Lagavulin 11yo “Offerman Edition” (46%, OB, 750 ml, 2019)

If I would have written this review a bit earlier, than this particular review would have concluded the Lagavulin-prequel-quartet of the 8yo, 9yo, 10yo and this 11yo. However, just recently, yet another Offerman Edition has been released, this one finished in Guinness casks. Damn, now I have to find me that one as well, and just like the original Offerman Edition, this one isn’t destined for our European market. This Offerman is mostly US-only. They kept the new one at 11yo as well, because I suspect they wouldn’t dare on touching on (another) 12yo, as to not confuse the public too much with the annual cask strength version. This Offerman Edition is made with hand-picked Bourbon and rejuvenated Bourbon casks, in part by Offerman himself. Especially when you’re in Europe, you might wonder who this (Nick) Offerman is? Nick Offerman is an American Actor playing the role of Ron Swanson in the TV-series called “Parks & Recreation”, and Ron just loved Lagavulin (because Nick loves Lagavulin).

Color: Gold, lighter than the 9yo GoT version.

Nose: Wow, this has a mild, farmy, clay like start. Hay from healthy, fatty, full grown grass, making it somewhat different from the 8yo, 9yo and 10yo. Loving this. Otherwise, it does resemble the 9yo a bit. Just like I expected before reviewing the GoT Edition, this time again, I expected something more along the lines of the 8yo and 10yo, but with the 9yo already being quite the surprise, this one does even smell better. It smells a little bit like a…Brora! Man, if this tastes like it smells, please take my money now Diageo and thanks to you, Nick Offerman, for picking these casks! But wait a minute, let’s not get ahead of ourselves now. Iodine (and a tiny hint of chlorine as well) comes knocking on the door, especially when this gets some time to breathe in your glass. I suspect Nick especially sought out this Iodine. Old, wet wood spice. Slightly perfumy even. Tiny bonfire and a wee bit of prickly peat. This Malt has it all, including the underlying (candied) fruit. Wet iodine laden peat with salty seaside notes. The Broraness wears off and Lagavulin emerges some more, Lagavulin we know from the 16yo (which has Sherry) and especially the GoT edition. But the farmy bit that remains is still very nice, turning a bit meaty even. Not a lot of smoke any more. Dull vanilla powder, with still this zesty citrus note as well. Is there something like dry almond powder? Overall quite a soft edition, but one that works quite well. The GoT has slightly more of the creamy and buttery vanilla notes than the Offerman, but the bonfire notes are the same.

Taste: Starts as thin like the GoT, but this time with some crushed beetle and some fresh, slightly crushed almonds, and a very nice sweetish fruity bit. This one has even more of a licorice-peat note than the GoT. Fruity and appetizing, like cola on a hot day. It does have cola notes, hence the association. Almonds again and a wee bit of hot plastic. Warming and soft, so not this burning sensation when going down. This one has some sweetness as well, but definitely less so than the GoT. Slightly less complex than the nose, with seemingly less development. I like the lingering bonfire notes. It gives me a happy association, because who doesn’t like sipping a good Whisky when sitting and staring at a bonfire in the woods, or some pieces of wood in the fireplace.

This one turned out to be like a better variant of the GoT, but a variant of it nevertheless. Offerman offers us more than the GoT did, especially on the nose. Nice profile. Dear Nick, since you are a Lagavulin aficionado, why not pick some more casks like this, and bottle them at cask strength? Since this is Bourbon casks only, a fitting choice by an American if I may say so, it is more of a prequel to the 12yo, yet it is different in its profile. The empty glass (after a while), is iodine laden, where the empty glass of the GoT (the next morning) smells of peat and warm plastic. Looks like this (Iodine) is what Lagavulin and Nick went for.

Points: 87 (so the odd’s clearly beat the evens)

After the Offerman, I tried the GoT again, I find that there are a lot of similarities, but it is also lacking an entire (farmy) level. The Offerman is just a better and expanded version of the GoT. Tried it again and yes, the GoT is just simpler, still good, yet simpler. I haven’t seen Parks & Recreation yet, but I wonder if it’s also a better TV-series than GoT. Apart from some states in the US, this edition seems to be hardly available any more, thus prices are rising at auctions and the secondary market. Prices as I see today are such that even though this is a good Lagavulin, I can’t recommend it to you, because when taking the price into account, I believe you are better off with the 16yo and the Distillers Edition as well as the Game of Thrones version which turns out to be a very nice Lagavulin as well, is less expensive and more readily available. If you can spare the cash, please do buy it, because it’s another good Lagavulin differing from the others.

Lagavulin 9yo “Game of Thrones” (46%, OB, “House Lannister” L9016CM008, 2019)

For a Long time, Lagavulin was the unknown jewel in the crown of what is now Diageo, known to only a few. Lagavulin saw more recognition when it became part of the Classic Malts. Before that, Lagavulin was more or less only an utterly wonderful 12yo. Later came the also stellar 16yo and a nicely done Distillers Edition, again a very, very good version of this great distillery. Last of the newer regular releases the return of a 12yo, this time from Bourbon casks only and since 2002 bottled annually as a special release at cask strength. Some batches of these Whiskies have been reviewed on this site earlier.

Personally Diageo was taking a wrong turn starting with Talisker for me, with the release of a lot of mediocre (NAS) “versions”. I might have mentioned this already in several previous reviews, (Talisker is Diageo’s best selling Malt). The 10yo is still by far the best affordable Talisker, although it suffers sometimes of batch variation, just have a look at the following two more recent releases from 2015, and 2019. Incomparable to an earlier bottling from 2002. When NAS wasn’t all that accepted at first, Talisker tested out a rather young Malt, but gave it an age statement. The 8yo from 2018, is a very good Whisky, but the follow-ups from 2020 and 2021 are less so. Alas. I have tried them all, but have yet to review them here.

