A primeur for the Elements of Islay series. This is the first ever independent bottling of Kilchoman, the youngest distillery on Islay. There’s no age statement, but obviously it can’t be older than 5 years.
(59,7%, Elements of Islay 2011, 50 cl)
Nose: very peaty of course with a rather dry start. Mainly ex-bourbon casks? Gentian. Oily notes and soot. Ashes. After a while it develops faint notes of bandages, then some brina and buttered toast and finally some nice, rounded notes of vanilla. It gets better by the minute. Overall clean and focused, without any of the (too) youngish notes of past official bottlings. Mouth: a little sweeter / maltier. Powerful with quite some peppery hotness. Sweet peat and soot. Medicinal notes. Soft vanilla again. Nice notes of baked apple towards the end. Finish: rounder, still some of these apple notes. Very long and peaty. Slightly grassy in the very end.
One of the best Kilchoman releases I’ve had so far, with a balanced sweet touch alongside the heavy peat. Around € 60 – available from TWE.
Let’s compare yesterday’s Port Ellen 1983 by The Whiskyman to this similar release bottled a few weeks ago by Malts of Scotland. Dominiek Bouckaert, the man behind The Whiskyman, is also the importer of Malts of Scotland in Belgium.
Port Ellen 28 yo 1983 (58,9%, Malts of Scotland 2011, bourbon hogshead, MoS 11011, 267 btl.)
Nose: it shows the same balanced mixture of briny coastal elements, sooty smoke and rounded fruitiness. Lemon and walnuts. It would be difficult to differentiate between the two, but maybe this MoS version develops a tiny bit more sweet vanilla / dried fruits over time, which is nice, but differences are really small. Both excellent. Mouth: powerful on the palate again. In no particular order: peat, smoke, bags of lemons, sweet grapefruit, pepper, brine… Similarly nervous. Again a tad more candied or is this my imagination? In the end there’s a hint of bitterness. Finish: similar length, similar flavours, similar quality.
Another Port Ellen of very high quality, difficult to pick a favourite so let’s not do that. Good news for those who missed out on the Whiskyman release. This Malts of Scotland version has just arrived in stores. Around € 200.
This is probably the most popular release by The Whiskyman so far, a Port Ellen distilled in 1983. Bottled about two months ago but gone from stores soon after.
Port Ellen 27 yo 1983 ‘While my whisky gently weeps’ (55,5%, The Whiskyman 2011, 120 btl.)
Nose: a very balanced expression. Plenty of mineral and coastal notes (seaweed, brine), soft medicinal notes (camphor) and charcoal smoke, but also sweet and fruity citrus aromas (candied lemon and green apple). Hints of marzipan as well, which makes the whole rounded and crystal sharp at the same time. Excellent balance indeed. Mouth: oily with a lot of peat, brine, spices (pepper and ginger) and bitterish lemon zest. The sweetness returns towards the end (especially almonds now, less fruity notes) but it stays kind of sharp. Finish: long, spicy and peaty, with liquorice and lemon zest.
A great bottling showing all the typical Port Ellen qualities. Definitely on par with many official bottlings in terms of complexity and balance. Around € 200. Sold out.
This Glen Garioch 1971 is an official single cask bottled for The Whisky Exchange and released at The Whisky Show in 2011. I’ve been impressed by this vintage before, so I’m really looking forward to it.
Glen Garioch 1971 (43,9%, OB for The Whisky Exchange 2011, cask #2038, 194 btl.)
Nose: gentle but also very complex. First there’s a discreet and slightly tropical fruitiness (passion fruit, grapefruit) mixed with fresh eucalyptus, hay and a velvety, sooty smokiness and soft peat. Quite some leather, wax and mineral notes. Wet leaves. A smooth and worthy 1971. Mouth: not extremely punchy but quite boldly peated for a Glen Garioch (closer to Port Ellen than Brora for instance). Hints of mustard cress and bitter oranges, as well as some sourish oak juices that are a little too prominent maybe. Heather. Lapsang tea. Liquorice. A little austere although there are traces of sweeter citrus fruits. Finish: very long with plenty of sooty peat, liquorice and bitter oranges.
With its relatively heavy peat, waxy nose and a slightly austere and mustardy palate, this comes really close to the late 1970’s – early 1980’s Brora profile in my opinion. You have to like this style and spend a lot of money though. Available from TWE for around € 470.
Cardhu is a distillery focused on the lower part of the single malt market. In Spain for example, it’s one of the best known brands and even worldwide it boasts one of the largest volumes. But they are rarely seen in higher end independent versions.
Duncan Taylor surprised us with a lovely Cardhu 1984 a couple of months ago. Now there’s a similar release in the new Fungi series by The Whisky Agency.
Cardhu 27 yo 1984 (52,6%, The Whisky Agency ‘Fungi’ 2011, ex-bourbon, 199 btl.)
