...where distraction is the main attraction.

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Secret Speyside 31 year old 1989 Asta Morris, cask AM153

Sometimes unnamed "Speysides" are not Glenfarclases. I think this one is Glenrothes, as per Mark Dermul. He was fond of the whisky, as was Ruben and Serge. It looks like this cask's content (40.8%abv) was months away from becoming Spirit Drink, but I trust Asta Morris, a bottler who is batting 1.000 in my scorebook. I've been looking for some excuse to try this pick of theirs, and here's the excuse: It's the weekend!

Distillery: Glenrothes?
Region: Speyside (Rothes!)
Independent Bottler: Asta Morris
Series: Heritage
Age: 31 years old (1989 - 2021)
Maturation: former bourbon vessel
Cask #: AM153
Alcohol by Volume: 40.8%
(from a bottle split)


Oooh, a fun nose! A layer of fruits and flowers (peaches, citrons, kiwis, lemon blossoms, and jasmine blossoms) rests atop crème brûlée, nougat, toasted oak, and black walnuts. Later on, orange & white gummy worms join in.

The palate has more fight than one expects from 40.8%abv. Manuka honey, mangoes, limes, guava, and sea salt fill the fore- and midground, with hints of tartness and bitterness moderating the sweetness in the background.

A dessert-like combo of vanilla, orange, and toasted almonds fills the finish until a bit of bitter oak sneaks in.


The nose is WOW, the palate is great, and the finish is......good, an almost inevitable scenario with many older low ABV casks, as the oak's personality tilts from ally to aggressor. That being said, this is a groovy whisky I'd be happy to possess, and certainly the best Glenrothes I've ever had. And the price wasn't too bad when the bottle was available.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - €230, imagine that price on a 31yo today!
Rating - 88

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Speyside's Finest 32 year old 1989 Old Malt Cask, cask HL18977

No qualifier on this one. This is Speyside's Finest, as per Hunter Laing. So the whisky should knock me on my ass, or my face, or my assface. This particular Glenfarclas Finest spent 32 years in a refill hoggie, so it has my attention. Time provided it with an excellent drinking strength, so I shall now wet my whistle.

Distillery: Glenfarclas
Region: Speyside (Central)
Independent Bottler: Hunter Laing
Series: Old Malt Cask
Age: 32 years old (Dec 1989 - Jan 2022)
Maturation: refill hogshead
Cask #: HL18977
Exclusive to: The US of A
Alcohol by Volume: 45.8%
(from a bottle split)


Fruit juices lead the way in the nose, with apple, kiwi, and white peach right up front. New notes arrive slowly. A dusting of vanilla powder. Twizzlers. Newspaper print. Musty oak. Vanilla frosting starts taking over 45 minutes in, with the fresh fruit retreating but not vanishing.

The palate arrives quietly. Soft florals, tangy citrus, a slight creaminess, and a whiff of old oak. It opens up after 30 minutes as key lime pie and Thai chiles appear. With more time in the glass, the whisky gets tarter and sweeter.

Key lime pie and agave nectar stick the longest in the sweet finish, with hints of wood smoke and bitterness far behind.


Far from actually being Speyside's Finest, this whisky is a pleasant, easy drinker. Unlike many older whiskies, it's best consumed early. Don't let it sit in the glass too long, or else the oak will take over, especially in the nose. Like Tuesday's "Probably", this bottle's price was very reasonable considering the whisky's age, but as far as quality goes, it registers as more of a "session" whisky than Nikka's NAS attempt.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - it was less than $200, two years ago
Rating - 85

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Probably Speyside's Finest 28 year old 1992 Old & Rare for K&L

Sometimes the Laings are confident in their secret Speyside distillery's single casks, naming them Speyside's Finest, but sometimes they're less sure, offering qualifiers such as "Probably", "Possibly", "Plausibly", and "Perhaps", as with today's whisky, named Probably Speyside's Finest. Is there a code here or are all of these whiskies of the 'Farclas sort? I really don't know, and I'm not the biggest fan of distilleries who forbid the usage of their names on their own malts bottled by independents.

