You may have noticed that we’ve had a lot of very old whiskies lately, with very high scores. It’s simply the time of the year. The Whisky Fair, the Fulldram supertasting, the Weedram Masters in two weeks… these events have a big focus on exceptional old stuff. And of course we’re more excited about a
Glen Keith 1970 than the next Glen Wonka 2000.
Glen Keith 40 yo 1970 (47,9%, Malts of Scotland 2011, bourbon hogshead #6042, 163 btl.)
Nose: juicy ripe fruits (pears, gooseberries, peaches, tangerine, banana) with honey. Again a faint “green” edge of soft spices, mint and flowers. Maybe the warm vanilla / coconut side is even slightly bigger here, it seems the TWA version was slightly more acidic? All kinds of beehive notes here (honey, balm, pollen). Leather. Almonds. Wonderfully big and attractive. Mouth: the same kind of fruitiness, joined by a soft bitterness. Superb pineapple with coconut. Apricot jam. Vanilla. A little cinnamon and pepper. Mint. Finish: more of the same really, softly oaky and citrusy backed by spices.
Wow, another Glen Keith 1970 of exceptional quality. Personally I think this one has the better nose and the TWA version has the better palate, but differences are very very small and both are exactly my style. Great if you missed out on the other one. Around € 200.
This must be one of the rarest whiskies I’ve ever had. Just 22 bottles. It was presented at the recent Fulldram Supertasting. If you know this was voted third place (of five whiskies), you’ll understand that the line-up was very good. We’ll review a few others shortly.
This Glen Grant 1959 was a leftover of a cask bottled in 1999 by Samaroli (at least that’s what I’ve heard). In 2007 the bottles were relabeled by the people of Whisky Club Austria (Konstantin Gregoriadis and others). The label says “designed by Serge Valentin”.
Glen Grant 40 yo 1959 / 1999 (48,9%, Whisky Club of Austria 2007, sherry cask, 22 btl.)
Nose: almost everything you would expect from old dark sherry. Prunes, raisins, Portuguese Ginjinha, dark chocolate and roasted nuts. Balsamic syrup. All kinds of herbs. Something that holds the middle between fuel and dusty notes (bottle ageing?). High octane sherry without any possible off-notes. Mouth: very intense. Dried fruits but there are fresher notes as well (grapefruit, cherries, oranges). Some oak but never too dry. Nutty flavours again. Some pine resin. Mint. Finish: beautiful, long and very rewarding.
A very impressive and very intense Glen Grant. You need to be a sherry lover of course. No need to look for this bottle, I would say, although once there was a bottle on Whiskyauction.
The new Karuizawa Noh releases were available at different stands at The Whisky Fair. There’s a 19 years old Karuizawa 1991 cask #3206 and a 13 years old Karuizawa 1997 cask #3312.
They decided to use small 20cl bottles, officially because the volume left in the cask was so small. That has nothing to do with exceptional angel’s share, it’s simply because Whisky Magazine bottled part of both casks in full 70cl bottles to support Oxfam.
Karuizawa 19 yo 1991 (60,8%, OB 1991, sherry butt #3206)
Nose: starts a bit dirty (something in between sulphury and farmy) but airing helps. Tobacco, matchsticks, hints of incense. A lot of pencil wood and limestone. There are some raisins and blood orange notes from the sherry, but on a second level. Ginger. Mouth: powerful with a big peppery kick. Rather sweet, with orange honey. Cigars, maybe even some smoke? Getting quite dry in the end, with an earthy umami flavour. Some vanilla as well. Finish: long, lots of pepper again. Tobacco. After a few hours, an empty glass smells like cured ham.
Big as Karuizawa can be, with the same elements as older versions but with a little less depth. The 1997 is slightly fruitier and less complex. Around € 60 for a 20cl bottle.
Each year, a few special bottles are released to celebrate The Whisky Fair in Limburg. One of them was a Strathisla distilled 21/02/1963 and bottled 24/03/2011 by Gordon & MacPhail. A similar Strathisla 1960 was bottled last year.
