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: 85


Caol Ila 11yo 1994/2005 (58.2%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, First Fill Sherry Butts #12423 & #12424)

I actually picked the 1990 Caol Ila and this 1994 Caol Ila, to compare Bourbon cask matured and Sherry cask matured young Caol Ila’s. However I don’t think the 1990 was aged in a Bourbon cask, but rather in a Fino or similar type of Sherry cask. However, American oak is probably the wood of choice for the 1990, and maybe the comparison with the two types of Sherry is maybe even a more interesting one. I’m a bit on thin ice here, since nowhere it is said in what kind of cask the 1990 has matured, nor is there any mention for both of what type of Sherry previously inhabited the casks.

Caol Ila 11yo 1994/2005 (58.2%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, First Fill Sherry Butts #12423 & #12424)Color: Slightly orangey gold.

Nose: Fatty and funky Sherry. Raisins and wax. Stale rainwater and some muddy peat. Peaty clay, not very fatty or round, as some might say. The raisins do remind me a bit of a Highland Park bottled by Gordon & MacPhail as well. Although that one is much, much darker, it is the same raisiny aroma. Probably the same kind of Sherry. Wood spice and salty smoke. Nice creamy wood, smoky licorice. Perfumy sandalwood and a buttery acidity. Creamy and slightly meaty. Burning candles. Enough happening in this one. Vanilla comes late, it is just overpowered by so many other elements in the nose. A nose from an old house at christmas.

Taste: Initial sweetness with some toffee. Lots of wood, slightly dry, but it is soothing and not harsh nor sour. Some sweet licorice again, with some dusty spice and Cappuccino. After the dusty part comes a woody and slightly acidic wine-note. A fruity acidity that doesn’t fit this Whisky. It makes all the tastes up ’till now, fight each other, instead of becoming a band of brothers. It is obvious that this Sherry didn’t integrate that well. Dries the lips. Finish has only a medium length and quite bit of an unbalanced aftertaste, an apply acidity, which is not entirely tasty if you ask me. The aftertaste ruins it a bit for me. I definitely prefer the previous Caol Ila.

It almost seems as if you can’t go wrong with Caol Ila. Let’s say this is from a Oloroso Sherry or even a PX, both are considered somewhat “normal” Sherries, by wine-people, and considered of a lesser quality then a Sherry that has matured under flor, a “hat” of fungus that grows on the surface of the Sherry. The hat prevents contact with air. The G&M Caol Ila I reviewed the day before yesterday, I believe came form such a Sherry. For me that is the superior one of the two. I do usually prefer Oloroso ageing, especially when it is a Whisky that was aged a while back. Good Oloroso Sherry matured in European oak, instead of the American oak preferred by the Sherry industry these days. Vanilla, people, Sherry drinkers prefer a more creamy Sherry these days. European oak also seems to need longer ageing, to deal with the tannins, and that is time we don’t seem to have…

Points: 80

Glengoyne 12yo 1994/2006 (43%, OB, SC, Rum Finish, Cask #909310, 348 bottles)

Just like the 10yo Edradour I just reviewed, Glengoyne also has a 1994 vintage, which was used for a lot of different cask finishes. Claret, Madeira, Manzanilla, Muscatel, Cornalin and a lot of Rum finishes were released between 2005 and 2008. Some were bottled at cask strength, and some were reduced to 43% ABV. All the other Rum finishes have a cask number of 5 digits, so this one was probably cask #90931. Maybe they have added an additional “0” to distinguish this bottling from the rest since this is the only one that has been reduced. Maybe an administrative mistake was made…

Glengoyne 12yo 1994/2006 (43%, OB, SC, Rum Finish, Cask #909310, 348 bottles)Color: Gold.

Nose: Excellent full-on Rum smell. Spicy, fatty dirty. I’m guessing high ester Rum. Jamaican? Hard to tell. Sugar cane and very leafy. For some this may be finished too long, but I’m not one of them. I love the synergy between Rum casks and Single Malt Whisky, but I may have said that before. Extremely deep. What a nice combination of smells. Wonderful depth and a wealth of complexity with lavas and balsamic vinegar. Where did that come from? The Whisky, The Rum or the wood? If it’s the wood, the wood turns to a more cleaner oaky note. Fresh windy forest and some warm butter on toast (not burnt). Even a slightly soapy note.

