I don’t need to introduce Tomatin 1976, it’s the top vintage for this distillery and something many enthusiasts are constantly on the lookout for. There’s a new one in the Moody Lions series by The Whisky Agency.
Tomatin 35 yo 1976 (51,4%, The Whisky Agency ‘Moody Lions’ 2011, refill sherry, 313 btl.)
Nose: close to the sister version by Liquid Sun as it starts on faint herbal / nutty notes and oak polish before bringing out the typical fruity notes like apricots, mango, berries, melons… Stewed fruits with honey and mint. Mouth: thick and beautifully sherried with plenty of fruits. Mango, peaches, berries, pink grapefruit… in a jammy / liqueur-like way. Getting more herbal and oaky towards the end with a lovely tropical aftertaste. Finish: long, still quite fruity but more oaky and spicy now with a gentle bitterness in the very end.
Another tasty Tomatin 1976, though maybe not my favourite expression (not as wide, slightly less fruits, slightly more oak). The price went up 20% compared to the Liquid Sun version: around € 180.
Another bottling in the Moody Lions series by The Whisky Agency. I’m sure many people will be interested to find out about this Clynelish 1989 – it’s a vintage that I haven’t tried before.
Clynelish 22 yo 1989 (50,9%, The Whisky Agency ‘Moody Lions’ 2011, ex-bourbon cask, 267 btl.)
Nose: quite a typical Clynelish with ripe fruits (caramelized apple, melons), waxy notes and something herbal / leafy in the background. Some buttery notes as well, more than we’re used to find. Folds open nicely with more beeswax and spices. Very warm with few mineral / coastal notes. Clynelish fans will love it. Mouth: creamy and punchy, sweet with some adorable fruity notes and again a certain buttery quality. Peach jam with vanilla and soft spices. Mirabelles and apples. Some heather honey. Vanilla pudding. Softly bitter grassy notes in the end. All in all a rather rounded version. Finish: long and warming, still high on fruits with some almonds and refreshing mint.
A beautiful Clynelish with some excellent juicy and creamy elements. Recommended, certainly because it’s not too expensive. Around € 120.
I wish everyone a happy 2012 and plenty of great drams!
Last year was terrific for this blog. The number of visitors went up from around 23.000 to 38.000 a month, that’s a 65% increase. Many thanks to all you loyal visitors.
Ever since 2009, Ardbeg and Laphroaig are the most visited brands. GlenDronach is now in third place (this used to be Port Ellen and Highland Park in previous years). Also noticeable is the increased interest in Japanese whisky (up by 300%).
Looking at my personal list of drams, I had the impression 2011 was one of the best whisky years I’ve experienced. We witnessed the birth and rise of new bottlers, the general tempo was very high and the average quality even higher. Unfortunately prices reached crazy levels (now also true for independent bottlers while it used to be mainly a problem of official releases). I wonder how this will evolve in the near future. Is there still enough high quality stuff available? Will consumers endure those prices?
The evolution in the market has two consequences that aren’t always positive: 1. you need very deep pockets to buy a decent selection of interesting bottlings and 2. most of the legendary things are sold out before they even reach the shelves – and on top of this the PE11 / eBay Germany scandal which I’m not going to repeat. I have the feeling more and more enthusiasts are being fed up with the whole market situation which is contradictory to the expansion and the high quality of course.
Enough already with the rambling, let’s continue the tradition to focus on a few highlights of last year. These would be my shortlists (in no particular order):
GlenDronach 39 yo 1972 (49,9%, OB 2011, oloroso cask #712, 466 btl.)
Nose: strikingly fresh and floral – the first thing I get are lovely roses and passion fruit ganache. A nice addition to the usual raisins, dried berries, cocoa and leather we were expecting already. Raspberries and redcurrant jam. Cherry plums. Big oak polish. Hints of mint. Underneath is a layer of darker aromas, blackberries and something vaguely meaty with a hint of clean gunpowder. While I’m usually struggling with these notes, they are so tiny I’d say it’s an asset. Simply excellent: very wide, luscious and juicy. Mouth: starts in a classic way, with Christmas cake, dates, sultanas… Rather dry with a velvety mouthfeel. After a few moments, a wave of superb tropical notes comes rolling in. Tangerine, guava, passion fruits again. As if they poured a few litres of BenRiach 1976 in the cask. Wow! It doesn’t last too long though, it returns nicely on chocolate, liquorice and very soft spices. Tiny hints of camphor / mint. Finish: very long, still a tad fruity but it’s mostly leather and spices now.
What a great dram to round off this year. It definitely needs time to open up and unfold the deep, almost oriental fruitiness that was hidden in the first few sips. For me this deserves a bonus point, I’ve rarely seen sherry and tropical fruits combined so beautifully, not even in other GlenDronach single casks. I’m stunned Serge chooses a GlenDronach 15yo (WF92) over this masterpiece (WF91). Around € 380, still available in some places. Many thanks for the sample swap, Mars!
