...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Glen Scotia 14 year old 2006 Tawny Port Finish for the Campbeltown Malts Festival 2020

This week's reviews included very good to great bourbon cask matured peated Glen Scotias. Now it's time to find out how the spirit holds up to a tawny port finish. Like Wednesday's SMWS cask, this peated Scotia was released in honor of the 2020 Campbeltown Malts Festival, which existed only online and in hearts rather than in-person that year. Unlike the SMWS cask, this 14-year-old official bottling was available everywhere. And by "everywhere", I mean it was even sold in Ohio. Time to find out what the bottles contained...

Distillery: Glen Scotia
Ownership: Loch Lomond Group (via Exponent)
Region: Campbeltown
Age: 14 years (2006-2020)
Maturation: refill American oak hogsheads + medium char American oak casks + 1st-fill bourbon barrels first, then six months in Tawny Port casks
Outturn: 15,000 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 52.8%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from a bottle split)


Candy, candy, candy in the nose. Cherry candy, grape candy, cotton candy. A little bit of butterscotch. Some seaweed and ocean in the far back. Just a whiff of kiln appears after 20 minutes. The palate leads with a very strong perfume/cologne note and lot of sweetness. No peat, but plenty of burlap/bung cloth and black pepper. Kool Aid and clementines take over after 10 minutes. It finishes with spiked Kool Aid, ginger candy and a hint of bung cloth.

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or <1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky

The nose becomes slightly farmier, with butterscotch and orange peel on the side. The palate still has that cologne note, and remains candy sweet. There's more pepper now, and a squeeze of tart lime. It finishes with cologne, cotton candy and lime.

DILUTED to ~40%abv, or 2 tsp of water per 30mL whisky

Ocean and parmesan cheese in the nose's fore, cotton candy and orange pixy stix in the aft. Zero peat in the palate, just lots of sugar colored by tart and bitter citrus fruits. And that's how it finishes.


This feels Lumsden-ized. Some of you will find that idea sexy, some of you won't. You know who you are. I will not judge you, but I will judge the whisky. When sipped alongside the SMWS bottling, this 14yo shows that all unique style and character has been wiped clean away, replaced with sugar sugar sugar and (weirdly) cologne. It's rather generic — aside from the cologne and burlap which give it slight quirk — rather than being crummy, in fact it could work decently as a dessert pour for a sweet tooth. But I'd rather try other single maturation peated Glen Scotias rather than chasing the Bordeaux and PX finishes seen in the 2021 and 2022 festival editions.

Availability - Some bottles are still available in Europe as of today
Pricing - £75
Rating - 76

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Glen Scotia 17 year old 2002 SMWS 93.128

This week's Glen Scotia grouping isn't quite what I thought it was because all three whiskies are peated. So much for sussing out Scotia's general style(s). Instead, I'm focusing on just their peated style(s), which isn't actually a letdown. Thanks to Monday's official 10 year old Peated release I'm feeling some optimism about their smoky stuff. Today's SMWS refill hoggie release was released for the virtual 2020 Campbeltown Malts Festival.

Distillery: Glen Scotia
Ownership: Loch Lomond Group (via Exponent)
Region: Campbeltown
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Age: 17 years (6 May 2002 - 2020)
Maturation: refill hogshead
Cask: 93.128
Cutesy SMWS name: Smoke and smugglers
Outturn: 213 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 54.9%
(from a bottle split)


Definitely a bigger, louder cousin to the 10 year old. Palo Santo and sage smokes (hippie whisky!) mix with pears, pecans and toasted marshmallows, with just a touch of sugary rum in the nose's background. The palate reads heavier than the nose, with smoked almonds, smoked turkey, liquid smoke, stones, soil and bark. Moderate sweetness, savoriness and (horseradish) bitterness fill in the edges. It finishes with a solid balance of sweet, smoke, saline, chiles and tanginess.

