A couple of weeks ago, The Scottish Liqueur Centre launched Càrn Mòr, a series of 24 different vintages, one for each year between 1983 and 2006. They’re all from a different distillery and bottled in 20cl bottles.
I like the idea of smaller bottles, because I’m more of a taster than a drinker and most of my open bottles take months or years to finish. The complete collection costs around € 450 with single bottles between € 10 – 30.
I’ll be reviewing some of the expressions really soon:
The Japanese Yamazaki distillery is owned by the Suntory holding and is based in the outskirts of Kyoto. Unlike most Scottish distilleries, the stills at Yamazaki are all different in size and shape. They used some Japanese oak casks in the period after World War II, which gave the whisky a unique flavour profile, but nowadays they use sherry casks as well.
This March 1982 vintage was matured in sherry wood and has a wonderful amber colour. It seems impossible to find this bottling any more.
Yamazaki 15y 1982
(45%, OB 1997, Sherry Wood)
Nose: delicious notes of cedar wood (cigar box) and walnuts. Plum jam. Some toffee and raisins. Clearly sherried, but not full-on. Minty chocolate. Roasted nuts and caramel. Mouth: more in-your-face sherry now. Prunes, dried fruit, bitter oranges. Grapes. Berries. Long finish, getting very dry (cloves) and rather oaky. Hints of Pedro Ximenez sherry in the aftertaste.
Very well made, with a wonderful nose. Too much oak to be stunning though.
There’s a new Daily Dram bottling and it promises to be a very good one. Synch Elli is the anagram for Clynelish. It’s a 1982 vintage, matured for 27 years. The price is around € 100.
You may already know this whisky, because it’s actually the same cask as the Clynelish that The Perfect Dram released a couple of weeks ago.
There are three other new Daily Drams: a Laphroaig Rigah Opal (13yo 1996 – € 70), a Glen Garioch Glaring Echo (18yo 1991 – € 80) and the new Daily Dram Undercover n°4 (19yo undisclosed Speysider, Balvenie maybe? - € 75).
Stay tuned for a review.
The second cask that was bottled for The Whisky Fair. Slightly higher strength, significantly higher out-turn. Let’s see how it compares to the BenRiach 1976 cask 3550.
BenRiach 33yo 1976 (47,4%, OB for The Whisky Fair 2009, hogshead cask #3558, 162 btl.)
Nose: interesting how similar casks can play in the same league and still bring lots of differences. Vanilla is the key to this one, the fruit is sweeter and less tropical. At the same time, a bit more wood and more expressive notes of menthol. Vanilla again, fruit cake. More wood influence, which makes it a tad nuttier, “darker” and warmer. Less tangerine, less grapefruit. Hints of ginger. Mouth: now it gets taken over by the grapefruit, just like the #3550. Still a bit more vanilla and toffee. Spicier and more powerful, I would say. Pepper and ginger. Finish: slightly dry and minty. Grapefruit as well, you guessed it.
Well, difficult. Most other reviewers seem to prefer the BenRiach #3550. I must say I like both but the #3558 contains less dominant grapefruit and adds lovely vanilla which make it stand out a bit. The #3550 lacks a bit of punch as well (it seems younger, although that’s a ridiculous way of discribing it). Around € 190 (sold out).
The year 1976 has given us some excellent BenRiach, the best ones being probably those for The Nectar (BenRiach 1976/2007 cask #8080) and for La Maison du Whisky (BenRiach 1976/2006 cask #3557).
Recently, The Whisky Fair released two casks that are already legendary.
BenRiach 33yo 1976 (46,2%, OB for The Whisky Fair 2009, hogshead cask #3550, 103 btl.)
Nose: a fresh start on oak varnish and menthol which take a while to fade. In the meantime, notes of exotic fruits start growing stronger. Very fresh, quite citrusy. Pineapple, mango, passion fruits, tangerine… A lot of pink grapefruit as well and a light touch of star anise and nutmeg. A fruit basket with a slightly flowery edge. Not far away from a Bowmore 1968 Anniversary. Mouth: very fruity again, dominated by the grapefruit which gives it a slightly dry edge. Medium oakiness with hints of pepper in the end. Long finish on grapefruit, tangerine, oak and pepper.
You can only have respect for this kind of whisky. It’s wonderful how a 33 year-old kan be this fresh and fruity. The nose of this BenRiach is stunning, the rest is very very good. Around € 190 (sold out).
Arran is a very young distillery, it started production in June 1995 on the Isle of Arran. Their range is based around the Arran 10yo (of which the vatting was recently revised) and they have an extensive programme of wine cask finishes (Amarone, Chianti, Tokaji, Pomerol, Fino sherry among others).
This 1996 vintage named Peacock is the first in a new series called Icons of Arran. It’s a limited edition of 6000 bottles that came from 13 bourbon barrels and 7 sherry hogsheads. There has been a peacock called Albert running around the distillery since the opening.
Arran Peacock 12yo 1996
(46%, OB 2009, 6000 btl.)
Nose: totally in line with other Arran releases. Soft but sophisticated. Hints of sweet honey with lots of orange peel and some grapefruit. Vanilla and coconut. Mint. Sweet apples with cinnamon. Overall very fresh and candied, with a slightly flowery edge. Mouth: clean and malty start, again fruity with lots of oranges and hints of spices. Biscuits. Apple compote and banana. Vanilla cream. Nicely balanced wood influence. Not very complex but well made. Finish: not too long, sweet and fruity.
This Arran Peacock is very round and polished and I have to say it’s one of the first Arran that really convinced me. A nice feminine dram. Around € 45.
Nose: the aroma is “darker” than the 1971, with more toasted notes. It has a more nutty aroma with more wood influence as well. There are even some farmy / wild mushrooms notes in the background (nothing dirty though). On the whole this 1972 is a bit closer to old bourbon than the 1971, with hints of worn leather and resin. Huge hints of oak polish. Punchy fruit as well, but I would say blueberries and blackberry jam rather than red fruits. Some liquorice. Terrific complexity. Mouth: a lot of dried fruits (figs, apricots), strawberry jam and sultanas. Milk chocolate. Even a faint waxiness. Getting drier, much spicier and slightly tannic towards the finish, but the wood influence is still within the limits for me. Long finish, round and slightly tannic again. Chocolate and berries.
In my opinion, this GlenDronach 1972 is a lot bolder and more expressive than the 1971, and it really explodes when warmed up to body temperature. A very big and self-confident malt. Cheaper than the 1971 (wait, make that “less expensive”) around € 300.
Are the 1971 and 1972 worth the extra money over the 199x bottlings? For me, the 1971 isn’t. The 1972 sure can’t beat the others in an absolute price vs. quality comparison, but it does have a truly sublime profile that you can only experience at certain ages… I would choose the 1972 over the 1971 any time, even with the extra wood. If you want bang for your buck, I would suggest the 1992.
Nose: lovely notes of coffee beans, sultanas and leather. I picked up some hints of matchsticks as well, but they disappeared before I got the chance to dig a little deeper. Nothing to worry about anyway. Quite some sharper, fruitier notes as well, mainly raspberries and cherries. Red, fresh, lush fruit mixed with the sherry. Amazingly playful after so many years. Chocolate with hazelnuts. Mouth: again a very fresh and vibrant impression. Raisins covered in chocolate with a perfect bitter-sweet tone. Dry figs, some cinnamon. Tangerine. Very elegant. Finish: long, on chocolate again with a minty touch.
The GlenDronach 1971 is a rich and enticing whisky with only one downside: € 330 is a lot of money. Of course you pay a premium for the age and limited availability. Let’s find out how it compares to the 1972 tomorrow.