Johnnie WalkerGold Label Reserve sits more or less in the middle of the Johnnie Walker range: after Red Label and Black Label it’s the first of the precious medals that represent the upper regions.
It used to be called Johnnie Walker Gold Label 18 Year Old, but the age statement was dropped when the Platinum Label was introduced (with the same age). Now they’ve added Reserve to the name – I guess there’s a marketing rule that every expression should have something unique. I’m afraid losing the age statement also means it has become younger?
The base malts for Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve are Clynelish and Cardhu.
Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve
(40%, OB 2013)
Nose: quite fresh, with lots of peaches and oranges and hints of vanilla ice cream. Honey. Hints of banana. Not much grainy notes, but a soft hint of white bread. In the background there are oak spices (nutmeg, cinnamon). Some mineral and flinty notes as well, I guess that must be the Clynelish. Lacks a bit of punch, but its profile is quite nice. Mouth: very soft (why would you even add ice to this?) and rather thin. Sweet raisins, cinnamon, butterscotch and toffee. Plenty of honey. Vanilla. The nicest part is certainly the soft minerality and waxiness in the background. Finish: still sweet with a light touch of smoke now.
The added minerality makes this Johnnie Walker Gold Label a balanced dram. I’d say this is the smoothest, least grainy of all Johnnie Walker blends. Too bad it lacks some punch, at a higher volume this could have been my favourite. Around € 45.
Among the new releases from The Nectar of the Daily Drams, there is this Aultmore 2007. A six years old bourbon cask with such an intense colour and so many red hues. A miracle?
Aultmore 6 yo 2007 (50,3%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams 2014, bourbon cask)
Nose: very aromatic, with some red berries (strawberries and redcurrant) and aromatic citrus (lime, bergamot). Aromatic and slightly bubblegummy. Cotton candy. Juicy malt. A lot of vanilla (marshmallows), leather and hints of white chocolate. Traces of American bourbon indeed. Some pencil shavings as well. Very attractive and easy-drinking. Mouth: sweet and fairly modern – perfectly planned oak trickery. Apricots in syrup and fruit liqueurs. Coconut and vanilla. Cotton candy again. Maple syrup. Chocolate. Noticeable oak again, as well as mint and something strange that I can’t really put my finger on. Something metallic maybe. Finish: long, very sweet, all kinds of fruit candy and oak spices like ginger.
Very sweet, modern whisky. Nice to see this is possible after only six years. I would have sworn this was made outside of Scotland (Disneyland?). Good stuff though and very affordable. Around € 50.
Andrea Caminneci, a German of Italian descent, started a wine & spirits company in 2005 and became the importer of Glenglassaugh for Germany. As such, he managed to select and bottle many outstanding Glenglassaugh expressions, the 1972 cask #2896 for example.
His own series C&S Dram contains a long list of single cask whiskies from different distilleries. Recently a sub-series C&S Dram Exceptional was launched for special drams. It’s not surprising that the first release is a Glenglassaugh 1972.
We don’t know the cask number, but the whisky was distilled 22nd of December 1972, which is the same date as cask #2934 bottled by the distillery in a Rare Cask decanter in 2008.
Glenglassaugh 40 yo 1972 (43,1%, C&S Dram Exceptional 2013, refill sherry butt, 300 btl.)
Nose: starts rather disappointingly on grains and muesli but opens up nicely. Mirabelles, green mango, lots of mandarins and lemons. A bit of floral honey and dried flowers. Candied ginger. Typical waxy notes as well: polished oak, pollen. It’s a mix of Caperdonich 1972 (though more floral) with a subdued hint of Clynelish. Mouth: half fruity, half oaky. Apricots, pineapples, oranges, sprinkled with honey but also with a more mineral waxy note. Together with a peppery kick this leaves a rather oaky impression. Almonds and vanilla cream. Subtle warmer sherry notes towards the end. Finish: decent length, with the fruits starting to fade and the oak spices growing stronger.
Maybe not a total stunner like #2896 but a very fine, typical waxy Glenglassaugh nonetheless. Still available in Germany for around € 385.
This Karuizawa 1971 cask #7267 was bottled exclusively for Taiwan. Although the Geisha label says ‘bottled 2012’ it didn’t hit the market until the summer of 2013. At the same time the Karuizawa 1977 cask #4010 was released.
Karuizawa 1971 (62,8%, OB for Taiwan 2012, cask #7267, 467 btl.)
Nose: quite stunning right from the start. These high-strength Karuizawas can be closed right after pouring, but this one is immediately expressive. Typical pipe tobacco and humidors but the fruity notes are really big as well. Strawberry jam, figs, ripe bananas. A fragrant peaches and faint hint of old Sauternes. Quite sweet – there’s an earthy side to it as well, but on a second level. Lots of old Oloroso notes. After a while it becomes more ethereal with lots of exotic woods and beeswax, aromatic citrus oils and as some balsamic top notes. Very wide and just wonderful. Mouth: very intense with a gingery heat and the slightly tannic dryness of dark fruit teas when sipped neat. A lot of toasted notes and wood spices (chilli). Needs a few drops of water to totally shine. Dark chocolate combined with brambles and raisins. Black cherries. Tobacco leaves. Mouth: very long, on sweet coffee, dark chocolate, mint and cinnamon powder.
