...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Bowmore 15 year old 2001 Old Particular, cask DL 11658 for K&L Wine Merchants

(Bowmore cluster homepage)

After two great sherry cask 2001 Bowmores, I now present a 2001 Bowmore from a bourbon cask. Though I wish I could do another half dozen of these 2001s, this will indeed be the last one for this cluster. It's another K&L exclusive, bottled by the other half of the Laing family, and it rumbles in at 58.5%abv. I'm game.

Distillery: Bowmore
Owner: Beam Suntory
Region: Islay
Bottler: Douglas Laing
Range: Old Particular
Exclusive to: K&L Wine Merchants
Age: 15 years (October 2001 - April 2017)
Maturation: bourbon barrel
Cask #: DL 11658
Outturn: 185 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 58.5%
(from a bottle split)

Note: Because of the multiple dilutions, these notes will be listed via my old school method. 

NEAT

Whew, the nose comes in raw and vegetal, with lots of grass and weed (ha!). Grain, hot coals and a whiff of citronella candle follow next. It picks up some mild beach and butterscotch notes with time.

The palate begins hot, ashy and bitter. And there's lots of grass and burlap. Meanwhile, lychee and kiwi juices float beneath it all.

Oof, super bitter finish too. Wormwood, lemongrass, eucalyptus and ash. The fruit goes bitterer as well.

DILUTED TO 50%abv

A clearer, richer peat enters the nose, followed by oats, citronella candles and ganja. Hints of tree bark and vanilla bean stay in the background.

The palate reads more pulled together. Less bitter, more zesty tart citrus (or tart citrus zest?). Mild peat and cinnamon syrup fill in the midground.

It finishes with lemon candy, smoke and a hint of lychee.

DILUTED TO 46%abv

The nose shifts back to a rawer style of grains, grasses, kiln and peanuts.

The palate reads very faint for 46%abv, with mild notes of citrus, pepper, lychee, toasted oak and vanilla.

Tarter and bitterer than the palate, the finish still holds onto some vanilla and lemon.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

My nose and palate prefer this at 50%abv. It still reads about half its age, but it's a better focused winter pour at that strength. Though some vanilla snuck into the whisky, the barrel still feels multi-refill-ish. That's no sin, but the other five 2001 Bowmores (three of which were K&L's) I've reviewed here were all pretty damned good. This is merely, "yeah it's good for a couple drinks." I consumed my two pours, and now I'm going to assign a number to a fluid that people worked hard to produce.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - $89.99 back in 2017
Rating - 83

Friday, November 26, 2021

Bowmore 14 year old 2001 Hepburn's Choice for K&L Wine Merchants

(Bowmore cluster homepage)

As you can see in the pic below, this is one of those "refill butts" that produced a whisky darker than many first-fill sherry butts. It's magic, I guess. This whisky has the tough job of following Wednesday's excellent sherry cask Maltbarn release from the same vintage. Good luck, whisky!

Distillery: Bowmore
Owner: Beam Suntory
Region: Islay
Independent Bottler: Hunter Laing
Label: Hepburn's Choice
Exclusive to: K&L Wine Merchants
Age: 14 years (2001 - 2016)
Maturation: refill butt
Outturn: 420 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 54.4%
(from a bottle split)

NOTES

The nose shows more salt and minerals than actual peat. Plenty of fresh sage too. But it's the blend of blueberry jam, clover honey, demerara syrup and orange peel that tends to dominate. It gets funkier and peatier once reduced to 46%abv. Its mix of ocean side and boat dock reads like Port Ellen Lite, which is not the worst thing. Mild notes of baked apples and toasted oak provide some depth.

The palate begins very herbal with lots of fresh sage and rosemary, with strawberry jam and honey sitting in the background. It takes 20-30 minutes for the peat to show up, arriving then as wood smoke. A hint of bitterness appears with time, then improves once the whisky is diluted to 46%abv. It's still plenty sweet, but balanced by lots of salt and heavier smoke.

