Michter’s US*1 Barrel Strength Rye, L15E492, 54.2%

Michter’s is a bit of a weird brand in the current whiskey world. On one hand it’s rather new and the more available bottlings aren’t overly impressive according to reviews. On the other hand everything that is slightly out of the ordinairy is way out there, especially in price.

Any ten year old bourbon from the brand starts at € 200 or so, the rye whiskies are a bit more cheap, luckily. And that’s what I was having last weekend. I was finishing my bottle even, after getting it in an auction in 2020 or so. Some samples were shared, as with most whiskies that make it to my doorstep in 70cl or above sizes.

Image from Whiskybase

Let’s just dive in, since I don’t know much about the brand, and random facts about rye whiskey can be looked up anywhere.

Sniff:
Lots of dark toast with a sort of bitter spicyness. Coffee beans, pumpkin seeds, both roasted. Freshly crushed black peppercorns. Ginger and cinnamon, there’s lots going on. Throughout it all is quite a strong scent of orange peels.

Sip:
Quite a lot of sharp pepper, rather hot. Far hotter than I expected. Apart from that there are a lot of other spicy notes. Burnt toast, pumpkin seeds, black pepper, orange zest, coffee beans. Maybe even some bitter cocoa.

Swallow:
The finish is slightly more sweet, and slightly less hot. Still quite some pepper, but the note of orange is more like juice instead of peels, which offsets the heat a bit. Lots of dark bread and spices still.

On one hand this is not the most rye focused rye whiskey, and generally I prefer them to be way more rye forward. There’s a sweetness, even a bit of a bourbon-like-ness. However, in this case that leaves a lot of room for flavors that might otherwise be overpowerd by the bitter and spicy rye notes.

So, while it’s pretty hot, there’s notes of pumpkin seeds, of coffee beans and oranges. All rather lovely indeed!

88/100

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Glendronach 12, 1963, 43%

Generally, what happens with samples that I have been saving for an at least somewhat special occassion, I forget who said samples came from. Normally, that’s a bit shameful but not too much of a deal. However, when the sample is a Glendronach distilled around the time your dad turned ten years old, it’s a bit of a thing…

So, on a side note before we get to more regular stuff that you’d find in reviews on this here blog, if this sample came from you, please let me know. And sorry for forgetting. BvdP, was this you?

Glendronach is a rather popular distillery with whisky geeks. Especially with whisky geeks who are big on the sherry matured highland whiskies. There have been some other cask maturations over the years, with a massive slew of virgin oak releases about a decade or so ago. However, this is from way before that happened.

This bottling is from the days that single malt wasn’t really a thing among most drinkers. Italy was a bit of an exception, for some reason, and a lot of single malt was imported there, to eventually end up in collections and later in auctions. This bottle is one of those whiskies that ended up at and Italian importer, then a collection and then an auction. Just to end up in someone else’s collection.

The major difference is that the last someone actually opened the bottle!

Currently Glendronach is owned by Brown-Forman, of Jack Daniel’s fame. Before that, it was owned by Billy Walker who more or less reinvented the brand and put it back in people’s line of sight. He did the same with BenRiach and later with GlenGlassaugh. After he sold these three brands the same recipe for success was applied to GlenAllachie, included mid-word-capitalization.

I’ve not had the opportunity to taste many Glendronachs from after the sale to Brown-Forman, but if their American portfolio is anything to go by, I would half expect it to start tasting like banana at some point.

Image from Whiskybase

Anyway, this one, is from yonder year. Properly ancient stuff. The ratings on Whiskybase reflect that, and I to expect there to be a bit of an uptick happening because of it being so old. Let’s dive in!

Sniff:
Very timid, with quite a lot of rich vanilla, porridge with barley sugar. There’s a lemony tang in the background to keep it interesting.

Sip:
A rich palate, with barley, oak and a touch of white pepper. Vanilla, sweet porridge and pound cake. Slightly waxy, and a bit of honey too.

