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.
Longmorn 43 yo 1967 (52,6%, G&M for Japan Import System 2010, Book of Kells, refill sherry butt #753, 393 btl.)
Nose: big, powerful, old sherry. Rum & raisins, plums, dried figs as well as fresher raspberry. Whiffs of menthol and oak polish. Leather. Milk chocolat. Some gentle smoke in the background. Mouth: beautiful balance of dark sherry notes (cherry liqueur, dark chocolate, bitter almonds), dark caramel, roasted nuts and fruits (sour cherries, raspberry). Big hints of coffee powder. A little verbena. Cinnamon and nutmeg. A salty note as well (liquorice). Some tannins. Finish: very long, on dried fruits and salty oak.
Very heavy sherry with obvious oak but no astringent woodiness! Completely different from the other 1967, but equally great nectar in my opinon. Thanks again, Johannes! Around € 350 in auctions.
This Longmorn 1967 was bottled by Gordon & MacPhail for its Japanese importer Japan Import System. A couple of similar old Longmorns have been shipped to JIS, so I’ll have a second one tomorrow.
Longmorn 42 yo 1967 (53,1%, G&M for Japan Import System 2009, Book of Kells, refill sherry hogshead #3342, 162 btl.)
Nose: elegant nose on honey, stewed fruits and dried flowers. Hints of incense and waxed oak. Dried apricots and nuts. Very ripe oranges and quinces. Tropical notes such as papaya and guava. Whiffs of eucalyptus and mint. Leather as well. Softer than some 1970’s Longmorns but just as complex. Great so far. Mouth: nicely fruity (citrus, pear, apricot jam) with a fair amount of warm oak. Pepper and liquorice. Develops on pink grapefruit with a hint of ginger. A tad less complex than on the nose but quite wonderful. Finish: long, with the same aromas.
Although the wood has its say after 42 years, this is another lovely Longmorn, Thanks Johannes! Around € 350 in auctions.
And here’s the last review in our little Moody Lions series: a 19 years old Coal Ila 1992.
Caol Ila 19yo 1992 (50,5%, The Whisky Agency ‘Moody Lions’ 2011, ex-bourbon cask, 207 btl.)
Nose: great coastal notes (kelp, sea water), oils and a light peatiness. Superb freshness. Wet wool, a little chalk. Clean but there’s a welcome rounded almond / vanilla / buttery touch in the background which makes this nicely balanced. Hints of apples and lime. Mouth: nice attack, medium sweet, more peaty now and quite oily with a buttery / fat mouthfeel. A little iodine and lemon sweets. Smoke. Again pretty coastal with a salty edge. Trademark Caol Ila. Finish: long and still rounded. Lemon and almonds. Mint. Ashes.
One of these very good Caol Ilas (always a sure bet if you ask me), fairly rounded this time with nice hints of sweetness on top of the usual Islay elements. Very drinkable and affordable. Around € 90.
I don’t need to introduce Tomatin 1976, it’s the top vintage for this distillery and something many enthusiasts are constantly on the lookout for. There’s a new one in the Moody Lions series by The Whisky Agency.
Tomatin 35 yo 1976 (51,4%, The Whisky Agency ‘Moody Lions’ 2011, refill sherry, 313 btl.)
Nose: close to the sister version by Liquid Sun as it starts on faint herbal / nutty notes and oak polish before bringing out the typical fruity notes like apricots, mango, berries, melons… Stewed fruits with honey and mint. Mouth: thick and beautifully sherried with plenty of fruits. Mango, peaches, berries, pink grapefruit… in a jammy / liqueur-like way. Getting more herbal and oaky towards the end with a lovely tropical aftertaste. Finish: long, still quite fruity but more oaky and spicy now with a gentle bitterness in the very end.
Another tasty Tomatin 1976, though maybe not my favourite expression (not as wide, slightly less fruits, slightly more oak). The price went up 20% compared to the Liquid Sun version: around € 180.
Another bottling in the Moody Lions series by The Whisky Agency. I’m sure many people will be interested to find out about this Clynelish 1989 – it’s a vintage that I haven’t tried before.
Clynelish 22 yo 1989 (50,9%, The Whisky Agency ‘Moody Lions’ 2011, ex-bourbon cask, 267 btl.)
Nose: quite a typical Clynelish with ripe fruits (caramelized apple, melons), waxy notes and something herbal / leafy in the background. Some buttery notes as well, more than we’re used to find. Folds open nicely with more beeswax and spices. Very warm with few mineral / coastal notes. Clynelish fans will love it. Mouth: creamy and punchy, sweet with some adorable fruity notes and again a certain buttery quality. Peach jam with vanilla and soft spices. Mirabelles and apples. Some heather honey. Vanilla pudding. Softly bitter grassy notes in the end. All in all a rather rounded version. Finish: long and warming, still high on fruits with some almonds and refreshing mint.
A beautiful Clynelish with some excellent juicy and creamy elements. Recommended, certainly because it’s not too expensive. Around € 120.
I wish everyone a happy 2012 and plenty of great drams!
Last year was terrific for this blog. The number of visitors went up from around 23.000 to 38.000 a month, that’s a 65% increase. Many thanks to all you loyal visitors.
Ever since 2009, Ardbeg and Laphroaig are the most visited brands. GlenDronach is now in third place (this used to be Port Ellen and Highland Park in previous years). Also noticeable is the increased interest in Japanese whisky (up by 300%).
Looking at my personal list of drams, I had the impression 2011 was one of the best whisky years I’ve experienced. We witnessed the birth and rise of new bottlers, the general tempo was very high and the average quality even higher. Unfortunately prices reached crazy levels (now also true for independent bottlers while it used to be mainly a problem of official releases). I wonder how this will evolve in the near future. Is there still enough high quality stuff available? Will consumers endure those prices?
The evolution in the market has two consequences that aren’t always positive: 1. you need very deep pockets to buy a decent selection of interesting bottlings and 2. most of the legendary things are sold out before they even reach the shelves – and on top of this the PE11 / eBay Germany scandal which I’m not going to repeat. I have the feeling more and more enthusiasts are being fed up with the whole market situation which is contradictory to the expansion and the high quality of course.
Enough already with the rambling, let’s continue the tradition to focus on a few highlights of last year. These would be my shortlists (in no particular order):