Brackla was founded in 1812. In 1835, it was the first of three distilleries allowed to use “Royal” in its name. It was mothballed from 1985 to 1991 and is now refurbished under Dewar & Sons.
Royal Brackla 25 yo 1975 (55,4%, Signatory Vintage 2001, cask #5413)
Nose: quite waxy and oily. Paraffin. Lemon and flints. Alternating with waves of fruity notes and marmalade. Some hay and walnuts. Gravel and stone dust. Not the most exuberant nose, after all the prominent wax makes it a little subdued, but I love its ‘nakedness’ and sincere style. It’s old and it doesn’t try to disguise it, if you know what I mean. Mouth: strong attack, initially rather sweet but quickly drying. Extremely drying – very oaky and full of pine resin. Getting really bitter as well. Nutmeg, pepper, over-infused tea, grapefruit peel… Bonkers! As if the palate is suddenly flooded by oak. Finish: very bitter. Too long, I would say.
Wow, what a strange dram. I could score this high for a very nice nose and a palate that’s nothing like any other dram I’ve ever tasted. On the other hand, the bitter oak on the palate is completely over the top and deserves something like 50/100. Anyway you’re warned: the score is slightly arbitrary.
Although the name Miltonduff is not heard often as a single malt, it is a high-capacity distillery and considered the most important component of the Ballantine’s blend. It’s one of the key plants in the Chivas / Pernod Ricard group. Gordon & MacPhail has semi-official bottlings of Miltonduff such as a regular 10 years old.
As you know, the Lonach series by Duncan Taylor blends one or more underproof casks with stronger sister casks to reach the required 40% limit. As the result is still cask strength, it’s much richer than a cask that has been diluted to the same 40%.
Miltonduff 37 yo 1971
(40%, Duncan Taylor Lonach 2008)
Nose: beautiful round Speyside elements. Very sophisticated. Big vanilla, some very sweet pineapple, banana and lovely hints of marshmallows! Some honey. Orange gums and cinnamon. Polished oak. Mouth: light but not too soft. Again quite a sweet profile with yellow apples and citrus candy. Pollen and honey. A fair amount of spices from the oak (soft pepper, cinnamon). Some sawdust towards the end. Finish: medium long, on barley sugars, oranges and oak.
This Miltonduff is simply a succulent Speyside whisky. It’s a bit reticent maybe, but very warm and I adore those marshmallow notes! If only
I could find a bottle somewhere. It was around
€ 120 at the time.
Head over to Whisky4everyone (by Matt & Karen) for this month’s Whisky Round Table. The twelve of us are answering this question:
What is your whisky ‘dirty little secret’? That’s the whisky that you always enjoy but would never let your ‘whisky connoisseur’ friends know that you do (apart from us!). It is the big brand/well known name that you may drink when out or the one that always sits in your whisky cupboard, alongside your limited edition cask strength bottlings from those niche distilleries. Tell us why it is your ‘dirty little secret’ whisky, as we like a good story.
When I first became interested in whisky
(around 2004/05), Dewar Rattray was an independent bottler that quickly gained attention
(it was one of the first tastings I attended, with Susan Webster at that time). They seemed to have great and sometimes uncommon whisky at interesting prices, but due to some problems with their Belgian distributor, releases suddenly became hard to find around here.
Mid 2010 they were re-introduced in Belgium with a slightly different name: A.D. Rattray. Time to re-discover them – we’ll start with a 21 years old Tomatin distilled 1st of June 1988. Sister cask #1087 was bottled in 2009.
Tomatin 21 yo 1988 (55,2%, A.D. Rattray 2010, cask #1088, 213 btl.)
Nose: really sweet up front. Very fruity. Also a hint of grass and hay, but it fades quickly (and comes back with some water). Not the tropical fruits we expect from a 1970’s Tomatin, more like stewed fruits. Apricot. Apple pie with vanilla ice cream. Developing on oak spices (nutmeg, cinnamon). Mouth: oily and spicy attack. Quite some fruits again, now dried rather than fresh fruit. Vanilla. Nutmeg, ginger and soft pepper taking the lead. Water softens the spices and makes place for the fruits: butter pears, yellow raisins, mango crumble. Finish: long and spicy, with some herbal tea and oranges.
A solid Tomatin, full of fruits and spices. Water adds an extra dimension, so be sure to play around with it. Well priced: around € 80.
This limited edition GlenDronach Octarine (“the colour of magic”) was developed in May 2010, exclusively for the Carrefour supermarkets in France. As often with these “exclusive” releases, they turned up in other stores afterwards.
