Over the next couple of days, I’ll have a look at this year’s GlenDronach single casks. They’ve been bottled in June 2010 but they’re still not available in most countries other than the UK. I’ve thought about a suitable order and I decided to taste them in pairs. The first pair consists of the younger oloroso casks distilled in 1990 and 1993.
GlenDronach 20 yo 1990 (57,9%,
OB 2010, oloroso sherry butt #2621,
Nose: quite a fragrant kind of sherry. Hints of sweet honey and oak polish. Red mosto (grape juice) and sour oranges. After that, a very classy nuttiness starts to grow stronger (walnuts, some roasted coffee beans, almonds). Evolves on dark chocolate. There are undertones of matchsticks as well, but they’re actually quite nice and seem to come and go (with some water they simply disappear). Some mint. Hints of leather. Quite complex! Mouth: starts fruity (figs, dates) with hints of cherry liqueur. Again (clean) matchstick notes. Old oranges. Nice mocha and chocolate truffle. A few drops of water highlights walnuts and almonds. Finish: nice finale on coffee and nuts. Quite long.
This GlenDronach 1990 has multiple personalities. It shows a typical nutty sherry but also fresh fruits and hints of matchsticks that we associate with some Karuizawas. I like it, also because it’s interesting to play around with water. Around € 100.
Glen Grant 38 yo 1972 (52,4%, Whisky-Doris 2010, refill sherry cask #1650, 202 btl.)
Nose: this one is more expressive from the start. A nice honeyed fruitiness again but more dried fruits this time, with marmalade and syrup . The nutty element is slightly bigger, with coffee notes and caramel. Interestingly, the hints of new oak that I pick up make me think of old single grains while the mint / eucalyptus reminds me of certain bourbons. Very lively and entertaining. Water brings out a little vanilla. Mouth: more alcohol, more punch. It shows the same oranges, tangerines and yellow plums. Compared to the Thosop bottling, more spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, more pepper) and slightly less fruit. More balanced and more fruity with a little water. Finish: long, spicy with a hint of oak.
Another great Glen Grant. This one is slightly more oaky and spicy, which adds nice notes on the nose but also a certain dryness on the palate. Difficult to make a choice – I guess the higher strength is the main difference. Add a little water and they’re quite similar. Available from Whisky-Doris (€ 140).
Sometimes whisky releases seem to come in waves. Certain vintages are highly sought after by independent bottlers, certainly after the success of similar expressions. After the Glen Grant 1972 that won the MM Awards 2009, we’ve seen other bottlings trying to match this quality.
This Glen Grant 1973 was bottled by Thosop – I’ll compare it to a slightly older Glen Grant 1972 tomorrow, bottled by Whisky-Doris. Both were matured in (refill) sherry casks.
Glen Grant 37 yo 1973
(46%, Thosop 2010, sherry butt, 120 btl.)
Nose: very seductive with silky fruit notes and delicate oak polish. Ripe gooseberries, kumquats, lime and a little honeysuckle. Undertones of dried apricots from the sherry cask. A nutty / moccha layer as well. Fresh and maybe a tad shy at 46%, although it unfolds nicely over time. Water adds soft waxy notes. Mouth: rich fruity notes with lots of added spices this time (nutmeg, a little pepper and cinnamon). A whole array of oranges, tangerines, a little grapefruit and apricot. Mouth: long, fruity / spicy with faint moccha.
A classic Glen Grant: fruity and balanced, with gentle spices and a subtle sherry influence. Around € 140.
Whisky-Doris is a German shop run by Doris & Herbert Debbeler. They’re known for regularly bottling their own casks and for providing samples of new releases.
This 14 years old Highland Park was bottled in two versions – one at 46% and one at cask strength. We’re trying the stronger version.
Highland Park 14 yo 1995 (55,8%, Whisky-Doris 2010, bourbon hogshead #1468, 205 btl.)
Nose: nice combination of grassy notes, heather honey and interesting fruits (sweet pomelo and lime I would say). Some coastal notes as well as wet limestone. Nicely balanced peat smoke. Mint. Water highlights the heather and mint and adds floral notes. Mouth: the peat is much more expressive now and has a nice chlorophyl coating. Simple fruity centre (apples and pear). Again an evident grassiness and a nice lemon/brine combo. Gently smoked. Slightly sweeter with water. Finish: pretty long and spicy, with liquorice and lemon.
