The other day I realized how long it had been since I last tried a Banff. I know there was a Banff by Duncan Taylor (Tantalus) fairly recently, but that was outrageously priced, which proves how rare this distillery has become.
Nose: hay and dried flowers, with lots of metallic notes and greasy touches. Almost phenolic. Wet chalk and gravel. Hints of cooked apple and a faint honeyed note. Quite odd when you read this description, but that’s Banff. Very old-fashioned. Mouth: a bit funny again. Mustardy and peppery, with an apple / lemon sweetness to make it rounder. Lots of herbs and grasses. Heather. Quite beautiful if you appreciate some mineral sharpness. Grapefruit zest and leather. Something metallic again. Strange floral touches. Finish: medium. It takes the bittersweet notes a little further and becomes slightly bitter in the very end.
I know Banff is technically a Speyside distillery, but I find this such an old-style Highlands profile… Difficult and unsexy, but very intriguing. Given its age, not extremely expensive in auctions.
Although it has been available since mid-2014 in some markets, the Balvenie 15 Year Old Single Barrel Sherry Cask (quite a mouth full) is still fairly new in this part of Europe. The old 15yo Single Barrel has been replaced by a Balvenie 12 Year Old Single Barrel (bourbon cask) and this 15 Year Old Sherry Cask (from European oak Oloroso butts actually).
Fully sherry matured Balvenies have been rare so it’s nice to see they will be readily available.
Balvenie 15 yo Single Barrel ‘Sherry Cask’ (47,8%, OB 2015, cask #12093, max. 650 btl.)
Nose: I like. Fruity, elegant sherry. Bags of blood oranges and apricots. Vibrant citrus and candied citrus peel. Vanilla cake. Cinnamon and raisins. A hint of nougat. Rummy notes as well. Highly aromatic whisky. Mouth: again not an overdone, thick sherry character but a balanced, elegant profile. Some leathery touches but also toffee and candied fruits. Molasses and touches of honey. Peaches on syrup. Toasted oak, with subtle pepper and nutmeg. Finish: medium long, still fruity. Almonds, cinnamon and orange (oil).
I have a sweet spot for this kind of ‘designer’ whiskies that succeed in bringing out the aromatics of the sherry without becoming cloying or bloated. Pretty great. Around € 85.
As you know, Malts of Scotland is distributed in Belgium by Dominiek Bouckaert who is also running his own label The Whiskyman. Now they’ve released a Malts of Scotland bottling for The Whiskyman, a Coal Ila 2000.
Islay whisky is so rare these days, that only the bigger independent bottlers have access to it – and want to keep it under their own label.
Caol Ila 2000 (55,6%, Malts of Scotland for The Famous Whiskyman 2015, bourbon hogshead, MoS 15008, 198 btl.)
Nose: pretty much ticking all the boxes we’d expect from good Caol Ila. Iodine, creosote, lots of bitumen, mixed with bright citrus and sweet grains. Soaked grains in mash tun really. Green apple peelings. Lemon candy. And just a hint of almonds and vanilla. Textbook Caol Ila. Mouth: pleasantly sweet with a pretty big peaty kick. Waxy texture. Lemons again, medicinal notes, pepper and more lemons. Hints of ginger and wood spices. Smoother towards the end, warmer and ashier. Finish: long, on sweet lemons, liquorice and a hint of roasted coffee beans.
Who said Islay whisky is all about fierce peat? This Caol Ila finds an excellent balance of sharpness and roundness, with an above-average complexity. Around € 90.
The festival Whisky in Leiden 2015 is coming up in under two weeks, so it’s time to have a look at the festival bottling, an Arran Private Cask distilled in 2000 and bottled from a sherry cask.
Arran 14 yo 2000 ‘Private Cask’
(55,7%, OB for Whisky in Leiden 2015, sherry hogshead #128, 202 btl.)
Nose: starts in a dusty / waxy way. Quickly followed by lots of candied apples and hints of apricots. Honey. A rather subtle, fragrant and very jammy profile. Actually it reminds me of Balvenie in a way. Spicy notes (pepper) with some oak shavings. The juicy fruits are lovely but they struggle a little to stay on top. Mouth: bright, with some bright (slightly tropical) fruits in the fore. Apricot jam, oranges, hints of tinned pineapple and mandarin even. Honey and beeswax. A growing spiciness again, mainly pepper and nutmeg. Modern, but nicely so. Finish: medium long, drier now, on oranges and wood spices.
This one shows a profile that I haven’t seen before from Arran, with a nice fruitiness alongside firm oak spices. Good stuff and well priced: € 60. I believe the sales are temporarily on hold but the remaining bottles will be sold after the festival.
