In 1999, Mackmyra was the first and only Swedish malt whisky distillery, and the most northerly one in the world. They use local ingredients and tend to mature their spirit in small 100-litre casks (to speed up the ageing process) lying in an old mine, 50 meters underground.
Mackmyra Special:01 is matured in oak barrels from Spain’s sherry district. The casks have been seasoned to achieve a certain character. This modern practice is usually done by pouring a few liters of sherry into the cask and putting it under pressure – the sherry will be literally blown into the wood. Using this kind of newish, quickly impregnated wood allows young distilleries to release a sherried product after a shorter period of time. Nonetheless this “fast-forwarding” doesn’t always work that well.
Mackmyra Special:01 ‘Eminent sherry’ (51,6%, OB 2008, 8000 btl.)
Nose: it may be more sherried than other Mackmyra, but it’s not very eminently sherried in my opinion. There’s a spicy / gingery kick. Vanilla. Some butter caramel and marzipan. A little mint. Some fruits as well – those of a younger whisky. Nothing mind-blowing so far, but not a bad start. Mouth: much more fruit now (pear), with a sugary coating and some caramel / toffee flavours. There’s still a mint / eucalyptus thing going on. A faint smoky edge. Finish: sweetness of dried fruits and the same spicy element.
A slightly half-harted whisky, hesitating between spices, simple fruit and plain sugar. Although highly limited, it’s still available. Relatively expensive: around € 65.
This 32 years old Glenlivet must have been a small hogshead (just 96 bottles) or maybe just part of the cask?
In my personal opinion, The Glenlivet shows a constant high quality (with best-sellers like the Nadurra) without having many truly spectacular expressions. The brand pops up regularly when people are looking for an interesting yet budget-friendly single malt whisky.
Nose: ah, a lovely fruit basket, just what we were hoping for! It starts on “local” fruits: peaches, juicy pears, gooseberries, oranges… then growing more tropical with green banana and a little passion fruit. Nice sweet / sour combo. Also some waxy and grassy notes in the background. Quite excellent. Mouth: very fruity (apple, citrus) and oily with a faint bitter edge (lime zest, woody notes). Also an unexpected hint of peat. Even… mustard. Nice evolution, fruity and fresh but not sweet at all. Finish: now turning to spices (pepper, clove) and zesty citrus.
A multi-dimensional Glenlivet, showing both expected elements (fruit basket) and a few nice surprises (peat and enjoyable mustard notes). Still available from Whisky-Doris in Germany – € 110.
Douglas Lainghas an impressive and seemingly endless stream of Port Ellen releases. This is one of the most recent in the Old Malt Cask series. It was distilled in 1983, the last year of production at the distillery.
Port Ellen 26 yo 1983 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC 2009, refill butt, DL ref. 5441, 640 btl.)
Nose: clean, somewhere in the middle between the mineral and vanilla profiles of Port Ellen. Some sweet almonds. Soft gristy peat, rather medicinal for a PE (eucalyptus, herbal syrup). Wet paper and walnuts. Mouth: rather sweet and creamy, more vanilla now and soft pepper. Hints of liquorice, custard and lemon, gentle smoke. Little cask influence or so it seems. Finish: round and clean with sweet lemon, brine and ashes.
A good Port Ellen showing the different typical elements without any special highlights. A solid bottling. Around € 170.
A few weeks ago, Jean-Luc from Connosr told me about a new series in their online magazine Connosr Distilled. I was asked to present one of the lost distilleries.
While I have a few favourites among the closed / silent distilleries, most of them have quite a lot of fame and are well-known: Brora, Port Ellen, Caperdonich, St. Magdalene… So I decided to go for a lesser known distillery that is even rarer and surprised me a couple of times with its outstanding quality: Glenugie.
Old Pulteney is produced in the northernmost distillery on the mainland of Scotland. As a former herring port, the town of Wick is located by the sea and this affects the whisky of the Pulteney distillery.
