Springbank (15 year)

I love Springbank. It’s one of my favorite distilleries. It’s also one of the very few distilleries left in Scotland that embodies the “old school”, tradition-laden whiskymaking techniques that marketing departments elsewhere salivate over. … This can backfire, though. Most of the technological improvements in the whisky industry over the past 100 years have been implemented for the sake of consistency in the resulting whisky. …

Connemara (12 year)

Connemara is named after a defunct Irish distillery, and the whiskey is produced as Irish whiskey (and Scottish) would have been before the advent of drum maltings: with peat fires. Connemara is reportedly peated at around half the phenol ppm of Islay malt, rendering it milder. There is some confusion about the source of Connemara’s peat…

The BenRiach (19 year) Peated/Oloroso Finish 1994

This bottle (which I would never pay $150 or even $130 for, FYI) is a single-cask limited release from the distillery (Cask 7352) which was distilled in 1994 from peated malt and then aged for 19 years (bottled in 2013). It was recasked into an oloroso sherry butt at some point (not mentioned on the label). The liquid was bottled at cask strength without added color or chill filtration, yielding a supple 53.2% ABV, which is (in my opinion) near the perfect strength for an undiluted expression…

Ardbeg An Oa

A no-age-statement (shock! awe!) vatting of various casks of Ardbeg including new (virgin) charred oak, Pedro Ximénez (PX) sherry, and first-fill bourbon. These are all dumped into a French oak “Gathering Vat” in the new “Gathering Room” at Ardbeg. Note that most other distilleries call this a “marrying vat” or “marrying tun”, but we’ll let them have their cutsey name. The result is bottled at the randomly-chosen 46.6% ABV without chill filtration.

Port Askaig 110 Proof

To its credit, this first US release of Port Askaig (named, you guessed it, after a port town on the Scottish island of Islay) is bottled at cask-strength (55% ABV) and without chill-filtration or added coloring from a small batch of “2 to 40” barrels per batch, which means whatever you’d like it to mean. The barrels in question are from an “unnamed” Islay distillery and are all ex-bourbon casks.

The Ileach Cask Strength

Bottled at a cask strength of 58% ABV, but without any age information, The Ileach Cask Strength is a single malt whisky from one of the distilleries on the island of Islay that makes fully-peated malt. “The Ileach” means “the man from Islay” and you could try pronouncing it as “ee-luck”, but you’d still sound like a tourist. Just don’t say “Eye Leech”. Ew.

Talisker Distillers Edition (2013)

The Distillers Editions from Diageo typically take the big-budget action heroes of the Diageo lineup and then proceed to drown them in sweet wine. Sometimes this works. Sometimes not so much. Here, they take the standard Talisker (aged in ex-bourbon barrels) and finish it in amoroso sherry casks for somewhere around a year. My bottle was distilled in 2002 and bottled in 2013…

Laphroaig Select

…this is the first addition to the core range of Laphroaig in awhile. The official back story for the Select (why does every new release need a back story these days?) is that because the last distillery manager when Laphroaig was family-owned, Ian Hunter, was among the first to utilize ex-bourbon barrels in the maturation of single malt. At the time, Laphroaig would have been primarily aged in used (and reused) European oak wine and fortified wine (sherry, madeira, port, etc.) casks.

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2016

An unusual, decadent take on the standard Laphroaig brashness. While most of me enjoys the layering of fruit and peat, a small part misses the straightforward intensity, austerity, and rough edges of the Laphroaig 10, which seems to say, “I don’t need any of that fruity nonsense”, and which comes with an age statement to boot. Despite my quirks, I can say that this is an accomplished, well-balanced, and rewarding dram at a perfectly reasonable $80.