...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Ben Nevis 27 year old 1990 Le Gus't, cask 5

When I had first heard this whisky had spent 12 years in a sherry cask then 15 years in a port pipe, I had two simultaneous thoughts:

1.) WTF?, with the "W" = "Why"
2.) Well, at least someone is having fun out there.

I wanted to try it, but its price was too prohibitive for any version of WTF. Happily I was able to get in on a bottle split a couple months ago. As you can see below, the liquid's color is......shall we say, vibrant.


Distillery: Ben Nevis
Region: Highlands (Western)
Independent Bottler: Le Gus't
Series: Selection XV
Age: 27 years old (9 November 1990 - 10 June 2018
Maturation: 12 years in sherry cask(s), then 15 years in a portpipe
Cask #: 5
Outturn: 736
Alcohol by Volume: 58.9%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT
It's still whisky, at least in the nose. While plenty of berry jams and candies waft up from the glass, there's still a distinct musty Ben Nevis note in the mix. There are also green grapes and honeydew. After 30+ minutes additional notes of raspberries and wet dogs appear. It's like Bruichladdich Black Art but better! *ducks flying pans* The palate is plenty hot, and actually sort of hoppy. There's also a strong peppercorn note which is something I usually associate with extra young spirit. It's not as sweet or tannic as I'd expected. There are hints pickle brine and industrial smoke. It gets port-ier with time. Lots of berry jams, again. It finishes with black pepper, brine, heat, industrial smoke and some dried berries.

DILUTED TO ~48%abv, or 1⅓ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
Berries and wine in the nose, then fruity cinnamon, grape bubblegum and PX. A slight peat smoke in the background. More berries than brine in the palate. It's sweeter now, and the tannins still don't overwhelm the rest. The quirky phenolics and hoppy notes remain. It finishes sweet, peppery, hoppy and slightly metallic.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
It's neither a hot mess, nor "so bad it's good". It's as if the Ben Nevis spirit is too wild to be totally submerged, so it lurches out in the form of pickles, dark smoke and beer when one least expects it. So, no, the whisky isn't a well balanced, fully formed thing.

The casketry makes one wonder. It takes more than one sherry cask to fill port pipe, maybe even three hogsheads. How strong was the whisky going into the port pipe? And what kind of warehouse was it? That's a high ABV for 27 total years, and a very high outturn for 15 years in a port pipe. The result is something quite modern, lots of fortified wine extraction sitting atop some rawness. But again, it almost succeeds despite all this because it's Ben Nevis.

I don't adore the thing as much as the Whiskybase community does, but I like more than Sjoerd did. Though I don't know how to score it, I'm happy with having only bought 2 ounces worth.

Availability - European specialty retailers, though it's close to selling out
Pricing - €180-€210, I think
Rating - 83 (maybe?)

Friday, April 3, 2020

Yamazaki Mizunara Cask 2012 Edition


This was the one I had wanted. The Mizunara Cask. All you Fedora fu---, um, followers could chase the annual Sherry Casks for the rest of time. And whoever wanted the Bourbon Barrel could have 'em.

Then I never got a bottle. Then life went on. And now, in 2020, I have a sample.

Scheduled two months before it occurred, the highly anticipated tasting turned out to be neither deeply mystical nor solemn. Exhaustion had set in long before the girls' bedtime, as is the case with every quarantine evening. Exhaustion for Papa, that is. In order to keep our girls from blasting off every night we have to duct tape them to their beds. I'm kidding. We duct tape them to the basement floor.

The point is, to quote Lili Von Shtupp, I'm so tired. So I drank my Yamazaki Mizunara Cask casually while staring at the internets mindlessly. It was great. Actually I don't even remember that night and it was Tuesday. Living The Dream.

Distillery: Yamazaki
Ownership: Beam Suntory
Region: Oyamazaki, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan
Age: ???
Maturation: matured entirely in Mizunara oak casks (allegedly)
Annual Edition: 2012
Alcohol by Volume: 48%
Chillfiltered? No
Added colorant? ???
(Thank you to Secret Agent Man for the sample!)

NOTES
The nose is very malty. Barley, pilsner, some hazelnuts. Anise candy, saline and roasted potatoes. A hint of snuffed incense. The palate has a mix of toffee and white fruit sweetness, with delicate baking spice notes lingering in the background. Candied ginger, wort and dunnage. After 30 minutes, a distinct note of a Belgian sour beer begins to develop. The beer note then drifts towards stout in the finish. Then anise, ginger and some tangy berries. The nose's maltiness returns at the end.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
Less spicy and exotic than I'd anticipated; less cerebral, too. Instead, it's a just a very nice drink, and one of the most beer-y whiskies I've had. I'll bet it's a good match for any of the beers referenced in the notes, which is neat because the whisky costs only $2000-$4000. Hopefully that didn't make you spit-take your first pour from your Mizunara bottle. Kanpai!

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - Money, lots of Money
Rating - 88

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Willett Family Estate 24 year old 1984 Single Barrel Rye, barrel 637

This is one of my Apocalypse Pours. My family is safe and healthy but I know of other families that are not. So what the hell.


Here's one of the old Willett gems some American fellows speak of in whispers or flip for thousands of bones. This barrel was selected by Bonili, a Japanese distributor, during Willett's early wax top years. I've heard it referred to as 24/110. It may have been distilled at Old Bardstown Distillery, or perhaps on the surface of Ganymede. In either case, this stuff ain't bein' distilled no more.

BottlerKentucky Bourbon Distillers, Ltd. (a.k.a. Willett)
Range: Family Estate Single Barrel (WFE)
Distillery: Old Bardstown?
Type: Straight Rye Whiskey
Age24 years
MaturationWhite Oak
RegionKentucky
Barrel: 637
Outturn: 264
Selected by: Bonili Japan Co., Ltid.
Alcohol by Volume55%
(888 thank yous to Secret Agent Man for sharing!)

The nose begins with rye bread, Irish soda bread, fennel seed, cherry shisha and antique shop (the big furniture room). A caramel sauce-laden ice cream sundae. Old armagnac spilled on old newspapers. It reads very dusty, as if it were from the '50s or '60s rather than the '80s.

On the palate, the oak has travelled far beyond the boring bitterness of Diageo's 15-25 year old Orphan Barrels, and into a dense medicinal realm. Eucalyptus, mint and arugula leaves. Its earthiness is balanced by a Dr. Brown's cherry soda sweetness. After 45 minutes it tilts savory and picks up some curry-like spices.

