...where distraction is the main attraction.

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Inchgower 16 year old 1967 Cadenhead dumpy

Yes, the previous whisky was older but I wanted to end 2022 with this one.

The whiskies within the black-labelled Cadenhead dumpy bottles are dreamy, and I'm not entirely sure if ol' Cadenhead has ever topped that consistently outrageous quality since. My new year's wish is for all of you to have a chance to try one of those bottlings — owning an actual bottle is no longer a realistic goal — as they offer their own sort of whisky education about what was, and what is. Even a Tullibardine will do. Here's an Inchgower.

Distillery: Inchgower
Region: Speyside (Banffshire)
Owner at time distillation: Arthur Bell & Sons
Independent Bottler: Cadenhead
Age: at least 16 years (1967 - 1983)
Maturation: ??????????
Bottled for: ME! (I wish)
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
(from a bottle split)

NOTES

The nose: Dunnage and burlap. Mushrooms and black walnuts. Hot tar and Hot damn. Semi-sweet ganache. Hints of band-aids and the ocean. And then come the guavas and peaches.

Oh dear, the palate matches the nose. Black walnuts, tar, band-aids and dunnage. Tart guavas and sweet oranges. Horseradish bitterness, sea salt, bonfire smoke. It has basically everything.

Raw nuts, salt, stones, tar, and a few squeezes of tart grapefruit and sweet clementine are swept up in the finish's plumes of coal smoke.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

I knew this was going to be good but......this is one of the best whiskies I've had in ages. Like the Moncreiffe, this Cadenhead Inchgower holds a significant amount of smoke. But like ye olde Laphroaigs and Ardbegs it infuses so many other characteristics into that smoke, especially a stunning balance of sweet and tart and salt. What a lovely capper at the end of a less-than-lovely year. See you on the other side!

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - Don't tell me
Rating - 93

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Inchgower 21 year old 1967 Moncreiffe, Meregalli Import

Now it's time for the real motivation behind this Inchgower series: two Inchgowers distilled in 1967. That's how I'm closing this year out.

Arthur Bell & Sons updated the distillery a bit in the '60s as Bell's Extra Special won the hearts and livers of scotch drinkers in Scotland. They doubled their stills from two to four in 1966, and switched from floor malting to sourcing, though when they did the latter is a bit unclear. So it's possible these next two Inchgowers came from the old floor maltings. SPOILER ALERT: These are very different whiskies than the Inchgowers I previously reviewed. Something must account for that, and I'm thinking it's the malt!

First one:

Distillery: Inchgower
Region: Speyside (Banffshire)
Owner at time distillation: Arthur Bell & Sons
Independent Bottler: Moncreiffe & Company
Age: at least 21 years (1967 - 19??)
Maturation: SHERRY casks (all caps, my caps)
Bottled for: Meregalli Import, Monza, Italy
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
(from a bottle split)

NOTES

This is easily the darkest whisky I've had this year. Like Stagg-in-your-black-coffee dark. But don't put Stagg in your coffee please, unless you're ready to drink it on the toilet. Where was I?

The nose is MASSIVE. Coal smoke and dates and figs and very dark chocolate. Raw nuts and salt and toffee pudding. Seaweed! Ultra-aged sake (try it when in Japan!). It gets earthier with time, and picks up a whiff of dunnage funk.

Wow, the citrus rocks the palate. Limes and yuzu, peels and juices. Figs and coal smoke. Sultanas in black strap molasses. Dried savory herbs arrive later, as the sultanas and smoke swell.

"Power Citrus" reads my finish notes. Mizunara-style incense. A few dates, some heavy smoke and a hint of herbal bitterness arise in later sips.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Yes, you read that correctly, lots of smoke in an Inchgower! ❤ It's an absolute hammer at 46%abv. Subtlety be damned, it's loud and rude and glorious and this is what old Inchgower was like???! (See here and here for additional happy takes.) I can't wait to get to the next one!

