Sometimes it’s good to revisit well known whiskies such as Ardbeg Ten. It comes in batches so its profile can change slightly over time. Recently I tried a new batch of Ardbeg 10yo and I thought it was peatier and more straightforward than the one I bought a couple of years ago. Less good than before, or so it seemed.
Let’s find out by comparing my (open) 2006 bottle and the new 2010 version head-to-head. The 2006 version is a little darker than the 2011 version, but the difference is hard to notice.
Ardbeg 10yo ‘Ten’ (46%, OB 2011)
Nose: the 2011 batch is more similar to the 2006 batch than I thought it would be. There’s still the same mixture of big medicinal peat, maritime notes and lemon. The new release seems a bit smokier / ashier while the old one is more camphory and maybe a tad more rounded. The walnut aroma is bigger in the 2006 version as well. Overall only subtle differences. Mouth: quite sweet. Not as smoky as I expected from the nose. There’s salty liquorice and a little ginger. Very dry and earthy, hardly any fruity notes (a hint of apple maybe). Roasted coffee. Very similar to the 2006 version, though it does seem a tad rougher in comparison. Finish: this is where the new batch seems to fade a little sooner. In the old batch there were more burnt grassy notes and ashes, softened by some vanilla, and now it’s mainly the salty liquorice that stands out.
Ardbeg 10 is still a cornerstone of the Islay profile. It’s a fairly simple whisky with a big emphasis on powerful peat and tar. When tasting the 2011 version on its own, I was a bit underwhelmed, but after a direct comparison I was surprised to see it didn’t change too much over the years. The fact that I appreciate it less, is probably because my prefences have changed, instead of the whisky itself.
Overall a nice result if you know the 2006 version must have contained quite some older casks (from the previous distillery owners) and the new 2011 is completely new production. Around € 35 but if you look a bit further, there are 1 litre bottles to be found for approximately € 40.
At the Limburg festival, The Whisky Agency presented a whole line of joint bottlings with The Nectar, which is probably our biggest Belgian importer and the company behind the Daily Dram range.
There’s a Caol Ila 1979, Glenlossie 1975, Longmorn 1973, Tomatin 1966, Glen Keith 1970, Highland Park 1975 and this Glenury Royal 1975. All pretty great.
Glenury Royal 37 yo 1973 (43%,
The Whisky Agency & The Nectar 2011, bourbon hogshead, 146 btl.)
Nose: honeyed nose with apple pie and caramelized sugar. Baked pear, raisins, apricots. Maybe a little papaya. Some nutty notes. Hay. Soft spices (cinnamon, mint). Nicely mellow and “antique” at the same time. Mouth: a bit too soft, but smooth and juicy, showing mainly oranges, both fresh and candied. Pears as well. Developing a spicy side (mint, clove, aniseed) and tobacco which makes it quite oriental. Honey. Some resinous oak and herbal tea. Faint paraffin notes. Finish: not too long, but nicely minty with a bit of drying oak.
Very good whisky, but quite expensive: around € 240 while last year’s Glenury Royal 1973 from the same bottler was only € 180.
Here’s another recent release by The Nectar of the Daily Drams.
Bowmore 21 yo 1989 (48,1%,
Nectar of the Daily Drams 2011)
Nose: clean, with peat, seaweed and wet wool. Quite maritime. A little sharp in my opinion and a bit too narrow. Some grassy notes, brine, pepper and mint. A faint vanilla note but very much in the background. Water makes it slightly fragrant (luckily not too flowery though). Mouth: rather dry, very peaty, eartht, with secondary grassy notes and a little lemon. Again a faint vanilla note. Pleasantly salty. Faint hints of Schweppes tonic. Finish: medium long, in line with the palate.
This is not the horrible kind of early 1980’s Bowmore, but I don’t think it’s as good as many 1990’s vintages either. A lukewarm expression in my opinion, very focused but lacking some roundness in addition to the peat and brine. Around € 110.
Independent Ardbeg is rare. This 12 years old Ardbeg 1998 bottled by The Nectar of the Daily Drams seems to have been introduced without much ado. It didn’t even appear in some places, they must have known Ardbeg sells like hot cakes these days, even if you don’t announce it.
Ardbeg 12 yo 1998 (55,4%,
Nectar of the Daily Drams 2011)
Nose: clean, peaty and medicinal. Sea air. Hints of green olives. Less grassy / earthy / peaty than a standard Ardbeg 10yo though, with added almonds and floral notes. Adding water highlights the fruity side, with pear drops and a hint of vanilla. Mouth: very deep peat smoke with a nice layer of sweet fruity notes. Very focused. Almonds, sweet lemon. Liquorice. Big marzipan notes. Smoked fish. Nicer, even sweeter and more aromatic when brought down to 46%. Finish: very long, sweet, smoky and peaty.
