Tomatin 25 yo 1988
(49,7%, The Whisky Agency ‘Perfect Dram’ 2013, refill hogshead, 304 btl.)
Nose: sweet, candied fruits. Angelica cake. Gooseberry pie. Lime. Violets? Also a grassy / herbal side (hay, aniseed, heather). Vanilla. Then some blonde tobacco and banana leafs. Liquorice as well. Pretty complex and wide. Mouth: sweet and rounded, with lemon sweets, gooseberries again, marzipan. Quite oily. Faint hints of pink grapefruit, and again very light violet notes. Evolves towards more grassy notes, with a little nutmeg and liquorice. Ginger too. Finish: medium long, sweet and spicy. Oranges and mocha.
High quality Tomatin, with echoes of the 1970’s but more focused on green notes and sweet herbs than usual. Around € 140.
Bunnahabhain 26 yo 1987 (50,2%, Archives 2013, dark sherry cask #2557, 233 btl.)
Nose: juicy sherry. Figs and dates, but only half-dried I would say. Also jammy cherries and red grapes (hinting towards raisins, but not quite yet). Toffee. Caramelized banana. Subtle exotic spices and pencil shavings. Cinnamon and cardamom, also a little ginger. Soft iodine. Whiffs of dried mushrooms and tobacco. Mouth: full-flavoured with sweet, sour, salty and spicy elements. Prunes and oranges. Cinnamon and nutmeg. Lots of chocolate / mocha notes, as well as some roasted chestnuts, even charcoal. Balanced oak. Fades on liquorice and herbal liqueurs. Finish: very long, with chocolate, herbs and nuts alongside the emphatic coastal character.
Big, heavily sherried whisky that manages to fit in a long list of flavours and still keep a nice balance. Really good, with traces of the famous Karuizawa power. Around € 145, available from Whiskybase.
Lochside 30 yo 1981 (46%, Berry Bros. 2004, cask #610/613)
Springbank 12 yo (40%, James McArthur & Co)
Springbank 30 yo (46%, OB 1990s, dumpy bottle)
Tomatin 35 yo 1976 (51%, Wilson & Morgan 2012, sherry cask #10, 396 btl.)
Quite impressive, I’m still recovering! With one or two exceptions these were all high 90’s scorers. Especially the BenRiach 1976 Kinko II, the Ardbeg 1974, Clynelish 1973 Prestonfield and the Lagavulin 15yo made a big impression.
Here’s another one of my personal highlights, a Brora distilled in March 1972 and bottled April 2002 for Germany. Thanks for sharing, Dominiek.
Brora 30 yo 1972 (46,6%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask for Alambic Classique 2002, 204 btl.)
Nose: interestingly sharp and elegant at the same time. Camphor and bandages, paraffin, growing peat, wet fur, a tyre shop, subtle horse stables… Still these aromas are quite subdued which makes them intriguingly attractive. The nose gets rounder over time, with sweet pipe tobacco and a vague fruitiness. Sublime balance. Mouth: the same kind of elegant play with flavours. Oily, with hints of peat and different herbs, as well as dry oak and resin. Pu-Erh tea. Liquorice root. Evolves on pear and lemon syrup. Dark chocolate. Vague honey. Pepper and eucalyptus. Again slightly farmy in the background. Finish: long, with ashes, coastal notes and something tarry.
Typical early 1970’s Brora I would say, with a Port Ellenish coastal character. Excellent whisky, every whisky enthusiast should try such old Brora. Very rare and well over € 1000 in auctions nowadays.
Here’s a new Bunnahabhain 1987 in the Perfect Dram series.
Fino sherry, the über-dry type, is rarely used for whisky maturation and in my opinion it’s also the least influential of all types of sherry. It can be hard to pin down exactly what the Fino contributed.
Bunnahabhain 25 yo 1987
(49,4%, The Whisky Agency ‘Perfect Dram’ 2013, Fino hogshead, 255 btl.)
Nose: nicely aromatic. Plenty of citrus notes (grapefruit and lemon) and stewed apples. Subtle notes of whitecurrant and wine gums. Quite some blossomy notes as well. Nice cigar boxes and soft leather. Subtle smoke, coastal notes and wet hay. Big finesse. Mouth: oily mouthfeel. Berries up front again, and unripe pear. Apple peel. Then the sharper coastal character comes out, with some brine and liquorice. Zesty lemon. Soft earthy notes as well. As a small surprise, it fades on unripe banana with soft vanilla. Some cinnamon and cardamom too. Finish: medium long, a zesty bitterness with liquorice and herbs.
A nice Bunnahabhain that unfolds slowly but nicely. It’s pretty complex so take your time. Around € 145.
ps/ The Nectar of the Daily Drams has a similar but more expensive Bunnahabhain 26 yo at 62,5%, a joint bottling with La Maison du Whisky.
Age Matters is a new series by The Whiskyman. The labels feature big age statements, moving away from the current trend of hiding the age and claiming age is not very important when it comes to whisky. In fact even the distillery is hard to spot.
This ‘17’ is a 17 years old Clynelish 1996. In the current line-up there’s also a Ledaig 15, Ben Nevis 16, Littlemill 21 and Bruichladdich 22.
