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.
I’ve never published notes of Brora 30 years old although it has been one of my favourite drams ever. After a 25 year-old version in 2008, there was enough stock to release a 30 year-old version again.
Brora 30yo (53,2%, OB 2009, 8th Edition, 2652 btl.)
Nose: starts very fruity. Pears on syrup, even tinned lychee. Orange lemonade and vanilla. Quite refined – a big surprise if you’re expecting the goat stables of the previous releases. There’s also a coastal and slightly medicinal side to it, which makes it more punchy. I’m picking up a few green, vegetal notes but the farminess is nothing like before. Hints of mint. It evolves on wax, almonds and apples. Still quite clean. Whiffs of light coal smoke as well. Mouth: more smoke now, on par with the fruity notes. Lots of lemon. Getting more salty and oaky. Once again more wax, apples and smoke. Finish: long, well balanced between salt, pepper, oak and smoke.
I’m a huge fan of the farmy Brora profile. If you haven’t experienced it, you won’t understand, but I really adore the hints of goat cheese or cow stable. This new Brora 30yo goes in a slightly different direction (the Clynelish direction that is) but it’s still excellent. For me, less wickedly unique though than previous versions.
Around € 275.
The Lagavulin 12 yo is probably the most popular of the yearly Special Releases. It’s a powerful cask-strength dram with an accesible price tag. I’m tasting this year’s release together with the Lagavulin 12yo 2006 release.
Lagavulin 12yo Special Release
(57,9%, OB 2009)
Nose: very ‘deep’ smoke, hints of burnt stuff. Some iodine, but initially less round and fresh than the 2006 version. It’s only after a few minutes that vanilla shows through with hints of chocolate, tobacco and apples. Some gypsum. More straightforward than the 2006. Mouth: again a strong base of peat smoke, burnt grass and roasted coffee beans. Very masculine. Not much fruit although there are hints of pear candy and almonds. Some sugared lemon juice. Vanilla. Spicy but not as salty as the 2006. Finish: smokey, not too long with the sweet peat having the last word.
This one needs some time, otherwise there’s not much else than peat smoke. Young, sharp and expressive. A small concern though: it seems Lagavulin is moving towards heavier peat, as clearly seen in recent Ardbegs or the Laphroaig 10yo CS as well. It’s a general trend, which makes it very Islay but also less complex and sophisticated than before. For me personally, that’s a small downturn.
Around € 70.
ps/ After I roughly rinsed my glasses with some water, the 2006 glass didn’t show much smoke. The 2009 on the other hand was pretty useless until it was cleaned thoroughly. I guess it shows the difference.
Isn’t that a lovely sight? It’s the full range of this year’s Diageo Special Releases, which includes a few very interesting bottles. There are two groups. First, the usual stuff that we’re looking forward to every year:
Stratyhclyde is a Lowlands grain distillery. Within its plant, there was also the Kinclaith malt whisky distillery which was closed in 1975. Strathclyde is now part of the Pernod Ricard imperium. The spirit contains 70% maize.
Nose: lots of varnish / paint notes. Not unpleasant but too harsh maybe. Some hints of toasted oak and a little mocha. Tropical fruits as well, but they’re burried somewhere deep inside. Too bad, because the balance is a bit gone. Some mint. Mouth: very very strong and equally strange. Heavy alcohol, an overload of wood resin, then some grains… quite ethereal on the whole with hints of after shave. Rum, burnt cake. Honey maybe? Water doesn’t do any good either. Finish: quite long but a bit too alcoholic and bitter.
I’ve never had this kind of experience with grain whisky. Way too much focus on the varnish notes and the alcohol. Still available in some shops. Around € 80. You’re warned though!
Balmenach is a little-know Speyside distillery. It was mothballed in 1993 and changed owners in 1997. Production was restarted with traditional machinery and methods. As there’s no official (old) stock, only independent bottlers can release bottlings at this moment.
This Balmenach 1975 was matured in first fill sherry casks. It was distilled in April 1975 and bottled by G&M in its Connoisseurs Choice range.
Balmenach 31yo 1975
(43%, Gordon & MacPhail 2007)
Nose: special. A sherry profile but quite unique. Earthy, with notes of hay and a fern forest. Nuts. Something of soy sauce. Apples. Coffee. Some heather. Rather strange, quite herbal, with interesting notes of pine needles! Very complex really. Mouth: oily mouth-feel but slightly underpowered at 43%. Big notes of dried fruits (figs, raisins), candied orange peel, very dark chocolate. Hints of roasted nuts / smoke as well. Some banana. Ginger. Rich and intense. Finish: very long, very sherried. A pinch of salt in the aftertaste. Excellent espresso.
This Balmenach feels old, in a good way. Well, it is old of course… but first fill sherried whisky at this age is not always drinkable. This one doesn’t have that problem and the result is intense, old-school sherry. A contemplative whisky that would have been even better at 46% or cask strength. Some bottles left at around € 90.