...where distraction is the main attraction.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

1975 25yo Aberfeldy versus 1993 25yo Aberfeldy

Aberfeldy? Yeah, Aberfeldy. I've never sought out samples from this Speysider because its indie bottlings are relatively rare, official bottlings are usually 40%abv, and it's the main malt for Dewar's White Label, one of the least inspiring blends in the business for at least 15 years.

Diving for Pearls is now tripling its total Aberfeldy review count with these two samples that got mixed up in the D4P Aberlour sample section. Both whiskies come from 25-year-old single sherry casks bottled by two indie grandpas, Cadenhead and Gordon & MacPhail. I have no idea what to expect from these, so here I go...

Distillery: Aberfeldy
Current ownership: Bacardi
Ownership in 1975: Distillers Company Limited
Region: Speyside (Perthshire)
Bottler: Cadenhead
Range: Authentic Collection
Age: 25 years (1975 - July 2001)
Maturation: sherry hogshead
Outturn: 228 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 57%
(from a bottle split)


The nose is weird and fun. It's a swirl of orange blossom, lemon peel, fresh ginger, apple candy, and a lot of saline. The palate is very fruity with a mix of citrus peels and cherry things (black cherry juice, tart cherries, cherry hard candies, etc.). There's also some old school industrial greasiness to it. The finish summarizes the palate's elements: cherry candy, bitter citrus peel, and that industrial edge.

DILUTED to ~50%abv, or ¾ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

It's as if the nose gains focus. There's one layer of almonds, crème brûlée, and lemons; and another layer of ocean and metals. The palate has become earthy and very herbal, with a striking wormwood bitterness. Tart cherries and fresh plums play around the edges. It finishes with marzipan, cherry juice, and bitter citrus.


This is an old-fashioned whisky in that it feels completely unproduced and unpolished. It's dirtier and stranger than contemporary Aberfeldy, in all the best ways. The slight dilution works wonders, bringing the fruits and powerful herbal sides together. Inspiring whisky.

Availability - Secondary market?
Pricing - ???
Rating - 90

Yes, a 90-point Aberfeldy. How about the 1993?

Distillery: Aberfeldy
Current ownership: Bacardi
Ownership in 1993: United Distillers
Region: Speyside (Perthshire)
Bottler: Gorden & MacPhail
Range: Connoisseurs Choice Cask Strength
Age: 25 years (6 June 1993 - 21 June 2018)
Maturation: first-fill sherry puncheon
Cask #: 4054
Outturn: 444 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 58.8%
(from a bottle split)


The nose is rich and woody in a modern style, but still very good. Walnuts and chocolate. Bourbon-y char and maple syrup. Dates, orange peel, white gummy bears, and baked peaches. Meanwhile, the palate goes another direction. Musty old oak in the dunnage. Gentle baking spices, shortbread cookies, dried apricots, oranges, and a quiet pepperiness. It finishes simply with dried apricot, lemons, and a sprinkle of oak spice.

DILUTED to ~50%abv, or 1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky

The nose has shifted to dunnage, dates, dark chocolate, and cloves. The palate keeps the musty dusty note and light pepperiness, while introducing mint leaves and dates. All of this stays on through the finish.


Oh my, this one is great, too. THAT, I did not expect. Dunnage and dates will get me every time, and the fruit never leaves. The nose had me worried at first, but patience and the palate won out. Though the 1975 cask won, it wasn't by much. Congrats to those who've captured their own bottle of this 1993. What else is Aberfeldy hiding or burying?

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - ???
Rating - 88

Thursday, June 6, 2024

One bourbon cask Aberlour, One sherry cask Aberlour

I've never been a fan of Aberlour's house sherried style, preferring independently-bottled ex-bourbon cask versions. So if you never see another A'bunadh here, don't be shocked. I do have a sample of a distillery exclusive sherried thing, and I'm not sure why I do, but it presents an opportunity to try it alongside an indie single hoggie.

First up, the Indie Aberlour. Possibly the oldest Aberlour I've tried from this distillery, this cask was bottled up after 26 years by a company that has a grand total of two whiskies in Whiskybase, so it's sort of an unknown quantity, which I like.