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or >1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky

The nose shifts quite a bit, now focusing on white peaches and limes, moss and ocean, and a softer wood smoke. The palate reads much fruitier as well. Oranges and nectarines meet well with chile oil and dusty smoke. It finishes with oranges and smoke in unison.


I dig this style. Though it's not related to Benromach and Ardmore, it would certainly be a friendly neighboring clan, or some other sort of terrible metaphor. The edgier neat palate works for one environment, while the fruitier diluted palate fits another. Like autumn and spring. I wonder if SMWS has any sibling 2002 hoggies they're letting sit for another 5-10 years, because those could be utter gems.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - £85 in 2020, a price that seems unimaginable now
Rating - 89

Monday, April 25, 2022

Glen Scotia 10 year old Peated

I like Glen Scotia single malt, but it's difficult to pin down what exactly links one Glen Scotia whisky to another. Sometimes they're peaty-ish, sometimes not. Some have industrial funk, while others are fruity and floral. Perhaps these capricious styles are due to four different owners in less than three decades, varying fermentation times, three malt types and a range of cut points. Or not.

A limited edition "heavily peated" 10 year old made an appearance during the distillery's Disco Cow Era (thank you, Jordan!), while a "peated" 14 year old was exclusive to Sweden, a whisky whose bottle design MUST BE SEEN. 🌈🐄💘 Then in 2018, the current ownership bottled a 10 year old, non-chillfiltered, natural color, bourbon cask, 46%abv "Peated" Glen Scotia. And that is what I'm going to be sampling today.

The distillery has unpeated, medium peated and heavily peated malt runs, so I'm not sure how peated this "Peated" is. With my luck, this Peated won't read peated and I will feel mildly defeated.

Glen Scotia
Ownership: Loch Lomond Group (via Exponent)
Region: Campbeltown
Type: Single Malt
Age: minimum 10 years
Maturation: first-fill bourbon barrels
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from a bottle split)


Pears, saline and Big Red gum are wrapped together by gentle wood smoke in the nose. Smaller notes of band-aids, roses and white rum color in the background. Sweet, heat, salt and smoke merge in equal parts within the palate. The smoke, mesquite. The heat, first ethyl then chile oil. White rum and lime appear after 30 minutes. It finishes with chile oil, lots of salt, lime and a hint of wood smoke.


A very young but very satisfying pour, this Glen Scotia could serve as a comfy introduction to peated whiskies if only it had wider distribution, as it's certainly more approachable than Islay's heavy hitters. But that may require more on-hand stock than the distillery has. It cannot compete with Springbank 10, but I did enjoy this Campbeltowner's style more than my last bottle of Longrow Peated. Glen Scotia 10's price keeps me from hunting down a US bottle since the superior Loch Lomond 12 (yes, I typed that) sells for half that amount.

Availability - Limited quantities in US and Europe
Pricing - $65-$80 (USA), $40-$60 (Europe)
Rating - 84

Friday, April 22, 2022

Bushmills 25 year old 1995 Causeway Collection, Malaga casks

On Monday and Wednesday, I reviewed a pair of single bourbon barrel Bushmills malts from SMWS. Today, I'm reporting on a rare full-powered official Bushmills. Matured for about 11 years in oloroso and bourbon casks, this batch was then transferred to Malaga casks for another 14 years. So this isn't a quickie finish. It's a full secondary maturation.

Malaga, a Spanish fortified wine, does tend to be pretty sweet but, like sherry and port, there are different types/distinctions. I don't think Bushmills listed the type used here, but the end result is probably a winesky. I'm not 100% winesky-phobic, as I've found some to be very enjoyable, so I'm cautiously optimistic.

