Nose: fairly malty at first. A tad porridgy too which I tend to find disturbing in whisky. Then some grassy notes. It needs some fifteen minutes to develop its full (yet slightly subdued) fruitiness. Melon, yellow apples and plenty of grapefruit. Something creamy as well, like peach yoghurt. Nice layers of vanilla and beeswax. Lemon balm. Some hay. Oak shavings in the background. Mouth: oily and quite grassy / spicy. Again this peculiar milky note as well. Then the expected lemons, pink grapefruit and wax. A very faint resinous bitterness. Citrus green tea. Finish: long, dry, slightly fruity with a grapefruit zestiness and soft herbal notes.
The best recent Littlemill I know is indeed an Archives bottling, but not this one. At least not for me, although I have to acknowledge that this is a more typical, chiselled expression of Littlemill with an above average complexity. Around € 100, found here.
Nose: starts coastal and slightly sour, but folds open nicely and displays everything a good sherry cask should have. Figs, leather, polished oak… with an above average amount of mint and coastal notes (wet limestone, sea breeze). Lovely notes of tropical fruits as well (papaya, kumquat). Excellent. Mouth: still some lovely fruity notes (oranges, tangerine) and fruit tea with an oaky sourness. Interesting balance of sweet & sour (I love Madeira). The oak is loud although it’s not excessively dry. Fades on soft herbs, liquorice and a hint of mustard seed and Manzanilla sherry. Finish: medium long, with Seville oranges and the same oaky touches.
I’ve never had such an old Pulteney, but this was really interesting. Especially for nosing, as the oak is a little disturbing on the palate. Sold out but occasionally seen in auctions.
Nose: heavy sherry with classic dried fruits & nuts. Prunes and figs. Roasted chestnuts as well as walnuts. Humidor and tobacco leaves. Maybe a little beef jerky. All this topped by some nice eucalyptus. Good, no rubber here, no dirty notes. Mouth: the same dried fruits at first, quickly overtaken by all kinds of herbs. Pepper, nutmeg, Ricola and cough syrup. A slightly drying nuttiness after a while with bags of liquorice. Leathery hints. Finish: ever drier, woodier as well which is no surprise. Fades on walnuts and herbal teas with a faint salty twist.
I was a little reluctant to try this, but it’s the best Glen Scotia 1992 I’ve had. By quite a margin. But I still think it’s more of an ‘interesting’ whisky than an easy charmer. Around € 110.
The Whisky Mercenary is the alter ego of Jürgen Vromans. Anyone familiar with the Belgian whisky scene will have seen him as a “mercenary” for other people: as a tasting host (BenRiach 1976 tasting for example) or as a helping hand at festival stands or in shops. He’s also a founding member of the Cask Six whisky club.
Since a few months he’s also active as an independent bottler, on a small scale so far but his experienced nose for good whisky has gained him a certain reliability already.
I’ll start with his newest bottling, which is due to arrive in stores this weekend. Glenlossie is not the most obvious distillery…
Glenlossie 20 yo 1992
(57%, The Whisky Mercenary 2012)
Nose: a fresh nose, at first rather narrow with a malty side and a grassy side. Grows more complex after a while, more flowery and aromatic. Some vanilla and white fruits. Berries. Dried coconut flakes. Spicy oak. Ginger and mint. A clear waxiness too. Mouth: a slightly bigger fruitiness now: apricot, oranges, lemon balm. Quite a big pepperiness too (chilli style even). Ginger again. Aniseed, mint and liquorice. Then a quick return to pineapple fruit gums before it fades on a walnut / green tea dryness. Finish: medium long, spicy, still lots of pepper alongside a grassiness and a faint milk chocolate sweetness.
The nose needs some time but folds open very beautifully. Slightly younger and fresher than the age would suggest, with a slightly nervous and very spicy palate. An interesting release for a young bottler. Around € 80.
Single Cask Nation is a range of single cask bottlings by the Jewish Whisky Company. Joshua, Jason and Seth, the driving forces behind this club / company, are well-respected bloggers at Guid Scotch Drink and Jewmalt Whisky. Their bottlings are only available to members of the Single Cask Nation, so it’s a bit like the SMWS concept.
