Whisky shop Massen and whisky clubs De Tongerse Whiskyvrienden (Belgium) and Dram Brothers (Luxemburg) are closely related and sometimes share an exclusive bottling.
This time they selected two casks from the stocks of Malts of Scotland: a Littlemill 1990 and this Highland Park 1994.
Highland Park 1994 (54,5%, Malts of Scotland for Dram Brothers & De Tongerse Whiskyvrienden 2015, bourbon hogshead, ref. MoS 15007, 268 btl.)
Nose: fresh but fairly neutral. Barley with lemon and apple peelings. Herbal notes (fennel) as well as some heather honey. Becomes more complex, with mint and light waxy notes. A slightly bigger fruitiness as well after a while (greengages). Touches of lemon grass. Mouth: lemons again, or rather lemonade, alongside gooseberries and unripe mirabelles. Some touches of Littlemill, only with a creamier / oilier texture and more mineral notes. Almost metallic at times. Hints of peat and pepper. Finish: long, citrusy and slightly grassy. Green tea with lemon.
This Highland Park 1994 seems a little restrained at first, and in fact it never becomes exuberant, but it does get layered and entertaining. Very good. Around € 135.
Kilkerran is the whisky produced at Glengyle distillery, opened in 2004 and the latest in Campbeltown. Every year since 2009 they’re releasing a ‘Work In Progress’ bottling.
The 6th batch is 10 years old and comes in sherry wood and bourbon wood versions. This year’s labels are pink.
Kilkerran ‘Work In Progress’ 10 yo Sherry Wood (46%, OB 2014, Batch #6)
Nose: not extremely expressive, I would say, purely revolving around sugared cereals at first. It’s coastal and oily, so quite typically Campbeltown so far. A fairly light sherry influence of red berries and a caramelized nut sweetness. Subtle leafy notes. Some yeasty touches, something metallic too. Mouth: dry and quite austere. The leafy notes are back, together with some bitter oranges and grapefruit peel. Herbal notes and hints of rubbery peat. Oily notes and brine. Pepper. Just a delicate sweet edge to take away some harshness. Finish: medium long, on walnuts and ashes?
This Kilkerran has a pleasantly unmodern profile, but I think it’s still more on the interesting side, rather than being thoroughly pleasant. Around € 45.
While the legendary vintages of most distilleries appear to be in the 1960’s and 1970’s, Clynelish has recently earned a lot of praise for its 1997 production. Diageo seems to have sold off a large batch of casks which are now being shared / distributed among virtually all independent bottlers (my article about the hierarchy of independent whisky releases is still up-to-date in this respect). These middle-aged expressions are all very good and some are excellent, so let’s try three new versions head-to-head.
First up is the latest bottling in the Liquid Art series, released today. The label is designed by a highly respected artist, Jef Geys. His name may not ring a bell but he has worked with Jan Hoet, Panamarenko and the likes and he’s considered one of the greatest living Belgian artists. There’s a big retrospective coming up in the Ghent Museum for Modern art. I’m just saying this is world class and it’s interesting to see his work on a whisky label.
(53,3%, Liquid Art 2014, 132 btl.)
Nose: I picked up a slight farmy side at first, but it seemed to disappear really quickly. After that, a surprisingly zesty-fruity Clynelish, in which the typical waxy notes are on a lower level. Instead it has a big yoghurt-like side, something of butter milk even. Quinces, banana candy, oranges and even hints of pineapple. Sweet and sour, rather creamy and rounded, with a nice minty / grassy freshness on top. Huge notes of lemon meringue. There’s a delicate greasy note but a little different from others. Mouth: a big zesty fruitiness again, although there’s now a wider array starting with lemons and pink grapefruits going all the way to lime, almonds and passion fruits. A little green tea. Traces of vanilla, toffee and menthol. A slightly bigger mineral and salty side as well now. Finish: long, with a mineral twist.
Not entirely what we’ve come to expect from Clynelish 1997. It’s fruitier but also milkier, including some nicely different touches, which add another dimension. One of the most interesting Clynelish bottlings from this era. Good choice. And I love this label. Price: € 95.
