I’ve had a nice day again. The Wild West Whisky Fest is a festival with a perfect mix of old and new bottlings, which makes it suited for whisky fans with different experience levels. Moreover, you didn’t need to wait long nor use your elbows to talk to your favourite bottlers.
Congratulations to the organisers! Now let’s hope the next editions don’t grow over their heads and get too crowded, because the festival is quite perfect as it is.
A few of the highlights for me:
Port Ellen 26yo 1983 (54,6%, Duncan Taylor Rarest of the Rare 2010, cask #674) – a good sherried Port Ellen with lots of sweet smoke, some meaty notes, chocolate and a dry finish. Around € 200.
Dallas Dhu 28yo 1981 (55,8%, Riverstown 2010) – Riverstown is a new label by Robin ‘Blackadder’ Tucek. This Dallas Dhu was quite oily, with a bit of coal smoke and big hints of oranges / Grand Marnier. A bit unusual but very good. Ugly labeling! Around € 160.
GlenDronach 8yo (45,4%, OB 1972, dumpy green 75cl) – unsherried, very fruity and fresh. Long gone.
Highland Park 13yo 1996 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, ref. 5732) – easy, very candied and honeyed, full of wine gums, a rather atypical Highland Park but very enjoyable.
Laphroaig 13yo 1996 (57,3%, Malts of Scotland ‘Clubs’ 2010, cask #7313) – bottled exclusively for The Bonding Dram. Soft nose on smoked ham, with a relatively explosive palate. Very good. Around € 60.
I’ve specifically avoided other interesting things. The new Arrans were there (14yo and sherry cask for Belgium) and are said to be quite good. We could also taste most of the Feis Ile bottlings and my beloved Longmorn 1972/2010 by The Whisky Agency was present at multiple stands. The new finished GlenDronachs were available, but I’ll taste them in depth shortly. I’ve also filled a few sample bottles with whiskies that I’ll present in the next few weeks. Stay stuned.
Douglas Laing manages a large series of Glenfarclas casks, but since Glenfarclas doesn’t allow independent bottlers to use that name, Douglas Laing bottles them as Speyside’s Finest.
They’re all very old (most of them were distilled in the 1960’s) and matured in sherry casks. This one was bottled for The Whisky Show in London in November 2009.
Speyside’s Finest 43 yo 1966 (48,2%, Douglas Laing OMC 2009, cask #5525, 197 btl.)
Nose: full blown sherry, with lovely notes of tobacco and cocoa. Chocolate. Quite dry with a nice savoury / herbal touch (parsley and mint). Balsamic syrup. Excellent. Water adds some raspberry liqueur. Mouth: the usual raisins, chocolate and orange liqueur. Drying towards the finish (hints of dark tea), with some liquorice. Mint again. Finish: very long, spicy and really dry.
It’s safe to say these Speyside’s Finest bottlings are all very good, and some are quite excellent. Around € 145 and still available from TWE.
Wild West Whisky Fest is probably the youngest whisky festival in Belgium, but after its first edition it already has a solid reputation. The 2009 edition was relatively small but all the major distributors and brands were present. The unique experiment in which the same whisky could be tasted blind with and without added caramel or chill-filtration, was a big hit as well.
The second edition will be held this weekend – June 5 and 6 in Kortrijk Xpo (1 to 6 pm).
Expect to find the new releases by Thosop, The Nectar, Malts of Scotland and other distributors (including those who were absent in Gent or Liège), but also expect a whole range of rare antiquities that you won’t find in stores (Lindores & Max Righi will be there). See you on Sunday?
Coopers Choice is a brand of the Vintage Malt Whisky Co, an independent bottler founded in 1992. They’re mostly known for Finlaggan and Ileach, their undisclosed Islay malts.
The Coopers Choice range is a selection of single cask bottlings covering all ages and all regions of Scotland.
Auchentoshan 17 yo 1991
(43%, Coopers Choice 2009)
Nose: grassy and slightly cheesy. Mashed potatoes. Not really fruity, although it develops on nice lemon candy. A few hints of linseed oil. Too bad there’s not enough freshness to make the citrus stand out. Mouth: very sweet, lemon candy again. Hints of peppermint gum and pepper. Develops on grainy notes, like a flavoured vodka. Finish: sweet, grainy and slightly grassy.
