...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Croftengea 16 year old 2005 The Whisky Trail, cask 272

(Loch Lomond cluster homepage)

I wish Croftengea received its own official 12 year old release alongside its three sibling malts, Inchmurrin, Inchmoan and Loch Lomond. It's often the hardiest, heaviest and dirtiest of the distillery's whiskies. Meanwhile Ballechin, Ledaig and Port Charlotte have frequently had more success than their own distilleries' unpeated whiskies.

So how about it, Hillhouse? No? Well, I'm glad we had this constructive talk.

This Croftengea Week will go backwards, from the oldest of the three whiskies to the youngest. Today's single malt was released within the past year, which is kinda out of character for this blog.

Distillery: Loch Lomond
Style: Croftengea
Owner: Loch Lomond Distillery Company (Hillhouse Capital Group)
Region: Highlands (Western)
Bottler: Elixir Distillers
Range: The Whisky Trail
Age: 16 years (28 February 2005 - 13 April 2021)
Maturation: ???
Cask #: 272
Outturn: ???
Alcohol by Volume: 56.2%
(from a bottle split)


The nose leads with heavy, fishy, seaweed-y peat, with wet sand, Vegemite and ripe brie. Oh yeah, that's the stuff. But wait, there are also toasted oak spices, limes, honey and peaches in the background. The palate starts in a similar manner with antiseptic, menthol and heavy industrial smoke. Cynar amaro and tart limes in the midground, ginger beer and sweet citrus in the background. It finishes with that big dark smoke, Cynar and tart limes.

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or 1⅓ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

Somehow the nose gets wilder. Add some horse manure to the peat. Lots of beach notes. Brie and grapefruit. It's alive. The palate has become intensely bitter, which works will with all the tart citrus, and a hint of ginger candy, all of which sits on a pillow of seaweed peat. Peated oranges finishes it off.


I would gladly choose this style over nearly everything coming from Islay today. It is zany (and probably technically imperfect) whisky, but it's a delightful twist on brawny peat. That this still thunders after 16 years makes me hope indie bottlers are holding onto some casks to see what happens as Croftengea ages another decade. And may those casks let the spirit live, like it does in this whisky.

Availability - I think it's still around in Europe
Pricing - €110?
Rating - 89

Friday, May 20, 2022

Mathilda Malt: Littlemill 29 year old 1988 Old Malt Cask for K&L Wine Merchants

As noted on Monday, I've always celebrated my older daughter's birthday with pours of Littlemill single malt. This year it was one pour, and few Littlemill samples remain. Thankfully, my sample stash is properly stocked with special items, like this week's Ledaig and Craigduff.

This year's Littlemill was from a refill hoggie bottled for K&L Wine Merchants in California. At 29 years old, it's the oldest Littlemill I've ever tried. I loved the 25yo K&L exclusive I sipped last year. Hope this is another good one!

Distillery: Littlemill
Region: Lowlands
Independent Bottler: Hunter Laing
Range: Old Malt Cask
Age: 29 years (November 1988 - 2018)
Maturation: refill hogshead
Cask #HL 15208
Outturn: 144 bottles
Exclusive to: K&L Wine Merchants
Alcohol by Volume: 55.8%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from a bottle split)


The nose is a bit closed, though it does start off with some lemon, oregano, juniper and vanilla. It picks up small doses of rosewater, nectarines and coconut with time. The palate is herbal and fruity: nectarines, citrus blossoms, thyme, oregano and cayenne. It finishes floral and peppery with hints of brown sugar and limes.

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

Lemme see if this opens it up. Well, the nose is less herbal, less floral, simpler overall. But I do get some nice barley notes in the midground. The palate feels thicker and brighter, with the nectarine and cayenne pepper playing very well together. It finishes sweeter and simpler, possibly hotter.


Aside from a few nose moments, the oak was nearly silent. Huzzah! But at the same time, spirit wasn't very talkative. No actual flaws, just sort of quiet and modest. Also a bit forgettable when compared to this week's Mathilda Malt mates. Though I'd normally not recommend tinkering with a whisky of advanced age, this one may play best after some extended dilution experiments. So if you have this bottle open, and it's not doing much for you, water it down, carefully.

