For the latest edition of Whisky Live in Japan, four casks of Japanese whisky were selected as festival bottlings. This 19 years old Karuizawa(cask #6446) was one of them. After the festival, it showed up in different shops.
Karuizawa 19 yo 1990 (60%, OB for Whisky Live 10th Anniversary 2009, sherry butt #6446)
Nose: starts quite fresh and aromatic but also more winey than older vintages. A few bourbonny notes with vanilla and almonds. Orange liqueur. Mint and cinnamon. Water brings out apples with cinnamon and oak shavings, plus a few flowery notes (geranium). Very good – much less extreme than most older, legendary Karuizawa. Mouth: powerful attack. Fruity (oranges, white cherries). Big gingery notes and a little pepper. More malty notes than older Karuizawa. With water: more spices, more oak but overall a bit thinner, a lot of the fruity flavours seem to be drowned. Finish: long, slightly oaky. Still based around the spices.
This Karuizawa has less explosive sherry influence than we’re used to – its style reminds me of the Karuizawa 1988 cask #3397. It’s firm and enjoyable, but less complex. For me one of the lesser bottles from this distillery but that’s nothing to be ashamed of, it’s still very good.
BenRiach 33 yo 1977 (52,2%, OB 2010,
cask #1033, Pedro Ximénez finish, 331 btl.)
Nose: heavy sherry! Raisins with a chocolate coating. Strawberries and red berries with cocoa powder. A light beefiness (ham) and hints of oak polish. Sweet tobacco. Let’s try water. Hmm, that doesn’t change much. Mouth: very punchy. Cherry liqueur, some rancio. Figs. Spiced bitter chocolate (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves). Growing more herbal (a little resin and mint). A bit of orange liqueur. Quite fruity although there’s a tannic, dry oaky side to it as well. Maybe a little more winey than its GlenDronach siblings. Adding water highlights the herbal side but helps to balance the oak. Finish: a little drier, but still very rich. Blackcurrant marmalade and spices.
This kind of heavy sherry expression eliminates the boundaries between BenRiach and GlenDronach almost completely. This could have easily been produced at GlenDronach. As such it is less unique than the 1970 PX, but it’s certainly recommended. Around € 240.
I usually don’t publish multiple messages in a single day, but let’s break that habit and throw in a review of a new Whisky Agency release right away!
When I first read about this Bowmore 1995 and the fact that it was matured in an ex-sherry cask, I was hoping for something close to the Bowmore 1995 by Single Malts of Scotland. The colour is very different though. As I mentioned before, half of this cask was bottled by The Nectar of the Daily Drams at a lower strength of 46%.
Bowmore 15 yo 1995 (54,1%,
The Whisky Agency – Anatomy series 2010, ex-sherry butt, 132 btl.)
Nose: despite the difference in colour, the first impressions of the nose are very similar to the SMOS bottling. Leather, big hints of kelp, pipe tobacco, walnuts… A couple of wet dogs. After a while it becomes clear that the TWA release has less emphasis on chocolate and dried fruits, yet more coastal / mineral notes and whiffs of fresher fruits (orange zest, lemon or yellow plums). The longer you let them breathe, the further they move away from each other. Overall the TWA nose is cleaner, albeit a little less expressive and less complex. But still very nice. Mouth: very punchy, with heavy earthy peat, some ginger and pepper and a faint honeyed edge. Hints of oranges and leather again. Almost none of the sherry / chocolate notes that we found in the SMOS version. Again: cleaner and simpler. Finish: less dry than its sister, with more oranges, peat and a hint of salt.
Well, this Bowmore 1995 has a slightly different profile than the SMOS bottling. There’s less sherry influence so the end result is a little cleaner and a little more straightforward. Still these 1995 casks all seem to be of high quality.
Around € 70.
Before we move on with the BenRiach single casks, I’d like to draw your attention to a few other new releases. September / October tends to be an interesting period as bottlers present their new releases for the rest of the year. The festival season has started so there should be a chance to try them in the near future. Unless they are sold out by then…
The Whisky Agency has a new Anatomy series which features sketches of Leonardo on the labels. This is the line-up:
Inchgower 36 yo 1974 ex-sherry
(very citrusy with little sherry)
Glenlossie 35 yo 1975 ex-bourbon
Lochside 29 yo 1981 refill hogshead (quite a grainy nose and truckloads of citrus, mainly grapefruit)
Bowmore 15 yo 1995 ex-sherry
Reviews of the Bowmore and Glenlossie are coming up.
On top of this, there are new additions to the Perfect Dram VI series:
Linkwood 36 yo 1973 ex-bourbon
“A Speyside” 41 yo 1969 ex-bourbon (Glenfarclas?)
