First, surprisingly, the most experienced tasters weren’t in the jury. I’m not sure what the effect has been and whether there has been an effect at all. Would be interesting to recalculate last year’s results without those three members. See below.
Second, I think the gold medals are all relatively unknown. I mean, they’re not part of the daily buzz and discussions I’ve seen on forums or blogs or among enthusiasts. Most of the things that everyone was raving about, haven’t even entered the awards. And some of the winners (including the GlenDronach) have been on the shelves for months with low interest (and now suddenly everyone will look for them). Just an observation.
Third, nice to see the same whisky enter twice (two bottles of Talisker 30yo). Great consistency for most tasters. Less so for PD and RM who almost invert each other’s scores… but excellent proof for the reliability of this competition.
Update: our friend Bastien did some recalculations and pointed out that last year’s awards would have been quite different without Serge, Johannes and Davin. Five out of 12 gold medals (Glenfarclas 40, Caperdonich 1972, Port Ellen PE2…) would have been degraded to silver. Karuizawa 1977 Noh would have been the overall winner with the GlenDronach in sixth place! Thanks again Bastien, this confirms our feeling that the preferences of the jury are a major element in any competition!
Tun 1401 is the favourite marrying tun of David Stewart, Master Blender at Balvenie distillery. He selected ten casks and married them for three months in this tun: seven bourbon casks and three sherry casks. Except for one 1989 cask and one 1967 cask, all were filled in the 1970’s.
Batch 1 of this expression (336 bottles) was presented in 2010 and sold exclusively at the distillery. Now there’s a larger second batch (available in Europe) and soon also a third batch for the US.
Balvenie ‘Tun 1401’ (50,6%, OB 2011, batch 2, 2226 btl.)
Nose: rich and rounded. Great polished oak up front, immediately followed by thick honeyed notes and orange peel. Nice pineapple candy in the background. Vanilla and almonds. Raisins. Some hay and flowers (old roses). Very light spices. Excellent balance of sherry and bourbon, both are clearly present and work well together. Mouth: velvety and quite dry. Much spicier now, plenty of ginger and white pepper. A little nutmeg. Honey, apricot and (slightly tangy) orange peel again. Oak and vanilla. Faint hints of dark chocolate. Sweeter and fruitier with a few drops of water. Finish: very long, with Seville oranges, chocolate and nutmeg.
The best Balvenie I’ve had so far, including the Balvenie 30 years old. I really like the distillery character but in the past I was somehow missing either punch or personality. This one has a lot of complexity and power. A great marriage, let’s hope it yields many children. Around € 195. Thanks Marc!
The team behind Whiskybase.com have now started their own shop in Rotterdam (NL). Of course they’re bottling proprietary releases (labeled Archives, we’ll focus on that later) but they’re also bringing a few interesting independent bottlers to Holland. Mainly German bottlers like Alambic Classique, Whisky-Doris and Whisky-Fässle as well as others like Silver Seal.
A good reason to try this Glencadam 1974, a joint bottling between Whisky-Fässle and Whiskybase.
Glencadam 37 yo 1974 (41,5%,
Whisky-Fässle 2011, refill sherry,
joint bottling with Whiskybase)
Nose: complex and refined. A slightly subdued fruity layer (orange, tangerine, banana, maybe guava) with additional layers of dried flowers and soft herbs (lovage), a leathery / oily touch and faint hints of mocha. Subtle oak as well. More delicately sherried than last year’s Malts of Scotland release. Mouth: not extremely powerful (no surprise) but pleasant. Fruity notes (tangerine, gooseberries), a little ginger and hints of herbal tea. Leather notes and oak. Finish: similar flavours. Medium long, nicely balanced and not too dry.
Not a flavour bomb, but still an excellent balance and pleasant ‘oldness’. A great example of this overlooked distillery. Around € 155.
A direct comparison this time. The Clynelish 1982 by Single Malts of Scotland against this version by Malts of Scotland. This one has an impressive strength of 53,7%, let’s see if the added punch alters the delicate Clynelish profile.
Clynelish 28 yo 1982 (53,7%, Malts of Scotland 2011, MoS 11015, 275 btl.)
Nose: a lot punchier than the SMOS cask. More green banana. A tad more oak as well although that may be part of the higher strength. A lot of honeydew melon and beeswax (warm and honeyed compared to the sharper oiliness of the SMOS). Walnut liqueur. Apples with cinnamon. Some biscuity notes. Guimauves (the white ones). Great nose. Mouth: punchy again. Key components are vanilla and grapefruit this time, with some peppery notes. Hints of sweet almonds. Less complex and slightly less convincing than the nose, but still a nice whisky. Lemon zest and a slight coastal edge towards the end. Finish: long and elegant, zesty at first but coming back to a fruity sweetness.
