Last night whisky club Fulldram hosted another great tasting in Leuven. Titled Class of 89, the concept was to have seven whiskies that all scored 89 points on Whiskyfun.
89 is a high score but it’s slightly short of the magical 90/100 mark, so frankly we were expecting “close but no cigar” whiskies. Some of them are worth € 35, others € 185. Could they really be on the same level?
We were given a sheet of paper with all seven tasting notes but no names. Whiskies were poured blind and it was up to us to match each whisky to a tasting note (quite a challenge).
Congratulations to the Fulldram board for coming up with such a nice idea. It was fun to “quiz” our way through the line-up (all good quality whiskies) and Serge’s tasting notes were an interesting starting point for discussion.
At the end of the evening this was our collective top-3:
Also in the tasting were the Ardbeg 12yo 1998 Daily Dram, Lochside 1981 cask #808 by Berry Bros, Port Charlotte 2002 cask #1172 by Malts of Scotland and the standard Talisker 10.
Although I wouldn’t necessarily award them the same score, it was clear that indeed most whiskies were in the same league (roughly between 87 and 90/100 I’d say). Also it should be noted that some of them were attractive drams that certainly displayed some kind of magic. If you only focused on 90+ scores, you wouldn’t discover them (proved by the fact that the Highland Park is still on the shelves in some shops).
Personally I think only one whisky stood out in a negative way: the Talisker 10 years old. Why don’t we take this opportunity and investigate this widely available classic malt…
This Talisker 10 years old was supposed to be the “value for money” bottling in the Class of 89 tasting.
Talisker 10 years old (45,8%, OB 2011)
Nose: starts on expected harbour notes (seaweed, flax rope, a little iodine) but also on mashy notes (porridge, soaked grains). It wasn’t too bad on its own, but when compared to clean (bourbon) whiskies it was a little unfresh – a kind of mashy character that I don’t like too much. Some slightly sharp citrus fruits. Mouth: quite oily and rather dry. Lacking a bit of punch. Again a coastal profile with peat, salt and a mustardy sharpness. Kippers. Some pepper (not as much as in other Talisker though) and smoke. Hints of olive juice. Growing warmer with slightly rounder notes (almonds) towards the end. Finish: not too long, spicy and peaty.
Drinkable of course, but not the high quality we found in the rest of the tasting line-up. The porridgy nose kept bothering me. Maybe other batches are more convincing. For now I’ll have a Talisker 18 years old, thank you. Around € 30-35.
Nose: not exactly the tropical fruits we’d expected. It’s more sherried with ‘darker’ flavours. Herbal honey and fruits like ripe plums, raisins and blueberries. Overripe melon. Beehive notes. Mint. Some grassy elements, even something remotely earthy after some airing. Mouth: good strength, very sweet and fruity. Almost liqueur-like at some point. Blackberry or forest fruit jam. Prunes. Nicely coated with mint. Some ripe tropical fruits now, but still not as much as others. Then a wave of fresh herbs and oak before it develops some fondant chocolate towards the end. Finish: medium long, with chocolate, fruits and soft oak until the very end.
Maybe not my personal favourite among the Tomatin 1976’s (for being less typical) but still excellent whisky. I suppose it was drawn from a more active sherry cask and this overpowers the more delicate tropical flavours a little. Around € 170.
I’m suffering from a cold, so I’m digging up some notes of classic releases that somehow never made it to the blog.
Inspite of it’s fame, Lagavulin releases few expressions. Until 1989, Lagavulin was always bottled at 12 years. Nowadays, the 16 year-old is the only standard bottling. There’s also a 12 year-old and a double matured Distiller’s Edition which both change each year. Over the years, there have been a few limited editions as well (21y, 25y, 30y, Feis Ile single casks) but that’s about it. If you’re a collector, Lagavulin is a relatively easy distillery…
Lagavulin 16 years is the reason why many of us became interested in single malts in the first place. Like most Islay whiskies, it’s peated but in a different way than Laphroaig or Ardbeg. Lagavulin is – in my opinion – one of the warmer whiskies around. Apparently Johnny Depp (who doesn’t drink alcohol) sometimes orders a dram of this, just to sniff it.
Lagavulin 16 yo (43%, OB 2007)
Nose: I’ve always found this to be the most complex and refined nose of the standard Islay malts. Very impressive, a bit rough yet balanced. Peaty with some iodine, antiseptic and fishy notes. Gentle fruitiness (oranges). Earth. Pepper. Oil. Lapsang Souchong. Let’s just say it’s really rich. Mouth: evolves over time. Oily, grassy, smoky (yesterday’s ash tray), sweet and salty. A dynamic palate indeed. Hints of seaweed and liquorice. Finish: drier, on smoked bacon and walnuts. Some wood. Hints of shoe polish. Very long.