Glen Moray 36 yo 1973 ex-bourbon
Glen Elgin 35 yo 1975 ex-bourbon (review coming up)
It’s interesting to see a lot of joint bottlings and similar casks, a concept that has become very popular lately (more exposure, or a cheap way to have more limited releases?). The Lochside and Bowmore bottled by TWA are also available from Daily Dram which means you can buy the same whisky in different bottles. Note that their Bowmore is bottled at 46% whereas TWA bottles at cask strength. Although both are releasing a Linkwood 1973, there is no mention of co-operation so it’s probably just a similar cask.
I was able to try the last two recently (thanks Jeroen). The Banff is really good and highly recommended but the Clynelish didn’t seem to be on the same level as other Clynelish from the same year (this one was pretty sharp and mineral, I like them rounded with more vanilla). As far as I know, the LMdW versions are yet to be announced.
Conclusion? A lot of new and promising (premium) expressions to choose from, many of them with a label of your choice!
The BenRiach 1979 cask #7501 is one of four unfinished releases out of the ten single casks this year. It’s quite a rare vintage, as far as I know this is only the third single cask 1979.
BenRiach 30 yo 1979 (47,9%, OB 2010,
cask #7511, bourbon barrel, 173 btl.)
Nose: apple peel, ripe banana and rich honey. Then some tangerine and a big vanilla / cinnamon wave. A bit of toffee / natural caramel as well. Warm oak that’s well integrated, with whiffs of mint and nutmeg, and a faint leathery note. Overall a classic interplay of fruits and spices. Mouth: rich and fresh with honey, citrus and spices (mint, a little pepper and ginger). Vanilla and white chocolate. Unripe pineappple with coconut and a buttery / creamy note. Nutmeg and mint again. Finish: quite a lot of sweet oak, but enough fruit to counterbalance. Still some spices.
An vivid old BenRiach with all the typical elements you’d expect from a high quality Speyside distillery. Around € 190.
We’re not on the same level as Spain of course, but Belgium has quite a reputation in the field of food pairing and the molecular analysis of flavours and flavour combinations.
One of the key persons in this movement is Bernard Lahousse, a bio-engineer who runs a food consultancy company called Sense for Taste and organises The Flemish Primitives, a congress about new developments in gastronomy.
He also developed the Food pairing website where you can find a database of flavour molecules in ingredients and the combinations that go well with it.
Recently he has worked around wine & food pairing, but he also teamed up with Dave Broom to develop a new whisky wheel. While this was created primarily for the cocktail summit Bar.10, it’s still interesting for whisky lovers to have a look at it.
It’s based around the molecules in whisky, rather than the resulting taste. For instance you will find “mango” several times, depending on the different molecules causing this association. Great background knowledge, I would say.
There are two Virgin Oak releases (i.e. matured in new casks) in this year’s single casks from BenRiach. This one is a 1991 vintage which was finished in new American oak after the regular ex-bourbon maturation. The other one – a 1980 vintage – was fully matured in Virgin oak.
BenRiach 19 yo 1991 (54,9%, OB 2010, cask #4389, Virgin American Oak finish, 306 btl.)
Nose: nutmeg and orange peel. Tangerine. A few nutty notes and roasted grains. A little ginger, vanilla and heather. Hints of butter toffee and freshly sawn wood as well. No excessive oak though, since it’s only a finish. It seems to follow the BenRiach tradition, only spiced up a bit. Mouth: initially a sweet attack on fruitcake and toffee. Stewed fruits. Hazelnut paste. A lot of cinnamon and vanilla, with a peppery kick. Finish: dries out steadily with vanilla and warm oak.
This BenRiach is sweet and really spicy. It amplifies the classic Speyside character. Very punchy yet very drinkable. Around € 85.
Yesterday our friend Jeroen from The Bonding Dram organized an open bottle day presenting the new single cask series from BenRiach. They were bottled in July 2010 and they’re now available in most markets. Some of them have already sold out, especially the 1976 and 1980 are almost impossible to find.
This BenRiach 1984 is the only heavily peated release this time (the other 1984 seems to be peated as well, although it mentions “Classic Speyside style”). That same year already brought us a few enjoyable peated releases. A sister cask (BenRiach 1984 cask #4049) was bottled in 2007.
BenRiach 25 yo 1984 (51,7%, OB 2010, cask #4052, peated / Tawny Port finish,
Nose: rich, straightforward “Speyside” peat. It’s rounded, rich and smoky but not in the coastal / medicinal “Islay” way. Smoked tea with some resinous notes. After a while, a second layer shows up, with sweet oranges and a little grenadine. Faint hints of strawberry. Nice. A touch of eucalyptus / peppermint. Mouth: even more peat now, quite huge in fact. There’s a fruity edge but it seems to be drowned in the peat waves. Some resinous notes again. The spices are abundant: bags of pepper, a bit of nutmeg and getting really herbal in the end. Hints of liquorice. Finish: long, with a warm and peaty character.
This one is a little on the peaty side – it doesn’t feel like a 25 year-old and the fruits struggle to get the attention. I won’t say this often, but a little more wine influence could have helped to find a nicer balance on the palate. The nose is the best element for me. Around € 120.