Author Archives: antihero7

Kick off your shoes…

Stay a while. You’ll settle in, I’m sure. After a bit of a struggle, we’ve gotten to where we needed to be. The site has been moved, and now we (I) begin the process of sweeping out the corners and fancying up the place a bit. Close your eyes. Imagine a bit of a back alley speakeasy. Deep chairs and cozy corners. Good drams and better chat.

Make yourself at home. Things’ll be a bit different around here. Thanks for sticking around during the downtime.

The Real Whisky Bible

Seems the fedora’d one’s name is back in the news. Sigh. I guess when your brand has become tired and obsolete, there’s little left to do but fight for relevance and continue to holler old man things into the void. Rage, rage against the dying of the light, and all that, I suppose.

But let’s not give him any more print space than we already have. Instead, let’s tip the spotlight to both the only whisky book I need year upon year, and to the man who largely helps carry the frontline whisky presenters upon his shoulders, Ingvar Ronde.

The 2022 edition of the Malt Whisky Yearbook has just hit our shelves and is, as expected, flying off them just as quickly.

The MWYB is the bible so many of us in the industry use when cobbling together our metadata for presentations; for quick on-the-spot fact-checking; and for shoring up the foundations of knowledge we use daily in conversations with our whisky pals. But if you think this is an industry-only tome, you’re sadly mistaken. This is a guidebook, available to all, that helps level the playing field. In just a couple hundred brilliantly conceived pages, you should be able to find enough facts and wisdom to provide an unshakeable bedrock for…wait for it…all things whisky.

The book (which to me is an evolving entity) is chock-a-block with brilliant nuggets of distillery specs, timelines, bits of historicity, insider info, and essays dedicated to some of the industry’s most topical subjects from the past year or so. And let’s face it, this is a burgeoning whisky world and there are a lot of folks out there craving accurate and relevant information in easily digestible nuggets. With now sadly defunct (though still online, thank god!), the MWYB is truly the only one-stop-shop for the most up-to-date distillery news and updates.

I was fortunate enough to do a bit of a collaboration with Ian Buxton in the 2017 edition. Well…collaboration may be a bit of a stretch, I suppose. Ian reached out to me to provide some insight and context on something we’d been hammering away at here on ATW for some time. He then turned it into a great piece on the state of whisky prices and our own inherent biases. I am, of course, condensing the matter to but a line here, but the article was indeed a gooder. Well worth the read, if I do say so myself.

But even before that, Ingvar was great to me and to you, friends, in saying he liked this site and the dialogue that unfolds here, especially the comments. ATW has been in his Websites to Watch list for years now, even when it suffered silent seasons and periods of neglect. For that I’m grateful. And his kind words have been a testament that still leaves me chuffed, I must admit.

Forgot the other book. Make this your annual bible purchase. Trust me.

Thanks, Ingvar. On behalf of us malters, thank you.

And, pssst…I’m still hunting for ’07, ’09, and ’11, friends. If anyone has any leads, please pass them on.

Glenfarclas 185th Anniversary Review

I knew this release was coming, but it wasn’t really one I was really anticipating. Let’s face it…this was not going to be in the same sort of league as the rather legendary 175th Anniversary release which was said to have included casks from as far back as the 1950s.

Having said that, I adore Glenfarclas. I think y’all know that by now. It’s just that this 185th Anniversary release was bound to be younger, bound to be rooted squarely in the more contemporary school of malts. In other words, I’m dancing around one of those ‘back in my day’ type of stories.

But even if that is the case, let’s just say that it’s good to be back in Ballindalloch. Even if only in a virtual and vicarious sense.

