...where distraction is the main attraction.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

1975 25yo Aberfeldy versus 1993 25yo Aberfeldy

Aberfeldy? Yeah, Aberfeldy. I've never sought out samples from this Speysider because its indie bottlings are relatively rare, official bottlings are usually 40%abv, and it's the main malt for Dewar's White Label, one of the least inspiring blends in the business for at least 15 years.

Diving for Pearls is now tripling its total Aberfeldy review count with these two samples that got mixed up in the D4P Aberlour sample section. Both whiskies come from 25-year-old single sherry casks bottled by two indie grandpas, Cadenhead and Gordon & MacPhail. I have no idea what to expect from these, so here I go...



Distillery: Aberfeldy
Current ownership: Bacardi
Ownership in 1975: Distillers Company Limited
Region: Speyside (Perthshire)
Bottler: Cadenhead
Range: Authentic Collection
Age: 25 years (1975 - July 2001)
Maturation: sherry hogshead
Outturn: 228 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 57%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

The nose is weird and fun. It's a swirl of orange blossom, lemon peel, fresh ginger, apple candy, and a lot of saline. The palate is very fruity with a mix of citrus peels and cherry things (black cherry juice, tart cherries, cherry hard candies, etc.). There's also some old school industrial greasiness to it. The finish summarizes the palate's elements: cherry candy, bitter citrus peel, and that industrial edge.

DILUTED to ~50%abv, or ¾ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

It's as if the nose gains focus. There's one layer of almonds, crème brûlée, and lemons; and another layer of ocean and metals. The palate has become earthy and very herbal, with a striking wormwood bitterness. Tart cherries and fresh plums play around the edges. It finishes with marzipan, cherry juice, and bitter citrus.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

This is an old-fashioned whisky in that it feels completely unproduced and unpolished. It's dirtier and stranger than contemporary Aberfeldy, in all the best ways. The slight dilution works wonders, bringing the fruits and powerful herbal sides together. Inspiring whisky.

Availability - Secondary market?
Pricing - ???
Rating - 90



Yes, a 90-point Aberfeldy. How about the 1993?

Distillery: Aberfeldy
Current ownership: Bacardi
Ownership in 1993: United Distillers
Region: Speyside (Perthshire)
Bottler: Gorden & MacPhail
Range: Connoisseurs Choice Cask Strength
Age: 25 years (6 June 1993 - 21 June 2018)
Maturation: first-fill sherry puncheon
Cask #: 4054
Outturn: 444 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 58.8%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

The nose is rich and woody in a modern style, but still very good. Walnuts and chocolate. Bourbon-y char and maple syrup. Dates, orange peel, white gummy bears, and baked peaches. Meanwhile, the palate goes another direction. Musty old oak in the dunnage. Gentle baking spices, shortbread cookies, dried apricots, oranges, and a quiet pepperiness. It finishes simply with dried apricot, lemons, and a sprinkle of oak spice.

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

The nose has shifted to dunnage, dates, dark chocolate, and cloves. The palate keeps the musty dusty note and light pepperiness, while introducing mint leaves and dates. All of this stays on through the finish.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Oh my, this one is great, too. THAT, I did not expect. Dunnage and dates will get me every time, and the fruit never leaves. The nose had me worried at first, but patience and the palate won out. Though the 1975 cask won, it wasn't by much. Congrats to those who've captured their own bottle of this 1993. What else is Aberfeldy hiding or burying?

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

Thursday, June 6, 2024

One bourbon cask Aberlour, One sherry cask Aberlour

I've never been a fan of Aberlour's house sherried style, preferring independently-bottled ex-bourbon cask versions. So if you never see another A'bunadh here, don't be shocked. I do have a sample of a distillery exclusive sherried thing, and I'm not sure why I do, but it presents an opportunity to try it alongside an indie single hoggie.



First up, the Indie Aberlour. Possibly the oldest Aberlour I've tried from this distillery, this cask was bottled up after 26 years by a company that has a grand total of two whiskies in Whiskybase, so it's sort of an unknown quantity, which I like.

Distillery: Aberlour
Ownership: Pernod Ricard
Region: Speyside (Banffshire)
Bottler: Houston Bottling & Co-Pack
Range: Cooper's Gold
Age: 26 years (1989-2015)
Maturation: hogshead
Cask #: 11040
Outturn: 274 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 51.1%
(Courtesy of My Annoying Opinions. Thank you, sir!)

NEAT

The nose starts off bright and fresh, with lemon peel, Fuji apples, anise, and cilantro. Hints of oats and vanilla extract appear later in the background. The palate is mildly sweet with a lot of toasted oak up front. Bitter herbs and earth meet a slight but persistent metallic note. It finishes herbal and metallic, with hints of peppercorns and hay.

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or ½-¾ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

A very different nose now, with mint toothpaste, orange bubblegum, wood polish, and unripe peaches. It's woodier on the palate, more tannic and acidic, with a lemon vinaigrette note in the back. It finishes tangy, acidic, minty, and woody.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Though its color is as light as straw, the whisky has been overtaken by American oak to the point that it's missing the honeyed fruits that I seek out in bourbon cask Aberlours. The nose is great at times when a few fruits win the battle, but the whisky doesn't swim particularly well, especially on the palate. It's not a bad sipper when neat, but it's never particularly memorable.

Availability - Secondary market?
Pricing - ???
Rating - 84 (neat only)



Now, the official sherry creature, bottled in March 2022 as a distillery exclusive. It seems to be part of a big batch with a the bottle outturn in the thousands.

