Bunnahabhain 1968 ‘Auld Acquaintance’ is probably the most legendary Bunnahabhain ever bottled. It’s a Hogmanay dram, i.e. it was distilled on the 31st of December.
At the time of bottling during the Islay Jazz Festival in 2002, it was the third in a series of limited editions of Bunnahabhain single malt (after a 1965 and 1966), and it cost £ 100.
Bunnahabhain 34 yo 1968
‘Auld Acquaintance’ (43,8%, OB 2002, 2002 btl.)
Nose: very expressive and delicate at the same time. Juicy sherry notes, prunes and raisins mostly. Citrus and red berries. Christmas cake. What makes it special, is the additional layer of wet stones and dusty books, as well as a big amount of waxy notes. Frankly it’s more than waxy, it’s fat and greasy (I’m thinking used Blanc de Boeuf) which works very well. Soft spices (pepper, mint) and a hint of smoke. Some darker notes as well (coffee, cocoa, tar). Mouth: creamy and mildly sweet again, with a profile that’s much more influenced by herbal notes and spices now. Liquorice roots, herbal teas, a faint salty note and a hint of cough syrup. Mint chocolates. Still some berries but overall less fruity. A bit of a coastal old Macallan, with an excellent balance of sweet / dry / bitter. And a subtle hint of smoke again. Finish: long, with some dry oak, chocolate, red berries and spices.
A very rich and inspirational Bunnahabhain, maybe the best one ever made. The combination of Bunnahabhain’s relatively gentle Islay profile with this kind of old-style sherry is pretty exceptional. Popping up in auctions once in a while – today’s value seems to be around € 800.
Diageo’s Special Releases 2013 have started to arrive in stores (at least in the UK), so what better way to celebrate 5 years of WhiskyNotes than with the new Brora 35 Year Old?
While last year’s Brora 35yo (2012) was a mix of 1976 / 1977 casks, all refill American oak, I’ve been told the new one is composed of casks filled in 1977, and both refill American oak and European oak.
Even with the € 900 price tag, shops don’t seem to have problems in selling their allocation…
Brora 35 years old 1977 (49,9%, OB 2013, 12th Annual release, 2944 btl.)
Nose: starts fresh and lively, very much old Clynelish style. Honey, apricots / pineapple, a little vanilla and lots of trademark waxy notes. Polished furniture, hints of coconut oil. Then it changes with some emerging herbal notes, peat and earthy notes. Sharpish lemongrass and seaweed. A little wet wool in the background, as well as a whiff of smoke, but it’s not the farmy Brora of earlier in the 1970s. Mouth: first a wave of coastal / earthy notes (seaweed, hay) and herbs. Quite salty. Only a bit later do the fruits appear: lemon (both zest and candy) and some yellow grapefruit. Smokier and slightly more severe than last year – which means none of the tropical fruits of last year. Waxy / resinous notes. Ashes and a late chocolate sweetness. Liquorice and menthol, eucalyptus, getting quite medicinal towards the end. Finish: long, sharper with a leathery dryness. Mint and ashes with plenty of wood spices.
When comparing it to my notes of last year’s Brora, I think this is a move towards more minerals, more wood, more peat smoke. Some would say back to Brora after a few Clynelish years. Nonetheless the lower complexity and bigger austerity make me prefer the former version. But still an excellent Brora and an extraordinary whisky altogether.
Nose: sweet and rummy, with some banana / Pisang notes. Papaya, melon, red fruit gums. Mount Gayrioch? Garioch Club? A nicely candied sherry influence anyway. But there’s more: eucalyptus and mint, some exotic woods, cigar boxes. And a very light coastal kick. Mouth: again surprisingly fruity. Juicy pears, fig syrup, some pink grapefruit and apricot jam. Lots of yellow raisins. Then a wave of spices from the oak: ginger, mint, cloves. Heather honey. Even a wee touch of smoke in the background. Finish: long, sweet and spicy with a resinous finale.
It’s surprising to come across a Glen Garioch that’s so Caribbean in a way. Very entertaining and easily drinkable, recommended. Around € 80.
Tomatin 25 yo 1988
(49,7%, The Whisky Agency ‘Perfect Dram’ 2013, refill hogshead, 304 btl.)
Nose: sweet, candied fruits. Angelica cake. Gooseberry pie. Lime. Violets? Also a grassy / herbal side (hay, aniseed, heather). Vanilla. Then some blonde tobacco and banana leafs. Liquorice as well. Pretty complex and wide. Mouth: sweet and rounded, with lemon sweets, gooseberries again, marzipan. Quite oily. Faint hints of pink grapefruit, and again very light violet notes. Evolves towards more grassy notes, with a little nutmeg and liquorice. Ginger too. Finish: medium long, sweet and spicy. Oranges and mocha.
High quality Tomatin, with echoes of the 1970’s but more focused on green notes and sweet herbs than usual. Around € 140.
Bunnahabhain 26 yo 1987 (50,2%, Archives 2013, dark sherry cask #2557, 233 btl.)