Last night I attended a Twitter tasting, which featured three expressions from the core range of anCnoc: the entry-level 12 Year Old, the recent anCnoc 2000 vintage and the really new anCnoc 18 Year Old.
anCnoc 12 Year Old is mostly matured in ex-bourbon wood, with a bit of ex-sherry casks mixed in, and therefore a classic example of anCnoc’s house style, with lots of barley sweetness, honey and citrus.
anCnoc 12 yo (40%, OB 2015)
Nose: a rather typical, bright and juicy fruitiness. Honeysuckle, sweet and sour (green) apples and plenty of floral honeys. Lemon meringue. Some berries too. Fairly light and naked but very attractive. Mouth: same idea, though maybe a tad sweeter than expected, with much more weight to it. Sweet banana, hints of vanilla custard and a little caramel sweetness. A faint beer-like malty note too. Light spices (cinnamon), hints of mocha. Apples, but more like apple pie, without the bright top notes. Finish: medium long, a mix of caramel, honey and subtle liquorice.
I’ve said it before, but I think this is a rather cracking entry-level whisky. Fairly light, but not weak. Very well made, with a price/quality ratio that’s almost impossible to beat. Usually € 35, sometimes as low as € 25 if you look around.
anCnoc 2000 was launched in September 2014 and it’s currently the only vintage alongside the premium 1975 vintage. Here the focus was more on Spanish oak ex-sherry butts (first-fill Oloroso) than on the American oak ex-bourbon barrels.
anCnoc 2000 (46%, OB 2014, 6.000 btl.)
Nose: much darker and much more sherry influence indeed. Toffee and plum compote, with a cocoa dusting. Hints of nougat and crème brûlée. Just a light citrusy tingle on top. Some grassy notes / dried hay as well. Mouth: a sweet mix of vanilla and nutty notes (almonds, hazelnuts). Cocoa again. Hints of blackberries. Still a hint of citrus, as well as some pepper and nutmeg from the oak. Finish: medium long, with lingering toffee and spices.
Good whisky again. None of the dirty notes that sometimes come with sherry maturation (e.g. in the anCnoc 1996). Around € 65.
anCnoc 18 Year Old is again a combination of European oak Oloroso casks and American oak ex-bourbon casks, all of which were second-fill.
anCnoc 18 yo (46%, OB 2014, 6.000 btl.)
Nose: the honey is more pronounced here, and the whole is more jammy and rounder, with some lovely blood oranges and kirsch. There’s cinnamon, sultanas and apricots, all a bit more subtle and elegant than the anCnoc 2000. A light leathery touch as well. Pretty complex. Mouth: same feeling of elegance. Oily texture. Stewed fruits, including some gooseberries. Honey glazing and vanilla pastry. Fig jam. Becomes more spicy towards the end, with subtle exotic touches. Finish: medium long, with peppery notes alongside the fruity sweetness.
Definitely my favourite in this line-up, up there with my favourite expression so far, the anCnoc 22 Year Old. Around € 85.
Dalmore Valour is a true Dalmore: no age statement, low strength and a few tricks with casks. Like most of the new travel retail bottlings by the way, it’s not just a problem of Dalmore.
In this case, the trick is to mention ‘maturation in 30 years old Matusalem sherry casks’. Are the casks 30 years old, or does it refer to the fact that the sherry used to season the casks is 30 years old (on average)? While it may make the whisky look better, what really matters is that the whisky itself is much younger. The other trick was to blend it with whisky from ex-bourbon casks and use Port pipes for the finishing. A bit of everything for everyone.
It was first launched in Qatar, then in other travel retail shops, now you can occasionally find it in regular stores as well.
(40%, OB 2013, travel retail)
Nose: sweet Port influence. Caramel and toffee, blood oranges, plums and honey. A slightly dusty note as well. Buttery roundness. A little cardamom. Mouth: very sweet, creamy and malty. Caramel. Remains quite neutral and vague before it goes towards a bitter earthiness, woody notes and the kind of roughness that you get in young grain whisky. All the elements don’t seem to work together. Finish: okayish length, but mostly on bitter oranges and drying wood.
A rather dull whisky which I think you’d better avoid. Not a lot of depth and some disrupting flavours. Around € 60 for a litre bottle.
Nose: a really interesting mix of fruity notes (sweet apple, rhubarb and even hints of banana) with oily notes (sunflower oil). Barley sugar. Sugared mint leaves. Honey glaze and vanilla. Fairly round and fat with a bright fruitiness. I like. Mouth: again round and mouth-coating. Lots of pear juice and pear drops, a bit of kirsch and pineapple. Honey and barley sugar. Very good, thick spirit. Evolves on grassier notes with hints of salty liquorice. Ah, and quite some ginger indeed. Finish: long, half fruity, half grassy, with a peppery touch and a touch of wood.
Similar to the Mortlach 1995 bottled for Fulldram, which is a great reference of course. I’m not the biggest fan of Mortlach in general, but I really appreciate this. Around € 100.