...where distraction is the main attraction.

Saturday, July 20, 2024

Auchentoshan 13 year old 2000 SMWS 5.40

Despite my misgivings towards official Auchentoshans, I'm always interested in trying independent bottlers' takes on the Lowlander. They're usually entertaining, and sometimes very good. Today's single cask of the Clydebank distillery's spirit comes from whisky's own No Homers Club. It was bottled before the SMWS started fully committing to secondary and tertiary maturations. Indeed, this Auchie spent its life in a refill hoggie. Lemme see what happened to it...

Distillery: Auchentoshan
Distilled by: Suntory Holdings
Current Ownership: Beam Suntory
Region: Lowlands (Glasgow-ish)
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Age: minimum 13 years (October 2000 - ????)
Maturation: refill hogshead
Cask #: 5.40, "Soft, Sweet and Fluffy"
Outturn: ??? bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 56.7%
(Thank you, Brett!)

NEAT

Citronella, passionfruit, and cardamom drift through the nose, with a little bit of lemon basil in the background. It becomes more floral with time, while also gaining notes of brine and white chocolate. It's hot and sweet on the palate, but also very fruity, with apricots lemons, and yellow nectarines. Notes of green peppercorns, barley, and metal stay in the back. It finishes tarter, with more lemons and peppercorns and a light floral note.

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

Lots of fruit on the snoot, particularly apricots, so many apricots! A few oranges here, some lychees there, hints of malt and oak spice in the distance. The gently sweet palate brings lemons, barley, mint and limes. It finishes mildly tart with the citrus and mint combo.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Another SMWS name that works! It's soft and sweet, though I don't know about fluffy. It's such a pleasant whisky, a drinker, not a thinker. I'm not sure why the OB Valinch wasn't more like this style, especially since that one was from a sizable batch. Maybe this hoggie was just a pretty freak. Whatever the case, this is a simple fruity pour that works well in the summer.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 85

Thursday, July 18, 2024

Auchentoshan Valinch, 2011 Edition

In 2011, no one was asking for an NAS cask strength Auchentoshan, but also no one was not asking for an NAS cask strength Auchentoshan. Then Suntory gave us an NAS cask strength Auchentoshan, The Valinch, named after everyone's favorite whisky scooper.

Though I'd had no real issue with Auchentoshan's 40% or 43%abv releases, they were all sort of figuratively vanilla at that strength, except perhaps the 18 year old. So I was one of the folks interested in the Valinch releases. Unfortunately they only lasted for two years, disappearing before I could indulge. Thankfully, St. Perkins of Riverside hooked me up with a sample from his bottle, many moons ago.

Distillery: Auchentoshan
Distilled by: Suntory Holdings
Current Ownership: Beam Suntory
Region: Lowlands (Glasgow-ish)





Age: minimum 3 years (no age statement)
Maturation: all American oak
Bottling year: 2011
Outturn: ?????
Alcohol by Volume: 57.5%
(Thank you, Brett!)

NEAT

At first, the nose is all apples, vanilla cake, vodka, and bubblegum. Some actual barley peeks out later on, but is quickly submerged by cinnamon candy and confectioner's sugar. The raw palate is full of heat, cinnamon red hots candies, rock candy, lemon candy, and malt. Hints of coconuts and orange candies stay in the background. It reminds me of Westland's malt, but sourer and younger. It finishes aggressively sweet, with malt, cinnamon, and coconuts in the back.

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

It noses of sugary new make, cassia, bubblegum, and dry cheese. The palate has a similar sugary new make style, with plenty of malt and ethyl, and hints of cinnamon and lemons in the background. It finishes sweet and slightly salty, with lots of cinnamon.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

This is certainly not an improvement over their standard releases. In fact, it's arguably worse. It's hot, raw, and (horror of horrors!) boring. Reminiscent of cheap Irish (3x distillation!) and Canadian blends at times, this version of Valinch demonstrates why this expression disappeared quicker than it had materialized. Perhaps this would have been good for home blending, in lieu of grain whisky. Tragically, it was sampled next to yesterday's 1965.

Availability - Sold out?
Pricing - ??
Rating - 73

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Auchentoshan 31 year old 1965, cask 2497

The trio of Auchentoshan samples remaining in my collection are being consumed as I type this, each one quite different than the next. And what the hell, I'll start with the grand oldie.

