Dalmore Valour is a true Dalmore: no age statement, low strength and a few tricks with casks. Like most of the new travel retail bottlings by the way, it’s not just a problem of Dalmore.
In this case, the trick is to mention ‘maturation in 30 years old Matusalem sherry casks’. Are the casks 30 years old, or does it refer to the fact that the sherry used to season the casks is 30 years old (on average)? While it may make the whisky look better, what really matters is that the whisky itself is much younger. The other trick was to blend it with whisky from ex-bourbon casks and use Port pipes for the finishing. A bit of everything for everyone.
It was first launched in Qatar, then in other travel retail shops, now you can occasionally find it in regular stores as well.
(40%, OB 2013, travel retail)
Nose: sweet Port influence. Caramel and toffee, blood oranges, plums and honey. A slightly dusty note as well. Buttery roundness. A little cardamom. Mouth: very sweet, creamy and malty. Caramel. Remains quite neutral and vague before it goes towards a bitter earthiness, woody notes and the kind of roughness that you get in young grain whisky. All the elements don’t seem to work together. Finish: okayish length, but mostly on bitter oranges and drying wood.
A rather dull whisky which I think you’d better avoid. Not a lot of depth and some disrupting flavours. Around € 60 for a litre bottle.
Nose: a really interesting mix of fruity notes (sweet apple, rhubarb and even hints of banana) with oily notes (sunflower oil). Barley sugar. Sugared mint leaves. Honey glaze and vanilla. Fairly round and fat with a bright fruitiness. I like. Mouth: again round and mouth-coating. Lots of pear juice and pear drops, a bit of kirsch and pineapple. Honey and barley sugar. Very good, thick spirit. Evolves on grassier notes with hints of salty liquorice. Ah, and quite some ginger indeed. Finish: long, half fruity, half grassy, with a peppery touch and a touch of wood.
Similar to the Mortlach 1995 bottled for Fulldram, which is a great reference of course. I’m not the biggest fan of Mortlach in general, but I really appreciate this. Around € 100.
Noah’s Mill is a Kentucky bourbon whiskey, highly sought after and difficult to get, especially when you’re not in US. For many years it was bottled as a 15 Year Old, but today it is said to be a mix of whiskey between 4 and 20 years old.
It is produced in small batches (less than 20 barrels each time) by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, which is now operating a proper distillery but acted as an independent bottler until recently. It has been suggested that at least some of their products (Johnny Drum, Willett, Michter’s and others) are distilled by the Heaven Hill distillery.
(57,15%, OB 2010, Batch n°10-57)
Nose: smooth and balanced, with warm oak, toffee, caramelized almonds and fruity notes (dried apricot, hints of cherries). Dried banana bits. Oak char. A bit of maple sweetness. Some spicy rye notes too. It stays away from abundant vanilla or leathery notes, which makes it seem more complex than some other bourbons. Mouth: initially quite fruity again (dates and raisins), with toffee and roasted nuts. After that, much more spicy notes, peppery heat and big toasted oak. Fairly woody – not as complex and enjoyable as the nose. Finish: long, warm and spicy with hints of charred oak.
Noah’s Mill is nicely different, with more oaky / spicy notes than in some of the well-known bourbons. Somewhere in between rye and bourbon, I’d say. Around € 50 if you can find it.
Aberfeldy 21 Year Old is a mix of bourbon and sherry casks. We’re trying the new version, part of the restyling process that was started late 2014. It’s the oldest expression at the moment, until we see the Aberfeldy 30 Year Old that will be launched later this year.
Aberfeldy 21 yo (40%, OB 2014)
Nose: fairly neutral, it’s nice but a tad understated. Some berries and stewed fruits. Orange peel. Subtle floral touches. A hint of coconut as well. Plenty of honey. All fairly standard notes, but I’m not complaining. Mouth: not exactly bold of course. A vague fruity sweetness. Honey, caramel, hints of chocolate, but also Seville oranges and a rough edge that makes me think of a blend. Light spices (cinnamon and nutmeg). Again tasty but light. Finish: medium long, nicer again. Chocolate coated fruits.
You can’t fault this whisky in any way, except for the low strength which results in a kind of vagueness. Roughly € 85 around here, all the way up to € 160 in the UK – difficult to explain but be sure to look around.
Littlemill 1990 (55,1%, Malts of Scotland for Dram Brothers & Tongerse Whiskyvrienden 2015, bourbon barrel, MoS 15006, 158 btl.)
Nose: dried grasses and hay stand out here, as well as some oak dust. The usual fruity notes are present, but not in the first row. Some banana ice cream, vanilla and guava juice. Waxy notes / lemon balm as well. Spanish horchata. Warmer than others. Mouth: brighter and sharper now, with the full-blown tropical fruits that we were looking for. Mango, pink grapefruits (truckloads, almost 1970’s BenRiach style), pineapple, including slightly more mundane lemons. Becomes drier, earthier even, with green tea and more lemon zest. A hint of salty liquorice. Finish: medium long and zesty, with added herbal notes and mint.
Another great Littlemill. It’s lovely how they all share the same things, but they still find a unique twist. I can’t stop recommending these. Around € 165.
I’m not sure they are the best whiskies I’ve ever tasted, but some of them are close, and I still feel there’s something special about Brora 30 Year Old. When I started with whisky almost ten years ago, I thought of these bottles as the holy grails.
I can’t stop thinking Brora has been surpassed (in terms of collectability or auction values) by other legends like Karuizawa, The Macallan or Port Ellen. It’s less in the spotlight than it once was, or so it seems. Yet I still think it’s the connoisseurs choice with the most unique character.
I had already tried all yearly releases of Brora between 2007 and 2013 except this 2010 release.
Brora 30 yo (54,3%, OB 2010, 9th Edition, 2958 btl.)
Nose: smooth and rounded, with just a very subtle farmy note. Honey coated almonds with vanilla and marzipan. Oranges. Cinnamon cookies. It’s just the light coastal side, the waxy notes and distant peat that prove it’s really Brora. This is a rather great nose, just not very typical for the 30 year-olds. Could have been Clynelish as well. Mouth: slightly sharper, with clearly more peat and a medicinal edge. Briny notes and a lemon / salt combo. Suddenly a whiff of dried apricot and vanilla custard, but then back to light mustard and herbal teas. Becomes more typically waxy with a drop of water. Finish: long, with the warmer, waxy side balancing the herbal notes and lingering smoke.
Simply very good whisky, with fruity sweetness and subtle peat. On the other hand, the typical Brora features aren’t loud and clear. Water brings them to the fore. Originally around € 300, now around € 700 in auctions.
Nose: a rather naked but fairly aromatic nose. Lots of juicy fruits, apple compote, pears, indeed some rhubarb jam as well. Yellow raisins and red berries. Hints of vanilla biscuits and honey. A few beer-like / malty notes as well. Mouth: bright and sweet again, with stewed fruits and wine gums. A bit youngish alright, but very pleasant. Rather floral at first, but it becomes more muscular over time, darker, with some toffee, hazelnuts and hints of mocha. Finish: medium long, with sweet spices and just a hint of savouriness.
This is just a really pleasant, bright and slightly understated Benrinnes. Very good middle-aged whisky.