A couple of decades ago, whisky was bottled at a much younger age than today. This Glen Grant 5yo is a good example. The fact that it mentions a vintage year was less common, but a few of these Glen Grants have that, especially bottles sold in Italy, Spain and Portugal.
This is a good occasion to mention the Old Bottle Effect. While whisky will not change after being bottled, after many years the glass can start to interact with the spirit. There are a lot of doubts about this OBE (was it related to old distillation methods like direct firing, does the air inside the bottle have an effect or is it just the glass, does the light have an influence, etc.) but there seems to be a general consensus that there is an effect. Common OBE changes include lower peat levels, a certain dustiness / mushrooms and metallic notes.
Glen Grant 5 yo 1974 (43%, OB 1979
for Sileno Portgual, 75 cl.)
Nose: starts on porridge with a few mineral notes. Slightly metallic as well. Quite a lot of lemon. Wet books. Faint hints of motor oil. Interestingly, these notes are mixed with a nice tropical fruitiness of lime, apricot and passion fruit. Mouth: quite weak, with mostly the malt speaking. A few herbal notes come out, a few flowery notes and some liquorice (the wood, not the candy). Develops on apples. Not a high-flyer but not bad either. Finish: completely on apple juice (rather spectacular) but quite short.
Difficult to score. On the one hand, this is not up to modern standards in terms of density and flavour complexity. On the other hand I love those old noses and it drinks like lemonade. Sadly, I’m not living in Madrid any more, because this would have been perfect for a hot summer day.
Glen Scotia is the only distillery in Campbeltown apart from the two Springbank plants. It is probably the only distillery in Scotland to use washbacks made of Cor-Ten steel (kind of a pre-rusted steel). Its production is rather irregular which means it’s rarely found as a single malt.
This 18 years old Glen Scotia was matured in a sherry butt and bottled by Malts of Scotland.
Glen Scotia 18 yo 1992 (53,3%, Malts of Scotland 2010, cask #429, 199 btl.)
Nose: a bit weird. Rubbery sherry, with a bunch of roasted / burnt notes (burnt pastry, hints of sulphur, burnt grass). Some mint. Red fruit as well, evolving to raspberry vinegar. Wet newspaper and dusty old fabric. I kept changing my mind about this one, it seems to change constantly. In a way it’s really ferocious, but on the other hand that makes it interesting. Mouth: punchy and rather herbal (cloves). Caramel. Quite woody. Salty liquorice. Aftertaste on roasted coffee beans and cocoa. Water doesn’t change the profile. Finish: dying quite soon, but with a nice chocolate ending.
Quite extreme… Interesting but not really a drinker’s whisky. Around € 80.
Score: 78/100 (debatable score… make that 63 or 85 depending on your mood)
Another special edition bottled for the 10th Anniversary of The Whisky Exchange. It should be from a refill sherry hogshead.
In 2008, TWE bottled another 1978 Glenglassaugh under the Single Malts of Scotland label.
Glenglassaugh 31 yo 1978 (44,6%, The Whisky Exchange 10th Anniversary 2009)
Nose: dry sherry and dark rum notes mixed with a delicate fruity side (blood orange, some very ripe mango, whiffs of raspberry and banana). Rather big hints of shoe polish and menthol / eucalyptus. Orangettes (chocolates with a sugared orange filling). Showing savoury, meaty notes and dried fruits (dates, prunes) if you add some water (although it’s perfectly drinkable straight). Leather. Elegant. Mouth: heavy oak and heavy sherry with hints of dark tea and bitter oranges. Some toasted bread and cinnamon. Raisins dipped in dark chocolate. Lovely coffee in the aftertaste. Long finish on liquorice, cocoa and oranges. A bit dry.
A lovely start with a polished dry sherry influence. On the palate the oak begins to show its age. Classic Speyside sherry though. Available from TWE.
Around € 145.
The 10th Anniversary of The Whisky Exchange in London has brought us a series of rare Anniversary whiskies. We’ve already reviewed an excellent Longmorn 1969/2009 and now it’s time for a 37 years old Clynelish. They don’t mention it on the bottle, but there’s a high chance that this was distilled in 1972 because there have been mostly 1972 and 1992 bottlings in their Single Malts of Scotland range. Around 200 bottles have been bottled.
Clynelish 37 yo (46%, The Whisky Exchange 10th Anniversary 2009)
Nose: beautiful start on beeswax and honey. Very fruity, with a basket of fresh tropical fruits (mango, pineapple) and more indigenous fruit (pear, orange, tangerine). Haribo bears. Lovely paraffin. Vanilla. Whiffs of oak spices to top it off (cinnamon and light pepper). A little olive oil and camphor. I don’t like to use the word ‘perfect’ but this is close! Mouth: a bit more resinous now. Still fruity (orange, peach, banana) but less exhuberant. Some Turkish delight. Hints of smoke and dust. In the end it shows ginger and a slightly salty hint of liquorice. Finish: very long and waxy with hints of orange skin and resinous dry oak.
