With all those interesting new releases constantly popping up on the market, it’s becoming difficult to find some time to publish older drams that are long gone from regular stores. I really feel I might have neglected this part of my whisky passion so let’s focus on a few oldies in the next couple of days.
In the 1980’s Italian bottler Sestante had a 14 year-old and this 20 year-old version of Mortlach, both bottled with the same bagpiper label. This would be have been distilled at the beginning of the 60’s.
Mortlach 20 yo
(43%, Sestante 1980’s, 75 cl)
Nose: old-style sherry with a thick liqueur-like character. Lots of old polished oak and leather. Old books and incense. A very soft smokiness too. Raisins, a hint of caramel maybe. Also a sweet beefy note and burnt fruit cake. Mouth: dry, pretty oaky (a tad too much for my taste). There’s still an underlying dark sweetness of sultanas, but it grows resinous and herbal as well, with a slight sourness. Again some smoke in the distance. Feels nicely old but maybe a bit past its prime. Finish: long, dry, still some herbal notes, oak and smoke.
A nice experience but you’ll have to stand some old oak and herbs. It’s closer to a Mortlach 1936 for example than to recent expressions. Around € 450, rather hard to find.
Aultmore 28 yo 1982 (46%, Mo Òr 2011, bourbon hogshead #2219, 300 btl.)
Nose: very malty, with all kinds of grainy notes, hints of porridge. Usually not my kinda profile, but this is quite creamy, with hints of butter and milk chocolate, and adds some apple cake with cinnamon and nice honey. Hay, dry grasses and a fair amount of spices. Hints of old cupboards. Nice. Mouth: good attack with herbs and spices up front (eucalyptus, chamomile). Then a wave of citrus fruits (grapefruit, lemon peel). Developing nuttiness over time as well as a bitterness of Seville oranges, walnut skin and oak. Finish: medium long, medium dry with toasted oak and herbs.
A good Aultmore with plenty of character and a firm bitterness. Better than the A.D. Rattray version. Around € 125 for a 50 cl bottle.
I must admit I’ve never been a big fan of recent Bowmore (except the Bowmore Tempest) but the recent wave of indie expressions distilled between 1993 and 1998 are making me change my mind. This one was bottled by Asta Morris.
I tried this as a cask sample and I couldn’t really get to grips with it, a bit too weird and slightly harsh. Now I’m trying it from the bottle and I’m glad to see it has gained some roundness.
Nose: quite a peculiar profile, it starts on moderate peat and plenty of minerals (wet gravel), wet wool, wet cardboard maybe, ferns and slightly musty wood. Don’t get me wrong, it’s actually quite enjoyable and really “old-style”. On top of this there’s a great roundness of ripe fruit, sweet smoke and honey. Hints of citrus as well. A lovely combination, and it’s something we’re seeing quite often in Bowmore from this period lately. Mouth: smoky at first, a bit rubbery as well. A little mint. Candy sweetness again (grapefruit) but less obvious now. Then burnt herbs (slightly bitter), ginger and hints of salty liquorice. Finish: long, with soft peat and sweet smoke.
Uncommon Bowmore with nice fruity sparkles. I started with a 90 score on the nose, but on the palate I find it lacking a bit of cohesion to maintain this score. Complex whisky though, and a nice catch for the Asta Morris label. Around € 60 but I think it’s sold out.
Laphroaig casks from the #7002xx range have popped up from different bottlers already: Berry Bros, Blackadder, James McArthur, Malts of Scotland, Wilson & Morgan… Now the Archives series presents 80 bottles of this Laphroaig 1998 cask #700228.
Nose: pretty sharp with some invading antiseptics, seashells and ashes. Camphor and soot. Canvas. Big notes of lemon. Peated barley. A few vegetal touches as well: ferns and wet leaves. In the end it becomes a tad more rounded. Mouth: a slightly tangy attack but very much to the point. Laphroaig means peat, brine and ashes and that’s what it delivers. Hints of liquorice and gentian. Medicinal notes and a little tar. Pepper. Finish: long and warming with more classic peat, tar and pepper.
The equivalent of a Fisherman’s Friend. A strong and quite medicinal Laphroaig, not too wide but nicely focused on the things that peatheads love most. Around € 70, available from the Whiskybase store.
Those beautiful 1970’s cask have sparked a lot of interest for Longmorn in recent years and we’re now seeing more younger versions as well. Here’s a Longmorn 1992 recently bottled by Malts of Scotland.
