Leif Eriksson is a new member in the ever expanding travel retail selection from Highland Park (most of these are also available in regular stores though). It’s a very unusual variation as the spirit matured only in bourbon barrels and American oak sherry casks. All of the standard HP releases use European oak sherry casks.
Highland Park ‘Leif Eriksson’
(40%, OB 2011, travel retail)
Nose: starts on porridge and dried flowers. Also a little unfresh melon, although this changes into more pleasant fruits like figs and pears. Quite some spices (vanilla, spicy oak). Subtle hints of smoke and sea air. Pine wood. Mouth: soft and a little undefined. There’s sweet apple, citrus, plenty of malty notes / cereals and plain sugar. Again a faint smokiness and oakiness. Some vanilla and nutmeg. A bit too naked in my opinion. Finish: sweet, underpowered and too malty.
I’m not really impressed by this Leif Eriksson release. The common Highland Park assets are not present, and the result is lacking some punch and character. I’ll have any member of the standard range over this one. Around € 70.
This Port Charlotte 2001 bottled by Malts of Scotland comes at a whopping 66,3% of alcohol. I’m not sure but it might be the strongest Scotch I’ve ever had (The Stagg outclasses it of course). There’s another fact that sets it out from the crowd: it was finished fully matured in a white Rioja wine cask.
Port Charlotte 9 yo 2001 (66,3%,
Malts of Scotland 2011, white Rioja hogshead, MoS 11017, 345 btl.)
Nose: rather huge notes of burnt grass, sand, brine, kippers and smoke. All this with a coating sweetness from the wine. Water is probably not a bad idea, so let’s try that. It adds big notes of damp cloth and flax rope, as well as some hay, garage smells and wax. Mouth: very sweet and very peaty (it probably hasn’t been measured, but it wouldn’t surprise me if this is close to an Octomore in ppm). Quite juicy with sweet grapes and sugared lemon juice. Undiluted it tends to numb your mouth. Water adds tarry notes, sweet smoke and some saltwater. Finish: long, clean, with grapes and peat.
This Port Charlotte is extreme in many ways (alcohol, peat, sweetness). I’m not the biggest fan of unrestricted sweet peat, but on the other hand, it’s much more than just another wine finish. Around € 85.
Whisky enthusiasts on a budget have probably noticed a couple of Macduff 2000 releases that stood out in the Malt Maniacs Awards 2011 (like the one for The Bonding Dram). They pop up everywhere nowadays: Creative Whisky Co., Dewar Rattray, Berry Bros. to name just a few.
This one was bottled in the The Dram series by Whisky-Doris.
Macduff 10 yo 2000 (50%, Whisky-Doris ‘The Dram’ 2011, dark sherry butt, 120 btl.)
Nose: a dry and chocolaty Macduff. Milk chocolate up front, followed by oranges, apples and raisins. Some nutty notes (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts) and spicy honey. Leather. Noticeable hints of matchsticks and gunpowder. Quite attractive, heavily sherried but not overdone. Mouth: good attack with a spicy prickle and some mineral notes. Still quite some chocolate notes and currants. Pepper. A little toffee. Gets drier, winier and more coastal towards the end, with a dark (roasted / smoky) touch. Finish: rather long. Dark chocolate with hints of coffee and cloves.
This heavily sherried but juicy Macduff has quite a few dark notes (I couldn’t stop thinking of Karuizawa at some point). Should be a perfect companion for a high quality chocolate mousse. Very affordable: around € 45.
Time to compare. This Bunnahabhain 1968 has similar specs. It was released by Whisky-Fässle together with the newly opened Whiskybase shop in Holland (who claim this is better than the legendary Auld Acquaintance – not sure about that guys).
Bunnahabhain 43 yo 1968 (43,8%,
Whisky-Fässle 2011, refill sherry cask,
joint bottling with Whiskybase)
Nose: a bigger fruitiness here. Juicy pears and (riper) banana but also added notes of mango and apricots. Even more jammy. Extra beehive notes as well (beeswax, honey), I like that. More sherry notes obviously. In short: similar elements but a tad more luscious and warm. Mouth: sweeter, slightly fruitier than the TWA/3R release. Banana flambeed. Raisins and dried figs. Honey. Baked apple with cinnamon. Less oak. Finish: long, fruity and honeyed with subtle oak.
This one is more to my liking than yesterday’s sister bottling. It’s rounder and controls the oak more. Great selection. It’s slightly less expensive as well.
Around € 205.
There’s quite some Bunnahabhain 1968 on the market. Malts of Scotland released one last year, now The Whisky Agency, Whisky-Fässle and The Whiskyman almost simultaneously.
Bunnahabhain 43 yo 1968 (45,7%,
The Whisky Agency & Three Rivers Tokyo 2011, ex-bourbon hogshead, 211 btl.)