Distillery: Aberlour
Ownership: Pernod Ricard
Region: Speyside (Banffshire)
Age: at least 11 years old (bottled 03.2022)
Maturation: Oloroso casks
Outturn: ???? bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 49.4%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

Good start here on the nose. Walnuts, brine, dried cherries, Fig Newtons, and a hint of tar mix together well. Quieter notes of dried apples and new leather float around. It all gets fudgier with time. Almonds, hops, and very tangy citrus fill the palate's foreground. It gets much sweeter and bitterer with time. Mint candy, mixed nuts, and tannin finish it off.

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

The nose loses its uniqueness, taking on black raisins, marzipan, golden raisins, carob, and a minor floral note. The palate is nothing but cinnamon syrup, stale nuts, and bitter bitter bitter oak. It finishes the same way.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Aside the bitter oak, there's nothing really wrong with this whisky. But there's also not much that's really right about it, with the neat nose being the lone exception. On the whole, it feels generic, interchangeable with scores of other distilleries' large batch sherry cask releases. Thus it fits in with the OB Aberlour style that doesn't offer much that can't be had elsewhere.

Availability - Might still be around...
Pricing - ???
Rating - 80

Friday, May 31, 2024

The new place, and two 1993 Glendronachs

I exist in the new place. "Exist", not "am settled". How does one make one's house one's own? Everything here smells of the three dirty Frenchies (the dogs) that had previously run the place, but less so than it did last week. The whisky room is almost done in the basement, though I haven't yet decided how to decorate it, aside from bottles. I watched The Ninth Configuration and First Spaceship on Venus one night, far past my bedtime. And on Sunday night, I made scallops with cuttlefish ink pasta and sautéed spinach, and nailed it so much better than I should have that I must have borrowed the soul of Olivia Tiedemann for 30 minutes. Meanwhile I keep splitting logs awkwardly in the backyard until I can't see through the sweat in my eyes. Now I just need to assemble this IKEA couch, whose boxes watch me from across the room. I'm almost home.

Now it's time to try to get the whisky posts back on schedule. I will try my best, but no promises, life is crazy.

It's been 4.5 years since I last reviewed a Glendronach, so I've decided that now's a good time to open up these samples of two 1993 'Dronachs that were both distilled on March 19th of that year.


Glendronach 25 year old 1993, sherry butt #658 for The Whisky Barrel, 59.3%abv

NEAT

There are dusty books and old leather on the nose. Then carob, and a fruit cake loaded with figs and dried cherries. It offers a sense memory of what Macallan used to smell like 15 years ago. The palate is VERY hot. Dunnage, newspaper ink, sea salt, and a whiff of smoke wait beneath the heat. It gets sweeter, while picking up some oranges after 45 minutes. It finishes inky, salty, and sweet, with lingering notes of almond extract and dusty old oak.

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

The nose has become fruitier, nuttier, more herbal, with plenty of kiwi, lychee, walnuts, and Brazil nuts. Dark chocolate, dark berries, and fresh tobacco fill the palate. It has a nice bitterness too, a little bit of ink, and grapefruit juice. Bitter citrus, dunnage, and dried cherries finish it off.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Though Glendronach is/was practicing undisclosed re-racking, as per My Annoying Opinions excellent post from 10(!!) years ago, I don't think they did that with #658. The whisky reads as old or older than its age statement. No new oak, nor incongruous extra-wet cask notes here. The nose is excellent neat or diluted, though the palate works better for me when the ABV is reduced. Though this isn't my preferred single malt style, I can't deny that this cask was a gem.

Availability - Secondary market?
Pricing - ????
Rating - 90

Very dark stuff

Glendronach 24 year old 1993, sherry butt #652 for Abbey Whisky, 60.6%abv

NEAT

The nose begins with dunnage and very old wood, pulled pork and medjool dates. That's followed by dark chocolate, cherry juice, oak spice, and sage smoke. The palate is actually less hot than 658's. It's dusty, savory, and slightly tart. Smoky soy sauce and yesterday's cigar. Little bits of newspaper ink and berry sweetness. It finishes sweeter and tangier, while holding onto the dusty and savory notes. Plenty of old wood stays on the tongue.

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

Orange peel, fruity cinnamon, and milkier chocolate arrive in the nose first, followed by almond extract, cherry juice, and watermelon candy. The palate gets leaner, with raw almonds and walnuts. Tart lemons at first then lemon candy later. The oak takes over in the finish, all bitter and dusty with a hint of sweetness.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

This one also feels as old or older than the label says, which doesn't happen much anymore. The smoky notes are fascinating and work very well, it's too bad the dilution washes them away. Harsh oak notes knock this one down a little, threatening to throw it all out of balance, and I found myself going back to cask 658 more frequently. But it's a Big whisky no matter what.

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

Friday, May 24, 2024

Mathilda Malt: Laphroaig 18 year old 1998 cask 700040, Hand-filled at the Distillery


Two life chapters ago, I attended the Laphroaig Water to Whisky Experience and LOVED it. (The distillery no longer offers that experience, though the more expensive "Uisge" tour seems similar.) The WOWE ended with a 250mL bottling from one of three different casks on offer. Two casks were good, one was terrific.

I uncorked my wee bottle last year, and now all that's left is 60mL and a single bud vase.

Distillery: Laphroaig
Owner: Beam Suntory
Region: Southern Islay
Bottler: Me! (at the distillery)
Age: 18 years (1998-2016)
Maturation: sherry butt
Alcohol by Volume: 59.3%
(from my bottle)

I'm going to consume all 60mL for this tasting which will probably send me straight to bed afterwards. To change things up, I'm going to taste/nose the whisky diluted first.