While it may seem strange from my atheist Western-European perspective to talk about concepts like Tzedakah, Kashrut, kosher or even ‘a Nation’ on a website about whisky, let’s just applaud the wonderful diversity in the world of whisky. Keep up the good work, guys.
Kilchoman 4yo 2007
(58,4%, Single Cask Nation 2012, first fill bourbon cask #378/07, 245 btl.)
Nose: fairly dry, with crisp medicinal notes up front, some tarry ropes and brine. On the other hand, it shows a nice warmth of lamp fuel, deep smoke and wax. Some walnuts and lemon. Hints of canvas and flax as well. Mouth: very phenolic, very peaty. Youngish and slightly sharp, but really clean. Coal smoke and salt water, some olive juice as well. Hardly any sweeter / softer notes to round it a little though. A little pear maybe. A little rubber as well. Finish: long, clean again, very smoky and ashy. Dry with a slightly mouth-numbing peppery note in the very end.
I really liked the waxy nose of this Kilchoman, even when the palate is rather focused on heavy peat and doesn’t show a big complexity of flavours. Probably as good as a 4yo Islay whisky gets and certainly one of the better Kilchomans. Sold for 95 USD, see here.
Wemyss (pronounced more or less like “wims”) is a family with a longstanding tradition in malt whisky. In fact John Haig built his first distillery on Wemyss land. Their selections are done by Charlie Maclean among others, and they tend to have a certain epitheton for each whisky. In this case it’s Red Berry Cream, a 21 years old Ben Nevis.
Ben Nevis 21 yo 1990 ‘Red Berry Cream’ (40%, Wemyss Malts 2011, 865 btl.)
Nose: quite a mashy and milky nose. Rosewater. Cranberries. Strawberry yoghurt. Soft spices. Quite some damp wood too. Not my kinda dram, not really fresh and I don’t like milky notes in my whisky. Mouth: not too powerful nor thick. Fruits like raspberry and blackcurrant, with a big wave of oak spices in the middle (cinnamon, pepper). A kind of fruitiness that I associate with wine finishes. Turkish delight. Flakes of dried coconut. Hints of oily / resinous oak as well. Finish: medium long with an eau-de-vie type of fruit/alcohol combination.
A strange one, you might think fruity notes are always appealing in a whisky, but this is a slightly synthetic fruitiness that quickly put me off. Around € 90.
There has been a wave of independent Glengoyne releases in the last couple of years (1972/1973 and 1997/1998), but I’ve never reviewed an official release.
Glengoyne focuses its marketing around slow distillation (which is said to create a more subtle and complex whisky) and completely peat-less drying of the malt (which should allow the malt to express itself better). Let’s see how this works out.
Glengoyne 10 yo (40%, OB 2009)
Nose: crisp barley sugars, popcorn and not so fresh (cider) apples. Peach marmalade. A few nutty hints as well. Mouth: fresh but slightly weakish. Again very much on malty notes. Cereal bars with apple and pear. Soft spices. A little mocha. Very lightly sherried. Finish: gentle and fairly short. Malty with some faint oak and cocoa.
This Glengoyne 10 is very clean and malty, which means the added flavours struggle to come out and it lacks some personality in my opinion. Overall a decent entry-level whisky, an alternative for blends, easy to drink and inoffensive. Around € 30 (or € 35 for a full litre bottle).
A new batch of Malts of Scotland releases has already been shipped, but there’s one dram I’d like to review from the previous round: a Laphroaig 1996 that was recently awarded a “Premium Thumbs Up award” in the Malt Maniacs Awards 2012.
Laphroaig 16 yo 1996 (56,1%, Malts of Scotland 2012, ref. 12041, 240 btl.)
Nose: sweet and peppery, not too bold but with an above average medicinal side. Iodine, flinty notes and camphor. Leather. Rhubarb sweet & sour. Blood oranges. Caramelized apples. Slightly vinous and sharp at times though. Mouth: sweet peat with dried fruits. Oranges. Nougat. Cinnamon. Nicely chocolaty as well. More rounded than on the nose, more jammy. Still quite peppery though, with a maritime edge. Liquorice. Finish: more of the same. Red apple and pepper with a smoky end.
Sherried Laphroaig, rarely a deception. Very good although I don’t think it’s particularly exceptional compared to similar releases (there aren’t that many though, that’s for sure). Around € 100 but some retailers will add a premium just because it won an award.