...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, May 31, 2024

The new place, and two 1993 Glendronachs

I exist in the new place. "Exist", not "am settled". How does one make one's house one's own? Everything here smells of the three dirty Frenchies (the dogs) that had previously run the place, but less so than it did last week. The whisky room is almost done in the basement, though I haven't yet decided how to decorate it, aside from bottles. I watched The Ninth Configuration and First Spaceship on Venus one night, far past my bedtime. And on Sunday night, I made scallops with cuttlefish ink pasta and sautéed spinach, and nailed it so much better than I should have that I must have borrowed the soul of Olivia Tiedemann for 30 minutes. Meanwhile I keep splitting logs awkwardly in the backyard until I can't see through the sweat in my eyes. Now I just need to assemble this IKEA couch, whose boxes watch me from across the room. I'm almost home.

Now it's time to try to get the whisky posts back on schedule. I will try my best, but no promises, life is crazy.

It's been 4.5 years since I last reviewed a Glendronach, so I've decided that now's a good time to open up these samples of two 1993 'Dronachs that were both distilled on March 19th of that year.

Glendronach 25 year old 1993, sherry butt #658 for The Whisky Barrel, 59.3%abv


There are dusty books and old leather on the nose. Then carob, and a fruit cake loaded with figs and dried cherries. It offers a sense memory of what Macallan used to smell like 15 years ago. The palate is VERY hot. Dunnage, newspaper ink, sea salt, and a whiff of smoke wait beneath the heat. It gets sweeter, while picking up some oranges after 45 minutes. It finishes inky, salty, and sweet, with lingering notes of almond extract and dusty old oak.

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

The nose has become fruitier, nuttier, more herbal, with plenty of kiwi, lychee, walnuts, and Brazil nuts. Dark chocolate, dark berries, and fresh tobacco fill the palate. It has a nice bitterness too, a little bit of ink, and grapefruit juice. Bitter citrus, dunnage, and dried cherries finish it off.


Though Glendronach is/was practicing undisclosed re-racking, as per My Annoying Opinions excellent post from 10(!!) years ago, I don't think they did that with #658. The whisky reads as old or older than its age statement. No new oak, nor incongruous extra-wet cask notes here. The nose is excellent neat or diluted, though the palate works better for me when the ABV is reduced. Though this isn't my preferred single malt style, I can't deny that this cask was a gem.

Availability - Secondary market?
Pricing - ????
Rating - 90

Very dark stuff

Glendronach 24 year old 1993, sherry butt #652 for Abbey Whisky, 60.6%abv


The nose begins with dunnage and very old wood, pulled pork and medjool dates. That's followed by dark chocolate, cherry juice, oak spice, and sage smoke. The palate is actually less hot than 658's. It's dusty, savory, and slightly tart. Smoky soy sauce and yesterday's cigar. Little bits of newspaper ink and berry sweetness. It finishes sweeter and tangier, while holding onto the dusty and savory notes. Plenty of old wood stays on the tongue.

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

Orange peel, fruity cinnamon, and milkier chocolate arrive in the nose first, followed by almond extract, cherry juice, and watermelon candy. The palate gets leaner, with raw almonds and walnuts. Tart lemons at first then lemon candy later. The oak takes over in the finish, all bitter and dusty with a hint of sweetness.


This one also feels as old or older than the label says, which doesn't happen much anymore. The smoky notes are fascinating and work very well, it's too bad the dilution washes them away. Harsh oak notes knock this one down a little, threatening to throw it all out of balance, and I found myself going back to cask 658 more frequently. But it's a Big whisky no matter what.

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

Friday, May 24, 2024

Mathilda Malt: Laphroaig 18 year old 1998 cask 700040, Hand-filled at the Distillery

Two life chapters ago, I attended the Laphroaig Water to Whisky Experience and LOVED it. (The distillery no longer offers that experience, though the more expensive "Uisge" tour seems similar.) The WOWE ended with a 250mL bottling from one of three different casks on offer. Two casks were good, one was terrific.

