...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Bladnoch 22 year old 1977 Old Malt Cask

While I've never actively disliked Bladnoch, I've also never understood its (former) cult appeal. Its previous owners, the Armstrongs, seem to have run the distillery as a family business, warts and all, which was refreshing as the Scotch industry slid into corporate control. I also never took part in the Bladnoch Forum, which seemed to wrap up its releases just as I began my online whisky life. As a result, some of y'all reading this post will have your feet more firmly planted in the old Bladnoch world than I.

(Obligatory paragraph about modern Bladnoch: The distillery's current ownership seems to have tried to force a generally unknown brand into the ultra-premium sphere. They haven't released a single thing that sounds interesting, so they (like 99.9% of the ultra-premium brands) will enjoy success without my contribution.)

Whisky friend Cobo, sent me this sample of '70s(!) Bladnoch a few years ago, and I've been sitting on it (literally!) until it had a proper drinking mate. And now it does. Today the '70s, Friday the '90s. From Carter to Clinton. Fill in your joke here. I'm sure Randy Brandy will.

Distillery: Bladnoch
Region: Lowlands
Ownership at time of distillation: Inver House
Independent Bottler: Douglas Laing
Range: Old Malt Cask
Age: 22 years (December 1977 - July 2000)
Maturation: maybe a bourbon barrel?
Outturn: 174 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 50%

NOTES
The nose has a gorgeously malty base with hints of earth and whole cloves on top, followed by pairings of peach candy and flower blossoms, kiwi juice and dried cranberries, dunnage and ocean air. Then a hint of incense. On the palate, a low rumble of tart fruits (citrus, berries, guava) carries along loads of barley. Sweet apricots, bits of musty dunnage. A butterscotch note develops with time, and the citrus edge expands. It has a very creamy mouthfeel. The finish's sweetness is balanced by tart citrus and a peep of horseradish. Some tropical fruit hints arise along with the nose's dunnage note.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
This is fine fine whisky, leagues beyond what I'd anticipated. It's perfectly matured malt without any woodiness, its elements having achieved dynamic equilibrium. There are three single casks of 22yo 1977 Bladnoch in the OMC line, the other two have shown up in European auctions, their hammer prices high but not unreasonable considering the quality and age. This one, though, with the smallest outturn of the three seems to be scarce, hopefully consumed! Anyway, if you have a bottle of it collecting dust, please open and enjoy it. It would be a cracking drink when spring returns.

Availability - ???
Pricing - ???
Rating - 90

Monday, December 9, 2019

Glen Moray 14 year old 2004 Old Malt Cask 20th Anniversary

Though they've recently been tinkering with a slew of NAS whiskies, Glen Moray had a range of low-priced age-stated single malts for the past decade or two. Even though their prices were fair, I have nearly no experience with that distillery's output. Like so many other Glens their official whisky is artificially colored, chillfiltered and diluted to the max so my interest was minimal.

I wrote about the distillery's history three years ago, and have little to add except that the year this single cask was distilled (2004) was when the former Macdonald & Muir sold the distillery to LVMH. So, I'm not sure if this was distilled under Bill Lumsden's supervision or not. Or if it even matters. If you've had more experience with Glen Moray and know of a style change please let me know in the comment section below. I'm all for more whisky education, of both words and liquid. And today's liquid learning was sent to me by My Annoying Opinions (thanks, Teach!) who has posted a simultaneous review of this same whisky this very morning!


Distillery: Glen Moray
Owner: La Martiniquaise
Region: Speyside (Elgin)
Bottler: Hunter Laing
Series: Old Malt Cask
Age: 14 years old (April 2004 - August 2018)
Maturation: probably a hogshead
Outturn: 337
Alcohol by Volume: 50%
Chillfiltered? No
Colorant added? No

NEAT
Quite a bit of bread, cheese and herbs in the nose at first. The herbs remain but the other two float off. There's also a vegetable broth note. Small notes of lemon juice, flower blossoms and vanilla linger. The whisky has an unusual palate that closely matches the nose. Definitely a salty broth note on top of a citrus base. Then little bits of corn syrup and mint. The finish is very tangy and lightly sweet. Minor notes of black pepper and copper/blood.

DILUTED TO ~43%abv, or 1 tsp of water per 30ml of whisky
The nose shifts and opens up a little. Though a grassy note leads the way, there's also apple peel, lemon zest, toasted coconut and smoked almonds. The palate stays lean and tangy. Barley, oats and sweetness make up the rest. It finishes tangy and yeasty with toasted grains and an herbal bitterness.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
Paler than a Kravitz in winter, this whisky reminds me of the ol' green bottle Cadenheads releases, though much less violent. It reads new and young, though not off-putting, instead crisp and spirit-forward. What it sacrifices is any sort of complexity. It delivers quirk, salt, herbs and tang (lowercase "t"), no more, no less. Perhaps this is close to the distillery's style?

Availability - Probably fewer than a dozen European retailers
Pricing - £55-£65
Rating - 82, preferred with water

Friday, December 6, 2019

Randy Brandy drinks 2 batches of L'Encantada XO Armagnac

Begging for Pearls brought the righteous Lib indignation this week. Mmmm god it's delicious. Who needs food? JUST COOK UP SOME EAU DE VIE À LA GAUCHE AND SHOOT IT BETWEEN MY TOES.

As an extra Christmas present to us all, Krabs then went full hipster with one of those This Terrible Thing That No One Likes is Actually Good gems because those posts always age well.

And since, like testicles, all good things descend in threes, so Randy Brandy is here to review TWO L'Encantada armagnacs.

At L'Encantada, François and François [Ed. note: Not their actual names.] [Better Ed. note: Shut up.] have Crafted two batches of XO: Lot 1 and Lot 2.0, also known as There Is Pibous In It and There is NO Pibous In It.

L'Encantada found two casks of Domaine Lous Pibous and you won't believe what happened next!

They blended them with three casks of not-Pibous. Brilliant. Because there is definitely an infinite amount of Pibous in the world. Anyway, Lot 1.

Hot for BILFs? Then Lot 2 is for you. 40% of it is 30+ year old fluid, so pull your cork to that. (I should work in advertising.)

That's all the intro I had the patience for. I liked it.

Here are my notes.

LOT 1 - There Is Pibous In It, 46.8%abv
Nose - It's very Christmassy. Allspice, dried cherries, apple pie and chestnuts. Wet twigs and envelope glue. Oaky like an old bourbon.
Palate - Spicy, like pumpkin pie spice. Maple, honey, cinnamon, salted butter and lemon.
Finish - Salted nuts and honey. Tannins and lemon.