Longmorn 19 yo 1992 (52,6%, Malts of Scotland 2012, bourbon hogshead Mos 12011, 205 btl.)
Nose: round and fruity with some gooseberries, citrus candy and tinned pineapple, but it’s not just about the fruits. It also shows grassy, mineral and flowery notes, even some herbal edges from the oak. Then back to warmer notes: apple pie, vanilla and almond paste. Definitely from the same family as the older versions. Mouth: nice and fruity (apples, oranges, apricots, hints of mango). Faint hints of rum (a certain vanilla / coconut combination). Honey. Again it’s easy to see where this is coming from, but this one is punchier with more zing from the oak (ginger, nutmeg). Again traces of herbs. Finish: long, sweet, candied with cinnamon and hints of moccha.
Sweet and full of flavours. I’m sure casks like this have the potential to age equally well as their 1970’s predecessors. Something to look forward to already. Around € 90.
Quarter Cask is a small type of cask used to transport whisky on horseback during the 19th century. They speed up the maturation process due to the larger wood contact. Although there’s no age statement on this Laphroaig, it is said to be around six years old (of which 7 months in the quarter cask).
This is generally one of the most highly rated original bottlings and a regular favourite among peatheads. I wrote this review two years ago but somehow I never got round to posting it.
Laphroaig Quarter Cask (48%, OB 2008)
Nose: not exactly like the standard 10yo. Prominent aroma of vanilla scented candles, peach and camomile. Banana and kiwi. These softer, sweeter flavours fight with the usual smoke and medicinal notes. Iodine. Mouth: soft and creamy attack. Rather sweet at first. After that, waves of smoke with some grassy notes. Slightly herbal evolution. Finish: rather fruity (pear) and a bit earthy. Closer to the regular Laphroaigs now. Nice aftertaste of coffee.
Well balanced whisky. Typical Islay feel, but also some softer, smoother flavours. In the end I still prefer the Laphroaig Triple Wood, but this one is cheaper: around € 30 or € 40 for a 1 liter bottle.
I’m no rum expert but I can tell you Demerara is the last remaining distillery in Guyana producing the El Dorado rum. They have three different stills, taken from different old sugar estates and now brought together in the Diamond estate. One of them is a continuous 4-column Savalle-type still (very similar to a Coffey still) called Albion, taken from the Uitvlugt estate.
Velier, the Italian importer of Demerara rum (as well as many whisky brands), regularly bottles single casks or small batches of old rum. This Albion 1986 comes from one single barrel, matured in the tropical weather of Guyana and bottled in February 2011.
Albion 25 yo 1986
(60,6%, OB for Velier import, cask #10546)
Nose: very rich. Very medicinal as well with quite some tar and diesel aromas that remind me of the Caroni 1974. Almost peaty. Lovely peppermint and deep molasses. Cinnamon and liquorice. Mouth: sweet and syrupy but it quickly becomes tarry again, and drier. Liquid liquorice candy as it were. Some oak juices, resin and spices / herbs (pepper, anise, fennel). Cough syrup. A little laurel. Finish: more liquorice candy and plenty of pine resin.
The peculiar phenols / liquorice / resin combination makes this Albion quite extreme. I’m sure it’s excellent as an antitussive. Unique and enjoyable to a certain degree, but it’s so overpowering that I quickly had enough of it (in the same way that I can only take one or two Salmiak candies at a time). Around € 130.
If all goes well, I’ll be visiting Old Pulteney distillery in May (as well as Balblair, anCnoc and Speyburn), so I dug up some samples and we’ll start with the thirthy years old flagship in their portfolio. There seem to be different versions of Old Pulteney 30 years ranging from 40,5% to 44%. It is matured in ex-bourbon American oak.
Old Pulteney 30 yo
(40,5%, OB 2011)
Nose: elegantly fruity, on gooseberries, apples, oranges. Over time it develops nice tropical touches of pineapple and mango. A lemonade Old Pulteney, very attractive. It’s not overly sweet though, there’s a nice bite to it and a minty freshness. Barley and some floral notes. The typical sea breeze isn’t missing either. Mouth: nicely oily but really soft, even if it isn’t exactly thin. On the one hand sweeter notes (apples, cinnamon, vanilla), on the other hand slightly bitter oak, citrus zest, heather and ginger. A hint of salt again. Too bad the oak is the strongest player here. Finish: long, oaky and slightly kippery.
A very nice nose and always this particular seaside character that sets apart the distillery. Expensive though: around € 260.