Tamdhu 15yo (46%, OB, 24.000 bottles, 2019)

In 2011 Tamdhu was let go by the Edrington Group (The Macallan, Highland Park) and it got snapped up by Ian McLeod (Glengoyne). Since then, “Ian” came up with a new bottle design, which actually looks like something Edrington might have done. It certainly looks different from most other bottles. Its tall and very heavy, fits my hand perfectly and pours nicely. I have yet to spill a drop. I hear, not everybody likes the look of it. Personally, I rather like it. Earlier, I reviewed the first batch of the cask strength version, the rest of my reviews are solely about independent bottlings of Tamdhu. Tamdhu has always been associated with Sherry, just like The Macallan and Glendronach were, although I’m not really sure anymore about Macallan though. I don’t really know with what it’s associated with these days. Fine leather ladies’ handbags maybe? Collections of photo’s? Crystal? The bottle I’m about to review next, is also a Sherried bottling. This 15yo was first released in 2019 and the release has been matured solely in American and European oak Oloroso Sherry casks.

Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Nutty and dusty Sherry. Smells like something sugary. Lots of fresh oak as well. One side of this Tamdhu is nutty and thick, the other fresh (fresh air, salty ocean spray), fruity and slightly acidic. Hints of toasted wood and red fruits. Dusty and some old motor oil. Refined, and slightly tarry. Quite meaty as well. Earwax and yet also this whiff of fresh air, quite a lot of aroma emerges from my glass. There is a lot happening in this one. Quite complex. Hints of exhaust fumes, yeah, why not?. Sweetish, with enough wood and chocolate to balance the sweetness out. Chocolate chip cookies and vanilla powder. Sometimes tiny whiffs of sulphur. It carries some resemblance to some batches of Aberlour A’Bunadh, the more I smell this though, the less obvious that is. Also a fresher, more citrussy note making this Tamdhu less heavy and cloying in comparison to other Oloroso Sherry Whiskies. This acidity also makes this Whisky more fresh and youthful. Hard to believe this has been lying around for 15 years. 15 years is a loooong time. Wonderful nose, but it does need your attention. This is not one to smell casually.

Taste: Big, with light Sherry and more nuts than a squirrel can store. Thick yet not syrupy. It’s thick but not cloying. However this does seem to have some hidden sweetness to it. Just hidden away nicely by the wood that is present (enough). Mocha, milk chocolate and dusty Sherry notes. Spicy and prickly. Fresh menthol (complete with hints of toothpaste). Half sweet now and definitely some toffee notes emerge. Tarry cigarette ashes. This is nice. Instant gratification. The taste is simpler than the complex nose, and therefore doesn’t need the level of attention the nose needed. The taste is well balanced, nutty and likeable.

Even though this is in every way a decent Tamdhu, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed at first. Somehow I expected something more of it. This does have a lot of Sherry influence, but in no way is it a Sherry monster. I should have known better, since this isn’t all that dark to boot. I guess other Tamdhu OB’s will fill that Monster spot soon. In comes time. Over time I shed the idea of Sherry monster expectations. Tamdhu had a reputation you know? I got used to what this 15yo actually is, which is a likeable, lighter Sherry style with a complex nose. Refined, elegant and laid back. Quite good. Recommended

Points: 86

Tomatin “Fire” (46%, OB, Five Virtues #2, Heavily Charred Oak, 6.000 bottles, 2017)

Where “Wood” is #1 in the Five Virtues series, here is #2, which is called “Fire”. It is called “Fire” because of the char and toast of the wood, and char and toast come about through the ways of fire. Tomatin “Fire” comes solely from a batch of stripped and (heavily) recharred oak casks. It is said that the distillate is from 2005, one year only this time, making this a Single Malt which is 11yo or 12yo, which these days is quite old for a NAS. “Wood” was blended from distillates between 1999 and 2006, and since 2006 is more recent than 2005, “Fire” is officially an older Malt than “Wood”  even though much older Malts were used for it.

What this bottling also might want to prove is: should you buy a new (or used) American oak cask, when you can also scrape out the insides, hopefully without losing the soul, of your old, dead tired and worn out cask and set it on fire to rejuvenate it? Boys do like to set things on fire don’t they? After this, one might have a reusable cask again. Recycled and good for the environment, maybe apart from the burning that is. Maybe very responsible and certainly sustainable. One less tree to cut down. This should be certified green!

Color: Light gold.