A nice variation on the traditional Ardbeg Ten. Slightly rounder, sweeter and slightly wider as well. Play around with water to bring out all of its layers. Around € 80 in Belgium and € 90 in Holland.
Here’s a blind sample I received a couple of months ago. I was immediately impressed by the farmy / leathery nose and guessed correctly that it could only be Brora. This is my 700th post so I wanted to present something a little exceptional.
Brora 29 yo 1972 (59,5%, Douglas Laing Platinum 2002, 240 btl.)
Nose: instant farminess and typically Brora, with sheep stable and manure. Earth and hemp. Then some maritime notes. The peat is well integrated and quite fruity. Beautiful layer of beeswax. A little honey and marmalade. Sweet pipe tobacco and leather. When digging a little further, I noticed some rice milk… and a little chocolate? Nice! Something minty and peppery as well (close to prickly iodine). Really impressive. Mouth: very peaty now with lots of tar and pepper. Rather sweet at first, but growing drier and more leathery, with a slightly bitter / earthy finale. Some oak. Drops of lemon. Again a slightly sharp iodine edge. Finish: goes on forever. Peat, tar, ashes, leather…
This Brora shows heavier peat than any other Brora I’ve tried. I think it’s even a little unbalanced on the palate because of this, but the nose is drop dead gorgeous. I’m not hoping to find a bottle, it will be too expensive anyway. Heartfelt thanks for the sample, Thomas!
Pretty funny to read opinions on this Coleburn 1979 in the Rare Malts series. Everyone seems to think it’s not particularly good, but still most say it’s the best Coleburn ever bottled…
Coleburn distillery went down in the 1980’s like so many of its neighbours.
Coleburn 21 yo 1979
(59,4%, Rare Malts 2000)
Nose: floral and zesty with waxy undertones. A little damp and earthy. Crystallized orange. After some time it shows sweeter notes as well, I’d say cereal cookies and hints of coconut cream. White grapes. Lemon. Always some delicate peat in the background. Mouth: a sourish citrus kick up front, with some mint, then gaining sweetness with some apple juice. Clean and slightly perfumed. Lemon peel. Overall quite neutral, fading on ginger and oak. Finish: again quite neutral. Bitter oak. Ginger. Some pepper.
Given the reputation of Coleburn, this is a nice surprise. Especially if you’re a fan of an old-fashioned, slightly austere Speyside style. Still available in some stores, for around € 180.
Strathmill is part of the Diageo group. There’s a 12yo in the Flora & Fauna series, two butts bottled in 1992 and recently one 1996 single cask in the Manager’s Choice series. That’s it. Even independent releases are rarely seen. The J&B blend takes up most of its production.
Nose: warm apple cake with cinnamon. Malt, dried grass and dust. Not super-fresh, there are hints of a melon that’s past its prime. Honey. Something minty / flowery – close to being soapy. Sandalwood. Mouth: starts herbal and rooty, with hardly any fruits (a bit of lemon peel maybe). Plenty of spices (pepper, ginger, cloves). A bit austere. After a few seconds, it starts to get bitter – very bitter and quite harsh. Woody and resinous aftertaste. Finish: long on tonic and lemon zest with very bitter chocolate.
This Strathmill has some glorious elements, especially on the nose, but overall I don’t find it particularly enjoyable. Too expensive anyway. Around € 175.
Quarter casks are small casks originally used to transport whisky on horseback. Nowadays it’s mostly associated with the Laphroaig expression. As these casks are smaller (around 125 litres), the whisky matures more quickly.
Glenfarclas also had a couple of quarter cask experiments. This one mixes two casks filled on 03/07/1987 and two casks filled on 11/09/1987. Note that they’re not QC finishes (like Laphroaig) but full term maturations.
Glenfarclas 18 yo 1987 (46%, OB 2006, Quarter cask #3704 + 3707 + 3859 + 3860, 1299 btl.)
Nose: a dry nose, with hints of breadcrust standing out. Slightly more sour and oaky than your regular Glenfarclas. Tobacco and leather chairs. A bit of library dust. Mouth: quite dry, with some oaky hints and a distinct smokiness. Then some prunes, oranges and cocoa. Roasted coffee beans and toffee. Finish: long, drying and toasted.
Interesting smoky / roasted notes in this Glenfarclas Quarter Cask. Not the classic sherry style but a nicely different variation with more oak. Still available in Germany. Around € 70.