The new Karuizawa Noh releases were available at different stands at The Whisky Fair. There’s a 19 years old Karuizawa 1991 cask #3206 and a 13 years old Karuizawa 1997 cask #3312.
They decided to use small 20cl bottles, officially because the volume left in the cask was so small. That has nothing to do with exceptional angel’s share, it’s simply because Whisky Magazine bottled part of both casks in full 70cl bottles to support Oxfam.
Karuizawa 19 yo 1991 (60,8%, OB 1991, sherry butt #3206)
Nose: starts a bit dirty (something in between sulphury and farmy) but airing helps. Tobacco, matchsticks, hints of incense. A lot of pencil wood and limestone. There are some raisins and blood orange notes from the sherry, but on a second level. Ginger. Mouth: powerful with a big peppery kick. Rather sweet, with orange honey. Cigars, maybe even some smoke? Getting quite dry in the end, with an earthy umami flavour. Some vanilla as well. Finish: long, lots of pepper again. Tobacco. After a few hours, an empty glass smells like cured ham.
Big as Karuizawa can be, with the same elements as older versions but with a little less depth. The 1997 is slightly fruitier and less complex. Around € 60 for a 20cl bottle.
Each year, a few special bottles are released to celebrate The Whisky Fair in Limburg. One of them was a Strathisla distilled 21/02/1963 and bottled 24/03/2011 by Gordon & MacPhail. A similar Strathisla 1960 was bottled last year.
Strathisla 48 yo 1963 (51,8%,
Gordon & MacPhail for The Whisky Fair,
Book of Kells, first fill sherry butt #576)
Nose: the first thing that struck me is a wonderful “green” herbalness. Not the most common herbs, but cardamom, parsley, dill. Cough syrup. At times it reminded me more of old rum (more specifically the Long Pond 1941 cask #76 by G&M) than of old whisky, but after a while it changes and comes back to typical sherried whisky aromas: dried fruits, old leather with a faint meaty note. Wax. Mineral notes. A little mint sauce. Mushrooms. Dusty cedar wood. But all very subtle. Impressive complexity and difficult to express in words. Mouth: beautiful sherry influence, dried apricots, resin, hints of forest fruits and raspberries. Almonds. Quite dry but no prominent herbal notes this time. A little cocoa. Oranges. Nicely balanced oak and intense fruits. Finish: dry, long, with spices, liquorice, faint nutty notes and lingering dried fruits.
Strahisla is the champion when it comes to extremely long maturation, and Gordon & MacPhail have the best casks. Nice selection, even better than the 1960 bottled last year!
€ 300 is a heavy price, but worth it in my opinion.
ps/ some other people thought the nose was a slight setback,
so be sure to form your own opinion.
In the past, sister casks were bottled by Bladnoch (#6965, 6966), Berry Bros (#6968) and Malts of Scotland (#6969). As Doris & Herbert told me last weekend, they wanted to show a different kind of Inchgower after the Inchgower 1974 bottled last year.
Nose: unique notes of very ripe banana, buttercups and a slightly strange milky element (like a milk steamed Oolong tea or even hints of buttermilk). Quite oily. Hazelnuts and almond paste. Plenty of vanilla cream. Hay. Faint coastal notes. Very complex and quite unique. Mouth: again it shows a certain buttermilk note, even something of a Hollandaise sauce (now that may sound strange but it’s actually quite nice). Sweet marzipan and vanilla. Intense pepper and sharper grassy notes. Sugared camomile tea and a hint of bitter oak. Finish: quite long with pepper and salt and a praline note.
I don’t think I’ve tasted anything like this before. Impressive butteriness, that works out well. Very complex altogether, with intense spicy, salty, sweet, buttery, bitter and nutty flavours! Bonus point for having such a unique character, although I suppose many people will find this way too strange. Around € 110.
So it’s all true. The Whisky Fair in Germany is probably the best whisky festival out there. Full stop.
It’s even bigger than I expected, and the number of both newly launched bottles and legendary old stuff is impressive. The best thing is that I hardly saw standard supermarket whisky, this is a place where bottlers and retailers are working hard to impress their customer.