Nose: Again, a woody Whisky, but this time a more vanilla driven Malt. American oak alright. Sweet, fragrant, slightly floral and right from the start this slightly acidic and creamy strawberry aroma. Sometimes a bit dusty even. Not as much char as I expected from something called “Fire” or “heavily charred”. Hardly any char really. Quite fresh, fruity and milky. The milky notes scared me for a while, but dissipate after a while in my glass and these milky notes disappear completely when the bottle cbecomes emptier. Paper and woody notes and initially not all that different from “Wood”, but after enough time to breathe the difference is bigger than I imagined possible. The “Fire” I do get from this Malt is the aroma of a burning wood fire in winter, minus the sharp smoke. Just like “Wood” this essentially is again about (recharred) Wood, and the woods in “Wood” are charred as well. To me it is more like a sequel to “Wood” so they might have called it “Wood II” just the same, but this probably would not have worked inside the Five Virtues framework.

Where “Wood” was about the blend of different kinds of wood, this is a little bit closer to a virgin oak type of bottling, just a bit more refined, especially after some breathing. This really needs to open up, because it really was disappointing when freshly opened. Where “Wood” was creamy, this is even more creamy. Again no new make aromas, but it is slightly closer to new make than “Wood”. Lots of fresh oak notes, creamy and yes, lets call it green. Fresh plants and garden notes. Breaths of fresh air and some burned toast notes, but not a lot. Initially quite simple, it seems much simpler than the “Wood”. Reminds me sometimes of Bruichladdich Islay Barley. That sort of simple, yet lovely, stuff. Only, Bruichladdich reaches that already after 5 to 6 years, Tomatin takes twice the time. Maybe simple, but especially after a while in the glass, it becomes quite nice. In the end a nice example of an honest Malt matured in American oak. Good smelling stuff, just not right from the very start, be warned.

Taste: Again, it starts fairly simple. Tea with a dash of sugar. Latex wall paint, sweet custard and definitely sweet malt. Mid-palate a cloying burnt note. Sometimes a slight hint of cigarettes being smoked in the distance, an aroma blown over by cold wind. I also pick up on some minty notes and some tasty ripe red fruits. Quite a short finish at first and a fairly non-existent and unexciting aftertaste. But buyer beware, don’t get fooled, this Malt also has a trick upon it sleeve. Yes it is more than a bit unbalanced when poured from a freshly opened bottle, but responds extremely well to some air, gaining lots of depth and some very nice black fruits suddenly emerge from nowhere. Wow, first we had the ripe red fruits and now these black ones. The return of fruity Tomatin, something absent from “Wood”. See how some Malts need to breathe? Quite some evolution. However, even after some breathing, the finish is still quite short and malty again and dare I say it, it remains a bit unbalanced.

It started out a bit really disappointing (not more than 82 points), but by now it is definitely on par with “Wood”, but I have to admit, you have to work at it a bit, and maybe have some experience (and patience) as a Whisky drinker, to see the beauty in this one. So “Fire”, in the end, turns out to have a nice, fragrant start and beautiful body, better than “Wood”, but it keeps struggling towards the end, the finish stays short, with hints of Beer, strange enough, and a thin, slightly woody and bitter aftertaste, and some creamy notes as well, which by now aren’t creamy. fatty or big enough to make the finish better. The second half of the experience therefore is definitely won by “Wood”. This is surely a flawed Malt on the outside, but with hidden beauty inside. Personally I find it very tasty right from the start with an additional fruity and appetizing body, just be very careful with it when freshly opened. I kept the cork off for at least a day after the initial disappointment. Did it lots of good. Interesting stuff and certainly an education.

Points: 85

Laphroaig ‘The 1815 Legacy Edition’ (48%, OB, for Travel Retail, L7345VB1, 2017)

Here is number two in Laphroaig’s travel retail trilogy. We started the trilogy with the smooth and soft ‘Lore’ made for manbuns and suits, where the classical feel of Laphroaig is of weather worn fishermen, storms and salt. Today we are going to have a look at a different, but similar looking travel retail bottling, ‘The 1815 Legacy Edition’. Both bottles have dark green labels on green glass, and in my opinion look very smart and sets them apart from the white labels we know. Just like the ‘Lore’, the copywriting on the packaging is something to forget rather quickly, and luckily Whisky can help you do that.

This ‘1815’ (for short), is made up with first-fill bourbon barrels and new European oak hogsheads which sounds similar to the make-up of the ‘An Cuan Mor’ and Ardbeg’s ‘Corryvreckan’. The ‘An Cuan Mor’ has spent around 8 years in first-fill Maker’s Mark barrels, after which they were finished for a further two years in virgin European oak casks. Laphroaig have more bottlings using virgin oak, like the ‘Select’ and ‘QA Cask’ (Quercus Alba), but both bottlings use American Virgin oak, giving off more vanillin than European oak, which is more about tannins. I’m guessing they changed the name of the ‘An Cuan Mor’, as well as the packaging, because (some of the) timings for the ‘1815’ are different. Nevertheless, knowing I rather liked the ‘An Cuan Mor’, I guess this should be a very nice Laphroaig as well, contrary to popular belief.