Distillery: Old Bushmills
 Casa Cuervo
Location: County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Type: Single Malt
Distillations: Three
Age: 25 years old (22 Nov 1995 - 2020)
Maturation: 10+ years in Oloroso and bourbon casks, 14+ years in Malaga casks
Outturn: 2491 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 53.5%
(from a bottle split)


The nose has the rich oak of older L'Encantada armagnacs with a swirl of orange liqueur mixed in. Musty old furniture, lumber, eucalyptus, saline and smoked almonds with bits of moss and port-ish berry notes in the background. Can't say "whiskey" is the first thing I think of when testing the palate. Orange liqueur rides up front again, mixing with dried thyme and rosemary, fresh ginger and dried apricots. More than a little orange Fanta and a touch of umeshu (Japanese plum wine). It finishes very sweet, with dried apricots, plum jam, fresh ginger and orange peels.

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or 1 tsp of water per 30mL whiskey

The nose becomes more focused, with furniture polish, dunnage and citrus peels in the front, toffee in the back. The palate would be stellar, thanks to red plums and Rainier cherries, if not for the orange liqueur and bitter oak notes. Though it does finish nicely with more cherry jam than orange liqueur.


How many times should I type "orange liqueur" before my point is made? Despite all the whiskey-in-name-only's sweetness, I actually enjoyed sipping it. The neat nose is lovely at times as well. Drinkers seeking the dynamite style of long-aged Irish single malt may be disappointed here, as will many folks looking for more whiskey in their whiskey. But if you didn't shill out €400 for a bottle, and you free your mind, man, you may experience more than a modicum of pleasure sipping this stuff.

Availability - May still be available in Europe
Pricing - €400+
Rating - 85 (I have no idea if this score makes sense)

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Bushmills 19 year old 2001 SMWS 51.17

Monday offered up an oaky Bushmills thanks to its first-fill bourbon barrel. I'm going to try another one from the Ulster that spent more time in a theoretically-milder aging vessel. Same bottler, similar ABV. May the fruits be with this whiskey.

Distillery: Old Bushmills
 Casa Cuervo
Location: County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Type: Single Malt
Distillations: Three
Age: 19 years old (16 Jan 2001 - 2020)
Maturation: second-fill bourbon barrel
Cask: 51.17
Cutesy SMWS name: A spring in your step
Outturn: 175 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 54.6%
(from a bottle split)


Lots of mint in the nose here, but less anise than was in the 15yo. Some pine needles and pumpernickel toast in the middle. Nectarines and orange blossoms in the background. The palate starts off with white peach, bitter orange peel and butterscotch. The bitter citrus note builds over time, with smaller moments of mint and pepper in the back. It finishes with pairings of bitter citrus and sweet citrus, peach and cayenne.

DILUTED to ~43%abv, or >1½ tsp of water per 30mL whiskey

Now the nose shows more orange and lime zests with a bit of kiwi candy. The palate gets sweeter and maltier while holding onto the citrus and peaches. The finish balances tart, sweet and bitter well.


Much better. In the 15yo oak blocked much of that whiskey's development. Here in the 19yo, the barrel helps frame the fruit, which is what some of us look for when trying well-aged Irish malts. I'm not someone who hands out compliments to SMWS often (or at all), but I appreciate that they dumped this barrel before letting it ride another decade and charging a half grand per bottle for the result. The spirit is still alive here.

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

Monday, April 18, 2022

Bushmills 15 year old 2002 SMWS 51.9

Cork distillery reviews last week. Ulster distillery reviews this week. Midleton. Bushmills. Both producing whiskies that fare better when served up at higher strengths than what we usually see from the standard offerings. Bushmills is particularly guilty of maximum dilution. Even their regular 21-year-old has always been 40%abv. Luckily I obtained three samples of cask strength Bushmills single malt last year, and now is a good time to dig in.

First up, a 15yo from whisky's No Homers Club.