Yes, Auchentoshan used to dish out official very old single casks back in the early Suntory years. I had seen them in folks' collections, but never tried any of the whiskies, until a generous gentleman (initials: PT) opened his bottle for a split. There were at least 18 of these 1965 casks bottled in 1997, with cask 2497 possessing the beefiest ABV. Tennent's (yes, that Tennent's) ran the stills in the 1960s, so I wasn't sure what to expect.....

Distillery: Auchentoshan
Distilled by: Charrington's / Wellpark Brewery
Current Ownership: Beam Suntory
Region: Lowlands (Glasgow-ish)





Age: minimum 31 years (1 November 1965 to 1997)
Maturation: Hogshead
Cask #: 2497
Alcohol by Volume: 55.1%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

At first it noses of an old leather chair, Havdalah spice box, green curry, and ocean air. Then comes the green chartreuse and candied pecans. Then sweet vermouth and moss. Yeah, it is wild. Dunnage, snuffed cigar, peaches, and pineapples lead the palate, with moss, wormwood, bitter citrus, and Luxardo cherries in the mid- to background. The finish offers variety as well: moss, horseradish bitterness, soot, Luxardo cherries, and very tangy pineapple.

Careful with that water, Kravitz...

DILUTED to ~50%abv, or 3mL of water per 30mL whisky

The nose arrives intensely herbal, with an emphasis on tomato leaves. Milder notes of mango, brine, and hot tar remain in the back. The palate has a mix of bitter & tart & herbal & subtle sweetness. After plenty of air, it tastes of grapefruits, oranges, wormwood, and a Kilkerran-ish forest floor. It finishes with more herbal bitterness than sweetness, with a light earthiness that lingers longest.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

An adventure! The A-grade nose is its own trip, with a plethora of curiosities that somehow work together. Tomato leaves, mango, and tar? Yes, please. The palate is bit less wild, but the almost-medicinal bitterness delivers a workout for the tastebuds. The whisky is a thinker, rather than a drinker, in the best sense. One could imagine every pour from the bottle offering its own experience.

I wish I could say the next Auchentoshan offered the same pleasures, but...

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

Sunday, July 14, 2024

Mortlach 25 year old 1994 Gordon & MacPhail, cask 8181

One last Mortlach. Literally, this is the last Mortlach sample in the stash. I've never sought out Mortlach samples, not because of my feelings towards the whisky, but some residue still clings from Diageo's infamous attempt to rebrand Mortlach as an ultra-premium whisky a decade ago. Though the move was ultimately a complete branding fail, it outed many many many allegedly-independent whisky writers as full-tilt Industry Apologists, becoming one of the stupidest — and truest — things I've witnessed in my 20+ years of whisky fandom. Also, the "Rare Old" was crap.

I do like many independently-bottled Mortlachs, especially the fruity bourbon casks. Until today's whisky, I appreciated modern sherry cask Mortlachs without ever loving one. SPOILER ALERT: I 🩶 heart this one.

Distillery: Mortlach
Owner: Diageo
Region: Speyside (Dufftown)
Independent Bottler: Gordon & MacPhail
Range: Connoisseurs Choice Cask Strength
Age: 25.9918 years (31 August 1994 - 28 August 2020)
Maturation: first-fill sherry butt
Cask#: 8181
Outturn: 606 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 52.8%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

The nose says, Figs and cloves and black walnuts and baked peaches oh my. Quieter notes of toasty oak and old parmesan linger in the background. The flavorful palate starts with dates, plums, mulled wine, and a touch of bitter tobacco. Dried blueberries fill the middle, and a yuzu-like tartness highlights the edges. It finishes with the plums, yuzus, and dried blueberries, with a hint of a spicy cigar.

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

Now the nose offers a little bit of malt to go with the toasted oak. Roasted almonds, brine, dry sherry, and hay. Tar, anise, and a few flowers appear later. The palate has gotten prettier. More fresh fruit (red plum, lychee, and lemon) and more dried figs! It's not that sweet, and a good dose of sea salt helps it out. The finish offers all the palate's fresh fruits with a zing of ginger in the back.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

While the distillery's storied heavy spirit is mostly absent from the whisky, the notes of fresh and dried fruits, along with the salt and possible smoke, keep this from becoming an all-cask Mortlach. But this was a damned fine butt. The whisky is a bit of a fighter at full strength then relaxes once diluted, probably all due to the oak. It may be more of a thinker than a drinker, but it's certainly not the average sherried beast. FWIW, a decent sample size of the Whiskybase community seems quite fond of it as well.