Color: Dark Orange Gold

Nose: Soft, fruity and ashy. Definitely starts with the same Christmas spices as the Lore. After a while these spices just disappear, or are overpowered by other aroma’s. Soot. Creosote. Quite a big nose this Laphroaig. Dirty. Love it. Along for the ride comes this fruity fresh citrus note and it retains a bit of its sweetness. All in good balance. This one shows some earthier notes as well. Maybe more restrained, but also somewhat more promising. A hint of peat I know from the 10yo ‘Cask Strength’ bottlings. After some breathing more of the restrained beauty emerges. I’m liking where this is going. Only just now more woody notes come along. Yes fresh, virgin oak, but different from the omnipresent virgin American oak. After a while a metallic breath of fresh air whiffs by. After drinking this, the nose takes it up a notch. Getting better and better over time. Fresh oak and a lot of depth. In this sooty, tarry nose lies a nice and white floral heart (and some yellow fruits as well). You have to inhale as if your life depends on it, but it is there ready for you to behold.

Taste: Sweet yellow fruits in sweet yoghurt and Greek style yoghurt. Even more liquorice than ‘Lore’ had, and the whole starts out much harsher, but also more honest and more powerful, although that term should be used lightly here. Dirty is a better word, ashtray. On entry this reminds me a bit of some Rhum Agricoles. Ginger notes combined with some nice sooty notes. Sharp, dry fresh oak. Yes lots of wood influence, especially the acidic oak could be a wee bit less. Definitely some virgin oak, but less vanilla and butter-like so the more tannic European oak influence makes sense. Compared to this, ‘Lore’ was sweeter, easier, more polished and seemingly more refined. Definitely a lot of wood now and the ashes and soot remain. Spicy and bitter. Warming going down. It still doesn’t resemble a proper Laphroaig like the 10yo ‘Cask Strength’ version, but closer to it than the ‘Lore’. Nope, the difference is much greater than the difference in ABV alone. Way longer finish than the ‘Lore’, with wood, and a slight bitterness. Tannins and even a soapy element. Tarry and bitter. Warm asphalt. Dirty for sure. Maybe a bit less balanced than usual, but no problem in this. Still don’t discard this Laphroaig’s sweetness, it might be big and dirty but it also has plenty of sweetness underneath. Winey a bit… no they didn’t, didn’t they? PX, in this? (They did with Ardbeg ‘An Oa’).

As said above, this one doesn’t get a lot of love from other people, but considering this is a NAS and the virgin oak doesn’t overpower the whole, I’m actually pretty amazed with what was achieved here. I found it a Laphroaig and even a tasty one. I’m not against the usage of virgin oak, as long as it is done sparsely and done with taste. It works for me in this and it works for me in Ardbeg’s ‘Corryvreckan’. Even though this is more raw and unrefined, less balanced even, I still would prefer this over the Lore. However, if you prefer Lore over this, I can definitely understand that as well. Having said all that I actually prefer ‘Corryvreckan’ over the ‘1815’. Its just better and has a higher ABV (which I like) to boot and costs less. Easy.

Points: 86

‘The 1815’ H2H ‘An Cuan Mòr’ The ‘1815’ is slightly darker in color. Nosing them, I would say that they seem very similar, with some slight differences. The ‘An Cuan Mòr’ seems more mature and slightly better balanced, with a nice, warming bonfire note. ‘1815’ seems somewhat simpler, yet also more rough (in a good way as described above). ‘1815’ is waxier and has these wonderful whiffs of Christmas spice. Given more time they both come closer to each other. The differences in taste are a bit similar to the differences in the nose, where the ‘1815’ seems a bit rougher and more oaky, shorter in barrels, longer in the European oak? Both are essentially the same Whisky and the differences described may be accountable to batch variation, and not because they are blended differently. Both are good, and almost like twins, but the beauty lies in the details. And trying them both together, there is one that starts to shine a bit more, let it breathe a bit and the ‘An Cuan Mòr’ is the (slightly) better one, especially when tasting it, it is better balanced, more complex, just better. Still, I prefer both over the Lore, which for a Laphroaig is too easy, too soft, maybe even a bit weak. But that’s just my opinion. For me it also lacks complexity considering older cask(s) were used. It just doesn’t impress, but bad it is not.

Review #750.

Springbank 15yo (46%, OB, 18/375)

Ahhh, Springbank 15yo. Not the first one on these pages. A few years back I wrote a review of an older batch from around 2003. After 15 years (since this example is from 2018), the glass bottle is still the same, but the label has changed quite a bit along the way. I’ve tasted quite a few of these latest batches, but not every batch. All are good enough to buy blind and many are excellent to boot. This bottle isn’t open all that long, and still I have to write this review a bit in a hurry, before it’s too late and all is gone…

Color: Gold.