DILUTED TO ~48%abv, or < 1½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

Grilled pineapple and pork ribs greet the nose first, followed by citronella and a very briny peat. Apricots and almond extract linger behind, and a Hampton-style diesel note materializes after 30 minutes. The palate starts sooty and salty, with oranges, smoked figs, and Thai chiles quickly emerging. Thai basil and more sea salt fills in the background. Slightly sweeter than the palate, the finish features the Thai chiles and Thai basil up front, with apricots and salty smoke in the distance.

NEAT

Peaches, pears, apricots, roses, honeydew, almond butter, and citronella meet savory smoke and oysters in the nose. The palate begins savory, smoky, and sweet, with sea salt and fresh ginger in the background. It takes on Mexican chocolate and a mineral note after 30+ minutes. It finishes with sweet citrus, ginger, Mexican chocolate, and smoked almonds.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

A massive whisky, even when diluted, this Laphroaig somehow thumps one's senses while also being very moreish. The possibly-refill cask adds a little treat here and there, but mostly lets the spirit roar. It's not exactly the desired pour when the night simmers at 30ºC — it's more at home on a 3ºC evening — but I expected as much. It's a hardy style that the distillery should focus on now, as they keep venturing further away from bourbon casks.

Availability - All gone
Pricing - None
Rating - 89

Friday, May 17, 2024

Mathilda Malt: Pittyvaich 29 year old 1988 Cooper's Choice

Pittyvaich Distillery spent its brief existence producing malt for the Bell's blends for less than twenty years. It's one of the lesser known demolished distilleries and is rarely bottled by the indies. Here's one from the Cooper's Choice range, issued in 2017, a year that seems much more recent than it actually is. 

Distillery: Pittyvaich
Owner: United Distillers
Region: Speyside (Dufftown)
Bottler: The Vintage Malt Whisky Co. Ltd.
Range: The Cooper's Choice
Age: 29 years (1988-2017)
Maturation: ???
Outturn: ??? bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 48.6%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from a bottle split)

NOTES

Lean and blend-ish, the nose offers salt and confectioner's sugar, with hints of burlap and vanilla, becoming more floral with time. The bolder palate leads with bitter oak and green bell peppers, followed by mint and iron/blood, with a few oranges in the background. The wood tones down in the finish, leaving the mint and oranges with peppercorns and oregano.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Reading like a late-teens to early-twenties blend, this Pittyvaich neither excites nor offends. The mint leaves and bright oranges were highlights, and the bitter oak a lowlight. Despite the bitter oak, I don't think the cask was bottled too terribly late, because once the oak notes are subtracted, there's not much left. It probably works well in a highball, but don't we want more from a 29-year-old single malt?

I gotta end the Mathilda Malts on a stronger note than this. See you on Monday Wednesday Friday!

Availability - Secondary market?
Pricing - I think it was close to $300 when it came out
Rating - 80

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Mathilda Malt: Littlemill 20 year old 1984 Scott's Selection

Surrounded by unpacked, half-unpacked, and unopened boxes in my new house, I have no idea where anything is. Except the whisky. Hell, I don't even know where most of the whisky glasses are, but the liquid, yes.

Each day I set a goal (with a smidgen of LOL) to accomplish one bit of unpacking. The kitchen is functional, and occasionally has a clear path from the fridge to the stove to the sink. My cat, Suzy Creamcheese, is terrified but does have a direct line from her hiding place, to her food, water, and litter box. My functional workspace is only occasionally cramped by drill bits, postcards, scratching posts, and a bucket of half-used toilet cleaner bottles. My TV exists.

But more importantly, my girls have their own rooms, which are momentarily clean because we haven't unpacked anything of theirs. My older daughter, Mathilda, turns 10 today. Yeah, I don't know how that happened either. But last night she and I had a fun picnic dinner on the living room floor, eating black bean tacos, followed by fancy chocolates I brought back from Paris.

As I've done every year of her existence, including the birth one, I poured myself a Littlemill after she'd fallen asleep. Not knowing where the heck my pipette was packed, and also due to the intriguing nature of this whisky, I did not dilute this Littlemill, even though it was bottled at 61.3%abv.

Distillery: Littlemill
Region: Lowlands
Independent Bottler: Scott's Selection
Age: 20? years (1984-2004)
Maturation: Oakwood casks (helpful!)
Outturn: ???
Alcohol by Volume: 61.3%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from a bottle split)

NOTES

Oh, the nose is wild. It starts off very herbal and mossy, with a whiff of antiseptic. Then it gets a bit inky, with a current of naphthalene hovering behind. THEN comes the mango and grapefruit.

It's been a minute since I chewed on a dusty book cover, but here it is in the whisky's palate, along with tart kiwis and guavas. An industrial/metallic note meets up with moss and lemongrass. And, somehow, it works.

The finish gets a little sweeter than the palate, adding pineapple to the fruits, yet the tartness lengthens with each sip. An earthiness and pepperiness work their way in as well.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

I'm quite taken by this Littlemill. It's from a completely different dimension than the 1984 Hart Bros bottling I had ten years ago. There's no way to compare it to contemporary single malts, most of which are heavily produced (much like music?). The Scott's (R.I.P.) whiskies were often left to be their own animals, for better or worse. For better here. This strange and delicious whisky was perfect for me in this strange and energizing moment in my life. Yes, an excellent Littlemill in honor of my big girl.

Availability - Secondary market, maybe
Pricing - ???, but it was less than €100 twenty years ago
Rating - 90

Friday, May 10, 2024

Moving out, and also another review of Yoichi Key Malts

The movers arrive tomorrow.

I've been packing and moving boxes by car every day, since before the Paris trip, and it feels like I've barely made a dent. And I don't even have much stuff. Plumbing and electrical mishaps still need to be addressed at the house. But I think I've gotten the smell of dog piss out of the building, and I've stayed fit by deadlifting whisky cases and attempting to paint rooms. No matter where I am with all this, those two dudes and a truck will appear on Saturday afternoon. Goodbye sad bachelor pad, hello overwhelmed bachelor house!