Distillery: Old Bushmills
Owner: Casa Cuervo
Location: County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Type: Single Malt
Distillations: Three
Age: 15 years old (21 Feb 2002 - 2017)
Maturation: first-fill bourbon barrel
Cask: 51.9
Cutesy SMWS name: Sinful indulgence
Outturn: 240 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 54.2%
(from a bottle split)


The nose begins with a mix of aged malt and corn whiskies, but it's the barrel that ultimately takes over. Mint, caramel chews and toasted coconut lead the way, with smaller notes of anise and roses in the background. Vanilla, black pepper and plums arrive first in the palate, with hints of grapefruit and cinnamon red hots around the edges. It gradually becomes more floral with time. It finishes with vanilla fudge, flowers and acidic fruit.

I'm not going to water it all the way down the Bushmills Basic 40%abv, but it'll be close...

DILUTED to ~43%abv, or 1½ tsp of water per 30mL whiskey

Vanilla, whipped cream and orange candy in the nose, followed by Cow Tales candy and cinnamon. The palate has become much sweeter, all tangerines and vanilla. And that's where the finish sits as well, with a bit of black pepper.


Nothing "sinful" here, except that the barrel's dominance is a slight disappointment. No "indulgence" either, since this is a mild, comfy drinker. In fact, the official 16yo is more complex at 40%abv, than this whiskey at full power. Or at least it was when I last had the 16 five years ago. I'm not saying this 15yo single cask is a dud, rather it is of a very contemporary style, with the US oak riding up front, telling the other passengers to STFU with great success. (Ugh, lumpy metaphor.) Next up, a Bushmills in a refill barrel...

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 82

Friday, April 15, 2022

Redbreast 10 year old Limited Edition, 2021 batch

For those of you who are new to this site, please know that I am utterly, disgustingly smitten by Redbreast single pot still Irish whiskey. That's a warning.

Though the annual 12 year old Cask Strength seems to still exist, Midleton dropped another in a series of limited edition full-powered Redbreasts into the marketplace early last year. Most of the previous LEs were NAS, but this edition came with an actual age statement of 10 whole years. The whiskey was spun from bourbon and sherry casks (allegedly) between the ages of 10 and 15 years. Due to the batch's ABV, I doubt any underproof casks were involved here.

Brand: Redbreast
Country: Ireland
Distillery: Midleton
: Single Pot Still
Age: minimum 10 years
Maturation: ex-bourbon and ex-Oloroso sherry casks
Outturn: 7,000 bottles
Release year: 2021
Alcohol by Volume: 59.1%
Chillfiltered? no
e150a? possibly not
(from a bottle split)


A very pretty nose. First up: fresh cherries, white peaches, flower blossoms and a mango custard. Then: honey, orange zest and Big League Chew. Hints of clove linger in the background. The palate's sweetness and fruitiness is balanced by some malty heft and raw nuts (walnuts and almonds). But yeah there's apricot jam, limes and guava. Honey and cayenne pepper. And that is exactly how it finishes as well.

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or 1¾ tsp per 30mL whiskey

The nose becomes more floral, yet not at all perfumey. There's also peach crumble, ginger and eucalyptus. Mango appears in the palate, along with the limes and honey. Hints of vanilla and toasted oak remain in the background. The sweetness recedes in the finish, as the raw nuts return and the fruit grows tarter.


Oh the fruits, so many fruits. This gorgeous thing tops all four of those USA-exclusive Small Batches from 2019/2020, as well as most of the 12yo Cask Strengths. I prefer it neat, where there's less oak, more fruit, and the heat is just right. Folks who want more cask action should dilute it. Though I try not to encourage anyone to indulge in the still mostly-illegal-in-the-USA secondary market, I still did take a look at the bottle's price. And I sobbed.

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - Don't look
Rating - 90

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Jameson 18 year old Bow Street, Cask Strength 2019 edition

I was really REALLY excited in 2018 when I'd heard that Jameson was releasing a full strength version of their 18 year old. Five minutes later I realized this was really only a half-step up from cask strength grain whiskey, and my enthusiasm subsided. Then I had to keep reminding myself of that for more than a year before I truly lost interest in a whole bottle. The stories we tell ourselves...

This did not stop me from taking part in a bottle split of the 2019 edition, though. And so here it is, four years later, cask strength Jameson with age...

