This Tasmanian Sullivan’s Cove was finished in French Oak port wine casks. It is bottled as a single cask, varying between 11 and 12 years old. It won various awards, e.g. ‘Best Australian Whisky’ at the World Whiskies Awards. I suppose there wasn’t much competition, but still…
Sullivan’s Cove ‘French Oak’ (47,5%, OB +/- 2012, HH436)
Nose: big fresh oak shavings, nice vanilla cream and lots of apple compote with cinnamon. Gooseberries and pineapples. Some powder sugar and wine gums. Subtle nutty notes. Despite the newish oak this is a very attractive nose, definitely better than the Double Cask. Mouth: very sweet and candied. Bags of Haribo bears. Mashed banana. Toffee and caramel. Traces of mango and coconut cream. Toasted oak. Also cake notes and a little white pepper, but the sweetness is overpowering. Finish: quickly fading, still very sweet but with a leathery / planky edge.
This is the better Sullivan’s Cove in my book. Not perfect, noticeably young but quite enjoyable and friendly. Around € 80 (too expensive, I think).
We’ve had hits and misses with Auchroisk. Actually some of them are both depending on the moment. Here’s a 1990 expression bottled by Whisky-Fässle not so long ago.
Auchroisk 22 yo 1990
(49,8%, Whisky-Fässle 2013, sherry cask)
Nose: interesting nose with uncommon aromas. There’s a spirity / floral side to it. Kirsch and sour cherry nectar. Wet cedar wood. Quite a lot of wax and paraffin. Leafy notes. A little yeast. And undertones of rubber boots. Definitely a bit disjointed but intriguing as well. Mouth: again a certain spirity character (fruit liqueur), with herbal notes, pepper and cinnamon. Showing some hints of pine wood too. Bitter oranges and walnut skin. A kind of “time lapse” with lots of frames moving by in a short amount of time – and nothing really catches my attention. Finish: medium finish, becoming fragrant again (bergamot oil, scented candles). Is this a puzzle or what?
Yes, I’d like to try it again some other day. Not because I like it so much, but because I didn’t quite get it. Really standing out. Around € 105.
Nose: beautiful Karuizawa elements come out right away. Mocha beans and chocolate, figs and cherries, as well as some tobacco. Lacquered meat. Raisins. Liquorice. Also a dryness of black tea and leather. Hints of mint and plenty of polished sandalwood. Very expressive and well balanced. Mouth: powerful, this time very much on cigar leaves and pipe tobacco. Very concentrated notes of forest fruits, red berries and prunes. Goes on with nice bonfire smoke and earthy notes. A bitterness of mint stems, walnut skin and wood. Eucalyptus. Then back to sweeter toffee, balsamic syrup and cough sweets. Finish: long, fruity and nutty. Milk chocolate. Liquorice and plenty of herbal notes.
Another one of these very intense Karuizawa expressions that still manage to keep the rich balance between sweet, sour and savoury notes perfectly right. As small extras there are peaty notes and the classic exotic woods. Quite wonderful. Long gone.
I suppose you can count the 1970s Craigellachie you’ve tried on one hand. This one is particularly rare, it was quite difficult to find information. I do know it was matured in a first-fill manzanilla cask and it was nicknamed “Damsons and toffee”.
Craigellachie 20 yo 1975
(55,4%, SMWS 1994, 44.5)
Nose: the typical Craigellachie fruitiness that’s always a bit restrained. Kumquat, apricot and pear. Slightly capped by yeasty notes and something of triple beer. Vanilla cream and nicely warm oak underneath. Also herbal and floral notes: dill, mint, maybe daffodils or chamomile. Grows warmer over time, with some nice hints of pineapple and coconut coming out. Mouth: nice, again quite fruity (plums, apricot, lemon). More herbal / spicy notes now, growing towards ginger and pepper. Quite punchy, even a little wasabi kick and hints of salt when the fruits have faded. Finish: long, gingery, slightly resinous.
A nice combination of a fruity spirit and manzanilla notes. Very convincing and entertaining whisky. Really hard to come by.
This BenRiach 1976 was one of several 1976’s bottled for Asia in 2011. Cask 3029 was selected by Shinanoya Tokyo and bottled in March of that year. One of the bottlings with many fans at Serge’s BenRiach 1976 single cask tasting. It came in second.
