Nose: a nice, dry, medium-strength peat aroma with roasted nuts and some bread crust. Nicely balanced with some sherry influence: raisins and prunes. A hint of ginger. Water highlights dried fruits and some cocoa. Mouth: quite huge, really powerful – actually too strong to unfold itself. Peaty with a tarry / liquorice edge, lots of spices and herbs. Resinous oak. Water makes it more smokey and brings out unexpected notes of sweet cider apples. Finish: long, sweet and spicy (nutmeg, cinnamon).
A young and unconstrained Bunnahabhain – I can’t think of many other drams with this profile. It’s peaty but very different from other Islay malts. Available from Whisky-Doris for € 42.
Deanston is not a very popular distillery. Its history is fairly short (founded in 1965 and silent from 1983 until 1990) although the site was used as a cotton mill since the 18th Century. The official 12yo is hard to find and usually described as just so-so. Based on the quality of previous Thosop bottlings, I’m expecting a surprise!
Deanston 33 yo 1977 (43%, Thosop Import 2010, 205 btl.)
Nose: starts mashy and cardboardy, but I was told to give it some time. After some twenty minutes and a bit of hand warmth it’s a totally different story. Now very much on creamy notes, chocolate cream desserts, cake, moccha. Rather oily and surprisingly sweet. A mixture of overripe fruits with honey, some citrus and nutty notes. A subtle hint of oak. I feel this one really needed the hand warmth to fully expose its qualities. Mouth: not extremely punchy, but plenty of nice flavours. A toffee sweetness again, developing on fresher, fruitier notes over time (sweet grapefruit and oranges). There’s still a malty and nutty side to it. Finish: not too long – in line with the palate.
It’s true: even the worst distillery has beautiful bottlings. Kudos to Thosop for proving this, if you ever wanted to own a good Deanston, this is your chance! Personally I think the best part is the nose. Around € 150.
The Haig blend largely relies on Glenlossie – single malt releases are quite rare. A 10 years old Flora & Fauna bottling is the only official expression today.
Glenlossie 35 yo 1975 (49,3%, The Whisky Agency 2010, bourbon hogshead, 151 btl.)
Nose: clearly more sensual and elegant than the Glenlossie 1984 by Signatory Vintage. More oak (of the old, polished kind – cedar maybe?) and more prominent fruits (strawberries with cream, some lime). Whiffs of vanilla and wax. A little leather. Some tobacco leaves. The flinty / wet cardboard aromas are still present, but on a second level. Nice balance of old and fresh elements. Mouth: still fruity with a lot of citrus. Hints of mint and other green notes. Initially sweet, then more herbal and grassy, evolving to gin tonic with lemon zest. Great evolution. No need to add water. Finish: half citrusy, half herbal. Long.
A lovely nose and a great evolution on the palate. Maybe not as warm and rounded as other old Speysiders, so this one is recommended for people who like a punchy and slightly zesty / herbal variation. Around € 160.
Glenlossie was founded in 1876 by John Duff, a former manager of GlenDronach. Another distillery, Mannochmore, was built on the same site in 1971 and the joint workforce used to alternate between the two, keeping them active for 6 months a year. Now they’re both working the year round.
Nose: a pleasant foundation of red fruits, but there’s a lot of oak polish, wet limestone, grass and alcohol, making it a bit sharp. Quite some earthy notes. Wet cardboard. Over time it constantly switches between a fruity profile and a mineral, austere profile. Water makes it more fragrant (citrus flowers) and flinty. Mouth: leaning towards fruity notes now (dried apricot, lime, oranges) with lots of spices (ginger, pepper). Getting herbal towards the finish (dark herbal tea, liquorice) with a few bitter notes (tonic, aspirin) and some matchsticks. Water takes away some of the rough edges, but it’s still not completely enjoyable. Finish: half bitter, half spicy.
A rough and slightly schizophrenic Glenlossie. Personally I’m not a big fan of its heavy herbal / bitter notes. Around € 120.
