...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Balmenach 12 year old 1975 SMWS 48.1

Balmenach is distillery #48 in the Scotch Malt Whisky Society's library. And ".1" means, yes, this was SMWS's first Balmenach, bottled back when SMWS was using their charming generic labels, before the "charming" cask names were introduced. Monday's 1970s Balmenach was a malty, sturdy thing at 43%abv. I'm curious to sniff a full-powered version from this era. Here it goes:

pic from whiskybase
Distillery: Balmenach
Ownership at time of distillation: United Distillers (proto-Diageo)
Region: Speyside (Moray)
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Age: 12 years (March 1975 - October 1987)
Maturation: ???
Cask: 48.1
Outturn: ???
Alcohol by Volume: 55.2%
(from a bottle split)


The nose is all raw seeds, raw nuts and apple cider at first. Then Delirium Tremens (the Belgian ale, not the syndrome) rises from the middle, followed by pumpkin pie and a touch of hay. The palate leads with a perky bitterness, like bitter citrus, followed by sea salt and barley, with hints of hay and halvah in the background. It finishes bitter and tangy, with moments of barley, hay and ash.

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or 1¼ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

The nose is yeasty and malty, with notes of cashews, mushrooms, saline and apple cider. The citrus becomes sweeter in the palate, and the bitterness reads herbal. Raw almonds and sativa flower float in the  midground. The finish stays similar, perhaps slightly sweeter and nuttier.


Another Balmenach in the buff, and another good one. Like the 14yo Sesante, this 12yo has apple cider and raw nut notes, as well as something nearly peated, but this one is slightly more to my liking. The notes of DT, cashews and sativa certainly don't hurt, but the gentle farminess puts it over the top. This would be a fun bottle to possess because time and different dilution levels may bring out even better results.

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - ???
Rating - 87

Monday, August 29, 2022

Balmenach-Glenlivet 14 year old Extra Special, Sesante, bottled 1980s

What the hell is a Balmenach anyway? Other than the occasional Signatory cask, Balmenach single malt rarely finds its way to retailer shelves or blog posts. Its current owner, Inver House, refuses to produce official bottlings because the malt is so desired by blenders, which is bummer because the rest of owner's distillery portfolio is frequently interesting (like Balblair, Old Pulteney, Speyburn and AnCnoc). But Hanky ain't gonna Bannister itself.

Balmenach was one of the rare distilleries that United Distillers chose to sell instead of destroy. Inver House scooped up the facility in 1997 after it had been mothballed for four years. According to both the Malt Whisky Yearbook and scotchwhisky.com, Balmenach currently produces an old school, hefty, meaty whisky.....and also gin.

But I'm not going to review anything distilled by Inver House this week. Instead, each of this week's three Balmenachs came from the United Distillers period post-floor malting (>1964), but pre-closure (<1993), all bottled by independent companies.

Image from
Sesante's 14 year old Extra Special Balmenach came in three formats: 43%abv, 57.5%abv, and a crystal decanter with 40%abv fluid within. It was a short lived set that may have been distilled in the early 1970s. I'm grateful to have had an opportunity to take part in a bottle split of the 43%abv edition.

Distillery: Balmenach
Ownership at time of distillation: United Distillers (proto-Diageo)
Region: Speyside (Moray)
Bottler: Sesante
Age: at least 14 years old
Maturation: ???
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
(from a bottle split)


A hardy combination of barley, apple cider and sooty garage appears first in the nose, followed by quieter notes of lemon, lox, metal and apple cake. It gets yeastier with time.

The palate starts off very malty, with a little bit of brown sugar and Campari-esque bitterness in the midground. It gains lemon, raw bitter nuts and slightly more brown sugar after a while.

In early sips, it finishes with a warm bitterness and something beer-like. Later on, it concludes slightly sweeter with tart oranges and raw walnuts in the background.


