As you know, Malts of Scotland is distributed in Belgium by Dominiek Bouckaert who is also running his own label The Whiskyman. Now they’ve released a Malts of Scotland bottling for The Whiskyman, a Coal Ila 2000.
Islay whisky is so rare these days, that only the bigger independent bottlers have access to it – and want to keep it under their own label.
Caol Ila 2000 (55,6%, Malts of Scotland for The Famous Whiskyman 2015, bourbon hogshead, MoS 15008, 198 btl.)
Nose: pretty much ticking all the boxes we’d expect from good Caol Ila. Iodine, creosote, lots of bitumen, mixed with bright citrus and sweet grains. Soaked grains in mash tun really. Green apple peelings. Lemon candy. And just a hint of almonds and vanilla. Textbook Caol Ila. Mouth: pleasantly sweet with a pretty big peaty kick. Waxy texture. Lemons again, medicinal notes, pepper and more lemons. Hints of ginger and wood spices. Smoother towards the end, warmer and ashier. Finish: long, on sweet lemons, liquorice and a hint of roasted coffee beans.
Who said Islay whisky is all about fierce peat? This Caol Ila finds an excellent balance of sharpness and roundness, with an above-average complexity. Around € 90.
The festival Whisky in Leiden 2015 is coming up in under two weeks, so it’s time to have a look at the festival bottling, an Arran Private Cask distilled in 2000 and bottled from a sherry cask.
Arran 14 yo 2000 ‘Private Cask’
(55,7%, OB for Whisky in Leiden 2015, sherry hogshead #128, 202 btl.)
Nose: starts in a dusty / waxy way. Quickly followed by lots of candied apples and hints of apricots. Honey. A rather subtle, fragrant and very jammy profile. Actually it reminds me of Balvenie in a way. Spicy notes (pepper) with some oak shavings. The juicy fruits are lovely but they struggle a little to stay on top. Mouth: bright, with some bright (slightly tropical) fruits in the fore. Apricot jam, oranges, hints of tinned pineapple and mandarin even. Honey and beeswax. A growing spiciness again, mainly pepper and nutmeg. Modern, but nicely so. Finish: medium long, drier now, on oranges and wood spices.
This one shows a profile that I haven’t seen before from Arran, with a nice fruitiness alongside firm oak spices. Good stuff and well priced: € 60. I believe the sales are temporarily on hold but the remaining bottles will be sold after the festival.
Last night I attended a Twitter tasting, which featured three expressions from the core range of anCnoc: the entry-level 12 Year Old, the recent anCnoc 2000 vintage and the really new anCnoc 18 Year Old.
anCnoc 12 Year Old is mostly matured in ex-bourbon wood, with a bit of ex-sherry casks mixed in, and therefore a classic example of anCnoc’s house style, with lots of barley sweetness, honey and citrus.
anCnoc 12 yo (40%, OB 2015)
Nose: a rather typical, bright and juicy fruitiness. Honeysuckle, sweet and sour (green) apples and plenty of floral honeys. Lemon meringue. Some berries too. Fairly light and naked but very attractive. Mouth: same idea, though maybe a tad sweeter than expected, with much more weight to it. Sweet banana, hints of vanilla custard and a little caramel sweetness. A faint beer-like malty note too. Light spices (cinnamon), hints of mocha. Apples, but more like apple pie, without the bright top notes. Finish: medium long, a mix of caramel, honey and subtle liquorice.
I’ve said it before, but I think this is a rather cracking entry-level whisky. Fairly light, but not weak. Very well made, with a price/quality ratio that’s almost impossible to beat. Usually € 35, sometimes as low as € 25 if you look around.
anCnoc 2000 was launched in September 2014 and it’s currently the only vintage alongside the premium 1975 vintage. Here the focus was more on Spanish oak ex-sherry butts (first-fill Oloroso) than on the American oak ex-bourbon barrels.
anCnoc 2000 (46%, OB 2014, 6.000 btl.)
Nose: much darker and much more sherry influence indeed. Toffee and plum compote, with a cocoa dusting. Hints of nougat and crème brûlée. Just a light citrusy tingle on top. Some grassy notes / dried hay as well. Mouth: a sweet mix of vanilla and nutty notes (almonds, hazelnuts). Cocoa again. Hints of blackberries. Still a hint of citrus, as well as some pepper and nutmeg from the oak. Finish: medium long, with lingering toffee and spices.
Good whisky again. None of the dirty notes that sometimes come with sherry maturation (e.g. in the anCnoc 1996). Around € 65.
anCnoc 18 Year Old is again a combination of European oak Oloroso casks and American oak ex-bourbon casks, all of which were second-fill.
anCnoc 18 yo (46%, OB 2014, 6.000 btl.)