Clynelish 1997 (50,9%, The Whisky Mercenary for Cask Six 10th Anniversary 2014)
Nose: maybe slightly warmer and definitely a notch waxier, but other than that, also one of the fruitier, rounder 1997’s. Pears, sweetened lemon juice and pink grapefruit. Touches of honey. A bit more mineral / earthy notes here as well. Mouth: a tad more classic, with more lemons and lemon peels, as well as some oranges and a faint hint of passion fruit. A little warmer than the Liquid Art release, but maybe slightly less complex as well. Finish: long, keeping an excellent balance of zestiness and fruity roundness.
A bit more typically Clynelish 1997, this one. The nose of the Liquid Art release definitely has something extra, but on the palate I may prefer this bottling. Both very high quality though. Sold out.
Nose: again quite a bit warmer and definitely more honeyed than the Liquid Art. Clementines, pears and peaches. The most jammy of the trio. Hints of pastry and beeswax. A faint hint of smoke as well. Mouth: starts sweet, with a tad more vanilla and more American oak influence. This also means a bigger spiciness (pepper, liquorice). After a while, the citrus zest comes rolling in and takes over the entire palate. Grapefruit skin, lemon peel. A bit of an oaky tang towards the end. Finish: long, zesty and spicy. Lemons and a pinch of salt.
Maltbarn selected the warmest, most luscious nose in my opinion, warmer than usual. On the other hand, it gets a little bitter on the palate. Price: € 90. Sold out.
I tried n°1 and n°2 head-to-head first. I thought the first one was more special and less conventional, and I liked it better for that. A couple of days later, I revisited both and added the third sample… On the nose alone, n°3 would be my favourite, but the palate is less convincing. It becomes hard to reflect these differences in a score.
Conclusion: Maltbarn has the nicest nose. Cask Six has the nicest palate. Liquid Art is nicely different and quite special. Whichever you can find, they’re worth the money!
WhiskyNotes follower Wim recently told me he had been impressed by this recent young Miltonduff 2005, so we decided to set up a sample exchange.
You can find a series of similar releases from Duncan Taylor, all bottled from small recoopered Octave casks. All these casks contain only 80-90 bottles, which means they’re sold out very quickly.
Miltonduff 9 yo 2005
(54,2%, Duncan Taylor ‘The Octave’ for The Nectar 2014, reconstructed ex-sherry octave cask #837112, 81 btl.)
Nose: a sherried nose with lots of baked apples and apricot pastry with cinnamon. Some overripe melons and oranges. A warm fruitiness, albeit with a faint musty side. Some hay. Also plenty of spices from the oak, mainly ginger. Almonds too. Mouth: immediate woody notes, a peppery kick and cinnamon. Then the fruitiness returns, with dried apricots and plums. After a while there’s a funny sour / salty combination. Finish: medium long, spicy and oaky, with hints of dried coconut.
These Octave casks can be really interesting: this one couples a youngish, fruity spirit to big wood spices and a kind of sherry influence that you normally associate with older expressions. It’s as if you’ve poured together two totally different things that don’t blend entirely. Pretty good but rather experimental. Thanks, Wim.
Langatun is a Swiss whisky (Swissky?) with a long history. In 1857, Jakob Baumberger took over a small brewery in Langenthal (a village formerly known as Langatun). He started brewing and distilling there, quite a successful business that was taken over by his sons. They also ran a malting plant and a peat cutting activity.
I’m not sure why there was a gap after that, but in 2007, Jakob’s grandson Hans reignited the family tradition and started producing unpeated whisky (Langatun Old Deer), peated whisky (Langatun Old Bear), whisky liqueur, rum, vodka, rye, bourbon and fruit spirits.
While Old Deer is matured in Chardonnay and Sherry casks, the peated Old Bear is aged in Châteauneuf-du-Pape red wine casks. We’re trying the cask strength version.