It's a fairly naked whisky but not in the same way that contemporary baby malts are produced. The barley rides way up front, framed by an unromantic bitterness. The palate's citrus gives it a nice twist, as does the nose's industrial side. I wouldn't call it a super whisky, but it would be nice to have something like this available today. Maybe a vatting of Benromach, Tobermory and Loch Lomond? Anyone?

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - no, don't look
Rating - 85

Friday, August 26, 2022

Birthday Booze: Blended Scotch Whisky 44 year old 1976 The Maltman, cask #8140

Normally I try to provide a little bit of background regarding fancier whiskies, but I don't know the full story on this one. Whiskybase says this blend is a mix of Ben Nevis, Clynelish, Teaninich, Macduff, Dailuaine and Invergordon, and that it was sherry cask matured with an outturn of 327 bottles. So, were this whiskies hanging out in the same cask for 44 years? Or were they pulled from other casks, blended, then finished in a sherry hoggie (considering bottle count)? I dunno. Feel free to inform me in the comment section below. Huzzah to 44!

Blender: Meadowside Blending
Range: The Maltman
Type: Scotch Blended Whisky
Age: at least 44 years (1976 - 2021)
Malt Ingredients: Ben Nevis, Clynelish, Teaninich, Macduff, Dailuaine
Grain Ingredient: Invergordon
Maturation: "sherry cask"
Outturn: 327 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 46.4%
(from a bottle split)


The nose begins with a big note of old funky paxarette-style sherry cask. Lots of dunnage too. Those notes gradually lift, revealing mocha ice cream and Kinder Bueno minis. Cassis and dulce de leche. Hints of root beer barrel candy and new leather float in the background.

Though there's plenty of oak in the palate, it reads less tannic than bourbon one-third of this whisky's age. It's gingery and chocolatey, with figs and grapefruits as well. There's also a mix of Underberg and Cynar pepping up the affair. It gets sweeter, tangier and dustier with time, while gaining some wood spice.

It finishes with figs, dark chocolate, molasses, Cynar, tangy oranges and lots of tannins.


The nose says that this really was a very long single maturation, but the palate and finish are a little less clear. An overactive cask could have been engaged for a secondary maturation. This is mostly oak juice, as the age and the whisky's moderately-steeped black tea color warned me, but it's very nice oak juice. It smells wonderful and I don't have splinters in my mouth. Also figs.

Next week I'll try another trio of oldies, but "oldies" of a different sort.

Availability - ???
Pricing - ???
Rating - 88 (powered by the nose)

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Birthday Booze: Caol Ila 25 year old 1978, Special Release 2004

Much to my surprise, samples of vintage 1978 whisky still exist in the stash! Happy birthday to me! This year, I'm pouring an official Caol Ila '78, aged in refill casks and bottled at full strength.

Sometimes my palate registers Caol Ila as Ardmore's slightly brawnier cousin, which is a good thing, in fact I'd like to meet their entire family. Anyway, CI is the lone peated Islay malt I enjoy drinking in the late summer. The rest of those heaters don't taste as good until November. So there are my zillion reasons for drinking cask strength peated whisky on a humid evening. Sláinte!

Distillery: Caol Ila
Ownership: Diageo
Region: Port Askaig, Islay
Age: at least 25 years old (1978-2004)
Maturation: refill casks 💚
Outturn: 6000 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 59.4%
(from a bottle split)


The nose brings fruit first, peat second. Pineapples and citrons. Kelp and beach bonfire. Ah, there's the mango juice! Candied yuzu peels and a pretty floral note arise after 30 minutes. The palate starts off full of salty seaweed, with lemon bars and a hint of mango in the background. It stays quite lemony while gaining more smoke and baking spice with time. It finishes with salty savory smoke up front and touches of tart and bitter citrus in the back.

Pretty good, but what if I hydrate it to my favorite ABV?

