...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, August 5, 2022

Killing Whisky History, Episode 41: Four bottles of Johnnie Walker Gold Label 18 year old

Watch me sample these four versions of JW 18...

1. The first iteration from the mid- to late-1990s

2. A bottle from the mid-Aughts

3. JW Gold 18 from its final year, 2012

4. The current Ultimate 18

...if you dare (or are just chillin').


Thursday, August 4, 2022

Glenlivet 16 year old 1997 van Wees The Ultimate, cask 157418

One last Glenlivet sherry cask. This one (likely from Signatory's warehouse) was bottled by the Dutch van Wees folks at 46%abv, a strength I've had some luck with this week. I've also found the van Wees whiskies to be very reliable — as long as they're not 6 years old — so I'm looking forward to this one.


Distillery: Glenlivet
Ownership: Pernod Ricard
Independent Bottler: van Wees
Series: The Ultimate
Age: 16 years (6 Nov 1997 - 13 Jan 2014)
Maturation: first fill sherry butt
Cask#: 157418
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from a purchased sample)

NOTES

The nose begins with pineapple juice, wet stones and green bananas. Honey, peaches, burlap and cream soda arrive next, soon to be overtaken by walnuts in toffee. A bit zany but fun.

Dark chocolate and almond butter rule the palate at the start, with smaller notes of Chambord and graphite in the background. The almond note grows with time, as dried berries and oversteeped black tea appear around the edges.

Almonds and graphite appear in the finish after the first sips, bitterness and dried berries show up later.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

This unusual sherry cask results in a bit of a mess, but......I like it. Must be the dark chocolate + almonds + Chambord in the palate, along with the peaches and walnuts in the nose. With all the parts bouncing off of each other, never merging, this single malt feels like an oddly mixed blended malt. But again, it's entertaining, and I would almost be tempted to buy a bottle, especially at its old price.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - was below €80 eight years ago
Rating - 86

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Glenlivet 19 year old 1995 Signatory, cask 166946

Here's another 1995 Glenlivet sherry butt bottled by Signatory. Unlike its doubles partner, yesterday's 15 year old, cask 166946 rumbles in at cask strength. I tried it at the diluted strength of 46%abv first so that my palate would survive the evening, and that turned out to be a good choice...

Distillery: Glenlivet
Ownership: Pernod Ricard
Independent Bottler: Signatory
Series: Un-Chillfiltered Collection
Age: 19 years (30 Oct 1995 - 16 Jan 2015)
Maturation: Sherry Butt
Cask#: 166946
Alcohol by Volume: 59%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from a purchased sample)

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

Love the nose. Graphite, concrete and candied citrus peels, first. Then hints of dried apricots, almond extract, cherry popsicles and milk chocolate arise from underneath. The palate starts with an austere mineral style, a bit of salt, some spent engine oil, followed by dried cherries and green peppercorns. It finishes with that mineral note, a touch of wormwood, and hints of tar and cassis in the background.

NEAT

Compared to the diluted version, the neat nose feels closed. It's vaguely floral, with apple peels and apricots in the distance. Maybe some concrete and dried thyme too. The palate reads tight as well. Lots of heat. Bits of honey, lemon, golden raisins and minerals here and there. It finishes hot and mildly sweet with salt and lemons.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

This is stellar at 46%, though not so much at full power. Like cask 144361, this is another sherry butt that's free from generic black raisin and prune notes. It frames the spirit very well, letting the whisky part of the whisky do most of the talking. Perhaps it had a good spot in the warehouse? Or was a second fill? Or both? If you have this bottle (lucky lucky), you'll want to spend some time tinkering with a pipette or teaspoon to find the best ABV spot. Ah yes, the pleasures of an actual bottle, as opposed to a wee sample.

Availability - Probably sold out in Europe
Pricing - ???
Rating - 89 (diluted)

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Glenlivet 15 year old 1995 Signatory, cask 144361

Signatory's Pitlochry warehouses have (or had) quite the stash of 1995 Glenlivets, with the bottler emptying nearly 50 casks between 2009 and 2016, all (or most) of which were sherry butts. I reviewed cask 166947 almost exactly six(!) years ago. Two other casks now follow, today and tomorrow.

I took a sizable share of a bottle of cask 144361, which allowed it to serve as a sparring partner for the next two Glenlivets this week. It was part of Siggy's Un-Chillfiltered Collection, a series I miss quite a bit.

