Lagavulin 1997, 21yo, 56.6% – OB for Boris, Floris, Bram, Sebastian, Ronny, Rolf


Image from Whiskybase

I don’t know four of the six people mentioned in the title, but the other two (Bram and Floris) are the guys behind WhiskyNerds, and fellow Usquebaugh Society club members. What I also know is that they’ve bottled some amazing casks in the past, with me having fond memories of their GlenDronach, Springbank and Inchmurrins (obviously, I’m forgetting some, but so be it).

They sent me a sample of this for reviewing a week or two ago, and I finally had the time and attention to give it what it deserves: an hour or quiet, in which to properly assess this whisky, instead of scribbling down some quick notes.

I’m not going into too much else for Lagavulin, the brand is well known to and loved by many whisky drinkers. I spent a morning there in April in which we did an amazing tasting with Iain ‘Pinkie’ McArthur. Highly recommended if you randomly find yourself on the Queen of the Hebrides.


Image from Whiskybase

Oily and diesel-like. Lots of thick, engine smoke. Rosemary, thyme and acorns. Pine needles and wood. Some salinity and coastal scents, like washed up wood drying in the sun.

The palate is less sharp and smoother than I expected. Syrupy sweetness, with some pepper, lots of oak and acorns. Herbaceous with thyme sprigs and a bitter hint of twigs. Some salinity and iodine flavors too, with more drying oak.

In the finish, the diesel like smoke starts coming through before it becomes a lot more smooth. It’s a bit fresher and more crisp than before. Still heavy, it’s Lagavulin after all, but more like a windy walk on the beach than earlier.

Apart from the price of a bottle, this is an amazing whisky. Absolutely stunning and quite likely to become my whisky of the year (I’ve not tried that supposedly awesome Adelphi Mortlach yet).

I love that it’s so light on the sweetness and doesn’t show the typical fruits that come with more generic Lagavulin (the tea and oranges kind). It represents the surrounding area of Lagavulin, with coastal notes and the rocky, grassy shoreline.


Lagavulin 1997-2018, 21 years old, 56.6%, ‘Select Cask’ by Lagavulin, for Boris, Floris, Bram, Sebastian, Ronny and Rolf. It’s going to cost around € 1500 a pop.

Much obliged to Bram and Floris for sending a sample!

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Have you ever tasted Loch Ewe?

Tom van Engelen found another weird sample in his cupboard and decided to write about it. At some length, as we’ve come to expect.

Fun additional fact: The Loch Ewe Distillery and the accompanying hotel appear to be for sale for an estimated £ 750.000. The amount is a rough estimate, since it’s the only object in at least Scotland that combines an insanely run-down hotel, with a tiny distillery and license.

One of the most beautiful experiences of visiting Scotland was a daytrip I made in the summer of 2007. On the 20th of July, to be exact. We left the B&B in Dornie, where we had a view on beautiful Eilean Donan Castle, and set course for Ullapool up north. On route I saw landscapes I will never forget, passing through long glens and past beautiful lochs like Loch Maree and Loch Ewe. That is where we made a stop to visit a novelty. The Loch Ewe Distillery was an interesting project in this most rural of rural parts in Scotland. It involved an old loophole in an Act dating back to 1786 to operate the distillery. The loophole was repaired straight after owner John Clotworthy got permission to distill in smaller stills than are prescribed in Scotland.

We visited there and were in awe of the fantastic whisky bar, and also had a look inside “the cave”. We even bottled our own Loch Ewe spirit. Because of the small outturn, I don’t believe the spirit ever reach the 3 year threshold. In my sample drawer I found the 100 ml bottle I filled by hand myself and decided, for the sake of your amusement, to taste it.

Spirit of Loch Ewe, distilled 4 July 2007, bottled on 20 July 2007 at 57,2% abv

After 11 years in a 100 ml sample bottle it did not lose intensity. Strong and fruity new make feel, so an overload of little oranges/mandarins. It’s actually very pleasant, as far as new make spirits go this is a fine example. A very small pot still will do that for you. With water even more alive.