Swallow:
The finish keeps the middle ground between the lemony nose and the sweeter, honeyed palate. Still quite sweet with vanilla and barley.

The richness is typical for the distillery, but it doesn’t taste as ‘old’ as I expected. I didn’t really know what to expect, but a bit of ‘old bottle effect’, some funkiness because of more erratic distillation than is currently the case, such things. That’s not really what is happening here.

Somehow it does have the typical Glendronach richness, but not the depth, the funkiness or any of these things typically associated with very old bottlings of single malt. I find that a bit of a shame, unfortunately. Apart from this actually being very old, it done taste very old.

Quite a likeable dram, though.

86/100

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Lowlands whiskies, their trouble, and an Ailsa Bay

From a regional perspective, as far as that is still a thing in Scotch whisky, the Lowlands are a strange one. If you regard the size of the regions it’s only second to the Highlands. But when it comes to distilleries it was pretty recent that there were only three distilleries left.

Some fifteen years ago (not an exact number) there were no Lowlands distilleries producing single malt whisky other than Bladnoch, Auchentoshan and Glenkinchie. All three have their issues, in my opinion. Thet’re not without their merits, but it’s a long shot from the glory days of St. Magdalene and Rosebank.

Currently there are some 22 distilleries in the same region (again, not an exact number). Many of which still have to come on steam or have started to release their inaugural bottles recently. Of course, as with everything Scotch, things are different then they were. Regional identity is one of those changed things, for example.

Some years ago, there was Islay, Highlands, Speyside, Lowlands and Campbeltown. Some counted the other ‘Islands’ as a separate region, but not everyone, and the distillery characters don’t support this argument either, so let’s leave it at that. The short list of regions had a rather simple list of default characteristics: Smoky, Spicy, Sweet, Floral and Funky.

Of course, this is a ridiculous simplification, but it was the thing that was used in the ‘introduction to Scotch’ tastings the world over. Currently, these characteristics don’t hold much merit to being a regional factor, since every region has their deviants, newer distilleries tend to do their own thing and be more idiosynractic, while older distilleries are trying to find more shelf space by diversifying. Whether or not that’s a good thing is an entirely different discussion.

Back to the point I was trying to make about the problem ‘The Lowlands’ has. From a historic perspective, they tend to be the lighter single malt whiskies from Scotland. Less bold flavors, floral, more timid and so on. There generally isn’t a massive sweetness, nor a huge helping of peat smoke or wood influence to help them along.

This makes their position awkward, since marketing your product at festivals is rather tough if people just came from the Ardbeg stand, or had more than a dram or three in general. The ‘average’ character of the whisky just can’t overcome the clunkiness that came before it.

HOWEVER! What I’ve found over the years is that these drams can be very rewarding if given the proper time and attention. Just chucking back a 1960s Rosebank at the end of a festival is going to leave you both poor and desillusioned, but if you give that same dram half an hour of time, it can very well be the best whisky you’ll have that year. Even at a festival.

Image from Whiskybase

Enter Ailsa Bay. Or at least, THIS Ailsa Bay. I’ve had some before that left me quite underwhelmed. Tasting notes to the one bottled by Duchess first. Explanation second.

Sniff:
A grassy and honeyed spirit, with a little helping of charry peat. Not smoky like Islay whiskies, there’s less of it and it’s a bit more woody. Honey, gorse, barley and a whiff of hay. There’s something minty too.

Sip:
There’s a bit of a salt and pepper bite initially, it tastes sharper than the 54-odd percent made me expect. Apart from that, there’s a thin layer of honey that gives way to hay, oak, heather and, surprisingly, no smokiness to speak of.

Swallow:
The finish mellows quickly, and gives a bit more room for the honey and flowery sweetness.

Much more ‘Lowlandy’ in style than I expected, and I think that’s a very good thing. The gentle smoky note gives it a nice extra layer. There’s quite enough to discover here!