Totally lives up to its name! Every whisky enthusiast should have a bottle of this in his collection. Around € 45.
Last month we already mentioned the new Whiskybase.com shop in Holland and their own Archives range. The first inaugural release contained a Caol Ila 2000, Clynelish 1997, Strathmill 1974 and this Littlemill 1989.
Nose: quite unique. It reminds me of old-style Lowlands whisky, like 1960’s Saint-Magdalene. Excellent surprise. It’s ashy and dusty, with light metallic notes and leather. Moss and different herbs. Subtle fruits in the background (dried apricot, raisins), dried flowers and some almond notes. Lots of oily notes, even some garage smells which remind me of old rums like the Caroni 1974. Impressive references, right? Mouth: spicy start on wood and eucalyptus, quickly gaining bitterness. Not many fruits, some apple maybe. Overall surprisingly rum-like. Growing herbal notes, caramel and some resin. Rather peculiar, very flavoursome but maybe not entirely my cup of tea. Very interesting though. Finish: quite long, again herbal with light oak and over-infused tea.
This bottle is worth trying or even worth buying for the nose alone (they don’t make this profile any more), but on the palate I think it’s a little too focused on herbal notes. One of the most unique whiskies I’ve tried lately and one of the best Littlemills out there. Around € 120.
The Whisky Agency is working its way through a big batch of Tomintoul casks from 1967 / 1968 and apparently also other vintages like this 1972. It was bottled in the Perfect Dram series.
Tomintoul 39 yo 1972 (45,7%, The Whisky Agency ‘Perfect Dram’ 2011, ex-bourbon cask, 116 btl.)
Nose: different from the 1967/1968’s, thicker and warmer. Lots of beehive notes (honey, beeswax) with buttery touches. The fruitiness is very ripe: melon, papaya. A nice layer of spicy, polished oak as well. Buttercups. A tiny hint of menthol. Mouth: good attack considering the age. Still sweet and rounded, fruity (plums, melon) and honeyed. Then the oak becomes louder, with mint, some nutmeg and liquorice. A slight bitterness / herbalness in the end. Finish: medium long, not too dry but nicely spicy and minty.
These old Tomintouls are really enjoyable but beware if you don’t like oak in the foreground of your whisky. A nice variation on what we saw from 1967 and 1968. Around € 180.
We all know Old Bothwell has good contacts in Belgium, the alcohol volume is exactly the same and 120 bottles doesn’t seem to be a full cask, so indeed it might have been a split cask. In the end it doesn’t matter, let’s just enjoy the Old Bothwell release.
Port Ellen 28 yo 1983 (55,5%, Old Bothwell 2011, cask #230, 179 btl.)
Nose: sophisticated and balanced. Great mineral notes, lemon and grapefruit aromas, soft camphor, marzipan, walnuts, wet wool… all the typical things we’re expecting from a high-quality Port Ellen. Complex, crystal-sharp and rounded at the same time. Mouth: oily and more punchy now. There’s peat, brine, citrus, some oak but again also sweeter notes of marzipan and hazelnuts towards the end. And a nice pepper / ginger combo. Finish: very long with citrus, smoke and salty liquorice.
Very good Port Ellen. Could this be The Whiskyman’s cask? Yes, very much so. I’ve tried them side-by-side and couldn’t spot major differences. Nice surprise to see this one is still available and cheaper. Around € 170. Thanks for the sample, Fredrik!
Old Pulteney 12yo – the benjamin of the range – is matured wholly in air-dried, hand-selected ex-bourbon casks. Contrary to the more upmarket / single cask Old Pulteney releases, this is still caramel coloured and chill-filtered.
This is the 2010 release – in 2011 the packaging had a slight makeover. The spirit is probably more or less the same (a new batch I guess).
Old Pulteney 12 yo (40%, OB 2010)
Nose: quite a big maltiness coming out, with some coastal notes and a little brine. Rather big beefy elements as well, which I personally don’t like too much. Also a sharper, walnut-style note. It benefits from a bit of airing in the glass. Mouth:
a bit underpowered. Full of malt, slightly bitter Seville oranges, sourish apple. Liquorice. A dash of honey and quite a lot of caramel / toffee flavours in the end. Caramelized nuts. A bit too much of the caramel flavours for me. Finish: zesty and oily with a slightly herbal and salty ending. Drops dead all of a sudden.
This may not be a special dram, but let’s not forget we’re in the entry level market here. At this price point, it’s a decent introduction to this uniquely coastal distillery. Around € 30.