Quite oily and thick on the tongue and a light fizzy feel like taking a sip of Fanta. The orange feeling sticks to the palate. It’s actually not that bad. Water totally ruins it, the whole context is gone, probably because there is none yet after 16 days of maturing in a small cask.

Now the finish is rather harsh and reminds me of beer, which I really don’t like in a whisky. With water the fruit comes out but chaos rules supreme.

Score: 67 points.

I have tasted 12 year old single malts which were more boring than this one. As it
stands, Loch Ewe spirit is definitely a worthy member of the whisky family, albeit in the far corner of the spectrum. I love the charm of the idea and drinking this stuff again was a nice experience.

To finish this session with another spirit, I went back into my drawer and found this, also from 2007:

Kilchoman spirit 2 years old “Anticipation” from cask 05/2007 at 62,6% abv


Image from Whiskybase

Nice and crispy malt with a huge deal of smoke. This smells like a drive up to the farm
distillery. The lands, the little inland lochs, but also the beach at Machir Bay where the Atlantic Ocean crushes down on the sand. In fact, now I think of it, me and 4 other whiskynerds cracked open the bottle where this sample comes from on that beach. It’s perfect, that’s why we bought a bottle, for 27 pounds.

Surprisingly light and gentle. Not much taste yet, but a nice and oily mouthfeel. A little vanilla and dark dry chocolaty taste. Amazing stuff. This predicted the future Kilchoman is having now.

A young peater is always a hit for me. Even at this high alcohol is does nothing to scare me away. It’s lovely and strong and full of character already. So mighty and balanced, it makes me in awe of how well put together Kilchoman is.

Score: 80 points for power, character and balance.

This is good whisky, even when it is still spirit. Wonderful!

About Tom van Engelen

I’m a writer in a variety of fields and have a soft spot for whisky, mainly malt, mainly from Scotland. In other times I enjoyed a stint as editor-in-chief of one of the first whisky magazines in the world. When not sipping a good glass I like to write some more, read, watch 007 movies or listen Bowie music. I’m engaged to Dasha, I have a sweet daughter and I live somewhere between the big rivers in the middle of The Netherlands.

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The Whisky Exchange Christmas Malt, Glenfarclas, 17yo, 58.7%

Christmas Malt 2.jpgYesterday a brand new sample arrived from The Whisky Exchange. It was their Christmas Malt for the upcoming festive season. According to their own press release it is “a 17-year-old Speyside from the canonical mystery family-owned distillery”. 

Quite a clear statement for anyone that’s even just slightly informed regarding undisclosed Speyside distilleries. Also, the Oloroso sherry casks hint at a certain trend from said distillery.

The information regarding the bottle was embargoed until this morning, which generally means two things: Keep quiet about it until then. But also: We’d love for you to publish your stuff exactly then, to get some traction. I’m not known for being a compliant guy, but let’s try this for a change!

Christmas Malt.jpgSniff:
Rich and somewhat earthy sherry. Lots of tropical fruit, with peaches and dates. A gentle bit of oak. The cold soil of dunnage warehouses.

After a minute or so, there’s suddenly a lot more barley and slightly yeasty scents. Slightly funky even, not unlike English ale.

Sweet and quite strong at first. Some peppery heat with dry oak. There’s a lot of fruit too but less sweet than on the nose. Barley, barley sugar, oak, peaches and plums. It gets more syrupy later on.

A sweet, syrupy and smooth finish. Loads of tropical fruits. A lot more gentle than expected.

So, while this is not a very surprising whisy from Glenfarclas, it is a rather good one. It doesn’t really do things that you don’t expect, although the barley and gentle yeasty, wash like flavors are not THAT common either. In my book, this means they’ve selected a very good cask, which shows a bit of the distillate, but also enough character from the quality casks used.