Curiously, the peat appears first in the finish, all ash and kiln. It has the palate's strawberry jam and a pinch of tannin. At 46%abv, the whisky finishes saltier and less sweet, with sage smudge in the background.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Another very good 2001 Bowmore, though this one has its own style, and improves significantly with air and dilution. This would have been a fun bottle to have. 60mL changed so much in a Glencairn in one hour, who knows how it would have transformed in a bottle over a few months. Trying to track the characteristics of all these Bowmores will likely turn out to be foolish, but Foolish is my middle name. Or at least I think that's what the F stands for.

One more 2001 Bowmore on Monday...

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - $82.99 back in 2016/2017
Rating - 88 (with water)

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Bowmore 11 year old 2001 Maltbarn, No. 09

(Bowmore cluster homepage)

According to my records, I tried this whisky already and gave it a score of 86. But as you know, if something isn't shared publicly then it never happened. THANKFULLY, Mr. Opinions shared a sample of the bottle he opened for his recent twenty-first birthday (congrats, Kiddo!). He liked the whisky way more than 91-points-worth. So it's time to find out how wrong I was, publicly.

Distillery: Bowmore
Owner: Beam Suntory
Region: Islay
Independent Bottler: Maltbarn
Age: 11 years old (2001 - 2012)
Maturation: sherry butt
Cask numberNo. 09
Outturn: 175 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 53.6%
(thank you to My Annoying Opinions for the sample!)

NOTES

The nose starts out with seaweedy peat, candied pecans and nutmeg, while nectarines and green plums float through the background. Its seaweed character strengthens with time, while new notes of sandalwood and manuka honey arise. Once the whisky is reduced to 46%abv, the peat and fruit (key limes and yuzu) expand, with hints of iodine and band-aids lingering in the back.

The palate begins a bit sweeter than expected, loaded with clover honey. The sweetness recedes into a mix of coastal peat, industrial smoke, cayenne pepper and limes. At 46%abv it's full of ultra tart citrus and salty peat, and just a little bit of dates.

It finishes with a subtle honeyed pastry note, limes, coal smoke and ocean brine. The coal smoke remains at 46%abv, while clementines replace the limes.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

This is indeed great whisky, and it makes me miss my retired bottle of 2001 Bowmore from Cadenhead. They're different whiskies but both of high quality. This Bowmore's sherry cask had very little influence on the whisky, which works in its favor, letting the Bowmore goodness thrive. I hope more of this cluster's numerous sherry casks play as nicely. It'd be a shame to cover up this style.

Availability - ???
Pricing - ???
Rating - 89

Monday, November 22, 2021

Bowmore 10 year old 2002 AD Rattray, cask 20102

(Bowmore cluster homepage)

Ah, look at the color of that whisky below! 💛 That hue announces, "This is the perfect place to start the main part of the Bowmore Cluster." In so many words. And it marks a good contrast to Friday's Bowmore.

I'm also a really big fan of AD Rattray's Bowmore casks, and more of their Bowmores will appear in this cluster. Cask 20102 interests me because it has received a handful of Whiskybase scores that are lower than I'd expect for a Rattray Bowmore. When I first started this blog, I found AD Rattray (aka A. Dewar Rattray) to be one of the most reliable indie bottlers. That feeling has been reversed over the past four years. So, could they have messed up a Bowmore?!?!?!

Distillery: Bowmore
Owner: Beam Suntory
Region: Islay
Independent Bottler: A.D. Rattray
Series: Spirits of the Sea
Exclusive to: Ambrosius Whisky Club
Age: 10 years old (March 2002 - August 2012)
Maturation: ???
Cask number: 20102
Outturn: 116 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 60.7%
(from a purchased sample)

NOTES

The nose takes a while to wake up. The phenolics register first: machine shop, mild coastal peat and next-day joint ash. Confectioner's sugar, angel food cake and a hint of vanilla appear later. We get even closer to the spirit, once the abv is dropped to 46%, with oats, shredded wheat, mild peat and smoked salmon.

Closer to new make here on the palate. It starts with pears, grass, grassy peat and a tiny bit of sweetness. It's plenty tart (lots of limes), and gains a salty coastal note with time. Sweet apples, green grapes and mint appear at 46%abv. The grassy, leafy peat note builds gradually.