The finish ditches the sweetness for medicine and earth. More eucalyptus and mint leaves. Hints of cigarette smoke in the back ground.

There's always a sparring whisky on hand for every tasting here. But this time I had nothing to compare this to. I pulled wee pours of 8 and 12 year old Willett single bourbon casks, but those knelt sheepishly in the shadow of this 24yo. As per notes above, this had such a romantic dusty edge that it felt like it was distilled one or two generations earlier than it actually was. Its syrup-thick concentrated texture may have been the rye's loveliest element. If one could hold time in a glass...

Availability - ???
Pricing - ???
Rating - 91

Friday, March 27, 2020

Killing Whisky History, Episode 30: MacDonald's Glencoe Malt Whisky, two bottles a half-century apart

Well, I'm home. And you're probably home too. And home is where the whisky is. 'Tis a wonder it took only two weeks for a Killing Whisky History episode to be birthed.

Because of the times, this episode is a little light on history but heavy on alcohol. To be more specific, there are two bounteous pours from freshly opened MacDonald's Glencoe Blended Malts. Ben Nevis malt is at the heart of both whiskies, one is a mini from the '60s/'70s, the other is a 750mL bottle from the late Teens.

Please enjoy, THE BOMB SHELTER EDITION.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Life of a Whisky Bottle: Tobermory 10 year old (2015)

The 46.3%abv version of Tobermory 10 year old succeeds as a unique and spirit-forward single malt. Since this whisky was rebooted as a higher ABV, unchillfiltered expression in 2010, both Burn Stewart Distillers have Distell Group resisted trying to turn it into something cuddlier and more commercial. So it was with plenty of joy that I opened my bottle four months ago. But by the end of the bottle, that pleasure drifted to exhaustion. More on that in a bit.

I pulled samples from the very top of the bottle in early November 2019, then at the midpoint in January 2020, then at its very bottom last week. These three pours were tried side-by-side so I could observe how the whisky progressed with time and oxygen.

Distillery: Tobermory
Brand: Tobermory
Owner: Distell International
Region: Isle of Mull
Age: minimum 10 years
Maturation: American oak casks
Bottle code: PO33859 L5 10:22 15097
Bottling year: 2015, I think
Alcohol by Volume: 46.3%
Chillfiltered? No
Color added? No
(from my bottle)

Top of the bottle sample from November 2019
Nose - A mix of pear and barley eau de vies. Heck, throw in Slivovitz too. Juniper, lavender flowers, mint leaves, sugar and a hint of yeast.

Palate - Lots of barley. Saltines and a bitter herbal liqueur. A gentle sweetness and tartness.

Finish - Saltines, raw almonds and a mild sweetness.



Middle of the bottle sample from January 2020
Nose - Brighter and a little more rounded. Flower blossoms, brown sugar and citronella candles. There's also a curious raisin note and flour dust. Though the barley supposedly has a peat measure of 0-2ppm, a definite peat-like phenolic note appears after 15 minutes.

Palate - Tart lemons, brown sugar, horseradish and chewed grass start things off. With time in the glass, the whisky develops notes of roasted sweet potato, raw almonds and Slivovitz.

Finish -  There's the peat-ish note again. Then horseradish, wort and a growing sweetness.



Bottom of the bottle sample from March 2020
Nose - Drifting back towards new make, it smells floral and grassy. Small notes of chicken broth and citronella linger in the background. The peat note has disappeared.

Palate - Milder now. Moderate tartness and bitterness. Lemons, grass and malt. Toasted grains and nuts.

Finish - Soft, grassy and malty, with a hint of lemon cookies.



CONCLUSIONS
Though I was excited to start this whisky in November, I'd gotten desperate to finish it in March. In fact, this review was supposed to happen three weeks ago but I just couldn't bring myself to drink anymore of it for fun. And that's a problem.

There's a bit of confirmation bias here, probably. I tend to like whiskies best at mid-bottle, and sure enough that was the best spot for this one. By then the whisky had gained some interesting angles and the peat-like notes gave it much-needed depth. I doubt those characteristics lasted long.

While I cannot deny that young Tobermory is truly its own animal and I applaud the honest, naked nature of this official bottling, I have no interest in ever buying it again. Perhaps my palate has changed, or maybe this stuff drinks better in late spring, or clearer signs of mortality have made me fussier about my poisons, but there was no thrill to be found in this bottle.

Availability - Worldwide, though possibly being phased out for the 12yo
Pricing - $45 - $65
Rating - 82 (and only at mid-bottle)

Friday, March 20, 2020

Redbreast Small Batch D

If you're reading this now, you have made it to Friday. Congratulations! Time to weaken your immune system with whiskey.

No fails in the first three Redbreast Small Batches. And *SPOILER ALERT* this one passed muster as well. Kudos to everyone who nabbed one or more of these whiskies five months ago. Their secondary market prices are a primary bummer, but that is how it goes today.

Batch A - "Modern scotch-styled Irish pot still”, 85 points
Batch B - "Chocolate, fruit and flowers", 88 points.
Batch C - "The birdy gets dirty" (sorry not sorry), 89 points
Batch D - ......


Distillery: Midleton
Brand: Redbreast
Region: Cork, Ireland
Type: Single Pot Still
Age: at least 14 years
Maturation: bourbon casks and oloroso sherry casks
Batch: D
Bottled for: Oak + Violet, Bounty Hunter Wine & Spirits, Redstone Liquors and Julio's Liquors
Outturn: 252 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 58.9%
Chillfiltered? ???
Color added? ???
(from a bottle split)

NOTES
Like Batch B, D has plenty of sherry cask action on its nose. Not raisiny or pruny, rather dried cherries and raspberries in dark chocolate. More honey than grape jam. Hints of mustard and steak emerge after 30 minutes. The palate ditches those last notes for a cleaner character, at first. Lots of nuts and dried fruit. Lime juice and a good bitterness. But it gets a little edgier with time, gaining small notes of earth and salted pork. It finishes with limes, dried blueberries, nuts, cayenne pepper and a minor metallic note.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
Batch D could be great on its own, but next to batches B and C it becomes merely very good. C is grittier, B is brighter. Both are probably more complex. Still, I like D's transition from light to dark, and though the nose is simple it is simply enjoyable. Obviously the scores of the four whiskies barely vary, so any one of these could top the others depending on the day and the drinking circumstances. The strong Redbreast quality is present in all four. Perhaps Pernod could do a few more small batches for, say, Ohio?

