It seems the latest batch of Whisky Agency releases passed by with a little less fuss than we’ve come to expect. They’ve been on the market for a while, but I’ve only been able to try two or three. Here’s the Auchentoshan 1994 from the Circus series.
Auchentoshan 21 yo 1994 (54,8%, The Whisky Agency 2015, refill hogshead, 216 btl.)
Nose: rather naked, with some nice fruity notes (unripe pineapple, green banana, greengages) and light grassy notes. Slightly less common notes of menthol. Some flinty hints, as well as some waxy lipstick notes. Nice and simple. After some time I get some candy necklaces – do you remember these? Mouth: green and grassy at first, before moving to garden fruits (nectarine, apple) and light citrus (mainly grapefruit). The mentholated side became really big now and is amplified by some eucalyptus and herbal notes. A bit funny, but quite nice. Hints of bittersweet oak too. Finish: medium long, zesty, herbal and grassy.
This is dram that goes into the “interesting” category for me, more than in the “enjoyable” category. By no means a bad dram though. Around € 135 – still available in many places.
Any shopkeeper will tell you a lot of people are anxiously waiting for new independent Irish whiskey, especially these (officially undisclosed) Bushmills casks that seem to have been brought to the market by the Teeling brothers. This is a brand-new one, already sold out in most places.
Irish single malt 27 yo 1988 (49,5%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams 2015, joint bottling with LMdW)
Nose: another generously exotic nose (guava, tinned pineapple, kiwi, passion fruits). Rather warm and honeyed, maybe a little less of the acidity that you find in other examples, but more redcurrant jam and nice hints of fresh cassis. Melon, apricot, strawberry candy (marshmallow). In the background there’s vanilla cream, cinnamon and hints of cedar wood. Light mint. Mouth: very, very exotic again. Mango, maracuja, litchi, quince, gradually joined by spicy notes (ginger, aniseed) and some grapefruit zest. Blackcurrants. Grand Marnier. Hints of salty oak towards the end. Finish: long, creamy but with more spices (nutmeg, ginger), zesty notes and a light hint of tobacco.
I’ve tried this one on three occasions now. The first time I was struck by the hints of red fruits (sherry?), which made it rather special for me. However these notes were softer the next time, showing a more classic, exotic profile. Anyway another excellent Irish malt. Around € 210.
The Whisky Mercenary selected his newest bottling from the Gordon & MacPhail stocks. Twenty years old indie Highland Park. We’re not complaining!
Highland Park 20 yo 1995
(50%, Gordon & MacPhail Exclusive for The Whisky Mercenary 2015, refill bourbon hogshead #1485, 325 btl.)
Nose: sweet heather honey and zesty notes at the same time. Green apple, white peach and lemon candy. Slightly youngish banana and pear. Subtle coconut notes and a touch of mint / menthol. Very soft peat smoke and limestone. A rather summery version of Highland Park, thanks to the bourbon oak. Mouth: rich and fruity, with stewed fruits and a banana and peach combo. Candy sugar. Nice oranges and coriander seeds. The whisky translation of a Belgian triple beer, in a way. Some hay. Marzipan and honey sweetness. After that, light spices, hints of peat, creamy chocolate and quite some pepper. Finish: long, fruity with lemon, a touch of smoke and faint hints of cocoa.
Good stuff, very fruity and incredibly drinkable. Expensive but better than a lot of official releases. Arriving in stores as we speak. Around € 145.
Enough old treasures for a while. This week we’ll focus on more mundane new releases.
Elements of Islay Lp6 is a first-fill matured Laphroaig, the latest in the Elements of Islay series from The Whisky Exchange (or rather its sister company Specialty Drinks).
(51,3%, Elements of Islay 2015, 50 cl)
Nose: classic Laphroaig elements (profound smoke, dried kelp, iodine, eucalyptus) but also elegantly mixed with honey and vanilla. Nice hints of aromatic Szechuan pepper. Some peaches. A relatively mild nose. Mouth: again some tarry smoke but also plenty of rounder notes. Vanilla syrup, hints of roasted pineapple. Hints of black olives and Mediterranean herbs. Although initially rather sweet, it becomes drier and more savoury, with liquorice roots and cloves. Finish: long, on earthy smoke and liquorice, with just a hint of vanilla.
A big Laphroaig with two faces: a savoury, smoky side but also a rounder, fruitier character (especially if you add a bit of water). Around € 110. Available from TWE among others.
The best thing we had on our little tasting last week? Definitely this 30 years old Brora 1972 in the Old & Rare Platinum series from Douglas Laing.
It is from the legendary 1972 vintage (the one that shows the most farmy notes, including these specific sheep stable notes) and matured in sherry casks. Usually a great recipe for outstanding Brora.
Brora 30 yo 1972 (49,7%, Douglas Laing Old & Rare Platinum 2003, 222 btl.)