Where do I go from here? After this modest malt, Croftengea crashes in next week!

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - $250, three years ago
Rating - 85 (diluted)

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Mathilda Malt: Craigduff 33 year old 1973 Signatory, cask 2515

Time for another 1973, just because!

Glen Keith was Seagram's laboratory of fun during much of the distillery's early existence, producing various malt styles for the company's blends. Somehow Andrew Symington of Signatory was able to get his mitts on casks of the Glenisla and Craigduff styles. Per Symington, the Craigduff spirit was made from lightly peated barley and had "concentrated peated water" added to its wash charges. I tried and enjoyed one Glenisla two years ago, and look forward to this Craigduff curio.

Distillery: Glen Keith
Type: Craigduff
Ownership: Pernod Ricard (previously, Seagram's)
Independent Bottler: Signatory
Region: Speyside (Moray)
Age: 33 years (4 April 1973 - 16 August 2006)
Maturation: refill sherry butt
Cask#: 2515
Outturn: 371 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 47.5%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from a bottle split)


The nose? Dunnage and mango. Do we really need any other notes? Okay, if you insist. There's also pipe tobacco and a chocolatey smoke that sits somewhere between Nesquik and Godiva milk chocolate. Honey and lemon glide around the edges. After an hour it shifts to dark chocolate, mint and strawberry Nesquik. Dunnage leads in the palate, followed by a bold bitterness mixing with limes and grapefruit. Then gravel and raw walnuts. Hints of soil, brine and palo santo smoke. It finishes with the grapefruit, raw walnuts, salt, and savory.

DILUTED to ~43%abv, or >½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

I'm going easy with the water here due to the whisky's advanced age and low abv. Thankfully, the water doesn't ruin things. York peppermint patties, pipe tobacco and chalk dust arrive first in the nose, followed by guava and lemon bars, with a little bit of smoked salmon in the background. The palate reads tangy, bitter, and sweet in even measures, with raw nuts and strawberry candy featuring. The finish matches the palate all the way down to the strawberry candy.


In my favorite 2022 tasting to date, I tried this alongside the '73 Ledaig. Pure sensory pleasure, these whiskies are from a different era, perhaps several whisky generations ago. It's a tragedy that 99.99% of Craigduff was lost to blends like 100 Pipers (barf, in particular), but again I'm very thankful that Signatory rescued some casks. It would be interesting to see a contemporary distillery (Glen Keith, perhaps?) try this out. Different still shapes, fermentation times, and spirit cuts would result in additional variants. How about it, Loch Lomond?

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - I cannot bear to look
Rating - 90

Monday, May 16, 2022

Mathilda Malt: Ledaig 16 year old 1973 Gordon & MacPhail

My failures as a father are legion. Just ask my father, children, ex-wife, neighbors, random passersby. Actually don't ask them. Please.

But my daughter, Mathilda, already has a palate more sophisticated than mine when I was 25. And she is eight years old as of yesterday. Her birthday breakfast request? A scramble with black beans, zucchini and feta cheese, along with kombucha and Japanese senbei. Those are things I didn't eat, or know about, let alone request, until I was nearly twenty years older than her. She will seemingly try anything, and wants to know about every culture everywhere. While that is not 100% my doing, my influence has been enough to allow for one Father Flex today. 

I often celebrate her birthday with a bunch of Littlemill reviews, but since I'm nearing the end of my Littlemill sample supply, I will be fortifying this week's selection with potential gems from other distilleries.

The whisky anorak generation that preceded mine has waxed romantic about the first few vintages of Tobermory's peated Ledaig malt. Thanks to generous whisky friends, I've had a chance to try two 1972s and they were both wonderful pours indeed. Today's whisky is from a bottle split of a 1973 Ledaig that was distributed solely in America more than 30 years ago. Gordon & MacPhail tragically bottled it at 40%abv, as they did with hundreds of other Connoisseurs Choice single malts in their early years.

But still, it's 1973 Ledaig.