Final score card:

Batch A - "Modern scotch-styled Irish pot still”, 85 points
Batch B - "Chocolate, fruit and flowers", 88 points.
Batch C - "The birdy gets dirty" (sorry not sorry), 89 points
Batch D - "Simply enjoyable", 86 points.

Availability - US of A
Pricing - it was $100
Rating - 86

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Redbreast Small Batch C

Onward to Redbreast Small Batch C, and quick word about pricing. Of course.

....

....

Wait for it.

......

These small batches were priced fairly.

Each of the four 14 year old cask strength batches had the outturn of a single hogshead. One bottle cost $100 dollars. Redbreast's regular 15 year old is mass produced and diluted, but it costs $120 a pop in Ohio. Or in the rest of the USA it averages $98, per Wine Searcher. The 12 year old cask strength which is released in much larger batches and is regularly available clocks in at $81 on average. The 16yo single sherry cask Master of Malt of was slinging to years ago? Its outturn was two of the 14yo small batches combined, yet cost nearly $200. In fact there were several of those 2001 sherry casks floating around the UK/Ireland market, and they now carry $350-$400 burdens on the secondary market.

Maybe that was a lot of slow words, but I did try to keep them short.

Batch A - "Modern scotch-styled Irish pot still”, 85 points
Batch B - "Chocolate, fruit and flowers", 88 points.
Batch C - .......


Distillery: Midleton
Brand: Redbreast
Region: Cork, Ireland
Type: Single Pot Still
Age: at least 14 years
Maturation: bourbon casks and oloroso sherry casks
Batch: C
Bottled for: Title Town and Blackwell's Wines & Spirits
Outturn: 252 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 59.1%
Chillfiltered? ???
Color added? ???
(from a bottle split)

NOTES
The nose is a little tighter than A's & B's, taking at least ten minutes to lift off. Once it does, there are dried berries, almonds, ginger ale and dried apricots. Countering those perky notes is an earthy note and something oily-ish Clynelish-ish. That latter note shows up in the palate as well, industrial, almost smoky. Getting close to Powers territory too. It's also nutty and limey. Small notes of dark chocolate, berries and chile peppers. After about 20 minutes it shifts gears as tart citrus tumbles in alongside a glowing herbal bitterness. Chile peppers and walnuts finish up matters, followed by a squirt of lemon, a little bit of sweetness and a good dose of herbal bitterness.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
Here my experience parts with how the whisky was officially described — "showcasing exotic fruit and toasted wood flavors" — and for the better, really. Batch C is more complex than A and B, and it takes some time to get there. It was worth the wait, as it may be the darkest style of Redbreast I've had. It actually has the least direct wood and fruit notes of the four batches, leaning heavier on oily spirit, herbs and a bit of the 27yo's tartness. Another excellent batch.

Availability - US of A
Pricing - it was $100
Rating - 89

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Redbreast Small Batch B

On Tuesday I reviewed the first of four recent cask strength small batch single pot still Redbreasts. Though I missed out on their simultaneous release, I was able to get in on a group bottle split. I tried all four side-by-side to get a better perspective of these whiskies. Each was different than the next, which in itself is an impressive bit of blending. Here's the scorecard so far:

Batch A - "Modern scotch-styled Irish pot still”, 85 points.
Batch B - .......




Distillery: Midleton
Brand: Redbreast
Region: Cork, Ireland
Type: Single Pot Still
Age: at least 14 years
Maturation: bourbon casks and oloroso sherry casks
Batch: B
Bottled for: K&L Wine Merchants and Gordon's
Outturn: 252 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 57.2%
Chillfiltered? ???
Color added? ???
(from a bottle split)

NOTES
The nose is very milk chocolatey. Think Hershey's Kisses and Milk Duds. There's also some orange peel, circus peanuts, saline and a slight rosy note. Musty sherry cask and lime zest emerge with time. Bright fruits and florals emerge from the palate first. Tangy oranges and peaches. Pear juice. Cranberry juice with Angostura bitters. Toasted grains and toasted oak. It finishes with nut butters, dried cranberries, peach skin and pinch of cayenne pepper.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
This batch, bottled for K&L, was described as "having added depth from sherry cask maturation", per Whisky Advocate. That's a pretty safe description and, yes, the sherry casks do some good work here.  But so do the bourbon casks. While the nose seems to hint at a complete sherry bomb, the palate instead reveals some great juicy fresh fruits. I dare say this has the best palate of the four, and also the most flamboyant. I'm a sucker for fruity whiskies, from any country, so this was a very easy drink. It's too bad I missed out on a full bottle of this one.

Availability - US of A
Pricing - it was $100
Rating - 88

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Redbreast Small Batch A

Though Irish was my first whisk(e)y love, I stopped paying attention to that category at least five years ago. It's not because it became popular, rather none of Midleton's one or two dozen new inventions sounded remotely interesting, and I was uninspired by Cooley/Teeling's regular output.

As a result of this behavior, I missed out on four cask strength actual-small-batch releases by Redbreast, the one brand I always enjoy. And by "actual" I mean there were a total of 1000 bottles between the four batches. These bottles were split between eleven retailers in San Francisco, San Diego and Boston. All four were 14 or more years old and a mix of bourbon and oloroso casks.

Thankfully I was able to get in on a bottle split and try all four side-by-side.

First up, Batch A...


Distillery: Midleton
Brand: Redbreast
Region: Cork, Ireland
Type: Single Pot Still
Age: at least 14 years
Maturation: bourbon casks and oloroso sherry casks
Batch: A
Bottled for: Julio's Liquors and Redstone Liquors
Outturn: 252 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 58.6%
Chillfiltered? ???
Color added? ???
(from a bottle split)

NOTES
The first thing I notice about the nose is that it's very "scotch", like a late-teenage first-fill bourbon barrel Speyside. Butterscotch and oak spice, rather than vanilla. White nectarines, lychee candy and pencil shavings. Hints of blossoms and dried apricot. There's very little heat in the palate, considering the ABV. There's oak spice, fresh ginger, halvah, honey, Cara Cara oranges and a creamy vanilla note. After 30ish minutes the whiskey is all ginger+honey+oak spice. The finish follows a similar pattern. Oranges, honey, almonds, ginger and caramel.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
Per Whisky Advocate, Batch A is described as "wood-driven". While I agree, the whiskey is more rounded and pleasing than the sound of that phrase. It trends towards toasted spices (as noted repeatedly) rather than sawdust, tannins and capital "V" Vanilla. The honey and oranges are also a nice touch. It's a modern, undemanding but tasty whiskey, something that will appeal to casual single malt scotch fans. Those looking for vibrant sherry casks will have to look elsewhere....