Since I did not visit Japan this year, I decided the reviews for my apartment send-off would be some Yoichis. There was a whole week of posts planned but that was some silly optimism. Instead, most of my drinking has consisted of me staring into space, sipping Chablis at some point after 10pm.

This trio of Yoichi's Key Malts was picked up by the Doctors Springbank last year (thank you!), so their bottlings are more recent than the ones reviewed in 2022.

One final note. This tasting was conducted in the apartment's master bathroom while tornado sirens blared for almost an hour. Mathilda sat on a zafu cushion reading a novel while her father sat in his desk chair smelling tempered poison. 

Newer Sapporo Triplets



Yoichi
Woody and Vanillic - 55%abv
Yoichi
Sherry and Sweet - 55%abv
Yoichi
Peaty and Salty - 55%abv
Less generically woody than expected, the nose offers some fun spices like clove and cardamom layered on top of peaches and grapefruit. The vanilla and peat remain calm.Dried cherries, walnuts, and something beefy arrive first in the nose, followed by caramel, blossoms, and hints of raspberry jam and black raisins.Yes. The nose. Seaweed, antiseptic, and rubber gaskets galore. A whiff of farm, soft grassiness, and a drop of Sambuca fill in the gaps.
The palate dishes out some tannins at the start, as well as some bold peat. It's so sweet and floral that it's almost like peaty new make. Not bad though. There's a nice leafiness in the background.Cherry jam and coal smoke on the palate. Bits of earth, mint, and fig make cameos. A sharp tannic bite threatens in the distance.The palate is simple, but on target with a gentle sweetness, sooty peat, a generous dose of sea salt. The soot intensifies with time, while an herbal bitterness rises from the background.
It's very sweet on the finish, with a grassiness in the middle, and vanilla in the back.It finishes with cherry jam, serrano chiles, menthol, and raspberry candy.It finishes with kiln, menthol, and a little bit of bitterness.
Final thoughts:
Better than the previous Woody & Vanillic, which I called "the worst Yoichi I've ever tried", this whisky isn't completely wrecked by vanilla, in fact the nose is quite lovely.
Final thoughts:
Again, this one is better than the version I tried two years ago. Some bland sherry and oak notes keep this one from soaring, but I do love the cherry jam and coal smoke combo.
Final thoughts:
Picture baby Ardbeg, but with less violence, more control. It may not offer much complexity, but it does what it says on the tin, and reliably hits the spot. A great winter pour.
Rating: 82Rating: 84Rating: 87

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Until after I finished the tasting and checked my old notes, I'd forgotten how disappointed I was with the Key Malts set I'd reviewed two years ago. This set was more consistent, more on-brand Yoichi, if that makes sense. If you nabbed this set from the distillery recently, enjoy, and bask in the warmth of my jealousy.

Next week, the scotch returns...

Friday, May 3, 2024

Four whiskies at Golden Promise

While in Paris, I did not drink very much whisky, because wine. But I did go to the most famous whisky bar in town, Golden Promise.


Owned by La Maison du Whisky, the bar is located in the basement of LMDW's Japan-themed location. The warm lights of the standard bar greats visitors first, but then......to the right......there's the room of Rare, Scarce, Unicorn, Holy Shit This Can't Be Real. But it is real, and it's expensive. It's difficult to judge the prices on individual whiskies because Golden Promise has open bottles of whiskies that might not be available in any other European bar. (If you're feeling curious and masochistic, a version of their menu is/was available on the official site, as is a video that gives a little peek into The Room.)

The staff and service were excellent, and very patient as I walked countless laps around the shelves. Also true to my brand, I promptly spilled a half a pour of one of my whiskies; and the staff refilled my glass immediately.

These were my drinks for the night:


Famous Grouse "OVER 7 YEARS OLD", 43%abv

I've enjoyed several different versions of dusty Famous Grouse, and can confirm that the blend was still excellent right up through the 1980s. Golden Promise had a 1970s Italian import of the "Over 7 Years" edition, so I chose that as a palate tester.

The nose begins with a burst of polished leather and a hot greasy engine. Notes of dark soy sauce and amaretto appear after 20 minutes. The palate reads stronger and older than the official numbers, sometimes more like a dusty old brandy than scotch. Thick honey and sweet cara cara oranges settle in first, followed by Havdalah spice box and chili powder. Its moderate length finish offers orange marmalade spiked with chile oil.

This is Exhibit 7012 of why I adore old blends. It's dense, heavy, rich stuff that reads like it's all malt, all great malt. Were this any other situation, I would have gone for a second pour. But it was time to move on, my palate was awake. Rating: 87

Too many options awaited me so I strategized, deciding to focus on defunct whisky ranges and well-aged versions of less-glamorous single malts. I selected the Rare Malts, a series that ended just as I was getting into single malts, and a trio of distilleries I enjoy.


Auchroisk 28yo 1974 56.8%abv Rare Malts
Glen Ord 23yo 1974 60.8%abv Rare Malts
Dailuaine 22yo 1973 60.92%abv Rare Malts

Auchroisk 28yo 1974

Lovely mellow American oak merging with this Speyside spirit results in lots of limoncello and fresh cherries in the nose, with hints of anise and Play Doh in the background. The palate is positively soaked with tropical fruits. Dried mango, dried purple sweet potato, fresh lychees and kiwis. A dash of horseradish brightens it further. It finishes tarter with nectarines joining the dried mango.

With water, the whisky shifts a little, while holding onto its highlights. Guavas, baked pears, and mint leaves enter the nose. More citrus, more chiles, and little bit of chocolate show up on the palate.