This is an ex-bourbon single cask (brought in from Laphroaig distillery) that can only be acquired by hand-filling your bottle at the distillery. I’ve heard it’s still available. The cask was filled on 30/10/1990 so it will soon be a
Old Pulteney 19 yo 1990 (57,4%, OB 2010,
cask #5253, distillery only)
Nose: an elegant combination of maritime notes (sea air, salt flakes, wet beach) and honeyed citrus. It balances between dry aromas (manzanilla style) and a sweet, lovely fruitiness with hints of coconut. I also get some vanilla cake and whiffs of freshly sawn wood. A great combination really. Little or no signs of peat. Mouth: powerful attack, very dry and a little earthy now with notes of herbal tea. Quite some spicy notes (ginger, liquorice). A minimal fruity side (coconut and honey). Quite bitter. Definitely hints of peat now. Water rounds it off and makes it sweeter. Finish: dry and herbal with a salty edge. Medium long.
A dry and maritime malt – recommended if you like Manzanilla sherry, I’d say. Not very complex but it harmonizes nicely and has plenty of character. Around € 90.
ps/ Not really whisky-related, just sponsored by Old Pulteney “The genuine maritime malt”: the Row to the Pole expedition.
GlenDronachhas recently built a solid reputation with its new OB’s and yearly single casks. Independent releases are scarce under the new owners but Malts of Scotland has proven it knows how to acquire special casks.
A similar cask #197 was released shortly after as an official bottling – it was available at the distillery only.
GlenDronach 14 yo 1996 (57,2%, Malts of Scotland 2010, oloroso cask #195, 287 btl.)
Nose: very thick and heavy. Chocolate coated raisins. Toffee and balsamic syrup. Prune jam. Lots of nutty aromas (walnut, hazelnut butter, Nutella) and bread crust with honey. Milk chocolate. A few herbal (Maggi) notes as well. Mouth: also very heavy – sweet and sticky. Mocha. Roasted nuts. A little pepper. Stewed fruits and prunes. Dark chocolate. Dates and figs. Walnuts. Finish: Quite long, totally on dark cherries and chocolate sauce.
This is thicker than a’bunadh… thicker than other GlenDronach as well. It’s not bad (not at all) but I think it’s slightly over the top and too focused on the sherry. It is probably great as a sauce for vanilla ice cream, I will try that as soon as I have the chance. Around € 60.
This Allt-a-Bhainne (pronounced ‘Olt-er-Vane’) is from Murray McDavid, the independent bottler related to Bruichladdich. After the normal maturation in American oak, it was ACE’d in new French oak casks.
Allt-a-Bhainne was founded in 1975 under the Chivas Brothers flag and mothballed in 2002 with production re-starting in 2005.
Allt-a-Bhainne 12 yo 1996
(46%, Murray McDavid 2008, 1500 btl.)
Nose: a very cereal kind of nose. Notes of malt and bread. Biscuits. A few musty elements. With some hand warmth, brighter and slightly tropical fruity notes step forward, but they seem to disappear really soon. A bit disappointing, not much happening here besides the malty core. Mouth: again full of cereal notes. Now clearly fruity: pear, apple, kiwi… but a little flat as well and the same kind of dustiness. Moreover it’s too focused on the spicy flavours from the new oak. Finish: rather short, with a simple sugar cane sweetness.
Not exactly bad, but there are plenty of other 12yo drams to choose from, so don’t bother.
Available for € 40.
Glenrothes bottlings by Duncan Taylor from 1968/1969/1970 casks have proven to be solid choices. This Glenrothes 1970 is closely related to the one bottled for The Nectar (cask #10567) last year.
Glenrothes 35 yo 1970 (43,5%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld 2006, cask #10574, 162 btl.)
Nose: instant fruitiness, with banana, apricot, passion fruits and pineapple. Plenty of youth here. Some green notes (mint, herbs) and spices (cinnamon, vanilla). A little honey. Mouth: gentle attack but not too soft. I get some almonds and fruits, together with oak and spices. Pine resin. Faint hints of sweet gingerbread. Banana. Powdered sugar and a hint of cocoa. Less superb than on the nose, and a tad less complex than sister casks. Finish: long, with apricot marmalade and sweet lemonade.
These old Glenrothes are really recommended, although they are slowly reaching their limits. Keeping them in the cask much longer will cause some of them to drop below the minimum strength (like the Glenrothes 1969 in the Lonach series) or become too woody. Around € 125 at the time. Now difficult to find, but keep your eyes open for similar releases.