Hunter Laing bottled this refill barrel for their Old & Rare series, slinging it exclusively through California's K&L Wine Merchants during the peak Covid months. It still sold through as its price was very reasonable for a 28yo.

Distillery: Glenfarclas
Region: Speyside (Central)
Independent Bottler: Hunter Laing
Series: Old & Rare
Age: 28 years old (1992 - 2020)
Maturation: refill bourbon barrel
Exclusive to: K&L Wine Merchants
Alcohol by Volume: 47.4%
(from a bottle split)


Orange blossoms and orange oil lead the nose, followed by a little bit of wood smoke and caramel sauce. The smoke shifts towards an earthiness, the oranges to yellow peaches, and the orange blossoms to roses.

Lychees and limes mix with smoke chiles on the palate. Mangoes meet subtle tannin. After 45-ish minutes more toasted oak spices and a hint of savoriness appear.

Truffle salt and black pepper make up much of the finish, with quieter notes of mango and smoke linger behind.


Because I normally find bourbon cask unnamed-Glenfarclases to be underwhelming, this cask was a nice surprise. I'm not sure where the smoke comes from, but it plays well with the fruit and oak. Tannins never take over, nor does the sweetness. It's a good, balanced Speyside single malt with some oomph. If you're searching for a sherried Glenfarclas, look elsewhere.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - it was $179.99
Rating - 87

Friday, March 22, 2024

Miyagikyo Grande, Japanese single malt

Sorry, I can't help but pronounce "Grande" like Nachos BellGrande. Was this Nikka's intent? Most of the whisky world (and internet) would see "grande" and assume this single malt comes in a Balthazar. But then they'd be deeply disappointed about the comparatively wee 700mL bottle. So, um, Earth to Nikka, estarás decepcionado.

So what is this grand(?) Miyagikyo? Compared to the standard NAS release, Grande has more sherry casks in the mix and 3 more points of ABV. And it is/was only available via Travel Retail stores. It's still not as dark as Wednesday's Suntory Chita disappointment, so the e150a level is likely minimal.

Despite the above snark, I am curious to find out if this is indeed grand or grande.

Distillery: Miyagikyo
Ownership: Nikka
Type: Single malt
Age: ???
Maturation: a mix of sherry and bourbon casks with an emphasis on the former
Alcohol by Volume: 48%
Chillfitered? No
e150? Not much if any
(thanks again, Doctors Springbank!)


The nose pleasantly mixes almond extract, toffee, toasted pecans, and orange peels. Hints of flowers and peaches brighten the background, and there are no generic raisin/prune notes. The palate comes in malty, salty, and sweet, with more almond than vanilla action. A bit of Meyer lemon zips through the middle, and a light woodiness stays in the background. Its short finish offers tarter citrus, more vanilla, and louder oak spice.


Though neither grand nor grande this Nikka malt, like yesterday's Session, would be a good everyday pour, if you in fact enjoy everyday pours and don't have the widespread Whisky Attention Deficit Disorder. Compared to Session, Miyagikyo Grande is fuller, rounder, and bolder, which is likely due to the higher ABV and single distillery focus. Grande's finish proves to be its weak point with its brevity and louder oak.

I don't have the standard Miyagikyo NAS in front of me, so I cannot state with certainty if Grande is better, but the quality is pretty similar. So if you're in Japan, and are looking at the standard release (¥4500) and Grande (¥10000), you may not get much more for the latter's premium.

Availability - Japan, mostly Travel Retail
Pricing - it was ¥10000 not too long ago
Rating - 83

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Nikka Session, a world blended malt

Nikka's blends and vattings have held more than just Japanese ingredients for a long time, at least since their parent company, Asahi, purchased the Ben Nevis distillery in 1989. It wasn't until 2020 that they finally outed one of their creations as "world" whisky, just like their main competitor, Suntory, did the previous year.

Nikka Session mixes Yoichi, Miyagikyo, and Ben Nevis malts, and three fine malts those are. The label has a bit of a Vegas gentleman's club feel to it, which is......a thing. The whisky has been chillfiltered and reduced to 43%abv. It's probably been colored too but much less so than yesterday's grain. Was Nikka trying to create a "session" whisky like a session beer, something that can be casually consumed in quantity over an evening (or morning)? And isn't that what most major blends aim to do? Or maybe it's referring to a music session, or a therapy session. Or all of the above?