DILUTED to 48%abv, or 1½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

Smoke stacks and toasted seaweed mingle with peach pie and pineapple cake in the nose, with some citrons and roses in the background. The palate gets a little more savory while picking up all sorts of new notes like wasabi, grapefruit, pineapple and toasted sunflower seeds. The finish keeps its good length, while gaining sweet fruit and reducing the smoke.


Yep, that little bit of water did what it needed to, pushing this into 90-point territory. And if my opinion ain't enough for you, there's a certain other person's opinion you may want to review. Part of me wishes Diageo dropped a cask strength 25yo Caol Ila each year, mirroring Talisker's old approach, but the other part of me knows how peckish the ravenous secondary market would have become for each bottle. So I'm just going to enjoy what I have here and finish off the rest of this fruity creature after I click "Publish". On to 44!

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - It was £150 in 2004, it is not £150 now
Rating - 90 (with water)

Monday, August 22, 2022

Birthday Booze: Longmorn 43 year old 1968 Gordon & MacPhail, cask 909 for Van Wees

Allow me to recap age 43: I got divorced, caught Covid-19, was booted from one company to another, injured one rotator cuff just as the other was completing 18 months of healing, was told my left ankle has nearly no tendon left, got back to my pre-parenting weight for like 1 month, and obtained a cat whom I swear is trying to kill me in my sleep. To celebrate the close of this uneventful year, I am relieving my 1968 Longmorn sample bottle of its contents.

For those not in the know, G&M dropped a clench of outrageous Longmorn casks for Van Wees seemingly all at once, about a decade ago. Today's whisky is one of that clench. I didn't buy any of those bottles because the €500-€700 price range was out of my reach. Casks like this would go for 5x that amount nowadays and still sell out. I am not the target demographic for this delicious whisky.

pic gently lifted
from whiskybase 
Distillery: Longmorn
Ownership at time of distillation: Longmorn-Glenlivet Distillery Co
Region: Speyside (Lossie)
Bottler: Gordon & MacPhail
Range: Reserve
Age: ~43 years old (15 February 1968 - June 2011)
Maturation: first fill sherry butt
Cask #: 909
Outturn: 523 bottles
Exclusively for: van Wees
Alcohol by Volume: 55.4%
(from a bottle split)


Nose - It reads like neither 55+%abv, nor a 1st fill sherry butt, or perhaps contemporary bottlings have conditioned my senses the wrong direction. First, fresh black plums and floral white peaches. Damp earth and toasted almonds. Lychee syrup. And then the guava, oh the guava! Madeira? Hints of dry gravel and Walker's shortbread in the background.

Palate - Oh. Oh dear. All the citrus. All the stone fruits. All the tropical fruits. I dunno, I'll try to list the things. Lots of oranges (cara caras, mandarins, bloods), figs, yellow peaches, guava, mango, dunnage, a soft earthy peat. It's tart and righteous. Massive, but never hot.

Finish - Glowingly tart. It's a citrus freakout, with Rainier cherries, mead, incense, pound cake, and a lovely bitterness also arriving in endless waves.


As complex as the nose was, the palate was my favorite part. What a lovely thing. This fruity-fruit-fruit Longmorn era produced some of the most delicious single malts I've ever tried. If you get an opportunity to try Longmorn distilled in the 1960s, or early 1970s, seize it! There are some Longmorns even better than this specific one, but I'm perfectly happy to settle. Good bye, 43!

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - ????
Rating - 92

Friday, August 19, 2022

Things I Really Drink: Ardmore 19 year old 1992 Single Malts of Scotland, cask 9464

It would be inaccurate to say Ardmore made me the man I am today — I can thank genetics, fear and questionable choices for that — but it did help me understand my palate. My first sips of early '90s Ardmore revealed balances of salt-sweet, fruit-smoke, roots, herbs and stones that I'd never had before. It wasn't quite like seeing a new color, rather I saw existing colors more clearly. And I said, "Oh, this is what I like."

