At this very same moment I’m visiting Pulteney distillery in the very north of Scotland. I hope to find some time and an internet connection to post my report in the next couple of days.
Back in 2008, this Old Pulteney 23 years old was a limited edition for the World Duty Free market. There were two versions, one matured in ex-bourbon casks and the other fully matured in ex-sherry casks. It was one of the first efforts to put Old Pulteney on the map of single malt whisky through single casks and limited releases.
Old Pulteney 23 yo ‘Sherry casks’
(43%, OB 2008)
Nose: a broad array of fruity flavours. Starts on gooseberries and green apples but goes on with fragrant raspberry and lime. Almonds and vanilla, a little uncommon for sherry maturation. Undertones of leather and soft spices. In the background there’s also the typical Pulteney coastal note and a delicious waxy veil. Very fresh, with very delicate sherry and lots of juicy fruits. Mouth: quite fruity again (yellow raisins) although there’s a bigger dryness to it as well. Apple seeds. Ginger and cardamom. A tad floral. Some briney notes. Even a hint of peat? Finish: quite long, spicy and oaky. Fairly dry again, like a Fino.
Nice balance of Fino dryness and fruity freshness. Maybe not the most typical Old Pulteney nor the most typical sherry bottling, but a great result, no doubt. Around € 180.
This Balblair 1973 was bottled by Gordon & MacPhail for their Centenary Reserve, a series launched to celebrate their 100th anniversary.
(40%, G&M Centenary Reserve 1995)
Nose: excellent nose with big fruity notes. Plenty of oranges and dried apricots. Some yellow raisins. Cinnamon and cocoa. Waxed furniture and old oil paintings. Hints of cigar boxes. Subtle sherry in this one, very refined and lots of character despite the lowered strength. Mouth: nice but not too punchy. Again some oranges with a dash of honey and a caramel sweetness. Becomes fairly dry in the end, with oak getting the upper hand. Finish: quite dry but long with lingering fruits and soft herbs.
Nicely old-style Balblair. Around € 150-200 depending on who you’re buying from. Now let’s match this with some modern Balblair at the distillery.
Middle-aged Imperial is usually good value. Here’s an Imperial 1995 selected by Whisky-Fässle.
Imperial 16 yo 1995 (53,9%, Whisky-Fässle 2011, bourbon hogshead)
Nose: fresh and vibrant whisky, starts malty / grainy and adds some stewed apple, banana and peach jam. Some rather spectacular mint and eucalyptus notes too. Soft herbal / grassy notes. Mouth: creamy and spicy (ginger, liquorice) with a peppery burst. After this the fruits come back (pear, citrus) with hints of vanilla. Some eucalyptus again in the aftertaste. A good swimmer, it makes it more fruity. Finish: long, on citrus zest and liquorice.
All good, not overly complex but it shows some interesting mint / eucalyptus. Around € 80, quite a price hike from other Imperial 1995 released a couple of months ago. Sold out anyway.
Knockando is a big seller in France and Spain but it’s not too popular around here. This Knockando 25 years, the oldest official release at that point, was part of Diageo’s 2011 Special releases. It was matured in first fill European oak sherry casks.
Knockando 25 yo
(43%, OB 2011, 4758 btl.)
Nose: a sherry character that I usually relate to refill sherry rather than first fill. Subtle sherry, quite fragrant and very fruity. Soft butterscotch, raisins. and milk chocolate. Quite some red berries, hints of ripe bananas, plum jam. Elegant polished oak and leathery notes. There’s a very faint vegetal note in the background, as well as a hint of smoke. Extremely elegant. Mouth: light, a tad weakish, but very fruity with an array of jams: strawberry, redcurrant, orange, plum… Gets drier, with oak, nuts, coffee, tobacco and Christmas cake flavours. Hints of rosehips. Liquorice and a hint of smoke again. Finish: medium long, on cocoa powder and spices.
I really like this kind of sherried elegancy, half-sweet / half-dry, so although it’s slightly tame on the palate, it gets into the 90’s territory.
