This is our 600th post on WhiskyNotes. Traditionally, we’re celebrating round numbers with something special.
The 10th annual release of Port Ellen had the lowest yield ever: just 3000 bottles (other releases were generally between 5000 to 12.000). Let’s see how it compares to the others, and let’s hope this wasn’t the final release.
Port Ellen 31 yo 1978 ‘10th release’
(54,6%, OB 2010, 3000 btl.)
Nose: exactly the kind of Port Ellen I like. Peat as a supporting act rather than a show stealer. Quite coastal and sooty, but in an elegant way. Subtle candied notes, a little honey, yellow apples… some vanilla… sweet almonds… Lovely wax as well. Now that I think about it, I adore waxy notes and they’re missing in too many Port Ellens but here it is! Bonus point. Faint medicinal notes as well. Traces of cured meat (cecina de León). Very complex and so smooth! Stunning. Mouth: again it doesn’t come rolling in. Starts sweetish and spicy before going to salty, kippery and herbal notes. Quite medicinal and ashy now, with sharp lemon. Perfect development, with a crescendo from rounder notes to sharper elements, as if the nose was meant to mislead us before showing its true character. Again wow. Finish: very long, ashy, with coal smoke, lemon and a bitter /
My first impression was to put this on the same height as my (so far) favourite Port Ellen 7th release. That one shows more emphasis on floral notes and vanilla, but both share a mix of feminine and masculine Port Ellen, if you know what I mean, and these are the most beautiful expressions in my opinion. After a direct comparison, the 10th release is wider and more complex, as well as a little more typically PE, so it deserves a higher score. We have a new favourite.
Priced around € 275 at the time, but now only found at much higher prices. Luckily there’s a fixed distribution ratio among countries, so my best guess would be Spain or Portugal where there are less collectors.
This Springbank 14yo was bottled six months ago for the release of Whisky & Jazz (a book written by Hans Offringa) which links jazz musicians to whiskies. It was matured in a cream sherry cask (usually a low-quality mixture of oloroso and PX sherry) and bottled at cask strength.
Another book ‘Bourbon & blues’ will be released soon and again it comes with a Springbank release, this time a 1998 matured in ex-bourbon wood (of course).
Springbank 14 yo ‘Jazz Edition’
(56%, OB 2010, 600 btl.)
Nose: the first few minutes it’s hard to get over the big matchstick notes, gunpowder and traces of rubber. Nothing dirty in my opinion but worth noting – it’s a bit too prominent maybe. Then some orange peel, dried apricot and heather. Earthy notes. A slight coastalness. Mouth: sweet, hot and a tad sharp at first, very peppery with the dried fruits on a second level. Plenty of spices and herbs with a little salt as well. Something rooty. Bitter oranges. A little resin. Water highlights the savoury notes and makes it a bit flat. Finish: medium length, dry with some ginger, herbs and liquorice.
Not bad but I’m not a fan of this type of Springbank / sherry combination. I’ve read it should recall the famous Springbank sherry style of the 1960’s but I don’t share that view.
Around € 60.
With well over 100 distilleries here on WhiskyNotes, we’ve still not covered all of them. Glenallachie is a young distillery (founded in 1967 by Mackinlay) in the Chivas Brothers group. In 2005 a 16yo official bottling was released in the Chivas Cask Strength series. Apart from this, there are a handful of independent releases.
This Glenallachie 1972 was matured in a bourbon hogshead. There’s now a new Glenallachie 1971 from The Whisky Agency in the same Perfect Dram series.
Glenallachie 38 yo 1972 (49,9%, Whisky Agency 2010, The Perfect Dram VII, 102 btl.)
Nose: starts fresh and fruity with lemon and a few waxy notes. Citrus and grasses, and a few fragrant floral overtones. Cotton candy! It’s not too sweet or overly fruity though, there are hints of wet newspaper that give it an old-style charm. Even a hint of glue? Very soft spices. Nice. Mouth: oily and remarkably fizzy. Lemon peel and lime juice. Citrus candy. Lovely waxy notes. Not overly complex but very fresh, not too far from certain Lowlands distilleries. Finish: drying but still very lemony.
A nice introduction to Glenallachie. Such freshness and 38 years old, really? Still available in some places. Around € 165.
Announced a couple of weeks ago, Glenfarclas 175th Anniversary is now being distributed across Europe and Asia and even sold out in many places.
It is composed of 18 casks from six decades and even the oldest cask in the distillery warehouse was added (cask #1711 filled in 1952). For more information, read the original announcement.
Glenfarclas 175th Anniversary
(43%, OB 2011, 6000 btl.)