I uncorked my wee bottle last year, and now all that's left is 60mL and a single bud vase.

Distillery: Laphroaig
Owner: Beam Suntory
Region: Southern Islay
Bottler: Me! (at the distillery)
Age: 18 years (1998-2016)
Maturation: sherry butt
Alcohol by Volume: 59.3%
(from my bottle)

I'm going to consume all 60mL for this tasting which will probably send me straight to bed afterwards. To change things up, I'm going to taste/nose the whisky diluted first.

DILUTED TO ~48%abv, or < 1½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

Grilled pineapple and pork ribs greet the nose first, followed by citronella and a very briny peat. Apricots and almond extract linger behind, and a Hampton-style diesel note materializes after 30 minutes. The palate starts sooty and salty, with oranges, smoked figs, and Thai chiles quickly emerging. Thai basil and more sea salt fills in the background. Slightly sweeter than the palate, the finish features the Thai chiles and Thai basil up front, with apricots and salty smoke in the distance.


Peaches, pears, apricots, roses, honeydew, almond butter, and citronella meet savory smoke and oysters in the nose. The palate begins savory, smoky, and sweet, with sea salt and fresh ginger in the background. It takes on Mexican chocolate and a mineral note after 30+ minutes. It finishes with sweet citrus, ginger, Mexican chocolate, and smoked almonds.


A massive whisky, even when diluted, this Laphroaig somehow thumps one's senses while also being very moreish. The possibly-refill cask adds a little treat here and there, but mostly lets the spirit roar. It's not exactly the desired pour when the night simmers at 30ºC — it's more at home on a 3ºC evening — but I expected as much. It's a hardy style that the distillery should focus on now, as they keep venturing further away from bourbon casks.

Availability - All gone
Pricing - None
Rating - 89

Friday, May 17, 2024

Mathilda Malt: Pittyvaich 29 year old 1988 Cooper's Choice

Pittyvaich Distillery spent its brief existence producing malt for the Bell's blends for less than twenty years. It's one of the lesser known demolished distilleries and is rarely bottled by the indies. Here's one from the Cooper's Choice range, issued in 2017, a year that seems much more recent than it actually is. 

Distillery: Pittyvaich
Owner: United Distillers
Region: Speyside (Dufftown)
Bottler: The Vintage Malt Whisky Co. Ltd.
Range: The Cooper's Choice
Age: 29 years (1988-2017)
Maturation: ???
Outturn: ??? bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 48.6%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from a bottle split)


Lean and blend-ish, the nose offers salt and confectioner's sugar, with hints of burlap and vanilla, becoming more floral with time. The bolder palate leads with bitter oak and green bell peppers, followed by mint and iron/blood, with a few oranges in the background. The wood tones down in the finish, leaving the mint and oranges with peppercorns and oregano.


Reading like a late-teens to early-twenties blend, this Pittyvaich neither excites nor offends. The mint leaves and bright oranges were highlights, and the bitter oak a lowlight. Despite the bitter oak, I don't think the cask was bottled too terribly late, because once the oak notes are subtracted, there's not much left. It probably works well in a highball, but don't we want more from a 29-year-old single malt?

I gotta end the Mathilda Malts on a stronger note than this. See you on Monday Wednesday Friday!

Availability - Secondary market?
Pricing - I think it was close to $300 when it came out
Rating - 80

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Mathilda Malt: Littlemill 20 year old 1984 Scott's Selection

Surrounded by unpacked, half-unpacked, and unopened boxes in my new house, I have no idea where anything is. Except the whisky. Hell, I don't even know where most of the whisky glasses are, but the liquid, yes.

Each day I set a goal (with a smidgen of LOL) to accomplish one bit of unpacking. The kitchen is functional, and occasionally has a clear path from the fridge to the stove to the sink. My cat, Suzy Creamcheese, is terrified but does have a direct line from her hiding place, to her food, water, and litter box. My functional workspace is only occasionally cramped by drill bits, postcards, scratching posts, and a bucket of half-used toilet cleaner bottles. My TV exists.