More Notes - L'Encantada is good at finding armagnacs that smell like very old bourbon, but don't taste like you blew an oak tree. So, yes this will thrill bourbon geeks whose jaws are sore. The notes of apples, cherries and lemons are also much appreciated.

LOT 2 - There Is No Pibous, 44.6%abv
Nose - Black walnuts, applesauce, buttery caramel, golden raisins, grape juice, some kind of citrus juice.
Palate - Armagnac candy: toasty and very sweet. Speyside whisky aged in new oak. Brazil nuts and toasted almonds. Syrupy and oaky with a little bit of acid.
Finish - Very sweet and tannic. Cabernet Sauvignon and Brazil nuts.

More Notes - Less of the bourbon thing than Lot 1, more brandy and malt whisky. It smells good and drinks fast, but the palate could use some more fruit essence and less sugar. The tannins show its age, but if you don't want any oak in your drink, stay away from L'Encantada altogether. If you love oak then there's a certain aforementioned American beverage that misses that thing you do.

There were my notes.

L'Encantada wants whiskey drinkers and their blind whiskey money. You know who you are. Pony up because you can't take your money with you when you go, especially if you go due to cirrhosis and you're too broke to pay your medical bills. At least there will be more brandy for me then.

Merry War on Christmas, Libs. I'll see you in 2020 with some Pibous.

RATINGS:
L'Encantada XO, Lot 1 - B/B+
L'Encantada XO, Lot 2.0 - B-/B

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Loch Dhu, part deux

Speaking of questionable whisky ideas, Loch Dhu everyone!


Yes, I previously reviewed this, one of the world's most reviled whiskies, but I had another sample from possibly the same bottle. And we've all gotten a little older in the five years since. I'd also tried another regrettable whisky this week so I thought, "What the hell."

For those who have never see Loch Dhu, it is black like crude oil. It's similarly, terrifyingly viscous, as it still sticks to the sides of the sample bottle four days later. I don't know why this product was created, with its Coca-Cola (or higher) levels of e150a. Mannochmore distillery produces some very good single malt. Why did United Distillers chose to do it wrong?

LOCH DHU
Distillery: Mannochmore
Ownership: United Distillers (proto-Diageo)
Region: Speyside (Lossie)
Age: minimum 10 years
Maturation: ???
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
Chillfiltered? Yes
Caramel Colored? Dhu
(Thank you to Andy, again)

NOTES
It has a bold nose for its low strength, made up of coffee grounds, caramel candy, prune juice, Worcestershire sauce, mold and burnt garlic. There are burnt raisins, burnt celery, burnt cardboard on the palate. And all those burnt bitter things float in a sour vinegar puddle. The finish is very bitter and very sour, but also has mellow chocolatey side to it.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
This is nowhere near as horrifying as its reputation, and better than I'd remembered it to be. I'm not saying it's good whisky. It's shit. But there are foul strata, and Loch Dhu does not rest on the bottom layer. Its nose is plenty strange, and not exactly what one would describe as alluring. But it's sniffable, and sort of interesting. The palate is bad, approaching one's lowest expectations, yet the finish's chocolate note approaches appealing.

While the whisky isn't the worst, it's still among the most regrettable of whisky ideas. I wish it had served as a lesson to the SWA that e150a should be banned with the rest of the additives. But no one learned anything. So enjoy all your orange Diageo whiskies!

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - ???
Rating - 55

Monday, December 2, 2019

The deeply problematic St. George Baller Whiskey

BALLER?


In the middle of the socializing segment of last month's Columbus Scotch Night, Doctor Springbank handed me his bottle of St. George Baller Single Malt Whiskey and said, pokerfaced, "You have to try this."

At first glance the bottle label's Ukiyo-e-style art was gorgeous. Also, my wife and I love St. George's gins and I've found their absinthe to be a fun take on a beloved spirit. When it comes to whiskey, aside from Charbay and Westland, no other American distillery is doing anything that consistently appeals to me at this point, so I was quite excited by this new thing.

And then I drank the whiskey. And it was awful. As in "wait this cannot be that bad oh my fuck it is that bad ahh gah nooooo this finish" bad.

Perhaps it was my momentary vom face, but Dr. Springbank knew immediately. "Yes! I thought it was just me." We handed it out as a blind taster to at least six other people, and everyone hated it and was kinda mad we pushed it on them. And then I said "Please sir may I have another," and I took a sample home.

PROBLEMS


After I completed my home tasting (see NOTES below), I read Baller's official page and more issues became apparent.

The first words are, “A California take on the Japanese spin on Scotch whisky.” That phrase is problematic and possibly meaningless. The current "Japanese spin on Scotch whisky" is to mix together Canadian, Irish and Scotch whisky, bottle it with kanji on the label and call it Japanese whisky, or to bottle ultra-young NAS single malts. And the producers who are doing the latter each have different styles. So there is no current single Japanese spin on Scotch whisky. Even if one was to look at the Japanese whisky market in its heyday (quality-wise) Yamazaki, Hakushu, Yoichi, Miyagikyo and the dozens of upmarket blends each had its own character.

And what exactly is "A California take"? If you think the process is specifically Californian or Japanese, you are incorrect. This "single malt" uses both malted and unmalted barley (is that technically a single malt?), is aged in bourbon and French oak wine casks, then is charcoal filtered and then is finished in plum liqueur casks. They refer to the liqueur as umeshu, though it was made using California ume.

So, the plums are from California. And I guess the French oak wine casks are sort of Napa-ish. Charcoal filtration is very far from a born-in-Cali thing. And the mixed barley mashbill is kinda Irish.

Regarding umeshu casks, some portion of the late Hibiki 12 year old Japanese blend was finished in plum liqueur barrels, but was done with a very gentle hand.

Reading on, I learned the label "reimagined" St. George as a samurai slaying a dragon. And then there was the Japanese flag. This was becoming a plague of cultural expropriation. And since nothing surrounding this whiskey is actually Japanese, one begins to wonder if this entire farce was motivated by the hope someone would mistake it for actual "Japanese" whisky and pay through the nose for it.