Distillery: Midleton
Owner: Pernod Ricard
Brand: Jameson
Type: Irish Blended Whiskey (grain + pot stillwhiskey)
Age: at least 18 years old
Maturation: a mix of bourbon and sherry casks
Release year: 2019
Alcohol by Volume: 55.1%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from a bottle split)


All dessert things on the nose. Vanilla, salt water taffy, candy corn, coconut cream (active oak + grain whiskey), cheese danish and crème brûlée.

The palate begins with baking spices, nectarines and salty popcorn up front, tapioca pudding in the back. It picks up a dash of Madeira with time, and more than a dash of wheated bourbon (Old Weller).

The finish is a pairing of Madeira with an egg custard and a shot of OWA 107.

DILUTED to ~40%abv, or ¾ tbsp of water per 30mL whiskey

Now it noses of coconut cream, rosewater, vanilla and shortbread.

The palate is hotter, bitter, very rough, coated with simple syrup and imitation vanilla extract.

It finishes with Nillas, raw grain whiskey and pepper sauce.


I've never had a whisk(e)y drop from a B to a D+ with dilution, until now. Once I watered this thing it sprouted weeds. The high grain content and aggressive casks may have been the culprits. BUT, I found the whiskey to be very enjoyable when neat, something to indulge in with or for dessert. It's better than most 18yo scotch blends, but then again there aren't any cask strength 18yo scotch blends offered by the majors. Whether it's worth the price is up for debate but, per Winesearcher, Bow Street averages only a 20% premium over the standard diluted, dyed and filtered Jameson 18. And that is unusually reasonable.

Availability - three editions can be found at specialty retailers in the US and Europe
Pricing - $160-$250 (US); $140-$240 (Europe w/VAT)
Rating - 84 (do not dilute)

Monday, April 11, 2022

Things I Really Drink: Three Jamesons

I was too wrapped up in Scotch whisky reviews to honor St. Pat's Day with Irish whiskey reviews this year. So you're gonna get them now.


In an early attempt to expand the Jameson blended whiskey range, Pernod Ricard rolled out the Caskmates sub-range, which included the standard blend finished in beer-seasoned refill casks. The series began and ended with two whiskies. One finished in Cork's Franciscan Well stout casks, and one finished in "craft" IPA barrels.

Though I'm apparently the only one who thinks Jameson Black Barrel was a large step down from the standard expression, I was interested in these two beery whiskies because I've enjoyed the interplay of whisky and beer on my palate and in my tummy, more so than whisky and wine.


Jameson and I have been chums for nearly a quarter of a century, but we've grown apart over the past eight years or so. Either my palate or the whiskey's recipe has changed because my opinion of it has dropped precipitously. Jameson was always grain-heavy, but it seems to have crossed into 80-90% 3-year-old grain content territory. The 375mL bottle I'm reviewing today was purchased more than two years ago, but has barely been touched.

I also bought the stout edition two years ago and drank it rather swiftly. And there was good reason for that, as it paired really well with Guinness. The 375mL bottle being reviewed today was opened on 3/17 of this year and will be reviewed only with its two mates, no Guinness.

The IPA Edition was also opened on St. Patrick's Day this year. It registered so foully on my palate that night that I haven't touched the whiskey since.

So that is where we begin.

Irish Triplets:

bottled 2020 - 40%abv
Jameson IPA Edition
bottled 2018 - 40%abv
Jameson Stout Edition
bottled 2018 - 40%abv
This stuff is getting closer to Canadian Club every year. The nose is mostly just Nillas soaked in vodka, with hints of citrons, cherry blossoms and Power-style machinery in the background.IPA dominates the nose at first, all grapefuity hops and old bong water. It picks up lemon zest and lemon candy with time. No vodka.This has a much better integrated nose. The gentle stout element forms the foundation, balancing ripe peaches, toffee, and a hint of vanilla bean. Like the old Gold Reserve, it's what I wish Jameson actually smelled like.
Neutral grain spirit, imitation vanilla extract and corn whiskey lead the palate, with occasional notes of flowers and peppercorns appearing occasionally.The manic palate starts with lemon candy, Lucky Charms, flowers, vanilla and hoppy bitterness. It goes Full IPA after 15 minutes with only the vanilla and lemon candy clinging on for dear life.Mild roasted grain and mellow bitterness from the stout registers first in the palate, with a slight pencil shaving note that almost makes this read like a French oak thing. It has the mildest vanilla and sweetness of the trio.
Heat, vanilla and black pepper in the finish. The bitterness starts tilting towards woodiness in the finish, mixing awkwardly with a cloying sweetness and lots of vanilla.It finishes with lemons, peppercorns and vanilla porter.
On the Rocks:
The vanilla and corn notes grow, the vodka vanishes. An improvement.
On the Rocks:
Ah, this is that note I didn't like when I tried the whiskey three weeks ago. An ugly bitterness mixed with vodka.
On the Rocks:
This one also loses all of its good aspects, turning it into something close to the regular Jameson.


Jameson - As referenced in the notes, this has become almost interchangeable with Canadian Club, which is quite a descent. Though ice helps it out, I don't really see any need to use this bottle's contents again, especially with the Stout Edition on hand.

IPA Edition - There's no doubt this version will appeal to IPA fans since the end result is so close a moderate India Pale Ale. The palate is a weird goulash of flavors, which winds up being the whiskey's best attribute. Sadly the parts didn't come together as well as Glenfiddich's IPA Experiment. Perhaps a 43%abv single malt has more backbone than a grain-heavy 40%abv blend.

Stout Edition - The best of the trio by some distance, though I was surprised to see it take to ice so poorly. Otherwise, it's the only one of the three I'd buy again. Heck, it's the only one I want to drink again. My bottle was on the clearance shelves here in Ohio, so I hope this expression is not being phased out.

Jameson, bottled in 2020 - 70 (and that's being generous)
Caskmates IPA Edition, bottled in 2018 - 76 (keep it neat)
Caskmates Stout Edition, bottled in 2018 - 82 (keep it neat)

Friday, April 8, 2022

Things I Really Drink: Speyburn 15 year old (bottled 2017)

I'll always give Speyburn a try. A decade ago their 10 year old single malt provided surprising quality for $15, though they have since doubled its price and lowered its ABV. Priced well in Europe, the 18 year old is a very solid pour. But the 15yo is my favorite of their standard range. I enjoyed my sample of it so much that I bought an entire bottle. Crazy, right?

Well, I've finished the bottle and have set aside a substantial quantity for this review. I have a picture of the bottle to prove that it's a real TIRD.....somewhere around here......ah, here it is:

You're welcome.

Distillery: Speyburn
Ownership: Inver House (via Thai Beverages plc via International Beverage Holdings Ltd.)
Region: Speyside (Rothes)
Age: at least 15 years old
Maturation: American oak casks and Spanish oak casks
Outturn: 3500 cases per year
Bottle code: L17/346
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from the bottom third of my bottle)


The nose begins with lychee-laced oloroso casks filled with lavender blossoms, anise and Granny Smith apples. It slowly picks up hints of dijon mustard, dunnage, milk chocolate and rum cake. Classic Speyside-style sherry casks appear first in the palate. Think Aberlour with a squeeze of tart lemons. Black pepper and sweet oranges develop in the midground. It has a decent mouthfeel throughout, but some woody bitterness starts to show at the 30 minute mark. It finishes with tart citrus, tart apples and black pepper.

DILUTED to ~40%abv, or <1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky

Now I'm getting Balvenie with lime on the nose. (These distillery references are a bit lazy and not terribly helpful, sorry about that.) Stones and barley in the middle, flowers and caramel in the back. The palate starts off with a mix of dark and milk chocolates teamed with unripe plums, tart blackberries, flowers and some of that woody bitterness. The milk chocolate and wood carry into the finish.