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

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Inchgower 28 year old 1985 The Whisky Agency

Inchgower went corporate in 1985. Guinness consumed the distillery's former owner, Arthur Bell & Sons, as the beast slowly grew into United Distillers / Diageo via hostile takeovers. The Bell's Extra Special blend was a hot property at the time, as it held more than a 1/3 of the UK market. Swallowing Bell's, Guinness gained a trio of distilleries in the process: Bladnoch, Pittyvaich and Inchgower. Inchgower has been the only one of the three to distill without pause across the past four decades, and is the only one still in Diageo's portfolio.

Today's Inchie may have been distilled during the Bell's era, or was among the earliest batches produced by its new corporate overlords.

Distillery: Inchgower
Region: Speyside (Banffshire)
Owner: Diageo
Independent Bottler: The Whisky Agency
Series: Stamps
Age: 28 years (1985-2013)
Maturation: refill hogshead
Outturn: 266 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 53.8%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

The nose begins with bananas, barrel char and paint VOCs. Lemons and mineral white wine develop after 30 minutes, then circus peanuts a bit later. The palate comes in with a curious mix of dried ginger, cardamom pods, moss and sweet riesling. Tangy chiles and a woody bitterness fill in the middle and background. Black peppercorns and tart limes move to the fore after nearly 45 minutes. It finishes sweet and bourbony, until some tart limes and dried herbs make things interesting.

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

Now I find dates, pecans, lemonade and circus peanuts in the nose. The woody bitterness and tart citrus expand in the palate, with peppercorns in the background. It finishes grassy and tart, with plenty of bitter oak.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Serge was a bigger fan of this than I, as was Ruben and the Whiskybase community. The tartness and sweetness worked well on the palate, and the nose was never boring, but the bitterness — though interesting — was too woody for my mouth. Feels like something that stayed in the cask for too long, and as a result the whisky shares none of the great characteristics of the previously reviewed Inchgowers. For a different take, please see the aforementioned experienced palates' takes on the whisky.

Availability - Secondary market?
Pricing - ???
Rating - 82

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Inchgower 30 year old 1990 Old Particular, cask DL14899 for K&L

I'm always game for some old Inchgower, so when I saw an opportunity to get in on a bottle split of a recent K&L Wine Merchants single hoggie of 30(!) year old Inch I leapt at it with both legs and some cash. Like Friday's OB, this indie Inchgower is from the 1990 vintage and spent its life in refill American oak. Expectations are set moderately high...

Distillery: Inchgower
Region: Speyside (Banffshire)
Owner: Diageo
Independent Bottler: Douglas Laing
Range: Old Particular
Age: alllllllmost 31 years (Oct 1990 - Sept 2021)
Maturation: refill hogshead
Cask #: DL 14899
Outturn: 225 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 54.4%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

Spiced apple cider, honey and roses lead the nose. Ocean water, lemon and a hint of caramel fill in the background. There's a bit more wood in the palate but still plenty of bright fruit: think applesauce, lemons and limes. A swirl of golden syrup, cardamom and honey moves forward slowly. It finishes tart, slightly sweet and lightly tannic with hints of anise and peppercorns in the far back.

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

Apple, cinnamon and ocean compose the nose's body, with new notes of shortbread and mango providing highlights. The palate becomes hardier with tarter and bitterer citrus. Smaller notes of honey and cherry candy offer sweetness. Some more oak shows up, but I don't mind it as it reads almost smoky. It finishes sweeter with hints of tart and tannin.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Another one bottled at just the right time. The oak seems almost ready to take over, but it doesn't! I think I prefer it with the extra oomph that dilution provides. The spice and zing make it a better winter drinker than the average Inchgower. Because the OB Special Release had the benefit of being a small batch, it's slightly more rounded and complex than this 30yo, but they're very close in quality. Good stuff.

Availability - Might still be available at K&L?
Pricing - $250
Rating - 87

Friday, December 23, 2022

Inchgower 27 year old 1990, Special Release 2018

If you haven't resigned yourself to the fact that Diageo and Pernod Ricard (and their predecessors) have emptied thousands, if not tens of thousands, of the greatest casks of malt whisky ever made into their mass market blends over the past century, then......well......keep walking drinking, my brothers and sisters.