I’ve probably been a wee bit snobby and concentrated a tick more heavily on the Family Casks and older expressions from Glenfarclas in recent years than I should have, often to the unintentional neglect of the core range. Said range is ticking along just fine, I might add; it’s just that, well, those low ABVs, George. I know bumping ’em all to 46% is not in the cards (and would absolutely shitcan that cracker of a tale about your grandfather’s initiative to hold the 15year old to a higher proof), but reaching for the sub-46s can be an exercise in willful delusion sometimes. Love the flavors, hate the anemic texture. Anyway, rest easy. This suiting tribute to 185 years of Glenfarclas is a worthy addition to the larder.

Congrats to our friends at Glenfarclas. I’d normally say, ‘can’t wait to see what the future brings’, but so long as you’re chugging away being you, it sorta feels like all is right in the malt-o-sphere.

46% abv. 6,000 bottles. Not a heavyweight, by any means, but robust and oily, and perfectly comfortable on the palate.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Wow. Kinda…dare I say…old school-ish, in terms of sherry profile. Old barrel. Creme caramel and raspberry reduction. Lightly peppered white dough. MacIntosh apple. Raisin butter tarts. Musty purple grape. Caramel Macchiato. A bit mince-y.
Linseed. Antique wood.

Palate: Absolutely, infinitely, unquestionably Glenfarclas. Almost certainly the legacy of those direct-fired wash stills, which always give a lightly sharp burnt note on the palate (especially the finish). Old toothy Armagnac. Orange peel. Fennel. Slightly root-y. A hint of mulled cider. Dry cinnamon buns. Some rather bitter, dark fruit notes. Edging into those tangy, tropicals I love.

Finish: Quite herbal, actually, once the fruit notes back down. Dandelion. Burnt grain. Pleasant, if tannic. And longish.

Thoughts: Clean, flawless sherry casks and almost the Platonic form of Glenfarclas. Others seem to be finding a few more vibrant fruits than I am, but I’m okay with the more integrated melange I’m getting.


New Toy

‘Cause there’s more to life than malts…

So. I decided I needed a Telecaster. That’s how the story begins.

When I recently told a mate that I needed a Tele, he asked “besides wanting one, which I totally get, what makes you think you need one?” My reply: “guitar people don’t differentiate between want and need.” To which he immediately shot back: “As soon as I hit send I recognized it was a dumb question.”

Fender Telecaster American Ultra Luxe

I can’t lie: I was on the hunt for something with Classic Tele vibes. You know, three saddle bridge, block body, vintage tuners, 50s pickups, etc. I played a couple and found nothing that really grabbed me. Then the gent at the shop showed me this Fender American Ultra Luxe.

Let me just say it: this thing is an illusion. It looks entirely retro (excepting the aforementioned saddles), but make no mistake, is one badass modern machine. Stainless steel frets, six saddle bridge, compound radius neck (10″-14″), locking tuners, tapered neck heel for comfortable access to the higher frets, S-1 switch in the volume knob to run the single coils in series for a bigger Humbucker sound, noiseless pickups, contoured back makes it a great couch guitar (something Teles have never been). Truly a stunning piece of work.

But anyone can a guitar based on impressive-sounding specs, aye? What it really comes down to is a) feel and b) tone. I’d argue a) is more important. You can always change out electronics, hardware, etc, but you can’t (easily) change the way it feels in your hand. This thing is built for speed and comfort. It’s unquestionably one of the best necks I’ve ever played. And yes…it has all the snap, snarl, quack and twang you’d want in a tele. She’s a beast. And I love ‘er.

I shouldn’t have picked it up. I did look at the price tag before even lifting it off the wall. And still, I picked it up. I’ll not be so gauche as to mention price, but suffice to say, it wasn’t what I was hoping to spend. I went looking to drop about $650. Oops.

Cadenhead 7 Stars Blended Scotch Whisky Review

If it says Cadenhead, Campbeltown, Springbank, or in any way references the goings-on around the Kintyre peninsula, you know it’s bound to be stirring the masses a bit. The zombie-like singular focus on all things Springbank has hit fever pitch in the whisky community and, if I didn’t love the stuff so much myself, I’d have been at the jumping-off point about two years ago. But, of course, that’s like quitting after you’ve been fired, if you get my drift.

