I was able to taste this as part of a recent Cask Six blind session where the participants could taste two blind samples and guess the region, distillery, alcohol volume and age. My guesses may not have been succesful, but it was interesting whisky anyway, so here are my tasting notes.
Amrut is an Indian distillery that has been producing some very interesting stuff and keeps getting better (check the Amrut Fusion which uses a mixture of unpeated Indian and peated Scottish barleys – review coming up), even more so if you take into account their incredibly young ages (Amrut is generally 3-5 years old).
Amrut NAS (46%, Blackadder 2009,
cask BA 5/2009, 295 btl.)
Nose: very sweet and fruity (pink grapefruit, peach, pear, banana). Hints of bees wax and honey. A touch of mint as well. After a while, more influence of wood and spices (cinnamon, faint pepper). Fruit cake. Very very nice. Mouth: more of the same basically. Fruit marmalade, citrus. More wood influence (slightly tannic), more spices as well (cloves, nutmeg, white pepper). Grapefruit again. Finish: medium length, warm and quite spicy.
The nose could really make you think this was a 20 year old Speysider (although the alcoholic side is a bit too present for that to be true). Balance and evolution are very nice, it starts fruity and develops on the spices. Top quality at this age. And only € 40!
Old Bothwell is a company specializing in personalized gifts (whisky, cognac, liqueurs… with your own label). You may think the contents of those kinds of products is of very low importance, but recently they’ve made the news with a couple of single cask Port Ellen releases.
This particular Port Ellen was bottled for the Lindores Whisky Society (Belgium) who celebrated their 5th anniversary on May 31st 2009. Only 11 bottles were made available (one for each member) which makes it by far the most exclusive whisky I’ve ever tasted (where’s the rest of this cask? Luc, Dirk… whose basement is it in?).
Port Ellen 29yo 1979 (52%, Old Bothwell for Lindores 2009, cask #1654, 11 btl.)
Nose: one of those “green” Port Ellens, with notes of cut grass and olive oil. Wet limestones and lemon peel. Reminds me of aspirin as well. Also quite maritime on oysters and seashells. Ink. Relatively low-key peat / tar / smoke. This description may not appeal if you read it, but the nose is complex and very convincing, albeit quite austere and not for beginners I would say. Mouth: starts off a bit sourish with lots of lemon. Much more peat now. Again grassy and a bit herbal. Oysters with a bunch of pepper. Soft saltiness towards the finish. Finish: long, a peaty backbone with lemons and salt.
Highland Park announced a new 12 years old bottling named Hjarta, which is now available at the distillery and through their website (possibly in Swedish stores as well, later on).
It is bottled at cask strength (58,1%), limited to 3924 bottles and costs £ 65.
Such a shame that the online shop of Highland Park doesn’t ship outside of the UK by the way. Why not? Laphroaig can do it, and I’m sure they’re making a good business!
These are the distillery tasting notes:
Nose: glorious combination of spice and heather, caramelised pineapple and fresh lemon peel with delicate smoke. Mouth: silky vanilla, hints of coconut. Heather peat smokiness. Finish: long gentle, smokey finish.
ps/ The announced Highland Park 50 yo turns out to be a 1968 vintage. A 1964 vintage is planned as well. I haven’t decided yet whether I’m going to buy one of these or a new car…
There have been quite a few Clynelish releases in the Single Malts of Scotland series already: a couple of 30+ years old 1972’s but also a few younger vintages. The latest addition is a 16 year-old from 1992, matured in ex-bourbon wood.
Nose: grassy start, needs some air to open up. After a while, there’s Clynelish’s trademark wax with oranges and yellow apples. A rather big fruitiness. Fresh walnuts and a touch of vanilla. Lemonade. Mouth: oranges again, grapefruit, lime. Peach. You get it, fruit. A slight gin-tonic kind of bitterness towards the end. Finish: medium long on violet candy, chili pepper and hints of wax.
