...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Where's the Love? Loch Lomond Batch 1 That Boutique-y Whisky Company Single Grain Whisky

Well this is a nice little triangle, isn't it?  In one corner, there's the oft troubling messy whisky from Loch Lomond.  In the next corner is the indie bottler whose samples (sold by their own retailer) always come out weirdly.  AND!  This is an NAS single grain.

Some random trivia:
--Loch Lomond is often cited by Tintin fans as Captain Haddock's booze of choice.  Well, it ain't this Loch Lomond.  Captain Haddock was introduced in 1940.  The distillery wasn't built until 1965, with production commencing in 1966, and the whisky not entering markets until around 1970.  So the make-believe character was drinking make-believe whisky.  Blistering barnacles!
--Loch Lomond distillery is not a member of the Scotch Whisky Association.  So that's kinda punk.
--There's a hand-knitted stuffed stegosaurus next to my computer right now and he's trying valiantly to make it look like he's not interested in what I'm typing.

Distillery: Loch Lomond
Owner: Loch Lomond Distillery Company
Independent Bottler: That Boutique-y Whisky Company (TBWC)
Age: damfino
Maturation: yes
Type: Single Grain
Region: Highlands (Western)
Alcohol by Volume: 52.4%
Limited Release: 191 bottles
(Sample purchased from Master of Malt by Tetris and donated to D4P. Thank you!)

The color is gold.  The nose is......unique.  I've never smelled a whisky like this, grain or malt or blend.  At first it was pine sap, citron, and lychee.  And then WHAM, this huge note of mango seed.  Having gnawed on my share of mangos (awesome in salsa, btw), I've discovered this intense sourness when I get to that that big-ass seed in the middle.  This whisky smells like that flavor.  While that scent doesn't go away entirely, some caramel and cinnamon join it after some time.  Kristen found a butterscotch note when she sniffed.  The palate has a mellower version of the mango seed thing.  There are larger notes of Red Hots candies, burnt wood, and especially fresh ginger.  The usual blah grain note is well hidden under all of this excitement, but it does gradually emerge.  And along with it comes an ever growing note of juniper.  Soon it's just juniper, ginger, and mango seed.  And that is exactly what carries through in the finish: juniper, ginger, and mango seed.

WITH WATER (a little below 40%abv)
The nose mellows out.  Citron, mango seed, caramel, cinnamon, and now some bread crust.  My first note about the palate: "barrel-aged gin".  Juniper, lime, ginger, mango seed, cinnamon, sugar, and caramel.  The finish doesn't change much other than getting sweeter.

I swear this is barrel-aged gin.  And I was about to write a whole big paragraph about it since I though I was being so original, but then I discovered that someone on Master of Malt's site already made this same observation.  So click here (and scroll down to the User Reviews) for the guy or gal who discovered it first.

But unlike the person who left that review, I kinda like this stuff.  Not necessarily as a whisky, but instead as an experience.  While I'd be totally happy to hate on TBWC and Loch Lomond, I can't here.  This is weird enough to be cool.

Unfortunately, it seems to be totally sold out.  It does make me wonder how Loch Lomond's grain whisky fares in general.  MoM has an 18yo single cask of LL's single grain, but $140 for 18yo grain whisky?!  No thanks.  If you've had any experiences with Loch Lomonds single grains, let me know in the comments below.  This one was a hoot!

Availability - Sold out?
Pricing - was €47.50 or £37.95 two years ago
Rating - I don't really know how to grade this.  I dunno, 80?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Where's the Love? Inchmurrin 15 year old 1996 Signatory

All right.  I was just teasing you with Mannochmore and Tullibardine.  It's time to strap on a pair of waders in order to stagger through Loch Lomond.

Loch Lomond does not produce award-winning single malts.  They rarely release something that gets any positive attention.  I've seen reviewers give the distillery some leeway, almost as if Loch Lomond is handicapped, due to its unique still setup.  But Loch Lomond still brings millions of liters of whisky to the market annually so there's no need to apologize for the whisky nor apologize for a scathing review.

