At the time when this was bottled, most of the whisky that was used for the BenRiach 16 Years was significantly older, due to erratic production in some years. Around 80% was 18 years old BenRiach and the other 20% were second and third fill casks of 20 years old.
I’m not sure how this situation has evolved in the meantime, I haven’t tried more recent versions. In any case it also contains some peated BenRiach.
BenRiach 16 yo (43%, OB 2008)
Nose: light, with the same elements as the younger versions. Rather grainy, with notes of dark bread and toast. Less fruity. Instead more nutty notes and grasses. Some honey. Mouth: quite a nice, spicy start. There’s some very light peat smoke, but hardly recognizable and well integrated. Toffee and apples. Some peach. Finish: quite herbal now, with clear oak influence. Vanilla with a hint of green banana.
Pleasant and gentle but lacking some punch, like the rest of the base expressions. A pretty harmless Speyside profile for an interesting price. Around € 40.
Laphroaig distillery is celebrating its 200th Anniversary in 2015. All kinds of bicentennial events are planned throughout the year and we can expect no less than seven special editions (how about a 21 Year Old in August and a Laphroaig 32 Year Old in autumn?). First up is this Laphroaig 15 Year Old 200th Anniversary edition.
It’s a revival really, as Laphroaig 15yo (the favourite whisky of Prince Charles, apparently) was first launched in 1980. It was discontinued in 2009 and replaced by an 18 Year Old, but now we can enjoy it once again.
Laphroaig 15 yo ‘200th Anniversary’ (43%, OB 2015, 72.000 btl.)
Nose: nice. It’s a slightly unmodern style, which means less peat and more (subtle) fruits. Ripe banana, nice papaya / mango and a hint of grapefruit. Lots of dried seaweed and antiseptic. Tobacco notes, a little flax. Vanilla and honey. I really like this nose, despite or because of the peat smoke being a bit restrained. Mouth: again quite smooth and rounded, with a creamy mouthfeel. Sweet tobacco. Lime and pear syrup. Drier after a while, with a peppery kick. Sooty notes in the background, with liquorice and a hint of brine. Finish: medium long, with some salt water and smoky honey.
Fans of the modern, more intensely peated Laphroaig profile may find this underpowered and lacking in smokiness. I really like it for its old-style fruitiness and complexity. I think it may have reached 90 points with a slightly higher strength. Around € 100. Due to arrive in stores globally.
Have you ever tried Compass Box Orangerie? It is a refreshing infusion of blended whisky with the hand-zested peel of Navelina oranges, cassia bark and clove. Instead of going towards orange liqueurs with lots of sugar, it was staying on the dry side.
When I read about Amrut Naarangi, I expected it would be in the same style as Orangerie, but it follows a slightly different route (and the end result is totally different). Amrut filled casks with Oloroso sherry and added orange peels to them. This mixture was left to season the wood for over two years. Afterwards, three years old malt whisky was put in the casks and it was left to mature for an extra period of three years.
It’s an interesting strategy. Whisky regulations in Europe say that adding anything to a whisky disqualifies it from being called whisky, but this way the orange flavours can still be transferred into the spirit.
Only 900 bottles of Naarangi were shipped to Europe, Asia and Canada but we can expect new batches in the future.
Amrut Naarangi (50%, OB 2015, 900 btl.)
Nose: very sweet and aromatic, although it certainly shows less oranges than expected. Instead it’s more on dried fruits (apricots, figs) and Spanish membrillo. Then it moves towards (subtle) Triple Sec (of course) with lemon zest and light pepper. Blood orange juice and sawdust too. Mouth: sweet (or rather sirupy) and spicy. Yes, more oranges now, both sweet juice and zesty notes. Pepper, hints of cloves, tangy oak. Finish: long, with the syrupy notes holding strong but also a lot of oak spices and a hint of mint.
This is an interesting but fairly simple dram, slightly different from what we expected. The oranges are not taking the lead – instead you get a sherried dram with plenty of spices and hints of oranges. Of course orange notes are pretty ‘classic’ in the sense that they commonly occur in non-flavoured whisky as well. I wonder how this technique would work with something that’s really off the map. Cherries, passion fruits, star anise, you name it. Around € 60-80.