Nose: Nutty and Sherried, and for a Springbank 15yo of recent years, pretty restraint. Waxy and dirty, but not as much as other batches. Hardly any smoke, but there is some nice layer of mild peat and spicy wood and even a tiny hint of sulphur, way in the back. Yes a bit dirty. When it gets some time to breathe, it opens up nicely. Typical Springbank, we love. Next a fresh, slightly acidic fruity note. Some wood, almost like fresh oak and tree sap. This however, also sets it apart from the much fattier, deeper and more brooding batches of the 15yo. Now some meat, gravy and paper (no typo, paper, not pepper), and some more oak. It’s great but “narrower” in comparison. Hints of licorice and cherry liqueur. Mon Cherie. Fresh and sharp oak abundant with some hidden chlorine. After a while the acidic fruit turns to orange juice, with a slightly more burnt and perfumy note simultaneously. This has no problem opening up, but still it’s a bit restrained compared to other batches of the 15yo with the green label. More restraint, but definitely a wonderful smelling Malt, keep it moving in your glass for a while, it needs a lot of air still, and will reward you for it. Amazing how Springbanks can smell.

Taste: Waxy, slightly peaty and fruity. Sherried. Licorice and upfront wood. Initial sweetness and no bitter oak. Even though it’s quite fatty, it also is remarkably fruity underneath. Yes, some black fruits from 60’s Bowmore or Redbreast 15yo (the L5). Wonderful. The body is big right from the start, but right around the mark it releases the black fruits, it also get a bit thinner and slightly unbalanced afterwards. There is also a wee cheesy note. Fresh cottage cheese. “Thin” is it’s only flaw compared to other batches. Where other batches stay big and Sherried, this chickens out a bit. A flaw only covered by a quick next sip. This next sip shows some Sherry, but also wood and smoke, coal dust and sweetness, but already covers the black fruit. The nuts appear here as well. So not so big body and a medium finish at best. Truth be told, the finish is rather short for a Springbank, all very typical for rotation 18/375. If you want to get the besy out of this dram, you must give it enough time to breathe. Keep it moving in your glass, and it will get better (and strange enough: sweeter).

This may not be the best batch of the latest fifteens, not by a long shot even. However, don’t make the mistake thinking this is a mediocre Whisky, because it still makes everybody else jealous! As with many Springbanks, this needs a lots of air. Another one I would recommend to leave the cork off for a while in the beginning. This might need even a day or two without a cork to get better. Try it, be brave. Capiche?

Almost hard to believe this one is 15 years old and the Longrow from 1992, only 10 years, since that one has even more depth, and is in my opinion definitely the better of the two.

Points: 86

Longrow 14yo 2003/2018 (57.8%, OB, Limited Edition, Refill Oloroso Sherry, 9.000 bottles)

At the moment I have two Longrows open on my lectern. One is the 1992 Vintage, which, I have to admit, is damn fine, really very good, so it is a favourite and I don’t think it’ll be around for long. The second one is this, limited to 9.000 bottles only, edition of Longrow. This particular Longrow was fully matured in refill Oloroso Sherry casks. I really like the output of the Springbank Distillery, so I expect a lot for each and every Whisky of theirs I can afford to buy and review. This time a bottling that has fully matured in Oloroso cask, so not a finish and not a blend with Bourbon casks, like many standard expressions are. The 12yo cask strength version for instance is usually blended from 70% Sherry casks and 30% Bourbon casks. The link, by the way, will lead you to my review of batch 8 from 2014. Now let’s have a look at this 14yo Longrow. Yes please!

Color: Copper gold.

Nose: Spicy, with slightly rotting banana’s, some muddy sulphur and fruity Sherry. Fatty peat (not a lot) and some soft wood. Freshly ground coffee and lots of fresh coastal air. Some licorice and somewhat more sulphur. Toasted wood. Big bonfire and more aroma’s from being in the woods at night (with a bonfire burning close by). Night air, with a smelly pond (yes, sulphur again) and a sweeter bit close to creamy raisins. As I’m smelling this a lot, this raisiny bit has the staying power and not the sulphury bits mentioned earlier, but since its part of the DNA of this Whisky, I wouldn’t be surprised if it returns. More creamy bits emerge. Vanilla, Sherry casks made of American oak? Probably. Sweetness from the Sherry and the oak as well, so yes, American oak, if you ask me. Raspberry hard candy adds a tad of more fruit to it. Dries out a bit over time with more burnt notes coming forward. By now I’m again struggling to find peat on the nose of an aged Longrow. Did I already mention raisins? I did? Alright then!