Availability - US of A
Pricing - it was $100
Rating - 85

Monday, March 16, 2020

Redbreast 27 year old, batch B1/19

Since some of us are shut in our homes with our children during this St. Patrick's Day Week, I elected to keep us buoyant with All Kinds of Redbreast. Five days, Five RBs.



It seems as if Midleton (and Pernod Ricard) have suddenly embraced the ultra-luxury market after seeing scotch's success. There are now 20+, 30+, 40+ year old cask strength pot still whiskies flashing through the markets. Redbreast 27-year-old sells for $500 and up, sitting at the base of this new category's price spectrum.

The marketing material focuses on the whiskey being "enriched by Ruby Port Casks". To get the real(?) scoop, one will have more luck reading this Master of Malt blog post. The highlights:
What we have here is a combination of four cask types: first-still[sp] bourbon and refill bourbon, first-fill oloroso sherry casks and first-fill ruby Port pipes”...
...Today, Irish Distillers now imports between 40-60 European oak 500 litre port pipes annually. The wood is medium-toasted and seasoned with red wine for approximately 12 months before ruby Port is added for approximately 12 months. [Head of maturation Kevin] O’Gorman explained that the process was a response to “the challenge of seasoning Port. If you put it into a virgin oak cask, you’re going to get a major wood contribution. One of the techniques we figured out right from the start was that we needed to take some of these tannins and wood compounds out from the start,” O’Gorman explains.
I like that their head of maturation actually wants to reduce "major wood contribution", taking some "tannins and wood compounds out from the start". That sounds almost scandalous in the modern whisk(e)y era. Time to find out if he was successful.

The times
Distillery: Midleton
Brand: Redbreast
Region: Cork, Ireland
Type: Single Pot Still
Age: minimum 27 years
Maturation: first-fill and refill bourbon casks, first-fill oloroso sherry casks and first-fill ruby Port pipes (see above for more details)
Outturn: 528 bottles
Batch: B1/19
Alcohol by Volume: 54.6%
Chillfiltered? ???
Color added? ???
(from a bottle split)

NEAT
The nose begins with mango, grapefruit, newspaper print and wheatgrass. Then cantaloupe and yellow peaches. The fruit notes grow muskier with time, and are then joined by hints of white chocolate and dunnage. It's reminiscent of old Longmorn and older cognac. Oak spice hits the palate first, then is trampled by gorgeously tart fruits, reflecting the nose's tropicals, citruses and stones. Then come the roses and an intensely mineral white wine. Salt appears after 45 minutes, as do mint leaves and Werther's Originals, but it never loses that vigorous tartness. The finish is loaded with mango, grapefruit and lime juices. Roses and butterscotch pudding. A hint of peach pit.

DILUTED TO ~50%abv, or >½ tsp of water per 30mL whiskey
The nose remains similar. Maybe some brighter fresh stone fruit notes. Some toffee. Guava rather than mango. A new fresh herbal note jumps with the palate's tart fruits. Thyme, rosemary, cardamom, lemons and grapefruits. A pop of chile heat, a spoon of cherry jam. The cherry note joins the tropical fruit and limes in the finish, underscored by that peach pit bitterness.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
This is fabulous. Its price made me want to hate it, but it's just too freaking lovable. Kristen took a sip and then said, "More." It's all about the fruits and the herbs and flowers and the minerals, rather than fortified wines or vanilla. As I mentioned in my nosing notes, this Redbreast reminded me of other gracefully matured spirits of even greater ages. Impressive cask management here. I'm going to say the Midleton crew was successful.

Availability - US and Europe
Pricing - $450 - $650
Rating - 92

Friday, March 13, 2020

Hanyu 15 year old 2000 Ichiro's Malt, The Final Vintage

After having produced sake for three centuries, the Akuto family founded the Hanyu distillery during World War II. Though they gained a post-war license to distill, Hanyu focused entirely on grain whisky until 1980 when two pot stills were installed. The distillery was closed in 2000, then dismantled in 2004. Ichiro Akuto bought up the remaining stock and has since released it under his brand, Ichiro's Malt. He also went into the family business in 2004 with the opening of his Chichibu distillery.

This will be my first Hanyu experience, and probably my last unless I can find a pour whenever I go back to Japan. Please don't look at the prices of Hanyus on the secondary market. They will make you cry.


Distillery: Hanyu
Bottler: Ichiro Akuto
Region: Japan, Saitama Prefecture
Age: 15 years (2000 - 2015)
Maturation: ???
Outturn: 3710
Alcohol by Volume: 46.5%
(from a bottle split)

NOTES
The nose begins with digestive biscuits, anise and mint. Loose genmaicha, cloves and an ultra-nutty sherry (Amontillado?). Fresh hay, dried parsley and dried thyme. Whiffs of mocha and toffee puddings appear after some time. The austere(!) palate starts off very nutty as well, but more on raw nuts than toasted ones. Perhaps walnuts and almonds. Hints of flowers and ginger beer. A bitter stout. It gradually develops tart citrus and hops notes after 30+ minutes in the glass. The long, warm finish has that hops note as well, along with citrus, flowers, molasses, black pepper and something almost smoky.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
This lean striking Hanyu drifts away from familiar single malt characteristics into dry sherry and Charbay-like distilled beer territory. Though I just typed those words, I'm not sure I agree with them, such are the unique qualities of this whisky. If you do get a chance to try this whisky, I highly encourage you not to add water since it turns tannic and papery with just a few drops. Ichiro may have found the best ABV right at 46.5%. In any case, I appreciate trying something so different, and I wish I had more of this to study!

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - High
Rating - 88 (neat only)

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Glen Flagler 100% Pot Still All-Malt Scotch (black label)

Ah yes, my first and last Glen Flagler. There were several of these "100% Pot Still" "All-Malt" releases, some apparently better than others. Here's a terrible picture of the bottle from which today's sample comes:


You may be wondering what the heck is a "Glen Flagler". It was a single malt distilled from 1965 to 1985 by Inver House in a set of pot stills next to the Garnheath grain whisky distillery in the Moffat facility in the Lowlands. That same facility also produced Killyloch and Islebrae single malts, though for an even shorter period of time. Though Glen Flagler was primarily dumped into Inver House's blended whiskies (Pinwhinnie!), it did escape intact in these All-Malt bottlings as well as about a dozen independent releases.


