This bottling is a classic of the Ardbeg range, indeed, quite a classic in whisky as a whole. Originally, it combined old Ardbeg sherry-casked whisky with young, muscular and smoky Ardbeg – a classic use of different ages to balance a whisky and create complexity well (and, a worthwhile use of a no-age-statement whisky!). However, the age of the sherry casks, many suspect, has dropped since the initial releases. Batches also vary – the best are among the best you can buy, and the worst make you really wish you didn’t blow all the money to get a bottle (though I haven’t had a terrible batch, but a few I would definitely not pay for, if not all of them – is any whisky worth the $180 you pay in Ontario for this? Whisky, as fabulous as it is…is just whisky, and there is much to be had at a lower clip than this one). You can tell what batch you have by a bottle code on the side of the bottle which will tell you what batch your whisky is from (see here). This code on this reviewed bottle is L61360 31/03/2015 1500312 18:45.
And here we have, once again, another Highland Park. I love their whiskies, but I wanted to post this as sometimes there can be some significant variations in quality – if you ever tasted HP and weren’t impressed, it’s likely a bad batch. Despite this, they still remain one of my favorite distilleries as the quality of their liquid, when good, is absolutely phenomenal. However, the bottle I picked up last year was certainly sub-par.
A link to my previous review, along with a bit more discussion on this bottling, is provided here.
The story with this whisky goes that a few stillmen found an old bottle of whisky from the turn of the 19th century and wanted to replicate it – and so, Aberlour puts forth a monster of a whisky – a cask strength, heavily sherried single malt. Each bottle has a batch label on it, and batches vary in quality but this is a longstanding classic and favorite of many connoisseurs. This bottling is from batch 44, and comes in at 59.7%, matured in first fill (i.e. new) sherry casks – deep red and brown in colour, with no coloring added or any chill-filtration. “A’Bunadh” means “of the origin” in gaelic, speaking to the old style of this whisky.
Great King Street is Compass Box’s brand for their blended scotch, and this Glasgow blend only recently came into their core line. The whisky’s inspiration comes from the big-bodied style of many of the 19th century blending houses, blended particularly with smoke and sherry notes. The blend is bottled at 43%, without colour or chill-filtration, and composed of 33% grain whisky from a Fife distillery (presumably Cameron Bridge), about 20% from a south shore Islay distillery, 33% from a sherried whisky from Benrinnes, and a malt from Brora (presumably Clynelish), and a few other Speyside and Highland malts to round out the recipe.
Bunnahabhain was originally a filler for blended scotch whiskies, even distilling some spirit to be aged elsewhere off the island of Islay. However, now it is producing more heavily peated whiskies – many of which we see as single malts. The distillery has a number of large stills, which produce heavier whiskies because of their shape. Consequently, the character of the distillate is quite a bit different from the other Islay whiskies. Cruiach-Mhona means “Peat Stacks”, and was launched in 2010 as a duty free offering combining younger peaty whiskies and older sherry-cask whiskies (which originally were upwards of 20 years old! I’m not sure what is put into them now, but presumably they are also quite old). The whisky is bottled at 50%, non-chill-filtered, and non-coloured.
Old Pulteney is the northernmost mainland distillery in the UK on the mainland (overall, Highland Park wins out). The distillery produces a number of age statement products, a 12, 17, and 21 year old along with a number of no age statement travel retail products. The distillery is quite small overall, The town of Wick sprung up around fishing, and was the herring fishing capital of Europe resulting in a rich maritime tradition in the town – a tradition the distillery often tries to honor through its limited bottlings. The distillery is fairly small (1 million litres per annum), yet still is quite widely distributed worldwide, though bottlings can be hard to find at times.
Dalwhinnie is one of the five “Classic” malts of Diageo (Cragganmore, Oban, Lagavulin, Glenkinchie, and Talisker), sharing the highland region of Scotland with Oban. Dalwhinnie means the “meeting place”, and it’s where 3 roads met upon which highland cattle would be driven and meet up before being taken to market. The climate is quite unique – it is both the second highest distillery in Scotland and also located at the coldest settlement in Great Britain. The distillery was built as part of Blended Scotch boom, and still makes a number of malts for blends. This bottling is aged 15 years, bottled at 43%, and is an available and consistent malt.