Bowmore Black Rock is part of the distillery’s travel retail range. It was matured predominantly in Spanish ex-sherry casks.
Actually it’s part of a trilogy, alongside Bowmore Gold Reef and Bowmore White Sands, both ex-bourbon wood.
Bowmore Black Rock
(40%, OB 2014, travel retail)
Nose: not entirely fresh sherry, which luckily isn’t too loud. A bit of rubber, some organic notes as well. Toffee notes and pepper. Milk chocolate with hints of vanilla. Light smoke and seaweed. Mouth: oily, with some salty peat, a bit of iodine and stewed fruits. Caramel. Cocoa sweetness. Soft spices and an ever so light smoky note. Rather thin. Finish: not too long, with a focus on drying spices and bittersweet cocoa notes.
If you think how focused, clean and rewarding modern Bowmore can be, even at a younger age, then this is simply below par. It lacks punch and freshness. Another example of a tax free expression that is just so-so. Around € 45 for a litre bottle.
Recently Liquid Treasures selected two bottlings for their importer S.Y.C. Vino & Cigar Company in Taiwan. A Tullibardine 1990 and this Strathmill 1990. We had some really good Strathmill expressions in the past few years, especially those produced in 1974, but it’s still a rare and sometimes unreliable name.
Strathmill 23 yo 1990 (50,5%, Liquid Treasures for SYC Vino & Cigar Taiwan 2014, hogshead, 189 btl.)
Nose: an intensely… neutral whisky. I get some yellow apples and oranges, but mostly malt and grains. Bread, beer, these things. Faint vanilla. Also wet gravel and hay. Mouth: rounder at first, sweeter, slightly bubblegummy even, but still lots of cereal notes. Then it turns towards sweet liquorice and caramelized nuts. Herbal notes, a little cough syrup, increasing salty notes. More fruitiness with water, but I wouldn’t call this fruity whisky. Finish: medium long, malty, peppery, with a light touch of peat.
A bit of a strange one. On the whole it is a little too malty for my taste, although it goes in different – sometimes interesting – directions. Far away from the lovely Strathmill 1991 I tried – it seems Strathmill has all sorts of profiles.
Since 2009 The Glenturret distillery is regularly doing runs of peated whisky, mainly intended for use in the group’s Black Grouse blend.
The Whisky Shop managed to get three exclusive editions of The Glenturret in 2014: Glenturret Triple Wood, Glenturret Sherry Edition and Glenturret Peated Edition.
The Glenturret Peated Edition (40%, OB for The Whisky Shop 2014)
Nose: very creamy and lightly peated, I guess smoothness was a priority here. There’s a tarry note and corrugated cement board. Popcorn sweetness and apples. Sweet biscuity notes and a little chocolate. Mouth: again smooth and easy-going. Toffee, soft spices and a firmer hint of peat, including a slight acrid / grainy edge and a hint of salt. Finish: longer than expected, sweet and grainy with soft pepper.
Smooth and easy-going. It’s really okay, especially if you’re a blend drinker who wants to try a peated single malt but not the more intense Islay distilleries. Available from the distillery shop, sold out at The Whisky Shop (£ 47). Somehow they are now also available from a few Dutch and German retailers (€ 40).
There you have it, I was elected Best Whisky Blogger of the Year 2015, as part of this year’s International Whisky Competition which awards outstanding whiskies as well as bars, brand ambassadors and master distillers.
This was the first time there was a Best Whisky Blogger award. The organisation presented a shortlist of 20 candidates, from which the general public could pick their favourite by sending an e-mail. I came out in the top-5 – a sincere thank you to all of you who supported me.
We were then asked to send our best article of the past six months. I found this particularly difficult. I’m focused on daily reviews and rarely write opinion pieces, so which review is ‘the best review’? Not necessarily a review of the best whisky, I guess. Anyway the overall quality was taken into account, popularity, social media involvement, etc.
I will also be featured in the upcoming 2016 International Whisky Guide, due to be released this summer.