It seems a new Ardbeg expression is ready to be launched: Ardbeg Alligator.
Alligator is the name of the deepest way of charring casks. It refers to the resulting scale-like pattern of burnt wood, similar to a croc’s skin. Almost all bourbon makers use this type of charring, but for Scotch distilleries it’s quite uncommon.
Ardbeg did some experiments with toasted new oak casks (mind you: toasted, not charred) and released two of them for Feis Ile 2009: Ardbeg 1998 cask 1189 and Ardbeg 1998 cask 1190. I liked those casks A LOT because they focused less on peat smoke and more on bourbon flavours (vanilla, cocoa, mint, tobacco).
In stores around September, with a limited Comittee Release on the 1st of June 2011.
Update: the 1998 were toasted casks instead of charred casks (not burnt, just browned). The end result of the Alligator may be different from those experimental casks, but I guess we can still expect a palette that’s based around bourbon flavours.
Next up in our little Kintra overview is a 25 years old bourbon hogshead filled at Macduff distillery in 1984. We’ve recently seen a similar 1984 release from Thosop (same strength and also a rather limited number of bottles) and a sherry cask from Berry Bros with a similar cask number 3148.
Nose: malty / fruity with apple, vanilla and almonds. Initially there’s also a vegetal side to it, but this seems to disappear after a while. Some fresh oak. Develops further when you add a little water. Gets slightly flowery and brings out vanilla cake. A little leather. Mouth: nice body, very fruity – mainly citrus (tangerine, lemon). Cinnamon and soft pepper. A little herbal tea, which grows stronger over time. Slightly grassy towards the end. Finish: quite long and drying with spices and herbal notes.
This Macduff 25yo is a nice dram that unfolds itself in different ways if you wait long enough and add some water. It reminds me a lot (a lot!) of the Thosop bottling. If it’s not the same whisky, then it’s certainly a closely related sister cask.
Around € 90.
Caol Ila 25 yo 1984 (51%, Kintra 2010, bourbon hogshead, cask #5395, 60 btl.)
Nose: quite pungent and very smokey. Wet earth, ashes, seaweed and peat… full of power. Some mint. Slightly more medicinal than an average Caol Ila (iodine). What’s great is the faint, sweet background of blackcurrant although it’s difficult to pin down. Nice balance. Mouth: oily, very earthy and smokey (bacon). Starts half-sweet with roasted coffee beans. Then growing medicinal and peppery with the sweetness fading to slightly bitter notes of tonic water and grapefruit zest. Liquorice as well. Finish: long and salted, with medicinal notes and peat again.
Very punchy and smokey, with a balanced amount
of citrus zest and a tiny drop of sweetness. Exactly what we hope for when trying a mature Caol Ila. Recommended and well priced: around € 110.
Kintra is a Dutch company managed by Erik Molenaar. Apart from the organisation of tastings and whisky workshops, they release around
8 single cask bottlings a year, all uncoloured and non-chillfilltered.
Originally only available in the Netherlands (in an ever expanding list of shops), they are now also available in Belgium (www.whiskyhuis.be).
The labels are colour-coded to recognize the whisky region. The most recent batch of Kintra bottlings was presented mid October 2010.
There have been multiple Glen Elgin 1968 releases from the Gordon & MacPhail stocks. This one was matured in a refill sherry hogshead and bottled in 2004.
Glen Elgin 35 yo 1968 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice 2004)
Nose: very subtle sherry, and very oaky – in a good way. Shows oak polish, ripe pears and some cinnamon. Quite a lot of eucalyptus honey as well. A hint of bubblegum in the background – a nice touch. Faint hints of burnt sugar. Nice and lively for such an old malt with a luxurious charm. Mouth: sherry again, but with a smoky, even very lightly peated profile. Charred oak? Walnut skin and liquorice. Some toffee. Gets a little sharp towards the end, with resin, tannins and hints of mustard seeds. Bitter almonds as well. Finish: long, really dry and slightly herbal.
A great nose, but a little too resinous and tannic on the palate to get a higher score. Around € 120 but almost impossible to find.
We’ve welcomed Connemara Turf Mór a couple of weeks ago. In the same small batch series, there was a predecessor called Connemara Sherry finish. It comprises whiskey aged between five and fifteen years, with a second maturation in ex-sherry wood for approximately 18 months.
Connemara Sherry finish
(40%, OB 2009, 10.000 btl.)
Nose: smokey but not (heavily) peated. Hints of red candy, berries and raisins. Not classic sherry though, rather a vague sweetness. Something that reminds me of freshly cured leather. Rubber boots as well. Some forest notes. Rather unique and very pleasantly coated with sweet, sugary aromas. Mouth: more peat and smoke now, still rounded by toffee, sweet citrus and really soft spices. Nice interplay with the creamy sherry. Faint hints of tar. Finish: long, with dry peat, citrus flavours and a little liquorice.
A very enjoyable whisky which finds the right balance of peat and sherry sweetness. Much more gentle than Turf Mór, with added candied notes. Still available alongside the new expression. Around € 50.
Springbank C.V. is a vatting of 7, 10 and 14 years old whisky from different casks (bourbon, sherry and port wine), all specially selected by Director of Production Frank McHardy and Distillery Manager Stuart Robertson.
Springbank CV (46%, OB 2010)
Nose: quite a whirlpool of different aromas. I detected at least three layers. One has grainy notes, oatmeal, sesame oil and sour yoghurt. For me, these notes are a little ungraceful. A second one shows nice soot and subtle peat. A final layer has some sweet sherry notes, almonds and eucalyptus (unfortunately all quite subdued). Too bad the layers are not very integrated – there’s a lot going on but in the end nothing stands out in a nice way. Mouth: quite some sweetness with dark caramel (the Port casks?) as a common thread for the whole profile. Pepper and other spices. Again subtle peat. A briney hint of liquorice with a distinct bitter tang in the end. Finish: more liquorice and caramel with a hint of smoke.
If C.V. stands for Curriculum Vitae, then this employee seems to have done a bunch of things in his career, but nothing really well. Not exactly harmonious and not my kind of dram. Springbank has many better choices in its current range. Around € 35.
This Caol Ila 1982 was part of the second wave of Perfect Dram bottlings by The Whisky Agency. A couple of months before, there was another Caol Ila 1982 in the same series.
Caol Ila 27 yo 1982 (62,4%, The Whisky Agency 2009, Perfect Dram II, bourbon hogshead, 108 btl.)
Nose: very kippery, with smoked fish and oysters. Camphor and bandages (you know the kind of iodine impregnated gauze used for skin burn? that’s what I mean). Clean peat and quite a lot of pepper. Some farmy hints underneath. A few fruity notes are noticeable on a second level (apple pie, vanilla. sweet ginger). Mouth: big impact, nice mouthfeel, tarry and smokey. Again a faint (citrus) sweetness in the background. A few herbal notes, nutmeg and pepper. Finish: loooong and peaty.
A great Caol Ila, one of the best I’ve had from The Whisky Agency. Complex, exemplary and very intense. Around € 130 at the time, but I’m afraid all bottles are gone.