But what about those stills?  They really are the most interesting aspect of the distillery.  I had to read and compare several sources in order to get what I think is an accurate list of stills, ultimately going with Charlie MacLean's word (via Whiskypedia) because he's a movie star.  Loch Lomond has two pairs of pot stills, both with rectifying heads which allow them to create several varieties of new make.  There are also two more pot still pairs without rectifying heads.  There's a Coffey still that's utilized to make a single malt, which the SWA doesn't care for.  And finally there's a distillery within the distillery that has another Coffey still which is utilized for grain whisky.  Thus we get such gems as Inchmurrin, Inchmoan, Inchfad, Croftengea, Craiglodge, Rosdhu, Glen Douglas, Glen Gyle, GlenShiel, and Loch Lomond all from one place.

The most frequently bottled of the malt types is Inchmurrin.  And the independent bottler with the most (released) casks of Inchmurrin is Signatory.  So, here today is a Signatory-bottled Inchmurrin.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't have preconceptions going into the two tastings this week.  I've previously had one palatable Siggy Inchmurrin.  But on the flip side there was the bizarre peated Loch Lomond and the utterly disgusting Inchmoan I drank last year.  At least these tastings shouldn't be boring...

Distillery: Loch Lomond
Brand: Inchmurrin
Owner: Loch Lomond Distillery Company
Independent Bottler: Signatory
Region: Highlands (Western)
Type: Single Malt
Age: 15 years (November 18, 1996 to May 23, 2012)
Maturation: Refill butt
Cask number28
Limited bottling: 599
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
(Sample purchased from Master of Malt by Tetris and donated to D4P. Thank you!)

Its color is a yellowed amber.  Hot cereal/porridge jumps out first in the nose, followed by hints of pencil graphite, cinnamon, nectarines, and pineapple.  It feels very new make-ish, but then a coconut creme thing pops up every now and then.  But the largest consistent note that I find is that of margarine on Saltines.  Kristen found notes of baked things and florals, but also some chemicals when she sniffed closer.  That chemical note reads more like garbage to my nose.  Brief downwind from garbage, but still garbage.  The palate has the hot cereal character, but also a lot of sweetness and a bracing bitterness.  There are also notes of band aids, basil, creamy nutty marzipan, and cardboard box.  It all gets much sweeter with time.  The finish is tangier than the rest.  It's sweet, grainy, and brief.

WITH WATER (a little below 40%abv)
The nose is almost of a grain whisky: caramel, mild grains, coconut, hay, and white fruit.  The palate is sweeter, smokier, and something vaguely chemical.  The finish is sweet and mild.

This must have been a 37th-fill butt.  Most of the time the whisky feels like it's barely legal, which isn't necessarily bad, especially since this bottle apparently sold for €32 two years ago.  If it could ditch the rotten and chemical notes then it would be a decent whisky.  Though brief those notes may be, they do prove to be a turn off to me, and I'm someone who loves weird whisky.

If you have a bottle of this -- and somehow they sold through most or all of these 599 bottles -- then perhaps airing it out a bit will help rid the whisky of its problems.  If that does work, then I can recommend this whisky to Tobermory fans and those who like naked whiskies.  If it doesn't work, I think it's because those rougher elements may be part of Loch Lomond's malt character.  So, like with most Loch Lomond whiskies, approach cautiously.

Availability - Perhaps at some specialty retailers on the European continent?
Pricing - probably in the $50-$60 range
Rating - 74

Friday, June 26, 2015

WTF Is This? Faultline Straight Bourbon Whiskey

I'll start with the obvious then work my way back into the details.

"Faultline" is an exclusive brand created by K&L Wine and Spirits.  Rums, brandies, tequilas, and whiskies have been bottled and released under this label and sold only through K&L.  "Straight" means that the liquid within was matured for longer than two years in oak barrels; and since there's no age statement on the label, that means the liquid was actually matured for longer than four years.  "Bourbon Whiskey" means that the mashbill was at least 51% corn and the resulting spirit was aged in new American oak barrels.

But K&L doesn't distill its own spirit so it's time for more info...