But more importantly, my girls have their own rooms, which are momentarily clean because we haven't unpacked anything of theirs. My older daughter, Mathilda, turns 10 today. Yeah, I don't know how that happened either. But last night she and I had a fun picnic dinner on the living room floor, eating black bean tacos, followed by fancy chocolates I brought back from Paris.

As I've done every year of her existence, including the birth one, I poured myself a Littlemill after she'd fallen asleep. Not knowing where the heck my pipette was packed, and also due to the intriguing nature of this whisky, I did not dilute this Littlemill, even though it was bottled at 61.3%abv.

Distillery: Littlemill
Region: Lowlands
Independent Bottler: Scott's Selection
Age: 20? years (1984-2004)
Maturation: Oakwood casks (helpful!)
Outturn: ???
Alcohol by Volume: 61.3%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from a bottle split)


Oh, the nose is wild. It starts off very herbal and mossy, with a whiff of antiseptic. Then it gets a bit inky, with a current of naphthalene hovering behind. THEN comes the mango and grapefruit.

It's been a minute since I chewed on a dusty book cover, but here it is in the whisky's palate, along with tart kiwis and guavas. An industrial/metallic note meets up with moss and lemongrass. And, somehow, it works.

The finish gets a little sweeter than the palate, adding pineapple to the fruits, yet the tartness lengthens with each sip. An earthiness and pepperiness work their way in as well.


I'm quite taken by this Littlemill. It's from a completely different dimension than the 1984 Hart Bros bottling I had ten years ago. There's no way to compare it to contemporary single malts, most of which are heavily produced (much like music?). The Scott's (R.I.P.) whiskies were often left to be their own animals, for better or worse. For better here. This strange and delicious whisky was perfect for me in this strange and energizing moment in my life. Yes, an excellent Littlemill in honor of my big girl.

Availability - Secondary market, maybe
Pricing - ???, but it was less than €100 twenty years ago
Rating - 90

Friday, May 10, 2024

Moving out, and also another review of Yoichi Key Malts

The movers arrive tomorrow.

I've been packing and moving boxes by car every day, since before the Paris trip, and it feels like I've barely made a dent. And I don't even have much stuff. Plumbing and electrical mishaps still need to be addressed at the house. But I think I've gotten the smell of dog piss out of the building, and I've stayed fit by deadlifting whisky cases and attempting to paint rooms. No matter where I am with all this, those two dudes and a truck will appear on Saturday afternoon. Goodbye sad bachelor pad, hello overwhelmed bachelor house!

Since I did not visit Japan this year, I decided the reviews for my apartment send-off would be some Yoichis. There was a whole week of posts planned but that was some silly optimism. Instead, most of my drinking has consisted of me staring into space, sipping Chablis at some point after 10pm.

This trio of Yoichi's Key Malts was picked up by the Doctors Springbank last year (thank you!), so their bottlings are more recent than the ones reviewed in 2022.

One final note. This tasting was conducted in the apartment's master bathroom while tornado sirens blared for almost an hour. Mathilda sat on a zafu cushion reading a novel while her father sat in his desk chair smelling tempered poison. 

