Three new laddies on the block: Bruichladdich Organic 2010, Islay Barley 2011 and Bere Barley 2010

Not one, not two, but three samples landed on my desk this week – and they share a common theme: “Barley exploration series” by Islay’s Bruichladdich distillery. This year they’ve bottled an organic whisky from 2010, produced with organic malt from Mid Coul farms in Inverness, an Islay barley release from 2011, grown by six different farms on the island, and, finally a Bere barley release distilled in 2010 from the ancient barley ancestor Bere, sourced from Orkney. All releases are bottled at a relatively young age, 7 or 8 years and were matured without fancy experimental casks in order to let the spirit shine. The cask makeup is not entirely the same, though, with the Organic and Bere release being fully ex-bourbon matured, while the Islay Barley does feature 25% ex-wine European oak casks, making a direct comparison of the barley influence between all three of them difficult.

It is extremely difficult to quantify the influence of “terroir” in whisky – in other words, the influence of the barley and its heritage. There are also the influences by malting, mashing, distilling, maturation, the casks used and the age of the whisky. While technically we don’t have an equal lineup where only the grain used is the differentiating factor, there is one of these three samples that stands out: Bere. It is drastically different as a grain, at one point it was responsible for breaking the distillery’s ancient mash tun – back when they used Bere grown on Islay. Bere is also different in one other aspect: Nose and taste. The influence on the spirit is remarkable, noticeably different from modern distilling barley varieties. This became apparent when I tasted an earlier release a while ago – will I be able to pick out the distinct Bere influence again? We shall see!

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Tasting: Tamnavulin 12 years Single Malt bottled ca. 2005

Tamnavulin? This Speyside distillery is probably unknown to all but the most devoted whisky drinkers. It’s not a malt you will find in supermarkets, most of the output is used in Blended Whisky production – probably mostly by owners Whyte & Mackay. It’s not a desirable whisky for collectors and not too often featured by independent bottlers.
So why did I pick up a bottle at auction recently? Well, it was cheap-ish and a bottle that had been sitting around for a couple of years judging from the label and the condition of the tin with a bit of rust. I would guess it was bottled around 2005 or not too long after that – the year when the 12-year-old expression was officially launched. Basically this malt piqued my curiosity as to what kind of quality of spirit went into bottle roughly 10-15 years ago before the current explosion in whisky production. Well, this and the fact that I’ve actually never tried a Tamnavulin before… I needed to change that!

Tamnavulin 12 years Single Malt bottled ca. 2005

Dram data:
Distillery: Tamnavulin
Bottler: official bottling
Distilled: –
Bottled: ca. 2005
Age: 12
Limitation: –
Cask: oak
Alcohol: 40%
colouring added / chill filtered
Whiskybase link

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Tasting: Springbank 1994-2019 24-year-old by Cadenhead’s

Springbank 1994-2019 24-year-old by Cadenhead's

Every year, independent bottler Cadenhead’s gets to select one cask of Springbank whisky to bottle under their own name – and they have to pay their parent company, which owns Springbank distillery, for it. This year, the winner out of apparently 37 casks was a 24-year old Springbank, distilled back in 1994 and matured in a refill ex-bourbon barrel. Must’ve been one heck of a barrel with an outturn of 312 bottles. Maybe it was married and re-racked at some point?
This whisky was featured as one of the drams in the “Director’s Cut” tasting at the Campbeltown Malts Festival this year as a preview and I brought the drample back home with me for a proper assessment.
So, what do you expect from this whisky? Nothing but the best, right? Let’s verify that…

Springbank 1994-2019 24-year-old by Cadenhead's

Dram data:
Distillery: Springbank
Bottler: Cadenhead’s
Distilled: 1994
Bottled: 2019
Age: 24 years
Limitation: 312 bottles
Cask: refill barrel
Alcohol: 50,8%
no colouring added / not chill filtered
Whiskybase link

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Tasting: (Glen) Ord 14 yo 2005 – 2019 by Cadenhead’s

Ord – sometimes also referred to as “Glen Ord” is a rather unknown distillery. There are no official bottlings – well, almost. Owners Diageo bottle it in their very confusing (and mostly underwhelming) “Singleton” line of malts – the same branding is used for three different distilleries and each version is only available in a specific market. Way back when (Glen) Ord was bottled under its own name with an age statement it happened to be my first bottle of Single Malt. Now if I could only remember if it was the 8 or the 12 yo… Anyway, as my first proper single malt, this big – and since massively expanded – distillery has a special place in my heart. Cadenhead’s recently released a 14-year-old expression in their Summer 2019 batch 2 and the folks at the Vienna shop were kind enough to provide me with a miniature. Let’s give it a taste and see if I will part with some of my hard-earned money to pick up a full-size bottle!

