When you ask someone to name a brand of single malt whisky, they’ll probably say Glenfiddich (unless they think Chivas Regal or Johnnie Walker is a single malt). Glenfiddich 12 years old is the entry malt, easily found in supermarkets around the globe and one of the most popular single malts.
I had this several times before I seriously got interested in whisky. So apparently it wasn’t good enough to really spark a fire – I had to wait until Lagavulin 16 and Suntory Hibiki for that to happen.
Glenfiddich 12 yo (40%, OB 2010)
Nose: fresh, with pears everywhere and a malty, cereal centre. Cooked apples. Freshly sawn wood. Some lime, hints of white grapes. Buttercups. Soft vanilla. Mouth: rather light and bittersweet. There’s a sugary side (honey, vanilla, apple juice) as well as a bitterish side (apple seeds, nutmeg, oak juice). A light sugar coated nuttiness and a faint spicy wave. All of this fairly muted and too mono-dimensional to be really interesting. Not much evolution either. Finish: not too long, on apple cider and a few spices.
You can say Glenfiddich 12 is uninspiring and a little flat but on the other hand it’s a widely available product without flaws. I would even say it’s slightly underrated if you think about the price: around € 25 or € 30 for one litre. Of course you could also hunt down one of the quality blends, like Bailie Nicol Jarvie, or a higher strength, entry-level bourbon like Buffalo Trace for the same price and get something more interesting.
There’s a new batch of A. Dewar Rattray releases and two of them fit our € 50 requirement, so let’s have the first one right away.
Macallan 15 yo 1995 (46%, A.D. Rattray 2011, bourbon cask #11251, 334 btl.)
Nose: caramelized apple with cinnamon. Heather honey. Apple cake. Muesli bars. Nice duality of sticky sweet (almost greasy) butterscotch notes and a more fresh and sour fruitiness. Traces of toasted cereals. Herbs in the background. Nice. Mouth: starts a little soft. Not the amount of sweetness I expected, more like a herbal fruitiness. Cider apples, peaches and citrus. Honey and caramel. Sweet grains. Soft liquorice. Not bad but lacking some punch in the middle. Finish: not too long but nice chocolate notes and hints of Turkish delight. Still some apple flavours.
This Macallan started with an inviting and interestingly different nose, but the palate wasn’t totally convincing. Should be € 50 round.
The Icons of Arran is a limited series of 12yo releases which highlight different typical elements of the island. First there was Arran Peacock, next Arran The Rowan Tree and now Arran The Westie, a tribute to Ruaraidh, the West Highland Terrier of the distillery manager.
It is composed of 22 oloroso sherry hogsheads from 1998.
Arran 12 yo 1998 ‘The Westie’
(46%, OB 2011, 6000 btl.)
Nose: fruity and slightly acidic, with sour cherries, orange zest and lemon sherbet. Something of a soda lemonade as well. Hardly any oloroso influence if you ask me. Fresh oak. Hints of honey. A few floral notes too. Mouth: a malty centre with spicy and nutty overtones. Again a zesty kind of citrus flavour. Growing warmer with vanilla, apricots and more noticeable oak. Lemon pie. Finish: medium long, drier, with leather and spices. Traces of mocha.
Quite a smooth Arran, this Westie. Fresh, fruity and convincing as a whole. The oloroso casks must have been second fill or rather third fill, because there’s hardly any sherry to be found. Around € 40.
ps/ There’s another limited edition Arran ‘The sleeping warrior’, 10 years old and released to help The National Trust for Scotland. It’s more expensive (around € 60) but it’s cask strength and remember part of your money goes to Scotland’s natural heritage.
Here’s an accessible Clynelish 1997 launched in Germany. It was part of a whole series bottled to celebrate The Whisky Fair 2011.
Clynelish 13 yo 1997 (48,9%, The Whisky Fair 2011, bourbon hogshead, 170 btl.)