Distillery: Aberlour
Ownership: Pernod Ricard
Region: Speyside (Banffshire)
Bottler: Houston Bottling & Co-Pack
Range: Cooper's Gold
Age: 26 years (1989-2015)
Maturation: hogshead
Cask #: 11040
Outturn: 274 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 51.1%
(Courtesy of My Annoying Opinions. Thank you, sir!)


The nose starts off bright and fresh, with lemon peel, Fuji apples, anise, and cilantro. Hints of oats and vanilla extract appear later in the background. The palate is mildly sweet with a lot of toasted oak up front. Bitter herbs and earth meet a slight but persistent metallic note. It finishes herbal and metallic, with hints of peppercorns and hay.

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or ½-¾ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

A very different nose now, with mint toothpaste, orange bubblegum, wood polish, and unripe peaches. It's woodier on the palate, more tannic and acidic, with a lemon vinaigrette note in the back. It finishes tangy, acidic, minty, and woody.


Though its color is as light as straw, the whisky has been overtaken by American oak to the point that it's missing the honeyed fruits that I seek out in bourbon cask Aberlours. The nose is great at times when a few fruits win the battle, but the whisky doesn't swim particularly well, especially on the palate. It's not a bad sipper when neat, but it's never particularly memorable.

Availability - Secondary market?
Pricing - ???
Rating - 84 (neat only)

Now, the official sherry creature, bottled in March 2022 as a distillery exclusive. It seems to be part of a big batch with a the bottle outturn in the thousands.

Distillery: Aberlour
Ownership: Pernod Ricard
Region: Speyside (Banffshire)
Age: at least 11 years old (bottled 03.2022)
Maturation: Oloroso casks
Outturn: ???? bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 49.4%
(from a bottle split)


Good start here on the nose. Walnuts, brine, dried cherries, Fig Newtons, and a hint of tar mix together well. Quieter notes of dried apples and new leather float around. It all gets fudgier with time. Almonds, hops, and very tangy citrus fill the palate's foreground. It gets much sweeter and bitterer with time. Mint candy, mixed nuts, and tannin finish it off.

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

The nose loses its uniqueness, taking on black raisins, marzipan, golden raisins, carob, and a minor floral note. The palate is nothing but cinnamon syrup, stale nuts, and bitter bitter bitter oak. It finishes the same way.


Aside the bitter oak, there's nothing really wrong with this whisky. But there's also not much that's really right about it, with the neat nose being the lone exception. On the whole, it feels generic, interchangeable with scores of other distilleries' large batch sherry cask releases. Thus it fits in with the OB Aberlour style that doesn't offer much that can't be had elsewhere.

Availability - Might still be around...
Pricing - ???
Rating - 80

Friday, May 31, 2024

The new place, and two 1993 Glendronachs

I exist in the new place. "Exist", not "am settled". How does one make one's house one's own? Everything here smells of the three dirty Frenchies (the dogs) that had previously run the place, but less so than it did last week. The whisky room is almost done in the basement, though I haven't yet decided how to decorate it, aside from bottles. I watched The Ninth Configuration and First Spaceship on Venus one night, far past my bedtime. And on Sunday night, I made scallops with cuttlefish ink pasta and sautéed spinach, and nailed it so much better than I should have that I must have borrowed the soul of Olivia Tiedemann for 30 minutes. Meanwhile I keep splitting logs awkwardly in the backyard until I can't see through the sweat in my eyes. Now I just need to assemble this IKEA couch, whose boxes watch me from across the room. I'm almost home.

Now it's time to try to get the whisky posts back on schedule. I will try my best, but no promises, life is crazy.

It's been 4.5 years since I last reviewed a Glendronach, so I've decided that now's a good time to open up these samples of two 1993 'Dronachs that were both distilled on March 19th of that year.