Nose: a fairly gentle nose with different layers. Sweet barley sugar and young fruity notes to start with (coconut, berries). Some heather and vanilla biscuits. Much ‘older’ sherry as well (figs, dark chocolate) and a layer of subtle oak (old roses, light spices). Wax. Dusty books and gravel. Very complex and well integrated. Mouth: not the biggest impact. Rather spicy (cinnamon, pepper). Hardly any young notes now. There’s a fruity side to it – orange liqueur and Seville oranges rather than bolder sherried notes. Then growing more herbal with heather, old oak and leather. The herbal / bittersweet profile was not really expected. Finish: medium length, with some mint, apples and a cocoa note.
It’s great to see so many ‘old notes’ in a bottling that’s accessible thanks to the addition of younger malts. Adding the oldest cask was not a marketing trick, you really get a sense of old Glenfarclas here. Around € 95 but prices are going up as it seems to sell like hotcakes.
While we’re at it, let’s try another whisky released by Whisky-Fässle
last year. A 38 years old Clynelish 1972 from a bourbon hogshead.
Clynelish 38 yo 1972
(46,2%, Whisky-Fässle 2010)
Nose: starts less expressive than I expected, but it folds open over time. Beeswax, pollen, tropical fruits (guava, mango). A bit “greener” than other Clynelishes, that I always seem to associate with yellow or orange hues. Grass maybe? Certainly more spices from the oak than in 20-30yo bottlings although it’s not woody. Mouth: also less abundant fruits here, less tropical (more on oranges and citrus zest). A bit resinous with some leafy notes. Ginger. Soft pepper. It’s easy to trace the oak. Maybe a soft mustardy note as well. Finish: grapefruit, spices, wax and a little salt.
This kind of really old Clynelish picks up a little roughness and shows less waxy sweetness compared to slightly younger 1980’s releases. Anyway it’s still great and comes down to personal preferences of course. Around € 230, now sold out.
Whisky-Fässle is a German online whisky retailer founded by Jens Unterweger. As they’re focusing on independent releases, they’re one of my starting points when looking for new releases from German bottlers like Whisky Agency, Malts of Scotland, Jack Wiebers, etc.
Occasionally they select a cask to bottle under their own name, like this Port Ellen 1982 from a bourbon cask.
Port Ellen 27 yo 1982
(57,3%, Whisky-Fässle 2010)
Nose: this one doesn’t need much time to convince you. It starts on wet gravel and dry seaweed. Fresh hints of lime. Excellent medicinal notes as well (antiseptic) in a refined way. Menthol. Tarry ropes. Garage aroma. Powerful yet smooth as silk. A winner. Mouth: very intense, high on lemon and pepper, high on tar again, high on smoke. Again quite antiseptic. All of this well dosed. Then getting a bit sharper and earthier. Finish: mouth-watering lemon and soot.
A powerful Port Ellen that’s not too austere nor too rounded. Impressive combination of strong flavours and an excellent balance. One of the best Port Ellens I’ve had recently. Around € 190, now sold out (does it surprise you?).
This is the peated Arran. Since 2004, the distillery produced some mildly peated spirit (14 ppm phenols) and now a limited release of 9000 bottles is made available.
Arran Machrie Moor
(46%, OB 2011, 9000 btl.)
Nose: the expected notes of a very young whisky: sweet malt, pear drops, some coconut. Artificial in its fruitiness. The peat comes second, it’s more of a mild grassy / smokey undertone. A few yeasty notes as well. Topped off by fresh citrus. Mouth: overly sour start (lemon), then some peat smoke, then back to sweeter notes like apple candy. Fades on a bitter (tonic) & salty (liquorice) combo. The palate has the same problem as the nose: it tries a lot of different tricks but none of them really work. Finish: now developing an enjoyable pastry-like quality alongside the peat smoke.
This Arran Machrie Moor is clearly not about heavy peat, it’s not about juicy fruits, it’s not about complexity, it’s not about balance… I fear this is simply a way to widen the range, like the wine finishes. I’d stick to the Arran Peacock or Arran 14yo. Around € 40.
Yesterday’s Lochside 1981 by The Whisky Agency is a perfect sparring partner for this recent Lochside 1981 released by the German shop Whisky-Doris. Both fino casks, probably sister casks.
Lochside 29 yo 1981 (58,8%, Whisky-Doris 2010, fino butt #960, 403 btl.)
Nose: very similar to the Whisky Agency cask, only slightly less austere. A tad more fruity notes and definitely more spices (white pepper, ginger, nutmeg). Still nicely coastal. Some pastry notes, fruits (whitecurrant), a bit of smoke. Walnuts. There’s an organic side to it as well (asparagus and other cooked vegetables) but luckily it’s subtle and it seems to come and go. Mouth: punchy and full-bodied, with plenty of spices backed up by fruit. Again a little less extreme than the Whisky Agency cask, which is a plus in my opinion. Lemon zest, hints of ginger. White chocolate and almonds. Finish: quite long and spicy with some liquorice and candied lemon zest.
Although this one is clearly related to the Whisky Agency release, it’s a bit more accessible and even more to my preference. Good news: still available from Whisky-Doris (for € 150).