Distillery: Glen Flagler
Ownership: Inver House Distillers
Region: Lowlands
Age: ???
Maturation: ???
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
Chillfiltered? ???
Colorant added? probably not
(sample from a paid LASC event)

NOTES
The nose starts off light and fruity with a slight industrial edge, like a dusty Irish blend. There are yellow peaches, dried apricots, honey and limes. It picks up an OBE metallic edge with time in the glass. The palate has a minty creme note, followed by a lemon creme note. Touches of vanilla extract and brown sugar. More citrus notes with time, tilting towards freshly baked lemon bars. It also has a bit of the nose's industrial note that makes it read faintly smoky. The surprisingly long finish is moderately sweet and tart, think lemons and clementines. A hint of bitterness lends it some complexity.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
With its silky mouthfeel and generous finish, this Glen Flagler pulls all it can out of its 40%abv. It's a very pleasant and gentle whisky that probably would have found some success two decades after the distillery closed. The Lowlands could use a good whisky like this particular bottling which is considerably better than most (or all) official things coming out of Glenkinchie and Auchentoshan. I can't promise all Glen Flagler is this good, but I hope folks will open, enjoy and share the remaining bottles out there.

Availability - ???
Pricing - ???
Rating - 86

Monday, March 9, 2020

Croftengea 12 year old 2006 The Daily Dram Poisonous Frog Series

Yes, this one of those confusing independent bottlings that does not have a drawing of naked woman on the label. I know, you're asking yourself, "How am I supposed to know it's indie scotch without there being boobies on the bottle?"

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Maybe you can jerk it to the Poisonous Dart Frog instead.

source
I don't really know what these amphibians have to do with single malt whisky either, but if any whisky would be secreted by a poisonous frog it would be Loch Lomond. ❦❦❦❦❦  I love me some Croftengea, Loch Lomond's heavily-peated single malt, and this will be the oldest one I've had yet.


Distillery: Loch Lomond
Brand: Croftengea
Owner: Loch Lomond Distillery Company
Region: Highlands (Western)
Independent bottler: The Daily Dram
Range: Poisonous Frogs
Age: 12 years (2006 - 2018)
Maturation: bourbon cask
Alcohol by Volume: 51.6%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT
It noses like nothing else thanks to its dose of Loch Lomond Grimy Weird™. There's some manure and flowers (they have to grow somewhere). Lemons, grilled pineapple and citronella candles. It picks up hints of honeydew and vanilla bean with 30+ minutes in the glass. The palate's peat is very salty, as if it had been soaked in the ocean for decades. There's plenty of malt. A bit of whole wheat toast and burnt pie crust. Tapioca pudding and peanut butter(!). It finishes with a salty, mellow peat smoke, a good bitterness and tart citrus. Toasted barley and burnt pie crust.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or ¾ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose gets toastier. Campfire, honey on biscuits, barley and moss. The palate picks up more herbal bitterness and Thai chiles. A little bit of vanilla frosting, but not too sweet. Some earth and metal in the background. It finishes with wood smoke, pepper, salt, sugar, earth and herbs.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
Since Ledaig had to go and get itself cleaned up two decades ago, Croftengea has become King of Crust Punk scotch (with no apologies to Finlaggan). The characteristics in this particular single cask probably shouldn't work together, but they do. In fact, it's a strange dirty delight. Water does calm it down a bit, polishing it up to something more commercially viable. If Loch Lomond doesn't become the next hip thing, then I look forward to Croftengea at ages 15-20. Meanwhile 8-12yrs will do just fine.

Availability - Some Continental Europe retailers
Pricing - €75-€85ish
Rating - 87

Friday, March 6, 2020

Springbank 18 year old 1996 Fresh Oloroso Sherry, cask 313-5

The first two Springbanks this week were light on cask influence and light in color. This third one, well...

Today's whisky is also the oldest of the three, and the most sherried. It was also part of that wave of Springbank single casks that burst through the $200 price ceiling, right on up to the $300 marker. From 2010-2013, we Americans were used to seeing 12-15yo single cask Springers selling for $90-$120, and 17s @ $150. By the end of 2015 we saw 19s going for $280-$300.

Those whiskies didn't sell fast, in fact I saw almost a half dozen of them on a retailer's shelves last month. (No I didn't buy any, even though they're even more expensive on the secondary market.) Quality-wise, some that I've tried have been very good. Will this one be among that number?


Distillery: Springbank
Brand: Springbank
Region: Campbeltown
Age: 18 years (November 1996 - March 2015)
Maturation: fresh oloroso sherry cask (a butt, probably)
Outturn: 528 bottles
Bottled for: Hanseatische Weinhandelsgesellschaft Bremen
Alcohol by Volume: 56.1%
Chillfiltered? No
Color added? No
(from a bottle split)

NEAT
Wow, this nose is huge. And yes, sulfurous, though more along appealing meaty lines (think Benrinnes/Craigellachie/Mortlach) than gunpowder. There are also dried apricots, lemon bars, dark chocolate and raspberry jam. It's also very peaty. Kristen said it smelled like the old Cabbage Patch Kid dolls. I thought she was going to say 'cabbage'. The palate is just as gregarious, but it's lighter on sulfur and heavier on smoke. There are dates, limes, chocolate jelly rings. Mangoes(!) and salt. Bitter herbs and spicy cigars. Dates and candied bacon in the finish, along with lime candy, bitter herbs and a moderate smoke level.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 1⅓ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The simpler nose focuses on smoke, moss, sulfur, charred beef and raisins. The palate ditches some of the sweetness and smoke. More on ginger and bitter herbs. Cayenne pepper, dried cranberries and currants. Smoke, honey, dried currants and Tabasco sauce in the finish.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
This was a monster compared to this week's other two Springbanks, an unhinged sherried terror that could stink up a room in seconds. I loved it. Gotta keep it neat to soak it all in. Is it a clean, flawless sherry cask? Nope. Does it result in an expansive, fulfilling sensory experience? Absolutely. Is it expensive? Yah.