Very good middle-aged Highland Park. Perfectly drinkable at cask strength, with balanced flavours and a nice coastalness throughout. Available for € 55.
Lochside was part of the Pernod Ricard group and had a short life. It was founded in the 18th century as a beer brewery, taken over in 1957 by the owners of Ben Nevis and converted into a whisky distillery (both malt and grain whisky by the way). In 1973 it was bought by the Spanish DYC company which was taken over by Allied Domecq / Pernod Ricard. The distillery was closed in 1992 and demolished in 2004.
Nose: a fresh nose with lots of citrus, mostly lemon, lime and grapefruit. Some green apple and hints of more exotic passion fruit and pineapple. Very pleasant acidity. Hints of cut grass. Beautiful oak polish and faint floral / fragrant notes. Topped of with nice lemon grass. Reminds me of a white wine (in a good way, think of Riesling or my beloved Albariño). Really delicate sherry influence I would say. Mouth: a tad sweeter now, still high on lemon, (pink) grapefruit and pineapple. Orange peel. Big grassy notes again. A little white pepper in the background. Soft white chocolate towards the end. Finish: medium length, pleasant and very crisp, with exotic fruit tea and faint liquorice.
This Lochside offers a great combination of fresh acidic notes and warmer, more exotic fruits. Very entertaining. Around € 145 – still a few bottles available.
St Magdalene has brought us some marvellous whisky. The Lowlands distillery was closed in 1983 and is now highly sought after. Among the best releases are the 1964/65/66 releases by Cadenhead (dumpy bottle) and Gordon & MacPhail (brown label or old map label).
St Magdalene 18 yo 1964
(40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice
brown label 1983, 75 cl.)
Nose: unique. A wonderful combination of cherries, blueberries and raisins with milk chocolate and coffee. Quite some butter. A little metal. Dried flowers. Dusty wardrobes and old leather bound books. Ashes. Herbs. A distinct aroma of juicy apricots. Not the typical Lowlands shyness, I would say. This is intense and extremely interwoven. Mouth: not too powerful but full of flavour: velvety fruits – soft cherry and apricot again, but less noticeable than on the nose. Some vanilla and oak. Tobacco. Tea with lemon. Then growing drier, a little resinous and softly herbal (laurel and cloves). More earthy as well, with hay and liquorice root. Finish: not too long, on dry ashes with a salty edge and pine resin.
This St Magdalene 1964 is nothing like a modern Lowlands malt. In fact it’s unlike any modern malt.
The slight dryness of the finish prevents a higher score, but this is still a legendary dram.
Dalwhinnie is part of the Diageo Classic Malts but even then releases are very rare. I couldn’t find much information about this bottle, but it’s clear that Gordon & MacPhail have bottled several 1970 casks at the end of the 80’s and beginning of the 90’s.
Dalwhinnie 21 yo 1970 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice 1991, 70 cl.)
Nose: a beautiful marriage of mainly two aromas. First, all sorts of beehive aromas (wax, honey, pollen) and then a soft marmalade side (yellow plums, some apple). All this coated with a layer of peat smoke that’s just great. Hints of turpentine. Some oak and grassy notes. Mouth: starts powerful and peppery. Less fruity than expected, although there is some pear. A bit of caramel. Then shows grassy notes and big hints of herbal tea, liquorice and mint. A bit heavy on the oak. Finish: fairly herbal and slightly bitter. Hints of peat again. Medium length.
This Dalwhinnie started on a very interesting and rewarding nose, but it couldn’t hold the constant level I was hoping for. Still very nice.
The Whisky Round Table still consists of 12 noble knights who discuss all things whisky on a monthly basis. This September issue was fired by my question:
Most beginners seem reluctant to buy independent bottlings, as distillery releases are said to have more credibility and a constant quality. What are your experiences with independent bottlers when it comes to quality, pricing, availability, creativity…? Also, please pick one of your favourite bottlers (or ranges) and tell us why you recommend them.