Muscular whisky, but quite excellent. On the nose, I prefer this one to the 1977, but on the palate it becomes too dry to score higher. It helps to add (just a tiny amount of) water though. Almost impossible to find – easily € 1000 in auctions.
More bottlers are releasing middle-aged Ben Nevis, most of them in the 1995-1997 regions. This Ben Nevis 1997 is the latest release from Maltbarn.
Ben Nevis 16 yo 1997 (53,2%, Maltbarn 2013, bourbon barrel, 91 btl.)
Nose: I’m not exactly attracted. It shows overripe melon and brown banana… A tad musty. Soaked grains as well. Honey and burnt sugar. Hints of citrus peel. Wet hay, which evolves towards wet newspapers. Add some undefined savoury notes and a little linseed oil. A tad difficult to enjoy for me. Mouth: oily, with nicer notes now, cherries and strawberries up front. Vanilla custard and bananas that are not overdue. Sweet, but growing spicy and grassy notes. Nutmeg and firm pepper. Mocha notes towards the end. Still not very seducative – or just not my kinda profile. Finish: medium long, with more oak and a hint of caramel sweetness.
Slightly peculiar whisky, but peculiar is the middle name of Ben Nevis, right? Be sure to try this one for yourself. Around € 75.
Sometimes I don’t really get the whisky market. Take this Glenfarclas 1980 for example. It was a single cask release bottled in 2002 for the Belgian market, so you’d think after 12 years it has become impossible to find. However a couple of weeks ago, it suddenly turned up in several stores in Belgium and The Netherlands. Did someone invest in a pallet of Glenfarclas and recently cashed in, or has Filliers cleared part of its forgotten stocks?
It was distilled 23rd of December 1980 – that’s the day before the various 1980 Christmas Editions.
Glenfarclas 21 yo 1980 (53%, OB for Filliers 2002, dark oloroso cask, 574 btl.)
Nose: very big sherry, up to the point where it becomes flinty and almost smoky. Lots of prune juice, chocolate coated cherries, espresso and herbal notes like rosemary and eucalyptus. Tobacco leaves and leather. A whole array of aromas from earthy notes all the way to sour overtones. Mouth: sherried whisky can hardly get more sherried than this. Dried fruits, dark herbal teas. Again a slightly funny smokiness. Leathery notes, lots of herbs as well as liquorice. Dark cocoa powder. Ginger. Quite massive and oaky. Finish: long, still quite heavy, with hints of herbal liqueurs and some woody astringency.
Well it’s certainly interesting to see how far you can go with sherry maturation – this is very herbal and earthy with a hint of smoke and some medicinal edges. Maybe not the best example of balance or complexity, but a big sherried dram nonetheless. Around € 125.
When you see “undisclosed Speyside distillery”, a first guess is always Glenfarclas, so we’ll keep it at that. The Nameless One is 18 years old and bottled by The Whisky Mercenary.
‘The Nameless One’ 18 yo 1995 (46,8%, The Whisky Mercenary 2014, sherry cask)
Nose: the fruit cake / stewed fruits kind of sherry. Hints of apricot jam, juicy plums, cherries and baked apples. Gooseberries. Echoes of fruit eau-de-vie. A little vanilla and soft caramel. Buttercups as well – it’s a fairly fatty spirit. Mouth: fresh and fruity again. Orange juice, melons, hints of Pitahaya. There’s something exotic about it that I can’t really put my finger on. Nice anyway. Light oak and spices grow bigger towards the end. Hints of liquorice. Finish: medium long, still fruity, with softly drying notes.
A very pleasant, easy-drinking whisky with a peculiar, really nice sherry influence. Above all nicely fruity. Around € 80.
There are now over 50.000 bottles of whisky in the Whiskybase database. They’ve celebrated this event by bottling a Burnside 1989. Burnside, you ask? They are quite open about it, this 24 year-old whisky is actually Balvenie with a teaspoon of Glenfiddich added to it.
Nose: fruity with lots of beehive notes. Apples, kiwi juice, mirabelles. Floral honey and beeswax. Hints of marshmallows. A hint of fresh, minty oak as well. Fairly simple but I love this beehive profile. Mouth: again fruity and sweet. Pears on syrup, apricots and honey. Almonds. Hints of sugared Greek yoghurt. After that, it becomes quite oaky and bourbonny – in a fresh way but not without tannins. Some grassy notes and ginger. A few fragrant, flowery touches as well. Finish: medium long, with the fruity sweetness alongside oaky notes and a hint of vanilla.
A very enjoyable springtime whisky, full of fruits and waxy notes. It feels slightly younger than it is, if not for the noticeable oaky touches. Around € 92 – it went quickly – all sold out already.