For the past several years, the Stillman’s Dram expression of The Dalmore has been a 30 year old. This new 28 year old expression, besides being two years younger, is also slightly less sherried. In this instance, I feel that both have enhanced the whisky. Trimming back on the sherry and oak allows the whisky’s trademark orange marmalade, complex spice, and briny freshness to shine through. This one is lively, dynamic, evolving, well-balanced, and always entertaining. The best Dalmore Stillman’s Dram in years.
An exemplary Highland Park. There's certainly plenty of sherry influence in this whisky and it is complementary. (About 2/3 of the whisky was aged on sherry casks, and a lot of these casks were second fill.) The whisky enjoys a delicious foundation of toffee, fruit (lemon, plum, blueberries) and dark chocolate. It continues to develop and evolve on the palate, with emerging notes of heather, nougat, lavender, delicate peat and complex dried spice (especially cinnamon and nutmeg) to balance the sweeter notes. The extra alcohol is also a bonus, providing a drying balance to the whisky's sweetness. Whiskies like this one remind me why I fell in love with whisky in the first place.
A sophisticated and refined Talisker, if that’s not an oxymoron. But this is certainly true when compared to the 10 year old. This 18 year old is deeper too, with less of the fishnets, more of oak boat docks. Less lemongrass, more fruit gum drops. There’s still that knock-out punch on the finish. There’s a fine line between polishing the rough edges of a beautifully powerful whisky and ripping its heart and soul out with a knife by dumbing it down. This whisky has not crossed that line. A fabulous whisky!
The fourth limited release Stagg in as many years. While there’s no age statement on the bottle, this one is 16 years old. And in the same vein as its three predecessors, this Stagg is an extremely seamless affair. What impresses me most about the annual Stagg releases is the whiskey’s incredible drinkability at remarkably high alcohol levels. Be stingy when adding water to this whiskey to appreciate its soothingly smooth, oily texture and lovely notes of maple syrup, vanilla cream, dried corn, candied fruit, polished oak, supple leather, pencil shavings, and subtle mint.
Bruichladdich Legacy III 35 year old 1968 vintage, 40.7%
Single Malt Scotch | $430
This gem is soft and seductive in personality. It is also very clean and still quite fresh for its age-obviously aged in an excellent cask. You'll find a bed of gentle sweetness, reminding me of coconut cream and vanilla mousse. A mélange of fruit (melon, black raspberries, strawberries) marries perfectly with the sweetness. Fresh brine notes and licorice root emerge on the palate and become more prominent towards the finish. This Legacy III is more polished and rounded, and not as tired or woody when compared to the recent 40 year old bottling. And the 40 year old, at $2,200 a pop, is also about five times more expensive.
Duncan Taylor (distilled at Strathisla), 36 year old, 1967 vintage, 42.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $160.00
This whisky starts out rich and lush-both in aroma and on the palate, with notes of fig cake, candied fruit, and sticky toffee pudding. Citrus fruit (orange, lemon, tangerine)-a characteristic that emerges with many older whiskies-cuts through the heft and lushness of this whisky, contributing complexity, balance and drinkability. The whisky continues to evolve, serving up notes of almonds, exotic spice, and polished leather on the finish. An excellent example of what a mature, Speyside whisky should taste like.
Signatory (distilled at Glenrothes), 30 year old, 1973, 50%
Single Malt Scotch | $220.00
Glenrothes is one of those Speyside whiskies which matures very gracefully. Recent distillery bottlings (i.e. the 1979 and 1972 vintages) prove this point. This Signatory bottling also demonstrates that Glenrothes has the ability to get older and better. In this offering, the palate-coating, sticky caramel, syrupy maltiness of the whisky is rescued by firm, bold dry oak spice and lush fruit. Delicious toffee and roasted nuts longer on the finish. The 30 years in oak gives this whisky great depth, and bottling the whisky at natural cask strength ensures that the whisky is not cut off at the knees. A soothing post-prandial affair.
Classic Cask, 13 year old, 1991 Vintage, Batch GL-109, 45.4%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $60.00
A remarkably balanced bourbon. Evolving notes of maple, vanilla, mint, dried fruit, coconut, and polished oak with a hint of leather on the finish. Very clean and drinkable too-especially for a 13 year old bourbon. Only 726 bottles were produced, but it’s worth tracking down one of the remaining bottles.