It finishes sweet, tart and mildly peaty, becoming more metallic and briny in later sips. Sweet pears, tart apples and salty peat arrive when the whisky is diluted to 46%abv.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Unless surprises await later on down the cluster, this 2002 will be the closest I'll ever get to trying Bowmore's new make. So I like it much more than did the Whiskybase members. Unlike so many current single-digit-age single malts, this is a whisky I'd actually want to consume semi-regularly. One could enjoy it at the beach, in the forest, in the shower -- he says, pretending like he drinks anywhere other than on The Whisky Chair. The whisky color told the truth, and Rattray didn't screw this one up.

Availability - ???
Pricing - ???
Rating - 85

Friday, November 19, 2021

Bowmore The Devil's Casks, Release III

(Bowmore cluster homepage)

My memories of pre-parenthood life are either slippery, fading or false, but I remember very clearly the release of the first batch of The Devil's Casks back in 2013. All the bloggers were rushing to review it, and I was in my #SherrySux phase. That had to have been the first and last time a non-ancient official Bowmore release lit up whisky geekdom.

Both Release I and II came from first-fill unspecified sherry casks, and were 10 years old. The second batch didn't receive as much digital ink in 2014 but it did sell through swiftly. Release III arrived right in the middle of the NAS Age, in 2015. Though it did indeed drop its age statement, it gained this description on its label, "A marriage of first fill Oloroso & Pedro Ximénez sherry casks."

Though I exited my #SherrySux phase more than a half decade ago, I have never tried any of the Devil's Casks releases until right now. So I enter this experience with a comfy lack of perspective.

I filtered the devil out of (or into) this pic

Distillery: Bowmore
Owner: Beam Suntory
Region: Islay
Series: The Devil's Casks
Age: probably less than 10 years old
Maturation: first fill Oloroso & Pedro Ximénez sherry casks
Release: III (2015)
Outturn: "Limited"
Alcohol by Volume: 56.7%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? Maybe
(from a bottle split)

NOTES

The nose wallops. First up: seaweed, tar, burnt plastic and cherry jam. Then orange oil, black licorice and a whiff of steel wool. All those elements feel well-married once the whisky is reduced to 46%abv, possibly even better than at full strength, at first. Gradually the smoke recedes and the sugary notes — now bolstered by honey — move forward.

The palate begins with lots of heat, wood smoke, raisins and cassis. Burlap and charcoal appear by the third sip, followed by a ripple of cayenne pepper. It gets earthier with time. At 46%abv, the smoke moves to the fore, unlike the nose. A bit of an industrial note shows up too. There's also more bitterness, which is partially cask driven, but it kind of works with the overall violence.

It finishes very peppery (think pink peppercorns and cayenne), with a mix of coal smoke and cassis. Some mint leaf and bitterness, too. Eventually it's all smoke. The peat and casks get dirtier when the whisky's at 46%abv. Maybe a bit of orange zest around the edges.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Bowmore went for power over nuance here. Subtlety and complexity have been traded in for BOOM. In fact this could have been an interesting competitor to contemporary Ardbeg Uigeadail, had Bowmore made this an annual release.

But there was no Release IV, which is kind of a shame. Yeah, the distillery released an "Inspired by the Devil’s Casks" thingamabob for a couple of years, but that was diluted. A regular thunderous sherry cask release would have only helped their official range. Extra-dark cask-driven whiskies are all the rage with the newbs nowadays (or always?), so The Devil's Casks would continue to separate people from their money. Plus Bowmore had the sexy name all queued up.

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - no, you really don't want to know
Rating - 86

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Bowmore 17 year old (bottled ~2007)

(Bowmore cluster homepage)

2007 appears to have been the end of the road for Bowmore's official 17 year old, as it was replaced by the 18yo that same year. The 17yo seems to have had broad batch variation, with Serge giving the 1995 a score of 84, and the 2000 edition a 65. The LAWS dudes rated it everywhere from F to B+. Could the Hatey Eighties be the culprit?

With this particular bottling, with the then-new label style, likely occurring in early 2007, there may be plenty of '80s spirit in the bottle. But using The Maths, I calculate 1990 being present in the mix. I've found neither soap nor perfume in the 1990 Bowmores I've tried. So perhaps it'll be better than yesterday's 1982?