Availability - ???
Pricing - probably around $300
Rating - 90

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Springbank 10 year old Local Barley, 2017 release

I loved, LOVED, Springbank's 16 year old Local Barley release, and I'm certain I scored it too low. Then I liked, LIKED, their followup, the 11 year old Local Barley. So it's about time I wrote something about their third Local Barley.

If I'm not mistaken, the Local Barleys were to be a five-part series, and the fifth release dropped a couple months ago. While I hope the LBs continue, but I doubt I'm ever gong to buy another bottle. As with the 11yo, the 10's price tag did not inspire me to make a purchase. I don't blame that on Springbank, it's more an issue with their importer, and the irrational exuberance of the secondary market. But I am thankful to have gotten in on a bottle split of this third edition.


Distillery: Springbank
Brand: Springbank
Owner: Springbank Distillers Ltd.
Region: Campbeltown, on Well Close, just off of Longrow
Age: 10 years (June 2007 - November 2017)
Barley: Belgravia, from West Backs Fram
Maturation: 70% bourbon casks and 30% ex-sherry casks
Outturn: 9,000 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 57.3%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT
The nose is young and barleyful. Peach candy, flower blossoms and LOTS of citronella. Fresh basil and thyme. More moss and dried leaves than peat. The palate is very clean, fruity and pretty. Grapefruits, kiwis, pineapples and lemons. It never gets too sweet and it's nearly peat-free. The finish mirrors the palate, with maybe a little more tart citrus. A bit brief though.

DILUTED TO 46%abv, or 1½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
Getting even closer to newmake now. Toasted barley, wort and eau de vie lead the nose. Cinnamon (cassia bark) and gentle wood smoke linger underneath. Eau de vie leads the palate as well. Then yeast, sweet apples, saltines, cucumber skin and cassia bark. The sweet finish is all barley, yeast and cassia.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
Can a whisky be cute? Because this is an adorable little baby whisky. Yeah it has a 10 year old age statement but it comes across about half that age, yet it's still a quality drink and I enjoy having a chance to have something from Springbank that's so close to the spirit. Like Monday's rum cask Springbank, it's missing depth/complexity/angles/etc though it's still very pleasant. A shame about the price. Again.

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - probably near $200
Rating - 84

Monday, March 2, 2020

Springbank 15 year old 2003 Rum Cask Matured

It's been two whole months since I've posted something about Springbank and I'm sure you're all feeling the lack, so here's a week of Springbank to refill your thrill.

Today I'm reviewing the recently released small batch of cask strength rum-barreled 15yo Springbank. This bottling was hot stuff in Facebook group and secondary market circles, orbits separate from those in which the majority of whisky fans travel. So I don't know how excited everyone else is or was about the release, or how many people actually heard of it.

The bottle:

The deets:

Thank you to Secret Agent Man for the sample!

NEAT
The nose starts off with honeydew and mint leaves, with hints of flower blossoms and wood smoke in the background. With time, it picks up notes of gummi bears and old oily Highland malt whisky. The dirtier, earthier palate has more of that note that I'll call Clynelish-ish. It's also very zesty, with tangy limes and tart apples. A slight bready note and a little bit of light rum appear after a while. It has a well-balanced finish with moderate bitterness and sweetness, along with the tart limes and apples and just a hint of metal.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or ⅔ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
Now bolder and funkier, the nose shows more oils and metals; something darkly organic as well (more Worthy Park than Hampden if I'm going to be an asshole about it). Then cardamom, toasted oak and honey butter. The simplified palate has bits of salt, sugar, bitter herbs, earth and tart citrus. It finishes with citrus, herbal bitterness and mild sweetness.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
That these barrels remained mellow may be the key to the quality of this Springbank. It's crisp and almost refreshing, while also having a darker side that keeps it from sliding into Glenmorangie territory. Had I the standard 15yo, I would have certainly compared the two because I think I might like this one better. It's not the best thing coming from Campbeltown, as it lacks the complexity that even the standard 10 displays, but it's a very good drinker. Just beware of those prices!

Availability - Europe and the US
Pricing - $150-$200
Rating - 86

Friday, February 28, 2020

Laphroaig PX Cask

During that fateful second evening at Malt Bar South Park three years ago, Odin and I discussed the progression of Ardbeg's and Laphroaig's whisky over the past four decades. In fact, we may have segued from laughing about those two Islays' recent wacky casketry and spirit shifts to talking about Kavalan, then progressing to Omar. Thus when I finally got around to scheduling my tasting of two Omars, I elected to partner them with a current Laphroaig.

Laphroaig PX Cask is sold in big ol' litre bottles at many travel retail stores. Is it aged entirely in Pedro Ximémez casks? Of course not, that's not Modern Laphroaig. It's basically Triple Wood, but ending up in PX casks, rather than Oloroso, after it passes through "American oak" casks and Beam's beloved quarter casks.

I tried this Laphroaig once before at a whisky event seven years ago. My old notes list anise, tar, salt, sugar and sherry. May I find more of the earlier notes and fewer of the latter...

Distillery: Laphroaig
Owner: Beam Suntory
Region: Islay
Age: NAS
Maturation: "American oak" casks, then quarter casks, then Pedro Ximémez casks
Alcohol by Volume: 48%
Chill-filtration? ???
Caramel colored? Probably
(from a sample pilfered at a recent event, thank you Curtis!)

NEAT
There's lots of rubber in the nose, then tar. Then more rubber. Mixed berry jam and burning tires. A hint of smoked salmon. More rubber. It's as if someone made brandied cherries with the lighter version of Hampden rum and went overboard with the sugar. A lot of the same in the palate: ash, rubber, sugar, burnt grape jam, some sugar-doped rum. Imitation vanilla extract. A sickly sweet edge builds with time. The finish is very peppery, very ashy and very sweet. A big dose of cheap cream sherry.

DILUTED TO ~43%abv, or ⅔ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose... Oh god, that was a bad idea. Buttery baby poop and eggy sulfur. Mint candy, simple syrup and brine. The palate is tannic as hell and brutally sugary. There's some ash and bitterness too. The finish matches the palate, regrettably.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
This is the worst Laphroaig I've ever had the displeasure of trying. At least the Select is just a *shrug*, only offensive on principle. With a nose more rubbery than a clown's and a finish sweeter than a bottom shelf liqueur, the PX Cask is drinkable when neat, if you've previously burnt your tastebuds off your face. Once diluted, it's gross. It's unfortunate. It's punishment. It made me nauseous. Omar wins the week.