Back to Lagavulin. When Talisker was being taken advantage of (to up the sales), by all those aforementioned releases, Diageo left Lagavulin alone, at least for a while. Then all of a sudden in 2016 the 8yo and in 2019 the 10yo surfaced. In hindsight, both editions are gnawing away at the perfect reputation Lagavulin had (for me). Sure, both releases are not bad, especially the 8yo was acceptable (for a Lagavulin), but the downward spiral is easily noticeable. A disappointing and depressing feeling for me. Well, the time has come to look at the next one. Between the 8yo and the 10yo came a 9yo, bottled in 2018 in the Game of Thrones range, yeah because coupling up this Classic Malt with a TV-show makes sense now does it. And sure it does, from a business standpoint. I’m sure it’s making Diageo a lot of money and even selling more of the less popular Whiskies from the Diageo portfolio in the Game of Thrones series. Amazing how many people I know, have the whole range at home, some even got the GoT Johnny Walker editions. I respect the fact Diageo is in the business of making money and are not only aficionado’s. I’ve met several Diageo employees who have no clue what it is what they’re selling (but look the part and talk the talk) and only care about their monthly sales and what car they will be allowed to drive next. On the other hand I’ve also met several Diageo employees that are true aficionado’s and big ones as well! (This second group is usually a bit older than the first group).

Having said all that and with the experience I had with the 8yo and the 10yo, I’m not having high hopes for this 9yo, especially with the caramel colouring remark on the back label, but nevertheless here we go!

Color: Gold, slightly brownish.

Nose: Slightly sweet, with nice bonfire smoke and peat notes. Even some (dried) meaty notes crop up. Underneath, a little bit of fresh lemon skin acidity, as well as some menthos you are already chewing on. As always, the E150a cloaks the smell a bit, but also adds some artificial balance, as per design, although I also feel not a lot of colouring was needed for this one. Whiskies with lots of colouring tend to be dull and cloaked. But credit where credit’s due, this is a pretty good smelling Lagavulin. Nice and fresh. Since this is supposed to be first fill Bourbon casks only, is it really? Since it has this added caramel, it still has a decent spicy, ashy, waxy and fruity feel to it. On occasion, I even encounter some floral dishwater-detergent kind-of-job aroma. Spicy with some hot tar and smoking embers. Some molten plastic, clay, wood, some (burning) paper (and ashes), but some red fruit notes seem to point at Sherry, but no Sherry casks were used for this one. Yup, this is a very nice smelling Lagavulin. If the taste is on par with the nose, which has some classic Lagavulin traits to it, I’m in for a nice surprise.

Taste: Here it is a bit thinner than the nose promised. Sweet with obvious licorice and black and white powder right from the start, as well as the sweet lemon skin note from the nose. Smoky toffee. Here the caramel colouring seems to have a greater effect than it had on the nose. Nice chewy peat, nicely framed by some smoke. Waxy. Some cloaking caramel, and creamy, fatty hand ointment, but it’s also letting though some nice red fruity notes. Appetizing. Towards the finish the woody bits show some slight bitterness, fitting the rather large licorice profile quite well. However, for the profile it has it is actually a little bit too sweet. One glass of this on an evening is enough.

Well, this one is a bit of a surprise, I didn’t expect much of it to be honest, considering I’m not really a fan of the 8yo and especially the 10yo, as well as coupling it to a TV-show was a bit suspicious. The Talisker GoT was pretty decent as well. Nothing of the milky, new make-ish, youthful notes I got from both other mentioned Lagavulins. Maybe the E150a did some good here (yeah right, hahaha), or maybe the casks were just better (more likely). This would be a really really good Whisky if it was somewhat less sweet and bottled at a higher strength. Still, this was bottled at 46% ABV instead of the 43% ABV of some other Lagavulin releases. This is a review from a particular batch (L9016CM008) from 2019. I haven’t tried any others, so I can’t comment on batch variation, but there is always a chance that different batches have (slightly) different outcomes.

Points: 86

Savanna 15yo 2004/2019 (62.8%, Rum Nation, Rare Rums, 2nd Fill Cognac Cask #59, 402 bottles, Réunion)

So the yet another strange year has passed (2021), a year Master Quill did a lot of Whisky yet finished off with a Rhum Traditionelle (distilled from Molasses) most likely from Savanna. Today it’s 2022, so why not pick up where we left off with yet another Rhum Traditionelle from the same outfit, but this time Savanna has been mentioned on the label.

This offering was released in Rum Nations’ Rare Rhum series, with nice and classy white labels. The websites Rum Nation keeps up, are quite good and informative. Just have a look at the page for this Rhum particularly. Reading all the info about this Rhum some additional facts becomes apparent to us consumers, like this is in fact a 13yo Rhum, since the Rhum only aged in wood for 13 years (in the tropics). The Rhum spent its final 2 years in Stainless steel tanks (in Europe). In the introduction it is also mentioned this comes from Cognac casks (plural), yet the label mentions one cask #59. So the more information one gets the more questions arise… Well let’s not dwell too long about the facts ma’am and shift focus towards the Rhum at hand.

Color: Copper Orange.

