Nose: this one needs some time to settle, but then it shows the lovely fruits (red berries, guava, plums, tangerines) with lots of raisins as well. It’s a heavy sherry version like the one for The Whiskyman. Then a certain greenness and some oak spices (cinnamon, mint, aniseed) and a little dusty malt. A hint of metal polish as well. Mouth: herbal and sweet at first (cough candy) before the tropical fruits come out, like mango, pink grapefruits, peaches, raspberries and passion fruits. Mint and a hint of pepper. Fruit tea. Finish: long, with the sweet fruits chilling alongside the herbal notes.
Excellent Tomatin 1976 again. Perhaps a shared part of the Whiskyman cask, or maybe a different cask… but that’s not important. A nice pre-finale for this series.
Old Lagavulin is very rare (Diageo calls it “dramatically limited”), due to the popularity of the younger expressions and a lack of anticipation in terms of production capacity. This expression was matured in refill American oak and European oak.
Lagavulin 37 yo 1976
(51%, OB 2013, 1868 btl.)
Nose: very nicely oily and elegant. Earthy notes up front (rather than big peat), with moss and plenty of tobacco leaves and soft soot. Behind this are some sweeter notes, a mix of almonds and heather honey. Also lime (not lemon). Subtle nutty notes (hazelnuts) and herbs (aniseed). Among the tiny notes, there’s menthol, orange, walnuts, incense, oysters and beeswax. It is wonderfully balanced and slightly understated, I love that. Mouth: slightly sharp, with a grapefruit bitterness and tangy oak as the first elements. Quite briny and very earthy (moss again, burnt grasses). Seaweed and oysters. Lots of leathery dryness. Green tea leaves and mint. Nutty notes (walnuts, chestnuts and pine nuts). Lemon balm and lemon zest. Tiny hints of dried fruits and Seville oranges, as well as some dark chocolate, but a bit of extra sweetness could have lifted this one even further. I have to say it does take a drop of water and becomes slightly rounder that way. Finish: very long, dry and oaky (although not tannic). Full of ashes.
A magnificent nose and a proud, powerful palate. Slightly robust (yet fragile at the same time), even a little austere but a masterpiece in terms of Lagavulin character and elegance. Around € 2750.
Johnny Drum is a sour-mash bourbon made by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers (also known as Willett). They have a Green label, Black label, a Black label 12 and this Private Stock label. It used to have a separate “15 years old” label on the neck but recently this has been left out so it’s possibly a little younger.
Note that the Willett distillery has been restarted in 2012, but this small batch whiskey is just a label – the spirit is bought from external sources (some suggest Heaven Hill further down the same road).
Johnny Drum ‘Private Stock’ 15 yo
(50,5%, OB 2012)
Nose: fairly spicy and woody, with some gingery oak and cinnamon sticks up front. Soft rye elements. A little nutmeg. Maple syrup and vanilla. Nice hints of peaches and banana in the background. Also interesting earthy hints and a fresh minty top note. Rounded off by some varnish. Mouth: quite a surprise. Very savoury and spicy now, with the mouth-coating dryness of cinnamon, with leather and lots of pine and cedar wood. Juniper berries? Ginger. Something of a herbal gin indeed, strange. Burnt wood. Roasted pecans. Some medicinal notes even. Some late dark chocolate. Hardly any sweetness. Finish: shortish, a little toffee sweetness now but still mostly spices and oak tannins.
A slightly strange bourbon, especially on the palate where it displays some uncommon herbs and spices, and few of the classic vanilla / caramel notes. Heavy on the oak and rye notes as well. Let’s keep it at interesting. Around € 45 from UK retailers.
The Singleton series combines whiskies from three of Diageo’s biggest distilleries: Dufftown, Glendullan and Glen Ord (in the past other distilleries as well). They’re relatively big but hardly known as most of their production is used in blends like Johnnie Walker. It’s the first time Dufftown appears in Diageo’s Special Releases.
This expression was distilled in 1985 (one of the oldest expressions ever from this distillery) and matured in refill American oak.
The Singleton of Dufftown 28 yo 1985 (52,3%, OB 2013, 3.816 btl.)
Nose: old Speyside the way I like it. Creamy fruits (apples, pears, grapes) are mixed with heather honey and a good dose of beeswax. Golden raisins. Soft herbal notes, dried flowers and hints of dusty books. Hints of leather. Vanilla in the distance. Mouth: oily and sweet. Garden fruits again, with some oranges, raisins and honey. Quite malty (Frosties). Lots of beeswax again. Then some mint, liquorice and nutmeg comes forward, as well as a new wave of herbal notes. Finish: long, dry, with tons of yellow apples and some pine resin. Also faint hints of smoke.
