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.
Bunnahabhain 41 yo 1967 (41,1%, Malts of Scotland 2010, bourbon hogshead #3315, 147 btl.)
Nose: again quite tropical, but the coconut / vanilla cream seems to be subdued. Unripe pineapple. White peaches. This profile is a little less warm, the fruits are fresher – greener, if you know what I mean. The oily notes are sharper, like linseed oil or varnished paintings. Cardamom? Even some walnut oil after a while. There seem to be faint coastal notes as well. Interesting variation, although I prefer the luscious warmth of the 1968. Mouth: quite oily again. A cut-off effect on the fruity notes, just like in the 1968. Goes on with peach and oaky notes, though never drying. Hints of oranges. Some nutmeg and a little mint. Water brings out a bit of vanilla. Finish: medium length, on cooked apple and normal woody notes.
Very good, but in my opinion, this one is slightly less expressive than the Bunnahabhain 1968 from Malts of Scotland. Same price as the others: about € 215.
This is one of the other old Bunnahabhain that were released in the past few weeks, a 41 years old Bunnahabhain 1968 bottled by Malts of Scotland. It was matured in an ex-bourbon cask this time.
Belgium is currently the only region where they are distributing it (contrary to a widely available Bunnahabhain 1967 bottled at the same time), but I’ve heard that part of the available stock will go to other countries in the future.
Bunnahabhain 41 yo 1968 (40%, Malts of Scotland 2010, bourbon hogshead #12291, 164 btl.)
Nose: very tropical right from the start. Ripe mango, banana, tangerine, juicy pears, plums… very warm. Lots of vanilla and coconut cream as well. Nice floral touches. Little oak but after a while, some spices come out (cinnamon, hints of nutmeg). Beeswax and honey. Still the whole is really dominated by the fruits (not a bad thing of course). Impressive how vividly fruity this is after 40+ years. Mouth: enough weight despite the low alcohol volume, a bit more oily now, the sweet fruitiness seems to be dimmed as soon as it appears. In the middle, the tropical side is struggling a bit to get past the oaky notes and spices. But it wins and returns to peach, mango, grapefruit and a little mint. Finish: medium length, with soft tannins.
Another great Bunnahabhain to recommend.
A different style than yesterday’s Whisky Agency bottling, but just as good. Same pricing: about € 215.
I thought I was lucky when I recently found a sample of the legendary Bunnahabhain Auld Acquaintance, but the last couple of weeks other Bunnahabhain from the same period have showed up.
This 43 years old Bunnahabhain 1967 was bottled by The Whisky Agency in a new series called Private Stock.
Bunnahabhain 43 yo 1967 (40,5%, The Whisky Agency Private Stock 2010, sherry hogshead,
Nose: the best sherry nose I’ve found in months. Wonderfully balanced, with red fruits, beeswax and whiffs of mocha. Lovely dried apricots and prunes but some tropical fruits as well (guava). Mint. Some cinnamon and a little ginger. Hints of tobacco and sandalwood. I’ve compared this to the Auld Acquaintance and I think this profile is even nicer. Mouth: some banana and almond milk. Papaya. Orange cake. Soon the wood kick in. It’s not overly oaky or but the tannins are certainly obvious. Resulting hints of dark tea. Overall the middle is fairly weak, a bit of extra strength could have lifted this. A little rummy. Finish: never really dry, but slowly fading on oak and soft pepper and mildly sherried orange notes.
A great old Bunnahabhain with a near-perfect nose. The palate is very good even though it can’t hide its respectable age. Around € 210. Recommended but difficult to find.
I can’t get enough of old Caperdonich. Not only do they show very high standards (exceptions are very very rare), they’re also quite accessible and reasonably priced. The distillery was mothballed in 2002 but the stock of old casks still seems pretty large among independent bottlers (especially 1970’s Caperdonich).
Caperdonich 36 yo 1968 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice 2004, refill sherry)
Nose: the usual fruit basket is slightly less expressive here, it’s more a sherried fruitiness with waves of dried peaches and raisins. Blood orange. Warm oak. More herbal notes than expected (hints of eucalyptus, pine wood, rosemary). Quite some mint as well. Subtle hints of ashes and bread crust in the back. Even some peat shining through. Greater complexity than most 1970’s Caperdonich but oakier and less exhuberant fruits. Mouth: again quite a lot of woody and herbal notes, with a subdued fruitiness as a result. Toffee and raisins. Milk chocolate. Spicy honey. Pine resin. Yellow grapes and candied notes. Finish: dry and oaky, medium length.
Bottled at the right moment, before getting too oaky. It’s clear that 1968/1969 Caperdonich is different from the highly praised 1972 versions. Both periods are great, the older stuff being less tropical and more influenced by the oak. Still available – around € 125.
The notorious Whisky festival organised by the Lindores Society is less than two months away. On October 22, 23 and 24, the Bero Hotel in Oostende is the place to be. Entrance is € 10 including a glass.
This festival is special because you won’t find distributors presenting new releases. Instead, expect to find collectors and specialized sellers (Massimo Righi, Diego Sandrin, Lothar Langer among others) with a whole range of rarities, antiquities and legendary bottles. Some of the Lindores members (Geert Bero and Luc Timmermans) will also present their impressive collections.
Another part of Lindores Whisky Fest are the tastings. There’s a 50’s, 60’s and 70’s Bowmore tasting, a Japanese dinner accompanied by 60’s and 70’s Karuizawa and an After-Breakfast with the 40yo Millennium Glenfarclas.
Let me know if you’ll be there as well, maybe we can meet.
The new release celebrates the sixth anniversary of the first bottling of BenRiach under its new independent owners. Master Distiller Billy Walker has selected ten highly distinctive casks from 1976 to 1993 for BenRiach aficionados.
Bottled in July 2010, the ten are all cask strength, natural colour and non chill-filtered. They are individually numbered and presented in a gift tube.
Master of Malt bottlings proved to be very interesting in the past. While the Master of Malt 30yo 2nd release is still available, there’s a 3rd edition of this undisclosed Speysider. The former was clearly sherry matured, but the colour of its successor suggests bourbon maturation.
Undisclosed Speyside distillery 30 yo
(40%, Master of Malt 2009, 3rd edition)
Nose: a classic bourbon matured profile with truckloads of honey and some lovely fruits (melon, apricot, ripe banana, papaya). Big big vanilla (coming close to actual bourbon at times) and hints of cinnamon. Sugared almonds. Warm oaky notes and wax are easy to notice, but the nose is not tired at all. Great nose. Mouth: a spicy attack, but it seems to fall flat soon after the arrival. Much more oak now, a bit too much even. Pine resin and nutmeg. Hints of grapefruit but overall not nearly as fruity as the nose made me expect. Finish: a bit undefined, with dry oak and subtle fruits.
The glorious nose and the woody palate reminded me of another undisclosed Speysider by Thosop. I wouldn’t be surprised if they came from the same distillery. Don’t get me wrong, I could sniff this all day and it’s certainly nice enough to justify the price tag (about € 125). Available from Master of Malt.