Torabhaig Allt Gleann (46%, OB, The Legacy Series, First Fill Bourbon & Refill Bourbon Barrels, Batch 001, 2021)

Not too long ago when thinking about Whisky, Skye was Talisker, and Talisker was Skye. Not any more, since a second Distillery came about on the island. Production at Torabhaig started in January 2017 and this particular bottling contains Whisky from the opening year as well as from 2018. The back label is a treasure trove for info: Barleys used for this bottling are Concerto and Laureate. Yeasts used are Pinnacle MG+ and Safspirit M-1. For me a first. I have never seen the yeast being mentioned, nor do I possess any knowledge about yeast strains that are used today. So useful info I’m sure, just not right now. The in-grain phenol content was 77 ppm, off the still, it was around 60 ppm, with a residual peating level of around 17 ppm, so this is then a heavily peated Malt. The Whisky underwent no chill filtration, nor was it coloured. Before the Allt Gleann came the 2017 vintage in the Legacy series, which was also bottled @ 46% ABV. The difference between the two probably the usage of 2018 spirit in the Allt Gleann, and by now there is also a second release of Allt Gleann called Batch 002.

Color: Pale White Wine

Nose: Modern, soft with slightly sweet peat. Very clean, including a breath of fresh air, maybe even slightly Menthos-like minty. Salty smoke (this makes my lips go dry, only by smelling it), tobacco, dust and soft wood (not virgin, yet slightly creamy and vanilla-like). Quite mature actually for such a young Whisky. Nice spicy and green notes. Slightly perfumy. Nicely peated, yet not over the top. Black tea with a slight leather note as well. Distant fruitiness and the smell of baking cookies, an ashtray and cold roasted pork. This is much better smelling than I thought it would be, well made stuff. The smell gets somewhat softer and more malty (and sweeter) after extensive breathing. If this tastes anything like it smells, we have a winner on our hands. Even the Lagavulin 12yo, I recently reviewed, showed more hints towards new make than this. Quite amazing. I only hope the reduction to 46% ABV didn’t harm it in any way.

Taste: Aiii, right from the beginning rather thin. Tastes oily and fatty, but doesn’t have the matching texture. Nice soft peat, wood and some liquid smoke and yes, quite sweet and fruity. Yellow fruits with lots of unforeseen licorice notes. Thin it is yet balanced and tasty. Quite strange and unexpected since the nose is quite big and aromatic. Elements of crushed beetle and maybe some lemonade or cola mixed in with the smoke and the peat. Less salty than the nose predicted. No new make in the taste as well. Not entirely Islay in its approach, but not far from it either. Good stuff, I hope for a bright future for Torabhaig.

I think this is already amazing stuff for a Whisky of three to four years old and definitely better than I though it would be. The quality is there, even at this reduced ABV. I’d like to try a similar product of Torabhaig at cask strength, that should be nice!.

Points: 86

Thanks go out to Auke for his sample.

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Springbank 10yo (46%, OB, 14.10.21, 21/159, 2021)

When I wrote the previous review of an older 18yo Springbank (one from 2011), Springbank was readily available in Europe in many guises. Enough to choose from, with decent prices. Today I can paint an entirely different picture. If I would go to several shops I would probably find nothing at all, and with some luck, maybe, and I stress this word, maybe I would be able to buy a 10yo like this, but that’s about it. If I want another Springbank, secondary market is the way to go these days, with secondary market prices as well. Accessibility is low, demand has risen dramatically. Springbank doesn’t have to bother advertising their product anymore, nor do they attend Whisky shows and packaging isn’t necessary as well. It all sells itself. Where does it all go? US, Asia? Well, since this was the only normal buy in recent times, let’s see how the 10yo is doing…

Color: Clear light gold.

Nose: Cardboard and fruity. Slightly creamy and nutty. Recognizable Campbeltown oily funk. A memory of peat, but it is most definitely not up front. Cleaner than I remember other Springbank 10yo’s to be, like for instance the 2003 and 10/342 (2010) editions, yet in the greater scheme of Whisky, clean this is not. Somewhat dusty and waxy. Peaches with a hint of banana, maybe some apricots and a wee backbone of something smoky. A lighter and fruitier take on the 10yo. Sweet fruit yoghurt with more dust and fresh almonds (without their skins). Sometimes I pick up on faint pine resin and/or camphor, or do I fool myself? Band-aids are another strange note that sometimes whiffs by. Very well balanced though. Springbank is just such a good distillery. Amazing smelling 10yo again. As often with Springbank, give it time to breathe. Oxidation is almost always Springbank’s friend. After sipping it for a while, a more green and leafy note emerges adding a little bit to the complexity of this Malt. This is very nice for an affordable 10yo, still one of the best you can get, but wait a minute, before you get carried away, how does it taste?