I was a bit scared that this would be more like that other Ailsa Bay, generic, and without its own identity, but it is so much more than that!

This does, however, have that timidness that is so easily overwhelmed. It’s one to sit down with and sit down for, and then there’s is more than enough to discover, including a bit of that old fashioned regional style.

If you’d have a tasting and put this later in the line-up because of the ABV, it probably won’t work. Having said that, I really, really like this dram. A shame my part of the bottle-share has already gone…

88/100

Available at Best of Whiskies, for € 79. I’m very much considering to get myself another bottle.

Also: Yes, this is officially a blended malt. In this case especially, it sounds very much like a statement to make sure the distillery name is not on the label. But what eventually counts is what the booze tastes like and there’s zero problems with that!

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Glenlivet 1949-1980s, 40% – Gordon & MacPhail ‘George & J.G. Smith’s’

A while ago I got a surprise sample with an order from Best of Wines in Bussum. Apparently they had gotten some open bottles when buying a collection and this was one of them. If memory serves, that is.

Of course, a shop can’t do much with open bottles, especially during Covid when tastings are not really a thing.

The ‘George & J.G. Smith’s’ series of Glenlivet bottlings by Gordon & MacPhail is at least sort-of legendary. I’ve hadn’t had much chance to try them, but when I started this whisky hobby (or mania) about 20 years ago, this was on the top shelf of De Whiskykoning, and was way out of my league and budget back then. It did keep eyeballing me, though.

But now I did have the chance to try one of these ridiculously old Glenlivets! Let’s find out if it is as good as I figured it was back then, and as good as people on Whiskybase seem to find it!

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Well, this is properly old, with lots of gentle notes of oak, parrafin, some honey and a bit of fruit. There’s a trace of barley, but after 40-ish years in oak, there’s not a lot left. Old mango, prunes and peach for fruit.

Sip:
The palate is very consistent, showing everything from the nose. There’s an addition of milk chocolate to make it just a bit sweeter. The balance has shifted a bit towards the mango and prune, in syrupy form.

Swallow:
Very old indeed! A very classical style of lots of fruit, with mango, peaches, plums, tangerine. Some oak and a whiff of barley behind it all. Waxy parrafin and honey too.

Yes. Yes, this is every bit as good as I hoped it would be. Even the bottling strength is not really an issue, in the current era of 46% and higher.

This whisky shows so many different things. It shows that Glenlivet used to be much more interesting than it is now. It shows that sometimes it is important to have ridiculously old whisky, just so you can put things in perspective. By things, I mean production methods, maturation parameters, and so on.

In short, this is stellar stuff.

Interestingly, this whisky was distilled in the same year that our house was built. The whisky shows less wear and tear…

92/100

Still available, starting at € 2500

And thanks a million to Best of Wines for the sample!

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Springbank 11, 2006-2018, Fresh Sherry Hogshead, 59.6%

And now for one of the most useless reviews ever… This is one of those obscure Cage bottlings from Springbank, where you can get a one-off in their shop, and it will never see its likeness again.

The full information would be a bit longer than the title has. There’s ‘Rotation 411, 26.09.2006-09.08.2018, Duty Paid Sample For Trade Purposes Only’ at least.

Anyway, I’ve had this sample for a while from RvB who shared some samples of it a while ago. Today, sitting outside with the kids having fun in the yard and me having a whisky, I tasted it. After tasting it, I poured the rest of my sample. There’s something here to say the least!

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
With a timid cask like this the oak is rather restrained. That gives the Springbank funkiness of hessian and old barley more room to shine. So off to a very Springbank-y start! There is pineapple peel, hints of apple and dried lemon. Some oak and soil.

Sip:
Moist hay on top of the already moldy notes. After a second or two the ABV comes roaring in, even though I had a cask strength dram before. There’s a trace of dry smokiness, hessian, cork and old wooden planks.

Swallow:
The finish is syrupy, lots of dry fruit, lots of funk. Massively funky indeed, a very quintessential Springbank. Old wallpaper, hessian, engine grease, but also pineapple and pear and apple.

