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!
Yesterday I got my hands on the new Malt Whisky Yearbook 2012. Since its first publication in 2006, this has become one of the most anticipated releases among whisky books.
Editor Ingvar Ronde’s recipe is still the same: gather up-to-date information about the people, the news, the facts and the stories in the whisky industry, add beautiful photos and compact tasting notes and what you get is essentially the best summary of the whisky year.
The 2012 edition adds 24 pages over last year and covers three main sections:
A number of interesting articles about Prohibition, the new wave of blenders, emotions in whisky, Irish whiskey… written by well-known whisky writers like Charles MacLean, Ian Buxton, Gavin D. Smith, Dominic Roskrow, Neil Ridley and Colin Dunn.
An overview of all active whisky distilleries, each with their own profile, short history and their new releases in 2011. The section about closed distilleries seems to have grown this year and there are several interviews with distillery managers again.
Lots of facts and figures: a whisky production primer, lists of interesting websites (WhiskyNotes among the old favourites already…), new whisky books, whisky shops around the world, the latest sales and consumption statistics and much more.
The success of this must-have book is due to the mixture of accurate encyclopaedic data and more philosophic reflections on where the industry is going. You’ll want to read it from A to Z, but afterwards you’ll regularly pick it up as a reliable source of whisky knowledge. A treat for whisky enthusiasts.
The Malt Whisky Yearbook has been published a couple of days ago and is sold through whisky shops all over Europe, distillery visitor centres and their own website www.maltwhiskyyearbook.com. It costs £ 14 / around € 15.
This Bunnahabhain 1973 was bottled by Malts of Scotland in May 2011 but it didn’t arrive in stores until the summer. It already won a silver medal in the 7th edition of the Independent Bottlers Challenge by Whisky Magazine.
Bunnahabhain 38 yo 1973 (50,2%, Malts of Scotland 2011, sherry butt #3463, 216 btl.)
Nose: starts a little dirty, with lots of mushrooms, damp forest notes and a little cooked cabbage. Similar to the Bunnahabhain 1973 (Shark series) by Whisky Agency. Some caramel and beurre noisette. The whole reminds me of certain pre-war blends. After plenty of breathing, it shows sweeter fruity notes and some chamomile. Mouth: sweet and caramelly. Apples and honey. Toffee. Then it turns to yeasty and softly bitter notes (Triple beer?). A veil of smoke. Hints of oranges. Round oak and soft spices. Finish: long, sweet and rather herbal with more than a hint of rubber.
I always find it difficult to score a dram like this. Do I focus on the nose during the first half an hour (not very good) or do I give points for the profile after a while, which is much better? A mixed bag in my opinion – but I seem to appreciate it less than others. The palate is quite unique and pleasant though, just remember that you’ll need to get over the unfresh elements of the nose to get there. Airing is the key. Around € 170.
The oldest ‘Classic’ BenRiach in the core range (the 25yo, 30yo and 40yo are part of a Premium range). Generally well received and very reasonably priced. When I tried it, I was told that half of the batch is actually 23 to 26 years old whisky (matured in first fill bourbon casks). 40% is 20 years old whisky and 10% of peated 21 years old BenRiach. I’m not sure whether the recipe is still the same for current batches.
I tasted this one at the Whisky Festival in Gent a couple of years ago and since I didn’t write down any notes at that time, I really wanted to taste it again.
BenRiach 20 yo (43%, OB 2009)
Nose: something of a potpourri: orange, pear, peach, pineapple candy, berries. Some lavender. White chocolate. Bourbon wood. Vanilla. Something dusty and farmy, but very nice. Also light peat and subtle smoke. Mouth: vanilla and honey. Malt. Tobacco. Slightly vegetal and acidic, but pleasant. Getting spicier after a while. Finish on melon and vanilla. Overall sweet but with some bitter oranges. Light smoke.
Compared to the BenRiach 16y, this one is more complex, with less caramel toffee and more fruit. More punch as well. It really stands out from the rest of the core range. It’s the most expensive but by far the best value for money. Around € 65.