...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, August 5, 2022

Killing Whisky History, Episode 41: Four bottles of Johnnie Walker Gold Label 18 year old

Watch me sample these four versions of JW 18...

1. The first iteration from the mid- to late-1990s

2. A bottle from the mid-Aughts

3. JW Gold 18 from its final year, 2012

4. The current Ultimate 18

...if you dare (or are just chillin').

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Glenlivet 16 year old 1997 van Wees The Ultimate, cask 157418

One last Glenlivet sherry cask. This one (likely from Signatory's warehouse) was bottled by the Dutch van Wees folks at 46%abv, a strength I've had some luck with this week. I've also found the van Wees whiskies to be very reliable — as long as they're not 6 years old — so I'm looking forward to this one.

Distillery: Glenlivet
Ownership: Pernod Ricard
Independent Bottler: van Wees
Series: The Ultimate
Age: 16 years (6 Nov 1997 - 13 Jan 2014)
Maturation: first fill sherry butt
Cask#: 157418
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from a purchased sample)


The nose begins with pineapple juice, wet stones and green bananas. Honey, peaches, burlap and cream soda arrive next, soon to be overtaken by walnuts in toffee. A bit zany but fun.

Dark chocolate and almond butter rule the palate at the start, with smaller notes of Chambord and graphite in the background. The almond note grows with time, as dried berries and oversteeped black tea appear around the edges.

Almonds and graphite appear in the finish after the first sips, bitterness and dried berries show up later.


This unusual sherry cask results in a bit of a mess, but......I like it. Must be the dark chocolate + almonds + Chambord in the palate, along with the peaches and walnuts in the nose. With all the parts bouncing off of each other, never merging, this single malt feels like an oddly mixed blended malt. But again, it's entertaining, and I would almost be tempted to buy a bottle, especially at its old price.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - was below €80 eight years ago
Rating - 86

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Glenlivet 19 year old 1995 Signatory, cask 166946

Here's another 1995 Glenlivet sherry butt bottled by Signatory. Unlike its doubles partner, yesterday's 15 year old, cask 166946 rumbles in at cask strength. I tried it at the diluted strength of 46%abv first so that my palate would survive the evening, and that turned out to be a good choice...

Distillery: Glenlivet
Ownership: Pernod Ricard
Independent Bottler: Signatory
Series: Un-Chillfiltered Collection
Age: 19 years (30 Oct 1995 - 16 Jan 2015)
Maturation: Sherry Butt
Cask#: 166946
Alcohol by Volume: 59%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from a purchased sample)

DILUTED to 46%abv, or 1¾ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

Love the nose. Graphite, concrete and candied citrus peels, first. Then hints of dried apricots, almond extract, cherry popsicles and milk chocolate arise from underneath. The palate starts with an austere mineral style, a bit of salt, some spent engine oil, followed by dried cherries and green peppercorns. It finishes with that mineral note, a touch of wormwood, and hints of tar and cassis in the background.


Compared to the diluted version, the neat nose feels closed. It's vaguely floral, with apple peels and apricots in the distance. Maybe some concrete and dried thyme too. The palate reads tight as well. Lots of heat. Bits of honey, lemon, golden raisins and minerals here and there. It finishes hot and mildly sweet with salt and lemons.


This is stellar at 46%, though not so much at full power. Like cask 144361, this is another sherry butt that's free from generic black raisin and prune notes. It frames the spirit very well, letting the whisky part of the whisky do most of the talking. Perhaps it had a good spot in the warehouse? Or was a second fill? Or both? If you have this bottle (lucky lucky), you'll want to spend some time tinkering with a pipette or teaspoon to find the best ABV spot. Ah yes, the pleasures of an actual bottle, as opposed to a wee sample.

Availability - Probably sold out in Europe
Pricing - ???
Rating - 89 (diluted)

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Glenlivet 15 year old 1995 Signatory, cask 144361

Signatory's Pitlochry warehouses have (or had) quite the stash of 1995 Glenlivets, with the bottler emptying nearly 50 casks between 2009 and 2016, all (or most) of which were sherry butts. I reviewed cask 166947 almost exactly six(!) years ago. Two other casks now follow, today and tomorrow.