Nose: Sweetish, with warm toffee and caramel. Intense, oozing with perfumed aromatics. Quite fruity as well, with dry notes as well. Dusty and somewhat oaky. Cold black tea. Dried red fruit. Goji berries. Even though this is clearly a Savanna, like the previous reviewed Rhum, this also has some similarities to the Rhums Traditionnelle from Rivière du Mât, maybe that is the (volcanic) influence of the island? The Rhum smells extremely balanced and appetizing, but not all that complex to be honest. When this gets some time to breathe it also becomes more and more “friendly” and less intense, less of a heavy hitter. When snorted vigorously, some green spices emerge (reluctantly). Dried parsley? Hard to tell actually. More sugared black tea and somewhat nutty as well. Fragrant.

Taste: Yeah, big. Very nutty. Edible charcoal and nuts. Initially sweet but when that coating descends down the hole, quite a lot of wonderful chewy wood and heat come forward. Yup, more toffee. Tropical ageing all right! Sweet, nutty, hints of toasted oak and some smoke from a distant laid back smoke lying in the grass. The wood influence is quite big, and may not be for everyone, it isn’t all that disturbing to me. It deals with the sweetness in a wonderful way, but yes some might say this has aged too long, probably why this was transferred into stainless steel. Having tasted it now, the nose get even better than it already was. Dark chocolate, peppery, white pepper, herbal and with some good velvety bitters. More ashes and toasted oak. I like the oaky bitters in this Rhum. It suits it well. I’m tasting this from a sample, so I don’t have a back label at hand, but it should make the statement that this is an austere Rhum for connoisseurs who don’t like excessive sweetness. It did so on the back label of the previous Rhum I reviewed.

Since I still have a tiny amount left of the Réunion Cask Strength 7yo, and since it just has to be another Savanna, lets just compare the two. The 7yo is definitely lighter, friendlier and has a somewhat more industrial plastic smell in the nose, close to a more children’s clay smell. Many similarities, but in a toned down fashion, yet more of the fruity and sweet black tea notes. This 15yo just has more of everything (a lot of wood especially). On the palate the similarities don’t end, the 7yo is lacking most of the wood, but it also does show you how the 15yo was before most, yet not all, of the wood influence. The 7yo seems simple compared to the 15yo, but its worth the price of admission and the score I gave it earlier. So if you are having it, just don’t have it after the 15yo, that “wood” make no sense. Catch my driftwood? The 15yo is just a lot bigger, more mature and more sophisticated than the 7yo is, and has a lot more wood influence, but I believe you already got that if you made it this far down the review…

Summa sumarum: this Cask #59 is just a great Savanna.

Points: 89

Merci beaucoup Auke for the sample!

Longrow Red 11yo “Pinot Noir” (53.1%, OB, 8 years Bourbon & 3 years Refill Pinot Noir Casks, 9.000 bottles, 2019, 19/003)

I have to admit that the first few releases of Longrow Red weren’t my favourite Longrows on the market. I’ve tasted quite a few by now and from the first few releases, starting in 2012, I believe I liked the 2014 Port version best. However, even that one didn’t really impress me that much back then, since I didn’t go out of my way to buy it. Even today I still proceed with caution when a Whisky, in general, has had a Wine treatment, especially when the cask previously contained Red Wine. Fast forward several years later. On one occasion someone, probably Nico, shoved the 2020 edition of Red under my nose (The Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon), and that one did impress me a bit, so I got half a bottle in a bottle share, but more about that next time (spoiler alert). In the mean time, I visited Nico one day and saw an open bottle of his 2019 Pinot Noir edition, and with half a bottle of the 2020 Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon edition already sitting at home, and thinking of Master Quill and a comparison between both, I asked for a sample of his 2019 edition and the rest, as they say, is history…

Color: Copper gold. No pink or red hue.

Nose: Soft peat. Initially hints of classic red fruit from good Oloroso Cask matured Whiskies from yesteryear. Aroma’s working well together with the soft peat. Please bear in mind, no Sherry casks were used for this edition, so this can only come from the Pinot Noir casks. Appetizing stuff. A very hidden, tucked away, organic and deep sweaty and Winey note. Mild wine gums, soft wood bordering on cardboard and water based paint. Peated mocha with some smoke. Give it some more air, and the fruity and the (sometimes acidic) winey notes exert themselves some more, retaining throughout, the soft peat and the little bit of smoke. Salty toffee. Fresh, fruity, with an almost summery feel. Citrus notes (lemon) and floral hints, but also some milk chocolate and caramel. It smells sweet, acidic and salty, all at the same time. The peat gets softer and softer, as if it is a much older distillate. Receding peat leaves some more room for the smoke and a new flinty note emerges, as well as, some pencil shavings. Bad breath and soft moist wood. The Winey note gains some plastic along the way. Nevertheless, having smelled other Longrow Reds, the aroma profile comes as no surprise, although this is a particularly good one. This is what you get from peated Malts combined with different Red Wine casks. For instance, Gordon & MacPhail’s Ledaig Hermitage moves in the same direction. More about one of those later (another spoiler alert). For now, this Pinot Noir edition smells quite sophisticated and well balanced. Much better than earlier Red’s including the first outing of Pinot Noir in 2015.

Taste: A sweet and fruity entry. Sugary sweet mixed with the fresh notes of lemon juice. Soft and chewable peat. Slightly bitter wood. Almonds, full on toffee, caramel and only slightly fruity. On the sweet and fatty body, the winey acidity is there, but slides off quite quickly, noticeable yet not overpowering. Nice soft lingering peat and some prickly smoke. Amazing balance right from the start and again amazingly likeable. Next, some more fresh wood, which at times is quite spicy. The red fruity bit comes to the fore. Hints of fresh almonds. Very appetizing. I’m sure the Red series was a learning experience for the people at Springbank, but they are really getting the hang of it. The Red’s seem to get better and better as time progresses.

