Nose: youthful with a sweet and sour fruitiness. Gooseberries, apples, unripe plums and lemons. Honeydew melon. Pretty big flowery notes. Hints of vanilla and honey. Faint grassy notes and mint. Mouth: starts sweet and remains very close to the barley. The same kind of fruits, but this time coupled to a peppery heat and a bold zestiness (grapefruit skin, lemon oils). A little aspirin and sour wood as well. Quite some heat but a few drops of water make it slightly rounder. Finish: not very long, with apples alongside grassy and gingery notes.
Another summery dram. Bright fruits and nervous spices, as found in lots of modern drams. Honestly made and simply good. Around € 75, only available from Tasting Fellows directly.
Gordon & MacPhail have bottled several Port Ellen 1969 expressions. It started with 10 years old releases in the Connoisseurs Choice series (famous black label with red letters), then three or four 15 and 16 years old releases (CC gradient brown labels as well as Sestante labels), plus two cask strength 1969/1985 versions with cream labels (including a legendary one for Intertrade).
Actually we can’t say with 100% certainty which one we’re reviewing here. I recently bought this miniature with a gradient brown label but contrary to full bottles that display the age in a light circle towards the top of the label, G&M CC miniatures of that era mention the year of distillation in that spot. Based on the font used for ‘Distilled 1969’ though, which is different in both labels, I am quite confident this is the 16 years old version. Whiskyfun has a review of the same miniature.
Remember Port Ellen distillery was reopened in April 1967 after it had been silent since 1929 and rebuilt in 1966. A 1969 distillation is not something you get to try every week and we probably can’t go further back in time than this.
Port Ellen 16 yo 1969 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs’ Choice +/- 1985)
Nose: far better than I was expecting (after all it’s young and PE was meant to be a blender’s whisky). Very expressive given the low alcohol volume, and very balanced as well. Very maritime (Caol Ila style) with kelp and oysters, but quite fruity at the same time. Lots of cut apples, lime and tangerine. Hints of metal polish. Some marzipan. Mint. Soft medicinal notes and warm tar. Clean young Port Ellen, but the subtlety and the balance with the fruits is just excellent. Mouth: rather light, yes, but expressive. Again much sweeter and fruitier than expected. Sweetened grapefruit juice, lime and kumquats. Mixed with grassy peat and liquorice, a bit of smoke and plenty of kippers. Hints of moss. Hints of Yunnan pu-erh. Such a brilliant combination. Finish: long, half ashy and half coastal (smoked fish).
I’m sure the cask strength versions of these casks are even more stellar, but this is a highly drinkable Port Ellen with an outstanding balance. I like these fruitier versions a lot. Rarely seen in auctions, but TWE has a bottle of the 15yo for around € 1000.
In March 2013, Tullibardine announced a total makeover of its single malt range – a logical move after the distillery had been sold to the French Picard company. In line with the state of the whisky market, most of them are NAS (no age statement) versions.
Tullibardine Sovereign is the new entry level expression. This is a first fill bourbon barrel matured version. There’s also an aged 20 and 25 year old, as well as three ‘core’ finishes: 225 Sauternes, 228 Burgundy and 500 Sherry. The numbers relate to the size of the casks in this case.
Tullibardine Sovereign (43%, OB 2013)
Nose: malty nose with pear drops and creamy white chocolate. Fresh cereal notes. Vanilla custard. Very soft gristy and mineral notes. Undemanding, modern whisky. Mouth: still very malty. Lots of apples and pears. Quite a lot of spicy notes now: cinnamon, pepper, mint and ginger. A faint potpourri edge as well. Finish: medium long, more malt and ginger, with soft nutty notes.
Even though it’s slightly uninspired, this is not an entry level whisky to be ashamed of. It’s a fresh and properly made spirit, which was not always the case for previous distillery bottlings. Around € 35.
After the split of Douglas Laing in May 2013, with both brothers going their own way, there are now two companies Douglas Laing (Fred + daughter) and Hunter Laing (Stewart + sons). The popular Old Malt Cask range is part of the Hunter Laing portfolio.
This Aberlour 2000 was actually bottled before the breakup.
Aberlour 12 yo 2000
(50%, Douglas Laing ‘Old Malt Cask’ 2013, refill hogshead, ref. 9340, 312 btl.)
Nose: juicy barley, with a few gristy and mineral notes and plenty of apples and pears. Sweet cereals. Light heather honey. Yellow raisins. Hints of vanilla cream. A pretty standard, fresh and modern nose for a young and bourbon matured Speysider. Mouth: really sweet, lots of marzipan and cooked fruits at first. Melon and honey. Quickly joined by café latte notes and brown candy sugar. A little toffee. Hints of coffee sweets. Still some mineral / waxy notes. Fades on citrus zest and herbs, with a peppery edge. Finish: quite long, zesty, with a slight herbal bitterness and liquorice.
