Lord of the Isles is a vatting of Ardbeg casks distilled in 1974, 1975 and 1976. It contains 15% sherry matured spirit and 85% ex-bourbon.
Ardbeg ‘Lord of the Isles’ 25 yo
(46%, OB 2007)
Nose: starts quite shy and mostly fruity. After being warmed up, it shows a remarkably gentle and elegant character. Very leathery, with mellow peat smoke, orange marmalade, yellow apples, marzipan, warm cake… Subtle hints of boat rope and tar. A light layer of earthy and farmy notes. Some tobacco. Overall very complex, very integrated and a masterpiece of balance. Jim Murray says there’s a light soapiness on the nose – I don’t agree, although there’s a noticeable floweriness. Mouth: still quite some fruits, a tad more tropical and sweeter than on the nose (lime). More peat and smoke now. Leather and tobacco again. Walnuts. Some spices (pink pepper). Lightly salted. Finish: long, drier, smoky and slightly medicinal. Hints of chalk.
An Ardbeg in the old style, a lot more refined than the modern stuff. Respect. It could have been truly heavenly at cask strength though. Still available in a few stores for around € 300.
There’s one thing I don’t like about the restyled The Nectar of the Daily Drams bottlings, the fact that they give us little information. The labels simply state the distillery, the age and the year of distillation / bottling. None of the recent bottlings include a cask number, the number of bottles available, the cask type or other information that in my opinion adds to the professionalism of a bottler.
This is a 25 years old Glen Elgin distilled in 1984. Did you know the Glen Elgin distillery was designed by an architect named Charles Cree Doig who designed a whopping 56 Scottish distilleries and co-designed a similar amount? He’s also the inventor of the pagoda roof.
Glen Elgin 25 yo 1984
(43,8%, Nectar of the Daily Drams 2010)
Nose: juicy and fruity in the great Speyside tradition, with quite some citrus and pear, peach and a dash of honey. There’s also a crisp spiciness and hints of heather and orange blossom. Soft wax as well. Malt and grains. Punchy enough despite the slightly lower strength (note that it’s probably still cask strength?). Mouth: starting fruity but not overly sweet, quickly getting drier and developing on a sourish wood / lemon skin combo. Citrus again (grapefruit rather than oranges). Hints of ginger and mint. Growing quite malty, oaky and salty, balanced by tangerine and a faint hint of smoke (or is that just imagination?). Finish: warm, malty and oaky with hints of cider apples.
A diverse Glen Elgin. The nose is definitely the part I like the most. Around € 95.
The Meliã Valencia is a splendid 5* hotel in a 35-floor building, the highest of the city. Located near the congress centre, it’s mostly business-oriented. The Podium Bar in the lobby is specalized in single malt whisky and offers the most interesting range in the city. When I visited it in 2010, it was still Hilton Valencia. I’m not sure about the current state of the bar, but it looks like they’re still serving a lot of malts.
Location: Avenida Cortes Valencianas 52 – 46015 Valencia (Spain) Range: +/- 40 single malts (menu available with good descriptions) Price: € 8 to € 34 (2cl – 4cl also available)
First of all, I’m not a beer connoisseur and I’m not planning to review beer on a regular basis. But I’m a gastronome with a few links to Spain, so whenever Ferran Adrià’s elBulli develops something new, I’m in the front row to try it. Moreover, this beer pretends to have a uniquely crafted character, so there are some parallels with whisky.
The Inedit beer was developed by elBulli and Spanish beer brewer Estrella Damm as the optimal beer to accompany food. As such it is a light, hazy “Celis white beer” served in a white wine glass and presented in a great 75cl design bottle.
Estrella Damm Inedit (4,8%, OB 2009)
Nose: very aromatic and quite fragrant for a beer. Huge notes of coriander seeds with layers of orange, tangerine and lemon. Malty with lots of added aromas, so it seems. Mouth: mild and fresh, very summery with a slight fizziness. A little flowery. Oranges again. Light peach. Finish: light spices with hints of liquorice.
Inedit is a clean beer with a nose that’s more interesting than the slightly boring palate. Good but nothing unique if you have access to a zillion beers here in Belgium. Indeed better with food where the light taste doesn’t mask the food flavours.
Around € 10 at restaurants.
Cooley started distilling whiskey (both grain and malt whiskey) in copper pot stills in 1989, after having bought a distillery that produced wodka and other spirits in column stills. Since 1996, they have a peated brand named Connemara.