It was such at knockout pour that I indeed knocked over my glass......which, by the way, opens a whisky very nicely. This Auchroisk had my favorite palate of the evening and took to careful dilution flawlessly. Love this stuff. Rating: 91

Glen Ord 23yo 1974

I'm not sure I can fully capture the nose's complexity here. Musty basement, car repair garage, something smoky, something savory, guava, citronella, light blue Mr Sketch marker, and a whisper of oak spice. Peach cobbler, fragrant peppercorns, and smoky mushrooms appear first in the palate, which then gets mustier, and more mineral, while also picking up some hay notes in the background. The mineral note merges well with the peaches in the finish.

Adding water brings out more dunnage and slight meatiness in the nose, while the palate balances umami and citrus notes.

This Glen Ord offered a fun, slightly dirtier edge when compared to the other two Rare Malts, but never sold out in any single direction. It drank very easily for its strength, and swam well, like its compatriots. Rating: 90 

Dailuaine 22yo 1973

This nose keeps improving with time. First there was milk chocolate and dried apricot. Then cloves and toffee pudding. Then grapefruit. Finally, hay and dried herbs swooped up and bundled all those characteristics together. Like the nose, this palate has multiple gears. Grapefruit, Thai chile, lychee candy, and industrial coal smoke arrive first. Then comes the umami, which calms it down, followed by something very mineral. It finishes with the umami and mineral up front. Moments of fruit in the middle. A dash of gochujang in the back.

With water, all of its aspects come together in harmony, with new notes of dunnage and mango all over the nose and palate.

The gentleman who poured these whiskies told me afterwards that this was his favorite of the three, and I'm going to have to agree, thanks to its complexity, balance, and its gorgeous shift once diluted. I can't imagine what it's like to have a whole bottle of this. Rating: 92

After this session I didn't drink whisky again during my Paris stay. Nothing could compete. If you're in the neighborhood, I highly recommend a visit to Golden Promise, even if it's to just see the bottles and maybe get a pour of something you cannot find anywhere else.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Dispatch from home, post-Paris

Assembling another blog post via my phone became too much of a hassle, so I spent my Parisian quiet time either reading dozens of J.G. Ballard's fever dream short stories or drinking Chablis, or both.

Using my iPhone notes, I will now attempt to reproduce what should have been my second blog post from Paris:

from Chaïm Soutaine's La Juene Anglais

My previous dispatch may have come across dismissive of art and art history. To clarify (or not), I react emotionally, not intellectually, to art. While The Louvre is tremendous and I recommend it to everyone, it reminds me of Washington, DC, designed to confuse invaders. Its floors and routes are disorienting, and perhaps that's why people stay in the building for so long. Hell, it took me 20 minutes to figure out how to exit the place. Anyway, back to Art. My only emotional connections at The Louvre happened among the sculptures and non-European art. Otherwise it felt very intellectual, and a little cold.

— The Musée D’Orsay was another story. Near tears a half dozen times within the first 30 minutes, I lingered on every angle of every creation. It felt as if the museum's curators and I function on the same emotional level. Yes, I know that’s vague. Just know that Musée D’Orsay is remarkable (and intuitively structured). I spent six hours there, and only left the building because security wouldn't let me sleep at the base of The Gates of Hell.

— A peaceful marriage of Kyoto's gardens and the French countryside, Monet's home in Giverny offered one of the richest experiences of the trip. The waterlilies, the river, the bridge, they're all still there, all somehow even quieter than Monet's paintings.

— A different Monet immersion overwhelmed me at Musée de l'Orangerie, where eight massive impressions of les nymphéas curl around, forming a giant infinity symbol.

— Then there was this:

— On a related note: Despite walking 10 to 20 miles per day, I've returned to The States carrying some croissant weight. Is there such a thing as the French Fifteen? I'm asking for a friend. My tummy.

— And finally, yes, I drank some whisky. More about that on Friday.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Dispatch from Paris

Because I’m tapping this out on my iPhone, today’s post will be in bullet form. We Americans prefer to write in bullets anyway.

— PARIS BE VAPIN’! You cannot stop Paris from vapin’. Though once a day I still see at least one pair of ladies balancing cigarettes as elegantly as Bette Davis and Kate Hepburn.

Stairs de Triomphe

— I wasn’t going to buy any whisky but……you know where this is going……then I visited all three LMDWs.

— I did not pack appropriately for this trip. The forecast showed low-60s to low-70s several days before I left. Instead, temperatures haven’t gotten out the low-50s and every morning is in the 30s when I start my adventures. So yeah, did you know that one can buy clothes in Paris?

That guy

— What an alcohol culture! There are four places inside the Eiffel Tower to get wine.

— Speaking of Tour Eiffel here are my notes:
1. If you have any health concerns, don’t be a hero, don’t walk up the first two levels. Take the elevator.
2. If you choose to take the stairs, don’t smoke beforehand nor eat before the climb.
3. They should offer hot brandy toddies at the top, not champagne. The ground temperature was 50 degrees, but at the top I was met by sheets of sleet.
4 The tower was much more impressive than I’d expected. Its sturdy industrial style looks almost steampunk to modern eyes.

— Where do Parisians pee? No it’s not a riddle. Or maybe it is. The Paris tourism website brags about 400 public toilets. I have visited 16 so far, all of them broken. Yours truly has now publicly whizzed in the bushes in three European countries.

— My, the girls here are purdy.

— Guidebooks say it would take days to get through The Louvre. I knocked it out in four hours, and I never hurried. Having been to Versailles a couple days earlier, I’d had my fill of the Louiez’ decor and extravagance, so I skipped that section. More importantly, I’d already seen enough depictions of milky-white Jeezus to last me several lifetimes, so I skimmed those hallways. If you have not had your fill of said paintings, be prepared to add 2+ hours to your visit. Even more importantly, here is the Tushie de Milo.