Luckily, K&L is very open about the contents of this bottle.  As per David Driscoll's notes, this bourbon was blended by John Little of Smooth Ambler using some of Ambler's stock of MGP-distilled bourbon.  There's a mix of 10-year-old bourbon using MGP's lower rye mashbill and 7-year-old high-rye bourbon.  They bottled it at 50%abv and K&L has been selling it for $39.99 for almost two years.

So yes, like last week's WTF, Homestead, this is another MGP bourbon.  But while the contents of last week's bourbon are shrouded in (unnecessary?) mystery, the Faultline's makeup was better disclosed, thus I know WTF I'm drinking here.  Are they the same whiskey though?  I compared my sample of Faultline's straight bourbon with Homestead Bourbon reduced to 50%abv.

Brand: Faultline
Owner: K&L Wine and Spirits
RegionDistilled in Lawrenceburg, Indiana
Type: Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Age: blend of 10-year-old and 7-year-old bourbons
Alcohol by volume: 50%
(Sample from swap with Florin)

It has a maple syrup color with some rosy highlights.  The nose is very pretty.  Lots of caramel and hard candies.  Maraschino cherries, cloves, and strawberry popsicles.  A citrus-estery perfume.  Charred US oak and (maybe?) sandalwood.  It gets oakier with time, bringing up some furniture polish and maple syrup.  Lots of cherry lollipops in the palate.  Orange zest and oaky caramel.  Some bright spice notes like cinnamon, peppercorns, and cardamom.  A hint of ripe cantaloupe appears just before the spicy caramel takes over.  A long finish.  Woody, sugary, hints of MGP rye spice.  A citrus note grows with time.

The nose simplifies.  Caramel and oak pulp.  Oranges and rye.  The palate is oranges, cherries, caramel, and wood spice.  Those oranges carry over into the sugary and charred finish.


HOMESTEAD BOURBON reduced to 50%abv
The nose starts off with ethyl and paint fumes.  Dove soap, lemon cleaner, vanilla, and orange oil.  It picks up some maple candy with time in the glass.  The palate moves quickly from sweet to bitter to oaky then back to bitter.  Stale peanuts and rye new make.  The finish is made up of sugar, peanut dust, tree bark, soap, and ammonia.

WTF is Faultline Straight Bourbon Whiskey?  Good MGP bourbon is WTF it is.  Homestead at 50%abv is a turd compared to it.  The cask selection and knowledge about when/what to bottle was far superior with Faultline.  I really don't have anything nice to say about the Homestead, so I'll move on.

Faultline is a good tasty drinker at its bottling strength, so I don't recommend adding water.  There's plenty of spice for rye fans and a surprising amount of fruit in the mix too.  Sku liked it, as did Andy over at LAWS.  Even Monsieur MAO liked it, and I'll be damned if he didn't steal my rating.

Its price is competitive, $10-$20 cheaper than the Homestead, cheaper than Smooth Ambler's own 7- and 10-year old bourbons, and right between the prices of WT Rare Breed and Russell's Reserve 10yo.  I kinda wish I'd tried this two years ago when it first came it out.  K&L appears to be getting towards the end of its stash and may be partnering with St. George Spirits for a new batch of bourbon soon.

Availability - K&L Wines
Pricing - $39.99
Rating - 85

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Where's the Love? Tullibardine 1993 (46%abv US Edition)

And here is the Aged Oak Edition's sparring partner.  Yes, more Tullibardine.  Some of you American folks may still see this particular whisky sitting on the shelves selling for a very reasonable price.  But most of you have passed it up and will continue to pass it up.  Hell, I used to see old green-bottle Cadenhead dusties of Tullibardine selling for under $100 and yet I never even considered considering lifting the bottle off the shelf.