Taste: Nutty again. Because here there is more wood upfront, it seems less fruity. Very tasty but also a bit thin and rather simple (the nose shows more complexity), still, the balance is here, as well as it is in the taste. However, I expected something more oily or fatty, at least the feel of that, because the oily taste is present, yet the texture isn’t. This is also not very warming going down, so I guess this is more a summer type of Whisky. After swallowing you can pinpoint quite a sharp (woody) bitter note in your mouth, that doesn’t go away for a while. It actually tastes like less than 46% ABV (more like 40% ABV). So the rather thin texture doesn’t help the Whisky along. Nevertheless, this a highly drinkable Malt. Where in the start the wood was masking the fruit a bit, I’m happy to report this has a nice and fruity finish that carries well into the aftertaste (along with the creamy bits).

This isn’t one of the best batches of the 10yo around, yet if I would find myself stranded on a sunny deserted island with a case of this, it still is one of the best you could wish for in a situation like that. Other than that, this is a decent and pretty straightforward and as mentioned earlier, highly drinkable Malt. Just don’t decide for yourself how this one is right after opening the bottle, this really needs some time to properly open up, like most Springbanks do. Drink this too fast is not a good idea, just give it time, put it on your shelf for a day or two without a cork (mind the fruit flies) and you will be rewarded. As said this is definitely not the best batch of the 10yo, but there is still enough here to have fun with or grow a fondness for. I did.

Points: 85 (almost 86)

Lagavulin 12yo (56.5%, OB, Special Release, Refill Casks, 2021)

All of a sudden summer is over (on my side of the planet anyway) and now we are in this, still sunny, yet colder autumn season. After the 13yo Aberlour, I was planning to do another Aberlour review, yet a human can be very predictable. A change of season and the body started to crave some…peat! All of a sudden I found myself reaching for peated Malts. So no Aberlour, let’s do a Lagavulin in stead. Don’t worry, the Aberlour will surface eventually. Back to the Lagavulin at hand. More than ten years ago… wait a minute, I have to let that sink in for a while… ten years. Wow! Well in 2012 I did the last review of a Lagavulin 12yo Special Release, in that case the 2007 edition. These special releases continue to be very good, so I have no reason whatsoever to believe this might be any different. Well, Master Quill is still around and the 12yo Lagavulin is still around as well. So without further ado, let’s dip into this Lagavulin straight away.

Color: Pale White Wine.

Nose: Sweet and soft peat and delicate smoke. This is somewhere between rough and elegant. Fruity with citrus, apple (Calvados), very soft vanilla, some iodine and a somewhat milky acidity I got from the 8yo and the 10yo as well as, to a lesser extent, in the 9yo GoT and the 11yo Offerman editions (all three of them actually). Initially this resembles new make a bit and gives this Malt a youthful edge. However, luckily I might add, in here this milky note is much less pronounced than in the other two/four/six Lagavulin’s I mentioned. Yes this one is again slightly older, but also bottled at cask strength, and this probably makes a difference as well. I don’t like this milky characteristic in Lagavulin. For me Lagavulin is dropping the ball with these newer expressions, and unfortunately this element is now becoming apparent in this 12yo Special Release as well. I hear some rumours of Lagavulin overcooking for a higher yield if that makes any sense? Maybe 2008/2009 is some sort of pivotal point for Lagavulin, trying too hard to meet demand? After some breathing this milky note, dissipates or maybe my nose gets used to it and doesn’t smell it any more. (I tried it again later and the milky bit is gone. Pouring me a new one brings it back, so nothing wrong with my nose after all). A short while later, the nose (of the Whisky, not my nose) becomes more balanced. Still fruity and sweet (and youthful), with added dishwater and warm plastic (both fitting the whole). Quite prickly clean smoke and tarry licorice. A slightly spicy smoke maybe, crushed beetle and the tiniest hint of oak, late saltiness and iodine again. It smells refined and this is definitely not your hard hitting peated Whisky. I will have to compare this one to a Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength in the future, as well as to the previous version of the 12yo Special Release.

Taste: Again sweet and fruity on entry, but also quite creamy and right out of the gate again quite youthful. A very friendly rendition this time. Not a hard in your face Malt, lacking even any bitterness from the wood. Some well integrated smoke, licorice and ashes. Tarry rope, sweet mint (Menthos) and salty. After all that fruit I didn’t expect all these Islay notes any more, but it’s still here. Lacks a bit of development and complexity, although un-complex it is not. The whole is more a banks of the Thames kind of Whisky than shores of Islay, and that probably isn’t a coincidence, but probably by design. Ashes, some iodine and wet marshland wood. Nope, not a lot of wood in this one. Part of these casks must have been at least second refills or otherwise somewhat inactive. The colour seems to suggest that as well, because it is quite pale for a Diageo bottling, a company know for their love for chill filtering and caramel colouring. Still very balanced and equally tasty though. The quality is on a slippery slope, but I still do like it, yet in a different way than I used to with these 12yo’s. It’s tasty and highly drinkable. Every aroma is neatly stacked upon another, like blocks of Lego. And every block is clear of a different colour and easily discernable. This Lagavulin is definitely more minty and modern. Still a nice expression though, just different. No need for water, but feel free to do so. The finish is of medium length and balanced throughout. No bad markers at all, apart from the milky youth bit mentioned above. The finish is sweet and smoky, the aftertaste is medium at best, warming, fruity and ever so slightly smoky. A good way to remember it, because the finish as well as the aftertaste don’t contain the questionable bits.