Inchgower is one of the What-If distilleries that always come to mind. It's been one of the main malts in Bell's for at least 85 years, and I've always wondered, "What if the malt was allowed to shine and develop as one of the Classic Malts?" Yeah, there have been Flora & Fauna bottlings, but I've yet to have an F&F that has left me thinking that I was getting anything better than middle-of-the-road casks from any of the distilleries, with perhaps Dailuaine being the only exception.

Thankfully, Diageo offers up a Special Release series each year. Unthankfully, the prices ceased being reasonable almost a decade ago. But all those bottlings have not blasted off the shelves. Today's 27yo Inchgower was released more nearly five years ago, but can still be found for its original SRP at primary markets in North America, Europe and Asia. It wasn't priced too extravagantly, often below $400. But who was paying $400 for non-single-cask Inchgower in 2018. Hell, who is paying $400 for single cask Inchgower now? Though I don't make a habit of spending $200 on a bottle I've never tried, this release could have been an exception at that price. But here we are, 2023 is approaching and I have finally sourced a sample.

A pinch to grow 'er an Inch?

Distillery: Inchgower
Region: Speyside (Banffshire)
Owner: Diageo
Series: Special Releases 2018
Age: 27 years (1990 - 2018)
Maturation: refill hogsheads
Outturn: 8544 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 55.3%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

Honey on cornbread. Mint, apple peels, lychee and lemon bars. The nose starts very nicely. American oak appears in the background a little later, offering bananas, cream puffs and Boston cream pastries. The palate launches with malt, tart lemons and ginger candies. Salt and vanilla drift through the background. It's never too sweet, and it does have some savoriness here and there. The simple but long finish shows orange zest, ginger and cinnamon.

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

Fruits (guava, lychee and apple) and spices (cardamom and clove) arrive first in the nose, followed by some old dusty oak. The palate reads sweeter now with lots of citrus candy. A tangy chile or two, and a dash of salt, add some balance. Gentle tannins arrive later. It finishes with citrus candy, guava and honey.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

One gets the sense that, out of the 40+ hoggies forming this batch, there were a few rich second fills and a few lean fourth fills. It's all blended together pretty well. The fruit's allowed to sing, and the oak never bullies its way to the fore, so it works for my nose and palate. I'm not sure if Diageo will ever offer a Inchgower at this age again, so perhaps $300 isn't too unreasonable in this market. What say ye, Inchgower fans out there?

Availability - Not too hard to find
Pricing - $250-$450
Rating - 88

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Inchgower 13 year old 1994 Manager's Dram

Who has two thumbs and two rounds of Covid? This guy! Luckily the second burst came in at half the strength of the first. My palate and nose were fine throughout (I give them an 85!), but I did put whisky and other poisons aside for over a week. I tested them before dipping back into the review game. Grateful for my vaccine power-ups, I am ready to go.

Without further ado, the Inchgower series continues with Diageo's Manager's Dram, a series that preceded the Manager's Choice by a couple of years. (To note, I don't believe this was a single cask because the pic on Whiskybase shows "Bottle 0805".) This one went side-by-side with my great '95 single sherry butt.

Distillery: Inchgower
Region: Speyside (Banffshire)
Owner: Diageo
Range: The Manager's Dram
Age: 13 years (1994 - 7 June 2007)
Maturation: possible a sherry cask?
Outturn: ???? bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 58.9%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

Almond butter arrives first in the nose, and sticks around a while. Green grapes and apple peels meet with it well. Burlier notes, like dried leaves, ocean brine, and a bit cruciferous veg appear next, followed by crème brûlée and orange zest. Earthy bitter chocolate and raw nuts hit the palate first. Hints of raspberry jam and graphite sit in the background, but nothing else materializes other than heat. It finishes hot, bitter and earthy, with just a little bit of citrus in the back.

