength...

Despite all the raves written by Those Who Decide Things (TWDT), I had only moderate expectations for this vatting. TWDTs long for styles of whisky that are either extinct, or nigh on, so every hint of something resembling a whisky from another era causes tears to well in eyes and scores to find their way to 90+. The same thing happens here at Diving for Pearls, but my skepticism has calcified.

Yet I chose to drink it in honor of my younger daughter's birthday. Evidently, I'm an ass.

Bottler: Decadent Drinks (via Signatory Vintage)
Type: Blended (or Vatted) Malt
Distilleries: ???????
Age: at least 30 years
Maturation: sherry butt
Outturn: ??? bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 45.1%
(from a bottle split)


The nose starts off beefy and leathery up front, with Highland peat, flowers, and shoe polish notes just behind. Then there are peaches, yuzus, band-aids, metal antiques, and a whiff of black coffee. There's even a dollop of toffee pudding (like a certain whisky sponge?).

Soil and dead leaves all over the palate. One of the earthiest whiskies that has ever touched this face. Tobacco, burlap, dried herbs, and the righteous tartness of unsweetened yuzu juice fill the midground. A metallic OBE note drifts through the background.

It remains intensely earthy through the finish. Cigarettes and soot arrive next, followed by umami and dried herbs.


The nose is very good, but the palate wins me over. It's so earthy I've checked my glass twice to see if there's actual sediment present. Nope it's just the whisky. Mmmmmm, soil.

Even some very positive reviews described this 30yo as fragile, I find it quite the opposite. I've had enough low-ABV oldies (and newies) to know the feeling of a whisky that has gone delicate; this ain't it. Yeah, I wouldn't encourage adding water to this malt, but that's mostly because at full strength it's a bruiser, thick and powerful. What else ya got, Mr. Symington?

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

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Bea's Birthday Booze: Ben Nevis 25 year old 1984, cask 98/35/13

My previous Ben Nevis review posted to this site 361 days ago. In honor of my daughter Beatrice's fifth birthday, I reviewed a 25 year old official Ben Nevis single cask (98/35/1) that was distilled in 1984.

Today, in honor of Beatrice's sixth birthday, I am reviewing a 25 year old official Ben Nevis single cask (98/35/13) that was distilled in 1984.

There were at least six single casks from this parcel, each receiving the same re-racking treatment. Distilled in December 1984, the spirit was deposited into bourbon casks, in which it baked until October 1998 when the whisky was then poured ("vatted" per the labels) into sherry casks, where it continued to mature until bottling time.

With 13+ years in bourbon casks and 11+ years in sherry casks, 98/35/1 and 98/35/13 had true double maturations. 98/35/1 was cask-heavy, but never tannic. I hope for something similar or better from 98/35/13. The whiskybase community certainly adores this cask.

Damn good photo if I do say so my damn self

Distillery: Ben Nevis
Region: Highlands (Western)
Age: 25 years old (December 1984 - May 2010)
Maturation: Bourbon: Dec 1984 - October 1998; then Sherry: October 1998 - May 2010
Cask #: 98/35/13
Outturn: 638 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 55.4%
(from a bottle split)


Yeah, the nose is probably 90% cask, but it's very nice. Dried cherries in very dark chocolate. Dried mango and a few figs. Maple and grape jam. In the background: a dunnage by the ocean. The palate is warm and toasty, with plenty of oak spice up front. Raspberries, oranges, walnuts, dark grapes, and honey fill the midground......then a burst of xocolatl, Mexican chocolate, takes over, full of cinnamon and chiles. That big note remains through the long finish, with limes and grapes in the background.

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

The nose begins with raisins, toffee, milkier chocolate, and a hint of dunnage. As the water integrates, out come nectarines, orange blossoms, and some Jamaican rum-style dunder. The cask gets heavier in the palate. All oak spices and Mexican chocolate until it suddenly changes. And there it is: strange organic peat mouldering in a damp basement. Yes! It finishes tangy, full of chiles, lightly smoky, and with a few nectarines tossed in.


Twice the palate shifts colors, dramatically. With the Ben Nevis diluted to 46%abv, its wonderful eccentricity materializes out of nowhere, like a koan instantly manifesting a truth long hidden. When the whisky is at its full strength, the raucous Mexican chocolate spontaneously blasts through everything around it. Like the Kool-Aid Man. Oh yeah.

This is the better cask. I have nothing else to add.

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - !!!!
Rating - 90