Another interesting Clynelish from The Whisky Exchange. Nice and clean but not very typical. Around € 55.
Malts of Scotland is currently releasing new bottlings such as three Glengoyne (1972 sherry, 1973 bourbon and 1997 sherry), a new Laphroaig and a Speyside 1993 sherry (the distillery named Speyside, not the region).
In the meantime, let’s review another bottling from the first series, an 8 year-old Bowmore distilled in 2000 and matured in an ex-bourbon cask.
Nose: maritime associations (iodine, seaweed) with quite a lot of soaked breakfast cereals. Walnuts, wet wool. Medium ashy / smokey. At the same time, there are some candied elements (apple, lemon). Traces of sweet coffee and marzipan. Mouth: quite a malty start with a pleasant mouth-feel and lots of citrus, developing on medium peat and phenols. Getting rather hot and spicy but overall clean. Finish: medium long, very very salty now. Lemon and ginger.
Recent Bowmores can be pretty mature at very young ages, and this one is a good example. Interesting saltiness as well. Around € 42.
Talisker introduced this 18 year-old expression in 2004. Of the standard malts, this is an all-time favourite for many malt lovers. It won the award for best single malt at the World Whiskies Awards in 2007. Lately the price has gone up and there are rumours that it would be discontinued soon.
Talisker 18 yo (45,8%, OB 2007)
Nose: sweet and fruity. Peat smoke in the background. Chocolate coated orange. Vanilla. Flowery honey. Some marshmallows. Nectarine? Quite feminine for a Talisker if you ask me. Mouth: soft arrival, still rather sweet but getting a powerful, smokey kick after a few moments. Peppery with subtle peat. Getting drier on spices, with a bit of sherry burried somewhere underneath the smoke. Finish: classy development, soft and balanced. Vanilla and wood. Still some pepper.
Flawless Talisker and surprisingly fresh whisky. Around € 65.
The Macallan is probably the most famous name of Speyside. Most of that fame is based on the older (sherried) bottlings like the yearly Macallan 18 years old. This Macallan 25yo can be seen as its older brother and used to be the oldest official bottling at the time.
Macallan 25yo 1968 ‘Anniversary Malt’ (43%, OB 1994)
Nose: nicely sherried. Notes of plums and dried apricots. Some toffee and a wonderful (slightly dusty) smokiness. Hints of peppermint and molasses. Chocolate covered raisins. Balsamic vinegar. Very nice notes of Christmas cake and cinnamon rolls. Smoke pork loin even (“filet de saxe”). Old sherried Speyside, just the way we like it. Very impressive. Mouth: hmm, very silky but a bit weaker too. Chocolate and oranges. Still some hints of smoke. More balsamic vinegar, but becoming quite winey and tannic. Too soft and most flavours disappear quickly, which is a shame. Getting slightly salty towards the finish. Finish: rather short I’m afraid. Not very expressive here and slightly dry in the end.
This Macallan 25yo has a near-perfect nose in a luxurious old sherry style. I expected this to be a 90+ but after the nose it falls short. Long gone of course. Worth around € 500.
Karuizawa is distributed in Europe by the Number One Drinks company, which also represents the Hanyu and Chichiby distilleries. Karuizawa focused on traditional Scottish traditions and small-scale production.
(59,8%, OB 2006, cask #3397)
Nose: reminds me of dead treas covered with moss. Oaky but in a rather un-fresh way, I love that! Rather bourbonny in that sense. Sherried fruitiness as well (raspberry, spicy apple cake), very mature nose. Mouth: quite hot without water. Meaty sherry. Ginger, apple cake again, a bit of cinnamon. Maltier and sweeter towards the end. Finish: medium length, spicy (cloves) and dry.
Interesting how the Japanese know how to pick some of the best sherry casks. The nose would make you think it’s a bit older, but then it shows the powerful freshness on the palate. Very good. Around € 100 if you can still find it.