Glendronach 25 year old 1993, sherry butt #658 for The Whisky Barrel, 59.3%abv


There are dusty books and old leather on the nose. Then carob, and a fruit cake loaded with figs and dried cherries. It offers a sense memory of what Macallan used to smell like 15 years ago. The palate is VERY hot. Dunnage, newspaper ink, sea salt, and a whiff of smoke wait beneath the heat. It gets sweeter, while picking up some oranges after 45 minutes. It finishes inky, salty, and sweet, with lingering notes of almond extract and dusty old oak.

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

The nose has become fruitier, nuttier, more herbal, with plenty of kiwi, lychee, walnuts, and Brazil nuts. Dark chocolate, dark berries, and fresh tobacco fill the palate. It has a nice bitterness too, a little bit of ink, and grapefruit juice. Bitter citrus, dunnage, and dried cherries finish it off.


Though Glendronach is/was practicing undisclosed re-racking, as per My Annoying Opinions excellent post from 10(!!) years ago, I don't think they did that with #658. The whisky reads as old or older than its age statement. No new oak, nor incongruous extra-wet cask notes here. The nose is excellent neat or diluted, though the palate works better for me when the ABV is reduced. Though this isn't my preferred single malt style, I can't deny that this cask was a gem.

Availability - Secondary market?
Pricing - ????
Rating - 90

Very dark stuff

Glendronach 24 year old 1993, sherry butt #652 for Abbey Whisky, 60.6%abv


The nose begins with dunnage and very old wood, pulled pork and medjool dates. That's followed by dark chocolate, cherry juice, oak spice, and sage smoke. The palate is actually less hot than 658's. It's dusty, savory, and slightly tart. Smoky soy sauce and yesterday's cigar. Little bits of newspaper ink and berry sweetness. It finishes sweeter and tangier, while holding onto the dusty and savory notes. Plenty of old wood stays on the tongue.

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or 2 tsp of water per 30mL whisky

Orange peel, fruity cinnamon, and milkier chocolate arrive in the nose first, followed by almond extract, cherry juice, and watermelon candy. The palate gets leaner, with raw almonds and walnuts. Tart lemons at first then lemon candy later. The oak takes over in the finish, all bitter and dusty with a hint of sweetness.


This one also feels as old or older than the label says, which doesn't happen much anymore. The smoky notes are fascinating and work very well, it's too bad the dilution washes them away. Harsh oak notes knock this one down a little, threatening to throw it all out of balance, and I found myself going back to cask 658 more frequently. But it's a Big whisky no matter what.

Availability - Secondary market?
Pricing - ????
Rating - 88

Friday, May 24, 2024

Mathilda Malt: Laphroaig 18 year old 1998 cask 700040, Hand-filled at the Distillery

Two life chapters ago, I attended the Laphroaig Water to Whisky Experience and LOVED it. (The distillery no longer offers that experience, though the more expensive "Uisge" tour seems similar.) The WOWE ended with a 250mL bottling from one of three different casks on offer. Two casks were good, one was terrific.

I uncorked my wee bottle last year, and now all that's left is 60mL and a single bud vase.

Distillery: Laphroaig
Owner: Beam Suntory
Region: Southern Islay
Bottler: Me! (at the distillery)
Age: 18 years (1998-2016)
Maturation: sherry butt
Alcohol by Volume: 59.3%
(from my bottle)

I'm going to consume all 60mL for this tasting which will probably send me straight to bed afterwards. To change things up, I'm going to taste/nose the whisky diluted first.

DILUTED TO ~48%abv, or < 1½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

Grilled pineapple and pork ribs greet the nose first, followed by citronella and a very briny peat. Apricots and almond extract linger behind, and a Hampton-style diesel note materializes after 30 minutes. The palate starts sooty and salty, with oranges, smoked figs, and Thai chiles quickly emerging. Thai basil and more sea salt fills in the background. Slightly sweeter than the palate, the finish features the Thai chiles and Thai basil up front, with apricots and salty smoke in the distance.


Peaches, pears, apricots, roses, honeydew, almond butter, and citronella meet savory smoke and oysters in the nose. The palate begins savory, smoky, and sweet, with sea salt and fresh ginger in the background. It takes on Mexican chocolate and a mineral note after 30+ minutes. It finishes with sweet citrus, ginger, Mexican chocolate, and smoked almonds.