Distillery: Tobermory
Brand: Ledaig
Owner: Distell International Ltd.
Region: Isle of Mull
Bottler: Gordon & MacPhail
Range: Connoisseurs Choice
Age: at least 16 years old
Vintage: 1973
Maturation: "Oak Casks" 🤔
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
Chillfiltered? ???
e150a? ???
(from a bottle split)


Forget the abv, the intense, nuanced nose arrives gorgeously. A variety of phenols appear (barbecue, pine smoke, pipe smoke, antiseptic, and kiln), merging seamlessly with the fruit (mango, citron, baked apple). Maybe some fruity shisha too. The peat retreats to a secondary role, letting the fruit expand, offering notes reminiscent of old Laphroaig. It continues to roar after 90 minutes, focusing on the citron, mango, kiln, and naan fresh off the tandoor.

The palate has the nose's balance but comes in a bit light. Tropical fruit punch, salt, bitter herbs, lemon, and seaweed-y smoke sound as one. It gets sweeter with time, holding on to the bitterness, and gaining an antiseptic note.

The finish sticks around for a decent amount of time, offering the seaweed smoke, honey, tart lemons and kiln.


My Gourd, that nose is an All-Timer. I don't know how it was done, nor how that process was lost, nor if it can be replicated, but the fact that this sensory experience came from a max-diluted teenage whisky is staggering (if noses can stagger). The water shows its influence in the palate, though, limiting my superlatives here. Everything works in the mouth, but it's hushed and thinned. Despite that, I held onto this pour for nearly two hours, relishing the moment, knowing this experience may never be repeated.

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - I ain't looking
Rating - 91 (the nose, tho)

Friday, May 13, 2022

Inchmurrin 19 year old 2001 SMWS 112.88

(Loch Lomond cluster homepage)

Gotta sneak in one Inchmurrin with a little bit of age on it, but I'd rather it not be oaky, so I'm going with this second-fill former bourbon barrel bottled by SMWS. Will this Inchmurrin quartet end on a good note?

Distillery: Loch Lomond
Style: Inchmurrin
Owner: Loch Lomond Distillery Company
Region: Highlands (Western)
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Age: 19 years (28 August 2001 - 2020)
Maturation: second fill bourbon barrel
Cask: 112.88 - "The Godfather"
Outturn: 212 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 58.2%
(from a bottle split)


The nose has much more ocean to it than Wednesday's 9yo, and it goes for peach pie, as opposed to the 9's apple pie. Orange creamsicles fill the midground, thyme and pumpernickel the background. The peach and thyme notes mix well in the palate too. Lots of tartness. A bit of tangy chiles. Then rye seeds and tannins in the background. Tart and tangy fruits and chiles finish it up, with a sweetness that builds over time.

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

Nothing but peach and beach on the nose. The palate shows more tannin and vanillin, with smaller notes of orange candy and grapefruit. It finishes with orange candy and oaky American chardonnay.


I sipped this side-by-side with the aforementioned TWE 9 year old, and the 9yo won. The 19's nose is very satisfying, while the palate is simpler and woodier than the 9's, especially once diluted. That being said, this is very good whisky I'd gladly drink again. The rye and pumpernickel notes are especially fascinating. I'm not sure how Loch Lomonds react to oxygen, but this would be an interesting bottle to consume very slowly over time, perhaps improving in the middle or end of its life.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 86 (neat only)

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Inchmurrin 9 year old 2010, for The Whisky Exchange

(Loch Lomond cluster homepage)

After Monday's disappointment, I'm going to take a step back, hoping that it will actually be a step forward. By that I mean, I'm going to review a baby Inchmurrin, all of nine years old.

I don't care what the Bene Gesserit say; expectation is the mind killer. Because Loch Lomond often proves to be a wild card, I will face my expectation. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. Where the expectation has gone, there will be nothing. Only I and a glass of whisky will remain. Though the glass will be empty by then.

Distillery: Loch Lomond
Style: Inchmurrin
Owner: Loch Lomond Distillery Company
Region: Highlands (Western)
Age: 9 years (June 2010 - July 2019)
Maturation: barrel?
Cask #: 2493
Outturn: 121 bottles
Exclusive to: The Whisky Exchange
Alcohol by Volume: 55.3%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(thank you to My Annoying Opinions for the sample!)


The nose starts off with malt, baked apples, chalk dust and white peaches. Melon gummies and peach gummies. A hint of almond extract meets up with the malt and baked apples, reminding me of apple pie. But on the palate I get spiced pear tart, tart limes and rye bread, with grapefruit and salt in the background. It finishes with baking spices, dried apricot, salt and something bready.

