This 20 year-old Ardbeg (distilled February 1991) was bottled by Malts of Scotland for Hotel Bero in Ostend (owned by Lindores member Geert Bero and the location for the Lindores Whisky Fest). Anyone can try it in the hotel bar, but you can only buy a bottle when you are sleeping at the hotel.
It was presented at the Lindores Whisky Fest last weekend and I heard some discussions about the price. Many people wondered how a 20 year-old whisky could be worth € 225, but remember sherried Ardbegs are thinly scattered. Douglas Laing released a 1991 refill cask earlier this year and that was rather scandalously priced at € 450. So yes, it is expensive but relatively cheap at the same time. Ardbeg is not selling casks to independent bottlers any more, so I’m afraid the times of affordable medium-aged sherry cask Ardbegs are now officially over!
Ardbeg 20 yo 1991 (48,4%, Malts of Scotland for Hotel Bero 2011, sherry hogshead #MoS 11003, 240 btl.)
Nose: balanced nose with excellent notes of old ashes and tar on the one hand and rounded, chocolaty notes on the other hand. Sweet almonds and rhubarb compote. Figs. Lovely tobacco leaves. Old leather. Relatively soft iodine and hints of camphor. Complex, not extremely big (which is a good thing – it’s not over-sherried nor over-peated) and quite brilliant. Mouth: starts rich and oily with sweet peat smoke. Again some almonds, now mixed with dried fruits and lemon drops. Some herbal notes. The smoke grows stronger, the soft tar shows up again. No brute forces here, it’s all about integrating the different flavours. Finish: long on dried fruits and smoke with a softly coastal edge.
The sherry complements the whisky very well, and the harmonious qualities might actually justify the price in my opinion. Available at the Hotel Bero for € 225.
Today is a big day. I’m heading to the Lindores Whisky Fest. Usually this is an open festival, renowned for its selection of legendary old bottlings, but this year (due to construction works in the Bero Hotel), it’s on invitation.
Anyone could suggest a bottle that he wished to donate for the occasion, and about 50 people were selected to join in. The Glenrothes 1979 single cask #3808 will be my entrance ticket.
It was a great day. The concept worked fine, with enough space in the lounge to move around freely and talk with different people. There were around 50 bottles from participants (left part of the stand – click the polaroid to see the full picture) and at least the same amount from the Lindores vaults.
All of the bottles were high quality and some of them truly legendary. It would be impossible to mention everything I’ve tasted – the 1cl micro-drams allowed you to try as many different things as possible – but here are some of the highlights…
Bowmore 31 yo 1957/1988 (40%, Hart Brothers)
Very fruity and slightly exotic Bowmore, soft but showing a lovely profile.
Springbank 25 yo (46%, OB, Archibald Mitchell, dumpy bottle)
Among the best Springbanks I’ve tried so far. Similar style to the well-known 21 years old.
Glenfarclas 21 yo (51,5%, OB for Pinerolo)
The best Glenfarclas ever, according to some people. Maybe not the absolute stunner I was expecting, but still a hugely complex and attractive Glenfarclas.
BenRiach 34 yo 1976/2011 (48,2%, OB cask #3033 for Taiwan)
Wow! Not far from the best 1976’s out there. Even cask #3557 for LMdW couldn’t put it to shame.
Caperdonich 39 yo 1972/2011 (52,8%, Whisky Agency Private Stock)
Confirmed itself as one of the best Caper 1972’s.
Glenugie 31 yo 1980/2011 “Exotic scenes in a Bedouin tent” (48,3%, SMWS 99.13)
Very fruity, slightly oriental. Very unique and hugely complex. Don’t underestimate Glenugie!
Ben Nevis 40 yo 1963/2004 (45,7%, Douglas Laing Platinum)
Rather superb Ben Nevis with the usual lipstick, oranges and bourbon notes. Nothing to complain about.
Glenfarclas 1965 cask sample
The last 1965 cask in the Glenfarclas warehouses and probably one of the next bottlings by Luc Timmermans. Better than the first 1965 Family Cask and the 1965/1999 cask #3897 by The Bottlers that were also available.
Highland Park 30 yo 1956/1986 (55,6%, G&M for Intertrade)
Stunning Highland Park: smoky, fruity, chocolaty.
No doubt I’m forgetting to mention a couple of beauties. It didn’t end with exceptional single malts either. What to say of this…
Johnnie Walker Red Label rotation 1924
Toro Albala Don P.X. 1947
(55+ years old Pedro Ximenez wine from the Montilla Moriles D.O.)
Boal Barbeito 1938 Madeira wine
Gosling’s Bermuda Old Rum
1983 Gewürztraminer Magnum
from Olivier Humbrecht’s Rangen de Thann vineyard
Also, congratulations to Johan & Koen for becoming new Lindores members.
Nose: starts a little austere. Mineral and waxy with a sharp orange aroma. Some leafy and salty notes. After a while it grows sweeter and rounder (almonds, yellow raisins, hints of figs and buttercups). Some herbs. Underneath is a turpentine / gasoline smell and subtle peat – how wonderful. Mouth: quite oily and peaty with a dry profile. Salty as well with a slightly bitter grassiness. Ginger. Walnut skin. There’s a sweet note of dried fruits but too much in the background to balance the austerity. Finish: long, very salty, slighty bitter with quite some wood.