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

Now vaguer, and less focused, the nose offers only walnuts, brine and some organic funkiness. The palate also fades. Bright bitterness, soil, a little bit of chocolate, and a lot of ethyl heat, is all it offers. It finishes with that bitter chocolate note.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

While I appreciate the hardier, drier sherry style of this whisky, it just could not stand up to the 21yo 1995 Old Malt Cask. Though it would probably wallop many contemporary sherry cask whiskies, that doesn't mean it deserves superlatives. Its strength is in the nose, and the palate seems to beg for water, but hydration does it no favors. Drink it neat, and be ready for a dry, lean, hot Inchgower.

Availability - Secondary market?
Pricing - ???
Rating - 84 (neat only)

Friday, December 16, 2022

Things I Really Drink: Inchgower 21 year old 1995 Old Malt Cask, cask HL14253

TIRD time! Yes people, I do open my bottles, though usually with a plan in mind. I had a completely different three-week plan for the end of this year, but I realized at the last moment that I possessed neither the time nor the liver power to carry it out. Inchgower Improv resulted. And I'm quite satisfied with the whiskies so far.

The label on today's TIRD offers up generic sherry cask tasting notes, the sort of stuff I try to avoid when buying full bottles. And, oops, I did not check the notes before my purchase.


This bottle received the double deluxe review treatment via head-to-heads against the two previous Inchgowers. There were slight differences between each tasting's notes, but not much. I'll note the shifts below.

Distillery: Inchgower
Region: Speyside (Banffshire)
Owner: Diageo
Independent Bottler: Hunter Laing
Range: Old Malt Cask
Age: alllllllmost 22 years (Oct 1995 - Sept 2017)
Maturation: sherry butt
Cask #: HL 14253
Outturn: 708 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 50%
(top third of my bottle)

NEAT

The nose lands well, with earth, stones and walnuts. Touches of almond extract, burlap and yuzu peel here and there. The second tasting reveals some fruity cinnamon and orange blossom notes.

Figs wrapped in herbal smoke, so says the palate. Plenty of soil and ink. A moment of black tea (Keemun?). Hints of metal and oranges appear in the second tasting.

It finishes with tangy lemons and limes, salt, earth and a hint of fig.

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or ½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

The nose is mossy and herbal, with honey and orange zest around the sides. Hints of forest floor and white chocolate in the background. In the second tasting, the nose opens even better: cocoa powder, soil, rocks, white peaches, honey, ocean brine, toffee chips, and some dry sherry in back.

Gentle citrus and herbal bitterness leads the palate, with a curious industrial note and light dusty smoke underneath. Nearly identical in the second tasting, with a bit more limes and dried pineapple.

The finish seems longer at this strength. Tart limes and apples, anise, brine and a hint of that industrial character.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

No raisins nor caramel here, just some well-tuned earthy, dry stuff with fruit and smoke at the edges. Thank goodness! Rarely does a blind purchase work this well. This bottle could even become a 90-point whisky before it meets its end. The metal and industrial notes are bit odd, which is what's holding me back from scoring it higher right now. I'll attempt to remember to report back if this Inchgower goes either direction, but I'd be okay if it stays the same.

Availability - Sold out?
Pricing - £71 on my last Master of Malt order five years ago
Rating - 89

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Inchgower 19 year old 1995 First Editions (US Release)

Monday's naked Inchgower did its job. Now it's time for a pair of sherry cask reviews. First up, a bottling that I eyed for years, a sherry hoggie (or half butt?) of Inchgower from Hunter Laing's stash. After waiting too long, I was thankful to get in on a bottle split. Time to find out if I missed the whisky train on this one.

Distillery: Inchgower
Region: Speyside (Banffshire)
Owner: Diageo
Independent Bottler: Hunter Laing
Range: The First Editions
Age: 19 years (1995 - 2014)
Maturation: sherry cask of some sort
Outturn: 240 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 55.2%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

The nose reads a bit closed at first. Heat, walnuts, lemon zest and a hint of Werther's Originals start things out. It gets more candied and floral with time. The palate arrives sweeter than expected, with cherry lollies, lemon candy and dried apricots. Again, it gets more floral (actual flowers) with time, a heavy pepperiness appears, and the lemon candy shifts to lemon peel. It finishes like a cherry, lemon, and pink peppercorn lollipop. A thing?