AND THEN THERE WAS ME, OF COURSE


Writing about this whisky forced me to think about my own choices. I love Japan. My two trips there were among the highlights of my life. I continue to study its culture, religions and history. I've repeatedly and unsuccessfully tried to learn the basics of its language. I have filled my daily visual space (that I can control) with Japanese art and products. But I do this in my private time, and I do it with humility knowing I am an outsider looking in at a proud, profound and unique culture. Seeing a company market a product using nothing but cultural appropriation — even if it's a joke, exploitation is the whole show — empties me of any compassion for the producer, whether or not said company says their $200 whiskey was made for highballs.


Distillery: St. George Spirits
Type: Single Malt?
Region: Alameda, CA, USA
Mashbill: Part malted barley, part toasted unmalted barley?
Age: 3 years old
Maturation: First maturation in a Mix of bourbon and French oak wine casks, then a finish in California plum liqueur casks
Alcohol by Volume: 47%
(Thank you to Doctor Springbank)

NOTES
Is there a mosquito infestation? Because my nose smells citronella candles and OFF spray. And Bounce fabric softener sheets. A violet liqueur note buries hints of grapefruit and toasted oak. The palate is watery but hot. It's also VERY floral (flowers, soap and perfume). Ginger liqueur and dried oregano. Burnt paper and eggy sulfur. After 20 minutes a strong note of Grand Marnier laced with Nutrasweet pushes forward. It finishes with hot floral soap, bitter orange zest and a chemical sweetness.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
This is comparable to the height of the '80s Bowmore terrors, with perfumes and soaps and sulfur and chemicals and burnt things. As I am not a distiller, I can only guess at what went awry, but the level of tinkering involved in this whisky's production leaves a lot of potential for cockups. The liqueur casks are very aggressive, and makes one fear the actual liqueur. Charcoal filtration why? And what about the original distillate. Perhaps it started off in a good place? Or was the soap and perfume always present?

As I enjoy their gins and absinthe, I will certainly continue to purchase those St. George products. But Baller was wrong on so many levels that I'm going to forgo their whiskey products altogether.

Availability - UK, Singapore and 13 US states
Pricing - $150-$300, though a few stores now have it for less than $100
Rating - 57

Friday, November 29, 2019

Laphroaig 10 year old, 40%abv version (distillery mini, 2016)

Yes, it's time to taste my rent from my very own square foot of Islay. This mini was presented to me, along with the coordinates of my plot (and a flag, I think), when I checked in at Laphroaig distillery three years ago.

This also marks the first time I've reviewed the classic Laphroaig 10yo at its lower European market strength of 40%abv. Because of its low alcohol content, I had it batting leadoff in this week's Laphroaig lineup (see here and here for the other two whiskies).

Distillery: Laphroaig
Owner: Beam Suntory
Region: Islay
Maturation: ex-bourbon barrels
Age: minimum 10 years
Bottled: March 2016
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
Chill-filtration? Yes
Caramel colored? Yes

NOTES
What's most surprising about the nose is its lack of the familiar iodine-seaweed-medicinal whiff. Rather it's very close to the barley, fresh and biscuity with honey and green apples. The peat is leafy and herbal with a teeny bit of toasted seaweed. Hints of honeydew and elephant exhibit eek out after 10 minutes. While the palate is smokier than the nose, it feels watery in the mouth. Salt, pepper and sugar in the background. A little bit of dried oregano and marinated banana peppers. It finishes with a "seaweedy truffle salt" per my notes. It's also smoky and sweet with a moment of dried herbs.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
This was so disappointing, I didn't continue the lineup until I finished this pour because it would have gotten bulldozed by the other Laphroaigs. Though I enjoyed the nose's youth, its notes could have come from a decent young malt from many other distilleries. The palate is damned close to peated blend territory with its heavy filtration, colorant and dilution. Where's the Laphroaig in this Laphroaig?

All that being said, I would never dump this down the sink. It serves its whisky purpose without offending, though its lack of offense is sort of offensive.

Availability - All over Europe
Pricing - €30-€45
Rating - 79

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Laphroaig Càirdeas 2014 Amontillado Cask Finish

Winter arrived a month-and-a-half early this year, so the recent jumble of Ledaig, Lagavulin and Laphroaig reviews feel very appropriate. This week it's all whisky from Bessie Williamson's distillery. On Monday I reviewed 2019's limited edition Càirdeas, today it's the 2014 edition.

Yes, there have been some gaps. I've reviewed the 2012, 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019 releases and referenced the 2016. I remember drinking the 2018 (Fino finish) but perhaps I consumed it without taking notes. Oh, the humanity!

Anyway, the 2014 edition keeps up the fortified-wine-cask-finish Càirdeas approach begun in 2013 and continued thereafter. Amontillado is usually not a sweet sherry, rather it tends to be dry and nutty. (And, oh geez, I'm beginning to fear the 2020 edition will be PXed.) Hopefully this Amontillado goes well with Laphroaig's spirit...


Distillery: Laphroaig
Owner: Beam Suntory
Region: Islay
Age: ???, though probably less than 10 years
Maturation: bourbon casks first, then a finish in Amontillado-seasoned hogsheads
Batch: 2014
Alcohol by Volume: 51.4%
Chill-filtration? No
Caramel colored? Probably
(from a bottle split)

NEAT
The nose smells of new sneakers, from the sole to fresh laces. There's also seaweed, hot tar and an old greasy engine. Meanwhile, there are all sorts of curious fruity things going on: melons, watermelon Jolly Ranchers and a hint of amaretto (not Amontillado). The palate has a curious dirty smokiness to it. Not only is it not Laphroaig-ish, it's not even Scottish. It reminds me of of Säntis or Aecht Schlenkerla. Like burning pine needles and wood chips, burnt vegetable oil. After 20-30 minutes it shifts towards familiar territory with nutty sherry, tart apples, fresh ginger and anise. It finishes with the piney smoke, brine, almonds and tart apples.

DILUTED TO ~48%abv, or < ½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose holds plastic, apricots and a gentle smoke. Smaller notes of mint leaves, dried cherries and cinnamon trail behind. The palate stays burly. The peat heads closer to southern Islay, being herbal, bitter and briny, but there's also a decent sweetness in the background. The finish keeps its good length, and mostly matches the palate, adding a little more ginger.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
This Càirdeas is more of a thinker, a forehead wrinkler, than the 2019 edition. At first the palate presents something different, a little difficult but fascinating, then it changes course and becomes a reliable Laphroaig. The nose is more consistent, but also less exciting. There are no gloopy or grapey sherry notes, for which we have the Amontillado to thank. Overall it's a good alternative spin on Laphroaig, but I don't think I missed much at the time of its release.

