If all goes well, I’ll be visiting Old Pulteney distillery in May (as well as Balblair, anCnoc and Speyburn), so I dug up some samples and we’ll start with the thirthy years old flagship in their portfolio. There seem to be different versions of Old Pulteney 30 years ranging from 40,5% to 44%. It is matured in ex-bourbon American oak.
Old Pulteney 30 yo
(40,5%, OB 2011)
Nose: elegantly fruity, on gooseberries, apples, oranges. Over time it develops nice tropical touches of pineapple and mango. A lemonade Old Pulteney, very attractive. It’s not overly sweet though, there’s a nice bite to it and a minty freshness. Barley and some floral notes. The typical sea breeze isn’t missing either. Mouth: nicely oily but really soft, even if it isn’t exactly thin. On the one hand sweeter notes (apples, cinnamon, vanilla), on the other hand slightly bitter oak, citrus zest, heather and ginger. A hint of salt again. Too bad the oak is the strongest player here. Finish: long, oaky and slightly kippery.
A very nice nose and always this particular seaside character that sets apart the distillery. Expensive though: around € 260.
The second batch of Archives bottlings is made up of younger whiskies. It includes this Highland Park distilled in June 2000, as well as a Laphroaig 1998.
Highland Park 11 yo 2000 (50,9%, Archives 2012, bourbon hogshead #800005, 129 btl.)
Nose: sweet and sugary, with banana as the main theme. Banana ice cream or those lovely banana / whipped cream pastries. Hints of pears and white chocolate and soft heather / wax notes on a second level. Delicate, light and enjoyable but youngish and not too wide. Mouth: creamy and sweet, but also surprisingly spicy (pepper, hints of salt as well). Barley sugars. Pear drops. A hint of heather. Delicate smoke as well. Finish: medium long with the spicy / soft herbal notes and sugar sweetness lasting longest.
Very youngish and it has virtually nothing to do with the official profile. But it’s definitely nice, sweet and pretty summery too. Around € 60, which I find rather expensive. Available from the Whiskybase shop.
The Yamazaki 25 years is a premium member of the Suntory range (topped by a 35yo and a 50yo that’s worth € 9.500), with only around 12.000 bottles available each year. This expression appeared in 1999.
Although the 2010 batch I’m trying today is probably not the batch that won the prize for best single malt in the World Whiskies Awards 2012, I’m still eager to find out what’s so special about this particular Yamazaki. It has an amazingly dark colour.
Yamazaki 25 yo (43%, OB +/- 2010)
Nose: a great showcase of sherry aromas, especially figs poached in red wine, cooked plums and red fruit jam. Cocoa. Some roasted notes, hints of smoke even, and warm leather. Faint herbal notes and an oriental sandalwood note. Thick, jammy, very lovely. Mouth: ouch. Hints of dried fruits at first, but it’s quickly overtaken by a deep sourness of oak, balsamic vinegar and cigar juices. Nice spicy notes though (especially cinnamon). Something of bitter oranges and over-infused rosehip tea. Sour cherries. Quite high on tannins as well. Tobacco. Impressive intensity for a relatively low alcohol volume, but too woody and sour. Finish: long. Plenty of sourness from the oak (rather than an oaky dryness).
Could it be that the recent batch is better? Yes, of course. But I’m afraid it’s another example of an award-winning whisky marred by batch variation and the lack of clear communication about the winning batch (Whisky Magazine even enhances it by linking to a very lukewarm review of the 2006 batch from the award pages). Yamazaki doesn’t seem to have consistent bottling codes by the way. Between € 450 (Swedish Systembolaget) and € 750 (European stores) but it seems to be out of stock everywhere.
On Thursday night, Whisky Magazine has announced the World Whiskies Awards 2012.
Here are the most interesting results of this sixth edition:
Best Single Malt Whisky: Yamazaki 25 years (also Best Japanese single malt)
Best Blended Whisky: Three ships 5 years (produced in South Africa)
Best Islay Whisky: Bowmore Maltmen’s (limited release) Best American Whiskey: Eagle Rare 17 years Best Irish Whiskey: Bushmills 1608 (it won the same award in 2008)
Best Grain Whisky: Greenore 18 years
Suntory is winning the most important award again. Last year’s Yamazaki 1984 is followed by Yamazaki 25 years (already out of stock as far as I can see and over € 450 anyway). I have a sample lined up already, time to taste it!
