Every year, Laphroaig makes its Feis Ile bottling available for the Friends of Laphroaig. This year’s release is tagged “Master Edition” because it’s created by the Master blender Robert Hicks. The recipe is 50% of bourbon hogsheads
(11 years old) and 50% of first fill bourbon (15, 17 and 19 years old).
Laphroaig Cairdeas Master Edition (57,3%, OB 2010, Feis Ile, 5000 btl.)
Nose: in line with previous Cairdeas editions. The smoke and ashes seem a bit more prominent this time. Lemon and salt. Sweet marzipan notes and some banana again, but overall it seems quite a bit drier. The pencil shavings and soft vanilla that I found quite typical for the 2009 release seem to have diminished. On the other hand, the new edition is slightly more spicy and coastal. A hint of peppermint? Mouth: quite dry smoke with citrus. Powerful earthy peat. Iodine. Getting oily and slightly peppery. Overall quite dry and sharp, lacking a bit of sweet, rounder elements in my opinion. Finish: long and dry, evolving on salty almonds and some liquorice.
I find this year’s edition marginally more coastal and smoky, I think peat lovers will love it. It misses the smoothness and complexity of the 2009 version, but I prefer it over the 2008 version. Reasonably priced (as usual): £ 45.
I’ve tried to sum up the differences in a little diagram. Note that a triple + does not mean three times more than a single +. In reality the differences are much more subtle.
Glen Ord distillery is a giant in the Diageo family: it has a large capacity as well as a maltings plant that produces for other Diageo distilleries. Most of the distillation is blended into Johnnie Walker, although there is an official release named Singleton of Glen Ord and a few limited editions.
This 1999 single cask was bottled by Malts of Scotland from a bourbon hogshead.
Glen Ord 11 yo 1999 (54,5%, Malts of Scotland 2010, cask #31212, 289 btl.)
Nose: quite malty and neutral at first. Than a fruity side develops (peach, grapefruit, guava) together with a slightly waxy / flinty side. Linseed oil. A little Provence herbs (thyme and rosemary) and oak. Nothing exceptional and quite compact, I have the feeling I need to drag most of these flavours out of it. A bit of water makes it more fragrant and a bit easier though. Mouth: powerful but still a rather malty attack. Again a nice fruitiness (apple, even more tropical fruits like pineapple). Almonds and vanilla. Nutmeg. Honey. Some ginger. Overall a little rough and alcoholic maybe. Finish: medium length. Rather sweet and spicy but quite simple.
Not exactly my type of whisky but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it either. I’m sure I would have prefered this at an older age.
Slightly less than € 50.
Things are going fast. This is post n°400, and a very special one.
It’s safe to say this single cask Karuizawa 1967/2009 is the most legendary Japanese whisky to date (the oldest as well by the way). It was bottled in August 2009 and the cask was split between La Maison du Whisky and The Whisky Exchange (a total of around 450 bottles).
It wasn’t cheap (retail price around € 240-280) but it already fetches three times as much in auctions. An excellent investment, that is.
Karuizawa 42 yo 1967 (58,4%, OB 2009 for LMdW & TWE, cask #6426)
Nose: like walking into a high-end cigar store. Magnificent notes of pipe tobacco and cigars. Lots of polished oak, a few hints of solvents even. Amontillado sherry. Menthol. Musty earth. Fermented Pu-erh tea. Leather. It needs a bit of breathing, but it’s superbly complex, with an amazingly fresh side as well (whiffs of raspberry jam, strawberries and plums). Also a soft vanilla coating that I didn’t expect in a heavy sherry bottling. None of the matchsticks of the 1976/1977 releases though. Anyway you can really get lost in such a nose. Mouth: very powerful, dry and oaky at first (without being too resinous or tannic). Dark chocolate. Roasted coffee beans. Mint. Tobacco again. Toasted bread with dark forest fruits marmalade. Finish: very long, chocolaty with spicy dry oak.
No need for an elaborate conclusion… My favourite release of last year. Dark sherry maturation doesn’t get much better than this (unless you add some peat maybe?).
ps/ There have been rumours about an even older Karuizawa… I can’t wait.
Sometimes I have a good laugh at all those crazy whisky prices. Take the Glenfiddich 33 yo 1975 / 2009 for example. Until a few days ago, this Dutch web site tried to sell it for € 1499 (claiming in a newsletter that this is a bargain as it has recently been auctioned for € 2835). At the same time, this French website still had stock at the more reasonable price of € 398. Right…
This aside, it should be an interesting bottle. The 1975 vintage was selected for the commemoration of the 40th Anniversary of the Glenfiddich visitor centre. It was drawn from cask #22000, a European oak sherry butt.
Glenfiddich 33 yo 1975
(53,7%, OB 2009, cask #22000, 520 btl.)
