The Dalmore 1973 Vintage Gonzalez Byass Sherry Cask Finish, 42%
Single Malt Scotch | $250
A thick, lush whisky. Notes of honey-drenched citrus, orange marmalade, chewy toffee and almonds, peppered with that classic coastal brine freshness and background spice I have come to love in Dalmore. Long, contemplative finish. This whisky packs plenty of freshness and liveliness for 30 years on oak and is a pure joy to drink.
This one is my favorite of the four distillery-bottled Bruichladdich whiskies reviewed here. It still quite lively and nicely balanced for such a mature whisky (and reminiscent of the previous 1970 vintage in this respect), with some floral notes and brine emerging from its fruity, vanilla, truffle, nougat foundation. Still, it maintains an air of lightness and freshness throughout, with a pleasingly dry, subtly spicy finish that lingers.
Duncan Taylor (distilled at Glenlivet) 1968 Vintage 35 year old, 43.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $155
Younger bottlings of Glenlivet are often quite elegant and subtle. But such finesse isn’t always evident in older expressions, which often become dominated by sherry and oak. This one, at 35 years of age, demonstrates plenty of elegance and finesse. What impresses me most about this whisky is that you wouldn’t know it was 35 year old just by taste. It isn’t the least bit tired on the palate, and it is very clean, without the excessive woodiness often found in whiskies of this age. Plus, the balance of flavors is impeccable-vanilla, honeyed malt, peaches, pineapple, heather, and just a touch of oak. A very polished, refined whisky.
Signatory (distilled at Springbank) 1969 Vintage 34 year old, 54.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $485
Older Springbanks are becoming hard to find, and this one won't disappoint. It is packed with citrus notes (lemon, orange) often found in whiskies over 30 years old. Along with them you'll find subtle spice notes (especially cinnamon), red licorice, polished oak, and that signature Springbank fresh brininess, albeit a bit reserved. This Springbank is not as heavily sherried as some other older bottlings that have come and gone. If I wanted to be picky, I would like to see more of the Springbank briny zest and freshness here, but, giving its age, it is understandably reserved. This whisky's best feature is how surprisingly clean, rounded, and polished it is for 33 years old. Very nice.
Very similar in flavor profile to the Tomintoul 16, reviewed below, but better. The longer aging has provided extra character and depth. Also, on the palate, the caramel flavors are a bit darker (bordering on toffee) and the whisky’s finish is longer and a shade drier. It has aged gracefully, with no excessive woodiness. A whisky that reveals its charm slowly and subtly.
Old Malt Cask (distilled at Ardbeg) 1992 Vintage, 50%
Single Malt Scotch | $125
(Reviewers note: this is an exclusive bottling to Park Avenue Liquors, New York, NY.) This is signature Ardbeg: young (but not too young), bold, and with an attitude too! Its flavors are reminiscent of crumbled peat thrown on a campfire, with notes of damp earth, pepper, and seaweed. Still, there’s a soft underbelly of vanilla sweetness that helps to tame this beast and provide balance. A peppery, kippered, smoky finish entertains long after the whisky disappears. Make this your last whisky of the evening.
Over the past decade there has been no shortage of Glendronach expressions. I know of at least one 15 year old, an 18 year old, a 19 year old, a 1968 vintage, and four different 12 year old versions. My favorite of the range was the limited edition 19 year old released here in the U.S. about a decade ago. The 1968 Vintage, which you can still find on retailers’ shelves, is also a worthy dram. But this new 12 year old “Original” expression is certainly my favorite of the 12s (and the 15). I feel that Glendronach expresses itself best when it is not dominated by the sherry, allowing a greater balance of flavors. This whisky was originally matured in sherry casks, but was then (fortunately) aged in bourbon casks for the remainder of its maturation. The result? A richly flavored, nicely balanced whisky expressing notes of sherried fruit, burnt caramel, light toffee, and nuts, all underpinned by a soothing malty foundation. Yum!
(Reviewer's note: This is a bottling exclusive to Sam's Wine & Spirits in Chicago, IL.) Springbank bottlings over the past few years have been variable, but improving. The less inspiring ones have been too heavily sherried and/or lacked the classic Springbank freshness, liveliness, and briny character one has come to expect from a Campbeltown whisky. This one is indeed from a sherry cask. It's still not the classic Springbanks we were spoiled with in the 1990s, but it's delicious nonetheless. Yes, there's plenty of sherry (and these notes contribute lush fruit, toffee, and nuts), but the youth and zest of this whisky cuts through it and balances it nicely, with those familiar brine and coconut notes interwoven throughout. A bold and satisfying Springer, with more character that the 175th Anniversary 12 year old distillery bottling that has been in circulation.