Taste: Well this is less complex than the nose is. Where the nose explodes with aroma, the taste is much simpler. Most definitely a sweet Whisky. Sugar water and yes, some nice leafy wood influence. Paper and floral cardboard, whatever that is. The taste is built around some different wood flavours, sugared tropical fruit, dried orange skim and cold black tea. The finish is quite long, but again pretty simple a bit bitter and buttery.

Not so long ago I reviewed a few Rum finished Whiskies and I said I have always liked them. This one is no different. Fantastic nose, and the taste is good. However, this one is not a daily drinker. For that it is too fatty and sweet.

Points: 84 (but with a 90’s nose, if you like Rum)

Thanks go out to René for providing the sample (a while back).

Edradour 10yo 1994/2004 (46%, Signatory Vintage, The Unchillfiltered Collection, Cask #349, 783 bottles)

In 2004, 2005 and 2006 most of the 1994 vintage were released by Signatory Vintage in the Straight from the cask series. You must remember the 50 cl bottles in the colored wooden boxes with all kinds of (fortified) wine finishes. However a few of those were rescued from that sometimes ill fait and released as is, under the unchillfiltered moniker, reduced to 46% ABV. Here we have one such cask that didn’t undergo a wine finish, simply because the Whisky at hand came from a Sherry cask.

Edradour 10yo Cask #402Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Quite creamy and already lots of aroma. Very dry with enough influence from the wood. It does remind me of cherry liqueur, without it being overly sweet. The Whisky also has a more vegetal side to it as well as some good Sherry funk. Fruity. Watered down red fruit juice, with toffee, chocolate butter and (milk) powder and some herbal smelling wood. Quite spicy when I come to think of it.

Taste: Paper, pepper and sometimes a bit hot. Artificial hard red candy juice. Remember those little raspberry ones? Warming and in the distance quite sweet. Candied citrus fruits (predominantly oranges) and the zestier note is provided by some lemon curd. After that the lengthy finish starts with some burnt newspaper ashes, cheap chocolate powder and some soft dark wood, not necessarily oak. Nutty coffee (Inca).

This is quite a Whisky, but I can’t help to feel that something is not quite right. That is probably personal, because I get that a lot with Edradour. Probably a typical Edradour marker, I still have to get used to. Still, this is quite quaffable. Go for one if you come across it. Maybe the 1994 vintage is sold out by now, but there should be still some 10yo’s from 2004 around. The picture is from one of the 2004 vintages, the 1994 looks the same.

Points: 82

Aberlour 18yo 1994/2012 (59.6%, The House of MacDuff, The Golden Cask, Bourbon Cask CM 193, 234 bottles)

Back to core-business! To finish off the month of March, here is a review about an indie Aberlour. Aberlour is a very interesting distillery that in my opinion keeps on producing good malts, correction, good Sherried malts at affordable prices. Just have a look at my review of the excellent A’bunadh. This here is the first independently released Aberlour, and as with most Aberlours that are released by independent bottlers this is from an Ex-Bourbon cask, they probably need all the Sherry casks for themselves.

Aberlour 18yo 1994/2012 (59.6%, The House of MacDuff, The Golden Cask, Bourbon Cask CM 193, 234 bottles)Color: Light gold.

Nose: Fresh at first, creamy and very fruity. Biscuits and slight hints of mint. It smells somehow sweet, caramel and toffee in a good (not added) way. Pencil shavings. It seems like a good spirit with quite a nice full on sweet, cookie dough, and funky, body. In the distance it does remind me of White Wine (Barrel aged and buttery Chardonnay).

Taste: Spicy wood and not as sweet as the nose suggested. Wood, pears and a little bit of vanilla. Although not the most complex Whisky, the cask gave off more woody notes (all in check), and less of the Bourbon notes the cask could have given off. Having said that, the Whisky is actually quite nice in a toned down sort of way. It’s almost a shy Aberlour, not confident about itself,  because it didn’t come from a Sherry Butt, quite unneccessary so. It’s nice but only a little bit quiet and introvert in character. The high-proof matches the sweetness, the creaminess and the cookie dough perfectly. Not hot at all. Finishes off with oak, again toned down.