It is a vatting of bourbon and sherry casks, said to be 8 years old although there’s no age statement on the label.
GlenDronach Octarine (46%, OB 2010)
Nose: starts on marzipan / walnuts with some citrus notes and apricot compote, but quickly loses a lot of its freshness and moves to roasted almonds and old roses. Interesting smokiness which seems to mute the fruits. Some milk chocolate. A little mineral as well (limestone). Mouth: starts a little shy, with mixed fruits (apple, orange) and evolving to big notes of butter toffee and caramel. Some vanilla. Overall quite coating, with a creamy chocolate body. Finish: quite long, drying with more chocolate.
This Octarine is quite different from what we see in the core range or the GlenDronach single casks.
I may not be the biggest fan, but in this price range it’s very authentic. Around € 30 in France. Around
€ 40 if you manage to find a bottle in other countries.
There seems to be little deviation in the quality of recent Laphroaig distillation, so bottling young Laphroaig is a safe choice for an independent bottler: they sell out anyway.
The Whisky Agency has brought us some outstanding casks already, let’s check this new 11 years old ex-bourbon cask released in the Liquid Library series.
Laphroaig 11 yo 1998 (59,6%, The Whisky Agency 2010, Liquid Library, ex-bourbon)
Nose: clean Laphroaig with smoke and ashes and some antiseptic. A bit of grapefruit in the background. Some marzipan and fruit as well, but very subtle. Water works like a magic trick: it switches almost completely to engine oil and wet newspaper. Curious. Mouth: impressive strength, very very punchy. Starts slightly bitter and zesty, then getting “wider” with some citrus sweetness and pepper. Full of ashes. With water: more gentle and a lot sweeter. Not the most complex palate, but good. Finish: clean, smokey and slightly resinous. Hints of salted fish.
Laphroaig from this era is never deceiving, although there can be some differences in coastalness and sweetness. Still available in most stores – around € 70.
A bunch of samples are waiting on my desk, but I’m developing a cold so I may have to slow down the publishing tempo for a while…
The otherwise unpeated Islay distillery Bunnahabhain did some peated runs in 1997, and occasionally they make it into a limited release like Bunnahabhain Toiteach or Bunnahabhain Moine. Now there’s a peated expression for duty free shops (as often also available in a few regular stores). Cruach Mhóna is the name for a pile of drying peat bricks.
Bunnahabhain Cruach Mhóna
(50%, OB 2010, travel retail, 100cl)
Nose: starts savoury with coastal hints of dried algae. Toasted bread. Then some herbs and something that vaguely reminds me of Maggi or – strangely – Worcestershire sauce. Smoke with sweet liquorice. Faint eucalyptus. Less peaty than previous peated Bunna, or so it seems. A few fruity notes in the background that grow stronger over time. Mouth: more peat now. Ash tray, tarry ropes. More malty sweetness than the nose suggested. Develops on pepper, liquorice and a little salt. A few herbal notes. Nose: slightly drying and smokey. Medium length.
Not a bad dram, but it suffers from a comparison with its Islay neighbours who offer similar (yet more mature) peated whisky for less money. Around € 65.
Greenore is the single grain Irish whiskey from the Cooley family. Previously there was an 8 years old and the highly praised 15 years old expression. Now they are accompanied by an 18 year-old, the oldest Irish single grain available. Well, not quite… there’s also a new Greenore single cask that’s 19 years old (cask #1798). But that one is only available at Dublin airport.
Greenore 18yo is bottled at 46% and the current batch is limited to 4000 bottles. In the UK it will be available soon, the rest of Europe will have to wait until mid February.
Greenore 18 yo (46%, OB 2011, 4000 btl.)
Nose: a mild nose (for a grain whiskey at least), with banana peel, apricot and sweet corn. Vanilla with a curious milky element, like a crème anglaise (custard sauce). A hint of cinnamon. Some honey and faint grassy / herbal notes. Overall quite smooth, oily but a little soft maybe. Hardly any synthetic notes that are common in other grain whiskies. Mouth: balanced between very sugary grains (think frosted cereals) and plenty of spices from the oak (nutmeg, pepper). Pineapple syrup, banana, some coconut cream. Quite some vanilla again. Finish: medium length, sweet but slightly harsh with spicy notes and oak.
Smoothness should be the keyword for this Greenore 18 Years. While it shows nice elements, it’s not perfectly smooth. Compared to Irish malt whisky, it’s also a little simple. Around € 80.