Availability - Travel retail
Pricing - why
Rating - 65 (neat only; it swims in the 30s)

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Omar Sherry Type Taiwanese Single Malt


There's Omar Little. And here's a little Omar:


I bought this sample during Master of Malt's final days of US shipping. Some perspective was going to be needed once the Bourbon Type bottle was opened. Well, that 700mL has been opened, and enjoyed. The world (or just I) was ready for a comparison of the Sherry and Bourbon Types.

Distillery: Nantou
Owner: TTL, which is owned by the ROC
Brand: Omar
Region: Nantou, Taiwan
Age: 7 years or younger
Maturation: sherry casks
Bottling Date: 2018 or earlier
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltration? ???
Colorant? ???
(from a purchased sample)

NEAT
There are no generic raisiny notes in the nose, instead it's a little meaty: beef broth and jerky, ground mustard seed. There's also plenty of yeast and spun sugar. Some maple syrup and pencil eraser. The palate has some of the nose's mustard seed note, but then heads off in its own direction. Lemon juice and a big crazy bitterness (from the spirit and the oak) follow bursts of ginger ale and cream soda. Then walnuts, a slight mineral note and more vanilla than the Bourbon Type. It finishes with a woody bitterness, or a bitter woodiness, then some vanilla + sugar. Minerals and walnuts in the background.

DILUTED TO ~40%abv, or < 1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose becomes nuttier, with a hint of cherry candy. A little bit of maple syrup. Less beef, more mustard. Similar to the neat version, but quieter, the palate does add some tangy dried apricots, dried cranberries and oak spice. Less bitterness but still tannic. It finishes yeasty and tannic, sweeter than when neat. Some maple and vanilla.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
On a positive note this isn't a boring sherried thing. Yet it's woodier and more vanilla-ed than the Bourbon Type. I think it improves when diluted as all its facets start tilting towards an American whiskey-style at 40%abv. Overall there's just too much oak extraction present in this expression, especially when compared to the Bourbon Type. I recognize the unevenness of this comparison, a full bottle of one and a small sample of the other, but I'm not sure how many pours of the Sherry Type I'd desire beyond one.

Availability - Asia, Europe and the United States
Pricing - $35 to $95, depending on the country
Rating - 77

Monday, February 24, 2020

Bottle Review: Omar Bourbon Type Taiwanese Single Malt

Three years ago, in a now-defunct but eternally glorious Nakano whisky bar, a Taiwanese gentleman suggested I try Omar Bourbon Type single malt. Rarely do I buy a bottle blind, but I respect the man's palate so I scooped up a bottle of the Bourbon Cask when I returned home.

Opened by the Republic of China in 1978 (a good year), Nantou Distillery made fruit liqueurs, brandies and rums for the first three decades of its existence. In 2009 a new facility began distilling malt whisky spirit, branded as "Omar" (Gaelic for amber), leading to inaugural releases in 2013 and 2014. Their core range, Bourbon Type and Sherry Type, debuted the following year. They have since released over 200 cask strength and liqueur/wine cask finished expressions.

Though Omar single malt is now distributed on three continents, it lives in the critical shadow of Kavalan, the other Taiwanese single malt. How much Kavalan deserved its initial boisterous reception is a matter of personal preference. I have found Kavalan's celebrated single cask expressions so cask-driven that I have no idea what the spirit beneath tastes like. My experience with Kavalan's bourbon cask expressions, both single cask and large-batched, is far from positive. It was my pronouncement of this concern that initiated the suggestion that I try Omar Bourbon Type.

So I did.

Distillery: Nantou
Owner: TTL, which is owned by the ROC
Brand: Omar
Region: Nantou, Taiwan
Age: 7 years or younger
Maturation: bourbon casks
Bottling Date: 2016
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltration? ???
Colorant? ???
(from the upper third of my purchased bottle)



NOTES
The nose begins with fresh whole wheat bread and croissants. Then lemons, kiwi and picked ginger. Witbier and newspapers. Hints of calvados, flower blossoms and chocolate malt. The thick, malty palate shines with a bright tartness and an herbal bitterness. There are toasted grains, toasted almonds, lemons and hot oregano to be found. Vanilla? Not so much. The finish holds that refreshing tartness, bitterness and barley......ness. It's toasty, with almonds and bran flakes. No vanilla, nearly no sugar.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
This is Malt Whisky like I've rarely experienced in products from more famous whisky-producing nations. The sizable angel's share has not turned the whisky into an oak infusion, instead the climate and quality cask management has brought the spirit's crisp character to the fore after 5-7 years. I tried Omar Bourbon Type alongside the other two whiskies being reviewed this week, as well as Glenmorangie 10. This whisky won by a large margin. Thank you, Odin, for the suggestion!

Availability - Asia, Europe and the United States
Pricing - $35 to $95, depending on the country
Rating - 85

Friday, February 21, 2020

Bunnahabhain 10 year old 2005 Signatory, cask 579 for Binny's

I partnered yesterday's excellent easygoing excellent 10yo sherried Bunnahabhain with today's ??? 10yo sherried Bunnahabhain during my tastings this past weekend. This sample comes from an OC Scotch Club event right near by birthday 4½ years ago. This was the set:


I've since reviewed most of these. This Bunny and the Clynelish had just arrived at Binny's when we scooped them up. That may have been the worst Clynelish I've ever tried. Let's just say, my hopes are a little higher for the Bunnahabhain. Is hope dead?

Distillery: Bunnahabhain
Region: Islay
Independent Bottler: Signatory
Exclusive to: Binny's
Age: 10 years (9 March 2005 - 13 March 2015)
Maturation: 1st fill sherry butt
Cask number: 579
Outturn: 546 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 57.8%
Chillfiltered? No
Colorant added? No
(from an OCSC event)

NEAT
The nose starts with lumber, cinnamon, cloves and VOCs. Brine, rosewater and prunes escape 10+ minutes later. Dates and toffee pudding appear 30 minutes after the pour. The massively grapey palate is all PX-like sherry and wood, no spirit. Jammy sticky sweet. The finish is the same, but with a tannic edge.