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - ???
Rating - 89

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Mortlach 21 year old 1990 Signatory, cask 6073 for Binny's

Okay, I'm done with my 2023 Diageo Special Releases reviews, but I'm not done with Mortlach! In fact, all three of this week's Morts were sampled side-by-side for maximum 'lach. It's probably not fair to yesterday's NAS critter that its competitors were two 20+ year old single sherry butts. Alas, shed not a tear for Diageo things.

Today's Mortlach comes from back in the days when Binny's had single cask whiskies for stunning prices, whiskies that they would ship to my home. Sometimes I think it was just a dream. Or is today just a dream? Was I, Michael K., dreaming I was a butterfly or am I now really a butterfly dreaming that I am Michael K.? And who was the dead moth that my cat just ate off the window sill?

While I seek the answers to those questions, I'll turn my attention to this whisky. Mr. Opinions purchased this particular bottle back in 2012, then opened it in 2021, sending me a French square sample of it soon after. Thank you, sir.

Distillery: Mortlach
Owner: Diageo
Region: Speyside (Dufftown)
Independent Bottler: Signatory
Age: 21.9754 years (17 September 1990 - 8 September 2012)
Maturation: Sherry Butt
Cask#: 6073
Outturn: 516 bottles
Exclusive to: Binny's
Alcohol by Volume: 52.8%
(sample from My Annoying Opinions)

NEAT

Brazil nuts, marzipan, black walnuts and brine fill the nose, with subtler notes of nectarines, mint, and ginger offering background highlights. The palate holds more fruits than nuts; more dried cherries and tart peaches than almond extract. It's lightly sweet and slightly floral, with a wee savory note offering more complexity and carrying into the finish, where it's met by dried cherries, cherry candy, and toasty oak.

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

The nose grows! More nuts. Some rye? Oranges, actual Oloroso, and a hint of dunnage. The palate gets tarter, bitterer, fiercer, and fun(ner), with all sorts of citrus fruits and even a hint of coal smoke. The finish follows suit.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Though the cask does most of the work here, it seems like a 2nd fill. The oak, its vanillins and tannins, never overwhelm. Instead the vessel and its spirit interact peacefully. Not much of this cask sings "Mortlach", which may be an issue for Mortie fans, but I didn't mind it this time because the whisky was very good. I'd even consider buying a bottle (for $99!) were this written twelve years ago.

Availability - Buh-bye
Pricing - $99 (yah)
Rating - 87

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Mortlach NAS, Diageo Special Releases 2023

Sometimes cask combinations sound so silly that they become intriguing. For instance, the folks behind Barrell's North American whiskies are clearly trying to create flavors and scents never before experienced by bourbon drinkers, via blending cask types. I reviewed a slew of said products last summer. None were horrible, and at least a one actually worked.

And then there is last year's Mortlach Special Release, a single malt which Diageo elected to finish in both Kanosuke Japanese whisky casks AND pinot noir casks. I'm not sure I understand why they did the former (other than to add a samurai to the label), though I can somewhat process the latter. Kanosuke produces VERY young Japanese single malt that is, in this reviewer's opinion, not fully baked. Meanwhile the non-age-stated Mortlach being poured into these Kanosuke casks is also quite young. Young malt whisky being finished in another young malt whisky's cask is.......probably something that requires a little something extra. In this case: red wine. And of course the resulting product needs to be priced much higher than many of the age-stated whiskies in this range.

Commentary over, for the moment. Must try the liquid.

Distillery: Mortlach
Ownership: Diageo
Region: Speyside (Dufftown)
Age: minimum 3 years
Bottling year: 2023
Maturation: First round: ???; Second round: ex-Kanosuke Japanese whisky casks and former pinot noir casks
Outturn: ?????
Alcohol by Volume: 58.0%
Chillfiltered? no
e150a? probably not
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

The nose starts off plain and spirity. Butter, paper, and plums arrive first, with a stale/gassy/farty undercurrent. Then it picks up Nillas, cardamom, orange slice candy, and more butter. The first sip is REALLY hot, so the palate requires even more breathing time than the nose. It's sweet and tart, with apricots and limes and (actual) sour grapes. Paper, tannin, and confectioner's sugar fill the background. It finishes with paper and pepper, with sweet and tart apricots arriving later.