Availability -
Secondary market

Pricing - ???
Rating - 86

Monday, November 25, 2019

Laphroaig Càirdeas 2019 Triple Wood

In the days before Select, Four Oak, Brodir and their woody siblings, the Triple Wood expression was the caskiest of the official Laphroaigs. For those new to Triple Wood, here's how it goes: the distillery takes <10 year old bourbon cask Laphroaig, then gives it a series of brief finishes in small quarter casks, refill sherry butts and first fill sherry butts. The result is usually a very mellow and sugary thing with moderate peat.

I lost interest in Triple Wood, as I have with most of Laphroaig's recent output. Then they went ahead and intrigued me by releasing a cask strength version of the Triple for 2019's Càirdeas (an annual release that tends to be both good and well-priced). Because the regular 3W has a 48%abv, the Càirdeas release would have needed to be a real bruiser to set it apart. Sure enough, it has the second highest abv, 59.5%, of any official Laphroaig release.

My sample of Càirdeas 2019 — courtesy of Mr. MAO — was tried head-to-head with the other two Laphroaigs being reviewed this week...



Distillery: Laphroaig
Owner: Beam Suntory
Region: Islay
Age: ???, though probably less than 10 years
Maturation: bourbon casks (one) then quarter casks (two) and sherry casks (three)
Batch: 2019
Alcohol by Volume: 59.5%
Chill-filtration? No
Caramel colored? Probably

NEAT
It has a bright bold nose. Flowers and chocolate, baby. Specifically very dark chocolate. Mint candy and peated peach Jolly Ranchers. Almond extract meets manure. No element overwhelms another. The very nutty palate has just the right amount of sweetness. Fresh ginger + lemon juice, and a seaweed-y umami note pumped up with Laphroaig 10yo CS power. It finishes with lemons surrounded by a very dense smoke, a sprinkle of cocoa in the background. It has a subtler sweetness and saltiness than the palate.

DILUTED TO ~48%abv, or 1½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
It's become a very different whisky. I'm getting s'mores in front of a gorgeous bonfire, on the nose, complete with toasted marshmallows, milk chocolate and graham crackers. A little bit of toffee in there too. The palate has shifted to more of a dessert whisky, though a bitter smoke keeps it in balance. Brisk notes of limes and dried herbs, as well. The finish matches the palate, though the sweetness and bitterness mellows out.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
Though nuanced whiskies are preferred in these here parts, this beast won my heart. The volume has been turned waaaay up on the casks, spirit, smoke, sweets, alcohol, the whole thing; and as result it appeals to the senses much more than the most recent batch of Laphroaig's 10yo Cask Strength. For a different take see MAO's review of the same whisky. His enthusiasm for the whisky is more muted than mine, though as he notes, this Càirdeas takes to dilution very well, probably improving it. I'm glad he shared his whisky with me. Whenever I go back to buying scotch bottles again, I will certainly consider buying one of these.

Availability - Available at many specialty retailers in the US
Pricing - $60 to $90 as of this post's date
Rating - 89

Friday, November 22, 2019

Glendronach Cask Strength, batch 3

Here's a thing. The ABV of each Glendronach cask strength batch:


Batches 1-5 were bottled by Billy Walker's Benriach Distillery Company. Batches 6-8 were bottled by Brown-Forman. What exactly is B-F doing differently? Younger whisky and/or fewer old casks in the mix? Different part of the warehouse? Different sized casks?

I'm not sure what's going on, but it's curious. Luckily, batch six and seven did continue this series's high quality. Now let's go back to the earlier stuff.

Batch two was pretty darn good, though it fell short of the first batch. Time for Batch #3.


Distillery: Glendronach
Ownership at time of bottling: BenRiach Distillery Company Ltd
Current Ownership: Brown-Forman (ugh)
Region: Eastern Highlands (on the edge of Speyside)
Age: ???
Maturation: a mix of Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez sherry casks
Batch: 3
Bottled: 2014
Alcohol by Volume: 54.9%
(Many thanks to Eric S for this sample!)

NEAT
The nose is big on sherry (for reals?), opening up bags of dried stone fruits. Citrus zests, anise, mint leaf, saline and carob follow. Maybe a little bit hot. The palate is actually more appealing than the nose. There are chocolates, toffees, wood spice, beef stock and tart cherries. It has a warming, almost smoky conclusion with moments of bitterness and tart fruit.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or < 1¼ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose gets beefier, picks up Thai chiles and a simple curry powder. Some cardamom, grapefruit, anise and plenty of heat. Meanwhile, the palate gets a little strange. It's bitterer and saltier. Even a little bit soapy. There's more "classic sherry" raisin notes, milk chocolate and wood spice. The finish is savory, spicy, sharp and soapy.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
As noted above, something weird happened to the palate once I added water. I tried it again three nights later and found similar results. No one else has reported the soapy notes, so perhaps this has something to do with the five years it took me to open up the sample. But just to be safe, I recommend leaving out the water because the whisky is quite good when neat. The palate is its richest element, registering a little beefier and savorier than other batches. To me, batch one still holds its position as the best of the group. To those who have tried multiple batches, what say ye?

Availability - Secondary market?
Pricing - ???
Rating - 85 (neat only)

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Glendronach Cask Strength, batch 2

I've tried six of the eight Glendronach Cask Strength batches and have found the series to be very solid. Reviews of batches one, six and seven can already be found on this blog, so it's time for a pair of the in-between releases. The first batch was the best by far, so far. Can batches two and three compete?


Distillery: Glendronach
Ownership at time of bottling: BenRiach Distillery Company Ltd
Current Ownership: Brown-Forman (ugh)
Region: Eastern Highlands (on the edge of Speyside)
Age: ???
Maturation: a mix of Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez sherry casks
Batch: 2
Bottled: 2013
Alcohol by Volume: 55.2%
(part of a bottle split)

NEAT
The bold and complex nose is also a bit scattered. There are dried currants, golden raisins, honey, almond butter and apricots (fresh and dried). Cinnamon candy, limoncello and cardamom sit in the background. Notes of new tires, toffee and smoked vanilla beans arise after the whisky sits for 30+ minutes. The palate has a chocolate and malt base with a number of smaller notes floating about: mango, serrano pepper, wood smoke, tart citrus and something industrial. It's sweet but not too sweet, especially as the tart citrus expands. The medium-length finish holds chocolate, tart citrus, serrano pepper and metal workshop.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 1¼ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose is all milk chocolate, limes, clementines, dried oregano and a stony earthiness. Lots of bitter chocolate and cocoa in the palate, as well as lime juice, dates, tar and Underberg. The finish matches the palate.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
This proves to be two different, though related, whiskies at 55.2% and 46%abv. It's a wild thing at full strength, loaded with character(s) but, for me, it hits all the right spots once it's diluted. Water doesn't open it up, rather it brings focus to the whisky, highlighting its strengths and making it more approachable without dumbing it down. While it doesn't hit the first batch's heights, it's still a very good whisky.

