Nose: starts fairly simple on fragrant oranges and sea breezes. After opening up, the fruitiness widens into orange peel, fruit cake, honey and hints of vanilla. The sea breeze develops into a big saltiness, soft medicinal notes and all-round spiciness. Some leather and nutmeg as well. Mouth: not overly powerful, but punchy enough and very complex. There are nutty notes, fruity notes (even hints of coconut and tropical fruits), a beer-like malty note, eucalyptus oil, a leathery note again, tobacco, ginger, liquorice… and again coastal elements. Finish: medium long, half sweet / half bitter with orange notes, soft peat and ginger.
Not an easy one to assess, but a very complex and proudly coastal Bunnahabhain. Take your time and enjoy. Available from Whisky-Doris, € 110.
When I tried most of the fourth batch of GlenDronach single casks a couple of weeks ago, I went on and forgot to publish the review of this GlenDronach 1971 cask #1436.
Actually I didn’t completely forget, but I felt a little unimpressed with this year’s single casks. Let’s hope they still have some great casks lying around, because upping the price each year and lowering the quality doesn’t make much sense.
GlenDronach 40 yo 1971
(48,5%, OB 2011, PX sherry puncheon #1436, 583 btl.)
Nose: meaty start with some gravy notes and Oxo. Dark crispy bacon. Dried fruits as well (blackberry jam) but none of the fresh fruitiness that we’ve seen in previous 1971 and (especially) 1972 casks. If you wait long enough, there are some nice tobacco notes, roasted nuts and moccha. Disappointing in terms of freshness and complexity. Mouth: perfect drinking strength but an unusual mixture of sharp, slightly vinegary notes and dark, sticky plums, with nothing in between. A little incoherent and too sweet I’m afraid – think actual PX sherry or Greek raisin syrup. After that it becomes spicier (pepper), nuttier but woodier as well. Finish: dry, with walnuts and the return of tobacco notes.
A collector’s item maybe, but not the most rewarding GlenDronach for whisky drinkers in my opinion. Around € 450, still readily available.
Whisky enthusiasts are sometimes joking about Jura – the distillery doesn’t have a solid reputation, although there have definitely been some excellent versions in the past. From what I’ve heard, the recent Jura 1976 ‘Feith A’ Chaorainn’ is also worth a try (but probably not worth € 650).
This Isle of Jura 1988 was bottled from a bourbon cask, although the colour could easily trick you into thinking it was a sherry cask. The final bottling in the Romantique series.
Isle of Jura 23 yo 1988 (52,9%, The Whisky Agency ‘Romantique’ 2011, ex-bourbon hogshead, 201 btl.)
Nose: nicely aromatic. There are ripe fruity notes (oranges, berries) but overall it’s fairly dry, heathery and nutty and it shows a distinct coastal character. Very gentle peat, traces of iodine and light camphor. Hints of tobacco, leather and dried herbs. Cocoa. Great surprise. Mouth: good weight, starting on a herbal sweetness. Lovely old peat and smoke in the background. Light pepper. Faint medicinal elements again. Balances nicely with rounded chocolate, dried oranges and soft spices. Finish: long, drier and earthier, with oranges, cocoa and soft oak.
A great surprise indeed. I would have sworn there are traces of old-style sherried Islay whisky in here. A recent jewel coming from Jura, was anyone expecting this? Well priced as well: around € 110. Highly recommended.
It seems the overall quality of this latest Romantique series by The Whisky Agency is very high again. Here’s another one, a 35 years old Dailuaine.
Dailuaine 35 yo 1976 (50,5%, The Whisky Agency ‘Romantique’ 2011, ex-bourbon hogshead, 148 btl.)
Nose: beautiful, with lots of warm oak and soft turpentine. Wax polish and beehive notes. Some citrus (oranges, pink grapefruit) and ripe banana. Hints of dried flowers. A hint of vanilla, cinnamon and mint as well. Quite complex and very elegant. Mouth: hmm, focuses directly on Seville oranges although there are other fruits and a little vanilla as well. Pretty oaky with an obvious bitterish side. Evolves to a soft peppery / herbal palate. Hints of fruit tea. Finish: long with oranges, ginger, a fair amount of drying oak and a nice nuttiness.
Indeed, high quality again. There’s some firm oak in this Dailuaine but it’s still within limits. Around € 180.
This 20 year-old Ardbeg (distilled February 1991) was bottled by Malts of Scotland for Hotel Bero in Ostend (owned by Lindores member Geert Bero and the location for the Lindores Whisky Fest). Anyone can try it in the hotel bar, but you can only buy a bottle when you are sleeping at the hotel.
It was presented at the Lindores Whisky Fest last weekend and I heard some discussions about the price. Many people wondered how a 20 year-old whisky could be worth € 225, but remember sherried Ardbegs are thinly scattered. Douglas Laing released a 1991 refill cask earlier this year and that was rather scandalously priced at € 450. So yes, it is expensive but relatively cheap at the same time. Ardbeg is not selling casks to independent bottlers any more, so I’m afraid the times of affordable medium-aged sherry cask Ardbegs are now officially over!
Ardbeg 20 yo 1991 (48,4%, Malts of Scotland for Hotel Bero 2011, sherry hogshead #MoS 11003, 240 btl.)