This is a friendly and tasty Malt, yet not exactly the high quality we are used to for the 12yo Special Release. It doesn’t even feel like a 12yo (it feels younger). Maybe lacks some strength, but in part it makes up for this with its accessibility and likeability throughout. Still good stuff but comparing it, from memory, to the 2007, it definitely is a different puppy altogether, which can be good, since it gives us another choice, and a way to match the Lagavulin 12yo Special Release to your mood. A good reason to have several editions open at the same time, if you needed one. However it unfortunately is also a bad thing, since I feel the quality is also a bit less. I worry about the future (in general as well as for the 12yo Special Release). Nevertheless, this one will split opinions. People who know the Lagavulin 12yo’s from the past will not be impressed by this one whereas others might like the new friendlier direction, and will have no clue why I’m on about sliding quality. For me, even though I do recognize its faults, I also do quite like it (to a certain extent). I’m curious about how the next few editions will be.

Points: 87

Lagavulin 2006/2021 “Distillers Edition” (43%, OB, lgv.4/510)

Precisely one year ago (with one day to spare), I reviewed the Lagavulin Distillers edition that was bottled in 2018. Just recently this 2021 version came into my hands as part of a bottle share I did with friends. This particular bottle was a three way split, and yes it does keep the costs down, but also 1/3 rd of a bottle is really not all that much, so bottles like these have to be quickly reviewed before it is gone. Earlier reviews of Lagavulin Distillers Editions should show you this is sort of a fan favourite and at 43% a very drinkable affair as well. The quality of these being usually quite high and thus often eclipses the newer releases like the 8yo, the 9yo (Game of Thrones), the 10yo and the 11yo (Offerman Edition). Prices are steadily rising as well, and in some markets the Distillers Editions are quite expensive already, but what luxury good isn’t these days…

Color: Copper orange gold (caramel coloured).

Nose: The soft peat comes out first, along with a fresh citrussy and medicinal note, as well as some dish-water and almonds, a funky combination. Fatty, waxy and quite creamy, fruity as well. Soft overall. Chewy and toffee-like, thus sweet with some smoke, fruity in general and hints of toasted bread (with Nutella) and stale bread crumbs. Minty chocolate. This edition seems softer and more friendly than some other editions, like the 2018 edition. The 2018 edition had quite some iodine right up front, which seems to be lacking here, or is much more subdued, in this 2021 edition. This 2021 has many traits of PX (the second maturation), so I guess the PX plays a bigger role in this particular edition. more hints of cold dishwater and now paper (old fragrant cardboard). Overall quite sweet smelling, making it a more toned down version, softer, “rounder” and less Islay. After a while, a more prickly bit of smoke comes to the front. Licorice and Bassett’s Allsorts are noticeable all way through the entire nose. Nice balance (in the nose). However what I will remember most from this 2021 edition is how it smells of the promise of sweetness. Sugared cherries, toffee and PX. Maybe in this particular edition they used somewhat more caramel colouring? Most aroma’s seem to be glued together, which is something caramel colouring can do to a Whisky. I have to keep this in mind when tasting…

Taste: Quite sweet on entry, watery (thin), yet warming going down. Ashy with again quite some licorice and vanilla and some more ashes. Crushed beetle (got that in the nose as well). The PX sweetness is quite cloying and makes up this 2021 Distillers Edition. Toffee and wine gums. A bit too sweet I guess (for a Lagavulin DE). Chewy smoke, yet all slightly unbalanced (on the palate). As in the nose, the taste is homogenized by the addition of caramel colouring. I’m not sure, but I’ve never had as much of this in a Lagavulin DE, as in this one, just keep in mind I haven’t got around (yet) to taste all of them. After a while, oak, toasted cask and the licorice and smoke break right through the cover of sweetness. A bit of an unexpected fruity aftertaste and a minty feel stays behind in the centre of my tongue.

This one is definitely bigger and sweeter than the Offermann Edition. The Offermann seems more refined and is overpowered by the sweetness of this Distillers Edition, so I wouldn’t recommend trying both head to head. What is noticeable though is that 46% is a much better ABV than 43%, I hope, but I don’t think it will ever happen, to have the Distillers Edition @ 46% ABV as well (and again some more Lagavulin and some less PX). The balance got a bit tipped this time around. Definitely not my favourite expression of all Lagavulin Distillers Editions, although it still is a tasty bugger. In the end, the 2021 Distillers Edition scores exactly the same as the Game of Thrones Edition, and to be fair, I’ve had quite some (unexpected) fun with that one as well. So in this case, I would suggest to pick up the Game of Thrones Edition instead of the 2021 Distillers Edition, since the former costs quite a bit less. A lot of other editions of the Distillers Editions are definitely better than the aforementioned Games of Thrones Edition though, just have a look at the 2018 Edition or especially the 2002 Edition. Not all Distillers Editions are created equal. Amen to that.

Points: 86