Distillery: Bowmore
Owner: Beam Suntory
Region: Islay
Age: at least 17 years
Maturation: ???
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
Chillfiltered? Yes
Caramel Colorant? Yes, it is very orange
(from a bottle split)

NOTES

The nose ping-pongs all over the place. Charred beef, Worcestershire sauce, roses, weed, white chocolate, brown butter, and a hell of an alcohol burn for 43%abv. It does pick up a cleaner coastal / seaweed note after 45 minutes.

The palate is......Ash and violet liqueur. Apple cider vinegar, lemon candy and notebook paper. At the same time the nose improves, the palate descends into chemicals, metals and burnt hair.

It finishes even ashier than the palate. The vinegar note is more generic white than apple cider. If the bitter metallic foreground and saccharine midground weren't bad enough, there's some dish detergent in the background.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Was this just the dregs in the bottom of the 17yo vat? I can't picture any blender with tastebuds saying, "Yeah that's exactly what we're going for," after sipping this stuff. There's no through line, no cohesion, no thought in the whisky. It's just a variety of reject casks dumped into a dirty bin, and suck siphoned into bottles that were laying around, because money. I hope this is the worst of the cluster.

Availability - No
Pricing - No
Rating - 67

Monday, November 15, 2021

The Bowmore Cluster

Welcome to the final cluster of 2021! Before you get all excited by the prospect of me drinking 1960s Bowmore, I will not be drinking 1960s Bowmore. Or even 1970s Bowmore. Instead, this grouping will mostly contain post-1990 Bowmore distillate. Not only is this era more relevant to the whisky world, but it's all I have!

Bowmore was the most-reviewed single malt on this site during my first three years of whisky posts. At the time, their West Coast distributor rep was (and still is) a great fellow to chat and drink with. He held lots of local events and I probably attended them all. The single malt scene was much more fun in those days, and the whisky was cheaper! So even if an event's distillery wasn't my favorite, I went anyway. (Psst, I even went to one official Macallan event. But don't tell anyone.)

Official Bowmore was my gateway to independent Bowmore. But once I went indie Bow, I never went back. The gap in quality and style between Bowmore's official and independent releases is wider than any other distillery, in my experience. Official Bowmore is filtered, colored and aggressively diluted, resulting in a thin, light Islay whisky. There are many ways to produce a flavorful peated single malt without turning it into "Laphroaig" or "Ardbeg", but Bowmore distillery and its various master distillers/blenders have chosen not to do so, which is something I do not understand.

from Barnard's The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom

Only five of this cluster's 19 whiskies will be official bottlings. The rest are from independent companies. The first three Bowmores are a little out of place from the rest of the group, which is why I'm squeezing them into this first week. After that, I'll start with 2002 distillate and then move backwards until reaching 1991. I'll try to keep track of the various styles I come across to see what, if anything, ties the whiskies together.

So get comfy, I'm about to drink a lot of Bowmores. You're always welcome to do the same, responsibly!

THE BOWMORES:

1. Bowmore 21 year old 1982 Prime Malt Selection - A nice lack of oak, but soapy.
2. Bowmore 17 year old, bottled around 2007 - "...no through line, no cohesion, no thought......just a variety of reject casks dumped into a dirty bin..."
3. Bowmore The Devil's Casks, Release III - "Subtlety and complexity have been traded in for BOOM."
4. Bowmore 10 year old 2002 AD Rattray, cask 20102 - "...the closest I'll ever get to trying Bowmore's new make."
5. Bowmore 11 year old 2001 Maltbarn, No. 09 - "...sherry cask had very little influence on the whisky, which works in its favor, letting the Bowmore goodness thrive."
6. Bowmore 14 year old 2001 Hepburn's Choice for K&L - "Another very good 2001 Bowmore......improves significantly with air and dilution."
7. Bowmore 15 year old 2001 Old Particular, cask DL 11658 for K&L - "...reads about half its age......This is merely, "yeah it's good for a couple drinks.""
8. Bowmore 18 year old Manzanilla Cask, The Vintner's Trilogy - "...it may be the least peaty Bowmore I've ever tried......a bit too sweet for my lips..."
9. Bowmore 15 year old, Feis Ile 2012 - This whisky stole my  🖤.
10.
Cluster midpoint
11.
12.
13.
14.
15.
16.
17.
18.
19.
Cluster conclusion

Bowmore 21 year old 1982 Prime Malt Selection (re-review)

(Bowmore cluster homepage)

As mentioned in the Bowmore cluster introduction, the group's first three whiskies don't quite fit in with the rest of the theme. Batting leadoff...