Nose: juicy sherry. Figs and dates, but only half-dried I would say. Also jammy cherries and red grapes (hinting towards raisins, but not quite yet). Toffee. Caramelized banana. Subtle exotic spices and pencil shavings. Cinnamon and cardamom, also a little ginger. Soft iodine. Whiffs of dried mushrooms and tobacco. Mouth: full-flavoured with sweet, sour, salty and spicy elements. Prunes and oranges. Cinnamon and nutmeg. Lots of chocolate / mocha notes, as well as some roasted chestnuts, even charcoal. Balanced oak. Fades on liquorice and herbal liqueurs. Finish: very long, with chocolate, herbs and nuts alongside the emphatic coastal character.
Big, heavily sherried whisky that manages to fit in a long list of flavours and still keep a nice balance. Really good, with traces of the famous Karuizawa power. Around € 145, available from Whiskybase.
Lochside 30 yo 1981 (46%, Berry Bros. 2004, cask #610/613)
Springbank 12 yo (40%, James McArthur & Co)
Springbank 30 yo (46%, OB 1990s, dumpy bottle)
Tomatin 35 yo 1976 (51%, Wilson & Morgan 2012, sherry cask #10, 396 btl.)
Quite impressive, I’m still recovering! With one or two exceptions these were all high 90’s scorers. Especially the BenRiach 1976 Kinko II, the Ardbeg 1974, Clynelish 1973 Prestonfield and the Lagavulin 15yo made a big impression.
Here’s another one of my personal highlights, a Brora distilled in March 1972 and bottled April 2002 for Germany. Thanks for sharing, Dominiek.
Brora 30 yo 1972 (46,6%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask for Alambic Classique 2002, 204 btl.)
Nose: interestingly sharp and elegant at the same time. Camphor and bandages, paraffin, growing peat, wet fur, a tyre shop, subtle horse stables… Still these aromas are quite subdued which makes them intriguingly attractive. The nose gets rounder over time, with sweet pipe tobacco and a vague fruitiness. Sublime balance. Mouth: the same kind of elegant play with flavours. Oily, with hints of peat and different herbs, as well as dry oak and resin. Pu-Erh tea. Liquorice root. Evolves on pear and lemon syrup. Dark chocolate. Vague honey. Pepper and eucalyptus. Again slightly farmy in the background. Finish: long, with ashes, coastal notes and something tarry.
Typical early 1970’s Brora I would say, with a Port Ellenish coastal character. Excellent whisky, every whisky enthusiast should try such old Brora. Very rare and well over € 1000 in auctions nowadays.
Here’s a new Bunnahabhain 1987 in the Perfect Dram series.
Fino sherry, the über-dry type, is rarely used for whisky maturation and in my opinion it’s also the least influential of all types of sherry. It can be hard to pin down exactly what the Fino contributed.
Bunnahabhain 25 yo 1987
(49,4%, The Whisky Agency ‘Perfect Dram’ 2013, Fino hogshead, 255 btl.)
Nose: nicely aromatic. Plenty of citrus notes (grapefruit and lemon) and stewed apples. Subtle notes of whitecurrant and wine gums. Quite some blossomy notes as well. Nice cigar boxes and soft leather. Subtle smoke, coastal notes and wet hay. Big finesse. Mouth: oily mouthfeel. Berries up front again, and unripe pear. Apple peel. Then the sharper coastal character comes out, with some brine and liquorice. Zesty lemon. Soft earthy notes as well. As a small surprise, it fades on unripe banana with soft vanilla. Some cinnamon and cardamom too. Finish: medium long, a zesty bitterness with liquorice and herbs.
A nice Bunnahabhain that unfolds slowly but nicely. It’s pretty complex so take your time. Around € 145.
ps/ The Nectar of the Daily Drams has a similar but more expensive Bunnahabhain 26 yo at 62,5%, a joint bottling with La Maison du Whisky.
Age Matters is a new series by The Whiskyman. The labels feature big age statements, moving away from the current trend of hiding the age and claiming age is not very important when it comes to whisky. In fact even the distillery is hard to spot.
This ‘17’ is a 17 years old Clynelish 1996. In the current line-up there’s also a Ledaig 15, Ben Nevis 16, Littlemill 21 and Bruichladdich 22.
Clynelish 17 yo 1996 (53,3%, The Whiskyman ‘Age Matters’ 2013)
Nose: not the obvious sherry influence. There’s spiced Mexican cocoa and toffee as well as some dried fruits, alongside more classical Clynelish notes like wet limestone and lemon. Wet hay and soft earthy hints. Leather. A bit of a Janus. Mouth: again a slightly strange combination. Lemon, gravel, maybe wet cardboard. The sweeter sides returns, with dark chocolate, but this is no sweet sherry bomb. Some wax. Pepper, ginger and green herbs, as well as a mustardy edge. Rather dry. Finish: quite long, herbal and zesty.
An atypical Clynelish to say the least. It keeps switching between profiles, hesitating between the distillery character and the sherry cask. Neither of them really pushes through. A rather educational release from a bottler that’s known for exemplary Clynelish. Around € 85.