Well, it didn’t impress me at all. One for real Auchentoshan fans perhaps? Around € 50.
A few weeks ago, fellow blogger Jason (GuidScotchDrink) invited me to be part of his Whisky Round Table. Each month, one question will be answered by 12 bloggers and the answers will be published on one of our blogs.
The first question is “What rules have you set for yourself in your whisky lives and how have you rationalized breaking them?”
As it turns out, most whisky lovers don’t have rules. Are we surprised…?
Read the full answers here.
The Bruichladdich Sherry Editions are interesting experiments in which the same whisky is finished in different sherry casks for two years.
For the 2008 edition they selected an Oloroso and a Manzanilla cask. Last year it was a Fino cask and a Pedro Ximénez cask from the Bodegas Fernando de Castilla (Ximinez is not exactly a misprint, but it’s not the common spelling either). I’m not sure if they have much more cask types to choose from, maybe a Palo Cortado or an Amontillado?
I was especially interested in the PX cask, as it has proven to get nice results. It’s the most luxurious and sticky kind of sherry.
Bruichladdich 17 yo 1992 ‘Sherry Edition 2 – Pedro Ximinez’ (46%, OB 2009, 6000 btl.)
Nose: honeyed sherry with fresh raspberry notes. Reminded me of Glenmorangie Sonnalta PX in a way. More oak though and slightly more vinous. Darker notes of blackcurrent. After a while, spices show up (ginger, cardamom). Mouth: pears poached in wine. Other fruits as well: plums, melon, strawberry marmalade… Quite sweet, thankfully the spices add more depth. Hints of nougat. Finish: lingering cardamom, raisins, oak and caramelized sugar.
The Pedro Ximénez has brought an intense sweetness and deep fruitiness to this whisky and the balance with the spirit is pretty good.
Around € 75.
This bottling actracted my interest because it said “matured in a wine treated butt”. I’m not sure what this means, but I suppose it’s an American oak butt that has been infused with sherry for a couple of weeks (without the wine actually being matured in this cask) before being filled with whisky.
Nowadays this practice is more common than you may know (‘real’ sherry casks are expensive), but it’s rarely mentioned as such. I really appreciate this kind of transparency.
Port Ellen 27 yo 1983 (55,7%, Signatory Vintage 2010, cask #231, 501 btl.)
Nose: like an embering fire on a beach, that you’ve just fuelled with some diesel oil. Smokey and coastal. Sweet hints of almonds, or even better, almond butter cookies. Some wax and lemon. Hints of overripe fruits, could this be the wine influence? Quite medicinal as well. Really high-end. Water makes it a bit more feminine, with a tiny hint of vanilla, more wax and hints of fruity wine. Pretty awesome. Mouth: big and compact, peaty, sweet and salty at the same time. Pepper and citrus. Lots of iodine. Grows sharper over time. Very explosive. Here as well, water lifts the sweeter notes, mutes the peat and highlights some zesty citrus. Finish: peppery and grassy hints, fading on sweet peat smoke.
Don’t be fooled by the wine treatment, this is an exceptional Port Ellen that compromises very little. It’s great to play around with water and watch it switch between its monstruous peat side and its feminine vanilla side.
Not exactly cheap though: around € 190. Available from most international shops. Master of Malt also sells samples.
Bruichladdich is known for its ACE’d bottlings (additional cask enhancement) which are basically wine finishes. A couple of years ago, we already had a Blacker Still of which this is the successor.
The 19 years old Bruichladdich Black Art is a tribute to alchemy. It was finished in bourbon casks as well as different types of wine casks in warehouse n°12. The spectacular pink hue already informs you about the wine treatment.
Bruichladdich 19yo 1989 ‘Black Art’ (51,1%, OB 2009, 6000 btl.)
Nose: definitely wine treated. Hints of port wine with sourish notes that remind me of cellars and of raspberry vinegar. Lots of red berries, strawberry marmalade, grapes, hints of cherry liqueur. A bit of musty oak as well. Enticing, but very very winey. Mouth: less fruity sweet than I expected although there is still berry juice to be found. Fresh, sour notes again, then some grapefruit, heavy wine and wood. Cooked strawberries. Finish: warm, quite long, winey.
This Bruichladdich won’t convert me to the dark religion of wine treatment, but it does show beautiful notes of red fruits. Thumbs up for the packaging by the way. Still available. Around € 80.