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

The nose continues to thrill. The candies remain, but there's also an intense note of a booze-soaked shortbread-layered trifle. The palate gets a little more tannic and floral, but holds onto the fruitiness, especially the citrus side. It finishes with oranges, limes and salt.


This is more like it! Loaded with bold fruit, pastry and candy notes, this Inchmurrin magically avoids being too sweet, making it my favorite Inchmurrin yet. If more <10yo whiskies showed this level of character and restraint, then you'd hear less carping from me about baby whiskies. Mr. Opinions was also a big fan of this one, and we found many of the same notes, so you know we are right.

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

Monday, May 9, 2022

Inchmurrin 10 year old (1990s label) vs. current Inchmurrin 12 year old

(Loch Lomond cluster homepage)

Inchmurrin is like the vegetarian sibling to Inchmoan's red meat-eating cigarette smoker. (Croftengea is like the......well......have you seen, "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover"?) As per, John Peterson, the longtime Production Director at Loch Lomond, Inchmurrin is essentially unpeated Inchmoan. And as it turns out, I now like Inchmoan. I've had mixed experiences with Inchmurrin. Good officials, bad indies. While that may sound counter-intuitive, remember we're talking about Loch Lomond here.

The original 1990s bottling of Inchmurrin 10yo has never been beloved, but perhaps that's because drinkers anticipate QC issues from that era of Loch Lomond's life, which in turn colors their experience. But I'm willing to give it a chance now. I'll match it up with a 2019 bottling of Inchmurrin 12yo. As with the Inchmoan 12, I have a trio of minis with the same bottling code, so I have plenty to sample from. I liked the pre-reboot 2014 version of the 12. Perhaps this will be even better?

Inchmurrin 10 year old, bottled in the '90s, probably colored and filtered, 40%abv


The nose begins with an uninspiring combo of cardboard, yeast, Wonder Bread crust and light wood smoke. It slowly shifts towards wort with hints of cinnamon, mint and flowers. In the palate, chemical bitterness mixes with burnt notes, black pepper, imitation vanilla extract and simple syrup. The pepper "improves" as it turns into a slightly sour chile oil. Mint leaf and notebook paper float through the background. That odd bitterness and fake vanilla remains in the finish, along with the burnt stuff, sugar and notebook paper.


Yeah, I understand the old reviews of this one now. The nose reads sort of like a "Craft" American whiskey, underbaked but also sort of woody, yet filtered through cardboard boxes. Meanwhile, the palate would almost be...palatable...if not for the chemical edge. Because the whisky wasn't an utter crime, I almost gave it a score of 70, but no, this is not good whisky by any measure.


Inchmurrin 12 year old, bottled in 2019, no colorant and no chillfiltration, 46%abv


Neat - The hot, yeasty nose offers caramel on top, bubblegum and citron peel below. Menthol, butter and floral notes develop with time, with hints of clove and carob in the background. The citron peel expands as well. Its palate is more interesting than the 10's. It's more herbal and savory with a wormwood streak beneath. Rather than vanilla, it has toasted oak and toasted almonds. Then a mix of lemons, metal and slightly burnt whole wheat toast. It finishes with Irish soda bread, lemons. honey and a savory hint.

Diluted to 40%abv - The nose shifts to orange and lemon peels, Demerara syrup, hints of florals and mushrooms. The palate becomes hotter, harsher, all pepper, chemical bitterness and vanilla, as it retreats towards the old 10 with some more sweetness underneath. Mint candy and that bitterness finish it off.


I'm fascinated by how the palate collapsed into Inchmurrin's old ways once it was reduced to 40%abv. Probably not the most encouraging of signs. Meanwhile, the nose may have improved at that lower strength. The neat palate makes one go, "huh, that's different", then, "I'd sure like something else to drink." And it is certainly different than the 2014 12yo that Florin and I enjoyed so many moons ago, and not different in the right direction.

RATING - 78 (when neat)

Perhaps I was due for some disappointment after that stellar group of Inchmoans. On Wednesday and Friday, I'll see if a pair of single Inchmurrin casks can turn things around.