I hope this has been informative. Perhaps another dispatch will find its way here before the trip is over.

Friday, April 19, 2024

The Irishman 17 year old single malt, single sherry butt

On Wednesday I mentioned the rough road Walsh Whiskey has travelled in less than a decade. The Walsh family continue to manage the brand and (maybe?) select casks, but Amber Beverage Group, the Latvian owners, hold the purse strings. Somehow the Walshes wound up sourcing a bunch of 17 year old single casks, several of which took the form of sherry butts. I'm not certain which of those Oloroso casks I'm trying today but I think it's the one in the picture.

pic source
Distillery: ???
Brand: The Irishman
Owner: Amber Beverage Group
Country: Ireland (with Latvian owners)
Style: Single Malt
Distillations: ?
Age: 17 years (2005? - 2022?)
Maturation: first-fill European oak Oloroso Butt
Alcohol by Volume: 56%
(thank you Doctors Springbank!)

NEAT

Nose - A lot of cask here. Vanilla extract, toasted coconut, and hint of fresh cut lumber. Brown sugar, cinnamon, and a whiff of lychee.

Palate - Fresh peaches, dried apricots, and grapefruit juice. Shortbread and a little bit of toffee. Not too sweet. Good tartness.

Finish - Dried apricots, tart limes, and some peppery tannins around the edges.

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

Nose - Fruity and farmy, with a leathery moment.

Palate - Not much different than the neat palate, maybe sweeter?

Finish - Sweet and floral, very pleasant.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

I tried all four of this week's Irish whiskies side-by-side and this one easily won out. Though the nose carries plenty of butt, the palate is much more balanced and moreish. If not for the possibility of considerable cask variation, I dare say I'd consider buying a bottle of an Irishman 17yo sherry cask if/when cash is flush. The nice fruity touches whisper, "Bushmills", but with a palate like this I'm not that concerned about the distiller really. Had the nose matched the palate, this would've been a big winner.

Availability - ???
Pricing - $150-$200
Rating - 85

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Writers' Tears Limited Edition, Japanese Cask Finish

Yes, another NAS Irish whiskey with a secondary maturation. But at least this finish is......whiskey adjacent.

A bit of drama has set in during the young life of Walsh Whiskey, the producers of the Writers' Tears and The Irishman brands. The Irish company partnered with Italian drinks producer Illva Saronno to build Royal Oak Distillery in 2016. Three years later, Saronno took full ownership over the distillery after a dispute. Walsh Whiskey continued to own the two whiskey brands until it was purchased by the Latvian Amber Beverage Group.

I still don't know from where Writers' Tears is sourced. Bushmills? If you know, please drop a hint in the comments below.

pilfered pic
Distillery: ???
Brand: Writers' Tears
Owner: Amber Beverage Group
Country: Ireland (with Latvian owners)
Style: Single Malt + Single Pot Still
Distillations: Three
Age: NAS
Maturation: American oak first, Mizunara oak second
Alcohol by Volume: 55%
(thank you Doctors Springbank!)

NEAT

Nose - Mint leaf, orange candy, and bubblegum, with some florals and veg in the background.

Palate - Pencil shavings, Play-Doh, and umeboshi. Cherries, sugar, and a hint of grapefruit.

Finish - Pear syrup, bitter grapefruit, and a little bit of anise.

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

Nose - Oranges, pears, ginger, and banana pudding.

Palate - Mild. Pears, peach candy, and cherries.

Finish - Circus peanuts.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

This was two steps above Monday's Dingles. It's neither dreamy nor complex, but its very drinkable, even at full strength. And the fruitiness has me thinking this was at least partially fashioned from Bushmills's stock. The mizunara is very subtle. It's also an expensive oak, so I wouldn't be surprised if it was third-fill, which is a good thing. I'd like to try this one again sometime.

Availability - ???
Pricing - €80-€120 maybe?
Rating - 82

Monday, April 15, 2024

A pair of Dingles (as in, Irish Single Malts)

Four weeks have passed since St. Patrick's Day which means it's time for me to review some Irish whiskies! This time it'll be a quartet of single malts from brands that have rarely appeared on this site.

I have an emotional connection to the distillery that produced the first two whiskies. Thirteen years ago, I stayed in Dingle to attend one of the greatest weddings of all time. During the wedding someone told me that ground was being broken for a new Irish distillery, right there in Dingle. Somehow through the flood of Redbreast and Guinness I remembered that. That very distillery fired up its stills in late 2012, and it's company has already released a 10 year old, though most of their offerings have no age statement. Meanwhile, I've never tried any of their stuff. So here's a pair!



Dingle Lá 'le Bríde

pic lifted from
whiskybase
Distillery: The Dingle Whiskey Distillery
Owner: Porterhouse Group
Location: Dingle, County Kerry, Ireland
Type: Single Malt
Distillations: Three
Age: NAS
Maturation: bourbon casks, then rye cask finish
Outturn: 10000 bottles
Release date: 2023
Alcohol by Volume: 50.5%
(thank you Doctors Springbank!)

NEAT

Nose - Uh oh, I think they used Koval casks because I can smell that ultra-grainy half-baked unbalanced Craft rye through everything else. There's also some cardamom, notebook paper, mint extract, ethyl, and a hint of manure.

Palate - Better! Ginger, vanilla, lime, cinnamon, and that farmy note.

Finish - Lime pith, cinnamon, and lots of sugar.

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

Nose - Cow shit floating in immature rye. White vinegar and anise.

Palate - A rye+sambuca cocktail with plenty of simple syrup.