Taste: Wood first, then sweet fruits, sulphur, ashes, and even some more wood. they present themselves in this order. Ashtray, and candied red fruits come next. After this first sip the nose gets bigger instantaneously. Still, not a lot of peat, but more on the smoky (sharper than peat) and ashtray side, and don’t forget about the slightly bitter wood. Maybe it’s not the wood that’s bitter, but the sulphur. Hint of burn plastic. Warming honey. Second sip reveals more of good old Oloroso, we know from the past. Red fruits and coal. Burnt rubber, and aroma’s, I tasted last in Rhum Agricole. The aromas of cold ashtray never leaves the palate. It is an integral part of this Whisky and pretty dominant. Sure, some sulphur is here as well, but it seems to be mixed in with the ashtray notes. Cigarette ashes in the aftertaste accompanied by some woody bitterness, which is not a problem in a profile like this.

Definitely not an easy Whisky, and probably not for everyone. I can imagine a lot of drinkers of Whisky and even fans of Springbank and Longrow, consider this to be somewhat flawed. Sulphur (the devil) has been detected. Sure it is here, and maybe even plenty of it. But for me it’s not the harsh and sharp kind you sometimes get, I can forgive its flaws to a degree, but one has to decide for oneself if one can. As I said, maybe not for everyone, although I believe most Longrow’s do end up on connoisseurs shelves anyway. It’s probably a wee bit to expensive as well for a casual pick at your dealer of choice. Nope, most of the people of this particular Longrow are already members of the Springbank Society. A show of hands please?

I mentioned the Vintage 1992? Well, in that one, one could easily taste what a Longrow is. It shines with distillery character. This Oloroso expression is as opposite to the 1992 Vintage, as the flat earth society is to the dead poets society. Oh, my, I hope I haven’t offended anyone. A show of hands please? Here the Sherry overpowered the Longrow, and pushed it out of sight altogether. Considering this and the overall profile of this Whisky I can’t score it as high as I did the ‘1992″. Still good though, but definitely not as good as the “1992” or the Springbank 17yo Sherry Wood, which also matured fully on Sherry casks, for even longer than this Longrow has.

Points: 86

Caol Ila 11yo 2004/2016 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Exclusive, for Milano Whisky Festival 2016 & Bar Metro, Refill American Hogshead #306662, 348 bottles)

Once nowhere to be found, now maybe one of the most bottled Islay Malts today. Caol Ila. For me at least, Caol Ila is always a nice Whisky which also ages well. This is a pretty young one, bottled less than four months shy of its 12th birthday. In fact, this Caol Ila has matured for precisely 4.275 days. It was bottled for the Milano Whisky Festival & Bar Metro in 2016, I picked this up at a well-known German auction and didn’t have to pay much, nor did I have a lot of competition for this bottle, so maybe there’s something I should have known? At the same auction I picked up its sister-bottling from Glen Elgin bottled for the same festival in 2016 and didn’t have to pay much for that one either. I bought these two, because I found out I had a lot of cask strength bottlings on my lectern, so I wanted to buy some bottles, to start an evening with. A bit reduced to work up an appetite. Gordon & MacPhail have (or had) lots of casks from the 3066XX-range, bottled in many different series; “Cask Strength”, “Reserve”, “Spirit of Scotland” and more “Exclusive’s” as well, so there is enough around for comparison. For instance, Refill American Hogshead #306664 was bottled for Maison du Whisky @ cask strength in the Exclusive range. By the way, some of the casks from this range are Sherry casks. Let’s find out now if this hoggie is any good.

Color: Straw.

Nose: Quite restrained. No big smoky peaty notes. Fresh, zesty but also a bit tame (at first), as in sweet barley with a wee bit of soft peat only. When the flow rate of air through the nose has been increased, lots more seems to be emerging. A prickly sensation awarded to a smoky note. Burning newspaper, and even more earthy peaty notes, still restrained though. Next more creamy notes of vanilla and pudding. Well balanced although I’m not sure yet about its complexity. Hints of sugared, or sweet, yellow fruits. Warming toffee and more soft barley, marzipan and almonds. Even a little bit of honey. All very restrained without it being closed. Dusty. All aroma’s work together nicely. Good balance. A cold and misty day with hardly any wind. As this Whisky picks up air, the good balance even gets better, definitely the forté of this Whisky, and it gets bigger, bolder and more aromatic as well. Quite a surprise. The longer it stays in my glass and I don’t hurry it, the better it gets. More of the fruity notes emerge and the marzipan, very nice. Some wood and ashes as well. So this needs a bit of air and patience. If you hurry this one, you’ll miss the reward of this Whisky.