(Glen) Ord 14 yo 2005 – 2019 by Cadenhead’s

Dram data:
Distillery: Ord
Bottler: Cadenhead’s
Distilled: 2005
Bottled: Summer 2019
Age: 14 yo
Limitation:
Cask: bourbon hogshead
Alcohol: 54,8%
no colouring added / not chill filtered
Whiskybase link

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Tasting: Ardbeg 1993 25 years old by Cadenhead’s

Ardbeg 1993 25 years old by Cadenhead's

Ardbeg. One of those distilleries I have a love/hate relationship with. I’m rather fond of the distillery itself and the base distillate they produce but I’m less than enthusiastic about the over-the-top branding with all the flannel and the special releases, it just doesn’t appeal to me. These days I might get a bottle of the still very good TEN every once in a blue moon when it’s on sale but I ignore the rest. That also includes independently bottled Ardbegs. At one point Ardbeg was a distillery you HAD to buy casks of if you wanted casks from one of the higher-valued distilleries in their owner’s portfolio. These days independently owned casks are rare, sought after and priced accordingly. In my opinion and experience, the only somewhat sanely priced bottler of Ardbeg remains Cadenhead’s – and even their current prices are above what I’m personally willing to pay. So I guess this is already sold out in most markets but thanks to the shop in Vienna (who miraculously still seem to have stock, according to their website, at the time of writing) I was sent a wee sample to have a wee nose and taste…

Ardbeg 1993 25 years old by Cadenhead's

Dram data:
Distillery: Ardbeg
Bottler: Cadenhead’s
Distilled: 1993
Bottled: 2019
Age: 25 years
Limitation: 216 bottles
Cask: Hogshead
Alcohol: 51,6%
uncoloured / not chill filtered
Whiskybase link

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Tasting: Strathisla 1965 50 yo bottled 2016 by Gordon & MacPhail

Strathisla 1965 50 yo bottled 2016 by Gordon & MacPhail

Usually we as a human race like to have special drinks (Champagne, Wine, Whisky) to celebrate special events. And then there’s the opposite: Letting a fine drink create a special event. I’ve been holding on to this sample of 50 year-old, sherry-matured Strathisla from Speyside for quite a while now. Let’s see if will succeed at creating a special occasion …

Strathisla 1965 50 yo bottled 2016 by Gordon & MacPhail

Dram data:
Distillery: Strathisla
Bottler: Gordon & MacPhail
Distilled: 09.12.1965
Bottled: 20.01.2016
Age: 50 years
Limitation: 418 bottles
Cask: First Fill Sherry Puncheon
Alcohol: 43%
Uncoloured
Whiskybase link

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Tasting: Springbank 22 yo 1996 by Claxton’s

Tasting: Springbank 22 yo 1996 by Claxton's

When I saw that Serge over at Whiskyfun HQ published a review of this whisky today, I remembered I still had half a sample from a tweet tasting in late 2018 sitting around waiting to be reviewed. So I didn’t read his notes beforehand in order not to influence myself too much and now it’s time to stick my nose in – taking my time to properly review this outside of the rush and typing frenzy that usually accompany tweet tastings. Men can’t multitask, ya know 😉

Tasting: Springbank 22 yo 1996 by Claxton's

Dram data:
Distillery: Springbank
Bottler: Claxton’s
Distilled: 10.05.1996
Bottled: 04.09.2018
Age: 22
Limitation: 249 bottles
Cask: Bourbon Hogshead
Alcohol: 55%
uncoloured / not chill filtered
Whiskybase link

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Getting fooled by Glenfiddich – a blind tasting of three whiskies

Glenfiddich blind tasting by Peter Moser

I love blind tastings. They are a great way to make a huge fool of yourself. Ahem. Okay, let’s try this again. I love blind tastings. They are very educational and let you focus on the whisky without any preconceptions. A prime example of this was last year at a blind tasting at the Campbeltown whisky festival where I rated an Inchmurrin highest and a Littlemill lowest. Would I have scored them the same if I had known beforehand what the were? I hope so – but can’t say for sure!

Peter Moser, who runs the German-speaking whisky site fosm.de has invited me to take part in his blind tasting sets for the last few rounds – which have always yielded very interesting, sometimes sobering results. For round seven in his series, he sent us three samples, labelled #1-3 and with very little clues other than it being a big distillery in the process of reinventing itself and all of the samples being from the same distillery. In the end, the distillery turned out to be Glenfiddich. No, I did not guess that correctly but I was close-ish At least that’s what I tell myself… That has to count, right?

Now, for the full dose of public humiliation and poking fun at myself on my own site I’ll reveal the three drams – complete with translations of my original tasting notes:

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Tasting: Tomatin 30 yo

Tomatin 30 yo

Sometimes you open, enjoy and share a bottle and completely forget to review it. This alsmost happened with this 30-year-old Tomatin. Originally opened for my 30th birthday it has become better and better through oxidation over the years. I guess now is the time to finally officially review it before there’s nothing left – which should already give you a hint…

Tomatin 30 yo

Dram data:
Distillery: Tomatin
Bottler: official bottling
Distilled: –
Bottled: 11.02.2014
Age: 30 years
Limitation: –
Cask: European and American Oak casks
Alcohol: 46%
uncoloured / not chill filtered
Whiskybase link

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Dramming with Keith part two – aka Blair Athol and the case of the strange butts…

Blair Athol 1988 27 yo

Another set of samples from one distillery – Blair Athol in this case – are sitting on my desk and my e-mail inbox is full with conversations with Keith Wood. That can only mean one thing: A sequel to the first series where we tasted six different Talisker drams is in the works.

Four drams from this one distillery, all distilled just a few days apart in the year 1988 but matured in different casks (all of which were butts of different varieties) and bottled between 25 and 27 years of age, which should yield some rather interesting comparisons. All bottles were entered into the 2016 Malt Maniacs awards, so if you want to go ahead and compare our scores to the ones by the official judges, head over to this page.

Now, without further ado, let the best butt malt win.


Blair Althol 1988 25yo

Blair Athol 1988 25 yo

1988, 25y, 59.6% ABV
21.10.1988 – 3.7.2014 551 btls
Casks 6920 & 6924 Refill Sherry Butts
Signatory Vintage CS for GI Jane (Fortune Taiwan)

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