Distillery: Glenlivet
Ownership: Pernod Ricard
Independent Bottler: Signatory
Series: Un-Chillfiltered Collection
Age: 15 years (19 Sep 1995 - 23 Sept 2010)
Maturation: first fill sherry butt
Cask#: 144361
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from a bottle split)

NOTES

Its nose has a candy shop sugariness and a lot of fruit. Yuzu and lemon peels. Apple cider and pineapple juice. Undercurrents of rope, wet stones and Brillo pads provide an anchor. The palate arrives much sweeter than I'd expected, mostly apple candy and mint juleps. After some time another level develops, a mix of green plums with raw pecans and raw walnuts, providing some necessary depth. The finish is, well, it's a mint julep made with calvados. Maybe a touch of honey and a few sultanas.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

One curious sherry cask resulted in a real sweetie here, though the nose and palate do have some angles to 'em. A drinker more than a thinker, it feels like a good summer whisky, and its original price from 12 years ago would probably make us sob. All my Signatory UCF bottles are gone, and I feel the lack.

Availability - Bye Bye
Pricing - ??
Rating - 85

Monday, August 1, 2022

Two batches of Glenlivet XXV

I don't know, people. Can we trust that this a 25 year old whisky? Maybe "XXV" is really a Code, wrapped in an Enigma, excreted by a Guardian and filtered through a Cipher, ultimately revealing it to be Gaelic for "LOL, you sucker."

And, for the sake of this review, I will assume that the "25YO" on the label does not mean "I, 25". Bingo.

I got jokes. Somewhere.

The XXV releases began in 2007 and continued up through 2021. I'm not sure if a 2022 batch exists yet, but raise your hand if you're worried about that..........Cool. The XXV batches all appear to have been finished in 1st fill Oloroso casks for an unstated period of time, which only leads me to ask, "Glenlivet, WTF was wrong with your 25YO whisky?"

It has been a long time since I drank Glenlivet's 18 and 21 year olds, but I used to find them very friendly and fruity. This will be my first time trying the XXV, because apparently four extra years (and that sherry finish) require the price to jump 75% from the 21YO's spot, and that never motivates me. So though this may not be as sexy as last week's Glengoyne 25yo Taste Off, I have been looking forward to this duo.

First...


Glenlivet 25 year old, batch 0419E (2019), 43%abv

Mostly American oak on the nose. Lumber, banana pudding, vanilla and pineapple. That's it, at first. The whisky takes more than 30 minutes to open up, finally revealing mango, yellow nectarine, Heath Bar and a hint of dunnage.

The palate shows a surprising level of heat. Spicy cigars, toffee, tapioca pudding and sweet paprika fill the foreground, with lots of salt in the middle, and hints of Kasugai gummies in the back.

It finishes with moderate bitterness and sweetness, along with plenty of cigar notes. More bitterness, ash and salt appear in later sips.

Then...


Glenlivet 25 year old, batch 0220F (2020), 43%abv

The nose begins with vanilla, orange and urine. Like the other batch, 0220F takes a while to shift gears, eventually blossoming after the 40 minute mark. That's when all the peaches appear, along with white chocolate, toasted oak, kelp and old newspapers.

Spirit and oak battle it out in the palate. Woody bitterness meets a light sweetness. Ash and oranges. Cream soda, guava and black pepper.

In early sips, ash and oranges make up most of the finish. But later on, menthol and chile oil replace the ash, then more vanilla beans and tart citrus fruits arrive.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

That was not what I'd expected. Both noses began oddly, later blooming into the highlight of each whisky.  In fact, 0220F's sniffer turned out to be excellent, it just needed time to get there. Neither whisky's palate came together like a drinker would expect from a sizable batch of mass-produced 25 year old scotch. Batch 0419E's finish was the weakest point, giving 0220F the advantage overall. While both were decent whiskies, I don't see them topping the Glenlivet 18s and 21s I've had, resulting very weak QPRs for this $500+ single malt. Now that I've tried Glenlivet XXV, it's time to move on.

RATINGS
Glenlivet XXV, batch 0419E - 82
Glenlivet XXV, batch 0220F - 85

Friday, July 29, 2022

Things I Really Drink: Glengoyne 12 year old

Unlike most of Glengoyne's standard releases, which tend to feature first fill European oak sherry casks, the 12 year old provides drinkers with a glimpse of the distillery's spirit. This makes the 12yo, with its 60% refill / 20% first fill bourbon cask / 20% first fill sherry cask mix, a perky sparring partner with Monday's and Wednesday's Glengoynes.