Wow, this is much better than the Red’s I know to date, especially the nose, which is this Malts strong point. I was wrong, because I’m human and not a bot, to have lost focus on this series after the first few expressions. Should have sticked with it. I’m reviewing this one from a sample, Nico kindly provided. He says this expression was at its best right from the start, so this does suffer a little bit from oxidation. So don’t take too long finishing this bottle. I haven’t tasted them all yet, but this might very well be the best of the Red’s.

Points: 89

Glenallachie 26yo 1992/2019 (54.8%, Cadenhead, Bourbon Hogshead, 240 bottles)

Here is another example of a soft spot Whisky that has been aged for a good while in a (refill) Bourbon Hogshead, like the Glentauchers I just reviewed, although this Glenallachie is twice the age of the Glentauchers. In my recent reviews of Inchgower and Tormore, I mentioned Whiskies although they may be lesser known to the public, I particularly like. This may very well be, and most definitely is, a personal thing. I believe one of the interesting aspects of one’s Whisky adventure is finding a Whisky that suits you personally. One that clicks. Often these lesser known Whiskies come from work-horse distilleries built for the sole purpose of making whisky for some big volume blend. In the case of Glenallachie that was the Clan Campbell blend. Well, Glenallachie might just be another one of those work-horse distilleries that could suit my palate just right. Up ’till just recently, only bearded extremist, poncho wearing, aficionado’s had ever heard of Glenallachie and knew what the distillery was capable of, and sure enough, even Master Quill did only write about independent bottlings of Glenallachie until the recent review of the official 15yo. So the tradition has already been broken, but here is yet another independent bottling of Glenallachie, this time one bottled by Cadenhead.

Fairly recently things have changed considerably at Glenallachie. Billy Walker cashed in big-time by selling Benriach and Glendronach, and turned his eye upon Glenallachie for his next project. Similar to what has happened with Benriach and Glendronach, a lot of Single Cask bottlings and a new and extensive standard range, with lots of variants, is hitting the markets as we speak. Hot stuff! At the Whisky Show in London, I had the opportunity to try a lot of these newly released Glenallachie OB’s for the first time, and, I have to say, I was quite impressed and especially pleasantly surprised by the “younger” expressions. The 12yo OB as well as the first few batches of the cask strength versions of the 10yo were very good. I am liking the potential here and will keep an eye out for this distillery and its offerings.

Color: White Wine.

Nose: Spicy, fruity and appetizing. Smells a bit like (any) classic Cadenhead refill hogshead bottling I know from 20 years ago. Citrussy, almost the clean and cold citrussy (lemon) smell of a freshly cleaned toilet. Wonderful soft wood. Even the toilet paper seems to be here. It is definitely not as bad as it sounds, it is actually quite appealing, but I find a freshly cleaned toilet also appealing (and inviting). So fresh and clean it is (The Whisky). Next, a more warming and medium spicy wood smell next to the citrus. Pencil shavings. Nice development as well. It’s aromatic, but it is not big. Next, more sweeter (diluted honey). The fruit is never far away just like this impression of sweetness. Some seriously fine fruity aroma’s emerge. For instance, green apple emerges quite late. Damp forest floor as well as some plants in the summer. Slightly minty and hints of Calvados. Dry lavender pouch from grannies drawers and lots of fresh air too. The citrus I already mentioned, but also some ripe sweeter kinds of yellow fruits. This needs some time to open up. Excellent balance between the wood and the fruit. Probably from a (second, or more) refill Bourbon Hogshead. This one is just about the cask and the distillate, giving us some nice results. The recently reviewed Cragganmore 12yo Special Release, is also a Whisky built around this theme (as well as some unexpected smoke, in that particular case). A perfect example of a Whisky where the beauty lies in the details, which works excellently in a flight of Whiskies like these. Top Tip!

Taste: Hot entry, where the wood has a louder voice than it had on the nose. Alcohol first. Caramel, toffee, cold chocolate milk and a candied apple on a stick. Sweetness second. Starts with only a clear hint of wood. Sharpish (painted) wood (old paint), yet not a lot of it. Wood third. Quite pleasant. Sweet and lots of sugary sweet yellow fruits, very, very appetizing. The start of this Malt is really wonderful and well balanced. Very tasty. Towards the body of the Malt and especially in the finish, there is also quite some, lets say, some less hidden wood, which is no surprise after 26 years. The wood becomes quite pronounced towards the end of the body and especially in the finish. The wood shows quite some bitterness as well, which takes away a bit from this Dram. Plant sap and oak. A bit hot going down. Drying on my tongue, making the malt more astringent. The sweet start is entirely pushed away. The fruit is still there but the wood replaces the sweetness, making it less lively and less “tropical”. The bitterness has some staying power but not much. Actually, nothing has a lot of staying power, so this definitely is of medium length at best. A light bitter woodiness makes up the aftertaste.

