...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, June 30, 2023

Old Pulteney 14 year old 2004, cask 128 for TWE

After ex-bourbon casks on Monday and Wednesday, I bring ye a review of a first-fill sherry cask to wrap up this Old Pulteney week. Its color dark and ABV high, cask 128 is certainly a contemporary thing, with lots of—

Wait, how about I do the notes first before all the words words words?

Distillery: Pulteney
Ownership: Inver House (via Thai Beverages plc via International Beverage Holdings Ltd.)
Region: Northern Highlands (Wick)
Age: 14 years (2004-2018)
Maturation: first-fill sherry butt
Cask #: 128
Outturn: 612 bottles
Exclusive to: The Whisky Exchange
Alcohol by Volume: 62.1%
(from a bottle split)


The nose starts off with black raisins, milk chocolate, almond skins, and tar. With time, notes of butter, cinnamon raisin bread, and blueberry pie appear. It's quite the sweetie pie on the palate. Cinnamon raisin bread, brown sugar, dried blueberries, and mint leaves are all wrapped up in milk chocolate. It concludes with brown sugar syrup, sour citrus candy, and that cinnamon raisin bread.

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or 2 tsp of water per 30mL whisky

A different nose here: chili powder, cocoa powder, sultanas, and okonomiyaki sauce! The palate has shifted, as well, leaving behind much of the sweetness. Yes, there's plenty of milk chocolate, but there are more raw nuts, tart limes, toasty oak, and some savoriness. And the finish matches that palate.


Though this beast is certainly a crowd pleaser at full power, I like it better once it's reduced. At cask strength, it is very sugary and completely anonymous. It's yet another sherry monster that could be from nearly any distillery in Scotland. All butt. But at 46%abv, it shifts into something much more interesting, becoming more of a thinker than a drinker.

There's a note in the nose that had me stuck for a long time......it was something I'd smelled quite a bit of recently......but not around here......then one of the few remaining functioning neurons in my skull said, "Dude, okonomiyaki." That neuron has since taken a nap and will only wake up when I return to Japan, again, someday.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???

Rating - 85 (diluted only)

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Old Pulteney 13 year old 2004, cask 244 for Warehouse Liquors

Despite the best efforts of The White Fedora, Old Pulteney never fully graduated into the big time. Yes, the 21 year old was popular for several years after its award, and the 17 year old was adored by some of us, but Young Pulteney's style isn't the sexiest thing, and the distillery hasn't issued very many dark sherried beasts, so it continues to keep its figurative head down, and not discard its long-time customer base, unlike many other distilleries and brands.

As mentioned in Monday's post, Old Pulteney released a number of single casks back in 2018-2020, most of which were from ex-bourbon vessels, and a few actually made it to The States, including today's Warehouse Liquors Chicago exclusive.

Distillery: Pulteney
Ownership: Inver House (via Thai Beverages plc via International Beverage Holdings Ltd.)
Region: Northern Highlands (Wick)
Age: 13 years (2004-2018)
Maturation: ex-bourbon cask
Cask #: 244
Outturn: 246
Exclusive to: Warehouse Liquors Chicago
Alcohol by Volume: 55.2%
(Thank you to Doctors Springbank for the sample!)


The nose reads a bit tight. Some brine here, apples there, a hint of chlorine. It does gain character with time, adding vanilla, brown sugar, and citronella candles after 30 minutes. The palate offers bright sweet notes, like orange candy and Werther's Originals. But it also has some distinctly non-food angles, like burlap, old fabric, and perfume. It finishes sweet and perfumy as well, with a cherry candy note that lingers a bit.

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

Ah, a much better nose. Apricots and peaches meet brine and bark. But the palate......all I get is bitter citrus and Tide detergent. It finishes with Tide and lemon peel.


Actually, the whisky is fine when neat. It's not complex, and it's not too oaky. Not super, but certainly suitable for sipping. Yet some sort of saponification (Ed. note: Enough alliteration already!) takes place once the whisky is diluted. Doctors Springbank, did my sample go weird? Just to be safe, treat it like a Mogwai, and don't get it wet.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???

