Head over to the Cask Strength blog (by Neil & Joel) for this month’s Whisky Round Table. The twelve of us are discussing a perfectly timed question:
The festive season sees the big players in the spirits business heavily discounting some of our favourite whiskies in the supermarket chains with a view to entice the ‘once a year’ buyer and to grab some healthy market share. But does it de-value the product? Or do you think by discounting decent malts, it allows those with a curiosity to develop their palates further, albeit at a discounted rate?
This Karuizawa 1968 is the successor of the Karuizawa 1967 which was received very well last year. As far as I know, another (bigger) part of this cask was bottled for Whisky Live Taipei.
Karuizawa 1968 (61,1%, OB 2010 for LMdW, sherry cask #6955, 210 btl.)
Nose: starts on notes of sandalwood, plum liqueur and oak polish. Quite huge. Very fragrant with some solvent notes and wax. Very Karuizawa, yet unmistakably different from the 1967. This one is smoother, more elegant but also less wide, less of a labyrinth. After a while, it shows fabulous notes of tangerine and apricot and it becomes quite floral. Some leathery hints. Great with some water too: the fresh, slightly sour fruity notes stand out. Mouth: immediately quite dry, with hints of black tea. Very high on tannins. Then a remarkable wave of (light) tobacco comes out, with cedar wood and other oaky associations. Orange peel. Cinnamon. Some vegetal / forestal notes. Overall the oak is a little too firm for me. Finish: long, still very dry with a little pepper, clove, dark chocolate and Seville oranges.
Excellent nose, on par with the 1967. On the palate, it shows a lot of oak and tannins which takes down the overall complexity. This leads to a rather conservative score, but Karuizawa has a due date too, you know. Around € 285 – sold out.
Of 262 entries, 219 received a medal. Yes, I also find that a high percentage but remember that bottlers and distilleries are sending their “best of the best”.
The conclusions are remarkably similar to last year: GlenDronach came in first with one of its (already legendary) 1972 releases. Congratulations to them, it’s clear that they have some stunning 1970’s casks waiting to be bottled. Also, it’s obvious that Karuizawa (as well as other Japanese brands) is still very popular. Note that the new Karuizawa 1968 came in below a few 1970’s bottlings. La Maison du Whisky is still the king of proprietary independent releases.
Kudos to Glenfarclas for its 40yo! It’s not very common for a (large batch) standard bottling to get such a high score.
I’m glad I already picked up the Caperdonich 1972 by Duncan Taylor – by far the cheapest option in this list, which gives it the best quality / price ratio (as often with old Caperdonich).
Nose: clean sherry with hints of walnut liqueur, lovely mirabelles and figs. Nice balance between sweet and sour notes and a faint yeasty undertone. Cinnamon. A floral note as well. Mouth: sherry but not really thick or heavy. A lot of nutty aromas shine through, as well as a fair amount of wood, which makes it a tad dry and herbal. Big notes of (slightly bitter) orange peel and orange water. Finish: medium length, dry, herbal yet still with a faint sour edge.
An interestingly different Glengoyne. I really like the profile even though the oak is very powerful. Available from Whisky-Doris for € 44.
Nose: pretty round and fruity although the typical Laphroaig peat and medicinal notes are here as well. Sweet yellow apple with a honey coating. Sugared lemon juice. On the other hand very smokey and a lot of iodine / antiseptic. A strong hint of Vicks. With water: a lot more organic with nice farmy notes (stables, wet hay). Young, powerful, very good. Mouth: big attack, very peaty and salty as well. Lemon peel. Quite some pepper and smoke. With water: more or less the same combination of brine and lemon. Aftertaste on olive juice. Finish: long, salty, smokey and slightly tangy.
Laphroaig still has a great recipe for producing interesting peatbombs. This 10yo is explosive, well-made and to-the-point. Around € 50.
Connemara is the peated Irish whisky by Cooley Distillers. With their Connemara sherry finish, they introduced a Small Batch Collection of limited releases.
Now the second edition has been presented: Connemara Turf Mór.
You already guessed this is a heavily peated version – around 58 ppm which is in the range of Ardbeg and well above Lagavulin or Laphroaig. The regular Connemara contains around 20 ppm phenols. It’s 3 years old.
Connemara Turf Mór (58,2%, OB 2010, heavily peated, less than 20.000 btl.)
Nose: nice round peat profile. Sweet almonds, smoked tea, a few floral notes (soft lavender). Nice fruity notes: apples, citrus marmalade, violet and cherry candy, some white chocolate. Some dried fruits. A rubbery and medicinal edge as well. Really enjoyable. Mouth: strong attack with thick, creamy peat. Not a lot of smoke though. Growing a little grassy and very herbal. Soft vanilla. Burnt sugar. Pepper. Bitter citrus peel. Finish: long and drying, on peat and cereal notes.
This Connemara shows heavy peat but in another way than most Islay distilleries. The added roundness and fruitiness brings a nice variation on the theme. This will be popular and it’s well deserved. Due to be in stores December 2010. Only UK, Benelux, Germany and Ireland for now. Around € 65.
Isabella was the name of a sailing ship launched in 1890. Later on, it was fitted with an engine and its name was changed to Fortuna. The herring trawler has been restored under the name Isabella Fortuna and it is currently the last drifter in Wick Harbour.
The sales figures and popularity of Old Pulteney have gained a lot in recent years. Their products are marketed as the “genuine maritime malt” and in January 2010, they launched this WK499 (the registration number of the boat) as a tribute to the Isabella Fortuna. The whisky doesn’t have an age statement, but is said to be less than 10 years old and is only available in travel retail.
Old Pulteney WK499 ‘Isabella Fortuna’ (52%, OB 2010, 18.000 btl., travel retail, 100cl)
Nose: fresh and crisp start with vanilla and quite some fruits, mostly apples and pears. Some citrus. A hint of sweet coconut and more vanilla. After a while, the typical Old Pulteney saltiness comes through with notes of wet grains and limestone. Slightly youngish but really attractive. Mouth: fierce attack on dry grassy notes, salt and lemon. A bit harsh in that respect – like the salty first sip of a margarita cocktail. There’s a malty sweetness but it’s not big enough to find a pleasant balance. Maybe still a hint of vanilla in the background? Hints of peat as well. Finish: really dry and fairly bitter, with lemon and salt again. Medium long.
This Old Pulteney WK499 took a great start with a characterful and attractive nose. Unfortunately it goes a bit downhill after that. The tangy salt and dry, bitterish notes are a little overpowering. Around € 40 for a litre bottle.
On my way back from Southeast Asia, I passed through Heathrow’s new Terminal 5. Considering the amount of high-end shops there, I was eager to see the World of Whiskies branch as I expected something special.
Unfortunately, that was not the case. WOW in itself is still very interesting, but apart from a handful of exclusive bottlings, the range of single malts in Terminal 3 (regular Duty Free) seemed almost the same to me than the specific WOW in T5.
Anyway, if you’re interested in whisky and you’re flying, be sure to check out World of Whiskies.
Among the current WOW exclusives are a Jura 30yo, a Glenfiddich 1973, a well-priced Caol Ila 25yo (Douglas Laing Platinum) and an Auchentoshan 1999. I decided to go for the Old Pulteney WK499 Isabella Fortuna (travel retail only). Review coming up shortly.