Sláinte + Kanpai = Sláin-pai

Ownership: Nikka
Type: Blended malt
Regions: Japan and Scotland
Distilleries: Miyagikyo, Yoichi, and Ben Nevis
Age: ???
Maturation: ???
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
(thank you, Doctors Springbank!)


Lemon blossoms, fennel seeds, and ginger snap cookies lead the nose, followed by bread and kiwi juice. Its vanilla note grows with time. The palate starts off light and floral, with a pretty note of passionfruit candy. Mild bitter, sea salt, and chile oil notes help mellow the sweetness for a while, but can't keep the sugar down forever, especially once the toasted oak spices arrive. It concludes with white peaches, brown sugar, and a slight sourness.


Indeed, Nikka Session is an easy drinker. One could overpour this onto a big ice cube and drink it mindlessly. So the whisky probably achieved its purpose; as in, it could get someone terrifyingly drunk via fewer calories than session beers. I don't think I could have picked out the Yoichi or Ben Nevis, rather it seems like a young, diluted, slightly oaky Miyagikyo. Not bad, not great, and if it's still going for its SRP in Japan then the price is right.

Availability - Mostly Japan, and a few dozen retailers in Europe and USA
Pricing - it was in the $30s in Japan, but now $100-$200 in The West
Rating - 80

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Chita Japanese Grain Whisky, Aichi Edition

You may think I ended my last grain whisky review saying that I'd never review grain whisky again, but the fine print in the penultimate review specified single grain scotch whisky. So what do I have here? A single grain Japanese whisky. Without an age statement.


Internet whisperers say this whisky is in fact 12 years old and aged in red wine casks, but if Suntory doesn't put it on the label I'm going to ignore the rumors unless my palate tells me to do otherwise. Keep in mind, this is NOT the standard NAS "The Chita" that entered the market in 2016, instead this version was bottled in 2014 specifically for the Aichi Prefecture, where Chita (the city and distillery) is located.

Distillery: Chita
Ownership: Beam Suntory
Type: Single grain whisky
Country: Japan
Age: ???
Maturation: ???
Bottled: 2014
Exclusive to: Aichi Prefecture
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
(from a bottle split)


As I'd feared, the nose is mostly Malibu Coconut Rum and imitation vanilla extract. The rubber bands, burnt wheat, and veg note in the midground doesn't save it. It kinda rolls over into a cream soda character after 30 minutes.

The palate is oddly hot, but not-so-oddly packed with sugar and vanilla. Peppercorn-coated cardboard moves between the mid- and background across each sip.

It finishes with cream soda and cardboard.

Things worsen once the grain is poured over a big ice cube. Picture: vanilla frosting smeared unevenly over a cardboard box.


I'm aware that my take on Nikka Coffey Grain ("one step away from being a total embarrassment" and would lose to Evan Williams Black Label in a blind taste test) is unpopular, but this limited edition Chita is worse than Nikka's grain. You know it's a sad pour when you're hoping the artificial vanilla note will return. And I don't really mind the cream soda aspect, in fact that might be its best part. But LOL the wine cask rumor. LOL my cat harrrfing up a hairball right now. LOL grain whisky.

Availability - Sold out, mercifully
Pricing - ???
Rating - 64

Friday, March 15, 2024

Glengoyne 14 year old 1999 Malts of Scotland, cask MoS 13044

Malts of Scotland had a significant presence in the indie bottling world 10 years ago, but I no longer see their single casks at European online retailers. Whiskybase shows MoS released 41 whiskies in 2023, so maybe their bottles don't leave Germany anymore. They've bottled some very good stuff and tend to have some bold sherry casks. Meanwhile, Glengoyne's spirit takes well to sherry casks...

Sadly I don't have any samples of the dreamy Glengoyne '72s, rather just a modest 1999 sherried hoggie that produced some dark stuff after only 14 years.

