...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, June 9, 2023

Aultmore 9 year old 2008 Sovereign, cask HL13138 for K&L

After this week's two DCL-era Aultmores, all I'm able to offer you is a review of a contemporary Aultmore, a 9-year-old single sherry cask that butts in at 59.8%abv, with a color as dark or darker than those two elders. Back in 2018 it was offered exclusively by K&L Wine Merchants for the very reasonable sum of $55. Those days are far behind us all.

Distillery: Aultmore
Owner: Bacardi Limited (via John Dewar & Sons)
Region: Speyside (Moray)
Bottler: Hunter Laing
Range: The Sovereign
Age: 9 years old (June 2008 - Aug 2017)
Maturation: Sherry butt
Cask #: HL13138
Outturn: 631 bottles
Exclusive to: K&L Wine Merchants
Alcohol by Volume: 59.8%
(from a bottle split)


It has a vibrant nose, full of raspberry candy, orange peel, apricot jam, and A LOT of alcohol. Minor notes of flowers and metal develop with time. The palate brings the heat as well, but it's also sort of bourbony, with a mix of cherry jam, cinnamon candy, and honey. Maybe a few apricots too. The hot finish leans more towards cherries and nectarines, sweet and tangy.

I'm going to be careful with this youngling at first...

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

Yep, oloroso cask-aged bourbon on the nose: vanilla, maple, walnuts, and raspberries. Though one can find hints of apple jam and bitter citrus, the palate is so woody. Charred lumber and extreme tannins. It finishes with apple peels and tannins.

Maybe a little more water will help.

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

A whole new nose of flowers, pears, prunes, and mint. Meanwhile the palate is all bitter oak and unripe pears, and the finish is sour and tannic.


Keep this one neat as dilution wrecks the palate. I like the strange bourbon-like style that this Aultmore shows at full strength, especially since it's a fruity bourbon style. In fact, I like this whisky a little more than Wednesday's 30yo! It's too hot and oaky for it to be a regular drinker for me, but it's more enjoyable than many officially-bottled NAS cask strength sherried things from more popular distilleries.

For other takes, see the reviews by Whisky Musings and Whiskey Jug. At least we three can agree the price was right.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 83 (neat only)

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Aultmore 30 year old 1989 Single Cask Nation, cask 2459

Designed by the fellow who built Craigellachie, and originally run by Oban's owners, Aultmore has since passed through relatively few hands. John Dewar & Sons bought Aultmore on the distillery's 25th birthday in 1923. Dewar & Sons was then purchased by Distillers Company Limited, which later became United Distillers and Diageo. When Diageo had to sell off some of its holdings in 1998, the Dewar's portfolio found a buyer in Bacardi Limited.

On Monday, I tried an Aultmore distilled by Distillers Company Limited, and it was excellent. So, here's another one from that era, also matured in a sherry cask, bottled by J&J of Single Cask Nation. It's one of the oldest whiskies SCN has offered so far, and comes in at a zippy 57.1%abv.

Distillery: Aultmore
Owner at time of distillation: Distillers Company Limited
Current Owner: Bacardi Limited (via John Dewar & Sons)
Region: Speyside (Moray)
Bottler: Single Cask Nation
Age: 30 years old (June 1989 - Nov 2019)
Maturation: first fill sherry butt
Cask #: 2459
Outturn: 465 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 57.1%
(from a bottle split)


The nose has dark chocolate and dried cherries. Walnuts and smoked fish. Sort of meaty too. The palate arrives hot, very salty, and a little sulfury. It's earthy and leafy, with a hint of tart limes. It finishes a little brighter at first, with grapefruits, raspberries, and salt. Then it darkens with wood smoke and sulfur.

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

The nose reads cleaner now, mostly a variety of dried berries, with milk chocolate in the middle, and the flints in the far back. Less sulfur in the palate, too. Salty and peppery, with mild bitterness. Some toasted almonds and simple syrup in the background. The finish holds onto the grapefruit note, and gains a sweet date or two. Bitter oak rumbles in the back.