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

The nose pulls together better at this strength. Salt, stones, and minerals up front, grapefruit and fig in the back. A better, cleareer palate offers dried apricots, raw walnuts, circus peanuts, sour grapes, and dried grasses. It gets sweeter on the finish, while holding onto those grapes.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Though I can't grasp why this whisky was part of the Special Releases (other than to exploit Japanese culture in order to capture more revenue), it's not a disastrous drink. In fact, it's not bad once diluted. It requires lots of air, and perhaps even more water than I added. I'm not too sure where each of the characteristics come from, so perhaps that signals some good blending. As much as I'm not a fan of wineskies, I would've preferred an age-stated Mortlach finished in refill pinot noir casks, without any ex-Kanosuke stuff. Hopefully this was a one-time experiment, but at least it's less awkward and fractured than this range's Talisker.

Availability - Still available in Europe
Pricing - $225-$325
Rating - 81 (diluted only)

Saturday, July 6, 2024

Talisker NAS, Diageo Special Releases 2023

All four of the preceding Diageo Special Release reviews were of age-stated whiskies. Sadly, this Talisker was not given an age by its parent company, so one can only assume it's a wee babe. A wee babe finished in white, tawny, and ruby port casks. 😐

Between the Skye, Storm, and Port Ruighe, Diageo seems committed to ruining one of their best distillery's whisky. On the other hand, I've always enjoyed the Distillers Editions. So, I'll give this creation a try...

Distillery: Talisker
Ownership: Diageo
Region: Isle of Skye
Age: minimum 3 years
Bottling year: 2023
Maturation: First round: ???; Second round: white, tawny, and ruby port casks
Outturn: ?????
Alcohol by Volume: 59.7%
Chillfiltered? probably not
e150a? probably not
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

An aggressive perfume-y soap note floods the nose. Behind that? Blue raspberry candy, fig jam, and dark chocolate. It gets more coastal with time, but the perfume note never fully dissipates. It's a young mezcal-ish Talisker on the palate, but it's more complex than the average baby Tali. It's mossy and salty with hints of orange, lime, and tart berries. Not too hot and no perfume. It finishes salty, mossy, acidic, and peppery.

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

The perfume-y soap remains in the nose, albeit in the midground. Peat lives up front. With vanilla, ginger ale, and mezcal in the back. The palate feels simple but focused. Sooty, vegetal mezcal with salt and pepper. It finishes salty, peppery, and sooty.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

The nose is a problem, but the palate is not. It's still very young, but better than all those immature single cask mezcals Taliskers, so the casks did their work without turning it syrupy sweet. Perhaps the winter would have been a better time to try this peaty critter. If you don't trust this particular sample, please see see Mr. Opinions's and Mr. Fun's reviews for different takes.

Availability - Still available in Europe
Pricing - $125-$175
Rating - 79

Thursday, July 4, 2024

Oban 11 year old, Diageo Special Releases 2023

I'm always interested in more Oban options, but they need to be good whiskies, not just NAS portfolio expansions, so when Diageo plops one into the annual Special Releases outturn, they successfully secure my attention. Though the 2023 release might not match the quality of the terrific 2013 offering (which was 21 years old and bereft of a "Caribbean Pot Still Rum Cask Finish"), it's still an age-stated Oban single malt, so I am holding onto cautious hope.

Distillery: Oban
Owner: Diageo
Region: Western Highlands
Age: minimum 11 years
Bottling year: 2023
Maturation: First round: ???; Second round: Caribbean pot still rum casks
Outturn: ?????
Alcohol by Volume: 58%
Chillfiltered? probably not
e150a? not much if any
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

Crazy nose alert! Ready? Apples, sugary rum, Malort (bruh), yeast, lemons, skunk, and ocean brine. Much less rum on the palate, yay! It's salty, almost savory, with mild sweetness, and a hint of wood smoke. Some wasabi bitterness crashes in at the ~30-minute mark. It does get sweeter with time. The somewhat short finish is bitter and salty with a touch of quirky Jamaican rum funk.

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

Better assembled, this nose is full of citrus (peels and blossoms), less sugar, and more funk on the rum. It also picks up a pretty apricot note after a while. The palate has better mouthfeel and a bright tangy stone fruit note. A slight bitterness mixes with a olive + mild funk note of LROK Hampden. The finish gets a bit wilder with briny olives, limes, cayenne, and herbal bitterness.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Though I had a crispy optimistic crust, the center was all chewy cynicism. The whisky is better than expected. When the rum-inspired notes tilt towards Jamaica, the whole picture improves. Water is required. As usual, the nose has the most fun and the palate is jealous, but they're close. (I'm not sure if that makes any sense.) I'd still prefer the standard 14yo or the ol' Distillers Edition, but the rum finish doesn't wreck this Oban, which is good news for us all.

Availability - Still available in Europe
Pricing - $125-$175 (same as the Roseisle)
Rating - 84 (must add water)