Fino casks are uncommon for whisky maturation. This unoxidized style of sherry is usually bone-dry and not really suited for shipping so most of the production (and casks) stayed in Spain.
Occasionally, a fino matured whisky turns up, like this Lochside 1981 which is one of a whole series of Lochsides bottled by The Whisky Agency in Germany. We’ll compare it to a similar Lochside by Whisky-Doris tomorrow.
Lochside 29 yo 1981 (52,7%, Whisky Agency ‘Still Lifes’ 2010, fino hogshead, 275 btl.)
Nose: very peculiar mix of oil and gas, sourish butter, yeast, some hay and clay. Wet gravel and stone dust. A few metallic notes and graphite. It tends towards fruity notes at times (subtle gooseberry, lemon) but overall it’s mostly mineral and far from sensual. Some (clean) match heads as well. Mouth: an austere profile again (lemon peel, ginger, salt water). Quite punchy with some pepper and allspice. Hints of tonic. A tad sweeter when water is added, but it never really becomes smooth, until… the finish: not too long but surprisingly rounded compared to the palate.
Very complex whisky with a unique old-style profile.
As a consequence, it’s also quite challenging –
not everyone will like this (but I do). Around € 150. Sold out.
Creative Whisky Company is an independent bottler specialising in single casks, all picked by the owner David Stirk. He’s a former whisky writer for Whisky Magazine who also worked for Cadenhead. The names of the bottling ranges are easy to confuse: Exclusive Malts, Exclusive Range and Exclusive Cask.
We’re now tasting an exclusive Macduff 2000 bottled exclusively for our Belgian retailer The Exclusive Bonding Dram. It was chosen from a series of cask samples by founder Jeroen and a team of Bonding Dram enthusiasts. It’s bottled at cask strength and presented in a nicely designed box.
Macduff 10 yo 2000 (56,5%, Creative Whisky Co. for The Bonding Dram, sherry butt #3525, 200 btl.)
Nose: juicy start with cooked fruits and tinned fruits on syrup. Then slowly growing spicier (mainly cinnamon) with some Mexican chocolate disks. Gingerbread cake. Some nutty aromas and raisins. Baked apples. A lovely sherry profile. Water makes it slightly more fragrant and brings out oranges. Mouth: good attack, sweet, now with the same spices really up front. A light peppery prickle. Rum & raisins, figs, prunes. Also fresher fruits (berries and apples). Nice, and best without water. Finish: long and spicy with some Mon Cherie notes.
Available from The Bonding Dram for € 50. Great price / quality – recommended if you’re into fresh and juicy sherry. You can also buy a sample if you want to try it.
A 39 years old Macallan bottled by Gordon & MacPhail for La Maison du Whisky. Here we go!
Macallan ‘Speymalt’ 1970 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail for LMdW 2010, first fill sherry hogshead #10031)
Nose: (old) Macallan + sherry = magical richness. Apricot tartlets, prunes and dates. Some fresh red fruits. Mint, cinnamon and hints of sweet ginger. Some heather and fir-tree honey. Dusty books in the background – lovely. Mouth: vivid, with plenty of dry spices (cloves, cardamom). While initially rather rounded, it quickly becomes leathery and a lot oakier. Blackberry liqueur. Some resinous notes. Walnuts and liquorice. Roasted coffee. Very rich. Finish: medium length (only), with forest fruit, resin and spices.
In line with last year’s excellent cask although maybe a tad less sparkling. Not cheap, but acceptable for this age: around € 210. Now sold out.
Brackla was founded in 1812. In 1835, it was the first of three distilleries allowed to use “Royal” in its name. It was mothballed from 1985 to 1991 and is now refurbished under Dewar & Sons.
