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!
Dram data: Distillery: Tamnavulin Bottler: official bottling Distilled: – Bottled: ca. 2005 Age: 12 Limitation: – Cask: oak Alcohol: 40% colouring added / chill filtered Whiskybase link
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…
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
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!
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
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…
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
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 …
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
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…
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
Who doesn’t like whisky samples? Okay, most would probably prefer full-size bottles, but for most of us mere mortal lovers of the amber nectar, samples are a great thing.
We collect samples at festivals, we bring back home unfinished drams from tastings, we swap them with friends, we get them for free or we stash a way hidden liquid treasures of times gone by. Some of us might even keep an archive – a liquid sample library of all the bottles we’ve ever opened. Is there a whisky lover out there who doesn’t have samples?
I am a sample hoarder. I have brought back samples from my Scotland trips, from tastings, festivals and meetings with friends. I also keep a liquid library. I even bought a huge archive of 6 cl samples from one entire year’s worth of entries into the Malt Maniacs Awards when they were sold by a friend for a good cause.
Needless to say, in total that’s a LOT of sample bottles kicking around, stashed away, waiting to be discovered “someday”. And so late last year I made the decision to do something about the “backlog” and start drinking and enjoying my samples. What I did not expect was how mixed my experiences would be.
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 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)
It’s a few months after the 2016 Malt Maniacs awards. I’m sitting in Keith Wood’s den and we’re talking about the whiskies I’ve helped decant into sample bottles just a few months earlier. “You know, it would be interesting if we did a vertical tasting together and publish both our notes at the same time.” One of obvious candidates is Talisker, since there are no less than six expressions that were entered into the awards. A plan is hatched, samples are filled – and about a year (or so) later, the day is finally here: A vertical tasting of the following six Talisker Expressions: Skye, Storm, Dark Storm, Port Ruighe, 10 yo, 18 yo. Let’s do this!
Dram data: Distillery: Springbank
Bottler: Official Bottling
Distilled: February 2005
Age: 13 years
Limitation: 1096 bottles
Casks: Refill Port
uncoloured / unchillfiltered Whiskybase link
Longrow. The heavily peated spirit produced at the quirky Springbank distillery in “wee toon” Campbeltown. Bottled for their 2018 whisky festival. What could possibly go wrong…?
Colour: red gold
The nose has a slight alcoholic punch to it at the beginning – no wonder, looking at the strength. Beneath the alcohol rich, dark goodness awaits. We’ve got dried dates, dried figs, dried plums and a few raisins on top served on a spicy, peat smoked oak platter garnished with allspice, cloves, tangerine peel and ginger. The slightest whiff of sulphur came and went quickly, a bit longer lasting is a whiff of the Campbeltown dunnage warehouse funkiness (some might call it dark chocolate…). Rather lovely start. Let’s move on to the palate!