Did you know Banff used to supply the British House of Commons with their house malt? The parliament is still bottling whisky by the way, both single malts and blends (it’s quite easy to find this blend by Gordon & MacPhail).
This Banff 1975 was matured in a refill hogshead.
Banff 32 yo 1975 (48,7%, Douglas Laing
Old Malt Cask 2008, DL ref. 3971, 164 btl.)
Nose: aromatic start with lemon, apples and pears. Slightly syrupy with a hint of vanilla. Hints of buttercups. Then it starts to evolve on wet limestone and gravel that I find pretty typical for Banff, maybe even some coal. Whiffs of oak mixed with coastal notes. An old-style Highland whisky. Not the most complex Banff ever, but very satisfying – fruity and austere at the same time. Mouth: takes off on mustard seeds and something metallic / mineral. Then a wave of oak and spices comes along – very strong pepper notes! Over-infused tea. Quite sharp and invasive (hardly any fruit to be found) but very clean and very expressive. Finally, it fades on slightly bitter tonic water with a dash of lemon. Finish: long, slightly mustardy again with lemon and apples.
You’ve got to be a fan of austere whisky to appreciate this. The label says it’s sweet, but I wouldn’t count on that too much (although there’s quite some fruit on the nose). A difficult whisky, but a very good example of this particular style. Around € 125.
I know that officially the ageing or maturation of whisky is defined as the time spent in oak casks, but apart from that, do you believe in any form of ‘bottle ageing’ being accountable for changes in the flavour of whisky over a period of years whilst still in the bottle?
This will be my last single cask BenRiach for this year’s batch #7.
This BenRiach 1980 was matured in a new oak barrel. Sister casks #2534 (bottled for LMdW France) and #2535 (part of single cask batch #3) were bottled in 2006.
BenRiach 30 yo 1980 (51,2%, OB 2010,
cask #2532, Virgin American Oak, 181 btl.)
Nose: very sensual, with truckloads of vanilla and lovely hints of cotton candy. Deeply fruity as well: apricot, some banana, tangerine, strawberrries… Honey. A bit of chocolate. Invigorating spices as well, mainly pepper and cinnamon. A subtle hint of cigar boxes. Not immensely complex maybe, but once you’ve nosed it, that doesn’t matter any more. Mouth: still very fruity (apricot again, strawberry marmalade, more tropical fruits as well). Nice sweetness with soft vanill and a great “bite” of spices from the virgin oak. A little pine resin. Finish: long and spicy with fruits and mocha.
A full maturation of 30 years in new oak normally doesn’t work (the oak is too active and overtakes the original spirit) but for BenRiach it turns out lovely, especially because the fruit basket is big enough to counterbalance the spices.
Around € 160. Sold out…
For the latest edition of Whisky Live in Japan, four casks of Japanese whisky were selected as festival bottlings. This 19 years old Karuizawa(cask #6446) was one of them. After the festival, it showed up in different shops.
Karuizawa 19 yo 1990 (60%, OB for Whisky Live 10th Anniversary 2009, sherry butt #6446)
Nose: starts quite fresh and aromatic but also more winey than older vintages. A few bourbonny notes with vanilla and almonds. Orange liqueur. Mint and cinnamon. Water brings out apples with cinnamon and oak shavings, plus a few flowery notes (geranium). Very good - much less extreme than most older, legendary Karuizawa. Mouth: powerful attack. Fruity (oranges, white cherries). Big gingery notes and a little pepper. More malty notes than older Karuizawa. With water: more spices, more oak but overall a bit thinner, a lot of the fruity flavours seem to be drowned. Finish: long, slightly oaky. Still based around the spices.
This Karuizawa has less explosive sherry influence than we’re used to – its style reminds me of the Karuizawa 1988 cask #3397. It’s firm and enjoyable, but less complex. For me one of the lesser bottles from this distillery but that’s nothing to be ashamed of, it’s still very good.