The Rarest Casks in Scotland at Incredible Pricing – “Sovereign Wax Top” Series – Scotch Whisky News


A Whisky Collector’s Wish List at the Best Prices Available
“These are some of the most special casks we will have all year…”
– David Othenin-Girard, K&L Spirits Buyer

Quite simply, this is one of the best spirits offers we’ll send out this year. The “Sovereign Wax Top” series is truly a connoisseur’s dream at any price, but we just happen to have these very old, extremely rare, single casks from some of Scotland’s finest distilleries at the best prices in the country. Once upon a time, someone else’s business deal with our supplier fell through, and we were recently able to rescue these stunning beauties from Scotland at 2017 pricing. Originally meant for sale in Europe under the Hunter Laing Old & Rare banner, this venerable lineup, ranging in age statement from 20 to 29 years, constitutes one of the best values in rare whisky you’ll find anywhere. The savviest collectors will recognize the incredible timing and luck of this opportunity and act decisively to secure any or all of these prized bottlings. Available on pre-arrival, now is the best time to secure these treasures. Given their rarity and sharp prices, there’s a very good chance they will sell out before even hitting our shelves. Opportunities such as this don’t come along often, so this is definitely not one to sleep on.

Braes of Glenlivet (Braeval) 29 Year Old “Sovereign Wax Top – K&L Exclusive” Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky (750ml) (Pre-Arrival) ($199.99)These products are expected to arrive for shipment or pickup by September 2019.

The young Braeval distillery, originally known as Braes of Glenlivet, is a relative newcomer to the Speyside whisky scene. Construction began in 1973 and the plant was designed as a workhorse malt for the Chivas Brands (at the time Seagram’s owned them). The location of the distillery is not far from their namesake, Glenlivet, and the name translates to the “hillside in the valley of the river Livet.” The name was originally intended to be an example of how to properly express the geographic location, which many other distilleries used at the time, but Seagram’s had trademarked. Ultimately, they would win the right to use the word Glenlivet on their other distilleries’ labels exclusively and therefore renamed this distillery appropriately. Always considered a high quality base malt for the blenders, Braeval was promptly shut down after its sale to Pernod Ricard in 2001. Thankfully, they reopened the plant in 2008. This old cask bears the name the distillate had when it came off the still almost 30 years ago and represents one of the finest examples of the rare distillate we’ve ever come across. Even at this age the malt remains fully intact without any semblance of degradation. Extremely complex and chock full of classic Speyside aromatics coupled with a bevy of unique flavors. This is truly the finest old Braeval we’ve ever come across and a must-have for anyone looking for proper old Speyside malt at an altogether reasonable price.

David Othenin-Girard | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: June 16, 2019

We often over look Braeval because it’s not the sexiest malt. The workhouse malt for many blenders has a relatively good reputation, but has never been released as a single malt so consumers tend ignore it. But anytime we see it listed by its original trade name we must take note because that means it’s old! This is unquestionably the best Braes of Glenlivet I’ve ever had (admittedly I haven’t had too many), but even beyond the oddity of seeing a cask of this stuff at this age, it’s simply delicious malt. It has everything I want from a great old Speyside malt and much more. The nose starts with an absolutely gorgeous dark maltiness. Behind that sweet syrup of stone fruits, complex herbs, bitter barks and mint. Despite the high proof and not atypical of very old malt, this one improves much more with air than water. Even a drop of water seems to draw some astringency out. But if you keep adding you’ll find it goes full circle into the pretty peaches and herbal tea thing we started at. That said, I’d recommend not touching this one with water if you can handle it. On the palate, tons of bold malty flavors, growing influence of the mint and dried herbs taking over. Hints of fruit and citrus remain, but they’re thinly spread across a slice of rustic country bread, sprinkled in salt and mint. A truly exciting and almost profound little malt, just remember, NO WATER!