Here are a few of my highlights. I’ve brought home samples of most of these, so expect a full review in the near future:
All of these new Whisky Agency / The Nectar / Daily Dram releases are very high quality by the way (Glen Keith 1970, Glenury Royal 1973…).
And then there was a whole bunch of old things. A great Longmorn 1969/1999 (DL OMC) at Mara’s stand, a Saint Magdalene 1965 (G&M CC) from Bert Vuik, a 1920’s blend from Berry Bros (thanks Magnus), a series of Moon Import bottles chez Diago Sandrin, etc.
Also worth noting was the Liquid Sun stand, a sister company of The Whisky Agency. Originally meant for Japan and Sweden, I’ve heard some rumours that their bottlings would come to Belgium in the near future.
As a final note, I was surprised to see so many Glenfarclas 175th Anniversary and Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix bottles being sold at different stands. They’re far from being sold out.
I’m off to the Whisky Fair this weekend. This is one of the highlights of the European whisky festival season, and it’s the first time I’m going.
The Whisky Fair is unique for its combination of new releases and old rarities. Germany is an important whisky market so every distiller or bottler is present. Moreover there’s an array of related events around town, like the barbecue in Villa Konthor.
I can only stay for the day, so I’ll post some highlights on Sunday.
Nose: this one starts much more old-style, with a dustiness and plenty of oily / waxy notes. Some grassy notes and hay. Less tropical than the Daily Dram Germany version, but it picks up fruity notes after breathing. Honeydew melon, peach, papaya. Vanilla. Barley sugars. Sweet almonds. Mouth: punchy, with fruity notes struggling to balance the big amount of oak spices (pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, mint). Pineapples with soft mocha / milk chocolate. Liquorice towards the finish. Finish: long and spicy with citrus candy.
On the nose, the expected juicy fruitiness of this Longmorn is muted by oily and grassy notes. On the palate, the oak spices are slightly overwhelming. Therefore not my favourite of the bunch. Around € 170.
Our next Longmorn 1975 in this little series. It was bottled by The Nectar of the Daily Drams (the Belgian series). It’s a follow-up for the Longmorn 1975 at 44% bottled in 2010 (lower strength but slightly darker) and it will be the last cask we’ll see in the near future.
Longmorn 35 yo 1975
(50,8%, Nectar of the Daily Drams 2011)
Nose: holds the middle between the Daily Dram Germany and the Whisky-Fässle releases. Banana and papaya mixed with soft grassy notes, citrus and oak polish. More beehive notes and wax I would say. A slight nose prickle which seems to come more from the spices than from the alcohol. The same mint, nutmeg and soft pepper. Water makes it more citrusy in the style of the 1976 Longmorns. Mouth: very fruity (do I need to repeat the oranges, apricots and tangerines?) with a spicy kick. Honey and marmalade. On par with the Whisky-Fässle bottling, with added hints of aniseed and liquorice. Water seems to make it a little sweeter. A second wave of fruits in the aftertaste. Finish: long, spicy with lingering fruits.
This Longmorn is certainly up there and it has the advantage of being able to play around with water and bring out different elements. I still prefer the 44% bottling and it’s a little more expensive than the others: around € 200.
Here’s another Longmorn 1975, also sourced in Germany. The big difference seems to be the higher alcohol strength (49% vs. 40%).
Longmorn 35 yo 1975 (48,8%, Whisky-Fässle 2010, bourbon hogshead #2943)
Nose: more flowery than the Daily Dram version. Buttercups. Green banana. Green apple. Kiwi and citrus. Very fruity, but a more sour kind of fruitiness. A bit more grassy notes as well, due to the higher strength maybe? Soft spices in the background (pepper, eucalyptus). Mouth: very spicy and fruity, in the same league as the Daily Dram (orange, papaya, banana, passion fruit) but without the oak juice. The added strength really helps this one. Some nutmeg. Finish: quite long on liquorice.
On the nose, I think this one lacked a little juicy sweetness, although some airing took away most of the differences. On the palate, it’s clear this is the better choice for being less oaky / tired. Still available from Whisky-Fässle, around € 170.