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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Ballechin 17 year old 2004 WhiskySponge, The Spongetopia Trilogy 36A

I miss WhiskySponge's once-regular posts, but he appears to be doing well for himself, in business bottling casks, as well as contributing to the whisky review site that decides if whiskies live or die, a site that may want to consider not reviewing Sponge bottlings in the future, just to keep things "fun".

Recently, The Sponge was allowed to raid Andrew Symington's warehouses for three teenage Ballechins in order to assemble The Spongetopia Trilogy. 36A was a bourbon barrel, 36B was a fino butt, and 36C a sherry hoggie. After indulging in a bottle split of each, I begin with 'A'.

Distillery: Edradour
Malt: Ballechin
Ownership: Signatory Vintage Scotch Whisky Co., Ltd.
Bottler: WhiskySponge
Region: Highlands (Central)
Age: 17 years (2004 - 2021)
Maturation: 1st fill bourbon barrel
Outturn: 188 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 53.7%
(from a bottle split)


Nose - A spirit-forward Ballechin! It's big on the seaweed peat, like a muscular Bowmore. Apricots, roses, lemon tarts and coal roll through the background. It reads like a leaner Islay once it is reduced to 46%abv, with wet coastal stones, kiln, hay and smoked salmon.

Palate - Toasty in its early sips, the whisky gradually gathers fresh apricots, raw walnuts and coal. Metal, molasses and Underberg linger in the back. Diluted to 46%abv, it gets sweeter while also picking up more herbal bitterness, with quieter notes of roses and chile oil around the edges.

Finish - Lemon, coal smoke and a touch of bitterness. At 46%abv, it ends with coal smoke, smoked almonds and metal.


The nose wins here, even though I dig the reserved palate. My written notes throw around a lot of Islay distillery references that even I got tired of reading. To summarize, this Ballechin sits somewhere between Bowmore and Lagavulin in style. While that's some good company to keep, I'm not sure if this could actually compete with bourbon cask teenage versions of those sluggers. It's pretty good though, and I always appreciate an absence of splinters.

Availability - Probably sold out within seconds
Pricing - ???
Rating - 86


  1. My controversial take is that reviewers are able to be impartial even when they are friends with the bottler. Not all of his reviews on WF are 89+. Also, I think it's fun to be able to taste things that someone like Angus, who's writing and reviews I've read for a long time, found worth bottling. The bottles can be quite expensive with shipping to the US though.

    1. Hey c bass. Thanks for your comment! I agree that it's possible for whisky reviewers to be impartial when they know the bottler.

      Here's what troubles me: Nowhere does Serge disclose that his co-writer is an independent bottler. Nowhere does Serge disclose that he's reviewing his co-writer's products. Nowhere does this independent bottler disclose that he is reviewing his competitors' products.

      While I am not saying that their reviews are sketchy, I am saying the absence of any one of those basic sorts of disclosures would be unfortunate, the combination of all three becomes more concerning than their actual reviews. All it would take is a few words, here and there, and I don't think either of them have done that.

      If my words aren't doing this circumstance justice, here's a comment section that recently discussed this matter earlier this month:


      I'm not asking anyone to boycott either of these fellows. But perhaps they should consider disclosing their relationships and businesses to keep the "fun" ethical.

  2. I understand your points and stance. As an avid reader of whiskyfun, who is there daily (with a lot of others I would imagine), I don't think it's at all unclear what's going on. Angus = the sponge, the sponge is bottling whisky, Serge is reviewing the sponge's whisky, and all these things are not hidden. On whiskyfun, Angus has never advertised his status as a bottler, as far as I know, to try to sell people on his wares.

    Thanks for your thoughtful reply!

  3. Maybe it would be nice for Angus to write a little note about reviewing his competitors bottlings though. I agree that would be the more ethical route.

    1. Thank you very much for your replies! And I do see your point above. It's been many many years since I've written about it, but I'm always going to encourage whisky bloggers to run a tight ship. There's lots of money at play here, more every year. And I'm very thankful I have great readers!

  4. I’m thankful for you and the other independent bloggers who I get such a delight out of following along with. Appreciate you and your hard work here on DFP!