Strathisla 48 yo 1963 (51,8%,
Gordon & MacPhail for The Whisky Fair,
Book of Kells, first fill sherry butt #576)
Nose: the first thing that struck me is a wonderful “green” herbalness. Not the most common herbs, but cardamom, parsley, dill. Cough syrup. At times it reminded me more of old rum (more specifically the Long Pond 1941 cask #76 by G&M) than of old whisky, but after a while it changes and comes back to typical sherried whisky aromas: dried fruits, old leather with a faint meaty note. Wax. Mineral notes. A little mint sauce. Mushrooms. Dusty cedar wood. But all very subtle. Impressive complexity and difficult to express in words. Mouth: beautiful sherry influence, dried apricots, resin, hints of forest fruits and raspberries. Almonds. Quite dry but no prominent herbal notes this time. A little cocoa. Oranges. Nicely balanced oak and intense fruits. Finish: dry, long, with spices, liquorice, faint nutty notes and lingering dried fruits.
Strahisla is the champion when it comes to extremely long maturation, and Gordon & MacPhail have the best casks. Nice selection, even better than the 1960 bottled last year!
€ 300 is a heavy price, but worth it in my opinion.
ps/ some other people thought the nose was a slight setback,
so be sure to form your own opinion.
In the past, sister casks were bottled by Bladnoch (#6965, 6966), Berry Bros (#6968) and Malts of Scotland (#6969). As Doris & Herbert told me last weekend, they wanted to show a different kind of Inchgower after the Inchgower 1974 bottled last year.
Nose: unique notes of very ripe banana, buttercups and a slightly strange milky element (like a milk steamed Oolong tea or even hints of buttermilk). Quite oily. Hazelnuts and almond paste. Plenty of vanilla cream. Hay. Faint coastal notes. Very complex and quite unique. Mouth: again it shows a certain buttermilk note, even something of a Hollandaise sauce (now that may sound strange but it’s actually quite nice). Sweet marzipan and vanilla. Intense pepper and sharper grassy notes. Sugared camomile tea and a hint of bitter oak. Finish: quite long with pepper and salt and a praline note.
I don’t think I’ve tasted anything like this before. Impressive butteriness, that works out well. Very complex altogether, with intense spicy, salty, sweet, buttery, bitter and nutty flavours! Bonus point for having such a unique character, although I suppose many people will find this way too strange. Around € 110.
So it’s all true. The Whisky Fair in Germany is probably the best whisky festival out there. Full stop.
It’s even bigger than I expected, and the number of both newly launched bottles and legendary old stuff is impressive. The best thing is that I hardly saw standard supermarket whisky, this is a place where bottlers and retailers are working hard to impress their customer.
Here are a few of my highlights. I’ve brought home samples of most of these, so expect a full review in the near future:
All of these new Whisky Agency / The Nectar / Daily Dram releases are very high quality by the way (Glen Keith 1970, Glenury Royal 1973…).
And then there was a whole bunch of old things. A great Longmorn 1969/1999 (DL OMC) at Mara’s stand, a Saint Magdalene 1965 (G&M CC) from Bert Vuik, a 1920’s blend from Berry Bros (thanks Magnus), a series of Moon Import bottles chez Diago Sandrin, etc.
Also worth noting was the Liquid Sun stand, a sister company of The Whisky Agency. Originally meant for Japan and Sweden, I’ve heard some rumours that their bottlings would come to Belgium in the near future.
As a final note, I was surprised to see so many Glenfarclas 175th Anniversary and Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix bottles being sold at different stands. They’re far from being sold out.
I’m off to the Whisky Fair this weekend. This is one of the highlights of the European whisky festival season, and it’s the first time I’m going.
The Whisky Fair is unique for its combination of new releases and old rarities. Germany is an important whisky market so every distiller or bottler is present. Moreover there’s an array of related events around town, like the barbecue in Villa Konthor.
I can only stay for the day, so I’ll post some highlights on Sunday.
Nose: this one starts much more old-style, with a dustiness and plenty of oily / waxy notes. Some grassy notes and hay. Less tropical than the Daily Dram Germany version, but it picks up fruity notes after breathing. Honeydew melon, peach, papaya. Vanilla. Barley sugars. Sweet almonds. Mouth: punchy, with fruity notes struggling to balance the big amount of oak spices (pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, mint). Pineapples with soft mocha / milk chocolate. Liquorice towards the finish. Finish: long and spicy with citrus candy.
On the nose, the expected juicy fruitiness of this Longmorn is muted by oily and grassy notes. On the palate, the oak spices are slightly overwhelming. Therefore not my favourite of the bunch. Around € 170.