Nose: balanced nose with excellent notes of old ashes and tar on the one hand and rounded, chocolaty notes on the other hand. Sweet almonds and rhubarb compote. Figs. Lovely tobacco leaves. Old leather. Relatively soft iodine and hints of camphor. Complex, not extremely big (which is a good thing – it’s not over-sherried nor over-peated) and quite brilliant. Mouth: starts rich and oily with sweet peat smoke. Again some almonds, now mixed with dried fruits and lemon drops. Some herbal notes. The smoke grows stronger, the soft tar shows up again. No brute forces here, it’s all about integrating the different flavours. Finish: long on dried fruits and smoke with a softly coastal edge.
The sherry complements the whisky very well, and the harmonious qualities might actually justify the price in my opinion. Available at the Hotel Bero for € 225.
Today is a big day. I’m heading to the Lindores Whisky Fest. Usually this is an open festival, renowned for its selection of legendary old bottlings, but this year (due to construction works in the Bero Hotel), it’s on invitation.
Anyone could suggest a bottle that he wished to donate for the occasion, and about 50 people were selected to join in. The Glenrothes 1979 single cask #3808 will be my entrance ticket.
It was a great day. The concept worked fine, with enough space in the lounge to move around freely and talk with different people. There were around 50 bottles from participants (left part of the stand – click the polaroid to see the full picture) and at least the same amount from the Lindores vaults.
All of the bottles were high quality and some of them truly legendary. It would be impossible to mention everything I’ve tasted – the 1cl micro-drams allowed you to try as many different things as possible – but here are some of the highlights…
Bowmore 31 yo 1957/1988 (40%, Hart Brothers)
Very fruity and slightly exotic Bowmore, soft but showing a lovely profile.
Springbank 25 yo (46%, OB, Archibald Mitchell, dumpy bottle)
Among the best Springbanks I’ve tried so far. Similar style to the well-known 21 years old.
Glenfarclas 21 yo (51,5%, OB for Pinerolo)
The best Glenfarclas ever, according to some people. Maybe not the absolute stunner I was expecting, but still a hugely complex and attractive Glenfarclas.
BenRiach 34 yo 1976/2011 (48,2%, OB cask #3033 for Taiwan)
Wow! Not far from the best 1976’s out there. Even cask #3557 for LMdW couldn’t put it to shame.
Caperdonich 39 yo 1972/2011 (52,8%, Whisky Agency Private Stock)
Confirmed itself as one of the best Caper 1972’s.
Glenugie 31 yo 1980/2011 “Exotic scenes in a Bedouin tent” (48,3%, SMWS 99.13)
Very fruity, slightly oriental. Very unique and hugely complex. Don’t underestimate Glenugie!
Ben Nevis 40 yo 1963/2004 (45,7%, Douglas Laing Platinum)
Rather superb Ben Nevis with the usual lipstick, oranges and bourbon notes. Nothing to complain about.
Glenfarclas 1965 cask sample
The last 1965 cask in the Glenfarclas warehouses and probably one of the next bottlings by Luc Timmermans. Better than the first 1965 Family Cask and the 1965/1999 cask #3897 by The Bottlers that were also available.
Highland Park 30 yo 1956/1986 (55,6%, G&M for Intertrade)
Stunning Highland Park: smoky, fruity, chocolaty.
No doubt I’m forgetting to mention a couple of beauties. It didn’t end with exceptional single malts either. What to say of this…
Johnnie Walker Red Label rotation 1924
Toro Albala Don P.X. 1947
(55+ years old Pedro Ximenez wine from the Montilla Moriles D.O.)
Boal Barbeito 1938 Madeira wine
Gosling’s Bermuda Old Rum
1983 Gewürztraminer Magnum
from Olivier Humbrecht’s Rangen de Thann vineyard
Also, congratulations to Johan & Koen for becoming new Lindores members.
Nose: starts a little austere. Mineral and waxy with a sharp orange aroma. Some leafy and salty notes. After a while it grows sweeter and rounder (almonds, yellow raisins, hints of figs and buttercups). Some herbs. Underneath is a turpentine / gasoline smell and subtle peat – how wonderful. Mouth: quite oily and peaty with a dry profile. Salty as well with a slightly bitter grassiness. Ginger. Walnut skin. There’s a sweet note of dried fruits but too much in the background to balance the austerity. Finish: long, very salty, slighty bitter with quite some wood.
It’s always a delight to taste this old-style Campbeltown profile. The nose is glorious, too bad it’s rather bitter and even slightly spirity on the palate. Long gone. Thanks Bert.
There’s still uncertainty about Imperial. Like Glen Keith (owned by Chivas Brothers as well), the distillery is currently closed but there are rumours that it could be restarted in the near future. Both have produced some nice whisky, but Glen Keith is probably in a better state and could be reopened more easily. Time will tell.
Imperial 21 yo 1990 (52,7%, The Whisky Agency ‘Romantique’ 2011, ex-bourbon hogshead, 233 btl.)
Nose: sweet with juicy butter pears, pineapple candy and plenty of vanilla powder. Crème anglaise, some white chocolate as well. Marzipan and roasted almonds. Apples with cinnamon. Quite thick. Mouth: big bodied with similar aromas. Sweet and slightly sticky fruits (orange marmalade, ripe pear) with pleasant spices (light pepper, cinnamon, ginger). Balanced oak. Generous dashes of honey. Apple pie. Finish: medium long, still the same profile of fruit pie, honey and spices.
A thick and juicy Imperial with buttery vanilla and spices from the oak. Not much evolution but very enjoyable. Around € 105.