Thanks to a generous member of the LAWS crew, I was able to try the Tullibardine 1962 vintage.  48 years old, and something Jim Murray soiled himself over, the whisky was......okay.  If it was 1/4th its age and 1/10th its price, I'd happily recommend it because it sort of drank like something that was 1/4th its age and 1/10th its price.  Its smoothness (sorry, I had to use THAT word) made for pleasant drinking, and one could perhaps thank its age for that.  But that very age also cut out whatever lively zip a 12 year old single malt would exhibit.  Thanks to Jim Murray's pronouncement the 48yo mostly sold out a few years ago.  But there are a few bottles still floating about.  So if you're in the market for a sleepy 48-year-old officially bottled single malt that costs less than a Kia, keep lookout for the '62 at $800.  Or you can spend your money wisely.

Anyway, this review has nothing to do with the 1962.  I just wanted to say that 99.99% of the whisky community isn't missing anything having not tried the oldie.  Let's see what we missed with the 1993.

Distillery: Tullibardine
Ownership: Tullibardine Distillery Ltd (now Picard Vins & Spiritueux)
Distillation Year: 1993
Distilled by: White & Mackay
Age: ???
Maturation: probably ex-bourbon casks
Region: Mid-Highlands
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chill filtered? ???
Caramel Coloring? probably not much
(Thank you to Florin (a prince) for the sample.)

Keep in mind that this was the US release of the '93.  It was bottled at 46%abv, but not finished in wine casks.  I'm unsure of its bottling date.  If I figure that out, then I'll update the above info.

The color is amber.  The nose leads with citron candles, peaches, and Three Musketeers chocolate bars.  Lots of grains, leafy.  The apples here are riper than those in the Aged Oak Edition.  With time, it picks up burnt bread, tree bark, and honeydew notes.  The palate starts off with a simple combo of lemon, caramel, and sugar.  Then there are hints of baking chocolate, honey, and rose petals.  With time a cardboard note opens and expands, countered by a wormwoody bitter note.  The finish is spicier and holds onto the honey note.  Also, notebook paper.

WITH WATER (~40%abv)
The nose gets weird.  Very rubbery.  Sunscreen, burnt raisins, burnt hair, and notebook paper (again).  A hint of caramel.  The palate is odd too.  Rubbery fruits, bitter carrot cake, burnt soap, and burnt vanilla.  Yes, some of those things aren't things, but there it is.  The finish is bitter and soapy.  Cardboard and generic caramel.  Thankfully it's all brief.

So, obviously, don't add water.  It's probably a good idea that this was bottled at 46%abv.  I'll focus on the neat serving.  The nose is easily the best part.  It gets a little quirky as it oxidizes but remains pretty solid.  I have little complaint about the palate until the cardboard arrives.  The finish is mild and short.

Before the Tullibardine Taste Off, I had expected I would ridicule the Aged Oak and trumpet this one.  Happy to find them both grain-forward, I actually wound up liking the younger (and lower abv) whisky much more.  While I can't give a rave review to either, I was intrigued enough that I'll keep a lookout in case any of Tulli's current non-finished whiskies end up in a clearance pile.  I'd very much like to try the 20 or 25 year old, but certainly not at their current prices.

Availability - Some specialty US retailers still have a few
Pricing - $50-$70
Rating - 76 (don't add water)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Where's the Love? Tullibardine Aged Oak Edition

Tullibardine.  Yep, Tullibardine.  Upon seeing the subject heading of this post, most folks are either going to skip reading this one altogether or glance down at the final score and move on.  But that's sort of the point of this series.  This isn't about Kavalan or Ardbeg or Stitzel Weller.  It's about the distilleries that receive little to no positivity or attention from whisky fans.

Before doing this tasting I didn't know much about Tullibardine other than their headache-inducing ownership history.  See Malt Madness's recap for the who's who's who what when.  And I knew they used to sell their White & Mackay-distilled stuff using vintages rather than age statements, and those bottlings used to sell for very reasonable prices.  Or rather they didn't actually sell.

Two years ago, the distillery's newest ownership decided to revamp its brand in order to catch some of that big scotch money.  So they removed the vintages.  And released a slew of NAS bottlings with different wine finishes.  And increased the prices significantly.  They did release a 20 and 25 year old, but priced them highly as well.  In order to make their brand "luxurious", they gave their products big price tags without offering anything that couldn't be had elsewhere for less (aka The Dalmore Configuration).  Thanks to that maneuver, you can now buy two Glenfarclas 25s for the price of one Tullibardine 25 in the US.  Good luck with that, y'all.

