Sherried Caol Ila can be great. Last year’s Feis Ile bottling – the first official single cask ever – was excellent. This new version is slightly younger but shares the same European oak maturation.
Caol Ila 10 yo 1999 (61,9%, OB 2010, Feis Ile, sherry cask #305646)
Nose: freshly toasted bread with salted butter. Roasted malt and peat smoke. Nutmeg. More maritime than last year: seaweed, tarry ropes, fishnets. Some iodine and bandages. Quite dry – the sherry is very shy until you add water, then it becomes much more fruity with cooked fruits (tangerine, pineapple). I find this one more typical (also less surprising) than its older brother, but it really unfolds with water. Mouth: in line with the nose, with added citrus sweetness. Strong peat with a thin chocolate coating. Growing saltier towards the end, on olive juice and cocoa. Finish: salty / sweet. Long and ashy.
This Caol Ila seems more powerful than the 2009 Feis Ile edition. Sharper and less sweet. Very good but I prefer last year’s cask. Original price: around € 90.
This 20 years old Littlemill 1990 is a sister cask of the earlier Littlemill 1990 cask #915. It was bottled by Malts of Scotland in the Clubs series to celebrate the 5th Anniversary of the Belgian Fulldram whisky club. On the back label, they explain that they’ve evolved from peat heads to advocates of fruity whisky.
Littlemill 20 yo 1990 (53,9%, Malts of Scotland ‘Clubs’ 2010 for Fulldram, cask #736, 183 btl.)
Nose: a little closed and grassy at first, but it grows fruitier by the minute. Honeydew melon, kiwi, green banana, lemon balm. Lots of pink grapefruit. Lovely hints of frangipane as well. Almond paste. Succade. A bit of freshly sawn wood and a few estery notes (bubblegum / nail polish remover) now and then. Really great. Compared to cask #915 a tad more fruit and slightly higher complexity. Mouth: very punchy and beautifully fruity, but soon evolving on bitter grapefruit again (still too overpowering for me, just like in the sister cask). Lemon zest, gooseberries, some vanilla. Pungeant ginger and nutmeg. A faint waxiness as well. Hints of cinnamon. Woody notes in the aftertaste. With water: almonds. Finish: rather long with spices from the oak and bittersweet citrus.
Another Littlemill with a great nose. It deserves a few points more than its sister cask because of the bigger fruit and the slightly higher complexity. It gets even better with a few drops of water. Congratulations to the Fulldram members for picking this cask – one of the best Lowland whiskies I’ve had.
Most bottles were bought by club members but a handful are still available from QV.ID (a club member’s shop). Priced € 86.
This year at Feis Ile, Bowmore had a hand signed re-packaged version of the pleasant Bowmore Tempest, as well as a 25th Anniversary bottling. It was a 25 year-old at cask strength. Only 100 bottles were bottled and the actual number available to the public was even lower, around 60. This whisky was aged in the n°1 vaults, under sea level.
25 years old means it was distilled in the first half of the 1980’s. Oh-oh
Bowmore 25 yo
(53,1%, OB 2010, Feis Ile, 100 btl.)
Nose: very maritime with notes of sea breeze and wet hay. Quite some iodine as well. Mild peat smoke. This is backed by some sherry influence (dried fruits) and mint. A rather promising nose, even with faint hints of parma violets. Mouth: well there you have it. Soap, and quite a lot of it! Violet candy. Geraniums. Lavender. A typical 1980’s Bowmore profile that we’re not too fond of. Quite peppery as well and few citrus notes. Finish: still very candied and soapy, with a salty edge and citrus.
Yet another typical 1980’s Bowmore although on the nose it’s masked almost completely. Originally around € 400, now being sold for € 600-700. Not worth it from a quality point of view, but interesting as a collectors item.
This Karuizawa 1982 fetched 89 points in the 2009 Malt Maniacs Awards – just one point short of a gold medal (and one point below the highly praised Karuizawa 1972).
It was bottled for the 10th Anniversary of The Whisky Exchange.
Karuizawa 27 yo 1982 (56,1%, OB 2009 for The Whisky Exchange 10th Anniversary, sherry cask #2748)
Nose: one of the more balanced Karuizawa without the matchstick notes that they sometimes display. Lots of spicy Christmas cake and café latte. Café noir biscuits. Some mint. Sour orange liqueur. It also shows a slightly forestial side. Mouth: pretty dense and slightly alcoholic. Notes of raisins and a little rubber. Cloves and other herbs. Slightly bitter coffee again with a bit of chocolate. Quite dry and remarkably savoury. Finish: medium length, with a perfect dryness and a faint hint of smoke.