That's why I've sprinkled "Ardmore that" and "Ardmore this" throughout the blog. And since our time is limited, and my taste buds aren't getting any smarter, it's time to start dusting off the good stuff. Like, say, Ardmore.

I opened this bottle of '92 Ardmore in January, then promptly caught Covid. THANK YOU ELIXIR DISTILLERS. But seriously folks, it's dumb luck that any whisky remained for this review.

Distillery: Ardmore
Owner: Beam Suntory
Region: Highlands (Eastern)
Independent Bottler: Elixir Distillers
Range: The Single Malts of Scotland
Age: 19 years old (18 June 1992 - 21 June 2011)
Maturation: bourbon barrel
Cask: 9464
Outturn: 207 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 49.3%
(from the bottom third of my bottle)


Two fronts slowly merge in the nose. Seaweed + apricot meets lychee, fresh strawberries, coal smoke and palo santo smoke. Hints of black walnuts and orange peels linger behind. The fruits take over after 30 minutes, as in-season nectarines arrive.

The palate begins with lemons, salt, coal smoke and chile oil, followed by smoked black walnuts (if that's a thing) and yellow nectarines. Then it shifts gears as big rooty herbal bitterness and stony minerals arrive. The fruits get tangier and muskier with time.

It finishes with gentle smoke, whiffs of the bitter roots, tart and sweet fruits like pineapple, guava and those nectarines.


This summer, my older daughter, Mathilda, and I happened upon a pile of perfect nectarines. The sweet floral middles (not too juicy) allow just a micron of tartness then whoosh it away. I nearly forget where I am when tucking into sublime nectarines, except when sharing the moment with my daughter. We stand in the kitchen, pigging out and laughing about fruit.

Also, this Ardmore, bottled at the perfect strength, is what I like. See Serge's, Ruben's and Mr. Opinions's reviews as well.

Availability - Sold out years ago, sorry
Pricing - ???
Rating - 90 (maybe higher, I don't know)

Monday, August 15, 2022

Talisker 10 year old: six batches across 20 years

Talisker's early history was a bit bumpy. In the 1820s, the MacAskill brothers bought a piece of land on Skye, then set about booting all of the rural renters off the property, Clearance-style. They built Talisker distillery in 1830, but the poor jerks couldn't figure out the business, filing for bankruptcy in 1848 and turning the distillery over to the bank. Donald MacLennan bought the distillery, then sold it ten years later when he couldn't turn a profit. The new owner, John Anderson, lasted all of twelve years before he went to prison for fraud. Robert Kemp, one of the next co-owners, only stayed on for twelve years as well, choosing instead to buy some distillery called "Macallan". In 1898, Talisker ownership merged with Dailuaine and Imperial. This lasted less than 18 years when the owner died and Distillers Company Limited took over. DCL → UD → Diageo has run Talisker ever since.

Though the distillery's ownership has remained stable for nearly a century, Talisker has seen changes. Triple distillation was discontinued in 1928, the distillery burst into flames in 1960, on-site malting ended in 1972 and in 1988, Talisker 10 year old was born as part of United Distillers' Classic Malts series.

This Taste Off has been a long time coming. Talisker 10 and I go back about 18 years. And that's been a long 18 years. But the whisky has survived, and apparently so have I. Over the past eight years I've had a suspicion that the whisky's quality has sunk. Or my palate has shifted dramatically. Or both.

With this same curiosity and concern I compared three bottlings of Talisker 18 year old, back in 2020. Not only did that Taste Off prove my point, but I was able to hypothesize what had happened to the whisky over the years. Three years before that writeup, I compared seven batches of Ardbeg Ten, and I fairly enjoyed that experience. May this Taste Off find the best elements of both of those posts!