Rating - 81 (neat only, dilution drops it ~10 points)

Monday, June 26, 2023

Old Pulteney 16 year old 2002, cask 722

Old Pulteney had released official single casks before, but from 2018 to 2020 they seemed to toss casks out of the warehouse at a crisp rate. This week I'll be reviewing three of the casks released in 2018. And since I've already consumed all three samples, I can tell you (SPOILER ALERT) that they were quite different from each other.

There have been two cask 722s. One was a 2006 distillery-only ex-bourbon cask that tipped the scales at 62.8%abv in 2020. The other, today's whisky, was also an ex-bourbon cask but with a little more age and a little less fire.

Distillery: Pulteney
Ownership: Inver House (via Thai Beverages plc via International Beverage Holdings Ltd.)
Region: Northern Highlands (Wick)
Age: 16 years (2002-2018)
Maturation: ex-bourbon cask
Cask #: 722
Outturn: ???
Alcohol by Volume: 54.2%
(from a bottle split)


The fruity nose offers apple juice, peach juice, and a mineral white wine in its early sniffs, picking up quieter notes of malt and lemon vinaigrette later on. Sweet and salt are in near perfect balance in the palate: apples, mint candy, a few flowers, and a touch of salted caramel. It finishes with apples, lemons, limes, and flowers.

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

Leaner, the nose has become brinier and more mineral while also adding more barley. Oh, guava and peaches on the palate. Bits of herbal bitterness, barley, raw almonds, and strawberry candy too. It finishes with guava and barley.


Simple and solid when neat, but with a more delightful palate when diluted, this OB OP is exactly what I'd hope for when buying a bottle of single cask Pulteney. The cask was dumped before the oak took over, holding onto some great fruit notes, while shedding immature rawness. On Wednesday, I'll review another, contrasting, ex-bourbon cask bottled in 2018.

Availability - Probably sold out
Pricing - ???

Rating - 88

Friday, June 23, 2023

Bourbon and Rye Day Friday: Jews & Booze 4 year old MGP Rye, The Holiday Armadillo

Another BARD for a TIRD! (Translation: Bourbon and Rye Day for a Thing I Really Drink.) And it's another Jews & Booze single barrel of MGP whiskey. This time it's rye. And this time I have plenty of pics.

All American whiskies are legally required to list the state of their distillation somewhere on their labels. So all MGP-distilled whiskies must have something like this:

I am of the religious opinion that all MGP ryes should have the above spelled out in LED lights or at least rhinestones, but for some reason the TTB hasn't responded to any of my emails on the matter. Perhaps they are discussing it in a committee. I await their response with dizzying anticipation.

Though I know that numerous American whiskey producers are playing around with oak stave finishes, I've never actually tried any such creation. But since the 95/5 MGP mashbill is the real boss hoss, I figured it could stand up to the woodwork. So I bought a bottle.

More specifically, this whiskey, named The Holiday Armadillo after a Friends Hanukkah reference, had recharred oak staves added to its barrel for the final six months of aging. See pics below for the rest of the whiskey's data.


As a 2:1 Manhattan cocktail: It smells and tastes like a hipster bar's oak-infused Manhattan, with all the flavors perched a thick slab of toasted (not recharred) oak. It's also curiously marshmallowy. The 122 proof is kept ar bay by the Carpano Antica.

On the rocks: A real sweetie pie. Smells like milk chocolate!

Neat: Heath Bar, whole wheat bread, and toasted oak make up most of the nose for the first 15 minutes. A perfumy note moves to the fore after that. Caramel, fennel seed, and peach juice linger in the background. Hints of halvah, dried oregano, and pencil shaving arrive later. The palate is hot, tangy, and slightly nutty. Sweet oranges, creamy vanilla, and plenty of florals comprise the core. It gets sweeter and more bourbon-like with time. It finishes with sweet and tangy citrus, a little bit of vanilla, and a lot of heat.


This recharred-oak-stave finish seems to neutralize the 95/5 mashbill style, turning it into something more like a lower-rye rye. It works best in a cocktail or on the rocks, for me. The 61.04 points of alcohol have also made neat drinking a bit of a chore for this palate, and I've hit a wall with this bottle at the bottom-third mark, eight months in. Some of you fire-drinking youngsters out there would like this whiskey more than I do. For me, just Holiday Armadillo cocktails going forward.

