Sometimes whisky releases seem to come in waves. Certain vintages are highly sought after by independent bottlers, certainly after the success of similar expressions. After the Glen Grant 1972 that won the MM Awards 2009, we’ve seen other bottlings trying to match this quality.
This Glen Grant 1973 was bottled by Thosop – I’ll compare it to a slightly older Glen Grant 1972 tomorrow, bottled by Whisky-Doris. Both were matured in (refill) sherry casks.
Glen Grant 37 yo 1973
(46%, Thosop 2010, sherry butt, 120 btl.)
Nose: very seductive with silky fruit notes and delicate oak polish. Ripe gooseberries, kumquats, lime and a little honeysuckle. Undertones of dried apricots from the sherry cask. A nutty / moccha layer as well. Fresh and maybe a tad shy at 46%, although it unfolds nicely over time. Water adds soft waxy notes. Mouth: rich fruity notes with lots of added spices this time (nutmeg, a little pepper and cinnamon). A whole array of oranges, tangerines, a little grapefruit and apricot. Mouth: long, fruity / spicy with faint moccha.
A classic Glen Grant: fruity and balanced, with gentle spices and a subtle sherry influence. Around € 140.
Whisky-Doris is a German shop run by Doris & Herbert Debbeler. They’re known for regularly bottling their own casks and for providing samples of new releases.
This 14 years old Highland Park was bottled in two versions – one at 46% and one at cask strength. We’re trying the stronger version.
Highland Park 14 yo 1995 (55,8%, Whisky-Doris 2010, bourbon hogshead #1468, 205 btl.)
Nose: nice combination of grassy notes, heather honey and interesting fruits (sweet pomelo and lime I would say). Some coastal notes as well as wet limestone. Nicely balanced peat smoke. Mint. Water highlights the heather and mint and adds floral notes. Mouth: the peat is much more expressive now and has a nice chlorophyl coating. Simple fruity centre (apples and pear). Again an evident grassiness and a nice lemon/brine combo. Gently smoked. Slightly sweeter with water. Finish: pretty long and spicy, with liquorice and lemon.
Very good middle-aged Highland Park. Perfectly drinkable at cask strength, with balanced flavours and a nice coastalness throughout. Available for € 55.
Lochside was part of the Pernod Ricard group and had a short life. It was founded in the 18th century as a beer brewery, taken over in 1957 by the owners of Ben Nevis and converted into a whisky distillery (both malt and grain whisky by the way). In 1973 it was bought by the Spanish DYC company which was taken over by Allied Domecq / Pernod Ricard. The distillery was closed in 1992 and demolished in 2004.
Nose: a fresh nose with lots of citrus, mostly lemon, lime and grapefruit. Some green apple and hints of more exotic passion fruit and pineapple. Very pleasant acidity. Hints of cut grass. Beautiful oak polish and faint floral / fragrant notes. Topped of with nice lemon grass. Reminds me of a white wine (in a good way, think of Riesling or my beloved Albariño). Really delicate sherry influence I would say. Mouth: a tad sweeter now, still high on lemon, (pink) grapefruit and pineapple. Orange peel. Big grassy notes again. A little white pepper in the background. Soft white chocolate towards the end. Finish: medium length, pleasant and very crisp, with exotic fruit tea and faint liquorice.
This Lochside offers a great combination of fresh acidic notes and warmer, more exotic fruits. Very entertaining. Around € 145 – still a few bottles available.
St Magdalene has brought us some marvellous whisky. The Lowlands distillery was closed in 1983 and is now highly sought after. Among the best releases are the 1964/65/66 releases by Cadenhead (dumpy bottle) and Gordon & MacPhail (brown label or old map label).
St Magdalene 18 yo 1964
(40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice
brown label 1983, 75 cl.)
Nose: unique. A wonderful combination of cherries, blueberries and raisins with milk chocolate and coffee. Quite some butter. A little metal. Dried flowers. Dusty wardrobes and old leather bound books. Ashes. Herbs. A distinct aroma of juicy apricots. Not the typical Lowlands shyness, I would say. This is intense and extremely interwoven. Mouth: not too powerful but full of flavour: velvety fruits – soft cherry and apricot again, but less noticeable than on the nose. Some vanilla and oak. Tobacco. Tea with lemon. Then growing drier, a little resinous and softly herbal (laurel and cloves). More earthy as well, with hay and liquorice root. Finish: not too long, on dry ashes with a salty edge and pine resin.
This St Magdalene 1964 is nothing like a modern Lowlands malt. In fact it’s unlike any modern malt.
The slight dryness of the finish prevents a higher score, but this is still a legendary dram.
Dalwhinnie is part of the Diageo Classic Malts but even then releases are very rare. I couldn’t find much information about this bottle, but it’s clear that Gordon & MacPhail have bottled several 1970 casks at the end of the 80’s and beginning of the 90’s.
Dalwhinnie 21 yo 1970 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice 1991, 70 cl.)
Nose: a beautiful marriage of mainly two aromas. First, all sorts of beehive aromas (wax, honey, pollen) and then a soft marmalade side (yellow plums, some apple). All this coated with a layer of peat smoke that’s just great. Hints of turpentine. Some oak and grassy notes. Mouth: starts powerful and peppery. Less fruity than expected, although there is some pear. A bit of caramel. Then shows grassy notes and big hints of herbal tea, liquorice and mint. A bit heavy on the oak. Finish: fairly herbal and slightly bitter. Hints of peat again. Medium length.
This Dalwhinnie started on a very interesting and rewarding nose, but it couldn’t hold the constant level I was hoping for. Still very nice.
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.