For the Tercentenary anniversary of the Scots Regiment of Foot (1678 – 1978), Gordon & MacPhail released a 21 years old vatted malt (“Pure malt”). Although there is no mention of the distilleries involved, the vatting probably includes some 1950’s Macallan.
Surprisingly they are seen with at least five different labels (click to magnify). Many of them found their way to Italy through Sestante and Pinerolo. I’m not sure whether all versions contain the same vatting. They seem to have the same colour though.
Highland Fusilier 21 yo
(70° proof, Gordon & MacPhail 1978, Specially vatted for the Tercentenary of the Royal Highland Fusiliers, 75,7 cl.)
Nose: excellent nose, sweet with a juicy sherry character (sultanas, dried apricot). Tobacco leaves. A leathery note and some vanilla (hints of high-quality American bourbon). Light smoke in the background, as well as some dusty / musty notes. Overall very Macallan-esk indeed. Mouth: a short sweet introduction (caramel and sultana), quickly taken over by oaky and bitter notes (herbs). Not as full as I hoped, not too complex either. Slightly past its due date maybe. Finish: not too long, hesitating between caramel sweetness and herbal oakiness.
One of these old drams with a great nose (91-92 points) and a palate that’s slightly less impressive. That being said, it’s a lovely example of the 1950’s sherry style. Around € 150 in auctions.
Imperial 19 yo 1991
(55,3%, Silver Seal 2011, 199 btl.)
Nose: a full nose, rather aromatic, with malty notes, vanilla, fruits (especially apple and orange) and a dash of honey. A fine layer of fresh herbs and oak. A few mineral notes as well. Everything we expected from this kind of Imperial. Mouth: nice interplay of soft syrupy fruits (vaguely tropical, but fading quickly) with lots of spices (ginger, pepper) and an obvious bitterness (Seville oranges and pine resin). I’ve had rounder and more candied expressions but it’s still nice. Finish: medium long on liquorice, grass and oak.
Quality-wise we’re not complaining. Even with the slight oakiness it’s pretty much in line with expectations. But why are Silver Seal bottlings 20 to 50% more expensive than similar releases from other bottlers? The last few days we’ve seen many comments about increasing prices – in the case of Silver Seal it’s actually quite stunning. Around € 130.
Both Malts of Scotland and The Whisky Agency have recently launched a Clynelish 1989.
Clynelish 22 yo 1989
(53,2%, Malts of Scotland 2012, bourbon hogshead MoS 12012, 235 btl.)
Nose: close to the Clynelish 1989 TWA Moody Lions, with a slightly buttery tarte tatin sweetness and ripe melon. Some honey. Hints of strawberry jam even? Quite warm compared to other Clynelish expressions, not many mineral / coastal notes. Of course the classic beeswax is present, and some heather / leafy notes as well, but the whole is surprisingly round and pastry-like. Mouth: very complex, very beautiful. Lemon and warm waxy notes. Again a certain vanilla sweetness in the background. Sweetened grapefruit juice. Candied ginger. Finish: long, jammy with wax and a faint bitterish (zesty) note in the very end.
A sweeter and jammier version of Clynelish. Quite delicious in my opinion. On top of that it’s well-priced so you might want to consider this one for your collection: around € 115.
This Port Ellen 1983 is a joint bottling of the Silver Seal label with their Dutch distributor Whiskybase. Fifty bottles as a joint bottling, the rest with a regular Silver Seal label. Update: a couple of bottles are bottled for The Auld Alliance bar in Singapore.
There’s a surprising amount of Port Ellen 1983 releases at 55,5% these days. The Whiskyman, Old Bothwell and now Silver Seal. These same bottlers had similar or shared casks before, so it’s not impossible that it’s all the same stuff.
Port Ellen 28 yo 1983 (55,5%, Silver Seal & Whiskybase 2011, cask S1462, 60 btl.)
Nose: very good or at least exactly how I like my Port Ellen: sophisticated and subtle with bits of everything. Sharper notes (camphor, coal, wet wool) balanced by rounder elements (green banana, apple, vanilla). Lemon and mint. Pepper. Leather. Very much in line with the PE 1983’s mentioned before. Mouth: starting on briny notes, peat and soot. Iodine. Returns slightly towards creamier notes but the sharpness never goes away. Finish: very long, with peat and liquorice.
Could this be a shared cask? Yes, possibly, or else it’s a similarly high quality neighbour cask of the one(s) we reviewed before. Recommended, although it stretches the boundaries of whisky capitalism once again: € 245, € 275 or € 300 depending on who you buy it from.