Highland Park 21 Year Old “Sovereign Wax Top – K&L Exclusive” Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky (750ml) (Pre-Arrival) ($199.99)

The Sovereign Wax Top series are some of the most special casks we will have all year. This iconic Kirkwall distillery truly shines at cask strength, something their owners seem to shy away from. Bottles of this caliber do not come around often, and they certainly don’t exist at this price anywhere in the States except at K&L. Thanks to our longstanding partnership with the Laings, we were able to purchase this 21 year old beauty in the first place—tack onto that the insane price and well, pinch yourself. We thought the era of deals like this was long gone. If you remember, we sold a 20-year-old from Old Particular at the same price just 2 years ago. While the rest of the whisky world has been doubling their prices or more, we’ve been able to offer you even more whisky for your dollar. Bottled at 52% and packaged in the handsome “Sovereign Wax Top” bottles, this is going to be a benchmark example of the most famous Orkney distillery and maybe one of the final chances to get a mature, named, independent bottling of this blue chip distillery at a not completely jaw dropping price.

David Othenin-Girard | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: June 17, 2019

I have to be honest here, there are tons of Highland Parks on the market right now, but I guarantee none of them actually include the words on the label. That’s because at some point in the last few years, the distillery dumped a huge quantity of stock (barrels from single production days vatted together to keep birthdays similar) and sold it off as unnamed Orkney stocks. Some of these stocks are very good and lots of them are just ok. Some of those stocks are also very affordable, while others are absolutely outrageously expensive, almost comically so. But, NO one is trying to sell us named Highland Park anymore. We’ve been lucky to have the Laings in our corner and last year’s Old Particular 20 year was an extremely well liked and successful cask. The same whisky from Douglas Laing this year just one year older is costing 40% more per bottle. We’ll probably have to pass. Yet somehow we’ve been able to get Hunter Laing to bottle an HP one year older than last year’s OP at the exact same shelf price. Like many of the Hunter Laing Old & Rare, these casks are extremely small, split up between markets to stretch the goodwill they garner. While these stocks (and all the Sovereign Wax Top) were once intended for the well regarded Hunter Laing Old & Rare line, we’ve agreed to use this packaging so a national importer might have the option to use the other. We don’t care about the bottle so much in the end as long as the juice inside is out of this world. Needless to say this whisky lives up to the expectations. The nose is crystalline and perfectly apportioned. Bold mineral, tangy citrus, chalk, saline, bright pure malt, slight mossy undertone. With water (only a drop please) even more chalk, sweet stewed pear, benedictine, tropical fruit and fresh rain on rocks. An HP for the Burgundy lover in all of us.

Jackson Lee | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: June 11, 2019

You can’t get too much better than this for the price. The nose is full of caramelized pear, white flower blossoms and cacao nibs. The palate has a smooth, dry texture to it and reminded me of sitting around a campfire eating smores. The lightest hint of sweet smoke and prunes also seemed recognizable. The finish was long and this time was more reminiscent of taking red hots and cooking them (for whatever reason) on the bbq (charcoal, not gas).

Andrew Whiteley | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: June 05, 2019

My first word upon nosing this glass isn’t fit for print. Floral peat, gobs of stone fruit, and sea spray mingle with milk chocolate and smoke. There is incredible richness on the palate and yet again chocolate and sea salt blend with pitted peaches and apricots. The finish lingers for a long time and slowly releases zesty orange peel. Regardless of price, this bottle will be talked about for years to come at K&L. Factor in the price and it’s a legend.

Clynelish 21 Year Old “Sovereign Wax Top – K&L Exclusive” Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky (750ml) (Pre-Arrival) ($249.99)

To say there has been a renaissance in interest in the unusually special distillery in the town of Brora would be an understatement. While the owners seem to be uninterested in further expanding the distillery’s repertoire beyond the standard offerings, the rest of the world is crying out for more Clynelish. It doesn’t hurt that Clynelish’s sister distillery Brora, nearly mythical in the eyes of many connoisseurs and novices alike, has recently announced its reopening, but Clynelish itself deserves praise for its exceptional character and unmatched complexity. This mysterious distillery, not an easy one to get inside, is renowned for its waxy character. Rumors about the unusual deposits the spirits leave behind in the spirits receivers are unverified, but there’s no question that something special is happening behind those walls up on that hill. The distillery’s owners are rather stingy with the stocks and old barrels are about as rare as hens’ teeth. Anything over 15 years from Clynelish commands astronomical prices on the open markets. This is truly one of Scotland’s finest malts. It will take only one tiny little drop of this exquisite and unapologetic malt to make even the most callous skeptic a diehard believer. The purity here almost makes us forget the heady peated wonders that once flowed from the legend Brora below. Whiskies in our shop at 2 or 3 times this price won’t offer you the same awe-inspiring experience that this modest little malty delicacy does. A true gem.