Availability - Maybe?
Pricing - $75
Rating - 82 (see above for caveats)

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Balblair 27 year old 1993 SMWS 70.42

Yesterday, it was a 44.4%abv 26yo Balblair. Today, it's a 60.2%abv 27yo Balblair. From one extreme to another. And yes, I did try them side by side.

While yesterday's Cadenhead lost 60-65% of its barrel contents, 35-40% of this barrel's whisky evaporated over a similar time period. The Cadenhead gave up plenty of alcohol, while this SMWS lost a lot of water. Was this refill barrel coopered better/tighter? Or did it have a nice cool warehouse corner? SMWS named it "Elegant, dark and stormy". I've had elegant Bablairs, but no dark nor stormy stuff from the distillery. Not sure if I'm intrigued or doubtful.

Distillery: Balblair
Ownership: Inver House (via Thai Beverages plc via International Beverage Holdings Ltd.)
Region: Northern Highlands
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Age: 27 years (Jan 1993 - 2020)
Maturation: refill bourbon barrel
Cask #: 70.42 "Elegant, dark and stormy"
Outturn: 180 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 60.2%
(from a bottle split)


Paper, broth, and metal on the nose. Some dried leaves too. It feels closed and hot, like many green-bottle-era Cadenheads. The palate is more approachable. Tart citrus fruits, sweet white fruits. It gets tangier with time, but says hot throughout. It's all a bit vague though, like the finish, which is very hot and kinda fruity-ish.

DILUTED to ~50%abv, or 1¼ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

The nose remains brothy and metallic. Mineral. Still a hint of paper. Subtle notes of brown sugar and lemons swim around in the back. The palate improves, sweet and buoyantly tart. Limes, Demerara, lemon peel-infused honey. It finishes sweet and slightly tart, without any other clear notes.

I'm hesitant to apply additional water to long-aged whisky, but...

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

Yeasty, bready, and floral, with hints of lemon candy and caramel. Not the nose I expected from a 27 year old single malt. Meanwhile, I think the palate is starting to collapse. Salt, pepper, Demerara, and squeeze of lemon are all that remain. It finishes with honey and salt.


Not elegant, not dark, and not stormy, this whisky's money spot is probably around 48%abv. But even then, it couldn't compete with yesterday's Cadenhead. I tried them side-by-side, waiting to sip the 26yo until this SMWS was diluted to 46%abv in order to allow for a more accurate comparison. This 27yo was fine, and I am glad they didn't re-rack it into in a recharred sauternes octave, but Balbair at this age can be so much more.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 81 (diluted)

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Balblair 26 year old 1990 Cadenhead Authentic Collection

I adore when Balblair goes all fruity on me. The bright, perky spirit can stand up to bourbon barrels and sherry casks, for decades, in well-managed warehouses. Underwhelmed by the official (and new to my brain, even though the whisky has existed for four years) 18-year-old after trying it recently in Japan, I've elected to go with a pair of independently bottled single casks this week. One 26 years old, the other 27. Both aged in ex-bourbon barrels. Yay?

The angels had their way with today's 26yo, spiriting away with 60-65% of the barrel's original contents. Cadenhead rescued the remaining 76 liters (108 bottles), with the resulting whisky registering at 44.4%abv.

Distillery: Balblair
Ownership: Inver House (via Thai Beverages plc via International Beverage Holdings Ltd.)
Region: Northern Highlands
Bottler: Cadenhead
Range: Authentic Collection
Age: 26 years (1990 - Oct 2016)
Maturation: bourbon barrel
Outturn: 108 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 44.4%
(thank you to My Annoying Opinions for the sample!)


The nose shows a well-balanced combination of spirit and cask. Baked apples, citrons, and lychee mix with gentle toasted oak spices. Key lime pie and cardamom pods arise after 30 minutes.

My handwritten notes for the palate begin with "custard, toffee, custard, toffee custard", but not really toffee custard though, instead it's a citrus and lychee custard. I dunno, it makes sense to me. Hints of salt, herbs, and earth offer some depth, as does a brightly tart pineapple note that builds with time.

Lovely tart limes and pineapple fill the finish, with earth and toasted oak cameos in the background.


Very very very very drinkable. A bottle of this would be a lot of trouble here. My Annoying Opinions seems to have survived the encounter, and his notes (and score) are very similar to mine, so you know we are correct. (And for you unbelievers, see Whiskybase.)

One more word about ABV before I depart...