Truth-telling: when I was last in the Cadenhead warehouses for a cask tasting, I can’t lie, it was a pretty underwhelming experience with some pretty mediocre whiskies.* So, the question is, was there enough solid stock in those dusty ol’ halls to put together a rock star blend? Only one way to find out. Let’s see what Hedley and co. are offering up this time ’round…

You can expect a dirty old-school-styled blend in some ways, but with a slightly modern dressing. It seems to be pretty heavy on malt and has a rather lumbering sherry influence. Makes sense as, after blending, this was finished in Oloroso. And I think we can acknowledge that the Springbank family has a pretty identifiable style of sherry casking. If Gordon & MacPhail has the coursers in sherry casks, then the J&A Mitchell & Company certainly have the Clydesdales.

*But trust me, the whiskies we had in the Springbank warehouses (or on the Springbank tour, anyway) more than made up for it.

46% abv

Tasting Notes

Nose: Funky, waxy, deep and dirty, Cold coffee grounds in an old filter. Definitely a bit of that dunnage-y, earthy Campbeltown character. Slightly smoky (oh, so faint). Figs and candied nuts (sounds almost Dickensian, doesn’t it?). Almonds. Biscuits. Baked, spiced apple. Mulling spices and boiling raisins. Wet lumber. Noses like a malt, to be honest.

Palate: A lot of dried fruits. Some overripe cherry and that rather new-ish style of dumpy, heavy (and oh, so cocoa-powder-dry), nutty sherry (anyone else miss the tropical old jammy sherry of old?) So this is a blend, is it? Really? First sips don’t really suggest that. Notes of gingerbread and boozy tiramisu, doused in over-oxidized Oloroso. Some more raisins. Ok…a bit of grainy silkiness peeking through now. Neat, but heavy.

Finish: Long and deep. Expected nothing less. Apple peelings. Slight touch of maraschino. A bit grippy.

Thoughts: I’m rather keen on this one. And the packaging too. Smartly, wickedly retro.


Ardbeg Scorch Committee (2021) Notes

I (and many like me, I think) had high expectations for Scorch as some sort of a second coming of Alligator. These were perhaps unfairly lofty preconceived notions, but let’s not pretend that isn’t the exact image that the marketing department wanted us to be smacking our chops to. I mean, ‘heavily charred casks’ was pretty much all that most of us needed to hear, aye? Let’s face it, it’s not like Ardbeg needs to generate any more interest than they already garner. But, hey…it’s tough to brake the hype train once it’s left the shed.

Whiskybase reports that this was matured in refill Alligator casks. I hadn’t read that upon release (shame on me), but seeing as Scorch comes a decade after Alligator, I suppose it all makes sense. Having said that…these barrels, assuming they once held Alligator, were obviously still active as hell. Make no mistake, Scorch is a big, big whisky. Hard to imagine that the Arbeggy folk won’t be pleased with this one.

But is it Alligator 2? That’s the real question, innit? Put simply: nah, not really. But I’m more than happy with Scorch 1.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Black current. Chocolate. Loads of fruit. Almond. Ammonia. Insect repellent (or bug spray, if we ain’t fancyin’ it up). Ginger beer. Veterinary horse salve. Charred scallops and smoked oysters. Melted Wellies. Dragon’s breath. Grilled lime. True Ardbeg.

Palate: Chocolate ganache. Ginger. Loads of a dry coal-like smokiness. Licorice or maybe horehound candy. Black licorice ice cream, even. Pine. Like licking a salted tarry rope. Lime and lime pith. Dry and ashy.

Finish: Spices carry through. Some clay. More black licorice. Lapsang souchong. Long and evolving.

Thoughts: Cool whisky. This is one that will be highly coveted in the years to come. Wish I had more than a single bottle.