BenRiach 34 yo 1976 (42,1%, OB for Shinanoya Japan 2011, cask #3029, 139 btl.)
Nose: probably the most direct and expressive nose of all the BenRiach 1976’s we’ve seen so far. Heaps of mango, juicy pear, passion fruit, pineapple and pink grapefruit. So easy to love, it’s just excellent! On top of all this fruit, it also shows nice oily notes and – quite unique – a distinct candied element. Say marshmallow or cotton candy. Very bright, very summery, this must be the best multi-vitamin fruit juice. Mouth: this is were it falls slightly below its famous sister cask #3033 for Taiwan. It’s definitely less punchy and also less complex. It’s straightforward fruits (the usual tangerine, mango, pineapple, pink grapefruit combination), absolutely gorgeous but fruits are pretty much all you get. Maybe a light warmth of almonds or vanilla. Finish: rather long, still nicely fruity and creamy, with just some light oak.
A close call with cask #3033 and a favourite for many people. Anyway this is a classic tropical fruit bomb – BenRiach magic of the highest level. Around € 250 at the time, now sold out.
In the very long list of Strathisla expressions by Gordon & MacPhail, we’re having a 1963 vintage, which were bottled in this form between +/- 2003 and 2011.
(43%, Gordon & MacPhail 2009)
Nose: quite fruity and really elegant. A typical mixture of sherry notes (baked apple, raisins, prune jam) with typical rummy notes (green banana, a little Piña Colada). Juicy oranges. Hints of mint (or the mint sauce I’ve had on a quail’s breast in a Pintxos bar) and smoke, as well as some silky polished oak. Mouth: smooth, less complex, a little less full-flavoured as well and definitely woodier. Oily with traces of sherry that are covered in oak. Not overly dry though. Soft banana notes. It’s more or less cornered: more alcohol would probably emphasise the woody bitterness, but in its current form it’s a tad weak. Orange peel and a hint of salt. Finish: pretty long, again not too dry, showing oak spices, leather and dried fruits.
Looses a few points for the oak-driven palate, but it’s still a really nice example of the possibilities of old Strathisla. Around € 450 if you can still find it. Thanks Joeri.
Laphroaig 12 yo 2000 (51,7%, The Whisky Agency ‘Perfect Dram’ 2013, refill sherry hogshead, 291 btl.)
Nose: powerful smoke and ashes, a little antiseptic and Vicks. Also a nice sherry sweetness in the background, some red fruit preserve maybe. Hints of eucalyptus. I like it, it’s really balanced. Mouth: good balance of sweet peat and herbal notes again. Peated cough syrup. Camphor and mint. Caramelized almonds and toffee. Not bad but lacks a little depth, I’d say. Finish: medium long, sweet and peaty. Nothing new happening.
The sherry influence in this Laphroaig is relatively subtle, which makes it seem like a standard Laphroaig, just a little sweeter. Good Islay whisky but not a must-have like the Laphroaig 1991 Liquid Sun, in my opinion. Around € 80.
I noticed Malts of Scotland already bottled a 1973 with the same cask number in 2011. Butts are big casks and 156 bottles indicates it could be part of a shared cask. But in this case my notes don’t match at all. So maybe this is another case of fake cask numbering, or the cask fundamentally changed (and gained alcohol) during those two extra years, which seems unlikely.
Bunnahabhain 40 yo 1973 (50,6%, Archives ‘Fishes of Samoa’ 2013, butt #3463, 156 btl.)
Nose: very aromatic, fruity nose. Nectarine, pear and whitecurrant. Hinting towards tropical notes of mango and clementine. A little Malibu. Also nice candlewax notes, some dried grass and minerals. Pretty great. Mouth: very fruity again, but hard to pin down individual aromas. A general ‘yellow’ fruitiness with a sweet marzipan and banana coating. Vanilla. Evolves towards the mineral and waxy notes again. Mild traces of triple beer. Ginger and salt. Grapefruit zest. Finish: long, a tad hot at first but slowing down to sweet oak and zesty, grassy notes.
Very rounded, soft, fruity Bunnahbhain of a quality that is sadly becoming rare these days. Around € 245, available from Whiskybase.