The 10 years old Cooley whiskey we’re reviewing now, is an independent single cask bottling of peated Connemara matured in a bourbon barrel. A bunch of similar versions by Cadenhead is available – there seems to be one release each year.
Cooley 10 yo 1992 (59,3%, Cadenhead 2003, bourbon, 234 btl.)
Nose: great peatiness, with tar and lovely farmy notes (wet dogs, sheep stable – not unlike some Broras). My favourite kind of peat I would say. Slightly medicinal as well. Nicely integrated with young, sweeter notes (candy, yellow apple). Mouth: powerful attack on citrus and peat. Grassy barley. Vanilla cream. Oak. Hints of caramel. Finish: medium length. Peat smoke and oranges. Getting drier and marginally bitter in the end.
Cooley is making good no-nonsense stuff. Complexity is not the major goal here, but the Irish peat is really unique and the end result has a lot of qualities. The recent bottlings by Cadenhead (14-16yo) cost around € 75.
This 14 years old Clynelish 1995 is part of the new The Nectar of the Daily Drams range.
Clynelish 14 yo 1995 (46%, Daily Dram 2010)
Nose: typical violet candy and waxy notes. Lemon juice. It shows a few youngish elements, with notes of marshmallow and pear drops. A bit of orange marmalade and tropical fruits. Flinty hints of chalk and limestone. Also some ginger lemonade. Not too complex but very expressive. Mouth: fat and oily attack, again very fruity and sweet. Yellow apples, grapefruit. Very much on fruit candy now. Lemon balm. Almonds. On a second level, there are spicy notes (pepper, hints of curry maybe?), cashew nuts and hints of mocha. Paraffin in the aftertaste. Finish: half sweet, half spicy. Quite long.
A fine dram, that’s for sure. Highly drinkable as well. Around € 60.
ps/ As often these days, a higher strength version (53%) of the same cask is available from The Whisky Agency. These bottlers are sharing most of their casks lately, even though they don’t mention it.
This Macallan 12 Years old was distilled in the first half of the 1970’s and sold exclusively at the Hong Kong airport. That’s why the label mentions HKDNP (Hong Kong Duty Not Paid).
Macallan 12 yo ‘HKDNP’ (43%, OB 1980’s, 1 litre)
Nose: not as fresh as I had hoped. There are big notes of mothballs (naphtalene) that are very hard to get over. Musty and stale with traces of mushrooms and sulphur. Let’s wait for another half hour and try again…
Nose: better now, but really old-style (probably still coal-fired?). Notes of red fruits, some raisins. A little tar and ashes. Coffee. Overall quite fat. Slightly disappointing (I had heard a lot about this Macallan) but interesting as an antiquity. Mouth: much better. Very creamy with hints of leather and nice fruits with crystallized oranges and prunes. Sherried but not too much. Sultanas. Cinnamon. A little praline. Kind of an artificial sugary aftertaste. A smoky / ashy hint as well. Finish: medium length, on cherry candy and orange marmalade.
The nose was a bit difficult to appreciate but the palate is very balanced and truly classic, which for the most part made up for the lower score of the nose. I’m glad I tasted it (Marc Segers had a bottle on offer during the latest whisky festival in Ghent).
This Hakushu 1981/2003 was the first cask of Hakushu ever to be bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. It was matured in a Japanese oak cask.
Hakushu 21 yo 1981 (60,7%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society 2003, SMWS 120.1, 373 btl.)
Nose: where do I start… the nutmeg maybe, which is quite big. A lot of sawdust as well, and cigar boxes. Roasted nuts and coffee beans. Quite a toasted profile overall. Damp moss and ferns. A bit of caramel. After a while, there are hints of fruits and ginger. Very unique but not for beginners. Mouth: very woody. Very powerful of course, and a tad alcoholic. Let’s add water right away. Still very oaky with added notes of mint. Roasted almonds? A hint of burnt vanilla. Coriander. Getting spicy with pepper and ginger. A bit extreme. Finish: spicy and oaky.
You’ll love this one or simply hate it because of the heavy oak and the toasted / burnt notes. I like it, but it’s not an everyday dram. Anyway, very uncommon and ‘intellectual’. Around € 250 but I’m afraid you won’t find this one any more.
ps/ I’m suffering from a cold which makes it impossible to taste new whisky. I’ll publish a few older notes but I’m going to take it easy for a few days.