Nose: typical round Clynelish, with sweet apples and pears, some vanilla and a few flinty / waxy notes. A little leather. Fresh lemon. Fresh oak shavings. Faint grassiness. Unsurprising but that’s not a bad thing! Mouth: even sweeter than expected, with pineapple sweets and pear drops. Some rounded oak which gives way to a little pepper and ginger. Wax. Then moving to grassy notes and softly bitter notes (grapefruit). Finish: medium long and zesty with a slightly bitter aftertaste.
Young and solid Clynelish. Around € 50, readily available. Good value for money.
DYC is short for Distilerías y Crianza del Whisky (distilleries and maturation of whisky). It is a Spanish distillery, located in the wonderful city of Segovia near Madrid. It was founded in 1959 and has a massive capacity – 2 times Glenfiddich. In their home country they have a market share of nearly 50%. This is their standard DYC blend.
As the letters are not pronounced individually, think twice before ordering this in English!
DYC (40%, OB 2010)
Nose: fresh and fragrant, with a simple, malty character. Very youngish. Vanilla and melon. Soft oak. A bit synthetic but certainly not disgusting. In typical Spanish weather, this works fine. Mouth: very sweet start on powder sugar. Vanilla again, some fruity notes with a very soft peppery edge. Then it grows too synthetic and the flavours are overblown by industrial alcohol (think cheap vodka). Ice cubes help in this respect. Finish: very short, very sweet with a slightly nasty aftertaste.
This DYC is supposed to be mixed or at least chilled with ice, so I didn’t expect anything. It costs € 8 in Spain (with a free bottle of Coca-Cola taped to it when you’re lucky) yet I never felt the urge to pour it away. That’s an achievement already. When you’re in the mood for Spanish whisky, I’d rather recommend the DYC Pure Malt (€ 15) or the 10yo ‘Collección Barricas’ – a single malt version, which is much more interesting and still very cheap (around € 20).
Caol Ila Moch is a no-age release, but I’ve heard it’s around 8 years old. Moch means ‘dawn’ – it’s marketed as a lighter version of the standard Caol Ila 12yo and 18yo.
Caol Ila Moch (43%, OB 2010)
Nose: fresh and youngish. Mildly smoky with a sweet, candied profile. Lemon zest and lemon pie. Ginger lemonade. Hints of lemongrass. Coastal notes as well. Pleasantly harmless. Mouth: oily but the body is a little soft. Sweet, malty and quite fruity. Gentle peat with wood smoke. Creamy lemon (which sometimes had a fragrant, soapy edge). Still quite maritime. Finish: not too long, with the sweet malt fading first and the smoke having the last word.
The lightness of this Coal Ila Moch made me think of Ardbeg Blasda in a way, although this is certainly more peaty, more typically Islay and more balanced. An elegant introduction to Islay, less bold than the standard bottlings. Around € 30-35.
The holiday season has arrived, everyone is trying to save some money in order to go on vacation. The financial crisis isn’t helping us either…
This is the time to look at some cheaper whisky (make that “more accessible” whisky), available for € 50 or less. I know there are good bottles to be found in this market segment.
It will be quite a random anti-crisis selection, we’ll have newly released Scotch single malts (both official bottlings and independent releases) but also Spanish and American whisky and a single grain. There’s even an uncommon brand of Japanese whisky that we haven’t tried before.
This Caol Ila 1979 was part of the joint releases by The Whisky Agency and The Nectar. Presented at The Whisky Fair, they are still available in most stores.
Caol Ila 32 yo 1979
(52%, The Whisky Agency & The Nectar 2011, bourbon hogshead, 242 btl.)
Nose: beautifully fresh and warm at the same time. The freshness comes from maritime notes (seaweed, shells, mercurochrome) and eucalyptus, while warmer notes are added by yellow apples, soft buttercups and vanilla. The balance is perfect! Hints of limestone. Wax. Leather. And a soft veil of smoke. Mouth: dry, medicinal notes up front (bandages, iodine), with some camphor and kelp. Then a spicy / salty wave, herbal tea and liquorice. A little tar. Leather. Lemon and grapefruit zest. Finish: long, again balanced, softly briny with a coating lemon sweetness.
I would have loved a little more rounded sweetness on the palate, but nonetheless a delicious Caol Ila. Refined as always, very drinkable and extremely consistent.
Around € 190.