Whenever I see cask strength releases with ABVs below 45%, I often ponder "WTF happened to the cask?", sometimes publicly. I also frequently complain about whiskies being bottled at 40%abv. Meanwhile, here I am, loving this single malt's 44.4% strength. Is this hypocritical? Would this whisky have been better a few years younger and slightly stronger? Maybe, maybe. But I attempt to comment about whiskies on a case-by-case basis. Here the ABV works, possibly because this Balblair wasn't watered down, and probably because the spirit stuck it out across 26 years. I'll try to keep an open mind about ABV, but companies that purposely water down whisky that's been aged for decades are doing everyone and everything (including their product and brand) a disservice, everything except for their bottom line. So it will continue. Long live Balbair and Cadenhead, though!

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 89

Friday, June 16, 2023

Bourbon and Rye Day Friday: Barrell Seagrass Rye, 59.92%abv batch

Yes, Barrell with two Ls for those of you who are not actively soaking in the American whiskey scene. Not a drop of Barrell has passed through these lips until now, though these eyes have seen many Barrell bottles on liquor store shelves for nearly a dec--

Sorry for that last sentence, I'm straining for a way to introduce a blend of US and Canadian ryes that have been finished in Martinique Rhum Agricole casks, Madeira barrels, and apricot brandy casks. Well, I guess there's an intro. The "whiskey" sure seems like a cask strength cocktail in a bottle, but I'm willing to give it a try because I like rye. And I don't despise Martinique Rhum, Madeira, and apricot brandy. And a portion of some of the sales actually goes towards the conservation and restoration of seagrass. And, what the hell, why not?

CompanyBarrell Craft Spirits
Range: Seagrass
Type: blended American and Canadian Rye whiskies
Region??? and ???
AgeI wrote "9yo" on the sample label, but I don't know where I got that info from
Mashbill: ???
Maturation: American oak, first maturation. Second maturation: a mix of Martinique Rhum, Madeira, and apricot brandy vessels. Finally, these are blended together.
Alcohol by Volume59.92%
(thanks to Dr. Springbank for the sample!)


The nose is aggressively floral, and is loaded with cotton candy and lemon candy. Then there's butterscotch, orange juice, citronella, and nectarine skin. After 30 minutes, the fruits are replaced by marshmallows and toasted coconuts.

There's more actual rye in the palate, ultra high-rye rye, like a mix of MGP's 95% bill and Alberta's 100% bill. It's very peppery and minty, almost mentholated. Hints of oranges, dried apricots, and mothballs offer highlights and angles. It's certainly not as sweet as the nose leads on.

It finishes with dried apricots, lemon bars, menthol, and tabasco sauce.


This assemblage (pronounced the French way) is difficult to opine on, much like this odd Ben Nevis from Le Gus't. The nose is kind of insane, with the finishing casks taking over and not even remotely coming together. But those casks barely touch the palate, and for that I am grateful. Though I'm not rushing out to buy a Seagrass bottle, I would absolutely drink this again. Perhaps a batch will come along that will inspire me to get out my credit card.

Availability - Just USA, I think
Pricing - $70 - $95
Rating - 84 (maybe?)

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Ballantine's 23 year old blended whisky, for Travel Retail

Ballantine's 17 year old is one of the best blends on the market, when bottled at 43%abv. At 40%abv, it is not. Unfortunately, I think the 43%abv version is only available in the US (though it might be down to 40% here too). When I was in Japan five years ago, the 17 was only ~$45, but I didn't buy it because of the 40%. This year it was up to $80ish, even with the great exchange rate, but at the same strength. So I did not buy it this time either. (Though there was a tempting 48%abv special edition.)

Meanwhile, the whisky section of all the Haneda Travel Retail shops were barren:

They certainly had no Ballantine's 23-year old, watered-down to 40%abv, likely containing 23+ year old Glenburgie, Miltonduff, Scapa, and Glentauchers. So I went in on 2oz of a bottle split of the 23 just to see what I missed out on.

Brand: Ballantine's
Ownership: Pernod Ricard
Type: blended whisky
Age: minimum 23 years
Maturation: first-fill American oak
Bottled: 2019?
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
Chillfiltered? probably
e150a? probably
(from a bottle split)


The mild, well-produced nose starts off with yuzu, wheatgrass, and caramel. Small notes of butterscotch, peach, and corn chips stay back. Give it 30 minutes, though, and it's all vanilla frosting and cream soda.