Newer Sapporo Triplets

Woody and Vanillic - 55%abv
Sherry and Sweet - 55%abv
Peaty and Salty - 55%abv
Less generically woody than expected, the nose offers some fun spices like clove and cardamom layered on top of peaches and grapefruit. The vanilla and peat remain calm.Dried cherries, walnuts, and something beefy arrive first in the nose, followed by caramel, blossoms, and hints of raspberry jam and black raisins.Yes. The nose. Seaweed, antiseptic, and rubber gaskets galore. A whiff of farm, soft grassiness, and a drop of Sambuca fill in the gaps.
The palate dishes out some tannins at the start, as well as some bold peat. It's so sweet and floral that it's almost like peaty new make. Not bad though. There's a nice leafiness in the background.Cherry jam and coal smoke on the palate. Bits of earth, mint, and fig make cameos. A sharp tannic bite threatens in the distance.The palate is simple, but on target with a gentle sweetness, sooty peat, a generous dose of sea salt. The soot intensifies with time, while an herbal bitterness rises from the background.
It's very sweet on the finish, with a grassiness in the middle, and vanilla in the back.It finishes with cherry jam, serrano chiles, menthol, and raspberry candy.It finishes with kiln, menthol, and a little bit of bitterness.
Final thoughts:
Better than the previous Woody & Vanillic, which I called "the worst Yoichi I've ever tried", this whisky isn't completely wrecked by vanilla, in fact the nose is quite lovely.
Final thoughts:
Again, this one is better than the version I tried two years ago. Some bland sherry and oak notes keep this one from soaring, but I do love the cherry jam and coal smoke combo.
Final thoughts:
Picture baby Ardbeg, but with less violence, more control. It may not offer much complexity, but it does what it says on the tin, and reliably hits the spot. A great winter pour.
Rating: 82Rating: 84Rating: 87


Until after I finished the tasting and checked my old notes, I'd forgotten how disappointed I was with the Key Malts set I'd reviewed two years ago. This set was more consistent, more on-brand Yoichi, if that makes sense. If you nabbed this set from the distillery recently, enjoy, and bask in the warmth of my jealousy.

Next week, the scotch returns...

Friday, May 3, 2024

Four whiskies at Golden Promise

While in Paris, I did not drink very much whisky, because wine. But I did go to the most famous whisky bar in town, Golden Promise.

Owned by La Maison du Whisky, the bar is located in the basement of LMDW's Japan-themed location. The warm lights of the standard bar greats visitors first, but then......to the right......there's the room of Rare, Scarce, Unicorn, Holy Shit This Can't Be Real. But it is real, and it's expensive. It's difficult to judge the prices on individual whiskies because Golden Promise has open bottles of whiskies that might not be available in any other European bar. (If you're feeling curious and masochistic, a version of their menu is/was available on the official site, as is a video that gives a little peek into The Room.)

The staff and service were excellent, and very patient as I walked countless laps around the shelves. Also true to my brand, I promptly spilled a half a pour of one of my whiskies; and the staff refilled my glass immediately.

These were my drinks for the night:

Famous Grouse "OVER 7 YEARS OLD", 43%abv

I've enjoyed several different versions of dusty Famous Grouse, and can confirm that the blend was still excellent right up through the 1980s. Golden Promise had a 1970s Italian import of the "Over 7 Years" edition, so I chose that as a palate tester.

The nose begins with a burst of polished leather and a hot greasy engine. Notes of dark soy sauce and amaretto appear after 20 minutes. The palate reads stronger and older than the official numbers, sometimes more like a dusty old brandy than scotch. Thick honey and sweet cara cara oranges settle in first, followed by Havdalah spice box and chili powder. Its moderate length finish offers orange marmalade spiked with chile oil.

This is Exhibit 7012 of why I adore old blends. It's dense, heavy, rich stuff that reads like it's all malt, all great malt. Were this any other situation, I would have gone for a second pour. But it was time to move on, my palate was awake. Rating: 87

Too many options awaited me so I strategized, deciding to focus on defunct whisky ranges and well-aged versions of less-glamorous single malts. I selected the Rare Malts, a series that ended just as I was getting into single malts, and a trio of distilleries I enjoy.

Auchroisk 28yo 1974 56.8%abv Rare Malts
Glen Ord 23yo 1974 60.8%abv Rare Malts
Dailuaine 22yo 1973 60.92%abv Rare Malts

Auchroisk 28yo 1974

Lovely mellow American oak merging with this Speyside spirit results in lots of limoncello and fresh cherries in the nose, with hints of anise and Play Doh in the background. The palate is positively soaked with tropical fruits. Dried mango, dried purple sweet potato, fresh lychees and kiwis. A dash of horseradish brightens it further. It finishes tarter with nectarines joining the dried mango.