Provenance (distilled at Port Ellen), 21 year old, 1982 vintage, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $195.00
One of the last remaining vintages from an Islay distillery which will be missed dearly. This is obviously from a sherry cask, and the peat smoke, sherry, and oak-aging is married nicely here. It a brooding Port Ellen. Notes of peat fires, fig, kippers, toffee, vanilla, and dry oak take turns entertaining the palate. Considering its age, it isn’t excessively oaked, and the Port Ellen character still shines through. If you’re going to track down a bottle of Port Ellen before they get really difficult to find, this one is worth serious consideration.
More subtle and teasing. Not as much a knock-out punch on the finish like the Talisker 10 and 18, but rather more steady intense blows to the abdomen for many rounds. An aging Talisker, but still with many redeeming qualities. It is drier than its younger siblings, with less fruit and more of a stony texture, with dried spices and lingering leather notes. This whisky requires more patience and demands more concentration, but it is still rewarding to the seasoned aficionado (with some extra pocket change).
Scott's Selection (distilled at Glenlivet) 27 year old 1977 Vintage, 53.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $165
Very stylish. Quite refined too, with notes of vanilla, peaches and flowering currant. The whisky is very soft on the palate, delicate and almost bashful at times. Indeed, it may take a couple of dates with this whisky for it to fully to reveal itself. The whisky finishes toasty, with a pleasing cereal grain maltiness. Some whiskies are great after dinner; others make wonderful pre-dinner drams. This one is great anytime.
Named for the distillery of the same name, and where many other well-know Irish blends are produced (including Jameson, Powers, Paddy, and Tullamore Dew). This is the distillery’s ultra-premium blend offering. The whiskey is somewhat shy and bashful in personality (when compared to its pure pot still siblings like Redbreast and the quite rare Jameson 15 year old) and really takes some patience to appreciate its subtle beauty. Sweet notes of honeyed malt and vanilla up front, with a hint of marshmallow and summer fruits. The palate eventually dries out nicely and deepens, evolving into a medley of subtle spice. Very drinkable.
Provenance (distilled at Inchgower), 14 year old, 1990 vintage, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $70.00
Technically a Speyside whisky, but it tastes more like a coastal Northern Highlander. The foundation of this whisky is a lovely honeyed maltiness. It is aged in a sherry cask, which provides layers of rich toffee, caramel, and orange marmalade. Brisk sea salt notes emerge on the palate keeping the whisky fresh and quite lively-the coastal influence-while deft seaweed and spice add complexity.
Signatory (distilled at Caol Ila), 14 year old, 1990 vintage, 56.2%
Single Malt Scotch | $50.00
Light to medium in body (and quite pale in color), but quite invigorating. A flirtatious vanilla sweetness at the front of the palate quickly evolves into spicy, peppery, grassy notes. The whisky evolves further, expressing notes of smoke, tar, chewy seaweed, brine, feint green tea and olives. A persistent, if delicate, honey sweetness hangs on throughout to offer some gentility. Lingering, smoky finish. A raw whisky, but somehow compelling. An excellent value too! (Bottled exclusively for Binny's Beverage Depot.)
Gordon & MacPhail 'Connoisseurs Choice' (distilled at Caol Ila), 13 year old, 1991 vintage, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $70.00
An interesting contrast to the Signatory bottling reviewed above. While expressing a similar fundamental flavor profile, this one is a more polished affair and not as daring. It is fuller in body, nicely rounded, and expresses a sweeter foundation (less honey, more toffee and caramel).
Cask & Thistle (distilled at Glen Grant), 15 year old, 1988 vintage, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $50.00
A nice example of what port wood finishing should do for a whisky. The port influence (finished one year in a port pipe) has taken what would normally have been a fairly straight-forward whisky when it is young-clean, light, and dry with subtle notes of herbs and spices-and added some extra weight along with balancing sweet toffee and full fruit, without dominating. (Bottled exclusively for Binny’s Beverage Depot.)
Scott's Selection (distilled at Glen Grant), 26 year old, 1977 Vintage, 53.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $145.00
What is it with all these older, sherried bottles of Glen Grant from the independent bottlers, anyway? Fortunately, this is one of the nicer ones. The balance of sherry and oak is commendable, and the flavor is clean with that Glen Grant “dried herb” character still evident. Sweet fruit notes (berries in honey, peach pits, sultana, ripe grape) along with almonds and tobacco fill out the palate. Clean, warming finish.