Here's the lineup:

  1. 1990s Map Label, brown bottle, US release - From a very healthy bottle split.
  2. 2001 bottling, Stone Label, L15T03328098 - My bottle, about 1/3 of the way down.
  3. 2009 bottling, from the ol' blue box - Bottle split!
  4. 2012 bottling, end of the ol' blue box era, L2107CM000 - My bottle, originally reviewed in 2014.
  5. 2015 bottling, Made by the Sea era, L5224CM000 - Sample courtesy of one Florin.
  6. 2019 bottling, Made by the Sea era, L9023 - My 200mL bottle.

A technical note: For the purposes of this tasting, I am opening both windows behind me. As with the consumption of Springbank's single malts, the drinking of Talisker goes best with fresh air. And it is raining.

Whisky Notes
Map Label (1990s)Smoked salmon, uncooked uncured bacon and ocean water. Green grapes, honeydew, newspaper print. Hints of toffee pudding and mesquite.
L15T03328098 (2001)Possibly the smokiest of the group. Smoked almonds, smoky bacon and burnt grass. Ocean water, fresh sage and green bell peppers. With time it develops a combo of dark chocolate and berries.
L9 (2009)Oh dear. Plastic siding in the summer + mesquite chips + white peaches + mint leaves. Green apples, milk chocolate and a hint of fresh herbs drift through the background.
L2107CM000 (2012)The loudest nose. Mezcal, apple skins and serrano oil up front. Nutritional yeast and saline in the middle. Lemons and fish in the background.
L5224CM000 (2015)Bologna (the "meat", not the place) meets heavily charred veg. Mesquite ashes, horseradish and dry soil. It gets ashier with time, while picking up notes of raw cocoa and black walnuts.
L9023 (2019)Vanilla extract mixes with cinnamon, caramel, fresh sage, mesquite and woody ashes. Floral soap and candy cane notes arrive later.

Whisky Notes
Map Label (1990s)The nose's lox, bacon and mesquite merge flawlessly with yellow plums and lemons. Kelp and cayenne dot the edges.
L15T03328098 (2001)Milder than the '90s version. Mellow pepper, salt, sweet and smoke. Mint and limes in the middle. Picks up a pleasant fresh berry fruitiness after a half hour.
L9 (2009)Gloriously peppery, but also full of nectarines, yellow plums and lychees. Minerals and smoke frame it all.
L2107CM000 (2012)Very smoky. Plenty of cinnamon and (Cajun) blackened seasoning as well. A bit of alcohol heat never lets up. Smoked salt and lemons are waaaaaay in the back.
L5224CM000 (2015)Hay and salt. Tangy citrus and tangy pepper sauce. Artificial sweetener and a touch of soap.
L9023 (2019)Bitter and watery at first. It gains mint, pepper and hay after 20 minutes. Some lemon and mezcal later on.

Whisky Notes
Map Label (1990s)Plums and lemons at the beachside. Gentle earthiness and light sweetness in the background.
L15T03328098 (2001)Sweet oranges meet pepper sauce and a little bit of minerals.
L9 (2009)Stone fruit sweetness, green herbs, truffle salt and roasted chiles.
L2107CM000 (2012)Sweeter and tarter here. Good length. Smoke and chiles in the background.
L5224CM000 (2015)Sweet, ashy, lightly peppery, with a hint of citron.
L9023 (2019)Black peppercorns, simple syrup and a squeeze of lemon.

Whisky Notes Rating
Map Label (1990s)A perfectly assembled single malt. I don't think there's anything like this on the market right now, from Talisker or anyone else.
L15T03328098 (2001)I was a little worried about the palate on this one (especially since I have most of a bottle remaining), but once the fruit slipped in I was reassured.
L9 (2009)Fanfuckingtastic. Depth, balance, glory, strobe lights. Even better than I remembered this era of the 10 year old to be.
L2107CM000 (2012)Much rawer than the previous three. My palate had to recalibrate because this was a different whisky. Decent stuff though overall, with plenty of entertainment in the nose.
L5224CM000 (2015)A very unfortunate palate. The nose saves the whole thing from descending into C-grade territory. A strange, but limp, batch of casks perhaps?
L9023 (2019)Another startling shift to a different style, that of the contemporary era. Youth, oak, and thinness. Barely recognizable as Talisker.


