Nose: as often with Glenrothes, sherry casks tend to give it a really spicy character rather than a heavy rum / raisin type of sherry. Light pepper. Fresher citrus and floral notes come out after a while. Sweet oranges. Baked apple. Sweet malty notes and porridge in the back, a faint strawberry note. Quite nice. Mouth: sweet and spicy with quite a lot of fruity notes now. Cooked fruits (compote). Peaches, oranges. A little vanilla cake. Still quite malty too (Frosties). Evolves on liquorice, herbal tea, pepper and ginger. Finish: medium long, spicy and sweet with a growing bitter edge from the wood.
Not much sherry influence here, I’d say. A good rounded, malty and peppery Glenrothes. Nothing mind-blowing though. Around € 85.
Ryst-Dupeyron is a French wine and armagnac dealer with quite a long relationship with Scotland’s Gordon & MacPhail. They have been bottling whisky for a very long time under the Captain Burn’s brand, but they seem to be rather low-key as I must admit I had never heard of them.
When I was at the Epicure store at Brussels airport the other day (a rather interesting store by the way), I saw they had a series of 5cl whisky tubes (a French concept by LMdW) with Captain Burn’s expressions. I decided to take home the youngest and oldest whiskies: this Auchroisk 1999 and a Glen Elgin 1975.
(46%, Captain Burn’s 2010)
Nose: very malty: barley notes, grist, some beer. Vanilla. Quite youngish, with some pear notes and coconut. Lemon. A light distillate that’s quite simple and even then not entirely smooth. Meh. Mouth: sweet and grainy. Cereals. Grapefruit. Slowly drifts towards bitter notes (ginger tonic, aspirin) and nutty notes (walnuts). A little astringent and resinous. Finish: medium length, quite chemical and too biting.
Grainy and simple is alright, but with the chemical edge it would be crazy to choose this over a well-made blend. Now that wasn’t the best blind buy ever. Around € 60 for a full bottle, or € 8 for this 5 cl sample.
Here’s the other release by the new German bottler Maltbarn (after the Caol Ila 1980). As it’s a Caperdonich from the legendary year 1972, we were expecting a typical old fruit bomb with plenty of honey. With only 73 bottles (a very small cask), they are selling quickly.
Nose: warm and fruity Caperdonich, with lots of ripe apricots, quince jam and figs. Exemplary beehive notes as well (wax and honey). Soft spices. More buttery notes than other 1972’s though, mocha and praline as well, and then a peculiar element, a slightly overripe botrytis edge (difficult to describe) or the kind of dirtiness that a Sauternes cask can bring along. Well, maybe not dirty, but “wild” let’s say. Not uncommon for a sherry cask, but I’ve never seen this in a Caper 72 before. Mouth: punchy and much more oaky now, very spicy (pepper, cinnamon) with tea notes and after that also a few chestnut / walnut skin notes. Quite wood-oriented, but luckily there’s still a big amount of fruity notes underneath: overripe oranges, gooseberries, persimmons. Honey and mocha again. Yellow raisins. I like it better with a few drops of water. Finish: rather long, still quite oaky. Some green pepper and tannins.
This is good whisky, but the combination of the name Caperdonich with the year 1972 sets certain expectations for a particular character, and this one has a slightly deviant character of its own. Therefore not my personal favourite. Around € 200. Whiskybase would be your best shot at getting one of the last bottles.
Two weeks ago I was quite lyrical about a Littlemill 1988 bottled by Whisky-Fässle in Germany. Now their Dutch friends at Whiskybase bottled a cask with very similar specs, in the third release of their Archives series. It was distilled on the 7th of November 1988 and matured in a sherry cask.
Nose: glad to see this is very similar. Elegant sherry notes, fruit cake and dates, and probably even more tropical fruits like tangerine, passion fruits and papaya than in the WhF and previous WB releases. Again the old-school notes of tobacco and leather with nice herbal touches. Wonderful. Mouth: nicely sweet, spicy and fruity. How nice to find prunes, raisons, lemon balm, coffee beans, pink grapefruit… Quite some cinnamon and sandalwood notes (there’s something oriental to it). Only in the end does it get more herbal with liquorice dryness and a bourbonny kind of oak influence. Finish: long, slightly roasted, with ginger and liquorice.
It’s starting to become predictable but I adore this. Probably as good as Littlemill gets in my humble opinion. Around € 125, available from the guys at Whiskybase. Note that there are only 48 bottles available.