Distillery: Glengoyne
Distilled by: The Edrington Group
Current Owner: Ian MacLeod Distillers
Region: Highlands, but almost Lowlands!
Independent bottler: Malts of Scotland
Age: 14 years (July 1999 - October 2013)
Maturation: sherry hogshead
Cask numberMoS 13044
Outturn: 247 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 54.3%
(from a bottle split)


Not just a generic sherry beast! Ocean water, raw walnuts, and citronella are the first nose notes to show. Then there's molasses and dunnage, orange oil and black plums. The moderately sweet palate delivers a mix of grape jam, orange marmalade, and cinnamon Red Hots. Hints of iron and musty old wood drift through the background. It concludes with sweet citrus, dates, and a whiff of iron.

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

Its nose holds on the walnuts and orange oil, while picking up creme de cassis. But it also gets meatier and finds a Hampden-esque funky note. The palate gets sweeter and oakier. Honey and marmalade up front, peppery mint leaf in the back. The finish nearly matches the palate, adding in ground white pepper.


My read on a whisky's color does not work well with the current market. Dark whiskies that spent less than two decades in oak turn me off, because I see nothing in them but extraction. So this single cask's color didn't inspire me. But I should not have judged a whisky by its color, and I'm happy to say that this Glengoyne is neither oak juice nor a generic sherried thing. It has an excellent nose and a very good palate that wobbles a bit when diluted. So keep it neat!

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - less than €80 ten years ago
Rating - 86 (neat)

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Glengoyne 2008 sibling casks DL13643 and DL13468

It feels like only yesterday when I thought, "Wow, I'm not comfortable with all these baby whiskies distilled in the 2000s". Actually, that probably was yesterday. Today, most of the affordable single malts are from the 2010s, which makes me feel both mortal and not the intended scotch demographic. I don't mean the target demo is immortal, but clearly FOMO is.

And though Glengoyne's 25 year old official sherried beasts fuel FOMO plenty, independently bottled young single casks of the Dumgoyne distillery's spirit rarely sell out quickly. (How about that for a smooth segue!?) Because I enjoy the almost-Lowlander's whisky, I've been tempted aplenty to purchase a bottle, but have not yet gone for it.

Luckily, my whisky buddy, T.D., sent me samples of a pair of 'Goyne sibling casks both distilled in 2008 and released under Douglas Laing's Old Particular label. Both started life in refill bourbon hogsheads, then had separate final acts. Cask DL13643 was kept in that hoggie until it was diluted to 48.4%abv and bottled. Cask DL13468 was transferred to a refill Pedro Ximenez hogshead until it was bottled at full strength for K&L Wines.

I am now going to try them, side-by-side. Thank you, T.D., for this opportunity!

Glengoyne 11 year old 2008 Old Particular, cask DL13643
Glengoyne 11 year old 2008 Old Particular, cask DL13468
Glengoyne 11 year old 2008 Old Particular, cask DL13468
 DILUTED to 46%abv
Nose: Apple eau de vie with a bit of yeast. Lemon oil mixed with brown sugar. Orange candy appears after 30 minutes.Nose: That orange candy note leads raw nuts, black raisins, and currants. Flowers and maple stay in the background.Nose: Very pretty. Flowers, honey, dried apricot, and vanilla.
Palate: Starts with a mix of blossoms, fresh ginger, clementines, and a hint of almond extract. It gains more barley and an eau de vie edge with time. Very very sweet.Palate: The PX cask makes its intentions known here, bringing in almonds, fudge, and a dash of salt. But it can't smother the sweet citrus note. Drinks like a much lower ABV.Palate: Dilution slightly tames the sweetness, yet turns up the intensity of the flavor, where golden raisins, salt, and cayenne pepper reign.
Finish: Sugary mix of barley and lemon.Finish: Sweet and tangy with orange candy and fudge.Finish: Sweet and bitter with a dose of vanilla.


Cask DL13643 is oh-so-close to new make, which is great! One could use it as the control element in a bigger Glengoyne taste off. Were this barley eau de vie not so tooth-rottingly sweet, I'd push it higher up the B-grade scale.