David Othenin-Girard | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: June 17, 2019

To say that I’m partial to this distillery would be an understatement. Clynelish is right up there for me with all of Scotland’s finest. Let’s be honest, not all malt is equal. Some distilleries just simply make better whisky more consistently. That’s not a linear equation but is the function of a number of factors that happen to favor certain makes. Of course, we find legends among the lesser distillates and we also have far less access to many of the great malts in terms of bottling single cask. But my partiality toward Clynelish doesn’t make me more likely to purchase a cask from the distillery. In fact, it has made me much more skeptical. Over the last few years, what was once relatively available older “affordable” Clyenlish has all but disappeared. While the occasional sample came around it was either not up to snuff or completely outrageous in terms of cost. But when we tasted this special hogshead of Brora’s finest, we couldn’t let it out of our grasp. Of course, the whisky is more expensive than casks we might have sold 4 or 5 years ago of a similar age but also, it’s simply more delicious. This Clynelish reminds me of a magnificent geode. Other worldly, yet a product of nature. Chiseled and shimmering, yet somehow wild and unruly. Its smooth facets and complex structure and of course its unprecedented beauty. The nose offers classic Clynelish, but not too the point of being all candles. The wax is there, but framed by stunning Fuji apple, fresh herbs, forest floor, old leather and salted apricots. With some water, we’re getting pretty waxy! Carnauba and leather, sweet baked apples and fresh tobacco leaf. On the palate, this stuff is softer than even the nose had alluded. But it doesn’t lag at all on flavor. Fresh mint, dusty auto parts, sweet tea, anise, camphor, crayons, butterscotch, shiso, marmalade etc. With or without water you’re going to do great here. While this isn’t one of those whiskies that’s so cheap people won’t be able to stop themselves, it does represent one of the finest examples of top tier Highland single malt we’ve had in a long time. There’s absolutely nothing else in this price point or style on the market today and those who pass on this one will regret it deeply going forward.

Andrew Whiteley | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: June 13, 2019

The fruit will not be contained. Even just popping the cork you can immediately smell the sweet candied fruits. When you pour a dram it fills the room. Vanilla, creme brulee, stewed apricots and nectarines meld with spiced pear. On the palate you’ve got pepper dancing with cinnamon, vanilla ice cream smothered in fresh berries and syrup. A kick of honeyed oats and sweet grass round out the finish. It’s perfect Clynelish and the pricing is better than any other cask available by 100 bucks or more. Pure insanity.

Jackson Lee | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: June 05, 2019

You definitely want to pick this up. We were lucky enough to secure this older bottling and it is superb. I wanted to live in this glass, turn it into one of those car air fresheners, a perfume, whatever; I want this smell in my nose at all times. Sweet oak, vanilla, dried apricot and white nectarine enthrall my olfactory receptors to the point of bliss. The palate is an ethereal endeavor, a silky texture with sweet oak and vanilla notes plucking at my heartstrings. The finish rounds out with a bit of caramel apple and dry oak. Definitely get this bottle before it’s gone for good.

Laphroaig 20 Year Old “Sovereign Wax Top – K&L Exclusive” Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky (750ml) (Pre-Arrival) ($249.99)

It has been a bit since we’ve had a single cask of Laphroaig and even longer since we’ve had one this old. From Laing’s excellent late ’90s stock, we lucked out to be able to acquire this bottling at 2017 prices. Right now in Scotland, we’re unable to buy Laphroaig older than 15 years for less than £200 a bottle ex-warehouse. That translates to more than $400+ on a retail shelf in most markets. Our close friends and partners at Signatory just sold out a 20 year single cask of Laphroaig for upwards of $700. But, a good bit of luck and some even better timing and we’ve got this exquisite rarity for way below the market’s going rate. Bottled at 52.5%, this offers exactly what we want from an old cask of Laphroaig. The peaty medicinal notes have burnished their hard edges over two decades and melted into velvety flames. The elegant side of Laphroaig’s malt really gets to take its moment in the spotlight, but behind it all the brooding brute watches closely by. A stunning pale gold color, this one is exceptionally easy drinking at cask strength and gives pause to even the most experienced among us. A truly legendary whisky from Islay’s most distinctive malt.

