Category Archives: Exclusive Malts

Exclusive Malts – Bunnahabhain – 1991 21yr (52.6%)

Exclusive Malts Bunnahabhain 1991 21yrBunnahabhain is a strange distillery to begin with. It’s one of the only two on Islay that doesn’t heavily peat their single malt. Single casks are usually atypical for the respective distillery, as well, so this is an atypical, atypical Islay.

Smelling it at first, I couldn’t find much in the way of traditional Bunnahabhain aroma. It’s cleaner, breadier and lighter overall. The Bunnahabhain really came out after I got to taste it, though.

Bunnahabhain just transitioned from a chill-filtered dram to a non-filtered one, so the flavor profile of the standard bottlings went with it in a heavier direction. This particular bottling is a bolder malt, but fruitier, more buttery and lighter than the current standard bottlings, like an unfiltered, cask-strength version of the old stuff, but with, you know… flavor.

Nose: Punchy. Irish soda bread. Hay and Coca Cola over musky wood. Honey over a handful of sour mash. Nori-wrapped apple slices with maraschino cherries, black licorice and light cloves. Rich and malty like the breeze passing through a brewery that’s also baking ultra-buttery croissants in back.

Palate: If the nose threw you off, the palate confirms this is indeed a Bunnahabhain. The dark grime of the official 12 is here but wearing a nice, licorice jacket so it seems much more refined. Steely for moments. Dilute pine sap, dark roasted apples and a bright, zingy mouthfeel that sticks around in the finish. Wine-y vapors trail it all with very, very mild peat on the tongue. I thought I tasted some cocoa powder as I was washing the glass after.

Rating: RecommendedBlack licorice and fruit make this typically grimy Islay stand out. Another well-chosen cask from the giants over at The Creative Whisky Company. Cheers!

Thank you Katia and Impex Beverages for the sample.

Exclusive Malts – Laphroaig – 1990 22yr (47.1%)

Exclusive Malts Laphroaig 1990 22yrI have the same problem every Halloween. The day after, I have a million awesome costume ideas and then September-next-year rolls around, people start planning their parties, invitations go out and all those awesome ideas disappear. Every damn time. The ideas I’m left with always end up making me feel stupid.

Hi! What am I supposed to be? I dunno. Let’s see. Uh, I didn’t shave for a while, soooo… a lumberjack? No, I’m not wearing plaid. Ummmm, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Naw, too political. Ooo, Adam Levine! Yea, that’s clever, right? Gah, I’m too fat… um… Al Borland? Sigh.

I always keep a spare set of regular clothes in the car for when I’m done feeling like an asshole. That’s okay, though; there are better things to focus on here in New England as the weather changes.

Costume ideas for the bearded and lazy...

Halloween ideas for the bearded and lazy

Exclusive Malts found a stunning cask, here. It’s a fall dram for sure. The dried leaves, campfire smoke, warming finish that makes me crave pumpkin pie for some reason; it’s got Halloween written all over it. Even the way it dances across the palate changing mid-way like it just contemptuously ripped off a costume it didn’t like.

Nose: This is a spirit in flux. The first wave, a slight hit of the classic medicated iodine against a lightly fruity berry chapstick. Chemical and sweetness battle, like the first few fragrant steps you take into a hardware store or the inside of a plastic pumpkin full of flavored Tootsie Rolls. Fresh Autumn mud and boiled lime peel fight with hard boiled eggs and roasted fish. A salumi plate with pineapple and fried dough.

Palate: Fresh iodine deliver first, with a finish that takes the whisky in a completely different direction at the last second, bringing savory fennel and citrus stuffed olives. Mild mint treads throughout. Peat smoke expands in the finish with a little white pepper and a subtle (for Laphroaig) medicinal tang. I want this one to last forever… and the finish almost does.

Rating: Highly RecommendThis is everything I want in an October (including impetuous costume removal).

Thank you to Katia at Impex Beverages for the sample!

Exclusive Malts – Tormore – 1984 29yr (51.4%)

Exclusive Malts Tormore 1984 29yrA few weeks ago my great-Aunt Rosemary passed away. At the family reunions she always had the best food. Christmas over her house was magical, almost too magical to have fully appreciated when I was younger. Wave after wave of finger foods until even the fattest among us could barely stand. There were alternating assaults of sweet and savory, breads and olives, meats and cakes. It was awesome.

Right away, smelling this whisky brings me back to the full Italian Christmas spread. It makes me miss Ro’… a lot. Life is short, people. Life is short.

Nose: Jordan almonds(!), walnuts and Italian cookie platters at Christmas – Roccoco, Canali, and Amaretti with the little cherries in the middle. They’re out of place on the platter but there are Fig Newtons, too… and some Red Bull. Next wave is the salumi platter, but I can’t stay long, I’m back for the marzipan and pie crust.

Palate: Almonds followed by a quickly fading peppery blast. Loads of the cookies from the nose, some dipped in chocolate. Hay extract with some grassy notes. I start to taste some mortadella and capicola and then the malt starts to contribute. The echo is all nuttiness, Fig Newtons and sugar cookies at first but after a few sips it transitions to peppery, cured meats.

Rating: Highly RecommendThis is like a warm hug from a family member you wished you spent more time with.


Thank you to Katia over at Impex Beverages for the sample!