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

Indeed, water releases the party. Here's the nose list: Figs, orange zest, cloves, cinnamon, dried blueberries and a hint of forest floor. The palate has the nose's cloves and cinnamon, with a pinch of brown sugar, a sip of herbal liqueur, and a wee orange candy. It finishes sweet with orange and lime candy.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

NOT a generic sherry cask here. And despite the dark color, the whisky is neither heavy nor tannic. The cask held onto the spirit's florals and sweet fruits, while adding moderate quantities of baking spices and dried fruits. It seems like that balance is harder to come by, with the push to oak the hell out of most things now. So, I approve! Not sure what the price was, but this would've been fun to own.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 87 (diluted)

Monday, December 12, 2022

Inchgower 11 year old 2007 Signatory, cask 801387

I like Inchgower! Does anyone else like Inchgower? Hopefully some of you do, because there are nine Inchgower reviews comin' atcha. Or maybe you can't stand the stuff, but will happily hate read my notes. Either way, welcome to this Inchgower not-quite-a-Cluster set!

Though Inchgower takes to sherry casks very nicely (okay, not always), I'm beginning this series with a fairly nude Inchie from the reliable Signatory Un-Chillfiltered Collection, hoping that it'll be a solid point of reference for the stuff that follows. The distillery uses a quick mashing process and one of the briefest fermentation times that I've seen in Scotland. Time to find out the result.


Distillery: Inchgower
Region: Speyside (Banffshire)
Owner: Diageo
Independent Bottler: Signatory
Range: Un-Chillfiltered Collection
Age: 11 years (18 Sept 2007 - 16 Aug 2019)
Maturation: hogshead
Cask number: 801387
Outturn: ??? bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
(from a bottle split)

NOTES

The pretty nose shows mostly barley and flowers for a while. Cashew butter and yeast then settle into the midground. Whole grain crackers and cherry juice in the back. It does have a slight sulfuric nip from the spirit.

The palate dishes out earthy molasses, hay and orange notes, with quieter moments of eau de vie and dried herbs. The earthiness and herbal bitterness combine into something almost peaty. It all arrives packaged in a creamy mouthfeel.

That good bitterness balances with mild sweetness, tart limes, and bunches of barley in the finish.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Hooray! Rustic and floral, with a little bit of fruit and whole lotta barley, the whisky did what I hoped it would, and I liked it. 46%abv was probably the best bottling strength for it as well since the rawness could have been too much at full power. Despite what I said in the intro, the next eight Inchgowers are not just sherry casks, so perhaps I'll find out what happens to these youthful characteristics once time settles in.

Availability - Still available at a few US retailers
Pricing - all over the place
Rating - 85

Friday, December 9, 2022

Bladnoch 29 year old 1990 SMWS 50.111

It's never a good idea for me to do five reviews in a week, as it clashes with all my adulting, but here I am doing it anyway. Again. But the good news is, the whisky works. These Bladnochs have proven to be more consistent, interesting and tasty than the previous two weeks' Bruichladdichs. They certainly show less cask aggression, which always a big plus at Diving for Pearls.

Today's Bladnoch is the sibling cask to yesterday's 28yo. Same bottler, same cask type, same distillation date. But, yes, a different whisky.


Distillery: Bladnoch
Owners at time of Distillation: Arthur Bell & Sons
Region: Lowlands
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Age: 29 years (26 Jan 1990 - 2019)
Maturation: second-fill bourbon barrel
Cask #: 50.111, "A serious flavour bomb"
Outturn: 111 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 52.6%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

The nose starts off with a youthful combo of anise, Bartlett pears and apricots. A sugary candy shop note sticks around in the background seemingly forever. Apple skins, almond extract and vanilla bean appear later. Sweet tangerines and nectarines mix with toasted almonds in the palate. Tart cherries meet a chipotle smokiness and a hint of herbal bitterness. A tart citrus glow frames the finish, with tiny notes of pound cake, flowers and herbal bitterness offering depth.