Yes this is a good Malt and I understand the people who say they really like it. It has some really good traits. For me personally though, losing the sweetness along the way and the wood, and its bitterness, taking over like this, takes away a from this Malt. But hey, this is a 26yo Malt, so there is bound to be some wood in here, don’t you think? I wonder how this was when it was younger. Would the wood have less to say, less drying and less bitter? Would the fruit be still as developed as it is now or would it be more youthful and vibrant? Maybe we’ll find out some day from a sister cask that was bottled several years earlier. In the intro I was wondering if Glenallachie might be another work-horse distillery which would suit my palate? Well after the Glenallachies I tasted up ’till this point, I wouldn’t place it in that category with Tormore and Teaninich just yet…

Points: 86

Glenallachie 15yo (46%, OB, 2019)

After a few independent bottlings of Glenallachie, here is finally one of those new official bottlings from Billy Walkers new pet project. After Glendronach and Benriach, now Glenallachie gets the Walker treatment, and the results are here for all to be seen. When this new core range was released in 2018, it included a Cask Strength 10yo, a 12yo, a 18yo and I believe a 25yo. Today there are many, many more of those blended and reduced bottlings available. A year after the introduction came this 15yo. Even without trying it, I already, really, really liked the look of it. The wonderful Sherried color looks nice, the blue label looks nice, and since the other Whiskies from the core range were pretty good as well, the 15yo appeared very promising to me. But buyer beware, looks can be deceiving, but hopefully not this time…

Color: Dark orange brown.

Nose: Sherried, slightly tarry and dusty. Cask toast, cookie dough and oranges. Milk chocolate, raisins, cherries and vanilla ice cream with quite a lot of floral aroma’s, as well as some perfumed wood. In part a perfume and ever so slightly, the smell of hair lacquer. Modern and clean. Very modern Sherry notes, which is miles away from the notes of Sherried Whiskies distilled in the 60’s and 70’s. Sweet (pink bubblegum) and mildly fruity, ever so slightly rotting fruit with a strange acidity to it. Weird. Lots of succulent raisins combined with dry dust. Vanilla and soft wood with lots of sharp fresh air and mint. Painted oak cask ends and dried virgin oak. Yes soft and dry oak is here to stay. Citrus fruit confectionery, you know, the ones coated with sugar. Where initially there was a sense of fruit to this, after some breathing this turns a bit darker and less fruity-friendly, yet retaining its (ultra) modern (woody) quality. Freshly opened, this didn’t seem all that interesting to me, somewhat closed and thin. Luckily this is no longer the case, at least not to this extent. Enough happening now after 1/3rd of the bottle gone.

Taste: Initially a bit thin and quite sweet, toffee and caramel sweetness, not even fruity sweetness. Now tar, cardboard and toasted oak, raisins and yes, some cinnamon. Wow lots of raisins in what seems to be a full bowl of vanilla ice-cream. It’s like (PX) raisins are dissolved in here. Further back a little woody bitterness. Initially a short-lived unbalance with some sort of acidity that doesn’t seem to integrate well (the rotting bit from the nose maybe?) Sometimes the “thin” bit returns as well. Fruity wood-infused sugar water. A strange sort of fruity sweetness. Not very fruity at all actually. Cookie dough and a trickle of smoke from the fire place. Quite a short finish though, just the warmth (and some oaky acidity and bitterness) stays behind for a while longer. Actually,, it is sometimes a bit too sweet or off. Orange skins, and yogurt acidity.

This is a Malt that does some things right and some things well, yet it doesn’t convince me enough as a whole. It seems a bit cold and too modern. In no way do I manage to click with it. A digital Malt. Vinyl aficionados will understand. On the plus side, this is quite different from the 12yo and the 10yo cask strength editions, which warrants its existence. On the down side, it’s just not that big, full, fruity or inspiring. I really expected a lot more from an official Sherried 15yo. In a way, I also expected a bit more from the Tamdhu 15 as well, but for me that one turned out to be nicer than this one though. Enough nice aromas on the nose here, but I feel this could have been and should have been better. I’m sure this will improve with future batches, since the newer distillate seems to be better. That’s why for me, for now, the first 10yo Cask Strength version is the most recommendable from the ever-expanding core range. But there are so many bottlings now, and I’ve hardly tasted them all. By now three more batches exist, so I hope those are carrying on the torch lit by the first one.

When tasting these new Glenallachies for the first time, it were the younger ones which surprised me the most and just seemed the most interesting since they seem to be showing the way forward, seen from the perspective of the newer distillate, predominantly, yet not exclusively, aged in Ex-Bourbon casks. I believe from this, that Glenallachie will be better with every passing year, as long as they manage to source the better quality casks available. Since the initial releases, it seems like every month a few new expressions see the light of day, and they aren’t all single casks as well. Somewhat similar to what Highland Park is doing now and Benriach did earlier. At the time of writing, three different virgin oak expressions were released…

Since I liked the 10yo Cask Strength version and the 12yo, and the 18yo only scored just one point more than the 12yo (at more than twice the price), I went for this 15yo, which seemed like a safe bet. I thought it should be at least as good as those mentioned earlier, and well, it is quite a dark colored expression, which didn’t break the bank, so I went for it without much thought and opened it before the aforementioned expressions I picked up earlier than the 15yo. Well this 15yo is a funny puppy. First of all, it doesn’t taste like a proper 15yo, but more like a NAS Sherry bottling. Somewhat designed and maybe rushed to the store perhaps? I don’t know. OK, the bottle has been open for only a few weeks and is still nearly full. Maybe it needs some more time and air. For now it lacks depth and it is more about cheap cream Sherry and PX, than good old quality Oloroso, which I expected. I’m actually a bit disappointed to be honest. Sure, oak and toasted cask are present, but the sugar water still dominates. Seems to me this was brought to the market as a direct competitor to the equally sweet Glendronach 15yo “Revival” and maybe the Tamdhu 15yo. In the end it never really grew on me, and it didn’t really get much better with time. It was fixed to much in its place hindering development, as if it was told not to. I finished the bottle rather quickly, which took me by surprise a bit, so, why did this go so fast? Did it become that good after some more breathing? Not exactly, in fact the Whisky is nothing more than OK, do-able, and yes, it luckily did have its moments, however, it went down so fast because it bored me and I wanted it out of the way for something better. So for a while it became the Whisky to start an evening with, until it was gone…