A very interesting malt. Without the independents we would hardly have a real clue about the quality of the Aberlour spirit, since most Aberlours that are released by the owners themselves have a huge amount of Sherry cask thrown in. This is more a naked version of Aberlour. It reveals a lot that the spirit behaves well in an ex-Bourbon cask. It would be quite nice to compare this to an independently bottled Oloroso Sherry cask at cask strength.

Points: 85

Glenlochy 1977/1994 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail , Connoisseurs Choice, Old Map Label, ID/AHD)

And here is the first Glenlochy on these pages, and only the second Glenlochy I ever tasted. (Amateur!). Glenlochy was founded in 1898 (some say 1897), during the Whisky-boom, but only started distilling in 1901. Glenlochy was closed in 1983 when a lake of Whisky was forming. Many others like Brora, Banff and Saint Magdalene, to name but a few, were closed during that year. In 1992 most of the Distillery was demolished. Now only Ben Nevis survives in the region (Fort William).

Glenlochy 1977/1994 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail , Connoisseurs Choice, Old Map Label, ID/AHD)Color: Gold.

Nose: Fresh, citrus and wax. Hints of smoked kippers and old stale water. Old damp storage room from the 19th century. Clay, some smoke and alas quickly fading at first, but getting better after some breathing. Some menthol (light) and heavy esters. A little bit of latex paint and the most minute traces of bitterness. From the wood obviously, but also connected to the waxy part.

Taste: Old wood, and some clay. Very fruity and also due to its low ABV, very drinkable. Vanilla and toffee. Wet leaves. Actually this takes me by surprise. After some extensive breathing inside the glass, it gets better and better. Probably a nice candidate to try in a big balloon glass. I quite like it, more than anticipated.

I would have loved it, to be able to taste this undiluted, because it oozes potential quality. The quality is here too, but a bit watered down. Very interesting dram this is, but it also shows why I didn’t buy a lot of Connoisseurs Choice bottlings in the past. I know, I know, there are a lot of stunners in this range, but I feel a lot were done some harm when diluted to 40% ABV. By the way, again this is a Whisky that needs a lot of air to open up. needs a bit of work, to show all of its beauty.

Points: 86

Glen Scotia 17yo 1977/1994 (57.5%, Cadenhead)

I completely forgot about this one, otherwise I would have reviewed it sooner. This one was sitting comfortably in the back of my lectern and was overlooked for some time. Not the first time though, a Glen Scotia graces these pages with its presence and certainly not the first time a Cadenheads bottling with the green glass and the small label does. Previously I tried a much newer Mo Òr bottling distilled in 1994, so maybe a chance to see how Glen Scotia fared through its difficult history…

Color: (Dull) gold.

Nose: Spicy, nutty and clean. Quite sharp. Slightest hint of cat urine. Powdery and pretty bold altogether. Soft wood with a small hint of toasted wood. This is probably from a Bourbon Cask (Barrel or Hogshead). Actually it’s very clean and youthful, and it picked up quite some color along the way. It’s maybe half-creamy and has some hints of oranges, candied oranges that is. Later on some notes of cardboard and a yeasty cold room. Full bodied typical high strength Cadenheads bottling.

Taste: Wow, nice! Quite an attack from the alcohol. Very full-bodied with initial notes of wood and fern. Coffee, nuts and a slight woody bitterness. Again a typical clean Cadenheads Bourbon Cask bottling. Long spicy finish with black tea and almonds.

For me, and I’ve said it already. A typical Cadenheads bottling. Cadenheads in more recent times, seem to bottle a lot of ex-Bourbon Casks in their teens, and although there are obviously some differences, there are some similarities as well. High strength and clean. Great stuff for me, because I like cask strength, but it would have been nice to see these type of Whisky age a little longer, and with that, see the ABV drop a little. This certainly had a lot of potential, and would have been great in its (late) twenties and around 50 to 52% ABV.

Points: 86