Last week, I attended the presentation of the new Glenrothes 1998 vintage in Madrid. Spain is the first country after Taiwan, Singapore and China to get this bottling. The rest of the world will have to wait a little longer.
It is the first bottling to carry the signature of Gordon Motion, the new Malt Master, after the retirement of John Ramsay. It is also the first available vintage that was specifically laid down to become a vintage. Previous releases were selected out of the existing cask stock in the warehouses. Note that the 1995 vintage was the first to be designed as a vintage, but that year’s production is not ready to be bottled yet.
Around a third of the selected casks were seasoned with oloroso sherry by three bodegas in Jerez de la Frontera. The other casks were ex-bourbon.
Glenrothes 1998 (43%, OB 2009)
Nose: initially hints of dry flowers, cereals and butter caramel / toffee. Easy to see this is a sibling of the Glenrothes Select Reserve, but with a more refined character. Quite fresh with a slight nuttiness. Notes of vanilla and citrus fruits. Lemon grass. Sweet honey. Mouth: starts gently on honey, fruity marmalade and apple. Quite sweet and vanillated. Some coconut. More depth when the spices kick in (mostly cinnamon). Finish: medium length with a lovely spicy profile (nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla).
This Glenrothes 1998 has more depth than you would expect from a 10 year-old. Not overly complex but fresh and well-made! Around € 42.
Nose: a few musty / meaty notes at first. I’m not a big fan of that, but with some time, a bit of hand warmth and a drop of water, it’s much better. Much more oak now (wood as well as varnish). Chocolate and red berries. Nice tobacco and old balsamic vinegar / sweet & sour combination. Hints of tandoori even. With water, an awesome nuttiness appears. Mouth: mostly raspberries that shine through. Raisins and dried plums as well. Big oak again, a bit of spicy toffee and chocolate. Faint whiffs of roasted coffee beans. Finish: quite long, sherry with cloves and a touch of pepper.
The heavy sherry on this Glenglassaugh 1984 needs some tweaking to get it right. Different flavours come out when you gradually add water. Take your time to discover it. Around € 120.
ps/ I was able to taste some of the forthcoming releases by Malts of Scotland (Aberlour 1990, Glen Spey 1977…) and they are remarkable! Something to look forward to.
Like Springbank, Benrinnes produces a 2,5 times distilled malt whisky (with 2x 3 stills). Most of it is used for blends like J&B and Johnnie Walker. Both official bottlings and independent releases are rare.
This Benrinnes 1988 was matured in a bourbon hogshead for 21 years.
Nose: sugared cereals (Frosties) and green apples. Temporary hints of new-make (artificial banana) although that’s quite odd for a 21 year-old… Hints of wet hay. Getting slightly fruitier over time (oranges, pears). Milk chocolate. Mouth: more depth now. The sweet fruits are still there, the peat is bigger and rounded off with some smoke. Sweet almonds. Quite spicy (mostly white pepper). Hints of ginger and tonic. Finish: drier, still hints of smoke and peat. Some bitter cloves.
This Benrinnes is an unusual malt and I find it difficult to pin down. It shares some characteristics with Lowlands whisky and there are hardly any flavours that clearly pop out of the malty centre. Not really my type of whisky but interesting to try. Around € 95.
Peated whisky is not only made on Islay these days, and many of the peated Speysiders are quite good. In the same way, Islay distilleries are now making unpeated version with great success.
If it’s just the alcohol you’re after, this Caol Ila 10yo unpeated style will be your favourite special release with a whopping 65,8% of acohol. It replaces last year’s unpeated Caol Ila 8yo.
Caol Ila 10yo ‘unpeated style’
(65,8%, OB 2009)
Nose: the first things I picked up were some peppermint, green melon, bubblegum and vanilla. After a few moments, these make place for big notes of cocoa butter (Mycryo), coffee with milk and white chocolate chips. With water, it becomes floral and more fruity with citrus and apples. Mouth: chocolate again, lemon biscuits, cereals. The vanilla / citrus combo is outstanding. With water: more typically Caol Ila if you ask me. A few grassy notes, more citrus. Ginger. Finish: warm, sweet vanilla cake with coffee and marshmallow. Not too long.