The latest series by The Whisky Agency is nicknamed Moody Lions and consists of four bottlings: this Glenallachie 1973, a Tomatin 1976, Clynelish 1989 and Caol Ila 1992. We’ll go over them in the next few days. They’ve arrived in stores by now.
Glenallachie 39 yo 1973 (50,4%, The Whisky Agency ‘Moody Lions’ 2011, ex-bourbon cask, 218 btl.)
Nose: fresh and fruity, but I’m missing some of the more uncommon notes which I loved in the MoS version (like strawberry or muscat grapes). Here it’s more focused on pears and apples. It also shows more grassy / leafy notes (could be just the higher alcohol). Soft waxiness. Water brings out some floral notes. Mouth: slightly hot with rather more oak. Again some leafy notes to accompany the otherwise sweet fruit cake, apple and almond flavours. Fairly dry in the end with a noticeable bitterness. Finish: long and dry with vanilla, apples and malt.
Funny how two whiskies can be so closely related with virtually the same flavour descriptors, yet this one lacks part of the magic of the MoS version. Bringing it down to more or less the same strength doesn’t quite fix it. Don’t get me wrong though – this is still very good stuff. Around € 175.
Hey, Benromach, why didn’t this distillery feature on this blog earlier? Maybe because I only tried some standard expressions in the past (Benromach Organic, Benromach Origins) and I wasn’t impressed.
The distillery is owned and operated by independent bottler Gordon & MacPhail. It’s small (only 2 employees) and had a history of ups and downs – between 1983 and 1998 it was closed altogether.
This 1977, bottled for the Belgian importer Premium Spirits, is pre-G&M distillation, made with equipment that has been replaced in the 1990’s.
Benromach 34 yo 1977 (48%, OB for Premium Spirits Belgium 2011, refill American hogshead #1470, 249 btl.)
Nose: elegant nose on raisins and honey with some polished furniture. Jammy, juicy fruits (peach, pear, melon) and some floral notes. Notes of honeysuckle. Distant hints of library dust, cinnamon and vanilla. Fresh and attractive, although not very complex. Mouth: smooth, fruity start (citrus, peach again) with some waxy notes – not as sweet as the nose suggested. Barley. Evolving quickly on spices from the oak (ginger and pepper). Roasted notes, even a vague hint of smoke. Finish: medium long, on natural caramel and a herbal touch of oak.
A nice surprise. Not much to complain although it’s not exactly unique. G&M is probably not doing enough to promote Benromach, this deserves some praise. Around € 165.
This is the first Bunnahabhain in the Elements of Islay series. It’s a peated version from an otherwise unpeated Islay distillery.
(55,6%, Elements of Islay 2011, 50 cl)
Nose: peated, no doubt. Rather deep smoke with a hint of rubber. Very sweet too, especially when diluted: big notes of honey, barley and quite some vanilla, which make this a nicely warm nose. Sweet apples. Citrus candy. Almonds. Medicinal notes in the background. Mouth: big and oily with punchy peat again. That same hint of rubber to start off, quickly overtaken by sweet apple and pear (makes me think it’s not too old). Lemon. Big pepper, a little ginger and a few briny hints and tar towards the end. Finish: rather long and smoky with notes of salty liquorice and citrus zest.
This Bunnahabhain is fairly simple but packed with punch and it features a lovely nose. Even though peated spirit is not its core business, Bunnahabhain sure knows how to present this style. Check it out if you like a young, peaty profile. Around € 50.
In the recent wave of Glen Grant 1972 there’s also this interesting bottle by Whisky-Doris. Colour, age, provenance are similar, so let’s hope it’s on the same level as the Glen Grant 1972 for Spirits in the Sky.
Glen Grant 39 yo 1972 (48%, Whisky-Doris 2011, sherry hogshead #11395, 163 btl.)
Nose: This one has less alcohol and indeed it starts more like the Spirits in the Sky version with water. It seems more open – it doesn’t have as much cherry notes but its fruitiness is wider, like a red fruit compote with tropical touches in the background. Leather again. Maybe a little more spices and cocoa. Dates. Mouth: smoother but just as fruity and intense. Plums, blackberries, figs, all present. Extra raspberry (nice). Develops on cocoa, almost completely on chocolate in the end. Pretty much perfect strength and nicely supported by the spices without being oaky. Finish: long, sweet. Spices and chocolate.
I don’t have a favourite, both are equally great in my opinion. The lower strength certainly isn’t a downside and it’s 10% cheaper as well. Recommended. Around € 190. Available from Whisky-Doris.