Douglas Laing has an impressive range of bottlings: Old Malt Cask, McGibbons Provenance, Old & Rare, Premier Barrel… They also have a tradition of bottling smaller 20cl samples, both as advanced OMC samples and Cigar Malt Selection. Most of the OMC samples are later bottled in 70cl versions, whereas most of the Cigar Malts are not available as full bottles. This particular release is an exception, as I’ve now spotted it at Brussels Airport as a standard 70cl bottle (354 bottles – same style as the OMC packaging with a cigar on the label). The 20cl bottles are a nice way of trying out different malts without braking the bank.
This Bowmore stayed in a refill hogshead for 9 years. The bottle only mentions the age, not the year of distillation. My purchase ticket did say 1997 however, so I guess the store had extra information or simply made a quick calculation.
Attractive nose: immediate sea associations (seaweed, fish oils) and quite vegetal and earthy. As the label says: “rather smoky”. The peat smoke is gently integrated with some sweeter (honeyed) and floral notes (but nothing like the floral / soapy notes that are common for 80’s Bowmores). Good! Mouth: creamy and full of youth. Peaty attack. Evolves on spicy pepper. Again some sweeter notes. Finish: the chocolate sweetness slowly turns into dryness and salt. Still some peat smoke. Medium length.
Overall a clean and confident malt. It confirms once more that Bowmore is producing good whisky lately, and that it doesn’t always need lengthy aging to have character. Around € 20 (20cl) – good value.
Rosebank 19 yo 1990 (50%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask 2009, 444 btl., DL ref. 5082)
Nose: fresh, honey-sprinkled barley. Light, citrusy and floral. Whiffs of pollen and gentle beeswax. Hints of lavender as well (not soapy though). Lovely gooseberry and a few herbal accents to add depth. Enticing. Mouth: sweet and creamy, with generous honey. Fruit marmalade. In a second wave, there are spices (cinnamon, light pepper) and again a waxy edge. Fades to milk chocolate and herbs. Finish: warming hints of spicy oak. Slowly drying.
This Rosebank doesn’t seem 20 years old, it’s very clean and sweet. Maybe not the most complex whisky, but perfectly faultless. Around € 100.
I was going to write “my first Glen Albyn” but it turns out I’ve already reviewed a very good one before, the Glen Albyn 1974 by Clydesdale. This 26 years old Rare Malts release is the only official bottling.
Glen Albyn 26 yo 1975
(54,8%, Rare Malts 2002)
Nose: grassy nose with a big peppery kick. It seems harsh at first, and quite closed, but there are pleasant fruity / flowery notes. Mint and lemon. Straightforward oak. A hint of soap but it gets away with it. Mouth: firm but rather malty and mineral. Clean oak, grains, grass and a faint fruity note that’s difficult to define. Overall rather sharp. Evolving on slightly bitter grapefruit. Finish: more wood bitterness with hints of citrus.
A clean but rather aggressive Glen Albyn. Clearly below the Clydesdale bottling in my opinion. Still available in some shops. Around € 120.
We’ve tried other releases from the Fossils series by The Whisky Agency before (e.g. Coleburn 1983 and Strathisla 1967). This Coal Ila 1982 was bottled at the same moment. It was finished in a rum cask – not very common but sometimes it works out well.
Caol Ila 27 yo 1982 (50%, The Whisky Agency 2009, rum finish, 115 btl.)
Nose: strange nose, with harsh, sour notes alongside a syrupy sweetness. Some gouache paint and thinner. Not much smoke. Water highlights the sweetness and brings out farmy notes and wet limestone. Mouth: again slightly harsh with a peppery burn. Then it goes into the coastal notes (salted fish, brine) with light smoke. Finally a few associations from the rum emerge: brown sugar and green banana. Finish: long, pungent. Water eases it a little.
One of the very few releases by Whisky Agency that didn’t really appeal to me. Let’s just blame the rum and forget about it. Around € 120 at the time.
Some of the titles that are given by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society are wonderfully accurate and witty at the same time. I wonder where the description “Smoked duck à l’orange” came from.