I do realize this is a fresh sherry cask, and that doesn’t necessarily show from my tasting notes. There was a tinge of dried fruits here and there, but not too significant. I think, in this case, the sherry mostly acted as an amplifier of the already present Springbank funkiness. That, dear reader, is what made this whisky awesome.

The tasting notes might not read as a great whisky to sit down and wind down with, but believe me that it is. The flavors combine into a bit of an assault on the palate, but a gorgeous one and one that demands attention. This is not a whisky that will go down without making you notice it!

The ABV helps, of course, but the scents and flavors are just amazing. I already loved Springbank but if, somehow, they could make this profile pop up in regular releases, I’d gobble them up.

90/100

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Lochlea First Release, Bourbon and PX casks, 46%

Yet another distillery that has recently come on steam. The very first release of Lochlea is this three year old whisky from First Fill Bourbon and Pedro Ximenez Sherry casks, bottled at a decent 46%.

Contrary to most other new distilleries, I didn’t really have this one on my radar until John Campbell, of Laphroaig fame joined their ranks half a year ago or so. I kind of like the idea of quietly beginning a distillery without too much fanfare, and see where the product takes you after a few years.

Let’s see where this Lowlands whisky does take us!

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
It’s very youthful, with a bit of a forced cask influence. The combination of newmake, with quite some corky wood influence, make for a bit of a eau-de-vie experience. A mix of dried fruit and twigs.

Sip:
Pretty intense, with a more balanced palate than the nose made me expect. Dry oak, white pepper, twigs and some cinnamon. Some green tree bark, moss and hay.

Swallow:
The finish is a bit more like the nose. A bit more youthful again, and a bit more forced.

Interesting, and in a way very promising. Somehow I expect such a spirit to age well. Contrary to some other new distillery’s products, this one feels a lot younger and more like it’s not ready yet.

This youthfulness does promise things for future release, I suspect, but I’m far from convinced now. It’s certainly drinkable, and it does have its perks, but compared to the other new ones (Raasay, Ardnamurchan, Torabhaig, etc.) it does taste a lot younger and far less ready.

It’s more in line with things like Ailsa Bay and Annandale, of which I don’t expect there to be bad spirit, but their bottlings haven’t been that good yet, either.

80/100

Of course, with this being a limited first release, prices have soared and where this one started at € 70, it currently starts at € 150, and there are some asking € 400

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Watt Whisky, in person

With a group of friends that I’ve known for almost 20 years, we go to Scotland more or less every two years. The previous trip was in 2018, to Islay, which meant the next one was planned for the spring of 2020.

Of course that didn’t happen. We had to postpone to autumn of 2020, and then to early 2021, and then to late 2021. Finally, last month ‘Scotland 2020’ happened and we ended up going to Arran. Less whisky events than before, and much more hiking was on the agenda. Of course, this does not mean that there are no whisky events at all.

One of the two things we wanted to do was go to Campbeltown, and since we already booked tickets for Springbank’s ‘Wee Toon Walking Tour’ we thought to just do that. Things change in two years and that tour doesn’t exist anymore. Back to the drawing board.

With Cadenhead’s not being what it was in 2018, based on the few reports I got on it, and us not wanting to do a lot of distillery tours, we wanted a whisky thing, that was something else. Enter Mark Watt.

Watt Whisky started just before the pandemic, and is based in Campbeltown. I met Mark Watt a couple of times at Maltstock, and through Facebook there had been some interaction, so not complete strangers in that regard.

Tour

The concept of the Wee Toon Walking Tour was explained and the question was asked whether he and Kate could do something like that. With a tasting of course. It turned out they could. And with Kate being a Campbeltown local, the walking tour wasn’t much of a problem either.

On March 29th we took the ferry from Lochranza to Cloanaig, and drove south to Campbeltown. At 11 AM sharp, we pulled up in Kirk Street. After a quick toilet break we were on our feet walking around Campbeltown, luckily on a pretty and sunny day.