This unpeated Caol Ila is very enjoyable and maybe even better than their peated bottlings. The only downside is that it’s quite simple, there’s not much evolution in the flavour development. Around € 60.
It’s always nice to see releases from distilleries that are rarely bottled as a single malt. There were no official Mannochmore releases since 1997 (Manager’s Dram 18yo).
This Mannochmore 18yo 1990/2009 is a mix of re-charred sherry casks (European oak), re-charred bourbon casks and new American oak casks that were seasoned with sherry. Unusual scenario which makes me very curious.
Mannochmore 18 yo 1990
(54,9%, OB 2009, 2604 btl.)
Nose: very expressive with sweet sherry notes, fruit gums and tons of vanilla. Very warm and highly sensual. Fruit cake with candied orange bits. Raspberries. Hints of nougat and tobacco. Just enough oak polish. A whole range of spices and mint. Very complex, lots of different elements, but they join up perfectly. Mouth: smooth with dried fruits again and added nutty flavours. Apricots. Toffee. Toast with orange marmalade. The spices are still here: pepper, ginger, cinnamon. Quite herbal after a while. Finish: quite long. Spicy with some drying oak. Wonderful chocolate.
This Mannochmore 18yo made my day. Very attractive with big spicy notes and subtle sherry. The insider’s choice of this year’s special releases. I’m buying. Around € 100.
The Port Ellen 9th annual release is probably one of the most anticipated bottlings of the yearly Diageo special releases. This is the first official 30 years old Port Ellen. While some shops have already sold their complete allocation, you can still find some bottles. I’ve compared it to the 6th and 7th release (which will be posted in the near future).
Port Ellen 9th release 30yo 1979
(57,7%, OB 2009, 5916 btl.)
Nose: seems a bit more modest than most previous bottlings. The peat influence is rather soft and coated in a honeyed sweetness. Dried fruits and pears. More medicinal (antisepctic) and maritime notes than other official PE’s. Slightly mentholated and grassy. Lemons and a touch of vanilla. Almond. A confident 30yo gentleman really. Mouth: coating mouth-feel, sweet delivery with a coal smoke centre. Soon the spices kick in (pepper, nutmeg) and it gets drier. Hints of lemon biscuits and salty liquorice. Powerful and balanced. Finish: long, fading on smoke, spices and liquorice.
After an 8th release with seamingly disappointed comments, this is a rewarding high-class dram. Especially the nose is excellent. Around € 260.
This year’s Talisker 30 years old is a mixture of refill American oak casks and European oak casks. It’s the fourth edition of the 30yo bottling. I’ve tasted it alongside the Talisker 25 yo.
Talisker 30yo (53,1%, OB 2009, 3000 btl.)
Nose: obviously the same family as the 25yo, but gentler and creamier. Less smoke, less maritime notes (still there, just muted). More fruity notes, added hints of vanilla and toffee. Hints of almond pie and apples. Very warm, rather sweet and simply lovely. Mouth: fruity again (candied oranges, lime) with some candle wax. Interesting how it starts very feminine (almond milk) but gets more turbulent over time (more peat, salt, strong tea) with a peppery tang. Finish: very long, citrus with pepper. Some salt and smoke.
Well, Talisker 30yo offers a few added levels over the 25yo. The sweet and fruity side is better developed and it balances all the typical Talisker elements very well. It’s richer and very refined. Around € 240.
This is the seventh edition of the Talisker 25 years old. It’s a mixture of refill American oak casks and European oak casks and a true classic in the Diageo Special Releases range.
Talisker 25yo (54,8%, OB 2009, 5862 btl.)
Nose: very maritime start (seaweed, brine) with some lazy peat and smoke. After a while citrus grows stronger (lemon but oranges as well). Some trademark pepper. Quite some oak and cigar boxes. Linseed oil. Compared to the 30yo, punchier and slightly more grassy but still relatively shy. Mouth: a slap in your face. Very spicy with the pepper being the most important. More sweet peat now. Some liquorice towards the finish. Nice lemon-salt combo. Very oily and powerful. Medium finish. Slightly bitter / organic onset, then more salty. Coastal notes and more wood in the end.
Very intense and very Talisker although I don’t see a real premium over the 20 years old version. If money is not an issue, have a look at the 30 years old. Around € 170.