I first reviewed today's whisky eight(!) years ago. Looking at those notes, I can't help but feel like I was being exceedingly kind about a flawed whisky. This whisky was distilled during Bowmore's most problematic decade, a period about which a certain epithet has been often assigned. It's time to find out if soap or perfume (or both!) live in this bottle, or perhaps just whisky.


Distillery:
 Bowmore
Owner: Beam Suntory
Region: Islay
Independent Bottler: Duncan Taylor
Range: Prime Malt Selection
Age: at least 21 years (1982 - ????)
Maturation: ???
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
(from a bottle split)

NOTES

It has a bright, colorful nose, with citronella, cucumber, and fresh herbs like rosemary and thyme. One can also find pine sap and a peated white chocolate. And, yes, there is plenty of Dove soap to go around.

The palate is (per my written notes), "sweet, bitter, peaty, weird and vaguely fruity" at first. The peat gets sootier and the fruit becomes tarter with time. There are some hints of butterscotch in the background. But there's so much detergent in the mix, and it doesn't fade away after an hour. Though violets start to grow.

The finish matches the palate for the most part, with more focus on bitterness and tartness. It gets sweeter with time, and the soap note becomes slightly less intense.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

I can take lavender and violets in my whisky. Maybe even a shpritz of gaudy perfume. But I do not enjoy soap in my mouth. I am not a bad boy. Today. And this whisky has soap. I avoided adding water because my more upbeat review from 2013 says this stuff gets "sudsy" when diluted. That is not a sign of a successfully-produced spirit.

Though the nose is not a "top 20" as it was back in 2013, and isn't even a Top 200, it is unique and very enjoyable. With its palate's bitterness leaning towards the herbal side, the whisky shows a nice lack of oak. Having a bunch of tannins collide with dish detergent would not have helped matters. Still, I don't need to try this a third time.

Availability - ???
Pricing - ???
Rating - 76 (neat only)

Friday, November 12, 2021

Old Overholt 4 year old Rye, bottled in 1978

Overwhelmed, insomniac, sitting up in bed, I quickly wrote a non-whisky blog post about my emotional state, 369 days ago. Circumstances have since changed, and not entirely for the better. Goodness glimmers up ahead, but conflict continues to spread out of the dark towards the light like a mutating black mold.

This past August, my local friends — who know a little bit about said circumstances — surprised me with all sorts of gifts during an armagnac tasting event the day before my birthday. They'd raided the Tensuke Market shelves, filling a bag with sweets and savories, bought a Japanese cheesecake, and presented me with French elixirs. To this day I remain humbled nearly to tears about it.

I would have reviewed the Japanese goodies but my daughters and I have consumed all the wonderful individually wrapped treats. But there was a specific 2oz sample of something, gifted by one Secret Agent Man, about which I can opine.

Before Jim Beam swallowed up the National Distillers brands in 1987, Old Overholt rye was still being distilled in Pennsylvania, though its actual source remains foggy. I have greatly enjoyed three of National Distillers's other Olds (Taylor, Crow, Grand Dad) — in fact, if I had any S-W bourbon I would gladly swap it for ND — but I don't think I'd ever tried their Overholt. I, the rye fan, had only had Beam's Old Overcoat. Until now.