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

The nose reads simpler, or perhaps more focused: it's all chalk, grapefruit juice, candy shop and blossoms. Meanwhile the palate gets very cuddly, loaded with sweet fruits (of the citrus and stone sort) and almond cookies, leading into a tart and sweet finish.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

The whiskies took different paths over nearly three decades in their barrels, but they share notes, like florals, cookies and tart fruits. I think I liked the 28yo just a smidgen more due to its complexity, though that opinion could switch around depending on the mood and environment. This one may be more of a crowdpleaser, reading at times like a decade-younger fruity Glenburgie, especially once diluted. I've overlooked Bladnoch for the past decade-and-a-half, and I'll make sure to avoid that mistake going forward.

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

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Bladnoch 28 year old 1990 SMWS 50.103

The final two Bladnochs come from Scotch Malt Whisky Society's warehouse(s) and contain spirit from the distillery's Arthur Bell & Sons era. Both today's and tomorrow's Bladnochs were distilled in 1990 and matured in second fill bourbon barrels. I tasted them side-by-side in an attempt to gain some perspective.

Distillery: Bladnoch
Owners at time of Distillation: Arthur Bell & Sons
Region: Lowlands
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Age: 28 years (26 Jan 1990 - 2018)
Maturation: second-fill bourbon barrel
Cask #: 50.103, "Funky nuts and a glass of wine"
Outturn: 118 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 57.7%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

Damn it. As per the silly SMWS cask name, I get wine notes in the nose, specifically French chardonnay or, specifically-er (it's been a long night), Chablis. Plenty of minerals and clay in the fore, with dashes of lemon juice and white grape juice around the edges. Slowly the wine fades into the background, as cara cara oranges, white chocolate and shortbread cookies come forward. The palate has a nice mix of mineral and sweet, grassy and fruity. Lime, grapefruit, lychee and a whiff of blossoms. It gets tangier and sweeter with time. The sweetness calms in the finish. There's a pinch of salt, a hint of metal, and tropical fruit punch residue.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 1½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

The nose holds shortbread, toffee, orange blossoms and lemon zest. A solid balance of tart and sweet fills the palate. Some guavas roll with the grapefruits. Hints of hay and toasted nuts rest underneath. The finish matches the palate.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Though it's not as wildly complex as the SMWS notes make it seem, this Bladnoch does have angles, especially in the nose. Had it brought the funk as advertised, this would have easily been a 90+ point whisky. For my particular palate, the fruit alone keeps the score up as the second-fill barrel plays the middle ground well, being neither too pushy nor playing dead. Will the other 1990 Bladnoch's cask behave, too?

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - ???
Rating - 88

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Bladnoch 16 year old 1992 Christmas Spirit, cask 2610

The Armstrongs bottled several "Christmas" casks at varying strengths during their ownership. Since I was raised as a Hanukkah celebrator, I don't know what Christmas smells or tastes like. Ham? Nog? Ham Nog? I have had Christmas cake, and I like it so much that I do suggest that someone attempt a deep fried version and call it Hanukkah cake because they totally ate this stuff at Kiddush in the old temple.

What the hell was I talking about? Oh yeah, the Northern Irish.

Sláinte!


Distillery: Bladnoch
Region: Lowlands
Owners at time of Distillation: United Distillers
Owners at time of Bottling: Colin and Raymond Armstrong
Age: 16 years old (15 July 1992 - 11 Sept 2008)
Maturation: sherry butt
Cask #: 2610
Alcohol by Volume: 55%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

Starts off boldly on the nose, with fudge, bananas, white grape juice and metal. With time, it picks up subtler notes of dandelions, walnuts and a whiff of industrial funk. Ah, here comes the Xmas cake in the palate. Think buttery toffee, black raisins and Dalmore-ish(?) orange. Silky and zesty. It finishes tingly, toasty and tangy. Not too sweet.

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

The nose now owns a fun blend of farm funk and industrial funk, with some bananas and nectarines in the background. The palate is massively zesty and earthy. A little bit of wood spice and dried currants in the back. Again, not too sweet. It finishes a bit grungy and has some bitter raw nuts rolling in there.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Two different whiskies here, both good, though I prefer the less cuddly diluted version. This is probably not one of the sexier whiskies in the European auctions, so you could certainly do worse than picking up a bottle for a future winter holiday. I'd love to see the current owners pluck some good Armstrong-era sherry casks and offer up a new winter release that costs less than a car.