This works much better as a casual drinker than a thing to dissect. I noticed very little of the bitterness during the life of the bottle, usually finding it to be comparable or better than more-famous sherried Speysiders. Perhaps that's because the whisky usually found its way to my mouth not via Glencairn, nor the bottle neck, but in a heavy tumbler. And that is how I'd recommend the thing be consumed, while keeping it undiluted. (Mr. Opinions reviewed a pour from this same bottle just last week and was less enthusiastic about it than I.) Though I'm happy to have tossed some coin to Speyburn and finished this bottle, I don't anticipate getting another any time soon.

Availability - many specialty retailers in the US and Europe
Pricing - $60-$80, essentially unchanged in 4 years
Rating - 84

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Vega 40 year old 1977 blended malt, North Star Spirits

The North Star Spirits Quartet wraps up with the eldest, a 40 year old blended malt from 1977. It's un-Sirius in that it had a small outturn (400) and was built from sherry cask whiskies. Yet it possesses a matching ABV, 43.1%abv. I'm curious to see if the different casks and extra time gave it more oomph than the 31yo vatting, pushing it into the 90+ point arena.

This is 40
Company: North Star
Range: Vega
Type: Blended (or Vatted) Malt
Distilleries: in Scotland
Age: 40 years (October 1977 - January 2018)
Maturation: "Spanish and American oak"
Outturn: 400 700mL bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 43.1%
Chillfiltered? No
Color added? No
(from a bottle split)


The nose feels like old Glenfarclas. Dunnage, furniture polish, antique stores, carob, cloves, dates, very dark chocolate, pipe tobacco, dried currants, dried blueberries and on and on and on.

Meanwhile, the palate is reminiscent of 1970s Johnnie Walker Black Label, but a little thinner and less peaty. There's dust and dunnage and a dash of gooey paxarette. Bitter citrus peels and dried apricots in the middle. A hint of pipe tobacco in the background.

Bold bitterness dances with moderate sweetness in the finish. Baking chocolate meets brown sugar? Hints of clementines and dried apricots drift in the distance.


Though this one is sure to win more fans, I may pick Sirius over this Vega. I will not dispute the utter joy in the whisky's nose. The glories of the casks' old age do not carry over to the palate as the vessels have long overtaken the spirit they'd carried.

(Considering the raves this whisky has received, I drank the second half of the sample while typing up my notes, just to make sure I wasn't crazy. While I can't guarantee my sanity, I can say Vega's finish is shorter and simpler than any other 40+ year old whisky I've tried. Again I wonder if one of the two(?) casks involved had dropped below 40%abv.)

Availability - It might still exist in Europe, or the night sky (recycled joke)
Pricing - somewhere between €400 and €600, maybe?
Rating - 86 (gorgeous nose, though)

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Sirius 31 year old 1988 blended malt, North Star Spirits

North Star Spirits Week continues. The 11 year old Caol Ila was terrific, while the 20 year old Clynelish was hard to get a handle on, just beyond reach, slipping beyond my grasp. And so on.

Today it's a 31 year old blended malt, distilled in 1988. I'm unsure of its ingredients, but with its large outturn and 43.1%abv cask strength, Sirius likely included a number of casks that had dropped below the legal strength. That's not a problem as long as the whisky tastes good and the price is under €200. The latter was true. Time to check out the former.

This is Sirius.
Company: North Star
Range: Cask Series 009
Type: Blended (or Vatted) Malt
Distilleries: in Scotland
Age: 31 years (1988-2019)
Maturation: first fill bourbon barrels
Outturn: 3,582 700mL bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 43.1%
Chillfiltered? No
Color added? No
(from a bottle split)


Immediately, the nose brings to mind milk chocolate bubbling in a double boiler. Then cassis and Good 'n Plenty candies. Hay and charred corn drift through the background. It gets fruiter with time, gaining nectarines, honeydew, creamsicles and roses. Something slightly meaty too.