Availability - Secondary market?
Pricing - ???
Rating - 87 (with water)

Monday, November 18, 2019

Powers Signature Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey (bottled 2013)

Powers Gold Label was the first whisk(e)y I ever adored, and I always had a bottle on hand until Pernod Ricard rebooted the Powers line in 2013. Gold Label, a blend, received a new label and bottle shape, its ABV went up 3.2 points and its price jumped 67%. The 12 year old Special Reserve blend was pulled from the market and was replaced by two pot still Powerses, the 12yo John's Lane and the NAS Signature. As I wrote in my review of the newer Gold Label, this rebranding did not acheive the intended result. After two years, Powers' volume sales in the US dropped 33%, while the other six top Irish whiskey brands' volume rose by 28%.

I don't entirely understand what happened next. In 2015, Signature was removed from the market, and Three Swallows took its place. Both were single pot stills, both had no age statement and the price remained about the same. But the ABV was dropped from 46% to 40%. Yes, the pot still was now more watered down than the blend. Meanwhile the "three swallows" emblem and/or phrase had existed on Powers blends' labels in the past, which introduced some potential confusion. Also, Signature's and Three Swallows's packaging was identical, except for swapping out blue for green. Needless to say, I will not be purchasing a bottle of Three Swallows.

But I did buy Signature when a US retailer started slinging it for close-out prices. I'd previously had Signature at pubs, and found it reasonably good enough (and similar enough) to make the blend irrelevant. Now it's time for a proper review.

Brand: Powers (no more apostrophe?)
Style: Single Pot Still
Distillery: Midleton
Region: Cork, Ireland
Age: ???
Maturation: bourbon barrels + Oloroso sherry casks
Bottle code: L317131149 14:55
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
Added colorant? Probably

NOTES
Vanilla shortbread and clementines lead the nose, followed by brown sugar and almond extract. Subtler notes of tropical fruit, pickle brine and plaster linger throughout. Yes, its palate is like the current blend, but richer and sweeter with less of an industrial hardness. But at the same time it's simpler. Brown sugar, sea salt and lemon notes lift it up, and it gradually develops a Campari-like bite. The finish goes lighter on the bitter, bigger on the pepper. It's sweet, think vanilla ice cream and lemon sorbet.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
As noted above, Signature is sweeter than the blend, but also less complex. It's less difficult, more friendly. It does have a good thick mouthfeel, thanks to less dilution and no chill-filtration. Yet, I opened this bottle four months ago and it's still more than half full. It sits next to the Knappogue Castle 12 year old single barrel and I reach for the KC first, almost every time. I can't find any enthusiasm for it, aside from the occasional hot whiskey. Perhaps its disappearance wasn't a terrible loss.

Availability - still available at dozens of American retailers
Pricing - $40-$60
Rating - 83

Friday, November 15, 2019

Where's the whisky? And where are the rye barrels? Important questions.

It has recently come to my attention that I drink whisky. Like, ofttimes. On the reg. Et cetera. Since this blog went whisky — and especially since parenthood commenced — I have rarely gone more than two days without a pour. When healthy, I have not gone more than five days without a single drink since.......since.

As of today (Friday), it has been one week since I last consumed an alcoholic beverage. The reasons are threefold. Firstly, I had an awesome whiskey experience a week ago, something I intend to write about shortly, and the body needed a rest afterwards. Secondly, a giant turd of a winter dropped early this year, ushering compounding colds into my home. If I can't trust my nose, then I'm not wasting liver cells. Thirdly, I appreciated the challenge.

After a week away from the sauce have I become a new man, clear of mind, sharp of reflex, calm of temper? Not even remotely. But I did it. Hooray for me. Now I would appreciate a glass of whisky.

Luckily I had Wednesday's Ledaig review in the queue, so there was some sort of content here, because no drinking means no reviews. I mean, Randy Brandy could have posted a review but he's busy doing......doing......what does he actually do?

Speaking of mysteries, where are all the rye barrels? I mean all the rye barrels. Society will never hear the end of bourbon barrel this and bourbon barrel that. Bourbon barrel-aged wine, beer, tequila, rum, brandy, every whisky not made in America, hot sauce, feta cheese and husbands. But what has happened to all the former rye whiskey barrels?

I've seen a few microbreweries age ales in ex-rye barrels. Johnnie Walker did their short-lived rye barrel-finished blend. Glenmorangie did a thing. There's a quarter-cask rye barrel-finished Tamdhu floating around out there (thank you to Jordan for pointing that one out!). But where are the other 99% of rye barrels going?

Does anyone have a lead on this? Am I missing something? Also, for goodness' sake, why isn't rye barrel scotch a thing? It can be done.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Ledaig 11 year old Time IV, TWE Exclusive

TWE stands for The Whisky Exchange, and Time IV stands for Time IV one more Ledaig review!

Hey, where are you going?

Come back!

That was only the first of many many jokes.

Oh well, I guess it's just me and......me this time.

If I remember correctly, TWE's "Time" series focused on the effect time has on a whisky's spirit, using refill casks so that time ≠ oak. Tobermory's peated single malt, Ledaig, was a good choice due its spirit's vibrant character. This particular whisky's color is very very light — which you can't actually see in the bottle pic below — much lighter than that of its sparring partner, last Wednesday's sherried 6yo Ledaig.


Distillery: Tobermory
Brand: Ledaig
Owner: Distell International Ltd.
Region: Isle of Mull
Independent Bottler: The Whisky Exchange (per Whiskybase's listing)
Age: minimum 11 years (???? - 2016)
Maturation: my guess is one refill hogshead
Outturn: 319 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 48%
Chillfiltered? No
Color added? No
(Thanks to MAO, yes that guy, for the sample! See his review here.)