I think the switch from bright, fruity notes on the nose to sweet latte and coffee sweets on the palate was really nice. Overall youngish but quite enjoyable. Around € 60.
Tamdhu distillery had a rebirth at the latest Speyside festival, after being bought by Glengoyne. The first two releases are this new Tamdhu 10 years and a limited edition Tamdhu 10yo 100% first fill sherry. Sandy Couts, the previous distillery manager at Glenrothes, is now running the distillery.
It’s a slight disappointment to see range makeovers and still end up with alcohol volumes of 40%. I thought we had evolved to 43% or rather 46% by now, even for standard releases?
The new Tamdhu 10 years was assembled using sherry wood, a combination of European and American oak casks, with quite some first fill barrels in the mix.
Tamdhu 10 yo (40%, OB 2013)
Nose: there’s a nice smoothness to this nose, with quite some vanilla cake and raisin notes to it. Latte notes and honey coated almonds. Some juicy apples. Closely related to Glenrothes, or so it seems. Unfortunately there’s also a significant amount of rubber. It comes and goes but it’s hard to miss. A bit sad for an otherwise very attractive nose. Mouth: medium weight (better than the 40% suggested I must say), with a lot of caramel and citrus notes now, both oranges and lime. Vanilla and soft ginger. Quite a big malty core as well. Cocoa. Finish: medium long, playing the spicy card now. Pepper and grassy notes with a nice berry note in the aftertaste.
Definitely a nice entry-level malt and a good rebirth of the brand. Though blemished by some rubber and a slight lack of punch on the nose, it’s an elegant composition of first fill and refill sherry. Around € 35.
I remember the Port Charlotte 2001 released in 2011 by Malts of Scotland (ref. 11017) said white Rioja on its label. Now there’s only Rioja hogshead so I wonder whether that means it’s red or simply undisclosed? Maybe it’s irrelevant anyway.
This bottle was presented at the 2013 Limburg Festival, but due to a printing error (“bourbon barrel”) the label had to be redone.
Port Charlotte 11 yo 2001 (57,5%, Malts of Scotland 2013, rioja hogshead, MoS 13027, 358 btl.)
Nose: lots of capers with salted butter. Smoked fish, classic smoked salmon with a honey / mustard dressing. Sandy beaches. Some flax rope. Behind this Islay front are plenty of candied notes, marzipan and berries which make it more playful than the official releases. Quite some waxy notes as well. Mouth: very peaty, clean and coastal. Brine, the smoked fish again, hints of oysters. Not as sweet as the nose suggested, although there is some sweet citrus and a slight toffee note. Picks up a lot of salt and liquorice along the way. Finish: long, slightly candied again and still very smoky.
It’s difficult to fault one of these recent Port Charlottes (the price maybe). They are simply very well-made and they withstand even the most uncommon kinds of casks. Around € 105.
In the context of the recent revamp of Talisker, there’s this new Port wine finished version called Talisker Port Ruighe (prononuced portree).
Matured in refill casks (American and European oak), it was then transferred to deeply charred barrels and yet again transferred to Port wine (or Port wine infused) barrels.
Talisker Port Ruighe
(45,8%, OB 2013)
Nose: rather dominant wine notes. Think rosewater lokum, a lot of plums and cranberries. Fragrant lemon as well as a slightly acetic sourness. Some chalk. The peat is nicely integrated and is particularly medicinal with the invasiveness of menthol and antiseptics. Coastal notes. Hints of chocolate and oak shavings. Uncommon and surprisingly airy for a Talisker. Mouth: oily but sharp as a knife. Brine, chilli pepper, ginger. Cranberries (including the specific bitterness of their juice). Menthol again. It’s only in the aftertaste that it begins to calm down and show orange liqueur, smoke. There’s also a surprisingly scorched earthy element in the end. Finish: long, with more smoke, dark chocolate and earthy notes.
An unusual Talisker to say the least. Some will find it interesting, others will find it disjointed. It seems I will stick with the traditional Talisker offerings. Around € 50.
Did you know Knockando was the first distillery in Scotland to be built with electric lighting in 1898?
This Knockando 12 years old was bottled in 1979 but the expression goes back to the end of the 1950’s when Justerini & Brooks (J&B indeed) bought the company. In fact a 12yo with vintage statement still exists today.
Knockando 12 yo 1967
(43%, J&B for Dateo Import Italy 1979)
Nose: light, fairly neutral, with lots of hay and cut apples, maybe grapefruit as well. Hints of waxed paper and dusty old books. Gets a little sweeter over time. Mouth: not too bold, oily, malty and slightly honeyed. Apple flavours again. Oranges. Grassy notes, soft resin and heather. Hints of green tea. Finish: fairly long, with some ginger, grasses, apple skin and cereal notes.
I wasn’t totally impressed with this Knockando, but on the other hand it seems to be more complex than modern bottlings and quite balanced for a standard bottling. Around € 150 in auctions.