Nose: very fruity – slightly tropical. Lots of juicy pears with banana. Plums. Honey. Grows sweeter with hints of fruit jams (strawberry and apricot). Not completely fruity though, there’s a layer of coastal notes (very soft saltiness) and subtle pine resin which makes more complex. Great nose. Mouth: oily and smooth. Still fruity (banana, grapefruit, orange) although the oak is louder now and adds a resinous bitterness. Soft spices (nutmeg) and salt. Hints of liquorice and mint. Finish: long and rather mineral with notes of vanilla, soft herbs and oak.
A great nose and (as often with oldies) a slightly less impressive palate. High class and very drinkable.
Around € 215.
To celebrate, let’s try this Macallan 1955 that was sampled by Luc Timmermans some time ago. It’s one of many versions bottled by Campbell, Hope & King and imported in Italy by Rinaldi. A little bit of history…
You can find similar versions distilled in almost any year between +/- 1947 and 1962, all bottled in the 1960’s and 1970’s at 80° proof (46%). They don’t have an age statement on the bottle but usually the cardboard box states “over 15 years old” (I wouldn’t be surprised though if that were just generic boxes).
A couple of changes happen in 1962: Campbell, Hope & King is closed and Macallan starts bottling / distributing directly, the alcohol volume goes down to 43% and Macallan starts to add a bottling year (e.g. 1964/1982). Although at that time they are already bottled at 18 years, it’s not until the 1967 vintage that they officially put the blue “18 years” ribbon on the box and the (neck) label. A legend is born! With those official 18yo’s, we’re halfway the 1980’s and Rinaldi (taken over in 1983) is replaced by Giovinetti as the new importer for Italy.
In short, this Macallan 1955 is a predecessor of the famous Macallan 18yo’s. It was bottled around 1973 and should be around 18 years old.
Nose: wow. Indeed it’s the legendary combination of luscious sherry and faint phenolic notes. The sherry richness starts with all kinds of dried fruits (mainly figs, sultanas and dates but also quinces and raspberries) and goes to honey and beeswax (quite special, I associate this more with bourbon maturation). There’s also plenty of mint liqueur and eucalyptus, as well as old furniture, old paint, old books, tobacco… All of this covered in a veil of ashes and the softest hints of tar. Balances between sweet and dry notes. Stunning complexity. Mouth: a lot of sherry. Especially the chocolate / coffee combo stands out, as well as jammy fruits, raisins and relatively soft spices and herbs (hints of cough syrup). Leather notes as well as a slightly metallic hint of shoe polish (OBE?). Mint again. Puffs of smoke. Finish: long, fairly dry with dark chocolate and spices.
The mint liqueur, beehive notes and perfect sherry give this a heavenly nose. The palate was more heavily sherried than expected and quite chocolaty – needless to say it’s perfectly faultless sherry. Oh my, what a delight. Hard to find these days and very expensive. All pre-18yo vintages usually fetch between € 1000 and 1500.
NC2 is an uncoloured and unchill-filtered series by Duncan Taylor, usually for younger / affordable whiskies bottled at 46%. Today we’re trying a new Springbank 1998. As far as I know, it was matured in a sherry cask.
Springbank 13 yo 1998
(46%, Duncan Taylor NC2 2011)
Nose: settles nicely on sweet, almost marmalade aromas (peach jam, oranges, plums, even strawberries) while also displaying a maritime character of salty seawater. Some apple and ginger. Hints of yeast. Simple but nice enough. Mouth: curiously fruity. It’s a kind of a fruit compote but I have difficulty describing it. Orange syrup. Yellow raisins. Rhubarb jam? Overripe tangerine or figs? Melon sweets? Molasses? Many question marks but it’s actually quite enjoyable. Reminds me of certain Sauternes / Moscatel finishes. Again a salty / bitter twist and hints of sticky sweet toffee. Finish: not too long, with the sweet fruits having the last word. Hints of ginger again with a faint bitterness.
Much sweeter and rounder than most recent official Springbanks. A sweet wine finish that’s in fact not a wine finish? Worth trying. Around € 60. Available from Whisky-Doris among others.
A young and affordable Cragganmore 1999 from the recent releases by Malts of Scotland.
Cragganmore 11 yo 1999
(55,1%, Malts of Scotland 2011, bourbon hogshead, MoS 11012, 298 btl.)
Nose: a lot of oak and spices. Big peppery notes and hints of allspice. Grass. A very bourbonny profile. Sweet fruity notes that are hard to pin down: apple maybe or just nondescript fruit candy. Some vanilla and coconut. Mouth: sweet. Again very very spicy (ginger, pepper). Liquorice. It just ooses (fresh) wood. Pencils, oak shavings… Sweet orange candy. Finish: long, warm and peppery with hints of green apple and oak.
This Cragganmore shares quite some elements with bourbon whiskey and it even shows more oak spices than some new oak matured whiskies. Good spirit from an extremely active cask. Around € 50.