A massive whisky, even when diluted, this Laphroaig somehow thumps one's senses while also being very moreish. The possibly-refill cask adds a little treat here and there, but mostly lets the spirit roar. It's not exactly the desired pour when the night simmers at 30ºC — it's more at home on a 3ºC evening — but I expected as much. It's a hardy style that the distillery should focus on now, as they keep venturing further away from bourbon casks.

Availability - All gone
Pricing - None
Rating - 89

Friday, May 17, 2024

Mathilda Malt: Pittyvaich 29 year old 1988 Cooper's Choice

Pittyvaich Distillery spent its brief existence producing malt for the Bell's blends for less than twenty years. It's one of the lesser known demolished distilleries and is rarely bottled by the indies. Here's one from the Cooper's Choice range, issued in 2017, a year that seems much more recent than it actually is. 

Distillery: Pittyvaich
Owner: United Distillers
Region: Speyside (Dufftown)
Bottler: The Vintage Malt Whisky Co. Ltd.
Range: The Cooper's Choice
Age: 29 years (1988-2017)
Maturation: ???
Outturn: ??? bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 48.6%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from a bottle split)


Lean and blend-ish, the nose offers salt and confectioner's sugar, with hints of burlap and vanilla, becoming more floral with time. The bolder palate leads with bitter oak and green bell peppers, followed by mint and iron/blood, with a few oranges in the background. The wood tones down in the finish, leaving the mint and oranges with peppercorns and oregano.


Reading like a late-teens to early-twenties blend, this Pittyvaich neither excites nor offends. The mint leaves and bright oranges were highlights, and the bitter oak a lowlight. Despite the bitter oak, I don't think the cask was bottled too terribly late, because once the oak notes are subtracted, there's not much left. It probably works well in a highball, but don't we want more from a 29-year-old single malt?

I gotta end the Mathilda Malts on a stronger note than this. See you on Monday Wednesday Friday!

Availability - Secondary market?
Pricing - I think it was close to $300 when it came out
Rating - 80

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Mathilda Malt: Littlemill 20 year old 1984 Scott's Selection

Surrounded by unpacked, half-unpacked, and unopened boxes in my new house, I have no idea where anything is. Except the whisky. Hell, I don't even know where most of the whisky glasses are, but the liquid, yes.

Each day I set a goal (with a smidgen of LOL) to accomplish one bit of unpacking. The kitchen is functional, and occasionally has a clear path from the fridge to the stove to the sink. My cat, Suzy Creamcheese, is terrified but does have a direct line from her hiding place, to her food, water, and litter box. My functional workspace is only occasionally cramped by drill bits, postcards, scratching posts, and a bucket of half-used toilet cleaner bottles. My TV exists.

But more importantly, my girls have their own rooms, which are momentarily clean because we haven't unpacked anything of theirs. My older daughter, Mathilda, turns 10 today. Yeah, I don't know how that happened either. But last night she and I had a fun picnic dinner on the living room floor, eating black bean tacos, followed by fancy chocolates I brought back from Paris.

As I've done every year of her existence, including the birth one, I poured myself a Littlemill after she'd fallen asleep. Not knowing where the heck my pipette was packed, and also due to the intriguing nature of this whisky, I did not dilute this Littlemill, even though it was bottled at 61.3%abv.

Distillery: Littlemill
Region: Lowlands
Independent Bottler: Scott's Selection
Age: 20? years (1984-2004)
Maturation: Oakwood casks (helpful!)
Outturn: ???
Alcohol by Volume: 61.3%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from a bottle split)


Oh, the nose is wild. It starts off very herbal and mossy, with a whiff of antiseptic. Then it gets a bit inky, with a current of naphthalene hovering behind. THEN comes the mango and grapefruit.

It's been a minute since I chewed on a dusty book cover, but here it is in the whisky's palate, along with tart kiwis and guavas. An industrial/metallic note meets up with moss and lemongrass. And, somehow, it works.