Nose: starts oily (plain vegetable oil). After a while it evolves to vanilla, hay, gooseberries and yellow apples. Lovely furniture wax. It’s not overly sweet, it’s warm but there are earthy and mineral qualities to it as well. I even detected tiny hints of medicinal notes. Quite special. Mouth: mouth-coating and rather unique. Again very oily (lemon balm) but also quite spicy / herbal (aniseed, mint, ginger, liquorice) and mildly fruity (grapefruit, oranges, blackberries). Some chocolate notes and toffee. Great complexity, anything but boring. Finish: slightly drier and grassier. Still some citrus and cocoa. Quite long.
This Cardhu has more to offer than just an “easy” fruitiness like some other old Speysiders – it has plenty character and it’s still really balanced. Around € 150.
ps/ If you’re surprised to see so many 90+ reviews recently, it’s simply because I’m scanning the highlights among the new releases for November-December. Always an interesting time of the year.
The latest batch from Malts of Scotland was bottled a few weeks ago and we had a preview at Spirits in the Sky. For me this Glenallachie 1973 is one of the most interesting new releases.
Note that Malts of Scotland recently started to use proprietary cask references: a simple ascending numbering of every release instead of the actual cask number. While I still prefer to know the proper cask number, I guess it’s useful to differentiate similar releases.
Glenallachie 38 yo 1973 (44%, Malts of Scotland 2011, bourbon hogshead, MoS 11018, 125 btl.)
Nose: a rich burst of fruit potpourri. Lots of yellow apples, melons, strawberries, raspberries, apricots, mango… Lovely fruitiness, great combo of exotic fruits and a cotton candy sweetness. Hints of (premium) moscatel wine. Some oily / waxy overtones and honey. Also a little vanilla and touches of sandalwood. Mouth: oily, drier and oakier. More fruit cake or fruit tea than actual fruits. Mixed with marzipan and waxy notes. Soft touches of pepper. Less expressive than the nose. Finish: rather long with lemon, vanilla, malt and oak.
Like nearby Caperdonich, old Glenallachie seems so much more interesting than younger versions. This is the best version from this distillery I’ve tried so far.
Around € 170.
The Whisky Agency has a big batch of Tomintoul casks from 1967 / 1968. This one was chosen for the premium Private Stock series, which is used for very limited and usually higher quality whiskies.
Tomintoul 43 yo 1968 (43,2%, The Whisky Agency ‘Private Stock’ 2011, ex-bourbon hogshead, 78 btl.)
Nose: fruity and fragrant. Plenty of citrus and orchard fruits (apricot, tangerine, orange), mixed with slightly tropical fruits (melon, passion fruit). Soft nutty notes (sweet almond paste). Maybe some flowery notes in the background (buttercups). Very delicate. Mouth: starts very citrusy (pink grapefruit, orange), grows spicier over time (cinnamon, soft pepper, mint) and finishes with warm oak and a few tannins. Finish: not too long, with drying hints of citrus tea.
All these Tomintoul 1967 / 1968 casks seem to have lots of qualities, but they tend to lack a bit of punch. Very sophisticated but apart from the label I don’t really see why it costs more than the Tomintoul 1967 in the Liquid Sun series. Around € 215.
On Monday I wrote that I felt a little disappointed by the new Brora 32 years (part of the Diageo Special Releases 2011). I sniffed the glass at the festival and took a little sip. The disappointment was mostly because of the emphasis on mineral notes (typical for 1980’s Brora i.e. most independent releases) and the lack of farmy notes (typical for the 1970’s).
But you know how it goes, there’s not enough time and festivals don’t offer the right atmosphere for an in-depth tasting of complex whiskies, so I decided to take home the rest of my glass. Here’s the true assessment.
It’s from refill both American and European oak casks. Also, for the first time Brora is bottled as an official 32 years old while it used to be 30 years. I’ve been told stocks are running really low and there would only be one more release after this one, a Brora 40 years old.
Brora 32 yo (54,7%, OB 2011, refill American oak & refill European oak, 10th Annual release, 1500 btl.)
Nose: mineral and dusty, even a little raw at first. Wet stones and cardboard. Then some ashes and coal. A pinch of salt. This is as far as I got at the festival, but after fifteen minutes a bunch of other layers start to come out. Nice tobacco. Quite some yellow apple, peach and vanilla as well (fruity / biscuity notes, honey, in high quantities for a Brora). Wax. More smoke and aha… farmyard! Maybe not the smell of goat stables and manure of earlier releases but still a good deal of stable hay and wet animals. A little mint / eucalyptus as well. High class! Mouth: much sweeter than expected. Tangerine, almonds, condensed milk, something caramelly even. Still rather peppery and slightly mustardy. Some liquorice. Some peat and coal. Leather. Going back and forth between sharper notes and sweeter notes. A fair amount of oak too, with a tiny bit of resin. Nicely returning to pastry flavours in the end. Finish: medium long and drying, with faint peat and ashes. Again a hint of mint in the aftertaste.
After having spent more time with it, I take back my first opinion. It needs time due to its impressive complexity, but this is not at all a disappointment – it’s much better than the last few years. Although there are some quirky elements (very sweet attack, only moderate farminess), overall it’s excellent. Too bad it costs around € 350 (it’s kinda worth it though – just look at today’s prices of earlier releases). Brora enthusiasts should seriously consider this one.