Around € 160.
The Glenrothes 25 years old is a limited expression originally destined for travel retail but as often it also appeared in regular stores. Although the yield was quite low, bottles are still found here and there.
Glenrothes 25yo is a marriage of casks from 1979 as well as other years: 1967, 1972, 1977 and 1980. All these years have brought us excellent vintages from this distillery, so the marriage should be good as well.
It won the World Whiskies Award 2008 for Best New Release.
Glenrothes 25 yo
(43%, OB 2007, 2400 btl.)
Nose: really fruity, with lots of oranges, peaches, juicy plums and even strawberries. Hints of vanilla cake, barley and soft spices (pepper, ginger). A bit of bergamot honey and almonds. Leather. Rich and balanced with muted cedar wood and even a hint of smoke. Quite typical and you can tell that there’s very old whisky in there. Mouth: a drier mixture of fruits (mainly oranges now) and spices (vanilla, nutmeg). Not overly punchy, I would have preferred this at a slightly higher strength. Some creamy toffee. A tad more oak and tannins than on the nose. Finish: long, slowly drying with plenty of spices from the oak. Aniseed stands out. A hint of toast in the background.
An elegant and characteristic Glenrothes that’s quite complex and very balanced.
Around € 200.
Glenlochy distillery started up during the whisky boom at the end of the 19th century and closed down in the whisky crisis of 1983. Glenlochy occured twice in the Rare Malts series (both bottles are highly sought after) but other than that it’s a truly rare name.
This particular cask was bottled by Part des Anges, a label set up by Laurent Buob and Thierry Richard, French wine / champagne sellers. The Closed Distilleries series is a collection of single casks from… closed distilleries of course. It seems the series never gained much popularity, it started in 2006 but the tempo has always been quite slow.
Glenlochy 27 yo 1980
(58,3%, Part des Anges ‘Closed Distilleries’ 2007, cask #2826, 231 btl.)
Nose: minerals, turpentine, wax… this is typically a Highland whisky and not the most accessible. Quite peaty as well, not unlike the 1980’s Brora style in fact, but maybe more medicinal than Brora. At the start it showed beautiful round notes (apple pie, fruit syrup) but these disappeared quickly. Settles on paraffin and grasses. Mouth: punchy, again waxy and mineral but it show a little more roundness now (lime, apple). Spices (ginger, pepper). Some earthy notes and peat. Camphor and mint. A slightly oaky dryness as well. Finish: long, kind of hot and peaty.
A confident example of the Highlands austerity. Therefore not a real seducer but more of an intellectual malt. Around € 180.
Highland Park started a new limited quartet (similar to their Saint Magnus trilogy) called Valhalla Collection. In the best story-telling tradition, all four will be named after Norse legends and gods and the first one is Highland Park Thor. Loki, Freia and Odin will follow later.
The whisky is 16 years old, cask strength (“Thor” strength) and it’s presented in an impressive boat-like wooden frame. For more information, head over to the official website Whisky of the Gods.
Highland Park Thor
(52,1%, OB 2012, 23.000 btl.)
Nose: the first thing that strikes me is its sweetness (as I don’t associate sweetness to a God like Thor). I get peach jam, stewed yellow plums, vanilla, barley sugars. Candied ginger. Over time the peatiness and sooty smoke move forward. I like this combination a lot, it’s fresh and relatively powerful at the same time. Mouth: punchy, with a more earthy kick of peat and smoke, but it retains this sweet coating of candied apples and pear candy. Quince jelly. Hints of cassis even. Dollops of honey. Vanilla biscuits. A faint salty twist. Finish: long, still fruity (citrus) and subtle spices. Still a hint of smoke in the very end.
This is not just a nice packaging, it’s a rather fruity Highland Park, mixed nicely with some peat smoke and spices. It’s certainly a different style of HP but a lovely one. If you ask me this Valhalla Collection started off in a much better way than the previous trilogy already. It’s not all positive news though as it’s way overpriced, so in that respect I would have dropped the wooden frame. Around € 150.