The finish gets a little sweeter than the palate, adding pineapple to the fruits, yet the tartness lengthens with each sip. An earthiness and pepperiness work their way in as well.


I'm quite taken by this Littlemill. It's from a completely different dimension than the 1984 Hart Bros bottling I had ten years ago. There's no way to compare it to contemporary single malts, most of which are heavily produced (much like music?). The Scott's (R.I.P.) whiskies were often left to be their own animals, for better or worse. For better here. This strange and delicious whisky was perfect for me in this strange and energizing moment in my life. Yes, an excellent Littlemill in honor of my big girl.

Availability - Secondary market, maybe
Pricing - ???, but it was less than €100 twenty years ago
Rating - 90

Friday, May 10, 2024

Moving out, and also another review of Yoichi Key Malts

The movers arrive tomorrow.

I've been packing and moving boxes by car every day, since before the Paris trip, and it feels like I've barely made a dent. And I don't even have much stuff. Plumbing and electrical mishaps still need to be addressed at the house. But I think I've gotten the smell of dog piss out of the building, and I've stayed fit by deadlifting whisky cases and attempting to paint rooms. No matter where I am with all this, those two dudes and a truck will appear on Saturday afternoon. Goodbye sad bachelor pad, hello overwhelmed bachelor house!

Since I did not visit Japan this year, I decided the reviews for my apartment send-off would be some Yoichis. There was a whole week of posts planned but that was some silly optimism. Instead, most of my drinking has consisted of me staring into space, sipping Chablis at some point after 10pm.

This trio of Yoichi's Key Malts was picked up by the Doctors Springbank last year (thank you!), so their bottlings are more recent than the ones reviewed in 2022.

One final note. This tasting was conducted in the apartment's master bathroom while tornado sirens blared for almost an hour. Mathilda sat on a zafu cushion reading a novel while her father sat in his desk chair smelling tempered poison. 

Newer Sapporo Triplets

Woody and Vanillic - 55%abv
Sherry and Sweet - 55%abv
Peaty and Salty - 55%abv
Less generically woody than expected, the nose offers some fun spices like clove and cardamom layered on top of peaches and grapefruit. The vanilla and peat remain calm.Dried cherries, walnuts, and something beefy arrive first in the nose, followed by caramel, blossoms, and hints of raspberry jam and black raisins.Yes. The nose. Seaweed, antiseptic, and rubber gaskets galore. A whiff of farm, soft grassiness, and a drop of Sambuca fill in the gaps.
The palate dishes out some tannins at the start, as well as some bold peat. It's so sweet and floral that it's almost like peaty new make. Not bad though. There's a nice leafiness in the background.Cherry jam and coal smoke on the palate. Bits of earth, mint, and fig make cameos. A sharp tannic bite threatens in the distance.The palate is simple, but on target with a gentle sweetness, sooty peat, a generous dose of sea salt. The soot intensifies with time, while an herbal bitterness rises from the background.
It's very sweet on the finish, with a grassiness in the middle, and vanilla in the back.It finishes with cherry jam, serrano chiles, menthol, and raspberry candy.It finishes with kiln, menthol, and a little bit of bitterness.
Final thoughts:
Better than the previous Woody & Vanillic, which I called "the worst Yoichi I've ever tried", this whisky isn't completely wrecked by vanilla, in fact the nose is quite lovely.
Final thoughts:
Again, this one is better than the version I tried two years ago. Some bland sherry and oak notes keep this one from soaring, but I do love the cherry jam and coal smoke combo.
Final thoughts:
Picture baby Ardbeg, but with less violence, more control. It may not offer much complexity, but it does what it says on the tin, and reliably hits the spot. A great winter pour.
Rating: 82Rating: 84Rating: 87


Until after I finished the tasting and checked my old notes, I'd forgotten how disappointed I was with the Key Malts set I'd reviewed two years ago. This set was more consistent, more on-brand Yoichi, if that makes sense. If you nabbed this set from the distillery recently, enjoy, and bask in the warmth of my jealousy.

Next week, the scotch returns...