Finish - Matches the nose, but with a slight milkiness.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Oh dear. The (Koval?) rye casks mistreated this Irish whiskey. Firstly, the less I say about the diluted version, the better. Secondly, it doesn't taste half bad, but I'm not sure how much of the single malt remains. Thirdly, I don't know, this bummed me out. The American Craft whiskey scourge came to Ireland, corrupting what could have been a good malt. 

Availability - Still available in Europe
Pricing - €80-€90
Rating - 74 (do not dilute!)



Dingle Samhain

pic lifted from
whiskybase
Distillery: The Dingle Whiskey Distillery
Owner: Porterhouse Group
Location: Dingle, County Kerry, Ireland
Type: Single Malt
Distillations: Three
Age: NAS
Maturation: five years first-fill bourbon casks, then two years in first-fill Muscatel casks (rumored)
Outturn: 10000 bottles
Release date: 2022
Alcohol by Volume: 50.5%
(thank you Doctors Springbank!)

NEAT

Nose - Complete separation between barley grist and Oloroso-style (rather than classic Muscatel) fortified wine, with cinnamon and spoiled milk in the background.

Palate - Again, better here. Same ginger and vanilla combo, but with walnuts and raw almonds in the mix.

Finish - Lots of ginger and lime pith, with a lingering bitter bite.

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

Nose - Again, curiously Oloroso-esque and a good dose of walnuts. Cleaner, but I'm not sure where the whiskey is.

Palate - Strangely sour and bitter.

Finish - Same as on the palate.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Similar feelings here. The whiskey does NOT swim, the finish overwhelms, and where's my Dingle? This one's palate works better than the Bríde's, but the neat nose had me worried that this was going to be an all out fail. These two weren't good introductions to Dingle because American rye (especially the craft stuff) and Muscatel are not subtle partners for any triple-distilled whisk(e)y. I'll try the Dingle single malt again someday, maybe even on site! But not another finished product.

Availability - Still available in Europe
Pricing - €80-€90
Rating - 74 (do not dilute!)

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

A quick personal update, April 2024

You may or may not have noticed that the timing of my weekly posts has become more uneven than usual. Blame it on a house. Because I bought one! And going through it all on my own has been more difficult than I had anticipated.

From an emotional distance, it's a wonderful house. The basement is huge, my daughters will have one half and I'll have the other. There's a backyard, soon to be populated by a grill and firepit. A big open living space that can easily fit a TV room and an office. My girls will finally each have their own room. And I'll have two bars.

But the place is slowly becoming a money pit because the previous owners treated their property like a toilet. And that's not entirely an exaggeration. Unfucking their horrors has absorbed the majority of my non-work life, except.....I'm also on day 10 out of 17 consecutive days with my daughters, alone. We all still love each other very much, but not one of us are mellow humans at this point in our lives.

Also I do work, which pays for all the above, kinda.

The key to managing the stress is dialing down the alcohol and dialing UP THE CAFFEINE. When I do drink whisky, I pair a glass of something tasty with whatever psychotronic-giallo-oddball film (100 minutes or less) that I can find on my streaming channels. Sitting down to take official tasting notes usually leads to looking at my schedule and email to see what I've forgotten to do today, checking the news (briefly, because fuck), and zoning out. Last night, I poured a 1975 Bushmills, which of course smelled fruitylicious but had oxidized into soap on the palate. So I dumped it out and went straight to a highball.

I hope you have enjoyed this extensive excuse. The reviews will continue but won't always post on the same days during the week. So it goes. Someday my life will get back into a rhythm. Oh, I forgot to mention I booked a springtime trip to Paris before I'd even considered buying a house. And the flight to CDG isn't too far away...

Friday, April 5, 2024

Kilkerran 15 year old 2004 Bourbon Wood single cask, UK Exclusive

I've tried two of Kilkerran's 15yo 2004 single casks before. Both were good, but mostly sherry sherry sherry sherry. Today's 15yo 2004 spent its entire life in a refill bourbon hogshead, thank The Maker! I'm a bit excited about this one, so I'm ending the intro here.


Distillery: Glengyle
Owner: Mitchell's Glengyle Limited
Brand: Kilkerran
Region: Campbeltown
Age: 15 years (May 2004 - October 2019)
Maturation: refill bourbon hogshead
Outturn: 324 bottles
Bottled for: United Kingdom
Alcohol by Volume: 53.1%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

Three very nice strata form the nose. Level 1: Medicinal peat + yeast. Level 2: Guava + Grapefruit. Level 3: Honey, cinnamon, and vanilla bean. After 20 minutes, it gains hints of farm and light blue Mr. Sketch markers. That forest-y Kilkerran peat leads the palate, and is met by tart limes, canned peaches, and a bit of umami, with moments of soot and cinnamon in the background. Savory smoke, tart oranges, and antiseptic finish things off.

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

The nose gets lighter and prettier, with white peaches, honey, and cinnamon to counter the farmy peat. The palate becomes simpler and sweeter. Apricots and lemons. Wood smoke and pink peppercorns. It finishes with lemony smoke and honey.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

This is the best Kilkerran I've had in nearly four years, and certainly one of their top all-bourbon-cask releases that's sat in my glass. It has the great fruits, a slight youthful fight, and different phenolic angles, while also taking dilution very well. If you doubt me, please see Sir Opinions's review here. We are correct.

Availability - Maybe on the secondary market
Pricing - I cannot look
Rating - 89

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Kilkerran Heavily Peated, batch 7

Though I am a Kilkerran enthusiast, I've avoided the brand's Heavily Peated range. Part of Kilkerran single malt's thrill is how well (sometimes perfectly) its low-to-moderate peat level merges with every other aspect of the spirit. Very, very few heavily-peated whiskies achieve any level of balance; the pleasure (for some folks) is the scope of the phenolic assault. Monolithic whiskies no longer appeal to my palate, so when Kilkerran upped its ppm levels from 10 to 84 for this series, I shrugged and ignored every batch's release, especially after my disappointment with their standard Cask Strength releases.