As expected, cask DL13468 offers a different adventure, but it holds onto the spirit's citrus note as it tries to fight free from the PX. It becomes a different creature once diluted, shedding most of the sherry influence and much of the sweetness, which are wins in my book. Whether neat or diluted DL13468 does read more mature than DL13643, offering a slightly more complex experience.

Glengoyne 11 year old 2008 Old Particular, cask DL13643 - 83
Glengoyne 11 year old 2008 Old Particular, cask DL13468 - 84

Friday, March 8, 2024

Glenburgie 24 year old 1993 Cadenhead, refill Claret cask

Yep, you read that correctly, a Claret cask. A Claret hogshead, in fact. This Glenburgie spent its first 15 years in an ex-bourbon hoggie, but then a nine-year second maturation in the wine cask. Because the Claret vessel was a refill, and because the whisky isn't pink, I decided to give it a try. Who knows what fruits lie within...

Distillery: Glenburgie
Region: Speyside (Moray)
Owners: Pernod Ricard
Independent Bottler: Cadenhead
Range: Authentic Collection
Age: 24 years (Sept 1993 - Autumn 2017)
Maturation: in a bourbon hogshead until 2008, then a refill Claret hogshead until 2017
Outturn: 216 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 53.0%
(from a bottle split)


Indeed, the fruits thrive in this nose. Guavas, limes, Rainier cherries, and kiwis, with a hint of sawdust mixed in. There's a whiff of chalky Chablis somewhere in there as well. Mmmmmmango, honey, and guavas arrive first in the palate. It gets tarter and more acidic with time, taking on limes and grapefruits. The finish follows a similar path, but happily holds onto the sweet mango.

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

The nose shifts to floral honey, limoncello, and white chocolate up front; malt and brine in the back. The palate remains ultra tart, while gaining sea salt and flowers. Oranges join the limes. It finishes with oranges, limes, and salt.


Of course, the Claret cask offers the most straightforward Glenburgie this week. It was a true refill, and probably a wise move by Cadenhead's cask management. The result reminds me of a super-citric Littlemill. Though it's not the deepest of single malts, this Glenburgie would be a bright, crisp, springtime pour for those of you bottle owners who drink your whiskies seasonally like I do.

Availability - 
Sold out

Pricing - I think it was a mere €125 back in 2017
Rating - 87 (neat)

Thursday, March 7, 2024

Glenburgie 26 year old 1995 Gordon & MacPhail, cask 6349

Whether or not yesterday's whisky was a Glenburgie, I can tell you that today's is. Glenburgie, yes. Bourbon cask, no. I've never had a sherry puncheon from this distillery before, but as this series' single casks have been very reliable, I'm optimistic about the whisky.

Distillery: Glenburgie
Region: Speyside (Moray)
Owners: Pernod Ricard
Independent Bottler: Gordon & MacPhail
Range: Connoisseurs Choice
Age: 26 years (1995 - 27 April 2022)
Maturation: 1st fill sherry puncheon
Cask #: 6349
Bottles: 564
Alcohol by Volume: 56.8%
(from a bottle split)


The nose delivers the sharp scent of actual Oloroso, which has become rather novel in sherry casks of late. Beyond that there's some raspberry jam, toasted almonds, toffee, and cherry gelatin. It picks up floral and saline notes after 30 minutes. The palate is slightly sweeter than Oloroso, with notes of blackberry and boysenberry jams up front, and salt + pepper + lime in the back. It finishes with the salt and pepper, while also adding notes of umeboshi and dark chocolate.

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

Things get more candied, but also earthier on the nose. The palate leans woodier, bitterer. Though some silky raspberry jam-filled dark chocolate waits behind. Its finish matches the palate.


Yesterday's whisky did not have Glenburgie's name, but it certainly smelled and tasted of that distillery. Today's whisky carried the Glenburgie's name, but I would never have guessed 'Burgie if blindfolded. This because the brown liquor was all cask, which is something that frustrates me three-quarters of the time. But I liked this one. Diluting it takes it too far over the edge, so I preferred it at full strength. This is a whisky for sherry drinkers, a tiny subset of boozers. If you are among that ilk, enjoy!