Points: 83

Deanston 10yo (46.3%, OB, Bordeaux Red Wine Cask Finish, for Travel Retail, 2019)

Deanston, once the ugly duckling of the Scottish Whisky world, its reputation then just a hair better than that of Fettercairn (no offence), but look at Deanston now. Deanston, may have started the race from the pits, after yet another engine change, but are making their way up the field in an impressing manner. If you look closely it is easy to see they took a hard look at what Springbank is doing (right). Maybe even asked for some advise, and if so, they clearly got the point as well. They left nothing to chance. First of all, the quality has improved a lot. Quality sells by word of mouth, because I don’t see a big marketing ploy behind either Deanston nor Springbank, and Deanston surely has grown a lot more popular.

Besides the quality, Deanston is issuing very good Whiskies in different price brackets, and the amount of single cask, or small batch releases have grown. Next, where Springbank is (again) successful with “Local Barley”, Deanston plays the “Organic” trump card. (Bollocks, Trump, these days this is almost a dirty word). Even the new bottle design of Deanston resembles the Springbank bottle a bit. Just look at the base of the bottle where words show up in the glass itself. So they adapted a successful formula and rightly so. It clearly works. Even the people I know are into Springbank (I’m one of them), are now also very much interested in Deanston, and liking it. Did I already mention, that the keys to the success of Springbank and thus more recently, Deanston, are its people? They are! Kudo’s to you!

Color: Orange gold, no red hue (looks like a Bourbon)

Nose: Wonderful creamy notes with nice red fruity notes, tiniest hint of apple pie and a sharper woody note. Floral as well. Smoky toffee. Very creamy in fact. Nothing Wine-like at all, although, maybe just a bit. Would I still feel the same if I had smelled this without knowing it was a Wine finish? Maybe so, yet the more this breathes, and if you are patient enough to let is sit in your glass for 10 to 15 minutes, the Red Wine nose becomes more pronounced. There is this slightly burned and slightly tarry aroma from the wine cask and this unmistakeable red fruit candy aroma, that always pops up with Red Wine cask finishes. We are still just starting with smelling this Malt and it already smells like something that was finished for just the right amount of time. Also, the base Whisky that was finished like this must have been of pretty high quality as well. Definitely American oak came first, it’s creamy with vanilla underneath. People at Deanston are really knowing what they are doing now, with a smell like this, and this after a Bordeaux Finish. In the early days of finishing, Red Wine casks, weren’t my favourites, not by a long shot. They were often severely overdone. Lets get back to smelling. Next a nice fresh green note. Plants on the window sill on a warm day. Lots of creamy warm milk chocolate. Quite soft after the sharper (oaky) start. The oak is still here, by the way. Within the soft notes some wet cardboard emerges, along with more sweet red fruit water. Forest strawberry lemonade. Well balanced altogether and smells very distinguished and mature. Is this really only a 10yo with a Bordeaux finish? It seems just too good for that. It surely doesn’t come across as such. I really like the smell of this. Amazing accomplishment.

Taste: Soft wood, thin, runny caramel, toffee and Winey red fruits, sweet and sour. Lemon acidity. American toasted oak vanilla with chewy toffee but also spicy wood and spicy spices. Yet the whole is still quite soft. Soft, warm milk chocolate and fresh almonds. Here the Wine finish is on top of the toffee and milk chocolate. Seems slightly less balanced than the nose was. Its a liquid Mars bar, Twix and Ferrero Rocher in one! The Wine finish is done with taste so it must have been used sparsely. Nothing wrong with this Wine finish. This Malt drinks like chocolate milk, dangerously easy going. Wine in the finish, as well as some hazelnuts and toast. Dare I say it also has some soapy notes? It does, is that a problem? This time it isn’t. As long as you don’t start foaming from the mouth (I didn’t). Somewhat simpler in the taste than the nose was but still a good and accomplished Malt. After sipping this, the nose becomes even better. Warming going down, like warm chocolate milk. Medium finish at best and finally a creamy aftertaste. One bottle of this isn’t nearly enough. Costs next to nothing compared to what you are getting for your hard earned cash, (I got it even on sale). Get more, should still be widely available. Finally a word of warning. This actually deteriorates a bit (even more soft, even sweeter and a bit too velvety) with air, so don’t have it in your glass too long. It’s best when freshly poured (spicier).

There is a danger to this Malt. When I opened this, I was really surprised how nice this is. Liked every drop of it, and the first half of the bottle went pretty quick, and all of a sudden I had enough of its big, sweet, tarry and winey profile. I had to push it to the back of the lectern to get away from it for a while, so lesson learned and just don’t overdo it. It is a good Malt, with an in your face profile, which can take you hostage for a while. If this happens to you, don’t worry, just press “Pauze” and after a while you can press “Play” again, and all is back to normal. Good one for a more than decent price. Like it.