I won’t go into a lot of detail in regards to the tour, but in short, it was awesome. There was a lot of information about the town, from recent history to things from the 19th century. Topics like urban planning, the Mussel Ebb, distilleries and the accompanying infrastructure came up. Of course, it wouldn’t be a visit to the Watts without cracking a couple of dad-jokes.

Springbank, Glengyle and Glen Scotia (above) we no surprise, but we saw the locations of former distilleries like Benmore, Dalintober, Burnside, Hazelburn, Longrow, Lochend, Albyn, and a few others too. The idea that Springbank and Glengyle, now only a short walk apart, bookended both Union and Campbeltown distillery!

All in all, a great tour that I think they should make into a regular thing. With the new distilleries planned for Campbeltown, they are there in time for Watt Whisky to become a permanent fixture in the Campbeltown whisky scene, methinks.

Tasting

A visit to a whisky bottler without a tasting would be rather farcical, so of course, this was also in the plans for this random Tuesday. As it turns out we were quite early in this regard, since March 29th was also the first day Watt Whisky held a license to host tastings like this one!

We mostly had Scotch, no surprise there, but also an Israeli whisky from Milk & Honey Distillery, and a Venezuelan rum made the line-up. I didn’t write tasting notes since I was having too good a time just tasting whisky, and chatting about it, to start nerding out like that. Yes, we were nerding out anyway, just differently.

If not for Brexit, I would have bought quite some bottles, but with customs allowing only one liter per person, ergo one bottle, we didn’t risk it. With travel only being available since a short time, we had no handed down information on how strict things would be, so we took that bit slow.

In the end I bought the 21 year old Undisclosed Highland Whisky, of which Mark also doesn’t know which distillery produced it. Tasting notes to that one will follow soon-ish.

In short, if you’re in Campbeltown, and the Watts are available, I highly recommend paying them a visit!

Follow them on social media too! More info on the closed Campbeltown distilleries can be found here, or in David Stirk’s book.

Thanks Mark & Kate!

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Clynelish 8, 2010/2011-2020, Parcel No. 2, 48% – Single Malts of Scotland Reserve Casks

For a few years, Single Malts of Scotland, from Elixir Distillers, have branched out a little bit and have started doing small batches of whiskies instead of single casks. This Clynelish is one that came out two years ago and one I picked up immediately for a tasting.

Image from Whiskybase

Of course, Clynelish is an all time favorite of mine, and this one was quite affordable. Of course, not as affordable as the regular 14 years old, but not expensive by any means. On a side note, that standard 14 years old is getting more and more expensive too. Last year I got one for a tasting and had to shell out over 50 Euros for it.

Anyway, Clynelish from ‘Parcel No. 2’, let’s see where this one takes us!

Sniff:
There is a bit of vanilla, combined with a lot of lemon juice. Some candle wax, and lemon oil too. Crisp apples and dried barley.

Sip:
The palate arrives gently, and brings an oily texture. There is a bit of barley sugar sweetness, and a touch of vanilla. Baked and fresh apples, and lots of lemon. Juice, rind, oil. The works. Some dried pineapple too.

Swallow:
The finish skips the apples and becomes full on lemon drizzle cake. Slightly waxy still, but only slightly.

With the rather typical waxiness of Clynelish, combined with flavors of lemon and apple, make for a very good dram. It lacks a bit of complexity, which isn’t too surprising for such a youngster. So, waxy, fruity, with quite some flavors to like.

I believe this was around € 60 when it came out, which is a very good price for whisky like this. Currently, in the secondary market it goes for around 100, which is pretty steep. A bit too much, actually.

86/100

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Laphroaig 10, Cask Strength Batch #014, 58.6%

Generally, when official 10 year old Laphroaigs come out, they sell out instantly. Or at least, that was the premise to me, when I decided to get myself one of these. One half, to be exact, since my bottle was shared with JPH.