Nose: without doubt the farmiest nose I’ve ever experienced. There must have been sheep in the stillroom. It’s stunning. Manure and wet dogs, horse stables, nicely blended with heather smoke, warm leather, paraffin candles and medicinal balm. A lot of coffee notes as well, wet earth and tobacco leaves. Wonderfully rounded though, thanks to Spanish fig bread, caramel-coated pecans and maple syrup. Gianduja. Some honeyed / rummy notes. Mouth: a peaty, earthy start, which gradually becomes rounder. Quite some toffee, burnt cake, Pu-erh tea, some heather again. A short burst of grapefruit and mandarin. Back to herbal syrup and some sharper notes of ginseng and liquorice. Eucalyptus. Creamy tar (does that make sense?). Leather. Hints of dates and roasted nuts. Oh my, oh my. Finish: rather endless. Most of the sherry notes are gone though, it’s the herbal, waxy and coastal side that shines through now.
This is brilliant whisky and a benchmark bottling for sherried Brora. I know I’ve got a few other legendary expressions to review, but this is one of the best malts ever for me. Expect auction prices around € 2000. TWE is selling it for around € 5700. Many many thanks, Bert.
I know some friends who have open bottles of Karuizawa, but they were usually opened before the prices exploded. Who still opens them now?
This Karuizawa 1981 cask #152 was part of the 2014 collection from La Maison du Whisky, which included four Karuizawas from the late 1970s and 1981.
Karuizawa 33 yo 1981 (54,5%, OB for LMdW 2014, sherry cask #152, 566 btl.)
Nose: the nicest humidors, with lots of tobacco notes (cigars but pipes even more) and exotic woods like cedar and thuja. Big fruity notes too, strawberry jams and blackberries. Thyme, dried porcini. Some hickory smoke after a while. Pu-erh tea. Old roses, hints of lokum even. We tried this alongside the Karuizawa Nepal Appeal and I prefer this nose. Mouth: not as bloated as some other Karuizawas, slightly more docile. The same interplay of sweet berries and dark prunes, spices (thyme, cumin, nutmeg) and earthy smoke. Bergamot and blood oranges in a second wave. Then back to tobacco leaves and some very light medicinal herbs. Finish: very long, but this is where it looses a point. Drier than the Nepal bottling, showing more earthy notes, more smoke and more tannins, eased by some chocolate and eucalyptus.
One of the best Karuizawa noses ever, in my opinion. Too bad for the dryness in the end. Originally € 515, now around € 4000 in auctions. Thanks for popping it, Joeri, highly appreciated.
The Nikka Taketsuru range unites blended malts from the Yoichi and Miyagikyou distilleries. The Taketsuru 35 Year Old is the oldest available, very limited (1000 bottles) and originally reserved for the Japanese market.
Masataka Taketsuru was sent to Scotland in 1918 to learn the secrets of whisky making. He came back with a suitcase full of luggage, and Rita Taketsuru, his Scottish wife. Both would play an important role in the development of Nikka and Japanese whisky in general.
Nikka Taketsuru 35 yo
(43%, OB 2008, 1000 btl.)
Nose: quite exceptional. It’s remarkably fruity and tropical (mango and passion fruits, plums, hints of raspberry and melon) and full of oak polish and waxed leather. Cinnamon and tobacco. Something slightly fragrant (bergamot and rose petals). A bit of mint. It has an Irish side, something American as well, but it’s clearly oriental too. Intruiging and highly seductive. Mouth: again this lovely mix of mango / guava / passion fruit with fragrant bergamot. Strawberries. Something lightly rummy. Old cognac too. Very creamy and rounded considering the age. Just some exotic spices from the oak (cinnamon, soft pepper, cardamom) and a hint of citrus green tea. Maybe some light wood smoke in the background? Finish: medium long and rather light, but fresh with the fruity green tea and mint in the lead.
It would have been great to have this at a slightly higher strength, but nonetheless this is a superb and wonderfully cosmopolitan dram, with an exceptional nose. Around € 1100 in auctions. Thanks, Bert.
In our flight of Brora, we also had this Port Ellen 1983 in the exclusive Private Stock series of The Whisky Agency.
Actually I think the Brora 1975 Rare Malts was better than this Port Ellen, so I’m reviewing them in the wrong order. I had the Brora 1972 Alambic Classique lined up instead (thanks for your sample, Dominiek) but I forgot I had already reviewed it some time ago… So here’s a bottle that didn’t really make the top-5.
Port Ellen 27 yo 1983 (55,6%, The Whisky Agency ‘Private Stock’ 2010, refill sherry cask, 96 btl.)
Nose: one of these Port Ellen expressions that are really close to Caol Ila of the same era / age. Warm smoke, with medium peat and quite some sweet and fruity undertones (orange jelly, peach compote, candy apple). Leathery tones, a hint of cocoa and subtle medicinal notes. Lovely harmony. Mouth: bigger than the nose made me expect. Lots of lemony, peppery, ashy notes, very Caol Ellen. Stewed plums and citrus, with a pinch of salt and ginger. Liquorice. Full-bodied but quite round again. Finish: long, ashy, with soft hints of brine and a bit of sherry sweetness.
A great Port Ila, but it doesn’t give me a “wtf?” feeling like some other Private Stock bottlings. Could have been the pressure of such legendary Brora before. Around € 900 in auctions. Thanks, Joeri.