The "Gentle Dram," it says on the bottle’s label, and it certainly is one of the gentler whiskies in Speyside. It’s a fragrant whisky too with a firm malty foundation, fruit gum drops and caramel. Subtle notes of almond and anise helped keep my interest, as did its soft, subtle wood spice finish. Very easy to drink too!
Dun Bheagan (distilled at Caol Ila) 1993 Vintage, 10 year old, 43% ABV
Single Malt Scotch | $56.00
An unusual Caol Ila, in that it was finished in a rum cask. The rum influence is subtle - which I like - and it offers a new dimension to the whisky without blunting that Caol Ila character we have come to either love or (for some of you) despise. Olives, seaweed, fire smoke, salt and pepper notes are wrapped up nicely in a malty/caramel blanket. Peppery, smoky finish that lingers on like the embers of an all-night bonfire.
A very fragrant, fruity whisky (orange, tangerine, plum, nectarine) with interwoven notes of honeyed malt, toasted oak, vanilla, and subtle anise. I love the creamy, mouth-coating texture of this whisky and its soothing finish. All the vintages of Glenrothes that have been released over the years are worthy of your hard-earned money, and this one is no exception. There's not as much depth as some of the older, more mature expressions, but the lively youthfulness of this whisky makes up for it.
Bruichladdich Full Strength 1989 vintage 13 years old, 57.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $90
Aged in used bourbon barrels. A fresh, appetizing whisky of brine and white pepper, with an underlying foundation of vanilla, barley, and grassy/hay-like notes. A very subtle teasing of citrus lingers throughout. Very clean and straight-forward, with an appetizing finish. A whisky aperitif?
Aged in refill sherry casks. One taste bears this out with its dominant honeyed fruit foundation (lemons, melons, pineapple). Still, that Bruichladdich freshness and appetizing "sea breeze" character dovetails nicely. Fuller, more rounded, and with a bit more going on here than the Full Strength expression reviewed below, but not as appetizing.
Duncan Taylor (distilled at Glen Grant) 1972 Vintage, 31 year old, 56.1% ABV
Single Malt Scotch | $155.00
I don’t normally like to add water to old whiskies, but this one needs a little at this strength. Whether you will like this whisky or not depends on whether you like woody whiskies with lots of sherry, and whether you care at all about recognizing the distillery character. The flavors are nicely balanced, rich, and very soothing in nature, but I struggle to find Glen Grant in here. Ripe fallen fruit, chewy toffee, maple syrup, honey-glazed almonds, damp oak resins-it’s all there, and it’s all balanced and quite entertaining. I personally want to taste the distillery character in my whisky. If that didn’t matter to me, I would have given this whisky a higher score.
Aged half in used bourbon barrels, half in refill sherry casks. Thicker, more viscous, and with much more depth than the other three Bruichladdichs reviewed here. The whisky oozes syrupy vanilla, marshmallow, caramel, and marzipan, accentuated by coconut and other tropical fruits. Bruichladdich's signature freshness and brine emerges, but oh, so subtly. It finishes firmly dry and oaky, thanks to all those years in wood. Initially this helps to cut some of the sweetish viscosity of this whisky, but it lingers a bit too long for my palate. I would like to have tried this whisky a few (or perhaps even several) years back.
Soft and creamy in texture. A delicate mélange of fruit and a teasing nuttiness balance nicely with the whisky’s gently sweet notes of lightly toasted marshmallow and caramel, finishing soft and pleasingly dry. A very smooth whisky you could drink all day long.
A relative newcomer to the Scotch whisky industry, having just turned 12. And over the past decade, we’ve had plenty of opportunity to watch this whisky mature, as it was first bottled after a few years as Drumguish, and then under the Speyside name as an 8 year old and 10 year old before this 12 year old expression. This whisky continues to develop with age. The foundation of this particular bottling is a generous serving of toffee, nuts, and vanilla fudge. Fruity, golden raisin and peach notes provide contrast, with toffee and subtle oak on the finish. Whisky for dessert, anyone?
Hart Brothers (distilled at Glenturret), 10 year old, 1991 vintage, 53.6% ABV
Single Malt Scotch | $63.00
Very fragrant and floral, with bright notes of citrus (lemons, orange) and fresh grass. Similar on the palate, with additional notes of soft honeyed malt and vanilla. Clean, fresh, appetizing finish. A nice aperitif or, better yet, a liquid sorbet between courses.