Though this one reads even smokier and earthier than Monday's 35yo, I don't think that's due to the spirit. I think it's sulfur, which isn't a dealbreaker for me because I often enjoy dirty casks. Here the 'S' word doesn't dominate, in fact I like how it plays out in the nose. Dilution washes it nearly away, but oak creeps into the palate and finish at 46%abv.

The "medicinal, tart, herbal, and intense" character found in Monday's Aultmore has been mostly silenced by the cask. This 30yo's intensity comes from the heat and oak. I wonder what this cask was like 5-10 years earlier.

For a different take on this whisky, the Whiskybase reviewers seem to adore this thing, though the sample size is small.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 82

Monday, June 5, 2023

Aultmore 35 year old 1982 Adelphi, cask 1575

Aultmore Week! I'm excited! Are you excited?! Well, you're gonna get three Aultmore reviews anyway.

The distillery's official 12 year old is to steal Mr. Opinions's term (again), unadorned. Which is good! I tried the 18yo OB too, liked it "A lot", then bought a bottle and drank it during Covid Year One. These experiences inspired me to source this week's trio of indie single casks, sherry casks to be more specific.

I'll go oldest to youngest this week, starting with something distilled during the first Reagan administration.

Distillery: Aultmore
Owner at time of distillation: Distillers Company Limited
Current Owner: Bacardi Limited (via John Dewar & Sons)
Region: Speyside (Moray)
Bottler: Adelphi
Age: 35 years old (1982 - 2017)
Maturation: sherry something or other
Cask #: 1575
Outturn: 196 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 54.8%
(from a bottle split)


An industrial + dunnage character forms the nose's foundation. Layered upon that are Andes candies (chocolate and mint), dried blueberries, toffee, and tiramisu.

Raw black walnuts, mint leaf, and mothballs start the palate, followed by tar, iodine(!), and tart dried mango. Hints of dried herbs and dunnage decorate the background. And it's all arrives in creamy textures.

The nearly endless finish holds the iodine, black walnuts, mothballs, and tart dried mango.


I had never tried a DCL-era Aultmore before this. And WOW. This whisky is medicinal, tart, herbal, and intense. The sherry cask does plenty, but the spirit lives on. I'm pretty certain Bacardi doesn't make it like this anymore. This style likely helped lift old school Dewar's blends well above their current namesake. Yum.

I doubt there are many bottles left (see the outturn) in the secondary market, and due to its dark hue, the whisky likely brings a sturdy asking price, so I think I'm going to try another DCL-era Aultmore...

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

Friday, June 2, 2023

Bunnahabhain 10 year old, Distillery Exclusive cask 3201

Hand-filled and purchased by Doctors Springbank and Springbank during their Bunnahabhain distillery visit two years ago, today's bottling holds ten-year-old single malt matured in a Manzanilla cask in Bunnahabhain's warehouse 9. We opened and tried this bottle in 2021, and it liked it A LOT. Because it held all of 200mL of whisky, the bottle is now empty, and the Doctors were very generous to share about 1/4 of it with me. Here is my official take on it, 18 months later.

Distillery: Bunnahabhain
Owner: Distell Group Limited
Region: Islay
Age: 10 years (???? - ????)
Maturation: Manzanilla cask
Cask #: 3201
Exclusive to: the distillery
Alcohol by Volume: 55.1%
(Thank you Drs. Springbank!)


It noses like actual sherry, unlike the vast vast vast majority of sherry cask whiskies on this planet. There are walnuts, dried mushrooms, and parmesan. Dried apples, dried apricots, copper, and dead leaves. The palate hold loads of dried fruit essences, without all the sweetness. I'm getting unsulfured dried apricots, dried cherries, and ume right up front, earth and tobacco in the back. The very long finish is a near facsimile of the palate, with a touch more herbal bitterness.

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

The nose has gotten meatier and mintier, with new notes of tar and dried currants arising. More dried leaves and herbal bitterness in the palate now. Still plenty of dried fruits, now prunes and dried pineapple. It finishes with those dried fruits and a yeasty lager.