DILUTED TO ~50%abv, or < 1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose remains oaky, but there's a lot more baking spice now. No prunes. Minor dunnage, floral and vanilla notes arise. The palate has lots of woody bitterness, tannins, soap. You know, all the good things. It does pick up some nuts, meats and florals after a while. It finishes bitter, nutty and salty.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
Well, crap. Though my notes make the whisky sound worse than it actually is, it actually is not good. Of course, the whiskybase community LOVES it. So, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

I mean, other than the fact that it's unbalanced and aggressively oaky with a one-note palate, goes soapy and bitter when diluted, and could be from any distillery or spirit genre, it's fine. 94 points!

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 73 (only when neat, and only stays above 70 because of the nose)

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Bunnahabhain 10 year old 2001 The Whisky Agency

Oh we're not done with the sherried Bunnahabhains, no way no how. I have random samples of this stuff from everywhere. Today's sample comes from My Annoying Opinions......and I don't think he published his opinion of it, yet.

It's difficult for Americans to get a hold of a Whisky Agency bottling, unless we're physically in another country. They don't bring their stuff to The States, and very few European online retailers (who ship out here) sell TWA's single casks. They have a number of ranges and series, with beautiful labels that don't stoop to T&A (I think). Anyway, I've tried three of their whiskies and liked them all. Here's number four, from their House Malt series:


Distillery: Bunnahabhain
Region: Islay
Independent Bottler: The Whisky Agency
Series: House Malt
Age: 10 years (2001-2011)
Maturation: "sherry wood"
Cask number909
Outturn: 414 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
Colorant added? No
(sample provided by the gentleman named above)

NOTES
The expansive nose begins with a bright fresh cherry note, then molasses chews, fruity cinnamon, ocean air and clay. A slight meatiness, slight greasy Clynelish note and slight breakfast cereal note drift in the background. The palate is warm and lightly sherried, more fruits than oak. Brandied fruits, candied orange peel and ginger snaps. There's also a subtle phenolic note that reads more earthy than smoky. The finish picks up some pepper and tannins, berry jam, cloves and whole wheat bread crust.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
House Malt indeed! This would be an excellent everyday pour. There's an impressive complexity to the nose, and the palate holds onto its quirky angles as the whisky vanishes down the gullet. Had the finish not faltered a little, then this whisky would be getting a gaudy score. Anyway, this is great stuff. It's a shame I didn't know about this bottle way back when, but I have the official 12 satisfy this particular thirst.

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

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Bunnahabhain 23 year old 1990 AD Rattray, cask 3515

Dewar Rattray was one of my top three favorite independent bottlers when I began reviewing whiskies. But before Monday, five out of the six previous Rattrays I'd tried were not good. Some were letdowns, others awful. In fact, in the history of this blog there has been only one non-Bowmore Rattray that was a solid B whisky. Until Monday.

One sherried Rattray Bunnahabhain kicked ass, so how about another?! This one is older and from a big ol' puncheon. And it's the whisky on the right:


Going by the visuals, this one is on another planet. Whisky looks aren't everything, but they do often hint at what's within. Would this be a dead cask???


Distillery: Bunnahabhain
Region: Islay
Independent Bottler: AD Rattray
Age: 23 years (5 May 1990 - 23 Apr 2014)
Maturation: sherry puncheon
Cask number3515
Outturn: 604 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 56.8%
Chillfiltered? No
Colorant added? No
(from a purchased sample)

NEAT
Surprise! Plenty of fruity sherry on the nose. Mint extract, applesauce, citronella and wee hints of cardamom and coriander. A slight medicinal whiff floats into a clean barley note. The very malty palate has a nice soft bitterness, a gentle sweetness. Toffee, apricots and moss. It gets mustier and sweeter with time. The finish keeps the moss and bitterness. Dunnage. Lemons and limes.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 1⅓ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The whisky gets much younger, and the sherry drifts away. Pears, apples, jasmine flowers in the nose. Then hints of vanilla and white rice. The leafy palate leads with pears and ink, followed by barley and coriander. It finishes with pears, grass and a bit of earthiness.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
A not-dead second-fill sherry cask, that's my guess. If you want more of its influence, drink the whisky neat. You want to wash it away? Add water. The whisky is very good because the spirit is very good. There's a little bit of darkness hiding among the fruits and sweets. Some drinkers might even like this one better than cask 5450. Like Monday's Bunny, this cask was pulled at the right time, just before tannins start knocking everything out of balance. Of course this whisky was released almost six years ago, but well done, Rattray!

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 88 (I prefer it neat)

Monday, February 17, 2020

Bunnahabhain 20 year old 1991 AD Rattray, cask 5450

Because I am a hollow person, whisky bottles and I have histories. About seven or eight years ago, AD Rattray's cask 5450 of sherried Bunnahabhain was recommended to me by two individuals whom had much more whisky experience than I. Of course I did not buy a bottle. If I had a dime for every glorious bottle I didn't buy, I could afford to buy one of those bottles.

Anyway, I was able to get in on a bottle split of this very bottle this year (8 years after its release). And you know what? *SPOILER ALERT* The gentlemen who recommend this bottle were on to something.


Distillery: Bunnahabhain
Region: Islay
Independent Bottler: AD Rattray
Age: 20 years (2 December 1991 - 19 March 2012)
Maturation: sherry butt
Cask number: 5450
Outturn: 508 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 53%
Chillfiltered? No
mit Farbstoff? Nein
(from a bottle split)

NEAT
The nose starts off heavy on cherries, black plums and shisha. Hints of dunnage and hot asphalt. Bits of butterscotch, old rye and pipe tobacco. The palate is more salty and savory than sweet. Beef stock and brine. Salted roasted almonds. A little bit of those cherries. It shifts nicely after a while, moving towards dunnage, mint, thyme, almond extract and a bolder saltiness. Some dark chocolate slips into the long finish, along with smoked beef, dried herbs, sea salt and almond extract.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or < 1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky
More dried fruit shows up in the nose, alongside honey, ginger, toffee and toasted oak. It gets really musty after a while. The palate becomes earthier and grassier. Dried herbs, an herbal bitterness, ink, cayenne and hints of berry candy. The finish gets sweeter, but it remains quite herbal, along with some ink and a surprising barley note.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
It's even better than I'd anticipated! It's gorgeously complex, never gets too sweet, has multiple gears and swims well. A great winter warmer, this Bunnahabhain might even appeal to bourbon fans due its richness and fruitiness. The cask was also pulled at the perfect time. One can picture the tannin creep beginning within another year or two.

Now how did its sparring partner, another sherry cask Bunny from Rattray, fare up against this beaut? Stay tuned...

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