With water, the whisky shifts a little, while holding onto its highlights. Guavas, baked pears, and mint leaves enter the nose. More citrus, more chiles, and little bit of chocolate show up on the palate.

It was such at knockout pour that I indeed knocked over my glass......which, by the way, opens a whisky very nicely. This Auchroisk had my favorite palate of the evening and took to careful dilution flawlessly. Love this stuff. Rating: 91

Glen Ord 23yo 1974

I'm not sure I can fully capture the nose's complexity here. Musty basement, car repair garage, something smoky, something savory, guava, citronella, light blue Mr Sketch marker, and a whisper of oak spice. Peach cobbler, fragrant peppercorns, and smoky mushrooms appear first in the palate, which then gets mustier, and more mineral, while also picking up some hay notes in the background. The mineral note merges well with the peaches in the finish.

Adding water brings out more dunnage and slight meatiness in the nose, while the palate balances umami and citrus notes.

This Glen Ord offered a fun, slightly dirtier edge when compared to the other two Rare Malts, but never sold out in any single direction. It drank very easily for its strength, and swam well, like its compatriots. Rating: 90 

Dailuaine 22yo 1973

This nose keeps improving with time. First there was milk chocolate and dried apricot. Then cloves and toffee pudding. Then grapefruit. Finally, hay and dried herbs swooped up and bundled all those characteristics together. Like the nose, this palate has multiple gears. Grapefruit, Thai chile, lychee candy, and industrial coal smoke arrive first. Then comes the umami, which calms it down, followed by something very mineral. It finishes with the umami and mineral up front. Moments of fruit in the middle. A dash of gochujang in the back.

With water, all of its aspects come together in harmony, with new notes of dunnage and mango all over the nose and palate.

The gentleman who poured these whiskies told me afterwards that this was his favorite of the three, and I'm going to have to agree, thanks to its complexity, balance, and its gorgeous shift once diluted. I can't imagine what it's like to have a whole bottle of this. Rating: 92

After this session I didn't drink whisky again during my Paris stay. Nothing could compete. If you're in the neighborhood, I highly recommend a visit to Golden Promise, even if it's to just see the bottles and maybe get a pour of something you cannot find anywhere else.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Dispatch from home, post-Paris

Assembling another blog post via my phone became too much of a hassle, so I spent my Parisian quiet time either reading dozens of J.G. Ballard's fever dream short stories or drinking Chablis, or both.

Using my iPhone notes, I will now attempt to reproduce what should have been my second blog post from Paris:

from Chaïm Soutaine's La Juene Anglais

My previous dispatch may have come across dismissive of art and art history. To clarify (or not), I react emotionally, not intellectually, to art. While The Louvre is tremendous and I recommend it to everyone, it reminds me of Washington, DC, designed to confuse invaders. Its floors and routes are disorienting, and perhaps that's why people stay in the building for so long. Hell, it took me 20 minutes to figure out how to exit the place. Anyway, back to Art. My only emotional connections at The Louvre happened among the sculptures and non-European art. Otherwise it felt very intellectual, and a little cold.

— The Musée D’Orsay was another story. Near tears a half dozen times within the first 30 minutes, I lingered on every angle of every creation. It felt as if the museum's curators and I function on the same emotional level. Yes, I know that’s vague. Just know that Musée D’Orsay is remarkable (and intuitively structured). I spent six hours there, and only left the building because security wouldn't let me sleep at the base of The Gates of Hell.

— A peaceful marriage of Kyoto's gardens and the French countryside, Monet's home in Giverny offered one of the richest experiences of the trip. The waterlilies, the river, the bridge, they're all still there, all somehow even quieter than Monet's paintings.

— A different Monet immersion overwhelmed me at Musée de l'Orangerie, where eight massive impressions of les nymphéas curl around, forming a giant infinity symbol.

— Then there was this:

— On a related note: Despite walking 10 to 20 miles per day, I've returned to The States carrying some croissant weight. Is there such a thing as the French Fifteen? I'm asking for a friend. My tummy.

— And finally, yes, I drank some whisky. More about that on Friday.