It’s a 17 year-old Highland Park bottled in 2001.
Highland Park 17 yo 1987
(51,3%, SMWS 2005, 4.102, 260 btl.)
Nose: curious combination of heather and flour. Hints of pineapple, mango and vanilla. Quite some wax. There’s indeed a lovely hint of orange candy, like the hard candy in the form of a mandarin slice. Mouth: roasted nuts, sugar coated almonds, mocha. Then mixing with fresher citrus notes. Toasted, sour yet quite sugary. Yellow plums. Also faint smoke. Finish: nicely candied, with oranges, a little liquorice and a hint of mint.
I guess the comparison with duck à l’orange lies in the roasted / orange combination. A slightly odd Highland Park. Around € 80 back then.
You probably won’t find many independent Isle of Jura bottlings in your local store. This 1990 single cask was bottled by Duncan Taylor last year, in their Rare Auld range.
Isle of Jura 18 yo 1990 (52,4%, Duncan Taylor 2009, cask #6401, 312 btl.)
Nose: a flintly / mineral profile, but much sweeter than the sharper flintiness as found in some Highlands whisky. Despite the sweetness it’s not really fruity (hints of citrus and apple candy maybe). Also a dusty maltiness with some soaked cereals and soft smoke. A little pepper. Not very sexy but interesting nonetheless. Mouth: develops on the same notes: first sweet notes (pear drops, ), then spicy malt and grains and finally a big wave of grassy and earthy notes. The grassy notes are rather sharp, rather bitter. Water highlights the sugary components. Finish: medium length, with a distinct leafy bitterness.
While the nose was quite positive, it took a nosedive in the palate and finish. Still available in some places. Around € 70.
The Glenrothes 1978 was the last release from the 1970’s vintages. In the past we’ve had vintages all years between 1970 and 1979 except for 1976. This 29 years old 1978 was chosen as the Best Speyside whisky in the 2008 World Whisky Awards.
(43%, OB 2008, 5600 btl.)
Nose: stewed fruits and apricot marmalade with dashes of honey. Less tropical than most 1968/69/70 Glenrothes, with much more beehive notes and a rather uncommon heathery note. Also intense spices (cinnamon, mint, aniseed, vanilla). Very light sherry influence (raisins, chocolate). Mouth: not the most powerful attack, but very balanced. We get sweet citrus fruits, plenty of honey again, some vanilla. This evolves into spicy fruit cake with a little ginger and liquorice. Is that a delicate whiff of smoke in the background? Finish: half sweet, half spicy. Quite long.
A sweet and spicy Speysider. When I opened this during a tasting with friends the other day, it was well received. Nonetheless most people prefered the Glenrothes 1970 by Dyncan Taylor. The 1978 is quite expensive: € 300 and more.
After the peated Kornog Taouarc’h Kentan and Kornog Taouarc’h Eilvet , let’s try the non-peated expression from the artisan distillery Glann Ar Mor in Bretagne, France. Contrary to the peated version, which uses malt from Scotland, this version uses French malt.
Taol Esa (which means “the try-out”) was first released in 2008, but I’ve tried the 2009 release. All of the Glann Ar Mor releases are limited and unfortunately hard to find.
Glann Ar Mor ‘Taol Esa’ – 1ãn Gwech (46%, OB 2009, second release December 09)
Nose: malty and very fruity, albeit a candied and slightly artificial kind of fruitiness (due to the young age I guess). Full of tinned pineapple, citrus, fragrant peaches and orange blossom. Guimauves. A lot of vanilla as well and hints of cinnamon and mint. Marzipan to round off, and a faint waxiness. Reminds me of the Our Angel bottling (Irish whiskey) Mouth: quite a sweet start again (banana, peach, apple) although it’s a little more spicy now (soft ginger, more cinnamon). Almonds. A little too grainy for my taste. Growing grassier towards the end. Finish: quite long, less sweet. Waxy and slightly resinous finale.
A curious young whisky which combines profiles of certain Irishwhiskey and some young Clynelish. Promising. Difficult to find.