Taste: Sweet, fruity and smoky, with a funky red fruit acidity on top (it may could do without). Yes, peat as well. Slightly too watery (at first), but as I wanted a “starting Whisky” this does the job quite well. Very nice fruity sweetness, the sweetness of ripe fruits rather than plain old sugar. Very balanced again. Milk chocolate, chocolate mousse, mocha and a tiny hint of coffee with lots of milk. Mint. Just like the nose, the sweetness moves into the territory of vanilla and pudding retaining the minty note. More toffee, caramel and mocha. Chocolate cake, custard, crème brûlée even, with the added bonus of peat, charcoal and ashes. Finally a green, leafy note. Earthy.

The finish is warming yet falls a bit short and I can’t say the wonderful balance reaches the aftertaste. A slightly acidic note peels of from the rest of the Whisky. Where the finish was somewhat short, the aftertaste recovers winning it a bit back for the team. Nevertheless a very nice Caol Ila again, and this probably its sisters as well, deserve your money. I for one, will try to find a G&M 2004 cask strength version from such a hogshead again.

Points: 86

Linlithgow 18yo 1982/2001 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Vintage Collection, Cask #3002, 472 bottles)

Here we have a rather “young” Linlithgow, a.k.a. St. Magdalene. I really, really loved the extremely layered St. Magdalene 19yo, that was released three years prior to this one, so when this came out in 2001, I snapped up a few, expecting a similar experience to the one year older and cask strength expression mentioned above. Hey it was reduced a bit, and only one year older, so it could happen, and it was half the price of the 19yo! At the time, Whiskies from the Vintage Collection were never expensive, as was the case with this one. They sold this at the price of what a Springbank 10yo sells for today. Remember, even in 2001 this was already a closed distillery, so go figure. It was a different Whisky world back then. If I look around the net today retail price for this one is £699,-, and if you read this in 2025 it will probably be even higher, or have we all moved on to something else? If that is the case, why are you even reading about an old Whisky nobody cares for anymore?

Color: Pale gold, straw.

Nose: Extremely malty. hints of sugar-water and ear wax. Fruity and grassy. A Lowlander alright. A breath of fresh air. Toned down, almost shy, but don’t think this is light, because it’s not. It shows quite some aroma. The quiet (big) guy in your class, but you already know there is more to it than meets the nose. Yellow fruits and whiffs of American oak, It is definitely something from the past. Somehow Whiskies today aren’t like this anymore. Its like sitting alone in a field, middle of summer, nothing more than crickets and almost inaudible distant sounds of the rest of the world. Life is beautiful. Hints of cold butter and hay. Warm wood and a bit of old vanilla. Definitely not as multi-layered as the Rare Malts bottling mentioned above, and it hasn’t its evolution either. This is more straightforward and shy (again). Perfectly balanced nose. It got plenty of time to breathe and it can handle the air. No worries then of oxidation. By the nose alone another great example of the variety of St. Magdalene. Closing this distillery is a real loss, and this one is not coming back, so what you are holding in your glass is a piece of history, hence the hefty price-tag.

Taste: Sweet on entry. Malty, barley sugar. Slightly warming. Paper and cardboard. Creamy, with toffee on entry but it gets thinner towards the finish. Lots of fruits emerging at different moment when you keep it in your mouth, making for a sweetish, fruity, friendly Whisky. Only a slight bitterness reminiscent of toasted wood emerges. Less “big” than the nose suggested. In comparison to other Whiskies from this distillery, this might be a rather simple expression, (is it?), but still it oozes something special. Memories of black coal, and motor oil. If so, this can only have trace amounts noticeable, because in essence it is a sweet fruity Whisky. Simple, maybe, but it rewards you with aroma’s from the past, coming from a distillery like no other. Near the end of the body a somewhat burnt note emerges, burnt wood, hot machine (oil). Very nice industrial edge after the friendly fruitiness.

I spent a lot of time with this Whisky over the years, and I remember, when freshly opened, it showed a lot more of the waxy notes and even quite some bitterness. So don’t be afraid of oxidation, even when this is a reduced Whisky, because it will only get better. In the end it turns out much better than I have always thought it was…

Points: 86

Ardmore 13yo 1994/2008 (56.8%, Specialty Drinks, The Single Malts of Scotland, Hogshead #65, 303 bottles)

Ardmore, my poor-man’s Brora. Since coming across several Ardmore’s over the time, I see huge potential in this Whisky. Very good spirit, and if it is filled into a cask of equal quality, activity, this stuff can really shine. Just have a look at the three I reviewed earlier. Whiskyman’s 1992 (89 Points), Gordon & MacPhail’s 1993 (87 Points), and finally Mo Ór’s 1992 (84 Points), where the last one was reduced to 46%, Why would one do that? All three were bottled some time ago and the reviews were written a few years back as well, so let’s continue with another one from the past. We move up only one year, since this was distilled in 1994, and bottled some ten years ago.