Too bad the palate goes a different direction, extremely woody right from the start. Vanilla, maple, bitter oak, a little bit of paper, too. Notes of simple syrup, bitter citrus, and ginger powder show up now and then.

Sweet and tangy, the finish leans mostly on vanilla, cream soda, and mint candy.

On the rocks, it's all vanilla and pencil shavings.


There's an official Ballantine's video about the 23yo, and I lost count of how many times "vanilla" was spoken in it. Yeah, there's vanilla, so much so that it almost tastes like an NAS blended Canadian whisky. May I repeat this is 23-year-old scotch.

I had expected to write, "If only it was bottled at 43%abv...", but now that I've actually tried the whisky, nah. Three more alcohol points wouldn't have made much of a difference, and I'm not sure how that oak would have croaked at 46%abv. The nose was nice though.

Availability - It has escaped Duty Free!
Pricing - $120 (Japan) - $225 (Europe)
Rating - 78

Monday, June 12, 2023

Balvenie 15 year old Single Barrels: Bourbon vs Sherry

Many of us remember the Balvenie 15yo Single Barrel, the stronger, older sibling to the 12yo Doublewood, back when that Barrel was of the bourbon sort. This bourbon cask expression existed for at least 23 years before it was retired, and traded out for a sherry cask version in 2015. That more expensive version lasted less than seven years. It appears to have been replaced by the even more expensive 16yo French Oak in 2022.

The evolution matches the times:

  • The 15 year old single bourbon barrel listed the exact distillation and bottling dates, and was sometimes older than its age statement.
  • The 15 year old single sherry barrel did not list the distillation and bottling dates.
  • The 16 year old French Oak is not a single cask, is wine cask finished, and has a slightly lower ABV.

I had the opportunity to try the bourbon version of the 15 about a half dozen times (as recently as 2017 when I found a bottle in a neighborhood bar), and tried the 15yo sherry barrel twice. All eight barrels were pleasantly tasty casual sippers, which is right on brand for Balvenie. Had I known the older version was going to vanish, and had the newer version been cheaper, I would have been happy to buy a bottle of each. But here I am, in 2023, sourcing a sample of both for this Taste Off.

15 year old Single Barrel
bourbon cask 11950 - 47.8%abv
10 Dec 1993 to 12 Oct 2009
15 year old Single Barrel
sherry cask 1900 - 47.8%abv
A mix of honeydew, honey, peach candy, and vanilla ice cream appears first in the nose. Cracked black pepper and smoky barrel char fills in the background. It gets more floral (roses) with time.The nose starts with flower blossoms and raw almonds, followed by honey, nectarines, and strawberry candy. Milky chocolate and orange peels appear after 20 minutes. Butter caramel at the 30-minute mark.
The sweet and fruity palate offers up Juicy Fruit gum, pear juice, pineapple juice, and toasty oak spices. Hints of chile peppers and vanilla slowly emerge. It all gets tarter and sweeter with time.The palate is very salty, and not that sweet. Limes and chiles, first. Dried apples and dried apricots second. Leaner and meaner than expected.
The pineapples, peaches, vanilla, and chile peppers stick around through the finish.The finish gets sweeter while holding onto the salt and tart limes. Maybe some dried apples too.
Lots of oak, lots of fruit. I'm not sure they ever balance out, but it is another "tasty casual sipper", as referenced above. More of a drinker than a thinker.
Not a contemporary sherry cask, much to my surprise. I expected a sherry-seasoned barrel to be much different than this. The palate is pretty simple, but I appreciate its spartan character.


Contrary to my expectations, the older bourbon barrel has a style more of this decade than the more recent sherry barrel. I'm sort of torn about which one I like more. Part of me likes that an austere(!) Balvenie exists, but I could drink the fruity sweet one all day...

The bourbon barrel gets the edge! Emotions win out over the intellect today (and every day). Also, the bourbon barrel's palate was more complex (intellect!).

If you find a version of either edition in the wild, at non-secondary prices, it should provide solid quality and plenty of character. Keep in mind more than 2000 of these barrels were bottled, so expect variety!

