Edinburgh-based grain distillery North British is usually found in older expressions (we’ve even had a 48 year-old). Here’s a medium aged single cask version bottled by Master of Malt.
North British 20 yo 1991 (55,8%, Master of Malt 2011, first fill bourbon, 244 btl.)
Nose: rather warm at first with plenty of vanilla and fresh oak shavings. Soft white chocolate / very light mocha notes in the background. Sweet and thick. After some time it seems to loose some of its vanilla creaminess and it gets a little sharper, with traces of grass and Nivea cream that I found before in much older North British. Mouth: very sweet and quite surprising. Big notes of Pisang Ambon (banana liqueur) and Malibu (coconut liqueur). Very thick and almost sticky. Sweet corn. Pineapple syrup. Butterscotch. A burst of pepper and ginger in the end. Finish: not too long, still extremely sweet with some spirity notes and an oaky / spicy edge.
This is not a complex grain whisky but it’s interesting as it lacks some typical grain flavours but also shows a few less common elements. Around € 52.
Michael Jackson called Tormore the most elegant distillery (architecturally speaking). It’s modern (built in 1958) and slightly bombastic. If you like traditional distilleries then this one is probably not for you. If you like a modern interpretation, yes it’s beautiful.
Anyway, the whisky is part of the Ballantine’s blend and there’s an official Tormore 12yo and a 15yo.
Tormore 10 yo ‘Pure malt 100%’
(43%, OB for Dreher Milano, around 1980, 75cl)
Nose: quite mild. Cereal notes with fruity bits. Red berries, oranges, pears. Heering cherry liqueur. Hints of malt and praline as well. Mouth: it seems bigger than 43% and balances between sweet notes and sourish / resinous elements. Apples with caramel sauce. Mint, cloves and bitter oranges. Nutty notes, with some sharpness in the aftertaste (like radish). Finish: a bit undefined, with hints of oak. Not too long.
This Tormore shows a great fruitiness on the nose. The palate is slightly less interesting but still full-flavoured. You’ll often read Tormore from this period seems more intense than you’d expect, which is a quality in its own right. Collector’s item.
Nose: all kinds of oil and wax: linseed oil, engine oil, brylcream… Rather dusty with hints of old libraries. Hints of vegetables, moss, wet fern forest. A little mint. Not bad but slightly uninspiring. Mouth: a watered down oak infusion, or so it seems. Quite tired I’m afraid. Cloves. Wax. Tobacco. Faint eucalyptus, but all of this is rather soft and quiet. Then developing some farmy notes and something bitter. Finish: bitter, dry, tannic and even a bit medicinal.
I expected a lot from a 1960’s Springbank but unfortunately this is not a highflyer. At first I thought the sample could be tainted, but then it turned out other reviewers mentioned the same disappointment. Oh well… Around € 300 if you happen to find a bottle.
I already highlighted this Port Ellen at the Wild West Whisky Fest last year. Now I had the chance to taste it in depth.
Port Ellen 26 yo 1983 (54,6%, Duncan Taylor Rarest of the Rare 2010, cask #674, 282 btl.)
Nose: hey! Even better than I remembered it. Relatively soft sooty and smokey notes with hints of cured meat. A bunch of sweet notes as well: chocolate ganache, praline and Black Forest gateau! Fruity cherry / mixed red fruits jam. Hints of tobacco with a very delicate medicinal touch. Warm precious wood like rosewood and sandalwood. Few of the sharp / austere notes that you find in other Port Ellen. When compared to Port Ellen PE1 for example, it becomes clear how extremely luscious this is. Just excellent. Mouth: sweet peat and ashes mixed with rounder notes again (cocoa, sweet almonds, berries, figs). A hint of peppermint. Slowly drying towards tobacco. Finish: very long, drier and a little peppery.
An extraordinary Port Ellen with an almost perfect sherried style. If you liked PE1, then you’ll love this. Around € 190. I’ve spent some time trying to find it, but it seems to be sold out.
Glenfiddich has great old casks lying around, although they’re usually quite pricey. I tried this 1973 Private Vintage bottled for LMdW at the Weedram Masters XXV, head-to-head with the regular Glenfiddich 12 years old.