Another excellent Karuizawa, not at all tired and very consistent. A profile that you won’t get from other distilleries. Around € 140 and still available from TWE.
Berry’s Speyside Reserve is a blended malt that combines whisky from two well known Speyside distilleries. There’s no official information, but I’ve read it could be Dailuaine and Miltonduff (which is a bit strange as Berry Bros owns The Glenrothes distillery).
In the same series, there’s also an Islay Reserve and undisclosed rum and cognacs. They are “created as an introduction to the world of Berry’s spirits, each one carefully chosen and blended”.
Nose: a nice toffee / citrus / malt character. But there’s also a fresher, more floral side to it, with pear drops, banana and a little heather honey. Some hay. Mouth: sweet and creamy. A bit of caramel. Again quite fruity but after a few seconds, the spiciness grows stronger (ginger, nutmeg). Quite malty. There are hazelnuts as well. Finish: medium length, with spices and soft liquorice.
A very smooth whisky. I really appreciate this kind of “minimal” blending with just two components. The result has more character than a regular blend while at the same time having a very attractive pricing: around € 40.
I’m quite surprised with the tempo of the Malts of Scotland team. They release their whisky at a serious pace, and luckily the quality doesn’t seem to suffer.
By the way, Malts of Scotland also released a Glen First Class (sherried Glenfarclas in disguise – € 40) and a Glen Peat Class (blended Islay malt, matured together – € 50). Both are bottled at 50% and positioned as entry malts for people who are not (yet) familiar with the concept of single casks.
Bunnahabhain 17 yo 1992 (54,4%, Malts of Scotland 2010, cask #1419, 603 btl.)
Nose: old, dusty sherry, which reminds me of walking in a wine cellar. The influence of the wine is very heavy but quite clean. Burnt sugar and sweet fruit compote. Walnuts. Some gingerbread notes. Very lightly coastal / seaweedy as well. With water: slightly meaty with faint smoke. But a little less clean now… Mouth: mouth-coating and quite hot. The ginger notes get stronger. Some nutty notes (walnuts again, some almonds). Getting extremely dry and a little bitter. Water brings out cigar associations (tobacco leaves, cigar boxes) but also takes away most of the intensity. Some oak polish. Finish: long and really dry. Hints of liquorice.
This malt has some glorious moments but also a few dips. The combo of bitterness and sweetness is nicely balanced but its dry power is a little invading as well. A good choice if you want heavy sherry with more complexity than just the wine.
The question was How did you develop you "nose" and "palate"? What was your turning point for actually trusting what you were smelling and tasting? What do you do, if anything, to strengthen your senses and/or help your smell and taste to grow?
The weather is currently too hot in Belgium for whisky. In 35°C, water seems to be a better option so let’s talk about adding water to your dram.
In recent years we’ve seen the rise of premium waters. There are water bars and stores specialized in waters from around the world. As I walked through a local supermarket with more than 70 different brands of water, I noticed that some of them were said to be great for diluting whisky. Among them, Gleneagles and this Duchy Royal Deeside.
Duchy is bottled from a source in Royal Deeside, Scotland. It makes sense to use Scottish water as distilleries also tend to use local, natural spring water during the distillation process, so we’re probably not adding foreign elements. Royal Deeside is low in minerals, so again we don’t add possible flavour elements like salts or chloride.
Duchy Royal Deeside (0,0%, OB 2010, still)
Some waters are practically tasteless but Royal Deeside has a taste. It’s difficult to describe but it seems a bit metallic which is surprising as the mineral levels are low. As a drinking water, I would prefer other types.
When diluting a whisky, I don’t notice anything special, which I suppose is exactly what we’re trying to achieve. On the other hand, I don’t think this water is special. I guess any brand of bottled water will do as long as they don’t contain excessive amounts of certain minerals. Or use filtered Brita water like I normally do.
I’ll try to compare with some other brands that claim to be ideal for whisky, but for the moment, I don’t see a reason to search for any kind of special “whisky water”.
If you have other experiences, let’s hear your comments.