15 year old Single Barrel, bourbon cask 11950 - 85
15 year old Single Barrel, sherry cask 1900 - 84

Friday, June 9, 2023

Aultmore 9 year old 2008 Sovereign, cask HL13138 for K&L

After this week's two DCL-era Aultmores, all I'm able to offer you is a review of a contemporary Aultmore, a 9-year-old single sherry cask that butts in at 59.8%abv, with a color as dark or darker than those two elders. Back in 2018 it was offered exclusively by K&L Wine Merchants for the very reasonable sum of $55. Those days are far behind us all.

Distillery: Aultmore
Owner: Bacardi Limited (via John Dewar & Sons)
Region: Speyside (Moray)
Bottler: Hunter Laing
Range: The Sovereign
Age: 9 years old (June 2008 - Aug 2017)
Maturation: Sherry butt
Cask #: HL13138
Outturn: 631 bottles
Exclusive to: K&L Wine Merchants
Alcohol by Volume: 59.8%
(from a bottle split)


It has a vibrant nose, full of raspberry candy, orange peel, apricot jam, and A LOT of alcohol. Minor notes of flowers and metal develop with time. The palate brings the heat as well, but it's also sort of bourbony, with a mix of cherry jam, cinnamon candy, and honey. Maybe a few apricots too. The hot finish leans more towards cherries and nectarines, sweet and tangy.

I'm going to be careful with this youngling at first...

DILUTED to ~50%abv, or 1¼ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

Yep, oloroso cask-aged bourbon on the nose: vanilla, maple, walnuts, and raspberries. Though one can find hints of apple jam and bitter citrus, the palate is so woody. Charred lumber and extreme tannins. It finishes with apple peels and tannins.

Maybe a little more water will help.

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

A whole new nose of flowers, pears, prunes, and mint. Meanwhile the palate is all bitter oak and unripe pears, and the finish is sour and tannic.


Keep this one neat as dilution wrecks the palate. I like the strange bourbon-like style that this Aultmore shows at full strength, especially since it's a fruity bourbon style. In fact, I like this whisky a little more than Wednesday's 30yo! It's too hot and oaky for it to be a regular drinker for me, but it's more enjoyable than many officially-bottled NAS cask strength sherried things from more popular distilleries.

For other takes, see the reviews by Whisky Musings and Whiskey Jug. At least we three can agree the price was right.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - $55
Rating - 83 (neat only)

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Aultmore 30 year old 1989 Single Cask Nation, cask 2459

Designed by the fellow who built Craigellachie, and originally run by Oban's owners, Aultmore has since passed through relatively few hands. John Dewar & Sons bought Aultmore on the distillery's 25th birthday in 1923. Dewar & Sons was then purchased by Distillers Company Limited, which later became United Distillers and Diageo. When Diageo had to sell off some of its holdings in 1998, the Dewar's portfolio found a buyer in Bacardi Limited.

On Monday, I tried an Aultmore distilled by Distillers Company Limited, and it was excellent. So, here's another one from that era, also matured in a sherry cask, bottled by J&J of Single Cask Nation. It's one of the oldest whiskies SCN has offered so far, and comes in at a zippy 57.1%abv.

Distillery: Aultmore
Owner at time of distillation: Distillers Company Limited
Current Owner: Bacardi Limited (via John Dewar & Sons)
Region: Speyside (Moray)
Bottler: Single Cask Nation
Age: 30 years old (June 1989 - Nov 2019)
Maturation: first fill sherry butt
Cask #: 2459
Outturn: 465 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 57.1%
(from a bottle split)


The nose has dark chocolate and dried cherries. Walnuts and smoked fish. Sort of meaty too. The palate arrives hot, very salty, and a little sulfury. It's earthy and leafy, with a hint of tart limes. It finishes a little brighter at first, with grapefruits, raspberries, and salt. Then it darkens with wood smoke and sulfur.

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

The nose reads cleaner now, mostly a variety of dried berries, with milk chocolate in the middle, and the flints in the far back. Less sulfur in the palate, too. Salty and peppery, with mild bitterness. Some toasted almonds and simple syrup in the background. The finish holds onto the grapefruit note, and gains a sweet date or two. Bitter oak rumbles in the back.


Though this one reads even smokier and earthier than Monday's 35yo, I don't think that's due to the spirit. I think it's sulfur, which isn't a dealbreaker for me because I often enjoy dirty casks. Here the 'S' word doesn't dominate, in fact I like how it plays out in the nose. Dilution washes it nearly away, but oak creeps into the palate and finish at 46%abv.