I love the kind of dustiness and mustiness that old malts like these can possess. Add some balanced fruits and herbs and you have a very nice dram. But it’s overpriced (again): around € 300.
This Old Pulteney 2001 was part of the bottlings for the Spirits in the Sky Festival in Leuven this year. A joint bottling by The Whisky Agency and The Nectar.
Old Pulteney 12 yo 2001
(49,2%, The Whisky Agency & The Nectar 2013, bourbon cask, 351 btl.)
Nose: a mineral profile. Chalk, graphite, wet cloths. Unripe fruits (apple, peach). Some seaweed. Hints of pencil shavings. Slight floral notes. Overall a little closed. After a while a candied white fruit note comes out. Mouth: surprisingly sweet, with a young fruitiness (apple liqueur, apricot, grapefruit) but also a nice praline / almond sweetness. Lemon candy. Dark honey. Still a few coastal / briny notes in the background. Liquorice. Finish: long, with lemony notes and the warmer praline.
A fine dram, combining the typically coastal Old Pulteney character with a few warmer notes. Nothing special either. Around € 85.
We’re working our way up in the Diageo Special Releases. This year’s Talisker is a 27 years old 1985 vintage. It has been matured in refill American oak casks. I have to say the packaging, with its out-of-centre labels, looks lovely.
Talisker 27 yo 1985
(56,1%, OB 2013, 3.000 btl.)
Nose: really great, I love the mix of old books (waxed paper), dusty warehouses, orange peel and vanilla. Sea spray. Hints of wet cloths. Good to find some pastry notes as well as red apples and raspberry. Mango. Soft, sweet smoke in the background, with some ashy notes. Balanced and elegant yet powerful. Mouth: sweet and spicy, nicely building up strength. Starts on malty notes, apples and oranges. Soft tropical notes. Then quite some briny notes, liquorice and wood smoke. Ginger and cloves. Oily notes as well. Not much of the trademark pepper but punchy nonetheless. Some resinous notes, tar and dark chocolate. Finish: long, smoky, with some chocolate sweetness and tobacco. Mineral, grapefruity finale.
An excellent Talisker, one of the most powerful old expressions I can remember. Around € 600. This one seems to be still around in most shops, which is strange considering the quality.
The yearly Lagavulin 12 Years Old, matured in refill American oak and bottled at cask strength, 55.1% this year.
Lagavulin 12 yo
(55,1%, OB 2013, 13th release)
Nose: sweet, slightly youngish aromas at first. Redcurrant, a little banana. A classic lemon and pepper combination. Earthy peat, kind of leafy, with a soft matchstick edge. Some chalk as well, even a few waxy notes. Is it me or did this one grow towards Laphroaig and Ardbeg in the last few years? Mouth: hot and peppery at first (slightly alcoholic), quite dry as well, with some herbal notes / burnt grasses. Deep peat smoke and slightly bitter charred notes. Develops sweeter notes in a second phase. Apples, a little honey. Cocoa. Hints of rubber and tar. Some iodine. Salty liquorice and a citrus top note. Finish: long, ashy and chocolaty.
Lagavulin 12 Years has always been a good, straightforward whisky and this is no exception. Especially the combination of sweetness and heavy peat is nicely done. But the character is slowly changing and maybe not for the better. Around € 95.
Cardhu is still the best selling single malt in Spain (and popular in the rest of Southern Europe as well), making it a top-10 malt worldwide, but it’s mostly overlooked by connoisseurs.
This Cardhu 21 Years Old, distilled in 1991, is part of the Diageo Special Releases. The last time that happened was in 2005. The spirit was matured in ex-bourbon American oak casks.
Cardhu 21 yo 1991
(54,2%, OB 2013, 6.000 btl.)
Nose: pretty neutral. There’s orange peel, yellow raisins and apples. Nice enough, but there’s something of sharper fruit vinegar that I don’t like too much. Almonds. Leafy and grassy notes as well as some floral hints. Very light waxy notes. Mouth: clean, malty and fruity in a slightly generic way. Oranges again, green apples, honey sweetness and plenty of spicy notes. Cinnamon, chilli, mint. Soft resinous notes. Rather grassy again, with lots of green notes and some tannins. Liquorice. Finish: long, spicy, with some orange zest and bittersweet herbs.
The grassy / herbal and spicy notes in this Cardhu are a little loud. It never wins me over completely and the price is hard to justify. Around € 200.