David Othenin-Girard | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: June 17, 2019

Sometimes we forget about how special old Islay whisky can be simply because it seems to barely exist. When we do see something more than 18 years old, it tends to be astronomically expensive. We loved the Ardbeg Twenty Somethings, but dang those prices are high. Laphroaig doesn’t really do much in this age range, having discontinued the 18 year and proofed down the older offerings. So we’re stuck with the independently bottled stocks. Funny thing, just like Ardbeg, Laphroaig has decided that they’re not going to sell a single drop of whisky to anyone else without declassifying it (teaspooned or otherwise). That means that our suppliers have no way to replenish their stocks of Islay’s most distinctive malt. Prices are now absolutely bonkers. The same, albeit delicious, ’98 Laphroaig’s from Signatory that we sold for $160 at 15 years of age are now 21-years-old and selling for $700+. But somehow we acquired this old stock bottled 2 years ago and the prices simply didn’t change. The result is a perfect old Laphroaig at a retro price point. Yes it’s still VERY expensive, but there’s absolutely nothing available anywhere close to this quality on the market today. This is no modern Laphroaig by the way. Expect the linear medicinal peat to be a bit tamed due to the age, but still tons of complex smoky flavors and more. Camphor, tar, diesel engine, lime, dried salted meat, fresh pirellis. On the palate the peat is still front and center, sweet herbs, salted herring, capers, kombu, lemon sauce, spices. With water we’re opening the nose quite a lot. Big lemon component taking hold here. Green olives, salt spray, meringue, tropical plants. On the palate there’s still plenty of peat, but it’s relinquished its strong hold, now salted fruits, salted nuts, salted fish. It’s salty! Billowing ashy smoke in the background, yet somehow it still feels clean. White pepper, ginger powder, sweet roots, lemon tea on the long sublime finish. Just a massive classic, old Laphroaig. One that might turn the most jaded peat hater into a believer or convince the staunchest proponent of young punchy peaters that old Islay is still king. Only 96 bottles available.

Jackson Lee | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: June 18, 2019

Wow. Ok, back up… To be fair, Laphroaig was the first Scotch that really got me into whiskey but this dram is just unfair. Brown sugared bacon, honey biscuits, with the lightest bit of smoke and iodine wafting up from the glass and figuratively tickling the nose. The palate reminded me of charred jalapeno skin, candied fennel, bar-b-qued ribs and salted caramel and just took over all of my favorite taste buds. The finish was extremely long and tasted much better than the bar-b-qued band-aids the flavor reminded me of.

Andrew Whiteley | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: June 05, 2019

“Salty and smoky and a touch medicinal and beautiful and floral and oh my god.” This is all I wrote when we tasted this cask in Scotland. Upon further review – it’s pretty much the exact same train of thought I had tasting it again in the States. Hunter Laing has outdone themselves with this cask and pricing. I truly do not believe we will see this kind of value proposition again for aged Blue Chip Islay malt whisky.

Stefanie Juelsgaard | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: May 30, 2019

The Laphroaig name is very well known already within the whisky world because of its devotion to using its own floor maltings and hand-cut peat. This kind of attention and labor does not disappoint in its contribution to flavor. With citrus, pine, and herbal notes, and the classic medicinal character we expect from Laphroaig. Throw in a long finish thanks to the cask strength nature and you have a truly tasty, very unique drink.