I bought this mini of Tullibardine Aged Oak Edition thinking it was one of these new NASes, when in fact it was one of their old NASes.  When Tullibardine Distillery Ltd (aka the folks who released the bottles with vintages) wanted to put out a single malt containing only their spirit, they went the NAS direction rather than calling it a 7-year-old.

I had also thought the "Aged Oak" nomenclature was a bit of unintended comedy.  But after I read the bottle's back label and actually drank the liquid, I realized the name wasn't referring to the fact that their whisky (like all Scotch whisky) was aged in oak, but that these casks were actually older oak casks.  Or to put it another way, very-very-refill ex-bourbon casks.

Distillery: Tullibardine
Ownership: Tullibardine Distillery Ltd (now Picard Vins & Spiritueux)
Age: NAS, but likely 7 years or younger
Maturation: likely refill ex-bourbon casks
Region: Mid-Highlands
Bottled: 2011
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
Chill filtered? No
Caramel Coloring? probably not much
(Mini was purchased by yours truly)

The color is a very light amber.  The nose begins and ends with barley.  At the start there's also some pencil shavings and graphite along with something that seems like a light peating.  Then apples and a hint of marshmallows.  Light jasmine and rose-like esters meet up with subtle butter and caramel notes.  Eventually it picks up some lemon zest.  Wow, the palate is really malty.  Lots of roasted grains and mocha.  Soft peeps of bitterness and peppery spice.  But otherwise it's all barley.  Still malty in the finish.  Smaller notes of toasted marshmallows, black pepper, and vanilla fade in and out.

WITH WATER (~35%abv)
More barley in the nose.  Dried leaves, marshmallows, vinyl, and unripe pears.  No peat.  The palate is basically the same: roasty and malty with hints of pepper and herbal bitterness.  The finish gets a little bitterer and cardboardy. Otherwise, it's malt and sugar.

This surprised me.  I enjoyed the bushels and bushels of barley.  It felt crisp and about as refreshing as a whisky can be, a summer malt.  There's little complexity and it doesn't take water well, but I rarely add water to a 40%abv whisky anyway.

I could not disagree more with Serge's comment that this is not a whisky for malt geeks.  The whisky is all malt.  One couldn't possibly squeeze more barley into it.  It's a shame that it has been discontinued (replaced by an NAS "Sovereign" aged in first-fill ex-bourbon casks).  "Aged Oak" would have fit into the nice simple starter-priced tier with Glenfiddich 12yo and Speyburn 10yo.  Unfortunately its US price tended to float around the $40s, which may have helped kill it off.  I don't think it's worth that much, but if I found it in the mid $20s then I'd be happy to get it.

Availability - Much easier to find on the European continent where it's also cheaper
Pricing - mid $40s in The States, $25-$35 in Europe
Rating - 81

Friday, June 19, 2015

WTF Is This? Homestead Bourbon

Welcome to another new series, Whisk(e)y Thrillin' Friday!  That's WTF stands for, right?  Each Friday for the next (maybe) nine weeks I'll post about a whisk(e)y whose origin is either not directly stated or is a general mystery.  Or maybe it has story attached or perhaps I won't even be able to tell you WTF is up with the WTF whisky.  I'll lead off with Homestead Bourbon.

There are two words one will not find on the front of Homestead Bourbon's fashionable bottle: Kentucky and Straight.  Firstly, that's because its spirit was not distilled in Kentucky.  The non-distilling producer (NDP) Strong Spirits helpfully and legally lists that the bourbon was distilled in Indiana here:

So it's from the MGP whiskey factory in Lawrenceburg, Indiana.  MGP distills millions of liters of spirit for NDPs like Strong Spirits, and in the process has been the birthplace of some very reliable, even gorgeous, whiskies.  So far so good.