Langatun Old Bear 5 yo 2009 (62,3%, OB 2014, peated, Châteauneuf-du-Pape casks)
Nose: fresh wood, young but nice. Berry fruits and candied oranges. Honey. Clear smoke, but well integrated. A faint spiciness too. Mouth: powerful, very sugary and very smoky now. Lots of caramel and candy sugar sweetness. Red berries, raspberry candy from the red wine casks, but also less impressive, plain winey notes. Sweet grape juice. Some tannins too. The peat stays stronger than on the nose. Finish: long, a tad more bitter and herbal now, but still sweet and deeply smoked.
This Langatun Old Bear is a fairly simple, very sweet, but enjoyable whisky. The wine influence is just right. Around € 60.
The third and last sample for now: Karuizawa 1981 cask #6207, which was part of the 2012 Collection from La Maison du Whisky.
Karuizawa 1981 (58,3%, OB for LMdW 2011, sherry butt #6207, 543 btl.)
Nose: nicely aromatic. A lot of sandalwood and sweet pipe tobacco (slightly vanilla’d), a bit of eucalyptus and chestnuts. Some fragrant touches, like old roses. Oranges. Chocolate fudge. Black prunes. Hints of damp wood as well. Mouth: spicy and slightly hot, but with a nice fruity sourness underneath. Black cherries, cinnamon cake, raisins in rum. Becomes drier over time, showing liquorice, pepper, ginger and leather. A bit of herbal bitterness (cough syrup) towards the end, as well as traces of smoke. Finish: long, with forest fruits and plenty of spices.
A good Karuizawa again, although not stellar like casks #158 or #162 from the same year. Originally sold for € 250, now closer to € 1300 in auctions.
Forgotten sample n°2. This Karuizawa 1984 cask #3692 was bottled in 2012. A big part was allocated to Sweden but it was also found in other countries.
Karuizawa 1984 (61,6%, OB 2012, sherry butt #3692, 359 btl.)
Nose: dark prunes and dates, with a box of chocolates that has just been opened. Unfortunately it also shows heavy gunpowder notes and matchsticks, dried mushrooms and a bit of marmite. Sulphur, yes. Beef jerky. Leather. Roasted nuts. A few heady notes too, in between soy sauce and wine vinegar. Not really my style. Mouth: again quite heavy, with less fruity notes than we’d like. Smoky wood, flints and some gunpowder again. Dry herbal notes, chestnuts and toasted bread. Dark prune jam. Cinnamon. Drying leathery notes. A meaty touch. Finish: long, oaky and spicy, with dark chocolate and ashes.
This is not my favourite Karuizawa. Of course they’re all intense and oaky, but this one is slightly over the top and not as fresh as some others. Fetches around € 1300 in auctions.
Blimey. I have so many samples that I tend to forget some of the interesting ones that are hidden in my drawers… how stupid is that? Not that I mind discovering three Karuizawa expressions that I hadn’t tried, of course. One of them is this Karuizawa 1981 Sakura cask #158, a release of only 45 bottles! The rarest Karuizawa ever?
Sakura is the typical Japanese sherry blossom. It was a special release for Prineus, the German distributor for No.1 Drinks and Karuizawa.
Karuizawa 31 yo 1981 (62,8%, OB 2012, Sakura series, sherry cask #158, 45 btl.)
Nose: the fruity, sweet kind of Karuizawa. Lovely black cherries, prune jam and blackberries. Fig compote – all typical, but also frankly tropical notes, like papaya and passion fruits. Tobacco-infused pralines (yes, they exist). Lots of pipe aromas actually. Precious exotic woods (sandalwood, thuja). Oil paint. Cinnamon. Soft hints of camphor and menthol. Wet forest soils. Just exquisite. Water brings out waxed papers. Mouth: very big. There’s a big mentholated / peppery heat that almost numbs your palate. Let’s add a few drops of water. Sweeter and fruitier now (plums, figs), but still peppery and gingery. Dry ashes, mixing with tobacco, earthy tea and dry wood, including a bit of sourness and smoke. Coffee. Finish: very long, with lots of herbal notes, almost medicinal hints. Tannins too.
Stunning Karuizawa, with one of the fruitiest noses I’ve come across from this distillery. The palate is significantly drier though, but still really impressive. Originally around € 350 but I don’t think it actually arrived on the shelves. Now around € 7500 (!) in auctions.