Availability - 
Still available in the EU, mostly Germany

Pricing - $250-$300
Rating - 87 (neat)

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Black Friday 22 year old The Whisky Exchange, 2021 Edition

Glenburgie in its pre-2004 + bourbon cask form can be one of the prettiest, fruitiest single malts. In 2004-2005, Allied Lyons leveled and rebuilt the distillery in a larger form, and then expanded it further the next year to support the Ballantine's blends' needs. I'm not shading the new era's distillate because enough time hasn't yet passed to see how it'll turn out.

This week presents a trio of 1990s Glenburgie spirit, though I can't guarantee that any of these were bourbon-cask-only productions. Today's 'Burgie, The Whisky Exchange's Black Friday 2021 single malt, is probably falls in that catgeory, but Billy Abbott and crew were very hush-hush about the ingredients, even leaving the distillery's name off the label. In fact, I'm not 100% certain this is actually Glenburgie, but a pair of little birdies told me it was. Should I listen to the birds, those tricksy spies?

Distillery: Glenburgie?
Region: Speyside (Moray)
Owners: Pernod Ricard
Independent Bottler: Elixir Distillers
Range: Black Friday
Age: 22 years (???? - October 2021)
Maturation: ???
Outturn: 1800 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 49.2%
(from a bottle split)


Plenty of happy youth left in this 22yo's nose. Apricots and limes join up with hazelnuts, rye seeds, and touch of malt. Notes of cardamom and baked peaches arrive after about 30 minutes. Similar apricot-lime-malt start to the palate, then turns towards kiwi candy, peach schnapps, and a dash of salt. It finishes with a mix of stone fruit liqueurs, yet never gets too sweet, perhaps because there's a nice salty foundation beneath.

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

Orange blossoms and cream puffs take over the nose now, with mellower notes of rye seeds and pine in the background. The palate gets extra fruity, with peaches, tangerines, and a mango moment or two. A slightly bitter bite gives it an extra angle. The finish matches the palate.


It's probably Glenburgie, or at least one of its fruity Speyside cousins. Though the whisky is more complex when neat, I prefer how the diluted palate focuses directly on the fruit essences while easing up on the sweetness. As often happens, the small batch approach brings consistency and moderation to the whisky. So complexity isn't its strong suit, instead it's a comfy drinker without too much oak. There are evenings when such an elixir becomes necessary.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 85

Friday, March 1, 2024

Benriach 10 year old 2010 SMWS 12.49

Yes, Benriach week concludes with a young 60%abv whisky with a brief second maturation. It also isn't particularly lauded by the Whiskybase crowd. But today is Friday, so I shall embrace questionable choices. Meanwhile, the whisky's finish was in an IPA cask, which can work...

Distillery: Benriach
Current Ownership: Brown-Forman
Owner at time of distillation: Seagram Distillers
Region: Speyside (Lossie)
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Age: 10 years (18 March 2010 - 2021?)
Maturation: refill hogshead for nine years, then one year in a 2nd fill Tempest Old Fashioned IPA barrel
Cask#: 12.49, "Is this the way to Amarillo?"
Outturn: 235 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 60%
(from a bottle split)


Vanilla and caramel form the top layer of the nose, with mint and eucalyptus in the middle, and weedy hops in the distance. The palate reads like cask strength Canadian Club, mostly ethyl and vanilla. Hints of ginger, lemon, and bitterness decorate the edges. It finishes hot and very sweet, with lots of caramel.

DILUTED to ~50%abv, or 1¼ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

Not much change in the nose, just a little more ginger, confectioner's sugar, and caramel. The palate is sweet and very woody, with tannins coating and drying the tongue. It finishes like a caramel-flavored whisky, with the occasional whiff of mint and tannin in the background.


As referenced above, the whisky is like a high-strength Canadian blend aged in an aggressive first-fill barrel. It's missing the fun oddities of IPAs, instead its just gooey sweet. It's better when neat because it sort of works as a dessert pour, but it's pretty bad once diluted. I guess something had to balance out all those recent 90-point malts.

Availability - Sold out, my condolences
Pricing - $100ish?
Rating - 73 (neat only, low 60s once diluted)