Nose: fruity and vibrant. Dried apricot, tangerine and quite some orange skin. Nicely balanced oak. Subtle vanilla. Dates. A rather subtle sherry cask, with slightly sour Mandarine Napoleon / orange oil notes which really lift the nose. Fruit cake. Nice old leather as well. Lovely. Mouth: develops on orange marmalade but it grows spicier, with cinnamon, a hint of pepper and nutmeg. Shows a good balance between the oak tannins (which are certainly present) and the fruity sweetness. Light vanilla again. Hints of liquorice in the end. Finish: oaky and spicy with some dark chocolate. Medium length.
A very good Glenfiddich with an individual nose and a palate with quite some oak, but nicely integrated with the rest of the flavours. Great subtle sherry influence. Thanks for the sample swap, Anthony!
ps/ Whiskysite.nl usually has good prices by the way, but this was just crazy. I just came back from vacation and I’ve noticed that both websites seem to have sold out very recently.
Edradour, part of the Signatory Vintage group since 2002, is famous for its finishes, so much that it’s almost impossible to say they have a house style.
This 1997 vintage has spent most of its time in regular hogsheads, but it received a second maturation in Sauternes casks. It’s bottled in the Straight from the Cask series, which means it’s single cask and cask strength.
Edradour 11 yo 1997 Sauternes finish (56,6%, OB 2009,
451 btl. 50 cl.)
Nose: starts malty with a background of sulphury organics and hints of rubber. After some breathing, it has some glorious moments in which the sweet wine sparkles and a lot of cinnamon emerges, together with some flowers. The more time you give it, the sweeter it gets, but it’s never really fresh. Water seems to help though, it enhances the flowery side and shows apricot notes. Mouth: fierce attack (duh). Now the fruitiness is nicer, with orange candy, peaches and hints of mint. Not as sweet as I had expected. Water is an improvement again – it brings a nice balance between honey and spices. Finish: dry, peppery and quite woody but still nicely candied as well.
A difficult one. It definitely needs water, but even then the organics are a bit disturbing. Around € 55.
Another independent 1970’s Glengoyne… we’re not complaining! This bourbon barrel was bottled by Malts of Scotland and will only be available in Belgium (it has been selected by Luc Timmermans). Every bottle will be accompanied by a free miniature, nice!
Nose: I sometimes make a dessert with mango, passion fruit, cape gooseberries and banana, marinated overnight in a syrup with vanilla, red peppers and star anise. Malts of Scotland has stolen my recipe! It seems warmer, sweeter and slightly more punchy than the Daily Dram version. I find less tangerine and papaya but more vanilla. Honeysuckle and tinned pineapple. Liquid candy really and hardly any trace of wood (except for the spices). When compared directly, the Daily Dram fruits seem greener. I prefer the candied MoS version but that’s a personal choice of course. Mouth: starts with a big oaky kick, quite resinous and slightly bittersweet. Fortunately the fruit basket bursts open as soon as you swallow. Overall less spicy than the DD. Hints of ginger and coconut. Finish: long and spicy, returning to sweet vanilla.
Another great 1970’s Glengoyne, full of fruits and utterly tropical. I preferred the Daily Dram over the previous cask by Malts of Scotland (#677), but this one overtakes them both, if only by a small margin. They’re both rather excellent so I’m not sure a 20% higher price is justified: around € 180.
Old Glen Grant is something you should never say ‘no’ to! Especially the 1970 and 1972 vintages are highly regarded (remember the MM Awards winning Glen Grant 1972 for The Whisky Fair?)
Glen Grant 39 yo 1970 (49,1%, Duncan Taylor 2009, cask #3492)
Nose: excellent fruitiness, very warm and sensual. Melon, yellow plums. Quite honeyed with frangipane notes. Gooseberries. Exotic mango. Baked banana. A lot of vanilla. It also shows waxy / solventy notes. Great! Great! Mouth: hmm, a slight overdose of oak now, although the same punchy fruit basket is still there. Hints of vanilla cake. Nutmeg, mint, soft pepper. Very spicy although not too tannic. I prefer it neat, because the fruits are a bit drowned with water. Finish: medium length on drying warm oak.
These old Glen Grants… will we ever get enough of them? This is a great cask again, although on the palate it’s a bit heavy on spicy oak. Anyway the nose is stunning. Well priced: around € 130, but probably sold out in most places.
Oban distillery is small, low-profile and there aren’t many releases. Independent bottlings are also hard to find. It is well respected and maybe slightly underrated.
This Oban is currently the ‘distillery exclusive’. Most distilleries have these kind of limited editions that are not distributed to shops and usually well priced. It’s a mixture of different casks that were 16 to 19 years old.
Oban NAS (55,2%, OB 2010,
‘only available at the distillery’, 8999 btl.)
Nose: oily, with malt and zesty citrus and apple. A few coastal notes. Hay. Hints of peat in the background. After a while, it gets sweeter and more floral / candied notes show up. Oranges and grapefruit. Nice Highlands nose, albeit a little shy. Mouth: peaty, malty and quite spicy (cloves, pepper). A little chamomile. Sweet pears. Nice smoky ending. Finish: oaky and sugary. Medium length.
This Oban needs some time to unfold. A very firm dram with typical Highlands elements and a nice coastal touch.