NOTES
The nose is full of yeast and barley, salty ocean air and smoked fish. Then saltines, golden delicious apples, rock candy and cotton candy. Even though the whisky is almost colorless, the palate is not raw. It's mildly tart, mildly sweet and mildly bitter. Salty smoke, sea water and apples. A fruity sweetness builds with, you know, Time. Barley, apples and sea water lead the finish. It's moderately sweet with an almost savory smoke.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
At half its age, this cask could have been a palate killer, but here at age 11 this Ledaig enters maturity without any woody burden. There's a variety of smoky notes and plenty of oceanic character. Gentle sweet and tart fruit notes give it extra dimension at its spot-on bottling strength. Without modern bells and whistles, it probably wasn't the fastest-selling Ledaig single cask, but kudos to those who did pick it up. It's a drinker.

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

Friday, November 8, 2019

Laphroaig 10 year old Cask Strength, batch 011

The plot escaped me somewhere along the way. I was going to review each batch of Laphroaig's cask strength expression each year.

005 was the weakest batch to date.
006 was better but not quite there.
007 was very good.
I had 008 when I visited the distillery.
I bought 009, then gifted it to a friend.
010......?

Thank the whisky gods (who are otherwise still on their lunch break) that MAO sent me a sample of this year's batch 011. And yes, MAO and I are doing simul-review of this one too! Yay! Here’s his review!

It’s been a very MAO-y week, has it not? You're welcome.

Distillery: Laphroaig
Owner: Beam Suntory
Region: Islay
Maturation: ex-bourbon barrels
Age: minimum 10 years
Batch: 011, Feb 2019
Chill-filtration? No
Caramel colored? Probably
Alcohol by Volume: 58.6%

NEAT
There's a low lemon/citron/citronella rumble in the nose and a bonfire at the beach (like an Ardmore but three times the volume). Eucalyptus smoke and pine needles in the salty air. Charred beef and mustard seed. Brown sugar and Beam-like peanuts arise after a lot of time in the glass. Big smoldering smoky kiln notes in the palate. Then some brine, seaweed, menthol and a hint of bitterness. It's moderately sweet with some cinnamon candy notes. It finishes with smoke, cinnamon, smoke, limoncello, smoke, bitterness, smoke.

DILUTED TO ~48%abv, or 1⅓ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The peat reads greener on the nose, less smoky. A brief farmy whiff. Eucalyptus, mint leaf, lemon and hot sand. The palate becomes sweeter but not as sugary as batches 005 and 006. It also gets brinier and tangier, while staying smoky and lightly bitter. The finish stays a good length with mild smoke, salt, bitterness and tanginess.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
There's nothing technically wrong with this batch. It's neither oaky nor too sweet. There's plenty of salty seaweed things and heavy smoke. But I can't seem to find anything to rave about. The nose is right on, but the palate is, well, fine. Simple and reserved. No "Oh goddamn this Laphroaig Glory" going on.

Per the picture above, this whisky had two sparring partners: the first batch of Ben Nevis Traditional (which it bested) and Westland's Peated single malt. It did not best the Westland, which says something about either Westland or Laphroaig. Or both.

Have I built up my expectations too high for these Laphroaig CS batches? Or is it Lagavulin 12yo CS's fault for being so damned good year after year? I don't know. Batch 011 is good and so is its (pre-tariff) price. But though there is goodness there is no glory.

Availability - Available in many of these American states
Pricing - $60 to $90 as of this post's date
Rating - 86

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Ledaig 6 year old 2004 Murray McDavid

Gonna keep this intro brief:

I'm not a fan of this decade's rash of single cask baby whiskies, and I doubt you'll find anyone who has complained about Murray McDavid's whiskies as much as I. So, I'm setting my expectations low low low low.

My Annoying Opinions is also reviewing this whisky today. I'm curious to see what he thinks of it. I'll link to his post in the morning. And here it is!


Distillery: Tobermory
Brand: Ledaig
Owner: Distell International Ltd.
Region: Isle of Mull
Independent Bottler: Murray McDavid
Age: 6 years (2004-2010)
Maturation: sherry casks
Outturn: 1100 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? probably not
Color added? probably not
(Thank you, Florin!)

NOTES
Whoa, I like the nose. It's very autumnal, with moss and wet leaves. There's also a big figgy note from the sherry cask. Hints of smoked salmon and tennis ball as well. After 30 minutes, these elements all come together creating one solid unit. Similar to the nose, the palate has the autumnal notes and a sherry influence that reads mildly sweet but not jammy. Dark industrial smoke drifts around notes of honey, toffee, citrus and bitter herbs. The smoke registers the loudest on the palate. Minor notes include tart grapes, citrus and a little bit of sweetness.

A bit stunned by how much I enjoy this, I'm digging into the archive to withdraw a sample of a very difficult 6 year old 2005 Ledaig sherry cask by Blackadder for comparison purposes.


Lowering that one's ABV to 46%. Waiting a bit...

Ledaig 6 year old 2004 Murray McDavid, 46%abv
Hey here's some elephant dung in the nose. Cheers! Also burning leaves. Then dried stone fruits, tennis ball fuzz and moss. The dark industrial smoke still leads the palate. That's followed by lemon candy, honey and cayenne pepper. The finish feels longer this time. It's all dark chocolate with a mix of sweet and bitter smokes.

Ledaig 6 year old 2005 Blackadder, reduced to 46%abv
Dark chocolate and gasoline on the nose. Gigantic peatin'. Ocean air and ham. Old rubber ball. A whiff of rotten eggs. Cleaner than the nose, the palate has some good vegetal peat, a nutty note from the sherry cask and herbal bitter liqueur. Its finish is shorter than the 2004's, though it's devoid of sweetness. It's mostly big salty smoke with subtle nutty notes.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
Yes, this is good. And I enjoyed it more than the 2005 in the head-to-head. Murray McDavid eschewed its usual awkward cask work which may have been the key to this whisky's success. In fact, kudos to MMcD for pulling this cask before it got all wonky, woody and winey. As it stands (or sits), the whisky is young but it avoids the Mega Mezcal notes baby peaters usually haul out. I wish I'd gotten in on this bottle back in the day (2010!) rather than the 6yo Ledaig I did buy. In any case, thank you, Florin, for sharing your bottle with us!