The palate first registers medicinal with toasted oak spices around the sides. But then it goes to dessert. Vanilla ice cream, peaches, plums and yuzu candy. Very gentle, though, so I won't add water.

It finishes with lots of honey, peaches and bitter lemon soda.


Sirius would be a great casual sipper, and I do mean casual. That's no sin, but if its ABV went any lower the palate and finish would vaporize. Frankly, it's more like ...... Canis Minor.  *wink*

When I tasted this whisky, I thought it was a blend of refill sherry casks, specifically due to the nose notes but, alas, first fill American oak barrels were its homes for more than three decades. In any case, I really like the style. Sadly we can't expect a matching sequel batch at a higher strength, but perhaps another North Star blended malt...

Availability - It might still exist in Europe, or the night sky
Pricing - less than €200
Rating - 87

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Caol Ila 11 year old 2009 North Star Spirits

The original plan was to review four North Star Spirits malts this week, but the Clynelish didn't quite follow the script. So now I'm down to three: one youngin' and two oldies. It has also been brought to my attention (by me) that I haven't written about a Caol Ila in nearly 16 months. So here we go, one single sherry cask of Caol Ila!

Distillery: Caol Ila
Region: Islay
Owner: Diageo
Independent Bottler: North Star Spirits
Range: Cask Series 011
Age: 11 years (Sept 2009 - Oct 2020)
Maturation: first fill sherry butt
Outturn: 410 (possibly part of a bottle split?)
Alcohol by Volume: 58.2%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No
(from a bottle split)


Ocean, bacon and band-aids (Spring Break, bruh, amirite?) on the nose. Peaches and almond butter fill in the midground, hints of iron and lemon in the background. The zippy, zesty palate is almost effervescent, glowing with sooty peat, herbal peat, citrus peels and salt. Lemons and soot take over the finish, with chiles and salt around the edges.

I'm not going to water this one down too much.

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

More of the ocean, mixed with wet peat, leads the nose now. Soil, mint leaves and newspaper print appear after some time. The palate loses none of its power. More chiles and more earth up front. Salt and lemons highlight the rest. The finish might be a little shorter, and slightly heavier on the chiles, but it matches the neat finish otherwise.


There aren't many better contemporary whiskies than proper Caol Ila sherry casks. This one sticks the landing, then shouts about it. Angus calls it, "Kind of like a bar brawl captured in a tasting glass," and I think I can allow that poetry today. Really, this is an excellent enormous whisky that would thump any of CI's Islay cousins' special releases.

Availability - Gone :(
Pricing - was under €80 two years ago (yeah, we missed it)
Rating - 90

Monday, April 4, 2022

A short story about a 20 year old Clynelish

 I'm doing a tasting of this sample of 20 year old Clynelish, er, Lynch Isle:

Distilled in 2000 and bottled by North Star Spirits in 2020, the whisky spent its life in a sherry butt, then a Portuguese brandy butt. Seems like a whole lotta effort to murder a Clynelish, but I'll keep an open mind, especially since I know squat about Portuguese brandy. That's Randy's realm.

It does have a nice medium gold color to it, once it fills the bottom half of the Glencairn bowl.

Lots of cocoa, raw walnuts, raw Brazil nuts and very dry sherry on the nose. Some hot driveway gravel, a bit of brine, some white flour--


I just.

I just knocked the glass off the table, spilling all the whisky onto the floor.

20 year old Clynelish. At least the living room will smell nice for a while.

I mean, I'm not the kind of person who'd get on his hands and knees to suck it out of the carpet.

Friday, April 1, 2022

Killing Whisky History, Episode 40: Johnnie Walker Red Label, bottled 1968-1976

It's time to bring Diageo Month to a close by opening up a dusty Johnnie Walker Red Label. There's even a sparring partner from the 1980s! *SPOILER ALERT* They don't taste like the current version of Johnnie Red.