The Whisky Exchange Christmas Malt, Glenfarclas, 17yo, 58.7%, available for 75 pounds.

Thanks to The Whisky Exchange for supplying the sample!

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Glenallachie 10, 2007-2017, 64.7% – Adelphi

This sample is a fairly random one I found in my collection after ordering something from Also, it is only the second Glenallachie from Adelphi ever, according to Whiskybase.

I find that kind of surprising, but I guess that means that I’m not the only one with some distilleries just not ‘on my radar’.

Glenallachie hasn’t gotten much press over the years apart from it being taken over by Billie Walker, after he sold BenRiach, GlenDronach and GlenGlassaugh to Brown-Forman. I guess that means that Glenallachie now is spelled GlenAllachie.

Anyway, a ridiculously strong whisky, from a refill sherry butt (number 900828). Bottled last year after being in oak for 10 years.


Image from Whiskybase

Dry, Oloroso sherry. Dark dried fruits, plums and dates, with the slight bitterness of the stones. Quite some oak, with a certain earthiness like in dunnage warehouses.

Sharp, lots of alcohol heat and a battering of oak. The oak is meant in a good way, because it’s quite well integrated for a just 10 year old. Bitterness with fruit stones. Plums, dark cherries, dates. Dry, fruity with a light funk of oloroso.

The finish is warm and oaky with lots of sherry. Sweeter, and nuttier than before. Big stuff, this.

I did not expect this. I expected some too young, too harsh and too strong whisky. While this might be too strong, it does so in a rather well integrated way where it is at least not nonsensical.

The sherry is big, fruity and rather dark. The oak adds quite a bit of bitterness, which I love. Very good stuff this!


Glenallachie, 2007-2017, 10 years old, Refill Sherry Butt 900828, 64.7%, Adelphi.

Available from Whiskysite for € 100, and samples from Dramtime for (a very decent) € 9.50

Thanks to Dramtime for the sample!

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Aberlour 16, 1997-2013, 51.2% – Distillery Only

Somehow, Aberlour is not a distillery I get to try a lot of. There aren’t a lot of independent bottlers compared to some others, and their official range is quite static. A few age statements and their A’bunadh (an awesome dram though).

I have also never toured the distillery, which generally puts them firmly on my map, or pushes them further down the ladder. I did visit the visitor’s center a couple of years ago, when we drove past it with no time for a proper tour. I also picked up a bottle of their distillery only whisky, but haven’t opened it yet.

Then I got this sample, and decided to try it when on holiday two weeks ago. Boy was I not disappointed.


Image from Whiskybase

Whoa! There’s a ‘hint of cheese’ on the nose. It quickly wanes, so ‘volatile cheese’. Texmex, the day after…

Anyway, big bourbon, thick with golden syrup, but also a hint of grapefruit. A fairly beery, ‘Belgian’ style. It goes big on the grapefruit, with slightly herbaceous hints too.

More gentle than I expected. Lots of citrus notes, but not as singular and identifiable as on the nose. A hops like resin like note. Some golden syrup.

More bourbon like notes of vanilla, autumn leaves, some coconut, dry oak and resin here. Slightly waxy even.

Oh, but this is fantastic. That hit of cheese at first was weird, but that was gone in a minute. Big, bold flavors with lots of depth and intrigue.

The strange thing is that Aberlour is very well known for their sherry casks, but their bourbon casks deserve as much attention if this is the level they’re at! I guess the distillery warrants further exploration, since this stuff is amazing.

And, that off note on the nose actually adds to the experience and complexity. I’m still glad it was gone fairly quickly, though!


Aberlour 1997-2013, 16 years old, Bourbon cask 3973, 51.2%. Available only at the distillery, back in the day.

Thanks to PO for sharing the sample!