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 87

Monday, November 4, 2019

Lagavulin 11 year old Offerman Edition

For a few years there was a lot of Parks & Recreation playing in loops on the television  in my living room. Often there was a beautiful pregnant woman sitting across from the television, with interior design magazines and her one cup of tea in hand. Every scene with Ron Swanson was my favorite scene in each episode with my favorite Parks & Rec moment being Ben Wyatt's first sip of Lagavulin (NBC removed the YouTube vid, damn them).

Nick Offerman, the now-bearded gent who played the mustachioed Swanson, loves Lagavulin. The character visited the distillery on the show and the actor stars in YouTube videos for the brand. So successful was this pairing that Diageo gave Offerman the opportunity to create his own Lagavulin expression. Offerman, who seems a more sensitive soul than his character always comes across as humble in interviews, especially during this product's media blitz.

A certain Man With Opinions purchased a bottle of this whisky and sent me a generous sample. (Thank you, MAO!) So today we are doing one of our highly-fêted simul-reviews! Here's MAO's review also posted this morning.


Distillery: Lagavulin
Owner: Diageo
Region: Southern Islay
Age: minimum 11 years
Maturation: ????
Outturn: ???
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? ???
Color added? ???

Since Offerman says he doesn't add water to his whisky, neither shall I.

NOTES
The nose is fruitier than expected, think orange peel and canned peaches. The peat is much gentler than that of its 12-year-old CS sibling, like a soft band-aid smoke floating atop seaside notes. With time in the glass the nose transitions into a bowl of sugary candy and smoked hard caramels. The palate is similar to the nose, walking right up to the border of Too Sweet before some herbal bitterness pulls it back. The peat reads toasty and tangy here. There's also a mix of zippy pepper notes, apricots and vanilla. Tangy woody smoke leads the finish. As with the palate, there's more sugar than salt. Hints of vanilla and dried apricot stay in the background.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
This is the kindest, cuddliest Lagavulin I've ever tried. Whether that's a good thing or not depends on one's palate preferences. I appreciated the nose's fruit notes and sincerely wished they came though louder in the palate. The sweetness was a bit of a surprise and required a few sips before I could adjust to it. One wonders if Nick Offerman's love of carpentry had an influence on the casks he chose, as active American oak influence can be found throughout the whisky. Personally, I'll take the 12yo CS's assault and the 16yo's balance over this whisky's sugar. Still, it's a very pleasant drink and bound to appeal to those who don't normally enjoy Lagavulin.

Availability - Mostly in the US, though a few retailers carry it as well
Pricing - $70-$100 in the US, over $250 in Europe (why?)
Rating - 83

Friday, November 1, 2019

Ledaig 19 year old 1998 Pedro Ximénez Cask Finish

Monday: Ledaig 19 year old Oloroso Cask Finish, 46%abv
Wednesday: Ledaig 19 year old Madeira Cask Finish, 51%abv
Today: Ledaig 19 year old Pedro Ximenez Cask Finish, 55.7%abv

Each of these had different "finish" periods. The Oloroso expression spent 13 years in sherry casks, while Wednesday's bottling spent less than a year in Madeira casks. This whisky's PX cask finish lasted two years, so it was neither a quickie nor an extended second maturation.

I'm usually not a fan of PX finishes, but I'm willing to give this a chance because it's a 19 year old Ledaig. Expectations set to: Moderate.


Distillery: Tobermory
Brand: Ledaig
Owner: Distell International Ltd.
Region: Isle of Mull
Age: 19+ years (9 July 1998 - 2018)
Maturation: bourbon casks for 17+ years, then either "almost" or "more than" two years in Pedro Ximénez casks
Outturn: 1650 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 55.7%
Chillfiltered? No
Colorant Added? No

NEAT
The nose begins with fudge and red wine. Salty seaweedy peat. Calvados, damp moss and a hint of gunpowder. Some raw peated spirit in there too. The palate is more metallic and sweet than peaty. It gets tangier by the minute, like a lemony vinaigrette. Sooty peat and mixed berry jam notes build with time. The finish is puckeringly sweet and tangy. Bits of bitter smoke and berry jam linger behind.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 1¼ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
Peated raspberry jam and roses on the nose, with hints of marizpan and the beach. Peaty berry jam again on the palate. It's still tangy and sweet. It's less metallic now and a little bitterer. The finish matches the palate.

Since I did it for the other two:

DILUTED TO ~40%abv, or 2⅓ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose becomes peatier and brighter. Subtler berry and rose notes. A hint of cold kiln. The palate feels very thin. Mild sweetness and bitterness. Mild peat and dried herbs. It's back to the tangy and sweet thing in the finish. A puff of bitter smoke.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
This was better than I'd expected, in fact the nose was great throughout. I'm not sure how I feel about the metal and vinegar combo in the palate. At least it wasn't winey. Unlike the other two, this one fares best at full strength, even though it has the highest ABV. Overall, it's probably a near tie with the Oloroso expression.

All three of these Ledaigs were of moderate quality. The wood rarely intruded and the grapes mostly stayed out of the palates. While that is more than one can say for the majority of finished whiskies, I'm glad to have split a bottle rather than shilled out $$$ for an entire bottle, especially at the asking price.

Availability - A few dozen retailers in the US and Europe
Pricing - $170-$200 (ex-VAT)
Rating - 84

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Ledaig 19 year old Marsala Cask Finish

Though missing a standard official 18 year old, Ledaig has rolled out twelve small batch releases in four years in the 18-21 year old age range. I took part in a bottle split of three of the 19 year old releases. On Monday I reviewed the Oloroso cask finish, and on Friday I'll review the Pedro Ximenez cask finish. I bring thee the Marsala cask finish today.

That "Marsala" part does not inspire optimism. In my humble opinion, Ardbeg shit the bed with their Marsala cask Galileo release in 2012 and haven't successfully washed the stain out since. While I don't have an issue with wine casks in general, the combination of sweet wine and peat and a brief finish indeed leaves me with a weird taste in my mouth. From what I've read today's whisky spent less than a year in these casks. How will that work with Ledaig's fierce spirit?


Distillery: Tobermory
Brand: Ledaig
Owner: Distell International Ltd.
Region: Isle of Mull
Age: minimum 19 years
Maturation: bourbon casks for 19 years, Marsala casks for ? months
Outturn: ????
Alcohol by Volume: 51%
Chillfiltered? No
Colorant Added? No

NEAT
The nose has more classic peat than that of the Oloroso cask release. Salty seaweed. A boat dock in the summer heat. Hint of apple. But that's it. This is the flattest of the three neat noses. The palate leads with a baking spice note that ramps up with time. Make that a pumpkin spice note. It's hot and salty, though palatable. Tangy and sweet peat. Hint of metal. It gets much sweeter with time. It finishes warm, tangy and peppery, with some cigarettes and metal.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or ⅔ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
A messy nose. Butter, butterscotch, brine, wood smoke and flat peat. The palate's also out of whack. Metal, cinnamon candy, mixed nuts. Very burnt and bitter. The woody burnt bitterness takes over the finish.

