Kirkland Speyside Sherry Cask Finish – 20 year (2018)

There is a wild raging debate on the Internet about the actual source of Alexander Murray & Co.’s big-age, low-price malts. Some rumors suggest that the majority of the company’s barrels come from Tullibardine (a whisky chameleon of sorts), while the company has definitely bottled Macallan before, and is reported to have contracts with both Diageo and Edrington.

Highland Park Magnus

Like the rest of the line, Magnus is partly peated and partly aged in “sherry seasoned” American oak casks. Before you ask, that just means they took regular old ex-bourbon casks and sloshed some sherry around in them for a few months. This is becoming pretty standard practice in the scotch whisky industry, since nobody drinks actual sherry these days and real sherry barrels are hard to come by. Some refill casks are also used, but the distillery says the sherry-seasoned casks are a “high percentage” of the vatting. If you say so, Edrington. …

GlenDronach (18 year) Allardice

The GlenDronach 18-year is named after the 1826 founder of the distillery, James Allardes. It is aged for 18 years exclusively in Spanish oloroso sherry casks, and bottled at 46% ABV without chill-filtration or added coloring. This has more deep, dark, concentrated dry fruit than I’ve ever experienced in a single malt. I’m not sure that’s actually a good thing. …

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.

Aberlour a’bunadh (Batch 57)

This bottle of Batch 57 caught my eye during my last trip to my favorite liquor store, and reminded me that I haven’t reviewed a batch of a’bunadh in awhile. Checking past posts I see that I’ve missed 15 (!) prior batches, as my last review was Batch 41. At a resounding 60.7% ABV, this is also the strongest a’bunadh I’ve tried. As always, this is aged exclusively in Spanish oloroso sherry casks, and bottled at cask strength with no chill filtration.

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.