A departure from the first edition of Bruichladdich 20 year old, and very Glenmorangie-esque-given that it was aged for five weeks in Mourvedre wine casks before being bottled. The wine influence is evident, both in appearance (a pinkish hue), its palate (berry fruits), and even its nickname ("flirtation"). It is quite a sweet Bruichladdich, with chewy toffee, ripe berries, background pit fruits, and earthy/ resinous spicy notes-especially on the finish. A Bruichladdich fresh Islay sea breeze character fights its way through, but it is a struggle.
Bernheim Original Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey, 45%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $40.00
Gentle in personality and predominantly sweet, with notes of honeyed vanilla, caramel, maple syrup, coconut cream pie, and a hint of red licorice. Underlying bright fruit, suggestions of green tea, and a dusting of cinnamon keep the whiskey lively and upbeat. A soft, toasted oak finish tames the sweetness and provides balance. The whiskey is more approachable and easier to drink than a typical bourbon containing rye-the spicy rye intensity isn’t there. Some bourbon enthusiasts will miss the challenge-and rewards-that the rye would normally provide. For this reason, this whiskey will be more appealing to drinkers of wheated bourbons (e.g., Maker’s Mark, Old Fitzgerald, W.L. Weller). It is an interesting change of pace from the standard bourbon fare, and it is a unique exploration of American whiskey without sacrificing authenticity.
This Highlander is Lowland-ish in style, but with more heft. There’s soft barley sweetness, notes of vanilla and orange creamsicle. Grassy notes emerge from time to time. It is clean and very drinkable. An ideal aperitif, but could be enjoyed anytime between dawn and dinner. Whoever said whisky was an after-dinner drink never tasted this whisky.
John McDougall's Selection (distilled at Bladnoch), 15 year old, 55.8%
Single Malt Scotch | $110.00
The only distillery-approved bottling of Bladnoch in the United States. When compared to the Gordon & MacPhail bottling above, this one isn’t as sweet or creamy in texture. There’s more citrus fruit and a drier, spicier finish. This one is also bolder and a bit more aggressive.
Gordon & MacPhail (distilled at Longmorn), 15 year old, 1989 vintage, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $65.00
A nicely clean Longmorn, expressing floral notes (especially violets) and bright fruit (lemon, lime, cantelope, plums), supported interwoven notes of honey, rich malt, bread pudding, dates and vanilla. The classic Longmorn viscosity is there, and this thickness is tamed by a very pleasing spicy, dry oak finish, with a hint of salt. I could drink this stuff anytime. G&M’s move to 46% has certainly benefited this whisky. (Bottled exclusively for Binny’s Beverage Depot.)
Gordon & MacPhail purchased the Benromach distillery from United Distillers and reopened the distillery in 1998. They installed new stills and are using malt with a recognizable level of peating. This is first official bottling from the whisky that they themselves have made. The whisky is still youthful, but for a whisky of such youth it shows great balance, individuality, and promise. Notes of vanilla cream, honey, and fruit (pineapple, pear) are peppered with nuances of smoke, herbs, and pine. Youthful, vibrant finish. I eagerly look forward to tasting this whisky with a half dozen more years of aging.
Scott's Selection (distilled at Longmorn), 33 year old, 1971 Vintage, 53.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $170.00
Succulent, sappy, with plenty of oak. This whisky is quite fruity, with tangerine, lemon, and strawberries. It is balanced by fat barley, almonds and damp oak. It is not as polished and rounded as the Gordon & Macphail Longmorn reviewed above. Indeed, the fruity, damp oak notes can be quite dominant in this whisky. However, the whisky evolves constantly on the palate and there are some minty, spicy underlying notes which add intrigue. Definitely save this one for after dinner.
Unusually sweet and perfumed. Layers of malty sweetness (honey, butterscotch, caramel, vanilla wafers) is the dominant feature of this whisky, with background notes of almonds, toasted oak, and citrus fruit. Herbal, hay notes also emerge from time to time. This is not an overly complex whisky. It is also a tad fiery at times (alluding to its youthful age), but this whisky is an improvement over a previous sample I tasted from this distillery a year or two ago.
Signatory 'Unchillfiltered' (distilled at Linkwood), 14 year old, 1990 vintage, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $43.00
Obviously aged in a sherry cask. Juicy fruit, syrupy, a bit waxy, notes of maple syrup and spice (clove, mint). Nicely soothing, but there is a trade-off here-the soft, floral beauty which makes Linkwood malt so attractive is lost somewhere behind the sherry and escapes only briefly from time to time. (Bottled exclusively for Binny’s Beverage Depot.)