Upon Dr. Springbank's return from a Binny's trip in Chicago, he and I split the contents of 750mL bottles of both Glengoyne 12 and Compass Box Orchard House. We'd thought they'd be of similar quality, but they really weren't. The Orchard House was the most disappointing Compass Box expression I have tried so far. Meanwhile Glengoyne 12 year old...

Pic pilfered from Binny's

Distillery: Glengoyne
Owner: Ian MacLeod Distillers
Region: Highlands, but right on the border
Age: at least 12 years old
Maturation: 60% refill casks + 20% first fill bourbon casks + 20% first fill sherry casks
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
Chillfiltered? Probably
e150a? Possibly not
(from a 50/50 bottle split)

NOTES

It's a little fruit basket. Pears, apples, pineapples, citrons and a hint of floral yeast appear in the nose first. Smaller notes of pine, brine, bubblegum and toasted oak float around the edges. Toasted barley, tart kiwis, tart cherries and jalapeños lead the palate. Raw walnuts, cloves, toasted shredded coconut and a good bitterness ease in later. It finishes with tart cherries, mint leaves, salted toasted mixed nuts and flash of lemony eau de vie.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

With Glenlivet 12 going for $40, Glenfiddich 12 for $43, and Glengoyne 12 at $45 at the Illinois retailer, there's really no competition. Friendly but full of character, Glengoyne outclasses them from first sniff to last sip. It reads neither mass produced nor neutered, and its fruity youth works in its favor. Whether in a Glencairn or a tumbler, neat or on ice, it's a bright spring/summer daily drinker. I look forward to getting a whole bottle of my own, though not in my home state where the price is pushing $60.

Availability - many whisky retailers worldwide
Pricing - $45-$70 in the US, $40-$65 (w/VAT) in Europe
Rating - 84

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Glengoyne Teapot Dram, Batch 007

Glengoyne, gettin' employees shitty since 1833.

Sold exclusively through the distillery itself, the Teapot Dram series celebrates the distillery's practice of doling out three rounds of cask strength sherry cask whisky to each employee on a daily basis until (allegedly) "the 1970s". My liver just vurped in my mouth a little bit.

These Drams are made up of nothing but first fill European oak oloroso cask fluids, unlike the official standard Cask Strength batches which are fashioned from a mix of casks. Somehow I've made it this far into my life without having a tot from this teapot, and now I'm going try the heaviest (59.9%abv) of eight batches so far. I've elected not to sip it from a teacup, sorry.

Distillery: Glengoyne
Owner: Ian MacLeod Distillers
Region: Highlands, but right on the border
Range: Teapot Dram
Batch: 007
Age: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Maturation: first fill European oak sherry cask
Outturn: 3993 bottles
Release year: 2019
Alcohol by Volume: 59.9%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

Shoe polish, dried cherries and chile vapors start the nose off, followed by hot fudge, dried currants, vanilla bean and a hint of meatiness. The thick aggro palate goes heavy on the nuts and heat. It's slightly bitter with tart cranberries, and more figs than prunes. It finishes with mothballs, eucalyptus and Luxardo syrup, with a little bit of bitterness in the back.

DILUTED to ~43%abv, or >3/4 tbsp of water per 30mL whisky

The nose gets closer to actual Oloroso here. No vanilla, less fruit, more nuts. Okay maybe some orange-coated dried cranberries. And cantaloupe. Oh but I think I killed the palate. It's vague, sweet, gingery and floral. Some of those orange-flavored dried cranberries show up too. It finishes peppery, tannic and sticky sweet.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

I can't imagine working the kilns or operating direct-fired runs after three sloshes of this stuff without accidentally distilling myself. The whisky is a (lowercase) fireball when neat, then swims like a cinder block. (Perhaps it would have worked better at 48% or 50%abv, but I dropped it to 43 to match it with Friday's whisky.) Other than the fig note, the palate doesn't really do much that other A'bunadh-style NASers don't also do regularly and (to me) unspectacularly. The burly nose provides the most entertainment, so this Dram probably works best as a sniffer in a snifter.

Availability - via the distillery, but they're now on batch 8
Pricing - ???
Rating - 83 (neat only)