The "medicinal, tart, herbal, and intense" character found in Monday's Aultmore has been mostly silenced by the cask. This 30yo's intensity comes from the heat and oak. I wonder what this cask was like 5-10 years earlier.

For a different take on this whisky, the Whiskybase reviewers seem to adore this thing, though the sample size is small.

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

Monday, June 5, 2023

Aultmore 35 year old 1982 Adelphi, cask 1575

Aultmore Week! I'm excited! Are you excited?! Well, you're gonna get three Aultmore reviews anyway.

The distillery's official 12 year old is to steal Mr. Opinions's term (again), unadorned. Which is good! I tried the 18yo OB too, liked it "A lot", then bought a bottle and drank it during Covid Year One. These experiences inspired me to source this week's trio of indie single casks, sherry casks to be more specific.

I'll go oldest to youngest this week, starting with something distilled during the first Reagan administration.

Distillery: Aultmore
Owner at time of distillation: Distillers Company Limited
Current Owner: Bacardi Limited (via John Dewar & Sons)
Region: Speyside (Moray)
Bottler: Adelphi
Age: 35 years old (1982 - 2017)
Maturation: sherry something or other
Cask #: 1575
Outturn: 196 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 54.8%
(from a bottle split)


An industrial + dunnage character forms the nose's foundation. Layered upon that are Andes candies (chocolate and mint), dried blueberries, toffee, and tiramisu.

Raw black walnuts, mint leaf, and mothballs start the palate, followed by tar, iodine(!), and tart dried mango. Hints of dried herbs and dunnage decorate the background. And it's all arrives in creamy textures.

The nearly endless finish holds the iodine, black walnuts, mothballs, and tart dried mango.


I had never tried a DCL-era Aultmore before this. And WOW. This whisky is medicinal, tart, herbal, and intense. The sherry cask does plenty, but the spirit lives on. I'm pretty certain Bacardi doesn't make it like this anymore. This style likely helped lift old school Dewar's blends well above their current namesake. Yum.

I doubt there are many bottles left (see the outturn) in the secondary market, and due to its dark hue, the whisky likely brings a sturdy asking price, so I think I'm going to try another DCL-era Aultmore...

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 90

Friday, June 2, 2023

Bunnahabhain 10 year old, Distillery Exclusive cask 3201

Hand-filled and purchased by Doctors Springbank and Springbank during their Bunnahabhain distillery visit two years ago, today's bottling holds ten-year-old single malt matured in a Manzanilla cask in Bunnahabhain's warehouse 9. We opened and tried this bottle in 2021, and it liked it A LOT. Because it held all of 200mL of whisky, the bottle is now empty, and the Doctors were very generous to share about 1/4 of it with me. Here is my official take on it, 18 months later.

Distillery: Bunnahabhain
Owner: Distell Group Limited
Region: Islay
Age: 10 years (???? - ????)
Maturation: Manzanilla cask
Cask #: 3201
Exclusive to: the distillery
Alcohol by Volume: 55.1%
(Thank you Drs. Springbank!)


It noses like actual sherry, unlike the vast vast vast majority of sherry cask whiskies on this planet. There are walnuts, dried mushrooms, and parmesan. Dried apples, dried apricots, copper, and dead leaves. The palate hold loads of dried fruit essences, without all the sweetness. I'm getting unsulfured dried apricots, dried cherries, and ume right up front, earth and tobacco in the back. The very long finish is a near facsimile of the palate, with a touch more herbal bitterness.

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

The nose has gotten meatier and mintier, with new notes of tar and dried currants arising. More dried leaves and herbal bitterness in the palate now. Still plenty of dried fruits, now prunes and dried pineapple. It finishes with those dried fruits and a yeasty lager.


A whisky for sherry drinkers. Because I enjoy nosing dry sherries, this whisky offers one of my favorite Bunna noses ever. The neat palate includes some actual Bunnahabhain in its delivery, while the diluted palate starts to slide towards a more popular, familiar style of sherried single malt. My preference is to keep this one neat, but folks thrown off by the full strength dry style will want to wet it down. I hope one of you readers got your hands on a wee bottle of this too!

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 88