Score: 90/100

The Best Laid Plans

Sigh. I sort of feel like the cartoon character that lights the fuse on some big cauldron-bellied cannon and waits for the inevitable ka-boom, only to have the damn thing blow up in my face long after the expected blast should have happened. Such is. As Lennon said, “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” That’s all well and good, I suppose, but that doesn’t mean we should just sit around and wait for the other shoe to drop. So, to quote Andy Dufresne, I suppose it’s time to “get busy living or get busy dying.”

Without too much elaboration, ATW was to have become a bit of a Collective. A few of the malt cognoscenti were to have come on board here, creating a bit of a whisky think tank and forum for critical discussion. A few things conspired to make that well-nigh impossible. As I said, such is.

The idea isn’t dead – indeed, there may be guest posts from time to time or something of that ilk – but for now I guess we’ll go back to tried and true. In other words, you’re stuck with the one-man-band. So let’s get back to what we know. Hopefully we can pull up readership a bit.

And fair warning, just to stir a little spice into the stew, I may occasionally drop a few words on other things that light me up: music, guitars, art, watches, writing, family, cigars, who knows?

Sorry we couldn’t bring it to fruition for you, but hopefully you’re interested in walking a little further down the path together anyway.

Peace and love.


We’re gonna rock the foundations of All Things Whisky very soon. Big, big news in the coming days. Stay tuned. And…

…start the speculation machine!

Laphroaig 16 y.o. (2019) Review

A nifty little Laphroaig that never quite made it to our shores. Well…that’s not entirely true, of course, or I’d not be sharing notes here. But…where there’s a will (and crafty friends), there’s a way. In this case, via a mate who somehow maneuvered his way into possessing a couple of bottles. Fortunately, he’s also a generous soul.

This one strikes a chord with me for one important reason, and it isn’t a sentimental one. It has to do with the craft of bottling a good spirit at a good state of development. In other words, picking the fruit when it’s ripe. This 16 year is the epitome of beautiful cask/spirit interaction. The oak is lean and firm; the spirit is at a perfect age, rich and fruity. You can tell that the big estery notes are being checked by the creaminess and soft spices of the barrel. Brilliant balance.

All I can say is, bless the man or woman who discovered just what a barrel could do to Scottish spirit. And bless the exciseman who made the illicit distillers run from hill to hill with their spirit hastily bunged up in wee casks. Assuming all those romantic Scottish tales we’ve heard are true, of course.

48% abv. 11,500 bottles. 1st Fill Ex-Bourbon Barrels.

Thanks to my mate, Ben, for the drams of this guy, and the photo below.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Instantly, blindly, recognizable as Laphroaig. Very clean and elegant. Orange and lime. Honeydew and tangerine. Sea spray. Almond and just-scraped vanilla bean. Minerally, coastal notes. A little bit boggy and earthy. Some grassy notes. Tongue depressors and chest rub. Phenols have mellowed beautiful.

Palate: Big and oily. Blood orange with anise or maybe just fennel. Starfruit, candied orange peel, gooseberry. Getting non-too-subtle hints of the bourbon influence here, and it is entirely complimentary. Salt licorice. More of that oomphy Laphroaig smoke than the nose hints at. A bit of a sour fruit tang, which I like a lot.

Finish: Long and full of tannins, oak and that neat marriage of ju-jubes and wine gums I get in a lot of Laphroaig. Still a fair bit of citrus too.

Thoughts: Frustratingly, right in my wheelhouse. Frustrating, of course, due to lack of (local) availability. But we can’t have ’em all, aye? Hopefully, the age statement gap that Laphroaig is currently managing (mismanaging?) can be closed. The leap from 10 to 25 in the range is a bit challenging for those of us who were rather keen on the mid-rangers. (And please let’s not discuss the NAS’ers)


Some Stuff…part 1

A series of long-winded essays, or just a few lines to stir the pot and tiptoe back outta the kitchen before it gets too hot. Let’s go with the latter. Less words means less opportunity for me to stick my foot in my mouth. Though, I’m sure I’ll do so a few times anyway. Let’s see if we can’t blow up the comments section below…