I wanted to be proven wrong. I was not. To repeat my final note, the 2019 bottling was barely recognizable as Talisker. Unfortunately I have two bottles of it. Fortunately they are both 200mL. But the problems did not start with the 2019, as the 2015 had the most regrettable palate of the group. Though the 2012 survived following the big guns, it revealed the start of a less-balanced approach to the 10 year old. Did the older bottlings have older whisky within?

Speaking of which, of course my two favorites were the batches I know the least about. The 1990s version was a sparkling gem, while the 2009 edition somehow topped it. The first trio made Talisker feel like Caol Ila's saucy cousin. So what was responsible for the change in style? Younger ingredients? Or could it have been due to new mash tun and worm tubs installed in 1998?

No matter what, I am reassured that older batches of Talisker 10 are indeed lovely, but I doubt I'll be buying any current versions of Skye's oldest distillery's output any time soon.

Friday, August 12, 2022

Glen Orchy 5 year old blended whisky

There is an actual Orchy glen in Scotland, around northeastern Argyll and Bute, just a short drive east on A85 from Oban. Like Queen Margot 8 year old, reviewed yesterday Glen Orchy 5 year old is sold exclusively at Lidl grocery stores. (Thank you to kallaskander for the Lidl info!) It appears to be going for a similar price as QM8, so yes it's time for another swig of a bottom shelf blend. Sláinte!

Brand: Glen Orchy
Ownership: Clydesdale Scotch Whisky Co.
Type: Scotch Blended Whisky Malt
Age: minimum 5 years
Maturation: ???
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
Chillfiltered? Yes
e150a? Yes
(thank you, Dr. Springbank!)


Ah, the young blend stank! Plenty of baby malt and grain whisky on the nose, and lots of vanilla American oak. But the whisky also has notes of limes, oranges, and Caol Ila-ish peat. Yeah, the CI is faint, but it's in there.

The palate is bitter, salty and raw. A touch of smoke. A splash of chlorine.

Sweetness and chemical bitterness build up in the finish.

But wait! It's much better than Queen Margot 8yo when served on the rocks. Better than JW Red, Dewar's White and Cutty's......er, Yellow. No florals, no bitterness. Not too sweet, and not much vanilla. Just very clean. Who knew?!


Well, I already expended much of my Words Words in the last paragraph, so I'll just use a few more Words here. Don't drink this neatly. Put this on some ice, maybe a splash of club soda, and put your feet up. Or maybe drink something else entirely, really.

Availability - Lidl grocery stores!
Pricing - €10-€15
Rating - 70 (on ice only; it's at least 10 points lower when neat)

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Queen Margot 8 year old blended whisky

My friend, Dr. Springbank, and I have both entered aw-what-the-hell mode when it comes to booze. For instance, while he was in Portugal recently he and his wife (also, Dr. Springbank) bought three bottles of scotch. Yes they were three whiskies unavailable in Ohio. No, they were not indie single casks. They were three random blends found in grocery stores. When he offered up samples, I said aw-what-the-hell-absolutely. At least it'd be something different.

Yesterday, I reviewed the first blend, White Heather 15 year old, the real glamour puss of the trio. The second blend of the triad was one Queen Margot 8 year old.

Fully chill-filtered, decorated with e150a, and well-hydrated down to 40%abv, the blend honors Margaret of Valois, maybe. Margie was in the middle of all sorts of shit back in the 16th century. Get ready to keep score..... The daughter of both the de' Medici family and French Hank the Second, Margot married the man who'd become French Hank the Fourth. Her sister, Liz, married Spanish Phil el Segundo. Her brother, Frank Two, would marry Mary, Queen of Scots, and become king for all of 17 months before then becoming quite dead. Another brother, Hank, would become French Hank le Troisième. And another brother was, French Chuck the Ninth, who was crowned king at 10 years old.