Exclusive Malts – Dailuaine – 1992 21yr (51%)

Exclusive-Malts-DailuaineI had never heard of Dailuinane before this. Is that how you spell it? Duailanine? Dual-a-nine? Dail-a-ride? Dale, YOU in? Meh, whatever… and there’s not a whole lot of interesting information about them out there, either. Sometimes I get a little disenchanted with the lack of information I get with samples like this, so instead of wearing myself out I’m going to tell you a rambling story about the most inane part of the last 36 hours of my life:

I have terrible insomnia, so I try to rotate which sleep aid I use during particularly bad bouts of it, in the hopes that I won’t grow a tolerance to the drugs that actually work. Yesterday I was buying laundry detergent at Target and saw a pack of ZzzQuil. I love NyQuil and was kind of hoping it was as good at putting me to sleep but without the trippy stuff in it so I wouldn’t feel like a zombie the next day. Well, it turns out ZzzQuil is just a small dose of Benadryl, which makes me sleepy when I have to drive long distances or listen to my grandmother’s friends talk about church, but not when I’m lying in bed at night thinking of all the opportunities I had to say witty things I couldn’t think of at the time. So anyways, ZzzQuil sucks and I only got to sleep for three hours last night. But this morning, right around 10:00, I suddenly got really sleepy again. Like more sleepy than when I took the Benadryl the night before. So I came to this conclusion: I need to take ZzzQuil approximately 13 hours before I need to go to sleep. I’ll let you know tomorrow how it worked out.

Nose: Hints of wheat whisky, half a can of Lemon Pledge sprayed on an overgrown lawn and, in the distance, some gingerbread. Slightly masculine, yet floral. Rich malt. Ground fennel seed, cultured butter and highly-polished wood paneling. Clove and citrus pith. Sawdust and cocoa powder mixed 4:1. Those vanilla wafer cookies, no, not Nilla wafers, the crispy ones that looked like layered pizzelles filled with vanilla creme.

Palate: Beeswax, fennel seed, Oreo creme and orange rind. A little oil and a tad soapy. Surprisingly spiced but a tad woody after a few sips. Candied ginger and nutmeg give way to a lager-y finish with lingering clove. Murphy’s Oil starts to creep in after the last few drops are gone.

Rating: RecommendedThere are so many other amazing Exclusive Malt releases I would recommend before this, though it is certainly a unique single malt and  definitely delicious.

Thank you to Katia over at Impex Beverages for the sample!

Exclusive Malts – Glen Grant – 1992 20yr (55.7%)


Glen Grant is a huge single malt brand, though you wouldn’t know it by the presence it has here in the US. It’s supposedly very popular in Italy and has strong sales numbers around the globe. Originally started by two smuggler brothers, the distillery would later merge a handful of times before finally resting under the ownership of Campari. Like Glenmoranige, they use very tall stills to craft a smooth and less assertive single malt.

Exclusive Malts found this refill Bourbon cask that only yielded 212 bottles. K&L Wine was selling them for $99, though I’m not sure if that was a mistake and it looks like they sold out already. was retailing their’s for $157, but also sold out. I heard claims that this was supposed to retail for around $140, which sounds about right. Both of those vendors have a selection of other Exclusive Malts bottlings, if you’re interested in exploring the brand

Nose: Chicken feet boiled in white wine with one single clove for the initial whiff. The light sweet malt really picks up after a few seconds and then it smells like you’re standing at Whole Foods in front of the bulk cereal section. A haystack and a giant pile of fresh bean sprouts. Cranberries in white chocolate. Cedar and cider with a drop of pear. It definitely lets more caramel loose as you drink it.

Palate: Light and hot. Sweet pink peppercorns and guava. Cedar and gooseberries in ginger water. Effervescent with a sour finish like a Belgian white ale. The finish is also very peppery, as if you had been chewing a piece of fresh ginger, and in the long part starts to taste a little bit like the fresh beans sprouts from the nose. The hot mouth-feel sticks around.

Rating: RecommendedOverall a very nice malt! For a typically mild whisky, this one has a nice tropical fruit to it with a balanced savory side, and a lot of very aggressive pepper. Thank you to Katia over at Impex Beverages for the sample.

Exclusive Malts – Braeval – 1994 18yr (52.1%)

Exclusive Malts Braeval 1994This Braeval bottling is one of 228 bottles, it’s definitely from an ex-Bourbon cask, I would guess a refill cask. Hot and sweet on the nose, a little bit drying, and fruity on the palate. Generalizing, it’s a nice pear-malt with a touch of meatiness. It’s like a great, cask-strength Old Pulteney, but with more blueberries.

Braeval was built in the 1970’s, under the title Braes of Glenlivet which they would change as a result of the mounting legal pressure on nearby just-Glenlivet to secure their identity and brand. The two distilleries were actually owned by the same company at the time. This cask was laid down in 1994, right around the time they changed their name, and then eight years later the distillery was mothballed. It was reopened in 2008, but hasn’t released an official bottling, yet.

Exclusive Malts tastingI picked this bottle up at a tasting in West Springfield, Massachusetts, hosted by Ed Kohl from ImpEx Beverages Inc, the US importer for the brand. The presentation was pleasantly refreshing and the line up was awesome, so if you ever see the Creative Whisky Company or Exclusive Malts doing a tasting near you, you should definitely check it out. One of the most annoying experiences for me is listening to ambassadors go over the same tired and often-erroneous speech about how whisky is made. Ed actually had a very nice (and accurate) presentation put together.

Nose: Sweet! Grilled pineapple with a dollop of cilantro pesto. Blueberries, grapefruit peel and dusty pears. A little rendered beef fat. Sweet wood. For me, water unleashes more farminess and squashes all the interesting bits.

Palate: Blueberry cobbler and vanilla! Immediately hot. Lots of drying pear. Numbing clove and raspberries into the long finish. The hints of farminess translate into dry-aged beef in the vapors.

Rating: Highly RecommendI have people ask me all the time about gift-bottles for single malt lovers in their lives. Single cask bottlings like these make awesome gifts.