40%abv worked for the Oloroso expression so...

DILUTED TO ~40%abv, or 1⅔ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
Citrus peel, brown sugar and pickle brine(!) enter the nose, and somehow work together. The palate softens up. It's less bitter, burnt and metallic. There's a neatness to the peatness, sweetness, tanginess and nuttiness. The finish matches the palate.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
Huh, 40%abv works best for the nose. The palate is fine at 51%abv and 40%abv, but not fine at 46%abv. It's not winey, but there does seem to be something quirky going on with the casks. It's also not really Ledaig-ish.

Since this seems to be a face-off at 40%abv, I'd take the Oloroso version over this one. But this Marsala cask finish is no FAIL. It's more of a WHY? Why the Marsala finish? Why not an 18 year old bourbon cask Ledaig at cask strength? Why do I bother to ask?

Availability - A couple dozen retailers on the Western Hemisphere
Pricing - $150-$190 (ex-VAT)
Rating - 81 (diluted only, but careful with the water!)

Monday, October 28, 2019

Ledaig 19 year old 1998 Oloroso Cask Finish

Tobermory distillery has rolled out a slew of 18+ year old versions of their peated, Ledaig, single malt over the past four years:
  • 18 year old small batches, 1 through 3
  • 19 year old finished in Oloroso casks
  • 19 year old finished in Marsala casks
  • 19 year old finished in PX casks
  • 21 year old finished in Manzanilla casks
  • 21 year old finished in Ruby Port pipes
  • 1996 Vintage
  • 18 year old finished in "Spanish Sherry" casks, distillery only
  • 19 year old finished in Oloroso casks, distillery only
  • 20 year old finished in Moscatel casks, distillery only
It's curious that they haven't just rolled out a regular official 18 and/or 21 year old. Is the above approach more fun? Or is it a path to charge more for their whisky? Or were/are there cask issues? Or someone was inspired by the Bills Lumsden and Walker?

I recently got in on bottle splits of the 19 year old Oloroso, Marsala and PX finishes because I was very curious about the results.



The Oloroso cask bottling is not a "finish" in the current sense. The whisky spent its first six years in bourbon casks, then the next 13 years in Oloroso casks. So it's a secondary maturation, not a quickie fix, but the producer's honesty is appreciated.

The other two 19s this week have briefer finishes than this. And unlike the other two 19s, this whisky was reduced to the Tobermory/Ledaig standard level of 46.3%abv.


Distillery: Tobermory
Brand: Ledaig
Owner: Distell International Ltd.
Region: Isle of Mull
Age: 19+ years (Summer 1998 - 2018)
Maturation: bourbon casks (1998-2004), then Oloroso casks (2004-2018)
Outturn: ????
Alcohol by Volume: 46.3%
Chillfiltered? No
Colorant Added? No

NEAT
The nose is very oceanic; by that I mean actual ocean water. Joining the ocean are notes of smoked salmon & chives, and locker room mustiness. Smaller notes of dark chocolate, lemon zest and charred grill crust linger in the background. The monolithic palate is charry and sooty, loaded with bitter dark chocolate, sea salt and smoked nuts. It gets bitterer and saltier with time. The bitter chocolate transitions to dark chocolate (74% if I'm being an a-hole) in the finish. An apple cider note gets pushed down by salt, soot and bitterness.

This is a near palate-killer at a mere 46.3%abv. I'm going to dilute it...

DILUTED TO ~40%abv, or ~1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky
Though the ocean note takes over the nose, moments of grill smoke, moss and blackberries mingle well. The palate's bitterness improves greatly. Meanwhile there's an added tanginess, a vegetal peat and a slight nuttiness. The finish matches the palate.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
As entertaining as the nose is at bottling strength, the palate was ugly. And not good ugly, more like stunted and unpalatable. The whisky becomes a much better balanced and more approachable drink at 40%abv. So, I certainly recommend dilution.

Still, I expected better. The official 10 year old has good balance, clearer unique characteristics and possibly more complexity than this whisky, and at ⅓ the price. I'm hoping this isn't a hint as to why there isn't a standard 18 year old in the range. How will the other two 19 year olds fare?

Availability - A few European/UK retailers
Pricing - $140-$160 (ex-VAT)
Rating - 84 (diluted only; nearly 5-8 points lower when neat)

Friday, October 25, 2019

Ben Nevis 13 year old 1999 Chieftain's, cask 240

Here's some recycled content!


It's been seven months ago since that post, and this bottle has been a joy throughout. Knowing I wasn't totally delusional in 2012 has proven comforting.

Distillery: Ben Nevis
Region: Highlands (Western)
Independent Bottler: Chieftain's
Age: 13 years old (May 1999 - August 2012)
Maturation: hogshead
Cask: 240
Outturn: 354
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
Added colorant? No

I remember the first third of this sentimental bottle being very clean and fruity (see above) but a touch hot on the palate. Today's tasting pour is from the bottom third...

NOTES
In-season nectarines, pears and mango position themselves in the front of the nose. Ooh, but now some dunnage funk, dirty hay and aged hard cheese drift through the background. Belgian saison, limes and a hint of toffee pudding appear after the whisky has had plenty of time in the glass.

Limes, lemons, guava and tart berries start the palate. A super tart crisp mineral white (adjectives!) wine. Mild sweetness and a silky maltiness. It has shed all of the edgy heat from earlier in the bottle.

The lonnnnng finish holds limes, nectarines, barley and the aforementioned adjectivey white wine.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
The whisky has found its peak, here at the bottom of the bottle. Over these seven months the nose has taken on additional characteristics and the palate has softened up.

This whisky makes me wonder if yeast is one of the keys to Ben Nevis's quality. They're one of the last, if not the last, Scottish distillery to use brewer's yeast. Perhaps those dazzling little microorganisms toot out the precious fruit and funk notes. Cheers to those little farts. I'm going to have to open another Ben Nevis soon.

Availability - Probably sold out four or five years ago
Pricing - it was $70-$75
Rating - 89