For me this is the better Clynelish of the two, especially on the nose, although you could say they’re two different kinds of whisky alltogether (this one showing a slightly more 1970’s character). A little more expensive: around € 125.
In case you haven’t noticed already, there’s a new E‑pistle on the Malt Maniacs website, and I’m responsible for that. I had been playing around with the idea of writing a kind of “primer” for independent bottlers as I noticed that it’s still confusing for a lot of whisky enthusiasts.
Around the end of 2008, when I started this blog, we witnessed the birth of The Whisky Agency and Malts of Scotland, two independent bottlers that have gained a lot of interest ever since. While growing up, they were also an important example and aid for several other, smaller bottlers that are working under their umbrella, so to speak.
This new situation lead to a number of questions that I kept hearing over and over again: who is behind all these labels? Are they related? Do they have the same quality? Why does every bottler suddenly releases a Glengoyne although Glengoyne isn’t normally selling to independent bottlers? How come shops and clubs seem to have no difficulty finding high quality casks? Etc. etc. It turns out there’s a certain hierarchy in the independent whisky market these days, more so than a couple of years back. I may have simplified a few things, or focused on our Benelux/German market, but I’m mostly trying to point out a certain mechanism here.
This Clynelish was distilled 15 December 1982 and bottled in September 2011 for The Whisky Show in London in the Single Malts of Scotland range.
Clynelish 28 yo 1982 (43,1%, Single Malts of Scotland 2011, hogshead #3985, 175 btl.)
Nose: delicate and mellow, even a little inexpressive at first. After a while it opens up with a juicy fruitiness (lime, yellow apple, white peach, something Albariño-esque), typical waxy notes (paraffin, lemon candles) and flinty notes in the background. Soft hints of vanilla. Faint grassy notes. Very nice but the strength makes you work harder to get the aromas. Mouth: waxy and citrusy (grapefruit, lemon). A few mineral touches. A bit more oaky dryness now, with hints of fruit tea. It seems too delicate to completely withstand the wood. Finish: waxy, lemony and faintly bitterish. Medium long.
Too bad this one was really soft. It’s great as long as you don’t compare it to similar Clynelish. I’ve had better ones, with just as much fruits, more punch and a better balance with the oak. Around € 110. Temporarily out of stock on the TWE website, but more is expected at the beginning of December.
This Highland Park 1981 was bottled by The Whisky Agency in the Fungi series. One of these releases by TWA that were sold out before most of us heard about it.
Highland Park 30 yo 1981 (52,2%,
The Whisky Agency ‘Fungi’ 2011, ex-bourbon wood, 198 btl.)
Nose: a classic nose on hay, paraffin and grass with lots of heather. True Highlands style. Some citrus notes and apples. A little resin and earthy notes. Something yeasty as well. Very faint coconut oil and lemon balm. It could have been very austere and unsexy but there’s just enough fruity sweetness to balance it. Complex. Mouth: starts quite sweet / citrusy and grows grassy over time. Heather again. Seville oranges. Lots of spices (nutmeg, pepper, cloves). Some tannins and bitter notes. Hints of smoke. Again nothing jumps out, everything is presented in a perfect balance. Finish: long, sharply focused on lemon and pepper with slightly oaky notes.
A very clean and typical Highland Park, excellent in many ways but maybe a bit too austere for my personal taste. Around € 170. Sold out.
La Maison du Whisky is now selling the latest single casks by Nikka. There’s a Coffey Malt 1998 and Coffey Grain 1997, a heavily peated Yoichi 1991 and this Miyagikyo 1988, all presented in a wooden box.
I suppose all these single casks will be quite limited.
Miyagikyo 23 yo 1988
(57%, OB 2011, cask #92414)
Nose: exotic fruits (ripe pineapple, banana) and mirabelles come out first, together with cigar boxes. Then a lot of vanilla, sawdust and beeswax. Hints of eucalyptus and white pepper. Lusciously warm. Mouth: punchy with a fine layer of oak. Still quite creamy and fruity at first (blackcurrant, apricot, plums, hints of Turkish delight) but quickly developing on spices (vanilla, pepper, light ginger). A slightly sharp peatiness as well. Light grassy / leathery notes in the end. Finish: long, spicy with vanilla and light peat. Again these notes of oak shavings.
A very fine Japanese malt, with traces of peat and some very prominent new oak notes. Exclusively available from La Maison du Whisky but I’ve noticed a few bottles are on their way to Holland as well. Around € 145.