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Benromach 12, 40%

With my family and I being on holiday in Scotland, in Findhorn, I had to pick some nice drams for the evenings. I might sound weird to bring whisky to Scotland, but with prices there and here, and with there being quite enough whisky in my possession already, it seemed the best choice.

Findhorn is quite near Forres, and in Forres there is the Benromach distillery. While that’s a great distillery to visit, I didn’t this time since I already toured it in 2015, and this wasn’t a whisky trip.

However, my friend and (almost) neighbour RvB brought me a sample of Benromach 12 years old, distilled under the old regime, with the old label on it. Of course, that was a good one to pick for a night (or afternoon) in front of the fireplace. It’s not often I drink whiskies at 40% nowadays…


Image from Whiskybase

Slightly cloying with lots of ripe and overripe fruit. Tropical fruits like banana and mango. Sweet barley and a whiff of smoke.

The palate is gentle, but also a bit more bland than expected. Big fruits, lots of sweetness, slightly too ripe and therefore a bit funky. In a good way.

Gentle and soft. Pulpy wood, sweet fruit, overripe mango, banana. Big flavors.

The notes are slightly on the short side and, knowing Benromach, there are more flavors to find. However, I had been writing shitloads of reviews during the week and I got tired of it.

Anyway, it’s a very nice whisky, and especially for an entry level dram for a distillery. I think there’s a lot worse out there, especially in the ‘youngest from the distillery’ range. The palate is where you notice it’s only 40% and that’s were the dram falls a bit flat. However, it’s still very enjoyable.

Of course, as with all Benromach whiskies out there, they have to compete against the current 10 year old, and its 100 proof brother. Those are so, so good that they just can’t seem to be beaten.


Benromach 12, 40%

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Dallas Dhu 1981-2005, 24yo, 58.3% – Duncan Taylor

20181022_130900With my family and I being on holiday in Scotland, in Findhorn, I had to pick some nice drams for the evenings. I might sound weird to bring whisky to Scotland, but with prices there and here, and with there being quite enough whisky in my possession already, it seemed the best choice.

Findhorn is quite near Forres, and in Forres there used to be the Dallas Dhu distillery. Technically it is still there, but it hasn’t been in production for ages. But, bringing a Dallas Dhu sample sounded like a good choice. Yes, there will also be a Benromach review soon.

Dallas Dhu is quite a rare whisky with not much of a following. It’s been converted into a museum in the 1980s and has been quite well kept. The whisky, however, has become increasingly rare. Unlike some other closed Diageo distilleries (Port Ellen, Brora, Rosebank) it’s not demanding record prices, although it is going up too.


We tried to visit the museum and show the kids how daddy’s lemonade is made, but even though the sign said it was open from 10 to 4 or so, it was closed at 1.30. We only had a walk around and went back to our cottage after.

Anyway, in my stash I had a sample of 1981 Dallas Dhu. Not only one of the last years it was in production, but also my year of birth, so a double whammy. Thanks MvZ!


Image from Whiskybase

A dusty, chalky scent with sawdust, icing sugar and grist. Some corky apple and a bit of a more generic ‘orchard fruit gone off’ scent.

A lot stronger than the scent makes you expect. Apples, barley, a lot of light oak. A hint of white wine like flavors, but stronger.

A long finish that’s full of bourbon cask. Orchard fruits, oak, quite gentle, some grapes, minerals, slate.

A very unsurprising Dallas Dhu. I’ve not reviewed many of them, but they all seem to be in the same wheel house. Gentle flavors with a powerful punch to drive them home. This one is exactly as you’d expect it if you give it some thought (I didn’t and only just now realize how consistent they must have been).

Having said that, I do think this whisky is a bit too strong for the flavors it brings. I think, in hindsight this could have done with some water. There’s a risk of spoiling it, because these gently flavored whiskies tend to be watered down too quickly. They don’t swim well.


Dallas Dhu 1981-2005, 24yo, 58.3%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld


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