Color: White Wine.

Nose: Well, this most definitely doesn’t smell like White Wine. Slightly buttery, with vanilla, some soft oak, and a slightly acidic side-note. Typical Hogshead remade with American oak staves. Green, grassy and even slightly meaty. Gravy? Not very peaty and hardly any smoke at all. When searching for peat I’m welcomed by a more fruity and lemony note as well as a leafy and green note. Hmmmm, it is the lemon you get from detergents. Nice oaky note taking over from this little faux-pas though. Pencil shavings even. Yes some peat seems to be coupled with the oak, soon to be followed by the return of the creamy and buttery notes from the start as well as some cold dish water. Remember you washed the dishes yesterday and forgot to pull the plug? This may not be one of those complex Ardmores, since it is clearly from a cask that has been filled several times before. Its friendly and fruity, almost summery in demeanor. Some notes seem a bit off, but pull together just in time. Interesting feat.

Taste: Oak and sawdust first. Hints of pepper. Yeah. Right after the characterful statement, the more fruity, citrussy, notes appear. Almost with a carbonated quality to it. Although very tasty, friendly it is not. Too much alcohol for that. I love the oomph which you can sense does great things to balance this Whisky. Ashtray and nice peat mixed in with the citrus fruit. It switches effortlessly between the (fatty) creamy & woody/cardboardy part and the more fruity acidity. Although not very complex, what it does, it does it good. Quite a long finish, although it maybe better to describe it as a prolonged body, since you get all the aroma’s, all the time. Aftertaste is bitter (wood) and again all of the above. This one fools you into thinking its simple, and fruity, it is, but it is not an easy one, and that’s not only because of the high ABV.

Definitely not your typical Ardmore. Where in the past I called a particular Ardmore a potential Brora, this one most definitely isn’t. This bottling is an interesting Whisky, made form excellent spirit, but not good enough to be a Brora to be. I feel Ardmore is somewhat overlooked and underestimated by its owner Beam Suntory in favour of the other distilleries in their portfolio. Ardmore has to compete with Auchentoshan, (one of the last Lowland distilleries), Laphroaig and Bowmore (big, big Islay brands) and Glen Garioch (Highland), which seems to get a lot more love and attention than Ardmore (also Highland). So Ardmore seems to be the ugly duckling in the portfolio. Maybe Ardmore isn’t getting the best casks the company owns, since the Mo Ór example and this The Single Malts of Scotland offering seem to come from somewhat less active casks, yet still manage to turn out quite good. Apart from this, the official output doesn’t seem to be hurling at the consumer as well. Still, I have a lot of faith in Ardmore, it holds a place on my favourites list. It can be a truly amazing Whisky. As long as it stays under the radar, we have to hunt for examples from the independent bottlers world, that were ‘accidentally’ filled into good casks.

To the people of Ardmore Distillery. Keep doing the excellent work, your moment to shine will come!

Points: 86

Laphroaig ‘Quarter Cask’ (48%, OB, Circa 2006)

Well, it has been a while since The 2015 Laphroaig Week here on Master Quill, that a Laphroaig graced our pages. This is one of the earlier and better known examples of a NAS bottling that can still be had today. Laphroaig Quarter cask was introduced in 2004, so it almost celebrates its 15th birthday, how about that. Quarter Casks are casks of approximately 80 litres. The idea behind this bottling is that smaller casks make the Whisky age more quickly, since smaller casks have a higher surface to liquid ratio, than larger casks. And the higher the ratio the quicker the Whisky matures. However, this Laphroaig wasn’t entirely aged in Quarter casks, but is supposed to have a normal maturation in American oak bourbon barrels for 5 years (up to 11 years) and only then receive a 7 month finish in quarter casks, so essentially this Whisky is still only 5 years old, hence the price. It is very friendly priced and since it is almost 15 years available to us, this must be a recipe to success, and another way in showing the critical and discerning public that young whiskies can be very good. As I already showed in several of my previous recent reviews. Remember Bruichladdich, Cotswolds and the Kilkerran Work in Progress #2 and #3 bottlings? But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet, lets first find out if this Laphroaig Quarter Cask is any good. However, this won’t be a review of a more recent Quarter Cask, but an earlier example. As can be seen on the picture below, the design of the label has somewhat changed since the earlier bottlings…

Color: Light gold.