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

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Bladnoch 11 year old 2001 Lightly Peated, sheep label

The Armstrongs and Bladnoch seemed like a match made in whisky heaven, a whisky geek family buying an unsung distillery. Raymond and Colin Armstrong offered up an online forum that also sold single casks of other distilleries at reasonable prices. They even tried to produce an old-fashioned style spirit. But it wasn't meant to be. It was a struggle to get Diageo (the former owners) to sign off on any production, and the distillation itself had uneven outturns, only hitting max production once, in 2007. So though the Northern Irishmen owned Bladnoch for 20 years, the stills ran for less than nine.

Today's sample is of that era's lightly peated variant, and its bottle's sheep label signaled the whisky had lived in a sherry cask.

No sheep on hand
so a purple Alicorn will have to do

Distillery: Bladnoch
Region: Lowlands
Owners at the time: Colin and Raymond Armstrong
Age: at least 11 years old (2001)
Malt type: lightly peated
Maturation: sherry butt
Alcohol by Volume: 55%
(thank you to My Annoying Opinions for the sample!)

NEAT

The nose begins with a nice lean mix of nuts, apples, lemon juice and concrete. A little bit of yeast here, nectarine there, wood spice in between. The palate has a toasty, nutty top layer, limes and sweet oranges in the middle, brown sugar and barley at the bottom. A mix of citrus types (tart, sweet and bitter) fill the long finish, with some raw nuts in the background.

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

Now the nose reads yeasty and grainy, with a pack of Weetabix up front. Gingerbread and golden raisins fill linger behind. Grains, raw nuts and sweet oranges make up both the palate and finish.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Though I found nothing resembling peat in this pour, it was still a nice crisp whisky, a solid drink for any season. It also wasn't sherry-soaked, or at least the fortified wine trended towards a nutty style (like many actual sherries do). Too bad the distillery didn't become the little Indie that could, but at least the Armstrongs made and bottled some good whiskies.

Availability - 
Secondary market?

Pricing - ???
Rating - 86

Monday, December 5, 2022

Bladnoch 10 year old (bottled ~2018)

Bladnoch is one of those I'm-open-I'm-not-open distilleries that cause ownership to either:

A. Release NAS bottlings, or
B. Wait until the stock ages a little longer, or
C. Understate the whisky's age.

"A." is frequently the way. 

Bladnoch was closed from 1905-1911, 1937-1956, 1993-2000, and 2009-2017, which means the newest ownership will have to make some choices about their expressions over the next several years. They've already chosen "A." But will they also choose "B." or "C."?

Four years after its release, their limited edition 10 year old is still on liquor store shelves across this little blue world, so this review might almost be relevant!

Suzy Creamcheese is about to steal the sample bottle...

Distillery: Bladnoch
Region: Lowlands
Ownership at time of distillation: Colin and Raymond Armstrong
Age: at least 10 years old
Maturation: bourbon casks
Outturn: ???
Alcohol by Volume: 46.7%
(thank you to Dr. Springbank for the sample!)

NEAT

All the caramel, honey and mint in the nose read more like bourbon than single malt scotch, so those casks have expressed themselves.....into the whisky. Minerals, dried herbs, heather, and lavender flowers fill the middle and background. Cardamom pods take over after 30+ minutes. Though vanilla, caramel and wood spice do appear in the palate, they float in the distance rather than clogging the foreground. Instead, lime candy, yeast, and a variety of peppercorns read loudest. It finishes very sweet, with caramel and lime candy.

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

Marshmallows, caramel corn and cardamom fill the nose. The palate's a curious cocktail of simple syrup, cardamom, cloves and woody bitterness. It finishes with vanilla, flowers and tannins.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Though Bladnoch 10 year old is cask-forward, it's also very pleasant, exceeding my low expectations. The blenders selected casks that countered the distillery's sometimes-quirky spirit, and created a contemporary easy-drinking whisky. (Keep it neat, though.) It's the sort of whisky that would have cost $25-$30 eight years ago, but goes for at least twice that price now.