Points: 86

Highland Park 10yo “Viking Scars” (40%, OB, Circa 2019)

Highland Park, never has there been a distillery whose output can really inspire me the one time and make me pretty sad and disappointed the next. Especially the official bottlings. Looking back at my reviews of official releases, I have to go back to 2015 to find a very good 18yo (bottled in 2012). Still the 18yo is wonky at best, since the 18yo (bottled in 2014) didn’t even come close to the 2012 expression. And this is the second time this happened to me with two earlier editions of the 18yo some ten years before. One batch, very good, the next not so much. I’m all for batch variation like Springbank does, but Springbanks seem to be always good yet can differ quite a bit. Every batch is made with different results in mind. With Highland Park you can see they were aiming for more or less the same profile, just the quality suffered a bit.

Don’t get me wrong, I really have a soft spot for Highland Park. Heck, this is already the 17th Highland Park on these pages! It was the first Malt I encountered that really connected with me, wow, how I looked up to it. For instance, have you ever tried the 18yo wide-neck version? Just sayin’. Maybe with a change of owners, a change of management, a change in views, came some sort of downfall of the core range for me. To be honest, I haven’t been looking at Highland Park for a while now, but luckily this bottle-share with Nico came up. Maybe I’ve set myself up for another disappointment, since this is a 10yo bottled at 40% ABV. I hope Highland Park is able to put out a decent entry level Malt.

Color: Light gold.

Nose: If I would say, heather and honey, would I still be believable? But yes, for me its that and this is thus most certainly a Highland Park. Smells good, floral (sometimes even borderline soapy) and has definitely some Sherry-notes as well as some warm barley aroma’s. Warm oak and do I detect a whiff of smoke right there in the back? Vanilla with some cask toast and milk chocolate. Cloves, birch sap and smells from the fire place at Christmas. Candied yellow fruits. Besides the perfumy and quite floral notes also some minty ones appear. American oak vanilla and a nice refreshing citrus note as well. Also some sweetish ripe green apple skins. If you sniff this well, it has a nice dirty note there in the back as well. Quite a lot going on for a modern Malt at 10 years of age, one that also has been reduced so much. The smokey, fire place note is very interesting in this one. The whole works well and the well-balanced nose surely doesn’t disappoint. Very nice!

Taste: Thin, somewhat watery, waxy and paper-like. Initially sweet and heather smoky and than an ever so slightly bitter note from wood. More birch than oak though. Sappy. I have to hurry to put another sip in before everything disappears. Oooh it does smell really nice though. So this is thin with a short sweet run and some wood. Heather yes, honey, nope, the sweetness is more of the refined sugar kind to me. Quality sugar water with alcohol. Warming. Sweet with thin runny caramel and sticky toffee and some nutty notes as well. Whilst dramming, keep smelling this, because it lifts the taste. After sipping, the smoky notes in the nose get bigger and more wonderful, the smoke creeps into the taste as well. However, I fear the overall taste suffers more than a bit from the reduction I guess. The nose is very good and there are more than a few hints in the taste of this Whisky that it should be quite good at a (much) higher ABV. Since it seems a bit syrupy sweet, it sometimes drinks like it is 30% ABV. Just when going down, you know there has to be some (but not even a lot) more alcohol here than you might think. Some woody bitterness, plantlike and again a bit cardboardy. The finish is obviously short. The aftertaste is comprised of a syrupy film, toffee, wax and heathery and this light bitter woody note. Hint of milk chocolate with a floral edge. Five seconds later all is gone and Viking Scars turn out to be only superficial cuts and probably will leave no lasting marks. Not bad though, I expected worse to be honest.

As I said in the intro, I had some kind of reason to lose interest in Highland Park and somehow built up some kind of prejudice. Well this bottling sure feeds this prejudice in a way, yet there are also some leads in the smell and taste offering hope. In its defence, this is not expensive, and good smelling, but must have been targeted at a more careless consumer, who might want to use it in a Whisky and Coke. Well, I obviously don’t fit that bill (I prefer a good Rum in my ginger beer by the way, thank you very much). This bottling is most definitely not targeted at the members of HPAS (Highland Park Appreciation Society), these members turn their attention to the many single cask bottlings bottled at cask strength. I’m sure though members of HPAS have tasted this bottling and have some at home as well. Not sure if they are drinking it on a regular basis though. I have to get me a sample or a bottle of one of those single cask expressions. I’m curious about those. If you are really into Single Malt Whisky, well, you might want to skip this one or at least don’t have too high expectations for it and the nose will certainly surprise you…

Points: 82

Yet another sample from Nico, who quite liked this and I do understand why. Thanks again mate!

Talisker 10yo (45.8%, OB, L9275CM003, 2019)

When talking to a good buddy of mine, Nico, one day, Talisker 10yo came up as one of those malts that is always consistent in quality, always tasty, highly affordable and really widely available. Earlier I reviewed a bottling from around 2002, which was more than pretty decent. I even tried earlier bottlings, and they could be truly stellar. So with all these memories in mind, and the statement from Nico, I just left him sitting there where he was, and ordered a current 10yo. What I got the next day was this bottle from 2019. When freshly opened, I wasn’t all that enthusiastic to be honest. It also reminded me more than a bit of the 57 North I reviewed recently. I gave Nico a sample of the 2019 10yo and he found it again to be pretty decent. He seemed to like it more than I did. I got a Talisker 10yo, bottled in 2015 sample from him in return, so guess what will be the next review…

Color: Gold, but who cares, it’s colored. (Why? they used to color the glass, so get back to that, and leave the Whisky alone).