But I'm still a curious man, and these Heavy creatures have received positive reviews, so......here it is, Heavily Peated, batch 7.

Distillery: Glengyle
Owner: Mitchell's Glengyle Limited
Region: Campbeltown
Brand: Kilkerran
Range: Heavily Peated
Age: NAS
Maturation: 90% bourbon casks / 10% sherry casks
Bottled: 12 Sept 2022
Alcohol by Volume: 59.1%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

Direct prosciutto hit to the nose! Plenty of seaweed, coal, and charred green bell peppers then follow. Giving it some time, I find mint leaf and tangerine juice peeking out of the background. The palate is, erm, peated. Burnt veg, burnt bacon, burnt beef, burnt taste buds. Once my face heals up, molasses, salt, rock candy, and lemons push forward. The prosciutto returns in the finish, followed by dark smoke and bitter herbs.

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

The PEAT becomes very ocean-y in the nose, just as a fresh apricot note suddenly appears. The palate reads sweeter and less burnt, with mint and moss in the background. It finishes with moss, sugar, and ash.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Though this feels like 3-4 year old whisky, it is a decent 3-4 year old whisky. The spirit has scared (or scarred) the oak away, which I don't mind, and it's not as much of a palate wrecker as I'd anticipated. But it's still a brute. Some time and water may be required to find this batch's best form, especially near the 46%abv mark. Though I'm not motivated to purchase a bottle, I won't ignore these releases going forward. At least Glengyle is playing with peat rather than tiny casks and wine blends.

Availability - These batches sell out with surprising speed
Pricing - $80+ in Europe, $100+ in the US
Rating - 83

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Fail...er...Adventures in Blending: Improving Kilkerran Cask Strength, AGAIN

I love love love Kilkerran's Work In Progress (WIP) single malts, all of them. They're brilliant and possibly the best whisky being produced in Campbeltown at the time. The first batch of Kilkerran 12yo was also a more-than-worthy mate to Springbank 10yo. I'd grab another bottle if I could find one.

So I was very excited to hear that Glengyle distillery was going to release a series of age-stated cask strength Kilkerran batches. I bought a bottle of Batch 1, all ex-bourbon casks, as soon as it materialized. And it took me nearly five years to finish it. It just did not work. Despite being older than half of the WIPs, it read more immature than all of them, very hot and incomplete. I tried to spruce it up with some magical old Famous Grouse 18yo Malt, with mixed results.

In 2020 I tried Batch 4, which was all recharred sherry casks......and I wasn't wild about that one either, as its oak and sherry elements were completely out of balance with the spirit. Then, in 2023, I split a bottle of Batch 7, port casks, and that one went the wrong direction, full-tilt.

Thus I've lost interest in the cask strength batches, especially if Glengyle won't release batches with a mix of sherry and bourbon casks. They blended casks in the first four WIPs (younger whisky may I add) and knocked it out of the park each time.

But what if I did a little blending myself? Well, I did in 2022. And then completely forgot about it. So my two little ~35mL creations sat for 21 months, marrying or merging or cuddling. And now it's time to find out what resulted.



Vatting #1

1 part Kilkerran Work In Progress, Sixth Edition, sherry wood, ~10 years old, 46%abv
+
2 parts Kilkerran Cask Strength, Batch 1, bourbon casks, 8 years old, 56.2%abv


Full strength, 52.8%abv

Nose: Walnuts, honey, and oranges. Antiseptic, sandalwood, chocolate, and mild peat smoke.
Palate: Slight sooty with a bit of heat. Sweet oranges and Luxardo cherries.
Finish: Soot, oranges, hint of toffee.
Comments: NAILED IT. Oh wow, this keeps many of the best parts from WIP6, ditching the weakest elements of CS1.

Diluted to 46%abv

Nose: Toffee, almond butter, and date rolls. Peat smoke starts out quiet, then expands with time.
Palate: Weirdly bitter, with almonds and black pepper in the background.
Finish: Sweeter and less bitter than the palate.
Comments: The nose works. The palate does not. I'm surprised by how much it changed.



Vatting #2

10mL Kilkerran Cask Strength, Batch 4, re-charred sherry casks, 8 years old, 57.1%abv
+
25mL Kilkerran Cask Strength, Batch 1, bourbon casks, 8 years old, 56.2%abv


Full strength, 56.45%abv

Nose: Brine, barley(!), and almond extract, with hints of blossoms and industrial smoke stack.
Palate: Very floral and hot. Heavy peat. Tart lemons and a hint of soap in the background.
Finish: Floral, salty, sweet, and very peppery.
Comments: Very good nose, but everything else is out of whack.

Diluted to 46%abv

Nose: Brine, black currant jam, and piney peat.
Palate: Orange marmalade. Plenty sweet with gentler oak and peat.
Finish: Oranges, wood smoke, and a touch of bitterness.
Comments: Much better this way. I wish I had another ounce or two to ponder.



#1 at full strength is the obvious winner, though I'd be happy with a bottle of #2 at 46%abv. Both are complete whiskies, fashioned with dumb luck. I guarantee you that J&A Mitchell & Company's blenders have the stock and skillset to run circles around me, so why don't they give it a try? There's room to grow with this CS series, and I do not mean tequila casks. Kilkerran can still offer coffee-dark sherried or straw-light bourbon cask batches, while also dropping a masterful mix into the series once in a while. No finishes, just vattings. I know I'd buy it.