...where distraction is the main attraction.

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.

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)

NOTES

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.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

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)

NOTES

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.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

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)

NOTES

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.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

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