Nose: Nice peat, clean, fruity and fresh, ozonic. Meaty, with hints of sweetness. Rural. Soft and hard at the same time. If you try hard, some spicy oak is detectable. Vanilla and gravy notes emerge at the same time. Ashes, paper and citrus. Wonderful combinations. Amazing how appetizing the peat is (mixed in with Vanilla notes from the American oak). The whole is utterly balanced and every bit of aroma, every note seems to belong to the next one. There is also a very sweet, fresh “other” note present, like a fruity-floral hybrid, an added layer to the darker peaty side. Like light in the darkness. Let it stand in your glass for a while and development starts. Based on the nose alone I definitely understand its broad appeal. Young, inexpensive but with very high quality. A present for Laphroaig aficionado mourning the loss of their beloved 10yo, which simply isn’t what it was. The 10yo suffers from Alzheimer’s, but this Quarter cask, yeah, úp, steps the new generation to take over the reigns. Oh, wait a minute, I have yet to taste it!

Taste: Sweet on entry (tea with lots of sugar), with citrus notes and wonderful peat. Simple and short, very short burst of pepper and quite some ashes. Add to that lemonade-like sweetness and fruitiness, and you have a young but wonderful Whisky on your hands. Add to that some “wrong” notes of (lemon) dishwater and fruity acidity (lemon) and you still have a wonderful Malt with added complexity. Lemon can be a very nice aroma to have. It is so good it can deal with these odd notes very well. Clay and more ashes. Pencil shavings. Paper is here too. Bugger, ’till now, I mentioned peat only once when tasting it. It is simply not upfront here, which is quite odd for a young Malt. (Peat breaks down a bit with age). Anyway, also not the longest of finishes around. Aftertaste, hardly there, tiny hint of peat maybe, and here it shows its youth I guess. Still, nice stuff this is.

Since the old 10yo is no more, I guess this is its true replacement. Its higher ABV. of 48%, its peaty profile and the fact it’s not chillfiltered make this the replacement of the 10yo for Whisky geeks like me (for writing stuff like this, and you (for even bothering reading this). Mind you the old 10yo was even much better than this, but compare this to the new 10yo and you know why this is so good. If you’re not a Whisky geek and are easily scared by the medicinal and peaty notes, and yet still like to start with the big Laphroaig, try the Select or the new 10yo. They are more suited for starters. Sweet, toned down peat etc. etc. This Quarter Cask is a wonderful early bottling. I have to buy me a more recent one, to see if they managed to keep the high standard. If so this is one of the best priced peated Whiskies around.

Points: 86

Kilkerran 12yo (46%, OB, 70% Bourbon Casks, 30% Sherry Casks, 16/468)

After many WIP’s, Works in Progress, 2016 finally saw the release of the official 12yo. As far as I know there were four, 700 ml batches released in 2016 (16/316, 16/326, 16/363 and 16/468), and one 750 ml batch. The one I’ll be reviewing here should be the fourth, and last, 700 ml batch released in 2016. Earlier I reviewed two WIP’s. First the grey WIP #2 from 2010 (6yo) and the green WIP #3 from 2011 (7yo). Thus fast forward to this 12yo. Both WIP’s were amazing and just like the Bruichladdich 2007 Islay Barley, I reviewed last, perfect examples that good Whisky doesn’t need to have to have heaps of age. Amazing young stuff is coming out these days. The future still looks bright if you can accept the change…

Color: Straw pale gold.

Nose: Definitely some autumn-like-peat happening here. Fatty, floral, green and lots of summery and fresh yellow fruits. Sweet and acidic. Nice waxy, slightly smoky, edge accompanied with nice wet and dry oaky aroma’s. All well-integrated (now). Kilkerran, just like most other Whiskies from the people of  Springbank, needs to breathe a lot. Freshly opened, I was quite disappointed with this one, lacking depth concentrating on all the wrong flavours and overall not very nice to drink, and that’s saying something, since I love the output from Campbeltown. At the time of writing my bottle is half-full (or half empty if you are a pessimist), and the change is remarkable. Coal and some tarry bits, unbelievable it got this well-balanced and downright delicious, after the more than poor start. Peaches and smoked pepper. Excellent stuff.

Taste: Sweet entry with yellow fruits in sweet yoghurt. White Peaches and old dried apricots. Smoke in the back of my mouth and again after extensive breathing so remarkably tight, big and balanced. All fits together quite well. A bit less complex than the nose was, but it makes up for this “simplicity” with big and luscious aroma’s. Green, and nutty (from the 30% matured in Sherry casks). Again a typical example of a bottle that won’t be around for long on my lectern. It’s not without its flaws, mind you. It hasn’t got the strongest finish. The finish is a bit thin, or seems thin after the big body, and falls apart a bit. Aftertaste reprises the big body with a creamy, vanilla feel to it.

So give it lots of time to breathe. Big from the start, big body, complex nose, a somewhat simpler taste with a medium to weak finish. Still nice and recommendable. I will most definitely pick up another 12yo after a few years to see what they’ve done with it, as well as other Kilkerran releases.

Points: 86