But what about the missing "Straight" notation?  A producer cannot call its bourbon straight if it has spent less than two years in the barrel or if there are flavoring additives applied.  Or technically, a producer can choose to not list that its bourbon has passed those standards.  According to this Straightbourbon discussion, Chuck Cowdery says that's the spin Strong Spirits is taking.  Strong claims the bourbon "is in fact 4 years old" and, my faves, "We thought long and hard about using the term Straight and decided that the term technically only means the bourbon is over 2 years old. Because we wanted our brand to be modern (a bit minimal) we also were very specific in the message on the bottle and since we want to promote the fact that our bourbon is higher proof (as close as we can get to going from the barrel to the bottle) we decided to put the idea of barrel proof on the bottle."

Uh-huh.  It's a $50 bourbon.  At half that price one can find bourbons that have "the idea of barrel proof", bourbons that also "promote" the fact that they're Straight Bourbons by listing the word "straight" on the label.  Strong Spirits goes easy on their bottle's text, utilizing the space to print their tag line, "Stake Your Claim".  "Stake Your Claim" shouts FAUX-INSPIRATIONAL MARKETING BLURB and doesn't mean much out of context -- I would have preferred "Claim Your Steak" -- meanwhile "Straight Bourbon Whiskey" holds actual weight in and out of context......unless you can't legally use the S word because the whisky doesn't in fact meet those standards.

Okay, I had to place a hard return there because it's time to focus on the whiskey itself.  Last February, Florin (a prince) poured me some Homestead from the top of his bottle.  I found it drinkable.  He kindly let me have a 4 ounce sample.  I found that sample HOT but drinkable as well.  I must have mentioned this because he gave me the rest of the same bottle two weeks ago.  Woo-hoo!, right?  Well, I've been through seven more ounces and it is not drinkable.  Consuming it pains me.

When I prepared to take official notes on the bottle, I suddenly realized that I still had 2 ounces left of that original drinkable sample from higher up the bottle.  Would I be able to determine what the hell I was talking about four months ago...

Brand: Homestead
Owner: Strong Spirits
RegionBardstown, Kentucky (Distilled in Lawrenceburg, Indiana)
Type: Bourbon Whiskey
Age: ???
Alcohol by volume: 56.65%

The color is dark gold.  The nose begins all caramel corn and peanuts (yet not Cracker Jack). It's slightly beefy and has some rye seeds.  Cream soda, baked banana, and classic Old Spice aftershave.  It also has a slight gaseous and varnish(eous) edge to it.  Mild heat on the palate.  Plain at first. A moderate level of corn sweetness meets a hint of rye spice and a nudge of white vinegar.  The rye element expands with time, getting very peppery.  Soon lots of wood notes (like actual pulp) enter.  The finish is mostly heat.  A little sweetness, some oak, lots of banana.

Comments: Yeah, it's drinkable, but urine is drinkable (allegedly).  I may have overestimated its quality four months ago, but it's okay.  It also stands its ground against ice pretty well.  Not something I'd buy at its price, nor half its price, but not something I'd dump down the sink.  Grading this on its own, I'd give it a 72.

The nose is comparatively muted, grassier, and mintier at first.  There's the peanut note.  Then the caramel corn one. More root beer than cream soda.  Maybe some hints of oranges and milk chocolate.  But then there's the ethyl.  Ethyl grows to be a big ol' gal, almost taking over the show.  The palate:  Heat.  Burning.  Then sugar.  Grains.  It's lightly nutty and rye-ish (again pepper).  Bitter green oak stuff.  The finish is very sweet and tannic.  Hot bitter barrel water.

Comments: It also makes for a poor highball, unless you're using it as an Angostura delivery system.  It also destroyed three different bourbon blends that I tried to make from it.  Grading this on its own, I'd give it a 61.

Final Verdict: This is my first experience with a whisk(e)y that closed up (and got hotter) the further I got into the bottle.  It's really a broken bourbon at this point.  And "at this point" I mean perhaps two-thirds of the bottle were unapproachable.  Thus I'm going to weight the latter score more than the former even though the former is itself no great shakes.  I'm not sure if the problem was from weird barrels or small barrels or bourbon that was in fact younger than two years.  While I am not a bourbon expert, I'd venture to say that this cake wasn't done baking when it was pulled.  Perhaps some more time would have helped?