Springbank 22 Year Old “Sovereign Wax Top – K&L Exclusive” Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky (750ml) (Pre-Arrival) ($399.99)

We had an exceptional cask of Springbank last year that sold out after almost no effort on our part. We only received 78 bottles from that cask because it had supposedly been split with another market. As it turns out, we might have found the rest of that cask. The supplier is unable to confirm if this is the rest of the cask that we didn’t get last year or if in fact it is a sister cask. Again we’ve only been allocated a tiny amount (108 bottles) and the proof is slightly lower by one tenth of one percent. If it is indeed the same juice, it certainly is not the same bottle. Last year’s came in the Hunter Laing Old & Rare packaging while this year’s is bottled under the Sovereign line with a handsome wax top to indicate it’s of a different caliber than most Sovereign bottlings. Regardless of the cagey back story, this stupendous example of Scotland’s most (read ONLY) old-style distillery is a true wonder. The distillery releases a 21-year-old at 46% which easily fetches $400, but never achieves quite what these single casks can deliver. There’s no question that these old Springers are expensive, but in context their quality, scarcity and the enormous amount of care and energy that go into producing this whisky means that it should be considered by all who care to be the very most valuable commodity in the whisky drinking world. We certainly think it’s worth every penny we’re charging and maybe much more.

David Othenin-Girard | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: June 17, 2019

I was absolutely obsessed with the magical 22 year old Springbank we sold last year. That special cask only turned out 78 bottles and I was under the impression that the rest had gone to Europe. Now I’m not so sure. When Hunter Laing said they had another 108 bottles of 22 year old Springbank, they couldn’t confirm that it wasn’t the exact same. Upon tasting it there’s almost no doubt that this is either the same cask or a sister cask of very similar quality. It’s a pretty weird thing to have happen, especially when Scotland is being tight lipped about it, but I’m not complaining or questioning it for one second. I think I called last year’s whisky, “a living legend in our midst.” It’s sounds like hyperbole, but this is truly one of the finest modern Springbanks I’ve ever tasted. Very much in the old style, although it begins rather restrained, it’s packed with layer upon layer of complex flavor. Light peat, camphor, new Jordans, expensive non-scented candles. On the palate, surprising big Campbeltown peat. Big smoke, tons of tension. But with just a little tiny smidge of water, the nose explodes from the glass. Soot, cigars, lemons, leather, creosote, fresh tennis balls, quince jam, chamomile, coriander, thujone, more and more keeps coming out. On the palate it’s now pure Highland peat-smoked lemons, menthol, citrus oil, green tea, hints of candied stone fruits, grains of paradise and an almost numbing feeling that brings me back to absinthe. The finish is long and lingering, the menthol note keeps coming back with every breath in. This one is emotional. Satisfying to the soul. Exhausting. I’m winded. We keep pointing back at Springbank, there’s just nothing like it. If you want to know the difference between modern whisky and real whisky, the answer is right here.

Jackson Lee | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: June 18, 2019

One of Campbeltown’s finest, it’s hard to pass up anything this old from this distillery at this price. This is one beautiful dram, one I’m highly tempted to pick up to add to my Scotch cellar. The nose is beautiful with tropical fruits like mango and pineapple sitting in a sweet brine. I also got notes of wet hay, pencil shavings, and quince. The palate was sublime, evoking an audible expression of surprise and pleasure. The texture alone was fantastic, soft and silky yet not quite oily with more tropical fruit notes to back up the nose. The finish was long, with oak, baking spices and an almost overly ripe pear. Definitely one for the whiskey nerds.

Andrew Whiteley | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: June 13, 2019

The perfect example of why Springbank remains my favorite distillery. This whisky offers a bit of everything. At 22 years old it’s as fresh as a daisy with loads of bright fruit, fresh cut grass, and a little minerality on the nose. On the palate the bourbon barrel influence is complex and well developed – there is a fine tannin structure and the alcohol is well integrated into the body of the whisky. It shows stone fruits and that gentle smoke that makes Springbank so lovely. The midpalate has chew. Classic. The finish is long and clean and full of grilled peaches and vanilla ice cream drizzled with caramel. A sister cask to last year’s 22-year-old, but with a touch more body and intensity.

Stefanie Juelsgaard | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: May 30, 2019

Springbank is already regarded as one of our favorite distilleries at K&L for their dedication to the labor and time they devote to their whisky. Because we already hold them in such regard, we are always particularly psyched to see these tiny single barrel offerings hit our shelves. With a big, chewy middle (thanks to bourbon barrel aging) and the perfect intertwining of spice and light smoke, this is one of the more unique Scotches we will offer this year. The smoke carries an earthy, not petroly character, which integrates seamlessly with the other characteristics. The cask strength brings drive to these flavors and makes for one pretty damn good drink.


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