My sample of 1978-bottled O.O. had a desperate sparring partner in a diluted pour 2020 Ohio edition of O.O. 114 Proof. And by "desperate" I mean that the bottle has been open for more than seven months and I just cannot finish the damned thing. Both whiskies were labelled four years old, and I dropped the 2020's strength down to meet that of the 1978, at 43%abv. Here's how that played out:



Old Overholt 4 year old 114 Proof, 2020 Ohio Edition, distilled in KY, diluted to 43%abv

Nose - Cherry lozenges and lemon zest. A little bit of clementine juice and fennel seeds. Intense barrel char and a splash of turpentine. Overall, it's better than I'd expected and remembered.

Palate - Much less there there. Mint and menthol. Tangy lime candy and tree bark. Ethyl and something leafy.

Finish - Fades fast. Woody and peppery, with a hint of limes.

Sorry to steal Randy Brandy's format here. I'm sure he'll forgive me. Right? Anyway, this rye began decently, but gradually descended though the finish, its weak point. Still, I'll bump up the score one whole point.

Rating - 79



Old Overholt 4 year old, bottled in 1978 by National Distillers, distilled in PA, 43%abv

Nose - So much bigger than one would expect from 43%abv. It is waxy with swirls of dried apricot and dried sweet potato. Pound cake and cold car engine. Snuffed candle and a hint of MGP-style pickle brine.

Palate - A balance of savory herbs and perky baking spices. Toss in a dash of salt, fresh French bread crust and a whiff of sandalwood. Not even a hint of sugar.

Finish - Very long and very spicy. Smoked paprika, lemon pepper, olive oil, salt and sandalwood.

It's not sweet, it's not oaky and it's not raw. I'm not saying the American whiskey industry broke the National Distillers moulds. I'm tellin' you — to quote Dead Man — they killed 'em, fucked 'em, cooked 'em up and ate 'em. This is stellar whiskey. It is of the stars. Thank you, Secret Agent Man, for the opportunity to drink this gem.

Rating - 91

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Tullibardine 27 year old 1993 Cadenhead, Wood Range Port Cask

I'm reviewing a Tullibardine because Tullibardine. End of story. But I'll keep typing anyway.

Despite the Ugh Potential of a "Wood Range" and despite the whisky's maroon hue, this Tully spent only ~24 of its moons in a tawny port cask, not all ~324 moons. So it had a legitimate Portuguese summer sojourn rather than a couple months in a tanning bed. I am already ashamed of that sentence.

What concerns me is its 41%abv cask strength. Cadenhead has rolled out at least fifteen 1993 vintage Tullibardines, and all of them left their casks at less than 49%abv. And, for what it's worth, this one was not the weakest of the bunch. So there's something curious about that parcel. But I'm going to drink this anyway, because Tullibardine.

Distillery: Tullibardine
Ownership: Picard Vins & Spiritueux
Region: Highlands (Perthshire)
Bottler: Cadenhead
Series: Wood Range
Type: Single Malt
Age: 27 years old (1993-2020)
Maturation: maybe a hoggie for the first 25 years, then a Tawny Port cask from 2018 to 2020
Outturn: 222 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 41%
(from a bottle split)

NOTES

I get one main note on the nose: blackberry jam on rye toast. It's simple but very satisfying. It's light and grainy in the background, like a gentle blend. Cinnamon red hots and cherry lollipops appear around the edges later on.

The palate has a sweet element, like Demerara sugar and Luxardo syrup, but that's held in check by a savory note and fennel seed. There's a mix of malt, ginger beer and oranges in the midsection. With time it picks up tannins and peas (really).

It finishes slightly bready and lightly tannic, with orange peel and cherry cola highlights.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Sure this could have been better a few years earlier when the whisky was ~48%abv, but now it's an easy sipper (or gulper). A bottle of this would vanish quickly much like the cask's contents, but memories of this Tullibardine may also disappear instantly. I'd take it over Monday's Glenallachie, but I’m probably in the minority on that.

Availability - ???
Pricing - it was €200+
Rating - 83

Monday, November 8, 2021

Glenallachie 10 year old Cask Strength, Batch 5

I reviewed the first batch of Billy Walker's Glenallachie 10 year old Cask Strength in April 2019, and was very disappointed by the out-of-balance aggression of that whisky's new oak element. Two-and-a-half years later, the series is already on batch six, so I was probably alone regarding that issue.