Anyway, as it turns out, that seems to be a thing of the past, since this one is stil available, more than half a year after it’s initial release. Also, the price in The Netherlands has dropped from some € 140 when it came out, to just around € 90 at the moment. For a whisky scoring almost 90 points on Whiskybase, with a relevant 253 votes, this is a very strange thing to happen.

Anyway, ex-bourbon Laphroaig, with an age statement, at high strength. What could go wrong?

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Sweet peat, band-aids, marram grass and lots of coastal salinity. Slightly tarry, and quite old fashioned, apart from the sweetness that feels a bit artificial.

Sip:
Sharp on the arrival, dry and peaty. Quite some smoke, tar, peat and band-aids. A bit of salinity, but less grassy. The sweetness is still here, but feels more integrated. Interestingly, the texture is quite syrupy.

Swallow:
The finis loses the sweetness and goes full frontal into the Islay peat bog. Lots of smoky peat, band-aids, a complete dry dock tarring a fishing boat.

This is one of those reviews where I am very unsure about how my remarks come across. Because, I like this one quite a bit, but I also have some less positive notes.

In a way, this one does all things rather well. It’s definitely Islay in style, and there are even some tarry and medicinal notes, which doesn’t always happen anymore with Laphroaig. That’s quite good. Very good, even.

However, that sweetness throughout the nose and palate just doesn’t sit well with me. I understand that the general palate nowadays prefers sweeter stuff, in general, but in this case it does start to feel tinkered-with to me. I just doesn’t combine that well with what the whisky tries to do, in my humble opinion.

Still, that sweetness isn’t too offensive at all, when push comes to shove. The fact that this doesn’t taste like a generic peaty whisky, but has some character is far more important.

87/100

Available for € 89 at Whiskysite, at the time of writing. Other shops found here.

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Glencadam 19, 1990-2010, Bourbon/Sherry Cask 5984, 56.3% – A.D. Rattray

Well, this obviously wasn’t really a single cask, was it? It came from one cask, but before it was in that one, it was in another cask. I’ve heard, but am not sure 100% about it, that the SWA is trying to write some rules regarding single cask whiskies. As in, they have to be matured wholly in a single cask.

Anyway, that’s one minor topic out of the way. Let’s take a peek at the whisky itself.

I think this is the first and only A.D. Rattray whisky I’ve ever had in my collection. This mostly is the case because it just isn’t very available in The Netherlands, until a few years ago. But then, it was mostly young stuff under ten years old.

And before someone starts, I sure was able to get bottlings from them, I think The Old Pipe used to carry the brand, I just never had it on my radar.

Image from Whiskybase

Glencadam is not the only one in my collection ever. There’s another one from Berry Bros that’s waiting to be reviewed, both of these came from a friend’s collection. I’m hoping to visit the distillery some time in the future, but it’s a bit off route for all past whisky trips.

Sniff:
Rather cask driven, but there is just enough barley and pie-dough in the background to make things a bit more balanced. A rather yeasty type of sherry on the nose, with almonds and sawdust. Fruity notes of orange and date.

Sip:
The palate is, after a few drams, rather gentle but there is some peppery heat coming through after a few seconds. It’s just a little bit and kept in check by a lot of sweetness from baked, dried fruits. Dates, candied orange, peach.

Swallow:
The finish veers back to being a little bit more allowing of barley notes. There still is the fruity sherry notes, but there’s some pie dough, almonds, and a bit of baking spices.

This might not be the most stellar whisky you’ll ever have, but it is very drinkable. Even though the bottle is nearing its end, I’ve only yesterday tasted it properly. I almost finished the rest in one go. There’s enough complexity and interesting flavors to keep you going, but it’s also just a very tasty dram.

Honestly, the 85.5 points it is getting on Whiskybase is a bit too low for how I think about it. This one might make me a bit more on the look out for affordable Glencadam in the near future.

87/100

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