Availability - USA, Europe, New Zealand, Japan and elsewhere
Pricing - $55-$80
Rating - 83

Friday, December 2, 2022

Bruichladdich 32 year old 1985 Rare Cask Series

I reviewed the first half of a 64 year old (is that how math works?) Bruichladdich Taste Off yesterday. The 32yo 1984 held the distillery's final casks from 1984, while today's 1985 was built from the final parcel of its own vintage. While the '84 was only re-casked from bourbon casks into fresher bourbon casks, the '85 needed more retooling, per Señor McEwan. This larger outturn spent 27 years in 3rd-fill ex-bourbon, then 5 years in 1st-fill ex-bourbon, then several months in Claret casks. Smells like Murray McDavid to me!


Distillery: Bruichladdich
Ownership at time of distillation: Invergordon Distillers
Region: Western Islay
Series: Rare Cask
Age: 32 years (1985 - 26 May 2017)
Maturation: see above
Outturn: 4200 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 48.7%
(from a bottle split)

NOTES

The nose begins with many of the same characteristics as the 1984, such as the minerals, limes, fennel, and orange oil. But it has more more chocolate, more shortbread. Hints of ocean and florals, and subtle touches of blackberries and dried currants.

Could the wine casks have helped correct the oakiness that plagued the 1984? Or hid it? The palate isn't winey, though its dryness reads more like dry wine than woody tannins. Tart citrus notes read louder than the sweet berry notes. Some honey here, a few marshmallows there. Sweeter citrus slowly moves to the foreground.

It finishes moderately oaky and sweet. Honey, berries, cayenne appear in order, joined by a slight bitterness.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

I enjoyed this one more than the all-bourbon-cask 1984. More complex and less extractive, this 1985 made for pleasant drinking, while reading less hot than its lower-abv predecessor. As often happens, its casks were unmasked in the finish, and its balance started to teeter. Both of these 32s had unusually short conclusions, considering their age, as well. They were a bit of a disappointment overall, compared to the two fabulous 1985 DNAs.

Time to go to a different "B" distillery...

Availability - Secondary Market
Pricing - ???
Rating - 86

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Bruichladdich 32 year old 1984 Rare Cask Series

As you can tell by the title, I'm abandoning contemporary Bruichladdich for the old stuff. Today's whisky was assembled from a dozen bourbon casks, a dozen re-racked bourbon casks. That second maturation wasn't just a quickie finish, rather it was eight to nine years in length. The packaging says that these were the last 1984 casks the distillery had in their warehouses. Seems like a nice way for them to bid that vintage adieu.

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Ownership at time of distillation: Invergordon Distillers
Region: Western Islay
Series: Rare Cask
Age: 32 years (31 December 1984 - 26 May 2017)
Maturation: bourbon casks, then bourbon casks again
Outturn: 3000 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 43.7%
(from a bottle split)

NOTES

The nose starts off quite spritely despite the whisky's advanced age. Minerals, limes, fresh fennel, cut grass, earth and orange oil. Beneath that floats a rich bread pudding and a drizzle of maple syrup.

The palate also begins youthfully; sweet and malty, gently fruity. Bananas, dried apricots, and apple candy. But then it gets woody. Very woody. Spices, tannins, bitterness. Only the apple candy survives.

It finishes sweet and woody, like a long-aged bourbon, which is not entirely a compliment. Bananas and bubblegum on the furniture. But mostly the furniture.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

It smells gorgeous! I'll give it that. But those aggressive re-racked casks......not for me. I wonder what it was like after its first maturation, and I'll have to keep on wondering. Meanwhile, Angus, Ruben, and the  Whiskybase crew are crazy about this stuff. Sláinte to them! They can have it, and probably do. Let's see how its 1985 Rare Cask cousin performed in comparison...

Availability - Secondary Market
Pricing - ???
Rating - 83 (lovely nose though)