A sample of Batch Five was given to me back when it was the new hotness this spring. (No, your spectacles aren't dirty, I am indeed reviewing a 2021 release.) Walker's team added Rioja casks during this whisky's assembly. If you're keeping score, here are the casks for batch five: Pedro Ximenez, Oloroso, new oak, and Rioja. Yep, that must have been some fine spirit he purchased from Pernod Ricard.

Distillery: Glenallachie
Ownership: The GlenAllachie Distillers Company Ltd
Region: Speyside (Aberlour)
Age: minimum 10 years old
Maturation: Pedro Ximenez, Oloroso, virgin oak, and Rioja casks
Outturn: 27,000 bottles
Bottled: March 2021
Alcohol by Volume: 55.9%
Chillfiltered: No
Colorant added: No
(thank you to Dr. Springbank for the sample!)

NOTES

It has a crisp fruity nose, with cherry syrup, dried cherries and orange peel on top with a current of hot fudge, cola, toffee and eucalyptus underneath. Once the whisky is reduced to 46%abv, the nose brightens up and adds notes of dried apricots, peach candies and saline.

The palate is sweet, woody, winey and figgy. Bits of tobacco leaf and coffee grounds linger in the background. It also has a very thick mouthfeel which loosens up once the whisky is diluted to 46%abv. More sugar, more eucalyptus and more sticky new oak notes appear, with hints of baking spice and winey tannins in the back.

It finishes bitter and very sweet with dried currants, an oaky custard, coffee and eucalyptus. It picks up more wine and tannins at 46%abv.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

When trying to chase down bottles of a four-wood whisky, one is probably not terribly interested in the actual malt part of the equation. Instead the buyer is likely interested in cask jockeying. I can attempt to address the cask situation since this whisky could have come from any of several dozen distilleries inside or outside Scotland.

I don't mind the wine casks that much. They were incorporated better than most of McEwan's inventions (which ain't saying much), and the nose was a lot of fun with or without water. In fact, I think the Rioja gave batch #5 the edge over #1.

What kept this from ascending to classic sherry bomb status was all that damned new oak again. The virgin oak distracted from the rest of the scene, like every time Alfred Hitchcock showed up in one of his films, but only if Hitch had been a 250-pound puss-leaking infected sore.

Yeah, I dislike new oak that much. If you don't, then drink up that oaky custard!

Availability - Europe and the secondary market
Pricing - €100 and up
Rating - 79 (could have been 5-10 points high without the new oak casks)

Friday, November 5, 2021

Killing Whisky History, Episode 38: Single malt minis with low fill levels

Extended air exposure can degrade a whisky’s quality; and the lower a bottle’s fill level sits, the more its liquid contents are exposed to air. I’m going to open up three single malt minis with less-than-stellar fill levels to see what's happened to the whiskies after three decades in the little bottles...

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Two more North British single grains! Yay!

After Monday's glory, I decided that the second and third North Britishes didn't require separate posts. So a Taste Off was arranged. Nikka From the Barrel was used to test my nose and palate beforehand, which isn't fair, but I'm in charge here.

Today's two brawlers are:

North British 16 year old 1997 Signatory, cask 246280 for Binny's, weighing in at 57.2%abv. Let us all thank one Florin (a prince) for this sample! Thank you, Florin.

--and--

North British 25 year old 1989 Sovereign, cask HL11602 for K&L, weighing in at 57.5%abv. This may have come into my possession via an LA Scotch Club event led by one David OG. Thank you, David OG.

North British 16 year old 1997 Signatory, cask 246280 for Binny's, 57.2%abv

The nose is kinda wild. It starts off with flowers, metal, apple juice and plaster, then it shifts to flower kiss candy and pear-scented candles. It gets synthetic once diluted to 46%abv, off-gassing circus peanuts and burnt carpet.

The palate is......palatable, though very sweet. There are dried apricots and flower blossoms up front, hints of dates, clove and tart citrus in the back. It's much less palatable at 46%abv as it turns very bitter and tannic.

It finishes with brown sugar and hints of lemon. Some tannic rum in the background. But it's wincingly tannic at 46%abv.

