There’s quite some Bunnahabhain 1968 on the market. Malts of Scotland released one last year, now The Whisky Agency, Whisky-Fässle and The Whiskyman almost simultaneously.
Bunnahabhain 43 yo 1968 (45,7%,
The Whisky Agency & Three Rivers Tokyo 2011, ex-bourbon hogshead, 211 btl.)
Nose: very fruity – slightly tropical. Lots of juicy pears with banana. Plums. Honey. Grows sweeter with hints of fruit jams (strawberry and apricot). Not completely fruity though, there’s a layer of coastal notes (very soft saltiness) and subtle pine resin which makes more complex. Great nose. Mouth: oily and smooth. Still fruity (banana, grapefruit, orange) although the oak is louder now and adds a resinous bitterness. Soft spices (nutmeg) and salt. Hints of liquorice and mint. Finish: long and rather mineral with notes of vanilla, soft herbs and oak.
A great nose and (as often with oldies) a slightly less impressive palate. High class and very drinkable.
Around € 215.
To celebrate, let’s try this Macallan 1955 that was sampled by Luc Timmermans some time ago. It’s one of many versions bottled by Campbell, Hope & King and imported in Italy by Rinaldi. A little bit of history…
You can find similar versions distilled in almost any year between +/- 1947 and 1962, all bottled in the 1960’s and 1970’s at 80° proof (46%). They don’t have an age statement on the bottle but usually the cardboard box states “over 15 years old” (I wouldn’t be surprised though if that were just generic boxes).
A couple of changes happen in 1962: Campbell, Hope & King is closed and Macallan starts bottling / distributing directly, the alcohol volume goes down to 43% and Macallan starts to add a bottling year (e.g. 1964/1982). Although at that time they are already bottled at 18 years, it’s not until the 1967 vintage that they officially put the blue “18 years” ribbon on the box and the (neck) label. A legend is born! With those official 18yo’s, we’re halfway the 1980’s and Rinaldi (taken over in 1983) is replaced by Giovinetti as the new importer for Italy.
In short, this Macallan 1955 is a predecessor of the famous Macallan 18yo’s. It was bottled around 1973 and should be around 18 years old.
Nose: wow. Indeed it’s the legendary combination of luscious sherry and faint phenolic notes. The sherry richness starts with all kinds of dried fruits (mainly figs, sultanas and dates but also quinces and raspberries) and goes to honey and beeswax (quite special, I associate this more with bourbon maturation). There’s also plenty of mint liqueur and eucalyptus, as well as old furniture, old paint, old books, tobacco… All of this covered in a veil of ashes and the softest hints of tar. Balances between sweet and dry notes. Stunning complexity. Mouth: a lot of sherry. Especially the chocolate / coffee combo stands out, as well as jammy fruits, raisins and relatively soft spices and herbs (hints of cough syrup). Leather notes as well as a slightly metallic hint of shoe polish (OBE?). Mint again. Puffs of smoke. Finish: long, fairly dry with dark chocolate and spices.
The mint liqueur, beehive notes and perfect sherry give this a heavenly nose. The palate was more heavily sherried than expected and quite chocolaty – needless to say it’s perfectly faultless sherry. Oh my, what a delight. Hard to find these days and very expensive. All pre-18yo vintages usually fetch between € 1000 and 1500.
NC2 is an uncoloured and unchill-filtered series by Duncan Taylor, usually for younger / affordable whiskies bottled at 46%. Today we’re trying a new Springbank 1998. As far as I know, it was matured in a sherry cask.
Springbank 13 yo 1998
(46%, Duncan Taylor NC2 2011)
Nose: settles nicely on sweet, almost marmalade aromas (peach jam, oranges, plums, even strawberries) while also displaying a maritime character of salty seawater. Some apple and ginger. Hints of yeast. Simple but nice enough. Mouth: curiously fruity. It’s a kind of a fruit compote but I have difficulty describing it. Orange syrup. Yellow raisins. Rhubarb jam? Overripe tangerine or figs? Melon sweets? Molasses? Many question marks but it’s actually quite enjoyable. Reminds me of certain Sauternes / Moscatel finishes. Again a salty / bitter twist and hints of sticky sweet toffee. Finish: not too long, with the sweet fruits having the last word. Hints of ginger again with a faint bitterness.
Much sweeter and rounder than most recent official Springbanks. A sweet wine finish that’s in fact not a wine finish? Worth trying. Around € 60. Available from Whisky-Doris among others.
A young and affordable Cragganmore 1999 from the recent releases by Malts of Scotland.
Cragganmore 11 yo 1999
(55,1%, Malts of Scotland 2011, bourbon hogshead, MoS 11012, 298 btl.)
Nose: a lot of oak and spices. Big peppery notes and hints of allspice. Grass. A very bourbonny profile. Sweet fruity notes that are hard to pin down: apple maybe or just nondescript fruit candy. Some vanilla and coconut. Mouth: sweet. Again very very spicy (ginger, pepper). Liquorice. It just ooses (fresh) wood. Pencils, oak shavings… Sweet orange candy. Finish: long, warm and peppery with hints of green apple and oak.