First things first. Just a sort of “you heard it here first” bit for you. I am keeping eyes and ears open for the right ATW partner in crime. Finding an Angus (not in the literal sense, of course; I know one of them) is mighty tricksy. I’ve yet to come across someone who shares my stylistic leanings, literary trappings, palate preferences, etc. If and when this happens, these jottings will become a bit more frequent. I struggle more and more to extricate myself enough from life to be able to do this as regularly as I’d like. So…’ATW Angus’…if you’re out there…come claim your place.

So…about those undisclosed/undeclared malts. Sigh. What should we say here, other than stop…f*cking…doing it. Whatever happened to clever label workarounds, such as hints and clues (and insider secrets, oh my!)? I’ve seen enough $300ca bottles of ‘Undisclosed Speyside’ or ‘Unnamed Orkney’ or ‘An Islay Malt’ to last me a lifetime. If you expect me to pull out my coin purse (figuratively speaking; I don’t actually own a coin purse), I really do want some idea as to what I’m buying. How else are we justifying the price tag on just one more unproven asset?

We get it. The world is watching Campbeltown. Yes, Springbank is brilliant, and yes…Glengyle is really starting to show its pedigree. And absolutely, some Glen Scotia can really shine too. Just, y’know…slow down, folks. Share the wealth. Seeing FB or Instagram posts showing ten bottles of the new 12 year Cask Strength land on one person’s shelf really pisses me off. Especially now, when I can see behind the curtain and know how many others are missing out despite intense passion for the brand.

The ‘drinkers’, the ‘collectors’, and the ‘accidental accumulators’ I can deal with. The ‘flippers’ however…fuck ’em! I keep getting asked for advice as to which bottles are going to go up in value by people I know are looking to make profit off of them. Please don’t ask me anymore. This may be something we now have to deal with indefinitely, but don’t expect me to like it or play along. Start querying me about this and I guarantee I’ll extricate myself from the vicinity in a real big hurry. I wish a plague of medieval genital diseases to befall flippers. Bah. Humbug.

Cadenhead’s recent dumbing down. How we went from the generally exciting Small Batch range to this new dumbed down range is beyond me. Farewell cask strength. So long transparency. Adios to even the tasting notes. They’re not even telling us cask type anymore. Shame, Cadenhead. This is a true regression.

Is Elixir Distillers the future? I continue to be amazed at the depth and breadth of Sukhinder’s amassed stash of casks. Hopefully the well is deep and we’re not simply skimming the best off the top before seeing a stagnant puddle of young Caol Ila and such below. I have a feeling Mr. Singh is much smarter than that. As it stands, Elixir is as exciting as it gets right now. I’m loving where they’re taking us.

Gordon & MacPhail still really needs to loosen the purse strings a bit, and that includes anything to do with Benromach. Seriously. These 40% and 43% malts need to go. The days of Scrooge McDucking it are over, guys. Get with the times. 46 is the new 40. This has always been a problem with this company (or companies). They may have the best warehouses in Scotland, and a wood management policy that shames all others, but this incessant dilution is killing the reputation. Even the new Benromach 21 is at 43%. Why?

No…a revived Port Ellen or Brora will not be the same. And even if it somehow miraculously ends within spitting distance of the old distillate…let’s face it…it will be another 30 years yet before it reminds us of our beloved lost icons. And even ignoring changes to yeast, barley, etc, any chance of a recognizable DNA rests on what happens in a contemporary wood program. Don’t expect prices to get better on extant stock either. Ever. Not gonna happen.

Anyone else missing Not the editorializing, apologism, and opinion pieces (those were largely rubbish, anyway), but the data, news and one-stop-shopping aspect. The team that put this all together deserve their place in the whisky heavens. I miss my frequent visits, and am grateful that the site itself – dormant though it may be – still exists. It truly is a treasure trove of valuable whisky knowledge.