The 1824 Collection of four Macallan expressions – Select Oak, Whisky Maker’s Edition, Estate Reserve and 1824 Limited Release – has been created by Macallan’s own whisky maker together with John Ramsay, who was linked to The Glenrothes. Both distilleries are part of the same Edrington group.
The Macallan Estate Reserve was matured in sherry seasoned hogsheads and like the others it doesn’t have an age statement. It is bottled at the old 80 UK proof strength.
Macallan ‘Estate Reserve’
(45,7%, OB 2009, 1824 Collection)
Nose: a sweet sherry theme with dried fruits, ginger cake and quite some cedar wood. Also a classic combo of chocolate and oranges. Nutmeg. Fresh and rather modern, lacking a bit of thickness though. Mouth: good balance between the original spirit and the sherry. Plenty of oak again, all kinds of spices (ginger, nutmeg, clove, pepper). Really spicy this one. The sherry sweetness fades away which leaves only the spices and hints of slightly bitter oranges, as well as some dark chocolate. Finish: quite long, still very spicy (especially pepper and nutmeg) with some woody dryness in the end.
The sherry seasoning influence in this Macallan works pretty well, but the wood is rather loud. Overall a tad too focused on oak and spices for me. Around € 140.
Port Ellen is now breaking the 30 years limit, which is good news as it’s one of these distilleries that get better after long maturations. Most of the remaining (independent) stocks seem to be 1982-1983. This one was bottled by Malts of Scotland from a sherry hogshead.
Port Ellen 30 yo 1982 (58,6%, Malts of Scotland 2012, sherry hogshead, MoS 12017, 298 btl.)
Nose: sweet peat and sweet sherry. Milk chocolate ganache, roasted nuts and mocha. Cigar leaves. Cured ham. Mixed with tarry ropes, smoke and delicate camphory notes. Keeps growing sweeter over time, on rhubarb jam and plums. Finally big notes of warm sandalwood. Top notch sherried Port Ellen. Mouth: whereas the nose was maybe more sherry than peat, this is mostly Port Ellen spirit speaking. Peat, candied lemon zest, ashes and herbs. Cured ham again. Chilli pepper and a pinch of salt. A hint of sweetness as well (raisins and chocolate) but less so than on the nose. Quite a bad boy! Water makes it smoother but not really softer: still mainly on herbs and coastal notes. Finish: long, herbal, slightly bitter and quite maritime / salty.
A good, sherried Port Ellen which reminded me of PE1 and a 1983 by Duncan Taylor. Same profile, maybe a tad sharper this time and a bit less complex. Powerful whisky that’s quite smooth at the same time. Around € 225.
Nose: plenty of heather notes in this one. Not immediately attractive, but it becomes fairly fruity after fifteen minutes… gentle garden fruits (apple, pear, gooseberry). Some honey. A little mint. Leading to some mocha and soft waxy notes. Faint grassy notes too. Mouth: quite sweet and nicely fruity, same (stewed) fruits with a little more citrus maybe (especially tangerine and orange sweets) and a slight tropical edge. Sweet barley notes. Honey. Yellow raisins. Clear oak now as well (pepper, ginger, clove). Finish: long, with sweet fruits, vanilla and warming spices. Returns nicely to minty notes.
A very good, sweet and fruity Speysider. Well in line with our expectations. Around € 170. Still on the shelves in several shops.
Berry Brothers and Rudd is one of the oldest wine merchants in the UK and probably in the world. They also have an important whisky department, acting as the exclusive distributor for The Glenrothes and selecting fine casks in their own range of bottlings. Today we’re trying an old release, tomorrow we’ll have a recent one from the same bottler.
Dufftown is a small village in Speyside with a high number of distilleries and one of them is called Dufftown. It’s part of the Diageo group, mainly producing blender’s whisky for Bell’s, and it’s bottled as a single malt in the Singleton series. With its impressive production capacity and very low profile / recognition, it tends to be forgotten easily. Oldies like this Dufftown 1972 are very rare.
(43%, Berry Bros 1993)
Nose: starts mashy and porridgy, with some wet dogs. Over time it develops a soft sweetness of heather honey and buttercups. A few vegetal notes (celery) and apples. Not very interesting, with its malty character it’s easy to see what the majority of casks was used for. Mouth: rather dry, with some oak, wax and earthy notes. Plenty of grainy notes with hints of (sourish) tobacco. Apples again, as well as oranges. Hints of tea. Finish: medium long, with some ginger and oak juice.
Sometimes people say that even the most mediocre blender’s whisky gets interesting as long as it’s aged properly. This one is certainly not bad but not a high-flyer either. Around € 130 in auctions. Thanks Joeri.