Clynelish 17 yo 1996 (53,3%, The Whiskyman ‘Age Matters’ 2013)
Nose: not the obvious sherry influence. There’s spiced Mexican cocoa and toffee as well as some dried fruits, alongside more classical Clynelish notes like wet limestone and lemon. Wet hay and soft earthy hints. Leather. A bit of a Janus. Mouth: again a slightly strange combination. Lemon, gravel, maybe wet cardboard. The sweeter sides returns, with dark chocolate, but this is no sweet sherry bomb. Some wax. Pepper, ginger and green herbs, as well as a mustardy edge. Rather dry. Finish: quite long, herbal and zesty.
An atypical Clynelish to say the least. It keeps switching between profiles, hesitating between the distillery character and the sherry cask. Neither of them really pushes through. A rather educational release from a bottler that’s known for exemplary Clynelish. Around € 85.
Nose: slightly sharp, with a lemon marmalade / rhubarb note and some floral notes on top. Sour plums. Lots of Seville oranges. Some oily / waxy notes, eucalyptus and spices (pepper, cardamom). Fruit cake and cherry biscuits underneath as well as some pencil shavings. Mouth: oily, medium sweet, with honey and berries. Litchi liqueur. Some grapey notes and locum. Citrus again. Becomes fairly herbal towards the end, alongside an oaky dryness. Finish: medium long, slightly winey and oaky, with raisins, pepper and oak until the very end.
Very flavoursome considering its age. Rich, oily, waxy but also a tad winey and acidic. Slightly uncommon but classy spirit in any case. Around € 90.
Gouden Carolus is a highly respected beer from brewery Het Anker in Mechelen, Belgium. Besides a family brewing tradition spanning five generations, the family also distilled genever in a nearby village (actually almost in the backyard of my home).
This mill and later distillery called De Molenberg was renovated and in 2010 two pot stills were installed, custom made by Forsyths in Rothes. At that time it was the first pot still distillery in Belgium following Scottish traditions. Scotsmen Harry Cockburn (former manager of Bowmore) and Dr. James Swan (who helped to design whiskies for Penderyn and Kavalan among others) helped to define the processes.
I’ve had a quick chat with Charles Leclef, the owner of the brewery, and he stresses the fact that he wants to reach a wide audience of different experience levels, not just connoisseurs. Also he doesn’t want to be bound by Scottish maturation traditions. For now there are no plans for a range of a 5yo, 10yo etc. New expressions are possible but long maturation is not a must.
You may remember another Gouden Carolus single malt released in 2009. That was a totally different whisky, made in column stills at the Filliers genever distillery and matured in Jim Beam casks. A slightly quirky whisky.
The new one is produced in their own pot stills, matured in first fill bourbon barrels with a finish in recharred (virgin) casks. Remember it’s made from basically the triple beer mash, but without the hops and aromatics. It’s just over three years old and bottled unchill-filtered and natural colour. The 50 cl bottles are only available at the brewery for now, but they will appear in select shops in a few weeks. A small visitors centre is planned to open in May 2014.
(46%, OB 2013, first fill bourbon + Het Anker cask finish, 50 cl.)
Nose: attractive nose, despite the obvious youth. Fruity notes (apricot jam and apples), moving to fruit gums and eventually also nice Guimauve / marshmallow notes. There’s a slight Irishness to it. Quite some vanilla. Scented wax candles. Hints of fresh oak shavings as well. Slightly ahead of its age, good. Mouth: full-flavoured, very malty, still quite fruity although there is also a slightly harsh grainy note (which may disappear with some extra years). Vanilla, soft ginger and pepper. Finish: medium long, drying with the oak moving forward. Nutmeg and vanilla.
This new Gouden Carolus single malt is better than I expected. The obvious beer notes of the previous release are gone and replaced by classic malty notes and spiced fresh oak influence. Promising. Around € 37.
So far there has only been one ‘black label’ from The Whiskyman, a Caperdonich 1972. It is reserved for extraordinary releases, old whisky that is hard to come by.
Last Friday, at the start of the Lindores festival, a second black label was presented, this Bunnahabhain 1973. Four members of the Lindores whisky club (Dirk, Geert, Christophe and Dominiek a.k.a. ‘The Whiskyman’) have turned 40 years old this year and they selected this cask as their private birthday dram.
The fab four asked me to design the label, and their heads are on the label. Don’t worry though, I’ve spent hours removing the wrinkles, pimples and double chins, it’s now suited for the front row of any whisky cabinet. Just kidding guys, congratulations!
Bunnahabhain 40 yo 1973 (48,5%, The Whiskyman ‘Birthday dram’ 2013, 155 btl.)
Nose: utterly fruity. Ripe bananas, almost a trademark of Bunnahabhain 1968 vintages. Juicy pears, mango, apricot and pineapple. Light hints of coconut and Moscatel wine. Honey. Less mineral than the Bunnahabhain 1973 in the Archives series, although the nose is nicely coated with waxy notes. Mouth: sweet and fruity again, much in line with the nose. Full cases of bananas! Oranges, peaches. Stays very sweet and juicy all the way, again less herbal and zesty development than the Archives sibling. Some marzipan and honey. Well balanced oak. Finish: long, elegant and fruity.
This is a great old Bunna, with a similar jammy profile to most of the 1968’s. Although I’ll give it the same score as the Archives release (we don’t do halves), I’d pick this one if I could only choose one. Not officially available in stores – start stalking your closest Lindores friend if you want a bottle. Or head over to the Lindores lounge in Oostende to have a dram. Around € 250.