Nose: Light peat and slightly sharp. Sweet malt with diluted toffee notes. Hints of Calvados, cookie dough and dishwater. When smelled/snorted more vigorously, toasted oak comes forward (as well as a perfumy note). I keep smelling some apple, so Calvados it is then. The nose seems a bit off-balance at first, but this is corrected with some breathing, actually reaching a quite nice level of balance. Let it settle in your glass for a few minutes. More mocha and soft toasted wood add to the balance. With this, the apply notes are shoved right to the back. Sandal wood notes emerge next, this is all going in the right direction now! Brown sugar, toasted malt and the occasional whiff of cigarette smoke. This is rapidly becoming very nice indeed. After some longer breathing, the Calvados is gone, or maybe got overpowered or masked by the rest of the aroma’s. New is a distant whiff of fireworks and even later the perfume returns (we got this already, when sniffed vigorously in the beginning).

Taste: Sweet on entry. Smoky and cask toast. Light and waxy and a little bit of bitter on the side. Slightly milky and young, similar to the recent 57º North. Some paper and some wood, but not much. Less complex than the nose. After sipping, the nose turns slightly sharper. Coffee, ashes and slightly waxy. Sweet licorice. Nutty with quite some woody bitterness. The nose needs some breathing, but don’t let it stand around for too long. That would be a mistake. It gets a bit unbalanced again and also a bit thin. This is achieved by extensive breathing, so don’t overdo it.

Sure, this Talisker 10yo is pretty decent, but miles away from the 10yo from 2002, and there are quite a few more expressions of Talisker 10yo that can be called truly stellar. But times change, barley changes, the distillery changes, demand changes, everything changes. Take all of this into account and compare this to other Whiskies of this age and what you have here is still a pretty decent dram, for a very, very affordable price. Let’s say for the price of a lottery ticket. Do you feel lucky? If not and you need some comfort, get this, chances of winning are pretty slim anyway. Your choice.

Points: 84 (Nico scored it higher)

Cragganmore 12yo (58.4%, OB, Special Release 2019, Refill American Oak, 18.000 bottles)

Why not? Yeah, why not make it a pair again and write about another Cragganmore and yes, this one is from another sample bottle. This time we’ll go for last years official special release 12yo. As mentioned in the previous review. Cragganmore can be the under the radar malt, but somehow people caught on up pretty quick with this one. Maybe not a lot was made, wait a minute! 18.000! That’s not very limited, and still it sold as hot cakes, holy mackerel, this must have been good then!

So maybe Cragganmore isn’t all that very well known, yet Diageo has released already quite a few expressions as a special release: It started in 2003 with a 29yo from 1973 (scored that one 87 back in the day). Probably one of the Cragganmore’s in my collection. They weren’t extremely expensive back then, and didn’t sell very well. These early special releases were quite often very affordable when on sale, and that happened a lot in the early days of these series. I remember I got both 36yo Glenury Royals and Quite a few Talisker 25yo’s for a very nice price. The special releases replaced the Rare Malts, remember those? 2004 saw the release of a 10yo from 1993 (scored that one 86). In 2006 a 17yo from 1988 was released. In 2010 a 21yo from 1989 was released. In 2014 a 25yo from 1988 (again) was released. In 2016 a quite expensive NAS was released. In 2019 this 12yo (year not stated) and finally (for now) this year, a year that everybody will remember (2020) a 20yo from 1999 was released. I guess we’ll see some more Cragganmore’s down the Special Release line. But first, lets have a go with last years model…

Color: Pale White Wine.

Nose: Big, sharp and alcoholic, initially not that great. Funky organic start, bad breath and somewhat unbalanced. Malty and biscuity with some metal and menthol. Unlit cigar and sandalwood. Dough and a bit bread-like. Clean (but not too much) and fresh. The wonky start clears up. Fresh ice-cold milk with a snuff of chilli powder. Quite some upfront citrus notes. Sea spray and ozonic, keeps prickling my nose. Hint of smoke? Oak, partly toasted. Fresh and likeable. Something old skool underneath, hard to put my finger on right now. Hints of sweet licorice and soft wood. Next, it is dusty and the citrus returns. The fresh ozonic/menthol smell doesn’t ware off completely, it stays behind. Weakens a bit, but is holding the fort. Complex. The longer this breathes, the better and more balanced it gets. Showing more and more complexity. Tea and farmy. Somewhat nutty. Latex paint and some rainwater. This needs a while to really open up. Amazing how this keeps developing over time. By now I’m really enthusiastic about this one. Is it too late to still get a full bottle? Truly wonderful nose.

Taste: Very big on fruit and candy, but also a bit hot. Wonderful prickly spices. Fruity, with the right amount of sweetness and after going down, it turns a bit creamy. Nice wood for balance. This is a hot malt, the high ABV exerts itself. Much sweeter and very nutty as well. Dare I say there is some heather in here (like there is in Highland Park?). Stays hot for a while. Medium finish and also the aftertaste leaves the building in a hurry. Definitely some woody bitterness and still this uncatchable note. Old skool in the taste as well. Intriguing. Lemon fresh, but also toffee thick. It has a decent sweetness and a hint of dark chocolate with a balsamic twist. Cherry liqueur and a drying, almost smoky, note. Not that sharp, prickly, smoke, but a bit more, yes, peaty, yes really, and a fatter sort of smoke with burned plastic thrown in for good measure. Wonderful spiciness and dry black tea. Toasted almonds with a woody and peaty bitterness. Quite unexpected… The plastic bit carries well into the finish, as does this bitter note. Let it breathe, it needs air!

Well what can I say, very well done Cragganmore. Nice pick Diageo. Smoky and slightly peaty, and combined with the fruity character of Cragganmore, makes for a very interesting Malt, and a very good one as well!

Points: 89

Thanks go out to Nico again, source for many samples! Cheers mate!