Glenfiddich Private Vintage 34 yo 1973 (46,6%, OB for LMdW 2007, hogshead #28563, 209 btl.)
Nose: starts fruity (big apricot aromas, oranges, grapefruit) and oaky (polished oak). Orchard fruits, some honey as well. A gentleman but really wide and complex. Soft spices (pepper, vanilla, subtle gingerbread) as well as some waxy notes. Very light nougat. Mouth: smooth and citrusy (grapefruit) with a herbal oakiness (soft tannins). Develops on dried fruits. Bittersweet with a minty edge. Bergamot tea. Finish: rather long, fruity with a bitter touch.
Starts great but the score is brought down by the slightly oaky palate. Around € 390 at the time, now sold out.
Bottled last June, this 14yo Dalmore 1996 is one of the latest releases by the chaps of Master of Malt. It was aged in a single refill hogshead. You don’t see many independent Dalmore release, so let’s dive in…
Dalmore 14 yo 1996
(55,5%, Master of Malt 2011)
Nose: sweet with intense barley aromas. Some porridge. Malt. Apples, peaches pears. Punchy spices: pepper with a hint of mint and ginger. After a while hints of gravel show up, and a very vague smokiness in the distance which helps the neutral, youngish and slightly spirity nose to stand out a little. Mouth: pretty light and not as sweet as I thought. There are sugary barley notes but they are countered by spirity notes (pear liqueur, plum eau-de-vie) and a slightly bitter grassiness. Lemon zest and tonic. Again pepper. Finish: medium long, balancing between fruity pear notes and zesty bitterness.
A young Dalmore that’s natural and not entirely typical for the distillery in my opinion. On the MoM website it says “sherry cask”… are they sure about that? I can’t really figure out why they’ve selected this one. Available from Master of Malt for around € 52.
In 2011, Kilchoman will release three new products: Kilchoman 5 years old (November), a full sherry matured version (September) and this Kilchoman 100% Islay, a 3 year-old made from barley grown malted, distilled, matured and bottled on Islay.
This fits the idea of being a farm distillery producing their own ingredients. It’s similar to Bruichladdich‘s ‘Islay Barley’ bottling, but their barley was still malted on the mainland.
Apart from this regular bottling at 50%, there’s also a limited edition, bottled at cask strength (61,3%) and presented in a hand-crafted American oak box, available for a slightly surreal € 215. As far as I know, it’s a different vatting, not just a different strength.
Kilchoman 3 yo ‘Inaugural 100% Islay’ (50%, OB 2011)
Nose: a powerful attack displaying an almost aggressive youthfulness. Instant lemon / grapefruit aromas, slightly synthetic rhubarb and intense coal smoke. Some grainy vanilla biscuits. Chalk. Faint medicinal notes as well. Mouth: sweet, peaty and smoky. Initially there are the medicinal notes again, but these evolve into softer, sweeter notes. Roasted grain cookies and lemon zest again. Apples. Finish: medium long, peaty with a fruity sweetness and whiffs of pepper.
Until the older releases arrive, Kilchoman can only offer a rather immature whisky (with quite some potential). While this is still the case, they seem to achieve a nicer balance even at the same young age. Quality is going up and so are the prices. Around € 80.
Bladnoch, Acorn and Douglais Laing have bottled casks of Teaninich 1982 in the last few months, which is great as we don’t see Teaninch on the market very often. Today we’re trying a release by Liquid Sun.
Teaninich 28 yo 1982 (50,5%, Liquid Sun 2011, bourbon hogshead, 114 btl.)
Nose: elegant and medium fruity (apples, quinces, white grape juice) with plenty of oak polish and linseed oil. Some gristy notes as well. Hay and wet leaves. Mint, soft pepper. Nice balance of fruits and a Highlands austerity. Mouth: gentle start, but full of flavour, again rather gristy with hints of sawdust. After that it grows sweeter and fruitier, with honey, sweet barley and warming oak spices. Cloves and white pepper. Finish: spicy dryness from the oak, with hints of vanilla and tea.
A fairly neutral Teaninch, with pleasant Highlands elements, soft fruits and a perfect dose of oak influence. A nice bottling if you want to get acquainted with this low profile distillery. Around € 120.