Royal Brackla 25 yo 1975 (55,4%, Signatory Vintage 2001, cask #5413)
Nose: quite waxy and oily. Paraffin. Lemon and flints. Alternating with waves of fruity notes and marmalade. Some hay and walnuts. Gravel and stone dust. Not the most exuberant nose, after all the prominent wax makes it a little subdued, but I love its ‘nakedness’ and sincere style. It’s old and it doesn’t try to disguise it, if you know what I mean. Mouth: strong attack, initially rather sweet but quickly drying. Extremely drying – very oaky and full of pine resin. Getting really bitter as well. Nutmeg, pepper, over-infused tea, grapefruit peel… Bonkers! As if the palate is suddenly flooded by oak. Finish: very bitter. Too long, I would say.
Wow, what a strange dram. I could score this high for a very nice nose and a palate that’s nothing like any other dram I’ve ever tasted. On the other hand, the bitter oak on the palate is completely over the top and deserves something like 50/100. Anyway you’re warned: the score is slightly arbitrary.
Although the name Miltonduff is not heard often as a single malt, it is a high-capacity distillery and considered the most important component of the Ballantine’s blend. It’s one of the key plants in the Chivas / Pernod Ricard group. Gordon & MacPhail has semi-official bottlings of Miltonduff such as a regular 10 years old.
As you know, the Lonach series by Duncan Taylor blends one or more underproof casks with stronger sister casks to reach the required 40% limit. As the result is still cask strength, it’s much richer than a cask that has been diluted to the same 40%.
Miltonduff 37 yo 1971
(40%, Duncan Taylor Lonach 2008)
Nose: beautiful round Speyside elements. Very sophisticated. Big vanilla, some very sweet pineapple, banana and lovely hints of marshmallows! Some honey. Orange gums and cinnamon. Polished oak. Mouth: light but not too soft. Again quite a sweet profile with yellow apples and citrus candy. Pollen and honey. A fair amount of spices from the oak (soft pepper, cinnamon). Some sawdust towards the end. Finish: medium long, on barley sugars, oranges and oak.
This Miltonduff is simply a succulent Speyside whisky. It’s a bit reticent maybe, but very warm and I adore those marshmallow notes! If only
I could find a bottle somewhere. It was around
€ 120 at the time.
Head over to Whisky4everyone (by Matt & Karen) for this month’s Whisky Round Table. The twelve of us are answering this question:
What is your whisky ‘dirty little secret’? That’s the whisky that you always enjoy but would never let your ‘whisky connoisseur’ friends know that you do (apart from us!). It is the big brand/well known name that you may drink when out or the one that always sits in your whisky cupboard, alongside your limited edition cask strength bottlings from those niche distilleries. Tell us why it is your ‘dirty little secret’ whisky, as we like a good story.
When I first became interested in whisky
(around 2004/05), Dewar Rattray was an independent bottler that quickly gained attention
(it was one of the first tastings I attended, with Susan Webster at that time). They seemed to have great and sometimes uncommon whisky at interesting prices, but due to some problems with their Belgian distributor, releases suddenly became hard to find around here.
Mid 2010 they were re-introduced in Belgium with a slightly different name: A.D. Rattray. Time to re-discover them – we’ll start with a 21 years old Tomatin distilled 1st of June 1988. Sister cask #1087 was bottled in 2009.
Tomatin 21 yo 1988 (55,2%, A.D. Rattray 2010, cask #1088, 213 btl.)
Nose: really sweet up front. Very fruity. Also a hint of grass and hay, but it fades quickly (and comes back with some water). Not the tropical fruits we expect from a 1970’s Tomatin, more like stewed fruits. Apricot. Apple pie with vanilla ice cream. Developing on oak spices (nutmeg, cinnamon). Mouth: oily and spicy attack. Quite some fruits again, now dried rather than fresh fruit. Vanilla. Nutmeg, ginger and soft pepper taking the lead. Water softens the spices and makes place for the fruits: butter pears, yellow raisins, mango crumble. Finish: long and spicy, with some herbal tea and oranges.
A solid Tomatin, full of fruits and spices. Water adds an extra dimension, so be sure to play around with it. Well priced: around € 80.