Here’s a blind sample I received a couple of months ago. I was immediately impressed by the farmy / leathery nose and guessed correctly that it could only be Brora. This is my 700th post so I wanted to present something a little exceptional.
Brora 29 yo 1972 (59,5%, Douglas Laing Platinum 2002, 240 btl.)
Nose: instant farminess and typically Brora, with sheep stable and manure. Earth and hemp. Then some maritime notes. The peat is well integrated and quite fruity. Beautiful layer of beeswax. A little honey and marmalade. Sweet pipe tobacco and leather. When digging a little further, I noticed some rice milk… and a little chocolate? Nice! Something minty and peppery as well (close to prickly iodine). Really impressive. Mouth: very peaty now with lots of tar and pepper. Rather sweet at first, but growing drier and more leathery, with a slightly bitter / earthy finale. Some oak. Drops of lemon. Again a slightly sharp iodine edge. Finish: goes on forever. Peat, tar, ashes, leather…
This Brora shows heavier peat than any other Brora I’ve tried. I think it’s even a little unbalanced on the palate because of this, but the nose is drop dead gorgeous. I’m not hoping to find a bottle, it will be too expensive anyway. Heartfelt thanks for the sample, Thomas!
Pretty funny to read opinions on this Coleburn 1979 in the Rare Malts series. Everyone seems to think it’s not particularly good, but still most say it’s the best Coleburn ever bottled…
Coleburn distillery went down in the 1980’s like so many of its neighbours.
Coleburn 21 yo 1979
(59,4%, Rare Malts 2000)
Nose: floral and zesty with waxy undertones. A little damp and earthy. Crystallized orange. After some time it shows sweeter notes as well, I’d say cereal cookies and hints of coconut cream. White grapes. Lemon. Always some delicate peat in the background. Mouth: a sourish citrus kick up front, with some mint, then gaining sweetness with some apple juice. Clean and slightly perfumed. Lemon peel. Overall quite neutral, fading on ginger and oak. Finish: again quite neutral. Bitter oak. Ginger. Some pepper.
Given the reputation of Coleburn, this is a nice surprise. Especially if you’re a fan of an old-fashioned, slightly austere Speyside style. Still available in some stores, for around € 180.
Strathmill is part of the Diageo group. There’s a 12yo in the Flora & Fauna series, two butts bottled in 1992 and recently one 1996 single cask in the Manager’s Choice series. That’s it. Even independent releases are rarely seen. The J&B blend takes up most of its production.
Nose: warm apple cake with cinnamon. Malt, dried grass and dust. Not super-fresh, there are hints of a melon that’s past its prime. Honey. Something minty / flowery – close to being soapy. Sandalwood. Mouth: starts herbal and rooty, with hardly any fruits (a bit of lemon peel maybe). Plenty of spices (pepper, ginger, cloves). A bit austere. After a few seconds, it starts to get bitter – very bitter and quite harsh. Woody and resinous aftertaste. Finish: long on tonic and lemon zest with very bitter chocolate.
This Strathmill has some glorious elements, especially on the nose, but overall I don’t find it particularly enjoyable. Too expensive anyway. Around € 175.
Quarter casks are small casks originally used to transport whisky on horseback. Nowadays it’s mostly associated with the Laphroaig expression. As these casks are smaller (around 125 litres), the whisky matures more quickly.
Glenfarclas also had a couple of quarter cask experiments. This one mixes two casks filled on 03/07/1987 and two casks filled on 11/09/1987. Note that they’re not QC finishes (like Laphroaig) but full term maturations.
Glenfarclas 18 yo 1987 (46%, OB 2006, Quarter cask #3704 + 3707 + 3859 + 3860, 1299 btl.)
Nose: a dry nose, with hints of breadcrust standing out. Slightly more sour and oaky than your regular Glenfarclas. Tobacco and leather chairs. A bit of library dust. Mouth: quite dry, with some oaky hints and a distinct smokiness. Then some prunes, oranges and cocoa. Roasted coffee beans and toffee. Finish: long, drying and toasted.
Interesting smoky / roasted notes in this Glenfarclas Quarter Cask. Not the classic sherry style but a nicely different variation with more oak. Still available in Germany. Around € 70.
A couple of months (or years?) ago, Diageo dumped some of its premium whisky stock on the market. Suddenly € 600 bottles were available for € 200. One of them was this Glen Ord 30 years old, a limited release from the Black Isle distillery.
Glen Ord 30 yo
(58,7%, OB 2005, 6000 btl.)