So I guess, yeah, name a scotch after her. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Brand: Queen Margot
Ownership: Wallace & Young Distillers Co.
Type: Scotch Blended Whisky
Age: minimum 8 years
Maturation: ???
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
Chillfiltered? Yes
e150a? Yes
(thank you, Dr. Springbank!)


Does anyone make pear-scented turpentine? Because that's all I smell, right off the bat. That notes recedes after 15 minutes, replaced by new carpet offgassing, floral perfume, saltines, pizza dough and a hint of peach candy.

It tastes just like Jameson. I even just did a head-to-head with the Irish blend, and the similarity is uncanny. Same floral note, same vodka note, same vanilla note, same pepper note, same bitterness. Maybe a little less heat.

It finishes sweet and bitter, with a good dose of black pepper and a dash of florals.

On the rocks, it's all perfume, vanilla and sugar.


Named after a French-Italian lady, this Scotch whisky tastes like an Irish whiskey. Were I certain other whisky reviewer I would say, "something something European Union, something something Boris Johnson."

QM8's similarity to Jameson isn't such a mystery. An ultra-high grain whisky content (and maybe some Lowland malt) can be the likely culprit. That an 8 year old whisky tastes like a 3 year old whiskey. which in turn tastes similar to Canadian Club, points to a disappointing collapsing of styles, which I hope is not a trend. BUT, once QM8 ditches its case of The Turps early, the nose lifts it up out of Whisky Fail territory. A small victory.

Availability - Lidl grocery stores!
Pricing - €10-€15
Rating - 68

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

White Heather 15 year old blended whisky

Nearly 40 years after the White Heather brand was discontinued, Billy Walker resurrected the name for his own range of blended whiskies. Why? I'm not sure. The packaging and website make no mention of the brand's previous (and respected) life, while the former White Heather's main malt of Aberlour has now been abandoned for Walker's own Glenallachie. But like any proper fluid, New White Heather has a Philosophy!

Walker was masterful during his own previous whisky life as the Master of Everything at the Benriach and Glendronach distilleries, but I remain unsold on his Glenallachie creations. New White Heather 15yo bears the same approach as the New Glenallachie releases: a cask salad with lots of dressing. Whisky from bourbon barrels, hogsheads and Spanish sherry butts are mixed and finished in PX and Oloroso puncheons and charred new American oak casks. I'm not even sure where to put the commas there.

On a positive note, there's (allegedly) a lot of malt in this 46%abv blend that has been bottled with neither coloration nor chill-filtration.

The box looks a little jet lagged
after its flight back from Portugal

Brand: White Heather
Ownership: Billy Walker's Imaginarium
Type: Scotch Blended Whisky
Mix: 47/53 malt/grain (allegedly)
Maturation: Bourbon barrels + Hoggies + Spanish sherry butts --then-- PX puncheons + Oloroso puncheons + charred new US oak
Age: minimum 15 years
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(thank you, Dr. Springbank!)


Starting off fun and weird, the nose offers up leather, almond butter, cheese danish and a hint of farminess. But with time it shifts to cream soda, orange peel, pencil shavings and more and More and MORE OAK.

The palate has a surprisingly hot bite and lots of vanilla, caramel, mixed nuts, pencil shavings and Mt. Gay rum. Toasted oak gradually takes over.

More pencil shavings loom over the hot, peppery finish, followed by vanilla and caramel.


Islay and Highland malts are also supposed to live within this blend, but almost all I get here is cask juice, so it doesn't matter what its ingredients were. All that oak also negates the blending skill that the whisky world knows Billy Walker possesses. It results in a so-so drink that seems a year or two away from being wrecked by tannins. So I'll skip the 21 year old, thanks.

Availability - Specialty retailers in Europe
Pricing - $65 - $95
Rating - 79

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