Compared to the recent wave of 1982 Clynelish, this is oakier (of course), with more citrus and a more delicate profile. There have been some questions about the fact that it was diluted to 46% instead of earlier cask strength releases, but I can confirm that the end result is a good mix of complexity and drinkability. One to cherish! Available from TWE. Around € 175.
About two weeks ago, an interesting new Laphroaig was announced. I haven’t seen this news on any of the major whisky websites, so I’m happy to pass it on.
Laphroaig 20 years old ‘Double Cask’ is a limited edition that will only be sold by the French Duty Free retailer Aelia. Essentially it is the recent bourbon matured Laphroaig 18 years with an extra maturation in small quarter casks and bottled at 46,6%. We can expect it to be slightly sweeter and probably a bit richer than the original.
750 individually numbered bottles will be made available at € 225 later this month. Something to look out for if you’re passing through Paris-Charles de Gaulle.
GlenDronach Grandeur is the newest offering from one of the distilleries whose trademark is sherry maturation. Grandeur is a limited vatting (1013 bottles) with majestic packaging.
GlenDronach Grandeur 31 yo
(45,8%, OB 2010, 1013 btl.)
Nose: the first things I pick up are faint sulphury notes, from the same family as the 15 yo Revival. Let’s wait for fifteen minutes. Okay, much better now, dried fruits and coffee come out. A little mint. Some oranges and hazelnuts. Lovely hints of Café Noir biscuits. Cut herbs. Blueberries. Quite rich, but rather high on nutty mocha and maybe not the explosion of red fruits I had hoped for. When compared to the exquisite fresh fruits of the GlenDronach 1972 cask #719 (one of my favourite releases of last year), it’s clearly muted and playing in a slightly lower league. Mouth: chocolate coated oranges. Spicy honey. Some tobacco. Roasted nuts. Leather. Finish: nice fade on orangettes and cherries.
GlenDronach Grandeur is rich, smooth and perfectly drinkable (I didn’t feel the need to add water). It’s good to know GlenDronach can present different styles. It’s flawless but when compared directly with the 1972 and 1972 for LMdW single casks, I have the feeling something is missing. I guess last year’s single casks have really spoiled us. Around € 400.
Douglas Laing probably holds the record for the highest number of independent Port Ellen bottlings. Fred & Stewart bought a large stock of casks to add to their blends, at a moment when Port Ellen was not particularly popular as a single malt.
This Port Ellen 1982/2009 was bottled for last year’s Whisky Fair in Germany. It was matured in a refill hogshead. A few months ago a similar cask was bottled for Daily Dram / The Nectar.
Port Ellen 27 yo 1982 (55,2%, Douglas Laing OMC 2009 for The Whisky Fair, ref. DL 4904, 133 btl.)
Nose: powerful but quite round with lots of vanilla and a bit of nougat. The peat smoke is relatively delicate. Then there’s a wave of dentist cabinet. Yellow apples. Coastal / tarry notes as well (seafood, harbour smells). Hints of rubber but in a nice way (think of fresh balloons). Very faint hints of fruits and citrus zest. Very good. Water brings out fragrant oranges but also wet newspaper. Mouth: again round and creamy, starting on sweet notes and evolving towards the peat smoke. Lemon marmalade and honey which make it rich and flavoursome. Hints of pepper. Very profound smoke and bonfire. Finish: long and balanced. A tad sharper with liquorice and clean peat.
As you know by now, I prefer this type of (relatively) gentle, vanilla infused Port Ellen over the sharp / mineral / grassy type of Port Ellen. This is a perfect example! Nothing to complain about. Around € 180.
This concludes our ‘ten days of Port Ellen’. I hope it’s clear why Port Ellen is one of my favourite distilleries. Now it’s time to review a few promising new releases. Glendronach Grandeur is one of them.
Luc Timmermans’ company Thosop released a couple of interesting Port Ellens lately, selected from the Old Bothwell stocks. This Port Ellen 1983 (cask #221) is a sister cask of the previous cask #220 bottled by Thosop a couple of months earlier.
Port Ellen 26 yo 1983 (53,5%, Old Bothwell for Thosop 2009, cask #221)
Nose: a nice mixture of iodine, salty smoked fish, leafs and seaweed but softened by a thin layer of fruit. Lemon candy. Sugared almonds. Juicy yellow apples. Hints of vanilla cream. Water shows a kind of biscuity side. Wonderful how it balances between this fragrant fruitiness and a peaty coastalness. Very classy. Mouth: a bit sharper now, much more peat and herbs. Lemon. Water brings out earthy smoke and hints of liquorice and ginger. Finish: long, with an excellent dryness and a bunch of salty notes.
A beautiful Port Ellen with a terrific nose. Among the best ones bottled by Thosop so far, I think. Sold out. Around € 150 at the time.