This Cragganmore shares quite some elements with bourbon whiskey and it even shows more oak spices than some new oak matured whiskies. Good spirit from an extremely active cask. Around € 50.
TWE Masterpieces are selected by TWE chief Sukhinder Singh himself. I adore the style and label. It’s classy and features handmade paper, an embossed TWE stamp, waxed sealing and great typography. Not unlike some vintage cognac bottles. Respect!
You already know the story: Bowmore filled very few casks in 1993 and there’s nothing left in the distillery warehouses. There should be a couple of casks available from independent bottlers (check earlier bottlings from Whisky Agency, Thosop and Whisky-Fässle), but this is truly rare.
Bowmore 18 yo 1993 (61,6%, The Whisky Exchange ‘Masterpieces’ 2011, American oak hogshead, 195 btl.)
Nose: quite bold with smoke, peat and a little tar. Brine. Slightly sharp, but it’s great to see the rounder, fruity notes come straight out as well. Starts on banana and sugared grapefruit, and evolves on gooseberries, guava and tangerine. A little vanilla. This is a unique feature of these 1993’s: a lot of Islay power (more than other Bowmore) combined with tropical fruits, alternating constantly. Impressive. Mouth: very peaty and extremely salty which evolves on zesty citrus flavours and herbs. There’s a sweet wave underneath, a kind of generic sweetness without clear-cut fruit profiles. Maybe a little too strong to drink undiluted. With water it’s sweeter (apple, juicy grapefruit) without loosing the liquorice, seawater and peppery kick. Finish: long and citrusy. Salt and tobacco notes.
Complex stuff, just like the other 1993’s. Water is necessary though. Good selection and one of my whisky icons of 2011. Around € 140 which makes it an expensive 1993. Used to be sold out, yesterday new stock appeared, now sold out for good.
Scotland’s hundred finest malts vatted blended together, that’s Chivas Century of Malts. It was released in 1995 and contains some of the rarest malts like Craigduff / Glenisla (peated Glen Keith). A little booklet describes all of the 100 distilleries.
Chivas Century of Malts
(43%, OB 1995)
Nose: sweet and biscuity. Citrus. Honey. Vanilla. Hints of nougat and cake. Disappointingly similar to regular (cheaper) blends. Mouth: sweet and biscuity again with big vanilla. White grapes. Orange cake. Then it moves to heather, with very soft hints of peat and a nice toffee coating. Finish: sweet, showing subtle spices and faint hints of smoke. Quite lovely with nice roasted nuts and moccha.
It may sound crazy to blend 100 malts, you’d never be able to detect them all. It’s true that the result lacks some uniqueness, but it shows decent depth and it’s not a bad vatting.
There’s a new edition of the 30 years old Speyside whisky by Master of Malt. We already tried the 2nd edition and 3rd edition before. This one is a return to sherried form.
Undisclosed Speyside distillery 30 yo (40%, Master of Malt 2011, 4th Edition)
Nose: nicely aromatic despite the low strength. Very juicy, with honeyed malt, vanilla and baked apples. Some dried fruits (plenty of raisins) and spices (cinnamon, soft cloves). Orange peel. Mouth: sweet start on honey and soaked raisins. Caramelized apple again. Sweet almonds. Hints of tobacco and a little wood resin. Finish: still rather honeyed with something of roasted nuts. A tad drier in the very end.
A rich and really juicy sherry bottling. Something in between the heavily sherried 2nd edition and the malty / more bourbonny 3rd edition. Too bad they’re still holding on to the 40% strength. Available from Master of Malt. Around € 115 – good pricing again.
First, surprisingly, the most experienced tasters weren’t in the jury. I’m not sure what the effect has been and whether there has been an effect at all. Would be interesting to recalculate last year’s results without those three members. See below.
Second, I think the gold medals are all relatively unknown. I mean, they’re not part of the daily buzz and discussions I’ve seen on forums or blogs or among enthusiasts. Most of the things that everyone was raving about, haven’t even entered the awards. And some of the winners (including the GlenDronach) have been on the shelves for months with low interest (and now suddenly everyone will look for them). Just an observation.
Third, nice to see the same whisky enter twice (two bottles of Talisker 30yo). Great consistency for most tasters. Less so for PD and RM who almost invert each other’s scores… but excellent proof for the reliability of this competition.
Update: our friend Bastien did some recalculations and pointed out that last year’s awards would have been quite different without Serge, Johannes and Davin. Five out of 12 gold medals (Glenfarclas 40, Caperdonich 1972, Port Ellen PE2…) would have been degraded to silver. Karuizawa 1977 Noh would have been the overall winner with the GlenDronach in sixth place! Thanks again Bastien, this confirms our feeling that the preferences of the jury are a major element in any competition!