Nose: the honey is more pronounced here, and the whole is more jammy and rounder, with some lovely blood oranges and kirsch. There’s cinnamon, sultanas and apricots, all a bit more subtle and elegant than the anCnoc 2000. A light leathery touch as well. Pretty complex. Mouth: same feeling of elegance. Oily texture. Stewed fruits, including some gooseberries. Honey glazing and vanilla pastry. Fig jam. Becomes more spicy towards the end, with subtle exotic touches. Finish: medium long, with peppery notes alongside the fruity sweetness.
Definitely my favourite in this line-up, up there with my favourite expression so far, the anCnoc 22 Year Old. Around € 85.
Dalmore Valour is a true Dalmore: no age statement, low strength and a few tricks with casks. Like most of the new travel retail bottlings by the way, it’s not just a problem of Dalmore.
In this case, the trick is to mention ‘maturation in 30 years old Matusalem sherry casks’. Are the casks 30 years old, or does it refer to the fact that the sherry used to season the casks is 30 years old (on average)? While it may make the whisky look better, what really matters is that the whisky itself is much younger. The other trick was to blend it with whisky from ex-bourbon casks and use Port pipes for the finishing. A bit of everything for everyone.
It was first launched in Qatar, then in other travel retail shops, now you can occasionally find it in regular stores as well.
(40%, OB 2013, travel retail)
Nose: sweet Port influence. Caramel and toffee, blood oranges, plums and honey. A slightly dusty note as well. Buttery roundness. A little cardamom. Mouth: very sweet, creamy and malty. Caramel. Remains quite neutral and vague before it goes towards a bitter earthiness, woody notes and the kind of roughness that you get in young grain whisky. All the elements don’t seem to work together. Finish: okayish length, but mostly on bitter oranges and drying wood.
A rather dull whisky which I think you’d better avoid. Not a lot of depth and some disrupting flavours. Around € 60 for a litre bottle.
Nose: a really interesting mix of fruity notes (sweet apple, rhubarb and even hints of banana) with oily notes (sunflower oil). Barley sugar. Sugared mint leaves. Honey glaze and vanilla. Fairly round and fat with a bright fruitiness. I like. Mouth: again round and mouth-coating. Lots of pear juice and pear drops, a bit of kirsch and pineapple. Honey and barley sugar. Very good, thick spirit. Evolves on grassier notes with hints of salty liquorice. Ah, and quite some ginger indeed. Finish: long, half fruity, half grassy, with a peppery touch and a touch of wood.
Similar to the Mortlach 1995 bottled for Fulldram, which is a great reference of course. I’m not the biggest fan of Mortlach in general, but I really appreciate this. Around € 100.
Noah’s Mill is a Kentucky bourbon whiskey, highly sought after and difficult to get, especially when you’re not in US. For many years it was bottled as a 15 Year Old, but today it is said to be a mix of whiskey between 4 and 20 years old.
It is produced in small batches (less than 20 barrels each time) by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, which is now operating a proper distillery but acted as an independent bottler until recently. It has been suggested that at least some of their products (Johnny Drum, Willett, Michter’s and others) are distilled by the Heaven Hill distillery.
(57,15%, OB 2010, Batch n°10-57)
Nose: smooth and balanced, with warm oak, toffee, caramelized almonds and fruity notes (dried apricot, hints of cherries). Dried banana bits. Oak char. A bit of maple sweetness. Some spicy rye notes too. It stays away from abundant vanilla or leathery notes, which makes it seem more complex than some other bourbons. Mouth: initially quite fruity again (dates and raisins), with toffee and roasted nuts. After that, much more spicy notes, peppery heat and big toasted oak. Fairly woody – not as complex and enjoyable as the nose. Finish: long, warm and spicy with hints of charred oak.
Noah’s Mill is nicely different, with more oaky / spicy notes than in some of the well-known bourbons. Somewhere in between rye and bourbon, I’d say. Around € 50 if you can find it.
Aberfeldy 21 Year Old is a mix of bourbon and sherry casks. We’re trying the new version, part of the restyling process that was started late 2014. It’s the oldest expression at the moment, until we see the Aberfeldy 30 Year Old that will be launched later this year.
Aberfeldy 21 yo (40%, OB 2014)
Nose: fairly neutral, it’s nice but a tad understated. Some berries and stewed fruits. Orange peel. Subtle floral touches. A hint of coconut as well. Plenty of honey. All fairly standard notes, but I’m not complaining. Mouth: not exactly bold of course. A vague fruity sweetness. Honey, caramel, hints of chocolate, but also Seville oranges and a rough edge that makes me think of a blend. Light spices (cinnamon and nutmeg). Again tasty but light. Finish: medium long, nicer again. Chocolate coated fruits.
You can’t fault this whisky in any way, except for the low strength which results in a kind of vagueness. Roughly € 85 around here, all the way up to € 160 in the UK – difficult to explain but be sure to look around.