Availability - CA, IL, MN, NY, though Cali seems to have the highest prices
Pricing - $40-$58
Rating - 65  (Great glass bottle, though. You could really stake your claim with that thing.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Where's the Love? Mannochmore 15 year old 1984 Mackillop's Choice

Here is Mannochmore Exhibit B.  I tried it alongside yesterday's 12yo Blackadder.  They are two very different whiskies.  This one actually hews closer to--

But first some Mannochmore trivia.  The distillery sits right inside Glenlossie Distillery's backyard.  And though it was built almost one hundred years after Glenlossie its production capacity is almost twice as large.  The two distilleries used to share the same crew, but now each have their own.  According to Malt Madness, Mannochmore uses lightly peated Optic and Chariot barley purchased from Castle Head Maltings.  And, per Charlie Maclean's Whiskypedia, the distillery was originally built to produce malt for the growing Haig blends back in the '70s.  Though I don't know if it still goes into Haig's whiskies, I do know that it's almost entirely going into blends of some kind.

It also went into a single malt known as Loch Dhu. But this is nothing like Loch Dhu. It's more like--

Distillery: Mannochmore
Owner: Diageo
Independent Bottler: Mackillop's Choice
Region: Speyside (Lossie)
Type: Single Malt
Age: 15 years (October 25, 1984 to October 1999)
Maturation: ex-sherry (I assume)
Cask number3696
Alcohol by Volume: 60.7%

The color is reddish gold.  The nose starts with dusty sherry, blood oranges, and raspberries.  New tires, fired paper caps, and a bundle of peat moss.  The sulfur grows and......I really like it.  It encounters loquats, sweet tea, sea salt taffy, mesquite barbecue, and dark chocolate, complimenting all of them.  After some time in the glass, the nose develops Willet Rye-style spicy notes like cinnamon bark and whole cloves.  The palate is intensely focused with a dense mouthfeel.  Prunes, carob, and loads of grape jam.  A subtle bitterness keeps the sweetness in check.  A little smoke encircles the sulfur.  Smoked PX in the finish.  Dark chocolate with sea salt and raspberries.  Struck matches put out in grape jam.

WITH WATER (~46%abv)
The sulfur remains in the nose where it joins moss, cherries, lemonade, plums, and fresh cut grass.   The whisky almost becomes port-ish.  Or if you'll pardon the conceit: The waiter lights your table candle with a match then delivers a ramekin of toffee pudding with lemon zest and a glass of port to your table in a peat bog.  The palate is grassy, maybe more like hay.  Salt and malt.   Lots of sweet sherry.  Cigarettes, grapefruit, Angostura bitters, menthol.  The tart smoky finish still has those prunes, dark chocolate, and bitters.  Grass, cucumbers, salt, and menthol.

100 minutes in the glass.  Beginning to end, fucking dynamite.

No joke, this beats most of the sherried Glendronach I've tried.  Had I done it blind, I would have guessed this was a sulfured 'Dronach anyway.  And older than 15 years.  Speaking of the stuff, this is the best sulfur I've experienced.  It works so well that I think this whisky would have been much lesser without it.  While one would think sulfur would cast a shadow over the proceedings, it does no such thing.  It works with the all of the other elements in tune.

When I scheduled this review, I was worried this sample would have been lifeless.  It spent almost as many years in the bottle as it did in the cask, then it was poured into a sample bottle and sat in my stash for almost two years.  Not only was it not lifeless, but holy crap.

Yes, this was bottled in 1999.  And yeah, someone in Germany was selling it for €400+ not too long ago.  But this made me a believer.  I shall no longer cast a stink eye at a Mannochmore.  In fact, I will keep a non-stink eye open for a well-sherried Mannochmore in the future.  There's the love.

Availability - ???
Pricing - ???
Rating - 92 (note: sulfur)