I took a sizable share of a bottle of cask 144361, which allowed it to serve as a sparring partner for the next two Glenlivets this week. It was part of Siggy's Un-Chillfiltered Collection, a series I miss quite a bit.

Distillery: Glenlivet
Ownership: Pernod Ricard
Independent Bottler: Signatory
Series: Un-Chillfiltered Collection
Age: 15 years (19 Sep 1995 - 23 Sept 2010)
Maturation: first fill sherry butt
Cask#: 144361
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from a bottle split)


Its nose has a candy shop sugariness and a lot of fruit. Yuzu and lemon peels. Apple cider and pineapple juice. Undercurrents of rope, wet stones and Brillo pads provide an anchor. The palate arrives much sweeter than I'd expected, mostly apple candy and mint juleps. After some time another level develops, a mix of green plums with raw pecans and raw walnuts, providing some necessary depth. The finish is, well, it's a mint julep made with calvados. Maybe a touch of honey and a few sultanas.


One curious sherry cask resulted in a real sweetie here, though the nose and palate do have some angles to 'em. A drinker more than a thinker, it feels like a good summer whisky, and its original price from 12 years ago would probably make us sob. All my Signatory UCF bottles are gone, and I feel the lack.

Availability - Bye Bye
Pricing - ??
Rating - 85

Monday, August 1, 2022

Two batches of Glenlivet XXV

I don't know, people. Can we trust that this a 25 year old whisky? Maybe "XXV" is really a Code, wrapped in an Enigma, excreted by a Guardian and filtered through a Cipher, ultimately revealing it to be Gaelic for "LOL, you sucker."

And, for the sake of this review, I will assume that the "25YO" on the label does not mean "I, 25". Bingo.

I got jokes. Somewhere.

The XXV releases began in 2007 and continued up through 2021. I'm not sure if a 2022 batch exists yet, but raise your hand if you're worried about that..........Cool. The XXV batches all appear to have been finished in 1st fill Oloroso casks for an unstated period of time, which only leads me to ask, "Glenlivet, WTF was wrong with your 25YO whisky?"

It has been a long time since I drank Glenlivet's 18 and 21 year olds, but I used to find them very friendly and fruity. This will be my first time trying the XXV, because apparently four extra years (and that sherry finish) require the price to jump 75% from the 21YO's spot, and that never motivates me. So though this may not be as sexy as last week's Glengoyne 25yo Taste Off, I have been looking forward to this duo.


Glenlivet 25 year old, batch 0419E (2019), 43%abv

Mostly American oak on the nose. Lumber, banana pudding, vanilla and pineapple. That's it, at first. The whisky takes more than 30 minutes to open up, finally revealing mango, yellow nectarine, Heath Bar and a hint of dunnage.

The palate shows a surprising level of heat. Spicy cigars, toffee, tapioca pudding and sweet paprika fill the foreground, with lots of salt in the middle, and hints of Kasugai gummies in the back.

It finishes with moderate bitterness and sweetness, along with plenty of cigar notes. More bitterness, ash and salt appear in later sips.


Glenlivet 25 year old, batch 0220F (2020), 43%abv

The nose begins with vanilla, orange and urine. Like the other batch, 0220F takes a while to shift gears, eventually blossoming after the 40 minute mark. That's when all the peaches appear, along with white chocolate, toasted oak, kelp and old newspapers.

Spirit and oak battle it out in the palate. Woody bitterness meets a light sweetness. Ash and oranges. Cream soda, guava and black pepper.

In early sips, ash and oranges make up most of the finish. But later on, menthol and chile oil replace the ash, then more vanilla beans and tart citrus fruits arrive.


That was not what I'd expected. Both noses began oddly, later blooming into the highlight of each whisky.  In fact, 0220F's sniffer turned out to be excellent, it just needed time to get there. Neither whisky's palate came together like a drinker would expect from a sizable batch of mass-produced 25 year old scotch. Batch 0419E's finish was the weakest point, giving 0220F the advantage overall. While both were decent whiskies, I don't see them topping the Glenlivet 18s and 21s I've had, resulting very weak QPRs for this $500+ single malt. Now that I've tried Glenlivet XXV, it's time to move on.

Glenlivet XXV, batch 0419E - 82
Glenlivet XXV, batch 0220F - 85