Nose: starts malty and grassy (hay, dried flowers). Geraniums? Furniture polish and freshly treated sandalwood. Some peaches on syrup. A little wax (scented candles) and mint syrup. Herbal accents. It takes some time to discover this nose. It’s complex and full of character, but it fails to convince me completely. Mouth: starts spicy (pepper) and fresh with some cereal notes and a faint aromatic (slightly soapy) edge. Herbal honey. Malt. Ginger. Orange, grapefruit and apple compote. Quite some oak as well, but nicely integrated and not tannic. Finish: oaky, gingery with hints of grapefruit and liquorice.
Still available for around € 150 in some shops. By no means a bad whisky, and a very good deal at this price, but too rough to be a real cracker in my opinion.
Yesterday, in a lovely local bar hidden from civilisation, it was time for the 25th edition of the Weedram Masters. This is a regular “super-tasting” of the Weedram whisky club. Bert Bruyneel selected a few stunning old bottles like a Longmorn 1969 (G&M #3716/3717), Jura 1966 (SV #1485) and Ardbeg 1974 (SV #1045). More about this in the weeks to come.
At the end of the evening, a new 35yo BenRiach 1975 was officially presented. Cask #7227 was selected by Bert Bruyneel for his new label called Asta Morris. During his latest trip to BenRiach, he nosed over 60 casks and this was ‘the one’.
Bert thinks it was a Fino sherry cask. I don’t share that opinion (not dry / spicy enough), but in any case it was not a very active cask: the influence is too subtle to pin down the cask type.
BenRiach 35 yo 1975 (51%, OB for Asta Morris Belgium 2011, sherry hogshead #7227, 236 btl.)
Nose: the first fifteen minutes, I thought it would not be as good as the highly praised 1976 casks. It was nice and fruity but rather silent. It’s only after some time and airing that it shows its true character. Great citrus notes (pink grapefruit and tangerine), evolving to warmer, exotic fruits like pineapple, mango and strawberries. Quite some honey. Subtle oak adds some spices to the mix. Great nose which keeps evolving in the glass. Don’t be hasty. Mouth: a little sweeter than expected – honey sweetness again. Now lovely notes of fresh apricots and melon, with sweet/sour hints of passion fruit. Ripe mango. Typical BenRiach fruitiness with soft oak in the background. Finish: long and fruity, with pink grapefruit taking the lead in the fruit basket.
Everybody wondered whether this is a new classic and whether it is better than cask #3557. I didn’t have them head-to-head and I don’t think it really matters anyway. All I can say is that it’s different from the 1976’s. It takes more time to seduce you but the evolution in the glass is really a textbook example of great BenRiach. Well done Bert!
Available as of today, but probably sold out before you know it. Around € 250. There’s also a 1978 cask from Asta Morris due next week.
One of the latest releases by Whisky-Fässle is this undisclosed Speyside whisky distilled in 1969. Could this be a sister cask of the “Speyside Region” bottling in the Perfect Dram series by Whisky Agency?
As for the distillery, our first guess would be Glenfarclas, although the combination of distillation year and cask number could also indicate Strathisla. Bourbon cask maturation is very rare for Glenfarclas, but it certainly existed.
Speyside Region 41 yo 1969 (55,1%,
Whisky-Fässle 2011, Bourbon hogshead #2671)
Nose: very punchy for an oldie. Starts on polished furniture. Complex development, hard to pin down. A lot of spices anyway (cinnamon, cloves, eucalyptus). Hints of soft vanilla and heather. Very moderate fruits, mainly Seville oranges and orange liqueur. Angelica cake. Subtle wax. Mouth: again very spicy (soft pepper, ginger). The oak is easy to notice but luckily it doesn’t cause a dry mouthfeel. Hints of tea. Again quite orangey with a dash of honey. A hint of smoke in the background? Finish: quite long, spicy with liquorice, oak and a few salty notes
A great old Speysider without excessive oak but with plenty of spices. An interesting opportunity to buy a 1960’s malt for a very reasonable price. Around € 180.
Allt-A-Bhainne was mothballed in 2002 and re-opened in 2005. They’re producing almost exclusively for blending purposes.
Allt-A-Bhaine 18 yo 1992
(56,1%, Malts of Scotland 2011, bourbon hogshead #6, 273 btl.)
Nose: natural nose on barley and sweet grains. Hay. Some nice stone fruits in the background. Light oak influence with a little mint and juniper. Also a hint of chalk or dust. Mouth: oily and sweet. Quite spicy (pepper) and a little hot. Something of a fruit liqueur although I wouldn’t call it fruity. Slightly raw and spirity, even with water. Finish: rather long and neutral, with hints of liquorice and pepper.
A simple malt that’s very punchy and without obvious flaws. Typical blenders whisky I would say. We should applaud bottlers who try to find something different, even when they’re not always highflyers. Around € 80.