A whisky for sherry drinkers. Because I enjoy nosing dry sherries, this whisky offers one of my favorite Bunna noses ever. The neat palate includes some actual Bunnahabhain in its delivery, while the diluted palate starts to slide towards a more popular, familiar style of sherried single malt. My preference is to keep this one neat, but folks thrown off by the full strength dry style will want to wet it down. I hope one of you readers got your hands on a wee bottle of this too!

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

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Bunnahabhain 12 year old 2007 van Wees The Ultimate, cask 592

Here's the second Big Bunna Butt this week. At 58.1%abv, this Bunnahabhain is hot stuff compared to most single malts, but a pipsqueak compared to Monday's creature. Because The Ultimate is a pretty reliable range and the bottle's price was right, I almost bought this whisky blindly in 2020. As usual, I passed up the opportunity. Luckily I was able to get in on a bottle split last year. Time to see what I missed out on.


Distillery: Bunnahabhain
Owner: Distell Group Limited
Region: Islay
Independent Bottler: van Wees
Series: The Ultimate
Age: 12 years (13 Feb 2007 - 9 Jan 2020)
Maturation: 1st fill sherry butt
Cask #: 592
Outturn: 595 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 58.1%
(from a bottle split)


Wow, mango on the nose! Mangoes, apples, and flowers. Milk chocolate in the midground; eucalyptus, ocean air, and pine in the background. Chocolate forms the palate's nucleus, everything else floats around it: tart oranges, dried cherries, dried cranberries, and a soft sweetness. It finishes with darker chocolate, caramel sauce, pine, and dried mango.

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

The nose's mango survives, though the milk chocolate pushes forward, as does an oceany brine. Mint, lemon, and smoke fill the background. Guava, limes, honey, and salt in the palate, and I can't complain. The lime note expands with time, as roasted almonds appear. There's a nice balance of tart, sweet, and salt in the finish.


I missed out on a great one here. True, there's a lot of cask influence present, but that mango, tho. And that guava, tho. Curiously, the diluted whisky reads hotter than the full strength version on my palate, so maybe I'm totally delusional and the tropical fruits were a hallucination. If so, that's okay, it was a happy trip. If you've opened your bottle of this Bunnahabhain, please share your experience in the comments.

Availability - Might still be available in Europe
Pricing - around €90?
Rating - 89

Monday, May 29, 2023

Bunnahabhain 11 year old 2009 Signatory, cask 900087 (68%abv!)

After punishing my system last week with Jack Daniel's rocket fuel, I'm going to try three Big Bunna Butts this week, starting with the beast of them all, cask 900087, which weighs in at 68%abv.

Yes, sixty-eight. And it has at least eight sibling casks with slightly higher ABVs. Either the spirit from this parcel went into the cask not at the standard 63.5%abv Bunnahabhain filling strength, but at the distillery's 69%abv new make strength, or Signatory's warehouses have an ultra hot spot. If this isn't the highest ABV scotch whisky I've ever had, then it should be.

'Twas nice knowing all of you.

Distillery: Bunnahabhain
Region: Islay
Independent Bottler: Signatory
Age: 11 years (17 March 2009 - 12 November 2020)
Maturation: 1st fill sherry butt
Cask number900087
Outturn: 597 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 68.0%abv
(Sample from a buddy. Thank you, Secret Agent Man!)


There's no burning of my nose, about which I am grateful. Dark chocolate, raisins, and ocean brine fill the middle, while walnuts, lox, and stones highlight around the edges. The palate is also very approachable, with very vibrant (albeit mostly cask-driven) flavors: dark chocolate and tart cranberries mixed in blackberry and currant jams, a fresh ginger zing, and a hint of minerals in the background. The long, warm finish holds chocolate, blueberries, some citrus, and a touch of umami.

I'm still alive. My esophagus seems to be intact. Dare I dilute the poison?

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

The nose has two sides, toffee+almonds and nectarines+brine, that work together well. Red plums and yellow nectarines merge with peppery tannins in the palate, at first. Vanilla and limes appear later. It finishes with tart citrus, vanilla, and raisins.