Not bad at full strength, this North British surprised me. I'd take it over Monday's 50yo any day. It still feels closer to rum than "scotch", but nobody's perfect. I wonder what it would be like in cocktails, were it not a horror show when diluted. Perhaps it would be fun to blend?

Rating - 81 (when neat)



North British 25 year old 1989 Sovereign, cask HL11602 for K&L, 57.5%abv

The nose begins with lots of sugar, something savory and something industrial. Then it gradually focuses on mandarin oranges, lemon candy and a hint of cassis. Diluting it to 46%abv simplifies and redirects the nose towards roses and limes.

It's another sweetie, with a combo of wheated bourbon, lemons and a hint of molasses in the palate's foreground. The background reads a bit perfumy, or is it a combo of talcum powder and potpourri? It's still pretty floral and sweet at 46%abv, with hints of oranges around the edges.

It finishes with sweet pears and honey, some lemony tartness and tannins in the back. But it's really really really sweet and floral when reduced to 46%abv.

This one, full of flowers, is prettier than the other. It shows its corn roots (if that's possible with 94.5%abv spirit), leaning towards Weller at times. It also doesn't crumble with dilution, which was much appreciated. Can't say I'd run out to buy something like this, nor offer up raves about its complexity, but I would drink it again, which is something I rarely say about a single grain.

Rating - 83



These two were close to peak grain, so I'm happy to depart from this genre with this post. Toodle-oo, Single Grains! May you find homes on other blogs.

Monday, November 1, 2021

North British 50 year old 1962 Alambic Classique, cask 12042

Though calling Single Grain Whisky nothing but barrel-aged vodka is a bit further than I'm willing to go, I will say that convincing people to pay Single Malt prices for Single Grain whisky is the scotch industry's most successful con job. The very nature and production process of grain whisky renders a cheap, thin, nearly featureless spirit. Putting it in active casks results in bland extraction that doesn't even have the texture of American corn whiskey. Though three or more decades of maturation does produce a grain whisky with real characteristics, that's just the cask talking. I had hoped that whisky geekdom's introduction to French brandies and Jamaican rums would spell the death of three- and four-figure single grain prices, but buyers still can't resist those big age statements.

What I'm saying is, I don't like single grain scotch whisky. And this will be the last week of single grain scotch you'll ever see here. I'm going to take a look at three bottlings from North British, a distillery that uses a corn-heavy mashbill that occasionally results in a better grain whisky than its competitors. Today, it's a 50 year old. No, that's not a typo.


Distillery: North British
Owner: 50% Diageo, 50% The Edrington Group
Independent Bottler: Alambic Classique
Age: 50 years (1962-2012)
Maturation: bourbon cask
Cask #: 12042
Limited Release: 159 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 44.9%
(sample from a bottle split)

NOTES

It has a pretty nose, with floral notes, saline and shortbread up front, and bits of mango and grapefruit in the background. Hints of honeydew and cream soda appear after 45 minutes.

The palate starts dusty and papery. The tannins begin subtly, but do tilt towards bitterness. Mild notes of clove, eucalyptus, vanilla, caramel and black pepper slowly take shape. Around the 45 minute mark, Mount Gay Eclipse rum and cheap Canadian blends (Black Velvet, if you please) start to take over, and are only halted by a wall of paper pulp.

It finishes bitter and metallic, with notes of paper, caramel and young sugar-doped rum.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

*strains heroically to avoid using a GIF*

In defense of......whatever, I will say that this sample has not been sitting in my stash for nine years. Less than nine months, in fact. And the bottle was split by a very reputable member of the whisky community. He is likely thankful to be freed from a full bottle of this liquid.

I really enjoyed the nose as it suggested a graceful five decades of maturation. The palate is where it all falls apart, as is usually the case for single grains. Its similarity to $10-$20 spirits is disheartening, and the overwhelming paper notes are nearly tragic. That poor cask could have been used for so many other things, or maybe that tree could have been left alone to turn carbon dioxide into oxygen.

Most importantly, I did get a sweet 2oz French Square bottle out of the deal.

Availability - ???
Pricing - ???
Rating - 76 (the nose keeps the score aloft)