It’s always a delight to taste this old-style Campbeltown profile. The nose is glorious, too bad it’s rather bitter and even slightly spirity on the palate. Long gone. Thanks Bert.
There’s still uncertainty about Imperial. Like Glen Keith (owned by Chivas Brothers as well), the distillery is currently closed but there are rumours that it could be restarted in the near future. Both have produced some nice whisky, but Glen Keith is probably in a better state and could be reopened more easily. Time will tell.
Imperial 21 yo 1990 (52,7%, The Whisky Agency ‘Romantique’ 2011, ex-bourbon hogshead, 233 btl.)
Nose: sweet with juicy butter pears, pineapple candy and plenty of vanilla powder. Crème anglaise, some white chocolate as well. Marzipan and roasted almonds. Apples with cinnamon. Quite thick. Mouth: big bodied with similar aromas. Sweet and slightly sticky fruits (orange marmalade, ripe pear) with pleasant spices (light pepper, cinnamon, ginger). Balanced oak. Generous dashes of honey. Apple pie. Finish: medium long, still the same profile of fruit pie, honey and spices.
A thick and juicy Imperial with buttery vanilla and spices from the oak. Not much evolution but very enjoyable. Around € 105.
Glenrothes 41 yo 1970 (47,7%, The Whisky Agency ‘Romantique’ 2011, ex-bourbon hogshead, 197 btl.)
Nose: quite brilliant! Lots of fruit jams, tangerine, apricot pie, pineapple. Plenty of honey and touches of beeswax. Hints of vanilla pastry. Some buttercups. After a while it gets a tad more spicy and herbal with mint, soft ginger and thyme. Leather. And even bigger hints of juicy apricots. Mouth: creamy start, still plenty of fruits at first (oranges, banana) with waxy notes. Some coconut. The oak then starts to move forward. It throws in some spices (ginger, soft pepper, gingerbread) but no excessive dryness. Some fruit liqueurs and fruit tea in the end. Finish: long, half spicy, half fruity. Mainly oranges now and oak.
A great Glenrothes that combines a nice fruit basket with balanced oak. Too bad the price has taken quite a hike recently. Around € 235.
Like the often praised 1993 vintage, 1994 is not a common year for Bowmore. The distillery was being taken over by Suntory and worked on a lower regime at that time.
Sister casks #564, 565, 567, 568, 569, 571, 572, 573 (filled on the same day as this #570) have all been bottled in the Signatory Un-Chillfiltered Collection in 2010 and 2011, in twin cask releases. The cask for Belgium has been selected in 2 masterclasses hosted by Signatory’s Des McCagherty while he was in Belgium at the end of April 2011.
Bowmore 17 yo 1994 (48,8%, Signatory Vintage for The Nectar Belgium 2011, hogshead #570, 227 btl.)
Nose: clean and fresh but not very mature. There are coastal notes to be found (kippers, seashells), faint medicinal notes and pleasant fruits (lemon, apple, some green banana). Hints of eucalyptus and very nice tobacco. Medium peat and a little wet wool. Quite gentle and not extremely expressive, but I like it a lot. Mouth: again not extremely powerful. Starts sweet, slightly rooty and herbal with pepper and peat. Lots of coastal notes. Smoked tea. Lemon candy. Also flowery hints and some carbolic soap (bummer). Finish: long, salty (liquorice) and peaty with the bitterness of lemon zest.
Around € 70 while several UCF releases are still available for around € 40.
Nose: malty and fruity at first, as if it was much younger. A little vanilla. Then showing subtle spices and a lovely dustiness. Farmy notes. Some wax and motor oil. A little mustard seed and cold ashes. Then going back to pear and hints of heather. A lot of austerity but also some fruity notes to balance it, I love it. Mouth: now just marginally fruity (tangerine). Quickly moving towards heather and oak. Big grassy notes with a briney coastalness. Quite peaty and sharp in the end (mustard, ginger). The fruitiness comes back with a drop of water. Finish: dry, ashy with a little pepper and some bitterness.
A rigorously Spartan Banff, showing the unique profile of this distillery that seems so far away from the traditional Speyside style. It may be a little harsh for some. Very hard to find nowadays, expect to pay € 200 and more.
There are a few well-known Longmorn 1969 releases in the Cask series by Gordon & MacPhail. Here’s a twin-cask bottling that I didn’t know of until Bert Bruyneel offered me a dram.
Longmorn 23 yo 1969 (61,2%, G&M Cask series 1993, cask #3721 & 5297 btl.)
Nose: a punchy attack on vanilla and the most beautiful, warm, polished oak. A lot of leather. Gooseberries and tangerines. Yellow plums. Apricot marmalade. Then a whole series of exquisite beehive notes (heather honey, pollen, wax) – I adore these kind of notes. Hints of dried flowers and verbena tea. Mint as well. White chocolate. Impressive complexity with such a close interweaving of all the elements. Mouth: slightly hot but so good! A big fruitiness, with plenty of tropical fruits: guava, tangerine, passion fruits, peach, kumquats. There’s some wood and tannins, sure, but it’s never too dry. Quite some spices towards the finish (pepper and vanilla). Some roasted nuts, Gianduja chocolate and a hint of smoke in the background, right? Finish: long and leathery, still peppery, with drying oak and a vanilla-infused fruit salad.
Tropical notes, beehive notes, juicy oak… what a wonderful stream of fruits. And so punchy. In line with all these great Bowmore 1968s or old BenRiachs. Thanks Bert!