I'm shocked by how drinkable this is. I'm not surprised by the quality, nor am I astonished that this whisky is essentially cask juice. Sherry cask adoration societies will love this Bunnahabhain even more than I do, though I still think this is very good. Since I don't know the story behind this big butt, I'm not sure what more maturation time would have done to it, other than raise its price. I'd like to think that Signatory has moved a portion of this cask parcel to a different climate for more aging.

Here's what I'd do if I had bought the 700mL bottle: decant it into a 1-liter bottle, add 300mL of water, then let it sit for 3-6 months. The result would be a lot of 47.6%abv delightful Bunnahabhain! I'd feel safer and healthier even though I'd probably drink more of it that way.

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

Friday, May 26, 2023

BARD Friday: Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Barrel Proof, 65.65%abv batch

Though I am aware that many of these Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Barrel Proof barrel barrels have approached, and occasionally exceeded, 140 US proof, I have very little interest in that level of abuse. Plus I couldn't source any them.

Instead, this 131.3 proof bottling will be my ethanol apex this week. Like Monday's meh barrel barrel and Wednesday's nicely nicely barrel barrel, I'm going to try this JDSBBP at four alcohol levels to see what develops with increasing dilution. So far the quality and style variance has been very broad. Will that continue here?

Brand: Jack Daniel's
Ownership: Brown-Forman Corporation
Region: Lynchburg, TN
Mashbill: 80% corn, 12% malted barley, 8% rye
Age: ?
Outturn: ???
Alcohol by Volume: 65.65%
(from a bottle split)

Full Strength
Diluted to 50%abvDiluted to 46%abvDiluted to 43%abv
On one level the nose shows Luxardo cherries, orange peel, milk chocolate and caramel chews. But there's also plenty of nail polish remover and perfume present. It trends towards vanilla and banana peel after some time in the glass.A big shift in the nose. Think pear-infused mead up front, vanilla and Luxardo cherries in the middle, and cologne in the background.The nose has simplified and focused on vanilla frosting, caramel chews, and menthol.Hmmm. Wet cardboard, sawdust, perfume in the nose's foreground. Vanilla, bananas, and black cherry soda in the back.
The palate is really hot, nearly unapproachably so. Barrel char, salt, vanilla syrup, limes, and tannins remain behind the fire.Nice. The palate is loaded with oranges and coated with honey. A little bit of vanilla here, some cracked pepper there.Like the nose, the palate has simplified. It's sweet and salty, with a menthol rinse and some drying tannins.The palate is sweet, very oaky, with minor notes of pineapple and bitterness.
Once the burn subsides, one may find barrel char and peppercorns in the finish. Some savory smoke too, though that may be a cooked palate.It finishes very sweetly, with a little bit of lemon and barrel char.It finishes sweet, salty, and tannic.The sweet and tannic finish doesn't last long.
Not a fan. Reminds me of the early batches of Stagg Junior, with two dimensions (raw ethyl and raw oak) destroying everything else.
What a change! I'd be happy to drink this again, at 50%abv. The honey + fruit is a nice combo.
I appreciate this spartan style. It ain't deep, but it is drinkable.
Again, the whiskey fell apart at this strength, collapsing into a thin mush.


One can see via Wednesday's and today's barrel barrels why the standard 40%abv JD bottling is so disappointing. It's a drowning of potentially interesting and characterful whiskey. Though it could be argued that may be a flaw in the whiskey itself, I'm not sure what's to blame. In scotch, aggressive chillfiltration can be such a culprit, so perhaps the Lincoln County process could play a role?

These three JDSBBPs were never boring, and never sunk as low as the aforementioned Old No. 7. But due to the varying qualities between the JDSBBPs, I'm not going to buy one blindly. Also, these whiskies run VERY hot at full strength, so perhaps JD's Bonded whiskey may fit my palate best. I will report back if I buy a bottle.

Availability - Many batches/barrels around
Pricing - $55 - $85
Rating - 81 (carefully diluted)