To the heads of the big ‘uns: your ‘brand’ is never going to be iconic if you keep rebranding to modern fonts, brighter colors and square-shouldered bottles. Hate to pick on these guys – two of my favorite distilleries – but Benromach and BenRiach…come on guys…you messed up with the new livery. It really is bad. You both had strong and recognizable images already.

Is Ardbeg clawing its way back to the top? Blaaack, Blaaack Committee, Wee Beastie, Supernova 2019, Traigh Bhan 1 and 2 were all good. Not just good, actually, but really good examples of what each was trying to be. Yes, even those pinot-casked Blaaacks. And yes, even that five year old. But more about that in a moment. In the meantime, can’t wait to try that 25 y.o.

Pandemic sample sharing and the rise of online tastings. I know, I know. It’s not the same as a pint and hug from your mates, but at least it’s something. Small victories these days, aye? And hey…drinking at home means no need to worry about safe travel arrangements afterwards. That’s a win, at least! Dunno about you, but I’m slowly coming ’round to these Zoom sessions.

Let’s get back to the idea of really low age statements. Quit nipping ’em in the bud! While at first I was impressed by the ballsy swagger of releasing 4 and 5 year old malts with age statements, we’re now seeing a couple too many 5 year old indies, etc. Sorry, guys. These are simply not ripe whiskies. A cask has work to do in both additive and subtractive capacities. And no matter how heavily peated your make, or how sloshy your wet-fill barrel is, nothing is hiding the fact that 5 year old whisky is just not ready. Good whisky shouldn’t be overly boozy or spirity.

Not all Clynelish or Ben Nevis is good. Period.

We’re starting to see a trend back to where color is king. Darker malts always draw the eye, but I’d argue shouldn’t always draw your wallet. I will concede, however, that most people falling into the color trap are doing so with the indies, which tend towards a more natural shading, at least. Just…caveat emptor.

The SMWS. Bless ’em. Love the Society, love the ethos (the original mission statement, anyway). But maybe it’s time to ask if the SMWS has abandoned its core principles. I mean, blended malts, cask finishes and $400ca bottles of 12 year old Ardbeg fly in the face of everything the Society once stood for. Namely, the purity of the single cask single malt. Read Pip Hills’s latest literary outing and you’ll see what I mean. Hopefully this new face is only a stopgap measure for dealing with depleted stocks, and one that the folks in charge abandon in short order. Otherwise…this is really, really frustratingly sellout-ish.

Anyone else missing the legitimate experience? Scotland is home away from home for me. I can’t lie…I’m about a month or two away from swimming across the Atlantic to experience the esoteric thrill of a proper warehouse jaunt at one of my beloved distilleries. Dear God, how I miss it all. The tours, my friends over there, the straight-from-the-barrel experiences. All of it.

So. About sherried malts. Man…empty those fucking barrels of their previous contents before filling ’em with malt! A five year old whisky should not be the color of coffee or Cherry Coke. And yes…one egregious example that just arrived in our neck of the woods is really setting me off here. Sherry itself is not that color, so tell me how a five year old from Glenwhozit ends up near opacity when it’s only spent a half decade in wood. I am being 100% honest when I tell you a couple distillery folks I’ve spoken to (and no…I won’t mention who, when or where) have explicitly conceded to wet-fill casking. (i.e. there is still stuff sloshing in the so-called empty barrels that are being filled). Not cool. You can’t hide underage malt behind wet casks.

Anyone else kinda miss the days of paxarette? Just how many of our beloved old sherry bombs were a direct result of the practice of paxing casks?

ScotchTrooper. This one touched me. I remained largely quiet on social media, as I didn’t know Brett personally, but what a devastating story of a man who seemed to have positive interactions with pretty much everyone he met. Hoping the family finds comfort and grace and healing.

Alright. Let’s save the rest for part two. Peace and love, mates. Do something kind for someone today.